Let’s Talk Wine!

Today — a respite from the never-ending political spin of Washington — and on to something far more pleasant!

Yesterday, we had a small celebration in my family and we decided to try something new and different for our wines.  We have a Total Wine & More nearby that always has a great selection, so we rolled up on Friday to see what we could find that looked interesting.

My husband is the “red” between us and I’m the “white,” so there’s a little bit of something here for both sides of the wine path.

For red … a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon called “Line 39” by a vintner of the same name out of Parlier, California.  It won Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Top Brand of the Year and blends the flavors of currant, blackberry, ripe plums and a hint of dark chocolate.  A real winner!  And what’s with the name? According to their label, the 39th parallel runs through California, separating the north from the south, and hence, the name “Line 39.”  Their tag line is “Discover wine without parallel.”  Not bad, huh?

Line 39

 

Here’s a snap of their label:

 

 

 

 

 

And on to all you white lovers out there … Italia for me!  I found this bottle of Pinot Grigio, a 2016 La Delizia (Delle Venezie) from northeastern Italy to be superb.  An well-balanced blend of citrus, flowers and herbs, along with a touch of apples and pears.  Especially delightful for summer tasting.

La Delizia Pinot

 

 

Yes, you are seeing correctly, that would be an empty bottle!

 

 

 

These two great wines will be added to our Favorites list and — best of all — at an unbeatable price of about $8 a bottle!  That’s a lot of flavor for a such a reasonable price.

Take them along to your next event … and enjoy!

Shalom … peace be with you!

America – The Beautiful

America the beautiful – the resilient.

How would you describe America in a few words?  What does our country mean to you?  How do you feel about it today, as we celebrate our independence?

Our forefathers had the following objectives in mind in framing the Constitution:

We, the people, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Can you imagine the clarity of the vision that each man must have had?  Can you imagine how many voices filled the air during their meetings?  Can you imagine the disagreements?  Can you imagine the eloquence it must have taken to have swayed your peers’ opinions?  And, in the end, to take pen to paper and express those agreed-upon concepts in such a way that they would form the support and foundation strong enough to build a new country on?

But, you see, that’s how America works.  That’s how our country was formed – and it has been the backbone of how we govern ourselves and protect our rights – the very rights that our founding fathers agreed would form our foundation.  We need to continue to have visions and ideas about the work we have to do in order to make this a better Union.  We need to continue to have those discussions and listen with an open mind because they facilitate the “back-and-forth” – a mutual exchange of ideas – in the hope that we all become more inspired and more thoughtful.  We can continue to disagree, as surely as our forefathers did, but do it as they did – with respect.  And most of all, to maintain our civility – something that seems to be slipping to the wayside these days.

It is also our duty to protect the Constitution and all of its Amendments – it is our legacy.

The 1st Amendment is particularly threatened of late with regard to its treatment by our Fearless Non-Leader in Washington – and those that serve in the House and Congress who have taken to having some trouble seeing and hearing lately.  Ladies and Gentlemen, it is also your duty to defend this Amendment.  In case you have forgotten, let me refresh it for you so that you will recognize it when our Fearless Non-Leader next goes tripping through it – you won’t have long to wait, I can assure you:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And should our Fearless Non-Leader slip and fall somewhere in the middle of it – or feel that he is above the law (“I’m President, and you’re not.”) – you, Ladies and Gentlemen, are going to have to dust off the 25th Amendment which directly addresses Presidential Vacancy, Disability, and Inability [emphasis added] and figure out how to undo what you are trying so hard not to see or hear – because it will be your duty to do so.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of America will be watching and you can be sure that Our Voices will continue to speak up – and speak loudly.  One more thing – fair warning – should you decide to look the other way and do nothing to defend our Constitution, its Amendments and our country – you’ll need to be lining up other work come election time because America will prove once again that it is – if nothing else – resilient.

 

To Stop Lobbying – Short And Sweet

Back at the beginning of things, this country invented a marvelous method for people in the colonies to have their voices heard within the central government. Representatives from the various colonies would venture forth to the governmental hub to lobby and convey items of vital importance to the forefathers of this great nation. Considering there were no telephones or internet, it was the only way.  It worked wonderfully and kept things moving in a positive direction.

Skip forward a couple of hundred years and, as usual, few things have failed in that time period to somehow get twisted and/or misdirected.  Now days, instead of the people, in most occasions, it’s the corporations and super-large foundations or groups of the (One Percent) who are the ones that that flood the central governing electorate with bags of money, or benefits, or both, to achieve their items of importance. It now has little to do with the representation of the masses.  There is some lobbying that benefits good organizations, but if all lobbying were done away with there would be much more time and money to be shared with the groups that have good intentions directed at the mainstream of America. Instead, these other groups want the votes for particular items that will help them make more profits.

But we all know, sensible change within our government is something that rarely comes without calamity. We had massive changes after Pearl Harbor and 911, and one again after the great recession of 2008. But most of that dynamic change has been reversed in more recent times.  Money always seems to creep into the cracks of our Congress and Senate and dulls the senses of their abilities to get done what we have elected them to do.

It’s time for this age-old framework of lobbying to simply go away……

R.H. Brooks, Guest Blogger

To All The Great Dads!

Happy Father’s Day to all of you great Dads out there!

For some of you who have a few Father’s Days under your belt, you’ve done an amazing job at being card-carrying members of The Best Dads Ever Club.  Just take a look at the smiles on your children’s faces!

For those of you who are celebrating this day as your first Father’s Day (and I personally know of two such Dads in San Diego), congratulations!  I see the thrill on your faces every time I see you.

My Dad always feels very close to me on this day and I have so many very happy memories of him.  I know several of you out there whose fathers have also passed on …. but who seem to remain close to you, too.  Perhaps that is their greatest legacy to us who remain.

My Dad didn’t have much growing up in the 1920’s – a lot of the country didn’t have much in those days.  One Christmas Eve, he remembered not having anything to eat for supper but potatoes, but they did have a roof over their heads and for that he was grateful.

He never forgot those days, but he never let it weigh him down, either.  He worked long, hard hours – sometimes at two jobs – to see that we had a better existence than he did as a child.  He taught us that being honest, seeing the good in people, and being a good friend were the “things” that mattered – not what you had or what you wore.  He was also a great son, brother, brother-in-law and a favored uncle in our family – sometimes fulfilling the role of a patriarch when family members were seeking advice.

He was a man of deep love and compassion and I couldn’t be prouder to call him My Dad.  I miss him every day.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  You will remain in my heart forever.

Robert H. Blunt
July 1921 – January 2005

Guest Blogger Today!

Hap Brooks asked to serve as a Guest Blogger today.  I would like to invite anyone who would like to add to our discussion here to use this space as our platform.  Here’s his blog:

I couldn’t help but laugh at the breaking news report that said President Trump had called the Former Director of the FBI, Comey, a liar. Amazing, considering this man’s entire professional life had been built on his strict adhesion to integrity throughout.  What has Donald J’s professional history been comprised of, short of his stiffing contractors, and being a bold-faced chronic liar?  Not much.

I really do wonder why he was not beside me in a foxhole in Vietnam.  We are both the same age and I was drafted right in the middle of the war — pardon me – “Police Action.”  There are many adjectives that describe Trump, none of which come from the same side of the tracks that Director Comey’s adjectives come from.

What amazes me is that Small Hands really believes that people like him, as he lives in his make-believe world of fake news and misdirection.  I believe that most of the people that voted for him knew down deep that he was an anchor without a chain.  Most of the people were just tired of the status quo that has prevailed in Washington for years. To be elected anymore, one must be well-planted within the political infrastructure. You first must be beholding to some person or group and/or have a shit pot of money.  Without one or both, the odds of succeeding in politics are nil. With these prerequisites, no one who get elected lives life on the same side of the teeter totter as the rest of us.  Do you really think that any of the Washington crowd, with the exception of a few freshman, have any idea how much a gallon of milk costs or what the average Social Security check will buy after Medicare and the supplements are paid for?  Why should they?  They’re too busy, you know, changing the EPA’s rules and handing more tax benefits to the wealthy — what’s the name they call themselves?  Oh, yeah, the One Percent …..

The system really is bending to the point of breaking.  Actually, I thought it had when the Orange Buffoon was elected.  But now I see it as it really is — business as usual – wearing a different mask.

I don’t think things will change much until some very basic things are adjusted, such as term limits and lobbying.  As far as I’m concerned, we, as the people, should through the government, fund elections.  By this I mean, give qualified candidates “X” amount of election funds and say when it’s gone, you’re done until after the voting is done.  At least no person or group or company would be able to buy a mouthpiece within the governmental power structure.

As you may have guessed, I’m not a Trump fan. However, tomorrow is another day and, I’m sure, filled with more wonderment of the Orange Wiz.

Just understand that we can’t give up, nor can we give in.  This country is much too beautiful and fragile for us to let our guard down.

 

~~Hap Brooks

 

Words Of The Day – Quid Pro Quo

 

Did you read James Comey’s written statement of yesterday?  Did you watch his testimony today?  Did it influence or change your mind about the events in question?  It would have been difficult to walk away without acknowledging that his testimony had some type of affect on your thoughts.  For some, it may have not been plausible – for others, it might have been more of a “I told you so”- type of conclusion.

Throughout the original statement, and evidenced again today in the live testimony, was just how badly Donald Trump wanted James Comey to step forward and publicly acknowledge that he was not under FBI investigation.  That’s a pretty big “ask,” especially of someone who is the Director-in-charge of an independent agency whose very foundation is rooted in its independence from the political influences that often find their way into the Executive Branch of our government.

I believe that Mr. Comey is very savvy at reading people.  After all, I don’t think you make it to the Directorship of the Federal Bureau of Investigations being otherwise.  As he has stated, he knew he needed to document – in detail – his conversations with Trump from the get-go.  Trump, at best, has a revisionist’s memory.  If it makes him look more grandiose in the moment, well then, that’s the truth.  If it sheds a poor light on him – never happened.  Fake news.  How many times have we all seen that?

Trump entered the White House believing that it would run the same way as his businesses – you buy whatever it is you want (money’s no object, of course).  Then, once in, you demolish the existing business (that’s those bombs you keep hearing go off) until the playing field is obliterated, and then you firmly ensconce your “people” in place – and you’re on to your next conquest.  Clearly, he was trying to make James Comey one of his “people” when he asked him to be “loyal,” and later, when he suggested that Comey drop the investigation of Flynn.  He simply has no concept that he does not wield such power from that office.  I find it very disturbing and hugely unsettling to think he has such a weak grasp of how our government is run – and even more disturbing – that he has such little respect for the process.

Kudos to our Senate Committee today for proving that you can reach across the aisle and come together when a threat exists against America.  Comey went to great lengths today to express his feelings for our country and to issue a warning that there should be no “fuzz” in that the Russians meddled in our election process – and that they will do so again.  This is a bell I have tried to ring many times in my blogs.  We need to learn how to be stronger, better and smarter than those that threaten our freedom.

So, thank you, Mr. Comey, for putting your reputation at risk, for being willing to sacrifice your job, for your service to our country, and for telling the truth.  Thank you for loving America that much.

 

And It’s Only Tuesday …

To our British friends, we send our deepest sympathies on the recent attack in London – but we also send our admiration of your choice to carry on with life and normal activities after such a horrific and senseless event.  It stands as a testament to your resolve, strength, solidarity and belief in one another.  We could use a little more of that over here on this side of the pond.

We also send our admiration to your Mayor Sadiq Khan for his calm leadership in the deepest moments of the crisis and for his crystal-clear responses to Trump’s heartless tweets.  Perhaps Trump just has a problem with the name “Khan,” remembering the Gold Star family Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, parents of the late Humayun Khan, who lost his life in defense of the United States to a suicide bomber in Baqubah, Iraq in 2004.  Trump went out of his way to insult them, too, as he did with Mayor Khan.

Trump said in the wake of the attack on London that we should all be “smart, vigilant and tough.”  I find those to be brave words coming from someone who is none of those things.  A speech writer or press person’s contribution – no doubt.

I think Al Gore’s response on CNN really said it best – “I don’t think a terrorist attack like this is the time to be divisive and criticize a mayor who’s trying to organize his city’s response to the attack.  The terrorists want us to live in a state of constant fear.”  I would urge you to re-read that last sentence again.  It seems like Trump wants us to live in a constant state of turmoil – a word not far from “fear.”  I’ll leave that thought to stand on its own for now.

As you may know, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have collectively elected to break off relations with Qatar whom they accuse of funding terrorism in the region.  This break in relations is a highly political and diplomatic effort to convey their sentiments on the subject.  Just as Kuwait was attempting to step in and mediate the issue for both sides, Trump tweets, “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off.”  There he goes again, pushing himself in front of another diplomat (in this case, a King) to be in the center of the picture – just like he unashamedly did on his recent trip to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or I should say Washington – our government was in the midst of preparing a balanced, tasteful and well-thought-out strategic response to this development in the Middle East when Trump’s tweet hit the press. When are they going to get it that this is a man who would do his own in, if it served him?  What you do have instead is an unbriefed leader of the free world fanning the smoldering embers in a region that is deeply and passionately divided in their thoughts, ideologies and religions.

And, finally, the inevitable question has been raised:  If Qatar indeed is supporting these acts of terrorism around the world, then why does the US have one of its largest overseas bases, Al Udeid Air Base, in Qatar?” Um, can you say for having a presence — a stabilizing influence — in the region?  Oh, what?  Did we just insult our host nation?

Which begs my final thought:  Can someone please brief the President before his little fingers push the little buttons on his little phone again, leaving a wake of diplomatic debris behind him?

And a special note to all those Trump Fans out there in case you think this is another “overly-critical” analysis of the President’s actions, bear in mind, it is he who chooses to pick up the phone to use the much-criticized media to spread his tweets around the world.  Believe me, we are far from encouraging him to do so.

Coming Up Next:  A Thursday With James Comey / The Russia Connection

A Tribute

As I sit this Memorial weekend, remembering those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom, I think of Arlington Cemetery and its 400,000 graves – flags wavering in the wind at each site.  I also think of the long, winding black wall that commemorates the 58,220 who gave their lives in Vietnam so many years ago.

Those of you who have read Esperance, our first (co-written) book, know that the story centers around a Naval Captain who commanded the U.S.S. Boise, a Brooklyn Class light-cruiser that was in service during World War II.  We spent 7 years doing the research for this story and, as we documented our facts, we felt compelled to remain true to the history of this ship and its involvement during World War II.  While all of our characters are fictitious, we strived to captured the honor, pride and dedication we felt these men had at the time of their service.

In October of 1942, the Boise took her position alongside 9 other ships that made up Task Force 64, just off the Solomon Islands in South Pacific.  The Japanese had been sighted making runs up and down what was commonly called “The Slot” (an area running through the Solomon Islands) redeploying ground troops and dropping off fresh supplies on a nightly basis.  They called these runs “The Tokyo Express” and they were a real thorn in the Allies’ side.  Task Force 64 was sent to disrupt and destroy the shipping lanes.

The battle engaged in a place just off the Cape of Esperance, near Savo Island.  It was a brutal, bloody battle that left the Boise taking 9 direct hits, resulting in a 10-foot hole in her side — 9 feet below the water line — and the loss of [gun] turrets #1 and #2, along with the men who manned them.  But in spite of her damage, the Boise got her licks — in 27 minutes, she and her crew had sunk 6 Japanese ships.  107 men aboard the Boise had given their lives that night in the service of their command and their ship.

The ship was so badly damaged that it had dropped out of the firing line of the Task Force and attended to its first priority – to remain afloat.  While urgent repairs and other acts of improvisation were put into place, she drifted away from the Task Force and for some time was considered lost at sea.  She eventually made her way to New Caledonia for much-needed repairs.  While not all bodies were recovered, she did stop en route to bury 65 sailors at sea, before resuming her trek.  Once there, the sailors that had been interred in Turrets #1 and #2 – all 42 of them – were buried in New Caledonia.

I leave you this Memorial weekend with the words Captain McCullough spoke at New Caledonia, as they should resonate in each of us even today:

“There is no greater price – or higher honor – than that this fine crew displayed on the night of October 11-12, 1942.  We know that – we were there.  But for those that come after us, they will not know or understand the meaning of this sacrifice.  I cannot think of a more fitting legacy for these fine men, than to entrust each of you with this story and the responsibility of carrying it forward in helping those that follow us understand the magnitude of their courage, strength and selfless devotion to their shipmates and, indeed, to the United States Navy.  God rest their souls.”

 

 [Esperance, ©2011]

 

 

 

Beginning A New Chapter

Yeah, I know — radio silence lately.

As many of you know, I have worked for many years in the legal community — in fact, my first job was in 1968 — for you trivia folks, that was the year before Woodstock.  Our world was shaped a great deal different then.  There was the war in Vietnam; protests all over the country and violence shown at Kent State where innocent students were gunned down by the National Guard.  It was a tumultuous time.  But in business, our beacon was straight in front of us — the client.  Everything began and ended with the client.  They were the sole reason we were there and we were crystal-clear on what our purpose was.  People for the most part were honest.  We performed the work — they paid the bills.

Fast forward to today, May of 2017.  Today in the legal world (and I suspect we are not the only field in which this is true) — a higher purpose has come into focus — and one that clearly drives the train.  It’s not about the client anymore — it’s all about the money.  I have always been proud of my profession, but not-so-much anymore.  The greed of a few in corporate offices far away have eclipsed our purposes, hobbled our talent, and have clearly left the client behind.

So, with that being said, I now speak to you from a retired standpoint — and I’m good with that.  I’m looking forward to new beginnings … fresh new thoughts … and great ideas for my books to come.

For our friends in Israel, let me apologize in advance for our President <sigh>.

For everyone else — until we meet again …

Shalom  … Peace be with you.

Easter — Thoughts of Peace

Easter Sunday with the family.  We enjoyed a good meal and were good company for each other.  Thoughtful.  Caring.  Sharing.  That was how I was brought up. And if I ever forgot that, I have 20-something cousins that would surely bring me back to reality in a heartbeat.  You know, I like that about family.  We all were taught to be sensitive and thoughtful about each other.  And, above all, to take care of each other.   There’s not a lot of that in the world today.

Well, today’s headlines clearly aren’t for the faint of heart.

Kim Jong Un is like a defiant two-year old who’s missed his nap and is becoming angrier as we speak.

President Trump — who did the right thing by responding to Bashar al-Assad’s horrific chemical weapons attack against his own countrymen, women and children — apparently felt so empowered by that move that he decided to drop the “Mother of  All Bombs” in Afghanistan.  Be careful, Mr. President.  All that power can easily go to one’s head.

Trump is still looking for a win — and it is becoming more desperate as the days go on.  Be careful, sir, that little men like the petulant Kim Jong Un doesn’t end up playing you.

It’s too bad, Mr. President, that you don’t have a family like I do and, like a lot of people around the world do.  You know, the ones who will step out and right your sails for you .. because they care … and at the same time, in an ever-so-humble way, point out what could have been done better.  A moral compass, you might say.  We all need that for each other .. related or not.  We are all in this together.

May peace be with you and your family this Easter Sunday … from my heart to yours …. shalom.