Friday, November 23, 2012


Chapter 21: Religious Liberty Should Count for Something

Karl Rove struggled against the wind, rain stinging his face. Hunching down and pulling his trench coat collar up he hurried across Wisconsin Avenue from the Georgetown parking garage to Filomina’s Italian Restaurant.

He was meeting with Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, the Executive Director at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund’s offices had been closed due to the storm, but Rove was just as happy to meet at the restaurant, as he found the offices of the Becket Fund sterile and its reception staff somehow off-putting. Maybe it was their unrelenting cheerfulness.

Rove wanted to check with Arriaga on the Becket Fund’s latest lawsuits addressing what their constituencies considered infringements of religious liberty on such things as mandated contraception coverage for employees of organizations whose owners claimed  exemptions based on their beliefs.

Hobby Lobby was one of the organizations whose owners had claimed an exemption to the new health care law’s requirement that their employee health insurance cover the morning-after birth control pill. They considered it akin to abortion. Rove himself could give a shit about Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs. After one-too-many swallows from a flask he’d been offered, he told a decidedly anti-religious hunting friend that, “If the owner of a fucking Seven-Eleven is a Christian Scientist he could claim his employees health coverage should be limited to prayer!” They’d both laughed, and then sprayed the sky with buckshot.

But whether he agreed with them or not, Rove wanted to make sure that the Becket Fund’s cases were being pursued in swing states to the maximum extent possible, and he offered Arriaga funding from his American Crossroads PAC to help in pursuing the cases and in advertising the suits. Keep the base stirred up.

Rove struggled out of his trench coat and handed it to the coatroom attendant. He started toward the maĆ®tre d' when he remembered his smart phone and went back and retrieved it. He was shown to a table he had requested; one in the back with some privacy. Arriaga hadn’t arrived yet, and Rove took a seat facing into the restaurant so he could watch the entrance. He ordered a San Pellegrino and starting surfing tweets on his phone.

Rove had another reason for meeting with Arriaga, instead of the Becket Fund’s president, Bill Mumma. Rove wanted Arriaga to go to Florida to energize the Cuban-American vote for Romney, and to serve as the Republican Party’s lead lawyer on the ground during voting and the vote count. Arriaga was a Cuban-American herself, was smart as a whip, attractive, and a tiger. If he could convince her to go down there, all expenses paid, and then some, the GOP might pull off another win like the Bush win in 2000.

Rove went to the address book on his phone and started down the contacts list for Ohio Republican Party chairpersons. His first call was to Matt Borges in Ohio. Borges was the Executive Director of the Republican Party in Ohio. Borges picked up on the first ring.

“Yeah, Matt. Karl Rove. How’re you doing, buddy?”

“Good, good, Karl. Working hard, knocking heads, you know the drill,” Borges said.

“I do, I do. That’s a fact,” Rove said. “Listen, I need to know the latest numbers. You know, how we’re polling in the counties. You have that, or do I need to call each county chair?”

“I was just about to get updates. Let me call you back on that,” Borges said.

“Well, how’s it looking?” Rove said.
“Good, good. I think we’ve got a shot at winning the state,” Borges said. “You know Husted has really tried to limit early-voting. The sites are only gonna be open on weekdays, so a lot of Obama supporters are gonna find it hard to vote early. If we’re lucky, maybe they won’t vote at all.” Borges laughed.

Rove took a drink of his water. “We need Ohio, Matt,” Rove said.

“Don’t I know it, Karl.” Borges said. “We’ve been averaging more than one hundred and fifty thousand doors knocked on every week. Last week we got to two hundred and fifty thousand. You know, we’re speaking to as many, everyday people as possible. Regular people, who don’t want another four years of Obama,” Borges said.

“What’s Gary Johnson polling?” Rove asked. He was still concerned that the third party candidate might draw enough votes away from Romney to swing the election to Obama.

“Not enough to worry about,” Borges said. “Romney is polling at about 95% of registered Republicans.” That was a bit of an exaggeration, but Borges liked round figures.

“How about likely voters, irrespective of party?” Rove asked.

“Uh, not sure on that Karl. We’ll get you the figures. But I’m sure it’s good. All the polls are running our way,” Borges said.

“Matt, let’s tie things down here. We need to firm up our figures. Okay.” Rove ended the call before Borges had a chance to respond.

After talking with Borges, Rove called Brad Courtney, the Chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party. While Courtney’s phone rang, Rove checked his watch. Arriaga was late. Rove’s call was transferred to Courtney’s voice mail and Rove ended the call. He was about to call Brian Schimming, Courtney’s Vice Chair, when he got a call. It was Arriaga. She wasn’t coming. She had family on the East Coast and was trying to stay in touch with their situation. Rove tried to keep Arriaga on the phone. Maybe he could still convince her to go to Florida. But it was no good. Rove ended the call in disgust.

Rove noticed the waiter hovering and motioned him over. He ordered the red house wine, a cheese steak panini, and a small salad. When his lunch came he ate while he scanned the major news outlets on his smart phone, and texted people in the campaign offices. He was being told that crowds at Romney events were enthusiastic. A number of people inside the campaign were predicting a big Romney win.

Rove downloaded a memo from GOP staffers titled, “Path to Victory.” It said that Romney was even or ahead of Obama in key battleground state polls, and concluded that, The Republican ground game is going to push us over the top.”

Rove called the waiter over and ordered an espresso and New York style cheese cake. He was starting to feel pretty good about the election.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How can I not be joyful

I hike in the clouds, high on the mountain
Through fields of wildflowers
lupine, paintbrush, aster, avalanche lily
Bejeweled with diamonds formed of mist.
 In the distance I see movement
Then a brown smudge and another
Walking quietly, I come on two does
Grazing on something tender and wet.
But I am spotted
One of the does glides into the mist
But the other is bolder
She raises her head to examine this other mountain creature.
Then she too, is gone
Leaving me a bouquet of wildflowers
I stoop to look closer
and see this flaming paintbrush
How can I not be joyful

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Song of Despair

Pablo Neruda

The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot's dread, fury of blind driver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness.
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There was thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief my desire was to you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was my voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still brike the currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one!

E 'l'ora della partenza. Oh abbandonato!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Jewel Thieves

I walked along the railroad tracks
Looking for gems tossed from the train
By jewel thieves getting rid of the evidence
Before the law caught up to them

I imagined the lawmen
Chasing the train on horseback guns blazing
Hanging on to their hats
And hollering “Yippee i-o-ki-ay”

And I watched that train disappear around the bend
Or was I the one around the bend
Because whoever heard of lawmen
Chasing crooks on a train hollering

“Yippee i-o-ki-ay”
Shouldn’t it have been
I suppose it's hard to say

But I better get back to work
If I have any hope of finding gems
Along these tracks
Which seem to go on forever

Saturday, November 3, 2012

From Black Irish -- a Novella

Brendan O'Malley began polishing the tarnished, pitted brass plate that he and Tino Orachetti had put up almost 40 years ago when they opened practice here on North Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles. Orachetti died of prostate cancer 8 or 9 years ago and rather than changing the plaque, O’Malley just kept polishing it every year, trying unsuccessfully to remove the corrosive effect of LA’s toxic smog. He finished polishing, put the can and rag back in the sack, and went in his office.
Violet, his brother’s widow was already at work sorting through the folders of patients he was scheduled to see today. She’d glanced up when he came in but, concentrating on whatever the hell she was doing, she didn’t say good morning to him. He stood there glaring at her until she looked at him again, her graying eyebrows raised, which he took as impertinence, as if she was saying, What the hell do you want?

“What the hell are you doing here so early?” Dr. O’Malley growled.

Violet pushed her thin lips together in an exasperated frown and said, “Working, as usual.”

O’Malley hated it when Violet gave him these isn’t it obvious answers, like, eating my lunch, when he’d ask her what she was doing when she was eating her lunch at a time when he thought she should be writing one of his letters to the mayor, or the city council, or whatever politician he wanted to give some grief; not that it did any good, the useless sons of bitches.

O’Malley said, “If you can’t get your job done during normal working hours you should improve your efficiency.”

“Well, if you’d get the computer working so we could use the billing system I could be more efficient.”

“Darnell’s coming in later to work on it,” O’Malley said. He felt like sticking his tongue out at her, but just managed to restrain the impulse.
I wrote the novella, Black Irish, a couple of years ago and published it on It loosely based on my brother-in-law and his last years working as a general practitioner in a seedy area, but not in Los Angeles. He struggled to make ends meet, but never gave up on all his Medicare/Medicaid patients, many of whom he'd had for years and years. He was as irascible as Brendan O'Malley, and as heroic.