Archive for the ‘Column’ Category

Three Johns

Author: admin

No, Virginia. This column is NOT about three customers of a Vegas hooker. No! At least I think not. Though I have no idea what the gentlemen above do on their own time.

No, what’s illustrated here is a scene that appears in the hall outside the Senate Majority Leader’s office several times a week. The four meet in Mitch McConnell’s suite, get their stories straight, then proceed out to the marble marsh to enlighten all of us on the important “news” of the day from the Senate Republican caucus. Which lately ain’t been much.

Most often, only the fella in the front wearing glasses is allowed to speak. The others are there as a “show of unity” by that aforementioned GOP clan. Since I’ve heard people ask who they are, I thought it might be useful information to provide some details on the “three Johns.”

First, there’s the baleful looking guy on the far left. I mean, in the picture – not politically. That’s Sen. John Barrasso, M.D. of Wyoming, third ranking Republican. Used to be an orthopedic surgeon in real life. He almost never speaks publically. But he votes. Among his positions: voted for school prayer; sponsored an anti-abortion bill making it a double homicide to kill a pregnant woman; voted against gun buyer background checks; has an “A” rating with the NRA; introduced a bill to stop EPA from limiting background carbon emissions; leading critic of anything thoughtful about climate change; urged pulling this country out of the Paris Climate Agreement; and, since 2012, has received $585,000 from the oil and gas folks.

On the far right – pictorially and politically – is Sen., John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip. Ted Cruz’s stable mate as it were. Former Sen. Phil Gramm of that fine state quit his term early in 2002 to give Cornyn a leg up in seniority so he could get larger office space. Cute. Problem was, there had been a Senate policy on the books for more than 20 years forbidding that. Sort of gave his fellow senators a graphic example of how little either of them knew about their job.

One of Cornyn’s more “interesting” quotes was about gay marriage: “If your neighbor marries a box turtle, that doesn’t mean it’s right. But you raise your children in a world where that union of a man and a box turtle is on the same legal footing as a man and wife.” Doesn’t that sort of cut right to the heart of the issue?

Cornyn sponsored a bill allowing police to force anyone arrested or even detained to give up samples of DNA for a central crime database. Voted for constitutional amendments outlawing gay marriage and flag burning and voted against the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 which would have expanded educational benefits for military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The third “John” is Sen. Thune of South Dakota. Maybe the brightest of the three, third ranking Republican in the Senate, considered a “comer” and has already been urged to run for President. He’s wisely refused so far. More moderate than the rest of the faces in our picture, Thune sponsored legislation to monitor the population of black-tailed prairie dogs. Guess that’s big in South Dakota. He introduced five bills to end the TARP program and has repeatedly tried to get through bills to prohibit the EPA from monitoring carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide or methane emissions in agricultural areas. Keeps losing. Blame the cows.

Thune has also challenged Facebook for having anti-conservative views. Got nowhere. But the media loved it.

So, there you are. Three Johns and a Mitch. The quartet of senior Republicans on your flat screen TV several times each week with messages of Republican unity and effective leadership. Three former lawyers and an ex-orthopedic surgeon. Now that you know a little about them, I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable with their regular joint appearances. And that “unity” and “leadership” stuff.

Kakistocracy

Author: admin

I’m someone who spends a good deal of time writing. Always have. So, I’m into words because they’re the basis of the craft. Always like to find new ones. A few days ago, I came across a dandy.

KAKISTOCRACY. It’s fun to say. Any idea what it means? Or, like me, is this the first time you’re heard of it?

Well, boys and girls, the old dictionary on the shelf defines it this way: “Kakistocracy – government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.”

Next time someone talks to you about America being a “democracy” or a “republic,” you whip out the old Funk & Wagnalls and lay “kakistocracy” on ‘em. ‘Cause the fact is, at the moment, that seems to describe us more accurately.

With any luck at all, it won’t always be that way. If the justice system doesn’t eventually get the current bunch, we’ll have to take ‘em out at the polls. At least that’s the hope at this house.

But there’s an open question. And that’s whether the liar in the Oval Office has taken America’s political fortunes to such a low level that future participants will see his as an acceptable standard. Will role models for future candidates for the presidency continue to be Lincoln, Kennedy, Roosevelt or Eisenhower? Or Trump? Will his blend of lies, arrogance, extreme cronyism and dictatorial behavior be the norm or will the electorate turn to more traditional two-party nominees who’ll try to raise the standards of the presidency?

The answer to that, seems to me, depends on us. Not them. Will we reject this political abnormality and demand – with our votes – a return to civility, a renewed attempt at honesty and a demand for a higher moral code? Will we – with our educated support and with our ballots – select more highly qualified candidates? Maybe not.

The reason for my pessimism is based on poll after poll, survey after survey of citizens in countries around the globe. Polls and surveys measuring what people know about their system of government, their economies and their history.

The nearly unanimous result of all this statistical prying is that we Americans are just about the least knowledgeable about those basic articles of citizenship among all industrial nations. Not just poor knowledge of our governmental structure but real ignorance.

Now, there’s a new corollary showing up. Not only is the American general public more ignorant of our history and governance – we’re also the most dedicated to the falsehoods and myths associated with those categories. Put another way – many who don’t know the basic civics of how this country operates have their own “facts” and are likely to reject real information.

Adding to this lack of knowledge – or belief in mythical facts – is a growing ignorance in the national media of just these same subjects. Examples aren’t hard to come by. NBC reported last week the Governor of Illinois “passed a bill” on some subject. Legislatures “pass bills” not governors. A similar story from New York had the legislature “passing a law.” Legislatures pass bills, not laws. When signed by a governor, bills become law.

Small items to be sure. But wrong. Would you accept “small” errors from your surgeon or a pilot or your banker or your lawyer? “Small errors” left unchecked work their way into our information system and become “facts.” When repeated, more people accept them. People who hear them without knowing the difference become “wrongly” educated. So the error is perpetuated. And accepted.

The value of an educated voter cannot be overstated. But the lasting damage caused by someone ignorant of the political system he/she lives under can be disastrous. Think of all the B.S. we heard in 2016 about wanting an “outsider” for president; someone with “no political experience.” Well, if that was you, you got what you wanted. “How’s that working out for ya? “

The likelihood that significantly more prospective voters will become better informed about our civic and political structure by 2020 – much less by 2018 – is not realistic. About the best we can hope for is there is a reverse education component at work. That disappointment in the 2016 outcome and what it has wrought upon this country has been, in itself, that education.

If not – if more knowledgeable voters stay home – if we repeat the electoral tragedy of the past – we’d all better get more comfortable with that word “kakistocracy.” K-a-k-i-s-t-o-c-r-a-c-y.

Real change is doubtful

Author: admin

Lots of folks talk these days about the need to “lower the rhetoric,” “speak more kindly,” and generally find ways not to add to the rampant divisiveness in our little country.

That’s just fine. Give it a try. Go ahead. And, while you’re at it, try pushing a peanut up Pike’s Peak with your nose. I’d bet you find more success doing the latter than the former.

The evidence is overwhelming that simply speaking more kindly and turning the other cheek may be fine religious instruction but, the fact is, we’ve long passed the point where such methods can – or will – be effective on a national or world basis.

Politicians can join hands and work for “the common good.” The Birch Society and the ACLU can hold joint garage sales. The KKK and the DAR can co-sponsor a cotillion. All God’s angry children can suddenly become peace-loving Hippies. But – the hate – the anger – the divisions will continue.

The evidence of these dark thoughts is this: the sources of discontent, hatred, anger and division surround us every day, have become part of our way of life and will be with us from now on.

Are the Limbaugh’s, Ingram’s, Jones’s, Dobson’s of the world going to disappear at midnight? Will they give up the lifetime careers that have made them multi-millionaires and brought them fame? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Did Megyn Kelly kill her terrible “in-depth interview” of Alex Jones that was broadcast into our homes? Did NBC pull the plug because that rabid, conspiracy-creating, lying S-O-B might just add to the national hatred from a higher platform? Are you kidding me? Think of the ratings! (Editor’s note: They BOMBED!)

Will the armed members of the U.S. Congress put down their concealed weapons and stop the crazy talk? Will the congressional political ass-kissing of millionaires at the expense of food, shelter and medical care for millions end in a huge Kumbaya of spiritual forgiveness and reconciliation?

Is the Trump crowd suddenly going away – never to be heard from again? Will the Oval Office turn into a place of truth and light? Will lies, continuously flowing from the president’s lips (lower case “p” please, Mister Editor) like water down the Columbia River, turn to truth-telling? Will those in Congress trying to eliminate health care access for 23 million people fall to their knees and plead for forgiveness? Is the NRA going to require background checks and registration of all its members?

These and hundreds of other examples of sources of national mistrust and cancerous anger abound. The most ridiculous voice of those seeking a “kinder, gentler nation” is that of the Trumpster himself. The bomb thrower. The loudest of the loud continuing to spew hate, lies and vitriol all over our landscape. Like a sick joke, he asks the rest of us to lower the volume and speak kindly.

No one in public life today has talked bigger lies, told them more often, called people he doesn’t like more names, challenged more rules of decency, ignored necessary protocols, defamed honest Americans – and a few world leaders – and made a mockery of free speech and common courtesy. Nobody!

Rudeness, crassness, disrespect, greed, name calling, lying, duplicitous behavior, hate speech, racist actions. All part of our everyday lives. Our kids talk it. Movies and TV are full of it. We see and hear it in our workplaces, on our highways and in crowds at any event. It’s worldwide with terrible examples everywhere.

To expect it all to stop – to go away with a few words of positive thought and better behavior – to have the experiences and the extreme feelings disappear in a cloud of more courteous speech – to revert to better, more civil attitudes – is ignoring fact.

In the last 10-20 years, our society has experienced fundamental change. We live in a more crass environment, speak and hear cruder speech, are inundated by anger and violence on a scale we’ve never known. Like it or not, we’ve all changed because of it – either by participating, by ignoring or by simply accommodating it in our personal lives. For more than eight years, the Obama family was subjected to the most horrendous slander, lies, racist behavior and verbal savagery.

To those who want to try – who believe better public behavior and kinder speech will make a better world – have at it. And God bless you. You’re on the side of the angels. You may not live long enough to see real systemic improvement but at least you tried. But you’ll find it doesn’t stop simply because someone – or several someone’s – say “play nice.”

For those of us who believe all that is here to stay, and that real change is not possible, we can continue on our merry way doing little or nothing. Or, make it incumbent upon ourselves to start hammering out new societal rules. We can challenge what we’ll accept in the behavior of those around us and in public life. We can change what we can by accepting the best and acceptable in speech and behavior while excoriating those who befoul our society and our world.

Even if that includes the White House. No, especially if that includes the White House.

Hateful Christians

Author: admin

Hate groups. Raucous, loud, foul and dangerous. We’ve got a lot of ‘em out there. They come in all sizes, shapes and twisted minds. Still, I was startled the other day when finding a couple of Christian organizations on the latest lists. Yep. “Christian.” Or so they claim.

There’s a widely accepted definition of a hate group. And that’s any organization having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

There’s no question the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has earned the international respect it enjoys. For more than 45 years, it’s been a credible source of detailed information on hate groups, their leaders, followers, locations and activities.

Still, it was a bit of a shock to see a couple of so-called “Christian” groups listed among such low-lifes as the KKK, skinheads, “patriot” nutballs, neo-Nazis and the like. But there they were. And, upon reflection, their inclusion – at least to me – seemed justified.

Among those on the dishonor role, Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel. More surprising were American Family Association – Don and Tim Wildmon – and Family Research Council headed by slick Tony Perkins. All four are loudly anti-LGBTQ and Muslims among others. Not only intolerant, but at times downright hostile in their public pronouncements. Both groups claim larger memberships than they can prove and say they speak for “millions of God-fearing Americans.”

They talk of branding those they see as “harmful to society” and accuse such movements as being “pedophiles” and “dangers to American families.” They advocate all this “in the name of Jesus” and claim to be living the “Christian way of life.”

Another outfit tracking such things is Guidestar, which calls itself “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.” Though primarily interested in how groups handle their funding, who’s listed in the membership and such, Guidestar has added a category to track social – or anti-social – conduct. It was on that list that “Christian” groups first appeared.

Leading the listing of hate groups, of course, is still the KKK. Today’s Klans aren’t nearly as large and organized as they used to be. There’s been a lot of infighting, as there always is on the far right. Battles for leadership and dogma have splintered things so, today, while there are more Klans, some may have only three or four active members.

Those who track these types have found the Pacific Coast Knights in Oregon and California. Washington is the “home” of the White Knights of the KKK of America. Idaho has a “chapter” of Traditionalist Knights of America. It’s believed these groups, together, have no more than a couple dozen members.

Nationwide, authorities count no more than 3,000 KKK members and a few followers. Trying to make the public think they’re more sizeable than they really are, several small Klans will hold marches together, then disperse back under their various rocks. More than half of today’s active Klans were formed or restarted within the last three years. About the time of the beginning of a bitter national political campaign. Hmmm.

The latest effort by the KKK to appear larger than it is has been an attempt to hookup with the neo-Nazi crowd. The Pacific Coast Knights are one such. It’s likely some of the former neo-Nazi group from Hayden Lake, Idaho, are among those folk. Also an old Nazi outfit that has been in Northeast Washington for decades.

Another recent issue compounding noise and hatred from the far right fringe is the emergence of more small offshoots of the white supremacist element. Not surprisingly, SPLC lists the new “Alternative Right” or Alt-Right as part of the mix. They showed up about three years ago. About the time we had a bitter national election campaign starting. Naw, just coincidence.

At the moment, SPLC tracks some 917 hate groups across the country – most in the deep South and lower Midwest. The largest percentage claims some sort of “Christian” affiliation. About ten percent adhere to “Christian Identity,” a longstanding racist and anti-Semitic religious sect.

Still, it seemed startling to see the term “Christian” in the listing of fringe elements and organizations that represent violence and danger to our otherwise mainline society. As a Christian, I found it embarrassing.

But, on some reflection, why not? More important, maybe, what took so long? Perkins, Dobson, Robertson, Falwell (one and two), Baker and the junior Grahams have been mixing their brands of hatred for anything socially different with “Christianity” for decades. Maybe it’s time to recognize their false doctrines for what they are.

Christ’s admonition about “guilt” and “throwing the first stone” was certainly wasted on that bunch.

No third parties

Author: admin

When politicized times become frenetic – when large uncoordinated, disconnected groups gather in the streets – when significant numbers of people feel frustrated and ignored by their government – when passions speak louder than reason – things can get dangerous. We are living in such times.

Several examples in that long list of conditions have gotten my attention in recent days. As more and more people, usually previously non-political – become involved, they try to seek major changes in our national governing structure. Bad decisions are usually made under those conditions and worse outcomes often guaranteed.

Here are the some that stick in my mind, listed in no particular order.

First: an oft-repeated desire to form a third political party. You hear it every day as the media interviews various opponents of the current President, his minions and a Congress filled with eunuchs. It runs something like this: “Democrats are wrong. Republican are wrong. We need new blood and a new party that can take charge and get things back to normal.”

No, we don’t need a third party. What we need are two political parties that are strong, healthy and which represent people – not lobbyists, corporations or incumbents concerned only with their continued employment. At the moment, neither party can fulfill those conditions. Nor could a third by the next decade.

Nearly all voices I hear pushing a third party are those who’ve absolutely no idea how to structure one, build one or run one. They have no concept of the time, money and organization necessary to get a new party on ballots in all 50 states. And, if successful, it would take years to reach a significant number of voters to make it a viable contender against two parties whose names are immediately recognizable to nearly all Americans. Throw in staffing, recruiting bonafide candidates and raising hundreds of millions of dollars to mount meaningful campaigns. No. No third party before 2018. Or 2020. Or……………………..

Second: Loud voices want to run Elizabeth Warren for President. No! She lacks any significant experience for the job. But, her strong, excellent stands on a few issues – mostly financial/consumer – have made her a formidable force. In the Senate. On those issues, she’s a leader and a winner. Put her in the White House and you clip her wings. Keep her in the Senate where she can argue those issues and be either a significant voice or a tenacious and successful opponent.

Third: Run Bernie for President. No! Many of the same arguments for Warren also apply to Sanders. He, too, has good, important issues. Most of them in different areas from Warren, i.e. veterans affairs, Social Security, Medicare and health care in general. Keep Sanders and Warren on important Senate committees where they can originate – and lobby for – significant political needs. If the Dems get a majority in that body in 2018, each can be a powerhouse for some of the most important programs that directly affect the most lives.

Fourth: While both major parties are in significant disarray, Democrats are in worse shape. Republicans control all but 13 statehouses and a majority of legislatures. Those are breeding grounds for most future national candidates. They’re the “farm teams” developing legislative talent. Dems need to work in the states – all states – to train future talent for major races. Then win some.

A second matter the Donkeys should be targeting now is seeking out disaffected Republicans. There’s got to be millions of ‘em. With a dead-in-the-water Republican Congress, an out-of-control GOP, and a President endangering our national survival, find ’em, talk to ‘em and get ‘em interested in returning sanity, honesty and effectiveness to our national affairs. They’re out there. Go get ‘em!

But, instead of getting to work, raising money and developing a new and stronger organizational structure, most Dems are silent or just bitching. Candidate recruitment, fund raising, rebuilding state offices and staff – all issues just sitting there. Republicans dominate statehouses and legislatures because they did that work years ago. And they keep doing it.

The string that runs through all these topics is the third party issue. That talk has got to stop. Take the well-known parties you have – either one or both – rebuild it with the right people doing the right jobs, get serious about candidate recruitment in the states, tap your big fund-raisers to get the mother’s milk flowing and get cracking. Now! Not next year.

One more thing. Republican or Democrat. Take a large axe and lop off the extremes of your political spectrums. Stop catering to far right and/or far left. Develop your message in the middle – where most of us are. Stop letting voices of extremism set your tone which encourages an ineffective minority while undermining and chasing away the voters you need most. Moderates. Independents.

There’s plenty to be mad about out there. There’s plenty to be outright scared about. But, check the polls. If Congress is supported by only 18% of voters, that means more than 80% want something more – something different – something effective – something new!

First Party there with the best candidates with the best message will win. And that could last for a decade. Or two! Or more!

A snake named McConnell

Author: admin

While our in-over-his-head president and his ignorant minions go about the quiet destruction of a government 250 years in the making, their party – and one member in particular – is behaving in the most despicable political manner I’ve seen in my four score years.

Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants are putting together legislation creating a massive health care law that will eventually contain costs amounting to more than one-fifth of our national economy. It will involve medical and life-saving care – and access to it or denial of it – for nearly a quarter of our entire population. And they’re doing it in so much secrecy some members of their own party haven’t seen it and don’t know what’s in it.

The intent is to spring it on the entire Senate and, without disclosure, debate or a single public hearing – and without disclosing the cost to the nation much less other details – force it through the entire body.

Never in the long history of Congress has one political party been so underhanded, domineering, ruthless and dishonest in its headlong abuse of its own power on such critical legislation. Some weeks ago, the House pulled a similar cowardly act by passing an equally large package without knowing costs or it even being read by more than a handful of members. But that blanket violation of public trust is about to hit an even lower low.

If McConnell is successful, most estimates are some 20 million Americans will suddenly be without health care. Many of them with pre-existing conditions will just as quickly face abandonment and possible death. Some, being kept alive by care far beyond their own ability to pay and thorough no fault of their own, will be left deserted without a lifesaving safety net.

McConnell is the chief architect of this impending disaster and cowardly act. As Majority Leader, he calls all the shots when it comes to which bills are recognized and which are assigned to the trash heap. He’s also responsible for the conduct of Senate affairs and operation of all its support systems. The buck stops with him!

McConnell is often given credit for being a master of Senate policies and procedures. A man who can pull legislative rabbits out of political hats. But such power and knowledge are beneficial only when used responsibly. And in no case can the word “responsibly” – or any derivation of it – be used to describe what McConnell and his cohorts are doing right now. Far from it. Their conduct and the secret crafting being used to create this piece of unknown verbiage are contemptible and just plain wrong.

Under control of far right Republicans in recent years, Congress has sunk to historic lows in public acceptance. Members have run roughshod over those they were elected to represent. Many have physically cut off constituent contact and some have even proclaimed they don’t have any obligation to respond to public instructions. Attempts to contact many now result in unanswered correspondence, ignored phone calls and locked doors both in the districts and in Washington. Public polls showing overwhelming support or non-support for certain legislative proposals are just flat ignored.

Case in point: the very subject of health care now being secreted by McConnell. Polling – with results as high as 80% favorability – have repeatedly shown the public wants Obamacare – the American Care Act – left in law. Make minor adjustments to improve it if you must. But do not – repeat – do NOT repeal or significantly weaken its provisions. Any bets McConnell is listening? No way.

McConnell has had a burr under his saddle for eight years to kill Obamacare. He’s said so at every available opportunity. Even while his own state was one of the original participants, he pledged to end Obama’s tenancy in the White House at four years (then eight) and his disdain for the ACA was hung around his neck like a sign. You just know that’s the driving force behind his villainous actions now.

Republicans have wanted to kill Social Security. Some still do. They tried their best to kill Medicare and Medicaid. And still are. They worked like Hell to kill the voting rights act. They succeeded in gutting parts of it. Now, they want to strip nearly 50 million Americans of health insurance coverage. And they’re using the most devious and unconscionable methods to do so.

A handful of politicians, beholden to billionaires and their ilk, is now attacking the very core of what government was instituted to do – to provide for the common good and to do those things which we citizens need but cannot do for ourselves. While we often think of establishing a military, building transportation systems, assuring clean water and air, supporting public education and the like as fulfilling that governmental role, certainly providing for the public’s health and access to medical care are as necessary as the rest.

Now, McConnell and his senatorial supporters are leading an attack on government sponsorship of a basic right of citizenship – the right to medical care and to its life-saving services. People won’t just be disenfranchised if they succeed. Certainly, some of them will die.

This is far more than a game of legislative hide-and-seek. This is life and death. McConnell has cast himself in the role of God for this outing. My thoughts on that turn more visibly to the viper.

The new car experience

Author: admin

We bought a new car at our house recently. My five-year-old pickup finally ran out of warranty and was beginning to show its age. So, we decided it was time for a replacement. Nothing big. Nothing extravagant. Just something I could carry a lot of stuff in and run around the coastal highways in semi-comfort. Old folks car.

If you haven’t had the new car experience for awhile, you’re gonna get a couple of quick lessons right up front: price and technology.

Damn, they’re expensive. And I don’t mean just top-of-the-line vehicles. Our little newcomer certainly isn’t in that category. Not by a long shot. But it cost more than my first house! With the first divorce thrown in. If you hear someone talk about cheap transportation these days, they’ve got to be Amish.

Then, the technology. Top-of-the-line or entry model, you’re gonna run into a technology gap in your experience. Guaranteed. Wait ‘til the first time you look for the parking brake handle or foot pedal, for example. It ain’t there. Neither will you find a CD player because seems folks nowadays think of them as fondly as 78rpm records.

As I said, my new little motorized buddy is closer to the entry point. It’s got the basics covered and is quite comfortable. Especially because you get to ride inside. But basic. You get the idea.

Still, I’d be hard pressed to count the computers running the damned thing. It’s all buttons, fingertip handles and touch screens. None of the operating controls are where you’d usually find them. Takes three touch screens to turn on the radio. There are multiple USB ports, three power plugins for the iPhone and a female voice coming out of the instrument panel that surprises me every time she says something. Which is quite often.

At the moment of delivery, I learned it didn’t have a spare tire. No spare! Instead, there was this little box under the trunk floor that contained a can of rubber sealant and a small, plugin device to pump the contents into a flat tire. Now I know why there were power outlets on both sides of the dash and in the trunk.

The salesman was quick to point out that more than 70% of flats are punctures and this little pump would plug any puncture and get me 50 miles or so. That almost killed the sale.

When someone tells you that B.S., it’s obvious he’s never driven US 20 from Vale to Burns or Burns to Bend. I’ve done it hundreds of times and know the absolute loneliness of the flat tire experience. Winter and summer. I also have a lifetime of having more tire blowouts on long stretches of highways than punctures. The little can of goo and the plugin pump can’t do much for blowouts.

Needless to say, I opted to trade the suggested spare tire “replacement” gadget for a compact wheel and tire from my friends at Les Schwab.

One of the tips most auto “experts” regularly impart is never buy the extended service policies dealers try to foist on you at delivery. I’ve bought into that thinking for many years. But there was something to be learned, even here, that I’d never run into before.

Most extended policies don’t cover computers. Let that sink in. They cover drive trains and everything else. But not computers. As I said before, my little beast has a dozen or more of ‘em. Barb’s car – much more technologically advanced than mine – is full of ‘em.

Now, I know pretty close what parts cost and the hourly shop labor rate to install most of ‘em. But computers? Some research on the subject confirmed what I’d already surmised. Finding and fixing faulty electronic parts AND software can break up a happy home. It’s one thing to fix a broken driveshaft. It’s quite another to deal with the several computers that make the damned thing work.

If you don’t want the usual extended coverage policy for your next car, it could be worth some study time beforehand. Check out the electronic systems of your planned acquisition and look into the finer points of added costs of some insurance to cover those.

Next time you’re car shopping, my advice is spend a little more time with paperwork. And with a 20-something kid who can explain how all those new operating gadgets work. Some of ‘em are important.

Different choices

Author: admin

I’ve recently become aware of a word with diametrically opposed meanings. Mexpat. While I’ve heard it in casual conversation, I was told it referred to an American living in Mexico.

However, doing some checking, I find it’s also used for a citizen of Mexico living out-of-country. Didn’t know that. There are worldwide social and educational organizations for both groups involving millions of folk who’ve switched national residences.

The word showed up on my radar when a friend recently said he and his wife were selling much of what they owned and moving to Mexico. Permanently. Now, I’ve known people who own Mexican timeshares, real estate or otherwise spend a good deal of time there. “South of the border” as it were. But, this was a “first” with someone literally taking up permanent residence.

My friend and I – in the interest of privacy I’ll call him Bob – have known each other since fourth grade. His parents and mine were friends in Bend for 50 years. Good small town American stock.

Bob got his college degree and started out as a banker. A good one. In mid-life, he went back to law school, graduated and spent the rest of his career helping low income and disadvantaged Oregonians. After retiring several years ago, he remarried, settled in small town Oregon, sang in the church choir, worked weekly in the local food bank and was very involved in his community. You couldn’t ask for more solid citizens and a happy couple.

So, when he dropped the “We’re leaving the country” bomb, it came as a shock. All I could respond with was the obvious: “Why?”

Bob offered several comments. Interesting, but not the kind of reasons anyone would use solely to undertake such a drastic move. So, I threw caution to the wind and asked “Did the outcome of last November’s election have anything to do with your decision?”

He answered “Yes” but didn’t voluntarily go much beyond that.

In our brief phone conversation, I didn’t pursue it. Maybe we’ll have a chance to talk again soon. Or, maybe I’ll “make” a chance.

So, let’s review. You know Bob is a fine man. Good education. A community contributor. Church going. Feels strongly about helping people. “Walks the talk.” The kind of person you’re proud to know and would like more of living in your community. Except, he and his equally fine wife have now left the country. Maybe for good. I’d like to think – maybe not.

So, the next question that hits you is how many thousands of others will follow? Or have already gone? And this. Why are such solid citizens leaving? How many more? Why?

Since our interim president’s election – (small “p” please, Mr. Editor) – I’ve heard a lot of folks talk of leaving. New Zealand. Australia. Canada. England. France. Usually the name of the country comes after the second drink. Which is as serious as we take the comment. We join in the conversation jokingly.

Then, friends you know – who make a difference – with a lifetime of serving and helping others – people whom you respect – actually take the step. After considerable reflection and discussion, actually leave their native land. They become Mexpats.

We’ve had a guy in the White House now for about 120 days or so. Each of those days, he and his misbegotten minions have ignorantly slashed, cut and burned their way through 250 years of history, tradition, compacts, international relations, treaties and political stability. The only certainty in that morass of mental midgetry is there will be more. More damage. More incivility. More political and economic destruction.

Sitting quietly, I note all that – and more – on one hand. Then, I think of my two friends who’ve left all they know behind to seek some transitory refuge in another country. Then, I seek to balance the two.

“What about the rest of us,” I wonder? What of us? What do we do?

Speaking only for myself, the only acceptable option is to stay. To be part of the resistance. To be a small part of working for an end to override this electoral miscarriage. To be a small part of the opposition.

Bob and I were brought up in that small Oregon town with nearly identical values in similarly comfortable surroundings. We were instilled with a sense of community and loyalty to people and to the national relationships we shared. We were granted the same familial love and respect in a time when both were taught in the home, in the school and the identical religious settings we shared.

I will not say his decision is wrong. I will not challenge nor argue the action he and his have taken. I will respect that, out of two very similar experiences, he and I have chosen different futures.

My hope is that they’ll come home again. Soon. We’ll be here.

Callista? No!

Author: admin

When world leaders get their heads together behind closed doors, many of us are curious about what may have been the topic of conversation.

So it was last week when our in-over-his-head president (small “p” please, Mr. Editor) and Pope Francis stepped away from what looked like an extremely uncomfortable public photo session. At least for the Pontiff. The two took a couple of steps into an adjoining room and the door closed quickly behind just the two of them.

When they emerged a few minutes later, Trump said loud enough for all to hear, “I’ll remember what you said.” So, what do you suppose His Holiness said?

Here’s what I hope it was: “I want your personal assurance that Gingrich woman won’t set foot in the Vatican as your ambassador – much less Italy!”

Trump has made a string of terrible Cabinet and ambassadorial selections. Hacks, know-nothings, revenge-seekers, government haters, politically and civically ignorant millionaires. But he surpassed even himself when he appointed a former congressional staff secretary and serial adulterer Ambassador to the Vatican.

Callista Bisek and Newt Gingrich began a six-year affair on Capitol Hill in 1993. She was a typist in Congressman Steve Gunderson’s office. Gunderson was gay but still “in the closet.” When he found out about the illicit bed hopping, he hesitated to fire Callista because she might “out” him as revenge. So, she and Newt were an open topic of conversation for years while Mrs. Gingrich (Marianne) fumed at home in Virginia.

In early2000, ol’ Newt informed his cancer-stricken – and hospitalized – wife he wanted a divorce. Bedside, it was. August 18th of that year, he and Callista made their long affair legal. Gingrich had pulled this same infidelity bit years before with his first wife but didn’t marry his co-adulterer.

While he was still in Congress, the Gingriches used his national clout to get the Catholic Church to annul his 18-year marriage to Marianne on the grounds she had been married before. Then Callista worked on Newt until he became a Catholic convert.

For several years, Newt battled his way up to becoming Speaker of the House until his “wheeling and dealing” and highly questionable ethics forced him to resign from Congress in disgrace. Or rather, it should have been disgrace.
The two have filled their time since Newt’s ouster selling books and video’s to the far right and becoming conservative celebrities. They’ve also raked in millions with public appearances and speeches appealing to the “religious” right. Apparently, serial adultery, public humiliation and disgrace can be overcome for a $19.95 video or a big bucks chicken dinner and a patriotic two-step.

The “business” of using ambassadorships as rewards for staunch, mostly rich political backers, is not new. Even John Kennedy’s Pop was an Ambassador to England in the ‘30’s because of his generous financial support of FDR. But, sometimes the appointee turns out to be a valuable asset in the largely ceremonial and administrative job. Former Senator Mike Mansfield and Caroline Kennedy, for example, were both ambassadors to Japan during some critical times and were publically praised for aiding America’s interests.

Still, most often, someone is appointed and never expected to do much more than pose for pictures, cut some ribbons and keep passport and other immigration issues to a minimum. And, of course, be the President’s eyes and ears in foreign political circles.

But, Callistsa Gingrich as ambassador to the Vatican – one of the most important geographic and moral places in all Christendom? Callista Gingrich? You’ve got to be kidding.

Those who watched the Pope and Trump closely during the short photo op couldn’t help but notice the Pontiff’s unsmiling face and the dour look he offered the cameras. A man who’s jubilant and charming manners have won him hundreds of millions fans all over the world, regardless of anyone’s differing personal religious beliefs, spent much of the brief time looking down at his shoes. Slippers?

I’d like to think there was a tipoff there – a silent pontifical message to the world that the following few minutes alone with Trump were going to be filled with very serious and important words on behalf of the Vatican, Catholics everywhere and honorable people of all faiths.

In my heart of hearts, I’d like to think the Pope said directly “I want your personal assurance that Gingrich woman won’t set foot in the Vatican as your ambassador – much less Italy.”

Hey, even us Protestants have feelings.

At the moment, our country suffers many ills. National anger, resentment, a sense of lethargy, lost direction and distrust of government and other traditional institutions. Poll after poll after endless poll confirm the national despair. It’s real. It’s palpable. It’s weighing us down and sapping energies like nothing in my lifetime.

Some pundits lay blame for all this at the feet of one D. Trump. Not totally so, I think. The symptoms and feelings, existed years before he got the political bug and became the darling of a too-willing media. At best, it seems he can be charged with brutishly using all this as a basis for a deeply flawed – but successful – candidacy. He turned them into tools with which he played to suspicions, pumped up fear, posited lies as truths, offered false hope of change and a return to some mythical country that never existed. He even created a fictional D. Trump. He’s still doing it. And will continue.

Those who believe he’ll lead this nation to some sort of political nirvana have always been with us. But two things have changed – they’ve found someone to lead them who has international access – and the Internet.

I’ve known some of these disparagers of America all my life; successfully avoiding them mostly because they appeared singly or in small groups. Remember the John Birch Society? Or the Liberty Lobby? But it’s been the I-Net that’s given voice and a realization there are others with whom they can connect. And they have.

Proof of this personal theory can be found on your own little computer machine daily. In large measure. Someone invents a name or website – bleedingpatriotsforamerica.com – and suddenly others, eager for affirmation of their flawed beliefs, copy and paste what was only the raving of a drunken individual at two in the morning in a Michigan basement. Then, someone you don’t even know – but who’s a “friend-of-a-friend” on some “social” media site – splashes it on your screen and the lie spreads like rippling water. You don’t have to be Breitbart or Drudge or Beck. You just need the I-net and a keyboard.

In those months of the worst presidential contest of a lifetime, it was Trump who had the keyboard. He didn’t invent the anger and malaise – he just organized it. He called it a presidential campaign, captured a national media of sycophants willing to act as his unpaid campaign team/ad agency, regurgitated all the angry bile of the disaffected, added some of his own and played sucker donors out of dollars to be paid to his own companies to cover his expenses.

I’ve said for months the guy doesn’t want to be president. Why would he? Money? Fame? Power? He has all those in spades. “Make America Great Again?” How? Is he saying or proposing things to reshape the country in a positive, world leadership role? Is he talking like a leader? Thinking like a leader? Acting like a leader?

Then there’s the issue of his businesses and financial affairs. The guy has proven himself to be someone who has to be – MUST BE – in charge of everything around him. Did he truly put all that in a blind trust? Did he give access to his personal/business fortunes to anyone else? Anyone? Would he actually give up “control?”

The only thing we do know is he’s a pain in the national political ass. He’s coalescing his angry followers and continues to feed the anger and division we now contend with.

Our familiar, traditional national political base has radically changed in these past 20 months. That’ll continue. Both parties are losing members. More and more people think of themselves as independents or unaffiliated. Minority voters are growing at an unprecedented rate and studies repeatedly show they want to be politically active. Voters – and major donors – are turning to state politics. Congress – proving itself ineffective and rife with partisanship – is becoming less of a factor in how this nation deals with its problems.

This all makes for a national malaise of uncertainty. Uncertainty can scare people. It can disappoint. It can disaffect and alienate countries around the world with whom we have to work. It can be a breeding ground for bad decision-making. If it continues long enough, it can alter the course of a nation.

No, D. Trump didn’t bring us to this trying time. We’ve done it to ourselves in many ways. But, he’s been clever enough, loud enough and manipulative enough to take full advantage of the situation. More than it ever should, where we go from here depends – in great measure – on how we deal with this guy. That’s a national problem we must fix. Quickly.