Faux News Special: New Plans for Iran

Our  Faux News secret reporter, disguised as delivery boy, was present when the following confidential conversation occurred today in the Oval Office between President Trump and his National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

Bolton: You summoned me, Your Highness, I mean, Mr. President?

Trump: Yes, I have a potential problem, John. Biden is looking like he could be a real threat, and the farmers in the Midwest are balking at the China tariffs. Plus the Mueller stuff just won’t quit. I am wondering if you have any ideas as to what I need to do to protect my flank. My base loves me as you know, but I am worried about some of the moderates.

Bolton: Easy answer, Mr. President. Start a war.

Trump: I thought you would say that, but with who [sic]? I have thought about maybe the UK or France, but in the past they have been friends. But we would have the support of Turkey, Egypt, Poland and Hungary for sure as well as Russia and North Korea. I think we could win it pretty easily.

Bolton: With all due respect, Your Excellency, I mean, Mr. President. That might create some pushback from Congress. But you are right: You need a war. Americans  love a good war, especially one we can win. You would be sure to go up in the polls.

Trump: But start a war with who [sic]?

Bolton: Iran, of course.

Trump: Why didn’t I think of that? After all, they broke the dumb, Obama, nuclear arms treaty that was in place and are just itching to get nuked. In fact since they have no nuclear weapons, would you recommend just wiping out the entire country? It would get it over with fast, and they couldn’t do a damn thing about it. It would serve them right for breaking the dumb, Obama treaty.

Bolton: Great idea, Mr. President. It would serve them right for breaking the treaty though there are Democrats in the Senate who would argue that actually we were the ones who pulled out of the treaty, but do not let that bother you.

Trump: How many bombs would that take.?

Bolton: Let’s see. There are 82 million people living in Iran. To take care of all of them, you are probably talking about 50 or 60 nukes depending on which kind we use, but you have got to admit, it would get everyone’s attention. And no Americans would be killed. Your base will love you for it, especially some of the Evangelicals since the 82 million Iranians are mostly Muslims, infidels. 

Trump: Any downsides?

Bolton: Yes, Russia would probably have to respond and that could possibly trigger a thermo nuclear war with us, which could lead pretty much to the destruction of the entire planet.

Trump: Hmmm. Well, I would go down as a great president, right? It would be something people would remember.

Bolton: Yes, except there probably would not be anyone left to remember. But still it is a bold idea that should be considered. 

Trump: Well, let’s put that on the shelf for now. What else might we do?

Bolton: Okay, if we do not decide to use the nuclear weapons that we have spent so much money on and which have not been used since World War II, there are other options. My recommendation would be to invade Iran just like we did with Iraq. That was an extraordinary victory for the U.S., getting rid of Saddam and all of that. We could do it again with Iran. Get rid of those awful Ayatollahs. 

Trump: How many American lives might be lost if we invaded them? 

Bolton: Not all that many. Only about 4,000 American soldiers lost their lives during the second Iraq War, and another 30,000 were wounded. That compares to several hundred thousand Iraqis, and the country is still in turmoil with roadside bombs exploding, suicide bombings and temples getting bombed all the time. It was a great victory for us. We showed them and the world who is boss. Shock and awe. And we can do it again with Iran. Your base will love you for it. 

Trump: Great idea. So how do we get this started?

Bolton: Well, first of all you get everyone out of the US Embassy. Start with non essential personnel and then everyone else. And then you start sending in American troops. Start with, say, 150,000 and then escalate up to 500,000 if you have to. Tell the American people you are doing this because of “threats,” but don’t tell them any more, just that the threats are very, very serious. Tell the generals to take over the cities and the whole country. You will go down as a great president for standing up for America and showing what happens to treaty breakers. You will get the respect you want and deserve from everyone. You will beat Biden or whomever the Democrats come up with and will rule America and really the world for another six years or even more.

Trump: Any downsides?

Bolton: Well your buddy, Putin, will be in a bit of a bind, and I am  not sure what he will do. They are allies with Iran, you know. But since you both love each other, he will probably just sit on his hands and do nothing. But if he does do something, it could lead to a world-wide conflict, possibly resulting in thermo nuclear holocaust which could lead to destroying all life on this planet. But look on the bright side: It would also create a nuclear winter and end all this nonsense about global warming.

Trump: Sounds great to me. Anything to squelch all the talk about global warming. This will make America great again. It will show the world who is boss and my friend, Vladdy, would never come after me. I don’t think he really cares all that much about Iran anyway. Plus I already have his word that a new Trump Hotel will go up in Moscow as soon as I get reelected. 

Bolton: I will start the engine running. But be sure to be tightlipped with Congress and  the American people. Probably should keep your Cabinet in the dark too. We need to keep the plans secret until it is too late for anyone to do anything about it. This will show the world what happens when you break a treaty. Your base will love you even more.

Trump: Go for it!

Bolton: I am on it! Thank you, Mr. President.

Okay, God 5: The Final Interview

Me? Me, God? You want to interview me? I am honored and humbled. But I don’t understand.

Silence

Oh, it is the Christian Church that you are worried about, and you want the views of someone on the ground, someone who has stuck with it all these years, even though as you know, my experience has been somewhat mixed.

Silence

Yes, you are right that the two billion number I quoted in our last interview about the number of Christians on the planet Earth is a bit misleading. I think the source I read said there were something like 40 million Christians in the UK, and we know that is nonsense. Ditto for all the high numbers in countries like Italy and Spain and France where people are nominal Catholics, but hardly anyone goes to church anymore. But you should not feel too bad, God.  Christianity is growing in many undeveloped countries and especially in China. But I agree. Many churches are struggling in the U.S. and attendance numbers are down.

Silence

Yes, I know that it is not just the Christian Church that you are concerned about. It is about all people and all of humanity and our small planet. Thank you for reminding me. So how can I help you?

Silence

So for this interview you want to focus on the Church in the U.S., right? You want to know what has happened to the Millennials and to many GenXers. Why are they staying away? Of course, at my age I am not close to being part of those cohorts, but from personal experience I know this to be true. Our two children—wonderful people, I might add—who were brought up as Episcopalians do not attend church, nor do their spouses, and I am sad to report that none of our four grandchildren are even baptized.

Silence

Thank you, God, for being understanding and forgiving on this sensitive matter. Anyway it is not just me. I belong to a men’s group at the apartment complex where we live—about 20 old codgers like me—and during one of the meetings someone asked how many men in the group belonged to a church or synagogue. Almost all hands went up. Frankly, this surprised me that there were that many of us who had stuck with it, but we are of another generation. Then he asked, how many had children who attended church or synagogue regularly. A couple of hands went up. And the killer question was how many had grandchildren who were baptized or had had a bar mitzvah. No hands. And I might add, this situation applies to many, if not most, of our friends as well. So you are right. Something is going on here.

Silence

Well, it is complicated. I agree it is not just that soccer games are now routinely scheduled for Sunday mornings or that families are so exhausted from trying to balance work, careers and family. There is something deeper.

Silence

Okay, I will try my best to give it a shot. But you must know these are only guesses. I have two initial observations about this, which may seem contradictory. One is that the reason why the Christian Church in the U.S.—especially the mainstream Protestant Church, which is what I know most about—is losing members is that a lot of people think it is too wishy-washy and does not offer a firm spiritual or ethical foundation to give people a reason to go to church.  The Church is  “too secular.” Their attitude is “why bother” since there are plenty of other ways to pursue spirituality—yoga, meditation, private prayer, nature walks—that sort of thing, and these can be scheduled around Sunday morning soccer games. The second reason is that Christian churches are seen by others as “too extreme, narrow minded, and exclusive.” This applies mainly to perceptions about the Catholic Church and its hardline position on abortion, gay marriage and women in the priesthood and to the Evangelical movement, which takes similar hardline positions and supports our controversial president, who many people, myself included, do not care for. Some people who did not attend any church as children think that the Catholic Church and Evangelicals represent what Christianity is all about and want nothing of it.

Silence

No, I am afraid to say that I do not have an answer. I do have some opinions based entirely on my own personal experience, so I will share those.

First of all, I have got to say that most of the time I have not found the experience of worship in most of the churches I have attended very engaging or fulfilling. I understand how the “nones” feel: If you don’t get anything out of the church worship service, then why put yourself through it?

But I also have to point out that there are a lot of other reasons people attend church besides wanting to get good spiritual vibes or to hear a good sermon. (Good sermons are very rare, I might add, and also very, very difficult to pull off.). I believe that a major reason people attend church is to be part of a loving, welcoming community where they feel they belong and are accepted for who they are. Frankly, I think that if you want to get down to it, this is a very important thing that the Church has to offer but also where it often falls short.  So if you want to know the reason I have hung in there, it has to do in part with being part of a diverse, religious community where I feel I belong. 

 I also believe that a church or synagogue or mosque or Hindu or Buddhist temple is not just any community organization like a country club or civic association or  a political organization because religious institutions at least try to deal with the big issues having to do with  the meaning of life, death and (but too infrequently) social justice. You are not going to get this at a social, civic or political club.

Silence

Thanks, God, for your kind comments and for pointing out that the community part applies to all spiritual pathways and religious institutions and that I do not need to apologize. It is part of the human experience.

Silence

Okay, here is my next observation—and I think while controversial, it helps explain why so many in the younger generation have said thanks but no thanks to belonging to a church. And this gets down to belief and to what might be called the exclusive nature of the Christian “elevator speech.” This is really sensitive because it deals with the very nature of Christianity itself, the reason for the religion in the first place.

A core message of Christianity–if not the core message– is this: Jesus Christ died for our sins. If we believe in him–and only if we believe in him– we will be “saved” and be assured eternal life. Sure, there are a lot of other important things; but you can’t avoid this central message.

The problem arises when someone has difficulty believing this. A person might see a lot of value in Christian teaching and in the message of love and acceptance as I pointed out in our last interview. But what if someone does not buy into this central message as being the exclusive ticket to being a Christian?  What if somebody believes that you, God, provide many pathways to spirituality and that while Christianity offers one pathway, it is not the only one, and that people who are not Christians are not automatically excluded from having a valid spiritual journey or  hope for eternal life? What if somebody believes that you, God, are bigger than Christianity or any one faith but have provided clues, like we talked about in our last interview, for all humans to follow? That you are real but your mystery is beyond human understanding.

Silence

No, I wouldn’t say that I learned this at Union Seminary, but I surely learned enough about biblical criticism and scholarship to make me wary of any literal interpretation of the bible. While few mainstream Protestant churches would say they are fundamentalists, more rigidity creeps in than you would expect. And this is my point: the rigid adherence to what some believe is the “true Gospel” is a turn-off for a lot of people—especially those in the younger generation who were not compelled to go to church as we were in the South (mainly for social reasons) when I was young. Nowadays church attendance is viewed more as a liability than a social requirement. People think you might be some kind of superstitious nutcase.

Silence

You are right. I am generalizing again and probably overstating the case. It is also true that many mainstream Protestant churches are trying to deal with this as best as they can, and many have softened the Christian message and provided some spiritual, wiggle-room so to speak. The Episcopal Church—where I have been a loyal member for essentially my whole life–has, I think, been a leader in this effort in some ways, but the fact is we still say the Nicene Creed every Sunday. And I have to tell you, God, I do not believe the words in the Nicene Creed and for that reason do not say it. I just sort of mumble when the time comes.

(For the record I have spent a considerable amount of time studying the history and background associated with the Nicene Creed. It is primarily a quasi-political statement by the Early Church to achieve theological consensus and get Constantine off their backs.  I believe it is confusing and counterproductive.  They should ditch it. Keep it in the prayer book if they like, but for goodness sake do not require anyone to actually say it!)

Silence 

Okay, I will calm down.

Silence

But you asked why young people are not coming to church. This is one reason: the spirituality of Mellenials and GenXers–and a lot of others–is not rigid and top down. The message they (we) hear from the pulpit and from the prayers must ring true to their (our) experience. Until we address this better, mainstream churches will continue to struggle.  

Silence 

You are right, God. This does run the risk of making churches seem more wishy-washy, watered down, and more secular.  But if the spiritual quest is honest, genuine, and sincere, I believe the wiggle-room will be welcomed. I would describe the approach as “more kind and gentle” with a strong commitment to good works and to social justice and a fairer world. The bigger the tent the better.

Silence

So,you want to know why I just don’t call it quits and become a Unitarian? Good question. Two reasons: inertia and incense. And, oh yes, there is a third: belonging to a community where I feel welcomed and needed.

Silence

Thank you, God, for asking my opinion and allowing me the chance to blow off some steam. I know that I am only one small voice and really do not have an answer. Certainly you will be interviewing many others. I will be interested in knowing what you learn from them.

Silence

What? This will be your last interview with Faux News? Well, I have got to say that you have been kind and generous with your time. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I have many more questions to ask but I guess they will have to wait. We humans on the planet Earth must be a thorn in your flesh. Thanks for sticking with us. 

Okay, God 4

At the end of my last interview with you, I said that this time I would ask you about clues.  So what about the clues you have given us humans as to how we experience and understand the Divine? As you know I have been a loyal church goer my entire life. I am what they call a cradle Episcopalian and will end up surely a cradle-to-grave Episcopalian. My mother pointed out to me at a young age that being an Episcopalian was not the same as being an ordinary Christian like a lowly Baptist or Methodist or even a Presbyterian. But even so I think we Christians all pretty much believe the same thing about your clues, and that is that the biggest clue you have given us is Jesus. So this one is a no-brainer.

Silence

Why do you say “Be careful, it may not be a no-brainer.”

Silence

Well, I certainly can’t disagree that there is a whole lot of difference in understanding what Jesus really means or what he did or who he was. In fact I have done a lot of studying myself on this very subject. I remember when I was in college reading Albert Schweitzer’s book, Quest for the Historical Jesus and concluded that there is no way that anyone can actually prove any of the details about the life of Jesus or that the resurrection actually happened. I even got a masters degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York, which resulted in more questions than answers. So I realize it boils down to a matter of faith and belief, and people believe a whole lot of different things. So where does that leave us?

Silence

So what do I think the meaning of Jesus is? Gosh, this is a really hard question, but I do not think that you need definitive, historical proof about Jesus to draw some conclusions about what the Jesus story means. I believe it all has to do with understanding that the Divine as we experience it on Earth has to do with love, not romantic love, but with selfless love for our fellow humans and, really, love for life itself. So Jesus is a clue you have given us that the true meaning of the life we humans experience on Earth is love for our fellow humans and, I believe, acting on this. Doing something about it. The Jesus story involves healing, making people whole, caring for the poor and the sick and making the world a better place. I would go even farther and say it has to do with social justice and changing the structures in society that enslave people. It means that in a mystical way that through selfless love we can experience the Divine, in other words, we can experience you. It also offers hope that maybe there is something beyond death.

Silence

You are right, God, this is just one person’s interpretation, and I will be the last person to even suggest that I have got it all right. I know there is much more to it than this. I am just saying what I understand to be true.

Silence

What do I think about the resurrection? Well, this is another tough one. What happened after Jesus died that we know is true is this: That his disciples experienced what they called the “resurrected Jesus.” They truly believed that Jesus, who had been crucified and declared dead, was still alive and then “ascended into heaven” to be with you. Their belief became contagious, influencing a whole lot of other people to become believers who had not themselves experienced the resurrected Jesus or the “Risen Christ” as he soon became to be known. They believed that you, God, in a mysterious way had become part of human history giving us a clue as to what the meaning of life is and how we should lead our lives.  Maybe even more important, it provided a clue as to what you are like   and through prayer how we humans can relate to you. That led to a growing movement throughout the Roman Empire resulting in a new religion, Christianity, becoming the generally accepted religion in the Roman Empire by the fourth century. The rest is history. There are today over two billion people on Earth who are classified as Christians, almost a third of all people living on the planet, and more than any other religion. Pretty impressive if you ask me, but still, in my opinion, not the only pathway to truth.

Silence

Yes, you are exactly right that I should not forget about the Apostle Paul. He was the guy who figured out before anyone else did that the most important meaning of the Jesus story is that you, God, actually love us humans. Now given the sorry state we humans are in and have been in  forever as far as I can tell, this was back then a pretty big deal. In fact it still is. Paul put it in terms of a sacrifice that you, God, made in order to make us humans whole from a spiritual perspective. It is kind of like, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” on steroids. And that is why they called this message, “The Good News.”

Silence

Agreed, God. There is a whole lot more to the story than that, and I would like to return to this again later. But assuming for the moment that the Jesus story is one clue you have given us—even though there are lots of dimensions to the story and different ways of interpreting it—what I also want to know is are there other clues you can point to.

Silence

More than I will ever know? Like what?

Silence

Well, I certainly would agree that Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament would fall into this category along with a long list of other “holy people” who have lived “holy lives” and have had a profound, positive, spiritual influence on peoples lives—Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Zarathustra, just to name a few. I would probably throw in the names of some philosophers to boot and even artists and writers, but maybe that might be stretching it a bit.

Silence

Well, I have also got to agree that it is not just the “rich and famous” holy people we are talking about here. Just a figure of speech, God, I know these holy people were not rich. It is ordinary people whose lives are filled with mercy, kindness and understanding. And what really resonates with me is what you just said about “clues everywhere, all the time for people who have eyes to see and ears to hear.” Now I have to admit my hearing is not so good—and I do not  mean this in just a metaphorical sense—and my eyes do not see these clues very often. But occasionally they do. And my faith tells me that you are right. The Divine is real, if mysterious, and there is more to life than what can be “proved” from science and observation. This mystery is important in our effort to make some sense out of our lives and the universe and to try to understand the meaning of life.

Silence

Yes, I am aware that there are a lot of very good people who do not agree with me on this and many who are leading moral, ethical lives without having any belief in the Divine. I hope that that does not hurt your feelings too much. I might also add that I have had my doubts more often than I would like to admit. My guess is that this comes as no surprise. I have trouble reconciling the suffering in the world—surely some deserved, but a lot that is not. I have trouble reconciling this with the kind and merciful God that I know you to be. You add to that the pretty poor track record of the Christian Church, and probably all religious institutions, and I can understand where the skeptics are coming from. But in my advanced age I have come to accept the fact that our knowledge as humans is limited. Questions remain. But I promise not to push you too hard on this in future interviews.

The main problem for me gets down to the alternative, which is to believe that there is no meaning or purpose to the universe or to our lives here on Earth. That life is just a matter of chance. Quantum physics rules the day. Life is only what we make of it, and there are winners and losers. It is a roll of the dice. I just can’t go there because I realize, as you have reminded me in our interviews, how little we actually know and I also know how much you have meant to so many people during our times of suffering and grief.  You are there for us when we need you. 

Silence

Glad to hear that you understand the human dilemma, and really glad to hear you love us humans, warts and all, regardless of race, creed or no creed, color, or national origin, and that this is really the message you want me to get out to the vast readership of Faux News.  

Well, I will do that, and will do even more. I will ask the skeptics if they think they know everything to explain the Big Bang and to answer the big question “Why.”

  And I will ask them an even more important question: If God is not a Tar Heel, then how come the sky is Carolina blue. 

Okay, God 3.

Okay, God. I am back. Thanks for allowing Faux News to continue the interview. When these interviews hit the mainstream media, we will be really famous!

Silence

Yes, forgive me. You already are famous.

But I still have a lot of questions, and here is my first one: Man was created in your image, right?

Silence

Okay, “human beings were created….” I need to be more sensitive here, “politically correct,” as they say, but being created in your image is what it says in the Bible– Genesis 1:26-27 and a bunch of other places in the Bible too. So if man–I mean, if humans are created in your image, doesn’t that imply that you look like us? What I mean is that if we look like you, then wouldn’t it figure that you look like us? So I have a check list that I am going to go over, and really all I need is a yes or no answer: First, do you have two eyes?

Silence

Nose?

Silence

Two ears?

Silence

Mouth?

Silence

Two arms, hands, and five fingers each?

Silence

Legs, feet, toes?

Silence

And here is a sensitive one: skin color. We humans tend to have problems accepting people with a different skin color. And are you really a “he” and not a “she” or even an “it.” And why is that? And how tall are you anyway? I could keep going….

Silence

God, why aren’t you answering any of these questions on my check list? I know your patience is wearing thin but….

Silence

What do you mean that I am missing the whole point?

Silence

You mean that I have it backwards? That man–I mean humans— came up with the idea of how you look based on how we look?  In other words it’s vice versa?

Silence

Okay, I understand that these questions sound like I am a skeptic, but do not take it personally. Do not think for a moment that I do not believe in you and trust you. Sure, I have had my doubts every now and then, especially when I do not hear from you for a period of time.  I get antsy. I know that you are busy with a lot of things, lots of calls to answer, and it could be a bandwidth issue, but still.  Hey, I am talking to you right now, and that is good enough for me. Count me as a believer.  How you look is really not an issue. 

But I would not mind asking, if you don’t mind: if you do not look like us, then whom do you look like?

Silence

What do you mean that I just fail to get it? Yes, I know that you created the universe about 15 billion years ago and that there are trillions and trillions of stars and planets and that the Earth is just one small spec of sand in an endless desert, a drop of water in a vast ocean…I know that there are lots of things we will never understand and are not supposed to understand.

Silence

Why do you say that we humans on Earth are incredibly planet-centered and small-minded by thinking that we  are the only intelligent life in the universe and that all the other stuff you did is for naught? That we think we are the center of everything? Of course we respect all the hard work you have done and we are grateful for it. On a clear night away from city lights there is nothing better than gazing up at all your handiwork.

Silence

Okay, maybe saying we humans are examples of “intelligent life” is an overstatement, but still we have somewhat advanced brains, and we can’t help asking all these questions about why. Why is life the way it is? Why do we die?  Is there life after death? Why do awful things happen to good people? Why is evil alive and well on this planet …?

Silence

No, God, I am not really complaining. The fact is I love it here. As I think I have told you, I think you did a really good job; and while maybe the planet Earth is not as perfect as it might be, I can’t think of another world I would rather live in. In fact I would go as far as to say that if everything were perfect here, it would be pretty boring. I am just trying to get more information for our readers. There are a lot of readers who ask  these questions and would love to hear the answers.

Silence

Yes, you are right, God, we humans have been asking these questions from time immemorial. But are there no answers? No definitive ones? 

Silence

So what you are saying is that this is the nature of life as we humans know and experience it. There are definitive answers, but these answers are beyond our capacity as human beings on the planet Earth to understand fully.  When we humans try to make these answers definitive, it often just confuses things and leads to bad things happening like religious intolerance and hatred of people who do not believe the same thing I believe or someone else happens to believe? I get that.

Silence 

Thank you, God, for your thoughtful answer; and yes, I know that this does not get me off the hook. I should not give up. I should not keep trying. I should keep asking these important questions because, as you say, it is part of being human. And I really appreciate it when you say that you aren’t holding this against me. And as you suggest  I should keep my eye on the ball as to the clues you have given us along the way and still give us humans.  These clues will be the subject of my next interview.

Keeping Going

Embry gleefully announced yesterday that she was going for a job interview regarding a consulting assignment which would involve evaluating agriculture programs in the war-torn country of Mali. When I asked her where Mali was, she said it was in Africa, but it took her a while to find it on a map. It is one of the countries in the middle of the African continent that straddles the Sahara Desert and the rain forest. That she knows absolutely nothing about farming and still has an office at the Urban Institute where she works on occasional assignments did not hold her back for an instant. I have got to give her credit: Moxy, baby.

My question to her was how many people age 73 get to interview  for a job in an African country ravaged by an ongoing civil war for an assignment where they have zero prior experience. And, I added, while on the job, the chances of being kidnapped by one of the rebel armies is probably around 50 percent. This morning she spent a couple of hours on the internet frantically trying to find out as much about the country as possible before rushing off to the interview. My only consolation was that I figured there was no way she could possibly get the job.

And then there was the announcement this morning by Joe Biden that he is running for President of the United States for the third time. Biden was born in 1942 and will turn 77 this year. He is my age. But, hey, Bernie Sanders has already turned 78. And our current president is no spring chick. And perhaps the most amazing thing is that on all the morning news shows I skimmed through this morning, I did not hear one word about age. That would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago. It was certainly a big issue in 1980 with Reagan, and he was under 70 when he started his first term.

I am a loyal member of an informal gathering called  “the men’s group” that meets every Wednesday morning in the apartment house where we live in Washington. I am the only one who refers to it as the “Old Codgers Club,” but that is in effect what it is. Of the 15 or so men who regularly show up, there are always at least a couple who get there with the help of a walker or motorized wheelchair. At 77 I am one of the younger ones in the group with at least two in their nineties and a bunch of others getting close to that. But do these guys think of themselves as old? Not for a minute. When I asked yesterday how many agreed with me that Joe Biden was too old to run for president, there were no takers. “Go for it, baby,” was the unanimous response, “anyone who can beat Trump! And besides he probably has the best chance.”

It is not that we codgers are naïve. We know what loss is. We know what mortality is. There is no one in our group, as far as I know, who is not an orphan. We have all lost our parents. Some have lost a spouse. Some have lost siblings. My only sibling, a younger brother, died about ten years ago. Some have lost a child as Embry and I have. Most have lost friends, some best friends. 

Yet we keep on going.

So what is it about us “old codgers” that keeps us going as far as we can as long as we can? Having spent my career in the development of seniors housing, I have visited a  lot of retirement communities, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I have seen a lot of old folks in not-so-good shape. I know that as we age we slow down and that people slow down at different rates and in different ways. I know that eventually we all die. So much of what we can do as we get older depends on health. So much depends on luck. 

I also know that I am one of the lucky ones and deeply grateful for that. I try to walk about four miles a day and swim about 600 yards a day in the lap pool in our apartment house when I do not walk. I still get out on Wednesday nights in the spring and summer to race my sailboat (with a lot of help from my younger crew!), and Embry and I still travel a lot.  I am active as a volunteer board member in several non profit housing organizations and treat these opportunities like I would a full time job; and if you are reading this, you know about my blog. 

I am especially lucky—blessed is probably a better word—since I am also a polio survivor. I doubt that there are many other polio victims who are able to do the kind of things that I can do at my age. I think there is something about the human condition that we humans keep going for as long as we can, knowing that while there is a lot we can’t do anymore, there is also a lot we still can do and, dammit, we are going to do it. We are going to keep going. 

And it is not just us humans. Embry said she learned about aging gracefully from Minette, our first pet, a cat, part Siamese and part Russian Blue, who died in her nineteenth year. She continued to do almost everything she did as a younger cat but just slowed everything down—not jumping as high (as a young cat she could easily jump from the floor to the top of an open door) or running as fast.  And that was true of all our pets and, I suspect, of all living creatures. It is the miracle we call life.

But still.

Still I wonder if 77 might be too old for anyone to run for president. Biden would be in his mid 80s toward the end of a second term.  I just checked out the life expectancy of someone his—and my–age (male, 77), and right now it is just over nine years. Then I thought, hey, wouldn’t that be neat—to serve as a great president for two terms and be loved and respected by all–okay, by many–and then die of a heart attack the day following the inauguration of the next president. But can anyone my age keep working that hard for eight or nine more years? I know that I would not stand a chance. Nor would I want to even try. I can’t imagine the stress that is associated with 18 months of campaigning followed by the hardest job in the world.  

Perhaps such concerns put me in the category of “ageist.” Yet I think part of the “art of aging” is knowing when to slow down and when doing less is better than doing more. That is not all that easy. It is really hard to give up things you loved to do. For the last few years, every time I boarded my sailboat, Second Wind, for the first time in a season, I wondered silently, is this going to be the last year. But I will be out there again for the first race of the season on May 1. I am just another one of those old codgers who is determined not to throw in the towel. 

And I am hardly the only one. As I am writing this, I just got a call from Embry: she got the job! “Don’t worry,” she exclaimed with great enthusiasm, “They told me that they don’t let any of their workers visit Timbuktu without bodyguards.” 

Faux News: Trump Declares “Total Victory,” Praises The Barr “Report,” And Orders Jailing of Democrats and “Deep State Traitors”

President Trump held a rally today in Biloxi, Mississippi, surrounded by over 10,000 screaming fans wearing MAGA hats. In front of the hastily assembled stage   in the center   a high school football field  a huge pile of papers burned with flames towering 50 feet high, said by Trump to be copies of the “worthless Mueller report.”

“You don’t need to read this bullshit,” he said to the delight of the adoring crowd in the bleachers. The Barr Report says it all, No Collusion, No Collusion, No Collusion.”

The crowd erupted immediately, screaming “No Collusion. No Collusion. No Collusion.”

Trump responded, “No Obstruction, No Obstruction, No Obstruction.”

The crowed followed in a frenzy shouting that phrase, then “Kill the Witch Hunters,” and “Lock Her Up.” This raucous activity lasted about a half hour before Trump waived to the crowd, pumped his fist in the air, and exited the stage. 

Following the rally, Trump answered questions from reporters, all from small, pro Trump newspapers, mainly in the South and from Fox News. All other media were screened out except one, Faux News, which when mispronounced “Fox News” is this news outlet’s ticket to getting into these events.

Trump, who was joined by a smiling Rudy Giuliani and Lindsay Graham at his side, told reporters that since he was now completely exonerated by the Barr Report, it was time to move on. Barr’s four page, “exhaustive” report in his view was complete and accurate and was all anyone needed to read. This is why Trump said he was commanding his base to burn every copy of the “flawed and inaccurate” Mueller Report, which even though it totally exonerated him in every respect is still “mostly flawed and was totally unnecessary, a complete waste of money.” Trump talked about how much suffering he has had to endure from what he called a Witch Hunt and traitorous activity inspired by “the Deep State and by Democrats out to get me.” 

Since the Barr Report “summarized all the important parts of the worthless Mueller Report,” Trump added that the content of the report was irrelevant, unnecessary and “probably illegal.” Giuliani and Graham told the reporters that they had no intention of reading a single page of the illegal document and had in fact tossed their copies into the bonfire. Graham added that any Republican caught reading this false report would be stripped of all committee assignments and probably jailed. Giuliani echoed his comments saying that reading the report would just “confuse things” and that the Barr Report was the only source that could be trusted as balanced, fair, bipartisan and truthful. 

When asked by one reporter, what “moving on” meant, Trump said that the major focus of the balance of his term will be “locking up the traitors” that were responsible for the unnecessary report. “It is time to clean house in this country and put the real traitors in jail,” he replied, “And today I am ordering the FBI to revisit the Clinton email illegal activity and to lock her up and then lock up everyone in the FBI who worked on the Mueller Report, starting with Mueller himself.” When another reporter asked how the FBI could be expected to actually lock themselves up, Trump paused for a minute and then said, “Watch me.”

Trump later tweeted, “Wonderful day for America! Witch Hunt over. Totally exonerated. No collusion. No obstruction. Hail to the chief! Jail for the thieves!”

Meanwhile Democrats in Congress and all major news media have been pouring over the 450-page Mueller Report, with much interest and curiosity, noting a long list of items that would appear to fall into the categories of both collusion and obstruction of justice.

One Democratic Congressmen observed that Mueller was not even investigating collusion since that is not in and of itself a criminal activity. Also since it is FBI policy that no sitting president can be indicted for a crime while still in office, according to an FBI spokesperson, the responsibility lies with the Congress to investigate further and take appropriate action.  Chuck Schumer tweeted later in the day, “The Fat Lady has not even come on the stage yet for this one.”

Robert Mueller has also handed over 14 cases to the Southern District of New York, related to allegations of criminal activities by Trump that were not part of the Russia probe. Another Democratic Congressman, Adam Schiff, tweeted, “Buckle up. The fun is just beginning.”

Faux News Series Continues: Okay, God.

Our reporter has done it again—a second interview with God. Here is the transcript:

Okay, God. Thanks for granting a second interview. You are great to do this.

Silence

Yes, I do in fact have something on my mind and that has been bothering me for a long time actually. What I want to know is how come with humans when we get old we get ugly?

Silence.

Well, I appreciate that you don’t think we humans look ugly when we get old. And, yes, I know you love us, each and every one, but still when I look in the mirror I see someone with white hair, wrinkles, and getting balder by the day. I know I do not look like I used to in my forties and fifties. You have got to admit that I looked better then. And there is also my weight. It seems almost impossible to get back to what I weighed then. You may think I don’t look ugly, but I think so.

Silence

Thanks again, God. This makes me feel better that I do not look as bad  as I think I do, but still. And here is my question: why humans? Why did you pick on us? What I mean by this is this: Like a lot of people, I have owned pets—dogs, cats, fish, whatever. Now these pets all got old and eventually died, but just looking at them when they got up in years, you could not tell they were all that old. Have you ever seen a wrinkle on a fish? Why not? A dog with hair that turned from brown to white when he got old? Ditto for a cat? Okay, they all slowed down when they got old, but what I mean is they did not look all that much different from what they always looked like. Even our closest cousins, apes and chimps. When you see one in the zoo, it is not obvious who is up there in years and who is not? Why not? Why have you made us humans this way and nobody else this way? I have got  to say that I do not think it is fair.

Silence

Yes, I do agree that we live longer than most species, and I would like to thank you for that. I still do not think that we humans live long enough as it is, but if you lose your hair, shrivel up, have trouble remembering what you had for breakfast, and can barely move, who wants to live all that much longer anyway? And by the way, elephants and sea turtles live about as long as we humans do. Old sea turtles don’t have wrinkles as far as I know, and old elephants don’t have white hair. And it is not just pets and creatures you see in the zoo. What about other creatures in this world you made? What about worms, for example, lowly worms? You can put a bunch of worms on a table of all different ages and I swear, you can’t tell the difference between an infant, teenager or old codger. 

Silence

What is that? Oh yeah, I guess you are right , worms can tell the difference. Thanks for clarifying that.

Silence

Yes, God, there is something else, and it is related. I think that I understand why you invented menopause. No woman has any business trying to raise a child when  she is much over forty. I get this. I would say, good thinking. But what about us guys? We don’t really do that much raising kids anyway, so why when we get up in years do we lose, you know what I am talking about, why do we lose our “get up and go”? 

Silence

Yes, I do appreciate your giving us Viagra, and it does seem to help somewhat. But still I do not understand why….

Silence

Yes, God, I am familiar with the Bible and have read “The Book of Genesis.”

Silence

So that is the reason! The apple! You mean we humans are still paying the price for Adam and Eve eating the apple, the forbidden fruit? Well, first of all it seems to me that it was really Eve’s fault. She offered it to Adam, but I have to concede that he did take a bite. But getting ugly when we get old–that seems like a big price for us humans to pay for what seems to me to be a pretty small mistake. Cruel and unusual punishment is what I would call it. When do you think you will determine that we humans have paid our dues and served our time and can go back to what you had in mind for us in the first place. I can’t imagine that either Adam or Eve would have had any wrinklesMy recommendation would be that you let us live on for as long as you like but let us keep our 25 to 30-year old body for a as long as we want. 

Silence

Yes, I am a church goer. My mother once told me that I was not a Christian, however, because I was already an Episcopalian, and I am what they call a cradle-to-grave Episcopalian. And that brings me to another grievance. In the Episcopal Church we say the creed every Sunday, and one creed we often say is called the Apostles Creed. It says in the Apostles Creed that I believe “in the resurrection of the body.” So this gets back to my aging questions. We live with our body on Earth for what, maybe 75 or 80 years, if we are sort of average? But when we get resurrected, we are stuck with the body that we die with for eternity. So if I die at age 75 or 80, I am going to have a pretty grim eternity because I will be stuck with a body that, frankly, I do not like all that  much. So given a choice, who would want to have to deal with an 80 year-old body forever if they could trade it in for, say, a 25 or 30-year-old body? But nobody wants to die when you are 25, but if somehow you could work it out that we could actually choose which body we get to use for eternity, that would be really great. 

Silence

Just a suggestion, God. I know you know what you are doing. And I really appreciate your saying you will give the idea some thought. And I also appreciate your saying, “Don’t necessarily believe everything you read.”

Thank You God For Most This Amazing World

It is April 10thand I am on my “constitutional,” a three to four mile walk around the Cleveland Park neighborhood in Washington where Embry and I have lived for almost 50 years. I try to “get in my steps” four or five times a week. Today I am especially stunned by the beauty of the Washington spring. It has been a wet and cool spring this year, and plants love it. Today the temperature is in the mid 60s with low humidity and a gentle breeze. Because spring was late in coming, everything seems to be blooming at once. Daffodils and forsythia are still around, joined now by red, yellow, and orange tulips and pansies of all kinds of colors. The ethereal, Japanese cherry trees have started to pale and wilt, but bright, pink ornamental cherry trees are replacing them, and lavender redbud trees seem to be in every yard. The ivory colored blooms of dogwoods are just starting to peep out. Azaleas will not be far behind. Tiny green buds are on every tree. The Carolina blue sky is cloudless. 

I am speechless.

I take a deep breath and say a short prayer, “Thank you God for most this amazing day…” a line you may remember from one of ee cummings’s best poems. I ask myself if any place in the vast universe could top this. Did someone once say that if God did not exist, humans would have to invent Him? Do some say that now?

I say do not even begin to think that we humans can figure all this out. Just breathe in the fresh air, marvel at the colors all around you, smell the perfume of the flowers, and give thanks that you are alive.

Upon Turning 77

I just learned that 77 is actually a sacred number, which leads to a serious blog post. No fake news today.

Seventy-seven years ago at something like 12:15 in the morning I was born on April Fools Day in Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. According to my mother, it was all Roosevelt’s fault—one of his many–for putting in daylight savings time. I have suffered ever since from being an April Fool.

Not really. In fact not at all. As I look back, as I suppose is natural for someone beginning a 78thyear of life on the planet Earth, I can’t help reflecting upon what it all means. What I can say is that I am profoundly grateful. I have been, as they say, blessed. Blessed for having a strong marriage to a strong woman, two children who make me proud (and their spouses!), four grandchildren, who exceed grandparent superlatives (like all grandchildren I suppose, but no, ours are special!) and deep and lasting friendships. These include first cousins, nieces, nephews and other friends we are close to. I mention these blessings first for a reason: they are what are most important.

Right up there near the top of the list , of course, is health. I have often said that life is a matter of inches, meaning an inch here or an inch there, and the story would be very different. My first “inch” had to do with the year I was born, 1942. If I had been born in, say, 1900 my life expectancy at birth (white male) would have been 47.  We take so much for granted in 2019, but just think: penicillin was not discovered/invented until 1928. Before that infections and infectious diseases often meant a death sentence. And just think of what it must have been like to have a tooth pulled in the early part of the last century.

 In my case I would have been dead by my early 20s had it not been for a new operation called a “spinal fusion,” developed only a couple of years earlier to correct severe curvature of the spine. In1952 I had had a pretty severe case of polio, which due to paralyzed stomach muscles resulted two years later in a backbone that looked like the letter “C.” If I had been born a decade before, my parents would have watched in horror knowing that my organs were getting all mixed up, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Few in this condition would have survived past their early twenties. Close call. Another close call was in my forties when I  “dodged a bullet,” words of my dermatologist, when he removed a melanoma mole, just before it spread to my lymph nodes. Let’s hear it for medical advances that have made such a difference in years lived and quality of life! My guess is that most of us who have reached the ripe old age of 77 have had our share of close calls. That we got past them is reason for thanksgiving.

Perhaps due to my polio experience and being on the sidelines for a long time during my youth, I have been a bit of an exercise fanatic my entire adult life. I was a serious runner—not very good but very serious—through my forties and mid fifties; and when knee issues began in the mid 90s, I became a serious walker and lap swimmer. Now with a new knee I am walking long(ish) distances again and am grateful for that. I am also grateful for the running partners I have had over the years. Generally speaking my health overall has been pretty good, probably exceptionally good when you take into account the fact that a large percentage of polio victims have experienced “post polio syndrome,” often resulting in paralysis which they thought they had left behind years earlier.

I recall in my fifties receiving a letter from a research organization asking me whether I had enough problems to qualify for a study on post polio. I responded by saying,  “Absolutely. I have cut down my running from five miles a day to three and now play tennis only twice a week.” I realize now what a crude and insensitive remark this was and can only say that I am grateful that I dodged the PPS bullet. I was not selected to participate in the study. 

Over the course of 77 years it is impossible to get by without experiencing hardships, disappointments, and for too many in our world, real suffering. Such is life on this lonely planet. For Embry and me the loss of our first child, Katherine, just before her first birthday was cause for much sorrow. She was born with a heart defect and did not survive what we understood was supposed to be a “routine, relatively low risk” heart operation in Chapel Hill in 1969. 

Nor is it possible to get by without making mistakes and doing really stupid things. All I can say about this—and there are way too many to begin to list here—is Lord have mercy.

There are so many other things to be thankful for. I think first of work. Think about how much of our lives are spent working. Think about how many people work very hard for very low pay and others who have bad jobs or jobs they hate. Think about those who want to work but can’t find jobs. Think about the difference between a job and a career. I was lucky to stumble upon a career that I loved: a professional in the field of real estate development with a specialty in developing seniors housing and affordable housing. I proudly consider founding and keeping Howell Associates going for 20 years a personal accomplishment, and being able to actually sell the company when I was in my late fifties is nothing less than de facto proof of a benign deity. I loved the work and the many wonderful people who worked with me at Howell Associates. I am also grateful that I am still able to keep an oar in the water by serving on several nonprofit boards that develop and own seniors or affordable housing.  While doing some of the same work, I write checks rather than receive them but only occasionally ask what is wrong with this picture. I am glad I have this opportunity.

Second, I think of extracurricular pursuits.  For me this includes writing, photography, sailing, and traveling. I still think how fortunate I was that after receiving five rejections from potential publishers of Hard Living on Clay Street, the last shot, Doubleday, came through; and the book has been in continuous print since 1973. I was not so lucky with Civil Rights Journey, which I ended up self publishing, but I am still proud of the book and the reception it has received. Photography remains a passion as may be apparent since you are reading this blog on my photography website, and I am still cruising  and racing a sailboat after all these years. You can’t find better sailing waters than the Chesapeake Bay, and also owning a charter boat in the Sunsail fleet in the British Virgin Islands has allowed Embry and me and friends to cruise in fabulous spots all over the world—the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Puget Sound, the South Pacific (Tahiti) and the Adriatic. 

Travel has also been an important activity, and all the credit goes to erstwhile travel agent and companion, Embry Howell. She plans. I tag along. But I have truly enjoyed these adventures in some 50 plus countries around the globe. The around-the-world adventure-no-airplanes, was probably the best, and you may have followed us on this website for this trip and some of the others.

So on my 77thbirthday, I think I can honestly say that I could not have asked for much more. I am also aware of the fact that the pathway I have followed was prepared by a lot of people ahead of me.  I am aware that compared to a lot of pathways mine was pretty smooth. Others can be–and often are– pretty steep and rocky. I was born into a loving family. I am aware that many privileges come from being white. I live in a wealthy country. I was able to attend terrific schools. I had mentors to follow. I have not had to worry too much about financial security. All these factors made for a pretty easy path to follow though not without a few hills and rough spots along the way. But make no mistake: we humans are what we are because of a lot of factors that we are not in control of, not just because of what we do on our own.

But even as we  77ers are in the countdown stage our lives, I can’t help thinking about the future. Those who have been following my blog know how much I hate Trump. However, Trump is not so much  a cause as a symptom of something out of kilter that goes much deeper. Globalization has created winners and losers, and the losers are angry and are fighting back. Trump has exploited this phenomenon, and nobody really knows how we will get through it. And it is not just a U.S. problem. The whole world is affected. Turkey, Poland, and Hungary have all turned toward dictators, and Brexit looks to me like a suicide wish by the Brits. Inequality in wages and income persists and is getting worse, not better.

And lurking over all of this is climate change, the number one issue for us  humans on the planet Earth. Scientists tell us that by 2050 if we are not on a solid path to significantly reducing carbon emissions–not just reducing the rate of increase– we are looking at sea level increases of 30 to 40 feet within the next century or two. And let me tell you: 77 years goes by pretty fast. Two hundred years is a mere blip on the human history timeline. By the turn of the century the planet could be spiraling out of control, and no one will be able to change its course. My grandchildren will probably still be alive then. What will happen to them and to their children? 

But this blog post is mainly about looking back, not forward. It has been a great 77 years. I was born before World War II was over but remember nothing about it. My father, who was aboard a Navy LST most of the time, survived. America prospered and became the dominant country on the planet. Since then we have fought wars, but they have been far away. Following the Vietnam War, the wars were all fought by volunteers. But I can’t help asking why must wars continue. And we tend to forget that lots of countries have nuclear weapons. We have the ability to destroy life on Earth as we know it in a matter of seconds.

A lot of changes occurred during this time, some good, some not so good. I put the Civil Rights Movement right up there at the top, and to be able to be part of the this movement is one of the parts of my life I am most proud of. The Women’s Movement and Gay Rights Movement have also changed our society for the better. But my generation also has suffered through the assassination of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King. And we are now in the era of Trump.

When I was born there was no such thing as a television set or a jet airplane or even a simple computer. The idea of sending a man to the moon was unthinkable. For my birthday, Embry gave me an Apple Watch. Dick Tracy, baby. Who would have ever thought…?

Though our history has been mixed, the last 77 years has been a good time to be alive. The short time allotted to me has been good.

Some call this luck. Certainly I am one of the lucky ones.

Others call this by the grace of God. I am certainly a beneficiary of God’s grace.

Whatever you want to call it, I am grateful to be alive and grateful for the 77 years I have had (so far) on this small, blue planet located in a run-of-the-mill galaxy in a universe of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars. 

Faux News Apology: We Wuz Tricked!

The editors of Faux News were tricked. The copy of the Mueller Report that was delivered secretly to us was actually the Comey report on Hillary Clinton’s alleged “illegal and traitorous” emails, not the actual Mueller report, which no one except Barr and Rosenstein have seen, and no one else probably ever will see according to our inside sources. They tricked us by adding a couple of pages at the beginning to make us think it was the real Mueller report. We fell for it. Shame on us!

But that does not mean that we are defeated. We have our own journalistic arsenal of weapons, the most important being the cadre of so-called “White House servants,” who are actually our spies, and they are wired. These are the people who bring coffee and donuts to the subjects of our secret investigations. Here is the latest taped conversation that occurred on Thursday, March 28, in Attorney General Barr’s office with key Trump advisors, Mike Mulvaney, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Rudy Giuliani, and Stephen Miller:

Mulvaney: I have called you to this meeting at the office of the Attorney General to discuss next steps for our revered president and where we go from here now that Mueller has completely exonerated him. By the way, Billy, great show! Terrific job! We knew you could do.

Barr: Glad to help out. 

Mulvaney: Just to be clear, it is over, right? The Mueller report gets deep-sixed and no one sees it? Never will see the light of day. Right?

Barr: Was there ever any doubt?  Sure, we will have to release some of it to keep the dogs at bay, but it will be harmless. No collusion, no obstruction. Remember, it is unconstitutional to question the absolute right of any sitting president to do what he wants, where he wants and when he wants. Certainly not our “Exalted One.” Game over.

Giuliani: Thank you, Jesus!

Barr: Who?

Giuliani: Not you, Billy, just a saying.

Mulvaney: But I was just wondering, first, did you actually read the report, and second is there er, I mean, er, well…is there anything in it that might be, you know, kinda bad for the president?

Barr: Of course I read it.

Sanders: I am sure you did and I do not question you. But with all due respect, Mr. Attorney General, it was over 300 pages, and you issued your conclusions in only a few hours.

Barr: I am a speed-reader, ok? Well, since I am among friends sworn to secrecy, I do admit I might have skimmed part of it. But the real question is why should I read any of it in the first place? It is a waste of time. Read my famous treatise on the presidency. Presidents are above the law. They make the law. What they do is the law.

In any event I will swear under oath that I did not personally read a single sentence that was critical of the president or leave open any doubt as to his complete innocence, which when you think about it is pretty clever since I skipped over those parts. 

Giuliani: Brilliant! So what happens next?

Sanders: Yes, what do I tell the press?

Conway: You tell them how great the president is, how he is loved and respected by the American people, how he has made America great again, and is feared by the entire world. And how he is now vindicated, exonerated and completely innocent, how this proves he has never lied or done anything wrong, ever, and what a great day it is for the United States. And, oh yes, how he has been maligned and deeply hurt by irresponsible people who have committed treasonous acts.

Sanders: Will do. Thank you, Kellyanne. No one knows our president better than you do.

Giuliani: But this is just the start. We now go after his enemies, the enemies of the people. They have falsely accused the president, and this falls into the category of treason, like Kellyanne says. They are traitors and must be brought to justice.

Sanders: Who are they?

Giuliani: The usual suspects. You know, Sessions, Comey, Flake, Corker, Cohen, the no good rat, everyone else who copped pleas and told lies, John McCain…

Sanders: I thought McCain was dead.

Giuliani: Okay, check that one off the list. And, of course, all the fake journalists and so called pundits– everyone at CNN and MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post every Democrat in the House and Senate and every Democrat running for office…And, of course, Mueller, and everyone in the FBI and Justice Department who worked on the report. And—how could I have not put her first– Hillary. Very long list. Hang ‘em all! 

Sanders: I thought that they now use lethal injection.

Giuliani: Whatever.

Conway: But I thought that the Mueller report totally exonerated the president. Why hang Mueller and all the people who worked on the report that were on Mueller’s team?

Giuliani: Oh yeah, check those people off the list, but as a practical matter, do we really know what is actually in the report? He could have said some bad things. Oh, never mind. Not that important…

Miller: Fine, fine. It is a great day for the president and for our country and for the world. But you people are missing something. Now that the president has been completely cleared from any wrongdoing and has been shown to be honorable in every respect, like George Washington, never having told a lie….

Sanders: Stephen, don’t get too carried away.

Miller: Hear me out. This is our chance to strike back legislatively. This is our opening for the policy agenda that we have had in our tool kit, just waiting for the right opportunity. Now that the traitorous accusations about collusion and obstruction are behind us, it is time to open the tool kit. It is our chance to change the world forever!

Sanders: So what is in the tool kit?

Miller: A lot. So pay attention. The first is to pull the plug out of the life support system keeping the hideous ACA alive. We will kill it, using the courts this time. We have the votes on the Supreme Court, so it is just a matter of time. I am sure Roberts will come around. But in the meantime we go on a full court press to convince the American people that Obamacare is the worst thing to ever happen to them and must be stopped.

Conway: But Steve, you know that many in America like it. We have been telling the American people how bad it is  for almost ten years, but that story line does not stick. That is what the polls show. Over 170 million Americans will be affected if Obamacare is declared unconstitutional without a replacement. Over 20 million will lose all insurance.

Miller: So what? They won’t like Obamacare after we hit them with the most aggressive PR campaign of all time, and it is already funded by big donors, who, of course, will remain anonymous. We are talking billions of dollars for ads and PR here. Plus aggressive social media. Don’t think we didn’t learn anything from the Russians. And think of the money the U.S. tax payers will save when 20 million deadbeats come off the Medicaid rolls and tens of billions more dollars are saved from the other failed health care programs.

Sanders: But will we have a plan to replace it?

Miller: That is not the point. The point is to brainwash the American public…

Conway: Steve, do not use that word.

Miller: Okay, “convince” the American public that this is the right thing, the American Way. But actually we do have a plan. The plan is let the private sector do what it does best and for the government to get the hell out of the way.

Sanders: It may be hard to sell that, but if all the reporters and fake news people are locked up….

Miller: Exactly. And that feeds into my second point. Curtailing irresponsible free speech and not allowing any treasonous talk or action to happen again. I believe that the five votes in our pocket on the Court will come through on this as well. The First Amendment will be transformed, and this is essential if we are to achieve our Big Goal, which I will get to shortly.

Giuliani: So far so good. Roberts could be a problem there as well, but as you say, he will probably come around when he realizes what is at stake. What else you got for us?

Miller: Climate change. This is a hoax and the president knows it, and Trump’s base knows it. Using social media and a new “public information” campaign  financed by anonymous, deep pocket donors from coal and oil companies, we will kill most of the EPA’s onerous regs and the whole agency too. Just a matter of time, and this means jobs for oil and coal workers. The president’s base will love it. We are prepared to fight the world on this one.

Giuliani: Keep going. This is wonderful.

Miller: The so called safety net and all the bullshit about equality? People aren’t equal. Never have been and never will be. The U.S. spends too much money funding deadbeats and losers. Failed programs like Medicaid, food stamps, aid for poor kids, and even Medicare and Social Security. Money down the tubes. Yeah, I know there may be some pushback from Democrats, but Republicans are now lap dogs of the president and will support anything we do. We say jump, they ask how high. There is no longer a Republican Party anyway. It is now the Party of Trump.

Giuliani: Steve, you are a genius. But what about the Democrats? You know they will go crazy.

Miller: I have another tool for that. We have already been using it. Curtail the irresponsible, loose voting rights that are now way too prevalent. The founding fathers never intended for everyone to vote. Slaves could not vote, women could not vote. Hell, for a long time men who did not own real property could not vote. We have got to get back to the basics and the original intent of the founders and keep people who not deserve to vote from voting. And we all know they are mostly Democrats. This will take time, but with five  Supreme Court Justices in our pocket, it will happen. And you can bet we will use all the firepower we have—social media, advertising, PR. Already funded by the Koch brothers.

Giuliani: I get happier with every word you speak.

Miller: And, finally, immigrants. Build the entire wall and get ICE to lock up or deport the 11 million illegals, and do it now. It will mean adding about 500 times as many officers–a small army, really–but that will also mean jobs for supporters of the president. We will need about a hundred more private prisons, and think of the construction jobs this will create. Trump’s base will love it. We will pay for it by cutting off the deadbeats using Medicaid.

Conway: Got anything else in that kit?

Miller: Yeah, the Big One. Put on your seatbelts for this one. What we really need in this county is long term stability. Two term limits are not enough when you have a truly great president like Donald Trump. I have a plan to change that once and for all and am sure it will work.

Giuliani: Can you tell us more?

Miller: Not now. Got to run. Meeting with the president. May have to involve the military, but other countries have done this before, and we can too, but this will have to wait for later….By the way, I have presented this agenda to the president and he is on board 100%. The treason stuff is already happening.

Giuliani: Brilliant!

Mulvaney: Okay, everyone back to work. Fabulous meeting! And thanks again, Billy, for your excellent, in-depth summary of the Mueller report. A great day for America and a bright future for us and for the world. Long live President Trump!

Others (in unison): Long live President Trump!