Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Past as Prologue to a Potential Future

Have you ever read anything that scared you into immediate action? I hadn’t intended to post anything today, that is, until I read a review in Wednesday’s New York Times of the first of a two-part biography by Volker Ullrich of Adolph Hitler (

I do not know if the reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, intended readers to assimilate her analysis of Ullrich’s work to our present presidential options. I can only relate I was chilled by the comparison to one of our current choices. Consider, if you will, the following extensive citation:

“Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a ‘Munich rabble-rouser’ — regarded by many as a self-obsessed ‘clown’ with a strangely ‘scattershot, impulsive style’ — into ‘the lord and master of the German Reich.’

“• Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who ‘only loved himself’ — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a ‘characteristic fondness for superlatives.’ His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a ‘keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people’ and an ability to ‘instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.’

“• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a ‘bottomless mendacity’ that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler ‘was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth’ and editors of one edition of ‘Mein Kampf’ described it as a ‘swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.’

“• Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences. Although he concealed his anti-Semitism beneath a ‘mask of moderation’ when trying to win the support of the socially liberal middle classes, he specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements borrowed from the circus. Here, ‘Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners,’ Mr. Ullrich writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order.

“• Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising ‘to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,’ though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better ‘to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.’”  

How devastatingly familiar all these points are. Want some more? 

“• Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, ‘it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences’ with ‘repeated mantralike phrases’ consisting largely of ‘accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.’ But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in ‘Mein Kampf’ that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd.

“• Hitler’s rise was not inevitable, in Mr. Ullrich’s opinion. … He benefited from a ‘constellation of crises that he was able to exploit cleverly and unscrupulously’ — in addition to economic woes and unemployment, there was an ‘erosion of the political center’ and a growing resentment of the elites. The unwillingness of Germany’s political parties to compromise had contributed to a perception of government dysfunction, Mr. Ullrich suggests, and the belief of Hitler supporters that the country needed ‘a man of iron’ who could shake things up. ‘Why not give the National Socialists a chance?’ a prominent banker said of the Nazis. ‘They seem pretty gutsy to me.’

“• Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. Early on, revulsion at Hitler’s style and appearance, Mr. Ullrich writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating ‘evening’s entertainment.’”

The eminent philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Should Hillary Act During First Debate?

Advisors are counseling Hillary Clinton to be firm but ladylike during the first presidential debate next Monday with Donald Trump. The public, they say, does not embrace a woman in attack mode.

I, on the other hand, would prefer if she looks to Margaret Thatcher as her debate model, not in policy but in demeanor and comportment. The Iron Lady of British politics confronted head-on those who would challenge her. It is time for Hillary to stand up to the vicious, insulting lies, innuendos, misstatements and falsehoods promulgated by Trump and his cohorts. Do so not in a belligerent way but in a detailed, controlled fashion of righteous indignation not just for herself but for the American people who have been hoodwinked by a carnival barker masquerading as a serious candidate for the presidency.

Hillary needs to show emotion to demonstrate how passionate she is to serve the American public and to defend them against the regressive, repressive policies Trump wants to impose. It is time to take the gloves off, time to expose Trump for the clueless, shiftless character he truly is.

Trump does not react well when confronted. He doesn’t react well to strength and criticism. It makes him fabricate the truth and lash out with insults, the type of behavior that makes him an unstable candidate to be president. 

So here’s a sample of what Clinton should say during the first debate: 

If there’s a question about the Clinton Foundation, she should say … “Mr. Trump has questioned the role of the Clinton Foundation. Here’s the truth. The Clinton Foundation has raised and allocated tens of millions of dollars to fund social welfare programs overseas. My husband and I have donated (put amount here) to the foundation. Meanwhile, since 2008 Donald Trump and his family have given zero dollars to the Trump Foundation. He has made a point of saying he is giving away lots of money but it is other people’s money. Moreover, the Trump Foundation has paid out more than a quarter of a million dollars to settle lawsuits against Trump companies and to buy two portraits of Donald Trump for Donald Trump properties, both actions that are illegal. Perhaps Crooked Donald would be an appropriate nickname.

If there’s a question on taxes … “Donald Trump wants to overhaul the tax code. During the last eight years my husband and I have paid (put in actual amount here) in federal taxes. X percent of our annual income. During that same time we have no idea how much Donald Trump earned or paid in taxes because he has cowardly refused to release his taxes. Even though he is being audited the IRS has said he is not prevented from releasing his tax forms. We can only assume he has something to hide, such as his low tax rate, or his entanglements with Russian and Chinese investments that would make it impossible for him to objectively deal with these countries. Donald Trump wants to eliminate the estate tax. The estate tax affects only the wealthiest in our country. It’s another example of how Donald Trump wants to change the tax code so that he and his family and his billionaire and multi-millionaire friends and cronies can benefit while working people bear the burden of their greed."

If there’s a question on Iraq … Donald Trump claims he was against the second Iraq war from the get-go. Not so. Donald Trump  was interviewed on The Howard Stern Show on September 11, 2002. When directly asked by Howard Stern if he was for the invasion of Iraq—before it occurred—Donald Trump said, “Yeah, I guess so.” Yet, the man who has said he would never lie to the American people continues to this day to lie about his support for the war. I regret my vote for the war, but Donald Trump is too cowardly to stand up for his actions.

If there’s a question about how to defeat ISIS … Donald Trump has advocated illegal activity by our military. He has specifically said our military should kill the families of terrorists. He has said we should torture suspected terrorists. He has said we should have taken Iraq’s oil. These are all violations of international law and our own code of military conduct.

If there’s a question on child care … “Mr. Trump last week said he supports child care benefits for employees. Yet he does not provide that benefit to his own employees and had the chutzpah to claim he did so at his hotels when the truth is he provided child care benefits to his wealthy hotel guests but not to his own workers. He would have some credibility if he would be providing child care benefits to those already under his control but he doesn’t. His proposal is nothing more than a campaign come-on. He has no more interest in seeing it put into law than he has shown in his own companies. What’s more, a Republican controlled Congress would never pass such a benefit.”

If there’s a question on the environment … Donald Trump went to Flint, Michigan, recently to provide comfort to the families affected by the polluted water. That was commendable, but let him explain how residents of Flint and the rest of the country would be safeguarded from similar incidents if he follows through on his plan to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency.

If there’s a question on immigration … Donald Trump’s signature theme has been he will build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. And that he is a great negotiator. Yet, when he met with the president of Mexico he was too weak to say during his press conference that the Mexican president told him Mexico would not pay for the wall.

If there’s a question on improving the economy … Mr. Trump claims to be a great businessman. Yet his companies have filed for bankruptcy protection six times. He has claimed he never settles suits. Yet he has done so numerous times. His Trump University is under investigation in several states for fraud. In Florida his charitable foundation made a large contribution to the re-election campaign of the state attorney general within days of her decision not to join other state attorneys general in the investigation. Good business decision by Mr. Trump? I think it looks highly suspicious.

If there’s a question on terrorism … Mr. Trump is against our Constitution. He questions the very foundation of our legal system that you are innocent until proven guilty and that you are entitled to legal defense. He would deny Ahmad Khan Rahami, the alleged pressure cooker bomber, his legal right to an attorney. And he questions our civility in providing medical treatment to his wounds. Is that the type of society America wants to become? I think not.  I hope not. Mr. Trump wants to have a national stop-and-frisk policy even though a federal court ruled it unconstitutional.

If there’s a question on gun control … “Donald Trump falsely claims I want to repeal the second amendment. No, I want to limit the proliferation of assault rifles. I want background checks on all gun purchasers. But tell us, Donald. What would be your words of comfort to the next families whose loved ones are gunned down with an AR-15 or similar type weapon? What would you have told the parents of Sandy Hook? Do you really want us to go back to the days of the Wild West when everyone carried around a revolver? Is that your idea of a civilized society? While citizens of the rest of the free world walk around without weapons you would have us turn into an armed camp.

If there’s a question on the federal budget … Mr. Trump claims to be fiscally conservative. Yet he wants to raise the Pentagon budget beyond what our military leaders want. He wants to build a wall. He wants to lower taxes, all actions that independent tax experts say would increase our national debt. But does Mr. Trump care? Apparently not as he says if he were president he would renegotiate our debt. He would single-handedly destroy the financial credibility of the United States. And that would be a legacy all of us, our children and our grandchildren would pay for for generations to come.

Enough examples. 

The debate is billed as Trump vs. Clinton. But really it is between the values upon which America was built and a re-imagined America that would repress minorities and specific religions, would shun our immigrant heritage, would look to curtail the freedom of the press, the separation of church and state, and the right to vote without harassment,  and would question our national commitment to the good and welfare of all our citizens while rewarding the elite. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More Help for Lester Holt: A New Set of Questions for the First Clinton-Trump Debate

Less than a week until the first presidential debate. The pressure must be excruciating on … Lester Holt of NBC News, the first moderator. Two weeks ago I suggested questions Holt should ask both candidates. 

They were almost exclusively designed to elicit differences between Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s policy positions. It wouldn’t necessarily make for good television, but it would be educational (

But TV, if anything, is about ratings and keeping an audience engaged. So here’s a different list of questions I believe Holt should ask of them individually and sometimes together (you’ll notice I have more questions for Trump because, in my humble opinion, he has more explaining to do). 

Trump and Clinton:  What is the greatest threat facing the United States?

T: What information changed your mind about President Obama’s birth in the United States? When did this information reach you?

C: What made you think the public did not have a right to know about your recent pneumonia?

T: Why do you feel the public does not have the right to see your tax returns as all presidential candidates, and many seeking lower offices and judicial positions, have released them over the last four decades?

T: You have called Hillary Clinton crooked. Can you point to any examples of crooked behavior?

T: You have called for paid family leave. Do you already provide it in your own companies, and if not, why not? Also, you have promised paid family leave but Republicans in Congress have not supported such a measure. How can the public expect you to fulfill that promise?

C: If Republicans maintain control of one or both houses of Congress how will you be able to get your platform passed?

C: Why should the American public trust you when time and again you have not been totally forthcoming when explaining your email server and your recent illness?

T: You have called Secretary Clinton “lyin’ Hillary,” yet time and again independent fact checkers have labeled more of your statements as untrue by a wide margin even though you have promised never to lie to the American public. Why should they believe you?

T: Almost all reputable scientists believe sea levels are rising due to climate change. Your property, Mar-a-Lago, sits on the beach in Palm Beach, Fla. Do you believe in the forecasts by the scientists and if not what evidence have you to the contrary? 

C and T: What can be done to stop sleeper cell terrorists, many of whom would be natural or naturalized citizens, from attacking Americans on our homeland? 

T: You have said “to the victor go the spoils,” that we should have taken Iraqi oil and left troops in Iraq to guard the oil wells and that to combat terrorism we should torture suspects and kill the families of terrorists, all violations of international law. Is that the standard you want to set for the United States?

C: The Clinton Foundation accepted donations from foreign governments and citizens. Why should we believe you have not been influenced or would not be influenced by such funding?

T: Why do you believe right wing and racist fringe organizations have expressed support for your campaign?

T: Illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than American citizens. What would you do to reduce crime in America?

C: What went wrong in Iraq, Libya and Syria under your watch as secretary of state and why should we believe you would handle future crises differently and better?

T: You have said your response to threats against NATO allies would be dependent on their financial support of our troops. Is that a prudent plan in dealing with Russia?

C: Time and again you advocate a cautious, measured response to events and the status quo in government. Yet the American public appears interested in decisive leadership that would break up the status quo, which you seem reluctant to provide. Why should they expect you to be an agent of change?

T and C: Which three presidents or world leaders, living or dead, do you admire and why?

T: Our greatest economic gains over the last 40 years occurred under Democratic administrations that advocated and passed higher taxes on the wealthy, while lower taxes under Republican administrations did not produce the promised gains for the middle and working classes. Please explain why your tax strategy would reverse this reality?

C: As a senator you voted for the Iraq war. As secretary of state you advocated involvement in Libya and Syria. What is your standard for military intervention by the United States?

T: You recently said if Irani planes or boats interfere with our ships we should shoot them. Are you willing to risk a war over such provocations?

T and C: Almost all of our domestic terror attacks have been perpetrated by lone wolves. Is there any way to prevent such attacks?

C and T: How would you change the Affordable Care Act? Would you reduce or eliminate benefits that the ACA  provided?

C: Do you endorse a path to legalization for illegal immigrants? Would they earn the right to vote?

T: Clarify your position on who and when deportations of illegal immigrants would occur. What is your position on dreamers, the children of undocumented aliens who were brought here as children?

C: A Clinton administration to many would seem to be a continuation of the Obama administration. What would be different?

T and C: After you are sworn in what executive actions would you take within your first week in office?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Donald Trump Is The Reason I Am Sleep Deprived

For some years now I have woken up several times in the middle of the night. I’m a man approaching his late sixties so there’s nothing unusual about that (for the unaware, it’s a prostate thing). No matter. With rare exception I have always been able to easily slip back to sleep.

Until recently. Until Donald Trump. Donald Trump is robbing me of a good night’s sleep. Even as he jets home each night to sleep in his own bed atop Trump Tower I lay awake in the middle of the night too hepped up by the prospect of his becoming president to drift off into more rem cycles. This blogpost, for example, was written at 5:20 am after I already failed over the prior 60 minutes to fall back to sleep.

This is no joke. It is not funny. As my wife slumbers on next to me I lay awake wondering how any rational human being can seriously vote for such an ill-prepared candidate to be president of the United States. Has our electorate really become so gullible, so naive, so uninformed, so disillusioned, so angry that they dismiss his appeal to bigotry, racism, xenophobia, misogyny that they don’t see his divisiveness, his arrogance, his inability to tell the truth, his attacks on opponents for the very actions he perpetrates? Do they—and for the sake of the country, if not the world, I hope they don’t—share his worse traits?

Okay, I get it. Hillary Clinton is not an ideal alternative. But she has devoted almost her entire adult life to public service while Trump has devoted his to self-enrichment often at the expense of people he has bilked out of deserved compensation or personal savings.

I can’t fall back to sleep. How many others are similarly afflicted? Is Donald Trump turning half the country into a nation of sleep-deprived zombies? I once read resting is just as recuperative as sleeping. No way!

It’s 5:57. Almost time for the alarm to wake me up. But I’m not asleep.

I’m not sure I can take another seven weeks of this, much less four or, heaven forbid, eight years.

Donald Trump is the reason I am sleep deprived.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Re-Selling of a Would-Be President

Donald Trump generally has nothing good to say about George W. Bush, but his campaign has adopted an important strategy that helped propel W. into the White House. Just as Bush, rather than Al Gore, became the guy you wanted to sit down and have a beer with, Trump is recasting himself as an everyman who, despite his alleged billions of dollars of net worth, is a typical American who chows down KFC and McDonald’s like everyone else, who lets Jimmy Fallon muss up his hair, who seeks the comfort and approval of Dr. Oz to “reveal” his medical history. No doubt next we will be treated to seeing him read The Pet Goat to schoolchildren (as Bush was doing when informed of the 9/11 terror attacks).

He’s remaking himself into a lovable, huggable Teddy bear. 

The birther controversy? 

Who me? It was Hillary and her campaign back in 2008 that started it, he’s saying now, an allegation deemed false by independent fact checkers. 

Trump is taking credit for ending any doubts Barack Obama was born in the United States. Though he reluctantly admitted the truth Friday morning, the damage from his five year campaign to delegitimize the president remains. 

According to Public Policy Polling, 59% of those who said they viewed Trump favorably think Obama was not born in the United States. In addition, two-thirds of such voters believe Obama is a Muslim (

Trump is also refashioning his campaign positions to make them more appealing to non core constituency voters. He has, for example, appeared to soften on mass expulsion of all illegal immigrants the moment he gets sworn into office as well as proposing paid maternal child care. 

Of course, when you’re running for president, unlike when you’re engaged in a primary contest and must cater to hard core party voters, it is standard procedure to promise the world. Only a naive voter would expect all campaign promises to be kept.

But there is one way to measure the probability of some promise fulfillment. If a president comes into office with his or her party in the majority in the House and Senate there’s a good chance at least some of those promises will become law. That’s how the Affordable Care Act came into being, though it did not have all the features Obama had promised.

Hillary Clinton will need huuuge coattails to flip Congress Democratic in November. Her prospects of signing legislation for anything on her wish list are dim. She will be confined to be the resister-in-chief, pushing back against repeated attempts by a GOP Congress to roll back progressive legislation or executive actions of the past eight years. (She’ll also have to combat right wing determination to impeach her.)

Trump, on the other hand, may work with a GOP Congress to reverse much of what has been put in place, including Obamacare.

But the softer side of Trump may be more problematic for a President Trump. As currently constituted Congress has few Republicans who would go along with such progressive legislation. They would see paid maternity leave and other social welfare benefits as Trump-the-businessman has—as burdens on corporate profits.

Thus Trump would preside over a regressive administration, backed up, no doubt, by a more conservative bent on the Supreme Court and lower federal panels once he starts appointing judges.

To get to that pinnacle of ratings status—the presidency, or said another way, the entertainer-in-chief—Trump is trotting out all the theatrics he can. His supporters are rabid fans who care little about truth and integrity. They’ve been so conditioned by all the so-called “reality TV” shows.

So there’s nothing unexpected in recent polls that show Trumpsters more enthusiastic for their candidate than are Hillary’s supporters. It’s human nature for more people to complain than to compliment. 

Nonetheless, Clinton’s campaign must rev up the excitement quotient and, more importantly, the fear factor. Every day it must be pointed out what is at stake, not just for the Oval Office but also in Congress. 

Specifically, but not exclusively, at stake are:

  • the prestige and standing of the United States as first among nations
  • the balance of the Supreme Court as a progressive bulwark
  • reform to Obamacare that does not strip it of meaningful affordable healthcare for all
  • funding for Planned Parenthood
  • a woman’s right to choose
  • minimum wage increases
  • safeguards against employment discrimination
  • safeguards against food and drug abuses
  • safeguards to worker safety 
  • environmental protection including an acknowledgment that climate change is real
  • business oversight legislation
  • voting rights enforcement 
  • the continued belief in National Parks 
  • Wall Street oversight
  • a thoughtful, reasoned foreign policy

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Who Needs a Moderator?, Trump Asks

Amid all the hullabaloo over Hillary Clinton’s health, perhaps you missed this latest ploy from Donald Trump:

He wants to change the debate ground rules. He wants to do away with moderators at the three presidential debates. He is trying to game the agreed upon system just like he shortchanged contractors out of their agreed upon compensation for work on his construction projects.

Trump is obviously afraid that moderators with more savvy, sense, intelligence and courage than Matt Lauer will point out his fabrications, inconsistencies and overt lies.

Let’s be clear. Both candidates fudge the truth, but Trump’s lollapaloozas are extreme. It does no one a service, other than Trump, to have him spout inaccuracies. Clinton’s misstatements, as well, need to be clarified and cleansed. An objective, informed, intelligent and courageous moderator should take up the challenge. 

Here’s another thing that needs to be clear: The Trump-Clinton debates will not rival the dignity of the hallowed Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Though they will pit a Republican against a Democrat, that’s where the similarities end. The format of those seven classic meetings was not a give and take of candidates answering questions posed by a moderator, each other or member of the public. Rather as explained by Wikipedia, “The format for each debate was: one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute ‘rejoinder.’ The candidates alternated speaking first.”

In seeking to remove the moderators Trump is suggesting they would be biased against him. He claims the format is rigged against him ( 

A rigged election is a theme Trump has espoused for several weeks as a counterfoil to a potential loss on November 8. “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest,” Trump said last month in Columbus, Ohio. 

Perhaps no other comment—from his attacks on Mexicans, Muslims, prisoners of war, a Gold Star family, the military leadership—has been more troublesome as it undermines the credibility of our electoral system and the peaceful transition of power. 

Hardly an election goes by that does not engender cries of “foul.” But from Richard Nixon in 1960 through Al Gore in 2000, candidates who felt cheated out of the presidency have considered the consequences a legal challenge to the outcome would have on our democracy. 

Trump, on the other hand, is feeding a frenzied following fodder for physical dissent should he lose. From the outset of his primary run to now, his campaign has not been a combat of ideas and platform planks but rather one of invective and disdain for the truth. 

In case of defeat, Clinton supports half-jokingly talk about moving to Canada. Trumpsters talk about taking back their government, by force if necessary. Paranoia abounds (

Democratic paranoia stems from the possibility that Russia might hack the results in key states to tip the election. Already Russia is suspected of hacking election files in Arizona and Illinois. Computer voting with no paper backup is an invitation to confusion, if not disaster.

For a diverting take on how a computer glitch could determine an election, view the 2006 Robin Williams film, Man of the Year. Williams played Tom Dobbs, a TV host-comedian whose acerbic jabs at politics and politicians not only provoked laughter but also propelled him toward a spontaneous populist third party candidacy for the presidency.

Asked during a debate why he was running, Dobbs sounded Trump-like prescient: “I’ve decided to run because I’m fed up with party politics. I’m tired of the Republican Party,  I’m tired of the Democratic Party. There’s no real difference. They’re all Mr. Potato Head candidates. Basically, you’ve got a figure where here’s the operative word, “party,” because behind closed doors, phew,  I think they’re just having a real good time…the bottom line is they’ve lost track of what they are responsible for. They’re responsible to the people and not party loyalties and definitely not lobbyists. That’s why I’m running for president.”

To no one’s surprise who views the movie, spoiler alert, he wins because of a computer screw-up. Watch the movie to find out what happens next.

By the way, did anyone else see the irony of Hillary Clinton’s failed attempt Sunday morning to keep her pneumonia secret coinciding with the Sunday night airing of Churchill’s Secret, a movie on PBS about the British prime minister’s attempt to keep the world in the dark about a life-threatening stroke he suffered in 1953? 

The movie is based on the book by Jonathan Smith, The Churchill Secret KBO. KBO stands for Churchill’s motto, “Keep Buggering On.” Is that not like what Clinton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “I thought that I could just keep going forward and power through it. And obviously that didn’t work out so well,” she said.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hillary's Not the Only One to Go From Seasonal Allergies to Pneumonia

Seasonal allergies. Then pneumonia. You might think I’m referring to Hillary Clinton’s recent medical history accentuated by her stumble as she tried unsuccessfully to depart gracefully from Sunday’s 9/11 commemoration ceremonies at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

Actually, I was referring to Gilda’s condition in September 1970. We had been dating for a little more than six months when summer arrived. We each chose to counselor at different sleepaway camps. Gilda came home early with pneumonia triggered by what we later learned were seasonal allergies. One benefit—at 21-years-old she finally learned to swallow pills under threat of intravenous hospitalization.

For several late summers after that she would get sick, sometimes developing pneumonia. After we married in 1973 and moved to Connecticut our internist explained she had seasonal allergies. To avoid their blossoming into pneumonia she needed to be alert every day from late August-early September and diligently take an antihistamine at the first sign of itchy eyes. Since then she hasn’t had pneumonia.

And since that first summer of pneumonia we haven’t been apart for July and August for 46 years.

Hillary’s Real Stumble: Will there be political fallout from Hillary’s illness? I doubt it will diminish support from those already committed to her. 

Trumpsters, on the other hand, will just add this setback to their long list of anti-Hillary screeds. 

For non committed voters the decision might well depend on their differentiation between a physical illness and the mental stability of Donald Trump. He has given ample evidence of being unfit psychologically, temperamentally, and intellectually for the office of president. 

But there persists in this country a level of non belief in the debilitating impact of mental illness. Just ask the many veterans who suffer from PTSD how difficult an adjustment their family, peers and work associates have had in accepting their condition. So Trump might get a pass despite his unstable behavior.

When Hillary suffered through a coughing bout last week I joked to friends that we could expect a tweet from a Trumpster or from the man himself that she was afflicted with consumption. I wasn’t too far off in my diagnosis though I didn’t hear or see any such missive.

As usual, the coverup got Clinton in more hot water than the truth. No one except Trump and his Trumpsters expects her to be superwoman. She is human. But her failure to accept human frailty cost her credibility points, points of which she already has too few to spare.

When she gets back on the campaign trail, Clinton needs to humanize herself. Real people—not the moneybags she hobnobs with to finance this election—need to see her, speak with her, get spoken to, about their real concerns. Jobs. Healthcare. Wages. Homeland security. Social security. Personal safety. Discrimination. Climate change. 

As long as we’re on a medical theme, injuries from youth soccer figured in a 25-year study published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics. The magazine reported that injuries more than doubled over the course of the study, with head injuries climbing an astounding 1,596%.

Every day more than 300 kids visit emergency rooms with soccer-related injuries. Strains and sprains account for 35% of the trauma, 23% come in with broken bones.

Which brings me to the Forseter connection, specifically Dan Forseter’s time in youth soccer. Dan played on a travel all-star soccer team from the age of nine. As the goalkeeper he would fling his body towards the ball, even running headlong into any advancing forward. He did not give up goals lightly. One weekend tournament he played four games before the coaches noticed his left wrist was a little wobbly. Shuffled off to the local emergency room, he came back with a cast on his fractured wrist. 

For the record, this happened before 1990, so Dan was not part of the Pediatrics study.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Desperate People Do Desperate Things

How to explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump? How to explain why evangelical Christians embrace a candidate whose principles and life history are diametrically opposed to all they believe in? 

Perhaps a clue can be gleaned from the saying, “desperate people do desperate things.” If you google it, you’ll come across a Christian genre song by Micah Stampley with the following lyrics:

Cause I’m tired of the status quo
There’s gotta be more than this
There’s gotta be more, gotta be more
There’s gotta be more than this
Desperate people do desperate things 
And we’re pressing in
There’s gotta be more

Gotta be more
There’s gotta be more than this

And then there’s Trump’s blatant appeal to disaffected, threatened, disgruntled White America. In an interview with evangelical Christian journalist David Brody and in comments to an evangelical audience in Washington, D.C., last Friday, Trump positioned Hillary Clinton’s support for comprehensive immigration reform as what can only be described as Armageddon-like.

“I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning because you’re going to have people flowing across the border. You’re going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they’re going to be legalized and they’re going to be able to vote and once that all happens you can forget it,” said Trump, as reported in The Daily Mail (

When you’re adrift at sea with hope all but lost, and you’re clinging to an overfilled life raft, civility and compassion often are the first casualties when confronted with the choice of helping yourself or the greater good. Or helping another poor soul latch onto the presumed safety of the raft. So it is with the desperate voter.

Despite all his faults, Trump garners the support of the desperate, as Roger Cohen of The New York Times discovered during a trip to Kentucky.

“At the boot store, Carrie McCall, a FedEx driver, appears with a package.
‘I love Trump,’ she declares. ‘He shoots from the hip.’
“But, I ask, isn’t that dangerous?
‘I don’t care. After all we’ve been through, I just don’t care.’” (

Your political witticism of the day courtesy of

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” —Karl Marx

Friday, September 9, 2016

In Search of Edward R. Murrow and the Truth

When it comes to correcting the record of candidate misstatements and outright lies during presidential debates, journalists are treating the public to a debate among their peers about their proper role in calling out untruths. 

Call it the Candy Crowley Conundrum. You may recall Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent, corrected Mitt Romney in 2012 after he said during a debate that President Obama had not initially declared the attack on the consulate in Benghazi “an act of terror.” Obama, backed up by Crowley, said he had. Crowley came under intense criticism from Republicans for inserting herself into the dialogue (

Four years later, Chris Wallace of Fox News, chosen to moderate the third and last presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, has said he doesn’t believe it’s the job of a moderator to fact-check the candidates in real time. Like most liberal media folk, I don’t agree, but I can understand Wallace’s position of opting to let the candidates duke it out. After all, it makes for entertaining, unexpected, live television, good ratings, and Fox News itself has a history of shading reality, so why not see if Clinton has the cohones to stand up to Trump for a job that will require her to match muscles with the likes of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. 

In truth, it is not Candy Crowley TV journalists should be daring to channel. They should be aspiring to follow the example of Edward R. Murrow. On March 9, 1954, Murrow devoted his entire CBS show, See It Now, to exposing the lies, deceptions, innuendos and evil spewed by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis). 

“Using McCarthy’s own statements, Murrow painted a picture of a man whose recklessness with the truth and ugly attacks on his critics had contributed to a climate of deep fear and repression in American life,” wrote Jack Mirkinson, senior media editor, The Huffington Post, back in 2014 (

Sound familiar? 

Fourteen years later, another CBS legend, Walter Cronkite, ended a 1968 special report on the Vietnam War with editorial comments that clearly portrayed the futility of American involvement in the conflict. Afterwards, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was reported to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite I’ve lost Middle America.”

Murrow and Cronkite understood the power of their position, the power of their words on the public. Today’s television audience is more fragmented than during their heyday, but the devotion to journalistic principles and enterprise should not be diminished (though executives in the suites of the major networks might fear financial repercussions if correspondents or anchors today acted so boldly as to challenge the veracity of candidates. After all, look what happened to Dan Rather in 2004 when he questioned President George W. Bush about his military service in the Air National Guard—he lost his job at CBS.)

Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator of Wednesday’s forum on national security on NBC revealed how a democracy is poorly served by a journalist who allows a candidate to blatantly falsify the record. It’s one thing for a candidate to mislead when delivering a staged stump speech. It’s wrong, but understandable, and the damage usually is confined to a few thousand or so within earshot. But letting a candidate lie in front of millions of viewers is quite a different story. 

In a democracy, politicians and journalists are engaged in an adversarial relationship (the same is true of the relationship between journalists and business executives, the military, the healthcare profession, indeed all walks of life in a free society). It is not enough to just air or print a politician’s daily screed. Truth serves the American public.

Progressive print journalists have been spilling ink by the barrelful in their condemnation of Trump’s lies, by the man who promised he would always tell the truth and who planted the label of “lyin’ Ted Cruz” on one of his Republican opponents and who now calls his Democratic foe “lying Hillary” (

But let’s face it: Unless a major television network, with reach vastly beyond that of the print media, sees its role as a defender of freedom and responsible journalism, unless a major network chooses to channel the likes of Murrow, Cronkite and Crowley, and even Rather, we as a nation have to accept the loss of truth in our political process.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

School Day Memories

With the beginning of school in most communities I started reminiscing about my early education years at Yeshiva Rambam in Brooklyn.

I started first grade in September 1954 when I was five years old. As my birthday is in March I should have been enrolled in kindergarten, but my mother pressured the school to accept me into first grade or she would take my brother and sister out of the school.

Before I started school I would watch from our dinette window as my siblings boarded the yellow school bus each morning. Now it was my turn. I don’t recall anything from the initial bus ride but the return trip is imprinted in my memory.

First grade ended at 3 pm, 90 minutes before dismissal for my brother and sister’s classes. I would ride the bus home by myself. I stepped onto the bus and walked halfway down the aisle before sliding into a row on the right side. The ride home would take about 30 minutes.

The next thing I recall is waking up back at school. I had slept through the drop off in front of our house. The bus driver apparently thought I had made other arrangements to get home. As my mother worked full time she was not aware of my troubled ride home. Our housekeeper, meanwhile, did not realize I was lying across a bench invisible to the bus driver and her.

I’d like to say I handled the situation as any five-year-old would. Indeed, I did. I started crying. Only upon seeing my brother and sister did I stop.

That was the only time I recall ever sleeping through my stop, even as an adult commuting home for more than 30 years on Metro North.

My first grade teacher was Mrs Malka. She was a cheerful woman. She must have been in her mid 20s. Some 50 years later I recognized her sitting next to her brother in the pew ahead of me in our White Plains synagogue on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. For the next decade I looked forward to seeing her every year.

I would not have looked forward to seeing my second grade teacher. Mrs. Mare seemed to enjoy dispensing corporal punishment. Her two favorite cruelties were pinching one’s nostrils and grabbing a student by the upper arms, pulling them back and sticking her knee into the small of the back.

Naturally, my classmates and I complained of mistreatment but my parents, like all the others, reasoned that we must have done something wrong to warrant such discipline.

In third grade we had separate Hebrew and English teachers. Mr. Ben-Shemer was a jovial, Eastern European Holocaust survivor who wore garters to keep his shirtsleeves up. He played the concertina and would admonish us not to put our feet on the frame of the chair in front of us by saying, “When the feet go up, the brains go down.”

Mrs. Schlesinger taught English. She was a tall, prim woman with a less physical style of punishment. She would banish an offender to a wardrobe closet for an indefinite stand in darkness. She was reprimanded one day for leaving a student in the closet when the dismissal bell rang.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Policy Questions for First Clinton-Trump Debate

The first Clinton-Trump presidential debate is September 26, a scant three weeks away. There are lots of gotcha questions that could be asked and I am sure the moderator, Lester Holt of NBC, is under extreme pressure to come up some of those on embarrassing topics such as Donald Trump’s attack on Mexicans and Hillary Clinton’s email server shenanigans. Let’s hope he doesn’t fall for the bait but rather chooses subjects that will illuminate the policy differences between the candidates. 

With that in mind, here are questions I would recommend to him, questions to be asked of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump so that they might provide substantive answers with limited opportunities to dodge with generalities or obfuscations or hyperbolic attacks on their opponent.

1. How specifically would you change the Affordable Care Act? Which provisions would you keep and which would you jettison?

2. Would you continue federal funding of Planned Parenthood and why?

3. Would you continue funding overseas programs that include birth control measures?

4. Would you continue federal support of stem cell research?

5. Do you support a woman’s right to choose? Should Roe v Wade be overturned, leaving to individual states to decide the right to an abortion? Should anyone who participates in an abortion, be they patient or medical professional, be subject to prosecution if abortion is declared illegal?

6. Should clergy be permitted to advocate politically from their pulpits?

7. Do you support or want to overturn the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court?

8. Do you favor a federal minimum wage and, if so, at what level?

9. Given the low interest rate on borrowings do you favor increasing the federal debt to fund infrastructure spending projects?

10. What test, if any, would you have in determining your response to any aggression against a NATO ally or against Japan, Korea or The Philippines?

11. Are there any government departments or agencies you would close down? Are there any new ones you would create?

12. What would happen to undocumented immigrants during your administration?

13. How would you restore confidence and good relations between the police and minority communities?

14. Should there be any limitations on the type of weapons ordinary citizens may possess, and, if so, how would you implement such restrictions?

15. What specific changes would you make to NAFTA and the proposed TPP?

16. What is America’s role during humanitarian crises in foreign lands? Under what circumstances would you engage our military during these crises? 

17. What is your position on American support, both financial and philosophical, for the United Nations?

18. Explain your position on the Iran nuclear deal and how your administration would handle relations with Iran?

19. Do you believe in global warming? Scientists have charted the rise in sea levels? What steps should we take, if any, to protect our shorelines?

20. Do we need to raise the age eligibility for Social Security and Medicare? Should we means-test for Social Security and Medicare benefits?

21. What guidelines would you impose on legal access to immigration?

22. Does the United States have any interests in helping solve the refugee problem from Africa and the Middle East?

23. How confident are you that the election will be a fair one, and do you have any evidence of past voter fraud that would lead you to believe the results would be rigged?

24. Are Americans better off today than they were when President Obama took office in January 2009?

25. To balance the budget and reduce the deficit, program cuts would have to be enacted and tax loopholes would have to be closed. Please provide specific areas that would be affected under your next budget?

26. What role would alternative energy programs play within your administration?

27. What is your position on equal pay for women?

28. Should Americans 18 and older be required to perform some form of public service, be it in the military or some other program that benefits us all, such as the WPA programs of the New Deal?