Thursday, December 28, 2017


I thought I would finish this year of angst filled blogs by stepping away from the edge of the abyss. I wanted to send a note of thanks to all of you who have put up with me not only this year but for nearly a decade.

I know my thoughts can be repetitive, that there is a fine line between dogged pursuit and obsession. I know there is an endless supply of other voices for you to turn to, a virtual world at your fingertips and that there are millions of others more clever, more precise, more of so many positive qualities I do not possess.

But still there are those who not only tolerate me but seek me out and for that I am  in your debt. You give me the motivation to put my ideas on the page, to think more clearly about what I feel, to try to more accurately decipher a world that is often perplexing.

I understand my failures far outweigh my successes. I know that many more walk away, disinterested or worse, than remain. I apologize to those who feel their time has been wasted in my company.

But this piece is not written to them, but to you. Thank you for letting me into your homes, your heads and hopefully your hearts. My promise to you is to try to do better tomorrow and in the tomorrows to come. I can only hope to be worthy of the faith you have shown in me.

And so, as this often bizarre year comes to a close I offer you the one present I can for 2018: my best effort.

Speak to you soon.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Sky is Falling

("The End of Trump and the End of Days")

We live in a land of hyperbolic frenzy where it seems near impossible not to be swallowed up by the carnival atmosphere. But Mr. Bruni is correct. Not everything signals the imminent collapse of democracy. Not every day is the end of the world as we know it.

Mr. Trump has exhausted us with a constant barrage of inexcusable comments and an inexhaustible supply of missteps. And in the process we have lost much of our collective capacity to distinguish wheat from chaff. Bad morphs forever into the worst ever.

We have caught the President's disease of turning small into large, like his proclamation that a few hirings at Carrier or the issuance of a few bonus checks after the passage of the tax "cuts"  were emblematic of a much grander, albeit non-existent, change in the country. Or one death in San Francisco as a justification for mistreatment of millions.

We cannot lose sight of the big facts and greater truths that make this presidency everything it is not: destruction of relationships around the globe, attempted environmental decimation, authoritarian acts to diminish the media and first amendment rights, unconstitutional and ill conceived actions to thwart immigration, the intentional decision to neuter his own agencies like the FBI and the DOJ, to name but a few of the more egregious disasters.

There are enough fault lines in this administration to crack it open like the San Andreas fault. But if we insist on focusing on each little fissure, we face the real risk of missing the big hole right in front of our face.

The sky may be falling, just not everywhere at once.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017



There has been much discussion on the word of the year. I believe that word should be diminished.

In 2017 we have witnessed Mr.Trump's destructive comments on North Korea, on Israel, on NATO, on NAFTA on the United Nations, on the Paris accord, on the deal with Iran, on the very idea of immigration.

In 2017 we have watched as Mr. Trump filled the seat rightfully that of Judge Garland with Justice Gorsuch, and stacked the Federal bench with those most willing to do his bidding.

In 2017 we have seen the gutting of our State Department leaving posts woefully understaffed, our diplomatic capabilities in tatters, impotent.

In 2017 we have recoiled as our environmental laws have been overturned and we have forced each state to be protector of our lands and the very air we breathe.

In 2017 we have been informed that our rich are not rich enough, our poor can get still poorer and the sick ever sicker.

In 2017 we learned how tenuous was our hold on the truth, how unrepentant the President was for his mountain of bold faced lies, how vulnerable the media to the unrelenting attack of the occupier of the Oval Office and his merry band of henchmen.

In 2017 we have been horrified as the party in power shut its eyes and genuflected before the most pervasive,  pernicious, immoral excuse for a leader this country has ever witnessed.

In 2017 we have been outmaneuvered and outplayed by China and Russia as they have watched and waited for the next inevitable opening.

In 2017 we have heard a President cannibalize his own from the FBI to the Department of Justice as he clawed to protect himself above all else.
In 2017 we have, in our eyes and those around the globe, in so many arenas and on so many levels, been nothing so much as diminished.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Night Before Christmas 2017

Twas the night before Christmas
When suddenly appeared
A creature before me
Not full with white beard

But a strange shade of orange
His face all aglow
But not from the sun
The wind or the snow

A nightmare his presence
Repulsed by his sight
Why come you before me
On this holy night

I come bearing tales
He said with a smile
And like it or not
I'll stay for a while

And so with my children 
Safely tucked in their bed
He reached up and pulled out 
Some thoughts from his head

He told me of high walls
Of the naughty not nice
He told me of laws
He tried to pass thrice

He told me of small birds
The ones he called tweets
He told me of Dreamers
Who I could not meet

He told me of Spicer 
Of Conway and Flynn
He told me that those
Were the ones without sin

He told me how taxing
This turned out to be
He told of big presents
For a few, just not me

My stocking was empty
And so it would stay
For he was not Santa
Was all he would say 

He talked and he talked
But it just made me mad
No love lived within him
And that made me sad

What kind of Christmas
Will this ever be
I  pray to dear God
Get him far, far from me

And then just like that
Up the chimney he rose
His fat ass was gone
I could just see his toes

Stuck for a second
Then he pulled far away
My nightmare was over
At least for the day

And so on the night before Christmas next year
If there is a chance for some true Christmas cheer
I'll stuff up the chimney and turn off the lights
And hope that the orange man's nowhere in sight

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Congress Who Stole Christmas

("Tax Bill Hysteria")

So maybe the sky didn't fall when Mr. Trump signed the tax bill into existence. No locust, fiery hail, boils or frogs. God didn't decide enough was enough and turn the President to stone. But that doesn't mean this was not an apocalyptic disaster.

This legislation marks the end of Christmas, not its beginning. In the season of brotherhood towards all it stands as unqualified statement of man's inhumanity to man. Mr. Stephens can suggest otherwise, but he fully comprehends in the recesses of his cranium that the Republican soul at work here was not filled with compassion, not focused on lifting up, not representing this country in its finest hour but diminishing it in one of its saddest.

When the true effects of this subterfuge are eventually felt there will be more poverty, more sickness, more suffering. We did not form this Union for such malevolent purpose nor send those we appointed to the Hill to be creators of misery on our behalf.

Shame on those who pretend there was some higher intention at work here. God knows you can do better than this. And more importantly, you know it as well. Don't take pride in what you have done. 

You are the Congress who stole Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Christmas Tale - 2017

This is the Christmas nightmare entitled "Screwed."

It stars Little Fingers Trump as the tax man and features poor and crippled Chip as the boy in grave danger of losing his health care and his health.

The story occurs virtually in the dark. We see almost nothing, only hearing voices of the choir singing of Neverland, a place that does not exist where being a reverse Robin Hood works out just swell for the have nots.

There is a cameo by Houdini who makes the lower class disappear.

It is a jumbled mess of a tale as Little Fingers' nose gets ever and ever longer while his lies take him to Pinnochioland.

On Christmas morning Chip awakens to find a lump of coal in his stocking. It is stamped "made in the new mines of Pennsylvania thanks to Little Fingers."

Most of the audience is befuddled, confused, depressed and scared by the unfolding horror. They have come seeking a Christmas miracle of goodness and redemption but have found only a stinking universe filled with hot air and alms for the rich.

As the play concludes, the choir serenades all to a tune that sounds much like Silent Night. Only this one goes "all's not swell, nothing's right."

Ho, ho, holy crap.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Anything But the Truth

("Trump's Lies vs. Obama's")

When the goal is not for the narrative to fit the facts, but the facts to fit the narrative, you get the death of truth, commonly known as the presidency of Donald Trump.

We recognize that politicians are politicians not saints, even President Obama. Putting a slant on reality is an essential tool of the trade. But Mr. Trump does not stretch or bend logic, he ignores its physics. To make a comparative analysis of the actions of this President and his predecessor on the matter of prevaricating is to bring the concept of false equivalency to a new low (or high possibly).

We now wake each morning bracing ourselves against the latest attack on reality, girding ourselves against another early morning assault on our brains. We are grateful when Mr. Trump is silent. How can that be the best we can expect?

Adding up the lies that emanate from the mouth and fingers of Donald Trump is like counting the number of grains of sand on the beach. After a while you just have to give up trying.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Of Weddings and Funerals

There is a symmetry to our existence, a coming and going, a beginning and end, a greeting and a farewell. And then there is everything in between.

There are definitely phases we pass in and out of every few years, seeming each time to create a new set of clothing out of whole cloth. And I am entrenched in one now.

Today marks the fourth funeral I am attending in rapid succession after a summer of an equal number of weddings. Tis the season to be jolly, or not.

I am not big on paying attention to my attire, as anyone who has even a passing interest in my existence can attest. Thus while I have my celebrating life ensemble and my mourning death one I fear the two are remarkably alike, or maybe even one and the same.

And really, like my choice of ensemble, the line between life and death tends to blur. Those who I have recently come to bid adieu all resided on this earth since, well, let's just say before FDR was FDR. So these are really occasions where sadness is on the periphery. Memories and laughter abound, food is plentiful and the time in many ways passes more easily then trying to shout over the music of the band.

Strangely, in some bizarre universe, given the choice of competing alternatives, heading to a funeral doesn't seem so bad. In the better ones, you learn an interesting tidbit or two about the newly dearly departed. She was funnier then you ever thought. He was certainly a handsome young man and a far more generous person then you ever imagined. And, as an added bonus, if you don't like eating dinner at midnight, that is not an issue you have to fret about.

Don't get me wrong, I choose life over death every day. To know the young couple standing before me is eager to begin their journey into the unknown is exciting and wonderful. It is a time of unending hope and possibilities (which unfortunately cuts both ways).

My daughter married this year and it was without a doubt one the most joyous moments I could ever imagine. It filled my heart to overflowing. But also  this year my mom passed away at 99. Her funeral and the mourning period thereafter was, for me at least, much more pleasure than pain, more smiles than tears and more cookies, cakes, lox and bagels, good wishes and warm thoughts then I thought possible.

Life is made of diametric opposites, clear lines where things start and stop, where first breaths are taken and last ones expelled, where there is only a future or merely a past. But the reality is there can be more in common then not with the start and the stop, with happy days and sad ones, with highs and lows, with what is and what will be.

And you should rest easy knowing there are bagels and lox awaiting all along the way.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Harrison Smith Kane

He was born yesterday, seven pounds three ounces, beautiful and totally unaware of what a lucky boy he is.

He is my grand nephew. I have not met him yet but I love him. I love him for many reasons but one is that he has a perfect middle name. 

My mom, Dorothy, was one of five Smith children. When she passed earlier this year, the last of that spectacular group was gone. And a little of what made me, made my sister, who we are seemed lost as well.

But Harrison Smith Kane has informed us that I was mistaken. That through his veins runs the blood of those who came before, that the Smiths will always be remembered, that the values they demonstrated remain, that Harrison stands (or will soon enough) as testament and tribute to a greatness that did not die with my mom's last breath.

Harrison Smith Kane will make his own way in life, make his own mark and create his own legacy. I am most thankful for his presence, most eager to see where the future takes him but first I want to thank him for the lasting gift he has already bestowed upon me, upon us.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No Moore

So this is how Donald Trump, with a lot of help from Roy Moore, can impact our land. How a state which has forever been the deepest shade of red is, at least in this moment, the color of the most radiant cloudless sky. And so the Alabama crimson tide has turned, while we wonder aloud if this is mere aberration or the birth of a new nation.

We should not be misled, for even with the worst of candidates supported by the worst of presidents, even with many in his own party calling him unfit to be elected, even in this moment of national awakening on the issue of sexual assault, Roy Moore quite nearly became the choice of a majority of those who cast their ballot.

But there is no mistaking that this win by Doug Jones had meaning. The malignancy that is Mr. Trump has spread disease throughout his party, and his fingerprints are all over this loss. As much as Roy Moore suffered defeat tonight so did Donald Trump.

This is the first night in over a year, since that terrible Tuesday last November, where there is a glimmer of hope that the hell we have all endured, the hatred, the bigotry, the small minds and empty hearts may finally have their day of reckoning.

Our thanks to those voters in Alabama who have cast off the allegiances so deeply ingrained in them and announced to all of us that enough is enough. 

Tonight was a victory for the soul of America.

Monday, December 11, 2017

And the Award Goes To

Nominees for worst actor/actress in a supporting role:

10.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders - she gives new meaning to chutzpah.

9.  Betsy DeVos - everyday is another lesson in why a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

8.  Rick Perry - he should have never remembered that third department he wanted to decimate.

7. Ben Carson - he was right that this was a job he was not qualified to perform.

6. Anthony Scaramucci - it does take a certain unique talent to get fired from a position even before you officially begin.

5. Kellyanne Conway - she may be the odds on favorite for her contribution of alternative facts to the lexicon

4. Steve Bannon- he molded Mr. Trump from a mere harmless lump of clay into a weapon of mass destruction

3. Jared Kushner - how can one man with so little training have a voice on so many subjects (this appears to be a family trait).

2.  Ivanka Trump - repeat number 3, except insert woman for man.

1. Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos - maybe this group will soon be receiving the highest award possible - the One No Trump for bringing a presidency to its knees.

There are so many more who are eminently qualified for this award. I apologize if you have been slighted. I know my personal favorite did not even make the list, Sean Spicer, an idiot's delight. 

To all nominated : keep up the the bad work, you richly deserve this recognition

Friday, December 8, 2017


("Franken Offers Resignation, and a Parting Shot at Trump")

It is not "ironic", as Mr. Franken suggests, that he has now been compelled to vacate his post while Mr. Trump, who has without question committed a lifetime of far greater sins, remains firmly entrenched. It is moronic.

Mr. Trump is the embodiment of depravity, willing to do or say whatever suits his fancy, seemingly freed from ethical and moral constraints. His boorish behavior, his outlandish statements, his indifference to truth, are not aberrations but his soul and heartbeat.

He has methodically and consistently treated women with contempt and leveled abuse, both verbal and physical, upon them without care or reprisal. But his capacity to inflict pain extends far beyond this arena, swallowing up the poor, the disabled, the immigrant,  virtually anyone and everyone who is not rich, white and kneeling at his throne. 

He is the living antithesis of the statue that sits upon the Hudson. His is an existence spent without compassion, without understanding, without giving, without any of the qualities that make one good, that make one great. 

And so Mr. Franken departs even as Mr. Trump looks for his next victim and Roy Moore awaits his impending election to the same body that, in virtual unison, has demanded the junior Senator from Minnesota stand down.

This is not intended as full throated defense of Mr. Franken, but rather as indictment of those who remain unscathed by their breaches.

"Ironic"? No, it is beyond sickening. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake (Part Two)

("A Baker's First Amendment Rights")

Pure nonsense.

We should be concerned with protecting the rights not of the white cake baker who is offended by the notion of same sex marriage, but rather with those who are members of a suspect class of persons who have been the historical target of unremitting hatred and prejudice.

This country was founded on the principle that all people, women as well as men, gays as well as straights, black as well as white, were created equal. And if we allow our rulings to advocate against that precept then we are indeed failing in our essential purpose.

This is not the story of an aggrieved baker, but of two men hungry not for food but mere acceptance as equal members of our society.

Let them eat cake.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake

("Even the Bernini of Buttercream Has to Serve Gay Couples")

If he were not a builder of cakes but of homes could he refuse to sell his "creation" to a gay couple, or a black couple, or an interracial one? 

Are we back on the bus, or at the restaurant counter in 2017? Is there a separate water fountain or bathroom for those who do not fit neatly into one's concept of who belongs as equal members of and participant's in our society?

This couple was seeking a cake, not the blessing, of the proprietor. And for the money exchanged, they were not receiving a morsel of love, or even respect. Just the right to be considered as unimportant as anyone else.

To be or not to be, that is the question.

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Cut to the quick.
Cut to the bone.
Cuts on the sick.
Cuts on their homes.

Cut to the chase.
Cut to the core.
Cuts on their face.
Blood on the floor.

Give me my cut
Give me my due
Give me enough but
Nothing for you

Cut out the nonsense
Cut out the lies
Cut off the weak
Cut off their cries

Give me my cut
Give to us few
Give all I want 
For them not a sou

Cut to the shot
Cut on my cue
Cut out the rot
To whom nothing is due

Give me my cut
Give me what's right
Give me a beacon
I'll cut off their light

Cut off the many
Just make them pay
Don't give them any
It's mine anyway

Cut off their hope
Cut out their heart
Just give me my cut
I need a fresh start

Cut them all down
Like so many trees
They make no sound
When they cease to be

Cut them a break
No that's not the way
Give them no voice
They've nothing to say

Cut to the quick.
Cut to the bone.
It makes me sick.
To call this my home.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Numbers on a Page

How does one measure incalculable loss?

1.5 trillion, 13 million, as though disembodied from their own reality.

There is an obscenity hidden as figures dance across our screens, enter our minds but then disappear in an avalanche of distractions and distortions.

It seems but an abstraction, no matter the doom and disaster prophesied for the many who will certainly feel the wrath of this abomination. 

24,000 is today's calculus on the dizzying ascent of the stock market. Meanwhile, the human cost of legislation wrapped in cruelty, moving inexorably forward, does not fit neatly into the equation.

A loss of morality as acceptable collateral damage. All really nothing more than numbers on a page.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Letter on a Letter

From time to time I receive a letter from someone complimenting me on a piece of mine that has been published either in the New York Times or the Record, a Bergen County newspaper. Each catches me by surprise, that someone I do not know would take the time and effort to locate me and thank me for my words (fortunately, I have not had a note from someone voicing their displeasure with me),

But today, something came in the mail which was different. Instead of my indicating why this is so, I will let the author speak for himself:

"RE: January 30, 2017 New York Times Letter To The Editor

Mr. Nussbaum:

I hope this letter finds its way to you as I have been meaning to write it since I read your letter almost a year ago. It is simply masterful.

Like you, I do not recognize the America my father went to war for, the America that people from different countries came to and shared their laughter, recipes, trade skills, language, work ethic, and personal pride, nor the country that - in your words - displays such a "depraved indifference to others' welfare",

Mr. Nussbaum, thank you for your letter and my apologies for the delay in writing to you. You inspire me in many ways.

Best personal regards"


Here is the piece to which the writer referred:

I am an immigrant.

I may have been born in the United States but this country is foreign to me. 

This land is not my land.

I do not share it's beliefs, I do not countenance it's actions,  I do not even recognize it's methods.

I am not an American, not this America..

The country I lived in did not treat human beings with such utter contempt, did not 
display a depraved indifference to other's welfare, did not inflict such needless pain and suffering.

There are no words that can fully describe my alienation from the unconscionable mandate that now brands millions of people as unworthy of entry upon our shores. The very heart of this nation is being torn out. 

This is not who I am. This is not who we are. I am a stranger in a foreign land .

I am an immigrant.

Taking a Shot at Gun Violence

("Oh Lord, Now the Gun Thing's Back")

We are all complicit in murder. We have accepted the notion that guns are a rational part of our everyday universe. A nation under attack.

Armed and dangerous.

Instead of arguing for nuance and tweaks, let us call for a new dialogue, one in which guns have no part in our society. Do we seriously want protection for all? Get the guns out of everyone's hands. Let us not bargain on semi-automatics, on concealed carry, on background checks or domestic abuse. Let us instead have a conversation about our disease, our obsession, our insanity.

We don't want to hear that countries that have disarmed are immeasurably safer than we are? Are we made of different material? Our are brains incapable of adapting to a new paradigm?

We can stop the killing if we have courage, if we do not accept what we suggest we cannot change, but rather fight for that change to become reality. Ask a generation ago if same sex marriage would ever be the law of the land.

This the not the 1800's, and this is not the Wild West. We don't need a gun to our head, or a holster on our side anymore.

A Failed Nuclear Test

("Is North Korea's Nuclear Test a Sign of Hope?")

Threaten? Always. Negotiate? Never.

Such is the proven history of this bombastic leader. No, not that one. The other one. Trump.

The seven nation treaty with Iran. Our commitment to NATO, to NAFTA. The world wide agreement to environmental clean up. Going, going and gone.

Mr. Trump builds not trust but enmity, walls (imagined) not bridges. He does not create bonds but breaks them.

China, Russia. His rhetoric has gained us nothing. North Korea, Iran. What benefits, what progress has been made during Mr.Trump's tenure in office?

The art of the deal? Like everything else in Mr. Trump's universe, this is but a fiction. There has not been one moment of political triumph, merely a staggering amount of spoken or tweeted nonsense. The smell of success. Not even a whiff.

There is little reason to believe this administration capable of serious protracted discussion, leading to significant resolution with any foreign power. And on a matter as fragile and fraught with pitfalls as this?

The little Rocket Man and Big Bird k-i-s-s-i-n-g? Just a failed nuclear test for Mr. Trump, an explosion waiting to occur.

Monday, November 27, 2017

First Do No Harm

("Senators Face Test of Their Own Principles")

We keep reading the same names, McCain, Corker and Flake, who have been openly hostile to the President and the attempted plundering of the fundamentals of our democracy, Murkowski and Collins whose protection of their constituents has outweighed the pressures from the White House. These few who have said that victory at any cost is not victory.

But there is no contemplation that defeat of this abomination of a tax bill will come easily. For it is the role of each party to make things happen, not to be in stasis, not to let bad enough alone. It is how any person in power, Republican or Democrat, envisions their duty in shaping this nation.

And thus there is an immense pull towards action. No matter the personal animus of McCain, Corner and Flake to everything Trump, no matter the real fear of Murkowski or Collins for the effect of this legislation on those entrusted to their care.

The coming vote is indeed a test of courage, as competing voices speak loudly in the heads and to the hearts of those who contemplate the future path of their country and their party. And I suggest that the Hippocratic oath applies to all those in whose hands rests the health, literal and figurative, of this our beleaguered enterprise.

First do no harm.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

On My Mom's Return for Thanksgiving

Yesterday's e-mail from JD Powers to Dorothy Nussbaum:

"Tell us what you think about your recent meeting with Becker Funeral Home"

Here is how I would like to reply:

Thank you so much for your inquiry. A critical aspect of any business is following up with potential clients. Unfortunately, my mother declines your invitation to respond.

Well, declines is probably not the correct word. Declines would connote a choice, a decision not to do something that one could do if they so wished. And sadly for Dorothy Nussbaum that is not a possibility.

You see, my mom passed away on March 25 of this year. And unless there is something you want to tell me, she has remained dead ever since that date.

Maybe I take "recent" too literally. Maybe you merely meant "once" as in sometime in the last 100 years. And if that was your actual intention with your words, then maybe your email was not wrong, merely too late. 

My mom survived to 99, but couldn't hang on to January 8, 2018 to crack the century mark. And thus, maybe your correspondence was but wishful thinking.

Today is the first Thanksgiving without her and so she has been particularly present in my thoughts in recent days. And maybe all you meant to accomplish in your email was to return the recently departed back into my life for one more chuckle.

And if that was your mission, you were wildly successful.

I give thanks on this day for many things. I can now add your "erroneous" solicitation to the list. It brought a smile to my face and my mom into my heart.

I wish you and all your family, living and dead, a most happy holiday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Game of Thrones

And now, back to real life. 

After binge watching endless hours of unspeakable wrongdoing, sexual assaults, treachery and betrayal, I return to our regularly scheduled program. 

My mind is not nearly facile enough to properly catalogue everything that I have recently taken in. It is a mentally exhausting process and it leaves me almost disoriented as I stare at the screen and try to recall all the cascading horror without each act just being lost in the morass. And then there is Game of Thrones.

Winter is upon us. The landscape is filled with enemies, real or perceived. The Wall has crumbled. Friend or foe near impossible to distinguish. Truth and lies inextricably entwined. Danger can be found in every house and we are but one misstep from the apocalypse. And then there is Game of Thrones.

The final season will take some time to arrive. Until that day comes we are counseled to be patient, and are left to imagine whether there is survival on the other side of this cold and brutally harsh reality. And then there is Game of Thrones.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Guillotine


("Franken Should Go")

It sickens me to think that Al Franken, by all apparent measure, a decent person and dedicated and serious politician, would end up on the trash heap while Donald Trump, who possesses none of the good qualities of Mr. Franken, remains unscathed despite a lifetime of aberrant behavior.

There must be degrees of sexual impropriety, Republican or Democrat, new or old, when we consider and before we condemn. There must also be context. Mr. Franken's egregious act seems, for the moment at least, isolated. It was not done as a private attack, but a public joke, ill conceived as it was.

There are Anthony Weiner's, Roy Moore's, Donald Trump's, Kevin Spacey's, Harvey Weinstein's,  even Bill Clinton's. Men whose lives are replete with episodes of wrongdoing, that speak to a pervasive corrosiveness, that demonstrate time and again a failing at the core, who commit assault as the very nature of who they are.

But that does not appear to be Al Franken. He seems a comedian who seriously stepped over the line and for that he has admitted he violated another and gave his mea culpa.

For me, it is a matter of degree. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. Don't create a frenzy in which everything is a first degree crime. Whether it is Al Franken or some Republican politician for whom I have no love, let us use our better judgment in deciding who deserves the guillotine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Imagine there's no Donald
No one to tell us lies
No tweets that blow up
No talk of Russian ties
Imagine all one people
We're immigrants,you and I

Imagine there's no Donald
No need our plaintive cry
No war is threatened
Health care if we try
Imagine all one people
Just think how it could  be... 

And I say we're all Dreamers
Yes each and everyone
A better life awaits us
When Donald's day is done

Imagine there's no Donald
No false as truth disguised
No rich just get richer
While others can't get by
Imagine all one people
As it was meant to be

And I say we're all Dreamers
Yes each and everyone
A better life awaits us
When Donald's day is done

Monday, November 13, 2017

An Unqualified Success

("Siding With the Enemy")

If we hoped that having Mr. Trump out of the country might provide temporary respite from the storm, we were mistaken. Calamity is his constant bedfellow and he is never more than a foot (in mouth) or a tweeting finger from the next self inflicted wound.

His pretzel twisting "I believe Putin, well I believe he believes",  and "I don't believe  our agencies, or maybe I do believe our agencies now but I didn't before" was a headache inducing, maybe I went too far Trump masterpiece of utter nonsense. But we expect nothing less (more) of this befuddled autocrat wannabe.

With each stop on this 12 day journey we hold our breath and hope that he doesn't do or say anything immensely stupid. We have yet to find the true floor of our expectations. Is not starting a war a good starting point?

As much as we despise Mr. Trump's presence, we fear his absence equally as he kisses up to Putin, cozies up to China, seeks solace in Saudi Arabia, dances with Duterte. There is the unmistakable odor of incompetence emanating from afar.

He is a man on a mission to destroy our credibility around the globe, one mistake at a time.

And in that quest he is clearly an unqualified success.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Of an Anniversary and a Fading Picture

Today would have been my parent's 72nd anniversary. It is the first where neither is alive.

Earlier this week there was a sale of a property that had been in our family for three generations, from grandparent to parent to my sister and myself. It was held in concert with two other families and had grown unruly in numbers, over 20 and increasing, who now claimed some ownership interest. Divergent needs and desires propelled this transaction. My voice was but one of many, my beliefs and wishes mostly muted.

When the deal had been concluded there were congratulations shared. But when I wrote to everyone I spoke of a sadness that both my sister and I felt keenly.

My mom always said, "whatever you do, don't sell" this property. But it was not failing to abide by my mom's orders that was painful. It was that one more piece of what bound my sister and myself to our parents had broken away. That we lost that irrefutable bond which remained as long as we could claim a stake in what now was no longer ours.

Today is our parent's anniversary. And we remember them for everything they were, not every possession they held or passed down to us. But now they appear a little more remote, a little less recognizable, a photo fading with age. One more piece gone with the inexorable passage of time.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Deafening Silence


I was a student at Horace Mann from 1964 to 1970. It was then that the abuse was likely most prevalent and so many lives were irreparably altered.

But unlike Mr. Leonhardt some years later, I was not remotely aware of what was transpiring. It was a moment not only of institutional cover up, but cultural blindness, where we were not ready to consider, much less confront, the issue of sexual abuse. 

More than a half century later, men like Mr. Weinstein are the progeny of a  school and a society that looked the other way.

And for that we all share a collective blame and guilt.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Odyssey Updated (Trump According to Homer)

Donald Trump has been on a journey unlike any other. Filled with low points and then lower ones. Stepping on toes, hell stepping on entire feet.

Giving new meaning to that 3 AM call. Putting this country on perpetual high alert, not in fear of enemy but our own President. Forcing the country to learn the particulars of the 25th Amendment.  Piling up mistakes, miscues, misstatements at a rate that staggered the imagination, boggled the mind and challenged our capacity to recall. The calamities myriad and the potential for catastrophe omnipresent.

From Pence to Putin, Perry to Papadopolous, Price to Priebus, Pruitt to Perdue, scary Bannon to Scaracmucci, Megyn Kelly to John McCain, Ben Carson to Betsy Devos, from the "hiring" of Kushner to the firing of Comey, from the injustice to Merrick Garland to the installation of Justice Gorsuch, from Ivanka with a little lust to immigrants with much hatefrom Russia with love to North Korea with nukes, from shutting borders to closed minds, from grabbing pussy to grabbing attention, from the First Amendment to the Second, from the birther morass to the Mexican mess, from NATO to NAFTA, from both sides to blame in Charlottesville to warmest condolences in Vegas, from alternative facts to alternative energy, from destroying Obamacare to destroying the ozone, from attacks on the media to imagined attacks from most everywhere, from manufactured voter fraud to intended voter suppression, from fomenting fears to pandering to prejudices, from criticizing judges to castigating the FBI,from weekdays with Fox and Friends to weekends at Mar-A-Lago, from groveling sycophants to kneeling football players, from intimidation to insinuation, from twisted tweets to constant taunts, from broken pacts to broken promises, from small hands to large hysterics, from taxes to just plain taxing, from morning to night and siege to endless siege.

Always but a moment away from creating a self inflicted wound upon our nation. Lacking in attention, in diligence, in understanding, in empathy, in perspective, in the very words necessary to express himself. Self centered, obsessed, unbound by tradition, by regulation, by protocol or propriety. Willing to destroy our standing in the world and doing a wonderful job of it. Bitter, petty, divisive, petulant. Often  unmoored. Treating his office like a chew toy and peeing on the rug. From the first day he descended upon us like a plague to the latest tweet he left, like poo, on our front step. 

And all that does not come close to accurately describing the full extent of the damage this man has done and is capable of doing

And where can we turn for guidance  in our moment of deep distress if not to Homer? For nearly 3000 years past he wrote much on the travails that now lay before us. And much as we perceive Mr. Trump as unlike any other, Homer would remind us that everything new is old again:

"There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep."

" A hero is intelligent; his greatest weapon is his mind."

"And empty words are evil."

"Friend, that was not well spoken; you seem like one who is reckless; So it is that the gods do not bestow graces in all ways on men, neither in stature nor yet in brains or eloquence;less noted for beauty, but the gods puts comeliness on his words, and they who look toward him are filled with joy at the sight, and he speaks to them without faltering in winning modesty."

"Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth,nothing is bred weaker than man."

"Ah how shameless - the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone they say comes all their miseries, yes but they themselves with their own reckless ways compound their pains beyond their proper share."

"Greed and folly double the suffering in the lot of man."

"For never, never wicked man was wise."

"Urge him with truth to frame his fair replies: And sure he will: for wisdom never lies."

"Skepticism is as much the result of knowledge, as knowledge is of skepticism."

"For a friend with an understanding heart is worth no less than a brother.'

"Of the many things hidden from knowledge of man, nothing is more unintelligible than the human heart."

"By hook or by crook this peril too shall be something that we remember."

Where this Odyssey ends is anyone's guess, as we watch, wonder and worry.

But one final thought from Homer may provide a measure of  solace:

"Take courage, my heart, you have been through worse than this. Be strong, saith my heart. I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this."