Saturday, July 23, 2016

RNC - 2016 - Brief Impressions & Conclusions

For those who would rather not read a longwinded rant, I am summarizing my overall observations and impressions of the RNC in order to get to the heart of the matter. After all, this is just my opinion and you can take it or leave it. I don’t feel a need to justify anything. I realize that most who read this will not agree with my impressions and conclusions including my kids.
  • Overall, attending the RNC was a marvelous experience, a once in a lifetime occurrence. Thank you Miriam Hellreich for inviting me as a guest to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  And thanks Phil for baby-sitting me during the week. It was truly a memorable event. Overall, I would give the event a B+ for organization, execution and performance based on my observations and those of other attendees who have much more experience attending these types of political events.
  • Visibly absent from this RNC were many prominent leaders of the Republican Party including past presidents. This significantly muted the historical connection and significance of the proceedings, as well limited the selection of potential speakers available for prime time slots.  Thus, many presentations were relegated to much less well-known politicians and extraneous speakers whose presentations were passible at best.
  • As a result of the above, the week was characterized by shifting highs and lows in presentation quality, significance, enthusiasm and spawned crowd electricity.  Nevertheless, it ended on the strong words of Donald J Trump to a receptive audience.  But there was a moderate amount of tiring redundancy in the presentations across speakers during the week’s event.  How many times do I need to hear the same criticisms of HRC?
  • A significant effort was made with considerable time spent exposing HRC’s past missteps, bad judgment, dishonesty and outright criminal actions, particularly but not exclusively during her time as Secretary of State. The case against HRC was compelling, especially to the audience of Republicans eagerly buying into the arguments presented. Nevertheless, very little information was presented that was new. Kudos to Chris Christie for doing an excellent job in “holding court” against HRC, and calling upon the delegates in the audience to determine innocence or guilt for the multiple “crimes” she committed.  
  • There were several inspiring and heartfelt presentations by mothers of fallen soldiers and police officers including one mother of a Bengasi soldier killed by terrorists attacking the American Embassy on that fateful day when no one came to them rescue thanks in part to HRC.  But the best presentations (that I heard) were made by Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, David Clarke, Laura Ingraham, Linda Lingle, Ivanka Trump, Newt Gingrich, and despite the lack of endorsement for Donald Trump, Ted Cruz’s presentation was also excellent. Donald J Trump also gave the best speech of his life.  It was written and vetted, rehearsed and re-rehearsed. He used a teleprompter to read it, but it did not fall flat.  Basically, Donald offered himself as the solution to what ails America’s, which he described in detail. Much of the media interpreted his presentation as dark but those attending the RNC that I canvassed emphatically did not! With almost one terrorist attack occurring at least weekly, who can say that they feel more safe now than before BHO took office eight years ago. Certainly not I. And with HRC, we would get more of the same for the next four years. 
  • Donald Trump’s family was skilled, professional, and exemplary in their behavior and attendance throughout the week.  They all presented outstanding personal testimonials, portraying their father in a positive light. They emphasized the opportunities given to minorities and women that he has provided, working in his real estate empire. The truth is that the children's presentations were all outstanding, so much so that Donald Sr’s acceptance speech fell short of his children.  Again, Donald Trump Jr was particularly skilled and delivered a truly presidential speech.  Indeed, some of us wished Jr and Sr would switch roles at the convention. And of course, Ivanka’s performance was also compelling and delivered with style and grace. 
  • The media did little to accurately portray the events of the RNC, concentrating their time and effort on whatever negative moments they could dwell on, rather than providing a balanced viewpoint. This applies not only to the cable news networks, but also many newspapers.  The NYT typically showed its truly disgraceful biases against Republicans with their coverage.  The media no longer reports the news, it makes and shapes the news with its egregious biases and predispositions that, to me, are so far removed from reality and the life of typical Americans. But they are no longer listening or trusting their words.  This is especially true of words that are focused on Donald Trump.  How wrong can you be about predicting Donald’s demise? Despite the most disparaging of commentaries throughout the last year from just about every media outlet, the Donald’s ratings and successes have continued to progressively increase. To be sure, this has defied the pundits and expert commentators who have been all to ready to ignore and forgive their previous failed predictions about the Donald but do not hesitate to hoist their next vitriolic diatribe against him. Well guess what MEDIA, your words are landing on the deaf ears of the mainstream American public.  Maybe this is what really hurts!

Well, I think I will stop there.  But I think I will compose one last blog about the RNC.  The last composition will stem from a more personal nature, not totally relevant to the theme and purpose of the RNC, but rather from my mini recollections that have stuck to my brain this last week in Cleveland. 

Miriam Hellreich presiding over the Hawaii Delegation at the hotel

back at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - two ladies dancing freestyle

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seen near the end of the day

not a very good picture but what the heck

quite the crowd

The Donald at the Helm

Thursday, July 21, 2016

RNC-2016 - Day 2-4

The first two real days of the RNC were filled to the brim with speakers….not only from well known and lesser well known politicians, senators, congressmen, governors but also from retired military, religious figures, business leaders, Trump coalitions and rally groups, Trump children – at least one a day, mothers of slain soldiers and policemen, an actor, a police sheriff (David Clarke- he was fabulous), several veterans, youths, a great speech from Linda Lingle, an inspiring and “well” crafted, albeit controversial presentation from Melania Trump, and the most thrilling and motivating speeches by Rudy Giuliani….who seized the first night, and by Donald Trump Jr and Chris Christie who seized night #2. Night 3 was polluted by the likes of Ted Cruz, but partially rescued by Newt Gingrich and Mike Pence.  Night 4 is still forthcoming. And more on these aspects in my next chapter.

But first this blog will highlight a little about the ambience.

Security was high everywhere.  Indeed, I would not be surprised if there was a security guard planted in the bathroom of my hotel room!  There were cops, federal agents, secret service, strong looking military types that you would have to be crazy to f…. with, men, women of all sizes, shapes…..legions of them all over the place…in the air, on the ground, in their cars…..everywhere.  You could not go ANYWHERE without seeing an ARMED officer of the law or secret service staffer with that signature plastic ear piece wired down under his/her collar - to protect your safety and your right to participate in this most American of constitutional traditions.  And they were all friendly and kind and conversant and appreciative of the signs of gratitude from those passing by. I never felt as safe and protected in my entire life….thank YOU US law enforcement!!!! But their job was overwhelming in scope.

Protestors filled the assigned areas far from the reaches of the Q, and were peaceful until day 3 when 18 were arrested.  For some reason, one protestor tried to burn the American flag and instead set his trousers on fire – nice job guy!  The police had their own strategy for containing protestors with lines of policemen on horses, followed by lines on bicycles to contain those that slipped by the procession of horses. If the protestors somehow squeezed by the barrier of oncoming bicycles, they had to contend with hundreds of officers on foot.  Quite an elaborate plan; one that has been heretofore very successful.

Inside the Q, in the inner sanctum of the RNC, it was a little like being thrown into a pinball machine.  Chaos, noise, and thousands of human bodies moving haphazardly vying for the same space… the assigned seating area, buses, street lined pathway to the Q, communal food concessions, elevators, bathrooms, etc.  I found the only way to navigate this human infestation of living bodies was to transform into my New York persona.  So I moved forward with purpose and found that the faster and more direct I moved, the quicker others would skirt my path to avoid collision.  It was truly beautiful to experience such navigation strategy…only if I could navigate so well on the dance floor. 

Rita with the Newt!
There were many famous people passing by, not only the obvious high ranking republican politicians that were there by obligation or free will – many chose not to attend.  Check out the picture of Newt Gingrich taken in the elevator next to one of our Hawaii delegates and another one of Chris Wallace (Mike Wallace’s son) with Hawaii delegate, Miriam Hellreich.   

Miriam Hellreich with Chris Wallace
I also had my own adventure.  From the chaos of the crowd passing from one area to the next, I just so happened to pass shoulder to shoulder with Wolf Blitzer of CNN news while waiting for an elevator on my way to one of the RNC Special VIP Lounges.  At first I was not sure whether it was truly Wolf, and it took a second look to confirm his identify.  Well, instead of the stunted, squirrelly looking TV persona that he inspires, he looked younger, well groomed and oddly handsome in person.  I was so impressed that I put my hand on his shoulder and whispered to him that he looks much younger in person than on the news!  He thanked me and quietly walked away in the opposite direction…. probably disgusted from these types of comments voiced uninvited from the public riffraff. 

But when not navigating the crowds getting from place to place, there was a lot of sitting going on during the convention.  As mentioned, we were assigned seating in the upper section of left field bleachers.  On the first full day, we left the hotel at 11am and returned back at midnight.  Subsequent days were a little more tolerable.  Either way, the lion’s share of time was spent stuffed into a reasonably cushioned chair with little to no legroom.  My legs were spewing out over the side of the aisle begging for freedom and my butt was flattened and numb.  My body cried out for uncoiling, but none was forthcoming.  And there were several more days of this imprisonment to endure.

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know but whom you know.  And so through a very good friend who seemed to know everyone at the convention, we were able to garner a few passes to the RNC lounges generally reserved for VIP’s and beautiful women who seem to gain entrance to the most exclusive venues everywhere in the world.  The Q was like a maze and the number of lounges and special reception areas were too numerous to count.  I was privileged to have daily access to one but we also ventured to two others that were somewhat crowded but worth experiencing.  One private lounge was the domain of the assistant RNC convention director.  There we sat and ate and drank and watched the last few presentations of the RNC on night number two and three. There was so much schmoozing in this lounge, eating and drinking, with guests making lots of noise rather than listening to the presentations that folks were ostensibly there to hear.  It was quite disruptive as it made it difficult to hear the speakers over the cacophony of the nearby chatter.

Naturally, being at the RNC was much different than watching it on TV.  For sure, it is would be much easier to watch it from afar but the experience was much less personal.  For one thing I felt warmly patriotic throughout the proceedings.  This was a powerful sense of nationalism that most of us just take for granted or maybe even trivialize or outright reject.  Every meeting day was greeted with reciting the pledge of allegiance, singing the national anthem and listening to a preplanned invocation. The American flag was everywhere!  It made me truly feel proud to be an American.

Sheriff David Clarke
Another difference was that the presentations of the first two days seemed more personal, inspiring, emotionally effective, and real-time when visualized in person.  TV has a way of impersonalizing everything, distorting reality into fiction and biasing reporting to satisfy the ideological predisposition of the liberal left media.  It was nice to be able to witness the proceedings in person and to interpret for myself the quality and impact and crowd reaction without a surrogate and biased explanation from the media.  It was also nice to compare my own notes with theirs and uncover major discrepancies.

I had the opportunity on Day 3 to meander around the convention floor after borrowing a floor pass from one of the members of the Hawaii delegation.  What a treat!  That’s where all of the action was, the delegates moving haphazardly around like in an ant colony, chanting and yelling during the speeches, dancing with the music, sitting attentively to some of the more inspiring of presentations.  They frequently interrupted the speakers with cheers of joy, boos of anger (more on that in the final installment), yelling USA, USA, or LOCK HER UP, LOCK HER UP – of course referring to Hilary R. Clinton who was the subject of continuous ridicule.

This RNC for me was an interesting and enlightening experience.  The Hawaii delegation was warm and friendly and there to do a job which they did well.  I experienced a historic event that will be documented forever in history.  Unfortunately, I’m not certain how history will judge the event when it is said and done but I will offer my own interpretation of the overall successes and failures in the last installment that I hope to complete in short order.

Thanks all for being patient with me and living the RNC through my eyes and partially deaf ears.
Entrance Door Greeter  # 1
Greeter #2
Greeter #3

A relative of my dance friend Ju-leei
Hula to God Bless America at our Hawaii Delegation meeting
beautifully done
This lounge we went to each day
a closer view from the lounge
Thanks Phil for being my baby sitter for the RNC

I gained weight hanging out in this lounge
Donald Trump Jr giving one of the best presentations of the RNC
Also an amazing presentation from Chris Christie

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

RNC-2016 Day 1

Still jet-lagged and overwhelmed with the magnitude of pomp and circumstance of the RNC extravaganza, occurring in a city I have only travelled to once – sometime in my distant past. I have endured the noise and mayhem of hoards of republicans crossing paths and mingling with each other.  But I’m presently sitting high at the  top of the Q, in the nosebleed seating section trying to take it all in.  But lets not get ahead of ourselves. 

The RNC assigned the Hawaii contingency housing about 19 miles out of the city in a town I had never heard of called Mentor.  Appropriate for such a town of strip malls and familiar, fattening, and flatulogenic fast food restaurants stands the Holiday Inn that houses the Minnesota and Hawaii delegations. Not difficult to tell the difference between the delegations with a lot of tall slender and elegant looking Minnesotans.

And just to set the record straight, everyone from the Hawaii delegation was very nice, gracious, friendly and dedicated to the task at hand.  No more sign of discord, disagreement or any inappropriate outbursts.  I’m very lucky to be here and feel aloha, kindness and friendship from all of the members of the Hawaii delegation.
The first night was spent getting our credentials passed out, information sharing and attending an opening reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  What an event!!!  There were thousands of folks, dozens of food stations, and bars serving a decent assortment of wine and beer, which I sampled on several occasions.  The food was excellent, but waiting on countless lines in the hot sun was no fun….the sun sets late in July in Cleveland.  Music played by the Doobie brothers - whoever they are - was broadcasted over several screens at several strategic locations around the vast landscape of the museum campus.  Folks dancing freestyle, lots of beer drinking and networking, all having fun. We traversed the museum and what a great museum it was.  Rock and roll was a part of my life even before I could dance.  It still tickles my core hearing the songs of the 50’s and 60’s with the coordinated rhythmic movement and sounds, all fluid and intoxicating and familiar.  Of course, not all of them fit this stereotype like the flaming convulsive performances of Jerry Lee Louis or Elvis. But it was fun reliving the music of the past with all of the videos and paraphernalia on display at the museum.

Back to the reception, I was tempted to dance, but in the end, the occasion did not present itself.  For one think, Ivanca did not show up…haha.  For another, the music was only borderline danceable.  I could visualize being miserable trying to lead some unsuspecting lady on the dance floor into moves she had never done before with an audience looking on apathetically.  But there was no remorse, and without noticing -  the night moved by swiftly and by the time it felt right to go, it was really time to go because the evening had ended.  Forty minutes on the bus and we were home.  Some young man from Minnesota sat next to me filling the last few seats on the bus.  His father was a mortician in a small town two hours south of the Twin Cities.  I of course, uninvited, I took the opportunity to pontificate endlessly about life, and advise him on how he should approach college and graduate studies.  And so the kid got paid back in spades for asking to sit next to me.  Poor kid. 

And so ended night #1 with most everything going well and I got a good six hours sleep. More tomorrow………..

Saturday, July 16, 2016

RNC-2016 Prelude

The 2016 Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio at the Quicken Loans Arena July 18-21, 2016.
The Republican National Committee (RNC), the convention will host approximately 2,470 delegates and 2,302 alternate delegates from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories.
The convention will also include approximately 15,000 credentialed media—an international press corps second only in size to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games—as well as a global audience that will witness a front row seat online thanks to our Internet and social media efforts.
Nearly 120 staffers will eventually live, dine and shop in the Cleveland area in preparation for the 2016 Republican National Convention. And roughly 50,000 people are expected to visit the Cleveland area during the gathering.
2016 will mark the fourth time the Republican Party will convene its convention in Ohio. The Buckeye State also played host to the 1876, 1924 and 1936 Republican National Conventions in Cincinnati (’76) and Cleveland (’24 and ’36).
Well, this is the strangest experience that I may ever encounter – today I’m off to the RNC in Cleveland, Ohio. Made possible by one of the delegates from Hawaii who has the opportunity to invite as many as four guests to accompany her to this surreal event.  It is my first – and most certainly my last – but in so many ways this will be a first for all participants given the unexpected turn of events that places Donald Trump at the forefront of the Republican Party’s nomination for POTUS, 2016.

Already I have experienced Act 1 of the drama, stemming from a barrage of pre-RNC hostile, and snappy email exchanges done with attack dog style from some of the Hawaii delegation, while making sure that everyone on the email list was cc’d to enjoy every spewing invective.  What a way to start the journey, contentious as it may turn out to be, with a torrent of wild and accusatory exchanges demonstrating a level of belligerence, self-righteous indignation and intolerance not typically demonstrated by Hawaii folks.

And so with this prelude, I am wittingly venturing into the vast unknown for the sake of adventure and to experience an activity that I would have never imagined attending.

Accordingly, I have been told to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT during the RNC by many of my friends who know me, and my tendency to spew out inappropriate and ill-timed pronouncements.  I suppose this is good advice for me to stay out of trouble.  And perhaps it is the reason I’m blogging the experience.  Perhaps if I can ventilate my impressions and frustrations in my blog, I will be less likely to get into trouble real time. Indeed, there is no taking back the spoken word.  Blogging allows you to consider what is written, and to edit, re-edit and re-re-edit. 

Still I’m not sure if I will have any friends at the RNC other than my long-term friend PDH.  He is the husband of the delegate that invited me. I will stick closely to him at all times expecting him to show me the ropes and provide me with necessary council.

Yes, this will be an experience of a lifetime.  And the events will engrave an indelible mark on American History.  I just feel so darn defeated by the selection of candidates that have gifted us their presence. Meandering from a leader who will interpret any event to match his ideology no matter what the facts are, to possibly one whose ideology is made up spontaneously to suit his mood, or more likely to one whose ideology can be adjusted to match the audience in order to achieve her ultimate goal.  From all indications, this RNC will be a dress rehearsal for one 4 years from now when the Republican party will have a viable candidate to rally behind....…..or is that expecting too much?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Turning 70: 3 score and 10: The Golden Years can Kiss my Ass

Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.          
Jack Benny

When you are on a long anticipated trip and its about two thirds over, its a special moment when you can look both forward and backward in time knowing you will have enough occasion to shape the remaining part of the trip whist rehashing the experiences of the first two parts.  And that’s how turning 70 feels to me, wishing dearly that I will remain to see the light of day and that my age will find its way to approach triple digits.

Pleas'd to look forward, pleas'd to look behind, and count each birthday with a grateful mind.
Alexander Pope

I am long on ideas, but short on time. I expect to live to be only about a hundred.
Thomas Alva Edison

This is of course was not the historical perspective as preached by the Bible or by Mark Twain on his famous 70th birthday speech.  (and of course he had no idea that his life would last only 4 ½ years longer).  Taking those thoughts literally, I am to be freed from any restraint in speech and behavior on the day on, and for those that follow my 70th birthday landmark.

Psalm 90:10 King James Version
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
And from Mark Twain; remarking on his 70th birthday. Threescore years and ten!  It is the Scriptural statute of limitations. After that, you owe no active duties; for you the strenuous life is over. You are a time-expired man, to use Kipling’s military phrase: You have served your term, well or less well, and you are mustered out. You are become an honorary member of the republic, you are emancipated, compulsions are not for you, not any bugle-call but “lights out.” You pay the time-worn duty bills if you choose, or decline if you prefer-and without prejudice-for they are not legally collectable.

Alas few humans will admit that turning 70 is a welcome landmark. Surely most of us would rather wallow eternally in the excesses of the 20’s and 30’s where anything in life is possible and even significant errors in judgment can be rectified, injuries healed, all without permanent residua or stigma.  And maybe others would feel more settled at 40 or 50 with a little grey, and the knowledge that they have proven themselves worthy, reached their goals, created artwork or empires or mechanical gismos or simply had a fulfilling relationship resulting in a genetic legacy.

But empirically, turning 70 finds one breaking down mentally and physically.  Turning 70 means scary times when the slightest ailment can turn into cancer, the slighted injury can go unhealed, and the slighted chore can be a nightmare to complete. So why do I exclaim that I have never been as happy in my life as I am NOW, at 69, only a few months from turning 70.

Its that most mornings I wake up looking forward to the day. My heart is light, and the day lies ahead with me placed squarely in the drivers seat.  Never before have I had such freedom of movement and thought. There was always something I HAD to do. The day disappeared, lost in the focus and dedication that was needed in fulfilling task after task.  Very seldom did I have the freedom of doing anything just for me.  And when it came time for me to have my time, it felt rushed, fleeting and incomplete.  My life was structured, busy, multidimensional, satisfying, important and all consuming.  But my life passed me like a gust of wind, directed and unstoppable, overpowering, fleeting and invisible.

Life is better now. I treasure most days unless something goes wrong and I have to redirect my plans.  Most days I have so much time to think and plan and waste and nap and eat and even enough time to get my work done.  Today is a good day.  Tomorrow will be an adventure.

I never have valued celebrating any event or occasion.   I never really had an official retirement party mostly because I pressed my work friends to not plan one. I was really not good a remembering or celebrating birthdays or wanting to take the effort to properly prepare for and celebrate Christmas or Easter or even the 4th of July.  If it weren’t for my wife, every day in my married life would have been the same!

Things have changed and I now want to celebrate my 70th birthday in November.  I will have several events to mark this day – one in Honolulu and one in New Jersey.  The one on the East Coast is intended as a proxy for getting my entire family together in one room - at a Lebanese restaurant with my sisters and their families and even a belly dancer.  I fear my sister’s age and want to get together while we are still here on earth to enjoy each other’s company. 

The event in Honolulu has another purpose.  It is to truly celebrate the already spent six decades of my life, including the fortunes and misfortunes, my health and position, and the ever-present opportunities to enjoy new chapters in my life which I hope is far from over.  It is also to send a message to my friends that there is life after work and that everyone should consider some form of retirement before it’s too late to do so.  Of course, I will have to endure a litany of roasting and outlandish comments that will be the highlight of the evening’s entertainment.  And for that part, I look forward to hearing from my friends what embarrassing memories they have dredged up from the deep recesses of their minds.

No one is so old as to think he cannot live one more year.
Marcus T. Cicero

Dr. Seuss on the golden age 
The golden years have come at last,
Why don't I feel this is a blast?

I cannot see, I cannot pee.
I cannot chew. What can I do?

My memory shrinks. My hearing stinks.
No sense of smell..I look like hell.

My body's drooping, got trouble pooping.
And people ask, "Why am I stooping?"

The golden years have come at last.
The golden years can kiss my ass.