Monday, December 24, 2018

2019? More Of The Same, Maybe Worse

This is the week many writers make predictions for next year. There was a time when I wanted to know what would happen tomorrow, next week, next year, but not anymore. It’s one day at a time for me now. Worrying about the future increased my anxiety so much that it interfered with daily functioning. The bumper sticker proclamation: “One Day At A Time” is good advice. The Creator divided our existence into day and night and designed us to require sleep every evening, then instructed: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” He taught us to pray by saying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and not, “Make everything okay next year.”

If I continue sucking oxygen throughout 2019 I think we can expect times of joy and sorrow, sunny days and rainy days, restful nights, and sleepless nights. That’s how life has been for me so far and it will likely continue. If I knew of tragedies to come I would start dreading them now and that would diminish my enjoyment of today.

In 2018 there was plenty of consternation. Division between Donald Trump’s “deplorable” base and virtually everyone else in America deepened considerably. Would anyone be surprised if that continued? The stock market plummeted through December. Will it go lower still? There are lots of predictions but no one knows, really. How many times over the past two years did our mainstream media tell us that something President Trump said, did, tweeted, was suspected of, or was accused of was the last straw — that he’d really sunk himself this time and the American people would not tolerate him any further? Every week at least, every day at times, even several times a day. Should we expect that to continue? I don’t know why it wouldn’t.

There are over twenty Democrats and a few Republicans playing coy about running against President Trump in 2020. So far, only one Democrat has unequivocally announced his candidacy and his name is Castro. All will be guests on the Sunday morning talk shows and cable channels throughout 2019. All will express how horrified and appalled they are with Trump and offer themselves as alternatives. Expect Republicans like soon-to-be-former Ohio Governor John — my-father-was-a-mailman — Kasich, and soon-to-be-former Senator and aptly-named Jeff Flake, to continually repeat that they are not Donald Trump and do not resemble him in the least.

Will anyone be surprised if all the Democrats repeatedly call Trump a racist, xenophobic, transphobic, sexist liar? I won’t. Although nearly all criticized every president who ever sent the US soldiers into a Middle Eastern country, will they criticize Trump for pulling them out? That’s already started. How many will promise to abolish ICE? Most? Some have already, but will more make the pledge? When they’re subsequently asked if they support open borders, will they deny it? Of course, but only half of America will believe them. They’ll all promise to deport illegal alien criminals, but will any of them come out against sanctuary cities and states that harbor them? I doubt it.

Former Portland, Maine Bishop Malone
Catholics were shocked again and again through 2018 at the extent of corruption among US bishops and cardinals accused of covering up and/or perpetrating sexual abuse of altar boys and seminarians. Will there be more such reports in 2019? It’s very likely, considering that over a dozen state attorneys general are investigating hundreds of dioceses around the country. That’s in addition to federal RICO investigations going on nearly everywhere. FBI agents have been asking questions at my Portland, Maine diocese. Have they been to yours too? Just last week Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan found sexual abuse allegations against five hundred more Catholic clergy than what the Chicago Diocese had reported.
Cupich and McCarrick
Chicago Cardinal Archbishop Blase Cupich was appointed to the job upon recommendation by disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick according to testimony last summer by Italian Archbishop Vigano. “Regarding Cupich,” Vigano wrote, “one cannot fail to note his ostentatious arrogance, and the insolence with which he denies the evidence that is now obvious to all: that 80% of the abuses found were committed against young adults by homosexuals who were in a relationship of authority over their victims.” Following that bombshell, Pope Francis appointed Cupich to run the worldwide meeting of bishops in Rome in February to investigate clerical sex abuse! That should be interesting. Archbishop Vigano has called for Pope Francis to resign. Will he? No one knows.

As if all that weren’t bad enough, Patriots fans have to watch legendary quarterback Tom Brady show his age while realizing there’s no one on the bench capable of filling his shoes. Will 2019 see the Patriot dynasty coming to an end? The horror! I don't want to think about it.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Left & Right December 19, 2018

We begin with a question from the producer about Trump's wall. I favor shutting down government if it's not funded. Gino doesn't.

I read a June 2016 tweet from former Obama campaign manager and advisor David Plouffe which said: "It is not enough to simply beat Trump. He must be destroyed thoroughly. His kind must not rise again."

I content that this tweet sums up all the shenanigans by the Obama Administration that transpired during the 2016 campaign and continuing to this day by the Deep State: The Democrat campaign to destroy Donald Trump. We then discuss the dodgy dossier compiled by the Hillary campaign and used by the FBI under Obama. It gets contentious. Gino talks over me almost constantly, especially when I'm making points painful to the left.

Gino points out how much turnover there has been in the Trump Administration vs Obama and Bush in their first two years and lists those who have resigned or been fired. He claims Trump isn't draining the swamp so much as he is the swamp.

I bring up unrest in Europe, especially France, but also the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands -- that it started because of French President Macron's measures purported to mitigate climate change according to the Paris Accords, but the spread to encompass other issues. I contend that the EU is threatened because of widespread immigration, legal and illegal, that is unpopular with ordinary Europeans but popular with elites. I point out similarities with issues in America in light of the border wall debate here.

Gino claims I want a more authoritarian country like Russia, like Turkey. I deny that because I'm pointing out the civil unrest in Europe over immigration, etc. that I favor dictatorship. He brings it up again. I deny it again.

We discuss the murder of Khashoggi in Turkey. I point out his association with the Muslim Brotherhood as a reason he was killed and we should continue our alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran, the bigger threat. Gino defends Iran, while I point out its terrorist activities across the region in response to Gino's question.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Smelling Christmas

More than a dozen Christmas carolers were gathered in the lobby of the Cumberland County Jail as I was leaving last week after conducting a Bible study. No one may go beyond the lobby without first passing through a metal detector and the Reverend Jeff McIlwain, the jail’s chaplain, was shepherding them through. All appeared to be about my age and were emptying their pockets of keys, coins, cell phones, and taking off belts with metal buckles. All were in good spirits.

Christmas carolers used to be a common this time of year and I have fond memories of joining with them and singing around my neighborhood every year. I don’t remember who organized it but we had little booklets with lyrics and notes for all the traditional, faith-based carols like “The First Noel”; “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and many others. We’d stand in the snow outside each house and sing two or three before moving on to the next house where owners would appear in the window, smiling. We did the same thing in Lovell when the local UCC Church organized it. Houses are much scattered in Lovell and we were carted around on a hay-filled trailer pulled along slowly by a pickup truck.

I would be a good singer if it weren’t for my voice, and I mercifully allowed others to drown me out as we trekked around the neighborhood. It put me in the Christmas spirit and I was reminded at the jail how much I missed it. These days, however, it's mostly smells that bring Christmas memories back to me and balsam is one of them. My wife has been snipping branches from fir trees near our home, after which our grandchildren have been cutting the needles off with scissors and sewing them into little pillows. 

The smell of oil-based paint also reminds me of Christmas. That is probably unique to me but possibly shared by my surviving siblings because one year my mother and father decided to put the Christmas tree in our basement. Their idea was to watch us come down the stairs and look at our faces when we first saw our presents under the tree. That way they wouldn’t have to get up before dawn the way we kids always did. They put the basement off limits to all eight of us on Christmas morning until we had gone to Christmas mass and eaten breakfast. For weeks before the big day, my father spruced it up down there by painting the concrete walls and floor. The smell of oil-based paint is getting about as scarce as Christmas caroling these days, but when I occasionally get a whiff of it that Christmas memory still comes flooding back.

The smell of melting plastic does the same thing and here’s why: My mother disappointed us all one year when she brought home a box containing a reusable Christmas tree. It wasn’t even green; it was silvery. It had a central pole into which holes had been drilled and it was propped up on a stand. Into the holes, we inserted “branches” of graduated lengths — long ones around the bottom and progressively shorter ones going around up to the top. Branches were painted silver and adorned with tinsel. Beneath the tree and shining upward was an electric light focused through a rotating, four-colored wheel so the tree would change from red to green to blue to I-forget-what-color. After someone inserted a bulb with a higher wattage, the rotating plastic lenses slowly melted, hence the smell.

I never thought it would happen but I gradually came to like that tree. I even preferred it to the real, balsam-fir trees most people had. On my paper route, I’d see traditional Christmas trees in every picture window of every house on Boisvert and Euclid Roads in our town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Returning home in the dark of late afternoon in time for supper, I admired the changing colors on the silver-tinseled branches of that fake tree in our picture window. And, it was easier to take down after New Year’s Day when everyone in the neighborhood took down their trees.

Many dragged their old trees down to the sand pit at the end of Euclid Road where we kids often played. During winters when there wasn’t enough snow on the nearby sledding hill we sometimes played hide-and-seek down there. My favorite hiding place was under a pile of those dried-up and discarded Christmas trees. No one could ever find me as I lay there enjoying the sweet fragrance of dried balsam. The needles smell different when they’re dry and that distinct smell — still pleasant — continues to remind me of good times playing with friends in that old sand pit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Buried With Bush

“Have they buried him yet?” I kept asking last week. Observances of former President George H.W. Bush’s death seemed to go on forever. For a week or more, media were completely dominated by commemorations of his passing. Services held in Maine, Texas, Washington, DC, and elsewhere were extensively covered. Very few stories have that much staying power in America’s public consciousness anymore, so why was it so hard to finally put old George to rest and move on?

It was a combination of factors, I think. He was the last president from the World War II generation, or “The Greatest Generation,” as NBC’s Tom Brokaw called it. When former senator, presidential candidate, and fellow WWII vet Bob Dole paid his respects to Bush, he had to be assisted to stand from his wheelchair in order to salute. Very few of that generation remain with us and soon they will all be gone. Not only will they be put to rest, but so, we fear, will the values by which they lived.

To them, family, church, and country mattered most. Not everyone from that era lived by those values but no one disputed them as ideals. Today there is no general agreement on any of them. Bush was married for more than seventy years. That he loved his wife and was loved back by her no one doubted. Except when he lay in state at the Capitol, most remembrances were held in churches where his extended family — and it is extensive — participated. The final theme dominant in the wall-to-wall coverage was his service to country beginning in WWII and continuing through his presidency.

Five current and former presidents were seated in the front row at Bush’s service in Washington. Of those, all but Trump remain in their original marriages, but lies and coverups of marital infidelities led to the impeachment of President Clinton — and may for President Trump as well. Last week’s release of data from the Mueller investigation prompted soon-to-be US House committee chairmen to salivate over the prospect of impeaching Trump for alleged campaign finance violations in the form of payoffs to two professed mistresses. It’s likely that many presidents have been unfaithful and some biographers have documented their infidelities. The same is true of kings, queens, and other past leaders, but publication was usually delayed until after they died. Not anymore.

Most dictionaries still define family as: “a group consisting of parents and children living in the same household,” but that description is now disputed by many calling themselves “progressives.” They see traditional family as a source of oppression, a haven for “the patriarchy.” Homosexual and transgender activists tend to agree and work to broaden the definition to include almost any grouping of human beings wishing to address themselves as such. If we haven’t reached that point already, most children will soon be born into a collection of people not comprised of a mother, a father, and children.

Churches are in steep decline across America as well with some predicting that soon the majority of us will be “unchurched.” That’s already true in many “progressive” regions. Religions we used to consider “mainstream” have sanctioned marriage between two men or two women. After over two thousand years, even the Roman Catholic Church is making noises in that direction since the election of Pope Francis in 2013. A preliminary statement emerging from a Synod of Bishops on the family in 2014 called “Relatio post disceptationem” hinted at a relaxing of Catholic teachings on homosexuality and divorce. Prominent bishops attending the synod, however, condemned that document and claimed that most bishops wished to preserve traditional teachings. In the four years since divisions within the Catholic Church have only deepened.

As for devotion to country, many Americans calling themselves “progressives” dispute the very concept of the nation-state, of national sovereignty, and of national borders. They support abolishing ICE, which stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They marched in Washington, DC recently chanting “No borders! No wall! No USA at all.” Democrat leaders deny they support open borders while consistently blocking serious efforts to control illegal immigration or funding for a wall on our southern border.

Not only is there widening disagreement about family, church, and country, it seems we cannot even agree on who is a man or who is a woman. More and more “progressive” psychologists, clerics, and politicians are insisting that homosexuals are born that way but men and women are not. People who consider such notions crazy place themselves in danger if they voice their opinions. They could lose their jobs, be forced to undergo “sensitivity training” which some would call brainwashing, and they could be charged with a “hate crime.”

Buried along with George H.W. Bush, we fear, were the values of the generation that produced him. What comes next, no one knows.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Left & Right December 5, 2018

Newspaper publisher Mark Guerringue sits in the left chair for this episode. We comment on the abruptly-changing news cycle, how stories are so compelling for a day and then fade to nothing the next day.

We discuss the Khashoggi murder and Trump's expressed doubt that it was ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince in spite of his own CIA's declaration that it was. My position is that Trump wants to preserve his alliance with the Saudis against Iran and choosed to overlook the murder. Mark believes the US must stand against what the Saudis did more forcefully.

We discuss midterm election results locally -- in Maine and New Hampshire. Dems swept out Republicans in both states. We both decry the new "ranked choice" voting system in Maine which took a victory away from Republican congressman Bruce Poloquin.

We look at recently-published UN and NOAA scare reports on global warming. Mark is a true believer in human-caused climate change and I'm not. We go at it for a while.

I bring up a Census report on immigrants both legal and illegal on welfare -- two out of three are on it and stay on it indefinitely. I contrast that with immigration prior to the 1965 "reform" when no immigrants could access welfare and were the responsibility of their sponsors.

We close with reflections on George H.W. Bush. Mark relates a personal anecdote about contact with him during the 1980 campaign.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018


Bug Light
Not too long ago I promised myself I would avoid photographing lighthouses because everyone does that. Galleries in Portland, Maine’s Old Port district are loaded with paintings and photographs of lighthouses. When cruise ships tie up in Portland Harbor, local artisans set up their tables along Commercial Street selling all sorts of things, but what do you see the most of? Lighthouses. There are ceramic lighthouses, trivets with lighthouses, coffee cups with lighthouses, as well as paintings and photographs of lighthouses. Cruise ship passengers from around the world walk by and scoop them up.

Bug Light
Now, however, I have dozens of lighthouse photos, hundreds maybe. Our South Portland, Maine house is five minutes from two of them and ten minutes from two more. Because I always have a camera with me and all four lighthouses are situated in places I visit often — beautiful public parks or on state-owned land by the sea — I’ve become captivated by the lighthouse mystique. Maybe it’s their simple, functional design. Maybe it’s because they’re safety beacons situated in places of both great natural beauty and also great danger. Whatever it is, I’ll likely be taking hundreds more images of them before I’m dead.

Bug Light
The Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, otherwise known as “Bug Light,” is five minutes away. Every morning before breakfast I jog past the lighthouse in Bug Light Park and my camera is always in my car parked two hundred feet from it. Sometimes the rising sun shines so beautifully upon it that I cannot resist snapping a picture, or two, or three. I can put the Portland skyline in the background or use the islands in Casco Bay as backdrops, including the solid-granite, Civil-War-era Fort Gorges that still sits across the shipping lane a few hundred yards offshore.

Spring Point Light
My wife and I will often go for a stroll around Bug Light Park after dinner in spring, summer, and fall. As all photographers know, the best shooting light is just after sunrise or just before sunset — at which time we sometimes see stunning cloud formations behind Bug Light. The sun sets over the City of Portland across the harbor and I’ve taken dozens of shots with the Portland skyline in the background. The late film director Jonathan Demme called it “the golden hour."

Portland Head Light
Bug Light is unique among lighthouses in that its design was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates which was built next to the Athenian Acropolis in 335 BC. It’s a classic design often copied around the world, especially during America’s Greek Revival period in the mid-19th century when the lighthouse was built. It’s the smallest of all Maine lighthouses, and classically beautiful.

Portland Head Light
Within sight of Bug Light, and also a five-minute drive away, is Spring Point Ledge Light on the SMCC campus (Southern Maine Community College). I often go there first to watch the sunrise. From Spring Point Light one can see both Bug Light and Portland Head Light at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. On mornings with particularly good light, I’ll visit all three before going home for breakfast. At that early hour, I have them all to myself.

Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light was commissioned by the US Government and completed in 1791 while George Washington was president, and after the federal government took over control of all US lighthouses. The United States at that time stretched only from Maine (part of Massachusetts then) to Georgia and almost the entire population lived between the Appalachians and the Atlantic.

Ram Island Light
From Portland Head Light one can see Ram Island Ledge Light across the shipping channel. It was completed in 1905 after several shipwrecks on that dangerous ledge, but then all lighthouses were constructed following maritime mishaps. Also visible from Portland Head Light are two more lighthouses to the south at a location appropriately called “Two Lights” in Cape Elizabeth. Those were first built in 1828. While I’ve taken no pictures of “Two Lights,” I have many of the rocky shore at the nearby “Two Lights State Park” which I try to visit every week.

Spring Point Light
Portland Head Light is perhaps the most photographed lighthouse in America according to Smithsonian Magazine. According to, it’s one of the top ten most iconic lighthouses in the entire world. That means that my photos have lots of competition, but I have the advantage of close proximity during every season of the year. Being semi-retired, I also have the time.
Portland Head Light
Four lighthouse pictures hang in our South Portland house and two hang in Lovell, so far. There may be more. One winter lighthouse shot hangs in a local hospital and I wouldn’t be surprised if they should pick a few more when their budget allows.