Saturday, November 21, 2020



A long time ago I was in the information business in Washington D.C. on a more or less freelance basis.    I had a lot of casual friendships with people in who were sometimes good for information and as often just good to have a beer with.  There was this guy Smitty who worked for a very important big law firm and sometimes had a information to share  sometimes was interested in what I knew. 

We met at the usual K-Street watering hole after work and after about the second beer Smitty always made the same  little obligatory speech... "I don't  know  if  I ever told  you this," he would say, "but  I'm black."   After he told  me the first time  I noted certain facial  features that might be construed as black,  but in fact I grew up with Italian kids who had darker complexions and more arguably "black" features.  Still Smitty's family, which had a close association with the civil rights movement,  was one that could have "passed" and chose not to.  Respect.

Three books  on the subject of passing:

Sinclair Lewis, Kingsblood Royal:   Published in 1947, this scathing satire caused something of a stir.   Not unusual  for Lewis.  In this novel,  Neal Kingsblood is  a successful Minnesota businessman who discovers he is  descended from a famous American explorer.  He is not bothered by the fact that his ancestor is  black, and the can't stop talking about it.  The USA has a hard and fast rule on blackness.  One drop of blood is enough, and it pertains in Minnesota as much in Crackertopia.  It doesn't take long before our hero begins to  suffer  the consequences.

Philip Roth, The Human Stain:  A college professor has been passing all his life.  Then he makes a politically incorrect statement in a classroom and the students conclude he is a rascist. 

Karin Tanabe, The Gilded Years,  A novel based on the true story of  Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to graduate from Vassar. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020



I wrote the previous post on Wednesday.  Today, the day after election, the nightmare is real.  The GOOP could hold on to the Senate and the White House.  The House majority is diminished and we are losing seats where we thought we were safe.

I apologize for the grim projections of last week.   Nothing worse than taking credit for  bad news.  In a world where killing the messenger is a thing, I should kill myself.  I tried very hard to  brighten my mood over the weekend and nearly succeeded.   Then I saw a clip on Facedbook of the presnut on the campaign trail.   I started  getting Harry Truman vibes.  Giv'em Hell Harry!  The presnut on the  campaign trail, adoring crowds  screaming love and devotion and Kill the Liberals.   

Then there was the all-too effective advertisement for the presnut running during the Bills game.  It showed Biden in a speech from his law and order days talking about the crime bill.  Protect grandma and put them all in jail forever.  The commercial left no doubt who the people getting locked up were.  Thousands of black people, especially black men, watch NFL games every week.  Truth, if I were black I  don't know if I could have brought myself to vote for Biden.  I had a hard time talking my privileged white self into it.   This commercial took some of the glow off the weekend.  It seems to have done what it was intended to do. 

We won't win another election until we either get a lot smarter or the GOOP turns the world into a shitpie.   It's likely the later will happen before the former.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

A Dark and Stormy Night


The election comes on the heels of Halloween.  It's beginning to have a Sleepy Hollow feel to it.  It  has driven me morose, kept me away from writing here.   I  have not watched the TV news in years and since the death of RBG I have automatically deleted NYT Alerts and WAPO politics.  Now I read only features and science news, Dear Abby and the still all-too occasional story of another murdered black person.

I voted yesterday.  Stood in line for 25 minutes.  After four days of early voting more than 44,000 votes had been cast in Monroe County (8 percent of the total vote).  In addition, 71,000 absentee ballots had been returned,  more than 52 percent of the total absentee ballots that had been mailed out.  Massive turnouts are good but I keep asking myself, how many red hats in those long voting lines?  

There are about 192,000 Democrats registered in Monroe County and 126,000 Republicans. Right leaning fringe parties, like the Conservatives, 8,000 members; and Independent Party, about 20,000; exercise influence.   There are 110,000 voters with no party affiliation (we call them blanks), who are true independents and unpredictable.  Left leaning parties, Greens and  Workers Party have about 3,000 votes.   By rights if everyone votes, Democrats win handily in the national election.  Monroe County is a donut community... all the black people live in the city and all the white people do not.  Local elections, particularly in the suburbs, are dominated by the GOOP.   So maybe Biden wins Monroe County... a big deal because no Democratic Presidential candidate has done so in forever.  Not a big deal as, win or lose Monroe County, New York will vote for Joe Biden.  So who cares really about the Presidential election here. 

We have one national race of consequence.  In the 27th Congressional District   Nate McMurray,  is a moderate Democratic  is running for the third time.   He narrowly lost in 2018 to a GOOP candidate who was under indictment for insider trading on information available to him as a congressperson. That guy, Chris Collins, was convicted, had to resign and is now seeking a COVID get out of jail free card.  In a special election last June,  Nate narrowly lost to another GOOP millionaire, also named Chris.  Now he is running  against Chris No. 2 again.  Can Nate win?  In 2016 the NY Assembly district included in the congressional district  elected a dead, indicted GOOPer.  Since the dead guy couldn't exactly hold the office, he was replaced with a candidate who  was demonstrably senile.  You be the judge. 

Still my big worry is how many of these early voters mobbing precincts nationwide wear red hats.  How many have tasted the presnut's kool aid?  

Walter Wallace, 27, father of seven children, a black man  in Philadelphia with mental health issues.  Gunned down by police.   The family called 911 for help and Walter was carrying a knife.  Killed in front of his mother.  She says the police laughed at them. These stories cannot be ignored! and now  they serve as fodder for the presnut's campaign... background as he travels the country spreading his disease and whipping fear and loathing into a toxic froth.  Will he carry Ohio and Pennsylvania?  Florida?  Terrifying to think of four more years.  I am preparing for  the worst. 


Monday, August 24, 2020

 The Lesser of Two Weevils

On the first night of the Democratic Convention I tried to watch it on the ABC feed provided free by Hulu (I don't have TV, just streaming on Hulu or Netflix or Prime).   The talking heads immediately annoyed me beyond watching so I turned it off... coming back late the catch the last half of Michelle Obama.  The second night I  checked in with the NYT feed, which had the advantage of not  being interrupted in any way by talking heads, except for the common-taters who opined in the comment section and were easily ignored.  Chuck Schoomer bored me into returning to the comforts of ER, so I caught the rest of the convention by looking up the speeches I wanted to hear on YouTube. 

I was not particularly impressed.  I guess this is what we have, and I will be out there, phone in hand, dialing up potential votes for the party.   On the whole it is not a lot better than 2016.  It's hard to sell the sizzle when there is not a lot of steak. 

The party is offering the same old solutions to some problems and will., with a Democratic Congress, spend a butt-load of money on everything.  Big priorities will be infrastructure (who doesn't love construction jobs and big money for Halliburton and Fluor?).  They will fix Obamacare and maybe lower the Medicare age to 60 (that solves one of my personal problems.)  It does not solve the problem of most working Americans and small business people who make  more than the poverty wage and still can't afford healthcare.  It will not address what has become by now a national insecurity over the cost of health care. 

The party version of the Green New Deal is a also a jobs bill.  Like all Democratic bills it prefers to throw money at the problem while ignoring the carbon tax, a common sense approach that has long been supported by thinking Conservatives (as opposed to most of the Republican caucus).  Not that there is anything wrong with throwing money at the problem, but the current situation calls for all reasonable measures, not just those that are politically correct. 

Likewise money will be thrown at education.   It will be the kind of money that prefers teachers' unions (a good thing) and institutionalized solutions that may not be so good.  Charter schools may be put in their place as solutions that are no better than the people who run them, not as a panacea... and not as a tool to destroy teacher unions.  Not a bad outcome overall.  There are still outrageous levels of poverty and inequality in the black and Latino communities as well as in the cracker communities... small towns and rural areas where populations are thin, money scarce, services severely limited.   The Democratic Party is not solving problems, it's just making itself feel better.

So I'm fine with the party doing what it can, and I'm more fine with the fact that it is not Trump. We can expect Biden to quickly take back the bureaucracy and set it straight.  Fix the EPA, NLRB, Labor Department, CFPB and other agencies crippled by years of ignorance and neglect.  Appoint some decent judges.  Still, it's just the lesser of two weevils.  Not a choice I'd like to have to make.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Presnut is Sharper than Doug's Mom!

I have been bingeing on ER, a fairly good hospital show from about 1994 which kick-started the careers of George Clooney and Julianna Margulies and others.  It may be in the top 10 or so of stuff I have binged (that list is very long) but I'd say the chances I'll stay for all 15 seasons are slim.  Still early seasons are pretty good, particularly for the way they address issues that now demand our daily attention.  Episodes touching on white male supremacy, Black Lives Matter, MeToo  could have been written yesterday.  It's  shocking how aware we were of these issues more than 20  years ago and failed to get really pissed off.  (I'm sure black people and women and others were a lot more pissed off that us white men knew.)

So last night another episode (Season 4)  ripped from the front pages.  Doug (Anthony Edwards) flys home to see his mother who has fallen and broken her leg.  Doug, a top emergency room doc from Chicago, thinks Mom' problems are more complicated than a broken leg so he orders a series of tests.  In one, Mom is asked to repeat a list of words... She can't do it!   I'll bet our Presnut could! 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

It Has Got to be More than Pulling Down the Monuments  

One fact of our history... indeed the history of the world ... is that slavery, and racial prejudice, has happened.  There is not a white person in history who has not carried a prejudicial view of people of color.  That includes black people and Hispanics and Asians and Native Americans.  There has also been a history of prejudices against particular groups of white people. German immigrants in the 18th  Century, and  Irish immigrants in the 19th Century faced wide-spread job discrimination.   At the turn of the last century it was not uncommon for accepted white people to categorize Italians along with blacks.  

White people are not the only people  with  built in prejudice.  Chinese have long considered themselves superior to everyone, as have the Japanese, who historically have treated Koreans the way Americans treat blacks.  In the Middle East racial animosity is as powerful as religious animosity.  Iran is not just Shiaa Muslem, it is also Persian.   Iraq is Arab.  Afghanistan's biggest problem is  that tribes divide on racial and cultural lines.  The Hazara stand in for black people.   In truth, prejudice is a tribal mechanism that likely dates back to the beginning of community and the need to be wary of strangers.  We need to figure out a way to get over it.

Actually owning slaves was common in 18th and 19th Century America.  Numerous of our founding fathers were slave owners, including Thomas Jefferson, whose writing provided the foundation for rights and privileges we now insist must extend to all Americans.   Most abolitionists, who insisted that slavery was evil, did not believe that blacks and whites were equal.   U.S. Grant married into a slave holding family and owned a slave.  He also won the Civil War and enforced the civil rights laws, preserving rights for black citizens till the end of his administration.  Grant and Lincoln believed black and white Americans would never be able to live side by side in harmony.  Lincoln promoted repatriating black citizens to Africa.  Grant sought to annex Santo Domingo (Now the Dominican Republic) as a safe harbor for black Americans. 

So  bottom line, you can't make the fact of prejudice, or slave holding a basis for tearing down a statue.  You need something else.  Otherwise we would have to destroy our memories of those who contributed substantially to the foundation and growth of our nation.  The founding fathers did  not promise a perfect union, they sought "a more perfect union."  In a sense telling us to continue  to get better.  We are working at it. 

Monuments and military bases

So statues ought to reflect actual  history.  In the real world, the people who fought to destroy the United States are traitors, and should under no circumstances be honored in the public square.  This matter should not be up for debate.  There are no statues of Hitler left in all of Europe, and there should be no statutes of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and other conspirators left in the USA.  Naming military installations after traitors has never been a good idea.

Racist Politicians

Politicians who fought for and encouraged slavery throughout their careers are also fair game.  John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay protected slavery and promoted "state's rights" (another way of saying "we can abuse anyone we want.") They were a generation behind the founding fathers and their efforts were aimed solely at preserving the oligarchy at the expense of all citizens, particularly black citizens.  Woodrow Wilson should have no monuments and his history should be corrected. He needs to  be remembered for segregating the federal  government and failing to speak up about the wave of race riots and lynching that swept the nation during his administration.  Wilson broadly praised "Birth of a Nation" a movie that promoted racist myths and stereotypes and honored the KuKluxKlan.  It alone set the stage for incidents of racial cleansing.  Other purveyors of racism, like Harry Byrd, Senate majority leader who fought to maintain the southern status quo for decades, should get a second look.  As should a long list of Southern politicians whose policies recognized the right of white people to lynch black people and sustained an atmosphere of repression.    

In middle-school they told you a great deal  about the spice trade and how that affected the Age of Exploration.  They told you nothing about the slave trade, which was at least as prosperous. The Italian states were especially prominent in the slave trade.  Christopher Columbus was an Italian and was fully aware of its operation.  You can forgive him for being a creature of his time, or you can point out how happy he was to report that the Awawak people in the Caribbean were so docile that a couple of armed men could control hundreds ... and they made excellent slaves.  His role in history, and the workings of the slave trade through this period should be exposed.  As to monuments of Columbus, they are frauds from the beginning.  Columbus did not discover America.  He discovered Hispanola.  That's the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  We didn't recognize Columbus as a major hero  until after WWI, when Italians sought to boost their image in the USA by declaring themselves to be discoverers.  The Vikings were here first, as were the Basque, who for many, many years traveled to Nova Scotia to harvest the Cod that fed much of Europe.  Dried Cod fed the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria.  

Monuments and other public honors should recognize real heroes who represent the real ideals on which the nation is founded.  Lets have a monument to Robert Smalls, an enslaved American who stole a confederate ship that was supplying Ft. Sumpter,loaded up his family and friends and escaped to freedom.  He became a captain in the Union Navy.  and, after the war, a successful businessman and politician serving in both houses of the South Carolina legislature.  Harriett Tubman belongs on the $20 bill. 

History needs to tell the truth about slavery (that it was mostly harsh and cruel), reconstruction and the return of Jim Crow, and lynching (how many times did the U.S. Congress refuse to address anti-lynching legislation), Incidents of racial cleansing (there is al lot more than Tulsa, OK) discrimination in housing, (barring blacks from government loan programs,  the negative and long lasting effects of redlining.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Black Lives Matter, Part III

Here are a some more good books to read about black lives: 

Karen Tanabe, The Gilded Years.  This is a fictional view of the true life story of Anita Hemmings , a black woman who graduated from Vassar in 1897.  Ms. Hemmings was voted most beautiful, worked as a tutor in Greek to make ends meet  and was at the top of her class.  All the while she was also hiding her black identity.   A beautifully written coming of age novel with a heavy  dose of the real truth and nothing but.  Vassar did not officially admit black women until 1944, and did not recognize that it has already graduated a black woman until the 1930s.  By then, Vassar has graduated two black women.  In 1926, it admitted Ellen Love, overlooking the fact that she was black in honor of the time-honored private school  practice of admitting children of graduates.  Love was Hemmings' daughter.  

Leonard Pitts Jr., Freeman.   Pitts is a columnist writing for  the Miami Herald and syndicated through ArcaMAX.    He is a  clear-thinking progressive who is always worth reading.   He is also a fairly good hand at fiction, having written a handful of novels.  (I'm planning to order another, a historical novel about WWII, called  The Last Thing You Surrender.)   Freeman is a man who escaped from slavery before the Civil War and surrendered the security of  his Philadelphia home to find his true love, left behind a slave.  It's a bitterly sad romantic adventure. 

Walter Mosley, Fortunate Son.  Moseley began his career as a crime fiction writer and has since published science fiction, modern novels and self help (one of the better books on how to write a novel.  Best advice: write three hours a day.)  In this allegory, one son is substantially privileged and one lives the life of Job. 

Grace F. Edwards, In the Shadow of The Peacock.  I discovered Grace Edwards in the Obituary section of the New York  Times a few weeks ago.  She had just died at age 87, a highly regarded mystery writer who had never crossed my path.  This novel, her first, is not a mystery.  It's a coming of age tale  that loosely tracks her own life story.  This is the story of Celia, whose parents escaped a lynching in their  southern home, and migrated to Harlem where Celia is born in the middle of a riot that killed her father.   Her mother, Frieda,  protects Celia with a little help from her friends, but Celia must decide for herself how to confront  the real world of white people.

Friday, July 3, 2020

I Pledge Allegiance to the United States of America

I was in kindergarten when they added God to the Pledge of Allegiance.  The change annoyed me.  First because I had just learned the damned thing, and then because I kept having to pause to add God in the right place.  

Then there was the conspiracy theory.  In our little town there were Catholics (the good guys) and Protestants (the bad guys) and I was convinced it was a protestant plot.  Like the times they would try to trick you into eating meat on Friday.  Now the protestant God, the one that made you say debts instead of trespasses when they said the Our Father in school, was messing with the flag.  I was ever after suspicious of the pledge. 

Time passed and I had other issues.  The God part because it was about God or not, and I was on the not side.  This was the  side of the First Amendment, I thought, since putting God in the Pledge meant you were endorsing a God when you pledged.  Indivisible is what we fought the Civil War over.  God was not.

When you think about it, why allegiance to a flag?  A flag is cloth on a stick.  It has some meaning, but that doesn't make it any less a thing.  Flags are for burning if you are pissed off.   If I am going to pledge allegiance, it  must be to something valuable.  Something that lasts and is worth the life and death struggle that the notion of allegiant patriotism implies.  That should be something like the basic principles the nation is founded on... even though more honored in the breach than in fact.  

So that brings me to the new Pledge of Allegiance  to the entire nation, for good reasons.

 I Pledge Allegiance to the United States of America,
To the republic of the people, by the people and for the people
regardless of race, creed,  national origin or sexual presentation;
to one indivisible nation that warrants our right to the pursuit of happiness
and guarantees opportunity, liberty and justice for all. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Black Lives Matter Book List

Some stuff to read while thinking about this:

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriett Beecher Stowe.  The first popular attempt to depict life under slavery.  It's rife with stereotypes and a little preachy, but it is the book that started it all and surprisingly readable.

Reconstruction, Eric Foner.  600 pages of hard work and real history.

Contempt of Court, Mark Curriten and LeRoy Phillips Jr.,  Saga of the first Supreme Court case to defend the rights of a black citizen... sort of.  The real issue was whether a Tennessee sheriff was under the jurisdiction of the federal courts and could be held in contempt for failing to abide by a federal court order.  The order involved a directive to protect a black man from lynching in 1901.

Trouble in Mind, Leon Litwack.  More than  you  want to know but everything you should know about lynchings in the  USA.

Lost Battalions, Richard Slotkin.  Chronicles two regiments that valiantly fought in WWI.  One comprised mostly of Jewish immigrants known as  the 77th "Statue of Liberty" Division; and the 369th Infantry Division, known as the Harlem Hell Fighters.  One came home to some recognition, the other to lynchings and ethnic cleansing.

The Children, David Halberstam.  The front line troops of the civil rights movement were children.  Their leaders were college kids, their shock troops were as young as 10 years old.  They stood up to fire hoses and police dogs and the worst the crackers could bring.

Simple Justice, Richard Kluger.  The complete story of Brown v. Topeka BOE.

Blood at the Root, Patrick Phillips.  The story of ethnic cleansing in one Georgia County.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Black Lives Matter

I have been writing about this subject for several weeks and have yet to have anything to say that is unique or more useful than anything else I  have read.  So  here is the truth.  


 In Which I Prove Once Again to be a Nudge

When I was in 10th grade the history teacher, who was also our football coach, often sent me to the library for some research during class.  That's because he was about to give a lecture and he got tired of me correcting his version of the record.  Nothing much has changed.

On June 4,  I got a nice note from Lauren Katzenburg,  editor of the NYT's At War newsletter, promising a correction.  She had written that the Bonus Army had been protesting to get paid money that was due to veterans.  Au contraire, I noted:    "The Bonus Army  "bonus" was in no way due and payable in 1932.  The Great War Compensation Act of 1924 issued veterans certificates that could be redeemed for cash value in 1948.  The veterans were trying to persuade the government to redeem the certificates at a discount. "  And I added,  "Thus, the government did not repeatedly decline to pay a bonus due.  Of course, if Hoover had any sense or compassion, he would have paid up.  Putting the money in the hands of spenders would have boosted the economy.  It would also have saved Hoover from his greatest embarrassment."

But there is more!  On June 20, I  was informed by the NYT that my comment on an article about the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-black WAC unit, was accepted.  Again, I was just clarifying the record.  The article correctly noted that Harry Truman had desegregated the military in 1948.  I added:   "The order ending segregation in the military was issued by Truman in 1948. It was not fully implemented until the Eisenhower administration, 1953 to 1961."

(Two days later)   And speaking of the NYT, this morning I  picked up a copy of the Times Sunday Review from June 23, 2019 that I had put aside to read later (and never read).  Happened t glance at an article called Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance by Kwame Anthony Appiah.  The article cites a famous SCOTUS decision that placed consensual behavior by adults out of the jurisdiction of the government as Lawrence v. Kansas.  Well that caught my eye.  The correct cite is Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).  Kansas is, of course, the whipping boy of  choice for East Coast pundits citing outrageous Bible Belt regulation.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Nice Vacation

A week ago I was fairly convinced I had COVID 19. I  even wrote a blog post headlined, Life With Covid 19.  That's because I had been tracking my fever hourly for about four days.  It had a high of 103.9. and  ranged from 104.5 to 97.6 since May 30, when it  first clocked in at over 102.  Otherwise no  symptoms and I had Covid test that came out negative.
Still, my doctor was convinced, as I was, that I had Covid 19, albeit a mild dose.  So I had another test.  When they take the test, they take a long q-tip and shove it up your nose.  The first time I took it they used a special  kit with its own carrying case and device that looked like a digital thermometer and packed away in its own special plastic case. The test was administered by a very gentle,  soft spoken doctor who apologized for any pain.  I felt nothing.  For the second test I had a battle-weary nurse who used a very long wooden stick, shoved it way back  into my head and rooted around awhile.  "Wanna make sure we get a good sample,"  she said.  I  was definitely aware that someone had shoved a q-tip up my nose, but I  also  wanted to be sure she got a good sample.   She put the q-tip into a plastic sandwich bag.  

Two days later, negative.  So what's caused the fever?  It's a mystery.  I am back and functional and a little disappointed that I did not have a mild case of Covid.  The average recovery is about two weeks, and by the time the test result came back I was nearly two weeks in quarantine.  A few days more and I would have been cleared and potentially carry antibodies that would last for a while. So I  watched a lot of good movies and read a couple of good books.  Nice vacation.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Life in Quarantine

June 8, 2020

Today my temperature was 97.7.  Normal for the first time since May 30.   That's when I discovered I  had a temperature over 102 and got a test for Covid 19.  I didn't get the test back until Thursday, June 4, and it came back negative.  A false negative we think.
I  have had no other symptoms.  I still have a fever.  100.9 as I write this.  It's been as high as 104.5 and never lower than  100 until yesterday when I woke up to 99.5.  The morning readings are lower because I take aspirin or ibuprofen at bed time.  I'm stuck here, more or less, until I get three days of normal temperature. 

It's not that bad although I'm getting tired of the routine and cannot lose the feeling that I'm a burden to the rest of the household.  They are not complaining, and keep me comfortably fed and watered (sometimes beer).  

The good news is no one else in the house is showing symptoms. Hickory, whose health issues (severe asthma) make  her the most vulnerable is, normal for her, driving herself to physical exhaustion. That has a lot less to do with me than her volunteer job at Keeping Our Promises, an organization she created which has resettled over 100 Afghan and Iraqi  families here in Rochester.  She has found a new place to store and manage the donated household goods that for the last three years have taken up all the spare space in our house and garage. She is getting it all out of  here (HURRAH) and organizing it downtown at Greenovation. Yesterday she pulled a muscle moving stuff she should  not have been moving  and had to go to the emergency room. (I have told her to slow down many times, but when has she listened to me?)

Hickory has also done her share of cooking and delivering meals to the shut-in.  Will, who  started his internship last week with a local custom amplifier maker, fills in shopping and delivering meals.  The family shut-in appreciates the delicious meals. Hickory has done some lunch sandwiches, soups.  Will and Swillar have cooked some excellent spicy stir fries, BLTs, breakfast quesadillas and peanut butter and jelly banana wraps.  The family is also keeping an eye on Harry and Shirley, which has normally been my job.  

I can imagine what hell this would be for my wife the extrovert,  but for me it's the Life Of Riley.  I have a room full of books and have finished four light novels in the last week,  will probably finish another today. I am plowing my way through Barbara Tuchman's  A Distant Mirror (minimum 25 pages/day) and decided,  after 50 pages, I don't want to read Advise and Consent or Lord Jim...  at least not now.  I organized all the books in my bedroom (and the one shelf in the hall just outside my door) and culled out about  20 volumes for the library sale.  I read the NYT, WAPO, DnC and Guardian daily and spend entirely too much time on the Facedbook.  I subscribed to Curiosity Stream and binged an excellent documentary on WWI (Apocalypse).  I binged Fargo on Hulu.  I have watched many movies:  yesterday alone Clueless and Groundhog Day (I  had forgotten how much I love that movie.)  There is this blog to maintain and... I actually got some work  done for one of  my clients. 

There must be an end game here.  My doctor (who  calls periodically) is  convinced that this is Covid or maybe Lyme Disease.  I'm going to get another COVID test and if it's  negative we'll  test for Lyme and run a Covid antibody test.  In the meantime I'm looking for at least four more days of this RnR here in quarantine. 

Friday, June 5, 2020

White Privilege Saves My Ass (again)
I had a cop draw down on me once.  It was a strange situation n a strange day.  I  had been in Canandaigua attending, of all things, a rally for George The Moron Busch.  He was selling his Medicare Part D gift to the Big Pharma and since I  was for better or worse the political officer for  my company, I had gotten an invitation from the local GOOP mob. How could I refuse? 

So after the rally I stopped by my house, which is  on the way back to  the office, and had lunch.  Our road runs directly under Interstate 90 which is the route Busch would  be taking to the airport.  So I am driving back to  the office, and I notice a cop car stopped about 20 yards on the other side of  the I-90 overpass blocking the road.  He has his flashers on. I slow down and stop between the overpass and the cop  car. 

Next thing I know the cop has jumped out of his car and is pointing his gun at me and shouting.  I distinctly remember shouting back, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"  a statement which, had I  not been surrounded by my puffy cloud of white privilege, would have gotten me killed.  But he just shouted a lot more, still pointing his gun.   

Eventually I got the idea  that Busch was coming this way and this cop was assigned to  keep terrorists from blowing up the overpass. There should have been two cops, one on each side, or he should have parked his car on one side and stood on the other, but there apparently had not been a lot  of  advance planning about this.  Which I said, "how  the hell  was I supposed to know  that?"  and he said well his car was there, and I said, but it wasn't on the other side of the overpass and how the hell was I  supposed to know  what he was doing?     Anyway he didn't kill  me and put his  gun away but he glowered a lot and let me pass. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Is there a punch line here somewhere?

George "The Moron" Busch was great for comedy.  It was his only positive aspect. When he left I thought those joyous moments ...  an irate Iraqi throwing a shoe at the President of the USA... would never pass this way again.  Then we got the presnut.  Is it now the best of times?

The Onion tells us that Iraq is preparing to send peacekeepers to the USA.  Andy Borowitz, behind a picture of the presnut's all-white cabinet meeting, tells us it's a task force on racism.  And the memes created from the photo of the presnut in front of the Episcopal Church holding a bible have been priceless. Borowitz tells us, "Trump Struggles to  Identify Unfamiliar  Object."  There is one with his famous "pussy grabbing" quote shopped onto the church bulletin board; one with Matthew 7:15 (beware of false prophets) shopped in; and my personal favorite, one captioned "take a prostitute to a hotel  and get a free book."  (The later has been taken down by Facedbook, which has no  sense of  humor.) 

It's irony, of course. The lower we sink, the funnier things get. At some point you have to ask how much disrespect can a leader handle? "The President is a Liar" is a good measure.  Not Nixon, not even The Moron Busch who lied to us to  justify a war that cost trillions and killed thousands of Americans, was consistently called a liar in the main stream media.  Politicians might call each other liars... notably that asshole Joe Wilson... but the media has long been reluctant to do so.  

To be called a liar by the NYT or Forbes requires a special  relationship with the truth.  The presnut, who was given a pass on this issue during the 2016 campaign,  (what a shock he must have had when they finally began calling him on his bullshit!) was finally challenged on Inauguration Day.  Remember how he insisted he had the biggest inaugural in history and Kelly Ann Conway postulated the existence of "alternative facts?" 

By early spring 2017, the "fact checker" lists had began...  every major news outlet has one.  Last month, Forbes noted, in reliance on the WAPO's list, that the presnut has told 18,000 lies since taking office and, "As of early April, Trump has told 23.3 lies per day in 2020, a 0.5-lie increase since 2019. What’s more, Trump has averaged 23.8 lies per day since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the US — another 0.5-lie increase."  Hysterical, but true. 

Have we hit rock bottom?  Apparently not.   Today, GOOP senators are defending the presnut's bible photo op. "Obamagate,"  a fraudulent claim that President Obama conspired against the good name of the President-elect back in 2016, is still a top priority in the Senate.  With the presnut threatening a military take-over of state policing powers while inciting his well-armed supporters to riot, have we not had enough?  Can we trust that there will be full and fair elections in November?  Can we survive with this lack of a leader  until January 20,  2021?

The 25th Amendment allows for the removal of the President when the Vice President, in conjunction with the majority of the cabinet or a majority of either house of Congress, is unable to "discharge the powers and duties of his office."   This can't happen without a serious conspiracy of the top GOOP leadership, but it is a kindness to state that the GOOP leadership is a confederacy of dunces.  The people who brought us Sarah Palin and Reince Priebus and the presnut himself  are not going to  save the nation.  We are all still in free fall.   The bottom is down there somewhere.  We should brace for the crash,  or try to laugh it off. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

I Lost a Friend to Covid 19

I recently posted The Village Voice obit for my friend Ward Harkavy who died of Covid 19 on May 17.  I had tried to write about this twice but could not get it right.  I kept seeing Ward looking over my shoulder saying, "God, Pryor, that's Bullshit." 

Ward and I  worked at the same newspaper (Lawrence (KS) Journal World), but not at the same time.  That was probably a good thing.  Ward was an exacting copy editor.   I  was a fair to middling reporter and knew nothing of style books or spelling or commas.  

He was a great and admirable companion.  Acerbic, witty, fearless and funny.  (Among the first people to  be banned from the presnut's twitter feed).  We smoked a lot of dope together...  one reason the law school faculty named me most likely to flunk the bar.   (I did not.)  With a small group of wits, ran a fake candidate (Martin L. Roberts, The Man From Kansas) for  Lawrence City Council.  With another select group, watched a lot of baseball.  During an especially long meeting on the pitcher's mound one beautiful evening at Royals' Stadium, Ward informed me they would never allow those meetings in the Jewish Baseball League.  Why? I asked.  "Time is money,"  he said.

The last time I saw him was in 1986.  I  was in Tucson for the NCAA Regionals.  We toured the Saguaro National Forest and stayed out late smoking dope under the desert sky.   He talked about the man who shot up an ancient saguaro cactus, which promptly fell over and killed him.   Karma, Ward noted.
Before there was Google there was Ward.  He was an authority on almost everything, and always  available any time of the day or night to  answer trivia questions.  His answers were widely respected and settled many a debate.  So for a while he never knew when he would get a call from me.  

Still, I lost track of him.   Shortly after I moved to Rochester (where for a very, very, very brief time many years before, Ward had a job as the media reporter) I was looking for some information about Amadou Diallo, and Google took me right to an article Ward had written for  The Voice.   

I called him up and thereafter we faced booked and Plonskied and once in a  while discussed getting together in the city.  We never did.  Just goes to show.  You never know.
 Life in Quarantine

When we started this Covid shut down I  made a practice of taking my temperature regularly, and after a couple of weeks with  no issues, I stopped.  So Saturday, I  got to  thinking about that and took my temperature. I didn't feel sick, just tired from having missed my nap three days in a row, but otherwise fine.  I was a little shocked to discover it was at 102.3. 

What to do?  This can be a serious matter, given that I am a caretaker for a fragile  87-year old.  I called the Covid hotline and they sent me to the clinic... where they found my temperature was normal.  Defective thermometer?    They administered THE TEST, and told me I  should get the results in four days (Wednesday at the latest.) In the meantime,  the prescription is quarantine.

 I have no symptoms, other than  a fever.  (Today its right at 101)

 There are things to like about this.  I spent all day Sunday reading.  Havn't had an excuse to do  that for years.  Finished The Closers,  Michael Connelly; started 1453, Bernard Cornwell; and started A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman.   (The last two I have read before.  Tuchman's history of the middle ages starts at about 1453, with the 100 years war.)  Also read the NYT and WAPO.   Today I cleaned my room, something needed for a long time. 

Things I don't like about it... I have stuff to  get done that I can't do in my room.  Hickory (who is also more or less quarantining) has plenty of stuff to do besides bring me stuff I could get for myself.  And I feel fine.

Do I worry about having Covid 19?  Sure.  But I don't really think I have it. This is just an excess of caution and I expect to be back to normal Wednesday.  If not?  Will keep  you posted. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Thanks Village Voice

The Voice published Ward's last column as a tribute.   It's worth a read.  Note, Ward did not cease his gadfly role after he retired.  He was especially focused on the humor to be extracted from the presnut, and was among the first people to  be banned from the presnut's twitter feed.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Here's Why Jeff Bezos is about to be a Trillionaire!

So today I tried to order some birthday present for Harry, which is Friday. He is 87 on Friday and dying for some new underpants and tee shirts and long sleeve tee shirts.  What a surprise it will be!!

So I get on the internets and I find a fair (but expensive) price on the items I want at Duluth Trading they have great quality and usually worth a few extra bucks.   I spend about 15 minutes on it because their web site is not exactly user friendly, but they have two of the three items (wrong time of year for long-sleeve tees) and I finally get to check out and they are out of stock on one of the two items I want.   Another 15 minutes wasted.  

So I  check Walmart and they have exactly what I want and I spend another 15 minutes figuring out  whether I have an account there, and I apparently do, so I have to find the fuckin password, which I do, and I go to check out... and they tell me I have to go to the store cause its not available on the internets.  Only available in the store, which I am not going to the store because of ... the virus.  So fuck them.  25 minutes or so wasted here.  

So I checked Lands End but the prices are crazy and I am by  now swearing a lot and resigning myself to going to Walmart when I think... COSTCO.   Duh.  Costco will have it.  Yes they do but they can't ship anything until at least June 1.  FUCK THEM!

So I'm  swearing and going to the car when I think: I have missed the obvious.  Amazon.  Of course I hate Amazon,  Its too big and too rich and they treat their employees like peasants but the Prime TV thing is great and when it absolutely positively has to be there over night?  Jeff  Bezos is on the job. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Anything is Possible

Can the NFL play without fans in the stadium?

"I'm from Cleveland, Ohio.  I spent most of my childhood going to the stadium where it was just me and a few friends watching the game. It can be done."  Evan Dawson, WXXI radio host.  
Like a Walk in the Park

It's the second consecutive day of splendid weather.  Needless to say, between the fact that I have been actually working for a client, doing my usual work of driving Mr. Harry and being out in the sunshine I have had nothing to say here.

On days like this, unless preoccupied with getting caught up on mowing the grass, I like to walk about three miles.  Lately I've been starting out with a stroll around our "back 40."   That's the ten acres of wetland  that lies about 1000 feet behind us.  When we bought this place 20 years ago, it was an impenetrable swamp used only by hunters.  First time I went back to explore I got turned around and lost until I remembered that moss grows on the north side of the tree. 

Several  years ago Hickory discovered that we could have the wetland "reclaimed" by the government, which would pay us to allow it  to be done.  And I thought, "Gee I could keep this  impenetrable swamp or let them pay us real money to turn it into a series of ponds surrounded by an embankment on which we could maintain a path so we could walk back there and see ducks  and stuff...".  What a hard decision that was!

So now we walk back there to see ducks... these little brown wood ducks, and mallards, and this time of year especially, and as much as we would prefer not... Canadian geese.  There are two mating pair of geese, one of which hatched seven gosling.  (We think we may have lost a goose last night to one of the fox or maybe the giant coyote.  There was a lot of squawking and honking and we had to let the dogs out to investigate.)  We have a blue heron who feasts every year on the quadmillion frogs that live around the ponds and make a lovely country style racket. 

We have pheasant this year (the mega millionaire neighbor raises them for shooting on his property and occasionally one escapes).  No turkey this year, an alleged giant coyote (which could be the neighbor's dog), raccoon and possum and fisher and generally, wild things. And of course deer, which breed like rats here.  we also have rats, by the way, muskrats for sure.  And to keep it all clean and tidy, buzzards.  It's a pleasant way to start a walk and they say a few minutes with mother nature every day is good for you.  Hoping for no deer ticks. 

Monday, May 11, 2020

Happy Mothers' Day

I am now old enough to wait patiently behind slow moving drivers,  reminding myself about the famous virtue.  But I was in something of a hurry to get to the Longhorn Steak House on Mothers' Day so I actually passed the old driver who was creeping along at the speed limit.  Pick-up time was 5:30.   Dinner was  at 6 and our own old people get grouchy when it's late. 

We had something of a debate over Longhorn or Ourback and this time Longhorn won because our dearly beloved wanted surf n turf and the lobster was much better at Longhorn.  Outback was preferred because it has more experience handling carryout.   So  I called in the Longhorn order and they said they don't have lobster, so  I checked with the dearly beloved who said she would be happy with a 12-ounce steak.  Then they don't have a 12-ounce steak. Eight ounces was the max.  So I went with that. 

Got to the Longhorn and the parking lot  was full.  There were four carryout slots and they were full and the other cars were filled with people  waiting for carryout.  The guy on the phone said you just wait in your car and someone will come out and verify your order and deliver the food.  I waited. This appeared to  be a prescription for disaster. I waited.  No one approaches the car. There is a young woman running from car to car on the other side of the parking lot.   I called my friend Pat to pass the time.  He's in Virginia making Chili for Mothers' Day dinner.  A sensible solution it seemed to me.  I then spotted an employee.  Hung up the phone and  tracked the kid down.
Yes, he said, I'll take your name down and be right back.  I told  him I was scheduled for a 5:30 pickup.   He said "Sir, all these people are scheduled for a 5;30 pick up."  I got back in the car called Pat back.  We laughed it off... maybe the presnut is  in charge...  I spied another wait person, this one bringing out food to a car.  Signed off with Pat.  It's now 6:10. 

Food was delivered to the car next to mine.  I flagged down the waitperson.  "Who is responsible for this mess?" I asked.  She rolled her eyes.  "Longhorn,"[i] she said.  "They didn't bring in enough help.  They just drafted wait staff to help in the kitchen."  What are the chances?  "They should get to it soon,"  she said.

I'm imagining the fool who failed to figure out that if you schedule ... say... thirty dinners to be delivered at the same time, you would have to have a substantial staff and plenty of planning.  Not to mention that this was likely more than  30 dinners.  The lot was full.  I could see the front door from my car.  The crowd there grew and shrank over time.  Now there were 16 standing there.  People came and left.  Some careening angrily from the parking lot. 

It's 6:30.  I call home, threatening to leave.  Fact is we don't have a Plan B.  Will says he and Swillar will put together some appetizers and see what  kind of a meal we can cook quickly.  The dearly beloved asks that I stay on.  I tell her I'll give it until 7. 

I am waiting.  There was a pretty good blues program on 90.1.

It's 6:45.  I track down the waitperson again.  You've got until 7, I said. I have never waited that long for service anywhere in my life.  "You should be coming up, " she said, "they are starting to get to the 5:30s."

I'm thinking of memorable restaurant failures. Otherwise known as "THE LAST TIME I EVER WENT TO THAT FUCKING PLACE."   The time I took Harry and Shirley to my favorite business lunch spot because the service was extraordinary and Shirley had been having a run of bad luck with restaurant service.  We sat for a good 15 minutes before they came with water and menus.   The first thing Shirley ordered they didn't  have.  The second thing she ordered they didn't bring because  they brought something else.  They put onions in her salad.  The waiter was rude and no one ever apologized.    Then there was Uno's.   We were returning from Maine, hungry.  We had been driving for 10 hours.  A party of six including three adolescent boys.  It took 20 minutes to put in an order and another 30 before it was delivered. Every order was screwed up.  My order was forgotten entirely and I refused to wait until they got it right.  Red Lobster?  I tried to remember what I had against Red Lobster, but I have vetoed return visits so often that they quit asking to go there.  I still hate the place.  That was 15 years ago. 
I wait.  The blues show is off.  Its 7.  I've been here since 5:30.  The wait person comes by.  "What's your name again"?, she asks.  I spell it for her twice.  "I  think it's ready," she says.  She stops to answer questions from the multitude.  I wait.  She's out the door with a large bundle.  The crowd begins to part to let her through.   She stops to explain something.  I wait.    She arrives.  Mission accomplished!  She smiles,  I open the back door.   There is already a 20 percent tip on the bill.   I slipped her an added $5.  It's 7:10.  I have never waited this long without being completely pissed off.  It's not my day.  It's Mothers Day.
So here is the review:   We had two filet mignons for the old people.   They were burnt to perfection (just then way they like them).   They were also cold.   Poor Shirley, the senior Mother,  couldn't eat hers. The baked potatoes were not cooked.   Swillar, usually sanguine,  found her chicken sandwich acceptable.  Will and I had the salmon.  It was dried out and cold and  burnt.  No amount of microwaving could save it.  The wine was good Swillar brought it .  The beloved one, whose 12 ounce steak was really only 8 ounces because that's all they had,  won the prize.  It was a perfect medium rare, the mashed potatoes were still hot and the gravy excellent.

 I got the consolation prize: three coupons for free appetizers good only at the bar!!  I will be so excited to collect. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Which side are you on?

The faced book has removed a propaganda thing claiming that wearing masks actually makes you more vulnerable the Covid 19 and is a get rich scheme cooked up by the vaccination tyrants. Somehow it  benefits Bill Gates, like he needs more money.   Good on the faced book for exercising intelligent editorial control. To those who claim this violates the first amendment: it does not because the government is  not involved.  And to my dear friend who argued that there are two sides to every dispute... read on. 

Certainly there are two sides to every athletic dispute.

 There are two sides to the argument about whether the presnut had the largest inaugural crowd in history if you are willing to see aerial photos of the Obama inaugural crowd and the current presnut's crowd and not believe your own eyes. There are two sides to the argument over the presnut's continuing support from Russia only if you are not willing to believe the latest findings of the Republican dominated Senate Intelligence Committee or the ongoing work of the CIA and FBI and NSA.  Or maybe you think Russian domination is a good thing. 

There are two sides to the theory of evolution, but you can only teach one of them in school science class.  That's because one of those sides is science.  The workings of evolution have been observed, measured and documented by trained scientists using standard, widely recognized processes and verified by more trained scientists (and many many 10th grade biology classes) in the 200 plus years since Darwin took  his little boat ride around the world.   The other side is religion.  You can teach it in a class on religious belief generally, but you can't label it as science because it  is not.  (See Kitzmiller v. Dover Schools).

There are two sides to the argument over global warming if you fail to recognize the rising temperatures, massive wild fires, freaky tornadoes and storms.  It's another of those arguments you don't want to be on the wrong side of. 

Two sides to every argument admits of disparate approaches to difficult problems but it does not admit to different facts.  It's all about the evidence. It's about rational people critically evaluating the demonstrable facts and deciding what is true or not.  If you assume that all people should have equal economic opportunity then the facts of trickle down economics, established since the turn  of the 20th Century, are that it benefits only the wealthy and leads to substantial inequality.  (And if you hate big government it's worth noting that large or small, government has the capacity to interfere in the marketplace and for the last 50 years at least, such interventions have benefited the rich.)   Trickledowners tell the truth: you don't care about economic opportunity for all.  You believe wealthy people rule and poor people are expendable. 

 The facts about vaccines are that we humans have been vaccinating ourselves for centuries.  The Chinese invented smallpox vaccine more than 1,000 years ago.   John Adams was following a well established practice when he gave each of his children a scratch on the arm and smeared it with the blood of a soldier who had died of smallpox. Louis Pasteur invented a rabies vaccine in 1885 and by 1930 there were vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis. The polio vaccine was years in the making.  When it was perfected it was given to every citizen.  (I was in a cohort of 1.8 million children who got the shot in 1954 as a part of the first mass trial run.  In  a model of government efficiency, children were bused to nearby collection sites (the Weir, KS,  parish hall in my case)  lined up, inoculated with an enormous needle (I was 6) and carted home.  Researchers successfully  targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella and these vaccines were routine for newborn children by the 1990s.

Vaccines became controversial in the late 1990s, when a report was published in France that claimed a connection between vaccinations and autism.  This study has been frequently and effectively discredited., but it persists in the minds of the same people who believe that Bill Gates needs more money and that the Deep  State exists.

There are two sides to the question of whether the government should or should not be involved in combating the virus (or whether big government is better than small government).  We are seeing that argument gamed out in real time, and the evidence so far indicates the less government crowd is not doing such a good job.  Governments actively engaged in the fight (New Zealand, Korea, Germany to name a few) are getting control of the virus. Total victim numbers are declining and the opportunity to safely open up (with limitations) is on the horizon.  In the USA the victim rate continues to rise, the dead pile up, and efforts to "open up" the economy are scaring hell out of rational citizens.  One side of this argument is you embrace your freedom.  The other is it could kill you.