Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Roy Moore goes before Judge Trump

Donald J. Trump missed his calling. Instead of real estate, he should’ve focused on law. He’d have made a hugely effective judge. Here’s how one of his recent cases might have gone.
Judge Trump: Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore, you have been accused of sexually assaulting and pursuing teenagers and young women. How do you plead?
Moore: I totally deny all the charges against me, your honor.
Trump: You totally deny them? Not mostly or somewhat? You totally deny them?
Moore: Yes, your honor. Totally.
Trump: Interesting. And nice touch, that “your honor.” I like that – shows respect.
Moore: You’re welcome, your honor. I’ll even make it Mr. President, if you want.
Trump: No, just “your honor” is fine, for now. Now, Mr. Moore, you used to be a judge, is that right?
Moore: Yes sir, a couple of times.
Trump: Well, we’ll keep that in mind in our deliberations. How old are you now?
Moore: Seventy, your honor.
Trump: Well, welcome to the septuagenarian club. I am, believe it or not, in my mid-seventies. And I still have the hair and the endurance of a teenager. Just yesterday, I bested Steve Bannon two out of three times in Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Moore: Congratulations, your honor.
Trump: Now, here’s a tough question. At the time you were allegedly involved with these teenage women, how old were you?
Moore: Well, that must be a trick question, your honor. Since I totally deny any involvement with these women, I couldn’t have been any age.
Trump: But just speaking hypothetically – and I know you’re impressed by my huge vocabulary – if these women in question were teenagers forty years ago, how old would you have been at the time?
Moore: Oh, yes your honor, I’m all a-twitter at your command of language. And since you put it that way, I would have been – oh, I’d say about 32. It was back when I was an assistant district attorney. But as I said, I totally deny that anything happened involving teenage girls or anyone.
Trump: And that’s good enough for me, Judge Moore. I know what it’s like to get blindsided by a bunch of lying, fake charges. During my presidential campaign – which, incidentally I won in one of the biggest landslides in history – I had sixteen women come at me with junk like that. I promised to sue all sixteen of them when the campaign was over, but it turned out to be unnecessary. They all cowered back into their hiding places.
Moore: Um, Judge Trump? Getting back to my Senate race? Would it be possible to get a little endorsement from you?
Trump: Heh, heh. Here’s where I like to break out my Foghorn Leghorn imitation. Boy, I say, boy! You don’t need an endorsement. What you’ve got here is the next best thing: a Gen-u-ine Donald Trump Election Boost, just from what I said or didn’t say. Now go away, boy .... And bring home an election win next month.
Moore: Oh, I can hardly wait, your honor. The U.S. Senate won’t know what hit it.
Trump: That’s no joke, boy – I’m countin’ on that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Here we are, with an albatross that tweets

From the top down and in every direction we look, we seem to be trapped in a season of brokenness.
It’s like the Ancient Mariner – water, water, everywhere … and not a drop to drink. There’s even an albatross hanging around our neck: the Twitter-loving buffoon that most of us did not vote for and yet who reigns as the 45th president of our hapless land.
Aided by his shadow Cabinet of Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity, Donald Trump fills his time deconstructing the federal government, tearing apart the State Department and EPA. Meanwhile, he’s busy trying to rewrite tax laws to benefit himself and his multi-billionaire donors. Goodbye, itemized deductions for state and local taxes, goodbye, deductions for health expenses.
Goodbye, middle class.
I guess one bright spot to the Trump presidency has been its effect on opponents of Trump. They are out in numbers, protesting, calling representatives and senators, making sure our government knows how they feel about attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act or income taxes.
Another glow of light: the newfound courage of women and men to speak out against men who oppress them sexually or psychologically. I guess this also flows from the top: Donald Trump was caught on tape boasting about how his star power allowed him to bestow unwanted kisses and gropings on women. Sixteen women came forward after that, accusing Trump of sexual harassment. Trump threatened to sue, but of course never did.
Then, the day after Trump’s inauguration, roughly a million women marched in Washington, D.C. and other cities, wearing the pink “pussy hats” that became the wonderful symbol of their protest movement.
And the dominoes of disclosure began to fall. Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey brings down “House of Cards.” Louie CK (yuck). Bill O’Reilly. Deposed judge Roy Moore. Sen. Al Franken, formerly “Giant of the Senate” and now, quite possibly, “Fool of the Senate.” And just yesterday, a new name: Charlie Rose. Jeez.
I don’t want to seem all holier than thou here. I was once accused, rightfully, of sexual harassment, by a coworker and friend. We would meet each other in the office with a friendly hug, and one day when I was wearing suspenders she gave my suspender strap a little pop. And without thinking, I gave her bra strap a couple little pops in return, in front just below the shoulder.
We both smiled over it, but the next day I found myself behind closed doors with my supervisor and our human relations guy. They outlined the charge against me, and without hesitation I confessed to my moment of idiocy – what else could I do? I was humiliated, and so sorry about it. I later apologized to my coworker, and we’ve remained friends. Handshaking friends, but still friends.
So maybe, just maybe, all this brokenness is heading toward something else. A time when the pieces of our world will come back together. A time of unbrokenness.
Hurry, Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Bring us peace.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

If He Were Still Alive He'd Be Dead

My father’s birthday was believed to be November 6. At least that’s the day he claimed for himself. Years ago his sister, my Aunt Cassie, recalled to me that they couldn’t remember the exact date on which he was born. Time, apparently, easily slipped away in the not quite a town of Klondike hidden in Arizona’s rugged, often inaccessible Aravaipa Canyon. The thought of navigating out of that canyon to get to a hospital for childbirth was, at the time, patently absurd and so my father, like all of his siblings, was born at home. At some point my grandfather, my grandmother, and my aunt Cassie realized they had no idea when baby Ira had been born so they tried to reconstruct the events. The only thing they could remember about the birth was the storm. “It was a terrible, terrible storm. We thought the house would blow down.” Cassie told me. To their best reckoning the storm happened on November 6. And so it was that my father celebrated his birthday on the sixth day of November. Sadly, he didn’t have a chance to celebrate many of those birthdays. When he was fifty-eight years old, he died. Every year on his birthday I calculated how old he would be if he were still alive and every year those annual calculations didn’t seem to make him old enough to be dead. “He’d be sixty if he were still alive. He’d be seventy if he were still alive. He’d be eighty if he were still alive. He’d be ninety if he were still alive. He’d be a hundred if he were still alive.” Even a hundred seemed within the realm of possibility. Lots of people now make it to a hundred. So even at a hundred he might possibly still be alive. This year on his birthday I did my usual calculations and finally, after all these decades of speculation, I realized that my father was now, officially, old enough to be dead. That realization brought with it a new sadness and also a new comfort. The sadness because his death seemed like a new loss. The comfort because he was finally old enough to die. At least in my mind my father was able to live a long life. Comfort is not always or necessarily logical. We just take it where we can find it and hope for the best.

Friday, November 3, 2017

He's A Man Of His Word

Decades ago my brother, Tom Walker, landed a part in a college play.  It was his first foray into acting and as far as I know his last.  On opening night I gave him the standard theatrical oxymoronic blessing.  "Break a leg," I said with great enthusiasm and genuine pride.  My brother was in a play!  Tom, looking lost and confused, took several long moments to respond.  "Okay."  I didn't question his response.  Perhaps I should have and then explained that superstition dictated no one ever wish an actor good luck before a performance and thus the directive to break a leg.  I didn't, though, and now so many years later he did.  My brother recently really did break a leg.  We have always throughout our lives tried to follow through on requests made by the other.  He said "Okay" and never one to shirk a responsibility or fail to keep his word, my brother broke his leg.  He was briefly hospitalized and is now in rehab learning to hop on on foot waiting for the swelling to go down so the leg can be put in a cast of some sort.  Tom, who never could figure out how to skip, is becoming a hopping expert.  My brother has never broken a promise to me and for that I'm so proud of him.  He said "Okay" and even though it took him quite awhile to get around to it, he did finally come through.  He'll soon be back in action writing and blogging.  For now, though, he'll just keep hopping along.  I love you, Tom.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A modest proposal on gun control

Colt AR-15 Assault Rifle

Like many Americans, I have struggled for something to say in the wake of the horrific shooting that left 58 dead and nearly 500 injured at a country music concert in Las Vegas.
Using a device called a “bump stock,” the shooter (who will remain unnamed here) was able to spray the concert audience of 22,000 with machine-gun fire from his sniper’s nest on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Outside of military and police forces, machine guns aren’t legal. However, semi-automatic assault rifles – the AR-15 or AK-47-- are legal. The bump stock, which can be purchased on-line for about $200, turns legal assault rifles into something close to machine guns, capable of firing up to 800 rounds per minute.
That, combined with a high-capacity magazine and a bunch of weapons like the Las Vegas shooter had, amounts to the deadliest gun shooting in modern American history. (Not sure what the deadliest massacre in all American history was, since the Civil War was hardly carried out by a single gunman.)
Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot through the brain in Tucson’s own mass shooting in 2011 and yet survived to become a powerful advocate for gun laws, stepped up to the microphones once again. With her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, she begged Congress to act on gun violence. She asked her former colleagues to “find the courage it will take to make progress on the challenging issue of gun violence.”
As usual, it took no time at all for people to find that courage.
White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders pointed out  that it was too soon to talk about gun control. Just as it was after the Orlando killings, the San Bernardino killings, the Charleston killings, and all the other killings. 30,000 last year -- half as many as we lost in Vietnam.
But as usual, it never would be the time to talk about it.
In the meantime, Congress offered their “thoughts and prayers” but not much else.  Well, I don’t want to hear about those thoughts and prayers. There no longer is any right time for those.
The National Rifle Association chimed in with a call for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review whether the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas massacre comply with federal law.
This move by the NRA isn’t designed to do anything about bump stocks, but to head off a messy gun control debate in Congress over issues such as universal background checks, assault weapons bans and limits on high-capacity magazines.
Well, thanks to one of my Facebook friends, Renee Downing, there’s now a modest proposal for an alternate strategy on guns. “What we need is to outlaw ‘metal detectors’ on all buildings where laws are made," Renee wrote. "Also security details for public servants. Our leaders are not feeling the full exhilaration of living in a gun-enriched environment.”
To that, I add: “And also outlaw metal detectors and security details for NRA headquarters. I'm sure those “good guys with a gun” would love to go up against a “bad, demented guy” with an assault rifle equipped with a bump stock to turn it into a machine gun capable of spraying the room with 800 rounds per minute.
To which Renee adds: “Yes, indeed! They’re missing so many opportunities for heroism.”
Coming soon to a movie theater near you.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

In praise of famous football teams

The 1957 Wickenburg Wranglers

 Sometimes life sneaks up and hands you an honest-to-goodness surprise.
Not like the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City or the series of hurricanes that have ravaged Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. Those were nature showing us who’s really in charge here – not Donald Trump or the EPA – but good old tectonics and meteorology.
Or to put it another way, the disadvantage of building a huge city on an ancient lakebed that shakes like jello  when you give it a jiggle, or the trouble with pretending that man-caused climate change is just a hoax. Or, closer to home, the failure to install a patch that would have prevented the Equifax security breach.
We know all about those. We donate, we pray, we advocate for political change and we try to protect ourselves from the Equifax mess that let thieves steal personal information – including Social Security numbers – for  half the adults in the United States.
After all, what else can we do?
Well, thank you, Sandi Hartman, for giving me something else to do – a welcome break from all the natural, political and financial news that has kept me up late at night.
Sandi is a long-ago schoolmate at Wickenburg High School. After reading about my Equifax troubles last week on Facebook, she pointed me in a different direction. Did I know, she asked, that there was a photograph of me in the Sept. 20 edition of our hometown newspaper, The Wickenburg Sun?
 Well, no, I didn’t know that. In fact, I had forgotten there was a Wickenburg Sun, even though it had been around most of my life. I had seen it when we passed through town on our way to Las Vegas, and had even purchased an occasional copy.
But we hadn’t lived in Wickenburg for many years. I still knew a few people there, and luckily Sandi Hartman was one of them.
I tracked down the Sept. 20 issue of the Sun on its website. And there I was, with a big Number 51 plastered across my chest. It wasn’t only a picture of me, though; it was a picture of the high school football team that I used to play on.
The Wickenburg Wranglers. And what a mighty team we were that season. Under Coach Ralph Moran, we were the undefeated champions of the B-West football conference. I don’t remember how many games we won, but our only loss was to a much larger school: Class A Tucson Sunnyside.
There were some great players on that team: Bobby Rubash, Tony Kreider, Dan Doom (wow, what a name for a football player!), and Leonard Hershkowitz.
My name wasn’t among them. As a 145-pound guard, I played bench-warmer behind really skilled players like Hershkowitz and Doom, getting to play mainly when we were ahead by lopsided margins. Fortunately, we often were ahead by even more than that.
 Once, playing defensive guard against a desperately outclassed opponent, I broke through into the backfield and there was the quarterback, alone, unprotected, searching desperately for a receiver. It was a classic situation for the move Coach Moran had drilled into us: put your shoulder into the guy’s gut, wrap him up in your arms, tackle him down and complete the play by rolling over him.
Dramatic stuff, for sure.
But what I did was, I grabbed him by the shoulder pads, swung him around a few times and dragged him to the ground.
And I heard the announcer say over the loud speaker, “Looks like something from the rodeo.”
So that was it, the highlight of my football career. The following winter, we moved to another town that didn’t even have a football team. It did have a rodeo field, but it was too late to learn a new career. Sometimes life just doesn’t deal you a second hand. 
I became a newspaper reporter instead.