A ‘poor bastard’ wises up, counts his lucky stars

I’m cleaning up my old Chevy Malibu before trying to sell it.

I have to admit I have been lax with the maintenance. Do people really wash car windows on the inside?

Finally doing that chore, I noticed how badly the decals on my back rear windshield had deteriorated. They once touted the prestigious colleges my kids attended; today some have faded into mere shadows of letters and crests and others look like smears from insects who got too close to the car.


I displayed the decals proudly when the kids found out they did well enough academically to get into the schools: Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Fordham, NYU and Syracuse.

One day when I worked as an editor, I drove our van, which had similar decals, to a court hearing. I had to appear in front of a federal arbitrator who was trying to decide if our newspaper deserved some police records we were fighting for. I had to wait outside by the van as the lawyers and the arbitrator met privately and the arbitrator eventually joined me and a couple other newspaper employees in the parking lot.

“Look at this poor bastard,” the arbitrator joked in an effort to make some small talk. Motioning toward the decals on the van, he said, “Those schools cost a pretty penny.”

I replied, “Tell me about it. That’s my van.”

He apologized but laughed loudly at the same time.

I was glad it happened. I’m convinced he helped settle our lawsuit more quickly out of pity for me.

The debt I took on to help the kids has certainly lasted longer than the decals.

But I have no regrets. Not only have all the kids done well enough professionally to make loan payments, they’ve also made my wife and me very proud in other ways — perhaps most unselfishly by helping out the kids who now attend their old, financially strapped city high school through The Iseman Foundation.

I started thinking of the foundation the other day when our youngest child, Adam, told me it would be expanding its scope.

I was glad to hear about it; it helped bring me out of the doldrums.

My malaise had been brought on by another birthday, Nov. 7, and the events that transpired the day after, Nov. 8. I was already lamenting the election results, and began to stress over my other problems.  

The list is not short.

It includes aging, for me and my car, and all the issues that go with turning 61 (me) and turning 16 (my car). It includes some nagging problems with the body (me and the car, though the car is easier to fix) and some bad luck.

Only by realizing my good luck, especially regarding my wife and our successful and happy kids, was I able to refocus. In essence, my pride “Trumped” my funk.

It was Adam who came up with the idea for the “Iseman Foundation.”

More than the idea, actually. He just started the thing, without asking anyone else what they thought or whether they wanted to participate. An electrical engineer, Adam just decided he wanted to do it, and he acted.

adam-2The other kids, quickly seeing the value, pitched in. Some of their friends, mostly Meyers alumni, helped out, too.

Started in 2012, the foundation at first funded the The Butwin Elias Science and Technology competition at  E. L. Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Meyers has seen better days and teachers appreciated the BEST award, which is named after two longtime teachers — Sam Elias and George Butwin.

From the foundation website: “Both of these extremely influential and talented teachers structured their curriculums around numerous projects and labs. From bungee-barbies demonstrating Hooke’s Law, cardboard canoe races enforcing Archimedes principle to Van de Graaff generators demonstrating the nature of static electricity, a key tenet of their instruction was that students learn more when they get hands-on experience.”

The BEST award, which has grown in terms of prizes and participants over the years,  expands that teaching philosophy to a contest. Everyone who builds something gets at least $50 and the top cash prize is at least $1,000.


The kids over the years have built projects ranging from a one-string guitar made out of a shovel to a 3D printed fractal antenna.

Last year, a total of $2,875 was awarded when all the prizes were tallied. The Wilkes-Barre newspaper covered the event; a story can be seen here http://bit.ly/2fKZUu0


The new contest, starting this year, honors two other teachers.

Again, the website explains: “The Caffrey Welles Fine Arts Award encourages students to follow their passions and gain experience in the fine arts. Whether you write a short story, film a comedy sketch, paint a portrait, or analyze a famous work of literature, we’d like to accompany you along your creative journey.”

The award is named for liberal arts teachers Mollie Caffrey and Kevin Welles.

You can learn more about both awards by going to www.isemanfoundation.com.

If you feel you might want to donate, know that Meyers is one of those schools like many across America struggling to deal with white flight, declining revenues and a city with increasing crime.

You might not want to waste your time if you voted the wrong way Tuesday. You probably have something better to do with your money, like sending it to the Angry White People Relief Fund, or Keeping Boys out of Girls Bathrooms.

For the rest of you, I have a proposition.

After I fix up my car, if you buy it, I’ll donate a chunk of my proceeds to the foundation. As an added bonus, if you let me know you’re buying it by Thanksgiving, I’ll throw in a big ol’ decal of The University of Pennsylvania. That’s bound to get you some respect. It’s certainly a couple degrees cooler than “My kid is an honor student.”

If you really want to impress, you can also share this amazing but frightening fact.

Tuition and room and board at Penn is now more than $64,000 per year.

As we send Trump packing, here are 11 ways to remember how bad this campaign really got

trumpAfter months of following some of the wildest political news ever, you’re sitting around tonight waiting for the vote count.

It’s a good time to think back to some of the crazy twists and turns of the past few months.

 Were you paying attention?  Are you sure? There were a lot of, well, moments.

Do you remember using mnemonics — short, helpful memory aids — as a kid in school? For example, the acronym “HOMES” helped you answer that test question about the names of the five Great Lakes and “Every Good Boy Does Fine” the question about notes in a music scale.

You know what they say about history repeating itself. We need some shortcuts to ensure we don’t forget the bizarre political developments of 2016.  

My take:


You’ve heard the derogatory phrase “FemiNazi.” Let’s turn it around and make it positive, based on Trump’s now-famous “nasty woman” shot at Hillary.

Boo who?

Obama (Or was it O-boo-ma?) said “Don’t boo. Vote.

 Every election from here on, take a “Boo-ballot” to the polls to make sure you vote against anyone you wanted to shout down in public.


 A new word that will outlive The Donald. Think grumpy but meaner, a lot meaner.


Another new word. It can be used to describe unceasing, caustic, public ridicule.

She was certainly pilloried. Websters says it means to put in a stocks (“Lock her up. Lock her up.”) or harshly criticize.

Yes We Khan

No one should forget how the clumsy billionaire candidate stepped in it by starting a fight with proud, grieving Muslim parents Ghazala and Khizr Khan.

Trump got Khizr’ed, bigtime.


One for the Urban Dictionary. It means fondled by the Donald.

Gropin’ dope

The tape of Trump advocating sexual assault by telling Billy Bush to grab women by the “P..sy” needs a catchy title before it is placed in the Smithsonian, eh?

By the way, you know why Trump got away with it for so long? Small hands.


Sorta like a millennial. It means: 1) A Gen X’er who marries a much older spouse for money and prestige. 2) Selfish, unable to have an original thought, prone to plagiarism.


This new word, similar to “tuppence,” will help us remember Trump’s running mate after they lose tonight.

What is it? A monetary unit created  by Trump supporters out of distrust of banks and the government. For example, it costs two Trumppence to get into a rally, seven to punch a black protester in the jaw.

Donald and the Deplorables

 We can’t forget those angry confederate-flag waving supporters.

I think Trump should try Heavy Metal or Punk Rock after he loses. He has the hair.

He’s been a hit onstage already.

Behind the  paunchy, white, Boomer band members, Ivanka can sway provocatively. He’ll still draw thousands.

Go high, don’t go low

We would all be smart to remember Obama’s heartfelt advice in the wake of this hard-fought, bruising campaign.

In fact, this advice is perfect on a night like tonight. You can take it literally — especially if you’re heading out to a victory party.

The rest of you, well, the year 2020 seems in the distant future but really isn’t that far off.

Don’t just let yourself get too Trumpy. You see what good it did The Donald.


Neck and neck, Trump and Hillary should face the lie detector machine

thetwoDateline Nov. 8, 2016: What the freak? You gotta be kidding. After all this?

It was an unpleasant surprise. Everyone thought voters would decide the nation’s 45th president Nov. 8, followed by the electoral college confirming the popular choice. But no, Trump and Hillary, traded angry criticisms all the way to the end, stayed neck and neck and then tied — yes, tied — with an equal number of electoral votes, 269.

By law, that put the job of choosing the president in the hands of the House of Representatives. The Constitution says that, in the case of a tie, the House must meet in early January to choose a new leader for the country and the Senate must choose the VP.

With the possibility looming that the House — expected to be more evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats after Nov. 8 — would also end up stalemated over this thing, the leaders of both political parties, nauseous at the thought of more nasty electioneering, decided we could not afford to wait.

There was urgency. Wikileaks in mid-November revealed that Russia planned an invasion of Cuba — by New Year’s Day.

Congress met hastily and passed emergency legislation to settle the election another way: using a polygraph.

Deciding who was the biggest liar seemed to be a fitting way to end an election season marked by claims and counterclaims of untruthfulness, exaggeration and downright prevarication.

With President Obama also signing off on the plan, a Senate “True Dat” committee hired the world’s top polygraph operator, arranged for Hillary and Trump to face-off at the Walter E. Washington convention center in D.C., contracted cable TV coverage and solicited tough questions from Trump and Hillary supporters.

Trump tried at first to put the event off for a week, claiming he hurt his back picking up a lookalike baby wearing a wig in Philadelphia. But, organizers pressed him to show; they agreed he could use a recliner on stage.

Of course, everyone realized that lie detectors have flaws. But these were desperate times and the man hired, Barry B. Truman, had been recognized internationally for outing those prone to lying.

So, with the world watching, Truman went to work.

To Hillary:  Did your husband have sex with that woman?

Hillary: Well, that certainly depends on what you mean by sex. And just hold on a minute. I want to note something here as part of the record. If that machine shows an increase in my heart rate, it could have nothing to do with lying. This is somewhat provocative subject matter, you know.

Trump: You can ask me about sex, I like it when my heart races. I’m in fantastic shape, the best shape of any candidate for president ever. I have stamina.

Truman: Please, Mr. Trump. You will get your turn. Ms. Clinton, we’re only trying to get a baseline here, by asking questions with obvious answers.

Trump: I have one for her. Did you create ISIS before or after you decided to send all our manufacturing jobs to Mexico?

Hillary: Right back at you, vulgarian. Did you start groping women before or after you learned that your hands were unnaturally small?

Truman: All right. All right. Settle down, now, both of  you. Let’s move on. You both agreed to this, right?

Trump: She lied about agreeing to it.

trumpHillary stares at Trump, face reddening as her lie detector machine starts scribbling wildly.

Truman: Ms. Clinton, another baseline question, was your private email server that was subpoenaed by the FBI called “Hiding Mail for Dummies?”

Hillary: Jeez, I dunno. I might need to take the Fifth on that one. Donald seems to know everything about the FBI and my emails. Maybe he ought to answer that one.

Trump (brought out of a distracted stare off into his crowd of supporters): No, I didn’t have sex with that woman.

Truman:  Mr. Trump, let’s try some basic questions with you, to establish that baseline.

Trump: OK, but as I told you beforehand I’m injured from my last campaign event. I’m going to relax in this chair. By the way, Hillary paid that baby to hurt me. She paid it $1,000. You better believe that she did. And we have proof; she’ll be prosecuted.

Truman: Please, Mr. Trump. Focus.  Is your last name Flintstone?
Trump: That’s a vicious slander! Did she tell you that? I’m better looking than that obese cartoon caveman. That is the worst. Ridiculous. The worst. (As a female camera operator catches his eye, he kicks back in the recliner and whispers to her:  I wouldn’t kick Betty Rubble outta bed, though. If ya get my drift.)

fredTruman: Mr. Trump. Please just answer the questions. Here’s another. Are you a red-blooded American?

Trump: Well, geez. What a silly question. Why, I … why, what have you heard?

Hillary: Can we please move this along. I have better things to do than stand here next to a wimpy billionaire who can be put out of commission by an infant.

Trump: I know you are but what am I?

Truman: OK. OK. Settle down please. I need to ask Ms. Clinton these important questions. Ms. Clinton, did you deliberately mislead America about using a private email server to share classified information?
Hillary: Not that I recall at this time.

Truman: Did you arrange for special access to anyone in the Obama administration in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation?

Hillary: Not that comes to mind as I try to recall this afternoon.

Truman: Were you truthful with Congress about the Benghazi situation that resulted in American deaths?

Hillary: Yes, even if they failed to ask the right questions.

Trueman: OK, Mr. Trump. Mr.  Trump. Are you awake?

Trump: No.

Let me put that another way. Not at least as I can recall with complete accuracy this afternoon. See what I did there. I’m answering like her, like a lawyer. Or should I say “liar?” You know she’s a liar, don’t you. Everybody knows that.

Truman: OK, Mr. Trump, did you ever grope a woman’s genital area as you were advocating to the TV personality Billy Bush?

Trump: Hah! No, I never even touched that part of a woman, any woman, ever! That is just disgusting. Ridiculous.

Truman: Hmm. Well. That’s surprising. How about this: Did you walk into the dressing rooms during beauty pageants when women or girls were nude or partially nude?

Trump: Are you crazy? I’ve never even been to a beauty contest. I don’t believe in them. If we’re going to have them we need to have ugly contests, too. That’s America. Civil rights. Equal opportunity.


Truman: Mr. Trump. I have to say I’m surprised by your answers. You do realize you are hooked up to the polygraph machine, right? Moving on. Did you deliberately inflate the value of Trump University, exaggerate what students would receive, in order to make money?

Trump: No. I don’t even like money. In fact, I’ve taken a vow of poverty. Right after I lose the election, I’m going into the monastery.

At this, Truman, looking exasperated, inspects the polygraphs. After about five minutes, Trump, prostrate and smiling broadly prods Truman to hurry up.

Truman finally speaks: I must say, the machine isn’t infallible here but, Mr. Trump, your results are way off the charts. They say you have lied each of the last three important questions.

Trump: What are you saying?

Examiner: Well, while Ms. Clinton’s reactions fall within normal ranges, your reactions indicate you have been uttering complete falsehoods.

Trump: Oh really. What exactly are you saying? C’mon Mr. Expert Detector, spit it out.

Examiner: Mr. Trump. It’s obvious to the machine and to thousands here in the convention hall, as well as millions across America, that YOU ARE BLATANTLY LYING!

Trump (laughing to the point he is holding his sides): I’m what? I’m lying. Duh. Look at me. You told me I didn’t have to stand up, or sit down. Yes, I’m lying back in this recliner. I lie because I’m lying. Get it?  

Am I clever or what? I really got ya, there, didn’t I Mr. Polygrapher of the Year. Hey, do me a favor, lemme ask her something. Hey, Hillary, what kind of emails did ya get from that Weiner character? You save any? How much you want for them? I’ll trade you four of my wife Melania in the nude for one of Weiner

 Whaddya say? We got a deal?

Hillary couldn’t take it any longer.

angryhillaryShe jumped on the recliner and started choking Trump. He tried to fight back but his fingers wouldn’t fit around her neck.

His last words were “Lock her up.”

It took a while for the shock of a televised murder of a would-be president to wear off.

But political leaders could not allow the nation to fall into chaos. They decided to let the House vote on the president and they orchestrated another tie, which required the House of Representatives (yes, this is really in the Constitution) to move on down the line and consider making a vice presidential candidate the president. It worked.

Over the next four years, Tim Kaine, with the support and help from Mike Pence as VP, did surprisingly well.

He helped calm everything down by avoiding a high-profile and lengthy trial when he pardoned Hillary due to mental anguish brought on by provocation. Then, he scared Putin out of invading Cuba by threatening to bring Hillary back as secretary of state. Kaine and Pence also kept America out of war, saved Social Security and killed all the leaders of ISIS.

Most importantly, a year after the fateful and fatal presidential polygraph test, Pence prodded the Congress to pass the a law requiring a lie detector examiner in each of the houses of Congress, the Oval Office and the Supreme Court.

It is called The Don’t Trump the Truth Act and, thus far, has withstood court challenges by the ACLU, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani.

Most importantly, Kaine and Pence helped create and promote a new atmosphere of candor and honesty in Washington. After watching what happened to Trump, the two vowed to never, ever, ever — so help me Sarah Palin — lie.

Unless, of course, they happen to be in a recliner.