• This story is SO New Orleans. Obit for “Mr. Okra”

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    First of all, you gotta love anybody who is known as “Mr. Okra.”

    The only thing better would be “Mr. Fried Okra.”

    Here is a wonderful obituary in the New York Times.

    It captures not only what was unique about Mr. Okra but what is unique about NOLA.

    The New Orleans Advocate says his tradition will be carried on:

    Mr. Okra’s truck will roll again, continuing a tradition New Orleans shares block by block

    The truck will be run by his son, Sergio, and Willie “Frog” Nelson, who have been working alongside Mr. Okra.


  • True Giving. Two brief stories–and moving lessons–on Christmas Day

    The first is about Gen. James Mattis, now the US Secretary of Defense.

    Unheralded giving like his shows the character of a man.

    The story is told by Gen. Charles Krulak (Ret.), who was then Marine Corps Commandant.

    He remembers Christmas Day 1998 when Mattis, a Brigadier General, quietly stood duty for a young Marine officer so the young man could spend the day with his family.

    Every year, Gen. Krulak and his wife baked countless cookies in the days ahead of Christmas, put them in little packages and, beginning at 0400 on Christmas Day, he would deliver cookies to all the Marine duty posts around Washington.

    Making his final delivery of the day, Gen. Krulak asked the Marine Lance Corporal on duty who the officer of the day was.

    The answer: “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.”

    Normally, of course, the officer of the day would’ve been a junior officer, not a general officer.

    According to Krulak, he replied to the Corporal, “No, I know who Gen. Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day?”

    The young Marine gave the same response: “Sir, General Mattis.”

    “I looked around the duty hut. In the back there were two cots: One for the officer of the day and one for the enlisted Marine. I said, ‘OK, who was the officer who slept on that cot last night?’”

    “The Corporal said again, ‘Sir, General Mattis.’”

    No sooner had the question been answered a third time than BG Mattis entered the room.

    Krulak recalls, “So I said to him, ‘Jim, what are you standing the duty for?’ And he said, ‘Sir, I looked at the duty roster for today and there was a young major who had it, who is married with a family. I’m a bachelor and I thought, “Why should the major miss out on the fun of having Christmas with his family?” And so I took the duty for him.’” 

    –NAUS.org (National Assoc. for Uniformed Services)

    The other story is closer to home and involves my late brother, Steve Lipson, and his wife, Mindy.

    Both did what the General did.

    Steve, a member of several volunteer groups, always asked to perform the necessary tasks, such as delivering food to the poor, on Christmas.

    His wife, Mindy, a nurse practitioner for many years at St. Jude’s in Memphis, always signed up to work that day.

    Both are Jewish and knew their Christian colleagues wanted to spend the day with their families. So, they gave the gift of their own time, away from their own family. They knew the day meant far more to their friends.

    We often talk about “religious tolerance” and it is right that we do. It is a hard-won triumph in Western history, worth underscoring.

    Even its minimal definition, forbearance, is a good thing.

    We need far more of it in a world where zealots behead infidels in the name of their religion.

    We need to reiterate those values in our schools and public life.

    Even better is a generous definition, one in which religious tolerance means “genuine respect for others beliefs and for the lives they lead in following them.”

    That generous definition is revealed not only in what we say but in what we do–most of all in how we treat our friends and neighbors everyday.


  • He heard an old man speak to students–and he did something wonderful for him

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    Drew Principe, 17, was one of the California high school students who recently heard Henry Oster’s talk about surviving the Holocaust. They listened as Oster described the depths of despair, his fear and loss, and finally his survival.

    Dr. Oster, who is now nearing 90, explained that he had been on the eve of celebrating his Bar Mitzvah when the Nazis rounded up–and killed–his family at Auschwitz. (His father starved to death in the ghetto.)

    Somehow, he alone survived.

    After the war, he moved to California, became a doctor, and lived out his life there.

    That’s the story of loss and survival Dr. Oster told the high school students.


    Reaching out to help

    Then, young Mr. Principe did something extraordinary:

    When Principe learned that Oster had never been to Israel, he started a fundraising effort for the once-in-a-lifetime trip [to visit Oster’s last living relative there]. –Daily Mail

    Principe raised $15,000 to fund Mr. Oster’s trip.

    On Monday, 89-year-old Henry Oster left for that dreamed-of trip to visit his last living relative.

    Drew Principe and his family are tagging along to share the joy.

    The story and picture of Principe and Oster are here. (Daily Mail)

  • Uber from Chicago to Buffalo–and the friendship it forged

    The cost: $900, including a $300 tip.

    The friendship: priceless.

    A wonderful story of the driver and the passenger–a pro football player stranded in Chicago and determined to get to practice in Buffalo (Washington Post)

    Buffalo Bills cornerback Shareece Wright found himself in a bind on Sunday night. He badly wanted to attend the team’s voluntary workouts — which began Monday — but was stuck at Chicago O’Hare airport with no flights available. And so to solve the problem, Wright whipped out his smartphone, opened his Uber app and called a car.

    Looking at his phone on the other end of the ride-sharing app was 26-year-old Hadi Abdollahian. …

    Abdollahian wouldn’t find out what he actually signed up for until he spoke to Wright, who called him as he made his way to the airport.

    He told me Buffalo and I thought he meant Buffalo [Wild Wings] grill,” Abdollahian told The Post. “So I said, ‘Yeah, for sure.’ ”  –Washington Post

    During the hours on the road, they became friends.

    Abdollahian said Wright also inquired about his life, including his past, which saw Abdollahian relocate to Chicago from a war-torn region of Turkey four years ago under a United Nations refugee program.

    “I loved his company,” added Abdollahian, who hopes to study computer science this fall at Loyola University. “We had a great time.”

    And the feeling was apparently mutual. Not only did Wright rate Abdollahian five stars on Uber, but the two have remained in contact.

    “He called me today,” Abdollahian said. –Washington Post

    Tip of the Helmet to David Henley for this wonderful story

  • GREAT human interest story from the London Bridge attack

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    Here’s the headline in London’s Independent:

    London attack: Football fan shouted ‘F*** you, I’m Millwall’ and took on knife-wielding terrorists with his bare fists
    The Newspaper reports “Calls for Roy Larner, the ‘Lion of London Bridge’, to be given a medal after reportedly saving lives and making Millwall fans popular by single-handedly taking on the three attackers”

    Normally, the Millwall team and its fans are considered louts and “football hooligans.”

    They return the favor with their chants: “No one likes us. We don’t care.”

    This time, people love them and they do care.

    Roy Larner has already been hailed a hero, with a petition launched for him to be awarded the George Cross medal for his actions in the Black and Blue steakhouse on Saturday night.

    In fighting back, the 47-year-old Millwall fan gave dozens of others who were in the Borough Market restaurant the chance to escape.

    Now out of the intensive care ward of St Thomas’ Hospital, where he was treated for knife wounds all over his body including his neck, the father-of-one has told The Sun how he reacted when the killers burst into the restaurant shouting “Islam, Islam” and “This is for Allah”.

    “Like an idiot,” he told the newspaper, “I shouted back at them. I thought, ‘I need to take the p*** out of these b******s’.” –The Independent


    Millwall fans, like soldiers of old, march toward the sound of battle, ready to join in.

    Fans of the south London club have long prided themselves on their refusal to duck a fight, celebrating their intimidating reputation with the chant: “No-one likes us, we don’t care.”

    As you might expect, some alcohol was involved–enough to leave most people in a stupor, but not Millwall fans:

    “I didn’t think of my safety at the time,” [Mr. Larson] added. “I’d had four or five pints — nothing major.

    “I can handle myself. But I was out with an old person and it was out of order.”

    As he recovers in hospital, Mr Larner’s friends have brought him a running magazine.  The front cover headline reads: “Learn to run.”


    The glass is raised to Bob Lieber for this wonderful story.

  • The PERFECT story for Memorial Day: Lessons from an “Ordinary” Man Who Helped Liberate Europe

    The story, as told by Col. James Moschgat, begins with his daily encounters with the janitor, “an unimpressive figure, one you could easily overlook during a hectic day at the U.S. Air Force Academy.”

    That quiet man, going about his work, was Bill Crawford. He was

    mopping and buffing floors, emptying trash cans, cleaning toilets, or just tidying up the mess 100 college-age kids can leave in a dormitory.

    Sadly, and for many years, few of us gave him much notice, rendering little more than a passing nod or throwing a curt, “G’morning!” in his direction as we hurried off to our daily duties. –Col. James Moschgat, “A Janitor’s Ten Lessons in Leadership”

    He did his job well, but he was shy and just “blended into the woodwork,”says Moschgat. That’s why few cadets noticed Mr. Crawford, except to exchange a friendly hello.

    That changed one fall Saturday afternoon in 1976. I was reading a book about World War II and the tough Allied ground campaign in Italy, when I stumbled across an incredible story. On Sept. 13, 1943, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, had been involved in some bloody fighting on Hill 424 near Altavilla, Italy.

    The words on the page leapt out at me: “in the face of intense and overwhelming hostile fire … with no regard for personal safety … on his own initiative, Private Crawford single-handedly attacked fortified enemy positions.” It continued, “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, the President of the United States …”

    “Holy cow,” I said to my roommate, “you’re not going to believe this, but I think our janitor is a Medal of Honor winner.”

    Col. Moschgat goes on to underscore the life lessons he learned–none of them earth-shattering but all of them rock-solid, worth taking to heart. Everyone deserves respect. Courtesy makes a difference. Leaders should be humble. Take your time to know your people. No Job is Beneath a Leader. (The last one reminds me of a story I read about General James Mattis, who pulled Christmas duty so one of his Marines could spend the holiday with family.)

    And one lesson that Moschgat surely drew from his story about the janitor: “Anyone can be a hero.”

    Bill Crawford was a janitor.  However, he was also a teacher, friend, role model and one great American hero.   Thanks, Mr. Crawford, for some valuable leadership lessons. –Col. Moschgat


    The citation for Pvt. Crawford’s Medal of Honor tells of his exceptional courage:

    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943.

    When Company I attacked an enemy-held position on Hill 424, the 3rd Platoon, in which Pvt. Crawford was a squad scout, attacked as base platoon for the company. After reaching the crest of the hill, the platoon was pinned down by intense enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire. Locating 1 of these guns, which was dug in on a terrace on his immediate front, Pvt. Crawford, without orders and on his own initiative, moved over the hill under enemy fire to a point within a few yards of the gun emplacement and single-handedly destroyed the machine-gun and killed 3 of the crew with a hand grenade, thus enabling his platoon to continue its advance.

    When the platoon, after reaching the crest, was once more delayed by enemy fire, Pvt. Crawford again, in the face of intense fire, advanced directly to the front midway between 2 hostile machine-gun nests located on a higher terrace and emplaced in a small ravine. Moving first to the left, with a hand grenade he destroyed 1 gun emplacement and killed the crew; he then worked his way, under continuous fire, to the other and with 1 grenade and the use of his rifle, killed 1 enemy and forced the remainder to flee.

    Seizing the enemy machine gun, he fired on the withdrawing Germans and facilitated his company’s advance.

    –Medal of Honor citation. United States Army Center of Military History


    With many thanks to Tim Favero, who shared this story with me.

  • A very moving (and non-political) story of a recent immigrant

    After a wonderful seminar, led by a scholar visiting from Yale and Princeton, and working dinner, we piled into a Lyft for the trip from downtown Chicago to Hyde Park.

    When we reached the university neighborhood, the graduate students got out, one-by-one, at their apartments until, finally, the driver and I were alone.

    We started chatting, and that when I learned his story.


    It began when he asked who the passengers were.

    “They are all graduate students, working on different aspects of international politics.”

    “Ah,” he said, “I avoid politics.”

    Wise move for a cab driver, I thought!

    Because he had a modest accent, I asked where he was from.


    “When did you come to America?”


    “So, you were there during the war,” I replied. “I’m so glad you made it out safely. I hope that you and your family and friends didn’t suffer too much.”

    “Well,” he said, a bit reluctantly. “I knew some people who were hurt and killed.”

    Then, he added in a matter-of-fact way,

    “I was kidnapped and held in a trunk for three days.”

    I was shocked and, of course, sympathetic. It was all the more shocking because he mentioned it in such an ordinary way, as if these things happen all the time.

    I asked how he managed to get released. He seemed surprised I would even ask since he considered the answer obvious.

    “My family paid ransom.”

    The kidnappers, he continued, weren’t political. They just wanted to make some money. He said he had done some work for the US embassy but the kidnappers hadn’t known that and probably wouldn’t have cared.

    They were “just a bunch of criminals, trying to get into the kidnapping business.”

    I said they must have been new at it if they didn’t have a safe-house to stash him.

    “Yes. They were just a wannabe gang. They didn’t have a place to keep me so they just put me in the trunk.”

    “Well, ” I said, “you are in America now, and I really hope you feel really welcome and at home here.”

    “Yes,” he said, as he dropped me off. “My whole family feels like we are Americans now.”


    An amazing story, told without drama, and a happy ending.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 13

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     US-Russia: “Candid discussions,” as the diplomats say. The rest of us say: “frosty”

    • Sec. of State Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, hold a chilly press conference.
    • Pres. Trump shrewdly holds a press conference with NATO head at the same time

    NYT headline: U.S. Takes Sharper Tone on Russia’s Role in Syria

    President Trump and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson sought on Wednesday to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for backing the Syrian government in the wake of its lethal chemical weapons attack on civilians, and worked to build international pressure on Moscow to change course.

    In Washington, Moscow and New York, the Trump administration publicly chastised Mr. Putin but privately worked to hash out increasingly bitter differences with him. At the same time, Mr. Trump embraced NATO — a military alliance he had previously derided as obsolete — as an effective and vital force for peace and security in a region where Russia has been an aggressive actor. –New York Times

    Comment: Right now, the issue is Syria, but tomorrow it could be Ukraine or the Baltics. There is a full plate of differences and, despite Russia’s high hopes that Trump would be a friendly patsy, he has been tougher than Obama (though not necessarily tougher than Hillary would have been). As Tillerson say today, relations are at a low point, and that’s a dangerous thing when both are bristling with nuclear weapons.

     Melania Trump, defamed by British tabloid, takes them to the cleaners. The UK’s Daily Mail pays her big money and issues an apology.Here’s what a fair headline looks like: Melania Trump wins damages from Daily Mail over ‘escort’ allegation (BBC)

    Now, watch here’s the Washington Post‘s effort to deny Melania won: Melania Trump settles lawsuits with Daily Mail.

    That headline actively avoids giving readers the story, which they could have done by using the words: “Melania Trump triumphs in lawsuit with Daily Mail”

     Today in WTF: Cursing banned at Philadelphia construction site

    The site is at Temple University, where students apparently need a lot of protection. (Fox News)

    Comment: Of course, they mostly need protection getting back and forth to school in that neighborhood. But I digress. Philadelphia is actually best known as the city that actually booed Santa Claus. (True.)

     CNN doubles down on its attack angle: Trump’s people colluded with Russia.

    Today’s CNN headline: “The Russia story just keeps getting worse for President Trump” (CNN)

    Comment: I watched some of Don Lemon’s show tonight. He had on several guests, but it was a charade. 

    The network plans to continue until an airplane is lost at sea. That always struck me as odd because airports are the main venue for CNN.

     Two men from Zion, Illinois, charged with giving support to terrorist Islamic State. (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: Odd choice for Zionists.

     Three Steps to Making Solar Power More Efficient (Edgy Labs) Two banal, one wrong.

    1. Put solar power into the grid instead of storing it
    2. Improve the cells’ efficiency
    3. Create practical infrastructure for solar

    Comment: The last two qualify as “well, d’uh.”

    And the first one seems wrong. We do want to put it into the grid, of course, but it is intermittent so we need better storage.

    What’s right about the article is that solar installation costs are falling and greater use would reduce pollution.