Tuesday, November 29, 2016


About twenty five years ago, a friend told me that his sister-in-law was despondent because she had lost her cat.  I was not a cat owner at the time.  When the friend went on about how the sister-in-law had become so sad about the loss, I said to my friend, "Hey, it's a cat."

Thirteen or fourteen years ago, Donna came home with a kitten. It was a tiny thing. A friend had told her there was a litter, and we had talked some about getting a pet, so she drove up the north shore and came back with this cat who had been placed in a carton box for the drive. I was watching a football game when she returned and was essentially on my back in the recliner.  Donna dropped the cat on my chest and went out to buy stuff for the critter. He was so small and hardly moving. There was such little motion that at one point I thought the guy had died on my chest.

In my family we never had pets growing up and I had my doubts about whether being a pet owner would be a positive experience.  In no time, however, I became very attached.  He was an orange and white long hair so we called him, very appropriately, Pumpkin.

Had you told me two months or two years or twenty years before Donna kerplunked Pumpkin on my chest that I would have become enamored with a cat I would not have bought it.  But enamored I became.  I enjoyed hanging with the guy and found him to be a terrific companion.  Once when I was sick and Donna out of town, he popped up on the bed and hung out with me all night as if he knew I could use a looking after.

Like me, Pumpkin was fairly autonomous.  We decided to allow him to be an outdoor cat, and the Pump reveled in the freedom. He would scamper out in the most awful weather. We'd see him climbing trees, chasing squirrels, rolling around on the sidewalk.  When he was out at night, he typically returned around 10.  A few times he hit the late bars causing no small amount of angst in our quarters, but then he would show up in the wee hours walking back as if to say, "Whaddaya worrying about.  I'm fine."

On Saturday afternoon we picked up the Pump from the cat hotel where he was lodging while we went to eat turkey in Philadelphia.  He was his normal self on Saturday, bouncing around the house when he returned, scarfing down his special food, meowing to get out or have us turn the water on in the bathroom,so he could drink by the sink.

Sunday morning was the same routine. Tough to drink my coffee and read the paper with the guy meowing requesting this or that.  Sunday night at around 6 Donna let him out while I was watching the Patriots play at a local tavern.  We would let the guy out as late as 9 since he always came home. I've let him out as late as 10.

When I returned around 630 Donna asked me if I had seen him in the driveway. I had not.  Around 9 we began to worry as he had not eaten in a spell. At 11 we walked the neighborhood with a flashlight. Then again at 1 am.

The Pump is still not back. I came home early yesterday, Monday, figuring for sure he would be on the side porch waiting to get in.  No Pump.  The food we left out for him was untouched.  When I saw the full bowl on the porch my heart sank.

The guy is probably gone.  Even if he is not, he has to eat special food, so if someone found him and is feeding him, he will be sick soon enough.  We have posters and put the guy's mug on facebook.  No news.

The Pump was a great cat.  Wherever you are, we miss you, little guy.  If you are near a computer give us a ping.

Monday, November 21, 2016


The brouhaha around the Pence-Hamilton incident is, on the surface, a tempest in a teapot.  However, below the surface, I am not sure what occurred is insignificant.

(1) The President-elect is entitled to tweet his opinion on whether a cast member can or should make a statement directed at the Vice President-elect. The President-elect is also entitled to negatively characterize the actor's comments--even if his characterization is, as it was, inaccurate to any dispassionate ear.  And the audience is entitled to voice its collective disdain for the Vice President in the manner that it did. If the second amendment is to be preserved at all costs, it is for sure and certain that the first amendment should be preserved and observed.

So while the right to utter comments is indisputable and all the commotion about how appropriate it might be is something I will think about if I live beyond 145 and have some free time, the potential chilling effects on free speech that could be the residual of Trump's tweet, are not benign.  Might people begin to fear voicing their opinion lest they be the subject of inquiries by the president of the country?  Could comments about, for example, the media being "bad people", SNL being "unfair", and the Times printing irresponsibly, retard anyone's or any medium's willingness to communicate critically?

(2) What the actor said at the end of the Hamilton production, is nothing compared to the nature of criticism that our presidents typically receive.  Go ask the living ex Presidents about the relative magnitude of such remarks.  If this Hamilton sort of criticism will rile the President-elect, what sort of fellow is he?  Anyone in the public eye worth anything must be able to take a shot, or they will be wounded so regularly that they will be too impaired to do the job.  President elect Trump lost the popular vote by over one million votes. There are a lot of people not real happy with the results.  These voters have to deal with the reality of this administration, and Trump has to deal with the reality that if he wants to bring the country together as he claims, he will have to recognize that publicly criticizing opponents will not be a balm that bridges the divide.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

All Hell

And Then All Hell Broke Loose is a book by Richard Engel, an NBC news correspondent, about his experience in the middle east.

I will nutshell it for you.  The middle east--except for the relatively calm Israel--is a a frightening place where there is little regard for human life, when human life is juxtaposed with perfervid and irrational belief in the need to rage holy war in the name of Islam.

There is no one singular event identified when "all hell broke loose." All hell has been breaking loose for some time, and each iteration of angry jihadists is more horrible than the previous one.  At one point he writes that at least when the dictators were in power, while the building was foul, edifices themselves were standing. He does not advocate for a return to the good ole days of Saddam Hussein.  Just that the case now is that there are killers recruiting children to be killers perverting the teachings of Islam.  He suggests that both the Bush and Obama administrations are partially to blame, though my read is that while both may be, the real blame is on those who have not dealt with their anger in a way that humans need to deal with anger. Does this make me a western infidel? No, it makes me someone who thinks that chopping off the hand and foot of a 14 year old because he did not want to join ISIS, is an abomination--regardless of (and because of) any spiritual orientation.

The writing, particularly since this is the work of a journalist, was not as good as one might like. It does not help that there are a lot of foreign names that might be difficult for someone outside of the middle east to remember.  Still, he--literally and figuratively--flies all over the middle east and sometimes the reader is dealing with trying to digest pages written, it seems, at the same frenetic pace as his comings and goings.

I can't really recommend the book.  Maybe for experts in post Gulf War middle east (while I might know more than the average bear about the region, I am not in this category) this will be an interesting read. My take-away is that the place is every bit as dangerous if not more than we believe it to be by reading the papers. And that the author took some mind boggling risks to pursue his journalistic career.

As it relates to risks, the author draws the analogy between football players risking their health to play a game they love and him taking risks to cover the middle east. It's not quite the same. This guy lived in jeopardy almost weekly according to this book. And the jeopardy was not a pulled muscle or injured knee. I don't think he deserves hero credit for being reckless.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Leonard Cohen

Usually it takes me a long time to pay attention to the lyrics of a song. I can hear a popular song one hundred times before the words sink in.

But I remember the first time I heard Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love.  I was out on my deck listening to WERS which is a college radio station in the Boston area. On Sunday mornings they have a program that features Jewish and Israeli music.  My parents used to listen to WEVD on Sunday mornings in New York. WEVD was a station dedicated to Jewish music and themes so when I, on occasion, tune into WERS I am reminded, fondly, of those Sunday mornings with my family.

So, I was listening this one day to WERS--perched on the deck, reading the paper, no doubt sipping some coffee when I first heard Dance Me to the End of Love.   Immediately, and atypically, I was engaged on the first listen.

Leonard Cohen passed last week. Cohen influenced many of we boomers.  Since his passing, his work has been praised and played quite a bit. Saturday Night Live, instead of their recent political satires, began their show on the Saturday after the election with a rendition of the Cohen song Hallelujah--performed, I'll assume, for two reasons: to honor Cohen and to soothe an audience emotionally distraught because of the election results.

I have been fond of Cohen since the early seventies. I bought The Songs of Leonard Cohen in the fall of 1971 and still have the album. I played the CD so often that it is now damaged.  Despite my fondness for Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne, So Long Marianne, Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye, the song that I sought to play after I heard of Cohen's passing is one that was not on the album I played incessantly. The song I wanted to hear was Dance Me to the End of Love.  I went to youtube and found this version of it.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGorjBVag0I

Leonard Cohen was a special person. For those emotionally bruised by a disturbing national decision, listening to Cohen now provides a temporary balm.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post Mortem

Somber day here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and I am sure in other states as well.  Lots of glum faces at work.  Saw a woman by the coffee machine who had clearly spent some hours weeping last night, red around the eyes.  We commiserated for a spell while we waited for the caffeine pick up necessary for people who waited until 130 before giving up on Pennsylvania.

Often, after a team I follow loses a big game, I wake up in the middle of the night with some sadness and can't quite identify why.  The last time this happened was when the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the championship game last January.  This was like that only twenty times worse. 

I kept waking up and muttering almost incoherently.  We shut the set off at about 2 so when I woke up I started thinking that maybe something bizarre happened and they found 100,000 votes in Broward County.  The only good news in the early morning, and it was not much, was that in the middle of the night she won New Hampshire.

Just before I quit last night I went on the computer and saw that the pundit who predicted a 99 % chance for a Clinton victory was now writing that such percentages were like a "parlor game."  I think he needs to rethink what he does.

Let's say someone has a disdain for Trump and is tepid about Clinton.  Well, if that person really thinks Trump is an abomination but is told that it is nearly a certainty that Trump will lose, maybe a voter voices her or his discontent by voting third party even though she or he thinks that Clinton is competent.  In Michigan if one in 10 people who voted third party did so because of the parlor game, Michigan goes to Clinton.  In Wisconsin if 2 of 10 did so because of the parlor game, then Clinton wins Wisconsin.

What happens when you elect a person as president who accepts if not embraces the support of neo-Nazis?  Today is the anniversary of kristallnacht.  Check out what happened in Philadelphia today, 78 years later.


Monday, November 7, 2016


I think Hillary Clinton will win the election tomorrow with somewhere between 274 and 340 electoral votes. Best guess is 307.  Earlier today I counted up and thought it was not impossible to get as high as 411. But best guess is 307.  Could she lose? Yes.  If she loses either Michigan and Pennsylvania, and he wins all those states that are very close: Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire, Trump will become President elect.  Don't think it will happen.  I hope not.

What will occur if I am correct and Trump loses?  My feeling is different from other persons who have opined on this question.  I do not think the Republican party will lash out and scream that the election was rigged, nor do I see any significant outbreak from the racists who have supported him.  I think that the Republican party members for the most part will distance themselves from Trump and his more vocal supporters like someone running from a foul smell.  Almost immediately, even those who offered tepid support, will want to behave like they never heard of the guy or his beliefs. I read that a Republican strategist commented recently that Trump brought minority voters to the Democrats in a way the Democrats never could have.  The GOP must be furious that Trump has made electing Republicans more difficult.  Every irresponsible quip that Trump uttered will be disavowed by GOPers. The Republican party will do to Trump what most people do to losers--shun him.  I believe you will see Democrats and Republicans united in one thing--condemnation. I would not be surprised to hear of bipartisan support for prosecuting Trump for the Trump University sham as well as tax evasion.  Republicans will try to scrape Trump off like someone attempting to get manure off their shoes.  I don't believe there will be a honeymoon for Clinton, but talk of jail and impeachment will be muted.

What will happen if I am incorrect and Hillary loses?  I will not be surprised if because of tax evasion and Trump University, he becomes the first president ever to be impeached and convicted. (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both acquitted.  The House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend impeachment for Nixon, but he resigned before the House as a whole could vote to impeach. Consequently, Nixon was never actually impeached).  I see in Trump's early days an uncomfortable and superficial coming together of the GOP.  It will be short lived. Trump will almost immediately attempt to punish those who supported him reluctantly.  Consequently, he will gain enemies among the GOP who will conspire to get him out of office.  The lone positive of a Trump presidency would be to watch how he reacts to the incessant criticism and pressures of that office coming to him from both parties, overseas, the press, and his own supporters who will be upset when he can not implement racist legislation.

Either way the Trump brand is forever tarnished. Isn't it remarkable that with all of the Trump properties his "victory gathering" on Tuesday night is to be held at an okay, but nothing special, Sheraton only a few blocks from Trump Tower.