Why Do Clouds Form in the Sky?

I’ve heard the people say Donald Trump would be reinstated as president on Aug. 13, and more recently, by the end of the year.

Reinstated? That’s impossible, not just because there is no legal mechanism to reinstate a president, but because to be reinstated, you first have to be instated. Donald Trump was never our president. 

I know this runs counter to the lamestream media’s version of events, but hear me out. 

Let’s start with the science. First-hand accounts are the most credible sources of evidence. I traveled to Washington. D.C. several times during the alleged Trump presidency, and those trips included several visits to the White House. I never saw Trump there on any of my visits.

Yes, many photos and videos are circulating that show Donald Trump in the White House attending to his “duties.” Almost as many as there are of Martin Sheen, who played the president on television as well. Sheen’s White House set was built in a studio in Culver City, Calif. Trump’s was in Trump Tower, New York City. 

Some will say, surely you can’t dismiss the news reports that followed Trump around minute by minute as he conducted the nation’s business. My response: You mean the Fake News? 

‘Nuff said. 

The big question is why—why would they do this? Some very smart people say they did it to protect a cabal of wealthy white men operating a global child sex trafficking ring out of an Upper East Side Town house and an estate in Palm Beach, Fla. 

OK, so that makes sense. But if this was the case, who was actually running the government during the fictional Trump era? No surprise here: the same people who always run it. The curiously anonymous figures of the Deep State. 

And that leads us to perhaps the most startling revelation. It wasn’t Trump who controlled the weather. It was the Deep State. 

That clears up a lot. 

Except for the sky in some parts of the world. It still gets cloudy for reasons only the Deep State knows.

But I’m working on it. 

Removal of Republicans from 1/6 Panel Was Inspired by the 9/11 Commission

In removing his five Republican nominees yesterday from the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy cited as precedent his party’s role in forming the 9/11 Commission.

“A key condition of Republican participation in the 9/11 Commission was that no Al Qaeda representatives be included,” McCarthy said. “Today I’m announcing my like-minded commitment to ensure that no Republicans serve on the 1/6 Panel.” 

One Republican does remain on the committee, however, Representative Liz Cheney, who was appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “With Republicans involved, this is a sham investigation that has lost all legitimacy and credibility,” McCarthy said. “Pelosi’s failed leadership has broken this institution.”

In response, Cheney said yesterday she had every expectation that the commission would operate in a non-partisan manner and be dedicated to holding to account those responsible for the Jan. 6 attack. When asked if she believed McCarthy was qualified to serve as House speaker, she spoke of the qualities required of a speaker and noted that McCarthy doesn’t have them. 

“It must be that time of the month for poor Liz,” McCarthy said when told of her comments. “She’s been a little too emotional ever since we stripped her of her party leadership position.”

P.S.: parts of this are satire. 

Photo at the top of the page: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, right, greets an unnamed supporter.

We Were Ticketed for Having a Black Lives Matter Sticker on Our Car

It really happened. Driving east from Rochester to Saugerties last weekend, a cop pulled us over on Route 162 in Montgomery County, N.Y. claiming we were doing 72 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. That sounded about right. We’d just gotten off the Thruway where that was normal speed, and we hadn’t adjusted. Oh well. We’re caught. We’ll just accept it, we thought.  

But that wasn’t enough for this cop. After retreating to his car to look up my wife’s driving record (she was at the wheel), he came back all apologetic. You have a good record, he said. And you’ve been very cooperative. You probably just got off the Thruway, right? She nodded. Well I know there aren’t any speed limit signs on this road… 

So he was giving us all our excuses, unprompted. Then he did it one better, turning our trangression into a learning moment. When you don’t see a sign, he explained, the speed limit is 55 miles per hour. 

Recognizing that we might be getting off, we nodded along even to this lame school marm lesson. 

Then suddenly, the tide turned. As expected, he wouldn’t give us that speeding ticket. But he wasn’t going to just let us go. No, he had something else up his sleeve. He would give us a non-moving violation, so it wouldn’t show up on my wife’s license. Sounds like he’s giving us a deal, right? 

Well, here’s the deal. The ticket he actually gave us was for the Black Lives Matter sticker on our back window, or rather, on the opaque black edging along our window, which evidently was close enough for him. Apparently it’s illegal to have a sticker on your car window, especially if you have a Black Lives Matter sticker in Montgomery County, which is almost certainly the only county where this law is enforced.

But it didn’t end there. No, we were given an opportunity to have this ticket wiped out if within 24 hours we took the decal off in the presence of a policeman or state-registered service person for verification. Well that was easier than what the Wizard of Oz asked Dorothy to do, so we set off on our quest. 

The next day at the Saugerties police station, the cop we disturbed from his morning coffee told us our sticker isn’t illegal after all. You can fight this! he said.

Yeah, right! And this time Lucy will hold the football in place so Charlie Brown can kick it! Were they all in on the scheme?

No, we’re ending this right now, I told him. We ripped that sticker off, got his signature and drove off certain that had our decal said, “Blue Lives Matter,” it would still be there. 

Photo at the top of the page shows the Black Lives Matter Sticker on our car for which we received a ticket in Montgomery County, N.Y.

P.S. This is really a story about an officer of the law who was kind enough to give us a break on a speeding ticket and who probably couldn’t even read the small psychedelic type on our BLM sticker. But then a tabloid reporter hacked my blog and made my fingers type this version of the story. Heaven help us all!  

P.P.S. Looks like it’s time to wash our car.

Fair, Balanced Response to an Unfair Trial

When was the last time a crime’s victims served as judge and jury for a U.S. trial? Never, right? But that’s exactly what we’ll see as the second impeachment trial of Donald John Trump kicks off tomorrow (Feb. 9). 

When rioters stormed the Capitol Jan. 6, they were attacking Congressional representatives and senators alike. House members responded by bringing articles of impeachment against the former president for his alleged role instigating the insurrection. Senators then became the judge and jury—even though they were attacked that day, too. 

How is that fair? Does anyone really expect them to be unbiased? 

Here’s a reminder: judges regularly recuse themselves from hearing cases they have even the slightest connections to. But apparently not one of these 100 senators has even considered this honorable route. 

Here’s another reminder: potential jurors are routinely rejected during discovery for having seen news coverage of the case, or for having a distant relative on the police force, or because the defendant’s lawyer doesn’t like they way they look. The impeachment jury obviously wouldn’t pass muster—yet this trial has no juror discovery process! 

How can we fix this? Short of stopping the impeachment, which seems unlikely at this point, a common precedent is to move the trial to a location where the news coverage is less likely to bias the jury. Sites such as Russia or North Korea could surely meet this mandate. 

Another approach would be to seat a jury of Donald Trump’s true peers. That’s difficult, because the man has few peers, but a suitable jury could be pulled from a pool of distinguished figures such as Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, Kellyanne Conway and—if you can find him/her/them—Q.

Obviously if the trial moves forward in its current form, Trump doesn’t stand a chance: the victims will vote to convict. So who can blame Trump’s allies for fighting back as best they can, perhaps suggesting to jurors that it would be a shame if something happened to their family, or if they got primaried by a far right candidate? The Trump team has to do something, because this trial is unfair. 

I’m Leaving the Trump Administration

I’m announcing today that I’m resigning from my position in the Trump Administration. I just can’t in good conscience continue working with a president who encouraged the destructive riot that took place at the Capitol this week. 

Many of you may not have known that I’ve been working for the Trump Administration. That’s because I’ve shared information about my position on a need-to-know basis. However, now that my work has ended, I feel I can be open about the role I played. That noted, I’m not one to dwell on the past. I prefer to keep my focus on the future. And I believe my future will be better now that my resume will show potential employers that I left my role in the Trump Administration as soon as I recognized that working for an unhinged narcissistic psychopath is untenable. 

Still, in case the Trumps make a comeback, I want to say that someone from Antifa may have rewritten parts of this resignation announcement—and that I’m proud to have served in the Trump administration, and of our many accomplishments. These include operating the most profitable web-based presidential gift shop ever and cutting way back on the wasteful presidential traditions of hosting championship sports teams at the White House and throwing out the first pitch on opening day of the baseball season. 

So as I say, I’m leaving, but I’m not gone yet as I just gave my two-week notice on Jan. 6. If you need to reach me, I’ll be in the office until about noon on Jan. 20. I’ll know more about my whereabouts after that when I learn the status of my anticipated presidential pardon. Fingers crossed!

Photo at the top of the page By Tyler Merbler – https://www.flickr.com/photos/37527185@N05/50812356151/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=98637757

The Non-Handoff Handoff

Handoffs seem straightforward. Something moves from here to there, a point-to-point transaction that limits room for error. 

I recall getting instruction on making a good handoff for only one situation. That was in baseball. I was a shortstop teaming with the second baseman on double plays whereby the one who catches the ground ball flips it to the other, who steps on second base and throws to first, while the oncoming runner tries to bowl him over. My coach’s instruction was that when you catch the ground ball, immediately take it out of your glove and “show it” to your partner. 

It’s a small consideration but it helps ensure a smooth transition. It was one of many small things we learned—like when there’s a pause in the action don’t stand on the infield dirt but on the grass where it’s 10 degrees cooler. Those small things add up and no doubt contributed to our team’s dominating record. 

Likewise the handoff between presidential administrations improves its odds for success if both parties are transparent—the equivalent of showing the ball. 

The first presidential transition I recall noticing was in January 2001, when the outgoing Clinton administration gave way to George W. Bush. A story I read then in The New York Times—and I seem to remember it on page one, below the fold—claimed that the Clinton team had vandalized the White House offices on its way out, including removing the W’s (the incoming president’s middle initial) from keyboards. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer described his reaction to reporters with a clever quip: “It would have been ‘Wow,’ but the ‘W’ was removed, so now it’s just ‘O.'”

A few months later these reports were shown to be at best an exaggeration—possibly a falsehood. The General Accounting Office reported as much as $14,000 in damages, but noted that some were the result of normal wear and tear, and that it couldn’t determine if the obvious pranks were more or less than occur in every presidential transition. (Who knew about that tradition?). Salon called it, “The White House vandal scandal that wasn’t.” Kind of like an alternative reality. This one pranked the national media into trashing the Clinton administration while delivering an opportunity for the Bushies to highlight that they had a different way of governing, sans the frat boy frolics. 

That incident foreshadowed the Bush administration’s modus operandi.  Just two years later, they perpetrated a reality that offered an alternative to U.S. intelligence findings, that Iraq had ties to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The claim helped the Bush team justify starting the war on Iraq. You probably know how that turned out. 

Donald Trump has taken alternative realities to new places, and like Bush he set the tone right out of the gate when his press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that the Trump inauguration had the largest attendance ever, denying what was clear in photographs, that the Obama inauguration crowd was bigger. Such is Trump’s management style, demanding loyal and enthusiastic support of unsupportable alternative realities. 

Now 13 senators and 140 house representatives (at last count) say that when Congress meets tomorrow (Jan. 6), they will support the lame-duck president’s claims about election fraud by refusing to confirm the electoral votes that give President-Elect Joe Biden the election victory. 

How ever this objection gets resolved, the manner in which the presidential handoff has been jerked from its simple point-to-point moorings doesn’t bode well for the future of the Federal government nor for us, the people some in government seek to serve. 

Photo at the top of the page shows what was roughly Donald Trump’s view of the 58th presidential inauguration, a view that convinced him it was the largest inauguration crowd in history.

For-Profit Company Paying CEO $4.5 Million Seeks Donations

Was I the only one who had to pinch himself and squeal to know it was for real when reading that the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle was seeking donations to support its local reporting (Dec. 13)? 

Hey, I’m sympathetic. Digitalization has been a tough transition for traditional newspapers. They are losing revenue. Reporters are losing their jobs. And especially in this era when lies masquerade as truth at the highest levels of government, we need good reporting—like this story about our mayor in today’s paper. 

If the D&C needs new ways to generate revenue, well, the donation model has worked for the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio. But it’s a tough transition for the commercial, for-profit media to make. For one thing, PBS and NPR already own that lane. Is it wide enough to support others? More to the point, who will give to a for-profit company that’s based out of town (in this case, the McLean, Va.-based Gannett Co., Inc.), has a reputation for taking sometimes ruthless leadership cues from the finance team, and last year reportedly presented its CEO with a $4.5 million annual compensation package?

Prospective donors might wonder, have they asked their CEO to give? Subscribers might ask why they now face the double jeopardy of also making donations. Readers might ask whether or not they can trust the D&C to actually turnaround its decades long trend of cutting back on local reporting, donations or no donations. 

What it comes down to is that the D&C needs more than what it gets from subscriptions, advertising, obituary listing fees—and donations from its CEO. That costs are rising has been evident for years as I watched my subscription price grow from $174.20 in 1999 to a proposed $500-plus in 2018. That proposal spurred me to discover that the annual subscription price quoted on the D&C web site was less than what they asked of me, a loyal subscriber of many years. 

It was as if they viewed me as a sucker. 

I still value the D&C, but there are a lot of good reasons to not donate to them. I’d be more inclined to donate to local reporters who are managed locally with limited overhead and a knack for matching the budget with local reporting needs. 

But with Trump still soliciting (and getting!) campaign donations more than a month after the election ended, perhaps the timing is right for dubious donation pleas. So if you’d like to help out a for-profit company that pays its CEO $4.5 million a year, here’s the donation link: https://bit.ly/37e6iG9.

On the other hand, if you really want to do something good for the local community, you could give that money instead to Foodlink, which applies 96 cents of every dollar donated directly to food-related programs supporting the area’s hungry. Or if you are itching to support local reporters who are managed locally, you could give to WXXI, our local PBS and NPR affiliate. (Full disclosure: I have relatives who work there.) 

Really, if you’ve got money to donate, there are a lot of good alternatives.

The photo at the top of the page is by FOTO:FORTEPAN / Magyar Hírek folyóirat, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51007835

How Hank Aaron Became My Favorite Baseball Player

I picked Hank Aaron as my favorite baseball player in 1959 when I was five years old. I’m pretty sure about the year because I’m pretty sure the data I used to guide me was on his 1959 Topps baseball card. At the time baseball was at the center of my life with the neighborhood kids. Most were older than me, and they all had favorite players, like Mickey Mantle. Spittle would spatter from Bobby Gilmore’s mouth when he spoke Mantle’s name. It meant that much. 

I wanted a favorite player, too, but I didn’t know how you get one. I was aware of only one guiding principal: your favorite player is on your favorite team. So mine was on the Milwaukee Braves, an unusual choice in the Yankee country I grew up in. I now assume they were my favorite team because my parents were from Boston, where the Braves originated. I don’t recall my Dad ever pushing me towards the Braves or even mentioning them. I surmised later in life that as a kid he was more a Braves fan than Red Sox fan, and even that I never heard him say directly. 

The Braves excellent uniform shirt of my youth shows well in the 1961 Hank Aaron card.

Regardless, the Braves were an easy team to like in 1959. They beat the Yankees in the ‘57 World Series, lost to them in the ‘58 Series, and they were in the thick of the pennant race again in ‘59. Plus they had the best uniforms, with the embroidered tomahawk across the chest, the laughing Brave on the sleeve, the hat with blue top and red brim, and the extensive piping that even traced the players’ belt loops. 

So my quest for a favorite player was narrowed down to a single 25-man roster—actually to a handful of the team’s better players. 

How to pick one? In those days of one televised game a week, we had little to go on. I remember asking one of the older guys for advice. His response: you can judge how good a player is by the number at the bottom of the third column from the right on the back of his baseball card. (That’s his home run total.)

The circled number on the back of this 1959 Hank Aaron baseball card was the basis for my decision to make him my favorite player.

I didn’t fully trust this advice. Home runs aren’t even a stat for pitchers, so they were all ruled out. And what about all those other numbers? They must mean something, too. But the older guys knew more than I did, and I had nothing else to go by. So I checked the home run totals on my cards. 

Using that criteria, you’d think Hank Aaron would have been a lock, given that he eventually broke Babe Ruth’s record for career home runs. But at that time, Aaron was in only his sixth year, and his 140 home runs put him third on the team behind third baseman Eddie Mathews with 253 and first baseman Joe Adcock at 156. 

So why did I pick Aaron? I have 1959 baseball cards of Mathews and Adcock, so I would have seen that their home run totals were greater than Aaron’s. Maybe I hadn’t gotten those cards yet when I made the decision? Maybe I didn’t trust that home runs alone could determine the best player and there was some intangible that made me go for Aaron? I don’t remember. But I do remember getting confirmation from an older guy that Aaron’s totals made him a “good” player. That was the stamp of approval that finalized my decision.  

In retrospect, I’m fascinated that my pseudo scientific approach landed me on the guy who broke one of baseball’s most cherished records. And that despite starting with a rather mild commitment, I quickly came to obsess over him, the way you’re supposed to obsess over your favorite player. He had a great career, and his playing days lasted into my early 20s, about the time my baseball passions began to wane (they returned later in life), so our baseball peaks aligned pretty well. And I got to see him play twice, in the 1961 All Star Game at Fenway Park, Boston, and in the 1963 Hall of Fame Game against the Boston Red Sox in Cooperstown, N.Y., where he homered with a line drive that just cleared the left field fence while playing in a lineup that included his younger brother, Tommie.

I’m also fascinated that in the very year (1959) when Pumpsie Green joined the Red Sox to finally integrate every major league baseball team, when racial segregation was still the rule for many public accommodations in the South, I chose a Black man as my favorite player. Apparently in Hank Aaron’s baseball card picture I saw nothing but a great player. I had no preconceptions based on race, no awareness of racial stereotypes.

Yes, growing up in an all-white suburb as I did, I would learn the stereotypes soon enough. But the memory of choosing to align with Hank Aaron preceded all that. And he delivered in a much bigger way than I or anyone else expected. I still keep this in my mind. Like a touchstone. 

Image at the top of the page is a 1959 Topps baseball card showing Hank Aaron, hitting a home run in the fourth game of the 1957 World Series. The other player pictured is Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who was my older brother, Scott’s, favorite player at the time, making this a pretty special card in our family. Image at the bottom of the page is from my neighborhood.

Free Advice From Our Dog Mersey

This morning, our dog Mersey did what she always does when she sees us grab the harness before a walk. She ran away.

That’s unusual in dog world. Most dogs see you give even the faintest sign that a walk is nigh, and they bound to the door tail a-wagging. And Mersey does love her walks, it’s the harness she claims to dislike. We use it because she can be a pretty strong puller, and the harness helps us control that. When we first introduced it to her as a puppy, she objected, shaking and pawing at it when we first put it on. But in a few moments she’d adjust to it and have a normal walk. After a few days even the early discomfort disappeared. Only the I-won’t-let-you-put-the-harness-on rebellion ritual remained. 

She can pull if off because our ground floor has a circular layout from front-door foyer to kitchen to family room and back to foyer. Mersey takes advantage of that when she sees the harness, moving quickly to the open doorway between the kitchen and the family room, then watching us to see which way we’re going. Of course we try to preempt this by surprising her with the harness before our hand has been tipped that it’s walk time. But sometimes we fail. If both my wife and I are involved, we’ll take opposite directions to close in on her. Another option is to shut the door between the kitchen and family room to create a dead end. As we close in, Mersey recognizes she’s trapped and is pretty quick to concede, standing still while we slip on and snap in the harness. 

Then she’s an obedient girl, scurrying to the door in exaggeratedly awkward form, head down, legs stiff. At the door she sits unmoving until the door opens, when she magically transforms back into her public persona as a fluid, shapely, upbeat greeter of all comers. 

She likes to play games, but she knows when the jig is up.

She can be available free of charge to advise our lame-duck President Trump should he need help in such matters. 

Photo at top of page: By conceding to put on her harness this morning, Mersey was able to enjoy peak foliage and unusual 70-degree temperatures in Rochester’s Highland Park. 

I Voted Today

I don’t have a lot of memories about voting. I can’t even remember my voting locations from most years, let alone call up a mental image or anecdote. 

The school where I voted in 2016.

But in recent years I’ve had a few voting moments that have stayed with me. In 2008, I voted for Barack Obama at a school built on the lot where Frederick Douglas had lived in Rochester, N.Y., making my vote that day feel especially momentous.

And in 2016 I stood in a long line at Mount Hope Cemetery to place my “I Voted Today” sticker on Susan B. Anthony’s gravestone. That’s a tradition in Rochester, where Susan B. lived, but the Woodstock-like atmosphere that developed at the site that day was something new. It was a spontaneous celebration anticipating that Hillary Clinton was about to become the first woman president. 

Susan B. Anthony gravestone Nov. 8, 2016

We all know how that turned out. 

Today (Oct. 24) was the beginning of early voting in New York State. Given the pandemic, I had applied for and received a mail-in ballot. But I decided not to use it, to instead join my wife for a ceremonial morning of waiting in line and voting on this first day, with others who were equally anxious to have their voices heard. 

We arrived at a nearby polling place in Genesee Park a little before noon and got in line. Understand that around here, we’re not accustomed to waiting in line to vote. Maybe that’s one reason I don’t have a lot of voting memories. We literally walk in, go straight to the person who checks your voter registration, then vote. It’s over in minutes —seconds if you have an especially efficient registration person. 

The line at our polling place, Oct. 24, 2020.

So this was something different, granting us some level of kinship with those in other states who wait as long as eight hours (or more?) to vote. As it turned out, our line was kind of festive. A band played funky jazz for the voters in waiting. League of Women Voters representatives walked about offering free water and granola bars. The woman in front of us shared how she had a mail-in ballot and decided to bring it here on the first day, to be sure it gets delivered. The guy behind us was having a birthday party tonight, and you could only drink beer if you showed your “I Voted Today” sticker. 

This trio performed for the line of voters.

After about 30 or 40 minutes, we got into the voting room, where one of the registration ladies called out, “This man is voting for the first time,” eliciting a big cheer.

We cast our ballots, then went out to brunch where my wife read an online anecdote that struck a chord. A person was driving by a group of people waiting in line to vote and called out, “How long have you been waiting?” One person shouted back: “Four years.”

A big cheer went up.