Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Ode to a coffee cup

coffee mug

This is my favorite coffee cup.

Was. It was my favorite coffee cup.

It was a gift from a co-worker. Sylvia took a trip to California and brought me a gift. It’s rather plain, really, with a non-specific coastal-mountain-urban-rural scene, all underscored with “California.”

The fact it was a gift from a sweet friend made it special enough, but I also simply enjoyed the physical qualities.

Did I mention Sylvia gave me the cup almost 30 years ago? Yeah, sometime in 1988.

Thirty years.

Honestly, I haven’t used it exclusively that entire time. Before moving into the RV, we had a broad selection of coffee cups and I used several. The ultimate downsizing to RV life caused me to cut down to only two or three and Sylvia’s mug was one of them. That was more than five years ago.

coffee mug crackJust a few weeks ago, I noticed a slight crack on the inside of the cup and knew then its days were numbered, but it continued to function just fine.

New Year’s morning, when the temperature here reached 21 degrees, my favorite cup was sitting on my work desk (some call it a dining table) near the window. Now, it didn’t freeze inside our home, but it was pretty cool when I got up and made coffee.

As I poured the hot liquid into the cup, I heard a crack and saw coffee pooling onto the counter like fake blood in a movie homicide scene.


My other favorite will assume the duties of my front-line coffee cup. It came from the blood bank after I donated three gallons.

It’s only a little more than 17 years old.


Ties that bind


Something interesting has grown out of the coalescence of opposition to the 45th president and other right-wingers doing damage to the country under the cover of Trump’s distracting horrors.

We refer to ourselves collectively as the Resistance. At least, I do. It may or may not be the best encompassing title for the group, but I’m nothing of an insider and not up on everything. That’s part of what I find interesting, though, it seems we’re all something of insiders even if we’re not.

As a note, the vast majority of my interactions have been through Twitter, where I’ve picked up more than a thousand new “friends” simply because we share an opposition to Trump.

While disgust for the man who would be king might be the most widely shared trait of those in the Resistance, I have found many threads that run through my new friends and their friends. I gathered these impressions from what they tweet and from their brief bios. There are many similarities with my November list, “What are we for?”

For example, many of them cite support for women’s issues. Conservatives usually equate that to nothing more than freedom of choice concerning abortion. That is well represented, for sure, but there is much, much more. Most of us want women to be paid the same as men, to have equal representation in decision-making, to feel safe and to be believed when they have been hurt. For a start.


The Black Lives Movement and general recognition of the realities of ongoing oppression of people of color are commonly supported.

Many in the Resistance recognize an obligation to help people fleeing dangerous and desperate environments. That means helping refugees and developing a fair immigration policy. It certainly includes the desire to not punish the so-called Dreamers who were brought here as children and who Trump is threatening to send back to a country they do not know.

Resistance oathOn one hand, I think right wingers would be amazed at the number of members of LGBTQ communities who are in the Resistance. On the other hand, I can hear some of them shriek, “Of course *those people* would be involved with a liberal movement.” What they would surely continue to fail to acknowledge is the size of the population.

Much larger, still, is the number in the Resistance who, while heterosexual, openly and fervently support LGBTQ.

Another common theme is support for public education, recognizing that diverting public funds to private schools is a recipe for keeping the less fortunate relegated to second-class status.

And we want to see real science as part of education. While on that topic, we really want to see peer-reviewed science having an important role in policy making.

That would include things such as climate change, clean water, healthy living, cleaner environment and so on.

Something else I see a lot of is related to religion. That includes a large number of Christians, many of whom make it a point to say they are not represented by the radical right wing evangelical movement. I also come across many who mention they are atheist. Of course, there are members of other religions as well. Regardless our religious beliefs, we want to be free to follow them.

One thing about my fellow resisters that surprised me was that many are from different parts of the world. I thought this strange at first and was hesitant to follow back someone from another country, but then a fellow from Australia made a comment: “What happens in the United States affects us all.”

Closing out this list is something else I’ve observed that I find interesting. A lot of Resistance members are quite adept at cursing. Not only do they do so but many will even warn you in their bios. I suspect most of them cursed before Trump was elected but I also think it likely they, like me, have found cursing an increasingly appropriate reaction to what’s going on in Washington these days.

There are many other things that bind us, including a ready willingness to support one another when things seem dark. With that in mind, please add through a comment what the Resistance means to you.

Winning with the tax bill

Bluish blue wave

Let’s make some lemonade.

There is much jubilation among Republicans today after they passed the tax reform bill. They’re happy because, after 11 months (to the day) telling people about all the great and huge things they’ve done, they’re finally going to pass something huge, if not great.

What does it take to make Republicans happy in the year 2017? Apparently, it’s passing legislation that will send huge gobs of more money to the very richest people in the country in the form of a significant, permanent tax cut. It’s conning the middle class with a teeny tiny tax cut that blossoms into a tax increase in a few years. It’s setting up the mechanism to push millions of people off medical insurance. It’s increasing the nation’s debt by $1.46 trillion ($1,460,000,000,000.00) over the next 10 years. Apparently, icing on the cake, they’re also giddy over the idea of cutting spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to send that money to the top of wealth pyramid.

Wow, when you start to put it together, it’s easy to see why they’re so excited. And now, their leader can finally claim without lying that he’s done something big during the short time he’ll be in office. Maybe we should call it TrumpTax since he likes having his name on things.

Wait, we’re making lemonade out of all this sour news, right?

Ah, that is the good part. We’re sticking his name on it and not letting the American people forget where it came from.

But that’s not good enough. Trump pressed for this, but he could have done nothing without the Republican members of Congress who drafted it under a blanket of secrecy, held it from public review until the last minute, bought off votes by giving large kickbacks to reluctant members and then, of course, actually passing it while every Democrat and Independent in Congress voted against it. We certainly do not want to forget them.

So, should we call it the GOPTrumpTax? Or the TrumpGOPTax? That’s it, along with its subliminal message, the TrumpGOPTax is perfect because it will be a major contributor as a Blue Wave of voters turn out this fall to trump the GOP and propel Democrats into control of both houses.

Whoever is president on Jan. 1, 2019, will find a horde of social justice warriors ready to start undoing the atrocities of the current administration and its tools in Congress.

That, my friends, is the lemonade that will come out of this horrendous tax bill.

And it won’t be a shock to most of those in the GOP, except those who have submitted to a Trumpal lobotomy. Every survey showed a majority of voters was against the tax “decrease.” That’s unbelievable. Their representatives told them they will be able to keep more of their money and they said the did not want it that way.

Regardless, the Republicans did it because their big contributors and their own personal accountants advised them to do so.

Those in the Resistance must keep hammering this message, refuse to allow it to be played down, that people of both parties will suffer at the hands of the TrumpGOPTax.

Keep your chin up and let’s make some blue lemonade.

Fortune cookie crumbles

fortune cookie

Closing out the week on a lighter note (please and thank you), I was caught off guard Thursday after lunch when I read the fortune pictured above.

“Live each day as though it were your last.”

I mean, that’s good advice, but classifying it under the category of “fortune” gives it a particularly ominous ring. Is the wise old man in the fortune cookie factory in Brooklyn insinuating my last day is soon? Today? (Good news; I made it through Thursday to Friday!)

With the help of Facebook friends, this got me thinking about questionable fortune cookies:

“Check under the car before you start it.”

“Did you turn off the oven?”

“Make sure your life insurance premiums are kept up-to-date.” (Thanks, Gina.)

“Does your doctor know how much you’re eating?”

“What’s it worth to you to not tell your wife you’re here?”

“Not now, not ever.” (From Don.)


“Your application remains under review.”

“Ignore all previous fortunes.” (Thank you, Judy.)

“Don’t worry about that burglar alarm; it’s actually firefighters knocking down your door.”

“Didn’t you think the egg roll tasted a little funny?”

“It was nice knowing you.” (Back at you, Thomas.)

“Help, I’m being held prisoner in a fortune cookie factory.”

“You really should have stopped after one trip to the buffet.”

“Avoid anyone with a shiny red nose.” (Paul’s input.)

“This is your last fortune cookie.”

“You wore that in public?”

“It’s always darkest just before it goes completely black.” (Dan’s wisdom.)

“I didn’t wash my hands before folding this cookie.”

“Some fortune cookies lie.”

“Don’t judge a book by its cover. Judge by page 253 where your favorite character dies.” (Shawn says.)

“Leave the restaurant casually but promptly and don’t look back.”

“You’re expecting way too much from a cookie.”

“You are boring … even to a cookie.”

“Start working on a good alibi.”

Chime in with your ideas.

We have met the enemy

MLK - leaders

I hope I didn’t startle anyone too much by closing yesterday’s column with, “Trump really isn’t the problem.”

Sure, he really, really is “a” problem, a huge problem … but he isn’t “the” problem. The problem is bigger than 45. Yes, larger even than Trump.

What is “the problem”?

Well, there’s the unbelievably large segment of the Republican party that nurtured the selfishness and unfounded fears that gave rise to Trump and all his little Trumpies. There’s the Congress that has forsaken its duty to check his power. There are those in the party who seem hell-bent on making the poor poorer, the sick sicker, and to lock up as many as possible.

But it’s not just the Republican party.

It’s any leader that gives in to the allures of power, who is bought off, who gives up on the charge of looking out for those who are helpless.

It is those who allow their souls and their politics to be bought.

It is those who, through the strength of money alone, buy the government they want, damning the rest.

It is the voters who continue to re-elect politicians even as their morals visibly erode.

We need to rotate people out of office more quickly. Eliminate opportunities to get filthy rich just because one is in office. Wipe out the influence of money on politics. Recognize there is nothing human about a corporation.

Voters must step up and take charge. Elect people of character. Do not trust someone just because he thumps a Bible, speaks Spanish, has a lot of money or drives a Prius.

And, while the current state of the Republican party is such that I cannot fault someone for voting a straight Democratic ticket – at this point in time – the problem is not specific to a party. There may very well be a blue wave wash over the 2018 and 2020 elections, and the Democrats may hold power for a while, but then …

Then, history tells us, there will be some righteous reason to throw them out.

Because we won’t change the way money interacts with politics.

Because power still corrupts.

Dare we dream of a better outcome? Please, give me a reason to have hope.

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You and the bully

you sided with a bully

— Author unknown

Do we think less of you because you support Donald Trump?

Is it that simple of a test?

It hasn’t always been, but now …

Now, almost 11 months into his presidency, with all we’ve seen …

Prior to the election, we understood someone making a protest vote, even though it seemed short-sighted. Protesters ranged from some Bernie supporters to voters who felt fed up with the system. Shake things up, they thought. Bring in an outsider. Put a business person in charge. (Boy, I hope that desire has been put to rest.)

Besides – and this is important to their defense – hardly anyone who voted for him thought he would win. No, they were just going to register their objections to … whatever … and be able to say, if a friend disliked anything that happened under President Hillary Clinton, “Don’t blame me; I didn’t vote for her.”

Additionally, they had no way of knowing Russia was (allegedly! ha!) playing mind games with easily persuaded people in key parts of the country, using propaganda to con the con-able into voting against their own welfare.

Trump supportersAnd, then, when the guy who lost the election by 2,868,691 votes was able to squeak out wins in key states (see Russian involvement) and capture the Electoral College, those people who voted for him because they thought it would be cute, because they were mad at the world or because they knew it would irritate their ex, they found themselves in the awkward position of knowingly buying an inferior product, even if by mistake.

You know, like day-dreaming about a giant in-home entertainment system online and accidentally clicking the buy button.


Up to this point, there was no need for a huge personal grudge. Most of us are forgiving. That is, if you ask forgiveness.

Here’s where the problem begins. Many of those reluctant and/or lukewarm voters, it seems, decided to cast their lots with the winning candidate even though theirs was only a “protest” vote. Hey, backing a winner is fun. Did I tell you the story of when I placed a $2 bet on a 50-1 horse to win … and he did? Good times.

Since the election, prior to which all of Trump’s ridiculousness was merely fodder for a campaign, we have come to see the naysayers were right all along. (Naysayers would include not only the Democrats but also the large contingent of Republicans who at one point warned against him.) He really is ridiculous. He’s unprepared with no intention of preparing. He’s a bully with no intention of caring about others. He’s only out for himself; what he says he’s doing for America is really to benefit him. He’s coddled white supremacists while going out of his way to persecute minorities. He honestly seems determined to drop a nuclear weapon somewhere … anywhere. And he’s a colossal embarrassment on the international stage … huge embarrassment, a relationship-damaging embarrassment, a potential war-catalyst embarrassment.

So, yes. Yes, if you still support Trump, after we’ve seen so much evidence against him from assaulting women to courting Russia, then we must think less of you.

However – and this is completely honest – it does not mean you’re hated, it does not suggest you’re not loved, and it definitely does not mean you cannot wake up, smell the coffee and work with us to remove this cancer from the Oval Office.

But even that’s not enough.

Next: “Trump really isn’t the problem.”

Friends and politics

staying out of politics

A friend told me she has severed Facebook contact with family and friends who still support the 45th president. Social media are full of people talking about doing the same thing.

I have restrained my comments on Facebook, leaving the meat to Twitter and this site, but why would I do that if I am truly passionate about something? If I – or if you – think it’s such a big deal, why wouldn’t we want to share it with our best friends? It’s like watching them ride a sled down the hill toward a cliff. We surely want them to hear our warnings … any way possible!

Be like SallyMaybe we hold back because it hurts too deeply to understand those who are dear to us don’t agree. For example, while we might more easily accept that strangers display racist and hate-filled tendencies, we don’t want to think that of friends.

The painful truth is, however, sharing a playground as a child or working alongside each other as adults or even having a common grandparent does not guarantee your friend or relative is not among those who don’t care what happens to other people.

So, should you break off relationships with political un-friendlies?

I suppose we all have a line we allow others to reach. For some of us, they come to it much sooner than others and I guess that’s the point today. We all have different lines.

With a career of publishing my thoughts in newspapers, I entered this social media craze with an open attitude. Almost all my posts are public, and I will let most folks give opposing opinions. At times, I will engage them, particularly when their statements are verifiably erroneous, but much of the time I leave them alone.

Over the years, while I have blocked tons of fake news and hate-peddling sites, I have blocked only four Facebook friends, each of whom made it a point to drag my family into it. Two of them directly attacked a family member.

So, I guess that’s pretty much my line.

For the record, the two mentioned above called out a relative (whom they do not know) who is active military and labeled him a coward for no other reason than the fact he is in the medical corps. At the time, he had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. I immediately blocked these two whom I had known 39 years or longer.

To be honest, I have enjoyed not having any of the four of them and their negativity on my feed. That’s not to say we didn’t have good times, but there’s that line and they crossed it.

In my opinion, yes, it is quite all right to cull out Facebook friends and Twitter followers who bring misery to your life. However …

However, if you can stomach them and if you have a message to share, hang in there.

Sure, the world can always use another cute cat video or photo of an attractive meal, but an honest message of goodness might provide a bit of what is really needed.

Another old friend of mine, going back to high school, often reads these postings and sometimes comments, usually in opposition to what I write.

Several days ago, he commented with a couple of points and then closed with this:

“By the way – I love you and hope you call me next time you pass through the old stomping grounds. I’ll buy lunch and we can talk about the old days and all the things we still have in common.”

Isn’t that wonderful? It’s what’s been missing, the ability to disagree and still respect one another, to reach for those things we still have in common.

That’s a lofty goal, but it may no longer be that simple.

Check back Tuesday to examine the question, “Do we think less of you because you support Donald Trump?”

Elizabeth and me

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren and I have something in common, something kind of deep and personal.

No, I’m not talking about disdain for the current ravaging of the country by those running the Republican Party.

To begin with, Sen. Warren was born and grew up in Oklahoma, about 125 miles from where my mother was born and raised some years before. Growing up, I visited often at my grandmother’s house in Wilburton. One of the things I remember was a framed document noting that my grandmother was a resident of the Indian Territory when Oklahoma became a state.

That was meaningful because she was part Cherokee.

My grandmother’s maiden name was Bright and even Donald Trump would have looked at her and her brothers and recognized their native American bloodline. I never questioned it. We were told we were part Cherokee and I always treasured that.

It wasn’t until I was 40-something that Leah and I, with our even-thinner-blooded-Cherokee daughter in tow, tried to nail down the lineage. My grandmother was gone by then and all my mother had was names in the family tree.

My inspiration came from a friend who showed me her Cherokee citizenship card. I had never considered it because it had been my impression one must be at least a quarter Cherokee, but Marti told me the only requirement was to prove direct lineage to someone who had signed the Dawes Roll around the turn of the 20th century.

((Martha Berry, I must add, became involved with the nation, served as a delegate to the 1999 Cherokee Nation Constitution Convention, has become an accomplished beadworker and was designated in 2013 as a Cherokee National Living Treasure. I call her my Cherokee sister, even though … wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Leah, Erin and I ended up visiting the capital of the Cherokee Nation near Tahlequah, Okla., in the late ’90s, armed with my mother’s family tree and hopes of tracking down my heritage.

The complex was closed.

We knew it shouldn’t have been and banged on the door until a law enforcement officer opened and explained they were under lockdown because of a protest taking place at the courthouse or somewhere. He advised us to go to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in nearby Muskogee.

There, an amazing woman listened to our story, took our information and told us to have a seat. A fair amount of time passed before she returned with bad news. She was not able to find any link between my forebears and the rolls.

“Listen to me,” she said. “Do not doubt for an instant your Cherokee heritage. There were a great many people who did not trust the government and refused to sign the rolls.”

That is what Elizabeth Warren and I have in common.

She had always trusted what she called “family lore” in this article by The Atlantic. Apparently, it never occurred to her to substantiate the anecdotes of her family.

“These are my family stories,” she was quoted as saying. “This is what my brothers and I were told by my mom and my dad, my mammaw and my pappaw.”

For the record, the article also explains there is no evidence she used her supposed heritage to gain any preferential treatment, except for submitting recipes for a cookbook published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee.

So, I’m proud to also call Elizabeth my Cherokee sister. I trust family stories, especially when they are rooted in a time when claiming to be of native blood was not considered by most Americans to be all that desirable.

Which, if you listen to some of what’s coming out of Washington these day, may still be true.


Remember December

Washington crossing the Delaware

Forever, it seems, I’ve had a problem with the multitude of year-end wrap-ups of the top stories of the year.

Not that I mind looking back and remembering but because they almost always are published in December. How can you list the tops stories of 2017 when there remains the better part of a month?

I understand why they do it. News slows down during the winter holiday season and the roundup gives reporters something to do. To a smaller degree, maybe people are more likely to have reading time at home.

This morning, I came across’s article, “2017: Year in Review.” To be certain, there is plenty to round out a full year’s worth of notable news.

There’s the amazing #MeToo movement and the big names it brought down, the nuclear threats between North Korea and the United States, Colin Kaepernick and others risking careers to speak up for persecuted people, the investigation into Russian interference in our election, hurricanes left and right, 59 people shot and killed in Las Vegas, 27 people shot and killed in Sutherland Springs, 9 people shot and killed in Plano, 8 people shot and killed in Bogue Chitto, 6 people shot and killed in Orlando, 6 people shot and killed in Corning, 5 people shot and killed in La Madera, 5 people shot and killed in Houston, 5 people shot and killed in Rothschild, 5 people shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale, 5 people shot and killed in Hubbard, and 32 different locations where 4 people were shot and killed.

And much more. And we still have 25 days to go.

To be fair, let’s take a look back and see if anything particularly newsworthy has ever happened the latter part of the calendar year.

Dec. 31, 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light.

Dec. 30, 1922, Vladimir I. Lenin proclaimed the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Dec. 29, 1890, the Wounded Knee massacre took place in South Dakota as some 300 Sioux Indians were killed by U.S. troops.

Dec. 28, 1832, John C. Calhoun became the first vice president of the United States to resign.

Dec. 27, 1968, Apollo 8 and its three astronauts made a safe, nighttime splashdown in the Pacific after its trip circling the moon.

Dec. 26, 2004, more than 230,000 people, mostly in southern Asia, were killed by a 100-foot-high tsunami triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean.

Dec. 25, 1776, Gen. George Washington crossed the Delaware River with 5,400 troops to surprise a Hessian force celebrating Christmas at their winter quarters in Trenton, N.J.

Dec. 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978.

Dec. 23, 1968, the captain and 83-man crew of the U.S. intelligence gathering ship, USS Pueblo, were released after 11 months imprisonment by the government of North Korea.

Dec. 22, 1978, John Wayne Gacy confessed to police to killing more than two dozen boys and young men and burying their bodies under his suburban Chicago home.

Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York exploded in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members, as well as 11 Lockerbie residents on the ground.

Dec. 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama.

Dec. 19, 1907, the Darr mine of Pittsburgh Coal Co. in Jacobs Creek, Penn., exploded, killing 239 workers.

Dec. 18, 1865, slavery is abolished in the United States as the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution.

Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft.

Dec. 16, 1960, two airplanes collided over New York City, killing 134 people on the planes and on the ground.

Dec. 15, 1791, Virginia became the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights, making the first 10 amendments to the Constitution law.

Dec. 14, 2012, a man shot and killed his mother at their Newtown, Conn., home and then drove to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he killed 20 first-graders and six school employees.

Dec. 13, 2003, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was captured, found hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit.

Dec. 12, 1989, Leona Helmsley, who once quipped that “only the little people pay taxes,” received a four-year prison sentence and a $7.1 million tax fraud fine in New York.

Dec. 11, 2008, financier Bernard Madoff was charged with masterminding a long-running Ponzi scheme later estimated to involve around $65 billion.

Dec. 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Spanish-American War, ceding to the United States Puerto Rico and Guam.

Dec. 9, 1950, Harry Gold, for his role in passing top-secret information to Soviet agents, was sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Dec. 8, 1980, former Beatle John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment building on the West Side of New York City.

Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, propelling the United States into World War II.

There’s bound to be a top story or two among those.

Say what?

You Talkin' to me

About a year ago, fearful of what might be looming ahead with the 45th presidential administration, I promised myself to write my Congress members about important issues.

But it did not take them long to inform me they really didn’t give a flying fig what I think or want.

For the record, I’m talking about Rep. Bill Flores and Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. However, it’s obvious from reading about others’ experiences that the problem is pandemic.

Of course, they didn’t come right out and say they didn’t want my opinion. I would write something like, “Please discontinue your assault on our alphabet. I think it’s important we continue to use the letter ‘G’ in the English language. For example, it’s used three times in ‘English language.’”

They eventually write back something like:

“Thank you for your input about our efforts to simplify and reform the alphabet. I appreciate the benefit of your comments on this matter.

“The soon-to-be former seventh letter of the alphabet has forever been a drain on our nation’s production and our worthiness as a body of people. With your welcomed assistance, we shall soon relieve ourselves of this burden.

“I am honored to represent you and the people of Texas.”

What? I’m not assisting you. I’m against everything this stands for. Are you hearing me?

They’re employing the same tactic of the president. Just keep saying something, even though it’s false, and eventually so many people will believe it and, at that point, it might as well be true.

The tax bill they’re currently trying to shove down our throats is a great example. Expert reviews of it talk about how much higher it will run the deficit, how most of the money will go to the richest people and how lower income people will soon pay more taxes and will lose important programs.

But the GOP keeps singing the line that it will make the country great again. And they’re not listening to anything we say.

Two of my three congressmen will have to listen to what I have to say Nov. 6, 2018.

Freedom of and from

Chapel of the Snows

Looking out the window of the Chapel of the Snows in McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

When and where I grew up, the name Madalyn Murray O’Hair was akin to curse words and that’s probably still true today for many folks.

(Note: This is the second of an occasional series addressing the question in an earlier post, “What are we for?”)

Her lawsuit, Murray v. Curlett, led to a landmark 1963 Supreme Court ruling supposedly ending official Bible-reading in American public schools. A year earlier, the Supreme Court prohibited officially sponsored prayer in schools in Engel v. Vitale.

I guess the reason we all heard about O’Hair and not Engel was because she objected as an atheist and he objected as a Jew. Less than 20 years after World War II, Americans may have been reluctant to attack the constitutional rights of the Jewish community. Atheists, however, were considered fair game.

As a Christian, I could not understand the atheist. As a maturing citizen of the United States, however, I came to understand their protests, claiming their rights under the U.S. Constitution, specifically the first clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Very early, I took the position that I did not want my child preached to at school. I had been around enough Christians to know they didn’t all believe quite like I did. Additionally, I knew it was highly likely that, soon enough, representatives of every religion under the sun would, quite rightly, demand a turn presenting their beliefs to the kids. Religion instruction belongs in the home and places of worship.

The founders of our country were wise to draw a line between church and state. And yet, some 240 years later, we’re still embroiled in that question.

Donald Trump, whose conduct would defy honest attempts to match him with any religious doctrine, has made show of doing everything he can to deny rights to non-Christians, only to see his actions fall by the wayside under judicial review.

Back to the theme of this series: What am I for?

I am for religious freedom. I want each of us to be able to practice our religion or no religion at all without interference from any arm of the government and without oppression from people who believe differently. Similarly, said practice of religion should not interfere with or oppress others.

I am for us loving and supporting each other without regard to religious beliefs. You know, the way most religions instruct us to do.

We’re not talking Patsy Cline, either


While we’re waiting for the dust to settle on the Michael Flynn guilty plea, there was another topic mid-week that generated an awful lot of conversation.

Is President Trump crazy?

A Vanity Fair article states, “A growing body of evidence suggests that Trump’s alternative view of the world … may be pathological.”

Peter Wehner, a veteran of three Republican administrations and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told The Washington Post: “He creates his own reality and lives in his own reality and tries to bend reality around himself and his own deep narcissistic needs.”

Tony Schwartz, the co-author of President Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” said Trump is “losing his grip.”

In a letter to the New York Times, Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine, said he represents thousands of “mental health professionals who have come forward to warn against the president’s psychological instability.”

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” host, former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, said Trump is “completely detached from reality” and is a threat to start a war. He called for the members of the Cabinet to remove Trump from office through the 25th Amendment.

Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lance Dodes used the most specific terms in calling out the president’s mental state: incapable, disordered, sick, dangerous, not in control of himself, delusional, villainous … and so on.

CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza says, “the last few days Trump feels even more unmoored than usual.”

Lastly, the editorial board of the New York Daily News said, “The President of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad.”

While some have joked about this in the past … it’s no longer funny.

Dems need to reset

Shipboard sunrise

Sometimes, you really need to start over.

One might think, with all the problems of the Donald Trump administration, Democrats need only decide who they want to replace him.

But remember, this is the same party that gave away what was thought to be a certain win in the last presidential race and has been losing a grip on governments from local offices on up.

I am no political strategist, but I do have an idea. Old Democrats need to make way for the next generation.

And I intend an active use of “make way.” They shouldn’t relocate to front porch rocking chairs but must concentrate on courting, empowering and helping their younger counterparts, easing the transition to those who will lead the nation to the next level. Parts of the party seem to be doing this, but the high-profile and older leaders need to whole-heartedly join the movement. And the sooner they do so, the better.

Hillary Clinton has said she’s not running again; she needs to stick to that plan.

Bernie Sanders wants to change the way Democrats do things; he should actually join the party and work on those improvements from the inside while serving as a senator and not as a candidate for the White House. The party can certainly be better but not by tearing it apart while the GOP is converting the country into a plutocracy.

Joe Biden seems to be displaying some remorse for not running in 2016, a decision we’re told was heavily influenced by the 2015 death of his son, Beau Biden, from brain cancer. It’s quite possible that Biden would have defeated Trump. Regardless, he should not wade back into those waters. No, sir.

Even Elizabeth Warren and Tim Kaine should swear off running on the presidential ticket and stick to providing leadership from the Senate.


Not only are they all old school (well, maybe not Bernie) but are also old. On Inauguration Day 2021, Kaine will be 61 and the others will all be at least 71 (especially Bernie, who will be 79).

However, their problem isn’t that they’re old but everyone else is so young. It’s not the number of birthday candles, of course. Much of it is being able to relate to and motivate their constituency, to overcome the quagmire that has become politics.

That’s where the future of the party lies. That’s where the future of the country lies. Indeed, if there is a bright horizon for Democrats, that’s where they must cast their attention; that’s where the old lions need to turn to find their next leaders.

And they need to do so now.


Medical bankruptcies

I feel the need to follow up on something I’ve seen repeated about Monday’s post expounding on the value and morality of universal healthcare.

The remarks all took place on my Facebook page after I linked to the post. It’s nice when comments are made here so everything is tied together for all to see, but social media make it so easy to post that it’s difficult to make that happen. Regardless…

A common objection among people who voiced opposition to universal healthcare was made via referring to it as “free” healthcare.

I sure hope they don’t think they read that in my post. They didn’t.

Their comments caused me to wonder. Do they consider highways free? Law enforcement? National defense? Are those free because everyone enjoys them? Do they consider Social Security an entitlement?

Like public schools, libraries, fire departments, bridges, dams, garbage collection, landfills, parks, prisons, mass transit, street lights, border protection, weather forecasts, the court system … and so much more … universal healthcare would be paid for by we the people through our taxes.

When you call the fire department, you’re not asked if you have a job. When you drive to the library, you’re not required to prove you’re not lazy. When our nation goes to war to protect us from threats real and imagined, the military does not shield only those the government deems financially worthy.

The universal healthcare I want is one that covers people, even those I don’t like, and we all pitch in to fund it because, one, we’re humane, and, two, we may need it ourselves someday. How we pay for it deserves earnest attention and hard work, but making it a reality is important enough for us to do just that because saying someone is too poor to protect his or her health is immoral.



Without quality healthcare, someone with a little skin cancer could end up with a hole in their cheek rather than a sexy scar.

People with plenty of money can buy expensive cars, larger houses and fancier clothes. That’s great; good for them. However, money should not be a factor in determining who gets health care.

(Note: This is the first of an occasional series addressing the question in an earlier post, “What are we for?”)

The idea that socio-economic status should determine whether one has access to good healthcare is repugnant. There is no values-based defense of the belief. Anyone who truly thinks poor people – even “lazy” people – do not deserve proper care is among the vilest self-centered egotists around.

Am I being clear enough?

Not that the idea of universal healthcare should be anything new. Recognize the following?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Some will argue the second sentence of the United States Declaration of Independence, famous for noting the self-evident rights of all people, has no application to the availability of healthcare. Balderdash. Inadequate healthcare robs people of their happiness and, all too frequently, of life itself.

There are practical reasons, too.

Healthy people contribute more to society by being more productive in what they do and not having so many sick days. Catching a health issue before it explodes can save a lot of money and suffering. In fact, I suspect people in good physical shape are happier and less likely to cause other problems.

But, the money …

To be clear, I’m not just talking about providing medical care to poor people. Indeed, the best, fairest way is to make healthcare available to everyone.

We already have that to a degree. If someone does not get treated for influenza, pneumonia may develop. Without the money to pay for a doctor’s visit, that person does not get treated and the situation worsens. Eventually, sick enough, a visit is made to an emergency room.

Ever since the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, any hospital that takes Medicare or Medicaid may not refuse care in an emergency, even if the patient is incapable of paying and has no insurance.

Who, then, pays the hospital bill?

There is no simple answer, but overall, the hospital will eat part of the cost, taxpayers will cover some of it and more is passed along, through higher premiums, to people who do have insurance.

Yes, you read that correctly, you’re already paying for it.

But, it’s so complicated …

Indeed, but almost every other country you’d be willing to move to has figured it out. In fact, perhaps the first thing to do is to make it uncomplicated. Eliminating the briar patch that is modern medical insurance has to free up a lot of money that can be put back into care-giving.

Look, I’m no policy wonk, but I know we can come up with a system that is better than what we have now. Granted, some people and corporations that receive sinful amounts of money may take a hit in the pocketbook. Cry me a river.


Port Aransas Oct. 2015 IMG_0308

In church Sunday, we read a litany for Thanksgiving. Its list of things for which we’re thankful really hit home. I extracted the following from the call-and-response format. What would you add?

For the good world; for things great and small, beautiful and awesome, for seen and unseen splendors.

For human life; for talking and moving and thinking together; for common hopes and hardships shared from birth until our dying.

For work to do and strength to work; for the comradeship of labor; for exchanges of good humor and encouragement.

For family; for living together and eating together; for family amusements and family pleasures.

For the young; for their high hopes; for their irreverence toward worn-out values; for their search for freedom.

For growing up and growing old; for wisdom deepened by experience; for rest in leisure; and for time made precious by its passing.

For your help in times of doubt and sorrow; for healing our diseases; for preserving us in temptation and danger.

For the church into which we have been called; for the good news we receive by Word and Sacrament; for our life together in the Lord.

For your Holy Spirit, who guides our steps and brings us gifts of faith and love; who prays in us and prompts our grateful worship.

Above all, O God, for your Son Jesus Christ, who lived and died and lives again for our salvation; for our hope in him; and for the joy of serving him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Woman power

Female Mount Rushmore

I found this alternative to Mount Rushmore on a T-shirt for sale on Amazon. From the left are Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Elizabeth Warren, Rosa Parks and Gloria Steinem.

 Duck and cover, boys. There’s a whole bunch of scattershooting coming up. I have a lot to say, I’m unable to organize it coherently, and none if it makes guys look good.

It seems appropriate, for some reason I may not be able to explain, to use the recent rash of sexual assault allegations as a reason to expound on my deep belief that we need more women in power.

I mean, we need women in charge, such as being president, having the majority of seats – and powerful seats – in Congress, and at least five positions on the Supreme Court. (Remember when Ruth Bader Ginsburg told of being asked how many women would be enough on the Supreme Court? Her answer was, when there are nine, just like there were always nine men for generations.)

I acquired my first female doctor 11 years ago, a dentist. (I’m scattershooting, remember? Keep up.) Since then, there has been an oral surgeon, an optometrist and, most convincing, my family doctor of the past several years. When my urologist retired this past summer, my first criterion for his replacement was to be a woman.

Generally speaking, I have more faith that women will make quality decisions, whether they concern my health or the well-being of the planet.

However, do not assume this to be a statement that all women are righteous angels nor that all men are selfish bullies.

Back to sexual assault charges.

In the recent past, it has been more the rule than the exception that such allegations have been ignored and/or the accuser vilified.

Just as black Americans, for decades, had been expected to give way to white people, women were expected to accept inappropriate comments and physical contact and shrug it off with a boys-will-be-boys attitude.

But that tide is changing.

Heck, since the investigation into Harvey Weinstein became public, that tide has become a tsunami.

And that is good. It’s way past time women are believed when they come forward with difficult charges.

The greatest payoff is still down the road, when sexual harassment becomes a rare event. Men who had never gotten the message should now understand with a heightened acuity: A woman is not your plaything.

What do I mean by tsunami?

The New York Times published its investigation into Weinstein on Oct. 5. Since then, men as prominent as Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose and Andy Dick have been implicated as women and men have reported sexual misconduct.


Some have admitted guilt, such as John Besh, chief executive of the Besh Restaurant Group: “I alone am entirely responsible for my moral failings.”

Others have contested the charges, such as Andy Signore, senior vice president of content for Defy Media, whose lawyer stated: “Mr. Signore unequivocally denies allegations of sexual assault, harassment or retaliation of any kind.”

And that brings up a different matter of concern. During this rapid change in public perception, there may be collateral damage.

We must try to avoid automatically condemning all men just because they are accused, particularly when there is a single charge and it is denied. Remember, not all women are angels and not all men are bullies. However, that single charge deserves a fair hearing, and when the first accusation is followed by several more …

I know many men are sweating right now.

During my years editing newspapers, quite a few women worked for me. I honestly can think of no reason any one of them might have to call my character into question. Still, what if there was something said, what if there was a hug or a pat on the shoulder that bothered someone? See what I mean? A man who overtly crossed the line should be sweating bullets.

Holly O’Reilly tweeted:


Al Franken should resign.

Trump should be impeached.

Bill Clinton should play golf for the rest of his life.

Roy Moore should drop out of the race.

And it’s time for women to take over.

This is not a D or R issue.

I #believewomen.

Now it’s time to #ElectWomen


I cannot argue any of that.

At least until men learn how to behave and to respect others, let’s give women a shot at running things.


Forty or 80 years from now, we’ll re-evaluate.



Around the corner and around the world, people are different. All, generally speaking, are worthy. This roadside shop is in Krabi Province, Thailand.

Today’s post is a quickie because I really want you to click through and read this article: “I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People.”

Kayla Chadwick wrote this for publication in late June and it’s driving force was the health care brouhaha we suffered through back then. However, the message ranges further than that and I find it resonates well with me.

In fact, I’m sharing it here as a primer for what I want to say, and I may refer to it on occasion. Like Ms. Chadwick, I do not mind sharing a bit more of my hard-earned riches to help others. If you simply do not care about other people, that may be the foundation of our difficulty in communicating.

Now, click through and read the article. And don’t worry, it’s short.

What are we for?


Mankind has come a long way, but we can always make life better for humanity as a whole. This marker is on a pier in Bridgetown, Barbados.

In our current political climate, it’s easy to get the impression we’re all *against* something.

It’s understandable. Republicans are against unlawful immigration; Democrats are against immoral deportations.

(If you please, I acknowledge this includes generalizations and lumping people into broad categories.)

Democrats are against cutting environmental regulations; Republicans are against government restricting business practices.

Republicans are against dishonoring the flag to make a political statement; Democrats are against unjustly penalizing people of color.

Are we *for* anything?

Is there something you want?

Well, it so happens I have my own list. I do not care if the politicians who give me what I want are Democrat or Republican. In my view, these desires should cross political barriers.

Following is little more than a quickly compiled list. Over the next … I don’t know … few weeks, I will look more closely at many of these items and may add a few. Meanwhile, consider putting together your own list.

In no particular order (and likely not the order future articles will appear):

  • Freedom of – and freedom from – religion. If you want a government controlled by religion, consider Saudi Arabia or The Vatican, among a small number of other countries.
  • Healthcare for everyone. The idea that socio-economic status should determine whether one has access to good healthcare is repugnant.
  • Distribution of wealth. This is difficult because we feel successful people should be rewarded, but it’s seldom that simple. A worker should be able to survive with a 40-hour-a-week job.
  • Qualified and capable leaders. This only hit my list since the election of Donald Trump and, more notably, his outrageous nominations.
  • Respect for science. The fact you do not agree with the results and do not understand the scientific process does not make them wrong.
  • Climate change. This and the former entry may be lumped together, but the threat associated with ignoring climate change is enough to warrant a special spot.
  • Equality. Why is it this country continues to violate its basic principles by denying equal treatment to everyone?
  • Judicial abuse. This can include many things that might also be broken out as separate points. Summarize it as cops enforcing laws unequally, and prison sentences that are way over the top, particularly for things like using marijuana, and especially for people of color.
  • Education. Public education played a huge role in driving the United States to prominence. It always needs tweaking but not abandoning.
  • Adequate defense. That means, we have way too much of a military emphasis. And we spend waaaay too much money on it.
  • No unnecessary wars. This is important enough for a separate bullet point.
  • A global view. Face it, in the age of satellite communication and transoceanic flights, the idea of “America First” while other parts of the world go up in flames is untenable.
  • Infrastructure. I have watched, in my lifetime, as roads, dams and bridges have deteriorated.
  • Immigration and The Wall. Yes, we need to tend to our immigration problems. The Wall, however, is a simplistic, ineffective, wasteful, hateful and ugly attempt at a solution.
  • Women’s rights. Really, why is this even a question?
  • Family values. The government, however, does not get to choose those values beyond protecting the rights of everyone in the family.
  • Freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Another thing I did not think necessary before the present administration.

Beautiful friendship

Casablanca pic

“What’s your favorite?” is a question I usually avoid. Too often, the topic is one where I hold broad interests or maybe little interest. I couldn’t pick just one favorite artist, for example.

Several years ago – to have an answer to a frequent question – I decided to crown “Casablanca” as my favorite movie. (Similarly, I dubbed Jimmy Buffett’s “He Went to Paris” as my favorite song.)

I do not have a vivid memory of my first viewing of “Casablanca,” but it would have been after VCRs and VHS tapes came into vogue in the early ’80s. While I enjoyed the movie, I’m sure it didn’t rocket to the top of my favorites list with one watch.

A few years later, I acquired a copy of the film and got in touch with its beauty.

Colorful characters, a love story, quality wartime propaganda, top-shelf good guys, reluctant good guys, purely evil bad guys, self-serving minor bad guys, excellent dialogue wonderfully delivered … and more.

While I’ve seen “Casablanca” at home dozens of times, I’ve never had the opportunity to watch it in a theater, but that’s changing Wednesday.

Fathom Events has teamed with movie theaters all over for four special showings of the movie. Two happened Sunday; the final two are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Central time. Click here to find a theater near you.

In preparation for the movie, I’m holding a quote storm today on my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Here are the first few:

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine.

“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault.

“Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.” Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund.

“You must remember this / A kiss is still a kiss / A sigh is just a sigh.” Dooley Wilson as Sam.

“You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.” Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo.

Quickly now, what other “Casablanca” quotes must I include?


Believe me

Lying Graphic jpeg

During the voir dire process (during which prospective trial jurors are questioned and a panel is chosen) when I was recently on jury duty, one of the attorneys said jurors must decide if a witness is honest.

Certainly, that’s true, but I was struck by its full implication.

Every witness swears before taking the stand he or she will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Everyone knows doing otherwise could result in a perjury conviction and jail time. Some of the witnesses are seated as “experts.” Some are law enforcement officers.

Still, a question each juror faces with each witness – before even considering how the testimony affects the case – is whether the witness is telling the truth.

I find that a little mind-boggling. It’s an incredible responsibility to put on a jury.

However, don’t we do that all the time?

A commercial says it’s the best product ever. A kid says the dog must have broken the plate. A Facebook post says you’ll get rich for reposting something ridiculous. A sportscaster says the Houston Astros won the most exciting World Series of all time.

Well, that last one might be right.

What we’re asking of jurors isn’t outside the norm. We are all, every day, responsible for discerning whom to trust and whether to believe what we hear or even see.

Regrettably, that is well-illustrated by politicians.

To paraphrase Dr. Gregory House, all politicians lie. It may be as small as not refusing to accept credit for something he or she did not do. It could be implying one has the support of someone important or attempting to hide a connection to someone who has become persona non grata.

So, yes, most of us have come to accept a certain level of “insincerity” from politicians, and each must determine what is an acceptable amount.

Now, this is an important distinction.

Since we make that determination individually (or within groups who share similar values) what you and I think of a particular person’s reliability can differ considerably, mostly because one of us *wants* what that person says to be true and the other *wants* it to be a lie.

And that is what makes the discussions surrounding Donald Trump so aggravating.

Donald Trump lies all the time. Perhaps it’s a wiring defect in that he cannot tell the truth. He’s lived a life of saying whatever he wants to be true and his hired hands have either made it true or repeated it back to him as if it were. That’s why politics have been so frustrating for him. The sky is not proclaimed to be purple just because he says it is.

Furthermore – and I sincerely want this to be true – most of his diminishing number of supporters know he lies all the time.

They know it just like the rest of us. However, they cannot bring themselves to admit it because they made the decision to back Trump and that’s more important to them than anything else.

The crime in his lying – figuratively, if not literally – isn’t usually the lies themselves. It’s that we all get sidetracked by chasing the lies. While we’re digging into a basically pointless lie, he and his unqualified cabinet, assisted by Congress members who are equally dangerous or at least spineless, are laying waste to the environment, robbing the poor and enriching the rich.

I say this because I love you just as much as I do the hungry, sick, poor and disenfranchised people trampled upon by this administration.

And that’s no lie.


Love dont Hate JPG

Yesterday, we discussed the need to reach across what divides us and find things we have in common.

Today, let’s take that a step further: “Can’t we all just love one another?”

Seriously, that’s what conservative columnist David Brooks suggested in “How to Engage a Fanatic” last month, though he also admits it’s not always easy. (He also extends credit to Stephen L. Carter’s 1998 book “Civility.”)

To be clear, he writes about more than an easy-going, “I love everyone” attitude. No, not simply saying it but doing something. A reminder, we’re talking about loving fanatics, which most of us only use to describe zealots whose opinions are considerably different from ours.


Listen, truly listen, even if the fanatic is saying repugnant things. Listen, ask honest questions, rephrase what you heard, and, “Show some ultimate care for their destiny and soul.”

(Worth noting, he acknowledged there are people with whom you cannot have a civil conversation, including those who simply will not participate, those who refuse to accept facts, and people who cling to outrageous tenets such as racism.)

Why love?

He gives three general reasons/benefits for loving fanatics. He expands on each in his column, but we can summarize them as (1) to protect yourself from your own bitterness; (2) many fanatics are wounded people for whom a listener is a gift; and (3) it’s good for the country.

If you’ve cruised around social media much the last couple of years, this may seem impossible, but the potential benefits speak for themselves.

Three final observations: You do not have to abandon your principles or beliefs. You don’t have to like someone to love them. And expect this to be difficult to execute.

Together …

Curacao message

The truth is, it takes a village to accomplish most good things. I took this photo on the island nation of Curaçao.

Politics has always been a clash of ideas and a competition of personalities. The struggles that emanate from such rivalries can be healthy, creative, constructive … or destructive.

When is the last time you saw a beneficial debate of philosophies, witnessed two opponents give and take to achieve a great end?

Do you agree we need both sides (which is silly in itself; there are much more than two sides) to work together to address problems in this country?

A Corpus Christi Caller-Times editorial last week nailed it in “To make America greater, we’ll need each other.”

I encourage you to read the entire piece.

The editorial board places blame on the latest presidential campaign for dividing us further but then puts the onus on “we as a people” to fix the situation, beginning with not treating each other as enemies.

The article isolated on a campaign event where U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, was asked to renounce Will Hurd, a Republican congressman representing San Antonio, where this rally was being held.

Undoubtedly, the issue only came up because O’Rourke and Hurd made headlines last spring when, following a canceled flight, they decided to carpool to Washington, D.C., a trip they chronicled online, illustrating that political competitors can, at least, get along.

O’Rourke refused his supporter’s demand, calling Hurd a good friend and legislative partner, even though they belong to different parties and hold numerous different beliefs.

But what O’Rourke and Hurd may find in common is nothing, a drop in the bucket, compared to what their constituents agree about.

When they get to know each other, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, independents, socialists, communists, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Buddhists, European Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, natural citizens, immigrants, dreamers, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, unemployed, retirees, straights, gays, lesbians, males, females, transgenders … and so on … find they share a lot.

Yes, we are just that different, but we get along rather well when we know one another.

We desperately need to elevate that inclusiveness and cooperative nature into politics.

Moving forward

Eating an Elephant

One year ago today, a date that shall … well, I will forego descriptors in spirit of this post … Donald Trump won enough electoral votes to take over as the 45th president of the United States.

I have made it no secret how devastating that was to me. For 52 weeks, I have struggled with what kind of small role I might play in trying to minimize the damage Trump is inflicting on our country and people. I’m just a guy with a tiny little soapbox, but my soul compels me to do something. Answers or attempts at answers have risen and fallen. I have made stabs at it with little success.

Meanwhile, my other writing has suffered tremendously because most of my time has been spent mentally dealing with Trump and me.

Today, one year later, I plan to move forward.

Taking one bite at a time, I hope to make quick posts here (with a goal of once every day or two, but we shall see) and then move on for a few hours and do something more normal, like write on my next book or hike along a trail or take in a movie.

My principles have not changed an iota, but I’m trying to alter my approach. I beseech you to accompany me.

What I said about the “spirit of this post” in the opening sentence is my desire to seek out some middle ground between Democrats and Republicans, between conservatives and progressives. Unless something more pressing pops up, that will be the topic of the next column.

Meet Jackson

apricot_seedThe reader-nominated character for my next book, “The Reporter and the Apricot,” has been selected.

His name is Jackson Carlisle. He’s throwing newspapers to help pay his way through college, where he’s also on the track team.

He also has a pet terrier named Lee and a dream of becoming a sports therapist.

There’s more, of course, but we have to save something for the book.

Congratulations and a bunch of thanks to Darsha Dodge for her nomination. Thanks, also, to everyone who submitted entries. You all know I appreciate you.

Final warning

How to write a novelI am nearing the point in my book where I will introduce the character inspired by one of you.

This is your 24-hour notice. On or after 9 a.m. Central, Nov. 2, 2017, I will pick a name from your contributions and proceed writing. (Note that it may be later, so hit me up if you have an idea.)

Find more information on my previous post.

Name search continues

Experience preferred

Creating a fictional character sometimes means stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Go ahead, it’s worth it. But don’t look down.

Truth is, I’m not near the point of writing about the next fan-named character in my new book, so nominations remain open. With apologies to the two contributors I’ve heard from so far, I know from experience there are more coming.

The idea, should you be new to this, is that every one of my first five JP Weiscarver Mystery Series books contains someone whose name and character description was suggested by a reader.

In the next book, “The Reporter and the Apricot,” the character for whom I’m soliciting a name is a newspaper carrier, which means he or she delivers papers between about midnight and 5 a.m. What you contribute is a name (many people add nicknames, but that really isn’t necessary unless the character deserves it) and, most importantly, information about this character. That can include physical description, other work, hobbies, family, proclivities, history … just about anything.

In this instance, the description you give me will primarily provide elements for discussion between JP and the carrier while the reporter is doing a ride-along to write a story about the Odds and Ends carriers. Something might work its way into solving the murder; one never knows.

If I select your contribution, the reward is having your name included on the acknowledgments page of the book and receiving a personalized and autographed copy of the paperback.

Send your nomination to me via personal message or email.

To give you a further idea of how far you can go, here is the winning contribution for “The Reporter and the Sloth”:

Matt “Matty” Davis

He pitched the Oldport High School baseball team to the state finals his senior year and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. After working through three years in the minors, mostly as a starter, he was a September call-up, pitching 6.2 innings in relief in four appearances, striking out five and walking none. He was hit by a drunk driver the following New Year’s morning, which shattered his arm and his career. He had protected his money and used it to open a sports store. He also coaches and officiates various youth leagues, and he talks to high school students about drinking and driving. He’s 6’3 and still in decent shape, though a little more than the 200 pounds he was in high school. Married a first-grade teacher he met while pitching AAA. No kids though they tried, but he’s got a ton of kids through the youth leagues. And he secretly provides free gloves and cleats to poor kids through the YMCA. He also enjoys a cold beer, watching games at the local sports bar, and playing pool (on which he’s been known to win a few bucks). His baseball career kept him from extending his education beyond high school, but he’s an obviously intelligent person, who is well-read and keeps up to date.

Obviously, not all of that was used in the book, but it gave me plenty to work with. And you never know what will happen. In “Marmot,” the character suggested for a car saleswoman became a central figure in the story.

That’s all. Get creative.


empty hand

What my hand looks like without a phone in it.

For more than two hours Monday afternoon, I was locked up in solitary confinement.

Well, almost.

It started with jury duty. I’ve never really minded being called for jury duty. In fact, part of me would like to serve. As a writer, a new experience is just another form of research. I’ve covered several trials as a reporter but would like to see another angle on it.

Alas, I have never been empaneled. That was again the case Monday, but we were not set free until about 1:30 p.m.

Let me back up.

About a year ago, when Leah and I returned to our winter home after working in upstate New York for the summer, we decided to sell our little car. It made sense because we abandoned it for 5-6 months every year anyway. Hardly ever does either one of us go anywhere without the other. And, we decided, if such a situation came up, we would deal with it.

For a year, it’s not been a problem.

Monday, however, Leah had a rather important dental appointment in College Station while I had jury duty in Franklin. Together with our base in Rockdale, they form an ugly triangle with drives of 45-70 minutes on the sides.

Dealing with it meant we drove to Franklin together. Leah’s appointment wasn’t until 1, so she decided to wait until 11:40 before leaving. In case I was cut loose early, we could drive into the city together. If she had to leave before I was free, I would call or message her upon getting out. I would get lunch and could kill plenty of time surfing around on my phone.

Then we got to the courthouse annex and encountered sign after sign warning against even carrying a cell phone or other electronic device onto the third floor.

(A side note to court officials. It would have been really nice had you included that information with the summons. People were tromping back out to their cars to stow their phones and I’m sure we were not the only folks relying on them to communicate the unpredictable outcome of the day.)

So, Leah waited downstairs and took command of my phone. I couldn’t lock it in the truck to retrieve later since she had to drive to the dentist.

That’s how I ended up in virtual solitary confinement.

Leah left at 11:40 for the dentist. I was cut loose about 1:30. (I’m not sure exactly when because I couldn’t even tell time without my phone.) Following our plan, I walked to the Dairy Queen and ordered lunch. The receipt had a timestamp of 1:48 p.m. The best-case scenario would get Leah back to me about 3 o’clock.

I ate as slowly as possible.

Using the paper placemat DQ gave me, I started making notes in the blank spaces of the employment application on back, scribbling ideas about topics to write about or research.

I also just sat and looked out the front windows a lot.

Across the highway from the restaurant runs the Union Pacific Railroad, upon which I eventually noticed was considerable activity. Those strange-looking machines they use to work on the railroad were running up and down the line, usually just one at a time. Seriously, they were going both directions, occupying both tracks, never stopping for anything that seemed work-related.

Then I noticed the two street crossings I could see both had orange-vested workers there to stop traffic when needed. It also occurred to me there were a lot of UP trucks running up and down the highway.

Usually, when I’ve seen these machines, there has been a line of them slowly working down a track. To see them running back and forth was confounding; I couldn’t think of what they were up to.

And it was such perplexing things that filled my mind as I sat and waited without the distraction of my phone.

After a long while, I made a visit to the rest room and stopped at the counter to order a mini Blizzard – cookie dough. Using their facility as I was, it only seemed right I should patronize them. Since I had previously bought a meal, the woman at the counter only charged me a dollar. Sweet. The time on the receipt said 3:04 p.m.


I remembered an event from the previous day. Our grandson spent Saturday night with us and we were heading out to church Sunday morning.

He wanted to carry a handheld game to play in the truck.

“It’s five minutes,” Grandma said. “Five minutes without your game will not kill you.”

For the record, he survived both five-minute drives. However, I had more empathy for him as I approached two hours without my phone.

It might as well have been solitary confinement.

To those that said “Me too”…

I share this on my site because she is saying what I cannot and it’s something we need to hear. The women to whom Pastor Bonner is speaking need to be reassured they are not alone and are doing nothing wrong by being female. Men who perpetrate such offenses need to be told society is shifting against them. And then there are men like me. I have never assaulted a woman and I try to not initiate physical contact, even handshakes. I love hugs, but my practice is to only respond to a woman’s offer. However, I know there must be shortcomings and I need to be reminded just how delicate a balance this is and continually monitor the appropriateness of my actions and words. So, this is written to us all.

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you, I know. The better part of the year. The last blog I wrote was after that Nazi in Texas physically assaulting me at the airport, whipping my body back and forth like a rag doll until a woman with a baby in her arms tore me from his grasp. It’s always the women. Thank God for us. Thank God for you. You are so valuable.

When I tried to reason with him, trying to keep him away from the Muslim women and children he wanted to harass, he told me that he did not have to listen to me. He told me that women were inferior and I was not worth addressing.

It was not the first time that I was told I was inferior as a woman. Not the first time that I was told I was not worth hearing…

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Name that character

Good morning

Early morning newspaper carriers see a side of the town most people don’t, mostly in the dark.

It’s been a long time coming, but I am now soliciting nominations for a name and character description for my next book, “The Reporter and the Apricot.”

This is my sixth book in the series and each has had at least one character partially – or mostly – created by one of my readers.

If I select your contribution, the reward is having your name included on the acknowledgments page of the book and a personalized and autographed copy of the paperback.

So, here’s what I’m looking for this time.

The character delivers papers for the Odds and Ends, JP’s employer. That means starting the route about midnight and running until 4 or 5 a.m. JP is riding along one night to write a feature story for National Newspaper Week.

Your task is to give me a name and tell me a little about him or her. Your most obvious opportunity is to describe what your character does during the day. A paper route is not usually enough to live on unless one gets by on a remarkably low budget. Most carriers have day jobs or maybe pursue some low-income artistic endeavor or their own businesses.

Send your nomination to me via personal message or email. I will give this at least a week – meaning through Sunday, Oct. 22, at the minimum – and will issue reminders and give a couple of days warning of the final deadline through my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

If you need inspiration, review the previous winning characters: Virgil “Moose” MacDuff in “The Reporter, a Ferret and a Hurricane”; Sandra “Sunny” DelSol in “The Reporter and the Penguin”; Gene Teller in “The Reporter and the Rose”; Matt “Matty” Davis in “The Reporter and the Sloth”; and Kat McFarlen and Lucas Funkhouser in “The Reporter and the Marmot.”

Feel free to share this with your creative friends … if you’re not afraid of the competition.

Trump’s ‘brand’

Trump official photo

This is what Donald Trump has done to himself.

My daily email from the New York Times of what’s in the news today included these two consecutive items:

“With Congress failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, President Trump is ready to go it alone on health care. He plans to sign an executive order today that would relax rules on small businesses that band together to buy health insurance.

“On Wednesday, the president said it was ‘possible’ the U.S. would drop out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. His administration has pushed for significant changes to the deal, but Mexico and Canada say they’re nonstarters.”

I have not studied anything about Trump’s plan to “relax rules on small businesses,” but on its face it sounds like a not-so-bad idea. At least, it doesn’t sound like something that will cause 30 million people to lose health coverage.

However, my gut, my brain and my heart initially reject the idea, because … well … Trump. All my personal alarms cause me to wonder who will be hurt by this.

Seriously, just about anything he’s pushed for in health care – indeed, in just about any field – would have a negative impact on non-rich, more so on non-male, and particularly on non-white people.

So, I read that paragraph and my first thought is, “I wonder who he’s going to screw with this little executive order?”

You see what I’m saying? He’s done this to himself because of his way of doing and undoing things. The vast majority of Americans automatically assume that if he’s going cowboy on an issue to get what he wants, it’s going to hurt a bunch of people.

It’s wrong to do that, but it’s a perfectly natural defensive position.

Now, carry that thought over to the NAFTA headline.

I am certain, in this instance, the leaders of Mexico and Canada are well-informed on Trump’s “significant changes” and are doubtlessly intimately familiar with NAFTA. But what about more general statements that sometimes emanate from the White House?

When another world leader hears that Trump has called for this or threatened that … does he or she give it a single serious consideration?

Why should she, when even his constituents do not trust what comes out of his mouth or off his fingertips? Above all, we have no trust in his character.

Here’s hoping that good news comes from him more often, but I cannot expect it. And, like I said, he’s done it to himself.


Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall in his robe prior to being sworn in as the first black member of the U. S. Supreme Court. Marshall, the great-grandson of a slave, swore to “do equal right to the poor and the rich” as he took the oath at the opening session of the court. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Fifty years ago today – Oct. 2, 1967 – Thurgood Marshall was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren as the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you’re not familiar with his amazing story, look it up. For this space, I am marking my recent resurrection of the #RandomQuote among my Facebook and Twitter feeds by gathering several quotes from Justice Marshall. I’m setting up each so anyone can copy and paste a quote as-is, should there be a desire to share.

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“Equal means getting the same thing, at the same time and in the same place.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“Truth is more than a mental exercise.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“We cannot ignore what we really want to create.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“Each of you, as an individual, must pick your own goals. Listen to others, but do not become a blind follower.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“We deal here with the right of all of our children, whatever their race, to an equal start in life and to an equal opportunity to reach their full potential as citizens.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“To protest against injustice is the foundation of all our American democracy.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote

“The process of democracy is one of change. Our laws are not frozen into immutable form, they are constantly in the process of revision in response to the needs of a changing society.” – Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall #RandomQuote


What’s in a name?

Eagle purchase

The day we bought our new home in June 2012.

Many of you may have paid little attention to RV model names; I hadn’t before we made one our full-time home. Ours is known as an Eagle, something that seems like a reasonable name.

Some of them, to be honest, don’t make as much sense.

A co-worker of ours, another full-timer, lives in a motor coach called a Hurricane. I mean, how is that a good name for your home?

But it’s not alone. Other RV models are named Cyclone, Vortex, Storm, Firestorm and Thunderbolt. Does any of those sound like a place to bed down every night?

What about Outlaw, Vengeance, Prowler or Ghost? Perhaps you’ll feel safer aboard Bullet, Arrow, Sabre or Slingshot.

Not all names are strange, to be sure. Animals, like our Eagle, are quite popular, ranging from Hummingbird to Kodiak.

Carnivores are well-represented, such as Lynx, Cougar, Puma, Wildcat, Wolf Pack, Grey Wolf and Wolf Pup.

Other majestic animals would include Bighorn, Silverback, Gazelle, Palomino, Thoroughbred, Bronco, Phoenix, White Hawk, Greyhawk and Redhawk.

On a smaller scale, I found Beaver, Koala, Sandpiper, Cardinal, Chinook and Hornet.


Were you aware there are so many different models of RVs?

Another category I called landscape, such as Sierra, Cross Terrain, Hill Country, Chaparral, Big Sky, Big Country, Sunnybrook, Riverstone, Autumn Ridge, North Trail, North Country, Gulf Breeze, Brookside, Mountain View, Mountain Aire, Sunset Creek and Aspen Trail.


A few were simply cute: See Ya, Funfinder and Zinger.

Finally, there are several I just cannot explain.

Trilogy – of what?

Lantern – to show you the way?

Ellipse – you know that’s just a special oval, right?

Cameo – they’re usually oval-shaped, so maybe there is something to that ellipse thing.

Octane – why not just call it Regular-or-Ethyl?

Dune Chaser – seriously, how difficult is it to catch a dune and, when you do, what do you propose to do with it?

Torque – “noun, a twisting force that tends to cause rotation,” just cannot be a desirable quality in an RV.

Rage’n – this is absolutely unsettling.

And …

Hathaway – Jane?

America’s team?

Cowboys kneeling photo

Did the Dallas Cowboys just steer us around the corner of the Great Kneel Debate?

Prior to tonight’s Monday Night Football game in Arizona, there was some speculation about whether any of the Cowboys would cross the wishes of owner Jerry Jones and take a knee during the National Anthem in support of the protest seeking equitable treatment for people of color.

If you missed it, the entire Dallas team – including coaches and the owner – lined up on the field prior to the anthem, linked arms and went to their knees in a show of solidarity. Then, they stood, arms still linked, for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

They were booed and cheered. Social media praised them and accused them of backing down.

It strikes me as possible that their actions might be what we need to move forward on the topic and, more than anything, refocus on the genuine issue.

Colin Kaepernick’s original protest early in the 2016 season was against racial injustice and police brutality, notably the string of unarmed black men and women shot to death by law enforcement officers. He chose to not stand during the National Anthem to draw attention to the problem.

He certainly received a lot of attention, but it was seldom directed at the issues of racial oppression.

No, many decided to recast his protest as being against the American flag or the anthem. They said, for example, he was disrespecting veterans and the military, even though a long line of service members stated they defended free speech and that he should be heard.

But it’s much easier to call someone a traitor than it is to address real problems.

So that’s what has happened and it all came to a head last week when Donald Trump did what he does best and riled up his followers to the cry that football players should be fired for refusing to stand during the anthem, which was presented as disrespecting the flag, the anthem, our country, not as a plea for justice.

This is where I’m hoping the Dallas Cowboys will help our nation turn the corner.

How about them Cowboys?

While hearing about the dozens of players this weekend who joined the protest by taking a knee during the anthem, and many more who linked arms, and reading the hatred spewed toward them, I found myself thinking that we had to break this chain.

Maybe, I thought, Kaepernick (who’s currently not on a team) and some other influential players who are part of the protest could announce this week that it’s time to redirect the protest in an effort to finally focus on the message. They could easily cite this past weekend as a rousing success and a definite win over Trump’s hateful rhetoric, claim that it earned them some of the attention they need and … well, I’m not sure what, but they could take another approach, one less likely to stoke a nationalistic uproar.

Could it be that’s what the Cowboys accomplished?

Their collective knee stated that they were united in seeking justice for people of color and fighting the scourge of wrongful police killings.

Their collective stand for the anthem stated that, regardless of our nation’s problems, they think it’s worth working within our framework to find solutions. It pronounced a love of country.

It’s worth the effort to make our country one all of us are proud to call home.

So, can we move past trying to elevate peaceful protest to all-out rebellion? Can we take an honest look at how we treat each other?

Can we turn the corner and move forward?

Monumental sightings

Memorial Rabbit

People-watching is a great pastime, just about anywhere you are. Driving around Mount Rushmore National Memorial like I do all day offers a specific genre that I’ve enjoyed this summer.

My principal job is driving a van to shuttle employees between the concession building and either the dorm or the RV park, both for work and meals. I make more than a dozen trips during my eight-hour shift, most of them almost three miles to-and-from the dorm and some almost seven miles for the RV park.

That’s not far, but the route (which is the only way short of almost an hour) loops us around the parking area, in front of the main gate and by a small turnout where folks can stop briefly and admire the four faces without having to enter the parking garage and pay that fee.

It’s there, at that turnout, where I have my most interesting sightings, brief as they are as I race by at 30-35 mph. That’s where people will pose for a photo with the memorial in the background. For the most part, it’s a simple photo op, but some are more entertaining.

One of the most enjoyable is seeing a person or, more likely, a group of people posing for a photo for a photographer who is obviously not a member of the traveling party. For instance, the photo subjects are an elderly couple dressed in standard tourist garb while the volunteer photographer is a grizzled motorcyclist decked out in leather and bandana.

A standard is one or more kids lined up with bored looks on their faces for the mandatory photo. Another is the arm-stretched selfie and no small number of selfie sticks.

Of course, some of them attempt to get creative.

Just the other day, I saw a boy with both arms curved above his head, clearly positioned to make it look as if he was holding the entire memorial.

The most common in that vein is the person with one finger stuck up in the air and, almost always, a silly grin on his or her face. You can bet those folks are positioned with their fingers strategically placed under George Washington’s nose.

I’ve also seen people park their motorcycles, bicycles and even cars just right so they can get a photo of their wheeled baby with the memorial in the background.

And then there are the props … probably my favorite category.

I’ve seen folks posing with what appeared to be a Flat Stanley or a stuffed animal.

Or an animal.

There was a guy early one morning that I saw at least three times while I was coming and going. He put a lot of effort into getting just the right photo with a baby goat, which was wearing a blue bicycle helmet and some sort of a blue garment I just cannot describe.

But my favorite was neither person nor pet but vegetable.

Early this season, there was work going on at the concession that forced me out of my usual parking place, so I walked back and forth to the public parking lot. This particular time, however, I only had 10 or 15 minutes between runs, so I drove down past the memorial to the profile view.

This small parking lot offers a closeup look at the right side of Washington, but you cannot see the others. It’s a neat sight.

There, I sat in my van until time to begin the next run. A small SUV parked across the way. The driver hopped out, opened the back hatch and removed what looked like a jar of canned cucumbers. Placing the jar on the roof of the car, he took out a camera and composed the photo of the canned vegetables in the foreground and our first president’s profile in the background.

My thought: “Grandma couldn’t take the trip with us, so we brought her famous pickles.”

Oh, the photo at the top doesn’t quite fit the topic here, but I couldn’t very well take photos of people taking photos while I’m driving. Last week, however, I was at the memorial while off-duty and walked around a bit. I was sitting on the Grand View Terrace when I spotted a woman with a white rabbit on a leash. That still doesn’t rank with the pickles, in my book, but it’s a special sighting.

Not if but when

Port Aransas Oct. 2015 IMG_0333

Horace Caldwell Pier in October 2015. I’ve not heard how well the popular Port Aransas fishing spot and surfing focal point did during Hurricane Harvey.

“It’s not a question of if but when.”

Over the years, Leah and I have lived in four different towns on or near the Texas coast. In each, we dealt with some degree of a hurricane or tropical storm, though it was never “the big one” everyone talked about with the above line of coastal wisdom.

“It’s not a question of ‘if’ the town is ever hit by a major hurricane; it’s a question of ‘when’ it will happen.”

  1. That’s when it happened.

Headlining the Hurricane Harvey stories of the past 24 hours have been Port Aransas, where we lived 2000-2005, and Rockport, where we lived 1984-1986.

Both were hit hard. The damage was enough that information has been slow to come out. Emergency services are dealing with a string of emergencies.

A friend of a friend who apparently rode out the storm in Port Aransas posted a bunch of photos taken around the town. Scrolling through them, I recognized many places, some of which seemed quite damaged, and found myself grieving for the people who love these charming little towns.

You see, most of them understood that one day it would happen, but all of us are happy to assume it won’t be today or this year.

And then it is.

The people who are the roots of these communities will rise above the rubble. While many of the fair-weather fans who have gathered over the years predictably slip away, the hardy souls who made these towns amazing in the first place will rebuild.

And they will do so knowing that … possibly … the next major hurricane could come in 2018 or 2019.

Because … still …

It’s not a question of if but when.

Look, it’s a plane


I’m not really much into product endorsement, though doing so is important and helpful (but many of us, including myself, just don’t take the time), though there is this little phone app I’ve discovered that has been so interesting I decided to share.

It is called “Planes Live” (as in “live, up-to-the-moment look at plane traffic,” not, “The plane lives, it’s alive!”).

You probably know about tracking a specific flight to figure out when Aunt Maude will arrive at the airport.

Planes Live, however, also allows you to look at a map showing aircraft in flight and, when you select one, it gives information such as type of plane, its tail number, who owns it, and it’s trip origin and destination. For example, flying over us just now is a Boeing 737-700, belonging to Alaska Airlines, number N461AS, en route from Philadelphia to Seattle on flight AS17.

Click for more information and I learn it left PHL at 5:29 p.m., 29 minutes behind schedule, and is scheduled to arrive in SEA at 7:39 p.m. It is cruising at 36,000 feet at 459 mph. It also gives heading and position, among other information.

Why do I need to know that? I don’t; it’s just fun.

The real pleasure is, for example, when we’re sitting outside and see contrails high overhead. I click on the app, zoom in on our area and find the plane and its information.

The other day, I did that and saw on the radar another flight on a similar bearing (I should have checked to see the difference in altitude), looked up for a couple of seconds and there it appeared.

I have the free version of Planes Live, so I have to click off advertising fairly often, but all this information comes with it.

There are probably other similar apps out there. If you know of one, please share.

All Shook Up


I’ve been playing a game with my Facebook friends for almost a week now, waiting for the day one of them figured out what I was doing.

Saturday evening, I posted this without comment:


A well I bless my soul
What’s wrong with me?
I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree
My friends say I’m actin’ wild as a bug
I’m in love
I’m all shook up.


Of course, they are the opening lines to Elvis Presley’s hit song “All Shook Up.”

Now, it’s not uncommon for me to simply post odd things, sometimes to generate discussion and sometimes for some simple joy found in the post.

Sunday afternoon, I posted a few lines from “Burning Love.” Early Monday morning, my post was from Elvis’ best-selling song (according to, “It’s Now or Never.”

This was about the point that some folks were taking note something was going on. Some contributed lines from other artists and songs, named the song I quoted, added more lines from the song, etc. Following were “Jailhouse Rock,” “Return to Sender,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “The Wonder of You” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Responding to “Suspicious Minds” Wednesday, one friend quipped, “What’s with all the song lyrics? You having lady probs?”

My first acknowledgement I was up to something was, “There’s a rhyme and a reason and someone will figure it out within the next few days.”

That set folks to working on it.

Thursday morning, I posted from “Good Luck Charm”:


Come on and be my little good luck charm
Uh-huh huh, you sweet delight
I want a good luck charm
a-hanging on my arm
To have, (to have), to hold, (to hold) tonight.


Shortly after that, in a comment on the previous song, came this from David Trigg, a fellow I’ve not seen since junior high.

“Anniversary of death of Elvis” was all he wrote.


Next Wednesday, Aug. 16, will be the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. I know that without looking it up because it came at a special time in our lives.

Leah and I married at sunrise on Aug. 15, 1977. We were on our honeymoon when news tore across the country of the death of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll at the age of 42.

Few entertainers are the type of people whose deaths are remembered for decades. Elvis is one of those.


Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead’s another town
That I’ll go walking thru
With the rain in my shoes,
Searchin’ for you
In the cold Kentucky rain,
In the cold Kentucky rain.

— “Kentucky Rain”

Raging at a tweetstorm

Trump Twitter

Apparently, if you believe some of the outstanding people with whom I work, I’ve been somewhat snarky all day.

Fair enough. It was my Friday and maybe I was a bit, shall we say, feisty.

I then came home and found a Trump tweetstorm and decided I would play along. Because this is my page and I can print what I want, here’s a rundown of me having a little fun with 45a, commenting on each of his 13 tweets (so far) today.

TRUMP: The failing @nytimes, which has made every wrong prediction about me including my big election win (apologized), is totally inept!

ME: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Listen, with your level of ineptitude, you really should be better at recognizing it.

TRUMP: The Trump base is far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling). Look at rallies in Penn, Iowa, Ohio…….

ME: Rallies? This is a whole country, you know. Sorry (not sorry), but that rapidly shrinking support is real. Bottom line, you’re a loser.

TRUMP: …and West Virginia. The fact is the Fake News Russian collusion story, record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs…..

ME: Again … stock market and jobs are still Obama’s. Border, military are smokescreens. As for Russian collusion … we’ll see. Yes, we will see.

TRUMP: … Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more have driven the Trump base even closer together. Will never change!

ME: Still crowing that GOP stole nomination from Obama and you eked your pick through the GOP-controlled Senate? Yeah, you’re awesome.

ME, BONUS COMMENT: Close, eh? You might hope to have neighboring prison cells, but I doubt any of them will want to be on the same block with you.

TRUMP: Hard to believe that with 24/7 #Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, NYTIMES & WAPO, the Trump base is getting stronger!

ME: I know, you keep saying it and the Trumpers will believe it, but it’s still not the truth and the MSM are still 100x as honest as you.

TRUMP: Working hard from New Jersey while White House goes through long planned renovation. Going to New York next week for more meetings.

ME: Hey, I don’t mind you taking vacations (though not with us supporting your businesses), but why invent another reason to lie to us?

TRUMP: Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!

ME: Yeah, Blumenthal, take it from an authentic con artist. (PS – We’ll just wait for the investigation to finish.)

TRUMP: Never in U.S.history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and….

ME: And you really think that makes it OK for you to make a deal with Russia to hack our elections and give you the presidency?

TRUMP: …conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?

ME: Thanks for that image. I can’t wait to see you cry.

TRUMP: On #PurpleHeartDay💜I thank all the brave men and women who have sacrificed in battle for this GREAT NATION! #USA

ME: Particularly those who served in your stead in Vietnam so you could protect your feet for future golf games.

TRUMP: The Fake News Media will not talk about the importance of the United Nations Security Council’s 15-0 vote in favor of sanctions on N. Korea!

ME: Oh, the American Free Press did report it. Perhaps you missed it while whining that China wouldn’t do the job for you.

TRUMP: How much longer will the failing nytimes, with its big losses and massive unfunded liability (and non-existent sources), remain in business?

ME: Probably for centuries, but definitely long enough to see you kicked out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

TRUMP: I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there

ME: You still haven’t figured out the last thing you need to do is attempt to call out someone for lying. Psst, folks call you Liar in Chief.

#Resist with compassion

Bastrop SP (2)

It’s never a good idea to joke about one’s appearance. (c) 2017 by Steve Martaindale

Surely, with investigations mounting, with the Trump administration repeatedly going further off plumb, with the GOP increasingly alienating even its own … surely, the end times of this little experiment are approaching.

For the sake of the point I wish to make here, let us presume that to be true. Not that it really matters, but perhaps it will be easier to accept what I’m here to insist we need to do.

First, this is addressed to those who oppose the Trump presidency. That would include a broad range of people – far more than just Democrats or progressives – so I’m lumping us all under the term of the Resistance. Not novel, by any means, but it seems most accurate.

Warning: If you do not consider yourself among the Resistance, particularly if you remain in the midst of the dwindling number of Trump supporters, please read no further.


I will not be responsible for raising your blood pressure, especially since you and your leaders are so keen on pricing medical care out of your reach. Naturally, since I am not giving you permission to read further, neither will I allow comments making a weak attempt to defend President 45a* and the fact you wasted a vote on him.

For the Resistance

What I want us to do is keep the message loud and clear but focused on facts.

Most notably, I hope we can eliminate the name-calling that is not representative of how we wish to see relationships carried out. All of us need to start working together to patch up the damage being done.

Do not challenge the intelligence of Trump supporters, for example. That puts them into a defensive mode and will make it take even longer for them to see their mistakes and/or how they were duped.

This does not mean that we back away from the facts that their health-care attempts were cruel or that most of their policies would achieve nothing but further enriching the upper-upper-crust billionaires. We must convey that message … but with compassion and support for personal growth and reform.

Creative ResistanceCertainly, we must do away with hateful comments that do not reflect on policy. An example is referring to Trump’s orange complexion. Or his hair. And definitely not his weight. Talk instead about his lack of a game plan. By the same token, quit calling Jeff Sessions an elf. What good is that when you can point out his racist background?

(As I was writing this, I came across the graphic on the right that talked about the use of creativity in a resistance movement. I’ve got to admit, the piece by The Anti-Trump makes a good case. But, as I mentioned in the opening, we will need to tone things down a bit once Trump’s term falls apart.)

Religious freedom

A pillar in the Resistance is guaranteeing religious freedom for all religions and for those who desire to follow none.

However, because the radical right has warped its version of Christianity into an oppressive movement, many in the Resistance have become anti-Christian. That’s no better than what the right has done. Many progressives are Christian and they deserve the same protections as atheists, Muslims and others.

I could continue pounding out more examples, but you’re smart people. You get it. Be strong but be compassionate.

As much as possible.

* Oh, good, you followed the asterisk from “President 45a” … do you like that? What does it mean to you? The idea struck me while typing. I’ve seen a reference to Trump as 45* (similar to the movie “61*” and the suggestion that Roger Maris’s home run record would carry an asterisk because it was set in 162 games while Babe Ruth’s 60 homers were hit in a 154-game season). “Still,” some may say, “Trump will forever be our 45th president, even if he resigns after only six months.” Ah, but I’m hoping for more. I’m envisioning a storyline where his term is expunged and his replacement is known as 45. It’s a dream, for sure, but what if investigators prove Trump was in cahoots with Russia and that they did manage to throw the election? Surely, then, the entire election must be thrown out. Along with Trump and Pence, all his appointments should be summarily ousted. What happens next? The easiest thing would be to run down the order of succession, but in the above scenario it’s certainly believable that Paul Ryan and Orrin Hatch would also be caught up in the investigation and the entire Cabinet would be emptied because they were Trump appointees. Get it? So, the fairest thing would be for the Electoral College to reconvene and elect Hillary Clinton as president since, after all, the election was stolen from her. She could have the Oval Office up and running in short order. Another possibility would be to hold another election. Other countries call elections and hold them in a matter of weeks, but first things first.

Anyone who feels the need to drop something in my tip jar, maybe buy my next stout, may do so at but only after accepting my gratitude.

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