Current Events

It just occurred to me that during elementary school we were regularly assigned something called Current Events as part of our homework.  The assignment was to read a newspaper or magazine article, stand in front of the small class of mostly well-to-do children (my small, boutique public school was at the time the top rated elementary school in New York City, according to my mother) and give an oral report on “current events”.

My father always took an interest in these current events assignments, often clipping out candidates from the New York Times, which he read front to back every day.  He taught me the importance of attaching the date to every artifact of “current events”.    He impressed on me that newspaper reports are the first draft of history, among the first sources historians study to get the full story many years later.   The date of an article is significant as more information becomes known and it’s sometimes fascinating to follow how a story changes over time.  

For instance, a few days ago Trump’s pick for acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, was not commonly known as the former CEO, (and apparently sole employee) of the Koch-funded (the rest of the donor list is “dark money”) Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (“FACT”), earning about $1,000,000 [1] donated by secret conservative donors in the three years preceding his appointment as AG Jeff Session’s chief of staff.   Whitaker just amended his financial disclosure form to include this income, according to recent reports. [2]   So an article written two weeks ago about possible conflicts of interest would not have included this interesting bit of conflict of interest for America’s current top law enforcement officer.

As I tapped in “current events ” in my previous post about Trump and the Muslim Brotherhood (the president is a lifelong secret member, people are saying) I flashed on myself at eight and nine years old, standing in front of the class, a thin scroll of newspaper clipping hanging from my hand, as I reported on current events.   My next thought was about the oral book reports we occasionally were called on to deliver.  

I was infatuated with baseball starting in third grade, the baseball bug bit me hard.  I studied the Hall of Fame, learned the history, memorized stats, followed the box scores in the paper every day, read many baseball biographies.  One day, in third grade,  I stood in front of my small class to deliver my report on a great biography of baseball immortal Jackie Robinson I had just read.  I was saving a big laugh line for the end, as the format called for talking about one dramatic moment in the book.   The moment I chose was when young Jackie Robinson was chased off an angry white guy’s lawn with words to the effect of “get off my property you little nigger.”  

Never having heard the word, it struck me as hilarious, easily as funny as Commie, another word I’d never been exposed to, until a friend of my mother’s described in horror one of the hate letters she got (they were proponents of school integration) that had a big red COMMIE written on the envelope (yeah, people were jerks in 1964).   For years afterwards my mother gave me shit for laughing uncontrollably every time my friend Rob or I called somebody a commie.

“Get off my property you little nigger” did not turn out to be the hilarious punchline I’d imagined it would be.  Nobody laughed, though I thought I’d delivered the line pretty well.   My teacher, Miss Mary Richert, regarded me with undisguised horror.   The little school had just been integrated that year, we had four black kids in our class, Bryan, Felice, Rani and Gayle.   Bryan was, in fact, my closest friend in third grade.   I don’t recall their reactions, odd to say.  Bryan certainly didn’t seem to hold it against me.   A week or two later our permanent record cards were being angrily amended by Miss Richert, in view of the whole class, furious that we had stayed behind in the gym to continue playing after the rest of the class marched back upstairs for math.

The notations Miss Richert wrote on our permanent record cards, Miss Richert, a teacher who clearly loved both me and Bryan, have haunted us both to this day, casting a very dark shadow over both of our lives, and I know I speak for Bryan too when I say this.

[1] New York Times and Washington Post reported the earnings at $1.2 million,   CNN put the figure at $900,000.   Either way, a comfortable three year salary for a man charged with actively opposing Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

[2] CNN reported, nine days ago:

During his tenure, Whitaker was one of only two people on the payroll, and he made a total of $717,000 from 2014 to 2016. Funding for that salary and all of FACT’s work has come from mostly untraceable donors. Over a three-year period, FACT received $2.45 million in contributions, and all but about $450 of that came from a fund called DonorsTrust, according to IRS filings. Contributors to DonorsTrust are mostly anonymous, except for well-known conservative financier Charles Koch.

“In other words,” wrote the Center for Responsive Politics, “an organization ‘dedicated to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency’ gets 100 percent of its funds from a group that exists mainly as a vehicle for donors to elude transparency.”   source

yesterday’s update from CNN

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