Allie’s 100th

Allie Ritzenberg was born on November 11, 1918, the day marking the end of what at the time was called “the Great War.”  His 100th birthday was celebrated on Armistice Day this year in his home nestled atop a bluff in the Maryland suburbs of Washington with breathtaking views of the Potomac River. He has lived there for decades but for  the past several years has lived alone, following the death of his wife, Peggy, who died in her mid nineties. Until last year he was still driving, playing tennis, collecting tennis memorabilia, and preparing his own gourmet, vegetarian meals.

His house was jam-packed with family, friends and admirers that included his four middle-aged children and spouses and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren along with many of Washington’s elite, whom Allie had gotten to know during his 60 plus years as the tennis coach of Saint Alban’s School and tennis pro at the Saint Alban’s Tennis Club. The Washington Post commentator, David Ignatius, was there as was Don Graham, the former owner and publisher of the Post, and probably a whole lot of other famous people I did not recognize.

I was a member of the club and played there once or twice a week, often during the middle of the day when most of the courts were free and Allie was looking for someone to chat with. That led to a friendship and later a request to help him with writing his memoir, which he had been working on for a number of years. I agreed with some trepidation but surprisingly found the experience to be relatively stress free with no pushback from him whatsoever. I think he was desperate, having given up on two or three previous helpers.

My pay for helping him pull his story together was one free lesson for every chapter completed. This was probably the best business deal of my erstwhile writing career.

The book, Capital Tennis, was published by the Francis Press in 2004. It is a good read: a kid from a working class, Jewish family somehow ends up in the halls of Washington’s elite, WASP society. One of the themes that runs through the book is the nagging question of whether he was ever truly accepted by that society as an equal member. (I believe the answer would be a resounding yes.) Another is how far he would have gone competitively if the U.S. Open and other championship tournaments had been open to professionals when he was playing his best tennis. (My guess is that he would have gone a long way.)

But Allie also describes in his book how he was just as committed to helping Washington’s inner city kids as he was to giving lessons to Washington’s best and brightest. He started an organization that reached out to these kids and did more than anyone to introduce them to the game he loves.

Allie is an icon in Washington. He was playing tennis with Robert McNamara when he got the word about the Cuban Missile Crisis and with George McGovern when he learned about his running mate’s previous mental problems. He was Jackie Kennedy’s personal tennis coach. During the Kennedy and Johnson years, any serious tennis player in those Democratic administrations would have belonged to the Saint Alban’s Tennis Club. Most would have taken lessons from Allie. The wait list to get in was measured in years. As long as he was running the club, that trend continued. He has been ranked number one in the “over 80” category for many of the last twenty years and was playing competitively in tournaments around the world well into his nineties.

This birthday celebration, however, was different from his 99thwhen Allie was in true form, holding forth about the state of the country and the world, always with a twinkle in his eye and often a devilish grin. This year he was solemnly seated in a wheel chair connected up to an oxygen tube. His son said that about four months ago he started a decline and now has 24/7 nursing assistance. He made a brief appearance and shook hands but retired well before the event was over. Though there was still a sparkle in his eyes, he was not his old self. Somehow I think we all had assumed that Allie was immortal, that once he turned 100 he would be ranked number one in the over age 100 category forever and that one day, if he did die, it would be from a heart attack on the court after thrashing a much younger opponent 6-0. But, alas, that is not to be. One can only hope that the checking out process for Allie will not involve suffering or be too prolonged. And isn’t that what we all hope for—to be able to live a rich and full life and to keep on going strong for as long as we can, squeezing the last few drops out of the lemon?

 If only we all could be so fortunate.

 

Faux News Breaking News: US Congress Set To Curtail Gun Violence. Again.

Following the most recent mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, on November 7 where 12 people, mainly college students, were gunned down in a nightclub, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell vowed to move on gun legislation immediately. Ryan told Faux News, “ These mass shootings seem to be happening almost on a weekly basis. We can’t wait any longer. We must act now or never. That is why we will get historic legislation passed by the lame duck Congress.”

McConnell agreed with Ryan at a hastily called press conference where he described the highlights of the bill, which he said was a slight variation of the last three Republican legislative initiatives on gun violence. “The most important thing is that once this popular bill becomes law, every bona fide American twelve years old and older will be required to carry a loaded weapon at all times. Also every person will be required to undergo target practice, and anyone failing the test will not be allowed to attend school if they are under age 18; and if they are over age 18,they will be denied a driver’s license or have their license revoked until they can shoot straight.

 “Can you imagine what would have happened in that night club if everyone there was carrying heat? Sure, the killer might have knocked off one or two people, but someone would have nailed him after he had fired a few shots. This is a terrific bill and hugely popular among Republicans who, I would like to point out, still control Congress until January 3, 2019. The only controversial aspects of the bill are whether the required age should be 12 or an older age, like 18, and what the shooting skill levels need to be to stay in school or get a driver’s license. There are also some questions as to whether 80-year olds should be required to carry loaded weapons. Note also that an important part of the bill excludes all illegal aliens and persons born to illegals. In fact they will be prevented from purchasing weapons, which should make the gun-takeaway advocates happy.

“But, mind you, this bill will pass. We are even tossing in some goodies to placate our namby-pamby friends across the aisle by providing subsidies to poor people, who can’t afford to buy weapons. The subsidies will be modeled after those in the Affordable Care Act, and state exchanges will be set up for this purpose. We are even exploring whether we can expand Medicaid to cover the cost of weapons. How could any self respecting Democrat oppose this? Plus anyone purchasing a weapon will receive a tax credit for the full cost; and if the weapon is an assault weapon, you will get double benefits. The tax paying public will love this. Also subsidies will be provided to all public schools to cover the cost of shooting ranges, which are required by the legislation. ”

The first question asked by reporters was why after every mass shooting, Republicans have promised to pass a universal, mandatory, gun-carry bill, but so far none have become law. McConnell blamed the Congressional stalemate on the Democrats whom he accused of being weak-kneed when it comes to firearms. “That is exactly why,” McConnell said, “we have to get this passed now during the lame duck Congress. Once Democrats take over the House in 2019, our chances are gone for responsibly curbing mass shootings and gun violence in this country. It is now or never.”

Asked by a reporter why with a population of almost 130 million people and with strong gun control laws, Japan had only nine gun deaths in 2017, McConnell responded that the Japanese don’t count since they are Asians. Besides they prefer knives, he said, and there are no statistics on that. 

A second question related to the United Kingdom, a country of over 55 million, which had fewer than 25 gun deaths last year while the US had over 33,000. The reporter pointed out that the gun murder rate in the US is over 160 times that of the UK, a country which has strict gun laws. Several other questions referred to other countries with strong gun laws and murder rates a mere fraction of those in the U.S., countries like Germany, China and South Korea. The two officials shrugged off the questions as irrelevant citing the much higher gun death rates in El Salvador.

The proposed legislation, while opposed by the majority of the U.S. population, is expected to pass if it is voted on by the lame duck Congress since both houses are still controlled by Republicans. President Trump strongly supports the legislation calling it the first responsible gun law ever proposed and at 3:25 AM this morning tweeted, “Pass the gun-carry bill now. Founding Fathers would love it.”

Democrats vow to revisit legislation in 2019 once the new Congress is in session. They remain committed to curbing gun violence by passing stronger anti-gun laws and revoking any gun-carry law that passes. Any legislation limiting the Constitutional right to bear arms, however, is considered dead on arrival by most observers. Trump tweeted at 4:07 AM, “Try to knock down gun required-carry laws and be jailed. You are against the Constitution. Un American. Would stand no chance in my Supreme Court.”

In a related news item, Donald Trump Jr. announced this morning the opening of a new chain of retail outlets with the name,  “Son’s Guns,” which he said by the end of 2019 will have over 1,000 outlets “located in every city, town and hamlet in the United States.”  Following the press conference stock prices of every major gun manufacturer had risen by over 25%  and were still rising at the time of publishing of this article.

Ryan concluded the press conference by thanking the reporters who attended and stated, “This is a great day for America. It will be my legacy along with the deficit reducing, tax breaks we Republicans passed. Praise to our beloved President! He is truly making America great again. Promises made, promises kept.”

 

 

 

 

 

Faux News Special: The Greatest Mid Term Election of All Time

President Trump hailed the results of the 2018 mid term election as the greatest of all time and praised his loyal base for turning out votes for him even though, of course, he technically was not on the ballot and Democrats won at least 30 House seats, assuring them a majority. “It is now clear where power in this country lies,” he told our Faux News reporter, “It lies with me and exclusively with me. Sure, we lost the House by a tiny margin, but do you know why? The answer is that every single one of the pathetic, so called Republicans who lost, and lost bad, lost only because they did not support me 100%. If they had stayed totally loyal and obedient, we would still be in charge come 2019. Some even refused to campaign with me. Can you believe it? Well, they paid a price, and make note of it: any Republican who does not commit to total, complete and 100% loyalty to me from now on is toast. They will be primaried out by my loyal followers, and if by some fluke they make it to the general election, they will lose to Democrats. But that won’t happen anymore. There won’t be any Republicans who are not obedient. Just look what happened to Little Shorty, Jeffie Sessions. The Age of Trump is here.”

Fellow Republicans lauded the President and lined up in front of the White House to pay homage to him and thank him for his historic victory and in formally ushering in “the Age of Trump.” Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina boasted that he was going to introduce legislation which would change the name of the “Republican Party” to the “Party of Trump”, and that this would happen during the lame duck Congress before the Democrats take over the House. Other elected officials applauded the action. As loyal officials stood in line for hours to get into the White House to kiss the President’s ring and kneel before him, they chanted continuously, “Party of Trump, Party of Trump” and “Bye bye Short-tee, Bye bye Short-tee.”

Earlier in the day the President had held a press conference where he stated that he was looking forward to working with a Democratic-controlled House provided that they did not ask for his tax returns, say anything negative about him, voted to jail Mueller and supported the president 100% in all that he was doing to move the country forward. Following his bi-partisan overtures at that press conference, Trump expelled two dozen reporters   for asking dumb questions and had them jailed.

“It’s a great day for the county,” Trump told reporters. I am not worried about the Democrats. They will fall in line eventually. This is the Age of Trump.”

Democrats were curiously silent when asked to respond to the boasts by the President. One Democratic member of the House, who asked to remain anonymous, told Faux News, “Bro’ Fox, he say, ‘lay low’. The fun is about to begin.”

 

Understanding Trump Supporters

Last week I received an email from a good friend and Trump supporter with a copy of a Wall Street Journal op-ed essay (October 22) written by a computer science professor at Yale, David Gelernter, who stated his reasons why so many people, including himself—over 40 percent the adult population of the United States—support Trump. He cited many factors—Trump’s  “unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable,” among others.  His main reason, however, boils down to an us-them feeling on the part of “average Americans,” who feel dissed by the liberal, elite establishment.

As blog readers know, I have been obsessed with Trump and cannot stomach him or what he stands for. However, as I read the Gelernter op-ed piece, I could not help realizing that I belong to the tribe that according to him is in part responsible for the divisiveness in our country. When I see angry people at Trump rallies waving “Make America Great Again” signs, I cringe and shake my head, wondering who are these people.

According to Gelernter they are simply ordinary, hard working Americans who believe for a variety of reasons that they have gotten a raw deal and are looked down on by liberals, intellectuals, and “leftists” of all types. They are “the farmer, factory hand, auto mechanic, machinist, teamster, shop owner, clerk, software engineer, infantryman, truck driver, housewife.” Trump, for these average Americans–many  from the [white] working class– is their ticket to payback time. He is shaking up the establishment as he said he would and is making life miserable for those who have lorded it over them for them for decades. The ancient proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” says it all. It is no wonder that his popularity remains remarkably stable regardless of how outrageous or hateful his tweets are.

Gelernter sums up what he thinks  the attitude of liberals is toward ordinary Americans: “What I see on the left is often plain, unconditional hatred of which the hater—God forgive him—is proud. It’s discouraging, even disgusting. And it does mean, I believe, that the Trump-hater truly does hate the average American—male or female, black or white. Often he hates America, too.”

I believe that Gelernter has a point in arguing that the resentment of class prejudice is a major reason behind Trumpism. He is also right that many “leftists” and Democrats have contributed to the divisiveness  by patronizing these “average Americans” and in the past taking their votes for granted. We are in some ways guilty as charged.

The year Embry and I spent with blue collar families on Clay Street gave us a perspective that we would not have had without that experience. Hard Living on Clay Street, published in 1973 and still in print, came out with a third edition this year with a new cover endorsement by Joan C. Williams, a Berkley professor, which reads, “If you want to know why Trump won in 2016, read this book.” The characters in the book were hard working Americans but were struggling to get back by. They were proud and independent but also felt marginalized. I have no doubt that most would be Trump supporters today. Yet they were good people. Given the odds they were fighting and the hands they were dealt, Embry and I could see then and understand now how they could feel resentment and alienation. And rightly or wrongly, they did not see themselves benefiting from government programs and were especially fearful of their diminished position in an America becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.

So Gelernter is  right. We liberals are in part responsible. Shame on us! We need to do better.

But wait a minute! You can surely hate Trump without hating his ardent followers. And you can surely speak truth as you see it: Trump is a fraud. Trump has never cared about working people, and the policies and actions he has promoted do not make their lives better. The tax breaks went mainly to the top 10 percent. Weakening  Obamacare does not help working people nor does his opposition to increasing the national minimum wage. He is anti union. His trade tariffs are at best a mixed bag, helping some working people but hurting others. The next target for Trump and his party will surely be dismantling the social safety net, using the massive deficits created by the tax breaks as the excuse. He is promoting hatred and discord. He is a consummate liar.  He has not stood up to racists or Neo Nazis and spreads fear about people of color entering our country. His number one concern is himself. Many people believe that he is edging the country toward a tyrannical future. 

Yes, I can certainly understand why many in the white working class cast their ballot for Trump as a protest vote. But in the end they chose the wrong horse. They were duped. Agreed, the economy is doing pretty well right now, and people have jobs, but the income gap is not getting any better. The growth we are seeing this year is a sugar high caused mainly by the tax cuts, which are overheating the economy, a situation for which we will have to pay the piper sooner or later. The Trump presidency will turn out to be a disaster for working people.

So what are we to learn from people like the Yale professor and others who cast us as demons? We can agree that we Democrats and progressives have at times let down working people and that too many of us have disrespected and looked down our noses on the “average Americans” who now are Trump supporters. We have to do better. But we can’t take our eye off the ball. We have to champion a progressive agenda  and  hammer away by supporting policies that will make life better for working people— affordable health care, greater access to higher education, stronger unions, higher wages, available childcare, a strong social safety net, and laws that ensure a level playing field regardless of race, ethnicity, sexuality or one’s place in society….The list is long. We have to keep up the fight for what we believe in. We have to work hard for a more tolerant and inclusive America.

On Tuesday our country will vote in what has been described as the most important mid term election in generations, perhaps ever.  On election eve we do not know how it will turn out. The Republicans–more accurately “The Party of Trump”– will probably gain seats in the Senate, and the Democrats will gain seats in the House but are not guaranteed a majority. In order to put brakes on the Trump presidency it is critical that Democrats retake the House. Talk of a blue wave has subsided as the polls show the preference gap narrowing for Democrats. Voter turnout will determine the outcome.  It could be a cliffhanger.

Nail biting time.

 

Faux News Futures Feature: Breaking News June 2019, “Supreme Court Rules Constitution Unconstitutional.”

In a 5-4 decision today the U.S. Supreme Court upheld along party lines Donald Trump’s executive order which  effectively  nullifies Article 14 of the U.S. Constitution by  disallowing citizenship for all  children born in the U.S. to non U.S. Citizens. Article 14 had granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”

 It is not clear whether this historic ruling applies retroactively to all people who gained citizenship under Article 14 or just to future cases.  The opinion was written by  newly confirmed Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and hailed by most Republican elected officials as a major breakthrough in U.S.  history, thus laying the ground for declaring unconstitutional  the Bill of Rights and other amendments now considered obsolete  by Trump and many Republican elected officials such as the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlaws slavery, and the two term limit to presidential terms criticized so frequently by President Trump.

Writing on behalf of the “Originalist” majority, Kavanaugh’s opinion states,” It is clear from reading American history and the  U.S. Constitution that the misguided people who wrote the Thirteenth Amendment had no intention of providing citizenship to all children of non U.S. citizens. Since it was never their intent, the amendment is by definition unconstitutional and that Trump’s executive order stands.”

When asked by a reporter how he could draw this conclusion, Kavanaugh asked the reporter what his favorite beer was and  said that any question so stupid did not deserve an answer.

Republicans were overwhelmingly supportive of the decision. Led by Senator Graham from South Carolina, one Republican Senator after another praised the ruling from the floor of the Senate.  Graham addressed the Senate, “Finally the Supreme Court is upholding the original intent of the Founding Fathers and others to  keep the Constitution constitutional. It is a wonderful day for the country and for all who believe in the rule of law and the purity and infallibility of the U.S. Constitution. All praise to the Originalist majority and our beloved Leader, President Trump!”

President Trump tweeted, “Thanks, Brett and the Boys. Now time to go after the Thirteenth.”

While Originalist legal scholars praised the decision, the majority of legal scholars questioned how anyone could come to the conclusion that the constitution is itself unconstitutional. “It all has to do with intent,” said Justice Kavanaugh. “And how you interpret the Constitution . If there are parts of the Constitution that are unconstitutional, then the Constitution must be protected at all costs. We stand firm on this and will not tolerate any unconstitutional clauses in the Constitution. The Rule of Law will prevail.”

Since this is breaking news, more information will be forthcoming as it becomes available.

 

 

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats from “The Second Coming”

     Strange and frightening times, these times we live in. As of this morning, nine pipe bombs, delivered by mail, have been retrieved by law enforcement. People targeted were all atop the list of famous Democrats or Trump critics—the Obamas, Clintons, George Soros, John Brennan, Eric Holder, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Robert De Niro, Joe Biden and the CNN headquarters. We are told that this may be the tip of an iceberg. Expect more to follow. That no bomb has exploded yet could be due to faulty bomb making, a hoax, or a miracle.

     What are we to make of this?

    What are we to make of a smiling and snarling President of the United States egging on his angry supporters who shout, “lock her up!” every time he mentions Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or Diane Feinstein? What are we to make of his calling major newspapers and reporters “enemies of the people” and “fake news”? What about his buddying-up with dictators like Kim jon-un, Putin, Erdogan, el-Sisi, and Mohammed ben Salman while trashing Macron, Trudeau, Merkel and most European leaders? His tacit approval of neo Nazis and hate groups? His disrespect for women? Could he be responsible for creating the most hateful and divisive spirit this country has experienced since the Civil War or is Trump the product of our divisiveness, not the cause?

 What are we to make of the fact that the once great and proud Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, is now the Party of Trump, afraid to challenge any Trump action or statement regardless of how hateful it is or the damage it will do to people or the environment?

 What are we to make of the challenges that call into question the survival of human life on this planet as we  know it? What will happen as global warming causes seas to rise, engulfing most major coastal cities? As mega storms multiply and wipe out cities? What will happen when Bangladesh, a country of 160 million, finds itself underwater?

 What about the vast migration and displacement that is happening before our eyes at an unprecedented pace– the boat people from Africa desperately trying to make it to Europe or the 5,000 refugees from Honduras getting closer each day to our border with Mexico? Those displaced by the Syrian civil war? What will happen to them?

What will happen in Yemen in the next few months if the civil war continues and world relief is not expanded big time? Experts tell us to brace ourselves for the greatest loss of lives due to famine in world history with over 14 million people at risk right now.

  What will happen when rogue states or terrorists get their hands on atomic weapons?

  What will happen? What will happen? What will happen?

    Yeats goes on to conclude his poem:

 Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   

The darkness drops again; but now I know   

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

 

Democrats: Keep Your Eye On The Ball

The following blog post is adapted from an article that I wrote last week that was published in the  October newsletter  of the Women’s National Democratic Club, of which I am, I believe, the only male member.

The mid term election coming up in just over three weeks is the most important mid term election in my lifetime. Democrats have one shot at impeding a tyrannical president, who is leading our country into dangerous and unchartered waters.

The simple message that resonates with almost anyone uneasy with the direction Trump is taking our country in is this: we need to put the brakes on. The polls all show Trump’s declining popularity except from his stalwart base.  A large percentage of Americans are unhappy with what is happening with regard to addressing climate change, the way immigrants are being treated, disparities in income, tax breaks for the rich and super rich, tariff wars, gun violence, access to affordable health care, police brutality against people of color, unaffordable college education, how women are treated, the Russian interference in our elections, and our weakening role as a leader of nations.  The list could go on. With regard to basic human values, the rule of law and what America is supposed to be all about, this President is an unmitigated disaster. The recent ordeal of the Kavanaugh confirmation process only amplifies the toxic influence of Trump and the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to exercise their Constitutional responsibility to provide a check on an out-of-control executive branch.

Democrats are  very aware of the Trump disaster. You can’t pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV without being reminded of the fragile and frightening state we are in. But it is not just Democrats. It is also a high percentage of Independents—whose ranks are growing as disillusioned Republicans jump ship, and some traditional Republicans, especially well educated, suburban women, who for now are staying in the party but if pushed far enough by the anger toward women, could vote for a Democrat in November.

But make no mistake: It is no longer the Republican Party. It is the Party of Trump. And there is not a single “former Republican,” elected  official in Congress who has had the courage to consistently take on the president for his unconscionable behavior. With the Party of Trump in the majority in both Houses of Congress—and now the Supreme Court– Trump is getting pretty much what he wants. There is no way to stop him unless Democrats regain control of at least one branch of government. 

Yes, protecting people from the Republican agenda of scrapping the pre-existing conditions prohibition under the ACA is important, as are the traditional issues that we Democrats believe in like civil rights, fairness, and a strong social safety net. But those issues are not going to make the difference. With Trump there are no issues. It is all about him, and this mid term election is all about Trump.

It looks like Democrats  have a good chance of taking back control of the House, not so much the Senate, but even that is possible. What we need is a Blue Wave and a big one. This will send a message that America has not sold out on its traditional values and that there is no place for a narcissistic demagogue leading our country. It will show that America still has the resilience to make midcourse corrections.

Pundits and talking heads tell us that the Kavanaugh confirmation has re-energized the Trump base and that they will turn out en mass, possibly delivering a Red Wave, assuring the ‘total victory” that Trump rants about at rallies. If this happens, it is doomsday—not just for Democrats but for everyone who is worried about the divisiveness in our country and where Trump is taking us.

Whether Democrats succeed or not will depend on two things: getting a large share of  the Independent and moderate Republican vote and  voter turnout by Democrats. Trump’s base will turn out. We know that. The record for Democrats turning out in mid term elections is poor, bordering on terrible.  If we are going to change the direction of the country, this year has to be different.

So Democrats: keep your eye on the ball. Though his name is not on the ballot, the 2018 mid term election is about Trump and only about Trump. Checks and balances must return. The stakes have never been higher.

 

Faux News: Exclusive Interview With Republican Leaders, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan

FN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. Majority Leader of the Senate, for agreeing to this exclusive interview.

McConnell: Never turn down an interview with Fox News. Hey, you want a beer? [McConnell opens a cooler and pulls out three beers.] You have a choice of Coors. They are a major supporter of ultra conservative causes, you know. And you can have a Yuengling. The Yuengling family is one of  Trump’s  buddies.

FN: Actually Yuengling is my favorite beer.

McConnell: You like beer? I like beer. Paul likes beer, right Paul? You like beer, don’t you, Paul?

Ryan: Hey, everybody likes beer. Except Trump. He does not drink. But everyone else likes beer. I like it. You like it. Brett likes it. Our Fox News reporter likes it. Beer is great, really great! [McConnell opens three beer cans and passes them around.]

FN: My first question to you, Mr. McConnell, is how do you interpret the Kavanaugh victory.

McConnell: Well, first of all it was a bipartisan victory and a win for the whole country. He showed the world what he was made of and why he is a great man. He was framed by a woman who probably was paid by  George Soros or Hillary Clinton or somebody to fabricate a totally unbelievable story, and no one believed her. It was great that our Senate on a bipartisan basis, both Republicans and a Democrat, saw through this phony accusation, as did the American people.

FN: With all due respect, sir, I believe women are very upset by this along with some men, and polls show the majority of Americans actually supporting Doctor Christine Blasey Ford.

McConnell: Nonsense. Fake News. You guys at Fox News should know better.

FN: Actually it is spelled Faux News and pronounced like “foe,” not “fox.” Our name makes us sound like  sort of a French newspaper.

McConnell: I am leaving. Paul, we have been ambushed.

Ryan: No, Mitch. Let’s answer a couple of more questions. The French are interested in what happened and why.

McConnell: French splinch.

FN: Mr. Ryan, I know that you are leaving the House soon and have had a distinguished career. How do you look back on your legacy?

Ryan: Damn good beer. Thanks, Mitch, for bringing, Now to your question. My true legacy will be responsible tax policies and fiscal responsibility. I have fought for fiscal constraint, smaller government, and a balanced budget and am proud of what I have accomplished.

FN: But surely you are aware of the enormous deficit that is the result of the massive tax bill which just passed and has benefitted the rich at the expense of the fiscal responsibility. The deficit is growing by leaps and bounds with no end in sight, and further tax cuts are promised by Trump.

Ryan: Where in France did you say you are from?

FN: Not France, just a French name.

Ryan: You are right, Mitch. Ambushed.

FN: What I want to know is how could you vote for such a fiscally irresponsible tax bill?

Ryan: Okay, you asked and here is my answer. There are three reasons. First, the rich need a break. They are over taxed and unfairly treated, especially the top one percent. Sure, they are billionaires, but they have to pay so much taxes it is not fair. It is time they got some relief, and more is coming though I won’t be around to see it since I will be retired. But I know it is coming.

Second, just look at the stock market and the labor market. The economy is booming. Big corporations are making money hand over fist. Everyone who wants a job can get one. UnEmployment is the lowest it has been since the Sixties. Ok wages  have not risen, but frankly that has never been much of a concern anyway.

Third, it will pay for itself. Because the rich will be even richer and the big companies even bigger, though they will pay a smaller share of their income for taxes, they will actually pay more taxes and the deficit will go way down.

FN: But is that happening right now? I believe the deficit is actually going way up.

Ryan: For now, yes, but not in the future.

FN: How can that be?

McConnell: The way that we will assure that the deficit is under control is what we are calling Plan B. We have been working on this secretly for some time and are going to roll it out right after the mid term elections. Plan B is to drastically cut wasteful federal programs. They are a disgrace, and we cannot afford them.

Ryan: You are right, Mitch. The answer is to gut the programs that we all know do not work. Here is what we will do, and by the way, we have the votes to do this. Even in a lame duck Congress, we will pass these bills, and Trump will sign them all. It will be the biggest roll back of these hideous, wasteful, pork barrel, and useless programs in the history of the Republic.

 Here is what you can expect in legislation that I will introduce the day after the mid term elections: Medicaid? No more federal funding. If states want to continue, they can, but not on the federal nickel. Same for food stamps, a totally useless program. Disability and so called Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing, all forms of welfare, plus most of the federal money for mass transit? Outa there! Federal support for education? Gone. US AID? No money for that giveaway.

And we are going to eliminate funding for entire agencies like the EPA. Good riddance to that fiasco of an agency that pretends to deal with issues that do not even exist like climate change. And also the Department of Education and Energy and HUD. All useless. More will follow, like the IRS and Transportation. If states like the useless stuff these agencies do, they can continue on their own.

 Anyway that is the easy stuff. We figure it will cut the federal work force by 40%. We will also sharply curtail both social security and Medicare though we have not worked out all the details. Seniors will scream bloody murder, so we will have to deal more gently, but I guarantee it will happen. This rollout is the big news that your so called Foe Press can publish. This will change America forever and for the better, and this will assure my legacy.

McConnell [opening the cooler]: More beers anybody?

FN: I think I will take a glass of very strong Scotch.

McConnell: And the beauty of all this is that right now, we, The Party of Trump, control everything. We control the House, the Senate, and now the Supreme Court. If Trump has his way and the Court backs him up as we know it will, we will soon own the press as well. We have a strongman as our President who calls all the shots. No one dares cross him. Trump is not only for this legislation, he has assured me that by whatever means necessary it will pass. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make America great again, and we are doing it. Paul and I both will go down in the history books as the greatest ever along with President Trump, of course.

FN: Unless there is a big backlash at the polls and the American people do not accept this nonsense.

McConnell: OK, this interview is over. I have heard enough from this foe news guy! Let’s go, Paul. [Both men chug down their second beer, give each other a high five and exit the interview.]

 

 

Faux News Returns: Kavanaugh Victory, The Greatest of All Time

Our Faux News investigative reporter is back after spending several weeks in a DC rehab facility for people suffering from nervous breakdowns. In his usual disguise as a White House janitor, he was able to record the following conversation between Trump and three interns chosen by the Freedom Caucus, who happened to be in the Oval Office on a “President Admiration Interview” when  Susan Collins announced her “yes” vote.

Trump: Hot damn, knew she would come through and now Manchin. It’s over, baby! Greatest victory of all time!

Intern 1: Really the greatest of all time?

Trump: That is what they are saying on Fox News, and they know. No president has ever appointed two judges who were confirmed during the first half of his first term. Put this down in your history books.

Intern 2: You are wonderful, Mr. President. You are the greatest president ever. The greatest leader. We are so honored to be here with you.

Trump: We will see what happens. I believe I may have a job waiting for you when you graduate. You know anything about being an Attorney General?

Intern 3 (the only female): I agree, your Presidency, that you are great, but do you think this might hurt you with the women’s vote and the #MeToos?

Trump: Who let you into the Oval Office?

Intern 3: I apologize. Most women admire and love you as I do. I was just wondering…

Trump: Well, we will have to see how it turns out, but you are right that most women do love me. They can’t keep their hands off me.  It is the women who are the predators, not the men, and that is a proven fact. I am standing up for men, and that is why I will win big in 2020 and why the Republicans will win big in November.

 We will increase our lead in the Senate by 10-12 Senators and double our advantage in the House. You will see a Red Wave like no one has ever seen before. Just look at my rallies. My supporters are everywhere. They kill to get into these rallies.

The November turnout for Republicans will be the greatest in history. Why? Because I deliver. I gave them tax cuts, the biggest of all time. I gave them tariffs and big bucks to the steel industry. They are making money hand over fist. I tore up Nafta and gave them a real trade agreement, which will pay off big time for us and screw our enemy, Canada. I gave them peace with our friend, North Korea, which is now nuclear free, and I got out of the fake, Paris climate deal and the phony, Iran nuclear deal. Everyone knows that climate change is a hoax and that Iran is crooked. I have gotten tough on illegal immigrants and so called refugees, ordering our guards to take  the children away from these no good border crossers, showing ‘em who’s boss.

 And that is just the tip of the iceberg. I have cleaned out the swamp of slimy, no good hangers-on and government creeps. I am standing up to our enemies, the European Union. And just check out the unemployment rate at 3.7%, the lowest in 250 years. Don’t believe the polls or any of the fake news you see on CNN or MSNBC or PBS or read in the fake press, the failing New York Times or Washington Post.

Intern 1: You are wonderful, Mr. President. You are the greatest president ever.

Trump: You know anything about being a Vice President?

Intern 2: Your  Most Revered One, is  the Kavanaugh confirmation the most important in US history?

Trump: Short answer: Yes.  I own the sonofabitch. Gorsuch too for that matter.  They know why they are on the court. Two  ultra conservative votes in the pocket and really three more sitting there on the bench. That makes five. So this is what you can count on: Roe v Wade? Dead. Affirmative action? Even more dead. Obamacare? Unconstitutional. Climate control regulations? Down the drain. Civil Rights bullshit? Over. Bank regulations? Gone. Getting rid of fake voters and keeping the scum from voting? It will happen.

We will see what happens, but this is what the American people want, and they will now get it. The Supreme Court will deliver. They have their marching orders.

And by the way with the new Supreme Court you can count on anti libel laws protecting the press being ruled unconstitutional. This free speech stuff will be in the toilet. I will sue all the fake news organizations for libel any and every time they criticize me. They will all be destroyed.

Intern 3: Can the Supreme Court do all that?

Trump: Some of it. But remember this. I also own the Republican Party, and we own the government. If we increase our power in the Congress, there is no limiting what I can do. And no one in the party can cross me without paying a price. Anyone who does will be primaried out. They fear me. All of them. Just ask flake Flake and little Bobbie Corker. The chickens knew they would not stand a chance against my chosen candidates. Ok, one Republican senator caved on Kavanaugh, but she is toast and not really even a Republican. And who really gives a damn about Alaska anyway? The rest  of the Republican elected officials are in my pocket. And will be as long as I am President.

Intern 1: It is a great day for the country.

Intern 2: Your most Excellent One,  nothing is going to come out of this Mueller probe is there?

Trump: Of course not. I will be fully exonerated, completely, no collusion nowhere, no time, no how. Just like the Kavanaugh mess–the whole thing has been a vicious witch hunt organized and financed by Hillary Clinton. She is the one who should and  will be jailed. In fact there was never any Russian interference in our elections in the first place. I have Putin’s word on that.

Intern 3: There isn’t any truth to the story in the New York Times about you inheriting a lot of money from your father and about tax evasion is there?

Trump: Are you kidding me? Lies, all of it. Every word. Made it all up. Hillary Clinton is behind this. I have directed my lawyers to sue. By the time it gets to the Supreme Court, nothing will protect them, and she will end up in jail where she belongs, along with every editor and reporter for the New York Times.

Intern 1: Hail to the President!

Trump: I have to go now to congratulate the new justice-elect. Kavanaugh is a fine man and deserves our support and sympathy, especially after being falsely accused by that terrible woman, who was really the one who attacked him. It is just terrible the way men are being treated in this country, but we are going to do something about this. Men are going to take our country back. Men are going to make America great again.

All 3 Freedom Caucus interns (in unison): Thank you, Mr. President. You are the greatest of all time!

 

Doing The Right Thing

My junior year in high school at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, as a social service project, my fraternity provided a turkey to a poor family in Nashville for Thanksgiving. I volunteered to deliver the turkey and all the trimmings. The family was white—a mother, and five or six kids, who were running wild in a run-down house with a junk-filled front yard. I took the turkey into the living room of the house where the only furniture was a card table with six folding chairs and a worn couch in the corner. The mother was probably in her early 40s but looked like she was in her 70s. She explained that her husband was serving time in prison and that is why she was having a hard time getting by. She apologized for the state of her house and seemed embarrassed. Then she thanked me again and again as her kids joyously jumped up and down.

As I returned home, I should have felt self-satisfied for helping a needy family on Thanksgiving. Instead I felt terribly depressed, wondering what they would be eating the rest of the time. How could a family be living like that? What is wrong with our world that they can’t have a decent life? These are the questions that went through my mind, knowing that the next day for my family’s Thanksgiving, we would be joined by loving relatives and enjoy a huge feast.

What should be the proper response to those experiencing hardship and pain? Does delivering a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner get those of us who are well-off off the hook?  Does working in a soup kitchen or putting a quarter into the cup of a beggar exonerate you or give you the right to boast of “doing your part”? What about contributing to a worthy cause or non-profit organization?

I came of age in the South during the 1960s when our national conscience finally conceded that giving a dime here or quarter there did not address the injustices of  Jim Crow and legal segregation, giving rise to the Civil Rights Movement. Embry and I both participated in that movement, which I have written about in Civil Rights Journey. It was a pivotal moment in our lives for which we are both grateful. The idea was to change the system through new laws and by creating a more level playing field. In some ways our country has made great progress. But there is still a long way to go. Is the answer structural, systemic change? Is it social revolution?

Embry and I have also done a lot of traveling around the world and worked in (Embry) or visited many developing countries where shantytowns and slums are prolific, and distraught people besiege you with their hands out, pleading for help. How are we supposed to respond as fellow human beings?

These questions are just as real today as they were when I delivered the turkey to the destitute, white family in Nashville in 1958.

Embry and I are both fortunate to have been able to pursue careers which allowed us to work in fields that tried to address some of the structural barriers resulting in hardship and suffering for many. Embry has done—and continues to do—research on health policy issues, and I have helped develop affordable housing and seniors housing. Is this enough? Does this get us off the hook?

The answer is a resounding “no.” Of course it is not enough. It is never enough. Just ask anyone who has worked in the Peace Corps or worked in US AID projects or on any kind of social initiative. Ask our daughter, Jessica, who has taught elementary school in one of PG County’s most troubled schools. Ask our daughter-in-law, Karen, who is a public defender in Newark. They will not tell you how righteous they feel for “doing good.” They will tell you how hard it is to make a difference and how you do your job as best as you can though you often fail, knowing that your work is never enough.

The world is troubled and fragile. The issues facing the generations behind my own “Silent Generation” are in many ways more ominous and challenging with two doomsday scenarios staring us in the face: the ongoing threat of nuclear war and now climate change. The list of unfinished business is long: income disparities, ethnic and racial inequality, unequal access to affordable health care, domestic and world poverty, increasing polarization, and ominous threats to the democratic process in the Era of Trump, to name a few.

The answer, I think, to the question of what can we do to make a small difference is not an either/or– between trying to change or reform the system versus simply providing a helping hand when we can. It is a both/and. I believe that we should start on the personal level. We should treat all people fairly and respectfully and try to live a life of integrity and kindness. Then there are many additional options and possibilities for making a difference. We can give money to good causes, and we can volunteer to work in those causes and to provide hands-on help to those in need. If we are really lucky as Embry and I have been, we can work in jobs that at least try to be part of the solution rather than the problem. And we can address the social and structural issues by voting for candidates who will vote for laws to level the playing field and provide help to those who are struggling. We can get involved politically  and speak out for candidates we believe in. We also can–and should– stand up for the causes we believe in and for justice.

But in the end, you will realize, as I do, that the world and the universe are much bigger than we are. All we can do is to play our bit part as best as we can, be grateful for the short time allotted to us on his marvelous, lonely, blue planet, and thank God for giving us the opportunity to make a difference.