Tuesday, March 29, 2022

True Lies

 ("Why a Ruling Trump 'Likely' Broke Laws May Not Mean He Will Be Prosecuted")

The problem is that Mr. Trump resides in a fictional world of his own making. Proving his state of mind is as elusive a task as trying to catch the wind in your hands.

Donald Trump starts with the answers and then creates the facts to fit his needs. So if he wants Covid to pose a minimal short term risk, he advises it will disappear like a miracle one day. Or it can be cured by pouring the equivalent of battery acid into your body. He could also speak with seeming conviction of loving dictators and autocrats who loved him back with equal fervor.

Did he hold true any of these lies or the million others he told throughout his presidency, throughout his entire life? Only he knows for certain. 

And that is exactly the problem when one is tasked with proving mens rea, a state of mind of criminal intent, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Did Donald Trump actually consider as valid the legal opinion that Mike Pence could be stopped in his tracks from certifying the election? We know that is what he wanted, and for him there might be little space between desire and belief.  Mr. Trump's seeming willingness to allow his mind to go where a person of reason would not, could ultimately provide him with sufficient cover from criminal prosecution.

His deficiencies may prove to be his greatest ally in this arena. Only in the world of Donald Trump could make believe provide a viable legal defense.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Guilt By Marriage

 ("Justice Thomas Ruled on Election Cases. Should His Wife's Texts Have Stopped Him?")

It is not as though we didn't see this Ginni Thomas train coming down the tracks.

Over three years ago, Linda Greenhouse, then an opinion writer for the Times with a regular column on matters Supreme, wrote an Op-Ed entitled "Family Ties to the Supreme Court." It focused on the question of whether "Ginni being Ginni" was enough for her husband, Clarence, to recuse himself from cases in which his spouse had put her proverbial foot in his mouth.

And there were a litany of matters, a cornucopia of circumstances, ripe for the picking. For those who may not recall, Ms. Thomas had a few choice words opposing gun control even in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. She was part of a group, Groundswell, who met at the White House to push their position that women and transgender people should not be permitted to serve in the military. She performed work for the right wing "think tank", the Heritage Foundation, attempting to provide "guidance" to the Bush administration on how best to fill their ranks.

So the effort of the Supreme Court justice's wife to prod Mr. Trump and his minions to do what they must to stop Joe Biden from taking the crown is not aberration or outlier but a continuation of a decades long activism of Ginni Thomas in pursuit of an agenda that many Americans like me find very disturbing and alarming. In essence, she was, and continues to be, a significant voice for the "far right", or as I would rather call them, the "never right".

But what does that mean when it comes to matters that may come before the court?  Do family ties bind? Ms.Greenhouse referred to the decision of Justice Antonin Scalia not to recuse himself in a matter involving his old time duck hunting buddy, Vice President Cheney. Justice Scalia wrote that "The people must have confidence in the integrity of the justices and that cannot exist in a system that assumes them to be corruptible by the slightest friendship or favor." 

Is that the standard that should apply? That recusal, a self determination by a justice, subject to no review, is to be guided not by the appearance of conflict, or impropriety, but by the assumption that someone like Ginni Thomas, an outspoken advocate for her causes and beliefs, holds no sway with her husband? 

I know the shoe could well have been on the other foot, if for example the career path of a Bill Clinton (or a Hillary Clinton), or a Barack Obama (or Michelle Obama) had led to a seat on the Supreme Court while their spouse was raising a  continuous loud voice in the public arena on critical causes of the day. Am I to believe that those who share my opinions are not as equally likely to find themselves in situations such as the ones now under review? I cannot pretend this is so.

It is virtually impossible that Ginni and Clarence did not through the decades have substantive discussions on the matters that mattered to her, and him. And that she did not attempt to press her positions and convince him of the harm that would be done to the country if her beliefs did not prevail. Much more than pillow talk about the kids and the weather.

Do the sins of Ginni Thomas thus, by way of automatic default, fall upon Clarence? Is guilt by marriage always the answer?

Despite my gut instincts, this is not a uniformly easy call to make. While I am deeply concerned at having to trust in the integrity of someone like Justice Thomas to make his determinations free of the sound of his wife's voice in his ear, still...

However, if the predicate for the determination is the degree and nature of the involvement, the fingerprints of Ginny Thomas were all over the January 6th insurrection. Her texts not mere peripheral noise, but central in the cacophony urging the President forward. Under the facts as we now understand them, if she was not part of the inner sanctum, she was not far removed. So let me not be hesitant to render my verdict on this particular matter. 

The scales are heavily tipped by the conclusion that Ginny plunked herself down in the eye of the hurricane. The questions that require investigation and determination inextricably interwoven with the protestations and exhortations of the wife of one Supreme Court Justice. One cannot credibly pretend this is just business as usual for her husband. Therefore, Clarence Thomas should hereby be relieved of any further rights or responsibilities to judge the propriety of any action that relates in any manner to that terrible day in January.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

This Show is Rated "NM" - Not for Mature Audiences

 ("The Using of Ketanji Brown Jackson")

There should have been a warning label scrolling at the bottom of the screen informing viewers that what they were about to see was not intended for mature audiences. Or for anyone interested in getting a true understanding of the qualifications of the nominee.

The prosecution, I mean questioning, of Judge Jackson was not directed at changing the minds of those casting votes in favor of her elevation to the Supreme Court.  The attacks on her, and attacks they were for no lesser term would suffice, proved only that this hearing was mere masquerade, thin veneer, for the questioners to serve up red meat to the worst instincts and beliefs of their constituents. Insinuation and innuendo substituting for an honest reflection and review of Judge Jackson's life and her career in the law. 

Why bother broadcasting this at all? Why give those like Mr. Cruz the opportunity to strut their stuff before the cameras? Judge Jackson deserved better than that. And so do the American people.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Driving Me Nuts

 My mom was 90 when we took away her license. More precisely, when her license was not renewed, thanks to some questionable information we supplied her about the requirements for sustaining her right to strike fear in us every time the car keys were in her hands.

By that time, she had a few accidents and was unable to remember how to get from here to there, the dementia beginning to take a stranglehold on her existence.

Like so many others before and since, she fought tooth and nail to retain what she perceived as her last vestige of independence. And I proclaimed to anyone in earshot, that would not be me. Better too soon than too late. 

Please rewind to erase my earlier statements. I now advise in no uncertain terms that I will glue myself to the wheel so you cannot pry my shriveled hands from control of my own destiny and destination.

Forget Uber or Lyft. Screw the savings on insurance or maintenance. Give me the damn keys and step aside.

I injured myself on January 7th of this year in a fall that I have chronicled in chapter and verse, page be page and inch by inch. My shoulder and I doing battle for supremacy. So far, I am in second place.

Not that there have been setbacks. All is moving forward according to plan. Well, according to my shoulder's plan that is.

Since then I have been unable to drive a car. At first it was but a footnote, an asterisk on the road to recovery. Now, as the immediacy of injury recedes, the insult takes center stage.

This is my 52nd year behind the wheel. My family would suggest it is maybe 52 too many. Apart from my idiot savant skills at parallel parking, the rest of my navigating leaves much to be desired. Or more accurately, undesired.

I miss turns on an alarming basis. I wander over lines with unrelenting frequency. I am far too often honked at, cursed out and generally dissed by those in other vehicles who must deal with my driving inadequacies. I am a virtual accident waiting to happen.

My friends for more than half a century have made certain, if a choice was to be made, that I was the last one picked as driver. And if I was getting us from A to B, no one volunteered to sit in the front passenger seat.

But that has not deterred me. Neither rain, sleet, snow nor an occasional near collision could keep me from my appointed rounds. Until January 7th of this year. And counting.

My wife doesn't like to drive. And can't see at night. With each passing day, leading to every week and now stretching into endless months, the weight of waiting for me to snap up the keys, has become heavier on each of us. My not driving now far more annoying than my bad driving. My not driving now driving both of us nuts.

 I now have a much more intimate, far greater appreciation for those who complain bitterly about losing their last vestige of independence, of having their final freedom, the freedom of movement, stolen from them. It stings and it stinks.

So when next the keys are firmly in my grasp and you ask where I am going the answer will be simple. Wherever the spirit moves me. Whenever it does.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

My Favorite Picture of My Friend Steve

 My favorite picture of him is on page 200 of our 1970 yearbook.

Steve is posed, along with Barry and me, sitting on the roof of the car. In the background, on the wall of the building, it reads: "Sandwiches, FRIENDLY, Ice Cream". We were not allowed off campus then, but we were seniors in high school and who followed the rules anyway.

I think that was the day we got caught on our return. Not so much physically apprehended as spotted by Mr. King. The doors to the car opened in an instant and anyone not then operating the vehicle exited and headed for cover. Only I had recently broken my ankle, was wearing a cast and ran up a steep hill with a distinctive gait. Suffice it to say, it was not hard to pick me out of a line-up as the perp.

I recall that I got called into the office to confess to my crimes, but I do not remember the specifics of the punishment meted out. All I know is I graduated and have been able to live this past half century without my misdeed dogging me every step of the way.

Anyway, I digress. What I originally intended was to talk about my friend Steve. And that picture. He has some cool sunglasses on, his legs dangling, one over the windshield and the other by the driver's side window. 

I don't remember who snapped the photo. I guess we had invited someone to join us in our act of defiance. You know, in over 50 years I don't think I ever stopped to question if there was another miscreant in the car then. If I ask Barry now, he might recall. But I know Steve won't.

I try to visit Steve once a week if I can. But I am not perfect, even though my intentions are good. If I don't visit, at least I call. Most of the time Judy is on the phone with us. That helps a lot.

Anyway, about that picture. Steve always had a little edge to him, a little toughness that was nowhere in existence in my DNA. I was, and remain, a wimp. Steve used to tell me about the time he got into a fight with some guy out at the beach, where Steve's family had a summer house. The fight involved jumping over a bush, punches and included everything that I would not ever do voluntarily. My fighting career being limited to that occasion Robert Epstein punched me in the stomach and I doubled over. And oh yes that time that seventh grader beat me up. Which also happened to be during my senior year in high school.

Where was I? Oh yeah. You know, if I had to guess, I think someone else was in the car with us that day. And I would bet it was that foreign exchange student who was on our soccer team. Now he was a very good player, unlike me who only pretended I was good because I hardly ever played due to that broken ankle I was telling you about in my final season and, in my junior year, due to a bout of impetigo. But that is a tale for another day.

As to athletic heroics, Steve was once carried from the football field on the shoulders of his teammates. The fact that it was 49 - 0 when he was inserted into the game and scored that touchdown is but a meaningless asterisk.

Actually, I have not a clue if there was anyone in the car with us. Maybe we convinced a waitress from Friendly's to take that picture. And maybe, no definitely, I should not implicate someone in our act in defiance of authority without certainty. I apologize.

But about that picture of the car. Steve loves cars. From the first chance he got, he always drove cars that went fast and had stick shifts. He could do that double stick shift thing that was like string theory physics to me. Once he had the engine of a sports car burn up as he drove it, the flames shooting under the dashboard, trying to toast him like a marshmallow.

Anyway, I love that picture. It is now 52 years later and so much has happened to Steve, to all of us, since then. I wonder if, from behind those glasses, he could see any of it. I know that from my vantage point,  the only thing in my field of vision was the pavement in the parking lot.

Steve looked very cool that day. Very young, with a hint of tough around the edges. Or maybe that is just how I choose to see it.

Which is exactly why it is my favorite picture of him.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

A Million Lives Lost - And the Difference Between Good and Bad Intentions

 ("How Millions of Lives Might Have Been Saved From Covid -19")

This is a very sobering recitation of the mistakes we have made and misdirections we have taken in our responses to the clues these past two years. The best and the brightest in our scientific community struggling to follow the breadcrumbs. 

Yet, even so, with a different leader our story would have surely been one with far less misery and suffering. Someone who did not minimize what we faced, who did not treat wearing a mask as a scarlet letter, who did not find political gain in trying to eviscerate those whose only goal was to locate the necessary truths to give all of us the best chance at survival.

There is blame to be spread around as we edge ever closer to one million in our count of those who have succumbed in this country alone to Covid 19. 

But there is a world of difference between good and bad intention. Guilt and shame should attach only to the latter. 

To Mr. Trump.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

A Picture Worth Far More Than a Thousand Words

 ("They Died by a Bridge in Ukraine. This Is Their Story")

It is impossible for those of us, this morning opening our newspapers, deciding what to eat for breakfast and checking today's forecast, to have anything more than the smallest inkling of the realities of war.

But in the image of this family, a mother and two children, lying lifeless in the street, in the story told by a husband and father whose world was torn apart in the blink of an eye, and in the pictures he showed of his loved ones that reminded us that but for the serendipity of where we were born and reside that could have been you or me, in all of that we get a glimpse of the absolute maddening, sickening cruelty and insult of war.

A picture may be worth a thousand words. These tell a tale worthy of so much more.  

Sunday, March 6, 2022

'Twas the Night of the Bombing

 'Twas the night of the bombing

And all through the streets
Lay the evidence of war
And its piercing drumbeat

They huddled as one
In the subway's embrace
The lives they once lived
Now gone without trace

A baby doll rested
At the little girl's side
While her mother sat silent
No tears left to cry

The sounds of war shattered
The last embers of joy
While her little boy clinged
To his favorite toy

What had they done
To deserve such a fate
What had gone wrong
To be covered in hate

The house they once knew
Was suddenly no more
The flames now destroying
Any trace of before

It was a night of destruction
Of the world that had been
As she sat underground
And shook at war's din

Come Satan, come Devil
Come do what you will
The night sky now shrieking
Of the people you'll kill

Come blitzkrieg, come sirens
That sing songs of death
As she lay down in fear
Of her children's last breath

In the morning's first light
If they should survive
She'll arise from this tomb
And thank God they're alive

But this night of the bombing
She'll never let go
As her children hold close
A world they'll nevermore know

Friday, March 4, 2022

The Villages in Florida Party Like Its 1969 - What Happened to Us?

 ("The 'Disney' for Boomers Puts Hedonism on Full Display")

A place where seniors can "party like its 1969."

I remember 1969. It was a time of free love (Woodstock), of "four dead in Ohio" (actually early the next year), of sex, drugs and rock and roll. And questioning almost everything about the generations that preceded us. We were going to change the world. For the better. Hippies with a burning social conscience.

Where civil rights were human rights. Where passion and compassion were to be doled out in equal measure. Where we would be guided and led by our better angels.

How did we become the Villages? Where there is pride in prejudice, where liberal is a four letter word, where values once fully rejected now are wholly embraced. 

I wonder how many of those in this Florida enclave were in the mud at Woodstock, or protested the war in Vietnam. How many would have once renounced the core beliefs espoused in a place like this as regressive and reprehensible?
If we are talking about 1969, that may be the real story of the Villages. Of ideas and ideals lost and diametrically opposite ones found. Of what has happened to so much of America in the last half century.

And what hasn't. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Planning My Surprise Party

 Hello, is this the police? I would like to report something of great value missing. It is the plans for my surprise party.

I am very afraid you will never find it. It seems that my upcoming birthday, though of incalculable importance to me, is of lesser moment to those I hold near and nearly dear (the nearly would be gladly removed should they find the energy to focus on my most critical decade turning date).

If you are looking for clues, you can go back in time ten years, when I had to gently coax (ok, beg) my bride to make plans for my last surprise party. Yes, I know this might be a bit unorthodox but if the mountain won't come to Muhammad...

Look, I get it. The world has been through enough in the last two years that it may not have the interest or desire to fete me. All the more reason that this surprise would be so exceptional.

During the pandemic one of my friends had a virtual 70th, or something approximating that. He had desserts delivered to each of those who assembled online (I would never stoop to such an obvious bribe). Everyone said such nice things about him. And it went on forever, one compliment after another.  It made me very sad that they were not talking about me.

Last week another friend turned 70 and he went to visit his children and grandchildren to celebrate. What a show-off.

I know the menu for my party: pizza, ice cream (that 3 flavor combination) and cupcakes (Hostess preferably). So I never outgrew my three year old stage. Got a problem with that?

The guest list is anyone who can still put up with me after all these years. The oldest friends first. Come to think of it, they are all old.

Don't call my wife. You won't find any clues from her as to where the plans may be hiding. It is hard enough for her getting through each day with me. The thought of  having to celebrate my continued existence on this planet would be beyond what anyone would have the right to expect from her.

On further thought, cancel this call. I will just have to muddle through giving subtle hints to those I encounter, like I don't want presents this year. 

In case you were wondering I turn (inaudible) on (inaudible) What are you doing that day? What do you mean, you have a headache scheduled then!

The Beating Heart

 Out gunned, out manned, outspent, out planned.

Yet no defeat is in their eyes. 
No surrender in their cries.

Who stands up when Goliath nears?
Who stands tall despite the fears?

Their hearts as weapons in this fight.
Their beating hearts a fearsome sight.

Battles won. Battles lost.
Land taken at terrible cost. 

Lives upended. Death descended.
The darkest night surely portended.

But they will not lose their beating heart.
What cannot be taken at any cost.

And in the end what is the battle for?
But for the heart and little more.

Though the enemy wins what do they gain?
Without the heart but a sad refrain.

There can be greatness in defeat.
And the greatest loss at victory's seat.

My Most Sincere Apology

 ("He's Sorry. She's Sorry. Everybody's Sorry. Does It Matter?")

I have a suggested solution for this ubiquitous problem: a pre-apology, a mea culpa prior to your mea being culpable.

You must apologize before you commit the inevitable wrong for which your contrition is mandated.

 "For that which I may do hereinafter which is found reprehensible, I am deeply sorry. For those who know me best, my actions were an aberration. They do not represent who I am and what my fundamental values are. I can never fully forgive myself for my transgression, nor can I expect you to do so. Just know I will try to do better in all the tomorrow's to come, to live up to the highest expectations you have for me and I have for myself. I will do all I can to be deserving of your respect once more. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for not giving up on me."

That should nicely cover any oops before it occurs, don't you think?