‘Tough Guy’ Rights

Chris Collins might have noted that congressional failure to better legislate sensible measures is part—not all, but part—of the problem he now wants to arm himself against. This failure puts all citizens in jeopardy, not just the seersucker crowd on Capitol Hill.
“I’ll be exercising my Second Amendment right to carry a firearm as I travel my district.”

Representative Chris Collins is acting tough.

“Here’s what’s not up for debate,” the New York Republican wrote in Monday’s Washington Post. “From now on, I’ll be exercising my Second Amendment right to carry a firearm as I travel my district.”

Collins has some right to feel the need for protection. A gunman went ballistic last week in Virginia, shooting at congressmen, U.S. Capitol Police, and staffers as they practiced for a charity baseball game. There’s no denying that it’s his right to carry a gun, within the confines limited by his permit.

But rather than play the victim of intimidation by firearms, Collins might instead have noted that congressional failure to better legislate sensible measures is part—not all, but part—of the problem he now wants to arm himself against. This failure puts all citizens in jeopardy, not just the seersucker crowd on Capitol Hill.

Or would Rootin’ Tootin’ Collins have our six year olds protect themselves from the next school shooting by tucking pistols in their Pokemon lunch boxes?

What Collins has told us is, when it comes to curbing the plague of gun violence in America, “I give up.” He isn’t bravely facing a fight; he is in cowardly fashion disturbing the peace, yelling ‘FIRE’ in a movie theater and standing smugly back with a matchstick in his hand.

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Witch Hunt

"If the turd floats, it isn't a witch."

Let’s not kid ourselves. Among the many mistakes in Arthur Miller’s talented life (he divorced Marilyn Monroe after just 5 yrs) was his choice of title for The SINGLE GREATEST Story About American History’s Salem Witch Trials.

The Crucible. The Crucible? What’s this, Chemistry class? Are we grinding elements here to torch them with a Bunsen Burner? No wonder High School English was such a drag! We were stuck reading “The Crucible” when we could have been reading:

The Single Greatest WITCH HUNT in American Political History

How our young minds would have tuned to the salacious proceedings! We may not have had Smart phones and Twitter feeds back then, but we sure had our share of demagogues in the corridors of power. How much more quickly would Joe McCarthy have been taken down if only Arthur Miller hadn’t been such a pansy about his title!

I’ll leave you with a bit of wisdom overheard in my high school’s 3-corridor lav, a place where renegades and truants filled their lungs with smoke during the long years of forced reading. They seemed to have retained something of those lectures about Salem, about Washington, and about the natural state of man. None other than high school bully D. Whalon said, staring into the abyss of the toilet in the stall next to mine:

“If the turd floats, it isn’t a witch.”

Washington’s mighty Potomac, already a cesspool of toxic runoff and waste, might just be the place to test this theory in our modern day WITCH HUNT. And I wonder, if he were to be dunked unto its waters, would the hunted Don John himself sink? Or would the turd float?

We, the People from U.N.C.L.E.

Enough! The past eight days has brought just too much to keep up with. How do you address and condemn one awful imposition on our sanity without condoning all the others by omission? And how can you possibly write up all that condemnation?!

This quandary has me in a state of total paralysis.

  • Let me count the ways:
    • Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum in Contempt of Congress
    • Congressional Contempt for the FBI
    • The Elmer Fudd Congressional Sessions
    • Hosannahs in the Highest: A Cabinet Full of Praise
    • The PR Excuse Puppet—“The President Is New At This”
    • Bend Over, America, While We Step Behind the GOP’s Curtain
    • May We Also Tweak Your Finances?
    • Prez to House: Your Bill Is Mean. Thanks for Passing It.
    • Congressional Baseball Shootout.
    • Obstruction. Of. Justice.

More, More, More!

Surely I’ve left something out. Please add your concerns below. I’ll be sure to pass them along to U.N.C.L.E.—United Now to Counter Legislative (and other) Evil!

The Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade

I want loyalty, I need loyalty

No writing has influenced my work more than Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Not the Bible. Not the Constitution. Not even The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which is a pretty great book and should be thrown full force at anyone who tries to ban it.

I wrote my first novel, Two Pumps for the Body Man, under the deep influence of Catch-22. I wrote it to oppose tyranny. I wrote it in response to the maddening bureaucracy all around me. I wrote it to protest a blind march to war in Iraq because of an attack that originated in Afghanistan.

Part of that project died with the natural lapse of the Bush-Cheney era, the Rumsfeld snowflakes era, the Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby era. The book had yet to be published and already, with the passing of the forces behind the so-called ‘War on Terror’, it had become irrelevant.

Or had it? After 52 years, has Catch-22 become irrelevant?

One of the more scathing passages from that classic relates to the headlines today. In The Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, Captain Black has all the men in the combat squadron ‘dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them’ and ‘bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long’ even as they suit up and prepare to fly into anti-aircraft artillery.

“The important thing is to keep them pledging,” he explained to his cohorts. “It doesn’t matter whether they mean it or not. That’s why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what ‘pledge’ and ‘allegiance’ means….”

…“Of course, it’s up to you,” Captain Black pointed out. “Nobody’s trying to pressure you. But everyone else is making them sign loyalty oaths, and it’s going to look mighty funny to the F.B.I. if you are the only ones who don’t care enough about your country to sign loyalty oaths.”

In the final version of Two Pumps, the idea of an oath to loyalty is whittled down to a few lines in a passage about secrecy. Two junior officers are asked to sign declarations of loyalty, discretion, and, finally, the SDDTS Clearance Waiver Non-Disclosure Form, which is a meaningless form that doesn’t exist, mainly because Super Duper Double Top Secret Clearances don’t exist.

As far as I know.

But loyalty exists. It’s a return on trust. And those who want it, those who need it, must first earn it.

*Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.
-Johann Heinrich Heine

Deplorable

The ghost of Hillary Clinton had something to say in California this week:

“I get the nomination. So I’m now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. I mean, it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it.”

Add to her long, sad laundry list of people and organizations to blame for her loss is the Democratic National Committee itself? Despite the fact that leaked emails prove top DNC officials mocked Hillary’s lone rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, during the primary campaign? That the purportedly neutral organization openly conspired to stack the deck against him in her favor?

Her deplorable utterances this week demonstrate why the country has the leadership it currently has. And now the DNC has a class action lawsuit to fight off (charging fraud, deception, and negligence during the 2016 primaries*),  when its real work should be supporting candidates that might re-balance the single-party juggernaut running Washington right now.

I don’t care that FDR and JFK were Democrats, that Abe and Teddy were Republicans. The party means nothing. The character of the individuals leading the party is what matters. And right now it’s clear that the character of our party leaders is nothing less than deplorable.

*An attorney backing the suit has demanded the DNC repay its donors and Sanders supporters for contributions made throughout the election, citing a misappropriation of public funds.

Kush for FBI

It’s little wonder the hunt for a new FBI Director seems to have ground to a halt.

The country’s next top cop will be subservient to a criminal, whose charge sheet includes housing discrimination in NYC, fraud related to an eponymous university, bribery of a federal judge, tax and immigration violations, and sexual predation.

This Whitman’s Sampler of criminal acts doesn’t even get into current allegations of obstructing an investigation into collusion with a foreign entity to win the presidency. After all, they’re only allegations.

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We Have Better Writers

Kevin Spacey tells Stephen Colbert why House of Cards makes for better viewing than the drama issuing daily from the ‘real’ White House. “I do believe we have better writers.”

Season five binge-watching begins May 30. “I have to say, I think we’ve never been more relevant.”

Earlier thoughts on the House of Cards opening credits… Not just some anodyne tour around the nation’s capital…. a sly, purposeful montage fit for the cunning Frank Underwood.

Best 90 seconds on TV.

In Flight Entertainment for POTUS

What are Trump & Co. reading as they wing their way to Saudi Arabia tonight?

Two Pumps for the Body Man!

This black comedy set in Saudi Arabia does for American diplomacy what Catch 22 did for military logic: The enemy in the War on Terror can’t kill us if our own institutions kill us first.

Jeff Mutton walks the diplomatic beat protecting American officials in Saudi Arabia. An expert with guns and knives, grenades and rockets, he’s survived assaults and sieges, stabbings and chokeholds, car bombs, carjackings, criminal hits, and countless other enemy threats. But instinct tells Mutton the menace he now faces dwarfs all these killers combined. The fool!—his foot fetish has him in hot water again.

Part soft-boiled noir, part literary satire, Two Pumps for the Body Man is an unserious look at a serious situation, a grim reminder that no matter how high the barricade, how sharp the razor wire, there is no front line to the War on Terror. And the enemy is everywhere, even within.

Available in print and electronic versions from New Pulp Press through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online vendors. Review copies available upon request.


 “A wonderfully wacky consular bash in a place called The Kingdom, a nightmarish place straight out of Catch-22 where bureaucrats use very acronym under the sun… haywire bureaucracy at its finest.”
                                  -Robert Bruce Cormack, You Can Lead a Horse to Water    
                                                                         (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)

Let Us Not Be Quiet

Revisiting Remarque before peace eludes

My copy of All Quiet on the Western Front is a tattered thing. The cover, already coming apart in brittle pieces, fell off entirely as I read. It was appropriate to the fate of narrator Paul Baumer to see that cover come away.

It is the father of all modern war writing (though it disdains fathers).

It gives us the Lost Generation in its rawest form. It came out about the same time as A Farewell to Arms (1929) and Remarque seems to have tapped the same narrative vein as Hemingway. Is it the standard voice of those who witnessed firsthand the horrors of WWI; or is it the standard voice of all warrior-writers? Mailer, Heller, Tim O’Brien, Kevin Powers write with the same wry tension when they write of the Second World War, Vietnam, the most recent war in Iraq.

Heller is far windier than the others, so it surprises me to think that so much of Catch-22‘s invective can be found in Remarque. It is invective born of rage at the military as an institution, at institutional blindness writ-large.

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Love and Protest

Amy’s Story by Anna Lawton sets a tempestuous romance against the turbulent half-century of global change that erupted in the 1960s and flowed across the land like a modern Great Flood. The novel plants the seeds of these decades in the post-World War One migration from Europe to the United States and reveals the newest fruits—poison to some, nectar to others—in the closing pages. The private romance and the public turmoil work together to create a story as much about love as it is about progress, about aspiration and success as about longing and loss.

A third conflict, the subtle struggle between the adventurous Amy and childhood friend Stella (with whom she shares a surprising connection) can be summed up in a line: ‘She tried to pull me back and make me think before jumping into action, although my instinct often prevailed.’

At every level the book addresses the question, ‘Where are you from?’ And the structure suggests there is no true answer without first understanding the history that brings you there.

The protagonist arrives in L.A. from Turin as the lover of a charming, if arrogant, Fulbright scholar. Jim is writing an industry-shattering book about Italian film’s influence on Hollywood, an anti-establishment work that will keep him struggling for years to win his place at the table. The pair struggle together; they’re a team; and their struggle occurs at a time when baby boomers around the world are struggling to upend the status quo.

We know the reasons: the war in Vietnam; political assassinations; craven and unstable American leadership; beats and hippies and drugs and music; the push for racial and gender equality. A trip to Mexico during these years reveals the nightmare women endured in the years before Roe v. Wade, a stunning description of the harrowing limits being pushed in the struggle to maintain control over a woman’s own body.

But as her mentor makes plain, not all protestors understand exactly what or why they protest. ‘These kids fill up their mouths with words such as Marxism, Communism, class struggle, revolution, but they don’t even know their true meaning. They lack historical knowledge, never went to the roots.’

The roots he refers to are the ideas from Europe that stitched themselves into the fabric of the American Constitution. And his lesson carries an eerie foretaste of the conformity and demagoguery that duped 46.1% of voting Americans last fall: ‘The ‘mass’… this is one of the favorite words in Marxist parlance because the mass can be easily manipulated. All you need is a charismatic leader, a simplistic doctrine, smart images on posters and banners, and…. A new dogma is born, an absolute truth, and all genuflect to it.’

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