Archive for March, 2016

Turf intrusion

Author: admin

If there’s one thing politicians of every stripe agree on it’s turf. The good ones – and the not-so-good-ones – will do almost anything to grab and protect turf. Once the oath of office has been regurgitated, extreme possessiveness takes over and defenses go up. From sewer districts to Congress, turf protection is an absolute.

The bitching about someone else intruding on one’s turf is not necessarily localized. Members of Congress – the good ones and the not-so-good-ones – protect their domains and authority with mother hen-like zeal every bit as strong as your town council. Turf – politically speaking – is the most prized possession of the political animal. Someone once said of academic battles “The fighting is so fierce because the prize is so small.” So it is with most political turf wars. The protectiveness of one’s domain and its authority knows no bounds.

We, who watch the political machinations of our nation, are seeing a recent, more driven up-tick of a senior level of government stepping on a junior levels turf. I assign this increased violation mainly to legislatures being whipped into far right form by ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is sponsored by a number of large companies, but the energy to use its perceived power comes largely from the Koch boys. Legislators of most states – especially those clinging to the fantasies of the far right – serve as the in-house distribution body for the oft-copied legislative packages coming out of ALEC.

For years, the Koch’s focused their pollution of America’s political system on Congress. Having achieved some dubious success at neutering that body, they’ve turned their attention to statehouses and governors. Using ALEC as a conduit, their self-serving ideas are shaped, printed, and copies made for those member legislators to carry the political pollution back to state capitols.

ALEC has not been terribly successful in Oregon and Washington. But Idaho has become a poster child for the Kochs. Recent legislative sessions have seen an increase in ALEC-created garbage and, far too often, passage and implementation of it. In fact, ALEC has been so successful in spud land that lobbyists with their own legislative missions have joined forces on bills of common interest.

One Idaho “success” both entities achieved this year was prohibiting cities and counties from stopping the use of plastic grocery bags. Seems like a weird topic to use your outsized legislative clout on until you consider the lobbyists involved largely represented oil and chemical companies that produce the bags. And the Kochs, whose vast fortunes include mining and – wait for it – chemicals. So, if Pocatello, Lewiston or Moscow want to require only paper grocery bags to help clean up their local environments – they can’t. Unless, of course, they pony up some big bucks and go to court to challenge the state ban.

This intrusion on local turf was quickly followed up by another lousy ALEC-Koch idea to write into law a provision that local governments – cities and counties – can’t adopt local laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals. Several cities had done so in the past but enforcement, again, would mean another court test to see if local turf is protected on this issue.

Idaho was not the only successful target for that. North Carolina has a new law almost word-for-word the same as Idaho’s. But in NC, some major American companies have told the governor to get rid what he signed or face the loss of some very large dollars that flow from manufacturing, sales, sports, tourism and other big buck entities. There’s a touch of irony there. Dow Chemical is one of the loud voices telling the governor to get rid of the law. The irony? The governor – in a former life – was a long-time vice president of Dow and lead lobbyist for its state and federal interests.

Idaho’s legislature has been known as a patsy for special interests for decades. About 70% of Idahoans live in cities but the legislature is run by people representing the 30% or so rural residents. The tail wags the dog and the majority folk lose many legislative battles. So, the minority can stick it to the majority on issues like human rights and environment protection. American Falls – population 4,376 – can thus stymie the Capitol City of Boise – population 214,237 – when Boise departs from what’s “acceptable” in American Falls. Boise’s LGBT non-discrimination ordinance appears to be one of those. Republicans – many rural – hold about an 80-20% legislative majority as well.

Other minority-driven bills made it into law this year while some went into the shredder. The issue of outside footprints steping on local turf was found in many.

Seems to me we could take one of the Koch’s strategies, tweek it and turn it back on ‘em. They started their cancerous attack on our politics at the top – Congress. With some success there, they’ve fanned out into statehouses. In this year of absurd national politics, we need to pay more attention to the “down-ballot” races for both Congress and our legislatures. Pay more attention to the bottom. After all, state legislatures and local governments are the breeding grounds from which a lot of members of Congress come.

As it stands now, the national GOP is going to produce a presidential candidate unacceptable to most voters. That’ll weaken the political capital of many of those “down ballot” cretins who’ve become impediments to dealing with our many problems. If voters can do some house cleaning in the lesser races, the tide might turn with pressure building from the bottom up. With enough pressure from us – over a couple of elections – we might send some of the flow back up the hose.

As voters, our “turf” has been tromped all over by politicians pandering to moneyed special interests and billionaires determined to buy this country for far too long. Let’s get a little more turf protective out there.

Damned technology

Author: admin

We bought a new car last week. It’s ours now. And I’m not totally happy about either the vehicle or the buying experience.

Oh, it’s a nice one. I suppose it could be called an “old man’s car.” Quite comfortable. Good looking. Very good gas mileage for one that large. And filled with most of the technological “advances” available on cars today. “Advances.” HAH! Therein lies my angst.

The version of the owners manual that came with our new “Champagne Frost Pearl” family member is about 200 pages long. But – if you really need information for all the “how to’s” to learn to operate all the gadgets, you have to go online. There, you’ll find the REAL owner’s manual and it’s about 600 pages! 600! Which means, if I want to learn how to do something, I’ve got to take a laptop out to the garage so I can read the detailed steps for the electronics as I try learn the actions required to operate everything. Whoopee!!!

The basic fact here is I will never – never – learn how to operate or benefit from all the technological “advances” purchased. Barb probably will because she’s a teacher-of-teachers who just has to master every new challenge.

Navigation is one. A bodyless voice spouting directions out of the dashboard is not something I need. Much less want. All I want to do when driving is get from point “A” to point “B” and, often, back to point “A.” Been doing that pretty successfully for four score years. Besides, the damned thing can be wrong.

When we lived in Roseburg a few years back, I’d try to give people some direction if they were coming to the house for the first time. Most often, they’d tell me to forget it because they’d use their GPS or “nav” system. Then, about half an hour after they were supposed to be there, they’d call, asking where the hell we lived because our address did not appear on any “nav” system. Take that, Google!

One of the problems buying cars these days is that nearly all of them have created “packages” of options. Usually three or four. So, if you want a particular feature, you have to buy the entire “package” because they won’t create one that doesn’t fit their marketing scheme. There were some features we didn’t want but had to buy to get the ones we did want. So, we’re burdened with expensive toys like disembodied voices and TV cameras in mirrors and the trunk, heated seats and “auto-dimming” headlights.

I’m amazed at how many changes there’ve been since we bought our last new vehicle just two years ago. For example, I tried for three hours – on-line and through the owner’s manual – to find the maintenance schedule for oil changes, tire rotation and the like. Finally called the dealer who told me there are NO scheduled maintenance schedules. Said he, “Your car will ‘tell’ you what it needs and when it needs it.”

Also, there’s no key. You have to carry around a fob about half the size of a cigarette pack. Barb has one. I have one. And the car knows the difference! Push a button within 30 feet of the door and it unlocks. Get in, close the door, step on the brake and push a red button on the dash. The seat and pedals move to fit each of us. I’m certain that fob will work fine until we’re 60 miles from nowhere and the battery in that little discriminating nuisance wears out. Then what?

The car business is rolling again these days. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Retail Trade Survey shows increased sales for the fifth year in a row for dealers. Those selling just new models totaled $785 billion. Throw in those who sell just auto parts and the dollars top a trillion. Trillion with a “T!” That’s pretty good evidence the need for an auto bailout a few years back kept the nation’s economy from plunging even more. Wonder what the sales dollars would be if you threw in all the used car dealers that seem to have flourished in a whole different market?

Reliability of new cars is vastly improved. Ours is one of the more popular brands and has been on the Consumer Reports list of the top 10 sellers for 30 years. It ranks third on a separate list of new cars needing the fewest repairs. And second on still another publication for brands kept the longest by satisfied owners. Which means we’ll probably trade it in two or three years down the road. All that research gone to waste.

In the meantime, Barb and our new acquisition will likely become close friends and she’ll “benefit” from knowing how to deal with all the latest in gadgetry. She’s already discovered features I didn’t know we had. And I fully expect her to develop a relationship with than damned voice.

As for me, I’ve figured out wipers (auto), lights (auto), radio, windows, heater and air conditioning. We live at point “A” and, even with the limited knowledge of all other internal workings, I can likely still get to points “B,” “C, “ and even “G” without that damned voice.

As for that battery fob that give access to all the wonders of our newest acquisition rather than a standard key, I’ll push away happily on the buttons until it stops working 65 miles East of Burns on a 110-degree day. Or a minus 10-degrees some January. Then, I will shout words of condemnation and damnation into the wind, aimed at the design team that came up with that stupid idea. Likely on a long-forgotten bar napkin.

After he’s gone

Author: admin

The other day, I nearly got into a heated argument with a friend of 40 years standing. Sensing it was coming, we agreed to disagree on the subject and talk about other things. Whew. Because the subject, which quickly raised a threatening response from my friend – then from me – was not worth the loss.

The subject was Donald Trump.

Because so many other “opinionators” have been pounding on the bastard for so long, I’ve tried – with some success – to avoid the subject. But he’s now such an undesirable icon in so much of our lives that his image and verbal obscenities are slopping over into matters other than politics. It’s nearly impossible to turn on a radio/TV, read a newspaper or converse with friends without him appearing because he has tainted so many subjects. He may, I fear, have permanently tainted our history.

I see his lasting damage in two prime areas: politics, society-at-large.

There’s no question Trump has infected civil discourse in the conduct of political campaigns. Because he is successfully drawing supporters with his baseless campaign, there’ll be copycats. Others, seeking political office at any level, will try to use his bombastic, truth-free, violence-tainted ways. I can name more than half a dozen already in national office who’ve come close in past campaigns and who now may be emboldened to step further over the limits of civility and propriety in the conduct of their next one. Especially if Trump – God forbid – has any real success. He’s a cancerous boil on the body politic and marking the low point in campaigns against which future efforts will be compared.

He’s openly and unashamedly seeking to attract racists, homophobes, the deliberately misinformed and others who would follow anyone they sense is saying the things they’re thinking. Trump’s playbook has it’s roots in political ancestors like George Wallace in 1968: “briefcase-carrying, pointy-headed liberals who need to be thrown in the Potomac.” Youthful media types, not alive in 1968, refer to Wallace now because of his iconic imagery representing the characteristics described above for Trump. In a decade or two, George will be replaced by Trump as the race-bating, hate-mongering, loudmouth playing on people’s fears.

For those reasons – and many more – Trump has deliberately created a political atmosphere that, I believe, will permanently alter future elections, the kind and quality of candidates who’ll run and how we elect presidents. Sadly, win or lose, his effects will taint future our politics.

Trump’s other lasting undesirable legacy will be on our nation at-large. Even before him, our society had become coarser, louder and more deeply affected by voices of institutional ignorance and anger. Ignorance seemingly deliberate in the face of facts easily obtained – anger at institutions and leaders caused mostly by a changing world those voices don’t comprehend. They want to deny the changes and sound a badly misplaced demand to return to some point in time when, they believe, society was more “acceptable” and “smaller” problems easily solved.

Trump has become self-appointed avenger for all wrong. “His people” see him as a “Sampson” who’ll personally tear down the institutions they fear as crooked and unresponsive. He speaks to their ignorance of our government and life as it really is by making promises he can’t keep and encouraging them to continue a fight they can’t win.

Maybe his most lasting, decaying influence on this nation is to temporarily lead in the creation of a permanent underclass of citizens. Everyday people who – bombarded by hate radio, false prophets and seemingly unlimited dollars from right-wing billionaires – are encouraged to believe they alone know the “truth.” With constant, phony affirmation, they’re being assured the way they feel and the things they believe are “real,” the “truth,” that “most Americans believe as they do” and any voices to the contrary are lying to them.

Our economy has been hijacked to send 90% of its benefits to the top 1% and allow the other 99% to fall slowly, but most assuredly, behind no matter how hard we work. That’s made millions of Americans angry. Hell, I’m one! The difference is, most of us know why and what needs to be done. The people Trump is appealing to don’t. They believe – and he’s reinforcing those beliefs – we need to turn the whole government upside down, tell the rest of the world to “go to Hell,” take care of only ourselves and bomb any country that doesn’t see things our way.

The danger Trump personally represents to the country and our cherished way of life is, to me, minimal. The more serious, urgent threat is the millions of people who believe him and his medicine man show of cheap, easy elixers, false claims and lies. Those who see him as a “savior in their wilderness” will be here long after he’s gone. They are now – and will continue to be – the political spawn of a blow-dried heretic.

When losers win

Author: admin

Time to turn over a few rocks in our national embarrassment laughingly called a “Presidential Campaign” and expose some of the hypocrisy and just plain smelly business being engaged in by some of the entrants.

One question I hear a lot is “Why do these people with no chance of winning get in, stay in so long and spend so much?” Ah, the multi-million dollar question.

Using information from the Center for Public Integrity – one outfit that truly lives up to its name – the answer is bucks. Big bucks! Even big, BIG bucks!!! Bucks for the never-had-a-chance candidate, political parties and some of the campaign pro’s that make a fine living whether their horse wins or not.

The Center used Ben Carson as an example. Never had a legitimate shot from the get-go and peaked at about six-percent. Look up the word “loser” in your old dictionary and his picture is right there. No chance. No how. No time.

So, he’s suspending his campaign. “It was a complete waste of time and money,” you say. Well, not exactly. You see, what’s left for Ben is a mailing list of 700,000 campaign donors. A mailing list only he has. A mailing list campaign professionals will pay those big bucks for. A mailing list the National GOP would dearly love to add to its data base.

One thing that makes this list so special is what we’ll call the “uniqueness” of Carson. There are thousands of new names that may never have given a dime to any other campaign at any time. Fresh donor “blood,” so to speak. Names, addresses, phone numbers. Very specific information. Virgin donor territory. Each name worth bucks.

“How much,” you ask? The Center figures each name will sell for a minimum of $5.00. Times 700,000. That’s about $3,500,000. In other words, that computerized list can make ol’ Doc Ben a very rich man.

Those numbers come from Walter Lukens who owns Lukens Company – a direct marketing outfit. He’s got a very long list of politicians including John McCain and Ted Cruz. Now, if Carson is willing to personally sign solicitations for other political committees renting that data base, the price per name goes up. Substantially. Even if he just “rents” the information, Lukens believes Carson can make $4 million or so over the next three years.

In fact, Lukens says “As long as he continues to be a viable spokesman for his unique political perspective, he can make money on that list for ever and ever and ever.” So, he’ll keep up those “chicken dinner” shows. He’s already announced he’ll head a new nom-profit (?) foundation.”

And Larry Ross, speaking for the Carson campaign, said “Dr. Carson intends to stay in public life as long as he continues to receive revenue and support of “We The People…” In plain English, as long as the dollars keep coming in, Carson will play the game.

This is not a new scam. Santorum, Fiorina, Huckabee, Walker, Christie and a bucket full of others have done it many times. The most accomplished grifter has been Gingrich. Newt got into the 2008 and 2012 campaigns without a prayer of winning. But, comparing the cost of his videos, books and speaking fees from 2008 to now, they’ve at least tripled. When he and wife Calista do their “motivational” seminars filled with Newt’s losing B.S., ticket prices are much higher now. They’re “celebrities,” doncha know.

Democrats play the game, too. Jim Webb, Jesse Jackson, et al. In the 2008 election cycle, for instance, the Hillary Clinton campaign committee reported more than $3.1 million in mailing list rental income. “Opportunism” knows no political boundaries.

Another major reason to run even a guaranteed losing race is the pile of money left in campaign coffers when you lose. Now, you can’t put it in your pocket and walk off. Though that’s been tried. And you can’t use it to bail yourself out of trouble. Idaho’s Larry Craig can speak to that.

But you CAN distribute those dollars to the campaigns of “friends.” You can buy yourself some favors from individuals and organizations. You can pick up some I-O-U’s that may be very helpful down the line. Might even “buy” yourself a plum appointment at the public trough. Those leftover campaign bucks can open doors, curry favor or send a publically rejected, failed candidate off on a whole new “career.”

Our founding fathers – part time legislators all – never thought of turning our national political system into a cash cow. Their view was do the job and go home.” It took we greedy descendants to figure out how to use faux patriotism and prostitute the political process for our own nest feathering.

Damn. What a country!