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Two Americas

In one America, the President goes to a mosque to deliver a speech that recognizes the multiculturalism that is our country, the right to freedom of religion that is one of the foundations of our country’s founding, and to recognize that Muslim-Americans are exactly that Americans.

In the other, a Republican nominee (Rubio) then criticizes the President for making that speech and “pitting people against each other.”  In the other, all Muslims should be banned from entering this country, including small children orphaned by war.  (Christie)  In the other, all Muslims should be banned from entering this country, including those who are American citizens who travel abroad.  (Trump)

In one America, Americans ridicule Muslims and decry their use of the phrase Allahu Akbar, which means something like God is Great or God is the Greatest.

Oddly enough, in that same America, Republican nominees begin their victory speeches with “To God be the Glory.”  (Cruz)  Make it clear in debates that Jesus Christ is the savior. (Rubio)  And do all sorts of other things that profess the exact same perspective and dedication to God as Allahu Akbar means to Muslims — while living in that world in which Muslims are ridiculed and criticized and demonized for their profession of faith to God.

In the other America, all faiths, including the absence of faith, are cherished and respected.

Need I go on.

One wonders if there ever will be one America.

[Edited to add:  This is the kind of sentiment that Marco Rubio who wants to be your President believes is pitting people against each other.  From Obama’s speech yesterday:

“If we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.”]


A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

When I thought of writing this post yesterday, it was going to be titled Accountability, because I was going to cover a couple of “promises” I’ve made in the last couple of weeks.  To hold me accountable.  But, then there were some updates I wanted to provide in some other areas.  And, then there was something that came up that seemed to just be a random thought.  More fitting to my A Peek Inside kind of posts.  So, here’s what you get…


A little over two weeks ago, I started walking.  Inspired by another blogger, I decided to engage in a serious commitment to start running again.  I started walking on August 15 and talked with my physical therapist on August 16.  Since then I have gone for a walk every day except for the two days I was in Long Beach.  Some days I have gone for two walks — one first thing in the morning and the other when I get home from work.  All told, I’m thinking I’ve probably walked about 45-50 miles over the last sixteen days.  Yesterday, I hit five miles for my morning walk.  I’ll be walking again today.  On the physical therapy side, I’ve done my exercises every day except for those two Long Beach days.

So, how’s it all feeling down there?  I can tell I’m getting stronger, but I also know that the PT exercises I’m doing are at the lowest level of engagement with my injured area.  To recap — I tore a muscle high up in my inner thigh three times before going to see the sports doc.  It’s a groin muscle and what I’ve learned is that the whole groin complex of muscles is, well, complex.  The injury has caused serious problems in other areas of the groin.  While I can tell that the muscle I tore is still damaged and weak, the other areas seem to have improved.  Plus, they continue to be less bothersome with each walk.  On a pain/discomfort scale, two weeks ago, I was probably at a three while walking.  Now, I’m down to a one.  There’s enough there for me to know it’s there, but that’s it.  I’m now waiting for the next round of exercises from the physical therapist and trying as hard as I possibly can not to break into a jog while walking.  That’s the hardest part.  As I walk along, very briskly, I think “if I can walk five miles, why can’t I jog a bit?”  I know why, so I resist.  It’ll come.  Hopefully in a couple more months and the truth is that I’m enjoying the walks.

My goal:  A half marathon, October 2014

More Accountability

After a long cold spell on the writing front — marked by little progress and massive indecision about what to work on — I have made significant strides in both areas.  Deviation is chugging along.  Every time I sit down to work on it, I’m able to produce 1,000 words relatively effortlessly.  It’s now over 13,000 words long and I’m beginning to think of how the story is going to wind down.  I’m also considering the editing I’ll have to do for the story.

I’ve also made some very specific decisions about the next few months of writing projects.  September is for completing Deviation.  October will be for Northville Five & Dime.  November will be for Spaceship Earth — a story I don’t know that I’ve mentioned here.  It’s a sexy, end of the world, sci-fi thingamajig.  Once I have all three stories complete, I’m going to publish them individually for the Kindle.  I’m also going to publish a paperback with all three stories, plus my other two longer short stories — The Marfa Lights and Shady Acres.  Or maybe I’ll just publish the three new stories together in the paperback.  Haven’t decided about that yet.  But each of these stories will, or should, end up being in the 15,000-25,000 word range, although I’m not sure about Spaceship Earth.  It may well end up longer than that.

Once I’m done with those stories, I’ll head back to one of my half-completed novels.  These short stories are helping me tremendously.  To write and also to remember that I can actually bring to conclusion a significant writing effort.  I was beginning to wonder if I could do that.

An Update

August has been a long, cruel month for my publishing efforts.  One Night in Bridgeport was doing well as I entered August, selling 250 downloads in July and continuing to produce a handful each day.  I decided to see what would happen if I raised the price to $2.99 and learned a painful lesson.  Sales dropped off.  So I put the price back to .99 and then offered a couple of free days.  Things were still slow for a few days.  I have this idea that Bridgeport at .99 could (should?) produce at least 100 downloads every month.  It wasn’t looking good for August and I thought I had done permanent damage to my sales of the book.  Until the last few days when I went from 68 to 97 for the month.  Almost got there.  I’m done monkeying around with the price.  Bridgeport is now there at .99.  For good or bad.

Weed Therapy, however, has been completely flat.  What I learned from promoting Bridgeport has produced virtually nothing for Weed Therapy.  Lesson learned — different book, different genre, different approach.  I’m still noodling over this while waiting for some more reviews to come in.  There must be a way to find the audience for the book.  I just haven’t figured it out yet.

Another Update

Go here.  The Paperbook Collective is a new on-line literary/creative effort.  The September 1 issue is the second for Jayde Ashe, an Australian blogger who is trying to put out a monthly collection of poetry, short stories, photography, art — just about any type of creative mode.  I have two short pieces of flash fiction in the September issue.  Check it out and contribute yourself for future issues.

A Peek Inside

I think some people will look at President Obama’s speech yesterday and say once again that he is weak, that he vacillates, that he’s unwilling to take a stand, that he doesn’t know what he is doing.  Personally, I think what he did was a master stroke.  Everybody wants him to do something.  Nobody wants him to do anything.  Great.  Give it to Congress and let them figure out a way out of this mess.  Let the Republicans self-destruct over this and demonstrate, once again, their unfitness. It also turns back the tide of criticism about the Imperial Presidency — that in matters such as these where the Constitution and federal law requires Congress’s consent for military interventions Presidents should not go it alone without the required Congressional approval.  It actually returns the U.S. to a place it should have occupied for the last few decades but didn’t because of the fractures in our political system.  I’m looking forward to seeing how Congress handles this.

What do I think should happen?  I’m a believer in using force for purposes of good.  There are times when the powerful have a moral duty to protect the less powerful.  It’s why I supported Clinton’s efforts in Bosnia 20 years ago.  It’s why I thought we should have down more in the Sudan.  Yes, there are plenty of examples of such efforts producing no benefit or, worse, dragging us into a mess.

The Middle East is certainly a mess waiting to become a quagmire.  We have done enough damage to our standing in the area over the last sixty years and even more so in the last decade.  And there are enemies on all sides just waiting for the opportunity to turn one country’s civil war into something larger.  As a result, there are huge risks if we strike Assad’s regime or intervene more heavily in the civil war.  That said, a government’s use of chemical weapons is simply unacceptable.  The brutality the Assad family has unleashed on the people of Syria for decades at some point has to end.  I struggle with the idea that we should just stand by and watch.

And now a video for you …

Or two …

It’s 6:24 in the morning.  It’s dark outside, but the sun is about to make it’s appearance.  Time to go for a walk.



Four More Years

I broke my vow to myself.  I’m back before Tuesday, but I’d like to think you’ll forgive me as this post is relevant to this weekend’s MLK theme.

Just finished watching President Obama’s second inaugural.  I really can’t describe how proud I am to live in an America that elected, and then re-elected, a black man as President.  Here’s where my conservatives will probably be saying “Ah ha!  So, it’s true, you voted for him because he’s black.”  Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not the case.  If Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens player and black) was running for dogcatcher, let alone President, I wouldn’t vote for him.  If Beyonce was running for President, I wouldn’t vote for her.  Now, if she were … well, never mind.

My point is, it’s not the color of the President’s skin that matters, it is as Martin Luther King suggested almost fifty years ago, the content of his character.

Barak Obama-United States-Politics

Back in the 80’s, I voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 Democratic primaries.  Why?  Again, not because he was black, but because he gave a speech somewhere along the way that just turned me upside down, and then at the 1984 Democratic convention, he upped it a few hundred notches with a  thundering oration that brought me to tears.  Besides all that, what were my choices in those primaries – Mondale and Dukakis?  Um, no thanks.  I wanted passion and energy, dreams and hope.  Jesse Jackson offered that.  That was when I was young and a dreamer, believing in the possibility of the ideal.

I still have some of that in me, but as is typical when we age, I’ve become more practical, I think.  What I want rather than a visionary (even if I still want that a bit) is a President who is an adult.

Think back to 2008.  I can’t deny that Hillary Clinton was qualified to serve as President, but I don’t like political dynasties.  I couldn’t imagine the benefit to our country if we went from four years of Bush, to eight years of Clinton, to eight years of Bush, to four or eight years of Clinton, and then probably another Bush after that.  I wanted an end to the ownership of the Presidency by families.  As well, as much as I respected Bill Clinton and his accomplishments as President, I didn’t need the drama of a Clinton presidency again.

Into the gap stepped Barack Obama, who demonstrated all of the things I wanted in a President.  Responsibility.  Humility.  Consistency.  Steadiness.  In a room full of children, Barack Obama seemed to be the lone adult.  After the nominating conventions, it came down to him or John McCain, who, as a counterpoint to Barack Obama’s steadiness, showed an amazing lack of maturity and responsibility.

It was a no-brainer in November 2008.  Not because Barack Obama was black, but because of who he was.  How he ran his campaign.  The words he spoke.  The ideas he shared.  And, yes, in the glow of the election and his victory, he even spoke to my need for a bit of a visionary.  He offered a vision of hope.

Over the past four years he has remained the adult in that roomful of children.  And enough Americans saw through the hysteria of the election to re-elect him.  There was a paragraph during his speech this morning that hit home with me because it gets right to the point of what is wrong with America these days.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

This statement defines more than anything else the divide we have here.  After decades of a common understanding that the social safety net – affordable quality education, social security for retirement, unemployment for unexpected crises, medical care for the poor and the disabled, etc. — provided security to people so they could live their lives, take risks, spend money, grow the economy, become stronger, healthier and more successful, we have a sizable segment of our population who believe that the safety net is for takers and leeches.  They can’t possibly see, in their selfish little world, how their own lives will improve if the lives of those around are at risk.  I’m not sure why it’s so difficult to understand the truth behind “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

That was a bit of a diversion from the main point of this post.  Which was this.  America re-elected a black man to the Presidency.  What is clear to me as a result is that enough Americans have got past the meaningless insignificance of skin color and were able to look inside and see what mattered – to put into action Martin Luther King’s dream that one day his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  It’s a great day for America.  I only wish those who so virulently oppose the President could see that.

Here’s hoping that the next four years will not be like the last four – a primal scream of rage at the idea that “their” country elected a black man as President.  Here’s hoping that the next four years will instead be about coming together as Americans, not red or blue, black or white, but as Americans working together to solve our common problems.  Because, yes, they are common problems.  The wealthiest of us must worry about the poorest, while the poorest must take responsibility as well.  There is a common good we should be striving for – a ground we can all walk on without fear.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Like Lemmings … here, let me be the first to jump off the cliff


Before the election, there was much talk about the coming fiscal cliff.  Since President Obama was re-elected and the Republicans got a bit of a smack-down, the fiscal cliff has become the hot topic, the topic de jeur, the thing that shall not happen.  It can’t.  It won’t.  It’s unimaginable.  It simply cannot and will not happen.  Why?  Because nobody likes it.  Which is the single, and only needed, reason that we must proceed over the cliff.

The best political deal is one that nobody likes.

Here’s what I understand the fiscal cliff to consist of:

1.  The end of the Bush tax cuts and a return to the Clinton era tax rates.  Call me a fan of this.  Let’s see Clinton era … converted a budget deficit to a surplus, ushered in the biggest economic boom in decades.  Interesting thing about this.  I always thought those tax measures were the result of bipartisan efforts, that it was a part of the two parties coming together.  Then I read this week’s Newsweek.  Turns out that not one single Republican in either the House or the Senate has voted for a tax increase since 1990.  Guess that whole balancing the budget wasn’t quite the bipartisan effort I thought it was.  So, who needs the Republicans this year.  Without any action, the Bush tax cuts will expire and we’ll return to the sanity of the Clinton era.  Why is this good?  It not only raises taxes on the wealthy, but on others as well.  Broadening the tax base.  count me as one person in the middle class who is willing to pay more in taxes to solve the country’s fiscal woes.

2.  Massive cuts in defense spending.  Check.  I am totally fine with cutting the bloated monster of our defense budget.  Talk about waste.

3.  Cuts and reforms to entitlement programs.  There has to be some shared pain, and it’s absolutely necessary to solve the problem.

Here’s what I believe.  The problem is too huge to solve without major new revenues and major cuts.  What I believe is that all need to share in the pain.  And, if we all do, the boom will come, just like it did during the Clinton years.  Why is that?  It’s pretty simple.  Investors, whether institutions and individuals in this country, or foreign institutions and other countries, are currently throwing more than $1 trillion a year at the federal deficit.  Imagine what might happen if that money instead was invested in companies, technology and innovation like it was during the Clinton era.

I say we shouldn’t be tiptoeing up to the cliff and pondering what might happen were we to jump.  Let’s not walk carefully to its precipice.  No, my choice would be that we run as fast as we can towards it and leap out as far as we can into the great abyss of increased revenues, real cuts, and fiscal sanity.

Why Obama Won

It’s pretty simple actually.  The Republican brand is tarnished and more and more of America is becoming moderate to liberal.  In other words, contrary to the Fox News spin, we are not a center/right country.  We are a center/left country.  More and more every day.

George W. Bush fought two wars on a credit card, lying his way into one of them, failing to have an effective plan for either of them.  He cut taxes, but increased spending, and pretty much spent eight years being a doofus.  The single biggest reason we are in the mess we are in today (although, as discussed below, it actually isn’t as bad as all of the doomsayers insist) is the result of GWB’s presidency.  This is not about blaming him for what is happening now to escape any responsibility Obama and the Dems may have.  It’s simply a reality.  He was not a responsible steward of the nation’s resources and as he left office he left our country in the worst place it has been in in decades.  Have no doubt, the man will go down as one of our worst Presidents in history.  And Americans, most of them anyway, know this.  Why go back to that?  If he was the end of the downward spiral of the Republican Party, they might have had a chance this year.  However …

It didn’t end with him, though.  In response to Obama’s victory in 2008, the Republican Party became, not just the party of no, but the party of the extreme right wing.  Yes, there are still moderates in the party, but the face of the Republican Party — the leaders in Congress and in statehouses around the country — has become a screaming, tantrum-throwing ensemble of the worst the Republican Party has to offer.  There are too many examples of this, but the best are the statements of Republican Senate candidates regarding rape.  Maybe those comments make sense to a subset of America, but to the rest, they sound extreme, dangerous, and, well, loony.

Put another way from Thomas Friedman in the NY Times:

Many in the next generation of America know climate change is real, and they want to see something done to mitigate it.  Many in the next generation of America will be of Hispanic origin and insist on humane immigration reform that gives a practical legal pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants … Many in the next generation of America see gays and lesbians in their families, workplaces and Army barracks, and they don’t want to deny them the marriage rights held by others.  The GOP today is at war with too many in the next generation of America on all of these issues.

In its reaction to the election of the first black President, the Republican party has sunk to the depths of reactionary fear.  They have become the party of older white men and are experiencing their last angry gasp.  As a result, the Republican brand isn’t just tarnished, it is become more and more irrelevant in ever larger parts of the country.

As well, while the Republicans ran around the country telling us how horrible things were, I think a lot of people were looking around and thinking “what are they talking about?”  Yes, the unemployment level is still too high.  Yes, the economy is not growing as quickly as we would like.  But the simple reality is that there are still a lot of people who are doing OK.  The demise of the American economy is an event that hasn’t actually occurred.

Into this world the Republican Party nominated Mitt Romney and allowed Clint Eastwood to engage in the most bizarre convention speech ever — the same Clint Eastwood, by the way, who narrated the Chrysler commercial during the 2012 Super Bowl which touted its comeback — made possible by Obama’s auto bailout.  Anybody see any inconsistency there.  I do.  It shows tough guy Clint to be nothing more than a shill — giving his name and voice to whoever will pay.  Clint’s a sideshow, however.

Mitt Romney was the first, second and last act of this year’s Republican effort to re-gain the presidency.  Let’s see … wouldn’t disclose his tax returns.  Primary claim to fame was running a hedge fund responsible for the destruction of jobs and companies.  Millionaire with dollars coming out of his pores and elevators for his cars.  A man who “struggled” while in college, while living on the $100,000 in stock given to him by family.  There are far too many examples of why he didn’t fit the American mood this year — but, it’s really pretty simple.  The party with a tarnished brand nominated as their standard-bearer a man out-of-touch with most of America (witness his 47% comment) and who represented so much of what is wrong with the system for those of us who are working and struggling to make a living.

Add to this the following from Real Clear Politics summary after the election:

After calling the president to congratulate him, a spent and disappointed — but nevertheless smiling — Mitt Romney made a brief speech to his supporters in Boston.  Afterward, numerous pundits noted that his remarks were uncommonly gracious.  But Democratic consultant Paul Begal and former Republican White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also found the speech notable for what was not in it:  There was no list of issues and causes that he’ll fight for in the future, no real discussion of the specific choices Americans will have to make in the future.  It was simply not, Fleischer and Begala observed, a concession speech from a movement leader.

This shouldn’t have been a surprise.  Romney’s critics on both the right and the left often accused him of lacking ‘a core” but those who are close to him believe this misses the essence of the man utterly.  ‘Core” values to Romney are his church and family, and to them he is a consistently devoted servant.

The point being, I believe, that not only did Romney represent so much of what is wrong with the system, he also failed to offer a vision of the future because he has none.  He’s comparable to Mondale in 1984 and Dukakis in 1988.  Technocrats.  Wonks.  Candidates who have all the facts and none of the vision or passion people want as their … ready for it … leaders.  Mitt Romney may be fine at running the Olympics, or managing a hedge fund, but that does not make him the kind of leader people choose to run their government.

Finally, I offer two things.  First, although the Republican Party tried relentlessly to suggest that President Obama had done nothing in the past four years, I think more Americans saw through that lie.  And, seeing that was a lie, questioned the rest of the foundational claims made by Romney and his party.  The man he accused of an apology tour killed Osama Bin Laden when GWB couldn’t.  He ended the Iraq War when GWB couldn’t.  He took strong action to ensure the overthrow of Qadhafi.  On the economy, while Republicans were claiming we were doomed, the rest of America saw a President who bailed out the auto industry, saving millions of jobs.  They recognized he had inherited an impossible situation and didn’t expect overnight miracles.  The list of accomplishments could go on, but I’ll leave it at that.  Most Americans, rather than seeing the doomsday scenario of the current Republican Party, actually recognize the progress being made and the value of the man who is President.

Second, there are plenty of other events that took place this week to support the thesis that we are becoming more center/left than center/right.  How many states’ voters approved marriage equality?  How many states’ voters approved the legalization of marijuana (something I oppose)?  Here in California, the voters agreed to tax themselves and approved a rational loosening of three strikes.  The extremism of the Republican Party was rejected in enough states that the Democrats actually gained seats in the United States Senate when all predictions were for the opposite.

Which brings us back to the title of this post.  Why did Obama Win?  As Thomas Friedman suggests … at a time when this country is becoming more and more diverse and more tolerant, the Republican Party is becoming the complete opposite.  Either they figure out that America is filled with the most diverse population ever put together in the history of this planet or they don’t.  And, if they don’t, they will become less and less relevant as time goes on.

As a lifelong Democrat, I hope they figure it out.  I don’t believe in one-party rule.  I believe in compromise and moderation and the value in two strong political parties that force that compromise and moderation.

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