Archive for the ‘Column’ Category

Has anyone seen a national Democrat who’d make an excellent president? Does anyone know of such – someone harboring the thought who’s ready to file petitions and start raising millions for the race? Anyone? Anywhere?

No? Well, how about someone who would be a likely candidate for vice president? Have you seen one of them? Someone out in the hustings on the rubber chicken dinner circuit? Someone helping raise funds for a local or state or national Democrat candidate for something and earning I-O-U’s?

No? Well, what HAVE you seen? Elizabeth? Bernie? Joe? Kamala? Oprah? OPRAH? Are you kidding me???

You do know, of course, it takes three-four years of advance work, raising money, setting up state-by-state connections, creating a technology network, getting local committees of workers up and running, shmoozing big donors, You know that, don’t you?

So, let’s ask again. Which Democrats are out there doing those things? Who’s got those petitions ready to file? Who’s ready to “hit-the-ground-running?” Walking? Crawling? Breathing?

The uniform answer to such queries seems to be “No one.” Since Tom Perez became National Democrat Chairman, what passes for national candidate recruitment has apparently been taking place underground in deep secrecy. I can’t come up with a single serious name being floated or even whispered. OPRAH? Are you kidding?

Hillary has said – more or less – she won’t run for office again. Good. Bernie won’t make such a statement and is letting backers ramp up the chant. Bad. Elizabeth and Kamala don’t have the chops. Joe’s age, three years hence, disqualifies him. No potential 2020 candidates there.

It’s not like the Dems don’t have some fine, highly qualified folk. Check the U.S. Senate: Mark Warner (VA), Patti Murray (WA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Amy Klobuchar (MI,) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). If you liked Joe Biden you’d love Whitehouse. He was Biden’s top staffer for years and is just as familiar with foreign heads-of-state and diplomacy as Joe.

Over in the House, Joaquin Castro (Tx). Smart, experienced, able to gain election majorities – even in Texas. Or Chris Van Hollen (MD), Jackie Speir or Eric Swalwell of California or Adam Schiff (Ca) of the House Intelligence Committee. Several state houses could produce some good names as well.

Democrats have some really top-notch talent. They do! But no one is carrying on a national dialogue, floating names or even openly promoting the necessary candidate search. It’s likely there’s a lot of commotion below the surface. But the clock’s ticking. The threshold for launching a national campaign is bearing down. Time to get going on some of the all-important name recognition. And work.

About the only national Dem chatter I hear is the continued bitching between Hillary and Bernie supporters. That’s got to STOP! Again, Hillary ain’t running and Bernie shouldn’t. Knock off the arguing and get behind someone else. Anyone else. Put that useless chatter andwasted energy into a candidate that would appreciate the added help. When you can find one.

This far out from November, 2020, it’s hard to know where Trump – or Pence -will be. Impeached. Sitting in a cell. Beaten in a nasty GOP national primary. Ready to run again. But, Democrats can be warned of one thing. In or out of office, Trump will be a larger-than-life figure in that election. His dwindling base will make it so. Faux Neus and Breitbart will make it so. Trump will make it so.

Somebody’s got to jerk the national Dems off their butts and out onto the battlefield. The need for all-out, flat-out action has never been more necessary. Or, they can just continue to grumble and watch Trump and his minions tear our government to pieces.

C’mon. Make some noise!

A deep state?

Author: admin

One of the moral issues all of us face from time to time is this: is it all right to support a concept or action we may know is wrong or is without factual basis or do we reject it for those same reasons?

Here’s one I’m wrestling with at the moment. Members of the Trump family – and a few other conspiratorial minds – are screaming there’s a “deep state” cabal working against our president. On the one hand, that’s highly doubtful. On the other, I hope so, because, left unchecked, the man is just plain dangerous to our survival!

Let’s set a common definition for that term “deep state.” The words are most often used by conspiratorial types to describe a “deep rooted civil service – or other behind-the-scenes group – at work to undermine elected officials.” Including presidents.

The latest White House denizen to publically use the term is Trump’s second son who lumped Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres (?) together as “forces for evil.” Said it on Twitter. Just like Dad. Bannon and Faux Neus like it, too. And use it often.

It’s really too easy to poke sticks at anyone in the Trump family or others who think of him as our “political savior.” But, there is a serious bent to this as well. Which brings about my ambivalence.

Several weeks ago, I used this space to highlight a couple of Air Force generals publically stating they would not necessarily follow a presidential order to unleash the force and nuclear weapons. The qualifier used was the question of “legal versus illegal” orders. I’ve since discovered there are as many definitions of those words as there are generals. Or staff attorneys. Whom we don’t have time to consult when there are incoming warheads.

But more evidence is piling up – as in some ‘50’s-‘60’s” movies about renegade generals – that the military and other agencies are going their own ways on things. Case-in-point: in November, Trump said “no transgender people in the military.” The Pentagon, however, now says, as of January 1, transgender enlistees are welcome.

Case-in-point: Trump made a big public issue of claiming our embassy in Tel Aviv will be moved to Jerusalem. But State Department professionals – not Trump-appointee Tillerson – are saying there are “no plans in the foreseeable future” for such action.

Case-in-point: Trump continues to berate and insult North Korea’s leader while State Department professionals – not Trump-appointee Tillerson – continue back-channel discussions with counterparts in both North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan.

Case-in-point: Trump pulls U.S. out of climate accords so individual states are now signing up directly with foreign governments.

Case-in-point: Trump’s own staff attorney did not tell him he had the authority to fire an F.B.I. director because his own staff attorney figured that’s just what Trump would do.

Case(s)-in-point: Trump continues demanding a stop to immigration – even legal immigration – but nine courts have overruled him.

Upper level civil service professionals have often walked different paths from political appointees. That’s not new. What IS different is it’s being done more openly – more “in-your-face” – than previously. Especially in military, State and DOJ issues.

Trump has repeatedly proven he cannot cooperate with – and cannot countenance – people who are experts in their fields holding any different view from his. He refuses to recognize his job is not to call every shot but to oversee departments of government while recognizing it’s the professionals who really know what ’s going on. And how to do it. They may – and should – bend to changing political guidance. But we’re starting to see open defiance in some quarters.

Which brings us back to “deep state.” Is institutional resistance to Trump and his authority real? And, if so, who’s in charge? Which decisions will be carried out and which ignored? Is someone – or many someone(s) – working deep underground to subvert the power of the Presidency or just Trump? And, if so, who? And to what end?

For the first time in my life, I go to bed at night wondering if (a) I’ll wake up and (b) if I do, to what? I have no use for Trump. He scares me. I want him gone. Preferably today.

But, he IS the President. He DOES have certain constitutional powers at his disposal. He DOES have the legal right to exercise them. And, what scares me more than him, is the idea that others may actually be working to thwart the lawful exercise of that authority.

We live in a technological (read nuclear) environment requiring immediate decisions that can result in life-ending consequences. The evidence seems to indicate a “going-my-own-way” attitude in some portions of our government. Despite Trump, that’s not the way to run a country.

For years, pollsters have found a majority of Americans have little trust in their national media. In many instances, the positive percentages of those questioned about fairness, accuracy and impartiality have hovered below 30-percent or so. I’m not willing to accept those numbers at face value.

One reason for my scepticism is pollsters often don’t define the word “media” before asking their questions. I’ve looked at some of the larger outfits in that business – Gallup, Pew, etc. Most of their queries are about media in general which leaves responses open to interpretation. On occasion, if they specify which media, further questioning often avoids other sources – mass media – radio, TV, print or “social media.”

And therein lies one reason for my distrust of most such surveys. What about “social” media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like? Given the high percentages of folks – especially those age 40 or under – who get most of their information from such, are those sources broken out from print and broadcast media in polling? Seldom.

Four important factors to consider here. First, nearly none of what appears in “social” media is edited for accuracy, sourcing or even truth. There are no checks on whether the information is reliable. Given the huge number of people who have no idea how businesses operate – or even how their own government functions – you’re on your own when it comes to whether you believe what’s been read or told. That will, in turn, affect how a person sees all media.

Second, if pollsters don’t specifically break out which media is being asked about – which, in my checking is all too often the case – responses will be skewed. Comparing a Facebook post to The Washington Post makes responses invalid. One is checked, cross-checked and heavily edited. The other is totally unedited, unchecked and, too often, a bogus source.

Third, many of us tend to gravitate to media that agree with our viewpoints because they reinforce what we already believe. We routinely avoid the ones that don’t. (Fox, for me.) For those doing that consistently, they’re not exposed to new or different facts and, thus, cling to information that may be comfortable but also old or wrong. People who rely on Fox, for example, are fed a steady diet of information edited to skew things to false “facts.”

Finally, another factor skewing polling is the issue of what the word “news” means to both the pollster and the “pollee.” Unless there’s some major disaster or important world event at the moment, CNN, MSNBC and Fox have little to no news after 4pm MST. It’s mostly opinion mixed with a few facts. Much of it reporters talking to reporters or others favorable to the networks point-of-view. It’s not “news.” But, pollsters don’t always differentiate news from opinion in their questions. So, if the responder doesn’t like a certain news source, is that person conflating opinion with news?

I’m certainly not opposed to polling. Far from it. But, before taking results at face value, one needs to know how the question is asked and if the questioner and the responder are clear on the meaning of terms they’re using.

I think most of us have a higher trust of national media than a lot of polls indicate. But that’s just my opinion. Certainly not news. Just so we’re clear.

Factless Fox

Author: admin

For several years, I’ve used this space – and others – to condemn Fox News. Or, more appropriately – FAUX NEUS. Real, fact-based reporting has not been a part of the networks claim-to-fame since Rupert bought it.

But, now the boys and girls exhibiting their talent-less efforts on the screen – radio, too – have gone so far over the fairness and unbiased reporting line that not even Diogenes could find an honest soul among them. The network is now just a far right mouthpiece. “The truth is not in them,” as my Grandma Lou used to say.

The disparate collection of pretty faces and handsome readers has surrendered completely to the dark side. The whole operation has become nothing more than a swamp of misinformation, distortion and downright lying on behalf of anything or anyone with a far-right bent. It’s now nothing more than GOP-TV. Not to mention, of course, being the sexual abuse capitol of broadcast journalism.

The network’s current torrent of journalistic B.S. aimed at Special Council Mueller is exhibit “A.” The similarities of speech between Faux Neus voices and GOP members of Congress are like echoes in the Swiss Alps. You’d swear there was a co-authored news release of baseless charges and unfounded bilge-water handed out from Murdoch, McConnell and Ryan each day at sunrise.

Mueller has been given a thankless legal task. Find the connections – if any – between the Trump campaign and Russia. The “if any” clause is probably inoperable now because, between what we know of what Mueller’s team has already uncovered and some outstanding reporting from major legitimate news agencies at home and abroad, proof of those connection(s) is overwhelming.

The reason Mueller’s task is “thankless” is because, no matter the outcome of his research and the publishing of the end document of findings, people will be unhappy from coast to coast.

If he ties Trump and Putin together, the Trumpeteers will screech like banshees that the whole investigation was a “plot of the left, the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton” from the getgo. If Mueller’s report clears Trump and his minions of any punishable criminal activity, the rest of the audience will say it’s a “whitewash” and he didn’t dig deep enough to find the truth.

If you research Mueller’s background, you’ll find he probably doesn’t give a damn how anyone else views his labors and those of his talented crew. He’s about as “straight arrow” as they come, has a lengthy public background of being a first-class prosecutor and was given the job by a Department of Justice Republican appointee. He faithfully served administrations of both national political parties for years without a hint of favoritism or scandal.

But, to hear the faux outrage at Faux Neus tell it, Mueller has far exceeded his original charge, has used illegal means to gather emails and other evidence, has overcharged we taxpayers for what he’s been doing, is somehow a servant of the Clinton’s and had something to do – even they aren’t sure what – with Benghazi.

Journalism is a valued, legitimate profession. The names I honor most – Bradlee, Broder, Cronkite, Jennings, Graham, Murrow, Pyle, Trout, Reasoner – all spent their lives trying to report fact, doing their best to do so independently and fairly and left a legacy of work that likely won’t be equaled.

Media today is not the media of times past. Reporting today is not the reporting and editing that used to be. But, there still exists – in most cases – a desire to “get it first, get it right.” Because there are so many sources from which we now get our information – many unedited and unchecked – there are far more opportunities to fall short. There are way too many political mercenaries in the business that shouldn’t be but most others keep trying.

All of which makes Faux Neus an outlier. (Maybe that should read “outliar.”) From Murdoch on down, the blatant prostitution in writing, editing and reporting borders on the criminal. The obscene pandering to the far-right, the mouthing of “stories” based on collected garbage, the vilification of those with other points of view, the broadcast demonizing of responsible thought, factless facts repeated ad nauseam, the devotion to bias and rumor-mongering – all have made Fox a pariah to responsible, fact-based journalism.

What had been, in the past, irritatingly bad at Fox has now become outright disrespect for truth with no effort made to report without adulteration.

We can be thankful many viewers are tired of being lied to and the formerly high ratings Fox enjoyed are now sliding down the charts.

What’s needed to balance the scales of honest journalism is not a new, left-leaning media reporting outlet. The same balance point can be reached by the single elimination of Fox News.
 

Not so fast, Dems

Author: admin

Democrats – especially those in traditionally red states like Idaho and Utah – continue to bask in the glow of one of theirs being elected to the U.S. Senate in blood red Alabama last week.. “If it can happen there,” the chant goes, “It can happen here.”

Not so fast, my frenzied friends. Not so fast.

While it was heartening to see that red blood turn a bit blue, there were some very important mitigating circumstances to consider. Circumstances that don’t exist in most states – especially in our far western neighborhoods.

For example, Black voters – who normally mark their Alabama ballots for a Dem – make up nearly half of the electorate in that state. The largely white legislature, in that heavily Republican state, has historically thrown roadblocks in minority pathways to the polls. Winner Doug Jones continually reminded Black audiences of that fact and it can realistically be assumed some of those voters, who made the narrow but winning difference, came from those determined to overcome such hurdles. A little show of strength, so to speak. Not the case – in large numbers – in our Northwest.

Then, there were the women. Yes, we have women in our neighborhood. But, many Republican women in Alabama had a major motivation – not traditionally found in other red states – to side with Democrats. And that was the well-publicized gross sexual history of their party nominee. Whatever they felt about his purely political unfitness for office, many women might likely have been overcome by anger about his immorality and lifelong abusive perversions regarding women – especially teens. Another mitigating factor for the Jones victory other states can’t truly replicate

Then, there was the Republican candidate himself. While a lot of unfit folk make it into elective office on a regular basis, never in my life have I seen one more deserving of outright repudiation and public condemnation. If you were to build a “candidate” from scratch, about the only despicable trait you could add to match Moore would be that of a serial killer. The guy has a previous lifetime history of rejection of most values the rest of us hold.

Twice fired from the Alabama Supreme Court for violating federal law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Moore made a mockery of his elected responsibilities. Openly flouting constitutional authority – while claiming his own nutcase supremacy in public office – should have kept him off any ballot for any public job. As much credence as you might give Jones’ efforts for the win, the lions’ share of blame for the loss must go to Moore. A well-demonstrated and uniquely gross personal history like Moore’s is not normally found in many elections.

Then, there’s this. The margin of victory was about 20,000 in an election in which 1,325,536 votes were cast. Add in the coincidently 20,000 known write-in votes plus a large number of traditional Alabama voters who stayed home rather than cast their usually GOP ballots for Moore and the outcome could have gone the other way. That means about one-in-two folks walking down a typical Alabama street voted for the loser. Or just didn’t vote.

Democrats in deep red states like Idaho and Utah have a right to be cheered by the Alabama outcome. Break open the bubbly and toast a brighter day. BUT, as you cheer this recent breakthrough, keep a good grasp on reality. The political winds in Alabama combined to create a very unusual storm.

While you may rejoice in the outcome and see an opportunity to slip past your traditionally conservative GOP opponent(s), none of you will face a candidate as repulsive as Roy Moore. It’s doubtful Steve Bannon or Donald Trump will visit your little red state with their political bile to motivate Republicans to cross over and back a Democrat. None of you have a large enough minority population to achieve what Black voters did in Alabama. Make a difference? Yes. Swing an election? No.

Nor are you likely to get major economic and organizational support from the DNC such as Jones did. Not unless you can construct a scenario like Moore who fomented a Republican voter rejection of their own candidate.

By all accounts, Dems are going into the 2018 campaign in better shape than their counterparts. At least for the moment. But, they can’t sit back and expect any different outcomes than they’ve previously seen.

Doug Jones worked his ass off for more than a year. Come up with a candidate who’ll work as hard. He attracted a top-level campaign team of professionals who cost more than Dems have typically been willing to spend on such talent. They’ll have to raise sums of money previously thought to be impossible. They’re going to need more volunteers than ever and those volunteers are going to have to work harder and longer than in the past.

But, most important – MOST important – you’re going to have to find your own “Roy Moores” for your Republican friends to walk away from.

The future of Democrats in deep red states is not entirely in your own hands. You better get started.

Wait just a minute here

Author: admin

A couple of weeks back, I opined all this sexual assault business had a good chance of going too far and could end up ensnaring some men – and women – who might be innocent of major wrongdoing. Seems now, it probably has.

An innocent friend’s experience years ago has made me leery of taking every charge and every complaint at face value. Not to say some high profile cases we’ve seen aren’t true. Most evidence has been convincing. And perpetrators exposed.

But, the sudden spate of instantly going after each big name is also a shameful example of the “herd” mentality of our present day media. All running after the latest personality in order to shine the light of guilt on a fresh face. With nothing more than a charge. Not asking for evidence or other substantive facts. Guilty as charged.

I’m not going to defend the guilty nor offer alibis for anyone. Not just yet. But a learned friend has suggested we may need another step in the process. And that is some sort of gradient scale while taking into consideration what was acceptable 30-40 years ago, given the morality and other factors of the times.

For those of us who lived through the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, much of what’s now considered “over-the-line” wasn’t. We remember that era as one with damned few lines. “Free love” we called it. Musicals (‘Hair,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) and others were common fare. Songs about open sex and nudity were on the radio and in record shops. Topless marchers and bra burning were not unusual. Pairing off on a whim was acceptable. Bedding down with someone whose name you didn’t know was commonplace.

In other words, without excusing acts of perversion or violence nowadays, there should be some consideration of the times then – and the times now – when considering punishments.

Yes, some of the big names in the spotlight were abusers. Some charges have been accompanied by ample evidence. But, is it all on the same par? Is a case of rape on an office couch the same as giving someone a hug who might have been offended? Do all of today’s charges require the same career-ending punishment?

Then, there’s the issue of massive media exposure after someone simply makes a charge. Has the media become the judge, jury and executioner when someone – anyone – says they’ve been wronged? Seems so.

It’s handy when a charge is made and the guilty party confesses so societal punishment can begin. But what about those who’re either not guilty or simply violated someone’s “personal space?” Are public banishment and embarrassment proper punishments for both examples. Seems to be. And it shouldn’t be.

I’m a hugger. Always have been. I was raised in a family of huggers. Church, service clubs, reunions, social gatherings – we hugged. Now, hugging is not for everyone. But it’s who I am. And many of my friends, too. We don’t do it wantonly or to be invasive. We’re social beings. Anyone who wants to call that “assault,” needs some special help. So, we hug less today. That’s a shame.

When I lived in Washington D.C. 50 years ago, I remember women at cocktail parties and other social gatherings prowling for someone important in politics and the media. One young lady walked up to me at an embassy cocktail bash and asked “Are you anybody?” At that time, women outnumbered men about ten-to-one locally And many were there to meet Ted Kennedy or other males in politics and do what they had to do to get their attention. Anything.

While sexual abusers need to be exposed and reckoned with, let’s consider what that reckoning should be. There are misdemeanors and there are felonies. Is punishment for a serial abuser like Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer or Roy Moore fitting for Garrison Keillor or Al Franken? Given evidence so far, I don’t think so.

If we’re going to demand punishment for the guilty, there has to be some correlation between gravity of the crime and the punishment of ending someone’s career.

At the present time, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Winston

Author: admin

That’s Winston. An 18-year-old Rat Terrier. If you can remember the old RCA Victor logo of a dog and a gramophone, that was a Rat Terrier. Very popular in the first third of the century. Now, they’re coming back.

But not Winston. Last night, we had to say our last “Goodbye.” Things just suddenly started to fail and we were not left with other choices. The moment of decision and relief from his struggle was upon him. And us.

We found Winston in a cage in a store in Nampa, Idaho, 18 years ago. He’s been our constant companion every day since. Not a mean bone in his body. Liked everyone he met. Traveled like a pro in RV’s or car. Jumped into the middle of every experience.

Hard to say who loved who more. When we were happy, he seemed to rejoice right along with us. When we hurt, there was always the paw on your leg, extra attention paid and snuggling. He sensed our moods in ways we still don’t understand.

And, we often sensed his. Some days, he was quiet and seemed extra grateful for a scratch of his ears or a tummy rub. Other times, he’d be frisky and wanting to go for a walk at any moment. And there were the quiet times, when he just wanted some extra “loves” and was content to sleep the day away.

Many people don’t care for dogs. Some folks have allergies that keep them from knowing the quiet companionship of a loving animal. Maybe they know – and maybe not – but I think their lives are incomplete. As we humans search for attention and love, we never quite fully achieve either without a dog. Without a Winston. Without the constant support that comes from having a cold nose rub your arm or “that look” from bright brown eyes. No matter when. No matter where.

While needing regular feeding, exercise, an occasional bath and nail trim, we got more from him in repayment – and then some- for those little chores. Even if he just snuggled into his small, sheepskin basket across the room, we felt over-paid – and quietly, a bit more loved – knowing he felt safe enough and loved enough to let us be his constant security. When an animal – or a person – can trust you enough that they can override their natural sense of self-preservation, you feel loved and needed by someone outside yourself.

We romanticize our pets much the same way we do people who’re close to us. We give them special names and feel gratified when we can do some little thing that make them feel good or loved. We remember them on birthdays or at Christmas with some little trinket to renew the bonds between us. We hurt when they hurt. We share their joys when they celebrate.

But, if we have a “Winston,” we tend to forget they react in much the same way. They share our successes and failures with extra tail wags or being extra close to comfort us as needed. They recognize and respond to our moods. They become family. We at the table. Them under it.

In their last days – no matter what the age – they look to us to take charge and make that final decision that’ll physically separate us forever. Even as he lay semi-sedated and waiting for that final needle, Winston quietly looked at us and seemed to be saying, “Go ahead. Let me go. Stop my pain. I love you.”

And we did.

We’re grieving now. We’ll continue to do so for awhile. We don’t know how long. But, I think it will continue until that moment – days, months or even years away – that moment when we realize the deep feelings of joy, love and completeness he brought us will continue even if he’s not physically with us. They’ll continue even if we can’t reach out and touch. That moment we realize we carried out our final responsibility to do what was best – what needed to be done – for his sake. Not ours.

Our hearts may be filled with sadness today. But our lives have been enriched – enriched forever – because there was Winston. His pain is over. Ours will end, too. Someday.

Goodnight, Winston. You’re well-loved.

Home sweet home

Author: admin

Like many teens raised in small towns – in my case, Bend, Oregon, in the early ‘50’s – I couldn’t wait to kick off the dust of “Hickville” and get on to discovering the outside world. The “real” world. No small town hayseeds for me. I wanted to “get on with life.”

That from a guy who – four score years later – lived in an Oregon burg of less than 1,400. Five bars, two gas stations, no drug store and the only grocery store is four miles out of town. But, in the intervening 63 years, I’ve seen a lot of the world and had many life-changing experiences. And I never moved back in with my folks.

These days, that’s not the case for a lot of youngsters. The U.S. Census Bureau has come up with numbers describing some interesting changes in what happens to the 20-somethings who grew up with the same anxious exodus feeling I did but who didn’t get far from the nest.

We’re talking comparisons over more than a 40 year stretch from the ‘70’s to 2015. And the big one is this: more young people live with their parents now than in any other living arrangement the Bureau tracks. Which is all of them. About one-in-three or some 24-million 18-34-year-olds either moved back in with parents or never left.

Marriage for the young folks isn’t nearly as important as it used to be. Most will still marry. But in the ‘70’s, eight in 10 got hitched by the age of 30. Forty years later, that same ratio doesn’t happen until age 45.

A dozen years ago, a majority of young adults lived independently. That was the case in 35 states. Now, it’s just six states. And all are in the Midwest or Plains. Figure that one out.

Most young people today believe getting an education and being economically successful are the most important milestones of being an adult. Over half feel getting married and having kids – not so much. Big switch there.

Young men – along with most of us – seem more stuck at the bottom of the income ladder than before. Forty years ago, 25-percent ages 25-to-34 had incomes of less than $30,000 a year. In 2015, that percentage jumped to 41. The comparison used 2015 dollars in both cases. Imagine the loss in purchasing power.

And, finally, of those still living at home, one-in-four are unemployed. Not going to school. Not working. So, figure about 2.2-million 25-34-year-olds not in the workforce. They’re also more likely to have a child and more than a quarter qualify as disabled.

Those are some pretty startling statistics. Most of us just cruise along with our lives, thinking the young folks are doing about the same as we did. Working. Getting married. Having kids. Making payments on the pickup. Just “going along” and paying the bills.

But these findings tell us a very different story. Like so much in our existence, change is occurring in every aspect of life. And every where. Whether you’re still in Hickville or got out to those larger cities that seemed so alluring.

Or even in a burg of 1,400. With five bars – two gas stations – and a grocery store four miles out of town.

The U.S. Air Force general who would control all this country’s nuclear weapons in wartime has publicly made a claim that should curdle your blood.

In at least two recent public forums, Gen. John Hyten has said he would not necessarily launch nuclear weapons despite being ordered to do so by the President. That statement should get your full attention!

Especially because Hyten is Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, successor of the old Strategic Air Command, dreamed up by Curtis LeMay in the late 1940’s. For decades, the four-star at the top has had responsibility to launch – or not launch – nuclear weapons in all services – not just USAF.

When a general makes public statements that he – and he alone – will decide the legitimacy or legality of a presidential order to launch the forces, it seems in keeping with the political mess we have in the White House. Damned dangerous!

The caveat Hyten offers with his statement is if he feels or believes the order from Trump to be “illegal.”

“If it’s illegal,” he said, “I’m going to say ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And he’s going to say ‘What would be legal?’”

Someone else at the top is saying the same thing. Retired General Robert Kehler, who preceded Hyten at Strategic Command, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month “the U.S. military is obligated to follow legal orders – not illegal ones.”

In neither case did the generals describe which they’d consider “legal” and which would be “illegal.”

My last two years of military service, I sat at a console about six feet from the “red phone” the SAC commander would use to order a nuclear strike – an order for the Army, Navy and any other branch with nukes. The commander and senior staff sat at desks above our heads on the command balcony from where the order would come to pick up the phone – should it be given. The whole place was tense 24/7. Highly professional. But tense.

During my time, we had the Cuban missile crisis. I know intimately how close we came to launching. But the President was John Kennedy and the SAC Commander was General Thomas Power. Despite the danger, we knew orders from the White House and the response would be legal.

Now, we have senior officers creating wiggle room if we get that close again. I have no idea what constitutes an “illegal” order. But I’m damned familiar with Trump and his fits of pique – of childish anger. He does things and says things that show he’s not a stable person when faced with crisis events. Even little bitty “crisis” events.

Military personnel – no matter the branch – are trained from the gitgo to obey lawful orders of anyone a rank or two up the chain. That’s the very backbone of structure that provides the clarity to try to keep people alive in wartime. Or it could kill them.

There have been many changes since my years of service. Personnel are smarter, better trained, work with better equipment and seem to have more leeway in most responsibilities. But the demand to obey a lawful order has not changed. Not one word. It is still the first commandment.

When a general – or two – or three – says he (or they) will decide which order is lawful, that frightens me. Especially when we don’t know what criteria he’d use to make the distinction. During the Cuban crisis, LeMay – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time – wanted to launch a strike on Cuba and promised Kennedy he’d “make a parking lot” out of the small nation. Legal? Yes. Crazy? Certainly!

A lot of political and military types have chewed on this “legal-illegal” business since Trump became Commander-In-Chief. They’ve talked of how to deal with him if he flies off the handle as he does regularly. Suppose that madman in North Korea says or does something crazy and Trump decides to launch. He’s already said publicly the response would be “something the world has never seen” and that “North Korea would be destroyed.”

Is that a “legal?” Or an illegal?”

General Hyten and others in the military are going to have to decide. And I’d like to know what the Hell their criteria is going to be.

The death of privacy

Author: admin

Sometimes, tying together two seemingly disparate events/stories can make a good connection to explain an issue larger than either of them. So it is as I look at the national outpouring of deserved condemnation that followed the musings of multi-millionaires Donald Sterling and Mitt Romney some time ago. Talk about disparate!

But they do share one commonality – aside from one disparaging 47% of the citizens of this nation and the other with his racist vehemence involving an entire race of Americans. Both instances involved men who believed they were speaking only to the people in their private presence while the words of each were surreptitiously recorded and later made public.

Whether the principals of either situation engaged in speech that was morally right or wrong is up to any of us who care to decide. But one thing is sure. Both fell victim to expectations of privacy that were violated – a privacy that is gone from our lives. An individual right we were brought up to expect, but which has now been eradicated by our own technology and the immoral use of that technology by those so devoted.

We’ve long been openly or surreptitiously spied upon by microphones and cameras in public – and some not-so-public – places. Banks, grocery stores, parks, street corners, while we’re driving and – if Eric Snowden’s disclosures are accurate – for years while we’ve engaged in written or spoken conversations with the expectation of absolute privacy. We can be outraged. We can be vehement in our opposition. We can demand an end to such activities. But we’ll lose. The genie is out of the bottle. We have become a world where Big Brothers – and Big Sisters – keep an eye and an ear on all we do.

From a legal standpoint, Sterling may have a case that his First Amendment rights were violated. He uttered his now infamous racist and sexist words in a two-way conversation in California where recording any such conversation is illegal unless approved – in advance – by BOTH parties. Seems obvious he didn’t know of the recording and, thus, at least in California, it appears to have been an illegal act.

Then there’s the part of the story in which someone with knowledge of that recorded conversation leaked it. His then-girl friend – the second party in this instance – denied it was her. A little shakier in the legal department but certainly a moral issue.

Big box stores – grocery and otherwise – often advise you are being recorded “for your own safety.” Pure B.S.. You’re being recorded as a shoplifting tool, a video record of robbery attempts and at the advice of insurance carriers to catch people falsely claiming injury on the property. Your “protection” figures into none of it.

Banks, convenience stores, gas stations, traffic enforcement, parking lots, city parks, toll road, pizza parlors, airports, casinos, cruise ships, theaters, museums, court houses, city halls and other public buildings, bars, merchants of all sizes – all are represented in the official “people spying” industry. Some even use sonic or ultrasonic signals to notify local police of illegal entries or other after-hours interruptions. It matters not how small a community you live in – you are under surveillance.

Cell phones have made amateur “reporters” of all of us. Think of videos or pictures you’ve chuckled about in your emails or social media. Much of the time, what amused you was the subject of the missive was unaware of his/her situation. So, innocently someone passed it to you and – innocently, of course – you saw it, laughed and – innocently again – sent it along.

I’ve seen cameras disguised as buttons. Medicine now uses “live” cameras in pills! Swallow one and the Doc can watch your innards at work. More and more cops are wearing cameras to protect themselves from false charges of brutality or other inappropriate actions. Bail bondsmen, process servers, cab drivers – even postal delivery workers – are following suit.

Awhile back, I decided to count cameras I could see in one day’s travels. The total was eight readily identifiable with another six “could be’s” in cop cars, two stores and on the highway. And I lived in a town of only 1,400 folks. Of course, the whole idea is you shouldn’t be able to spot surveillance cameras in some cases, but you can figure they’re there. In addition to those you’re told about – for your own “protection,” of course.

Privacy – personal privacy – as we’ve known it is gone. Has been for some time. Even in our most unguarded moments, we’re apt to be spied on by someone. It matters not where you live – what you do – where you go. We’ve either gotten so used to it we don’t think about it or – as in the case of those big stores – we’re told of the spying and we accept it.

Used to be old political hands warned newcomers “If you don’t want to see it in the morning headlines, don’t say it.” Not so anymore. They’ve just gotten more defensive. Check out the number of “public” meetings where professional media is turned away. Outsiders only know what went on if someone inside leaks pictures or audio recordings. Which happens often.

I can think of no defense against this invasion in our lives. Not one that works, anyway. As citizens, we can’t afford to hire security people to daily check our homes and other places of expected personal privacy for recording devices. If the professionals can’t do it, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

As the old joke goes, “even paranoids can have real enemies.” The unblinking official eyes and unofficial ears most of us are caught by each day may not be enemies. But, no matter whose hands operate them, they’ve changed our lives forever. And not for the better.

R-I-P, privacy.