Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Category Archives: Uncategorized

The reach

Bunker Hill

Leah and Charles at the Bunker Hill end point of the Freedom Trail in Boston.

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning’s quote came to mind when we called off our cross-country trip the other day. I’ll admit, I don’t know anything about Browning’s poem, “Andrea del Sarto,” from which it is extracted, but the meaning of this line is clear to me. We should attempt more than we expect to achieve.

Believing that, one must be prepared to accept the times one’s grasp does not extend to his or her reach.

So, I wasn’t too disturbed by the failure. I knew, from the beginning, it was an ambitious endeavor.

To background, Leah and I set out with our 11-year-old grandson to drive U.S. Highway 20 – Route 20 – from its origin near Boston Common in Massachusetts to its end near the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Ore., some 3,365 miles that makes it the longest highway in the country.

I cannot tell you why, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do. When we decided to keep our grandson for a while in order for our daughter to study for her bar exam, we came up with the traveling idea.

We spent a week getting in position for the trip and a week traveling before we admitted to ourselves there just wasn’t time. Driving a highway that routes through hundreds of small towns and that is not marked well in cities (we lost the trail more than once) was slower than I expected.

Charles was, overall, a pretty good sport about it, but it was painfully obvious he simply did not find it nearly as interesting as we did.

So, we cut our losses early and returned the boy to his folks. Leah and I will soon be back at Darien Lake in western New York for our summer job, starting a couple of weeks earlier than we planned.

I’m a little disappointed about not finishing, but there’s an occasional price for pursuing dreams; I’m OK with it. Maybe there will be another attempt. Maybe we’ll just leave it at this.

Right now, I’m thinking about what to do next.

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New expedition posted

Baltic quartet

Our German hosts and guides were Björn, left, and Dan. This photo was taken along the shore of the Baltic Sea.

Leah and I recently returned from our latest adventure – a 15-day sail across the Atlantic to visit several ports, ending in the Netherlands, and 10 days visiting Holland, Poland and Germany.

Friends old and new highlighted the entire experience. Find my relatively short article and several photos by following this link or clicking on the photo above.

Enjoy and don’t be shy about commenting with your experiences or asking questions.

 

Kids these days

Lake Georgetown 3-25-16-f

Even when everything looks dead and done, new life and new hope spring forth.

A teen-age boy stood in the school courtyard, talking to a brick wall. Watching from inside, I could not hear, but he gestured and obviously made a strong point to … nobody.

Approximately 25 feet past him stood a teen girl, doing the same thing to another section of wall.

In that image, I found tremendous hope for the world.

Leah and I were on Day 4 of a tour around central and mostly southern Texas that will take us to six high school academic meets over a span of eight days. We’re judging teenagers in writing and mostly speaking events in various district contests, where students vie for a chance to compete at the regional and maybe state levels.

I knew what the students were doing, talking to the wall. It was in the early afternoon in Geronimo, Texas. Preliminary competitions had been completed, so they were rehearsing their presentations for finals that afternoon. In fact, the girl was one I had awarded first place in a prose interpretation prelim that morning.

We’ve judged hundreds of high school contestants over the years. In debates, they will argue both sides of an issue. In journalism, they will write about the assigned topic.

But in speaking events, they’re often able to say their minds through their selection of poetry or prose to share with the audience.

They talk about anything. Rape, single parenting, suicide, war, hunger, drug abuse, international relations, sexual identity, mental challenges, religion. Anything.

The speak passionately and are usually well-informed. They want justice, for themselves but mostly for others. They want a planet to share with their kids.

As I watched the two … now three … students talking to bricks in the courtyard, my mind wandered to the hundreds of thousands of teens who, not attending a district meet on Saturday, took to the streets to March For Our Lives.

Surviving Parkland students got this started. Others have helped it spread. Others will keep it going.

These kids are on a mission. They want to make it safer for all of us. I believe, finally, that they will be able to achieve something. I predict we’ll see more 18- to 21-year-old voters than ever come November.

And then …

I don’t know, but I pray their fervor will have spread to other age brackets, that we will all begin to view the world and its people as worthy of preservation. I pray the teens who are now driving this bus will not stop until justice is a reasonable expectation, until safe and available housing is assumed, until hunger and illness are topics buried in history books, until we don’t give a second thought to a possible mass murderer when we attend a movie, religious services or school.

I believe these kids will see things are taken care of.

God speed.

Raise your voice

Good news

McKinney Roughs 3-29-16

With my checkup yesterday, I’m entitled to celebrate 6½ years cancer-free.

It had been 13 months since my last checkup and my imagination worked me into a bit of a negative mood, exacerbated a tad by the fact I was breaking in a new urologist since my previous doctor retired last year.

She settled me down with the news my CAT scan showed nothing suspicious. She then conducted the usual cystoscopy and found everything in good shape.

I’ll go back in another year.

While I’m tickled pink by the report, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am.

We found the tumor in my bladder in the autumn of 2011 because my physician, during a routine examination, was concerned about the amount of blood in my urine. He sent me to a specialist and, in short order, the tumor was removed. We will continue monitoring for any return growths.

It’s not likely the story would have played out this way had I not been insured. Uninsured people don’t usually get wellness checkups and, yes, I speak from experience.

I thought about Donald Savastano, a 51-year-old self-employed carpenter in upstate New York.

Early this year, he won $1 million in the lottery. He said he planned to buy a new truck, maybe take a vacation and save the rest for his retirement. Also, he had not been feeling well recently but had not been to a doctor because he lacked insurance.

That doctor’s appointment led to the revelation Mr. Savastano had stage 4 cancer, affecting his brain and lungs. He died Jan. 26, twenty-three days after winning the lottery.

There is no assurance he would have been saved had he made regular checkups, but it would certainly have improved the odds.

I thought about Heather Holland, a 38-year-old second-grade teacher in Weatherford, Texas.

She died Feb. 4 due to complications from the flu. She had taken sick about a week earlier but had hesitated picking up a prescription because of its $116 copay.

Yes, she had insurance, but still felt she couldn’t afford the medicine. I understand that, too. The CAT scan my doctor ordered – the first since my cancer was first discovered – ran me about $3,000 because my insurance has a high deductible. My doctor said she wants to have another scan next year, but we might have a discussion about that, even though she insists it’s for my own good.

I don’t have to preach at you here.

Access to medical care should not be reserved for people with plenty of money.

Should I vote?

question mark_250x250_scaled_cropp

If you ask the question, “Should I vote?” then the answer is a resounding “No!”

Voting is not something you do because you “should.” Nor so you can pretend to be civically responsible. Nor so you can feel a part of a crowd. Or a movement.

Back when I was working in newspapers, one of the things we were expected to do was encourage everyone to vote.

Every eligible voter.

I’ve never been a fan of that because I knew an awful lot of people had no idea what was going on. They did not know the issues and were even less likely to have any idea of the candidates’ positions.

I mean, do we really want uninformed people voting? Can you imagine what might happen?

Of course, it happened.

Don the Con convinced millions of people they were getting the shaft and egged them into voting. The result is we’re currently relying on criminal investigations and the other branches of government to clean up the mess before it’s beyond repair.

Should you go vote?

Not unless you’ve done your homework. However, if that’s the case, if you know who’s running and why and who you agree with, if you’re up on the issues and how they affect us, then please make your ballot heard.

Leaders

lighthouse

Getting back to amplifying my list of things I am “for,” which was published Nov. 16 at https://stevemartaindale.com/2017/11/16/what-are-we-for/. The following item was included:

 

  • Qualified and capable leaders. This only hit my list since the election of Donald Trump and, more notably, his outrageous nominations.

 

It has only gotten worse since November, especially concerning the president. Were I to write it today, I would not have suggested the shortcomings of Trump’s nominations were more notable than his own.

He has no morals. He is unable to sympathize with people who are suffering. His need to be considered the best at everything is dangerous. He’s obviously not too smart. (His surprise tariffs on steel and aluminum last week is evidence enough, but just about any other move he makes can serve as well.)

I am for our leaders being more concerned with helping the needy of our country – indeed, the world – instead of pandering to the rich and powerful.

Trump bringing his family into White House jobs is borderline criminal and probably will be clarified as so as soon as he’s gone. The fact he spends a quarter of his time at his resorts and double-dips by billing taxpayers for staying at his own place is an absolute insult to propriety.

I am for leaders who are not in office to enrich themselves, who instead put other people first.

His attempts to circumvent judicial and legislative oversight are scary. His threats directed toward the media reflect just how much he’s hiding.

I am for leaders who are worthy of emulating and who enhance our nation’s image on the world stage.

In addition to the president and his appointees, I wish we had some qualified and capable leaders in Congress. A year ago, as Trump was rapidly confirming our worst fears, I kept waiting for Republicans on the Hill to step up and rein him in, to exercise the powers and responsibilities entrusted them by the Constitution.

Alas, I wait still.

And the Oscar goes to …

Oscars

Never have I been so pumped to watch the Academy Awards (the 90th Oscars airs Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC) because, for the first time, I’ve seen all the best picture nominees.

Let’s run through them.

All were good, naturally. “Get Out” was the biggest surprise to me because I don’t like the horror genre, but this was way different.

On a personal level, “The Post” was the most meaningful and touching. Most journalists will go an entire career without experiencing anything nearly as momentous as the Pentagon Papers, but we all have our little battles.

From a story seeking the truth, we go to an amazing work of fiction in “The Shape of Water,” a good story told well.

Teen-age angst movies are too plentiful, mostly repetitious and not all that interesting. “Lady Bird” was a refreshing, searing look into the life of a precocious young woman, delivered with high skill.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” dragged us into lives tortured by an evil act. Great movies are not always pleasing to watch.

Rampant evil formed the backdrop to “Dunkirk,” but the true story of the civilian rescue of trapped soldiers was inspiring.

Winston Churchill might never have had a role to play in leading Great Britain except for its “Darkest Hour.” At that time, as the film carefully exhibits, he was exactly what was needed.

“Call Me by Your Name” is a summer love story we don’t normally see in major pictures. It was slowly and painfully drawn out. Viewers must recognize it was set in 1983, a time when the subject of same-sex relations was not as open as today.

“Phantom Thread” … I just can’t explain.

Before revealing my totally worthless pick as best picture, I’m going to toss out some thoughts about the other categories.

Writing (Original Screenplay): I’ve seen all but “The Big Sick.” While “The Shape of Water” is probably the favorite here (it is incredibly original), my vote would be for “Lady Bird” because of Greta Gerwig’s success making a fairly common story so original.

Production Design: I’ve seen all but “Beauty and the Beast” and would consider any of them worthy, but my vote is easily cast for “The Shape of Water.”

Music (Original Song): I’ve only seen two of these, so I cannot in all fairness pick one, but I have to say how much I admired the song “This is Me,” written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for “The Greatest Showman.”

Directing: My money’s on Guillermo del Toro for “The Shape of Water.”

Actress in a Supporting Role: “Mudbound” and “I, Tonya” have escaped me so far. Between the other three, Laurie Metcalf was most impressive in “Lady Bird.”

Actor in a Supporting Role: Again, I’ve seen only three of the nominees, but my vote among those would go to Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and this is probably the most difficult choice I’ve made here.

Actress in a Leading Role: I’ve watched all but “I, Tonya.” OK, this is a tougher choice. In my mind, it won’t be Meryl Streep. I really liked Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird” and Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water,” but I’m going with Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” for the ferocity and range of her character.

Actor in a Leading Role: I’ve not seen “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” and realize Denzel Washington is always great, but my clear-cut choice is Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”

Best Picture: My personal favorites are “The Post” and “Lady Bird,” but the best picture is “The Shape of Water.”

Final shot: This list is of little value if you don’t comment with your thoughts about any or all of the categories. Thanks.

Teachers and guns

School floor plan

I had a gun fired at me once. It was a blank, like a starter’s pistol, but that’s not the point.

I was about 12 or 13 years old and on a bicycle, which I rode all around the Greggton community of Longview, Texas. I stopped for a red light on Loop 281 at the intersection with Marshall Avenue. I was leaning with my right foot on the curb when a car pulled up next to me and the driver yelled out, “Hey, kid.”

He pointed a pistol at me, reaching across a girl seated next to him, and fired.

There was no trauma on my part because it happened so quickly … and that, my friend, is the point.

There has been much talk about arming school personnel.

People who have seen too many movies think that will solve the problem of school shootings, but the problem is bad guys don’t follow the script.

Schools are often large. The classrooms, hallways, rest rooms and offices create a rabbit’s warren of passageways and hiding places. The image above is an elementary school floorplan I found online. Included are stairwells, so it has at least one more story.

In 2-3 seconds, a shooter can abandon one area and be in a new one with a new set of confused targets. The armed personnel may not be anywhere nearby when the shooting starts.

But, even if one was close, the odds he or she can take down the shooter are slim, especially if our good guy with a gun is, by training, an English teacher.

In addition to my non-noteworthy experience mentioned earlier, I base this belief on reading carefully documented, shot-by-shot accounts from mass shootings. Most memorable in many of them is how rapidly everything happens. Many people can be shot in a few seconds. Meanwhile, even people nearby may not have yet figured out what’s happening, much less formulated a response.

This is only one reason arming teachers and school staff is not the answer.

Shut up and …

DWade tweet

When a Fox News talking head told a superstar athlete (not to his face, of course) to “shut up and dribble” instead of offering his opinions on politics, it was merely one more example of those who drive the conversation trying to silence others who are merely voters.

Though I’ve heard her name, I couldn’t pick Laura Ingraham out of a lineup. LeBron James, on the other hand, I know quite a bit about, even though I’m not an NBA fan. That fact (illustrated by her having 2.11 million Twitter followers and LeBron have 40.8 million) might eat at her as much as the athlete championing an opinion that is shared by a majority of Americans.

This is not about what LeBron said. It’s about how people such as Ingraham try to hush up others. It’s immensely popular to discount the opinions of athletes, singers, actors, etc.

Recently, the voices from the right have been busily undermining the opinions of another block, those represented by the suddenly active and incredibly loud teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

They’re organized and motivated, empowered by the memories of lost friends.

Another basketball star, Dwyane Wade, cemented the right of the students to protest and the responsibility of “stars” to speak up with a tweet he put out Monday afternoon, seen above.

If you have an opinion, share it. If a cable network actor doesn’t want to hear it, if your Facebook friends don’t want to hear it, if your family doesn’t want to hear it … they can rightfully tune you out. However, there’s someone else out there who needs and desires your input.

Our burden

Chapel of the Snows - McMurdo

It happened again during church last Sunday.

Nothing unusual, though the thoughts were more raw than normal because of the Valentine’s Day killings of 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school. Of course, it was only three months ago 26 people were killed at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

So, yeah, I once again found my mind wandering, considering what I would do if someone came through the back door of our little church and started shooting.

No, that had nothing to do with the sermon. (Although, as the pastor said, “Jesus was all about action.” I could feel our minister almost say, “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”)

Like I said, these worrisome wanderings are nothing new. Best I remember, they first happened following the 1980 church shootings in Daingerfield, Texas. Five people, ages 7-78 died in that assault.

The past few years, I have at times been in schools judging academic competitions. Yes, thoughts about a shooter have crossed my mind. I brought up the subject with my wife, who doesn’t normally worry about such things, but she informed me she, too, had harbored such feelings.

Now … consider this.

How bothered must students be these days?

They are part of the post-Columbine era with active shooter drills, metal detectors, and police on campus.

They are not allowed to feel safe.

Not even in a rural school. In 2006, five girls were killed by a shooter in an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the community of Nickel Mines, Pa.

Not even in an elementary school. In 2012, a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn.

Not even in a university setting. In 2007, at Virginia Tech, a gunman killed 32 students and faculty members and injured 17 more.

Not even in a monastery. In 2002, two monks were killed and two more injured in Conception, Mo.

It’s painfully obvious there is no solution to this. It will continue. It might well worsen.

Because we can do nothing to stop it.

Everything we’ve tried has failed.

The only solution that has worked elsewhere in the world won’t work here.

Because we won’t even consider it.

Our guns are more important to us than people’s lives.

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.

Alas.

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

manifesto

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.

Similarly…

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.)

“Alt-Control-Delete.”

“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.

Oops.

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 Flipboard.com’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

Gnarly

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.

Why?

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.

Free?

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.

Healthcare(ing)

Healthcare

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.

Thanks

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.

Everything.

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

Caring

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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?

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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???

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.

How?

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.

Alone

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.

Sigh.

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…

View original post 1,044 more words

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.

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