Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rose and Louis -- in the New York Daily News

     The article below was published Tuesday (June 26) on the op-ed page of the New York Daily News, and it is centered on my parents, particularly Mom.
     It is about the Holocaust -- and today's world, today's America. It is about the President's rhetoric and policies, OK.
     I suggest you put your political beliefs aside as you read this. Perhaps you cannot do that, but it is about Rose and Louis, so give it a try.
     This is written by Brandon Friedman, co-founder and chief executive officer of The McPherson Square, a public relations firm based in Washington, D.C.
      Here is why Friedman is aware of my parents: He was born and raised in Shreveport, he graduated from LSU-Shreveport and he has a master's degree from University of Texas.
       What many of my readers might not approve of: He served in the Obama Administration. What they will approve of: He served -- with some distinction -- in the U.S. Army, a rifle platoon leader in Afghanistan and Iraq.
        (I was alerted to the article by Lisa Nicoletti, professor of art history and visual studies at Centenary College, guiding force of the Holocaust studies there, and -- with husband Steve -- great friend to my parents. We thank her -- again.)
      The article:
     What 'Never Again' Holocaust educators would say now about civility and fascism
     By Brandon Friedman
     As a kid, I was surrounded by people who went on and on about “Never Again.”
     Holocaust survivor and educator Rose Van Thyn was one of those. She spoke to classes often, and what I remember about each time she visited my school over the years was the conviction in her voice — as if she really believed it could happen here.
     Rose was sincere. She had been through a lot. Like the others, she had a number tattooed on her arm. She was a survivor of Auschwitz.
     Still, I took her warnings with a grain of salt. I think all the kids did. No one really believed her. Because that had happened a long time ago. It was Europe. And this is America.
     Nevertheless, Rose spent her entire adult life in north Louisiana warning anyone who would listen. She never stopped. Then her husband Louis, also a Holocaust survivor, died in 2008. She died two years later.
     I didn’t hear about their deaths. Life had gone on. I had grown up and I was busy. I found out when I googled it this week.
     And then something occurred to me: Like the Van Thyns, many of the most famous Holocaust educators and Nazi hunters have died in recent years.
     Simon Wiesenthal, the most famous Nazi hunter, died in 2005. Elliot Welles, who the New York Times called an “indefatigable Nazi hunter,” died in 2006. Tuviah Friedman, who helped track down Adolf Eichmann, died in 2011. Elie Wiesel, the author of “Night,” died in 2016.
     I bring this up because we’re in the midst of a national discussion about “civility” in the face of authoritarianism. And in all this talk about civility in America’s political discourse, it occurred to me that the passing of Rose’s generation has left us extraordinarily vulnerable. In fact, I don’t think today’s resurgent fascism — and the dark enthusiasm that animates it across America — is coincidence.
     Rose was a tiny woman, but she was unrelenting. She was not violent, but she was also not willing to negotiate with a racist ideology. She knew that going along just to get along made things worse — not better.
     Her fellow survivors were the same. They knew that calls for civility in the face of oppression had been used as a weapon against them. And they knew what we took for granted.
     They knew that Nazis weren’t an aberration. They were regular people. Your friend. Your neighbor. Your uncle who forwards racist memes.           They knew that Nazis are what happens when hate goes unchecked by polite people who fear confrontation.
     They also taught us is that dictatorships and genocide don’t happen all at once. They don’t start with extermination camps. They start when vulnerable classes of people are blamed for society’s problems. They start with state propaganda.
     They start with the encouragement of violence at political rallies. They start when elected leaders call the press the “enemy of the people.” And they start when people don’t push back forcefully and publicly — early and often.
     As with any cancer, the time to stop creeping fascism is not after the arrests and the killings begin. By then, it’s too late. The time to stop fascism is when the President calls some Nazis “very fine people.” That’s the time, before it metastasizes and spreads further.
     President Trump has called for his followers to “knock the crap out of” political opponents. He threatened this week to suspend due process for immigrants. He said immigrants “infest” America — a literal use of Nazi terminology. Meanwhile, the government he runs is holding children hostage in cages until their Mexican and Central American parents agree to deportation.
     I don’t think I fully understood the urgency of Rose Van Thyn’s warnings when I was younger. But now that I’m older, I understand power. I know that human nature doesn’t change. Most importantly, I know that when a leader flouts the rule of law and begins “othering” minorities, the time for civility is over.
     What does that mean? In my view, political analyst Josh Berthume said it best yesterday: “Racists, misogynists, homophobes, bigots, fascists, and every single one of their enablers should feel the sting of shame and ridicule. When their behavior is not challenged, it is encouraged.”
     That’s a sentiment every Nazi hunter would get behind, and I share it. We must shun these people back into the shadows. It’s the only way to ensure that what Rose experienced does, in fact, never happen again.
Friedman has spent 17 years in politics and government, including time as an Army infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bio links:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

We have been on the move

     Had to wait a couple of days for this: Thank so many of you for your birthday/Father's Day messages. Think I hit the 300-plus mark on messages.
     There was a reason for the thank-you delay: We moved.
     If there was any doubt that we are now senior citizens -- you did not really doubt that, did you? -- it now is official.
     We now live in a "retirement community" (which means senior citizens). And we are happy about it.
     This was Bea's dream. Over the past five years, skeptical me became convinced this was the right thing to do.
      So this move is my 71st birthday and my Father's Day present this year.
The view from our sixth-floor patio looking southeast in Fort Worth.
      Our new home is on the edge of downtown Fort Worth, a complex of three high-rise buildings -- and it is a well-respected, highly recommended and well-run facility.
     We visited here -- by invitation -- more than a couple of times and became more and more convinced this was the right community for us. So, yes, I was recruited.
      It is our 16th move in 41 years together -- it has been a long road, folks -- and we are 99 percent sure it is our last one.
     The apartment we just left, near the Trinity River and Colonial Country Club (about 100 yards across the river from the fourth green), was almost new when we moved in eight years ago. We liked it, but it is not so new now. We lived there longer than any place in our time together.
     Moving in here -- sixth floor, in the original of the three buildings -- we have had to downsize considerably. But we have been doing that for years. 
     What that forces is to choose practicality over sentimentality; we let go of things we had for decades. For instance, I had clippings, photos and magazines/newspapers from way, way back. They are gone. Copied what I could into computer files.
     But we came into a completely scrapped and then refurbished apartment. Everything is new. 
     That was one incentive. Also, health care is a top priority here, with an extensive program and facilities. And there is a long-term financial guarantee.
     Sure, it is costly. Honestly, I did not think we could do it. But with the guidance of our financial advisor and the help of our sales rep here (the can-do-it-all Gretchen Lincoln), it became doable.
     Some expenses -- such as utilities -- were cut. And because transportation is provided in many instances, we are not going to need our car as often, and eventually plan to do without it. (If we need to rent a car for trips, there is a rental company within five minutes.) 
     We have found the management staff and workers here so competent and cooperative. And the people in the community have been overwhelmingly welcoming these first three days.
     Lots of older people here; yesterday I met a woman who is 97 and a man in his mid-90s, both residents here for more than 20 years. 
     So we are among the younger residents  and we think, we hope, we can be helpful here. A number of residents are not-yet-retired doctors and attorneys and many others carry on busy lives outside this community.
     I will not be the biggest baseball fan here. One fairly new resident is baseball royalty -- a New York Yankees World Series star, high-ranking baseball executive who has had a rich, full life of excellence in medicine, too.                
     There is a general store in the building, workout facility, a heated indoor swimming pool, all sorts of exercise and wellness areas, a library, an office-type workroom, rooms for visiting (with card games and puzzles), and there are many scheduled activities (shopping trips, speakers, exercise, special occasions).
      Bea already is set to work in "white elephant" monthly sales shop (clothes, furniture, knick-knacks, etc.); various book clubs are available; and Bea wants to start a coloring (book) club.
     We can walk -- if the weather is decent -- to the YMCA where we exercise 3-4 days a week and the Fort Worth Central Library -- a frequent stop for us -- is across the street from the Y. 
      If, long-term, we need a car for trips, a rental company is closeby. So are banks. So are big shopping areas; we already have tried that walk. And our new facility provided us with a shopping cart.
      Because we now have one bedroom, one bath and a smaller living area and kitchen, we carefully chose what to bring. 
      Moving is never easy, but we are experienced and Bea did most of the packing because one of us knows what they are doing.
      It is a new adventure, and it is exciting. The facility's assistant executive director, extending a welcome Tuesday, said, "You are on a cruise ship now. Enjoy it."
      We intend to enjoy it. Come see us.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Here's your ticket, and the cost is ... $220

      Took a $220 right turn at a "STOP" sign this morning.
      Received my first ticket in a dozen years for it. Did not deserve it. 
      But Mr. Motorcycle Cop -- excuse me, Mr. Motorcycle Policeman -- said I did. We disagreed, and it was not a pleasant conversation.
      I did not like it. I do not like it. 
      I told him at the end of our little disagreement -- after he handed me the ticket (and he did not have me sign a summons), I would challenge it. He said I had that right. 
      (I ended up not doing so. More on that below.)
The dastardly STOP sign and
intersection, today's troublemaker.
      This is one of life's no-win situations. When you fight the law -- especially on a simple stop-sign violation -- the law is going to win. You can take it to court and challenge it, but the fight is not worth the hassle.
      This was a stop sign we encounter 4-5-6 times a week, less than a mile from our apartments. It is often a busy intersection, traffic rolling off the nearby parkway or headed toward the busy University Drive and/or Interstate 30.
      So I darned well know the stop sign is there, and I always stop, and make sure nothing is rolling past us or turning from the other direction. (It is a three-way stop.)
      At any stop sign, I make sure the car rocks back a bit before I continue on. Have made a habit of that for years. Try to never dart out into the intersection, even delay a count.
      OK, I am coming back to this, and explain why I know I stopped and why I got the ticket. Hint: I was not the only one stopped.
      First, though, we went on to our intended destination -- the Wednesday yoga/stretching workout with Ms. Lorie at the downtown Central YMCA.
      Amazing how well you can exercise if you are a little fired up. I did have a slight pain in the back, but then -- thanks to the ticket -- I already had an encountered a pain in the butt.
      Here is why I know I stopped:      
Stopped here, the angle to the
left is where the motorcycle
policemen were sitting,
clearly within view.
-- As I came to the corner, I looked to my left and saw the two motorcycle policemen stopped at their stop sign as they had come off the parkway. So I knew they were there. You think I wasn't being careful?

      -- At any stop sign, I make sure the car rocks back a bit before I continue on. Have made a habit of that for years. Try to never dart out into the intersection, even delay a count.
      -- Bea, in the passenger's seat, was as surprised as I was. "They're pulling you over?" she asked. I thought maybe I had not turned on my right-turn blinker. To be told that I had not stopped properly was stunning.
      -- These two motorcycle guys, I contend, were intentionally looking to hand out tickets. 
      Moments after I stopped and the one officer -- I know the name, but I will keep it to myself -- approached me, the other officer pulled over two more cars. So there were three of us on the left side pulled over on the left side of the road.
      Maybe it was because it is Fort Worth Invitational golf week at nearby Colonial, and it is a busy, busy area. Maybe Fort Worth needs the money. Maybe these guys were trying to justify their existence. Maybe they were bored.
      Maybe they were being hard asses. My guy sure acted like it. 
      OK, he didn't like it that when he came up, and made his check to see all our licenses/tags were in order, asked for my driver's license and as he was punching in on his hand computer, I asked -- not happily -- "Why did you pull me over?" 
      He asked me why I was asking him that, that he didn't understand my question. I replied: "What did I do? (More loudly) "I STOPPED THE CAR." 
      He did not like that, any more than I liked his attitude. "Because I said you ran the stop sign," he told me. Don't think he appreciated me questioning his judgement and he told me I "was being disrespectful."
      His attitude basically was "because I said so."
      Then he told me to get in the car and wait for him to bring me the ticket.
      When he did, I assured him I was not trying to be disrespectful. I do have a lot of respect for law officers; I know how tough their jobs can be. We all should know that, and respect that.
      I then told him I was not trying to be disrespectful, but I wanted to talk to him about my (non)-stop. It was obvious he wasn't going to discuss it any further.
      He felt, as an officer, he had the right to stop me -- and he does. I felt, as a citizen, he made an incorrect judgement.
      Felt to me, with the others also pulled over, they were on a mission.
      Guess he did not have to explain himself, and I know they should be business-like; they are not there for chit-chat. But my guy seemed pretty full of himself, self-important, entitled, arrogant. Sorry I feel that way. He likely felt that way about me. Obviously he did not like me questioning -- or challenging -- him.
      Also, it seems as if this is a nitpicking violation/situation. No harm done, no one endangered. In basketball, the rule is "no harm, no foul." OK, I am whining.
      I am not a great driver (right, Laurin Baum?), never have been. But I am a respectful and courteous one -- use my blinker even with no one around, try not to speed or switch lanes carelessly (not careful enough at times), never honk my horn at anyone (haven't for years, don't believe in it), let people cut in front (sometimes to my wife's dismay), try not to swerve or crowd the car in front of me, stop at stop signs.
      Swerving caused my last ticket -- also undeserved -- at 12:30 a.m. leaving downtown Fort Worth after work. A group of kids in a convertible pulled up next to me at a stop light, loud and likely to have had some soda pops. So I swerved right to avoid their intrusion; unfortunately, a police car behind me pulled me over. He thought I was the one who had been drinking. I was too tired to be disrespectful that night.
      It was 12 years ago; in fact, the address the Fort Worth municipal courts system -- where fines are paid -- had for us was in North Richland Hills, two residences ago.
      So I have to rationalize this. Figure that one violates driving laws from time to time -- run a red light, go over the speed limit, drive recklessly (but not intentionally reckless) ... whatever. And you are not ticketed because no police is around.
      Today the timing was such that the motorcycle guys arrived at the stop-sign intersection just as we did. That's the way it goes. There was no stopping those guys' intent. 
      Went downtown in early afternoon, was sent -- after some paperwork -- to the traffic-court judge and she gave me my options.
      A trial date? No thanks. My word against the policeman's word (and if he brought his partner, it's one-against-two).
      The pro tem judge -- let's call her a veteran judge -- was nice enough, willing to set the court date. Said court costs would be involved. Asked her what my chances were, and she told me discussing that was not her task.
      Pay the fine and probation? OK. And the cost is ... ? Answer: court costs $102.10; special expense fee $117.90. That's $220. Go to the cashier window and pay.
      It is not so much the money; we have it. It is the principle. The word of a man with an officer's badge is stronger than a 70-year-old driving -- driven -- to exercise.
       Going to cut way back on our driving soon, and planning to give up the car. As for the money, believe me I have found more on my walks this year. But it does cut into the profit margin.
      Told the judge that I was going to write about this. "Be sure you say that you had options," she said. Assured her I would be fair ... "unlike the guy this morning," I added.
      I think she laughed. But if not, fine. I already paid mine.
      Sure that Fort Worth needs the cash. Maybe to pay the police.

Friday, May 4, 2018

A package sent to Europe (on a return trip)

      Today we had two pieces of artwork -- wrapped in a nice package -- sent to our cousin Heleen in Belgium.
      That is a simple sentence. The significance of the artwork and package is more than simple. It is, we think, a good story.
       These are pen-and-ink sketches of two scenes in The Netherlands: (1) a typical Amsterdam canal setting and (2) boats in a small river.
       Nothing fancy, not spectacular. But the sentimental value is -- to borrow a phrase -- priceless.
       What is important to us is that our family -- first Mom and Dad, then us -- has had these longer than I have been alive. So more than 70 years. They came with us from Amsterdam to Shreveport, and after July 2010, to Fort Worth.
       Now they are returning to Europe -- going home, in a sense. We are pleased to send them where they will be as greatly appreciated as they have been by us.
       The artist was Philip Kopuit. He was my mother's uncle; her mother's brother.
       He drew them before the Holocaust. He might have drawn them (don't know this for sure) while he, his wife and his pre-teen son, Maurits Kopuit, were hidden in South Holland, hidden from the Nazis.
       Philip, sadly, died during that time; he was only 39. Heart disease.
       Maurits was my mother's first cousin, her closest relative after World War II (until she married Dad). He would become editor of the Jewish newspaper in Amsterdam; in my opinion -- and I wrote a blog on him three years ago -- a brilliant writer, student of human nature ... and a funny, funny man.
       His mother, our aunt Helena (Lena, we called her), lived two houses over from us in Amsterdam for my first 8 1/2 years. She gave Mom these two pieces of artwork some time between 1945 and 1947. 
       They were in our little house with the paper-thin walls in Amsterdam; they hung for years in my parents' houses in Shreveport; for 41 years in what was my sister Elsa's old bedroom in South Broadmoor.
       Bea and I have been downsizing for years, and we did not have room to hang these two framed pieces. But now they are out of the closet.
With Heleen, April 2013, Amsterdam
       Elsa suggested that we offer them to Philip Kopuit's grandchildren, Maurits' children -- Heleen in Antwerp, Philip in Israel (both named for Maurits' parents). Elsa and I share great grandparents (Kopuit family) with them.
       Heleen gladly, thankfully, accepted.                
       We took the pieces to a nearby art dealer's gallery. Bea has done business there previously, trusted the owner would care for the pieces (at plus-70, they are as fragile as we are), and so he carefully packaged them for overseas shipping, tightly sealing them (varnish was the last step).
      We think Heleen (and husband Jacky) -- so gracious when they came from Antwerp to Amsterdam to spend an afternoon with us on our visit there in April 2013 -- will treasure having these. Would have been the same if they had gone to Philip (and Puah) in Jerusalem.
       We picked up the package Thursday, took it to FedEx today -- and it is on its way. Maybe it is not right to ask for prayers for a package of artwork, but let's do it.
       Happy to keep these in the family. Our sense of pride in this artwork indeed is priceless.

Monday, April 23, 2018

What's in a nickname: Tech's Blond Bomber

     So, in case you were wondering 50 years later about the best of Terry Bradshaw's nicknames ...
     My old buddy, O.K. "Buddy" Davis, was wondering Saturday when he sent this text: "Can u give me background on when you, Paul Manasseh came up with the Blond Bomber nickname?
     "Can't recall my input, either," he added.
     So because it was yesterday -- well, 1968, actually -- this required a little research. Hello, microfilm on
     It is not exactly what we have thought for decades.
     We always have given the credit to Paul Manasseh, the veteran sports publicist from Shreveport who that fall was the sports information director at Louisiana Tech University. 
     He had one student assistant (me, a senior at Tech) and one regular office visitor who helped us in SID work, Ruston Daily Leader sports editor Buddy Davis, a recent Tech graduate.
In 1967 and 1968, Terry Bradshaw still
had hair on top of his head, and it was
very blond ... so "The Blond Bomber."
     Bradshaw, everyone at Tech knew, was a huge talent, but going into that season had never started a college game. He did not have a nickname, as we remember it.  
      But soon his talent blossomed, and he was on his way to being the best quarter back in college football -- at any level (Tech was an NCAA Division II team, but Terry could have played for any "major"). Proof: In January 1970, he was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. You likely know the rest.
     Oh, the nickname ...
     Manasseh -- wise media person, personable, guiding force for many budding sportswriters/broadcasters as, after nine months at Tech, he moved on to 14 years as SID at LSU -- loved Bradshaw's talent (heck, all of us at Tech did). Began writing and talking about it soon after he took the Tech job in July.
     Shortly into the season -- which began with Bradshaw, in his first start, starring in a victory against a "major," Mississippi State (albeit a weak one -- 0-8-2 -- that year), Manasseh tagged Terry with two nicknames: (1) "The Rifleman" and (2) "The Blond Bomber."
     Those references were made in releases sent out from the Tech SID office.
     For years -- and I noted this in an April 14, 2012, blog piece on Bradshaw -- Manasseh, Buddy and I have received credit for those nicknames. Thanks, but it ain't exactly so.
     Because Buddy and I have kidded each other for more than 50 years, I replied to his text Saturday by saying, "Think Manasseh came up with it and you took the credit." 
     Buddy's comeback: "We all did (football emoji) (smiley face)."
     Now the real kicker: Don't believe Manasseh was the originator, either. He adopted it, and adapted it.
     It was not original. Actually, it was a takeoff on "The Brown Bomber," longtime heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis in the 1940s.
      Looked this up: "Blond Bomber" was used -- several times -- by pro wrestlers, and by a body builder (Dave Draper) earlier in the 1960s, and there was a 1954 TV show, Adventures of the Falcon, with an episode titled "The Blond Bomber."
     And reading about a book a couple of years ago about Texas' football legends, we noted that Bobby Layne -- the 1940s University of Texas and then 1950s Detroit Lions' great quarterback -- was nicknamed, yes, "The Blond Bomber."
     In Louisiana, though, the first blond bomber reference -- note, it was lower case -- we could find in 1968 for Bradshaw was by sports editor/columnist Bill Carter of the Alexandria Town Talk in a Sept. 27 story (the week after the Mississippi State game). He had not used it in a column effusively touting Bradshaw's promise eight days earlier.
     So here is what I think happened (feel free to correct us, if you have a better version):
     Manasseh was very good friends with Carter, and saw his blond bomber reference in the Alexandria paper. Paul picked up on it for Tech releases, and changed it a bit: He upper-cased it.  
     Ah, from then on, Tech's Blond Bomber. It caught on.
     Buddy loved it, I loved it, and we began using it ... a lot ... for years and years.
     So did all the Louisiana sportswriters; it become commonplace. For instance, we found references in columns in the next month by The Shreveport Times' Larry Powell, Jim McLain and Bill McIntyre.
     McLain, in fact, doubled up, starting his post Tech-Northwestern State column -- the one after the Bradshaw-to-Ken Liberto, 82-yard winning TD pass with 13 seconds remaining -- by calling Terry "The Rifleman" and later "The Blond Bomber."
     (McLain, too, first used "The White Knight" nickname for Joe Ferguson -- like Bradshaw a star QB at Woodlawn High -- in 1967 because great offensive-line protection allowed Ferguson's white jersey, when his team wore white, to remain spotless through games.)
     "The Rifleman" nickname was a natural because of the very popular 1960s television series.Terry had the "rifle" right arm and he much resembled Chuck Connors, the 6-foot-6 baseball major leaguer-turned-actor who starred as Lucas McCain, with his ever-present, often-used rifle.
     "Blond Bomber," too, was a natural. Terry then still had hair growing on top of his head -- first a crewcut, then a little longer and combed over -- and that hair was more white than blond. Plus, he could throw long passes on target -- bombs -- as well as anyone we've seen.
     (By the way, we have seen it written often as Blonde Bomber. No, not for Terry. We are not grammar experts, but our understanding is that blond is masculine and blonde is feminine. So there.)
     In time, Bradshaw would become the Pittsburgh Steelers' "Blond Bomber." But I don't remember hearing him ever talk about nicknames. 
     To him, that was never as important as winning football games -- and he was very good at that, and nearly as good as he has been in his show business/football analyst career. 
     Outspoken, yes. Crazy, goofy, funny ... certainly. He has played those roles well. Also, a helluva lot smarter than we all realized. 
     Criticize him if you want, but that doesn't play well with me. He has represented Shreveport-Bossier and Louisiana Tech well through the years.
     Does not matter who gets credit for the nickname. It worked, and it remains a cherished part of a football legend. We were there for its genesis.
      Terry Bradshaw, The Blond Bomber. (How many times have we written that?)   


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Remembering the Holocaust ... and Charlottesville

Rose and Louis (The Shreveport Times photo)
     This Sunday afternoon, I will be thinking of Mom and Dad ... and millions of other people.
     I also will be thinking of last August, and the tumultuous weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
     Thinking, remembering, and reflecting. That is what the annual Holocaust Remembrance Service in Shreveport-Bossier is for me. And I am sure Beatrice Van Thyn feels the same, as do many others.
     That is why we attend. To honor those who suffered through the Holocaust, those who paid the ultimate price (6 million Jews, 11 million victims, 60 million altogether -- military, people of the world). Our family lost too soon: four grandparents, two uncles, one aunt, an in-law aunt and uncle, one nephew, and my parents' first spouses. 
     This Sunday (3 p.m. start), I especially will think of Mom. Because the service this year will be in Brown Chapel on the Centenary College campus.
     Special connections: (1) Mom often was a featured speaker at the Shreveport-Bossier Holocaust Remembrance Service; (2) she and Dad, as Holocaust survivors, were among those lighting the 11 eleven candles commemorating the 11 million victims of Nazi occupation/persecution; (3) Mom loved Brown Chapel, was a speaker there several times, and chose it for her memorial service (eight years ago in July).
     As many people remember, for years she spoke publicly about the Holocaust, her experiences in it and in life.
     She wrote prolifically in English, her second language, although I am sure she wrote Dutch to her friends back in the old country. Long takes on her and her original family's Holocaust days; poetry -- most her own, some borrowed -- and letters to the newspapers.
     I am sharing some of those editorial-page letters (saw them again recently as I culled our paper files and created digital files).
     One of her favorite subjects -- and not in a positive manner -- was David Duke. Surprised?
1990 The Shreveport Times
     Is there anyone in the United States, and with Louisiana ties, that is more symbolic of anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and white supremacy advocate? He was the America's leading Nazi wannabe and Grand Wizard (of the Ku Klux Klan), so the answer is ... no.
     Much as I love my home state, it is a forever-stain on Louisiana that he actually had success there politically.
     He was -- among other things -- an elected state representative and a finalist in the 1991 state governor's race, having drawn 80,000 more votes in the primary than the incumbent governor, Buddy Roemer. It took a "Vote for the Crook" campaign for Edwin Edwards to keep a Nazi promoter/sympathizer out of the governor's chair. (Soon enough Edwards and Duke were convicted felons.)  
     Duke is still around, of course, spouting his white trash, and he has enough followers to draw attention ... from those who want to pay attention. 
     Which brings us back to Charlottesville. He was there, he was on camera, and he had plenty of would-be-Nazis company. 
     Just as a reminder, I again watched the "Vice News Tonight" behind-the-scenes coverage of the Nazi/KKK/white-supremacists types ... and the slanted hatred they espouse. It is really head-shaking. Pitiful. Annoying. Obnoxious. And, well, laughable.
     Had my say on this last August:
     Do not care to rehash it any further, except to say that I will not agree with the "many sides," "both sides" were guilty. That argument is an overreach, a misinterpretation.
     And those Nazi/KKK/white supremacists publicly loved that people -- influential people -- are at least partially, if not fully, taking their side, giving them an out or an excuse.
     Of course, this protest also involved the Confederate-hero statue issue -- in this case, Gen. Robert E. Lee -- so the question of slavery, of those clinging to their Southern roots and heritage, was combined with the pro-Nazi cause.
     We could write a whole blog on that. Personally, I like statues; I did a sports page piece on the sports statues in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. But, hey, statues of Stalin and Saddam Hussein -- and for football's sake, Joe Paterno -- came tumbling down. Can you imagine statues of Hitler, Goebbels, Rommel, etc.? Yeah, right. 
     So the Confederate statues symbolize heroes to some, slavery to others. Heritage or shame. There is both sides of this debate.
     But both sides guilty in Charlottesville? C'mon. It is just not right.    
     No, no, no -- one side is bent on hate speech, and prone to violence, eager to provide that violence and, in this case, even defending and slanting the facts about a car driven into the crowd, injuring many and killing one young woman. 
     The other side is sticking up for decency. 
     Even if we disagree on politics and social issues today, I would hope we could agree that David Duke and his cronies are wrong, wrong, wrong. 
     They were waving their Nazi, KKK and Confederate flags, carrying their lit torches through the night, chanting "this is our country" and "blood and soil" -- the Nazi standby from the 1930s -- and "Whose streets? Our streets!" and, the twist on the current-day slogan, "White Lives Matter."
     The decent view is: It is all our country -- no colors needed -- and all lives matter. 
     To equate the thugs in Charlottesville with a left-wing radical shooting bullets rapidly into a Republican baseball practice, we don't consider it the same thing. Our U.S. Congresswoman from the district here in Fort Worth did that in echoing the "both sides" claim, and a couple of people on my Facebook page agreed with her. 
     Mrs. Kay Granger's office is close to where we live, across the street off University Drive, so I took a copy of my blog piece and a short note there. To her credit, she answered with a lengthy, well-done letter and strongly denounced -- twice -- the white supremacists' actions and views.
     She cited the baseball practice shooting as "an example of political violence, and I denounce it as well" and went on to write, "... I cannot imagine that anyone but severe partisans would not agree with my position in denouncing both actions."
     I don't consider myself a severe partisan -- you might -- but that was one man with an obvious mental-health problem (we've heard this description repeatedly in other cases). How many one- or two-person violent acts have we seen here in recent memory?
     One lone wolf, not a mob or a movement. It is not a parallel situation.
     Cannot deny that the counter protesters in Charlottesville -- the anti-fascist group -- were ready for battle, that some went there knowing they would have to fight to protect themselves. History tell us how violent the Nazi/KKK types love to be.
     But the rally itself -- the largest white supremacists gathering in the U.S. in a decade, they bragged -- was the instigator. 
     Look, the Charlottesville movement had a license to protest (so giving that crowd permission was the first problem ... but where do you draw the line on protests?). 
     Tried to tell you before the current administration was in office that there would be plenty of protests. Got lots of criticism for defending the Hamilton cast ("wrong place," "wrong time," "disrespectful). 
     And now you have had the women's marches, the NFL players' national-anthem protests, the young people-led gun-restriction protests, the abortion/anti-abortion protests won't subside, the Black Lives Matter protests. We don't all agree, but -- Lord help us -- we don't want violence.
1994 The Shreveport Times
     So about Charlottesville, it's not anger I feel (although my friend in Holland, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, wrote a note saying she thought that). It's sadness. Sad that the Nazi/KKK/white supremacy loudmouths are there and visible.
     It is, true, a small and loud faction of our society. It is, unfortunately, a growing menace -- again -- in Europe. We don't need to ignore them; we need to pay attention. We need to tell them, often: You are just wrong.
     We don't need to be scared, either. Guarantee you that Rose Van Thyn was not scared of David Duke or any of the others.
     Don't think she ever was in the same room with him. She chose not to be; he had some public appearances in Shreveport-Bossier.
     But one member of our family -- my sister Elsa -- was an LSU student at the same time as Duke in the early 1970s. The other night, when I told her I was going to write this blog, she remembered several times listening to him speak at LSU's Free Speech rallies, almost always wearing his Nazi uniform (as did often on campus).
     And she remembered laughing at how outrageous he was, that while others were denouncing the Vietnam War, Duke was blaming the Jews for it and blaming Jewish women for inciting protests.
      Had my mother seen Duke, she would have gone face to face, toe to toe with him -- well, sort of, at 4-foot-9 and 110 pounds (maybe), perhaps not face to face.
      She did not use bad language, but if there was something she did not like, you knew it. She would not have backed away from David Duke. She would not have been violent, but you could see his always-present bodyguards stepping in, couldn't you? Rose did not need bodyguards. 
      What happened in Charlottesville last year, and the Nazi-type rallies and speeches we read and hear about (too often) are very good reasons why a Holocaust Remembrance Service is important. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Baseball needs a shift in the scoring rules

      Don't want to change how baseball is played, only how to mark it up on the scorebook. My thoughts are on the web site.…/baseball-scorekeeping/
        F5 or F7? That is the question. 
      If you are a baseball person, you might understand this. If you are not, you won't care.
      Those of us old-school baseball purists who -- grimace -- accept that defensive shifts are now part of the game have a suggestion for baseball's rules makers.
      If you don't want to outlaw defensive shifts -- and make people play in the positions as they have for 150 years -- at least change the scoring rules. Change how outs are recorded on the official scoresheet.
      If you have kept a baseball scorebook since you were about 10 years old, if you learned early on that 1 is pitcher, 2 is catcher, 3 is first base, 4 is second base, 5 is third base, 6 is shortstop, and 7-8-9 are outfielders, left to right, think about what happened last Thursday on Opening Day.
      The Houston Astros used a four-man outfield. We've seen it before, we think, over some 60 years of watching the game. But ...
      On his first at-bat this season, Texas Rangers first baseman Joey Gallo -- faced an Astros' defense without a third baseman. Sort of.
Astros' defense against the Rangers' Joey Gallo
      The Astros' third baseman, former LSU star Alex Bregman, was playing in deep left field. Yes, the "5" was playing in the "7" spot. (So was the regular "7" to Bregman's left.) 
      And Gallo, a left-handed hitter -- very much a pull hitter -- flied out to the third baseman ... in deep left field.
      Score it F5 (Bregman's position) or F7 (where he was playing)? First thought I had when it happened. If you have been a scorekeeper, and been paid for it, these things cross your mind.
      Seconds later, we heard the Astros' announcers ask the same question,  and debate it. 
      By current scoring rules, it has to be F5. We're suggesting that it needs changing. 
      It should be changed to reflect the defensive positioning. So maybe make it 7-B (and in the official statistics, give Bregman an outfield putout).  
      Just as if the third baseman -- in the current trend of defensive shifts -- is playing in the shortstop spot, and the ball is hit to him, he should be "6-B." And if the shortstop is on the right side of second base, he should be "4-B."
      A friend this morning suggested that it could be scored F7 (5) to indicate where the ball was caught and the player who caught it. My view is that it could be F5 (7).
      Whatever, it needs changing from the current system.
      A couple of times already this season -- and often in the past couple of years -- we have seen the second baseman, playing in shallow-to-medium right field, field a ground ball and throw the batter out at first base. Against a conventional defense, that is an single.
      So why not make it a 9B-3 putout, or 4(9)-3?
      Simple changes, in our thinking, and more of an indication where the outs were made. 
      But changing baseball scoring rules -- and we have several we could point out need changing, but save that for another time -- is rarely done. 
      If baseball's stats keepers want to be more accurate, and reconstruct games on paper to show what really happened, they need a Plan B, or another way to do it. Shift the system.