Wednesday, December 13, 2017

AND STARS FELL ON ALABAMA LAST NIGHT


So Doug Jones and not Roy Moore it seems will be the next senator from Alabama. I feel like I have been drowning for months and just managed to come up for air. I've taken a deep breath. This, however, is the Bizzaro world in which Donald Trump is President of the United States and Republiscum still control both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. That deep breath is going to have to last me into 2019 when, hopefully, we will have a Democratic controlled Congress and the greatly deserved impeachment of Trump, Pence and their neo-Fascist tribe.

The talking heads are already jabbering about "historic elections" (which, given that Alabama has not had a Democratic senator in some 25 years is a term of some justice), and an end to Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, reversal of control in the U. S. Senate, renewed respect for women, and victory, Victory, VICTORY!

Calm down!

The 2018 Congressional elections are 11 months away. The one real lesson that we can derive from this election in Alabama is the same one that we learned from the campaigns of Tidd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana in 2012. That lesson is that when the Republiscum loonies and neo-Fascists speak what is actually on their clouded, malfunctioning minds enough of the general public is sufficiently horrified to insure that they lose elections. I for one hope that the Republiscum keep finding plenty of Roy Moores and Todd Akins and Christine O'Donnells to run against decent and sane Democrats. We cannot, however, count on the Republiscum being that stupid so often. As they have done in the past they can be counted on to recruit racists, rapists, lunatics, lunatic evangelicals, neo-Fascists, anti-Semites and other right-wing bigots who are schooled to keep their mouths shut.

The great danger we now face is the typical danger for Democrats. We on the left love victories. We yearn for them and when we get one we dust off our hands, say with Little Jack Horner, "What a good boy (or girls or gender non-specific person) am I!" and consider that we've won. We go home, settle down with a drink of our preference and go to sleep until the next noisy election wakes us. In the coming year there will be 469 races for seats in the U. S. House and Senate, not just one in Alabama. The interest of voters and contributors will be pulled in nearly 469 different directions. The Gerrymandering, voter suppression and billionaire donors will be more effective in elections that are so fragmented. While the Republiscum are working to maintain their control of Congress our good Democrats will be sleeping off that congratulatory drink waiting for a presidential year or engaging in internecine battles between the Bernie Babies and establishment people over ideology instead of uniting to win everywhere regardless of ideological purity. That is why I expect to feel as if I'm drowning for at least the next 12 months. And maybe until January 20, 2021.

Congratulations, Doug Jones! Breathe everyone. Enjoy the drink! But get back to work in the morning or as Bertolt Brecht said at the end of World War II, "Don't rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world stood up and stopped the bastard, The bitch that bore him is in heat again."

Monday, December 11, 2017

CHURCH AND STATE


Many years ago there was a Ken-L Ration dog food commercial that had a catchy jingle that I have always liked, with a few modifications as the expression of belief that I hear from people who claim to be religious. The jingle goes as follows:

My god's better than your god!
My god's better than yours!
My god's better 'cause he gives me salvation. 
My god's better than yours!

I think of that as a sort of corollary to Mark Twain's observation, "Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them."

Please follow me back through the centuries. We could go back to the Crusades a millennium ago but let's not go back quite so far, just 600 years to Halloween in 1517. The European world was reeling from several influences. The round world was a fact just established 25 years before. Moveable type and the printing of books was still relatively new but learning was spreading and people were beginning to get their information from print rather than from the pulpit. Islam had been driven back across the Strait of Gibraltar making Europe "Christian" for the first time ever. On that day a priest named Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral and the Protestant Reformation begins. What also begins is nearly 300 years of wars over religion and the right to worship in various ways, not just Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy but in an exfoliating plethora of disciplines all of which insisted that they and they alone were the one, true route to salvation.

In 1534, British monarch Henry VIII, besotted with Anne Boleyn, could not get an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon from the pope so he separated the Church of England from the Church of Rome precipitating religious wars that roiled England for the next 200 years. During those two centuries support for religion remained strong but the belief grew that it was possible for the various Protestants sects to live side by side in peace and that was even possible for Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Jews and Muslims. By 1775 Puritan New England, polyglot New York, Quaker Pennsylvania, Catholic Maryland, Anglican Virginia and other states with other religious majorities found common cause in revolt against the British throne and found that they could work quite well with one another as long as they avoided religious issues. Thus when many of the same men who governed the Revolutionary colonies came together to draw up a new Constitution in 1787 they again avoided religion.

In the debate over adopting the Constitution a number of flaws in the document came to light one of which was that very absence of a mention of religion. While it is true that they were Christians of one sect or another that does not mean that they intended to create a Christian nation. In fact, they specifically wanted no such thing. The drafters of our Constitution saw the struggles among monarch of various faiths as an evil of which they had had far more than enough. The framers of the Constitution resolved that issue of the Constitution's silence on religion by specifying that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." That language pretty clearly establishes that the United States cannot be "a Christian nation" no matter how involuted and convoluted the arguments of some evangelicals may be. The muddiness come in when we get to the "free exercise thereof".

From 1789 onward the "free exercise" of religion has meant freedom to worship within one's family and selected religious community. The religious world has been a private affair. Once one ventures into the public sphere the free exercise of religion fades away into secular egalitarianism. This fading of the "free exercise" of one person's religion occurs not as an affront to that person's religion but because the exercise of that one person's religion may unintentionally become and affront to another person's equally valid free exercise of his or her religion.. We are all free to exercise our own religion in so far as it does not impose one religion on another. In the public marketplace the exercise that is free in private must take a back seat to the freedom of others.

Thus the baker of wedding cakes or the florist who prepares wedding bouquets has every right to believe what he or she wishes but cannot decide that those honestly held religious beliefs allow him or her to refuse to serve any person in the public marketplace. To do so affronts the customer's freedom generally and, potentially, the customer's religious freedom as well.

The U. S. Supreme Court in the wrongly decided Hobby Lobby case carved out a new niche for religious fanatics to impose their beliefs on their fellow citizens. That same court seems poised to deepen that niche unless more rational heads prevail in the Colorado Baker and Washington Florist's cases. If the five right-wing justices find for the baker and the florist 228 years of our history will be trodden into the dirt. Religion that the framers of the Constitution sought to excise from governmental concern will become an ever increasing matter of government establishment. While Congress will not have made any law prohibiting the "free exercise" of religion the Supreme Court, displaying unconscionable religious bias, will have established religion opening our society to the religious wars that those who sweltered through the summer of 1787 sought to ban forever from our nation.

Some years ago a dear friend of mine and I were having a dinner of Chinese take-out with her mother. Emma Catherine was in her late 80s and was a life-long Southern Baptist. The topic of religion came up and her daughter, my friend Anna, said, "Rob's an atheist, you know." Emma Catherine nearly dropped her dumplings. Startled and both afraid and angry she looked at me  fiercely saying, "You can't make me believe it!" I answered her, "I would never want to make you believe anything, least of all my lack of faith. Your faith gives you great comfort and I'm glad it does. I would never want to take that from you." I don't want anyone to believe as I do though I'm gratified when I find others who agree with me. I don't want to impose my lack of faith on anyone. I also am glad that others find solace in their own particular faiths. I have a daughter and son-in-law who are conservative Jews and a close friend who is an Episcopalian minister. I am glad for them in their faiths. To keep our civil society civil we must decide that the boundary that religious practice and belief must not cross is the boundary of the public marketplace. We establish religion there at our peril and as a rapid descent into conflict and incivility.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

ROY MOORE, A NAZI, AL FRANKEN AND GARRISON KEILLOR : WITCH HUNTS II


I fear that we have already passed the point I feared that we would reach on my last post. First, however, let's look at the case of Judge Roy Moore of Alabama.

Moore is ostensibly a CHRISTIAN theocrat. He is not a Christian in the sense of a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Rather he is an Old Testament and Revelation CHRISTIAN who mixes religion with politics for his own ends. Whether Roy Moore actually believes in as much as half of the crap he spews in public I rather doubt. If he actually believes all of it that only makes him exponentially a greater danger to American democracy. In any case, Moore has exploited religious farragoes to raise his profile and build a political base of the easily led evangelicals. Roy Moore has a darker side, however, as if such a thing were possible. He's a pedophile. It's not just the women who have related his advances toward them when they were as young as 14. The confirmation has come from Moore's own mouth. While vociferously denying that he knew these women Moore has admitted that he had his eye on the woman who became his wife from the time she was 14 or 15 years old. He has also admitted to not dating girls unless he got the approval of their mothers. Implicit in that admission is the fact that the girls dated were young enough to require parental approval for their dates. We also know that Roy Moore was banned from the Gadsden, Alabama Mall because of his behavior toward teen girls.

I want to be clear here. Roy Moore has not been charged with or convicted of any crime.The worst of which he has been accused is child molestation, a crime but one with which an assistant district attorney could easily avoid being charged. It's too bad that Chris Hansen wasn't at work unmasking predators of children 40 years ago. Had a Chris Hansen been around to expose Roy Moore all those years ago we might well have been spared his whole career. Unfortunately we have not been so lucky. The bottom line on Roy Moore is that he is an admitted pedophile, has molested a couple of teens in the past and now had wrapped himself in the flag and Bible to pretend that he is god's anointed and deserving of Alabamians' votes.

If you are a CHRISTIAN or even an actual Christian I would suggest that you review the 25th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. I would further suggest that Jesus explicitly says there that it is one's deeds and not words that define those who will sit at the right hand of god. By their deeds shall you know them. Today's evangelicals in Alabama know Roy Moore's deeds and choose to judge him on his words instead. If those evangelicals turn out to send Roy Molester to the U. S. Senate we will know by their deeds that conservative evangelicalism has nothing to do with religion, least of all Christianity, These evangelicals are simply a tax avoiding political movement cloaked in a false Christianity and brandishing crosses that some amongst them unabashedly burn. They are the army of theocracy believing all manner of pseudo-historical bullshit that keeps them militant in public but docile in the pews as a chosen but persecuted minority. If you are disappointed, distressed and unable to understand the causes of your condition come unto to your preacher all ye who labor and are heavy laden and he will tell you who to blame. He will tell you that you are persecuted like the ancient Christians thrown to the lions in the Roman Colosseum. Your preacher will tell you that Liberals take money out of your pockets to give to others that you don't like such as African-Americans, Hispanic immigrants, immigrants generally and especially those less than 1% of Moslem-Americans whom they falsely and irrationally claim are working diligently to impose Sharia Law on the over 74% of Americans who identify as Christians. One thing that your preacher will neglect to point out is any genuine sense of the absurd. No, your right-wing evangelical preachers will tell you that Roy Moore is god's anointed because when Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me," it was because he'd spotted an underage hottie in the group at play.

To sum up, Roy Moore is an admitted pedophile and child molester. He has committed crimes in the past and clearly does not believe in our Constitutional government in the present. Though he has never been convicted of a crime against children he has been twice found unfit for office nit because he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs but because he does not believe in Constitutional government. He is manifestly unfit for any public office let alone the U. S. Senate.

Now let us turn to people who have behaved reprehensibly but not criminally, the distinguishing. characteristic between our next subject and Roy Moore. Allow me, please to start with the most odious.

On December 5th I read in the Daily KOS digest of the case of American Nazi, Tony Hovater of Carlisle, Ohio. I am no Nazi sympathizer. My father and uncle fought the Nazis in World War II. The very existence of  American Nazis is an affront to their deeds and their sacrifice and, indeed, to the sacrifice of all of those who fought against Fascism in the 1940s. Yet I find little to rejoice about in the treatment of Tony Hovater and his family. This man and his family ascribe to an odious political philosophy, one that is repugnant to me and should be to every decent American but firing him, his wife and brother-in-law because of his disgusting political beliefs and the viciousness of some people on my side of the political spectrum is simply wrong. It smacks of the Blacklists of the late-1940s and 1950s. Do we really think that making this fool homeless, impoverished and hounded is going to make him less of a Nazi? Have we learned nothing from the experience of our own friends who were blacklisted nearly 70 years ago? Did blacklisting make Dashiell Hammett, Lionel Stander or John Henry Faulk less Liberal? Hardly! Yet I am supposed to view the retribution visited on Hovater as a good thing. It is not a good thing. It is a way to turn a fool who has allied himself with a disgusting political philosophy into a martyr for the Nazi cause and possibly into a greater danger to us all.

In my worst moments I could take pleasure in Tony Hovater's misfortunes. Yet that doesn't last long. If he has behaved criminally, please bring charges against him but do not ostracize him for his disgusting political beliefs. That is simply wrong and, in fact, a matter of criminal discrimination. I also call down shame upon those who sent him death threats and threatened his employer. That behavior is criminal. If we are to maintain the superiority of our system of fairness and laws to his system of bias and hate we had better uphold the lwas and the fairness lest we ourselves become the mirror image of Hovater's odious beliefs.

Similarly the attacks on Al Franken have seemed to me much like those on Hovater or the rush to judgement in Woody Allen of which I've already written. To me the attacks sounded like the hysterical accusations of rape and incest that I heard a quarter century ago from women appalled by Allen's relationship to Soon-Yi Previn. Let's be clear. Franken's behavior may have been crass and sophomoric but his humor has always tended toward crass and sophomoric.

There is some reason to believe that Senator Franken has been set up by some ultra-right-wing activists and that one or more of his subsequent accusers may have piled on for political reasons or personal profit but regardless of whether those things are true or not Franken's behavior is of a decidedly lower order than that of actual predators like Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly or Harvey Weinstein. In those cases women's careers were determined by whether or not they provided sexual favors to the predators in power. There is no evidence whatever that Senator Franken before or after his election to the Senate abused his power to harm any of his accusers or anyone else. Even Franken's first accuser, Leeann Tweeden, would have had more to complain about had she ever participated in one of Bob Hope's USO Shows than she's had to complain about with Senator Franken.

Initially Senator Franken chose to submit to an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. This is the established and time honored way of dealing with such complaints. An Ethics Committee investigation affords both the Senator and his accusers the opportunity to present their cases in a quasi-judicial proceeding and requires that the senator accept the judgement of his peers. In such an investigation we would learn of the motives of Senator Franken's accusers. Those motives may be genuine distress at a violation. They also may be something more. A full investigation would allow us all to know and, most importantly, in a "nation of laws", would afford all parties their legal rights to be heard and a just outcome to be reached.

Some years ago I was called for jury duty in a case of a man who had threatened several fire and police officers. During the voir dire one of the attorneys asked the jury pool if a police officer accused a person of some crime would you accept that as true? Most of those in the pool nodded and raised their hands to say that the police officer's word was good enough to establish guilt. I kept my hand firmly in my lap so the attorney asked me why I was not with the rest of the group What I answered was, "I used to live in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1692 there about 20 people were executed as witches simply because they were accused by some of their neighbors. I don't believe in witches and absent any reliable evidence, I don't believe in any simple accusation."

As accusers piled on Senator Franken's colleagues made the political decision that, given the egregiousness of Roy Moore and Donald Trump's behavior accusation was sufficient to end Senator Franken's career He had not worked to deny advancement to any of his accusers nor had he paid them off out of government funds as Representative John Conyers did. Purely from the perceived need to appear "holier than thou" Senator Franken's Democratic colleagues took him to the gallows on the strength of his unquestioned accusers and figuratively hung him without so much as the travesty of the Salem Witch Trials. In doing so those colleagues have weakened their position and done a disservice to all the women assaulted and demeaned by other powerful men. I don't know what the Ethics Committee investigation would have found. It is as likely that such an investigation would have recommended that Senator Franken be expelled from the Senate as it is that he would have been cleared of all charges or censured in some less dramatic way. The fact is that now we can never know what a legal procedure would have concluded and that is dangerous, un-American and something we should have known better than to do since 1692.

Finally, as a coda to this rush to judgement we have the case of Garrison Keillor. On the strength of one accuser Keillor has been ostracized by the institution that he more than any other performer built, Minnesota Public Radio, and National Public Radio for which Keillor's Prairie Home Companion has been a major building block. I don't know and cannot know whether this accusation was the only one lodged against Keillor in the last 40 years or the 40th in the last year but because no one outside of the public radio world knows the causes, the speedy dismissal of Keillor seems unfounded and precipitous. It looks like the "witch hunt" of which some of the most egregious offenders claim to be victims and which others may actually be victims in the future.

What I find remarkable is the willingness of women who should know better to ascribe to this rush to unsubstantiated judgement. Has it not been the fate of women for centuries to be diminished, ignored and dismissed. Men have been able to avoid punishment for their bad behavior toward women simply by accusing women of "hysteria" or vindictiveness on the flimsiest of grounds and found acceptance by other men. The object of gender equality is not to do unto them as they did unto me but rather to end the dismissal of women's concerns and elevate them to the level of men's. We do not need a regime of female chauvinism to replace that of male chauvinism. The object is equality.

The interests of all involved will ultimately be best served by pursuing legal actions in these cases. We will have a body of law establishing the validity or lack thereof if accusations of sexual misconduct. We will have precedents for punishment of representatives and senators and, perhaps, even presidents. We will establish clear and enforceable standards of conduct, standards that, unlike the laws regarding rape and employment discrimination, we clearly do not now have in any generally agreed form. Women no less than men should be eager for establishment of such standards for without them who knows which of us will be carried to the figurative gallows by some "witch hunt" real or imagined.

Monday, November 27, 2017

O'REILLY, WEINSTEIN, AND WOODY: WITCH HUNTS I



Let's get some things out of the way at the start. Sexual assault in all it's myriad degrees is as unacceptable in any form as violence against women, or, indeed, violence against anyone, man, woman, transgendered, gay. It just isn't to be tolerated. It is a crime. Even more so are attacks against children who are, by definition, weak, manipulatable and not fully formed in their abilities to discern what is appropriate and what is not. The main issue in violence and sexual predation against women and, indeed, against children is power. Much as the athletes against whom I have railed elsewhere, powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski or Strom Thurmond had power and a privilege that enveloped and coddled them. Their power and privilege protected them until it didn't. Each of their cases is different but the commonality is power, the kind of power which the very adult actress, Liv Ullman, when dating Henry Kissinger called "the ultimate aphrodisiac." I would suggest that the aphrodisiac may affect both parties in an extremely limited number of cases but in the vast majority of cases it is just fogging the man's brain.

I will also admit to being less enlightened in my past. Not dramatically so but I will admit to having given an uninvited shoulder massage to a woman co-worker complaining of tightness in her neck. I also admit to losing my temper with two of my daughters and physically hurting them on one occasion each. Those are acts for which, in the cases of my daughters, I felt awful about immediately.. The shoulder rub is something that happened over twenty years ago has never been repeated nor will it be. Behavior that might have been acceptable though annoying at an earlier time isn't excused but if it has been abandoned years ago and isn't occurring currently it seems to me a lesser issue than behavior that is current and on-going.

Let's also acknowledge that we are in a period of transition in our attitudes. As in any period of transition we are looking, like the Roman god Janus both forward and back. We have formulated newer attitudes and, if you will, morals while we have not yet completely replaced the old attitudes and morals. Because we are in this transition period and looking in both directions at once a person accused of some unacceptable behavior under the new morality may be hounded even for offenses that would have been seen as distressing but, perhaps, less offensive under the old. That said let's proceed to set that aside for the moment to take up the topic at hand.

The behavior of Harvey Weinstein toward women is outrageous and deserves every bit of punishment to which he has been or may be subjected. So is the behavior of many other of those accused who have not learned that their behavior is or was wrong. Similarly the sexual harassment and or assualts, whether successful or not, by other men in power in business, entertainment, politics and elsewhere are reprehensible. Those men - and so far they all are men - deserve public disgrace and personal loss as they continue their criminal behavior.

In the midst of this avalanche of charges, resignations, firings and usually justified ruined reputations a couple of persons stand out. The first is Bill O'Reilly, multiple harasser of women and formerly one of the chief neo-Fascist pontificators at Fox News. Poor Widdle Biwwy tells his listeners that he's the victim of a conspiracy. Never mind the millions that he personally and his sponsors at Fox had to pay out to his victims over the years. Never mind the fact that Poor Widdle Biwwy has always insisted on "personal responsibility" for any person or class or race he doesn't especially like yet now refuses to take personal responsibility himself. Let's just say that Poor Widdle Biwwy represents one end of the spectrum of abusers, the end which denies everything including the manifest facts. Though, since Poor Widdle Biwwy has been denying facts for most of his life, why should he stop now?

On a different extreme of the abuser spectrum is the writer, actor, comedian and director, Woody Allen. Of all the people in the movie industry who have spoken out courageously about sexual harassment and worse since the Weinstein/sexual abuse scandals broke Allen is the one I most wish had kept his mouth shut. Given Allen's history in the break up with Mia Farrow and his subsequent marriage to Soon-Yi Previn he would have been well advised to avoid all comment on the subject. Mr. Allen's comments, while somewhat less offensive in context than in the typical sound bite, clearly scratched a scab off an old an incompletely healed wound.

I want to dwell on Mr. Allen's case for a bit because I believe that he and I share some circumstances.

Back in 1992 when the Allen-Previn liason became public in August, 1992 Soon-Yi Previn may well have been just shy of her 22nd birthday. She now claims her date of birth is October 8, 1970 though that date is not precisely known. Ms. Previn might have been as young as 19 in 1992. An affair with Woody Allen may or may not have begun when Ms. Previn was as young as 17. It is impossible to know her exact age and there is a lot of dispute over when her affair with Allen began. In 1992 Mr. Allen was 58 years old. If you want to say that there is something creepy about a relationship between a 58 year old man and a 22 year old woman I will not argue with you. Allen's attraction is certainly creepy. Ms. Farrow, Ms. Previn's adoptive mother at the time was 47 years old and 11 years Mr. Allen's junior. It is also worth noting that Ms. Farrow married 50 year old Frank Sinatra when she was 21 and that Mr. Sinatra had purportedly had an an affair with Ms. Farrow's mother, Maureen O'Sullivan. The most certain fact is that Ms. Previn through no fault of her own comes out of a family with a very messy and complicated history. Regardless of that the age difference makes the relationship of Allen and Previn somewhat cringe worthy. Still, how can we condemn a young woman for falling in love with a funny, attentive older man? How can we condemn an older man from being attracted to the youth and beauty of a younger woman? We even have celebrated such relationships in story and song. Take, for one example, Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics from South Pacific:

"And when your youth and joy invade my arms 
 And fill my heart as now they do.
 Then younger than Springtime am I.
 Gayer than laughter am I.
 Angel and lover, heaven and earth,
 Am I with you."

With that cringe factor as a given I vividly recall the women with whom I worked going ballistic about Woody Allen. The terms "rape" and "incest" poured out like milk on morning cereal. Relative to the concept of incest, that is simply impossible. Ms. Previn is and was no blood relation to Mr. Allen or to Ms. Farrow for that matter. Mr. Allen may have been a father figure (Ms. Previn denies that she ever viewed him as such.) but screaming "incest" is even more inappropriate than the relationship given the age discrepancy.

As for the rape allegation, I was struck by a certain cognitive dissonance on the part of these women with whom I worked. They would fight to the death for the right of a 12 or 13 year old girl who wanted an abortion or contraception on the grounds that it was the child's body and only she had the right to make decisions for it yet they insisted that Soon-Yi Previn could not decide who she loved though she was at least 19. It seems to me that one can't have that both ways. Either young women can make decisions about their bodies and sexuality or they can't. If Soon-Yi Previn was incapable of making a decision to begin a sexual relationship with Mr. Allen then perhaps even younger women shouldn't be allowed to to make decisions on contraception or abortion for themselves. Let's be clear that I don't believe that. I believe that we should give some respect to decisions that children in their teens want to make. I know that it's a fraught area because the teen years are themselves a fraught period of life. I would not make the same decisions now at age 68 that I made in my 30s or 40s let alone those I made in my teens. However, a 12 year old who's become pregnant after a rape should by default have the right to an abortion if she wants one. Similarly a somewhat older Soon-Yi Previn deserves our deference and respect when she decides whom she loves.

Now we need to switch perspectives once again. I can well imagine the fury of Ms. Farrow when she discovered that a woman she thought of as her daughter was having an affair with her lover and artistic partner. Some of the best movies the Mr. Allen has made were those he made between 1982 and 1992. In fact I can't imagine a run of finer films that any director has made than those that start in 1983 with Zelig and end in 1987 with Radio Days, especially the absolutely sublime Broadway Danny Rose and Hannah and her Sisters. The creative partnership of Allen and Farrow may well have been the high point of Allen's career. Thus Ms. Farrow was losing more than a lover. In her fury I am sure that she wanted her lawyers to pursue issues like rape and incest. I am just as sure that her attorneys told her that those avenues were very short dead ends. So what is a woman betrayed by both her lover and her daughter and in her righteous fury to do? I would suggest that as days went by and the brain-fog such fury creates began to clear Ms. Farrow decided to hit Mr. Allen in the place that would hurt him most both personally and publicly. I believe very strongly that she cooked up the child molestation charges against Mr. Allen as an insidious and perfect revenge.

Examinations of Ms. Farrow and Mr. Allen's jointly adopted daughter, Dylan, were ambiguous at best yet a Connecticut court severed Mr. Allen's parental rights with Dylan and in the ensuing 25 years Ms. Farrow's insistence on their existence have made it impossible to determine whether the scars of child abuse that Dylan Farrow alleges are real or simply like a temporary tattoo. Dylan certainly believes that they are real scars. From her point of view they are unquestionably real. It remains to be seen whether those scars result from heinous acts by Woody Allen or equally heinous acts of revenge by Mia Farrow.

In the interests of full disclosure my personal situation probably informs my attitudes in Mr. Allen's case because my relationships with my daughters too have suffered from a vindictive woman, their mother.

My first wife and I have three amazing, beautiful, intelligent and accomplished daughters. Our oldest was, in my wife's mind, supposed to be the child of her and her college roommate. It was not something that she fully understood or even clearly expressed herself but she insisted that our daughter's first and middle names "had to be" her roommate's first name coupled with her own.  It happened that our work schedules made me the primary care giver for that daughter. My first girl and I bonded during her first year and that bond has managed to survive though strained all these many years later. That bonding, however, resulted in an abiding jealousy in my wife that expressed itself in many ways. When my wife became pregnant with our second daughter she determined that she was not going to permit a similar bonding to take place. My wife announced that she would quit her job once the new baby arrived. We could not afford to lose her income but she was determined and quit to raise our second daughter. In my wife's mind our second daughter was hers and our first daughter was mine though they were both equally ours. Some years later when she was pregnant with our third daughter my wife announced that she was having this baby for her friend and coworker. That friend had found that she was infertile. I thought that was a magnanimous gesture that would bring another friend into our family circle. I did not know that my wife had realized, with my inadvertent help, that she was a lesbian and that she had fallen in love with that friend and coworker for whom she would leave our marriage when our third daughter was 3 months old. In my now former wife's mind our third daughter was her child with her new partner rather than with me. How do I know this? I know it because of my former wife's statement to me before our daughter was born and because she has since announced to our daughters that she had the oldest for me, the middle for herself and our youngest for her new partner. It can't get more explicit than that.

My ex-wife also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services dealing with abused and abandoned children. When one is a hammer everything looks like a nail. I must admit to a couple of instances of bad parenting. In one instance my middle daughter was misbehaving and screaming because she did not want to go on a trip to an event for her older sister. I had found that she was lighting matches and burning cotton balls dipped in rubbing alcohol when I'd left that middle daughter at home alone a couple of weeks before. I told her mother about the behavior and that that daughter would not be left alone again. We were in a Volkswagen Beetle. I was in the driver's seat. I reached back into the back seat to try to grab her. In that awkward motion I hit her in the nose and caused a nosebleed. I was immediately embarrassed and sorry but the incident was sufficient for my ex-wife to insist that our middle daughter, the one you will recall that she had for herself, not visit me for a time and that we go into counseling with a therapist of her choice. The therapist was predisposed to think all men abusive which only worsened the situation. On another occasion a few years later I held my oldest daughter's arm too tightly and backed her up against a wall when she was behaving badly at a dress shop. My ex-wife has magnified these incidents, propagandized our daughters and they now insist that I beat them.

When I was a child my mother was very liberal with spanking, usually with her hand but often with a belt. I hated that abuse and vowed not to use such abuse toward my daughters. I never intentionally hurt them and certainly never beat them either with my hands or any other object. In fact my whole parenting life has been an effort not to treat my children as I was treated. That I was imperfect in my attempts I must admit but I was never so imperfect as to descend to abuse. So you must forgive me if I see in the situation with Woody Allen, Mia Farrow and their children a parallel to my situation. I cannot know for certain what transpired between Mr. Allen and Dylan Farrow over 25 years ago but I believe that many who think they know, including some of those far closer to the events than I, may believe that they know things that never took place outside the vengeful mind of Mia Farrow and that such a scenario is at least as likely as the scenarios others have spun for themselves based on as little hard evidence as I have.

Again, I must point out that Woody Allen would have done well simply to avoid comment on the current wave of sexual abuse scandals. We would all do well to reserve some judgement in some of these cases. If there is a large preponderance of evidence available to the public, then, by all means, form an opinion and let's bring the abusers before a court where possible and meet out punishment commensurate with the length and breadth of the inappropriate and even criminal behavior. However, where the length and breadth of the misbehavior or crime s very limited or indeterminable let's be somewhat circumspect in lumping the minor offenders with the worst. To lump them together hurts the goal of changing the mindset that allows for such behavior. If the punishment for the least offensive is the same as that for the most offensive ultimately there will be a justifiable reaction against the excess that could undermine all the positive results from this watershed moment. That would be a true shame for all of us.

We are all imperfect creatures. I would never think of engaging in sexual activity with a person who had not made clear that she was interested in such activity. Invading a woman's body against her will is at best inappropriate and at worst criminal. That is something that simply must stop regardless of the age and power distributions between the participants. As imperfect creatures we need to be clear that we aren't good at "reading signals" given by one person to another. In fact, there is probably more bias in the "reading" than anyone would care to admit. Like the 1,000 monkeys with their 1,000 typewriters who could eventually type out all of Shakespeare, in between the accidental serendipity of some words or phrases appearing there is bound to be mountains of unintelligible gobbledygook. Perhaps we should assume by default that the alleged signals one purports to be "reading" is actually the gobbledygook and not the Shakespeare.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A SWEET, SAD MAN


I have a young male nurse who occasionally visits me. Why he comes is not important to this narrative. Only he is important. He's an immigrant from Russian Siberia who's been in the United States for a good long time. He speaks nearly unaccented English and is diligent about his care of me. He has a wife and a couple of children and, by all appearances, is a sweet and caring individual. He is also a religious fundamentalist, fierce anti-communist and Trump supporter.

For his part Benjamin does not believe that the King James translation of The Bible is the one, true and inerrant word of god. He does, however, believe that belief in miracles is a prerequisite for being a Christian. He believes that all dictatorships are left-wing which means that both Hitler and Stalin were socialists as were Mussolini, Mao, Peron, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Kim Il Sung, Franco, and Castro. Benjamin believes that there's no difference between any of those dictators. When I suggested to him that he might want to do some reading of major sources on that subject and offered to lend him my copy of William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Benjamin demurred because he needed to do some research first. He said that it's very hard to trust "the media" and the fact that Shirer was present reporting on Hitler's rise still meant that he needed to vet Shirer's book with some source. I do not know what that source might be but the most frightening moment of our conversation was that moment when he insisted that he could not accept a source without making sure that it is approved in some way by an authority that he accepts.

Benjamin still claims that he listens to and reads different sides of an argument without the least understanding that, if he reads only approved sources, he will be getting a skewed version of the sides in the argument. He doesn't understand that he's saying that his mind is open to anything to which his authority allows him to be open.

Benjamin knows that I am an atheist. He asked and I would not lie to him. I am sure that my inability to believe in anything supernatural colors all I say and certainly my recommendations. Many years ago I lived in a building in which my landlord was a member of some fundamentalist sect. His friend and pastor was also a contractor. My landlord, Joseph Butler, hired his pastor to do some extensive work in my apartment which resulted in long delays and great inconvenience until I had to call in the local health department and get an order for, among other things, a working toilet. But in the midst of this construction project the man whom I've always referred to as Pastor Plaster phoned me one night during supper to beg me to put away from me my many books on "satanic subjects" like Richard Cavendish's The Black Arts, books on Norse and Greek Mythology and the like. Had Pastor Plaster opened Cavendish's book he would have found that it explains and largely debunks much of occultism but the title on the spine of the book was enough for Pastor Plaster to be assured that I was meddling with the forces of satan. Similarly, I expect that Benjamin feels certain that anything I might offer him is meant to lead him astray.

As political Liberals we think that we can persuade people on the right-wing with rational arguments and, to a limited extent that is true. A segment of the right-wing is open to persuasion, usually on the basic issues of services and money that government provides to them. Yet a much more significant section of the right-wing, the true neo-Fascists, the evangelical fundamentalists cannot be persuaded at all. Like Benjamin they will filter any argument through the authorities they have been taught to examine first. That may be some political preacher masquerading as a religious authority, Fox News, some ultra-right-wing web sites maintained by the scum of the "alt right". The fact is that such people are no more susceptible to reason than a doorknob. They are even insulated from having the lies of their authorities exposed because such exposure they see as just an attack by the satanic forces of the opposition to their revealed truth.

Benjamin is a sweet man. The care he provides is informed and freely given. Benjamin, however, is locked in a ultra-right-wing room from which he will refuse any opportunity to escape because he's been told that any escape only brings him to satan, communism and the uncertainties of having to decide for himself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

SAD AND UNUSUAL


Aaron Hernandez is dead, a suicide hung in his jail cell. That is a great sadness for his family and those close to him. It is all but unique in the annals of murderous and criminal sports figures protected by jock privilege that often even trumps wealth and white skin.

I am not going to rehash the specifics of Mr. Hernandez's crimes here. Those specifics aren't the point. What is the point and what no one will ever hear in the postmortems for Hernandez's life and career is the privilege that allowed him to feel that he was above the law and, like O. J. Simpson, nothing, even murder, would have consequences for him.

As a society we do some crazy things, few crazier than the way we treat exceptional athletes. We take young men, usually when they are still in elementary school, and begin grooming them for a possible professional career. We ignore the injuries they receive unless those injuries are "career ending" in that they impair the child's ability to move quickly and with great agility. If the injury is to the player's brain we don't care until and unless it manifests itself as physical impairment. Among the relative few with exceptional ability who make it out of high school, colleges recruit based on athletic ability and set up programs that keep athletes at an ostensible academic level that allows them to continue to play. Despite highly touted rules to that claim to prevent academic fraud, no college with a high level star player is going to allow him or her to fail courses regardless of how richly he deserves that failure. At the same time that the college is looking out for its star player the alumni and sports agents are looking out for him as well. That player gets perks that beggar anything afforded the greatest academic stars. Worse yet the local police and fans in business are there to coddle the player by overlooking his misbehavior. In protecting the player from consequences of infractions large and small both the academic institution's officers and local fans are complicit.

After a college career comes the draft for the professional sports teams. If this player has reached the highest level of performance agents and teams compete for his attentions by throwing money and perks at him or, far less frequently, her. So you have a person of age 21 or 22 lionized by all in his circle, protected from all negative consequences of his or her bad actions to whom suddenly fabulous amounts of money are offered. Toss 10 or 20 million dollars at a 21-year old and is it really so surprising that this person should get involved in drinking, drugs or even drug dealing? If the player has never had to face the consequences of his or her acts is it really surprising that he should molest children, commit murder or engage in horrific acts of domestic violence?

I have just listened to some people who know better pontificate about Aaron Hernandez's case claiming that, poor Aaron could never quite escape the bad influences in his life from Bristol, Connecticut where he grew up. I have some familiarity with Bristol, Connecticut. There are bad influences in Bristol but no more nor less than there are in any city of its size in any of the old industrial cities of the northeast and mid-west. Foisting the blame onto Bristol or Hernandez's friends from home is simply another way of avoiding the essential question of whether we are not creating the O. J. Simpsons. Aaron Hernandezs and Jerry Sanduskys along with a host of others by the essential way in which we treat sports stars. Until we address jock privilege and the institutionalized programs for creating it we will see many more such cases. What is unusual about Aaron Hernandez's case is that he had the decency to hang himself rather than loudly protest his unlikely innocence in the face of proven guilt.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

AHISTORICAL


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana

I play a game on line with people who are, for the most part, of the generations of my children and grandchildren. I am constantly surprised and appalled that my fellow gamers have no sense of the world before they reached the age of 8 to10-years old. Most of them know only what they have been told, not what they have read, especially not what they have read in an actual book as opposed to some on-line site. How much more appalling was the quintessence, the total lack of historical knowledge that White House spokesman Sean Spicer demonstrated when he claimed that Adolph Hitler never used poison gas and then compounded the ahistorical idiocy by insisting that Hitler never used gas against "his own people".

In the Orson Welles movie The Stranger (1946), Edward G. Robinson's Mr. Wilson, tracking a Martin Boorman-like Nazi war criminal is cued in to the fact that Welles' Professor Charles Rankin is the Nazi he's seeking when Rankin denies that Karl Marx was a German because he was a Jew. Spicer's statement that Hitler never used gas on "his own people" smacks of a statement that a significant part of the millions killed in the death camps weren't Germans because they were Jews. And, of course, Spicer had the exquisite timing to assert this right-wing nonsense on the day that Passover began.

However, Spicer's comsumate and and congenital ignorance is simply a function of the consumate and congenital ignorance of the entire administration from our Prevaricator-in-Chief through his whole family and closest advisors down to the lowliest White House gofer. And, moreover to the entire Republiscum Party.

One of the most important bits of context for Sean Spicer's idiot remarks comes from the neo-Fascists' attempts to distance themselves from their progenitors, the Nazis. There is a trope in right-wing circles that the Nazis, the National Socialist Party, was a left-wing party because it had the word "Socialist" in its name. That's like saying that Republiscum are patriots because they wear flag lapel pins. A party can call itself anything it wants. The actions of that party determine whether it is of the left or of the right better than any name created for public relations purposes especially when the creator is Roger Ailes hero, Josef Goebbles. When Hitler came to absolute power following the death of President Hindenberg and the Nazi orchestrated Reichstag fire the first people who were shuttled off to concentration camps were the actual socialists, communists, labor leaders and other leaders of left-wing parties. Our Republiscum would have us forget that so that they can artificially create a sliver of light between themselves and the Nazis. In that context Hitler never used poison gas against "his own people".

The Republiscum have long engaged in a project to rewrite history to their own satisfaction. That has accounted for morons like Ben Carson equating slaves with immigrants. It has led to text books that misrepresent slavery, the wars against the Native American population and completely fictional narratives of the founding of the United States and its fundamental laws. This fictionalizing of history tends to make history conform to John Wayne and other Hollywood movies or television shows as if they were history texts rather than fictional entertainments. The fictionalizing of history is an essential view of the farrago that claims that certain ultra-fundamentalist religious groups have a direct descent from the first Christain disciples without connection to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. Also, a denial of history informs the nonsense that the King James translation of the Bible is the one inerrant and authoritative translation despite all the huge fund of Biblical research that has happened in the last seventy-five years. Yet that fictionalizing of history comes easy because it is part and parcel of the efforts to deny science. Denying the plethora evidence for human evolution, the scientific evidence for human caused climate change, and any other facts that do not support their narrow, fictional, wishful view of the world.

On short one cannot deny historical facts with one hand without getting all historical facts wrong on the other. When the Texas Board of Education, the largest single purchaser of textbooks in the nation, demands history texts that assert the primacy of Jesus and Ronald Reagan, the whole of history is upset and turned into a relgio-political, neo-Fascist tract. The students who learn from such claptrap are doomed to a complete misunderstanding of history and, consequently, of their nation and its laws.

Let's take as another example one of the main lies spread by the fundamentalist neo-Fascists: that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. I think that a good topic for this Easter Sunday.

They point to the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact as evidence that the United States is a Christian nation forgetting that there was a little bit of time between 1606 and 1620 and the drafting of the U. S. Constitution in 1787. It may come as a surprise to those who prefer to torture history into knotty contortions but sometimes things change in 180 years. Just for the moment note that both the Jamestown Charter and the Mayflower Compact open with the invocation of "James, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith...." In the 180 years intervening there was some nastiness between James successor, George, third of that name, and his subjects in the American colonies. That nastiness removed the acknowledgment of a British sovereign from the new nation of the United States of America. Is it not possible that there might have been some rethinking of religious affiliations as well?

Consider, please that the people aboard the good ship Mayflower, one of whom was an ancestor of mine, came to the shores of what is now Massachusetts not so much to seek religious freedom as to flee from religious freedom. They were dissenters from the established Church of England who fled to Holland where they were guaranteed freedom of worship. The Pilgrims problem with Holland was that everyone else had religious freedom too. They knew for and absolute fact that they had the one true Christian faith and were sorely affronted by other who thought that they had the one true Christian faith too. To escape religious freedom they fled Holland for the wild coasts of America there to establish a colony in which they could persecute anyone who espoused a faith and creed dissimilar to their own. That's why Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were exiled from the Bay Colony some years later and why Quakers were hung as heretics on Boston Common.

The Puritans of England initiated the Civil Wars of the 1640s, beheaded King Charles I, exiled his son, held bloody campaigns against Roman Catholics in Ireland and then, following the death of Oliver Cromwell when their coalition fell apart, reverted to the rule of that son, Charles II. That reign also ended in a series of civil wars over the religious affiliation of British monarchs that resulted in bestowing the British crown on the Dutch Prince William of Orange and his wife, Queen Mary jointly. When their daughter, Queen Anne died without an heir the throne went to the German George of Hanover. Yet throughout the first half of the 18th Century wars between England and France continued in which one of the main objects was restoring the Stuart line of James and Charles to the throne of England. The British Parliament imposed much of the taxation to which American colonists so strongly objected to pay for those wars.

In the more than a century since the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth the intellectuals of the American colonies had seen their nation of origin torn asunder by religious wars both civil and foreign. They had also seen their colonies become a refuge for religious dissenters of many variations not all of them Christian.

 By 1775 the American colonists had had enough of religious wars. The men who lead our Revolution read Descartes and Spinoza, Rousseau and Voltaire. For them the worship of god in any form was less important than the rights of man, than being human and humane. It is that context that the diverse men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 drafted a Constitution for the United States of America, not in the context of the first quarter of the 17th Century. Yet the religious wrong would have you believe that their selective view of our nation is correct if you conveniently know a little history as Sean Spicer. For the neo-Fascists who currently run our nation selective, "alternative facts" tortured into conformity to their ideology are all that matter. They just hope that no one notices or. that when someone does notice that their "alternative facts" are really lies, the populace is too stupid or distracted to notice



Friday, April 7, 2017

THE MORONS


I think that all of the agonizing over how the utterly unqualified Donald Trump managed to rise to the United States presidency we have missed one essential factor. Trump is a moron and speaks like a moron. He knows nothing and sounds like he knows nothing. In every venue and on every topic he speaks like a 4th Grader trying to deliver a book report on a book he's never read. I believe that this manifest stupidity is comforting to a majority of Americans who, themselves, are 4th Graders who never read that book for the report.

We saw a similar factor with Dubya who also is a moron. Then it was described as Dubya being someone that a voter "could have a beer with". Yet the truth of the situation was that voters thought that Al Gore was the smart guy around whom they never felt comfortable. He was the guy in elementary school who'd read the book and, when the teacher said that he or she would postpone the reports to the following Monday if no one was prepared, Al Gore was the guy who said he was prepared putting the morons in the class in a deep hole. In short, Al Gore was the guy the morons had hated since they were in elementary school while Dubya was the guy who was dropping cherry bombs in the toilets with them. The same was true of Hillary Clinton and, worse yet, she was the girl so smart that it threatened the insecure little boys' developing sense of manhood.

Yes, I know that Hillary won more popular votes. We have the fact that nerd culture has reached a thin level of supremacy thanks to computers and the attendant information technology. However, let us not discount the many refuges for morons: right-wing evangelical Christian religiosity, right-wing talk radio, Fox News, Breitbart, the Drudge Report, and the pernicious neo-fascist "think tanks" that feed those down-scale flacks like The Heritage Foundation, The Federalist Society, Cato and Manhattan Institutes and their like.

I am reminded of a story about Adlai Stevenson that I may have related in an earlier entry of this Blog. When he ran for the presidency in 1952 against Dwight Eisenhower a woman stopped Stevenson following a speech he'd delivered. She said to him, "Governor Stevenson, you are the choice of every thinking American." Stevenson answered, "Thank you, ma'm, but I'd rather have a majority."

We may well have a thinking majority at the moment as evidenced by Clinton's popular vote tally but we still have a Congress skewed toward rural states and an electorate that doesn't like or trust people who are too well educated. Consider the opposition to Barak Obama. He was a Constitutional law professor constantly under attack for "violating the Constitution", violations that seemed to vanish like morning fog the moment that the moron Donald Trump became president. Where are the suits by Congress over Trump's governing by executive order? Hint: They are gathering dust with all the Benghazi reports that found that there was no malfeasance in that matter.

The point is that Trump is a moron. Dubya is a moron. They both became President of the United States because stupid people heard in them a reflection of their own stupidity and felt comfortable with that.

If you want to make the case that I am an "elitist", go right ahead. If being an "elitist" means being a person who knows actual history rather than Hollywood dramatizations, John Wayne movies and other fiction, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means thinking opinions through and questioning one's own opinions constantly in the view of verifiable evidence rather than simply reacting on a visceral level, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means being educated and valuing others with education and verifiable knowledge, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means questioning everything, especially religion and even more so the interpretation of religion by people with fantastical pronouncements and questionable motives, I cheerfully admit to it. If being an "elitist" means that I am not a moron and reject the narrow, pusillanimous, uninformed, beastial, mindlessness of morons, I enthusiastically admit to it.

As "elitist" as my argument may be, I place myself in good company. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were elitists who wrote The Federalist Papers arguing for the United States Constitution that they had just written. They are just three in a long line of elitists who have done their best to lead a herd of morons toward a higher level of existence and understanding. Unfortunately today the morons are triumphant. We watch and listen to them twist themselves into bizarre rationalizations to justify the imbecilic decision they have made in putting our Prevaricator in Chief into the White House. We nod and commiserate with the poor morons as it slowly dawns on them that they have been had in the most egregious way possible. We have some compassion for the morons because that is the responsibility of the elitist: to forgive and succor the morons because anything else would be both inhumane and inhuman.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

SINS OF THE FATHER


In 1978 I began working for the Social Security Administration in Lynn, Massachusetts. Lynn is an old industrial city along the shore north of Boston. In the 19th Century it was a centre of shoe and leather goods manufacturing. In more recent years its main industries have been the General Electric aircraft engine plant and crime. Along the shore front there are a number of seafood restaurants one of which was a largely take-out place at a traffic rotary not far from the water.

Not long after I started my job a well-dressed, balding man of about 65 came in to file for retirement. He was the owner of the seafood place at the rotary. He was certainly of retirement age but there are some special requirements for business owners who retire. Those requirements all centre on whether or not the person is truly retired from operating his business. The point of those regulations being that retirement from business should actually be retirement from business because if Social Security is going to pay you for not working you should not actually be working. It quickly became clear that this was about the third time this gentleman had filed. On each previous application he'd been denied benefits because he was actually still running his business.

I'd only just begun this job. My family was still living in Connecticut. I would hitch a ride back home with a friend from the training for this job we'd both just been through. Each Friday after work she would pick me up and then we would drive to our respective homes in Connecticut. We would then reverse the process and she would drive me back up to Lynn on Sunday evening. On the drive back to Lynn this one Sunday I was telling my friend about this guy without revealing any names. As we neared Lynn I asked, "Mae, are you hungry?" She answered that she was a little. "Would you like to get some clams?"

We stopped at the seafood place at the rotary. We went to the counter and ordered fried clam dinners from a fellow who looked to be in his late 30s or early 40s and waited for our food. While we waited the gentleman who'd filed for retirement was puttering about the kitchen area which was fully visible from the order counter. He had a clipboard and appeared to be completing a checklist of some sort. Two younger men, the one who'd taken our order and another who was a little taller though about the same age, kept after my retirement applicant with questions.

"Dad, how much of X should we order for next week?"

"Dad, when should be pay Y bill? Within the 30 days or 45?"

It was clear by the time we'd eaten at the array of tables in the dining room around the corner that my retirement applicant was running the business still and that his sons depended on him for the substantial decisions for the business. He left before we did. With a nod toward us, the only customers in the place, he shouted to his sons, "You can close up for the night in a few minutes!"

The next morning I denied his retirement claim. Lest you think I was being overly harsh this man could well benefit from the denial because, if he was filing relatively honest tax returns, his monthly benefits from Social Security would actually increase until he reached age 70, when his work or lack thereof would become irrelevant, or at some nearer point at which 0he actually did retire from running the business.

What brings this to mind nearly forty years later is Donald Trump's refusal to liquidate his business holdings and the claim that he's turning their running over to his sons. If you believe that then you are still looking up the chimney for Santa Claus, waiting for the Easter Bunny and believe anything you hear on Fox News.  The idea that Uday and Qusay...I mean Donald, Jr. and Eric...Trump are going to run the Trump businesses is laughable on several counts. The most important reason why that will not happen is that no one seriously believes that Donald, Sr. is going to relinquish control of anything to anybody without being forced to do so. The second is that there is no evidence that either of the adult Trump boys have any head for business at all given that they have spent their lives dining out on their father's name.

Of course, there is one member of the Trump family who does seem to have some business sense, Ivanka, his daughter. She, however, is in a very odd position. Donald, Sr.'s many sexual references to Ivanka have been the butt of comedians' jokes for the last year or more. Those intimations of incest are gaining a bit more of a serious look because Trump has relegated his wife, Melania, to Trump Tower in New York and is bringing Ivanka to Washington in the role of de facto First Lady. Such an arrangement is not unprecedented. President James Buchanan's niece acted as his first lady. Kate Chase fully intended to fill that role for her father, Salmon, if he'd ever become president and Alice Roosevelt was the effective first lady for her father, Theodore. So far as we know Buchanan, Chase and Teddy Roosevelt never called those women "hot", claimed that they would date them or that the thing they most had in common with one another was sex. Whether Donald, Sr. has more than inappropriate thoughts about his daughter no one knows but placing her in a position normally held by the president's wife unquestionably feeds into a narrative that ratchets his lascivious remarks about his daughter up a notch or two.

Regardless of the president elect's relationship with any of his children the point here is that Donald Trump's allegation that his sons will be running his businesses while he is president is a fairy tale and a fraud like most of what Trump has perpetrated on friends and enemies throughout his life. The voters who put this con man in the White House elected the swamp itself to drain itself. How likely is that?