All posts by John Maberry

A writer, a lapsed lawyer, a former government employee, a father of two and a 30+ year (in this lifetime) Bodhisattva of the Earth. Author of Waiting for Westmoreland. A happy man and a funny guy.

Rural or Small Town Life–Pluses and Minuses

Forget warranties if you’re far from an urban area. Several years ago, we had an otherwise great TV from Samsung. They promise in-house service if a widescreen TV has a problem. What the warranty doesn’t say, not even in small print, is that if you’re not within 200 miles of an authorized service facility you’re out of luck. This 65-inch television failed early on. That’s when we learned that little catch-22. Through a series of escalating calls to Samsung, over the course of eight weeks, we eventually got a check for the price of the television. Not a repair, not a replacement. The next one was NOT a Samsung. In the meantime, we bought a small (37 inches) replacement for temporary use. It’s available for guest room use should we ever need it.

Last year, our LG refrigerator (one that’s supposed to be very reliable) failed after eight years. It’s frustrating to not have a working television. It’s way more difficult not having a refrigerator and having to keep buying ice for coolers to keep things cold. A repair guy (local, not LG) said the cost of fixing it would cost nearly as much as a new one. We picked a new fridge from websites. Unfortunately, nobody would deliver to our small town. Well, Sears would—in three weeks. I ordered one from Best Buy in Las Cruces—two hours away. I rented a U-Haul truck to get it home. More than a little challenging to get it from the truck into the house.

Ok, we knew it would be a long trek for flying anywhere living in a small town. As we like to describe our location—“in the middle of nodamnwhere.” You give up lots of stores for things that you don’t need often. That includes major appliances. But you don’t expect that you can’t get repairs for them or that you must find a way to get them home. Still, living in a small town offers things cities don’t—like no traffic. Less stress. More property with better views for less money. Friendly people. Peace and quiet without:

  • Weed whackers
  • Leaf blowers
  • Barking dogs
  • Loud neighbors
  • Delivery trucks
  • And much more

Just remember, the big corporations may have lots of products to sell you—they really don’t care about keeping you happy. Local stores do. They need repeat customers. Multinationals—not so much. But we’re not leaving. We have our dream house high atop a hill with a great view. With the good comes the bad.

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Changing What Might Have Been

War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things

If you were around during the Vietnam War, maybe you remember that oft seen refrain. Posters, bumper stickers and more. There really is no good war. Some religions say there are just ones–not necessarily good. Inevitably, the innocents suffer. So do the people fighting in them. Oh, it is true that collectively there may be self defense—as in one-to-one self defense when one is attacked, instead, defense of a community or a nation.

Soldiers who fight in war see and do terrible, inhuman deeds. They suffer PTSD from the memories they relive at prompts that occur in daily life. So do the survivors of the war—those who lost friends and loved ones or were themselves victims. It used to go by other names, shell shock, war neurosis and more. It’s all the same and not just from war-related events—rape, murder, and more.

I didn’t suffer PTSD after a year in Vietnam—I wasn’t in combat nor did I witness it. I came close, but not close enough. My brothers had far different experiences from me during the Korean War. One served as a radar operator in Hawaii for two years. The other saw combat as a platoon sergeant in Korea. The former suffered not at all, of course. The other became an alcoholic. The first had a family and retired from a successful career at a major American corporation.

Time for another visit with Derek. If I were Derek, could I go back and perform a reset on my deceased oldest brother? What might he have accomplished had he not died of a heart attack at 48? Overweight, a smoker and a 20-plus-year alcoholic that drank a fifth of whisky each day. He had a brief stint of sobriety lasting nearly two years before relapsing. He had a girlfriend from the past who he reunited with during the booze break. They might have married had he never used tobacco and alcohol to mediate memories of life at war—and the nearly simultaneous death of his father from cancer.

I don’t know, today, what his life might have been. I won’t know next month or next year. But I will write about it. Perhaps in the Derek novel, with some changes to my brother’s circumstances and connection to me. Or I might come up with an answer in the Buddhist fiction series that I will start sooner. Consider the correlation of changing one’s life through Buddhism with that of meddling with the past via time travel. In Buddhism, one creates karma through thought word and deed. In other words, one makes causes that inscribe potential results in one’s life. Karma is not predestination. It’s constantly changing as one makes good causes and bad causes. Not only that, but the Buddhism which I practice enables one to eradicate (or change) negative karma. We have described how in other posts.

In the meantime, here’s a brief explanation. Let’s say you did something years ago that you regret. A deed that might result in loss of a job, a breakup of a relationship, a health problem, etc. You can’t change what you did. You can lessen or erase entirely the effects of such karma through connecting with your Buddha nature and the karmic storage in your life. Not quite traveling through time but the result is the same as going back and not doing what you did.

 

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Speak Up When it Doesn’t Work

They seemed like great hearing aids. With extra tech through a Bluetooth app to adjust them for hearing TV audio, crowded restaurants, etc. The only thing is, they were unreliable. Hisses, feedback, the charger sometimes not working right and the Bluetooth app seldom working well. She took them in for service countless times. The company allegedly even sent them back for replacement. After more than a year and a half my wife had had enough. She demanded her money back and money back to our insurance company as well.

We’re talking lots of money—more than $5,000 for what should have been very high-quality devices. Turns out, the cost included all those office visits after the initial fitting. After all, they might need tweaking or reprogramming—like everything else these days, hearing aids have software and firmware. She persisted. A few days ago, she got a check for the full amount of what we paid. Another check will be going to the insurance company. I can tell you with confidence—don’t mess with my wife with a product that doesn’t work!

Then there’s the new bed—an adjustable one. With a hybrid mattress. Actually, two mattresses—a split king. As we get older, body parts have problems. Like that rotator cuff surgery for her. Or a hernia fix for me. It’s likely more will come in future years. So, get a bed with the ability to rise at the head or the feet—with massage functions too. The hybrid mattresses have innersprings and foam. The one we tried at the store seemed to be just right—a little softer for achy joints than the memory foam one we’d had for ten years. But the one that got delivered seemed quite a bit firmer. We both thought so. I called the store owner, who sold us the set—which cost as much as the hearing aids. No problem, given that over the last decade we had bought:

  • The previous bed and mattress
  • Ell-office furniture for me
  • A futon
  • A loveseat
  • A powered double-size recliner sofa for the TV room—we needed room for the dog
  • Stuffed chairs
  • A variety of small tables

That’s what most store owners would call good customers. When you’re a good customer, the boss listens. He ordered two new mattresses and they were delivered in a couple weeks, fresh from the factory. This time they were “ultra plush” instead of plain plush. He hauled away the originals, as well as the old bed and mattress. No additional charges. When you live in a small town, there’s not many places to buy furniture. Buy local is a good mantra. It works well wherever you live, even in a big city. What with the pandemic, supply chain issues and delivery charges for getting items from far away places, it’s a better choice.

So, stand up for yourself and be assertive. Notethat’s insistent, not rude or belligerent. Build up a relationship with business or a store and it will pay off in the end.

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Memories Are Made of This–and That

Dean Martin recorded “Memories Are Made of This” in 1955. To the iconic hit song  I added “and that.” Memories pop up in response to the oddest things. At least mine do. A doctor told her to drink ginger ale for a swallowing issue. Turns out it could be almost any other carbonated beverage. But it happened to be ginger ale that she had with lunch the other day. Pop (a Midwestern pun there) goes the memory. The Variety Bar and Café, 9th street and Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Long since gone, but it used to be there.

What’s that got to do with ginger ale. I was drinking it, in that long gone bar. A memory that hadn’t been in consciousness for many decades. It might have been in 1955, as in Martin’s song. Yes, I would have been a child in the in the 50s. Things were probably a bit looser then. I wasn’t there alone. The unknown part is who was I with. My father died of cancer in 1954, when I was seven. He’d had it a few years already. More likely my oldest brother. Can’t say. All I remember is the bar, the ginger ale—some Juicy Fruit gum and at least a couple more people. Could have been the brother and his neighborhood friend.

Now, I could have posted this on my story blog, John Maberry’s Writing. I put it here because it’s a writing tip. Grab those memories and the word associations that prompted them. They work great for writing fiction or nonfiction. Writing for life is the parlance. Change the names, the places, etc. to protect the privacy of yourself and others—but make use of them. Everything doesn’t have to come from your imagination!

On the story blog, you’ll find a recent post, Derek is Back in Time. Derek is the time traveling protagonist in an SF novel to be published some years from now. I keep puttering away with snippets here and there while accumulating more knowledge from movies, TV shows and books featuring time travel. It’s a challenging thing. I believe I can do it well—no rush, I must take my time (ha-ha). The thing about it is, we time travel often—not physically, but through our memories. Think about that. My current conception is that this is an essential part of the storyline and the reality—if there is any, with regard to physical time travel.

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Russia Without Putin—Coming Soon?

What would Russia—and the world be like without Putin?

The inherent dignity of life does not manifest in isolation. Rather, it is through our active engagement with others that their unique and irreplaceable nature becomes evident. At the same time, the determination to protect that dignity against all incursions adorns and brings forth the luster of our own lives. Daisaku Ikeda

Putin has been isolated for some time now if the multitude of images of him twenty feet from others means anything. Reportedly, he has been pouring over historical maps of the continent in which his country sits. Changing borders—with and without its dominance and control. Obsessed with returning it to what he believes a sphere of power and influence. Is he losing touch or is that performative behavior intended to rattle the world? It doesn’t really matter.

Dignity, if it ever existed within him, long ago left Putin. He has no qualms poisoning individuals. Nor employing weapons of mass destruction against innocents en masse. It’s all in service of keeping himself in charge and in pursuit of his legacy restoring Russia to its former glory. Oh, and increasing his vast wealth along the way.

But there are good reasons to believe that soon he will no longer be in charge. How soon? Possibly as soon as four to six weeks, but perhaps a bit longer. Is he truly as alone as he appears? Is he delusional or otherwise mentally impaired? Again, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the effects of his invasion of Ukraine.

You already know the suffering inflicted on Ukraine. The deaths, destruction and displacement of its people is shown on all media. Why Putin is not long for his political life, lies elsewhere. Let’s begin with that 40-mile-long convoy of tanks and trucks that has been stalled miles from Kiev for three days. Why?

  • Lack of fuel–and food
  • It’s been under attack by Ukrainian forces
  • Damaged vehicles can’t be removed or turned around off-road

What about the Russian soldiers? Many of them are reportedly conscripts with no combat experience. Ones who thought they still doing drills, only to find out they were invaders. Maybe they were told to expect a warm welcome—not motivated resistance. What happened to them?

  • Some surrendered
  • Some were captured
  • Thousands were killed (Russia denies that)

Forget the sanctions. As much as they will shave off some wealth from the oligarchs and ruin the Russian economy, Putin doesn’t really care about them. At least few think so. Nor does he care what the world thinks or even the Russian people. Opposition parties are not allowed on the ballot in Russia. The people won’t revolt—that’s too dangerous and they are right to fear it. What then?

Consider those within the Kremlin. The highest-ranking military officers. The ones whose sons (maybe some daughters) are leading units in or on the border of Ukraine. Possibly extended family members in Ukraine. The war is not going well. Their children may die. The military leaders—and their children may be charged with war crimes. As things get progressively worse in both Russia and Ukraine, THOSE folks may revolt.

How is it that the US has been able to predict, days in advance, exactly what the next steps the Russian invasion strategy would be? Down to false flags, disinformation, misinformation, troop movements, etc.? Two ways—human intelligence (inside information passed to US agencies) or signals intelligence (messages captured electronically by satellites, wire, etc.). Trump was a high-level KGB officer. He knows this and undoubtedly has been trying diligently to find and remove such people—apparently not completely successfully.

Assuming both intelligence channels have been working well and may still be. Those involved on the Russian side will have been working hard to keep themselves safe. One way to ensure their survival would be to carefully negotiate with those military officials (one or more of which themselves might be leaks) to offer Putin an option—step down or die. That might stop the invasion of Ukraine. But who would succeed Putin? Someone like Alexei Navalny? Don’t hold your breath.

As the war in Ukraine ends, the country can begin rebuilding. That will take time. We can hope—not necessarily expect, that the nations and organizations that have supported them in their time of need against Russia will aid in the rebuilding. Again, as the philosopher/peacebuilder and Buddhist leader Daisaku Ikeda said:

[I]t is through our active engagement with others that their unique and irreplaceable nature becomes evident.

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Putin and Trump—Two “Geniuses”?

They’re two of a kind, Putin and Trump. If you see Putin on TV, his fatter face makes one think he’s been eating burgers and fries like Trump. He aspires to the heights of kleptocracy that Putin has attained. That’s why Trump wants to run for president again in 2024. He still won’t accept his loss in 2020. That despite all the evidence to the contrary.

While in office, Trump once claimed that he was a “stable genius.” A few days ago said Putin’s moves on Ukraine were “genius.” Not likely an assessment of either by observers of modest intelligence, given the results then or now.

It takes an autocracy to enable a functional kleptocracy. It doesn’t take genius. Autocracy—with a solid oligarchy, doesn’t inspire admiration and loyalty among the populace. Competence doesn’t follow either. With a Russian military more than five times larger than Ukraine’s, Putin’s forces were expected to cut through Ukraine like a warm knife through butter. Well, not quite. An army of conscripts are no match for Ukrainian patriots.

While in office, Trump denigrated NATO and seemed inclined to let it fail. With his friend Putin’s moves, NATO is now resurgent and united. Germany,  has now anteed up its 2% defense contribution that Trump complained about. NATO, the EU and the US, are united in sending weapons to Ukraine. Weapons that Trump held back in his bid to get President Zelensky to manufacture dirt on Biden before the 2020 election. That action prompted Trump’s first impeachment.

The MAGA morons believe Trump cares about them and will ensure their prosperity. Well DUH! Did he do that while in office? No, but he did let them die from COVID. Many of them, of course, think that’s a hoax. Those 930,000 Americans who have died so far must not have died of the pandemic . Maybe not all–just fake news.

The polls say Biden’s doing a bad job as President. Let’s compare Trump’s time in office with Biden’s first year.

Trump’s genius:

  • Hundreds of thousands died of COVID as Trump urged Ivermectin and quack cures against the pandemic
  • Trump’s Warp Speed program did eventually produce vaccines, he did nothing to stop COVID’s spread
  • He left states to fend for themselves for money, medical supplies, guidance, etc.
  • He politicized Federal health agencies into putting out bogus rules, regulations and advice
  • Millions of people lost their jobs
  • The economy plunged
  • His first three years featured multiple infrastructure weeks without results–other than showcasing himself behind the wheel of a truck or wearing a hard hat

Biden’s pragmatic Federal response:

  • Quickly developed a effective plan to distribute vaccines
  • Cleaned up the health agencies and put in knowledgeable leadership
  • Got legislation passed offering financial support to struggling workers and families
  • He got an infrastructure bill passed to fix bridges, airports, roads, and more–that Trump never did
  • Added more jobs than anytime in 40 years
  • The economy is now humming along
  • Has finally suppressed the pandemic—which could have been accomplished sooner if not for the GOP officials who opposed mask mandates, allowed high-capacity facilities to open too soon  (without masks) AND all those people who refused vaccines (many of whom have since died of COVID)

So, what about Biden’s low approval ratings. Well, how about all those people back to work—many of which have higher wages or salaries? How about his leadership around the World—uniting our allies? How about the rise in the GDP? Oh, none of that matters.

Why not? Because people don’t like paying more at the gas pump or the supermarket. Well BOO HOO! Would they rather die of COVID? Not have a job? Be in poverty? Wanted to stay in Afghanistan?

Biden doesn’t control the Federal Reserve. The FED has held the interest rates at zero and used other stimulus to pump up the economy. Inflation ensued. The FED will finally begin raising the interest rates in March. Wall Street is in a tizzy but the GDP will keep rising as unemployment continues declining.

Meanwhile, over the past year, red state legislatures have been enacting laws making voting more difficult—especially for people of color (also known as Democratic voters). Suppressing the vote is not enough. Overturning election results if GOP candidates don’t win is a goal–like what Trump wanted in 2020.

America’s democracy is at stake. The January 6 insurrection was about replacing it with what political scientists call an autocracy. Elections don’t matter in Russia and other such undemocratic countries. Guess what–put Trump back in the White House might result in some folks on the gravy train, but nothing like those  Russian oligarchs. Trump wants all the money for himself and his family.

What really motivates most of Trump cult members is the fear of  demographic changes America faces. In other words, more Black, Hispanic and other people of colors other than White. Yes, many may vote for Democrats. Democrats who will protect their rights. That will mean a loss of White Privilege. The privilege to get into better schools. The privilege to get better jobs for more money. The privilege not to get stopped by police for the offense of driving while black. Equal justice–OH NO!

Yes, this is a harsh indictment of the GOP. One of my goals for 2022 remains bridging the cultural gap in the US. Yet, the truth must be told to get there. Most of the GOP claim the 2020 election was stolen–rather than Trump trying to steal it from Biden! They have no problem supporting the January 6th violent attack on the US Capitol. Killing and injuring police must have been patriotic.

Many of these same people profess to be evangelical Christians. Many claim to be Pro-Life. Actually, they are Pro-Birth. Once born, children are on their own. The SNAP program (formerly known as Food Stamps) funding should be cut. Childcare? Why should people be financially responsible for care of other people’s children? Parental leave? Mothers should be at home taking care of their children. Oh, they must work? Tough.

Did Jesus say it was OK to ignore the poor? I’m no longer a Christian, but I know better than that. Did He say it was OK to treat other people badly because they don’t look or speak like you? I don’t think so. There are a lot of so-called Christians who don’t seem to understand the tenets of their own faith. That’s one more cultural bridge to cross.

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Happy New Year–Have a Better One

“Have a Better One,” that’s what the cop said to Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the 1982 original version of Blade Runner. He meant the day. I mean the year. 2021 may have been great for the one percent but not for most of us. I do intend to have a better one in 2022. Consider this recap of the past year.

Mine wasn’t spectacular—not even close. More like comme ci, comme ça:

  • Neither I nor my wife got COVID
  • Our retirement funds went up
  • She had rotator cuff shoulder surgery
  • I simplified the finances and did some “mini-tutorials” for her, just in case I became “unavailable” to do the bills and the bookkeeping
  • I didn’t get any books out—nor even my Eagle Peak Annual
  • We still couldn’t take that trip to Europebut we did have a three day in-state getaway
  • The mind didn’t get fully mastered; the mental fatigue remained
  • I didn’t create as much value as I had intended, but I have no regrets—I exerted myself as vigorously as possible
  • After some physical therapy, I joined the associated fitness center to work on toning my muscles
  • But I begin the year with the workouts on pause pending recovery from a hernia repair upcoming on the 7th
  • The AFib does seem on hold, with no episodes since July’s second one

Some goals and objectives for 2021 did come about. See the 2021 post. Those that didn’t will join some new ones for the New Year. 2022 will be a better one! I boldly declare these achievements will happen–come hell or high water:

  • Master of the mind—not the other way around
  • TWO books out
  • A trip to Northern Ireland
  • A great Eagle Peak Annual
  • Great health—for her and myself
  • More value creation—sharing the power of my Buddhist practice

For those who care, there will still be some political commentary in the coming year. Less even than last year. But facts are facts and truth is truth. Those who spread hatred and lies must be held accountable.

I didn’t bridge the political/cultural divide. It’s as difficult as it seems. But changing oneself is the answer—not the other. Same as for health, wealth and happiness. It comes from within—not from without. That’s the perspective of Buddhism; the faith and practice that works for me and many others. THAT I will offer more on in the coming year—but not, I hope, with heavy strokes. Only a light touch, based on my own experiences and the encouraging words of either Nichiren or Daisaku Ikeda.

Happy New Year

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A Trip at Last—Even in a Lingering Pandemic

A GETAWAYfinally! Albeit a brief one.

The 40th anniversary trip couldn’t happen in 2020. Nor a rescheduled one  in 2021. Those were across the pond. This week we settled for three days and some long drives within New Mexico. It’s a big state, geographically—fifth largest in the US. We got our COVID boosters a few weeks ago—so why not a getaway!

Five hours to Roswell—yes, the purported site of that crash landing in 1947. It’s a town of 40,000 or so. We checked in Sunday afternoon. Touring began Monday. We encountered the first of the pandemic’s many collateral effects at the motel—the ice machines were out of order. A picnic cooler of ice at the front desk took their place. Yes, gas prices were up a bit, but we drive a hybrid.

Roswell has much more to offer than UFOs. We stopped first at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art. Sculpture in all sorts of media and from desk top to room size. Mixed media framed wall art. Dramatic renderings of people, places and events—real or imagined, in brilliant hues. FREE admission but donations are accepted.

Next stop: the International UFO Museum! [Note: the admission is slightly higher than stated on the website] Lots to see, hear and read—news clippings, recordings and more from the 1940s and 50s. Plus, info from other times and places. Like the Mayans and more recently, the UK. You’ll find the standard statues of aliens, mockups of the saucer, and mannequins performing an autopsy (nothing disturbing). Plus, all the souvenirs you could imagine in the gift shop. She believes; I’m more agnostic. But we both love sci-fi movies and TV shows—like the CW version of Roswell, already renewed for a third season.

You really can tell where you are by the streetlights in the downtown area—and all the shops with alien-themed items. Clothing, jewelry, mugs, towels, etc. Oh, and the McDonalds with half a dozen silver hued alien figures displayed outside. May be more inside; we didn’t eat there.

We might have had lunch at a well-regarded restaurant, but it was closed. One of the few in Roswell that were. We ate at one of our favorite fast-food chains. The one in Silver City still hasn’t reopened several months after a kitchen fire. Those new drink machines weren’t working in Roswell’s spot. But the food was fine and they had all the items on the menu. They gave us the sodas from behind the counter.

After lunch, we headed to the Roswell Museum and Art Center. Another fine and very large place. Historical artifacts from the Southwest—like guns, swords, armor, equipment, Native American headdresses and much more. Again, like most museums, lots to read and absorb. So much so that you could spend many hours perusing it if you were so inclined. The OTHER side has art—lots of it. That takes less time—unless you are a real connoisseur or an artist yourself studying technique, etc. This one does have modest fees, with the usual discounts for seniors, students, etc.

Dinner that night offered more supply chain issues. An odd one—no mashed potatoes? Local chains have had shortages of chicken, salmon or other items temporarily. (Maybe you have found items unavailable at the grocery store). Tuesday morning, we headed to Truth or Consequences, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Roswell. Only the last 40 miles were on an interstate. The previous 120 were on two-lane roads, lightly traveled for the most part. Scenic some of the time and when not, at least not busy—only one or two vehicles passed us or were passed by us until I-25.

We missed the hot springs in T or C—that’s what New Mexicans call it. Our last soak was in 2019. Formerly named Hot Spring, it became Truth or Consequences by winning a contest in 1950. Ralph Edwards promised to host his tenth anniversary game show in any place that named itself after the radio program. That happened April 1, 1950.

There are LOTS of geothermal springs in T or C—and other New Mexico locations. A few motels/lodges offer individual tubs in private rooms. Others have multiple communal pools. Most of the latter require swimwear. If you prefer au naturel, there are some for you as well. We don’t, so we got one with a private tub in the room.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

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Review–Peril by Woodward and Costa

PerilPeril by Bob Woodward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked it but I am disappointed. Disappointed because of all the spoilers. No, not on Amazon, Goodreads or elsewhere, but on the news media. Most of the blockbusters were discussed on cable news (often times with Woodward and Costa) or quoted in web news. One could reasonably expect the reading audience would be folks who watch or read such reports. If so, what new you learn from the book are details. Details that serve to illustrate or confirm the journalistic and writing credentials of the authors and stuff not juicy enough for prerelease.

From that experience, if you are a person like me, you would be best served avoiding all reports and promos and taking on faith that writers you know will offer something startlingly good. For a book like this, that would be difficult at best given all the coverage.

The one major surprise was the significant amount of reporting on Biden’s campaign, decision making and more. That covers some number of years and events. Possibly as much as fifteen  percent or more of the book. Trump and his cult followers, formerly known as the Republican party, are covered in depth on the peril they pose for American democracy’s future. That threat continues growing.

If you don’t follow news of any sort, this book may offer a lot of shocking information to you. Otherwise, it offers some element of schadenfreude–along with increasing your fears for the country.

View all my Goodreads reviews

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Twentieth Anniversary–9/11/2001 Remembered

It’s been twenty years since the worst terrorist attacks on the US in its history. The World Trade Center twin towers fell. The Pentagon suffered deadly harm. A similar attack on the Capitol failed only through the heroism of passengers that rushed the cabin of the plane flown by minions of Osama Bin Laden.

In the immediate aftermath of the these horrible events, political division was put on pause for eighteen months. Since then, the antipathy between Democrats and Republicans has grown. Given my own personal determinations to work on ending the cultural and political divide, I will make no further mention of it on this day.

Instead, I salute those first responders who did what they could to save lives. Many of whom, themselves, fell ill or died as a result of exposure to ash, fumes and toxic chemicals. Second and third responders, if you will, worked to rehabilitate injured survivors. Others supported the remembrance of the dead through memorials.

There are countless observances of this anniversary in person or on various media today. For myself and my family, there is only one that I can contribute. You who have been to this blog before, may have seen comments in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2018.  All have mentioned the good fortune that protected my beloved wife from getting a well-deserved job at the Pentagon–in a section at or near the impact of the plane.

Not luck or coincidence, but her Buddhist practice, and mine, saved her life.  She really should have got the promotion. Coworkers were certain of that. It was several years later that the plane struck. The person who got the job died in the attack–as did the man who hired her. Others died as well. One, who went out on a smoke break outside the building, didn’t. Such is karma.

I watched all of the news coverage from a TV in my agency director’s office with others. He was away. Everyone at my wife’s office, a few miles away, were allowed to leave within a short time after the Pentagon event. I, 25 miles away elsewhere in Northern Virginia, could also have gone home. Most people did. After talking with her, I stayed and worked on a budget due in a couple weeks, knowing that she would be home for our teenage children let out from school.

It seems unlikely, improbable–difficult to conceive of restoring a faith in American democracy in this decade. Yet it is essential if the nation is to survive not another attack from without but one from within. On this day, I will rededicate my Buddhist practice to that end.

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