Monday, October 19, 2015

Is Heaven for real?

Writing from the Atlanta airport, waiting for my connecting flight back to Milwaukee ...

Is Heaven for real?

I capitalized it, so I must believe it is. But it's a good question.

This isn't what I was going to write. After hearing someone too-young-to-be-drinking say on the airplane she was, "hungover as fuck," I thought it would be good for some meandering observations of life in an airport. But then perusing the rack of alluring paperbacks at one of the gift shops, I spied the novel, "90 Minutes in Heaven" (Now a major motion picture!).

I'm never sure if the proclamation of a book turning into a movie spurs more book sales or less. On one hand, you may say, "It's so good, they made it a movie! I must buy it and read it first!"

Or you could say, "Reading words is so tiresome. I'd rather go to a place and pay way too much for popcorn and a soda and have someone spoon feed me the information with dramatic music."

Considering I stopped at an airport sushi bar to pay way too much for a spicy tuna roll and way too much again for the Sam Adams Boston Lager to wash it down, I shan't judge.

Several books caught my eye before the tuna roll did. Can't help myself.

But this "Heaven" book is one I really need to read. Maybe it's for reassurance, or because I want to hear someone else's story to further prove my belief. I can tell you all day Heaven is real, and if you're an atheist, you won't believe me, and if you're agnostic, you might not believe me, and if you're a New England Patriots fan, you'll make some obnoxious comment about Tom Brady being God and all the proof you'll ever need.

Maybe an atheist would buy the book so they could scoff, while I buy it for other reasons.

Truth in advertising: I've always believed Heaven is real, because that's the way I was raised. That's normally how religion and religious beliefs work, I suppose.

Events in my life have always reinforced my faith, probably starting with the second-grade play where I played the part of the Old Miner. The entire school had a different part of American history to portray, since it was 1976 and the bicentennial. Our class had the Gold Rush. I had the lead, but couldn't remember the two paragraphs required of the part, and went to bed in tears because I needed to know those lines, and maybe I was just a bit too melodramatic as a second-grader. In my dream that night, I clearly remember an old-fashioned scroll unraveling with the entire second paragraph. I woke up and knew it by heart, but still not the first part. The next night, I got that. Not exactly the Dead Sea Scrolls, but worked for me.

God or wishful thinking, it worked.

It's not that I just want to believe. I need to believe.

Don't get me started on still missing Hobo, the best dog a boy could ever have, whose four paws haven't walked this Earth since 1986. I kissed him goodbye the day I left for Air Force basic training, Sept. 3, 1986, and promised I'd see him again. He came to me in my dreams every night of basic training. I didn't know my Mom took him to the vet a day after I left and had him put out of the misery from the cancer that ravaged his body.

So many other dogs will have to meet me in Heaven -- Sooty, Wuffie, Buddy, Angel and Lucky. And yes, even Wendy. She was the dog who was in the family before I was born, and who ended up with a streak of green, permanent marker on her back, thanks to one of my 4-year-old temper tantrums. She wasn't a very friendly dog, but then again, what old lady dog would like a 4-year-old who has no business with a green magic marker?

There are family members I'd love to see again, and ask questions I never got around to when they were alive. And, most importantly, I want to see my oldest son again. He was killed four years ago by a driver on a cellphone.

He's come to me in a few dreams since he died. They all have been so real and reassuring that he is OK. What I wouldn't give to have 90 minutes in Heaven with him. I'm sure Eric Clapton feels the same way about his 2-year-old son, Connor, who died so many years ago. Lord knows, like he sang, there are no more tears in Heaven.

Yeah, Heaven is real. I want to read the book but don't need to read the book today. For a man without faith, no explanation is possible, and to a man of faith, no explanation is necessary.

Devin, take care of Hobo, Sooty, Wuffie, Buddy, Angel and Lucky for me. And Wendy, too. Tell her I'm sorry about that green magic marker.

I'll see you all again some day. Until that day comes, I hope to see you in my dreams.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Master photog turns life 'Inside Out.'

Ted Master learned photography the old-fashioned way -- with an all-manual camera. He used a manual camera and then PhotoShop to create "Inside Out," which took first place in the photography category and Best of Show.
It’s a door to somewhere that appears out of nowhere. It is a staircase that goes up into something, but no place in particular.

It’s there, but it’s really not. It is a hole ripped in the gauze of temporal reality, creating a universe imagined by Ted Master for his Gold Medal-winning photograph, “Inside Out.”

The image, created and photographed on a farm field in the middle of Goochland, Virginia, then brought to life with PhotoShop and Master’s imagination, also took “Best of Show” at this year’s competition.

And it almost never would have happened had Master not taken that route home from school that day and saw an advertisement for the Art Institute of Atlanta.

“I’ve had all kinds of jobs,” the 69-year-old Master said. “I’d been an architectural draftsman and had an office by the window. I like the outside. I like being outside. I spent all day staring out the window so they had to move my desk to the middle of the room,” he said.

There was an art form to the job, “because you have to see rooms and draw things from all angles, but I wanted to do something different.”

He moved to Atlanta with plans of becoming a dentist, and was accepted into the school. But on the way home from visiting the college, he saw a sign on the building for the art institute.

“I thought about it all weekend. I don’t want to walk around in a white coat.”

Besides, art had always been more his thing.

“I hung out with friends in the 1970s and they were all photographers. They always gave me pointers on how to shoot or what equipment to buy.”

He learned the old-fashioned way, on an all-manual camera.

“Sometimes you get the same kind of shot with an automatic, but manual allows you to accentuate shadows and let’s you get the image you want that others can’t see -- maybe it’s shadows or motion. If you shoot on automatic, you miss the opportunity to get something magnificent. There is so much more to see when you get out of automatic.”

“Inside Out” wasn’t created right away. While out for a walk and looking for photos on an old farm, he happened across a barn and got the shot.

“Three weeks later I told my friend, ‘I have an idea. I want to go back!’

With the help of PhotoShop, he created a haunting image of a barn wall that’s not quite there, leading into a room out of thin air. Parts of the inside of the room are pulled outside to add to the effect.

“I hope it puzzles people, and gets them to look more closely, and wonder how I did it,” he said. “I want them to enjoy it, talk about it and interpret it as they see it.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My lottery win comes with a typewriter

In all my fantasies of multi-million-dollar Lotto wins, in all my dreams of all the homes I'll buy -- one in a secluded lakeside cabin, another in a snowy Italian ski chalet and yet one more that kisses the white, foamy ocean in Key West, Florida, there remains a constant in the ever-changing scenery inside my mind.
It still looks cooler than an iPad.

Each place comes with a special room all to my own, with a large window to gaze at the lake, the mountains, the ocean or maybe nothing and everything. And in each room there will be a typewriter in the corner -- the black, manual Royal machine my wife bought me as a gift a few year's back. And just below the window, a desk with a computer and keyboard where I can sit and write.

Even with all the millions in the bank, all the property owned, and no need to get up to an alarm or count down to retirement, there is one thing I can't give up -- the option to stare at a screen, and tap a keyboard that strings letters into words and words into sentences and sentences into stories, thoughts and columns.

Writing is what I do and what I've always done. I wrote my first book about Elvis Presley when I was just 9 years old and he was only dead a few weeks. It was a masterpiece, at least according to my mother, who saved it all these years, God love her.

Writing has been my hobby, my mistress, my paycheck and my salvation.

As a boy growing up in Pittsburgh, I watched my Dad -- a hardened, grizzled city cop -- read the Post-Gazette in the morning with his coffee, and the Pittsburgh Press in the afternoon. And I learned to be like him.

I poured over every column by Mike Royko; read every line of "Dear Abby," and Erma Bombeck, even if I didn't always understand it, but usually did. I read in rapt fascination over the story of the boy-heroin addict from a Pulitzer Prize-winning story in the Washington Post, and then amazed again at the news story months later that it was all made up.

I fell in love with all the stories and how the writers turned their words and sentences into stories and life.

One day, I knew, I'd do it myself.

I did 20 years in the Air Force, deployed to some foreign places and war-torn countries, and I wrote. That was my job as a public affairs specialist. We called ourselves DINFOS Trained Killers, after the Defense Information School where we got our training. I wrote for base newspapers and news releases. I wrote scripts and speeches. Then I got called to the majors -- a job at European Stars & Stripes, and got to learn at the feet of the masters -- people who did this for a living much longer than me. They were good and I was bad. but they were patient and they nurtured me and let me learn.
I wrote for that paper for five years in Germany and Bosnia and Italy and Kosovo and never wanted to leave.

But the Air Force made me leave and I spent my last five years back in public affairs, in a job that wasn't as much fun, but still let me write. I counted the days until retirement, told myself I'd write for another newspaper and never go back into public affairs again.

It's good to have a plan, and one of my feature stories caught the eye of an editor at the newspaper in Kenosha where I lived, and still do today. It led to lunch and a part-time job at the Kenosha News a year before Air Force retirement and a full-time job after that.

It's good to plan, but plans don't always work out. My next step was going to be a syndicated columnist. But people don't read newspapers like they used to, and the internet and all its easy, cheap ads stole the publishing industry's thunder. With layoffs looming, I did what I swore I'd never do and returned to the public affairs fold again. I work for a government agency, and don't get to write as much as I need or want, but sometimes still do.

Sometimes I have no choice. Sometimes I need to write. It's what I find myself doing sometimes, late at night, to clear my mind before trying to sleep. Sometimes it's to type something funny, and other times it saves my life. When my oldest son was killed four years ago, writing everyday kept me from going insane.

As I write this now, I'm sitting at a bar at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. I'm sipping a Red Oak micro brew beer. It's amber and cold and good. The Astros are playing the Royals on the television, and the winner will go to the American League Championship. It's a good game, but still couldn't stop the urge to pull out my computer and write.

It's the right kind of bar to have an iPad and drink a beer and write. A guy sat down next to me, and  a few pleasantries later, he's told me his life story. He was 17 when they sent him to Vietnam, 20,000 miles from home. He came home and had nothing in common with his friends. So he started a support group at his local college. It was therapy that saved his life. He drank his beer and I drank mine. I wished him goodnight, came back to my room and finished writing this piece.

I have no choice. I have to write. It's what I do.


I'm just an ordinary guy, pretending to be syndicated and writing a blog. If you enjoyed what you read, join the club. Sign up on the right for e-mail notifications when blog inspiration strikes again. Or you can get Google Plus notifications. And if you feel so moved by the literary spirits, humor my ego and share this link on Facebook.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

From High Heels to Combat Boots

Jessica Herrera works on a pastel portrait of her father, who passed away six years ago. She said he was her biggest supporter and stood by her as she recovered from an illness that cut her military career short.

She found her voice in her paintings and pastels, and silenced the other voices that filled her head with despair.

Air Force Veteran Jessica Herrera, is the first place winner in the special recognition category at this year's National Veterans Creative Arts Festival for her portrait, “Trading in My Heels for Combat Boots."

She said her artwork gave her life purpose after her military career was cut short because of schizophrenia.

Herrera was 23 and stationed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, when it started back in 2004. At first, she couldn’t understand what was happening because it all seemed so real.

“My whole family was proud of me for joining the Air Force, and they were excited for me,” she said. “I had a good time, made a lot of friends and everything seemed to be going OK. But I started hearing voices, and didn’t even realize it was happening for months.

“I would sit at my computer and thought my mouse would move on its own. I could hear a sink dripping. People would talk to me all day. It just seemed so real. I remember walking to lunch one day, and two people telling me jokes and talking, and I just thought they were actually there.”

But alone in her dorm room, the problem got worse. She couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was spying and invading her privacy. She could hear their laughs and was convinced someone set up cameras in her room. As she tore her room apart, worried friends called for help. By the time her commander arrived, she was inconsolable.

Herrera struggled to understand the diagnosis.

“It was scary. I couldn’t believe it at first. The military was everything and all of a sudden it was shattered. At first I thought, ‘No, that can’t be right. This is very real.’”

Herrera hid herself away from the public.

“My dad had the bumper sticker: ‘My daughter is in the Air Force.’ Then I’m coming home a year later and telling people I got sick. It was embarrassing to say.”

But when she found art therapy at the Albuquerque VA, her world changed for the better.

“That whole time I thought I was a failure for not being in the military; I thought people would laugh or think less of me. But even though I was sick, people treated me like one of them, like another Veteran.

“Nobody asked why I was sick or what was wrong. Everybody just talked about art. I’m around other Veterans, and we have that in common. It’s a great feeling to be part of a group like that.”

Using art as her healing balm, she came alive again. As she focused on her art, the voices disappeared. She met her husband, Fabian, after an online relationship blossomed into love. They have a 5-year-old daughter, Danielle, and twins Audrey and Brianna, 2. These days she’s a stay-at-home mom and artist with her own web site that details her work and struggles:

By telling her story, she said she hopes to give people an understanding of the illness, but more importantly, let people know there is hope and recovery.

Her inspiration for “Trading Heels for Combat Boots,” came in the middle of the night. She jumped out of bed and arranged her uniform, boots and heels on her bed to take a photo before she could forget. The work speaks to her transition to the military, and now her life as a civilian.

“The military is something I’m still proud of, and I’m proud I could recover and be a Mom,” she said. “This week in North Carolina, I get to be back with the military, with the artists and with my other Veterans. It’s the best feeling in the world.”


This week I'm sharing some of my favorite stories from the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Durham, North Carolina. For more on the healing power of our National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, click here.

If you liked this story, please share the link on your Facebook page, and add your e-mail on the right for updates to "Meanderings and Musings."

"From High Heels to Combat Boots."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

At 91, he's the oldest and just getting started

At 91, George is our oldest veteran in this year's National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.


“We were so young when we went off to war … none of us were heroes, we just did what we were told …”
-       From the poem, “Veterans.”

The young man who wrote those words has hair that long ago turned gray. A stroke a few months back slowed and slurred his speech, but come Sunday in Durham, North Carolina, he'll take his place on a stage he knows all too well.

George Farr, 91, can be considered Veteran Performer Emeritus -- it’s his 12th year at the festival and he holds the distinction of being the oldest in the show.

He’s been working hard at his speech therapy and other exercises to hold his own with the young whippersnappers in their 80s and younger.

“I’m not walking as vigorously as I was. If I could run a marathon, I would. I know my speech is a little peculiar. The secret is to speak slow. But I’m ready. I’ve been looking forward to Durham since last year. It’s my favorite time of the year.”

He’ll perform this year in the chorus and do an interpretation of, “September Song,” about a man looking back on a life well lived.

“I’ll be singing it without singing a note,” he chuckled. “I’m interpreting the lyrics of the song.”

Farr joined the Army in 1943 and transferred to the Army Air Corps as a B-17 pilot. But a week before deploying to England and the war, military brass officially phased out the aircraft.

He came back home to Minnesota where he married, raised a family and lived a life without regrets.

“I don’t have a secret to living long. I just have enjoyed or tried to enjoy everything I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve changed careers several times, and love being on stage.”

After decades of community theater, singing and writing poetry, he discovered the creative arts festival. He does it for one reason only -- the love of it.

He wrote and performed the poem, “Veterans,” about being young and going off to war, at the 2010 festival in Tomah, Wisconsin. He was inspired, he said, by standing on stage the year before with all the other veterans

“This has been a major factor in my life the last 12 or 14 years. It’s a challenge now, because I’m competing with Veterans of all ages. But each time I win an award, it just accentuates the positive nature of the festival. It’s a place to have fun, inspire one another and encourage each other.

“There are a lot of younger, talented people who will be on that stage,” he added, “but we’re all friends. I have a lot of friends here and look forward to seeing all of them.”

Art therapist Kathyrn Larsen from the Minnesota VA will accompany Farr on the trip to make sure he gets rest and is well taken care of.

“I’m very Mother Hen-ish, so George has taken to calling me Mom,” she said. “The last three Mother’s Days, George has surprised me by actually stopping by the VA with a bouquet of flowers, along with a poster from the festival. The poster has all the signatures of the Veterans from our Minneapolis group.

“It’s almost hard to put into words,” she added, “but this event means more to him – and to me – than I can say. He’s one of the most with-it people I know. He does this because nothing makes him happier than sharing his creativity, and everyone loves him for it. He walked into the dining room at the festival in Reno (two years ago), and everyone gave him a standing ovation.”

And he said it is the Veterans who inspire him, characterized in the closing words of his poem:

“Here we are, young and old of every shape and size
Diverse in race and religion some foolish and some wise.
Different in every conceivable way but when the flag goes by
We are one. We love our country,
The United States of America,
And will ‘til the day we die.”

For more on this year's festival, click here.

Play-by-play of the Dem debate

Here's everything you need to know about the debate, start to finish, whether you watched it or not ...

- Lincoln Chaffee should have come out dressed like Abe Lincoln. Bernie should have had crazy hair.

- Who the hell are they waving at? Ain't nobody waving at them in the audience. They are doing that to make people watching THINK there are people waving at them. As in, "Oh, I wasn't going to vote for Hillary, but she's waving to people! She sure is friendly. I'm gonna vote for her ... "

- The six presidential candidates: Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chaffee, Hillary, Bernie, someone else and Sheryl Crow's hot leather pants.

- Did you see Lincoln's eye twitch and almost explode when Sheryl hit that high note that wasn't quite right? Wait a second, was there a National Anthem before the Republican debate?

- CNN's graphics have really gone downhill since their "War in the Gulf" stuff from Desert Storm.

- Jim Webb is the "someone else" guy.

- I can't tell what looks more fabulous ... Anderson Cooper's hair, tie or glasses.

- Chaffee's hairdo reminds me of Orville Redenbacher. Mayor, U.S. senator and something else and almost made me fall asleep 30 seconds into his opening remarks.

- Chaffee said 30 years and no scandals? Did he look at that hairdo? And that scandalous tie he's wearing? Like Jake from State Farm, it's hideous.

- Sen. Webb ... Nice tie. Digging his intro. Bled in Vietnam as a Marine, served in Reagan's cabinet.
Wrote and passed post 9/11 G.I. Bill. This guy got street cred. Plus he added the prerequisite of coming from a poor family of cotton choppers. DId he almost forget his daughter's names? He's got a son who fought in Ramaldi? Seriously, this dude's numbers have got to go up after this.

- Martin O'Malley ... lifelong Dem and most importantly a husband, he says. Hey, at least he didn't almost forget his kids' names. Preaching to the crowd. Way to connect with his base by evoking O'bama, middle classs and the poor. Says we're all in this together ... well maybe not Lincoln Chaffee. He probably wandered off the stage to go pee while he was talking.

- Oooh, Bernie's talking! He sounds like my angry, drunk uncle, talking about campaign money undermining process, representing big money instead of working peoople. Climate change caused by people. He should have ended with, "Soylent Green is people!"

- What the hell is up with Clinton's cheeks? grandaughter of a factory worker. She should have said her grandparent lost a hand in the factory or something. That would work sympathy points. Seriously, she almost has Trump hair. Said she can use climate change to grow economy. How the hell does a cow farting and destroying the ozone layer improve the economy? Ooh, she has recommendations. Wealthy pay their fair share???? They already are! Top 10 percent pay 90 percent of the taxes. Family leave plan? OK, I like that. How do you pay for it, though? Ooh, discrimination against LGBT? Wasn't she against gay marriage before she was for it?

- On second thought, I don't think Anderson's glasses are really that fabulous.

- He just asked Hillary about her changing positions. She says she has been consistent. Yeah, consistently changing her positions. She did say see she is a progressive, but check back tonmorrow.

- Sanders said he would have a paid family leave act. Didn't say how he'd pay for it. Did he steal that from Hillary or did she steal that from him?

- Bernie said we need to be like Denmark.  Denmark how? Denmark like a yodel? He honeymooned in the Soviet Union? Is that a hammer and sickle pin on his lapel?

- Good capitalism answer Hillary, but looks like she is doing the pee-pee dance up there. We are not Denmark. She loves Denmark but says we are the United States of America. Well, thank you for at least saying that.

- Now Bernie is talking again. The other three gotta be pissed. Wonder what Sheryl Crow's hot leather pants think of this?

- I gotta pee. Hope I don't miss something while I'm in the bathroom.

- Chaffee says he's only been a Dem for two years. Says he was a liberal Repub, independent, now proud Democrat. He ain't going anywhere, but at least he has showed that he hasn't changed his positions. Says he didn't leave the Republican Party, the Party left him. I think after tonight, the Dems will try to give him back. No, they don't want him, either.

- Oh man, I really gotta pee. Can't hold it anymore.

- Webb said his views on affirmative action are where Dems have traditionally been. Ha! Like the KKK? Oopsie!

- They are trying to outgun one another on who is tougher on guns, but not gun owners. Speaking of hot pistols, did you see Sheryl Crow's pants?

- Martin O'Malley is saying something about guns, but he ain't getting elected so it's not worth writing. Oh shit, now he's talking about a family who lost a daughter to gun violence. Says they owe 200k in court costs. That does have to sting.

- They're fighting with Bernie. They are getting testy. I like this!

- Webb got an A rating from the NRA? How is this dude a Democrat?

- Lincoln Chaffee looks like he's distantly related to Beeker from the Muppets.

- Blah, blah, blah ... Putin ... well, it's about time we talk about something else! Is Putin another candidate running for the Dem nomination?

- She is saying what? We should wag our finger at Putin and say, "Bad Putin!" and he'll leave Syria? That dude rides a horse without a shirt! It's gonna take more than that.

- Bernie says the U.S. won't get involved in another quagmire like Iraq. Let's put together a coalition of Middle Eastern countries, he said. Yeah, that's worked well so far.

- That blond asking a question isn't cute or booby enough to be on Fox. You gotta start somewhere, honey.

- I would be impressed if Lincon Chaffee ran around the stage right now doing a Curly impersonation from the Three Stooges.

- When would Bernie use force? Let me respond to Hillary first, he says, then gives out his web site address. Well played, Uncle Bernie. Good PR move there.

- I gotta pee again.

- Martin O'Malley is back. Says Hillary is wrong and a no-fly zone in Syria is a mistake because we'd have to enforce it, and it would escalate shit with Russia. He's right, and that's one more reason why Hillary can't be president.

- Lincoln's getting mad for not getting any love.

- Hill just said O'Malley endorsed her for president in 2008. That was smooth, Hill. You also reminded us you lost in 2008, but hey, it's you're party. I'm just here for the free food tonight. Wait, there's no food? Why the hell am I watching this?

- Damn, Jim Webb will not cede the floor. He was asked if the Benghazi attack was inevitable, and turned it into Russians in Syria, the invasion of Iraq, the Arab spring (there's probably an Irish Spring joke in there I'm missing), and Iran getting nukes. He spent five years in the Pentagon, opposed the Iraq invasion and had a son fighting in Iraq. Says to combat Syria we have to work on our China relationship. He is about to go all Hulkamaniac on Anderson Cooper, if Cooper tells him one more time his time is up.

- Bernie says Mr. Putin is going to regret this Syria thing. And just like that Bernie shows why he is thoroughly unqualified to be president. His idea to talk to other world leaders is naive, rose-colored

- Hillary says the U.S. did not put one American soldier on the ground in Lybia. Not sure that was the right thing to say when people are blaming you for not sending in help in Benghazi. And chickie poo, it's not Europe's responsibility to protect our embassies. But she is right about diplomats having dangerous jobs in dangerous parts of the world.

- Now O 'Malley is stealing all the time from Lincoln and Jimbo. Lincoln must feel like someone gave him a wedgie.

- Cooper asked Webb, a Marine, what he thinks of Bernie's conscientious objector status during Vietnam. Webb says they are friends, but I don't think he likes Bernie. Webb says his military background makes him most qualified to be commander-in-chief. I think he's right. And that's comparing him to the Republicans, too.

- Bernie said he didn't oppose the soliders in Vietnam, he opposed the policy. War should be last resort he said. I am prepared to take this country into war if necessary, he said. He'll be the first president to take us to war but oppose the policy and conscientiously object from the war he sends us to.

- Lincoln is trying to be heard, and he is smart, but he ain't no presidential candidate.

- Bernie thinks climate chage is the biggest national threat. You know what affects climate, Bernie? Iran droping a damn nucyalur bomb!

- Ooh, Sandra Bullock movie commercial. I wished she was wearing some tight leather pants.

- Would it kill you to share this blog so I can at least get an even hundred to read it?

- Clinton e-mail scandal question. She says she took responsibility for it. Hush your mouth, you have not! She did call out Sen. McCarthy for his dumb ass comment about trying to drag down her poll numbers by doing these investigations. That was dumb of him. Ooh, Cooper said it is a big deal because there is an FBI investigation into her e-mails. But she says tonight she does not want to talk about her e-mails. At least she is consistent on that.

- Bernie is yelling. He's saying American people are sick to death of hearing about Hillary's damn e-mails! No. I'm not.  But you know what? He gave a better answer than she did.

- Chaffee said her e-mail stuff is a a huge issue. He said it's an issue of  American creidibility. It's a shame Lincon is such a doofus and has no chance of getting elected.

- Cooper asks Clinton, "Do you want to respond" to Chaffee about the e-mails. She says, "No." Silent treatment. Why is she leading in the polls??? Dems are OK with electing her??? She should lose all their suport right there. After tonight, Jim Webb, O'Malley and Sheryl Crow's pants should be leading in the polls over Hillary.

- "Do black lives matter or do all lives?" is the Facebook question. Nice "gotcha" question cause ain't none of them going to answer it honestly. They will all use this as an opportunity to pander to one demographic of African-American voters. I stand corrected. Webb gave the most complete, honest and factual answer. Says all life nmatters, but talks about raising criminal justice reform. This dude is right, but Democrat voters don't want to admit it. HE's the only one to answer it honestly and show what he has done.

- Did Bernie say Bush lost 800K jobs a month? Seriously? Good thing Bernie wants to raise minimimum wage to 15 dollars so he can pay his staffers more than the 12 dollars an hour.

- O'Malley is kissing Hillary's ass in hopes she will make him the VP nominee. Say what you will about the 6,000 people running for the Republican nomination, they are a hell of a lot more interesting than most of these yahoos.

- Bernie put your damn hand down! This ain't elementary school.

- Bernie says Wall Street has used fraud as a business model. I don't care if you aren't a Democrat. That's got to make you pause and go, "Hmmm ... "

- Hillary says she went to Wall Street and said, "Cut that out!" I see, she's using Bernie's Putin policy on Wall Street.

- Hey, where's Lincoln?

- "Congress doesn't regulate Wall Street, Wall Street regulates Congress." That's a good line, Uncle Bernie, you crazy, old coot.

- Martin O'Malley's talking again, but I don't really care. Be honest, you don't, either.

- Does ayone else have to pee again?

- Hey they did a wide pan. There's Lincoln Chaffee! He really should have changed into a beard and stovetop hat for this shot.

- Bernie wants kids to go to college for free. Ain't saying how he's gonna pay for it, but let's not get bogged down in details like logic.

- I like how Webb is holding CNN accountable for unfairly giving time to Bernie, Hillary and O'Malley and not nearly enough on Lincoln, Jimmy or Sheryl Crow's leather pants.

- Lincoln just said he voted for bigger banks cause his Dad died, it was his first vote, and he just arrived in the Senate. That's enough, Lincoln. Can his caregiver gently take him from the stage?

- Bernie said the wealthy will pay more than they are paying for today. He says he will implement a tax on Wall Street speculation to pay for his free college plan. So, a tax on people who invest to save for retirement? Isn't the whole stock market specualtion? Shell game, people.

- Oh Hillary, a young person didn't talk to you  about going to school. You wouldn't let a real person get close enough to you to ask a real question. She says colleges should get their costs down to make college more affordable. So she is suggesting we cut the pay of college professors?

- Share my blog this time on Facebook. Please?

- Or sign up for the e-mail on the side.

- Or join via Google Plus.

- Did you read my "Columbo" blog yet? That was a funny one.

- I  agree with Bernie's point that we can raise the cap on Social Security payments.

- Who is this Hispanic guy asking a question? He's gotten less face time than Lincoln Chapstick.

- How long is this thing supposed to last? I gotta get up early tomorrow.

- Most of these people are just pandering to the Democrats who they want to vote for them. Then again, I guess that's the point.

- I like Jim Webb, and don't care what you think. He still won't get elected, though.

- Hillary says Republicans have demonized immigrants.

- O'Malley just called Trump a carnival barker. Can't argue with that.

- Chaffee and HIllary don't regret their votes on the Patriot Act.  Then they said some other stuff, but I'm getting sleepy.

- Did Bernie just put his hand to his ear like Hulk Hogan?

- Snowden -- hero or traitor? Chaffee says bring him home. Hillary said he broke the law. and he stole very important information that fell into wrong hands. O'Malley says he put a lot of lives at risk. Whistleblowers don't run to Putin. Bernie says he played important role in educating American people about civil liberties. Webb says leave his ultimate judgment to the legal system. Way to pivot to one of your key points, but you didn't answer the question, Jimmy.

- Hillary basically said, "Vote for me, because I'm a woman."

- Please be over soon.

- Bernie is talking about a revolution. He just sounds so communisty.

- Jim basically just said, "I like Bernie, but ain't no one gonna pay for all this shit you're talking about. You must be out of your damn mind!"

- Apparently it takes Hillary longer to go pee during the commercial break. She almost didn't make it back.

- Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ...

- O'Malley said he respects what Bill and Hillary has done, but we need new leadership.

- She says she's not running because her last name is Clinton. Let's be honest. If it wasn't for Ross Perot, nobody would even know who Hillary Clinton is today.

- Ooh, a young person is concerned about climate change! Now they're going to pander to people who aren't even old enough to vote.

- Jim Webb is not a Democrat. That's the funniest thing about this debate. Well, that and the lost and dispirited look on Lincoln Chaffee's face.

- If not for climate change, Bernie would not have that awesome of a tan this late into October.

- Hillary said she and Obama were hunting for Chinese in Copenhagen. Maybe they should have looked in China instead?

- Hey, they're letting the blond who isn't pretty enough to be on Fox ask another question.

- How many times have one of you tonight said, "This ... is CNN ... " in your best James Earl Jones voice?

- Let's make the wealthy pay for it. That's the solution to everything. Everything that's gone wrong in your life is because the wealthy aren't paying their fair share.

- Great, now O'Malley is kissing Sander's ass so he can be his VP nominee, too.

- They're talking about recreational marijuana. You gotta smoke a lot of dope to believe some of this crap.

- Hillary just said she's not ready to take a position on recreational marijuana tonight. What's the point of a debate if you refuse to give a position. Heads will roll for her staffers not giving her the polling numbers on recreational marijuana before the debate.

- Someone said something on Facebook about something and Bernie is talking about it, but this has dragged on 30 minutes too long and I'm not even paying attention.

-  Hillary just said the funniest thing ever when she said her biggest enemy is the Republicans.

- Jim Webb is bad ass, and that's why Democrats won't vote for him, and why he should be a Republican.

- My favorite part! The closing remarks!

- Blah, blah, blah ... for the love of all things holy, Lincoln! Take off Sheryl Crow's pants!

- I'm going to bed. If you've read this far, you owe it to yourself and mankind to share this link on Facebook.

Monday, October 12, 2015

All things Columbus and Columbo

Happy Ass-Hat Day!

Or, as we like to call it in America, the great country he didn't discover, Columbus Day.

This would be well and good if Chris did, indeed, sail the seas so blue in fourten-hundred-and-ninety-two to discover a new land. But if history is any indication, the guy we name parks and federal holidays after more or less stumbled upon some land he thought was something different ... and he was a supremo ass-hat. He wrote about enslaving, raping and killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people and even dismembering his own crew for insubordination. I don't remember any poems about that in elementary school, but in defense of white-washed history, it really is hard to find something that rhymes with "dismemberment."

This is all very true. You can believe me, because I read it on Facebook today.

As the story goes (and if you can't believe everything on Facebook, what can you believe?), Queen Isabella -- the real queen, not the future name of one of Kim and Kanye's next babies -- was so peeved when she found all this out, Columbus was imprisoned in 1500. Here we bitch about bad cellphone connections, but mail was really spotty between this new-fangled America and Spain back in the late 1400s.

Naturally, with all this info coming out, we have people screaming that it is an outrage and sin to name Columbus Day after, you know, Columbus. Some cities are now calling it Indigenous People Day, in honor of all the people Columbus and other Europeans killed getting from there to here. This is all done as a knee-jerk reaction for loonies to feel good about themselves, and has the same general postive effect as a gun-free zone in Chicago. The only people who will feel good about calling it Indigenous People Day are the dumb asses who came up with the name.

It pains my brain to think this is becoming -- or has already become -- a Democrat vs. Republican thing. Liberal, baby-killing loonies will say "Change the name!" and crazy gun-stroking conservatives will double down, blame it all on Obama and try to name every remaining city in America after Columbus. Italians will scream it's all about heritage, yet they still allow Fazoli fast food Italian restaurants to exist.

Then, let's face it, there is a large swath of people who don't care what the hell we call it. They'll make a holiday for Christopher Noth if it still meant they could have a day off from school or work.

Why don't we just change the name to America Day? We could celebrate with fireworks to honor our Chinese heritage. This would appease the liberals who are still upset over the way Chinese people were treated while building our railroads. And it would appease the rest of us who like loud noises and colorful lights in the sky that make us go, "Oooh!" and "Ahhhh!" Yes, it's a lot like the Fourth of July, but in this little town called America, I like to celebrate America every day.

Or better yet, we could just ease out of Columbus Day and call it Columbo Day. Cause, let's face it, Peter Falk rocks.

Happy Columbo Day!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

VA's suicide solution

Each year, veterans come from all over the U.S. (including Hawaii) to showcase their talents at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. For some, it's just about the love of performing. For others, it offers hope and healing.

His name was Connie, and he came to town to kill himself.

"I was an over-the-road truck driver, so I knew what rest stop I was going to do it at and had my gun," he told me. "I had the place picked out and everything."

But first he was making a stop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, where he was asked to attend, based on a poem he wrote before the brain injury.

"And I thought it was just going to be a rinky-dink, fly-by-night VA thing where they threw it together for the veterans and didn't really care. And I walked through those doors, and was embraced. I was treated like a human being. I went up to the VIP lounge and sat and talked for hours. They literally saved my life."

That was eight years ago. And now Connie, an Army veteran, tries to make it to the national arts festival every year. Even when he's not selected, he tries to pay his way to support the other veterans, tell his story and maybe pay it forward and save another life.

He told me that story two years ago at the event in Reno, Nevada, where he was singing in the chorus for the two-hour finale show. I hope he'll be back this year when the event comes to Durham, North Carolina, Oct. 11 to 19.

One of last year's award-winning pieces.
Each year, 155 VA hospitals hold local art festivals in two parts: The first part is for artists of all makes and stripes -- oil painting, pen and ink, ceramics, sculpture, photography, model building and a hundred other categories. The other part is for stage performers -- musicians, singers, poets and actors. The best make it to the national contest. And the winners there are invited to the festival, held in a different city each year.

Some just enter because they are artists, for the love of the stage or showcase their work. Others do it as part of their healing.

Each piece of art and each song tells a story. Sometimes it's about pain and post-traumatic stress. Others about breaking through the shackles of depression, sexual assault, substance abuse or something else untold. The art is every bit as good, and sometimes better, than what you'd see in a gallery in Los Angeles or New York.

The stage show is worthy of Broadway. VA brings these singers, musicians and actors together on Monday, and they create a show in seven days made up of music of the 50s, 60s and today. It's rock, it's soul, it's gospel and original pieces, all woven together in a beautiful tapestry of hope. Check out these clips from the 2013 show in Reno here.

It may seem like a miracle only a week in the works. The reality is it's a miracle, but one that is a culmination of work VA does every day to help heal people with each note they sing or stroke of the brush.

In Connie's case, he wrote his own poems and songs. Then he was struck in the head with a steel girder at work, causing a traumatic brain injury. The words and music inside his head died. Somehow -- maybe it was part of that miracle -- his wife saw a flyer on the wall of his local VA, advertising the festival. She urged him to try out.

"They literally saved my life. That first night, I went up to my hotel room and wrote my first song in years,"
he said.

That's what VA does.

Connie's story can be repeated a thousand times, but the theme is the same. There was the Vietnam veteran, so paralyzed by post-traumatic stress and mistrust, he couldn't hold a job or talk to anyone. Then he found a love of building model homes with toothpicks. They look like masterpieces when they are done.

"Before I did this, I couldn't talk to anyone," he told me last year.

Noah, one of the first Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq, was home four days when his military truck rolled down a hill and he became a quadriplegic. He rediscovered his passion for life at VA's Wheelchair Games, where he plays rugby, basketball and more. VA taught him how to snow ski at the winter sports clinic, and surf at the summer sports clinic. He now owns a company called Oscar Mike that makes American-made apparel.

The festival and the sports are just one small part of what VA does to save and change lives every day.

Don't believe all the negative VA stories you read, and certainly not those who who say it's broken and they'll fix it, or worse, shut it down. They don't know what they are talking about. They are wrong.

There is nothing -- no hospital, crisis center or organization -- that does everything VA does, with people who deeply care. I see it every day. And in my job, covering events like the creative arts festival, I get to tell those stories. Each time I do, I know it reaches someone who needs it.

If you're a veteran -- one who is in crisis or not -- you owe it to yourself to give VA a try. If you are in crisis, there are people who can help. Pick up the phone and dial 1-800-273-8255, then press 1. Or go online here.

Maybe you're like Connie, but if you are, and you don't have your own festival go to, know this: There are always people who love you, care about you and will miss you if you're gone. They might not know you are in pain. It's not a sin to ask for help.

If you're in North Carolina this week, come check out the art show and performance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 114 E. Cameron Ave. The art exhibit is noon to 1:45 p.m. in Gerrard Hall. The stage show is 2 p.m. at Memorial Hall. Tickets are free but you have to call 919-286-0411, ext. 6070, to reserve your seats.

Check out the first-place art that will be on display at this year's festival here.

For more information on the event, or how to sign up for next year, click here.

Like the creative arts Facebook page here.

Check out a video on the event here.

The closing number at last year's festival, featuring country singer Michael Peterson.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Greatest blog ever

Everybody has a novel inside themselves. Problem is most people are shitty writers.

The End

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rack and Stack: Political Bizarro World Part II

 It’s bizarro world where everything is nothing like it’s supposed to be. The political party that generally supports abortions is creating Facebook memes in support of the pope who is against abortions, the pope is against gun manufacturers and owners but is protected by Swiss guards who protect him with guns, and the political party accused of never caring about minorities has the most diverse group of presidential candidates, with one woman, one of Indian descent, two Hispanics, another married to a Hispanic, an African-American, and a fully grown Oompah Loompah.

I'll just be over here sipping tea with Kermit.

My blog, my rules, so let’s skip the first two parts and rack and stack the remaining 15 presidential candidates and their chances, on a scale of 1 to Whatever, before anymore drop out, or get stabbed to death with extreme right angles.

Carly Fiorina
1. Carly Fiorina. She’s not in first place, but is kind of hot and makes me tingly in a weird kind of way. Not hot in the same sense as Sarah-Palin-In-A-Black-Leather-Dominatrix-Outfit-Fantasy-But-Perhaps-I’ve-Typed-Too-Much, but hot in an exotic I’m-Digging-Those-Cruella-deVille-Eyebrows kind of way. Yes, Carly, I have been bad, and you can yell at me. Wait … where was I?

Speaking of a Carly smack down, she did just that in her interview with Katie Couric where Couric tried nailing her on global warming. Whether you agree with her or not, Fiorina didn’t just hold her own, she kicked Katie’s ass, and had an answer -- and good ones at that -- for every question. Check it out here. And, just for honesty sake, as a journalist, I gots the hots for Katie, too.

Her detractors will say she lost jobs at Hewlett-Packard before losing her own job there, which she already has an answer for, and has turned around on those detractors. She has a family member -- a stepdaughter -- who lost her life because of drug use, and when she empathizes with families, it sounds sincere and not words a PR flack gave to someone to speak because she needs to sound more spontaneous. She’s shrewd, she’s got business savvy, and she’s  a she not named Hillary, who despite how hard she tries to runs back and forth from positions, no one seems to like. Bottom line: She gets more of the female vote for being a strong woman, and she's a leader America could be comfortable with sitting in the Oval Office.

Carly leaped to the front of the pack, thanks to CNN letting her on the big stage at the last debate, and the way she shredded Donald Trump. And she balances out the Democratic side when Joe Biden runs, gets the nomination and picks Elizabeth Warren. Fiorina will gain steam as others drop, and she’ll be around to the Final Five.

Marco Rubio
2. Marco Rubio. He's my real No. 1 right now, but let's be honest -- the Fiorina stuff was funnier. Gotta lead with the funny. So many pluses here. But there are minuses, too, which worries me, because then someone will want me to do algebra, and I can't remember any of that crap. That's why I became a journalist. First, the pluses. He brings more diversity to the party that is wrongly accused of not being diverse and not caring about minorities. Again, Dems, how can you keep saying that when the field of candidates proves otherwise? And why do people keep believing it? He comes across as thoughtful, articulate, smart, visionary and as a true statesman. Check out this clip of him addressing the Iran deal. His detractors would have you believe this was just political gobbledy-gook to stick it to President Obama, in an era when gobbledy-gook is not used often enough in political blogs. But you know what? It's thoughtful enough to be scary because, let's face it, our current commander-in-chief doesn't come across as the most commandery-in-chiefy type person there is. While Iran still chants about death to America and Israel, these words sound hauntingly prophetic.

Rubio also kicked ass on the last two debates. He makes up for the cloddish anti-immigration stance of Trump, and is someone minorities -- particularly Hispanics and Cubans (and Catholics or Mormons or Baptists, or whatever his religion is at the moment) could trust and vote for. Plus he's got a great story as the son of Cuban exiles, even though he's really not, but that's beside the point. How can Dems attack that without taking bullets from Bosnia on Hillary? That's exactly why he scares Democrats. If Republicans nominate a minority and he gets to the Oval Office, it destroys their talking point that Republicans don't care or aren't about minorities. This scares the hell out of Democrats. That's why when you Google "Marco Rubio" you find a lot of anti-Rubio web sites and articles out there, like this one. In fairness to Rubio, that comes from Mother Jones, which wouldn't know fair and unbiased reporting, if it got smacked in the face and forced to sit through a real journalism class, but it's enough stuff that Dems will bring up more and more and more the higher he rises in the polls.

And make no mistake. He will rise in the polls. When Trump drops -- and mark my words, he will drop -- Rubio will eventually be sitting as the only politician in the bunch at the top of the pack. And Dems hate that because they know he could win it all. But speaking of which ...

Donald Trump
3. Donald Trump. No, he's not my No. 1, and no, he's not my No. 3, but the sooner we get him on this list, and done with him, the better. He's only listed now because he's allegedly No. 1 in most polls, unless you count the one poll where he's not. And that's a funny picture. But just like a pumpkin, when you get to the inside, it's just a big, goopy mess that makes you feel slimy when you touch it. There is no substance here. Just watch or read the interview with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes. Nothing there but pumpkin slime. His stance is, "My ideas will work, because we'll make America great again!" Problem is, he has no ideas. He appeals to some people right now because he speaks out angrily about illegal immigration, which I get. It needs fixed, but his ideas to fix it are inhumane, impractical, stupid and won't work. The wheels come off this campaign in Iowa, where everyone assumes he will come in first. He won't. He'll come in second, third or fourth. My bet right now is 3rd place, because Iowans take this stuff seriously, and they don't like Trump or yuppie pasta. Trust me on this. The polls are hype. And when that happens, he'll lose New Hampshire. And when that happens, people will compare him to Howard Dean. And when that happens ... doesn't matter. Trump supporters should find someone else now cause he's gonna leave you jilted at the altar.

Dr. Ben Carson
4. Dr. Ben Carson. Surprise, surprise. He's beating Trump in one of the latest polls, so maybe the end really is nigh for Trump. Here's a guy who's a brilliant neurosurgeon, and rose to success with the help of government assistance. He's the Ultimate Success Story. His detractors would have you believe he is now slamming the very programs that enabled him to be successful. One Dem described him as, "I got mine, now screw you." Typical divisive politics. He's not saying do away with welfare. He is saying it needs to be fixed so there can be more success stories like him, and less wasteful spending on people who just want to be lazy and take money. Welfare is to build people up and give them a hand up -- as he got -- and not a hand out. It's not meant to be a method of support for someone's entire life. Yet we know there are people out there who just assume they deserve it, and it's part of their financial plan, instead of getting a job.

Carson has run to the extremes -- as do many politicians in the primaries -- speaking against gay marriage, and his latest about not wanting a Muslim in the White House. His detractors -- including those who wished they were tracking higher in the presidential race -- denounced his comments about electing a Muslim president. They screamed it was anti-American! They bellowed it was against the Constitution! Here's the thing: They're right ... and so is he. But people don't want to admit those uncomfortable truths out loud. One Dem posted online: "Blaming all Muslims for the terrorists is like blaming all musicians for Ted Nugent." I know many Muslims who are good people and abhor the terrorist extremists, just like I know a lot of white people who abhor Timothy McVeigh. I'm sure most Muslims are peaceful and wouldn't harm a fly. But the reality is, after the 9/11 attacks, Khobar Towers, hijackings, shoe bomber, embassy bombings, suicide bombers, atrocities against women and children in Afghanistan, and so much more, the thought of a Muslim as president scares people -- even Dems who are too afraid to admit it. The problem is, you can't say that stuff out loud. Or can you? This is what Bill Maher said about the kid with a clock that looked like a bomb.  When you have staunch Democrats saying these things, it brings Carson's comments into perspective, whether you want to agree with him or not. This form of xenophobia worked for Trump, and it will appeal to a large swath of voters, even those who won't admit it. America wants a strong leader who will speak out against terrorism instead of appeasing those who would support such atrocities. Plus, as one African-American Democrat told me, a large number -- perhaps a majority - of African-American voters have very conservative values. Problem is, before Obama, there has never even been a viable African-American candidate for president. Now we have two in the last eight years. That is something astounding and amazing. And it means anything can happen.

Dr. Ken Jeong.
Yep, really a doctor.
But it won't make Carson president. Saying he should be president because of his brilliance as a physician, is like saying this guy, Ken Jeong, would make a great running mate. Funny as hell, yes, but not with running my country. Carson is bringing in Big Money right now, which means he has breathing room to get out his message and build his base. It means support will build, including from those sides who are tired of politicians only getting the political jobs. This means he survives to the Final Four. But the smaller the field gets, people will decide they'd rather he fix brains instead of all that ails our country.

5. Jeb Bush. He's toward the top because everyone keeps saying he is. They keep saying he's truly a moderate. I believe he is. But he's just so damn boring right now. Dude's got a lot of money, and he'll stick around a long time because of it. I like the idea of someone with moderate ideas who knows how to compromise, but others keep attacking him for that. Some are saying they'd rather have a Ted Cruz over a Jeb Bush. Those people are idiots. Still, Bush better step it up. He looked weak when he demanded Trump apologize to his wife, and he didn't. He's polling at 8 percent, according to this article in the Investor Business Daily.  That means Big Money will come in at least until Iowa. Definitely a Top Six. Probably a Top Five. Most likely a Top Four after Trump drops, but he's got to do better.

Mmm ... Pasta.
6. Pasta: Technically hasn’t officially announced its candidacy, but still jumped in the polls after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out, with the exception of one guy in Iowa who asked, “Wait, is that that fancy all-you-can-eat pasta from that highfalutin Olive Garden place they just opened up over in Junction City? Cause if it is, we're simple folk in Iowa and don't need no yuppie pasta around here.”


John Kasich
7. John Kasich. This guy excites a lot of people because of four letters: O-H-I-O. Nobody takes the White House without Ohio. He's the governor of Ohio. Elected and re-elected. Big Money People want him to stick around to be the VP nominee. He's made tough decisions. He's moderate. He came across as truly compassionate in explaining why there needs to be reform, but we can't forget those who need a hand up in society. And yet there are those who would shun him because he is everything Ted Cruz isn't. Is he excitable enough to beat The Hillary Machine, excite the masses or be heard through the clutter of all the other nominees? Remains to be seen. He's only polling at 4 percent, and Big Money People wished it would be higher for their VP strategy. Hovering in the Danger Drop Zone. His goal is make it to Iowa and impress from there.

Small pic of a big Chris Christie
8. Chris Christie. Republicans hate him because he embraced Obama after Hurricane Sandy. Democrats hate him because he's a Republican and forcefully and succinctly fought teacher's unions. Other people love him because he speaks his mind and is blunt. Other people hate him because he may or may not have shut down a bridge as a political attack. And those same people hate him because he was smart enough to give a press conference immediately that took the heat off him. He's a smart guy and a tough leader, but he's too bombastic, and not sticking out in an overcrowded field. And hovering at 2 percent, he'll be one of the next Big Names to drop. And others to drop will be ...

Ted Cruz' nose.
9. Ted Cruz. For the love of God, people, no. No, no, no, no, no. Staunch Constitutionalists (Conveniently enough, also the name of our Founding Father's garage rock band), love the guy. He says he'll strictly follow the Constitution in making all his decisions. It's people like him who caused the government shutdown, which not only affect thousands of government workers, affected millions of people in our own country. He'd play a game of chicken with Putin, and still not blink as nuclear bombs rain down across the world. There are those who think this is the direction the Republican Party should go. They argue Mitt Romney lost because he was too moderate, but Real Americans will vote for a Real Man who stands up for values like this. Those people aren't paying attention to Real Elections that have taken place in the Real World. He is not the savior of the Republican Party, and has caused more damage with his refusal to bend. And he has a funny looking nose.

Exterminate ...
10. The Dalek. With its motto, "Exterminate the unions, exterminate the universe," could they seriously be any worse than Cruz? And I'm pretty sure Dr. Who isn't an American citizen, but after he thwarts the Dalek, it would make for some interesting side stories leading up to the election.

11 through Whatever. George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum and probably a couple others I'm forgetting. Pataki is too liberal even for the moderate conservative base, Bobby is brilliant and another minority who appears to not want to be transparent and is just not registering with voters, Huckabee crossed the line of letting his religious beliefs steer his governing ideas, Rand Paul is better than Cruz but would hurt America by becoming too much of an isolationist, and Rick Santorum is, well, Rick Santorum.

Bottom line: Trump falls apart in Iowa and New Hampshire. Rubio, Bush, Fiorina and Carson make the Final Four.

P.S. -- Just so he doesn't bitch at me any further, in all fairness, it was Kenosha Unified School Board Member Kyle Flood who figured out the Biden-Warren thing. I think he's right on that one.

What do you think? Place your bets. Then when you're done, make sure you add your e-mail address on the right to follow the blog that way, or join through Google +. Share this blog on your Facebook page, and you will be entered into a contest that will randomly award nothing to anybody, aside from my wit and dashing good looks.