I awoke this September 11th forgetting that it was the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Of course, being a New Yorker, my concerns that day were more focused on the people of the city I loved than on those at the Pentagon or in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. I know, I know, their lives were equally as valuable, and yet I spent a good part of September 11, 2001, trying to find loved ones who lived further downtown than I did, and receiving the few phone calls that got through. The first person I tried to find was my son, whose office was below Canal Street, which was closer to the Twin Towers. I finally reached someone there, who reminded me that, much to my relief, he was stuck in Toronto, where he had a film premiering at the Film Festival. All of this, as well as everything that followed in the next few days, came rushing back to me as MSNBC replayed their coverage of the day. When I sat down at the computer to finish a piece I was writing for this blog about the nightmare named Donald Trump, the following headline greeted me: “Officials Quietly Warn of Another 9/11 Attack,” followed by: “The United States could be facing another 9/11 attack as factions grow deeper among the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, especially with the recently confirmed death of the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar, according to a senior U.S. lawmaker, federal law enforcement and intelligence.” I don’t know about you, but I found this a whole lot less than comforting. 

I remembered how many times since that day I’d been asked, “Where were you?” For the first year, it was unnecessary to explain what “Where” was being referred to. The people I began asking about their whereabouts were taxi drivers. Though I gave up my addiction to drugs and alcohol long ago, I was unable to give up my taxis. So, I would ask each cabbie, “Where were you?” Their stories were varied, often revealing, sometimes harrowing, sometimes moving, and sometimes the answer was, “Watching it on television.” One of the drivers told me he was just dropping a guy off when the attacks occurred, but they sped away. Another said he spent a good part of the day helping people who were carrying heavy-looking things as they fled, or who knew people who were in the Towers. One man even pulled over, thanked me for asking, and burst into tears over the friend he had lost. 

My friend Tony, an event and theater production manager, and his crew had been between the Towers erecting a stage for a production that had been scheduled to go up shortly thereafter. I also had a neighbor who walked down many flights to escape, and two that, for one reason or another, had not gone in to work at the WTC that morning. 

When I awoke that day, I did what I did most mornings: Wearing my pajamas and sipping my first cup of coffee, I settled into the couch to watch the morning news on CNN. At first, I thought the image I viewed of the first plane crashing into the first building was an advert for a hair-raising film. Then it dawned on me that I was watching the news! I listened for a few minutes, as I rushed to rid myself of my sleepwear, don Levis and a shirt, and rush down to see what was going on at my corner at 6th Avenue and 15th Street. 

My friend Jane, who lived on 18th, appeared and we watched in horror and, along with others who had gathered there, listened to the news blasted from the radio of a man’s parked SUV. After awhile, people who had fled the area most affected by the blast and the debris began to run by, and a few deli-owners brought cases of bottled water to hand out to them. Then, there was an announcement on the radio that the local hospitals needed blood. Jane and I lined up at St. Vincent’s Hospital in a desperate attempt to be useful. When we got to the line we waited with the brilliant actor Kathleen Chalfant, whose performance in Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, was transcendent. By the time we made it near the front of the line, the hospital had run out of blood bags and asked us to come back that evening, which we did. We were then horrified to discover that, though they had served some first responders, the beds made up both inside the building and on the sidewalk were bare, because there were not enough survivors to use them. A day or two later, Jane, my son, who had managed to get back to New York via car, and I took cases of water down to the first responders who were working there. It was the least we could do. 

But that was then, and so much history has passed since then. As a political junkie and an anti-war and AIDS activist, I feel as though my personal life story has unfolded almost from my earliest memories in relation to a bigger picture; one I’ve sought to understand and contribute to in my way.  

Looking at the current picture as of September, 2015, one of the things that makes me crazy is that much of the media refer to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the same sentence just because they both appeal to people who aren’t satisfied with the way things are going in Washington. There are miles and miles between the solutions offered by Bernie Saunders, who is the genuine article, and Donald Trump, who presents a fictional creation in lieu of having a philosophy, or an agenda for the country, or a plan for anything beyond gratifying his need for attention.

* * *


Oliver Sacks

On August 30, Oliver Sacks, M.D., died at the age of 82 in his Greenwich Village home, surrounded by family and close friends. His website noted that he spent his time near the end “…doing what he loved – playing the piano, writing to friends, swimming, enjoying smoked salmon, and completing several articles.” He was a man beloved beyond those close to him. Sacks was born in Britain, but spent his professional life in the United States. He was not only known as a brilliant and innovative neurologist, but also as a best-selling author who drew on his patients' case histories. I believe the first thing I ever read of his was a well-known piece called, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Some of his wildly popular books, which both entertained and educated readers about the workings of the brain and mind, have been adapted for film and stage. His book A Kind of Alaska is also a one-act play written in 1982 by British playwright Harold Pinter, which originally starred Judi Dench as Deborah, a woman who awakens from years of sleep brought on by a sleeping sickness, with a mind that's still that of a 16-year-old. She has to confront the fact that her body has aged without her prior knowledge or consent. Another of his books, Awakenings, upon which the 1990 film of the same name, with the role of Oliver Sacks played exquisitely by Robin Williams, describes his experiences using a then-new drug, levodopa, on post-encephalitic patients.  

True to himself, Dr. Sacks was writing to the last. On August 14, he published an essay, Sabbath, in The New York Times. Two more articles are to be published this week, one in The New York Review of Books, and one in The New Yorker. He has left behind an archive of manuscripts, journals, and a few books just shy of completion. He also left behind The Oliver Sacks Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to his favorite mysteries: “…the understanding of the of the human brain and mind through narrative non-fiction and case histories.” The Foundation will also ensure that Sacks' legacy is available to the widest audience possible by preserving and digitizing the words and work of this dynamic man for the use of future generations. The New York Times called him a "poet laureate of contemporary medicine."

Wayne Dyer

During the years that I was traveling all over the globe facilitating my workshops and speaking at forums and programs, including the International AIDS Conferences, I very occasionally wound up sharing a panel or microphone with Wayne Dyer. This motivational “guru” and bestselling author of dozens of self-help books passed away the night of Saturday, September 12th, at the age of 75. His family shared the news of his death with Dyer’s 2.4 million Facebook fans on Sunday. The cause of death was not disclosed at the time. The Spring issue of Watkins' Mind Body Spirit magazine just came out and in The Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List, Dyer appears as the eighth most spiritually influential person in the world, right between #7, Oprah, and #9, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I would say Dyer was in pretty great company. 

Dyer’s spirituality may be what got him through a difficult childhood in orphanages and foster homes. When he was old enough, he joined the Navy, earned a doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University, and set off to live a full life. Perhaps his primary work, which espouses the power of positive thinking, grew from the means by which he became a person with a gift and the willingness to give it away. He has written over 40 books, the most recent of which is a memoir, which he had been urged by many to write, and I am grateful that he was able to do it. Dyer didn’t believe in accidents, though he believed in Karma and saw that, as he put it, “Although we may not be aware of who or what is “moving the checkers, life has a purpose, and each step of our journey has something to teach us.” As he also said, “I wasn’t aware of all of the future implications that these early experiences were to offer me. Now, from a position of being able to see much more clearly, I know that every single encounter, every challenge, and every situation are all spectacular threads in the tapestry that represents and defines my life, and I am deeply grateful for all of it.”

* * *

Not All News is Good News, 
But Some, as in Bernie, is:

“We are at a moment of truth. We need to face up to the reality of where we are as a nation, and we need a Mass Movement of people to fight for change--I believe America is ready for a new path to the future.” 

Bernie, as his base calls him with deep affection, is a Democratic candidate for President, though he has a fondness for the social programs that have been embraced by socialists, and has used his beliefs for the welfare of his constituents and the least-represented among us. Born a Brooklyn boy, he evolved into a serious political entity with deep feelings for the wellbeing first of all for the people of Vermont, whom he began serving in 1981 as mayor of Burlington. He is credited with transforming the city "into one of the most exciting and livable small cities in America.” Bernie was successful in providing affordable housing, progressive taxation, and environmental protection, and supporting child care, women’s rights, youth programs and the arts. He then moved on to serve as a man with a conscience for 16 years in the United States House of Representatives. In 2006, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he is currently serving his second term. 
His website states that “In Congress, Bernie has fought tirelessly for working families, focusing on the shrinking middle class and growing gap between the rich and everyone else. Bernie has been called a 'practical and successful legislator,' and he was dubbed the 'amendment king' in the House of Representatives for passing more amendments than any other member of Congress. As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Bernie worked across the aisle to 'bridge Washington’s toxic partisan divide and cut one of the most significant deals in years.' In 2015, Democratic leadership tapped Bernie to serve as the caucus’ ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.”

  1. Income and Wealth Inequality
  2. Getting Big Money Out of Politics
  3. Creating Decent Paying Jobs
  4. Racial Justice
  5. Fighting for Women's Rights
  6. A Fair and Humane Immigration Policy
  7. A Living Wage
  8. Real Family Values
  9. Climate Change & Environment 
  10. Reforming Wall Street
[While reading about the Republican Debate, below, it might help to check out Bernie Saunders' tweets from the night (you can read them at www.politicususa.com). He pretty much spoke for Americans like me when he finally gave up on the telecasted debates and called the entire event "sad."]

* * *

The Second Prime Time 
Republican Debate

Almost none of the list of issues that Bernie cares deeply about were even discussed or broached at the Republican debate. This debate included 11 candidates, a few of whom are a lot closer to staying in for the duration than others, though some seemed better equipped to continue on towards the finish line for the prospective presidential candidate. In addition to Trump and Fiorina, who were cast in leading and rival roles almost before their names were listed, there were: Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul. For the most part, the exchanges were civilized, and though I would have loved for some hard Questions to have been asked, and for Jake Tapper, the moderator from CNN, to have asked Trump to explain how he’d be able to pull off all of the miracles he promised, and to have challenged other things Trump said about himself that were obviously untrue. Trump wasn’t the only one who needed to be challenged, but he does have a serious truth deficit. To see the lies perpetrated during the debate by Trump and the others go to Fact-Checking the GOP Debate (www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/fact-checking-gop-debate-n429191).

What We Can Do:

  1. Notice who, if anyone, you are rooting for, either because you like them, if you’re a Republican, or, if you are a Democrat, because they seem beatable.
  2. How do you see these potential candidates doing in a match against Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or Bernie Sanders?
  3. Perhaps, if you’re so inclined, you could send a list of the questions you would like answered, or the issues you think should be brought up, to the up-coming debates. Check the schedule (www.uspresidentialelectionnews.com/2016-debate-schedule/2016-republican-primary-debate-schedule/), and search for information as to how to submit questions a few weeks before each debate.

And Then There’s Donald Trump....

Trump may not embrace the KKK, but they sure do love him. Guess why!

To no one’s surprise, America’s most popular Neo-Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, has officially come out in favor of Donald Trump. Predictably, the endorsement praised Trump’s racist statements, especially his “willingness to call Mexicans out as criminal rapists, murderers, and drug dealers.” The typical xenophobic right-wing jargon about China and Mexico “stealing our jobs” also features prominently in the endorsement. In reality, of course, immigrants have lower rates of crime and drug use than native-born whites and any “job-stealing” at the hands of China, Mexico, or elsewhere, is merely the result of the  free-market capitalist competition that conservatives supposedly support. Neo-Nazis do not live in reality, and it’s clear that Trump, who has repeatedly proved himself ignorant on these subjects, inhabits his own self-centered universe as well. So no wonder the Daily Stormer considers Trump to be the “only candidate talking about real issues.”

Trump feeds the hungry and mean right wing nuts what they must be longing to hear, by shouting out a crude, bombastic, narcissistic, bigoted, misogynistic, accusatory, rageful, parody that appeals to the worst instincts of his fans. I call them fans because they clearly fall for his bizarre “say it like it is” version of the truth, which anyone with integrity, curiosity, common sense, and the ability to recognize fiction would not tolerate in a President. If they weren’t just fans, they might be smart enough to notice that he has plenty of critical one-liners, but offers no solutions to the issues he raises. His purpose is to blame, not enlighten or heal. 

When I can force myself to watch or listen to Trump, aside from being put off by his appearance, I often think, as I change the channel to make him go away, "Did he really say that? He lies! It’s just not true!!" Figuring which Trump Talk is pure misinformation, which is some fiction he’s invented because he knows so little about so much, and which frightening, inhumane, and just plain wrong things he not only says, but believes, hones my ability to detect bull when I hear it.  

As I wrote this, I decided that I shouldn’t just throw my opinions out there, but let his own words make my point, so I looked up some of my favorite Trumpisims to share with you:

  1. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” 
  2. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media writes as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  3. "I will build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall…” 
  4. “I have black guys counting my money…. I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”
  5. “Hillary Clinton was the worst Secretary of State in the history of the United States. There's never been a Secretary of State so bad as Hillary. The world blew up around us. We lost everything, including all relationships…."
  6. “If you can’t get rich dealing with politicians, there’s something wrong with you.”
  7. [Spoken to Jorge Ramos, a Latino news anchor who dared to ask a question without being called on at a press conference:]“Sit down. Sit down. Sit down… Go back to Univision.”  
  8. [Spoken with a fake accent:] "Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, these people walk into the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh, hello, how’s the weather, so beautiful outside, isn’t it lovely?’ They say, ‘We want deal.’ ”
  9. “They are going to have nuclear weapons. They are going to take over parts of the world that you wouldn’t believe. And I think it’s going to lead to nuclear holocaust.” [As I typed this I thought that if we substituted the words, "I am" for the words "They are," by happy accident, he'd be pretty much describing his own character!]
  10. “All the women on The Apprentice flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” 
  11. [Reportedly spoken to Rolling Stone about his daughter Ivanka:] “She’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, you know, her father…." [A few years back, he reportedly said on The View: "I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”]
  12. [Regarding Carly Fiorina:] “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” [He outdid himself in the crass department with that one.]

The last three made me wonder if Trump lives in a house where the mirrors are all covered. Has he never looked at himself? Take a moment and scroll back up to his picture, then to Carly Fiorina's picture (left). I don’t know about you but I would rather share a meal while sitting across the table from her lovely face than from his, with its squinty, almost invisible, eyes, thin down-turned mouth, and slack jaw-line, any day. 
I thought that Ms. Fiorina spoke quite well to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who also suffered as a Trump Target for making him look bad. I need to amend that: he made himself look bad all by himself. At any rate, Fiorina told Kelly, “Maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls.” And I bet that's true. Fiorina's Super PAC released a great ad in response to Trump's comment, featuring the faces of many of the Republican women that Trump might in fact wish would vote for him. It's worth watching (click here to view it on YouTube). 

During the recent debate, Fiorina kept up with Trump eye to eye throughout the evening, called him on his attitude towards women, and yet managed to rise above the setup of their fight by the event's pre-press, and join the other participants in lively exchanges.

What We Can Do:
  1. Be in touch with Donald Trump, and tell him what you think of him; if you’re a fan, so be it; if not, let him know what you think and feel about him, what he says, how he says it, and how he treats people. Maybe you want to ask him just what he plans to do as President, and how he will execute those plans. plans. www.donaldjtrump.com/contactwww.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump
  2. Carly’s views are pretty conservative as well, and like Trump, she over-states her qualifications and history. She also went very dramatic over the alleged Planned Parenthood video, which no one seems to be able to prove is PP, and some think was made to defame them. Look her up at www.carlyforamerica.com; www.carlyforpresident.com, and then go to the Fact Checker: www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/fact-checking-gop-debate-n429191

* * *

Cruz, Palin, & Trump trash the Iran Deal from Capital Hill

Not all of the people we’ve been discussing know one another, or hold similar views, but Cruz and Trump hooked up with Palin, which I thought was pretty funny, to join others like somebody from Duck Dynasty, which I’ve never seen, Glenn Beck, and other assorted folks hostile towards President Obama and his Iran deal. They all took to the microphone to spit on the deal. After all, they wouldn’t want Obama to have such a big win on his watch. Trump, who has trouble putting sentences together, vowed that he intends to get Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedidi released from captivity in Iran before he even takes office, "because they know that’s what has to happen and they [sic] if they don’t know it, I’m telling them now,” Trump roared, and the crowd went wild. He then said, “We are led by very, very stupid people. Very, very stupid people. We cannot let it continue. It will change. We will have so much winning when I get elected that you may get bored with winning!” However, I have news for Mr. Trump. Stupid is a word that I have heard applied to him, to his like-minded supporters, to Ted Cruz, who misunderstands Dr. Seuss, and to Sarah Palin, for so many reasons that it’s practically her middle name. In fact when I think about them, I am reminded of that great line from the film A Fish Called Wanda: "Calling you stupid is an insult to stupid people." 

When I watched them addressing the crowd, I suddenly saw them as Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber. This is partly because they were very supportive of the homophobic Kim Davis, the clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky, who refused to give an application for a marriage license to a couple because they were gay. Crowds outside Congress cheered her as well. She calls herself a Conscientious Objector, but that title was created for people who object to war or killing, and are willing to suffer the consequences. It was not created to let bigoted people off the hook for defying the law or human decency. I was thinking that if she got hooked on her fifteen minutes of fame, she might have to spend more time in jail. Well, apparently she also had some thoughts about that, as she returned to work for the first time since she decided God didn’t want gay men and lesbians to have the same rights to wed as those who marry, and marry and re-marry. She announced that she was, "…here before you this morning with a seemingly impossible choice that I do not wish upon any of my fellow Americans: my conscience or my freedom," then she said she was, “…torn between obeying God and a directive from the judge that forces me to disobey God.”  

Not everyone in her community was so convinced, and when she returned from jail, she was rewarded with this poster (left). I guess all is well that ends well.

As I mentioned, Trump spoke at the No Iran Deal rally, and I have to admit that I didn’t know he was a linguist, but he created a new word, “bigly!” Actually though, it may not be a new word. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a friend’s three-year-old use it. But otherwise, until today, I’d never heard that word, which appears nowhere in the English language. However, I think, in all fairness, I should use it in a sentence or two: Donald Trump’s estimate of himself is bigly overblown; Donald Trump can be counted on to make up bigly stories that make him look good, which he “swears” are true; Donald Trump is delusional because he thinks women can’t stay away from him because he’s so bigly, majorly handsome. I do, however, think he has found perfect partners in Ted Cruz, and the two he invited to speak at the rally: Trump and Palin. When Palin took to the dais, I had to stop listening, because all she was doing was repeating what the others had said in her high-strung, screechy voice, and even more challenged vocabulary. I switched to Christiana Amanpour for a reminder that there are still powerful clear-thinking folks among us.  

What We Can Do:
  1. Send everyone you know the image of the billboard above.
  2. Watch this timely and timeless clip from The West Wing  (www.facebook.com/OccupyDemocrats/videos/939687696124285)
  3. Let the Kentucky government know that it is inappropriate to ever hire bigots to fill any state-related jobs that might be in conflict with their prejudices.

* * *

The Long and Painful Migration:

All of the self-centered drama above pales in significance beside the very real, and in some cases life-threatening, issues being faced by those who are forced to flee their homes by both natural and man-made disasters. The migration of those fleeing Syria and Iraq is purely man-made. I’m going to go with “a picture says a thousand words” and just post some photos from of this migration that appeared on CNN, the BBC, The Telegraph, and Twitter.

At the end of a long and painful migration....

A refugee camp in Jordan

A Few More Necessary Words:

European Union nations have "agreed in principle" to relocate across the continent 160,000 refugees from Italy, Greece, and Hungary, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters Monday, following a meeting of EU ministers. Meanwhile, the European Union Council reached a preliminary agreement to redistribute over the next two years 32,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, primary gateways for a flood of migrants pouring into Europe. The council hopes to raise that figure to 40,000 by December.

The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates Europe has been flooded this year with more than 410,000 refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan. The interior and justice ministers of the 28-nation EU met in Brussels Monday, as Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor, warned that his country is expecting more than 1 million migrants this year, 200,000 higher that the previous estimate.

In a separate development Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron paid a surprise visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon, where he pledged an extra $150 million to help relieve suffering across the area. Britain has now contributed $1.6. billion in aid for refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Cameron has said he will let up to 20,000 Syrian refugees resettle in Britain, but only over the next five years, and only from camps such as the one he visited in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Monday.

The EU is looking for member states to contribute military ships and planes for an international operation in the Mediterranean to counter human trafficking by smugglers, the Associated Press reported. If the program is approved, the ships could seize and divert vessels that are not carrying national flags in international waters, the AP said, adding that approval could take several weeks. 

Meanwhile, the last I heard, the United States is being woefully cautious with regard to helping refugees. We should be ashamed and we should demand that President Obama and Congress mandate taking in large numbers of these people, and after screening, organizing, and resettling them, have a plan ready to put those who can work to work, and to offer rapid training programs for the unskilled. It should not fall to the NGOs to deal with this crisis. These are people who have lost absolutely everything and need our help, which we can easily afford to offer, and in fact can't afford not to. If we are going to be the country we claim to be, and since we are not exempt from some of the blame for what has happened in Syria, it's the least we can do. I spent a few mornings watching the Migration unfold. CNN's Arwa Damon, who has been walking, and sometimes running, with the Syrians and Iraqis as they headed for Germany blended in with, and cared deeply about, these men, women, and children seeking safety and a new life. Her words, and the courageous people she'd joined on their rush to freedom with only the few things they could carry, left me in tears for their plight, and tears of joy for the promise of their progress.
How can we live without our lives. How will we know it's us without our past?... How'll it be not to know what land's outside the door? How if you wake up in the night and know—and know the willow tree's not there? Can you live without the willow tree? Well, no, you can't. The willow tree is you. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
What We Can Do:

  1. First of all, while the migration continues and the people are in camps, you can support the World Food Program (www.wfpusa.org/donate-help-families-syria).
  2. Donate to the International Rescue Committee, an organization that is also helping settle refugees in the United States (www.engage.rescue.org/donate/recurs-donate-now-here-humanity).
  3. Reach out and demand that the U.S. lend more of a helping hand:
    1. The House of Representatives: www.house.gov
    2. The Senate: www.senate.gov/index.htm
    3. President Obama: www.whitehouse.gov/contact 

The End

 Thank You

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