“The Leftovers” and survivors

June 9, 2017

I don’t write much about television or movies. I talk about it, the shows I like, movies and such, but I don’t write about it. “Everyone’s a critic,” goes the saying and its true. I have known people who did that for a living and I’ve sat through enough premiere’s and advanced showings to know that it’s not all fun and games.

But this isn’t about television, per se. Oh, it is, to an extent. But it’s more about the human condition than anything else and our never-ending search for answers. On Sunday night, “The Leftovers,” ended. On the surface, it was a three-season disjointed, uneven show that, unless you paid very strict attention, it seemed like just that – disjointed and uneven.

But at its core, it was very human. It dealt with loss, surviving, hope and love. Oh, there have been other shows who have touched on that which we don’t know the answers to, like “The Twilight Zone” (“A Stop at Willoughby”), “The Outer Limits,” “Star Trek,” in all its incarnations have touched on religion, as did other shows through the years, like “The X-Files,” “Six Feet Under,” and most famously “Lost.”

“Lost.” Quite possibly the most maddening, bi-polar show in the history of the medium and the second-most debated finale (outside of “The Sopranos”). It was a show about a group of unlikely survivors of a plane crash somewhere over the Pacific. Except, in the end, it was all an illusion.

Which brings us to “The Leftovers.” It turned out to be the “anti-Lost” in the end. But lets start at the beginning. It was based on a book by Tom Perrotta, a best selling novelist (“Election,” “Little Children,” “The Absentee Teacher”) who took a Biblical end-times prophesy, the Rapture and turned it into a story about how people react to something traumatic. Like coming into the kitchen and finding your family gone, like Nora did.

The first season was about that trauma and dealing with it. Lets face it, we’ve all been there. My cousin died of an accidental overdose 15 years ago. The circumstances surrounding it are unimportant. A few years later, at my 50th birthday party, my step-mom made an album for me and Tom was in a couple of those pictures. I still miss him to this day. A loss of a loved one – or anyone we care deeply about – affects us in different ways. Families break up, divorce, affairs, people who you’ve known your whole life just seem to vanish.

But what if there really wasn’t an explanation. That was the premise of the show in the first season. That somehow, with no warning, two percent of the seven billion or so people on earth just go poof. No famine, no apocalyptic event, no messiah returning, nothing. What would the reaction be? The first scene, of a mother and a child walking out of a grocery store and then the child is gone, is very jarring, but it set a tone for the darkness of the first season. Trauma – and the aftermath – played itself out in the first act. We meet Nora (Carrie Coon) and Kevin (Justin Theroux), two people affected by the “Sudden Departures” in different ways. Unlike Nora’s family disappearing, Kevin, the straight arrow cop, loses his wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) to a chain-smoking, all-white smock-wearing cult-who doesn’t talk, not even among themselves, group called the Guilty Remnant and their leader, Patti, (Ann Dowd) a woman with no sympathy for anyone who “lost” someone. They interrupt civic events, mock the mourners, recruit new members and attempt to burn the whole town down at the end of the first season.

The premise of “The Leftovers” while fiction, is based on facts. About two percent of the World’s population (2.2 million) die each day. Some are sudden, some drawn out. But about that number die each day. That somehow, a town in Texas, renamed “Miracle,” survived the “Sudden Departures,” isn’t a ‘miracle,’ in and of itself, but somehow convinced the believers and the gullible that is was, people flocked to this town in season two, where a “Woodstock”- like refugee camp has been set up and you need special permission to live in the town. Kevin and Nora, now a couple, albeit a shaky one, purchase a house there after Nora’s brother, Matt, a misguided minister, moves there and his comatose wife suddenly comes back to life as if nothing changed, but of course, it did.

“You’re here and then you’re not.” A few years ago, I read an essay by a writer who, as a young man with a young son, lost his dad to a heart attack. Having to explain it to his then-eight-year-old son, who asked “what happened to grandpa?” He grappled with trying to explain it. That he came up with that simple answer to his child, trying to explain the complexities of life and mortality in terms a child could understand – hell, that anyone could understand, is still not the whole story.

We all have a beginning and an ending. Helen Keller observed that “security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

When we understand that there’s no such thing as security, we take risks. In the end, we are all survivors, until we’re not. When Nora, at the beginning of season three, tells Kevin “I’m going to Australia for a few days,” we understand the truth.

First of all, no one goes to Australia “for a few days.” This isn’t a trip to Chicago or Minneapolis. It is a long journey and I’ve done it. You don’t go there for a few days. Weeks, months is more like it. Nora (and eventually Kevin) went there to find (eventually) their destinies.

When they (and others around them) realize the truth, through their own experiences, that there is no security in life, everyone’s experiences and recollections of those experiences are their own and unique to that person’s psyche. A shared experience, a trip, ballgame, concert, wedding, funeral, friendship, relationship, marriage, divorce, birth and death, are singular events shared differently.

In the end, after all the denials, the lies, the reunion, after the stories, when Kevin says to Nora, “I believe you,” even though the story she told him, about seeing her family back in Long Island is probably just bullshit, is enough for both to realize that, finally, their trauma is over. Even in some far off place like Nowhere-but-here, Australia.

Life is indeed an adventure. It is not linear. There is no straight line to get to where we eventually go. We have experiences. We tell stories. It is messy and screwy and you lose people along the way, sometimes without explanation. Whether you gain the wisdom of understanding the randomness of life is what The Leftovers reminded us of.

Robert Mueller, John Doar and the Mists of History

June 1, 2017

On April 29, Carl Bernstein spoke at the White House Correspondence’s Dinner. He and his partner, Bob Woodward, while writing for the Washington Post, connected the dots out of a “third-rate burglary” and brought down a president so crooked “his staff had to screw his pants on,” snipped Hunter S. Thompson upon the death of said President, Richard M. Nixon in 1994.

Watergate, which actually began in June 1970 with the Pentagon Papers, ushered in the age of cynicism that has now reached a pinnacle in the first four months of the Twitter Presidency.

In Bernstein’s speech, he spoke of facts that led to “the best available version of the truth.” But without John Doar, a civil rights advocate who, while Assistant Attorney General, ensured James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962, combed through over 100,000 pages of transcripts and documents between March and July of 1974 as Special Council for the House Judiciary Committee, old Tanned, Rested & Ready might have not resigned.

Which brings us to the current “Independent” Council, Robert Mueller. He has broad powers to investigate and allow to testify before Congress, members associated with Trump’s campaign, transition team, current staff and cabinet, as well as family members in an attempt to get to the bottom of the connections between Trump and the Russians.

As usual, it’s about the money. “Follow the money” is true today as it was in 1972. It is why this President and his sycophants have lied about it. Jeff Sessions lied during his confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos said recently “we expect a return on our investment.” (so do the Koch Brothers) The levels of mendacity and outright perjury is staggering. The firing of Preet Bharara and 45 other U.S. Attorney’s, the dismantling of the social safety net, the post WW II alliances, the shocking firing of James Comey and then refusing to accept responsibility for it, laying it at the feet of the Assistant Attorney General, who then pushed back as well as Sessions role in the apparent un-recusal in the Trump-Russia investigation.

It all goes back to money. In America, it always seems to. As Charles P. Pierce at Esquire put it yesterday, “ Robert Mueller is not fooling around and, for all the bizarre behavior concerning secure comms and Russian ambassadors, he seems to have homed in already on the key to the whole sorry mess. Somewhere, at the heart of it, there’s nothing more or less banal than the classic American hunger for a quick and easy buck. That’s where this whole thing is headed.”

We don’t have 50 months, as I’ve said before. We have maybe 50 days to get them all out, to turn the GOP complicity to get their extreme agenda passed (which it won’t) and force the whole damn thing to come down like a ton of bricks on the Libidinous Fat Ass before it’s too late. I think Mueller understands this and will do the right thing. He is the John Doar of 2017.

The Last Idealist

May 29, 2017

One-hundred years ago today. May 29th, 1917. Forty-one years before I was born, he was. In a Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts to his parents, Joe and Rose. He was the second son of a rising Irish-Catholic upper middle class, politically connected, family. So many words have been written about him that I won’t waste my time going over the hagiography over John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s life and death.

Today, had he lived, he would have been 100. But that’s not why I’m writing this. Nor am I going to write about his life, warts and all, because they have been written about so many other times, by writers far, far better than me.

No, I am going to write about what this man represents, the challenge that seems to have been forgotten since his assassination in 1963. His idealism, borne out of his own experiences, drove him to challenge us — to go to the moon, explore space, service others less fortunate then us, become a part of the wider-world — all inspired us to do that.

Think about the 10 Presidents who’ve followed him. What have they done to inspire us? Not much, really. To inspire the world? Hardly. Kennedy was many things, but he, and, to a lesser extent, his brothers, Robert and Teddy, inspired us to be something, even for a short period of time, greater than ourselves. That is what JFK should be remembered for, not the abrupt way his life ended.

*Originally posted at Medium.com

On the Brink.

May 11, 2017

They all have to go. Everyone of them. Not just Donald Trump, but every other cabinet member and the loathsome Paul Ryan. Everyone has to go.

Mike Pence.

Rex Tillerson.

Betsy DeVos.

Rick Perry.

Ben Carson.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

Scott Puritt.

All 15 members of this corrupt, vapid, ill-equipped, unprepared, mean-spirited, lying-like-my-dead-dog administration needs to resign. Along with Donald J. Trump. The events that have unfolded before our eyes in little over 100 days prove that none of these people have any inclination of governing or even the most rudimentary understanding of how the federal government works.

We cannot wait for a Mark Felt or a John Doar to dig through the bureaucratic minutiae. There is no time for Woodward and Bernstein (or the modern-day equivalent) to peel off the onion of obstruction, lies and incompetence that might take years to uncover. We don’t have that kind of time. We don’t have the luxury of watching Trump unravel, because unlike Nixon, he already has.

This man should never have been President*. By firing Comey on Tuesday night, 45 has basically boxed himself into a corner. And all of those around him, including every staffer, appointee, Ivanka, Jared, his sons Spin and Marty, are in the same corner as well, boxed in. The only alternative is to resign. Or leave. Quit. Before anymore damage is done.

Because after the events of Tuesday night, this isn’t about Russia anymore. It isn’t about the investigations or the election or the health care bill. It’s not about any of that, because it has become a question of competency. It has become a question of survival. Of whether we as a nation can allow this farce to continue. It can’t, not for much longer.

Even those who voted for him know this, deep down. They won’t admit it, but they know it to be true. In his seminal book, “Nixonland,” Rick Pearlstein tells the story of how Nixon, rejected by every fraternity and club at small Whittier College, formed his own club, the Orthogonian’s. He carried around a lifetime of resentments and it ate away at him. When he died, in 1994 of a stroke, reportedly his last words were “help me.”

Much like Nixon, Trump has a lifetime of resentments as well. Those are well-documented and out there for everyone to see. The NFL (twice) and NHL rejected him, as did Major League Baseball and Augusta National (where The Master’s is played every April).

But this isn’t about Trump or Nixon or comparing the two. It’s about the country and whether or not we are willing to see the fact that this man is woefully in over his head and so is the rest of his team. The difference between 2017 and 1974 is this: We don’t have four years to investigate and find “the best available version of the truth,” as Bernstein recently put it. We don’t have months, either. We have weeks, maybe even days before even the “party before country” Republicans in Congress can’t ignore it anymore. This cannot drag out another 1300 days. He has to go.

The GOP’s Cruel Act

May 4, 2017

On January 19, 2017, Wayne Barrett died. He was 71. Barrett was a singular force in New York City journalism, taking on everyone from Mayor Beane to Rudy Giuliani. In 1978, he first told the world of a then-scion of the small courtier of real estate developers in the Five Burroughs named Donald Trump.  His father, Fred, was a small fish in the largest city in America (next to Harry Helmsley, everyone in NYC was small) who had control of several properties in Queens and Staten Island. His article in the Village Voice,

“How a Young Donald Trump Forced His Way From Avenue Z to Manhattan”

was reprinted two years ago, shortly after Trump announced his run for President. Here is the link if you care to read it: http://www.villagevoice.com/news/how-a-young-donald-trump-forced-his-way-from-avenue-z-to-manhattan-7380462

The reason I bring this up today is because Barrett, who not only wrote about the Libidinous One for years, even writing a book in 1991 about him, died the day before he became the 45th* President of the United States. Which, in a way makes him lucky that he hasn’t seen the first 105 days of his attempts at the total destruction of it.

We, quite unfortunately, are still here. For the time being. Today the House passed a bill dismantling the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, because the GOP wanted (perhaps) a symbolic victory over the objections of just about everyone else. It guts the ACA and Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP and every other program designed to make people a bit less sick.

Mostly though, what it does is reminds us of the cruelty, out in the open for the world to see, of the Republican Party. It reminds us that for the rich and powerful, there will always be a cure, but for the rest of us, not so much. As Charles Pierce put it today, “This was a bill constructed to be as cruel as possible to as many people as possible for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans and to give a “win” to an incompetent and vulgar talking yam that flukes and circumstance have placed at the head of a once-great republic. It is an altogether remarkable piece of American political history that should follow the people celebrating it to their graves, to which they will be proceeded by thousands of their fellow citizens, who might not have, had there not been so much to celebrate on Thursday, in Washington, among all the tomb-white monuments.”

I’m not going to be as nice. The “vulgar talking yam” is a moron. Who learned at the feet of Roy Cohn, one of the most despicable human beings in history.  If you have cancer and don’t have $2 million to get it taken care of, tough shit. If you were born with a pre-existing condition (like me), your life expectancy just dropped from X to day-to-day, as one Vin Scully would follow “then again, aren’t we all?” Trump isn’t as shrewd as Cohn, but he mirrors him in so many ways – no sense of humor, takes umbrage at any slight, real or perceived, flaunts his (supposed) wealth, threatens people who dare shine a light on their secrets or misdeeds.

Cohn died in 1986, from AIDS. Much like many men of wealth and fame of that era, Rock Hudson, Liberace, Cohn used his influence and fear to silence those around him. Liberace’s original cause of death was “liver cancer.” Several former lovers (and his family) complained and the cause was changed to AIDS. Here is a scene from “Angels in America” where Cohn, played brilliantly by Al Pacino, browbeats and threatens his doctor (James Cromwell) into keeping his diagnosis a secret: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98fBiOVEcyI

Screw these people, screw the people who vote for them and send them back to Congress for 40-50 years. Screw Paul Ryan, who is writing his political obituary with this vote. The GOP has stood for nothing since 1980, except giving money to the super-rich and screwing over everyone else. It has to stop. Otherwise, there will be nothing, nothing at all for all but 400 people. That’s not America. That’s a third-world country.

Tribute to a Friend

April 21, 2017

As I begin this, it is nearly midnight, usually about the time I go to bed, but I feel I have to write this. No rants or opinions at this hour, just ruminating on a friend.

I first met Terry Foster in Anspach Hall, in the basement offices of CMLife, the student newspaper at Central Michigan University in August 1980. We were both sports writers and Terry had a fantastic way of making you feel at home. I had already known a person on staff there, Chris Cross and she guided me into a seemingly seamless newsroom. Cramped as all hell, but much fun to go there every day.

Everyone loved Terry. Terry loved everyone else. He was a senior when I transferred there as a junior. I covered Tennis and Volleyball and occasionally wrote a feature story for Matt Dobek, the very quirky sports editor. Terry covered CMU football and wrote stories for the Detroit Free Press. Everyone wanted his assignments.

We used to goof around a lot. We would play football in the office and he was Anthony Carter and I was John Wrangler. Or he was Charlie Sanders and I was Greg Landry. His nickname for me was ‘Hilmer,’ after the middleweight boxing champion Hilmer Kenty, who trained with Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns at the Kronk Gym in Detroit. He never seemed to lack for female attention or friends. I went to a party at his apartment once and he was wearing a dress. It was Halloween and funny as all heck.

Our paths seemed to cross a lot during those years. After leaving Central, he got a job at the Grand Rapids Press and then the Free Press. Then, 1988, he got a plumb assignment, covering the Pistons for the News. The Bad Boys were just hitting their peak, on the rise to two NBA Championships and three Finals appearances. (should have been three championships, but for a phantom foul on Bill Laimbeer) And the wars between Chicago and Boston, epic battles. He was in LA and Portland when the Pistons won their titles.

In 1994, he became a columnist for the News, “a free-lancers job with a paycheck,” he once told me. He covered the Olympics, all the big events, and wrote about the Detroit sports scene. He gained national attention and got married and fathered two kids. He started doing sports-talk radio about this same time, first at WDFN and then at 97.1 FM. He was paired with Mike Valenti, a brash, out-of-towner who brought his east coast cynicism with him to Detroit. Foster, while somewhat of a cynic, still was a “homie,” someone who everybody could relate to and he could relate to everyone else.

But like so many of us once we hit the big 5-Oh, life starts throwing curveballs at you. For Terry, who never met a plate of food he didn’t eat, it came in the form of Type 2 diabetes. Never backing away from a challenge, he got serious and lost weight and had a personal trainer. He retired from the News in 2015, devoting all his time to his radio show and his family. His daughter, about to graduate from high school, is a standout soccer player and was involved in several travel teams.

Last August, he suffered a stroke. And then complications. He’s return was set for October, then pushed back. When he returned to the air in January, he wasn’t the same “goofy Terry,” either at work or at home. Yesterday, he just walked away. He just “didn’t feel like talking about Brad Ausmus’ latest moves or who the Lions should draft anymore.”

Most of us do reach that point in life, where things that seemed important, just don’t anymore. As I chronicled earlier this year in this space, I had my own health scare last fall as well. I recovered quickly, but for some, it is much different (Still, dying on the floor from being severely dehydrated isn’t the way I would have envisioned myself dying, but it almost happened). I don’t think Terry ever thought that two strokes would fell him or make him change his life, either, but it has and maybe it will work out for the best. Maybe the Terry Foster I’ve known for the better part of my life will still be around to call me up and say “Hilmer, you still playing table tennis?”

For now, my dear friend, yes. But who knows what the future holds. After all the Tigers need a lefty out of that damn bullpen and my arm can still throw. Enjoy your life, Terry. Just remember, somewhere, I can still drudge up that picture of you in a dress.

The Great Right (wingnut) Hope

April 19, 2017
So, lets get our facts straight. After all the bluster from Kim Jung Stupid, Dorito Don and straight arrow (not worth a) Pence, it turns out it was just another lie by the U.S. of A. The USS Carl Vinson was headed towards Australia, not Korea. But Pence sure looked good in the DMZ with the binoculars. Kind of like MacAuthur before Truman fired him. Or Georgie-boy ‘flying’ that plane onto the aircraft carrier. All for show. They know, including the Chinese and Russians, that a second “Korean War” would mean millions, up to a billion, would die. Needlessly. Even a “targeted” EMP (Electro-magnetic Pulse) would impact the entire Pacific Rim in the Northern Hemisphere. All of which could lead us into World War III.
And that, fellow citizens, it what this is all about. The religious nutcases in this country voted for Trump and Pence because this is what they want. Armageddon. They want Jeebus to return to save them and cast out all the rest of us to hell or where ever because Obama. Or Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy or Hillary. Mostly, because they seem to think that because everyone else is a godless heathen, they will be chosen to stay on for the 1000 years (according to the book of Jewish fairy tales) that precludes humanity’s end. 
Well, I got news for you end-timers. Jeebus is as real as Apollo and Creed. And Elvis stands a better chance of returning than the “Son of God.” As does Michael Jackson, Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Robin Williams and my dog. It is theorized that just one nuclear warhead could kill a quarter-billion people. Imagine what 1,000 could do. We have a President who doesn’t know diddly and an evangelical Veep who peers out over the Korean DMZ and all his Biblical fantasies are right there, in the kaleidoscope over his binoculars.
This Presidency, 90 days in, is a disaster. The conflicts, the lairs appointed to cabinet posts, Congress broken beyond words, family appointed to key positions, Sean Spicer, who makes Ron Ziegler look good in retrospect, Russia, Turkey, the snubs of key allies, etc. make me worried for not only the future of our republic, but the world.

Then, of course, there’s this:

We're doomed

Tell me what is being done in my name, part the infinity.

March 18, 2017

In December 2004, I moved. The place I was living at, informally, asked me to leave. So, with a little help from their social worker, I moved. Years later, I found out what they did was illegal, but hey, by then it was too late to take the matter to court.

I moved into an apartment building and was given an apartment on the sixth floor with a faulty elevator system. Really. My parents came by once and the lifts weren’t working, so they climbed up six flights to visit with me. Fortunately, the staff at the property was looking out for me, unlike at my previous place, and got me out of that ridiculous situation a few months later. I have lived in my current home for over 11 years.

Why do I mention this? Because its important to what’s going on here in the country today. I mention this because, as I try and tell people, what happens in Washington and Lansing and every state capitol, happens to me first, but will happen to you as well.

Wednesday night, the Federal Budget was released. That is it a joke in and of itself and was drawn up by an acolyte of Grover Norquist is no surprise. It is cruel and contradictory to everything America is supposed to stand for. It eliminates funding for PBS and NPR. “This budget is short-sighted, cruel to the point of being sadistic, stupid to the point of pure philistinism, and shot through with the absolute and fundamentalist religious conviction that the only true functions of government are the ones that involve guns, and that the only true purpose of government is to serve the rich,” says Charles Pierce at Esquire.

This is the “feed the rich, screw the poor,” budget drawn up by the Heritage Foundation and Mike Mulvaney, who makes David Stockman look like Albert Schweitzer by comparison.  It cuts “Meals on Wheels,” a $3 million a year program that provides the disabled and seniors at least one ‘square’ meal a day. It makes Stockman and his boss, St. Ronnie of Dementia, look like Sargent Schriver and Lyndon Johnson, for Pete’s sake.

There are so many draconian cuts to this budget, I’m shocked that it was even printed on paper. Perhaps the most nonsensical cut was to the State Department, where 30% of the cuts are being made. From ABC News:

“The president’s vision is to add $54 billion to military spending and cut the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by 28 percent. “There is no question this is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” the president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters Wednesday. “The president very clearly wanted to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong power administration, so you have seen money move from soft power programs, such as foreign aid, into more hard power programs.” While Mulvaney described the cuts to the State Department as “fairly dramatic,” he said the country’s core diplomatic functions will not be impacted by the cuts, which he said are focused on reducing foreign aid. “That is not a commentary on the president’s policies toward the State Department, that is a comment on the president’s policies toward what is in their budget,” he said. “The foreign aid line items just happen to fall in State.””

Oh good. This president wants to be seen as a tough guy. A man who never served in the military, but went to military school and “knows more than the Generals.” A man who wants to win wars like when he was young. Except he received four deferments from Vietnam for “flat feet.” Yeah, OK, buddy.

Also, Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed, granny starver who (still) wants to be President someday, said the following to National Review’s Rich Lowery:

“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”

These guys are worse than Marmalard and Neidermeyer at Omega. I thought Norquist was bad, but these guys are sadists, and that’s being kind.

Of course, there is a rebuttal, from, naturally, a Kennedy. Joseph P. Kennedy III, to be exact. From the Boston Globe:

 “I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill ‘an act of mercy.’ With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different Scripture…The one I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us. There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. This is not an act of mercy. It is an act of malice.”

That’s Robert F’s grandson, Jack’s great-nephew. Had Rosie Greer been where he should have been in the Ambassador Hotel Kitchen on June 4, 1968, he might have been the grandson of a second President Kennedy.

I can just hear it, “I didn’t for for this,” from Trump voters. Well, yes you did. You voted for this when you voted for Reagan, when you voted for both Bushes, when you voted for the Tea Party guy because Obama. You voted for this for the last 36 years. Or, allowed this to happen.

Which brings it all back to the beginning. When I moved into my current home (a townhome, completely accessible), I was eligible for a home heating credit because I paid a gas bill. Every May, I would get real money back from Consumers Energy, one year, it might have been $375. On a fixed income, that’s a lot of money. But then, in 2011, the state changed the rules and fixed it so there would be no checks written, unless there were “special circumstances.” Then they went about rigging the system. In 2014, the most brutal winter of my life, I was still on the budget plan and paying a fixed rate every month. Come May 2015, after filing my Home Heating Credit with the state, I was informed that Consumers couldn’t cut me a check, but the $140 would be credited to my account. Of course, from June until October, there’s no need for heat in Michigan, but they still find a way to charge $16 a month for using 0.2 meters of gas. I dropped out of the budget plan after that go-around.  One of the important things wide-load Donny wants to cut is the Federal Home Heating Credit, which, among other things, would raise my rent by about $20. You say, “I didn’t vote for that. I wanted him to ‘drain the swamp.’ And ‘Lock Her Up,’ and kill Keith Olbermann.”

Well, you voted for him, not me. Don’t worry about me, I’ll just wither away and die. After all, I’m a burden.

And if you believe that, you voted for Trump.

…And then I got sick

January 27, 2017

It has been a week since my first time on an operating table since 1969. Richard Nixon, the bent crook, was President and I was 10.  It was a surgery to have my gall bladder removed, which, of course, had nothing to do with my emergency room visit 38 days earlier, but we’ll get to that in a while.

2016. Or maybe I should go all AP Stylebook and write it out. Twenty-sixteen. Or, as a friend of mine put it, twenty-fucking-sixteen. A year of loss. Gut-wrenching loss. Of being confused and lied to and about. A year of being punched in the gut so much you became almost numb to it.

Death, loss and defeat. That was the theme of the past year. From David Bowie to Debbie Reynolds, we lost many legendary performers in 2016 (and just the other day, Mary Tyler Moore), that shock turned to resignation when it happened. That we lost all that talent and creativity made it very hard to take.

And then came November 8. The day we all expected history to be made. Just like eight years prior. And it was made, but not in the way we expected. I was so shocked that Trump won, I thought it was a bad dream. Except I don’t dream anymore. So, we elected “The Mad Twitter,” because of Hillary Clinton’s emails or Bill Clinton’s blowjob or healthcare or racism or getting the black guy out of the White House. Either way, we have a new President who doesn’t know jack shit about anything. But he likes to spread the lies. El Pesidente’ del Mar-A-Lago sure does a lot of that.

Then there are those everyday people who you know or think you know until you find out they’re full of it. Whether they are local or from Thousand Oaks, California or the United Kingdom, you think you know someone, but you don’t. Lies and deception and hiding behind a set of arbitrarily set of standards is like firing someone a day before you have to give a reason. You think you’ve gotten away with it, until its’ found out.  Whether its generosity taken a bit too far, a dragged out version of “Spanish Prisoner” (where the truth isn’t revealed until it has to be) or having your sponsorship removed because of some impossible-to-meet standards, it still stinks.

And then I got sick.  Sicker than I’ve been since I was a kid.  Fell out of my bed three times, had to crawl out to the living room on my back to get to my phone once. Went to the hospital, I was diagnosed with bronchitis and acute diarrhea. Two distinctly different problems, seemingly unrelated. Spent the night, they couldn’t figure out what was causing my diarrhea, so they did an ultrasound. Found out I had gall-stones.  Had to cancel a trip to Vegas. Had to get on the Doctor-go-round. My regular Doctor gave me steroids for my bronchitis, another one gave me conflicting information on whether or not I needed surgery. It got to be a bit much. So, after a second visit with my primary doctor, he gave me to a surgeon and I had it done a week ago. Yes, on purpose so I wouldn’t have to witness the Libidinous Nutcase become president*

So ends one of the worst years of my life. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the worst year of my life. So far, even with the surgery, it looks to be pretty normal. The Lions still haven’t won a playoff game since 1992, there’s a massive sinkhole in Fraser that no one seems to know how to fix, but the state wants to cancel Daylight Savings Time.  Just what we sent them to Lansing for. To fix the big things. I might have to start buying bottled water, but hey, as long as the DeVos’ and Nestle’ keep getting their way, nothing to worry about, right? Another year to look forward to.

Can I please have a do-over?

Another Christmas

December 24, 2016

From “A Christmas Carol”: Its as the Ghost of Christmas present is about to leave and he reveals the two demon children underneath his robe. “Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

It has been 160 years or so since Dickens wrote his novel about the perilous and fragile state of humanity in pre-industrial London.  We have passed through that time and now are entering a similar time, where avarice is somehow seen as being the better than just being human.  We have just elected a 70-year-old man who embodies that ugly mentality that Scrooge did before he awoke from his Christmas Eve nightmare.

I highly doubt that Donald Trump will have the same epiphany tonight – or any other night in the near future. Scrooge, at least, found his humanity. Trump never knew what it was.

That ignorance has washed over this country over the last 40 years is nothing new. People, smarter than me, have warned about it for years. Comedians, like the late George Carlin, saw this coming, as did Lenny Bruce 50 years ago.  People have tried to take sense into these people, but they don’t listen.

Carlin’s rant, from 2005…

“But there’s a reason. There’s a reason. There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever,  EVER be fixed.

It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you’ve got.

Because the owners, the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.

Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying,  lobbying, to get what they want.  Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want:

They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. Thats against their interests.

Thats right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!

You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this fucking place! It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it!  You, and I, are not in the big club.

By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue, these are people of modest means, continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you.

They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL.  And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes everyday, because the owners of this country know the truth.

It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

I don’t know what will happen come January 20th or thereafter. Ignorance won an election last month and now we have to deal with the consequences. Whether or not we are doomed remains to be seen.

Another Christmas. Spent alone. Hope and a common future seem as distant as Mars at this point. Yet I try to find the positive and stay close to my family, as distant as they are, and friends, as spread out as they are, as I can. I am not 25 anymore. Too many people have come and gone in my life to really understand why. I just try to hold on to my sanity one day at a time and hope that even though I’m a cynic, that my humanity still manages to peek through.