Faux News Editorial: Why Trump and The Republicans Will Not Take Action to Oppose Russian Meddling In Our 2018 Elections

Much has been made of the Mueller investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether eventually Trump and/or his lieutenants will be charged with collusion or obstruction of justice. However, that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we now know that the Russians were heavily involved in the 2016 election and most likely influenced the outcome. We also know that are already working on the 2018 elections.

Wait, you say, no one can say for sure that they actually determined the outcome. I would argue that common sense suggests otherwise. The election was very close. Hillary actually won the popular vote and in the key electoral districts in the Midwest that pushed Trump over the top, the results were extemely close. A few votes the other way could have made all the difference. We also know that the Russians were behind a massive social media campaign posting fake news to curtail turnout from minority groups, who typically vote Democratic, and to anger the white working class, who this time around voted heavily Republican. We know that turnout was below expectations in the former group and higher than expectations in the latter.

Bottom line: In my book, the election was rigged. It was stolen. Without the Russian involvement Trump would not have won. Yes, there were a number of other factors. Hillary was not a very effective candidate, and the whole Comey email controversy contributed, along with the protest vote (largely from the white working class) for a change from the status quo. You could say that this was a perfect storm. But it turns out from what we know from Mueller’s Russian indictments, the Russians were a major factor, without whom in my view Hillary would now be President. Their involvement was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

That an adversarial foreign power could have this kind of influence on perhaps our most sacred Democratic tradition is more than alarming. Some would say that it is an act of war. So you would think that keeping anything like this from happening again would be the number one item on our national agenda.

Not exactly.

Trump still has not conceded that Russia had any influence on the election results and has not said one bad word about Putin or about the threat Russia poses in the 2018 mid term elections where it is already clear that they are using the same tactics. There is the even more alarming threat that they will be able to hack into election results and alter the outcomes. While Democrats have protested vehemently, Republicans have taken a ho-hum attitude. No legislation or national initiatives have been taken to try to keep this from happening again. There probably will be none.

How could this be? How could we as a nation sit back and watch the same thing happen again?

The answer is quite simple. Trump and the Republicans need the Russian meddling. Trump knows what went on in 2016 (and I think will eventually be nailed by Mueller), and many Republicans know what went on. Without the Russian meddling they would be toast. Their only hope in avoiding disaster in 2018 is a little more help from their Russian friends. They would be fools to turn this down.

Think about where the country is now and where the Republicans stand on the major issues. Trump’s popularity is at its lowest point (35%) and his disapproval at its highest (60%). On almost all the major issues—the Dreamers, the #Me too Movement, curtailing gun violence, immigration, preserving the social safety net, leveling the economic playing field—Trump and the Republicans are on one side of the issue, and the majority of the American population is on the other. They are out of step with the American people and with American values. All the energy favors the Democrats. In an open and fair election the Republicans would not keep control of the House or the Senate. But our elections are anything but. Big money plays too powerful a role as do the gerrymandered electoral districts, which create safe seats for extremists. And now we have the Russians. Of course, Trump and most of the Republican elected officials are going to sit quietly by and let them do the dirty work. This is the only chance they really have.



Uncle George

The following is a eulogy which I wrote for my uncle’s memorial service.

George Cole died earlier this month in Nashville, his hometown. He was 89 and lived a rich, full life. He was an avid sports fan all his life, a ferocious competitor in handball and racquetball, huge supporter of Vanderbilt and Montgomery Bell Academy, the high school where he was a football standout, a devoted golfer, and an entrepreneur in the car business following in the footsteps of his own father, who in his heyday owned two of the largest Ford dealerships in America. He was a husband, father, stepfather, grandfather, and friend to many. But for me he was just my Uncle George.

My relationship with my uncle was special. I knew from a very early age that my mother loved her “little brother” very much. They had gone through hard times together when their father’s car dealerships failed during the Great Depression and when their parents’ marriage broke up. Because they were almost ten years apart in age, she was part older sister and, I think, part surrogate mother. They had to stick together to survive, and that bond stayed with them until my mother died in 1997.

Because my mother’s brother was only 14 when I was born, the age difference between Uncle George and me was not that different from the age difference between George and my mother. Whatever the reason I knew that there was something precious about Uncle George and something precious about our relationship.

Before I reached my mid teens, Uncle George had taken me–and whatever friends happened to come along–to dozens of Nashville Vols baseball games, to MBA football games, and to basketball games at Tennessee State where we were the only white faces in the arena. He had taken us cruising on the Cumberland River in front of the foul-smelling, meat packing plants in a speed boat that he acquired in one of his car deals. When I was older, George and my Aunt Sis took my best friend, Dick Barry, and me to Louisville in 1957 and 1958 where we saw Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robinson compete for the NCAA Basketball Championship. He took me and another best friend, Allen Wallace, to Birmingham to watch Alabama trounce Vanderbilt in football. It seemed like he was always showing up at our house and asking if I would like to come along on some excursion and always would ask if I would like to bring along a friend. All my friends thought of him as part of my immediate family and called him Uncle George. I remember asking myself on more than one occasion how many kids have an uncle like that.

By the time I was in high school, George had married Aunt Sis, and they had started their own family with three sons, who have always been more like brothers to me than first cousins. I admit that I was a bit jealous when I learned that Uncle George and Aunt Sis were going to have a child. What would happen to me? So when my first cousins got older, Uncle George and I did not do things together as we used to, but he routinely attended MBA football practices where I was the student trainer, and I felt he was cheering for me at MBA football games when I brought water out to the players during a timeout or taped a halfback’s ankle.

He also sold me used cars. The first car was actually a loaner. When one day he heard that I had a special date, he showed up unannounced at our house with a Mercedes Benz “Gull Wing” 300. This was the hottest sports car of its day and was called a “Gull Wing” because when the doors opened up instead of out, the car resembled a bird. He casually tossed me the keys, saying “have a nice date, nephew.” I do not remember the special date, but I surely remember the car.

Not long after that he arrived in the driveway around my sixteenth birthday with a sky blue, 1952 Chevrolet, with spinner hubcaps, whitewall tires, and a lowered rear axel, which made it look like a NASCAR racing machine. The motor apparently had been tinkered with and spiked up. He said he had tested it himself and believed it to be the fastest drag racer he had ever driven. I immediately fell in love with the car and purchased a special tag, which read “Dragons,” to go below the rear license plate. My friends were so envious! Why didn’t they have an uncle like Uncle George?

Their enthusiasm waned a bit when a week later the car came to an abrupt halt in the middle of one of Nashville’s busiest intersections when the universal joint (whatever that is) broke. Police arrived on the scene, and one of them remarked, “The Dragons. He’s a Dragon. I know that gang. They are dangerous.” The two friends who were with me stood on the corner laughing and pointing at me pretending they had no connection with me as the tow truck pulled the sky blue Chevy away. I remember thinking it was a miracle the cops did not lock me up; and a few days later when the car was repaired, I immediately removed the Dragons plate and tossed it in the trash.

The next car was a black Volvo, the kind with the classic design with a sloping roof that made it look like a gangster car. I bought this car from Uncle George my sophomore year in college in 1962 when my Davidson roommate, Sam Glasgow, and I drove across the U.S. to Seattle where we boarded a plane to Japan to spend a summer working on an experimental dairy farm. Volvos may be great cars, but this one needed two cans of oil every time we filled up with gas and had seven breakdowns or near-breakdowns along the way. The day we returned I sold it back to Uncle George for what I paid for it.

George also introduced me to sailing. In the late 60’s he invited me out to Percy Priest Lake where at a friend’s house he kept a tiny Sunfish sailboat that he had just taken as a down payment on a car and directed me to take the boat out for a sail on my own. I had never been on a sailboat before. I jumped on the boat and two hours later returned, smiling and drenched, the boat having capsized at least a half dozen times. I have been an avid sailor ever since.

So I owe a lot to my Uncle George. His family is part of the Howell extended family, and we are part of the Cole extended family.

I remember one of my friends, Walter Wilson, winsomely commenting that he wished he had an uncle like Uncle George, “He has got to be the greatest uncle in the world.”

And he was right. For me he was.

But uncles are people. And we humans are complex.

When Embry and I got married in 1965, I remember looking around for the Cole family and asking my mother where they were. She looked embarrassed and said that George had purchased tickets for his family to go to the Rose Bowl, and that is why they weren’t at the wedding. I did not think a whole lot about it then, but it was the beginning of a pattern of Uncle George’s occasionally missing important family events–not always but enough to get your attention–like children’s and grandchildren’s birthdays, school plays, and graduations. You were just not sure if he would show up.

And then there were the ups and downs of his various used car dealerships and other business ventures. One year George Cole Motors would be flourishing and making money big time. The next year the company would have been sold or folded, and George would be on to something else. He was the first person to open Datsun (Nissan) and Volvo dealerships in Nashville. Along the way there were pizza parlors, a car wash, a liquor store, and some real estate. Then there would be another used car venture, and that looked good–at least for a while–until another disaster hit. You could not keep this guy down. He would give almost anything a try, stick with it while it was good, make his money, take his lumps, lick his wounds, and move on. All this he did without a whine, complaint or whimper, and more often than not, with a twinkle in his eye and a good story to tell.

The George Cole business cycle seemed to repeat itself until in middle age George ended up working for other people—probably the first time in his life that he had had to report to anyone besides himself. He worked for several dealerships mainly selling new cars, and ended up working for a Lexus dealer. I recall feeling very sad when I heard that he no longer had his own business.

The Lexus job did not last long, however, because the pressure got to him, and he suffered several strokes, which along with some other health issues, eventually caused him to get out of the car business altogether. Long before that his first marriage to Aunt Sis had failed, and he had married Bookie, who brought along three children with her from a previous marriage and an aging mother, “Grammie,” whose father had actually served as a Confederate officer in the Civil War. They soon moved from Nashville to the far suburbs where they lived on a lake and then to Columbia, about an hour from Nashville, which accounts in part for the emotional distance some of George’s first family felt from him from time to time.

Uncle George recovered from the strokes and rebounded but did not return to the cutthroat car world. He decided to do something much more challenging. He became a substitute teacher in the public school system, working with kids of all ages and backgrounds in public schools spread out all over the Nashville and Columbia, including some troubled public schools. Some of the students he worked with were poor, and some were African American. Uncle George had always been a maverick and outspoken, occasionally using politically incorrect language. He was not what you would call a bleeding heart liberal. I could not help wondering how this experience would work out.

Well, he loved it. He loved his students, and he loved his work in the classroom. He kept doing this for a number of years even though it was grueling work, and he needed a cane to get around. I once asked George if he had trouble with discipline, to which he responded “rarely.” His son, Buck, later reminded me that his father was known for springing up from his chair and with cane in hand charging an unruly kid acting up in the back of the class. The terrified kid often scampered into the hallway but later returned to apologize to George. Many of his fellow workers applauded; and after one or two incidents like this in a particular school, discipline was never again a problem. When he finally threw in the towel–or perhaps the school administrators threw it in for him– George must have been one of the oldest employees in the school system.

Uncle George’s final years were not easy. As is often the case when people reach their eighties, disabilities begin to set in. George was single again, and the big worry was where was he going to live and who was going to take care of him. The answer came when he moved into a HUD, low income housing development for seniors, sponsored by a retired teachers association. This seemed particularly ironic since Uncle George was not known for his love of the federal government or low income housing. Cousin Hal spent a lot of time with his father helping him get adjusted and providing help when needed. The icing on the cake was that George was then only a short walk or ride on a scooter or wheelchair away from Cousin Curt’s Firefly Restaurant where on many evenings Uncle George could be found at the bar, holding forth, sipping his Jack Daniels, and complaining that his son had put him on a two-drink limit. Curt had even worked out a meal plan where his father would pay a monthly discounted rate for meals at the bar whenever he wanted one. Does it get much better than this?

I was unable to visit George the last two years when he had moved into an assisted living community. There he got frequent visits from his sons and their families, and Cousin Buck assured me his dad was doing fine. “Well,” he said, “he still has an eye for the ladies!”

My father, who was very close to George, but as a proper banker, about as unlike him as you can get, summed up George on one of our fishing trips when I was around ten years old and just learning how to fly fish. Uncle George was with us one lazy, Saturday afternoon in the summer when we were fishing our beloved Harpeth River. George had left us and charged upstream splashing along without a fishing rod.

“You know,” he said, “Your Uncle George is one tough guy. I tried to teach him how to fly fish, but he would have nothing of it. All he wants to do is go after fish hiding under rocks and catch them with his bare hands, ‘grappling’ he calls it. But you know something? He always catches fish.”

Uncle George was a grappler from day one until he died.













Faux News: President Trump Launches Massive Reform Initiative To Address School Killings

President Trump addressed the nation today to mourn the deaths of 17 murdered students and faculty that were shot dead two days ago in a Broward County high school and the others who were wounded. After laying the blame on President Obama for his weak actions on gun control, he stated that there was only one way to deal with the killings and that is to pass legislation that would require every student over the age of 12 to be armed at all times while on school property. “It is very simple,” he stated, “ and, frankly, the fault of the Democrats, Obama, and Crooked Hillary. They are a bunch of namby-pambies who coddle killers, and the un-American and treasonous calls for fewer guns are the main reason we are having these killings. The answer is more guns, not less! And that is why I am introducing legislation that will cure the problem once and for all. I am fully supported by the Republicans in the House and the Senate; and if the weak-kneed Democrats stand in the way of this legislation, blood will be on their hands the next time a sixth-grader is shot dead.”

The President then outlined the way the initiative would work:

  • Federal law will mandate that all public schools require all students over the age of 12 to carry loaded revolvers or rifles at all times when on school property.
  • For children under the age of 12, a fully armed aide will be assigned to them at all times.
  • All faculty and school employees will be required to carry loaded assault weapons at all times when on school property.
  • Metal detectors will be used to detect when someone enters the building without setting off the detector and therefore indicating they are not carrying a weapon. Any individual caught without a weapon will not be permitted to enter the school, and three infractions will result in expulsion.
  • Classes in weapon handling and marksmanship will be required and replace unnecessary subjects like math and science.
  • For families unable to afford the cost of a weapon, federal “gun stamps” will be issued and replace the food stamp program, which is being phased out.

The President then went on to explain that if everyone in the school was armed, no one would dare to shoot anyone in the school because they would know that they would be gunned down immediately by their fellow students or their class teacher. He said that research has shown that in schools where this policy is in place there have been no killings. Furthermore in countries that require all students and school personnel to be armed at all times have a murder rate of zero, not only for schools but for the entire population. He said that once the policy is in place for public high schools and elementary schools, all public colleges and universities will be subject to this mandate and then all churches. If every member of the congregation in Charleston had carried a loaded weapon, the President maintained, the massacre would not have happened. His long term goal, he said, is for everyone in the country to be similarly armed. Domestic abuse, he argued, would not happen if an angry husband knew his wife was packing heat. Nor would other crimes of passion, burglaries, bank robberies and assaults of all kinds. If you know that you are going to get killed if you use your weapon, then why use it? The law would make America the safest country in the world.

He also noted that the number of guns in the U.S. would increase from around 300 million to well over a billion, which he said would “virtually guarantee that the U.S. would be a world leader in controlling gun violence.”

His address was praised by the NRA, which has long maintained, “the only way to deal with a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” Mitch McConnell applauded the initiative, as did Speaker Paul Ryan who said, “It took a Republican President to figure this out, and it just shows how stupid the Democrats are. You fight firearms with firearms.” Other Republicans lined up behind the President pledging their support, and Vice President said that this is proof that President Trump is the greatest man to ever live.

Democrats immediately weighed in in disbelief and accused the President of having lost his mind.

By the close of the President’s address, the stock prices of gun manufacturers Remington, Smith and Weston, Colt and Winchester had risen 20%.

Knee Report

Thanks to those of you who have wished me well and offered me moral support for my new knee. Here is a brief summary and advice from a knee replacement patient two days away from the one-month mark. Advice from a chronological perspective:

  • Week One. If you are thinking about elective, full knee replacement surgery, do not do it. I don’t care how bad your knee hurts, it is not worth it. The opioids I take probably help and I do not know how bad I would feel without them. But still, we are talking real pain here. You do not even get an opium high and having any alcohol is forbidden. Is this torture or what? Plus forget about going to the bathroom. Who talked me into doing this? On the plus side I am getting visitors for tea and cookies in the afternoon, which Embry set up, daily events with friends which I attribute to my avoidance of a deliberate opioid overdose.
  • Week Two. Fearful of opioid addiction and a subsequent unintended overdose, I trash the pill bottle, having consumed only about 20 of the 65 pills. Then I realize that I could have made a small fortune selling them on the internet or on the street. Pain has retreated a bit in week two, and I am getting physical therapy from a bearded Egyptian wearing a suit, who comes three times a week, has a PhD in PT, and is from an upper class family, who still lives in Cairo. He is terrific, and I feel I am starting to make small progress. I am still using a walker, and getting the stiffness out of the left quads is the big challenge. I am still wondering, however, what I must have been thinking when I elected to get a new knee. Afternoon tea and cookie visits with friends continue and keep me going.
  • Week Three. First time out of the apartment. Visits to the doctor and downtown to the Kaiser office for PT. To my surprise, both doctor and physical therapists think I am making great progress. Lord have mercy, I think, how bad off must these other people be? The PT guy tells me to ditch the walker, which I do with some trepidation, only to discover that I can do fine with a cane. I am becoming ambivalent about whether or not the surgery was worth it.
  • Week Four. Exercises are getting easier and strength is building up faster. I venture down to the fitness center in the basement of the K-W and am able to do the bicycle and a couple of leg machines. To my astonishment I find that I am now able to walk fairly easily without a cane. Hey, who said this was such a bad idea? Knee replacement? Everyone should get one!

More to follow…

Faux News: Treason Accusations Move to Serious Stage

It has been only a week since the President called the elected Democrats who failed to stand or applaud his State of the Union address “un-American” and “treasonous,” a charge that, if upheld, carries with it the death penalty. While the national reaction seems to have subsided, in the White House feverish steps are being taken to bring the accusation to the next level. Faux News has learned that a secret committee has been formed to arrest the guilty parties, try them for high treason and then execute them in a formal ceremony, which would be at the conclusion of what Trump is now touting as the largest military parade in the history of the world. Many in the White House, including the President, are euphoric. Trump is reported as exclaiming, “the treason bit was a slip of the tongue, but, wow, what an impact! My base loves me for it. The Evangelicals love me for it. The country loves me for it. Let’s do it and do it quickly. With almost all the Democrats out of the picture, it will free me up. I can kill the Russian investigation, jail the Dreamers, kill Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, and cut back social security. Plus any pro football player who kneels instead of stands with his hand over his heart during the National Anthem will be jailed for treason and end up with the Democrats!”

From the back of the room a soft voice said, “We have time, Mister President, football season is over until next September.”

The excitement in the White House was not universal. Some argued that the Constitution protects free speech and that the Supreme Court would never allow the treason charge to stand. When this comment was offered by a young lawyer and new member of the team, the President’s face turned red, and he shouted, “How many times do I have to tell you people that all the Constitution protects is speech. The assholes who failed to clap did not say a word. When they failed to stand, they did not say a word. This is not speech, it is silence, and the Constitution does not say a word about protecting silence. They are all guilty, guilty as hell, and they will pay for this! Besides I know I have five votes on the Court that will support this. I have already checked.”

Vice President Pence applauded and stood up.

A second discussion followed regarding how the executions would actually happen and if anyone knew of American companies that specialized in making a gallows or a guillotine. A young aid volunteered to do research on American execution companies. There was also considerable discussion regarding the pros and cons of each execution device versus the electric chair or a very large firing squad. Since several hundred Congressmen and Senators would need to be executed in a short period of time, that would require many devices. After further discussion the group decided to go with the guillotine for its historic significance and its shock value. Trump directed Junior to form a new company, “Trump Execution Inc.” and get to work building these devices immediately. The final plan would call for them to be placed around the Capitol in a very large circle; and when the Greatest-Military Parade-in-The-History-of-the-World reached the Capitol, the executions would begin. Jet planes from the military would fly overhead and fireworks would be set off everywhere. Thousands of temporary stadium stands would be erected around the Capitol allowing hundreds of thousands of paying customers to watch this historic event. One of Trump’s aids reported that it will actually make money. The Koch Brothers had already reserved over 1,000 seats at an average cost of $500 a ticket.

Trump concluded the meeting by smiling and expounding, “This is one thing that history will remember me for. Standing up for what is right. Standing up for the Constitution of the United States. Standing up for respect. Standing up for patriotism and love of America. Standing up for the American people. At last the country and the world will respect me.”

Vice President Pence stood up again and applauded.

Faux News Behind the Scenes: The Greenbrier “ Secret Assembly”

Last week all members of the Republican Congress and Senate met at the exclusive Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia for a two-day retreat and strategy session and to salute President Trump, who attended the affair. The event got off to a shaky start when the Amtrak Train carrying most of the attendees hit   a truck and killed the driver, but that did not diminish the exuberance and enthusiasm surrounding their popular president. Before Trump arrived three long lines formed which led to three different doors. The sign on the first door read, “Kiss His Ring.” The sign on the second read “Kiss His Ass” and the third simply read “Worship Him.” All those standing in line were alerted that they were expected to bring gifts and express their praise and gratitude during their brief moment with the president.

But that was not the big story of the event. The big story as learned by Faux News and verified by three independent and reliable sources was what has been referred to as the “Secret Assembly.” During the time that members were standing in line for their chance to kiss part of the president’s anatomy or to worship him, a top secret meeting was taking place in what was formerly the nuclear bunker, deep under the mountain behind the resort. One dozen, carefully chosen participants attended including the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, and the leaders of the various Republican caucuses. Also present were several major Republican donors including the Koch Brothers and the Mercers. The purpose of the meeting was to hear the report of the 2018 Victory Team, which had just completed its highly classified assessment of the prospects for a Republican victory in 2018 and 2020. The Victory Team had enlisted the services of the international consulting firm, Annihilation Consulting Inc., with offices in Moscow and New York. The following is a transcript of the address made by the president of Annihilation Consulting, Alexi Krovsnovsky, a Russian private citizen with alleged strong ties to Vladimir Putin. Krovsnovsky had made a clandestine arrival at the resort the night before, dressed as a garbage collector.

Krovsnovsky [speaking with a heavy Russian accent]: Gentlemen, thank you for giving Annihilation Consulting the Opportunity to present our findings regarding the prospects for a Republican victory in 2018 and in 2020. I have bad news and I have good news. The bad news is that our research indicates that unless the current mood of your country changes, the Democrats will retake the House and the Senate in 2018 and that the U.S. will have a Democratic president in 2020. The good news is that this won’t happen. Allow me to explain why and how, if you follow our recommendations, the Republican Party will not only win but will transform the United States in ways that before now were unimaginable.

Let me begin.

The key to Republican success in both 2018 and 2020 will be the Russians. The Russians did it for you in 2016 and –and this is very important–if you are able to meet certain demands and expectations, the Russians will do it again. The kind of technology the Russians have created and the power that goes with it is unprecedented and beyond anything the world has ever seen. Think of 2016 as a rehearsal. The Russians were merely using cap guns. Now the Russians are rolling out their full arsenal and will be using real bullets. In fact the big show is already starting. Have you been following the tweets on the Nunes memo? Not only do Russians have the social media strategies laid out with bots and tweets, the Russians now have the technology to change virtually every vote cast in every precinct in the United States. In other words the Russians will decide who wins and by how much. And even more significant, you are so far behind in the U.S. that there is nothing that anyone can do about it for 2018—if the Russians stay involved; and if you Republicans play your cards right, 2020 will also be yours for the asking. But there is a catch. The Russians can decide not to get involved. They will get your people elected only if you play ball. I have this information directly from the lips of my good friend, Vladimir Putin.

[There is stunned silence for a moment and then various attendees start to shout questions.]

Mr. Ryan: Quiet, quiet. Let us hear what else he has to say. Mr. Krovsnovsky, what are the conditions that the Russians expect? How do we play ball?

Mr. K. It is very simple. One, you stop the investigation about the Russian involvement in the 2016 election and fire everyone involved. Two, you apologize to Russia for the fake investigation. Three, you curb the American free press. They are a nuisance and spread fake news. Four, you roll back all sanctions against Russia and, five, you enter into a new relationship with Russia based on mutual respect and mutual interests. Vladimir has asked me to remind you that between the U.S. and Russia the two countries will control 90 percent of the nuclear weapons on the planet and working together could relatively easily take care of annoyances like North Korea. Russia will not demand that you get out of NATO immediately and will not expect anything that might be called radical—at least not at first. But think of what you will get in return. The election results you want in perpetuity. The Democratic Party would essentially be finished. Even if the U.S. were eventually able to stop election “engineering,” as we call it in Russia, the damage would be done. There would be no turning back. There is, of course, a sixth requirement: No one must know about this. Absolutely no one besides those here in this Secret Assembly. Leakers will be annihilated.

Mr. Ryan: Thank you, Mr. Krovsnovsky, this is very interesting and something we will consider seriously. You must be reminded that in the U.S. we believe in free and fair elections and in a free press. But I also have to say that there is nothing that you have said today that would lead me to conclude that we could not work with Russia to further the rule of law and democracy and freedom of speech. We share your values and look forward to a fruitful future working together to bring peace, prosperity, free speech, and democracy to the entire world.

[Meeting ends with wild applause.]





Back in the Saddle

For those who have wondered why no recent posts, I am recovering from a knee replacement, which happened on January 18, which now seems like months ago. I am graduating from my “what on Earth was I thinking stage” to “maybe this will have a happy ending after all stage” but I still have a ways to go. My orthopod doctor friends were right: This is not a procedure to be treated lightly.

Actually I was not all that enthused about the idea of a knee replacement anyway, though when increasing pain in my right knee prevented me from my routine powerwalks, two years ago I decided to take the first step, got knee x-rays and visited the orthopedic doctor at Kaiser Permanente, our health care provider. The doctor, who was not all that much younger than me, after reviewing the x-rays concluded, “Well you clearly need a knee replacement—you have zero cartilage in your right knee– but you are not going to get one here.”

“Why not?” I responded with some incredulity.

“Well, you walked in here didn’t you? Besides if you think you have a problem, my knee is worse than yours. Just take a look at this.”

He pulled up his pants leg and asked me to feel his knee as it creaked when he moved it.

“Well, then why don’t you get a knee replacement?”

“Are you kidding?” he replied, “Do you have any idea what is involved? No way!”

That was all I needed to hear. No knee replacement for me. I hobbled back to the Metro Station to head home, relieved that I had just dodged a bullet.

Some time went by and my condition continued to worsen. One friend said he had a doctor friend who was an expert on knees and I should get a second opinion. I made an appointment and found out to my surprise that he was not an orthopedic surgeon but rather an internist who specialized in regenerative medicine. He said these orthopedic guys really didn’t know what they were doing, and the answer for a bad knee was in stem cells. For a mere $5K he could do a stem cell transplant and it would be cured. The missing cartilage would grow back in a few months, and I would be fine. While he advised that no insurance covers this procedure due to outrageous insurance requirements, he was convinced that stem cell treatments work. He said even the skeptics agree that stem cell transplants have had great success in animals, especially racehorses. By his own informal research, he claimed success with over 80% of his patients, better even than you get from full knee replacements.

The idea of thinking of myself as a racehorse was uplifting and energizing. I envisioned a sleek, black animal charging toward the finish line with crowds cheering. It was not a major step to think of myself as that animal, given up for lost; but now, even though past my prime, I was charging ahead of the pack, stomping the competition with my regenerated knee. In a year I would be back on the tennis courts.

“When can I get one?” I burst out.

He smiled and signed me up for the next week.

I was hyped. The next Friday I hobbled into his office with great expectations as he extracted fat cells (plenty to work with) from my stomach with a large hypodermic needle. With help from his assistant he mixed the cells into a “stem cell cocktail,” which he then injected into my knee. The whole procedure took about an hour, and I was a tad sore but no worse for wear as I inched my way into the waiting room where Embry was patiently waiting to drive me home.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“I think I will have a regenerated knee in no time and galloping in the Kentucky Derby.”

Time passed. The doctor said that I really needed to give the procedure several months to work, and after about a year, my knee would be back to normal. It is debatable whether the procedure made any difference. At first I thought that it did, but Embry remained skeptical, noting that my limp was as bad as ever. In any event, the doctor did give me a questionnaire to fill out regarding my progress but never asked me to return it to him. I was beginning to question the validity of his research.

What really did me in, however, were the periodic visits to the doctor following the procedure to determine progress. One was scheduled for every four to six weeks, which would translate to around eight visits over the course of the year. I went to the first three, each of which involved using an ultrasound device to see how the new cartilage was coming along with the doctor smiling and encouraging me “to keep it up.” The cost of these visits—which took about 20 minutes —averaged about $1,500 each. When my protests regarding the outrageous price fell on deaf ears, I quit going, saving myself about $10,000. As it was, the $5,000 procedure ended up being a $9,500 ordeal. Enough was enough.

So I told myself, maybe I won’t turn out to be a sleek racehorse after all. And really, what’s so bad about having a bad knee anyway? I compensated for giving up my powerwalks by swimming 30 minutes in the lap pool in the basement of our apartment four or five times a week. While life was not perfect, it could surely be a lot worse.

Then came our Japan Trip. I believe I posted this; but if you have not read it and would like to, just let me know and I will be sure you get a copy. Embry had signed us up for what she described as a Road Scholar geezer trip. We would basically be on a bus most of the time going from temple to shrine to temple with a bunch of other old folks, many using walkers and canes. Compared to our around-the-world-without-flying adventure in 2015 and our road trip out West and back in 2016, this sounded to me like a perfect respite. The only problem was that Embry had failed to read the fine print, which rated this trip   “most challenging and difficult” involving walking up to five miles a day and exclusive use of public transportation to get around. During the course of this experience—which I am proud to report I did survive but with considerable difficulty– the knee issue bubbled up again to the surface.

The decision to revisit the replacement option actually happened in San Francisco where we stopped for a few days to visit friends prior to boarding our flight to Tokyo. I visited the urgent care center at Kaiser to get them to check on swelling around the knee, which they ended up draining and giving the knee an injection of cortisone. The doctor there seemed very knowledgeable and specialized in sports medicine, particularly knees. When I told him about my stem cell treatment and how much it cost, he said he could not believe it and suggested I report the doctor to law enforcement for armed robbery. While they might work someday, he was emphatic that there was no reliable evidence showing that stem cell treatment was successful for humans. What I really needed was a knee replacement. Period.

“But,” I protested, “They won’t give me one in DC. If you are able to walk into the doctor’s office, you are automatically disqualified.”

“Oh, don’t let that bother you,” he said, “This is just Kaiser’s way of triage. If we performed knee surgery on everyone who wanted one, do you have any idea how many doctors we would need? The boomers have arrived and they all need new knees.”

“So then how do I get a knee replacement?”

“Badger the hell out of them.”

The day we returned from the Japan Walking Tour, I wrote the following email to my orthopedic doctor:

Please confirm for the record the following information:

  1. Kaiser has concluded that I (Joe Howell) need a knee replacement because I have no cartilage in my right knee.
  2. Kaiser will not give me a knee replacement because I was able to walk into your office.
  3. Kaiser will also not sign off on a knee brace permitting Medicare coverage [another incident] because Kaiser only allows their own braces to be used.

Two hours later I received an email response. “Come into the office tomorrow and we will give you a knee replacement.”

So that is how I finally got made my way to the operating room for a knee replacement. The operation did not happen the next day but about three months later and by another surgeon. I refused to let that old guy operate on me and was told that was not a problem because he had retired about the time he received my email. My new doctor was in his mid 40s, all business and very serious. I asked him if he knew what he was doing and he said yes. That was enough for me.

I was later told the operation went well. The main thing I remember was being in the recovery room and hearing two emergency announcements over the loud speaker, “Heart attack in Operating Room D,” and minutes later. “Stroke In Operating Room F.” I made a mental note that at least I had dodged those bullets.

So I am now in Week Three of recovery. By all accounts it will probably take three months before I am back to where I was before the operation and perhaps as much as a year before I forget I ever had a knee problem. Physical therapy is a big part of this, and I am working very hard at it. If you asked me at the end of week one whether I had made the right decision, my response would have been, “Are you kidding me? Whose idea was this anyway?” I now am much more sanguine but taking it a day at a time. Next week my hope is that I will be able to get out and about some but probably won’t be able to drive for another month.

The best part of all this is the afternoon tea and cookies events with friends who responded to Embry’s Doodle poll and have stopped by for visits. That has made all the difference and I am so grateful to Embry for setting these up and for the friends and family who have stopped by.

So now you know why I stopped blogging. Stay tuned for a Faux News posting shortly. Lots of good material these days!