Archive for November, 2012

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances;”

Why Willie Shakespeare put “exits” before “entrances” has always been a mystery. Had I been writing “As You Like It,” I’d have put them in reverse order – the way they really work. Well, so be it.

The need of some people to “exit” from the overwrought, noxious media stage and my life has been on my mind lately. An already limited patience is at an end when I hear certain names. I’ve even compiled a list – in no specific order – and herewith post it for those interested to see if they’re on it.

One name is “Kardashian” or any kinship thereto. The term “reality” has been attached to their grotesque lives. There’s nothing remotely real about any of ‘em – including the many silicone enhancements.

Speaking of “reality,” all those TV programs masquerading as such – which get no play at our house – made the list. All. They exist because they’re cheaper to produce than most other shows. Also, they require no talent to be on them – just strong stomachs and a has-been career in something else.

Keeping to false “reality, Bieber, Sheen Jr., Lohan, Jolie, Spears, Gervais, Beck, Limbaugh, are on the list. And Bachman, Gohmert, Gingrich, Santorum, Brewer, Walsh, West, Smith (2), Scott, Paul (2), Akin and the entire legislatures of states trying to discriminate against minority American voters. And, of course, for local Oregon consumption – Robinson. Time is long-past for them to “exit stage very far right” given the paucity of their contributions.

A special engraved “get outta my life” invitation goes to Trump – he of the squirrel-like hairpiece. We’re talking “unreality” here. Whatever credibility he has left is not measurable by any device known to man.

Then there’s John McCain and hand puppets Graham and Ayotte. While Graham has suffered previous humiliations of intellectual over-reach as a senator and McCain sycophant, Ayotte is new to the mix. Voters in New Hampshire got her out of the state by sending her to Washington. She’d do less harm there. Idaho did that with George Hansen and Steve Symms years ago. But I digress.

Why Ayotte has hitched her little freshman political wagon to the other two elephants is beyond me. Both McCain and Graham are existing on previous contributory credits and those credits are wearing thin.

It’s not hard to fault Graham – with his mediocre career – for looking like a fool recently. Allowing McCain’s hand up his back, he’s done things and said things at the senior senator’s behest- apparently without much thought to what he was doing – for several years. They’ve gotten so good together you can hardly see McCain’s lips moving when Graham is “talking.”

John McCain, however, is a whole other matter. His pre-political career was of such strength-of-steel stuff as to make him a legend while still in the Navy. Between what’s been documented and what’s been told by others who shared his Viet Nam P-O-W experiences, McCain showed the stuff of real courage. There is surely no doubt. Aside from military recognition, he’s earned many, many public accolades. Entirely justified. All of ‘em.

But – the John McCain we see today – and see far too often – is not that man of strength and professionalism. He has become – on far too many Sunday talk shows and in far too many other appearances – a bitter and, at times, a confused old man. He’s jousting with demons and devils only he sees.

The Benghazi story – with the loss of four American lives to Libyan violence – while certainly tragic, could be McCain’s Waterloo. Between his outrageous behavior – and the totally unbelievable witch hunt sponsored by Fox News backing him – McCain’s public credibility has taken some major hits. On this issue alone, he and his cohorts have gone too far.

McCain took to our living rooms many weeks ago, loudly criticizing the Obama administration over the Benghazi attack. He did so even before the intelligence services could factually reconstruct events. Long before. He kept it up with fact-free assistance from Fox. Then he announced he would singularly block any attempt to make U.N. Ambassador Rice our country’s new Secretary of State. Two days later, Graham and Ayotte – “Us, too.”

When the CIA, FBI and National Security Directors went to Capitol Hill a couple of weeks ago, to present a classified briefing with all the then-known official facts of the tragedy, McCain boycotted that hearing he – HE – had previously demanded. At the same hour, he called a press conference to loudly criticize Obama, Rice and everybody else involved. Said he “still had questions” while those “questions” were being answered less than 100 yards away from the cameras.

Next, he wanted to violate Senate rules by creating a completely new committee to deal just with Benghazi. He, of course, would be chairman. The unprecedented effort was quickly killed by leadership.

Then he wanted to personally meet with Ambassador Rice to get his own private briefing. The guy who skipped out on the first presentation decided he wanted a second – just for him. With the President’s support, Rice and several others from the national security agencies complied. Within minutes, McCain and his sycophants were before the cameras – again.

“Now, I have still more questions,” he complained – accompanied by the requisite “Us, too’s” from the others. And, interestingly, all three had written talking points on the rostrum in front of them which they read. Did you notice? Curious, that. Must have been excellent staff work.

While it’s sad to see a respected public figure like McCain disintegrate in our living rooms, that appears to be what’s happening. With national media encouragement, he’s being ably assisted in making his anger and resentment over the loss of his 2008 presidential campaign very, very public.

McCain is an old hand with combined military and political experience far more extensive than most in Congress. He’s been a leader and deeply involved since his freshman term. He knows the rules. He knows the structure. He knows military and civilian intelligence operations and has participated in hundreds of their classified briefings. His knowledge and experience are deep.

From lesser voices, this criticism over Benghazi and other intelligence matters would be simply what we’re all too used to from our members of Congress – open mouth, insert foot, bite down firmly. From McCain, the response has become entirely inappropriate and wrong. It’s no longer credible or believable. He holds a deep hatred for the President – personal as well as political. And it’s destroying an otherwise fine man.

That’s why I’ve reluctantly put him on the list of people from whom I want to hear no more. I’ve had high regard for John McCain for years. Still do. This is not that John McCain.

“They have their exits and entrances,” ol’ Will said. It’s time for Sen. McCain to find his exit.

There was a time – at the end of four quarters or after nine innings or nine rounds or the last vote was counted – the game was over, play was concluded. Everybody shook hands and got back to work. But no more.

Now parents punch referees – a winning out-of-town high school football team has to run for the bus ahead of an angry home crowd – a pro baseball player charges into the stands – the fat lady stops singing, then punches the orchestra conductor. Losing political parties feast on their own candidates. And some of the candidates don’t get the message that their adoring public has just devoured them. Right, Mr. West?

The amount of anger and mayhem lying just below the surface of our society these days is huge. And it doesn’t take much to set it off once something – or someone – scratches it. Whether it’s sports, lousy weather, bad restaurant service or politics, seems many of us are just looking for a chance to angrily attack someone or something for any perceived slight.

While the picking on Mitt Romney’s corpse has not degenerated into physical violence – yet – the verbal mayhem has become very excessive. Poor Mitt is being blamed by his fellow losers for not only costing the GOP the White House and some seats in Congress, but for angering Christians and making them stay home. That last claim is not true, by the way. Only Franklin Graham thinks it is.

What brings this “it ain’t over” discourse to mind was a headline today saying many on the far right do not accept Barack Obama as President. Not just the outcome of his winning the November election. No, Sir. They don’t accept his presidency. Going back to day one. Period. And some say they’ll fight it every day he’s living in the White House.

The always empty tea “pots” of our times have come up with a new high in low for craziness. An Idaho state senator is circulating a letter from on high. No, not God. The National Tea Party whizbang. He wants all the little baggies to spread the word: “We can elect Mitt Romney if we can get 17 of the 24 states he won to boycott the Electoral College.” It ain’t legal. It ain’t gonna happen. It can’t be done. So he can return to his breakfast routine of Jimson Weed and that weird black brew.

It’s not just the bonafide idiots, we’re talking here. If you check several of the less far-out blogs on the right – the usually accepted, for one – you’ll find that crazed rejection crap even there. Ballot boxes have been stored – poll workers have gone home – all votes tabulated and even certified in some places – yet several million folk won’t accept the outcome.

“So what?” you ask. “Most of us do and, even if we don’t like what happened, we’ll live with it for four more years.” Yes. Yes, you will.

The problem is, you don’t run the national Republican Party. And a lot of that ignorant, outright rejection is coming from – wait for it – “leadership” of that national Republican Party! Not just the malcontents and crazies in the basement. No. Some of the people who actually run the place. The ones who decide who gets on future ballots – and who doesn’t. The ones who famously brought you Bachman, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, Paul, West, Walsh, Akin, Gohmert, Robinson et al.

A lot of Republicans are engaged, once again, in the always fruitless circular firing squad of blame. Romney’s goose has been cooked to a cinder. We’re hearing about bad organization, no organization, lousy demographics, bad polling, needing more Hispanics or African-Americans or Swedish plumbers, raising more money and better candidates. “All we have to do is say ‘We’ve changed’ and they will come” you hear.

For my money, that item – better state and national candidates – is the real key. It’s also likely the one that has the least chance of being realized. In our just-completed Republican presidential primary, who did the party toss in the garbage pile first? Pawlenty and Huntsman – two guys who were probably the most widely acceptable candidates to non-Republicans. And Romney – the guy no one wanted – got the brass ring. That won’t change. Not next time.

Within a day after Obama won, Marco Rubio – the guy who lied about his own life history in his own biography and who hasn’t been in the Senate long enough to know where all the men’s rooms are – Little Marco was in Iowa a full three years before the next presidential campaign filing. He was waving and posing and saying “I’m first. I’m first.” Within 24 hours, Rand Paul told the Party, “Me, too. Me, too.” The line has already started to form. To the right. To the very far right.

Moderate Republican pros nearly all agree on one thing. The Party has no moderate, widely-acceptable “heir apparent” to challenge the hand-picked screwballs of the Party hierarchy. There is no second tier of candidates acceptable to the baggie people who control the nominating process. A moderate.

Try it yourself. Name one they’d accept. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

(Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.)

By the time the filing period for the next presidential race arrives, all of us will be sick of hearing Marco’s name and the media will have eviscerated his candidacy. We’ll have heard more than enough of Rand Paul’s Libertarian lunacy. Santorum, Gingrich, Bachman, Huckabee and unnamed others from the tri-cornered hat club will be vying for a place in the spotlight. Again. Unless, of course, more responsible Republicans can wrest control of the nominating process from the current crowd of looneys.

I’d put my two-bucks on the looneys. They own the national party nominating process. Took ‘em years. But they have it. And it’ll take years for anyone wanting to dislodge them to get the job done. Even if they started today.

This is not the government – or the political process – I was raised to support. Gridlock, extremism, hatred, rejection of valid elections outcomes, totally unqualified candidates vying to lead this nation in very troubling times, voices of reason drowned out by voices of division, “purity” tests and loyalty oaths. But it’s what we have.

Oh, wait! The conductor just hit the fat lady back.

Film at 11!

I’ve just seen Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Were I put in charge of this nation’s public education system, no student would graduate from any high school without seeing it. Twice. Once in the freshman year – again as a senior. It’s that important.

As I remember, when a kid of about 13-14 is assigned American history studies, most approach the task with as much zeal as being asked to eat sawdust. The pages are flat. The information is boringly black and white. The names uninteresting and hard to connect with reality. Watching “Lincoln” at that age would change all that. These are real people sprung from dusty and mostly forgotten lessons. You cannot see and hear them without learning. And feeling. It’s just not possible.

William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edwin Stanton, Edward Bates and ol’ Abe himself are now – to those kids – just so many names to remember for some meaningless test. But in the hands of Spielberg and the superb actors he chose for those parts, there is flesh and blood – depth of character – motivations for their actions – ample reasons why they should be remembered for their importance to our history.

The second required exposure – at age 17-18 – would provide a review and a perspective not possible the first time around. It would bring together lessons learned since the first exposure – lessons about real people – fleshed-out, ambitious, patriotic, honest – and not-so-honest. They would understand how things happened. And why. Added to other lessons learned over those intervening years – and with more maturity – the second viewing would create an indelible memory “stamp” to last a lifetime.

All of us learned Abraham Lincoln was a great president who ended slavery and was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. As a kid, you accepted those facts and closed the book. History learned.

But scholars want us to know more. Republican Lincoln was a wheeler-dealer who “bought” votes to abolish slavery using the power of patronage. He passed out government jobs as rewards to those who’d abandon their own political party or their pro-slavery positions by voting for the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many were offered to Democrats who’d been losers in recent elections and were looking to hang on. Do most people today know Lincoln used paid lobbyists to win his victory?

How many young people know Lincoln – while pursuing a devastating and bloody war with other people’s sons – tried to keep his own out of the army using presidential power to have his son’s enlistment rejected? How many know his own cabinet and party strongly opposed him? How many know he had his wife committed to an asylum? Or how he bored many contemporaries with fables, jokes and stories? Or that he made house calls on members of congress to get votes? And much, much more.

Are all – or any – of these things important for high school students to learn? Should these and hundreds of other little-known facts about Lincoln – the people around him – the gut-level battle to kill slavery – the human facets of all involved – the weaknesses and corruption and human frailties – should these be important and remembered by more Americans? You bet!

Spielberg and screen writer Tony Kushner stayed very close to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals.” The whole warts-and-all history is laid out on those pages. Excellent and award-winning history. Spielberg brought it to life in detail seldom seen in an adaptation. For nearly three hours, what we watched was life. And not one boring minute!

The actors seemed submerged in their characters – especially Daniel Day-Lewis who became Lincoln. His complete transformation erased any thought I had that he was just “playing a part.” Day-Lewis – more than any other actor or element of production – made history real and erased from my mind for all time any previous attempt to understand that complex martyr. It’s a characterization that’ll always define his career.

One of the great failures of our educational system is all-too apparent in the lack of knowledge of government by far too many citizens in this country. Our most recent election – clouded in off-repeated lies and smothered by nearly a billion dollars of excess – was the latest proof. Some knowledgeable estimates are that – nationally – more people voted against something than for something. Many in exit polling exhibited little to no understanding of real candidate positions or many of the ballot measures they’d just acted upon. Asked to explain their votes, far too many could not.

Many voices of protest and ignorant outrage raised in our nation are those of people who don’t understand their own government. They fear it largely because they have so little knowledge of it, why it exists, how it works or their role in it. They see it as some far-off, impersonal object they can’t define. “Them” or “it.” They want “it” to do things “it” can’t or stop doing things “it” is supposed to do. Widespread civic distrust – centered in such lack of understanding – is threatening our institutions.

All voices of ignorance? Of course not. But when someone lacks the basic knowledge of what is real – of what is right – subsequent exposure to information that is NOT real or which doesn’t comport to actual fact, serves to undermine our civic process.

If more protesting voices had been exposed to history as told in “Lincoln,” I believe they’d better understand government, its role and how it works. Or, when it doesn’t. And why. What we need is more such information masquerading as entertainment. Not less.

I”m grateful to Steven Spielberg, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Tony Kushner and every actor and production member of “Lincoln.” The excitement – the understanding – the experience – the knowledge. It should be required education.

The latest lunacy from the far right is a top-of-the-voice demand to be allowed to secede from the good ol’ U.S. of A. or, in the alternative, renounce citizenship. Anyone that wants out that badly not only has my blessing but a foot firmly planted on their ass to get ‘em started.

It’s just a wild guess, but few of them likely have checked laws of the country they want out of to see how it’s done. Or if the rest of the state can go with ‘em. Or if either can be done. Being a helpful soul, I’ve done their research for them. And they ain’t gonna like it.

First, no individual or state can “secede” from this country. They can’t just pick up their marbles – or oil wells – and go anywhere else. We have some loudmouths in our Oregon neighborhood who take to the stump or the bar- or right wing radio – every so often, demanding several Oregon and California counties dump the country and form the Sovereign State of Jefferson. Much as I’d like to see them secede – er – succeed, they won’t. The occasional full-throated exercise is probably more the beer talking than any profound, thoroughly-researched, heartfelt desire to pack up and go.

Once a state joins a Union, it comes under the protection of that Union. If a state wants to secede, that state will be considered a “rebel” of the Union – as in the Civil War – and the federal government must do all in its power to preserve the “embodied collective status.” The Union. Should the rebellious state keep trying, it does so facing “severe economic results and law enforcement issues.” In short, whether we want ‘em or not, we’re stuck with ‘em. And they with us.

Personally, I’d love to see Texas malcontents prevail. Few states get more federal money – military, space, farm subsidies, etc. – as does Texas. If the feds shut the spigot, the state would soon look like an El Paso parking lot. From border to uninhabitable border. Also, Louisiana gets $1.45 for every buck paid in taxes – Alabama $1.71. They’d lose those.

There is an oft-quoted claim Texas is different – that when it joined the Union, there was a special contract clause to let them opt out if ever desired. Not true, McGee. The clause had to do with a possible future decision to re-divide the state. That may be why ol’ Gov. Perry – while throwing around the “secession” B.S. a year or two ago for his own political ends – has now cooled his jets and said it won’t happen.

As for renouncing U.S. citizenship, that’s a bit tricky as well. Also, as I read it, damned final. First, you must appear personally before a government official and sign an oath of renunciation at that time. You can’t just send a note to the ol’ State Department and tell ‘em “I’m quit.”

And you can’t get your Social Security, Medicare or military retirement checks sent elsewhere. Medicaid, either. Nope! Contrary to the nut crowd, renunciation of U.S. citizenship is complete – final – all the way out! There are some interesting cases in which someone petitioned to leave but wanted to take a benefit or two with ‘em. In one case I checked, the Department of State found the individual didn’t fully understand what he wanted to do and wouldn’t approve the application.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? You have to do the stack of official paperwork before you appear in person. And if you haven’t got more justification than being pissed at an election outcome or living under an African-American President, chances are you’re stuck here. Yeah, that’s how it works.

Also, if you quit us, you become “stateless.” That means no protection from ANY government and – without a passport – you can’t go anywhere. So, if you go to a foreign country, you may be deported without the proper documentation – passport or visa – from your “home” country. Which, of course, you wouldn’t have.

Here’s even more bad news. Cutting the tie doesn’t relieve you of U.S. tax obligations or other civil commitments. You can’t avoid prosecution for crimes committed before leaving. Also child support or alimony or other court-approved responsibilities are still in effect – with or without a country.

For those who still want to kiss the rest of us off, here’s a final item to consider. Renunciation is irrevocable except in very rare instances as determined by Immigration and Naturalization. Very rare. And the act can’t be set aside without a successful administrative or judicial appeal. You can’t just get mad, leave, then expect a “welcome home” when you get over your hissy-fit. Or sober up. Whichever comes first.

Following previous national elections, we probably had a couple hundred thousand malcontents. For me, it was Richard Nixon – the second time. Is racism an element? Bet on it. Southern Poverty Law Center says secession talk has attracted the “predictable rogues gallery of racists and neo-Nazis.” Given no similar sizeable effort to secede under Reagan, Clinton or when the Bushes were re-elected, there does seem to be some “white fury” here.

Fear of “creeping socialism” which too many on the far right can’t define – while cashing their Social Security checks? Sure. Just plain malcontents, drunks and phony bitchers? Yep, them, too.

But, now, they’re linked electronically. Passing around fictitious documents some guy in Cleveland devised in his basement. Sending out racist and hate screeds to the like-minded. Where they used to dwell under large rocks or in dark closets alone, they now have a party line of I-Net technology, making them more visible and forcing us to hear their illogical – and sometimes violent – outbursts. They’re fed daily diets of hate on the radio, have their own television network, their own demented publications and can exist in a world separate and apart from fact. And tolerance.

For doubters of all this, I submit exhibit “A” – the 2012 national election. When candidates for president and vice president can’t figure out why all the information they got for months from “their own sources” didn’t square with the reality of what happened, the only answer is they were operating in an insular environment with no checks and balances from other, unbiased input. Insulation in political campaigns – especially in the final days – is common. Which is why a wise campaign will look outside its usual communications links to stay balanced with real world facts. Not a common occurrence on the right.

Well, there you have it. Whatever your petty complaints about this country, most of you are stuck with us. And, unfortunately, we with you. It’s not that a lot of us who see the world with “live-and-let-live” outlooks wouldn’t like to assist you to the nearest port and wave bye-bye. We’re constrained by the laws that were well-designed to keep us together. Laws most of us accept. Laws of a homeland you say you want no more of.

Wish it were different. We’d be better off without you, too.

MANDATE: noun (1) an official order or authorization. (2) the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.

That word “mandate” has been popping up in the media since the re-election of President Obama. For a few days, I thought it was not accurate. Most people usually use it only when someone wins by a significant margin. Which Obama did not. But I – like them – was wrong. Except that I DID believe a mandate was given – not just this usual one so often misunderstood.

It would seem some of the ill-thought-through, conservative feedback I got from some readers – the ones telling me “there was no mandate” – was wrong, too. Note that nothing in the old dictionary says a mandate is anything more than just “an authority … regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.” Doesn’t say “overwhelming” or “lop-sided” or anything else. Just “wins.”

So, seems there was a “mandate” after all. While I’ve not used that word to describe last week’s Obama victory – yet – I do so now. Maybe two or three of ‘em. Not just using the dictionary definition as evidence but because of other votes. For instance, the ones that totaled 332. The old electoral college. The place where 270 wins the pot. That’s the one real political pros keep their eyes on.

To knowledgeable folks, that 332 Obama win is more important than the raw vote total of about 120 million for both candidates and an Obama final victory margin of about three million. A “mandate” the dictionary says. And more.

Pros know the electoral vote is more important when it comes to counting. That’s because they look to see WHERE those votes came from. In Obama’s case, the majority came from large states with large populations and – more important to the pols – large elected political delegations. You can rack up half a dozen small states – Idaho, Montana, Utah, Kansas and North and South Dakota for example – and not equal one Florida or one Ohio or one California. Romney got more states than Obama. And lost.

So, in the political business, Obama got a mandate in the electoral college, too. When you throw in a net Senate pickup of three seats and half a dozen or so in the House, professional nose counters see a tide beginning to turn with a large off-year election only two years hence. Got to get out front.

Now comes a new national poll with even more bad news for Speaker Boehner and that caucus he can’t control. ‘Cause it adds more pressure to that small, well-defined tidal movement now turning against them. When voters were asked – days after the election -who’d be to blame if Congress and the President can’t solve the debt ceiling and sequestration issues, 53% said House Republicans – 29% the President – about 10% to both.

If you’re sitting in one of those House GOP seats – or one in that third of the Senate – all up for election in two years, you don’t want to be seen by more than half the electorate as continuing gridlock or being obstructionist. Those poll results – just that outcome – really amount to “mandate” number three. The answer for who’d be held to blame – “Republicans.” Period.

Republican talking heads, wingnuts and foil-hatters have begun the circular firing squad over their nationwide swat down at the polls. The closed ideological loop of Faux News, Limbaugh, Beck, the oft-disgraced Morris, O’Reilly, Rove and others of their ilk – with their skewed political polling – provided all the phony B.S. and other-worldly political disinformation the rapt audience of single-minded followers could swallow. And swallow they did. Even Romney and Ryan gobbled it up. Ryan said after the election, “Our internal polls sure showed much different information than the outcome.” Well, duh? When everyone involved is in a deliberate “disinformation” circle, what other outcome would you expect?

Then there was Romney’s completely ridiculous “Obama gave them gifts” craziness. Another ignorant shot at Latinos and black Americans – the same ones Republicans want to attract. Wonder how he squares that with Obama wins in Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire – hardly large minority areas. Seems to me his 47% became 52% and kicked his ass. Nothing more than that, Sir.

The national Republican Party will not be much different before the next election. Oh, a few in Congress may stop their suicidal, ideological idiocy.
They’ve read the winds and will become “shape shifters.” Some always survive that way. But the dedicated T-P types won’t budge even though a few of their number bit the dust this time and several came awfully close to being unemployed. Their desire for purity is not unlike the British Redcoats of Revolutionary War times who lined up and walked across open fields into the guns of the American army. To what end?

Already Sen. Paul is talking of running for president in 2016. The intellectually-vacant Rep. Gohmert of Texas this week nominated Newt Gingrich – who resigned from the House in disgrace many years ago – for new Speaker of the House. Of course, GOP members were voting a full week AFTER our 2012 election was over. Our own neighborhood idiot who’s been twice rejected in Oregon’s Fourth District has promised to be back in two years. More will show up.

And they’ll continue to come back like Capistrano swallows because the people who support them have control of the national – and in some cases local – party nominating process. Otherwise intelligent rank and file Republicans may not want the madness to continue. But they don’t run the party. Until they take it back, they’ll be just as victimized as the rest of us. And that won’t happen anytime soon because the crazies control the machinery to do so.

The fastest growing political group – based on 2012 registrations and identified voters where required – is “Independent.” Because we under that banner can’t vote in most nominating primary elections – and because the GOP is on a kamikaze mission to the far right – you may see a national group try to formalize “Independent” and use that as a base to go for that third party we often talk of. Given exit polling and those other statistics cited, it looks like that’s one direction things could go. ‘Course they’d probably have to change the name.

All that is speculation, of course. But this much we do know. The President got a mandate – maybe two – maybe three. He has more control of events now than a month ago – congressional Republicans less. He’s not able to run for a third term. So, if he’s to build a legacy, as presidents are wont to do, he’s in a fine position to build a good one.

For those who want to dispute all this, just keep watching your Faux News. Fiction that goes your way is much easier to accept than facts that don’t.

While living in Oregon offers us many blessings, two really standout for me.

One was coming up with a Pacific Ocean as a border, then putting it on our western edge. I like that. Thanks to former Gov. Tom McCall, we are one of only three ocean-side states that allow full, unfettered public access to every foot of it. We get to enjoy it a lot. And one side benefit is we deprived Idaho of oceanfront property. At least for now.

The second blessing we Oregonians share is a growing, multi-faceted and extremely valuable community college system. They’re all over the place. And communities adjacent to each of them are better for their presence.

Here – near our little burg-in-the-woods – we have one of those. It’s got a really nifty, compact campus, offers some first-rate classes in relevant subjects, is staffed by what appears to be a well-qualified and diverse cadre of instructors and seems to always be looking for more ways to improve its value to the community.

Part of this last quality is the arrival of a new president who has some real-world experience in his background – in addition to the required educational stuff, of course. But, even before his tenure, our little community educational gem launched a new, two-year degree program backed with considerable financial input from our regional grape growers and wine producers. The first year, students learn the basics of how to grow and care for grapes. The second, they learn the basics of how to make the wine.

Two factors make this a valuable addition to our neighborhood. First, students become skilled workers feeding into the more than 80 vineyards hereabouts – so skilled they can be hired at more than minimum wage and employers don’t have to do lengthy, one-on-one training with each hire. Same for the more than 40 or so wineries. The other major benefit is, if students complete the course wanting to learn more, our little program is designed to lead into two universities less than 100 miles away that offer even graduate programs in the grape-growing, wine-making subjects. What a deal!

As one who hates the hide-bound resistance to change so present in our higher educational systems, I like the smaller, quicker response these community-based schools can provide. And we may be about to see an excellent example of that. Right here!

Our little college is looking at becoming a national leader in – wait for it – drone aircraft maintenance. Drones? Those flying, spy-killing machines? Them? Yep. Keeping those Taliban executioner, pilotless lanes flying could become our newest community college offering alongside nursing, computer science, dietary and auto mechanics.

Our new non-traditional C.C. president got to wondering about that mechanics program. Auto engine repair is now a highly computerized speciality. So, in his mind, if you can fix ‘em to drive, why can’t you fix ‘em to fly? He started making some national contacts and was encouraged by the feedback.

I’m one of those “alarmist” citizens concerned about our privacy when it comes to drones. Spooky stuff that can be badly used. But, as usual, there are some pluses to consider. Drones can be used for traffic control, weather forecasting, geology and mineral exploration, storm chasing and lots of other useful things.

But one special reason why we may see drones buzzing around our tree-covered neighborhood is to spot forest fires. For more than a century, we’ve sent people out in the woods each summer to look for and report fires. If you find ‘em earlier and kill ‘em quicker. Works most of the time.

Sol, suppose you put a couple of drones in the air covering a dozen counties or more. Put some specialty cameras in each and monitor all from a single location. Would seem to me you couldn’t find a smouldering fire faster, determine the size quicker or give the first-attack firefighters better real-time information.

Some timber companies are sizing up this new technology while our little community college leadership is sizing up the possible benefits of getting into drone mechanics training. And not just for Oregon. Kinda like the wine business. You don’t find trained wine workers or good drone technicians looking for work on just every street corner.

So, there you are. Our little one-story, community college seems about to make news in a big way. I’m still a little spooky about the drone business. From a philosophical perspective. Also, we’d have to get used to them buzzing around on test flights and all that. Have to keep more of our clothes on. But I say, “What the Hell? Go for it.”

And if you live in Idaho. I was just kidding about that oceanfront business. You may get it eventually anyway.

Whether we have too much government or not enough, do you know how many of such entities we really do have in this country? I didn’t until going through the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report this week. Right now – today – the count is 89,004 local governing bodies! 89,004!

But take heart, my government-loathing friends. That is DOWN from 89,476 in 2007 – the last year the census folks counted. We’re goin’ the right way!

It breaks out like this: 3031 counties – 19,522 municipalities – 16,363 townships – 37,203 special taxing districts and 12,884 independent school districts. Every five years, the feds count ‘em all and it’s the only uniform source of statistics for all the country. Knowing these numbers, the experts can do in-depth studies of trends and provide a universally accepted base for a complete, comprehensive and authoritative benchmark.

So how many of us work for all these “governments?” That would be about 16 million – also down about 1.4 percent since 2010. To relieve your angst about the “size of government,” included in that total are 8.9 million education professionals, about 950,000 in hospitals, 923,000 in law enforcement and 717,000 in corrections. Rest are your old garden variety bureaucrats, I guess. But of course we know, “government doesn’t create jobs.” Yeah.

Now, next time someone accosts you with some “government is too big and intrusive – get rid of a lot of it – damned bureaucrats – etc.” – you can counter with just how many there really are and who they are. Because that angry person likely won’t know.

A respected correspondent accosted me the other day with a claim that government – Democrats in particular as is his wont -was being intrusive in San Francisco by banning large soft drinks. Intruding in our lives as it were. Not sure I’d blame just Democrats, though. The former-Republican-now-Independent Party Mayor of New York City did the same thing with a politically-divided city council. Other communities – Democrat, Republican and some with no party affiliation at all – have, too.

No, the issue is not one political party or another when it comes to government’s reach into our lives. After all, each of those 89,004 governments was elected. So, in a “majority rules” society, most of the people governed – we/us – should be held responsible when something is decided politically. Whether we like the decision – whatever it is – or we don’t. The real issue is that, sometimes, the majority just does things that run contrary to our minority views. It goes both ways.

Here. Let me give you one that runs contrary – very contrary -to my view and which makes my blood boil with hatred for “intrusive government.” One that should’ve never been in the hands of anyone’s government in the first place: abortion.

Now I realize, for some, the subject may not rise to the level of their desire for an illegal 40-ounce Slurpee when we’re talking “government intrusion” in our lives. Different strokes for different folks and all that. But government’s intrusive reach into a doctor’s exam room when one of my daughters is discussing her personal health just doesn’t sit right. Nor does the Republican-sponsored political intrusion into my family’s personal lives. And, so far, the majority of those intruders wears an elephant hat.

What we’ve just seen in our national polling is a majority representative of inclusiveness kicking the butt of a minority party currently practicing exclusion. And, judging from comments by its leaders in days since, pretty-well determined to continue the lemming-like rush to becoming an even smaller minority.

This determined political lunacy is the guaranteed product of exclusion, over-reach and discrimination against people and conditions that are different. In my world, I can live with a smaller Slurpee. But I won’t live with the overreach and intrusion of any political hack trying to practice medicine or muzzle a physician. You want to talk “intrusion?” Get the hell out of my life!

The Republican Party platforms of recent years have all contained planks condemning homosexuals. All the bigwigs have dutifully signed on. With one prominent exception: Dick Cheney. Anyone ever pick up on that missing endorser? That’s what happens when you have a family member – in his case a daughter – who is one. And at least two of my Northwest Republican friends in Congress have likewise been missing from that list of endorsers for the terribly-labeled “pro life.” plank. Probably because they both had daughters who decided on abortions.

When these phony topics – which never should have been part of any political discussion – are hotly debated in the abstract – “too much government, intrusive government, anti-gay, anti-abortion” – they create smoke without fire while doing damage to our way of life. But, when they become personal – inside one’s family – there’s a sudden realization that these decisions by family members are nobody else’s damned business.

Were I living in San Francisco, I’d probably be a soft drink scofflaw. Until some monied idiot spent a million or two get some court to declare the ban “unconstitutional. That’s government-intrusive life in the big city.

On the other issues, there will never – never – be a political conclusion. And that’s because – like the illegally large Slurpee – it’s just nobody’s damned business. Government intrusion? For some it starts at the 7-11. For some of us, it’s closer to home. Deal with it.

Here, midst the coast-to-coast litter left by our most recent political campaign, we need to look around and consider what $4 billion spent on presidential and congressional battles-for-ballots bought us. And that dollar figure – compiled by the Associated Press – is only good through last week.

If you look just at the presidency and the breakdown of which party won/lost what in the congress, it appears the answer to the money question is “not much.” For me, other factors – truths – make the outcome far different.

Nationally, the Republican Party took a shellacking. Period. Not so much in who won or lost but by how they won or lost. NBC’s Chuck Todd called it “a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and finally blew up in Republican faces.” Nobody has said it better.

Consider this one set of statistics. The white portion of the electorate dropped to 72% and Pres. Obama got only 39% of that. But – he got 93% of black voters (13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (10% of the electorate) and 73% of Asians (another 3%). Young voters were 19% of the electorate, up from 18% in 2008. Obama got 60%.

Romney lost because the Republican Party lost on demographics. More than any other factor, his defeat came because the relevance of his own political party base is diminishing. And will continue to do so as long as those in party control remain the same ideologues. The electorate is becoming less white, younger and more racially and ethnically diverse. That’s pure fact and it’s never going to be what it was just a year or two ago.

And there’s this. The suicidal Tea Party affect. The GOP has been changed at its base by a minority of voices more intent on some sort of political “purity” than promoting candidates with broad voter appeal. They run GOP operations. One of those suicidal cases happened on my own ballot.

Our county in Southwest Oregon is one of 18 offered a federal “tit” years ago. The feds created a temporary program of paying millions of dollars annually to those counties because federal ownership of forests in the area meant less trees available for private harvesting. There are other definitions but that’s about it. Rather than remember the word “temporary,” most counties added the fed dollars to budgets and kept spending ‘em. Ours was one of the few that banked some as a future hedge. When the feds ended the program a couple of years back, the results were devastating.

We have a little fella in Congress named DeFazio. Been there about 25 years. Has a real short fuse. While he and I’ve a testy relationship, I give him credit for “bringing home the bacon.” DeFazio, a couple other Democrats and a Republican wrote a federal subsidy program extension and – against very, very long odds – shoved it through a gridlocked congress. He got the local backs away from the local wall. For now.

So, how did we thank him? Well, voters in our little blood red county voted – twice – to replace him. Last time was just this week. To replace him with the least qualified candidate for public office I’ve seen in my long lifetime. A guy with an oft-demonstrated ignorance of politics; who sees conspiracies behind each of our many trees; who attacks before thinking; would end public education, Social Security and Medicare. A guy so lacking in political skills and bipartisan thinking he couldn’t find a rock in a quarry.

Fortunately, voters in more thoughtful – and appreciative – counties in our congressional district said “thank you” to DeFazio and “no thank you” to the troll.

Therein lies living proof why the GOP is becoming irrelevant. Indeed, given the results of our most recent national election, it may already be. Our nation – and therefore the electorate – is no longer white-Christian-male dominated or terribly conservative. The difference between where we live in our “little-burg-in-the-trees” and where the demographics of this nation have moved is just as stark as that.

Go back to those presidential race statistics. More than 85% of Romney’s vote came from whites. Obama’s 56%. So how did an incumbent president win against high unemployment, a wheezing economy and deeply motivated opposition? Simple. His team read the current demographic makeup of the nation and created a campaign to take full advantage of what Republicans couldn’t reach. The new electorate as it is now. As it will continue to be.

That $4 billion didn’t buy much in Congress. Resident numbers in January won’t change much from today. But, if Republican leadership reads the electoral tea leaves accurately, the President has a stronger hand. While he does not have a mandate, Congress has been told loud and clear to stop the obstructionist behavior and get to work solving things. That’s where the President will get his strength. He’s got four more years. But members of the House have only two. Given the voter message to “play nice,” and given the declining relevance of the Republican Party as demonstrated in the election, the knuckle-draggers could well be gone in 24 months.

In the next 60 days, a debt ceiling increase, crippling budget cuts coming through sequestration and similar issues that previously brought gridlock will be on the table. Action – immediate action – will be absolutely necessary. If Republicans walk through that mine field with the same heavy steps they’ve used previously, they do so at great career peril.

And just from my own “To Do List,” here are two tasks at the top. When the next Congress meets in January, Senate Democrats must – MUST – amend the filibuster procedure. Only the majority party can initiate that. Either get rid of the practice or enforce the rule that anyone using it will have to stay on the floor – continuously speaking – as was the original intent. The Senate must get back to “majority rule” at 51 votes. Must!

My second item concerns “Citizens United” – the wrongheaded U.S. Supreme Court decision granting corporations the rights of “personhood” and, thus, unlimited financial access to our political process. Corporations, unions and any other entity allowed unfettered, massive financial meddling in our elections must be stopped. Congress must come up with a legislative product that will stand a constitutional test. While there is little evidence the massive amounts poured into the just-completed election drastically changed outcomes, even if one race was affected it was one race too many. Left unchecked, the theocratic billionaires will eventually bend the system their way. That must not happen!

Others will come up with their own lists – their own summaries of what we’ve just been through. Most worth reading. Most worth hearing. But it’s Republicans who need to closely read. And Republicans who need to closely listen. Because if the Party continues its present course, Republican influence in our national affairs will become more and more irrelevant. And that’s not good.

In the 1950’s, three governors stood on the steps of Southern public educational institutions in their states, attempting to block African American students from attending. Flash forward 50 years or so and it’s Florida Gov. Rick Scott standing between Floridians and their polling places to stop them from exercising another guaranteed right of citizenship – the vote.

Our most basic freedom – the right to cast a ballot to determine our choice of government – has been under attack this year by Republican legislatures and Republican governors as never before. It’s been totally a Republican Party drive.

And before one of my elephant-loving friends rises in defense of these elected law breakers, he/she better be holding in his/her hand an concrete example of a Democrat-sponsored effort to participate in this despicable enterprise. Go ahead. I’ll wait. ‘Cause it won’t happen.

Republicans in at least seven states have undertaken various approaches to denying Americans their rightful place at the ballot box. When the efforts were taken to the courts, all were stopped but one. And that one – upheld by a Republican-appointed judge in Pennsylvania – was reversed on appeal. These were just the ones that got through the legislative process. In more than half-a-dozen other states, the Republican-backed treachery was stopped before getting out of the chambers.

In Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Republican Secretaries of State have also tried to separate voters from the franchise. One fired Democrats on Ohio’s voting commission when they opposed his illegal restrictions. All three made drastic cuts in early voting hours, days and polling places. All have sponsored official web sites with wrong voting data about polling places, dates of the election, hours of operation and “official” telephone numbers for voting information that were either unanswered or led to automated messages containing similar bogus data.

In two states, billboards were placed along highways that contained phony information – such as photo identification being required to vote- even after courts had struck down the illegal requirement. Official mailings were sent out in three states with dates to vote listed that were two days after the election. In one case, the voting information was only wrong – in Spanish.

Is this a full Republican Party press to violate constitutional rights of citizens? No. Thank God, no. In Florida and Ohio, several Republican county officials refused to comply with state orders to cut days, hours or otherwise impede voters. They were threatened but held their ground.

But what we’re seeing played out here is – in my view – a symptom of the internecine battle to come within the Republican Party following this week’s election. There are Republicans – God love ‘em – many Republicans who’re just as disgusted and embarrassed about this destructiveness as the rest of us. They are seeing the rotten fruits of the labors of zealots and ideologues who control the Party from precinct level to national offices.

Real traditional Republicans – the majority wanting a healthy, active two-party system – are faced with one of three tough choices. The first is to take back the party. But the miscreants who have power now started their drive in the late 1960’s at the precinct level and have slavishly worked for control for nearly 50 years. They aren’t about to give up what they have. Anyone who wants to purge them will have to undertake a similarly long-view approach and that isn’t likely.

The second option is to leave the party to the rabble and become Democrats. That doesn’t seem likely, either, because the fastest growing voting group right now is the unaffiliated – that large, amorphous group that’s becoming more important to which party wins any given election. But if Independents really become the determinative factor with winners and losers, we actually will become a three party system.

The third obvious choice is to form a third major party. While doing so would still seem unlikely, widely circulated leading Republican endorsements of sitting Democrats are becoming more frequent. The Colin Powells of this world are obviously fed up with their own Party’s behavior. More voices of national Republican officeholders seeking sanity in the ranks are being heard. Some very responsible GOP members of Congress have surrendered their seats while denouncing the extreme partisanship and gridlock extant in national politics today. Their chorus is growing.

The Republican Party is coming to a crossroad. The paths offered appear to be those of the governmentally-ignorant, ideological purists who will accept nothing less than their twisted views of the world or the rational, thrift-loving, responsible conservative and honorable opposition of the GOP past. Internal pressures are building and the current course of irresponsible and often politically destructive behavior cannot continue if we are to have a functioning system of governance.

Exhibit number one of the latter behavior is surely Rick Scott. His misuse of electoral power in denying the guaranteed right of polling access to citizens of Florida must be checked. Either in the courts today or at those very same polling places two years hence.

Exhibit number two is the totality of those other governors and legislatures who have conspired to disenfranchise Americans in their states. So far, the only protective balance there’s been is the willingness of the judicial system to throw the illegal, partisan garbage out the window. When they’re asked.

Then consider the irony of the determined, very positive efforts of a lone Republican voice of reason against this tide of GOP polling place denial. Gov. Christie in New Jersey. Not only will there be no effort to impede voters, there’ll be portable polling places on trucks. Or voters can cast a ballot by email or fax.

I believe the ballot is like a single brick placed in the hands of Americans. With the proper use of each one, we can construct the institutions we chose to govern and protect us from anarchy. That masonry, when used properly, makes us strong.

But in the hands of the Rick Scotts of the world – as they were in the hands of those three governors more than 50 years ago – those building blocks can be used to construct obstacles between us and our governing system. We’ve not accepted those attempts in the past. We must not do so again.

One of every two people reading this – statistically – is anti-black and/or anti-Hispanic. In fact, slightly more than that. Statistically.

For some time, I’ve held the opinion racism has been a large – but unspoken – factor in our national politics. A very large gorilla in our universal living room. Some of you have challenged that. Some have even called me “too sensitive” or “just plain wrong” when responding to my concerns. When it comes to expressing opinions, that’s O.K. When it comes to fact, it’s not.

I have in hand the results of a new Associated Press national survey as exhibit “A.” It was conducted by Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. While the combined results might be questioned because of regional differences, that’s hard to do when so many widely separated institutions come up with some very comparable statistics. Very.

Here is the AP’s direct quote on its survey results. “Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008, whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racial attitudes or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about the topic directly.”

In sum, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes compared with 48% in a 2008 survey using the same system. But, in the questions that led to an implicit showing of racial attitude, anti-black expression jumped from 49% to 56%.

As for Hispanics, those institutions did their baseline work in 2011. They found 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. In just one year, the 2012 results jumped to 57% in the implicit test!

If those racial results are accurate – and it seems they are when compared to similar research – what are the direct implications for President Obama when people are asked about his performance in office? Is the increase in anti-black sentiment because people are displeased with his actual performance or is it easier to be critical when you factor in his race? Even if you do so implicitly – meaning you may not know you’re harboring those feelings but they showed up in questioning? Could he have been expected to succeed even under the best of times? Which these certainly are not!

The subject of how Obama’s race would factor into how he’d be treated as president surfaced in my thinking during the 2008 campaign and was renewed after his election. I don’t mean to say I was looking for instances of different treatment – only that it was a part of my thinking about a president that had not been there before. Why should it?

The first time I made a connection was when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out “You lie” during a speech by Obama to a joint session of Congress. No historian can remember any such outburst and the breaching of what remains of congressional decorum. Wilson, it should be remembered, was one of only six members of the South Carolina Legislature who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over his state capitol. A flag that symbolizes the nation’s years of slavery to America’s black population. His legislative voting record on this and other issues is certainly open to scrutiny in matters of race.

Then, when the crazies of the Tea Party hit the streets in Washington, it was impossible not to connect the President’s race with the message. Depictions of him as a black Hitler, racist signs about Kenya and birth certificates, open carry of guns that hadn’t happened in such numbers under any Caucasian president. Protests in that city were not new. The depictions were.

The “birther” nuts. Even today, polls show more than half of Republicans – more than half – believe the president was not born in America. Anyone ever challenge John McCain (born in Panama) or John Sununu (born in Cuba of a Palestinian father and a mother from El Salvador)? No. But this president? You bet. Even Mitt Romney played to the idiots in a Detroit campaign speech by noting he was born in Detroit and no one ever asked for his birth certificate. Unfounded as the “birther” non-issue is, denying it’s racial is not possible.

Challenges to Obama’s college background. Anyone in your memory ever make an issue of where Bill Clinton went to law school? Or where Gerald Ford or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter or Herbert Hoover got their higher education? Anyone ever ask for – yea, demand – their college transcripts?

Anyone in your memory try to link a sitting president with the political or social views of his deceased parents? Anyone? Anyone ever call a president a “creature of affirmative action programs?” Anyone?

To deny anti-black sentiments in the country with the extremely harsh – and often completely unjustified – treatment of this president doesn’t wash any more. And I’m not even going near the flatulent Limbaugh or the professional haters like Beck, Savage and the dozens of others.

When the greatly admired Colin Powell, known to be a Republican, made his full-throated endorsement of President Obama for the second time a few days back, that “great Republican American” John Sununu claimed it was because the two men were of the same race. In multiple interviews. A Romney surrogate and his national co-chairman. Campaign denial? None.

Within the last week, someone whom I deeply admire nailed it in the national media. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson was Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the Pentagon and at the State Department. A man respected in the military and by many in foreign service nearly as much as his longtime boss.

“I’m a lifelong Republican,” Wilkerson said. “And my Republican Party (today) is full of racists.”

You can’t say it any clearer.

This national racial division did not come about overnight. It never does. No one – not one – is born with a hatred of those who are a different color than ourselves. Oscar Hammerstein wrote so many years ago “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” In the case of our current feelings about race, it seems there’s been an awful lot of hatred being taught our young.

Had Obama started his presidency under normal economic, social and military conditions, he’d likely not be viewed so harshly at the end of his first term in office. But that wasn’t the case. It’s been an uphill slog on nearly every front a president can face. How well he’s done is for each of us to decide.

That AP poll suggests race will be a significant factor in our voting when it should not be. But will we make our decisions based on his performance and strength of character? Or on the basis of skin color? The numbers are not encouraging.