Now is the time for Medicare for All

Democrats should introduce a fully fleshed-out “Medicare for All” bill, announce the intent to introduce it four weeks in advance, and talk it up at town halls, on traditional media and social media.  The DNC should engage activist groups to “beat the streets” for grassroots support.  Democrats should promote it as a replacement for Obamacare.  If it is blocked by the GOP, use all of the previously mentioned tools for disseminating information to spotlight their failure to produce anything that is actually better than the ACA and isn’t just a tool to give the very wealthiest a huge tax break.  It is not enough to just attack the obscene legislation the GOP is trying to push through Congress, but the Democratic Party must show that it has the ability and the drive to work for the people to “. . . promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity . . . “.  The time to act is now.

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Death and the Writer’s Conference

Writers Conference

“things took a frightening turn”

I’ve just returned from three days of literary and psychic mayhem known as a writer’s conference.  Three days of packed workshops, three days of trying to sell your latest project to an army of agents, publishers, studio representatives etc.  Three days of trying to network with people that spend most of their time alone in front of a keyboard, messing with their own heads.

The first order of business on the first day, at a time when civilized people are hammering their alarm clocks into submission, was to stand in line to collect my conference ID Badge, which I had been assured by OFFICIAL EMAIL would gain me entry to all the rights and privileges for which I had paid.  But, the email also assured me, if I were caught on the premises not wearing the badge, I would be taken into custody at once by the INS and deported to an undisclosed location in Mexico.  The badges themselves were, of course, demon possessed.  Hanging on a lanyard around my neck, the badge perversely rotated so that my name was facing my chest, remaining that way in spite of my many attempts to turn it around.

After breakfast, my first workshop was a panel of literary agents giving their takes on the current market, and taking questions from the attendees.  I had chosen this one because I signed up as part of a group meeting with an executive from New Line Cinema and thought it would be easy to sneak out early.  I could have skipped it entirely since I wound up leaving before they were through introducing themselves.  Nerves and too much coffee directed me to the men’s room before the meeting.  That’s when I became aware of the tragedy.

I needed a stall and so tried the door to the first one that appeared vacant.  The door was locked.  I tried again (no feet were showing below) without success, so I peeked in through a space at the edge of the door.  The stall was completely empty, but my writer’s mind, conditioned by Sherlock Holmes and many hours of old CSI episodes, at once deduced the truth:  some poor writer had had an early meeting with an agent or publisher and been crushed.  This writer was male (it was the men’s room) and had gone into the stall, locking the door (they only lock from the inside).  He then stepped into the toilet and flushed himself into oblivion, thereby ending as a horrible cliché.

I didn’t have time to dwell on this horror.  I finished my own personal business and then dashed to the group consulting area where six of us were to meet the film exec.  The two minutes I had to present my 700-page novel made me into a quivering, inarticulate Bozo.

“And what is the plot of your novel?” the exec asked.

“Uh…um…duh,” I replied.

“That’s a great title,” said the exec.

“I’m sorry but your time’s up,” burbled the conference volunteer who had just entered the room to clear the way for the next round of meetings.

I left the meeting imagining how Leo Tolstoy might have done:

“What is the plot of your novel?” the exec asked.

“War and Peace?” Leo queried.

“That’s a fantastic summation of such a massive manuscript,” the exec responded.  What is the title?”

“Uh…um…duh,” Leo replied.

Having finished my meeting, I snuck into a dialog workshop and relaxed by watching snippets of movies followed by commentaries on the dialogue.  This lasted until lunch.  The morning’s ordeal had left me ravenous, so I stoked the internal furnaces with a massive roast beef sandwich and all the trimmings, plus a heap of pasta salad.  I made some new contacts, but immediately lost them when I began talking about the tragedy in the men’s room (writers hate clichés).

After lunch I made my way into a workshop on plotting.  As I sat there struggling to keep my eyelids from closing, I noticed that the presenter was speaking very slowly

and pronouncing each word very carefully, while the vocabulary she was using seemed somewhat limited.  I realized too late that I had wandered into a class on children’s literature by mistake.  But I was too sleepy to get up and leave.  Besides, if I fell asleep, I thought, it would be better to go to sleep with children’s stories ringing in my ears than with the depraved motivations of serial killers twisting my subconscious.

The day finished off with an unforgettable workshop on writing unforgettable stories and I went home for the night.

The next morning, I was back at the conference—ready for some serious work and looking forward to the evening’s festivities.  I resolved to say nothing further about the tragedy in the men’s room until the announcement was made that one of the conference attendees was missing.  Then I would step forward and lead the authorities to the scene of the crime.

The classes of the previous day had been packed to overflowing so I made it to the first one early enough to stake out a strong claim to a good spot with a chair.  Reports of claim jumping from the first day’s workshops were widespread.  There was one rumor of a gun battle between latecomers and seat-holders that lasted for fifteen minutes before the police arrived to break it up.  I noticed one other individual that had arrived early because his badge, unlike mine, had his name showing.  But what really got my attention was that underneath his name the word FRUSTRATION glared back at me.  In my amazement I continued to stare which clearly made him uncomfortable.  While he was growing increasingly agitated I made one of my futile attempts to turn my badge so my name would face out.  Underneath my name, in bold letters, a line read: FRI/SAT/SUN.  I hastily put my glasses back on and looked in another direction.

To keep us off our guards, this second day’s lunch was served at the tables, while the first day’s lunch had been served buffet style.  The hotel had hired out-of-work Ninjas to do the serving.  They approached a table with the silence of a cat and struck with the speed of a cobra.  I was sent crashing onto the table when my empty plate was jerked out from under my elbow by one of them, whose approach was unheard and unseen.  You don’t need to know what my elbow was doing resting on my empty plate.

The rest of the day’s offerings passed without incident, or perhaps I was growing accustomed to the general weirdness of things.  After the last workshop had finished, I put on a tie to get ready for the awards banquet and waited for 6:30 pm to come around.  I found a table and took a seat and was soon surrounded by convivial fellow diners.  Wine was available and soon there was a roar of conversation, which soon made it difficult to hear exactly what was being said.

That’s when things took a frightening turn.  some of the women seated at the table began discussing inflatable breast implants, complete with valves so they could be inflated and deflated at will.  Fortunately for the sanity of the rest of us, the awards presentations interrupted this line of conversation before things had gone too far.

The keynote speaker was sparkling to the point of hauling the winner of the lifetime achievement award back up on the stage where they sang “…you’ll never write alone” to the, by now well lubricated, crowd.  Amid the thunderous applause punctuated by the barks of the service dog accompanying one of the attendees, they bowed their way off stage, and the party dissolved as everyone made their way to their nighttime residences.

The last day started with breakfast as usual, and the workshops continued throughout the day, but the conference was clearly coming to an end.  There were fewer people in the halls as the writers that had come from far and wide began leaving for their far-flung homes.  The first to leave were those from far, and those from wide followed them soon after.  The remainder (those from near) stayed to the bitter end in the hopes of winning a door prize.

I lingered for just a moment after the last prize was awarded, expecting to hear the announcement that one of the attendees was missing, thereby uncovering the tragedy in the men’s room.  But the organizers clearly had a premonition as to the nature of this disappearance and had decided to hush it up.  After all, writers hate clichés.

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The Warhawks try to mascarade as doves

The Republican warhawks who seem to want a war with Iran, in spite of the disastrous and unnecessary many-year involvement in Iraq, are now egging us on toward another misadventure in the middle east.  A Facebook  posting appeared spouting the headline: Stop a bad Iran nuclear deal | Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran.  Under this headline is the provocative question:

“Would your member of Congress vote for the Iran nuclear deal if they knew that it would allow Iranian military sites to prevent surprise ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections? ”

This is an obvious attempt to frighten people by continuing to give voice to the myth that some Iranian military sites will be immune to inspections as a result of this agreement.  This notion has been shown to be untrue.  The government site summarizes the protections against covert cheating on the agreement as follows:

“International inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not only be continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but they will also be verifying that no fissile material is covertly carted off to a secret location to build a bomb. And if IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which will allow inspectors to access and inspect any site they deem suspicious.”

The agreement extends the break-out time to a bomb from the current 3 to 4 months to at least a year if they start cheating ( no bomb without cheating.)  A full text of the agreement can be read at .

Finally it pains me to see those in thrall to the military-industrial complex trying to cloak their war fervor with the seemingly dovish name of Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf.

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Are “new” Republicans neo-Nazis?

The new house majority whip, Steve Scalise, seems to be the perfect poster child for the “new” Republican: anti-tax, anti-government (except for the part where one draws a fat paycheck for fooling the voters every two years), and racist.  How do we know he’s all these things?  Because we know he was a principal speaker  at the EURO (an organization founded by known neo-Nazi, David Duke).


The Hon. Mr. Scalise now claims: [EURO was] “One of the many groups that I spoke to regarding this critical legislation was a group whose views I wholeheartedly condemn. It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold. I am very disappointed that anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain.”  But how can he not have known?  Was he a politician with only one speech which he delivers to all comers?  Did he not tailor his speech to his audience?  Apparently what he said impressed the members of EURO so much that one of the leaders of the organization gave him a ringing endorsement as a future member of congress.


Even David Duke is skeptical that Scalise did not know the nature of EURO.  Duke said, “It would seem to me that he would have realized that it was our group,” he said. “Because he knew Kenny (Duke’s former campaign manager).   I mean, he knew me. But I can’t swear to it…”


I think there is more than a little evidence to justify the inference (granted it’s not proof)that Scalise does hold those divisive racial and religious views, and given his recent rise to a position of power in the majority party in the House might we also infer that the “new” Republican Party is now a party of neo-Nazis?

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Boots on the ground in Iraq self defeating

In a report by the blogging site Think Progress, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that Americans will be “killed here at home” unless he [Obama] sends ground troops into Iraq and Syria to defeat the terrorist threat.  He is further quoted in one of the strangest English sentences I have ever seen (it is at once future tense and past perfect tense) as saying, “…this idea we’ll never had any boots to defeat them in Syria is fantasy.”

Boots on the ground—boots on the ground—boots on the ground.  We had boots on the ground for over nine years in Iraq without defeating the radical sectarian elements there.  However, our deBathification program went a long way toward ensuring the continuing instability.  ISIL is a stateless fluid entity fueled by certain radical ideas and cannot be defeated in the same sense as a war with a nation.  No one will ever be able to destroy ISIL’s ability to reconstitute itself, but what we can do is work toward regional political solutions that deprive it of its motivation.  This will not be accomplished by another foreign invasion (the USA).

By all means, the projection of military force to stall ISIL’s advance should be used, but with great care.  That the airstrikes to protect some dams and threatened minorities are having an effect already can be seen in the increasing terror campaign going on now.  One can rest assured that as measures against ISIL become increasingly effective we will see an increasing barrage of videos depicting unspeakable acts of violence.  US combat troops on the ground will enable ISIL to swell its ranks from many of the countries in the region and from radical groups around the world.  Currently ISIL may have as many as 30,000 men but they are spread over a vast area in both Syria and Iraq and so are still vulnerable to selected air strikes and could be overpowered by competent action by the Iraqi army, but only if the Iraqi government gives Sunis true representation in the government and the armed forces.

For now the US should not follow Sen. Graham’s irrational fear that ISIL will kill us all here at home if we don’t put combat soldiers on the ground for them to kill in Iraq.

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The New Republic of Texas?

It seems that in recent times, especially the last five years or so, absolute insanity has gripped a portion of the American People.  From the excesses of Tea-Party politics to the paranoid belief of some gun owners that requiring background checks for the purchase of such weapons would somehow result in the government seizing all of their guns, the web is increasingly abuzz with such bizarre and irrational ideas.  One that seems to be popping up frequently of late is the idea of secession from the United States, and it seems to have the most traction in Texas.

Some people in Texas seem to think that the state has a unique right to drop out of the U. S. whenever they want to, even though this idea is not supported by fact according to a number of Texas historical scholars.  The idea also makes no economic sense for the people of Texas.  Assuming for the moment that secession were allowed, the first result would be the closure and withdrawal of personnel and equipment from the many large U.S. military bases located in the state.  If Texas then wanted an army to protect itself from, say, Mexico, it would have to fund its army with revenues raised entirely within the borders of the “New Republic.”  Similarly, diplomatic relations with all the countries that the “Republic” wanted to business with would have to be established and embassies would have to be established with the appointment of ambassadors and staff (all paid for out of Texas revenues.)  And the list goes on.

So why is this even being talked about?  Is there something in the drinking water that is making people insane?  Is this all because a black man is President of the United States?

Many of the politicians from the southern states seem to be drinking from the same trough as the Texans.  I only hope a cure is found before the insanity becomes irreversible.

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Tea Party zombies eat Republican brains

The zombie apocalypse is here.  Not in a grade C horror movie, but here and now in our nation’s capital.  A cadre of zombies created by voodoo economists using the enormous funds of their excessively wealthy patrons and rising from “Tea Party” roots is now roaming the halls of Congress with their insane drive to destroy the nation.  They’ve eaten the brains of the Republicans that might have been reasonable since none seem willing or able to tell these mindless undead that they’ve lost and to stop the insanity.

These zombies would try to fool people into thinking that they were all about reviving the spirit of the American Revolution by adopting the name “Tea Party” in reference to the Boston Tea Party of pre Revolution times.  But the “Tea Party” is against taxes (all taxes) and in many states where they have gained control they are working to restrict voting so that people who disagree with them cannot vote against them.  However the Boston Tea Party was not a protest against taxes per se but a protest about the lack of representation (No taxation without representation).  The entities calling themselves “Tea Parties” today have little in common with the Tea Party in Boston but have much more in common with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare as they shouted “No room!” even though there was a large table and many empty chairs.


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Wagner and “Wolfsangle”: a Review

The M. D. Lachlan novel Wolfsangle preceded his novel Fenrir and are both concerned with the nordic myths surrounding Ragnorok.  Since I had read and reviewed the second novel first, I realized that with this review things had taken a distinct Wagnerian turn, not only in the subject matter, but also in the order of the reviews.  Wolfsangle is the first of three novels in a trilogy centered on the nordic myths surrounding the monsterous offspring of the god Loki, the Fenris wolf and Ragnorok or the twilight of the gods.

The book begins promisingly enough with the search for a magical child by the Volsung, Authun.  Lachlan is a master of the craft, producing a story that is engaging and action-filled.  His portrait of life in a Viking village apart from the magical elements is so well drawn that the action takes on a “real” historical feel and interestingly enough makes the fantastical elements more believable.

The one problem that I experienced with Wolfsangle and with Fenrir is that the story arcs in the two books are very similar even though many of the details differ.  It gave me a distinct deja vu feeling, like sitting through the first three operas of Wagner’s Ring and getting to the beginning of Goetterdamerung, the fourth and final opera, only to find the three Norns retelling the whole story from the beginning.  I’ll reserve final judgement on this point until I’ve read the just released Lord of Slaughter, which is the third and final book in this series.

The book is a good read and I recommend it.

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Book Trailer III: Music

Today I received an email from Virgin Classics EMI granting me permission to use about 44 seconds of a recording they had made of Brahms’ 1st Symphony as performed by the Houston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach.  This was the culmination of a series of email exchanges with Virgin that began in April.  This was the final piece of the long learning curve in the production of a video book trailer which involved photo manipulations, animations and writing in a promotional and scripted fashion.

Getting this permission was worth the extra effort, because it removes any legal roadblocks from the use of previously copyrighted material.  The negotiations were straightforward and went smoothly much to my relief.  The finished video now has the Virgin EMI recording in the credits with the proud statement, “Used with permission.”

The trailer can now be seen on YouTube

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“Fenrir” howls– a review

M. D. Lachlan’s book “Fenrir,” Pyr, 2011 stands out from the pack of recent fantasies by british authors.  The arc of the story follows the norse mythology surrounding Ragnarok or the twilight of the gods.  His tie-ins to the nordic myth are well researched and his clever coupling of the unfolding of this story with historic Viking invaisions and settlements of France and Russia lend a feeling of historical realism to the action of the story.

Lachlan develops his characters well and keeps the reader engaged as the fate laid out by the myth gradually devours them.  A wonderful read by an author who, one senses, understands the true nature of magic.

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