Saturday, December 24, 2011

Where Have All The Victors Gone?

Bang the drum slowly, America. The war in Iraq is finished. Finished for us, at least. For the Iraqis…well, in keeping with the previous nine years of American policy the Iraqis who haven’t been killed off will be left holding the proverbial bag. The tornado George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sowed with all the bluster of an administration with God on its side has been left behind in a far distant desert land, its unspent winds no longer a killing force for American men and women.

Too many of our leaders have spoken up this last week to declare that the sacrifice made by our soldiers hasn’t been wasted. That lives given were not given in vain. That fortunes spent haven’t been billions poured down the pisshole of history. That this very special and totally unnecessary war launched under false premises by an American president was not the military, financial and moral debacle that it was.

And now the lies continue. We lied our way into war so of course we need to lie ourselves out of it. Unlike Viet Nam we no longer lie about casualties. We prefer to lie about war’s causes. Its raison d’etre. No two voices can agree on why we went to war, why we rained killing waves of bombs down on Baghdad. Or why, given our expressed concern about weapons of mass destruction, we forced out the UN inspectors who could have unearthed such evil devices without taking a single human life?

Was it all for nothing? Was it because Saddam Hussein tried to kill George W. Bush’s father after the first Iraq war? Or was it for the oil? We not only have the right to know, we have an obligation to find out the truth. How else can we prevent another unmitigated disaster? How else can we face the wives, children and family of those who died and honestly tell them their sacrifice had some value, some reason, some purpose behind it other than the lies perpetrated by a band of American adventurers who had captured the reins of our government?

The human costs have been enormous —4,500 American dead, 32,000 American wounded, more than 122,000 Iraqi civilians who died violently from insurgent attacks, suicide bombings, and our own made-in-America bombs. This was an expensive, brutal war that should have never been launched. It was a war we never could win. Like Viet Nam, whatever victory we claimed came from our solemn departure.

President Obama and Leon Panetta have told our returning soldiers that the lives, treasure and national honor we left behind in that scarred desert wasteland haven’t been sacrificed in vain.

But nobody will say what they were sacrificed for?

Monday, December 5, 2011


(F-BOMB ALERT: The following satiric essay contains multiple F-Bombs. Read at your own discretion!)

After much deliberation, I am making two historic announcements. First off, I proudly announce I am officially, as of today, renouncing my pie-in-the-sky, do-gooder liberal bias, and applying for membership in the fabled ranks of Republican Americanus. Yes, I am joining the Republican Party. I admit to being a Scrooge-like tightwad. I admit to hating everyone under 45, and everyone with less than a million dollars in their bankbooks, and of course toto el mundo who weren’t born in the good old United States of America.

America is for Americans, we Republicans always say, and you’re not really an American if you’re not smart enough to have earned a small fortune. Doesn’t matter how you earned it, but if you made it by swindling old ladies out of their pensions, so much the better! And if you’re looking for a political party that will help you hold onto every penny of that fortune, even if it means having to dismantle social security and medicare to do so, then look no further. You are a born Republican, as I am, and you’re tired of all those lazy and ignorant sons of bitches who won’t get a job and who multiply like sex-starved rabbits living off our wealth and largesse.

Yes, I, Paul Steven Stone, after years of haranguing the Republicans for starting unnecessary wars, torturing enemy prisoners, representing elite and wealthy interests, stifling our liberties, protecting polluters and bugging our phones, I’ve stopped pretending I think more of others than I do of myself. I now proudly admit that I am #1! It’s all about me. My money, my family, my friends, my …(Did I mention my money?) And nobody takes care of ME and MINE like the Republican Party. Which leads to my second announcement…

Today I hereby announce my intention of running for Representative from the 10th Congressional District of Massachusetts. Running, of course, as a Republican. That means, I will take any and all contributions from anyone trying to buy influence with me. It means I will immediately tie my hands as a future lawmaker by signing a pledge that will force me to vote against any measure that might raise tax revenues.

Just know that I will never disappoint you. I will be your voice, your conscience, and your balls…all in one! As your Republican representative, I will say “Fuck you!” to old people, poor people, immigrants and minorities with every vote I take. I will say “Fuck you!” to any government program that aids or assists those less fortunate than myself. Or cleans up the environment. I will say “Fuck You!” to anyone who thinks our government exists to serve the people over corporate interests. Just listen for the echo of every vote I take as your Republican representative, “Fuck You! Fuck You! Fuck You!”

And think of all the fun I’ll have! I’ll get to obfuscate my totally biased and elitist voting record. I’ll get to pretend that privatizing or dismantling social security will be an improvement to the system as it is now. Get to argue till I’m blue in the face that increasing taxes on ridiculously wealthy people will discourage the creation of jobs. I love that one. Like a billionaire is going to cut back on making more billions because his government asked him to pay his fair share of taxes! Right! What the hell does taxing wealthy people have to do with creating jobs? Are they holding back on creating new jobs out of spite? If they are, that’s pretty pissy!

Enough of this stupidity. Forget all logic, put your own vested interests aside, ignore that I will only represent the interests of 1% of our population, and vote for Paul Steven Stone (Republican) as your next Congressman. It’s time to bring back amoral, conscienceless, selfish, right-wing sense to the Massachusetts political landscape. Remember, it’s not what your country can do for its people that counts, it’s what your country can do for YOU.

Thank you and God Bless The United States of America!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lets kill health insurance before it kills us.

Health care insurance is the new heroin…without the high! It destroys our lives but we can’t live without it. We would do anything to get it—even abase ourselves—work long hours in low paying jobs, put up with sadistic bosses, lousy work conditions and limited opportunities. Kiss whomever’s ass we have to kiss to keep our jobs. All because we’re scared to death of losing our health insurance. And forget about mandated health insurance making a difference! That’s become another way to funnel more of America’s dwindling take home pay and taxpayer dollars into the coffers of an industry that benefits immensely from our inflamed fears and addicted behavior.

When I see one of those convenience store robberies caught on closed-circuit TV, I often wonder if the thief went out that day to steal money or fund his monthly insurance premium?

Face it folks, we have to kill health insurance before it kills us. Before it becomes the only criteria for choosing a job, the only reason for staying with a job you hate, and the one thing that keeps poor and middle class families from getting decent affordable health care.

If we can’t afford health care, that’s because health insurance has made medical care too damn expensive. For decades it has stood between us and the medical care we need, shielding the actual cost of medical services and care: the cost of machines purchased or hospital beds utilized or CEO’s over-compensated. Would any of us choose a medical provider that spent like a drunken sailor on everything—executive salaries, equipment, buildings, personnel? In a free market economy we’d seek out the smarter, more efficient, better-run provider. But with the insurance company giving cover to even the most poorly run providers, we’re all forced to pay high set-fees for our care, no matter who provides it or how bad a business they run. Could hospitals afford excessively expensive equipment, bloated executive salaries, inefficient staff or poorly run facilities if it weren’t for the willingness of insurance companies to pass the cost on to its customers?

Ask yourself this:
Aside from their facility for managing paperwork, what skill or service offered by insurance companies would we miss if they were to magically disappear from the health care landscape?

Consider that my mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s was recently sent home from the hospital in an ambulance. The cost of her ambulance ride was $800. Think about that: $800 to take her from Wellesley to Needham, a distance no further than 15 miles—14.6 miles to be exact! For $800 they should have at least included an in-flight meal, cocktails and a massage.

How could an ambulance service stay in business charging individuals $800 a whack to go 15 miles? Truth is, they couldn’t. But when they charge $800 to the insurance company, consumers delude themselves into believing they're riding “for free”, never realizing “we”, all of us, every fool in the bleaches, will pay for every $800 trip that ambulance makes. We’re all complicit in the system. Hey, we’d have to be. It’s the only system we’ve ever known. We’re so close to it we never noticed how it slowly, incrementally transformed itself from helpful, friendly service provider to an angry tiger whose tail we are all tenaciously clinging to—afraid to let go, terrified of holding on.

Well, it’s time to let go!

The insurance company is like a vestigal organ that has grown corrupt and dangerous as the body aged. The only sound medical solution is to cut it out!

Once upon a time, the insurance industry was a benevolent partner in its mission to make health care accessible and affordable.Today, unfortunately it has become an obstacle, blocking us off from that very same accessible and affordable health care. As employee benefits shrink, and unemployment rises, we—the masses—will get increasingly shut off or priced out from the medical care we need. Unless we direct the government to do its job and ensure quality health care as the right of every citizen. Just the way it does with elders through Medicare, or Congressional politicians through their special VIP health care program.

Think what we could do if we freed up all the money that now goes to insurance companies. How many more jobs we could create! How many lives we would improve! How many unhappy employees we would empower to leave their crummy jobs!

If we want to reform health care, we must first reform or kill off health care insurance. Till we do we'll be trapped in the vicelike grip of the insurance companies, continuing to pay $800 for a very short ride to the poor house.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Move it, he said, there isn't much time.

So you stepped on the gas or walked a bit faster or hurried your phone conversation, and still arrived late for your next activity.

Faster, he said, only losers slow down.

So you worked late at the office or left the party early or rushed out of the house without kissing the kids goodbye, and still never made up for the time you lost.

Hurry up, he said, you'll miss your big opportunity.

So you took a second job working weekends or cheated in business or cancelled the family vacation, and still never found the opportunity you were looking for.

Skip the formalities, he said, you'll have time for that later.

So you forgot your anniversary or never showed up for parents night at school or stepped over a friend to better your position, and still found yourself dreaming about all the things you didn't have.

Don't slow down, he said, time grows shorter every minute.

So you pretended to stay young or cheated on your marriage or forgot to watch your children growing up, and still never found someone who could understand you.

Pick up your speed, he said, time's almost up.

So you grew bitter and resentful or left your family or started a list with everything the world owed you, and still grew older every day.

Final seconds, he said, last chance to make good.

So you looked around and wondered where all the time had gone or searched out those you had wronged or started making friends with priests, and still couldn't get his voice out of your head.

Move it, he said, you're running out of time.

And finally he was right.

You ran out of time.

Forgive me if this brief story has appeared before, but a friend of mine recently received bad medical news and this piece immediately came to mind. I run it as a reminder and gift to everyone, but especially for myself.

This story appears in “How To Train A Rock” by Paul Steven Stone
Copyright © 2009 Paul Steven Stone

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Church of Sacred Vampires Wants Your Vote

Heaven protect us!

It wasn’t enough that they abandoned thousands (literally thousands!) of young children to the sexual appetites of predatory priests, but now America’s Catholic Bishops feel they have the moral and spiritual obligation to tell the rest of us how we should behave—and vote!—to validate their right to dictate public morality and individual behavior.

Defending what they describe as their “Religious Liberty” they are campaigning and essentially joining forces with the largely Protestant right, aligning themselves with Republican presidential candidates, in order to combat federal regulations that support the equality of homosexuals, the distribution of contraceptives and the right of women to have abortions.

You don’t have to read between the lines to see the Bishops care more about the welfare of unborn children than the protection of real children in their care. Their protection was reserved for pedophile priests who feasted off the young and innocent like hungry vampires.

It’s a sorry state of affairs that the Bishops today are more interested in defending a discriminatory definition of marriage than the quickly crumbling social safety net that was once so critical to their mission of service. Where is the voice of moral indignation that once clamored for the rights of workers and justice for the poor? Why are these very same Bishops not standing alongside the victimized, non-violent warriors of the Occupy Movement? That’s where Jesus would be. Certainly, he would not be standing with those attempting to shut out “undesirable” segments of society from their rights and privileges. Nor would he have allowed deviant priests to move among children with impunity, quenching their sexual thirsts while destroying lives.

How strange that this enabler of pedophile priests, this destroyer of childhoods, this institution too-tightly-controlled by the corrupters themselves to ever really change, should tell others how to live their lives, how to vote, or what to think. What hypocrisy, what sham morality!

If the Bishops ever learn to see beyond the walls of their enclosed insular world, they would see humanity thirsting for an honest, moral voice to lead us out of the wilderness. And they would silence their cruelly divisive attacks for fear of drowning it out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Yesterday I looked around and realized there was only beauty and happiness in the world. Everybody had a home, two Mercedes and a signed Christmas card from George W. Bush.

Yesterday I looked around and realized I didn’t have to wait to go to heaven.

This is for all the lovely people,
This is for those with the Midas Touch,
This is for all the ones
Who never leave
Till they have too much,
I love all the lovely people.

Yesterday I looked around and realized there was no hunger in the world, and that poverty only existed in old newsreels and fiction. Everybody had quiche for breakfast and an American Express card for emergencies.

Yesterday I looked around and realized I was no longer just a man. I was a member of a club, and membership had its privileges.

This is for all the lovely people,
This is for summers at the shore,
This is for Donald Trump
Who never stops
Working at the pump,
God bless all the lovely people.

Yesterday I looked around and realized there was nobody in the world that needed my help. Everybody had more than enough love and every child knew just what they wanted for Christmas.

Yesterday I looked around and realized there was no reason to wait for the second coming. It couldn’t get any better than this.

This is for all the lovely people,
This is for People Magazine,
This is for all the ones
Whose private jets
Are always kept clean,
God loves all the lovely people.

Yesterday I looked around and realized there was nothing I had to do for anybody. Everybody had gotten exactly what they deserved from life and only deserved to get more.

Yesterday I looked around and realized I was the center of the universe.

Yesterday was a day like any other.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anti-Bullying Video Wins Contest

Pardon me for blushing, but I'm proud to announce that "To You Who Are Different" ( was recently announced the winner of the Challenge Video Contest by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. If you haven't yet seen this powerful video, please check it out. It runs for less than 5 minutes but it packs a hell of a punch. The featured students from Randolph High School did an amazing job taking ownership of the video's message of tolerance and support for those who are different. "To You Who Are Different" was a joint enterprise of Mona Rosen, Sheara Seigal and yours truly. If you wish to download "To You Who Are Different" for showings by your school or group, go to:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The American Dream: An Update

Last time I saw the American Dream was Tuesday, down at the Unemployment Office. He was looking pretty worn out, as if being unemployed for over a year was finally getting to him.

“How’s it going?” I asked cautiously, not wanting to step on any sensitive toes.

“It's finally getting to me,” he answered. “It’s been over a year since I worked. And now my youngest, who I just finished paying for her college, lost her job and can’t find anything. She says there are no jobs.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I offered, starting to move off. But the American Dream grabbed my sleeve, arresting my departure.

“My son moved in with me,” he continued, the story beginning to gush out like a cataract. “Guess how much he owes from his college loans...”

“I don’t...”

“Guess,” he pushed, almost desperately. “I hear this figure in my head when I lie down to sleep at night. Guess—oh, hell, I’ll tell you—$240,000! Almost a quarter million dollars in college loan debt! ‘Who are you borrowing from, the mafia?’ I asked him. But he just kept saying, ‘Sorry, Dad.’

“A quarter of a million dollars; that’s a lot of money.” I opined.

“And it was compounding daily!”

“What did you do?”

“What could I do? I paid the debt down to $200K. Now my ex-wife and I pay off the interest each month, keeping it at $200K. But once my unemployment runs out, she and my son will be on their own.”

He ran his hands through his disheveled hair, causing me to comment, “You don’t look so good, you know?” And it was true. Ordinarily, the American Dream is a very buttoned down, upbeat guy; but this morning it looked as though he’d been up all night wrestling with a feverish lover or an unsolvable problem.

“The well’s almost empty,” he said through a dry mouth. “Unemployment’s running out, my savings are gone, my stock holdings, including my 401(k), are next to worthless, and my son, as I mentioned earlier, has moved back in with me and taken over my family room.”

“Well I have some good news,” I said happily. “I got a job! This is the last time you’ll see me hanging around these gloomy environs,” I added, giving a meaningful look around at the roomful of unemployed misfits and shirkers. “I’m back to a real paycheck starting next week.”

Doing what?” he asked, clearly trying to hide his envy.

“I’m a lobbyist,” I answered, feeling somewhat out of my comfort zone. Normally I don’t speak about my livelihood with someone who has the weakness of character to be out of work. No matter that we were friends or acquaintances. Not able to resist bragging, I added, “I’m a great lobbyist really! I only lost my previous job because of jealousy and my boss hated me. I used to lobby for “financial interests” such as banks, brokerage houses and lenders of all stripes. Hey, I was the one who lobbied to make it impossible for student debtors to declare bankruptcy on their student loans.”

“But my son...” the American Dream said, realizing the import of what I had just said.

“Yes, I lobbied for the bill that will ensure your son is in debt for most of his natural life. You and he are lucky. Had I had my way entirely—or my client’s way, really—the interest rates on his loans would rise automatically every fifth year. Republicans liked it, but they were worried; they’d just guaranteed the drug companies that the US government wouldn’t use its bargaining power to lower the price of drugs for the elderly. Didn’t want to be seen as giving away the store.

“Then there was my work against Wall Street Reform,” I continued, uncertain that the American Dream wished to hear about my dismantling any real financial reforms proposed by congress or the president.

“If it wasn’t for me,” I crowed, “People like you who by no fault of your own find yourselves broke, in debt and about to lose your homes, could have previously sued the banks, investment houses and hedge fund managers who turned your family’s home into a worthless investment vehicle. Now, you have to sue Bernie Madoff because he’s the only one taking any responsibility for screwing up our financial system.

“Too bad Bernie didn’t hire my lobbying firm before the pyramid collapsed. We could have gotten him an exemption in the ‘too big to fail’ category. Or something.”

Obviously uncomfortable with me talking about my past triumphs, the American Dream asked me about my new job and its responsibilities. “Is there anything you’re doing that you can be proud of?” he asked pointedly.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I answered huffily. “I’m proud of everything I’ve done. Our system is set up so that everyone has freedom to participate. If the rich have more money to buy a larger slice, well that helps all of us; puts more money into the economy. At least into my economy!”

“You’re not answering the question,” he reminded me.

“My job is to help congress rewrite regulations,” I answered proudly. “All the new regulations and restrictions congress recently enacted are preventing jobs, business growth and other opportunities.” I explained. “As are all those environmental restrictions.”

“Wait a minute,” the American Dream said, seeming to suddenly awaken, as if from a dream. “Are you telling me that the Financial Sector, which caused our Economic Emergency because no one was watching them, now wants to use the Economic Emergency itself as an excuse to eliminate any rules or regulations they don’t like!”

“Exactly,” I said. “And I can be proud of playing a small role in that effort. I can also be proud of the small fortune I’ll get paid to do it.”

As the American Dream started to walk away, seemingly agitated, I called to him, "Where are you going?”

“For psychotherapy,” he answered sullenly. “All this crushing debt and relentless uncertainty is driving me crazy.”

“Word of advice,” I told him. “Sign up quickly. I’m working on a bill right now to drop that coverage from your health plan.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Forgive me for sharing a rant I sent out yesterday to the Bagel Bards, but I’m very excited by the OCCUPY WALL STREET protests. What an appropriate response to a government that won’t investigate or indict ANYONE for the economic crash that destroyed so many lives and livelihoods, not to mention for two coup d’etats committed by the Republican party, one of which was abetted by the Supreme Court, or for an illegal war that killed thousands of innocent, non-aggressive citizens of foreign lands, or for the unbridled corruption, fraud and gross incompetence by vendors given billions in no-bid contracts to provide essentials for that illegal war or, and MOST CRIMINAL OF ALL, for committing acts of torture in the name of the people of the United States.

I voted for Obama and have been sorely disappointed. By choosing to selectively turn a blind eye to the crimes of the past 10 years, his administration has become a party to those crimes. The only one to get tried and imprisoned for his crimes was Bernie Madoff, who made the biggest mistake of all in this America of ours—he stole from the wealthy. Of course they gave him a 150 year sentence!

Keep those protests coming.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Forgive me father for I have sinned.”

“Tell me how you have sinned, my son?”

Lies, father. I have told lie after lie in pursuit of my personal gain. I have lied to my family, my friends, to thousands of people who desired nothing from me but the truth.”

“And when did you first enter politics, my son?”

“Many years ago, father, I was a mere child, an innocent. I believed in heroes. Believed in the power of being right and doing good works. I believed I could change things, could make a difference in the lives of the people I represented. I believed politics was much more than a bunch of self-important, privileged men dividing up the spoils of life-in-the-public-arena. I thought the system embraced everyone who had a stake in the outcome of every law considered and every vote taken. We had not yet been blessed by the work of the finest Supreme Court money could by, where every decision had been paid for and lobbied by billionaires and millionaires, who understandably believe they’re entitled to more representation than the single vote everyone else gets.”

“And when did you learn the truth, my son? When did you find out what a shmuck you’ve been?”

“In that first year, father. And how swift an education that was! No sooner was I sitting in a seat of elected power than I discovered how week and ineffective I was. I saw that power was most effective when it furthered its own ends rather than the needs of the voters. To get along in the world of politics one quickly learns to go along. To sleep with the ugly as well as the beautiful…Ha!

“Forgive the coarse example, father, but that’s what politics does to you…either you’re kissing a thousand asses and spreading your legs a thousand times a day for short dollars, or sleeping with an occasional millionaire now and again. What would you do, right? So, you start ‘Shtupping for Millionaires’ and you get your life back, and you stop feeling like a 24 hour fundraising prostitute.”

But I was speaking about…power. Do you know the secret of power, father? I’ll tell you. To become powerful, one simply hangs on to power longer than the next guy. To hang on longer than the next guys means forging strategic alliances with those who hold the power, even if it goes against the vested interests of your constituents, from whom you won’t hear anything for another two years, anyway. But like I said, power is most effective when it’s furthering its own ends. That was a simple lesson taught to all of us when we entered public office.

“But that seems so self-serving, my son. Surely there are those in public life who set their course with greater integrity and resolve?”

“Yes, father. They’re called one-term politicians.”

“This is all so very curious, my son.”

“Strange, father, it’s all so very strange. I’m constantly trying to understand how things could get so bad. When I first entered office, it was understood you weren’t to get caught breaking the law or stealing from the cookie jar. Everything was fair game, but you weren’t allowed to get caught. That was the cardinal rule. Steal from the poor, the blind, the crippled, but don't get caught.

“Nowadays, it seems that our government is in charge of payoffs for criminal deeds of catastrophic dimensions. The greedy son-of-bitches who brought down the financial system and triggered a worldwide recession are saved, kept in their jobs, and even allowed to collect bonuses, while the taxpayers pick up the tab.

“Just think, father, Halliburton and its subsidiaries are allowed to fraudulently overbill the US Army for shoddy work in IRAQ (How many soldiers were electrocuted in their poorly constructed showers?) and we just pay the bills.

“And, today, every one of those Grand Old Pigs whose political party ran us into an endless war in Iraq for no good reason, voted in tax cuts for yacht-owners, billionaires and oil company executives, and fathered a prescription drug benefit where the USA wasn’t allowed to use its buying power to lower prices (and, thus, decrease the deficit). If they’re so worried about deficits how could they have voted for renewing Bush’s Tax cuts for millionaires, father. How could they, I ask you that?”

“It is all a mystery to me, my son.”

“Yeah, me too, father. Me too. Like how could I have become a cynical and jaded politician so quickly? Without even noticing.! Oh, there was much truth in the promises I made, father. I intended to do as much as was humanly possible for my constituents; meant to deliver as many jobs, as many laws and, especially, as many government contracts for my constituents as I could.”

“So where are the lies you feel you must confess, my son?”

“It was all lies, father. There wasn’t one job, or law or one government contract I promised to deliver which I wouldn’t have sacrificed to help further my own position as an elected official. When everything you promise is secondary to feathering your own nest, you’re making promises to no one but yourself.

“I am impressed by your contrition, my son, is there not time for you to make things right?”

“How do you mean, father. By reciting sacred names or saying my rosary?”

“No, by following your conscience instead of your weaknesses. By pursuing a course of action dictated by what you have promised, and by what you believe.”

“A novel idea, father, but it would never work. You see, in the interest of getting elected, I have endeavored to be all things to all people. That, of course, meant taking stands on issues that offended the least number of eligible voters. We call that taking a ‘prudent’ approach to electioneering, so that hopefully you end up looking good to supporters on both sides of an issue. A good example is my stated position on welfare reform, father.

“Do you support it or oppose it, my son?”

“The question is, father, how can I both support and oppose it at the same time. That’s ‘prudent’ electioneering. The way it works, you develop simple answers to complex issues. Ask me my position on welfare reform, I’ll tell you I plan to seek reform without seeking retribution.

That answer, simple as it appears, will be interpreted by each side as providing a measure of my support, while ultimately requiring nothing from me except an occasional newspaper quote. The net result, of course, is a non-binding promise to do nothing.”

“I am beginning to see the problem, my son.”

“I have become a master of maintaining a ‘prudent’ approach to most issues, father. When it comes to conservation and land-use issues, I am for “responsible development” and “controlled growth.” Ask me my view on capital punishment and I’ll declare myself “morally opposed to the death penalty except under certain conditions.” Question my position on gun control and I’ll tell you the problem isn’t with criminals being too well armed, but with people like you and me being too poorly armed.”

“You are being unfair to yourself, my son.”

“You think so? Go ahead, ask me my stand on any issue!”

“Aid to Afghanistan?”

“I’ll support it, but only after the Afghanni’s put their house in order.”

“Continuing price supports for U.S. farmers?”

“I’ll vote to eliminate price supports as soon as we figure out a better way to level the playing field in the international market.”

“American corporations’ usage of child laborers in third world nations?”

“It’s outrageous, immoral and barbarous; but what gives us the right to dictate morality to the rest of the world?”

And tax cuts for the wealthy?”

Ah, yes. That’s the Million Dollar Queston, father, because the right answer will open the door to millions of dollars in campaign donations! Ask me my position on taxing the rich, so their obligations are commensurate with the privileges they enjoy as millionaires and billionaires., and I’ll agree that, “Yes, everyone should pay their fair share” but that “raising taxes now could jeopardize the entire economic recovery.“ I’ll say whatever I have to say to keep the public’s eye off the ball so they don’t figure out for themselves that these millionaires are getting away with murder.”

“Surely, you must have taken a firm stand on some issues, my son?”

“Absolutely, father. Those are the issues we politicians call “no brainers”, meaning you don’t need a brain to vote for tougher laws against child molesters, or for American independence from foreign-produced energy, or for a couple of hundred other issues that have nothing to do with the goals of your fellow politicians or the lives of your constituents back home.

“Well, my son, there doesn’t seem to be much that I can do for you, other than grant forgiveness for your sins.”

“That may be true or not, father. But tell me—only because I’m curious—are you a registered voter…?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Uncle Bernie's Commencement Speech

To The Graduates Of The Class Of 2011:

You are here today at a critical crossroads of your life. For most of your 21 or more years you’ve been taught to work hard, obey the rules, listen with respect to your elders and to trust that every effort you make will receive an ample and just reward.

You recognize that sound, don’t you? A few of your parents and teachers couldn’t keep their opinions to themselves…but let's examine the reasons behind their laughter.

Yes, I am afraid that for most of your life you’ve been handed a script from “Leave It To Beaver” and that all those wonderful principles I enumerated earlier—work hard, obey the rules, etc.—won’t take you very far down the Road of Life in today’s America. In fact, if you insist on playing by the rules and trusting in the fairness of others you’ll very quickly get run over and flattened like so much road kill on that very same Road of Life.

All across America speakers like me are admonishing new graduates like you to live up to principles that are no longer relevant or practical. Hollywood Hero Principles no longer acknowledged in today’s business world. Principles which, like fragile Louisiana marshlands, cannot survive today’s overwhelming inflow of dark, viscous wealth-making ideas and ventures.

Go ahead, take a deep breath and smell the oil vapors. That’s America! That’s your future! It ain’t roses but it's sure sweet!

Yes, other commencement speakers would tell you to work hard, play fair and be nice as you emerge from college to make your way in the world. I’m here to advise you to look both ways before crossing the street and to pick the other guy’s pocket before he picks yours.

Those other commencement speakers are frozen in time, spouting axioms and adages that long ago ran out of gas on the American Road of Life. Like scenes from an old black and white Hollywood movie they make us smile but they don’t prepare us for a world more reminiscent of “Jaws” than it is of “Flipper.”

“Be nice,” they say.

I say “Be nice when it helps, cruel when necessary, vicious when it counts.” People will tell you Bernie Madoff was a nice guy, but I never forgot to take all the money off the table before I went home.

“Don’t forget the Golden Rule” they say, most of them unable to keep a straight face while saying it.

“I also say “Don’t forget the Golden Rule”, only my Golden Rule is a little different from theirs. My Golden Rule says “Go for the gold and screw the rule!”

They would also tell you to, “Follow your bliss” in choosing a career.

Whereas I would advise you to follow the money.

So in short, members of the graduating class of 2011, I advise you to live richly as well as wisely, to always give to yourself first, to always take the largest slice of the pie, to choose financial gain over spiritual growth, and to steadily amass more and more physical possessions which, even though they rust and corrupt (as Jesus pointed out), they also clean up pretty easily these days.

So yes, graduates, feel free to live lives of unbridled hunger, unquenchable thirst and unfettered avarice, happily unburdened by a commencement speaker this morning who urges you on to seek out greater challenges while doggedly building strength of character.

For those of you who would like greater instruction on how to achieve your own wealth-based lifestyle filled with houses, boats and servants, see me at Webster Hall immediately after you receive your diplomas. Here in prison I've written a little advice book, only $35.95, on how to live the life you've always wanted when nobody's watching.

The rest of you, I wish good luck and happy trails. I recommend you wear heavy boots.

This is a more fanciful version of a commencement speech that appeared a year ago on these pages. Again, I should credit a Ken Read-Brown sermon (in the form of a commencement speech) that served as inspiration for the original blog posting.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Good news!

While the rich can always get richer, it appears the poor have run out of room to fall any further.

How's that for putting an end to torture!

According to the most recent census, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to the widest disparity ever recorded.

A new record! And they couldn't have done it without us!

So congratulations to all the Wall Street Billionaires, Oil-soaked Mega-Billionaires and Amoral G.O.P. Minionaires who could not have set a new record for greed, avarice and galloping narcissism without the aid and gullibility of a majority of the voting public. Of course, kudos also to the Supreme Court, which bent over backwards to discard established law and allow unfettered purchase of all America's elections by those who could afford them.

So congratulations to all of us for this record achievement. We truly earned it and, if we don't wake up to what's happening while we still have a pair of pants left to wear, we will truly deserve it going forward.

And remember, if we're one day forced to forego some of those things we've come to expect from a civilized society—a comfortable retirement, a scrupulous financial system, help when we need it, an equitable share of the nation's wealth, an affordable education, decent medical care or salaries that keep up with inflation—just keep in mind the rich are making their fair share of compromises, too.

I just can't think of any at the moment.

I'm thinking of printing up a bunch of the bumper stickers like the one shown above. If you would have any interest in sporting your very own "TAX THE RICH OR KILL THE POOR" bumper sticker, contact me at, and I'll see about making them up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Wealth is finite. There’s only so much to go around.

When a nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, the rest of its citizens are left with little more than long days of struggle, painful progress and unattainable dreams. We see it in the Middle East, in Africa and Asia, and in Third World countries where rulers and their cliques soak up all the wealth like so much gravy.

And we are seeing it today in America.

It won’t be long before we reach the tipping point, when students won’t have money for college, cities won’t have money for schools and libraries, governments won’t have money for basic services, and the poor won’t have anywhere to turn.

It seems as if we’re living in a Charles Dickens novel where the same Dickensian actors—greed, hard-heartedness, self-righteousness and moral vacuity—have once again stepped center stage to suggest, by their actions if not their words, that it might be better for the poor to die and decrease the surplus population.

No matter that those actions are thinly disguised behind Big Lies repeated over and over by agents and tools of the wealthy—by newspapers and TV stations owned by the rich, by a political process controlled by the rich, by sound bites and legislation pushed by rich politicians—that taxes are unfair, that the wealthiest among us have no obligation to assist the poorest, that government exists to protect wealth rather than its citizens, and that the surest way to help the poor is to advance the purpose and cause of the wealthy.

How can we still be talking about trickle down economics when so little wealth ever actually trickles down?

If you accept one basic premise—that wealth is finite—then all the financial, economic and social upheaval in our country starts to make sense. There isn’t enough to go around when one sector gets a lock-tight grip on the purse and the purse strings. Once that happens, with so little left on the table, those of us who aren’t rich find ourselves battling each other for an ever-dwindling share of the pie. Programs compete against programs. The needy compete with the needy. Infants battle the elderly and the poor for nutrition allocations. Recovering alcoholics challenge the homeless and the disabled for shelter dollars. Sesame Street scraps and claws for funds also needed to regulate Wall Street. All the while, the public sector continues to implode.

What’s happening in Wisconsin today is merely the edge of the scythe as it begins to mow down the social contract we grew up with and came to expect from a civilized society. Collective bankruptcy is the problem, not collective bargaining!

The recent extension of tax breaks for the wealthy was beyond obscene, as are the bone-deep cuts to government programs now being proposed. By protecting their excessive assets, the wealthy among us are endangering the lives and livelihoods of so many others. Children will go hungry; students will forego college; retirees will see their pensions cut; people will lose their jobs and homes; many will go without winter heating fuel; cities will lay off police, teachers and firemen; while the health of our poorest citizens will dramatically decline—all so that a small group of wealthy individuals can amass and accumulate ever more and more money.

Tax the rich or kill the poor? What would Charles Dickens have done?

How about Jesus?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Breaking News: Noted local writer and very minor celebrity Paul Steven Stone joined a growing list of talentless wannabes to bare skin and a hint of nipple in a shameless attempt to draw attention to his current blog posting. When asked how far he would go in his efforts to attract unwarranted attention, Stone remarked, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

In other news, President Obama released his newly proposed budget earlier this week and sent a shock of alarm reverberating across the country. Reporters from The New York Post went out among the population to gauge the impact of Obama’s draconian cuts to many of the country's most basic safety net services.

First to respond was Madonna who assured her worried fan base there was nothing to fear from the elimination of the government’s infant nutrition food program. Just back from adopting one or two new infants in Malawi, which is somewhere in Africa or Asia, the Material Girl expressed confidence, after consulting her Kabala soothsayer, that she and her brood of adopted children could comfortably get by on her income and assets, barring “a flood or a nuclear holocaust.”

When asked about her concern for the loss of all Public Broadcasting System funding, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi, star of Jersey Shore and author of an eponymous tell-all memoir in which she never explains how she could pack 55 years of stupid behavior into a 23-year lifespan, also hastened to assure her worried fans. “Yes, there was talk of my hosting Masterpiece on PBS, but I don’t think it was a ‘shore’ thing, if you get my meaning.”

For those concerned about the drastic cuts in home heating assistance and community health programs, Fox News commentator and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman suggested “We could kill two birds with one stone if all the poor people in northern America would just move south. C’mon guys!” she added, in an attempt to spur immediate action.

Lastly, when asked if he had any concern about possible cuts to student tuition grants, community policing funds and worker retraining programs, Donald Trump, who recently teased about a possible 2012 run for the Presidency, said, “I know it’s tough, but I don’t see any other way to assure a second round of tax cuts next year. Much as I hate to say it, we probably can’t afford food stamps either.”

Tune in next week to see how far President Obama, the Republicans and Paul Steven Stone will go to shamelessly pursue their funhouse mirror vision of the American dream.

C’mon guys, keep your pants on!

I don't know about you, but I can't take seriously an administration and a political party that scream for budget cuts after giving away the store in tax breaks to America's wealthiest and greediest citizens. Wealth is finite, so it is only fair to point out that children will go hungry, students will forego college, people will freeze in their homes and the health of our poorest citizens will dramatically decline so that a small group of wealthy individuals can amass even more money. It's unfair, it's outrageous, it's egregiously cruel and uncaring, and it's roaring down the track so fast we hardly have time to wonder how we ever came to be so selfish. If this is the American Dream, please someone wake me up!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glimpses Of The Heart

Somewhere long ago, he hid his heart on the moon.

And afterwards through the years he watched it come and go in phases. Sometimes full, more often on the rise or fall. But always more distant than he could understand.

Those who weren’t close to him could never see the true image of his emotions. To them he offered the idea instead of the reality. They were given snapshots to study, to hand around and discuss. To them the moon was always full even if clouds sometimes passed overhead to filter the light.

But to those he loved, for whom pretense was too heavy a cloak to wear, he let the waning and the waxing of his feelings serve as a true source of illumination. They could never understand—as he couldn’t himself—this painful rising and falling of light and love, why sometimes the moon was full and other times it was only a sliver in the night sky.

If he had the wisdom to see through space he’d know that he’d hidden his heart on the moon as a legacy to his father. And that within the crater where his strongbox was hidden lay another heart that had once so significantly lightened and darkened his world. He’d know that he’d been taught the mechanics of love as if an automatic switch regularly flipped love on and off to keep it from overheating. And that the heart learns its lessons from pain, passing them intact from one generation to the next. So that one day if the cycle isn’t broken the moon will grow dark and heavy, overpopulated with hidden hearts.

Somewhere long ago, he hid his heart on the moon. Near where his father and his father’s father had once hidden theirs.

And one day if he doesn’t make the journey to retrieve his hidden self, his children will go off to hide their own treasures where darkness falls in a consistent ritual.

On a cold barren planet.

A million miles away.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pretty White Gloves II (A Real Story)

A friend wrote me in response to "Pretty White Gloves" with a story of her own. I offer it here to hopefully provide my readers with the same inspiration it offered Amy and me. I've changed the names of my friends to Susan and Marshall since, not surprisingly, my friends were too modest to allow their real names to be used.

Dear Paul,

A very moving story. It especially touched me as Marshall and I had an experience just this morning arriving home from D.C. on the all-night Amtrak train. A fellow passenger, a very obese woman with a 9 month old baby in a carrier with a handle, struggled to gather herself, a suitcase, numerous bulging bags and her baby as the train pulled out of the Back Bay station. She began to cry...she had missed her stop. Then they announced that it was 7 degrees in Boston. We sat watching for a long painful moment. Then, no longer able to just watch, we offered to help her, wondering—as I am sure she was—what was she going to do. She said the baby was all wet, she had peed on her blanket. So she threw another blanket over the baby, actually covering the baby's head as well. The baby cried and she shouted at the unhappy infant. I noticed that the mother didn't have any gloves. I offered her mine which she refused. So I just put them in one of her bags and said she might need these. Anyway, to make a long story short, we eventually called the conducter who joined us in helping her get off at South Station, and he hailed a red cap telling him to get her a cab to North Station so she could get to Back Bay. Marshall stuck some money in her pocket.

We wondered if she ever made it and also worried about the baby, and wondered about its future and the condition of the mother. I cried as she slowly trudged her way along the platform following some distance behind the red cap. Your story certainly brought back the memory of this heart-wringing morning so vividly and with such sadness.

Your writing was powerful, and compassionate.

Thanks, Paul, and for giving me the chance to tell you about our experience.


Thank you Susan for sharing your wonderful story! And for reminding us how possible it is to be true to a vision of our best selves.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pretty White Gloves

He sits on a folded-over cardboard box, slightly off-balance and without any visible sign of support other than the granite wall of the bank behind him and the few coins in the paper cup he shakes at each passerby.

Does he realize it is 4 degrees above zero, or minus 25 degrees if you factor in the wind that blows through the city and his bones with little concern for statistics? Does he notice the thick cumulous lifeforms that escape from his mouth in shapes that shift and evanesce like the opportunities that once populated his life?

Can he even distinguish the usual numbing effect of the cheap alcohol from the cruel and indifferent carress of this biting alien chill?

Too many questions, he would tell you, if he cared to say anything. But his tongue sits in silence behind crusted chapped lips and chattering teeth while half-shut eyes follow pedestrians fleeing from the bitter cold and his outstretched cup.

His gaze falls upon the hand holding the cup as if it were some foreign element in his personal inventory. Surprised at first to find it uncovered and exposed, especially in weather this frigid, he now recalls that someone at the shelter had stolen his gloves and left in their place the only option he still has in much abundance.


Examining the hand, and the exposed fingers encircling the Seven-Eleven coffee cup, he smiles in amused perplexity, murmuring to himself, "White gloves."

Lifting his hand for closer inspection, he adds, "Pretty white gloves."

An image of his daughter . . . Elissa, he thinks her name was . Yes, Elissa!, he recalls. An image of Elissa rises up in his mind, from a photograph taken when she was ten and beautifully adorned in a new Easter outfit: black shoes, frilly lavender dress and hat and, yes, pretty white gloves. The photo once sat on a table in his living room, but he couldn't tell you what happened to it, nor to the table or the living room, for that matter. They were just gone. Swept away in the same tide that pulled out all the moorings from his life, and everything else that had been tethered to them.

The last time he'd seen Elissa she was crying, though he no longer remembers why. Must have been something he'd done or said; that much he knows.

"Pretty white gloves," he repeats, staring at his hand.

He recalls the white gloves from his Marine dress uniform. At most he wore them five times: at his graduation from officer's training school, at an armed services ball in Trenton, New Jersey, and for three military funerals. There was never a need for dress gloves in Viet Nam. They would have never stayed white anyway; not with all the blood that stained his hands.

Out of the corner of his eye he can see a policeman walking towards him and instinctively hides his cup, some vestige of half-remembered pride causing him to avert his gaze from the man's eyes at the same time.

"We need to get you inside, buddy," the officer says. "You'll die of cold, you stay out here."

Moments later, a second police officer, this one a woman, steps up to join them.

"That's the Major," she tells her colleague. To the seated figure she offers a smile.

"You coming with us, Major?"

"Go away," he answers, looking up as he leans further against the cold granite wall. "Don't need you. Don't need no one."

"Can't leave you out here," the first officer says. "We've got orders to bring you and everyone else in."

"Leave me alone!" the seated man shouts, gesturing with his hands as if he could push them both away.

"Oh shit," the female officer says under her billowing breath. To her partner she whispers, "His hands. Look at his hands."

Quickly recognizing the waxy whiteness for what it is, the officer shrugs, "Guess we're a little late."

To the man on the sidewalk, he offers, "That's frost bite, buddy."

"No," the seated man protests. He holds up both hands, numb and strange as they now feel and offers a knowing smile of explanation.

Just like the marine officer he once was, just like the sweet innocent daughter he once knew, just llike the young man grown suddenly old on a frozen sidewalk, his hands are beautiful and special in a way these strangers will never understand.

"White gloves,"he insists proudly.

"Pretty white gloves."

With the temperature outside falling below zero, my thoughts turn to those who somehow live, and hopefully stay alive, on the streets of our cities. And I think about one man, not yet homeless, about whom I wrote the above story. Many years before writing the story, I had a proofreading job that started at 5 am. One dark cold morning I had a flat tire on the way to work in the rougher part of town. That was when I met the man who would become the model for my protagonist in "Pretty White Gloves." He was a former marine officer just starting his slide into the abyss of alcoholism. He kept me company while I changed the flat and gave me much needed support. In return I bought him breakfast and offered platitudes about the dangers of drink. He took the meal and thanked me for my naive sentiments. Many years later, now homeless and beyond salvation (in my mind), he returned to me in this story which also appears in my collection, "How To Train A Rock.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The Game Is Rigged" (A Letter From Uncle Bernie)

January, 2011
FCI 336
Butner, NC

Dear Nephew:

How the mighty have fallen. And how far they have yet to fall…

For now I reap the bitterest harvest of all!

No worse punishment can be imagined than for a father to see his son die. But I who have never taken small steps where leaps would carry me forward, nor stolen small things when the world’s riches were laid bare and unprotected—no, I can now testify to one fate even more cruel for a father…to be the cause of an adored son’s untimely and self-inflicted death.

I only pray that my fragile and beloved son—the cousinly playmate of your youth—may now know the peace he could never find here on earth.

Please know that your expressions of sympathy have comforted me in my darkest hours, and I now turn to your inquiries in the hope that some meager measure of service to you might serve as balm to my troubled soul.

You ask me to recommend investment vehicles that will offer a reasonable return for a novice investor such as yourself. Should you look to one industry versus another, stocks versus bonds, domestic properties versus international, mutual funds versus securities…well, the list goes on and on, doesn’t it?

As I indicated in my last letter, wealth is finite, which means that all investors—you as well as the millionaire brokers of Goldman Sachs—are competing for the same spoils of war. And I purposely put you in battle with such behemoths, in my example, to show you exactly how little chance you have of taking anything but crumbs from the table in your efforts to pursue what has long been mislabeled the American Dream.

Put simply, my boy, the game is rigged. Once there was a stock market where a boy with pluck and wit like yourself could search out diamonds in the rough and make a fortune for himself. Yes, he could nurture his assets and grow his future, confident that the United States government would protect his holdings and maintain a level playing field.

Well, does that sound like today’s world of finance? Like hell it does! Unless of course you’re in elementary school listening to an impoverished third grade teacher explain the workings of our capitalist system. Out in the real world, the money boys (and it is mostly men) have taken control of things. Up until recently, your poor uncle was one of them—one of the ones whose shadow fell upon billions of dollars and thousands of innocent investors. And these selfsame money boys have made a science of separating money from the system and assets from innocents such as yourself.

We used to have a saying: steal an old lady’s pocketbook and you’ll go to jail, steal her pension and you’ll go to the Ritz.

How many ordinary individuals do you know who have made more than pocket money in the stock market in the last 20 years? While I can show you hundreds and hundreds of millionaires who have made millions and millions of dollars.

Dear boy, why would anyone in their right mind invest in an American company when it is practically guaranteed its CEO, board of directors and top echelon executives will suck all the cream off the top in the form of excessive salaries, incomprehensible bonuses and golden parachutes? Before any ordinary investor receives a single penny in corporate dividends, millions will have been siphoned off by the parasites who are now recognized as a normal part of the system’s operation.

And speaking of parasites, when there actually is money to be made on investments, it is made by PWM’s (People With Money) and PWM’s alone. Companies like Goldman Sachs structure IPO’s and other deals that are open only to their own PWM’s. And rather than police these deals, government regulators limit themselves to whistling as they walk by the graveyard, knowing that one day—if they’re well behaved little regulators—they may find gainful employment with these very same financial behemoths and perhaps become PWM’s themselves.

No, my boy, the only investment that makes any sense these days is real estate which, because of the limited nature of its inventory, will always offer a good return on your investment. Even if at times the PWM’s manipulation of the real estate market creates valleys and peaks and nearly destroys the American financial system.

But enough for now. I must end this letter and return to my singular life in confinement. How ironic to recall my earlier beliefs that punishment was something externally administered. A pain visited upon me by others. The truth is, no prison cell holds the terrors I now find welling up from my broken heart. And no amount of wealth and power could possibly fill the void that now lingers in the darkest reaches of my being.

I trust you will not forget to write and say a prayer for a tired old man, who sends his love and remains,


Uncle Bernie

P.S. And please, though I suspect you have already done so, remember to say a prayer for your unfortunate cousin, may he now rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One Day We Will Fly

"Every one of us is born a caterpillar, seemingly sentenced to crawl and inch our way across the long expanse of our lives. But one day we will fly. And when we take flight we will see a world far richer and more beautiful than we ever knew existed when we lived as caterpillars."

From "To You Who Are Different", an earlier post on this blog (go back three or four postings). "Different..." has now been made into a one-page poster/handout that I would love to distribute to adolescents in high schools, youth groups, or wherever. If you would like a copy of the file—especially if you can help distribute it—just send me an email at and I'll quickly send it your way. Every one of us, I believe, has had to suffer and live through the silent pain or fear of feeling estranged or isolated as teenagers, even those of us who were outwardly members of the "in" crowd.