Sunday, February 25, 2018


For most of my adult life I have been a staunch and passionate supporter of the 3rd Amendment. If I'm a single issue voter, I'm a 3rd Amendment guy. No matter what else congress or the courts say, I refuse to allow anyone or anything to trample upon my 3rd Amendment rights. So, the next time the government tries to force me to quarter a soldier in my home during peacetime, they can pry the front door keys from my cold, dead hands. The feds don't provide rent or board, nor bath supplies, or uniform cleaning services, not to mention how those troops scruff up your rugs with their boots and cigarettes. I don't care what the dad-blamed gub'ment says, I ain't quartering no damn soldiers in my house. I am protected by the 3rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states, "No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner (sic), nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." My mother used to invite a couple of sailors from Millington over for Passover every few years, but that was a far cry from quartering. In fact, after my mother's Passover meal, the sailors probably would have preferred to have been quartered, at least for the night. And due to the density of the matzo balls, when they awoke the next day, they may have felt like being drawn and quartered.

If this all sounds ridiculous, it is. The Supreme Court has never decided a case on the basis of the 3rd Amendment. Since Congress passed the amendment in 1789, constitutional scholars and politicians alike have conceded that the law is too antiquated to be applicable today. For a bit of history, however, we have to crack open our American History textbooks to Chapter One and check out the French and Indian War of 1754. When the Brits, with the help of their colonial musketeers, finally kicked out the French in 1760, they decided they needed to stick around for awhile to police the new territories. Americans chafed at having to billet the Redcoats. They preferred local militias for their protection rather than professional soldiers. To further incite the colonists, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Act of 1765, which not only required the settlers to provide housing, but also "provisions, firewood, bedding, and beer." The resulting rebellion against the presence of British troops and the high taxes imposed by the Crown to pay for the war, culminated in the Boston Massacre of 1770 and led to the American Revolution. Before the Bill of Rights was ever written, the state of Virginia passed their own Declaration of Rights in 1776, declaring, "That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state." The Founding Fathers trimmed it down for the 2nd Amendment, passed in 1789, which said, "A Well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Do you see what's happening here? The 2nd Amendment is merely a watered down version of the Virginia Declaration which dealt with the regulation of militias and never once mentioned a Constitutional protection for firearms. The colonists believed that full-time, payed soldiers were only necessary to fight foreign enemies. For other emergencies, a militia of ordinary citizens who supplied their own weapons and received part-time training, could be depended upon. Even then, there were laws for the registration of civilian-owned guns deemed appropriate for the militia, sometimes with inspectors going door-to-door. Because of the fear of standing armies living among them, there were even certain laws requiring firearm ownership. The kicker is that the antiquated and forgotten 3rd Amendment was passed by Congress, and then ratified by the states, on the exact same two dates as the 2nd Amendment. So, if we're to apply the same logic to the 2nd Amendment that the founders used for the 3rd, everyone is required to purchase a musket, which must be properly cleaned and registered with the Federal Government. The owners of same weapon must periodically assemble for inspection and military training. In time of war, the government has the power to press them into service and regulate the militias. I didn't say that- the Constitutional Convention did.
So the entire NRA argument about the absolute American right to own any type of firearm is bullshit. The gun cultists conveniently forget the "well-regulated militia" part, ignore the context of the times, and revere the "shall not be infringed" phrase. Even with all the Founders' brilliance, none could have envisioned modern military-style weapons or allowed them to fall into the hands of the untrained and unregulated. Since the most recent slaughter in Parkland, Florida, a new consciousness has arisen. Young people are rightly appalled at the ease that any social misfit can acquire a killing machine. After each mass shooting, gun sales go up, weapons manufacturers' profits rise, shareholders reap financial rewards, and the NRA is handsomely funded by the all-American gun cartels. It's really not about the 2nd Amendment at all. It's about profit margin. The NRA is now merely a lobbying group for American arms dealers. The "most popular rifle in America," according to the NRA, is the Colt AR-15, with over eight million sold. This semi-automatic rifle, and other brands similarly designed, were prohibited by the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, along with large capacity magazines. Since the ban was allowed to expire in 2004, mass shootings have spiked. Of the most recent stomach-churning massacres: twenty-six babies at Sandy Hook; fourteen murdered at an office Christmas party in San Bernardino; forty-nine killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, fifty-eight slaughtered at a Las Vegas music festival; twenty-six gunned down in a church in Sutherland, Texas; and now, seventeen children murdered in their school, they all share something in common. Each heartless killer used an AR-15 styled rifle as the weapon of choice. Yet the NRA rolls out the same tired defenses to protect gun makers and their profits. The 2nd Amendment is as primitive as the 3rd when it comes to guns, but this is the year the NRA may finally have met their match. Who could have believed it would arrive in the form of a children's crusade? Go ahead and keep your long gun or handgun. But if nothing is done to re-instate the Assault Weapons Ban, you're children are coming to bust up the NRA and send their paid congressional lackeys packing.

Monday, January 29, 2018


In these trying times, when half the nation seems to have gone insane, everyone not in a coma seems to be searching for a way to relax. Some choose vigorous exercise which can end in pain and regret. Others might enjoy listening to soothing music, if any exists, or keeping a journal, which is like seeing a shrink without the appointment, bill or condescension. So rather than elevate my blood pressure by discussing the idiots and assholes that populate our current administration, I thought I might offer a balm for the troubled mind and discuss my experience with meditation. All I knew about the subject was that the Beatles had become interested in Transcendental Meditation (registered copyright, but since I don't have that symbol on my keyboard, I'll use an asterisk), or TM*,  from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. The Maharishi, know at the time as the "giggling guru" for his numerous television appearances, developed TM* in India in 1956, but after meeting the Beatles in London, he began making an enterprise of it. When the Beatles and their wives, along with the Farrow sisters (for whom John Lennon wrote "Dear Prudence"),  visited the Maharishi in his ashram in India, the mystical glow faded after the Holy Man hit on Mia Farrow and the band walked away disillusioned. Although the discipline of meditation dates back five thousand years, the Maharishi's TM* technique caught fire in those halcyon days of spiritual discovery, guaranteeing effortless inner peace, at a price. In 1968, the Maharishi began training TM* teachers from his new global headquarters in Seelisberg, Switzerland, and sent them forth to pacify the world.

When I was in the midst of my tortuous decade trying to write Country songs in Nashville, I reached the point that if I heard one more song celebrating poverty and ignorance, I was going to lose it. I was in desperate need of stress relief and TM* was literally the only game in town. Encouraged by a friend who had even moved his family up to Boone, N.C. to live in a TM* community, I signed up for a course. I knew nothing of meditation or its Eastern origins, and unlike the wizened sage you now witness before you, I had everything to learn. I don't think I'd even had dinner in an Indian restaurant. My particular impression of Hinduism was a religion with multitudes of goofy looking gods and goddesses with animal characteristics standing in awkward positions. And because of cow worship, the faithful went hungry while cattle roamed the streets. Since TM* is rooted in the Hindu faith, I approached my lessons with some apprehension. The six-day course cost $250 at the time and could only be taught by a certified TM* instructor, in my case a soft-spoken young man lousy with serenity.

The meditation classes were easy enough, based on a repetitive phrase that centered the mind. Practicing for twenty minutes, twice a day, was prescribed to ease stress and anxiety. The big payoff, or mystic goody, was the mantra, a sacred incantation chosen exclusively for you based on your personal interview with the teacher. For initiation day, I was instructed to bring a clean handkerchief, flowers, some fruit, and naturally, the course fee. A makeshift alter was erected with a peach crate and a bedsheet. On the wall above was a creepy photo of an old, white-bearded man, who was the Maharishi's guru. I was admonished to never utter my mantra aloud, lest I tarnish it and strip it of its power. The Maharishi said, "Using just any mantra can be dangerous. Mantras commonly found in books can cause a person to withdraw from life." When the big finally moment came, I was asked to bow before the guru's photo and receive my mantra. I immediately balked at bowing before anybody but I figured I'd come this far, so I lowered my head. I was hoping for something cool, like "Shanti," but the teacher leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "Hrring." Since it was chosen especially for me, who was I to disagree? I chose a comfortable chair in my bedroom and began to practice. Focusing squarely on the third eye, I began to silently recite, "Hrring,  Hering, Herring." I just spent two-hundred and fifty bucks so I could recite a word that sounded like Jewish smoked fish. I told my teacher that my mantra was making me laugh and could I please have another but I was assured that this was mine and to work with it. Sometime later, I received a call from my old friend Mac, who said, "I heard you took TM*, what's your mantra?" I was appalled, "I can't tell you my mantra. I was sworn to secrecy." Mac said, "If you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine." I reluctanty agreed saying, "Mine's Hrring." Mac burst into laughter. "What's so funny?" I asked. He replied, "Mine is Shrring."

I came to realize that there are a multitude of ways to meditate and the Maharishi had turned TM* into a for-profit, international franchise, much like Weight-Watchers, or psychiatry. TM* was quick to reassure its customers that their fees covered not only the initial training, but a lifetime follow-up, like a Kenmore warranty. Even financing is available. In 1984, Omni Magazine published an article by "disaffected TM* teachers" listing sixteen mantras used by the organization, contradicting the fable that the result was dependent on a trained teacher's choice. A 2007 study found that details of training and knowledge for TM* teachers are kept private and potential franchisees are required to sign a "loyalty-oath employment contract." Fortunately, effective meditation doesn't require the $960 dollars currently being charged for TM* classes. By the time of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's death in 2008, TM* had become an empire worth an estimated four billion dollars, including the Maharishi International University, now The Maharishi University of Management on three-hundred eighty-one acres in Fairfield, Iowa. The compound in North Carolina called "Heavenly Mountain" unfortunately went bust. Built as a TM* community in 1998 for forty million dollars, the site sold at auction in 2012 for $3.9 million and is now the Art of Living Retreat Center, offering weight loss, detox, yoga, and meditation for an all-inclusive fee. Just YouTube "meditation," and you don't have to pay for it. Meditation really works, but it takes the sort of consistent self-discipline that I utterly lack. Which reminds me, there's a Xanax prescription that I need to refill.

Friday, December 22, 2017


Among the more perplexing phenomena of the Cult of Trump is the nearly universal backing of people who identify themselves as Evangelical Christians. Exit polls showed that eighty-five percent of evangelicals cast their votes for a man who is the antithesis of Christian teaching. Did they hate Hillary so much that they voted for a sybarite? Prosperity gospel pastor Paula White, chosen by Trump to pray for him at the inauguration, encouraged viewers of the Jim Bakker Show to be obedient and loyal to Trump because it is what God wants. Author Lance Wallnau said God spoke to him and claimed, "I really believe that the mercy of God intervened in the last election cycle." Reverend Franklin Graham, the poorly-informed son of Nixon pal Billy Graham, gushed, "Never in my lifetime have we had a president willing to take a strong, outspoken stand for the Christian faith like President Trump has." And Texas mega-church pastor Robert Jeffress said, "God has given Trump authority to take out Kin Jong-Un." If that were God's will, you would think He wouldn't need help from Trump, but it's unfathomable how conservative Christians can still be the main defenders of this crude idolater of mammon.

My Catholic education informs me that Matthew chapters 5-7 contains the Sermon on the Mount, otherwise known as the Beatitudes. These words are the basis of Jesus' early moral teachings, so let's check the record and see how the family values agenda is stacking up.

MT5 "Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Jesus: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Trump: "Show me someone without an ego and I'll show you a loser." "Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest- and you all know it. Please don't feel so stupid or insecure. It's not your fault." "As for my yacht, The Trump Princess, it is a dazzling trophy...for me, you see, the important thing is the getting, not the having."

Jesus: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Trump: "Nobody could have done what I've done for Puerto Rico with so little appreciation." "So, what's your death count? Sixteen? You can be very proud, only sixteen instead of thousands in Katrina." "Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything done for them." "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military, and the First Responders in Puerto Rico forever."

Jesus: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Trump: "Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich." "I like money. I'm very greedy...I love money, right? But..I want to be greedy for our country." "I'm the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Ross Perot isn't successful like me. Romney? I have a Gucci store that's worth more than Romney." Trump's penthouse, "has been called the best apartment ever built. I own the top three floors- the whole floor, times three."

Jesus: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Trump: "First of all, I am a great Christian, and I am-I am. Remember that." "Why do I have to repent? Why do I have to ask for forgiveness if (I'm) not making mistakes?" "When I drink my little wine...and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness."

Jesus: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Trump: "Torture works!" "Would I approve of waterboarding? You bet your ass I would- in a heartbeat. And I would approve more than that." "Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway." "I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back." "When someone crosses you my advice is, 'Get Even!'."

Jesus: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Trump: "I did try and fuck her, she was married. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there." "When you're a star, they let you do it...Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything."

Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Trump: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." "If forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." "With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures...that they shouldn't be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water."

Jesus: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Trump: "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." "When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it." "When someone hurts you, just go after them as viciously and violently as you can." "If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck. I love getting even."

Jesus: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."
Trump: "You tell people a lie three times, they will believe anything. You tell people what they want to hear, play to their fantasies, and then you close the deal." "The FAKE NEWS (sic) media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People."

I don't know about you, but in a two man race, I'll be voting for the liberal candidate; Jesus.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Me Too

Nobody seems to be talking about Bill Cosby so much anymore. Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuses were so grotesque that if I were a woman, I'd prefer to be drugged. It's a given that men are dogs and pigs but, my God, the description of Weinstein's conduct was shocking to me- then I talked to my wife. In my naivete, I never realized this ugly conduct happens all the time. Melody was and is an attractive girl, which means practically every man she's ever known has hit on her since she was sixteen, including a cop and a former teacher. She's seen it all- flashers, gropers, masturbaters, heavy breathers, and aggressive advances from acquaintances and co-workers both young and old. And these encounters were just as common with her female  friends. Everyone had a tale to tell. Some of her stories were too harrowing to repeat. Fortunately, she escaped these incidences unharmed. The thirty women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse over twenty years weren't so lucky. Weinstein's victims include a who's who of Hollywood actresses- Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, and Rose McGowan, who refused a million dollar hush money offer and called out Hollywood talent agencies as being "guilty of human trafficking." It only took one brave woman telling her story to the New York Times to open Pandora's Box, so to speak. Weinstein initially denied engaging in non-consensual sex, but his unspeakable behavior was common knowledge at Miramax, the company Weinstein founded. He has reached seven settlements with other victims. Weinstein's predatory conduct was appalling because it was so disgusting. He invited women to his quarters and reappeared in a bathrobe, exposing himself. Ashley Judd was asked to watch him shower. Other unassuming targets were told that watching him masturbate would help their careers. Weinstein has been accused of giving alcohol to a minor, rape, and assault. The bloated, bearded swine blamed his behavior on coming of age in the sixties, when the rules were different. No they weren't. Only in Hollywood could a dirtbag feel so entitled and powerful that women would surrender to his nascent charm. After all, he had the power to make or break an actress' career, and if rebuffed, he would go out of his way to punish them. After the Weinstein allegations, fifty-nine more men in politics and entertainment have been accused of abhorrent sexual behavior, and the list is growing every day.

For twenty years, viewers spent their mornings with Matt Lauer. After discovering that he had a button under his desk to lock a woman in his office and pull the old Harvey Weinstein bathrobe routine, I feel duped. It's like if Dick Van Dyke were arrested in a child pornography sting. Same goes for Charlie Rose, fired by CBS, PBS, and Bloomberg for making lewd phone calls and incidences of groping. Thoughtful and soft-spoken political analyst Mark Halpern, co-author of Game Change, masturbated behind his desk while meeting with a female colleague. The hot comic Louis C.K., writer and director of the classic movie Pootie Tang, did bits about masturbation in his stand-up act. Now we know he wasn't kidding. Accused of exposing himself and asking women to watch him masturbate, his upcoming comedy special and a new movie release have been cancelled. The list goes on: Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor, Dustin Hoffman, Garrison Keillor for God's sake. Bill O'Reilly paid out thirteen million dollars to five women. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson successfully sued Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes for twenty million dollars for "unwanted sexual advances." Before explaining himself, Ailes took the easy way out and died earlier this year. Of course there's accused child predator and our new Senator from Alabama, Roy Moore, cruising teen hangouts to make new friends. He claims all five of his accusers of lying.

We have obviously reached a tipping point in male-female relationships. The old dinosaurs are going down and the push is finally on for women to be believed. But must we blindly believe all woman? Case in point is Senator Al Franken and his accuser, radio personality Leeann Tweeden. On a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan, when Franken was still a comedian, Tweeden said Franken forcibly kissed and groped her. She later wrote Franken, "grabbed my breasts while I was sleeping and had someone take a photo of you doing it, knowing I would see it later and be ashamed." Franken immediately apologized and called for an ethics investigation into himself, which was smart because it could force Tweeden to testify under oath. The photo mentioned was childish and sophomoric but contradicts Tweeden's account. She is asleep in a cargo plane wearing a flack jacket while Franken's hands are hovering over her chest while he smiles for the camera- obviously a joke- a stupid one but a joke just the same. Tweeden accepted Franken's apology before the YouTube videos of the tour surfaced. Check them out and watch Tweeden grind on country singer Mark Wills and grab his butt. It was for the troops. I'll bet Rita Hayworth did similar shtick with Bob Hope. Turns out Tweeden was an employee of Fox Sports, a regular on Sean Hannity's nightly propaganda broadcast, and a Trump supporter. Sounds like a hit job on Al Franken to me, yet some are demanding his resignation. Which brings us to the most blatantly hypocritical pot and kettle dilemma. Over the past two decades, taxpayers have paid seventeen million dollars for hush money and to settle congressional sexual harassment charges for two hundred sixty-four congressional staffers and other legislative employees. A boatload of men are currently searching through their memory banks and the feeling of a new enlightenment has dawned. Now, when is Donald Trump going to sue those twenty women who accused him of boorish sexual behavior like he promised?