Monday, January 30, 2017

Where Cometh Drump?

Did Drump’s family come from anywhere?  Did his hair come from anywhere.  For a while his family claimed they were Swedish.  They were not, but lying seems to come naturally to the Trump’s.   From all reports he is of German and Scottish ancestry and it is said that he “epitomizes the American immigrant experience”.  Pleeeze!  The Dubravinowitz’s , the Oppedisano’s, The O’hara’s, the Kimchi’s, the Federer’s, the Salazar’s the Nzewogi’s , and the Jackson’s (slaves took their owner’s name), epitomize the American immigrant.   Here’s an interesting fact: Trump’s grandfather came to the US in 1885, he returned to Kallstadt— his birthplace, in 1904, with his wife, claiming to be a loyal German who stood behind the Kaiser and the German Reich,”’  but German officials turned him away, because he was a draft dodger. (Drump comes by avoiding military service honestly,)  And when old Frederik was turned away, he said, “It was my intention to remain in America forever,” If only they had gone home we wouldn’t be in the predicament we appear to be in now.

Anyway, the bad news is, that against all hope for moderation, Drump is a lunatic. who clearly watched that Andy Griffith movie, where Andy is a musician who becomes so powerful he thinks he can be President, too many times. (it’s a favorite theme for Hollywood).  In the movies the nut cases does not succeed, but…..

Yesterday Drump enforced one of the thousands of most telling Executive orders he loves to sign. People coming from one of the predominantly Muslim countries  were not permitted entrance to our otherwise immigrant friendly country.  (How did they implement the order that fast.) Immigrants were in a pen at JFK.  If Drump had watched the Women’s March last week, he would have known there would be a public outcry. In fact, this protest may the first step in turning a March into a movement. The ACLU finally came to the rescue, but this horror show is unfortunately, just beginning.

Power is a complicated element. People who are insecure show their power by saying “no”.  Hey Muslim immigrant, can’t come into my country. We need to build a wall to keep “those” people  out. The Drump people are denying any prejudice but Muslim and Mexican human beings appear to be today’s targets, examples of the power “no” of the day. Oh and if you assist one of “these” people you can go to jail.

Whenever I witness an attack on human rights or dignity I think about this extraordinary poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller.  There are many versions.  Here is one :
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left to speak out for me.

We must all be diligent in our speaking out.  There are a variety of versions and you can see more at:

We're just sayin.... Iris

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Now, About Those Weddings...

Paul Tully, my friend and political mentor, always thought about “the greater scheme of things.”  While he was a brilliant political strategist, he had some difficulty with interpersonal relationships.  It didn’t make him less lovable.  He died during the Clinton Campaign in 1992-- alone in a hotel room with an ashtray full of the cigarettes he smoked nonstop.

Whenever Drump opens his mouth or signs a document, I think about how Tully would react. For example, when Rockefeller died in the arms of someone who wasn’t his wife and the Presidential candidate, for whom we worked asked Tully how he should comment, Tully suggested he just say “good riddance. It doesn’t matter Mo, his people are never going to vote for us ”.  Drump is the anithesis of Tully.  Drump cares more time concentrating on more and bigger -- crowds, voters, walls —  than he does on the big picture.  Talk about anal, this is far worse than Jimmy Carter keeping track of who was using the White House tennis courts. At least that didn’t have any impact on international relationships, healthcare, or human rights.

Admittedly, I did say that I wasn’t worried about the results of the election, and that was true until someone handed the “President” a pen. Have Pen, Will Sign. It doesn’t matter what.  So, there will be a pipeline and a ban on immigrants and a wall that Mexico won’t pay for.  The President of Mexico cancelled his trip to the US because Drump is a jerk. Then, and despite what had been said in an hour long cross cultural conversation between Presidents, ours repeated that he would build a wall for which the Mexicans would pay,  and theirs said, “no chance, pal.”  So, in another shining example of Drump’s delivering alternative facts, he just doesn’t have the ability to hear or listen to what anyone else has to say. Especially, if it is not in concert with what he has to say.  Woe is us. It all gives me the “willies.”

On a happier note, David and Iris are celebrating their 33 alternative wedding anniversary. You see, March 26 is the day we met. We consider that our real anniversary. January 29 is merely the day we signed the katuba.  David asked for my hand and the rest of me on New Years.  We were in our 30’s.  When you decide to marry at that age, you need to do it with haste or you will manage to talk yourselves out of it. Jan 29, was the first timely and free weekend — Super Bowl, etc. We decided not to have a big religious wedding because Milty (my dad) was ill and couldn’t get out of bed.  David’s parents had to come from the west by wagon train. 

Now, here’s the reason I am the person I am.  My mother and her sisters totally ignored what we said.  Her reasoning: you HAVE to have your whole family at a wedding. You HAVE to get married by a Rabbi, after all you did have a Get (a Jewish divorce from Husb. #1).  Like it or not, Daddy will get out of bed. Of course we can have it at our house, We’ll just put all the furniture on a truck in the driveway… No, it’s not going to snow. It will be very simple, your Aunts will make tuna salad and we will use plastic table cloths.  Aunt Sophie bought the tablecloths (plastic),  cut them to size (oh yes, they rented tables and chairs), hated the way they looked and returned them to K-Mart.  Are you starting to get the picture?  And as a final you HAVE to, they found the Rabbi with whom I grew up and flew him from Florida to New Jersey to conduct the ceremony. 

Anyway, it was terrific. All our friends came from DC. The aunts and cousins came  from wherever.  David’s brother had a party, in NYC for our hundreds of friends who couldn’t fit in my parent’s house.  Our car got towed because Matthew left it in a No Parking zone. And we spent the night in an enormous suite unencumbered by the friends with whom we wanted to continue to celebrate.  This was not as bad as my first wedding where my cousin Stevie got drunk and tossed in a swimming pool, lost the keys to his new Corvette, where I had stupidly left my clothes for the honeymoon, and my Uncle Lou decided we would have more fun if he came on our honeymoon— which we were spending in his Miami apt. He was right.

Ok, I just leaped from a scary Drump in charge of the country we love to my hilarious weddings long ago. What am I trying to say?  Trump will never win the popular vote. He managed to totally ignore the millions of women and men who wanted him know that they have a voice.  His lies will continue as “alternative facts.”  Yet, there is still humor, love and kindness in the greater scheme of things. Iris and David are living happily ever after with lovely memories of a their wedding in Boonton NJ.  We will all survive the stupidity of our elected officials. We have in the past and we will again.  And always take Uncle Lou on your honeymoons.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, January 23, 2017

Yes, That March: #alternative facts

Kelly Ann outdid herself today defending Sean Spicer.  Who is she, and where did she come from? Back to KAC --- Liar in Chief. (Is she LOTUS …that’s bit too sweet).  She went on Chuck Todd and actually said that Spicer was simply using Alternative Facts.  Chuck too rightly said alternative facts are lies, falsehoods.  But KA is not one to back down.  She called Chuck overly dramatic and talked right through him  What have we, as a voting public wrought? The question becomes, can they keep it up?  Will the media continue to fold, otherwise they won’t have access to the Administration. In case they haven’t noticed, they don’t have access now and it won’t get any better.

Why would Sean et al, think its smart for the first press conference to be a na na ne na na.  My schlong is bigger than your schlong. Otherwise known as  a boys  toys pissing match.  We are apparently in for a great deal of measuring schlongs while we are pissing.  It’s all about optics.  What Trump has learned in is that you do not have to play the Washington game of telling your own truth.  You simply make up alternative facts, and repeat them frequently and no one will doubt you. It’s like the old saying, “if the lie is big enough, no one will question whether or not  it is the truth."

Let’s talk a little about the Women’s march.  People were yelling  things like “where is Democracy”, and the crowd would respond, “this is Democracy”  or “Women rise” or  “Trump has got to go?"  Is there someplace for him to go? Who would want him?   But that’s another blob at another time.   The idea that the marches were going to be a way to connect with people of like mind.  Not all of them, but most were out there because they want Trump to know that women have a voice and we will not go back.  But the President  is not in charge of making all the rules about which we care.  We have to let elected members of the school board know not to vote for restricting the material that our children are reading. We need to insist that our children should believe scientific truths as opposed to religious truths.   Remember, (here I go again),  that silly idea of separation of church and State.

Women need to protect themselves from elected officials who think they know what’s best for women’s bodies, Their professions and the actual reality of their lives.  And the March reminded us of how dangerous it is to keep quiet and just sit down and shut up!  We are not going back —- we have worked too hard to get where we are.
How do you build and sustain a movement like we saw yesterday. The women who we called OWWO.Old White Women for Obama in 2008 are pretty good organizers.  We don’t want to be in charge anymore but I think we are all willing to help Millenials find their voice and defend their rights. It only takes one person and lot’s of new technologies, to follow up on what happened yesterday.

The March in New York had no celebrities and, for the most part, were just walking together for about 20 NYC blocks, Until we got to the Trump building (where we are not able to walk past the building) so we dispersed.  Feeling good about being together. Trump will dismiss this March as an exaggeration just as has  dismissed women’s concerns.  It doesn’t matter.  We have discovered that as a very large group, we will be heard and we can make a difference. We're just sayin' ....Iris

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The March of Women

It was my intention to write about the wonderful party we attended last evening. Who doesn’t love Diana and Mallory Walker.  In addition to being gracious and elegant they are the World’s Cutest Couple.It was a birthday party for Diana.  All her and our friends, family and colleagues gathered to wish her continued joy.  That’s what I intended do before “The Women’s March.”

Every group - in New York -  that invited me to March with them (8 or 9 of them), had a different location at which to meet. This was totally confusing and it was unlikely that I would meet anyone of them. So up at 6:00am in DC,  and off to New York for a day that I expected to be a bit tamer.  There was a great deal of traffic, thankfully not going my way.  By the second rest stop in Maryland, I decided to stop. The best way to describe what I found was the time we went  to  Woodstock (yes, THAT Woodstock,) and there was so much traffic we couldn’t get off the Mass Pike.  We just sat and sat and finally decided it was no big deal, so we drove to Wisconsin.

Anyway, there were so many people at the Rest Stop, I couldn’t get in.I don’t mean to the bathroom, I couldn’t get in the door of the building. Truly, I have never seen anything like it. There was nothing to do but try another rest stop. One which was not both north/south — just north.  There was surprisingly little traffic going through the tunnel.  Maybe the March was just hype I thought… until I got to 2nd Ave. and 53rd street, where there police and fire engines - with lights flashing and  sirens roaring - there were hundreds of people milling about and trying to get to the stage.  Some of us never even knew there was a stage, because there was no way to get that close to where the march was to begin.  Yesterday, there was an e-mail that suggested anyone who was planning to attend should try to leave the staging area in alphabetical order.  Oh yeah, that was going to happen.  Half a million people and they were going to depart from 47th street walk to 42nd street turn right and walk up 42nd and turn right on to 5th Avenue - and do it in alphbetical order. Right.  The police were amazing.  When they realized there were as many people walking east as there were walking west, they divided the street, so you had to walk east before you walked west.  What was incredible was that marchers and police remained good humored and happy to be in the middle of women and men who were all feeling terrific. I was with my family by choice, which made it easier to be connected. It was grand.

The most amazing thing for me was that I did not see one person I knew.  After working diligently on Women’s issues for years  — all different areas — health, economics, policies, politics, professional  issues and on and on,  there was not one person in this huge crowd I knew. And yet, everyone in the crowd was someone I knew — young, old, black, brown, beige, yellow, they were all me.  And this kind and size of crowd, happened all over the country, in fact, all over the world.  So how do we take what happened today and make it a permanent and ongoing movement.  First a name that reflects all the themes and concerns, leadership and organizational plans.

Who knows whether it was the speech, the attitude, the extra long  Inauguration program, the campaigns or the Hillary win/loss.  And so Millenials, take it and run with it.  The girls who have been doing it for 50 years will gladly turn it over to you.  But let the people who worked with Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug tag along.  It feels right and in fact, it feels just plain splendid.  We’re just sayin’… Iris

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Last Man: On the Moon

He was a tough guy to track down. I was assigned by ZEIT magazine to photograph the "Last Man on the Moon"… Eugene Cernan was the last man up the ladder to the Lunar Excursion Module in 1972 - Apollo XVII.  It’s hard to imagine now that what would have gone on next  - Apollo XVIII - was cashiered because of money issues.    No man has been anywhere close to the moon since Gene Cernan’s boots left their final mark in that Lunar Dust.  But it was Nixon Term Two: the Vietnam war was still the Vietnam War, and people seemingly had had their fill of Moon Travel.    Cernan had one of those busy lives which ex-astronauts tend to lead, and four years ago when I was given the assignment, to accompany a story by my long time friend and colleague Peter Sartorious (who spent many months at the Cape in the 60s-70s covering the space program), who had warned me that the woman in charge of Gene Cernan’s schedule was a “steel magnolia”(pronounced in about 6 syllables with a heavy German accent…I mean STEEEEEL Magnolia!) The phone call would usually go something like this: Me:  “So, I just need about ten minutes, is there any time in the next couple of weeks that it would work?”  Steel Magnolia: “Mr. Cernan’s schedule is extremely busy…..”     You get the idea.  Well…it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and in the second month of this back and forth (there was no RUSH for the picture..obviously)  I mentioned to a friend of mine, a philanthropic pal from college who is super interested and involved in aviation and space travel, if he by any chance might know Gene Cernan. It turned out not only was he a good friend, but a week hence, there was a big salute to the Space Program and all the Astronauts (including Soviet pioneer Alexei Leonov) at the Museum of Aviation in Seattle.  Among all the astronauts, John Glenn, who had a previous engagement, was the only big name who couldn’t make it.     So there I turned up a week later, and was introduced to Gene Cernan over a cold beer, and locked in a five minute session the following morning, using the front parking garage wall of the 4 Seasons Hotel as my studio (hey, you take what you can get.)
Once he arrived, en route to a waiting Taxi (I love it when the photo session is during a taxi waiting period…) he was very cool.  You could sense that this was not only a guy who’d been to the moon, but he also had a couple of hundred carrier landings under his belt.  I shot like crazy for my four minutes, trying to catch that edge.  You don’t go to the moon without a little edge in your life.  You just don’t.   I was very sorry to hear he passed away today, at the very young age of 82.  There are only  a half dozen Apollo astronauts left and every day, a little sliver of their knowledge of space travel gets a bit tinier. We’re none the richer for that.   But those guys who rode the rockets: Bravo!!  And the way things are going, it does look as if Gene Cernan will be the Last Man on the Moon for a very long time.    Photograph ©2016 David Burnett/Contact Press Images

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Those Natty Ole Reporters

Photographers make photographs for Memory.  We want to remember a place, a person, a moment, whether it’s warm, wonderful and uplifting, or something horrible on the other end of the human scale.  For while we may not always change many opinions, there is certainly nothing to be gained by the willful disrgarding of history, of the past, or even what happened yesterday.  This year has been full of what seemed like “one of…” moments. I was watching TV live the day that Donald Trump said of John McCain that he preferred heroes who hadn’t been captured.  At that moment I was convinced that his campaign was over, finished, unable to recover from yet another crazy comment.  But, of course, as we all learned, his campaign might have been the called the campaign of “one of’ moments: they just kept coming for the whole 18 months. And each time you would recoil, or laugh in disbelief. 

But what bothered me most was the way he took aim with a verbal  blunderbus, inherently inaccurate, at the Press.   I grew up in the 60s.  Most of what was consumed was in print in those days, with TV trying to get a grip on just how much time to devote to ‘news’ and how to present it.  I remember the oft repeated phrase that TV “came of age” on the weekend of November 22, 1963 with early reports of JFK’s assassination, and later that weekend, live and in living black & white from the Dallas perp walk, the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald.  For those of us who had the special privledge of seeing JFK being sworn in during Mr Laursen’s gym class just two and a half years prior on a 14” fuzzy B/W TV, it was part of our understanding of the power of TV and, if you insist, the “media.”   But for me, being a Press Photographer, whether for a weekly paper of 25,000 circulation, or TIME Magazine with 6 million copies (and 20 million readers, as they counted those people in dentists’ offices and barber shops over the next year) it was the Press.  

The group who followed the President was called the White House Press Corps.  When you needed to boogie in a rice paddy with the 1st Air Cav, you talked with a Press Liaison officer.   It was only in the 80s that Media became the phrase of choice.   I suppose CNN had something to do with that, since 24 hour news was at the time,  a strange new thing. And I had the silly notion that CNN would be that great outlet for long form TV work, those great documentaries which had been a rare bird at the broadcast networks (think NBC “White Paper….”)  But of course I was wrong, and CNN became 95% about what is happening  “NOW,” often with incomplete background explanation.  But it was clear, the news was becoming about “breaking News…”    I, for one, had never thought the News was broken.  Amongst the people I worked with (mostly at Time Inc. publications) there were some who had an eye on playing their expense accounts, others who couldn’t resist the “me-me-I-I” sense of self importance, but in large part, it was people’d by a terrific set of reporters and writers.  There was very little agenda. They wanted to report what they saw, not mold their reports to any particular brand of political thought.  When I first started working in France in the mid 1970s, I was astonished to find that each  newspaper was more or less aligned with a poitical party:  l’Humanité  was the Communist paper, Liberation was the more liberal Socialist paper, France-Soir the rightist Gaullist paper.  I actually remember asking one of my friends, incredulous as I was, “Why can’t they just report the news?”  and being tsk-tsk’d as a youthful naif, to which I suppose I would have pled guilty.  In the last 20 years in this country we seem in many ways to have adopted that model.  Find a TV network which serves up what you want to hear, and keep hearing it.  TV is far worse (and with their advertising so much more based on demographics, they try playing to an assured audience) than print, I think.  It is still possible to find something which passes for “reporters” writing about the “news.”  No one is perfect, but where you have a corps of journalists who embody those basic J-school techniques, at least the news has a chance of being reported. 

What scares me about President-Elect Trumps continuing vilification of the Press is that it can truly poison whatever little respect the public might have for the 4th Estate.  At Trump rallies all year, when he talks about the “lying, dishonest” Media in the back of the room, it has created one of the most frightening ongoing situations where rally attendees feel a need to add their two cents worth, and though as far as I know there have been no physical attacks yet, the atmosphere is far closer to the extreme political parties which I experienced in both Eastern and Western Europe in the 70s and 80s.  There is a sense that everyone with a Press badge is a target, someone who is obviously unfriendly to the candidate (to the -elect…) and yet there seems to be no comprehension that before there was a 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, there was a 1st Amendment. 

One can only hope that as he ascends to the Oval office, the President-Elect will raise his own bar of behaviour, though of course we all wonder, amid the flurry of Tweets, whether that will happen.  It is something we are going to live through, all of us, even members of the White House Press Corps.    

This picture was shot in 1976 at a Gerald Ford (you remember him, one of the last Presidents - along with Bush 41- who actually liked photographers…) rally.  Typically in the pre-computer, pre-cellphone, pre-Wifi world, when the President (or candidate) would arrive at a speaking venue, the Advance staff would have put together a “Press Filing Area” which had a number of AT&T land lines installed, each paid for dearly (a couple of hundred 1976 dollars per line, for one or perhaps two quick ‘update’ calls) by the press organizations. The Wires (AP, UPI)  The Times, the Post, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, etc., all had their lines installed, usually on  picnic tables (as if imply that “boy, this event is some picnic!”) and whatever news went down that day would be reported back to the ‘desk’ by those stalwart, ill-barbered, badly dressed, set of Burberry-wearing reporters. Flanked by their ever present Olivetti typewriters, it was as if you felt demonstrably less elegantly dressed simply by passing among them (rather like hanging out with Pig-Pen in Peanuts.)  But there was something sincere, honest, and and forthright about that crew of motley scribes.  They understood that while they may have all been trying to scoop their colleagues, the greater interest was keeping the public well informed, and that it was as much a duty as it was a job.   They weren’t simply “the dishonest media, the roomful of liars”  as they have been labelled.  Sadly, those who find his screeds uplifting have no idea what they about to lose if the Press continues to be beaten down in the public eye.  Ronald Reagan is oft quoted as saying  the 9 most terrifying words you’ll ever hear are “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.”    Just try dealing with those 9 words when there is no one around to report about it. We're just sayin'... David

Sunday, January 01, 2017

A Friend.....

Yesterday I got a call from a dear long time friend.  He has, for the last 40 years been a buddy, a mentor.  Once as a political co-conspirator, we ran Lee Iacocca for President because he refused, and simply did not want to be the President.  We didn’t care: we  thought he was the best candidate.  The law is such that you can develop a Presidential campaign but only if the candidate doesn’t want to announce or run.  Yes it’s another one of those stupid laws. We raised $50 grand.  With that money we  printed hillarious literature and held any number of amazing campaign events.   We were visited by a few Iaccoca’s lacky’s, who came really close to threatening our lives, but after they met us they stopped worrying.  Another time we were working on an actual Presidential campaign with a real life candidate in Texas. At the end of the event, once the candidate was wheels up (that means he flew away), we drove to Mexico to party.  Our transportation was six campaign rental vehicles.  We drank too much an decided to take a limo back toTexas rather than risk  driving drunk.  No one ever saw those cars again.

He - my friend -  is a like a brother, a life line, and a well respected Democratic operative. And that’s only the beginning.  Everyone one should have a person like this in their life.  Unfortunately, not many of these people exist.  He is literally one of a kind.

Anyway, he called me to say Goodbye.  Over the years he has travelled down a long path of disability and illness. He lost a limb and an eye when he was wounded in Vietnam. Then years of rehab, hard work, and incredible genius and he became a successful Washington lobbyist with an amazing supportive gorgeous family.  And additionally, he is in the Enlisted Man’s Hall of Fame.  But his health problems never disappeared.  He had a liver transplant, cancer, and diabetes.   Still, he has worked tirelessly for Veterans rights and care — both in and out of government.  Somehow when he wasn’t working as a lobbyist, there was some stupid rule about his veterans benefits, they disappeared and his financial problems got worse.  But no matter what problems he faced he was an activist and worked tirelessly for Veterans.  All these elected officials who have given lip service to their concern for Veterans, never helped him.

A few months ago I got a call from another good friend who was about to kill himself.  His body had failed him and he just couldn’t deal with being disabled.  He did kill himself.  This was not that kind of call. He called to say he was tired and his body was no longer working — he had to have a leg amputated, so it was just a matter of time till he was over.  I told him I was not going to have a goodbye conversation on the phone, and I would see him in the next few weeks. 

Everyone is going to die at some point. That is a reality of life.  But it takes a great deal of courage to face the end and pass the time knowing your life is at an end sooner than you imagined.  I felt honored to be one of the people he felt was important enough in his life to take a little time, express his thanks and love for our incredible friendship.  I will go and see him and thank him in return for all those fabulous adventures.  But he will remain a part of my life until I make the same phone call to the people I love. My hope is that the rest of the time he has is spent at peace with an abundance of joy.   We’re just sayin’…Iris