Monday, January 30, 2012


At the time I first went to work for Mr. Byron my family was in a sorrowful state. My dad, much as I can recall, was one of those roving kinds, called himself a carpenter or contractor, depending on the kind of job he was aspiring to, and was subject to fits of disappearance, sometimes for months on end.

“Ain’t your Dad’s fault,” Mom would tell us. “It’s the saddening fate of a contractor to make himself scarce once he’s signed for a job.”

To our pitiful cries of “when’s he coming back?” Mom would only say, “Lord knows, my dears. I suppose when the weather turns and he can’t be expected to do the job—certainly not before.”

Mr. Byron was second cousin to my dad and far and away the most successful member of our extended family. He’d already been through 14 bankrupt mortgage finance companies, and I was being apprenticed to work in his 15th.

“It’s this way, my boy,” he told me at the start. “You get three years to bankrupt your business. In the first year, you do a praiseworthy job and make a fair living. For the next two years, you do execrable work, providing financing to impoverished homebuyers, ignoring complaints, messing up their paperwork, picking up virtually every penny that falls to the floor, and you make a god-awful fortune! By which time there are so many lawsuits pending, so many angry customers ready to shoot you, that only a fool would stay in business. True, there are those mortgage companies that swim against the current, but nobody in the industry thinks much of them or appreciates the damage they do to the general reputation.”

Now to look at Mr. Byron you wouldn’t have thought he’d be old enough to have outlasted 14 bankrupt businesses, working with the customary three-year life cycle.

“Well, you’re a smart lad, all right,” he beamed in answer to my query. “No, I long ago reasoned that since time worked in a linear fashion I could only overtake it by multiplying my efforts. Generally speaking, I’m partial to moving two or three businesses through the bankruptcy cycle at the same time. Fact is, my biggest moneymaker in the current cycle, aside from the mortgage business, is what I call my ‘Honest Response’ Answering System, which takes phone calls from irate customers of banks, mortgage companies and private contractors like your dad, and assures the caller in the most humble fashion that their problems will be resolved within a day, or that their missing contractor will absolutely, without question, be out to do the job first thing in the morning.”

Well, I put myself into apprenticeship to Mr. Byron and within three years had worked in five separate businesses that no sooner made a fortune than they went belly-up, with Mr. Byron and his overworked attorneys left much the richer if not also the wiser. If I had any difficulty with this arrangement it was not with the constant change in my employment positions but with the lack of change in my outlook. In all that time I had earned barely enough to sustain myself, much less my hungry brothers and sisters back in our tenement apartment.

I steeled myself to the fact that I must discuss my privation with my employer, and did so one evening after work. Mr. Byron, instead of feeling put upon, broke out in a wide grin and clasped me in brotherly fashion around the shoulders. It was then that he gave me the advice that would truly lead me on towards making my own fortune.

It’s a valuable lesson you’ve learned, my son,” he said, “namely that fools serve the needs of the wise while wise men serve the desires of fools. Fact is, you’ll never make your fortune in service to the greed of others. Knowing that as you now do, you should be ready to begin amassing your own fortune by joining the Republican party and turning your agile mind to the weaknesses of the witless and the weak. All you lack, I should say, is what we in the business world term a ‘Specialty’.”

It was barely two weeks later that I opened for public accommodation my first auto dealership. And my first decision as a budding entrepreneur was to hire my father to manage the service department.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mitt Romney Jumps Parties, Says “I was always a Democrat at heart”

Columbia, S.C.—After weeks of being pummeled and ridiculed in Republican primary contests for being a closet moderate, Mitt Romney stepped out of the closet today and declared himself a “full-blooded and full-throated Democrat”, pulling his hat out of the ring in the remainder of the Republican Presidential Primaries and signing up instead to challenge President Barack Obama for the nomination of his newly-adopted political party.

“I’ve always been more progressive and more of a Democrat than President Obama,” Romney declared. “Remember, first came RomneyCare, second came ObamaCare. As Democrats, we take care of the poor and the middle class. Nobody will fall between the cracks on my watch. Hell, the first thing I’ll propose once I win the nomination is an increase in taxes for the wealthy. Who knows better than me, how much more the 1% can afford to pay in taxes. President Obama doesn’t have enough money to get invited to our 1% secret society meetings. If he did, he’d most likely get mistaken for one of the help.”

When asked how he could justify walking away from the conservative posture he’s been avowing and defending for months on end, he smiled and answered, “Fooled you, didn’t I? All that time I was pretending to hate poor people, and attempting to demolish the middle class, I was really chafing at the bit to declare my love for my fellow man. Now I can’t wait to get down to Florida and debate President Obama. After allowing Tea Party madmen and millionaire shills to push him around like a 97 pound weakling, the President has a lot to answer for. How dare he take four years to turn around an economy that was gang-banged, sacked and left for dead by the Bush administration? How dare he allow the Republicans to front for billionaires and pretend to care about the working class in our country? How dare he rescue the American automobile industry and leave Lehman Brothers to twist in the wind? Hell, if you thought I was heartless strapping old Seamus to the top of our family wagon, how does that compare to Obama walking away from Health Care Reform without a public option in place? Everyone knows the insurance industry will make hash of any real financial reforms without the presence of a public option.

Speaking about the danger of being called a flip-flopper for jumping parties, Romney declared, “What if I tell the voters this is it, my final stand? Today—and forever—I believe women have a right to make decisions about their bodies. I believe life begins somewhere between 3-6 months after conception. I believe America lost its way when we attacked Iraq without clear reason, or when we tortured our prisoners and called it ‘enhanced interrogation.’ And now I truly believe that corporations are, well, corporations. Definitely not people. That sounded so lame when I said it not even conservative commentators could repeat it without smiling."

“So in summation,” Romney concluded, “I hope Democratic primary voters will forgive my previous lies and obfuscation. I may have dated the conservatives and Tea Partiers, but I can honestly say I never slept with any of them.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


There they were for all to see, the saddest bunch of comic book characters to come down the pike in many an election season: Two-Face, The Joker, Mr. Freeze, The Riddler and the Mad Hatter. Otherwise known as Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

After giving the old heave-ho to Poison Ivy (Michelle Bachman), and Clayman, (John Huntsman), the five survivors find themselves locked in a death struggle to determine who alone is crazy enough, strong enough, and rich enough, to battle Batman for supremacy in Gotham City (also known as America).

Though they employ many falsehoods to disguise their evil intent, all five super-villains are fighting for the right to dismantle America’s social safety net, turn back the advance of voting rights, protect the rights of millionaires to suck up ever larger percentages of the country’s wealth, and to further restrict the rights of adults and teenagers when it comes to control of their bodies. Though no one would stand up for the now obsolete idea of American Morality and Fair Play, the Mad Hatter stood apart from his peers in that he alone disparaged America’s senseless killing sprees, also known as Wars, though he appeared less concerned about America abandoning its principles to torture its non-Christian prisoners.

The question remains why would any sane American Voter put an X next to any of their names? Rather than stand for anything that would raise our standing in the world, or amongst ourselves, they content themselves to make idle threats against Batman, like wary combatants stepping backward into the restraining arms of friends, shouting “Let me at him!”, accusing Batman of any crime or intention that might resonate with America’s voters. Cries of “Socialist!” and “Incompetent” are meant to combat the Masked Avenger’s agenda to support the impoverished, needy and disadvantaged. Amazingly, Two-Face, perhaps a billionaire himself, decries Batman’s assaults on Free Enterprise and Unfeeling Republican Philosophy, eschewing Batman’s attempts to secure money for the middle class and America’s long-standing social programs by raising taxes on those who would never feel the pinch of an increase.

It would all be totally unbelievable if we read it in a comic book. But to see it on our TV screens, each of these madcap villains playing to the lowest instincts of an unseen audience of crazies and maladjusteds, is to make one realize that, like Dorothy, we’ve been transported to a strange new world.

And I don’t mean South Carolina.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

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 into 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."


It was 10 degreees out this morning and once again winter's cruelty brought images to mind of homeless people freezing to death. I offer "Pretty White Gloves" as a reminder to all of us that we are never that far away from the slide and harsh realities that informed the Major's life in the above story. My apologies to all those who follow this blog and question why I would repeat a story that has appeared more than once on these pages. Blessings to you all!

Friday, January 13, 2012


(Recently unearthed from a “Lost Luggage” travel trunk abandoned in a train station in Salt Lake City, Utah)

Dear Seamus:

Boy, we sure did enjoy having you as a member of our family all those years. I would have to say you handsomely returned on our initial $150 investment. I think I speak for the entire family when I say, “Thank you” from the bottom of our hearts.

Now, dear Seamus, we come to the most difficult task of all, firing you—for disloyalty and for, most especially, leading the press off-message on my campaign. This firing is effective as of noon yesterday, when you were sold, at an acceptable profit, to Pastor Malcolm Thomas.

Why did you do it, Seamus? Did I deserve to be made a laughing stock? Just because I tied you to the top of the family wagon, where after a few hundred miles you irresponsibly soiled yourself and most of the car’s rear window? I can forgive a little incontinence, Seamus, but not when it stains my national persona.

And so we come to the parting of the ways. You for Pastor Thomas, me for Washington, D.C. I trust you will find your new position to your liking. And that you’ll always think fondly of the Romneys when you think of us.

In your honor, and to celebrate all the great years with you in our family, Ann and I plan to sing “God Bless America” tonight. Or “America The Beautiful”, if the mood strikes us.



Willard Mitt Romney
Master/Former Master

Monday, January 9, 2012


Dear Mitty:

I hope you don’t mind my calling you Mitty? ‘Mitt’ sounds so stiff, so formal, just like the blood-sucking billionaire we used to read about. The venture capitalist vampire who sucked dry the lifeblood of a hundred soon-to-die companies.

So, allow me to call you Mitty. If only because we slept together all those years.

Hey, It’s not easy to woo and screw an entire state, but you made it look like child’s play. Swooping down on us. Climbing in our window. A lover who came in the dark and left before dawn. We can still feel the lingering kisses, Mitty, and recall the eager, sophomoric foreplay of your 1994 senatorial campaign, not to mention the SLAM-BAM-THANK YOU M’AM screw job you gave us before you left. Many of us recall that fourth year of your ONE-AND-ONLY term as governor, when you couldn’t find the interest to spend even half your days in the state. It was tough living with someone who was never around, Mitty. Clearly your love—if love it was—had fled somewhere else.

Though your marriage was consummated in Massachusetts your heart was now committed to Washington, D.C.

And what about when you testified about Massachusetts' liberals down in Washington, Mitty? These days, you castigate Obama for apologizing for America. You were still our governor and you were dissing us to a panel of senators as if Massachusetts and its citizens were some objectionable lab-bred culture.

Hey Mitty, it's not easy shifting your shape from a moderate's to a conservative! The things you have to do, right?

And so you left us; leaving your job as our top officeholder unfinished. How many people can govern a state for three years and finish their mission, Mitty? There was so much you still could have done. You had already developed strong relationships with the legislature, knew how to get things done. But you heard another voice calling. Once again, desire was rising. Here within reach was another object of affection to woo and screw. A new siren's call to chase after.

I guess we should feel proud you left us for a bigger state. But not just any state, Mitty, or one state, but the entire United States of America! And if you don’t win them through election, whose to say you can’t buy them later?

Well, anyway, let me end this before I start to sound bitter. Don’t want you thinking your abrupt rejection has left us sad or bitter. Other states might feel exploited or cheapened by your quick, loveless encounter, like a prostitute who feels undeserving of a goodbye kiss. But we always secretly knew you would love us and leave us.

No hard feelings, Mitty, we were only looking for a cheap thrill ourselves.

Your landscapers asked to be remembered.



For The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
(signed by)
Deval Patrick
Governor (in his SECOND TERM)

Monday, January 2, 2012


Des Moines, IA—You can almost hear the crowd roar as half a dozen Special Republicans appear to be approaching the finish line in Iowa’s Mad Dog Caucus competition. This once-every-four-year event has never seen such a riotous conclusion as its field of Special Republicans goes beyond all limits to prove to the Iowan judges that each one is more unhinged, unfeeling and venomous than the others. At the front of the pack is, of course, Mitt Romney, Special Republican from Massachusetts—or is it Utah, or maybe New Hampshire(?)—who seems to be running out front of the pack because of his limitless war chest and his unchallenged ability to shapeshift into virtually any appearance the contest requires. Romney, who has sucked dry and gleefully fenestrated countless profitable businesses as a venture capitalist has nevertheless won the Big Bullshitting Event, convincing deception-starved Iowans that he’s the man to save the economy and create new jobs. Yes, it’s a little like Jerry Sandusky running on a “Save The Children” ticket, but that’s why this race is worthy of the country’s top Special Republicans.

Then there are the Three Wise Men of Wacko Christian Ideology: Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman, who fought to be included in the “Wise Men” grouping by declaring she has the balls Obama left behind on his Hawaiian vacation. Special Republican Champions everyone, if only for their ability to convince sensible Iowans to buy into mind-boggling, bible-thumping beliefs…that Darwin was not only nuts, but was clearly sent to Hell where he’s getting shtupped twice daily by members of the Aryan Nation…that God created man and woman on the sixth day, then accidentally created gays on his day off. That Muslims can’t be Americans because nowhere does it say “In Allah we Trust” on our nation’s currency.

But the two Special Republicans providing the most pure entertainment and muscular effort are Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Gingrich, who never met a moral position he couldn’t both violate and profess undying love for, had a brief sprint to the front of the pack, but was brought down by a volley of bricks, rocks and arrows thrown by totally independent, non-aligned political action committees. And Paul who would cut government programs and expenditures to a size similar to when John Smith first proposed marriage to Pocahontas, is finding great support from students and others who appreciate that one Special Republican actually gave some thought to what he would do as president. Weird thought perhaps, but thought nevertheless.

And so we come down to the final hours of Iowa’s Special Republicans Competition. Each entrant bent on proving how tough, how uncaring and how whiter than white they can be. Health care reform? Repeal it. Taxing the wealthy? Not a penny more. Teaching evolution in our schools? God forbid. Allowing gay marriage? Over their dead bodies. Crippling Social Security and Medicare? It’s about time. Torturing prisoners? Absolutely, especially if they aren’t Christian.

Watch these pages to see who makes it first across the finish line.

Most likely running backward.