I don’t know the name of all the candidates trying to run for president of the U.S. in 2016. I recognize some names. I even know what some of them are reputed to have said. But I haven’t been paying close attention. It’s early yet. I doubt any candidate has shown his or her true colors.

So far, they seem a rather sad lot. When the field thins out, I’ll get more serious. Politics is the grandest sport of all, and the U.S. Presidential election is the Olympic games of politics.


Then, there’s The Donald. Trump.

He’s the top of the list of candidates who scares the daylights out of me. Not because he is outrageous or ridiculous, or is such a clown, but because he plays the fool so well. He has most people — including some opponents — believing his act.

It is an act. Trump is nobody’s fool.

donald trump make america great

He’s a smart guy. Powerful. Rich. He is not owned by any party or lobby group. He plays by his own rules, whatever that means. Since he has never revealed the rules by which he plays. I’m not sure he has any. I know he wants power and I’m sure he’d be very happy to wield it. But what he believes in … if he believes in anything … is anybody’s guess.

No matter how hard you listen, he never says anything. At least not anything you can pin down. He deflects questions by saying outrageous — nonsensical — stuff. The press eats it up.

What a rich harvest for the media! A cornucopia of sound bites! A bonanza of headlines! Film at 11!


Donald Trump is the jackpot for stand-up comedians, news departments, bloggers, and comedians. He knows it. Plays to it. As long as he keeps everyone talking about his latest gaffe, no one forces him to answer hard questions like “What do you stand for?” and “Why do you want to be president … really?” In this 10 second sound-bite world, he has mastered the art of giving them what they want.

If Trump didn’t exist, the media would have to invent him. I don’t think the American people are dumb enough to actually elect him … are we?


Not long ago, I read a post detailing how America fares when stacked against other countries.


We aren’t the richest or the most productive country . We have relatively high unemployment. Purchasing power per capita is unimpressive. We get salaries that sound good, but the cost of living overran our paychecks long ago. We’ve lost more jobs to automation than outsourcing. One machine, one robot replaces a dozen or two workers.

US_Income_Distribution_1968 (1)There are few jobs for unskilled laborers that can support a family. We manufacture too little, depend too much on service-based work.

Americans are convinced their government is awful. Corrupt. Really, our government is merely inefficient and mired in oppositional politics. Funny how after morons are in office, nobody voted for them. How did that happen?

Statistics are fragments, not a story. We’re having hard times and I doubt we’ll see the end of them quickly. We have work to do. Rethinking where people will work and what they’ll be paid.

Figuring out what we want from our government. Without the hyperbole and entrenched party positions. For all that, we don’t exactly live in Hell.

Statistics need context. We are not even close to a seriously corrupt nation, regardless of perception. I’ve seen corruption. We’re amateurs.

I wonder if Americans would really like living in one of those top-rated countries, like say Finland. Where 90% of your salary goes to taxes. You get great services and a safety net. You won’t wind up living in a crate and you’ll never die because you can’t afford surgery or medication. But there’s payback.

Socialism isn’t a terrible way to live, not even close to the nightmare portrayed by the GOP. It’s not heaven, either.

US_Income_Distribution_2009Mostly, it means working harder or better doesn’t get you a promotion, more money or even recognition. You are whatever your G rating is and move up  by seniority. It’s secure, but sort of dull.

Mind you, plenty of people can’t imagine living any other way. Lots of others would rather be here and would happily take their chances on capitalism. They think we complain too much. They have a point.

A friend of mine lived in Belgium for 15 years. He described it this way: “In Europe, if they don’t say it’s allowed, you can safely assume it’s forbidden. In the U.S., if they don’t tell you it’s forbidden, you know it’s allowed.”

That’s a huge difference.

Like every country, we have strong points and problems. We’ve made some progress, but not enough. Unlike small homogeneous countries — like Finland — we’re a conglomeration of people from everywhere. We’re never going to be like those other countries. We like our freedom too much.

We are what we are. Good and bad. But I am sure we will all live happily ever after. Because what other choice is there?


“If only we could get a clean candidate, we could have a government without corruption.”

Please, show me an example of an un-corrupt government. Anywhere, anytime in the history of the world. From the first known government (Egypt? China?) to today. Any form of government, even a town council. Because as far as I know, there is no such thing.


I finished re-reading “Imperium,” a fictionalized biography of Cicero. It whacked me with a reality check on government corruption and I realized (again) that Americans don’t “get” real corruption.

In Rome, those guys understood corruption. They were serious about their corruption. We are just dilettantes compared to them! More on this later.


Never in this world, has there ever been a government free of corruption. It is the nature of government to be subject to … uh … um … what shall I call it? Oh, okay. Got it.


What do you mean by that?

Well, let’s see. Money. That’s a classic. Locally, we favor nepotism, a type of corruption whose popularity never wanes. Otherwise known as doing favors. Hey, they just need jobs, you know? It’s not a big deal, is it?


Find me a small town where the government isn’t composed of entrenched old families, their friends, friends of family, cousins of the friends of the families, their brothers and sisters in-and-out-of-laws.

What about constituents? You know, when we tell our pols what we want them to do or else we’ll throw them out. The stuff you and I want and demand, the stuff we think our government owes us because we are the people who elected them.

“What?” you say? “Isn’t that what government is all about?”

Right you are! A little question for you.

Does the fact that we want it mean it is moral? Just? Righteous? Legal? Fair? If you believe that, I have a bridge you can buy cheap.


We want what we want. We don’t really care if it is for “the greater good.” We want what we want. We want it now. We deserve it. We voted for you and you are supposed to make it happen.

Pols who deliver the goods get re-elected. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it has always worked and always will. If you don’t think the electoral process itself is a form of corruption, you are missing the point.

It doesn’t matter who is applying the pressure — or why. The process of gaining and retaining power guarantees corruption.


Personally, I would like my officials to do something good while they hold office. Preferably without getting caught, killed, impeached, indicted, imprisoned or exposed. Cynical? Moi?

I propose a movement for better corruption to require corrupt politicians to use their power — however ill-gained — to pass laws that make the world better. In my opinion. Because my opinion is the only opinion which counts.


His paintings tell an all-too-familiar story. It’s our world, where the world is full of plenty yet countless millions struggle to survive even though they work full-time, sometimes more than full-time. Because America’s minimum wage is so low, no one can live on those earnings.


Jack Keough’s Work Series are paintings without faces. He says he doesn’t want this to be about one-dimensional or race issues. This is an issue that cuts across race, ethnicity, culture, education.

Says Keough “This is a ‘bottom of America’ issue. It’s about the minimum wage and making it possible for working people to support themselves and a family.” It affects every working man and woman in this richest country in the world.


He feels he’s a prime example of what happens. His business went under. 2008 was a bad year for a lot of people.

He figured out what working for a full year at $9/hour minimum wage would look like: A full year of hard labor would yield just over $18,700. Before taxes. After taxes and insurance deductions, take home would come to just over $9,70. Not enough to house and feed a single man, much less a family.

Jack Keough’s paintings ask, “Can anybody look at those numbers and tell me that’s fair?”


The 56-year-old Keough talks — and paints — about the harsh realities of life for working people. College graduate and father of two grown children, he’s a guy who saw his graphic design business which he built and grew for 24 years, go belly up when the economy tanked in 2008.

Scrabbling to survive in a hard economy, Jack paints while holding down 4 jobs — just to make ends meet.

His “Work Series” makes it clear Jack Keough isn’t going to waste time ranting on social media. He’s on a mission, using art to stimulate discussion about the minimum wage. About raising it so that it will be enough to live on.

He has a quest. Jack Keough hopes people will listen — and then work to make change happen.

Jack Keough’s paintings do a lot of talking.

72-Jack-Keough_Labor Day Show Poster


You can see Jack Keough’s work at a one day, one man show on Labor Day, Monday, September 7, 2015. At Boston City Hall Plaza. Bring the family and your friends. 


A Citizen’s Open Letter, Richard Paschall

Dear Leader,

There are a number of problems in the world I would like to call to your attention in case you have not yet had time to notice them.  First, there is this whole thing about poverty.  The world is full of wealth and wealthy people and yet there are those without food, shelter and medicine.  Worse yet, successful corporations and wealthy businessmen get additional tax breaks that in no way benefit the poor.  Isn’t the government for all the people?  How about a little protection for the “little people?”  There seems to be no reason for people to starve.  Wouldn’t a “more perfect union” seek to help more than the top one percent?

Credit: CC0 Public Domain from pixabay

Photo Credit: CC0 Public Domain from pixabay

We seem to struggle with the issue of providing health care to the populace.  I know you have tried to get medical insurance to everyone, but the costs are still rather high.  Other top-tier countries do not force their citizens to choose between food and health care.  Costs are controlled to a greater extent.  Also, prescription drug costs at the retail level are affordable elsewhere.  Here many people must choose if they can afford life saving medicine or pay other bills.  Does that seem right? The same prescriptions that are reasonably priced in other countries are sometime astronomical in price here.  Can you even this out?  That would seem to “promote the general welfare.”

In a nation built on immigration, as most countries were actually, we seem to have a total lack of understanding of immigration issues.  Some politicians, barely removed from their immigrant roots, block meaningful immigration reform.  Can you speak to them about that?  Maybe they do not realize that their roots are actually somewhere else, not  here.  In fact, it seems that the native population is really rather small.  We need to “establish justice.”

If children are our future and education is the most valuable component of that, can we do something to promote higher education?  Many countries provide free education as they realize the value of it.  Surely we will fall behind in the world if we do not have an educated population.  At present, the cost discourages participation or throws many students into debt for decades after graduation.  Would this not be one of the best ways to “secure the Blessings of our Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  If our posterity is to be driven into ignorance and/or severe debt, then they are not blessed at all.

There seems to be a lot of mistrust of government, police departments and authority in general.  Can you speak to various leaders about justice and equality?  I fear we have taken steps backwards in the relationships between men and women, people of color, people of various religious backgrounds and people of different sexual orientations.  Worse yet is the use of so-called religious freedoms to justify hate.  Surely you can do something to get the dialogue back on track.  People are people.  There must be a better way to “insure domestic tranquility.”

I know you must “provide for the common defence,” but we seem to be going about it the wrong way.  Can you explain to the citizens that the second amendment was not actually handed down by god?  Since we are not living in the 1780’s and there really is no reason for all citizens to bear arms in case the states need to raise a well-regulated militia to defend themselves, we should be able to add in some sort of control.  After all, the Red Coats are not coming.  Background checks will not infringe upon my rights, I promise you.

Finally, I think programs and policies need better explanations.  Can you do a better job of that?  President Theodore Roosevelt believed that he had a “bully pulpit” and that he should use it, and use it he did.  He was not shy about going out to the people to explain himself and his policies.  Why not try to do more of that?  On the other hand, that will only mean opponents will spin the truth out of control and get more air time.  Maybe you should forget this last part.

Public Citizen Richard


Great Thoughts and Random Musings

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are still plenty of politicians who deny climate change.  Do you wonder what interests they are protecting?

Let’s have a show of hands of all people who think the government is actually working for them.  That looks like two per cent to me.  I get the one per cent, but what about you others?

So the British CEO of Dunkin Donuts thinks that a 15 dollar per hour minimum wage phased in over three years would be “absolutely outrageous.”  His total compensation last year was 10.2 million (, which is about 4900 dollars per hour if he works 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year.

Have you noticed the increased number of people who seem to want to protect the top one per cent while keeping poor people poor?  Surprisingly, many are not in the top one percent themselves.

How about a 24 hour moratorium on Facebook memes?  Maybe Twitter too.

Since the Chicago Cubs are actually over .500 at this point in the season, Cubs fans think the team will make the play-offs.  Of course, if they were under .500 many would think that too. If the season ends tomorrow, they are in, barely.

So people caught running red lights are against red light cameras and believe the city is just trying to raise revenue.  Mmmmm?

Name dropping time.  Since writing an article about musician Tom Law, I have had a few conversations with Tom and we have given new meaning to the idea of “totally random.”  I thought we would be talking about music and music videos, but not so much!  It’s all good.

Name dropping two. I went to hear author David Farrell read from his recently published book, If Only Again.  It is always interesting to hear the author read his own words.

David Ferrell reading the opening of If Only Again.

David Ferrell reading the opening of If Only Again.

Of course it is OK to be outraged about the killing of a lion, especially if it was lured out of a protected area, but where is the equal outrage for those who die needlessly each day from disease, hunger and war?

The truth may not set you free, but lies will certainly enslave you.  Feel free to quote me on that.

How about if you have to quote me one line of Leviticus which may or may not be translated correctly, I get to quote you ten that you are probably violating often?

If music soothes the savage beast, please explain Heavy Metal to me.

I did see an interesting internet quote among the piles of crap, it said, “If you don’t take care of your body, where else are you going to live?”

Snopes, Snopes, Snopes!

Despite the obvious truth that a virus does not ask your sexual orientation before infecting you, why do people continue to think of HIV as a gay disease?  Most people in the world who have it are not gay.

“HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer.” (

I have lost count of how many Republicans are running for President.

“A new NASA study confirms fire seasons across one-quarter of the planet’s vegetated surface are growing longer.” – Tom Skilling, meteorologist

Lollapalooza is the best music festival of the year.

Somehow I have gotten on to the email list of two ultra right-wing groups whose names I will not repeat.  I wonder if it bothers them one bit that their conspiracy theories and “News reports” are most certainly lies or extreme exaggerations.

If you read last Sunday’s short story (Did You See the Picture?), then this coming Sunday’s will be the same, but from a different point of view.


A good friend in Texas who used to live here in New England is fighting a lonely battle in her town for the right of women to retain control over their bodies. Texas is the front line of the war against women, a war I thought we’d won years ago with Roe V. Wade and the end of (formal, official) discrimination against women in the workplace.


She and I remember the bad old days. We were there together. The days of backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy. Where young women, unable to obtain an abortion, threw themselves off bridges rather than bear an unwanted child. Or tried to abort themselves, with lethal results.

Despite self-righteous conservative braying, backlash and brainwashing, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life.


Women have (and always have had) abortions for all kinds of reasons including fear for their health, welfare of existing children, and of course, economics, AKA survival.

While birth control isn’t 100% reliable, the men trying to stop women’s access to abortion are also determined to prevent us from getting effective birth control. If there is any logic to this, I fail to see it.

What’s the real point?

It has nothing to do with life or the right to be born. It’s about power. About putting women in their place so men can regain the control they have lost. Back to the kitchen for us, barefoot and pregnant. If men had babies, you can be sure this would not be happening.

I had an abortion that wasn’t an abortion, thus retaining plausible deniability.

My husband was in the hospital. He had cancer. It was so early in the pregnancy — less than 4 weeks — tests were negative, so technically, I couldn’t have an abortion. But I knew.

It was the worst time to discover myself pregnant. I didn’t know if my husband would live. (He didn’t live long.) We were financially maxed out. I had gotten into a highly competitive master’s program — more than 2000 applications for a couple of dozen spots — and I would not be able to accept. I looked at my life and thought: “I don’t need more education. I need a job.” No matter how I tried to fit the pieces together, a baby was not in the picture.

I had a “menstrual extraction” which was what you got when the test read negative but you knew otherwise. It was done in a doctor’s office. Without anesthesia. That’s a lot of pain, during which you dare not move lest a blade slip and do some serious, permanent damage.


So many women my age went through similar or worse experiences. Were we happy about it? No, but we did what we felt was best, not just for us but for everyone affected.

Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What happens to one woman happens to her entire circle — family and friends. We were adult women. We had the right and the obligation to decide what happens to our bodies and our lives.

I maintain my long-standing position on this matter. Unless you are a woman, your opinion is worthless. I do not care what they preach in your church. Until you walk in my shoes, live in my body, you know nothing.

Why am I weighing in on this? The it-wasn’t-really-an-abortion was more 40 years ago. No one knew it happened until now. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m sorry it happened, but I believed I was doing the right thing. I still believe it.

How ironic that women are again facing the specter of those terrifying, desperate days. The nightmare of the back room and the coat hanger is looming. The gains in personal freedom women won are at risk. If we don’t speak out and stand together, we will lose it. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. The opposition is relentless.

I am past child-bearing age. It’s about all women. Whether or not we have the right to decide for ourselves what is done to us. If ever there was a right to life involved, how about our right to have a decent life, to bear the number of children they want and not be managed by men whose stake in the issue is tangential? How about that?

No one wants an abortion. But sometimes, you need one.