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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.




Sunday, April 28, 2019

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things




Beto's charisma or Pete's erudition 
Biden's big heart or Kamala's mission
Pot legalization, tuition free school
The Green New Deal and Lift Act are cool

Booker or Warren or John Hickenlooper
So many names can cause quite a stupor
Health care for all, break up Big Tech
Tilt to the left, give the center respect

Do we go old, or do we go younger
Bernie's strong message, or Klobuchar's hunger
Castro's Latino, Gabbard's a vet
Abrams has not even committed yet

NYC's Mayor I think he will curdle
And Andrew Yang has too many hurdles
Swalwell will fight to get rid of guns
Ryan says we should rely on the sun

Moulton, Delaney and Wayne Messam too
So many names, who knows what to do
Twenty or more must get down to one
Must pick the one who'll get the job done

What's the answer, who should we choose
Could just drive us mad
Not simple, remember we just cannot lose
Cause then we will feel so bad

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Reading the New Yorker

I ran into someone a few months back who told me she reads The New Yorker cover to cover every week. So do I, if that means perusing both the index and the Cartoon Caption Contest. I think I have a better chance of spontaneously regrowing a full head of hair than starting with The Mail, meandering through the maze of phrases piled from here to eternity and ending up with any hold on my sanity.

If the road of life is strewn with good intentions then I would suggest you detour away from my personal highway. This is definitely the week I get past The Talk of the Town before raising the white flag. Does Shouts and Murmurs count as progress or is that like adding insult to injury?

I should be able to read the Fiction piece. After all, it is like a one chapter book. How hard can that be? If you have to ask then you really don't have a clue.

Those poems. I mean I never understood anything beyond "There once was a boy from the South....." So, unless it is a piece about a pencil, it has no point (get it, pencil without a point).

As for the television and movie reviews. Now that I should be capable of digesting. But everything is suddenly so complicated and complex, with various layers and meaning far beyond what I thought I was watching. It kind of makes my head hurt and convinces me to cancel my Mensa membership.

The other sections are so far beyond the realm of my universe I can't even remember what they are. And all those pages in the front taken up with discussions of restaurants, museums and other things happening in NYC. You know I live in NJ, don't you? I can barely afford the toll across the bridge, forget about the garage and the cost of exploring every venue you suggest. Unless you are giving out interest free loans, I am staying on Governor Christie's side of the Hudson, thank you.

So, why do I get The New Yorker? I don't actually think I paid for the subscription. I believe it was one of the freebies if I made that $10 a month contribution to my local public radio station. Next year I think I may reduce my gift to $5 per month so I can get the free tote bag instead.

I hope I haven't hurt your feelings. That was not my intention. I only wanted to let you know that I am trying to live up to your expectations of me, but I am forever doomed to failure.

But keep up the good work. There is apparently at least one person out there who takes full advantage of what you have to offer. I recently heard she is expected to be released from the sanitarium in a matter of weeks. With strict NNY orders (No New Yorker)



And Then There Was One

And then there was one. It was not 10 little Indians, but Yankees, the projected starting nine on Opening day, plus the DH, all now on the "oh boy this is not good" list. Only Gleybar Torres still standing.

Sanchez, Bird (ok, a semi-starter), Gregorious, Andujar, Stanton, Hicks and now Judge. Throw in Severino on the mound and, maybe a little stretch with Tulowitzski as DH and there you have it. Add a Betances to the mix for a little not so comic relief. 

What happened? Is it the New York City air, the bumpy roads, the broken subway system? Is it the pre-game meal or the post game interview? Is there a rabbit's foot that has been lost or a voodoo doll that has been found? Did I do something wrong? Or maybe, just maybe, it is the reverse curse of the Bambino, a hundred years later.

Whatever the cause, there seems no cure to the rash of maladies that now covers this team worse than an outbreak of the measles. All I know is that Gleybar should be taking a good look at his health insurance policy and the team should be protecting him more closely than Barr is protecting the President (sorry, couldn't help myself).

And while the Indians, and the rest of the AL, lick their chops as the Yankees lick their wounds, the only joy in Mudville is how bad the Red Sox have been without having a depleted roster. 

Maybe the curse of the Bambino has hit both teams for their century old indiscretion. Strike two. 

Or more like 14 and counting.

Monday, April 1, 2019

ANOTHER LETTER IN THE NEW YORK TIMES - JUST NOT MINE



At every opportunity, I have advised in BOLD LETTERS of my writing accomplishments, intending to emphasize my mastery of my craft. Years of honing my skills and a mental dexterity, combining to produce yet one more piece of wizardry. Not something to be lightly taken or dismissed. A talent, absolutely.

Not to be attempted by those without the requisite training and creativity. Studying the political landscape, becoming uniquely adept at translating our collective angst into a stunningly well crafted statement. Or capturing some personal moment with my own well honed mix of humor and gravity.  I was, I am, special.

So, a few days ago, my friend was visiting her parents, reading the New York Times. Out of sheer boredom, she decided to write a letter to the editor in response to an article about the diminishing universe of stick shift cars. With no expectations, off the letter went. It was her first and only attempt at this exercise. She had clearly chosen a topic of limited interest, one which I would never advise anyone to waste their time on if the intent was to ever be seen in print.

I saw my friend and her husband this past weekend. He casually mentioned that his wife's letter, on her grave disappointment in having to enter the world of automatics, was to be published in MY domain. I was MORTIFIED, but I mumbled some words of congratulation, trying to turn insincerity into genuine sounding applause.

My world is crumbling around me, for today's NY TIMES has my friend's thoughts there for the world to view. A neophyte, writing to the paper for a lark, because she ran out of alternative ways to keep herself entertained. Could even Caesar have felt more a sense of betrayal?

What cruelty, what a mortal blow to my ego. Where are the gatekeepers who should keep entry into this most exclusive club far away from those who would treat this experience so cavalierly? 

From this time forth consider me humbled. I shall limit my exclamation points and BOLD notations of my greatness, for I have learned that anyone with a quick wit and a minute or two with nothing better to do is equally capable as I.

 I do CONGRATULATE my friend on a job well done. I just wish she hadn't made it seem so damn easy.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

What Did We Expect from the Mueller Report?

("After the Mueller Report, the Dream of a Sudden Magic Resolution to the Trump Tragedy Is Dead")


We were never going to have a "sudden magic resolution" involving Mr. Trump even if Mr. Mueller had concluded that Mr. Trump was a Russian spy masquerading as an American imbecile.

Each day of his presidency has been an affront to our democracy, to the precepts that have guided this nation for almost 250 years. Yet with his every attack on our intelligence, with his every blatant falsehood, with his every misstep regarding both friend and foe, the Republican party turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.

So what did we expect that the Holy grail of the Mueller report would accomplish? Would Mr. Trump say "you got me" in one final anguished tweet and leave the White House without bothering to turn off the lights? Or would there be a unanimous hue and cry of Republicans in Congress demanding the President shave his head and tattoo the scarlet letter "I" for idiot on his forehead?

This was never more than pure fantasy. Donald Trump was never going anywhere before November 2020, any more than the never Trumpers were going to be able to keep him from becoming the nominee in 2016, any more than there would  be an open rebellion by the sycophants and the nose holders, any more than he would unilaterally decide to slink away from the presidency out of boredom or because he admitted he was overwhelmed and unprepared for the demands of office.

There is hard work that must be done to unseat Mr. Trump in the election next year. Mr. Mueller's magic bullet never was the actual answer to this confounding problem. Step by step and inch by inch is the only way that this vermin will be eradicated.

My Dad

It is fitting that opening day of the baseball season falls on my dad's birthday. He would have been 101 today. He was born just before the last season of triumph for 86 years for the hated Red Sox. Thank you "No No Nanette." Long live the "Curse of the Bambino."

My dad loved sports, was an All-American fencer, a wonderful golfer, a natural athlete, excelling at every game he played, from ping pong, where he spent many an evening teaching me the meaning of having to earn victory, to basketball, shooting at a rim set far too high above our garage door. But, it was in our mutual love for baseball that the bonds between myself and my dad were forever deeply cemented.

From my earliest memories I was drawn to this game. It was the mid 1950's and baseball ruled the landscape. Decades before the internet and a million distractions, even before television sets were ubiquitous, spring ushered in melting snow and the great American pastime.

Football was still attempting to make its mark, the overtime championship game of 1958 and Alan Ameche shepherding its entry into our consciousness, the NBA maybe less of a draw than the Harlem Globetrotters. Baseball was everything, the Yankees were dominant and Mickey Mantle was, well Mickey Mantle. My first hero. Actually my second. After my dad.

40 years after my dad's passing, as I near my 67th birthday, it is hard for me to fathom how much I still miss him. Even as I write this, I have a hard time holding back tears.

My dad was my first and forever best friend. I was, like him, a natural athlete with a deep love of sport. It was a perfect fit for the two of us, enjoying hour after hour of shared skills and passions. It was, and it remains, my definition of pure joy.

More than six decades after our first catch, more than six decades after our first entry into the House that Ruth built (thanks again to No No Nanette), more than six decades after we walked hand in hand and heart in heart into gloves and bats and balls and strikes, I remember with a smile and a small ache everything good and wonderful about my dad.

Today, I celebrate another Opening Day. And the memory of my dad, on his birthday.

I wish for just one more catch with him.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Not guilty? Not innocent

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST APPEARS IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE BOSTON GLOBE

The worst of this is Mr. Trump taking on the role of blameless victim. If Mr. Trump did not commit crimes, at least crimes relating to the scope of Mr. Mueller's investigation, it is not because his actions are above reproach, his moral fiber beyond question. Not because he made a conscious determination not to cross a line. Just that it didn't happen.

Donald Trump has spent a lifetime as an unscrupulous, manipulative, undisciplined businessman, husband and now President. There are legions of tales of his con games from his treatment of minorities in his housing complexes, his swindling of contractors, his cheating on wives, his payoffs of mistresses to keep silent, his abuses of his not very charitable foundation, his multiple bankruptcies to avoid creditors he has manipulated and deceived and on ad infinitum. He has demeaned and maligned those who stand in his way from political opponents to parents of a deceased war hero to foreign leaders to his own agencies from the FBI to the CIA and the Department of Justice, all because they had the audacity to speak of the far too evident flaws and deceptions of Mr. Trump. He has stoked the worst instincts in those who follow and believe in him, their bigotry, their xenophobia. He has reduced his office to the level of a reality game show, tweeting policy determinations in the middle of the night after consulting with no one but a television set turned to Fox news. He has courted autocrats and dictators, willing to turn a blind eye to their worst atrocities. He has treated virtually everyone else with disdain and contempt, none worse than immigrants across a constellation of nations whose only wrong was trying to flee violence, war, poverty and famine. He has stocked his administration with those willing to do his bidding no matter the reason or the result

So you will have to excuse me if I fail to agree with Mr. Trump's definition of exoneration. This is a man who is a walking talking definition of a criminal whether he is ever charged or indicted. So he managed, quite possibly, to slip away this time. But do not equate this with Donald Trump being blameless. No halos for this man, not now or ever. Not guilty is not the same as innocent. Not even close.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Awaiting Mr. Mueller





("James Comey: What I Want from the Mueller Report")

For a President who has taken a pound of flesh from this nation, I am hoping for at least an ounce of blood in the Mueller report.

While Mr. Comey may not care the outcome of this investigation as long as it's determinations are untainted, I cannot share his dispassionate gaze.

We have watched in horror as Mr. Trump has soiled his office beyond recognition. He has turned his bully pulpit into a bully's pulpit, has made lying his centerpiece, discarding truth as a flexible, worthless concept. We know full well that if he has not broken an armful of laws relating to the areas under investigation it is not by design but mere serendipity.  

He is a walking, breathing scandal, having spent a lifetime disregarding moral and legal precepts. These past two plus years have been ones of collective anguish, and our abiding faith that Mr. Mueller would ultimately prove this charlatan the heartless crook he has forever been, mandates something far more than an antiseptic synopsis of undistinguished behavior.

So, Mr.Comey, you who may well have been responsible for placing Mr. Trump in office with your breathless last minute heated cries, making much ado about nothing concerning Ms. Clinton and her emails, you must excuse me if I am not fully comfortable with your present high-minded stance.

Let Mr. Mueller report to us that his investigation has not resulted in an empty vessel, let him instead chronicle chapter and verse of the myriad sins committed by a man who deserves nothing but our full-throated condemnation. 

If Mr. Mueller is not going to bring us the head of Donald Trump, let him at least give us a drop or two of his blue blood.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Sticks and Stones and Donald Trump


AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEAR IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE RECORD, A BERGEN COUNTY NEWSPAPER






What Mr. Trump does with his bigotry, his hatreds, his vitriol, his invectice, his diatribes is to give sanctuary to the worst instincts, the anger, the distortions of those whose prejudices and ugliness seek confirmation. His is the warm embrace, the succor that makes them comfortable in giving voice, in giving life to their malevolence.

If the President of the United States, the President of the United States says they are not wrong to feel rage against immigrants, if he tells them that Mexicans and Muslims are an existential threat to this nation, then ipso facto this will be a land more prone to violent attacks, to tragedy piled upon tragedy.

Mr. Trump's words do not exist in a vacuum, studied and then discarded. They attach to the heart and soul of those who believe in him. They become part of the listener as much as they are of the speaker. And their acts are an extension of what Mr. Trump has invoked.

So the old adage about sticks and stones is a falsehood. For Mr. Trump's comments do give cover to cruelty, do incite hostilities, do cause damage far more real and permanent than bruised feelings. Words, especially those of Mr. Trump, are far too often the catalyst for grave, irreparable harm.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mutiny? No, nothing beyond a momentary false bravado


AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS SCHEDULED TO APPEARS IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN THE NEW YORK TIMES


Let us not overreact to this action by a handful of Republican senators. It is not a coup, not nearly time to suggest Mr. Trump's unfettered desecration of our democracy is nearing a conclusion.

What Mr. Trump did was blatantly defy the will of Congress in his declaration of a national emergency. It was not the policy but merely the procedure, the stripping of the fundamental power of Congress to control the purse strings which was the precipitating cause for this mini revolt.

But fundamentally this was little but a symbolic slap on the wrist, to be quickly undone by presidential veto. And life, as we have unfortunately come to know it, will quickly and inevitably return to normal in the tomorrows to come.

There will be no talk, at least no serious talk, of Republicans joining in a call for impeachment and conviction of a man whose entire presidency has been one dismal abuse upon another. There has been no growing of a backbone, no declaration that this is an irreparable bridge too far. 

It is a welcome moment when there is even a hint of something other than pure capitulation by Mr. Trump's party to his whims and tantrums. But unless and until he declares the powers of Congress to be dead, until he puts a crown on his bird's nest and announces he is now king, there will be no Republican mutiny at 1600. Just the occasional reminder that some in his party have not simply permitted the President to cast all their votes for them.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Six Months Old







So I turn six months old in a few hours and I am worried. I read about the scandal surrounding college admissions and I fear that even if I have served two terms as President by then, I might not get into the school of my choice.

I think back a half year when I was so carefree. Back then I was just trying to figure out what a diaper was and the difference between day and night. Back then I didn't know anything about Fox News.

Now I wonder whether it makes political sense to move forward with impeachment proceedings. Now I am sad to learn Alex Trebeck is sick. Now I have to deal with the trauma of the Knicks trading Porzingis and the Giants dumping OBJ. Now I wake each morning to the reality of Donald Trump.

But now I know who my mom and dad are, I know what snow is. Now I know how to laugh and smile, I know I have a favorite "lovey"and I know how to turn the pages in a book. Now I know what solid food is, I know I have almost as good an appetite as my dad and I know that one day soon I will be able to sit up without falling over.

So I still spit up way too often. But that will pass. I am still trying to get the hang of this crawling thing. But that will come soon enough. And while Dad says I am almost ready to dribble a basketball, the truth is I am really still just dribbling. 

I recognize that the rigors of a presidential campaign lay ahead for me, I am a bit concerned about the extent of the problem with the arm of Luis Severino and I am distressed by the long term effect of ongoing trade wars.

But I am happy. I am happy for the thousands of kisses I have received and I am happy to feel protected and safe. I am happy that I am surrounded by those who make me feel like the most important person in their lives. I am happy that each day I learn so much and I hunger to absorb as much new information as I can.

So here's to the past six months and to the adventures that lay ahead. Life is indeed wonderful. Thanks mom and dad for deciding to bring me into the world. I love you both very much. And I promise in the days to come I will give you as many hugs as you could possibly want. That's the thing where I wrap my arms around your neck, right?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Preparing to Hit the Campaign Trail


I have just spent nearly a week with my granddaughter. In that time we discussed topics as crucial as rolling over from back to belly and belly to back, eating solid foods without trying to grab the spoon from grandma and going to sleep without artificial aids (not Ambien but a binky).

But most of our days were spent in a far more important pursuit, framing her platform for her run for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020.

We talked about the Green New Deal but she thought I was referring to the avocado we recently introduced into her diet. We considered climate change but her understanding focused on how cold the living room seemed even with the heat on high. We analyzed our friendship with Canada but she imagined I was speaking of the girl downstairs. We covered immigration, voting rights, gerrymandering, an equal protection amendment for women, Russia, China, North Korea, mass incarceration, the opioid epidemic, infrastructure needs, gun control, Medicare for all, raising taxes on the wealthy, the electoral college disaster and myriad other matters of consequence. But she kept getting distracted by her favorite book on the parts of the body.

Overall though I thought our preparation went wonderfully, certainly far better than did any of the sessions involving then candidate Trump. He nodded off while being educated far more often than my granddaughter did for her naps. And since my granddaughter has not yet learned how to tweet, or even type, she was able to concentrate in ways Donald could not. In addition, since neither of them actually reads books, she was at no competitive disadvantage.

I know there is a long way to go between now and the convention. There are certain to be many pitfalls, many places where it is not easy to find a good place to change a diaper, many days when my granddaughter would rather play with an empty water bottle than make another speech. But she has the boundless energy of youth on her side and she will only become stronger and more mature in the coming months. 

So, I am filled with a hope bordering on overconfidence, certain as I can be that there is ample room in this nation to embrace a brand new face (with maybe a little spit up in the corner of her mouth). A person unencumbered by past transgressions, willing to fight without end for what she believes, unafraid to take on Donald Trump. A person who is up in the middle of the night not covering her backside, but maybe having her backside covered.

And while, like the President, she has small hands, she is only 5 months old. And unlike him, she has a very big heart.

Look out America. Here she comes.

Fairy Tales Are Not True



Fairy tales are not true, no, not even a few
Oh your lying heart
And hard times you will find, life can be ever unkind
To a lying heart

You alone you demean with your litany of schemes
You will cry in your sleep for you're in this too deep
And investigations will mushroom with each passing day
And subpoenas either issue or they're on their way

Don't you see all your dough can't your evil unsow
Oh your lying heart
For though rich in your head, you've turned gold into lead
With your lying heart

And with all of your lies, you will never survive
From all you contrived, you have nothing derived
And here is the worst part, there is no fresh start
For one as bad as you with a lying heart

For one as bad as you with a lying heart.

Bread Crumbs Leading to the Front Door




A full time job.

If we worried that the members of Congress had too much time on their hands, with little but fundraising to occupy their days, Mr. Trump's house of horrors has given new life to an old body.

With a litany of wrongs to dissect as endless as the universe, a cast of characters as long as a Tolstoy novel and a villain who leaves more bread crumbs leading to his front door than Hansel and Gretel, Jerry Nadler and crew will be kept busier than a one armed paper hanger.

So, while our infrastructure is crumbling, our environment is disintegrating, our taxes are taxing, our immigration policy is devastating, our gun control is oxymoronic, our votes are unprotected, our cyber security is insecure, our health care reform D.O.A., our plight is unrelenting and our expectations are evaporating, at least we have our investigations to keep us warm at night.

While Mr. Trump has not a clue how to govern, he is a master at disaster. And for that Achilles heel, make that his entire foot (in his mouth), those otherwise left merely to twiddle their thumbs in the halls of Congress are eternally grateful.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

My First Crush







A half century is a long time to have a crush on somebody. But I still do.

It was 50 years ago this week that Mickey Mantle announced his retirement. The Mick arrived on the scene in the season of 1951, with an uneven beginning before his star shined bright later that year. Just about the time I was conceived. So you might say that we entered the big stage together.

From my earliest memories, Mick and I were friends. He would hang around the house with me, my glove an extension of his arm. We would be in my backyard together, Mick making a throw from the center field wall to the cut off man, little Robby, who turned and threw a bullet, a perfect strike to home plate, cutting down the runner trying to score from first.

And at night I would listen to my friend's exploits on the transistor radio, that brown leather covering a smell my mind recalls vividly even today. And there, in my mind's eye was Mick, like a blur between first and second, sliding in safely, dusting himself off, grinning that slightly off center grin that told me how much fun it was playing baseball.

When he got injured I felt the pain in the pit of my stomach. When he struck out, I ached. But when he hit those home runs that traveled farther than nature intended a baseball to go, I felt a rush of adrenaline unlike anything else I had ever experienced.

We were best friends for 18 seasons, inseparable. He was always my hero, a god really. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I know it was mostly a mirage. I know he was a pretty bad alcoholic and an even worse husband. I know that I should long ago have abandoned my silly childhood fantasies and brought Mick crashing back to earth. But that will never happen.

To me, Mickey Mantle was and will forever be what I saw the first day he entered my universe. Forever young, forever great beyond description. And though it is nearing 70 years since he first arrived and 50 since he lay his bat and glove down, he is still walking beside me, still in my mind, still in my dreams. Still and forever my first crush.

Friday, March 1, 2019

When You're With Don ( A message to Republicans in Congress)



When you let Don
Turn you into a clown 
You'll regret what you did
You've let everyone down

When you protect 
You make yourself a fool
You have lost everything
You are evil and cruel

You're covered in dung
You need some disinfectant
You're at the lowest rung
You're disrespected

When you let Don
Get away with his lies
You become just like him
Til the day that you die

When you elect
To do nothing at all
You turn into a joke
You build him his own Wall

You're better than this
At least you know you should be
You lay down with a dog
You wake up with fleas

When you pretend
That you're blind to all this
That he's really not bad
All his hate you dismiss

Then you're with Don
You're with Don all the way
From the first cover up 
To your last dying day

First cover up
To your last dying day

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Donny and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (Mikey talks while Kim and Donny stop talking)



Donny is far away from home and his own bed. He is in a strange place he stayed away from a long time ago because something was wrong with his feet, or maybe it was his knees, he can't quite remember which.

Anyway, back home, his old friend Mikey is telling terrible stories about Donny. He is saying that Donny is a cheater, a liar, a very bad boy. Donny doesn't like Mikey any more.

Donny likes cheeseburgers and french fries but where Donny is, they don't serve him what he likes. Donny misses cheeseburgers and french fries.

It seems that Mikey is going on forever about all the things Donny was supposed to have done. It sounds like Donny committed tax fraud, perjury, obstruction of justice and maybe a lot of other nasty stuff that Donny doesn't understand. And that maybe a lot of people are investigating him. Donny wishes he knew what investigate meant.

And he is also sad that he is so far away because Donny likes to tweet in the middle of the night but it is the middle of the afternoon where Donny wants to be when it is the middle of the night where Donny is. Donny doesn't understand how that could be.

Donny is meeting with a fat man with a very bad hair cut. Donny likes his own hair very much and he would never, ever wear his hair like that other man does. Or ever be fat like that other man. Donny is very handsome, or so the mirror on the wall tells him when he asks. And he asks a lot. But, in this strange land, the mirror doesn't understand English and is not telling Donny how handsome he is. Donny is sad.

Mikey is still talking. Some of Donny's friends keep saying to Mikey they don't believe a word he says about Donny but Donny wishes he could tell Mikey to his face what a bad boy he is being. Or maybe order a hit on him.

And the Fox News feed just went dead in Donny's room. He is very mad now and is screaming and cursing. Donny is not happy. He is not happy, not even one little bit.

Donny is going into a meeting now with the fat man with the bad haircut. Donny says the fat man is wonderful but he really has no idea what the fat man is saying. Donny wishes the fat man had a very pretty translator. And that Billy Bush was there hanging out with Donny.

The meeting with Donny and the fat man does not go well. Donny wants the fat man to stop building all his big toys but the fat man says he wants to still build some, even if Donny stops all his sanctions. Donny likes the word sanctions. It sounds very grown up. He doesn't like the fat man so much anymore. He pissed Donny off. Donny pouts when he walks out of the meeting. And he tells the fat man he should get a different barber..

After the meeting Donny decides he is going to bed. Mikey is done talking now but Donny thinks many other bad boys and girls will be saying some very mean things about Donny tomorrow.

Donny won't sleep well tonight. He had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

If only he could have said what a good boy Mikey was when Mikey was so polite around Donny and kept saying pardon me. If only Donny had said "you're pardoned" maybe he and Mikey would still be friends. Good friends. The kind that don't rat on each other. Who would take a bullet for you.

And then it would not have been such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Shelter from the Storm

AN EDITED VERSION OF THIS POST IS PUBLISHED IN THE MAIL (LETTERS) IN THE MARCH 18, 2019 EDITION OF THE NEW YORKER

("How Much a Dementia Patient Needs to Know")

My sister and I watched for a decade as the mother we knew faded into a fog and then disappeared from view. Her dementia eventually left us with nothing but her physical shell.

But there were occasional moments when my mother would animate. Most often these involved her belief that she was a young girl residing with her parents and was needed to work at the family store. And I traveled back in time with her, asking her questions of her day, her parents and what was happening of consequence. 

We kept my mom in her apartment until the end, hoping that familiar surroundings would prove soothing. But it was truly only when I wandered with her into her childhood home that a certain peace, fleeting as it might have been, emerged.

Dementia is a horrible illness, stripping one of virtually every connection to the universe one has inhabited. But there still remain shreds of a former life waiting to be uncovered, remembered, revived, providing brief shelter from the storm.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Republican Party Backbone? D.O.A.




So this is where the Republicans in the Senate show their fealty to country over party, to Constitution over pouty leader, to the dictates of their position over protecting their chances in 2020? Have you not been paying attention over the last decade?

From that moment in January 2009 when Mr. Obama took office, the mandate from Mr. McConnell was to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. Denying that President any victories was their mantra and for eight years they were ever vigilant, from seeking to derail Obamacare, to eviscerating even the most limited measures to rein in the Second Amendment abuses, to the bitter end when they stole a Supreme Court seat in blatant dereliction of their duties.

And with the ascension of Mr.Trump, they have protected him at every wrong turn, an occasional mini slap on the wrist, and John McCain's vote preserving Obamacare notwithstanding. For each random act of insanity, each revelation of another grave error on the part of the President there has been capitulation on the part of those whose couId demonstrate, with their votes, that the line in the sand has been crossed. 

So today is an emergency? We have long ago passed emergency. That first week in office when the initial executive order on the immigration ban was pronounced by the dictator in chief, that was when all hands should have been on deck putting out the fire. 

Now it has spread beyond all boundaries, out of control and creating a conflagration from sea to not so shining sea. And there is no water in the Republican party's hose. 

They ran dry a decade ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

My First Protest

"This is what Democracy looks like. This is what Democracy looks like."

My first protest. I know I am five months old and late to the party, but I am feeling it now.

There are a couple of loud Trump supporters trying to aggravate everyone. I want to get into it with them but grandma tells me not to. Since I am lying on her chest in a snuggly and rely upon her as my mode of transportation and warmth today, I think it best if I heed her advice.

The crowd is a little smaller than I hoped. Thinking it may be Trump fatigue. I may try to help organize the next rally. They could probably use some new blood.

I wish I could read. There are a couple of posters that my uncle is taking pictures of and I bet they capture the mood. I think mine would show a picture of Trump's big rear end and say "This is what an a...hole looks like. This is what an a....hole looks like." Grandma is telling me to calm down a bit.

I am worried what this idiot will do next, aren't you? I mean I think every day of my life has been uncertain because we have a President with more than one screw loose. In fact, I think every screw is loose. Geez Louise, he is dangerous.

Grandma, grandpa and my uncle are ready to leave now. I hear them talking about being hungry and wanting dinner.

"Stay a little longer. Just five more minutes. There are some things more important than food. I promise I will not make a scene if we can just stay five more minutes. Just five."

"Thanks."

"This is what Democracy looks like. This is what Democracy looks like."

Grandma tells me not to yell right in the face of that Trump supporter. We are leaving now.

She tells me I am too worked up, but I can't help it.

This protest stuff really gets my juices flowing.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Our National Emergency

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

Mr. Trump is absolutely correct in declaring a national emergency. 

We have a President without regard for the Constitution, for the limitations of his office, for the rule of law, for the dictates of history, for truth, for morality.

We have a President whose actions are directed by ego, by petulance, by spite, by whim, by tweet.

We have a President who has alienated his own administration, the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department.

We have a President who puts this nation in perpetual jeopardy, who treats our environmental concerns with disdain, our gun violence fears with flippant dismissal.

We have a President who manufactures a crisis for his political purposes, whose major accomplishment is misdirection, who lives in a permanent state of anger, filled with hate, consumed with bad intentions. Ridiculous and ridiculed around the globe. Doing grave damage to the Oval Office each and every day.

So yes, Mr. Trump, we do have a national emergency.

You

Friday, February 15, 2019

5 Months Old


So, I am 5 months old today. Hey, can anybody hear me. What am I, yesterday's news? When I was a baby everyone made such a big fuss over each month's passing. Now, it is like, oh really. Just a big yawn. Well this does not make me happy. Not in the least.

I know you care but step up your game a little. I want to feel that first day love every day.

Just recently, grandpa let me cry a full three seconds before rushing in my room to pick me up. What, I thought, does a woman have to do to get some attention around here.

And yes, I understand that I must now become involved in group activities, like music class, but did I really have to learn at such a tender age that there are other children who seem equally important to their parents as I do to mine?

And play dates? Am I supposed to pick out a best friend already? I am not even quite sure of the difference between head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes, so choosing who I really want to spend my time with is a daunting task.

This whole undertaking is more complicated than I originally thought. It turns out there is a lot more to each day than just eating, sleeping and pooping.

Just an aside, but is this a particularly strange winter? First it is so cold, then it is warm and rainy. Sometimes I am just cooped up inside all day. Personally, until I am old enough to ski, I think this will have to be considered my least favorite season.

Anyway, I don't want to sound ungrateful. I am learning what love is and it is a pretty awesome feeling. Those smiles I give to mom and dad are real, and the laughs that come from deep inside me do mean I am very, very happy.

I am just putting everyone on notice. I have a big birthday coming up next month. A half year old. I am already hoping for a surprise party. I think I will really like chocolate. Maybe I can taste it for the first time then. And can I see the guest list? I like that little girl downstairs.