From the New York Times, Time magazine, and the complete Chicago Tribune syndicated columns

All I know is what she tells me

I get the news from my wife, who sits reading the paper across the breakfast table from me and tells me what I need to know, ignoring much of page 1 and picking out the story of the Italian Jews who were sheltered in Catholic monasteries in spite of an anti-Semitic pope and saved from the Holocaust and the story about Florida’s war on undocumented workers, which deprives Floridians of a ready workforce to help clean up the wretched mess after a hurricane and the pictures of beautiful colorful clothing worn by Sudanese women even during their cruel civil war.

It’s not a partisan newscast, it’s humanistic, it’s not about issues but about people, which makes me think she should run for president, which would be good for the country — Mexico is going to have a woman president, why should we lag behind — and I do believe her style is a winning one. My mother was a conservative but she loved Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt because she felt they cared about people. Joe Biden’s trip to Maui to commiserate with fire victims by reminiscing about the time he almost lost his Corvette as a result of a kitchen fire — dumb, dumb, dumb, Joe — why did Jill let you say that stupid clueless thing? A Corvette is not the equivalent of someone’s home, Joe. Who is briefing you for these appearances? Fire him.

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The meeting will come to order (bonk bonk)

Any American who saw Jim Jordan, the alleged chair of the so-called House Judiciary Committee, on TV Wednesday could’ve been charged with contempt of Congress for his harassment of Judge Merrick Garland, an excellent legal mind and dedicated public servant, Mr. Jordan being a bully and a hack from a gerrymandered district in Ohio who got his law degree from a church school in Columbus and never took the bar exam. He was a champion wrestler in the featherweight class and though heftier now, maintains his featherweight status. He never held a job but went straight from college into politics. Interviewed in 2018 and asked if he’d ever heard Donald Trump tell a lie, he said, “I have not.” He has been called “nuts” by Lindsey Graham, who knows about nuttiness. He voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election and then sent a note to the White House asking for a pardon in the event he was prosecuted. Ten days before leaving office, Mr. Trump gave Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a closed-door ceremony. He appeared before me Thursday under an independent subpoena issued pursuant to 515.2 U.S.C. and I hereby read into the record his testimony:

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Sing on, dance on, good eye, ain’t you happy

A good week is a good week; let smarter people deal with the debt ceiling crisis and popularity of authoritarianism, my week began with a happy Sunday in church with a lot of blessing going on — sprinkling the schoolkids, the choir, the congregation — and our rector looking joyful as she marched around casting holy water on people — I thought she might like to use a squirt gun or a watering can or the sprinklers in the ceiling. Her sermon cautioning against perfectionism was, for want of a better word, perfect, and we sang a lively Shaker hymn —

O brethren ain’t you happy, ye followers of the Lamb.
Sing on, dance on, followers of Emmanuel,
Sing on, dance on, ye followers of the Lamb.

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Waking from wacko dreams to think clearly

Never mind what you’ve been taught, some problems have simple solutions. The cure for bad habits — lying, for example — is to stop doing it. Don’t waste a psychoanalyst’s time trying to discover the underlying causes of lying — the basic cause of lying is stupidity, or arrogance, take your pick.

And then there’s the problem of Supreme Court ethics and justices accepting valuable perks from billionaire pals, which may lead to a conflict of interest or the appearance of one. The simple answer is to raise their salaries: a quarter-million a year is not nearly enough to support a Supremacy lifestyle in D.C. There are psychoanalysts who earn more than that. Raise the salary to a million-five so Clarence Thomas can afford to charter a jet and not be indebted to a robber baron. Require the justices’ clerks to spend two years as public defenders before they shop around for fancy jobs with big firms in 15th-floor suites with big walnut credenzas.

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The gift of Miss Helen Story, remembered

The time I have spent looking for my glasses — over the 70 years since I got glasses in the fourth grade, it must add up to a couple thousand hours, roaming nearsighted from room to room, bathroom, bedside table, desk, kitchen counter, coffee table, maybe six months of eight-hour days — a person could train for a triathlon in that time, find a cure for foot fungus, write a memoir — and yet, looking back over this endless series of ridiculous frenzies, I see how what a classic comedy it is, the half-blind man searching for his sightedness, and how can the regular reenactment of comedy do anything but make a man cheerful? I ask you.

Add to this my other blunders, stumbles, screwups and snafus in family life, professional career, political path, real estate — good Lord, the majestic apartment on Trondhjemsgade in Copenhagen that I bought, 13-foot ceilings, elaborate molding, a view of Ørstedsparken, you could’ve entertained royalty in the dining room or negotiated the union of Denmark and Sweden — I quit my radio show at the peak of its popularity and took my Danish wife to live in splendor and sit with her friends speaking my kindergarten Danish — my mind boggles: What was I thinking?

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Looking forward to September 13

It’s been a busy summer for this old retired guy due to the fact that it takes twice as long to get half as much done due to voice-activated Google, which means I can say, “How exactly am I related to Katharine Hepburn?” and the computer screen does some backflips and flashes the answer, “You and she are descended from Elder John Crandall, 1618–1676, Westerly, Rhode Island,” which I have known for years but it makes me feel good to see it again, given the fact that by the age of 81 a man has accumulated a truly stunning list of mishaps, bungles, fiascos, and debacles, all of which are unaffected by dementia but shine bright and clear, warning buoys on the reefs of despair.

Google is a marvel and also a pernicious addiction. Back in the day I focused on the work before me, the sheet of paper in the Underwood typewriter, and didn’t follow the whims of curiosity because it would involve hauling down Webster’s Third Unabridged or the Encyclopedia Britannica or World Almanac, but now if I’m curious I can instantly find out what year Buddy Holly’s plane crashed (1959) or which popes fathered children (many) or who was the first daredevil to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive (a schoolteacher, Annie Edson Taylor, in 1901 at the age of 63), none of which have anything to do with the project at hand.

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As I keep telling myself, life is good

The birth of the spotless giraffe at a zoo in Tennessee, the only known one on earth, is important news to those of us who grew up as oddballs, seeing the spotted mama giraffe nuzzling her child, remembering the kindness of aunts and teachers who noticed our helpless naivete and guided us through the shallows.

And then there was the story of the cable car in Pakistan that lost a couple cables and dangled helplessly hundreds of feet in the air with terrified children inside. A nightmare in broad daylight. A rescuer harnessed to the remaining cable had to bring the children one by one to safety.

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The short walk from altar to apartment

I prefer not to write about politics because I find people’s stories about personal experience more interesting than their opinions about what’s wrong with America, which tend to be secondhand or thirdhand.

And absurdity doesn’t interest me. You have an ex-president running for the White House who may be headed for a federal facility other than the White House unless he can win the election and pardon himself, meanwhile his leading opponents in the primaries go out of their way to avoid criticizing him and they focus on the legal problems of the incumbent president’s son.

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Crossing the flats, looking for mountains

In homage to my ancestor David Powell, I rode a train across Kansas heading for Colorado, his goal in 1859 when he left Martha Ann and the children behind in Missouri and headed for the gold rush. Kansas is a state of vastness, some of it seems undisturbed since David rode across it. Here is a little farm near the tracks with no neighbor for several miles. A good place for an introvert like me. I could tow a trailer out on the treeless prairie and pull the shades and sit there and slowly go insane, buy a couple rifles with scopes, and yell at the TV about government oppression.

David was an extrovert. He was a leader of his wagon train and organized the lashing of wagons together to cross the rivers. He hunted antelope with the Arapaho and traded with them. He arrived in Colorado too late to get rich and instead sat in the territorial legislature and helped draft a state constitution. At age 62, an old man in those times, he settled in Kansas and wrote to his children: “I built a house 21r x 24r, one-story of pickets, shingle roof, 6 windows and 2 doors, divided and will be when finished one like my house in MO. Dug a well 20 feet deep, plenty of water, and put up a stable for 10 head of stock, covered with hay. We have done very well with oats and I have 25 tons of timothy hay, not yet sold. I am very comfortable, the times are fair here in Kansas, we are all well except for a touch of influenza. Our love and best wishes to all, yours affectionately.”

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Out with the old, in with the young

I am delighted by the court ruling in Montana that the state, by encouraging the use of fossil fuels, violated the constitutional right of young people to “a clean and healthful environment,” something no court has ever proclaimed before. “Clean and healthful environment” is in the Montana state constitution. The legislature had forbidden state agencies to consider climate change when considering fossil fuel projects, and this decision would change that, but the state will appeal and likely the decision will be tossed away like used tissue, but still it’s an interesting idea: that we have legal obligations to our kids beyond feeding and clothing them and not putting them to work in shoe factories before they’re 12.

Nobody suggested back in the Fifties that we kids had a constitutional right to a “natural and healthful attitude toward sex” nor did I consider asking a court to reverse the deep sense of shame instilled in me, which has messed up my life to the extent that I dare not see a therapist for fear I’d discover things nobody should ever know about himself.

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