(Above: the good old days for the Trump-Flynn axis.)
He continued to make a fool of himself in public this week with crude comments in front of hallowed veterans and ignorant tweets using fraudulent posts, disturbing our closest allies.
More and more people are speculating that President Trump is showing signs of dementia or some kind of breakdown.
Now his legal problems are at his front door, with the news that Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is likely to sing about the few people who were above him in that sordid chain of command.
Meantime, the Republicans are following their eight-year vilification of Barack Obama by ignoring disturbing behavior by their guy. Trump is their meal ticket to taking money away from most of America (including the deluded folks who voted for him) and, patriots that they are, they are going to ride him as long as he is in office.
Remember: I speculated he would be gone within 18 months.
I could write a post about North Korea -- or the football Giants humiliating Eli Manning and not living up to Mara family loyalties – or how bright the moon is in very late autumn. But what else is there but the menace in this "administration?"
(This is what I wrote earlier in the week:)
He debases the nation every time he opens his mouth.
On Monday there was a ceremony honoring three surviving members of the Navajo Code Talkers from World War Two.
The President of the United States used the occasion to take another jab at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, once again referring to her as "Pocahantas." (He is currently trying to destroy the consumer protection agency she helped create.)
His disturbed behavior drags us all down. Even while the leader of the Navajo group was giving a stirring history of the unit -- which saved lives during the Pacific campaign -- he fidgeted on the sideline, his facial tics reminding us that he is always nervous when the talk is not about him.
What a contrast between loyal Americans who sacrificed for all of us -- The Greatest Generation -- and a schemer who wants to make this a better world for the Mnuchins and Wilburs and Ivankas -- The Gunnysack Generation.
(While Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, let's take a tour of Napoli with master photographer John McDermott.)
He is from Argentina but claimed Napoli as his spiritual home.
Diego Armando Maradona played 259 matches for SSC Napoli and scored 115 goals, the most in franchise history.
He lived on a hill in Posillipo, like an ancient prince, and he had the gall to insist Neapolitan fans should root for Argentina against Italy in the 1990 World Cup semifinal because, really, Italians do not consider Napoli to be part of Italy.
His successful penalty kick put Argentina ahead to stay in the shootout. Then Argentina sputtered in the final against West Germany, further north in Rome.
Eventually, his paranoia and dissolution forced him to leave Napoli, but in a way he has never left. His stubby young figure on paintings and posters resists the heat and humidity and grime in the ancient city.
A man of a certain age takes out an ancient clipping that recalls how Maradona declined a transfer to one of the rich clubs up north in Italy. For a mountain of money, he said, “I am Neapolitan and I do not betray my people.”
The memories of Maradona leapt out at a recent visitor, John McDermott, who covered eight World Cups, I believe. John played calcio for an Italian social club in North Beach, San Francisco, and now he and his wife Claudia live in a northeast corner of Italy. He and Claudia were on holiday recently; Diego Armando was everywhere.
But it wasn't all calcio. While John and Claudia were strolling, they saw this:
John McDermott's web site is:
(This posting has been revised since the presidential swerve late Friday evening, via Twitter.)
Ted Turner used to make this impassioned plea for an endangered species -- indeed, for an endangered planet -- during his noble effort, The Goodwill Games in Moscow, 1986.
Remember 1986? Remember Goodwill? Remember Gorbachev? For that matter, remember Ted Turner? I dubbed him a “holy fool” because of his Dostoyevskian zeal.
John Feinstein, covering those games in Moscow, heard Turner’s stump speech so often that he could sense the punch line coming.
“But what about the elephants?” John would squawk.
Those were the good old days, when we produced holy fools, not flat-out fools.
Now Turner's cause is sabotaged daily by Donald Trump, whose only concern is setting up his own spawn and the Mnuchins and Wilburs of the world for more riches.
Trump is all for porous pipelines and spewing coal stacks (and tax revisions) as long as they make somebody richer.
For a moment this week he also tried to set up his own killer sons and their type to get richer from slaughtering “trophy” animals in Zimbabwe and importing their parts.
In mid-week Trump announced his intention to make it legally possible to import -- to display -- to brag about -- these tails and tusks and Lord knows what else, cut from the dead bodies of these most civilized mammals.
The total of worldwide elephants has dropped 30 percent from 2007 to 20014. I read that in the Times. People with the savage name of Trump have contributed to that. Are proud of that. What an ugly family.
For some reason, Trump changed his mind in one of his late-night Twitter eruptions Friday, saying he was delaying any action on the (Obama-era) policy to ban importing elephant "trophies."
The article in Saturday's paper:
I have felt more personal about elephants since visiting South Africa for the World Cup in 2010. Our guide Witold took four journalists on a day trip out of Johannesburg for the only exposure to nature we would have during a hectic month.
Witold was trying to find lions and other Bold Letter animals during our quickie run into the wild.
He parked on a dirt road and looked around. Then he saw a family of elephants to our left, moving toward us. We were on their crossroad. He backed up 10 feet, and the family of elders and infants walked slowly in front of us, their heads turned to the right to keep an eye on us, as well they might. (“We’re not Trumps!” I could have said, “We’re not that sort!”)
Their right eyes were patient and wise as they walked with dignity. I fell in love with elephants at that moment, the kind of easy emotion for a day-tripper on a day off from football. I wish I had taken photos, but I was mesmerized.
That was my lifetime African experience. Big deal. But it stayed with me, to the point that I feel familial rage toward a plunderer who enables murderers from his own sordid brood. Have a tusk, Donald. Have a tail, Eric. Go shoot something, brave guys.
“But what about the elephants?”
Where is Ted Turner when we really need him?
(Great piece by Jason Horowitz on tristezza in Italy.)
* * *
Hoping to feel some enthusiasm for the tottering Italian soccer team, I emailed a couple of Italian friends early Monday with the message: Forza Italia!!!
“Thanks George, but I have already switched sides to Morocco.
“We do not deserve to qualify at ALL!
“Next June Italy-USA: Disappointed Cup!”
The other wrote:
“Thank you Giorgio. But we are pretty bad.”
(My two friends are journalists. Journalists know stuff.)
They were preparing me for the sodden performance in San Siro Stadium in Milan on Monday – a 0-0 return draw in the playoff, after the 1-0 defeat in Stockholm last week, which means Sweden is going to the 2018 World Cup in Russia next year. And Italy is not.
To me, a World Cup does not seem like a World Cup unless Italy is in it. They hadn’t missed since 1958. They won the first one I covered in Spain in 1982 and another one in Germany in 2006 and when I think of the World Cup I think of those beautiful azure jerseys and the merry tarantella of a national anthem.
I was in dank Milan in 1993 when Italy had to get a result to get past Portugal in a similar ansia – and they manufactured a goal out of habit to qualify for the Stati Uniti the next year.
I love Italian ansia – but not so much when they stop producing genius.
Italy had almost nothing on Monday, even though the Italian papers tried to conjure up memories of Pirlo and Baresi and Baggio and Cannavaro and Totti and Del Piero and Rossi and all the other stalwarts of World Cups past.
Ghosts don’t play. That was the real Gigi Buffon, grimacing in pursuit of his sixth World Cup, which would have been a record, but Sweden knew how to hold a one-goal differential for 90-plus minutes. Bravo.
However, there is hope for Italy, just as there is hope for other squads gearing up for their own Disappointed Cup next June when the lads will not have anything more pressing to do.
The terror of these November final play-in series will be diluted in 2026 when the actual World Cup final tournament is expanded from 32 to 48 squads.
This is the gimmick (even worse than baseball's bogus designated-hitter rule) from the masters of FIFA, the world soccer body, known for its scandals, its sweetheart TV contracts. Just as in the game on the field, the names change but the uniform numbers remain the same.
The lords of FIFA have decreed: let there be 48 teams. Good for business. More chance for even ponderous giants like the USA or stale dynasties like Italy and the Netherlands to slip through.
The more the merrier. It’s good for business. Never mind the rank fear that goes through countries like the USA, which was just getting used to qualifying, and Italy, which was tied with Germany for most appearances with 18, but now Germany, the defending champion, goes through with 19, on merit.
So the USA now tries to find a way to include its huge Latino population without families having to pay a fortune just to play the world game, and without parents having to drive children to practices at all hours, many miles away.
Meanwhile: Italy tries to rediscover the moves and passes and laser shots so blatantly missing on Monday, raising the question: Is Italy the new England? (Meaning, well past it.)
Face it: competitive decline means little in soccer, since the barons of FIFA poured rank rain water into the olive oil of the World Cup.
Meantime, pick your team: Morocco, Tunisia, Iceland. Out of 32 teams going to Russia next year, that’s pretty cool. Although the burghers of FIFA may still find a way to screw that up, in the name of democracy. Or viewers.
Why is Michael Flynn running? Just click on the link below for a glimpse into the very near future, courtesy of an imaginative videographer.
Remember “Peter Pan?” – how Captain Hook was pursued by a crocodile, with a taste for pirate meat?
The crocodile had swallowed an alarm clock that emitted a familiar “tick-tock” – which gave Captain Hook a severe case of agità.
The man with orange hair can surely hear “tick-tock” every time another piece of evidence surfaces.
After that sickening evening in early November of 2016, I have been saying it would take 18 months before this man would self-destruct. He can’t last.
It takes time for the vestiges of justice of act, but the pieces are coming together.
Now the NYT is reporting that sly old Wilbur Ross has a few dollars invested in Russian interests. Or, as Trump would ask, what Russians?
Also, it is reported that special counsel Robert Mueller has enough evidence to indict former Trump hatchet man Michael Flynn.
In the background, you can hear the warbling of birds singing for their freedom.
If the office temp in the White House acts against Mueller, even the Republicans will be forced to respond.
It takes time.
In the meantime, please enjoy the video above, sent by a friend.
Instead of the crocodile, it stars the FBI.
(Just click the link. Well worth it.)
The faces will be familiar.
As he passed 80, Ray Robinson had an idea for a new book – the last recorded words of prominent people.
He knew how to write books, of course – the Lou Gehrig bio, the Christy Mathewson bio. He was a magazine editor and a freelance writer.
The book came out in 2003, when Ray was 83 – “Famous Last Words: Fond Farewells, Deathbed Diatribes and Exclamations Upon Expiration,” published by Workman Publishing.
It fits in the hand or the pocket. Perfect quick-take reading. Perfect little gift.
This is a blatant plug. Ray would approve.
Alas, Ray Robinson passed on Nov. 1. He would have been 97 on Dec. 4 and was to be honored by a coterie of baseball buffs who meet monthly in the city.
Ray’s last words? I don’t know, but I talked to him the night before. What was on his mind was a perfect guide to this grand old man of New York and Columbia University and publishing.
In our last chat he did not bring up seeing Fidel Castro in Havana or how he met Lou Gehrig as a young New York fan or how he spilt ink on Lefty Grove while asking for an autograph at Yankee Stadium, or his activism with the ALS Association of New York, in homage to Gehrig.
Neither did he tell the great story of how a precocious New York girl named Betty Perske called him a “cheap SOB” or maybe it was “cheap bastard.”
This underscored link will explain the brief meeting of Ray and the future Lauren Bacall.)
Among Ray’s last words to me:
Ray’s passing will leave a huge gap in our lives -- for Jerry, our token ball player, who escorted Ray to the doctor, and Ernestine, who fussed over Ray, and Darrell, one of the originals from 1991 (!), and Lee and Marty and Willie from our group, and Bob and Jeremy, the busy superstars, plus Al and Rosa, who knew Ray and Phyllis forever, and all the other buffs who sat around the table once a month and talked baseball and politics and everything else.
We’ll meet on his birthday, I’m sure, and try to remember some of Ray’s good stories.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.