Archive for December, 2011

People who follow politics can get as sick of a story as those who don’t. Not often; just occasionally. That’s because our junkie tolerance for eating sawdust without asking for water is a little higher. But, in the case of the Iowa Caucuses in particular, and the Republican presidential primaries in general, I’m reaching for a large – very large – glass.

The shameful pandering of the incompetent-leading-the-unknowing has been going on for months. Now, in the final days, rock hard political positions have become just so much verbal putty to be reshaped on a moment’s notice depending on the audience. “Nailing Jello to a tree,” the man said. Promises of “clean campaigning” have been broken as often as a maiden’s heart. Fully half of all political ads in Iowa on this day are bashing Newt. Half! And dollars by the millions are pouring in from just about everyplace except Iowa.

Still, most of us really don’t know how the Iowa process works. Or even if it does. Herewith, some thoughts on that.

You start off with the basic, indisputable fact that Iowa – demographically and politically – is unlike the rest of the nation in nearly every category. It’s political history – stacked up against nearly any other state – is peculiar to itself. Even who votes and how is not widely understood. Or copied.

For example, the 2010 census count for the state was 3,007,856. In the 2008 primary election, the caucuses had a record-breaking 118,411 delegate votes cast. Just under four percent of Iowa’s total population. Statistically you could make a case that less than four percent of 3 million is hardly representative of Iowa much less anywhere else.

Nearly all caucus delegates are chosen at the county level. Since the fundamentalist Christian movement – and the right wing in general – among Republicans controlling the delegate selection process in Iowa is higher than many other states, their influence in that less than four percent is outsized and distorts both the Republican Party at-large and the state as a whole. It should also be remembered that in Iowa – as in many other states – the right wing controls the state GOP mechanics which can make nearly any “official” view a minority view among all Iowa Republicans.

Then there’s cost. Huge cost. The Des Moines Chamber of Commerce has estimated spending by candidates, parties and all those legal-but-shamefully-wrong anonymous Super Pacs amounts to seven to 10% of the state’s total economy in a primary year. No small potatoes.

So, what is the cost? Well, here very late in December, the latest official tally of candidate and PAC spending is $15,433,000. And that’ll go up before the Jan. 3rd caucuses. As of today, that figures out to be about $130.32 per delegate vote. Add to that the costs of campaign staffing, huge amounts of travel and all the other outgo associated and you can see why the Des Moines Chamber is a big booster of the event.

It’s big bucks. But is the outcome worth it? Or even valid? Winners of past caucuses have not notoriously been the eventual Republican nominee. Some – like Mike Huckabee in 2008 – disappeared within a couple of months of his Iowa victory. Most politicians look at Iowa as simply a “momentum starter” as they go on to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and elsewhere. And sometimes it is. Then – look at Huckabee.

What’s made me reach for large amounts of water to wash down the political sawdust isn’t the Iowa primary itself. Even though the case can be made that all the millions of dollars, irrelevant noise, the incessant polling and candidate posturing aren’t terribly helpful to the nation when it’s over. It just ends.

No, as one of the registered Independents that Republicans want – and badly need – this time around, what’s soured me on the whole situation is the motley group of candidates from which to chose. As a whole, these eight have more baggage than a United Airlines flight to London.

None of them – not one – has taken a position on a major issue and stuck with it. None – not one – has laid out a coherent plan for our economy, foreign affairs, national defense or any other major category. None – not one – has given this registered Independent voter a reason to mark his/her name on a ballot.

We’ve been given nearly a year of constant criticism, misinformation. distortion and outright ignorance without any positive – or even knowledgeable – plan for the future. Information we voters badly need.

Those of us who don’t hold a party affiliation – for which we can be counted on for near-automatic support – have to be offered better than we have. By both major parties. I’m not entirely crazy with the status quo in the White House. But I’m not going to chose one of these crazies just to change it.

It’s taken far too many years – and cost far too much – but I’ve finally learned the secret of a cheap divorce. I gave Barb – my most talented teacher wife – an iPad for Christmas. Haven’t seen her since.

Like most folks who’ve reached the three-quarters-of-a-century mark in life, the whizbang, always-something-new-electronics revolution has passed me by in it’s quickstep march to who-knows-where. I own the most simple of cell phones with no “apps” or video capability. I have it because I use it for the one purpose for which it was invented. And named. Telephone. And it doesn’t even do that very well.

So far, I’ve managed to escape the wave of intercontinental electronic itching and scratching going around – that of sitting and watching your left hand for hours and hours. It’s the same all over town. People eating, reading, getting haircuts, waiting in line, riding a bus, visiting a doctor, grocery shopping, sitting in church, TV watching, getting shoes shined and a host of other normal activities. All the while holding a black oblong thing in their left hands and staring at it.

My wife is an ardent practitioner of this solitary electronic lifestyle. She has friends. Many friends. In many places. She seldom talks to them. But I think she’s in constant touch. I think. Sits for hours, staring at her left hand. Occasionally she crosses over with her right to punch a series of keys. Then usually smiles. This can go on for hours. Sit-punch-sit-read-smile-punch-sit-read-smile -punch-read, etc.

I’ve asked repeatedly why she doesn’t just enter the appropriate, shorter telephone numbers, put the device to her ear and talk to someone at the other end. “It IS called a phone, you know.” This usually gets me a smile, a shrug and a mild rebuke: “You just continue what you’re doing and we’ll be fine.”

As I understand our monthly convoluted phone bill, we’re paying for phone “talk time.” That time during which you have a back-and-forth traditional conversation with someone. They speak. You listen. You speak. They listen. That seems fair. But we’re also paying more dollars for something called “texting” which is slower, more time-consuming and far less personal than the “talk time.” Seems like money poorly spent to me.

I’ve watched her do this “texting” for an entire episode of “NCIS” and a Bears loss to the Packers. Straight through. Oh, she’s quiet enough. But I’m never sure when she’s here or when she’s “there.” Wherever “there” is at the time.

I’m far behind the “social media” curve. In fact, I see nothing “social” about it. To me, the “social” part is the exchange of voices talking of common experiences or the news of the day. What’s “social” about punching keys, leaving comments on a website or twittering you are now on a bus headed crosstown? Intrusive and nobody’s business as far as I’m concerned. As a matter of fact, who else cares about what the Hell you’re doing on a bus?

Ah, but back to the iPad. Even spelled screwy.

Once in her hands Christmas day, she left the room, headed for her computer. The house was very quiet. A bit later, I found she had wired one to the other. Mating, I guessed. Maybe this is where iPods came from.

I inquired. She said she was “synching.” “Downloading instructions and updates.” “Updates?” What “updates?” The damned thing was brand new. But, based on previous experience, I quietly left the room. There is a time with her that you know all you’re ever going to know so you stop asking.

A few hours later, she emerged with the iPad playing digitized music. Fine fidelity, I thought, but what about the thousand bucks we have invested in a state-of-the-art home theater sound system? I didn’t ask. She settled on the couch with the I-iPad in her lap, surrounded by a then-silent 400 watt amplifier and Bose speakers that could shatter glass. But she was happy.

Haven’t seen her since. Made my own coffee this morning. Winston – the Rat Terrier – and Clementine – the Calico cat – seem unconcerned. I’m sure if I look in the right room, I’ll find her staring at the little glass box that’s taken her God-knows-where this time.

I won’t be getting an iPad soon. I won’t even get a new phone. I won’t, that is, until there’s one on the market that really works. As a phone. Never mind all the other stuff.

As for the cheaper divorce part, a friend of ours is working on an “app” for that. I’ll keep you posted.

About a year ago, Mowse died. Mowse was a large, beautiful, all-white cat who’d owned us for a decade. While she’ll never be replaced in our hearts, she left us with an empty space around the tree at Christmas time. With mixed gratitude to Barb – my cat-loving wife – the space has been filled.

The newest member of the family circle is a six-pound, two-year-old Calico from a local shelter. Officially, we’ve named her Clementine. Since we’ve long had a Rat Terrier named Winston, it seemed only natural. As we’ve gotten to know each other better, Clementine has been shortened to Clemmy. Or, as in the case when her youthful exuberance goes too far, D.C.. Damned cat!

Anyone who’s brought a new cat into the house knows the first thing that happens is they make a dash under the nearest furniture and hide for several days. You can hear them at night as they prowl and examine their new home. Just standard cat operating procedure. Nature of the beast as it were.

Not Clemmy. Barb sat her down on the floor, expecting the usual dash for that safe space under the couch. Didn’t happen. Clem sat there, looked the place over, found a soft spot ON the couch and settled in. When a lap eventually became available, she was in it. Purring. If she was picked up and held, more purring. Toys. Mad dash, play and – purring. Food? Purring. Litter box? Purring.

When it was time to meet Winston, he showed us how wrong we could be about his gentle, accepting nature we’d known for so long. Since he had lived most of his much-loved dog life with Mowse for a friend, we thought this would go well. It did not. He looked at us as if we had betrayed him and slowly walked to the bedroom and his usual corner of the bed. “Damn!” That’s Rat Terrier for “Damn!”

Clemmy would not be denied. She jumped up and laid down beside him. Purring. “Damn!” You could hear it clearly as he left the bed.

It’s been several weeks now. As usual, in the evenings, Winston lays down on the couch next to Barb as she reads. But now, Clemmy curls up next to Winston. For awhile, he’d get up and move. Not anymore. While he still softly utters an occasional “Darn,” he more often just lays there and endures the warm, six-pound “purr box” snuggled up by his side. And lately, if she leaves, he’ll look up to see where she went.

When Clemmy comes into a room these few weeks later, Winston doesn’t leave. While they’re certainly not “buddies,” she has at least won him over to accept her presence in the house. Purring and continued loving will do that. She purrs, too, when she settles down next to him on the foot of our bed each night.

And that’s what we’ve learned from Clementine as she’s melded into our family She has “loved” her way into our hearts with her continual purring and her desire to be close. Even when reprimanded, she soon comes back with a purr and a rub on our legs. We find ourselves wondering who could possibly have taken this loving animal to a shelter. Why would you give up something that just keeps coming back? That just keeps loving?

So Christmas at our house has a complete circle again this year. The tree is up and decorations abound. Clemmy, of course, loves that. And we, of course, now love Clemmy.

If we acknowledge the small, life-changing gift of love placed in our lives that first Christmas – if we accept and practice the eternal charge to “go forth and share His love” – if we approach all our relationships with caring for each other – then we’ve learned what that Baby was sent here to teach.

Still, though we’ve understood that at our house for many Christmas’s, it’s been good to have a small, calico cat remind us that love is best when shared. Repeatedly. Constantly.

Merry Loving Christmas!

It is no distortion of fact to say a Republican president lied this nation into a disastrous, costly “war-of-choice,” using doctored and phony “evidence” to make his case. His abuse of authority brought immense physical and economic destruction to that nation and ours, cost unnecessary spending of billions of dollars and killed more than 100,000 indigenous people. Along with nearly 4,600 of our sons and daughters and another 35,000 wounded.

It didn’t just “happen” on his watch. With malice-aforethought, he and others reaped the whirlwind of disaster resulting from dishonest politics and bad decisions carried out on his watch. Deliberately.

Now, a Democrat President has made an informed but difficult decision to end that war. It’s happening because he said it would. The killing – at least of our young and the Iraqi innocent – will stop. Has stopped. Because he said it would. On his watch.

In the first instance, a President fabricated evidence and lied to start a war in a country which posed no threat to our shores and had taken no action to earn our national or military enmity. For some time, he enjoyed the trumped-up role of “defender of freedom bringing hope to a brutalized people.” He completed his term and retired to enjoy his family and fortune.

The second President, doing what he promised to do to get us the Hell out of a destructive international tragedy, is reaping mostly silence from many in his own political party and scorn from some “leaders” of the other.

Sen. John McCain – someone whose own bitter experiences in another war-of-choice have given him an often outsized voice in military matters – stood on the U.S. Senate floor this week to say “I believe that history will judge this president’s leadership with the scorn and disdain it deserves.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham – McCain’s hand puppet in all things Republican and military – called the president’s actions “shameful” and a betrayal of trust.

There were others of that ilk, quickly seeking out TV cameras to criticize the end to hostilities with ill-chosen words. Like McCain and Graham.

The only suitable, extremely accurate response to such undeserved and ignorant political posturing is a single statistic quoted widely in recent days. A November NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll asking if we should end that war and withdraw from Iraq. At the bottom of the “YES” column: 71%. 71%. Many other citizen samplings concur. Many.

It’s taken the American people nearly a decade to reach that statistically overwhelming decision. But slowly, as the war affected more families and it became clear we were wasting both treasure and lives, the opposition mounted. When people realized we could build schools, roads, bridges, housing and other institutions of democracy over there – but not over here – minds began to change.

As people attended too many funerals of young relatives and friends, minds were opened. When people welcomed home a young returning military member, scarred in mind and body forever, they re-evaluated the war. Despite the lie that this nation “owed it to the people of Iraq to help them achieve democracy,” the accumulated evidence of what our nation was suffering reached into more homes and touched more hearts.

It’s the political sheep who followed a dishonest shepherd into war that should be reaping the scorn. Not the Commander-In-Chief who took the role seriously – and honestly – made the tough decisions and took the decisive action to stop the killing. And the waste. And the loss.

None of those who committed this nation’s young to a war – from which thousands will never return – can stand in the homes of parents who received only a flag to remember a lost son or daughter and make the case that their pain and their loss were justified. None. Not one.

As we leave a country – one that long ago told us to leave – we scatter behind billions of dollars in equipment, airbases, paved roads, buildings and several hundred thousand Iraqi graves. We leave a country that didn’t invite us in and soon tired of being the battleground in a no-win war.

As one of the 71%, I ask myself what improvements – what benefits – what national honor did we reap? The answer – silence.

The president is not hearing enough from those who wanted the killing stopped. But we’re hearing too damned much from McCain and Graham and their fellow-travelers.

The fact we’re living in a coarser society is proven every time we venture out to the store, ride public transportation, watch TV, hear hate-talk radio, listen to pre-teens converse with each other or go to a sporting event. I don’t like it. You don’t like it. But it’s there.

Add to that the background of our current deeply divided nation, the bitterness found in our fractured and ineffective congress, a Republican presidential race populated by too many fools saying and doing too many foolish things, a right-wing Hellbent on political “purity” and you have an idea why some people who should be speaking out are afraid to do so.

That became apparent in a story written this week by CNN Senior Producer John Schoen. The headline says it best: “Political rancor stifling economic policy debate.” That news may not be exciting to most people but it is catnip to us political camp followers.

Schoen writes that, while high unemployment and a sluggish economy are the two big political issues of our day, many experts we should be hearing from – economists among them – are reluctant to speak out. And, sometimes, it goes beyond reluctance to outright refusal.

“Because of the political atmosphere and polarization we’ve seen, and the climate of distrust of expertise, economists are leery of … talking about proposal A or B,” said Dr. Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian. “There’s a feeling that you can’t have a needed, healthy intellectual debate over what priorities we need. And that’s essential right now.”

Schoen contacted a number of economists for their insight and was turned down by nearly every one. He noted “One Ivy League professor begged off citing ‘crank e-mails’ that followed an interview he gave on the GOP candidate’s economic proposals. ‘I don’t need that kind of grief,’ he said..”

Then there’s Dr. Michael Frane, head of government studies at the very conservative Heritage Foundation. “The striking thing is you don’t have a Nelson Rockefeller debating a Barry Goldwater. There’s no real broad ideological spectrum in the Republican Party because they’re all very similarly situated comfortably to the right of center.”

I’ve always thought of most economists as people with an impossible task. Any three of them can work from the same set of statistics or circumstances and come up with four scenario’s. They could all be right; they could all be wrong. Still, we voters really have no other place to turn for help understanding matters of the economy. We need some guidance before we mark up our ballots. We need to hear differing, independent views from experts trained in such matters.

So what does it say about our course society, our bitterly divided political parties, the small-minded ideology of a few bringing our national congress to a standstill that some of the voices we need in public discourse are being intimidated and are reluctant to speak for fear of intimidation? What has become of our vaunted acceptance of “freedom of speech” and “expression of differing views/opinions?”

Anyone who publically expresses professional views these days seems to be fair game for every anti-intellectual nut job with access to the Internet. Trust me. I know. So do many others whose professions take them into the public consciousness. The anonymity afforded ideologically-challenged hate-mongers using the Internet and abusing the true intent of talk radio has created an electronic challenge to those speech freedoms and the open exchange of differing ideas. As some of these economists have learned. The hard way.

The legal-but-tragically-wrong insertion of anonymous dollars by the hundreds of millions into our national politics is contributing to this. The well-paid broadcast voices of division get part of the blame. An ill-prepared and too often irresponsible stable of presidential wannabes, lacking basic understanding of the civic structure of this nation, have great responsibility. Those media organizations who prostitute their requirement to “operate in the public interest” share in these changed conditions as well.

When professional voices with something to contribute to the nation’s dialogue are afraid to publically offer their trained opinions because of ridicule and abuse, the coarseness – the incivility – the baseless anonymous criticism have been allowed to go too far.

Our affluence is about to affect our effluents again. Unlike environmental pollution – which many people think don’t come in daily contact with and assume, whatever it is, it’s someone else’s problem – this time our overindulgence is as close as the technology many of us hold in our hands: the smart phone.

I’m seeing more – and more urgent – technical stories about our “vanishing” bandwidth and – now this will surprise you – our government’s failure to do anything about it! Designation of who can – and therefore who can’t – have commercial access to the airwaves that carry all electronic communication and how much of the frequency bandwidth can be accessed rests solely with the Federal Communications Commission and its minions. From which the current silence is deafening.

If the concept of “bandwidth” escapes you, try this. You are high up in the stadium seats at the 50 yard line, looking down on an empty football field. Now, someone lays a smartphone on one goal line, then puts a computer next to it, then a radio, then a TV set, then another smart phone, computer, radio, TV set and on and on to the other goal line. You fill all the space from one end to the other. Then someone comes along with a radically new technology in a box and looks for a place to set it down between the end zones. Can’t be done. No room.

That’s somewhat how bandwidth works. Except it’s an electronic spectrum. Like the football field, it has measurements along the way called “frequencies.” Somewhat like the yard markers on the gridiron. With the explosion of smar tphones, computers, digital television and all the other gadgets we take for granted, we are about to run out of room. Technology is available to solve the problem. But – ah, government.

The common sense and most preferred solution is to further divide the frequencies into smaller slices like cutting smaller pieces of pie to serve more unexpected visitors. Some smart folks have already come up with a process. But – – – – –

The Department of Commerce Economics and Statistic Administration (ESA) – using Census Bureau research – claims seven of every 10 households have broadband service. And we’re running out of room. What do we do when the other 30% of households that’ll eventually want to get on? A lot of those households are in rural parts of our Northwest neighborhoods. What about them?

In just the period 2009-2010, the number of new users of broadband went from 64% to 68%. From 2003 to 2010, the number of American homes with computers increased from 62% to 77%.

Note that we’re only talking personal computers here. No mention of smart phones, the increasing number of TV sets, commercial, government or military use of broadband – just computers. No one has any idea what the precise increase in smart phones has been but we know it exploded.

How much more space we have depends on who does the measuring or the counting or however it’s done. But all knowledgeable sources – all of them – agree on one thing: there ain’t much room left!

Those of you who are regular visitors to SECOND THOUGHTS may think this is just another of my frequent rants about failures of the federal government, both administratively and politically. Well, maybe. Maybe not. Maybe one of these days, when you want to add some electronic whizbang to your current collection of whizbangs – and the installer company says it can’t because the feds have stopped adding new whizbangs to the bandwidth – maybe you’ll think back. Maybe.

We could find ourselves rationing electronic access. We’re being warned that could happen. Soon. National security needs may trump an updated computer or smart phone you’ve had your eye on. Remember those unmanned drones taking out the Taliban one by one? Yep. Broadband. That electronic link for your car may be refused. Your new small business can’t have computer links to the world because there is no space left. With a football field, you want a defined distance. With broadband you don’t. You have the government instead. Isn’t that comforting?

Your friends at the FCC – serving at the pleasure of Congress and the President – are doing what exactly to head off another government crisis? They’ve stepped up the action to take care of this – how? The FCC will lose how much funding next fiscal year? And the next? And the next?

This is just one of hundreds of issues that need urgent federal attention. Are they getting it? Are you getting it?

Want to join the rant?

Did you know more people are buying groceries between midnight and 6 a.m. than ever before? Sadly ‘tis true. Matter of fact, the demand has become so great that Walmart is now keeping many of its stores open round- the-clock to accommodate them.

And who are these new shoppers? That’s where the “sadly” comes in. Seems many of them are people who never considered shopping day OR night at Walmart in the past but now – because of major changes in personal income or maybe unemployment – they’re “Walmart shoppers” for the first time in their lives. And they’re coming in late – very late – because they don’t want to be seen at Walmart by friends or co-workers or someone from church during normal hours. A conflict of reduced purchasing power and pride.

More bad economic news. Millions of kids in the country – from what we have previously considered solidly middle-class families – are now receiving free or low-cost meals at schools for the first time. In 11 states, the numbers are up by more than 24% in four years. Many states are way over the 50% level in the same period.

To be eligible, families must have incomes lower than 130% of the poverty level – $29,055 for a family of four – for federal food. Nationwide, the number of school-age children in families eligible for the program stands at 14 million in the current year; up two million in just 12 months.

Nearly ever school district across the country has seen more kids coming into the cafeterias. One district in Conyers, GA, has reached 62 percent of enrollment. This national program now costs nearly $11 billion, putting out 32 million lunches, 21 million of them free or at reduced charge.

So where is the new demand coming from? Well, in Rochester, N.Y., it may be from the family of formerly well-paid industrial engineers and technicians laid off at Eastman Kodak. In Las Vegas, 15,000 new lunch students this year came from families of construction workers without jobs for the first time.

In Oregon and Washington, more kids are being fed because of timber layoffs and mills closed or running on reduced shifts with fewer workers.. Even kids from families of fishermen on the coast now out of work. And, of course, from families where a small business has gone under.

In other words, subsidized lunches are being fed to hundreds of thousands of kids whose parents never thought they’d be relying on hard-pressed school districts. And for many of these students, administrators say, these school meals may be the only food some kids get on the average day.

A small Rotary club in our neighborhood has a weekend feeding program for kids from families really hurting. Using several dozen identical, unmarked backpacks, members fill ‘em with canned goods or dry foods. Kids come to a special location Friday afternoon, pick up what may be the only food they get for the weekend, then drop the packs off Monday.

There’s another not-often reported bad change in today’s economy. For the past three years – since things went sour – people have used debit cards more and credit cards less. They paid cash and reduced their debt. Those are good things. But, in the last four months, there’s a complete turn-around. More credit use being reported; less debit. Many economists think that’s because the long-term unemployed and the under-employed have used up cash reserves and are now living on credit. Creating debt to pay debt is never – never – good. But, apparently, that’s what’s happening.

These kinds of economic stories don’t get much media attention. Some free school lunches here and there – Walmart accommodating embarrassed shoppers from midnight to dawn – a little Rotary club making sure a few dozen kids get food between Friday and Monday – more people paying for living expenses by credit instead of cash – nothing sexy or salacious or of much interest to the always-talking-heads. So we don’t hear much about it.

But it’s happening. It’s happening in all our neighborhoods. If you want to see proof, drop by your Walmart grocery department between midnight and six. Might see someone you know.

Two names I’d like never to hear again: Herman Cain and anyone named Kardashian. The only reason Newt doesn’t appear is because I put him on the “Never Hear Again” list about 1996. Along with someone named Lewinsky. For some of the same reasons.

There is nothing more to say about the Cain demise. Except it came at the end of a farcical road show that never should have been. But watching his longtime paramour Ginger White on the telly a few evenings ago, I do have some thoughts about her. Very few.

The interviewer was Lawrence O’Donnell. While I give Mr. O’D great credit for his years as a U.S. Senate budget staffer and his creative participation in em>“The West Wing” – one of the finest American television series ever – the man is no reporter and a very poor interviewer. Which is where Ginger White comes in.

O’Donnell has an amateurish interview trait – shared by Rachel Maddow and Bill O’Reilly – of having the subject of the interview face-to-face, then saying something like “Now let me see if I understand this.” Whereupon each launches into all they know about what the interviewee is there to discuss. The know-it-all soliloquy ends with “Do I have that right?’ All the visitor can do is nod if each research staff has done its job.

Ms. White got that treatment. Why she was there to get that treatment is a matter of her poor judgement. Or maybe she’s laying groundwork for the forthcoming tell-all book. Or “reality” series. Could be.

O’Donnell’s questions – after his opening summary – never elicited details that could be helpful in understanding why this woman had a 13 year illicit relationship with a man she knew was married. After 30 minutes, you still didn’t know why. You knew it was sexual and supposedly “secret.” You knew names of several states where they met. “Secretly.” You knew she was paid a lot of cash over the years. You knew she had children at home during all this time. You knew it was just the sex with no emotional attachment (?). You got to know “stuff.”

Here are some things O’Donnell didn’t ask. Why did she get into – and then conduct – this relationship for more than a decade? Since both participants have said she was paid, how much was she paid? How? For what? Why did she need his “financial assistance” for 13 years? Why did she sit at home waiting for the next plane tickets to a new city, then dash off unquestioningly? Was she just a private hooker?

What has she done for a living? What are her other sources of income? Was she married at any time during those years? Now? Her daughter – 20 now – was seven years old when her affair began. Her son – 18 now – was five. What did she tell them over 13 years as they grew up? What was their reaction to her tryst? How did she monitor the ethical and sexual behavior of two teens while conducting her own trans-continental sexual affair?

If we had the answers to some of the hard news questions, we certainly would know more of her as a real person, might have a better understanding of both participants, might have less salacious gossip but certainly more factual information. But O’Donnell didn’t ask. And she didn’t say. So we are left only with the salaciousness, a few sordid details and some very low opinions of both participants. But little real information.

If you’re saying to yourself “I don’t need to know any more information” we’re on the same page. But if our political system continues to allow the Cains, Gingrichs, Trumps, Santorums, Bachmanns, Perrys and their ilk to seriously be considered ethically and morally fit to be President of these United States, monopolize our attention for months and months, spend hundreds of millions of other people’s dollars which enrich only advertising outlets, then we have a broken electoral system. Worse, we have an electorate going to the polls no more intellectually prepared to cast an informed vote than if each had a subscription to The National Inquirer.

We have become a “celebrity seeking” nation. Bad people who have done bad – even criminal – things sign book and movie deals. Names like Lohan, Spears, Abramoff, Blagojevich, Madoff and others who are electronically and relentlessly crammed into our consciousness, perverting our sense of right and wrong. It used to be unethical or criminal people left the public stage in disgrace and defeat. Now they get rich and continue their lives as part of our culture.

Our national political discussion is currently being framed by people who shouldn’t be seriously considered for any office – much less our presidency. All the expensive Cain misery has given us is one less.