Faux News: All the fake news that is fit to print: “Trump’s Historical First 100 Days”

Perhaps never before in all of human history has one person accomplished so much during the first 100 days of being the President of the United States. All the pundits are weighing in with unanimous accolades. Here is our exclusive interview with our president:

Faux News (FN); “So Mr. President, how do you rate your presidency so far?”

Trump: “The greatest ever. No one has ever done so many great things in such a short period of time.”

FN: “Let’s start with domestic policy. What have you accomplished so far?”

Trump: “More than anyone. Ever. Three new hotel sites in DC are in the works, and my luxury hotel in the Old Post Office building is booked for the next three years at rates that you would not believe. Just since I have been president, we have raised the rates four times, and now they start at $800/ night. Just about every country in the world has a room booked at some point over the next four years. Is that progress or what? Got Trump hotels, restaurants, resorts going up all over the U.S.”

FN: “But what about your base—the common men and women who love you so much?”

Trump: ”Hotels in the works in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

FN: ”But aren’t you trying to kill Obamacare and rip apart the social safety net?”

Trump: ”Absolutely. My base will get their health care through their employers, and there won’t be any need for any safety net because everyone will have a job. Might not pay all that much, but a job is a job. There will be jobs in the Deportation Force, in the new prisons that will house all the illegal immigrants we are rounding up, and in coal mining and gas station attendants.”

FN: “But what about your tax reforms which seem to be targeted to the rich?”

Trump: ”I am rewarding the job creators who hire the low life people who voted for me. That is who deserves it, and my base understands that. My base will always love me, no matter what I do. Just look at the polls.”

FN: “Why do they love you when you actually are helping the rich?”

Trump: ”Two reasons. First, I will make America great again and they know that. In fact I have already made it great again. I lead from the front, not the back, and I kick ass. Just ask anyone. Second. Trickle down. The money that I and my family and rich friends make trickles down, and my base will get their fair share. It is not all that much, but more than they currently make. And they will love me for it. Anyway I do not have to do anything for these people. I could shoot them and they would still love me. Some of them think I am a god, which when you really get down to it, I am. Who has ever done so much for so few in such a short period of time?”

FN: ”What about foreign policy?”

Trump: “Terrific success. Hotels, golf courses and resorts going up in China and Russia and Turkey and Egypt and just about everywhere. I even have Rex working on something in North Korea. That is really the only reason I have not nuked them. But I might just go ahead and nuke them anyway. But so far you have got to admit that no one has ever done so much to show the world we are number one. Plus, I pretty much have eliminated terrorism. No terrorist has attacked the U.S. the entire time I have been president. Compare that to what happened under Obamacare.”

FN: “But you really have not gotten any legislation through congress.”

Trump: “Since when was that important? I don’t need them. I am ruling by executive order; and if I had my way, frankly, I would ditch the whole lot of them, Republicans as well as Democrats. In fact I may ditch them. This is a new presidency. I am ruling like no one before. I am making America great again. This is why I won by the greatest margin in U.S. history—to drain the swamp and stick it to all those elitist liberals who don’t understand the common man like I do.”

FN: “But what about all the government positions that are going vacant? You have hardly hired anyone.”

Trump: “And I am not going to. We don’t need them. Jared can handle most of the stuff with some help from Ivanka. I ran my company this way, and the way I see it this is just another family business.”

FN:” But you just told Reuters that things were more complicated than you at first thought. That it was actually harder than running your business.”

Trump:” I was misquoted by the no good media. They hate me and they say bad things about me. Very bad. Very, very bad. Frankly, I hate all the media except, of course, for Fox News and Breitbart, and they are the only ones that tell the truth. The others should be banned and will be banned as soon as I can get around to it. But I do not really have all that much time to do everything all at once and right now I have people waiting for me at the first hole tee. So got to go.”

FN: “Thank you, Mister President. Thank you for making America great again.”




“Hard Living on Clay Street”

I am pleased to announce that a third edition of Hard Living on Clay Street, a book I wrote in 1971, is now available on Amazon with a new “Preface 2017” and a new “Epilogue 2017.” My daughter, Jessica, who lives in the Clay Street neighborhood with her family, wrote the Epilogue. Many of my blog followers may know of the book and some I know have read it. Originally published by Doubleday in 1973, the book has been in continuous print (except I think for one year) ever since. Waveland Press, who picked up the book after Doubleday, decided to come out with a 2017 edition due to all the interest in the white working class, many of whom voted against their self interests in helping elect Trump. Why did this happen? Who were these voters? The inscription on the cover, written by Joan C. Williams of the University of California, Hastings School of Law, says, “You want to understand why Trump won the 2016 Election? Read this book.”

I hope that you will give it a look on Amazon and spread the word that a new edition with 2017 updates is available.

Holy Week 2017

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Embry and I attended All Souls Episcopal Church where we have been loyal members since the mid 80s. The Palm Sunday service is my favorite—especially when the Passion Narrative is sung, which it was–and beautifully done–yesterday. What was also significant, however, were the words of our new rector, encouraging us to lay off politics during Holy Week, and to try to cut down on watching, listening to or reading the news. Just ease off and go slow and discern the meaning of Holy Week. Wise counsel.

So in this blog you are not getting my latest Trump outrage. You are getting religion.

Fear not, however. I will tread easy.

Talking about religion and faith has never been my strong suit. I recall the incident that occurred a number of years ago when Embry and I were church shopping in the 1970s, not long after we moved to DC. One chilly spring morning we ended up at what had been described to us as a progressive Episcopal church and found ourselves thrust into discussion groups dealing with the passage, “Man can’t live by bread alone but only by the very word of God.” Embry and I were assigned to different groups. When my turn came to speak, my heart was beating fast. I can’t recall my exact words, but a well-dressed man in his forties interrupted me and exclaimed in what I perceived to be a hostile tone, “Well, exactly what do you believe anyway?”

I was taken aback. What did I believe? I paused for a moment and tried to organize my thinking. Ok, he asked for it. This was my big chance. Flashing through my mind were all the classes in theology and the Bible that I had taken at Union Seminary, taught by the most renowned scholars in Christendom. I thought of the deep discussions with Union classmates and my faith journey and decided to go deep, to reach down into my inner soul, and to speak with profound feeling and honesty. In short, I let it all hang out. As my testimony unfolded, I surprised myself as to how genuine and authentic I must be sounding and how everything that I had studied and everything I believed miraculously seemed to fall into place. I completed my testimony with a satisfaction that actually surprised me. There. I had said it.

“Is that it,” asked the well-dressed man. “Is that what you believe?”

I nodded with a smug smile.

“Well,” he said, “If that is what you believe, why don’t you just join the Democratic Party?”

Everyone in the group was staring at me with astonished expressions. An elderly lady in the group turned to her neighbor and commented in a stage whisper, “He is just the kind of person we have been trying to drum out of this church.”

As you might conclude, despite its reputation as being progressive, this church was not a good fit for us. (I learned later that they were in a transition period with a big fight going on between the “progressives” and those who wanted to turn back the clock.)

You might also ask the question, why do you go to church anyway? What is it that keeps you attending when you could be sailing or walking in the woods? While I admit that sometimes I ask myself the same question—and there are surely a lot of good, social reasons such as being part of a loving, diverse community—there are religious–or spiritual– reasons as well.

It basically boils down to answering another question: what are the alternatives. Not the alternatives with regard to how I spend my time but the alternatives as to making any sense out of the universe and our place in it. The major leap of faith is to believe that there is actually meaning and purpose to our lives on this planet, not simply random chance. Once you make this leap, I believe that there are many paths you can take on a spiritual journey. All are not the same, and some, I believe, are decidedly better than others. Christianity is one path. It is the path I was born into and part of my growing up and part of our Western culture. It is a path rooted in love and acceptance and offers a road map for ethical behavior and hope that our actions–and our lives– are not for naught. On really good days it offers a connectedness with something both within and beyond that tells us the universe is good and that our lives are important, that we are loved. This something is really hard to describe. The word we usually use for it is “God.”

Holy Week is the most important week in the life of the Christian Church because it honors the human who lived over two thousand years ago in what is now Israel and whom his followers believed embodied the spirit we call God. After he died, his followers believed he continued to live. Others who did not even know Jesus of Nazareth also believed this to be true and that his spirit could be experienced by ordinary people. The experience of his early followers led them to believe that he was both human and divine—that he was God.

The rest is history. There are more than two billion people on the planet Earth who call themselves Christians (or at least are characterized as such)—more than any other religion. This is the week that they (we) will “relive” the last week of his life through liturgy and worship telling the Christian story: the glorious entry of Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the “last supper” with his disciples (Maundy Thursday), his betrayal and crucifixion (Good Friday), and finally his resurrection on Easter Day. While I still admit there are as many questions as answers and while the history of the Christian Church has had its share of dark days, the Christian faith has nourished and changed the lives of billions of ordinary people, providing hope and a beacon for what is good and right on the planet Earth. I am one of those ordinary people.

This is not exactly what I said on the chilly morning way back when in that unwelcoming Episcopal Church, but it is pretty close.

So add to my “thanksgivings” in my last post, “Holy Week, 2017.” And by the way, if you are thinking about posting a comment, I am already a Democrat. I joined the Democratic Party the week after my testimony in the mid 70s.




Counting My Blessings As I Turn 75

Today is April Fools Day. Seventy-five years ago on this day I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to the son of a banker, who himself was the son of a banker, and to a mother whose father owned the two largest Ford dealerships in the country and was a millionaire many times over before his drinking got the best of him and he died penniless toward the end of the Great Depression, his body found in an alley in Chicago.

Today I am counting my blessings. This is what we old folks do when we reach milestones like this. Don’t be fooled. It is hard for anyone at this advanced stage in life not to ask silently, How many more years have I got left—ten, twelve? How many good years—five or six? One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “life is too short.” She got that one exactly right. Where did it all go? It just seemed like yesterday….

One of my favorite sayings is that what life is all about is how you play the cards you have been dealt. We all know that all hands do not contain the same cards. I could have been born to a destitute family in Bangladesh or to a single parent struggling with a heroine addiction, trying to get by in a poverty stricken neighborhood in Chicago or Baltimore. But I wasn’t. I was dealt a fabulous hand and for this I am profoundly grateful. I have been blessed.

So here are my cards:

  1. Growing up in the United States of America. Embry and I have done a lot of traveling, and between the two of us have visited something like sixty countries. There are a lot of great countries on this small planet, but the U.S. is special with our diversity, optimism, and belief in individual freedom and the American Dream that anyone can make it who tires hard. Of course, that is not entirely true for everyone, but the country I was born and grew up in still represents something special on this planet. (My blog obsession in writing about Trump is due to my fear that this is being threatened, but enough of that for today.)
  2. Two loving parents, grounded in their community, civic minded, and with strong values and deep religious convictions—especially my mother. They always supported me, and I knew they always loved me. When I became something of a persona non grata when I got involved in the Civil Rights Movement, they never blinked an eye. When at Nashville cocktail parties, a friend would console my mother with a comment like, “It’s not your fault that he turned out the way he did and you should not feel responsible,” she would respond with,”Well actually we are very proud of our son.”
  3. A strong marriage to a strong, independent-minded woman who shared my values and interests. I still am amazed we married so young, but that is what people did in those days before the sexual revolution. We were basically children. I was twenty-three, and Embry (or “Mimy” as she was known in those days) was barely twenty. What this meant was that we grew up together and changed together. (When we married I had no idea that my young wife would become an ardent feminist. In fact there was no such thing in 1965.) We lived with a black family in Georgia in the Civil Rights Movement. We experienced the magic of living in New York City in the mid 60s and we had our year in 1970 living on “Clay Street.” (The book that came out of that is now in its 45th year with a third edition coming out in two weeks.) We started our careers together in Washington and lived for 44 years in an old “granny house” in Cleveland Park, a DC neighborhood that must be one of the best in world. We have had more adventures than anyone could ask for—sailing all over the world, our around-the-world-no airplanes adventure, and travels to so many exotic and interesting countries.
  4. Our children and grandchildren. As some of you may know, we lost our first child, Katherine, who died at age eleven months from a heart defect. That card was not a good one, but behind that came Andrew, now 47 and Jessica, now 43, who have married wonderful people, produced four of the world’s greatest grandchildren, have solid careers, strong values, and are doing great things.
  5. My friends. I am what might be called a pathological extrovert. Friends are enormously important, and I have been blessed with the best anyone could ask for. I still keep up with friends from high school, college, two graduate schools, and with our neighborhood and work friends and others we have met along the way. This includes, of course, my three first cousins and their families, Embry’s first cousins, and her two brothers and their families and their children and children’s children. So friends and extended family are very important part of any hand of cards, and I am profoundly grateful for these people that have meant so much to me over the years and still do.
  6. My work. Work is such an important thing when you think about how many hours of the day that is what you do. I had some trouble figuring out what I wanted to do at first. Because of my parent’s active faith and leadership roles at Christ Episcopal Church in Nashville, I was sort of programmed to become an Episcopal priest and at one point was convinced that is what I wanted to do. After graduating from Davidson, I attended Union Seminary in New York City where I got a Masters of Divinity degree. I like to tell people that I was excluded from ministry by an old-school bishop, who exclaimed at one of our meetings, “Hell, son, you don’t belong as a priest. You don’t even believe in God!” To which my response was, “Since when did THAT ever keep any one out of the Episcopal ministry?”

But that is actually fake news. We did have a meeting of the minds that my interests were less about church stuff and more on civil rights, the peace movement and rebuilding our inner cities. This was in 1968 when the lower income neighborhoods in many cities were in fact burning down, and the Vietnam War was raging. So following seminary I went to the School of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill, and the rest is history. It could not have been a better fit or place for me and pointed me to what became a very fulfilling career.

I worked in the field of real estate and housing development. I had fabulous early jobs where I learned on the job and then started Howell Associates in 1981. The company provided real estate development services to developers of affordable housing and seniors housing and grew to about 25 people in the late 1990s when I sold the practice to a larger Philadelphia Company. That I actually was able to sell the company, I contend, was de facto proof of a benign deity. I loved the work and I loved starting and growing a small company. After the sale, I worked off a non compete requirement, reinvented myself as an advisor and did some teaching at the University of Maryland and George Washington University. How lucky can you be to have had such interesting and challenging work and with so many great people?

  1. My extra curricula activities. My three major interests have been photography, sailing and writing. I have pursued each one with as much vigor and enthusiasm as I have pursued my work. I still cruise and race a sailboat—this one is a Jeanneau 39, named “Second Wind.” I am still writing as all you blog followers know, and in June I will host a 50 Year retrospective of my photographs. Mark your calendars for June 24 if you live in the area.
  2. My health. I put this last on the list, but it would well be first. Health is so important. I had a fairly severe case of polio in the early 1950s, which kept me sidelined for two years and affected my life in many ways—almost all for the better. I became much more sensitive to people who were suffering and attribute my polio experience for my bleeding heart values. And my entire adult life I have been a physical fitness fanatic and extremely grateful to have had only minor symptoms associated with post polio syndrome. Like most people I have had health issues from time to time but have (more or less) come through them all and am still going (pretty) strong at age 75.

So count me as one of the lucky ones. I was dealt a pretty damn good hand. At the same time I have tried to play my cards as best as I can though, God knows, I have made my share of mistakes and have had my share of times struggling with one issue or another. Life is not easy for anyone. It is and will always remain a mystery. The meaning of life has always been a bit of an obsession for me—particularly as a young man—and I have struggled with doubt and belief my whole life. Embry and I have always been active and committed church goers, but I have never maintained I had or have all the answers. I continue to be a seeker. Though the end my short time on this planet is a lot closer than it was when I was in my twenties and the mere thought of death freaked me out, oddly that does not seem to be a threat any more. When you get to age 75 you have run your race. You have given it your best shot and to use the card game metaphor, you have let the chips fall. If you are lucky like me, you are profoundly grateful for all the blessings that you have received, and for this I give thanks to God.