A Cause for Celebration

On this past Monday evening, as a prelude to our post-election podcast, I popped open the last bottle from my 2018 stash of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration IPA. There was certainly cause for celebration–but it was not in celebration of one man’s victory or another man’s loss–nor was it about partisan party politics. My jubilation ran much deeper!

To me, the outcome of this year’s election is not just about the resilience of American democracy–but it also about the restoration of those cherished American values that have been, as of late, lacking in the Office of the Presidency:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Dignity
  • Decorum
  • Diplomacy
  • Dedication to public service
  • Kindness
  • Class
  • Empathy

And on this Veteran’s Day, the respect and gratitude that all those who have served in our nation’s armed forces truly, deserve!

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Even though the Trump presidency has not quite given up the ghost, we decided to perform a political autopsy anyway. You can listen to the results of our post mortem at Sit Downs and Sessions.

Posted by: Chris Poh

The Unmasking of America

I find it incredibly ironic that so many of those who balk at the idea of wearing a mask because of some perceived threat to personal freedom have no problem blindly doing someone else’s bidding from under the brim of a red baseball cap or from behind the muzzle of an AR-15. Personally, I can think of no greater threat to individual liberty than following those who mask their insatiable need for power and profits behind some bogus brand of patriotism wrapped in the American flag!

If nothing else, the last four years have brought about the unmasking of the remnants of those old demons that still threaten our democracy. Thankfully that threat has been met with the unleashed energies of our better angels. But whether our country chooses a blue tsunami, another red tide, or just a bit of mixed surf during the course of this year’s election, it will be for naught unless we dedicate ourselves to national healing and bringing about social and economic justice to every citizen and immigrant that still believes in America’s promise.

In June of 1863, Robert E. Lee once again pushed his army northward in his second attempt to bring the fight to Union soil. The journey that would eventually end on the hills and fields surrounding Gettysburg would pass over some of the same ground lost during the previous year’s carnage at Antietam. The war-weary marchers would temper their rebellious tendencies as they gazed upon the unburied bleached bones without knowing if the fallen were friend or foe–no blue, no gray, no North, no South–just the unmasked remains of a house divided.

Hopefully, this time around we will choose civil discourse over civil war!

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Listen to our political prognostications and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election at Sit Downs and Sessions

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

A Proper Pint for Every Purse

Taps at McCoole's Red Lion in Quakertown, PA

My point of view as to what makes for a great pub is predicated on three things: ambiance, a good selection of beer, and most importantly, an atmosphere that makes every person that walks through the door feel welcome. Much like the former Bull and Finch in Boston, which the popular television series Cheers was based on, those praiseworthy establishments hold the postman and the patrician in equal regard–and of course, they always provide a proper pint for every purse.

One of the more disturbing themes being voiced throughout last month’s Republican National Convention was the call to save our suburbs from the violent unrest plaguing many of our nation’s urban communities. In their bid to spread fear among suburban voters, the President and his supporters are making the case that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for tear gas on the tennis court and carnage in the cabana. Republicans are counting on the fact that since most of the cities experiencing the violence are governed by Democrats, they will be able to win over those center-right voters that might be leaning toward Joe Biden’s vision for America. While the GOP may have the stats on their side, the main reason why so many of our cities favor Democrats is simply because these large urban areas are home to the majority of people that comprise this country’s racial, religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity–a diversity that the Republican party has mostly failed to embrace.

Earlier this summer, the President and his HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, co-authored an op-ed piece pledging to protect American suburbs from government-mandated low-income housing. While I believe that communities have to right to their autonomy when it comes to zoning, what we have here is just another thinly-veiled dog-whistle by the administration pitting black against white and rich against poor. This may not qualify as a blatant example of systemic racism, but it certainly reflects blatant classism–neither one moving us any closer to that ever-elusive more perfect union!

I grew up in an older sub-urbanized town on the Jersy side of the Hudson River during the 1960s–a period sadly similar in terms of the politics, race relations, and economic inequities. The white flight of that period certainly played a part in defining who we were as a community, and unfortunately, that definition included a substantial measure of intolerance and racism. But while the town of Teaneck had its shortcomings, it did provide equal access to affordable shelter, quality healthcare, public transportation, and good schools to all of its citizens. Whether you were considered underpaid or overpaid for your 40 hours away from the wife and kids, you could at least take care of the basic needs and maintain some level of human dignity. What is shocking and unforgivable is that in the year 2020, many of our nation’s poor and minorities can not make a similar claim!

A Pint from the Wharf Rat in Baltimore

So what does any of this have to do with my penchant for filtering my point of view through the bottom of a pint glass or some pub-centric metaphorical reference to a 70s sitcom? Well, while I don’t particularly want to exist in a world where everybody knows my name, I would like to at least live in a country where everybody’s glad you came!

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Click on the PodBean logo or go to Sit Downs and Sessions to hear our take on this summer’s political conventions.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Good Trouble at the Crossroads

“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.” The Honorable John Lewis from the New York Times op-ed published on the day of his funeral

From that very first taste of American history taught to me by some well-intentioned, pointer wielding nun at St. Anastasia’s Grammar School, it was impressed upon me that my freedom to attend Sunday mass and the right to inhabit a small wooden desk for six hours a day were secured by the heroic deeds of brave souls unsheathing swords and squeezing triggers. Conquistadors, crusaders, and countless other combatants filled that early parochial school narrative with tales of the mostly white guys that had fought and died on my behalf. But on most days, by the time 3:15 had rolled around, my gratitude for their sacrifice was on a steep decline.

Then came my own personal awakening at the crossroads of elementary and secondary education during the summer of 1968. From the safety of my suburban oasis, I watched a country at war with itself play out on the evening news. The voices that had so justly cried out against racism, poverty, social injustice, and war were answered with batons, tear gas, and murder. To my way of thinking, a more militant response to the ills of our society seemed to be in order. That September, I began my freshman year of high school–and while I remained under the thumb of yet another Catholic institution, a new generation of clergy instilled in me the possibility of the peaceful warrior. And considering the fact that my faith was founded by a non-violent activist–the idea seemed long overdue.

I still retain much of those teachings that carried me through to adulthood. I continue to support the tradition of honoring, celebrating, and thanking those that have worn the uniforms of this nation’s armed services–but I also believe that it is equally important to recognize the work of the peaceful warrior. Men and women, who like the late John Lewis, have endured untold indignities, hardships, brutality, and martyrdom so that all Americans might share in that promise made at Philadelphia 244 years ago.

My instincts tell me that the political, societal, and natural forces that we now face have brought us once again to the crossroads–perhaps the last crossroads for America. We owe it those resolute patriots that crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776 and those extraordinary citizens that crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday” 1965 to chose a better road!

“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” Congressman John Lewis

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Join us for some further political discussions plus a bit of music and timely insights from singer/songwriter Ellis Paul on our podcasts @ sitdownsandsessions.podbean.com

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

But Whitey’s on the Moon

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”Edmund Burke

“To protest against injustice is the foundation of all our American democracy.” “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.”Thurgood Marshall

 “Civil wrongs don’t make for civil rights,”Adlai Stevenson

A simple five-word refrain set against the percussive beat of a single drum dramatically captured the despair, anger, and the chasm of disparity felt by black Americans in the 1960s in Gil Scott-Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon.” During the latter years of that turbulent decade, I made the jump from childhood to adolescence. And throughout that initial attempt at coming of age, the screen of my family’s cherished 25-inch Zenith console was ablaze with images of F-4 Phantoms dropping napalm on Vietnam villages, Saturn V rockets breaking the bonds of Earth’s gravity–and the conflagrations that illuminated the nighttime skylines of our nation’s inner cities.

By the end of that sweltering solstice of 67 or the so-called Summer of Love, nearly 160 race riots occurred across the United States. And by the time Neil Armstrong took that historic stroll across the lunar surface in July of 69, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. during the previous year all but guaranteed that even the slightest semblance of peace, justice, and equality for African Americans seemed further away than the Sea of Tranquility. Now, as we witness the murder of George Floyd, our ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East, the rocketry of Elon Musk, and the violent clashes in our nation’s cities, we might be fooled into thinking that not much has changed since 1969. But my sense of history and my spirit of optimism say otherwise.

While segregation was officially outlawed in our public schools in 1954 by way of the Supreme Court decision in Brown V. Board of Education, it was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that federal law superseded all state and local laws to include desegregation in all public facilities. But lending practices maintained under redlining created an almost de facto segregation in poorer minority neighborhoods until such practices were outlawed in the 1970s. Also, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Klu Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups were operating with almost total impunity throughout the South. People were being murdered and lynched. Churches and schools were being torched. And when that rare prosecution of those crimes did occur, white juries were eager to acquit. And finally, overly aggressive tactics and disregard of civil rights toward minority populations by law enforcement were on full display in all fifty states. Much in fact has changed since the 60s–but what hasn’t changed is the nature of a riot.

The vast majority of people that partake in the chaos and violence in most instances were not previously engaged in some peaceful protest or worthwhile cause for the betterment of humanity. Rioters, while made up of several divergent groups that might include your average bully, anarchist, arsonist, sociopath, and low-level criminal, have one thing in common–they are all opportunists. And these individuals would take to the streets whether the backdrop for their behavior was a matter of civil rights or a bad call at a soccer match!

While I personally tend toward a voice of singular dissent, I fully understand the need for protest in mass. Politicians change according to the speed and direction of the wind–and nothing changes that speed and direction better than a few million people literally and figuratively marching on Washington! But as it has in the past, many valid causes and well-grounded expressions of outrage have been delegitimized by our governing bodies whenever the exercise of free speech in the light of day is overshadowed by that free-for-all in the dark of night.

This pandemic and the resulting economic hardships that we now face amid this profound test of our country’s core values will not distinguish between race, color, creed, or political affiliation. But perhaps that shared suffering might bring about some shared solutions.

The time for small steps is over. This moment in our nation’s history demands another giant leap–and this time that leap must include all Americans!

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Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Just What the People Need–Another Damn Political Podcast. Welcome Once Again to Sit Downs and Sessions

Now that we are somewhat recomposed after the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential election, David McBride and I have ended our self-imposed silence and are once again sharing our outlook and opinions in that ubiquitous downloadable voice of the masses known as the podcast. So why the need to add to the estimated 54 million plus episodic expressions of the human condition available worldwide? I really don’t have the answer to that one, but if it does comes to me, I will be sure to delve into it in a future episode of Sit Downs and Sessions!

As to the motivations of my partner in this effort, I cannot speak to those either. But I can attest to the care, honesty, passion, reason, intelligence, and sense of humor that David McBride brings to the countless hours of conversation that we’ve shared over our decades old association. And it is my hope that I can mirror those attributes as we bring our combined fifty years of commercial and public broadcasting experience into this internet medium.

While Dave and I are both lifelong devotees of the American political scene, we understand that there is more to life than just trying to make sense of that peculiar breed of people who inhabit the statehouse, the West Wing, or the Halls of Congress. There are serious global threats, UFOs, and that ongoing search for treasure on Oak Island–all of which have already been addressed to some degree during our fist six episodes. With such a diverse range of topics, those discussions of alien abductions, ghostly apparitions, and mythical cryptids are just simply a matter of time.

So make that morning commute, afternoon workout, or late night whiskey a little more pleasant with Sit Downs and Sessions!

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Click the link above to download and share current episodes.

Coming soon to Sit Downs and Sessions aliens and politicians square off over the Capitol!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Apple, Pumpkin, or Impeachment Pie

Article II, Section 4 provides: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

As always, most of us face the holiday season with some level of trepidation–the rush, the expense, overblown expectations, and, of course, those sometimes strained family gatherings. And in the age of Trump, those powwows around the Butterball and sweet potatoes come with the possibility of outright political combat–and what could be more incendiary than discussing the merits of impeachment with some brother or sister who always felt that mom favored you in the first place?

As for my point of view on the matter of getting one’s just desserts, I believe there is more than adequate evidence of a quid pro quo and an abuse of presidential power. But at the same time, I fully understand why nearly half of all Americans view this as nothing more than another exercise in partisan politics at the taxpayer’s expense.

America has a long history of being somewhat reluctant when it comes to challenging bad behavior beyond our shores. Had it not been for the 128 Americans that went down on the Lusitania or the 1,177 sailors and Marines that lost their lives on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Belleau Wood and Normandy might not be part of this country’s collective heroic lore. So it easy to understand why we might be slow to raise concerns over the President’s dealings in Ukraine. On the other hand, had aid been withheld to Kentucky coal miners or Wisconsin dairy farmers because of some personal campaign agenda, I suspect the number of those in favor of impeachment would be very different.

The Signing of the United States Constitution by Louis Glanzman

As to the question of abuse of power, whether it be of a personal or professional nature, Donald Trump’s inclination to abuse whatever power might come his way has been well-documented for decades. So why would his time in the White House be any different? While I may be appalled and alarmed by his behavior, many Americans were hoping that his abusive nature would be turned against those individuals and institutions who his supporters felt had neglected and abused them.

Now, as to this just being about another round of disgruntled partisans wanting to take down the President, I would agree that there are a number of Democrats that might be engaged in just that. But the bias against Donald Trump runs deeper, and that negative view of his presidency has been well-earned by no one other than the President himself! Like most of the populist politicians that have run for office throughout our nation’s history, Mr. Trump has sown the seeds of discord in order to pit one group against another. And no one has been more effective at cultivating such a bitter harvest.

For those who truly believe in the founding principles of the United States of America, impeachment is not about an effort to undo the results of the presidential election of 2016. It is instead about honoring the resolve of those who attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787!

Posted by: Chris Poh for AmericanPublic House Review

Sand

Yesterday, I once again forced myself to endure yet another rhetorical rant from that real estate developer from Queens. But then again, who might be more qualified to exaggerate the terms of our latest shady land deal in the Middle East while blaming the former minority tenants for the bad conditions and at the same time being able to extol the virtues of the new owners than Donald Trump?

In the course of his justification for the reckless abandonment and betrayal of our Kurdish allies, he seemed to fixate, as he has as of late, on the word sand. As if to suggest that our involvement in the Middle East is and always has been as barren as the Arabian Desert, a policy with no purpose and a fruitless exercise in protecting those who have only known conflict and war. I will not argue the fact that radicals, reactionaries, and religious zealots, whether they hail from Saudi sands or sunny American shores are capable of holding onto a grudge for a very long time. But most human beings, in spite of their global positioning, want only peace and the opportunity to achieve their own personal potential.

USAF 204th Fighter Wing Over Kuwait - Public Domain Photo

Historically, our presence in the Middle East has seldom been about anything other than our own security and self-interests. Simply put, it’s not about what’s above the sand, but what lies beneath–tethered to a friendship with Israel and a fear of the former Soviet Union. But much has changed since the days of Communist aggression and oil embargoes. North American tar sands challenge Saudi reserves, our once blind allegiance to Israel has been tempered with concerns for the Palestinians, and while the Russians remain ruthlessly aggressive, Vladimir Putin’s brand of transactional leadership seems to resonate with our current President. So why not retreat to a position of America first and the rest of the world be damned?

From a practical standpoint, while we appear to be oozing oil at the moment, in reality, based upon our 20 million barrel a day thirst, the good ole we are number one USA could only go it alone for about five years. And while we may be able to weather a major interruption in supply better than most of the developed world, the resulting economic calamity would quickly find its way through our lovely little white picket fences.

However, in the interest of personal transparency, I must admit that I harbor a bit of my own “America First” tendencies. But in my model of national superiority, we are the first to champion human rights, the first to challenge the rule of despots, the first to provide aid to those in need, the first to give safe haven to those displaced by war and natural disasters–and always the first to stand by those who have stood by us!

My vision of America does not include a sandbox controlled by a petulant child of privilege threatening to withhold the use of his Tonka toys just because he’s not getting his way or fashioned-challenged fat cats scratching their way out of the sand traps at Trump National Doral. In my vision of our troubled republic, the sand in my shoes is the result of peaceful strolls on a beach where all who seek freedom, justice, and protection are welcomed. Until such time, I’ll just let my tired feet carry me to the next friendly Tiki bar.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Aim Higher

“Aim higher. You don’t need to talk. They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country.”

Part of a statement from Senator Lindsey Graham during a recent interview on Fox & Friends.

“He said, ‘Aim higher. Shoot higher.’ What am I going to do? Wait until we get somebody else in a higher position? A higher office? These are people that hate our country.”

A portion of President Trump’s response to Senator Graham’s call to tone down the rhetoric.

While I could go on ad nauseam about my extreme disappointment with the senator from South Carolina who once fashioned his political behavior after that of the late John McCain, even I don’t believe that presidential apologist and lackey Lindsey Graham was suggesting that the President set his sights on someone in an elected office higher than the four freshmen female members of Congress who were the most recent recipients of Mr. Trump’s bigotry and bogus patriotism.

Perhaps I’m being a bit old-fashioned, but during my lifetime when our presidents talked about improving our aim, it meant walking that high road, taking that next hill, or even reaching the Moon! As we take the time this weekend to celebrate the achievements of all those who brought about the success of the Apollo 11 mission, and to remember the martyred President that united all Americans behind a common goal of placing human beings on the lunar surface, I find the present state of our national discourse disgusting and disheartening.

A well placed wood carving behind the bar of McSorley’s Old Ale House in lower Manhattan bears the following warning for those patrons who might be lacking in proper tavern etiquette “Be good or be gone.” We are privileged to live in a country where a bartender has the right to tell unruly customers to go back from whence they came, but a president, or for that matter any elected official, is bound by their oath of office to accept, tolerate, and even embrace anyone who exercises their rights to legally express their dissatisfaction with the conditions of this 243 year old establishment called America. It would appear that the longevity and prosperity of both taverns and countries depends upon their ability to better serve the needs of an ever changing neighborhood.

Even McSorley’s, a place that had served the enlightened likes of Abraham Lincoln and Woody Guthrie during its long storied history, finally relented on its own bit of provincial prejudice by opening its doors to women clientele in 1970. Today every freshmen member of Congress would gladly be welcomed!

As for the President’s lack of welcome to the ladies of the House, many of his critics have used his latest Twitter feed channeling of McCarthyism as ironclad proof of his blatant racism. While I am not yet fully prepared to commit to that particular point of view, I am of the opinion that what he has done might even be worse than racism. Any politician that seeks to maintain their power and position by pandering to those who are the victims of their own fears and insecurities is guilty of committing an even more reprehensible act!

There is always the hope that through experience and a greater understanding of those differences that divide us, even the most hardened heart will conclude that we are all equal in this life and the next. But demagogues almost always take their ways to the grave.

Thankfully though, our Constitution provides that the person in the voting booth enjoys the same power as that person behind the bar. It’s simply a matter of …

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

The Quality of Light

Sunrise at Acadia – photo By Bill Trotter – Bangor Daily News

“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us thru that darkness to a safe and sane future.” – John F. Kennedy

Even while our citizens endured the partial shutdown of government and the near total shutdown of governance, that lead photon on that first ray of sunlight coming over the horizon each morning still managed to awaken the continental United States by hitting its mark on the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine’s Acadia National Park. And while the roads of this nation’s first national park east of the Mississippi remained unplowed, the garbage uncollected, and the visitor’s center unmanned, the sun still continued to shine. It seems the natural order of the universe and nature function quite well without government–the human species not so much!

In the course of my own travels, I have found there is a bit of magic in that light that caresses the coast of Maine. For me personally, it has been a source of comfort, clarity, and inspiration. Not that I’m questioning the effectiveness of sunshine south of the Piscataqua, but that mix of both man-made and metaphorical pollution seems to have somewhat diminished the curative effects–especially along that storied stretch of the Potomac in Washington.

Morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Afternoon in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Approximately 116 nautical miles south of Acadia lies one family’s fortress that has weathered many Atlantic gales and has witnessed many a sunrise since the turn of the last century. And for most of my time, while trying to unsuccessfully coax the ocean’s bounty onto the end of my fishing rod in the waters off Kennebunkport, I was pretty much unaware of the potential political dynasty that was mixing vodka martinis on the lawn and playing tennis on the court at Walker’s Point. But during the summer of 1990, a few months before our armed incursion into Iraq, I became keenly aware that the price of oil was of far greater concern than the price of lobster. It was also during this period that I discovered that the 41st President of the United States enjoyed a good glass of beer as much as he enjoyed his martinis.

Evening on the Kennebunk River near Walker’s Point

“We are a nation of communities… a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” – George H. W. Bush

The talk around town was that George H. W. Bush on occasion would be spotted hoisting a pint with locals and tourists alike. And by the end of his presidency, the opening of Federal Jack’s Brewpub in Kennebunkport would help to make his loss to William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and subsequent retirement at Walker’s Point a bit more tolerable. And while there may have been a few dark clouds that obscured the late president’s so-called “1000 points of light”–he was a man who truly believed in the value of selfless public service to country and the possibility that we could actually become a kinder and gentler nation. Sadly, the flame of that fanciful notion seems to waning as of late.

“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” – Ronald Reagan

At the close of of last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Trump may have been attempting to evoke that Reaganesque view of our place in the world when he said, “We must always keep faith in America’s destiny — that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!” Unfortunately, for many of those most in need of seeing America’s light–that light will be nothing more than a brief glimpse between the slats of some steel barrier on our southern border

“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” George Washington

During the stifling summer of 1787, our nation’s first president presided over the Constitutional Convention. Hot days and even hotter tempers fueled the often contentious proceedings at the Philadelphia Statehouse.

On September 17, 1787, nearly four months after the convention convened, even the most cantankerous of those among the delegates would choose consensus and compromise–and commit their signatures to the United States Constitution. With the grand bargain now in hand, Doctor Benjamin Franklin of the Pennsylvania delegation could forego politics in favor of his much preferred philosophical musings. With his gaze fixed upon the carving of the sun on the backrest of the chair that gave George Washington some measure of comfort during the trials of that long, difficult summer, Franklin said, “I have often looked at that picture behind the president without being able to tell whether it was a rising or setting sun. Now at length, I have the happiness to know that it is indeed a rising, not a setting sun.”

Closing time at the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island

While I have normally shared Mr. Franklin’s optimism about America’s future wellbeing, as of late, a few vexing shadows of doubt have darkened my horizon. Certainly, many thousand points of light continue to illuminate American skies, but our elected guiding lights have spent too much of their time in retreat under their respective red and blue bushels. So from my perspective, I’m not sure whether I’m seeing the dawn’s early light, the twilight’s last gleaming, or just the flickering lights of last call.

Make mine a double–it’s an awfully long road home–and an even longer road to 2020!

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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