Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Horror of Terror War In Perspective


The horrific San Bernardino slaughter of innocents has dominated our news now for a couple of weeks.  And horrific it was, given the families devastated and communities moved to stark terror in our nation.  Presidential candidates are now stoking that bone-chilling terror.

This unjustified act by a seemingly quiet young California couple was the eighth of terror attacks  tied to sympathizers/supporters of Jihad  with ties to  foreign Islamic groups on our soil including 2001 and 9-11.  Eight.  Let that sink in.  It is a lot.  The toll of 25 innocent lives taken in San Bernardino bring the grand total on our soil to 3,270.  A fear inducing number for sure.

Now put these tragedies we have experienced on our soil in perspective to others resulting from what we Americans perceive as justified retaliation, excluding the endless war we launched in Afghanistan.   Take that in for a minute.  We'll now discuss retaliation which some characterize as actions to keep our homeland safe from other slaughters of American innocents.  Those not counted in the horrific cost of all lives lost resulting in our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. 

Let's first talk drone attacks we have initiated in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other African/middle eastern lands.  There have been 421 U.S. drone strikes through Dec. of 2015 from their origination several years back, starting with Bush and now continuing with Obama.  Human rights organizations have reported 5,700 civilians/non-combatants  killed and maimed by those attacks.  Let that soak in for a minute. 

Nearly twice the body count of innocent civilians killed and maimed  on our soil by Jihad related
terrorists.  Not a bad ratio I presume in the mind of those seeking retribution.  Though experts are projecting that such drone killings aren't having much positive impact on our homeland security.

So, in terms of impact, let's now examine the results of bombings in Iraq and Syria, exclusive of our earlier Iraq invasion.  Here we are talking about 2014 and 2015, the so called air war against ISIL.

We have launched since inception 8,786 air strikes in Iraq and Syria.  Let that soak in, up to Dec. 7 2015, 8,786 air strikes.  Pretty big number, especially when compared to the 8 strikes including 9-11 forward on our soil.  Over a thousand times as many.  Do you see any significant impact on homeland security with that immense ratio difference?  Maybe it makes some of you feel safer.   Not me.

What have 8,786 air strikes in Iraq and Syria produced? CENTCOM estimates say about 20,000 ISIL warriors vaporized.   See any homeland security results here?  How about results on their land and victim acquisition there?  Not so much, eh? 

Now, their victim count compared to ours at 3,270.  Civilians alone, not including ISIL warriors, stand at 2,104, according to, up through December 7, 2015 for the past two years. Over  three times as many of this total in 2015 to date compared to  2014 when the bombs started raining down on them. 

So, drones plus bombs equals 7,804 civilians killed or maimed there compared to our 3,270.  Retribution seekers, how about that over two to one ratio in our favor?  Satisfied yet?  How about enhanced homeland security results?  Not so much, eh?  Attacks here seem to be escalating in recent months. 

Now, when you hear or read devotees to Islamic fundamentalism claim that they feel Islamic people as whole are under assault by the west, does it seem that though twisted, they might have a point?
Even if you don't agree they have a point, are we getting the desired result?  Eliminating the twisted among them?  Not so much.  Reducing the flow of recruits into ISIL ranks?  Not so much.  Stemming the flow of funding from sympathizers?  Not so much.  Stopping them from their building their twisted Caliphate?  Not so much.  World peace?  Not so much.  Homeland security?   Not so much either.  To keep up with the ever growing carnage, I urge you to visit

So, what then is the point of all this carnage?  Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Powerful Jewish Response to U.S. Muslim Registry


The mostly Christian right advocacy for either banning Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants from our land or the creation of a registry for them to clearly identify them to either shun or persecute has drawn a powerful response.  Was it from the Catholic hierarchy in America?  Not that I'm aware of.  Was it major Protestant denomination leadership?  Haven't seen much of that either.  Then who?

Holocaust survivors, displaying pictures of the infamous Star of David coat insignia and arm tattoos they were required to wear in numerous Nazi occupied countries in pre-WWII europe.  Wrap your mind around that.  The very victims of anti-semitism Christian fascists persecuted in that era (and still are advocating today in their enclaves) are also being vilified throughout  the middle east and much of the world of Islam.

Yet these good Jewish people, observant and non-observant alike,  speak out when the rest of humanity is mostly silent about the horrific potential of the leader of the allied forces against fascism
now practicing the same persecution  their fathers and grandfathers fought a world war to end.  That is, should the current rabid pack of Republicans have their way.

So, I for one want to applaud both the good Jewish and Muslim people speaking out against hate and thank them for their courage in doing so.  I'm no fan of organized religion in any form but occasionally rationality prevails from within their ranks and deserves recognition and praise.

These are the successors to the tradition of Jewish-Islamic collaboration exemplified by the great Spanish Jewish scholar of law and ethics Maimonides who in 12th century was revered also in Islamic circles.  Check him out via google.  He was amazing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Don't Share Our Values? Who Do They Think They're Kidding?

One of the anthems we hear from the anti-Muslim crowd is the statement in the headline above.  Don't get me wrong.  As a secular humanist, I am equally repulsed by many religious values espoused by the major religions, as expressed in their practices.  Catholics not allowing women as priests and relegating many women religious to cooking and cleaning for all male seminaries.  Many Protestant sects not allowing women clergy and relegating women to roles only of child and spousal care.  Orthodox Jews keeping women in the back of the temple and wearing wigs.  Muslims demanding women cover heads and many body parts, with arranged marriages and separating them from men in religious services.  The list goes on.

But let's take a critical look at our secular society here in America, showing tolerance for these discriminatory and absurd practices in the name of freedom of religion.  In our public realm, it took women 80 hard fought years to vote beside men.  We failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.  Our courts demand more child care and support of women than equally responsible men.  Paying women something like 75% of what men are paid for equal work and expertise.  Restricting women's right to choose all across the land.  Legal sexual trafficking in some States via prostitution.  Way fewer women holding public office and high level corporate positions than men.  This list goes on too, doesn't it?

Agreed, some of our practices vis a vis women are less "extreme" than stoning them for adultery, genital mutilation, totally covered bodies, no public appearance without a male escort, denying women education, bans on driving often present in standard Muslim cultures often governed by Sharia Law.

But the similarities in second class citizenship and basically legal  ownership of women are painfully close.   All I'm sayin' is let's not get on our high horse about the righteousness of our society treatment of women.  The facts do not support our self aggrandizing superiority. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Caliphate: Invasion and Occupation Don't Work. What Will?

I totally agree with  the Obama doctrine of containment and isolation.  The best  of lousy options.  Please think hard with me on this issue facing us and the world.  Superficial understanding will not birth good solutions.

First, regarding our longstanding economic motivation to try to influence events in the middle east, with disastrous outcomes.  Petroleum reserves experts seem to suggest we can quickly transition our middle east oil imports to other suppliers…..Canada, Mexico et al until we can get out of the oil business, or at least minimize its horrific environmental  and political impact with its use in the energy mix.

Next, we are compelled to provide major materials/armaments/air support to middle east actors willing to rid their area of the Caliphate.  Tragically these Caliphate jihadists have probably as much right to change middle east borders as western colonialists did after the collapse of the Ottoman empire), which is one of the historic roots of our problem in that region.  Oil interests in the region largely drove this western initiative, to tragic long term effect on middle eastern populations and us.
But, somehow, we must find difficult to execute ways to incentivize our middle east allies to work on containment with us with the energy you'd hope would motivate these players as if their very survival depends on it.   Because it does depend on their aggressive engagement in the containment and ultimate Caliphate elimination project.

We must understand the failed history of military occupation, particularly in the middle east and just get out.  Engage with massive diplomatic effort, but get out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  That includes drone bases therein.  The negative results of our drone warfare far exceed its benefits. 

Yes,  we are also going to have to find ways to convince our allies, such as Turkey and the Gulf oil states to get initiatives going to reduce and neutralize the fighter recruiting efforts within their borders, including economic incentives to give hope and a future to their young populations at sufficient levels to keep them busy building a better society there rather than resort to becoming suicide bombers and military fodder for the Caliphate.  But build those better societies in their way, not ours.

To believe the fable that if only they would adopt our form of democracy is to fail to understand our own deterioration of our democratic experiment.

And, similar initiatives are vital, now, not later, to help young offspring and recent immigrants to the  EU to  integrate, prosper to some degree at least feel hope for their future in these very different societies than their families and ancestors grew up and suffered in.   This will take money and lots of creativity.

We in the U.S. must, sadly, tighten both travel (to and from) to the middle east region, immigration of middle easterners and ramp up surveillance of actors identified as potential homeland security risks within our boundaries. Also, expensively,  much more careful screening of displaced persons to whom we offer refuge with the current diaspora out of the middle east will be absolutely essential.  This will be difficult for our civil liberty and pro-immigrant traditions.

 The U.S. and all our allies must initiate severe trade and banking restrictions in addition to oil on those middle eastern countries who fail to abandon support for jihadists from within their populace; ie: Saudi Arabia and their fellow Gulf oil states.   Cutting off both funding, supply routes and arms trade with the Caliphate has to be our  highest priority.   Yes, and we'll have to starve them out of existence.

This threat must force us to address our maintenance of a twentieth century military when what is needed is a twenty first century military.  Our costly maintenance of our rusting and degrading nuclear stockpile most be virtually eliminated.  Our entire ground, air and sea forces must be rebuilt for rapid deployment and smaller, surgical strike forces to deal with guerrilla and urban warfare.   And major chunks of military funding must be diverted to building a really effective intelligence and diplomatic capability.

In the diplomatic sphere, our overemphasis on its trade promotion mission must be reprioritized to skew towards aid in counter terrorism and containment projects with our allies.

Add to this major diplomatic and aid initiatives to partner with governments where new jihadist groups are forming and operating within their borders.

Finally, way better intelligence gathering on the ground in countries of concern. This means learning from, yes, Israel who are among the best on that front.

We in the Christian and secular west must deepen our understanding of Islam.  Here, for my readers, is a start on the project from Atlantic magazine.  This is long, so take your time.

Along with better understanding Islam, I'd suggest we take a hard look at Christianity and Judaism, through both the new and old testaments.  There are very socially destructive notions contained in both as there are in the Koran which is driving the Caliphate.  Look at our own tolerance of fundamentalist Christianity in America and how similar  this cohort is to fundamentalist Islam.  I'd recommend we take a hard look at religions role in the social order, or disorder.  Particularly those in the social fabric who view religion/theology as a destination, rather than a search and exploration of the meaning of life as we know it.   Religious certitude drives conflict and misunderstanding, in my opinion.

Finally, we must engage the World Court to more publicly and aggressively put on trial these jihadist war criminals , including those we have taken out, as a clear statement to emulators that the world will not accept this kind of crime against humanity.

This epistle too is a search, not a destination.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Needed: National Reconciliation On 9-11 Malfeasance & Iraq Catastrophe

The malfeasance of the Bush administration's dismissing early and very late warnings on the 9-11 attack and both the Bush deception on the rationale for the Iraq invasion and subsequent catastrophe as well as congressional votes on this crime have earned a national reconciliation assembly.  Perhaps patterned after the South African post-apartheid commission work.

These two events, now far more that Watergate, have caused a deep and continuous lack of confidence in our political leaders and system as well as endless suffering among the victims.  This includes the families of the Towers, Pentagon employees and families of crew and passengers on the 9-11 flight #93 that went down in Pennsylvania.  It also includes the electorate lied to by the Bush/Cheney administration and mal-served by all those in congress voting to go to war in Iraq on well known bogus, contrived so-called evidence of harm to our country.  This also includes the thousands who gave their lives for this lie, hundreds of thousands forever damaged physically and psychologically by the war and millions in the middle east killed or displaced as a result of this crime.

There is now irrefutable evidence of longstanding economic damage created by both national security over reaction and debt incurred as a result the war.

It is my assessment after years of contemplation that the harm these two events of governmental incompetence, outright dishonesty and cowardice to face up to facts and reality have maybe forever compromised our democracy and ability to continue the great American experiment with public support.  We have been a despondent and non-functioning democracy ever since.   A significant portion of the electorate are now alienated from the process and not participating, or are angry at the wrong things with abandonment of critical thinking or believing outright proven untruths. 

A solution to at least partially repair our broken system and nation would be to create a program of national reconciliation, since there seems to be little national stomach for criminal, political and civil accountability for the perpetrators.  The political class responsible  are either enjoying a plush retirement while the rest of us struggle or continue to hold office, irrespective of party.  And they continue to deliver fraudulent narratives on well documented evidence to the contrary.  Again, while we struggle.

One of my struggles continues to be my nagging doubts about even those in my party who voted for the Iraq invasion and horrific occupation and supported grossly overreached national security measures.  Early on that included Kerry who in a Texas living room I challenged on his Iraq vote and he had the audacity to ask us if we did not join him in believing Bush's assertions on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.  Sadly, later I became cynical about the intellectual capabilities or honesty of both Biden and Clinton on their Iraq votes and support for overreach on the surveillance state.  Many other fellow citizens have dropped out and opted out due to their lack of trust.

Such a national reconciliation program would not suspend future criminal or civil action as the law might allow.  But by impaneling a Reconciliation Council of respected non-office holding citizens with expertise on the two major issues, such as academics, clergy and retired jurists to conduct widely publicized public hearings, we can have a start at restoring an honest national conversation about these events, come to closure on our failings and make a plan to prevent their repetition.

These hearings would hear testimony from willing perpetrators and their critics for a full airing.  Those that own up to their malfeasance or dishonesty would be given the chance to apologize to the nation and the Council would grant forgiveness.   Those perpetrators failing to participate and apologize would be called out by the Council and hopefully shunned by the media and electorate.

No doubt there are refinements that can be made to such a process based on what we might learn from South Africa's experience and perhaps other examples. 

Anything would be better than the current national limbo and amnesia we are experiencing.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Support HR 3717, Rep. Tim Murphy, PhD, PA

Those of us who have family members suffering with chronic mental illness such as schizophrenia know what a travesty HIPPA regulations are, crippling families trying to help those they are ill equipped to provide care for.  We also know the need for longer term inpatient care for some of these patients, unavailable due to the absurd notion that most of these patients are best cared for on an outpatient basis. 

Rep. Murphy, yes, a Republican, has a sensible solution to this crisis many have endured without clinical or community support.  Please, get informed and turn this legislation into a reality so many in our society need.


Shown Here:
Introduced in House (12/12/2013)

Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013 - Creates in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders, who shall supervise and direct the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Directs the Assistant Secretary to establish a National Mental Health Policy Laboratory to: (1) identify and implement policy changes and other trends likely to have the most significant impact on mental health services; (2) collect information from grantees; and (3) evaluate and disseminate to such grantees evidence-based practices and services delivery models, using the best available science shown to reduce program expenditures while enhancing the quality of care furnished to individuals by other such grantees.
Amends the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to require the Assistant Secretary to establish: (1) an Interagency Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee; and (2) a four-year pilot program to award up to 50 grants each year to counties, cities, mental health systems, mental health courts, and any other entities with authority under state law to implement, monitor, and oversee assisted outpatient treatment programs.
Directs the Assistant Secretary to establish a program of tele-psychiatry and primary care physician training grants to states to promote the use of qualified telehealth technology for the identification, diagnosis, mitigation, or treatment of a mental health disorder.
Directs the HHS Secretary (Secretary), in coordination with the Assistant Secretary, to award planning grants to enable up to 10 states to carry out 5-year demonstration programs to improve the provision of behavioral health services by federally qualified community behavioral health clinics.
Requires the Assistant Secretary to certify federally qualified community behavioral health clinics that meet specified criteria.
Requires the caregiver of an individual with a serious mental illness to be treated as the individual's personal representative with respect to protected health information, even though the individual has not consented to disclosure of such information to the caregiver, when the individual's service provider reasonably believes it is necessary for protected health information to be made available to the caregiver in order to protect the individual's health, safety, or welfare or the safety of one or more other individuals.
Amends the General Education Provisions Act to allow an educational agency or institution to disclose to such a caregiver the individual's education record in certain related circumstances.
Amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to make available: (1) Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants for mental health programs and operations by law enforcement or corrections officers, and (2) public safety and community policing grants to provide specialized training to law enforcement officers to recognize and intervene properly with individuals who have mental illness.
Reauthorizes and revises requirements for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004.
Authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to: (1) establish or expand veterans treatment court programs; and (2) enhance the capabilities of a correctional facility to identify, screen, and treat inmates with a mental illness, as well as develop and implement post-release transition plans for them.
Requires any data prepared by or submitted to the Attorney General or the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with respect to homicides, law enforcement officers killed and assaulted, or individuals killed by law enforcement officers to include data about the involvement of mental illness in such incidences, if any.
Directs the Comptroller General (GAO) to detail the cost of federal. state, or local imprisonment for persons who have serious mental illness.
Amends title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act (SSA) to prohibit a state medical assistance plan from prohibiting payment for a same-day qualifying mental health service or primary care service furnished to an individual at a federally qualified community behavioral health center or a federally qualified health center on the same day as the other kind of service.
Allows states the option to provide medical assistance for inpatient psychiatric hospital services and psychiatric residential treatment facility services for individuals age 21-65.
Amends both SSA titles XIX and XVIII (Medicare) to cover prescription drugs used to treat mental health disorders.
Amends the PHSA to increase funding for the brain initiative at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Transfers responsibility for the administration of community mental health block grants to the Assistant Secretary from the Director of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).
Revises requirements for the funding agreement under a formula block grant to a state for community mental health services to prescribe the general standard under state law for court ordered inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment as well as assisted outpatient treatment.
Requires the Assistant Secretary to evaluate the combined paperwork burden of certain community mental health centers as well as of certified federally qualified community mental health clinics.
Directs the Secretary of Education, along with the Assistant Secretary, to organize a national awareness campaign to assist secondary school students and postsecondary students in: (1) reducing the stigma associated with serious mental illness; (2) understanding how to assist an individual demonstrating signs of a serious mental illness; and (3) understanding the importance of seeking treatment from a physician, clinical psychologist, or licensed mental health professional when a student believes the student may be suffering from a serious mental illness or behavioral health disorder.
Amends the PHSA to include as health care providers any behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals, certain community mental health centers (including one operated by a county behavioral health agency), and residential or outpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities.
Amends SSA title XVIII (Medicare), with respect to incentives for meaningful use of certified electronic health records (EHR) technology under the pay schedule for physician's services, to include as additional eligible professionals clinical psychologists providing qualified psychologist services and clinical social workers. Subjects any additional eligible professionals, including those under a MedicareAdvantage (MA) plan, to reductions in incentive payments after a certain date for failure to be a meaningful EHR user.
Amends SSA title XIX (Medicaid) to treat as Medicaid providers the following additional Medicaid providers: (1) public and certain private hospitals that are principally psychiatric hospitals, (2) certain community mental health centers, and (3) certain residential or outpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment facilities.
Makes eligible Medicaid professionals certain clinical psychologists providing qualified psychologist services and certain clinical social workers.
Amends the PHSA to accord health care professional volunteers at community mental health centers and federally qualified community behavioral health clinics the liability protections of Public Health Service employees.
Requires the Assistant Secretary to transfer all functions and responsibilities of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality to the National Mental Health Policy Laboratory.
Revises the duties of the CMHS Director.
Reauthorizes the Secretary's authority to address priority mental health needs of regional and national significance.
Amends the PHSA to reauthorize and revise requirements for a youth interagency research, training, and technical assistance center to prevent suicides (the Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center). Expands the program's focus from youth suicides to suicides among all ages, particularly among groups that are at high risk for suicide. Repeals authority for grants to establish research, training, and technical assistance centers related to mental health, substance abuse and the justice system.
Reauthorizes a program of grants for the development of state or tribal youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategies.
Reauthorizes and revises a grant program to enhance services for students with mental health or substance use disorders at institutions of higher education. Requires the Secretary (who currently is merely authorized), acting through the CMHS Director, to award grants to enhance such services and to develop best practices for the delivery of such services. Permits grant funds to be used for the provision of such services to students and to employ appropriately trained staff. Requires the Secretary to give special consideration to applications for grants that describe programs that demonstrate the greatest need for new or additional mental and substance use disorder services and the greatest potential for replication.
Requires the Assistant Secretary, before making a grant to a public entity for comprehensive community mental health services to children with a serious emotional disturbance, to consult with the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to ensure that the grant recipient will use evidence-based practices. Reauthorizes funding for such grants.
Repeals current authority of the Secretary to carry out directly or through grants, contracts or cooperative agreements with public entities a program to assist local communities in developing ways to assist children in dealing with violence.
Reauthorizes the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Amends the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act to reduce corresponding funding for protection and advocacy systems for mentally ill individuals.
Prohibits lobbying by any such systems accepting federal funds to protect and advocate the rights of individuals with mental illness.
Prohibits the SAMHSA Administrator from hosting or sponsoring any conference that will not be primarily administered by SAMHSA without giving at least 90 days prior notice to specified congressional committees.
Prohibits the SAMHSA Administrator also from establishing (and the Secretary from delegating to the Administrator responsibility for) any program or project not explicitly authorized or required by statute. Terminates by the end of FY2014 any SAMHSA program or project not so explicitly authorized or required.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Key People Who Shaped Who I Am

With maybe too much time on my hands, I’ve begun lately to think about the greatest influences on my life from the beginning.  This not to diminish in any way  unmentioned family, children or friends over my over three quarters of a century who gave me so much and to whom I am forever grateful.

Maggie Merriman-Whose pain over my father’s absence in Europe in WWII was visible to me as a child and in later life made me think hard about war and its terrible toll on those involved.  Through her I learned too about religious discrimination and exclusion and fanaticism  as non-Mormons in Utah. Her enrollment of me as a kid of 10 or so in an integrated YMCA summer camp forever shaped my affinity for my black brothers and sisters.

Stan Worthen-My maternal grandfather who fathered me for the two WWII years we lived with them.  He charmed me with his cowboying stories, took me to his work as a movie projectionist and introduced me to the magic of film art, sat me beside him when he tied amazing trout fishing flies and regaled me with stories of his work as a labor organizer/leader in hostile territory, Salt Lake City.

Taylor Merriman-My father who taught me the meaning of patriotism with his father’s and his own service as an officer in the U.S. Army in WWI and WWII respectively.  It gave me my sense of duty to do the same with ROTC and active duty as an junior officer.  Another lesson important to my values was being chastised for beating up a bully when I thought my report on this event would earn me praise.  A major lesson in violence as a solution of any kind.

Mrs. Woodruff-Old Mill Elementary.  A kind, grandmotherly teacher who gave me love and love for learning, the most influential teacher I ever had.  It was a combination of love, support and hard work on lessons that shaped my appreciation for educators.

Pete Gross (Goldstone)-My first really close buddy, particularly as an only child.  His Mom made us roasted lamb ribs and roasted potatoes on those many Friday nights when I stayed overnight to box with him on the street below and then listen to the Friday night fights on the radio.   My first exposure to Jewish people, loving and kind which forever gave me a strong affinity for Jewish friends and social groups.  Pete in those early years was an avid sports fan and always wanted to be a sports announcer. He lived his dream and became a huge sports broadcasting icon in Seattle.  The lesson here, grab a dream and chase it hard.

The Priest who shuttled me to Marin Catholic High School- Sadly, I cannot remember his name but I needed a ride from our nearby town to this school each day and evening and he taught there.  He did not recruit me hard but his kind and generous help endeared me to Catholicism to which I converted.  It gave me an affinity group and a family outside my very tolerant non-believing family.  Later in high school, at my confirmation ceremony the Archbishop of Baltimore, who officiated, planted my seeds of doubt with his words of anti-semitism in his sermon which rang as false with me that years later led to my departure from the Church and religion and magical belief.

Aunt Jane Angel-Among the first unapologetic liberals and early feminists (1950’s) I was exposed to, bending me further in that direction in high school.  She also was a completely non-homophobic person as was my mother. My mother and Aunt Jane adored my Uncle Tommy (dancer actor, out-gay man) as others shunned him.  He was a brother of my paternal grandfather and this for some was too close for “comfort”.  I too, due to their influence loved and enjoyed uncle Tommy’s stories of his life in Hawaii studying the hula dance tradition.  In high school, in my father’s absence due to a two year military post in Korea, Aunt Jane and my mother brought Jane’s next door neighbors in D.C., two professional very out gay men into my life as kind of surrogate fathers.  They were enthusiastically part of major family events including Christmas, birthdays and my high school graduation in Maryland.

Steve Tobash-Golf pro at the Ft. Meade, Maryland golf course.  Steve gave me my first jobs in high school, teaching me lessons about being on time and doing my best work.   I graduated from running refreshment stands at the course to shagging balls for him on the practice range, to caddying for him both at the course and in some Eastern PGA tournaments.  I met his Polish Parents and stayed with them in a PA. mining town when we were on Tour.  Steve taught me well at the best sport I excelled in and even assigned me to caddy for President Eisenhower when he played our course. 

Grandma and Grandpa Merriman-With whom I lived my freshman year in college, sold me my first car to commute to my University of Santa Clara and taught me many life lessons.  Bernice was a college educated woman with a new England background and member of the DAR.  She later resigned from the DAR when their board protested the appearance of the first black Opera singer at Constitution Hall.  She was both an ardent feminist and abolitionist.   Fred was also a college graduate in Pharmacy and invented a coffee brewing system which provided them a more than comfortable living for much of their lives.  He taught me about entrepreneurship which served me well later in life.

Father Austin Fagothy S.J., Ethics Professor, Santa Clara-This Jesuit singularly stands out as a huge influence on my thinking and life.  He is/was an acknowledged expert on ethics and taught well and hard.   So hard in fact, when I became snarky in class and challenged him, he assigned me the task of getting up and serving Mass for him in the chapel each morning for a semester at 6 a.m.  Those marble alter steps were cold and hard.  But he taught me not only ethics but humility, a huge Jesuit value.  I went on to become active in the Catholic Worker Movement (Dorothy Day, founder) there and began shaping a left world view, though my Dept. Chair  mentor tried very hard to turn me right wing.  That is the wonder of the Jesuit order; both left and right strongly represented in their ranks.  I mainly attribute my atheism to Fr. Fagothy and the Jesuit intellectuals who taught me that I could  think my way out of the Church and organized religion which I regard as magical, wishful thinking. 

Lt. Rick Melton-My co-briefing officer for the 2nd U.S. Army.  Rick also a poly sci major from Syracuse U.
Rick and I devised a “Huntley-Brinkley” style of co-presenting our weekly world events briefing to a audience of mostly sleeping Generals and Colonels.  We got a jeep each week from the motor pool to drive to the Pentagon.  There we learned what a joke top secret files were and the primary source of the Pentagon and CIA’s intelligence….Reuters News Service published reports.  Rick further reinforced both my anti-war views and general left-liberal view of world events.  He went onto a distinguished career with the State Department.  He was thrown out of Nicaragua for protesting their shutting down of newspapers during their 70’s revolution.    His Uncle was Sen. Byrd from West Virginia.  He and I also taught an enlisted guy in our unit a course in Marxism, who happened to be a son from the Rockefeller family !

Mary Katharine Green Merriman-My first and only love for 46 years.  I fell hard and quickly when my army buddy Scott Riley fixed me up with a double date.  Blond, beautiful and vivacious she was throughout our lives together.  She gave us our four also very blond children.  We shared triumphs and heartaches; we fought for reforms in the Catholic Church which gave us both university educations and lost; we fought for equal rights for women, and lost mostly.  We fought the racism we found in the south and mostly lost.   We fought together for a better Democratic Party and society and mostly lost.  We fought for an integrated Houston school system and after 3 years of integration, mostly lost. But we lost together and it was, with all its bumps along the way, a great life together, most of it in Houston.  She gave me also my second great love, besides my children, Sylvia Green, her mother.  I adored my mother in law and am also so grateful for her.

Bob Flowers, Bobby Valz, Jim Hardenberg, Sam Keeper and Berkley Cooke, Dick McDonald-Six  business mentors whose sage advice prepared me for the best and the worst.  Flowers-endure the trivial and more interesting things will follow.  Valz- take care of the “little people” and they will take care of you.  Hardenberg-crying when I resigned to move to Houston- you can do it.   Keeper-you’re really good at this.  Cooke-I trust you to do the right thing.  McDonald-find a niche and work it.  My advice to those starting careers, find a good mentor. Listen hard.  Ask questions.  Earn their support with your loyalty and attentiveness to what they are teaching you.  These good leaders helped me flourish at Kroger, Hormel,  Daigle Merriman & Associates, Bozell,  McDonald Davis, MarketCare Services.  They gave me a good retirement and plenty of creative freedom  both as an employee and entrepreneur. And the strength and discipline to endure losing Mary Kaye and the 10 years I was caregiver to Tim.

Fr.Wm. Tinney, Houston Pastor-The one primary negative influence in my life.  Fired me from my parish volunteer job as Adult Education Director because I introduced dissident Catholic theologians to my fellow parishioners, information apparently they should not have been given.  This liberated me to first create a Catholic worship community called the Community of Hope for other Catholic dissenters hoping Pope John XXIII and his Vatican Council II might give us a modern church.  They didn’t and we lasted about three years.  Mary Kaye and I then liberated ourselves from the Catholic Church.  She found community years later with a group of Catholic women and I with atheism.

Terilynn Murray-Mary Kaye’s cousin in Baltimore who became really the one remaining relative who gave me a sense of family in the latter stages of my life.  She constantly checks on my physical and emotional well being like no one else connected to me excepting my adorable spouse.  Opened her home to us, introduced us to her friends, introduced us to the possibilities of moving to the northeast.  Smart, fun and generous in time and attention.  Most of all, a wise advice giver.  She has made this transition to the northeast so pleasurable after 45 years in Houston.

Julie Jackson-I swore to myself on losing my first love that I was not going to be like my father and his father and marry soon again after losing Mary Kaye.  But, events over which I had little control took over and I fell madly in love with Julie Jackson, who had been an 8 or 9 year platonic political friend.  I could not believe the rush of feelings, so very much like the falling in love stages with Mary Kaye.  I knew these feelings were real and authentic and all for the right reasons.  At this writing,  after 8 years together as husband and wife, my love only grows.  Julie give me life, laughter, so much love and incredible companionship.  I adore her and hope I show it all the time.