Faux News Exclusive: All the Fake News That is Fit to Print. “The Pope and the Pres. One-on-one.”

You did not read or see on TV anything about the secret, private conference between the Pope and President Trump with only a translator present. But we were there. Faux News bribed the translator and placed a listening device under his lapel. Here is the transcript verbatim and unedited. This is an exclusive to Faux News.

Trump: Your Highness, it is really good to meet you. I have heard a lot about you. Good things.

Translator: “Holiness.”

Trump: Same difference, but ok, “Holiness.”

Pope: Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for coming to the Vatican.

Trump: We have a lot in common, your Reverence, and I think we are a lot alike.

Translator: “Your Holiness.”

Trump: Yeah, I meant Holiness. For one thing I read somewhere that all Popes are infallible. I actually am infallible myself.

Pope: [No comment]

Trump: And if you are infallible that means that you have never made a mistake. I also have never made a mistake. Yeah, eight bankruptcies and three wives, numerous affairs but no mistakes. You would not believe how much money I made off the bankruptcies.

Pope:[No comment]

Trump: So we can talk man to man. And what I want to talk about is the corner lot in the Vatican, which would make a fabulous site for a super luxury hotel and the best thing about it is that the trademark will be Trump Hotel but the “T” in Trump would be in the form of a crucifix, how does that sound? I have had a designer work out a sketch and would be pleased to show it to you.

Pope: Could we talk about climate change?

Trump: Now I know that you don’t want to part with the site. But I am going to make you an offer that you can’t refuse.

Pope: Perhaps we could focus for a moment on world peace.

Trump: So here is the deal. I know you aren’t interested in fighter jets, nuclear bombs, weapons of all shapes and sizes and classified U.S. intelligence though, believe me, a lot of other people are; and when I made the deal with the Saudis, they almost kissed me. Same for Netanyahu. But, your Holyman, you don’t care about those things.

Translator: “Your Holiness.”

Trump: So you know what I am going to do? If we can get this deal done, I am going to become a Roman Catholic. Do you have any idea what this might mean to your bottom line? Think of doubling or tripling your bingo intake. My followers are mainly Evangelicals and Protestants, and if I switch, they will follow me and they will put money in the offering plate. And they like to play bingo. Actually I am a Presbyterian but don’t take to them much since they don’t know how to have fun, and I would fit right in with the Catholics. Just check out my positions on abortion and women at the altar.

Pope: Perhaps we could talk about the poor and the meek, the least of these among us.

Trump: Yeah, sad, but God helps those who help themselves. I read it in the Gospel of Peter. And most are losers. I hate losers.

Pope: But didn’t a lot of these people vote for you, and if your plans come to fruition they will lose their health care, food stamps, job retraining and…

Trump: But just check this out. This is the crucifix I was talking about. There it says “Trump Hotel,” but can you believe how real Jesus looks hanging from the “T”?

Pope: Thank you very much, Mr. President. And thank you for coming to the Vatican. Our time is up and we must move on, but I will give your proposal careful consideration but suggest you do not make any radical decisions like becoming a Roman Catholic.

Trump: No sir, your Honor, no changes until a deal is done.

Translator: “Your Holiness.”

Pope: God bless you, Mr. President, and good-bye.


Faux News Special: All The Fake News That Is Fit To Print. “Greatest Overseas U.S. Presidential Trip of All Time”

The following is a press conference held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, May 21. Note that all media except Faux News has been permanently banned from all Trump press conferences.

Trump: I have a short opening statement. This is the greatest presidential trip of all time. Period. I have accomplished more in two days in Saudi Arabia than any president before me and more is yet to come. Now first question—Faux News.

FN: What is your greatest achievement with the Saudis?

Trump: There are so many I am not sure where to start, but it is probably the three new golf courses on the desert. No one will have seen anything like it when they get built. It will be like a new Trump Garden of Eden. In fact that is the trade mark we have selected. Second question—Faux News.

FN: What did it take to get that accomplished?

Trump: Not much. A dozen American fighter bombers, the newest ones we have, and one aircraft carrier. They initially wanted two but I jawboned them down to one. I am the world’s greatest deal guy. And is this a great deal or what? And to sweeten the deal, I threw in a couple of classified secrets.

FN: That is very impressive Mr. President, but what about the other accomplishments—world peace, killing terrorists, solving the Sunni Shia conflicts….

Trump: Oh, there is much more. We will be doing two new hotels in Riyadh. Ivanka has just announced a new line of fashion burkas, and Jared has got a couple of new high rises in the works as well. It has been a hugely successful meeting with the king, and I really like these Saudis. They seem to like me too. The king said we are really two of a kind and can truly understand one another. It is just a damn shame that the fake press in America hates me and is trying to destroy me. The people who voted for me—and that is a vast majority of the American people, the most ever if you take away all the illegals who voted—they love me, but not the press and the sore losers, hypocritical so called Progressives. Why do people like Endogen, you know, the guy from Turkey, and Abdel Fattah whatshisname from Egypt and, of course, my buddy Vladimir, why do they all love me, and the fake press just hates me….? And by the way, this kind of fake press reporting  would not be tolerated here in Riyadh. Third question. This one from Faux News.

FN: What will be next? What do you plan to do when you get to Israel?

Trump: First I will secure permanent peace in Israel and resolve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians forever, and then I plan to announce three new resorts—one on the Med and one on the Dead Sea. Still looking for the third site. And there will be another Ivanka fashion line. Last question—this one from Faux News.

FN: What about the rest of the trip?

Trump: It will be the greatest ever. The Pope and I have a lot in common and the NATO people are finally coming around. And I will have lots of announcements about peace, prosperity, U.S. jobs, more jobs, golf courses, hotels, resorts and new fashion lines. Got to run. Headed to Israel.

FN: Thank you, Mr. President. You are the greatest!



The Other Side

I attended a fund raiser this week and bumped into an old friend, for whom I have great affection and respect. We found a small table in a quiet corner and over a beer caught up on what each of us had been up to over the past couple of years. I was not surprised that his life has been going well—two handsome teenage children, a strong marriage and a successful business career.

Nor was I surprised when he turned to me and commented, “And can you believe how outrageous all this stuff about Trump is?”

I nodded and acknowledged that I was obsessed by the whole situation.

Then he said, “ It is all the press’s fault. They won’t leave him alone. They won’t just let him be Trump. The Democrats and the elite liberals are just a bunch of sore losers…”

This was when I felt my heart sink into my stomach.

He surely must have known that I would not agree but continued, “Joe, as you know I have voted for Democrats more than I have Republicans and am an Independent. But I have to tell you until the Democrats figure out the hurt that exists in this country and the genuine admiration people have for Trump–especially the white working class and the Evangelicals– they will never take back the Congress or elect another president.”


I had two choices. First, I could take him on and in fact made a feeble effort to argue that tax cuts for the rich, cutting 30 million people off of health insurance, and ripping apart the social safety net was not the answer for the problems of the white working class. He shook his head and held his ground, “The liberal elites just do not understand and don’t get it. Until they do, the situation will continue to be hopeless…”

So I moved to Choice 2. We changed the subject and talked about the Nats.

My friend is college educated. He grew up in a working class family and today by any standard is a success. He and his wife both have good, high paying jobs. They live in a beautiful house in a very nice neighborhood. He supports charities, attends church regularly and is community-minded.

And he supports Trump.

So do something like 40% of the rest of the country.

Why am I not able to understand this? Perhaps I have lived in Washington for too long and associate mainly with like-minded people. Perhaps it is because I do not recognize my own prejudices. Maybe I am one of the hated elites.

I still do not have an answer. As some of you may know, my book on the white working class, Hard Living on Clay Street, has just been re-released with a new banner on the cover, “If you want to understand why Trump got elected, read this book.” I am doing a book talk on Sunday when I am supposed to offer insights about why the white working class voted for Trump. I will offer the suggestion that the people I wrote about in my book had very difficult lives and did not perceive how the federal government did much to help them out. In those days the emphasis was more on race issues than class issues, and they felt looked down on and abandoned.

I suspect some of the same feeling is behind the support for Trump today. Now the culprit seems to be immigrants and the elusive global economy, which sends jobs overseas. I sort of get that.

But what I do not get is how solid middle and upper income people with good jobs and nice houses can support Trump and the policies which he is promoting. I do not get how many genuinely seem to love and admire this outrageous narcissist and self absorbed egotist. How can Evangelicals, of all people, who are deeply religious and say that they want to follow the example of Jesus, see Trump as their hero? Why do they hate Hillary so much? Why do they hate Obama?

But what I do know is this: The 40 percenters who are sticking by Trump as his presidency seems to be unraveling are not all bad people. In fact I am sure the vast majority are good people, like my friend. When you aren’t talking politics they would not appear to be all that different from people who can’t stand Trump. They want the same thing out of life that we all want—decent jobs and good careers, loving families and relationships, decent homes and neighborhoods, financial and health care security and opportunities for our children. But I also know that when you do start talking politics there is a deep divide that somehow we have to figure out a way to overcome.

And I also know this. We are in a very fragile situation right now for which there does not appear to be an obvious happy ending. In my view Trump is a disaster and not fit to be president. If he is impeached or quits, the 40 percenters will push back. If that were to happen, my friend warned me, “It’s Katy bar the door.”



Bill Christenberry

In the early 1970s soon after we moved into our Macomb Street house in DC, I met a neighbor named Bill Christenberry. We soon discovered we had a shared interest in photography. At the time I was heavy into black and white photography in the Henri Cartier-Bresson and “Family of Man” genre. I had a Pentax SLR camera and a darkroom where I did my own printing. Photography was a bit of an obsession.

After telling him all about my great photography equipment and how serious I was, Bill replied, in his quiet and modest way,  that he took all his photos with a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye box camera and sent his film for developing and printing to the local drug store. Clearly a lightweight, I remember thinking smugly. What did he do with the photos when he got them back, I remember asking, to which he replied, “Oh, I mount some of the good ones and send them off.”

When I told the story to another neighbor a few days later, the neighbor responded, “And do you know where he sends them off to? Art galleries in New York and London and the Museum of Modern Art! That’s where.”

Last week Embry and I attended his memorial service at the Cochran Museum where he taught painting and photography for over forty years and where over 500 people had gathered to honor and remember him. Someone commented that every art critic in Washington was there along with a bunch from New York. One person I talked to said she was responsible for arranging one of his exhibitions in London. As several of the speakers pointed out, Bill Christenberry, along with Walker Evans and Bill Eggleston, was one of the great American photographers of the Twentieth Century. His extraordinary photographs are mainly of his beloved Hale County, Alabama—and mainly old, often abandoned buildings. As people spoke, some of his best photos appeared on a screen behind the speaker. The effect was stunning.

I could not help thinking how often we confuse photography equipment with the eye of the person who clicks the camera. That is what great photography always has been about and always will be.

As many of you blog readers may know, I am planning a “50 Year Retrospective” of my photography and have asked my brother-in-law, Mike Martin, to exhibit some of his drawings as well. Mike is a poet and writer along with being a visual artist. He is the real artist in the family. I have sent out “save the date” emails only to local folks since I do not want anyone to feel they should have to come a great distance to see the exhibit. But, of course, everyone and anyone, is welcome. (June 24 opening in the Katzen Arts Center at AU, 5-7, exhibit up through August 5).

But I also have to say that I feel a bit like an imposter. Thinking of Bill Christenberry—and we have other famous artist friends like Dickson Carroll—how pretentious can I be to think that my photographs deserve to be in an exhibit? The answer to that question–from someone who is now 75 –is, quite simply, that does not matter. Taking photographs over the years has been a part of who I am—and at my age, it is now or never. My photography is what it is, and for better or worse, I am proud of it—fully understanding that it does not begin to match up with the photographs taken by some who have shot photos with Brownie Hawkeye cameras and sent their film for processing and printing at local drug stores.



The Indomitable Human Spirit

“They are here,” read the email which we received from our daughter. “They” referred to a refugee family, who moved into her family’s basement apartment about a week ago. The husband is from Afghanistan and the wife from Iran, and they have two young girls, a three-year-old and a six-year-old, both very cute children whom our eight-year-old granddaughter described as “sweet but a handful.” When we made our first visit to meet them last week, we were not sure what to expect.

We hardly had a chance to sit down before the door to the basement opened slowly and out bounded two beautiful children followed by a smiling mother probably in her mid to late thirties, wearing a headscarf. The younger child raced over to Embry and gave her a big hug around her knees and then came over to me and did the same. The older one was a bit shy and stood off to the side sporting a broad grin. The mother gave Embry a big hug and extended me a hand. Immediately they felt like family. The father emerged a short time later, a bit more reserved but smiling broadly and extending a hand.

So here they are. Since no one speaks a word of English (well, maybe a few words, and my daughter’s husband has an app on his iPhone which translates English into Farsi, and the wife has a similar device), it was a bit hard to communicate. However, it was not hard to miss what seemed, to me anyway, like overwhelming joy. They were here. They were in America. They had made it.

Yesterday Embry brought the family a stroller and two American Girl dolls (with numerous outfits) donated by some of our friends and spent the better part of the day with them, taking the mother shopping and helping out where needed. When they returned from the grocery store, they would not let Embry leave. The mother plunged into the small kitchen, the father spread a tablecloth on the floor (even though they have a table), and within a few minutes food miraculously appeared, carried from the kitchen by the father. Then more food. Embry was beckoned to sit on the floor, and the feast began. Embry said she had never tasted any food from the Middle East that was so delicious.

How they got here is a long story, which will come out as they learn to speak English. From the social worker assigned to help them, we learned that their life has been difficult but not as difficult as what many refugees go through. At some point the father must have worked for the U.S. in Afghanistan (which we presume is the reason for his visa) but fled Afghanistan for Iran, where he met his wife to be. The wife’s father rejected the marriage, threatened to kill him, forcing them to flee on foot over the mountains to Turkey. That was over five years ago. We do not know yet what their circumstances were in Turkey, but they could not have been good. There probably was a period in a refugee camp, perhaps some time homeless or as squatters. This will all come out in good time.

As I was thinking about the hardships they must have experienced, I saw before me four seemingly, remarkably happy people. How could they have gone through all this and kept up their spirits? How could the children seem so natural and outgoing and well adjusted?

Their struggle is far from over. They all have to learn English. It is not clear if the father is actually able to read. (He also suffers from double vision.) And the financial support they receive from our government is quite meager and lasts for only for three months. They have got to find jobs, get their kids into day care and school and somehow make enough money to pay rent and get food on the table. They know few here in the U.S. They have limited support from a caring but overwhelmed social worker and have no host family or network as many refugees have. I can’t help wondering how I could ever have survived such challenges.

But then I realize that this is what has made America what we are. We all have ancestors who migrated here, many, sadly, against their own will. There were casualties, but many made a good life for themselves in the New World. They overcame extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

I am proud of our country for welcoming immigrants. The United States has taken in so many people like these families. If you go back far enough you may find that the story of your ancestors was not all that different. This is what America is—a nation of immigrants and refugees, who came here in search of a better life. For many this was their last and only hope. That so many made a good life for themselves here is both a testament to the decency of the American people and to the extraordinary courage and determination of those who arrived—and continue to arrive. I understand the issue is controversial today and hope that our Congress will find a sensible and fair solution. But this post is not about politics. It is about the human spirit. The story of this refugee family occupying that basement apartment is testimony to the indomitable human spirit.




Faux News: All the fake news fit to print. “Comey”

This interview took place between Faux News (FN) and the President of the United States today at noon.

FN: Thank you, Mr. President, for agreeing to be interviewed. I understand that we are now the only news media that you will talk to or that your staff is allowed to talk to. We are very honored. My first question is this: why did you fire Comey.

Trump: Well, I needed to fire someone, and his number came up. Did you follow “The Apprentice”? I fired someone every week, and my fans loved it. In fact if a week goes by and I don’t fire someone, I just don’t feel right. And look at what happened to “The Apprentice.” Ruined since I left, and everyone misses me, especially my base. They love it when I fire someone, and believe me, there will be more. Ratings always go up. There will be a lot more.

FN: But why Comey? You praised him just a short time ago and called him a statesman. Why did he deserve to have his number come up?

Trump: The awful things he said about Hillary. You know, the emails. He should never have done that.

FN: I thought you hated Hillary.

Trump: No. She should be locked up, but I do not hate her.

FN: Why should she be locked up?

Trump: Because of all those emails.

FN: But you just said that Comey was not nice to her because he should not have brought up the emails.

Trump: He wasn’t nice to her, but once he said it, he should have locked her up–and believe me, whoever I appoint in his place will get the job done. Into the slammer she will go, and she won’t see the light of day for years.

FN: But some are saying that this has something to do with the Russia investigation.

Trump: What Russia investigation?

FN: The one the FBI is working on.

Trump: I am not aware of any investigation about Russia by the FBI, and I was told three times by Comey that I was not the subject of it. I am clean. Jared is clean. Ivanka is clean. Everybody is clean. So I do not know what you are talking about, and if you ask another disrespectful question like that, I am not going to talk to you either.

FN: But what about Flynn?

Trump: Never heard of him.

FN: Or Roger Stone?

Trump: Him either.

FN: Paul Manafort?

Trump: Who?

FN: But they are front page news. Flynn even worked for the Trump Administration.

Trump: Not that I know of. You hear about that only from the fake news which now includes just about everybody but Breitbart and Faux News. The fake news media are all trying to get me, and my base won’t stand for it. They know me. They love me. They are cheering right now. I am decisive, a man of action. This is what they elected me for, and they will stand by me no matter what. I am changing Washington, draining the swamp. I am great and I will be great and I will be popular. Just wait until the new polls come out. Now this interview is over. I am heading back to find someone else I can fire who might be working on the so called Russia connection which is just a lie by the fake news media.

FN: Thank you, Mr. President. You will always be number one at Faux News.




Low Country Pilgrimage

Embry and I are standing in a dark, decaying brick building near the Charleston, South Carolina, waterfront. Around us are some forty people—mainly our age and almost all Presbyterians, many retired ministers and their wives, and all from the Deep South. We are touring “heritage Presbyterian Churches” in low country Georgia and South Carolina. In front of us is a short, stout, older African American woman, who is talking with energy and conviction—not about churches, but about the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and the vestiges of racism, which still prevail throughout our society, not just in the Deep South. The ancient structure we are in is where male, African slaves were imprisoned before they were put up for sale in another historic building a few doors away. We are told they were crammed into this grimy, dank space like sardines.

Sure, we all know about slavery and reconstruction and the civil rights movement, but it is one thing to read about these things in text books and another to listen to people talk about what their great, great grandparents experienced. Hearing first hand from so many African Americans whose ancestor’s lives were directly affected by slavery makes it seem real and immediate.

What has made this tour special is that we have seen as many African American Churches as white churches and have learned from church members both white and black. Having also just read The Underground Railroad, I despair that we in America—especially in the Deep South—were responsible for one of the worst actions in all of human history. Slaves were considered property and were treated as such. Yes, of course, you reply, that is what slavery is. But to hear the stories told by black people in those churches moves it from the academic to the personal and emotional. Slavery happened in our country, and if it did not happen on our watch, it happened on the watch of our great or great, great grandparents.

We also know that it happened in Christian churches. Every white church we visited had a slave gallery. Devout Christians with conviction participated and encouraged the institution of slavery. Many church members owned slaves. Others bought and sold them. They made fortunes. Some churches even owned slaves. And at the time, few saw any contradiction between this and their Christian faith. Most are people we would refer to as “good people.” If we had lived in Charleston or Savannah or any of the country towns we visited, would we have been any different?

Despite the grim past, I was especially inspired by the warmth, enthusiasm, optimism and hope of the black church members. Given the awful history of slavery and racism, I could not help wondering how they could be so positive. That they are positive, however, says a lot. While much work remains to be done on race relations—a whole lot of work—when we hear first hand what it meant to be black in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, we know we have come a long way.

Everyone in our group was born and raised in the South, most in the Deep South. I do not believe there was anyone in our group who was not profoundly affected or who would have considered putting up any defense in behalf slavery or Jim Crow. We  thankfully have moved beyond that –at least among our group of retired ministers and active churchgoers. We get it. What we do about it is, of course, another question –especially given the times we are in today when hate speech and hate crimes are on the upswing and when we have a president whose own behavior and tweets encourage these actions.

Toward the end of our tour we met at the (white) Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston. Our speaker was Anthony Thompson, an African American Episcopal priest at Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston. Two years ago his wife, Martha, was leading a Bible study group at Emmanuel AME Church when she along with eight others was gunned down by a white supremacist. The Episcopal minister spoke for almost 45 minutes as we sat on the edges of our seats in the sanctuary of this aged church with its slave gallery. You could hear a pin drop. He talked about forgiveness and how forgiveness is important for victims to be able to go on with life. He was genuine and sincere. There was no hint of bitterness. Part of his ministry today is to preach forgiveness and understanding on issues related to racism. No one said a word as we departed the church.

Like practically everything else on this remarkable journey, Anthony Thompson’s words were not an academic exercise. He made the concept of forgiveness real and tangible. We left the church along with our fellow pilgrims overwhelmed and exhausted. We wondered how he could do this, how he could keep going with a positive spirit, after all he has been through. He said his Christian faith was the reason, and I suspect faith had something to do with the hope and optimism of the African American church members we talked to. Whatever the source, we were inspired and renewed. Embry and I returned home with thanksgiving for having met such wonderful people, both black and white, and–despite the challenges facing our country–with hope for the future.