Archive for the ‘Column’ Category

A nod to the Birchers

Author: admin

One of the professional pleasures I’ve enjoyed in broadcasting and writing opinion journalism has been the freedom to occasionally chew on the nut cases of the far right. That enjoyment has been especially heightened when one or more ”targets” gets all outraged and feels personally persecuted.

That was especially true in the late 1960’s when the targets were often the Birchers and Liberty Lobby as they railed against “Communists-behind-every-tree” and “big government taking away our freedoms.” They made an awful noise.

While I still enjoy targeting those “paranoid patriots,” I’ve lately begun to feel some of their pain. My pain, however, has a more solid basis in fact than those conspiracy believers.

We’re seeing more and more evidence that government, at all levels, has taken on the role of master rather than constitutional servant. It’s happening along the Potomac and it’s happening – in spades – in Idaho.

Case in point: the legally protected right of the people to make laws by referendum and to do so freely.

The traditional Idaho Republican-controlled legislature tried to make future public petition efforts nearly impossible. In plain language, to stop the public from exercising a constitutional guarantee so legislators can do their work without “interference.”

The basis for Republican efforts to castrate the public referendum process was in response to the overwhelming 2018 success of a petition drive to expand Medicaid coverage. But, with petitions still warm on the desk, Republicans quickly moved to kill the idea. And, to clamp down on future petition drives to make sure John and Jane Q. Public would face more hurdles trying again. On anything.

Gov. Little vetoed one bill but for the wrong reason. He agreed with content but feared expensive court challenges – and high defense costs sure to come – challenges that would likely be successful as they have been in other states. Little tried to mollify both Republican legislative friends and the public. Most Idahoans wanted the referendum bills killed. So, the GOPers in the Statehouse went back to work, rewriting for another try.

Little signed a Medicaid expansion bill which tries to add work requirements. Even if the feds approve, there’ll be a court fight on that one, too. More tax dollars down the rat hole. Little didn’t seem to care how high the legal bills will be on that one. Wonder why.

Utah and several other states have been involved in similar efforts to mute public input and kill attempts to expand Medicaid in their locales, even after similar overwhelming public support.

One can sense the deformed hand of the American Legislative Exchange Council in all this. ALEC. Funded by billionaires and large corporations, ALEC works with state legislatures and Congress – and some local governments – creating and passing out copies of “master” bills to do this-and-that. Nearly always something for the “fat cats” at the expense of the public.

ALEC has positioned itself as a sort of another level of government. I’d guess most of the public would be strongly opposed to ALEC if it knew ALEC existed and why. But, most folks don’t.

There are many cases in which our national government actively works against the interests of most of us. Though reliable public polling may show large majorities supporting a national issue like needing immediate action on climate change, Congress – especially the Senate – ignores it. If we overwhelmingly oppose something like the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination – they’ll do it anyway.

Members of Congress – especially many Republicans – have sealed themselves off from voters. Try to get Idaho Senators Risch or Crapo on the phone. Even harder, to meet with them face-to-face. When’s the last time they took questions at a constituent meeting? Or, even had a legitimate constituent meeting? Same in Utah with Lee and Romney.

Many elected officials – especially federal – have separated themselves from citizens. You see more and more instances of the “servant” becoming the “master.” Rather than responding to issues and concerns of the populace, we see governments – especially the elected portions thereof – going their own way while ignoring our input.

Added to this, we have a racist, narcissistic, chronic liar in the Oval Office hellbent on destroying any parts of government he doesn’t like. Which is most of it. And, he’s telling various authorities of that government to lie and ignore federal laws – even subpoenas – to get done whatever he wants done.

In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the Birchers and others were wrong. At the top of their voices. We’ve not been devoured by Communism, we haven’t needed the gold standard and their hero, Joe McCarthy, was a sick, loud-mouthed drunk who enjoyed destroying people.

But, they may have been onto something with their fear of government turning on the people and challenging some of our freedoms.

I’ll give ‘em that. But, that’s all.
 

Damn, it’s hot

Author: admin

Well, summer is officially here in our cactus-littered neighborhood.

It’s easy to tell. Temperatures this week have been 102, 108, 109, 110 and 111. The 115’s and 120’s are yet to come. Overnight lows recently have been around 80 but we expect 90’s in a few weeks.

Sometimes, I don’t think humans were meant to live here. Our closest neighbors are coyotes, bobcats, cotton tails and birds of every description. Fewer rabbits than coyotes but that’s just nature’s way.

Now, if you’re asking yourself why any self-respecting old folks from the much cooler Northwest would settle here, we often ask ourselves the same question. It’s not really as bad as it sounds. Remember, this is desert country. The humidity hovers between 0% and 10% most of the time – dry heat. Still, it’s a shock to open the door of your 75 degree home into a “wall” of 115 just to go to the mailbox.

The trick here is to keep hydrated. Lots of water. Retailers who rely on outside sales (car dealers, etc.) quickly put a free bottle of cold water in a customer’s hand. Many retail stores have bottles of water handy. It’s not considered bad form to carry water even in church.

Air conditioning is not an option in our parts when building a home or buying a car. So, for the most part, we get in our air conditioned car, drive to an air conditioned store, get back in our air conditioned car and drive to our air conditioned home. Our total daily exposure to high temps can usually be limited to 10 minutes or less.

Newcomers complain about the lack of cool tap water during our heat spells. No cold showers. Tap water until October is about as cool as warm coffee. Old timers advise those folks to call the local water company and tell ‘em workers need to check the cold water lines because they aren’t cold. I’ve wondered how many follow that advice.

The problem is we live in a desert – read “sand.” When the heat gets going, the ground (sand) is heated down several feel to a spot below water pipes running from the street. So, nothing you can do to get a cold bath unless you empty the ice cube bin into the tub.

If you want to work outside in your garden, for instance, just turn the usual day upside down. Get up early and get after it before 10 or 11am. Do daily outside chores in a couple of early hours rather than just any old time. Same for golfers of which there are thousands in these parts. Takes some adjusting for the night owls.

Actually, adjusting here is a full time job. The entire community of 30,000 lives in a place where there are no straight streets. The whole thing is built with large circles and curved streets. Not sure what prompted ol’ Del Webb to do that. All streets are wide – very wide – with rolled shoulders. In the neighborhoods, you can park cars on both sides and still run three abreast if one’s a golf cart.

On those streets you’ll find hundreds of carts that have been “fixed” to go 35mph. All over the place. “Neighborhood cars” the locals call ‘em. Stores have specially marked parking spots just for the carts. Gray hairs constantly playing bumper tag with cars.

Garbage cans are 30 gallons. Thirty! And they’re buried next to the curb. Remember the coyotes and bobcats? But, the local trash folks pick up twice a week. And they’ll pick up anything. Up to 10 extra bags. So, 30 gallons works just fine. After all, we’re old folk.

Nearly all houses are built on lots covered with gravel. Citrus, cactus and other desert greenery add color. Most people live in the rear of their homes. Some, like us, have large, covered and screened patio’s called “Arizona Rooms.” Lots of use in winter months; not so much in the summer.

Yep, adjusting is a full time job hereabouts. I haven’t met anyone yet who says this place is just like where they came from. ‘Cause it ain’t. Most who come here for retirement settle in and adjust. But, there are some who give it a try and then go back home. Our neighbor from Oregon – married 34 years – got a divorce before taking up residence. His wife couldn’t stand the place after previous visits. He loved it. That’s what I like. Compromise.

If there’s a saving factor to this place it’s the winters. Usual low temps in the 40’s-50’s. Highs in the upper 70’s. Lots of blue sky and mostly dry conditions. Pretty much that way from October through May. It’s called “Snowbird Season” around here. Lutheran churches filled to overflowing during that time. Lots of “Birds” from Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota.

Maybe the best advice when it comes to living with the very hot months is this: they’re what you put up with to have the most comfortable winter months you’ll ever experience.

Put another way, you’ll never buy a snow shovel. No one has to buy anti-freeze. You can get along without snow boots and galoshes. You’ll never find an icy street in the neighborhood. Don’t need a parka. You’ll never get stranded in a snow storm. Outdoor swimming is a 12 month deal. Golfing, too.

As I said: adjusting.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the neighborhood.

For several years, I’ve predicted the eventuality of a single-payer health care system in this country and submitted myself to verbal stoning from those who disagreed. And there were some who did, in fact, hurl some verbal rocks. Problem is, aside from criticism – warranted or not- the “throwers” offered no alternative or even decent arguments against the concept.

It’s coming, my friends. Like it or not, it’s nearer now than it was a year or two or three ago. In fact, our national health care law – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or what’s left of it – may force the arrival of single-payer day sooner than previously expected. In my view, that may be its ultimate signature benefit.

Definition: Single payer health care is paid from an insurance pool, usually run by government – state or federal or a combination – with monies raised from individuals, employers or government. Or all three. The “payer” collects medical charges and pays for services rendered through one source – usually government using contractors. Care can be offered from many sources but there’s usually only one “payer.”

The quality of our health care is, for the most part, not in question. Neither is availability, though that currently differs somewhat based on location, ability to pay or availability of help to pay. No, the most powerful force – the most urgent – is C-O-S-T. Cost consuming about 20% of our nation’s economy. Cost bankrupting families hit with unexpected health problems. Cost leaving millions without preventative care or complete care even when needed. Cost driving profits to record levels for unscrupulous insurers. Costs – and dealing with them – that have driven gutless politicians into hiding. C-O-S-T.

I don’t believe politicians of any party – including their lobbyist friends – will solve this out-of-control national problem. In fact, it may be best they can’t – or won’t. Because any major change they’d make would be politically-based, self-serving, not systemically founded on equal access and reduced cost which are what needs fixing. The system of cost control. I’ve heard all the garbage about “getting government out of the health care business” and none – based on years of experience – makes a valid point. I’ve heard no ideas offering as sure a fix to our health cost issues as single payer. Whether government or a designated third party.

I can attest in the first person to having lived with single payer. To seniors, it’s called Medicare. Run by the government. I’ve been covered for more than 17 years. Without a single issue or complaint. Including major surgery. Access has never – never – been in question. Given my optional “medigap” insurance, cost has never – never- been an issue. The actual hands-on care has been first rate in the several locations where we’ve lived.

The Medicare option I chose costs about $100 a month. “Medigap” is about $220. A co-pay is seldom required. Never do we talk of not proceeding with care because of cost. Most prescriptions require no co-pay.

Access. First class care. Lower cost. Monthly out-of-pocket is about $320. If you’re younger than 65 and are paying any insurer, can you beat that? Are you eligible for all – ALL – necessary care for you and your family? Or, like so many in this country, are you “winging it” without insurance for cost or other reasons? Are you taking the unwinnable gamble you won’t need expensive medical care? ‘Cause, if you are, you’ll lose. Guaranteed.

Two significant changes in our national thinking are necessary to bring this about. First, a recognition that this not a problem that needs a political solution. It needs a professional, well-crafted and equally beneficial private health provider and insurer based solution with a top-to-bottom redesign to include all. All Americans. Politicians, even in the best of times – which these aren’t – can’t and/or won’t do that.

Second, Americans who have an unreasonable and entirely unwarranted resistance to all things government must join the rest of us in the real world. A chief tenet of government is to act in, and on behalf of, the “common good.” We accept that as fact in such things as the military, highway systems, aviation safety and other infrastructure needs.

Health care is an “infrastructure” need. When people are denied access – for cost or any other reason – they will cease to contribute to that “common good.” They will, instead, become economic and costly drains on that “common good.” If we agree we need government to defend ourselves as a nation – if we agree we need strong government to provide the economic and vital support infrastructure to make this nation successful – we need a common government guarantee of personal health. We’ll never truly achieve the first two guarantees if we continue to disregard the third.

If you have a workable concept for a non-political solution to our out-of-control health care problems, step up, my friend, and demand the podium. If you don’t, then rethink the concept of “single payer” and the concept of why government exists in the first place.

It will come. Bet on it.

Impossible tasks

Author: admin

I suppose the following words could be considered just a couple more rants about things political. There’s a lot of that in the air these days. But, I hope not.

Two current subjects have been eating at me for some time. Both amount to efforts by the media and nearly everyone else to fit yesterday’s words and actions into today’s accepted norms.

Stop it! It can’t be done!

A current striking example of that twisted thinking involves everybody’s favorite Democrat Joe Biden. Uncle Joe. A few days ago, he was talking about the necessity for people with opposing views and values working together to accomplish something important. At that moment, he was talking about efforts to pass the voting rights act in the ‘60’s.

Biden was citing working with a couple of avowed racists in the Senate – James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. Absolutely no question about their racist credentials. Biden talked of negotiating with them on various parts of the legislation to get their support when the vote was taken because it was gonna be close. And he got ‘em.

Yes, Virginia, there really was a time when politicians of one stripe actually had working relationships with those of a different stripe. It worked! An amazing time, that.

Sitting in the press gallery one day about 1970, I remember watching Barry Goldwater – an avowed Conservative – and Hubert Humphrey – an avowed liberal – going at each other in debate. Point-counterpoint. Back and forth. The real essence of politics at work. Ironically, something had to be amended in the bill and it was held for a day.

A few hours later, a fellow reporter found the “combatants” at the Congressional Club on the Hill behind the Capitol. Bourbon and branch water between them and chatting about an Arizona hunting trip Goldwater was putting together.

Think you could find that today in McConnell’s kangaroo Senate? Yeah, you bet. That’s what Biden was talking about. That’s how it worked. When it worked.

But, instantly, Booker, Warren, Harris ran to the media with their faux outrage about Biden’s “racist” comments. Pure B.S.. Booker, Warren and Harris have full time jobs in that same governing body and they know in their souls how it used to be. How it really worked. Or, maybe they conveniently “forgot” how things used to get done just to make a news cycle.

Biden said nothing wrong. But, the media scrum – none likely born at the time Biden was referring to – and Booker, Warren and Harris without Biden’s institutional experience – jumped all over him. Again, pure B.S..

Because of Bidens trying to use past examples of how this-and-that actually worked, his 40+ years of experience may be his Achilles’s heel. Though his kind of politics worked then, he may get hammered by opponents using today’s poisonous political climate to justify their attacks on the cooperation that used to be.

The other personal irritant is all this media hype of upcoming Democrat “debates.” You can’t get five pounds of lard into a one pound can. And you can’t “debate” when you have 10 candidates.

Let’s break it down. Suppose the allotted time is two hours. Less network lead-ins, exits, summations, etc.. That should total about 20 minutes. Now, with the remaining 100 minutes, divide that by 10 people. Spread over a two hour period, each gets a total of 10 minutes to speak, broken up by questions, audience reactions and other miscellaneous distractions.

There’s no debate. No back-and-forth. Just short “sound bites” so each can get in a favorite stump speech point. No challenge. No response. Nothing. Where the hell is the “debate?”

There is no debate and there will be no debate until, oh, about October, 2020. When each political party has just one candidate for President. When there are just two microphones and two voices. And that’s only if the “moderator” stays out of it and lets the combatants combat. Not likely.

Trump will be one voice. And he will be loud and raucous – foul and obscene. Based on past performance, he’ll interrupt, make noises, walk around while his opponent is talking and try anything to distract. And he’ll lie. Lie. Lie!

In fact, we may get through a whole political season without one real debate. Those last appearances may not amount to an actual debate after all. Just one serious voice trying to overcome the childish demeanor and harangues of our “president” who has already exhibited his “debate style.”

And that’s what’s been eating at me. But, that’s enough.

Just weary

Author: admin

I’m feeling something I never thought I would. I’ve got actual symptom of “Trump burnout.”

I’m at the stage of turning off the TV whenever his face or voice are present. I avoid conversations if they turn to his latest lie or his most recent outrageous act. I listen only to satellite music in the car rather than the political stations of former days. I can’t stay in the doctor’s waiting room if his image is on the TV.

All these “symptoms” – all of ‘em – are not good. More than that, they’re dangerous to our health as a nation if we all become numb – as I nearly am – to his latest impeachable offense.

It’s quite possible the basis for wanting to shut his visage out is that he keeps breaking laws, committing illegal acts and it seems he’s getting away with it. All of it. There seems to be no holding him to account for his actions; no punishment. Just more hearings. More court delays. More – nothing.

Though I greatly respect her years of experience and her political acumen, Nancy Pelosi is wrong on the issue of impeachment. A month or two ago, she was probably right. But, not now. Conditions have changed. Greatly. Trump’s ignorance of – and contempt for – the rule of law have risen to new heights.

In fact, he seems to relish trashing legal niceties and law breaking. When told an aide repeatedly broke federal law and had to go, he ignored it. When faced with mostly forced departures of cabinet officials and other key miscreants, he appointed nearly a dozen on an “acting” basis to avoid the legally required confirmation by Congress. When the CIA, NSA and FBI gave him hard intelligence of international wrongdoing, he ignored it and sided with our enemies. When Congress issued a handful of lawful subpoenas for many of his staff and appointees to appear for questioning, he stonewalled. And he lied – lied – LIED about nearly everything.

And the result of much of this arrogance? Court challenges. Challenges that will likely take more time to settle than he has in his current presidential term. And interminable hearings.

In other words, nothing!

And that’s why Pelosi must change her mind and begin impeachment proceedings, regardless of whether the Senate will or won’t follow with the required trial.

Much of the American public looks at House Democrat inaction as weakness or fear of Trump. There’s even an open division in the caucus between those wanting to move forward and those who want to wait. More hearings. More testimony. More extended court cases.

Trump is trashing not only the institutions of our government but also doing extreme damage to our international obligations and relationships. The President of the United States of America is not even welcome in several countries. He’s abrogated treaties of trade and security. He’s forced previously friendly trading partners to look to Russia and China for their needs. He’s crippled whole sections of our economy with tariffs and has undercut much of our agricultural system. Now, he’s flirting with getting this nation into yet another Mideast war.

These – and many other – actions have literally gone unchallenged and unchecked. As a result, when coupled with congressional inaction to hold him accountable, many of us are wondering what it will take to get our elected representatives – one third of the foundation of our government – to say “ENOUGH!”

And that’s where my Trump weariness comes in.

Our Constitution is the bedrock for our system of checks and balances – executive, legislative and judicial. Each branch is literally required to keep tabs on the other two. When the system gets out-of-balance, either or both of the other entities have not only the right but an obligation to take action to restore that balance.

I completely understand the Speaker’s reluctance to begin proceedings and can appreciate her political instincts. But, if corrective action to restore constitutional balance doesn’t begin soon, this nation will suffer serious and long-lasting damage.

The worst thing – the most dangerous thing – we citizens can do, at the moment, is become numb to Trump – become tired of his dictatorial presidency – become unwilling to stay informed of what’s going on.

I fear, if Congress doesn’t begin proceedings now, and if we simply have more and more hearings while waiting for courts to take action, conditions in the White House will worsen. The Trump-sponsored damage will continue to mount.

So, excuse me. I’ve got to keep up.

Verbal ignorance

Author: admin

There’s a word being tossed around in politics and the media lately. You see and hear it a lot. Trouble is, when most often used these days, that use is almost always wrong.

As Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride,” “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

The word is treason.

It’s usually hurled at someone or some political act. Treason. Treasonous. Or any derivation thereof.

Right here, right now, let’s get it straight.

My good ol’ Webster’s puts it this way: “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

Or, if you’d rather, let’s take it straight from the U.S. Constitution. Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Period.

Unless you can define the actions of anyone who’s been in the news over the last couple of years, using those two definitions of treasonable acts, the word doesn’t apply. Again, period!

The demagogue in the White House – our White House – throws the word “treason” around to apply to almost anything he doesn’t like. His senior staff – of disreputable character – applies the word regularly, most often to Democrats.

While it’s easy – and accurate – to fault politicians for their improper use of the word, it’s most offensive when used by someone in the national media.

Treason is serious business. Too much of what passes for politics these days isn’t always as serious. We’ve bastardized so much of our language and dangerously cheapened meanings of important, descriptive words so someone tosses out “treason” to describe someone else’s words or actions when it can’t possibly apply.

Our dysfunctional President is the worst offender. He’s used the word “treason” in an attempt to embarrass or demean any Democrat-of-the-moment or Robert Mueller, Jeff Sessions and dozens of miscreants on his list of “incorrigibles” and “traitors.”

In my four score lifetime, there were three prominent people whose actions could legitimately be described as treasonous to this nation Two were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in the ‘50’s for spying.
The other was a woman nicknamed “Tokyo Rose” who was convicted of making propaganda broadcasts to American servicemen in the Pacific during World War II.

Her real name was Iva Toguri D’Aquino. Though several Japanese women made broadcasts using the name “Toyko Rose,” Toguri was the only one brought to trial in this country. Gerald Ford pardoned her in 1977.

There’s a reason our miscreant president used the word “treason.” He has no idea what the word means. If he did, he’d stop using it. But, to him, it’s just a word that sounds serious and demeaning so he babbles away. And the media goes along.

Seems to me, if your profession is to speak or write the English language, you damn-well better know how to use it.

The Buckeye census scam

Author: admin

Reading endless statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau can be pretty boring. I get most of the government output because, once in a while, there’s a story hidden in the numbers.

So it is with “The Buckeye scam” as I call it..

We live in an Arizona community of retired folks numbering about 90,000. Some 15 miles away to our Southeast is Phoenix, county seat for Maricopa County, fastest growing county in the country. About 20 miles Southwest of us is Buckeye, Arizona, fastest growing city in the country. So says the Bureau.

But, if you know the landscape hereabouts, you’ll discover the real Buckeye growth story isn’t in the numbers. It’s really in the local government overreach. And the mileage.

Buckeye is a small, old, relatively isolated town. A couple of big farm equipment dealers, a fertilizer plant and a few large farms break up the flat desert landscape. Lots of very old, one-story houses, many without air conditioning and a lot of ’em pretty rundown. Also, lots of small farm worker houses. The town site has maybe 4,000 people. Maybe.

But, 18 nearly barren miles due North is Verrado, a relatively new, largely self-contained subdivision of about 17,000 people surrounded by desert. Down the center, a lush, multi-lane main drag with large eucalyptus trees on both sides and a lot of very green grass with many hundreds of floral plantings. None of which were there before the place was built. A manmade oasis.

Verrado central area – such as it is – is much like an old Mexican town with a tree-covered main square and small, mostly windowless shops behind white stucco walls on about half a block. Boutique shopping. No neon signs. Narrow residential streets with old replica lighting.

Main part of the village is row after row of – what else – two and three-story row houses. Small, lush, green lawns and more flowers and shrubs, many not native to Arizona. No garages can be seen. Golf carts parked everywhere. And, of course, a beautifully-kept, championship golf course with manicured greens and fairways.

About a mile away is the rest of Verrado. Mostly multi-story, single family houses on neatly kept, narrow streets. A mile East is the new high school, a huge, multi-story, brick edifice surrounded by several types of sports fields with, again, lush green grass.

That’s Verrado.

Now, 33 barren, desert miles due North of Buckeye (remember Buckeye?) Dell Webb’s Sun City Festival, a fast-growing, somewhat isolated community of about 27,000. Single-family housing on the East side of the main drag and 55+ retired on the West side. Well-kept golf courses on the retired side with water amenities and lots of palm trees. A few years ago, nothing there. Not one thing. Just more seemingly endless, flat, cactus-covered desert. Now, seemingly endless construction

No commercial businesses in Festival. Just a Shell station near the main entrance. It’s 12 long desert miles to the nearest civilization for groceries, health care and other shopping. And, again 33 desert miles from Buckeye.

“So what,” you ask? “What’s your point, Rainey?”

The point is this. All of the above – all of it – is Buckeye, Arizona. Go back and look at the mileage distances again. And, the old City of Buckeye furnishes no discernable services i.e. water, sewer, fire, law enforcement. In fact, Buckeye has no law enforcement!

From downtown Buckeye to Verrado is 18 miles North. And to Festival, another 15 miles due North above Verrado. All flat, barren desert between. But, it’s all the “city” of Buckeye!

Suppose you live in Pocatello, Idaho. You decide to annex like Buckeye has. Well, you go South to Lava Hot Springs, and Inkom, North to Blackfoot, West to Arco, Aberdeen and American Falls. Now you’ve got Pocatello – “fastest growing city” in Idaho.

Or, maybe you live in Forrest Grove, Oregon. Again, your city council decides to annex Carleton, McMinville, Wilsonville, Kaiser, Dallas and Woodburn out near I-5. “Fastest growing city” in Oregon.

That’s our Buckeye! The U.S. Census Bureau calls it “the fastest growing city in America.”

Around these parts, Stranger, we call it, “the Buckeye fraud.”

An education con job

Author: admin

Perhaps the biggest shame being perpetrated in our national K-12 public education system is “teaching to the test.”

The most significant reason for its existence is tied to how education is funded. Higher rates of student success equals more dollars for some school districts. And more students passing exams in the classroom, in too many instances, supposedly means a better school. Both “truths” are riddled with flaws.

Teachers complain about “teaching to the test.” Parents complain about it. Students trying to learn don’t like it. But it’s an ever-present fact in the business of public education.

My spouse of nearly three decades is a master teacher who, though “retired” for 20 years, is still teaching teachers. But, instead of the classroom, she teaches internationally on the I-Net for two universities. Let’s just say, her public education credentials are in good shape.

We’ve had many a discussion at our house about the product our K-12 schools are turning out. In the beginning, I faced some opposition for my feelings of systemic educational failure. In the beginning.

But recently, as my teacher-spouse began to get more involved in her ‘round-the-world instruction, she also started paying more attention to national affairs. Partly because of interactions with teachers in other countries talking about how politics affected their educational experiences and partly because of her own curiosity.

I’ve watched her education views evolve as she began her graduate level teaching some 18 years ago. Initially, she brought only her own long-time experiences. Soon, however, hundreds and hundreds of interactions with teacher-students, and their experiences internationally, began to affect her outlook. There aren’t a lot of similarities between Meridian, Idaho, and Ho Chi Minh City, Antwerp or other worldly locations on her student rosters.

Barb works with hundreds of teachers a year. She gets a tremendous amount of feedback from her “students” who work in all sorts of environments. One of the continuing threads is teacher disgust with “teaching to the test.”

Instead of using the skills of trained professionals to excite, motivate and engage kids, much of the classroom time is dedicated to mandatory test passage. What a waste.

For anyone thinking these complaints are ill-founded, here’s just one sentiment – from a fifth grade teacher in Oklahoma – Barb received.

“We also overlook the factors teachers can’t control. I have two students who are homeless. I have one who’s been in and out of a mental institution all year long. Another who arrived from Mexico the day of the test who did not speak English but still was required to take the state reading and math exams. Two others had a parent die this year – one from a gunshot that happened in her house and the other while the parent was committing a robbery. I had a fantastic young man who went home to find his mother passed out with a needle hanging from her arm and had to call the police. Sometimes, passing a test is not the priority for all students.”

If you think that’s extreme, you should read more of the other feedback Barb gets on a daily basis.

“Teaching to the test” is a waste of not only time but of the classroom environs to actually to create a better, smarter, more well-rounded citizen. It also diverts teachers motivated to teach from accomplishing what should be done and dilutes use of their talents school systems desperately need.

Our existing national education requirements are rife with other examples of how the “rules” actually work against the desired learning experience. Teachers, hamstrung by them, have precious little time to actually teach. As a result, many quit to pursue other careers.

What results is the system loses talented, motivated, eager people who chose the difficult path of teaching because they thought they could make a difference.

Our national public education efforts need to be overhauled in so many ways. For years, we’ve thrown more and more dollars into it, expecting to “buy” better results. Politicians and bureaucrats combined their lack of classroom experience to create educational conditions that, too often, are doomed to fail. “Teaching to the test” is one con game they created.

That Oklahoma fifth grade teachers is one voice that needs to be listened to. Classroom teachers like that need to be given the opportunity to help create a system that might – just might – succeed.

Mex-pat

Author: admin

Odd word, isn’t it? It’s used by some to describe people from other countries who become full time residents of Mexico.

We have friends who’re “Mex-Pats” and we recently flew down to their “home city” of Chapala in the State of Jalisco. Chapala is a two-and-a-half hour flight Southeast of Phoenix so we figure it to be about a thousand miles.

Chapala is a typical Mexican town. No high-rises like PuertoVallarta, Mexico City, Cancun or any other major spot. Tallest building we saw was a three-story home.

What we experienced in Chapala was about as close to the real Mexico as you can get these days. Very old with cobblestone streets to rattle your teeth. Cement and stone construction in nearly all buildings. Narrow streets with narrow sidewalks, very small commercial businesses and a central plaza near a Catholic Church built in 1749.

Anyone who talks about “lazy Mexicans” has never spent time in a real Mexican community. Everywhere we went – and I mean everywhere – people were working. From the larger businesses to the guy outside the church we attended who was selling many varieties of washed fresh fruit out of a cardboard box – everyone was busy. We saw no indications of homelessness, no panhandlers anywhere we went. And we went just about everywhere in Chapala.

We passed a street crew of about eight men digging out an old water line. Not three working and five watching. All were on picks and shovels because they don’t use backhoes or other heavy equipment. Many road repairs in the area were the same – done by hand.

Locals we encountered spoke little to no English. Even the desk clerk in our hotel and counter employees at the International airport in Guadalahara about 20 miles away. American money wasn’t accepted anywhere we went. Credit cards worked sometimes and sometimes they didn’t. Pesos were a necessity.

There were no “touristy” areas anywhere. Very small shops with goods mostly made in Mexico. No plate glass windows, no neon signs, no upscale fashions. We found small children of working mothers in several shops. All quiet, well-behaved, playing with small toys, reading a book or sleeping. Not one running underfoot.

The large central plaza was great for people-watching. Musicians, vendors both inside and out, no cars or other noises of civilization. Many choices of food and drink. And large trees everywhere for shade in the hot afternoons.

New commercial development was outside the city. No new car dealers. A couple of movie theaters, a Starbucks and a “Wal-Marche.” Bought Colgate toothpaste – writing on the tube in Spanish. Same with Coke or Budweiser. Very little to remind you of the states.

New construction in Chapala is either on small vacant ground which was never used or where older buildings had been removed. Our friends’ new home, in an older section, was one such. About 1,600 square feet, inner and outer walls solid concrete, a glass wall to an interior courtyard and a beautiful hand-laid convex brick ceiling over the entire living area. Less than $200-thousand.

Healthcare quality is good and available either through clinics, public or private hospitals. The public ones are free but crowded. The private ones charge but fees are much less than the states.

There’s a sizeable contingent of Americans, Canadians, Brits, Germans and other nationalities in Chapala. Moderate temperatures, laid-back Mexican lifestyle, very low cost-of-living, a feeling of being removed from what we call “civilization,” gracious locals who have gladly accepted their new “neighbors” – many enticing features.

But. There’s always a “but.”

Most homes in Chapala are surrounded by high concrete walls. Many topped with steel spikes, concertina wire or electric fencing. Some have guard dogs. Garage and outer compound doors of steel. Most homes and other buildings have large water storage tanks on the roof because of frequent outages. Local tap water, in some places, not safe to drink. Some homes have emergency generators. Security issues are ever-present.

Those cobblestone roads are everywhere so cars and other vehicles take a pounding. Mexican roads can leave something to be desired. Even major highways are often uneven with roller-coaster rides. For serious shopping, car-buying or major medical needs, it’s about an hour drive to Guadalahara.

On balance, we very much enjoyed our small-town Mexican experience. People were welcoming and gracious. The atmosphere was far-removed from the travel guides, time-share condos, high-rises, carefully-trimmed golf courses, fancy dining and other accouterments we hear about. Our host-friends were generous with their time and knowledge of the area. We felt we did get to see what the country is really like.

Ready to be a Mex-Pat? No. But, the experiences we had and the things we learned were eye-opening in many ways. We have a new appreciation for the country and its residents.

You oughta try the real Mexico sometime. Bueno!
 

Healthcare is a business

Author: admin

A lot a folks these days are bandying about words like “universal healthcare” and “Medicare/Medicaid for all” and similar popular phrases.

Sounds good. Sounds positive. Sounds hopeful. And chances for any to materialize nationally in the near future are slim to none. Like lots of things we want to fix in our lives, the distance between “want” and “get” is a country mile. Or two.

In November, large majorities of voters in Idaho and Utah said they wanted expanded Medicaid programs to take care of hundreds of thousands of uninsured. Referendums in both states passed with significant numbers. In the old days, the legislatures would have heard the call and gotten right to work fulfilling the will of citizens.

Today, not so much. Majority political parties in each state tried their damndest to ignore those voices. Bills were introduced to cut benefits of anything eventually adopted. In Idaho, there was a “poison pill” measure in committee to kill eventual expansion if the feds ever change the funding ratio. In Utah, they tried to flat out stop expansion. Period!

If voters in those states want to see their dreams of more insured folks, they’re going to need a second election to get rid of the naysayers. Maybe even a third and fourth.

Looking to Congress for help is an even more daunting – and certainly doomed – task in the near future. While large numbers of us want significant improvements, too many denizens of that swamp won’t lift a finger. There’s all that lobbying money from insurance companies, the folks making pharmaceuticals and dozens of other interests wanting to keep the status quo.

It’s not as if “universal” care or federal medical programs won’t be expanded or that our payment system for services won’t be improved. All that can – and likely will – happen. But, given the obstacles, those politicians promising such in the near future are blowing smoke.

For those too young to remember, we went through such efforts in the ‘60’s with creating Medicare. Even with favorable majorities in Congress, Lyndon Johnson had to push, pull, promise, horse-trade and literally threaten the political futures of some in both parties to get it. The fight today is way more uphill. The aforementioned drug and insurance outfits and their friends are making it so. Whatever the outcome, it’ll start with political and business decisions – not consumer need. A basic issue that must be solved is how those entities can survive and in what form.

Proof of that is how physicians and hospitals have radically changed business models in the last decade to stay in business with Medicare. Many now use step-down intermediate care to get patients out of the more expensive hospital stays. They’ve hired salaried doctors and “hospitalists” on staff, opened their own related care facilities such as rehab centers and lower-level extended care centers. Many ancillary services previously farmed out have been incorporated into the overall structure.

Physicians have reorganized for Medicare, too. Often, they create a partnership of several specialities, open in-house labs, manage their own testing such as EEG and similar exams and limit nearly all patient visits to 15-minute appointments. Many docs have hired specialty physician assistants so more patients can be seen, spreading the load but not the costs.

Insurance companies started “Medigap” programs which, given the amount of advertising to attract new customers, must have proven profitable. They’ve also changed other aspects of their business models to streamline coverage while assuring income.

In all likelihood, we’re heading to some sort of single-payer system in this country. Call it “Universal” or “expanded Medicaid” or any other popular name. The plain fact is we can’t continue to operate under a system that eats so much of our national resources, is priced out of reach of millions and causes bankruptcies in the thousands each year.

But, to realize a goal of “healthcare for everyone,” the political and business issues must be solved first. If availability and cost containment are the goals, then assuring the survival – in some form – of the medical, pharmaceutical and insurance providers who make up that system must be addressed up front.

No one entity has the answer. And you won’t have traditional quality healthcare of any reliable sort without them. As businesses and corporations, they’ll need to survive or none of us will live to see significant changes.

Politicians who make it sound like we can achieve all that by simply electing them and they’ll make it happen, are glossing over the massive work to get it done.

Healthcare is, after all, a business.