Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day

    In the fictional town of Harrington, the local newspaper, Press-Pilot, hadn’t had much luck in stopping an unwanted building project. Now people involved in the project were being murdered.     Reporter Julie DuBois and her editor, Sam Perkins, were discussing democracy and why sometimes it didn’t always seem to be working. Their conversation turned to Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense.
   The Man Who Wrote Letters is available at Amazon books. 

* * *

...“I could be wrong, but I don’t think he was writing for a publisher. He may have had a backer or two, but he was pretty much putting his own message out there and hoping it would stick. He was a snake oil salesman, selling a revolution to anyone who would buy in—and maybe a little democracy on the side.”

“Democracy, snake oil?”

“It was at the time. Nobody knew if it would work, but a small group were willing to take a chance. They also knew if they were going to succeed, they’d have to get the masses involved. Democracy was a pretty hard sell for those who’d never experienced it.”

“It’s a pretty hard sell sometimes when you’ve seen it in action all your life.” Julie was out of her comfort zone and knew it. She recognized the names and understood the principles, but these weren’t concepts she’d thought much about. She knew that was the rap on her generation....

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Profiles in Non-courage

Mitch McConnell was elected to the United States Senate in 1984, the year Ronald Reagan won the presidency by almost 20-million votes and an electoral vote margin of 525 to 13. Mitch’s campaign slogan against Democrat Walter Dee Huddleston was “Switch to Mitch.” That should have told the nation something about the man that Kentucky would send to Congress for the next 34 years—a man who would win future elections with the catchy “Repeal and Replace.” No one likes meaningless but catchy slogans more than Republicans.

The fact that this slogan only garnered him a plurality of 5200 votes out of more than 1,8-million cast (0.04%) tells us something else about the man who would one day become Senate Majority Leader.

Mitch has been a voice in Congress through the Iran/Contra Affair, two Iraq Wars, the 9/11 attack by terrorists on the Twin Towers, the S & L debacle of 1988, and the Great Recession of 2008—all of them events occurring under Republican presidents, as well as the tax cuts of Reagan, Bush, and Trump. Don’t let anyone fool you, tax cuts help the rich more than anyone else.

He was there for the Republican’s 6-year investigations of the Clinton’s during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and the fruitless and seemingly endless investigation of Hillary Clinton for the Benghazi attack.

He was there when Obama’s administration opened the door for 15-million Americans to receive previously unavailable healthcare insurance and has spent the last decade trying to take that insurance away.

This man has been in Washington for all the big events, all the momentous decisions, all the bitter struggles. So what does he call his proudest moment?

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Man Who Wrote Letters—and did evil deeds

No one is born a killer. Situations and events in a society growing angrier by the day can turn an otherwise peaceful person violent. 

Construction was about to begin on a building project that would not only saddle the town with unfathomable debt, but would forever transform the quiet little town in ways only a few could imagine.

Public protests and letter writing campaigns had failed to stop this crooked scheme because the corrupt individuals behind it were motivated by their own greed and an utter disregard for the opinions of others. The town’s newspaper, against the project from the start, railed against it regularly on its editorial page, but no one reads newspapers anymore.

Public protests and letter writing campaigns had failed to stop this crooked scheme because the corrupt individuals behind it were motivated by their own greed and an utter disregard for the opinions of others. The town’s newspaper, regularly railed against the project on its editorial page, but no one reads newspapers anymore.

The letter writer had paid his dues, played by the rules. He recalled a time when that was enough, but those days were long gone. In his mind, that world didn’t exist anymore.

He accepted change, welcomed progress. Something different was happening in his community. Values that had once been cornerstones of society were being destroyed by a weak mayor and his corrupt cronies.

The few who tried to speak truth to power were met with apathy and ignored by citizens, who actually envied the successful and flamboyant businessmen who were scamming them. The question on everyone’s lips: Would anyone step up to stop the corruption?

Finally, one man did step forward to answer the call.

Now the question became, “Could anyone stop him?”

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Man Who Wrote Letters—and did evil deeds

  My third novel, The Man Who Wrote Letters—and did evil deeds, is in its final proof stage and will be coming out in a few weeks. 
  The crime mystery takes place in the fictional town of Harrington, Massachusetts and centers on an unpopular building project.
    We pick up the story when the body of a key figure   is discovered one morning just as construction is about to commence. The ensuing events and  investigation are revealed through the eyes of the young journalist assigned to cover it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

President Trump Throughout History

President Trump enters the Great American Think-off
In December 2015, I began a feature on my blog, entitled, “Trump Throughout History,” where I put him in different settings. Every year, I enter a contest called the “Great American Think-off.” This year, a member from a writer’s group I belong to is one of the four finalist going to Minnesota to debate the question: What shapes our lives more: Success or Failure?

I tried to envision what the president’s entry to a Great American Think-off would look like.

Everyone in the Oval Office was talking about the Great American Think-off, which I have to admit, I didn’t know anything about. Making America Great, I know, but Great America Thinking, I don’t know so much. Anyway, my staff told me this year’s question is:

“Thinking is a good thing, Yes or No.”

At first, I didn’t get it because I think both answers are right. Thinking can be a good thing like when I think I’m on to something, or it can be a bad thing like the time I thought I was on to something only to find out the thing I was on was a merry-go-round, which a lot of people would say is a good thing, but I don’t know—you’re’re there...then you’re back here again.

Some people say a merry-go-round is a good ride, but I like my rides to get me somewhere. That’s what I think. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing...who knows,...we’ll see...or we won’t. I dunno. Think about it.

The more I think about it, the more I think, thinking is a bad thing. Too much thinking, which some people call overthinking can just make things more complicated. I like things simple.

Someone just told me the folks at New York Mills like personal stories, which is lucky for me because I have a million of them. Someone else just told me New York Mills is in Minnesota. Go figure.

Anyway, one time I did overthink something and it didn’t turn out so good, and I swore I would never think about something too much, again...and to the best of my recollection, I never have.

So, I hit a good drive and I’m in the middle of the fairway and I’ve got 180 yards to the hole. I could use a three-wood and reach the green easily, but I might go past it if I get off a clean shot...or I could use a one-iron, which I don’t like to use, but I can use if I have to. It may leave me a little short...and I’m not talking about me, because I happen to be a very tall man...taller than most, and when I say most, I mean, just about everyone.

I don’t want to get off track here. The one iron might leave me short of the green, which is called a lay-up and from there, I might be better off, if I can chip onto the green and get close to the hole.

But, I don’t know. If it comes between coming up short, or going too far...I’m kind of a long-ball guy. I don’t think you can ever go too far. So, I take the three wood out, but decide not to hit it too hard, but just hard enough. Well, you know what happened next...I didn’t think it would happen, but I knew it could happen because anything can happen and usually fact, people tell me things happen all the time.

So, I take a shorter backswing and slow down my front swing. Is that what you call it? I never thought about it before, but if going back is called a backswing, a swing going front must be a front swing. This is the kind of confusion, thinking will get you.

Anyway, because I overthought what club to use, I wound up not hitting the ball cleanly and I came up short, but not just short, but short in a trap, which I hate being in. Anyone who has ever been in a trap will tell you, it is not a good place to be. Believe me, I know.

So, you see, based on this real story, which I didn’t make up on the spot like some people accuse me of doing, I would have to say thinking isn’t a good thing...not if you’ve hit a good drive and want to get on the green in two, which is something I would want to do and I think anyone would want to do.

So, that’s my answer. Thinking is a good thing—No.

I don’t know, though. Some pretty good thinking on my part went into getting to that answer.

Maybe I should think about it some more and see if I come up with a different answer, which I’m sure I will, because I always do.

I just got an idea for next year’s think-off. “Three-wood or one-iron, which is it?” I know what I think.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Can keeping your word be a bad thing? Hell, yes.

I remember when my year-long tour in Vietnam was ending, the army asked me what my preferences were regarding my next duty station. This is generally referred to as a “dream list,” and it usually is.
I think politicians engage in the same sort of deceit on the campaign trail. They tell us all the good things they hope to do. Whether they are conning us or themselves doesn’t matter. Someone’s getting played. Voters are not necessarily innocent bystanders. They get their hopes up, for whatever reasons, knowing that it is all a game.

In the end, none of this matters.

Government and politics being what they are, more often than not, the unexpected rules the day and the promises go into the “Save for future” bin. A president fortunate enough to be able to fulfill a promise will discover his victory comes at a price. Half the country will love him and half will hate him and the final product likely won’t be recognized by anyone.

Just as with the army’s “dream list,” you never know. “Be careful what you wish for,” has been valuable advice since the days of Aesop’s Fables for good reason.

The election of 2016 was a little different than most. Okay, it was a lot different. It was more vulgar, for sure. It was the first one in which both the FBI and Russia played significant roles. It was the first one in which the two major parties were represented by a woman and a reality T.V. star. It goes without saying that it was the most expensive election ever, but that will only last until the next one, which I guess makes it the same as every previous one.

There was also one other major difference. 2016 was the first year that a candidate did not promise to do things, but rather promised to undo things—and when I say things, I mean everything.

These are the Trump promises of election year 2016:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trust Us - Con jobs big and small

Con jobs come in all sizes and with varying degrees of intent to deceive.

A small, well-meaning con job was once directed at me when I was a letter carrier walking my route in Virginia Beach. An older man walking his dog approached me.

The dog wasn’t that big, but it was dragging its owner along like a lion pulling a dead wildebeest across the arid African savanna.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got him under control,” the outmatched man said with a straight face.

He wasn’t intentionally trying to con me and certainly meant me no harm. He may have even thought he was in charge, but he had to have known the dog was running the show.

This was the most innocent of con jobs, but I wasn’t fooled and never took my eyes off the dog as it dragged its owner past me.

Then there was a con of a different sort—intentional, but not meant to harm—much—but certainly meant to deceive.