Grand Summer 

Grand Summer

For Aliceann and I who have decided to “age in place,” this has been a grand summer. We are healthy. Our home is like a shore vacation.. We get into our pool in seconds. No packing for the beach or concern for bridge traffic. This summer however began on the dark side. We had a tragic loss in the death of daughter Susan’s much loved husband Tony Avallon.

On the upside we were so proud of the high school graduation honors bestowed upon our granddaughter Katherine Hillenbrand. We were thrilled to see her off for her first year at Amherst College.

This has been a spectacular summer weather-wise with plenty of rain and almost no oppressive heat. With ample rain our farm crops are sensational. We have corn at 13 feet. The pasture grass is so thick that it's like wading through snow.

There were great summer guests highlighted by the visit of Susan with the twins Quinn and Perris They saw their first fireflies and were greatly impressed with the pandas at the zoo. We also had a great visit from Jeanette Zalder and her intended Alfredo Ramirez and their 13 month old baby Adrianna. I taught the little one the word Obama. We also had a surprise visit from William Wan. He changed plans at Dulles and his flight was canceled so he spent the night with us.

As a part of aging in place we exercise mentally and physically as much as possible. I am exercising through gardening, pool maintenance, car detailing and other chores. Aliceann keeps house and handles both flowers and bill paying. We have responsibility for four houses: a farm: a vacation farm house rental and have responsibility for three trucks and two cars. Aliceann is in a book club; visits museums and art centers with Dee Farber and keeps up with our neighborhood through a local list serve. She continues to be a leader in the local Juniata College alumni and helped with her class’ 50th reunion celebration. I am active in the Wednesday Clergy Fellowship and the Cosmos Club old-timers. I have been supportive of our Foundry Methodist Church efforts to welcome homosexuals. Despite the efforts of many clergy, we were unsuccessful in our effort to stop the location of the Bush Library and Rightwing think tank a Methodist University in Texas.

Together with Lee and Susan Fritschler we have purchased a condominium for our son Craig Fritschler. Now all our children have homes. We are delighted and so are Craig and his roommate of several years Keith who will continue as a tenant in the two bed bedroom apartment.

My year old blog HILLENBRAND REPORT has had only 400 hits and three responses. My first impulse is to be discouraged. Google, however, reports in excess of 10 million blogs. We are a wash in a gigantic hurricane of information. We have, for example, a new digital television with 300 stations.

One of the compensations for getting old is being grandparents. Our youngest grandchildren are Aidan Fritschler age eight and his sister Phoebe soon to be four who visit every week. Aliceann and Susan Fritschler take turns babysitting the pair. One of the highlights of our summer was Aidan’s poolside birthday party with ten of his eight-year old friends.

For a year and a half we have been intensely involved with the election process. In the primaries Aliceann and I supported candidate Hillary Clinton me in Maryland and me in Maryland. On our tour of Asia a studied Obama’s book Audacity of Hope. I think he is an incredible person and if elected will be an outstanding president. Politically I now have a new pro Obama cause. Every day I take time to comment by email on the major political stories of the day. My sense is that Mc Cain is as incompetent as Bush and much older.

With love, Bernie

Daughter Susan, Perris and Quinn Avallon with Grandpa at poolside
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Bob Herbert in a June 21st New York Times piece summarized the importance of Obama's Father's Day Sermon. He noted that “In 2006, a majority of births to women under 30 (50.4%) were out of wedlock. Nearly 80% of births among black women were out of wedlock”. By comparison in 1960 these numbers were just 6%.

It is significant that Senator Obama who is part white and part African-American chose to deliver his remarks in a church. In the Judeo- Christian context this is a moral issue. He advanced several policy proposals that might help address the resulting consequentially severe problems. He suggests that African/ American men should stop acting like boys and start behaving like men.

In the District of Colombia for example 80% of black babies are born to single mothers. Fifty per cent of young black males fail to graduate from high school and 50% are on their way to jail, in jail, or just out of jail. The leading cause of death in young black men is murder. There simply are very few jobs available for an uneducated black man with a prison record. When a man, black or white abandons his pregnant partner he dooms her and his child to a life long sentence of poverty and hardship.

Up until now with the exception of Bill Cosby and a few others this problem has been ignored by both black and white political leaders. It is enormously significant that the problem is so destructive in both white and black communities because Senator Obama comes from both communities. He has the courage to raise the issue. Up until now both black and white leaders have found it more convenient not to offend either white or black man but to blame the problem on social injustice or poor schools.

It is entirely possible that this sermon will go down in history as being immensely important to all Americans particularly if Senator Obama is elected President of the United States.

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Picture of Mothers' Day Pin

I was searching through some old boxes of memorabilia when I came across a little white box was a small handwritten note on the cover. It was my mother's handwriting. She said,” I wear this every Mother's Day. It's a lot of years ago”. Indeed it was a long time ago. It was May 1944. Bill Irwin, Dwight Holmes I had volunteered for overseas duty and left our training division the Golden Lion 106 Infantry at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

We were about to sail when I realized that it was almost Mother's Day. We were at Fort Meade, Maryland. I rushed down to the PX to get a Mother's Day gift. The clerk told me I was too late. It had been a rush from other soldiers to honor their mothers and there was nothing left.

I was terribly discouraged and about to leave when she said, “Wait a minute. Here is something that slipped off the counter and fell on the floor.” He held up this tiny heart-shaped pin. In the center was the inscription MOTHER. There was a brass star beneath the Inscription. In WWII parents hung in the front window a small flag with a picture of a brass star in the center. It proudly indicates that a son or daughter served in the armed forces. If the loved one had been killed it was a gold star. .

I was happy to have something to honor Mother but this was a terrible choice. It was made of cheap mother-of-pearl. To me the war was a very serious business. This flag in the window bit seemed superficial. I was terribly embarrassed but bought it anyway.

Next day we were off to war on the Queen Elizabeth. The whole matter dropped from my mind. It was to return. On Mother's Day on my first year home from the war there was my mother proudly wearing the pin I thought was in such poor taste.

At every opportunity she would proclaim,” My son Bernard sent me this pin during the war”. Mother wore that pin with the same attribution every Mother’s Day until her death.

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This is amazing. Bush has already earned a big credit for his legacy. Because his administration has been such a disaster we have an opportunity for political equality for women and for blacks. We at last have a woman and a black as Presidential Candidates.

It is ironic. If Bush had been even a grade C. President the Democratic Party could not possibly have any chance of electing Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. History is clear on this point. Super conservative Americas are mostly Republican. They continue to be about 25% of the electorate (just as about 25% are liberal). Historically they helped kill the presidential aspirations of Governor Al Smith. He was the first serious Roman Catholic Democratic Presidential candidate. They later helped shoot down the Vice Presidential candidacy of Geraldine Ferro. Even today these right wingers in the Republican Party are against representation in Congress for the citizens of majority African /American District of Colombia.

It is also frightening. The right wing republican sexism and racism may very well elect Republican presidential candidate. Many believe John McCain as “the third term” George W. Bush. Racism and sexism has a very long shelf life. It may still be alive enough to ignore the terrible costs of the Bush/Chaney debacle

My Democratic Party must soon face an absolutely critical decision. Can we leave Colorado and unite our party behind either a woman or black candidate? My heart is with the Democratic Party. My heart says yes. My reason tells me something else. Exit interviews show that there is a strong possibility of alienated one part of our women and black base. If we alienate one part of our base we may lose a major part of our party and hence the election. Senator John Mc Cain has earned the profound respect of every American. He is a genuine hero. He is also genuinely wrong on the Iraq war and domestic policy just as Bush continues to be. The problems America face are of such vital importance that we must respond with the post Pearl Harbor unity of Democrats, Republicans and Independents that so astounded the world in WWII.

Perhaps it is time to marshal our old unity cry: REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR

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We are destroying our United States ground forces!

Osama bin Laden is winning militarily. The Bush/ Cheney war in Iraq is systematically destroying American ground forces. As we start the sixth year U.S. forces have suffered more than 30,000 casualties with more than 4000 killed. The finest army in the world is forcing its soldiers to serve endless repeated combat tours. Large numbers of soldiers and Marines are understandably suffering combat fatigue. Military equipment has been drained from the United States. It is wearing out in combat and not being replaced The Bush military strategy is to bypass the Armed Forces chain of command and to base everything on the judgment of General David H. Petraeus. In spite of intense congressional Republican and Democratic grilling the General has no definition of what constitutes a victory. We do know that there is not a single reserve brigade available for any other constituencies.

Osama bin Laden is winning financially. The exact costs of the Bush/ Cheney War are lost in domestic politics. Some estimates of the ultimate cost today and into the future are in the trillions. The cost of the war is being passed on to our children in the form of the addition of $2 trillion of added debt during this administration. Many financial experts directly attribute the precipitously decline in the American economy to the cost of this war. There is much evidence that the American economic decline, the collapse of the US dollar, and weakening of American financial institutions is contagious and threatens to swallow the rest of the world.

Osama bin Laden is winning in world politics. The Bush Cheney War is now opposed by 60% of Americans and by world public opinion. As we start the sixth year of an unnecessary war it has cost from 600,000 to 1.2 million Iraqi casualties most of them civilians. Two thousand Iraqis have been forced to flee their country into nearby Arab states.

Osama bin Laden is winning his freedom. He continues to have power to war against the United States and most the rest of the world. In and effort to capture this terrorist hate monger the U.S. and our allies continue to be engaged in an apparently endless war in Afghanistan. It is spilling over into Pakistan.

Will Osama bin Laden continue his victory streak? To me Iraq is a critical question at the center of this year's presidential election. The presumed Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain and his Democratic supporter Senator Joe Lieberman want the war to continue until victory. The leading Democratic candidates Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are both committed to ending the war as soon as is humanly possible.

Perhaps the most astounding fact is that the United States military, by all odds the most powerful in the history of the world, in not winning. At the end of five years of intense effort the U.S. is totally incapable of militarily subduing Iraq. This is a country with no air force, navy, missiles, or no atomic bombs. Its army was twice defeated in wars against Iran and in the Desert War.

Now is the time for everyone to display Bush inspired “Support our Troops” by adding a second line “For God’s Sake Bring Them Home”.

Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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