He was the best of men. He was the worst of men. He gave up his life in pursuit of freedom and justice. He gave up his soul in pursuit of power and fame. He was a beacon of hope in a world held hostage by Darkness. He was a defender and purveyor of Darkness itself. He died in a Russian prison camp. His brand began its painful death crawl in a New York City courtroom. 

Two headlines in yesterday’s New York Times will burnish the legends of two very different ‘heroes’ for our time. 

One headline asks, “With Prison Certain and Death Likely, Why Did Navalny Return to Russia?”  

While the other informs us, “Trump Is Ordered To Pay Fraud Penalty That Will Exceed $450 million.” 

Aleksei Navalny was a hero—to me, and to millions of others who reject Vladimir Putin’s hijacking of the Russian State. The kind of hero who courageously dedicates his life to the betterment of others. We haven’t yet learned the details of his state sponsored death, but Navalny’s martyrdom will probably serve the cause of freedom in Russia more than anything he could have accomplished as a living activist. 

Donald J. Trump is also a hero—not to me certainly, but to millions of Americans who have bought into his grift. To those legions of cult followers, if I am honest, he appears to be a tough guy, a player who, because he seemed tough on TV, knows how to make winning deals, and can make unlikely things happen. Build a wall, invent a better health care plan, drain the swamp, wish Covid away and, most importantly, keep Muslims and Mexicans from coming into our country. 

 Trump’s hero worshippers have swallowed even the largest of Donald Trump’s fish stories, blinded by the brilliance of his aura. Even as they blanch at his boorish behavior and assorted cruelties, his aura remains whole and relatively untarnished. An aura partly manufactured for viewers of his once popular TV show, and partly manufactured by Trump himself…All those years of shameless self-promotion. Trump Steaks. Trump Vodka. Trump University. Trump Casinos. Trump Towers. 

 And the capstone, of course: Trump’s Insurrection! 

Word of this week’s massive legal judgment is such big news, not even Fox News can prevent it from breaking out of the right-wing echo chamber and reaching minds that would otherwise be closed to hearing negative news about their leader.  

Yes, this week, for everyone’s round-the-clock consumption, comes news that Donald Trump was fined almost half a billion dollars! FOR DECADES OF FRAUD. FOR CHEATING PEOPLE. FOR LYING TO BANKS AND INSURERS. FOR LYING IN COURT. 

 Navalny knew exactly what he faced in returning to Russia. He had only just recovered from an assassination attempt where Putin’s killers laced his undershorts with a nerve agent. Which once again begs the question ‘why?’ “With prison certain and death likely, why did Navalny return?”  

As for Trump, he did what he did because he could do it. And get away with it! C’mon, who would ever charge him with fraud? He had gotten away with murder all his life. Not just as the pampered son of a millionaire real estate tycoon. But as a pugnacious player in a business world where he forced his way to a seat at the table. 

As a well known player in the game, Trump found he could stiff whichever vendors were too weak or small to force his payment. Those vendors—among which you will find numerous lawyers—were often and famously left standing with bills in their hands and eggs on their faces.  

Why? Because Donald Trump believes he can get away with almost anything. Same reason he continues to foul up America’s democracy, repeatedly undermining our institutions. Same reason he didn’t need to directly raid the American Treasury when he left the presidency, choosing instead to allegedly sell off pardons and steal America’s treasured secrets.  

And in Russia, why? Why put yourself at risk by returning to Putin’s Russia? Because Aleksei Navalny had immense courage. The kind you tell your children about. And Navalny was dedicated to a cause seemingly more important than his life. So important he knowingly placed his family in peril of losing their father and  protector.  

And then there’s Vladimir Putin, the man invited long ago to help govern Russia who refused to ever go home.  To further add to Navalny’s guilt in Putin’s eyes, the fearless activist challenged the Russian President on a level Putin could never understand. When faced with an opponent Putin could not bully into submission; a man whose integrity and courage were proven down to his final choices in life, Putin could only balk and flail.  

And so, Aleksei Navalny became the gnat that refused to be swatted away by the angry giant. 

 Until the giant swatted him one last time. 

Now, returning to Donald J. Trump, sexual assaulter, insurrectionist and serial fraudster who was tagged with a fine that will ultimately cost him $450 million. This on top of the $88.3 million in combined judgments from his earlier E. Jean Carroll trials.  That amount—over a half billion dollars!—as staggering as it appears, will further fan the fires of grievance that have made a hero and cult leader of Donald J. Trump.

Yes, rather than see it as society’s karmic retribution—the weight of the judgement being equal to the size and scope of the crimes their leader committed—Trump supporters will believe Trump’s cries of innocence and vendettas, and see Engoran’s ruling as further proof of witch hunts and Joe Biden’s abuses of power.   

But something is different now. Something definitely shifted with Judge Engoren’s levying of the half billion dollar judgment against Donald Trump. You can sense it in the air, even in your own feelings about Trump. The shadow of his threat seems smaller now, and not so far reaching. Trump himself has been diminished. Diminished in wealth. Diminished in scariness.

If you’ve been watching the Trump drama unfold over the last year, you’ve seen all the scaffolding and platforms erected in the legal sector that will now allow Trump’s Karmic Comeuppance to play itself out. It’s only now, with his blistering half billion dollar judgment, that the structure for the ensuing drama becomes more obvious. 

With Judge Engoren’s masterful finding, Trump’s shield—his aura of invincibility, his aura of being a successful businessman—has been seriously pierced. The first major step (or stumble?) on his Karmic Journey to redemption, perhaps…? We’ll see. It will take some time before we know the true consequences and eventual outcome, but Trump has been wounded; seriously wounded by Letitia James’ fraud trial. Just when he enters a crazy season of campaigning for the presidency peppered, as it will be, with frequent appearances in court. 

Two headlines in a newspaper. Two men whose lives were as widely different as those of a saint and a grifter. Aleksei Navalny died three days ago, and the world has been diminished by his absence. Donald J. Trump still walks among us, and the world is none the better for it.  


Nor is he someone who instinctively lies to undo every mess, crime or idiotic blunder he uncontrollably creates. Nor will he employ sycophants to kiss his backside and carry out his instructions, especially when those orders directly threaten the welfare and security of the United States. 

A person in a suit and tie

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Joe Biden will never destroy the integrity of governmental institutions and agencies, nor nominate people who will strangle and starve the very agencies they were hired to run. He will never nominate William Barr, Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, Louis DeJoy nor Rudy Giuliani to hold positions in our government. Not even when their prison terms come to an end.

Joe Biden will not play chicken with epidemics or pandemics. Rather than act too late in a crisis, Joe Biden will anticipate crises and, most important of all, avoid creating new ones.Joe Biden will never hold back congressionally authorized military aid to extort and corrupt defenseless nations. Nor will he insult our friends by calling them “shithole” countries.

And when the United States intelligence agencies provide insights and guidance, he will not castigate and belittle their efforts. Nor will he take the word of foreign dictators over U.S. government agencies. Not even if Vladimir Putin tells him to.

But that’s not all! Joe Biden won’t turn his back on United States allies. Especially those who have given thousands of lives to advance U.S. security. Nor will he turn his back on traditional allies who have walked with us through storm and strife. He will not weaken our most important alliances—not NATO, nor those with our partners at our borders. And speaking of borders, Joe Biden will not demonize our neighbors nor give domestic terrorists and white nationalists undeserved recognition and acceptance.

Joe Biden will never lie to you. Not daily, or ever! Joe Biden will never enact tax reforms that pretend to help the middle class and actually put millions of dollars into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires. When Joe reforms our taxes, it will be for real, and will not decimate our treasury or ignore those of us who are struggling.

Joe Biden does not play golf.Nor does he watch Fox News!A collage of two men

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“Step right up, folks. Don’t miss your chance to help send a soon-to-be-convicted traitor to the White House for four years of unbridled chicanery and chaos.

“If you thought Trump 1 broke all the rules, violated all norms, and opened up the U.S. Treasury to widescale looting by the billionaire class, well wait till you see Trump 2.

“The beauty of this election,” New Hampshire officials say, “is the value you get for your money.  Because in New Hampshire you get multiple votes.

“Did you hear that?

“Not just one vote, but multiple votes!

“Imagine how you will dazzle your friends! Today, for one day only, you can vote for TRUMP THE TRAITOR at the same time you’re voting for TRUMP THE BUSINESS FRAUD, as well as TRUMP THE SEXUAL PREDATOR and TRUMP THE INCURABLE LIAR. And Let’s not forget TRUMP THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER . That’s at least 5 votes you get when you’re casting just one.

“Just be aware that the Republican Party no longer accepts or acknowledges all votes for their opponents, insisting they would never win another election if they accepted the will of the people.

”So remember, Today is “VOTE FOR A TRAITOR DAY” in New Hampshire. 

Or not.


Did you ever find yourself combing the back streets of memory trying to remember where in your life you had known someone before? Someone whose face, or tone of voice, or singular selfishness stirs vague but incomplete tremors of recognition? Such is the frustrating mental dance I experience time and time again with Donald J. Trump. But then, yesterday, like a bolt of lightning reaching from the sky, the answer struck me in a blinding flash. 

This is the guy! 

This is the guy too lazy to ever do his homework back in grade school, preferring to bully the smaller, brainier kids into letting him copy theirs. This is the boss’ son, unlikeable and blind to his own failings, who lords his family connections over fellow workers like a badge of entitlement, as if DNA far outweighs the value of competence and performance.  This is the millionaire’s son who feels qualified to criticize America’s fallen soldiers as “suckers” and “losers,” even though his wartime medical deferment was a lie paid for by his father. 

This is the guy! 

This is the accountant whose embezzlement bankrupts his employer’s company. This is the big kid who sat behind you during a test and demanded the answers to questions three and five. This is the snitch whose lies ruin reputations, destroy lives and send innocent people to jail. This is the cashier who repeatedly shortchanges his customers. And the sales clerk who steals and sells his customers’ credit card information. This is the coward who only joins in a fight when the winning side is certain beyond doubt. And the president who lies about the severity and dangers of a pandemic to make himself look good; even though those lies may lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths. 

This is the guy! 

And, yes, this is the guy who pays others to take his tests. The businessman who refuses to pay his contractors, the father who never remembers his children’s birthdays, the husband who has an affair with a porn star while his wife is pregnant, the president who tells over 30,000 lies during the brief span of his single term in office. This is the president who breaks every precedent for presidential behavior, then cries “political persecution!” when he faces unprecedented legal consequences.  

This is the guy! 

And lastly, this is the guy who indulges whims as if they were imperatives, cheating on his wives, cheating on his taxes, sexually assaulting women when the fancy strikes him, lying about his wealth to prove his penis longer than the next billionaire’s.  This is the guy who believes in a Jesus who never turns the other cheek or forgets a grievance. The guy whose charity extends no farther than the outskirts of his own best interests. This is the president who could not walk away from the presidency without dismantling the underpinnings of our democracy. The president who believes his single election victory gave him lifetime possession of the trappings of his office and its almost imperial prerogatives.  

This is the guy who almost single-handedly put an end to 245 years of the American experiment. 

THIS IS THE GUY!                   


(Eighteen killed, 13 seriously injured. News report.

When I saw the news and latest updates from Maine this morning, two thoughts came to mind. The first was a word game, where my restless mind took the number of fatalities, 18, and played with it. Thinking about the Bobby Darin song, only transposing its 18 yellow roses into 18 vessels of life, cut short by evil machinations from our political system. Wondering about all the ways there would be 18 fewer things in life, as a result of one sick killer’s murderous acts.

My second thought was this…In the Jewish tradition, the number 18 is called ChaiChai also means Life. That makes 18 a lucky number. To give $18 is to give two gifts: one the money, two the luck that goes with it. 

Unfortunately, for me, after yesterday’s mass shootings in Maine, the number 18, in my heart, has shifted from signifying Life, to certifying Death. 

And certifying so much more. 

Certifying 18 lifeless bodies, many unrecognizable from the bullets that thoughtlessly tore them apart… 

Certifying 18 empty places at multitudes of family dinners, birthday parties, weddings, Christenings, confirmations, town meetings and Saturday morning soccer games…  

Certifying 18 empty seats at lifetimes of tennis matches, baseball games, family car trips, Cub Scout Pinewood Derbies, church services, Sunday family dinners, Christmas eve services and Friday night poker games. Living as we do, on an earthly plain, there are also 18 lifetimes of sumptuous meals, inner cravings, fits of laughter, sexual stimulation, minor human foibles, all just waiting to be missed. 

The human condition times 18. 

Yesterday, you could almost hear the cries of pain as they hammered and echoed across the land. Almost hear the sighs, involuntary and hushed, of the millions who were not touched personally by the tragedy, yet who felt strongly its terrors and anxieties. 

 Not living in Maine, we were safe from this latest act of domestic terrorism, America’s 556th mass shooting this year! A uniquely American statistic. And an ugly outcome from the Republican Party’s intransigence over gun control, their catering to the gun lobby’s agenda as they struggle to remain relevant and influential in today’s politics, even with their diminishing numbers. 

 If you’re keeping score, that’s 18 for the NRA and its political shield, the Republican Party. And zero for the rest of us.  Which means, of course, that, in the curious way my mind works, zero now also equals 18. 

I know. 18 is just a number, and numbers don’t inspire empathy or compassion. But not true for number 18. Not today. Today, that number equal’s 18 American citizens who will never get to run for office, or ever vote again, for that matter. 18 who will pay no income taxes, or get to send children to school. 18 who will never buy or read another novel, never get to revisit Mark Twain as an adult reader. That’s also 18 citizens who will never go to their high school proms, never learn to drive their father’s car, and, sadly, never fall in love for a first or second time. 18 who will never enjoy rounds of golf, joining the Rotary Club, or playing in a men’s basketball league, Tuesday evenings at the JCC. 

18 yellow roses were sent on their way yesterday. Pulled rudely from their lives by a man so sick he should have never been allowed near a gun. 18 yellow roses, their rose-like beauty shredded to bloody scraps by the bursts of the AK-15.  The sad truth is, we will remember the number 18 far longer than the lives that number signifies: the 18 slants on life, the 18 relationships with God, the 18 struggles for perfection, the 18 realizations of life’s futility, the 18 searches for the Truth, whatever form that might have taken. 

Remember the number 18 next time you vote, and let it remind you not to vote for anyone who lists themselves as Republican.  

Do it for the 18.       

Do it for all of us.