Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Car Seat

My daughter can't give birth quite yet. Sadly, we haven't figured out how to properly install the car seat.

You can't tell me it is simple. Not when it is apparently common knowledge that one of the duties of the fire department is to rescue those in grave distress from failing to perform this seemingly most mundane of tasks.

I am a useless excuse for a person so when my son in law Brett and I set out last weekend to the location where the car is garaged, I knew my contribution to this endeavor would be limited to providing less than meaningless moral support.

We are in the midst of another in the seemingly endless heat and humidity waves of this summer. The car is housed on the fifth floor of the garage and so the walk up the stairs consumed most of our collective energy. There was nothing but lifeless,virtually suffocating air greeting our arrival.

Brett was clearly convinced this job was but a moment's undertaking. Apparently, in the store where the offending piece was purchased, there was a demonstration of the ease of installation. It provided him a false sense of hope.

You see, the car seat is actually cradled in another smaller apparatus. It is this one which is intended to latch into some metal bars, I think, hidden somewhere deep within the back seat of their automobile..

After several minutes of intense scrutiny, the approximate area where the surgery was to be performed was located. But the bars were not in their ordained position, or at least not readily within touch.

The temperature in this sauna seemed to increase with each uncomfortable moment. The hidden prize still proving most elusive. Though Brett remained ever calm after a very extended period of exertion, it was evident there was a rapidly fading possibility of success before we both passed out. "Two men found dead on top floor of garage. Car seat to blame. No foul play suspected."

I knew I had an ace up my sleeve while this debacle was unfolding. I now pulled it out in the hopes of saving both our lives. "Let's call Joanne." 

You see my wife can figure out any  problem of this nature. Have three truckloads of furniture to move. She can fit in all in a hatchback. Can't get your key to work in the door. Step aside, and then step inside.

Thankfully, Brett agreed this was not a task suited for mere mortals and so his attempted ascent of Everest concluded. We arranged to drive the car from the garage and meet outside Brett and Alex's apartment building. And let the maestro perform her magic.

Only that didn't happen. It was, to me, as if Houdini was unable to pull a rabbit out of a hat, or Pavarotti couldn't hit a high note. My wife, who never met a problem beyond resolution, merely stared as the apparatus lay mockingly untethered. Despite long minutes of pushing, pulling, prodding and poking, it remained achingly unsafe for the baby to exit the womb and enter the vehicle.

And so my daughter and I walked to one fire station (out on call) and then the four of us piled into the car and drove to a second fire station (out on call) before accepting humiliating defeat.

The following morning there was a text from Brett announcing progress in the battle. Seat installed, but at an acute angle (not his exact words, but that was the gist). Not the most reassuring of messages.

Alex is 38 1/2 weeks pregnant. But I fear she will have to hold the baby inside several more weeks until we figure this out. Or at least until the firemen return to fight maybe their hardest battle of all. With a car seat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Donald Trump, Maverick

("So What if Trump Breaks Norms")

This is not a hypothetical equation, a mathematical deviation from the norm. This is a living, breathing deviant, spitting on his office, demeaning not only himself on a daily basis but doing grave damage to our standing and to the very notion of his station. Mr. Trump does nothing to elevate and everything to destroy the very meaning of acting presidential.

It is not merely his viciousness, his puerileness, his laziness, the pervasive ugliness. Not merely the lack of preparation, the ignorance, the stupidity that frames seemingly every decision. Not merely the jeopardy this creates for our country but the jeopardy it creates that he has permanently belittled the meaning of sitting in the Oval office, the influence it can have to raise this nation up, to bring out the best in those who look to their leader for guidance in how they should lead their lives and frame their determinations.

This is not about policy or procedure, though this President has little of either. It is about tenor and tone and the gravity of task which Mr. Trump so appallingly ignores. He has done harm in ways far greater than attacking NATO or embracing Putin. He has attacked integrity and embraced a denunciation of everything positive being President of the United States has stood for these past 242 years. 

And that is his most egregious and unforgivable sin.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain


John McCain did not live a perfect life, but it was an important one. He was not without flaws, personal and political, yet he did not excuse his imperfections but acknowledged them. He was not always heroic in act and deed but he was in immutable relentless search for what mattered most to him: the elevation of this country and it's continued pursuit of the best we had to offer.

He challenged the orthodoxy of his party at times, most recently and notably in casting the ballot that acted as death knell of Mr. Trump's attempt to undo the signature piece of legislation of the Obama presidency. But he was also the man who called upon Sarah Palin, a wholly unqualified and uninspired choice, to try to resurrect a foundering campaign against Mr. Obama. And a man who voted time and again in support of legislation championed by Mr. Trump.

Like all of us, he was a person of contradictions. But there was a moral foundation, an integrity that was the heartbeat of John McCain. And it was this essential goodness that we will long remember beyond all else.

In this moment in history, when we are faced each day with the ugly realities of the Oval office, we are deeply saddened to know that a voice such as that of John McCain has been silenced.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak Not of Impeachment

("Donald Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors")

Where is there a hint of courage in the Republican party? Donald Trump has gone on a vitriolic rampage from his first day in office, destroying the integrity of his station, the standing of our nation, the very understanding of what constitutes truth, yet the only resistance from his side of the aisle has come from the nearly departed (Mr. McCain) or the nearly departed (Mr. Flake). 

There is no evidence to suggest his party will now grow a political backbone despite the seemingly incontrovertible evidence of Mr. Trump being a co-conspirator in an act which was a clear attack against the very heart of our electoral process.

It is in the cover-up, stupid, whether it be Mr. Nixon, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Edwards or now Mr.Trump, all attempting to conceal one wrong by committing another.

The sad reality is that, as much as Mr. Trump lies, numbers don't. Between now and November, the Republicans will surely not rise en masse to bring Articles of Impeachment. 

And even if the House falls into Democratic hands in the mid-terms and impeachment results, conviction with the requisite votes in the Senate is a pipe dream unless it becomes politically unsustainable for Republicans to continue their deaf, dumb,and blind allegiance to the king.

Hear no evil, see no evil and speak not of impeachment. Welcome to today's Republican party.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

And the Oscar Goes To

Recently, I received a note from the NY Times. There was a documentary filmmaker interested in making a film about those who frequently write letters to the New York Times. I was asked if I would allow the filmmaker to contact me. Being me, of course I said yes.

Thereafter, an email came asking me a number of questions about my writing, what motivated me, what interesting tales evolved from the publication of my thoughts etc. Based on my responses, the filmmaker would then decide whether I was a good candidate to be interviewed for the movie.

Rather than reply to each question asked, I gave the following stream of consciousness response. I  await an answer, which should be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Maybe this will lead to my 15 minutes of fame, but for the sake of all those who would have to be regaled with tales of my greatness should I ever appear on screen, it would clearly be best for all if my answers were deemed unworthy, and I was left unceremoniously on the cutting room floor. Anyway, for better or worse,  here is what I said.

"Do you want the unvarnished truth about why I am up most mornings between 4 and 6 AM writing my thoughts to the New York Times?

1. Insomnia
2. Ego

I would like to wax elegant about my outrage over Mr. Trump, my disgust that a huckster could wage such a prolonged war on the basic framework of our democracy, my frustration mounting with every tweet, each insult to our intelligence. He has provided endless fodder for newspapers and letter writers. But it seems more obsession than fruitful exercise to inform the Times, on endless cycle, wash and dry on perpetual repeat.

I have had nearly 70 letters published in the Times in various sections over the past decade. From the Sunday magazine to the sports section, to Metropolitan Diary and, of course, letters to the editor. But often I have felt like an idiot savant, with my parlor trick being the capacity to write a few clever sentences with a good kicker at the end.

You ask how others respond? Most have long since grown weary of my chest thumping, my somehow bringing the topic of my latest success into the conversation, only briefly as if a mere afterthought. For the few who still find me intriguing,  I know someday they will see behind the curtain, to find I am not a wizard but am merely playing one.

Maybe it is it that I have probably written at least 1500 letters to the Times that makes me sound weary of my calling. Every few months I consider hanging up my pen, but like Al Pacino in Godfather, they just seem to drag me in again every time I read "Your letter is being considered for publication."

Maybe all of the above disqualifies me from consideration by you, but I hope not. I believe you will want a range of voices and I think mine might be somewhat unique. And even as I wrote that last sentence I chastised myself for once more chasing after the next ego boost."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Rest of Mr. Trump's Top Hits

The recent article in the Times chronicled 487 people, places and things that have been the target of Mr. Trump's ire and disregard. However, the newspaper missed 13 others who have suffered the slings and arrows, the barbs and tweets emanating from the fingers or mouth of the man who never passes up an opportunity to insult. Rounding out the top 500 hit list are the following:

1. Jesus -  I have no respect for a guy who gets nailed to a cross - not a victim, just a loser, bigly.

2. God - he took 6 days and screwed things up totally. The only good thing he did was build golf courses, but I build them better. And he forgot that wall in Mexico.

3. Lincoln - what a joke - he couldn't run Trump Tower, forget about our nation. What did he have, like 13 states to worry about? I have 50 and I can handle it in my sleep. And getting shot? Give me a break.

4. Fred Trump - overrated. I grew up in poverty, walked six miles uphill each way to school every day. I am a self made man. Only I could have done this.

5. Mike Pence - what an idiot. Religious fanatic, refers to his wife as mother. Isn't that called an Oedipus complex?

6. Melania - still speaks with an accent after all these years in the United States. And now I'm stuck with her parents forever. Damn chain migration.

7. Tiffany - not my daughter - and who the hell is Marla Maples, never even met her.

8. Donald Jr.- stupid is as stupid does - another loser. Took that meeting without my knowledge, never told me about it and now look what's happening. I think he is colluding with Mueller. Oh yeah, that is called an Oedipus complex.  By the way, I graduated at the top of my class from an Ivy League school.

9. Jared Kushner - I told him he should take care of all the big stuff and what has he done so far?  I guess I have to do everything myself.

10. The greenskeeper at Trump National (or whatever all my golf courses are called) - the course played too long last weekend. Tell him to shorten all the holes for me by Friday. And the carts are too slow.

11.  Ivanka - she refuses to sit on my lap anymore

12. Donald Trump - I don't give myself enough credit - I am a true genius made to sound like an idiot by that idiot.

13. The American public - You can fool all of the people all of the time.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Stupid At Any Age

It was hot yesterday. As in, oh my god this is uncomfortable. Which is why it made perfect sense for myself and two friends to play a round of golf walking  and pushing our clubs with hand carts.

In the aggregate, we were 217 years old, certainly enough time to gain even a small measure of common sense. For the oldest among us, I learned this was virgin territory, the first occasion during which he spent a day chasing a ball while simultaneously pushing a cart. Better late than never. Or more accurately, better late than before you die.

We trudged through the morning heat, my unhappiness growing in almost direct proportion to the escalating temperature. But it was my game, or lack thereof, that precipitated my foul mood. For my friends, it was merely mother nature's cruelty to which they were responding.

By about the 12th hole, our elder statesperson was looking decidedly crimson in the face, his shirt drenched in sweat, his countenance and his gait a bit wobbly. When I inquired as to the state of his being, he hesitated a moment before semi assuring me he was still functional. "But I may quit soon" he added.

I responded that if he had enough we should throw in the towel (now soaked with perspiration) and head for the great indoors, and the joy of air conditioning. But he shrugged me off and we persisted.

I felt a bit like a corner man at a prize fight, closely monitoring to see if my ward could still recall the days of the week and his mother's first name. But with stupidity as our constant companion, we trudged ever onward.

By the 14th hole, my other playing partner was also entering the twilight zone, swinging the club out of habit rather than intent, moving forward by instinct rather than command.  

As we reached the 15th green enough was too much for both of them. Each a TKO victim, each step now a chore. Why we didn't call for an Uber to take us in was just one more demonstration of our collective inadequacy. And me, seemingly with all my wits about me, the most pronounced in my failing.

After far too long, we made it back to where we began. I was grateful that both my friends, however unsteady, were now safe and secure. One sat on a chair, looking for all the world like Muhammad Ali after the Thrilla in Manila. The color in the face of the other now returning closer to the shade of a human rather than a fire engine. 

It was, in the long history of my time on the course, one of the more memorable experiences. And it had nothing to do with my lack of physical abilities. 

Stupid, as it turns out, is not reserved merely for the young.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The High Cost to a Free Press

("A Free Press Needs You")

It is astounding what power one person can exert to bend our most fundamental realities. When the backbone of our nation, our free press, feels threatened and oppressed by the wild theatrics, the absurd musings, the paranoid ruminations of Mr. Trump, it is compelled, as now, to act in unison to defend its right to exist.

Your editorial, and the accompanying reference to voices near and far, large and small, is chilling testament to a moment in history few of us ever expected we would witness.

The right to challenge misdeeds questioned, bias presumed, motivations damned. Mr. Trump has made a
change in the critical perception of the value and purpose of a free press.

Among the litany of grievous wrongs committed by our President, this must rank as one of the most heinous.

A sickening, almost incomprehensible truth that is anything but fake news.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Random Recent Thoughts of a Restless Mind

("Welcome to the Resistance, Omarosa")

Please. Omarosa versus Donald. What have we become?

It is ok for page 6 of another, unnamed, tabloid but the New York Times should not waste a moment of thought or space on its Op ed page to an examination of this cat fight.

Is this really news that Mr. Trump is as venal a character as he appears? Do we applaud Omarosa for foregoing a continuing paycheck in this administration? 

Two wrongs don't make a right, Or a column,


("Stephen Miller's Uncle Calls Him a Hypocrite in an Online Essay")

The story that Dr. Glosser relates resonates with the vast majority of those who read his words. Tales of escape from harsh, often brutal realities blanket this nation from sea to shining sea.

Mr. Miller is not the architect of the immigration policy that defines us as a cruel and unfeeling nation. But he is its willing advocate and a spokesman for an administration whose central theme is do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you.

There is no historical perspective, no memory, no thought that there but for serendipity, or the grace of God, go I. No recollection that in a time not so long past, it was your parent or grandparent, your aunt or uncle, who was seeking shelter from the storm.

Dr. Glosser has a right to be gravely disappointed in his nephew. He has fallen in with a bad lot who have forgotten their history lessons.

See evil, hear evil, speak evil. That is what happens when compassion, understanding and recognition that we are all not so different from one another, are sacrificed at the altar of power.


("F.B.I. Agent Peter Strzok, Who Criticized Trump in Tweets, Is Fired")

Mr. Trump was right after all. The Mueller investigation has turned out to be a witch hunt, only not the one he has been whining about.

Mr. Trump's constant harangue has been for the focus of our ire to be turned on those who have spent the last two years painstakingly uncovering a series of annotated wrongdoings by many in the king's inner circle. For today, his wish has become our command.

And so, Peter Strzok is now beheaded, a sacrifice to the altar. Executed for the unforgivable sin of expressing his opinion in private of the lunacy of the thought of an orange faced presidency. Connecting dots to a guilt that doesn't exist.

Meanwhile, the crumbs that lead to the front door of the White House remain achingly incomplete, as the probe of Mr. Mueller lurches ever onward, step by step and inch by inch. Instead the FBI is, in this moment, perp walked before us as the bad guy.

In this President's universe, it often feels like up is down. And the sky has now fallen on Mr. Strzok.


("A Baseball Player Needed a Haircut. His Barber Flew 7000 Miles to Give Him One")

When I first heard of baseball and haircuts, it involved a fastball aimed just under the chin or cranium of the batter. I seem to recall Bob Gibson throwing that "message" pitch about every other delivery.

Haircut took on a very different meaning soon thereafter, as the late 60's moved us into an era where memorable heads like that of Oscar Gamble made the helmet an almost useless ornament. 

And through the years, haircut has been the centerpiece of many a Yankee conversation, as Mr. Steinbrenner imposed his will on the look, if not the mouth, of those under his command. No mustaches, no hair below the collar. 

In recent times, the Met pitching staff has dominated, if not on the field, then in the competition for best flowing locks of a starting rotation. 

But now we have reached a new statement moment in the haircut evolution. Personal barbers travelling halfway around the world to make sure every hair follicle is in its place, every day an opportunity to take off your cap in a moment of celebration to reveal the masterpiece that is you.

I am sure if Bob Gibson were still on the mound and witnessed a player showing off his coiff, he would be more than willing to offer him a haircut. Free of charge.


("Does Sacha Baron Cohen Understand Israel?")

I lasted one episode with Mr. Cohen's latest effort. It is crude, vulgar, definitely over the top and entirely unwatchable. Except that it has gathered seemingly enormous attention.

And it has little to do with his characters, and everything to do with the response to them. Morad is memorable not as an Israeli caricature but an American one. The ridiculous Republican, willing to believe in everything and anything in an unfettered attachment to his prejudices. Unthinking, unmoored and unrepentant. It is a window into how a Donald Trump can gain, and retain, such fervent  worship.

Morad is but a prop and to make him the central character is to miss the crucial point of Mr. Cohen's statement.


("Let's Not Throw the Word Treason Around")

When I read OpEds such as this, that strike such a discordant note with me, I immediately review the credentials of the author.

In January of 2017, the New Yorker ran a piece entitled, "Intellectuals for Trump", with the sub heading "a group of conservative thinkers tries to build a governing ideology around a (then) President-elect who disdained ideology". In that article, Chris Buskirk was described as a "little known polemicist who wants (American Greatness) to become the leading voice of the next generation of conservatism."

If the New York Times is going to publish extreme right wingers, which it can and will certainly continue to do, it owes the public some context regarding the words which appear on the page. Not to do so creates at least the impression that voices such as Mr. Buskirk have no particular agenda in mind, and are non-biased, or at least not heavily biased, in their contemplation of the unfolding universe. It does your paper and your readers a disservice to allow that impression to float unchallenged in the air.

 "Warning to readers- Mr.Buskirk is a Trump apologist."  That would be a more honest way to introduce us to his thoughts.


("The Great Distractor")

The debate, if it is with Mr. Trump, will never be on your terms. For Mr. Trump does not debate, he antagonizes, does not focus on issues for he understands virtually nothing.

We smirked when, as a candidate, he failed to prepare for his skirmishes with his Republican opponents and thereafter Ms. Clinton. How could he not look the fool in such encounters?

And he did look ridiculous but only to those who were judging him on the content of his words and the deficiency of his character. We did not comprehend that he was not speaking to us at all, was not worried of our expectations and demands.

And so his presidency has proceeded in parallel universes. The problem for the Democrats is finding a language that will allow them to be heard by those who have turned a deaf ear to their words.

If a Democratic candidate talks to a roomful of Republicans does he make any noise?


("Young Rudy Giuliani Defends Himself")

There once was a man named Rudy
His actions were a little bit crudy
He huffed and puffed and bluffed his way home
Looking not like a giant but a gnome

He ranted and raved at Michael
It got him in every news cycle
I hate him that Cohen he damages the throne
So leave dear old Donny alone

He clutched at his head in wonder
And screamed at our terrible blunder
Don't question the king just kisseth his ring
And of his great virtue you must sing (sing)

Once he was but noun, verb and 911
That was surely his ticket to heaven
But now Donny's the man so Rudy 's does what he can (can)
To protect his golden goose's spray tan

Oh Rudy what a mess you have made
What a dreadful goose egg you've laid
You grow smaller each day with the nonsense you say
Your integrity's a terrible price to pay


("Trump Pushes for Interview With Mueller Against Lawyer's Advise")

Donald Trump is a pathological liar, willing to do or say anything at any moment to further his cause. The truth is but a disposable commodity in his relentless pursuit of self preservation and self aggrandizement. What lawyer would ever voluntarily put such a client in the cross hairs of interrogation by special counsel's office?

Donald Trump will never answer one single inquiry of Mr. Mueller or those who work under him. Not even so much as a "what is your full name." Nothing good, at least for the President, can come of it. His lawyers well know that. Heck, you and I know that.

So, we will continue to get this fiction that Mr. Trump welcomes the chance to speak and end this "witch hunt." And somewhere in the distant future the Supreme Court will sustain the objection of his representatives to quash the subpoena seeking to compel his responses to questions hanging in the air.

So Mr. Giuliani can do his pretend dance but we know better. The mouth that roared, the king of the never ending tweet, will remain forever mute in reply to investigator's demands. And, if nothing else, the thought of Donald Trump shutting up and shutting down, even for a brief moment, is most welcome. 

The sounds of silence in the Oval Office. Priceless.


("Waiting for Caesar")

The imperial phase might be arriving soon? Does not Mr.Douthat recall that, seemingly before the roar of the extraordinarily large crowds cheering the emperor's coronation had died down,  Mr. Trump's first unconstitutional fiat on immigration had issued. From the moment he took office, Mr. Trump viewed his powers as unlimited and unrestrained.

He has followed not the law, not historical predicate, not the advise or suggestion of Congress or those in his administration. He has railed against oversight and criticism. He has considered his election a mandate to take any and all action he wishes. He has been unbridled, uncouth, unrepentant from first tweet to last.

The imperial phase is all this President understands. There are no limits to his hubris, his intent to rule by executive order, his shredding of the most basic predicates of our democracy.

And to compare the actions of Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump merely provides unwarranted cover for this President's abuse of his office.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Different Eggs in the Same Basket

("If We Silence Hate Speech Will We Silence Resistance?")

There is a clear demarcation between those who have been the historic victims of our prejudices and those who have been the perpetrators. 

Thus when the President condemns black athletes for protesting the perpetuation of intolerable hatreds that have long been a stain upon this nation, that is a far cry from our seeking to silence the proclamations of one like Alex Jones and white nationalists whose vitriol lacks not only factual underpinning but the long suffering of demonstrable wrongs.

It is when we fail to recognize the distinctions, when we consider each declaration with the same litmus test, that we lose the bright lines that distinguish what should be protected statements from those that do not deserve to see the light of day.

Certainly there are limits, even for those who have longstanding reason to feel aggrieved. Speech preaching the worst violence would be beyond ours to sanction. But we fail ourselves and our nation when we lump all utterances of righteous indignation and indisputable bigotry in the same basket.