Archive for May, 2017

The Last Idealist

May 29, 2017

One-hundred years ago today. May 29th, 1917. Forty-one years before I was born, he was. In a Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts to his parents, Joe and Rose. He was the second son of a rising Irish-Catholic upper middle class, politically connected, family. So many words have been written about him that I won’t waste my time going over the hagiography over John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s life and death.

Today, had he lived, he would have been 100. But that’s not why I’m writing this. Nor am I going to write about his life, warts and all, because they have been written about so many other times, by writers far, far better than me.

No, I am going to write about what this man represents, the challenge that seems to have been forgotten since his assassination in 1963. His idealism, borne out of his own experiences, drove him to challenge us — to go to the moon, explore space, service others less fortunate then us, become a part of the wider-world — all inspired us to do that.

Think about the 10 Presidents who’ve followed him. What have they done to inspire us? Not much, really. To inspire the world? Hardly. Kennedy was many things, but he, and, to a lesser extent, his brothers, Robert and Teddy, inspired us to be something, even for a short period of time, greater than ourselves. That is what JFK should be remembered for, not the abrupt way his life ended.

*Originally posted at


On the Brink.

May 11, 2017

They all have to go. Everyone of them. Not just Donald Trump, but every other cabinet member and the loathsome Paul Ryan. Everyone has to go.

Mike Pence.

Rex Tillerson.

Betsy DeVos.

Rick Perry.

Ben Carson.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

Scott Puritt.

All 15 members of this corrupt, vapid, ill-equipped, unprepared, mean-spirited, lying-like-my-dead-dog administration needs to resign. Along with Donald J. Trump. The events that have unfolded before our eyes in little over 100 days prove that none of these people have any inclination of governing or even the most rudimentary understanding of how the federal government works.

We cannot wait for a Mark Felt or a John Doar to dig through the bureaucratic minutiae. There is no time for Woodward and Bernstein (or the modern-day equivalent) to peel off the onion of obstruction, lies and incompetence that might take years to uncover. We don’t have that kind of time. We don’t have the luxury of watching Trump unravel, because unlike Nixon, he already has.

This man should never have been President*. By firing Comey on Tuesday night, 45 has basically boxed himself into a corner. And all of those around him, including every staffer, appointee, Ivanka, Jared, his sons Spin and Marty, are in the same corner as well, boxed in. The only alternative is to resign. Or leave. Quit. Before anymore damage is done.

Because after the events of Tuesday night, this isn’t about Russia anymore. It isn’t about the investigations or the election or the health care bill. It’s not about any of that, because it has become a question of competency. It has become a question of survival. Of whether we as a nation can allow this farce to continue. It can’t, not for much longer.

Even those who voted for him know this, deep down. They won’t admit it, but they know it to be true. In his seminal book, “Nixonland,” Rick Pearlstein tells the story of how Nixon, rejected by every fraternity and club at small Whittier College, formed his own club, the Orthogonian’s. He carried around a lifetime of resentments and it ate away at him. When he died, in 1994 of a stroke, reportedly his last words were “help me.”

Much like Nixon, Trump has a lifetime of resentments as well. Those are well-documented and out there for everyone to see. The NFL (twice) and NHL rejected him, as did Major League Baseball and Augusta National (where The Master’s is played every April).

But this isn’t about Trump or Nixon or comparing the two. It’s about the country and whether or not we are willing to see the fact that this man is woefully in over his head and so is the rest of his team. The difference between 2017 and 1974 is this: We don’t have four years to investigate and find “the best available version of the truth,” as Bernstein recently put it. We don’t have months, either. We have weeks, maybe even days before even the “party before country” Republicans in Congress can’t ignore it anymore. This cannot drag out another 1300 days. He has to go.

The GOP’s Cruel Act

May 4, 2017

On January 19, 2017, Wayne Barrett died. He was 71. Barrett was a singular force in New York City journalism, taking on everyone from Mayor Beane to Rudy Giuliani. In 1978, he first told the world of a then-scion of the small courtier of real estate developers in the Five Burroughs named Donald Trump.  His father, Fred, was a small fish in the largest city in America (next to Harry Helmsley, everyone in NYC was small) who had control of several properties in Queens and Staten Island. His article in the Village Voice,

“How a Young Donald Trump Forced His Way From Avenue Z to Manhattan”

was reprinted two years ago, shortly after Trump announced his run for President. Here is the link if you care to read it:

The reason I bring this up today is because Barrett, who not only wrote about the Libidinous One for years, even writing a book in 1991 about him, died the day before he became the 45th* President of the United States. Which, in a way makes him lucky that he hasn’t seen the first 105 days of his attempts at the total destruction of it.

We, quite unfortunately, are still here. For the time being. Today the House passed a bill dismantling the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, because the GOP wanted (perhaps) a symbolic victory over the objections of just about everyone else. It guts the ACA and Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP and every other program designed to make people a bit less sick.

Mostly though, what it does is reminds us of the cruelty, out in the open for the world to see, of the Republican Party. It reminds us that for the rich and powerful, there will always be a cure, but for the rest of us, not so much. As Charles Pierce put it today, “This was a bill constructed to be as cruel as possible to as many people as possible for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans and to give a “win” to an incompetent and vulgar talking yam that flukes and circumstance have placed at the head of a once-great republic. It is an altogether remarkable piece of American political history that should follow the people celebrating it to their graves, to which they will be proceeded by thousands of their fellow citizens, who might not have, had there not been so much to celebrate on Thursday, in Washington, among all the tomb-white monuments.”

I’m not going to be as nice. The “vulgar talking yam” is a moron. Who learned at the feet of Roy Cohn, one of the most despicable human beings in history.  If you have cancer and don’t have $2 million to get it taken care of, tough shit. If you were born with a pre-existing condition (like me), your life expectancy just dropped from X to day-to-day, as one Vin Scully would follow “then again, aren’t we all?” Trump isn’t as shrewd as Cohn, but he mirrors him in so many ways – no sense of humor, takes umbrage at any slight, real or perceived, flaunts his (supposed) wealth, threatens people who dare shine a light on their secrets or misdeeds.

Cohn died in 1986, from AIDS. Much like many men of wealth and fame of that era, Rock Hudson, Liberace, Cohn used his influence and fear to silence those around him. Liberace’s original cause of death was “liver cancer.” Several former lovers (and his family) complained and the cause was changed to AIDS. Here is a scene from “Angels in America” where Cohn, played brilliantly by Al Pacino, browbeats and threatens his doctor (James Cromwell) into keeping his diagnosis a secret:

Screw these people, screw the people who vote for them and send them back to Congress for 40-50 years. Screw Paul Ryan, who is writing his political obituary with this vote. The GOP has stood for nothing since 1980, except giving money to the super-rich and screwing over everyone else. It has to stop. Otherwise, there will be nothing, nothing at all for all but 400 people. That’s not America. That’s a third-world country.