Arming for Armageddon

Jupiter Ballistic Missile

As far back as I can possibly reach into my conscious memory, there has been some person in authority warning us of the impending possibility of our earthly expiration. From the preachers in the pulpit to the pols in the public square, there has been no shortage of voices giving us reason to cower under our actual or metaphorical desks. The latest message of an approaching Armageddon is being delivered by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. And in a rare break with my usual inclination of wanting to shoot the messenger, at this particular crossroad–I actually share the concerns of the courier.

As the  President prepares for his trip to Asia next month, I question whether or not there is either the capacity or the judgement needed to bring about a peaceful curbing of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But ever since the Second World War, we’ve spent trillions of dollars, risked armed conflict, and sacrificed thousands of American lives in order to put limitations on the firepower available to those nations and outside groups that were perceived as threats to our national security. While those policies of containment may have been a necessary evil, one might question why there is not the same resolve or expenditure of resources when it comes to protecting our citizens from those legitimate threats that exist within our own borders.

Why is it that our leader’s and legislator’s eagerness to regulate the killing potential of those seemingly unstable and unfriendly types that inhabit our planet tends to always stop at the water’s edge? Perhaps it’s because terrorists and rogue regimes may possess the firepower, but in most instances–they just haven’t yet acquired the lobbying power.

While I find the thought of ICBMs in Iran and Nukes in North Korea to be somewhat disheartening, that which brings the most discomfort to my domestic tranquility is the thought of bump stocks in the barnyard and that loose cannon in the West Wing!

Loose Cannon Hop 3

 

Personally, the only Loose Cannon that makes the cut in my life is that wonderful IPA from those exceptional brewers at Heavy Seas.

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

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Why Shiver Me Timbers, It’s that Time Again

Wallace Beery & Jackie Cooper in Treasure Island

Seriously, do I really need to remind me hearties  that September 19th is International Talk like a Pirate Day? Now as to whether or not pirates actually ever talked like someone spiked their grog with ground glass is a matter I’ll leave to the linguists to decide. But ever since Wallace Beery’s legendary portrayal of Long John Silver in the 1934 classic Treasure Island, the supposed parlance of the privateer would find its way into the performance of every swashbuckler that ever raised a cutlass while under sail on a  Hollywood sound stage. And in 1952 piratical interjections would be taken to new heights by Robert Newton in the film Blackbeard, the Pirate. 

Robert newton in Blackbeard the Pirate

Click on the image of that bearded, wild-eyed, old captain of the Queen Anne’s Revenge for this year’s crash course in swagger and pirate speak.    

Now that you’ve become adept at the art of the Arrghs, let us review the recently revised pirate code of conduct:

  • Always put your best peg-leg forward.
  • Remember to press your pantaloons.
  • Compliment the fit and finish of your shipmate’s puffy shirt.
  • Never fly your Jolly Roger above the Stars and Stripes.
  • Buy your crew the next round of Grog.
  • Extend your hook to one in need.
  • Stand on the side of your shipmate’s good eye.
  • Share your booty with the less fortunate.
  • And always let your parrot have the last word!

But before you get all caught up in the “yo-hos” of the day, remember that a good number of our fellow shipmates have been facing some pretty rough seas as of late. Who would have thought that a couple of blowhards named Harvey and Irma could cause more hardship and devastation than all the scourges and scalawags that ever sailed the Seven Seas? So before you weigh anchor, why not pass on some of those spare doubloons to those who need your help and support? And remember that a savvy captain never sets sail without a good navigator.

Click on the image below to learn more about hurricane relief.

CN_Logo_Main250x83

Now that you’ve done your crew proud, it’s time to raise the roof and the rum!

Ye Have a Very Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

And while you’re at it, why not sing like a pirate while listening to these two old nautical favorites?

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Lee’s Last Ride

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller - 1866

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller – 1866

“I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy.” Richard”Shotgun” Weeks – Master Sergeant U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran/ Civil War historian

“The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.” Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – commander 20th Maine at Gettysburg

For my part, I can barely fathom those forces that drive a human being to accept or even consider the possibility that they are by way of their race, creed, or national origin somehow superior to their fellowman. But then my own personal journey has caused me to reject any behavior predicated on any theory of innate supremacy or an overly zealous sense of nationalism.  Having virtually no knowledge as to the circumstance of my own birth or bloodline, I have become quite comfortable in the belief that a good portion of our individual lives is determined merely by genetic and geographic potluck without the hand of God trying to stack the deck in any particular group’s favor.

As for those among us that are prone to think otherwise, it is probably a combination of fear and a personal sense of inferiority that is the seed from which that invasive strangling vine of their own self-aggrandizing superiority complex sprouts.

As to the recent tragic events in Charlottesville and the somewhat troubling  response and mixed-messages offered up by our president, I think we need to be honest with ourselves as to who the man is and who he is not. Donald Trump achieved the office by relying heavily on those wedge issues of religion, race, and immigration that have been polarizing this country not only in recent years, but throughout our nation’s history. And while this political tactic is nothing new, it has never been so blatantly utilized by a presidential candidate. And although I can not state with any certainty as to what is truly in the man’s heart–it is safe to say that neither Citizen Trump nor President Trump has ever exhibited the capacity to construct much beyond a hotel, golf course, or casino. The building of consensus and bridges does not appear to be part of the plan. And while I do not totally rule out the possibility of an epiphany, in order for that to occur one must first be willing to admit to and address their own failures and shortcomings.

As for the president’s equivocation of the violence on both sides in Charlottesville, he seems to forget that our system of justice does in fact define by degree the nature of most crimes. And the level of intent and premeditation displayed by those involved in any criminal act normally dictates the assigning of responsibility and the resulting punishment. There is clearly a distinct and undeniable difference between planned intimidation and violence and the reflexive actions of those that are the targets and victims of such attacks. The end result may yield an equal number of causalities, but in American Jurisprudence shared pain does not equate with shared guilt!

Then there is the issue as to what may have actually sparked the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville. Since I was old enough to turn on a television set, I’ve watched scenes of  human beings beating each over the head either in defense of some cherished symbol or in response to some other group’s use of a symbol that was deemed to be offensive. Any blood shed over the veneration or demonization of some man-made expression of our affiliations or points of view  is blood that is shed for nothing. No book, no image,  no work in bronze or stone, and no piece of cloth hoisted up a pole can be reason enough to justify violence or the taking of life.

As for the fates of those monuments and memorials to the Confederacy,  I personally take no offense at their presence. But at the same time, I understand why others would opt for their elimination. I certainly would not expect the children of the Lakota Sioux to attend a  school named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, anymore than I would expect an African American family to comfortably picnic under the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest. We need to be sensitive to those people and communities that endured great hardships and countless indignities at the hands of those who would attempt to rewrite history by way of some public square glorification of a past that was often cruel and seldom heroic.

Travellor-Grave-PlaqueLastly, there is the matter of the ever haunting ghost of that Virginia gentleman who has once again taken  center stage in yet another civil conflict. While it seems somewhat ludicrous  to suggest that the removal of  a statue of Robert E. Lee might lead some to consider the possible purge of the likenesses of Washington and Jefferson–who can predict how the lens into our past will be adjusted by those in the future in order to be in line with their view of the present? But for now, the question may be worthy of some small measure of reflection. After all, Washington, Jefferson, and Lee were all thought to be treasonous, rebellious scoundrels by a large number of their fellow countrymen. And all of these men by current standards of thought could be tarnished by their apparent contradictions in character.

In the case of Robert E. Lee, while his religious convictions made him keenly aware of the inherent evils of slavery, he was of the opinion that the inevitable demise of that institution would only come about in accordance with God’s timetable. And though he viewed secession as being unconstitutional and an outright betrayal to the founding principles of the United States, his decision to lend his superior military skills to the state of Virginia would nearly bring about the destruction of the Union.

Shortly before his death in 1870, Lee spoke out against the idea of erecting monuments to the war. He believed those efforts would only hamper the process of national reconciliation. So perhaps now is the time for Lee’s last ride. But no matter what we as a people decide to tear down, we as a nation will be judged by what we chose to raise up.

At this moment in time, I will raise a glass to the people of Charlottesville and to all who stand their ground against discrimination, intolerance, inequality, and racism!

Please take the time to listen to this profound song of healing performed by Joe Jencks.

40 Mile IPAIf by chance you find yourself paying a visit to the city of Charlottesville, while there might I suggest raising a glass of  40 Mile IPA from Three Notch’d Brewing Company. This outstanding brew celebrates the ride of another famous gentlemen from Virginia Jack Jouett whose daring on horseback on the night of June 1, 1781, saved Thomas Jefferson and the state legislature from capture by British cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Secret GOP Healthcare Plan Revealed

The Bartender is In

If you are wondering what might be in the super-secret Senate bill on revamping the nation’s healthcare system–wonder no more. For I am about to reveal the details based upon some recent personal input on the matter.

Knowing full well that the Senate would be tasked with coming up with something a bit less mean than what the House presented to the President, and also being aware of the fact that the Senate can be just as mean and nasty as the House, I took it upon myself to formulate my own blueprint for the overhaul of healthcare.

Now one might be tempted to question my credentials on the issue. But as a working bartender of almost 45 years, I have been at the forefront of practical medicine for most of my life. And I am certainly no less qualified than the majority of those senators and congressman that will ultimately decide the issue.

The following letter was emailed to the offices of key members of the United States Senate, including all those that currently sit on the Healthcare Committee:

To the Honorable and Reasonable Men and Women of the United States Senate:

While I do not have any accredited expertise on the issue of providing healthcare coverage to the citizens of this country, with each passing day it becomes increasingly self-evident that the democratic process allows even the least qualified among us to lay claim to having all the answers. So as someone who has at least served as an elected official in municipal government and has had the benefit or curse of having worn numerous professional hats along with a number of inconsequential caps over the course of 63 years, please bear with me as I toss my somewhat shopworn chapeau into the ring.

First off, it appears that both the previous and current administration, either by design or default, became mostly fixated on how to placate and finance the insurance industry. In spite of the fact that most Americans would probably place the blame for their premium woes on the perceived greed of the insurers, and while certain aspects of the customer service practices of these providers might help to fuel those perceptions—most of these companies operate at or below the average profit margins of the majority of all U.S. businesses. While there are probably some legislative actions, such as tort reform and creating larger insurance pools, which could lower premiums to some degree, the real savings is in addressing healthcare practices and the delivery of services. The question then becomes how do we rein in the costs of that which represents nearly 20 percent of the nation’s GDP without harming the overall health of the economy? And what should be the role of government in that process?

There are those that propose single payer universal healthcare, and there are those that would prefer a totally market-based solution. Without giving away my own personal preference, let me just say that neither approach is realistic under the current political climate. So as usual, it will require creativity, compromise, and consideration from both camps to bring about any meaningful change. So for what it’s worth, here are a number of ideas and observations to ponder.

1.) During the last few decades our country has experienced a rather baffling rise in both the cost of healthcare and higher education. I say baffling because neither situation has produced the improved outcomes that one might expect when measured against the cost. And when you factor in the information technologies available to both professions, the qualified practitioners of both medicine and learning should in fact be providing a much better product at a more equitable price.

I am not suggesting that those dedicated men and women on the front lines of either healthcare or education be paid less for their services, but I suspect there are a great deal of savings that lie just beyond the doors of the classroom and the operating room. And while the factors that drive costs in either institution do not necessarily make the case for a valid comparison—one only needs to take a stroll on the lush grounds of an Ivy League university or walk down the corridors of a sprawling hospital complex to know that both healing and enlightenment could be achieved in much more affordable surroundings. The question is, who will take the lead in the creation and construction of those surroundings—the government or the free market?

2.) In order for actual market based competition to occur within the healthcare industry, I believe two things must be addressed: the lack of transparency when it comes to actual costs, and the other being what I like to call “Car Wash Medicine.”

As to the latter, the recouping of one’s investment and eventual profitability in an automated car wash is dependent upon a never ending stream of dirty cars passing through the machine. Thankfully, the owners of these car washes can depend upon the vagaries of Mother Nature and the capricious hygiene habits of our winged friends to guarantee a healthy supply of customers. But this is not necessarily true in the business of healthcare. While all of us will eventually become sick or sustain injury, and perhaps even come to harm as the result of some chance encounter with a bird, the successful treatment of those maladies is not always dependent upon being subjected to the expensive technologies afforded to us by modern medicine. And yet it seems that no treatment regimen is complete without first being screened and scanned. I guess the medical community can’t afford to let that expensive CT or MRI machine sit idle for too long.

As to the matter of transparency, most of my time alive has been spent living in New Jersey. And while I can’t speak about oversight in the other 49 states, if the Garden State is a typical example of how healthcare providers operate throughout the country, then one must come to the conclusion that in fact there is no true market based competition going on. Depending upon the location, the same identical routine tests and procedures can vary in cost by thousands of dollars. And since those costs are most often negotiated under the cover of nondisclosure, the average consumer, who normally finds his way into the system by way of an ambulance with very little choice as to where to go, becomes doubly victimized by the unethical price fixing and price gouging that is being done all in the name of medicine.

3.) The repeal of the Affordable Care Act will most likely lead to another spike in the number of uninsured people seeking expensive emergency room treatment. Those who cannot afford insurance or preemptive medical care are left with little choice other than to wait for a symptom to become a sickness.

By developing an extensive national network of free or low cost government supported community clinics for poor and low income Americans, we could greatly reduce the number of emergency cases that have brought many of our hospitals to the brink of financial ruin. And as an incentive to attract qualified personnel to staff these clinics, the government could offer to pay for the cost of nursing or medical school in exchange for two years of service in those areas of the country that are underserved by the medical community. Considering the fact that the average new doctor finds him or herself with nearly two-hundred thousand dollars of student debt before they even see their first patient, I believe many of these newly trained professionals would gladly be willing to work for a bit less money at the beginning of their careers.

4.) We could be just one breakthrough away from freeing up $175 billion a year of government monies. Currently, approximately 18 percent of the annual Medicare and Medicaid budget is spent caring for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. By 2025, that cost of care is estimated to reach $237 billion. While the Congress has already committed a substantial increase in research funding for this year’s budget, it is incumbent upon all of our elected representatives in both the House and Senate to guarantee that we will continue to aggressively fund those public and private entities that are engaged in the search for a cure. Other than the ravages  of cancer, no other present medical condition has brought greater sadness or suffering to humanity than Alzheimer’s disease.

5.) Finally, it is safe to say that there will be an enormous amount of push back from those who might be adversely impacted by any attempt to control and cut the cost of healthcare. And certainly an industry that makes up such a large portion of our economy will strongly plead the case for maintaining the status quo when it comes to protecting the current model of medical care in the United States. But for the sake and wellbeing of those who represent the other 80 plus percent of our gross domestic product, now is the time for our leaders and legislators to exhibit a little more conviction and whole lot more courage!

Furthermore, as we begin the process of considering cutting taxes on both businesses and individuals in order to spur growth, we should not lose sight of the powerful boost to the American economy that would come about simply by reducing the undue financial burden of runaway healthcare costs. American companies would become more profitable, government would see increased tax revenue—but most importantly, our citizens would be less stressed, more secure, and a lot healthier. Because nothing promotes the general welfare of the people better than knowing that they will have the means to enjoy the rewards of life–and the resources to cover the cost!

Thank you for your time and attention.
Sincerely,
Christopher M. Poh

Of course there is that distinct possibility that in the process of amending and reconciliation that my recommendations will not be fully incorporated into the final bill. In the event of that outcome, I will prescribe the following in lieu of genuine reform and repair of our healthcare system:

  • Get plenty of exercise. Lifting full pints of  ale is a good start. Dancing on the bar is aerobic, but not recommended for older patrons.
  • Socialize more. Take your eyes off the damn TV screen and engage in some constructive communication with the person next to you.
  • Finally, take two aperitifs and call me in the morning–but, please, not too early!

Click glass Bluecoat Gin Martini for additional treatment options.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

With Our Sincere and Humble Apologies to the Ghosts of The Molly Maguires

The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe, PA. The site of the 1877 Molly Maguire Executions.

The Old Jail Museum in Jim Thorpe, PA

“How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?”   Charles Lindbergh

In the course of his recent Rose Garden rant and truculent travelogue, the President eluded to the opening of a new coal mine located somewhere between Paris and Pittsburgh. It turns out that somewhere is the small town of Boswell, PA. This community owes its very existence to the black bituminous rock that lies beneath the quaint brick homes and shops built by the Merchant’s Coal Company during the first few years of the twentieth century.  And soon, 70 more intrepid souls will join the ranks of  those that have braved the bowels of the earth in order to fuel America’s energy and industrial needs.

My own  knowledge of the collier’s plight has been mostly gleaned from conversations with old timers at the Molly Maguires Pub in Jim Thorpe, PA. Here there were plenty of tales about that secret society for which the pub is named.These sons and grandsons of  Irish immigrants spoke of a life that was as hard as the anthracite that was pulled from the clutches of those eastern coal seams. In order to keep their families fed, these early miners tolerated what amounted to an indentured enslavement to the bosses and the company town.

In this part of Pennsylvania, the role of the Devil incarnate was aptly filled by Franklin Gowen, the president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal & Iron Company. With the assistance of his hired henchmen from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Gowen waged a war against those who attempted to organize labor in the coalfields–creating a living hell both on and below earth. Eventually, this reign of terror and the violent response by the miners would bring about a series of questionable arrests and trials that would send ten men to the gallows in 1877 and ten more in the following year. Among the latter was John “Black Jack” Kehoe, a well-respected constable and tavern owner who had provided aid to the miners and their families, and who had also become the outspoken voice for worker’s rights.

Such has been the story of coal throughout our history–a double-edged sword yielding great success for some and greater suffering for others. Current data suggests that 80,000 deaths per year in the United States can be directly attributed to airborne chemical and particulate pollution, with emissions from coal-fired power plants being a significant source of the problem. While the majority of these plants are located in the Midwest, the pollution is not contained within state borders. The mercury emitted from these plants ultimately will find its way into the human food chain as waterways and livestock become contaminated.

The threat globally is even greater. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization estimate that between 4-5 million people will die annually because of polluted air, and nearly 35 percent of those deaths will be infants or young children. And once again, coal will be a major culprit. So even if the scientific evidence connecting human activity to global warming were proven to be somewhat overestimated, there are still a few million good reasons to substantially lessen our dependence on coal.

As to our President’s break with the Paris Agreement, I have seen this pattern of behavior repeated many times over during my own lifetime. Whether it be about clean air, clean water, pesticides, food safety, tobacco use, or just shoddy manufacturing, the oft-told tale goes something like this: First, the facts are called into question by those who stand to lose the most amount of money if they are held legally responsible or become subject to government regulation. Second, those again whose pocketbooks are threatened enlist the aid of politicians to plead their case. Next, those same politicians brand those who initially raised concerns about a particular product or practice as being on the fringe, unpatriotic, or somehow just at odds with America and capitalism. And finally, when enough time has passed to allow those affected entities to settle their legal obligations and to develop alternate streams of revenue–we then suddenly accept and adopt those policies and procedures that improve our collective wellbeing.

That is why the Shell Oil Company is building wind farms in the Netherlands, and Exxon Mobil is working on ways to run an Alpha Romeo on algae.

As for those ghosts of the Molly Maguires, I will briefly defer to the skilled pen of Jeanne Kehoe_GraveMarie Laskas from her book “Hidden America” which poetically profiles the lives of those who continue to work those difficult and dangerous jobs that support the infrastructure of our nation’s economy: “There is no design, no geometry, no melody. A coal mine greets you with only one sentiment, then hammers it: This is not a place for people. This is not a place for people. This is not a place for people.”

And on that day when the last coal mine is finally closed, the dead will rest a bit more  peacefully–and the living will breathe a whole lot easier!

Click on the article titles below to learn more about the life of John “Black Jack ” Kehoe and the restless afterlife of one of the Molly Maguires.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

But the Jukebox Never Lies

 

Jukebox at J.J. Bitting Brewing Co.

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.”  Otto von Bismarck

“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.”   Jimi Hendrix

Of all those Divine edicts that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, the one that commands us to refrain from playing fast and loose with the facts continues to be the one that nearly all of mankind finds to be insurmountable. Perhaps it is because that a certain degree of deceit and double-dealing  is encoded into the very DNA of all life forms. Most strategies for survival are in fact  dependent upon a bit of  trickery and exaggeration.  As to our species, in order to get the girl, get the job, get the vote, or just to get along with one another we’ve all dabbled in some amount of duplicitous behavior. And since we’ve chosen the path of representational government, we must accept the fact that those charged with that task will also mirror our behaviors–the good and the bad–the truth and the lies!

Furthermore, a vast number of those that are considered to be the winners throughout human history have come to their successes by way of a good bluff or an effective poker face. From Waterloo to Watergate, and from Baghdad to Benghazi the potholes in those roads have been filled with a noxious mix of hyperbole and hypocrisy. So are truth and honesty dead having fallen prey to the misguided and disreputable purveyors of reality television and the fabricated offerings of cyberspace?

 As a nation we have faced similar threats to our collective integrity in the past. And those challenges were countered by those among  us who had the courage to strive for that greater truth. A truth that can be found in the brushstroke of the artist, the pen of the author, the lens of the camera, and the voice of the singer!

As someone who has spent more than my fair share of days engaged in bar stool politics, I have normally found that the greater truth is contained somewhere within the jukebox. While others were soothing their sorrows with songs of unrequited love, I was spending my spare change on the likes of Bob Dylan and Barry McGuire. So as we deal with the drama and dysfunction of The Donald and this current dilemma facing our democracy, I would like to drop just one more quarter into the old Seeburg to play one of those voices that still speaks truth to power.

Click on the image of the vintage 1948 Seeburg “Trashcan” model jukebox at the top of this post to hear some additional inspired points of view.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Wishing You Health, Happiness and Healing on this St. Patrick’s Day

Bartender at the Brazen Head in Dublin

I was tempted to write another lengthy treatise on the Republican’s rather uninspired approach to healthcare. But in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve decided to suspend with the usual political pontificating, and instead offer the possibility for some real healing. Because, quite frankly, I’d rather have my health than healthcare. And there are certainly no forces in the universe more healing than good music and good cookies. And for this St. Patrick’s Day celebration we are able to provide you with both by way of the generous nature of the kind souls in the Celtic band Runa.

During a recent visit to the Bleecker Street Cafe, broadcast live every Friday noon to three over the airwaves and internet at WDVR-FM, we were not only treated to some absolutely magnificent Irish music, but Shannon Lambert-Ryan, the band’s lead vocal, also brought along some of her shortbread cookies–baked to her exacting specifications. And for the very first time on this side of the pond, we are pleased to make that recipe available to a hungry public. And while you’re waiting on the shortbread, we suggest a wee dram, a tall pint, and a long listen to the music of Runa!

              Shannon Lambert-RyanCheryl Prashker

Click on the titles listed below to listen:

Shannon’s Shortbread Recipe

Shannon's Shortbread1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1/4 tsp. vanilla (optional – but it’s really good!)
1 cup flour (unsifted)

Cream the butter until it’s light. Cream in the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Now work in the flour. Knead the dough on a flourless board until nice and smooth. For a pan, you can use a clay cookie press or metal cake pan.  Spray the pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable cooking oil spray. Firmly press dough into the shortbread pan. Prick the entire surface with a fork, and bake the shortbread right in the pan at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned. After you take the pan out of the oven, let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you loosen the edges with a knife. Flip the pan over with a wooden board (sometimes it helps to tap the bottom of the pan to help – do not shake the pan or the shortbread will break). Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm.

Sláinte from American Public House Review

Posted by: Chris Poh

Chris Poh

 

Updating My Status With the United States Secret Service

ferndale-inn-bar

Like many of my fellow Americans, I’ve taken the “wait and see approach” since the election of Donald J. Trump. But with more than a month having passed since his inauguration, I believe I’ve already seen enough, and I’ve probably waited much too long–not that I’ve formulated a suitable response to this unfolding national quandary other than to utter the words “God help us” much more than usual.

I’ve heard from more than one friend that they have abandoned social media and cable news in order to find some sense of refuge and peace. I, on the other hand, continue to expose myself to the onslaught of electronic punditry, and to engage my bar room customers as to the pros and cons of this presidency. But then I have the advantage of those quiet late nights after the dispirited Democrats, the few remorseful, but mostly rejoicing Republicans, and the incredulous independents have all gone home.

My outpost during this particular political cycle has been the Ferndale Inn, a wonderful old Upper Bucks County establishment that has been around long enough to have served some of those that lived through the colonial insurrection of 76 as well as the civil unraveling of 1861. Perhaps it is their ghosts that motivated me to once again attempt to reach out to yet another incoming administration. So on the morning of the 20th day of January 2017 while the Trumps were contemplating an afternoon stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue, I was heading into to town to post my letter to the incoming President.

I sent copies to both the White House and to Trump Tower in New York City. In retrospect, I probably should have also sent a copy to the clubhouse in West Palm Beach–because every indicator suggests that the only persons that may have read the letter are those tasked with monitoring the mail to make sure that there is nothing more threatening than what might be perceived by the Bannon wing of the White House as the poisoned pros of some poor misguided moderate. So in the hope that all my words don’t fall on deaf ears, I will also share the letter with the audience of this blog and American Pubic House Review.

General Ulysses S. GrantAppomattox RevisitedGeneral Robert E. Lee

Dear President Trump:

The preservation of a healthy democracy demands participation beyond the voting booth, hence the reason for this letter. First of all, while I did not cast my ballot for you, I want you to know that I sincerely hope and pray for the success and well being of you and your family as you embark upon the many challenges of the presidency. To that end I wish you Godspeed sir!

From this point on, forgive me if my writings ramble on a bit as I attempt to blend the practical with the philosophical side of our politics.

On Jobs:

I applaud your efforts to retain and create employment opportunities within our borders. But I believe we need to be realistic and honest with American labor about the real potential employment numbers within certain industries. Even if we produced steel or mined coal to the extent of the peak years of the twentieth-century, we would do so with a fraction of the manpower that was needed in the past. In 1923, it took 863,000 coal miners to produce approximately 600 million short tons of coal. Today you could double that production number with a workforce of less than 70,000. The new reality calls for much more aggressive retraining programs. And if we can’t bring new jobs and industries to those areas hardest hit by change, then perhaps the government needs to provide assistance so that it is affordable for people to relocate to those places where there are new avenues of employment.

On Healthcare:

I believe that we should acknowledge and maintain the moral high ground achieved by the previous administration. No human being should ever be denied healthcare because of a pre-existing condition. And that care should be truly affordable and in keeping to the highest standards of modern medicine! America’s middle-class cannot afford another monthly bill that is equivalent to a payment on a BMW. And from solely a business perspective, every dollar that is spent on just providing a family with essential needs and services further erodes the growth of those parts of the economy that depend upon  discretionary spending.

Healthcare over the past several decades has evolved from being a necessary institution into something more akin to just another big business. And while I believe that those dedicated souls that provide the care and the cures should be well paid, we can’t expect the average American to shoulder the financial burden of something that now accounts for nearly 20% of our gross domestic product.

I certainly agree with your point of view that we need to create more competitive pricing of insurance by expanding the marketplace beyond state borders. But I also believe that the real cost savings will be realized in the delivery of services. Because of what has been perceived as being a bottomless well of government and private insurance monies, hospitals have grown into bloated, inefficient bureaucracies. Perhaps we need a moonshot approach to medicine—one where the government develops new lifesaving techniques and technologies, and then rewards those public and private entities that incorporate them into the practice of medicine in the most cost-effective manner.

On Immigration:

Once we get beyond the rhetoric of the issue, there are no easy answers accept to say that a good immigration policy is in fact good for business. Whether we utilize the carrot or stick approach to the problems at our borders, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are the country that has always advertised ourselves as that land of opportunity. And whenever we needed to dig a canal, build a railroad, or send men underground in order to provide the fuel for our industrial might, we called upon the immigrant to break their backs and to risk their lives. Historically, it has always been a relationship of convenience tailored to the needs of the business class and the political class with the immigrant caught somewhere in the middle. Even today not much has changed. In the same breath American business welcomes the illegal through the backdoor to wash the dishes, while our politicians propose protections that keep those same people from entering through the front door under the guise that they might be stealing food off of the same plates that they just washed.

Putting the obvious hypocrisy aside, no matter what reforms are eventually adopted they must be initiated from a position of reason and compassion—because the vast majority of those that choose to cross borders illegally are in fact doing so because they are facing genuine hardships and immediate threats. And in some instances, those dire conditions came about in part because of American economic and foreign policy. Before we propose legislation or sign anything into law, we must ask ourselves what we would do if our own families were in that position?

In the past, when life wasn’t to our liking, we crossed an ocean, we crossed many borders, we displaced others, and on some occasions we made claims to land in a manner that was neither moral nor legitimate. It is incumbent upon every American to remember our own journey before we intervene on the itinerary of others.

On Having Skin in the Game:

There are those that have accused you of being a bit thin-skinned. As one who shares the condition of having a sharp tongue and strong opinions while at the same time not always being receptive to that potentially bruising return volley, there isn’t much that I can offer other than to say that before we tally the falsehoods and slights put forth by others, it would serve us well to apply a bit of self-accounting regarding our own behavior. Furthermore, an effective presidency does require a thick skin, because those who desire that position must wear many skins: the skin of the rich and the poor, the skin of the powerful and the downtrodden, the skin of all races, the skin of all colors, the skin of all creeds, and the skin of all nations. Because that is what America has always been and always will be as long we continue to uphold the aspirations and principles of our Founders.

But ultimately, our leaders will not be measured by the thickness of their skin, but instead by the broadness of their shoulders and the size of their hearts!

On Healing a Nation:

Our Constitution can be rather problematic—because within its structure lies the seeds for our potential unity or disunity depending upon how we choose to exercise our rights. Those freedoms enshrined within that document allow us to exclude or include, to tear down or raise up, and to inflict pain or promote healing.

In 1861, there were those who believed that the Constitution went so far as to provide for the right of secession. It would take four years of carnage and deprivation to prove otherwise. But as we consider a nation that today is mired in contentious rancor and has been politically reduced to a map of red and blue, one might wonder has much changed since Lee surrendered his army to Grant at Appomattox?

I wish that prior to taking the oath of office every President-elect would spend a quiet winter’s day of reflection at Antietam, Gettysburg, or any Civil War battlefield. There were no real victors on these pieces of ground—just body counts that led the commanders on one side or the other to foolishly presume that they had won the day. But there would be many bitter harvests on those hallowed fields before a severely wounded nation would make any sense of the struggle—let alone claim victory.

On August 8, 1885, some of those same veterans, who had faced the fire and the fury from opposite sides of the lines at places like Shiloh, Vicksburg and Cold Harbor, now marched shoulder-to-shoulder as they accompanied the body of General Ulysses S. Grant to its temporary place of rest in New York City’s Riverside Park. On this day at least, young enemies would stand together as old friends.

During his final years, as he had done throughout his presidency, Grant sought to bring about a spirit of renewal and reconciliation to a nation still suffering the lingering deep divisions that remained after the Civil War. Even during those final months of life while suffering the ravages of a painful and debilitating throat cancer, General Grant would provide counsel to his friends and former adversaries with a gentle dignity and optimism that belied his immense suffering.

Ulysses S. Grant truly lived up to those words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural address, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

May all Americans, and especially our leaders, aspire to those better angels!

Sincerely,

Chris Poh,  Editor for American Public House Review

The Morning After Last Night’s Casualties

home-bar

Somewhere on the other side of 3 am, I finally decided to make last call at my home bar. There was little resistance considering I was the only one left standing. This session would yield little solace other than the civil and somewhat gracious tone of Donald Trump’s victory speech after Hillary Clinton’s telephone call acknowledging her defeat.

Unable to sleep, I would return to the television set a few short hours later to see how America was faring after the revolution. Much to my surprise, the early morning pundits had not been cancelled or beheaded. At worst, they were eating their crow with good humor as the “I told you so” side of the panel restrained their glee. And even  the stock market futures that had indicated a precipitous fall during the overnight opened on the upside. In fact, most companies trading on the Dow were enjoying healthy gains with one notable exception. Smith and Wesson had lost nearly 16% of its value.

A company that had benefited in part because of the irrational fears propagated by the NRA and right wing media may regret having a few less Democrats in power. It’s funny how sometimes you wind up losing even when you think you’ve won. Take heed Mr. Limbaugh.

As the morning progressed, leaders and politicians from both parties took to the airwaves to talk about unity, inclusion, and healing. By early afternoon, I was feeling somewhat optimistic again about our collective prospects. Our democracy had once more demonstrated its resilience and ability to peacefully pass power from one party to the other. And while I’m not a big fan of one group having all of the political marbles–recalcitrance, obstruction, and gridlock as excuses for not governing will have to be shelved until at least the 2018 midterm election.

So once again, my silver lining syndrome remains intact. And since I was born without a team gene, I’m open to the possibility of worthwhile policy being generated by either side of the political spectrum. But there remains a lingering sadness about this election, because it resembles a civil war more than a revolution. And while we didn’t sacrifice a single soul in the course of this particular domestic squabble, this nation lost some portion of its honor, dignity, and humanity along the way. And like both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg, we have to wonder if it was worth the cost?

Cannons at Gettysburg

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

Catholic Comfort & Irish Illumination

I’ve reached that late moment in life where I dread the prospect of burying my friends, but at the same time, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of them burying me.                                                                                             author unknown 

pals_at_cryans                                                                                                                     So what do three old friends with longstanding Irish Catholic inclinations that haven’t seen each other for a very long time talk about when they finally do manage to coordinate a rendezvous? The answer, of course, is death–or the ever looming prospect  of personally acquiring the condition. And such was the case a few weeks back when Susan O’Brien, Howard Casey, and I gathered together for an afternoon repast at Cryan’s Tavern in Annandale, New Jersey.

Our conversation began with a recap of those friends and acquaintances in common that were either at death’s door or had already crossed that threshold since last we met. After the appropriate number of toasts to those that had gone before us, we entered into a cheery discussion about our individual preferences concerning the benefits of cremation as opposed to accepting that final embrace from Mother Earth. And when those whimsical ramblings had finally delivered us to that perfect state of melancholia, we opted to augment our need for drink by moving the discourse from that of the inevitable crawl to the grave to the current race for the White House .

Soon the only thing darker than the mood in our hearts would be the Guinness in our glasses. And while we shared an equally pessimistic view about the present state of American politics, those instilled parochial school virtues of faith, hope, and charity combined with that indomitable Irish sense of humor would carry us through that particular day.Whether or not those same attributes will sustain us through the trials and challenges that America will face after this election remains to be seen. But as long as my own life is blessed with tavern mates the likes of Miss O’Brien and Mr. Casey, I will gladly choose to carry on no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The following piece of music by our mutual friend Billy Mulligan, who for the better part of his life has lent his voice to social and political justice, reflects those moments when one might be tempted to seek a bit of divine intervention on the issue of personal mortality.

The entirety of this fine release, Beyond the Paleis available for purchase at CD Baby.

Posted by: Chris Poh for  American Public House Review

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