Dear friends, I have an offer for you, and one you will find you cannot refuse.
Right now, I know most of you are suffering through one of the most painful election cycles of modern times.
If you are either frustrated by all your choices, or even if you like one candidate and find the other side unpalatable, but feel powerless to do anything about it, I have a way for your voice to be heard for just a tiny investment on your part. It’s a secret I’m willing to share with you gratis, because I can tell you have discerning tastes.
Donate $5 to a candidate you dislike. You MUST mail them a check or money order. MAKE SURE they have your home address, and preferably not your email address.
If you don’t care about the candidates, but really hate x, y, or z organization because of your deep rooted convictions, this will work for you as well.
Send the $5. Within a month, you will start getting solicitations for more. They will come with messages like “Only you can help me stop (Trump, Clinton, The NRA, NARAL, or whoever) and I need your donation before this reporting period is up!”
The mailer will be slick, sometimes in a big envelope with lots of glossy inserts affirming the policies you disagree with.
Something like that costs more than a dollar to produce, even in bulk, and close to that to mail. By the time you’ve got three of them, the person/cause is a net loser on you.
But if you think you’ll just get three, you’re mistaken. Go ahead and try it. You’ll end up getting dozens of mailers before election day. It will be great. As they come in you can count the cost to the putz you hate going into your recycling bin.
Wouldn’t you say that was worth a measly $5?
Your name and address will go into a database as a political ally who donates to the cause. These campaigns make money by selling your information to other, similar campaigns. Pretty soon, every person you disagree with will be spending ten dollars a month mailing you plaintive requests for donations.
My friends, I give you the gift that keeps on giving. If you’re like me, the trash is on the way back to my house from the mailbox. You don’t even have to work that hard to get rid of the political effluvia that shows up every day.
That seems like a great deal, right? $5 dollars will get you months and months of joy as you gleefully throw their campaign dollars away. Laugh as you tear up the expensive mailers into tiny bits. Maybe keep a sharpie handy so you can draw horns or goofy mustaches on their faces before you consign them to midden heap.
Right now you’re probably thanking me, already getting out your checkbook.
But my friends, I’m not done.
In four years, when the cycle starts again, your name will be there. On dozens of lists. The engine will start again, greased by the oil of unlimited soft money, and the forester will sharpen his axe once more, anything to keep up with the demand for the paper to send you a request for more money. More help to fight for the cause you don’t agree with.
My friends, that’s all the tangible gifts I have for you tonight. I’m sorry I couldn’t come up with more. You will have to settle for a hundredfold return on your investment.
However, if you order now, and write a check to Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, the Family Research Council, or Planned Parenthood, I can tell you how to get EVEN MORE satisfaction out of it. It will just take an additional $5.
That’s right. Just five dollars more and I can double your emotional joy. It won’t increase your return ratio, but it will increase the laughs as you shred the mailers.
Donate $5 using your middle initial. For instance, I would write a check and put the name Terence E Mahoney on the accompanying form.
And then I will write another, to a different politician or cause, but this time I’m T Edward Mahoney.

Now, my friends, you have something to bet on if the horses aren’t running. Just think, which version will garner more solicitations. Maybe assign point values for different sizes. The sky’s the limit. You don’t even have to stop at two. I’m sure your kids want to get in on this too.



I am the cook, so I only have time for a short note about this, but as I give thanks today I will be keeping my problems and blessings in perspective by thinking about my Marine brother Amir Hekmati, who is spending his third Thanksgiving inside Evin Prison, in Tehran.

Please feel free to catch up with his story if you aren’t familiar with it at the family’s website. In short, Amir, a former sergeant in the United States Marine Corps was visiting his grandmother in Iran when he disappeared. Some time later, the family found out that the Iranian government had taken him. He has since been tried in a secret trial he didn’t attend and sentenced to death, sent for retrial, tried AGAIN in a secret trial neither he nor his attorney attended or knew about, and sentenced to 10 years.

Today, please take the time to be thankful for all your family who could be there, and keep in mind the Hekmatis, whose son can’t be with them.

Semper Fi

Amir Turkey#FreeAmir

I intentionally stiffed one of my creditors.

I know, that’s not a good thing, ever, but in this case I did it as an experiment.

It was the Veteran’s Administration. Wow. That sounds horrible. Not only was I an intentional deadbeat, but I was screwing the department of the federal government that arguably does the best work.

But there was a point to what I did, as I will illustrate here. There has been a lot in the news lately about how VA Healthcare has done some pretty horrible things as an institution, and while that has been borne out by the facts, it also serves millions of service disabled veterans well.

Count me in that number. I have health insurance through my employer, but it is primarily for my family. I use the VA system first because I prefer it. They have done great work for me, and the level of focus and compassionate care has been unlike anything I’ve experienced out in the for-profit world of civilian health insurance influenced care.

I love VA Healthcare; my real problem, and the real tragedy here, is the VA Benefits side. It is a massive problem going largely unnoticed due to the recent problems with healthcare. Wait times for routine benefits requests are supposed to be a horrifically bad 180 days. However, that 6 month wait time would be refreshing compared to what veterans, many of them needing these benefits to survive, are experiencing. You’ll hear about wait times of a year to a year and a half. I’ve met folks who have been waiting two years for their claim to be acted on.

Take a look at this report from my ebenefits page on VA. gov:

va claime

Let me explain what this is. I had a 0% disability rating on my foot/ankle. This means the VA recognized there was a service related problem with it, but it didn’t impact me to the point that it was worth payment. I ended up having surgery on it, as it had gotten to the point where walking was very painful. At that point, I was re-rated to a 40% total, between my hearing and my foot.
That upgrade took six months, that 180 days they are targeting, and at the end of it I was now eligible to add my dependents. This is not something that needs to be adjudicated; once you hit a certain rating you qualify. They need a form filled out, and copies of birth certificates and marriage license.

I have an excellent representative at the DAV who helped me and reviewed my forms before I submitted them. Everything was in order, and again, there is nothing to review. It’s a slam dunk.

That was more than a year ago. A year and a month exactly. 

I don’t need the money. Not desperately; sure I could use it, but don’t need it. But it made me think about my brother and sister veterans who are struggling, on the edge of homelessness or beyond, in mental or physical pain from injuries sustained in the service, and facing the same monolithic wall of unresponsive verklempt bureaucracy. They NEED this money, and while they’ll get it someday, it will be too late to save their house, car, or in some cases, life.

So I decided I would test the system. I need money from them, and we have established how long it takes them to respond to that. Six months to over a year.

What would happen if they needed money from me? But how to test that? The only thing they charge me for is an $8 co-pay on my prescriptions.

Bingo. I let them build up. I would get letters. They were polite, and the number got higher as the months ticked by and my 800 mg ibuprofen and blood pressure medicine co pays added up.

And then the letters stopped. It had worked! I was very excited to see how long it would take them to collect against my monthly payment.

As near as I can tell, it took them about a month and a half. I called into their main number (25 minutes of hold to talk to someone) to confirm it. They had deducted the co-pays and late fees from my July 1st payment.

The nice lady (an Air Force vet who was waiting 2 years already on her claim) let me know what they had done and when I yelled ‘A-HA!’ and explained what I had done. She replied that it was different; it was VA Healthcare that was collecting, and they don’t take as long. I was quiet for a second, letting the irony really ferment on that one (considering the news of the day) and pointed out that when VA Health was owed money, and asked VA Benefits for help. It took a month.

But when I asked VA Benefits for money I was owed, we are at a year and counting.

How come the people that process these claims against Veterans can’t be repurposed until claims for veterans get back down under three months? Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable response? Does the VA need my $93.46 so badly that it has a streamlined organization to get that money? Make VA Health stand in line with the rest of us.

As bad as the VA Healthcare scandal is, and it’s bad, the waitlist scandal is worse. It’s affecting many more veterans in ways that permanently damage them and their families. I’m just glad that for me, it’s an exercise to alleviate pent up frustration and not worry over paying the mortgage.

But what about my friends, brothers and sisters who served, who are facing the street? They need our help.

1000 days. Harrible milestone. Take the next few minutes and think about something that happened to you over the last 1000 days. Share it here. It really puts what Amir is missing, and how this has hurt his family.
I really try not to think about it, but I have little reminders in my life that help. One is the faded pink bracelet you’ll see on my wrist. A friend gave it to me, and it used to say “Persevere with Passion” 

She had them made, and gave them to friends. I would write, “friends she wanted to inspire” but this woman was a walking inspiration. Anyone who has an oncologist, and yet still lives the life she does is inspirational.

So I use her bracelet to remind myself to not just suck it up about Amir, but to do something.

I hope that I’ve qualified for that today, and I hope that you choose to do something. Write a letter, call the White House, set a google news alert for Amir Hekmati. Whatever it is, for this one day just give a crap in a way that will have a lasting impact.

That’s not too much to ask for a Marine veteran.

April 11, 2014 Amir’s lawyer finally learns about the December trial, conviction and sentencing. He immediately starts the appeals process.
It seems completely foreign to our sense of justice that this could happen, but I have long ago learned not to get angry about things like this. I have to see the positive in this, which I do. It all seems part of a dance, with each side taking the required steps until the dance is complete.

Except this isn’t a dance, it’s a family’s life and well-being. I can control the anger, but I just want it to be over.

April 2nd 2014 Amir’s father suffers a stroke and is unable to walk. This message further motivates the family to pressure whoever they can to expedite their son’s release. The message has become distilled. It has been long enough; Free Amir Now.

Hopefully this added humanitarian impetus will help speed up Amir’s release. 

I lost my father suddenly, and I can’t tell you the pain I feel about it sometimes. I’ll see something silly that I’ll just want to share with him, like when Ellsbury did a clean steal of home against the Yankees, and my chest will suddenly ache.

I pray that they will give him that chance to talk to his father again. No son needs to live with that pain if it can be avoided, and it can. It just takes common sense.


Amir fires his old attorney and the family retains a new attorney. I am not personally aware of the details behind the firing or the qualifications of the new hire, but tell me you didn’t think of the scene in My Cousin Vinny where the other kid points at Joe Pesci and says “I want THAT guy.” 

again, it could just be my optimism leaking out here, but I have to believe this is a positive development. Every legal system is different, and they can be difficult to navigate without personal experience. Hopefully this attorney is more suited to where the Hekmatis are now in their legal struggle.

Amir is re-convicted on December 15, 2013. Neither he nor his lawyer are present for this trial and it isn’t until much later that he or his family are made aware of the new development. 
Personally, I saw this a step forward in the case, as it sets a baseline from which we can only improve for Amir, and it seems to indicate to me that this is something that the Iranians want to move forward on. 
I know that seems odd; a ten year prison sentence is never GOOD news, but I have to believe that it is just the opening step in the end game that will bring Amir home.
Sept 29 2013, Presidents Obama and Rouhani hold an historic phone conversation, and via Congressman Kildee, the family knows that our president mentioned Amir’s case to President Rouhani.

this is the first in a series of positive events that help to build optimism for Amir’s supporters, and also optimism for improved relations overall between our two nations.


September 11 2013, the Guardian UK publishes a letter Amir smuggled out to Secretary of State John Kerry.. This represents a HUGE risk, but he seems adamant to clear up some issues. He clarifies that his confession was forced, and that he is completely innocent of any espionage charges. He also clarifies that he considers himself a hostage.

It would be difficult to overstate the bravery this letter evidences, as he is completely exposed to ill treatment from the people about whom he is writing, and it could cause his living conditions to become much worse than they were at the time he wrote the letter.

Kerry acted immediately, demanding Amir’s release, although with the lack of diplomatic relations between the two nations, we have very little leverage.