Little Kira's Wish to Oprah, paying it forward

I told Kira that in life, we often get back more than expected by wishing for someone else. I asked her what she’d like Mary to bring for someone else, and our Kira answered, “I want Tony (my brother) to have a train.” Let me clarify that she meant a toy train. I saw the episode when you gave away the train load of cars.

Dear Oprah:

Last week a kindergarten girl named Kira sent you a wish I’m passing along. Kira goes to school across the street from the coffee shop where I frequent. Next to me on a big couch, she looked like she wanted someone to talk to as she waited for her mom. Remembering the special spark in every child, I followed a hunch that spirit wanted me do a favor for little Kira, so I asked her three questions, the first being, who she wants to be like when she grows up?

One guess who she picked.

Picture the busy scene of kids and parents invading my quiet spot, a copy of Oprah Mag used as backing for Kira to write her answers on an index card I dug out of my backpack. I asked Kira if she knew the lady who granted the wishes of little girls – Kira goes to a Catholic school – and she replied, “Mary!” I told her I know where Mary goes at night to read the wishes of little girls, and I’d take hers there. Her first wish is to be like Oprah because she’s famous and uses it to help many people, schoolgirls included like Kira.

I asked her to tell me what she sees in Oprah that she also sees in herself. Looking down at your smiling face on the cover, Kira wrote: I have prte erings like oprah. Kira is also African-American. You’re beginning to feel the scene with me.

I told Kira that in life, we often get back more than expected by wishing for someone else. I asked her what she’d like Mary to bring for someone else, and our Kira answered, “I want Tony (my brother) to have a train.” Let me clarify that she meant a toy train. I saw the episode when you gave away the train load of cars. The train too I expect is easily within your capabilities. Apex, NC has trains already. It’s the highest point on the line, why it’s named Apex.

I took Kira’s message to Mary to the rose garden where a statue of mother and child overlooks wicker baskets of fresh-cut flowers. Photocopied–I kept the original index card. After a week to think about it, I wrote to you to pass on Kira’s wish. I have an idea for a kitschy segment involving trains I’ll get to, after I tell you about the feeling my experience with Kira could be part of something larger related to our mutual effort at creating a new earth.

The day I met Kira–not an hour before–I published a story called Full Circle on my website. I wrote it after reading Brian Weiss’s, Only Love Is Real. Full Circle might open eyes through story to the journey of souls and facts of afterlife, and meeting Kira after I wrote a story where one of the main characters is named Kara sent shivers up my spine to tickle my crown. Or maybe it was just Mary’s way of telling me to pay attention. Or a coincidence I gave meaning. Either way, I’m doing as directed by the still-small voice. It was Mary’s son after all who told us that what we do unto a child we do unto Him. Now for my O’ Show episode tie-in.

Kira’s brother Tony wants a toy train, how about we get him something better: a train ride with Oprah! I hear the train horn in the distance from where I currently sit, a constant feature around here along with the good living. I thought you might also use your touch on Kira to bless her life. Someone will have to take your place someday. Wait twenty years and I know a vivacious little girl who might be able to step in.

Full Circle: Surprise! You're Dead. Now what?

I’d always been the coolest cat, untouchable by fear or feeling. Lesser men cracked but I’d earned my tough exterior. Nothing got to me until Kara. Love finally touched my heart – and broke it.

(Contains mature language and subject matter)
A short story by J.M. DeBord

Dying on a wet prison floor with a sharpened butter knife sticking out of my chest, the next step for a person like me was eternity in Hell, I figured. How wrong I was.

Soon after crossing over to the afterlife I began seeing possibilities for another life in body. A fresh start on a conveyor belt of mortal opportunities. Humans busily procreating on Earth eventually produce circumstances attractive to a soul in search of a life to balance the many others already lived. But I was still haunted by my last life and wasn’t ready to try again. I’d do my time in Purgatory getting poked in the ass by devils if that’s what I deserved. I’d been a bad man by most standards, a bad father by any standard. Died gasping for breath while serving life for dealing drugs—lots of drugs, with a side of murder, death, kill.

Someone thought the pain and tragedy I’d already experienced were enough punishment. Don’t get me wrong, no Angels sat on clouds playing harps in my honor. Nothing like that, but surprisingly, the only real difference was I no longer had the body I had before. At least I wasn’t as lost as some souls, though I accepted no one’s presence, a loner in an isolation cell of my own making, nursing the memories of my last life. I might have resisted the beckoning Light and become a ghost, if not for the Teacher who stood at the threshold as I died. He spoke in complete thoughts, and what I heard was: “The decisions you made were stupid, sometimes unnecessarily painful, but they were yours to make. Some good can come from it if you learn.”

My sort of Teacher. I drifted away from my corpse, regretful but ready. Every Pit Bull eventually lets go of the leg and returns to the doghouse, broken and exhausted. I wanted rest.

The Light washed away all pain and suffering, tried to cleanse all my earthly cares, but I couldn’t forget my daughter, Kara. I’d never really known her, having spent most of my life breaking the law, running from the law, or locked up by the law. Her mother had kept us as far apart as possible. Couldn’t blame her; I was bad news walking. Many nights, locked in a prison cell, the thought crossed my mind that if only I’d been more involved in Kara’s life, I might have taken better care for my own. I’d been forgiven for sins and all that when I followed the Teacher into the Light, but the hardest part was forgiving myself. I’d missed out on the best potential for my previous life. I’d missed out on love. And it was too late to do anything about it, making me a restless and troubled soul.

I’d been a hard person, colorful, intense. Looking back over many lifetimes I saw a pattern: lives of turmoil, untouched by feeling, distant from my fellow beings. I needed to learn an important lesson or else my fate was to live another life repeating the same mistakes. My last life opened the door, but inside the next room it was dark. Then a possibility for reincarnation presented itself and I saw all of its potential at once:

*Female, named Monique. Would die before her 2nd birthday, drowned in bath water by her crack-addled mother’s boyfriend. He was destined to go into a fit of rage because he hadn’t had a fix that day and poor Monique cried ceaselessly. No wonder she was crying and hungry, I observed from a distance, the moronic boyfriend spent the food money on crack! After Monique’s tragic death, he’d skip town in terror and soon be cut down in a bar fight started over whether Tupac was really alive. The mother would go to jail for child neglect and drug abuse and get clean. Whenever the crack devil beckoned thereafter, she’d remember her beautiful little girl Monique and resist, living the rest of her days with regret but determination to make good. If she was fortunate, she’d learn that indifference is worse than hate. The knowledge earned through hardship might eventually make her something of a saint. That was her potential, and I’d take the life of her child to help make it happen. The boyfriend would learn that rage stems from self-loathing and unfulfilled dreams that, when abandoned, abandon you. What’s left is a shell with a soul crying to get out. At least some good could come from Monique’s life.

I saw a chance to pay off Karma by inhabiting that body and putting my unique stamp on its life. Many lives had been ruined by the drugs I’d peddled; I just wasn’t ready to leave my isolation.

Before I got shanked with a butter knife and died, my daughter Kara visited me in prison. We hadn’t communicated in more than a decade, yet her letter arrived out of the blue saying she wanted to see me. During my first stint in prison I’d written to her once a week for a year. Hard letters, not only because they were slow and tedious in the making, or because of my eighth-grade education, or because I had to wait until late at night when everyone was asleep. I didn’t know what to say to a little girl. “Hi, this is the father you barely know, writing from the penitentiary. Last week I watched a man die with a smile cut into his throat. How’s school?”

Shame was tough for a man like me to admit. I could swing million-dollar drug deals, but when it came to the heart I was stone. My life had revolved around crime, violence, and prison—not exactly conversation for a schoolgirl. After a year her mother wrote back telling me to save the ink, Kara would never read the letters. So I stopped writing and tried to forget everything but the daily challenge of survival in the joint. Hard to do with so much time to think, but I did it—until Kara wrote and the door to my past blew wide open. At a bad time, too: the white, black, and Mexican factions were at war, and we all expected blood to spill.

Kara was more beautiful than I’d imagined she’d be as a grown woman. Slender cheeks, pointy chin, long curly brown hair and hazel eyes. I recognized her immediately in the prison visitors room. She had some of her mother’s Puerto Rican heritage in her, mixed with my curly hair and slim waist. A clean-cut black man sat next to her trying to appear comfortable. I strode up and told him in no uncertain terms that he must have the wrong table and should be moving along.

“Tyrone,” my daughter said, indicating the man-boy next to her, “is going to be my husband. He belongs here.”

Prisoners watched us on the sly. I was well-known in the joint, a person of authority, and my daughter with a black man wouldn’t play well. I wasn’t particularly racist until locked up. The Aryan Brotherhood initiated me in return for my undying loyalty. Everyone needed someone to watch their back when in a cage full of animals, and the Brotherhood didn’t just watch out for your body but your lily white soul, too.

The young man fidgeted under my menace, though he looked determined. The reason for him tagging along became apparent in the way he and Kara looked at each other: to help her get through seeing me. My respect for him grew a notch—took balls to walk into such a situation. I had radar for when a man could be backed down, chicken liver for a heart, and this wasn’t the time to prove who was Alpha Male. So I turned on her, saying, “Husband? You’re too young to get married. How old are you, 19? Oh, you’re 21. Same difference.”

She replied that they loved each other, nothing could keep them apart, and even her mother had accepted their union. Little did I know then that some souls are made for each other. Kara and Tyrone had reached across a vast divide of time and culture to be (re)united. Soul mates. All I saw at the time was my rosebud being deflowered by a black man. Wait until the Bulldogs in the Brotherhood tossed that around….

Kara deftly switched subjects. She remembered the sweet letters that her mom had read to her before bed, until one week they stopped coming. Kara wanted to write back, but my ex-wife told her I was in “the bad place.”

The words plunged into me like ice picks. All I could think was, that fucking bitch lied to me—and our daughter! I would’ve strangled my ex right there and must have turned color because Kara’s pretty brows furrowed over her concerned eyes. She asked if I was all right. I wasn’t; I choked on rage! She tentatively placed her hand on my tattooed forearm. A jolt shot through it. People were watching. The jackals sensed weakness, but it was no time to pay them much mind. Tenderness flowed from my precious daughter through my skin, up my nerves, and tried to penetrate my hardened heart.

No such luck. My daughter’s love had the opposite effect of triggering a blind fury.

I tore away from her and stalked over to the barred gate leading back into the prison. Back to my cell. My hell. I wanted out, not in, but this was Hotel California and I could never leave. I grabbed the bars and heaved with all my might—snarling, thrashing blindly, a torrent set loose. Let me in! Let me out! Let me die! I couldn’t take it. A jackhammer split the stone in my chest.

Prisoners hooted. The intercom screeched for more guards. They couldn’t pry loose my hands. A cloud of mace in my face and still I held on, snarling like a wolf caught in a steel trap. Riot sticks pounded my ribs and kidneys. Guards yelled, ordered me to stand down. Visitors were quickly cleared. I heard Kara above the clamor:

“Daddy? Daddy, please stop!”

Unable to cry or cry out, I collapsed and curled into a ball, beaten savagely into unconsciousness.

*****

After crossing over, earthly life is supposed to wash away. The soul needs to conserve energy before taking another whirl on the Wheel of Life and Death—the Samsara, as it’s called by eastern cultures. My body had been cut down before finishing its task and I thought maybe I’d stepped too eagerly across the threshold. Even if my corpse rotted in a prison cemetery, I wanted to go back. ‘Hi honey, I’m home!’ The memories stirred life in buried bones.

I knew of souls making contact with the living. It could be done. I pictured Kara and reached out.

So many minds and their petty concerns to wade through: what’s for dinner; how are my stocks doing; that intern at work sure looks good; what to buy this weekend; Brenda at the salon said Sheila said and blah blah blah. Life is slow death when the importance is missed. Don’t you see, I railed at the lost people, that you’re missing the point? Love! Love one another! The time is up before you know it, and all that’s going with you is what you learn. Ever seen a U-Haul pulled behind a hearse?

I got distracted and lost any chance to find Kara. It was no use. And even if I did find her, what then—punch through the barrier between life and death like a poltergeist and scare her shitless?

“Doesn’t work that way,” I heard, “though you’re learning to recognize what you missed.” It was the Teacher.

Oh, you again, I thought. Thanks for nothing.

The Teacher radiated mild amusement but also sadness at my obstinate insistence on remaining isolated. I felt his admonishment and railed: “I could have held on if you wouldn’t have convinced me to give up! Now I have no chance of getting back to my Kara. To just sit in her presence. I’d gladly be a ghost for eternity to be near her again. Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?”

Silence. God it was aggravating.

“Then go away!”

The Teacher’s presence left, and I was left to marinate in regret over everything I’d lost.

Back in my earthly life, the scene in the visitor’s room earned me a week in solitary confinement: The Hole. A week to talk to shadows. I was empty once the rage subsided, just a shallow bowl of murky feelings. How could I show weakness in front of Kara during our only meeting? No pen and paper were allowed in solitary so I couldn’t write to her. I didn’t have her phone number even if I had a phone. I was impotent, and for a man like me at the time, that felt worse than defeat. At least in defeat I could go down fighting. At least I could move on. Impotence is a three-legged horse on a circular track, hobbled and going nowhere.

Three times a day a tray of crappy prison food got shoved through a little slot in the steel door of my solitary cell. On the second morning a pair of narrow eyes peered at me and a raspy voice got my attention. The Brotherhood sends its greetings and congratulations, it announced.

I recognized the voice of a junior Brother. It continued: Whole place is talking about you, man. Did that nigga boy really come with your daughter? You never told us ’bout no daughter.

Kara. Oh Kara, I’m so sorry.

My mind drifted aimlessly, my only desire silence, but the Brother had nothing better to do and kept ranting:

She’s corrupting her blood with that piece of shit. Man, I woulda whipped out my fat white cock and pissed on the mother fucker. The golden arch smacking that black face. Yeah, that’s it. Silent huh? Save your energy. When you get outa The Hole, it’s party time. Gonna show d’em monkeys who’s boss.

*****

You don’t know what it’s like to live until passing the hours in a 6′ by 8′ steel box, where nothing marks the days and nights going by except the routine of waking, eating, shitting, and sleeping. When you know you’ll never be free again, one day is no different than all the rest. A dull fatigue settles in. The blood pumps slower, with less conviction. There’s no motivation to do better. A staggeringly numb feeling forces closed the eyes of the soul. The body continues but the soul prepares for rest, sooner the better. Some souls in prison fight it; others hibernate, sleeping through life. Mine tore in half wanting life, and wanting to leave it.

*****

Another possibility for reincarnation presented itself after a long time of sweet nothingness. Circumstances built on Earth that appealed to some incomplete part of myself. My soul in that body had good potential.

*Female, Iranian, would live a long and fruitful life for 97 years and raise many children and grandchildren. Her husband from an arranged marriage would treat her pretty well. Life would compensate in small comforts for what it lacked in passion. The main lesson to be learned was that love can be found in little things, and so can God: a sunrise, a child’s laughter, a good meal, a cherished friend.

After what I’d been through in the last life, this possibility presented appealing easiness. No sudden violent deaths. Good health. Mostly pleasant days and nights surrounded by strong family, which brings out the best in just about everyone. Almost a century of good living, but something didn’t feel right about it. Some other soul should take that turn on the Wheel and work out its own potential. My soul had issues to resolve, still refusing any company in the afterlife, and barely able to tolerate my own.

*****

On the fifth day in The Hole, I broke down. I could see Kara squarely in my mind’s eye, tantalizingly near but quickly vanishing as my fingers reached for her apparition. Her last words echoed: “Daddy? Please!” It was driving me nuts. I stopped eating, slept in fits, dreamed of being chased by shadowy monsters, paced the steel box and stared vacantly at the walls. Only the regular meal deliveries and cries of other inmates further ahead on the insanity spectrum reminded me where I was.

I’d always been the coolest cat, untouchable by fear or feeling. Lesser men cracked but I’d earned my tough exterior. Nothing got to me until Kara. Love finally touched my heart—and broke it.

In prison I devoted myself to the Brotherhood. Everything revolved around white power and the struggle for racial purity. It all suddenly smelled like pig shit, unimportant, and worse, the sort of deception that involves personal complicity. Nothing mattered: not my “rank” and status: not my “wares” (once a drug dealer…): not the respect I’d earned by taking the fall rather than ratting the last time I got busted. Not even the Brotherhood mattered.

So on the morning of the sixth day when my “Brother”—that scab on the ass of humanity—stuck his snout through the food slot, I totally lost it. I’d questioned a lot of assumptions while in The Hole, eyes opened at least partially, and cringed at the truth of what I’d become. Dead weight. Dead to myself, no longer fitting into the world I knew behind bars that had shaped me into a human caricature.

“You a true Brother!” hissed the serpent. “Got all the blacks talking; Mexicans too. They know who’s boss. Woulda been better if you woulda scrubbed your ass with that afro-turfed skull. Dude! Who does blackie think he is trying to marry the daughter of a real man?”

“I wish them a happy life together,” I said. “I hope they have a whole tribe of little afro-turfed kids that take over your neighborhood and blare gangsta rap all night, living on your tax dollars and drinkin’ 40s in the street. In fact, I hope your pathetic little soul comes back as a big fat-ass black woman called Queen Shaniqua, who eats fried chicken by the bucket and smacks her lips licking her fingers. You think I was mad because he’s black? I’m mad at myself for judging him—and her!—by his color. And for being locked up the rest of my days with a bunch of idiots who don’t know their asses from a hole in the wall, while she goes on to make a family without me. That’s why I went off,” my voice echoed down the corridor for all in solitary to hear. “And you are a fucking idiot. Get out of my sight.”

“And to think you were just voted Brother of the Year,” spat the serpentine voice. “A unanimous vote. The Brothers told me not to say nothing before you’re let back in population tomorrow. It was going to be a surprise. Some surprise! A new vote is needed, I think the Brothers will agree. We were going to show the blacks our unity, but instead you just bought yourself a ticket to Hell…Brother!”

*****

My soul’s regrets must have been causing ripples in the afterlife, because the Teacher showed up again and sent a thought:

You wanted to see your daughter, here is your chance. Each soul has its own tone, the frequency at which it vibrates. Listen for Kara; you will find her, but you can only observe. She’s dreaming earthly life and can’t be disturbed. Now go!

I did as instructed and found Kara after some practice at attuning rather than seeing. It was Christmas Eve. I hovered nearby, so close to want to touch her, but remembered the instruction to remain in the background. I wasn’t the only one. Many souls hovered about for various reasons, mostly out of kindness and the desire to help. Her husband sang the sweetest tune. Such passion and restraint. Tyrone was a good man. I knew instinctively that his voice would be heard around the world and he’d make a name for himself. Good for him. Good for them.

She sat happily on the floor of their living room reclined between his legs. He placed a hand on her belly and smiled as he finished a song about the birth of a blessed child long ago. A new life grew in her womb, they’d just found out. Still early in the pregnancy, but there was definitely a living fetus within her, I sensed. Its destiny being written, its lessons to be learned.

“If the baby is a boy, maybe he’ll look like my dad,” Kara said.

Tyrone quipped, “Oh yeah, with spiky black hair to boot!”

They laughed together, clear and happy but with a touch of sadness. She still mourned the loss of the father she barely knew. They had a picture of me from before I’d done hard time, when some smile remained in my eyes. It was the closure I needed. I could move on.

*****

The door crashed open near the end of the seventh day of solitary, letting me out of a small steel box to enter a big one. A guard escorted me back to the ward. Normally, I would’ve bantered with him to establish trust, but a strange sort of clarity had descended upon me. I might as well have been walking on the moon. I said nothing.

Everyone on my ward was at chow so I went to the dining hall, not really hungry in body but famished in soul. Hard looks shot my way as I entered, especially from the blacks. Their gleaming eyes said “marked man.” I grabbed a tray, worked through the food line—lines are the routine of prison life—and came to the point of no return. The Brothers were sitting together at their usual table watching me like hyenas. If I sat down with them I could explain what I’d said in The Hole as a momentary lapse, not uncommon under the circumstances. I could turn it all around and accuse the jackass junior Brother on the other side of the food slot of trying to take me down. I’d take him down first, easily, dead before the end of the hour. He sat right there. I smelled the fear behind his sneer. I could go back to the old routine and maybe even run the Brotherhood if I played it right. If I walked away instead and sat down at another table I would be known as the dead man. The Brotherhood is a lifetime commitment. Most of them weren’t going anywhere except under the dirt of the prison cemetery, eventually.

I approached the table with food tray in hand. My seat was open but I didn’t sit, instead looked at them, thinking. Had I really learned anything? Temptation is a bitch that never goes away. Even knowing the Siren’s deadly call, the water beckoned to me. Finally, the head of the Brotherhood, mountainous and covered in green tattoos and battle scars, rumbled, “You gonna explain yourself? I hear you’re losing faith.”

His words echoed in my mind: “faith,” “explain.” I retorted, “What do you know about faith? Explaining myself to you means I give a fuck about your opinion.”

I wanted to say more, tell them that their Brotherhood is a child’s game for adults and their ideology is a cover for fear. But I knew it would only give them a reason to hate me and justify away the symbolism of what I was about to do. I could have the most impact by just walking away, which I did.

I ate alone under the stares of the whites, blacks, and Mexicans, fiddling with my food until the dining hall closed. The loudspeaker announced roll-call in five minutes. Time to get back to my cell. I took my tray to the dish window and tossed the silverware into a bin of blue sudsy water. A guard lackadaisically watched me to make sure I’d returned everything that could be used as a weapon, and I exited the dining hall, last one out.

“Roll call in three minutes, move it, ladies!” the loudspeaker blared.

I didn’t care if I was late. What could they do to me? More time in The Hole would be a blessing. I passed a group of blacks on work detail in the corridor outside the dining hall. The floor was wet from their mopping and reflected the sunlight coming through high, barred windows. I normally would have strutted right through the middle while dragging my feet to disrespect them, but instead walked to the edge, respecting their work. I didn’t see the shank or who shoved it expertly into my belly up under the ribs and left it; didn’t even really feel the blade. A sharp bite and there I fell on the wet floor, alone, diaphragm frozen, heart racing, each attempt at breath causing a blazing rip in my sternum. I thought: “Relax, you can live through this. Someone will notice.” But suddenly I didn’t want to stop the inevitable. Death seemed better. Didn’t take long. My soul popped out of that body, saw the Light, felt the reach of the Teacher, took one last look, and escaped the place I could never leave.

*****

The Teacher was silent and so was I. I didn’t mind his presence. The haunting restlessness was finally settled. We had reviewed my life, and I learned that even the harshest moments served a purpose. I was “bad,” I was immature, and I could be forgiven. But I still longed for my Kara. As little as I’d really known her, the potential for love was real. Our souls possessed a special connection, like two voices that harmonize.

Said the Teacher: There is an opportunity for you. A child will be born and live for 19 good years. The parents are loving. Their son will be cherished.

That grabbed my interest. Sounds promising, I replied. Tell me more about the parents.

You already know.

And I did, suddenly, know all about that new life and its potential. The parents were Kara and Tyrone. She was close to giving birth. I had assumed that opportunity was reserved for a better soul, but I realized there is no better or worse, just incomplete.

I asked, Who is to say I’m the right soul for them? Don’t they have some say?

The teacher answered. The soul chooses the parents. This life will bring balance so that you can evolve and join the One, painting your uniqueness onto the eternal canvas as we all do, eventually. The deep love between you and Kara opens the door to the expression of God. You will love Tyrone with all your heart, and he will teach you what it really means to be a man.

I hesitated but the decision was already made. The Wheel turned and time had come to jump back on for another ride. Time to come full circle.

George the Destroyer

I knew America was in for a wild ride the day after the 2000 election.

Cameras inundating Crawford, George Bush strode forth like a rodeo cowboy – arms flared, chest puffing – and declared himself President. The cockiness to me seemed unbecoming of a man portraying himself as follower of Jesus, but I knew what destructive potential lurked, saw through the good ol’ boy facade to the man we really elected.

The way he slipped into office, pulling out every dirty trick to win, was an omen, tearing the Supreme Court in half like the veil in the Jerusalem Temple. Destroyed forever the impartiality of that judicial body, which contorted itself into a noose to legally justify selecting a President. Destroyed the integrity of the election process, mistrusted by the public.

To think that the man shafted in 2000 won the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t the overreaching bragger as portrayed. Turns out he’s positively brilliant – knows a heckuva lot about the most pressing problem of our times than boy George. Anyone who discounts to politics Al Gore receiving the world’s biggest prize is a fool. We have a hit bottom with our addiction to fossil fuels; we reform or face potential catastrophe, and look who’s leading us down the path of destruction.

Hell, even Bush admits America’s oil addiction.

Look whose first broken campaign promise was backing out of the Kyoto Treaty regulating carbon emissions. Who promptly the day he took office rescinded important environmental regulations, destroying years of careful compromises largely agreed to by the industries regulated. It’s like when Warren Buffett says neither he nor his rich friends need a tax break because they already pay less percent of their income to taxes than their secretaries.

What’s George’s point then?

Destruction.

In the case of the budget-busting tax cuts of 2001, the government’s finances took the hit because boy George slept through economics. His contempt for government and mind prone to sloganeering (he was a male cheerleader in high school and a party hack after college) made him the perfect patsy for neo-conning into believing tax breaks were the best way to spend his Clinton inheritance. He never cared enough to learn better.

Similar to how he starts wars but refuses to fight in them. He vetoes child care for marginally poor children but never worried about who’s paying his doctors’ bills.

Is George the Destroyer a fitting nickname? George loves handing out nicknames, often with a dash of sarcasm, so he should be able to take it, too. Destroyer fits in so many ways.

He earned it by destroying Iraq, blithely replacing a paper tiger with chaos.

And by destroying the basis of the justice process, habeas corpus, which used to ensure that every dog has its day before a judge and be convicted in open court before punishment is carried out. George slept through Constitutional Law, too.

He destroyed the trust and good name of a nation basking in the world’s affection as defender of the West from Fascism and Communism, espouser of high ideals, human rights and democracy. Now, for every torture chamber, election fiasco or unjust war America could criticize, she has one or more of her own.

Long before boy George took the White House, he made a living of destruction. Namely, he took relish in destroying the reputations and lives of political opponents of his family. Back in his drinking days, he destroyed a few good occasions by waylaying unsuspecting journalists and dropping F-bombs in the company of children. Unlike other reformed alcoholics, he never took the step of admitting and amending his wrongs. You mean perfect George apologize? He who can do no wrong, never looks back and comforts himself at night with the thought that history’s judgment on his presidency will wait until after he’s departed the planet?

Let me go on record: I paid close attention during history class and think it’s safe to say George Jr. will rank far below the bar set by his father, somewhere between disaster and miserable failure. If more people had paid attention to our Accidental President before he seized the White House, the 2000 election wouldn’t have been close.

The signs of impending destruction were evident – the smug grin, bouts of vulgarity, cocky attitude. That’s just what the cameras picked up. Listen to prince George talk for five minutes and you wonder how the man doesn’t fall over from embarrassment at his horrendous grammar and syntax. If we stretch the point out we could say that W. also destroyed the expectation that our leaders will be good – or at least, functional – public speakers.

Most telling about George’s destructive nature is found in the difference in his talk depending upon the subject. Discuss health care policy or global warming and his eyes glaze over. He mangles his words looking like Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine, saying something like we should all recycle, or America is addicted to oil. But get him going about hunting terrorists or firing up the execution chamber and he’s clear, concise, forceful. Very convincing, actually. He really means it when he promises to dish out the hurt on the bad guys. Nothing gets Jr.’s juices going more than a few satellite guided missiles dropped in the dead of night from a Stealth bomber.

Like I keep saying, call George Bush whatever you want, I call him George the Destroyer.

Ironically, the Book of Revelation in the Bible, chapter 9, verse 11 reads: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”

Guess what Abaddon and Apollyon mean?

Destroyer.

The hardest decision ever: Clinton or Obama

I’m still wearing an ‘I voted’ sticker, cast my ballot in the North Carolina primary. First-time primary voter here, but long-time political animal who agonized, and finally decided based upon who is more electable.

Sorry Barack.

A month ago I would’ve voted for him. Perhaps even two weeks ago, but Hillary’s argument that she’ll beat John McCain on Republican issues is true, I know as an election specialist; and conversely, Obama, as much as I’d like to see him accomplish the dream, doesn’t stand much of a chance in electoral reality.

Obama supporters who point to national polls showing himself and Hillary running similarly against McCain are shining their asses with their heads. John McCain could declare himself a space alien and the 2008 general election will still come down to a few states like NC, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Penn. I happen to have lived in three of those states and can tell you what I’m hearing:

A lot of misinformed, racist-tinged, radically religious slurs against Obama that get talked about around the water cooler. I hear these conversations at work and around town, and every day we get a little closer to what I see coming. As much as I like Barack, tired of the Clinton playbook, it works. The Swift Pastoring of Obama is a seed implanted like flip-flops and French accents. Sorry to have to use this metaphor, but Obama will be tarred and feathered before fall if he’s at the top of the ticket.

Go ahead Dems, hand 2008 to McCain the same as you offered up Gore and Kerry. Give the petty hate machine of Republican politics two barrels of slime to blow all over your candidate, a wedge to drive, a blank canvas to shit upon. That’s what is going to happen. Obama’s fantastic story will be drowned out in the daily noise of presidential campaigning. The petty hate machine will find more Wrights that sticks.

Obama is Karl Rove’s dream come true. Bush’s brain won’t have to conjure hurricanes and disenfranchise voters to steal this election. The tried-and-true Southern Strategy will work just fine. Obama will win the cities but lose the small towns and exurbs which decide presidential elections, unless John McCain grows a second head… that breaths fire and eats babies.

Listening to Obama give his NC victory speech in Raleigh tonight breaks my heart. His oratory rivals Hillary’s husband, but 2008 is a generation ago. As much as I believe in almost everything Obama says, very little of it will filter through to the average voters in battleground states. Unfortunately, those votes are decided upon negative perceptions, and Obama is an open book, while Hillary’s is full. She’ll hammer away at a few pocketbook themes, show she’s just as tough as McCain, and she’ll win.

She’s more electable, and for that reason she got my vote.

Paypal: no pal of mine after devastating my bank account

I’ve always been nervous using Paypal. The fear of a hacker cleaning out my bank account arises every time a new phishing email asks me to hand over my Paypal information. I never expected Paypal to be my nightmare-come-true, but they have devastated my bank account and blamed it on me. Be forewarned.

I made a purchase on Ebay a few weeks ago. To pay for it, I chose Paypal’s “other funding” option. The checking account that I use for Paypal does not have any money it. Instead, the account sits open so that I can use the debit card from my primary bank account to make purchases. Call me paranoid, but I made this arrangement when I was getting new phishing emails every hour and I was nervous about Paypal security — back in the days before Google Checkout.

Choose the other funding option, click on next, and the payment screen defaults back to the checking account. You the consumer must notice that your first option has been changed for you by Paypal, and before pressing the button to pay, it has to be changed back to what you originally wanted.

I didn’t notice the change — Paypal is supposed to be convenient — and was conned by Paypal into using my checking account instead of my credit card to pay for the Ebay purchase. Wouldn’t have been a big deal if that checking account actually had money it.

So here’s where the situation went from bad to worse. Paypal purchases attached to a checking account are treated like checks. Subtract $34 for insufficient funds fee from my bank. Since I don’t monitor that bank account, I found out a few days later when by bank notice came. Tack on more fees.

So I got on the phone with Paypal. I hope you never have to experience the Paypal version of customer service for yourself, but take my advice and ask for a direct phone number if you have to be transferred to a supervisor. Four times my call was dropped, and I had to call back, go through the automated system, wait for a long time for someone to answer the call, just to be transferred again and get dropped again. After two hours on the phone, I’m staring at a dead receiver, once again cut off by Paypal, so by the time I got to Sean, a supervisor in “escalations,” I was escalated all right. Downright mad.

Sean fed me the same bull as the people below him, which I refused to accept. They claimed that it was my mistake. They have record that I chose the “other funding” option, clicked continue, but didn’t notice on the payment screen that Paypal defaults back to the checking account option. It was up to me to notice and re-change it back to my original choice.

I compare this sort of slippery deception to ordering a steak and getting fish. Both meals cost the same amount on the menu, but the restaurant is pushing fish because of the higher profit margin.

Paypal makes more per transaction when they can withdraw funds directly from a checking account rather than processing a credit card. Paypal pretends their motive isn’t to design a system that tricks people into using the option that’s better for them. Bullshit. I worked in web development, and I know that every step of the process is analyzed. They know very well that their servers default back to the checking account option. Don’t insult my intelligence by pretending otherwise.

After telling Sean that I’m a journalist and my fiasco dealing with those greedy bastards is making me want to write a story about it, Sean refunded my request for $30. Even though the NSF fee from my bank is $34, I had $5 in the account. As long the balance isn’t below $0, I don’t care.

My balance now is in the negative $50 range, AFTER PAYPAL HIT MY ACCOUNT THE SAME DAY THAT THEY REFUNDED MY MONEY!

That’s right, after talking to their supervisors and getting a refund, they repeated the same mistake for the same transaction. So now I’ve accumulated $68 in NSF fees, plus $7 for my account being in a negative balance. The bank I use is 900 miles away; they don’t take payments over the phone. So I have to wire money to get money in the account. That’s $10 on my end, $10 on their end. Add it up and I’m now $95 in the red.

The original purchase was for $32. I just paid $127 for a $32 item. But wait, the fun is just beginning.

My time is worth $50 an hour at the low end of my billing scale, and I’d already spent three hours on the phone with my bank and Paypal before discovering their continuing efforts to fuck my financial world. Add on two more hours of arguing on the phone with a variety of supervisors, getting cut-off almost every time I was transferred, contacting the corporate office to get someone on-the-record, and they have cost me $250 worth of time, plus extreme aggravation and stress worrying about my finances.

What’s that worth in court? We’re about to find out.

Paypal deliberately setup their system to default back to the option that pays them more money. Usually, people have money in their checking accounts, and whether the purchase is taken from one account or another doesn’t matter. Paypal is like the restaurant that pushes the high profit items. I ordered steak, they delivered fish, but they’re splitting hairs to say it is my fault. Like the server saying, “but you said you like fish, what’s the problem?”

The problem is deception. The problem is I’m out a lot of time and money. Problem is, Paypal acknowledged their mistake the first time, why not the second time? They refunded money for a mistake they made (getting caught was the mistake), then won’t refund more money for repeating the same mistake.

A supervisor named Carrie invited me to report on this story if I felt like it was something that the public needs to know. Carrie, at your request, this is the beginning. Next, every friend of mine in professional journalism and blogging is getting a link to this post and my personal phone number. Then I’m filing complaints with the banking commission in the state where my bank is, filing complaints with the BBB in my state, your state and everywhere in-between, and I’m going to put my legal training to good work. If I can get a lawsuit to discovery, I will uncover the information proving that Paypal deliberately designed a flawed system. I will push for certification as class-action, then I’ll call by old pal Stan Chesley in Cincinnati, who loves nothing more than to run a legal Roto-Router up a corporate ass.

Now to post and call-in some favors. Don’t let Paypal screw you. Don’t think they’re your pal, either. They’re only your pal when they’re making money off of you — any way they can.