Fucking Bagpiper Strikes Again

I had hesitated to post this bit I wrote the other day, because, you know, we’re all overdosed on the inescapable partisan poison, the piece could seem to put my Catholic brothers and sisters in a bad light (because of a few supremely ‘bad apples’) and everyone knows what a shameless, smug, provocative contrarian piece of shit Trump’s personal AG is — so, I decided to leave it be.  

Then I heard Barr’s comments today about “communities” (black and brown people) having to show more “respect” for law enforcement or they’d find police turning their backs on them when police protection was needed.   You have to love the way this self-righteous pig-faced fuck just continues doubling down in his righteous assholishness, tirelessly carrying the president’s piss bucket, including, it now appears, POTUS’s  most racist urine (which is champagne to some of the finest in his 39% base).  

Barr tells an audience of law enforcement officials that  THEY (complaining urban communities of brown people) have to show “more respect” to police or the ungrateful bastards will “find themselves without the police protection they need”.  You don’t have to read between the lines here:

“They have to start showing more than they do – the respect and support that law enforcement deserves,” Barr said. “And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

 Read all about it.

So, yeah, fuck that fawning lapdog of American autocrats.  Here’s the post.

Once again, as before his cunningly orchestrated slow-motion release of the “exonerating” Mueller Report, AG Bagpiper Bill Barr gets out in front of a DOJ report on an investigation to impose his counterfactual spin on it for the sharply divided public.   He initiated a criminal investigation into partisan traitors in Obama’s DOJ who allegedly used the infamous Steele Dossier as a pretext to launch a campaign of illegal “spying” on candidate Trump and after his election started a baseless partisan witch hunt against the innocent president-elect.   The new report, apparently, does not confirm this anti-Trump conspiracy.   Barr comes out swinging, a week before he releases the report, giving a spin that will dominate and muddy the public discussion until the conspiracy-debunking report is released and long afterwards.   FOX will have the AG’s Trump-vindicating soundbites to play to Trump’s beloved low-information voters through the 2020 election.

Barr is a partisan, a reactionary and a shameless front man for a shameless president.   A conservative religious Catholic who went to all the finest private schools (he graduated from Roy Cohn’s alma mater, Horace Mann), during a time when radical social changes were being demanded by organized activists, he was raised by a father who seethed against the erosion of morality.  As reported recently in the Vanity Fair piece about Barr and his father Donald Barr, Bagpiper’s beloved father Donald used his influence as imperious headmaster of the Dalton School to energetically, sometimes unscrupulously, fight the winds of social change blowing in the late 1960s.  The elder Barr hated the pot smoking, libertine young anarchists irrationally intent on bringing down the system, trying to swing the pendulum away from discipline, class and tradition toward chaos.  Donald Barr was never shy about being a provocative right-wing  contrarian, even when it eventually cost him his job as headmaster at Dalton.  

Donald Barr’s son Bill apparently feels the same way as his tough as nails dad.  What we need is morality, good, old-fashioned Christian piety and a government led by a powerful and unchallengeable CEO who will do God’s will here on earth.  It continues to amaze me when a religious Christian endorses someone like Donald Trump in the name of Christ, though, really, at this point, why should it amaze anyone?     As a Jew, admittedly, I have only the most fleeting understanding of the teachings of Jesus.   I always thought Jesus’s message had to do with humility, modesty, protecting the weak, loving one’s neighbors, being eternally ready to forgive.  Then again, what the hell do I know about it?

Still, it’s hard not to notice, in addition to the many devout Evangelical defenders of the Flawed Vessel of God’s will that is Mr. Trump, the several prominent, very conservative Catholics who have risen to the top ranks of government under the magnificently Imperfect Orange Vessel.   We have the two Jesuit educated Georgetown Prep alumni Trump appointed to the Supreme Court, Messers Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.   We have Barr.  We have the incomparable Mick Mulvaney.   We have, it emerges, current lead White House counsel, Pat Cippolone, a Catholic so impressively pious he influenced Fox’s Laura Ingraham (Cippolone’s wife worked for Fox, that’s how they met) to convert to Catholicism.   Cippolone, we note, is a pitbull for the president, in the same league as blustering bulldog Barr.

God only knows why I am even writing this…

Even on Thanksgiving…

I wake up thinking that the most famously unscrupulous, inept, attention-craving and litigious man born to great, unearned wealth in the United States became the most unscrupulous, inept, attention-craving and litigious president in history.   He uses the courts, as he was taught by his surrogate father, the disbarred Roy Cohn, to exhaust opponents, bankrupt them, play out the clock on statutes of limitations, extract favorable settlements with no admission of guilt.   This is what I wake up thinking on Thanksgiving, a day I should be thinking about tomorrow’s fabulous sales.    

Instead I’m thinking “Jesus, he successfully obstructed justice in the Mueller probe.”   Key witnesses to his campaign’s collusion with Russians, at his urging, with pardons dangled, lied to investigators and destroyed evidence — resulting in a finding of “insufficient evidence” of a criminal conspiracy with Putin, although there was substantial evidence showing repeated coordination between the parties and that Putin exerted great influence in his useful idiot’s 78,000 vote Electoral College mandate.   Mueller and the Republican-controlled Senate both concluded there was massive Russian election interference in favor of Putin’s preferred candidate, the guy who won in spite of losing the election by 2.9 million votes.

He is successfully using an absurdly broad blanket claim of “protective immunity”, conjured by his corrupt AG Bill Barr, to silence fact witnesses and prevent the disclosure of evidence in his own impeachment.   I say successfully because, although he keeps losing in court he is able to appeal each time and he only has to run out the clock on these claims for a few more months in order to successfully obstruct the impeachment of history’s most openly unscrupulous, inept, attention-craving and litigious president.   Roy Cohn lives!  

Many of us have a lot of reasons to be thankful on this Thanksgiving, but having this brazen sociopath in the world’s most powerful position (outside of the Kremlin), using the Department of Justice and the American judicial system, the appeals courts in particular, to subvert the lawful administration of justice, defy legal process and pervert all democratic norms sure ain’t one of them.  

I’d be thankful for a day I don’t wake up hearing the list of who this sick puppy has attacked on twitter while I was sleeping.  As a citizen of the world’s still most powerful country, and also one of its multitude of famously powerless consumers, I wake up praying for the serenity to not get angry as hell just thinking of the fucking serenity prayer.

Comparing Trumpists to Nazis

Publicly calling a fellow American a Nazi is generally considered out of bounds in today’s America.  It’s as bad as calling someone a nigger, a kyke, a faggot, a cunt or a motherfucker.  It’s kind of a credibility destroying deal-breaker here, to call a political opponent a Nazi, no matter how obnoxious, irrational or lawless that political opponent might be. 

It’s true that the current president famously compared the FBI and the CIA,  U.S. intelligence agencies, to Nazis, but he just says things in anger and nobody gets too excited about his puffery, exaggeration, distortion, lying.   He’s a salesman and he’s always selling the one product he has to sell: himself.   He’s sui generis, you know, and that’s putting it as elegantly as I can.  His evangelical supporters call him a flawed vessel for God’s will, he is definitely that too, I suppose (if you imagine God’s will as those who support Trump do).   He routinely gets away with things no past presidential candidate or president ever imagined surviving politically.

But for more responsible public actors, comparing fellow Americans to Nazis is generally out of bounds.   After all, the Nazis were directly responsible for the deaths of many millions of people, probably more than 20,000,000 [1] during one of the darkest periods in recent history.   The Nazis set up mechanized death camps where they mass-murdered millions on industrial assembly lines.   The Nazis were fucking Nazis, the historical gold standard for evil operating under cover of state action.    Josef Goebbels said if they won the Nazis would be remembered as history’s greatest benefactors, if they lost– history’s greatest criminals.   They lost, kind of, though their fighting spirit fights on in the hearts of those filled with righteous rage for their holy cause.   

In limited contexts it’s fine to compare people to Nazis in American politics.  In a pinch, to convince Americans to go to war for no reason anyone can comprehend, you can compare Manuel Noriega to Hitler, or Saddam — another “modern-day Hitler” —  that’s fine, though it’s generally out of bounds for one American to call another a Nazi.   But call a dictator a Nazi, Hitler, then the choice is simple: do you stand up to this Hitler or do you bend your knee like the cowardly Neville Chamberlain?

Beto O’Rourke recently compared the Trump administration to Nazis.   He meant they are ruthless, blindly loyal to their unhinged leader, obstructionist, they routinely lie, they incite violence and hatred, they have utter contempt for anything but “winning”, maintaining their grip on power   O’Rourke was challenged on the comparison.   He had a good response: give me a better comparison.

Personally, I don’t have one.  Reading about the Nazi regime, the cult of personality built around the infallible Mr. Hitler, I am reminded over and over of how the Trump administration operates and what it is trying to do, in many cases succeeding in doing.   If Trump survives impeachment and is reelected in 2020, American democracy is pretty much over.  He will have vindicated the principle that one man, if he is great enough, may flout every law and ethical norm to instill his vision, by force of his will, on the nation he rules.  Let’s take a quick stroll through the familiar terrain of his rise and his rule. 

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was the first U.S. Senator to openly endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy.  He stood on stage with Trump, at a time when Trump still was an unthinkably clownish long-shot candidate, and introduced him as the next president of the United States.  As a reward for his great loyalty Trump made Sessions, a man too racist to be confirmed to the federal bench, Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement official.   

Once confirmed, Sessions got busy talking about God, and how he’d crack down on marijuana using the draconian federal laws Nixon wrote, and how Trump answers to a higher power than ordinary politicians and how he must be obeyed, how there was absolutely no racist pattern to voter suppression schemes after the Supreme Court curtailed the Voting Rights Act and so on.    He spouted a lot of crap.  But when he was called out, in open testimony, under oath, for having been untruthful about his contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition, he listened to ethics advice from the professionals at the Department of Justice and recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Now the story kicks into another gear.   Trump was enraged by this “betrayal” by Sessions.   Sessions, according to Trump, had not taken a principled stance as required by law and professional ethics, he’d acted like a weakling, instead of being like Roy Cohn, a powerful Pit-bull who’d do whatever was necessary to win, including taking an open, greasy dump on the law (Cohn was eventually, years too late, disbarred for his corruption, but that’s a trifle).  Trump humiliated Sessions regularly, mocking him publicly as a wimp, imitating his southern accent, his squeamish fealty to weak-ass “liberal” things like so-called law and ethics.  

Then, to be concise in hitting just a few highlights of the way Trump goes about his business, Trump fired FBI director Jim Comey when Comey wouldn’t declare his personal loyalty to Trump and “let the Flynn thing go”.  When Deputy A.G., Rod Rosenstein, overseeing the probe into Russian interference in the closely contested 2016 election, was forced to appoint a Special Prosecutor, Trump went ballistic, blaming and eventually forcing Sessions to resign, after making repeated attempts to get Sessions to “unrecuse” and limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation. 

Mueller wound up writing a whole volume of his report detailing and analyzing Trump’s many efforts to obstruct justice, though Mueller refrained from drawing any prosecutorial conclusions, pursuant to a DOJ directive and for reasons of bending over backwards to appear scrupulously fair.

Mueller’s investigation resulted in numerous indictments and several convictions of close Trump associates and  found “sweeping and systematic” Russian election interference on behalf of Trump.   The Republican senate recently released a report coming to the same conclusion: Russians had done everything possible to tilt the 2016 presidential election to the candidate who won.

What to do?   Find an Attorney General who will act like Roy Cohn, do whatever is necessary to protect the leader/client.   The A.G., after all, in Trump’s view, is the president’s most important body guard.  He’s in charge of all law enforcement on a federal level.  He says what’s a federal crime and what’s pure commie bullshit and a conspiratorial partisan witch hunt against a totally innocent man.   Enter the pathetic porcine puppet of this puerile president [2], a debased lawyer of the Antonin Scalia school, with a God-driven worldview based, perversely, on what he believes Jesus would do — if Jesus was a xenophobic privileged white seventy year-old. 

How do you defend a president as apparently corrupt and incapable of not lying as this Donald Trump character?   You take his lead, the boss has genius marketing instincts.    Trump repeatedly said the Mueller probe was a partisan witch hunt that would totally exonerate him.   Barr agreed, made the counter-factual call that the report exonerated Trump of everything.  Trump said the vicious partisan “Deep State” traitors who initiated the “politically motivated” investigation (that came to the same conclusions about Russian interference the Republican senate did) to overturn the will of 78,000 strategically perfect voters and their Electors, should be criminally investigated and punished for treason, for being spies!   Barr agreed and now Barr’s Department of Justice has initiated a criminal investigation into the Department of Justice.

During Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” not a word of the liberal Weimar Constitution was ever changed, once Emergency Powers were invoked pursuant to a Patriot Act-style vote in the German parliament.   No change to the democratic blueprint was necessary, everything was down to enforcement by Nazi police, the decisions of Nazi judges in Nazi courts.   German law enforcement was headed by Hermann Goering for a while, when he wasn’t too whacked out on drugs, then more sober men like Heinrich Himmler stepped into the void.  There is never a shortage of supremely ambitious men to step into fateful roles next to the most powerful men in the world.

Barr starting a criminal investigation of his own agency, in what universe does that seem remotely impartial, fair or just?   Only one that I can think of off-hand, though one is, of course, reluctant to call even these lawless motherfuckers Nazis.



[1]   World War Two fun facts:


Battle Deaths 15,000,000
Battle Wounded 25,000,000
Civilian Deaths 45,000,000

*Worldwide casualty estimates vary widely in several sources. The number of civilian deaths in China alone might well be more than 50,000,000.



[2] tip of the yarmulke to Laurence Tribe for that apt, alliterative aspersion.


A pattern of corruption and obstruction

We live in an age of emotion.   The facts, increasingly, are ignored as strong opinion, fanned by sensationalism and spread by the wildfire of instant “social media”, reigns.   If something happens once or twice, a wide range of plausible sounding reasons can be advanced to explain it.  It’s often hard to know which explanation is closer to the truth.   When a strong pattern emerges it becomes much easier to rule out doubtful excuses.  Look at the pattern of behavior then apply Martha Kavanaugh’s  judicial maxim, her jury instruction to fact-finders:    ‘Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?’

One of the techniques Trump (and the right) got from Roy Cohn, a notoriously evil and self-loathing man, is to accuse the enemy of exactly what you are doing.   If you are accused of being homosexual (at one time a powerful and damaging, career and even life-destroying charge), deny it strongly and threaten enemy  homosexuals with public outing and shaming.   If you are charged with corruption– the person making the charge is obviously corrupt!    If there is an investigation into you, or people in your administration — investigate the investigators!  If anyone close to you is called on to resign– tell them to fucking resign!  Like so:


A ‘seditious conspiracy’ — that means treason and hangings, make no mistake.  And of course Nancy Pelosi should resign– she’s in the middle of this sinister cabal of death-worthy traitors.  What else is Trump’s 2020 campaign manager going to say?  Come on.  He’s a loyal guy with a very important product to sell.

There is a clear pattern in the Trump administration, an appearance of winking at corruption, being above the law and a pattern of protecting wrong-doers.   A number of Trump’s cabinet appointees had to leave under investigation for illegal or unethical misuse of their powers.   Point this large number out at your peril.  Whenever he feels attacked, the President hits back harder, as he learned to do from his mentor Roy Cohn.  

This unalterable pattern of behavior speaks to Trump’s singleminded motive, as set out in volume two of the Mueller report, which his defenders attack as an unfair partisan hit job that nonetheless, and against all odds, completely exonerated him.   When he learned he was under investigation for obstruction of justice his first words were “I’m fucked…”  Then he quickly recovered his fighting spirit.  When he feels attacked, the president fights back, hard, a practice his supporters, like Bagpiper Bill Barr, find completely appropriate in any situation.  If you’re innocent, scream it loudly, angrily and attack anyone questioning it!

It is fair to point out that only three close Trump administration associates have actually been convicted of any real crimes — his long-time personal lawyer, his first national security advisor and his 2016 campaign manager–  and that he only fired two FBI directors and one Secretary of State — and has so far only had two appointed, and one acting, Attorneys General.  

The Communists at Business Insider have compiled a list of all the resignations and firings of top Trump officials (as of September 10, 2019) a long list in the less than three years of his administration, but, take that list with a grain of salt and a shot of penicillin.   Fake news is everywhere and it is easy to accuse rich political appointees who allegedly use their government positions to enrich themselves further of being corrupt.   As Trump himself might reason:  who among us would not take a $120,000 trip to Europe on somebody else’s dime?  Duh!

The New York Times reported that Trump’s father was a tax cheat who engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to increase his wealth and enrich his children while avoiding taxes.   Trump’s attorney threatened to sue the Times when the story was being reviewed for publication (as reported in the Times)   20181029_184055 (3)

but no law suit was ever brought.   This means the NY Times had evidence to prove that facts of the story were beyond dispute and no defamation suit could be credibly brought against the Times.   You know Trump would have sent his lawyers after the Times if he could have.   The New York Times later reported that Trump lost over a billion dollars during a decade as the result of bad business decisions, and also that he had received the 2018 equivalent of $400,000,000 from his father.    Trump did not sue the Times over this fake story, though he angrily dismissed it.

Corrupt.  Look up the word in the dictionary and you will find Trump’s face next to it.  What? Nothing to see here!  Nothing whatsofuckingever to see here!   Lock her up!   Lock her up!

Nothing to Hide

Today is Yom Kippur, the day in Jewish tradition when our deeds of the past year are weighed, our apologies, attempts at reconciliation, the repayment of our debts are considered, and we are judged and marked down in an ineffably gigantic book for a year of health and peace or one of trouble.   When the day of fasting ends, the book is sealed.

I feel virtuous today because I made one stinking sincere apology the other day.   Sekhnet and I, and most Jews we know, are fasting today.   Don’t ask me why, I suppose it’s for the discipline.   One year in high school I fasted every Friday for a while, back when I weighed 137 pounds.  I do it once a year now, on Yom Kippur.  It’s the least I can do, so I do it.

The pious fasting of a horde of bad-breathed Jews who paid top dollar to pray all day at Hillcrest Jewish Center and, after a final blast of the ram’s horn signaled the Book of Life was sealed, race home to eat, always left me cold.  It still does.  On the other hand, I like the idea that we should seek forgiveness from those we’ve hurt.   The world would be a much better place if making amends was widely practiced.

Alas, it’s not.  We are, for the most part, unrepentant because we’re justified.  We are geniuses at justifying why we don’t owe some thin-skinned asshole who claims we hurt them jack shit.  Easier to write the person off, fuck ’em, you know what I’m sayin’?

This year I’m thinking I’d almost rather be in synagogue than listening to the talking heads I’m compulsively listening to.   On this holiest day of my people’s year I find myself in my regular chair, laptop on, watching the hideous shenanigans of a deranged man who was never the sharpest knife in the drawer (and his failure to master basic spelling is not the only tip off) and who is now the sharpest and deadliest pair of scissors this country has ever drunkenly raced around holding.  

His dead-enders in Congress, driven by blind ambition, supported by dark money, rush in a gaggle to explain why what he did — seeking dirt on a political rival from the new Ukrainian president (a Jewish comedian with a law degree, don’t you know?) in exchange for releasing defensive weapons Ukraine needs to protect itself from Putin–  if he even did what he admitted he did (and he’s known to joke, josh, provoke, tweak, trigger, sometimes lie, so who knows why he actually said that he did it?) is not nearly as bad as the desperate and despicable unconstitutional acts of the partisan lynch mob determined to bring him down.  

The angry Democrats have convened a kangaroo court.  That’s it!  There’s our talking point!  This constitutional provision about impeachment is allowing the crazed, jealous, loser Democrats to hold a kangaroo court.   The president is the best, the jealous assholes who are determined to impeach him, those disgusting defecators, have convened a kangaroo court!   Here’s Trump tweeting the phrase, echoing it into microphones under the blades of his helicopter, now another loyalist says it, now another and another.  You see, it is a good defense, the “court” is a kangaroo court, not a real court, it’s an illegitimate, traitorous fake court, run by a “malicious Captain Kangaroo”. [1]  

The president has nothing to hide.  That’s why he’s not allowing any testimony to be given or any documents to be produced.  Nothing to hide!  Kangaroo court!   Obstruct this, libs!   Illegitimate, illegal!   Smelly!   Cooties-infested!   BULLSHIT!   Treasonous traitors!   Enemies of the People!   It’s nobody’s business how badly I did on the SATs (my scores were perfect, by the way), what my grades were at Wharton (5.0 all the way), who I got money from as reported on my taxes (totally legal — and which you losers will never, NEVER see) what incriminating texts my people sent each other.   Article Two, you traitors, I can do whatever I want!  Read the constitution, I hear it’s something.   And, by the way, fuck you and the stinking kangaroo you rode into your kangaroo court on, Captain.  You’re deranged, not me.  LOL!


[1]  37 year-old Florida congressman Matt Gaetz made this impassioned charge to a gaggle of reporters: 

“We would sure like to see the Volker testimony released before we continue the depositions and transcribed interviews. And what we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court, and Chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo,” Gaetz told reporters Tuesday morning after the State Department blocked scheduled testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine controversy.

Apparently this maligning of Captain Kangaroo (innocent of all charges, he never, even once, presided over a ‘kangaroo court’) triggered such a viral response on Merriam-Webster’s site that they felt obliged to step in and straighten this shit out.  Here’s the rest of the story.

Giant Two-Year Old Keeping Promises

Talk about turning up the heat on the water in the frog pond… yesterday a room full of beneficiaries of toxic pollution celebrated the Trump administration’s announcement that it had repealed an Obama-era law that protects water from pollution.   The president [1] promised his angry crowds that he would invalidate everything the lying Kenyan-born secret Muslim Socialist Obama managed to pass into law.  He’s keeping those promises — fuck nontoxic drinking water, they sell it at the store, buy all you want.    Amy Goodman [2]: 

The Trump administration has finalized the repeal of an Obama-era clean water policy that protects thousands of streams that flow into large rivers and lakes, as well as wetland areas that filter pollutants and absorb floodwaters. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler — a former coal lobbyist — announced the rule change Thursday to thunderous applause during an event at the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C. Environmentalists say Trump’s move to rescind the 2015 regulation, known as the Waters of the United States rule, will remove pollution controls for 60% of U.S. bodies of water, endangering the drinking water of over 100 million people.

USA!   USA!!!!   Chant it with me, assholes, or I’ll shoot you in the face!



[1]  Lest any of you stupid Trump-bashers forget, the state of Alabama was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, much worse destruction than the Bahamas and Puerto Rico suffered recently!  The president was TOTALLY vindicated in correcting that weather map and the so-called government scientists and deep state “experts” suck ass.  USA!  Lock her up!

[2] Amy reported on the Friday the Thirteenth treat citizens of Baltimore gave the rest of us yesterday.   A few seconds, check it out.

Organizing my attack

Sometimes we get insight in a very roundabout way, only after a thing has been gnawing at us for a very long time.   It can take being nibbled by a particular demon for many years before you jump out of your chair one day and say “what the fuck?!!” look down and see what is snacking on you.

At the end of several long, stressful days getting the house ready for the contractors (the lioness’s share done by indefatigable, self-proclaimed working dog Sekhnet)  I went through a pile of papers (a short stack) propped helter skelter on a board laid across an open desk drawer.   More than half the pages immediately went onto the recycle pile to be carried down to the bag.   The rest, mostly drawings, I clipped neatly into the clipboard they were lying haphazardly on.   

Not really very hard, I realized, though the volume and variety of papers here, as I glance around, is many, many times more than that short stack at Sekhnet’s I dispatched in a few minutes.   Of course, Sekhnet is right — spending a half hour a day at it would make a big difference within a few days, even here, in the eye of the storm.

Another insight hit me when I pulled a page I’d printed out of the pile and began reading.   It was my unsent pitch to a publisher who welcomes book proposals from unknown authors.   A two paragraph evocation of the book I thought I was writing about my father, something I worked on hours every day for two years, a massive, unwieldy first draft.   

I stopped reading my pitch shortly into the second “reveal” paragraph.   I was glad I’d never sent the thing, it was a labored, strenuous, grunting swing at nothing but air.   It did not present a hint of a compelling idea for a book.

I recently saw a best-selling author, in the windup to an ad for his Master Class on how to become a successful writer, describe the writing of the second draft as an exercise in convincing everyone that you knew exactly where you were going when you wrote the first draft.    Wow.    That’s precisely my challenge in putting together the book of my father’s life and then successfully pitching it.   

The story of my difficult father’s life is not the tired old story of a smart idealist with an abusive dark side, fighting for justice for strangers while doing great harm to his own family.   It’s not the story of a man’s triumphant emergence from childhood poverty into the middle class (along with a large cohort of World War Two vets at a unique and fleeting moment in history).  It’s not the story of monstrous anger, righteous and senseless both, and a rigid inability to forgive.   

Those things are part of the back story.   The book is more of a meditation on the nature and substance of history itself, what we remember and what we forget, and the imagining of a lifelong conversation that should have been.   That conversation with the skeleton of my father, the one that began the last night of his life, is the heart of the book, though it’s not the story I need to tell, shop and sell.  

The real story is what I suspected from the start, the difficulty of forgiveness and a rare moment of grace, just before death, when an unbearable burden is lifted, the regrettable truth finally spoken and reassurance given to the dying man just before his light winks out.  The story is about exactly what those regrets are made of, what was learned, and lost, how the unlikely and precious moment came to happen at all.

Twenty-five years ago an old friend celebrated my decision to become a lawyer (an ill-considered one, at best) as me finally being about to “compete”.  I get what he was saying, I’ve always kept myself out of the economic competition that defines our materialistic culture, refusing to race the rest of the rats for the mirage of an illusory goal (or simply being a cowardly rat, depending on your view).   I did not embrace the world’s second oldest profession, nor did I ever really compete in it, outside of plucking the occasional victim out of the meat grinder of justice, as when I saved an old woman from homelessness at the hands of zealous NYCHA attorneys.

In mulling over the anger I’ve been feeling lately I realize part of it is my chafing feeling of paralysis (not helped by painfully arthritic knees — as Vonnegut said “be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.”), of being overwhelmed by difficult things that are hard, true, but clearly not impossible.    Part is anger at my resigned acceptance of a limited, frugal life, foregoing comfortable middle class options while muttering here in great, sometimes worthwhile, detail about the objectively atrocious state of things and what I have pieced together.   

I’m angry about having no voice, in spite of speaking all the time (as I am silently doing right now, you dig?), and often finding and saying things I think would advance the larger discussion in a threatened world increasingly dominated by mindless bluster and vapid shouting.   I’m angry that evil idiots, often born “booted and spurred” to ride the rest of us [1] rule and I that have nothing to say about any of it, no matter how well I may say it.    And that others, professionals, who blow “thoughts” out of their asses, are well-paid to do it.

I’m angry about my inability to marshal my abilities to tell a story and get paid.   I’m angry that I have to monetize my writing in the first place (but in an uncertain casino economy one needs to keep some money coming in) and I’m angry that I’m not getting any money for it.

I’m angry that I’m not getting paid for writing what I write and I’m angry that I’m doing virtually nothing about it.  It is a frustrating cycle and it presses on because I do not confront the hard work I need to do to market and sell my work.   I am, on a fundamental level (and as hard as I’ve often worked in my life) lazy, preferring at any given moment to do what I like rather than what needs to be done.  Since writing itself is satisfying to me, once I have the words in final form, I never think of it as unproductive unless paid for.   When I think of it that way, through the eyes of the world, it pisses me off.   

I don’t mean to say that lazy is the last word on my life, it certainly isn’t (he hastily added).  There is also fear, of course, long habit, the actual daunting difficulty of the uphill task, and so forth.   I learned a very important life lesson during a dark time in my life — how crucial it is to be kind to yourself.   I don’t pile on myself when the going gets tough and I never reduce myself to the sum of my faults.   

On the other hand, this anger I’ve described is something only I can work on, a grating car alarm only I have the key to silencing.  I also remind myself that I don’t need to be paid a million bucks or write a blockbuster hit, a couple of thousand dollars would be a very good start.

Sekhnet observed the other day that the therapy I’ve gone through did not touch my powerful aversion to organizing my papers, my life.   Fair enough.  I’ve recently come to think of my great and irrational resistance to going through old papers as an odd reflection of my fear of death, but what the fuck is up with that?

Anger at how difficult it has been for me to read the proverbial writing on the wall, about situations, sometimes about people, the bottom-line nature of the reality we are all living in, is less than useless.    Anger, while it can alert us to a problem in the manner of all pain, disables the ability to see any path out of it, as anger directs all energy back to itself.  Time to poke a few breathing holes in this smothering carapace of aggravation, I say.  




[1]   The well-read Thomas Jefferson, master of the felicitous phrase, stole this famous image for his final letter (shortly after the great passage about democracy  “arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government”).

The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.


from Richard Rumbold, a man executed by the English for treason more than a century earlier.  Rumbold delivered the line toward the end of his final remarks, moments before he was drawn and quartered :   

I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another, for none comes into the world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him.


I always loved this image of people born “booted and spurred” to ride the rest of us, particularly at a moment like this — Avi Berkowitz, 30 year-old assistant to Trump Special Advisor Jared Kushner, himself the supremely unqualified son of a billionaire. is elevated, by another very important man who inherited hundreds of millions and squandered more than that, to take the helm of  Trump’s secret, still unreleased Middle East Peace Plan that these born booted and spurred individuals are already boasting about. 

as to Richard Rumbold, here’s some great detail:

Note 1. Delivered in Edinburgh. Rumbold was captured after having been wounded and then separated from his companions in arms. An immediate trial had been ordered that he might be condemned before he died of his wounds. He was found guilty on June 26, 1685, sentenced to be executed the same afternoon, and was drawn and quartered, the quarters being exposed on the gates of English towns. [back]
Note 2. At this point Rumbold was interrupted by drum beating. He said he would say no more on that subject, “since they were so disingenuous as to interrupt a dying man.” [back]