Monthly Archives: May 2013

Mad Women

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has generated scores of hashtags (#FreeJahar is a favorite), Facebook pages and Tumblr blogs.  Photo courtesy FBI / April 19, 2013.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has generated scores of hashtags (#FreeJahar is a favorite), Facebook pages and Tumblr blogs. Photo courtesy FBI / April 19, 2013.

In 1985, when Los Angeles police finally arrested Richard Ramirez and identified him as the “Night Stalker,” countless residents celebrated.  For a year, beginning in June of 1984, Ramirez had terrorized the city; breaking into modest homes and torturing, raping and killing the occupants.  He attacked anyone – adults and children, young and old – without mercy.  His campaign prompted some unusual behavior.  Many residents of pastel-colored homes began painting them dark, while those in houses near highways began moving away; since that’s what Ramirez seemed to target.  It was similar to the reaction of David Berkowitz, New York City’s “Son of Sam,” who had terrorized the region for a year beginning in the summer of 1976.  Many young dark-haired women began donning blonde wigs, or bleaching their hair; while many men with red or orange cars began painting them darker colors, or getting rid of them altogether.  Berkowitz appeared to aim for those particular victims.

During his lengthy trial, the true nature of Ramirez’s personality and details of the carnage he incited horrified even the most jaded of criminologists.  Epileptic as a child, Ramirez began consuming drugs by his teens and then, delved into the world of Satanism.  Investigators knew early on that they were dealing with a devil worshipper, or some kind of cult fanatic.  Ramirez often left pentagrams in victims’ blood on the walls and doors of their homes.  While incarcerated he even drew a pentagram on the palm of his left hand and prominently displayed it in the courtroom.

But, during Ramirez’s four-year trial, another unsettling development arose.  Countless numbers of women and girls parked themselves outside the courthouse and openly displayed their affection for the demonic serial killer.  Holding up placards expressing their unrequited love, they insisted Ramirez was just misguided; that he didn’t have the proper upbringing; that he just never had found the right woman to care for him.  Even now, Ramirez has a fan club and a My Space page.  Ramirez remains on death row in California and has outlived some of the survivors of his rampage.  He also remains unrepentant.

Similar adoration has been bestowed upon Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; the 19-year-old Russian immigrant accused, along with his older brother, Tamerlan, of setting off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15.  Dzhokar, who survived a self-inflicted gunshot to the throat and is now in police custody, has incited a fan base of young women – “fangirls,” columnist Charlotte Allen calls them – who have come to his defense.  Attracted by his tousled brown hair and large, doe-like eyes, these girls apparently think this proverbial “bad boy” just needs some loving.

Meanwhile, men around the country, such as myself, scratch our collective heads and ask, ‘Why?’  Why do women feel their feminine wiles can turn even the most heinous of men into angelic creatures of hope and prosperity?  Men, of course, always lament they never understand women.  But, one thing none of us understands is why some women are attracted to that bodice-ripper type.  In her 1997 book, “Bad Boys: How We Love Them, How to Live with Them, When to Leave Them,” Dr. Carole Lieberman claims that women are attracted to 12 different types of destructive men.  A 2009 study by researchers at New México State University in Las Cruces identified “dark triad traits,” such as callousness, impulsive behavior and narcissism that certain outgoing men seem to possess, and which in turn, seem to attract certain women.  It’s also called “James Bond psychology.”

Peter Jonason, who led the study, said, “We would traditionally consider these dark triad traits to be adverse personality traits, and we think women would avoid these kinds of men.  But, what we show is counterintuitive – that women are attracted to these bad boys and they do pretty well in terms of sheer numbers of sexual partners.”

Because these traits appear to equate to aggressiveness and therefore success, notes Jonason, they consequently prove desirable.  He emphasizes that it doesn’t seem to matter that, in many cases, the “success” is a brief sexual conquest.

That appears to change when women are on birth control.  A recent study published in the journal “Psychoneuroendocrinology” proposes that women taking birth control pills gravitate towards men with rounder, less masculine faces, which may indicate more faithfulness and stability.  Once off birth control, women apparently return to hunting for those more masculine faces.  The study emphasizes, though, that there are several factors contributing to an individual’s attractiveness or desirability.  But, if women historically were less attracted to more dangerous men, then this analysis might imply that 20th century social and cultural changes have altered human behavior more than we ever realized.

In my own informal studies – I’m a writer who may hate people, but still finds human behavior fascinating – I’ve heard more than a few men complain about being considered “too nice.”  The adage that “nice guys finish last” bears some truth when you look at the likes of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  But, it’s not just a grievance from wimpy men with no money.  Even male friends and acquaintances who are incredibly successful in their professional lives complain that women often just want to be friends in the long run.

Such desires for the omnipresent “bad boy” can have deadly consequences.  In the early 1980s, one of my cousins married a man who was a drug addict.  She believed she could change him; that her gentle, loving personality could draw out the good side of him and make it stay.  Her mother felt otherwise and warned her the union was doomed.  But, she also knew her daughter was an adult who could make her own choices.  My cousin’s efforts collapsed, and she was forced to leave him.  But, she couldn’t get over it; she felt like a complete and absolute failure.  So, she sat down in the floor of her closet, stuck a pistol in her mouth and pulled the trigger.  Other women have learned that their delectable “bad boy” is truly bad, as in warped bad, evil bad, can’t change the bastard no matter how much perfume you put on bad.  Then, a few broken bones and black eyes later – if they manage to survive his “bad boy” image – they wonder what the hell happened.

After my cousin’s suicide, my father bemoaned, “Of all the decent men around, she picks a fucking drug addict.”

Fortunately, most women aren’t so stupid.  And, human nature isn’t that clear and absolute.  Relationships are complicated and frustrating.  We never know why some people we desire either want someone else, or just remain aloof and indifferent to us.  In contrast, we also don’t know why some people just won’t leave us the hell alone when we clearly say we’re not interested.  Quite often we want something – and sometimes, someone – we can’t have.  No psychologist can explain it.  It’s just one of the many mysteries of the human psyche.

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Punch Drunk


“Let me tell you how journalists are being treated these days: They’re being stalked, they’re being spied on.  This is what is happening to our press.  This is Obama’s America!  It’s like the Soviet Union.  He said he would change the country.  He said it.  He said it.  And a lot of people voted for him.  And if you see any of those people today, do me a favor: punch them in the face.”

Andrea Tantaros, hostess of “The Five” on FOX News, on May 23, reacting to the Justice Department’s probing of the Associated Press.

She was careful to add later that people shouldn’t attempt to strike Obama directly, but go after the low-hanging fruit: those of us who voted for him.  She’s actually kind of cute.  I’d like to meet her in a Wal-Mart parking lot where she can smack me around all she wants, if it’ll make her feel better.  Oh, yes, baby!  And, make it hurt, too!


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Crotch Shot


“I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away.  I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you’ve killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all.  On behalf of all of those people, I’m supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.”

Radio talk show host Pete Santilli, who also accused Clinton of drug trafficking while still living in Arkansas.

Santilli previously espoused conspiracy theories involving the 09/11 terrorist attacks and claims that former President George H.W. Bush was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.


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Pray n’ Work


In his 1969 novel, “The Poseidon Adventure,” author Paul Gallico tells the harrowing tale of a luxury liner, the S.S. Poseidon, capsized by a rogue wave.  The protagonist, Rev. Dr. Frank Scott, is a no-nonsense cleric; a former Princeton University football player who found a higher calling.  Scott’s unorthodox views on religion and how it should function in the everyday lives of its believers had gotten him into trouble from his local bishop.  In particular, Scott believes people shouldn’t just pray and hope for the best when they encounter problems or crises; instead, he declares, they should do what they can to resolve the dilemma.  He proves true to his word when disaster strikes.  Initially trapped in the first-class dining room, Scott convinces a handful of fellow passengers that they need to make a concerted effort to climb up towards the ship’s bottom; rather than just wait for someone to find and rescue them.  The ship is sinking, after all, and it could be hours before any rescue personnel make their way to the overturned vessel.  They have to try, he insists – even if they all die in the process.  As the oxygen begins to run out, a few in the group perish amidst their struggles to survive.  When yet another person dies, Scott becomes angry at the God he vowed to honor.  “What is it you want – another sacrifice?!” he shouts.  “More blood?  Another life?”  Then, just before he hurtles himself into a watery pit, he screams, “Spare them!  Take me!”

Gene Hackman breathed life into Scott in the 1972 film version, which remains one of my favorite movies.  But, while many people recollect actress Shelley Winters actually swimming underwater, I think more of the Scott character.

He came to mind after deadly tornadoes struck Granbury, Texas on May 15 and Moore, Oklahoma on May 20.  In each instance, survivors often said they prayed as they sought shelter.  That’s a common reaction; one that shouldn’t be faulted in the midst of a horrifying situation, when people suddenly realize how fragile life is.  But, while thousands prayed along with them in the chaotic aftermaths, they also responded immediately.  Many went so far as to make their way out to the afflicted areas to help survivors rebuild; others have been donating to the Red Cross.  In each case, the Texas Baptist Men, founded in Lubbock, Texas in 1967, quickly began packing up food and medical supplies, water and generators – as they always do after such disasters.  Even following the 2004 Indian Ocean seaquake and tsunami, the TBM gathered together cases of bottled water and water purification systems to ship out to the affected areas.  They even engaged Muslim community leaders to emphasize that their mission was purely to help; not proselytize.  They weren’t handing out packages of dried food with Christian bibles taped to them.  But, they’re all doing something; they’re not just sitting down and praying – or telling people they prayed.

It’s easy to pray.  It takes no real effort to sit down in the privacy of your home, or walk into a stall in the restroom at work, and offer up a quick prayer for someone.  I understand that some people can do no more than that; they don’t have the means or the money to help out otherwise.  And, no one should blame them for that.  Others simply don’t care to anything else except pray.  That’s fine, too; it’s their choice.  But, prayer is cheap; they’re thoughts evolved from someone’s private cogitations.  You may have no proof that someone prayed for you, but then, they have no way of disproving.  It’s so easy, of course, to tell someone you prayed for them.  How do they know?

In September of 1993, I contracted a vicious case of hepatitis.  Because of my severe dehydration, my doctor decided to hospitalize me.  I didn’t feel I was that sick at the time – and never have felt it – but I had no energy to fight it at the time.  Besides, I’d just lost one of my best friends to AIDS the day before I went into the hospital.  I was one of the few friends who hadn’t abandoned him and had promised to be a pall bearer at his funeral.  But, on the day he was buried, I was in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV.  While hospitalized, only two people called me: my mother’s younger sister and a woman who worked with both of them; the latter who was also a neighbor and a close family friend.  After returning home, I received one get-well card: from my assistant supervisor.

Later, as I discussed the illness with my parents, my mother told me, “A lot of prayers were said for you.”  It had an almost admonishing tone, as if I should have known that folks in the family were praying for me and had better be thankful they did.

Instead, it made me angry.  “I can’t hear a prayer!” I told them.  “I can hear a phone call.  I can read a get-well card.  But, I can’t hear or read a prayer!”

My parents were shocked by my response.  After all, they said, several members of my dad’s family had expressed concern for my well-being – and allegedly prayed.

Great, wonderful, I told them.  But, no one except my aunt and a family friend called me, I emphasized.  Not one other person in the family seemed to make an effort to contact me and ask if I was okay.  Not even when we gathered at my grandmother’s house that Christmas Eve did anyone mention it.  I left there that evening, seething with anger, and returned to my apartment alone.  Prayers – shit!  That’s easy.

What’s not easy is giving up money to somebody or a charity organization, especially when you have your own financial needs.  It’s not easy – as I did one day in the summer of 1993 – to visit a sick friend and help him take a much-needed bath.  It’s not easy to jump into your vehicle and drive to a storm-ravaged neighborhood to help people look for their missing pets.

Right now, I can’t donate much money to the victims of these recent tornadoes, or put my big truck to good use by helping them move junk.  So, yes, I do pray for them.  And, in a way, I feel bad that I can’t do more than just that.  I’ve written before that, while I don’t adhere to any religion, I am very spiritual.  I’m not certain there is a Great Creator; it’s merely a belief.

But, I do know thoughts – and sometimes words – are somewhat flippant in comparison to actually doing something.  It’s up to each individual, though, to make that move; that’s their choice.  You don’t volunteer other people’s time or money.  Regardless, yes, it’s important to pray for the less fortunate, or at least think about their ordeal and wish the best for them.  But, it’s even more important to work towards making their lives better.

American Red Cross.

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Happy Birthday Patti LaBelle!

Patti Labelle_1

Born Patricia Louise Holte on May 24, 1944 in Philadelphia.


Lady Marmalade

If You Asked Me To

New Attitude

Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)


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Thoughts and Prayers for Recent Tornado Victims


“The sky the cloud brings,
In turn she sulks and sings,
Tear drops of her sorrow,
Drips from her tomorrow.

Her air she plenty knows,
Rides above winds she rose,
Lash the skies with ease,
Then dies down as she please.

Down field and pipe pours,
Draws her tears to yours,
Tries not release a drop of rain,
Slipping her cloud again.

Tearful cloud now free,
Them others cry unlike thee,
Now she will not sulk but sing,
Clearing skies will bring.”

“She Sulks and Sings” – Poetry’s Amateur


American Red Cross

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Men with Oars


The men of the University of Warwick Boat Club in Coventry, United Kingdom have decided to display their solidarity with the gay / lesbian community by rowing naked.  They’re trying to draw attention to inequities in health care that GLBT folks often face.  I don’t know how U.K. lesbians feel about a bunch of college boys getting undressed on their behalf, but as always, it’s the thought that counts.

“We are thrilled to be launching the UKs first dedicated fitness space with the Warwick Rowers,” said Dave Viney, manager of the LGBT Health and Wellbeing Centre in Birmingham.  “It’s great to see homophobia in sport and homophobic bullying creatively challenged by a predominantly heterosexual sports team.”

The rowers previously stripped down for a sports calendar to raise funds for charity, so this might be the start of a trend.  When you realize that athletes competed nude in the ancient Olympics, old school might not be a bad thing.


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Happy Birthday Ron Reagan, Jr.!


Born May 20, 1958, in Los Angeles, Ronald Prescott Reagan is the son of the late Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis Reagan.  He’s also one of my favorite political commentators; a clear liberal voice that often rises above the muck of TV news.  It’s ironic, considering that his father is a conservative icon.  But, Ron has no patience for the new brand of Republican.  He openly supported John Kerry during Kerry’s bid for the presidency in 2004.  A year earlier he condemned the Bush Administration for trying to take the helm of conservatism.  “The Bush people have no right to speak for my father, particularly because of the position he’s in now,” Ron, Jr., said. “Yes, some of the current policies are an extension of the ‘80s.  But the overall thrust of this administration is not my father’s – these people are overly reaching, overly aggressive, overly secretive, and just plain corrupt.  I don’t trust these people.”

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Class of ‘73


This past Friday, May 17, marked the 40th anniversary of the start of the Watergate hearings.  The Watergate scandal was a cataclysmic event in American politics; an imbroglio that brought down a sitting president and exposed the seedy underside of government.  It also made the American public realize their worst fears about elected officials were true.

Watergate actually refers to the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., a luxurious complex overlooking the Potomac River.  Here in the pre-dawn hours of June 17, 1972, Frank Wills, a night security guard happened to stumble upon a group of men breaking into the Democratic National Party’s headquarters.  Ronald Zigler, then President Richard Nixon’s press secretary, denounced it as a “third rate burglary.”  It was enough to stave off any connection to Nixon who coasted to a landslide victory over South Dakota Senator George McGovern that November.  Nixon wasn’t that popular.  His constant delays in failing to end the Vietnam War looked to be a portent to his reelection, especially considering that 1972 was the first year 18 – 20 year olds could vote.  But, McGovern – despite his staunch anti-war views – wasn’t that effective or ambitious.  He only took one state: Massachusetts.  He tried to make Watergate an issue, but no information had surfaced yet tying Nixon to the burglary.  After the scandal broke, Bay State residents started driving around with bumper stickers proclaiming, “Don’t blame me.  I’m from Massachusetts.”

Jim Lehrer, who turns 79 today, was an early player in the media obsession over the Watergate Hearings.  He and fellow journalist Robert MacNeil commenced a then-innovative programming venture by covering the hearings live during the day and then discussing them in the evening.  In the days before cable TV and the Internet, Americans received most of their news from TV and print sources.  Critics condemned the move; insisting that PBS should focus more on its original intent: cultural and educational subjects.  But, the public was hooked.  Besides, the hearings quickly proved educational, in that people learned the minutia of daily government; plus, it was definitely a cultural milestone in American history.

I was only 9 when those hearings started.  My parents would rush home after work that summer to eat dinner and drop down on the couch to watch PBS.  I was more obsessed with my new German shepherd puppy.  But, I have vague recollections of those hearings and I quickly realized how significant the entire mess was.

Watergate was a critical juncture in American history; a cumbersome and frightening crossroad on the political and legal front.  It bridged the nation’s faux gold-plated past of high-minded constitutionalists fighting for democracy and liberty with the brutal reality of government corruption and deceit.  The country had almost self-destructed under the commotion of the 1960s: the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy; the battles of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago; and the decade’s various civil rights movements.  Its brightest point – the only event that truly united us – seemed to be the 1969 moon landing.

Then, came Watergate, and everything in America changed.  Political figures never had much of an angelic reputation, here in the U.S. or anywhere.  But, not many in the American populace ever suspected their own president would stoop to overseeing a burglary.  Nixon apparently was so determined to win reelection he would break the law to find anything nefarious about his opponent.  Nixon’s tapes, recorded in what he thought was the sanctity and privacy of the Oval Office, sealed his fate.  Americans were shocked to learn how foul-mouthed and hateful he was.  Reading the excerpts in the local newspaper – with the word ‘expletive’ carefully juxtapositioned amidst the rest of the text – my parents couldn’t believe it.

By the summer of 1974 – as more details of the Watergate affair became clear, due in part to the dogged efforts of “The Washington Post’s” Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward – the hearings metamorphosed into impeachment proceedings.  For only the second time in our nation’s history, a sitting American president faced the possibility of forced removal from office.  In August of that year, with the jaws of the scandal enveloping him, Nixon became the first president in American history to resign.  His Vice-President, Gerald R. Ford, ascended to the Oval Office.  Ford was almost a product of chance.  Spiro Agnew had been Nixon’s vice-president.  But, as the Watergate mess unfolded, Agnew faced his own quandary; he was indicted for tax fraud while governor of Maryland.  Under threat of impeachment, Agnew resigned in October 1973; only the second time that has happened in U.S. history.  When Ford assumed the presidency, he appointed Nelson Rockefeller as his vice-president.  Another dubious first: Americans found themselves with both a president and vice-president for whom they did not vote.

Ford exacerbated the problem by pardoning Nixon a month after taking office, and – along with the burgeoning energy crises, the Vietnam disaster and Jimmy Carter’s own disastrous presidency – the entire 1970s seemed like an unmitigated failure.  The only high point was the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.

That was the death knell for American politics as the nation knew it.  Whatever shred of dignity remained in the concept of public service splattered against the fan of volatility.  Nixon’s tactics established an unsettling trend: political candidates now focus more on what’s wrong with their opponent than on their own achievements.  It reached an apex during the 2000 presidential elections when George W. Bush’s inner circle used every filthy machination they could pull out of their rectal sewers to assail the other side.  It was the only way they could get an otherwise inept and unenviable candidate into the presidency.  They had done it six years earlier, when Bush first ran for governor of Texas.  His cronies began planting rumors that incumbent Governor Ann Richards had – gasp! – homosexuals serving openly in her administration.  That was enough to send the God-fearing rednecks to the voting booth – as if that had anything to do with governing.  But, people fell for it.

And, that’s just it.  Some people keep buying into the validity of such nonsense.  They believe, for example, that the Bill Clinton sex scandal really was a threat to national security, or that Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya.  I watch every presidential debate, along with other political discourses, and wonder, ‘What do you plan to do for me?’  Texas’ newest senator, Ted Cruz, gave an impassioned defense on why Chuck Hagel shouldn’t be Secretary of Defense, but has said virtually nothing about working with the president on the economy.  If anything, Cruz seems determined not to work with President Obama on anything!

Thus, is the spawn of Watergate.  Politics has become filthy, putrid and unmerciful.  Countless numbers of qualified individuals – well-educated, well-intentioned, articulate and compassionate – won’t sacrifice their souls and the souls of their families to the evil deity known as the American political machine.  After all, who wants to jump into that mess?

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Happy Birthday Jim Lehrer!


Born in Wichita, Kansas on May 19, 1934, Jim Lehrer is best known for the “MacNeil – Lehrer Report” (now the “PBS News Hour”) on PBS, but he has a distinguished career in journalism.  Lehrer earned degrees in journalism from Victoria College and the University of Missouri, before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Afterwards, he went to work for the “Dallas Morning News” in 1959 and then with the “Dallas Times Herald” in 1966.  His newspaper work led him to KERA-TV, the Dallas affiliate of PBS, where he became executive director of public affairs.

He remained with PBS when he transferred to Washington, D.C., a move that proved vital for him and public television.  Once there, he met and teamed up with another veteran journalist Robert MacNeil.  The duo gained recognition for journalistic integrity and excellence when they began covering the Watergate hearings live in 1973.  It was unprecedented for its time; an early version of reality TV.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Lehrer at a writers’ conference in Austin in May of 2009.  He is the author of 20 books, 2 memoirs, 3 plays and a non-fiction piece about presidential debates entitled “Tension City.”  He is more affable than he appears on television and entertained the small crowd with backroom stories of the news arena.  Looking at all the talking heads on national television, I can honestly say very few compare to Jim Lehrer.

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