Sincerely, The Future of Healthcare

Here’s the backstory behind the video letter to President Donald J. Trump, “Sincerely, The Future of Healthcare,” that went viral last week, and a look at the five Upstate medical students who made it happen – in five days’ time. →

via Meet the Upstate students behind the ‘Sincerely …’ viral video — With Distinction

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A view from the Women’s March on Washington

The National Women’s March on Washington, D.C. Saturday was a truly transformative moment in our nation’s history.

The title notwithstanding, it was more than a just a march of and for women. So many among the estimated million marched in solidarity for many causes and groups that are now in jeopardy with the change in administration.

As we marched among ever-growing numbers along the National Mall, I overheard one woman ask, “How did we lose?”

The complex answer to that very good question has already been answered. But her disbelief reflected the beginning of a movement that won’t go away, and will not kowtow to the liars and thieves now in charge.

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Inauguration 2017, the fate of our scorpion-elect and our democracy: an updated fable

scorpionimageThe fate of President-elect Donald J. Trump and democracy, explained by the Greek storyteller, Aesop, with a 21st-century update:


A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream, and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?”

The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out. In midstream, the scorpion stings the frog.

The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp, “Why?”

The scorpion replies, “It’s my nature.”


As Inauguration Day looms, we’re almost halfway across the stream. America has cut a risky deal with its Scorpion-elect.

Many individuals, groups and ideals have tried crossing the stream with him — political rivals, the media, common decency — and he has stung them all.

Somehow the scorpion proved Aesop wrong, surviving every time.

But there is hope. The fable has been revised.


. . . In midstream, just as the scorpion is about to sting the frog (cue dramatic music!) a southern grasshopper mouse appears between them. The scorpion stings the mouse over and over.

But the mouse is immune to the venom and kills the scorpion. The frog and mouse make it to the other side.

Catching its breath, the grateful frog gasps, “Why did you kill the scorpion?”

The mouse replies, “It’s my nature.”


Yes, the southern grasshopper mouse is a natural predator of scorpions. Not only is it immune to a scorpion’s sting, the venom actually acts as a painkiller, enabling the mouse to kill the scorpion.

Which brings us to our Scorpion-elect. His venom — the lies, the predatory behavior, the hateful words — will be his undoing. It may require some timely intervention, but it will happen.

When it does, there will be schadenfreude, elation. Perhaps there will be a trace of sympathy. But that will pass, as will the pain and memory of his sting.

Mostly there will be relief.

The frog and the grasshopper mouse, safely on the other side of the stream, will survive.

It’s their nature.



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Kicking Ass, Libtards and My Modest Proposal

Here’s an anecdote that sums up The Divided States of America, and a rather simplistic explanation of how we got there.

But because our attention spans have been Twitterized, here’s the explanation first: Bad parenting.

Now the anecdote, plus my modest proposal.

Over the weekend, I tweeted that — on top of Donald Trump’s many faults — he can’t spell. (It was after the “unpresidented” thing, if you’re keeping score).

I was taken to task by some Twitter newbie, who replied that Trump’s difficulty with his native language doesn’t matter. Trump “kicked ass” on that “crooked” Hillary and “won” the presidency.

I responded that if he thinks losing by almost 3 million American votes is “kicking ass,” he’s delusional. I also took him to task for using the offensive word “libtard,” a perverted shortening of “liberal retard.”

I then dared him to use that word face-to-face with a parent of a child with disabilities. And, please, send me the photos of what happened after he did so.

His snarky response? “Libtard” has nothing to do with disabilities. “Don’t be ignorant,” he wrote.

Common sense dictates that a rational, open-minded conversation with this hate-filled individual is impossible. I can say “hate-filled” because I looked at his tweets, and they’re very, very unkind to liberals, gays, Rachel Maddow, “frumpy” women, et al.

Based on what I saw on Twitter, I assume he’s a straight, white male of privilege. So, how did he end up so pathetically, dangerously angry?

Unless he had his lunch money stolen every day in grade school, the answer has to be . . . bad parenting.

It’s way too late to do anything about that, but here’s an idea. Call it my Modest Proposal.

Let’s sterilize him. Really. Before he has a chance to breed, unless that has already happened (thanks in no small measure to alcohol, of course). We must act swiftly.

While we’re at it, and with the help of concerned citizen tipsters, let’s round up as many of these bad-parents-in-waiting as we can, and snip their reproductive capabilities in the bud.

It’s not as if this practice is unprecedented.

America has sterilized certain populations during its ugly chapters, but . . . this is different. People such as my Twitter troll, and the “Cook my fucking burrito, bitch!” Trump supporter at an Arizona rally shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce.

We need to do this for no other reason to make America . . . less ignorant again.

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Post-election mandate: Let’s get into some good trouble

I can’t start my days like this anymore — checking the news and seeing the latest assault on truth, decency and the Constitution from the president-elect.

Along with the lies and ignorance, each morning brings the “body count” reflecting the popular vote from the Nov. 8 election. It’s at negative-2.8 million for this guy now. Not that it matters.

Every morning, I put the coffee on, settle in front of the laptop and my mood darkens, my blood pressure rises.

I’ll share a post or two on Facebook, fire off a snarky tweet (sound familiar?) and after a fleeting moment of righteousness and catharsis … depression and helplessness set in. This morning it’s 30 degrees and snowing, and the house is chilly — and I started sweating as I read yet another lie, saw yet another photo of the arrogant man who would be king.

It can set the tone for the day if I’m not careful.

I need to stop. It’s not healthy.

Here’s my plan — read a little less, do a lot more. I’m offering my services to human rights organizations, not-for-profits and agencies that help the oppressed, disenfranchised and bullied. The awful evening of Nov. 8 put a bigger target on their backs.

So if there’s an organization out there that needs help fighting the good fight, I’m available. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to my profession as a writer and editor. I need to join the ranks of those already working to stop what this man and his followers are planning.

As U.S. Rep. and Civil Rights leader John Lewis said, let’s get into some good trouble. Contact me here or via

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Hail to the Chief

Donald Trump

NBC News photo.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the President-elect of the United States of America.

God help us all.

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Donald Trump and I threw snowballs at a car when we were 13

When we were eighth-grade classmates, Donald Trump and I used to pal around and do mischievous things.

One winter day when we were walking to school, Donald and I conspired to have snowballs handy and wing them as hard as we could at the next car that came by.

Sure enough, a car came toward us and we fired the snowballs (it was a “good packing day,” as I recall), nailing that sonofabitch right on the windshield. And then we took off running, which is a good thing because the driver stopped, turned his car around and came gunning for us.

Donald and I took off in separate directions, cutting through the yards of people we didn’t know. I found a place to hide, among some pine trees, crouching down and trying not to breathe. Soon, I heard someone running through a nearby yard.

It wasn’t Donald.

It was the driver, who, to my good fortune, didn’t see me. I waited several minutes, more scared than I had ever been in my life. If the guy had seen me, he justifiably would have beaten the crap out of me and/or hauled me in to the authorities.

It may be hard to believe, but I’ve thought about that snowball toss many, many times over the past decades. I still feel horrible about what we did. We could have caused a serious, perhaps fatal, accident. And I never want to feel that frightened, that remorseful, ever again.

But here’s the thing. Donald actually got off on what we did; his glee of getting away with it was evident when we found each other that morning at school. He couldn’t wait to do it again.

The feeling of power he got with that snowball fed his insatiable desire to do more harmful things. To women. To employees. To business partners. Basically, to anyone who tries to spoil his fun.

Donald is still 13. He can’t tell the truth, and nothing is ever his fault. He turns on the charm, and his smile belies what he is actually thinking. He gets off on power, and will say and do anything to get it and maintain it. He is incapable of empathy, of remorse, of responsibility.

Classic sociopathic behavior.

Donald Trump should not, and cannot, be elected president of the United States.

(I was with someone other than Trump that day, of course, but you’ve read so many lies that bolster his candidacy, you can read one that opposes it. The friend I was with that day felt just as remorseful as I did afterward.)

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‘Thanks for noticing’

I see plenty of unhappiness and misery in downtown Syracuse, but today’s encounter was heartbreaking.

With my $7 lunch in hand, I strolled toward Columbus Circle, the city’s busiest pedestrian cut-through.

I walked by the statue of Christopher Columbus, where a young man was hunched over on a bench, reading something on his phone. And just bawling. He had a backpack and wore baggy clothes.

I kept walking.

But it didn’t feel right. When I got across the street, I stopped and kept an eye on him, wondering what he would do next. And what I should do.

He got up and started walking in the other direction, so I followed. He entered the nearby food pantry/outreach center. I sat on a bench, started in on my lunch and waited for him to come out.

Within two minutes he emerged and started walking, slowly, in my direction. I called to him and he came over.

“You OK?” I asked. “You seemed upset back there.”

His face and shoulders relaxed. “Thanks for noticing,” he said.

I asked what was going on and motioned for him to sit down next to me. He shook his head no, and said, “I don’t know if I want to tell you.”

He said he’s staying at a shelter, but the outreach center was trying to help him find an apartment.

He told me his name, that he was born in Syracuse and raised in Florida. It’s good you’re not there now, I told him, with Hurricane Matthew bearing down and forcing evacuations. He’d heard about the hurricane, and agreed.

I want to know the rest of his story, what he was reading on his phone that was tearing him up. But that’s for another time.

“I hope your day gets better,” I said.

A hint of a smile showed in his eyes.

He didn’t ask for anything, and he gave me so much.

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You’re never too old to ask for an autograph

When I read that former Boston Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin was due to appear at a minor-league baseball game in Syracuse, I knew I had to be there.

Timlin, who played for the Syracuse Chiefs in the early 1990s en route to an 18-year major league career, was a key member of the Red Sox’ 2004 and 2007 World Series championship seasons.

He also pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays when they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, his first two seasons in the majors. Not a bad way to launch a career.

Wearing my 2004 Red Sox shirt, a gift from my Sox-fan brother, I arrived at NBT Bank Stadium early to be among the first in line to get Timlin’s autograph. I didn’t feel the least bit foolish. The Sox, with their decades of heartbreak soothed by their recent success, are part of my DNA.

I thought about having Timlin sign the back of my shirt next to his printed name (the shirt lists the entire roster except for one player, but that’s another story). I thought it would be rude to turn my back to him, so I opted to hand him my crusty old Sox hat.

While he was signing it, I pointed out the shirt I was wearing and asked him how he was doing. Timlin’s one-word answer: “Awesome.”




While Mike Timlin signed autographs, the Syracuse Chiefs were on their way to defeating the Buffalo Bisons. Caleb Ramsey of the Chiefs takes a healthy cut in front of Bisons catcher A.J. Jimenez.

While Mike Timlin signed autographs, the Syracuse Chiefs were on their way to defeating the Buffalo Bisons. Caleb Ramsey of the Chiefs takes a healthy cut in front of Bisons catcher A.J. Jimenez.

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On the road to Ithaca, a bittersweet sight for book lovers

The exterior of Phoenix Books, which closed last year after 30 years selling used books in Freeville, NY, outside Ithaca. There are free books still on the porch.

The exterior of Phoenix Books, which closed last year after 30 years selling used books in Freeville, NY, near Ithaca.

Phoenix Books outside Ithaca, NY, closed its doors more than a year ago, but the old barn still gets visitors, including some unaware it’s out of business.

The store sold used books for 30 years, but apparently couldn’t keep up with reading habits and the pace of the digital world. (Many web sites still list the Phoenix as open, with a phone number and operating hours. Cruel.).

As a parting gift, the owner left hundreds of free books on the front porch. A year later, there are still plenty of freebies; customers have shown their appreciation with hand-written notes.

No longer can you go inside the Phoenix to experience the creaky ambience of the barn and fully appreciate the feel and smell of used books. But you can stop by, leave a note and do what the sign says.


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