Thursday, September 30, 2021

Houdini, A Cat With Nine Lives and Teflon Don

 ("Trump Still Faces A Reckoning")

What Ms. Bernstein provides is but a laundry list of Mr. Trump's greatest hits. In this Teflon Don's wake is left a lifetime of those disassembled by his greed, his hubris, his immorality.

And yet, even through his presidency, through his perfect phone call, his cheerleading the January 6th insurrection, his direction to his underlings to treat the Mueller investigation and subpoenas like a fly to be swatted away, through the Michael Cohen fiasco and now the Weisselberg indictment, through the decades of trumped up facts and figures, somehow Donald's fingerprints never turn up at the scene of the crime.

So, where exactly, and when specifically, can we expect this day of reckoning Ms. Bernstein? 

The unvarnished truth is that 45 has a much better chance of being 47 than being perp walked into a Manhattan courtroom to face a reality we know exists but somehow cannot prove.

Houdini, a cat with nine lives and Teflon Don. Who among them is the greatest of all escape artists?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Trump Redux?


 ("The UnTrump Presidency Slams Into Trumpness")

While it may not exactly be campaigning in poetry and governing in prose, as Mr. Biden reminds no one of Mr. Obama or Mr. Clinton for his capacity to elevate and captivate, the real lesson learned is that the act of leading this country is hard.

Mr Biden faces a wholly uncooperative Republican opposition who combine obstinacy with fiction in thwarting his intentions; an Afghanistan government that crumbled instantaneously when challenged and greatly amplified the President's miscalculation; an American public that refuses to believe in the power of the vaccine; a border that serves as daily reminder that much of the world is in chaos that we can do little to alter.

That is not to say all has been handled with dexterity, the French fiasco a certain black eye in diplomacy. And yes, the optics certainly superficially invite comparison of 45 and 46. But Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump in the same sentence? I think not. 

Mr. Trump's animosities coupled with his incompetence to invite disaster at every turn. Mr. Biden's morality and life long belief in the foundation of government at least gives us reason to hope for a better tomorrow.

And there is poetry in not having Mr. Trump there to remind us how easy it is to squander the riches of a democracy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


 Is mine bigger than yours? 

I am talking about the accomplishments of our granddaughters of course.

Getting ready for a bragathon as I face off against one of the friends I have been Covid missing since we took shelter from the storm in different ports.

I have 18 months of stored can you top this, each of us welcoming a new grandchild in the fold  in the interim while also collecting unmatched glories of our now 3 year old granddaughters.

There will 3 judges at this talk off, scores ranging from 1 (I would rather listen to Donald Trump discuss his 2024 presidential plans) to 10 (Mensa just added another category for a group of one). There will be 2 minutes for each tale, with a 1 minute rebuttal. The competition will conclude with 5 minute soliloquies, a reference to Shakespeare mandatory. Social distance and masking will be required throughout the debate, except when one of us has a really important point to make.

Our respective seconds will be requested to remain silent throughout the evening, no facial expressions, pinching of the arm or kicking under the table permitted. 

I have been practicing extensively for this opportunity, informing anyone within earshot, and some outside that corridor, of the latest incomparable act I have witnessed. Rumor is my opponent has been training with equal vigor.

There are local and regional tournaments commencing around the country. Each grandparent aiming for victory and an opportunity to move on in this national competition. The ultimate prize, a special on HBO,  "Everything You Didn't Want To Know About My Grandchildren."

It all starts tonight. I am ready.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide the Children and the Silverware

 ("The Yankees' Roller Coaster of a Season Hits Another Big Dip")

They are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide the Children and the Silverware. Often unwatchable, unbearable, unbelievably unsatisfying.

They have blown leads in unimaginable fashion, have made the Baltimore Orioles look like a major league team, have turned struggling pitchers into Picasso, have caused us to call the police to report a case of no hit and run, of no stolen base, of no one safe at home.

And yet, 150 games into our season of discontent, there is still not a dagger through their heart. Even as the dictionary definition of ugly has a video of the last 2 losses to Cleveland attached, even as Gerrit Cole went from swan back to ugly duckling for one depressing day, even as bad moved one step closer to taking up permanent residence in the House that Ruth did not build, there is still time for Dr. Jekyll to reappear.

Boston and Toronto await. And, in one of the many thousand of baseball truisms that are stuck inside fortune cookies, this group of ill fitting parts still controls its own destiny.

At the conclusion of the Robert Louis Stevenson tale all is lost, as the good must be sacrificed to keep the bad from emerging victorious. Kill the beast. I only hope fiction does not turn to fact here and the only sacrifice required is moving a runner into scoring position.

Long live Dr. Jekyll. At least into the post-season.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Covid Counterfactuals

 ("What If Covid Were 10 Times Deadlier?") 

I do not care to go down that rabbit hole with you Mr. Douthat. As if Republican opposition to the vaccine is a mere  math problem.

Do you want the real counterfactual? If Donald Trump had not attempted an act of prestidigitation, convincing those who hung on his every word that this pandemic would one day magically disappear, if he had not proclaimed the wearing of a mask an infringement on personal space but rather an urgent necessity, a point of pride and not a sign of weakness, a badge of honor and not a scarlet letter, if Donald Trump had won the election and Operation Warp Speed had been declared the miracle of his presidency, if January 6th had never occurred and the government had not been attacked for prosecuting the great steal but instead been feted for looking the devil in the eye and beating it back with the power of the great Wizard, then Mr. Trump's fervent followers who pledge allegiance to a man, who hold in Trump we trust, then Republican governors, senators and congresspeople, who follow the scent of votes wherever it may lead, all would have hailed Caesar as a conquering hero, would have laid down their swords and rolled up their sleeves and taken a shot in the arm for the shot in the arm their savior had bestowed upon them, a gift from their God. And we would not be calculating the dead in ever increasing numbers 18 months in and counting, counting, counting.

But those are counterfactuals Mr. Douthat would rather we not examine. Why? 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Washington 30 - New York 29


Given the choice between a root canal without any anesthetic or watching the Giants lose to the team formerly known as Prince, my answer would be "How wide do you want me to open my mouth?"

18 months of living under the all encompassing horror of Covid, 18 months of desperately longing for life to be as it was BC (before Covid). And then the Giants reminded me that maybe I don't long for EVERYTHING to be as it had been.

I sat in the stands as a season ticket holder for 2 decades late in the century that preceded this. I was there for the fumble, thank you Mr. Pisarcik. I know what ugly looks like. But couldn't they have waited until next year for me to have to wait til next year? 

Yogi once said its getting late early (if it wasn't Yogi it should have been). Or as Don Meredith used to croon " Turn out the lights the party's over." Someone did not pay the electric bill, the lights are off and this team, and their season, sits in total blind darkness.

Speak about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The last two minutes of that game could be run on endless loop and be more effective at Guantanamo than waterboarding.

I guess I should be grateful for the distraction from the mind numbing stupidity exhibited in the face of the pandemic.  But did it have to be replaced with other mind numbing stupidity? 

I envy those who go to museums to be captured by the finest art, or read books that are transcendent. The near certainty of response is a condition I wish I could replicate. But being a lifelong fan of an almost always staggering sports franchise provides me with a different emotion, one that leaves me most often in the condition I now inhabit: wondering if my doctor has any laughing gas to stop the flow of tears.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The State of Our Welfare

 ("Can America Afford to Become a Major Social Welfare State?")

Even this former economic adviser to George W. says "yes". But then he asks "should we", predicating his response on a theoretical disincentive of the well to do to work to maximum capacity if they are subject to  higher taxes. Especially if those monies are earmarked for ones whose fortunes, economic and otherwise, are dire.

I would then wonder why this approach didn't result in our economy's total collapse when the highest marginal tax rate was 91 per cent in the early 1960's.  

Mr. Mankiw writes of compassion being a noble virtue BUT... 

What is the moral responsibility of this nation? If we are capable of improving the lives of those within our midst at little true cost to the well being of the well off, can we afford not to do this?

The word "welfare" is overflowing with negative implications, a demeaning code for those whose worth is measured only in dollars and cents. Rather, we should define our value by how we protect those with the least, not the most, among us.   

Yes we can. Then yes we must.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

20 Years Later

20 years ago we joined arms, our grievances against one another at least temporarily camouflaged in shouts of USA, USA. Our eyes filled with the sight of the disintegration of the twin towers. The certainty of tomorrow lying in smoldering rubble on the streets of NYC.

Today, two decades later, we are still waged in a struggle to the death. Only today the enemy hides in plain sight. Today the enemy is us. 

Today our streets are flooded, our forests are on fire, our hospitals are overwhelmed and our morgues are overflowing. Today our freedom to vote is in jeopardy and a woman's freedom to choose is unraveling. Today prejudices and hatreds are worn with pride, not hidden in the shadows. Today we have taken up our cause in an uncivil war, our enmity for each other the very air we breathe.

Today millions challenge the assertion that a mask is not a symbol of oppression, but a shield, that a vaccine is not a punishment, but a savior. Today, as we stagger under the reality not of nearly 3000 lost on a horrific day, but over 600,000 gone in an ongoing torture that has haunted us for 18 months, today we stand not locked in arms but in battle.

20 years has taught us more about our own failings than we could ever have imagined when we watched in horror on the morning the blue sky disappeared in a cloud of death.

20 years later we have been unmasked. And what has been revealed is the ugly truth about ourselves.

Friday, September 10, 2021

(DEAD)Line In the Sand

 They should be denominated DEADlines, or maybe even deadLINES.

Yesterday, in President Biden's speech, and in the vote of the Los Angelos Board of Education, far reaching vaccine mandates were finally announced. Sort of. With an asterisk.

As this nation hovers around 150,000 new Coronavirus cases  and 1500 deaths each day, as the Delta variant wreaks havoc 18 months into our nightmare, President Biden announced a red line for a major swath of the working population, to be enforced AFTER A 75 DAY GRACE PERIOD.  And in L.A., children 12 and over have UNTIL NOVEMBER 21 TO GET THEIR FIRST SHOT.

Where is the urgency? We are swimming in vaccines, booster shots now readily available for those ALREADY VACCINATED, the President pledging to donate up to a half billion shots to needy nations. Is it logistics demanding these delays? Then shame on us for not being prepared. If this is not the case, then why allow MORE THAN 2 MONTHS TO PASS BEFORE THE (DEAD)LINE IN THE SAND IS CROSSED?

When is an emergency not an emergency? When we treat it that way.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

The True Measure of Who We Are

 (The Texas Abortion Law Is Not 'Extreme')

Dr. Prior is correct. Each life has value. Whether you be poor, sick, old, black, Muslim, undocumented immigrant, every human being should be treated with care. And, as Dr. Prior alludes to almost as an aside, it is easy to demonstrate love for one before their birth, much more challenging thereafter. 

That is, in part, what I find so distressing in those who argue to sustain the unborn but do so little to aid, and so much to harm so many from the time they arrive until they depart.

Where is their compassion for those who rely on government assistance for their economic survival, for those whose educational surroundings place them at severe disadvantage, for those who seek shelter from unbearable circumstances in other lands, for those whose sin is merely being born a different shade or expressing a different sexual orientation, for those whose daily suffering is unending and unrelenting but who are not permitted a dignified exit from this existence?

Let the ones who profess such commitment to the unborn, demonstrate an equal amount of human kindness to the many they now treat with such open disregard.

Protecting and respecting life doesn't end at birth but stretches from cradle to grave. Show me you believe in the preservation of all beings who inhabit this planet.  It is only in that realm that we determine the true measure of who we are.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Name These Two Countries (Quotes are taken from Today's Paper)

 One leader speaks of putting tycoons on notice to share the wealth, pressing businesses and entrepreneurs. An economist states that "public spending is overly concentrated in cities (and) elite schools." Officials are "pledging to make schooling, housing and health care less costly... and to lift incomes for workers, helping more people secure a place in the middle class."  "A powerful (country) should also be a fair and just (one)"

Meanwhile, in another land  perceived as distant in virtually every way, leaders propose a "cradle to grave" reworking of policy to counter "decades of expanding income equality and "stagnating wealth", proposing expansions, in Medicare coverage, free or affordable child care, two years of free post secondary education, financed with proposed tax increases on corporations. "This" we are told "is how you build a strong nation."

Monday, September 6, 2021

Gone With The Wind

 I ran into an excellent round of golf yesterday, out of nowhere. I can, but won't, tell you of each swing, the break on each putt, the score, hole by hole. Inch by agonizing inch.

But, ask me who I played with, spent four hours swapping stories with, had lunch with, and I barely recall. Not that they were forgettable. Merely that my power of retrieval is, to be kind to myself, akin to a three putt on every hole. For you non-golfers, that means pathetic.

My mom suffered from dementia, robbing her of the last decade of her life, resembling the person I knew in body alone.  I understand that none of us, or at least most of us, aren't firing on all cylinders as we move towards the finish line.  But I wonder if the road I am traversing is leading to the dark place where my mom resided those last terrible years.

A few of my friends are wobbling, some around the edges, others taking occupancy wholly in the eye of the storm. I have no clue as to what precipitated their fall, as but a blink of the eye last, we were all vibrant, all free from mental blemish, at least from where I stood and peered in. There was no warning sign, no flashing lights.

For years now, I have been hard pressed to remember names, sometimes even of those with whom I have shared air on more than just the occasional occasion. When being in position to introduce A to B, I merely stand there awkwardly, waiting for A to recognize that the dead space meant I was unable or unwilling to perform the task I was implicitly assigned.

The title, or even the plot of movies I just watched. Forget about it. Literally.  Names of actors. You know, the one who starred with that other famous one in the film about...  Everything becoming a description, each person and even many things losing specific designation. It is what you utilize to turn a light on or off. Oh, you mean a switch.

My wife will ask me to do something, anything, for her. And yes, I am that cliche kind of husband, with what is generously referred to as selective hearing. But it is much more than this failing. I will walk upstairs, intent on accomplishing my task and, seconds later, return from where I started, having completed nothing more concrete than the exercise comprising the climb and descent.

Is there fear in all of this? Resignation? Inevitability? Denial? Some of all of the above. Most often all of this is but a faint noise in the background, something to be ignored. Something happening to other people on their planet. Not mine. Like the way some consider climate change.

And if it is happening to me, what can I do about it? Given my propensities, my response will be, at best, muted. At worst, merely writing these few words and leaving the next chapter as a blank page, to be filled in by forces acting upon me. As though I was disassociated with the event.

If you were wondering, yesterday morning was spent with Paul, Larry, Hank and Rusty. On my best days, I can tell you not only each of my swings, but most taken by the others who wander aimlessly for hours in my company. Not that you would ask.

Just don't make me repeat their names again a few minutes from now. Like that old classic starring the guy with the big ears, that information will likely be Gone With The Wind.