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Larry Blumen
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Red is blue today, because blue is red.

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TWENTY WILL GET YOU TEN

Andrew Jackson fought 103 duels and died in his bed. Alexander Hamilton fought seven duels and was killed in the eighth. They never opposed each other, but they were on opposite sides politically. Jackson considered himself a Jefferson Democrat and heir to his tradition. Even though Jefferson was an aristocrat, he was a Democrat at heart. Hamilton hated Jefferson.

Recently, Jackson and Hamilton have been thrown together in the news of the day. Last year, Obama’s Treasury Department announced a change in the design of the ten and twenty dollar bills. Hamilton’s picture would be replaced on the tenner by that of a woman. Jackson’s face would remain on the Jackson. It was an interesting political gesture with several implications. The opinion of the public was muted, but mainly in favor of the move.

But was it the right one? The esteemed, former Federal Reserve Chairman and savior of western civilization, Ben Bernanke, wrote in his blog that Jackson’s face should be removed instead of Hamilton’s. Hamilton did a great thing in creating the national Bank of the United States, making the country a nation to the world, and not just a bunch of separate states. And Jackson was just a hot-headed ruffian Indian-killer. You’d expect a former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank to take such a stand and, as a capitalist, I applauded him.

Then I started thinking about it. As a young Tennessean, Jackson was a favorite son to me. When I was in grade school, my class went on a field trip to the Hermitage, Jackson’s ancestral home. We saw the slave quarters, but hey it was the forties—I grew up revering him. The only thing I knew about Hamilton was that he created the National Bank, and that was a good thing. I liked them both.

However, to score this one properly, I had to go back in history to see who the players really were and which team they were really on. There were basically two parties in the beginning, Republicans of various stripes and Democrats. Republicans stood for the aristocratic tradition. Democrats stood for the people—initially, farmers and workingmen. The Republicans stood for bankers and men of property. They thought that Government ought to favor the men of property and money, and the poor should shift for themselves. Sound familiar? Jackson claimed himself as Jefferson’s heir and threw the moneychangers out of the temple. That is, he dismantled the National Bank of the United States by vetoing its renewal by Congress. Still, Jackson’s era marked a watershed that established the modern Presidency that runs in a stream through Franklin Roosevelt and still characterizes our country today, no matter which party is in power. Sure, Jackson drove out the Indians, but he was for the people. Trump is like Jackson only in that both of them stood for white men. But Trump has stomped on non-white people. Jackson didn’t have to do that because in his time there were no non-whites who counted as people. Nevertheless, Trump can claim to be Jackson’s heir in this sense—if Jackson were in Trump’s shoes today, he would certainly have his shaft out for non-whites, too.

I hold that against Jackson, but still he ushered in the modern age and his saving grace is that Franklin Roosevelt was his legitimate heir. And even though he destroyed Hamilton’s great achievement, all that has been rectified in our time by the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank which improves on Hamilton’s original idea. Hamilton, otherwise, was an aristocrat who would be favoring the moneyed classes still today.

The Treasury department changed its mind about whose face to remove from U.S. currency. But I changed my mind, too. Even though it’s too late now, I say we should have kept Jackson and let Hamilton go chase himself.

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4/25/17
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HELLO SORENESS, MY OLD FRIEND

Another one of those boxy, red ambulances going by my house. Slowly, no siren. No hurry getting to its destination. It has become a common thing in my neighborhood where the majority of residents are around my age.

I guess I’m luckier than most. I have a few health issues, but modern medicine has them all under control for the moment. My major complaints are minor—aches and pains in muscles and joints. I don’t take anything for them. They have become familiar, like old friends. Much better than the sound of nothingness.

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FOR WANT OF A BETTER WORD—LOST

I have a vague and general understanding of how computers and the Internet work—my understanding is less than that of Pete Pages or my son-in-law who are whizzers in these matters, but more than that of my wife who despairs of all devices.

Last night, we were watching an episode of Stranger Things on Netflix and abruptly our Chromecast stopped working. Now, I've dealt with stranger things than that so I said, "No worries," to my wife, "I'll get it going again." It was, I reasoned, a simple matter of reconnecting our Chromecast thingie to our WiFi thingie. I went to the Chromecast app on my phone and followed the instructions, which ended with the entry of the router password in the Chromecast set up, but it didn't work. I repeated the same procedure several times on the theory that perseverance will out, but no joy. We went to bed without knowing what stranger things happened in episode 3.

This morning, I turned on my laptop and discovered what the real problem was. The WiFi router wasn't working. That meant dealing with Comcast, I reasoned. I immediately took a Xanax and prepared for battle.

My wife said, "Why don't you unplug the thing and then plug it back in after 30 seconds—that's what they tell you to do with DirecTV."

"This is Comcast," I said grimly, but I tried it, and it worked. Now, I am happily writing this post, knowing that every word is getting saved in Google's Cloud as fast as I can type.

Like I said, my understanding of the Internet is vague, but I know one thing for sure—these days, without it you are lost, which word is two letters less than the word I wanted to type, but didn't, out of consideration for my gentle readers.


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BEST OF ALL TIME NONSENSE

Maybe you have to get old like me before you begin noticing that best of all time lists are skewed to the last ten years or so. Of course, the purpose of these lists is to stir up debate, if not fist fights.

Now, I love Rolling Stone, but they are constantly putting out best of all time lists and some of them don't pass the laugh test. I mean, anybody who has the chutzpah to put up a list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time and lead off with Wanda Sykes, but leave off Jackie Mason and Sinbad, has no credibility with me even if it does put Richard Pryor at the top.

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THE PUDDING IS THE PROOF

Sherlock Holmes, which is to say Conan Doyle, said, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

There are logical issues with this statement, but I am wont to apply it to the following: since we know that intelligent life is possible on our planet, then it must be true that intelligent life exists on other planets.
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THINGS HAVE CHANGED

Henry Lewis Stimson (September 21, 1867 – October 20, 1950) was an American statesman, lawyer and Republican Party politician and spokesman on foreign policy. Under Franklin Roosevelt, he also served as Secretary of War during World War II.

He said that government was not "a mere organized police force, a sort of necessary evil, but rather an affirmative agency of national progress and social betterment."

He also said: "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail."


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REMEMBERING HISTORY

Coming from a well-born family in New York, inheriting wealth and independence, [Theodore Roosevelt] considered himself above class allegiances. In particular, he looked with disdain on the business community. "I do not dislike," he wrote, "but I certainly have no especial respect or admiration for and no trust in, the typical big moneyed men of my country. I do not regard them as furnishing sound opinion as regards either foreign or domestic policies." There was absolutely nothing to be said, he continued, for "government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with the 'money touch,' but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers." He stood equally, he declared, against government by a plutocracy and government by a mob.

From The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919-1933, The Age of Roosevelt by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

IN THE HEART OF THE HEART OF
AT THE MAIN STREET CAFE

Circumstances conspired, this morning, to the end that I turned up for breakfast at The Main Street Cafe for the first time since before the election.

Last time, near the end of October, the prevailing mood in the place was gloom. Everybody stuck to his corn flakes or scrambled eggs. As always, the waitresses called everybody "Sweetie", but their hearts weren't in it.

This morning, the mood was strikingly different. The place was abuzz with good cheer. At the regulars' table, the old coots were all laughing. There were people there I'd never seen before. The waitresses topped everybody's coffee even before they were asked to. One old chunk of coal went around shaking everybody's hand.

Joy has returned to the Main Street Cafe.

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