Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Cure For Trumpitis

*The problem with political  jokes is they get elected.
 *~Henry Cate,  VII~ 

Like a majority of people in the USA before this election,  I was convinced most voters in our country could easily see for themselves the appalling defects of Donald Trump - not that Hillary Clinton does not have a number of her own, even if nowhere close to Trump's train full. Prior to the election I was convinced the sheer weight of the evidence against Trump was so obvious and self-evident that our countrymen would reject this classless, clueless, boorish, sociopathic and pathological narcissistic bully out of hand. I sincerely believed all along he did not have the ghost of a chance in the end, even as he piled up win after win. 
Tragically, I was so very wrong. My previous faith in the intrinsic wisdom of our US body politic has been shaken to its roots, if not now uprooted entirely.
I am very discouraged to see so many of my fellow Americans buy into Donald Trump's hysteria and horse hooey - hook, line and sinker, teacups to topsails! Every sentence he spoke contained at least one superlative (huge! gigantic! greatest!) etc., ad nauseam. Most of his spoken sentences have his signature 'believe me!'. These hyperboles are the unmistakable signatures of your common ordinary, cynical conman and huckster.
The thousands of gerrymandered voting districts helped Trump too since Ms Clinton actually did win the popular vote overall by 2-1/2%.  Another thing to think about is that only roughly 50% of our country's voters actually went to the polls in this momentous election. More the shame for our country as a social construct!
Did you know that all citizens of voting age in Australia are REQUIRED BY LAW to vote in federal and state elections, and are subject to a fine if they do not?  21 other countries have similar laws. An enlightened and responsible way to ensure participation as a small price for being a member of one's society I think!
Furthermore, New Zealand allows voters to vote at ANY voting station in the entire country. New Zealand also, by the by, was the first nation in the world to introduce women's suffrage (1893).
But back to Trump. One huge factor in his success was the billions of dollars of totally free media publicity he got by virtue of his continuously outrageous behavior and statements. Donald Trump played the American corporate media like a well-tuned Stradivarius. The collective media, in their competition for clicks, viewers, readers and listeners could not get enough of it. In my opinion, in the media's clutching for profits above all else, most of them abandoned all pretense of being anything remotely resembling a responsible fourth estate. The media failed us entirely, not that their track record has been all that stellar in the past. But, this time it was beyond shameless, and very near treasonous in my view - a total abdication of even a pretense for citizen responsibility, And this is their primary argument for their existence for goodness sakes! I think media owns a major portion of blame for our current electoral debacle. There's no doubt about that in my mind. But, you shouldn't expect any acknowledgment or acceptance of responsibility by the media, since that's just not gonna happen! 
There is one important silver lining found in this debacle, however. This electoral horror will compel BOTH major political parties to reassess their attitude to the voter. Congress has gotten so far out of hand - both parties - that the individual members neither respect nor respond to the public they represent. Congressional approval is at an abysmal 10-12%. The typical politician's efforts are focused on getting elected or reelected, and the money which influences them does not come from voters at large. The constituency they almost exclusively represent these days is deep-pocketed corporate donors and their political 'Pacs'. These groups now own both the Senate and the House, especially since the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. FEC which allows UNLIMITED donations by corporations and unions, and any sums to super PAC's. Just lay aside all your 'democratic' ideals since the proper term for today's political system in the US is 'plutocracy'.
The common citizen voter without unlimited money is almost completely ignored - until election time and then we are wooed cynically and shamelessly with political promises impossible to keep. We already see Trump walking back on his.
The only attention citizens usually get is being agitated to support or oppose legislation - mostly oppose. The NRA and anti-abortion groups jump quickly to mind, but there are many others. These are so-called 'hot-button' issues manipulated to agitate the various voting bases - guns, abortion, 'war-against-Christians', immigrants, Islamists, you name it. A more appropriate name for these so-called issues is 'red herrings'. The extremely well-paid shills pulling the agitating levers behind the scenes are very focused and smart in their efforts. (And it doesn't take a lot of effort to agitate evangelicals after all does it?)
The phenomenon of Mr. Trump's success is in his recognizing, and taking advantage of the massive citizen dissatisfaction with our elected 'leaders' which is rampant throughout the nation. People feel ignored and powerless, and now Trump steps into the ring as their 'straight-talking champion', who will 'fix things' and chase the rapscallions out of politics or make them behave. Our problem with this scenario is that Donald Trump is the biggest, baddest rascal of them all!
To a much lesser extent the same thing is seen on the Democratic side in Bernie Sanders - also a product of citizen voter rage and dissatisfaction. Both Trump and Bernie Sanders used citizen disaffection with our political system to people their political bases. The biggest difference is Mr. Trump had a much broader pool of low information voters to draw from. He knew it too, as proved by his statement about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York without losing a single vote.
After falling victim to this horrible case of 'Trumpitis' (for lack of a better term) on November 8, 2016, both national parties are now forced to reexamine themselves. The mood of voters is unmistakable. Voters are so disgusted with our current political chicanery they came out by the mega-thousands in opposition to the diseased, warped political system ours has morphed into. Unfortunately for the nation, the current treatment selected by our country's voters is akin to a mega-dose of cod liver oil or perhaps a full-blown, total hysterectomy for our country.
What this means, at least in the short run, is Congress is now forced to actually DO SOMETHING in order to protect their very hides. The GOP members in the majority are in a very uncomfortable place between the 'Devil and the deep blue sea' as the saying goes. They are terrified of a totally unpredictable Donald Trump, who is largely a Tea Party creation, and the somewhere between 55 and 70% rest of the country who pretty much agree he is a train wreck en route.
The GOP knows if they resist Trump's demands, the Tea Party's pickaxes and pitchforks will come out. Congressional GOP types understand the tar and feathers are already not far off now. But, the GOP has no one to blame but themselves, since they helped create and nurture the Tea Party crazies, thinking they could control them. The GOP's embrace of the Looney Tunes spectrum of Teahadists, evangelicals, gun nuts, anti-abortion nuts and all the other loose nuts has now come back home to mama in spades in the person of Donald Trump. And, does anyone really think these nuts are capable of running the country?  Give me a break already! 
We WILL see changes, although it is impossible, and very unsettling -  to predict what they will be. My gut feeling is, we will not see successful wholesale attacks on our progressive basics. There will be - already are - attacks on our basic social fabric. But a majority of people in our country will not stand still for wholesale change, and Congress knows it, no matter who occupies the White House. The only way they can pass onerous legislation is by doing it behind the scenes or by subterfuge. And we saw the backlash when they tried to sneak through doing away with the Congressional ethics group. We have enough concerned outside watchdogs keeping eyes on things to shortstop those efforts I feel, while all the rest of us need to provide them with cover and support.
The GOP politicians embracing Donald Trump thinking to save their hides are gutless twits who will end up owning the destruction he might sow. I never thought I would have anything good to say about Marco Rubio, but he deserves some respect for not standing in line to kiss Trump's ass like so many other frightened Republicans are now doing. All of us have an obligation to put our country ahead of 'party loyalty' and resist the destruction of the bedrock our country stands upon.
Two things will go a long way towards fixing our mess: Real campaign finance reform and term limits for all national politicians. We've recognized this for decades, but so far the plutocracy has always defeated those, but one day, one day . . .
We are living in interesting and momentous times indeed. My current thinking is well expressed in this opinion piece by Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Last Three Little Pigs

Big, Bad Wolf
Once upon a time there were three little pigs. They were the Last Three Little Pigs of a kind. Before the Last Three Little Pigs, there had been many of their kind, but all except these last three had either been consumed by the Big Bad Wolf, or sent into exile by the mightiest of the Last Three Little Pigs. We shall hear more of this mighty little pig later, as you will see. Wolves of all kinds are very fond of consuming pigs for lunch, or for any meal of the day for that matter, The Big Bad Wolf living in the neighborhood with these particular Last Three Little Pigs was hungry, sure enough. Having consumed all the other little pigs in his region much earlier, this particular wolf, who we shall call "Donald" or, "The Donald" if you must, had by now worked up a raging and voracious new appetite. Donald was currently hot on the trail of the Last Three Little Pigs, and he thought he had them cornered in their houses. And for what it's worth, the main reason Donald had had such easy pickings with all the pigs he had earlier consumed, was the fact their houses had proven to be not in order, and too insubstantial to withstand Donald's pathologically insulting aggression.
Donald perceived no good reason the Last Three Little Pigs should be any different than the earlier ones. Maybe they had more substantial houses and better defenses, but in Donald's opinion, nothing would be able to withstand his abusive onslaught.  You see, even if Donald was not all that smart, Donald certainly had his momentum!  A fact which was astounding, even to Donald himself.
The first house Donald attacked belonged to a pig named Marco. And, although Marco was a very handsome guy for a pig, he was also a very, very lazy little pig, and liked to lay around and talk a lot. He didn't really like anything to do with work; he just wanted to show everyone how great he thought himself to be, and for them to fawn over him and brag on him. Work was for suckers in Marco's laissez-faire opinion.
So, when Donald, the Big Bad Wolf showed up at Marco's house, he saw how easy things were going to be. In the first place, the house was made out of pure field straw, and Donald already knew it had two overlapping and overdue mortgages on it besides. Marco's house fit the very definition of 'underwater financing'! Easy pickings for sure, and since Donald had a reputation of being a very rude and impolite Big Bad Wolf, he could sometimes use that character trait to his advantage. Now, Donald deceptively and very politely knocked on Marco's door.
"Who's there?" asked Marco from inside cautiously. He was always afraid the next knock on his door might be a bill collector or one of his in-laws who weren't all that fond of him either.
"Oh, it's just me, your friend Scott Walker from Milwaukee." lied The Donald.
Marco, the Pig
"Well, you ain't fooling me!" cried Marco looking through his peephole. "Scott Walker ain't no friend of mine, and besides, I can see you and I know your damned voice too. You're Donald, that stinking, rotten, Big Bad Wolf from New York City!"
Donald hadn't really expected to fool Marco, but he thought he would give the politeness a try, just in case. Ordinarily, politeness of any sort was repulsive to The Donald, figuring it as a weakness for losers.
"Well, be that as it may, let me in anyway." Donald demanded, in a pretty loud voice. Maybe simple imperiousness would work instead.
"Oh no, hell no, not by the hair on my chinny chin, chin!" answered Marco.
Donald could now see just pure, raw aggression was the way it had to be. "All right then Marco. This is on you silly boy. Since you won't let me in, I'm going to huff, and I'm going to puff, and I'm going to blow your goddamned straw house down around your Mexican ass."
"Cuban ass!" yelled Marco indignantly.
"Whatever." said Donald, and he commenced to huff and puff and blow with all his might, and Marco's house began to shake and blow away in tatters as Marco fled out the back door. He ran all the way to the second of the Last Three Little Pigs' houses and cried out to be let inside.
Texican Pig "Ted"
This second house happened to belong to Marco's sometimes friend Ted, who wasn't nearly as lazy as Marco, and his house was far more substantial than Marco's straw house since it was built of wood planks fastened to each other with steel nails. Ted had gleefully 'liberated' the planks from Rick Perry's ranch one dark night, and the nails were purchased with the money from the collection plates at the church where Ted's dad presided. The labor to build the house came from church volunteers after Ted and his dad had 'prayed over it' with the volunteers. Therefore and also, there was no mortgage on Ted's house and he owned it outright, free and clear.
"Hey, Ted! Let me in! Let me in!" screamed Marco. "The Big Bad Wolf's right on my ass!"
At first, Ted didn't hear him because he was in the game room watching and tsk, tsking over gay porn with the youth leader from his dad's church. It was only after Marco slammed a rock against the wall two or three times did Ted realize someone was at the door.
"What the hell do you want, Marco?" demanded Ted when he answered the door. "I'm busy goddammit and don't have time for any of your juvenile bullshit!"
A panicked Marco screamed, "Let me in right now, Ted! Donald, the Big Bad Wolf is breathing down my neck as we speak. He's already blown my house down!"
"Do tell?" said an unimpressed Ted as he turned to close the door in Marco's face, but he was a bit too slow and the hyper-panicked Marco had already pushed past him to get inside.
"I gonna need a glass of water right now!" said Marco. Anxiety and panic always gave Marco a very dry mouth.  That right there definitely was a personal curse, for sure.
"Get it your own damned self." said Ted, resigning himself to Marco's presence. Ted figured one more to watch and tsk, tsk over gay porn, why not?
He locked the door just a few seconds ahead of Donald's loud knock came. 
"Open the goddamned door!" Donald commanded.
"Who the hell is it?" asked Ted, although he already knew.
"It's The Donald you twit! Now let me in!"
"Well, I don't think so, Donald. Not after all those despicable things you said about me, my daddy and my wife." Ted responded. "And, I'll stay pissed about that too unless and until I decide it's not politically expedient."
Donald's Lapdog
"Listen, you imbecilic idiot! I never said a damned thing that wasn't true. Now, open the damned door or I'll turn you into another lapdog like Chris Christie. Hell, it might be nice to have a matched pair of lapdogs at that."
"I already told you to go screw yourself, Donald. Now, why don't you just go ahead and do it!" said Ted. "And, leave me to hell alone!"
"You don't know who you're messing with Ted." said Donald. "I never forget an insult and always, always get even. Now open the goddamned door or I'm going to huff, and I'm going to puff, and I'm going to blow your goddamned termite-ridden house down around your Mexican ass!"
"It's Cuban! Cuban! Dammit, Donald, don't you ever listen? How many times do I have to tell you, you jerk?  And, no damned way am I letting you in, not by the hair on my chinny chin, chin!" replied Ted. "No damned way!"
At that, Donald commenced to huff and puff and blow with all his might, and Ted's house began to shake and blow away into scattered planks as Marco and Ted - and don't forget the youth leader - all fled out the back door. They ran all the way to the third of the Last Three Little Pigs' houses and cried out to be let inside.
They really, really didn't want to be at this particular house but had no other choice as they hammered on the door of their last and only hope for salvation.
A Wise & Canny Old Broad!
"Who's there?" asked Hillary, who had just gotten off the telephone with her Wall Street brokers. There were a few million she needed to put to work somewhere.
"It's Ted and Marco - and don't forget our youth leader!" hollered Ted.
"Do I know you bozos?" she asked. "The only ones I know by those names are discredited, passé politicians.  And, I'm sorry, I just don't know about your youth leader." 
"Oh, Christ, Hillary," wailed Marco. "Don't you remember how kind and nice I've always been to you? About how I welcomed you in the Senate and all?"
"Since when?" said Hillary. "Listen, you infant, I was out of my Senate office two years before your wee little candy ass ever even got to the Senate Sonny Boy. Besides, I hear you aren't ever there anyway.  Why don't you go weeping and whining to your boy Donald?"
"Because he's the goddamned Big Bad Wolf himself!" screamed Ted over Marco's shoulder. "He's making a hard run at us and that's why we're here. He's already consumed all the other pigs in our bunch and your place is the only place left for us. Let us in for the love of God, Hillary. We'll play nice, honest! You know you can count on us."
"Yeah right," said this alpha brood sow. "like you played nice with all those sneaky lies and dirty tricks you've been throwing at everyone for months? Seems like to me your dogma just got run over by your karma. Ah, but what the hell, come on in anyway. I try to maintain a pretty big tent you know."
Ted and Marco both thankfully scampered inside just as The Donald appeared at the end of the driveway. 
"Get off my property!" ordered Hillary as Donald ran towards the door. "I've got more than enough miscreants and malcontents inside already to suit me."
She slammed the door so fast Donald's face smacked into it, causing his combover to cascade over his eyes, temporarily blinding him.
"Open the door!" screamed Donald as he flipped the combover back on top of his head. "And, I mean right damned now!"
Speaking through the automated speaker installed in the door, Hillary said, "Now see here Donald, ordinarily I would tell you to go screw yourself, but I realize so many are telling you that these days, the words no longer have any meaning for you. It's just the same old words you hear all the time. In fact, I can imagine you hear that so often the words actually provide comfort for you these days."
"And, since I have no desire to provide you comfort, I'll just say, 'Get the hell off my porch!' And, if you don't, I'm gonna sic Jesus on you." 
"Sic Jesus on me?" shouted Donald incredulously. "What the hell do you mean? Don't you know I'm the only goddamned Christian around here?"
"Jesus is my Doberman-Rottweiler mix." said Hillary maliciously.
The Donald very prudently left at that point, but not for long. He called the local sheriff, who, as a result, now considered himself to be a particular friend of Donald's. The Donald filed an official complaint by telephone about being threatened with Hillary's dog. The sheriff saw to it the animal control people came out to seize the dog that very day, and he went out and had a very serious talk with Hillary himself. He was sorely tempted, but never got any excuse to use his taser or sidearm on her though. That was a huge disappointment for him personally, but oh well, what can you do, especially when there are witnesses and they all have cell phone cameras these days?
Within thirty minutes after the sheriff left, Donald was back beating on Hillary's, the third little pig's door. "OK, Hillary. Enough of this bullshit now. I'm the winner, so let me in!" he said.
"Oh, hell no, you haven't won a damned thing yet." Hillary informed him through the door's speaker. "You're a loser, a bonafide idiot, and a great danger to others around you too, and if I have anything to do about it, I'm gonna see to it you get the humiliation you deserve!"
"And, I'm damned sure not gonna let you in here at all. Nosiree Bob, not by any of the hairs on my chinny, chin chin!" 
"So, go screw yourself!"
Donald screamed," OK Now! Open the door right now or I'm going to huff, and I'm going to puff, and I'm going to blow your goddamned house down around your deplorable ass!"
"Deplorable ass?" chortled Hillary. "I love it! Bring it on!"
Hillary, the third little pig wasn't worried. She had seen to it her house was designed and built by the very same people who did bank vaults, structures she was very, very familiar with. Her house was made of solid brick, with 3/4" solid stainless-steel tie-rods anchored back to cinder block inside walls. The cinder blocks themselves were filled with high-density cement, sealed on both sides with six layers of coal tar pitch intermeshed with titanium diamond-mesh.  The house was storm proof, hurricane proof, flood proof, bomb proof, and for damned sure, it was Donald proof! Hell, she could afford it, why not? She could make enough money to build three houses just like this one with a single speech on Wall Street.
"I said go screw yourself Donald!" she said again. "Even if it will be a comfort to you!"
So Donald commenced to huff and puff and blow with all his might. Nothing happened, not even a single roof shingle lifted or flapped due to his manly (as, so he believed) blast of hot air. He re-doubled his efforts then and huffed and puffed until his face changed from orange to bright red, and all the bleach ran out of his combover and down his face. Nothing, nothing! To add insult to injury, Donald was soon compelled to call for an emergency oxygen breathing apparatus just so he could get home that day.
But Donald wasn't done, nosiree, not The Donald! The Donald was going to have his way no matter what! That was a tradition he certainly did not intend to abandon now.
Donald schemed, he planned, and he called in consultants, all of whom he eventually fired, and he even had a session with a mystic just for giggles, which he sorely needed. Still nothing. Until at last, The Donald realized that the third little pig actually did have one small vulnerability he could exploit. The chimney for Christ's sakes! Why hadn't he thought of it earlier? No matter, it was a done deal for sure now, and vengeance would surely be sweeter than any honey!
Donald, the Big Bad Wolf, got busy. First, he hired the guy with the black ops personal security outfit to help plan the operation which they code-named "Bang, Bang, The Wicked Witch is Dead!"  Donald loved that little touch, so sweet to his ears. Mr. Prince also offered to do the job himself - for an appropriate fee of course - but The Donald declined, even though money was not the concern - he had never planned to pay the bastard anyway. They had Chris Christy fly the right sort of ladder in on Donald's personal jet. This was a real thrill for Christy since he had never, ever been the sole passenger on a big jet airplane before. Two seats yes, plenty of times, and of course he had once been in total control of a major metropolitan bridge, but never an entire huuge jet airplane! 

On the darkest night of the month, The Donald began his mission. Surreptitiously, he approached the back side of the third little pig's house and set his ladder in place. He climbed atop the house and closely inspected the chimney. After making sure the chimney was large enough for his copious frame (Donald preferred the term "man-sized" himself, in spite of his other physical shortcomings). After ascertaining there was no heat or smoke arising from the chimney, he began his descent down it. There was a wonderful anticipatory glee in his heart as he imagined the end results of this great occasion. Donald was personally going to enjoy every second of this payback mission, and life was going to be good again! Hell, life was going to be GREAT Again!
But Hillary, that third little pig, was a wise, canny, shifty, battle-scarred and wary old shellback of a broad indeed. She knew exactly who The Donald was because he telegraphed it far and wide with everything he said or did. She knew exactly what to expect from such a pathological narcissist, who could always be counted upon to be ruled completely by his irresistible Big Bad Wolf urges, just as you can always count on night becoming day and vice versa. You see, that third little pig had been around a block or two. Or three, or four, or however many you want to name. Hillary had the chops, and she damned well knew how to use them!
Hillary, with the help of her guests Marco and Ted - and let's not forget that youth leader - therefore was very well prepared. She had laid very abundant fire material in the bottom of her huuge fireplace, atop which she placed an old-fashioned 80-gallon black iron pot filled with pre-warmed water - she would need a great big one for this ugly, unpleasant beast. And the precise moment The Donald's feet sensed the warmed water, Hillary lit the fire, the fuel for which was already soaked with plenty of accelerant, and she then fired up her big draft fans to fan the flames. Mercifully for The Donald, his ordeal was relatively brief but seemed pleasingly painful enough to him to satisfy all the witnesses. 
The Last Three Little pigs - and let's not forget the youth leader - all agreed among themselves afterward, that once all the crap had been boiled out of The Donald, they were able to send the remains to the undertaker in a shoebox - which they very happily did.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Whoring for Jesus

By the time I mustered out of the Marine Corps I had learned some very good life lessons - 'Never volunteer for ANYTHING!' is one good one, especially for any military person. That  is a worn out old cliche I know, but there are usually very good and solid back story reasons for any cliche. Another lesson I came away with was a strong intolerance for baloney of any kind. I don't easily tolerate verbal crap in other words.
Why should I spend my time listening to someone else's take on something when I am totally not interested? Sure, there are some times when I will hear someone out for the sake of being courteous. But, there are some inconsiderate people will who take advantage of your politeness for their own reasons. They will count on your politeness to shove their message, whatever it may be, down your throat. Door-to-door sales people are one good example. Over time they have given themselves such a bad rap that most communities have now officially barred the practice, or limited it severely. Ordinances have been passed outlawing 'solicitation', and very deservedly so in my opinion. I don't remember the last time one has come knocking on my door recently.
One time, way back when I was first married and before our town had laws against solicitation,  a couple guys came to my door saying they were doing a 'survey' and needed to talk to me and my wife together. They looked suspiciously like sales people, so I asked if they were selling something.
"Oh no." one or them proclaimed ever so innocently. "We are just doing a survey in your neighborhood and need to talk to you and your wife for just a few minutes. We won't take up more than five minutes of your time."
Based on that I let them in my house but still kept up my guard. My understandable assumption was they were municipal workers doing a community survey. The two guys, both young,  sat down in the chairs I offered, The very first thing one of them did was to loosen the straps on a satchel type binder affair he was lugging around. He let the contents cascade like an accordion out across my living room floor. It was magazine covers in plastic sleeves for Christ's sakes!
"I thought you said you weren't selling anything!" I demanded angrily.
"Oh no, we're not selling anything." said the guy lied smiling all the while. "This is just part of our survey."
The guy must have believed that since he was already inside my house I probably out of politeness would not throw him out of my house. Unfortunately for him, he was 100% wrong. I said to him then, "You two have ten seconds to get your carcasses the hell out of my house before I throw you both out ass over tea kettle!"
They left of course, the junior man already in the doorway before I had finished my little speech. The other one was right behind him as quick as he could gather up his pitch materials. Over the years my practice has been simply just to shut  down strangers who came to the door uninvited. I lost my politeness impulse and don't feel any need at all to pretend to be polite if you are bothering me on my turf. If you come knocking on my door and it's not for some damned good and legitimate reason, I'm gonna send you packing. And, depending on how I feel at the moment, I might throw in a few earthy comments about your mother too while I'm at it. 
Although door-to-door sales people may nowadays be almost a thing of the past, there remains another breed of door-knocker who are all too pervasive and obnoxious. I refer of course to the 'evangelicals', who have arranged to omit themselves from most local ordinances. These folks still have their loopholes for their continuing apparently legal botherment of citizens. To my knowledge, there are no ordinances against their invasive activities, at least in my town. They must enjoy a certain level of success, or they would not continue their efforts. There must be a certain segment of the population too, who do respond to their evangelizing. But do they really actually expect most people to embrace their doctrines through their door bell ringing? Do they actually believe after irritating me or my wife we would be favorably inclined to join their group or contribute money?
These 'Godly' people come in different flavors. Sometimes it it the 'LDS' young men on their assigned 'missions'. Sometimes it's the Jehovahs witnesses, and other times in the Holiness Churchers, the Salvation Army 'War Cry' bunch, or the Church of God group. They all have the same thing in common, i.e., they seem to believe that by imposing their presence and 'message' beliefs on strangers, they are performing 'God's work'.  Such arrogance and impertinence would be laughable if it were not so bothersome.
To me, and to most other people I am convinced, they are perceived as a pestilential bunch of losers, so low on the intellectual ladder as to actually believe they 'do good' with their annoying activities. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they exist in enough numbers so the odds are anyone living in a residential neighborhood may routinely expect anywhere from one to several evangelical nuisance visits in a year. I used to simply politely turn them away, trying not to step on anyone's feelings. But, after being called to my door from my relaxing chair so many times I've changed my tune. It is such an imposition to find two of these vexing God's helpers standing on my doorstep. They almost always come in pairs, for good and sufficient reasons I am sure. And, over the years I have gradually worked out a more effective defense mechanism.
First, I resorted to simple blunt rudeness when answering the door, and before they had a chance to say anything, I would say something like, '"Go Away! I'm not interested!"
This is effective and always works for the moment, but never for long. Inevitably another pair would show up on my doorstep and ring my door bell. I then changed my tactics with a little psychology I dreamed up. I tried being excessively nice and inviting them in for a drink. I would say, "Hey! You're just in time. I'm getting ready to mix myself up a nice stiff rum toddy, but I also have whiskey or anything you want. What would you like?"
That would always quickly get them off my doorstep. I would hear some embarrassed mutters of apology and soon they would be hustling down the sidewalk at a brisk pace. I did worry that someone might eventually take me up on my offer of a drink but that never happened. Nevertheless, sooner or later yet another pair would come calling on my door step once again. There seemed to be no permanent cure for these pests.
Then, one day a home alarm salesman called when my wife was home alone. He told her he 'was in the neighborhood' and had seen the signs posted by our current alarm company and wondered if we might be 'interested in changing?'  He was obviously in violation of our town's solicitation ordinance and my wife was outraged - she has a quick temper and a low tolerance for aggravagtion that one. But, instead of calling the police, she rudely chased him away. The next day she went out and bought a small sign about 6" by 12" with the words "No Solicitation" on it. This, she posted on our front porch. 
Little did I know how effective this small sign could turn out to be for me! Not very long afterward our door bell rang. When I went to the door there stood two rather matronly middle-aged women with their hair up in buns, and bibles in their hands. I was already feeling a little touchy for some reason, and now this fresh irritation at the sight of these two dowdy women standing on my porch was all I needed. I didn't say a word and just simply pointed to my wife's new sign
"Oh, we're not soliciting!" said one of the women brightly.
I still don't know where my next words came from.  Somehow in my annoyance the words just popped into my head and came straight through out of my mouth, "Well, you're whoring for Jesus aren't you? Now, get the hell off my doorstep!"
Both women flushed in the face and turned, scampering away, almost running down my sidewalk back to their car. If there was ever a 'Well, I never!" moment it was precisely then. That was over four years ago and not a single evangelical has disturbed out peace since then. Perhaps there is some sort of secret way these people have for passing the word?

Of course, I'm sure we are not now welcome in their church anymore - and thank goodness for that!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More Than You Need to Know about Screech Rum

“Screech Rum”? Sounds like a joke or a spoof, right? But there really is such a thing as Screech Rum.  Honest!.  I first ran across Screech rum on a trip to Nova Scotia back around 1975 or so. 
Rum has always been my drink of choice for as long as I can remember,  I've tried many kinds of alcohol over the years. I've given honest tries of weeks at a time to sour mash whiskey, scotch whiskey, blended whiskey, and Canadian whiskey. I even got on a gin kick for a while when living in south Florida in the 'seventies - gin and tonic, supposedly a good hot weather drink you know. I've only had tequila and vodka a few times and did not enjoy those at all. Hell, if I wanted to drink something tasting exactly like medicine, why not just do myself some good and drink real medicine? At the price of some tequilas, the medicine might even be cheaper!
Don't get me wrong though - these days I limit my alcohol intake to about two ounces a week - one good stiff rum drink on Friday nights, so a bottle of rum can last me a good long while. Sometimes I do cheat a little though, by putting a couple tablespoons of dark rum over a dish of ice cream. Try that, you'll love it!
Anyway, no matter what I have tried over the years, sooner or later I always returned to rum. So when I stopped in a liquor store in Nova Scotia I went directly to the rum shelf. There I noticed a bottle with the Screech label. In fact, there were quite a few bottles of Screech rum there. And of course I bought a bottle, just for the notoriety of the name if nothing else. I found Screech to be an OK rum, but on the rough side and not up to the standards I really enjoy, like Mount Gay or Pussers. Those can be a little pricey though, so I usually just go for Bacardi or something similar so long as it is a good, dark rum, the blacker the better for me. These days I'm partial to 'Flora de Cana' from Nicaragua, which is a moderately priced, but a good dark and flavorful rum.
Screech is a quite a bit rougher or 'greener' tasting rum than most (see below!), so once I emptied that first bottle, I began pouring other kinds of rum into the empty bottle just to have fun with guests to my house. I was probably responsible for boosting the sales of Screech rum for a while there, but I no longer have that bottle these days.  Next time I'm in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland I plan to rectify that! I have two nieces living in St. Johns, NS, so that's reason enough for a visit right there.
Here's the explanation of how the Screech name came to be from the folks who sell it, the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation itself:
"Before liquor boards were created, Jamaican rum was a popular part of a Newfoundlander's diet, when salt fish was traded in exchange for rum. When the Government took control of the liquor business, it began selling the rum in unlabelled bottles. The product remained nameless until American servicemen came to the Island during World War II.
The commanding officer of the original detachment was having his first taste. The Newfoundlander downed his drink in one gulp, so the American did the same. The American’s blood-curdling scream attracted a lot of attention. An American sergeant who heard the sound from outside pounded his fist on the door and demanded to know, “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?”
The Newfoundlander replied in true Newfie form, “Da Screech? ’Tis the rum, me son.” As all embarrassing moments do, the incident spread, and the soldiers were determined to try this mysterious “Screech” to see what the fuss was all about. The drink was soon their favorite.
The Newfoundland Liquor Board soon adopted the name and began labeling the dark rum Newfoundland Screech."
Which leads me to a story by a friend of mine who was famous for his stories, an unreconstructed Mainer and lobsterman from Matinicus Island, Maine. He's gone on now to those greater lobster grounds in the sky, but his story lives on in his very own words, as I remember them here:
“Now Screech Rum is some more mighty powahful stuff.  I 'membah one time when I got me a bottle of Screech Rum from Newfoundland - 'smattah of fact, I weah IN Newfoundland at the time.”
“Wal', I downed 'bout three quahtahs of that theah bottle - which was one a them dammed Impeahrial quaahts ya know, and went out a-prowlin' on the town - St. Johns ya know.  An'  I stumbled inta this wataahfront baah.  I threw me money down an' ordahed drinks on da house.  'Tweahn't long afoah this good lookin' babe comes up and gets really friendly wit’ me - and' I do mean FRIENDLY.  An', I'm heah ta tell ya she weaah some whole lotta, big lotta woman that one.  An’ she weaah the prettiest woman I evaah sawr. She weaah prettiaah than any wondahfuliest movie staah I thought."
“Whoo Boy!  Didn't we paahty down though son, an' BIG TIME!   We painted that theah St. Johns bright red wit yellah polka dots.  Whoo-ee!  Got almighty that woman weaah a hootah though!  She matched me drink foah drink and we even hadda go get some moah Screech afoaah long!  An' Hell, I don't know how, but aftah that she seemed to get just prettiaah an' even prettiaah!”
“We paahtied heahty all night long until we hadda fall down inta da bed. Next moanin' I woke up wit’ one big godawful headache an' a-smellin' some unholy an' godawful badly - but,  I looked up, an' theah weaah me beauty a-sittin' on da windah  sill,  a-smilin,'  a-sippin' on Screech an' a-smokin a big ol' dog tuuhd cigaah!  GOT ALMIGHTY DAMN!”
“I seen bettah lookin'’ wimmen at th’ undahrtakah's aftah an eighteen-wheeler wreck!”

Monday, September 19, 2016


*You may believe it or not, but in a past life back during the late 'sixties, I worked  as a mid-level supervisor for the General Motors Corporation at one of their huge assembly plants. My job was as a supervisor of a small operation in a building about three hundred yards outside and across a huge shipping yard away from the main assembly plant. There I was sort of 'out of sight and out of mind' and seldom bothered by superiors.  I simply checked in with my boss a couple times each day by telephone and did my job supervising the five employees who worked under me.

Our shop was called 'Outgoing Quality Check' and we were a fairly tight knit bunch. Most of the people who worked with me were older, long-term, seasoned employees who had worked themselves up from the assembly line jobs they first hired in on, to became 'expert' in their particular specialties. One was an 'engine man', another was an expert on transmissions and drive trains, another was a front-end alignment specialist, and yet another was a 'body fit and trim' expert. The fifth man was relatively new and only washed and cleaned up the cars which some of the upper supervisors drove each day. 

The way this worked, about a dozen random cars, 'jobs' as they were called, were selected right off the assembly line each week. These were delivered down to my shop, two or three units per day to be prepared for the assigned individuals to drive home and to wherever they wished to go with them. The supervisors would keep their units for a week, then the process would be repeated. Before delivery to the assigned drivers, the selected jobs would be prepared by my crew. They were washed, the front-end alignment checked, engine tune-up and specifications checked, and the fit of the hood, trunk, fenders and doors all checked to insure those were within GM specifications. Nothing was changed however, unless there was a safety issue. The gas tanks were filled from our own gas pumps, oil levels checked, etc. and our wash man would deliver to cars to the supervisor's assigned parking spot in front of the plant.

Part of this process also involved disconnecting the factory speedometer installed on the assembly line and installing a special, temporary speedometer mounted under the dash in the driver's line of sight. Unless there was an issue with the car, and there sometimes was, they were driven for the full week and refueled from the company gas pump as needed. When they were turned back in the temporary speedometer was removed, and the factory one re-connected. The supervisors driving the cars were supposed to complete a simple little report each time about deficiencies, or anything they noted during their use of the car. A  summary of these reports went into my daily report to the head of the Inspection Department, who was my direct supervisor.

After the temporary speedometer was removed, the unit was simply re-inserted into the delivery schedule and shipped to the dealer.

I was impressed by General Motors' efforts on 'quality control' then, but always wondered about that bit of not-so-innocent subterfuge the company indulged in. We were sending out new cars right off the assembly line which had been driven in some cases, several hundreds of miles. yet the speedometer would show only half a dozen miles when the car was delivered to the ultimate purchaser. Several years later I heard of The Chrysler Corporation being fined millions of dollars for exactly the same thing, but to my knowledge General Motors has never been censured for this. I thought a few times about being a 'whistle blower' on this issue after I left GM, but was always restrained by my father's remembered advice: "If you can't say something good about something, just don't say anything at all."

I do remember several times during my time in that job of hearing of buyer complaints about cigarette butts in ash trays, mud on the undercarriage, or dirt and mud in the foot wells, etc. The factory used to ship out our new cars with the floor carpets un-installed, and rolled up in the trunk. The dealers would install them when they arrived at the dealers' lot, and I assume they usually cleaned things up before delivery to the customer. I guess the dealers simply missed those tale tell little signs when the cars were cleaned. Dealers routinely explained away and glossed over problems their customers might note. You must remember that the staff at any automobile dealer must possess really good lines of blather.

General Motors in the 'sixties was a brutal, absolutely no nonsense working environment with zero tolerance for anything which might even remotely reflect unfavorably on anyone in the higher levels of supervision. I merely tried to stay out of trouble and keep my immediate boss happy. I quickly learned after hiring on with GM, that there is no such thing as 'understanding' or 'compassion' with such a huge company. At that time in the mid-sixties, General Motors was the largest company in the world, though they have since been demoted I've heard. I suppose it is possible too, that the GM corporate culture has changed during the intervening fifty-something years. The successful onslaught of Japanese and Korean imports has certainly caused a lot of other changes for the American automobile industry.

I am calling this little story is 'The Man Who Knew Too Much', and spilling a few secrets here. However, I am not that man who knew too much.

No, that person is another man entirely. Let us call him 'Gregory' although that is not his real name. Greg ran a shop adjacent to and connected to my shop by a common wall. His responsibility was similar, but more involved with the actual nuts and bolts of how the General Motors line of cars and trucks hold up from an engineering standpoint. Often cars that went through my shop would be referred to Greg's shop for further analysis for example. What pieces and parts wear out too fast, break too quickly, need to be redesigned and all that sort of thing. Even the simplest of things might be a problem. For instance, we encountered problems with the the cast iron drainage plug for rear-end differentials. Some of these had flaws where the casting sand left a tiny hole which allowed a very slight fluid leak.  Those tiny holes could lead to a failure of the entire rear end in time. Things like that were Greg's meat and potatoes.

Greg was a graduate of the General Motors Academy, which during the 'forties, 'fifties and 'sixties was GM's fully accredited four year college which offered a free-of-charge engineering degree to selected applicants who passed their qualifying examinations. I don't recall exactly how the program worked, but I had even briefly considered applying at one time in my young life. The reason I did not was the stipulation about being committed to employment with GM for a specified period of time after graduation, something like six or eight years as I remember. But, the opposite side of that arrangement did not apply. In other words, GM could fire you anytime they felt like it.  Apparently, GM has dropped this program since I can not find anything online about it today.

Since Greg had no employment guarantee he was really sweating an interview all supervisors knew was coming from a "Hatchet Man". This is what everyone called the high-level manager sent from the Detroit home office to look over everything at our plant. The point being to improve efficiency, and trim the payroll if possible. Literally, this fellow was a corporate Hatchet Man sent to make needed and sometimes drastic changes. The man's official capacity when he arrived was 'Assistant Plant Manager'. But, his real job was to be a Hatchet Man. Everyone knew this well in advance of his arrival at our plant since the corporate grapevine is very, very effective you know. We even knew the man's name.

Within one week of the Hatchet Man's coming to our plant, some of the upper-level supervisors were receiving summary dismissals without notice. This guy was responsible for firing about 20% of the management within three weeks, in a plant with over 6000 employees. Everyone with a vested interest in their jobs in the corporation was terrified. A manager would be called upon in his office, quickly and brutally interviewed right there, and instantly dismissed. He would be asked for his keys, told to clean out his desk with plant security looking over his shoulder, and out the door he went. I really think the Hatchet Man had studied the files and had it all decided beforehand. He stayed at our plant a total of only six weeks in all, blowing through like a tornado leaving devastation in his wake. 

The dreaded day came for Greg's interview and for me too. Since we were mere mid-level people we were being interviewed together in one sitting. The Hatchet Man asked Greg half a dozen quick, machine-gun style pertinent questions about his job and department's statistics. Greg was very well prepared since we had cooperated with each other by studying and quizzing each other. Greg knew all his answers and immediately fired right back. I was very impressed by his composure because he was a naturally nervous and high-strung guy. But then, right In the middle of all the rapid-fire questions and out of nowhere the Hatchet Man demanded or him, "So, what's your wife's name?"

Poor Gregory just went blank and sat staring in disbelief at the Hatchet Man, his lips moving but nothing coming out. I felt really sorry for him even if I was choking to laugh. The question was so far from left field it knocked the skids right out from under Greg's composure.  He simply could not think of his own wife’s name! He stammered and choked for ten or fifteen seconds, and turned purple in the face with beads of sweat rolling off him like grapes before he could say, 'Mary' or whatever her name was. I could see the Hatchet Man was only having his own cruel fun messing with poor Greg's mind. He gave Greg a nasty laugh and then turned to me.

My own interview was easy and anti-climatic after Greg's performance. I was already thinking about leaving GM so I just didn't give a damn, although the Hatchet Man was not aware of that. I was relaxed and confident, especially after watching the ordeal the Hatchet Man put Greg through. The Hatchet Man just raised his eyebrows at me after a few questions and walked away. To his ultimate relief, Gregory was not cashiered on the spot and we both kept our jobs.

For as long as I live I will never forget that awful and funny day poor Gregory temporarily forgot his wife's name. It was both heartbreaking and hilariously funny at the same time even though I dared not laugh at the time. I haven't stayed in touch with Greg so I don’t know where he is today.  He is retired I suppose if his job with GM lasted a full career or didn't kill him first. I was told the 'Hatchet Man' tradition was repeated on the average by GM roughly every two years or so and it is always possible another Hatchet Man collected Greg's scalp later too.

I'm pretty sure that one particular Hatchet Man is turning in his grave somewhere today as he was far too much of a type "A" to have lived a very long time. And even though I was in his presence for only a few minutes, I could still tell you his name to this very day if I wished to do so. I voluntarily left General Motors within a few months of that interview because I recognized that their corporate soul, or more to the point, their lack thereof, was definitely not my cup of tea. I have never had one single regret about that since either.

I even sold my stock in GM after leaving, the stock I had purchased under their employee stock purchase matching plan. As I recall GM pitched in a dollar for every dollar the employee paid.

*This is a true tale, told from my memory now well over fifty years after the events took place.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Start on Solving The Gun Control Dilemma

A start on solving the gun control dilemma: 
We have a serious problem in our country with too many firearms in too many evil or irresponsible hands. Gun proliferation problems in the United States make our nation a pariah among other advanced societies, and much of the rest of the world now look upon us as a nation of gun crazies. This is really not all that far from the truth.
Our nation's gun issues are egregiously aggravated by firearms manufacturers working through the National Rifle Associate (NRA) and other gun ownership groups to block any meaningful legislation to fix our problems. Their interests seem only to be the boosting of ever more sales of firearms. These companies and groups proved to be a potent political force, all out of proportion to their numbers. They manage to make the mere suggestion of gun control legislation the 'third rail' for any politician who dares to bring the subject up. All efforts to enact gun legislation is consistently met by a ferocious all-out assault to defeat both the proposed legislation, and any politician so rash as to bring it up. There exists no effective organized opposition to the gun lobby's domination of the political process in their favor. It is an egregious example of a failure in our celebrated capitalist political and economic system.
Incredibly, even legislation that would prevent people on the terror watch list from buying guns has been blocked. Perhaps worse than that is an example of the tail wagging the dog, Republicans cut funding to the CDC (Communicable Disease Control) for even collecting statistics on gun injury and death!  It is a crying national shame.
A *national survey done by the University of Chicago and published in March, 2015 shows over 70% of Americans favor requiring a police permit for the purchase of a firearm.
 This figure has been nearly constant, ranging only 12 percentage points since 1972, with a low of 69.2% in 1980, to a high of 81.9% in 1998. The number stood at 71.7% in 2014.
In 2013 there were 33,636 deaths in the US due to firearms and 73,505 non-fatal injuries.
 In the same year, there were 32,719 deaths due to motor vehicles. Gun deaths per capita in the U.S. are 5 times that of Canada,, 3.5 times that of France, 10 times that of Germany, and over 45 times that of the United Kingdom. Something here is definitely out of whack!
Gun ownership statistics show that there are 116 guns per 100 people in the US. And while only a minority of the population actually own guns, the ones who do own an average of 8 guns each, which accounts for the guns per capita. US citizens own more guns per capita than than any other country in the world by far. We stand at number 1 with our 116 , with #2 and #3 behind us being Serbia at 75.6, then Yemen at 54.8. The world average is 10.2, or 1/12th of the US per capita rate.
One huge problem is gathering any meaningful figures, since the gun lobby not only tries to block the gathering of numbers relating to gun problems, but also actively tries to obscure those on record by disputing them, and introducing their own slanted 'studies' to hide the problems.
What if there is a quick, elegant, brilliant and easily administered way to begin solving the gun control dilemma? This method is one even diehard 'keep-the government-out-of-my-life' Republicans could embrace, and it would be at very little cost to the treasury. This method requires no government registration of firearms or any other government 'infringement' of the public's 'right to bear arms'.
The idea is dirt simple really:
Simply pass legislation requiring the gun owner to carry liability insurance on each gun owned.  This creates a privately administered system which serves several purposes:
A.  Each gun carries its own serial number which the insurance companies need to insure a particular gun. This will establish a private system whereby each gun is accounted for individually;
B.  Insurance companies would charge for each gun insured, thereby discouraging gun worshipers from owning multiple weapons due to the cost of insurance. They would retain their precious and sacred  'right to bear' arms', but would pay insurance costs for each weapon;
C.  In time the insurance companies would determine which gun models carry the most risk, and adjust their rates accordingly. This might discourage the ownership of assault weapons for example;
D.  The insurance protection would both protect the gun owner and provide recompense for death or injuries resulting from guns;
E.  Establish severe monetary and/or criminal penalties for anyone in possession of a non-insured gun, and subject uninsured guns to automatic seizure.
F.  Provide a 'grace period' of a reasonable period of time to allow current gun owners to obtain insurance for guns, or to dispose of them as they see fit. States (or the Federal government) would establish a reasonable buy-back system for surplus guns the owners elect not to insure. This will result in getting many guns out of circulation. Australia, a country much like our own, passed strong gun control legislation with a buy back program in 1996 after a mass shooting there. This has been extremely successful in bringing down the death rate from firearms in Australia.
This is a reasonable, sane and effective way to begin saving our country from the gun industry and their irrational supporters.
Statutory mandates requiring liability insurance already exist for hazardous items such as automobiles for example, and mortgage companies will not provide property financing without liability insurance on the property.  Should not the same standards be mandated for such inherently dangerous items such as a gun?
There will be a huge battle with the gun lobby for sure, but the numbers are on the side of sanity, common sense and realities. Of course this alone cannot solve all our gun proliferation problems, but it is a start. Please contact your legislators and let them know you are on board to help them solve the gun problems in our country.  We really can do no less for our children and grand children.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Party Time in Philadelphia

Party time in Philadelphia

I spent some time in Philadelphia helping train reservists for the Fourth Marine Corps District back in the day. It was good duty, with a lot more time for partying than I was used to.

We had a party one night. A few Marines, our girl friends and a few other friends. It was on the second floor of a row house in Philly. The place was somewhere near the University, in an area where lots of university students lived, and some lived on the first floor of that row house. The second floor was Joe and Riley's place. Joe was a full blooded Cherokee Indian from South Carolina, and about the toughest guy I ever saw to this day. He stood about 6'-4", and looked about four feet wide. I swear, his fingers were at least an inch wide across at the tips, the biggest hands I ever saw on any man. I once saw Joe hit a guy, a big guy, so hard he did a complete somersault and land several feet away. Joe told me one time if he ever got a clean hit on someone who didn't go down, he always took a walk around back of the guy to see what had him propped up.

I remember one time we got called out for ceremonial duty to a huge American Legion club somewhere in the western part of the city. We were the rifle and color guard for the funeral of a Marine killed someplace. It was volunteer duty and we did lots of those kinds of duties in Philly because we knew if the guy was Irish or Polish American, you could always count on a big party afterwards, a 'wake' they called it. The Irish and Polish Catholics were famous for that around Philly, and there were a lot of them in that region. This was one of those deals, and after the graveside ceremony we Marines were invited inside the club, taken to a couple of booths and asked what we wanted to drink. Whatever you asked for, they brought out a full fifth each and sat it in front of each man, and brought us delicious roast beef sandwiches on rye and pickles too. Beer flowed freely everywhere as well. There were maybe 200 to 300 people in this club at the time, with eight of us Marines in full dress blue uniforms camped,out in a couple booths against the wall.

It wasn't long after that when the party really got going. There were folks of all ages, including some children. Some younger folks got to dancing and raising hell on the dance floor. Joe was this big handsome guy, with his dark swarthy complexion, sardonic grin, and this big hooked beak nose like a fierce eagle's beak. The girls always swarmed him. So Joe's out there on the dance floor innocently boogying with this attractive girl when some guy sneaked up behind him with a full pitcher of beer and smashed it down on the back of his head. Turned out it was the girl's boyfriend who she was trying to make jealous and it had worked. Joe just looked sort of surprised, then turned around and clobbered the guy, knocking him unconscious.

At that the fight was on, as it usually was when Marines, booze, partying and a fight got all mixed up together. All the Marines piled out of the booths and started knocking hell out of anyone handy. In seconds it was a general melee, with the entire place in a brawl, women screaming, children running and crying and lots of folks running and falling down and some even joining in the fun punching each other. Chairs were thrown and the adrenalin was flowing everywhere so hard it made your ears pop. In the midst of all this, this short, chubby Irish looking guy ran up behind Joe and tried to pin his arms from behind. It looked almost like Joe was peeling off his undershirt when he reached over his head behind him and grabbed the guy by the scruff of his neck. I remember seeing that poor guy flipping through the air, even though I had some guy by the throat while I was pounding his head myself at the time. I bet that poor guy flipped at least three somersaults before landing flat on his back screaming and with the ceiling tiles crashing down all around him.

The club was soon pretty well cleaned out with people scrambling out all the exits running for their lives and screaming. That left just us Marines, one chubby Irish-looking guy sobbing on the floor and a few tentative legionnaires in their cute little caps. Turned out the poor guy Joe flipped was the visiting Congressman from that district and we Marines were all in hot water indeed. To this day I still think that damned Congressman was one complete and utter damned fool for believing he could make himself the hero by stopping that big, bad-assed Marine. On the other hand, aren't most Congressmen kind of narcissistic and stupid that way? Anyway, the rescue squad came and collected the Congressman while we Marines all left as quietly as possible. We all had to face the music the next day, but that's another story entirely.

Joe was later killed in Vietnam - in a whorehouse I heard, which the Charlies blew up with everyone in it. They had mined the place earlier I think, knowing Americans favored the place. The VC had no qualms about blowing up the girls along with the Americans. I guess poor old Joe went out in his own style. We were great friends and I loved that guy. Still do too.

Riley was this fiery red-headed guy from Kentucky and tough as an oak burl. He was much smaller than Joe, but they were great friends too. He would fight a buzz saw at the drop of a hat, and you could count on him to win too. I stole Riley's girl one time and figured I'd have to fight the little bastard over that, but he just laughed and shrugged his shoulders about it. I later paid $600 for that girl to get an abortion and nobody knew who was the papa, as if it mattered. This was in the days before Rowe-Wade too, but abortions were available if you knew the right people. And $600 was a pile of money back in the mid-sixties too, let me tell you. You could buy a brand-new car back then for less than $2000. As I remember, I think Riley may have kicked in a couple hundred too - maybe he had a guilty conscience, and he was an upright guy in any case. I don't know whatever happened to Riley, and maybe he's still surviving somewhere today.

 And boy, that gal was a good-looking thing too, a leggy blonde, and good German Catholic girl who lived to party. You have to remember that confession absolves a lot of sins for Catholics. I have no idea what the penance was for all her sins, but I'll bet it was pretty harsh for her. Maybe she had to sleep with the priest or something, who knows? She was about 22, and loved country music, which was pretty odd in Philly in those days. We used to love to rock out to 'Proud Mary' at the clubs. Go figure. Hell, she used to make a regular road trip with her girl friends from Philly to Memphis about every two months to take in the Grand Ol' Opry!

Actually, that's probably where she got knocked up, on one of those road trips, come to think of it. Ah, well.

But, back to Joe and Riley's party. It was a good party, and everyone got well boozed and loosened up. The HiFi was going, there was loud talking and laughing, you know the drill. People drifted in and out and no one paid much attention until Joe's girl came in and said something to him. She was this lovely nurse from one of the local hospitals. For some reason I was paying attention and I saw his face go dark, if a full-blooded Indian's face can get any darker. But I knew the look as I had seen it before. He jumped out of his chair and headed for the door. A couple other Marines saw it too and we followed him down the stairs. Turned out the students on the first floor were having their own party and many had been drifting up and down the stairs and crashing our party too, but no one seemed to mind or had said anything.

But one of them had said something pretty gross or insulting to Joe's girlfriend, and he really ought not to have done that, especially if he had known whose girlfriend he was messing with. There were about thirty people in the downstairs flat, all partying and laughing too. About two thirds of them were guys, and Joe charged right into the midst of them headed for this one guy who started back peddling to get away. But, he got trapped in the kitchen and Joe hit him so hard he went through the back window and fell to the ground. Those old row houses are built over a raised basement, so the distance from the window to the ground is something like ten feet. And, I don't know what it is, and I have always been puzzled by this phenomenon which has no logic to it at all. But, as soon as one your own guys smacks someone in another group, there is an instant explosion of action. Just ask anyone who has been in a brawl and they will tell you the same thing. It is involuntary and you will instantly knock hell out of the nearest guy in the other group yourself. I think it is the prime instigator and motivator of any so-called brawl.

It also shocks the hell out of anyone who it hasn't happened to before.

And that's exactly what happened that night. Four Marines descended like a tornado on twenty or so bewildered and terrified young students and beat the living hell out of them. The fight didn't last long because they were either huddled on the floor covering their heads in the foetal position or running for their lives out the door and down the street. It was both funny and sad at the same time. After this first burst of violence the four of us looked at each other a little chagrined and embarrassed, and then began helping the remaining poor terrified guys up from the floor, brushing them off and apologizing. After a bit we convinced them we meant no real harm, and before long we were all having drinks together. All except for Joe and the guy he knocked out through the window. Joe had to go hide out at my place for a few days and rescue squad came for his victim lying on the ground outside moaning. Joe had a way of providing more than his fair share of business for the rescue squad. But, like I said, I still loved the guy.

The police came, looked around for a little bit, asked for Joe, and since no one knew where he was they left. They had been through this kind of stuff before.