Tuesday, January 28, 2020



Way back in  1800, (according to Monday’s Los Angeles Times), Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both running for president, were tied—amazingly--in Electoral College votes.  One house of Congress was forced to decide between them.

As it developed, the political party making the decision did not feel either man represented their beliefs, but decided that Aaron Burr would be much easier to control, that he would bend to their wishes. Ready to cast their votes for Burr, they were stopped by an incensed Alexander Hamilton, who stepped in to dissuade them.  Noting that Burr was a man he knew well from New York political and legal circles, he said Burr was “deficient in honesty”  and “one of the most unprincipled men in the UStates.” 

Hamilton also said, “When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper; possessed of considerable talents” . . . “having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanor—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobbyhorse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government and bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day—it may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”    

Still, the deciding party had already observed that Jefferson’s principles, as Secretary of State, did not please them.  Yet Alexander Hamilton persisted in his arguments. If Burr was made president, Hamilton said, “he will disturb our institutions,” and “disgrace our Country abroad.”  He would “listen to no monitor but his ambition,”  and further, he was (to quote the Times) governed by a singular position—“to get power by any means and keep it by all means.”

Though Hamilton knew Jefferson did not please the deciding party, he would not give up his clamor against Aaron Burr.  At least, he said in one of his dozen letters to Congress, Jefferson was a man devoted to the Constitution. 

In today’s impeachment conflicts, Adam Schiff has become our Alexander Hamilton, quoting this astute distant scholar for the benefit of the American public—noting how much Burr and Trump have in common. 

But it was the Los Angeles Times that made this point: “In a striking echo to the impeachment charges against Trump, Hamilton further noted that if Burr ever reached the White House, there was a risk that, for the purpose of self-benefit, he would undertake  “a bargain and sale with some foreign power, or combinations  with public agents in projects of gain by means of the public monies.” 

The dismissal of Burr’s candidacy did not come easily: It took 36 ballots to achieve the presidency in Thomas Jefferson’s favor.  As we look back at Aaron Burr—this earlier version of Donald Trump—some of us wonder whether our country and our constitution would have survived under the dishonesty and political ambitions of Aaron Burr.  Would he, too, have lied to the public some 4000 times? 

How often has Trump bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in  New York City and “my voters would still support me.” 

Well, the irony is, years ago, that exact scenario occurred: In a duel that should have been stopped, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton.  And ever since, everyone who has read a history book has come to despise the name of Aaron Burr. 

Friday, January 10, 2020




It all began in Amsterdam.  Our granddaughter and her husband, in Holland, needed a larger house.  As in California, homes are expensive, so they were barely able to afford an older, two-story,  owned for years by a woman who was born and, in her old age, died there.  But after the late-year deal was closed, they made an astonishing discovery: their two-story home was actually three stories, with a never-revealed full basement.

And how did they know?  As a contractor began renovations,  he discovered a trap door, leading to a ladder.  Of all places, the trap door was in the bathroom, hidden UNDER the linoleum. Meaning the house was now a third more valuable than anyone had suspected. Even the ladder was a mystery, descending into a basement filled to the brim with sand.  

But what was the purpose of the mysterious trap door?  And since when were trap doors located in bathrooms? 

Nobody knows, but speculations are rampant. Perhaps during WW II, the basement was used to sequester and protect a family of Jews.  Or perhaps the sand is hiding a treasure of Dutch art work from marauding Nazis in 1940,  such as paintings or statuary.  Until the sand is removed, the house and its secrets will not be revealed.  Extensive renovation permissions in Holland are slow.  Until then, the larger family holds its breath. 

Soon after, our daughter’s two children and their significant others spent Christmas in Tracy’s Tustin home.  On Christmas Eve, grandson Dane was awakened by a one a.m. alarm on his phone:  Since he runs a video business, he was able to see a man running through his company, with computers under his arms . . . and also that a glass door was shattered.  Dane woke Tracy’s Paul, and together the two arrived at two a.m., called the police, and found that three computers had been stolen.  And there was blood on the floor.  The police offered no reasonable solutions.

Two nights later it happened again.  Same thief. Two more computers gone, including Tracy’s. And a photo of the thief on house video.  Now Tracy got involved. After the police said they had more important jobs than solving property crimes, Tracy called an old friend, the mayor of Santa Ana.  (As a once four-year mayor herself, she had a good relationship with Miguel Polido.)  Polido was eager to help.

Not one to let thieves disrupt a family business,  Tracy scouted the neighborhood and nearby found a homeless tent encampment—and possibly a view of the oft-filmed crook. A few days later, three pickle ball friends gave themselves a new title, Crime Fighters, and joined Tracy in secretly scouting the tents.  What they found were three bums in a raging argument with a Uber driver. After they all drove away, Tracy’s posse followed them in a jeep—a long drive through the streets of Santa Ana, with Tracy continuously on the phone to Police Dispatch,  keeping them informed of their location.  When the Uber stopped in front of a bank, so did the police.

Within minutes all three men, including the video burglar, were handcuffed.  Two had outstanding warrants. Later that day, Santa Ana police sent Dane an email message.  “We just want to thank you for your friends, who so determinedly ran down two crooks.”  Tracy told us with a laugh, “They never knew that one of the “friends” was his mother.” 

Last, in celebration of Rob’s and my 71st anniversary, January 3,  we were invited to our son Chris and Betty-Jo’s Tustin home for dinner.  Of course significant family members had celebrated the year before, including our son Ken and his wife from Virginia.  So we knew this year only the locals would be there.  Still, when Rob and I were directed to Betty-Jo’s living room couch and handed a drink,  after a couple of minutes we heard a distinctive voice, somewhere behind us, say, “Can’t a guy get a decent meal around here?”  Instantly, I recognized the voice as our son, Ken . . . and I thought, Where did they get this audio tape? Unlike me, Rob knew it wasn’t a tape.  The voice was practically in his ear.    

Suddenly, Ken jumped out from behind the couch—easily one of the greatest surprises I’ve had in decades. Once again, Rob and I reveled in our family’s recognition of our long marriage.  And the family’s determination to make Ken’s visit a huge moment.

Except for the house in Amsterdam,  we expect the craziness of this year’s Christmas season is now over.