Well, we finally got some justice. The Ahmaud Arbery verdict was right on! Whatever sentencing is handed down will be justice served.

Lots of support in the country for that jury’s decisions. Many in this nation watched everything unfold in that little courtroom. They and the jury were forced to hear the outrageous racism spewed by the defense. Just plain racism on display for all to see and hear.

But, back to the verdict. In fact, back to the charging of all three of the guilty. Had it not been for someone leaking a video of the murder in the alley, there would have been no trial. Nothing. Nada.

The federal attorney, at the time, had decided no charges were warranted in the killing. This was just three fine citizens catching and killing a suspected neighborhood burglar. Case closed.

That determiner of “justice” was a lady named Jacqueline Lee Johnson. She has since been removed from office and is now facing criminal charges of her own. In every sense of the word “justice,” she deserves whatever fate is determined in another courtroom.

The fine and huge point in this drama is that, if someone had not made public that short, but painful video, there would have been no arrests – no charges – no action! Ms. Johnson would still be the federal attorney for that district. The three men would not have had their lives disrupted. There would have been no trial. And Ahmaud Arbery would have been just another Black man murdered in an alley by three “good citizens.”

The difference between this and so many other Black killings in this country was simply the digital capture of a murder in progress. A video. Incontrovertible evidence of the crime. The same in the police murder of George Floyd. A camera at the scene capturing a crime in progress.

If I were a Black man, I’d have every reason to ask society “If a cop kills me by kneeling on my neck or if vigilantes gun me down in my neighborhood, will there have to be a video of it to get me justice?”

How many Black men have been killed in this country without charges being brought – without someone arrested and convicted – because there was no video of their deaths? Have we become so inured to the deaths of fellow humans that we must have pictures – video of their demise – to make a criminal case?

Left to the “thinking” of one former federal attorney, the answer is “yes.”

We citizens – and especially Black men – expect more of our justice system. We expect the full and complete “services” available to assure a thorough examination of the facts and – if warranted – action in accordance with the law. That’s our expectation. That’s our right!

Some years ago, someone had the bright idea of putting cameras on cops for just the reason for the Arbery case. Video. Digital pictures of what the cops were doing, what they were seeing.

Great! Except now, we’re hearing “left it in the squad car,” “battery was out because I forgot to charge it,”“I forgot to wear it” or some other lame excuse. You almost have to have a videographer “ride-along” to make a case.

There’s absolutely no reason why the Arbery case got to a courtroom other than the pictures. The video someone “leaked.” What if there were no “leak?” What if the video never surfaced? Would there have been any justice at all for an innocent man’s death? The answer – if Ms. Johnson’s decision was not challenged – would be “No.”

Criminal cases initiated by pictures. Justice by digital photography.

Helluva world.
 

Destroying democracy

Author: admin

If those two words are a jolt to you, consider this. If Trump and/or his minions gain national office in the next two elections, those two words are likely to be the eventual outcome.

Never – in my long years – has the future of our Republic been so threatened. You have to look no further than our present Congress to see the antics of those already there.

Boebert, Taylor-Greene, Hawley and their ilk have made the trek to
Mara-Lago to kiss the ring, drink the kool-aid and promise fidelity to the Trump deity.

Across the country, there’s an all-out attack on municipal, county and state elections to get more far-right “patriots” into positions of power to, in some cases, change the outcomes of various races. Cancel the votes cast by the people if the voter outcomes are not to their liking.

Here, in Arizona, we’ve got announced Trumper candidacies up and down the ballot. Several Mara-Lago “faithful” have joined the fray – running for Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State.

In recent elections, this state has gone from “red” to “purple” and seems to be shifting further toward “blue.” Our two U.S. Senators are Democrats. Well, Sinema, sort of.

Idaho has the Trumper Lieutenant Governor trying to unseat the “big guy” in 2022. Already kissed the Trump ring and has hard-copies of the Florida endorsement to pass around.

Speaking of Idaho, the legislature – more specifically the House – has gone off-the-rails, acting like the Idaho Constitution doesn’t apply to Republicans. At least their “brand” of such. Gem State taxpayers are footing a lot of unnecessary per diem and legal bills because of the unwarranted effort to get around the states Constitution.

Many a-year ago, then-Idaho Governor Bob Smylie told me “Every few elections, you’re got to open the closet and sweep everything out – regardless of party. One-party control over a long period can produce a real stench if the people stay too long.” Idaho’s Legislature seems to be living proof

Here in the desert, we had to put up with a Trump-backed, expensive “fraudit” of our last election. Now, other states are copying the failed effort as if “election fraud” is/was a sudden contagion at the polls. It wasn’t. And, likely won’t be if competent candidates prevail.

These aforementioned nutcases – and their actions – are all the proof needed to see where this country is headed if they get control of more elected offices. Imagine Marjorie Taylor-Green as your new governor. Hey, she got to the House of Representatives, thanks to Democrats leaving her an uncontested general election. Governor? Could be. Or, Paul Gosar or Sarah Huckabee-Sanders?

There are a lot of these conspiracy-believing souls out there. They’re being fed daily – hourly – B.S. by their right-wing media. Faux Neus has made possible One America News and other copycats. Radio. TV. Murdock-run newspapers. Nutball rallies. Constant voices drowning out the real world.

Which creates this problem. How can you introduce reality to people who are surrounding themselves with fantasies they believe are real? How do you break the cycles of repeated lies from a mass media that’s constantly feeding them? They’ve effectively sealed themselves off from the rest of us.

Until now, folks on the fringe have pretty-well been left alone to wallow in their little worlds. And, like mold, they’re grown – unchecked and unblocked. Now, with a toe-hold in various levels of government, they’re getting bolder and looking for more.

Unfortunately, that’s what the next two national elections are about. They’ve become so very important. The all-out, right-wing assault on the rest of us is going to manifest itself on the ballot. Oregon. Arizona. Idaho. Virtually every state has the same problem.

The Trump-backed militants are becoming a force to be reckoned with. They’ve got money. They’ve got their own media. They’ve got a larger degree of power. They’re going to show up. Whether as voters or as candidates, they’ll be there on election day. More than ever, an informed electorate is needed to overcome the assault from the far-right.

Without that informed electorate, we could be seeing our democracy destroyed. These next two elections are really that important!
 

Real news lost

Author: admin

Most of us have little “tics” that infuriate when we see or hear them. I’ve got one. I’ll spell it out. It’s only five words.

“…..ACCORDING TO A NEWS RELEASE.”

If you’re a daily reader of newspapers or viewer of TV in Idaho, Oregon or damned near any other place, those five words are prominently displayed in many stories. Way too many.

“……According to a news release” Just what do those five words mean? Why are they so prominent and used so often? Let’s chat about that.

Those words mean someone emailed – or otherwise informed – the media what they want you to know about this or that. Which may or may not be the whole story. The words pop up most often when used in place of a reporter being assigned to what the story is about.

A glaring example. A few days ago, the Arizona Republic – Arizona’s largest newspaper – had a “story” about a border patrol officer who “died in the line of duty, according to a news release” That was it. The last sentence: “The Border Patrol provided no further information about the officer’s passing.”

WHAT? “Provided no further information?” Where the hell are the reporters? How the guy died is the guts of the story. If he hadn’t died “in the line of duty,” there’d be no story. What killed him? How he died IS the story!

Reporters used to physically check in daily at the local cop shop, meetings at city hall, fire departments, county buildings. They got to know county commissioners, mayors, secretaries (often the most reliable news source) – even janitors. They developed stories. Stories that gave readers/viewers more insight and information about the goings-on. And, sometimes, reporters found out facts that often led to a better story. Or even a “scoop!” I did it for years.

Newspapers, radio and TV seldom do that now. They’ve been victimized, replaced or largely downsized by availability of the Internet and (un)social media. “Stories” that took time to develop now blare out, often without the real `meat` of the “information.” Too often without all the facts. Like the dead Arizona officer.

Newspapers and broadcast operations have “slimmed down.” They’ve even got “reporters” who work from home! Using the phone and the I-net. Too often, they don’t ‘on site’ to get the story. That’s why you see “…..according to a news release.” Sometimes, not even rewritten.

Most radio/tv operations and newspapers aren’t owned by local folks anymore. They’ve become “pawns” in the news business. Too often, they’re owned by large corporations that don’t give a damn about local news and how important it really is. Accountants – read “bean counters” – do spreadsheets on profit and loss. There are, after all, investors who want a good rate of return.

Some guy, sitting on his butt in Florida, doesn’t give a damn that a United Airlines jet may have ‘crashed near Caldwell, Idaho, killing 254.’ A crash causing slimmed down local news outlets to work staff overtime, sending “feeds” to national news bureaus, doing real on-scene reporting. Temporarily “blowing” budgets. The Florida guy’s only interest is “bottom line.” Return on investment. Nothing else.

So, you too often get “…..according to a news release.” Faster, cheaper, easier – and less expensive – than being staffed to go out and get the rest of the story.

The loss of “beat reporters” means, for instance, when city/county budgets are set, your taxes are spent – and maybe raised – and you don’t know the details. That loss also means things happen in courthouses, city halls, ‘cop shops,’ fire halls and businesses along Main Street that you never hear about. Real news.

The irony here is we live at a time in which we’re inundated with information. More than ever before. So much so that we have to search for what we want/need to know. But, with the cutback or elimination of most local news staffs, who find and report real local news, we’re less informed about what’s going on – less informed about what’s happening right around us.

You can thank Ronnie Reagan for much of this. During his presidential term, he appointed a new batch of people to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC appointees promptly changed previous ownership restrictions on broadcasters and other media. You could subsequently buy as many radio/TV stations as you could afford. One corporate outfit eventually owned 12-hundred radio stations. Corporate. Investors. Absentee ownership.

The requirement that stations operate “in the public interest” was whittled down to meaning dropping a lot of local – or basically any – news. Staff cuts in the thousands hit newsrooms. Many stations now have no news at all.

Awash in information. Too often deprived of real information – local news reporting in our communities. We’re told, in too many instances, only what someone or some agency of government wants us to know.

“…..according to a news release.”

Stand and deliver

Author: admin

Well, now. We have an infrastructure bill. Took 10 months. But, we got it. At least some of it.

No thanks to the Orcasio-Cortez “wing” of Democrats. All six voted “No.” But, thanks to 13 Republicans who voted “Yes,” everyone can go home and brag to constituents about the big bucks coming their way thanks to “bipartisainship.”

While there is much rejoicing in D.C. at the moment, that celebration may be more for the Democrats finally doing something major than for final approval of the bill.

Here’s something to think about. President Biden sent his original request to the Hill, asking for $3.5 trillion for infrastructure. What he got back was much-altered paperwork with approval for $1.2-trillion. Less than half of what he wanted. Imagine the infrastructure projects that wound up as so much scrap on the congressional floor.

Democrats have a couple of other accomplishments which have been filibustered to death in the Senate. Hung up by a single objection by a single senator in a single phone call saying “I object.” What a way to run a railroad!

I’m guessing a lot of Dems are saying “Christmas holidays ahead so let’s get through the next few weeks and take some time out.” I can’t think of a worse attitude for the moment.

Yes, you pushed a peanut up the hill. With help. But, we had an election a few days back and the message sent sounded to me as pretty urgent. The work is not done!

We want the John Lewis Voting Rights Act passed and enacted into law. We want affordable housing assistance. We want tax laws re-written (and enforced) to end billionaire and corporate tax avoidance. We want an end to acrimony and wrangling in Congress. We want a return to legitimate two-party participation in D.C.. We want some of the billions spent on an out-of-control military defense budget diverted to programs to improve the lot of our own citizens. We want to be HEARD! And more.

“STAND and DELIVER!”

Those words are the title of a 1988 film about a courageous Hispanic math teacher. The film received rave reviews and the phrase “Stand and Deliver” has become part of our national lexicon.

I strongly commend the use of those words as an all-inclusive mantra for the National Democratic Party!

“STAND AND DELIVER.”

Democrats have had their majority for 10 months. In both Houses. Plenty of time to act on at least some of those 2020 campaign issues we bought off on. Just those. We want what the candidates promised. And, we want an end to Democrat fracturing keeping the majority from acting like one.

With rare exception – very rare – Democrats will not overcome the determined resistance of congressional Republicans. Not gonna happen. That’ll take another national election. Maybe two or three.

But, there’s a small crack in the current GOP wall. Sen. Murkowski says she’ll vote to approve the voting rights package. She’s signaled a willingness to help Democrats on that bill. Just that one. But, who knows? Might just be another GOP vote or two when the roll is called.

Last week’s election – congressional, gubernatorial or school board – seemed to carry a message: “Get done what we want done or we’ll replace you.” Both parties.

And, another thing. Senate Democrats have to have a major “woodshed” session with Sens. Sinema and Manchin. It’s time – way past time – for the Majority Leader to act like one.

Here in Arizona, there’s already a movement within the Democrat Party leadership to “primary” Sinema in the 2024 Senatorial race. Billboards, slick TV and newspaper ads are carrying that message. Her seat is not a “safe” seat by any measure.

Manchin – a winning Democrat in an otherwise solidly Republican state – is another matter. Majority Leader Schumer must find a “hammer” to get Manchin into line. Manchin has already been given too much leeway. He and Sinema are also stopping elimination of the filibuster or even “work-arounds” to get things moving in the Senate.
President Biden is an old Senate “Warhorse” with more than 30-years of experience as a member. Surely, he and Schumer can exert the right pressure in the right places to get Manchin and Sinema in line.

If “get-to-work-or-we’ll-replace-you” was an underlying message in the elections last week, Democrats had better take those words to heart. They’ve got the majority numbers, if not majority control. The stalemate is happening on their “watch.” Voters in many places are angry and tired of the “do nothing” atmosphere in both Houses of Congress. They want action. They want to see results.

“STAND AND DELIVER.”

Those three words should be considered both a message of urgency to get things done and a threat to “do nothing” incumbents. Democrats need to heed those words and get back to work!
 

Mom and Dad’s choice

Author: admin

If you were faced with a life-or-death situation, which pathway would you choose?

The way eventually leading to life? Or, the one to your eventual death?

I’ve never given that drastic choice much thought until millions of Americans decided to forego getting a vaccine shot to protect against the ravages – and often death – associated with COVID.

But, for one idiotic decision or another, we’re going to have this disease around for many years. If not forever. Because of the unwillingness of about 30% of Americans to protect themselves – to protect the rest of us.

The most accurate figure I’ve found for the number vaccinated is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Something like 70%. Just over two-thirds of us have gotten the shots. Leaving about a full one-third unprotected and some, most likely, carrying the virus. To share. Recent hospital reports are pretty consistent. About 95/98-percent of new patients are unvaccinated, with the death rate in the 80-90 percent range.

Choice. Life or death.

On the plus side, the last 20 months or so have given medical professionals time to develop some effective protocols to lower the vaccinated COVID death rate. On the down side, the unvaccinated are still dying at staggering numbers. Many by their own bad choice.

But, the plot is about to thicken. Pfizer has announced a vaccine that is effective – and thus far safe – for five-to-11-year-olds. It’s almost certain the drug will quickly be granted government approval.

The thicker plot? What do anti-vaxxers John and Mary Doe decide for their kids? Will they allow the kids to get shots? Or, will they almost certainly doom them to contract the disease? Are the justifications – excuses – the parents have made for themselves also fitting for their beloved children? If they decide to get the kids protected, will John and Mary get a shot themselves?

Deciding for oneself how to live your life is one thing. Making a life-or-death decision for your offspring is much different. Much tougher. What will the unvaxxed decide?

There’s an Arizona county up near the Grand Canyon. Mojave County. Near the Arizona-Utah border. Lots of folks living the “independent“ lifestyle. Lots of Trumpers. A good many living in the back country. “Rugged individuals” as they say.

And the vaccination rate thereabouts in Mojave County? How about 38%? Yep, just 38.

County seat for Mojave county is Kingman. Literally millions of folks pass through there for Grand Canyon and Interstate access. Motels. Restaurants. Bed and Breakfasts. Camping. Tourist rides. Gas stations. Millions of people staying temporarily in Kingman or passing through.

And the COVID protected crowd is just over 38%. What are the odds of some of those millions of tourists being exposed to – and contracting – COVID? Most people coming and going through Kingston probably have no idea about how low the vaccination rate is there. Millions of people.

And another thing: what the hell is so personally threatening to folks about a COVID shot? Anyone living in Mojave County who was in the military got a lot of shots. Anyone who went to grade school got vaccinated for half-a-dozen diseases. If you’ve lived to be an “adult,” you’ve had experience with the needle.

Why this stubborn resistence now? And the kids. Is that same bullheaded choice you’ve made for yourself OK for them, too? Really?

Watching national vaccination percentages for the next few months will be instructive. I’d bet we see a slow increase.

The kids.

If not, some parents will have made terrible choices.

From the pew

Author: admin

Barb and I attend a local church that’s going through the trials and tribulations associated with our COVID pandemic. In our case, we’re talking about United Church of Sun City, AZ.

For several months, the sanctuary was closed, with services – such as they were – recorded and put online. For we elderly, not born with a keyboard to reach out to our electronic world, such a transition was a poor substitute for the real thing. But, with so many “substitutes” in nearly all normal life activities these days in a COVID world, we made do.

Now, UC of Sun City is dealing with the same problems most churches across the nation face in this time of declining congregants in what we hope will soon become the “post-COVID” era.

For example, masks or no masks? Make masks mandatory for entrance or leave it to individual choice? Remove masks when seated or leave them in place for the entire service? Have masks at the door or turn people without coverings away? No masks? Limit the number of worshipers?

In reopening the sanctuary, what new – and distanced – seating arrangements are necessary? Open every other pew? Rope off half of each pew? How best to create a welcoming service environment without making congregants feel uncomfortable while observing the added recommended spacing requirements of the CDC?

Then, there’s the choir. Normally, we have 30 or so singing in the Chancel area. Singing in close proximity to others has been confirmed as an excellent disease spreader. Reduce the number of singers? Space them out on both sides of the Chancel? Sopranos over here – tenors over there? No choir at all?

Hymn singing. Keep hymnals in the pews or remove to keep the best sanitary conditions. The pew Bibles? Keep ‘em? No, out with both.

And communion. Worshipers stay seated and elements brought to them as usual? Worshipers come forward for communion by intinction? Worshipers bring their own elements? Our church opted for the last choice with congregants asked to bring a grape and a cracker. That’s what we did. As you’d expect, it just wasn’t the same. But, we were together.

How about coffee hour following worship? Keep the convivial process going? How about those ubiquitous homemade cookies? Keep ‘em coming? And the social chatting and “catching up” time. Keep it up?

In our case, we decided to stop the coffee hour. Not a popular decision but a necessary one. For some of us seniors, used to the conviviality of coffee hour, that may be the biggest change. When the preacher says his last “Amen,” what’s a guy supposed to do? No coffee hour!

And the office. Do you keep it open the normal hours? Do you make it a “No Visitors” area? What about those endless committee meetings? For some, a time of catching up with others over the ever-present coffee.

As with most other churches, we’ve come up with reasonable answers for all the necessary changes. Took some time, but we did it. Actually, we’re still doing it.

The Cathedrals and mega-churches around probably faced many of the same issues. Maybe more. But, the backbone of Christianity today is most likely the small church – the neighborhood church like UC of Sun City. Close to the congregants. Nearby to provide all the services expected. Nearby to keep lines of communication open and people connected.

There was a time when being a Christian could mean imprisonment or even death. There was a time of gladiators. And lions. And whips and chains. And stake burnings. Those who stayed true to their beliefs – stayed with the church despite the dangers – found their reward in an open door – in a gathering of like souls – in the certain redemption of Jesus Christ.

So it is today. In our time, it’s a pandemic that’s killed millions around the world. It’s the invisible presence of a potentially life-taking virus called COVID. A disease that cares not if you’re a Moslem or a Jew or a Hindu. Or, a Christian.

UC of Sun City, AZ, and all the other churches and denominations, have been wrestling with questions of how to keep members – neighbors and friends – safe from today’s enemy. From today’s scourge. Little by little, leaders have begun the process of returning to “normal” – if normal there be. Small steps to accommodate the threat but to do so in a new and safer environment. Small steps. Steps to lead us back to where we’ve always been.

Your church has been doing the same things. Taking many of the similar steps. Working to welcome you back just as we have.

Sundays at 10am. It feels better already.

It ain’t over

Author: admin

Arizona’s “fraudit” count is over.

The Cyber-Ninja has gone where numerically-challenged Cyber-Ninja’s go. Republican Senator Karen Fann has quietly faded to her chambers to avoid a nosey media. The count has been cussed and discussed ad infinitum by all sides – with varying numbers and sources. Four-million voter forms have been returned to Maricopa County election folks. The five-million-dollar show is over. Time to move on, right?

You are wrong, ballot breath!

This Arizona fiasco is simply “the gift that keeps on giving.” Even so, The Arizona Republic newspaper had to pry the newest paperwork out of legislative hands with public records requests.

Surprisingly, a third group of ballot counters has been quietly at work, finding the “fraudit” by the Ninja was off by more than 312-thousand votes. Also, the Ninja didn’t tally another 167-thousand mailed ballots in its five-months of work. And five-million-dollars spent.

This new 695-page report was produced by former Arizona GOP chair Randy Pullen and was supposed to provide a “snapshot” of the two-million ballots cast. Some “snapshot” at 695-pages.

The hand count numbers in THIS report reflect a 15-percent error rate when compared to the machine count sponsored by the Arizona Senate Republicans. That Ninja guy.

Vote counting professional Larry Moore of Boston-based Clear Ballot Group, said this is “proof the Cyber-Ninja count wasn’t real.” No kidding.

Moore is part of a three-person Arizona group called “The Audit Guys” which includes Benny White, a GOP data analyst and Tim Halvorsen, Clear Ballot’s retired technology chief. Taken together, these three carry a lot more weight when it comes to ballot audits.

The Audit Guys called the Ninja hand count a “work of fiction,” basing their statement that 17 pages extracted from the 695-page report showing a 10-percent error rate in the counting. About 200-thousands ballots.

As I said, the whole damned thing just “keeps on giving.”

Now, other states are trying to mimic the work done in Arizona. More millions of dollars are being picked from the pockets of folks who want D. Trump back in the Oval Office.

It would all seem ridiculous if somehow you forgot the whole damned scheme is the work of Trump and his lackeys to undermine public trust in future elections. That takes it from the realm of “ridiculous” to “damned serious.”

The 2022 off-year election is just about a year away. The disgraced and twice-impeached former President is already marshaling his minions with the continued claim he “is the rightful Commander-In-Chief” and “Biden lost in 2020.” He’s making libelous claims at the top of his voice as he tries to make us all think the upcoming election will be a work of fraud if “his candidates” don’t win.

And, in a handful of states where Biden’s edge in 2020 was close, the cries of “fraud” and “cheating” are already heard from local watering holes to State Houses. How many of these states will actually conduct some sort of “fraudit” remains to be seen. But, the more that join the farce, the more “regular folks” will hear about it and all the accompanying talk of election “irregularities.” Which there weren’t!

In some ways, what Trump is doing is attempting a verbal “coup.” He’s trying to get us to disbelieve voting outcomes when he doesn’t win. His thinking is, if he can get enough Americans to doubt the stability and honesty of a national election in 2022, he can return to the White House. Especially if the numbers in many states are close. And, he’s got elected Republicans by the dozens drenching themselves in his “unholy water” as accomplices.

I know, for most people, elections are some “far off” thing that doesn’t merit attention ‘til the week before. For many years, it’s been that way. It’s different this time. Dangerously different.

This “unindicted co-conspirator” and international con artist has about 20-25-million Americans listening to his every word. Right-wing hate radio/TV are making his lies seem real with their constant yammer of support. Those folks live in a world foreign to the rest of us. Their “reality” can cause them to be a force to be reckoned with at the polls and elsewhere.

We can’t turn our backs on these people – the Trump believers and voters. National media needs to keep up-to-speed on their comings and goings. We – all of us – need to remain faithful to our traditional foundation of truth, honesty and respect for our system of governance. Our respect for free and fair elections. And the validity of their outcomes.

Here in Arizona, our “fraudit’s”done. The Ninja’s gone. Peace reigns in the Valley. Except for the bilge emanating from right wing radio. A constant reminder of what could happen if we don’t pay attention.

A lack of permanence

Author: admin

A friend and I were lunching the other day, talking about this and that as friends will do. Discussions on any topic were fair game. Good guy.

One such topic was when he asked what was on my mind and I said “The lack of permanence.” I blurted it out. Then I expounded on it before giving it much serious thought. But, I gave it a lot of thought driving home. And since.

“The lack of permanence.”

For several years – and to this moment – I’ve felt anxieties, anger, a tendency to worry more about conditions and just a general unease. At first, I thought all these emotions – and more – were part of the aging process. After all, I’ve never been four-score-and-five before. And we aren’t born with a book of instructions to refer to as we go.

For nearly all my life, there’s been a sense of permanence, normalcy and order in nearly everything. Through all the troubles of this nation, we’ve survived, our living conditions normalized and our institutions stood firm. Some changes occurred and we adjusted. Returned to normal.

No longer! It just keeps changing and causing – in many – a sense of impermanence. A general lack of stability.

Take the USPS. You know, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor dark of night….” Permanence? Not under Louis DeJoy! Maybe the President can’t directly fire this guy who’s tearing our mail service apart. But, he can damn well fire the Board of Directors who keep the bastard in the job. Permanence? No!

Take public schools. Business as usual? Not since COVID, masks and “critical race theory.” Just consider the scholastic “wars” going on between school boards and angry parents nationwide. Some actual brawls over subject matter or vaccinations or just about anything. Definitely not permanence or the historic scholastic calm we’re used to.

Been shopping or dining out recently? Permanence? We tried to have breakfast out the other day. We were told we could be seated immediately but not served for an hour! Staff shortage in the kitchen? Quite likely.

Tried to drop off the family pup for a bath. Noted line from the back wall of the store to the single checkout. Poor management or staff shortage? Really doesn’t matter. That’s the “usual” in stores and other service business these days.

Church? Permanence? Ours didn’t meet in the sanctuary for months. Used the I-net. Now, meeting in person, more than half the seats roped off, no touching and masks highly recommended. No social time following services. Is that the church you remember all these years?

Car buying? Is it “business as usual” at the dealership? Not now. Inventory down to 10-12 cars on the lot. Prices at sticker. Or above. Shopping for cars online is the big thing. But, even there, sold-out or greatly reduced inventory. Chip shortage. Some dealerships closing. Try making a shop appointment. A week or two out.

Grocery stores. Same old shopping experience? Hardly. Many shelves empty. Short inventory. Fewer check-out stands open.

Personal banking? Some have closed lobbies. Others allow only two or three customers at a time if lobby is open. Staffing levels cut. Branches with four or five employees. In some, no loan officers. Business as usual?

Congress? Effective? NO! The political parties are so divided little is done while needs of citizens go unmet. Poll after poll shows where the nation is on urgent issues – jobs, infrastructure, foreign affairs – even abortion. But, none seem to matter to congressional leaders, as they ignore the will of voters who sent them to the Potomac shores.

Sense of permanence in government? Again, hardly. We’re running month-to-month paying our national bills with a total shutdown looming over our heads. We’ve got a national party hellbent on stopping any important legislation. Fractures in governance have made Congress nearly useless.

A new national budget, tailored to our needs, hasn’t been devised in many years. Pentagon spending so bloated even the military can’t conduct a complete – much less accurate – accounting for hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year. Spending completely out of control. And, for the first time in my long life, our military has lost two wars. Wars lost to people with no air force, no navy, no up-to-date military equipment. Yet, we spend some 800-billion-dollars a year on “defense.”

Government has lost touch with the people. At some state and local levels as well. The postal service is a mess with higher prices and poorer services. Our national treasury is running nearly on empty. Our vaunted military is in disarray and defeated. Civic continuity and comity are gone in many places. Institutions valued for generations are being challenged as never before and some have been rendered nearly ineffective.

Our world is unsteady in ways we’ve never known. If you, too, are searching for permanence and find it, please let me know.
 

Madhu

Author: admin

A friend died a few days ago at the age of 73. Cause of death was a combination of ills of being a senior.

He was East Indian. Born in Kenya, where his father was posted in India’s diplomatic corps, though he lived much of his life in India and England. He was well-educated and was a successful businessman in England and the States. He and his wife, Nilini, raised two very successful – now adult – offspring who live overseas.

Though we met and started our friendship in Oregon, somehow, we found ourselves in Arizona years later. He, to own and operate a profitable business and me, to retire. Lived about 30 miles apart.

His name was Madhu Patel. In India, the name “Patel” is synonymous with “Smith” or “Jones” in this country. Lots of ‘em. The name originated among farmers and other agrarian folks centuries ago. I have two doctors named Patel and Barb has one. No relation.

Though Madhu was successful in business, he was a shy man. If you got to know him, he had a good sense of humor. He was honest to a fault. I found him to be a good friend. The kind of friend you could not see for months, then, when you got together, you just picked up where you left off.

So, why are we describing a man you probably never heard of? Because he lived. He was not a statistic! He was not just a number in someone’s record keeping of the comings and goings of medically-related outcomes.

Neither are the 680-thousand or so American dead. Victims of COVID. Each one a person. Each had a life that mattered to someone. Each was an individual in his/her own way. They weren’t just another digit on the national rolls of the deceased.

But, as the media reveals COVID-related deaths each day, that’s how it seems. Numbers. Statistics. Not flesh and blood. Not real.

I’d guess each of us knows someone who is/was a COVID victim. Someone who lived an otherwise “normal” life. Someone who mattered. To you. To many others. A Madhu Patel. A singular name with a real life. Someone who made a difference to others. Flesh and blood. Someone who was respected and cared about.

One thing that makes me so damned mad about the list of hundreds of thousands of COVID dead is a sizeable percentage made the list of their own volition, clinging to some excuse – some alleged “patriotism” – a resistance to authority – a loudly proclaimed “individualism.”

A bucketful of verbal B.S.!

Too often, the denier of medical science breakthroughs and qualified medical advice, becomes a statistic. Another number in the national death count. So much for denial. So much for “individualism.”

My friend, Madhu, didn’t want to die. He had family, friends, business success, a beautiful home and eventual retirement to live for. But, with the deepening physical failures caused by age, his death was inevitable. Those of us – family, employees and friends – who knew and loved him – are left to mourn. The man. Not the statistic.

So it has to be for each of the hundreds of thousands of COVID victims. Each had family. Each had friends. Each had a career. Each had aspirations for the future. I suspect none wanted to die.

Which makes the millions of voluntarily unvaccinated a mystery. Surely some have had family members or friends die. Or, knew someone who did. Surely some mourned. Have seen an unvaccinated life snuffed out. Have suffered loss.

Yet, millions of them – voluntarily unprotected – continue to cling to the denial of lifesaving science. Why do they let themselves in for hospital bills and/or burial expenses in the many thousands of dollars? Many may be forced into bankruptcy or lose their homes. And a shot that likely could have avoided all that takes only a few seconds. And it’s free!

Some deaths – like Madhu’s – can’t be avoided. They’re part of the natural cycle of life. We come. We go. And we, left behind, go on.

But, hundreds of thousands of the 690-thousand or so who suffered avoidable deaths – the agony and mourning – the high cost of life-saving medical care – the failure to recognize the dangers of turning their backs on free care that could sustain them in this COVID period – all of that could have been avoided. Except for ego. Except for vanity. Except for belief in some “invulnerable” being. Except for ………………

For Madhu, the father, brother, husband, businessman and friend, we mourn the man. The individual we knew. He didn’t die of COVID, but he’ll be remembered as a person – not a number.

Under attack

Author: admin

Like it or not, for the foreseeable future, Donald Trump is going to be a force to reckon with in nearly all things political. His lies and childlike attempts to keep his name in our faces has – and is – taking its toll on our way of life.

A new CNN poll of more than 2,000 citizens nationwide showed 56% believe our democracy is under attack. Further, 51% believe it’s “likely elected officials will successfully overturn the results of future elections if their party doesn’t win.”

Nearly all queried – 93% – believe our democracy “is being tested. Republicans expressing the worst fears were Trump voters. In that group, 79% say Trump should be the leader of the Republican Party.

Most in that GOP crowd believe there is “solid evidence” that Joe Biden lost the 2020 election – 78% so say. (Nobody was asked for evidence)

A narrow majority – 52% – lack confidence “future elections will accurately express the will of the people.” Maybe that’s because 58% say voting rule changes in GOP controlled states “were made to keep the Party in power.” Democrat responders – 53% – believe the same.

One other statistical note: 83% of polled Republicans believe election laws “aren’t strict enough” and 66% of Democrats say it’s already too hard to vote.

By way of evidence to support the opening comments about Trump, having an affect on our politics, again, the CNN poll shows 79% want Trump to be the leader of the GOP. Fact is, he is! Name one other Republican who could contest his occupying that spot right now. Or, in the next few years. I can’t think of one.

The polling also shows a majority of us feel under some sort of attack on our system of elections. Elections are the backbone of the country. If the words “free” and “fair” can’t be used to describe future elections, how will we electors have a voice in how the country is run?

Truly, the shadow of Trump hovers over just about everything political. It appears many GOP politicians believe they have to support Trump’s baseless claim he “won” in 2020 and “kiss the ring” in a display of obedience.

Look no further than the failed attempt to recall California’s governor. The loser started complaining the day BEFORE the polls opened that he was the victim of “a stolen election.” Pure Trump. Pure B.S..

Nearly all of us were raised in a time of political fairness, especially in national elections. Both Parties. In all who ran for one office or another. Belief in our election system was just taken for granted.

We know now, things aren’t “free and fair.” In my middle-of-the-road Republican family, the downfall of Richard Nixon killed my Father’s faith in politics and our traditional system of governance. His patriotism and lifelong belief in the honesty of the Presidency were crushed. It literally brought him to his knees. I was in the media at that time. Much of my reporting was about things political. But, Dad would never talk to me about politics again.

Now, we have Trump, whose lies and treachery have irreparably soiled much of our politics. Republicans running for nearly any office seem to have some sort of fealty to him. He sticks his nose into races up and down the ballot. Sometimes, he actively recruits candidates to run against some Republican he believes was disloyal to him.

Like it or not, his brand of politics is being emulated in many contests.
As in his California involvement, we’re seeing outright lies being effective at the polls. That’s how we got Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, and Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis and others of their ilk. Despoilers of truth and disdain for “free” and “fair.” They, and others, in Congress and state affairs have brazenly taken on Trump’s banners and are conducting themselves in his likeness.

Voters polled by CNN overwhelmingly believe our system of governance – our way of life – is under attack. The majority fear future elections may be invalidated by elected officials – especially Republican officials.

That polling shows many of us are unsettled, apprehensive about the future and are fearful our voices will be stilled by unscrupulous politicians. And, in many of the responses, the specter of Trump was revealed in their answers.

While I don’t question the veracity of the pollsters, I’d like to think most of us still believe in fairness and honesty – that we who cast ballots in elections will have our voices heard.

Yes, at the moment, Trump is an unwelcome player. But, I’d also like to think enough solid losses at the polls – like the California whipping – will eventually erase the stigma of his influence.

It’s up to us.