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"The Very Best People"

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Donald Trump and I have one thing in common: we both like to associate with “the very best people.”

But lately, I’ve been having better luck than Donald.

Here’s a list of some of Trump’s “very best people” and what’s happened to them in the first year of his presidency:

Reince Priebus -- White House chief of staff (resigned)
Rob Porter -- White House staff secretary (resigned)
David Sorenson – White House speechwriter (resigned)
Tom Price -- Secretary of Health and Human Services (resigned)
Stephen Bannon -- Chief strategist (mutually agreed departure)
Mike Flynn -- National security advisor (resigned and indicted)
Sean Spicer -- White House press secretary, White House director of communications (resigned)
Brenda Fitzgerald -- Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (resigned)
Taylor Weyeneth -- White House liaison to Office of National Drug Control Policy (resigned)
Carl Higbie -- Corporation for National and Community Service chief of external affairs (resigned)
Omarosa Manigault Newman -- Assistant; Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison (resigned)
Keith Schiller -- Director of Oval Office Operations (resigned)
Sebastian Gorka -- National security aide (unclear)
Andrew McCabe -- FBI deputy director (resigned)
Carl Icahn -- Special adviser to the president on regulatory reform (resigned)
White House Manufacturing Advisory Council (dissolved)
White House Economic Advisory Council (dissolved)
Anthony Scaramucci -- Director of communications (fired)
Derek Harvey -- National Security Council Middle East advisor (fired)
Michael Short -- Assistant press secretary (resigned)
Walter Shaub -- Director of the Office of Government Ethics (resigned)
Mike Dubke -- Director of communications (resigned)
K.T. McFarland -- Deputy national security advisor (reassigned)
James B. Comey Jr. -- FBI director (fired)
Angella Reid -- White House chief usher (fired)
Katie Walsh -- Deputy White House chief of staff (resigned)
Craig Deare --National Security Council senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs (fired)
Travis Kalanick -- Advisory council (resigned)
Sally Yates -- Acting attorney general (fired)
Rachel Brand -- Associate attorney general (resigned)
All members of Trump’s Arts and Humanities Council -- Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Vicki Kennedy, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Kalpen Modi, Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein, John Lloyd Young (resigned)

And this is only a partial list … with many more to come, for sure. Trump’s staff is a joke, but so is he. Who would want to work for this man???

And so, with this disaster unfolding everyday in Washington, I try to combat negativity and sadness by surrounding myself with my idea of the “very best people.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time with these people –


A few weeks ago, the Tiny Goddess and I saw CANDIDE at the Los Angeles Opera, which I preceded and followed with a huge binge of Bernstein listening. When I grew up in the Fifties, Bernstein was “Mr. Music” in New York. He was already a double-legend, from Broadway and the New York Philharmonic. He was our “Lenny.”

I split my listening between the original Broadway cast album that I grew up on (with Barbara Cook and Robert Rounseville) and Bernstein’s complete, approved concert version (with June Anderson and Jerry Hadley.) Both are delightful. The original has an unsurpassed freshness, but the concert version has all the music.

The LA Opera CANDIDE was OK. The music was spectacular (conducted by our treasured musical director James Conlon, a New York boy himself—Irish, from Douglaston in Queens, like John McEnroe), the book was problematical as it has been since the show was written in 1956 by Lillian Hellman. All future books-tinkers—Hugh Wheeler, John Caird, etc. – haven’t the solved the problem of a story that galumphs from one episode to another and then just ends with an unearned “revelation.”

But, oh that music!!! Listen to this –

Bernstein conducting the Overture to CANDIDE

Kristen Chenoweth’s remarkable “Glitter and Be Gay”— lyrics by Dorothy Parker

Quartet at the End of Act I

“Make Our Garden Grow” – conducted by Bernstein himself, with Jerry Hadley and June Anderson


I remember how excited my parents were when they saw the original production of WEST SIDE STORY, and I remember sitting in front of the TV watching Lenny’s “Young People’s Concerts.” He was charismatic, enthusiastic, and brilliant. Like Gershwin before him, he embodied the musical soul of New York City.

I still think that WEST SIDE STORY is some of the greatest music ever written by an American composer.

Bernstein conducting the Symphonic Dances from WEST SIDE STORY

Reri Grist sings “SOMEWHERE” from the original WEST SIDE STORY

and for good measure

Tony Bennett and Bill Evans – “SOME OTHER TIME” from ON THE TOWN

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Reptiles of the Mind

The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. -- William Blake


Truthfully, I’d rather blog about almost anything other than Trump and the GOP, but the unfolding, can-you-believe-this disaster in Washington is what’s going on, and it must be acknowledged. Unfortunately, we live in a country filled with mental reptiles.

I follow all kinds of media, including right-wing media. For years, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh, the true leader of the GOP, to see what “the enemy” is saying and for my own amusement. Rush is/was a master entertainer/propagandist, a jovial carnival barker, spreading his lies and slanders joyfully, shamelessly. “Talent on loan from God,” “from behind the golden microphone,” at the “Excellence In Broadcasting” Network; indeed, Mister Snerdly. It used to amuse me to hear how boldly he bent the truth to suit his politics. (Al Franken wrote a couple of books, documenting his constant lies.) Rush was especially entertaining during the years of his oxy-contin addiction when he sounded happy and as high as a kite, like W.C. Fields on mushrooms. But after a while I got tired of his act and hearing him repeatedly say things like “we have the greatest health care system in the world.” Finally, his LA radio station changed so I never followed him. But, make no mistake: he is still the ideological head of the Republican party. No one crosses El-Rushbo.

I also watch Fox News/Faux News/Trump TV when I can (when the TG is out of the room; she refuses to watch it), switching from MSNBC and CNN during commercials. I dip into all their shows, for as long as I can stand and/or for a good laugh. I know all their on-air personalities, all the beautiful, mean women and the blustery, oblivious men that Roger Ailes put on the air. (There are a few exceptions: Shepard Smith and … and … that’s it.)

I knew that Megyn Kelly would crash-and-burn outside of the Fox Universe once the world saw how nasty she was. She was Murdoch’s Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS -- perfect in that culture of poison. (Her reputation was made when she humiliated arch-GOP-establishment-villain Karl Rove on election night.) But outside of Fox, she will have to restrain her nasty streak and will ultimately fail.

I could never stomach much Sean Hannity, either on radio or TV. Occasionally, I’ll watch a few minutes these days because he is the absolute point man in the defense of Trump on the Mueller investigation, and I want to know what the latest GOP strategies and maneuvers are. Also, we know that he and Trump talk on the phone, and Hannity talks directly to Trump on his broadcast. He’s a cheerleader and coach at the same time.

But finally, Hannity is too dull. He’s like many of the brainless, bully-boy Irish kids I grew up with on Long Island. He’s from Franklin Square, a couple of towns away from my hometown of Valley Stream. Hannity dropped out of two colleges and became a house painter. He still has the political acumen and depth of knowledge of a house painter. Some wag at The New Yorker had the perfect take on Hannity: he’s like “the quarterback to whom everything must be explained twice.”

But Faux News is very good on discipline: when they line up on an issue, they hammer it constantly. Lately, it’s Devin Nunes FISA Memo. Now Fox News shouts “RELEASE THE MEMO,” twenty-four, seven, and everybody joins in. Anything to muddy the water and distract.

It got me thinking about all the scandals—mostly imagined, a few with just enough scent of reality to be plausible—that the GOP has cultivated over the years, products of reptile minds:

-- “birtherism” – (Donald Trump started spreading it in 2011)

-- Hillary and Benghazi

-- “voter fraud”

-- the war on Christmas

-- climate change denial

-- the death of Vince Foster

-- the murder of Seth Rich

-- FEMA concentration camps

-- every move Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder made

-- the videos that brought down ACORN

-- 9/11 as a government plot

-- Shariah law in the US

-- Agenda 21 (a UN natural resources sustainability plan)

-- the “North American Union”

-- HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program)

-- door-to-door gun confiscation

-- chemtrails

-- “the homosexual agenda”

-- thousands of Muslims in New Jersey, cheering on 9/11

-- foreign troops on US soil

-- and, of course, the granddaddy of GOP scandals: the Monica Lewinsky affair


A few manufactured GOP/Fox/right-wing scandals “worked.” They destroyed ACORN, a perfectly fine non-profit advocacy group for more than forty years whose only crime was helping poor people of color register to vote and fight for their rights.

And now we have a real scandal – Russian interference, aided and abetted by the Trump team, in our election – and his supporters are trying to create smoke and distraction to blind and confuse the electorate. As new evidence emerges (Cambridge Analytica, anyone?) and the mid-terms approach, the noise from the right-wing echo-machine will grow.

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Welcome, 2018!!

2018 is going to be a great year.

This is the year that the American people are going to rise up and go to the polls in massive numbers on November 6th and vote out GOP lawmakers at all levels of government in a huge “NO” to Donald Trump.

Enough is enough.

With everything that’s going on in Washington, it’s hard to stay positive and optimistic, but I’m going to. When I was phone-banking for the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 (which I didn’t do enough), there were hats for sale at our local Democratic headquarters with “BLUE WAVE” on the front. Remember that for a few fleeting moments, the Hillary campaign thought that she was going to win forty states?

That dream evaporated, but a new dream exists. A new wave of activism—a real “blue wave”-- is growing across the country and is going to clean house in November. The Dems need to switch 24 seats in the House. It’s doable.

If you hate Trump and what he and the GOP stand for, here are some good places to work off your anger positively:

SWING LEFT – Find your nearest vulnerable GOP representative and unseat him or her.

INDIVISIBLE – Organize at the grass roots.

KNOCK ON EVERY DOOR – Canvass for progressive causes.

RUN FOR SOMETHING – Run for office yourself.

OPERATION 45 -- Work for transparency in the Trump/Pence administration.

MOVEMENT VOTER PROJECT – Find local progressive groups.

THE PUSSYHAT PROJECT – Fight for women’s rights.

MOVEMENT MATCH – Find the right group for you.


And that’s just a start. The #MeToo Movement signals a major shift in our society.  There are many places to do good.  Start now; things could hardly be more dire.


On a personal level, 2018 is going to be a great year for me. Life is random and accidental. Surprises are guaranteed every day. But I live a fairly regulated life (my choice), so I know a lot of what I’ll be doing in 2018.

In my perfectly accurate crystal ball, I see that in 2018 I will –

-- Turn in my latest draft of WHEN I GOT OUT and hope that my editor likes my changes, which I think improve the book

-- Babysit Calder twice a week (or more, if possible)

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