A Republic in name only.

The shock is only fading now. On Election Night, the electoral map oozed red as every pundit, pollster, prognosticator and pretender submitted their credentials as paid fools, dupes and spittle spewing partisans for the media’s zombie waltz with the corporate bottom line. A billionaire five year old has been enabled all the way to the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton went home with a surplus of 2.8 million votes and the robot Electors played the equivalent of eager sexual submissives to Donald Trump’s raging political id. 62 million Americans fell for an ambiguous slogan on a red baseball cap while imagining a populist instead of a demagogue under the brim.

Having grown up with a hyper awareness of media and direct experience as a news reporter and a radio personality at various times, I had been paying entirely too much respect to the print and electronic media. Election Night proved that. All of the artfully arranged, computer generated and pundit approved prognostications were only so many trillions of bits and bites being forced through the electronic ether of talking heads entitlement. They could not measure the naked rage of the so called Fly Over Wing of the Alternative Right. I did not fully recognize that that voting bloc was comprised of other Americans like me who have been chafing and raging under the mantle of lies and policies that keep them and me exactly where we are.

I have learned that if you laugh at someone’s rage, they are likely to make you pay and pay we will after Donald Trump slaps his undersized hand on a Bible to claim ultimate power on January 20th. To that end, I claim my share of the responsibility here. I did not vote for Trump but dismissing a true threat can motivate others to vote for it. The following video is disturbing and I am not ascribing this hateful, racist vitriol to all Trump supporters.

There is rising intolerance in this country and this is the biggest danger as opposed to what our nation claims to have been before now. I can’t decide if the revolting above video is an unscientific study of a greatly increased level of hate in America or if that particular Trump rally just invited too many goons into range of the New York Times’ cameras and microphones. I do know that the rage expressed here is only rage. There are no ideals being expressed, only vitriol being lobbed because the people there were being egged on by Donald J. Trump to do it. I was not on the front lines of social change in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I forgot who said it but my generation then was wide eyed, not tie dyed. Muhammad Ali shows here that the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t a new invention. Only the branding is different today.

I was seven years old in 1968, just mature enough to have a little appreciation for the grief the country was convulsed in when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in early April. About two months later, Robert F. Kennedy was cut down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, a far more impressive hostelry in Los Angeles. Many readers have heard or seen the material below but it’s worth hearing again for the genuine grief drowning out an all but pure national idealism at that time.

The circumstances were of course different. King was in Memphis to support workers carrying out a garbage strike to demand better wages and Bobby was on the way to taking his slain brother’s place in the Oval Office. Both Kennedy and King were hated intensely by many but you never heard either man make the grotesque appeals to ignorance that the President Elect has all but perfected.

These events actually happened but some Trump supporters will say with a straight face that operatives of Hillary Clinton showed up at Trump’s rallies to encourage them, they say the events never happened or like Trump, they say that victims of violence at these rallies got exactly what they deserved. Having the ability to take events you witness yourself and instinctively twist them to match your prejudices is a disgusting commentary on the state of this nation. We won’t have a chance going forward if we can’t agree that beating a person for his or her political opinion is simply wrong. Donald Trump did not invent violence involving political speech.

The Democratic National Convention in 1968 is often referenced but violence in the face of peaceful protest happens almost daily in America. Posting these videos is not inflammatory on my part. This is our current day. It is not exploitative. This is our history. Hillary Clinton was a phony who wanted power and she was unfit to hold it with classified emails sitting in her Blackberry but she did not incite violence or appeal to the worst in anyone as a public figure. She was more of a traditionalist by secretly rigging the primaries against Bernie Sanders. The Russians, in turn, rigged the general election against her with a kind assist from FBI director James Comey.

What concerns me most is that we may have reached the time where any raised voice is perceived as a threat, any demand for rights is a only a challenge to those in power and any attempt to demand better only makes you an “undesirable”. If we haven’t reached that time, then we are perilously close. This is how republics end and dictatorships begin. Don’t bother reading your history on this point if you are disinclined to do it.

You may already be living it.


Code Orange and Bottle Blonde Ambition clash in Thunderdome 3

On the night of October 19, the national waterboarding known collectively as the three presidential debates came to an end. There are 19 days left before this nation chooses a spray tanned fascist with a satanic comb over or a stealth Republican with an ISIS itch for President. Donald Trump’s Mussolini inspired fragrance, “Il Duce”, has given Hillary Clinton enough cover to laugh off her email scandal and Putin’s hacking of her private server. The generally offensive Chris Wallace played moderator and he actually pushed the combatants into a substantive exchange while the live studio audience was ordered to stifle their laughter when Wallace nagged them for having pulses and heartbeats.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson were denied access to the debate stage and were left to back channels in whispering their talking points. It was the most distinguished evening at UNLV since the basketball team wore freshly laundered uniforms in a home game. Trump’s effeminate, undersized hands tried to wick away Hill’s squawking points while punctuating her answers with a parrot like, “Wrong!”, to keep his loyalists interested.

As more women emerge with accounts of being sexually abused or groped by the Republican nominee in past years, there is enough misogyny left over for Hillary to actually appear sympathetic with Trump referring to Clinton as, “a nasty woman”, in the last five minutes of the debate. Hillary is less sympathetic with her email controversy but she has some company there. Her campaign boss, John Podesta, had his emails hacked and CBS News reported on October 20th that Podesta entered his information into a link called, “Fancy Bear”. It’s a Russian based hacking site and Podesta fell victim to a “spearfishing” operation, according to CBS. I am generally averse to posting Fox News content but Chris Wallace peppers Podesta here about the Russian hack job.

The U.S. intelligence apparatus has stated outright that Putin is trying to get the outcome he wants in this election and that is a Trump win next month. Because the endless American election cycle involves winning the majority of 50 state elections and a lack of oversight to assure a clean game on the federal level, we are turkeys waiting to be plucked and ex KGB man Putin knows a soft target when he sees dinner through the rifle scope. At least the state by state system spreads the risk just a bit. With Trump not committing to accepting the election outcome unless he wins, a disqualifying statement on its face, there are sure to be lawyers in lock step to challenge the result. In some states, there will be no paper back up system to assure an honest count. This soulless little snippet is used here to make the point that democracy is made of paper and not bits.

Just as some criminals use intermediaries to pass information, only in person and with no paper or electronic trail to trip them up later, the election system in this country is already decentralized with the states in charge of voting. That’s a big advantage against hacking to start with. Paper should be the primary record for all elections and the software should be an additional record to go with the paper count. I can claim just a little direct experience as a former poll supervisor in my town. (Hold the applause please.) After the polls closed, the machines were locked down and a paper roll was removed with official witnesses present. A poll supervisor, me in that case, took the locked ballot box with the official paper roll locked inside and drove it immediately to the Board of Elections. Paper is honest, retrievable and impossible to hack unless the machines themselves have been compromised.

The above video makes the point and my choosing it because I am arguably less nerdy than the fine young people featured cannot be proven with any certainty. Machines need to be too simple to be hacked by malicious programs but that is admittedly above my pay grade.

As to the election, Hillary will almost certainly be the President-Elect on the morning of November 9th. Trump has shattered all the rules by all but breaking our political system. Hillary probably rigged the primaries in her favor and Bernie Sanders made nice with her later for the good of the country, something Trump is simply unable to do.

He has coarsened this culture to all time lows but he has proven that women deal with abuse and obstacles that few men have ever contemplated. If you are half awake and not a Donald J. Trump minion, Hillary deserves respect for running her race with a glass ceiling above her and a misogynist floor beneath her. She and Podesta deserve condemnation for making an electoral hack possible in the alleged “greatest democracy the world has ever seen.” She doesn’t have my vote but she gets a little respect because for women, the game really is rigged. I’ll be voting for a woman anyway on November 8th.


Mussolini and The Queen take their bows.

A new medical term needs to be invented describing an acute malady and no Jerry Lewis Telethon is likely to help. The symptoms are likely to feature writers hunched over keyboards, cold coffee in hand. The affliction features a bulls eye rash imprinted on the ears and retinas. It can only be treated by a prolonged vacation from all televised media, Continue reading


The remains of the fray

Bernie Sanders has emerged with a much needed primary win in the Hoosier State, Ted Cruz’s electoral push shot has missed the “ring” and Donald Trump will be the first political zombie to win the nomination of a major Continue reading


And a little bird shall lead them…

Nothing is more lame than a blogger offering excuses as to why he or she has not posted lately. Call it, “Trump Fatigue” in this case. Rule one for writing is not to repeat yourself and I had already devoted a post weeks ago to The Donald and his neo-Nativist movement. Trump has sucked so much air out Continue reading


The Constitution comes a Courtin’.

Justice Antonin Scalia died on a Texas hunting trip recently, where hand raised birds were nurtured to the edge of maturity, only to be blown to smithereens on their maiden flights by the Judge who gave the world DC v. Heller. This decision affirmed that Americans have the personal right to keep and bear arms. As a Constitutional “originalist”, you would think that the Hammer of the Radical Right would have known that The Second Amendment was crafted to give the pre-federalist states the right to form militias for the common defense. This had nothing to do with blasting God’s defenseless creatures to atoms for a little R & R. It had nothing to do with high schools being shot up or with toddlers finding, and then firing, loaded weapons they spied beside the See and Say and the X Box controls.

Suddenly, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is the Great Populist and is calling for a national referendum on the man or woman who will refill Scalia’s capacious judicial robes. Scalia wrongly equated money with speech in the Citizens United decision and as a Constitutional “originalist”, he should have known that the Founders could have never have conceived of a vast, electronic, media infrastructure fed by the checkbooks of lobbyists and oligarchs.

The Constitution provides for the President to appoint Supreme Court nominees while the Senate “advises and consents” until the seat is filled. The document says nothing about balling things up until a GOP Presidential candidate can replace the sitting President, who is the only one charged with fulfilling his Constitutionally mandated role. At the base of this contempt for written law on the part of the GOP is the pervasive belief that Obama was never legitimate in the first place. He is a Democrat, he is black and in elephant eyes, he doesn’t understand who he is supposed to be working for. This is a nation of lobbyists, not laws. It is a nation of men, not Constitutional faith. As such, President Obama should use any means available to him to restore the Judicial Branch of government to nominal function.

Scalia and other Republicans have described the Constitution as dead. This “originalism” fetish of Scalia’s is bankrupt for this reason. In Colonial times, only white men who owned land could vote. By Antonin’s reckoning, he should have railed against the 19th Amendment. Women have only had the ability to vote since 1920 and as a white man with no land to my name, the vote should be denied to me as well. Slavery is referenced in the founding document too. Should that peculiar institution be revived to satisfy Scalia’s originalism? The Constitution is for those who live under it and as brilliant and visionary as James Madison and company were, they could not inscribe every eventuality onto parchment for all time. Precedent and the preservation of rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution should guide The Supreme Court, not loopy “originalism”, that pays no heed to the growth of freedom from that first Constitutional seed.

The government is now beating up Apple to provide a reverse engineered back door to their encryption proof IPhone 5C. If Apple rolls over here, as it were, they will be little more that an ad hoc brick in the national security state. Get a damned warrant! Beyond that, it is not the duty of a private corporation to provide a skeleton key to Big Brother with every IPhone purchase. Below, Apple’s Tim Cook tells the insufferable Charlie Rose where he stands. This was before Cook refused a federal magistrate’s order that Cook provide a back door in to IPhones without a warrant.

Touching one last time on Scallia’s originalism, the 18th Century equivalent of the IPhone debate would be for the government to be given a copy of all of your letters, bills or other correspondence on demand and with no warrant in the interest of national security. Only technology changes. The right to keep information secure does not change and the Fourth Amendment’s language clearly covers anything that Tim Cook can dream up. Maybe Tim should include an app for the Constitution to keep the FBI honest. The Constitution is the most precious hand raised bird ever hatched. It did not gain flight only to be shot down by radicals wearing the camouflage of Constitutional purity.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.”

Originalism? There you go, Justice Scalia.


Obama’s last bow, GOP zombies and Hill the Thrill’s conscription of spawn.

Apologies for the long delay between posts. As of this date, my Christmas tree is still up, the New Year’s resolutions were never made and the Christmas fruitcake is leading in the Republican polls. To make up for the time lapse, you lucky, topically obsessed Continue reading


The Donald leads the Neo Know Nothings into political oblivion

The Know Nothings were an anti Catholic, anti immigrant group in the 1850’s. They often met in secret and feared Catholic, Irish and German immigrants as a threat to the white, Protestant order of their day. Donald Trump has christened a new bellowing sect of paranoid, largely under educated whites who are lapping up Trump’s anti Muslim rhetoric as tonic Continue reading


Carson, Trump and winning with flat out crazy

Ben Carson once rooted around in the brains of children and made a good reputation as a neurosurgeon. His own brain has enough bat crazy pathologies to merit his own wing at the Rubber Room Academy of Continue reading


Reaching first at last.

As I sit down to write this personal statement in applying to the MFA program in writing at Brown University, I preface it with the knowledge that I have had to create a unique community when traditional ones have been too often closed to me. Having grown up in a time when learning disabilities and physical delays were seldom discussed, I had to remain quiet about my deficits or risk being marginalized. Though I sometimes was, I was fortunate to benefit from small classrooms and devoted faculty at St. Andrews School in Barrington, Rhode Island, when I enrolled there in 1974. Without St. Andrews, I would never have attended college of graduate school. Prior to St. Andrews, I was failing every subject at age 12 as indifferent teachers and administrators showed no inclination or ability to deal with a student like me. Naturally, I internalized this and blamed myself for it. As to the community I have just referenced, it was a baseball community and a very special one. In the next part of this essay, I hope you will see why.

For a child who has a love of baseball but has physical delays, he learns to love the game from a distance. As he tries so hard to catch up to his peers, who take to baseball like a Great Plains wind to a drowsy wheat field, the boy fights himself, tripping over his feet while trying to coordinate legs, arm and trunk into a serviceable throwing motion. His gangly, underweight frame imparts no power or snap to the throw, elbow flying out ahead while his greatly imperfect eyes fail to calculate the angle and velocity of a ball for the purpose of striking it with confidence.

The boy, blind for the first two years of his life, doesn’t grasp why the game called to him. Perhaps it was the rhythm of it, languid for innings at a time until the practiced restraint of the contest resolves itself in a riot of precision, power, strain, error, dumb luck or inevitable release from its measured progress. A tie is an insult to both player and fan. Baseball continues until a master and the mastered remain without the absurdity of a clock, returning the manicured diamond to the indifference of entropy until the ground crew beats it back with hoses and rakes.

What did the blind infant contemplate in his incubator? He could not see his mother’s herculean efforts to let him remain in life or his father’s clenched sorrow. The prematurely delivered boy could not comprehend his hyaline membrane disease, the same malady that took the infant Patrick Bouvier Kennedy after two days of life in August of 1963.

The father knows that this boy will not be an athlete if he ever sees at all. Where are the inchoate hints of eventual manhood here? He was born after JFK took office in 1961 with the blindness, the lung operation while only hours old, the sloping, fragile shoulders, the impossibly thin limbs, the brain damage for lack of air, the sunken little chest and dearth of coordination, the six weeks it required to learn to ride a bike long after his vision came at age two, long after his peers had triumphed on two wheels in a matter of days. Teammates are found in the schoolyard and he was rejected there, left to dream by himself of kind friends and patient teachers as opposed to the tormentors they actually were. Teachers were either too ignorant or too indifferent to the boy’s learning disabilities to try to address them. School was a place to build walls, hunker down and try to survive.

There were Red Sox games on television though and baseball cards, the prayer of a souvenir cap from Dad with the Boston ‘B’ sewn on to a separate, square patch over the brim when he was taken to Fenway Park. There was seldom money for such an extravagance. The transistor radio, tuned perfectly and perched at the one position to pick up a game from Boston, sat on the night stand near the boy’s eyeglasses. Ned Martin and Jim Woods, the Red Sox announcers, had voices full of kindness, color and patience. He wished they could teach him to throw.

His father was patient but largely absent. The boy’s skills were absent in spite of all patience. Imaginary games were played in his room, swinging a blue, wooden bat from Benny’s and catching countless balls tossed from a prone position on the bed. Picturing games on the radio described the writer he would become. A blank page required no permission to encroach upon it and you didn’t wait to be picked. Instead of bringing skill to writing, you were allowed to learn as you went while the stumbling, false starts and failures were strictly private affairs. Learning baseball with real boys was humiliation, as school was, as home was and as girls were too. Writing was hard but blessedly solitary. It gave no reward but the hope of improvement. That came in the doing, like a batter hanging tough on a 12 to 6 curve. It was humble and humbling, truly a game for a weak eyed boy’s life.

His older sister loved the game too and she cried when Leron Lee of Cleveland injured Carlton Fisk’s knee in a devastating collision at the plate in 1974. Fisk’s torn left knee ligaments were said to be career ending but Pudge returned a year later and played for 24 more years. The boy’s sister allowed him to talk of the game and learn it’s verbal cadences for himself. This was a game he could play. Baseball was a common tongue between father and son, even a son who could never snap Dad’s glove as the father did his, even at age 16. The boy’s parents divorced in 1971 when he was 10 years old. His mother delivered the news alone at the kitchen table and he cried. The father was the man who took him shopping for Christmas and was otherwise gone, save for the father’s voice coming out of the radio or TV at 6:27 p.m. The Red Sox not liking the Yankees taught the boy about universal constants.

Adulthood brought a halting college degree and a succession of jobs that neither satisfied, paid or stayed. Grad school followed and not long after that was done, he found a newspaper article about an old time baseball league in Long Island, New York. They played barehanded with 19th Century style uniforms. With sheer will and unaccustomed luck, the Providence Grays first took the field in the spring of 1998 to honor the original World Champions of 1884. In his 30’s, the formerly blind former boy pulled on a baseball uniform and trotted out to his position with his friends. The old sadness was still there but now, there was joy to fill that lonely space too. Some never get what they need, some get most or all of what they need, and others still get what they needed most very late. The boy couldn’t find a tribe, so he made one instead. He grew to love baseball and children even more in the doing.

For a child who has a love of baseball and physical delays, he learns to love the game from a distance. Thanks to creating what was denied him as a boy, as well as the friends who allowed him to do it, he has been gifted with a late chance to learn to love himself after all. Baseball can forgive that way. It happens every spring.

The above captures my childhood obstacles and my best hopes in a compact space. For too many years, I lacked a community of my own and making one was the greatest revelation I have ever had. It taught me that I could do more than be swept along in the tide of my weaknesses and pathologies. I learned that I could harness them and evade the worst of them while developing unique ways to emphasize my best assets. Otherwise, I cannot explain the stark difference between my undergraduate record and my MA transcript. I ask you to overlook the former and to emphasize the latter as a much truer reflection of what I can do. As an undergrad, I was unwilling to get the treatment and counseling needed to gain insight into my learning disabilities. Like many young people, I was too ashamed then to do the personal work to get to the root of them. I am happy to say that this is no longer the case. Beyond this, I am applying to Brown because I want to delve more deeply into my creative potential and to be challenged at a great university that is willing to let me do so.

I no longer see writing as only an escape but as a means to transcendent, yet methodical, self knowledge. As highly competitive as Brown University is, I hope there may be room yet for someone on a long and non traditional journey. Creativity has been and will be central to it and with this aspiration squarely in mind, I ask you to consider letting me join your university community.