LET’S BAN PENNIES – Marilyn Armstrong

I got an email from AT&T. It was alarming. I was overdue on my bill! They were going to report me to collection agencies, send it to all those companies that decide whether or not you deserve to have a credit card or a mortgage.

I was surprised because I paid the bill. On-time. Online. I know I did.

Obverse side of a 1990 issued US Penny. Pictur...

So, after resetting my password — it doesn’t matter how many times I set my password … the next time I go to AT&T’s website, I will have to do it again — I looked at my bill. Somehow, I had underpaid the bill by a penny.

One cent. $00.01

In retribution for my oversight, AT&T said they would sic the collection agencies on me. I deserve to pay heavily for this lapse in fiscal responsibility. Though I think it was their error, not mine, but let’s not quibble.

There are many battles to fight in life. One must pick amongst them lest one be overwhelmed. This giant corporation is going to destroy my credit for want of a penny. This is what happens when computers run the world and no people monitor what they are doing. I’m sure this was all automatically generated.

I am sure if I’d called them, they would have canceled the bill. but that would take even more time and effort. I fondly believe my time, even retired, is worth more than a penny.

So I paid the bill. I wasn’t actually sure my bank would let me pay a one-cent bill, but they did.

One cent. Just one cent. Mind-boggling.

ALL WRAPPED UP IN IMPEACHMENT — Marilyn Armstrong

I have to admit that we are hooked. We are both news junkies and though Garry tried denying it, one day he just broke down and it’s been news ever since. He is particularly incensed at the way the press is getting beat up.

The news was his life. This isn’t casual chatter to him. He has three Emmy’s and dozens of other awards for his work in the business. To Garry, this is personal. Very. Personal.


So, that’s what we are doing. We are watching. The last time I was this enthralled politically was Watergate. I was working as a writer and editor at Doubleday Publishing in New York. I carried a little radio and earplug with me so I wouldn’t miss a moment of testimony. Then, when I got home, on went the television.

I was thrilled when Nixon resigned, but I missed the hearings. It was as if they had canceled a favorite drama.


I think this is probably what I’m going to be doing as long as these hearings last. I thought we were the rare Americans watching this, but these hearings are getting huge ratings. Apparently, everyone is glued to their televisions.

Things that have gotten to me: McCaine’s daughter saying how deeply shocked and horrified she is by the spineless Republican party and how ashamed she is of people she believed were family friends … interviews on the street and on the late-night comedy shows of people who were Republicans and now say they don’t even understand what has happened to their party and how humiliating it is.

I’ve never been a Republican, but I never thought that being a Republican meant being a traitor. We disagreed, sometimes angrily, sometimes with humor, but they were Americans. They believed in this country as I did, but their ideas of how to manage this country were different.

Now, they don’t even act like Americans. They don’t care about the  American people. They have lost touch with what has made this country great. Now it’s entirely about money and greed.

Shame on them, and shame on anyone who voted for them. They are everything we have deplored through our years on this earth.

Aside from having a bloated moron as our president, this is the most shocking part of this entire process. That all these supposed honorable men have become spineless jellyfish, unwilling to stand up to this idiot president or their own beliefs, is nauseating.

CHANGING THE WORLD BY TIME TRAVEL WORK WON’T WORK – By Tom Curley

So there I was. Thinking. Not quite awake. Not exactly asleep. You know. The funny place between. And it hit me. Fixing all this craziness is simple. The question is WWCKD? Or, to put simply, WHAT WOULD CAPTAIN KIRK DO?” 

If you look at the problem like that, the answer is simple. Obvious.

Travel back in time to a point where you can change the present from happening. As any Star Trek fan knows, Kirk did it all the time.

Now that I had the solution, the question became a matter of coördinates. To when and where do I go back to fix this? And the answer came to me as if in a dream …

Go back to 1998. Convince President Clinton to stay the hell away from Monica Lewinsky. There would be no scandal, no impeachment. Bill could campaign for Al Gore — like he was supposed to — and George Bush would never get elected. Everything that happened after that would not happen!

Brilliant!

So as I was drifting off to sleep, I imagined finding a time machine. Going back to 1998. Actually getting an audience with Bill Clinton … in the Oval Office.

How do I do this? Who knows? I’ll let the writers will work out those plot points later. I’m more into the “Big Picture Stuff”.

But … this is also where the whole idea fell apart because the conversation would go like this:

President Clinton: “Well for some reason the writers haven’t figured out yet, I believe you are a time traveler from the future with important information for me.”

Me: “Yes Mr. President. You must not have an affair with your intern, Monica Lewinsky.”

President Clinton: “Whoa! How’d you know about that?”

Me: “I’m from the future, remember?”

President Clinton: “Oh yeah right. I guess that makes sense. So, why shouldn’t I do that?”

Me: “Because you will get caught. The public is going to find out about it. The Republicans are going to impeach you because of it.”

President Clinton: “Well, that’s not good.”

Me: “Don’t worry. You don’t get convicted. Your approval ratings go up to over 70%.”

President Clinton: “Well that’s good, right?”

Me: “Not really. Because when Al Gore runs for president, he won’t let you campaign for him. Or let you anywhere near him.”

President Clinton: “Really. Hmm. Who’s he running against?”

Me: “George W. Bush.”

President Clinton: “You gotta be kidding me!”

Me: “Nope. And even though Al runs a terrible campaign, he will only lose the election by 500 votes. Well, actually years later, when a full recount is done, it turns out Al actually won. But in 2000, the Supreme Court steps in and stops the recount. And appoints Bush as President.”

President Clinton: “I don’t think the Supreme Court can do that.”

Me: “Neither did anybody else. Until they did it. So George W. Bush becomes the president. One of the first things he does is ignore all the intelligence agencies warnings that Osama Bin Ladin is going to attack the US.

Because of this al-Qaeda hijacks four 747’s out of Logan in Boston — and La Guardia in New York … using nothing but box cutters as weapons. They crash two planes into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon.

The Twin Towers are destroyed, thousands of people die. Now, even though all the hijackers are from Saudi Arabia — and Bin Laden is hiding in Afghanistan — Bush invades Iraq. Totally destabilizing the Middle East.

Wall Street creates a bubble based on the housing market and that causes a worldwide financial crash in 2008 in which trillions of dollars are lost, and millions of people around the world lose their jobs.

So in 2008 America elects a black guy — Barak Hussein Obama — as president, then in 2010 a bunch of billionaires helps create something called the Tea Party. And the Republicans swing so far to the right, Barry Goldwater would be considered a Communist.

By 2016, it seems likely your wife is going to be running for President against … wait for it …

Donald Trump.

At this point, the Secret Service enters the Oval Office and drags me away. As I’m being hauled away, I see The Truth. You can’t change the past. You can try, but it just doesn’t work. However awful reality is, it IS. And has to be.

So when you say all this out loud? I don’t believe it either. Then I fell asleep.

UNWELCOME VISITOR – Rich Paschall

45 Comes To Town, by Rich Paschall, Chicagoan

The day after being booed at a World Series game and listening to chants of “Lock Him Up,” the Tweeter-in-Chief came to another place he is not welcome. The Supreme Windbag came to the Windy City to hurl insults and hate at the locals. By the way, it is believed that the term “Windy City” came about as a description of past politicians rather than anything to do with the weather. If that belief is true, than he fit in with the liars of another era.

He likely felt it was OK to insult us. No dignitary met him at the airport. They would not want to be seen with him. None showed up to his hate filled speech later in the day. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, methinks.

The orange one probably took great delight insulting the city he was visiting. After all, President Obama lived here. Hillary Clinton is also from this area. Anything to do with those two politicians is likely to bring baseless insults from the one who never took the high road in his life.

Chicago Water Tower (Photo credit: Nicholas G. Mertens)

We have been down this road before when number 45 promised to “Send In The Feds” to deal with the violent crime here. Although there is crime here, just like any major city, it is nothing like the resident of the White House claims it to be. Imagine, if you can, the following insult claimed by Trump while in Chicago:

Trump: “Afghanistan is a safe place, by comparison, that’s true.”  

Obviously, it is not true. BBC research pegged the death toll in Afghanstan at 2307 in the month of August due to violent crime. That is about the number for the last 5 years combined in Chicago. Yes it is too high here, but it has come down in each of the last three years without help from any federal troops.

Trump: “Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States.”

False. The restrictions are actually less now that a decade ago. Attempts by the city to strenghten guns laws end up in court. Fights against the city are often led by the NRA.

Trump: “I’ve done more than any other president has done for the police”

OK, you be the judge.

The orange one claimed that Chicago was embarrassing to the nation due to the crime here. If that is true, there are many other cities providing the orange one with greater embarrassment. USA Today puts Chicago at number 21 on the list. Their statistics and methodology are well explained. Indianapolis is at 13.

As methodology changes for studies, sometimes the order of cities changes on the list. This may depend on the size of cities included, the type of crime classified as “violent,” and the source of the figures. Most use the FBI numbers in their rankings. World Atlas puts Chicago at 17, while Indianapolis climbs to number 10.

If we are just talking about murder rates per capita, then Chicago is 24th on the list, while two Indiana cities are higher. I mention the Indiana cities because it is the home state of the vice president. I don’t hear Agent Orange promising to send troops to help out Mike Pence.

If Chicago is not at the top of the violent crime list, as the supposed leader seems to suggest, than the real problem is not Chicago. It is gun violence in America. The president and the Republicans certainly do not want to tackle that issue. The NRA might stop contributing to their campaigns.

The vindictive one does not seem to want to do anything presidential. Instead he continues to try to divide Americans through insult and accusation. Our recently elected mayor was having none of it and responded:

The Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson responded to the lies and insults against the city, the police force and the superintendent himself. He came to a press conference with the facts and conducted things in a professional manner, including thanking those police for doing their job protecting a man who was busy insulting them.

Chicago is a world-class city with big city, urban America problems. Its challenges are worse than some but better than many. Rather than taking vindictive potshots at one of America’s best, a leader should be lending a helping hand here and to the many other cities where help is needed. Perhaps it is the lack of support or the volume of protestors that has the orange one riled up. He received about 13 percent of the vote here in 2016. His performance here recently makes it unlikely he will do any better next time around.

SOURCES: 25 Of The Most Dangerous Cities In America, USA Today, August 14, 2019.
The Most Dangerous Cities In The US, worldatlas.com, October 21, 2019.
The 30 cities with the highest murder rates in the US, The Bismark Tribune, April 15, 2019.
Gun rights lawsuits take aim at Illinois, Chicago, by Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2012.
Is Chicago worse than Afghanistan? Fact-checking President Trump’s critiques of the city, BY  AND , wgntv.com, October28, 2019.
See also: SEND IN THE FEDS, “The Streets of Chicago,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, February 5, 2017.

DRIFTING ALONG WITH THE TUMBLING TUMBLEWEED – Marilyn Armstrong

I am retired which is, by definition, adrift. This is a good thing and the real reason we retire. After a life of deadlines and commuting, some drifting seems like a good idea. So here I am. Just drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed … with memories of those great cowboy movies of childhood.

Hi Roy! Hi Trigger! Hey, Bullet! Hope y’all are doing well. I miss you. All of you. You were the good guys. We trusted you. Where are you now, when we need you?

Meanwhile, I’ll just be drifting. Considering one thing and another, I might also be asleep.

POLITICS AND RELATIONSHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently read an autobiography by the Saturday Night Live actress, Rachel Dratch, called “Girl Walks Into A Bar…” I enjoyed the book, particularly the adjustment of a single 44-year-old woman to motherhood, a committed relationship, and co-parenting.

Rachel Dratch

Rachel started a long distance (California to New York) relationship with a lovely guy and after six months, discovered she was pregnant. This was a minor miracle at her age. There was no question that she wanted the baby. The open question was what kind of relationship she would have going forward with the baby’s daddy, John.

This guy sounded like a real gem and was wonderful to Rachel. He even stepped up and moved to New York City to be near Rachel and their unborn son. He wanted an active role in the child’s life once he was born.

My problem with this story is that Rachel is a New York City liberal and Democrat and John was an ‘independent’ who supported George W. Bush and the Republican agenda.

Would he also support Donald Trump today?

I started wondering if I could overlook someone’s political views and have a serious relationship with a Republican in today’s political climate. The answer, for me, is no. During the George W. Bush era, the comedian Janine Garofalo said that being a Republican was no longer just an opinion, but was ‘a character flaw’ which is many times truer today.

The problem I have with Republicans/Trump supporters today is not their ‘political’ positions. I have no issue with someone who has a different view from mine on deficits, trade policy, or interest rates. I’m beginning to question the judgment and relationship to reality of people who still believe in trickle-down economics after so many years of contrary, hard evidence that it does not work. That’s a side issue.

The problem I have with Republicans today is their morals or lack thereof. Anyone who is willing to accept and/or support Trump’s level of lying, corruption, bigotry, venality, narcissism, misogyny, mean-spiritedness, arrogance, ignorance, anti-intellectualism and overall lack of caring about anything or anyone outside of himself is not my kind of person.

Anyone who is willing to look the other way when Trump says there are ‘good’ Nazis, or when he separates immigrant children from their parents because they are seeking asylum in the U.S. has a major ‘character flaw’ in my book.

I can’t accept rationalizations or excuses for Trump’s words or deeds. I have no common values or perspectives with people who share these views– even though I understand that many of them are working with a different set of ‘facts’ than what I get from the mainstream media. If we can’t agree about the facts, there is no basis for discussion or agreement about anything else.

In 2019, who you identify with politically says a lot about who you are as a human being. I have to respect my partner’s mind and character. I don’t respect Republican/Trump supporters. I also need to feel that my partner is a caring, tolerant, compassionate person. There seems to be a compassion gene missing in most Trump supporters.

They have a strong bias in favor of corporate ‘rights’ — greed — at the expense of individuals. They appear to have a need to look down on all sorts of people. Equal treatment and opportunity, fairness, and helping the underprivileged, the sick or the disabled does not seem to even be on their radar. How can I believe in the dignity and rights of every human being if I give aid and comfort to those who want to take that dignity and those rights away?

I admit that Rachel Dratch’s partner, now her husband (I believe) seems to be an involved parent and a decent, supportive partner to her. But what values will he teach their child? What kind of world does he want that child to grow up and live in? I’m suspicious of his emotional makeup if he could ‘exonerate’ Trump’s outrageous behavior and cruel policies.

There is no moral middle ground anymore.

Either you want Americans to have affordable healthcare or you don’t. I have no tolerance for selfish people who don’t care about the quality of life of their fellow humans. I do believe these uncaring SOBs should get healthcare, a living wage, civil rights, equality and the right to make decisions about their own bodies even though they don’t believe that I should have any of these things.

Does that make me a ‘better’ person in my moral universe? Yes, it does.

LIVING WITH ANTI-SEMITISM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I am Jewish. My parents were both born in America but my grandparents were all born in Russia/Ukraine. I grew up on stories from my maternal grandmother about living in a Shtetl, where murderous, anti-semitic rampages by the Kossacks were commonplace. Jews were not allowed to integrate freely with the gentile population, let alone socialize or intermarry. My great grandfather was a respected Rabbi and one of the rare Jews who was allowed to do business with the Gentiles in the big town of Minsk.

In addition to these stories, I heard a lot about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe as the Nazis came to power. As a child, I used to think about what I would take with me if that ‘knock on the door’ came one night to take me away from my home and my life. I often wondered if I would be the kind of person in a Concentration Camp who shared my bread and tried to help others, or if I would do whatever I had to do to protect myself.

Nazi Concentration Camp inmates

I am terrified when I read some of the anti-semitic stereotypes and accusations that are used today. They sound just like the propaganda used against Jews, not just in the ’30s and ’40s but all the way back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Romans probably also used similar rhetoric against Jews even before they started hating Christians as well.

Anti-Semitic propaganda from the Middle Ages in Europe

Overt and virulent anti-semitism has been relatively dormant in America for decades. Jews seemed to have assimilated into the mainstream to the point of almost becoming invisible. Or so I thought. Anti-semitism has clearly not been socially acceptable for a while. So it wasn’t expressed openly that much and I didn’t have to think about it or experience it.

American Anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s

I always knew that it was still ‘out there’. But I assumed it was less prevalent, less vicious and less relevant. Now I have to face the fact large numbers of Americans, in fact, do still nurse the same hatred and stereotypes that have plagued Jews for literally centuries. Americans are more tolerant and enlightened overall today, but some things just won’t die out.

I never thought that I would have to sit and watch a Nazi rally in an American city, complete with swastikas, arm salutes, and anti-semitic chants. Charlottesville was a wake-up call for many American Jews.

Charlottesville, NC Rally

For now, it’s ‘just words’. But my family is a testament to the fact that words can turn into acceptable attitudes than actions and finally into social norms and policies. I don’t think we are poised to become a Nazi state. I don’t think that anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican or anti-semitic language or behavior will be tolerated by the majority of Americans.

Anti-Anti Semitism

But it is still uncomfortable for me to deal with the hatred that I know is there for me because of my lineage and/or the religion I don’t even practice. I liked it better when all the haters had to hide under a rock somewhere and were afraid to come out in the open. I hope we can send them back to that place where they are afraid of us instead of us having to be afraid of them.

BISHKEK ANYONE? – RICH PASCHALL

 Where in the world is … ?  by Rich Paschall

One of many things that surprises me about “modern” education is the absence of geography as part of the school curriculums. When I’ve asked any young person during the last two decades if they’ve taken geography in school, the answer is usually the same.  “Geography?  What’s that?”

When I was in school, we studied geography.  We had geography books.  The classroom had maps so we could understand where in the world we were and where the rest of the world was.  These were huge maps that rolled up like a window shade.  There were pictures pinned to a bulletin board of various places we could study.

Geography courses were our window to the rest of the world, our introduction to other people and cultures. I always found it interesting, although I did not know at the time just how useful it would become.

Earth

There were many things about geography that I did not find so interesting.  The topography was lost on someone who lived in an area that is completely flat.  Information about crops and commerce held no delight at the grade school level.  The local currency meant nothing to a boy with a tiny allowance.

Climate was interesting, however, to someone who had experienced the severity of all four seasons.  I could not imagine living somewhere that had a colder climate then we have in winter.  I did imagine that places with warmer weather throughout the year would be great to visit, especially in winter.  Pictures of green mountains or long, sandy beaches fueled my imagination.  I did not think I would ever get to travel much, but the views of great scenery and different types of structures were the joys of my young fantasy vacations.

Lost Dutchman now found

With the news of the world more available than ever, you would think that geography would be an important field of study to more than the CIA.  Perhaps those in charge of various school boards around the country do not think so.  Can you match these cities recently in the news with their countries?


Match the city with the country to which it belongs:

City                              Country
Mogadishu                United States
Castañer                    Israel
Bishkek                      Turkey
Ankara                       Kyrgyzstan
Tiberias                     Somalia


When I was first working in freight forwarding, a young person was trying to pronounce the name written on one of the folders. She may have been filing items by destination. To just look at it, you would not think it a mystery, but this uneducated person was lost.

“Tell a, Tayla, tellavi…”

At that, a very annoyed supervisor in another group yelled over to our area, “Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv! It’s in the news sometimes.”

It was the capital of Israel at the time, and it is the only international airport in the country. I guess we are always stunned by people who do not know the capital cities or the largest airports of any country.

Do they know their own state’s capital?

By the way, the supervisor shouting the name of the city across the office remains one of our favorite air freight stories. It also points to the deficiency in our education on geography.

Another part of Earth

When I got a job in air freight, I think I already had a good idea of the capitals and major cities of most countries, and now I have come to learn their airport codes as well. The locations of major hubs of commerce and the airlines that fly there are key to our success.

You could put Asian freight on Lufthansa, who makes its first stop in Frankfurt, but it may make more sense to put it on a carrier going west to Asia.  It really depends where you are. If you are on the east coast, for example, it might be better to send it east.  Lufthansa does go to most places in the world.  If you are in Chicago, west is usually better.

Oh, come on … take a wild guess!

We can send your Shanghai freight from Chicago on a European carrier, but the distance will be greater to fly east, the cost will likely be more and the time of travel will be greater. No plane would have the range to go nonstop.  However, there are Chinese carriers, as well as American Airlines, who fly nonstop from ORD (Chicago, O’Hare) to PVG (Shanghai, China).

Because of competition, you are likely to get a good rate for the faster transit.  In freight forwarding, it is important to have an idea where everything is located in order to make the best routing decisions.

This is true for your vacation trip as well.  When I tell people I have gone to Alsace, France, they usually conclude I must have flown to Paris.  The truth is, I usually fly to Frankfurt, Germany which is about the same distance from Strasbourg and is usually cheaper.  I have also considered the Euro-Airport at Mulhouse, France which is closer, and the airport at Zürich, Switzerland.

Strasbourg, France

Grab a map and discover the world.

Here are the answers, although I am tempted to tell you to grab a Geography book or just Google it.

1 – Mogadishu is the capital of war-torn Somalia.
2 – Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
3 – Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey.  You probably thought it was Istanbul.
4 – You can swim in the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias, a favorite city of the Roman Emporer who originally built the city.
5 – Castaner is a mountain community in Puerto Rico that was devastated by the hurricane.  Yes, it is part of the US.  But there is a city (town) of the same name in the United Kingdom.
6 – Can you find Ouagadougou on a map?
7 – Do you own a map?

OFFICIAL MINUTES FROM THE FIRST “COUNCIL OF THE TOMS” – BY TOM CURLEY

There’s a lot of chatter these days about the Multi-verse. You know, parallel Earths in parallel universes. Different versions of Earth. It’s been a mainstream topic in the world of physics — and in science fiction forever.

And it shows up a lot in movies and TV shows. Spider-Man, Into the
Spider-verse.

Arrow, Flash and Super Girl hop back and forth between multiple Earths all the time.

In one episode of the Flash, one of the main characters brought different versions of himself from different Earths to help him solve the ‘problem of the week’. I thought that was cool.

The Council of Wells

So, I gathered three other versions of myself from three different Earths to talk about what’s going on these days. How did I do this?

Who cares?

Never mind.

Buy the premise, buy the blog.

TOM of EARTH 616: (me) I’d like to welcome all of you to the first Council of the Toms.

TOM of EARTH 17: (Panicked) How did I get here? Where am I?

TOM of EARTH 22: (Laid back) I think we’re on Earth 616.

TOM of EARTH 42: Who came up with these Earth numbers anyway? Earth 616?  Earth 22?  Who makes these decisions?

TOM of EARTH 616: Depends on whether you’re DC or Marvel.  Who cares? Just roll with it. You’re ruining the bit.

So, we’re here today to talk about Donald Trump.

TOM of EARTH 17: AHHH! Never say that name!

TOM of EARTH 22: Why are we talking about Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 42: Who’s Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 616: Well, on my Earth he has been the President of the United States for the last two years. Things are not going well, and I wanted to get your input — and your views — on what to do about it.

TOM of EARTH 17: Two years?? He’s been President for 10 years here!

TOM of EARTH 22: Wait a minute. You mean, the guy who had a bad reality show about 10 years ago? He’s your President? You gotta be shitting me, man!

TOM of EARTH 42: Again, who’s Donald Trump?

TOM of EARTH 616: 10 years? Oh my God. What’s it like there?

TOM of EARTH 17: Pretty much the dystopian nightmare you’d expect. After his first term, he learned he could do anything he wanted. So he did. He made himself President for life.

TOM of EARTH 22: You can do that on your Earth?

TOM of EARTH 17: OF COURSE YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON MY EARTH!  He did it anyway!

TOM of EARTH 616: How? Congress did nothing to stop him? The Courts did nothing to stop him?

TOM of EARTH 17: The Congress wouldn’t impeach him and he simply ignored the courts! He said, “Fuck you.” And he got away with it!

TOM of EARTH 22: You’re talking about the guy who put his name on buildings and has really weird hair? Right?

TOM of EARTH 616: Yeah, that’s the one. We can’t believe it either.

TOM of EARTH 17: Well, believe it! I live in a world where the global economy is in the third year of a global depression. Disaster relief for all the super-tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and cyclones now cost almost one trillion dollars a year. And there’s no way to get rid of this guy!

TOM of EARTH 616: Well, he’s old, won’t he die soon?

TOM of EARTH 17: Maybe, but so what? He passed a law that when he dies, he gets replaced by … Eric.

TOM of EARTH 616: Fuck.

TOM of EARTH 22: Damn. Wow. Sorry man. It sucks to be you.

TOM of EARTH 42: WHO THE FUCK IS DONALD TRUMP?

(End of minutes.)

WHAT WE DON’T UNDERSTAND – Rich Paschall

Our Country’s Mysteries, by Rich Paschall

There are a lot of things in life we do not understand. The concept of Infinity is one of them. We know space does not just end, but how can it go on forever? When considering space, black holes are another mystery. How can there be these areas of nothingness in the universe? If we fly our spaceship into one, will the “gravitational acceleration” pull us through the space/time continuum into another universe? I guess that is a question for Star Trek fans.

Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the spheres of Costa Rica, the stone heads of Easter Island and various other ancient structures have remained a mystery despite extensive study. All we have are theories on how and why they came to be. I visited Stonehenge and the placement of these giants stones was certainly a mystery to me.

Stonehenge

Quantum computing is a mystery to me and many others, but of course some people, including world leaders, understand it while others do not.

“The noise (from windmills) causes cancer.”     
– Donald Trump

What many of us in the country do not understand is how so many people can follow a leader who has made over 10,000 false statements or flat-out lies to the general public? This is not an opinion, but rather documented fact. News outlets have checked statements and offered proof on these. You Tube videos show Trump contradicting himself or lying to the public and yet his fan base continues to follow despite the obvious lies.

Says troops recently received “one of the biggest pay raises” ever, and that it was the first pay increase in “more than 10 years. 
In fact he claimed it was more than 10 per cent. It was 2.6 per cent. Troops received pay raises every year for the last 3 decades.

It is a mystery to us how so many can follow a leader who insults our allies while praising dictators with a history of violence towards political opponents. Trump counts Kim Jung Un as a friend. This “friend”kills his opponents, starves his people and continues his missile and nuclear programs. Despite recent missile firings, Trump continues to believe in this despot.

“I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him.” – Donald Trump May 4, 2019

Trump has met with Vladimir Putin five times and had an hour and a half phone call with him on May 3, 2019. What did they talk about? A few general statements were released but the content of these meetings and conversation are a mystery.

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. – The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an “extraordinary relationship” and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

“The fact that Trump didn’t want the State Department or members of the White House team to know what he was talking with Putin about suggests it was not about advancing our country’s national interest but something more problematic.”  – Andrew S. Weiss, Russia adviser to President Bill Clinton

There is the mystery of why Trump’s fan base continues their allegiance while he shows little or no allegiance to our allies. He has repeatedly insulted our friends, and showed virtually no regard for the opinions of others. This “speak your mind and insult your friends” approach is apparently popular with the right-wing of the Trump base for some perplexing reason.

It is also truly baffling that many can follow a leader of the nation who seems to have little knowledge of the nation he purportedly leads. Time and again Trump has either misstated the facts or shows no interest in them. He may be the first president with such little knowledge of the nation.

The United States entered into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 to secure the defense and security of member countries against outside threats. A main concern was the action of the Soviet Union on the borders of some western European friends following World War II. In order to deter future armed conflict this multi-nation agreement was signed. It would be important for our leader to know about this. It is a major point in history books. For some bewildering reason, Trump does not know it.

He could read about it on the Department of State website under Office of the Historian. It gives a nice background on many events. He can not read “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” on the website. It was “retired” since his term in office began. The devotion of followers after this continued ignorance of US history and US agreements is mystifying.

We could go on about virtually every aspect of 45’s tenure. His trade war hurts farmers and others. His pulling out of the world-wide climate agreement harms the planet. His relaxing of pollution standards endangers our citizens. His appointment of millionaires and billionaires to government posts for which they know little or nothing harms our democracy. His hate speech at rallies encourages violence in the country. His appointment of extreme right-wing judges at all levels harms the cause of Justice. His tax breaks for the rich has created massive debt for our government. The threat to offset a little of this debt by cutting back on Social Security and Medicare is troublesome to the elderly and disabled. His jokes about shooting immigrants are dangerous. Despite these things, for some inexplicable reason, throngs of followers still cheer him on.

What We Now Understand

In high school and college history classes, we often wondered how a despotic leader like Mussolini or Hitler could have so many devoted followers. They divided their people against one another. They blamed others for their problems. They preached violence against certain religions and ethnic groups. They advocated nationalism above other concerns. They made their followers, no matter how far down the social or economic ladder, follow them in almost blind devotion.

First, you get elected.

How could this be? What hold did these leaders have over their people? Did they actually believe the hate speech they were hearing? These questions presented a mystery our history books could not answer. Recent political events and the following of 45 by so many have given some insight into this mystery.

Sources:
President Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims,” washingtonpost.com April 29. 2019.
Trump wrong on size and timing of military pay increases,” politifact.com, December 27, 2018.
North Korea ‘test fires short-range missiles’,” bbc.com May 4, 2019.
Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery.“nytimes.com, January 15, 2019.
How an Isolated Trump Insulted Allies and Dismissed the World at UN,” Bloomberg.com September 26, 2018.
All Pants on Fire! statements involving Donald Trump,” politifact.com frequently updated
Trump may really not know how NATO works,” washingtonpost.com, March 24, 2017.
The President’s ‘Jokes’ About Shooting Migrants Are No Laughing Matter,” nymag.com/intelligencer, May 9, 2019.

 

 

I’LL GIVE YOU MY REALITY IF YOU GIVE ME YOURS – By Tom Curley

I figured it out! The solution to reality! This reality! This reality TV reality!

The problem is not so much that we are living in a reality TV reality. The problem is that we’re living in a REALLY BAD reality TV reality. Face it, it’s not working. Each time something happens that we might think is positive, the next day — or the next hour — we discover we were deluded.

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Do you know what does work?

Fictional TV reality!

Think about it. There was a show called “Designated Survivor.” In it, the whole U.S. government was blown up during a State of the Union Address.  The Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court? Wiped off the earth.

The only cabinet member that had to stay home becomes the President. He has to rebuild the government from the ground up. While he’s doing that, there’s a mysterious cabal in which the ones responsible for blowing everybody up are also trying to take over the country.

In spite of that, their government and President are doing a lot better job than ours! They are noticeably more sane and coherent and sometimes, they make intelligent decisions. Imagine that!

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So here’s what we do.  We switch realities!

It’s a win-win for everybody. How? It’s simple — at least in theory.

First

The current administration leaves the government and instead, goes on real TV, 24/7. Every day. You like watching the news? You’ll never miss another show!

Second

On Fox News. They all go to work on sets that look just like Washington, D.C.  They do the exact same things they do now. It will be just like on  “Big Brother”. Only bigger.

And on Fox News.

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They can pass laws, write executive orders, cancel health insurance for the whole nation, eliminate “Meals On Wheels” or just kick puppies. Whatever they want! Trump supporters won’t be upset because they only watch Fox News.

As far as they’ll be concerned, everything is normal.

It just isn’t real.

“And it’s only on Fox.”

Third

OK, great you say. But what about real reality? Who’s going to be the real President? The real cabinet?

Here’s who. Honest to God fictional ones.

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The cool part is, we have a lot of options. We have lots of choices for President. And if we dig into the DNC pool, we’ve got dozens more. Hell, every billionaire is ready to declare!

We could have Jeb Bartlett. He was a great President. Don’t believe me? Watch “The West Wing.” Again. As a matter of fact, just keep watching it over and over until you feel better. It’s like a political tranquilizer.

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We’ve got Dennis Haysbert. I’m pretty sure he was President twice.

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We’ve got Morgan Freeman. Not only was the President, but he was (is currently, I believe) also God!

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The list goes on. Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers … (Oh, for God’s sake, Google the rest.) You get my point.

Now, appointing a cabinet becomes fun!

Fourth

Secretary of State? How about Tia Leoni? She’s already a Secretary of State and seems to be doing a pretty decent job of it every Sunday. Let’s give her the job for the rest of the week.

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Attorney General? Julianna Margulies. She’s a lawyer, ran for State’s Attorney and by almost all accounts, is a good wife.

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Secretary of Defense? I admit, at first, I was leaning toward Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Then it hit me.

CHUCK NORRIS! Think about it. We could cut the military budget down to nothing. Nobody’s going to go to war with us. Nobody fucks with Chuck Norris!

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ISIS COMMANDER: We will destroy America!

ISIS GUY WATCHING THE NEWS: Sir, America just made Chuck Norris Secretary of Defense.

ISIS COMMANDER:  Shit.

(Insert favorite Chuck Norris joke here. My favorite? Chuck Norris once counted to infinity. Twice.)

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Department of Education? The cast of Sesame Street.

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Depart of Health and Human Services? Pick any of the stern but kindly Chiefs of Staff from any medical show you’ve enjoyed over the years. Any of them will do fine. (Except for Dr. Zorba. I’m pretty sure he’s dead.) (Extra points if you get that reference.)

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Department of Housing? Chris Rock. OK, he really doesn’t have any more qualifications for the job than Ben Carson does. But I just like the guy. He’s funny.

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(If you get that reference, you get double extra points.) I could go on, but you get the point.

Five: The Election

How do we do this?

We have an election. Not the usual kind. What with voter suppression, low turnouts, gerrymandering, the Electoral College, and just candidates that don’t have the right scriptwriters, our elections are not working out well. That’s how we got into this mess, to begin with.

We have the election the same way reality TV shows do it. Everybody gets to vote from their smartphone, their computer, their tablet, or Android device. You can email or text your vote. You are only allowed to vote up to 20 times on any given device. You can vote up until 10 pm Eastern Standard Time.

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Granted, this will fire up the Millennials and confuse the hell out of old folks. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s still better than the Electoral College.

We can set up March Madness-style brackets and have an election every week for maybe a month until we get a winner. Imagine how many office pools there will be. You might even win!

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And we, the people, elect everybody. The President doesn’t get to appoint his cabinet. We do.

This is absolute Democracy at work!

It could work!

As a cheese-faced person who somehow actually became President of the United States said to a bunch of totally incredulous Black people:

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“Give it a try. What have you got to lose?”


NEWER MOMS AND POPS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry came back from the deli with news. Lance and Betsy have sold the place and are retiring. Someone else is taking over.

Quaker Deli and its friendly and generous owners were among the very first people to welcome us to the valley more than 18 years ago. Until we got our feet under us and began to know our way around, it was a required stop in our daily rounds. They make great sandwiches and sell quality cold cuts. And they always know how we like it sliced.

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But time has had its way with them, as it does with us all. It’s what happens nowadays to almost all “mom and pop” shops. In this case, it’s not a lack of business. It’s simple tiredness. The kids don’t want the business. Mom and pop don’t want to spend all their remaining years on their feet. So, they sell.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only whoever takes over the place would keep it as what it is … a place to pick up a few necessities without going into town. Where you can buy a great lunch, made for you. Buy a lottery ticket or whatever. Most of the new owners of these shops are immigrant families. They see a small business as a ticket to the Dream of America.

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They don’t mind the long hours and hard work. But they don’t necessarily maintain the place in any way that resembles how it was. They go more heavily into higher volume, bigger profit items — like lottery tickets and cigarettes. They stop selling food and making sandwiches. This has happened to every little deli or mini grocery sold since we’ve lived in the Blackstone Valley. If it happens here, we will have to go into town for everything. The last convenience store will be gone.

I have heard over and over again that mom and pop stores are disappearing because we don’t support them, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be true sometimes, in some places. In this case, Lance and Betsey have plenty of business, maybe more than they can comfortably handle. All the truckers stop there to buy lunch. It’s the only place at this end of town where you can get an emergency supply of eggs or half-and-half.

The problem is that — not unreasonably — their kids have different dreams. They don’t want to run the family deli. They want a job where they can sit at a desk and go home without worrying about the business.

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Small business are nonstop work. Buying, selling, bookkeeping. Ordering supplies. Tracking sales and figuring out what you should buy in greater or less quantity … or just stop selling entirely. The shop may be closed, but there’s always work to be done. I’m sorry to see them leaving and we will miss them very much. But I understand. I couldn’t do it.

Among many other reasons, this is why we need immigrants. They will happily do the jobs we can’t or won’t do. Think about that the next time you begin to rail against newcomers to our shores.

Do you want that job? Could you do it? Would you?

AN AMERICAN CARAVAN STOPPED BY THE WALL – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Wall

Mexico is building a wall to keep Americans out. With hundreds of thousands of unpaid Americans, all of whom have no salaries on which to pay their mortgages or for that matter, buy peanut butter sandwiches, everyone is heading for Mexico. At least it’s warmer down there.

Ohio gets very cold in the winter and Washington D.C. is no picnic either.


“We cannot handle these caravans of starving Americans. They can’t just come into Mexico unless they can prove their value to our nation. So we are building a wall to keep them out.”


The president of Mexico said it in Spanish, so I can’t quote him directly … but as it turns out, Trump got what he wanted. All he had to do was turn America into a desperate shithole country, with starving people seeking asylum. In Mexico.

It wasn’t nearly as hard as he thought it would be. And see? The Mexicans ARE paying for it after all!

A TRUMP CHRISTMAS CAROL – BY TOM CURLEY

I spent Christmas day watching various traditional Christmas movies. I’ve seen them all a zillion times, but I did anyway. I think it’s the law.

I watched Miracle On 34th Street. The original one.

I watched A Christmas Story.

Well, part of it. I mean, I’ve seen it a zillion times.

And I watched Scrooged. A modern update of A Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray.

Like all remakes of A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray is a mean miser of a boss who gets shown his past present and future by three ghosts and shown his good side and is redeemed and becomes a good person. God bless us, every one.

So, after immersing myself in movies where there is peace on Earth, goodwill towards men and a kid can get a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock (even though you could shoot your eye out), I turned on MSNBC.

Back in the real world, the government was shut down because Fox News told the Toddler-in-Chief to do so.  Two children had died in the custody of the Immigration Department. And the poor President of the United States tweeted he had to cancel his two-week vacation in Florida and was stuck all alone on Christmas Eve in the White House.

He even tweeted “Poor me.” And whose fault were these things? The Democrats of course.

Then I got to thinking, a President alone on Christmas Eve (not counting his now unpaid Secret Service detail) is Scrooge on steroids. If anybody needed to be visited by three ghosts, it’s this dick. But then I got to wondering how that would turn out.

First, he has to be visited by an old partner who warns him he is evil and is going to be visited by three ghosts. Hmm, who would that be? Of course! Richard Nixon!

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: (Really dead looking and bound in chains and the Watergate tapes) Donald Trump!

TRUMP: AHHH! Who are you?

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: I am the ghost of Richard Nixon!

TRUMP: Really? You don’t look like him. You look like shit.

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: Well, of course, I look like shit. I’m dead you asshole.

TRUMP: You should try some of my daughter Ivanka’s spa treatments. It’ll take years off your face. I can get you a discount.

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: Really? I’d love to get rid of the bags under my eyes… wait, what am I doing? I’m here to tell you that if you keep leading the life you’ve been leading you are going to end up like me.

TRUMP: What? An ugly ghost with really bad bags under my eyes Not going to happen. I have dermatologists. The best dermatologists.

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: What? No! You’ll be doomed to wander the Earth, bound by the chains you created in life.

TRUMP: Will they be the best chains? I know a lot about chains. I know more about chains than anybody in the world.

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: Jesus Christ, Tillerson was right, you are a fucking moron. Look, here’s the deal. Tonight, you will be visited by three ghosts.

TRUMP: Will they be the best ghosts?

GHOST OF RICHARD NIXON: Yes, no, I don’t know, oh fuck this. I’m out of here. God, you’re an asshole.

The ghost disappears, and Trump goes to the bathroom and sends a series of tweets blaming Obama and the Democrats for, well, everything. He leaves the bathroom to find the ghost of Christmas Past, who looks a lot like Howard Stern.

TRUMP: Howard Stern! How’d you get in here?

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: I am not Howard Stern! I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.

TRUMP: Really? Are you sure? You really look like Howard Stern. Babba Boey!

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: I’m not fucking Howard Stern! I’m here to show you your past.

TRUMP: Why? My past was great.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: No, it wasn’t

TRUMP: Yes, it was.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: No, it wasn’t.

TRUMP: Was too.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: Are you kidding me? You bankrupt four casinos in Atlantic City for Christ’s sake. You were a billion dollars in debt and used that to not pay any taxes for over ten years! You’ve been laundering money for the Russians since 2001! You stiff your contractors and your lawyers. You’ve been sued over 3000 times!

TRUMP: Fake news. Never happened.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: What? No, of course, it did. It’s on record.

TRUMP: No, it isn’t.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST: Yes, it is! Oh, for God’s sake, I can’t deal with this anymore. Nixon was right. You are a fucking moron.

At this point, the Ghost of Christmas Past dissolves in a cloud of disgust and Trump goes back to the bathroom to write more rage tweets that contain the words “No Collusion” and “Witch Hunt!” When he comes out, he is confronted by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who looks a lot like Rachel Maddow.

TRUMP: Rachel Maddow?! How’d you get in here?? You’re fake news! I never watch you! I watched your show last night! You’re very unfair! NO COLLUSION!

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: I am not Rachel Maddow. I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!

TRUMP: You’re bringing me a present? Great! I’d like a gold toilet for the Lincoln bedroom.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: No, I’m not the Ghost of Christmas Presents. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present!

TRUMP: What’s the difference?

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: What’s the difference?? I’m here to show you how bad your present is! You’ve shut down the government over a stupid wall that will never be built. You’re forcing people to work for no pay. You are separating babies from their parents at the borders and you’re under 17 different investigations over all the crimes you’ve committed.

TRUMP: No, I’m not. If I was, nothing I’ve done is against the law. And even if it was against the law, it’s Obama’s fault. Fake news!

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: Nixon and the Ghost of Christmas Past warned me about this. I didn’t believe them. Nobody can be this much of an asshole. I’m gone.

The Ghost disappears in a puff of disbelief and disgust and Trump (you guessed it) goes back to the john to retweet a video exposing the faces of Seal Team Five. When he returns to his bedroom he is confronted with the final ghost. The ghost of Christmas future. Who looks just like Steve Bannon.

TRUMP: Steve! I thought I fired you! Wait, I get it, you’re like one of them ghosts right? You just look like Steve Bannon.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE: No, I’m Steve Bannon. I just moonlight as the Ghost of Christmas Future. Been doing it for years.

TRUMP: Is that why you always looked like death warmed over?

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE: No, I’ve always look like this.

TRUMP: So why are you here?

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE: You know, the usual. If you don’t change your ways, you will end up penniless and alone. Your life will have been a waste, and no one will remember you. Blah blah blah.

At this point, they both break up laughing.

TRUMP: Yeah, like that’s going to happen.

GHOST OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE: Hey, I had to try, or I don’t get paid.

The Ghost disappears is a cloud of dust and rancid bourbon and Trump goes to bed. He wakes up Christmas morning and opens his bedroom window and sees a boy.

TRUMP: Boy! Who are you? What is your name?

BOY: It’s Eric. I’m your son.

TRUMP: What day is it?

ERIC: It’s Christmas.

TRUMP: It’s Christmas! So, it’s not too late!

Trump goes down to the Oval Office and signs an executive order canceling pay raises for all Federal Employees.

So, there you have it. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men, and God Bless us every one.

But only if you’re white of course.

CLUTCHING AT FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I want everything to last forever.

When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.

“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”

“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”

“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”

It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.

The only things I buy more or less on a schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope because I need them.

On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks, and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once, then never have to worry about them again?

I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t a permanent investment as I thought it was. And the ants keep coming back.

Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.

The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.

Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligations as a conscious choice.

Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.

I’m not sure why it’s like this. Why is it freedom for which we need to fight? Why doesn’t tyranny require a battle? Why do the bad guys always seem to have the upper hand?

I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.

We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the downside. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.

We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.

Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it again.

Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living longer?

WHEN HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY – Rich Paschall

To Tell The Truth – Rich Paschall


At times it may seem OK to tell the “innocent little lie.” You may want to “protect” someone from the truth. You may not want to hurt them. You may want to save bad news for a “better time.”  Maybe it is not the other person who can not handle the truth, maybe you are just too uncomfortable with it.

Of course, we may think it is perfectly alright to tell children little lies, or even big ones because we do not want to hurt them or crush their childhood fantasies. We may wish to wait until the right time to tell children there is no Santa Claus. I’m sorry if no one told you that before now. You may even want to keep the fantasy of the Easter Bunny alive, or the Great Pumpkin. Some children’s holidays are built on stories that are exaggerated or simply untrue.

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Then there is the matter of superheroes. There was a time when I wanted to believe in Superman, and Flash and the Green Hornet. Then there was Batman and Wonder Woman, well, the whole Justice League actually. Didn’t you? Why crush a little one’s belief in these characters? They may wish to dress up as these superheroes at Halloween, or other times because they believe.

The issue of life and death looms as a major area to toss around the lies. “Where do babies come from?” might be cause for lies because the parent is uncomfortable with the topic.  It may be the same as “Where does the dog, parakeet or even Aunt Martha go when she dies?”

There could be plenty of stories handed out to cover that. Eventually, children stop asking because they know parents are lying. At a certain age, they may even be bold enough to call them on it.

When does the time come when we dispense with these little lies in favor of the truth?  When should we just tell children the real story, no matter how awkward or painful?  That is probably best decided on a case by case basis, but what if the lies go on and on?

Does the legacy of lies lead to people who grow up thinking it is OK to lie?  Perhaps some tell so many lies to protect their children, it becomes habit long after the necessity passes.  Perhaps children learn that in some situations it is just OK to lie and therefore they adopt the habit themselves.  After all, the message was sent at a young age that there are times when it is perfectly alright if we do not tell the truth.

Few people doubt that the government lies to us sometimes — or daily in the case of 45 — for national security, or to protect us from some inconvenient truth.  We have entered into an era where commentators and politicians do more than just spin the news. They make it up. They out-and-out lie “for the national good.”

Does that make it okay?

The polarization of America and its political parties seems to come, at least in part, from the untrue stories that each side is telling.  It is bad enough that members of the general public knowingly repost items on social media they know are not true (see Hate, Anger and Social Media), but politicians and their supporters sometimes appear to be doing the same. Do you believe everything your elected official tells you? Really?

In a world made up of “pretty little liars,” do we trust anyone?  Perhaps you have seen the syndicated television show “Cheaters.” In it a spouse or at least a mate has come to suspect that the other person has been telling lies and wants the Cheaters detectives to find out the truth. I have never seen an episode where the one being investigated was not lying to their mate.  Yes, I have seen the show too often. It’s like watching a train wreck. You know it’s not going to end well, but you can’t keep from looking.

Do you know when it’s okay to lie to your spouse or close friends? Never. Aside from the story you told to pull off a surprise birthday party or a spectacular marriage proposal, the answer is never. If you believe it’s okay “to protect the friendship,” then you are not as close as you think.

When a friend and I had an issue to sort out early in our friendship, we ended the conversation saying the only thing that could hurt our friendship was not telling the truth. Any problem could be overcome. We declared honesty as the only policy.

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So less than a year later, in a beer hall in Germany, my friend asked me a personal question that I was not prepared to answer.  I thought about it only for a few seconds as the conversation about honesty replayed in my head, and I told him the truth. Then he wanted to know why I never said anything, so I told him that too.

It was fine. It may have been a surprise and the reason may not have sounded good, but it was the truth. I may never tell him everything, but the importance of friendship means that lies cannot be told. A friendship built on a foundation of truth will not crumble.