I Go Through Life Verklempt.

(Original Sand Photo by Steve Villano, Sonoma Coast, CA.)

I go through life verklempt;

No feeling is exempt —

I wince, I cry, and my breath dies

At each suicide attempt.

I mourn the deaths of loves, yours and mine;

My thoughts largely unkempt;

With pictures zoetroping through my mind,

I go through life verklempt.

Childrens’ laughs lacerated by bullets or bombs,

Or starved, or drowned or burned;

I blame myself, my clothes I rend,

For all I can’t prevent;

I go through life verklempt.

Hiroshima & Babi Yar, Tulsa & Nanking;

Vaporized or demonized,

Inhumanity. The same thing.

Horrors pent-up, then unvented —

I go through life verklempt.

If I could stop one child from dying,

From illness or abuse;

If I could melt all guns and ammo,

To put to better use.

If I could unlock Ferlinghetti’s

“Dark Bodegas of the Self;”

If we could reach inside your darkness,

Offering a hand, a heart, some help.

If we could cure all hate and harm,

Each day, each act well spent,

Then all the catches in my throat,

Emotions, that they represent —

Have served the purpose of living,

For which compassion is meant.

I go through life, verklempt.

2022; Me & You, Jedis Now.

Jedis, out to save Democracy.

We are all Jedis, now.

Darkness descending, so fast,

Erasing the past.

Hate, Lies, Bigotry, Disease;

Spreading plaque-like, killing with ease;

We are all Jedis now.

Death and dying near,

Princess Leia no more here—

We are all Jedis now.

Ali, Ali, where are thee?

Floating, and stinging like bees.

We are all Jedis now.

Hal-le-lu-oo-ya

Leonard Cohen, you too-ya?

We’re all Jedis now.

Easy, so easy

To turn out the lights, give in

To the coming night.

But we are alive,

With breath, mind and beating heart—

Each day, a new start

To love, live, create;

Never surrender our light,

Our hope, our souls, our fight.

We are all Jedis, now.

Fearless with our minds and skills,

Hearts on fire, refusing to bow….

2022; me & you, Jedis now.

I Believe in Consequences.

Kevin Costner, long before “Yellowstone,” as Crash Davis in “Bull Durham,” expresses his beliefs.

I Believe in Consequences.

(*Highlighted Beliefs Courtesy of Crash Davis in Bull Durham.*)

I believe in consequences.

*I believe in the soul, the cock and the pussy;*

I believe that people and companies ought to be held strictly accountable for their actions;

I believe unvaccinated US Troops should be dishonorably discharged for insubordination.

I believe that all public employees should be mandated to choose between a COVID jab, and their job.

*I believe in the hangin’ curveball;*

I believe that hospitals and doctors and nurses should be allowed by law to refuse treatment and hospital beds to unvaccinated patients;

I believe that NO children should be allowed into a public school unless they and their parents are vaccinated, with no squishy exceptions;

I believe that corporate CEO’s and executives whose products knowingly harm humans, like the Sacklers, the Koch Brothers, Big Tobacco, and Gun Manufacturers should serve mandatory jail time, not just pay multi-million dollar fines;

*I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone,*

I believe Trump & his fellow criminals and co-conspirators who plotted or acted to overthrow our Democracy should face life-in-prison, without parole, and be forced to recite the entire Constitution daily before they get their meals in jail;

I believe that people who commit hate crimes be imprisoned for a minimum of four years and be forced to learn Critical Race Theory and Diversity Training before they are eligible for parole;

I believe rapists and sex abusers—especially those who attack children—should be castrated;

*I believe there ought to be a Constitutional Amendment outlawing Astroturf and the Designated Hitter,*

I believe there ought to be a Constitutional Amendment banning corporate money, foreign money, laundered money, dirty money, or money made through shell companies from political campaigns or to bribe or pay present or former public officials; 

I believe the Second Amendment ought to be amended restricting the “right to keep and bear arms,” to one handgun gun per citizen who has passed a civics test, a mental health examination, and is registered in a national gun-owners registry;

I believe that the manufacture, importation, sale, display, distribution or trade of any assault-style weapon should be banned and all such existing guns—and their ammunition– be melted into scrap-metal to be used for re-building bridges or as metal studs for housing;

*I believe in the sweet spot & soft-core pornography,*

I believe that no laws should be passed regulating the use of a uterus, penis, or anus, as long as no living human being is harmed by such use;

I believe that Roger Stone & Steve Bannon should be banished to Guantanamo in perpetuity, and deprived of all TV, internet service and human contact and forced to read the works of Jose Marti.

I believe Kevin McCarthy ought to be placed under House arrest in Modesto, California, in the same Delicatessen where he did his last honest work;

I believe that TV commentators, public officials or public figures like Tucker Carlson or RFK, Jr, who pedal disinformation and lies about health & medical issues, should be forced to clean hospital bed pans for the rest of their natural lives, and have their personal fortunes confiscated to fund health clinics in underserved communities;

*I believe in long, slow, deep, soft wet kisses that last three days,*

And, I believe, that, as long as I am with another consenting adult, NO ONE has the right to tell me who I can kiss, or love, or choose to share my life.

RFK, Jr. is Killing the Same People His Father Worked Hard to Help.

A Twitter Post by the John Birch Society and RFK, Jr.

The first time I saw Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, was in June, 1968, standing in front of his father’s coffin. 

I waited in line for 3 hours to pay my respects to his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whose body lay in state inside NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I had campaigned for his father for US Senator in 1964, and again for President in 1968, before RFK was shot in the head and murdered by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles.

When the long, serpentine line shifted just a bit, I could clearly see Senator Kennedy’s coffin, surrounded by six-foot high silver candleholders, each with a flame flickering inside.  Directly behind the coffin, hands falling stiffly by his side, was the TV talk-show host Jack Paar, a close friend of the Kennedy family.  

 As I slowly inched forward, less than 10 feet away stood a boy who looked not more than 14 years old.  His facial muscles quivered, fighting back tears; hands clasped tightly in front of his body. The sight of RFK’s son, so fragile and alone, and only five years younger than I, overwhelmed me with grief.

He had just lost his father, his hero and mine, and I worried of what might become of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., following such a terrible trauma.  Never for a moment—then, nor years later– did I think he’d  lose his mind over vaccines, become a conspiracy nut, and get co-opted by the John Birch Society—an ultra-extremist Right Wing, anti-government group which his father despised and battled for most of his public life. 

Never did I imagine that RFK, Jr.’s junk-science and massive public misinformation campaigns over two decades would set back services for autistic children, and put tens of thousands of lives at risk–lives of the very vulnerable people his father worked hard to help.

The depth of RFK’ Jr.’s derangement over vaccines can be seen in last week’s release of a cringe-worthy book for which he wrote the forward, entitled, “The Real Anthony Fauci.”  The book is being widely promoted all over social media by the John Birch Society, or “JBS” as the lunatic fringe’s new sanitized logo now bills itself.  The Birch Society screams that “Fauci and Bill Gates are using the COVID Pandemic to put humanity under totalitarian rule,” and quote Kennedy as saying they “must be stopped.”  Maybe the John Birchers think this is the Kennedy who should be Trump’s running mate in 2024.

Bill Gates, speaking to CNBC this week on the day when COVID deaths in the US surpassed 800,000, told the network that such scurrilous rumors and mountains of intentional misinformation are “keeping many Americans from getting vaccinated against COVID, and delaying the end of the pandemic by doing so.”

For RFK Jr’s part, he founded a bogus public health group called the “Children’s Health Defense,” to purposely sow confusion with the highly respected Children’s Defense Fund headed for years by Dr. Irwin Redliner—one of President Biden’s COVID-19 advisors, and a strong and consistent proponent of the COVID vaccine.   But, such sleight-of-hand is nothing new for Kennedy, who has spent the last two decades spreading the scientifically discredited fabrications that vaccines caused autism—most of it after Andrew Wakefield, who first spread the lies linking autism to vaccines, was stripped of his medical license, the Lancet retracted Wakefield’s article, and the British Medical Journal in 2011 denounced Wakefield’s “studies” as an “elaborate fraud.”  None of that mattered to RFK, Jr.

This week, The Craig Newmark Center’s Poynter Institute reported that “RFK, Jr. said the COVID-19 vaccine was the deadliest vaccine ever made.”  His litany of flat-out falsehoods has earned Kennedy the title of  “one of the biggest sources of anti-vaccine rhetoric today,” from the Poynter Institute.  

McGill University’s Office of Science & Society is even more specific, citing statistics that Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense front-group, purchased some 54% of the anti-vaccine advertising on Facebook over the past year.  In an article entitled the “Anti-Vaccine Propaganda of RFK,Jr,” McGill—one of Canada’s leading Medical university’s—called Kennedy “one of the princes of the anti-vaccine movement, if not its king.”

It’s no wonder than, that RFK, Jr., was welcomed like a conquering hero by anti-vaxxers in Louisiana earlier this month when he testified before the Louisiana House Oversight Committee, opposing a proposal requiring public school students to be vaccinated.  Kennedy’s anti-vaccine screed led to the full Louisiana’s House Committee on Health and Welfare rejecting vaccine mandates for public school students by a 13-2 vote.

What makes this damaging, demagogic action by RFK, Jr., especially chilling, and a stab in the heart of his fathers’ legacy of helping underserved communities, is that more than 50% of the public school students in Louisiana are students of color—precisely the demographic with the highest rates of COVID infections, and death.  In fact, since the Pandemic began, Louisiana’s public school population of 720,000 students, has decreased by two-percent.  White Supremacist groups like the John Birch Society, Q-Anon, or the KKK, could have hardly conducted a more effective campaign of racial genocide—only this time, it’s whitewashed with the Kennedy name attached to it.

Kennedy’s,  “scientifically inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible lies,” as the CDC has called his dangerous misuse of the agency’s data, is reinforcing vaccine hesitancy among the poorest populations, which have, historically, had higher rates of death from ALL major diseases, because of poverty, pre-existing conditions, and lack of access to affordable healthcare.   

I worked at two public Academic Medical Centers in New York—SUNY Stony Brook Medical Center, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn—and our priorities were to improve community health outcomes in our most underserved communities, in the areas of prostate and breast cancer, cardiac disease, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure & diabetes.  

We struggled mightily to build trust–along with clinics, dialysis centers and emergency rooms– among those very communities to save lives with early mammograms, PSA exams, blood pressure tests, and HIV tests.  Now, RFK, Jr. and the rabid right-wing groups who have always opposed more funding for health care for the poor and working families, are harming the little progress made in public health, and are costing lives.

RFK, Jr. is destroying the good name his father built, and the respect his Uncles John and Teddy Kennedy earned over decades, in Black, Latino, & Indigenous communities around the country.  His crazed crusade linking vaccines to autism, and his outright lies about the COVID vaccine, are poisoning peoples minds, creating a hard-core cadre of unvaccinated human petri dishes in which more mutant viruses can multiply, and disproportionately killing the very populations his father dedicated his life to serving.

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Pennsylvania Bracing Itself for the Evil Wizardry of Oz.

Dr. Oz reviews the medical records of Donald Trump in 2016, and, without physically examining Trump, declares the records, and Trump, to be sound.

The mere thought of the synthetic, slippery Dr. Mehmet Oz, Donald Trump’s  hyper Hydroxychloroquine cheerleader, running for the open US Senate seat in Pennsylvania and turning that cradle of American Democracy into its crypt, is enough to make me want to swallow some of Oz’ ostracized Green Coffee Beans.

Last year (April 8, 2020) in a scathing New York Times column entitled “The Unholy Alliance of Trump & Dr. Oz,” Frank Bruni reminded us that Dr. Oz was “not a virologist; not an epidemiologist,” even though he plays one on TV.   Throughout all of 2020, the Wizard of Oz appeared regularly on Fox News, disseminating misinformation about COVID like Johnny Appleseed.   

While advising Donald Trump and White House staff during the early, deadly days of the Pandemic, Oz relentlessly promoted Hydroxychloroquine as a “wonder drug” for COVID, much as he hawked “green coffee beans” as a “miracle cure” for obesity (they weren’t), and told millions of mothers that their childrens’ apple juice had “dangerous levels of arsenic” (it didn’t).   Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition has called many of Dr. Oz’s ideas about food “just plain nutty.”

Six years earlier, the Great & Powerful Oz’s carnival barker cures—spoonfed to his four millions daily viewers—got him hauled before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, chaired by then-Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.  Senator McCaskill blasted Dr. Oz for spreading lies and misinformation:  “I don’t get why you have to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.”  Oz promised the Senate he wouldn’t do it anymore.  But, with his hyperbole and hypocrisy increasing his personal wealth to $100 million, Oz just couldn’t resist.

In 2016, only two years after the he pledged to the Senate that he would stop his medical charlatanry, he was at it again.  This time, it happened during the heat of the Clinton/Trump presidential campaign when the public was demanding that Trump release his medical records, Dr. Oz—“America’s Doctor” as he billed himself—came to the Mar-A-Lago Liar’s rescue. On Oz’s nationally televised show, Trump dramatically reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out two pages he claimed were his medical records and handed them over to Oz.   Using his best bedside manner, Dr. Oz—who never physically examined Trump– deemed the records—and Trump’s health–to be sound.   So much for the truth.

Vox, in it’s September 15, 2016, review of the two men in front of the curtain of the Oz show, said:  “ These men (Oz & Trump) are the personification of not just bullshitting to the public, but getting away with bullshitting—and profiting from it.”

Now, the Great and Powerful Oz wants to take his Traveling Elixir Show to the US Senate, where, if successful, he’ll join that medical genius, Senator Rand Paul, an eye doctor with absolutely zero expertise in virology or immunology, and a penchant for picking fights with his next door neighbor in Kentucky and Dr. Anthony Fauci in hearings– both of which he embarrassingly lost.  Imagine Oz and Rand Paul, in a GOP-controlled Senate, as the leading Republican “medical” experts on a pandemic which has killed more than 780,000 Americans, since Dr. Oz began touting Hydroxycholoquine as another miracle cure he advocated.

Perhaps Dr. Oz figures that one way to escape another Senate grilling, under oath, for his latest massively false—and possibly fatal—misinformation during the final year of Trump’s toxic term, is to spend millions of the dollars he amassed with his monumental medical mendacity, and sit side-by-side with Senator Paul, to compare notes, magical thinking, and conspiracy theories.

Just think of the even greater damage these fountainheads of falsehoods and myths can do, when they can somberly spout more medical misinformation with impunity, under the protection of Congressional immunity. 

Where’s Toto, when we desperately need to yank the curtain down on these frauds in the land of Oz?

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No Longer My Brother’s Keeper.

My Brother Vinny and I, in 2008, on the way to a Yankee Game.

When I watched Jennifer Gosar talk about her brother, Congressman Paul Gosar, on MSNBC, and heard Tim Gosar call his brother one of Trump’s “Fascist Footsoldiers,” who ought to be expelled from Congress, I thought of my brother Vinny.

Not that my sole-surviving brother is a Member of Congress — God forbid. Not that he graphically depicted using Samurai Swords to kill Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of NY and threatened the life of the President of the US — although, over the years, he’s wished for similar gruesome deaths for many Democrats, including me.

Like Jennifer Gosar, there was a time when, as a child, I looked up to my older brother. He was an outstanding baseball player, who could run, hit and field like the Detroit Tigers Hall-of-Famer, Al Kaline, and, like me, was a fanatical and knowledgeable New York Yankee fan.

Vinny was so bright, he skipped two grades and graduated high school at the age of 16. He ran as fast and hard as he could to catch up to our oldest brother, Michael, the apple of our mother’s eye.

As I got older and could do a spot-on imitation of Howard Cosell, my brother was so proud of my abilities he wanted me to perform for his friends at a local bar where he was frequently found — Anna Jean’s, located in a run-down strip mall in North Babylon, our working class community on Long Island’s south shore.

Family folklore was that Vinny had a genius IQ, and his earlier financial successes in businesses — first on Long Island and then in Southern California, were seen as concrete proof of his superior intelligence — to others, and to him. He put up my parents in his big home in El Toro, CA, when they moved out west, and gave my father a part-time job at the electronic parts company he headed. Then, something — or maybe several things — happened.

Whether it was his business wizardry and the whirlwind financial windfalls which dazzled a kid who grew up poor and never went to college, or a costly cocaine habit at the peak of his power, something started to come between my brother and reality. Living in Orange County, CA — then, the home of the Right Wing Extremist John Birch Society in the 1970’s and 1980’s and birthplace of conspiracy theories, didn’t help.

Despite our widening political differences, I became one of the few family members who could tolerate my brother. He was consistently mean and nasty to our sister Vera, a smart, independent woman who refused to put up with his insults. The fact that I was a white, Italian male and had an education, probably gave me some runway with him.

My mother would plead with us to avoid talking politics, but neither Vinny nor I could resist, and, in truth, we enjoyed the sparring to see who could one-up the other. I ridiculed his extremist beliefs, mocked the right wing loonies he listened to like Limbaugh and Larry Elder, and generally gave back to him as tough as he dished out. In retrospect, by engaging him, I may have actually enabled and emboldened my brother. After our mother’s death in 2007, all “guardrails” on Vinny’s behavior came down.

I struggled to look behind his intentionally outrageous, attention-getting behavior and listen to him, in a vain attempt to keep him connected to his own, and our, humanity. Sometimes it worked, but would often backfire if he felt I was getting too close, or, when his racist or homophobic rantings would set me off.

After Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, I cut off Vinny’s vicious attacks on the nation’s first black President — whom he knew I supported from early 2007 — -by snarling back at him that he hated Obama because the President’s success forced him to face his own failures, and he just couldn’t get over the fact that a Black man was smarter and more successful than he was. My brother’s response was uncharacteristic silence, and I knew I had scored a painful hit, and regretted it immediately. I detested his unbridled hatred and racism, but disliked my hurtful response almost as much. He was, after all, still my mother’s son.

As Donald Trump’s deranged “Birther” campaign grew, and meanness, hatred and lies became normalized on Fox News — the only network my brother watched — Vinny’s views became more and more extreme. As a Nevada resident, he owned a legally registered gun, and kept it handy, in case the “illegals” tried to break into his apartment. Ironically, if any did — and they saw how little he had — they’d have left a contribution.

Finally, in 2016, after it was clear it would be Hillary 
Clinton vs. Trump for the Presidency, I told Vinny I was going to North Carolina — a key, swing state with 15 electoral votes — to do voter protection, since NC was an open-carry State, and I was not easily intimidated. Furious, he wished I would be shot, and then when he saw that threat wouldn’t dissuade me, hoped my plane would crash, and called me an anti-Semitic slur, knowing I converted to Judaism some 36 years earlier, and my wife and son were Jewish.

I wasn’t as offended by his death wish for me as I was by his expressed hatred against Jews — eventhose in his own family. For me, it was the last straw. I told him that I was done with him, that I didn’t want such toxic hate in my life, nor have my granddaughters exposed to it. That was 5 years ago, and we haven’t spoken since.

So, I understand the pain that the Gosar siblings are feeling as they watch their brother set fire to himself, and endanger others. What’s hard, is witnessing what’s happened to someone you once loved, and knowing that, in the end, much more than his own life is at risk.