Time to leave the Horse & Buggy legal precedent behind

Note: I recently joined substack and this is my first publication there.

The Supreme Court case most often cited in justification of a state’s supposed right to require vaccines is Jacobson v. Massachusetts 97 U.S. 11 (1905). In that case Mr Jacobson was brought up on criminal charges for refusing a required smallpox vaccination authorized by Massachusetts state law. While the court affirmed the conviction, under that law the maximum punishment allowed was only a $5 fine.

So far, although Vaccinations are starting to be required for employment in some fields, there are no current state or federal laws or regulations requiring everyone to get a Covid-19 “Vaccination” in the United States, although some foreign countries are experimenting with such mandates. Despite the Unvaccinated being innocent of any legal violation, however, they are being dealt with much more harshly than the small fine that Mr. Jacobson was forced to pay. The Unvaccinated are being increasingly barred from participating in what is fast becoming a “medical apartheid” two-tier society, without even the normal protections of due process that any criminal defendant would enjoy.

It is noteworthy that Associate Justice Judge John Marshall Harlan in the opinion in Jacobson carved out a possible exception to the right of a state to require vaccination if the subject was “not a fit subject at the time, or that vaccination would seriously injure his health or cause his death.” In the current vaccination craze, there are many for whom the vaccination is not medically recommended and there is ample evidence that the current Covid-19 vaccines in use have caused many injuries to health and death. (See The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).

 The only other instance in which the government can force free people to risk the well-being of their body to further a government interest is explicitly granted to the legislative branch of government in the Constitution. Specifically, Congress has the power to raise an army and send that army to war. Other than that, there is no other authority granted to government to intrude on the liberty of a free citizen, not accused of any crime, and require them to do something with their body that carries a risk of death or permanent disability or punish them if they decline to do so.

It should be noted that the Smallpox vaccine in Jacobson is a very different animal than the modern gene therapy pharmaceuticals being required today, which are not “vaccines” in the traditional sense at all. Modern Covid-19 “vaccines” are excluded from many, if not most, dictionary definitions of the word “vaccine.” Those who would seek to apply Jacobson as precedent in the current legal and scientific environment must deal with this threshold issue.

The fact that certain government agencies have recently changed the definition of a “vaccine” so that this treatment can be so classified is not binding on the courts. The Supreme Court has noted that courts must look at substance over form and are not bound by agency classifications. Azar v. Allina Health Servs., 139 U.S. 1804, 1812 (2019) (noting that “courts have long looked to the contents of the agency’s action, not the agency’s self-serving label.”)

Few courts have grappled with the question of what constitutes a “vaccine,” but of those that have, most have used a microorganism definition. See Blackmon v. American Home Products Corp., 267 F.Supp.2d 667, 674 (S.D. Tex. 2003) (relying on definition of vaccine in Dorland’s Medical Dictionary 1799 (27th ed.1988)(“a suspension of attenuated or killed microorganisms”) and Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary 1301 (9th ed.1991) (“a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms”).

That definition in no way describes the mRNA technology now in use in the major Covid-19 “vaccines” produced by Pfizer and Moderna. There are no “killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms” in this vaccine. Instead, it contains “a synthetic messenger RNA” (mRNA) that modifies the body’s genes and instructs them to make a “spike protein” similar to the one that the virus contains. 

This new technology is in every sense still experimental, including legally. The human body would never create these spike proteins without this genetic modification and the long-term safety of this new technique has not been established. For these reasons the current “vaccines” continue to be given under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA. This is despite any false claims that the Pfizer shot is “fully approved.” 

The “approved” Comirnaty version of the Pfizer vaccine has never actually been produced and is not currently available to the public in the United States. The reason, no doubt, is that Comirnaty would not give the drug manufacturers the same legal protection against liability that drugs given under a EUA enjoy. The FDA, which is an agency totally captured by Big Pharma interests, allowed this legal fiction to be created to give the drug pushers a cheap, if false, headline.

 That the word “vaccine’s” definition is elastic and has been recently expanded to accommodate new technology would be nothing more than a cultural curiosity, except that if Jacobson applies to all vaccines without any balancing required, every expansion of the word “vaccine” triggers an accompanying expansion of government power and diminution of individual liberty for every American. 

Shouldn’t the courts review the implications of these recent technological changes, instead of continuing to march in the lockstep of the 115-year-old precedent of a medical case from the horse and buggy era? There can be no more fundamental right for a person to have than the choice of whether he wants his own genetic code overwritten, without being discriminated against and punished if he chooses not to.

To balance the state and individual interests, it is not necessary to know the exact infection mortality rate of Covid-19, although it is generally agreed to be something less than 1%. Viruses have a range of mortality rates ranging from 100% fatal (rabies) to essentially zero. Smallpox in the early 20th Century had a mortality rate of up to 30% or more. The government’s interest in stemming the spread of viruses through coerced medical procedures is logically more compelling with more fatal viruses and less compelling with less fatal viruses.

Using the Jacobson precedent for an illness that is approximately 50 times less fatal seems like a stretch, especially when you consider the advances in medicine over the last 115 years. In fact, there are many early treatments available for those who get Covid-19 that could significantly reduce mortality even further, although regrettably many of them have been suppressed by government action. This has apparently been done so that the “vaccines” could get a EUA approval, since a EUA can not be granted if there is an effective alternative treatment.  

Further, as the new less virulent “Omicron” variety has become the dominant strain in the United States, Covid mortality has fallen even further. Multiple scientific reports have indicated that, despite being more contagious, Omicron actually causes much less severe illness, with virtually no reported deaths “from” it, although perhaps a few “with” it. Other recent studies have shown that those who have been “vaccinated” had little protection against the new variety and may, as the vaccine’s effectiveness declines, actually be more likely to catch the new variety than those who are unvaccinated!

These inconvenient facts raise compelling Equal Protection questions. If  the “Vaccinated” are just as likely, or perhaps even more likely, to catch and transmit the virus, on what legal basis can the Unvaccinated be discriminated against? This is the very issue I have raised in my current federal lawsuit against the NYS Health Department. (Strong v. Zucker)

Lower level federal courts seem to be trying to read the tea leaves in Chief Justice Robert’s dictum in the recent case of South Bay United Pentecostal Church, Et Al., v. Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, Et Al. 592 U.S. __ (2021) in which he said, “I adhere to the view that the ‘Constitution principally entrusts the safety and the health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the States.’ But the Constitution also entrusts the protection of the people’s rights to the Judiciary… Deference, though broad, has its limits.” 

The dangers of blindly following the Jacobson precedent were shown in the case of Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927) in which the court used Jacobson to uphold a Virginia law that authorized the involuntary sterilization of “feeble minded” persons in state institutions. As Justice Oliver Wendell Homes infamously opined in that case,  “Society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” It is clear that a law of such barbarity would never pass scrutiny today, nor should such a misreading of Jacobson.

Justice Harlan himself foresaw the possible need for future judicial oversight writing that, “…it might be that an acknowledged power of a local community to protect itself against an epidemic threatening the safety of all, might be exercised in particular circumstances and in reference to particular persons in such an arbitrary, unreasonable manner, or might go so far beyond what was reasonably required for the safety of the public, as to authorize or compel the courts to interfere for the protection of such persons.” 

Clearly the “limits of deference” are being reached in many Draconian local laws and it is time for the court to revisit the Jacobson precedent, strike down state laws that are “arbitrary and unreasonable”  and protect those who are being unjustly discriminated without any scientific basis.

This article was adapted from my legal memorandum in support of a motion to enjoin the current NYS Health Department regulations and practices. Links to that memo and other legal papers filed in the case of Strong v. Zucker currently in the Federal District Court in Western New York, can be found at my website:


Update on my federal lawsuit against the NYS Health Department

Although I have started a new video channel on Rumble, “Two Old men in Chairs,” and kept up a torrid pace of posts to social media, I just realized that I have not yet written a comprehensive account of my federal law suit in this blog. The case “Strong v. Zucker” was first filed in the Western District of New York in Rochester on Aug. 10, 2021.

Howard Zucker was the infamous Director of the NYS Health Department who resigned shortly after his partner-in-crime Andrew Cuomo did in August. Since I sued him in his “official capacity,” the lawsuit lives on against whomever the next Commissioner is.

The impetus of the suit were Emergency Regulations decreed in July by Emperor Andy that among other things said that Vaccinated people could stop wearing masks, while those dirty Unvaxxed people had to keep wearing them. This annoyed me because I already had Covid in Nov. 2020, and therefore had decided that I didn’t need a jab because I had “Natural Immunity.” I also had known from my reading that the jab was not really stopping people from getting and spreading the virus, it was never intended to.

My lawsuit was filed under Sec. 1983 of the federal code alleging that the regulations were a violation of my rights to Equal Protection under the 14th Amendment. In September I received a call from an Attorney from the state Attorney General’s office, who defends these suits, informing me that the regulations I had complained of had been repealed.

I was surprised to hear this since there had been no media coverage about it. That seemed to be intentional, because looking at the NYS Health Department web site, there was no announcement of the changes and our new Governor was mum on the subject. Quite diabolical! Repeal the regs so you don’t have to defend them in court, but don’t tell the people so they keep complying.

The AG lawyer also told me, to my surprise, that there was another similar lawsuit filed in the same court against the same regs by another Livingston County resident. The case of Ouweleen v. Zucker was filed just 5 days before mine by Will Ouweleen, proprietor of the Eagle Crest winery in Conesus.

The AG offered me a deal. If I wanted to file an amended complaint, she would agree to that so long as I gave her 60 days to respond (instead of the usual 30). Otherwise she was going to move to have my complaint thrown out as moot. I took the deal and filed an amended complaint on Oct. 13. That complaint can be found here: http://www.geneseegraphics.com/AmendedcomplaintStrongvZucker.pdf

Will’s suit had been handled by the Gibson Law firm of Ithaca, who was being funded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Childen’s Health Defense group. The attorney, Sujata Gibson, was an experienced Civil Rights litigator, something I most definitely am not, so I was able to borrow freely from her complaint to beef up my legal arguments, especially with respect to the illegality of coercing the jab under the Nuremberg Code and numerous other international, national and state laws and regulations.

Since the regs were repealed (at least temporarily) I focused my attack on New York’s Excelsior Pass system and continued discrimination against the Unvaxxed with requirements for extra testing. The Pass is designed to be used to bar the Unvaxxed from certain venues and I argued this made no sense under the existing science, especially for those of us with “Natural Immunity.” Not to mention that it was a high-tech version of what the Nazis tried back in the 1930s-40s.

As some know, I was admitted to the bar in NY back in 1981 and practiced for about 4 years before “retiring” about 35 years ago. For purposes of this lawsuit, I am considered to be acting “pro se,” (on one own’s behalf and without an attorney.) I had never been a litigator, much less in federal court, so for the last 6 months I have been giving myself a crash course in Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure, two subjects I last studied over 40 years ago at Albany Law School.

Despite pleas on social media for an attorney to assist me, I have had no help yet, so everything is being done on a steep learning curve. Fast forward to Dec, 9, 2021, just 3 days before the answer was due to my amended complaint, when I was again contacted by the AG attorney asking for a 30 day extension. Figuring that the Judge would probably grant it anyway just a few weeks before Christmas I agreed.

The very next day on Friday Dec. 10, Gov. Jokel kicked over the apple cart by announcing a new set of “Emergency” regulations. The new emergency was said to be a result of hospital bed shortages (which were actually a result of mandated firing of Unvaxxed health workers), and the supposed lethal threat of the new variety Omnicron, (which so far hasn’t killed anybody!)

In my opinion the new regs were worse than the ones I originally objected to in July, because now the state was encouraging businesses to check for vaccination cards at the door (or the handy Excelsior Pass), and then bar those who were not vaxxed, while the blessed Vaccinated could cavort inside without masks!

This double pissed me off, and I worked all the following weekend fashioning a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Preliminary Injunction against these latest regs which I filed on Monday Dec. 13. Here is a link to that motion: http://www.geneseegraphics.com/TRO-1.pdf

Again, being somewhat of an amateur in this field, I was unaware that under Rule 65 of the Federal Procedure, I was supposed to also file a legal memorandum in support of the motion, a list of expert witnesses and what they will testify to, and a proposed order in the unlikely result that I might actually win my injunction. The Judge gave me an extra week until Dec. 27 to correct the record and I worked non-stop through Christmas meeting the deadline.

By this time, I had signed up for PACER, the Federal Court database of all paperwork filed in all courts in the country. Let’s just say I borrowed liberally from the work of many fine attorneys around the country. I also dug into many law review articles, particularly on when the so-called “Strict Scrutiny” standard of proof would apply to the state.

I had figured out that if the less rigorous “Rational Basis” standard was applied, I would probably lose my case, because the courts show great deference to the State’s right to manage public health. In order to get to “Strict Scrutiny” I had to show that the state was infringing on a “fundamental right.” Can there be anything more fundamental than the right to participate in society and be free from having your body invaded with an experimental gene therapy?

There was another road to “strict scrutiny” which I explored as well. If I could show that the Unvaxxed were being discriminated against because of prejudice or hostility, the court might take a closer look. Luckily for me, but perhaps unfortunate for all of us, Government officials have been less and less circumspect in tarnishing the Unvaxxed lately.

From the President implying we are all unpatriotic, to the Governor giving a sermon in a Brooklyn church telling the folks that the Unvaxxed were “Not listening to God” and were “Not smart,” the denigrating of the Unvaxxed has been steadily increasing. Not only are we being increasingly barred from travel, work, bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues, but now the medical profession is starting to limit medical care for the Unvaxxed! This is starting to look a lot like Medical Apartheid.

Finally I did my best to destroy the precedent value of the landmark case of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts decided in 1905, that some modern courts are clinging to. In this case from the horse and buggy days of medicine, Mr. Jacobson was found guilty of breaking a law that required smallpox vaccination. The Supreme Court affirmed his $5 fine.

It’s a long was from a $5 fine to the system of enforced vaccination today in which those found guilty of being Unvaxxed these days are penalized by a form of medical segregation. Besides that, medical technology has changed so much, that it unlikely that the court could have foreseen gene therapy being described as a “vaccine.”

In any case, all those points and more are covered in my legal memorandum at:

As for my expert witness, I decided that I only needed one, The Great Dr. Peter McCullough, a Dallas cardiologist who may be the world’s foremost practicing physician on Covid-19 and the dangers of the vaccine, having published more than 60 medical papers on the subject. My filing about him and what I expect him to testify to is here:


The Judge has ordered the State to respond to both my Amended Complaint and my Motion by Jan. 12. The AG’s attorney was not happy about that, and is trying to get more time, but so far, the Judge has not granted it. I have some reason for hope, only because I drew Judge David Larimer, who is the senior judge in the Rochester region, a conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan.

We shall see. I will update this post as things develop.

My steepest learning curve

In January of 1986 I retired from the practice of law and purchased my first computer, a Compaq Deskpro 286. Thus began the first and perhaps most difficult of many digital learning curves. The difficulties were compounded by the fact that not only did I have to learn the intricacies of the WordPerfect family of software, but I also had to learn to navigate the MS-DOS operating system. I spent many months in deep frustration before I could produce even the simplest documents.

In those dark days before the Apple Macintosh, and later Microsoft Windows, revolutionized the digital environment with something called GUI (Graphic User Interface), which allowed the user to interact with symbols rather than type commands, people had to memorize a bunch of obscure commands that thankfully I have long ago forgotten. 

My move to GUI coincided with the beginning of my journalism career, when in the fall of 1989 I became part-owner of the Lake & Valley Clarion Newspaper. Publisher Bob Savage had outfitted the fledgling paper with two Mac SE/30 computers running the page layout program Pagemaker. Thus started my second, and somewhat easier learning curve, converting from PC to Mac and learning the basics of page layout.

A few years later in 1993, after taking over sole ownership of the paper, I had the bright idea to start a full color regional magazine, Genesee Country. That required an upgrade to a new page layout program, Quark Express, to create the much more complicated designs and 4-color separations. Along the way, I also had to learn Adobe Photoshop to massage the many images that spice up print production. 

Luckily, at that time I had hired a young genius named Ivan Rocha who had just received a Masters in Electronic Publishing degree from RIT. Having an in-house tutor eased the pain of what could have been a very difficult transition.

Quark served me well for many years, but I began to hear about a new kid on the block that was starting to make waves in the page layout world, another Adobe product, In-Design. I resisted going through another learning curve for as long as I could, but in 2015 when I bought the customer files of my friend Dave Futter’s printing business, Genesee Valley Printers, I discovered that they were all In-Design files.  There was nothing I could do but roll up my brain sleeves and learn it.

By this time you may have deduced that I hate learning curves. There is nothing as frustrating as being faced with a new software interface that you have no idea how to operate. If you are like me, you disdain all instructional videos and plunge ahead madly pushing buttons and clicking on icons trying to muscle the program into submission. It’s not pretty!

I would’ve been happy if I never had to face another learning curve in my life, however, the world refuses to stand still for me. Whether it is making progress is a different question, but in recent years, the use of video to communicate is more and more replacing reading. Thus, at the age of 70, I am finally embarking on a journey to learn video editing.

This is being driven by another crazy idea: to start a podcast with my friend, and former Clarion employee, Howard Appell. Both of us are long-time veterans of print journalism and are aghast at how low the profession has fallen. We hope to make a bigger impact by discussing it in video format, since younger people would have little interest in reading what two old farts have to say.

In any case, such crazy ideas have brought me to the threshold of what may be my biggest learning curve yet, conquering Adobe Premiere Pro! My traditional methods of “muscling” the program proving a dismal failure, last night I broke down and watched a one-hour instructional video– and then I watched it again!

The clouds have started to fall from my eyes, however, only far enough for me to see how steep the mountain is. I always maintained that if you understood 5% of Photoshop you could get by alright, but Premiere is Photoshop on steroids! I guess that is to be expected when you go from 2 dimensional words on a page to the 3D world of video.

Not only do you have to edit and stitch together multiple video clips, but you can also add multiple sound tracks and graphic elements, not to mention special effects. While clear writing appeals mainly to the mind, a good video must entertain and can also touch the emotions.

This is all new to me, even though I have now spent more than half my life in the digital world. Of course, computers were already starting to intrude in my youth and early education, long before I took the plunge of owning my own. 

My Dad, being an early adopter of many technologies, brought an Atari into our home one Christmas and we spent countless hours playing Pong. Although I was still writing all my papers with an electric typewriter in college, by the time I got to law school in 1977, I was fascinated by the Lexis computer station in the library, where you could do legal research. I spent hours playing in the one special room that you had to sign into to use the new toy.

I was also an enthusiastic early adopter of the Internet, although it is now becoming clearer what a threat to freedom centralized control of information can be. Although I still spend way too much time on social media, more and more lately, I am spending my time reading actual books. Two great writers of the 19th century have recently given me much pleasure. Earlier this year I read the autobiographical “Education of Henry Adams,” and I am now engrossed in “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau.

Neither of these books could be described as light reading. The prose is dense with many jewels packed into almost every sentence, but it is well worth the effort to decipher. They were written at a time before videos destroyed the desire and ability to read and comprehend the written word. Ah, for the good old days!

Life is better without Facebook

I received a 30-day suspension from Facebook at the beginning of April, 2021 because I was “a threat to the community.” I took that as a badge of honor. I was suspended for posting my “Mark Twain meme” that I created based upon his quote that, “It’s easier to fool people than it is to convince people that they’ve been fooled.” Apparently Mr. Twain is still considered a threat 110 years after his death, although my applying the quote to our current situation may have had something to do with it.

Since Facebook didn’t like my original meme I posted a “new and improved” version today. Since the so-called “fact checkers” probably aren’t going to like my improved version any better, I fully expect to be suspended again, perhaps permanently. It’s probably for the best. I have discovered that life is better without Facebook.

I was an early adopter of Facebook mainly because my children were of the age to start using it when they were in school and it was all new and shiny. It seemed like a good way to keep track of them when they were far away at college, and also keep up with old friends and family scattered around the country. Little did we realize that it would also become a good way for Big Data and Big Government to keep track of us!

I have enjoyed belonging to certain Facebook groups besides the obvious political ones. In particular, I have enjoyed participating in musical appreciation groups for some of my favorite artists including Captain Beefheart, The Kinks, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan and more recently rapper Tom McDonald. These are generally filled with nice people, although occasionally you have to do battle with some idiot who thinks that only liberals can appreciate good music.

My downfall was that every day when I logged on, Facebook would have a question there “What’s on your mind?” So I told them! I was a very early opponent of lockdowns and the rest of the Covid fear pandemic. I think the whole face mask rage is insane and probably harmful, and don’t get me started on using experimental gene therapy on children, pregnant women etc. It’s criminal!

For most of last year, I was an Administrator of the Free Livingston County Facebook group. About a month before the election our group, all 1,500 members, was thrown down the memory hole. I continued to post my views on my personal page, showing no concern for the fake Facebook “Community Standards” which, after all, are nothing more than a Democrat political narrative. Fear and censorship have been essential tools for the elites to grab and keep power.

I made many new “friends” through my activism, most of whom I have never met in person. I will miss them, but when I started seeing the same memes that I posted last year start to recycle through other groups this year, I realized that we are going in circles and not really going anywhere. I will be moving to Gab which I figure has the best infrastructure to withstand the ever-widening War on Free Speech. (See me there under Corrin007.)

In the first week or two of my suspension, I would  forget I was banned and try to comment on one of my pages out of force of habit. After a while, however, I found myself not even bothering to read Facebook since I couldn’t participate. This freed up a tremendous amount of time as I’ve been a very heavy user, especially in the last year posting about the Covid plandemic.

My enforced holiday from Facebook also corresponded with my decision to boycott Major League Baseball over the All-Star game nonsense. I have been an avid Yankee fan for many years and watched almost every game. Just like music, the Progs bring their cancel culture into everything and destroy it.

Since I had so much free time I devoted it to three new activities, although one was a return to a project that I had suspended a year ago, working on my family genealogy. I am an 11th generation descendant of William Wadsworth who arrived in Boston on the good ship Lion in 1632. (Also a 6th Generation descendant of James Wadsworth who came to Geneseo from Connecticut in 1789.) It turns out I am also descended from at least a dozen others who arrived 12 years earlier on the Mayflower.

Since we will be coming up on the 400th anniversary of the Wadsworth arrival, I am trying to trace every male descendant of that family. As you can imagine, that is a gargantuan task, but at least I have 11 years to complete it. (I will be 81 years old in 2032, if I make it!)

This is actually only one of my genealogical projects. In reverse fashion, I’ve been chasing down all of my direct ancestors back to when they got off their respective boats. That project is even bigger as most of them arrived in this country during the Great Puritan Migration between 1620 and 1650. There are thousands of ancestors to try to track down, especially since in this case I am also tracing the female lines. I probably have only found less than a quarter of them so far, but even so, that makes for a chart 3 feet wide and 16 feet tall! Luckily I have the graphic design skills and the equipment to produce and print such a large chart.

When we remodeled our Bed & Breakfast in 2019 to add 3 additional units, I created a museum area in the front hall. The pandemic also caused me to suspend activity on that project, but I am getting back into it. I want to roll all the genealogical work and the museum into a new organization that I am thinking of calling something like the Gen. James S. Wadsworth Institute of History and Genealogy (in honor of my 3X great grandfather who built the Hartford House), or just the Wadsworth Institute for short. Next up a website for that!

My second new venture into the clothing business is also a kind of return, since I was in that business back in the 1980s with The Little People’s House children’s clothing stores in Avon, Mt. Morris and Brighton. It will probably come as no surprise to say that “times have changed.” I fell onto this business by accident when my office neighbor John Spinelli passed away in February. John had collected a huge amount of women’s fashions that he was selling online. When his brother came to town to settle the estate he had no idea what to do with all that stuff. I gave him a dollar for the whole lot. I’m not sure yet who got the better deal!

I soon found out that today’s retail environment is extremely challenging to say the least. We spent the month of March organizing and pricing all of the clothing and accessories. On April 1st we opened the “Pop-Up Shop” in Geneseo as a 30-day experiment. Thank God, it’s only for 30 days! Despite offering progressive discounts on already low prices we were unable to generate much traffic.

We advertised extensively online (Yes on Facebook and Instagram!) and even tried a Pennysaver ad, but it seems just about impossible to get people to leave their burrows and come into an actual bricks and mortar store there days. Between people who are afraid to go out, and those who have just lost the habit of shopping in person, the sales were a small fraction of what I had hoped.

Adding to the problem was that most of the clothing John had accumulated was mainly intended for younger (and smaller) women. Sadly, young folks are the ones who seem to have been most susceptible to the fear pandemic. Another issue was that John had rather kinky tastes in shoes. We had 200 pairs of mainly very high-heeled fashion shoes favored by strippers and ladies of the evening. Not having too many of those locally in sleepy Livingston County, we have started marketing those online with more success.

Still, nothing ventured nothing gained, and there was enough additional goodies in John’s office to make the overall transaction a bargain. Hidden among the boxes of clothes were boxes of tools and other valuable items. Plus it gave me something to do with my new-found free time and I have no regrets. I like a challenge and starting a retail store in the midst of a pandemic was certainly a big one!

Finally, in order to pass the time during the day while waiting for customers to “Pop” in, I have started reading a book again. Although once an avid reader, this is something I have not actually done in almost 10 years, partly because my old eyes have trouble reading on anything other than a computer or iPad where I can enlarge the print.

Again, this came about somewhat by accident. Searching through the Hartford House library for a genealogical book, I came across, “The Education of Henry Adams.” This is a book that I have been aware of most of my life, but never got around to reading. Henry was the grandson of President John Quincy Adams and the great-grandson of Founding Father and President John Adams, and more importantly to me, the best friend in later life of my own great-great-grandfather John Hay. I grabbed the book and started reading and as they say, “couldn’t put it down.”

The book is very well written and covers a fascinating time in our nation’s history, from his birth in 1838 into the 20th century. It was published after his death in 1918, and after a while, I noticed that I was reading a first edition which is valued at $1000, if I don’t mess it up by reading it! It seems a little decadent to actually read something of such value, but I’m giving it to myself as a present for suffering through the cruelest month.

By giving up my Yankees, I eliminated the last of my television viewing. I have not turned the thing on in weeks. And by leaving Facebook, I have freed up many more hours a week to get outside, get the farm and maintenance work started, play tennis and croquet and enjoy the beauty of nature. I also am finding much solace in listening to lots of music, both new and old. With everything that is on my plate, who needs Facebook?

Let us now praise famous men (and a woman!)

One of the saddest and most disruptive changes in this year of the pandemic has been our inability to properly honor those who have passed away. In the last 6 months I have lost two good friends and my Uncle and yet have not been able to attend one funeral or memorial service. I am sure everybody has had this experience, but I wanted to briefly mention three people who were very special to me: Paul Hepler and Sally Moses of Geneseo and my Uncle Peter Strong.

Paul was one of the members of the Bank Street Coffee Klatch that is rapidly passing into history. This group which included such Geneseso stalwarts as Ted and Peter Bondi, Bob McDonald and many more met every morning at the Bank Street Bagel and Coffee Shop to kibitz about the passing scene.

As a young newspaper editor I would stop in if I wanted to know something about the history of Geneseo. With the collective memory of this group, most of whom had been in town all their lives, almost anything could be uncovered.

As a newcomer, with a somewhat controversial background of taking political stands both in print and in real life, I can’t say I was welcomed by all. Coffee klatches can be cliquey. I lingered near the edge of group and listened, but did not join in the general conversation unless spoken to.

Paul was exceptionally welcoming and friendly to me. In later years after the klatch moved on, when he would stop in my print shop on various projects, or even if we met on the street, it usually ended up in a prolonged conversation. Although Paul came to Geneseo to teach art at the college, he became a townie in the best sense of the word. There was little that he didn’t know about local lore or personalities. I will miss him greatly.

I lured Paul once to play in our croquet league. He managed to win the match and then refused to play again despite multiple invitations. He will no doubt go down in history as the only person to ever retire undefeated in our league!

Croquet is how I got to know Sally Moses. I understand Sally was a good tennis player in her day, but by the time i met her she was in her late 80s, too old for tennis but still possessed of a great competitive zeal. Croquet was the answer.

Sally played well into her 90s and I partnered with her many times. With her great consistency we made a formidable team! Sally was (so far) the only person who ever had to be removed from the croquet court by ambulance!

Somehow she managed to hit herself in the leg with her own mallet and opened up a deep gash. She spent one night in the hospital and was back playing a week later.

Finally at age 93, when she could no longer play she donated her mallet to the club. Her memory will live on every time we strike a ball with it!

Sports are some of my happiest memories of my Uncle Pete as well. When I was young the entire Strong Clan would gather every year for Thanksgiving at my grandmother Strong’s house in Maryland. The highlight of the day, from my point of view at least, was the annual touch football game in the backyard. What great fun it was to have family members of all ages playing in the same game.

The last time I saw Peter we played a round of golf together. Well into his 80s his memory was starting to go. “How is your mother?” he asked. I had to inform him that sadly my mother had passed a few years before. “Too bad,” he said. “I always liked her!”

With Peter’s passing, I am now the oldest member of the Strong family. When my time comes I hope some normality will have returned to life. I want a big party for my funeral with people coming from all over the country! I deserve it, as did these people!

Days gone by

It was with great sadness that I heard about the passing of my friend Lee Shanks last Friday, June 9. I first met Lee over 25 years ago when he walked into my Clarion Newspaper office in Avon.

That day, he carried some stories hand-written on sheets of loose notebook paper and wanted them incorporated into a weekly ad for his refuse service. I took a few minutes to read some of the stories and immediately realized they were much too long and intricate  to be incorporated into an ad.

Instead, I offered to publish them for free as a weekly column in the paper under the name , “Days gone by.” I wanted to use the subtitle “Reflections of a Garbageman,” but Lee objected and he was probably right.

What followed for many years were wonderful recollections of Lee’s life growing up on a farm in Western New York, serving in the Marine Corp during the Korean War era, working at Kodak and then striking out to start his own business, his enduring love for all things Ford and most importantly his childhood sweetheart and then wife Edna who he met at age 15.

For many years I served as Lee’s editor, correcting the spelling and sentence structure, but there was no need to correct any of Lee’s sentiment. His love of country and family shown through in every paragraph!

Eventually, we had enough columns to make a book so in 2008 I published “Days Gone By,” a 200-page compendium of the Best of Lee. I’ve lost track of how many times we re-ordered lots of 100 copies of the book, but Lee was fond of giving the book away to friends and customers and it received a wide circulation! In 2013 we issued a revised 220-page 2nd edition with 10 more stories added!

Our friendship was further forged as Comrades-in-Arms in the Great Avon Garbage War! Local historians may remember the misguided attempt by the Avon Town Board to monopolize the local refuse removal market by having the government contract with a single vendor to remove the trash and put the bill on the town taxes.

Lee was outraged at this interference with the Free Market and as a matter of principle refused to even bid on the contract. Instead he joined forces with the Clarion in a public relations war which ended with the proposal going down to a decisive defeat in a public referendum.

In later years, Lee would stop down to my office in Geneseo and take me out to lunch on a regular basis. Because of our 21 year age difference, I would often kid around and tell the waitress that he was my Dad. In many ways it felt like the relationship was that close, but it ran both ways.

Lee would confide his deepest concerns about family problems and business and sometimes I was able to help by suggesting a course of action. Other times I would unburden myself of my troubles and Lee had a wonderful way of putting things in perspective.

They say that those who served our country in World War II were the Greatest Generation, however, if Lee is any indication, those who served in the Korean War were a close second! It was a wonderful thing to get to know Lee’s Marine Corp attitude about “Duty, Honor and Country.” He truly was a messenger of a way of life that has sadly almost gone by. “Semper Fi Lee!”






What would you have done?

As owner of a print and copy shop, I am often called to help people make copies of very private and intimate documents: love letters, divorce papers, etc. I have always felt there should be copier / client confidentiality and I normally avert my eyes while copying such material and quickly delete unread any digital copies that end up on my computer.

In this column I am going to break that confidentiality, although I will not reveal the name of the customer and I suspect that if she ever does read this column she will probably be too embarrassed to complain!

In Geneseo, with a state education factory in town, we sometimes have a little bit of a town-gown problem which often is exacerbated by strong political differences between our enlightened academic class and the hoi palloi. I try to avoid such conflicts in my business and have worked both sides of the aisle in preparing political materials.

However, when I inadvertently discovered evidence of political bias against my business in one of my own customers, ironically in a job that I was being paid to copy, it challenged all my principles.

Normally my copier works fairly proficiently in making and collating multiple copies of multi-page documents. You just load the document push the collate button and stand back. Every now and then, however, it makes a mess of things!

Recently I was asked to make a couple of copies of a very interesting  document by one of our noble professors. I only know that because my machine malfunctioned terribly and I was forced to manually re-copy about 10 pages that had randomly miss-fed and then insert them back into the copied documents in the right order. Luckily my customer had left to run a few errands and I was able to perform this time-consuming and embarrassing task in private!

To do this correctly I had to take a closer look at a document that I normally would of ignored. The first thing I noticed was that the document appeared to be something like a chatty Last Will in which the author was advising her descendants on the various businesses and tradespeople that she had used locally and recommending which ones to use for various jobs. This seemed like a very good idea and I made a silent note to perhaps prepare a similar document for my successors.

Although the gossipy nature of the text would have made for interesting reading I resisted the temptation to read it until I noticed there was a section on local print shops. As I quickly skimmed that section I noticed that I was not among the select locations recommended. That seemed a little odd since I was the business that had actually been chosen to make the copies, but it gets worse.

Taking a closer look at this section I noticed a small paragraph at the bottom of the section that I will quote in full: “The Genesee Graphics copy shop on Main Street is now out of business. No great loss because the owner was very conservative.”

Since I was only making a couple copies of the document for the customer’s children I wasn’t so much worried about the somewhat exaggerated report of my demise, however, the ill will conveyed in the last sentence left me stunned.

As I waited for the customer’s return I contemplated my options. Should I throw the now perfectly-collated copies away and tell her to take her business elsewhere? Perhaps just charge her double and not explain why, or just grin and bear it? What would you have done?

In the end my dilemma was made easier when instead her husband returned to pick up the job. I decided that since he was perhaps a more innocent party I would just let the matter drop. When he questioned why my charge was so small for the job I asked him with a wicked grin if he wanted me to charge him double?

I then explained that I would charge him the same price that I would charge anybody else that walked in the door. There must have been something in my attitude that set off a warning bell, because after paying he told me he was glad I was still in business!

If my customer somehow does read this I have only one request: If you do an updated version, please take it to one of your politically approved copy shops!




The new “Hardest Working Man in Show Business!”

Since the demise of the late, great “Godfather of Soul” James Brown 8 years ago, his other title as “the hardest working man in show business” has laid unclaimed. I would like to nominate local developer Don Livingston of Palace Properties to receive the title.

I first noticed the perpetual motion machine that is Don last summer while manning our Little Green Market booth at the Geneseo Farmer’s Market on Center Street every Thursday afternoon. “Who is this guy who continued to work on the facade of the derelict Riveira Theatre non-stop right through our market every week?” I wondered.

As the summer slowly turned to fall it began to become clear that something very special was happening in the “Theatre District “right in front of us. When my friend Valerie Honeyford operated her clothing store next door to the Riviera for many years, we used to joke about her location as being in the Heart of the Theatre District.

Now through the efforts of Don and his partner Jim Sullivan, that joke is fast becoming a reality! Last weekend the circa 1914 movie theatre (closed since 1995) had its triumphant Grand Re-Opening as a fully restored multi-purpose venue.

Fittingly the event was highlighted by a concert by the Big Band “78 RPM.” Fitting, because about 20 years ago Don went on a blind date with Tawny Bondi, the daughter of Geneseo Big Band impresario and former Soccer All-American Ted Bondi. (For those who never had the honor of knowing my friend Ted, see my tribute column written when he passed away in 2010.)

That date eventually  led to a marriage that brought Don from his native Nunda to Geneseo. I don’t know who arranged that blind date but that person should be made an Honorary Citizen of Geneseo!

In the last decade, Don, who spent his early years learning the carpentry and contracting business working along side his late father Martin has been remaking the face of Downtown. The Riviera, his latest but surely not last project, was truly a labor of love.

When I recently decided to return my printing and graphic design business to Main Street I was fortunate enough to find space in one of Don’s properties. That and the subsequent graphic work I did for the theatre gave me an excuse to pop into the Riviera work site on a regular basis for the past few months.

No matter what time of day I came, I almost always found Don hard at work on his renovation. As far as I could tell the man never stopped working! Those who attended the Grand Opening (or other recent events) have seen the glorious results of all that hard work.

Those who were there Saturday would also have seen that the theatre project is very much a family affair. At the opening, the entire extended Bondi clan pitched in to help including two of Tawny & Don’s children serving as ushers, as well as two of Jim Sullivan’s daughters working the concession stand.

In talking with Don, I have become aware that his dream is to make the Riviera Theatre the centerpiece of revitalized Downtown which can once again be an after-dark destination for more than just college-age kids. With the re-opening of the theatre he is well on his way to realizing that dream. Congratulations to Don and the whole Livingston-Bondi-Sullivan team on a job well done! Ted would be very proud!

10 Years After: The Beginning of the End for Big Boxes?

Note: Today I am re-publishing here a couple of articles that originally appeared in the Genesee Sun online newspaper. Thanks to Publisher Josh Williams for giving me a new platform!
Many local people were surprised by the Jan. 3rd closing of the Geneseo Staples store. At the time, much blame was placed in this news outlet and elsewhere on a supposedly greedy landlord jacking up rents. Readers of the financial press, however, may be aware that there is a little more to the story.
If you search “Staples store closing” you will find that there are a rash of similar stories from all over the country. In fact Staples announced in November that they expected to close 170 stores in 2014! This comes amid a continuing trend of falling sales and earnings and a proposal last week that Staples merge with arch-rival Office Max. It seems that the miracle economic engine allegedly created by Bain Capital wunderkind Mitt Romney some 30 years ago is growing a little long in the tooth!
Of course most people are aware that the economy has never really recovered from the Great Recession that started in 2008, but another big reason for Staples’s problems is the prevalence of online shopping which has continued to bleed bricks and mortar retail in many categories. (See Amazon.com)
The fact that this column is appearing in an online newspaper is just one example of the dramatic changes that have occurred in our economy over the last 15 years since the Internet Anschluss. As publisher of my own quaint “ink on crushed wood” venture not so long ago I am intimately familiar with this process. (At one time I even owned my very own brick and mortar building on Main Street!) That perch provided me with a front row seat on the Great Geneseo Big Box War, in which I eventually became an active combatant.
Looking back through the Clarion archives I see that this year marks the 10th Anniversary of the opening of Geneseo’s 205,000 square foot Super Wal-Mart, the King of all local Big Boxes. That event created a big vacancy in the Geneseo Plaza when the old mini Wal-Mart (only 94,000 square feet) moved out. It took almost three years to fill, but eventually Staples moved into part of that space opening in the fall of 2008. A little more than 6 years later they are gone!
Even before the new Super Wal-Mart had opened, a proposal was floated in March of 2005 to build a 170,000 square foot Lowes across the street in the so-called Gateway District. I can still remember my horror when I first heard of this monstrosity at a presentation by then Town Supervisor Wes Kennison at my weekly Rotary Club meeting. As I recall, Wes had read a book about the “invisible poor” and dreamed of being their champion by bringing the Gospel of low prices to the masses.
Space does not allow me to recount the entire history of that War, but the interested reader can refer to the archives of this “Clarion Call” column or my partner in crime Bill Lofquist’s excellent blog “Preserving Small Towns.
The bottom line, however, is that the rag tag group of rebels known as PDDG (Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo) won the war after losing every battle. We won not because our cause was just (even though it was) or because of the brilliance of our strategy (which goes without saying), but because in the end the Lowe’s proposal, in fact the whole dream of a Big Box Utopia, was fatally flawed.

As amply documented in Professor Lofquist’s blog, in the early years of this century (until the rude awakening of 2008), the United States was caught up in a huge Retail Construction Bubble that was simply not sustainable. In fact the Wall Street Journal reported in 2008 that projected retail demand “will justify only 43 percent of the new space delivered this year and last.” At the time I thought that some of Bill’s  “Dr. Doom” predictions were a little gloomy, but history has proved him very prescient.

As economist Herbert Stein said, “Things that cannot go on forever, will stop,” and that is what eventually happened to the Lowes proposal.  Looking back with our 20-20 hindsight, I dare say that was a good thing. I note that the Lowes store that opened in 2008 in Batavia (a much larger market then Geneseo) lasted barely 5 years before closing, so we may have dodged a bullet. Although, perhaps not as vulnerable to Internet competition on their big ticket items, if you search  “Lowes store closing” you will find dozens of other communities that have not been so lucky.
On a personal note, sensing the direction the wind was blowing, I moved my printing business, Genesee Graphics, off Main Street in 2009 to a much lower cost location: my home. Now that I sense a change in the weather I am going to re-establish a retail beachhead. This week I will be moving my copying and printing business to 61 Main Street in Geneseo (the former Frugal Fashionista). Why don’t you stop in to order some copies or printing and talk about the good old days!

The Rochester Connection in the JFK Cover-up

Based on the title of this piece,  I am sure that at least half of those who encounter it have already skipped past to read something else. There is a great deal of psychological resistance to the fact (not a theory) that JFK was shot by more than one gun (at least one of which was in front of him) and that there was a massive government cover-up to hide that fact.

If you are still here, congratulations you must at least have an open mind! I can’t really blame those who do not understand this. After all, a large part of the cover-up has been an orchestrated attempt to sell the fake Lone Gunman story in the major media that have been controlled by CIA for at least the last 50 years and which continues to this day. (See Operation Mockingbird.)

Also making it difficult to know what really happened is the fact that so much of the government files in the case were locked up for long periods and some remain classified to this day. This is not even including the many files that were no doubt destroyed and will never see the light of day!

Over recent years, however, as more documents have been released and as more and more researchers have pored over the evidence and  compared notes, a consensus of the truth has begun to emerge. I don’t know who shot John (for a list of suspects,  see my column from last November) or who gave the order, but it is becoming increasingly clear that officials at the highest levels of government led the effort to cover the tracks of the assassins.

Which brings us to the famous Zapruder film and Rochester’s role in it’s editing. For what follows I am mainly summarizing the conclusions of Doug Horne who’s 5-volume series of books “Inside the Assassination Records Review Board” (on which he served)  is  a classic of detailed analysis. No I have not read the entire 5 volumes, however, a good summary can be found in 5 online videos published by the Future of Freedom Foundation.

While a large part of those volumes and videos deal with the fraudulent military autopsy conducted at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the curious case of the altered Zapruder film is summarized in another of his online videos entitled. “The Zapruder Film Mystery.”

It appears that contrary to the cover story that has been clung to for almost 51 years  there was an original version of the Z-film that was heavily edited to remove a large amount of “inconvenient” evidence of a conspiracy. This included a much larger explosion of JFK’s head that went on for many frames (not the one frame that survives in the altered version) which showed large amounts of brain material ejected from the back of Kennedy’s head.

In the original version seen by technicians of the National Photo Interpretation Center in Washington, D.C. on the night of Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963, there was also evidence of the limousine slowing to a near stop before the fatal head shot. This confirms the impression of dozens of eyewitnesses that day who reported that the motorcade had come to a virtual stop.

Dino Brugioni, who was a high official at NPIC and who’s honesty is beyond reproach,  testifies to this and a great deal more on the video. He led the three person crew that worked with the original film that night. Apparently for many years he was unaware that a second crew was called in Sunday night to work on a new altered version of the film.

The agent who brought the second film to NPIC  Secret Service agent “John Smith” reported that he had just come from Rochester, NY where the film had been developed at the Hawkeye Plant at Eastman Kodak. The CIA had a very close connection with Kodak and had a classified section of the plant where top secret work was done.

Interestingly the copy he delivered Sunday was a 16 mm two-sided version, although the film worked on the night before had already been slit into a 8 mm version when it was developed in Dallas on Friday afternoon. It is surmised that the original was sent to Rochester on Sunday morning where editing was done at the then state-of-the-art equipment at  Hawkeye during the day Sunday before being returned to NPIC Sunday night. Leaving it in 16 mm format was an apparent attempt to convince the Sunday technicians (who were sworn to total secrecy) that they were working on the camera-original film.

Further evidence that the film was altered has been found by using modern image analysis software to study the official version frame by frame. A group in Hollywood that has done that has found very strong evidence of crude alteration including an attempt to black out the gaping exit hole in the rear of Kennedy’s head and even paint on an alternate (and non-existent) exit wound at the top of JFK’s head.

This was obviously necessary to sell the Lone Nut shooting from the rear scenario and it was therefore also necessary to falsify the autopsy (and perhaps conduct secret surgery) to make Kennedy’s wounds correspond to the official story.

Whether the people who covered everything up are the same people who carried out the assassination is an interesting question. I suppose that theoretically they could be acting independently, however, the speed and precision with which the cover-up was carried out argues for a larger conspiracy.

If you have read this far, you either think that I must be wearing a tin foil hat or you may be intrigued. In either case, I urge you not to take my word for anything, but  to watch the video and read into the case a little more.

For the reasons why Kennedy was killed the best place to start is the book “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he died and why it matters.” by James Douglas. I happen to know that at least one copy is on sale at Sundance Book Store in Geneseo and if that is sold, I am sure owner Fred Mingrino would be happy to order you another! Even 51 years later, it does matter. The truth will out!

A long road

Yesterday my good friend Bill Bruckel breathed his last after 94 years of a wonderful life. I was only privileged to know Bill for the last 1/3 of that span. I missed the legendary football career at Avon Central and the University of Rochester, his submarine service in the Pacific during World War II, Harvard Law School and most of the subsequent legal career, even his quixotic political battles when he took on the son of a powerful State Senator to run for county court judge in the early 1960s.

I only got to meet Bill near the end of his legal career when I, as a newly minted attorney, met him at a Bar Association picnic. When Bill discovered that I played tennis we became instant buddies despite our 30+ year age difference. I was honored to host Bill’s “retirement” party in 1983 and am quite sure that few have enjoyed as active and fun a retirement as Bill had for the past 30 years.

Having an extended retirement gave Bill time for lots of adventures besides golf, tennis and poker, three pursuits in which we wiled away more than a few hours together. I didn’t get to go on the legendary raft trip down the Amazon, from which Bill returned with a rare tropical infection– After all, I was a family man with young children!

I do recall a road trip we made on the spur of the moment to Connecticut one night to check on Hurricane damage at my family’s summer home. We drove all night to arrive just as the storm was winding down and the locals were starting to chainsaw the fallen trees. That was quintessential Bill, always up for an adventure despite the concerns of his wife Jane, who would usually just shrug and say, “You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much!”

On that trip, after the hurricane damage was surveyed, we went to the Naval Submarine base in New London where Bill had trained years ago and took in the museum. We toured an old diesel-powered subs where I noted the tight quarters and Bill explained the perils of having to come to the surface every night to re-charge the batteries, something today’s nuclear-powered submariners don’t have to worry about.

A few years later my daughter (and Bill and Jane’s Godchild) Corinna was given a school assignment to interview a veteran. I remember Bill explaining to her why he had chosen the submarine service. “I figured that if anything happened I would be killed and not come home injured or disabled.” Such was the bravery and the fatalism of the Greatest Generation!

When I tried my own hand at politics running for State Assembly in 1986, Bill and Jane were my strongest supporters. I always received great advice from Bill, both political and about life in general. Over the years I would often pass along some of what I came to think of as “Bruckelisms.” In politics Bill taught me to, “Watch what they do, not what they say,” and in life I found that Bill’s assurance that,”90% of what you worry about never happens” was usually true.

Bill played tennis well into his 80s and golf even longer. Ultimately he was unable to do either, but the old poker group still got together regularly up at Morgan View Estates where Bill’s hardness of hearing made for some comical situations, but his mind remained sharp to the end.

Another favorite Bruckelism was often heard at the poker table. When the cards were not running Bill’s way he would point out that, “It’s a long road without any turns!” I always puzzled over that one, but I think it was said in the optimistic sense that no matter how dark things appear, there would be a turn for the better coming soon and usually there was!

Now, Bill’s earthly life has taken its final turn, but our happy memories of his wonderful life, amazing adventures and sunny disposition will keep us smiling on the long road ahead.

50 years later

I was 12 years old when JFK was shot down and was watching on live TV when Lee Harvey Oswald was silenced 50 years ago today. In my teens I remember reading some of the early books that questioned the conclusions of the Warren Commission such as “Rush to Judgement” by Mark Lane, “Inquest” by  Edward Jay Epstein and “Whitewash” by Harold Weisberg. I guess I’ve been a “conspiracy theorist” ever since.

I manage to keep my obsession with the case under control for most of the year, but every November I am drawn back to re-visit the issue like a moth to a flame. This year being the 50th Anniversary of those events has been even more intense. Although most of my reading and viewing has been on the Internet, I have also purchased and read Mark Lane’s “Last Word: My indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK” and am part way through James Douglass’s “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he died and why it matters.”

If you watch or read any of the Main Stream Media (including Fox), you will notice that the theory that Oswald was the lone shooter is now presented as unquestioned fact. I even heard a Fox News reporter say the other night that, “No serious historian questions that Oswald acted alone.” Oh really?

I guess that could be true, but only in the sense that it is said that “History is written by the victors,” although perhaps William F. Buckley version that, “History is the polemics of the victors” is more apt. So who were the victors? Or as they said in Rome, Cui Bono?

A short list of those who benefited from the elimination of our 35th President would include our 36th President who was facing political and legal extinction because of the Bobby Baker & Billy Sol Estes scandals, the CIA which Kennedy had threatened to splinter into 1,000 pieces after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Military Industrial Complex who got their War in Vietnam which Kennedy was backing away from, the Texan Oil Men who got to keep their Oil Depletion Allowance that JFK was trying to take away, the Federal Reserve bankers who Kennedy was trying to push out of the currency business, the Mafia who had been double crossed and attacked by Attorney General Bobby Kennedy after they had helped his brother steal the 1960 election, Israel which got its atomic bomb that JFK was blocking, Republicans such as Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush all of whom got to be President after the premature end of the Kennedy dynasty, and you can even throw in the racists who were opposed to Kennedy’s support for the civil rights movement, although that didn’t work out so great for them when LBJ pushed through the Civil Rights Act.

With the list of enemies that JFK and Bobby had managed to accumulate in just three years in office, the question is more who didn’t have a motive to kill him! On the top of that list I would put Castro and Khrushchev. As shown in many “serious” histories, Kennedy had opened back channel negotiations with both of them to try to defuse Cold War tensions. They had no reason to think that whoever followed Kennedy would be an improvement.

The fear that Russia or Cuba might be involved, however, was used as a very effective bludgeon to keep the Warren Commission and other investigators from straying too far from the “lone nut” official line. LBJ used it to get a reluctant Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren to accept the job as head of the Whitewash, by telling him that if he did not shut down the conspiracy talk it could lead to a nuclear war with at least 40 million American deaths.

Whether Oswald was a patsy who was deliberately “sheep dipped” to be fitted for the role or just an unlucky loser who was in the wrong place at the wrong time is an interesting question. What seems clear from the physical evidence is that he did not kill JFK from the 6th floor window of TSBD with an antique bolt-action Italian rifle with a misfitted scope

When it comes to the testimony of the eyewitnesses, the photographic evidence, the physical wounds and the obviously botched (or intentionally faked) autopsy, the Warren Commission and its followers seem to be saying, “Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?”

I have no special theory of where the gunmen were, but it is clear that Kennedy was hit by at least four bullets, two from the front and two from the back, with Connally taking at least two more. Adding a few known misses and the total shots are anywhere from 8-12, which would indicate at least 3 or 4 gunmen.

The other night I read through the entire official Warren Commission biography of Oswald. If you didn’t know better you could almost believe it made sense. Unfortunately more recent scholarship has shown that all evidence of Oswald’s ample involvement with American Intelligence and law enforcement agencies including the Office of Naval Intelligence, the CIA and the FBI was withheld from the Commission or deliberately left out. The same is true of Jack Ruby’s mob connections, but that’s another column!

In particular Oswald’s activities promoting the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans during the summer of 1963 and his alleged trip to Mexico City in September of that year look especially suspect. It seems clear that he was taking orders from somebody in an attempt to either infiltrate or more likely discredit the pro-Castro Cubans. That he was also conveniently being set up to look like a likely suspect in the future assassination of the President probably did not occur to him until it was too late. If that is true, Oswald looks more like a hero than a villain.

I say “alleged” trip to Mexico City because it is not clear if he was ever really there. What is clear, however, is that someone who was not Oswald contacted the Russian Embassy by phone around that time giving his name as “Lee Oswald.” If you find out who set up that cute operation, you probably have the smoking gun to the whole conspiracy and cover-up plot. (See Peter Dale Scott’s “Deep Politics I, II & III for details.”)

Regardless of who actually was the creative genius behind the operation, the true scandal is how the American Press was convinced to swallow the official line. A study of how this was done would reveal the vast reach of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, in buying off, controlling and manipulating the Main Stream press and the publishing industry, something that even now is apparently a little too close for comfort.

Despite the success of that on-going campaign, however, a recent Washington Post/ ABC poll showed that Americans still doubt the Warren Commission conclusions by a better than two-one margin (62-29 with 8 per cent having no opinion!). I suppose they can take some comfort that the doubters have fallen from a high of 82 per cent in the 1980s.

Looking at the poll’s internals, it appears that the doubters are distributed fairly equally among all segments of society, young and old, men and women, even liberal and conservative. although naturally, conservatives are a little more skeptical of anything issuing from the federal government.

Despite that, however, there seems to be a disturbing recent trend among some Conservative bloggers to want to accept the Warren Commission theory, especially because they can use it to claim that Oswald was really a Leftist. In my opinion, it is dangerous to twist the facts of history to use as ammunition in today’s political wars. As House Special Assassination Committee Deputy Counsel Bob Tanenbaum said, “There is no Democrat or Republican way to evaluate evidence. You can’t compromise on truth.”

Too bad Tanenbaum and his boss Richard Sprague were forced off the investigation by politics when they were getting too close to the truth. They say the truth will make you free, but in this case it seemed to also make a lot of people dead, including many of those who were about to talk to investigators.

Dead might also be a good description of our democratic system which has never really recovered from the events in Dallas 50 years ago this week.

My Nabokovian Winter

In my previous post I wrote about my major physical project of the Winter, rebuilding my broken down 62-year-old body. In this column I address what I have been doing to keep my mind active.

Winters are long in Western New York and one can easily develop a bad case of cabin fever, especially if you limit yourself to watching television and browsing the other vast wasteland of the Internet.

Although I have been a voracious reader for most of my life, I confess that in the last 15 years or so, since the rise of the Internet (and especially since getting an iPad), most of my reading has been of the online variety. Although some would say that there are no accidents, it was an unexpected twist of fate that restored my love of books.

While participating in the Lima Farmers Market last fall, I took a quick break to grab a cup of coffee from a local convenience mart. In the store I discovered a local library group had placed a bookshelf of free books.

Not expecting to find much of any interest, I made a quick scan of the titles. Much to my surprise I found two titles by Vladimir Nabokov: “Ada or Ardor” and “King, Queen, Knave.” Although I had read Lolita a number of times and counted it one of my favorite books, I had never tried to read any of his other work, so I picked them both up and left a small donation for the library.

When the farm season wound down I picked up Ada and tried to read it. I had no idea of the difficulty of the task. I later learned that the first few chapters of Ada are considered to be the most difficult that Nabokov has ever written.

It was almost impossible to decipher what was happening in the plot, almost as if the author was deliberately trying to scare off the casual reader. Of course, any work by Nabokov is a House of Mirrors in which nothing is ever quite what it seems, but Ada, published in 1969, the 16th of his 19 novels, may be the most extreme case.

Luckily, before I gave up, I happened upon an online version of the text which was annotated (at least up to page 200 of the 600 page tome.) With the help of the annotation I was able to decipher not only the plot, but the many puns, literary allusions and the many untranslated sections of  French and Russian phrases!

Once you can read it at the level, you will quickly find yourself in a most amusing Fun House with a least one chuckle or an outright howler in almost every paragraph. After finally finishing Ada, I found the much more conventional King, Queen, Knave much easier going.

Written originally in Russian in 1928, and then translated into English and revised by the author in 1968, KQN was Nabokov’s second novel. The plot is easily followed, despite a few surprising twists, but the literary talent is already obvious. I was hooked!

In rapid succession I have devoured the novels “Pale Fire,” ” Pnin” (twice!), “Bend Sinister”and Nabokov’s first novel in English, “The Real Life of Sebastian Knight,” written in 1938, but not published until 1941. Along the way I also read his autobiography “Speak, Memory” that covers his first 40 years before coming to America.

Currently I have his two last completed works “Transparent Works” and “Look at the Harlequins” on order as well as another of his Russian language originals “Despair” from 1934, also translated and revised by the author in 1965.

When I finish all that I can’t wait to re-read Lolita again, the annotated version of course! In addition to reading the books I also keep my computer by my side to look up all the unfamiliar vocabulary words and references.

Upon finishing each book I go online to try to figure out what I have just read. It is gratifying to me to discover that I am not alone in being perplexed. If even the greatest experts have trouble untangling the ambiguity that Nabokov loves so much, who am I to worry about it?

In any case it has been great fun and I highly commend all of these works, or really anything that he wrote, to the serious reader, although I would not recommend that you start with Ada! Pnin, or Pale Fire might be the most easily accessible.

To have such an obsession with the works of one writer is not that unusual for me. Earlier in my life I went through similar infatuations with the works of Henry Miller, Doris Lessing, Carl Jung,  John Updike and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (In fact I took a little break in January to re-set my pallet with Marquez’s “Autumn of the Patriarch.” )

While I still love all these authors I bow down to the new master: Nabokov must surely be the greatest literary stylist of all time!

Fixing my hip

This column started many years ago when I published a local weekly newspaper and has been dwindling in frequency since my “retirement” from the news business five years ago. As I look back over recent years, I see that many of the articles deal with some of the health challenges I have faced. This is another of those.

Since I am now 62, some of this is not unexpected, due to the poor care I took of my body over the years. In 2009, I had a stent placed in my heart and in late 2011 I had a ruptured achilles tendon repaired, which led to many complications (both physical and mental) when the surgical wound did not heal properly.

I write about these things because I have found that the Internet has been of great value to me when dealing with my own health issues. If my experience can be of help to anyone facing similar issues then in a small way I am paying back.

Doctors are great when you get to the point of needing surgery, but I have not found them so good at diagnosing and treating a problem before it gets acute. My hip is a case in point. I started to have pain on the right side of my right hip well over two years ago. I mainly felt the pain at night when I slept on that side, which I am wont to do.

After googling around my first thought was that I had bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa. After a couple of steroid shots failed to improve the situation I had a hip X-ray to check for arthritis. When the doctor saw the films he asked me if my left hip hurt as well. When I told him “no”  he said, “that’s funny because the arthritis is worse on the left side.”

He then prescribed a course of Naproxen, a stronger version of the OTC drug Aleve to “calm the inflammation down.” The drug did relieve my pain, however, after about 6 months I started experiencing sharp pains in my stomach, even though I was following directions to only take it with food.

At first I didn’t know what was wrong with me and even feared it might be a recurrence of heart problems. I even took for the first time some of the nitroglycerine they had given me when I had my stent placed. When the nitro had no noticeable affect, I concluded it must be something else.

Stopping the pills cleared up the stomach problem within a week, but then the hip pain returned with a vengeance! This past Fall it began to be a real problem. I began to spend more time on the couch avoiding normal activities because of the pain. It got so bad that I spent one entire weekend on the couch doing nothing, nothing but googling that is.

A statement I found online that most people who have hip pain have underdeveloped butts got me to thinking. I am one of those who suffers from the heartbreak of smallbuttitis. I am a person that really should wear suspenders at all times, since there is really nothing there to hang a belt on.

I think the problem is at least partly genetic since some of my daughters have complained about me passing down this defective gene. When looking in the mirror I also noticed that I had let my posture get out of whack and was leaning forward when I walked instead of standing upright. In other words I was walking just like the Old Farmer that I am.

The real culprit, however, turned out to be another pain that I have been suffering from even longer than the hip– a pain on the inside of my right thigh in the adductor magnus muscle. The pain was pretty much chronic although it varied in severity from mild to strong.

I had mentioned this pain to an assortment of doctors, therapists and chiropractors but no one ever made the connection between that and the hip pain, or suggested how to fix it. Finally I ran across a video showing me a simple procedure to loosen up that major muscle. Essentially it involves doing a very deep massage on the muscle by balancing all your weight on that muscle by rolling on a medicine ball.

When I first tried this, the pain was so great that I could barely stand it. It also surprised me that the most painful part of the muscle was down near the knee, well below where I was feeling most of the pain.

After a few weeks of working that muscle, the pain in both the adductor and in my hip began to ease. I then began a regular weight training program, concentrating on increasing the strength of my lower body, particularly my long neglected glutes.

After six weeks of almost daily weight work, while paying attention to improved walking posture, and accomplishing some weight loss, my hip (and adductor) pain has been greatly reduced. I am not totally pain free yet, but I have come far enough that I know I am finally on the right track.

Disclaimer: Everybody’s situation is different and your hip pain may be caused by totally different mechanics. In most cases, however, it wouldn’t hurt to take a close look at your posture, other seemingly unrelated muscle pains and consider overall strength training, especially if you are getting up in years. After a certain age, the body starts to lose muscle tissue unless you make a major effort to maintain it! Being unable to walk and perform routine daily tasks without pain is a major problem and doesn’t do much for your mental health either. Good luck!

Der Kaffeeklatsch

For the last few years I was a member of a very small but remarkable group that met once a week at a local coffee shop. In fact there were only three regular members of this group, with my 61 years roughly equalling the age difference between the other two: my friend Bridgette, who is in her early 20s and expecting her first child and my long-time friend Bob Redden who died this week at age 96.

I would have called this group a coffee clatch, but I think that Bob would have appreciated that I googled the term to find the correct spelling and came up with the original German for the title which translates as “coffee chat.”

Bob was many things but most of all a scholar. He had a PhD from Syracuse and was chairman of the Geography Department at SUNY Buffalo before coming to Geneseo in the 1960s to eventually become Dean of Instruction. Although I liked to kid him by telling him that most of his knowledge was “out of date,” the fact was that he read voraciously, particularly in the areas of history and foreign policy.

On Friday mornings he would stop into the cafe for a short visit while his wife was having her hair done next door. The three of us would sit down to solve the problems of the world over a cup of coffee.

We never did solve all those problems but we did share a great deal of fun and both Bridgette and I benefitted greatly from Bob’s long perspective and his gift for friendship. We were even able to reconvene our group a few times at the County Nursing Home  where Bob spent his mercifully short, final days.

I can attest that Bob’s mind was remarkably sharp right to the end, but sadly, he lost the will to live after having to give up his home of many years on Westview Crescent. He knew the end was near and died peacefully in his sleep last Sunday night.

There will be a memorial service today at 11am at the Catholic Church in Geneseo. It seems appropriate that it should be on this day and time because that was the day and time of our weekly coffee klatsch.

So Bob we will meet one more time before you move on to that Great Coffee Klatch in the sky. Save us a seat!

BTW I know I have spelled Kaffeeklatsch four different ways in this short piece but, as Bob would no doubt correctly quote, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Bob’s was certainly not a little mind. In fact he could probably tell you not only who said that (Ralph Waldo Emerson), but also what a Hobgoblin is.

Bob saw the great sweep of life in this world for 96 years and despite growing up in the Depression, experiencing prejudice against his Irish Catholic roots and seeing the horror of war in WWII, he maintained a great and abiding faith in our country and the ability of good to triumph over evil. I hope you were right Bob!

All the lonely people

As I mentioned in my last post, I now find myself for the first time in about 35 years truly single without any prospects on the bench. How did that happen? Well for one thing I got myself into a monogamous relationship that I thought was going to be forever, so I didn’t worry about developing a farm team.

Everything was going great (I thought). We were cruising down the sunny highway of love. Then we hit a few small bumps in the road, and the next thing I know the car was upside down in a ditch! (Of course her version sounds a whole lot different, but this is my blog!)

So anyway here I am and I wanted to pass on what I’ve learned in my first month of singledom about the state of dating today both online and off. Of course online is a lot easier than trying to pick-up a girl in person. You don’t have to punch up your nerve too much and mercifully you don’t have to see their body language and facial expression when they turn you down, or more likely ignore you!

Actually I’ve been greeted quite nicely by the four girls I approached in person. It’s not my fault that two were married and the other two had boyfriends. Is it true that all the good ones are taken? One of the married ones seemed to be trying to hide her wedding ring as we were talking. Is that a good sign?

Anyway on to the Brave New World of online dating. Actually I did dabble in this once before about 10 years ago during my last short period of semi-singledom. A lot has changed in the technology. The biggest change is that now you can see who has looked at your profile and who has actually opened your e-mail.

This is a great improvement because when you find out that they never opened your e-mail you don’t feel so bad about them not responding. It seems that all dating sites have a lot of stale profiles and people that are just lookers, but don’t want to pay the monthly fee so they can actually read or respond to your e-mail. Some sites also seem to have some fake profiles but that’s another story.

Having a lot of time on my hands, and being highly motivated to end this wretched single life as soon as possible, I have signed up for about a half a dozen of these services (although not necessarily as a paying customer). My theory is that its a numbers game. The more women you approach, the more likely you are to find one stupid or desperate enough to take an interest.

My biggest problem is that like most active (and virile!) men of 61, I want a woman in her 40s. (Get over it you feminists, that’s the way of the world!) Of course, that considerably lowers my chances of success. Most good looking women in their 40s are getting lots of online attention. There seems to be a general rule that the hotter the girl, the younger the man she is willing to consider. Most really hot chicks would not consider anybody more than a couple of years older.

Fortunately there are a few exceptions to that rule. Unfortunately a lot of the people in this category come under the heading of what we call fake profiles, golddiggers or scammers. And yet there are a few genuine ladies out there who actually understand the value of experience and that age is just a number, I hope!

Another problem that raises its ugly head in these times is politics. I have to admit that the last three years under Obama has driven me from Plain Old Conservative to Angry Tea Party Ultra Conservative. Unfortunately a lot (or probably most) of the single women are liberals. Let’s face it, if we could somehow ban single women from voting, Obama would still be a back-bencher in the Senate! Needless to say this is also limiting my chances for success in the mainstream sites.

So here is my review of the sites I’ve tried so far. Match.com is the 800 pound gorilla of dating sites, but for me I doubt I could get a 800 pound gorilla to write back to me on this site. In the last month I have sent e-mails to 16 women on Match, 8 of which eventually got opened. Number of responses: 0.

The typical girl on Match seems to want to be wined and dined at expensive restaurants, taken for long romantic walks down the beach and then spend the rest of their lives taking exotic vacations. Sorry girls, but that ain’t me!

I found a more compatible type of girl for this old country boy on farmersonly.com. Here you find girls who claim to know what life on a farm is really all about and incredibly they still say they want it! A typical girl on this site says she wants to work 7 days a week getting her hands dirty. My kind of woman!

Again, however, stale profiles, inactive members and getting the few live ones to write back is still a problem. To date I have written to 36 women, with about 12 of them actually opening the e-mail. (The percentage is only this high because I finally wised up and stopped writing to non-paying profiles.)

Of those, four actually responded, although only one seems to have any ongoing interest. Part of the problem is that I am looking for a women to re-locate to my farm here in western New York, but I am casting a wide net. I’ve written to women all across the country, and some are just not interested in re-locating to Siberia. Still my numbers are much better on this site, so if you are a farmer looking for a farm wife (like I am) I highly recommend it.

A related site I tried was Earth Wise Singles. This is for your environmentally sensitive types, but I figured as an organic farmer I could maybe fool somebody. Unfortunately when I tried to narrow my search terms to find conservative women there were none! I actually did get one girl to write back on this site, but I knew it wouldn’t work so I dropped her before I broke her green little heart.

I also signed up for another site called Harvest Dating because it came up when I was searching for other farm singles sites. I think the only harvesting this site is interested in is harvesting money from your credit card. I’m ashamed to say they got me for one month for $39. This brings up the most important rule of online dating: If it looks too good to be true, it is!

They got me by having impossibly young and beautiful and no doubt fake people wink at me and send me e-mails. Of course as soon as you pony up to respond these people disappear like mirages in the desert. Of course if I was looking for people in 3rd world countries this site would be great. I’ve had cute 20 and 30 something girls winking at me from Turkey, The Phillipines and Kyrgyzstan!

Perhaps the most annoying site I’ve tried is SpeedDate.com. As soon as you log into their site you feel like you have entered a busy pinball arcade, complete with flashing lights and ringing bells. About every 15 seconds they offer you the opportunity to have an online chat with a succession of what they deem age-appropriate dates. Suffice it to say, if I wanted to date women like this I would start hanging around the local nursing home!

I could go on with a few other sites I’ve tried but you get the idea. Online dating is for the most part a virtual House of Horrors filled with lonely people like me. I’ll probably hang in for a while with farmersonly but the rest have seen their last nickel from me! I have the feeling however, that if I ever am going to meet the girl of my dreams its probably not going to happen online. I think I can do much better in person.

Oh, and just in case you or somebody you know thinks they might be that girl of my dreams, let me describe her: She is in her mid40s, tall, slim and athletic, beautiful, emotionally ready and willing to re-locate and work 7 days a week in the dirt. if she plays tennis too, that’s a perfect match! Shouldn’t be that hard to find, right?

And finally for those who think that I am being cruel to my Ex by posting this publicly, let me point out two things: First, as the dumpee, my feelings must take precedence. And second, as I have tried to say in as many ways as I know how, the door is still open Darling if you want to come back . . . for now!

My Winter Horribilis

On Dec. 2, I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing tennis. At the time, and still to this day, I considered it a lucky break.  That may seem strange but I had been in pretty much constant pain since last July due to a series of partial tears. (See previous post “Every 30 years” on the subject).

Almost from the day the cast came off on Jan.15, I have had excellent function of my Achilles and have been able to walk pain free, thank God! The other results of my surgery were not so good. The biggest problem was that the surgical wound had not healed properly and I was left with a silver dollar sized hole in the back of my leg.

Gross out warning: If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this paragraph! Still here? The hole was quite deep, right down to the tendon. In fact you could see one of the sutures that had been placed to tie the tendon back together. There is not a lot of flesh in that part of your body. Just a thin layer of skin and then the tendon. Apparently not much blood circulation either, because it is a notoriously slow healing area.

A week later my doctor got his first look at the hole and wanted to put me back in a cast, but I refused. A month rolling around on a knee walker had been more than enough, plus I was afraid that it would get infected inside the cast and I wouldn’t be able to see what was going on or treat it.

He relented and sent me to a specialist to see if i needed a skin transplant. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary and luckily I also avoided infection of the wound. The healing process, however was to drag on at a glacial pace for two more months.

During that time I was basically immobile. Although I had a special boot I could wear that would ease the pressure on the wound, any step I took outside the boot would tug on the wound and re-open it. Consequently I spent most of the time from Jan. 15 -March 15 laying on a couch watching TV and browsing the Internet.

That might not sound so bad, but for a normally active person like me, it was torture! I have to confess that it started to effect my mental state. Only now that I have been able to get back outside and start my spring farm chores do I realize how kooky I had been! I became obsessed with the national political situation and read blogs constantly and studied each new poll.

I became irritable at everything. Fox News was too liberal for me and I had to mute all the opinions of the increasing number of people I didn’t agree with. I listened to conservative talk radio from early morning to all hours of the night.

I barked at a bank teller and told off an insurance office receptionist. I berated my loving girlfriend, who changed my dressing twice a day, and fought to the death of our relationship over her lack of desire to continue participating in my farm dreams.

Adding to my injuries, I believe I was mishandled while under the general anesthesia. Shortly after I got out of the hospital I realized that I had somehow acquired severe tennis elbow in my right arm and a rotator cuff injury to my right shoulder, injuries I had not had pre-op. While there is no way to prove it, it seems obvious that someone must have yanked on my right arm when they turned me over after the operation.

Two cortisone shots and 3 months later I still have to wear an elbow brace to work, although my shoulder seems almost back to normal. For the first couple months, however, I was in extreme pain whenever I tried to use my right arm or tried to roll over in bed.

So it hasn’t been a great winter. The only bright spots are that I decided to go on a diet on Jan. 1 and have lost over 20 pounds and I am now walking pain free for the first time in 9 months and can officially start re-hab tomorrow– and, not so happily, for the first time in 35 years I am truly single again!  But that’s the subject of a future column.

FOPs for Newt

I am hereby founding a new political group called FOPs for Newt. The acronym stands for Fat Old Philanderers. Believe me, I am well-qualified to be a member of this group: I have weighed north of 250 pounds for most of my adult life, I am now over 60 years old, and about the philandering, well the less said about that the better, but let’s just say I would not be qualified to cast the first stone.

I am speaking out now because I feel that there is a lot of subtle and (not so subtle) prejudice against Newt because of these three traits that he shares with so many of his would-be constituents. Let’s take these one at a time:

Fat: I don’t exactly know how much Newt weighs but I’m pretty sure it is less than Pres. William Taft who reportedly tipped the scales at over 300 pounds. Does anyone seriously think that in this age of televised political beauty contests, that a fat man (even Chris Christie) could ever again be elected President?

If you read any of the comments posted online after any article about Newt it won’t be very long before the words “fat slob” are flung as if that ended the debate. As a fat slob myself I highly resent that.

As Henry Miller pointed out years ago, fat men may be fat in body but they are usually anything but fat heads. As he observed in his novel Sexus (don’t even go there!), “Fat men were often most dynamic, most engaging, most charming and seductive. Their laziness and slovenliness were deceptive. In the brain they often carried a diamond.”

Any fair observer of this year’s Republican debates must have come to the same conclusion. Newt mind has run circles around the competition! Do we want a truly smart president or simply one who can look pretty reading a teleprompter?Don’t answer that!

Age: At Age 68, Newt is getting toward the far end of the traditional Presidential range. Of course Ron Paul is 75, but nobody (not even Ron Paul) really believes that he can be elected.

On the other hand, if elected, Newt would be a few months younger than Ronald Reagan was when he won his first term and he didn’t do too badly! It’s also important to remember that improvements in health have extended the lifespan of almost all Americans, so that 70 is looking more and more like the new 60 or less! (BTW over our long history the median age for a first term President at election is about 55. You could look it up!)

As Newt could say in any debate with Pres. Obama, “I’m not going to make an issue of my opponent’s youth and inexperience!”

Philandering: This is a tough one, but I have to say that it is not even clear that Newt meets the strict definition here. According to the free online dictionary,” A Philanderer is one who carries on a sexual affair, especially an extramarital affair, with a woman one cannot or does not intend to marry.” (emphasis added).

According to everything that has been reported, Newt did carry on affairs during his first two marriages, but he ended up marrying both of the women! This is not so much philandering as it is premature serial monogamy.

OK, I admit adulterers are never going to win that argument, but if adultery were a disqualification for high office, our nation would have been much the poorer for it. It is not necessary to pick on recent Democrats by recounting the sleazy sexual habits of President Bill “Alley Cat” Clinton or John “The Fornicator” Kennedy.

We can go all the way back to our Founding Fathers and discover that Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton (and maybe even Thomas Jefferson) were not immune from such foibles and they all got their pictures on our currency!

Although, fortunately the press in prior times was more circumspect, it is pretty much accepted that such otherwise great Presidents as FDR and Dwight Eisenhower strayed from the marital bed, although at least Ike had the excuse that there was a war on.

And as for divorce, I thought we laid that one to rest when we elected the Gipper! Case closed!

So, in conclusion, if you don’t like Newt’s ideas or policies then don’t vote for him. But if all you can bring to the conversation is stupid prejudice and a holier then thou attitude than please spare us the hypocrisy!

The FOPs for Newt is not authorized or paid for by any political committee, although I would be happy to accept donations!

Every 30 years!

It’s been over a year since I penned a post on this blog, but it looks like I may have more time for it this winter. Next week I will be having surgery to repair a ruptured left achilles tendon and the usual recovery is at least 6 weeks in a cast.

Its been over 30 years since I ruptured my right achilles and went through this drill before, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I have never felt such pain as I did on that day in 1980 when I went down on the SUNY Geneseo squash court wondering who had shot me– and I hope I never do again!

By comparison, the pain from the pop on the tennis court Saturday morning was mild. Of course the first rupture was sudden and unexpected, the more recent one has been coming for almost 5 months.

I first injured my achilles on the tennis court in July. I really don’t even remember how I did it, except that by the end of a match I was quite sore. I tried to stay off it for a few weeks, but having a tennis club in my back yard and having the annual club championships running through August made that hard.

In August I was playing in the finals of our grass court doubles tournament when at a crucial moment of a tightly contested match I ran for a lob over my partner’s head. The pain came back with gusto and I had to retire from the match with the score tied 4-all in the 3rd set.

Again I stayed off the court for a few more weeks and actually seemed to be recovering. I played once a week or so in October, and then just to be safe, I decided to take the last three weeks of our Fall outdoor League off, to rest the leg up for the Winter indoor tennis season which was due to start Dec. 1.

Ironically, while avoiding the tennis court I tripped on a branch while working in the woods one day and fell hard. I pulled the tendon so hard that I at first thought it had to have ruptured. After a few minutes I got to my feet and was able to walk, but the tendon was never the same.

I knew I was really not ready to play tennis Saturday and so arranged for a sub to play for me. However, at 8 pm Friday night I got a fateful e-mail that one of our group had torn his calf muscle playing racquetball and could not play in the morning. With the match scheduled for 7:30 am in the city, I was out of time to find a sub and out of  options, so I decided to chance one for the team.

To protect myself I watched a couple of online videos on how to tape an achilles. Basically, the preferred method is to run a piece of stretchable tape down the back side of the leg anchored between the top of the achilles and the middle of the bottom of the foot.This elastic tape is pulled fairly tight to limit the range of motion of the achilles so it does not overstretch. (This may have been the only smart thing I did all weekend!)

Thus prepared I was ready to do battle. The first set went off without incident. In the middle of a fabulous comeback in the 2nd set ( that saw us come from down 1-5 to win the set 7-5) I received one final warning when I felt somehing give in my leg.

I almost quit then, but after walking it off for a few minutes I figured I could continue the comeback. A few points into the 3rd set, after about 75 minutes of tennis, I again tried to run for a lob and felt the classic sensation that someone had hit me in the back of the leg with a racquet.

I quickly realized that no one was close enough to do that and since nothing had fallen off the ceiling to hit me, I concluded that the tendon was gone. I limped off the court and had to be helped to my car with a broom stick for a crutch.

The rest of Saturday was spent on the couch with my leg elevated and covered with ice packs as I drugged myself with liberal doses of ibuprofen and Tylenol. Although the pain was moderate it was tolerable and I actually slept fairly well Saturday night. Amazingly, by Sunday morning I was able to walk with little pain so long as I didn’t try to push off on the bad leg.

A trip to my orthopedic surgeon Monday afternoon confirmed my diagnosis. I was actually happy to hear that he thought I should have the surgery since my biggest fear was that it might only be a partial tear and I would only be offered a cast. After four plus months of struggling with ever-worsening problems with this tendon I knew from my reading that surgery was my best chance to get back on my beloved courts quickly and at full strength.

My doctor commented on how narrow the gap in the broken tendon was and I think that was because the tape job probably limited the force of the explosion when the tendon gave way. It may also have limited the pain.

All and all, however, if I add up all the pain that tendon gave me over the last five months, I guess the total pain was about equal to what I felt in one intense burst 30 years ago!

I know I probably should have just stopped playing tennis for the season back in July when I had the first injury, but that’s asking a lot. Now the doctor says no tennis for 6 months. At least it’s coming at the right time of year, and  that should get me back on the court around the middle of June –just in time to tune up for next year’s club championships!

After the series of injuries that I had over the past few months, and especially after my fall in the woods, I kind of feel that the tendon was probably beyond natural healing anyway. The achilles is notorious for slow healing because it has a very stingy natural blood supply.

Going through the pain of the operation and the rehab is going to be a drag, but I am encouraged by the thought that by next summer I will be back on the court playing better than ever! And in the meantime, there’s always reading, watching old movies and blogging–and in the spring, croquet.

I guess I can be thankful this only happens every 30 years and my next rupture is not scheduled until 2041, when I will be 90!