Saturday, May 26, 2018


Shooting eight-ball with Max.

Max observes the woman at the bar,
drunk and stumbling about the place.
Her makeup is excessive.
Her garb extravagant.
Her bra is too tight.
She flirts with the bartender.
It's distracting Max's game.

"Don't you think that's sad?"
he remarks, missing the side pocket.
"Look at her!"

Max is referring to her size.
She's a considerable woman,
dressed in glitter-encrusted leggings
and a low-cut blouse which scarcely
contains her breasts.
The blouse is too short to cover
the expanse of her midriff.
A belly ring jingles when she laughs.

"It's disgusting, " Max protests.
"No one wants to look at that."

He looks at it.
He cannot stop looking at it.

I nearly sink the eight ball,
corner pocket, leaving Max an easy,
cross-table finisher.

A handsome couple enters the bar.
They scout a booth near the jukebox,
order drinks and quietly groom themselves.

She adjusts her off-shoulder sweater
while laboring over song selection.
He picks lint from his gaberdine jacket.
She touches her makeup with
a pocket mirror, sips her beer
as it it were coffee.
He lights a cigarette, draws from it,
gets ash on his jacket.
He brushes away the ash.

They inhabit an aching self-awareness,
as if they feel the eyes of the room
upon them, discriminating eyes,
raw and envious.

Only, I am not envious,
not of them.

It does not take courage
to wear vanity so cheaply.

"I like the big one," I say to Max
as he draws the cue for his shot.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Nice Young Man

I guessed right off
by the fanciful demeanor
and baroque, manicured appearance.
Barbara Streisand records
on display in the parlor were a
decisive give-away.

He said he was a teacher
of "special children" in a nearby
Oklahoma town.  His mother
left him the estate in her will,
and he turned it into a Bed & Breakfast
as supplemental income.

I know men like him
who fled to the big city in their youth,
delivering themselves from
the stranglehold of intolerance,
yet here he was, fledgling entrepreneur,
charitable volunteer, director
of the Presbyterian church choir,
as rooted in the red soil as
the Cottonwood tree that shaded
my bedroom window.

I'd have liked to ask why
a middle-aged man living alone
in the dust bowl of America
had not turned his heels
in search of companionship,
but thought better of it when he
produced a photograph of
daughter and grandchild,
the blessed outcome, he declared,
of an awkward high-school affair.

In the morning, he prepared
a table of fresh berries and scones,
poached eggs, coffee, crème brûlée
in homemade raspberry sauce.

Our dear Grandmother,
for whom we traveled many miles
to celebrate a birthday,
remarked with modest aplomb
that our host reminded her of
the nice young man who designed
her home interior remodel.

"You're thinking of Cousin Jerry,"
her sister replied.
"Such a sensitive boy he was.
Shame he never married."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Iyla Grace 5.0

  Iyla Grace 5.0 is available today.  The release includes alphabet and numeric character recognition, restaurant self-ordering feature, a penchant for theatrical storytelling, and an endearing affection for her little sister ... Happy Birthday to my little Buddy.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Workweek Headline

I can bear the cold stupidity of rush-hour traffic,
endure mindless rage hurdled at me from embattled commuters.

I can take orders from crackpots and charlatans,
suffer the drudgery of office politics and the bruising march
to another payday.  I can do that, I tell you.

And I can face the terror of the ordinary citizen
and his ordinary ways.  Have I not done it these many ears?

So, if it's not too much to ask, my Darling, would you
kindly acquit a few dirty dishes left in the sink, loose change
in the laundry, forgetting that your mother called?

Because if I do not merit a little warmth and understanding
from you, my Love, I swear I am fated to a tragic
and desperate end:


**First published in Pearl literary magazine, Fall/Winter 2004

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Eloise Jane 1.0

  Eloise Jane is out of beta and venturing her first steps into the world.  This child is a warrior.  Big stature.  Big voice.  She demands to be seen and heard.  Eloise squeals when I encounter her, calls me "Pa-Pa" (melt).  Preferred means of transportation is walking, else "up" on my shoulders.  She is generous with affection, giving and receiving ... Our house is full of love, laughter, and noise.  Happy Birthday, Lady Eloise.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Iyla Grace 4.0

  Iyla Grace 4.0 is available today.  New features include unprompted please & thank you, endlessly amusing dinner conversation, and the sweetest little kisses … 3.0 was a delight.  Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why I Am Voting For Hillary Clinton

   1) All candidates are superior to Donald Trump; only Clinton can beat him.

   Every four years, I observe a cavalcade of friends and acquaintances parade their up-turned noses at Democrats & Republicans while advocating for a third-party candidate of choice, and every four years those third-party candidates lose badly. They lose in no small part because a great number of their supporters are fair-weather fans who emerge only during the presidential cycle when it is convenient and in vogue to express disdain for the dominant parties, then promptly retreat from political activism in the intervening years when meaningful commitments are required to build a winning coalition.

   In order for a third party to emerge competitively in a presidential race, that party need first secure a groundswell of victories at city, county, state and congressional levels. To do that requires a persistent, grass-roots pledge too few citizens are willing to make. Moreover, the challenge to third-party relevance is compounded by the major party’s willingness to absorb popular positions – often third-party positions – into their evolving platforms. These major-party shifts serve to maintain both relevance and dominance.  Think of Big Tech companies acquiring rival start-ups … An aside to Bernie Sanders fans:  your “revolution” does not end on the convention floor. Hungry for a change in the White House? Start with your city council, your state legislature, your Congresspersons.  Cultivate the Bern ;)

   By all means, one should advocate for one’s candidate of choice. Shout his or her name from the roof tops. Endeavor to convince friends, family, neighbors that we will “Shine with Stein” or “Feel the Johnson” (an unfortunate slogan better suited to a child molester’s campaign). Polling data, in aggregate, will indicate well in advance of election day which candidates fall within the margin of error for securing electoral victory. When it is established whom the contending candidates will be – it is already established – one has a choice to either participate in selecting our next president or allow others to select for one (no, thank you).

   While I root for third-party relevance, I profoundly disagree with my fellow citizens who vote for a candidate with no chance of winning. To knowingly cast such a vote is, in my view, to stand on the sideline, arms-crossed, sneering at the teams on the field while the rest of America goes about the bloody business of electing political representation. Our elections are, after all, zero-sum affairs. There are no second or third-place prizes. A vote that merely waves one’s ideological flag or guards one’s need for moral impeccability, casting aside all practical concern for electoral outcome, falls flatly upon a continuum between willful ignorance and civic irresponsibility. The salient question one must confront on election day is, “Among the possible winners, which candidate better advances my desired political outcomes?”.

   How I wish our electoral process elevated the very best among us.  At minimum, I wish this 2016 presidential race was a toss-up between all candidates but lowly Donald Trump struggling to gain enough support to be included in the debates. Alas, that is not our state of affairs.  Behold in Mr. Trump, a once-in-a-lifetime (Christ, one hopes), major-party-winning grotesque, a profoundly gullible, intellectually lazy man -- he brags that he does not read --, remarkably erratic and thin-skinned; a bigoted demagogue with disturbing authoritarian tendencies; casually sexist, pathologically self-aggrandizing; the worst of American stereotypes abroad; a transparently insecure candidate putting up the thinnest veneer of strength to con an electorate for his personal gain. Not a month (a week?) has passed this election cycle when Mr. Trump did not showcase his fundamental ignorance of government policy and international affairs. A very long list of Americans is more qualified and capable of being our president than Mr. Trump, including the 2008 and 2012 Republican nominees and all other 2016 candidates.

   While I maintain gripes with Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, their collective liabilities do not approximate the unique threat Donald Trump presents to the United States and the world. Trump regularly threatens the constitution, vows to break international agreements, vows to commit war crimes, disregards basic ethical norms, promises to jail his opponents. He has staffed his campaign with known conspiracy peddlers, misinformation agents, sexual predators and hate-mongers ... “But Hillary is a murderer and serial criminal!” your birther, tin-foil-hat-wearing uncle will chide, as will mine. These are baseless claims to all but low-information voters, investigated time and again and dismissed on absence of evidence. The legitimacy of such conspiracies is accepted as dogma only within the poisoned misinformation swamps that elevate Trump and his ilk. The Republican-controlled Congress has taken every political opportunity to smear Mrs. Clinton knowing years in advance she would become the likely Democratic nominee. They tarred her with slanderous conspiracies knowing much of their base would adopt the claims as gospel. On Benghazi and her personal email server alone nine congressional investigations have been undertaken – seven led by Republicans – and countless tax-payer dollars spent on detailed fact-finding hunts; not a shred of criminal intent nor negligence was uncovered, not a single criminal charge brought forward.

   Lest a significant, unforeseen event dramatically alter American opinion, the polling as of this posting has Mrs. Clinton leading the popular vote 48.4%, followed by Mr. Trump at 43.3%, Mr. Johnson 6.9%, and Mrs. Stein less than 5%. Aside: I rely on the meticulously thorough FiveThirtyEight election forecast which derives its analysis from an aggregate of national polling. Another useful reference is perhaps our most recent presidential election. In 2012, the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, received just 0.99% (less than one percent) of the popular vote, narrowly besting Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, who secured 0.36%. While these figures appear minuscule in isolation, they are nonetheless significant when considering the difference separating modern presidential election outcomes. A “swing state” outcome can hinge on a fractional margin ... Think not? Thinking of sitting out this election or voting third-party because your dream candidate is not in contention? Consider the 2000 presidential election when Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate who did not approximate a majority support, siphoned just enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to hand the election to George W. Bush.

   2) Mrs. Clinton advocates an optimistic, forward-looking vision of America; Mr. Trump peddles pessimism and retreat.

   Perhaps it is an outcome of my Marine Corps training that a reflexive guard is aroused in me when I observe a politician rely predominantly upon demagoguery and bullying to advance a candidacy. The Republican Party’s convention was dominated by such a theme: “BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID; ONLY DONALD TRUMP CAN SAVE YOU!”. Mr. Trump championed this cynical message in his convention speech, painting a Nightmare-in-America vision, the barbarian hordes storming our gates, our cities spiraling in violent chaos. The American landscape of which Trump speaks demands an occupying force to stabilize itself guided by a law-and-order strongman. Only Trump can save us, he warned ... Only Trump?!

   Trump’s dystopian vision does not comport with reality. Our cities have not fallen into chaos. Violent crime, nationally, is down from previous decades. Murder rates remain well below those of the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. Our borders are not swarming with illegal immigrants. Net in-migration the past seven years has been flat or negative. Jobs are not fleeing the United States at alarming rates. August marked the seventy-eighth straight month in which the U.S. economy added jobs, the longest streak of private-sector job growth in our history. Teen birth rates are at an all-time low. High-School graduation rates are at an all-time high. More Americans enjoy access to preventative healthcare than at any time in our history. Terrorist incidents remain extremely rare. One is more likely to die in a plane crash or unintentionally drown or be crushed by falling furniture than fall victim to a terrorist attack.

   For sure, there are many ways in which Americans are demonstrably not safe. For instance, greater than 600,000 citizens died from heart disease in 2015, many unnecessarily. More than 130,000 citizens died in accidents. 40,000+ died by suicide. These dangers can be mitigated through private and public sector collaboration, yet Trump is not discussing them nor is he offering strategies to confront their proliferation. Why? Because these dangers do not scare Americans. They do not marshal votes.

   Mr. Trump, in my view, is not interested in making America great. He’s interested in making America afraid. His cynical bet against the better angels of the electorate represents the antithesis of the warrior spirit for it wallows in a gutter of fear and retreat. Trump emphasizes “I” (Trump) over “We” the people -- not, “Yes, We Can”, but “Only I Can”. He presents no forward-thinking vision. His message is openly fearful of human progress, confused by a changing world. It is a scared bully’s message preying upon anxious, disaffected citizens in whom he incites wild conspiracy and false promises, effectively destroying all hope for an honest national discourse. Trump’s cynical propaganda machine is amplified within the dark corridors of right-wing misinformation outlets (e.g., Sean Hannity and Fox News, Brietbart, Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, etc.) ... Marines hate bullies. Marines make their living fighting and defeating bullies. Trump is a playground bully offering reality-television-style leadership for our highest office.

   While I find points of agreement in the Libertarian and Green Party platforms, neither the Libertarian nor Green parties will hold Executive office nor carry a majority in the Congress. Our federal representation will come predominantly from the Democrat and Republican parties. To read the major party platforms, watch their conventions, observe their candidates, and then hear another declare there is no difference between them is to find oneself confronted with a flat-earth evangelist. Of all party platforms, the Republican party’s is by far the most openly in retreat, the most transparently fearful of change, the most antagonistic to reason and established fact.

   Have you read the official 2016 platforms? One really should consume these documents before selecting a candidate for they are moral declarations and a window into the principles and priorities from which their party members will govern. While Mr. Trump at times appears eager to stick a finger in the eye of Republican party elites, he has nonetheless locked arms with the party and they have fallen in line behind him. Trump will reward a victory by appointing Republican cabinet members, Republican judges, Republican advisors. Behind the bombast and hyperbole, with few exceptions, Trump is advocating a standard Republican policy platform.

Below are just the Top 10 most retrograde positions in the 2016 Republican Party platform, all supported by Mr. Trump and/or his party:

   1) The Republican Party seeks to restore state-sponsored marriage discrimination against same-sex couples and opposes efforts to protect gay and lesbian citizens from workplace and housing discrimination.
Trump supports reversing civil-rights gained on this front ... Clinton embraces and celebrates them.
   2) The Republican Party rejects the scientific consensus of anthropogenic climate change and would reverse federal efforts to mitigate carbon pollution into the atmosphere. Moreover, the Republican Party champions coal as a “clean energy” (seriously) resource.
Trump declares the scientific consensus on this matter a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  He vows to break America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord signed by nearly 200 nations … Clinton accepts the scientific consensus and vows to further America’s leadership in clean energy development.
   3) The Republican Party would strip newly-acquired access to preventative healthcare from tens of millions of Americans by repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Trump’s plan would eliminate insurance coverage for more than twenty-million Americans while raising out-of-pocket expenses for most citizens not ensured through their employer … Clinton’s plan would preserve gains secured through the Affordable Care Act and further the law’s intent by shoring up loop holes, improving flawed regulations, and insuring millions more Americans.
   4) The Republican Party would reverse federally-mandated consumer protections – the agency, for instance, that exposed Wells Fargo fraud last month – and eliminate safeguards established to protect vulnerable citizens from predatory banking practices.
Trump vows to dismantle Dodd-Frank financial reform (because it restricts corporate profits) … Clinton champions Dodd-Frank reform, identifies improvement opportunities to assist smaller banks, and seeks greater transparency & accountability for fraudulent Wall Street behavior.
   5) The Republican Party opposes efforts to restrict access to military-grade assault weapons.
Trump opposes any legislation that would restrict access to assault weapons … Clinton supports re-instating the assault weapons ban and closing loop-holes in the law that allow for 20-30% of gun purchases to transact without a background check.
   6) The Republican Party would nationalize the death penalty, codifying the practice into federal law.
Trump champions an expansion of capital punishment … Clinton seeks a more selective approach; while in the Senate, she co-sponsored a bill to ensure fair administration of the practice and minimize the risk of executing innocent citizens.
   7) The Republican Party opposes embryonic stem-cell scientific research.
Trump has not formally declared a position on the matter, although his party and his vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, staunchly oppose it (presumably because embryos contain invisible spirits) … Clinton acknowledges the revolutionary potential of this research which promises advancements in cardiac health, Alzheimer’s, and all manner of injury and disease treatment; she will further research initiatives.
   8) The Republican Party opposes the agreement reached between Iran and a coalition of the United States, Germany, Great Britain, China, Russia and France (i.e., the Iran Nuclear Deal) that lifted financial sanctions on the Iranian people in return for the government of Iran drastically curtailing its nuclear weapons capability.
Trump vows to dissolve the agreement and impose harsher financial sanctions on the Iranian people (although it is unclear how he would accomplish this given our international partners declared they would not go along with his bullying tactic, nor has Mr. Trump indicated how he would persuade Iran to reduce their nuclear capabilities in response to isolated American threats) … Clinton’s State Department was instrumental in securing collaboration between all parties; Clinton vows to honor America’s commitment to the deal, audit international inspections, and seek measures to advance nuclear disarmament beyond the life of the contract.
   9) The Republican Party would eliminate nearly all campaign finance laws, allowing for unrestricted corporate donations and non-disclosure protections.
Trump has not articulated a plan nor indicated whether he would break with his party’s position … Clinton seeks a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, legislation that increases financial transparency for corporations, and a small-donor matching system to amplify the voice of the people.
   10) The Republican Party claims to advocate fiscal responsibility. So do I (who doesn’t?).
Trump does not appear to be interested in deficit / debt reduction. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center analyzed both candidate’s tax-reform proposals and found that Trump’s plan would reduce federal revenue by an estimated $9.5 Trillion over the first ten years (Make the Deficit Great Again) … Clinton’s plan would increase federal revenue by $1.1 Trillion over the first ten years and apply the funds to infrastructure investment and further deficit reduction.

3) The Supreme Court matters, a great deal.

   The Republican-controlled Senate this year took the unprecedented action of denying President Obama his constitutional privilege of nominating a Supreme Court justice to replace the deceased Antonin Scalia. Rather than allow a vote on the president’s nominee, Senate leadership chose to hand the nomination to the next president, hoping that president would emerge from their tribe. While the action is lawful, it breaks with over a century of precedent. The outcome of this election will, therefore, decide which major party carries a majority selection on the court. The current balance is a 4-4 split.

   Justices appointed by presidents do not necessarily toe a party line, yet they do tend to follow a consistent ideological bent. With the Congress rendering itself increasingly inept, appointments to the Supreme Court by our next president will be one of the most consequential outcomes of the election. Consider that a conservative majority (5-4) recently struck down limits on campaign donations by corporations (Citizens United) and gutted the Voting Rights Act.  A Democratically appointed majority would potentially uphold tough campaign finance reform, limit gerrymandering practices and develop a robust right for all citizens to vote. Such a court could also end long-term solitary confinement and the death penalty, protect a woman’s right to choose legal abortion, uphold reasonable assault-weapons restrictions. These are all desirable outcomes to me.

** Election Night Postscript

   Election Night 2016:  I find myself, yet again, terribly disappointed in my country.  While Donald Trump lost the popular vote by two or three million ballots, he won the electoral college process.  Mr. Trump will be the next President of the United States, and in doing so I expect he will line his family's pockets while defrauding millions of credulous Americans.  His feeble intellect and fragile ego will further diminish the national discourse, deepening the divide between our citizenry.  His lack of moral integrity will result in irrational, incoherent policies at home and abroad.  Trump and his brazenly corrupt political allies will challenge the integrity of our democratic institutions and the Congress.

   I recall this feeling in 2004 when, after dragging the U.S. into an unnecessary war in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of thousands of America's sons and daughters and handing the wealthiest Americans a debt-financed tax windfall, the nation saw fit to re-elect George W. Bush.  I believed (hoped), wrongly, we had evolved as a people.  Barack Obama was evidence of that.  I was wrong.

   On a cosmic scale, I suppose we are but mere adolescents stumbling our way into adulthood ... One step forward, two steps back.  Onward with Trump's America.  We get what we deserve :(