Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The monuments men…

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

…and women—to all those misguided individuals jumping on the careening bandwagon of indiscriminately tearing down monuments, I understand the sentiments. After all, people like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were traitors to this nation while defending an ugly, racist economy based on slavery. Slavery and human trafficking are despicable crimes that aren’t justified by the nefarious concept that some humans aren’t humans at all but possessions.

That said, I’d rather place monuments to Confederate traitors in museums where the tale of their terrible deeds is completely displayed for all to see. My reason is simple: I’m not sure people know about Lee’s or Jackson’s life stories and how they came to be traitors. Lee was a graduate of West Point, after all, but the U.S. military was racist right into the 20th century. Germany turned some famous concentration camps into historical sites so that Germans and the world would never forget the Nazi atrocities. We need to do the same with slavery and those who tried to tear the Union apart in support of it.

But let’s be reasonable about this. Historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and other Founding Fathers did a lot to jumpstart this nation. Their peccadilloes aren’t excusable, of course, but they were so much more than slave owners, and they weren’t traitors to the U.S. In fact, our country wouldn’t have existed without them!

What’s more worrisome are the sneaky politicians and power-grabbers jumping on the anti-monuments bandwagon and encouraging crowds to tear the monuments down. An egregious example is Bill DeBlasio’s desire to tear down the Columbus statue at NYC’s Columbus Circle, home to Lincoln Center. Guess what? He’s the mayor of NYC and—surprise, surprise!—he’s running for reelection. Just as Trump panders to his base of alt-right, KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi crazies, DeBlasio panders to his base too. And he stokes the fires of division by doing so.

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Identity politics…

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

If one thing can be singled out to be the cause of America’s problems right now, it’s “identity politics.” Consider this the antithesis of “melting pot,” or the idea expressed in the Constitution that “all men are created equal.” (Unfortunately, back in those days, the word “men” didn’t refer to blacks or women; today we’d be more politically correct and simply write “persons.”) “Identity politics” is more like adding the famous “…but some animals are more equal than others” from Orwell’s Animal Farm. “Melting pot” expresses togetherness or synthesis in the abstract; “identity politics” expresses just the opposite, and it’s often all too real, not abstract. People crying out to be heard, equating that to seeking and expressing their own identities, form tribes of similarly thinking people. These tribes can become violently fascistic because those who want to blend in and live in peace and good will with their fellow human beings far outnumber them.

The goal of pulling together has been morphed by some into the goal of tearing apart at all levels—national, state, and local—and even worldwide. Since the sixties,the U.S. mostly used to be the champion of the first goal, at least inside the country (our actions outside are often questionable). While my novel Survivors of the Chaos expressed my fear that these divisive attitudes could destroy the country, the cause of this destruction in the novel could now be called “identity politics.” The world will become Balkanized into homogeneous identity groups we might as well call tribes.

Radical fanatics are a dime-a-dozen—I saw them in a New Jersey diner on CNN, in Charlottesville, and in Barcelona—but there are clever, power-hungry, and warped people who manipulate the fanatics. One subgroup can be found in Breitbart’s current and ex-staff members, some of them still among the White House staff like Julia Hahn, Stephen Miller, and Ben Shapiro. Another subgroup of fanatics is AntiFa; their credo of meeting KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi violence with more violence goes against the credos of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. And the violence can be found just in the words of fanatics too.

Fanaticism is a mental aberration. Sometimes the lines between it and simply having a political, sexual, or religious preference become blurred, especially when those preferences become so strong that those holding them want to attack anyone who doesn’t. It also feeds off superstition and ignorance. I’d prefer that people understand history by not toppling monuments, simply adding plaques explaining the pros and cons of that person’s life. Or placing them in museums like the Holocaust Museums where we can encourage people not to forget the sins of human history on this planet when human beings do violence to other human beings.

Fanaticism creates icons of history but does little to promote understanding of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Surrendering to fanaticism is often touted as free speech. BS. If everyone in the 1940s had surrendered to it, the Nazis would have won the Second World War.

Recall Rodney King’s famous words: “Can we all get along? Can we, can we get along?” Identity politics can become the fanatical way of saying, “No, we can’t.” But it’s self-destructive to say that. Let’s answer his questions in the positive. We’ll have a better world that way.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis during the Second World War. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s also available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….

 

White House cleaning?

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

It’s amazing that many were demanding that only Steve Bannon be fired. Julia Halin, Stephen Miller, Ben Shapiro, and other alt-right sympathizers (if not card-carrying members) on the White House staff should be fired along with Bannon, but his would be like Hitler firing his staff—Goebbels, Goering, Heydrich, Himmler, and others. Until we’re rid of the two guys at the top, Pence and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, order won’t be restored.

I don’t envy Kelly. He looked like he was in existential agony as he listened to his boss’ rants a week ago about equating the counter-protesters at Charlottesville with the thugs from the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other violent racists and bigots. Peacefully protesting the plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee? I’ll admit that some people went to Charlottesville without violence on their minds among those right-wing hordes, but the moment they heard chants of thate and saw confederate flags and swastikas, they should have walked away. Those words and iconic symbols of bigotry and hatred automatically implied violence would ensue.

The far-left is somewhat at fault. Antifa meets violence with violence, and even the ACLU enables it by calling this demonstration of hatred and bigotry violence free speech. Any permit given to these groups is a permit to do violence.

Are there any real differences between the car-attack on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas and the one in Charlottesville? Names for hate groups are arbitrary. You call them ISIS or neo-Nazis or whatever, but these are just names for rabid dogs that must be put down, not by more violence, but by enlightened leaders and smart laws.

The president and some members of his staff and cabinet are neither enlightened nor promotors of smart laws. They’re just the opposite. While the president can throw close staff members under the bus (five so far) to satisfy those demanding he fire them (he did it mostly to eliminate those who were stealing his thunder, of course), those actions don’t really clean up the White House. Catain Hook, the president, and his Mr. Smee, the VP, will still be there.

No, the only democratic solution possible is to cut off the two heads of the snake in 2018 and 2020. The first blow in 2018 will give control of the House and Senate back to responsible people. The second blow will eliminate a wannabe dictator and all his cronies who have been rendered impotent by a hostile congress.

The new president campaigned on draining the swamp in DC. Instead he and his cronies have poisoned the waters of the swamp even more by enabling and promoting bigotry, hate, and domestic terrorism. The electorate should take on the role of a political vacuum cleaner and sweep out this dirt that’s stinking up the White House and return it to the people.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. See the review and interview at Feathered Quill. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it).

And so it goes….

Creeping capitalism…

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Let’s get one thing straight: while I’m a progressive, I still believe we need to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism. We need to offer equal opportunity in this modern world, and we also need to recognize individual abilities and reward those with the new ideas. These are NOT antithetical goals and any political activist who tries to paint them that way immediately loses my respect. The world isn’t black and white, and it isn’t even just fifty shades of gray. It’s a technicolored world of great diversity that we should celebrate and make the most of in our daily lives. The key word here is balance maintained through logic and reason.

That said, let me justify the title of this article. Governor Cuomo’s newly announced partnership between the MTA and private enterprise is an example of “creeping capitalism.” (Did you think this article was about President Trump? Tsk, tsk.) Cuomo’s proposal: For $250k, a company can participate, and for $600k, it can “adopt” a subway station. Nowhere have I seen what the companies will get out of this participation (naming, plastering its ads on subway walls—how far will they go?), and I refuse to research it because the whole thing’s a bad idea. Knowing Mr. Cuomo, it will be yet another loss in the public’s battle against capitalistic intrusions into public services and spaces.

Some services just need to be government controlled and not in the hands of private enterprise to eliminate the often occurring abuses of corruption and price gouging. Private enterprise’s goal IS ALWAYS to make money; public services should only charge enough to cover their costs (which shouldn’t include bloated salaries for fat-cat administrators—do they think they’re more worthy than a NASA climatological scientist?). This is a fundamental and necessary bifurcation that is indeed black and white. Mixed systems do NOT work, and even private enterprise’s offering of essential services—natural gas and electricity, telephone, cable, ISPs, water and sewer are good examples—must be heavily controlled by governments if not actually owned by them.

NYC isn’t the only city and NY isn’t the only state where capitalism is increasingly intruding into the public service sector. Essential services were often run by local, county, state and natural governments to eliminate the abuses of private enterprise, but now these same entities are outsourcing to private enterprise to reduce costs because budget cuts make it attractive to shirk their civic responsibilities. This is a horrendous mistake because the human element is all too often ignored and the for-profit element is emphasized by these outsourcing firms. Privatization hurts their employees and takes the power away from the people by placing a barrier between essential services and the people they serve.

Conservatives often complain about the cost of government services. It’s always amusing for me to see well-dressed business people riding on public transportation and complaining about them. That’s hypocrisy in action. There’s no guarantee that costs to the user will be lower when the service is outsourced. And, if they aren’t, the private company will cut costs by minimizing workers’ salaries and benefits or skimp on maintenance. We see this in the airline industry, for example. This often leads to strikes, work stoppages, and inferior maintenance, a further burden for the user of the service.

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Monday Words of Wisdom: Special Edition…

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Domestic terrorism in Charlottesville is on my mind. Alt-right, neo-fascists, white supremacists—call them what you will, but the vehicular homicide committed in a narrow street in this beautiful college town is no different than what occurred in Nice or elsewhere as terrorists use vehicles as weapons to maim and murder.

The U.S. president doesn’t have the moral spine to call it what it is and denounce these groups because he panders to those criminal elements in our society. He needed these fanatics to vote for him and encourages them at every turn, and still does, from his birther nonsense to his racist and anti-immigrant policies His son-in-law claims to be an orthodox Jew—how can he support a father-in-law who won’t speak out against torchbearers marching through the UVA campus, the university created by Jefferson, chanting anti-Semitic, racist, and Nazi slogans like “blood and soil”?

His own party’s members have stated the obvious and said what a sitting president who really cares about the country should have said. Ted Cruz, Orrin Hatch, John McCain, and Marco Rubio are GOP leaders who said the right thing. Terry McCauliffe, governor of Virginia, though, probably made the best statement against far-right instigated domestic terrorism, but he echoed the sentiments of these GOP leaders made before and after the incidents.

On a stage where Trump couldn’t change his B&B ways (that’s “bully and braggard”), his statement was an anemic prattle about violence from all sides without mentioning which far-right wingnuts started the violence or the domestic terrorism perpetrated by one particular fanatic by smashing through a crowd, sending people flying and one woman to her death. And he ignored the media’s questions about whether he supported those hate groups, an attitude perhaps implying that he does—or does he hate the media so much that he can’t bring himself to answer such questions. At a time of crisis when a president should denounce these fanatics and try to bring the country together as MaCauliffe, the mayor of Charlottesville, and others tried to do, Trump completely failed.

We have had hatred and bigotry in America ever since the birth of this nation and before, but never have we had a president who enables it and panders to those who spew their vitriolic slogans. No, he more than panders to it: Bannon, Miller, and others in the White House are part of the government now—a legion of fanatics on the president’s staff! If Narcissus le Grand really wanted to show he doesn’t condone this hate, racism, bigotry, and violence, he would fire every one of them! For one who’s so good at firing, why doesn’t he kick the fanatics out of his White House staff? But he won’t. They all form part of his political base.

Il Duce dares to compare himself favorably to Lincoln. The GOP has shunned Lincoln for a long time, but this president is the worst of them all. The great presidents of American history wouldn’t condone any of these fanatics’ actions. And they would be wondering how insane the American electorate has become to have put this B&B president with dictatorial ambitions in charge of our lives.

Of course, the majority of Americans didn’t vote for the nativist, divisionist, and despotic Trump who calls himself a populist. Does 33% support, many with sympathies for the alt-right as a CNN interview with Trump supporters in Clifton, NJ’s Tick Tock Diner showed, deserve to be called populism?

Hitler was a “populist.” German industrialists loved him, anti-Semites loved him, and almost all Germans at the time supported him because he was going to make Germany great again. It’s no wonder that Germany no longer tolerates the kind of hate speech heard in Charlottesville. “Seig heil” can land you in jail there! Perhaps we should learn from their mistakes; better still, we should learn from their cures.

The far-right Nazi-style rhetoric and violence in Charlottesville and elsewhere in the U.S. wouldn’t be allowed in Germany today. Bannon, Miller, and the organizers of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally would probably all be in jail. This isn’t a question of free speech. It’s a national need to put neo-fascists inciting people to commit murder in jail. How could we have sunk so low to allow these people to get away with this? Perhaps we should start calling our country “Amerika” and play the “Ride of the Valkyries” instead of the national anthem?

***

And so it goes….

The curse of the opposition…

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

The GOP had eight years of opposition to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare. They dominate Congress and the presidency but have completely failed to garner sufficient votes for a change! What’s the problem?  The roots of it can be found in those years of opposition. They were so concentrated on opposing everything Obama and the Dems proposed that they forgot how to govern…if the current GOP pols ever knew! (Three do remember: Senators Collins, McCain, and Murkowski.)

Dems might have the same problem in four years or eight. A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows that a majority of Americans don’t believe the Dems have any real agenda, though—they only oppose Trump and the GOP. If true, they’re traveling down the same cul de sac the GOP did.

The curse of the opposition isn’t a new phenomenon. Years ago communists came to power in Italy. They were inept and didn’t know what to do with the power because they’d been in the opposition since World War Two and before. Being in the opposition too long often leads to complacency and ineptitude. It might also happen to Labour in Britain eventually. All the “comrades” in America should take note—be careful what you wish for. Lenin might have had good intentions—Marxists often do. If they’re not deposed like the prime minister of Iran or the president of Chile (both victims of the CIA), they can fumble the football of power and crash. And, worse for the citizens, the “reactionary forces” might be worse (Stalin in Russia, the Shah in Iran, and Pinochet in Chile).

An organized opposition can be a good thing if alternate agendas are proposed. That’s the whole meaning of democracy. But opposition parties get carried away and become myopic, and the media often makes it seem worse than it is. Conservatives and moderates in the GOP both have their agendas; they just couldn’t (and can’t!) reconcile them. The GOP is really at least two parties, not one. The same goes for the Dems.

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The prophet of greed…

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

It’s not surprising that President Trump’s favorite book is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead or that Rex Tillerson’s is Atlas Shrugged. People call Trump and his cronies populists. I call them narcissistic sociopaths. Their admiration of Ms. Rand, the prophet of greed, is all the proof anyone should need. According to the NY Times, many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs—all one-percenters, of course—even consider her a saint. The fallen Uber CEO is probably a disciple too.

This Libertarian heroine (Paul pere et fils are super-fans—remember the latter’s belief is that the Senate healthcare bill doesn’t go far enough on waging war against the poor and middle classes) preaches the antithesis of social justice. Man’s goal (and the gods’ goal for human beings?) should be a selfish search for his own wealth and happiness, even at the cost of others’. Concern for others isn’t important; greedy self-interest is.

What’s ironic is those who extol her philosophical ramblings actually consider them great literature. The best I can say about the books already mentioned is that they are boring and rambling. English wasn’t Rand’s first language, but that’s not the problem. She simply can’t write. The usual skills associated with plot and character development, creating interesting settings, and writing interesting dialogue are completely missing. The second book even contains a seventy-page speech from the main character—now that’s real snappy dialogue, folks!

Rand fails as a philosopher too. She offers no valid philosophical bonafides and solves no problems of the human condition, mental or physical. Greedy self-interest isn’t a philosophy. It’s an immoral cul de sac. She just doesn’t get it. Neither do her followers.

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Languages…

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

When you get to be my age—old but young-at-heart—you start wondering if you had to do it all over again, what different choices would you make. Life is about choices, of course—choices covering an entire spectrum, from small to big. You might have some regrets too. That’s only human.

I don’t regret the choices I’ve made in my personal life. Given the same circumstances, I’d make the same ones. I wouldn’t have minded if some of them had turned out differently—I’d like to decrease the bad experiences and amplify the good ones—but I generally wouldn’t change the choices I made that led to these experiences.

I started publishing my fiction 10+ years ago (the first edition of my second novel, Full Medical, was published in 2006). At an early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m a practical person, though, so I made the choice to become a scientist, figuring that being a successful writer was too much like winning the lottery. It is, no matter what some authors or writing gurus say. Don’t give up on your day-job just yet. I think Dean Koontz’s wife gave him a year or so to achieve success. That’s unheard of nowadays, unless you win the lottery like Hugh Howey, J. K. Rowling, or Mark Weir. Writing good fiction is a necessary condition; there are no sufficient ones.

Science might not seem like a career that forms a basis for writing success (except maybe for sci-fi—many successful sci-fi writers are ex-scientists). One can wonder what careers are best for that. A love of languages has always accompanied my love for writing. I have a modest ability with languages. Given other circumstances, I might have become a linguist. That seems to be a fulfilling career for putting food on the table while you write stories and wait for some modicum of success. Probably not as lucrative as hard science and technology, though, which everyone calls STEM nowadays. While a journalism degree is probably better than an MFA (the former produces more understanding of and exposure to the human condition), the study of languages is undeniably related to what a writer does all the time: putting ideas into words and choosing the right words and logic to do so.

Of course, any writing career does this, even writing verses for Hallmark. But the study of languages goes far beyond writing skills. Understanding the linguistic history and structure of languages, especially one as dynamic as English, offers the future and present writer an incredible base for the logical choices s/he must make in her or his writing.

I don’t own many print books now. Although I have enough to keep bookshelves sagging, I generally find ebooks more practical—they’re easy to read, very accessible, and don’t take up any physical space beyond my Kindle. But there’s one print book on my reference shelf that I greatly value, David Crystal’s The Stories of English. Even if you ignore current dialects and regional variations, English is a complicated amalgam of many bits and pieces that has seen a dynamic and rapid development. The Spanish reader can still read Cervantes; we struggle with Shakespeare. And these men were almost contemporaries (Shakespeare died one day after Cervantes).

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What’s going on in Venezuela?

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

For decades Venezuela rode the wave of oil profits, suffered through incompetent governments and dictatorships, and betrayed the vision of Bolivar. Under Chavez and his cronies, the ideology changed but the sins did not. Sr. Chavez excited all the wannabe Lenins in the U.S. and Europe, but what they got was a mini-Stalin, mini in the sense that Venezuela is a smaller country than the Soviet Union, so Chavez couldn’t torture and kill as many people! Now Mr. Maduro is simply an overripe plantain (what “maduro” usually means in Latin America), ready for the garbage heap of history, but he still continues his predecessor’s oppression without any pretense of ideology.  Moreover, as Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela have shown, communism has become a debunked ideology that offers no real solution for the poor and oppressed. Those who swallow this ideological gruel end up exchanging one set of exploiters for another.

Unfortunately many naïve people confuse communism and its “dictatorship of the proletariat” with social democracy. Note the juxtaposition of words: dictatorship v. democracy. Iberian and Latin American governments often descend into oppressive dictatorships led by caudillos. Venezuela is only one in a long lineup of countries following the model of Franco’s Spain. I restrict my historical focus to the 20th and 21st centuries—Portugal, Spain, and their colonies in the New World certainly have a long history of oppression. And sometimes Europe and the U.S. have encouraged that (the generals’ “Dirty War” in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, even Castro in Cuba at first—he was on the Ed Sullivan Show!—and so forth).

The current low oil prices mean Venezuela has no real significant income beyond mom & pop enterprises that barely scrape by. Before the fall of prices, it could feed the greed and graft of its leaders with enough left over to satisfy the rest of the population. The graft and greed of the leadership still continues, but now many are without jobs and starving.

This is easily explainable. Oppressive governments are myopic. The focus is on satisfying the greed of an oligarchy, be they fascists or communists (in practice, they’re all the same) (any semblance to what’s happening in the U.S. capital is scary). There are no plans for improving the plight of the common citizen. When the economy fails, as it invariably does, the common citizen suffers while the leadership becomes even more oppressive as they try to hold onto power. Unrest becomes rampant. Sometimes the phoenix that rises out of the ashes is just another oppressive government. This was the case for Russia; it’s also often the case for Latin American countries. It was the case in Cuba. It is the case in Venezuela.

Caudillismo is a disease. Venezuela is suffering from it and is in its death throes. Other South American countries also suffer from it, like Brazil.  It’s sad. I love these people, their respect for family, and their enjoyment of life to the fullest. They deserve better. I don’t know if there’s any hope for that.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). Happy reading!

And so it goes…

Op-eds…

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

What’s this? An op-ed about op-eds? In general, my posts on Tuesdays are op-eds. They’re short articles expressing my opinions about current events and their implications in our lives. My inspiration was a pithy little book by Kurt Vonnegut titled A Man without a Country containing biting and entertaining sarcasm, its articles about some absurdities in our American lives.

Op-eds tend to rub people the wrong way if they don’t keep an open mind. Even if the writer presents views the reader doesn’t agree with, though, s/he can often learn something by reading them. At the very least, the disagreeing reader will reinforce her or his own opinions.

When I constructed this website (OK, web gurus at Monkey C Media constructed it—I can program in FORTRAN and C++, but not HTML—but I supervised and was in charge of content). The nice lady who runs Monkey C Media, Jeniffer Thompson, insisted I needed a blog—Google’s bots must be fed content to keep them happy. I’m not sure that’s still true, but, at the time, her arguments made sense. But what could I write?

Even back then (10+ years ago), there were book blogs galore—sites containing posts about books, writing, and the publishing business. I wanted something different. Vonnegut’s little book came to mind.

So, here I am still writing articles that comment about current events where I feel my opinions need to be read, mostly because I’m an independent and free thinker (most authors are) who says things that might not be considered politically correct. You think Saudi Arabia is a friend of the West—think again! Do you think progressivism or conservatism have no place in political discourse?—think again, because they both do. Do you think social democrats are commies?—think again! Do you think Wall Street bankers and “financial gurus” should be allowed to set the rules for controlling financial institutions?—think again!

I know my opinions aren’t liked by some people. Some readers read my op-ed articles and say, “I’ll never buy one of that SOB’s books!” While the reader is entitled to feel that way—after all, my books also have themes that make people uncomfortable interwoven through the plots—but readers should learn to look for the story in the author’s writing. Otherwise, they might miss some very good ones.

Let me list some authors whose opinions I find disagreeable: James Hogan, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, and Orson Scott Card. You might not have read any of their books, but they’ve all written some great, entertaining stories. If you take the attitude that you won’t read an author because s/he has opinions contrary to yours, you’ll be missing some great stories.

To take it out of the context of America’s genre fiction, what would the free world have missed if Garcia Marquez hadn’t been read because a shortsighted American government wouldn’t allow him to enter this country because he was a Marxist? The creator of magical realism has wonderful stories. Sure there are interwoven themes, notably criticism of power-hungry and despotic caudillos and regimes of Latin America, many of their corrupt governments supported by the U.S., from Bautista (Cuba) to Pinochet (Chile) and beyond.

Storytelling ability trumps an author’s personal views (I hate to use the verb “trump” now, but it works here). I don’t put myself in the class of the writing superstars I’ve named above. Far from it. But if you don’t read my stories because of my op-ed articles, I feel sorry for you. And you should read them, and others. They might contain something that leaves you saying, “Gee, I never thought about that in that way!” And, if you want a plain-vanilla book blog, you’ll find plenty online. Mine is unique.

God bless op-ed!

***

Rembrandt’s Angel. To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. Published by Penmore Press, this novel is available in ebook format at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and in print through Amazon, B&N, or your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask them to order it). Great summer reading!

And so it goes…