Poetry As Song: Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For


I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Oh my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for



T.J. Newman’s Advice to Creatives

If you’ve never heard of T.J. Newman, you can be forgiven. Until fairly recently, T.J. was a flight attendant. To be more precise, she was a flight attendant with a dream. T.J. wanted to be a writer. In her spare time–and at times while she was working as a flight attendant–T.J. wrote a novel about a pilot who has to choose between purposely crashing his plane, killing everyone onboard, or having terrorists kill his family. It seemed like a great plot idea. Agents disagreed. Forty-one agents turned her down. Many of them didn’t even bother to read her writing. Forty-one rejections.

T.J thought about giving up. Who wouldn’t? But she reached out to a forty-second agent, and this one said “yes.” A few months later, T.J. had a two book deal and an advance of $1.5 million. Since then, her first book, Falling, has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller, has been distributed to more than thirty countries, and is soon to become a major motion picture. T.J. has another book, Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421,  coming out at the end of May 2023, and a $1.5 million movie deal.

T.J. recently penned an “Open Letter to Dreamers” in which she encourages creatives to never give up on their dreams. Here’s what she had to say:

*Originally published on Deadline.com (May 9, 2022)

I know that a lot of famous people — writers, directors, agents, lawyers, and powerbrokers — read Deadline every day.

But so do a lot of dreamers.

I know because for many years I was one of them.

This is an open letter to all the dreamers reading Deadline today.

After nearly two decades of trying and failing — and being rejected by 41 agents — last month, Warner Bros purchased the film rights to my second book, Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421, for $1.5 million against $3 million in a heated bidding war where five separate studios and streamers put up seven-figure offers. This is the part where I would normally say I never dreamed of something like this happening to me. But I did. I did dream. And dreams are important. They’re what keep us going. My dreams kept me going.


What the Heck is Fascism?

The word “fascism” gets thrown around a lot these days. Often, when someone uses the word, they use it incorrectly. The truth is, most people don’t actually know what the word “fascism” means. They often use the word to describe someone or something they don’t like, but “fascism” has an actual definition. And in many cases, that definition is much different than what people think it is.

At it’s most basic, Dictionary.com defines “fascism” as:

  1. (sometimes initial capital lettera governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
  2. (sometimes initial capital letterthe philosophy, principles, or methods of fascism.
  3. (initial capital lettera political movement that employs the principles and methods of fascism, especially the one established by Mussolini in Italy 1922–43.

Writer Robert Paxton, in his 2004 book, The Anatomy of Fascism, defines “fascism” like this:

“Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

In the The United States Holocaust Museum, a poster hangs on the wall listing fourteen signs of fascism. Those fourteen signs are:

  1. Powerful and continuing nationalism
  2. Disdain for human rights
  3. Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
  4. Supremacy of the military
  5. Rampant sexism
  6. Controlled mass media
  7. Obsession with national security
  8. Religion and government intertwined
  9. Corporate power protected
  10. Labor power suppressed
  11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption
  14. Fraudulent elections

The following video gives a bit more insight into each of the fourteen signs of fascism:

Hitler and Mussolini are the two most well known fascists, but not every fascist leader is as bad or well known as the big two. In fact, fascism should be thought of as a spectrum. Hitler and Mussolini would be on one end of the spectrum, while fascist leaders like Joseph Stalin in Russia, Francisco Franco in Spain, and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy are sprinkled throughout the rest. Likewise, men like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Victor Orban in Hungary, both of whom are currently leading fascist regimes, are also on the fascist spectrum.

While the severity of the fascism may be slightly different, many of the tactics being used are the same. For instance, HItler and Mussolini wore military uniforms, while Putin and Orban wear expensive, tailored business suits, but regardless of their dress, they all marginalize “others” (Jews, gays, racial and ethnic minorities); they all preach a gospel of nationalism, often called “patriotism”; they all use the power of the church to promote their agendas; they all are corrupt, holding themselves and their cronies as above the law; and they all turn to violence to keep citizens in check and encourage loyalty to the cause.

In the United States, fascism is on the rise. I won’t name names. I’ll leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions. To determine who is showing fascistic (or authoritarian) tendencies, ask these questions:

  • Is the political leader or party pushing a nationalist agenda? Do they support “American Exceptionalism,” the idea that the United States is better and/or more favored by God than other nations? Do they distinguish “true Americans” from others, even though those others are also citizens of the United States? Do they often wrap themselves in the flag, even while pushing for unconstitutional, anti-democratic laws?
  • Is the political leader or party advocating for taking away rights citizens have enjoyed for years? Are they targeting certain groups, such as women or racial minorities, in their quest to reign in the rights enjoyed by Americans?
  • Is the political leader or party targeting certain individuals or groups, referring to them as “enemies of the state” or “not true Americans?” Does their quest to target and dehumanize these groups or individuals become party orthodoxy?
  • Does the political leader or party elevate the military (and, often, military veterans), to a special status in society? Do they claim special rights and privileges for the military, not because of who they are or their behavior, but solely based of their association to the military? Do they pay lip service to military members, often while simultaneously reducing their military benefits?
  • Does the political leader or party threaten or resort to violence to achieve their aims? Are they unusually outspoken about violence (or perceived violence) when perpetrated by their political enemies, but forgiving, even supportive, when done by their political supporters? Do they view the military and police as existing to carry out their political agenda and to thwart their opponents agenda?
  • Does the political leader or party favor males over females? Do they grant more legal authority or agency to men than woman? Do they view woman as second class citizens, not deserving of the same rights as men?
  • Does the political leader or party favor certain mass media platforms over all others. Do they have a symbiotic relationship with certain platforms, amplifying messages of one another? Do they try to control or discount the work being done by those platforms they don’t favor? Do they refer to certain platforms as “enemies of the state” while elevating their preferred platform?
  • Does the political leader or party use national security as a pretext for any number of measures that reduce the freedoms citizens have traditionally enjoyed. Do they view all interactions and behaviors through the lens of national security? Does national security trump all other considerations?
  • Does the political leader or party intermingle their religious beliefs with their politics? Do they ignore the separation of church and state, instead supporting laws based on their personal religious beliefs? Do their politics reflect a favored religious doctrine, often dismissing or marginalizing other religious doctrines.
  • Does the political leader or party use a rhetoric of grievance, portraying themselves or their supporters as victims of their political opponent’s “radical agenda?” Do they view their position as one of righting past wrongs? Do they exaggerate past slights, either real or imagined? Do they focus on retribution for their supporters rather than working for justice for all Americans?
  • Does the political leader or party give special rights and privileges to corporate entities? Do they push an agenda favorable to corporations, often in exchange for campaign donations? Do they treat corporations as individuals, granting to them the same (or expanded) rights traditionally enjoyed by individuals? Do they expect (and usually get) support or silent loyalty from these corporations?
  • Does the political leader or party favor corporations over individual workers? Do they make it easier for corporations to fire or mistreat workers? Do they oppose collective bargaining agreements designed to improve worker pay and safety? Do they support eliminating regulations designed to improve working conditions and safety for workers?
  • Does the political leader or party oppose or ignore expertise? Do they rely on opinions from political fellow travelers rather than researchers and academics? Do they oppose government financial support for the arts? Do they hold a liberal arts education in low regard? Do they support a ban on books that they don’t like? Do they view diversity in art and opinion as a threat to their world view?
  • Does the political leader or party hold themselves out as being tough on crime? Do they often support locking people up without due process and advocate “throwing away the key?” Is their “go to” strategy for behavior they don’t like to criminalize it? Is their obsession with crime and punishment usually reserved for people not like them?
  • Does the political leader or party use their power and position to punish their enemies and benefit their supporters? Do they view their position as a means to help their friends? Do they use their position or power to enrich themselves and their friends?
  • Does the political leader or party try to inappropriately influence elections, either through inviting in foreign involvement or suppressing voting rights? Do they work to undermine the public’s trust in elections, telling lies about election integrity? If they lose an election, is their default position to claim election fraud rather than accepting the will of the voters?

The answers to these questions will tell you if a politician or political party is embracing fascist behavior and ideology. Unlike in Mussolini’s time, it’s no longer fashionable for a politician or political party to admit that they are fascist. Even so, fascists give away the game through their behavior and rhetoric. Ask the questions if you want to know the truth.




Know Your Tacos

I was probably fourteen or fifteen years old when I had my first taco. It was made with seasoned ground beef on an Old El Paso hard taco shell, garnished with onions and shredded cheese, then smothered in Old El Paso Taco Sauce. For the next several years, I was under the impression that the tacos my mother made for our family were the only kind of tacos in the world. I was naïve.

When I was nineteen or twenty years old, I went to El Rocha, an authentic Mexican restaurant in my hometown, with a group of friends. I was not very worldly and the only Mexican restaurant I had ever been to before was Taco Bell. In other words, to that point in my young life, I had never been to a real Mexican restaurant.

I remember looking at the menu and was transfixed by the number of different types of tacos they offered. There was Tacos Pescado, and Tacos Barbacoa, and Tacos al Pastor and Carnitas, both of which were pork, which only served to confuse me further. I ordered the Tacos Carnitas and was soon introduced to an entirely new world of culinary delights.

As happens so often, questions entered my head–Where do tacos come from? How many different types of tacos are there?–and I was soon crawling down a rabbit hold that consumed my time and simultaneously made me hungry.

The first question is fairly easy to answer. Tacos are thought to come from Mexico, long before the Spanish arrived. Ancient Mexicans used fresh, soft, flat corn tortillas and made them with fillings like fish and cooked organs. It was a staple meal that provided vital nutrients and energy to those who consumed it.

The answer to the second question is a little more involved. Here are the different types of tacos I was able to come up with. I’m sure it’s not a comprehensive list, so if you have a favorite taco that’s not included here, let me know.

Tacos Adobado — Tacos Adobado can contain just about any kind of meat filling. The thing that distinguishes Tacos Adobado from other tacos is the meat is prepared with adobado.  While popular in Tijuana, not many restaurants in the U.S. serve Tacos Adobado.

Tacos al Pastor — “Shepherd-style” pork marinated in a blend of chilies and spices, then slow-cooked on a Mexican trompo (vertical rotisserie) over an open flame. Garnish often includes something sweet, like pineapple, which is cut into very small pieces to give the taco a sweet, tangy flavor.

Tacos Arabes — A taco that combines Mexican and Middle Eastern influences. Cumin-marinated pork is thinly sliced from a trompo, stuffed into a pita rather than a tortilla, and garnished with diced yellow onions, crumbled bacon, cumin, oregano, and lime juice.

Tacos Barbacoa — Beef (cachete) or goat (cabrito) slow-cooked over an open flame Garnished with chopped onions, cilantro, and lime juice. Very popular in Northern Mexican and in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Tacos Birria — Birria is a spicy meat stew prepared with goat that is popular in the State of Jalisco. The goat is marinated in a guajillo chili-based broth. Birria is a special occasion dish, popular at weddings and other gatherings, but for more informal occasions, the birria is eaten as a taco on a tortilla, garnished with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Birria des beef is prepared the same way, but using beef instead of goat.

Tacos Buche — Features the stomach of the pig which is stewed in spices and chilies, making the meat tender (though somewhat chewy) and tasty. Buche is less chewy than beef tripe, which is more well known in the United States.

Tacos Cabeza – Beef from the head of the cow, flavored simply with salt, and often braised or steamed. Garnished with onions and cilantro, and sometimes leeks.

Tacos Camarones — Shrimp tacos feature grilled or deep fried shrimp, and are garnished with cabbage, pico de gallo, salsa, and either a sour cream or citrus mayonnaise white sauce.

Tacos Campechanos — Popular in Southern Mexico, campechanos are often made with a combination of meats, including beef, pork sausage, or chirizo. Often, the tacos are made with whatever is left over from previous meals. Often garnished with onions, cilantro, and lime juice.

Tacos Carne Asada — Carne Asada refers to grilled meat, most frequently flap steak. The meat is marinated in citrus juices, cumin, and other spices, and is either sliced thin or chopped into small chunks.

Tacos Carnitas — Made with braised or simmered shredded pork shoulder. Tacos Carnitas are very popular, especially in the State of Michoacan, because they are simple, easy to prepare, and extremely tasty.

Tacos Cecina — Cecina refers to beef or pork that is thinly sliced, salted, and dried in sheets or strips in the open air, sun, or smoke. The meat is marinated in a coating of chili peppers, resulting in a smoky flavor, and easily folds into a tortilla for a tasty taco.

Tacos Chapulines — Chapulines are grasshoppers (Yes, grasshoppers) that are dried and toasted, then flavored with lime juice, garlic, and chili. Chapulines are often eaten as a snack, much like french fries, but can also be eaten on a tortilla with common garnishes for a crunchy-style taco.

Tacos Chicharron — Chicharron, more commonly known as pork rinds in the United States, are simmered in salsa verde to soften them up, and then stuffed into a tortilla for a spicy, somewhat chewy, taco.

Tacos Chorizo — Mexican chorizo is a blend of minced meat–usually pork–that is cured and smoked, and seasoned with spicy chili peppers. Especially popular in the State of Toluca, Tacos Chirizo are often garnished simply, with red onions.

Tacos Cochinita Pibil — Popular in the Yucatan Pennisula, Tacos Cochinita Pibil are made with a sucking pig (pork) that is marinated in citric juices, such as bitter oranges, lemons, and limes. The pork is often seasoned with annatto seed and slow roasted in a banana leaf, leaving the meat incredibly tender.

Tacos Cueritos — Like Chicarrones, but instead of being deep fried, the pork skin is pickled in vinegar and seasoned with chilis, peppers, oregano, and other spices.

Tacos de Canasta — Also called Tacos al Vapor or Tacos Sudados, these tacos are named, not for their filling, but for the way they are prepared. The tortilla is fried and then filled with ingredients like tinga (below) or cochinita pibil (above). However, two of the the most popular fillings are mashed potatoes or refried beans. The ingredients hold up well without being heated or refrigerated, and are often sold by street vendors.

Tacos Huitlacoche — Also called Mexican truffle, corn smut, or corn mushroom, huitlacoche is a fungus that organically grows on corn. It is distinctly Mexican, and is rare, even in Mexico. When heated, the white huitlacoche turns black and has a rich, earthy flavor, often compared favorably to mushrooms.

Tacos Lengua — Beef tongue is slow-cooked for several hours then chopped into small, uniform pieces. The beef tongue, when cooked properly, is said to have a buttery texture, and is often served with cabbage, tomatoes, and a sour cream sauce.

Tacos Pescado — Called “fish tacos” in the United States, Tacos Pescado originated in Baja California and feature grilled or fried white fish filets along with cabbage, pico de gallo, salsa, and a white sauce made either with sour cream or citrus mayonnaise.

Tacos Pollo — Pollo (chicken) is usually marinated and grilled, then shredded or cut into chunks before being put into a tortilla with a variety of different toppings. In the United States, the chicken is sometimes southern fried.

Tacos Res — A generic term for any taco made with beef. Toppings and cooking style may vary, but Tacos Res always features beef.

Tacos Sesos — Features cow brains which are first boiled and seasoned before being braised or grilled. The meat has a custard-like consistency, which is favored by some over a crunchy or chewy taco.

Tacos Suadero de Res — A taco featuring the beef between the belly and leg of the cow that is stewed in lard for several hours before being fried, resulting in a crispy, carmalized filling. Often served with chopped onions and crumbled queso.

Tacos Tinga — Pollo (chicken) meat from the thigh that is braised in tomato-chipotle chili sauce, then shredded and served on a tortilla with a variety of garnishes.

Tacos Tripas — Cows stomach or intenstines that are cleaned and boiled before being grilled, often in a “disco,” which somewhat resembles a wok. If not cooked correctly, Tacos Tripas can turn out rubbery.

Tacos de Trompo — Pork that is seasoned with paprika and is warmed on a trompo (vertical rotisserie). In Mexico, the pork is often warm, but raw. Because of local health regulations, in the United States, the pork is fully cooked. Served on a corn tortilla, the paprika gives the pork a smoky, spicy flavor.


An Open Letter to No Labels

No Labels, the supposedly moderate, “get things done,” political organization, is gearing up to run a third-party candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election. They are currently fundraising, and are doing so by trying to convince people that not only can they win, but if they do, all of our current problems with political division and gridlock will magically disappear, ushering in a new era of cooperation and tri-partisanship. That’s nonsense. There’s no way any of that is going to happen.

I recently received the following fundraising email from Johnny Kunza, Vice-President at No Labels. I trust that he means well*, but it is horribly and dangerously naïve to think that a third-party candidate for president can get on the ballot in all 50 states, has any chance of winning, and if by some miracle they do win, that enough members of Congress will cooperate with them to make a difference. I hope that Johnny and his cohort at No Labels comes to their senses before they do serious damage, not only to the 2024 Presidential Election, but to the future of our country.

Here is the email I received from No Labels followed by my response:

Hi Friend,

I think we both know that it’s time for a new choice for America, but it’s looking more and more like 2024 is going to be a replay of 2020.

Meanwhile, our economy is rife with inflation, there is a crisis at our border, and our education system is failing our kids. This is why our efforts to get on the ballot in every state is SO important.

Just imagine, for the first time in well over a hundred years, a true third option. Imagine electing a unity government that could achieve bold bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems and actually fix things like our broken immigration system and secure Social Security for our children and grandchildren. Imagine that we could even find a middle ground in the culture wars that threaten to tear us apart.

This is a unique moment in American history in which dissatisfaction with the parties, the politicians, and the state of the country is so high that a middle of the road alternative is a REAL possibility. We know it’s a real possibility because of the fearful reaction coming from the two major parties. They know we’re onto something. And if we want to keep this momentum going, I need you to do two things:

  1. Join our Citizen Action Center to help spread the word about our efforts
  2. Pitch in $10, $25, or $50 today to No Labels 2024

Warring factions in our broken politics will keep trying to stop us as they continue to tear our country apart in a no-holds barred battle for political power. But we are reimagining a different future where our leaders come together to solve our problems. With your help we can restore our government to one of the people again and not of the parties.

Thanks for all your support, Friend!


Johnny Kunza
VP, Digital

Johnny –

Your plan to run a third-party candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election is a pipe dream. In the current environment, not only can a third-party candidate not win, running a third-party candidate will ultimately lead to the election of an authoritarian leader. I trust that No Labels’ intentions are pure*, but you have to know that this is a horrible idea.

Assuming you can get on the ballot in all 50 states–an incredibly ambitious and unlikely possibility–you don’t stand a chance of winning in any of those states. You must know that third-party candidates never do well in presidential elections, and that is especially true at a time like now when the base of the Republican Party is so radicalized and so locked-in to supporting their candidate (most likely, Donald Trump), that the only votes a third-party candidate is likely to get will come from voters that otherwise would be voting for the Democratic candidate.

Let’s play a “what if” game. What if a third-party candidate were to win the presidency? Who in the House or Senate would cooperate with that president? Neither Republicans nor Democrats support the president of the opposing party now. What makes you think they would support a third-party president? Trust me, they wouldn’t.

If you are serious about starting a third-party in the United States, don’t take the easy way out. Start with local elections. Elect local officials and state legislators. Start in one state (or a handful) and build a true party, not a one-off candidacy that is sure to fail. Political parties need members if they are to be sustainable. Don’t start with a presidential candidate and hope that members of other parties vote for them. Create your own members. Start small and build momentum. That’s how political parties are formed, not by running a Hail Mary presidential candidate.

Please don’t disrupt the 2024 Presidential Election. You can’t win, but your efforts could lead to the end of democracy in the United States.


Lou Mindar


* I initially gave Johnny Kunza and the folks at No Labels the benefit of the doubt in their efforts to run a third-party presidential candidate. That was, until I learned that Republican mega-donors (including Clarence Thomas’ pal, Harlan Crow) are funding No Labels’ efforts, and Republican political strategists are running their campaign efforts. These people are extreme right-wing ideologues, not middle-of-the-road moderates. They don’t want a presidential candidate that will unify our elected officials. Their stated goal has been to rig the system so their favored MAGA Republican candidates can’t lose. Or, at least, will have an easier time winning. Look where else these mega-doors are investing their money. They’re doing everything they can to suppress voting rights, confirm extreme right-wing judges, and institutionalize gerrymandering. These are not the actions of democracy-loving patriots who just want everyone to get along for the good of the country. They are radicals trying to tear down our democracy and elect a more authoritarian government.  So, don’t fall for their lies or unrealistic utopian political fever dreams. No Labels is trying to rig the election, not bring our country together.


The Heroic Life of Benjamin Ferencz

At only 5’2”, Ben Ferencz was not an imposing figure. But during the course of his life, he became a giant in the areas of international criminal law, in prosecuting war crimes, and in the quest for world peace. He died earlier this month (4/7/23) in an assisted living facility in Boynton Beach, FL. He was 103.

Ferencz was born in the Transylvania region of Hungary in 1920. A few months after his birth, at the conclusion of World War I, Transylvania was annexed into Romania. His parents fled Romania and the persecution Hungarian Jews faced at the hands of the Romanian government. They  made it to the United States and settled on the lower east side of Manhattan in New York City. After high school, Ferencz attended City College of New York and eventually attended Harvard Law School, where he studied under Sheldon Glueck, who was researching a book on war crimes. His association with Glueck and the war crimes research would have a profound and long-lasting influence on the rest of his life.

After graduating from Harvard in 1943, Ferencz joined the Army and was assigned to Camp Davis in North Carolina as a typist. Ferencz didn’t know how to type or fire a rifle, so he was given the duty of cleaning latrines. With some training, he was eventually assigned to the 115th AAA Gun Battalion, anti-aircraft artillery unit. He landed on the beach at Normandy, and went on to fight in the fated Battle of the Bulge.

In 1945, near the end of World War II, Ferencz was assigned to the headquarters of General George S. Patton’s Third Army, and was tasked with setting up a war crimes branch. It was in this job that he witnessed firsthand the atrocities committed by the Nazis on Jews and other “undesirables” in the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Dachau. Ferencz collected evidence at each of these camps that was later used to convict Nazi war criminals.

Years later, when discussing his experience in the concentration camps, Ferencz said, “Even today, when I close my eyes, I witness a deadly vision I can never forget — the crematoria aglow with the fire of burning flesh, the mounds of emaciated corpses stacked like cordwood waiting to be burned. I had peered into hell.”

After the war, when he left Germany, Ferencz vowed never to return, the memory of what he had seen haunted him so badly. But he had only been back in the states for a few months when the Army reached out to him and asked him to return as a civilian to work on prosecuting war criminals. Big name Nazis like Hermann Goring and Rudolf Hess had already been prosecuted, and Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union left it up to the United States to prosecute the lower ranking war criminals. Ferencz worked under Brig. Gen. Telford Taylor, helping Taylor investigate and prepare cases against Nazi doctors who had experimented on concentration camp inmates, as well as industrialists who availed themselves of slave labor from the camps.

It was during these investigations that Ferencz discovered previously secret documents from the Einsatzgruppen (Action Groups). The Einsatzgruppen were tasked with following the Nazi Army as it invaded the Soviet Union, and kill all the Jews, gypsys, gays, and communists they could find. The reports were detailed documentation of how the Einsatzgruppen had gone from town-to-town rounding up the “undesirables” and executing them. One such document, later labeled exhibit 179 at trial, detailed how, in Kyiv, troops summoned all Jews to present themselves to the Nazis. About 34,000 people responded. The Nazis stripped them of their clothing and took anything of value from them, then spent the next several days executing every single one of them.

As part of the agreement that ended the war, Germany was bifurcated, with Russia having control of the eastern part of the country and the United States having control of the western half. The U.S. wanted to rebuild West Germany, if for no other reason than to have a foothold in Europe that would be a barrier to further expansion by the Russians, who despite being a partner with the U.S. in World War II, had become a Cold War rival. The war crimes trials were dragging on, and were creating friction between the U.S. and West Germany. Taylor was under pressure from his superiors to conclude the trials so the United States and West German could move forward.

The push to conclude the trials angered Ferencz. He had found documents—literal murder receipts—that needed to lead to prosecutions. Yet, the U.S. was seemingly willing to turn a blind eye in order to move forward. Ferencz petitioned Taylor not to allow the murders of millions of innocent people to go unanswered. Taylor sympathized, but the pressure to wrap up the trials was mounting. Finally, he told Ferencz, who had never prosecuted a case in his life, that if he could organize the trials while doing his other duties, he could move forward with the prosecutions. Ferencz had suddenly gone from an investigator to lead prosecutor of Nazi war criminals.

One of the first challenges Ferencz faced was choosing who to prosecute. Based on the documents he had at his disposal, he literally could have charged thousands of former Nazis. There wasn’t enough time or courtroom space to prosecute everyone. Ferencz chose to focus on those that had the highest rank in the Nazi military, as well as the most education.

At trial, Ferencz called no witnesses. Instead, he relied on the treasure trove of Einsatzgruppen reports as his evidence. The defendants claimed simultaneously that the documents were fake and that they were simply exaggerated to impress superiors. When that didn’t work, they argued that they were only following orders.

In the end, all 22 defendants were convicted. Thirteen were sentenced to death, and four were actually put to death by hanging before the United States changed course and stopped the executions.

Ferencz stayed in Germany following the trials, participating in reparation and rehabilitation programs designed to benefit victims of Nazi persecution. He also had a hand in negotiating the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany in 1952 and the German Restitution Law of 1953.

Ferencz and his family returned to the United States in 1956, and he set up a private law practice in New York along with his old boss, Telford Taylor. Among their legal work, Ferencz and Taylor represented Jews who were used as forced labor by German industrialist, Friedrich Flick.

Following the Vietnam War, which he opposed, Ferencz left his private legal practice to push for an international criminal court that would serve as the highest court in the world dealing with crimes against humanity and war crimes. His book, Defining International Aggression: The Search for World Peace, was published in 1975 and made the case for an international criminal court.

From 1985-1996 Ferencz served as a professor of international law at Pace University. During his time at Pace, Ferencz continued to advocate for an international criminal court. He gave speeches and met with lawmakers, but the going was slow. Finally, in 2002, his dream of an international criminal court came to fruition. Surprisingly, it was the United States that was most resistant to the court. Although Pres. George W. Bush signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the agreement that created the court, the treaty was never ratified. To this day, U.S. citizens are excluded from being brought before the court.

Throughout his life, Ferencz was a principled man. He applauded the conviction in the International Criminal Court of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots, who were accused of ethnic massacres, torture, rape, and mutilation. He was also highly critical of the execution of Osama Bin Laden by the United States, which he called “illegal and unwarranted” in a letter he penned to the New York Times. He believed that Bin Laden’s execution undermined democracy and that the captured Bin Laden should have instead been referred to the international criminal court.

If you travel to The Hague, you can walk the Benjamin Ferencz Footpath, which was dedicated in Ferencz’s honor in 2017. In 2018, a documentary entitled Prosecuting Evil was released on Netflix. The film documents Ferencz’s life and details his work on behalf of the international criminal court and world peace.

For his tireless work, Ferencz has received many awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal, the Governor’s Medal of Freedom from the State of Florida, and the Pahl Peace Prize from the Country of Liechtenstein. He has also been interviewed in several documentaries (in addition to Prosecuting Evil), including Ken Burn’s The U.S. and the Holocaust, Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, and David Wilkenson’s Getting Away with Murder(s).

In 2017, CBS’s 60 Minutes did a profile on Ferencz. That profile was my introduction to the life of Benjamin Ferencz. I have admired his life, his work, and his principles ever since. Here is the 60 Minutes profile. (Click on “Watch on YouTube to see the video.)


How Should We View the Clarence Thomas Revelations?

An investigation conducted by the nonprofit public interest group, ProPublica, found that for more than two decades, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted gifts totaling millions of dollars from Harlan Crow, a Texas-based billionaire and real estate developer. In addition to accepting the gifts, Thomas failed to report receipt of the gifts on his annual financial disclosure form, a document required of all federal judges.

It gets worse. In 2004, the Los Angeles Times did an investigation into Thomas’ habit of accepting extravagant gifts from donors. Following the story published by the LA Times, Thomas’ annual financial disclosures indicated he had stopped accepting the gifts. But he hadn’t. Instead, he had just stopped reporting them.

The ProPublica story comes in the aftermath of another potential ethical violation committed by Thomas. In 2021, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, Thomas failed to recuse himself from a case in which his own wife was involved.

Following the revelations from the ProPublica investigation, reactions were all too predictable. Democrats lashed out at Thomas’ behavior, some even calling for his impeachment. Republicans defended Thomas, impugning the motivations of “leftists” rather than actually defending the fact that Thomas had received millions of dollars worth of unreported gifts.

It’s the predictability of these reactions that I want to focus on. As a nation, our politics has become so divided that we no longer can agree on even the most obvious issues. Rather than looking at Thomas’ behavior from a right vs left perspective, I want to look at it from a right vs wrong perspective. It’s not always easy to distinguish right from wrong in politics. But in this case, I think distinguishing between the two is pretty clear-cut and easy.

Let’s start from the premise of what we should expect from a Supreme Court Justice. At a minimum, a Supreme Court Justice should be impartial, or at least as impartial as a human being can be. In the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, a Supreme Court Justice should just call balls and strikes. They should apply the law, not their political leanings or beliefs. They should be above reproach in their personal lives. They should not have any entanglements or personal interests that unduly cloud their judicial judgement or restrict their independence. Not only should they not have dealings that cloud their judgement, they shouldn’t have dealings that give the perception of bias or influence. To be certain, Supreme Court Justices, like anyone else, will live their lives as they see fit, with friends and acquaintances of their own choosing. However, because they are Supreme Court Justices, it is imperative that those relationships not influence—or give the perception of influencing—their legal decisions.

This is the minimum we should expect. After all, these Justices serve on the highest court in the land. Their decisions impact millions of people every day. We, through the Constitution, give Justices of the Supreme Court a tremendous amount of power. We trust them with carrying out one of the most important roles in our society. At least in theory, only the best of the best of the best of the nation’s attorneys ever rise to the level of Supreme Court Justice. It is an honor and a privilege to serve on the Court. Our expectation of those who serve should be high.

Oddly, although other federal judges are bound by an ethical code of conduct, Supreme Court Justices are not. In recent years, there has been a push to implement an ethical code of conduct for the Supreme Court, but the Justices have resisted, while simultaneously paying lip service to the imperative of ethical behavior. Congress has toyed with the idea of implementing an ethical code for the Supreme Court, but to date, they have failed to do so.

Even without a written code of ethics, does Justice Thomas’ behavior rise to the level of what we should expect from a Supreme Court Justice? Forget his politics. Forget his legal philosophies or decisions. Just focus on Justice Thomas’ behavior. Would such behavior be acceptable for the President, a Member of Congress, or a Senator? Would it be acceptable for any political appointee or bureaucrat? Would it be acceptable for your local dog catcher? I think the answer is obvious. We should not countenance the taking of expensive gifts by government officials, whether reported or not, particularly from someone in a position to influence the official’s behavior.

Former federal prosecutor and current President of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Noah Bookbinder, made this point on Twitter after hearing Justice Thomas’ claim that Harlan Crow is simply a friend, and that he was counseled by his fellow Justices that there was no need to report the gifts:

“Have any of you had a friend pay for a vacation for you? How about a really expensive one? And then do it again? And again? It’s certainly not something that’s happened to me, and I don’t think it happens to regular people in the real world.

“For Justice Thomas to think that this is such a normal occurrence that it was not only okay for him to accept these fully paid vacations again and again, but that he didn’t even have to report it does not pass the smell test. Add to it that this is someone who apparently became a friend after Justice Thomas assumed a position of great influence and power, and it smells even worse.

“Most government employees are scrupulous in reporting gifts, usually much smaller and often from personal friends, as required on personal financial disclosure forms. This explanation does not comport with lived experience for most people in positions of responsibility.

“This shows why there needs to be an enforceable code of conduct for Supreme Court justices. But it is so far beyond what anyone should have thought acceptable that it also requires an investigation.”

I agree with Bookbinder’s thoughts. Justice Thomas’ behavior is so far beyond the pale that it should be obvious to any objective observer that it was wrong, unethical, potentially criminal, and worthy of further investigation. Opinion on the matter should not be determined by political beliefs or party affiliation.

As I said previously, this isn’t a matter of right vs left. It is a matter of right vs wrong. Any Justice, no matter his or her political beliefs or judicial philosophies, should be held to account for this type of behavior. Can’t we at least agree that any Supreme Court Justice or other government official that takes millions of dollars of gifts, particularly from someone in a position to influence their decisions, should be investigated, and if appropriate, punished? Or are we so divided that we can’t even agree on that simple premise?

ADDENDUM: There’s something about this story that I’m afraid I didn’t make clear enough. While it is true that Clarence Thomas didn’t report the gifts he received from billionaire Harlan Crow, the much more important part of the story is that Thomas accepted the gifts in the first place. Accepting the gifts is the unethical (and potentially illegal) action. Not reporting them is just proof of his intent to cover up his unethical (and potentially illegal) behavior.

ADDENDUM 2 — After I first published this post, ProPublica came out with another story detailing how Harlan Crow bought Clarence Thomas’ mother’s home in 2014, remodeled the whole thing, and has allowed Thomas’ mother to remain in the home rent-free ever since. At the same time, Crow bought two empty lots in the neighborhood from Thomas, and the went on to sell off the lots. Just as with the luxury travel Crow gifted Thomas, Thomas failed to report the transaction.

In response to the story, Crow claimed that he purchased the home with plans of turning it into a museum dedicated to telling Thomas’ story of going from a working-class neighborhood in Savannah to the highest court in the nation. Of course, that statement doesn’t explain: 1) why he immediately remodeled the home; 2) why he also bought the vacant lots only to sell them, or; 3) why he has allowed Thomas’ mother to remain in the home without paying rent.

With all of these revelations, and considering that Crow, who sits on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that often files amicus briefs with the Supreme Court, it seems clear that Thomas should be investigated by the court, by Congress, or by both. This should not be a partisan issue. Thomas’ ethical lapses and crimes (if any) are against the Court and the people of the United States. All Members of Congress, regardless of their party affiliation, should want to know the details of Thomas’ relationship with Crow. Sadly, while Democrats have called for an investigation, Republicans have been all too happy to dismiss the conservative jurist’s behavior.

ADDENDUM 3 — As you can probably tell, I feel strongly that the revelations in the ProPublica stories should be investigated, but others are calling for impeachment. Mehdi Hasan does a great job of laying out the case for impeachment, and compares it to a similar case against Abe Fortas, a liberal Supreme Court Justice.


Too Close to Home

It’s sad to say, but mass shootings in the United States have become so common, that it is easy to view them from a distance, to be detached. After all, the shootings happen somewhere else, to someone else. Sure, they’re horrible, but for most of us, they don’t really affect our lives. Until they do.

This past Friday, one person was killed and ten were injured when a gunman opened fire at a house party in Macomb, Illinois. Macomb is the home of Western Illinois University, where I went to college and where I received a Masters degree this past summer. I spent several years in Macomb. I walked the streets of the town. Many of my friends lived there and walked those same streets. To think that a mass shooting took place there is hard to fathom.

I heard about the shooting in Macomb on my way to Nashville. I was going there to watch my son play rugby for the University of Tennessee. I couldn’t help but think about the shooting in Macomb, a college town, and how it related to my son, who lives in Knoxville, the home of Tennessee’s flagship university. Unlike past shootings, this one was hitting close to home.

After my weekend in Nashville, I packed up and headed back to Wisconsin. As I was driving, another mass shooting took place. This one in the town I had just left. It happened at a private elementary school in the Green Hills area of Nashville. Six people were killed, including three children under the age of ten, two teachers, and the assailant. It’s a horrible, terrifying tragedy, and it happened not too far from where my daughter lives and where my son was playing rugby the previous weekend.

The shooting in Nashville was the 129th mass shooting to happen in the United States since the beginning of the year. One-hundred-twenty-nine mass shootings in less than three full months. Think about that. In the first ninety days of 2023 there have been 129 mass shootings in the United States. Most countries don’t have 129 mass shootings in a decade. Yet, in the United States, we average more than one mass shooting per day.

I’m horrified. In fact, every American should be horrified by the amount of gun violence in this country. Yet, our elected leaders do precious little to try to stop it. It’s easy to blame Republicans, who routinely offer “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and their families, while mindlessly wrapping themselves in the Second Amendment and posing for Christmas cards while holding assault rifles. But I’m old enough to remember when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate and still didn’t pass comprehensive gun reform. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

I don’t claim to have all the answers when it comes to gun reform. What I do know is that our current gun laws have resulted in 129 mass shootings so far this year. It may be true that we can’t completely stop mass shootings, but there are things we can do to reduce the amount of gun violence in the United States and make it harder for those who mean us harm to get the guns they need.

For instance, why don’t we have universal background checks? Ninety percent of Americans support universal background checks, yet Congress can’t seem to muster the political will to get it done.

In the Nashville shooting, the shooter legally purchased seven different guns while being treated for an emotional disorder. Would a background check have stopped the shooter from getting the guns used to kill the innocent children and their teachers? That’s hard to say with any certainty. Even so, the point remains that a universal background check would help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

Why do we allow our fellow citizens to purchase assault rifles? In 1994, an assault rifle ban was implemented in the United States. It lasted for ten years before in expired in 2004. During that ten-year period, mass shootings decreased 37% and fatalities from mass shootings fell 70%. After the ban expired, between 2004-2014, mass shootings increased 183%. That’s why two-thirds of all Americans support a permanent ban on the sale of assault weapons.

Other common sense gun reform laws include banning high capacity magazines, passing safe gun storage laws, and creating a gun registry. There is a lot more that can be done to help curb gun violence that falls far short of a complete ban on gun sales (no one is credibly calling for such a ban), and which doesn’t violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

We can either push our elected officials to pass meaningful, common sense gun reform, or we can continue to sacrifice our children on the alter of the gun lobby. That is our choice. And we already know what happens when we do nothing.

ADDENDUM: Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld is the incoming president of the American Medical Association (AMA). Here is what he said in the wake of the mass shooting in Nashville:

I’m livid. My colleague lost her child in the Nashville shooting. So this is personal... Because thoughts and prayers will NEVER be enough.

“This is not just a tragedy, it’s a public health crisis that has serious societal and economic effects on our health care system, communities, workplaces, schools, law enforcement agencies and courts. According to the CDC, nearly 49,000 Americans died due to firearms in 2021 – a 28-year high – and tens of thousands more were seriously injured, devastating families in small towns and big cities alike. 1/3 of all firearm-related deaths are homicides, almost 2/3 are suicides.

“The AMA has called for efforts to curb firearm violence since the 1980s and has advocated for policies that support extending waiting periods, strengthening background checks, restoring the ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines & regulating ghost guns. Congress must earmark appropriations specifically for firearm violence research efforts. Congress must increase funding to CDC and NIH for research into the prevention of firearm-related morbidity and mortality. Congress must take action.”


Want a Successful Relationship? Learn to Communicate

There’s nothing more important in life than having a loving, mutually supportive relationship with your spouse or significant other. And there’s nothing more important to a successful relationship than learning to communicate with one another.

In this video, you’ll learn the challenges we all face communicating with our loved ones, and you’ll see how successful couples communicate with each other.



Poetry as Song: Jungleland

The Rangers had a homecoming
In Harlem late last night
And the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine
Over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab at romance
And disappear down Flamingo LaneWell, the Maximum Lawmen run down Flamingo
Chasing the Rat and the barefoot girl
And the kids ’round there live just like shadows
Always quiet, holding hands
From the churches to the jails
Tonight all is silence in the world
As we take our stand
Down in JunglelandThe midnight gang’s assembled
And picked a rendezvous for the night
They’ll meet ‘neath that giant Exxon sign
That brings this fair city light
Man, there’s an opera out on the Turnpike
There’s a ballet being fought out in the alley
Until the local cops, Cherry-Tops, rips this holy night

The street’s alive as secret debts are paid
Contacts made, they vanish unseen
Kids flash guitars just like switchblades
Hustling for the record machine
The hungry and the hunted
Explode into rock ‘n’ roll bands
That face off against each other out in the street
Down in Jungleland

In the parking lot the visionaries dress in the latest rage
Inside the backstreet girls are dancing
To the records that the DJ plays
Lonely-hearted lovers struggle in dark corners
Desperate as the night moves on
Just one look and a whisper, and they’re gone

Beneath the city, two hearts beat
Soul engines running through a night so tender
In a bedroom locked in whispers
Of soft refusal and then surrender
In the tunnels uptown, the Rat’s own dream guns him down
As shots echo down them hallways in the night
No one watches when the ambulance pulls away
Or as the girl shuts out the bedroom light

Outside the street’s on fire in a real death waltz
Between what’s flesh and what’s fantasy
And the poets down here don’t write nothing at all
They just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night, they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand
But they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in Jungleland

–Bruce Springsteen