Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Listen to PEN New England's Tribute to Howard Zinn on WGBH Forum Network.

At this event, PEN New England presented our 2010 Vasyl Stus Freedom-to-Write Award to Zargana, poet and comedian imprisoned by the regime in Burma/Myanmar. Here is an op-ed I co-wrote with Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International.


Throughout history, from Aristophanes to Saturday Night Live, writers of comedy have tweaked the noses of the powerful to the delight of their audiences, helping to illuminate absurdities, expose abuses, and articulate grievances. There is a direct line of descent from the court jester, or fool, to today’s practitioners who continue to hold up the mirror of comedy to those in power. The powerful have nearly always tolerated this sardonic form of speaking the truth and even valued it as counsel. But the Burmese junta’s arrest and sentencing of Maung Thura, whose pen and stage name is “Zargana,” is no joke.

Zargana is currently serving a 35 year sentence for his public criticism of the Myanmar government’s response to the humanitarian catastrophe that followed Cyclone Nargis in 2008 which claimed at least 138,000 lives and affected more than 2.5 million people.

No doubt he had already made the ruling generals uncomfortable even before 2008. The country’s most popular comedian, Zargana gathered crowds that rivalled those of political leaders, and his political jibes, often artfully couched in puns and double-entendres, were and still are spread by word-of-mouth in a country where open dissent is extremely dangerous. He was first arrested in 1988 during a popular uprising calling for democratic rule. Prior to that, in acknowledgment of the Burmese version of the court jester tradition, the regime had invited him to perform on more than one occasion. In 1990, however, his comic impersonation of one of the junta’s generals resulted in a five year prison sentence, his poems and sketches were banned, as were the many films he directed, and he was forbidden to perform in public.

As if to let him know that they had not forgotten him, the generals arrested and briefly detained Maung Thura for his support of the Burmese monks of Rangoon during their 2007 walking protests, which brought about a brutal and bloody crackdown.

And then there was the cyclone and its tragic devastation, followed by the junta’s news blockade and paranoid refusal of international aid. Putting aside the puns, the doublespeak, and the jokes, Zargana went to work to alleviate the suffering of his people by orchestrating a worldwide network of private donations for the relief of the cyclone’s victims. Recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and the recipient of this year’s annual Vasyl Stus Freedom to Write Award from PEN New England, Maung Thura is serving his current sentence for this selfless action, and for speaking the truth about the extent of the devastation.

Recently, in this country, we have seen comedian Stephen Colbert address a congressional committee, President Obama appear on the Jon Stewart Show, and a rally in Washington organized by Stewart and Colbert. In the last election Al Franken, former Saturday Night Live comedian, won a seat in the U.S. Senate. Intelligent comedy, dealing with the social order, is always controversial; as such it is a necessary ingredient of political discourse. It is also protected speech by virtue not only of centuries of tradition, but by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

After Myanmar’s elections on November 7, the government’s most famous prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released. However, over 2,000 political prisoners, like Zargana, remain in custody. Their continuing imprisonment calls into question the commitment of Burmese rulers to anything more than democratic window dressing.

Richard Hoffman is Chairman of PEN New England; Joshua Rubenstein is Executive Director of Amnesty International, Northeast Region.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just finished reading one of the most affecting, thoughtful, and pitch-perfect collections of short fiction I've ever enjoyed, Please Come Back to Me, by my colleague and friend Jessica Treadway.

Here is a review with which I wholeheartedly concur. Don't miss this one!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thanks to Thom Bassett for bringing this follow-up article by Glenn Greenwald to my attention. This is more than another article on Wikileaks. It is an analysis of the corrupted role of American journalism in ensuring that we remain ignorant of what our government, in collusion with other powerful interests, is actually doing.

In the article there are links to a number of other cogent analyses of the disinformation propagated (propagated, as in propaganda) by a fawning fourth estate that ought to be the protector of our right to know what is being done in our name.

Maybe we should charge Bin Laden with a broken condom in a Swedish bedroom? Maybe he got laid in Sweden while he was negotiating to buy some yellowcake uranium?

Get Judith Miller on the phone! WMD's anyone?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A friend wrote to say that Assange has done some dangerous things, putting people's lives at risk. I don't know where he gets his information. Is Wikileaks as dangerous as the mainstream media parroting what governments and megabanks feed them? Just where are those weapons of mass destruction?

Glenn Greenwald has a great article about what Wikileaks actually released and how on Salon, here.

How quickly a global manhunt began for Assange once he announced Bank of America leaks would be next. Leaks of redacted State Department cables, back-channel discussions, characterizations of foreign leaders got nothing but a lot of bad press from the corporate newsmedia. But once he threatened the BoA’s vampires with some sunlight, he was arrested on obviously trumped up charges, Visa, MC, and PayPal froze or otherwise disabled Wikileaks’ accounts, and internet providers who depend on these financial services attempted to erase Wikileaks — and even listserve and bloggers’ discussions of Wikileaks — from the internet.

The man is dangerous because he is a publisher who is off the reservation and not controlled by those who write and maintain the dream narrative we ingest via what passes for journalism.

This is precisely what we decry when the Chinese do it: prevent the people from access to information that would lead to their questioning the narrative they are spoon-fed. Or the North Koreans. Or the Iranians. Or the government of Myanmar.

Journalists who decry Wikileaks as out-of-bounds, as irresponsible, as a violator of journalistic ethics, might well remember that Wikileaks’ first story was the leak of the wanton murder of two Reuters’ journalists by a US helicopter crew. If “traditional” journalism had been fulfilling its function, unintimidated by corporate owners and military murderers, Wikileaks would be unnecessary. So instead of vilifying Assange, reporters ought to start looking for the stories buried in the relatively few documents so far released, and put a process in place for digesting and understanding the political and economic meanings of the Bank of America revelations that are imminent.

And read the Salon article noted above. It is a lie that Wikileaks indiscriminately dumped 250,000 documents onto the net.

We have a publisher now in prison who has not been charged with a crime and whose news organization has also not been charged. What's next for him? Gitmo? Extraordinary rendition?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

How one feels about Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange seems to depend on one's allegiance. I'm reminded of the old joke:

Lone Ranger: Tonto, we're surrounded by Indians!
Tonto: What you mean, WE, kemosabe?

If you identify, either actively or passively, with corporate capitalism's global agenda, then Assange is a criminal. If you see that same secret network of powerful interests as destructive of human freedom, a criminal conspiracy to assert and maintain state and corporate power over an increasing number of people worldwide, then Assange is a hero.

Speaking of criminality, let's refuse to be distracted by the ludicrous charges of rape with which threatened power has sought to slander him. According to Information Clearing House, both of the women who were convinced to make these complaints bragged on Twitter to girlfriends about having slept with him before the charges were even an idea. Now they are saying it was rape because a condom broke (in both cases?) and he didn't immediately stop. Enough said.

Would the New York Times have published The Pentagon Papers today? Even now, the story in the media is all about Wikileaks, not what has actually been leaked.

The Canadian blog Wood s Lot has a great gathering of material about and by Assange. It is in our interest to inform ourselves: we live in an age where the control of information is integral to the control of populations. We need to be truly informed, not spoon-fed. Here's a good place to start:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

While at the Vermont Studio Center in September, working on a nonfiction project, I spent a wonderful afternoon with my former student, the essayist Sarah Stromeyer and her husband, sculptor David Stromeyer, walking the acreage adjacent to their home, viewing David’s stunning work. That field, in Enosburg, is testament to his long and innovative career working in metal. It was astonishing. He had to build, first, the means to make these exquisite things — tons of steel, cut, shaped, intricately assembled, moved — each and every stage an almost insurmountable engineering problem, and yet each looks light enough — or some of them do — to blow away in a strong wind. Not to mention the colors! And the way they take the light.

I visited David’s workshop and forge, where steel an inch thick or greater is bent, beveled, turned. A massive enterprise that begins with manipulating tiny cardboard models proceeds to mathematical modeling which must take into account the tensile properties of the materials, and the placement of bolts and welds must be accurate to the millimeter in order to make the whole thing work. Artist, mathematician, physicist, geologist, and engineer — David’s integrated understandings of these several disciplines make possible sculptures of an almost unearthly beauty.

Returning to my own work, the problems of composition appeared to me analogous: knowing how much weight a scene might bear, where and what kinds of transitions — like spot-welds — had to be placed in order to bring my themes together in unexpected but structurally sound ways, and how the various parts might be colored, i.e. emphasized or muted, in order to present a coherent and interesting whole. I remain grateful for David’s work on many, many levels.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


It only looks as if the boy
on the bike, in his angel costume,
is pulling the heavy load,
drayhorses and all, that we cannot see.
Like the faces of the domestic beasts,
his face says he is only halfway present.
He has learned to steer with one hand.

And it only looks as if the stolid crone
is watching him for one false move.
In fact, she is looking beyond him,
maybe at some likeness of a saint
the yoked team pulls impassively.
Strapped to his shoulders, his wings
have survived remarkably intact.

(This Koudelka photo was featured on today's wood s lot. I was reminded that I'd written a poem, unpublished, in response to it a few years ago. I found it sleeping in a corner of my hard drive.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

From this morning's BOSTON GLOBE:

As the nation prepares to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War in 2011, with commemorations that reinforce the North/South divide, researchers are offering uncomfortable answers to that question, unearthing more and more of the hidden stories of New England slavery — its brutality, its staying power, and its silent presence in the very places that have become synonymous with freedom.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My third day at the Vermont Studio Center where I will be for a month. Ample time for musing which is important. Musing is to summoning the Muse as fishing is to catching fish. It is a willed and wily passivity, a passionate patience, the union of being and doing, a way of submitting wholly to the present in order to invite memory, entice the unexpected, even, by allowing the imagination to suppose this and that, guess at the future.
Musing seems to me to be the opposite of what these days too often passes for thinking: the choosing between this position and that one, the preference for this or that proffered alternative, strategies for "getting your needs met," learning how to use the pull-down menus, the brand-name solutions to discomfort, and the memes and macros that allow us to live on cruise control.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


The people crowded the square.
The crowd peopled the square.
The troops circled the square.
The troops and the people squared off.

The name of the people is they.
The name of the troops is not us.
The name of the square is there.
The name of the circle is again.

The square peopled the news.
The news circled the world.
The troops circled the crowd.
The world turned the page.

The name of the news is yesterday.
The name of the paper of course.
The name of the new page is maybe.
The name of the world is asleep.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


"Freud’s theory of sexuality was the half-truth with which he reconfigured his own traumas and anxiety."

walking home,
clips a cigar,
wants nothing much:
an evening’s peace,
some coke in the vein,
a postulate to chew on;
maybe he will finally
write that letter
to his father. But
they come again:
the boys like monkeys
chattering around him
waving handguns;
the girls bent over,
wiggling their asses.
Where to turn? How
To fly? They trample
him, a wet leaf
plastered to the century,
his flat, stern visage
trembling on the sidewalk
like a paper dollar.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


There is the city of glass and money,
over there, but here it comes,
closer with every newspaper.
Unidentified lying spokesmen
interpret the same old photos:
the bloody feet of refugees,
the bloody hands of soldiers.
Here comes someone, not a neighbor,
with a clipboard and a calculator.
Where will we grow children and roses?
Where will we grow older?

Because mothers still tell children
making ugly faces to be careful
or they will harden into one of them,
I am a little less afraid.

When fathers wipe their children’s dirty faces
with handkerchiefs that smell of sweat,
their children do not forget them
easily. I am a gladdened father
learning that, and a calmer son.

And lovers’ bodies make a clumsy knot
just good enough to mend the net.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The cuckoo in the dark
alone, takes fifty-nine
minutes to prepare.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Watch them on the footbridge
above the falls
that keeps us from hearing what they say:
he leans on the lake side, looking far across,
she, above the falls, looks down.

We can imagine what he sees
is moving with the water to the falls,
that the reflections of the trees, the clouds,
the docks and houses are a swirling
surface-film distorted as it

pours, silken, over the lip. Or
we can decide she feels the colors
bleed from everything behind her,
and that the brittle pieces of it
crash, continuously, at her feet

like an infinite stack of dishes.
He’s crossing to her now, his arms
around her from behind, his
fingers buckled at her waist. Look:
when she turns to him

he turns his eyes away
as if he’d begun to blurt the truth
then clapped a hand to his mouth.
She touches him dishonestly and gently.
We can imagine reasons

why they do not love each other
anymore; we can infer,
by their doubling back
the way they came, the touchy
mutual denial their conversation

had to steer around
to stay together one more day,
but neither of us, even now, knows
anything that either one of them can say
to make things right again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Driving home from the warehouse,
little jazz on FM, the moon low
and full over the frozen reservoir,
a powder polishing the ice.

those lights behind me, gaining,
were someone speeding to catch up
to tell me I’d forgotten something;

not this flatbed rattling past
with a load of empties.

Friday, July 23, 2010


My father handed me the flags and paid
out string from where he stood
at home, waving me deeper, waving me right
or left, “More left. A little less. Yes.
Good.” Then with the string held high,
a wind-rolled arc
between us, I ran hard across
the outfield and we set the Left-field flag.

Suppose the string were one thread of a sail;
the way it would belly, filling
with assurance. Say that where he stood on it
it entered the ground
so if I pulled I’d pull forever, all of it --
the whole ball -- one unbroken strand.
Or say I doubled back
to a snag in crabgrass or a patch of dandelion
too late and saw my father
chasing the end that got away from him.

Suppose the lines go on beyond the flags,
embracing houses, trees,
so many men and women, strangers
turning into friends or enemies, so many lovers,
towns, forests, lakes, rivers, stories
told and heard, forgotten or remembered,
understood or not. suppose the lines go on
because they do; imaginary, real.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The pebble my son
spraypainted gold

rests in my palm, a gift,
and asks, as if

in his sweet, high, temporary voice:
who taught me my life

is lead and needs great pain
to turn itself to gold?

And who taught them?
And for what, and whose, reasons?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It’s a window next to impossible
to miss unless
you’re hurrying to a particular place
or obsessed with a recent song, or carrying
a face, not just anyone’s,
with you at the time.

I confess I’ve stood there
under the sign lettered GUNS - JEWELRY - LOANS
many times, the window full of
risked, lost, or stolen things,
grieving people’s or dead people’s things,
novelties and knives.

Guilt. Indecision. Everything
is used; each of the hundreds of watches
shows a different time. Guitars,
untuned, hang carefully, gratefully
silent. Which ones, of these alarm clocks,
above the guns, above the stuffed owls,

have cut off a dream and sent a man out
to his death? Some of these paintings,
stacked on the floor, have hung in the finest
banks, and, although it’s kept quiet,
there are those who’ll say the diamonds
were swept from the highway after a fatal crash

that no one remembers. Not even
the broker, the nodder, the blank-faced one
who asks no questions, who, come night,
empties the window, leaves the drawer open
and empty, leaves one light on, sighs,
locks up, drags shut the rusty gates.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The house itself, if it had a voice
Would speak out clearly. As for me,
I speak to those who understand;
if they fail, memories are nothing.

— Aeschylus,

We say what we know because we must.
You can cheer us or run us out of town.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust,

a hairline crack in the faultline’s crust,
a tentative first-person plural pronoun.
We say what we know because we must

recall, recount, redeem, and readjust
all that we’ve known, not for renown.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust,

or the first few tiny flecks of rust
on barrels buried underground.
We say what we know because we must

talk back to histories we do not trust,
relearn our own, and set them down.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust.

What does it mean to fear what’s just?
You can cheer us or run us out of town.
We say what we know because we must.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Father Art, on earth, above those past
the hours of their deaths, thou Mother
under us for who knows how long now,
thy names be with me. Fruit of wills
repeatedly and variously done on earth,
who will pray for us? Sinners? I believe
in clay and constellations and what accidents
allow us to forgive ourselves again for being
in such debt, for owing bread, for being tempted
to make believe, to lie, to sleep forever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Another from Without Paradise:


I live entirely for my own sake.
I once had friends, some money, plans, a love,
but what the hell, what difference does it make?

These days it doesn’t pay to stay awake.
I’ve got what I need. I’ve got nothing to prove.
I live entirely for my own sake.

I was the best but couldn’t catch a break.
So here I hang. I should be hanging in the Louvre!
But what the hell, what difference does it make?

Just thinking of work gives me a headache.
I like it here, a bit above it all; why move?
I live entirely for my own sake.

I’ve taken all the shit I’m gonna take.
So take your shining mottoes, squat, and shove.
But what the hell, what difference does it make?

Your lives, your loves, your work: they’re fake.
You’re all stuck in the same timekilling groove.
I live entirely for my own sake.
What the hell, what difference does it make?

Monday, July 05, 2010

It's been a long time since I posted anything here. I only occasionally repost from another blog or website because I had wanted this to be a place where I would make my own contributions to the "genre" of the weblog. This isn't the site of my work, either; that's still my notebook. Having grown up writing with a fountain pen, not moving to the typewriter until my twenties, it is still a great pleasure for me to write in longhand, which is, I think, closer to the speed of my thinking. (I hasten to add that I am in other ways cutting-edge: facebook page, an iPhone, etc.) My point here is to define and more tightly focus this blog. For the next few days or weeks, I will post poems — sometimes with accompanying images — from my first collection, Without Paradise. Although the book is still available, copies are limited now. (I still have a box, and sometimes sell them when I read from the latest book.)

Here is the poem that opens that book:


— for Michael Stephen Hoffman, 1957-1970

Being in us in his new life
is as strange for him
as it is for us to be here

at his grave today
with no one else’s footprints in the snow
and only the trees that guided us

so let it not be winter there.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I'm very proud to be a small part of Thoughtcast, which Jenny Attiyeh describes as "a watering hole for ideas." She recorded my reading at The New England Poetry Club on the occasion of my receiving their Sheila Motton Award for best book published in the previous two years. I read with Wendy Mnookin, whose The Moon Makes Its Own Plea is among my favorite recent books.

If you are unfamiliar with this remarkable site, spend some time there. Terrific interviews, thoughtful and thorough. Great readings. Wonderful links.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I am incensed by a news article in the Boston Globe today, “Pope to deliver apology to Ireland.” I have seldom seen such a cynical acceptance of the public relations dictum “perception is all.” The article seems to agree that the problem is the Catholic Church’s “image,” and not the worldwide criminal conspiracy recently brought to light by brave survivor-activists who compared notes, documented the paths of destruction left by pedophile priests, and refused to be silenced. It has seemed to me of late that The Boston Globe has been trying hard, since the fine work of its Spotlight Team exposing the abuse of kids in the Boston Archdiocese, to kiss and make up with the church. Lots of pictures of Cardinal O'Malley, lots of space allowed him to weigh in on moral and political matters, lots of pictures of him with the homeless, or recently, walking around Haiti in his sandals and humble brown robe. An article about the church's PR problem is not just kissing and making up, it is, well, ass-kissing. It makes the church the victim. It pretends to tell us about good men trying to recover from what some bad men did; never mind that they are the same men. The reporter, Shawn Pogatchnik, fills column-inches with a story. He includes a few quotes. And he steadfastly refuses to tackle the real subject.

A simple gathering of the figures from Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States puts the number of children violated at, easily, a million. Add in the numbers coming from other European nations, South America, and Africa, and we approach something like the real scope of this institutional depravity. If we further bear in mind that these numbers reflect only the latest generation of clandestine exploitation and not the earlier decades and perhaps centuries of it, then we begin to see the depth of it as well.

All the pope’s robes and regalia cannot hide his own history. His directive to bishops worldwide as Head of The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (a bureau that was once called The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, a.k.a. The Inquisition) insisted that the abuse of minors be regarded as a matter of church business first and last. The oldest hierarchical, quasi-military chain of command on the planet reinforced its claim as a totalitarian Ministry of Information in that document, reminding the bishops that their first allegiance was to Rome. It is that reinforced chain-of-command which must soon tighten round this pope’s neck as it is shown over and over, in court after court, in country after country, that his bishops obeyed his orders to keep silent, evade the questions of civil authorities, and protect predators.

One has to wonder if these priests didn’t sign on to be priests in the first place precisely for the guarantee of that protection. In any case, it is clear from the forceful insistence on obedience and silence of Cardinal Ratzinger’s edict that he was aware of the scope and depth of priestly criminality and its longstanding cover-up. He must also have understood the devastating consequences of full exposure. The Catholic Church is shaken, rightly, to its foundations as a professed force for good in the world by the increasing evidence that it has been among the world’s major forces of the ongoing persecution of innocents. Cardinal Ratzinger knew, and knows now as pontiff, that this is not a PR problem.

In the story, it’s always the child who points out that the emperor has no clothes. But it takes an adult to point out that in addition to being naked, he’s also ugly — deeply, morally, spiritually ugly.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This fine essay is reposted from wood s lot. I believe it gets to the root of our condition, i.e. it’s a truly radical analysis of not only our economic, but also our social and spiritual devastation.


by Etay Zwick

…Pick up the New York Times today, and you’re likely to read yet another article about finance’s infidelity with the general public, another violation of the (invisible) norms of propriety. It is only with immense discipline, a well-stocked inventory of financial jargon and a readiness for self-deception that one can actually distinguish these “violations” from business-as-usual. Yet despite ubiquitous references to Wall Street offenses, maybe even because of them, Americans don’t seem deeply troubled, or even all that perplexed, that this abusive sector remains largely undisturbed. Most of us can dutifully recite the scandals and statistics, but few dare to imagine life without Wall Street. For all the talk of a rapidly evolving economic environment, we treat one feature of this environment as permanent: the existence of a class of individuals who make millions by making nothing. We’re no longer surprised to see business elites divine exorbitant bonuses, paid for through record unemployment levels and unprecedented government support. This trick is getting old.

Though Wall Street consistently updates its instruments and practices, one governing rule has remained since Veblen’s time: financial propriety has nothing to do with social and economic growth. Certain rules must be followed, but the construction of those rules is absolutely distinct from considerations of general social welfare. Rather, regulations and rules are defined according to the culture’s metric of success, of value, of esteem—and that metric is money. All financial practices that increase the wealth of the sector are not merely permitted, they are required. No profitable innovation can be ignored. Destabilizing the global economy is fine. Undermining one’s firm, or jeopardizing the system of trading and speculating, is not.

Finance today is not geared toward getting entrepreneurs the credit they need to actualize their good ideas. It is riddled with archaic social forms that perpetuate barbaric status anxieties. The appeal of the Wall Street lifestyle—money, clean working conditions, (paradoxical) status as stewards of prosperity—has blighted the rest of society with its message that the best kind of work is devoid of social utility, knowledge and permanence. Nonetheless, we continue, even in the wake of economic crisis, to accept the barbarians’ rules for social and economic life. The discussion in government today revolves around minor matters of transparency and enforcement. The barbarian does not abide by rules; indeed, it is a point of pride that he knows his way around them. No matter what regulations are passed, the barbarian will figure out a way to make money from them...


Sunday, February 14, 2010

VALENTINE, sotto voce

May breath
on the tender
of your febrile
pinna fill your
with fluid, and my
on your incus
your tiniest bone.

— for Kathi

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A friend sent me this. All too true on the day of the "State of the Union" address:

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude, spotted a man in a boat below and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I'd meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,436 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be an Obama Democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me may be technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am," she replied, "but how did you know?"

"Well," the man said, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problems. You're in exactly the same position you were before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault."