It’s Time For Bernie To Join The Team

There are two kinds of people in the United States at this moment–those who see the danger of a Donald Trump presidency and those who don’t.

I believe those who see the possible catastrophic results of placing a divisive narcissist on the nuclear trigger outnumber those who don’t. But this is no time to take chances. You’ve heard it before, but this time it’s true that the very fate of this nation depends on defeating Trump.

I voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont, because many of his beliefs mirror my own, knowing that change comes slowly and not overnight.  That his nation could provide healthcare and education for all it’s people has been my lifelong belief.  I believe it because other nations have done it and are doing it, and this country lacks the initiative, not the resources.

Neither education, which is the future of every nation, nor healthcare should be for profit enterprises. A country is not a business, it’s a covenant between the people and those who make the laws. Capitalism works  well when the government is in a position to regulate the greed to a reasonable degree.  Our current government isn’t doing that.

Sanders has fought the good fight and has lost. He raised many important issues that pushed Hillary Clinton to take stands she would have preferred to avoid, perhaps, but she has won the presidential nomination under the same rules as all her opponents.

The time has come for Sanders to acknowledge his defeat, like the honorable man I believe him to be.  The Senator from Vermont had a perfect right to run and in doing so surprised professional pundits with how well he did.

Now it’s time for him to make peace with the Democrats who supported him, even though he was never a member of that party.  I think he’ll do it because he believes as I do that there are two kinds of people in this country at present — those who see the danger of Trump and those who don’t.

It’s time for unity, Senator Sanders, and we are waiting for you to do the right thing.



Things that worry me

The same imagination that allows me to create worlds inside the pages of a novel carries its own hazards.

I am a worrier and always have been since I was a child.  If there’s nothing pressing, my thoughts may go anywhere.

These days, I sometimes worry if Heather Haley, the Channel 8 meteorologist gets enough sleep.  I know she has a small child and she is on first thing in the morning and late in the day, it sometimes seems.

Will I one day run out of words and not have a column ready by deadline?

Will an asteroid that nobody has noticed take out our entire species in a matter of minutes?

When I am not actively worrying, my mind is working on a subject I’ve recently read about:  Did Neanderthals and modern human beings really interbreed much earlier than at first believed?

And how much Neanderthal DNA do I have?

Can astronomers actually look back almost to the Big Bang?

At the beach  I always watch the tide rise and wonder if it will stop this time or just keep rising?

My worrying started early, so it may be learned behavior.  When I was five, the Rev. Roy Arwood at Third Creek Baptist Church painted such a vivid picture of judgment day that for years I watched the horizon constantly for falling brimstone.

At eight, one of my young friends told me about earthquakes causing huge splits into the Earth, sucking houses and people into the fiery center of the globe and I expected it would happen any minute.

By age 12, I had learned about the possibility thermonuclear war and my blood would run cold at the sound of sirens.  That one hung around until the Berlin wall went down.

Of late, I imagine the possibility of a President Donald Trump calling North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un a fat, idiotic dwarf while daring him to launch nuclear missiles.

Or the possibility of a President Ted Cruz declaring himself to be the Messiah and ordering everyone to fall down and worship him.

Or even worse, watching half the nation’s citizens obey him.

Worrying doesn’t help, I know, but it keeps me occupied.

Manners Sometimes Make All The Difference

Recently, I punched in a telephone number; a man answered and said, “Hello.”

After a brief pause, I said, “ This is David Hunter. “Mike?”

After another brief pause, and he said, “No, it’s Richard.”

“Sorry,” I told him, “I apparently dialed the wrong number.”

“Not a problem,” he said. “You have a good day.”

“You, too,” I said and broke the connection, amazed at the man’s courtesy. It’s not often you run across courteous people these days — even in the South. Manners have declined a lot in my lifetime.

Exactly when my parents taught me telephone etiquette,  I don’t remember.  It was probably in the general time frame of when they taught me to say. “Please and “Thank you” and “Yes sir” or “Ma’am,” as the case may be.

My sense of proper address is till so strong that it was 20 years before I would call my former police supervisor Bill Wilson by his first name. Until then, he was “Captain.”  He wouldn’t have objected — and didn’t when it finally happened — but he wasn’t just my boss, but also a man I still view with respect.

When I was about 40 and video rental stores were popping up everywhere, I received a telephone call. Without preliminaries, the caller said, “David, you haven’t returned your latest video rental.”

A bit surprised it took me a second to realize who the caller was because he sounded about 15 years old — and he was.  He worked in his father’s new store, which like all new businesses was desperate for customers.

“That would be because I rented the video for 24 hours and I still have six hours to go. I’ll drop it off on my way to work,” I said.

“All right, David. We’ve just found that we don’t have as many later returns if we remind people ahead of time,” he said.,”

In the living room I put the tape in its cover, cut my membership card in half and put it in an envelope along with a note that said, “Sir, you need to teach your son how to address his elders. Also, I would suggest that your policy of “reminding” customers well ahead of time to bring back their videos will cost you more business than you save.”

The father and owner probably didn’t get it.  The business went under after a few weeks.  Courtesy counts.


Squeezing the Poor and Middle Class

There’s a hill I drive up on my way home. Frequently, wheel covers — what used to be called  hubcaps — can be picked up in the vicinity because of all the asphalt patches on top of  asphalt patches put there through the years to plug potholes that jar and shake vehicles using the busy county road.

The road has not been properly resurfaced in years.  It’s been worth it, though, to hear  our Knox County mayor say: “We didn’t raise taxes this year.”

There are a host of  programs and social activities once considered important that are no longer funded, but all  things are now secondary to the Republicans squeezing of the poor and middle class, who have little influence with politicians.

One day there won’t be anything left to cut or any more county property left to sell, but this year, once again, “We did not raise taxes.”

On the same subject, nearly 20 people are dead at last count in South Carolina and a good deal of the state is under water because of failed dams.

Republicans are in charge there, too, and in 2013 only $260,000  was spent on dam inspections, the same amount as in 2010, with the state already listed as 45th in the amount of money spent on upkeep and inspections. Next door, North Carolina spent $2,000,000 — nearly 10 times as much — despite a Republican controlled legislature.

Interestingly, dams and levees in North Carolina seem to have stood up well to the Atlantic Ocean and the last storm.

Who wants to  bet that S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican controlled legislature were able to say this year, “We did not raise taxes.”

Our own Republican Governor, Bill Haslam — backed by a Republican controlled legislature — says he hasn’t decided on privatizing hundreds of state jobs, but he’s now paying three private consultants $612,000 annually to help him do what he says he hasn’t decided to do yet.

If privatization occurs, state employees — because the governor is so concerned about them — will likely be offered their same jobs at  lower wages, without state  insurance benefits.

That’s how it works. It will allow the politicians to funnel money into the pockets of wealthy colleagues  — cronyism raw and done without shame — and the governor will  able to say, “We didn’t raise taxes this year.”

Let’s face it — the governor won’t have to face the employees he throws to the wolves at the country club where wealthy colleagues will be toasting his business sense — just as he doesn’t have to face the thousands of Tennessee’s poorest without proper healthcare while funds to pay for that insurance are unclaimed in order to keep from making President Obama look good.

And when all is said and done,  the money still won’t trickle down.




Willful Ignorance is the worst of all

After writing a column for the Knoxville News Sentinel in which I basically described Rush Limbaugh and Ted Cruz as shallow men who will say whatever is necessary to hold on to some sort of relevance, and how I believe both have recently begun to sink as conservative icons, I received the following e-mail regarding that column:

Your delusion is that you have any ability to persuade others. Were you really proud of that weak, rambling hit piece?  That’s the best you can do? Is that what (you) have to turn in to hang on to you job? Hang it up man. Your done. You have nothing to say worth reading.” 

An e-mail belongs to the person receiving it, so I could use the name under which my correspondent sent it — but I won’t because I have too much class and integrity to beat up on people who actually identify themselves.

I did answer the e-mail, addressing what I considered to be the most insulting of his accusations.

E-mailer:“Were you really proud of that weak, rambling hit piece?” 

In light of what the extreme right has done and said to discredit Democratic candidates in my own life time– accessory to murder, treason and lying about everything, among the charges raised — I believe my piece was forthright and very succinct, not a “hit piece.” It’s hard to ramble with the approximately 600 words that go into my columns and without a doubt, what I said was clearly understandable. I could almost see the clenched jaw as my critic pounded out the message on his iPad.

E-mailer: “That’s the best you can do?” 

Absolutely, it was the best I could do; it always is. Nobody scores perfection with every piece of work.  It has been estimated that professional artists of all kinds — including Mozart and Jack London, as examples — are at peak with only 10 percent of what they do.  Professionals have to produce every day to be paid; they don’t have the luxury of waiting for a nonexistent muse.  I probably do no better than that estimated 10 percent of excellence, but I try for excellence every time.

E-mailer: “Is that what (you) have to turn in to hang on to you job?” 

This is the worst insult of all. I am a self-taught writer, as most are, even those with doctorates;  I am a freelancer, not an employee of the Knoxville News Sentinel or its parent company — though I have had a good relationship for the most part over nearly 25 years  with management; I am not given assignments and write what I wish and the editors have the option of publishing a piece or not, but this has happened no more than three times since I started.

Aside from my newspaper columns, I have published 18 books since 1989 — no New York Times Bestsellers, but a couple on the regional bestseller lists; I have been around so long because I have enough readers to pay my way; writing is my second profession, law enforcement being what paid my bills when I seriously started writing (along with a wife who has always worked and supported my writing, even when I wasn’t selling); if I lost my column tomorrow, I wouldn’t be bankrupt; I do it because I love it.

I resent ignorant remarks that portray me as a puppet.

E-mailer:  “Hang it up man. Your (his grammar) done. You have nothing to say worth reading.” 

My readers will say when it’s time to ”hang it up,” but if I lose my column, I’ll be up the next morning working on my next book. A few years ago my colleagues in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild gave me a lifetime achievement award and I told them at the time that while I appreciated it, I still had a lot to say. I was inducted into the East Tennessee Friends of  Literacy Writer’s Hall of Fame in 2007 for my fiction and have published four books since then — fiction and nonfiction.

Accolades from my contemporaries are very satisfying, especially in light of my increasing withdrawal from formal events over the last few years due to health problems.  Not everybody loves me in the field of journalism  and literature — or even law enforcement. In fact, there are those who despise me for one reason or another, but I can live with it because I know who and what I am.

So Mr. Blank, you are apparently one of the avid readers who help pay my way by clicking on the e-version of the newspaper for which I write, and whether you do so or not is entirely up to you. I know by my e-mail that there are a lot of readers who agree with me, but I don’t expect you to believe it because the possibility that you may be wrong has never crossed your narrow mind.

Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Well, Jade Helm 15 ended today.  No Islamist Jihadists swarmed out of caves carved under selected Walmart stores; the personal forces of Barack Obama did not overthrow Texas in a bid to get a toehold in the United States — using the military forces of which he was already the Commander and Chief — before the operation began.

U.S. military commanders had from the beginning claimed it was just an exercise done on a fairly regular basis, but at one point, according to some estimates, a third of Republican voters and half of all Tea Party voters were convinced that Obama, possibly in league with the United Nations was planning a military coup.

When it didn’t happen as predicted, many who sincerely believed one of the wildest of all conspiracy theories, said it failed only because of the vigilance of faithful Americans.  And who knows?

Perhaps it was prevented only because Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation and give him regular updates; or because Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes said that “Jade Helm is in part conditioning and vetting of the military to see who will and will not go along” with a future plot to repress Americans; or even because Sen. Ted Cruz looked into it.

In any case many Texans will sleep better tonight knowing the flag of Texas and Old Glory still fly above them, proclaiming a sovereign Texas, not one run by Jihadists or blue helmeted United Nations troops — where they are free to spread the most ludicrous conspiracy theories ever imagined.


Sanders, the Invisible Candidate

Political conspiracies are not my cup of tea.  When I was tracking criminal intelligence on outlaw bikers for  the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, I kept running across a phrase used among that group of sociopaths:  “Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

Experience has taught me that human beings are blabbermouths. Even among police officers, who have more reason to practice discretion that most people, I have had an officer tell me something along the lines of, “This is between the two of us and it goes no further,”  only to have it come back to me a day or two later from several different sources with the same warning that the secret — whatever it is — must be kept.

When someone tells me what their intentions are, I take them at face value until I have reason to believe otherwise.  I never subscribed to “the great right wing conspiracy” or “the great left wing conspiracy.”  In most cases, both sides are upfront about their intentions.  I believed the political right when they say they want to shrink social services to a size small enough to drown in a bathtub  — a form of social Darwinism — and the left when they say they want a government that protects people and provides assurance that nobody will ever starve or go without healthcare — a capitalistic –socialist state, not either or.

In the matter of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was elected as an Independent, caucuses with the Democrats and does not shy away from what he has described as “Democratic Socialism,”  it appears that  for all intents and purposes, he is nonexistent. The right wing concept of Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton as radical liberals, does not carry over to the left wing of the Democratic Party, where the two of them are viewed as moderates, at best. It’s a matter of perspective.

The conspiracy I have almost come around to believing is that the media in general is pretending as if Bernie Sanders does not exist, despite the crowds of thousands he is drawing and a popularity that matches or exceeds that of Clinton in some early primary states.

While the media seems to be totally focused on Donald Trump and the Republican majority continues to try and disgrace Clinton with continuing and pointless investigations, as if she is the only possible Democrat strong enough to threaten their quest to regain the White House, Sanders continues to draw large crowd everywhere he goes.

The journalistic non-existence of Sanders became suddenly acute when Joe Biden, Obama’s loyal VP began to cause rumbles by making noises that he might enter as a candidate for president. When Biden went to visit Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the genuine left wing of  her party, there was an explosion of interest in the media at a possible marriage of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party and the left wing.

Sanders was not mentioned as a part of the possible marriage, even though he has been saying what Warren says for decades longer.  Why is Sanders still being treated as a nonentity? Is it his age — he’s 73, not much older than Clinton — or is it because he is viewed as being unelectable because he has been upfront about building on existing socialist programs such as Social Security and Medicare? Or is it just that Sanders is not as colorful as some?

If I believed in conspiracies, Sanders’ journalistic nonexistence would qualify.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Luther Strange, Alabama’s, Attorney General — within hours of Obama’s proposed plan to lower carbon emissions — put out an e-mail that said the average annual household energy bill could rise by more than $800 a year if  Obama’s plan is  implemented.

Obama had already said that the average utility bill would probably increase slightly under his plan, but he did not attempt to read the future.  Strange felt compelled to come up with a number because most Conservatives — meaning a majority, not every single one — take things literally and must somehow arrive at a fixed number or factoid.

Always present in literal minds is a compulsion to have an “exact” figure or definition, whether it be global temperature change, a prophecy about future utility prices or an interpretation of the Bible. Such people will come up with a figure in some manner even if it means opening a Bible and putting their fingers on a verse — a form of divination called ”bibliomancy.”

Liberals are no better at prophecy than Conservatives and if they had used the term climate change rather than global warming to begin with, most of today’s debate wouldn’t be taking place.

Many conservatives believe in climate change as an act of God, and don’t want to admit the stuff we have been putting into the atmosphere since we started burning fossil fuels and raising more and more belching cattle have anything at all to do with the changes.

The year 1816 is known as the “Year Without a Summer “ when many people in the Northern hemisphere froze or starved. We now know that it was caused by a massive  eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in 1815, the largest volcanic eruption in at least 13,000 years.  Our own Benjamin Franklin was one of the first scientists to figure out what caused it.

Let me repeat; if Liberals and scientists had called it climate change to begin with, the Conservatives wouldn’t have needed to measure temperature by exact degrees in order to refute global warming and the idea that human beings had anything to  with obvious acts of God.

When change is measured over a relatively long time, the exact amount of change seems miniscule, but it doesn’t take much of a rise or fall in temperature at all to wreak havoc with climate, and then return to what it was in a relatively short time.

When the Vikings colonized Greenland around the 13th Century, it really was green. Shortly thereafter, what is sometimes called “the Little Ice Age,” hit and the seas around Greenland froze over and glaciers appeared.

Four hundred years later when Europeans were able to go back, the colony had almost died out because the animals and crops that they imported from home died out because of the drastic climate change.

Now Greenland is green again and the glaciers have retreated.

When the Romans invaded what is today Britain in the 1st Century, among the things  they wanted were the vineyards that produced superb wines. At the same time Greenland was freezing over,  British vineyards and wine became a thing of the past. But with the climate changes made that Greenland green again, the climate in Britain increased slightly and it  is once more producing vineyards.

For one last time, words are important. If had Al  Gore and others had first called it climate change instead of global warming, fewer Conservatives would have had  reason to deny the entire thing.

Literalists can be very dangerous because they don’t think logically.



Finding Gold on The Independent Film Channel

I just saw a film on an a television channel that specializes in Independent, off beat, didn’t quite make it films. It was made in 2003 and is called Masked and Anonymous. I’d neither seen nor heard of it. It was directed, produced and written by Larry Charles, who penned the first five seasons of the Seinfield sitcom. Bob Dylan co-authored the script under the pseudonym “Sergei Petrov.” I have no idea why Dylan, who also was the central character and star, used a pseudonym.

According to Wikipedia the people’s encyclopedia, the film was funded by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and filmed in 20 days.

Despite the the obvious low priority and short shooting schedule, here is a partial list some of actors who have commanded millions for roles they’ve played, who signed on to work for union scale . The current Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) daily rate, is $880; and the weekly rate is $3,280. Here are some you will probably recognize: John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Val Kilmer, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Cheech Marin, Ed Harris; Christian Slater and Fred Ward.

Let’s face it, the opportunity to work with a living legend like Bob Dylan doesn’t come along every day, even for stars to work for what was minimum wage to them, just to be a part of it.

Masked and Anonymous is set in an undated future world in which chaos and a dictatorial, third world type government reign. Dylan plays a washed up but legendary music icon, Jack Fate, who is obviously supposed to be Dylan himself. Fate is the estranged son of the the President/Dictator of the United States is in prison when the film begins.

Fate is sprung from prison by Uncle Sweetheart (John Goodman) — a shady concert promoter — to be featured in, a giant charity concert, with which the desperate promoter plans to pay off his own debts. Goodman’s character is being pursued by criminal types to whom he owes a lot of money. He. has described the concert as “something that will be bigger than Woodstock.”

It seems that this film is mostly a platform for Bob Dylan’s music, politics and philosophy, and that’s all right with me. Not an actor, the former Robert Zimmerman still manages to deliver his lines and voice-overs in an acceptable, though somewhat monotone voice and the actors working for scale seem to try no less harder than if they were starring in a film based on a Nobel Prize winning novel.

Goodman plays as the blowhard con man who will say anything to make the concert a success, is very believable; Val Kilmer gave an exceptional performance as a hippy-like prophet who loves animals and hates people; the always beautiful Jessica Lange, plays an aging former world famous actress, working as a go-between manager is superb as usual — implementing orders from the unidentified criminal syndicate bosses through Goodmans’s character, who must in turn persuade Fate to go along with the orders disguised as “requests;” Christian Slater is outstanding as a philosophical stagehand, watching and commenting on the often chaotic situation.

Last but not least, Mickey Rourke Plays, Edmund, a sort of foster brother to Dylan’s character, who says to the music legend at one point: “I’m the man your father always wanted you to be.”

I will not give a way any more of the rice paper thin plot or the ending. As an example of cinematic art, most critics gave it a violent thumbs down, but I’m not a cinematic critic. If you came of age in the sixties, saw Woodstock as an almost religious event — and especially if you are a Bob Dylan fan — you need to watch this film. I just ordered it on CD for a few dollars and I generally don’t collect films or CDs. It can also be downloaded directly for immediate viewing.

This film is worth seeing, especially if you fit the criteria of an aging Dylan fan who came of age in the 1960s, or a student of the music of that era. Here are a few quotes from Masked and Anonymous:

Uncle Sweetheart “As long as I keep talking, I know I’m still alive.”

Jack Fate: “ All of us in some way are trying to kill time. When it’s all said and done, time ends up killing us.”

Edmund: “There will be no more stupidity. There will be no more mistakes. It’s a new day. God help you all.”

Desk Clerk: “I do not belong to any political party, sir. I guess you could call me… a feminist.”

Bobby Cupid: “Jack … Continue reading

I Really, Really Wish I Hadn’t Said That

Have you ever opened your mouth to speak and before the words had completely left your lips, realized that you have said something totally ludicrous? Of course you have; we all have.

Is anyone else old enough to remember when President Jimmy Carter was speaking at the funeral of former Vice-President Hubert Horatio Humphrey — and for whatever fluke of the moment — instead called him Hubert Horatio Hornblower, a fiction British Naval officer created by author C. S. Forester?

My most spectacular faux pas — from an old French term that means “screwed up, royally” — recently happened at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in North Knox County, where I had met with Gary Wade, Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court and one of his friends for breakfast.

The meeting was ostensibly to discuss a football game played between Powell High School of Knox County and Sevier County High School of Sevier County (of course) in 1963, which Powell, the decided underdog had won.

Wade played in the game and I watched it from the stands, holding hands with a high school sweetheart. I had written about the game a few weeks earlier and the Tennessee Supreme Court Justice and I both agreed it was at least among the most exciting games we had ever witnessed and saw nothing odd about meeting to discuss an athletic contest that happened more than 50 years ago over breakfast.

Having exhausted game talk after a few minutes, the conversation drifted to other subjects. I can’t recall many details of a conversation that happened weeks ago, but part of it had to do with the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because I was venturing the opinion that if the Founding Fathers of this country had written as clearly in our Bill of Rights as Tennessee’s Constitutional framers wrote in their equivalent Section 26 in the Declaration of Rights, it would have avoided a lot of squabbling.

That Section 26 of the Tennessee Declaration of Rights, said: “That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.” Just imagine if that sentence had been added to the U.S. Constitution’s 2nd Amendment, how different things might have been to day — when it comes to, say mass killings, if weapons were really regulated enough to be kept from the hands of the severely mentally disturbed and criminals.

In the heat of the moment, as I was making my point, I blurted out, “Have either of you ever actually read the original Tennessee Constitution?”

The words were out there with no way to turn them into a joke or make them go away. Chief Justice Wade is a merciful and courteous man who may have produced just a flicker of a smile, as I dropped my head and mumbled something along the lines of, “That was a really silly thing for me to ask.”

I don’t know if the judge’s friend was amused or not because my eyes were downcast in shame on my biscuits and gravy. But being the nice man he is, Justice Wade changed the subject — probably back to the football game –and pretended I had not just made an ass of myself.

It was even worse than a television interview 25 years ago during which I was talking to an attractive television news woman about a new adult entertainment ordinance passed by Knox County. She asked what separated an adult oriented film from one that was permissible without a permit.

As I opened my mouth to say something about “gratuitous nudity,” my tongue froze, my mind shut down and I realized could not remember how to pronounce gratuitous. Rather than stopping the way a wise man would have and just rephrasing the answer, I pressed on and came out with a garbled word that sounded something like grat-chew-u-tus nudity.

It was almost as humiliating as asking the Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court if he had ever read the Tennessee Constitution. I comfort myself by promising never to say anything else without thinking it through — but I know that if I live long enough, I probably will.