Tuesday, March 26, 2019

“Fahgettaboud” No Obstruction. House Probes Will Continue To Vex Trump

Funny thing about the law. One person’s lie to obstruct an investigation can be another’s chivalrous obfuscation to conceal an infidelity. One person’s suggestion that all the evidence is not yet in to prove innocence or guilt can be another’s hand-washing conclusion, “no foul, no crime.”

Perhaps Melania really does love him. Or maybe she loves the bank account that goes with him. Could be she has a forgiving, and forgiving, and forgiving, heart. Or maybe, like so many who cast aside a disapproving eye as they watch their retirement accounts soar with the stock market, Melania is comforted by the growth of her personal fortune. 

The charade has gone on too long for me to assume anything less than her deep-throated complicity. 

What can we expect next? Democrats won’t accept Attorney General William Barr’s and Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein’s assessment that no obstruction occurred. They will continue their House investigations. 

Trump will crow daily there was no collusion and no obstruction. By summer’s end, at the very latest by New Year’s Day, he will pardon all whom Mueller indicted: Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Alex van der Zwann, Richard Pinedo and Konstantin Kilimnik, but not George Papadopoulos as it was his loose lips that unleashed the two year-plus investigation into Trump’s campaign and presidency. Only Stone has yet to be convicted or plead guilty. 

You can rest assured Michael Cohen will not receive any clemency. 

One takeaway from the Mueller investigation—lying to a federal official, be it the FBI, a grand jury or Congress, is a crime. Lying to the American people, or your wife, or a reporter, is not. You can go to jail for the former. For the latter, you could lose an election, that is, if the American people have sufficient brain power to care for the sanctity of our nation’s founding principles. 

According to Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller reached no conclusion on the question of obstruction of justice. Barr and Rosenstein did, finding no obstruction happened. Perhaps they reasoned that since Mueller found no evidence of collusion with Russia to undermine the 2016 election there could be no obstruction. It is a simple math problem: nothing times something results in nothing.  

In New York lingo, “fahgettaboud” Trump asking FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Flynn, or firing him when he wouldn’t, or firing his successor Andrew McCabe, or continually undermining the credibility of the special counsel and his team. Fahgettaboud Trump openly admitting on television to NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of the Russian investigation. 

We cannot say we weren’t warned Barr would take Trump’s side. In a 19-page memo to Justice Department officials prior to his appointment as attorney general, Barr said the Mueller probe was off-base. “Mueller’s core premisethat the President acts ‘corruptly’ if he attempts to influence a proceeding in which his own conduct is being scrutinizedis untenable,” Barr wrote.

These are times of strange judicial doings. There have been a string of not guilty verdicts in cases of policemen shooting, mostly killing, unarmed or non threatening men of color. And just as I was completing this blog prosecutors in Chicago dropped all 16 charges against the actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly faking his own racial and homophobic assault. No reason given for their action. Chicago’s mayor and police chief are justifiably outraged. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Winners Wanted, Not Almost Winners

Beto O’Rourke is running for president. The ex-Democratic congressman failed in his bid last November to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Sorry, Beto, but I cannot conceive of choosing a candidate for the nation’s highest office if he could not win the support of his own state. We’ve been there before. We muddled through eight years of George W. Bush because Al Gore couldn’t carry his home state of Tennessee. Sure, Beto has more charisma than Al, but I still want a winner, not a close second, as my candidate.

I learned the other day reading a Gail Collins column on Beto that he is so enraptured with the Odyssey that he named his first child Ulysses. Which made me wonder, why didn’t he name his son Odysseus, the Greek name of the heroic character of the epic poem by Homer who spends 20 years away from home, 10 fighting the Trojan War and another 10 on an action-packed journey back to his wife, the ever faithful Penelope? Why did he choose the Roman counterpart name, Ulysses? Was he already playing identity politics because he knew there are more Italian-American voters than those of Greek ancestry? Why didn’t he just call the kid Homer? That way he’d also get the Simpsons crowd behind his candidacy.

For the record, I’m also against Stacey Abrams thinking that coming in second in a tight Georgia gubernatorial race entitles her to think she is the best choice to be the Democratic presidential nominee able to send Donald Trump and his family packing from the White House. 

Ditto for Andrew Gillum, former mayor of Tallahassee and near-winner of the governorship of Florida.  

Where do these people get their hubris? Hubris is another one of those Greek words we should all pay attention to. 

Yes, as Gillum pointed out to Bill Maher last Friday night, Abraham Lincoln failed to beat Stephen Douglas in their Senate race from Illinois back in 1857, but let’s not equate Beto or Stacey or Andrew with our 16th president. 

To Impeach or Not? People who advocate for Trump’s impeachment argue he is unqualified for the job of president. They might be right, check that, they are right, but being unqualified is not an impeachable offense. 

So let’s stop using that argument. Qualified or not, Trump received sufficient votes in states with enough Electoral College votes to win the election. 

The task now is to pick a candidate who can carry states with more than 270 electoral votes. Beto, Stacey and Andrew may excite enough voters to win some primaries but could they win a general election? I’m not convinced.

How Do I Feel? My friend Mark, who will be turning 70 in a few months, asked me the other day if I felt any difference physically now that I am into my eighth decade. Not really, I replied. As a reputed hypochondriac to friends and relatives I told Mark it was all a matter of mind over matter. 

But last night as I was waiting for sleep to overwhelm my too active brain near midnight I cataloged what had transpired since my March 6th birthday:

My dentist told me I needed two replacement crowns and a filling repair. Within a week a temporary crown he installed cracked during breakfast, necessitating a frantic dash to his office;

A prolonged head cold left me with inflamed ear canals; ear drops prescribed by an ENT specialist;

And, most troubling, for the third March in four years I am experiencing back pain near my right kidney. Four years ago I suffered with a kidney stone throughout a most unpleasant flight from London. Fortunately, the pain subsided once I showed up in the emergency room of White Plains Hospital. Exactly a year later what I thought was another kidney stone turned out to be a bladder stone. That ailment required what doctor’s call a bladder blaster procedure and an overnight hookup to a catheter. I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking of that predicament. I don’t know how this new pain will be resolved but I do marvel at its timing, always slightly past the Ides of March. 

Was this ache like the mysterious hip pain that afflicted me for about 10 minutes on my 35th birthday, or could it be traced to a muscle strained Monday morning while chopping some lingering ice along the pathway to our yard? As I lay in bed in the middle of Monday night it hurt if I faced left but not if I faced right or remained on my back. By morning the pain was mostly gone, hopefully never to return, at least for another 12 months.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Tribute to Gilda on Her 70th Birthday

Half a century. Fifty years ago Gilda and I started our relationship. Actually, she started it by asking me to escort her to a Christmas get-together at the home of one of her political science teachers. That was the one and only time I ever was in a Brooklyn Heights brownstone. 

Gilda is 11 days my junior. She turned 70 Sunday. 

I thought I would tell you how accomplished she is. But I did that a few weeks ago, as far as her professional career, when we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary (https://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2019/01/my-my-fair-lady-for-46-years.html).

Today, I’ll concentrate on her non professional side. 

Those fortunate to have eaten a meal prepared by Gilda know how good a cook she is. She didn’t start out that way. The first meal she made for me, a lunch before she embarked with friends on a college winter break trip to Montreal, was spaghetti and a chicken pot pie. She served the latter still partially frozen, the spaghetti overcooked and clumped together so firmly it could be picked up in its entirety with one plunge of a fork. 

I love reminding her of her cooking pedigree. She takes it with grace. She is not shy of elaborating to friends how in her first apartment she decided to make beef stroganoff. The recipe called for heavy cream. She had no idea what that meant and, as her apartment lacked a phone because of a telephone worker strike, she was unable to call anyone for advice. So off she trundled to the local grocer where she lifted up containers of different creams. She decided 8 ounces of sour cream weighed more than 8 ounces of any other cream. She apparently had not seen a container marked “heavy cream.” 

The recipe also called for a clove of garlic. She assumed a clove was synonymous with a full head of garlic.  

Gilda remembers the stroganoff didn’t really taste that bad. I couldn’t say. I was up in Syracuse at graduate school.  

Gilda took time off from work as a nurse to spend seven years raising Dan and Ellie. She enjoyed almost all of that time (okay, not when Dan had severe colic) but drew the line at sitting through kiddie films. Thus, I should not have been surprised when as a family we went to see Disney’s animated Oliver and Company and she disappeared midway through the film. I couldn’t leave the kids in a dark movie theater to search for her. She showed up in the lobby later, having ducked into a screening of Working Woman. 

She wouldn’t be normal if she didn’t complain once in a while. Kindness from and to others is her most fervent desire. When it is not proffered or appreciated she is not happy.

Gilda exults in her time outdoors, be it in her garden, in private or public gardens we have walked, or during almost daily constitutionals around our neighborhood. With the aid of fluorescent lights during the winter she turns our basement into a hothouse of geraniums lifted up from her garden before fall’s first frost.

She reads several books at a time, a history or biography along with a novel. She reads three newspapers a day, the online versions of The New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Omaha World Herald, the last two as a way of keeping up with developments where Dan’s and Ellie’s families live. She also reads Internet news sites, especially the US DailyMail.com, a site that she admits has some pretty weird stories but she notes oftentimes has more information on breaking news and current events sooner and in more detail than The Times. 

Family and friends are exceedingly important to her, part of the reason we expanded our home after our children went off to college. A modernized kitchen with a larger dining room and living room meant we could accommodate more guests. For Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Thanksgiving Gilda spends weeks cooking for large groups of friends and family. Many Friday nights she welcomes the Sabbath with friends who get to savor her cooking and her newfound skill, baking challah.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Gilda’s accomplishments is that she is a self-taught success. It is not blasphemy to report that her parents did not provide effective role models. Her father Irving travelled frequently and was not a dominant presence in the family. He died suddenly when she was nine. Her mother Rose offered little by way of comfort or example. She could not cook, so Gilda never learned. She did not welcome any of Gilda’s friends into their household. Rose was a simple woman with little curiosity, gumption or industriousness. She convinced Gilda’s sister to work in an office rather than attend college. She would have liked Gilda to do the same, but Gilda chose her own path. 

Naturally, she would not pay for Gilda’s college education. So Gilda enrolled in Brooklyn College, a commuter school that at the time cost about $100 per semester for tuition and books. Gilda worked to pay her own school costs as well as buying her own clothing and other living expenses. One could say I am indebted to Rose’s penny-pinching ways for enabling Gilda and me to find one another. Fifty years ago. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

My Link to Purdue Pharma, Maker of OxyContin

News Bulletin: With Lawsuits Looming, OxyContin Maker Considers Bankruptcy (https://nyti.ms/2UAmOY8)

Reporters make choices every day. Which stories to write. How much play should they get. Which sources to use. Which to name. (One thing reporters don’t get to decide is the headline for their stories so don’t blame them for misleading, suggestive or provocative headlines. Of course, for my blog I write the headlines as well.)

Like most people reporters have innate biases. They try their best to be objective. They have sources who are favorites. By that I don’t mean they are friendly drinking buddies, though many an article may see the light of day after the bottom of a shot glass or beer mug has been drained. What I mean is that reporters may overlook the misdeeds of a politician or policeman if that favored source can provide dirt on another pol or cop, usually someone with a higher rank or a juicier violation. 

In the annals of reporting, Drew Pearson and his protege Jack Anderson are famous, some would say infamous, especially as it relates to Pearson. They were muckrakers. They exposed shady dealings and behaviors among Washington elites. 

I started reading Pearson’s and then Anderson’s syndicated “Washington Merry Go Round” column in the 1960s. It appeared most days in The New York Post, back then a liberal tabloid. Pearson, or maybe it was Anderson, justified the use of unnamed, dirt-spilling sources by asserting it was okay to ignore a source’s indiscretions if he or she disclosed damaging information on a more powerful sinner. 

like the adage “one wouldn’t eat sausage if one could see how it is made,” investigative journalism is not always clean and pretty. Tradeoffs are common. 

Which brings me to a story from my business writing career. Half a century ago a regional variety and discount store chain called Rose’s was headquartered in Henderson, NC.

Rose’s. It was not a huge success, which prompted the president of our company to ask a predecessor editor of Chain Store Age why he did not write any tough articles about Rose’s. Because, the editor replied, he liked the Rose’s executives and didn’t want to embarrass them. 

Fair enough. Which brings me to the real reason I’m writing this post. Having written that many of my blogs are prompted by my past association with current events or people in the news I must confess that almost daily I am confronted with a moral dilemma. 

There in print in The New York Times on several recent occasions was the name of a casual friend from my teenage years. It wasn’t the first time he was identified. He was, after all, the president and chief executive officer of Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. The drumbeat of news surrounding his involvement in one of the nation’s most pressing crises kept gnawing at me. 

I knew his family. We prayed in the same synagogue on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. His father was our kosher butcher. His parents’ marriage in a displaced person camp after World War II is a beautiful story of triumph. His mother’s wedding gown was crafted from white parachute silk. The gown has been handed down to many brides and last I recall is displayed in a museum. My parents socialized with his parents. One summer we were counselors in camp. I knew his sister and brother. 

Shortly after Gilda retired earlier this year from her position as a nurse practitioner for spine surgeons two of our friends had spine surgery with one of the doctors she assisted. During their recuperatory period they took OxyContin. Used properly it is an exemplary pain killer with minimal chance of addiction. OxyContin provided the intended relief. Our friends are recovering nicely. 

For his involvement in the opioid tragedy unfolding in our country my adolescent acquaintance was fined $19 million and barred for 12 years from involvement in any government-financed health care program. 

There. I’ve said it. Or at least as much as I care to. I made my choice. You’re free to uncover more particulars. I will continue to wonder how my acquaintance sleeps each night knowing there are thousands, tens of thousands, whose lives have been forever damaged by the misleading and deadly aggressive marketing of OxyContin. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thoughts on College Admissions, Manafort, Impeachment, Farm Aid and a Cautionary Tale

The audacious scandal of parents of privilege paying a collective millions of dollars to trick the college selection process into accepting their children into prestigious schools evoked memories of how I and many of my high school classmates chose our institution of higher learning. 

During senior year at Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn my classmates and I met with one of our math teachers, Morris Turetsky, who doubled as the college guidance counselor. Moe, as we called him, was diminutive, balding, cherubic, if such a look can be ascribed to a man who seemed to be in his late sixties or early seventies. He often held index cards below desk level when conducting class, his personal cheat sheets. He spoke in clipped sentences in a street-smart voice. (Years later, after Gilda and I had our children, the rabbi of the synagogue we joined in White Plains was his son, Arnold, a spellbinding orator.)

Like many of my cohorts, I was a first generation American, my parents having emigrated from Poland, my mother in 1921 when she was four, my father at 28 in 1939. Neither attended college. My mother graduated high school. My father probably had no more than a sixth grade education in Poland, though he did earn what may be liberally considered a high school equivalency degree from night school classes in New York.

When meeting individually with Moe, more often than not, his counsel was, “Save your parents’ money. Go to Brooklyn College.” 

At the time, Brooklyn College cost $50 per semester plus books, usually no more than another $50 ($200 for an academic year). BC was a commuter school, so students lived with their parents. By comparison, annual tuition at the University of Pennsylvania cost $1,770 in 1966 with another $1,000 in room and board expenses, $180 for a general fee, $100 for books and $450 in personal expenses. 

Viewed another way, in 2016 inflation adjusted dollars, the cost of attending a full year at Brooklyn College was $1,504; at Penn, $26,303. 

Moe wasn’t wrong. Brooklyn College could save my parents lots of dollars. And at the time, Brooklyn was highly ranked among the nation’s liberal arts colleges. 

His advice did not fall on deaf ears. Of the 110 students in my graduating class, I and 58 others matriculated to Brooklyn College. Another nine enrolled at City University of New York sister colleges. Fourteen chose Ivy League schools; another dozen opted to leave Brooklyn to attend MIT and universities such as Wisconsin, Rochester and Chicago. 

Do I regret not leaving the friendly confines of Brooklyn for the out of town college experience? At times. But it would be hard to regret my years at BC, meeting Gilda and embarking on the career path I took. 

Does Manafort Have Any Regrets? One wonders if Paul Manafort has any regrets now that he has been sentenced to serve seven and a half years for a variety of federal crimes. Keep in mind he cannot appeal his punishment as he pleaded guilty to the crimes and was at the mercy of the two judges who sentenced him in separate courtrooms. 

Mercy was exactly what he was seeking, appearing as he did in a wheelchair both times, a complication of his alleged gout. Gout is often cast as a rich person’s ailment, commonly brought about by indulging in foods such as shrimp, lobster and red meats. 

Doubtful Manafort will enjoy such tasty fare in any federal lockup (assuming he is not pardoned by Trump), but here’s an interesting tidbit from lobster history. An abundance of lobsters in Colonial times caused the crustaceans to be considered a poor man’s food. “The meat was so reviled that indentured servants in one Massachusetts town successfully sued their owners to feed it to them three times a week at most,” according to gizmodo.com. You decide if you believe it or not.

Smoking Gun: Trump has latched onto an assertion by one of Manafort’s judges that his trial had nothing to do with collusion with Russia. Trump is braying, “No collusion,” as justification for ending any investigations into his 2016 campaign and administration, and certainly no reason to consider impeachment.

I’m with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on this one. Without “smoking gun” evidence, impeachment hearings would further divide the country and almost certainly solidify and possibly expand Trump’s base. Without, and maybe even with, a smoking gun the Republican controlled Senate would not convict. 

So we’re stuck with Trump for his full term. But I am all for extensive congressional investigation of Trump’s actions, his campaign, his businesses, his taxes, indeed, anything Trump, as a counter-balance to his authoritarian style of governing. A constant drumbeat of Trump’s duplicitous dealings exposed will undermine his legitimacy.  

Farm Aid: Farmers are said to be among Trump’s most ardent supporters. Yet, they have not been rewarded for their loyalty (another example of Trump’s one-way loyalty street). 

Here’s an article from Bloomberg News outlining Trump’s budget plans for farmers: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-11/trump-to-farmers-love-you-but-still-cutting-your-subsidies.

Cautionary Tale: Wealth does not protect one from mishaps, including medical mistakes. Ego apparently led to the untimely death of a billionaire diamond trader intent on reversing his undercompensated manhood: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6777961/Billionaire-diamond-trader-65-dies-penis-enlargement-surgery.html

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Look Back at Life Magazine March 7, 1949

Ever since Gilda retired two months ago our lives have changed in obvious and some not so subtle ways. We no longer wake up before 6 am to get Gilda to work in Manhattan. We often can stay in bed past 9 or even 10 am, and I am talking weekdays! With eight hours or more of sleep I believe my apnea is diminishing. 

I won’t bore you with more details (maybe in another post) except to say that her retirement meant we were able to celebrate my 70th birthday together all day Wednesday. Truly enjoyable. 

But to return to my opening comment about changes to our lives for one more example, Gilda has embarked us on a decluttering crusade worthy of Marie Kondo. Having tackled our attic in pre-retirement mode, she thrust her shovel into the detritus of our children’s former bedrooms and the living room. Marie Kondo says jettison anything that doesn’t give you joy. Of course, that presumes joy is shared, or not, by both partners. As a mild hoarder I can attest that I find more joy in our miscellaneous possessions than Gilda does. 

Which brings me to the central theme of this blog. Gilda wanted to throw out a collectible issue of Life magazine dated March 7, 1949, the day after I was born. Now, I know many people collect facsimiles of a newspaper front page of their birth day, not realizing that the stories reveal what happened the day before their birth. 

Life magazine was a weekly back then. Each issue costs 20 cents; yearly subscriptions $6. 

Leafing through the edition I retrieved from the disposal pile, I paused to read interesting editorial and advertisements as current back then as they are today.  Israel was a topic of debate in 1949, the year after its founding. A letter to the editor from Walter Fried of New York, N.Y., stated “I am glad to see that your attitude toward the new state of Israel has changed” from being against the formation of the new state “or rather you were against the way in which it was formed.”

Turning the page I came across an ad for an Anglia economy car built by Ford in England. What intrigued me was the gas mileage for the 4-cylinder two-door vehicle—up to 40 miles per gallon! Most cars today cannot match that efficiency. 

Bryce Harper just signed a 13-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies for $330 million. It is part of free agent legacy in baseball attributed to the actions of Curt Flood in 1969 and later by Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith in 1975. But how many of you know about Danny Gardella and his 1949 battle to invalidate the reserve clause that bound players to their teams even after their contracts expired? Read more about Gardella’s bid to crack the reserve clause by clicking on this link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Gardella

Presidential pique with journalists as well as presidential cussing did not begin with Donald Trump. Or with Harry S. Truman. Life noted his displeasure with Drew Pearson, reporting, “Pearson approached the President face to face after a press conference—and some observers had the impression Truman would gladly have taken a swing at Pearson if a Secret Service man had not moved in.” 

Jim Acosta of CNN, are you paying attention?

Life further noted that Truman used the term “s.o.b.” in public, a rare display of vulgarity by a president back then, but apparently not in the age of Trump. 

A few weeks ago the military was chastised for the poor condition of housing for servicemen and their families. Here’s a headline from Life: “New Army Has a Housing Scandal. It finds that Fort Dix GIs live in shacks and even a chicken coop.”

Inside Life’s 138 pages fashion was presented, as well. The big trend of the day—“Slit skirts, they show a little more leg.” The slits could be from four to nine inches long, in back or up the side of the skirt. 

“The new style has an interesting by-product: under the right conditions of light and motion a spectator can catch a fleeting glimpse of the long-veiled upper calf and knee.” 

Sacré bleu! Can nothing be left to the imagination!?!

With the failed Trump-Kim Jong-un summit in Vietnam fresh in mind, here’s Life’s March 7, 1949, nine page report, “Indo-China: It is rich, beautiful colony which France may lose.”

The prescient series of articles came five years before France withdrew from Vietnam after its defeat at Dien Bien Phu and 26 years before the last American died in a war that took 58,220 U.S. lives and some 3.2 million Vietnamese from the North and South. 

Life ceased weekly publishing in 1972, the year I began my career as a journalist. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

On Reaching Three Scores and Ten

I reached a biblical milestone of life today, three score years and ten. Seventy. 

Did you ever wonder how we developed the idea that 70 was a full lifetime? Here’s one explanation, as drilled into me during my formative years attending a Jewish day school. 

Genesis V states Adam died when he was 930 years old. He was, according to Jewish exegesis known as midrash,  supposed to live a full 1,000 years. Here’s what the sages say happened:

God previewed to Adam all of his future descendants. Adam was saddened to see one baby die almost at birth. In a gesture of compassion Adam donated 70 of his years to that newborn, leaving his own lifetime at 930. 

Turns out that newborn’s fate was to grow up to be King David, who lived to be 70. A perfect fit. 

But David was a wily fellow. You don’t get to be a king— 40 years as monarch, seven in Hebron, 33 in Jerusalem— without some street smarts. He knew the lore about his lifespan. He wanted more. So, according to the rabbis, David devised a plan to thwart the Angel of Death. He reasoned that as long as he was studying Torah death could not overtake him. He studied day and night. 

Not to be denied from fulfilling his mission the Angel of Death had his own tricks. He caused David to be distracted from learning by simulating a voice calling him. When David got up from his desk the Angel of Death tripped him into a fatal fall. 

I am not making this fairy tale up. This is what they taught early elementary school students at Yeshiva Rambam in mid-1950s Brooklyn. 

As I write this a thought just entered my mind. Could this fable about a fatal fall be the reason elderly people fear falling, why a fall often precedes the end of life for so many seniors?  How serendipitous that Jane Brody, the health columnist of The New York Times, recently wrote about ways to minimize falls. Her article noted that in this country an elderly person dies as a result of a fall every 19 minutes (https://nyti.ms/2NsluE9). 

Half a lifetime ago, on the morning of my 35th birthday, I woke up with a sharp pain in my hip. A pain of unknown origin. I had not recently bumped it. I had not strained it playing ball or exercising. It just hurt. A message from within that my structure was finite. 

The pain lasted perhaps ten minutes. Maybe less. Never returned. As I have never angsted over advancing age I did not ascribe the pain to anything more than coincidence. 

I would be fooling no one if I said I didn’t think of my mortality. I don’t contemplate achievements I might leave unfulfilled. Rather, I project out years—how old would I be when each grandchild celebrates their bar or bat mitzvah. How old until they graduate college, get their first job, marry. Will I live to be a great grandfather?  

Lest you come away from this truth-telling wondering about my frailty, in mind and/or body, please worry not. I am for the most part sound in both respects (even if some family members and friends complain I am a hypochondriac). 

Blogging assumes some obligation to reveal inner thoughts, so I let you in on my political leanings, some family history and days to come. Nothing more. No birthday surprise today. Till next time … 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Bernie Sanders Came Home to Brooklyn I Knew

In the quadrangle where Gilda and I walked (not always together) more than a thousand times between classes at Brooklyn College, Bernie Sanders kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign Saturday. 

For Bernie it was a return, somewhat, to his roots. He grew up about a mile away, in a three-and-a-half room, rent-controlled apartment at the intersection of Kings Highway and East 26th Street. I passed that corner twice every day on my bus ride to and from my elementary school. Bernie attended Brooklyn College for one year, 1960, before transferring to the University of Chicago (

BC was and still is a commuter school. Students go home for the night, generally to their parents’ residence, not to a dormitory or fraternity/sorority house. When Gilda and I attended in the late 1960s BC had some 30,000 students. After our marriage and move to Seymour, Conn., outside New Haven, Gilda had to explain to Jewish women, amazed at our good fortune to have found a fellow Jew among the student body to wed, that it was nearly impossible to escape dating a member of the tribe back then as Jews comprised an overwhelming majority of those enrolled.

Sanders is considered a radical by some because of his label as a Social Democrat and his advocacy of progressive programs including universal health care, free tuition at all public universities and a $15  hourly minimum wage.

Truth is, BC was a hotbed of radicalism from the time it opened its doors in 1930. Leftists and Communists were plentiful on campus (http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/bc/index.html). Extremism gave way to more mainstream liberalism by the 1950s. Until the mid 1960s male students were required to wear ties with sports jackets or suits; women could not wear slacks. 

By the time my freshman year started in September 1966, BC had become a rather folksy place. You could wear jeans and hang out in the cafeteria all day, if you’d like (as I did). The campus did close down during the Vietnam War protests as the decade came to a close, but the atmosphere as I recall it was nothing like the student revolt at Columbia University in Manhattan. 

Though a part of the City University of New York system, Brooklyn College nationally was considered a top liberal arts institution. Only students with an above average combined SAT and high school grade point score could attend. All at a cost of $50 per semester, equivalent today to $391.33. Books were extra. 

The year I graduated Brooklyn adopted an open admissions policy to anyone with a high school degree. The campus quickly changed. No longer could it be cast as a “white bread” campus. Academic standards deteriorated. It took several years before the open admissions policy was reversed.

The campus Bernie Sanders visited Saturday has been greatly transformed by new buildings on both sides of Bedford Avenue. Guarded gates now surround entrances from the neighborhood of single family homes and moderate height apartment houses. A few years ago, during a nostalgic tour of the Brooklyn of our youth, Gilda and I talked our way past a security guard to gain entry to the campus. Memories overwhelmed us. Good memories. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Seeing the Future But Not Always the Present

I watched or listened on the radio to 90% of Michael Cohen’s Wednesday appearance before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The most significant part I missed was Cohen’s closing statement. Here’s how John Dean, White House counsel under Richard Nixon and the man who famously told him that the Watergate coverup represented a “cancer” growing on the presidency, described Cohen’s parting words: 

“He thanked the members, and again accepted responsibility for his bad behavior. He then told the legislators, ‘Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.’ This was the most troubling—actually, chilling—thing he said in his five hours before the committee.” (https://nyti.ms/2XzehH8)

I couldn’t agree more. But I was not surprised by Cohen’s dire prediction, as back on January 30 I postulated the same possibility, er, probability. Here’s how I put it: 

“But with 2020 looming and his polling numbers down, Trump is now in a position to do real damage to the republic should he lose reelection. He would continue, after all, to be president for more than two months until January 20, 2021, a lame duck in name but not in power to respond to emergencies. 

“It is not a far reach to think Trump would invoke executive powers to declare a rigged election created a national emergency. Consider the border wall contretemps a potential test case before the Supreme Court of his authority to enact executive rule.” (http://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2019/01/trumps-next-constitutional-crisis.html)

I take no pleasure in being among the first to counsel wariness about our democratic future. But it is reassuring to know others are similarly pre-occupied. I only hope they are preparing plans to insure my forecast does not come true. 

Wannabe-in-Chief: His detractors have likened him to a would-be dictator, what with his cozying up to actual despots like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, taking their word over the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies and diplomatic corps. 

But now, Donald Trump has added multi-hour oratory to his autocratic repertoire. Appearing at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference,  just hours after flying home from a fruitless summit in Hanoi with the North Korean potentate, Trump emulated authoritarian leaders like Fidel Castro in delivering a two hour-plus highlight reel review of his campaign, presidency and bouts with unsatisfactory staffers and runaway investigators (https://www.vox.com/2019/3/2/18247712/trump-cpac-bizarre-rant).

Sadly, Trump’s performance was not the most troubling part of CPAC. Rather, it was the fawning, sycophantic, hyperbolic approval he received from an audience that in the past cherished American values but now has been hoodwinked by a wannabe absolute monarch. 

My Blindspot: Of course, my vision is not perfect. Case in point—For more than 30 years I had my hair cut at Young & Classy, a salon on Central Avenue in Scarsdale. After Young & Classy closed down more than a year ago my haircutter Rosie moved to a different salon. I followed her there.

A few months ago Gilda accompanied me. While I was getting my hair washed Rosie told Gilda that the spa and massage parlor next to the Young & Classy location was raided by police because it turned out to be a front for a den of illicit sexual activity. Throughout the day men could be seen coming and going from the storefront next door. 

Who knew? Who knew that right next door, while I was getting shorn, other men were getting…pleasured? 

Illegal massage parlors have been in the news a lot lately, since the arrest of Robert Kraft, owner of the seemingly perennial Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, as part of a roundup of patrons. Kraft denies soliciting sexual activity while a customer of Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida. 

Sexual indiscretion of another kind, the extra-marital kind, has engulfed another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the world’s richest human. His affair and breakup of his 25-year marriage have become fodder for tabloid journalists and, to his extent the actions could have an impact on Amazon’s businesses, also for mainstream news outlets (https://nyti.ms/2EIX9qP).

In case you’re wondering, here’s why I have not previously commented on Amazon—unlike many other retailers, I met Jeff Bezos only once or twice. Actually, to say I met him would be a stretch. I was part of a large press and securities analyst pool. Basically, the only takeaway I have from Bezos is the sound of his laugh. It is among the strangest noises one could hear. It is more than a hacking sound. It is loud. It reverberates. There is nothing infectious about it. Were it not for his billions and his obvious brilliance there would be multiple reasons to distance oneself from the sound.