Friday, August 25, 2017

Barnes & Noble Book Signing (Springfield, Illinois)

Barnes & Noble Book Signing (Springfield, Illinois)

Hey folks, I'm going to be appearing at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Springfield, Illinois on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 from 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

I will be signing copies of my first two books: Perfect Pawn and Queen's Gambit. If you are going to be in the area, why not stop by. Also, if you know of any avid readers, especially in the mystery genre, please share this post with them.

Thanks for your support and looking forward to meeting with all of you.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Perfect Pawn – Signed Edition Giveaway

To celebrate the updated release of my debut novel, Perfect Pawn, I am announcing a giveaway for an autographed copy.

To qualify, all you need to do is leave a review for any of my books at Amazon or Barnes and Noble between August 18th and September 5th.  

To enter, simply go to this Facebook page and locate the ‘Giveaway’ post. Then add the name of the book you reviewed along with a screenshot of the review, in the comment section or you can copy and paste the text of your review. If you leave multiple reviews, on different books, you will have multiple chances to win.

On September 6th, I will be drawing a name at random and will post the winner here on Facebook.

NOTE: This giveaway applies to addresses in the United States only. You can still enter if you live outside the U.S. but will need to have a U.S. address to mail the book to.

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Today I Learned I was a Fascist.

Maybe only the 'Secret Police' are okay....
There is a sign currently being circulated by Antifa that depicts the Thin Blue Line as being a symbol of white supremacy. I think that little fact will come as a really big surprise to my brothers and sisters back in the NYPD and law enforcement in general. While I am no longer active in law enforcement, my novels tend to be very pro-cop, so I wonder if that makes me a Fascist Emeritus?

I’m not of course, but facts are a tad bit subjective these days. In fact, a lot of things seem to be very subjective and to be honest with you it is more than a little bit frightening. It seems as if we are hurtling headlong into George Orwell's 1984 and we are too busy fighting with one another to even notice it.

Case in point: Charlottesville, Virginia

Now, to be perfectly honest, prior to August 13th, I had no idea where this city was located, but I do now and for all the wrong reasons. Charlottesville is a city in Virginia. It is home to the University of Virginia, whose core campus was designed by Thomas Jefferson. On the outskirts, Jefferson’s mountain-top plantation, Monticello, includes a mansion and rebuilt slave quarters. It is also the gateway to Shenandoah National Park, along a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In other words it is probably a really nice place to visit, unless of course you happen to be the type of person whose travel bag contains batons, shields, face masks, or other similar items.

The origins of the post you are reading originated in a reply to a friend’s Facebook post, but have morphed beyond that, as I contemplated all that has unfolded recently.

Robert E. Lee Memorial in Charlottesville, Va
At the heart of the Charlottesville incident is the statue of General Robert E. Lee, which has been on display in the park since 1924.  What is unusual about this situation is that the statue is actually one of four in Charlottesville commissioned by philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire. The other statues being: George Rogers Clarke, General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and Meriwether Lewis, William Clark & Sacagawea. In fact, the statues sit in parks that were purchased by McIntire and then donated to the city, one of which is named Washington Park, after Booker T. Washington. All four statues are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What occurred in Charlottesville was certainly abhorrent, but we also need to be intellectually honest when we look at it. Whatever your feelings, the ‘Unite the Right’ protest was legal. The organizers had secured the proper permits and had every right to be there. Now, that does not mean I agree with them, but I can accept that they had a legitimate right to assemble and protest what they believed, which was simply the city of Charlottesville’s decision to remove the Lee statue, as well as the Jackson statue, and dispose of it as they chose. That’s a serious point here. Several groups, including descendants of the original donor, questioned the city’s authority to dispose of the donated statues. In May, a court injunction was secured, barring the removal for six months, pending a legal decision.

Now some have tried to paint this as a clash between the right and left, but that seems lazy to me, because at its heart the issue, in this case the Civil War, is extremely complex. Whether you agree with President Trump or not, he was actually right. He said that there were really bad people there, as well as some good people, on both sides. The simple truth was that not everyone there protesting was a white supremacist; nor where they a member of Antifa. Some were just ordinary folks who were either for or against removing a statue. They didn’t come with batons, shields or facemasks, like the radical folks on both sides did; they just came to lend their voice and then things got out of hand, quickly.

As someone who spent over two decades in law enforcement, I have been on the front lines of some of these clashes. They are never pretty, but often they are very predictable. Both sides showed up intent on doing to each other exactly what happened and the good people, those who had an honest reason for being there, get lumped in to their respective sides. Tragically, many were injured as a result and three people, one protester and two state troopers, died.

Was it worth it? Obviously the answer is a resounding NO.

There should be no place in our society for racism or bigotry, but sadly that will never change.

Throughout the history of humanity it has always existed and I fear that it always will. I know there are folks who honestly believe that we can all peacefully co-exist, yet they are unable to point to any example of this ever happening. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for it, but let us also be honest in our assessment of the situation. The truth of the matter is that people of every color can be racist.

It's not shocking to me that this is such a hot button topic, but it seems that we are inching ever closer to opening Pandora's Box. In terms of statues, my personal belief is that they shouldn't be removed. They are memorials. Now some folks will say that these statues represent oppression to some, and I can understand that, but my question to them is when does it all end?

Do we create a blue-ribbon commission on statues and designate the position of Federal Statue Monitor? What statues should be up for consideration? Only confederate statues? What about statues of Jesus or Mahatma Gandhi? Should military personnel or even former U.S. Presidents be considered for the chopping block? What about statues honoring Native Americans? How about Martin Luther King, Jr. and, dare I even say it, what about Walt Disney?

Think this is me being ridiculous? Well, I can actually provide you with examples of all of the above being deemed offensive by some and calls for their removal.

What about the ‘questionable’ statues in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol? Speaking of the Capitol, should we rename the Russell Office building? He was pro segregation. When will the West Virginia Capitol be asked to remove their statue of Senator Robert Byrd; who held the title of Exalted Cyclops in his local KKK chapter. I recently heard someone defend him, saying that he had apologized. Robert E. Lee called slavery a ‘moral and political evil,’ but no one seems to be cutting him any slack.

What about street names? Highways? How about military installations?

For a moment let us be intellectually honest here and admit that somewhere, someone will be offended by something.

The (former) Durham, NC Civil War Memorial
Coming on the heels of the Charlottesville clash, a statue was torn down in Durham, North Carolina, by a bunch of insufferable little pricks and prickettes. That might sound harsh to some of you, but I have zero fucks to give for anyone who defaces a war memorial. The statue was not of Jefferson Davis, or Robert E. Lee, or any other notable figure of the Civil War. It was a common soldier and the inscription simply read: In Memory of the Boys Who Wore the Gray.

This was a memorial to those who fought and died. There was no justification in destroying that.

What’s next, should we advocate for desecrating graveyards?

Before you pop up and say that’ll never happen, guess what, it’s already been done.

Some have argued that there should be no statues that recognize bad regimes, such as Nazi Germany, but I can attest to the fact that there are WWII war memorials in Germany and they shouldn't be removed either. We can have an honest discussion as to memorials which honor heroes of the south such as General Lee, and where they should be placed, but where does it end?

Who gets to determine which group’s opinion trumps the others?

Welcome to Washington, Comrade Vlad, care
for a decadent cup of Starbuck's Coffee?
Honestly, we are quickly approaching Orwellian territory here with our revisionist history.

We have folks losing their minds over a statue honoring a general, who was not only revered in the south, but also highly respected in the north, yet we have a statue in Washington State for Communist revolutionary leader, Vladimir Lenin.

Let that sink in for a moment.

What about the bust of Lenin in L.A., or how about the depiction of Lenin on top of the Red Square apartment building in NYC?

Lenin's Russian Revolution resulted in the deaths of millions of people. Okay, so you say that on the grand scale of bad things Lenin wasn’t that horrible. What about Josef Stalin? Because we also have a statue of him in the United States. It’s in that hot bed of political correctness known as Virginia.

Will Antifa be marching the ninety miles to Bedford, Va. to demand that it also be torn down? Seeing as how they lean decidedly toward the ‘social’ end of the spectrum I think not.

When the Stalin statue was put up veterans were offended and called for its removal, but no one cared for their opinion. I guess they aren’t the right class of offended people.

The truth is that slavery was wrong and reprehensible, but let us also acknowledge the fact that it was also legal then. I’m not justifying it, but I am making a point.

Lately I have heard talk equating General Lee with being a terrorist. If we look at things through that type of revisionist lens, then so were the Founding Fathers. I’m pretty sure we can find a few folks in England who might be offended by their statues, but then again the English would probably offend the Native American’s who could easily claim that they were terrorists as well. That would be all well and good, but what about when folks from Asia say they are offended by Indian statues because it was really their ancestors who came to North America first?

The point is how far back in history do we go with all of this? Who becomes the arbiter of what is to be deemed offensive?

Benedict Arnold, where have I heard that name before ?
I have been hearing the argument played out that these statues should be removed because the men they honor were traitors. My problem with this statement is that I find it intellectually dishonest and we still have memorials to traitors in this country. 

Politicians and pundits are trying to shrink something as immensely complex as the totality of the Civil War into a simple sound bite. Right vs. Wrong; Good vs. Evil.

Here's a newsflash: Robert E. Lee was not a traitor.

Want to know why? Because the southern states had formally seceded from the Union.

For the record I am not a confederate war apologist, I simply acknowledge the fact that there was a myriad of issues, political as well as societal, that ultimately led to secession and the ensuing war. We have had 150 years to argue the legalities and intricacies of what happened, but at the time it was all virgin political territory. It was argued in the south that each state had the right to secede at any time because the Constitution was a compact, or agreement, among the states. These states even resigned their representative seats in Congress.

The first state, South Carolina, had seceded in December 1980. Six others states, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, soon followed suit. Eventually, eleven states, nearly 1/3 of the Union, would secede.

At the time, President James Buchanan believed that there was no constitutional authority for a state to secede, yet he could find no constitutional authority for him to act to prevent it, thus creating a political quandary. As a result, his administration allowed for military commanders to surrender control of forts in the affected states.

In President Lincoln’s March 1861 inaugural speech he claimed that the secession was improper. He believed that state’s rights were subservient because the term ‘In order to form a more Perfect Union,’ contained in the preamble to the Constitution, amounted to a binding contract. Yet, in reading his inaugural speech, which I highly recommend you do, he seemed to accede a great many things to the south. It begs the question, if he wasn’t directly legitimizing the divide was he indirectly acknowledging that the states had a right to act on their own discretion, outside the law of the nation?

When President Lincoln took office he he instructed the last remaining commanders in the affected areas, including at Fort Sumter, to hold until fired upon. It created the necessary environment that would lead to the ensuing Civil War.

When Ft. Sumter was fired upon, Lincoln used it as a call to arms. He directed all the states to send troops which would be used to recapture the fort and other federal properties. This action prompted four others states, including Virginia, where Lee was from, to side with the other southern states and secede. Interestingly enough, Virginia had repeatedly rejected calls for secession, but also refused to take up arms against their neighbor states. Lee, who at the time was a decorated colonel in the United States Army and had been offered a senior command position in the Union Army, resigned his commission. While he was personally against secession he felt that he had a moral obligation to defend his home state.

Whichever way contemporary pundits want to paint him, the truth is that Robert E. Lee was a very complex man who was highly regarded on both sides. One interesting fact is that throughout the Civil War he wore only the rank of colonel, the last rank he held in the United States Army. When asked why he didn’t wear a general’s rank he was quoted as saying: "I do not care for display. The rank of Colonel is about as high as I ought ever have gotten."  In fact, the only time he wore his prescribed rank, General in Chief of the Confederate Army, was the day he surrendered to General U.S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House.

Now, had those southern states tried to forcibly take over the U.S. government the allegation of treason might have some basis in truth, but this did not occur. While Confederate President Jefferson Davis was charged with it, he was subsequently released with no action taken. The reason why? The government attorneys agreed that if the case went to trial it would likely be lost because there was simply no evidence of treason. In fact, many at that time believed that if the case against Davis went forward that the constitutionality of secession might be affirmed. 

Interestingly enough, it was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Salmon Chase, who gave Davis' legal team an argument for dropping the treason charge. Chase questioned if a person could be prosecuted for treason against the U.S. if he were not a U.S. citizen. The answer to which was no. Then Chase asked if there was a reference to the concept of a U.S. citizen in the Constitution. Again, there was not. A person could only be a citizen of his state. Therefore, by proving that the U.S. had no citizens, Davis could not be tried for treason. The issue was rendered moot when then President Andrew Johnson issued a pardon to all those involved.

Should we now retroactively charge and convict people for past non-crimes?

Secession is currently being considered in California.  Should we go in and lock up those behind this idea?

Guess what folks, in five years, when all the statues are gone there will still be racism and hate in the United States, just like there is in every country in the world. Want to know why? Because you can't legislate morality!

Yep, pretty sure this one has to go !!
So when the statues are all gone, what will be next? Books? Art? Music? Buildings?

Trust me, once you start, there will always be more things to be corrected. When we have corrected the physical record, will we then begin to question the latent 'truth' of others hearts? Who will survive the test?

Who becomes the arbiter of what is to be deemed offensive? Will this be a rigid system of assessment or will it be a sliding scale, acquiescing to the societal whims of the day?

Think that's crazy thinking? I hope you're right. Then again, when I was growing up, I never thought we would be debating the 'political correctness' of sports teams either. Be careful for what you wish for, because it has been my experience that these things are like a pendulum. It might seem wonderful when it swings to your side, but the view is a lot more frightening when it careens back the other way. Like Pandora's Box, once opened it can never be closed.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Who Did You Have in Mind When You Wrote That Character For Your Book ?

As an author, it’s a question I get asked a lot regarding the characters in my books and I am always hesitant to answer, even though I think it is a really good question. 

The primary reason is that as readers we all create mental images in our head of the characters in books and sometimes they don’t translate well to real life. It’s something I wrestled with when the movie version of Frank Herbert's seminal work, DUNE, came out. None, and I mean NONE, of the characters fit the image that was in my head, as I read the books.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean the casting of Jürgen Prochnow as Duke Leto Atreides was genius, and I could even get behind Francesa Annis as Lady Jessica,  but Kyle MacLachlen as Paul Atreides…………. Seriously?

Paul was 15 in the book!! Whoever came up with that casting decision should be shot! Twice!!

And don’t even get me started on Baron Harkonnen and Feyd-Rabban!! But, I digress.

There is even a school of thought among some authors that says don’t write a description of your characters, but rather let the reader fill in their own vision.  That would work fine until Hollywood get's over their love affair with remakes and make my books into a movie or TV series (Hint, Hint Hollywood). Then people would be freaking out that the characters looked nothing like they imagined. So I opted to describe the main players and in doing so I came up with some current actors who I thought fit the roles.

So if you are not interested in knowing who I had in mind, X this page out now………..

Seriously, leave now,………

Okay, that was your last chance.

For those of you who remained, here is my vision on who I believe best fits the description of the characters.

James Maguire:
The closest person to fit the bill of Maguire is Henry Cavill.  I’ve seen him in a bunch of roles, from The Count of Monte Cristo to Superman, and I think he could truly pull it off.   He also has that devilish smile which seems to resonate with just about any woman.

Cavill has the look and physicality of Maguire, which is important given Maguire’s military service as a Navy SEAL, and, while he is a bit younger, I think he can pull off the age group as well.

Melody Anderson:

What’s not to love about Tricia Helfer for this role? Honestly, she brings everything to the table. I first saw her in the role of Six on Battlestar Galactica. She has the acting chops and is stunningly beautiful.  It was also import to find someone who could play that strong, athletic woman, and at 5’10” she easily fits Melody’s height. 

The fact that she can also portray someone as tough as nails is important as well, given the fact that this might be important going forward in the role. Was that a hint? Plus she gets extra credit for liking cats.

Keith Banning:

Probably the EASIEST one for me to envision playing this role was Matthew McConaughey. There are just some roles written for a person and I have to admit that Keith Banning is his (so feel free to give me a call, Matt). 

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed McConaughey in a number of roles, but his portrayal as Detective Rust Cohle, in the original True Detective series, reinforced my choice. He has that rare acting ability to go back and forth fluidly within a character, something that is extremely important for the character of Banning.

Plus there is an inherent darkness in the role that I think makes him a natural.

Alex Taylor:

Probably the HARDEST one for me and yet, when it was all said and done, the most natural choice. Katee Sackhoff, another Battlestar Galactica alumni, was born for this role. Her portrayal as Lt. Kara Thrace was like a casting call audition for Alex Taylor, the highly troubled, yet incredibly talented professional.  To the rest of the world it seems as if Alex doesn’t wrestle with her demons, as much as she opens a bottle of whiskey and parties with them, but behind closed doors it is a battle-royale. It’s a role that I think Katee pulled off so well in BG. Alex might not be the most professional cop around, but she does know how to get the job done.  Plus, Katee does that chip-on-her-shoulder attitude better than anyone I know and she also has the cop experience from doing Longmire.

Ironically, both Sackhoff and Helfer are friends off screen, which I think would provide an interesting element, especially when it comes to a little competition.

Genevieve Gordon:

Writing Gen, I envisioned someone who was an anti-Melody, both in looks and attitude. Ashley Greene, of Twilight fame, was the perfect fit. There was something smart-ass about her that seemed right at home with the character of Gen. The auburn hair and smaller stature also provided the perfect contrast between the two women. 

She’s the perfect actress to play the other-half to the successful financial duo. I also think that she would be quite capable of delivering Gen’s barbs with the right level of humor and sarcasm.

So there you have it. The folks I think would do the best at bringing the characters in the books to life on the big screen or even a television show.

Feel free to let me know what you think of my choices or who you’d like to know the actor I envisioned for any other characters in the series.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Attention Hollywood: Enough with the Remakes

I like being entertained, it's probably one of the reasons I enjoy being an author. There is something very rewarding about being able to craft new worlds in your books for a reader to immerse themselves in.

For the time it takes to watch a movie, catch a television show or read a book, you are able to suspend belief and transport yourself far away from the trials and tribulations of the real world. That being said, you really do need to have a new world to go, but for some odd reason, Hollywood has apparently run out of new ideas. 

Now, I will be the first to admit that I loved Ronald Moore's re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series. Having grown up watching the original TV show I was not at all upset when they brought it back with a more mature theme. They kept true to the original premise, but managed to add a darkness and complexity that I don't think would have worked nearly as well back in the 70's. 

But, it seems that this is one of the true exceptions these days.

Hollywood seems hell bent and determined to remake everything and I just don't understand why. There is an abundance of new material out there to draw ideas from. Take my books as a prime example. Yes, I know it's a shameless plug, but that doesn't make it untrue.

One book reviewer opined that James Maguire was the new Jack Reacher. I'll confess that I think Maguire is a helluva lot more bad-ass, but I'm biased. And, as good as Maguire is, he also has a very complimentary cast of fellow characters, including a number of strong female ones, that provide something for everyone.

My motivation in writing riveting story-lines stems from the fact that I grew up as a voracious reader. I whiled away the hours journeying to far away places, traveling side by side with some amazing heroes and heroines. It didn't matter if it was Paul Artreides (Dune), Jack Ryan (Patriot Games) or Han Solo (Star Wars). The one thing these characters had was the ability to suspend my belief, but in a very plausible way. It is one of the things I strive for in my books. 

I write characters that the reader gets invested in, whether they are the protagonist or the antagonist. The biggest reward for me is when a reader says: "You know, I hated so-and-so, but I read that chapter and couldn't help but feel bad for them." There is no greater reward, and no greater curse, then when you finish a book and the next thing you are getting are emails from your readers asking when they next book is coming out. 

Today, Hollywood has simply gotten lazy. Rather than take the time to invest in new stories, they seem determined to prove that they can capture lightening once again. Often with dismal results. 

Case in Point: CHiPs (The Movie)

To put it mildly this was a debacle. First, it was a slap in the face to the original series. Say what you will, but CHiPs was a positive television show that cast law enforcement in a good light. The movie, not so much. The $25 million dollar production managed to bring in an amazing  $25.5 million dollar box office haul. That's right, for their effort they eeked out half a million in profit and garnered a dismal 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Sadly, this level of movie buffoonery seems to be all the rage these days.

Whether they are remaking Carrie, Planet of the Apes, Starsky & Hutch, The Magnificent Seven, Rollerball, The Bad News Bears, Arthur, Baywatch, The Goodbye Girl, Total Recall, Conan, Ghostbusters (shudder), or even the 27th incarnation of SPIDERMAN, the bottom line is more often than not they fall flat on their face.  I mean really, what's next in the queue? Dirty Harriett?

To a certain extent I can understand the appeal. You have a vehicle that had a following and you figure you can re-capture that for a new generation. Unfortunately, very few take the approach of Ron Moore and up their cinematic game. I think it is also one of the reasons why Netflix and Amazon Studios are enjoying such success.

There comes a point when you have hit rock-bottom and begin to re-evaluate things. Unfortunately, Hollywood seems intent to keep digging or, at the very least, beating the proverbial dead horse.

So if you folks in Tinseltown have reached the end of your rope, and want to secure a lucrative book franchise, have your people contact my people and we'll do lunch. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Heart of the American (Political) Problem

As an author, it is my job to engage my readers with substantive characters and plot-lines that get them invested in my books. I enjoy hearing their passionate responses, when we have an occasion to chat, whether in-person or through social media engagement. While it is rewarding to me as a fictional author it scares me to the core when it crosses over to the non-fiction world.

A few weeks back I wrote an article asking the question: What Happened to Civility in America. In it, I pointed the finger of blame at politicians and pundits who have worked hand in hand to ramp up the level of acrimony in the United States for their personal gain.  They have gotten remarkably good at being bullies, but when there is pushback, they play the victim card. Now I am here to tell you that the heart of the problem is not that they do this, but that a large swath of the U.S. population actually believes them.

To be fair this truly is bi-partisan and has been going on for a very long time. It is a condition that has plagued both the Right and the Left. In fact I have spoken out about this in the past: The End of Political Party Dominance in America.

But now the lies, half-truths and attacks, like a proverbial snowball, which started its glacial existence as a magnificent little snowflake, have metastasized into a malevolent icy mass that threatens all in its path.

Case in point this tweet from Senator Kamala Harris (D - Ca.)

Now, it’s not so much the tweet from her that bothers me, but its existence as a vehicle. See, I get the fact that she is trying to score political points and that is what politicians do. No, what truly bothers me is the vast amount of replies, likes and re-tweets that serve to take it to its intended destination, Kamala’s political base.  My first inclination was to reply directly, but I fundamentally know that it is a waste of time, so I decided to use this as a premise for this blog.

You see, Senator Harris is engaging in one of three things: Lying, telling a half-truth or she is simply incompetent.

Now that may sound like some serious accusations, but give me a moment to spell this out for you.
Consider the premise. An article by Vox, which boldly claims “Senate Republicans exempt own health coverage from part of latest proposal,” coupled with Senator Harris’ reply, a simple, but substantive: “This is a disgrace.”

The casual reader, as exemplified by the replies to this tweet, would take away two things from this. 1) Republicans are disgusting, greedy, and unethical hypocrites and 2) Sen. Harris, who by virtue of her position as a United States Senator, intimately understands the issue and concurs with the Vox piece.

You would believe that, but you would be wrong.

The opening paragraph of the article charges that: “Senate Republicans included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan.”  It goes on to say that “This exemption could have the effect of ensuring that members of Congress have coverage for a wider array of benefits than other Americans who purchase their own coverage.”

That would be pretty staggering, and point to a serious disconnect between politicians and the people, if it were true, but it’s not. Unlike the thousands of folks that responded to that Tweet, I’m not a casual reader.

The underlying problem with this whole issue goes back to semantics.

Did the Republicans include a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan? The short answer is: Yes, which is precisely where Senator Harris wants you to stop reading and re-tweet her post. However, as is true with most things in politics, the long answer is not as cut and dry.

Now we can debate the entirety of the health care issue in America, but the truth, as it pertains to this matter, is that the Republicans are getting ZERO support from Democrats when it comes to this. As a result, they have to pursue this through a process which is called Reconciliation that is bound by several conditions, often referred to as the Byrd Rule, after former Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Bumper sticker version: Without the hope of Democrats coming on board, there is no chance to get the 60+ Filibuster-proof votes needed to pass any health care legislation. Therefore, Republicans have to go for a simple majority (51) vote and this this now becomes an issue of the Rules of the Senate as it pertains to Reconciliation.

What that means is that committees (in this case: Finance and HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions)) drafting a bill cannot make changes that are the jurisdiction of other committees (In this case: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee). A Senate parliamentarian could rule that any proposed insurance change for members of Congress would rightly fall to the HSGAC, which covers insurance issues for members of Congress, and that ruling could jeopardize the bill’s reconciliation status. If this were to occur, then the entire bill would lose privilege and it could then be filibustered. 

But wait a minute; shouldn’t a member of the Senate know this stuff?

The long and short answer is a resounding YES.

So if Senator Harris knows this, then why is she posting something as fallacious as this?
It’s a good question.  

As I mentioned earlier, it’s my belief that she is engaging in one of three things:  Lying, telling a half-truth or is simply incompetent.

Prior to becoming a United States senator, Kamala Harris served as the District Attorney for San Francisco (2003-2011) and California Attorney General (2010-2016). So the idea that she is simply incompetent has little traction. That brings us to lying or telling a half-truth.

Conveniently, Senator Harris never actually makes the false claim against her fellow (Republican) senators, so she escapes the mantle of liar. Rather, she simply tosses out the link, along with her commentary, in an attempt to bait her constituents into running with the lie, which, since they are already pre-disposed to disliking Republicans, they gladly do.

And therein lies the true Heart of the American Problem: US.

We need to understand that politicians and pundits sell a product. One does it to get elected (or re-elected as the case may be) while the other does it for ratings, but in the end we are the consumer that supports it.

I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, Animal House, where Dean Wormer says: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I fear that is what we have become in America.

We have become fat through all the things available to us here in the U.S. Say what you will about systemic poverty, but the truth is that for the overwhelming majority of folks that live here, we know nothing about what true poverty is. It’s kind of hard to claim how bad things are when you’re lamenting about how miserable your life is on a social media post that you uploaded from your smart phone.

We have become drunk in our own hubris. We have come to believe that we are smarter than we actually are. Yesterday I was talking to my wife about things I consider generational shortcomings. I remarked that when we were younger there was actual work involved in research; including numerous trips to the library where we studied and took copious notes. This generation literally has access to the entire world, at its fingertips, yet they rarely touch on anything more than the surface of a particular topic.    

We have become stupid in our belief that we are being told the truth.  

At worse, the pundits and politicians lie to us simply because they know they can. Often they skew things so that it is only a half-truth, as is the case here, but it is still wrong.  I truly believe that things will not change in this country until we, as Americans, wake up to the deceit that is being perpetrated against us.

It is interesting to note that, in the early days of trying to put together the Affordable Care Act, Democrats were roundly criticized for exempting Congress and their staffers from the exchanges. Ironically, it was the Republicans who pushed the idea that if the exchanges were good enough for other Americans that they should be good enough for Congress. It was an amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R – IA) to the Senate bill that required the federal government offer only health plans that were part of an exchange to members of Congress and their staffs.

Maybe we should demand actual facts and not skewed talking points.

Maybe we should hold politicians and pundits accountable.

Maybe we should, but that won’t happen until we stop being casual readers and start educating ourselves about the issues, rather than relying on cute sound bites.

Maybe we should, but honestly I think we just might be too far gone. I think we have become too invested in all the lies to admit that we have been duped, but that is a topic I will discuss at a later date.

Friday, June 30, 2017

What Happened to Civility in America?

I’m a professional liar; I make things up for a living. In other words I’m an author, it’s what I do. In my books I twist tales of lies, deceit and schemes. For the most part the reader understands that, although I try to hold a few things back until the end. For the most part though, they know who the bad guys and gals are and they understand the underlying truth of their nefarious machinations.

Reality it seems is a bit different.

I woke up this morning and the world is coming unglued because of a tweet by President Trump directed at MSNBC Host Mika Brzezinski and her husband, Joe Scarborough.

I will be the first one to say that I wish that the President refrained from tweeting some of the more inflammatory stuff that he does, but that’s his decision not mine. What I find amusing is the meltdown that usually ensues.

I hate to break the bad news to you, but you need to wake up and smell the coffee, because civility is dead in America folks.

Much to the dismay of the folks on the left, it didn’t die on January 20th, 2017, nor did it die on June 16th, 2015.

No, the truth is that civility died long before that. It’s just that everybody was too busy to notice it.

Civility died when politicians realized that they could openly castigate their opponents and perpetuate false talking points for their political gain.

Civility died when news pundits realized that they could say anything they wanted, including baseless lies, while hiding behind the mantra of Freedom of the Press.

Civility died when we opened up our homes to the folly of reality television; where the most extreme and reprehensible behavior became our entertainment.

No, contrary to what many will tell you, civility didn’t die when we elected Donald Trump; we just exposed the dirty little secret that we had been hiding for decades.

The latest exchange shows that in all its ugly glory, but I am truly having a hard time being upset by it and here is the reason why: Because it’s fake outrage.

You see, for year’s politicians and pundits plied their salacious trade with Immunity.  In other words they fundamentally knew that something wasn’t true, or was a well scripted interpretation, but no one was going to call them on it. Tales were told for political gain and ratings glory. There was a status quo and it was generally adhered to.  

Then along came Donald Trump who walked into the room with a smile and flipped the damn table like some crazy chick on a reality TV show.

For the new viewers, who had just tuned in, it was an extraordinary example of a bully, someone who was completely unhinged and out of control.

Oh, the inhumanity of it all!

But for other viewers, who’d been watching for a while, it was simply the last straw that broke the camel’s back.  You see we had all watched the little subplots throughout the years; the goings-on behind the scenes. So by the time the table had been flipped, we all knew it was a long time coming. You see, the truth is that the last person to act out wasn’t the bully, but the victim who had simply grown tired of being pushed around; which takes us back to today.

Whether you like it or not, the President is hitting back and maybe it is about time. You see, I don’t ascribe to the belief that Donald Trump is a bully and that civility died with his election. I believe that it just exposed the incivility of the real bullies.  

I have little empathy for the folks in politics and the media. They’ve been acting the part of the bully for years and finally someone hit back. Now they realize that they are not as tough as they believed they were and have gone off crying to mommy and daddy. It’s like Kathy Griffin posing with a bloody mock-up of the President’s head. She knew exactly what she was doing and it was to further her celebrity. So when the backlash hit, her tears, and claims of being a victim, were not only hypocritical they were also hilarious.  

There is something magical about watching a bully get what they deserve.

I can't compete with this level of awesomeness !!
You see, she claims to be a comic, but there was nothing comedic in what she did. It was purely for political shock, designed to give her ‘D-List’ career (her words, not mine) a bump, so she deserves to get called out on it.  She only compounded her screw-up when she stood in front of a mic and claimed that ‘Trump broke me.’  

It would be like me, putting down my keyboard and grabbing my axe, then jumping on stage to steal the show from Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch. I would wholly deserve the ridicule that would ensue.

Then again, in the immortal words of P.T. Barnum, “There is no such thing as bad publicity” and I could think of worse things than being mentioned in the same sentence as Zo, but I digress.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I wish that the President didn’t tweet some of the things he does, but I am not going to fault him without first ID’ing who the instigator was.  Many in the media, and those up on Capitol Hill, are castigating the President, but just like Mika Brzezinski, they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Consider this for a moment. Earlier this month the MSNBC host went on a verbal tirade. During which she referred to the President as a “Narcissist”, “Mentally Ill’, “Not Well”, “Ignorant”, “Stupid”, “says he can grab women anywhere” and further insinuated that he might have homosexual tendencies. Yet now I am supposed to have empathy for her? Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

From day one Donald Trump said “I’m a counter puncher. You hit me, I’ll hit back.” Now everyone seems shocked because that’s what he is doing?

It’s time to pull up your big girl pants, Mika, and take the lumps you deserve. If you want to criticize him for his policies, have at it. If you want to investigate anything, go for it, but if you think you can make it personal and not get any blowback, you are extremely naïve.

Here’s a news flash folks:  If you want civility you need to learn to act civil first.

How about talking about facts, instead of going on personal attacks?

To be fair, this is not a left or right thing. In fact, it is a truly bi-partisan issue.  I didn’t agree with President Obama on a great many things, but I could give you articulate reasons for my positions. I didn’t yell or scream to get those points across and I certainly didn’t resort to name calling. Yet, that seems to be the norm these days.

I don’t like what we have become in this country and I fear where we are going. When political discourse devolves into nothing more than baseless rhetoric, screaming matches and finally violence, we have lost our way.

I have always wanted to believe that this truly is not who we are as Americans, but maybe I’m the one who is naive. Perhaps what we are seeing now is the shedding of the facade. Perhaps we are just now showing our true colors.

As a wordsmith, I create stories in my mind, than I commit them to paper, to entertain the reader. All authors strive to create a plausible story-line, even when the plot might seem to be wildly exaggerated. I’m watching what is happening in this country and I find myself being profoundly sad and yet jealous at the way this is all unfolding.

I would be proud to spin this tale and yet this is not fiction.  We are not readers, we are witnesses. Instead of watching the sordid goings-on of fictional characters, we are watching other humans destroy this country for their political gain and media ratings.  If we wait for them to change, this will end up being a tragedy on the scale of a Shakespearean play.

It has to start with us. We have to learn how to be civil again with one another. We might not agree on the issues, but we have to treat each other with respect. Only then can we claim to have the moral high ground to demand the same from our elected officials and journalists.

I just pray it is not too late.