Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

As is usual for me, this is a day of rest, relaxation, good food and football. I wish you the same.

Meanwhile, I have a column in the Boston Herald today. It contains some advice concerning how to keep your celebration restful, relaxing, tasty and... whatever adjective applies to football in your case. I hope you enjoy it.


Thanks for stopping by. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Soon, with more better stuffing.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is supposed to be a holiday wherein we honor our veterans. I’m going to name a few that matter to me. Maybe you’ll read the names, as well as the bits of information I give, and be spurred to give your own version of thanks to those in your life who deserve similar recognition.

I’ll start with a couple of veterans who are no longer alive.

Tom Sullivan was my father. He served in the Navy, during the Korean conflict, aboard the USS Mindoro, an aircraft carrier. He was an enlisted man who didn’t see action in combat areas, so far as I know, but he was damned proud of his service and he kept a framed copy of his honorable discharge hanging on a wall for the rest of his life. He earned a couple of medals and received a partial disability, for which he got a check from his government every month. It wasn’t much monetarily, but it was a reminder that he had lost something for his country - and that the loss was at least remembered and appreciated.

Later, I had a stepfather. He was an Army veteran of World War II. Bill MacDonald served in Italy and suffered greatly. He had a partial hearing loss from the big guns. His toes were frozen and frostbitten, from weeks in a cold and muddy encampment, while his unit tried to capture a German-held hill. He took shrapnel that left permanent scars. Awarded a purple heart and a bronze star, he was sent home with what was then known as “battle fatigue” – now renamed “post-traumatic stress syndrome” - and he thought it was just a polite term for cowardice, God bless him. Despite his unquestionable bravery, he believed people might view him as having shirked his duty in some way. He carried that psychological burden with him for years. What a damnable shame.

Others who have gone to their rest include: Bill Purin, my father-in-law, a Coast Guard vet with a great sense of humor who raised - along with his wife, Eleanor - four of the nicest and most intelligent people I know; and Buck Pennington, an Air Force master sergeant from New Mexico, who is still dearly missed around these parts for his always-cogent (and kind) commentary.

Remembering those who have passed is important, but maybe the best to be done on a day such as this is to honor those still with us. These people are dear to me and I want them to know I love them and appreciate their sacrifices on my behalf.

I have two uncles who did peacetime duty - Jim in the Air Force and Rick in the Army. My sister-in-law, Luann Sweeney, and her husband, Charlie, who was… excuse me, I learned long ago you don’t use the past tense with these guys… IS a Marine. He carries a steel plate in his skull from his tenure in the armed forces. Skip O'Brien, of the Navy, who never fails to make me laugh. My friends from Southie, Leo Greeley and Joey Magee, who did stints in the Middle East, as did John King from Milton (a veteran of TWO branches – Navy first, Army later.) Chris Goodrich, from Rhode Island, an Air Force Master Sergeant who did 24 years and who has written some of the most engaging histories it has ever been my pleasure to read, on his blog Chant du Depart. Rich Snider, a Naval officer, is a Vietnam vet, good training for having been my boss for some 20+ years. Dean Cook, a Marine and one-time Libertarian candidate for governor, whose campaign I was proud to manage.

I know there are others I’ll regret not having mentioned as soon as this publishes. If you're one of them, please forgive me for that. Thank you ALL for serving. Enjoy the day and God bless you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

My Candidate Did Not Win

That's no surprise, as I voted - proudly - for Gary Johnson. But that result gives me a chance to put into practice the advice I'm handing out in today's Boston Herald.

(If my guy had won, instead, I still would have had a chance to put my advice into practice. I have some suggestions for both winners and losers.)

I hope you'll go to read my piece. And I hope we'll all be as happy as possible going forward.

I'm very tired from the election, so that's about all I have today. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you over at the Boston Herald.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Visual Aids

Here are some photographs of places in Boston. After you look at them, I'll tell you why they're here.

Oriental Theater, exterior, Mattapan
[photo from Cinema Treasures and credited to Jeff Felder]

Oriental Theater, interior

 The silos, where they stored cocoa beans, at Baker's Chocolate in Dorchester.
[photo from Dorchester Athenaum]

  Gilbert Stuart elementary school, Dorchester (NOT Milton, as given on the photo)

 Library a half-block from the school, which can be glimpsed to the left
 (and also a police station at one time, which I just now learned!)
[photo from Pinterest, Rosanne Foley]

 The Elevated, shown here between Egleston and Green.
[photo by Joel Shanus, from]

So, why have I shown you all of these things? Because they are all mentioned in my piece published in the Boston Herald today and I figured some visual aids would help in your enjoyment when you read it (which I trust you will now do, since I've shown you all of these groovy photos.)

Here's a link to the Boston Herald website! And I thank you for visiting both here and there.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, November 04, 2016

He found out ballot isn't cast for who he says it is

In a further attempt to prove that I care about you - as well as prove to you that it's not easy being a writer of op-eds - here's something new for you that was rejected by some 20-odd newspaper editors.

I'm serious. I sent this one out to a quadruple-handful of newspapers - one at a time, every few days - after my editor at the Boston Herald passed on it, and I didn't receive so much as a "Thanks, but no thanks" in return.

Every so often I totally misjudge what I've written. I thought this one was sure to sell somewhere. I think it makes a good point that nobody else was making. I thought it contained a couple of nice little bits of sour humor. It has a family anecdote and a quote from a famous celebrity. What more did they want?

The answer is... Something I wasn't giving them, apparently, and so here it is for your consumption. If you don't like it as much as they didn't like it, I expect I'll be losing a few readers. If you're one of them, thanks for the memories and I hope your candidate loses.

As I mentioned last time out, I will have something in the Boston Herald this coming Sunday and I'll put a link to it here at that time. Meanwhile, thanks again for coming here and now I'll close with the usual - Soon, with more better stuff.

He found out ballot isn’t cast for who he says it is (536 words)

I've been voting for over 40 years now and I’ve discovered something alarming. It seems I’ve been mistaken about how voting works. It seems the person you vote for isn’t really the person you’re voting for. Who knew? I feel so silly...

Since announcing my intention to vote for Gary Johnson, scads of helpful people have told me, “You’re electing Hillary Clinton if you vote for Gary Johnson!” I honestly didn’t know. I thought a vote for Johnson was a vote for Johnson. Instead, it appears I will be voting for Clinton. Then again, I may be voting for Donald Trump. I’ve been similarly advised, by other kind and helpful friends, that my vote for Johnson will elect Trump.

It would help if I knew which one of those other two I’m truly voting for. It’s terribly confusing. However, it’s also pretty cool. I’m not sure how I can elect two entirely different people by the act of voting for a third person, but I’ve always liked magic and that’s one heck of a trick.

True story. My uncle - an otherwise sane person - gave me the most convoluted argument I could have imagined concerning how people who vote for Johnson will “steal” votes from his preferred candidate. He said those people who would normally have changed over to voting for Clinton, once they became disgusted with Trump, were now voting for Johnson, instead, and therefore stealing votes from Hillary.

Do you have a wall handy? I need one to bang my head against. That’s the only way to help me make sense of such an argument. I felt synapses frying just typing it out.

Even though we’ve traveled a long way from reality, let’s see if we can find our way back. The whole idea of “stealing” votes is an absurdity. It’s a canard foisted on the American public by those who wish to scare people away from an attempt at bucking the two-party system. My new favorite response to such idiocy was recently given by Drew Carey. When asked how he felt concerning the possibility of someone "stealing" votes from Hillary Clinton and thus helping to elect Donald Trump, the comedian and game show host - who is also voting for Gary Johnson, by the way - summed it up rather succinctly. He used a few choice words I’ll have to bowdlerize for newspaper consumption, but I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out what he actually said.

“I don’t give a fudge. If your person doesn’t get enough votes, you lose... There are more than two choices and you are allowed to vote for whoever you want. This is America. If you can’t get the votes to win, tough spit.”[1][1]

Thank you, Mr. Carey. The only way I could have said it better would have been to leave the curses intact.

Can we please put to rest the idea that voting for a third party candidate is somehow actually voting for one of the other two choices? If you vote for someone, you vote for someone – period. If you know someone who believes otherwise, that person definitely needs a refresher in civics.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

What is a wasted vote?

The short answer: No vote is wasted, so long as you cast it for someone you believe in.

However, here's a longer answer. I wrote what follows for a Massachusetts audience, but I hope it resonates with some of you in other states or other countries (although some of the specifics certainly won't matter much to you and they might even be wholly out of touch with your region. I trust your discernment and I expect you'll be able to extrapolate as needed.)

I submitted it to my editor at the Boston Herald, but she passed on it. I understand that decision. I gave her a couple of pieces at about the same time. She opted to take the one devoid of politics and with a warm nostalgic feel (which will be published this Sunday, by the way, and I'll give a link to that when it goes in print, of course.) Meanwhile, I've been promising you something fresh in this space, so...

Anyway, here it is and I hope you get some enjoyment from it.  I expect there may be a rebuttal or two, but please keep in mind the audience for which it was intended. Your situation may be wholly different and I wouldn't want you to get into an argument about Massachusetts politics by mistake. That's a beast nobody who doesn't live here should have to battle without due miserable cause.

Finally, two notes:

1 - The footnotes were for my editor's convenience, but I've left them in just in case you want to explore.

2 - You'll no doubt notice that "wasted" is in quotation marks throughout the piece. That's because I truly believe what I said in the "short answer" at the top of this. However, if you want to argue against that, go for it and have fun. I won't answer you because I learned long ago that it's impossible to win an argument against a fool.

And on that cheery note, here's my usual illiterate sign-off now because why not?

Soon, with more better stuffing of the ballot box.  

Wasted votes plentiful in Massachusetts, but not for Johnson (590 words)

I’ve been told by many well-meaning people that my vote for Gary Johnson is a “wasted” vote. There are many “wasted” votes here in Massachusetts, but none of them are for Gary Johnson.

Hillary Clinton is going to win this state. You know it, I know it, anyone with a modicum of political sense knows it. The latest polling has her lead at 32 points.[1] Remember Donald Trump saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and not lose any votes?[2] Hillary Clinton could strip naked, climb up the side of the State House while carrying an AK-47, stand atop the golden dome and rain bullets down on the Boston Common, and still not lose Massachusetts. This state, in gambling terms, is a mortal lock.[3]

Considering the probable high voter turnout, Clinton will likely win this state by a million votes, give or take a hundred thousand.

As Al Gore will gladly remind you, the presidential race is not decided by cumulative popular vote. The electoral votes are what count. And those are awarded, state-by-state, on a winner-take-all basis (Maine and Nebraska are the only exceptions.)[4] Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in Massachusetts is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if she wins by one vote or one million.

Let’s say she wins by over a million votes. All votes above Trump’s total, save the one that puts her over the top, are “wasted”. And every vote for Donald Trump – all of them, even if he gets a total of a million or more – will also be “wasted”. None of those votes, two million or so, will matter in the electoral college tally.

Now, by that logic, you could just as easily say that all votes for Johnson are “wasted”, too, but there are other factors in play. If Johnson garners three percent of the vote in Massachusetts, that will confer party status, in the eyes of the Commonwealth, on the Libertarians.[5] Also, if Johnson gains at least five percent of the vote nationwide – raw total, not electoral – the Libertarian Party will be granted certain rights it currently does not enjoy, such as eligibility for general election matching funds.[6] The only ones who get that gift now are the Republicans and Democrats. The Libertarians would also be subject to less-onerous ballot access requirements in many states. Since Johnson is the only candidate, other than Clinton or Trump, to appear on all 50 state ballots, he is the only one with a realistic chance of attaining that five percent threshold.

So, as you can see, a vote for Johnson is not cast aside just because he doesn’t win the Massachusetts electoral votes. It remains important, nationwide, and is the only vote to carry that important distinction. A vote for Johnson is not “wasted”. It is even less “wasted” than most Massachusetts votes for either Clinton or Trump.


If you truly believe, in your heart of hearts, that either Trump or Clinton is the best person for the job, then by all means vote for one of them. But if you’re thinking of doing so only because you’re choosing between the lesser of two (outstanding) evils, you might wish to reconsider. Your vote for Johnson is not “wasted”. As a matter of fact, it could make a world of difference in future elections, bringing another voice to the fore and, at the very least, likely spurring the other two parties into giving us better candidates than we received in this execrable excuse for an election.