Trump and Kim Confront Their Spiritual Doppelgänger

So a troubled and uncertain world has snapped to an even more enhanced state of attention this past week as the resident American and North Korean bad boys—Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un—have been hurling threats and insults across the seas. Trump ostensibly ad-libs the phrase “fire and fury” while chatting expansively with reporters at his golf course. In true Trumpian fashion, he takes special care to repeat the phrase, clearly enunciating each syllable, so enamored with his words he is, and so cognizant that they will land on every news website and newspaper in the world by the next morning.

Kim then warns darkly of setting an “enveloping fire” around Guam, whereupon Trump proclaims the nuclear arsenal he controls “locked and loaded.”

And then Fido lifted his leg and let go a thick stream.

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The troubling reality is that North Korea, an impoverished third world nation in every other way...

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Lamenting Sam Shepard…and the Cruelty of ALS

An old friend of mine has been stricken with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease, in some ways the most devastating medical diagnosis a human being can receive. There is little to no pain in ALS, so at least that takes it out of the realm of suffering common to rheumatoid arthritis, bone cancer and other diabolical conditions specializing in pain delivery to undeserving innocents.

But in its eventual robbery of nearly all human muscular activity save for blinking the eyes and perhaps an occasional partial smile or frown from a minutely functioning facial muscle or two, ALS has no parallel in its reduction of human physical function to levels not seen even in newborns and embryos.

Almost making it worse is that there is zero loss of cognition, so there is no escaping the full gravity of one’s plight.

And last week, we found out that playwright and sometime actor Sam Shepard died of the same wretched disease, a de...

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“Are You Somebody?” Lamentations of An Irish Woman Memoirist

How does one write gorgeous, lyrical, haunting prose about topics that reach to the very depths of human sadness?

About the deep grinding poverty of mid-20th century Ireland, land of no birth control and females as baby-producing machines.

About loss and longing, the physical and emotional battering of children, the abuse and oppression of women, the ache of adult loneliness, the vacancy of wanton sex, the invisibility wrought by old age.

About the alcohol and drugs to which so many victims of the above desperately flee.

And about the lifelong search for love, identity and self-acceptance that proves so elusive in the wake of so much tragedy.

You do it how Irish writer Nuala O’Faolain did it in her surprise bestseller, “Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman.” With wrenching, sometimes brutal honesty that takes acute measure of all things human and leaves nothing outside the ...

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Is Health Care a Human Right? Or Is That the Wrong Question?

The intense debate about the Affordable Care Act and the “repeal-and-replace” effort currently underway in Congress by the Republican Party majority harbors an elemental question at its foundation: Is health care a human right?

Generally speaking, I think it safe to say Democrats would answer yes to that question, Republicans no. It’s a stark dividing line across which scores of different philosophical arguments and assumptions have been proffered by equally passionate advocates on either side.

But I think it is fundamentally the wrong question, and I will try to wrestle down the reasons why in the rest of this post.

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Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the United States Constitution say anything specifically about a “right” to health care...

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Crow, Unlucky

The crow never had a chance.

What were the odds of it being
this crow in particular and not
one of its hundreds of brethren
now squawking futilely on its
behalf as its hapless, now limp
carcass is being carried furious
and fast across the lawns of
Jacqueline Drive, hard in the
talons of this hawk who passes
within yards of my bicycle as the
victim’s fellow crows dive bomb
every determined flap of its wings?

Every crow spared but this one,
dead, snuffed, just like that, a
meal in the waiting if the hawk
can elude the battalion of angry
crows acting for all the world as
if they will not stand for this atrocity.

So startled am I by this raw hard
scene of everyday terror that I stop
my bike in awe and alarm as the crow
army screams and circles far above,
their fallen comrade then dropped as
suddenly as the hawk had pounced
and snagged it mere seconds ago.

And now it lies inert, heaped in the
middle of a neig...

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