Sunday, December 4, 2016

No Royko

     On Friday, Mark Konkol wrote a column about "Out of the Wreck I Rise," and on Saturday Scott Simon featured it on NPR, and suddenly the book rose to No. 36 among top sellers on Amazon. OMFG, as the kids say. I wanted to link here to Mark's column, and link to Scott's interview. I figured I should also write something, though what I ended up with is only tangentially connected with either of these pieces. What's the connection? I suppose it's that I know both guys, and that their drawing attention to my book and me trying as a matter of policy not to be a jerk to colleagues, or at least my struggling to restrain my jerkish tendencies, are not unconnected.

     Mike Royko hated younger columnists, because he viewed them as competition. Which was silly, because they certainly were not competition, given the singular place he occupied—and occupies still, almost two decades after his death—at the summit of Chicago journalism. 
     Among the many blessings in my life is the insight that you don't have to try to be Mike Royko—some guys never grasped that, and their misfortune is on the page. When readers, as they sometimes do, write to snidely inform me that I'm no Mike Royko, I surprise them, I imagine, by thanking them, and pointing out that, given Royko was a mean drunk whose son ended up robbing a bank, not being Rokyo isn't the stark fate they imagine, certainly not as rough as being him seemed to be.
     It has also made me reflexively nice to new writers and reporters, because I remember the disappointment I had the handful of times I actually interacted with Royko, how I would have given anything for a kind word, and never got anything close. Just the opposite. Once he threatened to break my legs. Not in a joshing way, but as in an I'm-the-guy-who'll-break-y0ur-legs way. A story for another day.
     Trying to avoid that, I say hello to young reporters, compliment them on their writing when possible. Their good work doesn't diminish me, it enhances my experience as a reader and makes the profession we're all in more valuable. As I once told my late pal Jeff Zaslow, success it not a pie—your getting a bigger slice doesn't make my slice smaller. I'm glad there are so many good columnists in Chicago. Over at the Tribune, Eric Zorn, always a thoughtful and engaging writer, has been on fire since the advent of Trump. Lately, in my column, I'm torn between the need to raise the alarm and the need to comfort the alarmed, and when I'm doing the latter, I feel less guilty knowing that Eric's concentrating his fire on the target undistracted. Rick Kogan is the city made human flesh and among my most reliable friends. Others at the Trib: Mary Schmich is ruminative, Rex Huppke often manages that toughest of tasks, to be genuinely funny. 
     How could admitting that be anything but a sign of confidence? There are more. At the Sun-Times, I appreciate Mark Brown, Mary Mitchell, the obits of Maureen O'Donnell, the reviews of Richard Roeper, the celebrity insights of Bill Zwecker, Rick Telander in sports—I could go on and on, and hope my colleagues forgive me for not including them, but I have to think of the reader first, and lists tend to grow tiresome.
     I haven't even mentioned online. There are years when I turn my head and spit when speaking Robert Feder's name—he did once compare me to the lunatic Jay Mariotti, which is the height of unfairness—but he still owns the media beat, and if I walked past Tribune Tower and saw workmen tearing it down with crowbars I would hurry to Feder to find out What the Hell Just Happened. 
     Which leads to my former colleague, Mark Konkol, now at DNA Info, whom I remember back to when he was one of the youngsters on the staff at Red Streak, the free training wheels newspaper we rushed out, in a truly dramatic show of Front Page daring, to steal the thunder from the Tribune's new kiddie paper, Red Eye. Konkol had the fire — most people, even most reporters, just phone it in. You could just tell he wanted it, whatever it was. During the last mayoral election, he did a column—he was in Chuy Garcia's house, chatting with him, that I remember reading, and thinking, "Wow, that's how it's supposed to be done."
     Anyway, I haven't been able to hang with Mark as much as I'd like, since he's off scaling the heights of Hollywood, and several times I had to manfully suppress the urge to pick up the phone and snarl, "Where the fuck are you?" My patience was rewarded Friday, with Mark's spot-on column about my book, "Out of the Wreck I Rise: A Literary Companion to Recovery," written with Sara Bader. I'll let you in on a secret. Sales are nice. But what an author really wants is for someone to Get It. And while the page 4 notice in the Sunday New York Times Book Review was nice, and the full page review in the Toronto Star was nice, those authors did not grasp the book in front of them. Especially the Star, whose review called the book "a pub crawl," which left me pounding the heel of my hand against my forehead.
    Mark got it. He really did. If you haven't seen his Friday column from DNA Info, here it is.  The only thing better than reading a really good column by a fellow columnist is reading a really good column by a fellow columnist about a book that you wrote and love. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fight Donald Trump with cheesecake

Proof that we not only talk the talk, we walk the walk: Eli's cheesecakes set out for Ross's high school graduation party.

    Howdy folks. Enjoying the blog? Good, good. Glad you like it. I certainly enjoy writing it.
    Although. One drawback of the quality journalism you've come to expect here is that people tend to start reading, immediately, just jump right on in, and then are carried away, rapt, into my column, and perhaps never notice the advertisement on the side.
    Can't blame them. There's only the one. But it is an important one.
    So I'd like to direct your attention to the left, to the new December ad by the blog's sponsor, Eli's Cheesecake. If you click on it, you'll be taken to the company site where you'll be able to order tasty, wholesome, nutritious Eli's cheesecake for yourself, your friends and your family.
    Why? Well, because it's delicious, for starters. But more than that. We live in perilous times. And as our nation deteriorates into a disordered, Manichean and uncivilized place, we are going to increasingly rely on the relief offered by basic creature comforts such as Eli's cheesecake. As difficult as it is to see Trump naming a Mardi Gras parade of fanatics, wash-outs and incompetents to his cabinet, as painful as it will be to see environmental regulations cast aside, Medicare gutted, and the civil liberties of Americans and hardworking immigrant residents ignored, the route ahead will be all the more challenging if there is nothing good in the house for dessert. The quality of our national discourse, our American pride and our cherished freedoms might slip, precipitously, but the quality of Eli's cheesecake? Never.
    So stock up on Eli's cheesecake now, before the break down of the government affects the package delivery system, or the electrical grid is impacted by a surge in terrorism or from fallout of whatever reckless war or unnecessary international crisis Trump blunders into by stunts such as talking to the Taiwanese president in contravention of 40 years of tradition. We might all be living on canned food and squirrels caught in snares in 2018. But right now you can survive on peppermint cheesecake — doesn't just the thought of that make the four-year infamy that our nation must endure just a little less of a doorjamb-gnawing flash of unspeakable woe?
    If not for yourself, think of your friends, perhaps in distant cities, still reeling at the stab to the soul that the past election represented, frightened folks whose bleak December days could be enlivened by a dark chocolate banana cheesecake from Eli's, or a salted caramel halavah cheesecake, or red velvet cheesecake.
    Wait. Back up. My God. Did I say salted caramel halavah cheesecake? I did. You've never had that in your life, have you? Admit it. You never even heard of it. But now that you have, you won't be able to get it out of your mind. Salted. Caramel. Halavah. Cheesecake.
    Though the enticing effect might be lessened among those who don't quite know what halavah is (fantastic candy made of ground sesame seeds adored by us swarthy Semitic tribes).  Just the thought of salted caramel halavah cheesecake is the spark relighting the beacon of hope that was recently extinguished by the political micturition of 60 million fellow citizens. America didn't reach this point by caving into tyrants, foreign OR domestic. We approach life with the same sense of possibility that lead us, in only 50 years, from the bland yellow disc of a Sara Lee cheesecake to the multi-cultural splendor and deliciousness of an Eli's Salted Caramel Halavah Cheesecake, which you can order right now by clicking here. Do it for yourself or, if not for yourself, for a friend or, if those two imposing beneficiaries don't shake open your wallet, do it for me. I write this stuff every day without asking you to do anything but read it and, now, to buy a cheesecake. For yourself. For a friend. Or hell, for me. Send me the Salted Caramel Halavah Cheesecake. 
    Because even if you can no longer rely on the president or the press, on Congress or the basic decency of your neighbors, this blog and Eli's cheesecake will never let you down. And that's something.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Rising of The Chicago Sun in 1941 casts shadows today


     The most surprising thing is how familiar it all feels.
     Not the cover price: 2 cents. Nor the mobs of Chicagoans who waited in the streets at midnight to throw their pennies at harried newsboys and strip bundles of newspapers off the trucks before they stopped rolling. Certainly not the mayor and the governor and the three newsreel cameras on hand to watch the presses roll.
The known world, according to Col .McCormick
     But 75 years ago this Sunday, when The Chicago Sun, the predecessor of this newspaper, hit the streets in the early hours of Dec. 4, 1941, war might have been raging from the British Isles to Moscow to Malaysia. But people were still people, Americans were still Americans, cynical, divided, contentious, patriotic, devious concerning what was not yet called The Mainstream Media, treating it as both quarterback and tackling dummy.
     The Sun was a paper with a purpose: to support President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his conviction that we had to get involved in a war that Americans wanted to avoid. A Gallup poll found 88 percent of Americans were against fighting the Nazis. What debate there was focused on how much we should help our allies and how prepared we should be -- half felt we needed to mobilize for the inevitable; the other half felt that doing so would only antagonize Mr. Hitler.
    In Chicago, Col. Robert McCormick ran his Tribune as the voice of isolation, a kind of 1940s Fox News. The Trib was "savage in its attacks upon all liberals an everyone with whom it disagreed" according to media critic Oswald Garrison Villard, who noted the Tribune endorsed the Klu Klux Klan while taking a dim view of these unwashed foreigners some thought we ought to  shed American blood to protect.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Coercion won't create respect for Old Glory


Jackson Hole, Wyoming, July 4, 2009

     There is sincere debate whether Donald Trump goes on these Twitter rants because he lacks impulse control, or as a fiendishly clever ploy to distract the media from his more significant lapses. 
     I vote for the former. Donald Trump is many things, but a genius he is not. Nor is he disciplined. He manipulates the media merely by being who he is, not by pretending to be who he's not.  To suspect otherwise is to confuse result with intent. The media loses focus on what's significant—assuming anything matters at this point, which might be a false assumption—the way a dog is distracted by a darting squirrel. It isn't as if the squirrel darts for the purpose of catching the attention of dogs. 
     Not that you can blame the media too much for noticing what the president-elect says. His suggestion that flag burners lose their citizenship or go to jail is jaw-dropping, or would be, if our jaws weren't already lolling on the floor. We settled this issue years ago. I don't even have to write about it anymore. But it is an interesting issue; here's a column nearly two decades old. 

     In Boy Scouts, they teach you the flag rules. How to hoist a flag. How to lower it and fold it so it doesn't touch the ground.
     The rules are based purely on respect. If the tip of the flag touches the ground, they don't kick you out of scouting. That would be dumb.
     This is the only way the rules could work. If failing to properly fold the flag into a little triangle could get you sent to jail, nobody would touch a flag. And anyway, there is no coercion necessary. You honor the flag, willingly, because it is the right thing to do.
     This isn't enough for some people, apparently. Honor is a delicate idea, and they would rather put some muscle behind it, to nab the few deviants who don't follow along. It is a craven and cowardly way to think.
     But popular. Last week, 310 Congressboobs in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to belch forth yet another proposed flag amendment to the Constitution, to punish those who "desecrate" the flag.
     The showboat patriots and fascist wannabes let out a whoop, while those who cherish American ideals dropped their heads in shame and prayed for the Senate to bail us out, again, just as it did two years ago.
     Supporters of this bill are like the men who, wanting to be admired by their wives, go home and say, "Honey, show me respect or I'll belt you in the mouth." That's one way to do it, but odds are it won't raise their status at home and most likely will hurt it.
     Every statement made by supporters of the flag amendment disintegrates when reason is applied to it.
     "It is an act of contempt," said Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.). "Flag burning is no more free speech than a child's temper tantrum."
     Exactly. And a child's temper tantrum is free speech. Only an idiot would try to ban them. First, because such a ban wouldn't prevent a single child from throwing a fit in the supermarket when Mom won't buy fudge Pop-Tarts.
     And second, there isn't a problem. Tantrums are a speck in the fabric of life, momentarily embarrassing but without lasting consequence.
     Ditto for flag burners. A tiny, pathetic handful of unwashed radicals burn flags, to show that they've never been abroad and don't realize what a wonderful country this is. It is such a rarity that, when TV grabbed for clips of flag burning last week, half of them were in black and white.
     So, the geniuses behind this flag amendment suggest, to solve this non-crisis, we're going to mess with the Constitution. To fiddle with something so important over a triviality boggles the mind — it's like having your garage door opener implanted in your chest, next to your heart, so you don't lose it.
     Why not legislate against bad breath? Write a constitutional amendment barring hairy fat men from wearing strap T-shirts. They're objectionable, too, and far more common than flag burners.
     This amendment isn't American. Burn a flag in Saudi Arabia, and they might cut your hands off. Burn a flag in China and you might never get out of prison. Are their flags grander than ours, because we protect ours only with an intangible such as respect? I don't think so.
     Freedom is a mixed blessing, but it beats the alternative. As bad as it is to find a wad of Doublemint stuck to your shoe, it is worse to live in Singapore, where the jackboot "democracy" bans chewing gum.
     The worst thing about this bill is that its only result will be a spate of flag burnings. People who would never dream of burning a flag — myself included — will wonder if perhaps their patriotic duty now demands them to take the extreme step, lest some other form of speech be banned next year.
     That's why I'm grateful for the idea suggested by my friend John Scalzi, the resident wit at America Online. He reacted to the last flag amendment by proposing to market a flag with 49 stars and call it I Can't Believe It's Not the American Flag. That way, people could protest the law by burning this near-flag while not forced to burn a real one.
     Would burning a Not the American Flag be a crime? It isn't the flag, because it's one star short. But it would look very much like the flag. Once it was on fire, nobody would count the stars and the message still would get across.
     The beauty of the Not the American Flag concept is that it shows the moral emptiness of this proposed flag amendment, the idiocy of those who argue that burning a flag isn't speech, protected by law.
     The U.S. flag is not an object with 50 stars. It isn't a thing, but rather an idea. It's the idea behind a flag that makes people upset when flags burn; not the cloth, not the stars.
     What the dolts in Congress don't realize is that you cannot burn an idea. America is fireproof. You can't diminish her with a match.
     This isn't the first time people have eroded liberties in the name of freedom. In the 1950s, we were so afraid of the Soviets, we imposed Soviet-style repression to combat them. As if we already had been conquered.
     It was shameful then, and even more shameful now, since we aren't faced with a powerful enemy. Just ourselves, and the truth that there are people who hate their own country and feel the need to denounce it. A hundred new amendments to the Constitution won't change that.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"You shall not follow the masses in doing evil."

     Bigotry is bad but not for the reason people assume — or not just for that reason. It isn't bad merely because innocent people are harmed by the irrational hatreds carried around by the prejudiced and by the random cruelties those hatreds inspire.
     Bigotry also harms the bigot, since it is a form of ignorance, a misapprehension of the world. They see not what is in front of them, but what is in front of them filtered through the distorting lens of the disdain they grew up with or slid into. Their world is colored not by what's before their eyes but by the jumbled mess behind them.
     So they make mistakes.
     For instance: eliminating the DREAM Act, which President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to do on his first day as president — Jan. 21, for those keeping track. That would keep up to 5 million young Americans off the path to success, in school and employment, for a very Third Reich reason: because their papers aren't in order. It will, of course, hurt them, making their lives harder, more complicated, more anxious. It would also hurt the country. A country which, contrary to the bigot's skewed perspective, is not burdened by foreigners but benefits from them. A country that needs every capable person it can get its hands on. Otherwise we end up like Japan, in a demographic death spiral.
     Cutting off your nose to spite your face is a hallmark of bigots. The classic example is after courts ordered public pools integrated in the 1960s, Southern towns closed their pools, even filling them in with dirt rather than risk whatever horror was supposed to come from letting blacks into the pool — interracial dating, I suppose.
     That's the bad news. The good news, if any news can be considered good in this perilous moment of our national saga, is that, because of their myopia, bigots screw up and overlook important considerations....

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Give to The Night Ministry

     Our Illinois leaders have been trying to balance the state financial crisis on the backs of the poor and disabled, which means cuts for vital social services and long waits for charitable groups to get paid.  I don't support many social services, but The Night Ministry is different: they are the last defense, the final safety net between Chicagoans who have nothing and utter misery. It provides the most basic needs: food, water, medical attention.
     November 29 has been dubbed "Giving Tuesday" and I hope you will consider visiting The Night Ministry's Giving Tuesday page and making a donation.  
    I already have, and it feels good. This is a time when individual participation is even more important. The situation is only going to get worse as a particularly heartless and brutal form of Republicanism takes over in Washington. How many homeless people have you passed by where you wanted to give them money, but weren't sure it would help them? Money given to The Night Ministry directly benefits homeless people, particularly LGBTQ youth, who are especially vulnerable, as outlined in this story from 2012.

     It's 9 p.m., and 26 young men and women have shown up at the Crib, a shelter for homeless youth in the Lake View Lutheran Church at Addison and Halsted.
     Which is a problem, since there is space for only 20 foam mattresses on the floor of the cinderblock community room where they will sleep.
     "Most nights we're full," says Nate Metrick, the Crib coordinator. "Especially in winter, we're pretty much full every night."
     Or in spring when it feels like winter — it's 42 degrees outside tonight. So staff from the Night Ministry, the nonprofit organization that runs the shelter, along with many other outreach services, feeding and providing for Chicago's downtrodden, does what they are forced to do most cold nights: turn people away.
     "There's a lot of you here tonight," announces staffer Hope Benson, after quieting down the commotion. "We start a new intake process today. When I came outside I noticed there was a lot of running. There's no need to run. Intake is between 8:45 and 9 o'clock. You can be here between that time and we'll still let you in. Okay? If there's more than 20 people, then we're going to do a lottery, like we're going to do now."
     There is a burst of protest, excited conversation and drama, with nearly everyone speaking at once.
     "Yesterday was first come/first serve," says one. "What happened?" "This is messed up!" says another.
     They are black, white, Hispanic, male, female. All under the age of 24. They sit on chairs, stand against walls, slump on the floor, their possessions piled around them.
     Darnell, a powerfully built 19-year-old with aqua-painted fingernails, clutches a pink stuffed monkey to his chest. "This is J-Moe," he says. About 70 percent of the youth who stay at the Crib are gay, lesbian or transgender, and there is a direct connection between homosexuality and homelessness among the young.
     "Youth are coming out at a much younger age — 12, 13," says Paul Hamann, the Night Ministry's CEO and president. "Youth see society being more accepting and are willing to come out early, but the family might not be ready for that, which sometimes puts their housing in danger. It's a little paradoxical."
     Nor does anyone have an idea how many homeless youth are in Chicago or in the country. "There are no numbers out there," Hamann says.
     Benson draws slips of paper out of a white plastic bucket and reads off 20 names or nicknames: John. Phillip. Diggie. Romeo. Izzy. Desiree. Darnell. Ryan. Dee. Temper. Knox. Cory. Conrad. Red. Dan. Leo. Homary, Dougie. Adrianne. Cain."
     "Can I say something please?" says Leo, 19, standing up. "Motherfuckers who have somewhere to go, who think the Crib is just a hangout spot, get the fuck out, because there are people who really need this place. I'm just saying. You all being selfish."
     A common complaint: Other people don't need it but I do. Also theft.
     The six whose names don't get picked get CTA cards with $2.50 — one fare — on them, and they're lucky to get that; somebody has to donate the cards to the Crib, which began as a pilot program with the city of Chicago in January 2011, ran for four months, was closed, then re-opened in September. Its future is uncertain.
     "We are trying to come up with additional funds to keep it open year-round in a very, very tough funding environment," says Hamann. (The Crib receives donations at the Night Ministry, 4711 N. Ravenswood, 60640, or at
     The fare cards are last-resort housing. "Most homeless people, at night time they sleep on the train," explains Conrad Burnett, 22, who sometimes does that. "It's an hour and half, two hours from 95th to Howard, back and forth and back and forth. It's warm on the train. You get used to it, sitting up sleeping. You gotta hold all your bags. They'll cut your pants and take what's in your pockets. They took my shoes one time."
     Though warm, a night on the train isn't an appealing prospect.
     "I have nowhere to go!" complains Tobias, 22, a muscular young man with a slight beard and an earring. Homeless almost a year, he stops at the door to argue, loud and long - they shouldn't use the lottery, they should keep the old system. "You knew I was here!" he shouts over staffers. "No! No! You're not listening to what I'm saying! The first 20 who got in are the first 20 who are supposed to stay in!"
     "We only have 20 spots," says Benson, explaining the need for a change. "People push past others. It's dangerous. People get hurt."
     Getting nowhere, Tobias kicks angrily at the crash bar on the door. It locks behind him and he is standing on Addison Street, holding a bag of pumpkin seeds.
     "I don't know what I'm going to do," he says.
     Joddy, 18, kisses her boyfriend, Dougie, 24, hard, then quietly leaves — he was picked; she wasn't. She walks a block west, uses her fare card to get into the Addison Street L station, where she stands on the platform, a slight girl in a red-plaid hooded sweatshirt, pressing herself against the wall, looking scared.
     "What am I going to do?" she cries, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't know where to go."
     She won't say why she's homeless. "That's confidential to me."
     Nor will she risk riding the L all night. She's done that before.
     "It's sometimes dangerous, especially if you're a girl," she says. "There's a lot of guys, who'll just hit on you. It's dangerous. It's not easy. You get scared, because it's late, and you don't know where to go."
     Joddy grew up in Humboldt Park. "I'm mixed, I'm a lot of races — Native American, Puerto Rican, Irish." She has been homeless since she was 16 and went to Evanston Township High School. "I couldn't finish. I had to drop out," she says.
     She insists that she and her boyfriend watch out for each other. "We have each other's back." But she couldn't let him pass up his spot at the Crib to stick with her on the streets. "He can't — I can't let him do that," she says. "He suffers more than I do."
     So what is she going to do?
     "I don't know. Walk down North Avenue. It's actually a lot safer there than a lot of places.... I tend to walk a lot. Every day. Once I walked almost eight miles."
     She talks about the various North Side youth services and shelters she uses, and how homeless youth are sometimes treated.
     "I been in Chicago my whole life, and I've been growing up around here, and I've grown up to see everything," she says. "I'm a very observant person. I see everything. I don't have to say anything. But I see it. And I see how they disrespect everybody. Everybody who doesn't look rich or doesn't have class."
     She has ambitions. "I'm a really good artist. I can draw," she says, hoping to be "an artist maybe, a comic book artist." But she sees how she and her friends are viewed by many in society.
    "Homeless people are human too," she says. "We got lives, too. Just 'cause you have money in your pocket, just 'cause you have clothes on your back and a job doesn't mean that you can go ahead and say that a person's not human. That person has feelings, too. That person went through bullshit too. We went through abuse. We went through all this shit, and you know why? Because it's people that hurt people. It's not people who do this to themselves. Especially the young ones, who don't even deserve this. And that's coming out from some real experiences of my own. You can't just say people are not people because they don't have anything. Nobody has everything in the world. Nobody is perfect."
    The train arrives. "Belmont is next" the canned voice calls. "Doors open on the right at Belmont." She walks onto the train and is gone.

     —Originally published in the Sun-Times, April 30, 2012

Monday, November 28, 2016

C'mon, pitch in, I can't buy presents for ALL these kids!


     Modesty demands that we truly generous individuals refrain from bragging about our good works. So I've never written about founding the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust's "Letters to Santa" program, nor about my purchasing countless presents for Chicago children, nor about prodding my reluctant colleagues to get off their kiesters and pitch in which, to their credit, they generally do, eventually.
     But it's a big city, and we need help. Last year the program gave more than 10,000 children Christmas presents. I can't buy them all. So while I'm gathering gifts for the, let's see, one, two, three, four, five, six ... 27 needy kids I've taken under my wing this year, I'm hoping that you'll pause from staring, stupefied with distress, at the day's political headlines and make Christmas brighter for just one child who, believe it or not, has it tougher than you do.
     Oh, that isn't true. Well, the getting gifts for 10,000 kids part is, as well as the hoping you'll join part.
     Otherwise, for the record, a) I did not start the Letters to Santa Program. b) My colleagues leap to help, far quicker than I do. And c) it's a big deal for me to buy a few gifts for one child, never mind tackle 27.
     But I figured, blatant lies are in vogue. If Donald Trump can hold a gala promising veterans millions of dollars, ballyhooing his supposed generosity, then fail to cough up a dime of his own until the lying media points out the lapse, and almost half the country votes for him anyway, then why not puff myself up as a philanthropist? Worrying about the actual truth has become an antique pastime, like churning butter.

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