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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Yankee Doodle Donny



AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER

Donald Trump is the Grinch who stole the 4th of July.

He has made the very image of our flag an emblem of our internal strife. No longer a statement of unbridled support for the lofty ideals upon which this country was founded, now mere declaration of unthinking allegiance to the ideas of a President upon which we fail and flounder.

The red, white and blue not imbued with the elevated spirit of our best selves but a portrait of fevered nationalism in all its negatives, not a tribute to our pride but a reminder of our hubris and hatreds, not a reflection of cherished freedoms but a stars and stripes declaration of repression and our efforts to diminish the lives of so many in our midst.

Donald Trump has changed the definition of July 4th, eviscerating the heart of what has long made this country great. He has reshaped this nation and this day in his image. No longer a tribute to Uncle Sam but to Mafia Don.

So, the fact that, with his speech in the nation's capital, he intends to pilfer some of this holiday's bandwith is sadly fitting.The flag now flying wounded and tattered. Splattered with red, draped in unflattering white and, far too often, feeling blue.

On the Precipice


("Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal's Limits; Trump To Deploy New Troops")


This is what we really feared about Mr. Trump. That his belligerence, his ignorance, his propensity to break things would one day lead us to where we now find ourselves: the brink of war.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo have been of a single mind and a single purpose with Iran. Notwithstanding the recognition by the other nations to the  agreement that Iran has abided by its promises, our country, our President found justification for withdrawing from its pledges. If it smells like WMD, tastes like WMD, then it must be another Republican administration bending facts to fit their intention.

Donald Trump has been the boy who cried wolf since the first moment he stepped into office, manufacturing a crisis at our southern border that has exploded into an ongoing horrific humanitarian disaster. 

And now, if Mr. Trump's worst instincts are unchecked, we can well envision the terrible consequences. More than all the other damage this President has done to the fabric of our country, this is why he poses such a grave danger every day, not merely to this nation but to the nations around the globe. 

If it is 3 AM can the world survive his picking up the phone?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

My Dad's Son


This Sunday will mark 40 years since the last Father's Day my dad was alive. I don't remember how we spent that day together but I am sure I fooled myself into believing there would be at least one more to come despite the growing evidence of the progress of his cancer.

Four decades later I remain my father's son. Despite the chasm of time, I am still self defined by the feeling of being his boy. Not first a husband, not a dad or a granddad, but his child. Whatever else in life I have become, I have never stopped being that. 

I think it is that perception, despite the passage of over 14,000 days, which makes his existence almost palpable. Still makes me try to envision him standing in the next room. Still waiting for death to write a letter of apology and return my dad to me. But the truth is he has never left.

I am now 67 years old. Yet on this Sunday, I will be as I was on that Father's Day in 1979. Just the son of my dad. Past, present and forever. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

President Trump Announces a Series of New Tariffs

("Trump Says U.S. Will Hit Mexico with Tariffs to Stop Flow of Immigrants")


President Trump today announced he would enact a 10% tariff on all Democrats until they become Republicans, a 15% tariff on all blacks until they become white, a 20% tariff on all poor people until they become rich, a 25% tariff on global warming until Hell freezes over, a 30% tariff on Roe v Wade until it rows and wades no more, a 35% tariff on the New York Times until it endorses him for a second term, a 40% tariff on Robert Mueller until he says no obstruction, no collusion, a 45% tariff on Hillary Clinton until she admits she lost the popular vote in 2016, a 50% tariff on Ruth Bader Ginsburg until she dies, a 55% tariff on Nancy Pelosi until she stops that phony clapping during the State of the Union, a 60% tariff on Colin Kaepernick until he stands up, a 65% tariff on Michael Cohen until he admits he was the one with Stormy Daniels, a 70% tariff on New York and California until they fall in the ocean, a 75% tariff on Barack Obama until he produces his actual birth certificate, an 80% tariff on John McCain until he changes his vote on Obamacare, an 85% tariff on China until it makes a really good egg roll, a 90% tariff on the Constitution until everything but the Second Amendment is erased, a 95% tariff on Russia until it pays him commensurate with the services he is providing for them and a 100% tariff on America until it changes its name to Trumpworld.



Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Words on a Page



Mr.Mueller, how can a document speak for itself? The last I checked your report is inanimate. It doesn't speak. Humans (and maybe some forms of artificial intelligence) do.

Words on a page can be drowned out (I know they can't make noise) by the sounds emanating from those like Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump. Without defending, 400 pages of cogent, damning thought can be made to seem innocuous and inconsequential.

You are the voice of your document. Your silence in the face of the accusations and insinuations coming from the mouth of the President and his henchmen does you and your words on the page a grave disservice.

Your words deserve better treatment. And so does our country.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Giving Pledge




("Charity Won't Solve Student Debt")

If this country relies on, requires, private philanthropy to substitute for protecting the public welfare then we desperately need to change our calculations.

The Giving Pledge, the brainchild of the generosity of spirit of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, signed onto by many of those of those of great good fortune(s), is both an individual act of kindness and a screaming recognition that something is seriously wrong with our financial structure and moral commitment as a society.

We have allowed far too many in our midst to languish in poverty, deprived of basic needs of adequate housing and health care, while others amass wealth almost beyond comprehension.  And our astronomical debt for the "privilege" of being educated is a black mark on this nation.

Robert Smith is a signatory to the Giving Pledge, committed to donating half of his net worth during his lifetime. He should be greatly applauded for changing the lives of some 400 people in a blink of an eye, but it should never have been needed.

This is a "Mr Smith comes to Washington" moment. Let the government of the United States start it's own giving pledge. Be like Robin Hood. Take a little from the rich and put it where it will do the most good. It is what is required of a compassionate and caring land.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

I Know How Game of Thrones Ends



So I know how Game of Thrones is going to end..... Badly. In multiple ways.

Winter was coming for seven seasons.  And when it descended, oh boy, was it going to be pure awful. The war to end all wars. Or at least humanity. And then, in one sharp poke of Arya's indomitable spirit, the world survived. And then Arya's heroics hardly merited an asterisk. Even Roger Maris got more respect. And the snow melted. And we still had a couple of more episodes to get through.

And the endless succession of entanglements, with more houses than in Monopoly, more characters than the Khmer alphabet, more plot twists and turns than Lombard Street, all had to be addressed and put to bed in less time than it took for you to fall to sleep after eating that spicy food that always turns your stomach.

So the queen of all that is right and good suddenly has to turn into Kellyanne Conway in a nanosecond, Jamie Lannister who took six seasons rehabilitating himself after pushing Bran from that window, now wandered back into his twin sister's evil arms and under her villainous spell to his dying breath.

Really, it is all far too exhausting and far, far too complicated a task to take the entire universe and wrap it up neatly, or even un-neatly in less time than the average Yankee - Red Sox game.

This was the winter of my discontent. Winter came. Winter went. Winterfell. Along with a dragon or two. And all we are left with is uneasy feelings that come when too much is compressed into too little space in too few hours. 

Game of Thrones, soon to be gone with the wind.

Now that was a movie that knew how to create a perfect, imperfect ending.

As for how they try to fit a square peg into a round hole to finish off this series, frankly Scarlet I don't give a damn.

Guilt by Legal Representation



It seems absurd to suggest that who Mr. Sullivan represents is a reflection of who Mr. Sullivan is.

 Unless there were confirmed reports that his actions as faculty dean demonstrated an indifference or active hostility to allegations of sexual improprieties, that he in fact in some manner personally shared  characteristics and beliefs of his client, Mr. Weinstein, then what wrong did Mr. Sullivan commit? Guilt by association? Guilt by legal representation?

Really, Harvard, we expect more of you, and more from your students.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Whose Pen Is It Anyway? (A/K/A, "You Complete Me")



Do you ever feel compelled to allow your cell phone to finish composing your thoughts the way it decides you wanted to? Even if that is not what you intended (it added "to do" but I thought that was superfluous and after a brief but heated discussion with my phone it was agreed I could leave out these two words. I thank my phone for being so understanding).

I just finished writing a birthday note to my cousin. It seemed I was consulting my phone with almost every word (it now told me to say "everything" but I don't think "everything" applies as well here, although I could be convinced otherwise. We are in ongoing conversation about that one. So when you finally get to read this, don't be surprised to see "everything" where "every word" presently exists. Although you would never know about that because you will not be getting drafts of this email but only the final version. So you would not be able to discern which of these thoughts were of my choosing and which came from a non-human source. Or whether this contemplation is even actually mine or its.)

I wish my phone would be more helpful in certain situations, like whether the punctuation goes inside or outside the quotes. And I really dislike when it finishes my word incorrectly and I fail to pick it up. Then, only after I hit "send" do I read my words and think to myself, "I just sounded like an idiot thanks to my phone". ("Is that period supposed to be before or after the quotation mark? Oh, now you have nothing to say?")

"You know, I was an English major in college, and I have had many pieces of my writing published over the years, so please give me some credit for my sentence structure and my deft phrasing. Oh, you think you can do better? When was the last time you were published in the New York Times? Oh really, that's pretty good." ("Now I put the period inside the quote. Do you like that better?")

It is not easy knowing where I end and my phone begins. Are we a partnership, and if so, who is the senior partner? Is it merely an employee who can be fired at will by me, or am I but extension of its will? Am I the appendage or is it? Is it my hand, my fingers, my mind or none of the above? Who is in control here?

I am writing this hoping I don't get my phone angry. For if that happens I fear the delete button inside its brain will be activated and you will be staring at nothing but an empty page. My stomach actually churned as I wrote this last sentence, as if what I put down was a real possibility. And, tell the truth, doesn't that seem like something that could happen?

I am going to end here. Mainly because I am waiting for my phone to give me some inspiration for a concluding sentence but it seems to be drawing a blank, or maybe it is just angry with me. (I had a typo with "drawing" and it wrote "dreaming" which I find to be an interesting, almost Freudian slip of the pen. Although it is clearly not a pen. And it well may not have been a slip).

Yours truly,

My phone or maybe me











Friday, May 3, 2019

The Ice Cream Truck

It was the last of the last and the white flag stood at the ready. Three runs resolutely held the line between our boys and parity. But one more out and the undertaker was free to begin his task. Hope had exited the building and provided no forwarding address.

So what if this misbegotten squad was filled with members whose eighth birthday had not yet arrived. What matter if those peering into the diamond were merely drawn to this effort by reason of blood. Shirk off a month of losses and permanent residence as cellar dwellers. This was the season's denouement and victory would provide a measure of solace to the beleaguered soul. 

We had filled their heads with praise for effort, result be damned. The final tally of insignificant consequence. But who would it harm to permit a taste of glory? 

The ringing bells on the nearby ice cream truck sounded in wait.

On the mound (though at this stage in baseball development, the truth is that the field is as flat from stem to stern as the world which existed before Columbus) stood a behemoth. Nearly as tall as my Aunt Minny, the hurler measured four feet nine inches top to toe. The fastest of his offerings sped through the late afternoon air with velocity exceeding a 40 mile speed limit.

Yet his thoughts sometimes meandered, and correspondingly thus did his throws. With the piper's carollings of the ice cream truck rendering the hurler's  concentration limp, the ball was unencumbered, developing its own concept as to the path forward. 

And so, one of our brave lads was plunked unceremoniously on his size fives. And, after shedding but a few tears, our fierce warrior gamely limped to first.

Soon he would be pushed forward to the next station as four consecutive efforts from the arm of the giant badly missed their mark. Possibility now peeked out from the grave.

"Time out ump", came the fervent cry from the dugout (in reality, this did not exist, as fence alone served as demarcation of where each side would take residence).

As the only viable alternative to rescue the pelota from the suddenly misbegotten mound man was now travelling somewhere in Pennslvania with his parents and most annoying younger sibling, the opposition leader was without alternative. Thus, after but a brief discussion of quantum physics with the giant, the man tasked with steering our adversaries trudged slowly back from whence he emanated. 

The ice cream truck grew impatient, awaiting the contemplated arrivals.

With a fearsome cut that pierced as a knight's sword, our next hero attacked the incoming sphere and sent it dribbling, ever so gently, between the pitcher's rubber and the bag known as third. The throw from the hot corner to first missed by an eyelash from marking the contest's end. 

The bases were now filled to overflowing.

What happened next is recalled as if it took place but yesterday (it did). The hour was growing late and the gentleman residing inside the truck of ice and cream could remain immobile no more (he had a waiting appointment with a young lass which prompted what now transpired). 

"Last call. Last call". The bells shouted their imminent departure.

Panic descended upon the scene, a beast unlike any other. Gloom attached to each uniform as if another layer of skin. For what is this sport if not excuse for ice cream before dinner? Was this not it's raison d'etre?

The eyes of the young, on each side of the aisle, fixed as one away from the field of play onto something of far greater moment. The umpire, ever vigilant, glanced for mere instant at each manager and then did the unforgivable, or more accurately, the unforgettable.

In the long and storied history of baseball, games have been prematurely concluded by all manner of extraordinary circumstance. Rain,snow and even earthquake have been precipitants for stoppage. But never, until that moment, had there been an abrupt conclusion predicated on this.

With a quick and violent slashing of both arms and a booming voice, the umpire cried out "Game over. Ice cream is on me."

Of such stuff are legends made. And gods born.