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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The TENTH Debate and the Coronavirus

I fell asleep half way through last night's festivities. Thank goodness.

If they do a sequel to "Anger Management" this could well be the opening scene. Seven men and women in a simultaneous shrill, fingers pointing, accusations flying debacle, each one straining to be heard, literally and figuratively, above the fray.

What did I learn before nodding off? Loud noises do not keep me awake. Tom Steyer is still running for President. Amy Klobuchar, so she reminds us, is the only one who can get it done. Joe Biden, as he constantly informs us, is the only person who has ever gotten anything done. Pete Buttigieg noticed there was a group of white folks trying to tell people of color how that candidate alone could improve black and brown lives. Bernie Sanders loves good education no matter its country of origin. Elizabeth Warren still really dislikes Mike Bloomberg. And Mike Bloomberg told possibly the least humorous joke ever attempted. Keep your day job Mike.

I passed out just as they were about to announce the solution to the Coronavirus. A deadly plague threatening to destroy a large portion of humanity. And no, for the record, I am not referring to the seven who paraded before the nation last evening. It only felt that way.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

I Am Currently Dead (I Believe This Is A Work Of Fiction)

I am currently dead.

As you are now reading this, it can only mean I have met my demise.

I have passed far too soon for those who found my presence comforting and not nearly soon enough for the few (I can only hope) who felt my presence was a burden on them.

I have lived an existence marked by an extraordinary moment or two surrounded often by much ado about little. I have, in rare bursts, exhibited great strength but far more often been unable to carry my own weight.

I have loved. I have hated (but in moderation). I have been uncompromising and compromising (no, that doesn't sound right at all).

I have left a small footprint on this planet, but maybe that was not environmentally sound.

I have been loud (that was just my natural speaking voice) and quiet, maybe at times when that was not such a good thing.

I have been smart but, oh boy, have I been dumb. I have been right on occasion, but something less than that as a general rule.

I have grown from child to adult to old person without ever really growing up. But maybe that was ok.

I have had a family and a job. One brought immense unbridled joy, the other mainly filled space.

I have seen beginnings and endings, starts and stops, highs and lows and everything that managed to fall between the cracks.

I have felt the warm sun upon my face and the cold wind rattle my bones.

I have often judged others unfairly while too rarely having been critical of my own deficiencies.

I am grateful for the time allotted me upon the stage and it would make me happy if I left behind more smiles than tears.

I am, I mean I was, imperfect.

I am me. And maybe, in some respects, you as well.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Bernie

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Democratic Debate - Mike Bloomberg, Human Punching Bag

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST (THE FIRST PIECE) NOW APPEARS ONLINE IN THE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES (THE PRINT VERSION IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR TOMORROW)

What happened to civility?

As the urgency of the moment became evident, as Super Tuesday sits at the doorstep, as Michael Bloomberg and his billions threaten to change the political landscape, a war broke out on the Las Vegas stage this evening.

Elizabeth Warren attacked seemingly everything that moved, her suddenly sinking campaign clearly deciding that being "tough" was the appropriate manner to get noticed, to breathe life into her candidacy.

Mr. Bloomberg was pummeled by all, his wealth, his stop and frisk policy, his non- disclosure settlements all fodder for endless very loud criticism. At times he appeared flustered, a bit befuddled and overmatched. It was not a stellar introduction to the country.

Mayor Pete and Senator Klobuchar standing next to each other and going toe to toe. Even Elizabeth Warren getting nasty with her friend Amy.

Senator Sanders repeating his mantra over and over, when not denigrating the former Mayor of New York City.

And Mr. Biden,well, he was there trying to be as coherent and focused as possible.

It made for a more entertaining evening for certain. Whether it was actually a debate was debatable.


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("Despite His Billions, Bloomberg Busts")

He was certainly awful. While those in his corner may have tried to stop the bleeding suggesting it has been a decade since he last appeared in this arena and it takes time to shake off the rust, he was full of holes and often seemingly defenseless. If this were a Vegas prizefight, it would have been a first round knockout.

But Mr. Bloomberg can take some solace in the following: In California, over a million have participated by now in early voting.  Many others have already made up their minds in favor of the former NYC Mayor. And, how many Dems even bothered to tune in to see his flaws so concretely exposed? 

So while dismal is far too glowing a word for the Bloomberg debacle, it is still to be seen if this performance will serve to derail a campaign built on the back of a $60 billion dollar fortune. 

Donald Trump has proven you can fool a lot of the people all of the time. Michael Bloomberg, even with a losing hand in Vegas, is betting big that Mr. Trump is not the only one who can win at that game.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Pandemonium

They treat me as an equal, a peer. It is a great badge of honor for one, like me, of advancing years. Some might consider it in far less flattering terms. That, I would advise those naysayers, is their problem.

"Uncle Robert, the Yankees stink." It was a greeting unlike others for its succinctness and clarity. The six year old was the first to advise me of the failings of my beloved team, followed immediately by a verbatim repetition from the four year old. Yes, this was surely the beginning of an endless fusillade.

If you believe that the lessons learned young are soon forgotten, I stand as Exhibit A of the fallacy of that proposition. When the boys were just, well, tinier, I had engaged them in a sustained round of silliness at an otherwise somber family gathering. 

I was forevermore branded by these two for exactly what I am, a wholly immature being, fully lacking in an understanding of the distinction between adult and child. I was dismal in my role in this play, comprehending none of the subtlety and nuance of my position. The power of my station was completely lost on me.

The boys had dragged their parents, my niece and nephew, to our home for an overnight stay. For the boys, this house was, at least when they were in my presence, a cross between "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Cat in the Hat." 

"Why do you have no hair, Uncle Robert? Why is your belly fat? The Rangers stink." All of the ways that parents inform their young ones they cannot act, all of the restrictions placed upon them so they grow into well intentioned, well behaved members of society, none of those constraints existed in this universe.

While staying with us, the boys were required to deal with other, more appropriate persons. Not merely their mom and dad but their baby cousin, not yet one and a half, and assorted other larger humans. The not yet one and a half year old proved particular challenge, for though the boys treated her with affection and regard, she sometimes coveted their belongings. The four year old's stuffed doggy became a particular focus of her attention. Leading to a bit of a sulk by the four year old on the chair in the living room.

Of course, I had the ready solution. I sat on him. Which caused the problem to disappear instantly. And created a greater problem. An incessant request by both boys that I sit on both of them at the same moment. At every moment.

I am a master of escalation. Able to take the smallest ember and create a conflagration. And so it was throughout the boy's stay. All the adults shaking their heads and biting their tongues as I made everything worse by my mere presence.

And when finally it was time for the boys to leave, their Mom apologized for their being, well exactly what I had basically compelled them to be. For the reality is they were anything but bad boys, sweet, cuddly, forever smiling and filled with a joy that permeated from head to toe. Except when I unleashed their inner demons.

Hurry back boys. I had a great time. I just hope insurance covers the damage.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Pete Rose




Pete Rose was known to be a serial  philanderer, a disloyal friend, a compulsive gambler who never fully paid off his debts and who surrounded himself with questionable characters. He fought the charges levelled against him by Major League Baseball, denying any wrongdoing and suing Commissioner Bart Giamatti claiming he had prejudged his matter. He later even spent five months in jail for income tax evasion.

He was, in many ways, not a very good man. But he was, without question, a helluva ballplayer, admired for his longevity and grit as much as his skill. Running to first base after a walk. Giving every ounce of effort every single day. He was "Charley Hustle."

This sport has witnessed George Steinbrenner, who agreed to a lifetime ban for paying someone $40,000 to smear one of Steinbrenner's own players, Dave Winfield. But that ban later turned into a two year suspension.

And seen Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and many others enhance their already considerable talents through rampant use of steroids. But they are still eligible for selection into the Hall. A-Rod, perhaps the most prolific offender, given the harshest sentence, a one year suspension, now back in good graces with the sport and more popular than ever before.

Pete Rose rubbed baseball the wrong way, his personal ugliness and hubris undoubtedly exacerbating factors in his expulsion. His apparent lack of adequately expressed remorse keeping him from reentering the game.

But there is no evidence he attempted to "throw" games, no evidence he bet against his team. While Mr. Rose is certainly a man with many blemishes, his wrongs did not and do not deserve the death penalty. 31 years is more than enough.

Reinstate him.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Words That Rhyme With Impeachment



It was around four minutes into the Republican defense in the Senate of Donald J Trump that my mind began to wander into areas dark as night. This was before the Dershowitz comedy hour, and least in my mind's eye I see it in that order, whether or not that is so. And thus, to stop from becoming a porcupine, or maybe a whistle blower, I had to find a way to distract myself. 

First I tried to find as many words as I could, of at least four letters, from the word impeachment. I headed directly to each peach. Which got me started thinking about "each peach pear plum, I spy Tom Thumb."  Which led me to thinking about my granddaughter. Which is a very fine thing to think about.

Next I decided to study the derivation of the word impeachment. I think it is French, from Latin and has something to do with stopping a foot, if I am able to comprehend adequately. Notice I did not write "to adequately comprehend" as I still believe it improper to split an infinitive.

This brought me to a consideration of English as it was taught to me back in the days when a dollar was a dollar and I believed you were old if you were 39. Anyway, we had to study trees, not those outside but the ones that helped us differentiate adverbs from adjectives and Republicans from house plants.

But all of this only got me a few more minutes into the argument as to why the crown on the President's head did not mean he could eat pizza with a knife and fork. And thus I began the search for words that rhyme with impeachment.

All I could locate was multi word phrases that nearly rhyme. Composed of two, three or four words lumped together in clear violation of my intent, Revere Beach, Berlin Speech, violin piece all ring hollow. Which made me think of Sleepy Hollow and headless horsemen, the four horsemen, Notre Dame and Rudy. Which was a pretty good movie, at least as sports movies go.

But speaking of Rudy, how is it that Mr. Guiliani is not yet under indictment in the Southern District of New York? Which would be pretty ironic don't you think? Of course you do, so why in the name of everything sane am I writing down these words rather than being forced at gunpoint, thanks to the Second Amendment, to listen to one second more of someone saying something that sounds like English but can't be because it makes absolutely no sense if it means that Donald J. Trump did not do what he did?

That might have been the longest sentence I ever wrote and speaking of long sentences I wish they would "lock him up" and throw away the key.

But I know such thinking is not productive for the health of my soul and so I turn again to positive thoughts of each peach and children's books and my granddaughter. 

Which is a very good thing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Shame on Rob Portman. And on the New York Times






I do not need a Rob Portman spouting the Republican mantra on the alleged failures of the House to make a case, the minor irregularities in the President's conduct and the Senate's obligation to acquit.  

Spare us more untruths. We know the matter in the House was constrained by the President's dictate to those under his control not to testify and not to turn over one single document. Nevertheless, the information presented was thin like Donald Trump's rear end. It was replete with testimony from many dedicated lifetime public servants telling a tale not of a small lapse in judgment but a wrong committed that struck at the very heart of what constituted a high crime and misdemeanor. Next, 51 Senators, including Mr. Portman refused to hear from a single new witness, or examine one new shred of paper. Nada, rien, zip, zero.

Mr. Portman then dismisses this issue entirely, redirecting our focus away from this train wreck and asking us to believe in his bi-partisan spirit and that of his Republican colleagues. 

This is nothing but pure, unadulterated propaganda that should never be given a platform such as yours. Where is your paper's integrity?

Shame on you Mr. Portman. And on the New York Times.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Week That Wasn't (for the Dems)


This is a dream week for President Trump. On Monday, the Democrats handed him the gift of the gang that couldn't count straight, the Iowa caucus a lesson in how to botch a process which was not orchestrated by Vladimir Putin. Tonight, Mr. Trump got an opportunity to give America his version of his presidency, filled with mistruths and moments to pull on heartstrings, scrubbed clean of his personal failings and political missteps. And then tomorrow, the icing on the cake, as a Republican Senate will announce there was nothing to see in the actions taken by Mr. Trump regarding Ukraine, that he had a pure heart and the nation's interest, certainly not his own, in mind when he kept $391 million in his back pocket. No mens rea, no evil intent, no harm, no foul.

This is the vision Mr. Trump hopes to take right into November. The Democrats tripping over themselves, the country on a path to glory beyond all previously known, the President a man of honor and dedication to truth (well maybe not), justice (oops) and the American way (as redefined by Donald Trump).

For the Democrats, these are the days that appear hardest. The times when the task to unmask and unseat a despot, a leader who is always but a moment removed from the next self made crisis or the next near destruction of the essence of our democracy, seems a Sisyphean task. 

But know this. This week will pass and the pendulum will swing in the other direction. Mr. Trump will assuredly provide ample opportunity for more scorn and criticism of his actions. And the Democrats will find a leader from among those remaining in the race to challenge the lies of the President, to call out his moral hypocrisies, to show this country there is a better way.

Do not lose hope. But, at least for the next few days, I think it best if you just take shelter under the covers. For Dems, this is the week that wasn't. It is not going to be pretty.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Papa



"Papa" she says.

I am pretty sure she has a good vocabulary for her age, but it is hard to know for certain, since I do not have others similarly situated to stand next to her and chat for comparison. And also because most words are incomplete and it takes the wisdom of a parent to interpret these sounds.

But "papa" has a clarity to it that is like no other word I have ever heard. And with those two small syllables everything else disappears.

"Papa" she says and it is impossible for me to do everything I would wish for her.

"Papa" she says and she knows she is fiercely protected.

"Papa" she says and she knows she is deeply loved.

"Papa" she says and she knows that not a day will go by when I will not be there by her side.

"Papa" she says and she knows that I will pick her up as long as there is strength in my body and capacity in my mind.

"Papa" she says and I imagine all the greatness that resides within her.

"Papa" she says and I can't imagine a life without her.

"Papa" she says and I promise all the promises I have.

"Papa" she says and I think, I know, that no other four letters have ever been so important.

"Papa" she says and suddenly there are no other words in the world.

And to all the other "papas", you know exactly what I mean. For you have experienced that jolt of electricity, that surge of passion, that love emanating from the deepest part of your soul that you didn't fully recognize still resided within you. You have been forever altered by one word from one little human being still trying to figure out what it is all about.

For me, whatever other vocabulary follows in the days and years to come from this grandchild of mine, it can never match the sound that has now emerged.

"Papa" she says.

"Papa."