Monthly Archives: November 2017

Just Say NO


Anyone who knows me will tell you I used to be Tiger Woods’ #1 fan.  His book How I Play Golf  has a prominent place in my book case.  In 2006-07, I was so confident of Woods’ links superiority, I took Tiger against the field in seven straight tournaments.  The stakes being a free lunch.  I never lost the bet.  I owe you, man.

I still rooted for Woods after the November 30, 2009 car incident when he was exposed as a serial cheater.  I dismissed his arrest for driving under the influence this past May.  He was not the first, nor will he be the last person, to become addicted to painkillers after an accident or surgery.

Image result for mike wilbonThat all ended yesterday afternoon.  On the ESPN talk show Pardon the Interruption there is a segment called “The Word!” during which he and co-host Tony Kornheiser (though New York Daily News reporter Frank Isola was subbing for Kornheiser) are asked to fill in the blank about an upcoming sporting event.  Yesterday, they were asked, “Tiger Woods returning to the pro golf tour is _____________.”  Wilbon’s reply, “TITILLATING.”  He explained his response saying he was interested to see if Tiger’s body could survive four rounds of competitive golf and whether there was any trace of his former greatness.  In any normal world, I would have shared Wilbon’s anticipation.

But we do not live in a normal world anymore.  And Wilbon, especially, should know that.  In the previous segment on yesterday’s show, Wilbon opined the offer by the National Football League to commit $100 million to social causes as a response to pre-game protests “was not enough.  This is not about money.  The NFL can’t buy its way out of this issue.”  Wilbon has also been a vocal critic of those who say NFL players had no right to use a game as a protest venue or those who criticized Stephan Curry for refusing to go to the White House after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship.  And he regularly points out the disparities between the ways whites and minorities are sometimes treated and viewed by management and fans.

Did Wilbon fail to see the irony?  Here is what he should have said:

Tiger Woods returning to the pro golf tour is CONFLICTING.  Of course, I want to see if he can survive four rounds of competitive golf and whether he can beat the odds and Father Time.  But I have a problem.  I know Tiger.  I know he has made a decision in his life to stay out of the forefront on political issues.  He chooses to give back through his foundation.  That is his right. I thought Jim Brown was wrong when he called Tiger out for not using his platform to advance social causes.  But his decision to play a round of golf with Donald Trump who has called black athletes “sons of bitches” in public and probably worse in private is a political statement.  He should have just said NO!

So I hope Tiger’s physical rehabilitation continues to go well.  But he is also in need of an emotional and spiritual rehabilitation.  Until that time, he has joined the posse of professional golfers I vociferously root against. My definition of “shadenfreude” is a Michelson three-putt.

I know the counter arguments.  When the President* of the United States asks you to play golf or dine at the White House you go.  It dishonors the office to refuse.  In normal times, I would agree.  But, once again, these are not normal times.  When a grown man acts like a five year old, he needs to be treated like a five year old.  Some TIME OUT is in order.  This applies not just to athletes, but everyone.

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump out on his re-tweeting videos posted by a member of England’s ultra-right, anti-immigration party.  As Mike Wilbon would say, that “was not enough.”  Parliament and the Queen should immediately rescind Trump’s invitation for a state visit.  To do otherwise, sends a message to Brits and particularly Great Britain’s Muslim population, we have to tolerate this kind of behavior.  No you don’t.  JUST SAY NO.

Yesterday, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were right not to attend a White House meeting after Trump lied about their positions on immigration and taxes and suggested it was a waste of time, tweeting, “I don’t see a deal!”  Grown-ups don’t negotiate with children.  The look for teaching moments to reinforce the difference between right and wrong.  This was one of those moments.

If everyone, and I do mean everyone, including the spineless Republican leadership in Congress, followed Schumer’s and Pelosi’s example, it would send a powerful message.  We will give the Office of the President its due respect, when and ONLY when the current occupant does the same.  Until then, JUST SAY NO.

For what it’s worth.


My LUST Is Here to Stay


In a November 24 opinion piece, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recounts being in a room with “two of the most prominent men in the news business.”  The subject turned to the sexual harassment allegations against New York Times journalist Glenn Thrush and CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose.  When one of the men wondered aloud, “How does this all end?”

My visceral reaction to this revelations was, “Are you kidding?  This is just the beginning.  Let’s not worry about the end until we know how widespread the problem is.”  I quickly realized my suggesting this was the beginning was equally inaccurate.  There was a point in time, 41 years ago, when we should have had an intelligent discussion about the way both men and women should deal with, for lack of a better term, our innate sexual instincts.

That moment was then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter’s interview in the November 1976 issue of Playboy.  (NOTE:  The interview hit the news stands in October, just prior to the presidential election.)   In an effort to ease concerns of those who seemed hesitant to elect, for the first time, a Southern Baptist evangelical as the nation’s chief executive, Carter shared the following about his own internal struggle with lust.

I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do and God forgives me for it.

This was four years before Turner Broadcasting launched CNN.  One can only imagine the hours of punditry that would have been devoted to parsing Carter’s declaration.  But the lack of 24/7 cable news did not save Carter from derision and satirical ridicule.  Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad posted the following as his perspective of how Americans received Carter’s statement.

Paul Conrad/The Los Angeles Times/The Conrad Estate

However, in hindsight, didn’t Jimmy Carter exemplify what presidential leadership should be.  He took on a controversial issue, spoke honestly from the heart, and risked losing the election (some analysts suggest the statement cost him between five and ten percent of his lead in the polls a week earlier).  This alternative to the actions documented in the news for the last month deserved (and still does) more consideration.

Who among us, men and women, have not looked at another human being in the movies, on television or while shopping and not fantasized about an intimate encounter.  Ironically, beginning in the same year as Carter’s Playboy interview, I have had an unrequited crush on Blythe Danner ever since she appeared on a February 10, 1976 episode of M*A*S*H.  It is these cases that make Carter’s approach both rational and realistic. After all, we are only human with leftover traces of our animal ancestry.  Carter shared what should be the dividing line between people and lower species.  We may have primal instincts, but we also have the willpower to not act on them.

Thanks, Jimmy.  We should have listened to you then.  And today, we need to heed your words of wisdom more than ever.

For what it’s worth.



I am not a member of an organized political party.  I am a democrat!

~Will Rogers

If you think this post is going to focus on how the panderer-in-chief Donald Trump continues to play to his base with Twitter rants and inexcusable support of a stalker of teenagers, you are dead wrong.  The support of one’s base voters runs both ways.  Neither party can win elections with only the registered members of their respective parties.  This month, Gallup asked survey respondents, “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republic, a Democrat or an independent?”  The results:

Republican/25 percent
Democrat/30 percent
Independent/42 percent

But if you’re a Democrat running in Alabama where 62.1 percent of voters chose Trump in 2016, the need to reach outside your base is even more important.  Which is why, Wednesday,  I felt the urge to throw my hands up into the sky and scream!  Both MSNBC and CNN were playing Alabama Senate Candidate Doug Jones latest campaign ad.  It consisted of pictures and names of the nine unfortunate woman who, as teenagers, had been pursued and, in some cases, violated by Jones’ opponent former Alabama supreme court chief justice Roy Moore.  Both cable news outlets characterized the commercial as “powerful.”  But towards what end?

Did Doug Jones and his campaign staff learn nothing from the 2016 presidential election cycle?  Remember the Clinton “Our children are watching” ad which was described by Time Magazine described as “memorable.” (Time, August 30, 2016)  Memorable also does not win elections.  Trump supporters and undecided voters already knew Donald Trump was a vulgar, offensive narcissist.  The last thing they needed was Hillary Clinton piling on.  In fact, her campaign focus on “the other guy” probably reinforced the belief by many that she wanted your vote because she was the lesser of two evils.  A positive national campaign, juxtaposed with media coverage of Trump’s flaws, would have been much more effective among swing voters.

But that is only half the lesson.  What is more disconcerting is that every successful Democratic candidate in this month’s off-year elections wrote the manual on how to win even among the most red electorates.  Take Danica Roem, the transgender Democratic who defeated a 15 year incumbent Republican to become the legislative delegate in Virginia’s 13th district.  She did not run a single ad reminding voters that her opponent was the author of the Virginia version of the North Carolina bathroom bill or that he proudly referred to himself as the Old Dominion’s “chief homophobe.”  Every voter in the 13th district already knew that thanks to media coverage of the contest.  Instead, Roem found an issue of local importance and campaigned on doing something about it.

Unfortunately Doug Jones failed the course.  His latest ads have only re-energized Moore’s base.  Consider the following.  Before the Republican candidate’s  behavior toward teenage girls became national headlines, Moore was favored in two local polls (Fox10 and WBRC-TV) by 11 percent.  When Jones left reporting of the scandal to the news media and offered no comment, those numbers flipped.  Fox News showed Jones leading by eight points; Gravis by five points.  But the most recent WBRC-TV poll shows Moore back in the lead.

There are good reasons why Doug Jones is not just the alternative to a stalker of teenage girls.

  • Alabamans claim they are for law and order.  While Moore was relieved of his supreme court position for failure to enforce the law, Jones put KKK members in jail for the murder of four black girls  as a result of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.
  • Republicans say they need Moore’s vote to pass their heartless tax bill.  Jones should talk about why the bill is BAD for the majority of Alabamans, which it is.
  • Jones can side with the 95 percent of Americans who support universal background checks while pledging not to support legislation that would in any way confiscate guns from lawful owners.

Or he can stay the course his campaign has charted this week and lose an election which is the best chance Democrats have to capture a solid red Senate seat.  But more importantly, Jones has an opportunity to prove his party can effectively represent local interests in states outside the Northeast and West Coast.

For what it’s worth.


The Winds of Yore


Image result for jimmy breslinThe late Jimmy Breslin (1930-2017), author and columnist for the New York Daily News, made the following observation on hearing of the death of Jack Ruby.  “We may not have found a cure for cancer, but we know how to induce it.”  His point?  Breslin viewed Ruby’s death on January 3, 1967 from bronchogenic carcenoma as a convenient way of silencing the former strip club owner of providing any future information about how he effortlessly appeared at Dallas police headquarters as Lee Harvey Oswald was being transferred to the county jail.

I thought about Breslin as our clueless-in-chief Donald Trump announced he was designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, resulting in additional sanctions.  Forget that he was wrong when he said, “Should have happened a long time ago,” even though such designation had been imposed during the Clinton administration following the 1987 bombing of a South Korean passenger jet.  Sanctions that were lifted in 2008 by President George W. Bush as a bargaining tool in talks with Kim Jung-un’s father Kim Jong-il.  Or his justification for reimposing the designation was Kim Jung-un’s assassination of his half-brother.  Although committed on foreign soil, this was a domestic power play, not international terrorism.   Then again, Trump believes an NFL running back taking a knee in Mexico City is international terrorism.

No wonder National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster believes Trump has the intelligence of a kindergartner and does not have the brainpower needed to grasp the issues the National Security Council regularly addresses.  Unlike the toddler-in-chief, General McMaster is a student of history.  And understands there are flash points which transform tense standoffs into armed conflicts.

Consider Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.   Tensions between Japan and the U.S. had been high since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931.  Further Japanese encroachment into China and French Indochina made the situation worse.  The U.S. response?  An embargo of all oil exports.  When the Imperial Japanese Navy estimated it had less that two years of oil reserves, the decision was made for a preemptive strike on Pearl Harbor.  You can only squeeze so much blood out of a rock before it gets thrown at you.  It makes one wonder what is the breaking point for the North Korean leader before he too feels a proactive response is his only remaining option.

One must also remember this foreign policy crisis is not happening in a vacuum.  Context is always important.  And one of the clear messages to be taken from our current military operations around the world is how difficult it is to extricate our armed services once they have engaged in a foreign conflict.  Americans have been fighting in Afghanistan for over 16 years and in Iran for 14.  Remember when then presidential candidate John McCain suggested U.S. troops “could spend maybe 100 years in Iraq.”  That may not have been what he meant, but it is looking more and more like the truth.

So, if Jimmy Breslin were alive and witness to Trump’s most recent action, he might observe, “We may not know how to end a war, but we sure know how to start one.”

For what it’s worth.


FACEing the Music

You don’t change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.

~Jawaharlal Nehru

Something unprecedented occurred last night.  As my wife and I were settling in to binge-watch season six of Longmire,  I heard a  Washington Post alert notification on my cell phone.  Being Friday night, the witching hour during which our coward-in-chief tries to slip the latest unpopular action or embarrassing revelation under the radar screen, I wondered, “What has he done now?”  But, DAMN! It was actually good news.  “Trump backs off decision on big-game hunting after outcry.”

My first reaction? “This is great.  The people win again.  Democracy lives.”  But this welcomed reversal of just one more stupid and cruel Trumpian policy came a day after the House of Representatives passed tax legislation which is opposed by a majority of U.S. voters.  And this reprieve for elephants occurred in  the same week polls show 95 percent of Americans favor expanded background checks for gun purchases but nothing happens.  Why this time?  And more importantly, how do we make it happen again and again?

Image result for trump with dead elephantThis wasn’t rocket science.  The campaign against allowing the importation of big game trophies had a poster child, none other than Donald J. Trump, Jr.  Immediately following word the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had lifted the ban, the Internet was awash with this and other pictures of Donny and his safari souvenirs.  For the record, the announcement did not come from the Wildlife Service, a 6:00 am White House tweet or any other official source.  First word of the policy change came in a press release from the Safari Club International.  YELLOW is the new ORANGE.

I read all the articles about the decline in the African elephant population.  And culled the research which debunked the claim by FWS the revised policy was a herd conservation measure.  But in Trump’s America emotion eclipses logic.  Sarah McLaughlin knows that.  It is why her PSAs against animal cruelty do not show happy adopted pets in their new homes.  Or as disturbing as the images might be, Save the Children chooses to display malnourished orphans, not the recipients of your generosity enjoying the food your donations provide.

Related imageAnd there certainly is no lack of poster children to demonstrate the hypocrisy and false promises coming out of the executive branch of the federal government.  For example, do Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife look like people who care about income inequality?  Even The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, a conservative Republican, told MSNBC’s Ari Melber, “I don’t understand why Democrats aren’t showing this picture every five minutes.”

The American portraits in Nehru’s quote which have changed the course of history and can do so again include African Americans being attacked by police dogs and beaten with billy clubs.  They are the disabled in wheelchairs being removed from the halls of Congress during the multiple attempts to deprive millions of Americans of health care since January 20th.  And yes, they are the covered, lifeless bodies of children in Newtown, concert-goers in Las Vegas and worshipers in Charleston and Sutherland Springs.  If these images make you uncomfortable, GOOD.  We need to be uncomfortable.

Image result for trump in trump tower apartmentI am reminded of a Rabbi who feared the horror of the holocaust was too abstract for some people to grasp.  He changed the narrative as follows.  “Do not think of it as six million people put to death.  Instead, think of it as one individual being put to death on six million separate occasions.”  So, forget the numbers.  Think about the faces of the individuals who will lose affordable health care nine million times if the Senate passes its version of tax reform.  Think of each of the 15 million kitchen tables at which individual taxpayers will wonder why their taxes have increased when this family gets over one billion dollars in benefits.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  It is also worth ten thousand postcards, a hundred thousand emails, and hopefully, millions of votes.

For what it’s worth.