492. Flag wrapped burritos: Trumpelstiltskin.

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The flag of the U.S.A. is very pretty, especially the over sized ones that fly along major highways and interstates. The blue and white field of 50 stars over lays the 13 alternating red and white stripes. Altogether this visual display symbolizes a unity and individualism that e pluribus unum gets at in Latin. We speak of schools as alma maters, languages as the mother tongue, and mother and fatherland for countries. The flag is like these other substitutions: it holds familial power and importance to be respected… like a mother.

Patriotism and/or religion and mommas are often used as the final refuge where the guns come out to end arguments or differences of opinion. When you are at the end of reason, you go after the other person’s momma. “Well, your momma is x.” Incendiary words through out the universe, I think.  Calling others a son of a bitch or son of a whore is common in many cultures. It is an insult to the other and his mother. No wonder it is so offensive. Just don’t involve mothers, you know, unless of course that is the message. “Not only you but your momma sucks rotten watermelons.”

Image result for anthem protest picturesLately, we have seen the flag used as a political football, whoa! Did I say that?  Yep, a political football that divides our country into camps and tribes, the very opposite of its legitimized purpose. We get e unus pluribum instead, (technically not correct Latin, but you get the message of reversal here). “From one, many.” i.e. division and reductionism. And who on earth would weaponize yet another dog whistle for political division and another bonfire of chaos? Yep, the evil one himself, Donald the Imp Trumpelstiltskin. “What’s my name?  What’s my name?”  Apparently he forgot it because he had to label buildings, golf courses, casinos, vodkas, resorts, meats, games, books, etc. with his shortened name, Trump, in order to always recall it. Or maybe it was something else, like naked narcissism. “I love me so much. I love you too”, said the reflection to the self. Image result for narcissus myth images

Like Rumpelstiltskin the Donald showed up when things looked not so good. America was trying to spin straw into gold and doing a fine job of running up $20 trillion of debt due to two wars, massive tax cuts, and a historic collapse of real estate and wicked sectors of Wall Street. He wanted to fix things, Make America Golden Again, for the small price of our collective soul. He claimed super powers that mere mortal politicians lacked. He was godlike, a star, the epitome of success. Why, all you had to do was ask him and he’d tell you how awesome he was. He’d been fabricating his life story all his life. He’d turned doubles into home runs in high school; graduated first in his college class; made his fortune all on his own; made a university out of nothing; and many, many other falsehoods that collapse under scrutiny. Over time Trumpelstiltskin fell in love with his lies so much that he preferred them to the real truth. So spinning straw into gold was nothing. He’d been turning chicken crap into chicken salad for 70 years when he moved into the White House. Along the way he developed an uncanny skill at speaking out of both sides of his mouth while smiling simultaneously. 

So now the flag burrito. On many occasions Trumpelstiltskin has managed to literally and figuratively wrap himself or his talking points in our beautiful flag. Early on he raised the flag for white Americans, who like his own family had immigrated to the U.S., and against any new immigrants. His dotard wall idea brings to mind the Great Wall of China, a serpentine marvel of construction driven by Chinese xenophobia. China feared the rest of the world and insulated itself for centuries. So fear and racism are key ingredients in the wall flag burrito. But the Donald adds a secret insult sauce to Mexicans, Muslims and other Bad Dudes: he stirs up suspicion based on torturous verbal misrepresentations, a.k.a. lies. In his in versus out frame work, Obama is a foreigner not a fellow American. Muslims universally are terrorists. But self proclaimed Nazis in Charlottesville and Russian oligarchs and strong dictators the world over are really fine people who should be wrapped in his wall burrito.Image result for trump hugging the flag pictures(Trumpelstiltskin molesting the flag. Fake news. Bad.)

I know that’s a lot to swallow, so let’s look at another burrito. It’s the sports are for Black people burrito. Trumpelstiltskin combines a clever mix of bigotry and racism that is guarded to look like patriotism. He uninvited the NBA Warriors to the White House when he felt slighted by these mostly Black men. He disapproved of their disapproval, like spices that fight one another. He knew this would not work. So he sought out sure things, safe White people or compliant mixtures of races. He had the NFL Patriots visit because he knew Tommy Boy and Belichik and Kraft had sold out for him in the election. So there’s the white meat component. However, later in the year he got his panties all in a wad when a few Black NFL players knelt or sat during the national anthem at games. Don the Imp jumped right into that mess and drove a stake into the heart of America. Speaking in that bastion of free speech, equal rights and high morality, Alabama, he referenced the NFL protesters as ‘sons of bitches’ as he back flipped into our lovely flag. Being a patriot provocateur, he finishes this flag burrito with a bilious green sauce that is to die for. Such a patriot that if it weren’t for cowardice, wealth, lust and bone spurs, he’d have been in the jungles of Vietnam instead of comfortably spending his daddy’s millions building his own fortune. After you digest this burrito, you’ll agree he is entitled to grab women’s genitalia, even though he admitted to saying so but not doing it until he questioned his own testimony as a conspiracy of fake news.Related image

(You know I just can’t help myself. When I see beautiful, I just grab em by the … fake news.)

It’s a shame I don’t have room for more than three burritos here. The daily special is always available, however. It’s the hypocrisy burrito that includes carmelized alternative truths, mixed with immoral equivalencies, and backed up with thin skinned ego oysters. All of this is served on a plate of envy;  with petty rolls; and includes a side of sour grape twitters. All to say that no American president has accomplished so little, at such low levels, than Trumpelstiltskin, the flag wrapped, ulcer inducing, herniated burrito imp from Hell.

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(Melania says I’m not an imp but elfish… what? oh, selfish. Nevermind.)


491. Black Friday

Related imageThe parking lot outside my second story window is empty on this chilly morning. I can see the misshapen  shadows dripping down the beige brick wall of the Central Presbyterian Church, sinking as the late November sun gets out of bed. The last fuzzy arms of the night retract spiderishly, scurrying under cars and into alleys.  Quiet on all fronts. Businesses closed. Schools too. Hardly any traffic.

Image result for homeless man in a tee shirt photosHushed breath makes steam in front of my face outside. On the way over to the coffee shop I noticed the local homeless guy walking downhill toward the stream that bisects our little town. The railroad ran alongside it decades ago. Rails to Trails replaced the steel rails just like the railroad replaced the stream.  You know how transportation systems replace one another? A paved road put the train out of business. We call it progress until we see the next pair of vacant eyes looking back at us. The Salvation Army center is on the uprise beyond the stream, replacing the old convenience store/ gas station.  Headed toward the Salvy, Dude was in a grey tee shirt and jeans. That’s all. 30 degrees Fahrenheit and he’s obviously shivering to keep even with the cold via mushrooming goosebumps.Related image

I was half shocked at his exposure, but then he’d spent the last two winters hunkered down under sleeping bags and blankets on park benches around the downtown. I’d been close enough to see the open sores all over his body on warmer days. He’d rub his raw  legs in the sunshine while grimacing between itches and scrapes. Reminded me of someone scaling a dead fish, only in this case the fish and scaler were the same entity. Different times he’d come into the coffee shop for a drink or a muffin, more like a sickly wild animal than a human. More like a leper with all his scabs and scars. Even his thick eyeglasses were coated with layers of grime. How can he see? Maybe it’s better that he does not.

He turned and called out to me, “Hey, could you help me buy a sandwich?” I turned around to him and said, “Sure, but don’t you need a coat?”

“I know where I can find a coat. I lost my  place in subsidized housing. I’ve been staring at the ceiling for the past year anyway. Someone stole all my stuff. But I can find a coat.”  His voice started up toward a cry like a wounded coyote in a trap.Image result for black and white photos of homeless man

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill. Sufficient for a sandwich and something else.  His hair was wild, stiff from poor hygiene. His eyes might as well have been frozen and glazed tuna eyes at the seafood counter, lifeless and spent. He thanked me and turned toward the Salvation Army, sliding back into his poultry stride. I continued on my way, warm in my down jacket and gloves, my newish clothes and shoes.Image result for eddie bauer male models in fleece jackets

As I got farther from him, I thought about the $20 and $50 bill in my wallet. I should have been more thoughtful and given him one or both of those. I imagined folks doubting him with a crisp new $50, though. “Dude, where did you steal this?” I don’t get that reaction. It’s more like, “Really, is that the smallest bill you’ve got?” Sometimes it is. Not my poor neighbor’s problem. Not a problem at all.

I kept thinking about Street Dude. I’m comfortable amid plenty. I had just parked a newish comfortable car with heat and stereo surround sound, driving from my comfortable home to my comfortable office.  All paid for. I could have given him my jacket, easily.  Not a problem for me. Would have been a nice gift for him, a Jesus moment for both of us. These ideas came too slowly, though. They got clearer the farther away Street Dude went from me. That’s the problem with Christians like me: we are not sharpened in the Word by 8:00 a.m. We’re slow and miss opportunities to bless others as a result, we run out of oil before the bridegroom arrives.Related image

The irony of Black Friday is not lost on me. Millions of rabid shoppers are hours into their frenzied material feeding at malls and box stores across the country, piranhas and sharks gobbling up electronics and toys and hot new fashions.  I imagine that’s where a lot of the traffic moved to, the malls. Before the manic predators enter the stores they must first gobble up parking spaces. So what? In my ironic gaze am I judging the masses to feel good about myself? Not shopping or not diving into materialism is not a holy action. (Triple negative if you are scoring at home. Translation: I still suck.)Related image

My little do gooder action does not make me feel good or superior; it actually sits in my guts like a live coal. What is his name? What’s his story? What else does he need? How do I fit into that process? I feel inadequate in hindsight. I gave a man a fish not a fishing pole. I can roll back into a comfortable check writing position and recount previous acts of generosity. Sure, but that would be fake and not appease this Black Friday nagging.

There is another Black Friday that comes to mind, the Friday of Jesus’ death and entombment. It is not a celebration of wealth and materialism. It is instead the nadir of Christian sadness, the bottom of the empty well. All hope and joy wrapped up in burial cloth. In real time it marked the end of the dream, the kingdom reborn, the fulfillment of many promises. Silence reigned instead of a king.Image result for holy friday crucifixion images

And maybe that’s the connection here. This unnamed man shivered crucified before me and I was crucified on the hard truths of my faith, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” And my little tastes like sour wine on a dirty rag. I  have my earthly reward.


490. The Solution is the Problem

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Have you heard the Trump supporter who said if Jesus came off the cross and told him that Trump colluded with the Russians that he’d have to say, “Excuse me, Jesus, I need to check with my president first”?  Yeah, crazy, huh? Disturbing on a whole new level… the supernatural. The guy went on to say he was from Jamaica and owned/ran a pest remediation company. I guess he’s an exterminator not a special ed teacher for pests. I get it now. If you use pesticides or LSD long enough, you can confuse the solution with the problem at hand. Instead of trapping rats, you begin catching toddlers. Instead of termites, you kill off stands of virgin timber. Instead of fleas and ticks, you poison dogs. It happens. One day you wake up backwards. You think with your feet and walk on your hands.

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In education it is not unusual to hear teachers complain about their students. They reverse the focus of education; instead of putting their students’ needs first, they put their own needs in the ultimate position. “We are not thanked, respected, honored, compensated, or loved as we should be.” So this victim mindset entreats these teachers to avoid students and seek supervisory positions in administration, or as directors of programs removed from the students. They talk the same talk to adults and paper, about what the kids need and blah blah blah, but it’s pretty clear they care only about their padded lifestyles and eventual retirements. In toxic situations it’s easy to confuse the solution for the problem.

Back in the mud slide running of the bulls known as the presidential campaign debacle of 2016, we heard so many audible atrocities that it would take 1,000 pages to chronicle all of them. Hillary was awful. Donald was abhorrent. The media? Whorish. Day after day it seemed more like a Looney Tunes cartoon than reality. Late night comics skewered bits of the day’s craziness on monologue schticks. So easy a fifth grader could make political jokes because the partisan diatribes hovered right around late elementary school cognitive levels. Just like in war, the first casualty was the truth, if it ever existed prior.

How is it that these bulls kept running through the mud? Did some dam break behind them? And the electorate ran wild-eyed ahead of their goring horns, slipping on cobblestones of excreted lies and allegations. Foolish people ran ahead of the rampaging beasts. They found no mercy or comfort when trampled by a Democrat or Republican bully. Only fools believe you can ride them, after all, unless you are a lobbyist rodeo cowboy working for the super wealthy. Eight seconds is all it takes to count. One photo op.Image result for bull rider images

The Johnstown flood ravaging all downstream was nothing compared to the Potomac’s approaching wrath when it pounds the swamp lands of D.C. on reckoning day. The city is bordered by the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, and sits at sea level between their shores. Yeah, it was swampland to begin with, Maryland swampland. The Virginia side of the original diamond was returned to Virginia in 1847. D.C. could use some of that high ground these days as decay flourishes in the whirlpool of septic politics percolating there, with raw sewage served up like sparkling water in fine dining establishments. “Here’s a tax bill for a trillion and a half, brought to you by the fiscally conservative waiters in Congress.” The in party serves it up in crystal goblets while the out party bottles up reserves for the next even year. “A bottle of the 1992, please. That was a great year, heady and Newty with a delicate bouquet! Ummmm, smell the sulfates.” Toxic effervescence hisses when served cold with a vengeance. Cheers, Tommy Jefferson.Image result for washington d.c flooding pictures

Drink it! We can’t drink it, even though we thirst for it, the pure waters of truth. Filter upon filter is needed to remove what can’t be detoxed. More chlorine. More agitation. More percolation. These filthy waters are only good for putting out fires in the White House or washing down the Capitol Hill pig troughs. The whole thing is backwards. We were supposed to be herding the bulls ahead of us, harnessing them to the social contract plow. Somehow we got ahead of them, Hillary, Donnie, and the Hydra headed Media. Now we are ensnared and pulling them unaccountably along behind us in rickshaws.Image result for rickshaw runners

Like so many other countries before us, the stratospheric division into the super rich and powerful few versus the beleaguered, powerless many is on. Royals and commoners, gods and untouchables, high priests and the sacrificial masses– it’s not news. E pluribus unum was the exception not the rule. These days it’s the exact opposite trajectory– from a sometimes awkward national unity to free falling tribal divisions. And the solution that works is to keep both sides busy blaming each other. For whom does it work? Well, the Russians enjoy expanding influence and power as they blow up western democratic elections by exploiting cracks in our society. The modern day oligarchs and pharaohs also benefit from the battles among the lower and middle classes. It’s the same old strategy used in the U.S. south to keep free blacks and poor whites at odds, battling for the low wages paid by the insulated upper classes of business and government. “If they’re fighting each other for a seat on the bus, then they aint fighting us for a raise.” Works like a charm.Image result for civil rights bus pictures

How do you make the solution the problem?  Simple. When confronted with sexual assault accusations, re-assault the victims by calling them liars. Make it an “us versus them” scenario.  There’s the solution. When diversity becomes challenging in the pluribus, ban the brown and black, the least and last, the different. Make sweeping, unsubstantiated claims to rattle the pluribus. Though major crime rates are largely lower per capita, instill greater fear in the populous by seizing on particular crimes, especially if a brown or black person is involved. That’s a BOGO deal. Remain silent when your side offends. Deny, deny, deny facts while blowing up alternative facts like enormous lawn ornaments.Image result for outrageous blow up lawn ornaments pictures

But let’s give Tommy Jefferson the last word here…”Tho’ you cannot see when you fetch one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain-dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth in the easiest manner possible.” Boom!Image result for thomas jefferson pictures


489. American Idol

Image result for frozen duck pictures“Stuck,” He said, “I’m stuck. Simple as that. I’m a frozen duck.

I can’t go forward and I can’t go back. I’m Outta luck.

She’s not happy anymore and I’m a schmuck, is what she told me.”


(And I thought this would make a decent song lyric,

but he doesn’t want to hear the song right now.)


Image result for old wise man pictures“Hard as it may be to believe, One day you’ll forget her name and her smell,

her voice, her hair, And strain to recall this pain”


Image result for duck tears picturesTears dripped down his feathered cheeks as he quacked on.


Related image“These things… you can’t grieve them alone

Have you shared your hurts with anyone else?”


“No, I don’t want to make it real”
Image result for images from movie matrix“Sure, if you don’t name it, then it doesn’t really exist, huh?”


“Sort of. I just want her back so bad, I can’t admit it’s over. The pain keeps it real.”


“But if you pretend hard enough, it’s never over.”Image result for niagara falls frozen pictures


“Right, If I drop out of time, I can subvert it, you know, transcend time?”Related image


“But the pain won’t ever heal either.  Let’s review the pieces of grief, okay?”

“No. I don’t want to. It will hurt too much.”

“There’s shock, denial, and clearly that is where you are right now.”Image result for pictures of denial

“No I’m not.”

“…bargaining, anger, sadness and acceptance, maybe.”


Related image“ Okay, full disclosure:  I’m there all right. Blown away on Saturday, in denial since.  I’ve cried out to God, tried to make a deal… anything, Lord. Funny thing is He and I were so much closer before I chose her.

I was young and hungry to know what God said then

But completely satisfied by my goddess Autumn instead.

Now it hurts to breathe.”Image result for painful breathing faces pictures


“Yep, she was so perfect, and all you had to do was

Twist yourself into the human pretzel knot to keep her “Image result for human pretzel images

“I didn’t want her to change for me, so I…”

“Got carved out like a sandstone canyon”Image result for sandstone canyon images

“Yeah, washed away by a brutally cold river”

“Not an equal relationship, my friend.

Did you put her on a pedestal?”

“A big one. I worshiped her like…”

“An eyeless Idol?”Image result for images of idol in front of god's throne

“Yeah, I guess so… but, no. There is no but. I sat her down before God’s throne.

My goddess, my everything. Now she’s gone.”

“Idols are like that. Best thing you can do is push them over. Know the difference between an idol and an idiot?”Image result for broken idols pictures

“No. What?”

There is no difference. One looks at the other stupidly.

“Ahhhhhh!!! I made her everything—the moon and sun, the stars. Oxygen. Life.

She promised to be my wife.”bastet cat woman goddess statue

“And now you find she made you less of everything despite her promises.”

“Yeah, I sound like a drug addict, huh? ‘I caught you knockin’ at my cellar door. I love you baby, can I have some more?’ What’s that Neil Young song called?”Image result for neil young junkie face pictures

The Damage Done. It’s about heroin.”

“I get it now, I really do. When love is coursing through your veins and all around your brain, you don’t want anything else– sleep, food, work, God. The only thing you can think about is the loved one, when can I get some more?”Image result for psychotic images flying out of one's head

“Yeah, that’s addiction. Love is not a tsunami that overwhelms and conquers you. It’s a joining of two persons who grow one another. Love does not shrink the other.”

“But I wanted to just be her shadow, her aura, her breath. I didn’t exist without her. I don’t exist.”Image result for shadow images

“Seems like it. I’m just conversing with your pain.”

“Uh huh. I’m an echo of an echo in an empty desert well.”Image result for desert well pictures

“Whew! How long did you date her? 18 months or so?”

“17 and a half. That first half was like gold rushing through my soul. I felt like a pop star in Seoul.”Image result for korean boy band rock star pictures

“And then?”

“Lake Bacteria. Only eels and carp could survive in that putrid swamp. All I did was try to please her with money and attention, gifts, special notes and texts. Luxury without limits. I had to get her back, that first taste of ecstasy thrashing about.”Image result for filthy lake pictures

“Sure, sure. Funny thing with all these fast acting drugs is that they quit you just as fast. Ever notice that?  You know, a butane fire is one big kaboom! and it’s over. But a slow burning fire of apple wood or hickory, now there’s a whole night of warm magic.”Image result for close up wood fire pictures in fireplaces

“Uh huh. Our love was like a crack pipe… fast and furious. It hurt so good and ruined me with bliss.”Image result for lit crack pipe images

“And here you are, man. Vaporized, burned out, used up… crying out for more. What? Blissters?”

“Just a little taste, that’s all I want now.”

“Love empowers the loved one through shared vulnerability. It’s a paradox.”

“I don’t know what that means, but I’d appreciate it if you’d take my body with you when you go. Being a gas is less painful. If you see her, you know I…”

“Sure… Idolize her.”

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488. Trickling Tricks

Related imageSo years and years ago one Richard Milhous Nixon put forth the famous trickle down tax theory, whereby blessing the rich and corporate world first with a huge loaf of bread, it was believed a certain crumb or two would eventually trickle down to the common little citizens at the base of the Rocky Mountains of capitalism. This same despot froze prices and wages to cool inflation, but he gave businesses a heads up so that they could raise prices the night before the new rule kicked in, thus delivering detritus to the rest of us. Yeah, Tricky Dick.

DefinitionTrickledown economics is a theory that says benefits for the wealthy trickle down to everyone else. These benefits are usually tax cuts on businesses, high-income earners, capital gains and dividends. … It assumes they’ll use any extra cash from tax cuts to expand businesses.Related image

My concern is that the only guarantee is the front end. A tax cut is given first to folks and corporations who are doing just fine without a tax cut, corporations who are so America First that they have moved jobs and company headquarters to offshore settings in order to avoid paying their legal share of U.S. taxes due. We’re talking billions and billions of dollars each year. They did what soulless corporations do: make money. Period. No moral compass involved since you can’t monetize a moral compass.  Now the American public is expected to trust our current elected elites to cut the taxes for the wealthiest folks once again, in the hope that some sort of nationalistic pride will make them want to spend more money on their fellow Americans by raising wages and creating good jobs in the USA. There is no guarantee or government edict that requires any of the definite tax savings to be reinvested domestically. Oh, but trickle down will work, so we are told, as if it’s a law of physics. Trust the process. Sure, politicians are so trustworthy. Sign me up for the detritus downstream.

Related imageI imagine trickle down economics as follows. Wealth pulls up and away in bad economic times like a snow pack on the mountain peaks. If and when the economy heats up, some of that frozen, inaccessible capital melts, turns liquid, and flows down to where the little people work and live. Sounds so natural, you know, when Providence shines on those silvery slopes of frozen assets in the springtime, and hundred dollar bills like retarded green salmon begin their annual emigration down the streams and rivulets of Mt. Wealthy to water the plains of Eddie Slobinski’s junk yard. Problem is that it does not work. Wages have been stagnant for decades in the USA when adjusted for inflation. I borrowed the following from Economic Policy Institute:Image result for images of stagnation

Stagnant wages for middle-wage workers, declining wages for low-wage workers

Over the entire 34-year period between 1979 and 2013, the hourly wages of middle-wage workers (median-wage workers who earned more than half the workforce but less than the other half) were stagnant, rising just 6 percent—less than 0.2 percent per year. This wage growth, in fact, occurred only because wages grew in the late 1990s when labor markets got tight enough—unemployment, for instance, fell to 4 percent in 1999 and 2000—to finally deliver across-the-board hourly wage growth. The wages of middle-wage workers were totally flat or in decline over the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, except for the late 1990s. The wages of low-wage workers fared even worse, falling 5 percent from 1979 to 2013. In contrast, the hourly wages of high-wage workers rose 41 percent.

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In 2013 the average CEO made $15.2 million per year. Feel that trickle? It’s like ice water.

So, folks, it’s not tax cuts for the corporations or the 1% that produced a brief increase in wages; instead, it was a two year period of lower unemployment in the last days of the Clinton years that drove up wages. Not the Bush or Reagan era tax cuts. Not trickle down economic lies. Wages elevated when employees were scarce. The fantasy of the super rich investing their extra cash in growing the economy is just that, a fantasy. The fact is a labor squeeze amped up wages ever so briefly.Image result for hour glass images

I see it like this… the rich want to keep their money despite any patriotic b.s. to the contrary. They self aggrandize that they are the engines of wealth and deserve to keep more of their hard earned money. They are righteous, taxed enough already patriots. Ignore the gap between workers and CEO’s in America, the fact that the one per centers’ incomes skyrocketed since the 1960’s to the present time, dwarfing any gains made by the millions of employees who actually produce something, they need yet another tax advantage so that they can further prosper, and maybe one day down the road they can toss the rest of us a bone to gnaw. Oh thank you, one per cent. Oh thank you, government.Image result for hungry dog gnawing a bone pictures

U.S. corporations are free to reunite their offshore billions today. They have historically high levels of capital on hand. And yet, they don’t hire more Americans or raise American wages now. And they won’t. They have no incentive to do so. They are money making machines. It’s a ruse that decreasing their tax load will magically benefit the middle class worker bees who produce their billions. Nope, their billions are sitting un patriotically offshore in Ireland and Caribbean islands. Good for them. And now the American population is supposed to be enthused that the tax cheaters and avoiders might come home because we will now reward their selfishness? Sure. Can’t wait. Why would they want to pay taxes now? They have successfully avoided tax burdens for decades.Related image

Their money held back is like the ice pack in the Alps or Himalayas. It is assumed that when that ice is moved back to the USA it will melt and water the parched middle class folks below. However, since human economic nature is balanced by greed and fear, the ice pack from overseas will simply be added to the Rockies, frozen above 13,000 feet. It’s not going to melt and water anyone below in the USA any more than the same accumulated wealth watered anyone overseas. It’s about greed holding onto wealth. Pretending that millions of American middle class folks will benefit from such tilted tax reform can be unequivocally smacked down by the history of Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. All practiced some form of trickle down economics. None helped the supposed target audience, the famed American middle class. The last great straw man available to set on fire with “voodoo economics”, to quote George H.W. Bush.Image result for mt everest pictures

So you can keep on believing that giving the richest 1 per cent a 99 per cent tax cut that results in 1 per cent relief for the 99 per cent is a good idea. But you’d be foolish. The snow packers will most likely build another ski chalet at the summit of their expanded wealth. Cheers, sucker.

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487. Nostalgia

Image result for nostalgia pictures[Nostalgia comes from Greek nostos, meaning return home and Latin –algia, return. No surprise then that a moment of nostalgia requires one to look back in time.

Medical Definition of nostalgia

1:the state of being homesick
2:a wistful or excessively sentimental sometimes abnormal yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition]


Image result for late november sunsets photoThe mid November sun is setting . The Skins lost another one. At 4 and 5 it’s over for their season, which is fine with me. I’m not gonna watch meaningless games later in the season. Not after the glory years of Joe Gibbs and Riggo.  This will free me up to… uh, read great books, and uh, clean, um, and get ahead in my billing, maybe iron my socks. Yeah. It’s a lose / win deal. My bride is on the way home from her aged mother’s with groceries that I will help unload. After cutting the leaf smothered grass and drinking two beers, it’s slowly becoming Sunday night in our recently emptied nest… quiet and clean and orderly.  Yup. Still, I long for little feet padding around upstairs and little voices seeking something I might be able to get. I don’t need to be needed; I just like to be needed by little ones who call me granpa. Or kids who call me Dad. I miss the snuggle zoo tooImage result for snuggle zoo pictureswith my granddaughter in front of the sectional couch where all the imaginary kids would come out to play with us under a blanket tent.

Ken Burns’ Vietnam War documentary is on PBS. Sad and depressing. I remember living through the Nixon years, the lies and deceptions, which seem all too familiar these years. Why couldn’t folks see through his duplicity back then? He was a sweaty liar and fraud. Even a 13 year old could see that. Many died because of his political magic tricks .  On muddy videotape he and Henry Kissinger speak cynically of running the war out, like it was a football game. Poof, the air horn blows and it’s a political victory. Don’t mind the blood.  And then there is that historic photo of the little girl burned by Dow Chemical’s napalm, her skin blistering off. Like the dead students at Kent State, it was impossible to look away. Don’t look away. It’s still disturbing, and the world still needs your horrified response… only now it’s Mynamar or North Korea. The world never runs out of genocidal tribes. Those kids have grandparents too. They might be snuggling with their own grandkids these days, trying to explain their scars to innocent minds.Image result for napalm girl in vietnam photo

My neighbors across the street might quite reasonably think we have become drug dealers as we keep moving nondescript boxes out of our house, multiple shipments of stuff for my middle daughter in Hershey and my baby girl in town. Then this morning we loaded up returns for my mother-in-law 90 minutes away.  Sure, it looks like we are bundling crack or crystal.  Well, actually there was some Czechoslovakian crystal and nice china along with sterling silver that needed to be returned to grandma bear.Image result for people loading suv photos

“There they go again, Jim. Moving who knows what to who knows where. I think they’re Russian spies.”

“No, Lisa. I don’t think there ‘s no collusion with no body goin’ on. It’s just late fall cleanin’ They aint spies.”

“Well, it’s mighty strange if you ask me.”

“No body asked you, Lisa.”

“Don’t get smart with me or you’ll be packing up next for Siberia, mister.”

Related imageNow, I don’t know what my neighbors think, truth be told. But I do imagine what they think of all the goings on across the street, just like we wonder when their 28 foot travel trailer will break loose and ram into our living room. I know, you are wondering who has time to wonder what his neighbors might be thinking. I don’t usually.  And firmly put, I don’t care what others think about how I live my life. However, when there is three feet of snow on my driveway, it’s nice to have an amicable relationship with one’s snow blowing neighbors.

Image result for bonfire picturesLong, long ago I remember trying to build some sort of civic relationship prior to the internet. I thought it would be nice to have a bonfire and invite the neighbors, which I did. The old Christmas trees burned but the social payload did not. It was just an awkward evening in the January dark, unlike my memories of community bonfires in the 1960’s behind Leroy King’s house in my old neighborhood. Fire was our only commonality in the early 90’s, but back in the 60’s the social contract was way more cohesive and communal; there was nothing on t.v. back then and few options anywhere. So a neighborhood bonfire seemed a pretty rockin’ good evening adventure.

Image result for pumpkin carving picturesThen we carved pumpkins with the neighbors and tried to make something special happen. It didn’t.  Neither did the neighborhood cook out. And then we stopped trying.   If you can’t crack the pinata in three strokes, well, it’s not gonna crack, no candy will spill out, no party will ensue. A re-calibration was needed to bring modern reality to my antiquated expectations. Back in my old Virginia Hills neighborhood it would have been a huge success to simply have a beer with a neighbor while the fireworks went off at the elementary school a block away.  A cook out would have been dicey because too many folks would show up and crowd the house and yard.  Carving pumpkins? Pretentious. Do you know how many kids and knives and pumpkins that would have involved? Still, I had a longing to recapture some of my childhood’s poignancy. Swing and a miss. You can’t ever go home again.Image result for pinata swings pictures

So time goes on and things change. Not always for the better. Seems the social bar was a lot lower in my formative years. A party did not need invitations or formalities. Stuff just happened. You had sodas after a baseball game and cookouts after the season. At the community pool on Labor Day we dove for coins at the bottom of the pool. Pennies from heaven. Snowball fights broke out spontaneously. And a good time was had by all.Image result for local community party picturesThe irrecoverable condition, I suppose.

486. From persuasion to coercion and back again

Related imageIt’s not unusual for my old therapists group grope’s points of focus to show up the next day in practice. We have read several books that try to blend Christian faith and modern science. A lot of the content honestly goes past me like a Maserati on the Autobahn. I’m the 1959 Volkswagen Bug burning oil at 35 mph. However, some of the issues linger in my linguini-like neural pathways. Image result for photos of cooked linguine noodles

Recently we were discussing God’s self limitation in relationship to humankind’s free will. Whew!! (I know, I just pour the coffee for my four post doctoral guests.) In the heady text we’ve been reading [with small print and no pictures] coercion versus persuasion was posited as a way to understand God’s immeasurable power (coercion) versus His great love for mankind (persuasion). Although God could force us to do certain behaviors or not, through His self limitation He allows us humans to try and fail and try again to imitate and/or comply with His will. In many ways this relationship is like a loving parent allowing a child to fall and get up and fall again as the child learns to walk, talk, play with others, learn at school, do chores, spend money, drive, date, etc. Okay, most parents don’t do this very well, but you get the idea.Image result for parents watching toddlers crawl pictures

It is amazing and awesome that rather than predestining everything in a mechanical sense, God allows human beings to sin, to dismiss Him, even disown Him in our prodigality. Maybe you have also done some of the above.  I listened to my wise colleagues opining while also listening to my dishwasher, refrigerator, and electric fireplace kick on and off as they were designed to do. Unlike household appliances, however, humans are free to some degree to make nearly unlimited choices. And then to choose again if they don’t care for the early returns. We are not machines; instead, we are evolving creations moving into a future we share with our kenotic (self emptying) God. Pretty cool stuff.Image result for waterfall pictures

Perhaps you can relate to this analogy in your own adolescent journey from childhood into adult life. It was not a light switch that instantly and completely flicked from off (childhood) to on (adult life). No. The metamorphosis required many trials and errors, along with pimples, bad fashion choices, unsavory friends, and sophomoric brilliance. If you are honest, you’d probably slap your 15 year old self if you met him/her later today. I certainly would, and my 15 year old self would happily slap your 15 year old self, believe me. But then you’d also want to hug that early version of yourself and encourage him/her to keep evolving, holding fast to truth, being truth. See, you’d be in the God position, knowing the past and the future of your objective self.  Okay, see how I got a sprained brain?

Image result for 1960 station wagonSo let me flesh out the abstracts. When I was 15, I think, I did not want to be in the life or body that I inhabited. I wanted to be out there, somewhere else, living a cooler version of life in a much cooler place. My next door neighbor and best friend at that time was Richard Cooper. Somehow it happened that someone who knew Richard wanted to give him an old station wagon, a really old and ugly station wagon. My Google search makes me think it was a 1960 Chevy Nomad Wagon. Problem was this was in 1971, two or three mega cool factors removed from 1960 car cool. No matter how you looked at this thing, it screamed “Grandpa”. Oh, it was  painted a very sexy pale mauve, as I recall.

Image result for defiant teenager and parents photosWell, Richard could not store it in his yard, at least that’s what he told me, so he worked on me to park it in my yard and it would be “ours”. I was all in. Sure, we’d work on it and share the costs and all the anticipated adventures we’d share zooming around. Heck, we’d drive it to Florida in the winter or early spring when I got my license. Oh yeah. It was an adolescent dream, which is all it turned out to be. My folks were not pleased when they came home to find an old mauve Chevy Nomad station wagon parked in their back yard. But I was resolute, ready to push back like MLKing at that bridge in Montgomery, Alabama. ” We shall overcome, we shall not be moved.” They relented without violence either way.Related image

I’d sit in the old wagon during late fall and winter nights, listening to the am radio until the battery died, occasionally smoking my dad’s pilfered Camel cigs. They tasted awful but the Nomad wagon was a refuge for me. After rooting around in the back seat, I found an old WWII leather bomber jacket. Surprisingly it fit me just right. Wow! Instant cool wrapped around my shoulders. With no real effort I had half an old station wagon and an entire leather bomber jacket. Things were looking up. Sure, my folks were not believers in the coolness parked in their yard. They regularly mentioned the monster to me. Somehow I argued to a draw, which meant the wagon did not leave.Image result for tow truck towing junked car pictures

Then there was the day Richard left for Florida without me. “Sorry, man.” And it was someone else’s doing, for sure. My resolve began to melt away as the imagined freedoms and revelry evaporated like frost on the windshield of that crappy station wagon. Suddenly the Nomad was just an ugly monstrosity and evidence of an embarrassing battle of adolescence. The next time my parents wanted it towed away, I pretended to resist and then with false righteousness capitulated. I wanted the damn thing gone too. I kept the bomber for two more years and gave it to my new friend Rob in London, when I made my own futile adventure across the pond. That’s another story with embarrassing moments for another time. No one forced me through that knothole, so any splinters in my butt were on me.

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485. A fusillade of futility

Image result for thick books picturesOkay, it’s hard to remember all the stories I have shared in this blog over the past five and a half years.  I’m pretty sure I have repackaged one or two, not intending any deceit but simply due to not-so-early onset dementia. Like the other day I stood above my portable power drill looking for it all over except at my feet. I used manual screwdrivers instead to remove the vent cover above my balding head.

Image result for gas gauge on empty imagesAnd then on Sunday I forgot to check the gas gauge before leaving my house for an afternoon visit with my grand kids one hour north. My wife drove back and noticed that we had little gas to make it home. Somehow she remembered precisely that she had asked me about our gas situation, and I’m sure that she did…on the previous Friday evening as we drove to a dance north of our town. Yeah, we had plenty of gas on Friday. However, by Sunday evening on the way home we did not. We. It’s not like I siphoned off the bonus gas because I knew she was driving. If we ran out of gas, we were both equally screwed. I got a nice lecture on listening and communicating and responsibility as I watched the computer monitor that told me we had 23 miles left in our gas range with only 8 miles to go.  No matter, I should have listened and communicated better. Life would be so much better if only I would.Image result for female face of disgust

This is when I reminded her that I was teaching on the topic of communication for our Sunday School class in three weeks.

“Well, I’m not gonna sit there while you lie.”

“Don’t you want to hiss and heckle me? You know, shout out ‘That man is a fraud!'”

“No. I just won’t go.”

“Okay, that’s settled.”

“No. I’ll stay and tell the class about how you don’t  listen or acknowledge me when I speak. You just grunt ‘uh huh’ and ‘ummm yeah’.”

“Uh, huh. What did you say?”

“I will kill you.”

“I know, and no jury would convict you of anything but civic dutifulness. You are irresistible.”

“No one will find your body.”

“I’d expect nothing less.”

And so it went. But I digress.

Years and years ago, my father’s sister lived in Hawaii with her husband and five kids, aka my cousins. That was fine and dandy till one day, either via letter or land line phone call, Aunt Jean asked my dad to make arrangements for him to pick up their dog Pookie at the old (pre-Reagan) National Airport. Oh sure. No problem. The scared poodle would be arriving via TWA belly cargo hold, while the family would drive back from California, taking a couple of weeks to sight see on their way back east. Nice. The only thing my dad had to do was transfer the scared dog to a local kennel. Sure, no problem.

Image result for bob uecker major league pictures[ Foreshadowing preamble:  As I recall my dad’s lifetime batting average for problem solving real world challenges, I think he was a strong .200 hitter against right handers; maybe a good .150 against lefties… if they threw beach balls underhand. On more than one occasion I remember he ran out of gas on a hill and coasted into a gas station at the foot of the hill. This was when gas was fifteen cents a gallon and Buicks held like 25 gallons, mind you. I had hoped that his problem-solving gene perhaps skipped a generation, but maybe it did not. Fortunately we lived on a hilltop back in the day.]

Related imageSo, the day came when Pookie arrived at the airport. My father faithfully drove to the airport to retrieve the shaking poodle. It was summer, I’m sure. An hour later he arrived at our house with the dog in its crate, scared out of its little poodle mind. “I didn’t have the heart to put it in the kennel”, he reported. “We can keep it here and save Jean the kennel cost, you know, and maybe help the dog settle down.” This did not strike me as a good idea any more than my attempt at domesticating a wild possum was a good idea. (See previous posts.)Image result for possum faces

Anyway, we kept Pookie at our house and let it roam about to get acclimated. What was really needed was doggie xanax. It shook like a poplar leaf in a Category 5 hurricane. You know what’s coming, right? I don’t recall which son opened the door when Pookie hit the gap and ran for its neurotic four-legged life. But there ran the cousins’s beloved pet like a streak of plain yogurt lightning, toward the setting sun, across The Parkway, into the woods, onward toward California or Hawaii. The shock was over in a half minute, and then came the reckoning. Image result for dog running away toward setting sun

“I didn’t do it.”

“You did too.”

“You should have held Pookie when I came through the door.”

“You should have knocked three times to warn us.”

“You should have called on your cell phone.”

“They haven’t been invented yet.”

“Well, you should have put it in the kennel.”

“You shouldn’t have agreed to pick up the dog to begin with.”

“You shouldn’t have had a sibling.”

“You shouldn’t have been born.”

“I wish I hadn’t been.”

Now none of the above actually was spoken, but I like to play with dialogue.Image result for 3 stooges faces talking

A couple of weeks later the rental van with California plates pulled up to our house. Suddenly the temperature and humidity doubled. Tension throbbed like a plague of 17 year locusts in a conch shell. My aunt, uncle and five cousins tumbled out of the van, excited to reunite with their long gone Pookie. That was when I realized the living room would have no oxygen in it, so I sauntered west to look again for Pookie. Self deceit is sometimes comforting in the short run, when you already know what you know beyond dispute but wish that you did not. My fake search and the unhappy, inscrutable, invisible pet reunion were both very fruitful exercises in futility.Image result for barren tree images


484. The Walls are Closing in

Related imageIn Poe’s A Cask of Amontillado, an old enemy lures the drunk Fortunato, who hurt his feelings, into a cellar during Mardi Gras in order to slowly kill him by entombing him behind a brick wall. The enemy’s lure is a sample of finest Amontillado brandy down in the cellar, out of sight and sound of any carnival revelers. Yesssssssssss. It’s a story of revenge served cold, long after any suspicion might warn the drunk man from descending to his demise.Related image

A  great short story to consider on Halloween. Think about it:  revenge that seems to be the perfect crime. Back in Poe’s day no fingerprints, no DNA or cadaver dogs or sonar detectors would break through the false wall to provide convincing evidence of a murder. It’s just a wall in Montresor’s wine cellar. How odd that Mr. Fortunato did not show up at work the next day. He simply disappeared. Tisk, tisk.Image result for a cask of amontillado picturesBetter call John Walsh or one of the Dateline Mysteries hosts.

The thin skinned Montresor was insulted by Fortunato somehow; he nursed the hurt for a long time, long enough to plan his sweet, cold revenge. Fortunato is drunk, true, but he is also vain, and Montresor plays on this vanity. He asks him for his expert opinion on the authenticity of the Amontillado brandy, as if a very drunk man could tell the difference between wine and Windex. Ah, but a vain man is being complimented and fawned over. How can he resist?Related image

As they climb deeper and deeper into the catacombs, Montresor pretends to care about Fortunato’s health, even though he is planning the man’s murder. I imagine he thinks he’s pretty smart and feels smug about it all. Maybe it’s amusing to feign affection and concern over the man you will kill directly. Maybe this is how a spider greets a new insect that arrives on its web or how a viper greets a mouse in a restaurant… “Oh, hello. Let me show you around the place. I’m Eddie the Viper and I’ll be taking care of you tonight. Can I start you off with something to drink?”Image result for a cask of amontillado pictures

I wonder what Paul Manafort is thinking these days as he is dangling from a wall under house arrest. Is he thinking what Fortunato thought? “For the love of God, man. Let me go!! We can work a deal.” Mueller’s investigation followed the smell of money, from Ukraine to the Seychelles to NYC and DC. Funny how a big shot like Manafort who ran the Trump train for four critical months would be such a sleazebag tax evader and defrauder of foreign agent laws and basic bank loan officers. All those money laundering businesses he opened up, all those houses and cars, the clothes, the remodeling and landscaping. Like a king of some Middle Eastern country or a mafia don. Surprised?  Not. Image result for paul manafort pictures

[Okay, the elderly lady in the back. Yes?

“My prize. Did I get BINGO?”

“No, Ma’am. Sur- prised. And we all got BONGO”]

Ever notice how much Manafort resembles a don, say John Gotti? Same smoldering arrogance that spray tan Teflon provides.Image result for john Gotti pictures

Funny that he and Donnie Boy go back decades, though as you may have noticed with Donnie Boy, he discards people like used Kleenexes. “No germs. Loyalty incoming is very important to me. I mean that, Paul.  No germs. I love crooks who don’t get captured. No germs.”Image result for paul manafort picturesBut they hardly knew one another, right? Like so many other Donnie picks, they explode on contact with the flame of truth.

It’s not really Mueller who is sealing Paul Manafort in the wine cellar. It was his own greed that led him down those stairs into the catacombs of Russian meddlers in the Ukraine. He was happy to offload 75 million dollars from the Kremlin’s puppet leader. Happy like Bernie Madoff was until the walls came closing in. Those damn walls. Crime is a wonderful activity until you get chained to one of those walls.Related image

But in the spirit of Halloween and costumery, let’s see who is under the rubber mask of Montresor. Whose arms are attached to those ginormous hands? Well, what do you know? It’s Donnie Boy!!Image result for trump facial expression

“Hi Pauli. Really hate to do this to you and your family. Family is very important to me, as everyone knows. But I’m in a pickle, a very expensive pickle, and I have had some of the world’s best pickles, let me tell you. A very good friend of mine who is a well known CEO said I have one of the finest pickle collections in the world– gerkins, chips, dill….”

Manafort, “Shut up, you over inflated moronic windbag of self promotion. Don’t you ever shut up?”

Image result for trump facial expression“Well, Paul Man-a-fart. I have always been very polite and nice to you since the ’80’s. But now I see blood in your eyes, in your ears, your whatever. So, Pauli Paul, here is another brick in the wall. Oh, ho, ho, ho. I made a cultural reference that proves my high IQ. It’s from Pink Floyd, Pauli. Did you know that? Who says I’m out of touch?”

Manafort, “Don, just kill me now. I can’t bear you. I never could. I just wanted to smell your money and look at the women you kept around like caged birds in Manhattan.”

Image result for steve bannon pictures“Hah,hah,hah.Paul, you fool.” Ripping off Trump mask. “It’s me, Steve Bannon, the Anti Christ. Trick or treat. Would you like some black licorice?”

Manafort, “I should have known. Don never listened to Pink Floyd. He couldn’t hold two things in his puny mind at one time. Blast you demon from Breitbart!!”

Another rubber mask comes off.

“Fooled you again, St. Pauli Girl. It’s me, Corey Lewandowski. Remember me? You booted me from the campaign and stole all the glory. It was mine, all mine, you dog. Karma is really an inconvenient thing, isn’t it, Paul?”Image result for corey lewandowski pictures

Manafort, shrieking, ” No, not you, snot nosed little nobody from nowhere!! You can’t possibly have pulled this off. It’s…”

Lewandowski, “Our little secret. Good night, Paul.”

Image result for corey lewandowski picturesImage result for a cask of amontillado pictures