Archive for November, 2010

Being involved in politics and media most of my adult life, watching the Sunday talk shows has been a normal part of my environment. “Meet The Press,” “Face The Nation” and others were Sunday staples at our house before some of the current hosts were born.

No more!

The time of watching opposing politicians commenting weekly on current issues with comity, congeniality and give-and-take is over. The present crop simply presents a “locked-in” position on any subject … any subject … creating an atmosphere of intemperance, gridlock, self-serving quotes and a tinge of anger if disagreed with.

Comity, congeniality, give-and-take are not in them. Nor, in far too many instances, are good sense, well-thought out positions, optimism that our problems can be solved or that compromise and cooperation are ready and useful tools.

I find this in voices of both parties but the current crop of Republicans seems more often to fit these descriptions. Especially Sen. Minority Leader McConnell and House Speaker-In-Waiting Boehner. They’re right there at the top in leadership with threats, name calling and intransigence.

But, to me, the worst of Sunday’s crop is a man I used to admire: John McCain. Who couldn’t admire his life’s accomplishments and military record? In his first couple of terms, who couldn’t admire a feisty, often go-it-alone, swimming upstream attitude that helped him achieve some large victories while still relatively junior in Senate ranks? There was a time he deserved the attention he was getting from the media. And his regular rotation on the Sunday talk shows.

No more! His current appearances are more reasons to quit viewing.

After declaring his candidacy for president in 2008, the uphill swimmer disappeared. In his place came a shill; a man who has been on all sides of many major issues … social, political and economic. Pick one. Abortion, Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, immigration, foreign aid, get-in-get-out of Iraq/Afghanistan and more. If you’ve got a vote but a different opinion on a given issue, just tell McCain and he’ll likely side with you. Whatever side that may be and despite whatever he may have said to the contrary yesterday. Or will tomorrow.

In political circles, one who is on all sides of an issue is called a whore. Tough word. Strong word. But tough and strong too, are issues of abortion, Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, immigration and the rest. Millions of lives are directly affected by how our leaders deal with these controversial and oft-times inflammatory subjects. When you are a constituency seeking help from a decision maker, you are betrayed and your work is in vain when that person bobbles his head this way and that, testing imaginary winds to see where safety lies. Then tomorrow, going the other way.

McCain is just one of many congressional reasons why I’m beginning to fear for our country’s future. McConnell and Boehner are two. Add Reps. Issa, Bachmann, Gomhert, Barton and a couple of dozen more in the House. I’ll even throw in Pelosi and Reid for the Democrats.

The problem-solving that MUST take place in the next two-years is immense. The issue of national debt alone will require the wisdom of a carload of political and economic Solomons. We have overwhelming nuts-and-bolts work to do, a Mt. Everest of debt that’s beginning to undermine our currency, our economy, our nation’s social structure and which … left unchecked for those two years … could well make us a debtor nation. And a third class nation.

If McCain, McConnell, Boehner, the other above named individuals and their ilk spend the next 24 months blocking anyone else’s attempts to solve our problems but theirs … if they spend their time and resources chasing social issues, birth certificates and ill-conceived efforts to amend our Constitution … if they follow no other counsel but their own … if they do not take drastic actions, some that fly in the face of their current pronouncements … if all or most of this happens, we have reason to fear for our country’s future. And our own.

I am not, by nature, an optimist or a pessimist. My outlook tends to swing back and forth depending on what life’s lessons learned so far have taught me. But, as I watch McCain’s “any-position-on-any-issue” attitude, as I hear elected members of Congress talk like spoiled children, as new threats are made to waste more of our vanishing national treasure on witch hunting and “getting even,” as I learn that 46% of Americans don’t know which party will run the House starting in 2011, as evidence shows issues that must be solved will be relegated to lesser importance while we deal with ideology … well, I begin to remember that a pessimist is simply an optimist with experience.

Where the Sunday talk shows were enlightening and politically educational 10-20 years ago, today they are chilling reminders of how much needs to be done immediately. And how divided this nation really is. I don’t need the networks to tell me so every seven days.

When you hang out your journalistic shingle as one who comments or offers opinion, your most painful torture is when an issue comes along in which you find yourself on two sides of the same fence.

That’s where I am in the pat-down, scanner debate with the TSA. You give me five minutes and I can make a case for either keeping them as necessary parts of our national security program or I can point out holes in the system that make groping and scans ridiculous.

Though I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles, was a private pilot and even flew sailplanes for a time, I haven’t flown commercially for years. I can think of no clear issue that would get me to change that status. Oh, maybe a vacation to Hawaii or further. And then only with an ample supply of Jack Daniels. But that’s it. Just won’t do it!

The pats and scans didn’t make the difference. I was a non-passenger long before they came long. I rank airlines right up there with crooked bankers, insider traders and the Taliban when asked about any of ‘em.

They’ve cut leg room to squeeze in more seats while making seats narrower and shallower than previously. They’ve added charges to everything but breathing and they’ll get to that soon enough. Long lines, late arrivals and departures, higher prices, discontinued routes, surly flight attendants. You can probably add a couple more issues. Where’s the incentive to fly?

But I digress. Security is the issue here. Or lack of it. And that’s the balance point that tips me either way on the issue: our lack of real security in transportation.

We’re now nearly undressing people to get onboard. Yet the luggage they check … in far too many cases … goes on the same plane without being examined. So the suicide bomber rides above the bomb instead of wearing it. BOOM is BOOM no matter where the damned bomb is.

If every parcel and piece of luggage on the plane got the same close attention I would at the boarding area, maybe I could buy off on all this pat and scan. But it doesn’t. So where’s the real safety?

Same holds true for the freight airlines, trains and ships move all over the world. And nearly all of it escapes close inspection. What’s to keep a dirty bomb out of the Port of Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Miami, Portland or anywhere else? Just a little briefcase-sized device behind or under the seat of one of hundreds of thousands of imported cars or in the shipping container with the thousands of boxes of oranges? Do we look in everyone? Are you kidding?

And, by the way, the food handlers, baggage crews, fuel truck operators on and around your plane don’t go through the same inspection daily that you do when you fly. Duh?

Then there’s the other side of the issue. Since 9/11, we know a strike can come anywhere, from anywhere, using God knows what as the delivery device. Reasonable people know planes are great platforms for terrorists. Once in the air, they are nothing more than controlled explosive devices with people aboard. It would be foolish to ignore the prime requisite that aircraft be handled by safe pilots going about their work in a routine manner by eliminating inspections. Making efforts to keep the flying public safe is just the common sense thing to do.

But are we doing that effectively? Are the new passenger hurdles the answer? No, they aren’t if we continue to allow unexamined luggage to go up with them. Whether the terrorist wears the bomb or checks it in at the counter, detonation has the same desired result.

All this complaining about lost privacy, personal exposure, profiling, and groping grandma ignores the root issue: keeping the flying public safe while making it impossible for terrorists to terrorize. Until someone develops a system or procedure to inspect and clear every person or every thing that goes on that plane, on a truck or aboard a ship, we are kidding ourselves.

The Israelis, while having a system that seems to work … so far … for half a dozen airports and a few thousand travelers, haven’t come up with it. The Brits, the French and the always inventive Russians don’t have the answer. And the technological solutions we’re so proud of haven’t made us a lot safer.

The plain fact is, if someone wants to wreak havoc on selected parts of the civilized world with an uncivilized vengeance and a primitive weapon, there isn’t a Hell of a lot the rest of us can do about it. Now.

Maybe someday, it’ll happen. Until then, I remain your loyal … and conflicted … scribe. And a non-flyer.

Nearly a year ago, I wrote about buying locally where I live. At the time, I said there was more to getting people to do that than just opening the door and saying “Come on in.” I talked of inventory, pricing, courtesy, out-of-town telemarketing, attitude, customer respect and not taking the customer for granted.

That column has been on my mind for several months as we have had more experiences with home remodeling, car buying, appliance repair and other instances of merchant/tradesman-customer interaction. Some of that interaction met the criteria above; too much of it didn’t.

This isn’t a gripe session. Those with whom we’ve done business already know if they measured up. We told ‘em; some in writing. Most were glad to know they’d met our expectations. And theirs. But some … too many to make us repeat customers … fell far short.

Some bad experiences related to insufficient inventories to promptly fill our needs or having competitive pricing. Others had to do with attitude, including phone contact. But the worst experiences were making and keeping appointments, courteous treatment, following up, calling back when promised/necessary and keeping appointments that were scheduled far in advance.

It should be noted, since there is almost always someone home at our place, nearly all appointments were left to the convenience of the business or tradesman involved. We offered to fit our schedule to theirs. And still we were often stood up.

One example with a local tradesman: larger final bill than bid guaranteed; nine missed appointments; telling us he “had to play golf” or take his wife to the movies at the time set for our appointment; personal criticism of our home, installing materials that looked better to him but we didn’t want or order then billing us for his “improvements.”

During some home remodeling the main contractor was great. But some of the subs missed appointments, failed to follow up with installation needs, showed up with materials not matching measurements, left before work was done or didn’t schedule work when it was known the work was due. Poor communication.

We were considering a local car purchase. But as I walked the local lot one morning, one of the salesmen walked up and loudly … and quite publically … berated me because, instead of buying from him, we had bought our last car out-of-town for reasons he had no way of knowing. I was considering one of his models for Barb because she was ready to trade. Hell will freeze over first!

There was the local business … advertising “custom” work for a window replacement on our motorhome … which told us to go “find the parts” ourselves, then bring them back for installation. A Eugene company drove 60 miles each way and filled our needs.

While I admire local organizations offering classes in how to get locals to buy at home, I’m here to tell you a lot of their seeds are falling on barren ground. Our experiences prove it. So do the many comments I received agreeing with the first column on this issue; even local business people who told me of their trips up and down I-5 and their use of the Internet and mail order rather than shopping in town.

There may have been a time … long, long ago … when distances between communities kept local people shopping locally. If they did, those times are gone. Electronics and targeted mass-marketing have made the entire world our shopping place and many of us are spending our dollars where we can have our needs filled promptly and fully. Then delivered to our door.

This is not rocket science, my friends. It’s the Golden Rule: “Due unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means just what it says. And it certainly applies to commerce.

Basically, most of what we need can be found locally. If price/terms are competitive and if range of merchandise is similar, then local merchants have one thing no one anywhere else has: convenience ‘cause you’re just down the street. No worldwide marketer has that! So, at least in theory, the furniture store, the clothier, the appliance or car dealer has a leg up on every purchase. In theory.

The current economy has made us all shop smarter and be more price conscious. Our disposable income has largely been disposed of. We want value. We want selection. We want courteous treatment. We want to do business at home so we can have our needs satisfied promptly.

“Buy locally.” Good for business. But it’s got to be good for us.

After previously ranting about how members of Congress have a habit of adding the words “The American people want … think … say … feel … etc.” to their often self-serving speeches, I hate to plow the same ground twice. But I’m going to.

That’s because the evidence is starting to pile up that they’re proving again, based on recent statements, they didn’t hear and have no idea what the American people want. Or what the message really was. Keeping the same ineffective, polarizing leadership in both houses proves the point. But there is more. Much more.

Polls out this week from two respected organizations capture our “message” … our “instructions” … very well.

One is Gallup. Americans having a favorable view of the Democrat party is 43%, down 1% from prior to elections. Republican favorability was 45%, up 1% in the same period. Dead heat it seems.

Respondents had a 52% unfavorable view of Democrats with 50% having a negative view of the GOP. Again, just about even.

So, looks to me like the Republican victory was more of a rejection of Democrats than approval for the GOP. Helluva way to run a country.

Then there is the Pew Research Center output. About 48% of Americans are happy Republicans now control the House. That’s 12% lower than the 60% happy Democrats won back control of the House and Senate following the 2006 midterms. There’s a message there.

As for announced Republican plans and policies for the near future, 41% like what they hear but 37% don’t. Note the “no opinion” 22%.

So, what does it mean? The Pew report concludes: “On balance, both the general public and voters express less positive views of GOP policies than they did of Democrat proposals after the 2006 elections.”

Those are some pretty damning numbers! No clear majority anywhere about anything connected to the outcome of the 2010 midterm election. Slightly more people voted against something. And they won. It seemingly sent no instructions at all. But winners are already bellowing at the top of their voices, “The American people have sent a message.” To which they then insert all sorts of things up to and including finding a remedy for the common cold.

I realize this little blog probably won’t pop up on the screens of members of congressional leadership … majority or minority. Not much chance even those back there who are supposed to represent our little corner of the world will read it.

So let me make it as clear as I possibly can just in case they accidentally find SECOND THOUGHTS in a Google search rather than what they’re looking for.


If all that’s too difficult to understand, let’s put it this way. If you can’t accomplish most or all of the above in 24 months, we’ll cut you out of the herd and send in replacements!

The poll numbers from Gallup and Pew Research say to me there is no political banner to hide behind. Diehard Republicans and diehard Democrats are outnumbered by diehard independents who don’t give a damn about parties. We care about the quality … and quantity … of the work to be done. We have been specific in our message even if the tone deaf seekers of political job security haven’t heard.

What “the American people are saying” is it’s not either party … or an amorphous third party. It’s not the fat cats, the big guys, the vested interests, the “K” Street guys or your continued employment that’s important. It’s getting OUR work done. The quicker the better. By anybody who’ll do it.

Those that don’t abide … those that keep attaching “the American people say” to some other extraneous message … those are the ones that’ll go down the exit chute first.

There is a phrase used and overused by members of Congress that grates on me like fingernails on a blackboard: “the American people.”

It’s most often used in conjunction with some other descriptive word to make some sort of point: “The American People say,” “The American people want,” “the American people believe,” “”The American people have spoken,” and on and on ad nauseam.

Since our recent bought-and-paid-for national election, members of both parties are spouting this “American people want” nonsense as they try to tell us they are doing what we told them we wanted done.

Road apples!

One out-of-touch and apparently unhearing person who used this phrase repeatedly in the last week has no idea what “the American people” said with their votes: Sen. Minority Leader McConnell.

The loudest message from Democrats and Republicans alike was “stop the ridiculous gridlock and name-calling and do our business!” Liberal or conservative, that was the common message. “Make Congress work!”

So McConnell reads the message this way: “Our highest priority is to make the president a one-term president” and “We will stop any Democrat attempt to spend more money.” In other words, gridlock.

His ally, House Speaker-in-waiting Boehner: “We’re going to shove bills through to defund as many parts of the health care law as we can and to keep the Bush tax cuts.” In other words, gridlock.

Democrats in both houses are equally capable of ignoring the “American people’s” message. They’re keeping lightning rod Nancy Pelosi in House minority leadership and the grossly ineffective Harry Reid as majority leader in the Senate.

I spent three years in the Washington, D.C. political-media atmosphere and I can attest to the isolated nature of life therein. It only takes a couple of months to slide into the comfortable cocoon of non-reality. Information is circuitous, going from one isolated person to another. It’s morphed each time as each one adds/subtracts a detail or two and passes it on. You become a believer no matter what your instincts tell you. Quickly, you become isolated from “the American people” and what they really want.

There is nothing in a politician’s life in that world equating to anything in Wenatchee, Bend, Pocatello or Billings. Nothing! That’s why, fortified by a little sour mash one evening, I missed reality and went home to find it.

Look at it this way. Your kid goes into the military for two years. He or she comes home 24 months later and you’re dumbfounded by the new words, new look, new ideas and new talk about a reality that certainly isn’t yours. It’s very much the same. Only the example here is much, much more positive.

Many … not all …but many members of Congress have proven in word, deed and vote they have absolutely no idea what the American people want. The concept has been replaced with one that tells them “I know what they want because, if they knew what I know, that’s what they’d want.” I’ve seen and heard that time and time again. In spades! The arrogance of isolation.

When one of those people launches into “What the American people want” speeches, you’re often looking at someone who doesn’t necessarily believe that and probably doesn’t have any realistic idea. You’re looking at someone, putting on the false cloak of knowing the hardships at home, mouthing words about unemployment and other problems they have no first-hand knowledge of, but who is well-fed, well-paid, employed and wants to stay that way.

Congress is the last place to go to find out what the American people really want. And it irritates the Hell out of me when members say it. People on the stools in most neighborhood bars more often have a better grasp.

Let’s see now.

The coaches and the writers and the broadcasters … in separate national polling … put Boise State third and TCU fourth. Seems pretty clear.

But the BCS computer … in it’s digital wisdom … puts TCU third and Boise State fourth.

I think Mrs. Gump got it right!

The ink wasn’t dry on the President’s Debt Reduction Panel co-chairmen’s report before all wings of both major political parties and the special interest lobbies of every stripe began screaming. That says to me, the co-chairmen got something right.

Several months ago, some Republicans in Congress proposed a bipartisan panel to examine federal spending … all spending … and to come up with recommendations to reduce the outgo that has created our staggering deficit. Nothing “off the table.” Who could say “no” to that?

The President endorsed the idea. So the same Republicans that proposed it immediately opposed it. Undeterred, the President took the ball and ran with it. He named former GOP Sen. Allan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles to co-chair, appointed a balanced membership and sent ‘em off to work.

While the committee has not completed it’s job … but is expected to in December … the co-chairs wrote their own brief report based on a couple of months of hearings and deliberation, dropping it on the table with some media fanfare. The outcry began immediately!

In the interest of full disclosure, the Mrs. and I receive small Social Security checks monthly and take advantage of our Medicare entitlements. So, we’ve got a dog or two in the fight. New restrictions or reductions in either … or both … programs would likely result in some personal hardship. I’m also a veteran.

So saying, I endorse the draft report … including an across-the-board reduction of military spending by 10% or so. To do otherwise would be fiscal insanity.

In addition to gradually raising the entitlement age to 69 or 70, one change to both Social Security and Medicare that has to be made … must be made … is means testing. The more income you have, the smaller the government check should be. The purpose of the two programs was to augment the lower income most of us have in retirement and to underwrite some of the medical problems most older Americans experience later in life so what income we do have isn’t wiped out with medical expenses.

If your retirement income is say, $100,000+ or so a year, taxpayers should not be sending a monthly check of $1,500-2,000 to pay the country club dues or the mortgage on a second home. Social Security was meant to help with basic living costs, not subsidize a higher standard of living.

Same with Medicare. Above a certain income level, people should be required to buy one of the affordable Medigap policies that take care of many of the expenses Medicare doesn’t. Again, Medicare was to cover the basics, not be a medical security blanket.

As for military spending, sizeable cuts are absolutely necessary and absolutely doable. I believe in a strong military and a technologically modern defense. But reducing the number of standing American military overseas by a third to a half won’t diminish either. Nor will ending our involvement in two unwinnable wars. Complete revamping of our military procurement and weapons systems programs is long overdue. Way, way overdue. We’re talking billions here. If you’re trying to reduce outgo by about $4 trillion, as bank robber Willie Sutton used to say, “Go where the money is.”

I hope the full Debt Reduction panel’s final recommendations run along the same lines as this draft report … cuts in all areas and in amounts that are meaningful. It must be done!

Problem is, every member of Congress will fight it. Even the “Tea Party” types who ran on promises of “cutting spending” and “balancing the budget.” Their mail boxes will fill up, they won’t be able to keep paper in the trays of their fax machines and irate emails will likely blow up the Capital Hill Internet system. They’re going to hear screams from everybody. Most members will look at their own futures rather than the nation’s. And they’ll cave.

Sen. Simpson said at the report’s unveiling, “We’ve harpooned every whale and a few minnows, too. Everybody’s ox got gored.” That’s why the outcry will be so loud and from so many sources. That’s the best proof this is the right course of action.

If we don’t do this … and do it quickly … overwhelming evidence from the most respected sources shows we will default on all our obligations at home and abroad and become just another debtor nation within the next two to three years.

We became the great nation we are because we were willing to pay any price to keep ourselves free and to put our lives on the line for just causes to maintain that liberty. Are we going to let 250 years of our heritage crumble because we won’t pay our bills?

It’s safe to say we, as a nation, are engaged in two wars we will not win and which are draining our treasure and our youth. Billions already spent will be followed by billions more we haven’t got but which we must find to keep faith with the injured and the scarred.

I can find only one good thing to come from our current miserable, protracted, neo-con-sponsored tragedy. Just one. And that’s the resurgence in this country of honoring veterans … veterans of all wars. The last couple of years have seen more parades, more stories, more media attention paid to those who put on the various uniforms and took their turns defending America.

My turn was nine years of active service. No one ever took a shot at me. Except a fella from Chicago. And he was dumb; not angry. We were firing in the prone position on the range at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. His M-1 jammed. So he got up, turned around to get help and put a shot over the heads of the rest of us lying on the ground. We had a little “blanket reception” for him that night in the barracks. “Lesson in gun safety” we called it.

Veteran’s Day used to be a big deal. Draftee or volunteer: we honored them all. Because we won every time.

Then came Korea. The world recorded it as a draw; not a loss. But in the hearts and minds of all Korean vets … combat or not … it didn’t end the way it should have because the political clout to win wasn’t there. Nor, it seemed, the national will. So, those who were left came home.

Honoring veterans who had simply fought for a tie didn’t seem the same as honoring those who crushed an enemy. So, aside from some VFW and American Legion posts, Veterans Day came to mean little more than a day off for bankers and government workers.

Then Viet Nam. This nation stepped into the Southeast Asian quicksand because of bad political decisions and a lot of political and some military leadership deceit. Ultimately, a lack of national will to throw our full weight into a “little war” in some far off place where “we probably would have lost anyway” meant there was no victory. In fact, the long view of our history will likely record it as a loss. Americans who were there … Americans who fought the fight and endured the unendurable … those Americans won’t ever see it that way.

Another war where we were and shouldn’t have been. And when that political realization finally hit home after all the killing and loss of national treasure, pride and thousands of lives, someone blew the whistle and it ended. Again, those who were left came home.

And, again, the acknowledgment of veterans with a special day was pushed further down into the depth of our national consciousness and left largely to those who served to remember each other and the sacrifices that had been made.

Now we’re sending our young people and our megabillions of dollars to other places we shouldn’t be in a futile attempt to change conditions that have existed for thousands of years. Conditions that defeated every other nation that tried to intervene for whatever purpose. We won’t change things there, either. We will eventually come home without victory.

So maybe the only positive thing to come out of this terrible cost of lives and treasure is the resurgence of American recognition of what it means to be a veteran. A veteran of any war. Technology and some damned fine reporting by a few gutsy journalists who took cameras, cell phones and laptop computers into the line of fire in this one have given us non-combatants and non-participants a new realization of what it’s really like in battle under conditions none of us would care to experience.

So, Veteran’s Day seems to be making a comeback for the old and providing a new experience for the young. I’m seeing fewer Veteran’s Day sales and more Veteran’s Day flags. And parades. Little ones. Big ones. But more of ‘em.

All that is good. All of that is as it should be. But if you want to really get the meaning … if you really want to know what Veteran’s Day is supposed to be about … go talk to a veteran. Any veteran. Anywhere.

If you’re in a hurry, just shake a hand and say “Thank you.” If you’ve got some time, ask some questions about experiences, comrades and memories. That veteran will never stop you to tell you any of this. But if you ask, you’ll be the richer for what you learn.

And the veteran will be grateful for the chance to share and to have a new feeling that one more American has some idea of what it means to have borne the fight.

O.K. Here’s the disclosure right up front. I’m a longtime Boise State Broncos fan. Had season tickets for 25 years or so. I think they’ve been getting a bad rap from the national talking heads and that damned BCS poll. So there.

But I’m not a Boise State apologist because their schedule is not as tough as I’d like to see … or as it should be … for a serious national championship contender. So saying, my prediction: the Broncos will never appear in a BCS championship game unless the larger schools will put ‘em on their schedules. Which at this point most of those at the top won’t do, though Michigan will for the next three years.

Another personal stand: in my opinion, the BCS should be abolished in favor of a national playoff. Don’t give me that crap about what a problem that would be to figure out and schedule. We’ve won wars, gone to the moon and put a Democrat in the White House. We can do anything! But there’s so much money at stake we won’t do it.

Over a year ago, the Bronco’s Athletic Director, the head of the Western Athletic Conference and an ESPN rep called some of the major schools: Oklahoma, Alabama, etc. They offered $1 million or more for one game, the Broncos would go to the other school’s stadium with no return game required and they offered some other perks to make it a sweetheart deal. The sound of all those telephones being hung up repeatedly could be heard from coast to coast.

The word “NO” was pronounced with many regional accents. But it was always “NO.”

My vision of how that experience probably played out in all those other athletic director’s offices is likely close to the truth. In the last several years, Boise State has proven repeatedly … on any given day … it can stand toe-to-toe on any field and probably beat the other guys. They’ve knocked off some significant teams … TCU, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Oregon, etc. “So if this little school from fly-over country is as good as it looks,” the AD’s think to themselves, “they could blow our run at a national championship. No thanks!”

Coach Petersen says “We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to do.” And they have. In spades. Current win streak is 22. The overall record under Petersen is 73-2. They haven’t lost at home in years. No school and no coach out there can match those statements.

Last Saturday, BSU clobbered six-wins-in-a-row Hawaii; a team that normally racked up nearly 400 yards of offense a game. Not this time. Boise quarterback Kellen Moore alone (30 for 37) had 507 yards of offense! Most quarterbacks play their entire careers without doing that. Three other Boise players totaled 339 yards. Other statistics were just as impressive.

If Boise State runs the table, Bronco players will spend the day of the national championship game at home watching at least one team … with one or more losses … play on TV that day. It’s happened before and it will happen again. Last season, for example, Boise was the only team in the country with 13 wins. And they were left out.

Until the big schools give Boise a shot, none of this will change. For two reasons: money and the damned BCS. When sports writers and coaches give them the same ranking in separate polls for separate reasons, then the computer knocks them lower, the system is badly flawed.

Football is a game. A game of people: players, coaches, journalists, fans. It’s not a computer simulation. No other sport ignores the results on the field and the rankings of professionals, then loads its statistics into a hard drive and ranks teams by the electronic outcome. That just doesn’t make sense.

I currently live 60 miles from the number one ranked team: the University of Oregon Ducks. Oregon has an athletic budget of $15 million plus. Boise State: about $3 million. But when they got on the same field in 2009, with substantially the same players as this year, the Broncos sent them home minus some feathers.

Money is important to a successful sports program. But so are heart and determination. And a damned good coach. Boise State has three out of those four but plays the game like the richest schools.

Those three factors matter little to the BCS computers. But they are everything on the field. That’s why sports professionals with some guts … and a true love of the game of football … should pull the BCS plug and take up the challenge of a national playoff.

Until then, college football in America will be little more than a computer game.

For months, pundits have been warning a reactionary, angry, ill-informed vote by the electorate this week would result in an even worse economic situation than we already have. If you’ve heard it nowhere else, you’ve heard it here.

Before you smack me for a seemingly “I told you so” attitude, listen carefully to long-time economic writer Shawn Tully in the current issue of Fortune magazine. A guy with great economic chops.

“By 2013, the total U.S. federal debt will total 76% of Gross Domestic Product if Congress remains gridlocked and digging out at that point will be unimaginably painful. It’s highly possible, even probable, Congress and the White House will succumb to gridlock and do nothing in the next two years to narrow the gigantic gap between outlays and revenues. That’s a formula for disaster.”

Without going too far out on a small limb, my prediction … for what it’s worth … is gridlock there will be. In spades! In support of that position, I offer only two of hundreds of pieces of public evidence put out there in the past 48 hours.

One, expected House Speaker John Boehner: “We’re going to pass bills through the House by the dozens to repeal the health care law, stop bailouts of any kind and cut taxes.”

Two, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell: “The primary goal of Senate Republicans in the next two years is to make sure President Obama is a one term president. We’ll do all we can to make that happen. And to repeal Obamacare.”

Weigh those repeated public pronouncements from two major Republicans in positions to make gridlock possible, then tell me you’ll bet the farm it won’t happen.

Now, hear these words from Dr. David Walker, chief of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a respected budget issues think tank.

“If we don’t take immediate action, we’re facing a super sub-prime debt problem with dramatic effects on interest rates and the value of the dollar. We risk losing control of our destiny.”

These are not voices of the far right or the far left. These are not the paid idiot predictors of doom of talk radio. These are highly specialized, well-trained professionals steeped in economic education with years in the business.

Want more? How about this warning from the Congressional Budget Office in August. Given an extension of Bush tax cuts (highly likely) and taking no hard corrective action, “…deficits will total $3.5 trillion between fiscal 2011-2013, raising total borrowing by 39% and swell debt-to-GDP (ratio) to around 76%. At that point, interest on the federal debt would absorb one dollar in every ten of spending, versus one in 20 today.”

Given the rock-headed, oft-repeated Republican public position the budget can be balanced best through tax cuts and not tax increases, Tully writes, if that were humanly possible, “those cuts would have to total 5% of GDP or one-fifth of current spending.” But not getting the job done by 2013 means, at that point,”debt would be one-third of all spending.”

One dollar in three! One in three!

Imagine what would happen between now and then if all foreign countries, who hold more than half our outstanding debt, came to believe we couldn’t pay and called our notes. Simply put, we would become the world’s largest debtor nation.

We are at a place in our historic debt that, because it is in the trillions, the interest compounding each year is almost unbelievable. And the hill that taxpayers must climb to pay that off will become steeper than we’ve ever known. At the same time, as the clock ticks, the methods of payment diminish rapidly.

In the end, pay or default, we are going to have terrible national repercussions. Each one of us. Each one.

Now, think about the vote you cast last Tuesday. Is the person you helped send to Washington equipped to understand this situation? Is that person mentally and educationally open to listen to all sides and reach necessary solutions they may not now believe in? Is that person able to get beyond today’s anger, frustration and his/her own ideology to become a problem solver? Can/will they do it? Quickly?

Or are they going to fill two years with meaningless public hearings trying to chase the President up a political tree? Are they going to blindly follow McConnell, Boehner and other party leaders into two years of gridlock just to prove some unprovable, idiotic political point? Are they going to play Nero’s fiddle while this nation’s debt burns us into bankruptcy?

The warnings of our quite likely economic apocalypse are coming from too many sources … from too many educated and experienced people … to be ignored. There is no hedge. There is no place to hide. There is no individual safety. There is only straight ahead. And a lot of pain.

Are you still pleased with your vote?