Monthly Archives: June 2018



In the Season Two finale of Westworld, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) tells Bernard Lowe(Jeffrey Wright), “You only live as long as the last person to remember you.”  Since the episode aired last Sunday night, the phrase has gone viral throughout the blogosphere with fans of the HBO program speculating what it means for the characters in Season Three.

Related imageFor me, Ford’s maxim went beyond the futuristic universe of Westworld.  It was one more synchronistic moment which helped clarify a blog post I started on June 14, but never finished for lack of a central theme.  The never completed draft was titled, “Can You Hear Me Now” and was triggered by Kate Spade’s suicide nine days earlier.  In an intersection of events which I can only assume were more coincidental than causal, “Who is Kate Spade?” was the question to a Jeopardy! answer the night before her death.  None of the three contestants responded correctly.

Now I am not going to suggest Spade killed herself because of a game show incident, but I did wonder if by chance she had watched the episode.  From her suicide note and interviews with friends, it is clear the fashion designer was dealing with depression brought on by both personal and professional issues.  At worst, the Jeopardy! matter was a last straw.  But why?

A second moment of synchronicity last Thursday provided additional clues.  While attending a retreat of trustees of a major public university, the vice-president for advancement was asked how he planned to pitch a billion dollar endowment campaign to potential major donors.  He talked about what the gifts would mean for the future of the institution.  Yet, while he spoke, my thoughts turned to Kate Spade, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, Roseanne Barr and even Rudy Giuliani. Rice, at age 55, following an appearance in the Sports Illustrated body issue, is convinced he could still play professional football.  Barr left her macadamia farm in Hawaii to revive her comedy series about blue collar America.  And after 18 months of obscurity GiulianI surfaced as the media face of Donald Trump’s legal team.

Which brings me back to Westworld and the title of this post.  The theme which bridges these disparate acts seems to be a desire to stay RELEVANT.  A major charitable gift is not about the recipient, it is about the immortality of the donors, having their name forever associated with a cause, program or building.  A 55 year old athlete who stays fit and poses nude for Sports Illustrated wants to remind the sporting world, “I’m still here.”  Giuliani, who openly campaigned for attorney general in the Trump administration, wanted the same exposure to the limelight enjoyed by Jeff Sessions.

We all seek to be “Relephants.”  In life, we continuously seek new ways to do things which are meaningful and remind ourselves and others we have purpose.  And in Hamlet’s words, even when we “shuffle off this mortal coil,” that need not be the end of our existence.  Educators heed the words of Henry Adams, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”  For athletes, it is the records they continue to hold or a plaque in the Hall of Fame of their respective sports.  For performers and artists, it is the immortality which comes with an Oscar-winning role or a painting hung in the Louvre.

While elephants are said to never forget, “Relephants” strive to ensure it is others who retain memories of them and their accomplishments. Or as Ford so consummately stated, “You only live as long as the last person to remember you.”

For what it’s worth.


Those Were The Days


The title of today’s blog has its origins in two berths in American culture.  It appears in the theme song for television’s “All in the Family,” as Archie and Edith reminisce about a time when life was not so ambiguous.  It is also the name of a 1968 Mary Hopkin song which celebrates the joys and simplicity of one’s youth.  Both recall previous times which were decades in the past.  But a significant span of time is not always necessary to see the difference between “those days” and the present.

Image result for zero dark thirtyI thought about the phrase while channel surfing and landing on the final scenes of Kathryn Bigelow’s chronicle of the hunt for Osama bin Laden Zero Dark Thirty.  Yet, it was not the outcome of the mission which caught my attention, but the approach and execution, in particular, when compared to the approach and execution of the current administration in response to asylum seekers on our southern border.  Even if you believe immigrants seeking safety or a better life in the United States is a threat equal to bin Laden (which I do not), there are two examples which distinguish then from now.

First, let’s look at the planning in response to each situation.  On the night of May 2, 2011, even as a team of Navy SEALs entered Pakistani airspace on route to the Al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, there were unanswered questions.  Was Osama bin Laden actually there?  How fortified was the residence?  What would be the response by Pakistani officials if the mission was exposed?  In the event there were any miscalculations, what was Plan B, C, etc?

As we now know, despite the fact bin Laden was taken down, the mission was not without its mishaps.  The worst case was the effect of a sudden down airflow which caused one of the Black Hawk helicopter to graze the compound wall and crash.  The chopper was blown up after the crew and equipment had been removed to ensure any classified information or technology would not fall into foreign hands.  Throughout the raid, several Chinook helicopters were on standby and were later needed to evacuate the troops which had arrived on the disabled Black Hawk.

Compare that to the advanced preparation by the Justice Department, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to implement the “Zero Tolerance  Policy” announced on April 6, 2018.  As of today, there remains no integrated database to identify and locate either the parents or children of families impacted by the policy.  Just yesterday, the Navy announced it is PLANNING tent cities to house undocumented immigrants.  PLANNING, two months AFTER the policy went into effect.  There was no Plan A prior to the announcement, must less a Plan B or C.  Either the administration was naive or incompetent or more likely both.

Second, let’s look at the extent to which the two administrations considered human factors in the execution of these two events, starting with the raid in Abbottabad.  At the time of the mission, there were believed to be 24 people living in the compound including several women and children.  Despite the risk to members of SEAL Team Six,  every effort was made to protect the lives of the children.  Members of the team were assigned to locate and move the children to a safe area within the compound.  Of the 24 residents, only five were killed during the operation:  Osama bin Laden, one of his sons, his courier, a bodyguard and one woman.  None of the children were harmed.

In contrast, the Trump Administration took the opposite approach, choosing to inflict pain and suffering on children to get to the parents.  No more need be said.

Make no mistake.  Presidents and other public officials are often called upon to make difficult and unpleasant decisions.  Whether they deserve our support and confidence depends less on WHAT they do, but HOW they do it. Although these two events were only six years apart, I know which I would characterize as “the good old days.”

For what it’s worth.


Cold As I.C.E.


I know the band Foreigner had no idea when they released “Cold As Ice” in 1977, they provided a more accurate description of Melania Trump than this weekend’s mainstream media suggestion Mrs. Trump has a conscience.

Image result for foreigner cold as iceI’ve seen it before
It happens all the time
You’re closing the door
You leave the world behind
You’re digging for gold
Yet throwing away
A fortune in feelings
But someday you’ll pay.

In contrast, the Washington Post on Saturday reported, “Melania Trump weighs in on her husband’s cruel policy.”   The Corpus Christie Caller-Times suggested, “Melania Trump takes a brave stand against her husband’s policies.” wrote, “Melania Trump and Laura Bush have openly criticized the U.S. government’s family separation policy.”

Brave stand?  As the Parkland students would say, “I call BS.” Let’s be honest, Melania Trump has personally SAID nothing.  Her office released a statement in which they claim she (in the third person) “hates to see children separated from their families.”  A dispassionate (cold as ice) statement which then parroted her husband’s claim others are responsible for the situation, forgetting this injustice she supposedly abhors was perpetrated by the cruel narcissus with whom she shares a residence.  Who drafted this statement?  Maybe it was the same person who dictated the now infamous explanation of the June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower?

The last time I checked Mrs. Trump is not a mute.  If she wanted to speak out against her husband’s policy, she would have been welcomed on any of the Sunday talk shows.  Or she could have submitted to an interview with any magazine or newspaper.

Nor did she follow Laura Bush’s example.  In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, the former First Lady, wrote in the first person.

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Unlike her RNC convention speech, there is no chance FFLOTUS (faux first lady of the United States) plagiarized Michele Obama who seconded Laura Bush, tweeting, “Sometimes truth transcends party.”

Or Rosalynn Carter who tweeted, also in the first person.

When I was first lady, I worked to call attention to the plight of refugees fleeing Cambodia for Thailand.  I visited Thailand and witnessed firsthand the trauma of parents and children separated by circumstances beyond their control.  The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.

And finally, Hillary Clinton shared a sentiment felt by many, as Melania’s ghostwriter said, “…on both sides of the aisle.”

What’s happening to families at the border right now is a humanitarian crisis. Every parent who has ever held a child in their arms, every human being with a sense of compassion and decency, should be outraged.

Suggesting Melania Trump is just one more voice in a chorus of first ladies who have actually spoken out against this atrocity is an insult.  A more apt comparison would be Princess Elsa of Arendelle who, in the Disney animated film Frozen, possessed cryokinetic powers and exiled herself to a fortress of ice.  The only remaining question is whether Mrs. Trump continues to be an accomplice in sustaining the moral winter which now blankets America.  If this is what she meant by “BE BEST,” I nostalgically prefer a time when Nancy Reagan told us, “JUST SAY NO!”

For what it’s worth.


The Godfather Part IV


Expect to see a sequel to Solo: A Star Wars Story despite the disappointing box office receipts for this latest addition to the cinema event which began in 1977.  If there is anything Hollywood abhors, it is a once popular franchise going out on a sour note.  Remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or anything about the plot or Harrison Ford’s co-stars?  George Lucas made sure you did not, teaming Ford with Sean Connery and the ancient city of Petra in the more critically praised and enduring Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  (Cinematic Footnote:  If only it had been the last crusade for this franchise.  It does not take a directorial genius to know a crystal skull is no match for the ark of the covenant or the holy grail.  To make up for this, Ford has agreed to a fifth and final appearance as the archaeologist in a projected 2020 release with Steven Spielberg at the helm. Good luck. )

In Tinseltown, one the most talked about failures of a successful franchise to satisfy its audience remains The Godfather Part III, in which (spoiler alert if that is possible 27 years after a film’s release) Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) dies alone, a broken man.  After all, the first two installments won Oscars for best picture.  Attempts at a fourth incarnation based on the rise of Sonny Corleone’s (James Caan) illegitimate son Vincent (Andy Garcia) as the family head dissolved upon the death of the book’s author and screenwriter Mario Puzzo in 1999.

On the morning following what can only be described as a five-day roller coaster ride in the annuls of United States foreign policy, my thoughts turned to one particular scene in the 1972 original.  Following Sonny’s fatal ambush at a toll plaza, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) calls a meeting of the heads of the five mafia families at a bank in New York City.  After acknowledging many of the attendees have lost loved ones as a result of the rivalry for control of various black market enterprises from olive oil to prostitution, Vito Corleone calls for a truce.

I hoped that we would come here and reason together.  And as a reasonable man I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to find a peaceful solution to these problems…

As was the case in all three chapters of the Corleone saga, offers of reconciliation with enemies is a ruse that leads to the death of those who betrayed the family.  In the original, the bloodbath takes place during the the baptism of Michael’s son Anthony.  In Part III, the assassinations are carried out while Michael, his ex-wife Kate (Diane Keaton) and daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) attend an opera in which aspiring singer Anthony performs for the Pope.

Which brings us back to the past week of Trump-style diplomacy.  For three-quarters of a century, the American president has been the de facto godfather of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Yet, in less than five days, Donald Trump traded his standing in NATO for leadership of the latest version of the five families.  Except in this sequel, Emilio Barzini, Philip Tattaglia, Ottilion Cuneo and Anthony Stracci are played by Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte and newcomer Kim Jung-Un.

Vito Corleone dreamed of the day when the family business would be legitimate and his son Michael (Al Pacino) might be elected to the U.S. Senate.  Fred Trump never imagined his son could become not senator, but president and also remain head of the five families.

One final piece of advice to the other members of this new alliance.  In the unlikely event Trump ever attends an evening of opera at the Kennedy Center or the Met, watch your backs.  Those scenes never end well for anyone who thinks getting in bed with the godfather is good for their health.


One of the unforeseen sideshows of the G7 summit was Trump’s Twitter rants directed at Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.  Again, The Godfather sheds some insight into what motivates the current occupant of the oval office.  When Michael Corleone offers to revenge his father’s attempted murder by taking out a corrupt police officer who participated in the plot, Michael’s older brother Sonny warns, “You’re taking this very personal.”  To which Michael mouths the phrase which becomes the second most quoted excerpt from Puzzo’s script, “It’s not personal.  It’s strictly business.”

Image result for trudeau and ivankaExcept in TrumpWorld, it is always personal.  Remember this picture from Trudeau’s visit to the White House in February 2017.  The Guardian carried the photograph under the headline, “Pictures of ‘swooning’ Ivanka Trump and Justin Trudeau go viral.”  One can only imagine how much daddy wishes his daughter would view him in the same light.

For what it’s worth.


It’s Good to Be the King


Related imageIf you’re a Mel Brooks fan, you know the title of today’s post comes from History of the World, Part I (1981) in which Brooks plays a series of historical figures from Moses to King Louis XVI of France.  In this last portrayal, Brooks is surrounded by a number of young, buxom courtiers who submit to the King’s advances.  Breaking the fourth wall, Brooks continuously turns to the camera and reminds us, “It’s good to be the King.”

The above title was actually my third choice.  This post was originally going to be called Citizen Trump with the message being any common citizen, having behaved as Donald Trump, would have become a social outcast, relieved of his professional responsibilities and possibly been awaiting trial.  Just imagine the CEO of any American electronics company offering to save a Chinese competitor (a la ZTE) which had been charged with previously stealing the firm’s intellectual property or engaged in espionage.  The response by the Board of Directors can be summed up in one word, “ADIOS.”  Or imagine that same CEO promised to reverse years of fiscal irresponsibility only to reduce revenues by billions of dollars and further leverage an already over-leveraged portfolio. A shareholder revolt would be the least violent response.  Or imagine the CEO using corporate legal counsel to  arrange payment to silence a porn star with whom he had a one-night stand.  I could go on, but you get the picture.

My second choice for the title was, “Hey, What About Me?”  The ME in this headline refers to the Declaration of Independence.  Much has been made over the past week about Trump’s lack of understanding of our Constitution, a theme which first emerged when Gold Star parent Khizr Khan, during a speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention, asked Trump if he had ever read the document.  Since then, many have been quick to point out the Constitution lays out the ideals on which our Nation was found.   Checks and balances.  The Bill of Rights.  I disagree.  It is a manual or playbook which describes the parameters by which we are supposed to operate.  Remember, the Constitution was adopted in 1789, a full 13 years after the colonists rebelled against the Crown.

The controlling document is the one signed on July 4, 1776.  All one has to do is read the grievances against George III contained in the Declaration to fully understand how much the current White House occupant is the antithesis of what the founding fathers expected of the leaders of this new nation.  The colonists’ revolt was not against George III as a person (despicable as he may have been), it was against a fallacy, the divine right of kings, the doctrine that kings derive their authority from God, not from their subjects.  From the Declaration, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Even if everyone has rights “endowed by their Creator,” the power to govern is not one of those divine rights.

Consider the following specific grievances (in italics) against “the present King of Great Britain” based on actual experience. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”  And as you read each outrage, simply substitute Trump for George III

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.  Take your choice.  Nepotism.  Violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.  Eroding guarantees embraced in the First Amendment.  Using public position for personal gain.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.  Despite the call by John McCain and others to return to the “regular order of business,”  Trump with the consent of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan obfuscate long-held procedures for the consideration of legislation.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. I see no need to pile on.  Jefferson said it all.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws.  Russia, Russia, Russia.
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.  Breaking trade agreements and imposing tariffs by executive caveat.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us.  Welcome to the culture wars.
  • AND FINALLY.  In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.  Those who disagree with our current King are labeled unpatriotic or falsely accused of dishonoring our military.  Ask any Philadelphia Eagle.

This is the soul and heartbeat of America.  And the colonists who signed the Declaration were as divided on many issues as much or more than the divisions within today’s American populace.  Yet, they put their differences aside to send a clear message to the Crown. It is time we do the same.  It is imperative we remind any of our leaders who think they are royalty that perhaps it may not be so good to be the King or Queen.


If you buy into the above, then perhaps you understand why I have always shared New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s opinion Bill Clinton should have resigned as president after disclosure of the Monica Lewinsky affair.  Substitute the term “intern” for “courtier” and Clinton becomes the 20th century reincarnation of Mel Brooks’ Louis XVI.  And just as I chose to suggest the consequences of Trump’s behavior should be no different than that of a private citizen running a public corporation, Clinton deserves the same comparison.  How long would the CEO of any major company survive if it was known he was partaking of oral sex from an intern, especially while talking on a phone about a issue which could determine the company’s future?  (Historical Footnote: Lewinsky told Special Counsel Kenneth Starr that on November 15, 1995, Clinton was on the phone conducting business with a congressman or senator while she pleasured him.)

Yes, that was almost 23 years ago.  But we should not need a #metoo movement to know it was as wrong then as it is now. As our founding fathers so articulated in 1776, “It is good to be the King” only to the extent the governed let him.

For what it’s worth.