Monthly Archives: December 2017

The working man and woman

Elaine’s Restaurant

Elaine’s Restaurant

Many working men and women are at risk.

We’ve seen it all before, uncertain jobs, reduced compensation, saving less, underwater real estate ownership, renting not owning, little or no medical care, pensions insufficient or non-existent, wanting for food, desperate short term loans, little insurance for the young, a government safety net torn to shreds, and what little we have to leave behind for our family when we die.

Our ship of state is taking us into the roiling waters of insecurity, financial and human, into a field of economic violence, and, ironically enough, it’s the hardworking man or woman who shows up every day, no matter what, to work a job, who will suffer.

In New York, there was a special place on the Upper East Side called Elaine’s – after Elaine Kaufman.  If Elaine liked you, you got a good table.  Writers, artists, film-makers and stars came there.  Not like Studio 54.  No.  They came to eat, to talk, to see and, yes, be seen.  No dancing.  No drugs either.  Woody Allen would always sit in the back, and sometimes he’d play a tune on the piano.

It was a cramped and cozy getaway that didn’t awake until most everyone else had gone to sleep.  Elaine would seat the “special” guests up toward the front opposite the bar on the other wall.  The glitterati would sit up against the wall, one removed from the passerbyes heading for a table in the rear.

One night I came in and Elaine talked a bit, spun me around and sat me at a table up front, facing toward the back.  When I adjusted my seat, and turned to my right, I said, “Hello,” before I could see who it was.  It was the Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, Arthur Miller.  There was a revival in “town” of his award-winning play, “Death of a Salesman.”

“Salesman” is a truly sad story about a working man turned 60.  No longer appreciated.  Men and women cried when they saw Miller’s play.  They couldn’t get up from their seats, the play had such an effect.  Continue reading


xmas - 1I know many who celebrate a range of spiritual and humanistic beliefs and unbelief; thus any seasonal greeting that rests upon a faulty recollection or calculated guess as to who believes what runs the risk of a quite inapt faux pas as we approach the winter solstice.

When in doubt it is therefore best to greet a passerby with the words, “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

Some insist fervently on saying “Merry Christmas” without apology or seeming kindness to everyone, to Jews, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists.

Not to be too harsh, but that unconscious practice strikes me as not-very-Christian as it’s not very loving of one’s neighbor.

When younger and more innocent of religion, I was much taken with Pope John the XXIII who breathed the spirit of ecumenism into the Church, to create tolerance and cooperation among all Christians, a movement later described in Latin, as “ut unum sint,” so that all Christians might be as one.

But our times teach us we need more than just to bring Christians together as one.

We forget how many other ways there are to worship. Continue reading

Killing off our natural legacy

Utah’s Bears’ Ears

Utah’s Bears’ Ears

If you get a cut, it very likely will heal.

If you cut a femoral artery, you may bleed to death in minutes.

A forest fire may not destroy a woodland.

But development and coal and gas and uranium mining surely will destroy a woodland and all that is seen above and exists below the surface that has existed for hundreds and thousands of years, never to be restored, and dead to us forever.

Teddy Roosevelt, a rough rider, and a lifelong Republican, discovered nature in the Dakota Badlands.

In 1888, he wrote “the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further been impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.”

In 1905, President Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service, and after that, 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments.

The American Antiquities Act became law in 1906 and protected 230 million acres of public land because the Act gave the President the discretion to create national monuments – and he did.

After camping in Yosemite National Park, Roosevelt said, “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

Jim Wine, an acknowledged conservationist, now living in Stockholm, relies on the early legal doctrine of “usufructus” to state our legal obligation, a right to use the land (usus) in one’s lifetime, provided that its fruits (fructus) are not wasted and passed on to the next generation undiminished.

This past week, Mr. Trump violated this principle in a massive assault on protected public lands, two magnificent monuments in Utah, Bears Ears, and the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Mr. Trump preferred the interest of large development and fossil fuel and uranium miners, insiders and contributors, who got him a desk in the Oval Office. Continue reading

A patriot in our midst

o-PAUL-REVEREWe survived the American Revolution, the war with Britain afterwards, our slave war among the states, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, the exclusion of blacks and women from the voting rolls, the Spanish American war, Pearl Harbor, World wars, the McCarthy era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, ‘Nam, Nixon, Billygate, the Iran Contra scandal (“Contra-Fawn-and-Ollie (North)), and 9-11.

But, at long last, will we survive the despot in the West Wing, Mr. Donald Trump, a failed casino operator, intolerant of one and all but especially women and persons of color?

Mr. Trump is best imagined as a relentless undignified thug, engaged in a never-ending assault, elbows akimbo, pushing dignitaries out of the way, hurling insults and trash talk, worst of all, attacking this nation’s first principle, as expressed by Thomas Jefferson, namely, that we are all equal, worthy of respect, amazingly diverse, and all in this together.

Mr. Trump runs down our government, the Courts, Congress, Mr. Trump’s own cabinet, as well as his Republican Party.

Mr. Trump sees himself as the one and only authority that matters.  But what else may one expect of a despot? Continue reading