Incontrovertible……..

The definition of incontrovertible, according to Merriam-Webster, is
“not open to question : indisputable.

At this point in my life I have no expectation of ever being a lawyer or a commentator on a cable news show. Incontrovertible. At this point, my biggest bitch is with the commentators on cable news shows. In my lifetime, the news story that most closely parallels the whole Mueller probe controversy is the OJ Simpson trial. We haven’t learned to eliminate the smoke and still allow ourselves to be, too often, “baffled with bullshit”. At the time of the Simpson verdict, I was working with a single Mom, African American, who believed that Simpson had been set up. Long story short, I changed her opinion by running through all the facts that were INCONTROVERTIBLE and illustrating that none of those facts, as you moved to narrower and narrower parameters of who still fell within the fact, excluded OJ.

Today, as in the past, facts are too often ignored or distorted as those who don’t like the facts attempt to use bullshit to baffle people. We have experts at using lies and misdirection, fueled by people’s preconceived political viewpoints. But, facts are facts and my biggest bitch with cable news commentators, news directors, is that we almost never require “guests” to be confronted with and answer to incontrovertible facts. At times, a “guest’s” time becomes essentially a political ad with no attempt to legitimately answer questions and I believe that is because they are not asked questions that can be reduced to yes or no answers by having them based upon incontrovertible facts.

A couple of examples as Republicans trip over themselves to declare our President “exonerated”, of questions I would ask. Have you read the Mueller Report. Hint, answer should be No. Do you know how many pages the Mueller Report is?” Again, the only answer that can be true based upon available public knowledge is, No. So you are willing to state as fact something based upon a judgement of one man, from an almost two year investigation which that man did not participate in, that you haven’t read yourself and don’t even know how many pages you haven’t read?” That is even sadder than it is laughable.

As mentioned before, the reality is that I am not a lawyer and never will be but one thing I know about myself is that I am a curious person and somewhere along the line I developed decent critical thinking skills. Read the Barr summary critically and you should have a number of questions that have enormous import in understanding exactly what Barr is asserting in his “conclusions”.

First, although Barr cites numerous statistics regarding the almost two year investigation, he does not include any information on how many pages his four page summary is applied to. Curious to me. On page two, Barr addresses the buzz word. “collusion” which I’m sure by now we all know is not a crime with the crime actually being conspiracy, a very difficult crime to prove. My first question for Mr. Barr would be to define the term used multiple times, “Russian government.” Which Russians whose names have appeared over and over, and many whose names only appeared in indictments, fall within the scope of “Russian government”? Does that term include the attendees at the Trump Tower meeting? Kalimnik? Deripaska? The Agalarovs? The guy who met with Erik Prince, by chance, in a hotel bar in the far off Seychelles Islands?

Again, no lawyer am I but also on page two it appears that the parameters of conspiracy or collusion are incredibly narrow, which may be the law, and even narrower if some of the names mentioned above are not considered within the term used, “Russian government”. The footnote on page two appears to illustrate just how narrowly the considerations needed for guilty beyond a reasonable doubt were applied. Read the footnote and the implication is that short of a document that says, “On this day of January 1, 2016. the undersigned hereby agree to the following………” Wrapped up with signatures V. Putin and Donald J. Trump. Consider that Barr’s logic then says that because there was no provable conspiracy, at least beyond a moral and ethical level, there then could be no obstruction of justice.

Suppose that I had a friend and I knew that he was embezzling funds from his company. He had started embezzling long before I found out that he was embezzling. I was totally disconnected from what he was doing except that I knew about it. Nothing I was doing, except my silence, which although morally and ethically was wrong, was illegal on my part. Although I accepted tickets to Fenway Park or a Patriots game, we had no agreement, “tacit or expressed”, and, again, I was not a participant in the embezzlement, I’m free and clear if at some point the embezzlement is discovered and my friend is prosecuted. How different is that from what we’ve experienced in the leadup to the 2016 election and the following two years?

Back up now to the word “incontrovertible” and how in an era when we are told, “don’t believe what you see with your own eyes or hear with your own ears…….believe me.” Back up again to what I think the questions that news programs should be asking of the people who are choosing to treat a four page summary of a two year long investigation, that does not contain even one complete sentence from the Mueller Report, as divine truth and absolution. Ask yourself when it became acceptable to tolerate morally and unethical behavior just because it may not fall clearly within the narrow definition of a given law that defines what is illegal.

Incontrovertible. On June 9, 2016 there was a meeting in Trump Tower that included numerous Russians, the Trump Campaign Manager, the President’s son and the President’s son-in-law. News folks, ask the total exoneration crowd, did that event occur? The meeting was set up as a result of a string of emails. News folks, put up graphic of the email text, and ask, “as you understand it, is the graphic accurate as to what was conveyed to Donald Trump Jr,?”  We’ve all by now seen the text that would be displayed:

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia…offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Goldstone also wrote that the information “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Trump Jr. writes to Goldstone on the chain, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

All of those quotes have long ago been shown to be incontrovertibly true and since they have been shown to be true, illustrate the importance of understanding how Barr defines the term “Russian government”. Incontrovertibly, at least one attendee, Donald Trump Jr., thought he was meeting people who were representing the Russian government.

Now, move ahead a bit and, news folks, play at least the first few minutes of the following clip, being sure to reference the date of the clip which was recorded during the RNC, which took place over a month later than the incontrovertible Trump Tower meeting. Really? The total lack of ethics and morality displayed in the statements made by Trump Jr. are unsupportable, hypocritical to the Nth degree, and should be projectile vomit inducing to anyone who believes in our democracy. News folks, ask if Jr’s statements meet their standards for ethics and morality. Ask, “if anyone knew for sure, 100% incontrovertibly, that Russians were indeed looking to interfere in our election, who knew it better than those who attended the meeting in Trump Tower?” News folks, ask, “who was Donald Trump Jr. serving with those knowingly, incontrovertibly, false statements?” “The American people? Were those the statements of a patriot?”

For news folks, at this point, you should have multiple questions in the chamber if your “guest” is still with you.

“Did you know about the Trump Tower meeting when it occurred in June 2016?”

“When did you first learn of the Trump Tower meeting and how did you learn of it?”

“How would you account for the length of time between when the meeting occurred and when it became public?”

“What would have happened if someone in the meeting, or who knew about the meeting, such as a former head of the KGB, used cutouts to discreetly ask if it would be OK to tell the NYT or the WP about the meeting in the months and weeks leading up to the election? Might that represent kompromat?”

“With all the intelligence briefings of the candidates and the campaigns which started prior to the election, warning of Russian intrusion, why do you think the Trump campaign never informed the FBI? Why did they lie? ”

“Why did they demean and diminish the efforts of people tasked with protecting our democracy when they knew what they were doing was valid?”

“Why did Trump and the campaign actively take action to promote Wikileaks distribution of stolen property?”

Personally, I believe that at my age I will not live long enough to see a truly United States of America again. My resolution (just put an Elizabeth Warren sticker on my car) is to work to register voters and work to promote Senator Warren but will without a doubt vote for whomever the Democratic candidate is. I believe our democracy is at stake as is the future viability of our planet. We owe it to future generations, at home and around the world, to protect the United States as a beacon of democracy as well as insuring an environment that insures the future of the Earth.

Karma is a bitch……

Been thinking of all the times I snickered at the TV products aimed at those in their Golden Years. I’ve been fighting a problem with my left knee that started weeks (months?) ago and has gotten progressively worse. So, yes, I have trouble getting a sock on my left foot and could use one of those things that lets you slide a sock on without having to bend your knee. The other day, I was out in the backyard with the dogs and had my left leg sink into the snow, it hurt like hell, and I tipped over onto my back. Yupper, thought I was going into full “help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up mode” and need a necklace that alerted 911. I managed to roll and work my bad leg out of the snow and get up again but, geeeesh. Got up the other day and had a flat tire. I had been planning on getting four new tires and figured, can of Fix A Flat and go to a tire store but……no. Major hole in the tire so, I know how to change a tire, change it and go to a tire store. Two days of fighting with the lug nuts, two cans of penetrant to loosen them up, stripped the lug wrench that came with the car……………had it towed today. I haven’t been getting around to take any pics but have a few from the backyard with the dogs.

This is NOT normal…….

“So here’s the thing—it’s so terrible what’s happening,” Trump said. “You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. OK? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump—I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough—until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

We live in a world where clichés simply avalanche and bury logic and common sense. Reality is constantly hidden in a fog or like looking at something through a kaleidoscope and trying to identify what you are actually seeing. The relevant cliché today is “words matter”. We all watched Michal Cohen testify in Congress recently. The same Michael Cohen who was Donald Trump’s “personal attorney” for more than a decade. One of the points that Cohen made was the fact that Donald Trump doesn’t necessarily give clear, direct orders. He speaks in a code that those that work for him understand. They know exactly what he wants without him saying, “listen to me, this is what I want.” Words matter.

Can anyone imagine any US President in history making the statement in the quote above other than Trump? In the history of the world, what kind of politicians have ever uttered those types of statements? Tyrants, autocrats, fascist leaders, communist leaders, mob bosses…….not people who believe in the US Constitution, the concept of democracy and the rule of law. So, I don’t find it astounding that Trump made the statement, he’s been very transparent in showing exactly who he is for decades. What is astounding is that so many American citizens continue to ignore the obvious. We have a lunatic in the Oval Office. A man devoid of empathy, ethics or principles who is incapable of acting on the behalf of anyone but himself. And, it is also astounding and disconcerting that we have in Congress Republican office holders who refuse to execute their duties. Senator Tillis writes and has published an op ed that explains why he will vote against Trump’s end run around Congress. Then the vote comes and what does he do? Flip flop and vote for it. Senator Sasse writes book after book and appears on TV with calls for bipartisanship, calls for courage and ethics to protect our democracy. Then with barely a peep, he bows down and votes yes for Trump. Why? Because they are afraid they will get primaried in their next election. Personally, I think every member of Congress should be bussed to Arlington for a day and stroll around and think about what it is to be a patriot. How little they are being asked to sacrifice in relation to the men and women in Arlington.

49 people massacred in New Zealand. 49 Muslim human beings. The man who did the shooting included a statement about Donald Trump in his manifesto. He stated that he supported Trump because ” he is a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Words matter and clearly, as with Michael Cohen, white supremacists understand the words of Donald Trump. Clearly Donald Trump has the support of many white supremacist publications and organizations. Words matter. Hate crimes in the US are rising and have been rising since the bizarre “American carnage” inauguration speech. Words matter. FBI and DHS assessment of white supremacist groups in the US.  

Nothing today in our politics is normal and we need to stop acting as though normalcy currently exists. The current state of affairs is exacerbated by network news shows that choose profit over truth so you have a constant stream of “guests” on shows who basically are given five minutes to spout political ads full of outright lies that far too often go unchallenged. Who in their right mind cares what Kelly Ann Conway has to say about anything at this point? She has proven herself over and over and over, for years, to be incapable of telling the truth. CNN hires an ex Trump campaign manager as an “analyst” and then takes months to get rid of him. They hired Marc Short who was disguising himself as an ex-Trumper but sounded every time he appeared as though he was still working at the White House. Guess where he works today? Yup, back at the WH as a Trump spokesman. The list of shill “guests” is as long as my arm and, in my opinion, we need to establish truth as the standard for booking guests. Words matter.

I believe we are in an extremely dangerous time for our country. I find myself wondering, what is Putin’s end game? 4 more years of Trump or pulling the rug out from under him and fomenting domestic terrorism, ala Oklahoma City, and further destroying faith in our electoral system? Solidifying White Supremacists around the world? Further weakening alliances of democratic states? Make no mistake about it. The day Trump is no longer valuable to Putin, he will grind him under his boot in a heartbeat, One thing I know for sure. I am paying close attention to all the Democratic candidates and I want to choose early the one that I will get out and work for. That being said, whoever should wind up with the nomination, we need first and foremost to stand together and get Trump out of office.

Coaches, part two……….

The sport that I excelled the most at was driven by exposure to some great coaches. I have always loved to run and as mentioned, Coach Wilber first exposed me to track and field. I was always honored when he came to meets in HS and when my college team ran in my hometown. One trait I would attribute to great coaches is that they invest themselves emotionally in the members of the team they are coaching. I can think of so many times when I was lucky enough to have coaches who, after a milestone event, were more excited than I was.

Before running I did experience some other sports and coaches. Along with many of my buddies, I played one year of Pop Warner football where we pretty much got our asses handed to us. Organized football is a long way from our “in the park” games and early on we pretty much resembled a Chinese fire drill. Our head coach, “Moose” McGrath, who had played for the Buffalo Bills, referred to us as his “gutless wonders” in a somewhat tongue in cheek manner. We were somewhat inept initially as we learned but by the end of the season we actually won a couple of games. For sure though, it was an absolute blast!

In basketball, other than junior high with Coach Wilber, my favorite season among many played in the City League, was one played with some of my best friends for Aero Sporting Goods. The Aero Sporting Goods store was a must for not just sporting goods but plane and car models and glue. It was run by the mother of one of my best junior high buds, Murray Gould, and it was for sure the most welcoming sporting goods store I’ve ever been in. The team was coached by the Dad of another junior high friend, Barry Ebert, and Mr. Ebert did a great job and had as much fun as we did. Two things distinguished this team. First, we won a city championship in our division (Mr. Ebert was so proud of us that he kept the trophy displayed on his mantle.) Second, we had THE BEST looking uniforms ever as Mrs. Gould went full throttle in choosing them.

Funny thing about my running career. While I have vivid memories of races, not just “big” races, and can recall who was in those races, what my splits were, final time, I cannot recall when I first pulled on an Oswego singlet in cross country or track. I think I ran as a freshman, sure I did really, but for the life of me, I cannot remember any specifics. I don’t know when I won my first race but I know who was coaching me, Coach Bob Milner.

I remember Coach Milner as kind of a leprechaun of a man. Crew cut, flashing eyes, constant smile, all of which helped hide his hyper competitiveness and intensity. He was a graduate of Syracuse University where he had run varsity cross country and track and as I remember, once finished in the top ten of the Boston Marathon. For all us runners, cross country and track, he pushed us way harder than we had ever been pushed. Many of us experienced blisters, aaaaagh, for the first time as we ran distances that we formerly did not believe possible. We ran repeats on epic hills, sometimes running 4 or 5 miles to the hill, doing 8 or 10 runs up the hill, and then running back to school. Improvements followed for us all.

Our cross country team’s home course was on the campus of SUC at Oswego and a lot of it was a wide dirt/grass trail through the woods adjacent to the athletic fields. It was a twisty trail with lots of short, intense uphills. Our workouts were often new experiences for us at the time but, for sure, I saw them again in college. Fartlek. Yup, we were in HS so there were snickers. Indian file. Great for team building and turning your legs to rubber. Mile repeats on the track where often, on our last rep, Coach would make us go an extra lap. We were taught subtle moves to make that really applied to our home course. Every turn you were taught to pick up the pace for a few strides as you completed the turn so anyone behind you would feel like they were losing ground. Ditto for hills.

My Junior year in cross country, Coach Milner’s training began to pay results. We had some great runners….Don Colloca, Rick McCann, Bob Buckley, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Hogan were generally our scorers and once in a while I could sneak into our top five. We were the first Oswego High School cross country team to win the big invitational sponsored by our local newspaper. The win Coach Milner wanted the most was the Section III title which was scheduled on our home course and had never been won by an OHS team. But, before then, he had some other plans for big wins.

One of Coach Milner’s best friends was a former Syracuse teammate and fellow Boston Marathon runner. And, that man, Jerry Riordan was already a legend in Central NY coaching perennial parochial state power Christian Brothers Academy. As we made the trip to Syracuse, CBA was riding a home winning streak in the low 40’s. Coach Milner had worked us hard on hills in preparation as the CBA course was seriously hilly. In short, we broke the CBA win streak but that wasn’t all Coach had in mind for the day. Coach Milner had us run the course again and THAT blew the minds of the CBA runners. We returned to that course the next Saturday for the league championships and put up a near perfect score, with all five scorers in the top 10, in a dominating performance.

In short regarding that year’s Sectional Championship, on our home course, we won the first Oswego High School Section III championship. Sweet but the thing I remember most was the last quarter mile. I was running along with one of my best friends, Jimmy Johnson, and one of us was going to be the final scorer for our team. Still on the woodsy trail, almost to the end, we ran into Coach Milner. Now, let me say that even though Coach Milner was a relatively small man, his outdoor voice was BIG. He let us both know CLEARLY that if we didn’t die, we were going to win. In fact, he let us know that for the rest of the way to the finish and although I don’t know if he ran all the way, I know that his voice pushed us in and Jimmy wound up as our last scorer. For all the years after that I ran after that day, I very often heard Coach Milner’s voice at crunch time.

Coach Milner moved on to become the track coach at Colgate University after my junior year but he certainly influenced my track career far more than cross country. I was a half miler, quarter miler although I had run some pretty fast miles as well. Problem was that we had a guy on our team, Rick McCann, that I just could not beat. Coach Milner coached us in indoor track as well although he had us running outside to train. We often got to run on the boards at Manley Field House on the Syracuse University campus and Coach Milner got us an invite to run at half time of an SU game (ok….time check….Jim Boeheim was actually PLAYING for SU.) and I will never forget Rick McCann running our anchor leg and annihilating the field.

My junior year, having run second to Rick in the half mile all season, Coach Milner talked me into dropping down to the quarter mile in our league championships. Again, in short, I actually won and I vividly remember Coach Milner being far more excited and prouder than I was. I only ran for Coach Milner once more and I honestly cannot remember how I did in that year’s sectionals but as my time with Coach Milner wound down, I was left with one of his cardinal rules that I took with me. “When you pass someone, don’t just pass them. Break their heart.”

So with Coach Milner gone for my senior year, he was recruiting me to attend Colgate University. I applied and was accepted but the finances were just out of reach, even with his assurances that it would work out. In retrospect, I’m sure it would have but, being the first in my family to attend college it just didn’t seem workable. The last time I saw Coach Milner was at the Section III meet at Hamilton College. We talked a bit about Colgate and coach wished me luck and said that he thought I could run in the top three that day. I looked him in the eye and told him I was going to win. He gave me a handshake and had that Coach Milner gleam in his eye. In a race that was not my normal style, I got further back than I wanted, but I never doubted I was going to win and I got the leaders at the wire. First to give me a hug (you have to remember, this was the days when parents didn’t follow you everywhere) was Coach Milner. Again, he could not hide his pride. I only saw him once more on an official visit to Colgate but the lessons learned stay with me today and, like your interactions with all great coaches, were used over the years for much more than running.


C-o-a-c-h………part one….

Just a five letter word but for anyone who has been blessed at some point in their lives to participate in sports, a word that hopefully represents a person who has exerted a positive energy into their lives. When I think of the many coaches I have had in multiple sports, I also think of all the contemporary female classmates who back in the 60’s had no opportunity to participate in competitive or interscholastic athletics, who never had the chance to experience the growth and life lessons learned from a great coach.

Like humanity in general, coaches span the whole range of “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. Personally, I was pretty lucky in the character of the coaches I had along the way. Although I did have one former Little League coach who totaled out my Triumph Spitfire, after I had just washed and waxed it in front of my parent’s house, on his way home from an afternoon visit to Shug Smith’s Oak Hill Tavern, my experiences connected me to some great people. Little League coaches Mr. Lester, Mr. Holliday and Mr. Tyner were great examples of sportsmanship coupled with volunteerism and a real desire to let kids be kids and have fun with the game.

My favorite baseball coach though personified some of the great qualities of a coach. Joe Chesare. A great lesson for us all in the downside of judging a book by its cover. Joe was not, to my knowledge, a great former athlete. He didn’t coach because he had kids on the team. He loved the game of baseball and wanted in some way to pass that love on to us kids. I can still see Joe walking across the fields, bat bag over his shoulder, cigar stub in his mouth, tobacco stains on his t-shirt but, always, always a smile. One of my greatest sport’s memories was the day Joe taught me how to throw a curveball. Joe came to the mound in practice with our catcher, Dan Tice, after I had just moved up to Babe Ruth League from Little League. After Dan reassuringly referred to my curveball as “a dinky one”, Joe showed me a different way to grip the ball and snap my wrist at release. In a made for TV moment, my first try had ball movement that looked like an optical illusion, the ball “dropping off a table”. Joe just smiled and walked back off the field and I knew I had a primo go to pitch. A good good man who let us have fun and had fun with us.

Although he never said it, I always felt that my Dad resented when I quit playing baseball and focused on running. My love of running had its genesis in a program run during the summer by a man who I could never call anything other than COACH. Joe Wilber. My hometown back in the 60’s invested in numerous programs during the summer to give kids opportunities to learn new skills and interact with their peers. Joe Wilber ran the summer track and field program, by himself, pretty much staging a small meet on Thursday afternoons. I think I probably went for the first time in our neighborhood public transportation system………the Meehan’s station wagon with probably 15 kids, unbelted, crammed into it. No pictures from that era but in my mind’s eye, I see COACH WILBER in standard 60’s gym teacher mode, grey t-shirt, grey shorts, crewcut and non stop, no nonsense but all done with a sense of humor and getting everyone involved and feeling positive. So many friends that I continued growing up with and competing with and against who are gone now. Jimmy Johnson. Fred Von Holtz. Joe Bendzunas.

As I moved up in school, Coach Wilber was our junior high school gym teacher as well as my basketball and baseball coach. In basketball, I was probably one of his few major failures as he was unsuccessful in getting me to shoot layups leaving the floor on the right foot. That and the fact that in terms of vertical leap, a dime was about it, led me instead to become a bomber. In baseball I remember a time when Coach came to my rescue as an umpire was going to eject me from a game. I’m coaching third base when a very close play at third has the umpire calling our player out. I said loudly, (phonetically) “HAY-SOOOS COR-O-NA” which the umpire interpreted as Jesus Christ. Coach took me aside and asked me what I said and when I told him, he had his wry Coach Wilber smile on his face and smoothed the troubled waters with the ump.

For all my life, as often as I ran into Joe Wilber, I could never for a second consider calling him Joe. Even when I was in my 40’s and would run into him early in the morning at the Oswego Country Club when my son and I would be exploring the back nine hitting balls but more importantly looking for frogs and turtles, the occasional fawn, he was always, had to be always, Coach. When he died suddenly, like many others he had been a positive life force for, it was like a punch in the gut and the funeral was tough. In my life, I have many times had one wheel off the track, maybe two, heading for the ditch and it was always the memory of Coach Wilber that pulled me back. He has run marathons with me, is with me every time I ride the bike, and there are few days that I don’t think of him and how thankful I am to have known him. To have had him as a COACH.

Part two: Running coaches

May 4, 1970…….

May 4, 1970. I was a 20 year old junior at S.U.C. at Brockport. For those who might not have been alive at that time, it was the height of the Viet Nam War. For me personally, my position on the war had changed over my college years. Evolved. I had a hard time, having grown up around WWII vets including my Dad, of projecting negative thoughts against the government that my generation had pledged allegiance to every morning in school with our hands over our hearts. But, if you read newspapers and watched the news (no 24/7 cable news then) you began to smell a rat. It wasn’t until 1971 when the Pentagon Papers were released that the source of the smell became clearer and thinking people realized the country was being scammed and the lives of young men were being callously wasted.

In one post, I certainly cannot summarize the Viet Nam War or the evolution of the anti war movement. It certainly was not all sweetness and light on either side and we were a nation deeply divided. The anger and frustration that the antiwar movement expressed was too often misdirected at servicemen who, for the most part, were not voluntary participants in the war in Viet Nam. In later years, I had many interactions with many Viet Nam vets as I was out in public having Thank You/Welcome home cards signed to present to a Maine Reserve Unit that had been deployed in Afghanistan for a year. I witnessed many grown men, Viet Nam vets, in tears as they recounted the way they were treated when they returned. There were no welcome home ceremonies or parades and, indeed, I heard many stories of how returning servicemen were told to remove their uniforms before entering the airports they returned to.

By 1970, along with a spiraling war, unsupported and immoral, we Baby Boomers, after living through the assassination of JFK, also saw Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated. Music continued to play a part in illustrating what was going on as well as providing expression for the social turmoil we all were living. A few songs well worth a few minutes, especially in the current environment of our country and the world. The Times They Are A Changing . Blowin In The Wind.

Back to May 4, 1970 when I was a Junior in college. As the war progressed, we found out that the US had bombed Cambodia, a neutral country. The US had helped install a brutal military regime under Lon Nol. In fact, “bombed” does not do justice to what happened. We actually dropped more bombs than were dropped during the entirety of WWII. This led to widespread protests on most campuses including mine. One thing I saw in early May that is indelibly engraved in my mind was a sign hanging on the front of a house up the street from where I was living. I passed the sign on my way to campus and it read, all caps in a pre-Twitter day, I REGRET CAMBODIA.

The individual dates from that time period are a blur and, since our campus was cl0sed at some point and we were sent home, I’m not sure if I was on campus or at home on May 4, 1970. That date should be one of those lifetime “forever” dates. May 4, 1970. Kent State. The song I place here makes me cry in three notes and a name pops into my head instantly. Allison Krause. For me personally, this event made me a total cynic in having trust in our government. It was an eye opening and eminently frightening and enlightening event best described in the words of Neil Young. Ohio.

Like many men my age, I carry a ton of guilt that I got a pass when so many of my contemporaries became cannon fodder, too often by a stroke of luck. I have visited the Viet Nam Memorial multiple times and find myself looking at dates and asking myself, “what was I doing that day?”. We all often take the “I wish” path and I have an “I wish” from the Viet Nam era. I’ve visited the interactive Memorial many times and I would suggest that many Boomers should enter search dates of significant days in their lives and see the men who died on those dates. I wish so much that the day after I graduated HS I had been given a list of the men who died the previous day and would never get the opportunities that I still had. I screwed up in many ways and know that I would have acted differently if I had read that list of seventeen men every morning when I got up.

My last few posts have been aimed at my generation in hopes that we can all light a fire under our formerly incandescent belief that we could change the world. Let’s reconnect and get our country back on a path that takes care of our children, our grandchildren, for all future generations. Absorb and take in the closing argument of Elijah Cummings today. “When we are dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure that our democracy remained intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?”

Revisiting Pandora…….

In 1964 I was a dweeby high school freshman when I first heard the song I’ll put into this post, in two versions. I’m sure that the first time I heard the song it wasn’t the version done by the originator, Bob Dylan. I have always been in awe of the creations of Bob Dylan. His wordsmithing abilities that were so much a part of the core of my generation, Baby Boomers. His Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 was well deserved and there can be no history of events that occurred in his lifetime that do not include his music, his lyrics.

I have always had a central belief that people are people. Borders, nationalities, races or political systems do not change what defines a human being. Everywhere on the surface of the Earth human beings want to live a decent life with their families. Have a roof over your head, food and water, the ability to sustain your life and the life of your family. To advance the lives of your children and create a system that insures that they can live a good life with their families. Also, as the words of Bob Dylan so eloquently described another thing that everyone everywhere wants…….FREEDOM.

In the timeframe of the writing of today’s song, my generation had lived through the assassination of a President. We had seen on our TV screens fellow citizens beaten, bombed, murdered, lynched and dehumanized. The country slept through the beginnings of a war, a phony war sold to the country in a series of deceptions and outright lies, that would take the lives of more than 60,000 Americans, mostly fellow Baby Boomers. And, don’t forget the lives of civilians in the war zone.

I’m not sure how many have guessed the Dylan song so I’ll throw in the original version that I heard. And although I have heard many, many versions of the song, the one first heard by me still is The One. I have no delusions of pontificating on what Dylan meant when he wrote those words and put them to music. I do know what the words, the song no matter who performs it, mean to me.

The Chimes of Freedom, to me, represent the soul of both human beings and the United States. The words speak to empathy, sympathy, compassion…….the traits that define the human spirit. That we are all much, much more the same than we acknowledge. On another level, they represent what the United States has represented to the world for decades. With all our warts, all the mistakes made, the United States is what defines Freedom to the rest of the world. Where people are oppressed, or living in poverty, “yearning to be free” people may not know specifically Dylan’s words but they do have a vision of The Chimes of Freedom and I hope they always do. I am proud that our country has carried the torch of freedom and tried, sometimes in misguided ways, to spread the light of freedom around the world.

Now a little more updated, multi media version of The Chimes of Freedom. Listen and then ask yourself a few questions. How did it become accepted for the primary protector of The Chimes of Freedom to mock a disabled man? To show disdain towards a man who while risking his life for his vision of The Chimes of Freedom spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison? To denigrate entire races and nationalities? Religions? To fail to speak out against people marching with Nazi flags, chanting Nazi slogans, in the streets of a US college town?

This won’t be my last revisit to some of the songs that have hit me, moved me, taken me back to earlier times. I find myself as a Baby Boomer deep in the fourth quarter of the game of life wondering what our generational legacy will be. What will we leave for our children, our grandchildren, our grandchildren’s grandchildren? Will enough people wake up in time to restore sanity to our world before The Chimes of Freedom are extinguished?

What is so tough about “yes” or “no”?

My intention today was to continue with Pandora and some of the music that not only has become part of my life, my DNA, but also a generation. The Baby Boomer Generation. Then I saw some of the “interview” of Mike Pompeo conducted by NBC commentator Craig Melvin and totally popped my cork and had to address it.

For some time, I have railed about the negative effect of the proliferation of cable news programs. So many hours of airtime to fill that there is no bar, or at least whatever bars might exist are flat on the ground. People who have repeatedly demonstrated their lack of credibility that appear over and over and over, adding nothing but talking points to any discussion. They have long ago mastered the art of the backstroke and since they know how long they are appearing, can fill up that time with bs and talking points. Wouldn’t it be great if news directors actually held their guests to some type of standards for actually answering simple questions?

Today, the question that Pompeo wanted to duck involved whether or not, as Director of the CIA, he was aware of the investigation started by Andy McCabe when McCabe informed the Congressional Gang of 8. Immediate response is to attack the credibility of Andy McCabe based upon the OIG report, a report that came out much, much later than the timeframe of the question that had been asked. Pompeo then, after he is asked again if he knew of the investigation, pulls out the old “I can’t comment on investigations”. Ok Mr. Pompeo, you are not being asked to comment on the investigation, which is certainly not secret at this point, you are only being asked, yes or no, were you aware of the investigation. Again with the “I can’t comment on investigations” from Pompeo and Melvin doesn’t continue.

With all the issues in the world today, Melvin then goes to something so irrelevant that I was apoplectic. “Any truth to the rumor that you may run for a Senate seat in Kansas in 2020?” Who the fuck cares? If you had a dollar for everyone who today was most worried about whether or not Pompeo would run for a Kansas Senate seat, how much money do you think you’d have? Nothing about the Saudis murder of Khashoggi or the nuclear issue. Nothing about Putin threatening the US. This is what is wrong with news programs. They act like they are beholding to someone who is using them as a platform to deliver talking points and avoid adding anything illuminating to the discussion. Oh here Mr. Pompeo, let me plant a big wet kiss on your ass to thank you for appearing today.

My suggestions for questions if Melvin ever gets to follow up with Pompeo. “If you could have any snack in the world right now, what would it be?” “What are your favorite jeans, Levis or Lees?” “Which do you like more, puppies or kittens?” “Who is your favorite of the Teletubbies?”

Geeeeeeezuz! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Can it get any worse?

The downside of Pandora Radio……

First, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Pandora Radio. Last October, I took an assignment from LL Bean which morphed into a second assignment that ends today. As much as I love the environment and the people at Bean, I’m ready for it to be over until, maybe, next fall. One thing I enjoyed the most (along with NPR on the ride home at 11 PM….New Yorker Magazine, Ted Talks, Moth Radio Hour) was that I could listen to Pandora the whole time I was working.

So, what downside could there be to listening to Pandora? My assignments at Bean only required me to think at a level hardly beyond idle speed so I had a lot of available RAM in my head. Let’s face it, if you live long enough, there is music that defines points in your life. It connects you forever with certain people. It inspires you to activity and change. It becomes part of your personal DNA.

One song that is part of my DNA, that moves me every time I hear it (actually heard it on a trip to the Limerick Market yesterday) is Bob Seger’s Against The Wind. While it is not necessarily auto biographical, a couple of lines hit me right between the eyes ever time I hear them and that whack grows stronger each time. “Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago………”. I relate to that line in many ways but the most powerful connection is with one specific person and that connection to a different time will never change. Later in the song, the line, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then…….” is not specific to any person but rather a reminder of times when you had a full account of “next years”. Far fewer cares and worries. Totally oblivious to the reality that, at some point, you run out of next years.

My intention in creating what will have to be multiple posts that relate to songs is to question what will be the legacy of my generation, the Baby Boomer Generation. Some songs absolutely require their own post and one, in particular, that I heard the other night at work had tears running down my face, as it always does, in three notes.

If you read this string of posts you’ll at least get to hear a great song. Today, as a follow up to my last post regarding racism, a bonus song from one of my all time favorites, Sam Cooke.