John Bolton, National Security Advisor

Imagine a president seriously batshit, barely keeping it together.

Now imagine that president taking national security advice from someone who helped sucker us into Iraq, one of the worst unforced errors in our history.

Donald Trump was close to his first national security advisor until he pled guilty to undermining U.S. sovereignty. He fired his second advisor, a three-star general with an impeccable record, for giving recommendations that made sense.

Now the president’s got a new guy who gets off on the idea of wars except for the war he refused to serve in. “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy.” he said.

John Bolton is best known for being hysterical, for talking down to people with superior military experience and for posing as a warrior defending our way of life on Fox News.

Bolton probably won’t last long at the NSA. For now we can take comfort from the fact that he will finally be punished for what he did to the American and Iraqi people.

Working for Donald Trump is its own special kind of hell.


Laura Ingraham Fox News

This is not the sound of whining. Not long after an AR-15 was used to murder seventeen high-school students in Parkland, Florida, Fox News launched an assault of its own. On the surviving students.

Instead of bullets Laura Ingraham used smears, mockery and calumnies to belittle students demanding that their parents and their government protect them against epidemic gun violence.

The massacre of six-year-olds at Sandy Hook had gone unanswered and Parkland survivors refused to let their classmates be buried in silence. Millions of people across the nation joined them.

After Ms. Ingraham ridiculed the 4.2 grade-point average of a Parkland senior, national advertisers yanked their sponsorships to avoid being associated with her predatory behavior. She was forced to take a ‘vacation.’

Some viewers will applaud Fox’s decision to allow the host of ‘The Ingraham Angle’ back on the air. But they shouldn’t be surprised if their grandkids ask them to change the channel or at least turn down the volume.

The average Fox viewer is approaching 70 years of age, and tends to play Fox so loud it’s impossible to hear yourself think. Maybe that’s the idea.


Kushner Billboard

Despite the fact that Jared Kushner has been denied permanent security documentation by the FBI, Donald Trump has put him in charge of international U.S. relations with Mexico, Canada and China.

The president has placed nothing less than the future of the Middle East peace process, our opioid crisis and the problems at the VA in the hands of an untested son-in-law who is limited in his ability to view highly classified information.

There’s a pattern of national security risks at work here.

Trump insiders — Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Donald Trump Jr. — are under investigation, under indictment, or have already made plea bargains.

None of this should be a surprise, coming from a guy who has unprotected sex with a pornstar.


Ministers In Bed With Trump

Although I preach family values, I’ve climbed into bed with a married man who pays hush money to a pornstar.

Although I shame teenage girls for how they dress I’m okay when Donald Trump parades them half-naked at his beauty pageant.

I condemn card playing but I’ve sucked up to a man who owned gambling casinos.

I rain hellfire and brimstone on prevaricators but I swallow the president’s lies.

I quote Matthew 7:12 but allow Donald Trump to mock the afflicted and the homeless.

When Donald Trump starts in with his race-baiting, I roll over and pretend to be asleep. I let him have his way with me.


Gus, Piano Tuner

There’s a moment before the start of a symphony when vibrations float above the orchestra.

It isn’t music exactly.

But it isn’t cacophony either.

Certain instruments break through the drone and send out sounds like mating calls in a forest — a piccolo looking for a willing woodwind, one tuba looking for another.

Symphonic tuning is more theater than necessity. Virtuoso artists take their chairs knowing their tools are, forgive me, fit as a fiddle.

The assistant leader instructs each section to tune to a note issued by an oboe. If Greenwich Mean Time is the standard for timekeepers and 32º F is the basis for relating temperatures, the A note (440 hertz) above middle C is the key for setting pitch.

Gus Roddy tunes the most mechanically complex of instruments. It has 88 keys connected to a hammer which strikes strings on a cast-iron plate. Each treble hammer hits three strings, tenor hammers hit two, base hammers strike only one.

Whether it’s a concert grand piano or a parlor-room vertical, Gus probes for a sweet spot. He tunes slightly out-of-tune, deliberately, so the piano sounds good in all twelve keys.

Strings stretch with time and are vulnerable to changes in humidity. The goal is 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of pressure across the plate.

Gus studied music theory and developed his ear as an undergraduate. It wasn’t until some years later that he went back to school to become a tuner.

Sophisticated apps have augmented the industry of course, but Gus’ certification exam required tuning by ear. Placing a vibrating tuning fork between the teeth is a time-honored craftsman’s trick.

What kind of music does the piano tuner-in-residence at our coffee shop turn to for pleasure? Beethoven, Bartók, Bowie, and the Beatles have been important to Gus.

But he’s reached an age, he says, when he appreciates silence.


Assault Weapons

Our children are murdered at a rate early Americans couldn’t have imagined.Our Constitution holds that Domestic Tranquility, Common Defense and The General Welfare are non-negotiable goals.

A docile, limp-dick surrender to unregulated gun violence isn’t mentioned.

A school shooter with AR-15 technology can fire more rounds in a minute than a colonial minuteman could muster in a hour.

The Founders trusted us with the power to change outdated laws that threaten our lives and those of our children — we’ve amended our Constitution twenty-seven times.

They prayed we would inherit their Yankee ingenuity, and that we’d show the gumption a free republic needs to survive. Unfortunately those virtues seem to have skipped a generation or two.

Our children will do better.


Putin and Fox News

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted thirteen Russian nationals and three ‘entities’ for sowing distrust, hatred, religious and ethnic divisions to undermine our democracy.

Their efforts began in 2014 and were surprisingly successful.

Experts agree it’s hard to imagine that Vladimir Putin wasn’t aware of his team’s efforts get Donald Trump elected.

During the presidential campaign Fox News Network was broadcasting the same kind of fake-news being spewed by the Russians. Their stories justified and reinforced each other.

Nobody’s saying there was some sort of deliberate sell-out to the Russians but, planned or not, Vladimir Putin had become a regular contributor to Fox News.


Clare and Resiliency

“…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” — Genesis 2:15.

You don’t have to be religious to understand why this passage appears in the scriptures that define three world religions.

We learned to work with fire. We shaped stone and smelted metals. We came to manage water and to cultivate lands. We domesticated animals for the nutrition and the labor they provide.

Two centuries ago we made an exponential leap. Machines used stream, not muscle power, to mass-produce and transport goods great distances. To feed a ravenous family, we’ve placed more demands on our earth’s resources than during all the millennia before.

“…And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.” From the book of Jeremiah 2:7.

Clare Tallon Ruen is not a scientist but stewardship of the earth is central to her work as a dancer and a teacher.”

Clare diagrams and executes movements, creating what she refers to as ‘movement models’ which she combines with music.

She introduces school children to the interplay of the earth’s ecosystems. Recently she engaged students in a group pantomime to dramatize how sand and wind work to help common marram grass dominate the dunes of the Great Lakes.

She can explain that by creating a “rain garden” you can disperse storm water from your downspouts and filter the currents flowing across your lawn so that contaminants are diluted instead of concentrating in rivers and oceans.

Clare is involved with the concept of ‘resilience.’ It implies that if we’ve pushed our planet beyond a ‘tipping point’ as some scientists fear, we’ll need to find ways to help it recuperate — in the same way farmers rotate crops to let a field rest fallow and fleets retire from overharvested fishing banks.

Discovering the natural world as a child has fueled the curiosity of great scientific minds. Einstein held that imagination is more important than knowledge and Maria Mitchell wrote that “science is not all mathematics and all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry.”

They would have understood and applauded what the dancer and teacher who visits our corner coffee shop is about.


Marion doesn’t type

The woman in our riddle started her career on Madison Avenue during the ‘Mad Men’ years.

Here’s a riddle:

Why didn’t the woman know how to type?

There were no signs of injuries around the digits of her fingers. There was no swelling at the knuckles or wrists, not a wrap or a brace to suggest carpel tunnel.

She kept her nails at a practical length and she used a grip strengthener during conference calls. To this day she spends time in front of the Steinway in her living room.

Here are some clues.

The woman in our riddle started her career on Madison Avenue during the ‘Mad Men’ years. She drove herself to escape the gravity that held stenographers, secretaries, receptionists and ‘gal-Fridays’ in low-level jobs.

Women newly promoted out of the clerical ranks faced a slippery slope. They risked being enlisted to “take a letter” and type it “just this once.” If that happened often they could dragged back into the steno pool.

The subject of our riddle worked her way into senior management positions and came to be recognized as a ‘Women of the Year’ in her profession.

I met Marion when she was recruited as a rainmaker at an international advertising agency. She was exceptionally savvy and we lined up to share assignments with her.

When Marion and I launched our own boutique marketing-services firm a few years later, we outfitted our small team with state-of-the-art IBM Selectric Typewriters.

Although it’s almost certain she had been able to knock out fifty words a minute during college and in her entry-level positions, Marion’s index fingers never once settled on the home keys of our typewriters.

Like many females who broke into the executive ranks in those years, Marion had learned something more important than how to type. She had learned how not to type.


List of Accomplishments

I can’t do that.

Why not?

My parents wouldn’t approve.

So we call them and ask.

They’ve been dead for years.

Aunts? Uncles?

Nobody in our family goes in for that kind of thing.

You want me to give you permission?

Tell me again, exactly what I’m supposed to do.

Make a list of things you’ve learned how to do. Add the favors, even small stuff, you’ve done for people — your years with the volunteer fire department for example. How you honored your father and your mother. How you got on top of your drinking after you guys got pregnant — gold stars there. How you’re not holier than thou. Add points for every time you’ve didn’t offer advice nobody asked for. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Write everything down, memorize it backward and forward.

And I’m doing all this…why?

So that when it’s dark and too early to get out of bed and you’re beating the bejesus out of yourself, you’ll have some ammunition on your side. Maybe you’ll sleep.