Category Archives: Op-ed

Is the Novel Dead?

That nearly a half-million novels are published each seems to indicate the novel is not only alive, but thriving.

But the other side of the coin seems to indicate otherwise.

A couple years ago I read that in 2014 sixty percent of Americans admitted to not reading a novel. Additionally, forty percent of college graduates claimed to never crack another book after graduating. A former colleague of mine, a Millennial, backed that up by telling me he reads only non-fiction.

Oh, and that sixty percent, it was put forth, was only expected to grow.

Last holiday season I watched a roving reporter in Times Square polling shoppers what they were buying their kids for Christmas. When the reporter suggested to one mother, “How about a book?” she looked at him sideways and replied, “You’re kidding, right?”

So demand is dwindling while supply is increasing. So how can anyone not named James Patterson, Stephen King, or JK Rowling hope to compete with nearly a half-million new titles released every year, most poorly written, just as poorly edited (if at all), poorly packaged drivel?

Additionally, Internet shorthand, texting, and emojis seem to not only be destroying communication but the beauty of language as well. People no longer have to express their feelings with words; they simply click one of hundreds of emojis to relate what they’re feeling at any given moment.

It seems people no longer have the patience to read a novel. Many would rather wait for the book to be made into a movie, which is why the major publishers look only for manuscripts that can be sold to Hollywood to turn into next summer’s blockbuster movie.

Is the novel destined to become only a curiosity, something to be studied in school as an archaic art form?

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Fascism on the Left

The Left continues to call the Right fascists. But today the Left employs everything they define as fascism. They’re trying to silence the Right.

Who is protesting conservatives at our colleges and universities? The liberal Left.

Who thought about blowing up the White House? A liberal Leftist.

Who protested in the streets for weeks after the election, destroying property, and berating Trump supporters? The Liberal Left.

Frankly, fascism has more in common with socialism, an intrinsically left wing ideology, than conservatism.

Don’t call me fearful, xenophobic, racist and uneducated when you know nothing about me. That’s a typical Leftist tactic: someone disagrees with you, label them with one of a host of phobias, the more the merrier, because the Left has no platform. They tried to buy the election in Georgia as well as the White House last fall. Neither worked out well, did they?

The Democrats have no platform other than “no borders” and “support sanctuary cities”, and attack the Right: you’re backward if you’re pro-life (an attack against religion); you’re xenophobic if you believe in borders (employing the laws already on the books); you’re homophobic if you believe in men’s and women’s public restrooms. You’re evil if you don’t agree with the Left.

Because I believe in borders, because I believe in legal immigration, because I believe a nation without borders isn’t a nation doesn’t make me xenophobic; because I’m pro-life doesn’t make me backward; and because I believe in gender specific public restrooms doesn’t make me homophobic.

Go ahead and call the new militant Left Antifa (short for anti-fascism) if you want. They’re still employing the same tactics they accuse the White House of using but that I don’t see. What I see is the Left trying to silence the Right through violence.

Our colleges and universities won’t let anyone with even a hint of conservatism speak at their campuses. That is an affront to free thinking. What is that teaching our youth about opposing views, that out of debate often comes the best solutions?

Just because liberals cite the dictionary definition of fascism doesn’t mean the Left can’t employ the same tactics. They do, they are, and it’s all sleight of hand to blame the Right for being fascists even though they’ve done nothing to warrant that label.

We had eight years of failed Left wing policy and look what it got us: wage gains largely confined to the rich. A toppling of the Libyan regime that not only did not include Congress but failed. A line drawn in the Syrian sand that was crossed and ignored. Race tension the worst it’s been in forty years. A “stimulus” plan to help recover from a recession that resulted in the weakest economic growth of any post-recession period since World War II.

There’s a reason why some called Obama the Bubble President. He entered office thinking, They love me, so they’ll love everything I do! But he had no plan for what to do if Congress worked against him. Every president has to negotiate with Capitol Hill, but Obama thought wheeling and dealing, negotiating—politics—was beneath him. So he signed executive orders to further his agenda, certain his successor, Hillary Clinton, would continue his legacy but that today are being overturned.

The voters wanted a change and so they voted for one. All you boo-hooers need to grow up. Vote Trump out of office in four years if you still think he’s doing a poor job, but leave him to do the job he was voted into office to do. We all want a better, safer America. Let him sink or swim on his own. He doesn’t need your help to fail. If he fails he’ll do it on his own. But no president succeeds on their own.

There are a number of items on Trump’s agenda with which I don’t agree. But there have been a number of items on every president’s agenda with which I haven’t agreed. So what? All Americans vote based on the choices presented. Trump was not my first choice in the primaries, but when it came down to him or Clinton, he was, for me, the only choice.

Disagree with me if you must, tell me I’m wrong, but leave the personal attacks out of it. I’m not evil, I just want government to do what it’s supposed to do: represent We, the People, who elect them to office. There is enough bickering between the parties. They’re so caught up in their personal agendas they’ve forgotten us.

Consider that solidarity is a two-way street: We’re all tired of gridlock in Washington; that’s why Middle America voted into office someone to “drain the swamp.” Maybe, just maybe, if we all got together to support “45” government might work a little better.

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The Beauty of Words

Words are beautiful. They have meaning. Words have life. They can make one feel. They can make one laugh, or cry. They can incite people to anger, or bring two lonely hearts together. They make something happen inside one’s head by inspiring imagination. When ancient Man first uttered something that was understood, civilization was born. With language, Mankind set itself on the road to becoming the dominant species, became a force with which to be reckoned.

But words are dying, not a slow death, and that means imagination is not far behind.

Texting and Internet shorthand are conspiring to kill communication. My wife gets frustrated with me when I draw a conclusion from something she said she didn’t intend. She claims I take her too literally. “That’s not what I meant,” she tells me. To which I reply, “Then say what you mean.”

I work with a number of Millennials, and none of them read novels, or even crack a book. They’d rather wait for a novel to come to the silver screen because then they don’t have to use their imagination. They, too, despite all the connectivity that texting boasts, fail to understand communication, the beauty of words—the utter loveliness of connecting with another human being by conveying thoughts, ideas and feelings acoustically rather than over the Internet.

If words are dying, that means the novel, too, will soon die, destined to become a curiosity, something only studied in classrooms as an archaic art form.

Nearly 305,000 new books were published in the U.S. in 2013, most self-published. Just about all of them are poorly written, just as poorly edited (if at all), and poorly produced by wannabes who know nothing of craft and have no desire to learn craft let alone the best practices of writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction.

Toss into the equation the growing number of Americans who admit to not reading novels and you end up with a growing supply of poor product and a decreasing demand.

I find all of this sad, and not only because I make my living from arranging words on a blank monitor.

We live in a society of divisiveness, of left and right, where communication is broken. No one listens; everyone seems to want to be heard.

A society in which no one listens is fated to fall.

Does anyone hear me?

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Imitation Not Sincerest Form of Flattery

Inspired by Kathy Griffin’s recent sick attempt at humor.

What Type of World

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Politics and the Objectification of Women

“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” —Matthew 5:29-30


It’s been said that our eyes are bigger than our stomach, or as my father was fond of saying at the Thanksgiving table, “Take as much as you want, but eat all you take.”

Perhaps the same can be said about a man’s limp penis—that is, that it’s smaller than a man’s eyes. But a man’s eyes often deceive his penis.

I was young once, growing up in the 1960s, the decade of free love. Some of my earliest memories are of my body responding to girls, even though I had no idea about sex or from where babies came. I recall as teen sitting in my car waiting for the light to change and watching a pretty girl in cut-offs cross in front of me. My body responded. It did what it’s designed to do, before the impure thought crossed my mind.

In my twenties I once walked into a bar where young women danced naked on tables and runways; they wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have on a jacket and a tie. Today they call these establishments gentlemen’s clubs, which is a misnomer because a true gentleman would never patronize one.

As a single man in my thirties I saw a woman in a grocery store wearing a Harley Davidson t-shirt. I laughed and politely asked her if I could take her for a ride. She laughed, too. She understood the double entendre even as I doubted she understood the definition of a double entendre. Back then it was flirting, and it went no further: I left her in the produce section and moved on to the liquor aisle. Today it’s sexual assault.

Much has been said this campaign season about Donald Trump’s comments about and actions toward women, that he objectifies them, and therefore that makes him unpresidential and unelectable.

I have news for you, men and women of America, and the mainstream media, who seem intent on destroying Donald Trump’s run for the president: Men have long objectified women. It’s in our DNA. The world’s oldest profession dates back to biblical times.

In America we embrace objectification of women. From the Vargas pinup girls of the 1940s to today’s advertising campaigns that use sexy women to sell anything and everything from beer to automobiles. We’ve made a business of objectifying women, but oh man, don’t you dare make a sport out of women! These women who self-objectify themselves tell us it’s not okay to look. But secretly they want us to look, to turn our heads away from the competition. In the mean time, less attractive women would give anything to have someone look at them with admiration, perhaps even desire.beyonce-the-superbowl-and-the-fine-line-between-ownng-our-sexuality-and-exploiting-it_thumb11

In Corporate America how many women confuse dressing for success with using their sexuality to close the deal?

What would Jesus say about women expressing their sexuality because it makes them feel good about themselves? What would he say about bikinis and miniskirts? About Victoria’s Secret and beauty pageants? About twelve-year-olds experimenting with sex? About soft porn on prime time TV? In 2015, the porn industry in America made between ten and twelve million dollars; globally it’s a 97 billion dollar industry. Talk about misogynists.

I’m not defending Donald Trump, if what’s being said about him is true. But I do wish the mainstream media would instead focus on the important issues of this campaign season: Hillary Clinton’s inability to tell the truth about anything; her failed foreign policies and failure to keep state secrets; her, at best, mediocre term as a New York senator; the Clinton Foundation’s dubious donors; her proclamation to be a champion of sexually abused women—that they deserve to have a voice and be believed, unless you come forward with credible evidence against her husband of sexual improprieties. In those cases expect to be slandered, bullied, and threatened.

No, this campaign season is about Trump’s alleged words and alleged actions, not about Clinton corruption, deception, and lies. Nor is it about which candidate is best suited for the office, which one will best represent the will of We, the People, and not just the top ten percent wealthiest people, which one won’t dance at the end of the puppet strings of Wall Street and Corporate America. Which candidate will hold to the ideals of our Constitution, appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, work to end Washington gridlock, and put America first.

The mainstream media would have us believe that Hillary was a victim of her husband’s sexual addiction. Forget that she was an enabler. They say what happened with the Clintons twenty years ago is unimportant, that the voters don’t care about it; but what Trump did and said ten or fifteen years ago is meaningful today. The media paints Trump as a predator unfit to hold office.

If you’re a Democrat it’s okay that FDR died with his mistress at his bedside, that JFK was a womanizer, and that Bill Clinton is a sex addict. But Donald Trump is unfit!

According to the media, who openly colludes with the Clinton campaign, Trump is arrogant, racist, a misogynist. He’s divisive and plays upon the fears of Americans, never mind that those fears are anything but imagined. The Clinton campaign employs conspiracy theories to discredit Trump, while playing the right wing conspiracy trump card to protect their candidate.

Trump claims he doesn’t need the presidency. He’s running to “Make America great again.” Clinton does, and she’ll do anything, say anything, stoop to any low while professing to always take the high, moral ground (another lie) to win the Oval Office.

I’d rather see Trump hold the office than someone with loathing in their heart for those she outwardly embraces, who has no conscience; someone incapable of telling the truth and unable to apologize; someone who espouses empty promises she has no intention of fulfilling should she become president; someone in it only for themselves—for there is no greater evil than evil masquerading as good.

No doubt the final presidential debate will spend an inordinate amount of time on Trump’s alleged sexual assaults because they think that’s important to the American voters. How much time will they devote to the important issues of policy, transparency, and platforms?

Too little, I fear.

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Election 2016: Epic But Perhaps for All the Wrong Reasons

Neither One 2016 (Because oh my god, WTF, nooooo)

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The last candidate for whom I voted was Bush 41. Every candidate since I’ve voted against their opponent—against Clinton in 1996 I voted Bob Dole; against Al Gore in 2000 and against John Kerry in 2004 for Bush 43. And I voted against John McCain in 2008 because I couldn’t wrap my head around Sarah Palin as Commander in Chief should something happen to McCain. But fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on you: in 2012 I voted against Barack Obama.

But now it’s 2016: Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton.

A year ago very few gave Trump a chance to win the Republican nomination, while Hillary Clinton was supposed to have an easy walk to the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders.

Trump won easily, and Hillary, even with help from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is now the former head of the Democratic National Committee because of her efforts to tip the scales in Clinton’s favor, struggled to put away Sanders.

During the first presidential debate, Clinton claimed that President Obama took the high moral road in not responding to Trump’s “birther” accusation. Maybe he did, but that’s not important. What’s important is that Hillary, being the guttersnipe she is, sank to new lows—how low can she sink only time will tell—by bringing up Trump’s 20-year-old comments about a former Miss Universe. Her campaign has thus far been based not on policy, other than to claim experience, but instead on bashing and baiting Trump.

Trump said little about the Miss Universe episode the night of the debate, perhaps surprised by the attack. But in the days afterward, he counterpunched by bringing up Clinton’s past attempts to silence the women who came forward to accuse her husband of sexual improprieties.

The mainstream media continues to downplay Clinton’s past, claiming Americans care little about it due to the passage of time. Clinton of course was the victim of Bill’s infidelity, never mind that she enabled his behavior and today asserts to be a champion of sexually abused women, claiming that every sexually abused woman deserves to be heard and believed. Unless of course you accuse her husband.

Yet this same mainstream media continues to ask the question whether the Trump-Machado incident will be a factor in his run for the White House. Do we need any more proof of mainstream media bias?

Here is more: The Democrats disclosed a list of donors right before the debate to hide the fact that Comcast, NBC’s parent company and debate moderator Lester Holt’s employer, donated $5.6 million to the Democrat Party during the convention in Philadelphia. And we’re to believe Holt was unbiased, interrupting Trump 41 times while interrupting Clinton only 19 times? Holt never brought up Benghazi or the Clinton email scandal, even as he wouldn’t let the birther issue go in his questions to Trump. Do Americans care about Obama’s birth certificate?

I can’t know what kind of president Trump would make. If you do, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.

I do believe Trump when he says he doesn’t need the presidency. I believe Hillary Clinton does: it’s the one role missing from her 40-year resume. She’ll stop at nothing to win the White House, stoop to any low, say anything to win the vote of minorities even while Democrats are largely to blame for their plight, and she will do little should she win the election to improve race relations other than spend more taxpayer dollars for social programs to maintain the minority status quo.

Her pundits claim she has the experience to make a good president. Hell, even Obama says she’s the best candidate for president, perhaps ever.

What I see is experience at failed foreign policy, failure to keep national security secure, failure to keep government and the Clinton Foundation separate, failure to make good her promises as a senator of New York, lies to Americans and Congress and corruption, and failure in her own marriage.

Trump, when he stays on script, puts forth a good message: American security, America jobs, the American economy. He wants to do right for America.

Clinton’s platform is to stay the course Obama has laid out. More of the same failed policies that have gotten us to where we are today: no government transparency—as evidenced by Obama sending billions of dollars to Iran without Congress’ approval—a weakened infrastructure, a Middle East that threatens to blow up at any moment, a once “JV” terrorist group that has expanded to 30 nations, unfair trade agreements that have cost American jobs, a weakened armed forces, and a leadership that refuses to call ISIS what it is and what its name professes it to be, Islamic terrorists, because it would shame all Muslims.

Really? To follow that line of reasoning doesn’t the label White Supremacists shame all Whites? Didn’t Hillary Clinton shame all Trump supporters by calling half of them deplorable and irredeemable?

Clinton will likely appoint Supreme Court justices who will rob Americans of more rights, as Obama is doing. Her open door immigration policy is a disaster, one which will put American security at risk. She will dance at the stings of of Wall Street and Corporate America, both of whom have financed her campaign.

Again, I can’t know what type of president Donald Trump would make. He’s not a perfect candidate, but there never has been. His opponent is perhaps the least perfect candidate ever to run for the office. Maybe Trump would hold the office for only one term.

Yet I do know what type of president Hillary Clinton would make, and it’s not one I envision as good for America.

Trump represents real change: change in foreign policy and change in government. Clinton will maintain the status quo: more failed foreign policies and more government gridlock. A forgotten middle class as she makes even more money, and empty campaign promises given to minorities, until the next campaign.

Peel away the layers of the onion, Clinton’s attempts to cloud the election with garrulous claptrap, and the choice is simple.

neitherone2016

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One of Clinton’s Deplorables Speaks Out

“It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia.” —Hillary Clinton

No, Hillary, he’s tapped into the real concerns of Americans.

You think America is great. Trump understands what’s troubling the average American, starting with career politicians who say anything, make any promise to get elected, and then go about the business of lining their pockets with money from special interest groups, Wall Street, and Corporate America. Why would I, or anyone in their right mind, believe that you would be a champion of the common man—oh, pardon me, person. Man is politically incorrect, isn’t it?

You understand, Hillary, the top 10% wealthiest Americans because you’re one of them. You have no real concern over the economic growth of the nation or the unemployment rate. You’re a multi-millionaire who is beholden to the super PACs who are funding your campaign. Why would they sink millions into your campaign and expect nothing in return? Bernie Sanders asked that question many times before the DNC cheated him out of the nomination. You never answered the question, only denied it.

Trump’s a billionaire who will turn over the running of his empire to his children and has said he will accept no salary for the presidency. How deplorable is that? You and your husband will no doubt raffle off overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom like you did when Bill was in office: all about the almighty dollar, isn’t, Hillary? She who dies with the most toys wins, even though you can’t take any of it with you.

What’s deplorable is that all you do is attack Trump and say almost nothing about your own platform. Maybe because you know no one would vote for you if you put it out there: eight more years of the failed policies of your predecessor and mentor.

And what’s even more deplorable is your pathetic attempt at an apology. Hillary, if you’re reading this (which I know you’re not, because I’m one of the deplorable Americans you view with such disdain, at whom you look down your elitist nose), an apology with an explanation is no apology at all.

I’m tired of politics as usual—the thought of eight more years of Obama, the idea of eight more years of lies and corruption and cover-ups turns my stomach and keeps me up at night.

I’m sure it does many other deplorables as well.

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Photo courtesy of ingur.com 

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You Say You Want a Revolution

“But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait.” —Lennon/McCartney

I believe a contributing factor to the seemingly rise in this type of violence is government. Not only this administration for its failure to defuse race tension, but for the government’s failure to repair our still ailing economy and jobs market, its failure to work together (Republicans and Democrats) to do what is right for America instead of dancing at the ends of the puppet strings of Wall Street and the top ten percent wealthiest Americans. Not to mention an inability, or unwillingness, to combat radical Islam. Does any American today feel safe, believe that another 9/11 type attack will never happen?

Toss into the mix Black Lives Matter, which promotes hatred by inciting blacks with anti-police rhetoric, and we have a recipe for this type of behavior.

Now we have a president who claims on the one hand that not all Muslims are violent, but on the other hand that all law abiding gun owners in America are responsible for the actions of a few and wants to disarm all of us. Well, let him try.

This election cycle has been a revolution of sorts, a revolution fought with votes for outsiders like Trump and Sanders. Voters are expressing their dissatisfaction with career politicians who don’t believe a word of their own campaign promises but understand they need only to convince the voters that they believe those promises; career politicians who make promises they don’t intend to keep once elected; career politicians who line their pockets with cash paid to them by special interest groups instead of doing what’s right for the country as a whole. Democracy in America is dead. Our republic is a thing of the past, replaced by an oligarchy: government by the wealthy for the wealthy.

Frankly, the establishment politicians should be pleased that thus far this revolution has been fought with votes and not more bullets. They’d best “get it” or this type of violence will continue to escalate into a full scale revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen for more than 200 years.

Che

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Hillary Clinton Must Be Stopped

So Hillary Clinton interviewed with the FBI this weekend, over her use of a private email server.

Mainstream media made a big deal over her “three-and-a-half-hour grilling.” As if after a year’s investigation costing several million dollars, and man-hours from more than 140 agents, a mere three-and-a-half hours was such an ordeal. Today the media all but proclaimed her innocent of any wrong-doing, and expect that, over the next several days, the FBI will certainly concur with their proclamation.

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Hillary Clinton showing young girls how to delete email

It really matters little what the FBI decides, despite the fact she lied about getting approval for her home server: no paper evidence exists that she ever sought approval, and no one on the receiving end of the approval process concurs that such approval was given. Truly, why would such approval be given? Most of the rest of us in Corporate America are advised not to use personal email for business. But she’s a Clinton. She’s entitled.

More important, what did she have to hide? She claims it was easier for her. In what ways? I guess it made it easier for her to select which emails to archive to the government server.

Me, I work in a healthcare-related industry. If I should erroneously send ePHI (electronic protected health information) unencrypted to the wrong party, I could get fired. Apparently, since I don’t deal with national security, protecting ePHI is far more important. I could get fired; but she gets a free pass, an oops moment: “I wish now I hadn’t done it.” How many drivers arrested as a DUI proclaim, after the fact, “I wish I hadn’t done it”? Yet they pay the price. Because they’re not a Clinton.

Clinton has also stated, several times, that she never received or sent “sensitive information.” Really? In all her time as Secretary of State, she never received or sent anything considered “sensitive”? Just what was she doing in her spare time as Secretary of State, when she wasn’t seeking donations for the Clinton Foundation?

Maybe it’s not a lie, that she never sent or received sensitive information, if she had her aides opening all her email and doing all the replying. Her husband once claimed he “never had sex with that woman,” making a distinction between intercourse and oral sex.

Even if such email wasn’t labeled classified until after the fact, she should have treated it as such, as any elected official with half a brain should know.

She claimed to have turned over to the FBI all her email; yet when she turned over her server it was discovered she’d deleted about 30,000 emails. Even if only one of those deleted emails was government related, she broke the law.

Hillary Clinton purports to be a champion for sexually abused women, unless they come forward with credible evidence of her husband’s sexual improprieties. Then they are chastised and bullied into silence.

She once got a child rapist off and laughed about it in the aftermath, knowing he was guilty.

She lied about events in Benghazi and proclaimed, “What difference does it make now?” It made, and still makes, a helluva lot of difference to the families who lost loved ones that morning.

She’s taken money for the Clinton Foundation from dubious foreign sources who treat women as possessions.

Clinton is a supporter of Planned Parenthood, an organization that is hardly pro-woman. Planned Parenthood provides far more abortions than healthcare. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards is on record stating that 86 percent of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes from abortions. Planned Parenthood also admits to the sale of human tissue retrieved from aborted babies.

And women are supposed to vote for her simply because she’s a woman.

But all of this is meaningless, really, when one considers there was a time not long ago when a party, neither party, would never allow a candidate to represent them if they had what Hillary Clinton has hanging over her head.

So what’s it say about a party that allows a corrupt politician to represent them in a race for the presidency, that occupying the White House is more important than integrity?

If the media has their way, Hillary Rodham Clinton will never be held accountable—not for the things she’s done that are illegal or questionable. They apparently want to see history made: the first woman president, no matter her poor record as Secretary of State, the poor decisions she’s made, her lackluster record as a senator.

So it’s left to the voters to get some semblance of justice for the ruin she’s left in the wake of her quest for power.

We must make sure this woman never wins the presidency.

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Freedom To Choose Guilt

Where have all the years gone?

Would have, could have, should have. Me, my, mine justified choice, as did law and means—simple as a computer command: Undo.

Now: regret for what could have been, for what might have been, for all those empty tomorrows the result of a choice made yesteryear.

Freedom.

Sadness, repentance, disappointment reign over for you, who could have been. All that you could become taken from you.

Freedom to choose: me, my, mine.

Who would you be today, you who once was thought nothing? What would you be?

Youth. Foolish, selfish youth.

Freedom to choose guilt—the progeny of abortion.

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Tax System Unfair—To The Wealthy?

A family member recently sent me an email that was a tongue-in-cheek attempt to explain the tax system in terms of beer—how unfair it is to expect the wealthy to pay more taxes. Although I’m a beer aficionado, I found little humor in the metaphor because it seemed as if it weTaxesre written by a member of the top 10% wealthiest Americans and portrayed their elite class as victims.

But it got me to thinking: what of those wealthy who pay no taxes at all by off-shoring their profits? They get the biggest tax break of all, don’t they?

And wealthy corporations run by wealthy people who off-shore more jobs to create more wealth for themselves while leaving more Americans jobless (some claim 20%) and the average American earning nearly $5,000 less than they did before the crash… how fair is that? Trickle down? More like trickle up. What will the one percent do when the middle class is gone and the 90% at poverty level can’t even afford to shop at Walmart? Sell their products to China I guess, and complain about having to support those on Welfare.

And how fair is it to call lazy the bottom 90% of Americans who work harder and longer hours for less money than for the 10% wealthiest Americans to admit that they’re greedy?

By all means, bash Bernie Sanders for being a democratic socialist, and keep the corporate socialist status quo: loopholes, bailouts and influence in government.

Let’s face it: campaigns are run by politicians who hope, with their double speak and lies, to influence the common people to win their vote; but once in office they do little to benefit We, the People who cast their votes (notice I didn’t say they elect them) because the wealthy who funded their campaigns at some point will cash in their chips to benefit from their investment in the political process.

How fair is that?

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Clinton’s Experience Highlights Poor Judgment

Bernie Sanders is right to question Hillary Clinton’s “judgment.” As voters, we all should question her judgment.

She’s running a campaign on her experience—as First Lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State.

As First Lady she set back women’s rights by “Standing by my man” in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As a “champion of women’s rights” she today claims that all sexually abused women have the “right to be heard” and the “right to be believed.” Yet she refused to answer a question at a campaign rally from a woman who asked if that included the women who came forward to accuse her husband of sexual improprieties and who Hillary slandered and paid off to keep quiet. She since has kept mum on her professed champion of women’s rights claim.

As a senator, she supported the invasion of Iraq, showing poor judgment. She introduced 711 bills, of which only four passed both chambers, and only three were made into law. Unremarkable.

As Secretary of State, she used poor judgment in using a personal email server for government business, claiming she didn’t do anything wrong or do anything that Colin Powell didn’t do. She still claims she didn’t receive or send anything marked classified, which also shows poor judgment. A document doesn’t need to be marked “classified” in order for it to be considered classified where national security is concerned, and wasn’t that part of her role, national security? Any government official with good judgment should understand this. That the DOJ will likely refuse to indict is criminal in itself.

Then there are the Benghazi incident and the toppling of Libya’s Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi’s regime. She continues to deny accountability of the deaths of Americans in the former, famously claiming, “What difference does it make now?” While in the latter, Libya has become a haven for ISIS because she showed poor judgment in not having a plan in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s death.

Her “experience” is remarkable only in that it continues to highlight poor judgment.

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Words Fail Us

The burden of communication is on the communicator, not the listener or the reader. Consider how often an argument is started over a misunderstanding of words, how often we say to someone who misunderstands us, “No, that’s not what I mean.”

Perhaps man is the result of more than four billion years of evolution; maybe he was created in God’s image. Perchance he is God’s desire to experience His own creation—its good and bad, its beauty and ugliness.

Locked inside these bags of flesh for what amounts to a blink of an eye, segregated from each other even as we spend our lives trying to connect with others, all we have are these words. Words convey ideas; sometimes we hide behind them. They encourage or discourage; forgive or accuse. We use them to express acceptance or disapproval; moreover, most of our thoughts begin with a word. But mostly we use them to articulate our needs.

Maya Angelou claimed that people will forget what you said and did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. But words go a long way in making us feel. Words can soothe or incite, inspire or enervate, unite or divide. Words can heal or hurt.

But words, even written or spoken with the greatest of care, can often be misunderstood, because understanding, like love or hate and happiness or despondency—and even truth, which is often based on perspective—is a choice. How often do we choose to believe or disbelieve a declaration not because it is irrefutable, but because it aligns or fails to align with our own personal belief or morals?

Locked inside these bags of flesh, we choose to believe that we are the center of the universe, that it exists for us and us alone, for our benefit and our pleasure. In that, we are wrong: the universe existed long before we got here, and it will continue to exist long after we draw our final breath. No accident of creation, we are here to contribute, not merely to take from it.

When humanity crucified God’s greatest servant, all he said was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” One need not believe to understand that truer words were never spoken.

Words often fail us, but, sadly, they are all we have.

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Truth in Fiction

It’s funny, although I’m not chuckling as I type these words, how so many writers write graphically about sex and violence because, they say, “that is the world in which we live, and consumers want believability in what they read.” Yet part of the formula for a successful writing career, for acquiring an audience, is the one element that is no one’s birthright: a happily ever after denouement. The consumer, so I’m told, wants graphic sex and violence in their novels. Because it mirrors reality? Because we’re really voyeurs who can’t look away from the carnage as we pass a multi-car accident on the highway? Because we want to live vicariously through our fiction to escape the reality of our own very mundane life? Is there some other reason I’m missing?

It could be argued that contemporary best practices of fiction writing in any era has been setting obstacles before a protagonist for him or her to successfully overcome. Yet to be successful, a story must have a happy ending: boy gets girl; boy attains magic talisman and defeats the evil overlord in an epic battle of magic; girl transforms abusive boyfriend into a kind and loving man.

On the other hand, Romeo and Juliet ends tragically (but it was a melodrama that, in my opinion, falls woefully short as a true love story); Victor Hugo’s Laughing Man (also a melodrama) ends with blind Dea’s death, and Gwynplaine, the horribly disfigured man who rescued her as an infant and loved her—and she him because she could not see his scars—is so overcome by grief that he ends his own life; even Gone With the Wind ends with Rhett giving up on Scarlett. But these examples are from past eras, even if they accurately portray the sad reality of life: we don’t always get what we want.

John Wayne died in (I think) only seven films: Wake of the Red Witch, Reap the Wild Wind, The Fighting Seabees, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Alamo (but everyone dies in that one), The Cowboys, and The Shootist (his final film). America wanted to see the Duke as indestructible. Yet I find I’m drawn to these films as some of his finest work. Is it because he dies at the end of each of them? I don’t think so. I believe it’s because heroes don’t always win the day. Tragedy is a part of life. We all die, and most of us lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in our hearts.

I always rooted for Wile E. Coyote to get that damned roadrunner, and I so wanted to see one of Pinky’s schemes to take over the world succeed.

The truth is that might isn’t always right, nor is the obverse always true. Playing fair doesn’t always net you the promotion, success in publishing isn’t just about opening a vein and bleeding on paper. Nor do you always end up with the Betty or Veronica of your dreams.

I briefly considered shopping my latest novel, an erotic tale of infidelity, revenge, lust, and obsession, to a publisher who specializes in erotica, but my research indicated that all of them wanted a story that ends with “and they lived happily ever after.” In Forever a Philanderer, I found I just couldn’t justify rewarding my protagonist, obsessed and sexually addicted to what he can’t have, with that kind of ending. So I compromised, although the ending is hardly what I’d call shocking, while it is, I think, rather surprising. The discerning reader will, I suspect, find the ending true to life, while the less discerning reader with find it rather gratifying.

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Wednesday Reflections

I recently participated in a writers forum in which one of the participants put forth the notion that we live in a world where fine writing style has little meaning.

Sadly, less sophisticated prose is embraced over style and elegance. Consumers no longer wish to marvel over grace of words, nor do they wish to be asked to think or be moved by art, they want simply to be entertained by story. How a story is told no longer matters. Readers skip over dense paragraphs to get to the action and dialogue because, as creative writing courses teach, that’s what drives the story. Narrative takes the reader out of the story.

We have a vastly under-educated population. With all the advancements we’ve made in communication, it seems language is a dying art. Consumers of fiction don’t wish to be titillated by words, they simply wish to escape and art be damned. Internet shorthand and text messaging have conspired to destroy communication; brevity is demanded to the detriment of articulation of thought.

It’s no wonder no one understands one another.

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Freedom and Responsiblity

I recently participated in a forum that discussed freedom of speech or expression where it pertains to fiction writing, specifically violence, sex, and deviance.

With freedom comes responsibility. Like ancient Rome, the United States was founded on virtue. But over time, Rome’s virtues turned inward to self, avarice, and excess. Rome fell because they lost sight of responsibility. This is what is happening in the U.S. today.

Looking at it objectively, we have very little freedom anyway. We are tied to jobs for a third of our lives, obligated to work for others in order to put food on our table and keep a roof over our head. Of course some merely take what they want. When they get caught they are put in prison—unless it happens in Corporate America, in which case they get promoted, where they are obligated to steal more.

This attitude that “I can’t be held responsible for how others react to what I say, write, and do” on the premise of freedom is bogus—it centers on “me” and not what is right both for the community as well as for the sake of right. Spock, a fictitious character, understood that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

I have the right to walk through the worst neighborhood in my community after dark; but if I do, I’d best be prepared for what happens to me. Just because I have the right, the freedom, to do something, doesn’t mean I have to, or that I should. Having the freedom to do something and refraining from acting on that freedom, that’s empowering.

Young minds are impressionable. I know some mature minds that are weak. To suggest we be more mindful of what we write is not a step toward paternalism. To suggest that it is shows fear.

Just because there is a market for violence, sex, and deviance, doesn’t mean we should, or have an obligation to, feed that market under the misplaced virtue of “I have the freedom to do so and I’m not responsible for what happens.”

We are all responsible for one another, and in the words of Bertrand Russell, “One must care about a world one will not see.”

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I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

I recently participated in an online forum that discussed the ethics of self-publishing. The poster suggested that the image of self-publishing has diminished in the eyes for many, including the media, literary critics, and even readers. I count myself among those who carry a prejudice toward self-published works and their authors, to the point where sometimes I could scream. But in an online forum I have no mouth, merely a keyboard and a monitor, which, they say, is mightier than a sword.

I’ve long ranted against writers who jump at the chance to self-publish their work as an end around to learning craft. As a result, with more than 400,000 books published last year, most self-published, it makes it that much more difficult for the cream to rise to the top.

The debate digressed to a discussion of vanity presses. A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a term describing a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. In the past, authors paid vanity presses to print “X” number of copies. They were then drop-shipped on their doorstep, and from there the author distributed their work to bookstores. Writers of the past used vanity presses because publishers turned them down.

Digital technology and print on demand have eliminated the need to print copies for distribution. Authors today can upload their text to any number of online sources to list their work at no cost. But it amounts to the same thing: vanity publishing because writers resort to self-publishing when they’ve been turned down by a traditional publisher. Today’s self-published writers cite L. Frank Baum, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, William Strunk, Jr., John Grisham, Jack Canfield, Beatrix Potter, Tom Clancy, and Mark Twain as having self-published, as if these giants in the industry give credence to the practice. The trouble is, Grisham, Canfield and Clancy never self-published. It’s urban legend that they did. Stephen King was a fifteen-year-old high school student when, with help from a classmate, he published a collection of short stories on his amateur press. His first published novel is Carrie.

Self-published writers today call themselves “independents”, a term I’ve always related to small houses not associated with the Big Five publishers. My work is published through Second Wind Publishing, an independent press. But self-published writers wish to brand themselves as more than what they are: self-published through a modern version of the vanity press.

One of the participants in the forum, in his signature line, called himself “President” of a publishing house. I clicked over to his website to find a list of his own published novels, and no publishing guidelines or links by which a writer could submit their work. When I questioned the ethics of this, he told me, “I cannot publish without a press” and promptly bowed out of the discussion.

Huh? Digital technology and self-publishing have virtually eliminated the need for a “press.”

Granted, self-publishing gives voice to some good writers who would not otherwise see their work in print because, well, the publishing industry is in the business of making money. They are the gatekeepers of what likely will make money and what won’t. I was turned down by just about all of the major publishers not because my work was sub-par—I received some very complimentary rejection letters—but because they felt there is but a small market for what I write: stories about everyday people dealing with the universal ideals of love, loss, regret, and death, and the emotions associated with those ideals. Several years ago I self-published a novella because, after shopping it around, I discovered that few publishers publish novellas in today’s world. I consider Chaotic Theory a novelty, perhaps appealing to enthusiasts who own my entire catalog.

Many self-published writers slap the term “Best Selling Author” on their covers and websites. They apparently have no idea what it takes to become a bestseller, which varies. In the United Kingdom for instance, a hardcover book could be considered a bestseller based on sales between 4,000 and 25,000 copies per week; while in Canada, the measure is 5,000 copies. The Indie bestseller lists use only sales numbers provided by non-chain bookstores, while the New York Times list includes both wholesale and retail sales from a variety of sources. USA Today has only one list, not hardcover/paperback, to ascertain relative sales. Self-published writers don’t seem to understand that becoming a bestseller is an achievement; it’s not something one arbitrarily assigns themselves.

The bottom line is that many writers want to see their work in print and choose to self-publish rather than learn the craft of writing. I’ve been writing for more than twenty years. My later novels show improvement over my early work. Some of that improvement is based on feedback I received from agents and publishers who were kind enough to offer assessment and invite me to submit again; perhaps they saw something of merit in my words.

It’s difficult to be critical of one’s own work. We all think we’re great writers—until the tenth or twentieth rejection letter comes in. Before my first novel was published—I’d written two more by then—I questioned the worth of my work. It’s something with which I continue to struggle as I brand myself and fight for a market share, to help my audience find me. Yet today’s writer lacks a thick skin. After two or three rejection letters, rather than consider that their work needs improvement, they throw in the towel and go the self-publishing route.

I’m often asked what advice I’d give to emerging writers, and I’m tired of hearing myself: Don’t be so quick to jump on the self-publishing bandwagon. Take your time, learn your craft. Anyone can self-publish. It’s infinitely more gratifying when a publisher sends you an acceptance letter and a publishing contract.

My thanks to Harlan Ellison for the title of this post.

J. Conrad

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So Long, Max Scherzer

To know me is to know that I love the game of baseball. Always have. As a boy I dreamed of a career in the major leagues. This was a few years before Pete Rose signed the first $750,000 contract, which, to my dad, was an obscene amount of money for playing a kid’s game. Rose would sign with the Phillies a couple years later for three million dollars a year.

Sometimes it’s difficult to ignore the business aspects of the game, especially during the off-season when teams are trading players and players are exploring free agency. This offseason, Max Scherzer, who pitched for my Detroit Tigers the last five years, hit pay dirt when he inked a seven-year deal with the Washington Nationals for 210 million dollars. To avoid having to pay a luxury tax for exceeding MLB’s salary cap, the Nats will pay Scherzer beyond the actual term of his contract.

Photo courtesy of Craig David Butler

Photo courtesy of Craig David Butler

I know, I shouldn’t envy another man’s success—I likely wouldn’t turn down 210 million dollars from a publisher to write seven novels over the next seven years—but it’s interesting to note that, after signing his new contract, Scherzer claimed it was never about the money, that he’d play the game for nothing, such is his love for baseball. But last spring Scherzer turned down the Tiger’s offer of 144 million dollars to stay in Detroit, while professing his love of Motown, his teammates, and the organization. In the end, he paid for a full page ad in the Detroit Free Press thanking Mr. Illitch (the Tigers owner), his teammates, and the fans for five great years. My initial response? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass as you leave, Max.

Doing a little math, 210 million dollars over seven years amounts to thirty million a year. A starting pitcher takes the ball every fifth game, which means he plays in 20% of the games over the course of a 162-game season. Assuming he’ll miss no starts due to injury, he’ll start 32 regular season games, which equates to $937,500 per start. Breaking it down further, based on an average seven innings per outing, or 224 innings for the season, Scherzer will make $133,929 per inning. If he averages 100 pitches per start, he’ll earn $9,375 per pitch. My dad would roll over in his grave over these numbers if he hadn’t been cremated.

So, if it wasn’t about money, Max, why did you leave Detroit for more money?

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The Good Old Days of Who’s Youth?

November 29 marks the anniversary of the death of former Beatle, George Harrison. Has it really been ten years already? A tribute concert was performed, recorded and released on CD in 2003. A Concert for George featured many of George’s oldest and best friends: Jeff Lynne, Gary Brooker, Joe Brown, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, and the two remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

While listening to that CD a few days ago I recalled an interview George did many years ago, about his days with the Beatles. He said something to the effect that, if you were going to be in a rock and roll band back in the 1960s, it might as well have been the Beatles. It would seem George had some fond memories of his days as one of the Fab Four.

That got me to thinking about the 1960s. I can say I grew up in the ’60s even though I didn’t much participate in all that older members of the Baby Boomers did. For instance, I was too young to protest the Vietnam War. Although I registered for the draft when I turned eighteen in 1974, the draft was abolished a few months later and the war ended shortly after that.1960s-collage

There’s a website today devoted to Woodstock. The home page proclaims: “Woodstock is more than a moment in time. It is a way of being in the world.” I’m not sure I get that; maybe whoever wrote it is a pothead. I was twelve that summer of 1969, so to me Woodstock is but a moment in time.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon. He commemorated the moment by saying, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I hadn’t yet turned twelve when, in October 1968, my Detroit Tigers won the World Series. It wasn’t easy for them—they had to overcome a three games to one deficit to beat the Cardinals. But in winning the championship, the Tigers miraculously healed a city that had been torn apart by race riots the previous year. A few years later, my boyhood idol, Al Kaline, would turn down a $100,000 contract from the Tigers, feeling himself, a future Hall of Famer, unworthy of so much money for playing a kid’s game. In the 1960s, baseball was still twenty years away from steroids.

I have fond memories of the ’60s. Not that I had any choice, but if there was a decade in which to grow up, it might as well have been the ’60s.

Still, it was a decade of contradictions. Sure there was free love, rock and roll, miniskirts, bikinis and Laugh-In. But two Kennedys were assassinated, as was Martin Luther King; our young boys were dying in Vietnam fighting a war they couldn’t win, while Cassius Clay changed religions and his name to Muhammad Ali in order to dodge the draft. Richard Nixon was in the White House late in the decade, taking over for Lyndon Johnson who’d taken over for JFK.

Politics in the 1960s may have been just as corrupt as they are today, but back then freedom of the press was practiced—the media asked the tough questions. Today they contribute to political campaigns; therefore, investigative reporting is passé.

It’s been said that every generation must face its obstacle. My dad’s generation—the Greatest Generation—fought a World War; his father’s generation endured the Great Depression. And the Boomers? We seem to have faced a lot, from Vietnam and Watergate, to Desert Storm and Afghanistan; 9/11 and terrorism, the Wall Street and housing debacles, global warming, as well as a multi-trillion dollar deficit (the latter will be passed down to future generations).

A country rich in resources but unmindful of waste, we cannot hope to defeat Mother Nature, who is battling back the only way she knows how—with earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes. In the end, I can’t imagine we’ll be able to stand up to her.

Billy Joel defends the Boomers: “We didn’t start the fire/it was always burning since the world’s been turning/We didn’t start the fire/no we didn’t light it/but we tried to fight it.”

In all honesty, I’m not sure that our efforts to fight the fire haven’t been half-hearted. Sure, we started out with good intentions. In the 1960s we protested the war, stood up for the environment and were anti-establishment. But the hippies of the ’60s became the yuppies of the ’80s and a lot of what we battle today we brought on ourselves, through unmitigated greed. My parents’ generation worked to give my generation a better life; since the Boomers became the establishment, we’ve worked simply to acquire more meaningless things.

So I look at the past not so much through rose-colored glasses. The decade of the 1960s was a much simpler time with much simpler solutions. But I recall, in the 1960s, my dad’s longing for his own youth, an era to which he, too, referred as “much simpler.” My father cared for a world which he would not live to see. In fact, he cared so much he risked his life in World War II to save our way of life and to shape the world order in the second half of the twentieth century.

What, if anything, are the Boomers willing to risk to save our way of life for future generations and a world which we will not live to see? Sadly, it seems we are only intent on using up all our resources in the name of money.

And now, with my own brand of cynicism, I’ve become a chip off the old block. In the 1970s, Elvis died of a drug overdose and American hostages were held in Iran while the price of a gallon of gas threatened to eclipse a dollar. In the 1980s, John Lennon was murdered and we invaded Kuwait to drive out Iraqi troops. In the 1990s a president slept with an intern, but at least we had a balanced budget.

The new millennium has seen no improvement; only a sense of sliding more quickly into a cesspool of greed as the wealthiest top ten percent threatens to kill off the middle class and the threat of Armageddon as the planet shrinks, and still no one can look at someone without judging them by color, gender, religion or ethnicity and, out of hatred the product of fear, cast stones.

Maybe that’s the way of the world. And maybe, too, it’s human nature, after reaching a certain age—an age that forces us to face our mortality—to look back at the good old days of our youth.

But if that’s true, then one can only wonder what, in thirty or forty years, today’s youth will look back upon as good?

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To Forgive is to Forget

It’s been written that to forgive is human, to forget divine. Three words—“I forgive you.” Perhaps as easily said as three others: “I love you.” Yet if true love comes only later, when the butterflies stop flitting about, when we realize we like the other person, that we want to be with them (not just need to be with them), when the masks come off and we can gaze at them without flinching; then perhaps it can also be said that true forgiveness comes only after the forgetting.

Forgiveness, true forgiveness, means forgetting, which may be difficult if not, for some (depending on the offense), impossible. I’ve often marveled over couples who’ve endured infidelity and managed to pick up the pieces, make it work. Do they go back to the beginning to start over, or start anew, from the moment one expresses apology and the other determines to forgive? Perhaps it’s different for each couple. Whatever works.

In the aftermath of infidelity, the rules of the relationship are bound to change as the offender must work to rebuild trust—account for missing minutes in their day, allow access to email and cell phone accounts.

Certainly neither the offender nor the offended can forget the pain and shame associated with infidelity; yet the offended who says, “I forgive you” but continuously holds the sin over the offender’s head, makes him or her jump through hoops, tosses barbs their way, belittles them, fails to live up to the words, “I forgive you.”

To forgive is an easy response to “I’m sorry.” The forgetting is infinitely more difficult. But without the forgetting, the forgiving—like telling someone you love them (without action to prove it)—becomes but a meaningless mantra.

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