Archive for May, 2016

Ignorant, dangerous

Author: admin

First time I voted for a president was 1960. I was stationed in northern Greenland near the North Pole. My “polling” place, as it were. So, registering, getting a ballot, marking it up and assuring it got to the proper counting place stateside on-time made for a bit of a job. But pride in the experience drove the process and we “got ‘er done.”

I remember how seriously I treated that first voting exercise. We had no Internet – no TV – no satellite phones – no phones of any kind. Best most of us could do to keep up with things at home was have folks send us newspapers that were generally two weeks old by the time we got ‘em.

Having been raised in a Central Oregon Republican household, I leaned a bit toward Nixon – to my later, everlasting shame. But Kennedy was new, younger, articulate – different. So, my “boning up” included reading all I could find on both, trying to be a informed as possible – given the circumstances.

That’s how you participated in the first rite of citizenship 56 years ago. You assumed the two national political parties had put forth their best, most qualified candidates. You studied. You talked with friends. You gathered as many facts as you could to be an “informed voter.” It was an important requirement of being a good citizen of this country.

Damn! Times have certainly changed.

If you assume Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two “most qualified” candidates of their respective parties, you start with a flawed basis that’ll get no better no matter the winner. As the one casting the ballot, you can study till Hell freezes over and not end up picking the “most qualified” candidate either party could field. Those names – whoever they might be – aren’t on your official form.

We voters are failing the exercise, too, by not being as informed as we were six decades back. Most folks aren’t spending the required time and energy to get beyond headlines, sound bites, hate radio or phony “facts.”

I’m not a big “social” media believer – limiting myself to Facebook as a means to stay somewhat in touch with people I mostly enjoy. There are plenty of FB participants I don’t “enjoy” but their presence on my “page” is only because of their relationship to those I do.

If you pay attention to what shows up, you can learn a few things. For example, during some of the recent primaries in our Northwest neighborhood, it absolutely floored me how many people asked other folks who to vote for. Yep. People I had regarded as upstanding, wise, learned participants in our democracy were admitting they “hadn’t kept up” or “had been so busy” – or some other lame excuse – and were hitting up friends for names of the best candidates.

I recognized some of them – actually, far too many – and was greatly disappointed. I’d become accustomed to reading their posted complaints about government and certain politicians. I’d read many of their previous rants and figured they knew what they were talking about. Apparently they didn’t! And we’re not talking a couple of folks here. No, it was a good deal more than a few.

You can get a pretty good idea how many millions of Americans really have no idea how their country operates by starting with these who’ve shown their ignorance, then watching other interviews with people “on-the-street.” Jay Leno used to do that. Letterman and Fallon from time to time. Seemed like good clean fun then. But not now!

I’m constantly stunned – and extremely disappointed – by how many people have absolutely no idea how the U.S. of A. works. A year ago, a University of Oklahoma journalism grad student set up a camera on campus and interviewed passers by. One question was: “Who were the participants in the Civil War?” Another: “Who won the Civil War?” Again, those questioned were UofO students AND faculty.

I quit watching after about 10 responses. Ten wrong responses. Ten ignorant, unbelievable responses. This wasn’t a hoax. This wasn’t some kind of setup. This was part of her master’s work.

Lately, some media interviews with Trump supporters have turned up. Painful to watch. Unbelievable to watch. Disgusting to watch. Every bit as bad as those Oklahoma voices. Worse, in most cases, because the speakers were allegedly voters espousing their beliefs and support for Trump’s repeated lies, slander, racism, misogyny and his own ignorance.
But, possibly even worse, we’re now hearing daily of “important” Republican officeholders lining up behind this loud-mouth, civic embarrassment. Doing so, they say, to unite their party. Unite the party be damned! What the Hell about the country? When did doomed-to-fail efforts to unite a devastated political party take precedence over the national good? When, in the last 60 years, was responsible citizenship of being a more informed voter replaced by political hacks acting civically irresponsible to maintain their employment at the federal tit?

The GOP is NOT going to “reunited” any time soon. Humpty Dumpty had a far better chance of being “reunited” than today’s National Republican Party. Those along the Potomac, sacrificing their intelligence and trustworthiness to hold public office by pledging to support the worst thing that’s happened to this country’s politics in my lifetime, deserve no more than our scorn. Certainly not our vote.

Up in that frozen wasteland 60 years ago, I was proud to have my ballot counted on election day, 1960. No little sticker to wear. Not even able to see the returns that night. And 40-below outside.

But, I voted then with pride and a sense of “coming-of-age” that felt awfully good all those years back. That’s not how it’ll feel in November, 2016. We’ve passed the point of so many recent elections in which we voted for “the lesser of two evils.” Now, we have to be totally concerned with keeping this nation intact. And with saving millions of Americans from themselves. How’s that for a new responsibility of citizenship?

Today’s the day

Author: admin

The future success of the National Democratic Party in the November election is at a critical junction today. This day. Right now. Today. Not some months down the road. NOW!

Ironically, it’s in the hands of just two people. Two. Just two human beings in the entire universe can assure the party’s immediate future ascendancy. Or disaster. If they don’t make the right, gut wrenching decision at this moment, we’re going to have a Trump in the White House and a totally unpredictable future as a nation.

Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton. It’s all up to you!

Ol’ Bern set out to do something a year ago that the wisest political chiefs of any persuasion thought was impossible. While he isn’t likely to meet his goal of being the party’s presidential nominee, he’s had astounding success in all sorts of things: amassing an amazing pile of dollars from individuals while refusing PAC and large donor bucks; tackling subjects this nation needs to hear more about and take action on; reached an unheard of number of young people with little previous political interest; getting them to act; staying true to his ideals without currying support by changing them. And a whole lot more.

Candidates and their professional hired hands will examine the Sanders campaign inside and out for years. Political academics will do repeated autopsies on the body politic to understand how he, with very scant support from his own party, was able to reach so many people, motivate them and come so close to the national prize as just one guy remaining true to himself and those who supported his candidacy. Amazing!

But now it’s time – today – for Bernie to admit the statistics and facts are all against him getting any further up the political ladder. He cannot – and he will not – be the Democrat Party presidential nominee. His road has ended. Very, very near to the finish line. But short of it.

This is not to say he hasn’t been successful in many areas. Nor is it to believe he’s failed in any way. Not at all. His campaign trail from near obscurity to how close he got to the mountaintop is to be admired. Nor is he without the ability to be an effective influence as a Democrat.

But, now is the time for him to put all his cards on the table – use the accumulated power he holds by simply representing the desires of some eight million voters and offer up his petition of those desires for the future of his party. What he wants talked about and acted on – issues like minimum wage increases, equal pay for equal work, commitment to kill Citizen’s United which has befouled our national politics, necessary system-wide improvements in veteran’s health care and a couple of other major items. All good.

Then, the spotlight – and the immediate urgency – must shift to Hillary. She must – must – be magnanimous, gracious and open to including some if not all of Bernie’s issues in the party platform to be built at convention in Philadelphia. She already supports many of his positions and could easily accommodate the others. After all, platforms hardly ever come up in campaigning. Even most of the people at conventions don’t read ‘em and their impact on the general public is flat nil.

But, the moment of her very public acknowledgment – and her open acceptance of what Sanders presents – can create the foundation on which immediate party unity can be built. She loses nothing – suffers no handicap – by allowing Sanders and his eight million followers to feel included and represented. She gains immediate additional widespread acceptance of her own by assuring Sanders – with his list of desires – a seat at the head table. And, she’ll suddenly have millions more backing her in November.

Then the light will shift back to Sanders. It’ll be his turn to act the role of the effective leader those who have turned to him believe him to be. He loses nothing. He’s no less a man or less an effective politician. But, if he makes that turn at that moment – and does it with the sincerity and the fire he’s known for in his campaign – he’ll keep a compulsive, lying, racist, politically ignorant, misogynist from tearing this country apart.

Someone Sanders goes to for counsel – someone whose advice he routinely takes – whose wisdom and support he relies upon – that person alone can keep Bernie from setting fire to this Republic while realizing only a hollow and worthless personal victory. This is no time for false pride. Sanders first – then Clinton – then Sanders.

This is political Russian roulette with five live rounds in the six shot cylinder. And it’s NOW!

No, not these two

Author: admin

There are a couple of bad ideas being floated by some Democrats and portions of the media these days. Ideas I hope never bear fruit. Both involve Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

They merge into one bad idea in this: if Hillary Clinton is the Party’s eventual nominee – and there’s a good chance that’ll happen – either Warren or Sanders should be named vice presidential running mate. In Sanders case, that’s assuming he doesn’t become President on his own.

In either instance, those promoting such an arrangement are either unschooled in politics or operating on emotions and not fact. Because the fact is, either of these two experienced pros would be absolutely wasted in an office a previous holder called “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” John Nance Garner, I believe.

Joe Biden – due to his personality, certain life events and decades of experience in the Congress – has made more of the Vice President’s job than anyone in my memory. The President has said he picked Biden largely because of the aforementioned traits and a “gut feeling.” He should continue listening to his gut.

Biden has been an excellent fit. He was nearing the end of his extensive career in the Senate, knew nearly all the leaders in major countries around the world on a first-name basis, understood the “art of the deal” in Washington politics and exhibited a sense of absolute loyalty in the entirety of his life – personally and professionally. Though sometimes acting like a loose cannon, he has much more often been the voice of reason, tactics and political guidance behind “the throne.”

Neither Warren nor Sanders fit that mold. They are, in fact, much, much more valuable right where they are – in the U.S. Senate.

Warren has been a pleasant surprise to me. Especially in her most recent role as “attack-dog-in-chief” for Democrats. She’s launched several effective broadsides against the Trumpster and has indicated she’s going to continue keeping up the “social” media attacks. Never thought that would be the case with a former Ivy League professor. Don’t think The Donald expected that, either.

Additionally, Warren is an old school populist. She has a knack for picking the right issues to communicate directly with voters – minimum wage, health care, human rights, etc. Like Biden, she has a talent for dealing one-on-one with almost any portion of the public – something both parties haven’t done in decades. She can deliver very effective speeches in Senate debate. And she can just as effectively touch hearts in a PTA or business forum. Few politicians with those – and other – skills are better placed to be effective for a large constituency.

Sanders, too, would be wasted in the Old Executive Building VP suite. Like Warren, he has built a career of being an activist – leading on popular causes or being an effective spokesman for ideas. His recent work with veterans groups is one of his most effective roles. Sanders has never really been a “party man” – preferring to stay independent and a free thinker. He really doesn’t possess the skills of a “second in command” in his personality or conduct of his public career.

Besides, neither would bring much of importance or experience that Clinton doesn’t already have. She needs to come up with someone for the VP job that both complements her skills and brings support from areas of the public where she lacks it. Someone with support in minority communities. Someone who has greater experience in domestic issues. Someone with his own constituency.

Yes, “his.” Realistically, two women at the top of a national ticket would not pass public muster at the polls. Rightfully dedicated as she is to equal treatment of women in the workplace, Clinton can make such change possible in her cabinet selections and filling other key posts. But, at the top of the ticket, she needs to go with a male.

I’ve long harbored a liking for Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Low key personality, a real worker in the trenches, not someone seeking publicity in the media, knowledgeable in the skills of effective political give-and-take, highly respected by his peers. He also comes at things with a “common touch” and represents a large state. He’s widely recognized for his effectiveness in the Senate in almost anything he undertakes. He’s also 63-years-old. An age where – if he’s going to make a run for higher office – he’s right on the cusp.

These factors – and his kind of “aw, shucks” personality – add up to a really excellent candidate. If he’ll take the job.

No matter how you come at it, neither Warren nor Sanders would be good VP choices. If Democrats retake either the Senate or House, they have an excellent opportunity to destroy some of the political gridlock we’re suffering. With a Democrat majority in the Senate, either of the two would be a vast improvement in leadership positions.

The selection of a vice presidential nominee is something Clinton – and her party- need to get together on. Really together. This is not a normal election year. This is not a normal election. Whoever fills out the Democrat ticket, odds are he’ll have a leading role in national direction to a greater degree than in the past. And possibly for many years.

Hey. I’ve got a thought. There’s this guy from Ohio, I believe. Brown something. Good guy.

Let’s just chill out

Author: admin

All right. Let’s just calm down here. Take some deep breaths. Count to a hundred or two or five. Take a couple of sips of whatever soothes your nerves. Let’s sit quietly for a few minutes and get our heads straight.

Donald Trump is NOT going to be the next President of these United States. Not gonna happen. No way. No how. Just not gonna happen. I promise. Period.

Since The Donald appeared to sew up the nomination of the GOP a few days back, politicians – and wanna be politicians – of every stripe have been quivering in their patent leather slip-ons. Aided by a willing and equally as frenetic media, they’ve been loudly bemoaning the fate of their own careers, the fate of their beloved Republican Party and, yes, even an occasional thought now and then to the fate of our country – if allowed to rant long enough. Terrible thing for grown ups to hear.

Trying to find a voice of common sense in the aural maelstrom has been difficult. Damned few out there. But those few experienced prognosticators as can be found all seem to agree Mr. Trump will eventually end up in the ash can of discarded egos.

One other point these low key sages agree on. Donald will do it to himself – that he’ll eventually be a victim of his own mouth, a lack of acceptable qualifications, racist/sexist beliefs and pronouncements and a wearing-on-the-nerves demeanor that’ll find him ultimately insulting and degrading just about every human being within the sound of his voice. With his penchant for publicity, coupled with a bad case of overexposure at the hands of the ratings hungry media, give him four or five months and the Trump “luster” will likely become the Trump “rust.”

I tend to agree. That’s not to say “ignore him and he’ll go away.” No, not at all. The stakes are too high to just dismiss him. He truly is the worst candidate either of the two major national parties could put forth. Except that idiot Palin floozy. He’s dangerous for many reasons. But he’s not mythical with special powers. He’s not infallible. Fact is, he’s very fallible.

The political earth is shaking under our national feet. Politicians are running this way and that – either trying to get on Trump’s loud bandwagon or out of the way so as not to be rolled over by its gaudy wheels. Alarm bells are going off all over Washington and beyond as vote chasers try to figure out if Trump is the voter catnip they’ve been seeking or the Hemlock that’ll make them go out and look for honest work come November. Like chickens who’ve seen the fox, there’s more sound and fury than sensible evaluation.

It’s going to take some time for things to settle down and some level-headed plans developed. I’d bet there are dozens and dozens of private meetings going on all over the place as some of the few realists left in the national GOP hierarchy try to come to grips with the scary situation created by their far right brethren. Some of those wiser heads will likely realize hope of retaking the White House is almost nil. The real problem, they’ll decide, lies in Congress and the statehouses where their majority rule is very, very vulnerable.

Keep in mind statehouses have become as important – if not more so – than Congress. The far right billionaires have been scoring victory after victory in state-level legislation. They’ve been successful accomplishing their goals for everything from blocking minority voters at the polls to preserving plastic grocery bags to usurping powers of local governments to act on various issues. They don’t want to lose those state capitol GOP majorities just because primary voters have given them a political vagrant at the top of the national ticket. There’s too much at stake in the 50 states.

Also, many in the national party have investments and links to foreign operations around the globe. Feedback they’re getting on Trump from leaders of other countries – plus bosses of those overseas businesses – is uniformly upsetting at the moment. They’ve got to head the guy off. If not for our national good, then for their own bank accounts..

Sixty or so days from now, we’ll probably look back on today’s rampant political scurrying as the exercise in futility it is. The sneaker waves rocking the national Republican boat today will have become more placid and some of the wiser heads will have laid out some more realistic plans for GOP survival. Maybe with some losses. But survival nonetheless.

One other thing keeps rattling around in my head. I’ve thought for some time, while Trump might want to be President, deep down I don’t think he really wants the job that goes with the title. He’s already got an international “empire” to run – an empire that seems to exist mainly because of his recognized heavy-handed, personal control. What would happen to his millions if he had to spend most of his waking hours trying to head off World War III? Or starting World War III?

But, maybe that’s changed. Now that he’s locked up the nomination, maybe his lunar-sized ego is totally involved and he really wants the prize. Maybe – like so many other campaigners in our national history – maybe he’s hooked.

Well, whatever the case, let’s all take a few deep breaths, read a good book, turn to whatever calms your nerves and let today’s political dogs chase their own tails for awhile. I think there’s still some Jack Daniels in the cupboard. Always works for me.

The other view

Author: admin

I can’t stop thinking about a piece written by my Ridenbaugh Press co-hort and friend Chris Carlson on these pages a few days back. The subject was voluntary end of life, Canada’s impending creation of a new law allowing it for some residents and a “profile” of who – in this country – his research appeared to show had ended their lives with this option.

At the outset, it should be recorded Chris and I are poles apart on the concept of assisted suicide. His well-thought out position opposing the practice is not surprising given his lifelong Catholic background and firsthand experience with a loved one’s suicide. Just as my support is not surprising given my lifelong beliefs and some years working in Hospice care.

Chris and I also are bound by a shared first-person experience with cancer. When you become the one in cancer treatment, issues of life and death rise to a level of personal attention those who’ve never had the disease can feel. The diagnosis and subsequent treatment can shape – or reshape- your thoughts on many subjects.

That being noted, you may be surprised he and I are in complete agreement in some areas. Possibly the most basic is the shared belief government should have little to no role in the matter. There are just two roles I would assign government. One is to remove laws blocking the choice for terminally ill patients. The other, allow medical professionals to create the necessary guidelines for when and how assisted suicide should be considered an option, then codify those requirements for the protection of all involved. Physicians and nurses who may participate in the final act need legal protocols. Such guidelines now exist in Oregon and Washington.

Chris and I have each been affected by someone related – or otherwise close to us – committing suicide. That desperate act may stop whatever the real – or perceived – suffering is felt by the departed. But it ignores the terribly painful load for those of us left behind. Guilt. Rage. Anger. Loss. Endless questions. Suicide is a terribly selfish act because there’s no consideration of loved ones and others who will be severely affected. The person committed to dying is beyond such thinking by that time.

He and I have other mutual experiences. So, the most interesting aspect to me is how such commonality can result in two positions so far apart.

Chris wrote of his opposition. My views come from very different exposures to end-of-life issues. I’ve been a Hospice volunteer, have had some Hospice training and participated for several years in a citizen advisory position overseeing a Hospice program. I’ve been at the bedsides of many people facing certain death. I’ve observed firsthand how patients deal with the waning days of their own mortality. I’ve seen it quiet and peaceful. I’ve seen it loud and hard.

My fervent support is not based on the Hemlock Society or any other citizen advocacy. It’s rooted deeply in personal witness of suffering and what the end of life experience is in its many guises. It’s confirmed by the many statements I’ve listened to from someone – or their families – who’ve said they wish they’d thought more carefully about the end of life before being overwhelmed by the subsequent trauma and pain.

One issue on which Chris and I disagree concerns who has used or favors use of the option thus far. He states it’s “the rich and powerful … who come from the top one-tenth of one percent” of the citizenry who “brag about not paying taxes.”

That hasn’t been my personal experience. You may recall the 30-something woman from California who came to Oregon a few months ago with her husband to take advantage of our assisted suicide law. About as middle class American couple as anyone could be. She had a certain prognosis of a protracted, painful death. She chose not to wait. I’ve attended bakers, salesmen, blue collar workers and the homeless. Pain and death disregard economics. The choice to forestall suffering knows no social ranking or privilege.

I’m personally aware of at least three other assisted suicides in Oregon. In each case, there was no “rich and powerful” – no part of the top minuscule percentage of society. All were repeatedly diagnosed with debilitating, painful, end-of-life conditions. Whether not wanting to burden families with huge bills, no desire to suffer, or just wanting to take control of their situations, we don’t know. But those, and many other factors, come into sharp focus when you’re lying in that bed. I understand the desire to avoid those conditions and – if possessing the courage – to leave this world as easily and as comfortably as possible.

To me, the issue of end-of-life care is very much like that other one government keeps sticking it’s nose into – abortion. Both subjects are as personal and private as any can be. Both involve the patient, family and a physician. Neither has space in the treatment room for someone from government to kibbitz. There ultimately comes a time when desires of the one person at the center of both abortion and end-of-life issues are all that should be considered. Privately. We’re talking life and death.

I suspect Chris opposes abortion as well as assisted suicide. But, I suspect – despite our differing backgrounds – we hold similar views on both subjects. Our greatest commonality is a belief that there’s no role for government in such deeply personal life experiences. It grieves me politicians, bureaucrats and public do-gooders keep pushing their unwanted and unnecessary views in both matters.