Saturday, February 16, 2019

Welcoming the Wall

What a week! There I was climbing out from under my desk, when I had to scramble back again. And it’s hard typing in a fetal position.


Two weeks ago, faced with a major outbreak of measles cases, the Governor of the State of Washington declared a state of emergency.* I immediately acted as I—a child during the cold war years—was trained in school to respond to a declaration of a state of emergency (there might be nuclear weapons raining down soon): I ducked under my desk until the all-clear signal. Which fortunately finally arrived on Tuesday just as my spine was threatening to imitate a camel’s hump. Darla Shine, the wife of White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine and the siren of the anti-vaxxers, was the Lorelei who lured me out from below the desk—but was it onto the rocks of vaccination scaremongering or to the haven of an angst-free mind?

Here’s her tweet**:

“Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer”?  Well, that settled it. An outbreak of measles was just the start to a healthy and cancer-free future. No need for radiation; no need for chemo; no need for surgery. 

Glorious! I stood up tall, stretching my hunched back as far as it could go. 
All clear!

Until Friday.


“We are going to be signing today, and registering, a national emergency,” proclaimed Donald Trump, standing in the White House Rose Garden. My god, we were under the threat of “an invasion of drugs, an invasion of gangs, an invasion of people.”*** 

Back under the desk. 

Trump declared that he was declaring the national emergency in order to secure funds to build his “beautiful” wall—the wall that would keep out those nasty Latin Americans. Latin Americans, who, if they had the opportunity, would presumably have their children gleefully vaccinated.

And who, if they have been following the news about the measles emergency in the state of Washington, would, one expect, have had their minds changed about the wall and are happy that it will—if Trump’s bluster can be trusted—actually be built. 

How reassuring for the Latin Americans that a wall will keep those contagious gringos trapped behind it.


Friday, February 15, 2019

Addled Adages and Quixotic Quotations

It's exactly a month until the Ides of March, when we have to get serious about the state of Rome. 
In the meantime, let's have some fun.


A wolf in sheep’s clothing is very warm.

When in Rome, you’re not in Albany.

To be or not to be—that is metaphysical.

East Side, West Side, all around the town—gridlock.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack said, “What are we nuts? We have indoor plumbing.” 

The boy who cried Wolf—and Schubert and Beethoven.

It’s a long, long way to Tipperary—unless you’re in Limerick.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat; his wife could eat no lean. So they were never able to agree on a restaurant.

Keep the home fires burning—if you’re an arsonist.

Had we but world enough and time—we’d still need a load of cash.

Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt! (Why’d I put it in the freezer in the first place?)

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. (Unless I need to lie.)

Physician, heel thyself. Then roll over and play dead.

A fool and his money are soon partied.

The Emperor has no clothes. They’re all in the wash.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears! I’m an audiologist new in town.

“But did thee feel the earth move?” “No.”

Polly want a cracker—with peanut butter.

Henny Penny, the sky is falling as sleet!

God is in the details, and he can’t get out.

He who hesitates—has to wait for the light to change. 

London Bridge is falling down. On the other hand, London Canasta is still standing.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Donald Trump's Moccasins

The other day while I was shopping, my progress down the aisle was impeded by an extremely obese woman who was shuffling along in shoes that could barely contain her feet. I thought, how uncomfortable she must be; in fact, it may be more than discomfort—she may suffer real pain in attempting to work her way through daily life. 

A White House source has leaked President Trump's private schedules for nearly every working day since the midterms, showing that Trump has spent around 60% of the last three months in "Executive Time.”*

For most days, “Executive Time” was a three-hour block from 8:00 AM to 11 AM. And what was Trump doing during that period? We can’t account for every minute, but we do know that he regularly watched the fault-finders and mischief-makers on “Fox & Friends” and fired off streams of acerbic grievance-filled tweets.**

Trump has been criticized for being notoriously thin-skinned. He cannot pass over a slight (even the slightest slight). He is an injustice collector, who, unfortunately, cannot direct his bone-spurred feet away from a path strewn with nettles. Stung from the moment he turns on his television in the morning (or, perhaps, from bad dreams from sleeping on a bed of nettles), he spews his malcontentedness out onto the twitterverse. 


There is an oft-repeated faux-Indian saying that one should not criticize another person before walking a mile in his moccasins. The actual source of the saying is a poem by Mary T. Lathrap called “Judge Softly,” in which she advises us:
Just walk a mile in his moccasins  
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
Thus, we should understand that the obese woman shuffling along in her too-small shoes is experiencing more misery than we are in being obstructed. And despite the shedloads of misery that Trump has unleashed upon the world in the past two years, can we, who have not walked a mile in his moccasins, be sure that stung by the nettles that cross his chosen path daily, Trump is in less misery than we are?


However, as the clear-eyed Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld informs us in his Maxim 203: 
He is really wise who is nettled at nothing.


** “The impression we get from Trump’s leaked schedules, really, is that Trump’s day doesn’t generally start until 11 a.m. Before that, he seems to be engaged in the sort of executive time that his critics disparage: lots of watching television and tweeting about things that are on his mind.” 



Perhaps the way to understand injustice collectors is to consider this story comedian Buddy Hackett told about his army experience:

Hackett, a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, is sent by the army for basic training to a camp in an echt-goyishe part of the country like Kansas, where the diet consists of bland military food like chip-beef on toast (a cuisine very different from his mother’s spicy Jewish cooking). Very soon, Hackett is in a panic when he discovers he no longer has heartburn. He thinks his fire has gone out and he is going to die. 

Injustice collectors need to feel a fire in their stomachs, otherwise they do not feel alive.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Truth About God and the Ballot Box

As followers of this blog will know, we have been lucky to have God as a sometime contributor. So when Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated Wednesday, “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” we decided to go to the source to fact-check that assertion. 


Us: Thank you for taking time from what must be an incredibly busy schedule to join us by phone.

God: Yes, it’s been a hectic few days (luckily I have been using Venus days to get things done—they’re 5,832 hours long). I’ve just gotten back from the far end of the universe where I’ve had to deal with a few black holes. Successfully, I’m happy to report.

Us: Great news. Anyway, God, the news here on planet Earth—which we wanted to ask you about—is the statement by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that you wanted Donald Trump to become president of the United States. Is that true?

God: Well, as you know, I have always been a great champion of the secret ballot, and so I don’t think anyone need reveal who he or she ever voted for. Now, in the case of the 2016 presidential election, however, I willingly reveal that I didn’t vote for anybody.

Us: Sorry, I can’t believe that you, ordinarily so responsible—even to rectifying black holes that exist beyond the beyond—would not cast a ballot in such an important election.

God: Wait just one minute! It wasn’t that I “would not” cast a ballot; it was the case that I “could not” cast a ballot.

Us: I don’t understand.

God: OK. Here’s what happened: when I presented myself at the polling place, they wouldn’t let me vote.

Us: They wouldn’t let you vote?

God: Right. They said I had to show a government-issued photo ID to vote, which, of course, I didn’t have. And which I have never needed in all my travels around the universe I myself created. If I were Zeus, I would just have leveled the officious fools with a lightning bolt or two. But that was then; this is now. 

Us: So what did you do?

God: I just went home and made myself a cup of tea. I figured if that’s how they were going to cheat on their elections, they deserved whatever they got.

Now you’re going to have to excuse me, young man. I have to get back to work. It seems kvetchy old Saint Peter is complaining that the Pearly Gates are not strong enough to keep out those who don’t deserve to enter heaven. Muttering something about a wall. I might have to transfer him to one of those black holes. Ciao.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


When The New Yorker introduced a cartoon captioning contest a few years back, I was an eager participant. After a while, when the winning captions seemed to me to be much inferior to my own entries, I lost interest in playing.*

This week, however, the latest cartoon caused my caption-writing juices to start flowing:

I immediately tossed off the caption “He’ll be here on the 8.06.” And sat back in anticipation of a victory in a few week’s time.

But what I hadn’t counted on was that once the machine was cranked up, it would keep churning out captions. So while I lay in bed last night, these were some of the alternatives that kept me from my shuteye:

“You have no idea how fast the pizza delivery is.”

“The basement was too small.”

“You’ll never guess how my husband and I met.”

“Unfortunately, it’s only a branch line.”

“You just have to remember to “Stop, Look, and Listen.”

“Thank goodness John never had the desire to be an airline pilot.”

“Historically, the house was here first.”

“In 1948 Harry Truman gave a whistle-stop speech in the dining room.”

“Bruce is absentminded. Yesterday he left his conductor’s cap behind.”

“In return, they gave us the dining car concession.”

“The salesman talked Eliot out of getting HO gauge.”

“That draft is from having to keep the house doors open.”

“And I’m married to a stay-at-home husband!”

“The only inconvenience is having to change at Jamaica.”

“Henry got the idea when he was banned for drunk-driving.”

“Unfortunately, the monthly commute costs are outrageous.”

“Next summer we’re going to electrify it.”

“When you marry someone named Casey Jones . . . .”

“The only downside is the smell from the cattle cars.”

“My husband left without a word last Monday. I figure he’s probably near Cleveland now.”

“The neighbors are so jealous!”

“What makes you think my husband is over-compensating?”

“Unfortunately, my mother-in-law has a Senior Pass.”

“I’ll frank your visit.”


* I not only never won the contest, I never even became one of the three finalists. I readily admit that my all-time best entry was topped by an even-more-witty submission. 

Picture a prisoner about to be executed by a firing squad. The firing squad, however, is composed of a dog, a cat, several children, and a senior citizen or two (at least that’s how I remember it). Prisoner speaking.

My caption was something like “Boy, you really are the Irregulars.”

The winning (brilliant) caption: “My wife couldn’t make it?”

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Discontent of the Ultrarich

Last month an article appeared in The Atlantic that really pulled at my heartstrings. It revealed, as the article’s title stated in part, that “Many Ultrarich People Aren’t Satisfied With Their Wealth.” (1) As a lover of all mankind, I went into such a right funk about the fact that the ultrarich were not resting easily that only now, over a month later, have I been able to face the situation and seek a solution. 

The author of the article, Joe Pinsker, cites many authorities and studies on the subject of the ultrarich and their (perceived) needs. One expert, Brooke Harrington, a professor at the Copenhagen Business School, noted that 
the question many rich people ask themselves about their money is not Do I have enough to buy this expensive thing I want? but rather Do I have as much or more than these people I’m comparing myself with?
The ultrarich, in other words, play a game of Keeping Up With the Joneses—but on steroids.  

And since it is one of Gotthelf’s laws that “Someone Always Has a Bigger One,” persons caught up in this quest to match the Joneses, can never be satisfied. For once they reach the plateau that Jones #1 is on, looking up they can see a higher level where stands Jones #2. So the yacht that seemed so satisfactory at level 1, is from hunger at level 2. 

Pinsker cites the research that Gary Shteyngart did for a recent novel: 
Here were people who could purchase anything they could ever want and whose wealth was widely envied, and even they weren’t content.
This can be explained by Prof. Harrington’s observation about being driven by a compulsion:
they feel they must buy in order to keep up their status.
For “feeling wealthy is about comparison with others in your reference group.”

Clearly what the ultrarich need is a new sense of self-worth, which, if one can believe the publishing houses, can be found by reading some of the zillions of self-help books published each year. But since the ultrarich are too caught up in the cycle of chasing ever bigger yachts and houses and cars (2), they don’t recognize the importance of securing a volume whose wisdom might alleviate their distress--that despite being filthy rich, they are still a plateau or two below other filthy rich Joneses.

As I said above, I am a lover of all mankind, and so I have rattled my brain to come up with a solution to their problem. And what I have decided to do is—because the ultrarich are funneling their gelt elsewhere—start a GoFundMe account called Alms For the Rich that would purchase life-changing advice books and give them to the plutocrats for free.

Then, instead of huddling over their Bloomberg terminals trying to outdo their rivals—as Shteyngart discovered (3)— they could all retreat to an ashram and chill out. (4)


     2. New York Times DealBook Briefing for Jan. 10, 2019 reported, “Rolls-Royce had record sales last year.”

     3. “One thing Shteyngart noticed after spending time with this crowd was how competitive they were. ‘They’d compete against one another on their Bloomberg terminals all day and then at the end of the day they would play competitive poker with each other,’ he says.”

     4. Hell, the Wall Street types wouldn’t even have to travel far.