Category Archives: Random Thoughts

RFK and TFG

These are two people I never thought I would associate with one another, but there is a comparison that cannot be overlooked. But that is where any similarity ends as you will soon see.

In 1964, the “great mentioner,” a euphomism Washington insiders once used to refer to unnamed sources, focused on whether Lyndon Johnson would consider Robert Kennedy to be his running mate. To sidestep the issue of his relationship with the late president’s brother, LBJ indirectly informed RFK he would not be the choice by announcing, “No current member of my cabinet will be considered for vice-president this fall.”

At the time, Kennedy was still attorney general. He responded to the Oval Office declaration by apologizing to all the other cabinet members eliminated from consideration. “I’m sorry I took so many nice fellows over the side with me. “

My memory of this July 1964 event was triggered by yesterday’s Buckingham Palace directive invitations to Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral would be limited to current heads of state. Was this the royal family’s way of telling “the former guy” he was not welcome? The last thing they needed was a repeat of the July 14, 2018 social faux pas when the seditionist-in-chief stepped in front of Her Royal Majesty.

Should we expect an RFK-like response? Will TFG apologize to the hundreds of former presidents and premiers who were swiped to the left of the guest list on his account? He is more likely to claim he was deprived of one more honor because the 2020 election was stolen. Especially, since according to NewsMax anchor Greg Kelly, “Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II had real chemistry. This was the most genuine relationship with an American president that she had.” I guess Kelly did not notice when she met with Trump, the Queen chose to wear a broach given to her by none other than Barack Obama.

I have no doubt the late monarch had genuine feelings about Trump. But as she so often did, she put aside those personal feelings in the interest of her realm. Too bad someone else did not get the message.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Six Degrees of Dr. ESP

This week I was reminded the parlor game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” also works in reverse. To prove it, I will demonstrate there are six or less connections by which Kevin Bacon is linked to me.

This memory was triggered by news of Thursday’s passing of actor Lenny Von Dohlen at the age of 63. Von Dohlen was best know for his portrayal of the agoraphobic horticulturist in Twin Peaks. In 1988, I was hired by his father Leonard Von Dohlen to prepare an enterprise zone application for a business he and his brother Tim planned for their home town of Goliad, Texas. The project would convert La Bahia, the quarter horse oval at the Goliad County fairgrounds, into a pari-mutuel racetrack.

My contract with the Von Dohlens was the by-product of two intersecting pieces of legislation enacted in 1987. The first, the Texas Enterprise Zone Act, authorized tax breaks for new businesses created in lower income regions of the state. While serving as deputy director of the Texas Economic Development Commission, I helped state senator Hector Uribe (D-Brownsville) draft the legislation. That same year the state legislature passed authorization for pari-mutuel betting and creation of the Texas Racing Commission.

Goliad had a long tradition of quarter horse breeding which included annual sweepstake races at the county fair. Leonard and brother Tim immediately applied for a pari-mutuel license and contacted Senator Uribe about taking advantage of the enterprise zone incentives. I got involved when Senator Uribe referred them to me as someone who knew the requirements having worked on the draft bill.

Sadly the project was never completed largely because the only racing dates the Commission offered the Von Dohlens were Friday nights in September and October. If you have ever spent a Friday night in any Texas city or town, you know horse racing is not the first thing any true Lone Star resident thinks about on an autumn Friday evening. That honor goes to high school football. Despite repeated efforts, the Von Dohlens were unable to convince the Racing Commissioners those dates were economically unfeasible.

So what does this have to do with Kevin Bacon and me? To find out, simply play the new parlor game “Six Degrees of Dr. ESP.”

  • Kevin Bacon and Laura Dern appeared together in the 2001 movie Novacaine.
  • Laura Dern appeared with Kyle MacLachlin, Sherlyn Fenn and others in the 2017 reboot of Twin Peaks.
  • All of whom costarred with Lenny Von Dohlen in the original 1990-91 Twin Peaks.
  • Lenny’s father was Leonard Von Dohlen III and his uncle was Tim Von Dohlen of Goliad, Texas.
  • Who contracted with Dr. ESP to figure out how to make their pari-mutuel quarter horse racetrack eligible for state enterprise zone benefits.

And no, you do not get extra credit for needing only five degrees of separation to make the connection. After all, this was just one more trip down memory lane, as so often occurs, when a news story brings back a long-forgotten recollection of a moment in time.

POSTSCRIPT

If you have ever watched the 1988 remake of DOA with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, there is a scene when Daniel Stern’s character falls from a third story window. The scene was shot in Senator Uribe’s office in the Texas State Capitol after replacing the real window with panes made of candy glass.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Festivus in March Redux

The 'Festivus Miracle' Lives On - The New York Times

It has been three years since I last proposed Festivus in March. This time, maybe it will catch on. The past couple of weeks, I found myself yearning for an early Festivus, knowing I could not wait until year’s end to practice the Festivus tradition of “airing of grievances.” So please forgive my channeling my inner Frank Constanza, but “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people. And now you’re gonna hear about it.”

Grievance #1: The Washington Post

On March 19, a headline on the front page of the Washington Post read as follows, “Mixed signals from Ukraine‚Äôs president and his aides leave West confused about his end game.” Let me share the comment I posted to this story.

WTF. Did the writers pay no attention to what happened last Wednesday? Zelensky asks for a no-fly zone, but adds, “If I can’t have that, I need…” And hours later he gets most of “that” from the U.S. and NATO. That didn’t happen by accident. Do you really believe Zelensky is not talking with Biden and European leaders about his “end game?” The person he doesn’t want to share it with is Putin. Just like folks stopped talking about what arms were and were not arriving in Ukraine. Neither the war nor peace should be prosecuted in the media. Sorry if your little feelings are hurt because Zelensky is not willing to lay his cards on the table for you and Putin to see before the hand is over.

Grievance #2: It Takes a Special Kind of A-Hole

Friday night, Wild Amelia, a local non-profit that promotes protection of the local environment through education held a fundraiser comprised of a sunset boat tour hosted by Amelia River Cruises. Among the attendees with one older, white gentleman (I use the term loosely) with a beer belly covered by a politically incorrect tee shirt who felt it necessary to proudly don his “Let’s Go Brandon” gimme cap. I know, I could have simply said he was wearing the cap and you would have guessed he was no spring chicken, white, had a beer belly and a questionable sense of fashion. And to make sure everyone on the boat saw him, he would occassionally walk up and down the aisles with his belly puffed out.

The next day I received a call from one of the board members who asked me what I thought of the incident, especially since some members of the Sierra Club who came to support Wild Amelia had complained to the boat captain this “gentleman” had ruined their evening. She wondered what they could have done about it since the “gentleman” has the right to say whatever he wants. (See Grievance #4 for more on the First Amendment.)

I told her this was not about free speech. He knew he was not going to convert anyone to his cult. His goal was to be the center of attention. And sadly, some attendees let him do that while most of us simply ignored him.

Not every person who voted for the former guy in 2016 was a “despicable.” Not true of those who still relish being part of his cult. So if the “cap fits, wear it.”

Grievance #3: Military Disservice

If you get a package from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF) filled with swag you will never use, asking you to help disabled veterans, Google their Charity Navigator rating. It is ZERO out of FOUR stars. Why? Because the organization spent 86 percent of their revenue in 2020 on administration and fundraising including a $15 million contract with a marketing firm in Connecticut. By the way, in 2014 DVNF was fined $25 million for abuse of solicitation laws after which current CEO and former U.S. Marine Joseph VanFonda claimed they had cleaned up their act.

My wife and I always give the calculators, pens and other “incentive” gifts to Goodwill or other organizations to distribute to those who might actually use them. This package also contained a real check for $1.50 made out to me. But, of course, the cover letter from VanFonda urged me not to cash the check because it would take money away from veterans who needed it.

I had a better idea. I cashed the check and sent a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, to whom I regularly give in honor of our daughter’s service in the Air Force. Instead of the typical $100 donation, I made the check out for $101.50 and simulteneously emailed VanFonda, informing him that I appreciated his $1.50 and had passed it on to a legitimate charity that might actually put it to good use.

I encourage others to do the same.

Grievance #4: King for a Day after Day

Finally, I am really getting sick and tired of people who appropriate Martin Luther King, Jr. to justify policies and actions that are the antithesis of what King stood for. The latest is FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). This past week they started running ads with the tag line, “No Free Speech. No I Have a Dream” over a picture of the August 1963 civil rights gathering at the Lincoln Memorial. It is followed by, “Without the First Amendment, this historic speech would never have happened.”

Really? The First Amendment had been on the books for 174 years and there was no “I have a dream.” You can bet if George Wallace and Bull Connor were fighting integration today, they would be on Fox News and InfoWars claiming to be victims of “cancel culture.” And the First Amendment gave them the right to use the N-word and incite violence against people they feared would replace them. Take a look at the crowd surrounding the Reflecting Pool that day. There were too kinds of people. Black Americans who were tired of being second class citizens. And “woke” white Americans who, after watching the beatings and dogs and fire hoses, said, “Enough is enough. This is not what America should be about.” I’d bet the farm all of those people would have still been there with or without the First Amendment.

Want more proof. South Africa had its own “I have a dream” moment without the benefit of a First Amendment.

And by the way, if you asked Michael Jordan, he would probably admit, “It wasn’t the shoes.” NIKE and FIRE have more in common than four letter names. Both want you believe if only you wear their shoes or yell First Amendment on a college campus, you will be a superstar despite the lack of any causal relationship.

So Happy Festivus in March. Now, all we need to do is get Amazon and local merchants to adopt this faux extension of a faux holiday to discount merchandise as they do in July. Black Friday in March could be just as successful as Black Friday in July.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Dipping into the Private Dole

…Or why I oppose congressional term limits.

The recent passing of former Kansas Senator Robert Dole is one more of those occasions on which I had an opportunity to reflect on past experiences. In February 1996, I was responsible for facilitating Senator Dole’s appearance at the National Governors Association winter meeting in Washington, D.C. Responsibility for invited guests at NGA meetings is assigned to staff who do not have a major content role at that particular event.

This assignment had an added burden as it was generally believed Dole would be the Republican nominee for president and the only plenary session in which Dole could participate would also include a presence by sitting President Bill Clinton. A senior member of Dole’s staff called to tell me he would be doing the advance work for the Senator. As you will soon learn, I have since erased this individual’s name from my memory banks.

Two days before the scheduled appearance, I met this staff person at the J. W. Marriott hotel to do a walkthrough. Knowing Clinton would also be in the building, I explained the President would be going first. I had reserved a “green room” for Dole where he could wait until the Clinton entourage cleared the meeting room. He asked, “Do you know where Clinton would be exiting the building?” I did not at the time, but asked, “Why?” “Because we think it would be awkward if they ran into each other.” [HISTORICAL NOTE: Dole, then Senate majority leader, and Clinton had just spent weeks together in meetings to address the growing budget deficit. Those meetings resulted in an agreement to raise taxes which resulted in three fiscal years of budget surpluses.]

There are only two public entrances at the Marriott Hotel, the main entrance on 14th Street and one on Pennsylvania Avenue. I suggested we look at both and I would get back to him with the plans for the presidential motorcade. When we got to the 14th Street entrance, the staff person informed me, “The Senator does not like revolving doors; so, please have the doorman ready to open one of the other doors for him.” Strange, but no argument from me as I assumed it had something to do with his disabled right arm. There were no revolving doors at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.

The next day, I called my Dole contact and informed him the White House let us know Clinton would be leaving through the 14th Street entrance. I would meet the Dole party at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. However, as you might imagine, nothing is ever cast in stone when dealing with a commander-in-chief, especially true of the Clinton White House. On the morning of the session, I was informed Clinton would be making another stop before heading back to the White House, and therefore, would be picked up on Pennsylvania Avenue. I immediately called my contact and informed him of the change. Then I met with the hotel doorman to inform him to be prepared to hold the door for Dole.

Clinton speaks and leaves the meeting room. No Dole yet. I get a call from my contact. They are running late but have left the Capitol and will be there in a few minutes. When the limo arrives, Dole jumps out of the back seat and whizzes through (drum roll) the revolving door. He apologizes for being late as I escort him to the plenary session.

What does this have to do with term limits? For every member of Congress there are numerous staff who often float between offices as one member leaves and another takes his place. Like my Dole contact many believe, not only do they know what their bosses want, but also what the nation wants. Far too often neither of these are true. More importantly, they are not elected and voters do not hold them accountable. If term limits are enacted, institutional knowledge and long-term working relationships, will reside with staff, not elected officials. It amazes me conservatives, who raise concerns about an unelected, bureaucratic deep state, do not see the same danger if congressional staff become more influential following the more rapid turnover of elected senators and representatives.

Let me close by explaining the title of this post. After his meeting with the governors, I escorted Dole to the Pennsylvania Street entrance where we were told the limo would meet him. It was not there. I assumed I might get to see the reported Dole temper in full display. To the contrary, as we waited for his ride, Dole asked me about my work at NGA and then shared how he was looking forward to a campaign trip to New England. As I read and listened to so many of the tributes by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I know they were sincere. And do they to this day, like I, wonder why it seemed so difficult for the “private Dole” to come through in public.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

A Thanksgiving Carol

Craig Ferguson remaking late-night talk with silliness | Games |  journalstar.com

As Craig Ferguson used to announce at the start of each of his late, late show monologues, “It’s a great day for America.” [NOTE: Ferguson became a naturalized U.S. citizen on February 1, 2008, an experience chronicled in his memoir America on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. He took particular pride in the timing, making him eligible to cast his first presidential vote for Barack Obama. For so many of us, that was truly “a great day for America.”] One has to wonder, however, would he still feel the same way over most of the past five years.

However, as I went to bed last night (Wednesday, November 24), I found myself echoing Ferguson’s jubilant sentiments of old. Yesterday, two events suggested maybe, just maybe, America was ready to turn the page and begin leaving the stench of Trump and Trumpism behind in the rear view mirror. At 8:30 AM, the Department of Labor announced the number of new unemployment claims for last week fell to an unexpected 50+ year low of 190,000. Then at 2:00 PM news broke that, at least in the town of Brunswick, Georgia, self-defense did not apply when a defendant creates the situation that leads to the victim’s death. (Wisconsin, are you listening?)

I pessimistically believed neither of these outcomes was likely and had originally considered titling this entry, “The Ghosts of Thanksgiving Past.” In anticipation of more disappointing news leaving little to celebrate this Thanksgiving, I was going to suggest we take this occasion to commemorate things from previous years that still deserve recognition and appreciation. Teachers and mentors who contributed to our skill sets and confidence that led to success. Those individuals who stuck with us in more desperate times. Events or experiences that still bring a smile to our faces or a tear to our eyes. And appreciation what we have been given, not just this year, but over one’s lifetime.

It was the antithesis of Jacob Marley’s exhortations of a life poorly lived. Visions of the past and present were not warnings, but reminders of what is possible when we surrender to our better angels. In my vision, Marley is not played by Leo G. Carroll (1938) or Garry Oldman (2009). Instead, James Earl Jones again tells us what he told Ray Kinsella as they ponder the meaning of a baseball field, “It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

So, you may ask, what about the ghost of Thanksgiving future? He appears and shares the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered on March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral. “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

So, here are a few things I hope to give thanks for in the years to come.

  • A person of color can get justice without need of a video tape to confirm the facts of the case. If not, as in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, may an accomplice record then share video of the crime. Or need of a young bystander with a cell phone who understands America may not yet be ready to accept her word over that of a police officer who has violated his oath of service.
  • In hindsight, the magnitude of death and severe illness from the current pandemic convinces purveyors and believers of misinformation and conspiracy theories that choices they made contributed to the severity and duration of this health and economic crisis.
  • Voters reconsider casting ballots against their own self-interests, paying more attention to actions rather than sound bites and promises.
  • But most important of all, the ability to look back and identify many more occasions when we can truly say, “This is a great day for America.”

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving 2021 and as always, I am grateful for your past, present and future support of this blog.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP