Arguing with voodoo and nonsense

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The debate following the horrific slaughter last week in Parkland, FL has tracked along predictable, sickening lines. Those supporting reasonable gun control rely upon numerous solid facts, while those defending their “right” to own weapons of war try to prop up the Second Amendment and the NRA while leading us down a rabbit hole of warped logic and militia voodoo. Like many issues involving conservatives in this country, they are countering strong arguments with flimsy propaganda and emulating the moronic president they idolize by doubling-down on their stupidity when challenged. As for members of Congress bought and paid-for by the NRA, they meekly recite their lines and somehow continue to look at themselves in the mirror.

However, there have been some interesting developments over the last few days. Let’s see if they lead anywhere:

1) A teenage speaker in Parkland has declared to great acclaim that this will be the last mass school shooting in America.

2) A former army solider described in convincing detail in a widely distributed blog post how an AR-15 is the perfect killing machine, and how it’s patently ridiculous that it is available for sale.

3) A key GOP donor has said he won’t write another check until Republicans get behind an assault weapons ban.

4) A protest vigil turned up at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, VA.

5) Students and teachers are threatening a massive nationwide school walkout on April 20. As that date is also the infamous 4-20, we can only hope the students’ motivations remain pure.

For any of these ideas to actually achieve something, Americans must do one thing differently, a big thing – stay engaged. We are good at public mourning and we excel at insulting each other on the internet, but we haven’t figured out how to be tenacious in finally, finally stopping the mentally ill from acquiring weapons and using them to butcher children, concertgoers and movie patrons. Common sense would tell us that at some point every citizen regardless of political persuasion would say “enough” and work together to enact change. But common sense was banished from one side of the table a long time ago, and it has not been invited back.

If there was ever a time to lay the voodoo priest to rest, it is now, but we have been saying that for years and Wayne LaPierre, the NRA and their congressional puppets still don’t get it. It will require uncharacteristic tenacity and possibly conflict with armed-to-the-hilt assholes to get there. I fervently hope we find a solution in my lifetime, but I have doubts.

 

A Kerr-Popovich national ticket in 2020

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Gregg “Pop” Popovich and Steve Kerr

In the wake of the shooting deaths of 17 people at a school in Parkland, FL, the latest incident in the long-running batshit-crazy psychodrama of American assault rifle attacks, I am reminded that some of the best takedowns of the infantile Donald J. Trump; his corrupt, inept administration; and GOP moral vacancy in general have come from a pair of basketball coaches, Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, two men who have become rich and famous through professional sports but in fact offer a great deal more, starting with fierce intelligence and deep humanity, traits that are in very short supply right now in the White House and among majority leaders on Capitol Hill.  For this reason I’m taking a stance that’s half-serious (maybe): Kerr and Popovich for president/VP in 2020

Popovich, 69, is an NBA legend who has led the small-market San Antonio Spurs to five league championships and 20 consecutive winning seasons. Kerr, 52, has enjoyed what looks like a too-easy career as a member of the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, a national broadcaster, and the coach of the talent-rich Golden State Warriors. If you didn’t know better you would think Kerr is one of those guys who has breezed-by on charm and good looks, and you would be wrong.

Steve Kerr’s life story is unique, and some of it is heart-wrenching. By the time he had become perhaps the most popular athlete in school history at the University of Arizona–inspiring an arena full of basketball fans to repeatedly shout “STEVE KERR” in unison–he had already endured more misfortune than many of us encounter in a lifetime. His father was Malcolm Kerr, an educator who was president of American University in Beirut and was killed there by terrorists in 1984. Steve Kerr carried that terrible burden forward and wore it on his sleeve as maturity and leadership. As a coach, Kerr took a Warriors team that was already very good and introduced a meticulously thought-out, innovative approach that made it the best in the NBA, winning two of last three league titles. Kerr had never coached before.

I know three people who know Gregg Popovich personally, and they each talk about his loyalty and integrity. They go back to his years as a student at the Air Force Academy and a stint as a young coach at a small California college. Popovich, known as “Pop,” doesn’t forget his friends. He leaves them tickets when his team travels to Northern California, and he is careful to make time for them away from the demands of players and the media. As a coach, Pop has excelled through flexibility, tactical brilliance, savvy player acquisitions in collaboration with the Spurs front office, and brutal honesty. He connects with his players and motivates them, and sometimes he might even scare them a little.

So let’s look at Kerr-Popovich on the issues. Pop has been very eloquent in his assessments of Trump:

1) Responding to a lie Trump told about his response to the deaths of four soldiers in comparison to other presidents, Popovich said, “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it.”

2) On Trump and all the commotion last fall over athletes choosing not to stand-for or otherwise recognize the national anthem: “The childishness, the gratuitous fear mongering and race baiting, has been so consistent that it’s almost expected. The bar has been lowered so far that I think it’s more important to be thinking about what to do in more organic roots based level. Thinking about the efforts to restrict voter registration, comments that demean cultures, ethic groups, races, women. Those sorts of things. What can be done in an organic way to fight that?”

Kerr took time last night before a Warriors loss to address the attack in Florida, saying, “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death, day after day in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country to actually do anything. That’s demoralizing. But we can do something about it, we can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives, not just bow down to the NRA because they’ve financed their campaign for them. Hopefully we’ll find enough people, first of all to vote, get people in, but hopefully we’ll find enough people to actually help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues, not building some stupid wall for millions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semi-automatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”

It’s even more powerful on video.

Yeah, we can elect new people – guys like this. What, you ask, basketball coaches as national leaders? Well, as you can see, they’re already leaders, and in the current farce we’re forced to suffer through, why the hell wouldn’t we consider people like them?

Kerr-Popovich 2020? Sure, I’d be interested. (Half-seriously)

 

 

 

About Jane Fonda

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We had a Jane Fonda moment last month. We don’t seem to have a lot of them, or at least I don’t. On those rare occasions when she enters my consciousness I find myself thinking something like, “Oh, yeah – her. Is she still around?” Indeed she is, but in the world I inhabit she spends a lot of time under the radar before occasionally resurfacing in a burst of publicity and/or controversy.

Jane Fonda’s legacy is complicated and unique. Born to Hollywood royalty and devastatingly beautiful, she has managed to–in the eyes of some–both squander her considerable gifts and achieve a level of notoriety she will never completely outrun, not even in death.

Fonda is an octogenarian now. She recently turned 80. And whatever golden years she might have been enjoying have been jolted by a feud with NBC news anchor Megyn Kelly that apparently began over interview questions about Fonda and plastic surgery and advanced to the point where Kelly, a product of the Fox News propaganda machine, realigned with the conservative right by attacking Fonda’s long-ago actions in opposition to the Vietnam War. Kelly took the very Fox step of claiming Fonda has never apologized for those actions–one in particular–when, in fact, she has said a number of times that she regrets her actions.

Jane

Hanoi Jane

So what, exactly, did Jane Fonda do all those years ago? Well, in 1972 she accepted an invitation to tour North Vietnam, where she made several radio announcements urging US pilots to stop their bombing runs and then posed for a picture that still enrages veterans and the right-wing – she was photographed with an antiaircraft gun that would have been used to shoot down American planes. And with that, the legend of “Hanoi Jane” was born.

The animosity for Fonda was visceral, and it still is. A common reaction is a stated refusal to watch any movie or TV show featuring her, which–if true–is fascinating but hardly fair. The list of objectors to the Vietnam War is, of course, overwhelmingly long. Millions of Americans lined up against it. Young men moved to Canada to avoid the draft. Some guy named Trump stayed out of it with a highly dubious claim of bone spurs.

Celebrities like Paul Newman and Warren Beatty supported anti-war Democratic challengers to a Republican president (Nixon) pursuing and defending the actions in Vietnam. News broadcaster Walter Cronkite, perhaps the most trusted man in America at the time, came out against the war.

Meryl Streep, a leading Hollywood liberal, forged her political consciousness in the Vietnam era and has set herself up squarely as an enemy of the modern right-wing. Yet Streep is the most celebrated actor of this and many other generations, the star of films no doubt seen by a large number of the same people treating Jane Fonda like a pariah.

To be clear, as an actor Fonda is no Streep, but she has enjoyed a long and distinguished career–49 movies–and peaked in the 70s with two Academy Awards for best actress, for Klute and Coming Home. Yet she has always seemed to play Jane Fonda rather than inhabit a role. Her highly cultivated speaking voice tends to typecast her in a manner similar to Katherine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall, or Humphrey Bogart. The voice overpowers everything. She perhaps would have been better suited to an earlier era when stars were always glamorous on-screen; the era of her father. For those reasons I have never been much of a fan. The only movie I can regularly identify with her is The China Syndrome, where she does a passable job portraying a TV reporter who stumbles onto the story of a lifetime. The film rocketed to fame in 1979 when its fictional near-meltdown at a nuclear power plant preceded an actual near-meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island a short time later.

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Fonda’s life has taken some other intriguing turns, starting with her three marriages. In her 20s she married French director Roger Vadim, who directed her in several films portraying her as a sex kitten, including 1968’s Barbarella, which led to a wild, infamous cover for Penthouse magazine. Fonda’s next marriage went in a dramatically different direction. Her husband was Tom Hayden, a civil rights and anti-war activist who became a California state senator. And the final union went someplace different still – she married media mogul Ted Turner, who owned the Atlanta Braves. The liberal Fonda was there during the Braves’ 90s heyday, attending postseason games at Fulton County Stadium and joining in the controversial Tomahawk Chop before she honored the concerns of Native Americans and stopped.

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In addition to all that Fonda found time to develop a sideline career as an aerobics entrepreneur. She was in her mid-40s then and looked pretty damn good in a leotard and tights. She produced Jane Fonda’s Workout Book, which spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list, and then helped pioneer workout videos with a VHS series–starring her–that continued well into the 21st century (progressing to DVDs) and sold hundreds of thousands of copies to people–mainly women–who didn’t seem to care much about the Hanoi Jane thing.

There can be no question that Jane Fonda has led an extraordinary, albeit privileged life; touching movies, politics and popular culture. To write her off following her activities during the Vietnam War amounts to nothing less than short-sighted cultural retardation. Love her or not, Fonda is an authentic American icon who should be celebrated, warts and all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is a constitutional crisis merely a matter of opinion?

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There are two words–constitutional crisis–beginning to surface with more frequency among those watching the actions of the infantile Donald J. Trump in the White House.

As Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation continues to drill down and the bizarre and lame so-called Nunes memo drives speculation that Mueller and the Justice Department lawyer who hired him, Rod Rosenstein, will soon be fired, Congressional Democrats are raising the possibility of a constitutional crisis, and that certainly seems foreboding, but what exactly does that mean, and will Republicans agree?

According to a recent story in the Huffington Post, there is no hard definition of a constitutional crisis, but the following statement is offered as an attempt to clarify things: “Constitutional crises arise out of the failure, or strong risk of failure, of a constitution to perform its central functions.”

The story proposes that there are “operational,” “fidelity” and “power struggle” types of constitutional crises. The operational type occurs when important political disputes cannot be resolved within the existing constitutional framework. A crisis of constitutional fidelity occurs when the Constitution’s meaning is clear, but one or more branch of government or a key political actor willfully defies the charter’s clear meaning. And a power struggle seems straightforward – two or more political actors believe the other is violating the constitution and neither is willing to budge.

So what are we talking about in this case? Well, I’m not a lawyer or a scholar, but I’m finding a hard time fitting Trump’s firing of Mueller, if it were to occur, into any of those three boxes, even though the last time a president fired a prosecutor investigating his commander-in-chief (Nixon and Archibald Cox), it ultimately led to resignation under threat of impeachment. Nixon acted because Cox got too close and/or was considered impertinent, and the same fate–for the same reasons–may await Mueller.

Another story, from the web site 538, states there are four types of constitutional crisis:

1) When the Constitution is vague, making direction unclear.

2) When the Constitution’s meaning is in question.

3) When the Constitution’s direction isn’t politically feasible.

4) When government institutions fail.

That last one may offer something relevant for Trump and Mueller. Our government’s system of checks and balances is supposed to permit the investigation of a president when there is evidence of wrongdoing, and what we know about Trump, Russia and possible obstruction of justice would certainly seem to meet that test.

But what if Trump fires Mueller, anyway? Who will hold him accountable? Who will prosecute the constitutional crisis? That’s where things get murky. The constitution is a political charter in a system controlled by a majority party that effectively gets to decide whether or not there’s a crisis.

Republicans are in control right now and they would very much like to stay there, as they’ve shown with a collective blind-eye to Trump’s dozens of transgressions.  Impeaching him would effectively cede control to the Democrats. With any luck, though, the Dems will end up with control anyway after the midterm elections, and then maybe this clumsy, ignorant would-be dictator can be sent home. But until then a constitutional crisis seems to be matter of debate, one the Democrats don’t have the numbers to win. They claim crisis and the GOP majority dismisses it as mere opinion.

We have the Supreme Court–the highest court in the land–in place to resolve constitutional conflicts. But make no mistake – that’s not some sort of altruistic purely legal benchmark. Elected officials nominate and confirm the justices, and while a distinguished legal resume’ is a pretty much a requirement, judges often times apply the rule of law according to their political philosophy, and therefore a majority on the court is considered a valuable political asset.

Of course, the Supreme Court probably wouldn’t end up ruling on all this, anyway. Trump’s fate is likely in the hands of Congress until he runs for re-election in 2020 – that is, if he chooses to do so. The high court example is offered only to demonstrate that this whole thing–our entire societal structure, the so-called American experiment–is built on a political foundation, and it is precarious.

 

 

Football

Eagles Patriots Football

Here comes Super Bowl 52, or in official parlance, LII. It’s already considered a game people won’t care much about outside of Philadelphia or New England. Almost no one south and west of the Massachusetts state line likes the Patriots, the so-called evil empire, twice-caught cheaters, and the favored team of one Donald J. Trump; and many of those same people can’t stand the stereotypical Philadelphia sports fan, a singularly unique American caricature with a propensity for booing a missed note during the National Anthem then getting kicked out of the venue before halftime in a drunken, vomit-laced stupor. Here are Eagles fans greeting Minnesota Vikings fans in Philly before the recent NFC Championship Game.

Frank Bruni, writing in the New York Times, refers to this year’s match-up as an “Existential Hell,” and while few of us want to see the despised Brady and Co. win another title, we don’t have good wishes for the degenerates of Eagles Stadium, either, even if we’re more neutral about the actual team.

Of course, that’s barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to football. The elephant in the room continues to be, as it should, the deeply troubling research findings about head injuries connected to the game. The fallout is beginning to erode the sport’s infrastructure. It’s still just a relative trickle at the moment–a few players have walked away at their peaks, citing head injury concerns–but a big-name defection just occurred – broadcasting legend Bob Costas stepped away from Super Bowl coverage, saying he has long had ambivalent feelings about football because it “destroys people’s brains.”

And it lines people’s pocketbooks. The value of all NFL teams combined is roughly $75 billion. The current broadcast and cable TV package is valued at $27 billion. The average player salary is around $2.7 million, with the most money–$27 million–going to Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who failed to lead his team to the playoffs. At the college level, football remains the big ticket sport and in some cases can support entire athletic programs with its proceeds. So the gravy train is roaring full speed ahead, and that momentum will keep the game front and center in American culture for years to come.

The erosion is real, though, and much of it is occurring quietly, among young families. Fewer parents are letting their children play football, and that talent drain will become apparent at some point and presumably lessen the game’s appeal. And make no mistake, the game is appealing, head injuries and all. I played for three or four short weeks when I was 10–I didn’t like getting hit–but I grew up enthusiastically watching it and went to LA Rams games for years with my season ticket-holding father. When my son was approached about playing football his mother and I quickly said no, but we still watch games on TV. The sport has a wonderfully linear quality that comes through very well, and the athleticism is remarkable – beautiful, actually.

But the “beautiful game” tag lies elsewhere, with international football, or futbol, or soccer. It is unquestionably the world’s game and it appears to finally be gaining a lasting foothold in the US. Soccer is one of the most popular youth sports in the country based on participation, and Major League Soccer continues to grow its fan base, especially among those 40 and under. Having said that, though, soccer has its own head injury concerns. But they may be more easily addressed, by moving to limit the amount of ball-heading that occurs, and certainly at the youth levels.

As for American football, a recent Gallup Poll showed it is still the most popular spectator sport in the country even though it has lost ground over the last decade. I believe that decline will continue, with basketball and soccer eventually rising to the top positions. It may take awhile–remember the money–but that day is likely coming, if not in my lifetime then probably during my son’s. He’s 19. History shows us it’s certainly possible – the two most popular American sports in the first half of the 20th Century were boxing and horse racing, while baseball, football and basketball waited their turns for ascension. Soccer is on deck now.

With all that as a backdrop, Super Bowl LII figures to be another TV extravaganza and–as usual–a license to print money; 30-second spots are going for $5 million. Much of the country and the world will be watching, as much for the spectacle, the halftime show, and the commercials as for the game itself. I’ll be watching, too. I can’t seem to look away. Go Eagles (offered with minimal excitement).

 

Loss

Procession

 

Another throwback post – a series of poems about death and loss. These are from roughly 20-25 years ago.

 

For Laura

I walked toward my house
With my coat folded over my arm
And I thought of you
How you’ll never do the mindless things again

A bowl of lemons at Christmas
A gift from you
It’s easy to remember the smell
That elegant fragrance
And I’m hoping you’re smelling something sweeter

The last time I saw you breathe
Was Super Bowl Sunday
You had less than a month to live
But you were hosting a party
I watched you from behind
Your shoulders heaved as you talked on the phone
Aggravated by something small
It implied some hope
It fooled me

The next to last time I saw you
You were standing in your driveway
You smiled and said you were hungry
I was happy for you
Then you skated stiffly to the porch
Unable to bend your knees as you walked

Every time I see your children
I’ll look in their eyes
And I’ll see your grief
As it was when you cried last year, telling me you didn’t want to die
And we hugged
Much as I hugged your husband
As I silently asked where you’ve gone

At the Estate Sale

Guests are sifting through the wreckage
Of another ordered life
As they advance through the house, how many think of the energy that slipped out of here?
It would be more like a tomb
Even as it weathered a raid by people who would be called archaeologists in a thousand years
For now, though, they just want to haggle for Edith’s crystal goblets

Someone’s trying on her housecoats in the bedroom
While a foursome chirps over the lotion bottles in the master bath
An old woman spent her final intimate moments in those two rooms
But privacy’s not for the dead
Dignity doesn’t matter today
The treasure always stays behind
In the brutal, grand tradition

 

Flaw of the Dog

A styrofoam cup looks elegant dancing on the freeway

It’s litter, sure

But it’s spinning like ballet

The interstate isn’t too crowded this morning

So the cup has a chance if the wind and the rushes of cars force it to the shoulder

It’s bottom-heavy grace nearly weightless

Unthinking, because it’s foam

 

I remember a dog on the freeway long ago

Tense, with furrowed brow

Scared and coiled like a spring on the shoulder

I knew it would try to cross

So I decided right then to pull over

Try to back up along the shoulder and lure the dog inside

Just as I stopped, I watched in my mirror as it made the mistake

Killed by its brain

Less chance than a cup

 

The Unknown Child

A cute kitten (is there any other kind?) stares out from a sympathy card
Young life is cherished so
We lost a chance to contribute one
Gone before we could hear a heartbeat
We have the obvious questions for the heavens
Which doctors try to answer
Our loved ones do their best by sending us sympathetic kittens
Deepening our sorrow

Variables collide
We like to call it fate
I might have been my brother
Had my mother miscarried
Or I might have been my sister

A malfunction of life – it happens just once
And whatever was growing is gone forever
Replaced by its brother or sister
The doctors tell us it’s probably for the best
Only the heavens know for sure

Farewell, fragile one
You left us through a doctor’s common tools
Your mom’s still hurting, still has spasms
She suffers through several new goodbyes each day
And she misses you

I imagine the face I’ll never see
The mouth I’ll never feed
The hearts you’ll never touch
We’ll take good care of your brother or sister
Maybe we’ll meet in the heavens

 

Cancer Wins Again 

My remarkable grandmother’s 102 years old
And she’s dying
Of course she is – we all are, you might say
But she’s truly reached the end
She has cancer
It angers me
I was hoping she’d die on the wind
In her sleep
After all this time, there should be some type of reward
A short death for a long life
She cared enough to take good care of herself
Cancer doesn’t deserve her

She made it through the Marlboro years without giving in
Chesterfield, too
And I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that she’s had less to drink than me
And I’m 38
She knew the secret of nutrition and health when our favored cuisine didn’t always measure up
She’s almost outlived the entire world
Only to be taken with the same random cruelty

Best of all…
She’s not ready to die
Picture yourself at 102
You might shrug your shoulders and say it’s time
But she’s on the phone sounding disappointed and confused
She’s scared, just like the rest of us
And she wishes she could fight
Maybe she’ll tear a piece from the Grim Reaper on her way out of here
She says she’s dreaming of food

 

The Long Winter

A cold winter gust came in early spring
The frost stayed all summer and fall
It’s still here
Sporadically changing to what seems like a smile
The thin layer shifts from time to time
With cracks that sound like cackles…

The house looks the same
A place stuffed with warmth
And memories of all those years
The house can hardly hold it all

Here we sit
Waiting for the love inside to melt that stubborn frost
But stubborn is characteristic
And while the thaw might wash away the pain
What else might be lost?

The ice stays put
As on a wire
Crackling and smiling
And dancing in the breeze

We believe in microclimates
Confident that all storms pass with time
And we know the frost will go
When we’re good and ready…

It will drip to the ground
Mix with the water table
Explore dark channels in the earth
Be reborn in the light

A Terse Farewell

Rest in peace, the saying goes
But you look like you won’t
With your lips drawn tight and downward, just like a frown
You were only 37
But you look 50
Lying there in an open coffin
On a sunny afternoon
In your own back yard

The people around you weep and clench
They hug and sigh
And they weep some more
And you look to be echoing the disgust we feel
The anger that life would take you so soon
Take you from your young children
The kids socialize some, and then they cry
Alternately brave and weak
Practice for the future

You lie there scowling
As your husband heaves through another embrace
One of hundreds in these few days
And he’ll still feel wretched and alone when it’s all over

Now we sit through the ritual
The memorial service
Delivered by a therapist
Who assures us of your special touch in the final months
She’s careful to explain the love she can help us to see
Then she mispronounces your daughter’s name…badly
She doesn’t even bother to correct it
Many of us silently gasp
The void will remain a void on this day
And your corpse looks to have grown more frustrated

 

Tumor Theft

She’s a mother and a smoker
Lost a breast in the war
And it’s just beginning
Chemo dead ahead

He was a father and a leader
Who always followed his nose
Before it was surgically dispatched
Then he died

Loved ones spinning
In the abyss of premature death
Reaching for what was
But it’s not

Research doc can’t understand
Why the cavalry won’t come
But the feeble malignant millions
Aren’t asking for condoms

Outraged to see
My generation
Quietly ravaged
By horrific disease

 

1904

I’m a keeper of history
A crumbling red leather diary in my hands
The final words on page 29
This or death
It’s 1904
An ancestor whose name I don’t know is losing to cancer
His musings come hard
As he lives the homestead life in hardscrabble Oregon

He wouldn’t recognize where his words are now
A downtown coffee shop
Where poets come to pretend
I’m trying to imagine his unforgiving life as I sip refills
Watching our space-age cars
Listening to rock-and-roll
He would be confused by R-E-M
In a world where where people didn’t think much about rapid-eye movements, or puns
But he might understand the weak and the sick who wander our streets

January 20, 1903, page 5, before disease
Day-by-day single line entries
Mostly weather reports
Cold the same as has been
Colder yet high foggy
Snowed all fore noon
But weekends brought social flurries
Fri 23
Dudley went town
Sat 24
Went to the Dalls
Sun 25
Carni to John Day staid on
And then
Cold
Coldest
Milder
Few mentions of women
Seems there were mostly lonely men on the range
Friday, February 27th
Pleasant herding sheep

My cats wait at home
So they may entertain when I’m finished trading blows
And I hold my fiance’ as we observe how difficult it all is

One relatively chatty entry steers me back to 1855
When veterans of the Indian War met again
Don’t know what that was
But I can imagine, and I wince
Met in Portland at Grand Alma hall and had a good dinner
good speaking a good time in general
We step back further the next day
Went to pioneers dinner still in Portland
me and mother
M.S. Short and wife marched with the pioneers of 1836 to 1859
and eat dinner a good one too
The toasts might have been to the Indians, claiming they deserved what they got
Rifle blasts from the pioneers
And now, their ancestors manipulate the land
And the Indians lure them to their casinos
Having learned that hopelessness is no way to take revenge

Sun 28(July)
John Wesley 200th birthday
Perhaps he was reading Jules Verne

May 25, 1904, The beginning of the end
I came to the Dalls took the 1
took once a day for 9 days then laid off
Sat 4(June)
The cancer is very sore now
Mon 6
I have taken 10 treatments now and better
Fri 10
Rained last night
More single line entries through July 26th
Taken treatment ill
And he set the pen down for awhile

The back of the diary, page 90, undated
Meditations titled “The Soul”
A dictionary definition and bible verses
The eyes of our soul begin to see when the eyes of our body are closed
He must have wished to fill the entire book
But he settled for writings on both ends
As he dies, he is more prolific
October 24, 1904, page 26
The big cancer came out this night
it is hard large lump
with many roots running down the pelvis
and the roots may not all be killed yet
there has been four large lumps taken out now
and we hope all is out
On November 26th, he’s in Portland, telling the tale of desperation
An aching man at the doctor’s office, he negotiates the price of “the cure”
down from a thousand dollars to eight-hundred
Did the physician realize the hopelessness as he stashed the cash in his coat?
And my relative wrote
I cannot help myself
It’s this or death

92 years later…
I read the clumsy words with emotion in my throat
I know why I write
Because the eyes of the soul should never be closed
They help our children to see

 

 

 

Our first Trumpiversary

Time

Well, here we are – at the end of a year we weren’t sure we would survive. With all the Trump retrospectives that have already been written, we have learned that a faithful chronicling of all 365 days or even month-by-month coverage is truly an excruciating task. Just ask Dave Barry following his excellent, brutally funny review of Trumpistan last month. So let’s limit ourselves to to this January, so far.

Since we have also learned that stories of Trump that spur outrage, shock, and disgust are relentless–bearing down on us almost hourly with hurricane force–it is incumbent upon us to be judicious, and we will be.

January 2

Trump takes credit for zero commercial aviation deaths in 2017 without detailing what steps he took to manage it. As you might expect, he failed to take the blame for three deaths in a rail accident in Washington-state last month, nor did he claim responsibility for more than 15-thousand gun-related deaths in 2017.

A Trump tweet: “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

The Washington Post reports that Trump has made 1,949 false or misleading claims in just 347 days.

Trump tweets that he will announce his own personal “Fake News Awards” on Jan 8, and vows to name “the most corrupt and biased of the Mainstream Media.” Stay tuned for all the excitement.

January 3 – Here comes The Fire and the Fury!

Two stories from the book controlled the early news cycles:

  1. Trump didn’t want to win the election in 2016. He and his entire campaign expected to lose. The implication is he was TRYING to lose. It turns out the joke is on him and the 63 million people who voted for him, and on all the rest of us. Shit.
  2. Former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon accused Donald Trump Jr. of treason for his role in the Russia scandal. Fallout was quick for Bannon – he found himself an outcast among conservatives and suddenly unemployed after his dismissal from Breitbart.

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A larger theme emerged; one that will surprise few of us – Trump is a moron. A columnist from the New York Times wrote that “Everyone in Trumpworld knows he’s an idiot,” and they know he’s wholly unfit for the presidency. Predictably, Trump responded – tweeting that he’s a “very stable genius” and that two of his greatest assets “have been mental stability, and being, like, really smart.” ed

January 5

The international media react to Trump’s Fredo Corleone moment by openly questioning his mental health. The New York Times follows several days later with an editorial asking, in its customarily courteous fashion, if ‘Mr.’ Trump is nuts.

A report surfaces that Trump’s Justice Department is investigating, of all things, the Clinton Foundation.  It could be interpreted as yet another sign that the investigation everyone else is watching, the work of special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, is steadily gaining ground on Trump.

January 6

While spending the weekend at Camp David, Trump presses the bet on his ‘intelligence.’

January 8

Trump begins what will become a raucous week on immigration issues by slamming the door on 200,000 Salvadorans living in the US. He ended Temporary Protected Status for them, a legal standing originally bestowed because they came from a country designated as dangerous. Nearly 50,000 Salvadorans here in California may be asked to leave if the decision is upheld.

Robert Mueller indicates he will likely seek to interview Trump in the scope of his investigation. Negotiations with Trump’s personal legal team are ongoing. Trump later suggests, to the surprise of virtually no one, that he may not cooperate.

Trump attends the college football national championship game in Atlanta and triggers widespread speculation that he doesn’t know all the words to the National Anthem, which, if you think about it, would be wildly ironic, as well as par for the course.

It appears that one of the game’s participants was less than fully enamored of the president, apparently yelling, “Fuck Trump” while walking with his Alabama teammates through a hallway at the stadium.

The Fake News Awards do not appear. Trump postpones them until January 17.

January 10

Trump tweets an attack on California senator Dianne Feinstein, calling her “sneaky” for breaking with Senate decorum and releasing an interview transcript to apparently try to debunk a Republican theory that a dossier assembled by a former British spy is what sparked Mueller’s Russia investigation. Trump claimed Feinstein might have broken the law–she didn’t–and called for a “tough primary” during her campaign for re-election. Yeah, Trump, good luck with that.

USA Today reports that Trump made $35 million in 2017 selling real estate, mostly to secretive buyers. Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and he can withdraw cash at any time.

January  11

The dam bursts (yet again). It was a shithole of a day. Trump manages to offend damn near everyone by reportedly asking in an immigration meeting with lawmakers why the US must admit immigrants from “shithole countries.”  He then suggested we should seek more people from European countries like Norway. The Norwegian reference was no accident – Trump appeared with the country’s prime minister that day and lauded the US delivery of “F-52” fighter jets, which don’t exist outside of a video game, “Call of Duty.”

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European progressives were apparently unmoved by Trump’s tacit invitation, and some folks decided to break down several of the significant differences between Norway and the US.

What was most interesting about the events of this day, in a purely academic sense, is that members of Congress were compelled to exit the meeting with Trump and immediately leak his comments to the news media. Not to defend Trump, but it seems there was a time not long ago when a president could be candid and maybe even a little coarse with legislators without hearing about it a short time later on CNN.

The Economist, from the UK, runs a story asking if the Trump presidency is really this bad. In short, it concludes the answer is yes, calling his first year ‘poor’ and worrying that his second year will cause America ‘grave damage.’

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January 12 – Welcome to Shitholegate

Trump embarks on an apparent pursuit of revisionist history by suggesting he didn’t actually say ‘shithole,‘ and two GOP senators seem to back him up. But South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham is taking a different position.

In the meantime, people are beginning to wonder if the Grand Old Party is losing the faith. Writer Tina Nguyen pointed out in Vanity Fair that the Republican exodus in Congress was becoming a deluge, perhaps due to the fact that they “all face the political reality of belonging to a wildly unpopular party, led by the most unpopular president in the modern era.”

The Wall Street Journal, yes, the staid, conservative WSJ reports that a Trump lawyer paid-off a porn star to the tune of $130,000 just before the 2016 election to keep her affair with Trump quiet.

January 13

A story breaks explaining how White House staff spent 22 minutes trying to mute a conference call with reporters. Priceless. The item reads like a post from the Onion. Tragically, it’s not.  The piece begins with a Trump quote from 2016 vowing only to appoint people with “great competence.”

January 14

Bringing to mind Richard Nixon’s infamous statement of “I am not a crook,” Trump exclaims, “I am not a racist.”

Newsweek reports that Trump misquoted himself while claiming the Wall Street Journal misquoted him about Kim Jong Un. Read that again.

January 15

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It’s the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which has evolved into a selfless day of service around the country for millions of Americans, including our elected officials. Trump spent the day, naturally, at a Trump golf course.

Trump’s ex-wife Ivana backed him up by claiming he is not a racist.

Shithole or not, a report suggests that the so-called alt-right–Trump’s base–loves him more than ever.

January 16

Hog

 

Chivalry is apparently dead, not to mention basic human decency, as news organizations share a picture of Trump hogging an umbrella while his wife and son board Air Force One in the rain.

Trump’s boondogglish border wall comes up for discussion in Congress, but lawmakers can’t seem to get past Shitholegate.

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A Navy rear admiral who serves as Trump’s doctor discusses the results of his annual physical. While the doc gave Trump a clean bill of health, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta is reporting that Trump has heart disease, which should come as a surprise to no one. The New York Times contacted cardiologists not connected to the White House who pointed out that Trump’s LDL cholesterol reading–bad cholesterol–is alarmingly beyond the recommended limit, putting him at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The Navy doc claimed that Trump is 6′ 3′, 239 lbs., and that sent the internet into fits of giggles and snark. Photos of Trump next to guys who are actually 6′ 3″ reveal a man at least two inches shorter, and common sense tells us that the 2 in his listed weight should probably be a 3. Say hello to the #GirtherMovement.

Vox reports that Congressional Republicans think Trump’s sloth and ignorance are  features rather than problems. They seem to prefer him fat and stupid.

January 17

Trump is said to have a “terrifying plan” for winning the midterm elections later this year. This story, also from Vox, states, “Trump has told advisers that he doesn’t think the 2018 election has to be as bad as others are predicting. He has referenced the 2002 midterms, when George W. Bush and Republicans fared better after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, these people said.”

Another meeting leak – this one involving White House chief of staff John Kelly, who reportedly told a group of Democratic lawmakers that some of Trump’s campaign promises about immigration and the border wall were “uniformed,” which is, let’s face it, totally shocking…I mean, we’re shocked, shocked! Kelly told Fox News that Trump had “changed his attitude” about the wall.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican not running for re-election, takes to the Senate floor to lambaste Trump, to compare him to Joseph Stalin, and to compare the GOP to Stalin’s enablers.In touch

Despite the 130K, the adult film star, Stormy Daniels, er, comes clean, although her confession actually occurred long before the payoff. The magazine In Touch published excerpts from an interview in 2011 in which Daniels confirmed her affair with Trump while he was married to Melania. And Slate is running a similar story based on discussions with Daniels in 2016, before the hush money deal was finalized.

The Fake News Awards are finally announced, with a bit of a dull thud. Rather than a splashy red-carpet event that Trump would have clearly favored, the “awards” were rolled out in something resembling a Republican National Committee news release. It seems Trump doesn’t care for CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC and others, which in and of itself hardly qualifies as news, real or otherwise. And it’s noteworthy that the most notorious purveyors of fake news—Fox News and Breitbart–were nowhere to be found.

January 18

Once again Trump isn’t playing nice with his fellow Republicans. As Congress wrestles with a stopgap funding measure to keep the federal government from shutting down, Trump goes against his party’s negotiating position by opposing the placement of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in the bill. Remember, if a shutdown actually occurs he’ll blame Democrats, and maybe even Hillary Clinton.

Trump denies that his thinking has changed on the border wall and says he’s furious with his chief of staff for suggesting otherwise.

The White House releases a statement claiming that Trump supports the short-term government funding bill – you know, the one he tweeted about earlier.

Gallup issues a poll indicating that international confidence in US leadership has sunk to a new low – China ranks higher.

According to a report in Newsweek, millions of dollars from Trump’s leftover inauguration funds have still not been donated to the charities they were promised to.

The porn star story continues to advance. Mother Jones reports that, according to Stormy Daniels, Trump had her spank him with a copy of Forbes magazine that featured Trump on the cover. Read that again.

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So this is what has become of the presidency of the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States of America. The office is occupied by a man with no redeeming qualities – not one. He’s not smart, wise, thoughtful, considerate, respectful, dignified, generous or informed. He’s physically unhealthy and very possibly mentally ill.

The events of any one of these days in January should be enough to send almost every American running in horror for the “Anyone Else – Even Kanye” camp in 2020. However, Trump still hovers at a roughly 35-40 percent approval rating – said to be a historic low but still representative of at least 80 million people who are eligible to vote and seem untroubled and supportive.

On our first Trumpiversary we find ourselves dwelling in a sad and dangerous land; sitting atop a volatile powderkeg that threatens economic stability, national security and world peace. The English newspaper the Guardian put it this way:

The fundamental failing underlying Trump’s presidency is his willful ignorance. His frequently petulant, childish behaviour combines with a staggering lack of knowledge and contempt for facts to produce serial, chronic misjudgments. Trump, in power, cannot be trusted. He has been exposed as lacking in empathy, shamelessly mendacious, cynical and unversed or uninterested in the enduring human and constitutional values his office is sworn to uphold. Trump is the first and hopefully the last of his kind: an anti-American president. He is a disgrace and a danger to his country. The sooner he is sent packing, the better.

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