Category Archives: Blog

Hillary Fails English Lit

Star Trek Four Lights

I have all kinds of readers of my books and of my blog, so I try not to get up on the soapbox too much, lest I head down the path of ESPN and other entertainment entities who are decimating their own popularity by shoving political rhetoric down the throats of paying customers who just want to relax and be entertained. But whenever the subject of liberty comes up, I feel justified in mouthing off, because, were it not for the fact that I was born in the freest country in the world, I might not have the opportunity to write and publish books and make money doing something I love. Consequently, I must today step up and spout off about some remarks that Hillary Clinton made in her recently published tome, What Happened.

No, I’m not going to get into the discussion of her 43 different excuses for why she’s not our president, because that’s been done. By her. A lot. Instead, I want to focus on her reflections on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Let’s see what Hillary had to say about this classic of twentieth-century literature that is almost as old as she is:

Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism. This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered.

The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.

Wow, a lot to unpack here. First, and most importantly, for those of my generation: yes, Orwell’s four fingers was cleverly re-enacted in a famous episode of “Star Trek The Next Generation”, wherein Picard is captured by the evil Cardassians (not to be confused with the Khardasians) and tortured about seeing five lights rather than four, but that is a nerdy digression.

Back to Hillary and her painful misinterpretation of Orwell.

Hillary accurately points out that an authoritarian state must control reality, i.e. public perception, in order to achieve its ends, however, she clearly skipped class the day the teacher was explaining the underlying theme of Nineteen Eighty-Four, since she totally doesn’t get it. And if she promulgated the “we need to trust our leaders, the press, and experts” theory for her book report, I guarantee she got a big fat F. The real point of Nineteen Eighty-Four, for anyone who’s actually read the book (or at least the Cliff’s Notes), is that we must never fully trust and rely upon these sources if we are to avoid devolving into a totalitarian society. The freedom that we so richly cherish is dependent on our having free and open access to myriad, uncontrolled sources of information and interpretation. There is no liberty without skepticism and doubt. The day we stop questioning everything, absolutely everything, is the day we imprison ourselves.

Hillary may not be president, but I would argue that she is still a leader. She is a leading member of the high-and-mighty, morally superior Cabal of Thought Police in our country that includes the owners of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and most of the mass media. These are the people who routinely trot out phrases like “hate speech”, “settled science”, and “experts agree”. The more someone tries to convince you that there are not two sides to an issue, that there is no question about what they are saying, and that you are an idiot for asking, the more likely it is that they are wrong. And that they know it. When one is convinced of his position, he welcomes debate. When he knows he is on shaky ground, he shouts you down and shuts you up, or in the modern era, closes your account, blocks your content, and calls you a racist (regardless of the topic).

In other words, Madam Secretary, it is your folks who are playing the role of Big Brother here, and we all know it.

Equifax Mega-Fail

hacker

Well, this is a little different from my usual sarcastic ranting about current events or tongue-in-cheek reflections on life. In fact, it’s more of a public service announcement. If you’ve been hanging out on the Weather Channel lately watching the second of three powerful hurricanes slam into the southern US, you might have missed this: Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, had a major data breach this week. Let me reiterate: MAJOR. The breach involves the possible exposure of the personal, private data of 143 million Americans, as well as a few lucky folks in the UK and Canada. For those of you who can’t do the math yourselves, 143 million is about 40% of the US population! In other words, this means you.

I mean, think about it—now some crafty hackers have almost as much private information about Americans as, say, the NSA and the CIA <insert eye-roll>. While Equifax is rolling around writhing on the ground in agony at their own stupidity, they are offering us, their hapless victims, the favor of enrollment in free identity theft protection (assuming that company doesn’t further breach our privacy).

They have set up a website specifically to deal with their screw-up: EquifaxSecurity2017.com. I recommend everyone go there, read the main pages, and then put your info into the “Potential Impact” tab to see if you are one of the lucky ones who was likely breached. So far, my husband, both of my parents, one of my two daughters, my mother-in-law, and I were all yeses. My father-in-law, who passed away 18 months ago, managed to escape the hacker’s clutches. I guess being dead makes your credit profile less attractive.

If you get a yes, and even if you don’t, you can proceed to sign up for the free credit monitoring and ID theft protection. Right now, all they are giving out are dates when you can sign up, presumably so we don’t all overwhelm the credit monitoring company at once. We got in early, all receiving dates in the next few days. I’m not sure if the dates will get progressively further out, or if it’s all alphabetical or what, but I recommend going over there sooner rather than later and getting your info in. It would at least give you a heads-up and some standing to sue if your identity is stolen over the next year or two. Yay! </snark off>

So there you have it: Hillary Clinton is no longer the unquestioned Queen of Cyber Insecurity. Equifax just stole the crown. Now let’s hope nobody steals our identities…

Non-Toxic Masculinity

maturity wisdom

“Honey, I’ve got one bit of advice for you: marry a guy who can fix things.”

This I said to one of my darling daughters recently, as we watched her dad painstakingly repairing a bed frame which had fallen apart. With plyers, wood glue, and a handful of screws, he turned a pile of bent and broken wood-look product back into a queen-sized bed that could be used at college, rather than relegated to the town dump.

My husband, like my dad, is an old-school “fix-it” guy. He can change his own oil, chop wood for our fireplace, replace faucets, trouble-shoot car problems, wire up any kind of TV or stereo system you want, and even solve most computer problems (with a reasonable allowance for unpleasant language). He recently replaced our hot water heater under serious time pressure when it blew out, spraying water like a fire hose into our guest bedroom, while we were packing for a cross-country plane trip that same afternoon. Then, when we were on the trip and our rental car broke down, he took care of that, too—using zip ties to shore up an undercarriage that was dragging the ground. MacGyver would have been proud.

I know I sound old-fashioned as hell, virtually anachronistic, when I say I admire these characteristics in my spouse and find them attractive. Yes, attractive. There, I said it. I do not find masculinity toxic, as seems to be the fashion these days. There’s something to be said for a little grease under the fingernails, a hairstyle that doesn’t require “product,” and knowing which end of the hammer strikes the nail. In fact, I’m concerned about the dying art of manliness. How many young men today can change a tire without calling the AAA? How many can grill a decent steak—I mean, outside, over coals, without George Foreman involved? Could these young fellas survive even one night out in the woods without a smartphone and a cable-ready RV?

Well, can you do those things, Maria?

Yeah, I can hear the mocking questions now. Could I perform any of the aforementioned macho activities? Heck no. I’m a girl and darn proud of it. That’s why I married the poor slob; so he could handle all that stuff for me. And I do girl stuff for him in return; shoot, just last week, I sewed a button back on one of his golf shirts. Yay me.

Understand, I am not saying all men have to be ultra-masculine testo-beasts, or that all women have to be cookin’ and cleanin’ fools. Do what you like, do what suits your personality and lifestyle, but don’t marginalize those who are comfortable in traditional gender roles. And stop bending over backwards to push a role-reversal agenda that’s not natural for the majority, in deference to those who choose a different path.

And before you argue that our gender roles are not natural, but rather, a product of enforced norms, sorry, but science proves you wrong. Even primate babies prefer traditional gender-specific toys when given a free choice; male monkeys like trucks better, and the females prefer dolls. And of course, there’s loads of research showing that environmental chemical contamination is responsible for a lot of the current gender-bending, at least in the animal kingdom (I won’t even bother to cite that remark, since a simple Google search will flood your screen with reading material on that topic).

Am I trying to insult the “gender-fluid” culture here? No, I’m not. I’m simply saying that I’m tired of having this politically correct crap shoved down my throat every day. Most humans fit pretty easily into traditional gender roles. Sure, some guys like to cook and are really good at it, but they’re still very masculine men. Some girls are total jocks, but also love to dress up, wear make-up, and curl their hair (my daughters). Some women have well-developed careers in traditionally male STEM fields, but still choose to stay at home and raise their kids (me, with hat tip to James Damore). There are no societal barriers to any of us living our lives as we choose nowadays. We don’t need schools and movies and books and kids’ television shows constantly pounding us with the message that “girls can do boy things” and “boys can do girl things.” Everybody knows that already!

So sorry, but I’m not buying what they’re selling. Masculinity is decidedly non-toxic. It’s normal and healthy for about half the population. My husband loves his chain saw, his John Deere riding mower, and his 1990 red Ford pick-up, and I find that all rather sexy. (Plus, it keeps him out of my hair when I’m trying to work on my books.) Hopefully, he finds my version of femininity equally attractive. Which reminds me, gotta run to my wifely duty for the day: time to pick up dinner at Taco Bell.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

maturity wisdom

One night recently at dinner, my husband and I were whining about our various complaints of middle age – poor sleep, aching backs, thinning hair, and blah, blah, blah. One of our lovely daughters looked at the other and remarked that she could see nothing positive about getting old, and the other, of course, concurred. I looked at both of them and laughed. “Oh, my dears,” said I, “I might complain all day about the downsides of advancing age, but I would never trade my fifty-odd years for your unblemished youth.” They both begged me to explain what was possibly good about getting old. Other than the obvious — having a lot more money — I assured them that the one big bonus to having lived a long life is: wisdom.

Yes, wisdom. They shook their heads with disbelief, which is not surprising, since most young people are quite certain that older people, particularly their parents, are sorely lacking in this ephemeral quality, and this shows us only that they lack an understanding of what it is. And I found myself lacking the words to express and explain it. The best I could come up with is that wisdom is the accumulated knowledge of life experiences that engenders patience and peace. This accumulated knowledge is less about grand, sweeping world events or book-learned facts and figures, and more about those little day-to-day experiences that teach us that this, too, shall pass; that the worst day of your life still beats the alternative; that when God closes a door, he always opens a window; and that the best things in life are indeed free. That kind of wisdom.

I knew my speech was falling on deaf ears, and I was okay with that, because, of course, my children lack the wisdom to know their mom is right :). But then today, I stumbled on an interesting article in Business Insider, “The Best Age for Everything.” For example, it tells us that the best age for learning a foreign language is seven or eight. I believe it. The article further claims that I was at my peak attractiveness to men at 23, so maybe it’s not perfect in its predictions, given that I was “between boyfriends” at the time, but nevertheless, I found its assertions believable, and my earlier theory about wisdom vindicated. In fact, the article declares that “people really do get wiser as they get older.” This was gleaned from a study wherein a team of psychologists looked at responses to a proposed conflict situation and how it might be resolved:

The scientists analyzed the responses for characteristics like being able to see from someone else’s point of view, anticipating change, considering multiple possible turnouts, acknowledging uncertainty, and searching for compromise. They found that the oldest group they studied — people who were between 60 and 90 — did better than other ages on almost every count.

So there, kids, Mommy was right once again. Science backs me up: wisdom is a real thing, and I’ve got it, and I’m only going to have more as I age. Plus, according to the article, my vocabulary won’t yet peak until I’m about 70, so I’ll continue to confuse you with big words, and on top of that, it claims I’ll have learned to love my body by then, too. Wow, lots to look forward to.

Old folks, rock on.

Neither Black nor White nor Brown nor Red, only Evergreen

evergreen state

With my two girls in their first year of college this past year, I’ve been highly attuned to all the craziness that’s been going on at Berkeley, Notre Dame, Middlebury, and other colleges, and now Evergreen State College. Whoever heard of Evergreen State before this past week? I think they’re having their fifteen minutes of fame, and I hope they’re enjoying it, because I suspect the enrollment’s going to drop, at least among students who actually want an education and hope to get a job someday. I feel like a broken record on this topic in my house, ranting and raving about the continuous assaults on free speech and critical thinking at these institutions of supposedly higher learning.

The latest such disaster is occurring at Evergreen, a tiny liberal arts college in Washington state. If you haven’t heard about this one, the short version is, a bunch of whiny babies, er, students from this college threw a collective fit because one of their professors exercised his right to free speech in a polite, thoughtfully written letter objecting to a planned activity that banned white people (including professors and staff) from being on campus for a couple of days. He failed to see how such a racist policy was helpful in improving race relations, or, ya know, teaching college students the information they were there to learn. These students literally cornered their professor in a hallway and hurled curse words at him and refused to let him speak in defense of his not-unreasonable point of view. In other words, they weren’t the least bit interested in any “conversation”.

Following that episode, they assailed the president of the university with a further barrage of screaming foul language and a written list of demands, including pizzas, no homework, and a forced apology for all of the president’s personal short-comings, like not using gender-neutral pronouns. If you watch any of the video of this, your first thought, like mine, will probably be “Dog Day Afternoon”, and the second will be, “What the heck are these kids gonna do when they get out in the Real World?”

My words to these coddled, self-important young folks would be this. You’re so concerned about privilege. Lots of people have privilege in this life—some are super smart, some are really attractive, some are quite athletic, some are musically talented or great actors. And some people (even the same people sometimes) have significant disadvantages—maybe they were born into abject poverty, maybe they grew up with two alcoholic parents, maybe they have physical or mental disabilities you can’t see, maybe they were beaten or raped or robbed at gunpoint in their lives, or something else way worse than belonging to a particular ethnic, racial, or cultural group that some people treat unfairly. News flash, kiddos: We’re not all equal, and we never will be. And there’s nothing right or just about trying to make us so. Should we have cut off Michael Jordan’s feet so he wouldn’t be so darn tall? Would the world be a better place if we had taken away J.K. Rowling’s typewriter after the first Harry Potter book? ALS wasn’t enough to slow Steven Hawking down; maybe we should’ve given him another handicap. You don’t rise out of oppression by pushing other people down. So stop whining about what you ain’t got and how someone else needs to give it to you. You just might get your wish.

Kathy Griffin Learns a Lesson about Free Speech

kathy girffin

I haven’t blogged in a really long time, because I’ve been trying to keep my head down and get this darn fourth book in The Gifted Ones series finished, but shoot, I just can’t keep quiet about the Kathy Griffin thing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you either live under a rock, or you only read books and don’t pay attention to TV or the Internet, which makes you awesome! Unusual, but awesome.

So for you awesome folks, here’s the deal. Kathy Griffin is a comedienne of great fame and wealth who thought it would be funny or cool or whatever to share photographs of herself holding up a fake, bloody, severed head of President Trump, ISIS-style. I don’t personally find that remotely amusing, but I am also a staunch supporter of the first amendment to the Constitution, which accords to all U.S. citizens the right to express themselves freely. Contrary to what the far left would have us believe, free speech does include horrible, hateful speech and speech you just don’t like, a fact which has been reaffirmed by the high courts multiple times.

IMHO, Ms. Griffin’s photographs fall into the category of horrible, hateful speech, and I do indeed defend her right to express herself thusly. What I find ridiculous, however, is her speech yesterday, wherein she attempted to turn the tables and somehow blame the Trump family for all the negative fallout she received as a result of her little stunt. Here’s what she had to say about their reaction:

“What’s happening to me has never happened in the history of this great country, which is a sitting president of the United States and his grown children and the First Lady are personally, I feel, personally trying to ruin my life forever.”

Uh, sorry, Kathy, you don’t get to play the victim card. The right to free speech is just that. It does not offer protection from the repercussions of the speech (short of physical assault). When I was a kid, the typical example was that of the KKK being protected by police as they marched down the street in their white hoods in a public parade; people might be screaming at them as they marched, but they were free to march. I rather liken Kathy Griffin’s ISIS photos to those marches. The Constitution protects her right to self-expresssion, and likewise protects the rights of everyone who responds to her with a little self-expression of their own. If you throw rotten tomatoes at someone, don’t be surprised if they scrape a little off and toss it back on you, and certainly don’t ask anyone to feel sorry for you as a result.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

baby its cold outside

Wow, I just couldn’t keep quiet on this one. I am soooo tired of living in this P.C. world where a bouquet of roses turns into a bundle of withering weeds with the snap of some do-gooder’s fingers. Just in case you haven’t heard, apparently, the cheery, romantic 1944 Christmas song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is really a song about date rape. Yeah.

If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s a cutesy duet where a couple volley back and forth about how it’s late and the lady has to get home (as a lady would in those days). The lyrics and tone make it clear that both the fella and his lady don’t want her to leave just yet and are making excuses for her to stay. It’s been a sweet, festive holiday favorite for over 70 years, but this year, in the age of everything-is-offensive, a couple of singer-songwriters (Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, whoever they are) decided the song was “sexually agressive”, and felt compelled to compose new lyrics to clean it up. In their haste to label another innocent pleasure as something unseemly, the couple re-wrote the song in ultra-politically-correct “positive consent” terminology. For example, “I really can’t stay/But Baby, it’s cold out there” became “I really can’t stay/Baby, I’m fine with that.” Um, really? That’s what passes for romance nowadays?

Look, anyone who’s read Little Miss Straight Lace knows I’m no date rape apologist. I get it. Believe me, I get it. It’s a terrible thing for anyone to experience and have to live with and be haunted by for years, but that doesn’t mean we need to see it everywhere we look—especially in places it was never meant to be! The original song was written by a husband-wife singing team to entertain their guests at parties. It was intended to be a light-hearted Christmas ditty, not cynical social commentary. If you’re seeing anything more than that, try taking off your Grinchy glasses and look again. And if you’re still struggling to have a happy holiday with all these thought police around, try whipping up a bowl of eggnog and invite them inside for a drink. Better not spike it, though, or someone will start crooning, “Baby I’m fine with that…”

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Left

betsy ross

When I was ten years old, I got to dress up as Betsy Ross and ride on a big “Happy Birthday, America” float in our local community’s Bicentennial parade. I no longer remember the reason I was chosen for that honor—straight-A report card or Dork of the Week or whatever—but I remember the experience. I was proud, super proud, to represent all that was good and right about my homeland.

Growing up in these United States, I would often hear scary stories about Russia and China and Cuba, and how the governments in those countries suppressed truth and presented only twisted propaganda to their populace. I would shake my head and feel sorry for all the people not fortunate enough to be living in a great free country like I was. In school, I studied American history and felt reverence for our forefathers who laid down their lives for the right to speak their minds, even when their ideas weren’t popular. Today, my heart is aching for the world that was.

Whatever political affiliation you may have, whatever feelings you may harbor about our outgoing Commander-In-Chief Barak Obama, I doubt you were expecting his recent remarks at a conference in Pittsburgh:

“We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to. There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.”

In other words, let’s censor the Internet! No more debate about climate change or vaccine safety or Russian hackers. The official government-approved statement on all of these is out, and you will accept it. Then add to that, just last week, a Tweet by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo echoing a similar sentiment, as he informed us (incorrectly) that it would be illegal for any of us peons to read the Clinton/Podesta leaked emails, but it was just fine and dandy for our esteemed press corps to do it, and then pass their sanitized version of the truth on to us.

Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent, I hope you are as appalled by these attitudes as I am. The idea that citizens of the United States should not be free to express or consume any information we choose is as un-American as it gets. The words “unmitigated gall” come to mind, but for now, let’s just call it Orwellian.

My response to the would-be thought police is this:

Do I look like a three year old who just asked where babies come from? Sorry, my self-proclaimed intellectual leaders, but I am an adult, and a highly educated one at that. But in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, I don’t have to be, to be allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe I’ll make bad ones. Maybe my choices will turn out to be horrendous mistakes, but they’re my mistakes to make. I don’t need you or anyone else to “curate” my information sources, thank you. I’ll decide who to listen to and who to ignore…and that might be you!

The Wild, Wild West of the free and open Internet is the best thing that ever happened to this country and the whole world. We can read a thousand differing opinions on each of a million different topics. Is some of it wrong? Is some of it potentially hurtful? Is some of it downright comedic? You betcha. But I’ll figure that out myself and glad to do it. We understand why you want to quiet dissenters, bury unpleasant truths, and spin reality like a centrifuge; it’s not exactly a new tactic, guys (see earlier remarks about Russia and China). There’s a reason we’re all turning our backs on CNN and MSNBC and The New York Times. Shuck the agenda, stamp out the spin, and give us the facts, if you want a rat’s chance of survival.

And while I’m on my soapbox: Long live the America I grew up in, where liberty and individuality were celebrated, not squashed, and where we were reminded daily that while we might find others’ ideas offensive, our freedom to speak our minds depended on us tolerating the same from everyone else. Three cheers for the First Amendment!

Brains, Boobs, or Batons?

beauty queen

The term “trophy wife” harkens back to a time when wealthy, successful men would seek out mates who were lovely to look at, but weren’t necessarily Rhodes Scholars. Marrying the local beauty queen was a mark of station and affluence; her ability to answer those “world peace” questions was irrelevant. And no doubt, having an attractive spouse can confer a reasonable measure of happiness, at least while we’re young.

Whether physical beauty remains an important quality throughout the span of a marriage is, of course, less certain, but one thing we now know for sure is that another key quality—intelligence—passes primarily through the mother. Recent scientific research shows that intelligence-related genes reside largely on the X chromosome. This means girls, who inherit X chromosomes from both parents, are a mixture of their mother’s and father’s intelligence, but boys, who get a Y from dad and an X from mom, will have IQ genes almost entirely dependent on their mothers. In other words, smart wife means smart son, and brainless bimbo means brainless bozo!

So listen up, all you successful men out there: If you want children, particularly boy children, who won’t be living in your basement when they’re thirty, quit chasing cheerleaders and find yourself a nice brainy chick, much like any of the heroines in a Maria Romana mystery. She may not catch your eye initially, but if you let her, she’ll challenge you til the day you die, and you’ll never be bored!

Hitting From The Trees

hitting_from_trees

One of my kids is going through a particularly rough patch in life right now, which has led to a lot of long, tearful mother-daughter chats. After feeling woefully inadequate as a mom during one such recent conversation, I was giving some thought to the idea of mistakes and how we deal with them. My daughter was expressing regret over what she sees as a big mistake that she’s made. I don’t view the situation the same way, but that hardly matters; it’s how she sees herself that counts. With time to ruminate on the topic, I was reminded of a speech I heard long ago that might have offered the kid some comfort, had I thought of it in the moment, which of course I did not, but that’s how it always happens, right?

Several years ago, my family attended a charity golf tournament hosted by Bubba Watson. If you’re not a golf aficionado, you might not have heard of him, but if you are, you know that Bubba is a fantastically talented golfer who is known for his crazy shots and his crazy temper. He’s been working on the latter, though, and in this case, he was addressing a bunch of young people (it was a junior tournament), and he was nothing but sweet and funny and, to me, quite profound. The statement that really struck a chord was this (as best as my aging brain can recall): “It’s not about the great shots you hit—because there won’t be very many of those—but about what you do with the bad ones that matters.”

Of course, Bubba was talking about golf when he said that, but I was looking at the bigger picture. Couldn’t we say the same about life in general? We all make mistakes; we all dream of do-overs and take-backs for those moments we wish had never happened, but in real life, do-overs aren’t allowed. Make-ups are. We can carry on from where we went astray and try to fix the problem. We can view the mess we’re in as a challenge to be tackled. And we can use our knowledge of the past to avoid similar messes in the future. We can learn, and we can grow, and we can act as mentors to others who are digging their way out of the mire.

What the heck good would life be if every ball was lying dead-center in the middle of the fairway? Would anybody even bother to play? Would we even bother to get out of bed in the morning? Life is full of challenges, people. Every mistake is an opportunity to overcome. You say your ball is tucked fifty yards into the woods, around a blind curve, and covered with pine straw? Embrace it! Rise to the occasion. Do what Bubba did and hit it out with a crazy curve shot, straight onto the green, then make the putt to win the Masters.