Category Archives: Politics

The End Is Overdue

With each passing day, the Trump debacle becomes more worrisome even as it gets closer to imploding.  I spend far too much time thinking and worrying about it.  Recently, an idea occurred to me that seems so obvious that I had to wonder why no one has been discussing it.  (Conceivably I could have missed an opinion piece covering this topic, but, believe me, I read and watch a lot – A LOT, altogether TOO MUCH – of news reports about the current state of affairs in a variety of mediums, none of which qualifies as “fake news” in my book, although it certainly would for Trump and his herd.)  My idea is this:  By any measure, Trump is a narcissistic ignoramus, a serious peril to the people and perception of the United States, who denigrates the traditional American image and wreaks havoc on our global interests every time he opens his disgusting, petty little mouth or sends a misguided tweet with his stubby, uncalloused  little fingers.  So, why are the Republicans so intent on keeping him around?  If Trump were removed from office somehow (and in all likelihood the Republicans will have to be the ones to do it via impeachment, hopefully in the very near future), a conservative Republican would be the next in line, for as far down the line as we might end up going.

First up would be Mike Pence, although in my estimation he is also a dangerous lunatic who is wildly complicit in the whole disastrous Trump presidency and spends most of his time, when he’s not kissing Trump’s ass publicly, standing idly a step behind him with a smug smile while Trump puffs and poses and bloviates.  If I had my druthers, Pence would be eliminated from office as well, if not prosecuted for perjury and obstruction of his own.  (At the very least, he should be disqualified for being blind and naïve.  How could he not have known Mike Flynn was a political time bomb?  Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has spoken often on his rounds of the political commentary shows about the dated letter that was sent to the White House TELLING THEM EXACTLY THIS.  So when Pence said he didn’t know, he either didn’t read a missive from the House Oversight Committee or he read it and then lied about it.  And that’s just one example of Pence’s duplicity.)

So let’s just say, wishfully speaking, that Pence is out as well, flushed down the toilet with the rest of the Trumpian turds.  Who’s next?  Paul Ryan, who has been a vice presidential candidate and a presidential candidate and is slobberingly desperate for this gig.  And if for some reason he’s out of the running, who’s next?  President pro tempore of the Senate, Orin Hatch, another long-standing spouter of the conservative party line.  WHY AREN’T THE REPUBLICANS CLAMORING FOR TRUMP’S REMOVAL?  Not that it would be great – oh, god, no – but at least there would be certain expectations of something resembling normal governmental functioning, decorum and (sort of) ethics.  At a minimum we wouldn’t have to deal with a president who is perhaps one of the dumbest people alive, who doesn’t believe that the law (which the legislators in Congress have the duty to create) applies to him and who is frighteningly apt to get us involved in some scary stuff, like a war or a dictatorship.*

If the Republicans successfully removed Trump from office, then America could start moving away from being the laughingstock we’ve become in the last six months.  (Six months!)  Some people might even see these Republican stalwarts as HEROES!!  They CLEANED HOUSE (literally)!!  They DID THE RIGHT THING!!  Saved the nation and the world from a lawless madman who should never have been elected in the first place, who won a tainted election with help from our mortal enemy, who belittled and insulted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM during and even before his campaign (and it continues to this day).  We won’t even remind them how much they simpered and sniveled and said, “Yes, Mr. Trump”, “Whatever you say, Mr. Trump” for far too long, before finally coming to their senses and taking assertive action.  What possible benefit do the Republicans get with Trump IN office that they would not have – perhaps three or four times over – if he were NOT in office?  Republicans would still control all three branches of government, and there wouldn’t be a polarizing, clueless idiot at the helm who, between the “Russia thing”, his disdain for the law and his love of authoritarianism, is very likely risking THEIR jobs in the 2018 election.  Trump sees no issue with threatening to fire special prosecutor Bob Mueller or his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, both of whom are technically supposed to be neutral, to serve the Constitution and the American people, not to blindly swear loyalty to Trump, especially now that Mueller is getting closer to the truth (Sessions is a strawman).  But Trump does not consider himself constrained by the traditional boundaries of how the U.S. government is supposed to work – and has worked – for upwards of two hundred years, or by the rules of ethics that should prevent him from profiting off his presidency.

I just don’t get it.  Congressional Republicans are craven people out solely for their own interests (and those of their deep-pocket donors, so, like I said, their own ($) interests).  Why don’t they admit that this ridiculous “Buffoon-in-Chief” experiment has failed miserably and they need to make the next move?  Who will step up to restore order to the law?  Democrats don’t have the numbers, nor do they have a cohesive message at the moment, but they would surely support the impeachment by the House and the conviction by the Senate.  So it’s got to be those craven, self-interested Republicans.  Hurry, please, before he blows something up.  He’s feeling like a cornered dog and all he knows how to do is destroy.

* I’ve been interested in this bipartisan bill being considered in Congress right now about preserving and even beefing up the sanctions against Russia as punishment for their (concededly admitted) meddling in the 2016 election.  According to Trump’s new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he’s is ready to sign it.  [Sanders replaced the beleaguered Sean Spicer, who finally grew some cojones and decided he was done being a punching bag, but it may be too late for him now, since he’s shown himself on the public stage to be little more than a kicked dog.  I mean, how crushed must he have felt when Trump wouldn’t let Spicer, a devout Catholic, meet the Pope when they went to the Vatican?  Sad!]  But that’s probably because he is not aware (it almost goes without saying that Trump has not read the bill) that, within this potential law, there is a provision that says the president can’t reduce or remove the sanctions without the express approval of Congress.  It might be a hollow gesture, given that, as long as the Republicans retain control, they would probably red-stamp a Trump request.  But at least the opposition would be out in the open and subject to the court of public opinion (if not the actual courts).

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Willful Ignorance

Synchronicity, serendipity – whatever you want to call it – is real.  My early notes for this week’s blog post read, “Not sure what I want to blog about this week but I had an idea – maybe the Willfully Ignorant, or Willful Ignorance, or something like that.”  Mere moments after writing that in my journal, I came across multiple articles and quotes that echoed that very thought.

First was a post on Facebook by my friend and fellow resistor (the master resistor, actually) Chris Cangeleri of an opinion piece from the Miami Herald called “In Trumpworld, it’s OK to be ignorant” [Leonard Pitts, Jr., MiamiHerald.com, 2/17/17, http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/article133497824.html].  A great quote from the piece, which almost exactly captured what I had been thinking to write, was:  “It’s time we talked about the most consequential political divide in this country.  That divide is not between liberals and conservatives. Rather, it is between the ignorant and the informed, between those who have information and can extrapolate from it and those who do not and cannot. There is an education gap between left and right, and it poses a grave threat to our national future.”

I’ve written about this before and I likely will again, because it’s something that troubles me very much about my country.  I’ve never considered myself one of those “Rah-Rah-U.S.A.!” people.  As much as I grew up loving the Olympics, it was the sportsmanship among athletes rather than the competition between countries that appealed to me most about them.  I’m part of a generation – the Baby Boomers – that has witnessed a time of greater prosperity than has ever been known in the world, and the United States has had the most respect it has ever had (or may ever again have).   I’ll save the history lesson for another day, but the bottom line is this:  I can never remember a time in my 50-plus years of life when there was such a sharp gap between the educated and the willfully ignorant in this country.

And there is no greater evidence for this than the results of the 2016 presidential election. During the campaign, whenever I listened to Donald Trump speak (and how could I NOT?  The mainstream media, which he now deems them “the enemy of the people,” gave Trump so much free TV time, we couldn’t escape him), I would hear nearly nonsensical strings of fourth-grade-level vocabulary words in run-on and incomplete sentences that wouldn’t be conveying ANYTHING, really, and he would punctuate his every line with “Believe me!”  or “Am I right?” and a wave of his signature stubby-fingered OK sign.  (What a tell!  Every time Donald Trump says “Believe me!”, he is clearly lying.)  And I would say to myself, “How could anyone in their right mind think he’s making any sense whatsoever?  What is he SAYING?  Does he even listen to HIMSELF?”  Yet so many people – none of my close friends (with whom I am universally politically aligned) but certainly many people I know, who I consider at least semi-intelligent – were hearing something completely different.  What they were hearing was what they WANTED to hear.  It didn’t matter if it didn’t make a lick of sense; they wanted to hear it, so that’s what Trump was saying.

In considering this week’s post, in addition to the Pitts article cited above, I also serendipitously came across a couple of pithy quotations.  One was posted by another one of my fellow resisters on Facebook, from an American abolitionist and vocal supporter of women’s and Native American rights back in the mid-19th century named Wendell Phillips (who was also a contemporary of Frederick Douglass, who still has definitely NOT done any great things lately).

The Wendell Phillips quote:  “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

Heavy stuff, but the bottom line is this:  In a free country, the people have to be vigilant about their rights because once they hand over their power to the elites in control, it is damn hard to get back.

We’re a nation of sheep, as Trump’s election has proven:  ignorant people being led by the nose by Fox News and con men and people with money who control the people who don’t have money.  The populace is woefully ignorant – and willfully so.  Organized religion contributes to that, and also a lack of respect and support for teachers and public education (as evidenced by the ability of the thoroughly unqualified Betsy DeVos to not only buy her position as Secretary of Education but also to make noise about eliminating public education entirely, to be replaced by some mishmash of home schooling and charter schools and God in the classroom – egads!).  Sometimes I think people are happier to be told what to do rather than to think for themselves.

I’ve written about this before in a broader post about public education [“An Ideal Education,” 7/6/16].  It troubles me that so much focus in schools is on teaching to standardized tests and not teaching youngsters how to think for themselves based on their powers of observation and critical analysis.  That kind of emphasis is sorely lacking in schools until college level education, and by then most of the folks who need to be critically thinking about their roles and responsibilities in this country and the world have essentially dropped out of the system.

The founders set up the U.S. Constitution as a blueprint for governance of the people, by the people, coming as it did out of the fight for independence from a controlling monarchy.  Today’s sheep give lip service to patriotically living up to the standards of our forefathers but they’re not willing to question authority and get involved in their own governance.  It’s an awesome responsibility, and what’s happened is that large numbers of people (perhaps a majority of us, and I include myself in that number) have abdicated their power to such a degree that they allowed a con man to be elected by a bare majority of the bare majority (57.9%) of eligible Americans who actually bothered to vote in a damn presidential election, let alone mid-term or local elections, when you can have the most access to the governing power that most affects you.

The other quote I came upon was from George Orwell, whose classic 1984 is undergoing a rediscovery because of its prescience.  Said Orwell, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”  This is so, evidently, because it is so easy to believe what you want to believe, especially when people in power are pushing it on you, despite the actual FACTS in front of your face.  The denial of the FACTS in front of one’s face has become alarmingly common, and the people in power are doing nothing to change that (and, in fact, are unabashedly promoting such denial).

That George Orwell quote was cited in a transcript of the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the UCLA given by Bret Stephens [“Don’t Dismiss President Trump’s Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity”, Feb. 18, 2017, Time.com, http://time.com/4675860/donald-trump]. Following on Orwell’s quote, Mr. Stephens said, “We each have our obligations to see what’s in front of one’s nose, whether we’re reporters, columnists, or anything else. This is the essence of intellectual integrity. Not to look around, or beyond, or away from the facts, but to look straight at them, to recognize and call them for what they are, nothing more or less. To see things as they are before we re-interpret them into what we’d like them to be. To believe in an epistemology that can distinguish between truth and falsity, facts and opinions, evidence and wishes. To defend habits of mind and institutions of society, above all a free press, which preserve that epistemology.  To hold fast to a set of intellectual standards and moral convictions that won’t waver amid changes of political fashion or tides of unfavorable opinion. To speak the truth irrespective of what it means for our popularity or influence.”

I could go on – I haven’t even touched on the absurdity of the accusations of “fake news” by Trump and his minions against established and reputable newspapers and media conglomerates with extensive fact-checking teams and decades of public trust.  Certainly, the big ones are controlled by a few powerful (wealthy, white, male) people, but I think, if Big Media is guilty of anything, it’s of trying too hard to be fair and balanced, to the point where they’re almost afraid to call bullshit when they hear it.  Not to mention the free publicity they gave (and evidently continue to give, since Trump is still campaigning even after winning) the Trump campaign.

But I’m preaching to the choir.  It seems highly unlikely that I will change anyone’s mind or convince them that they need to work a little more on their critical thinking skills because they’ve been bamboozled bigly by a con man.  I go to sleep every night hoping that, when I wake up, it will all have been a bad dream.  But perhaps one good thing has come of this horrible political nightmare:  The outpouring of protest and public outcry will maybe, just maybe, cause some of the previously willfully ignorant to do a little more digging, get a little more involved, and start seeing clearly what’s been in front of their own eyes all along.

Some Post-Inauguration Thoughts

Well, it’s done.  We’re stuck.  Trump is the president of the United States for the foreseeable future.*  Something I never believed would happen has come to pass.  I remember telling my good friend Carole, when she expressed the grim certainty this past summer that he would be elected, that I couldn’t even conceive of it.  The nightmare is real.  I’m scared for my homeland, for current and future generations of Americans, including my suddenly politically aware daughter, but I feel existentially depressed and powerless to do anything about it.

I did join a local grassroots group called Organize, Plan, Act (OPA) that was begun by a couple of my high school classmates but which has expanded beyond the borders of Long Island.  (And anyone who is interested, please check out our page on Facebook.)  We had an in-person meeting this week, which made up for in passion what it may have lacked in focus.  There’s just SO MUCH we need and want to do – to protect our rights, to turn Congress and get more progressive representation that can actually resist the Trumpian juggernaut, to do battle on the side of “right” (not THE RIGHT, but what’s right and fair and sane) – but there’s also a danger that we’re just preaching to the choir.  We didn’t discuss this at the first meeting, but I think our focus needs to be on reaching out to people on the other side of the aisle who can be convinced to cross party lines and do what’s “right” (there’s that word again) when faced with decisions that will negatively impact our present and our future.  WE already know what’s what; it’s THEM that need convincing.  Yes, we need to let our Democratic senators and representatives know that we support them in their opposition, but it’s Republicans who we need to sway on issues because no matter how loud the Democrats speak, they will always be outnumbered (at least until mid-term elections in 2018).  Republicans may seem monolithic at times, but they’re not.  Representative Adam Kinzinger (R‑Ill.) was on “Vice News” the other night as an example of a congressional Republican who is not convinced by Trump and has publicly refused to blindly support him.  Senator Lindsay Graham is no fan, and neither is Senator John McCain, and I optimistically wonder if they (and others) would be willing to break party ranks if enough people from their own and other districts complained, especially if they have broader political ambitions.

Truth be told, I still feel powerless, even after the outpouring of support and solidarity represented by the Women’s March the day after the inauguration.  While certainly heartened and hopeful, perhaps most by the wide range of generations in attendance (with so many brilliant signs and banners; my favorite said “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”), the first thing that popped into my head (and evidently – although I am loathe to admit that I share ANY thought with him – Trump picked up on it, too, in his first tweet on the topic) was, where were these people when Hillary needed them?  But then I thought to myself, these ARE the people who were “with” Hillary. Even if every voter at the Women’s March had voted for Hillary, there were still too many people who didn’t, who even now, months after her loss, continue to denigrate her.  There are actually people in my life who I consider generally decent who question whether she would have been any better.  OF COURSE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.  If Hillary were in office, we would know what to expect.  Now, it’s a constant, decidedly-non-fun guessing game in terms of how crazy Trump will be on any particular issue, or how wrong his “people”.  The very first gig of his press secretary Sean Spicer consisted of a petulant rant accusing the media of trying to make it seem like there were fewer attendees at the inauguration than there actually were.  WHO CARES HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE THERE?  There are so many more important things that need to be addressed.  Yet they continue to perpetuate lies in the face of actual facts to the contrary, like Kellyanne Conway saying Spicer was putting forth an “alternative” set of facts.  THEY’RE NOT FACTS!!  THEY’RE FALSEHOODS.  (Thanks, Chuck Todd, for your incredulous response that literally took the words out of my mouth.)  There’s a dramatic difference between the two that Trump and his people don’t seem to get.

I’m still a combination of numb and scared and angry, still feeling helpless and impotent. But the word that keeps coming into my head is VIGILANCE.  We need to be vigilant.  It’s unfortunate to hear people say they don’t pay attention to politics, and I confess that I was less than interested, even after the buffoon George W. Bush and his cronies stole the election of 2000 (although I would take W. in a heartbeat right about now), but it’s become very clear to me, with our rights and freedoms under threat, that the government impacts so much in our lives that we take for granted.  I’m just waiting for the day when I can stand up against some injustice or speak out when something needs to be said so I can feel like I’m having some positive impact, no matter how small.  One small impact added to a bunch of other small impacts should eventually add up to a large impact.  Unfortunately, so far my protest activities have been limited to the OPA meeting, emailing and phone-calling my senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and my newly elected representative, Kathleen Rice (all of whom, I am proud to say, are progressive and outspoken Democrats that I have voted for), and posting “Like” and “Angry” responses on Facebook, but hopefully now that my eyes and ears have been well and truly opened, I will be able to take more substantive action soon.

It’s tough to pull any positives out of the inauguration of Trump.  [An amusing aside:  I posted a great article on Facebook the other day (Charles P. Pierce, “Today Was Just the Beginning. The Reckoning Will Come”, Esquire.com, 1/20/17, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a52437/donald-trump-inauguration-day-report/).  Something I particularly loved about the article was that every time Mr. Pierce wrote “President Trump”, he put an asterisk after “President”.]  But at a minimum it should demonstrate to Democrats and progressives and probably Libertarians and all clear-thinking people that they need to mobilize, make lots of noise and take meaningful action because Trump and Congressional Republicans have all the power and want to take any modicum of power that remains away from everybody else.  We can’t sit idly by and let our planet be ravaged and our rights infringed.  The Women’s March was just the beginning (I hope).

Finally, I’d like to end this kind of dark and depressing post with something a little more uplifting, my personal rallying cry, which has been borrowed in this form from an article by Seth Millstein (“What To Tell People Who Say You Have To Accept Donald Trump’s Presidency Now”, Bustle.com, 1/19/17, https://www.bustle.com/p/what-to-tell-people-who-say-you-have-to-accept-donald-trumps-presidency-now-31726) but I had already posted something along these lines in my first public stand-taking on the Facebook page of Rep. Peter King, one of the New York Republicans we are targeting for removal in 2018:  “I reject the implication that just because Trump is president, we aren’t allowed to condemn him anymore. To the contrary: We most definitely are allowed to condemn him, whenever we like and as strongly as we see fit. One of the nice things about living in a democracy is that we’re allowed to freely criticize our government. This is the constitutional right of every American, and I’ll exercise it under any president with whom I disagree. I suspect I’ll be exercising it frequently under the Trump regime.”

_______________

*I read something interesting on Robert Reich’s Facebook page the other day.  (I love Robert Reich, by the way – he is so measured in his outrage and backs up what he says with actual, not alternative, facts.)  He recounted a conversation he’d had with an anonymous former Republican congressperson who explained that the Republicans are really just using Trump to push their pet agenda items through – like repealing the ACA, gutting Dodd-Frank, cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy, yada-yada-yada.  (A quote that really struck me:  “They’ll get as much as they want – tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare – and blame him. And he’s such a fool he’ll want to take credit for everything.”)  Then they’ll suddenly find something Trump says or does so outrageous that they’ll have to impeach him, and then Crazy Scary Pence will become president, which is what they wanted all along.  Evidently, it was the condition they set for backing Trump in the election.  Sounds a little tin-foil hat but also TRUE.

Dark Days Ahead

I find it very difficult to write – to THINK – today.  Aside from just being nauseous and somewhat numb, I am disappointed beyond words by the rampant ignorance among the American people, and I am afraid for the future of this country.  I kept thinking that something must be wrong with the technology; the results can’t possibly be so favorable to Trump, a joke of a candidate who didn’t even believe himself that he could win.  And yet, there he was, ready to cut into a cake made in his likeness (of COURSE it was) to celebrate his complete bamboozling of a misinformed, ignorant public.  How could this even happen??  Did people hate Hillary (undeservedly so, I believe) that much?  Is the supposedly most modern country in the world still so misogynistic that they would reject an intelligent, experienced, eminently qualified career public servant who just happens to be a woman over a practically illiterate, bloated, blustery huckster (who could ONLY be man) for the highest, most visible office in the land?  I just don’t get it.  New York, of course, had it right, voting nearly 3-to-1 against him.  But the rest of the country was startlingly able to be conned.  Why didn’t all the people who voted for Obama vote now for Hillary?  Was it not to be just a continuation of four years of hard-fought success, with grace and class?  Where were Bernie’s supporters?  Did they not believe him when he entreated them to vote for Hillary because that was the only way – the ONLY way – they were going to achieve any of the items on their agenda?

And so we are now stuck with President Trump (I throw up in my mouth a little just to write it), assaulting us with his orangeness on a daily basis, a Slovenian former nude model as First Lady and his creepy family nepotistically inserted into every facet of his administration.  And I can’t even hope for something terrible to befall him (not that I would, mind you), because then we’d be left with Mike Pence, who is probably, in his way, even MORE dangerous than Trump because he’s controlled by the blinders of Christian evangelicalism.

Oh, woe is my country!  Where were all the progressives?  Where were the Latinos and African-Americans and Muslim-Americans?  Where were the WOMEN, who according to polls (which I will NEVER believe again) despised him by an overwhelming majority?  Those groups together should have been able to defeat this menace.  But they were somehow silenced, overcome by the squeakiest of wheels – middle class white men (and their women, I presume) who hated having a Black president and who hated even MORE the idea of having a woman president, who were conned by Trump the salesman and reality TV star into believing that he could do anything to fix their miserable lives.  He can’t, and he won’t.  That is my most fervent wish:  That he is such an abject failure on all fronts that his supporters FINALLY turn on him, realizing that they have been sold a bill of goods (which they HAVE).

I have lost all hope and optimism, despite Trump’s efforts to “sound presidential” in his acceptance speech.  And frankly, I am even more upset by the fact that the Republicans still control the Congress and will now have every opportunity to stack the Supreme Court in favor of turning back the clock to a time when women and minorities and the LGBT community were denied their human rights.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer had better hold on with all their might to stick around for another four years.

I confess I had this nightmare months ago:  watching the election results with a sick feeling as Trump gains more and more electoral votes.  The image that sticks with me from last night is an overhead shot of Trump headquarters and the sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats – made in China.  These people are idiots, and now we will be ruled by idiots for the next four years.  Be afraid – be very afraid.  I am.

Woe Is Money

My money situation is killing me.

Over the past decade and a half, I’ve earned no less than $100,000 a year – not small potatoes, I admit.  I support only myself and my kid (and multiple furry children).  I don’t want for things, but I get what I want when I want it (more to the point, I get what my DAUGHTER wants).  We’ve taken a few expensive vacations since 2002, which has been by far my biggest outlay but also our greatest enjoyment, not to mention that I could only afford to travel every other year.  I live in a small house and I drive a small car.  I don’t own or wear jewelry.  (In fact, I don’t really GET jewelry – to me, it’s just an ostentatious show of wealth and a target for thieves.  I’m talking to YOU, Kim Kardashian.)  I wear clothes and shoes until they’re stained and falling apart (especially if they’re comfortable).  And yet I am deep in debt and hacking away at my middling retirement investments (left to me by my mother – more on that in a moment) and there’s no relief in sight short of winning the lottery.

Growing up, my parents always ensured that we lived comfortably (that’s how we got accustomed to it, of course).  And yet they still managed to have enough income to put two daughters through four years of college and pay off a 30,000 mortgage (in 1968, for a four-bedroom, 2-1/2 bath house; contrast that with a two-bedroom, two-bath bungalow in Long Beach in 2004 with a mortgage of $300,000; I get that beach access comes at a premium, but still – literally ten times the mortgage for half the house?  Something doesn’t seem right.).  My father went through multiple cutting-edge (at that time) heart surgeries, and yet health care expenses didn’t cripple us.  In fact, there was enough left over in their savings (and my father’s life insurance) for my mother to live comfortably (still) into her early 70s until her own health issues overcame her, and STILL leave my sister and me over half a million in inheritance money (which we have both nearly wiped out, I’m ashamed to admit).

Of course, most of the money I’m taking from my inheritance is for my house, which has undergone three full renovations in less than ten years, only one of which was planned.  The others, of course, were courtesy of Superstorm Sandy.  And while I did get assistance with flood insurance and state grant money, I’ve still been forced to dig deep into my own already paltry retirement fund.   I have actually heard rumors of NY Rising suddenly changing procedures and withholding money or cancelling payments altogether, right when people are close to the end.  In fact, I was forced to pay my rent by credit card this month because I didn’t receive my Interim Mortgage Assistance payment in a timely manner, plus I had to pay an additional service charge of $52.95 to do so (which is outrageous in and of itself).  Thanks, NY Rising.  And they’re going to screw me out of my last payment somehow, too, I just know it.

I’ve whined about my money situation before in this blog (see, e.g., “Tax-Inspired Stream of Consciousness (and Another Top Ten List)”, 2/24/16) – it’s a constant source of agita for me – but thinking about this has led me to recall how things were when we were growing up, and even back when I first started working at a “real” job, in the early 1980s.  It was such a perk to get a position with “full benefits”.  I mean, TOTALLY FREE.  You didn’t have to pay for any of it – your employer paid for it, whether you were a single person or a family of ten.  Sure, medical advances to cure diseases and improve treatment methods, which have extended our life spans exponentially, all cost money, but SUCH an increase?  And if it all went to R&D, that would be one thing.  But what it’s really about is lining the pockets of the already wealthy.  I’m so sick of it.  All the angry middle-class and out-of-work Americans are backing the wrong horse (and the wrong horse’s party) in this election because Republicans and the wealthiest Americans (like Trump believes himself to be) are the ones who PUT the working poor and middle class in this position.  Find me a Republican who isn’t “Me First” (or, at best, “Us First”) and I might consider voting for that Republican (or at least listening to and working with that Republican).

I saw a couple of graphics on Facebook the other day (I think they both came from Bernie Sanders’ website, although I can no longer find the CEO pictograph).  One showed the disparities between the prices of the same drugs in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.  The same exact drugs!!  It was obscene.  [https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsenatorsanders%2Fposts%2F10155280240672908%3A0&]  The other showed the compensation for the CEOs of the major insurance companies, which were all well in excess of $20 million (with one outlier around $10 million).    Hmm, I wonder where all that money is going?  Then there’s all that inane advertising.  It’s a mystery to me why Big Pharma wastes so many millions of dollars on these fake-ass ads, with actors portraying ordinary humans living their (completely unrealistic) ordinary lives.  It’s not the CONSUMERS who decide what medication they need; it’s the doctors and, ultimately, the insurance companies.  Case in point:  My endocrinologist (who, by the way, does not take my insurance so I pay him out of pocket and try to limit my visits to twice a year) prescribed a new diabetes drug for me, but my insurance didn’t cover it.  So he suggested trying a different brand of the same drug, which my insurance supposedly covers.  I called the mail-order prescription filler that my insurance company insists upon for my regular medications and the woman there told me that I will have to pay NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS for a three-month supply because I still haven’t met my deductible (I will NEVER understand how that works).  “Well, I can’t pay that,” I told the woman.  It turns out that this particular pharmaceutical company (AstraZeneca) offers a program whereby I can get a free trial month and then heavily discounted doses for the next three months, and by that time, I will have hopefully lost enough weight so that I no longer require the medication.  So, in fact, THAT is what has determined what medication I take – not some stupid commercial with fake families kayaking in a lake at sunset or pushing their fake grandchildren on swings (or the absolute WORST commercials, those for Cialis or Viagra that show fake horny older couples doing all these flirty-touchy things.  Those make my skin crawl!).

In thinking about how our economic situation today is so much worse than our parents’ was back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the nausea-inducing income inequality that exists in this country (a statistic that really burns me is that the top 1 percent of wealth holders in this country are richer than the bottom 95 percent) [http://inequality.org/99to1/facts-figures/], I’ve been considering how to counter possible criticism of my (and others’, notable Hillary Clinton’s) desire to make the rich pay their fair share toward maintaining our country’s infrastructure and the planet as a whole, as well as contributing to the common good of humankind.  Apart from the rich folks (who can AFFORD it – that’s the whole point:  if a multimillionaire were to give away HALF his or her money, he or she would STILL be a multimillionaire), who would suffer?  Law firms, for one, if corporations no longer needed to engage legal counsel to set up convoluted tax-minimizing structures for their deals and just sucked it up and paid what they should instead of siphoning off from the company’s profits to funnel the big bucks upstairs, ultimately at the expense of the employees.  The “luxury” industry might suffer, like, say, jewelers.  I was wondering if, as in the game of Monopoly, there was such a thing as a “luxury tax” that rich people have to pay when they buy things like diamonds and fancy cars, over and above plain old sales tax like the peons have to pay.  If there isn’t one, there should be.

All I know is, if I ever had a couple of million dollars, I wouldn’t be buying boats and diamond rings or gold-plated toilet seats.  I’d be paying it forward, giving money to rescue organizations and friends and family and worthy Kickstarter and Go-Fund-Me campaigns.  (My one indulgence if I were suddenly wealthy?  I would stop working, if I could manage it.)  [For more on this topic, see “An Excess of Excess”, 6/24/15]  But in the meantime, it would be ideal if the wealthy were on the (inescapable) hook to pay more taxes than they have been paying for the past few decades as the result of misguided economic policies like “trickle-down economics”.  The only way the money has been trickling is back into the pockets of the wealthy.

* * *

One more word on this cringe-worthy election and hopefully in next week’s blog post I can express my extreme relief that America has dodged a stupidity bullet and we’ll never have to see Donald Trump’s sickening orange face on our televisions again (as long as you don’t watch Trump TV, which I decidedly WILL NOT).  I can’t believe how many stupid people there are in this country – nearly half, according to “polls”.

It’s been expressed much more eloquently in many recent articles:  see, for example, Matthew Yglesias, “Clinton’s critics know she’s guilty, they’re just trying to decide what she’s guilty of”, Vox, 10/31/16, http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/31/13474116/clinton-prime-directive:  “But what if all previous investigations have shown no wrongdoing because there was no wrongdoing? And what if the client-side copies of emails on Weiner’s computer are just client-side copies of emails, just like the emails in the inbox of everyone else who downloads email to a computer? What if Benghazi was just a tragedy and an example of how bad things happen in war zones? What if Whitewater was just a land deal on which some people lost money because real estate speculation is risky? What if Clinton has been getting away with it for all these years because she hasn’t done anything wrong?”; and  Conor Friedersdorf, “There’s Simply No Comparison Between Clinton’s Flaws and Trump’s”, The Atlantic, 11/1/16, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/perspective-on-the-flaws-of-hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump/506042):   “The trouble with calling both candidates bad and leaving it at that isn’t just that it doesn’t capture how much worse he is, though it doesn’t, or that it is unfair to Clinton. I don’t actually care about her. I do care about us–about Americans who have to live in this country going forward, who will suffer if we elect a man as unfit for the presidency as any major party candidate for that office in generations.  His inexperience matters, his indiscipline matters, his ignorance matters, and so do his character flaws, which render him a greater danger to others the more power he is given.”,

But if I may, some final thoughts from me about this long national nightmare, for what it’s worth:  It shocks me (although maybe it shouldn’t, given the widespread willful ignorance of an educated-but-not-really American public) to see that there are so many people in this country who prefer Trump – a shady huckster who has jobbed the system at every opportunity, a pig and a racist and a wanna-be dictator, who is wholly unqualified to be president of arguably the most wealthy, powerful and influential nation in the world – over Hillary Clinton, a lifelong public servant who has experience at every level of government, who has stood up to those who vilify and criticize her because she realizes that there is an extremely important job that needs to be done – a job she has been waiting her whole life to do.  It’s just common sense, people.

If Hillary’s lying bothers Trump supporters so much, how hypocritical is it for them to support Trump, who lies far more than he tells the truth and whose pronouncements are almost entirely without basis in fact?  Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, speaking on “Meet the Press” on October 9 (http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/video/schmidt-trump-has-exposed-intellectual-rot-of-republican-party-782256707624), had it exactly right:  He said, in no uncertain terms, of the Trump campaign that “the magnitude of its disgrace . . . is difficult to articulate” and that “it has exposed the intellectual rot within the Republican Party”.

I just want it to be over.  Instead of rejoicing in this historical moment for women and knowing that the goals of political progressives are finally within reach, we’re being driven to distraction by a lot of hoohah over EMAILS.  GAH.  Enough already!

Brain Salad

There are too many jumbled thoughts running through my brain this week, so I’ll just chop them up like vegetables and serve them in a salad.

* * *

I think I may have come up with a (regrettably late) solution to the noise problem in my apartment:  rubber tile mats, 2-foot squares like puzzle pieces that I can mix and match and make into whatever configuration I need for this oddly shaped apartment.  It only cost me $100 and I can actually re-use them once I’m out of here and back in my own house.

There’s been progress on that front as well:  My house was lowered onto the foundation today!  There is an enormous amount of work still to be done – in fact, the entire back third of my house, including the roof, have to be rebuilt from scratch.  The floor supports for the surviving section of the house were like spaghetti, going in every direction, so the contractor has to make everything more uniform and up to code.  They’ll hopefully start the framing this week.  They keep telling me that, now that the house is down, “it moves fast” (an actual quote from my contractor today).  This remains to be seen.

img_0790

The house is down!

It also remains to be seen if I’ll have the money to cover it all before getting my final payment from the New York State grant, which won’t come until after the work is completed and inspected.  My financial advisor has loosened up some funds from “65-year-old Nancy” (as he refers to my retirement account), because getting my house in livable, FEMA-compliant and partially brand new condition is an investment that 65-year-old Nancy will surely benefit from in the end.

* * *

Talking about money always makes me a little sick to my stomach.  Speaking of which, my gut was in knots watching that debate on Sunday night.  Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, I want to vomit.  And what comes out of his mouth is nothing but word diarrhea, empty drivel, meaningless, unsupported bullshit (excuse my French).  And yet an inordinate number of people – well, the media, anyway – came out of that debate saying that Trump had held his own, or stopped the bleeding, or actually “won” the first 30 minutes (which is also what they said after the first debate).  I DID NOT SEE IT.  True, I am predisposed to think of him as an ignoramus and anything he says as nonsense, but even reading the transcripts afterward, I could not get over the fact that (a) the man cannot put together a full sentence, (b) he repeats himself incessantly (how many times did he call something a “disaster”?) and, worst of all, (c) he makes statements as if they were true and fellow idiots immediately believe him, despite most of what he says being “fact-checked” into oblivion.  He’s a vainglorious, narcissistic, entitled pig man, and how ANYONE could want him to be the foremost face of our country is utterly beyond me.

This becomes especially apparent after reading an article entitled “The way ahead” in The Economist earlier this week written by our current president, the polar opposite of Donald Trump in every way.  [Barack Obama, “The way ahead”, The Economist, 10/8/16, http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21708216-americas-president-writes-us-about-four-crucial-areas-unfinished-business-economic ].  I’ve spoken in this blog before about my admiration for President Obama, and I continue to believe that he has been the greatest president in my lifetime.  [See “OK POLITICS”, 6/30/15.]  A fantastic quote from this impressive piece:  “America’s political system can be frustrating.  Believe me, I know,” which is a really polite way to say he has done everything in his power to rise above the obstructionist Congress that has made its prime objective to reject everything the President – OUR President – proposes, to the point where they are not doing the jobs for which they were elected and entrusted by the public to do.  And despite that, gains have undoubtedly been made over the past eight years in our evolution as a nation and as a species.  We certainly don’t want to start going backwards now.

The other thing that really troubles me about this election, though, is how vilified Hillary has been.  This is a woman who has devoted her LIFE to public service, who puts herself out there to be slammed and insulted on a daily basis because she wants to make a positive difference in the world.  She may be politically ambitious, but what’s wrong with that, really?  Such ambition would be – and usually is – lauded in a man candidate.  She may have learned, through her decades on the fringes and later at the epicenter of the political world, how to spin her statements so that they sway folks her way – again, as all politicians worth their salt do.  And yet she is portrayed as a liar and a sneak and a crook.  She is a flawed human being, as are we all, but she deserves more respect than she is given.  It boggles my mind when I hear people say that they equally abhor BOTH candidates.  No matter how much you may dislike Hillary, she is the only QUALIFIED candidate in the race, and that alone should be enough to elect her over her opponent. And right now, they’re the only two choices we have (apologies to Jill Stein and Gary Johnson).

I personally believe she will make a good first woman president (and I’ve said so before; see “I Don’t Know If I Can Take Five More Months of This”, 6/1/16).  And you know what else?  In a weird way, I actually think Ivanka Trump, after going through this whole maelstrom with her father, might make a very good future candidate for president, once Hillary opens that door for her and every other female for whom the loftiest of political goals will now be achievable.  I wonder if Ivanka’s good looks would help or hurt her, though.  I suspect it would be the former, given that we are a sexist society that objectifies and belittles women and doesn’t give them the credit they deserve (although one can only hope that will continue to change – I mean, women couldn’t even VOTE a mere hundred years ago).  For instance, consider House Speaker Paul Ryan’s response to Trump’s rude comments about the females he has man-handled:  He said women are to be “championed and revered”.  Well, that’s all well and good, but how about A FEMALE HUMAN BEING SHOULD BE TREATED WITH THE SAME RESPECT AS A MALE HUMAN BEING, NOTHING MORE AND NOTHING LESS?  That might have worked a little better, Paul.

* * *

Last night I had some weird physical feelings that propelled me into a “fear of dying” cycle.  In this instance, it was a severe lower backache, tummy troubles and a head full of cotton batting.  Flu?  Nah, I had a shot.  Sinus?  That would account for the fuzzy head, but not the back or the tummy.  New medication?  I was warned that it might cause stomach upset, so that could be the cause of that particular symptom.  Backache?  I went to the chiropractor on Saturday and have been sitting at my desk ever since – maybe something is out of alignment?  When I turned off the light to go to sleep, all these thoughts – and worse – swept through my head.  I woke up at 5 a.m. with a raging headache and required another visit to the porcelain throne, but by the time 9 a.m. rolled around, I was able to get out of bed reasonably pain free.  My back has started hurting again tonight (again, after spending most of my day at my computer), but my other ailments seem to have dissipated.

Whenever I have a pain or a weird bodily sensation, I feel a little like Dr. Gregory House, inventorying a whole litany of explanations (as evidenced by my thought process last night/this morning).  The thing I fear the most, though, is a heart attack, given that my father was killed by his sixth or seventh heart attack, on a racquetball court, at age 48, an age which I have long passed myself.  I also have chronic costochondritis, which starts in my back but radiates around to my front left rib cage, and of course my first thought is always, “This is it.”  I start having thoughts like, “When would I ever reach the point where I felt like I had to call 911 for myself?  Would I even be able to?  What would happen if I just died and no one found me for days?”  I heard last week about an ex-partner at my law firm, a woman in her mid-60s, a heavy smoker and alcoholic, who passed away alone in her apartment and wasn’t found for days.  I don’t want that to be me.  I really enjoy living on my own, but the one thing that scares me about it is dying alone and no one knowing about it.  I want to die in a hospital or hospice, in my 90s, surrounded by family and friends (and maybe a cat).

* * *

The title of this week’s post puts me in mind of a seminal ‘70s album in my collection, Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake & Palmer (which actually survived the flood).  The LP — with distinctive cover art by H.R. Giger – came with a tri-fold poster of handsome head shots of the three band members, and I cut it up and hung them on the wall of my college dorm, among the black-and-white photos of football, hockey and lacrosse players from the Trinity College teams that I nicked from the Trinity Tripod office.  They all looked great in those (pre-Photoshop) photos, but my favorite was Greg Lake.  (I even once hooked up with a guy solely because of his resemblance to Greg Lake.)  His former band, King Crimson, was also a constant presence on my college turntable.  So, in honor of Greg Lake, I give you my Top Ten Favorite Rock Guitarists.  (You might notice the absence of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, both of whom are inarguably virtuosos.  But they are not in MY top ten.  I tend to prefer a guitarist who makes the guitar sound like a voice singing, although I will acknowledge that Clapton played with George Harrison on the ultimate singing-guitar song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.)

In no particular order (apart from the top three):

  1. David Gilmour
  2. The late, great Randy Rhoads, stolen from us too soon (by his own recklessness, sadly)
  3. Mark Knopfler
  4. George Harrison
  5. Tony Iommi
  6. Brian May
  7. Mick Ronson
  8. Greg Lake
  9. Ritchie Blackmore
  10. Steve Miller

Honorable Mention:   Angus Young

This list is COMPLETELY personal to me, so I’d like to hear some other people’s favorites.  Leave them in the comments!!

Where Do the Best Thoughts Go?

I seem to have all of my best thoughts when I’m not in a position to write them down.  Driving is a prime example.  Music blasting, the open road, surrounded on all sides by awesome cloud formations, and the ideas just come flooding in – but I’M DRIVING, so I can’t write them down.  I actually bought a mini tape recorder so that I could dictate my thoughts, but that turned out to be more trouble than it was worth.  First of all, it was a cheapo machine and didn’t have one-touch operation – I had to push one button this way and another two buttons that way, and then make sure that the reels were moving, which I couldn’t do if I was on a parkway, say, which is where the inspiration usually strikes.  Then the battery would die because I would keep the recorder poised and paused, ready for me to use as soon as an idea came upon me, and then forget to turn it off.  And then, of course, I have a whole drawer full of mini-cassettes that need to be transcribed, if there is even anything on there.  On a few occasions when I’ve tried to listen back, there was actually nothing on the tape at all, which completely defeats the purpose.

I also have great thoughts when I’m power-walking.  I’ve got the music playing on the headphones and a strong rhythm to my gait, my blood is pumping and the ideas are flowing profusely – but I’M WALKING, so I can’t write them down.  However, I do have my iPhone with me, because I use the timer and step-calculation function to keep track of my walking, and I think my iPhone does have a dictation feature.  Maybe I should try using that to record my thoughts while I’m pounding the pavement (or the boardwalk, as the case may be).

Some of my most ingenious thoughts, though, come when I’m in the dentist’s chair hooked up to the nitrous oxide, but in this circumstance, I’VE GOT SOMEONE’S HANDS IN MY MOUTH so I can’t write down the shimmering bits of perfection that ping-pong around in my brain when I’m breathing in the sweet air.  Just this past week, I had two brilliant notions:  (1) I wish I had a device like Stephen Hawking has, where a robotic voice that seems to dictate his thoughts as he’s thinking them.  Although , without doing more extensive research on the device in question, I am almost certain that what’s really happening isn’t that the machine is reading his thoughts, but rather that he’s using his optical system (actually, I think it’s his cheek muscle) to somehow type on a keyboard what he wants to say, rather than having a direct line to the thoughts from his brain.  (2) I realize there would probably have to be health code regulations in place, but why couldn’t tattooers offer nitrous to their clients who wanted it?  Used properly, it’s completely harmless and would relax the human canvas while he/she is having the painful work done, and the tattooer wouldn’t have to deal with so much movement and tapping out when the canvas can’t take the hurt.

[An aside:  A new season of “Ink Master” has begun.  This season features a competition between teams assembled by each of the tattoo artist judges, Oliver Peck and Chris Nuñez.  (Dave Navarro, host and the third judge, is merely an aficionado – his talents lie on the guitar side of art.)  I confess to having a huge crush on Oliver Peck, with his ponytail and Yosemite Sam mustache, only-top-button-done shirts and ever-present toothpick.  Every time I watch “Ink Master”, I want another tattoo.  My next piece is going to be a cover-up/modification of the laurel wreath encircling the yin-yang on my shoulder [see “Tattoo Me”, 6/10/15].  I might try a new artist this time, even though I love the pieces that Liana Joy of Empire State Tattoo in Oceanside has done for me.]

Underlying all of this lost genius, of course, is my memory (or, more accurately, the lack thereof).  If I could just REMEMBER my thoughts so I could write them down as soon as I got home, I wouldn’t have this problem.  But for whatever reason – age, prolonged marijuana use in my youth, early onset Alzheimer’s – once I’m out of the car, or across the threshold, or (unhappily) getting oxygen pumped through my nose piece – the great ideas are often gone.  Just GONE.  Poof.  Maybe they will be revived in some other context at some other time, but unless I quickly write them down at the earliest opportunity, or unless it’s a REALLY good thought and I literally can’t get it OUT of my head, the thought will be released into the ether, and whether it will return remains a mystery.

That’s certainly something I value about my journals:  They are literally the repositories of my thoughts, a hard copy of my memory.  If I had the time (or, I should say, WHEN I have the time), I could pick a journal from any year, from 1979 through today, open it up, and know exactly what I was thinking on that day.  I’ve written about my journals previously on this blog (“My Life in Journals”, 8/17/16), and I long for the day when I can just lazily pore over every word, looking for those golden thoughts and brilliant (if I say so myself!) ideas that I managed to commit to paper before losing them.  I’ll then use them as fodder for future essays or articles or stories or even poems (although my poetry has always been pedestrian, at best).

A random sample, grabbed from my “Small Notebooks” collector box, from March 15, 2008, while attending my firm’s All Lawyers’ Meeting in Florida:  “(later, at a ‘speed networking’ event) One beer goes straight to my head, even on ice.  I’m very bad at standing and holding a drink.  I’m much better off when I can sit down at a table, or at least stand next to a table where I can set my drink when my hand gets cold and wet.”  I could maybe turn that into a whole blog post about my social awkwardness, how I’m so friendly and comfortable one-on-one but when you throw me into a group setting, I turn into a shy wallflower.

Ah, someday, I’ll have the luxury of recapturing my memories and using them to create art.  But until then, I’ll just have to figure out better ways to memorialize them, using mnemonics or technology or the discipline to hold them in my head until I can get to pen and paper (or fingers to keyboard, but I tend to scribble my thoughts rather than type them, even though I am a pretty fast typist).

* * ** *

A couple of thoughts about this week’s presidential debate, because it’s been heavy on my mind.  I knew Hillary would be better prepared, but for some inexplicable reason, I dreaded it, because Trump gets away with figurative murder and no one calls him out on it except left-leaning comedians.  And even when his lies and inadequacies are exposed, his supporters seem not to care.  Damn the “facts” and what they’ve seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears!!  They just have a “feeling” about him or, more commonly, about how horrible Hillary is, which is another thing I do not understand.  I’ve read a number of think pieces on it, and I do think her femaleness is at the root (for a good analysis of this, see Larry Womack, “Stop Pretending You Don’t Know Why People Hate Hillary Clinton”, The Blog, The Huffington Post, 9/26/16 [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/larry-womack/stop-pretending-you-dont-_b_12191766.html]).  Don’t these Trump supporters realize they’re being played??  Trump doesn’t even WANT to be president.  He just wants to WIN.

But in the end, reason prevailed.  By every measure (despite the seemingly intelligent woman interviewed post-debate who believed it was a “draw” and that Trump showed himself to be a “man of action, an agent of change”; how any sane person could say that Trump performed well in this debate is incomprehensible to me), Hillary was the big victor in the much-anticipated showdown.  The man was unhinged!  He couldn’t put together a coherent sentence or thought.  Bragging, complaining, doom-and-glooming (“inner cities are hell”, our airports are “worse than the ones in third world countries”, he said, among many other things that he called “terrible” or “bad”), with nary a constructive suggestion to fix any of it, apart from his tax cut for the rich.

Whoopi Goldberg called Trump out on his inability to complete a sentence this morning on “The View”, which I caught for a brief moment while looking to see if pre-season Rangers hockey was on TV tonight – which it was!  It’s so great to watch Rangers hockey again and get excited about the coming season!  The NHL’s exhibition World Cup of Hockey was a tease, especially that exciting Team North America overtime win over Sweden last weekend, but now it’s time for REAL hockey.  And I’m also overjoyed that Optimum, my cable TV provider, has restored the real-time pause and rewind functions.  Now if they could just come up with the technology to link the DVR recording to the actual TV show so it never cuts off early and you don’t have to manually add 2, 5, 15, or 30 minutes to the “ending time” of a show, or when football games go long and delay the start time of shows.  But I can’t get greedy.  I’m certainly grateful for the improvements thus far.  I love having the ability to rewind and re-watch a good goal, and then be able to skip the inevitable car commercial — live!!