The Presidential Debate That Wasn’t

When I was a circus clown, with Ringling-Barnum-Bailey,

I had to warm the crowd up for the show by acting gaily.

While the rubes were straggling in I capered like a monkey;

that is what you had to do if you were just a flunkey. 

Now I read the same thing is about to start again

with an undercard debate on good ol’ CNN.

These candidates have neither luck nor any sane position

on which to base their presidential fairy tale ambition.

It kinda makes me wonder who the real buffoons might be —

those at Ringling Brothers or the ones on my TV? 



The Pope Will Visit Congress

(WASHINGTON July 20. 2015) —

When Pope Francis visits Capitol Hill this September, he will be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress, where more than 30 % of the members are nominally Catholic. The visit will fulfill a long-held dream of House Speaker John Boehner, who calls himself a “blue-collar Cahtolic”. He has extended invitations to popes for nearly 20 years, and Francis, after taking nearly a year to ponder, is the first to accept.

The pope’s visit comes with some built-in tensions for many of the Republicans in Congress, including professing Catholics. While the pontiff has made no changes in church doctrine yet, Francis has strongly claimed ideological ground opposite that of Mr. Boehner and his cronies. He has criticized the excesses of capitalism, calling it the “dung of the devil,” demanded action to stop global warming and happily supported the new nuclear accord with Iran.



When the Pope addresses Congress, he will need some good translators;

otherwise he’ll never reach our blusterous debaters.

It isn’t the Italian they can’t understand, you see;

but rather terms like “Justice”, “Faith”, and even “Honesty”.

Congress has no concept of such language; it’s all Greek,

since lobbyists have taught them all the words they need to speak.




Long Live Obamacare!

Obamacare has got more lives than any feline critter;

that is why Republicans remain so very bitter.

They’ve tried to kill it many times, but like a filibuster

it cannot be stopped by earthly deeds or Heaven’s bluster. 

from an article in the New York Times


Puffy, Feathered Sticking Point of a $612 Billion House Bill


Bruce Westerman of Arkansas confesses he’s not seen
a sage grouse (or has ever been elected as May Queen).
But he is one of dozens who would leave the grouse alone
to live or die without their help (unless they make a clone).

The prairie chicken also is abandoned to its fate.
Republicans don’t give a hoot if none should ever mate.
In the rivers and the lakes, the mountains and the prairie,
endangered species should take care, and become quite wary.

For they will not be guarded any longer by lawmakers,
who’ve listened to the siren song of lobbyists and fakers.
The only living creatures who might really face extinction
are honest legislators who are serving with distinction.

inspired from a story in the New York Times


James G. Blaine
James G. Blaine


Polls, to politicians, are a blessing and a bane.

Ever since the salad days of Speaker James G. Blaine

the backroom boys have studied charts and graphs until their eyes

have watered like a monsoon from cerulean tropic skies.


The public, in a fuzzy way, has also been influenced

by numbers tossed around with chutzpah that is hardly nuanced.

The media has only to announce a brand new poll

for the unwashed masses to begin to lose control.


Predicting future outcomes ain’t a science, no sirree!

Unless you’re in Las Vegas with a capable bookie.

When they lay their money down on any type election,

the votes are going to pile up like the germs from an infection.

from a blog on MPR

The Empty Senate Chamber


Like bats flung out of Hades or rock salt from old shotgun,

the exodus of senators from Congress has begun;

inflamed by hot ambition and crusading ecstasy,

they want a shot at President as party nominee.


There’s Marco from the Sunshine State, and Lone Star Teddy Cruz;

Rand Paul hails from Kentucky. Bernie Sanders — Vermont’s muse.

And there are many others that would like to take a chance

at the Oval Office’s inscrutable romance.


While they’re away campaigning, raising money by the barrel,

The senate is deserted and may even go quite ferral.

With nobody at home perhaps our Congress stands adjourned.

(Something which the public has unanimously yearned.)    

from a story in the New York Times

Uncle Sam to Pay Millions to Illegal Aliens, Courtesy of the IRS!


During a hearing last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the tax consequences of the President’s unilateral action that essentially grants amnesty to five million people in the country illegally,  specifically as it relates to their eligibility for the earned income tax credit (EITC). Guidance issued by the IRS in 2000 suggests individuals benefitting from the President’s immigration action will be eligible to claim the refundable EITC for previous tax years in which they were not authorized to work in the United States.   Grassley asked Koskinen whether the IRS intended to revisit the 2000 guidance in light of the President’s executive action.  Koskinen agreed to respond and recently did so by letter.  The letter confirms the IRS intends to stick by its previous interpretation of the EITC eligibility requirements.  As a result, individuals in the country illegally who are benefitting from the President’s action will be eligible to claim the EITC for up to three previous tax years even though it would be based on earnings made while working illegally in the United States. According to IRS data, the average EITC credit in 2012 was just over $2,300 and the maximum available credit in 2014 is  $6,143.  Grassley made the following comment on this information.


“An estimated five million people in the country illegally will remain here under the President’s executive action.  Given the IRS’ interpretation of tax rules intended to prohibit undocumented  workers from qualifying for the EITC, these individuals will be eligible to claim billions of dollars in tax benefits based on earnings from unauthorized work in the United States.  With the stroke of a pen, the President rewarded those working illegally in the United States with a tax benefit that is designed to encourage low-income individuals to enter the workforce.  Given that the IRS is intent on standing by its present interpretation of the eligibility requirements, I’m working on legislation to uphold an important principle that many of us in Congress support.  The tax code shouldn’t reward those who broke our immigration laws.”

Politicians Take a Vow of Poverty (a Fantasy in Three Stanzas).


(Inspired by an article by David Zahniser)

A campaign promise uttered in the heat of battle must

Remain a fragile object, made of moon beams and of dust.

Giving credence to a pledge by any office seeker

Leaves the body politic both gullible and weaker.


So when a politician vows to take a cut in pay

If elected, my first impulse is to laugh away.

They might as well affirm that they will swim through wet cement

As promise to give up a single solitary cent.


If only ev’ry baby kisser vowed sweet poverty

When they ran for office – think of what might come to be!

Bag lunches down at city hall and hitchhiking lawbreeders,

With lobbyists thrown out of work and stealing from birdfeeders.  

The Senate Subcommittee.


A Senate subcommittee is a squirrely sort of form;

It doesn’t follow any kind of reasonable norm.

The members get together for debate, or forty winks,

And doesn’t give a hoot what the opposing party thinks.


Perhaps the Subcommittee on Green Apples will decide

It wants to change the subject to “Effects of Dry Rip Tide”.

Or maybe they will vote to change their name to something chic,

Like “Republicans for Ethics While Line Dancing Cheek to Cheek”.


A rose by any other name, as Shakespeare often said,

Will fool the public easily and keep watch dogs misled.

If I were in a Senate subcommittee I would steer

The title to a label giving joy – such as “Free Beer”.

A Clown in Washington D.C.


I retired permanently from clowning just about three years ago.   I started at the age of 17 with Ringling Brothers, back in 1971.

In the summer of 2012, though, I became a protestor.  One of those wild-eyed fellows people cross the street to avoid.  How was that my swan song with clowning?  Here’s how it happened . . .

I was staying with my daughter in Woodbridge, VA.  And I had been out of work for a long time.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  An idea I had toyed with for several years, a mere whim, came back to me in force and I decided to act on it.

I rousted out my clown makeup and costume, found a piece of poster board and a marker, and took the commuter train up to Washington D.C.

At the United States Botanic Garden on Maryland Avenue Southeast I ducked into the men’s room, put on my makeup and costume, stowed my civilian clothes in a backpack, and marched over to the Capitol Building with my placard, which read:  “UNEMPLOYED CIRCUS CLOWN.  PLEASE HELP PUT ME IN CONGRESS WHERE I BELONG.”


The results were immediate.  I was surrounded by a posse of Capitol Hill police and ordered to produce some identification.  I gave them my passport, which they took inside and examined with a fine tooth comb.  Discovering at last that I was not wanted for anything, not even jay-walking, a lieutenant proceeded to give me the third degree:

  • “What are you doing here?”
  • “Where are you from?” Originally from Minnesota.
  • “What does your sign mean?” Just what it says, sir.
  • “Are you panhandling for money?”   I am making a political statement.

So they had to let me go, and I sat on a bench on Capitol Hill with my sign, in my clown makeup, and silently watched the political world go by.  There were members of Congress.  Government Bureaucrats.  Joggers.  Well-dressed lobbyists.  I waved at all of them, giving out with my patented buffoonish grin.

Capitol Clown

And tourists – lots of tourists.  Every high school tour group that came by stopped for a photograph with me while their teacher/chaperone explained the wonderful privilege American citizens had to do the kind of crazy thing I was doing right in front of Congress.  The students covertly handed me part of their spending money when their chaperones weren’t looking.

Chinese tourists came by the busloads, and swarmed up the Capitol steps like an invading horde.  Very few spoke English.  But when someone would translate my sign for them they became highly interested in being photographed with me.  When they were herded back onto their bus they always insisted I stand by the driver while they took up a collection to hand to the driver to hand to me.  To this day I wonder just exactly what they thought of my little stunt.  For all I know my photograph is now in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archive in Beijing.

Of course I was not the only eccentric strolling around.  There was a man whose sign was practically a novel – the gist of it was that the CIA had stolen his wife away from him in Ghana.  Another man strode vigorously around the grounds, dressed in a Revolutionary War costume.  He merely wanted to shake hands and play Yankee Doodle on his piccolo.  I saw several people attempt to pass out handbills, but they were hustled away by the police tout suite.


Summers in Washington D.C. are punishingly hot and humid.  My clown makeup only lasted about three hours before sweat began to dissolve it off my face.  And I had to start taking a diuretic for my edema, which meant finding a men’s room pretty darn quick some days; and the guards wouldn’t let me use the ones in the Rayburn House Office Building.  So in August I quit my loony vigil.

My plan of being offered a job by some well-heeled entrepreneur impressed with my Frank Capra-esque display had not panned out, anyway.

After deducting expenses for train fare and meals I wasn’t doing all that well, either.

Eventually I found other work and moved away from the East Coast.  I gave my clown props and makeup to some of my grandkids, with firm instructions to come to me before trying to use any of it.

Now I call myself semi-retired, writing content for websites.

And by the way, the United States Botanic Garden is really outstanding.  And free.  I highly recommend it when you’re touring the Capitol.  You’ll find the rest rooms especially clean and quiet.