Profile in Courage

The death of a great man always puts in contrast those of lesser men still living. Congressman John Lewis, who died July 17, distinguished himself as a civil rights leader, risking life and limb in the early days of the movement at the hands of a militant militia masking as police officers. Later, as a Democratic Congressman representing his Atlanta district, he continued fighting against racism and minority oppression through oratory and legislation.

Courageous men often bear insults and injuries for their beliefs not just for themselves but for others. It is their brothers and sisters who benefit from their sacrifice. In contrast, self serving leaders are just that: their actions inevitably further their own personal causes and those of their cronies. Theirs is not oratory but demaguogery marked with fear and exclusion. They build walls; great men tear them down.

John Lewis and others like him are reeds through which the winds of hope sing for all to hear. They understand that the greatest common denominators of the human condition are dignity and compassion, and you cannot have one without the other. Mr. Lewis understood that these qualities were not passive, but required action. He said, “ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key.” He also acknowledged he was guided by principles higher than himself: “Let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

Men of transparency let the light pass through them; men of darkness block it. Unlike demagogues, Mr. Lewis understand the tighter you clutch something, the more it seeks to escape, like sand in a clenched fist. We are by nature, freedom seekers. Mr. Lewis was a man of color, a scion of slaves who knew bondage first hand. His rhetoric and actions emerged not from textbooks but were expressed through his genes. His repulsion to the systemic racism in the U.S. was visceral; there is nothing neat and polite about dressing a festering wound. Demagogues leave wounds unhealed, encouraging them to fester so they can continue to divide and fill the breach with lies and propaganda

As President Trump continues to implode -— through the inept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic or his dismissal of the Black Live Matter movement, he demonstrates daily he is not the man for the moment, but rather a momentary phenomenon destined to be overshadowed in history by the giant stature of John Lewis and those of his ilk.

The End Days of the Mad King

As we approach the end days of the mad king, the king grows more desperate in his claims, like a cornered man shooting at anything that moves.

Besieged at every turn of his TV dial, President Trump sees his poll numbers sink as well as books and interviews questioning his intellect, morals, and character. And bereft of anything to shore them up, the troller-in-chief resorts to the only strategy he knows — lie and and point the finger elsewhere.

Forget for a moment that this strategy actually gained him access to the White House. Yet, we all knew at some point the jig had to come up short if for no other reason what the adage from his political and moral antithesis, Abraham Lincoln, has proven time and again. “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

President Trump has shown to be a one-trick pony and his act has grown tired even if it took longer than we thought to wear out its welcome. It now seems brutally evident that his appeal seemed to attract those political indigents who believed they had nothing to lose. The only reason he has any political legs left is that they appear to be exempt from the above adage. There will always be those who for some reason enjoy being duped or identify with his thinly-veiled victim/martyr complex no matter the costs. As far as his feckless apologists who also serve as senators and representatives, its amazing they can still walk upright having lost their spines.

President Trump has not been completely useless: he has drawn the shadow of racism from within the national consciousness like puss from an infection. Unfortunately, he knows not how to heal when confronted with injury nor offer succor to the hurt and oppressed. Compassion and empathy are flowers that do not bloom in the desert of his soul. His arsenal is acid and acrimony; bombast and bigotry. His anemic and apathetic response to the pandemic has not only bordered on callousness, but also demonstrated his abhorrence of science and common sense since the only savvy he possesses is that of a snake oil salesman.

He holds not one crumb of creativity nor any singular idea. His MO is to twist the innovative into the radical; portray peaceful protest as anarchy. He must paint everything as threatening and dark because only then the fearful can be manipulated to turn against its principles. Trump is the allegory in the classic “Twilight Zone” episode, Monsters on Maple Street.

Mercifully, as we reach the end of his four years serving as the imposter president he has burned every bridge leading over the Potomac into Washington and sits in a White House growing more alienated and alone. The absurdity of his words and actions during the Covid pandemic and the BLM movement have bent back upon him reducing him to contradiction and a cipher. Blame, name calling, and criticism add nothing to the human condition but only diminish it.

In a recent Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, President Trump berated the network for reporting polls that indicate him trailing the democratic nominee, Joe Biden, by double digits. “People should stop watching your channel!” he railed, once again demonstrating, like a snake, he is perfectly comfortable eating his own tail given that Fox is the only network that has reliably supported his administration. In that same interview he referred to World War I and II as both “beautiful” and “vicious.” I believe he’s confused world wars with women he has known.

The Telegraph recently published the Seven Ways Trump is like King Lear. We only need one -— that he is mad.


Contradictions abound in Trump’s political selling point, Make America Great Again. After all, if he were interested in eliciting the “greater angels of our nature,” he would not exhort his followers to flout the use of masks, which promote the greater health of the country by serving as a prophylactic in the spread of Covid-19. The action of these clueless rebels, taken to its logical conclusion, would express itself in the statement, “I would rather die than have my liberties infringed upon by wearing a mask.” One suspects that this defiance is found in the tortured interpretation of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death,” who I’m certain would be scratching his Colonialist wig at that one.

If these Americans want a lesson on the concept of liberty, they need to look no farther than at the French whose national political consciousness is built on the foundation of that concept. The French define liberty as “being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man or woman has no bounds other than those that guarantee other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights.”

Yet, the French felt no abridgment of freedoms when their government required them to remain in their homes all day with the exception of one hour during which they could walk no father then one kilometer. There were no riots or revolutions, nor even a peep of a protest was heard from Madam La Pen. Hell, they didn’t storm the Bastille threatening to crack their champagne and Bordeaux bottles over the heads of its leaders, much less  brandish AK-47s.

But that overall obedience to the greater good is not difficult to conceive in a culture that in addition to its joie de vivre attitude prizes science equally.

In contrast, the U.S. seems to  look upon science with the same disdain as a foreign language  — they see it as threat to their way of life as much as a Spanish-speaking toddler.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, esteemed director  of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been the target of so much character assassination, you would think he is a fraud despite his strategies for insuring the country’s best outcomes from Covid-19. Recently, Fox News host, Tucker Carlson railed against Dr. Fauci, calling him “the chief buffoon.” Carlson, who is known to be dyslexic, could be forgiven as he probably had Dr. Fauci crossed with the man seen so often standing to his right in the White House’s daily pandemic press conferences.

None the less, Tucker’s diatribe seems to underscore that President Trump’s political phrase Make American Great Again is mutating to Make America Gnarly Again,  so much so that his political consultants should consider adopting it for his 2020 campaign.  It would be more accurate and in line with the disposition of his base.

The Fake Enemy That Was

In H.G. Wells, 1897 novel, War of the Worlds, modern civilization is brought to its knees by alien invaders only to be reprieved by earth’s lethal pathogens. The novel served as a presumed allegory for British imperialism, specifically its invasion of indigenous tribes in Tasmania.

Covid-19’s pathogens are proving equally crippling to the monolithic, anti-science Trump administration, which has been caught off guard by the disease’s pandemic spread. As is his wont, President Trump often addresses complex social, political and scientific issues with adolescent hubris marked with scorn for experts in those fields.

Recently, he barred esteemed director of the National Institution of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr.Anthony Fauci, from addressing the Covid-19 threat in favor of Vice President, Mike Pence. The two men could not differ more diametrically in their approach to public health. As governor of Indiana, the strongly religious Pence initially rejected a plea in 2015 from health officials to authorize a program to allow distribution of clean needles among drug addicts to stem the tide of AIDs that  had spread in southern Indiana. Pence said he wanted to “pray” on it. Only after a plea from a staunchly conservative sheriff in Scott County for his approval, did he relent. During his six terms in the House of Representatives, Pence voted against a needle exchange program that proved useful in preventing the spread of H.I.V.  Conversely, Dr. Fauci, an expert in immunology, has been at the forefront in tackling the Ebola, Zika, and AIDS epidemics.

Trump prefers to tell the American people what he wants them to hear, even at the risks of spreading misinformation. At a recent press conference, he said that “we are very close to a vaccine” and that “by the spring it will be over,” contrary to CDC estimates that a vaccine is 12-18 months away, and those immunologists who say the disease is not seasonal.

Trump, who is girding for a reelection campaign, often points to a robust stock market as evidence that his economic policies are working. Initially, his first concern when confronted with the growing Covid-19 epidemic was to point out that the  three percent drop in the stock market would only be temporary. Since that statement, Dow has suffered a 20 percent correction.

In a public health crisis, the president’s most important role is as a trusted source of information. People need to know how the coronavirus threatens them and how to respond. They want to know if the public health system is prepared and what should individuals do to get ready for an outbreak domestically.

Trump is either incapable of such a methodical and unified government approach, or worse, sees it as conflicting with his m.o. of magical thinking. If you need examples look at his failed bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, his belief that Obama had his wires tapped, and his belief that Ukraine possesses the server filled with damning election interference evidence.

As conservative columnist David Brooks wrote, “The dangerous thing about Trump’s fantasy world is not when it dissolves into nothing; it’s when he seduces the rest of us to move into it. It’s not when he ignores the facts; it’s when he replaces them by building an alternate virtual reality and suckering us into it.”

The next few months will determine the extent of damage from the collision of the White House’s alternative virtual reality of the disease and the scientific facts of its inexorable spread in this country.

Like the unseen microbes in Wells’ War of the Worlds, Covid-19 pathogens may just bring the Trump machine to its knees.




A Day at the Rally

I recently attended a Trump Rally in Michigan. Wearing my MAGA hat and sleeveless shirt in 50 degree weather, I had no trouble fitting in. Of course, being a legacy Christian, I refused to wear a Trump is God t-shirt.  As I mingled among the crowd of Trump supporters, I noticed a curious display of behavior: I witnessed attendees addressing each other unflatteringly — with unmistakeable insults. More astonishingly, those persons insulted didn’t seem to mind. They appeared to enjoy the invectives like people happy to have red wine spilled on their evening wear.

“Hey, what’s up, roly-poly,” said one man to another who wore an ample spare-tire of adipose tissue around his waist.  “Not much, you half-wit,” the other answered with a laugh.

“You make the Michelin Man look like Charles Atlas.”

“That’s a good one,” the portly man responded. “And if they put your brain in a matchbox, it would be like a BB rolling around in a boxcar.”

The two men laughed uproariously.

After hearing a series of similar banters, I asked a lady named Alma, who sported a MAGA hat and a t-shirt that read, “Only Donald Trump Can Save humanity,” about this new and curious behavior.

“We love how Donald insults people, and now we know why, it’s empowering.”

“It is?”

“Why it’s pure genius and the ultimate defense for those uppity liberals who come at you with facts or reasoning you can’t understand; now you just put them in their place with an insult. It’s so simple any moron can do it.”

I nodded in feigned agreement and smiled at the irony.

“So now his followers do the same,” she continued, “even to each other as a way to show they are cool with it and part of the same club.”

“Like a cult,” I said

“Oh, no! We ain’t into any of that crazy shit like worshipping false idols. No, we are just red-blooded ‘Mericans who idolize our president.”

“So, I guess being kind and respectful to others is no longer a valued human virtue?” I asked as though I sought more indoctrination.

“Boy, did you forget we are the deplorables?

“I am as deplorable as they come,” I said with faux pride. “But I guess I just didn’t see the genius in reinforcing it in each other.”

“Now you’re gettin’ it, sonny.  That’s part of Trump’s smarts, to get us to take pride in our deplorability.”

“Ah, I get it. So when the doctor says you need to lose weight cause you have a better chance of having a coronary than seeing your first grandchild, you just laugh and call him a “quack.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

Just about that time a man walked up to Alma and asked, “What’s up, you gin-soaked hussy”

“God-damn, Wayne, I thought you were still in jail, you alimony dodging son-of-bitch.”

“I just got out.”

“Say, who’s your friend, here?” She asked nodding to the young woman standing next to him.

“Well, Alma, I’d like you to meet my credit-card swindling friend, Beverly.”

“I guess you don’t have to worry about her, since you’re up to your eyeballs in debt.”

He laughed, but Beverly didn’t seem so pleased.

“Well, It’s been nice talking to all you folk,” Alma said, “but the president is about to talk and I don’t want to miss it. Word is he going to bash the fake media and go after that corrupt bitch Hillary.” She paused and smiled. “Just saying that makes me feel better already.”







The Art of the Dodge

In February 20, 1974, the American rock band Steely Dan, released on the album Pretzel Logic. While the writer, Donald Fagan, claim the song had nothing to do with politics, the term has symbolic relevance in today’s political turbulence.

Times were when you asked a question you a got an answer, reasonably related to the inquiry. The variance depended on the respondents understanding the nuances of the question. In any event, the question not only probed the respondents knowledge, but also his or her character. It provided a compass as to where he or she stood on an issue and to large extent, his or her accountability.

Those days are over. Politics have ushered in a new didactic one where intent of the question is sidestepped, dodged, circumvented, danced around, tapped danced on — all of which are designed to avoid answering the question. Accountability no longer factors into the equation. Understanding answers require a degree in deciphering illogical pretzel logic. There would be no hint of irony if a political interview would be sponsored by Snyder of Hanover Pretzels.

Take this answer from with Senator Roy Blunt who was recently asked the following by the interviewer. “If Barack Obama, on a phone call with another world leader, suggested an investigation into someone who also happened to be the frontrunner from the opposing party, would your party be fine with that?”

Well, I will tell you that for eight years we were constantly challenged on my side. The president should be impeached for this, the president should be impeached for withholding records with Fast and Furious, the president should have delivered–“

For those familiar with common logical fallacies, this answer represents about half of the 15 most common, including straw man, false dilemma, and slothful induction fallacy, among others. Perhaps the most glaring is the personal incredulity fallacy where Senator Blunt doesn’t see the evidence laid before him implicating the president so, there must be another explanation for the call which exonerates him from any wrongdoing.

Besides displaying the art of the dodge and eschewing accountability, its practitioners also demonstrate a remarkable lack of courage to stand up for what is right, regardless if it means impugning a member if their own party. This fecklessness does nothing more than put party before country and principles. There is a connection between power and corruption and for those having succumbed to the seduction, derailing any substantive argument has become one of the useful feints.

In World War I trench warfare it was said that never before have so many given so much for such precious little ground. The same can be said for the hopes of the American people who have witnessed common sense and truth as casualties of this political war. The art of compromise has been slain, too, by the conflict’s “take no prisoners” mentality. If King Solomon were alive today, his sword would be dull from dividing so many babies.

Yes, the loser is the American people who stand divided by two warring political parties that practice the art of deceit rather than transparency. All as they that stand determined to annihilate the other in their quest to dominate the body politic.

While events led by a power greater than simply recognizing the rampant illogical arguments employed by both parties is no doubt needed to reconcile this great divide, it is no less important that we not be duped by pretzel logic. We need to be smarter than that.

As Daniel Kahneman’s explains in his extraordinary book, Thinking Fast and Slow, we all can benefit in every aspect of our lives from understanding how errors in our thinking can lead to erroneous conclusions. The esteemed professor shows how we can learn to differentiate between fast, intuitive and emotional decisions, and slower, deliberate, logical ones. It’s time to start calling the politician’s bluff and maybe even send them a pretzel.










same conclusion. We were constantly asked for eight years–

Roy Cohn and the Amoral President

The once burning beacon of America’s democratic ideals is fading quickly and has been for four years under a president who has no more regard for the Constitution than an aethiest for the Bible.  After four years of sending countless tweets like a pubescent discovering social media, President Trump has left no doubt to the extent of his narcissistic personality, his petty grievances, and his paper-skin sensitivity to anything less than adoration.

Revelations from recent impeachment hearings appear to point to a man who would subvert democratic principles and law to get at his political enemies. But this should come as no mystery to anyone familiar with his history. As it is said, “past is prelude,” and this axiom applies to no one more than Trump who grew up under the influence of infamous Roy Cohn. As Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel during the Army–McCarthy hearings in 1954, he assisted the red-baiting McCarthy’s investigations of suspected communists during a dark period of American history that ruined many lives. Towards the end of his career he became a political fixer and Trump’s personal lawyer. History regards Cohn as a reviled human being. The kindest thing anyone said about him is, “he is a new strain of son-of-a-bitch.” Trump admired him and in times of trouble, the president has reportedly wished that Cohn were still here.

Yet, even after the death of Cohn of AIDS at the age of 60, Trump seeks to channel his mentor, particularly, in the face of 30 or more Congressional, federal and state investigations. Cohn believed in making his own rules and, more importantly, in payback. The latter is Trump’s most learned lesson. “When someone hits you, you hit them back harder,” Trump has said.  The two men had plenty of instances to practice their punches. Cohn worked with Trump in over 3,500 lawsuits in which he had been either plaintiff or defendant.

Indeed, Trump appears never to miss an opportunity to go for the knock-out punch with  an opponent. (Subtlety and nuance of verbal sparring are as foreign to him as humility and self-deprecation.) No amount of honor, prestige, and reputation is too high for a Trump low blow, even if it is someone who has served his or her country admirably and with courage as Senator John McCain and Ambassador Marie Yavanovich have.

Cohn is not the last of his unsavory kind that Trump has gravitated towards. Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, all appointees and associates of Trump, have been been convicted or admitted wrongdoing. One can’t help see the irony of Trump’s famous inaugural line, “I will drain the swamp that is Washington.” (No sir, the justice system will.) In addition to the above roll call of convicts, Trump seems to have drawn similar sycophantic personality types from Congress, where there are countless apologists standing in line to defend their man, put party over country, and prostrate themselves to power in a political downward facing dog. One could imagine if they were nimble enough they would enjoy kissing their own asses.

If there is an unintended consequence to such a litigious life learned from Cohn it may be the addiction to dodging the bullets and the thrill of ‘getting away with it.” And that may be the most significant insight to Trump and why he takes an amoral view of life, even in the role of president. Like the adrenalin junkie, his highs come from taking risks.

Unfortunately, that is not the personality we need sitting in the Oval Office.


A Case of the DTs.

The United States is heaving like a drunk kneeling besides a toilet. Since the election of Donal Trump as President, the country fitfully seeks to purge itself from issues that have been festering in its stomach for years – bigotry, patrimony, racial and class divide, sexual abuse, gun control and religious hypocrisy.

When the country elected Donald Trump 45th President one year ago, little did it know it collectively ingested a dose of ipacic syrup that would force these unsavory, suppressed issues onto the national table.

Trump and his policies, along with his comments pandering to his 35 percent base have induced an upheaval of social issues that have lain just underneath the surface of the country’s consciousness for decades.

The catharsis is not what Trump intended; he has always been a one-trick pony whose political strategy is to hype the nativist and racial issues his base craves. It is no different than a junkie who watches his body deteriorate in exchange for that immediate high, but in thus case the corpus strengthens.

It has been an amazing phenomenon to watch as status quo gets turned on is head: Women now call out Christian and industry patrimony with its male abusers; institutionalized racism and its symbols are toppled; the notion of health care as a privilege rebuffed, and the hegemony of the NRA and religious right fraying as the pat responses of “thoughts and prayers” ring hollow with the increasing carnage of mass shootings.

But the upheaval that shakes the country’s institutions of patrimony to its moral fiber is  challenging the good and decent people of faith in Alabama to make a choice to either “denounce child molestation or follow the “emptiest kind of tribalism,” says Nicholas Kristof of the NYT.

But it will take a lot more retched nights for the country to come to terms with the dark shadows Trump has unleashed in service to his political ambitions. With each of his summons to the dark yin of his constituency and those surrogates who seek to mimic his divisive strategy, there seems to be the light of the “yang” rising as a counterbalance to these forces.

Morality, or lack of it, within Alabama’s Christian Right does not seem to deter them from eschewing Roy Moore as their selection for that state’s senator, despite allegations that he molested or abused five women who were underage at the time. To date, 53 Alabama pastors have signed a petition urging Mr. Moore to not withdraw from the senate race.

What will stop Mr. Moore if anything is the courage of women to accuse him of his alleged crimes and in doing so question the patrimonial system that has been emboldened by Mr.Trump.

Some years ago, Bruce Springsteen exhorted in a song it is time to Rise Up. Especially when there is now a clearly defined symbol of oppression in the White House.

Trump and Archie Bunker


Before Homer Simpson, there existed the equally cartoonish, Archie Bunker of the American sitcom, All in the Family (1971-1979).  The cantankerous Archie Bunker character had been based on a stereotypical white, American middle-class male conservative of that day.  Suspicious of intellectuals, he spent most of his time on his couch bemoaning modern trends in culture, technology, and even sports. The extent of his interaction with the world had been to argue with his wife and daughter and son-in-law on what was wrong with the society, while reading the newspaper and watching TV. One could imagine that if Fox had been broadcasting in those years he would have be one of its fans, reveling in its conservative spin where politics is a binary of black/white, right/wrong. He had no interest in nuancing what America would be become. His was an anachronistic America where you worked hard and made a good life or you were a freeloader; a country comprised of a white majority that needed to stay in power and wary of minorities. To that extent, he and his fair-minded daughter never fully agreed on much and never discussed politics unless they wanted to feud.

Witnessing President Donald Trump’s press conference following the Charlottesville tragedy, in which he blamed both sides for the unrest, seemed like deja-vu, eerily reminiscent of the rants of Archie Bunker where an inviolate white America was to be defended at all costs against any critiscm or attack.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”

The President’s stance astounded many in the media, who asked how blame could lay elsewhere but at the feet of alt-right protestors who chanted anti semitic slogans and proclaimed support for the Nazi regime.

But its not that hard to understand Trump’s protest. He was elected by a base comprised of men and women of Archie Bunker’s worldview. Trump’s incredibly simplistic mind knows no other way to address the issue other than to take a defensive posture and blame those that threaten the white status quo. It goes no further than that. He has no interest or capacity to fathom the complexity of race relations in this country nor does he have the willingness to improve it. He knows that if he ventures behind the safe parameters of his base he will he eaten alive by those much smarter and possessing a deeper social consciousness. When I listen to Trump I hear the channeling of Archie Bunker. But that fictitious character stood in the twilight of his life and only wanted the safe carapace of a time to which he was familiar and could make sense of. Trump has no such excuse. He is President of the United States and “leader” of the free world and his job is to set an example of what freedom should look like for everyone.

But for now we have to live in recurring episodes of All in the Family. 


Health Care: Patients as Political Pawns

Every so often this blog lives up to its name. The attempt by Republicans to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of those times when irony seems to have the last word. For eight years, Republicans have made it their number one priority to strike the law from the books. Now that they are in complete control of Washington, they have every reason to do so, except for one thing: they can’t seem to come up with a better plan.

Critical analysis has shown that the ACA can be improved, but that is not what the Republicans want because providing the best insurance coverage to millions of Americans who, before the ACA were not covered, is not the priority. It is the politics and perception of winning, and in this case the Republicans faced with the overwhelming approval ratings of the ACA, are now forced to play a political shell game to give the illusion that their plan would do more for Americans, when, in fact, as attested to by the CBO and health organizations, it will not.

The basic disconnect here is that the Republicans were as frightened by the ACA as they were Obama winning the Presidency, because many within their base,  who for so long have been bamboozled into believing that the Democrats could do nothing for them, now realized something good indeed has happened that improved their lives. Of course, this shook the Republicans at their roots, whose only strategy has been to sew fear and lift not a legislative finger while railing against same-sex marriage and immigration. Suddenly, the AFA provided the distinct possibility that many of the 22 million insured by the ACA may covert to Democrats.

The result has been that the Senate has not been able to agree on any legislation that would replace the ACA, but still that body is desperate to agree on something to bring to the House in an attempt to pass a ACA replacement bill and sell it to the America people as being better than its predecessor.

Instead of running this ruse on the American public that it will replace the ACA with something better, Republicans would be more dignified to just lay its conservative cards on the table and say that providing publicly-subsidized health insurance to all Americans is not the role of government. However, because it is really not health care issues that concern Republicans, but instead protecting their political interests, they can only, ironically, try and win at the same game the Democrats bested them in eight years ago.