Washington, DC -- President Donald Trump said that he looks forward to meeting the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots when the team visits the White House in April.
"I'm especially excited about the opportunity to meet with the amazing Frederick Douglass," Trump said.
"Freddie has been doing a fantastic job with the Patriots, and he's getting recognized more and more. It's such a joy to watch him with the football, such a joy. And boy can he run. Just incredible."
In an apparent effort to boost attendance, Trump said that the first 25 Patriots to come to the event will receive a football jersey bearing the name "TRUMP" and the number 45. Trump will personally autograph each of the jerseys, he said.
At press time, at least six Patriots had said they intend to boycott the White House visit.
In years past, the Super Bowl-winning team has presented the current chief executive with a jersey bearing his name and number in the succession of U.S. presidents.
"This is a top quality, limited-edition jersey, and it's available on a first-come, first-serve basis only," Trump said.
Trump's daughter Ivanka plans to also market official replicas of the jersey as part of her clothing line, he said.
"And if you go to WhiteHouse.gov, right now, we are also offering official NFL footballs, autographed by me, at a fantastic price. Also travel mugs."
Trump urged all football fans to visit the web site. "These items will be going like hotcakes, believe me."
When asked if proceeds of the sales would benefit a specific charity organization, Trump said, "We're definitely looking into that, absolutely. So far we haven't found one that's truly legitimate, however."
by Ken Conklin Bash
A version of this article was published in The Ventura County Star on Sept. 22, 2013.
When I was a child, I played with guns.
My father let me take a .22-caliber rifle into the woods, by myself, when I was only six years old. Perhaps he was crazy, but around our Texas farm there were few humans to endanger, and I was relatively responsible for so young. Daddy employed corporal punishment—too harshly, in my view, even by 1950s standards–so I grew up fearful and cautious.
With no playmates for miles, I was often bored, so I ventured out with my dog Jack, looking for something to kill.
I liked the big bang, and the smell of gunpowder in the open air.
Mostly I shot birds. Sparrows, though small, were easy targets. Blue jays were more difficult, and crows impossible; they’re just too smart. A crow could spot my rifle from fifty yards, though I tried my best to conceal it.
The first time I shot a blue jay it didn’t die quickly. It lay trembling beneath the tree, struggling to breathe, blood oozing from its chest. I shooed Jack away, and soon the bird lay still. I knelt to examine it, struck by the perfect arrangement of feathers, their intense color and intricate patterns. I did not feel guilty then for destroying this creature. I had captured its wildness. I could examine the once elusive bird as closely as I wanted, but its beauty faded before me. As I walked away, Jack snatched the carcass, to eviscerate in private.
The only other building at Brazos Point was Wheatley’s General Store, where I bought my cartridges for 35 cents. Each box bore the message: Range One Mile–Be Careful.
One day, when I was eight, I overheard my father and another farmer chatting in our yard. “Your barn is pretty far,” the man remarked. We had acreage across the road, with a windmill, stock tank and a tin-roofed barn, visible from our house.
“I guess it’s about a mile away,” my father replied.
This presented to me a provocative coincidence.
Next day, as I roamed the yard, looking for something to shoot, my eye was caught by a glint off the roof in the distance. One mile away.
I raised my rifle and sighted at the gleaming square. With careful guesswork, I elevated the barrel a few degrees and fired. I waited. Several long seconds later came the satisfying report of my bullet smacking the corrugated metal like a giant drum.
This was fun, and I felt smart. Not only was I an expert marksman, I was learning science of some sort. This became a regular diversion.
One day, after lobbing several rounds into the barn, walking away I saw my father’s pickup parked beside it. My heart came up in my throat. My father had been inside the barn.
I dropped my rifle and ran crying into the house. To this day I am not sure if I was more terrified that I had killed my father, or that I had not killed him.
I rushed into my mother’s arms and breathlessly choked out the story. We hurried to the yard. Daddy’s truck was gone. He was alive.
The rest of that day, and for days after, I lived in fear of my punishment, but it never came. A few weeks later, when my father and I were at the barn, scattering alfalfa for the cows, he spoke to me measuredly but gently. “Kenny, if this roof has holes in it, rain will get in and ruin all the hay.”
That was it. I was stunned. The one instance my father did not use his razor strop, and reasoned with me instead, taught me more and was more memorable than any whipping.
Of course, I had no business with a firearm so young. It’s a miracle there were no accidents. Now we read of tragedies involving children and guns almost weekly. Recently a six-year-old in Wisconsin (with “firearm training”) shot his four-year-old sister in the face with a shotgun. A Kentucky five-year-old shot his two-year-old sister dead with his birthday present: a .22 purchased from a company that markets pink rifles for kids. A Florida teen fatally shot his six-year-old sister playing hide-and-seek.
Now I am a father. I got rid of firearms long ago. I did buy an air rifle for our two sons, and we take it out to shoot at cans. I do this to help defuse the allure of guns, and to teach the boys how to be safe with them. We don’t shoot at animals.
The only appropriate places for firearms in modern society are law enforcement and the military. Otherwise, a gun is nothing but a deadly toy.
There is not a single premise of the pro-gun argument–whether constitutionality or the need for self-protection–that has validity.
The Constitution does not allow us to keep unregulated weaponry any more than freedom of speech allows us to slander. The Second Amendment was likely written to appease southern states, granting them militias–well regulated–to quash slave rebellions
A gun in the household is far more likely to be used against its owner or a family member than an intruder, according to numerous studies compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Anecdotal incidents where guns successfully protect life or property are extremely rare compared to how often a firearm kills or harms a household member, by accident, homicide or suicide. We are far less safe with guns in our homes.
The scenario of good guys with guns dispatching bad guys is a fantasy created by screenwriters. Reality rarely plays out that way.
If one’s rationale for gun ownership is a perceived need for protection from our government, it is naive, to say the least, to imagine that any rifle could fend off the arsenal of the most powerful nation on earth.
But gun lovers cling to their notions, egged on by the industry’s shill, the National Rifle Association, that spends its members’ dues on purchasing lawmakers and whipping the populace into paranoid hysteria. The NRA’s bald-faced response to gun violence is invariably that we should buy more guns.
Even though 90 percent of all Americans and 74 percent of NRA members favor background checks, according to polls by CBS News and Frank Luntz, the NRA still opposes checks, because the NRA does not represent its members; it represents the manufacturers and peddlers who regard criminals, terrorists and the unstable merely as paying customers.
Modern-day hunting–shooting animals for sport–is a sick pursuit. I did it, as a child. Our ancestors hunted to survive. As a hobby it is sadistic, and attempting to justify it by consuming the prey is an absurd pretense. If you can’t afford meat, apply for food stamps. And if you contend that tough, gamy venison rivals tri-tip, there’s something wrong with your taste buds.
Hunters call themselves “outdoorsmen,” who don’t kill animals, they “take” them. On TV hunting shows, men in camo hunker around the magnificent creature they destroyed. “Isn’t he a beauty?” they marvel.
Yes. He was.
I challenge gun lovers: find alternate recreation. Go hit a ball with a stick. Justify the time and expense by claiming that your golf club is for self-protection. Your loved ones will be safer if you keep a nine iron or a baseball bat for home security. Get a big dog. You’ll live longer, and lower your blood pressure.
The carnage from guns in America continues because of a convergence of two base compulsions: the greed of the firearms industry and the childishness of gun lovers. Are we unwilling to prevent the relentless slaughter of innocent lives for the sake of profit and our love of a toy? Do we love our guns more than our children? Just because we can’t stop every gun tragedy should we do nothing, and mourn helplessly?
America’s love affair with guns has nothing to do with freedom. It is a cruel, neurotic fixation, rooted in fear and spurred on by unconscionable corporate hucksterism.
It is time to put away childish things, before they destroy us. Our nation cannot withstand the pain any longer.
by Ken Conklin Bash
(Winning Entry, 1992 International Imitation Hemingway Competition)
Illustration by C.F. Payne
We were drinking at the bar in Harry’s when it exploded.
It was early morning and the sun was bright and painful and rising on the tall glass towers when the rocket exploded to announce the release of the bulls and so we all rushed out to see the big and brave and mature and viciously horny bulls toss the television executives as they came up the escalators.
Harry brought out light appetizers and the good champagne. I had the prosciutto, which lay very fine and lean on the plate and the melon was sweet and ripe and the flesh reminded you of a woman you had known. Perhaps you had not really known her and if she went tart on you then all you noticed was the ripeness and so you thump-thumped her and then perhaps you forgot about that business with the prosciutto.
“What the hell,” I muttered, as a Director of Development, Drama, sailed overhead.
They all came just like that.
A rogue six-year-old charged our table, endangering the Veuve Clicquot. I grabbed the bucket with my good hand and sighting along the other arm I thrust my thumb and forefinger into the animal’s wet, flaring nostrils, thereby controlling and fixing him in place.
“That is very rare, hombre.”
It was the hostess. The one they called Kay Buena.
“Clearly, daughter. But one finds the Steak Tartare less mature.”
Our waiter, who called himself Hugh Giatippe, lured the bull away with a tablecloth. Retreating fluidly through a series of chingaderas linked with a sweeping triple cambio de valvolina he led the beast into the elevator and sent him to Parking “B.”
Watching Hugh with the bull I could feel the old aflicción returning.
* * *
“You are afliccionado as I am,” Don Prostatero had told me, touching my Pendleton. Always with the touching.
“Yes, truly. And tomorrow the men in the Armani will run from the bulls, only to be tossed as so much Insalata Cesare.”
“Yea, verily.” Here was much touching.
“And those who sit themselves on the boards and vend the insurance will be tossed.”
“It is almost too swell to talk about.”
“And the attorneys—“
At this he clutched my pocket flap and he was staring at something far away and he seemed very old and defeated but the eyes were those of the phrenologist he once was.
“No!” he whispered. “They are too clever.”
* * *
“Sic transit justitia mundi,” old boy, I thought now, and looking across the table I saw her. I looked across the table and there she was. The one they call Buffy. She looked very ripe and she was very tight and very supine.
“Do say, old frog, have you seen my virginity?”
“One finds everything at Harry’s. And I’m a damned steer.”
“Well I’ve decided not to be a heifer anymore and I must say I feel rather corking good about it, so buy a girl a drink. Bung-o!” she said, her nostrils flaring and wet, nostrils that could break your, or anyone else’s heart.
What the hell, I thought. This time I used the good hand. She didn’t stop me.
“Dyat dyub dap dib,” she said.
“Truly,” I said, and I kissed her hard and long and true on her mouth and her neck and all the swell places and we felt the terrazzo tremble beneath our table.
“Darling!” she said. “A six-point-three! Oh, do let’s eat now, darling. Do let’s eat the radicchio.”
“Of course, devil,” I said. “It’s sort of what one has.”
* * *
If you are lucky enough to have eaten at Harry’s you know that Harry’s is always worth it, no matter with what difficulty, or ease, it can be reached, and the memory of each person who has eaten there differs from that of any other. But this is how it was at Harry’s in the early days, when we were very ripe, and very tight, and very sappy.
Perhaps everyone who was over the age of five at the time remembers the moment.
I was in Dallas, a seventh-grade student at Rylie Junior High School, playing basketball in my one o’clock P.E. class.
Our instructor, Mr. Stewart, strode into the gym with his head down, pensive and troubled. He blew his whistle and ordered us to assemble. In a minute we stood quietly facing him. We could tell that something was wrong. Someone had messed up.
I have a permanent photograph of Mr. Stewart in my mind. I remember what he wore: white shirt, off-white sweater vest and slacks, white sneakers. His thinning blonde hair was slicked back.
“We heard on the news that President Kennedy has been shot,” he said. “Principal Guzick wants you all to report to your homerooms now. So you can change back into your clothes and go to your homeroom.”
While I would forever remember the scene, I could process little of the magnitude then. We all knew that President Kennedy was coming to Dallas that day, and I knew that people were stirred up over the fact that this Yankee president was visiting Texas, where, although it is not really considered a part of the Deep South, there was widespread hatred of him. In my 12-year-old mind, I understood that the president liked Negroes, and favored their equal rights, and that most people we knew did not.
Almost all the students at our school, and the citizens in our small community on the far outskirts of the city, were white. There were no African-Americans, and only a few Hispanics.
I liked the president. I liked it that he was young and handsome. Most politicians were old, fat and stodgy. I liked it that the president was athletic and smiling. I liked hearing him speak, and he seemed to care about people.
When I left the locker room and walked into the main school building, I encountered a bizarre scene: students were running through the hallways, cheering in jubilation, as if school had just been canceled forever. But it hadn’t. They were rejoicing at the shooting of the president, shouting cruel epithets. Just about everyone was taking part. I was shocked, and a little scared. A hidden meanness in these children had been revealed to me.
When I got to my homeroom, most of my classmates were at their desks. The room was silent except for occasional whispers of confusion and rumor. One girl wept softly, hiding her face. Our teacher stood by the door, worried and waiting for seats to fill.
I can only conjecture as to why my classmates were solemn, while most other pupils in our school were exuberant. Our homeroom was an honors class, composed of A students. The inference one might draw is that often hatred, especially racial hatred, is born of ignorance. Of course none of us knew much of national politics. We had mostly inherited our elders’ perspectives.
That evening, my parents and I sat at the kitchen table watching Walter Cronkite relay the details as they trickled in. My mother and father had lived through the Great Depression, so they were FDR Democrats. They might not have understood this man from Massachusetts, but they retained party loyalty. Ours was a Democratic household.
My mother, weeping, dropped her head and slowly pounded the table. “I love this country, and I love this president.”
My father, uncomfortable at the display of emotion, but caring and sympathetic, put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and squeezed her lightly. “All right, Mother.” He was tearing up, too. I had never seen my father cry.
Two days later, as we drove home from church, we were listening to live news. When Jack Ruby gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters, we heard the shot on our car radio. I can remember where we were on that country road when I heard the sound.
Fifty years later, our nation still bears the scars of these events, and struggles to understand. Few incidents in American history have been so thoroughly examined and dissected, and yet as time passes it seems the more uncertain we are as to what exactly happened in Dallas. On that day, the greatest nation on earth was savaged by pure evil. But I believe that while evil may sometimes triumph it cannot prevail. I believe that one day we will learn the whole truth.
Until then, perhaps all we can take away from this enduring wound is the dire hope that nothing like it ever happens again.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from Theodore Parker
If you have a memory of that day you would like to share, please leave a Comment below. Thanks.
by Ken Conklin Bash
Instead of saying, “Under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your current health insurance policy, you can keep it,” here’s what President Obama should have said:
“If you’re stupid enough to want to keep your old health insurance policy, with lifetime maximum payout caps and exclusions for pre-existing conditions and exclusions for anything else the insurance company doesn’t want to cover, and high co-pays and high deductibles and huge annual premium increases and no maternity coverage and no mental health coverage and no preventive care coverage and the likelihood of getting canceled if you get sick or injured so you have to declare bankruptcy, then sure, you can keep it. Sucker.”
That might have been more honest.
The problem with that is when people with those limited policies suffer a catastrophic illness and go bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills, or when doctors and hospitals end up providing free care for indigent patients, everyone else has to pay.
So who are the suckers then?
We take out “affordable” policies with low premiums and limited coverage, gambling that something terrible won’t happen.
But almost a million Americans lose that bet every year, because 62% of all bankruptcies are caused by overwhelming medical bills, and more than three-fourths of those people actually had health insurance! Or thought they did, because they had been paying premiums.
It just doesn’t make sense that in the richest nation on earth so many of our citizens are financially ruined when they become ill, even after buying insurance.
Obamacare aims to fix that, and it ultimately will, in spite of Republican roadblocks, sabotage, and misinformation.