Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

11 May

Julie And Her Unicorn. We Finally Got Her Stitches Right. She Wants To Thank You

by Jon Katz

I only met Julie at the Mansion a few weeks ago; she came there during the worst of the pandemic, I wasn’t allowed in. Julie comes to all of my events at the Mansion now, my weekly Tuesday story readings, and my Thursday meditation classes.

Julie has trouble hearing.

Sometimes I have to sign to her, I am learning how to do it.

When we finally talked, an aide explained that she needed sneakers badly and cross stitching supplies – hoops and patterns; she especially wanted a Unicorn.

This was new to me, and I had to return three different sets of hoops and patterns because they were the wrong size for her fingers.

Last week, I finally got the right ones, and she was beaming with pride when I came into the activity room to read my stories.

She was well along making her unicorn; she said she had been waiting years, and she wanted to thank me and whoever else helped. I told her about the Army of Good.

She was also wearing her shiny new Nike sneakers.

It was a lift seeing that unicorn, a class small act of great kindness and meaning for her. Julie is creative; she fights every day to make her art, and thanks to the Army Of Good for helping me help her. I got her a dozen new patterns; she needs the smaller, five-inch ones.

I am catching up at the Mansion, we were hit with a score of pent-up requests once the quarantine was eased. I think I’m caught up now.

I think Julie has enough needles, patterns, and hoops for now, but if anyone has the small cross stitching and some patterns and wants to help, you can send them to Julie, c/oThe Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.


11 May

One Man’s Truth: Liz Cheney ‘s “Profile In Courage.” She Regrets That She Has Only One Lie To Fight For Her Country. “We Must Speak The Truth.”

by Jon Katz

We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed.”  – Liz Cheney, Tuesday, March 11, 2021,

I’m not planning a regular return to writing about politics, but we are at something of a crossroads, a time of heroes and goats, of truth and lies, a parable of patriotism and courage.

Don’t be scared.

People are getting worried again, and there is a need for perspective every once in a while. The Republic stands, and I expect it to stand for a good while longer.

The sad truth is that we can’t believe everything we hear, hysteria and grievance are the coins of the realm. We have to figure it out by ourselves.

I humbly offer some of my own truths, they are mine only, and they are not arguments or predictions, they are simply my sense of what is happening.

I think the only story I need to follow – and I am following it –  is that of U.S. Rep Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is on Wednesday going to be purged from her important position as the third-ranking Republican leader of the House of Representatives.

Cheney touches a deep chord in our country’s future, both as a woman and as that rarest of animals, as a genuine Profile In Courage. You just don’t see much of that anymore.

Liz Chaney is worth paying attention to, especially as her public execution draws near.

Pause and think about Liz Cheney for a minute.

A true and almost extreme conservative, she would get every conservative vote in the country if she ran for office. She is also an establishment Republican from a famous Republican family.

She would snatch up all of the many votes of Republicans disenchanted by Trump. There are many. She would also draw the votes of many women.

She is, in many ways, the almost perfect Republican Leader – honest, experienced, a passionate small government advocate, a fierce defender of the military. Naturally, Donald Trump is t terrified of her and has made driving her from the party his top priority.

That she is a woman standing up almost alone to genuine tyranny, trial by lying men,  cowardice, and dishonesty, make her a figure for history as well as for now.

She is an honest politician who is fighting and risking a lot to protect our democracy from the liars and cowards working equally hard to undermine and destroy it.

She would get a lot of progressive and Democratic votes as well if she ran for office. She could very well get mine.

In a sense, she is the perfect candidate for the moment, and perhaps for the future. She could repair the partisan divide more quickly and effectively than anyone else, even President Biden. She actually believes in democracy and supports it.

Cheney is now an important icon in American politics, she, perhaps more than anyone else in Congress, is tomorrow’s statue, the one the kids will learn about in school, the one libraries and parks will be named for.

And she is tough as nails.

Cheney is one of the most rigidly consistent conservatives in American politics. She is also, it appears, one of the most honest and courageous Republicans in the U. S. Congress and soon, in American political history.

Wednesday she will be stripped of her House leadership position. That will be a moment of silence for me.

Nathan Hale, a charismatic and much-loved young man,  died heroically in the American Revolution. He was a patriot, not the Rudy Guiliani kind, but the real American kind.

When the British captured him and asked him if he was an American spy, he said yes, he wouldn’t lie. He sentenced himself to death. He was sorry, he said, that he had only one life to give for his country. Wow, it makes you want to tear up.

Cheney is somewhat in this mold, although her politics are far away from mine or many of the people reading this. She is fighting The Big Lie, which is a kind of war all its own.

She has One Big Lie to fight against for her country – the lie that the Presidential Election was fraudulent – and she is risking the end of her political career to fight it.

This is all really all about Trump, how he thinks, how he works, how he will doom himself and all of the people around him every single time.

All you really need to follow is the rise and fall and rise again of Liz Cheney, who Trump wants to destroy, but who, typically, is instead making into one of the most popular and trusted political figures in America.

The contrast between the two – the politician who can’t lie and the politician who can’t tell the truth – is Biblical.

Trump wants Cheney removed because she told the truth about the January 6 Capitol riots, the worst assault in centuries against our democracy. And because she voted to impeach him for encouraging that riot, a far greater crime than the ones committed by his followers, crimes he has yet to condemn.

While almost all of her colleagues lied, Cheney never hesitated to speak the truth.

Trump, she said, “assembled this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack. The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading The BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

Trump, the Mad King, is behind the curtain, pulling all the dumb and self-destructive ropes, holed up in the Mad Castle in Florida, plotting revenge against the honest.

Please remember 2020, a presidential election Trump screwed up at every single available opportunity, in the dumbest and most pointless of ways.

Republican Senator Mitch Romney, a supporter of Liz Cheney’s, summed it up in one sentence, a sentence that said it all about how Trump’s broken mind works:

“Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few,” Romney tweeted on Monday.

All during the 2020 campaign, Trump did and said things that did not gain him a single additional voter, but which cost quite a few and finally cost him the election.

Trump’s solution to failing is to just be louder the next time.

His need to be seen as a winner rather than a loser is making him the biggest loser in American political history. It is sad that he is dragging a whole political party down with him.

People are right to be worried about that.

We will just have to beat him down one more time, if necessary.

Cheney, his number one target, will be by Wednesday afternoon his most prominent and dangerous adversary.

No rational or sane Republican or Conservative could find one good reason not to vote for her when she decides to run for higher office and stick it up Donald Trump’s big ass.

And believe me when I tell you she will run for higher office.

She is the one you need to watch, the one you need to follow in the news. Her battle and her lonely stand explain everything we need to know about politics right now.

It’s important to remember that Donald Trump never really wins in the end, he just piles up bodies and disasters one after the other on his way down.

He is the Master Of Illusions: failure is a success, cowardice is bravery, cruelty is honesty. There is no plan, no policy. There is just him and what he wants. His presence is waning, his megaphone is shrinking.

One broken and unwell old man has turned the moral core of our country upside down.

Why has this happened?

Republicans are in a hellish political trap.

More than half of all Republicans (54 percent, a majority) said in a recent poll that they feel more loyalty to Donald Trump than to the Republican Party. They said they would happily abandon their party for a third party if Trump was leading it.

So his followers are not really Republicans, they are Trump Republicans.

It’s important to remember that that was also true in 2020. National polls show that 57.9 percent of Americans strongly disapprove of Donald Trump today, only 38.6 approve.

That’s a nearly 30 percent gap between Republicans and the rest of the country.

You sure don’t win elections honestly in that way.

In January, Fox News was the most-watched cable channel during the key prime-time viewers of 8- 11 p.m. That will net them more than a billion dollars.

How many viewers do you think that is?

It’s 2.2 million viewers in a country of 331 million people. Most of those are angry aging white men.

The Liz Cheney story is bringing the country right back to where it was in November of 2020, the very last place the disgraced and defeated former President or the sane people left in his party should want it to go.

Trump, like his obedient House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is both a liar and a coward. Aside from one’s own integrity or political leanings, that is not a good place for a national political figure or his party to be.

Beyond that, the Republican Party has reverted to the ugliest days in American history.

They are now on record all over the country as the party that wishes to restrict the voting rights of Americans who belong to minorities.

Restricting voting in America is political suicide, not only for moral reasons but for practical ones. You win elections by attracting people, not enraging and persecuting them.

Becoming the national champion of racist voting practices is not a great position for a political party in 2021 to be in either.

The party has embraced Trump’s unfathomable campaign strategy: alienate as many Americans as you can, and make sure the fund-raising software is working.

Chaney can’t really lose by being expelled by this desperate crowd.

Breaking away from the mess that the GOP is today is the best possible position for an ambitious American politician –  and an articulate and powerful woman –  standing up against the racist laws, the lying about the Capitol riots, and the election itself, the Trump corruption and cruelty.

As a House Republican leader, she would have had to restrain herself. The gloves are off now.

Chaney stands out in that party and in the country now like the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.

Trump thought he would destroy her by depriving her of her legislative position.

He always makes the mistake of thinking that the people he drives away will be worse off than the ones who stay. But they are the survivors, they live to fight again.

The opposite is always true.

Just ask Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani,  Matt Gatz,  Paul Mannaford, and the long line of security and campaign officials who are either in jail, about to be in jail, or were pardoned from going to jail.

Being close to Trump is about as safe as going swimming in a nuclear reactor waste pool. The media doesn’t want to talk about Trump failing, or being over,  because he makes so much money for them while chewing up our democracy.

It’s the people who challenged Trump who have credibility and will be remembered. It’s just a matter of biding one’s time.

You might not know from all the attention he gets that Trump is the most unpopular President in American history.

The backdrop against all of this is that the Republican Party is fighting desperately to retake control of the House and Senate next year. If they turn on Trump, their party is split in half and they have no chance of winning.

Their only choices are to break from Trump and rebuild themselves or pass restrictive voting laws, redistrict like hell, remain united as a party, and keep their fingers crossed.

I’m not Merlin, I can’t pretend to know if this will work. History says it won’t. Trump’s history says it won’t.

The historic drama is wrapped around the stubbornly honest and, I think, shrewdly ambitious Liz Cheney. A giant opening, waiting to be filled.

To me,  Trump is just too much of an offensive and obnoxious jerk either to run again (he won’t, he would be terrified to lose) or remain in total control of a hydra-headed institution like a national political party.

One way or another, it will come apart. The Republicans have done everything but set the White House on fire in their never-ending outrage and attacks on Joe Biden, his family, his sanity.

It didn’t work in 2020.

It can’t really work now, the dynamic is almost precisely the same: an offensive loser and notorious creep against a decent grandpa that’s hard to hate.

Trump is not known for ideas, but he has run out of new tricks, he just keeps dredging up the old ones. This is a bad formula for a reality show producer.

Trump is Biden’s best pal, just as he will be a great benefactor to Chaney. You just can’t pray for a better contrast than running against  or succeeding Trump.

When the very best people get thrown out of politics by their own party, it is tragic in a way. But doors in politics open as quickly as they close. Trump forgot or is too screwed up to have honored the great time-tested axiom in American politics: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Liz Cheney is free at last and in political terms,  and after Wednesday, she will be Republican 007. She will have a license to kill.

I’ll take those odds any day.

11 May

Update: My Garden. So Far, I’ve Blown It. Big Time

by Jon Katz

Well, here’s what I’ve learned about gardening in my first round with my own raised garden bed.

First, I don’t know a thing about it.

Second, I’ve screwed up the first and the second round, and third, I have a lot to learn.

I put the seeds in to early, then watered too little, then too much. I’ve halted all plantings until Memorial Day, I get bamboozled by every warm day. And then it gets cold.

Some people – Maria for one – has an intuitive feeling for gardening, I see that I do not. I ordered four more packets of Zinnia seeds online (I’m planting a Zinnia garden in my raised bed.)

Of the 150 seeds, I planted so far, two are alive, and those just barely.  Maria says I just have to shut up and be patient. So that’s what I will do. What I will not do is give up, everyone in my family is crazy, but none of us are quitters.

I have six fresh packages of Zinnias. Yesterday, I couldn’t resist this Bronx Zoo sweatshirt, which I got in the animal park.

This project is going to take determination and grit. I wouldn’t think of getting up. We’ll just start all over again, and this time, maybe get it right.  Or maybe I’ll hire an Amish kid to help. Everything they look at or breathe on seems to blossom and poem.

11 May

The War Against Clotheslines. “The Right To Dry.”

by Jon Katz

For years now, gated communities and condominiums have banned clotheslines, the point where 19 states have passed “right to dry” laws outlawing clothes bans.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Caroline, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin have all made it illegal to ban clotheslines, mostly over environmental concerns about saving water and energy.

Many wealthy suburban communities across the country ban clothesline because they think they are ugly or suggest poverty.

I’m in love with our clothesline. Yes, it saves water and energy, but I think they are works of art; I love to see them flapping in the wind, I love the way they smell; they add character and dimension to our farmhouse.

I think communities without clotheslines are soulless and bland sometimes. I’m always happy to photograph ours.

11 May

Robin Introduces Her New Stuffed Raccoon “Garbage Mice” To Her Remote Learning Class: “He’s From The Bronx!”

by Jon Katz

While Maria, Emma, and Robin were at the Bronx Zoo Sunday, I slipped into the Bronx Zoo store and bought Robin a stuffed raccoon, which I thought was a Panda.

She named the Raccoon “garbage mice.” This morning, in her remote learning class in Brooklyn, the class was invited by the teacher to talk about their weekends and show off their “stuffies,” as the school calls stuffed animals.

Emma kept the raccoon close all afternoon and was clutching it when we said goodbye.

Robin proudly introduced her raccoon “Garbage Mice,” to the class. Emma said the other animals were all named “Fuzzy” and “Booboo.”

“He’s from the Bronx,” she told the class. That’s my granddaughter. She is very NY, like her mother.

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