Monthly Archives: November 2016


It was the end of January, or maybe it was the beginning of February.  It was 1952, or it could have been 1953.  Aside from the dates, I remember it clearly.  It was definitely the short break between winter semesters at UCONN.

There were six of us, all part of Beta Sigma Gamma, the first intercultural fraternity in New England.  Finals were over and we were looking for a way to celebrate.  After some discussion, someone suggested, “How about going to Washington, D.C. to see our nation’s capitol”?

Considering the racial makeup of our group, it turned out to be a bit naïve.  There were four whites—Donny Conn, Freddie Cohen, Buzzy Bazarian and me; and two African Americans—Johnny Merchant and [we’ll call him] Frank (cause memory only goes so far).

Having made a decision, we enthusiastically sandwiched into Freddie’s two-door Chevy.  Remember when three people could sit on the front seat of a car?

It was a Friday and we were off, headed south from Storrs, Connecticut (25 miles east of Hartford).  It proved to be an eventful trip, with many lasting affects for all concerned.

Somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike, we stopped to get lunch.  It became our first encounter with racial discrimination and the stark reality of segregation.

When we entered the roadside stop, the manager ran over and said, “I’m sorry, the white guys can come in, but we can’t serve the blacks.”  Wow, we sure didn’t expect that.  We were in New Jersey for God’s sake, not down south.

So we got lunch and brought it out to the car so we could all eat together.  Some of the taste was gone.  Then it was on to D.C., arriving early evening to start looking for a place to stay.  I don’t remember where we started first, but I clearly recall the surprise and shock when nobody was willing to accommodate our mixed group.  We tried three or four places, including the YMCA and the YMHA.  Nobody wanted to give us rooms.

It’s one thing to hear and read about racial discrimination, but it really comes home with a thud when you encounter it firsthand.

In somewhat desperate straits, we arrived at the Black YMCA around 9pm.  They didn’t want to admit us either but after a lot of negotiating, we got them to agree to farm the white guys out to private homes if we agreed to stay only one night.  The black guys were allowed to stay at the Y.

Even they were concerned about the appearance and ramifications of having a mixed racial group in house.

The next morning we all got together and headed out to see some of the Capitol’s sites, only to find they weren’t open on Saturday or were just closing.  This wasn’t working out too well.

Donny Conn’s brother, Elmer, was at Howard University so we decided to go out there to visit him.  We saw a bit of Howard, and John was really impressed with the predominantly black culture at the school.

We pleaded and got the okay to stay one more night at the Black YMCA.  The next morning, we got together for a big pow-wow.  We agreed DC wasn’t what we expected.

So what to do?  Freddie suggested we head to Florida.  He was sure his cousin, Phyllis, would take care of us at the University of Miami.  John and Frank weren’t sure they wanted to go any further south.  They decided they would rather stay out at Howard.  The rest of us agreed to head south.  So, we dropped off the two at Howard and off we went.

When we got to UM, Phyllis was surprised—no shocked—to see us and didn’t have the foggiest notion of what to do with us.  One of her friends suggested we go over to the UM Presidio, a temporary housing unit for visiting students.  In actuality, it was a slightly remodeled, old Spanish prison.  Since they weren’t full, they let us stay for one night.

The next day, Donny remembered he and his Playmates Trio had played a club in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and the last night there he met the owner’s two sons who were at UM.  Donny called and invited us over to their house in Coral Gables.

When we arrived, Donny took over.  He told the guys we would cook for them and directed where each of us could sleep.  They were so astounded at his brazen takeover, they went along.  Turned out they were great guys.

For the next couple of days, we went to the beach with borrowed blankets.  It was cool and windy, so we had to use a blanket to lie on and another one on top.

We cooked and cleaned up as promised, and hit a few of Miami Beach’s hotspots, and that was another story by itself.

Since we had only planned a long weekend in DC, staying away for a week had tapped us out.  Being out of money, we knew it was time to head back to UCONN.

We ate mustard on white bread sandwiches for the next two days to get back to Connecticut.

What a trip…what an experience.

Donny Conn, a founder of BSG, finished at UCONN and took his Playmates trio on the road.  He had several million dollar pop and comedy records and went on to be a standup comedian and professional convention speaker.

John Merchant transferred to Virginia Union and went on to be the first black graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.  He was a prominent attorney in Stanford, Connecticut, and a very proficient golfer.

Myron “Buzzy” Bazarian, a talented string instrument player, became a high school music teacher and played in symphony orchestras.

Freddie Cohen and his cheery personality stayed the course at UCONN and took over the family movie theater business in and around Hyde Park, New York.  Without his Gulf credit card, we never would have made it on the trip.

Me, you know all about!



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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving—a great holiday!  Maybe our best one!  It’s a joyous gathering of family and friends and a sumptuous feast.

We’ll be in Larchmont, N.Y. to celebrate with my niece Lisa and nephew Steve’s superfragilistic Thanksgiving dinner.  My former FBI agent nephew is an outstanding chef who enhances the traditional turkey dinner with a juicy tenderloin steak medium rare and an assortment of stuffings and vegetables, as well as a variety of desserts that fill you to a joyous brim.

I’m sure your day will be equally as fulfilling.

But back to my question.  We call it Thanksgiving, but it seems more about “receiving” than “giving.”

To shed some light on what the day should be called, let’s look back at how this wonderful holiday got started.

In a 1789 proclamation, President George Washington called on the people of the U.S. to acknowledge God for affording them an opportunity to peaceably establish a form of government that provides safety and happiness by observing a day of thanksgiving.  Devoting a day to public “thanks” and prayer, as Washington called it, became a yearly tradition in many communities.

One hundred years later, Thanksgiving became a national holiday.  In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in the midst of the civil war in the hope that this day of celebration would help unify the divided nation.  Lincoln asked his fellow citizens to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanks and praise.

It wasn’t until 1941 that Congress officially designated the fourth Thursday in November as a federal holiday called Thanksgiving.

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers on a journey to discover the New World.  After a treacherous crossing lasting 66 days, they arrived near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of their intended destination at the mouth of the Hudson River.  One month later, the Mayflower crossed into Massachusetts Bay, where the Pilgrims, as they are now commonly known, began the work of establishing a village.  Throughout that first brutal winter, most of the colonists remained on board the ship, where they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of contagious disease.  Only half of the Mayflower’s original passengers lived to see their first New England spring.  In March, the remaining settlers moved ashore and began to harvest with help and an alliance with Native Americans of the area.  This alliance, unfortunately, remains the only example of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.

In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a three-day celebratory feast, now remembered as American’s “First Thanksgiving”—although, it is argued that the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term “Thanksgiving” at the time.  Historians also argue that the Pilgrims had their first true thanksgiving in 1623, when they gave thanks for rain that ended a drought.  In the second half of the 1600s, thanksgivings after the harvest became more common and started to become annual events.

Every year since 1970, a group of Native Americans and their supporters have staged a protest for a Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock.

All in all, Thanksgiving Day is a time for most people to give thanks for what they have.  Parades are held in many cities and towns to highlight the celebration.  The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the granddaddy of them all.  The Mummers Parade in Philadelphia is another big celebration.

Thanksgiving Day in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday of October since April of 1872.

The day after Thanksgiving became Black Friday—a somewhat crazy, wild shopping day where fantastic bargains were advertized to lure in shoppers and kick off the Christmas buying season.  Unfortunately, some of the Black Friday hysteria has begun creeping into Thanksgiving itself.

No matter the semantics, whether this great day is a celebration of what we have received or what we give thanks for, it’s a most enjoyable and festive holiday.

Have a great day!


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Thank Gawd it’s over—or is it?  With the unbelievable election of Lord Trump to the presidency, no one really knows what to expect.  It was an ugly campaign of personal assassination from the two most unliked and least qualified/prepared candidates to ever run.

Donald Trump is no Napoleon, but for those of us who have cast him as merely a comic-opera authoritarian, a parody of a world-historical figure, he has won a truly astonishing victory, and won it in spite of polls and experts and all the data nerds and get-out-the-vote consultants who labored tirelessly for Hillary Clinton…in spite of the opposition of the Republican Party’s past presidents and presidential nominees and most of conservatism’s intelligentsia…in spite of the media that had gleefully lifted him up in the GOP primary and then believed (reasonably, but wrongly) that it had torn him down…and, finally, in spite of his own acts of self-sabotage, which seemed egregious but turned out to be insufficient to keep him from his destiny, we welcome President-elect Donald Trump.

So here he is, soon to be the most powerful man on the face of the earth, with no popular mandate but a Republican majority nonetheless awaiting his direction, a congressional court of hacks and flatterers around him, a bureaucracy and a deep state unsure how to respond to him, an unstable world regarding his ascent with apprehension (or, in Moscow and Beijing, satisfaction), and none of the preparation that even the most inexperienced of modern American presidents have brought to this lofty office.

What happens next promises (and threatens) to make history as nothing has in America—not even the trauma of 9-11 or the election of the first black president—since the Cold War ended almost 30 years ago, or since the social crises of the 1960s and 1970s further back than that.

On the global stage, Trump’s populism and nationalism makes him very much a man of his times; but in the American context, he is like nothing we have seen before—a shatterer of all norms and conventi8onal assumptions, a man more likely to fail catastrophically than other presidents, more constitutionally dangerous than other presidents, but also more likely to carry us into a different political era, a post-neoliberal, post-end-of-history politics, than any other imaginable president.

You can sum up the whole amazing Trump win in a quote from Maureen Dowd’s column in the N.Y. Times, “The press took him literally, but not seriously.  His supporters took him seriously, but not literally.”

The Election Results

Clinton           Trump            Total

Electoral College                          228                 290                 538

Popular Vote                                  60.8M           60.5M            126M

This is the fifth time the popular vote winner did not get enough electoral votes to win the presidency; 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and now 2016.

Voter turnout was up almost 5% over 2012.

Saint Hillary outspent the Donald 3:1.

In addition to the presidency, the Republicans made impressive gains at all levels of government.

Dems              Repubs

House of Representatives        193                 237

Senate                                                48                    51

Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold (both Dems) faded in their attempt to regain their Senate seats.

Governors                                         15                    35

What the People Said

  1. Enough is enough. There was a mother-lode of resentment and disappointment.
  2. We have suffered with a declining share of the economic pie.
  3. The Affordable Care Act was a fraud. Unfair to call it Obamacare.  He didn’t have a clue how it would work.  The main culprits in this poorly conceived plan were the insurance companies who backed it.
  4. We like Obama, but he was an ineffective leader with failed policies.
  5. Almost as surprising as Trump’s win was the Republicans holding on to majority (slim) in the Senate and commanding control of the House.

Hillary lost because she:

  1. Skirted a few too many laws/ethical questions.
  2. Sincerely believed she had never done anything wrong.
  3. Tried to portray herself as a virgin nun.
  4. Represented another four years of Obama’s stagnant economic growth.
  5. Was not a good candidate. She didn’t like campaigning.

She can now audition for a role on Law & Order SVU.

What is Likely to Happen

  1. Both parties will have to look at how to realign. Republicans have to cure an out-of-control primary system; Democrats have to find more tuned-in candidates.
  2. Trump has to forge a working partnership relationship with Congress. He’s not the king.
  3. By the end of 2017, we will likely face another recession.
  4. Corporate taxes will finally be lowered to stimulate domestic expansion and job creation.
  5. He will have to compromise on immigration and most other campaign promises to get anything done.
  6. Chuck Schumer, the new Senate minority leader, will be almost as difficult as Harry Reid to compromise on Republican legislation.
  7. We will have a more conservative Supreme Court.

Next to Harry Truman defeating Tom Dewey in 1948, this was the greatest surprise in election history.  Trump succeeded in burying both the Bush and Clinton family dynasties.

Everyone figured the market would go into convulsions for a few days before realizing that not much had actually changed.  Then it would be back to “normal” and stock prices, bond yields and pretty much everything else would move along as they were before.

Well, we seemed to have skipped that middle part where the market panicked.  Instead, it opened last Tuesday flat and ended up as one of the strongest days this year.

Inauguration will be a going-away party for the entertainers vowing to leave the country if Trump was elected.  Bryan Cranston, Samuel L. Jackson, Barbra Streisand, and others say they’ll pack their bags.  As for Cher, merely moving out of the country isn’t sufficient, she promises to go to Jupiter (Cher, that’s the big one without the rings).  And when Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunhma join the USA-exiting crowd, tattoo artists start worrying about their livelihoods.

Let’s all go to the Bon Voyage party.

Remember, I never thought there was any way he could win the primary or the general election.  I don’t have a crystal ball, but I wish him every success in trying to change the dysfunction in Washington.

The next surprise may be he actually accomplishes quite a bit.  Let’s give him a chance!



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Utah is one great state to visit.  There are numerous and priceless destinations like Park City; Zion, Bryce and Canyonlands National Parks; and the Mormon complex in Salt Lake City.  They’re all outstanding.  In addition, there are two somewhat less popular sites that I think you would really enjoy.

Four miles north of Moab, a quirky desert town near the Colorado border, is Arches National Park.  It’s a wonderland of over 2,000 orange natural sandstone sculptures and arches.  It’s an exciting place to visit.  You can easily spend a whole day, or even two, exploring the awesome panorama nature has created.

Frank Lloyd Wright or Frank Gehry couldn‘t have designed it better.

The real gem and sleeper destination in Utah is located right outside of St. George, a city of 80,000, about 120 miles north of Las Vegas.  The whole area is a mecca for retirees and is brimming with red hills and cliffs.

The best part about the area is its close proximity to Zion National Park, a hiker’s paradise, and Snow Canyon State Park, technically in the town of Ivins.

Snow Canyon is a treasure trove of red hills begging to be walked on or hiked—the setting for many western movies.  It’s a visual delight.  Right at the entrance to the canyon is the Red Mountain Resort and Spa.  It’s a reasonably priced facility with 200 plus rooms/villas.

The morning guided tours in three grade levels are outstanding.  They’re fun and as challenging as you’d like to make them.  The hikes are followed by a day filled with various classes and/or complete fitness and wellness programs.

After the hikes, you can participate in water aerobics, yoga, pilates, abs, hip-hop, FX, core and/or stretching.  Then there are some modestly priced horseback riding, kayaking or meditation programs.

It’s a busy day or you can just lie out by the pool to relax.

It’s a beautiful location, with an ongoing schedule of activities.

I almost forgot the Sagestone Spa and Salon.  The facilities are not fancy she-she but very simple and comfortable.

Breakfast and lunch are sumptuous with plenty of buffet choices.  Dinners are not gourmet but adequate.  You’ll sleep like a baby, guaranteed.

In addition to the hikes in Snow Canyon and the surrounding areas, the hotel has some interesting little hikes right in their backyard.

Our first trip to Red Mountain was over Thanksgiving in 1996, where we spent a guided day in Zion.  We loved it!  We went back several times; and when my back problems started, I encouraged my wife, Gabriele, to take her daughters.

Gabriele has now been there over 20 times.  That’s quite a recommendation in itself!


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Get ready!  When you vote this year, you’ll be faced with trying to decipher 17 statewide ballot propositions.  As you may remember from past elections, I’m wildly unenthusiastic about ballot propositions.

I am opposed to propositions on the ballot because they are:

  1. Poorly constructed and written
  2. Hard to change or amend
  3. Eliminate the role of legislative hearings
  4. Proposed by special interests who can’t get the legislature to consider them
  5. The ads on both sides of the arguments are confusing and misleading at best.

In addition to the statewide propositions, there are local county and/or city props to add to the turn off.  I’m told that San Diego has 17 more of their own on the ballot; fortunately, in L.A., we have only seven more.

So keep in mind when you scan my recommendations on these propositions, my tendency is always to vote NO!

Understanding the proposition nomenclatures

  • (init-const-amend) = Initiative constitutional amendment adds a section to the state constitution.
  • (init statue) = Initiative statue is a law, not a constitutional amendment.
  • Initiative is an amendment to the State Constitution and can only be changed by another amendment.
  • Referendum  is a referral from the legislature.  If passed, it is a statute, not a constitutional amendment.

California Statewide Propositions

Here is a brief description and my recommendation on each of the ballot propositions:

#51 – School Bonds (initiative) – $9 billion – Opposed by Governor Brown – for K-12, charter and community college construction and modernization.  Local districts can pass their own bond measures.  Vote: NO

#52 – Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program (init-const-amend) – extends and makes permanent existing law that imposes fees on hospitals to fund health care for uninsured and children.  Would be hard to change.  Vote: NO

#53 – Revenue Bonds (init-const-amend) – would require statewide voter approval for local projects of $2 billion or more.  Vote: NO

#54 – Legislation and Proceedings (init-const-amend) – prohibits passage of any legislation unless published 72 hours in advance, plus record and video meetings.  Vote: YES

#55 – Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare (init-const-amend) – extends by 12 years the “temporary” income tax increases on earnings over $250,000 to fund schools.  Vote: NO

#56 – Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research and Law Enforcement (init-const-amend) – adds $2/pack, bringing total tax to $2.87/pack, which proponents say will reduce smoking (NY charges $4.35/pack.  Proceeds mostly go to Medi-Cal but somewhat questionable.  Obviously opposed by the big tobacco companies.  Vote: NO

#57 – Criminal Sentences, Parole, Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing (init-const-amend) – allows parole for non-violent felons and allows juvenile court judges’ decision on trying accused as an adult.  Vote: YES

#58 – English Proficiency, Multilingual Education (initiative) – to help students learn English as quickly as possible.  Questionable and duplicate wording.  Vote: NO

#59 – Corporation, Political Spending, Federal Court Protections (advisory question) – meaningless use of ballot to recommend Congress overturn Citizens’ United case.  Vote: NO

#60 – Adult Films, Condoms (init statute) – requires adult film performers to use condoms and requires performer vaccination, testing and medical exams.  Will lose tax revenue from adult films moving out of state and incur lots of lawsuits.  The performers don’t want it!  Vote: N)

#61 – State Prescription Drug Purchases (init statute) – requires drugs purchased by the State to be priced at or below same drug purchased by Federal Veterans Affairs Department.  More bureaucracy!  Vote: NO

#62 – Death Penalty (init statute) – this bans the death penalty.  Vote: YOUR CONSCIOUS

#63 – Firearms, Ammunition Sales (init statute) – attempts prohibit possession of large capacity ammunition and requires background checks and DOJ okay to purchase ammunition.  It imposes burdens on law enforcement.  Vote: NO

#64 – Marijuana Legislation (init statute) – legalizes adult (21) use of marijuana, imposes taxes on sales and cultivation, but has no DUI standards.  Too flawed!  Vote: NO

#65 – Carryout Bags Changes (init statute) – confusing attempt to direct fees collected by grocery stores for carryout bags to support environmental projects.  Vote: NO

#66 – Death Penalty Procedures (init statute) – this initiative will streamline and shorten the process if the ban on the death penalty doesn’t pass.  Vote: YES

#67 – Ban on Single Use Plastic Bags (referendum) – would prohibit grocery, convenience, pharmacies and liquor stores from providing plastic carryout bags.  Allows 10ȼ charge for paper carryout bags.  Vote: YES

And for Los Angeles County, here’s my view:

  • Measure A:  County Tax for Parks – Vote: YES
  • Measure M:  L.A. Metro Tax for Transportation – Vote: YES
  • Measure CC:  Community College bonds – Vote: YES
  • Measure HHH:  Homeless Housing Bond – Vote: YES
  • Measure JJJ:  Affordable Housing Mandate – Vote: NO
  • Measure RRR:  Department of Water and Power Reform – Vote: YES
  • Measure SSS:  Airport Police – Vote: NO

Even the ones that sound good are each flawed in their own way.

Recap you can cut out and take to the polls

Prop 51: No Prop 58: No Prop 67: Yes
Prop 52: No Prop 59: No L.A. County: All Yes
Prop 53: No Prop 60: No L.A. City HHH: Yes
Prop 54: Yes Prop 61: No L.A. City JJJ: No
Prop 55: No Prop 62: Your choice L.A. City RRR: Yes
Prop 56: No Prop 63: No L.A. City SSS: No
Prop 57: Yes Prop 64: No


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