Archive for June, 2016

Damned Brits

Author: admin

It’s a day or so after Great Britain’s Brexit vote and I’ve been sitting at the old computer machine for several hours watching the bottom drop out of my IRA. Nearly 40 years of saving and, at this hour, the listed value of my retirement plan is about $38,000 less than the cash amount I put in over all those years. Forget the interest. Others, I’m sure, are seeing that and much worse.

World markets are drowning in red ink, keepers of the economies of nations around the world are wondering what the Hell just happened and the Brit’s home ground is cracking beneath their feet. Politicians everywhere are struggling to get on the “right” side of what’s happening although most have no idea which side that is.

For many years, I’ve privately clung to the belief some important national issues should never be given directly to the public to decide en masse. Brexit is one such. One proof of that is how many millions of Brits and others were asking Google “What does Brexit mean” and “What is the EU” the day AFTER. Where were they the day BEFORE and in the last few weeks as England’s media covered little else?
You know how the enormously complicated Brexit issue got to a referendum ballot? We’re told it’s ‘cause PM David Cameron, his chief of staff and a couple of other British politicians were sitting in a pizza shop at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport a few months ago and wondering what to do. Cameron was trying to come up with an idea to heal some of the many riffs in his nation’s populace at-large. He wanted home folks happier.

One of the four hit on the idea of a referendum on whether the nation should remain a member of the European Union or go its own way. So, the pizza gang – after a brew or two, I’d guess – decided nothing could be more “unifying” than a vote on the country’s entire economic future.

So, how did that work out? Well, Cameron resigned the morning after the vote and it can only be deeply hoped the others – with tomato sauce and cheese on their fingers – do so as well.

Thanks to those four pepperoni-loving pols, a nation previously dealing with a number of far lesser political disagreements is now one deeply divided smack down the middle. About 52% on one side- 48% on the other. And the economic wreckage will pile up for years. Yes, Sir. Nothing like a good, old popular vote to smooth everything out.

Like it or not, the British system of government – and ours – requires the election of people to public office. It’s how we do things governmental. Once in office, their chief responsibility is to research and study issues, use the committee process to get all the facts, make an educated recommendation to the entire larger body for that body – with a studied committee report in hand – to decide what to do. It works, most of the time. But odds of it working are a whole lot better than dropping this terribly complicated question into the laps of millions of citizens when most of them are unprepared to cast an intelligent ballot using whatever facts may – or may not – be at hand. Or even knowing the facts at hand.

Suppose, just for giggles, our nation faced the question of whether to return to the gold standard. Our Congress studied, researched, conducted endless committee meetings and came up with no clear decision. So, over a large Domino’s, the powers-that-be decided to put the issue on the good old American ballot. Let the voter decide. What kind of a well-informed, fully educated, studied decision would be forthcoming? Look up and down your street. How many of your neighbors would you think could cast a fully-informed vote?

Yes, there are issues which should be in the hands of the electorate. Most questions should be decided by those who will have to live with the consequences. But, once in awhile, a subject comes along that defies the ability of the public-at-large to come up with a researched, intelligent decision. That’s why we have a government. Why we elect people to office – to study issues of great import and make decisions based on research and recommendations of well-informed experts. Think seriously about that the next time you vote for someone.

Most Americans have no idea what the implications of switching an entire nation’s monetary system would mean. But that ignorance could be the basis of the collapse of an entire economy. Or, the world’s.

Such, I think, was the case with Brexit. Rather than cold, hard facts that could be understood by “the least of these” – if they cared to pay any attention – the issue was handled like a major marketing program. Thousands of slick TV commercials, newspaper pages filled with thousands of fancy ads and wall-to-wall talk radio going in all directions. If there was a repeated, easily accessible program of facts and a full disclosure of lasting, national effects either way, it was hard to find in the flotsam.

Our own little Faux News proudly proclaimed Great Britain was “pulling out of the United Nations” – which it isn’t. The Trumpster on his way to Scotland tweeted how happy he was the Scots had voted to leave the EU – 64% of Scots voted NOT to leave. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan called the vote “the worst economic happening in my more than 40 years of public service.” And on and on and on.

Well, the market is now down another 150 points in the last hour. That’s about $500 more cash loss to the retirement plan. I think it was Mark Twain who quipped “England and America – two nations separated by a common language.” Given today’s dire effect on my standard of living here in the senior years, that separation hasn’t been near far enough.

Mad as hell

Author: admin

For many months now, the chattering class of talking heads has been telling us people in this country are mad. More directly, a lot of prospective voters are angry at nearly everything governmental, they say. Thus, the voices reason, that pent up anger is being turned to support for the most unqualified belligerent ever to run for president. Trump.

We’re repeatedly reminded this anger comes from feelings of frustration, disappointment and outright rejection of all things governmental. The rise – so far – in political influence of the far right is being offered as “proof” of this oft-quoted speculation. Trump – though he lies, cheats, lacks facts or ideas for improving our national condition – he’s become a lightening rod attracting every sort of angry condition being thrust on our national political environment. So we’re told.

Here – at the edge of the Pacific – my response to this “common wisdom” is that it amounts to a lot of conjecture, speculation and outright B.S..

The flaw in this widely accepted “theory,” is only a portion of the populace is “angry” and acting out – that the rest of us looking for sanity, leadership and exceptional quality in our next President aren’t unhappy, too. That we are content with things – accepting of how governmental affairs have been conducted – and are trudging along in a national attitude of peace and love.

Not by a long shot! A VERY long shot!

Like Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” I’m “mad as Hell.” And, as followers of the electronic musings in these “SECOND THOUGHTS” can attest, I’m not a dues-paying member of any right-wing fringe element. Neither, I’m happy to say, are most of my friends, most of my day-to-day contacts and regular correspondents who are equally as mad but who’ve not turned to supporting or accepting the aforementioned B.S.. Still, we ARE angry. We ARE mad! We ARE frustrated every bit as much as any Trump backer. And we’ve probably got more concrete examples for our angst. Here are a few raising my civic temperature:

## One Greg Abbott, governor of Texas. He’s launched an effort to call a constitutional convention to rewrite portions of our grand old document so states could refuse any federal government law or mandate states don’t like. This from a licensed attorney. Now, I’ll be first to say, being a law school graduate doesn’t give him any special intellectual prowess. But the doctrine of federal supremacy – over which an entire Civil War was fought – was settled many eons ago. He could, of course, have slept through an entire six weeks it was featured at the University of Texas. But this bastard’s serious!

## One Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas. His new Executive Order 16-01, “Protecting Kansas from Terrorism” attempts to block relocation to Kansas of refugees from “anywhere in the world” who present a “safety and security risk.” Which, to him, means all. For the rest of us, details of how to define or assure someone meets those two qualifications were, of course, not defined. Read “shut the borders of Kansas.”

## One Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, who, upon election, promptly killed the state’s Obamacare participation which immediately disenfranchised a half-million people who lost coverage.

## A U.S. Supreme Court that made Citizen’s United the law of the land. Also, the Chief Justice who said “states have learned their lessons, changed their procedures” and portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring federal approval of local voting changes “are unnecessary.” Since that decision, the legislatures of Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, North and South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi have enacted new laws disenfranchising voters totaling a million-plus. Wiped ‘em out.

## The U.S. Congress which has voted 59 times – 59 – to kill the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Would have become law were it not for a Democrat in the White House with a veto stamp. More than 12 million Americans could’ve been without health insurance.

## Louis Ghomert, Steve King, Raul Labrador, Darrell Issa, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Tom Cotton, Duncan Hunter, Michael Burgess, Pete Sessions, Don Young, Pete Sessions and several dozen more members of Congress who’ve repeatedly shown their existence along the Potomac is for no other reason than to remain on the banks of the Potomac and perpetuate themselves at the public trough they repeatedly decry. They offer nothing constructive, author no positive legislative improvements, complain bitterly about a system of government they were elected to run – if not improve. All the while depositing $175,000 a year from us. Plus-plus-plus.

I could run this on for a couple more pages. I won’t.

The point is, there are millions of Americans just as mad – just as angry – just as frustrated about government, about stagnation and bitterness in our political system as those the media counts as Trump voters. But the fact is, we who reject those voices of political lunacy, may be more deeply affected because we know why we’re “in the winters of our discontent.” We understand the failures. But we’re not ignorantly casting around for someone – anyone -regardless of qualifications – to solve our national issues. Our anger is because we know what’s wrong. We understand why. And who. We even have some serious thoughts about how to get back on track.

Trump is not the answer to our anger. More accurately, he represents the cause of it! A system – a political party – that can produce nothing more positive than that cretin is the result of previous elections when voters lashed out by choosing flawed candidates offering no answers to perceived wrongs at the time.

Like anchorman Beale, I, too, am “MAD AS HELL!” His next words were “…and I’m not going to take it anymore!.” Individually, none of us can make that a meaningful, serious threat. But – collectively and informed – we can answer what the talking heads tell us is anger from the right. We can express our own displeasure with conditions – doing so in a more thoughtful and informed way.

The ballot’s in your hands. Just how mad are you?

For those who don’t live in the world of political wonks, our presidential primaries, such as they’ve been, are about over. The mostly disenfranchised citizens of our captive “colony” – Washington D.C. – add a few ballot voices this week. But other than that, it’s finis! Right?

Ah, not so quick there, polling breath. Trips to the polls may be nearly over but the fat lady definitely has not hit her first note.

Some months ago, I opined the Trumpster might not really want the job of President of these United States. Caught some flak. But nothing has changed my mind. In fact, he’s on the record – a long, shameful, disastrous, racist, bigoted, misogynist record – saying he doesn’t see himself doing the day-to-day work. Just “chairman of the board,” an above-it-all position with details/work “farmed out” to “experts” like CEO’s and CFO’s. Says he’ll keep an eye on things but not daily duty in the office.

Well, he has his views. And, thank God, the rest of us have ours. In fact, there’s an outside chance his run to November won’t reach the finish line. The factors that could save him – make him a viable candidate if that’s possible – just aren’t there and don’t seem to be coming.

What he needs most is a team of specialists – speech writers, fund raisers, advance teams, media spokesmen, ad buyers, state campaign teams, precinct workers and local phone banks, logistics people, experienced – and trusted – advisors on all the important issues he needs to know. At least, know more than he does.

Problem is, those people aren’t swamping him with job applications. Especially the political professional types who don’t like looking foolish when the boss double crosses them in public – and the knowledgeable advisors who don’t like having their expertise given, then ignored.

Trump’s current list of “advisors” could be seated around my dining room table. His spokesmen include family members. Maybe most damaging of all, the National Republican Party has not yet stepped up with the important national resources – if it still has any. And Trump’s fund-raising efforts are largely confined to repaying himself for the millions he “loaned” his campaign. Anyone who seriously thought he was going to bankroll his run – as he has promised so many times – has little grasp on reality.

Then, there are the surrogates. The other prominent – mostly Republican – figures he needs to stump their own states and the hinterlands spreading his “message.” Whatever the hell that is. They aren’t leaping at the opportunity. Maybe that’s because (a) they can’t see themselves saying or endorsing the things he says and does and (b) they watched the only congressional candidate Trump endorsed – an incumbent – go down in flames last week. Get too close to the fire and a political career could become a pile of ashes.

Then there’s the terrible – and possibly career-ending – short list of politicians who’ve already endorsed. At least three have now “un-indorsed.” Mitch McConnell has tiptoed around doing as much. And poor Paul Ryan – the GOP’s “great white hope” – has roundly condemned Trump for his racist, bigoted mouthings while still “supporting” him to be commander-in-chief with his erratic finger on the nuclear trigger. Ryan will likely survive his idiotic move – though he, too, may un-indorse. But the dozens of idiots he’s riding herd on in the House will see fresh blood and a sign Ryan is damaged goods. (ED NOTE: First time I’ve agreed with them.)

Trump’s victory speech last week also contained some hints. Rather than using a large, public location to reach out to the masses, his toned-down, obviously non-Trump script – was badly read off teleprompters in a small meeting room at one of his private country clubs to a small, invited audience. A carefully controlled environment for a carefully controlled crowd. But, even then, he couldn’t help deviating to throw in some red meat comments and a couple of zingers. So much for the “pro advisors” who’ve told him to “tone it down.” Ain’t gonna happen.

Before the national GOP convention, Trump will have insulted something near and dear to just about every American. He’s already started. And he’s demanding his nomination – and his acceptance speech – be held in a “large sports arena” and not the Republican convention site. He’s also told several reporters – hence their media employers – they will “not be allowed” to attend to cover either event.

Then there’s this. What does Donnie do with his real estate and investment empire? A billion – 5 billion – 10 billion. Whatever. He can’t stay in control. He’s got to put everything – ALL of it – into some sort of blind trust. Which he can’t control or even check on from time to time. Who’ll take over? His son? A wife? Attorneys? Some phony board of directors that doesn’t exist or, if it did, couldn’t make a decision without him? Trump doesn’t turn loose of control. Of anything! This could be the “make-or-break.”

Bottom line: Trump seems destined to fail either at his own hand or for lack of a reality-based, professional, national support system. The “cat’s” further out on that limb than he ever thought he would be. And the fire department is not coming to his rescue.

But – Clinton is no sure thing. The entry of former governors Johnson and Weld as Libertarians could well take 15-20% of the November vote. Maybe more. Depends on who shows up to vote and who stays home. And there’ll be some others emerging from the nutball woodwork to siphon off some more numbers. Add the fact we have no idea – at this point – what the Sanders effect will be. Will he renew his donkey credentials, get behind the Clinton bandwagon and push? Or will he go back to Burlington and sit it out?

No, friends, we’re a long way from the finish line and the imponderables are many. Except one. The Donald will not be getting the keys to the Oval Office. Whether by his own hand. Or yours and mine.

Beware the seniors

Author: admin

Used to be, when people got to a certain age, they were supposed to follow the example of old elephants who – at that certain are – slowly walk out into the forest, lean against a tree and wait for the Grim Reaper. Then came “60 is the new 50,” “70 is the new 60,” and so forth. More exercise and better drugs, I guess.

These aging thoughts were brought to mind recently by a demographic survey done by the National Conference of State Legislatures and an outfit called “Stateline.” Ranked by the age of its members, Idaho’s Legislature is the second “oldest” in the country. Average age: 63. Oldest individual member: 80. Only New Hampshire averaged older: 66.

Our neighboring states came in quite a bit younger. Washington’s legislature averages 58 years with a general population average age of 47. Oregon’s lawmakers average 58 years with a population average of 46. Residents of Idaho average 47. If you’re thinking about average years of a member of Congress, it’s 59. Both parties are about identical. Democrats just seem older.

At the youngest end of the legislative spectrum, Puerto Rico and Michigan tied at 50 – with Florida third at an average of 51 years.

Now, before anyone hits the “reply” key to accuse me of “ageism” – whatever the Hell that is – let it known I am the same age as Idaho’s oldest member: 80. You may be thinking of this discussion of the elderly in terms of older folks. I’m talking about peers. And younger.

While the studies didn’t survey occupations, Idaho’s legislature has always had a high proportion of retirees. Nothing wrong with retirees, I guess, if they don’t hang around too long.

Case in point: Idaho’s late Rep. Don Maynard – a retiree from Sandpoint – who was in his 70’s at the time. He spent most of the 1960’s in the House. His one distinction: he never debated. Never. Nor did he sponsor any bills. He showed up every day, kept his mouth shut and voted when the bell rang. Until the final day of one particular session.

It had been unusually long that year. Lasted nearly till May. On the final day, the body got into a wrangle over something. Debate got heated. And long. Then, Rep. Maynard stood up and reached for his microphone – a microphone he never once used. The chamber fell silent – waiting to hear Maynard’s wise contribution to the lengthy discussion.

“I ask the members of this body to reach a quick solution to this issue and let the Speaker pronounce we are adjourned,” the ever-silent Maynard pleaded. “My wife is waiting in the ante room and the slot machines at Jackpot are getting colder.”

As members laughed, I was thinking at the press desk, “Four months of silence and this is his first contribution to debate? What the Hell has he been thinking all these years?”

People retire at different times and for different reasons. The way it should be. But there’s clear evidence many in politics hang around too long and become less of a representative of the people and more of a problem. Senators Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond come to mind. In later years – as they attempted to set some sort of record as “longest serving” – neither man could find his way from his office to the Senate chamber. And neither – despite previous legislative accomplishments – was contributing much but added payroll for on-the-job caregivers.

Commercial pilots are age-limited. In some states, so are other occupations. Cognitive abilities make no difference. Issues of risk and public safety take priority. Well, what about public good?

It’s doubtful there could ever be a qualification for public office because of advanced age. Certainly not for intelligence or common sense. But issues facing legislative and congressional bodies these days are complex, moving at a pace we’ve never seen before. More information faster and in larger amounts. Many our 70’s and 80’s may think we’re still able to keep up but, often, we really can’t. Just as our other, slower, age-related reflexes affect our athletic efforts or such things as our ability to drive as safely, our intellectual prowess isn’t as reliable, either.

For the last 30 years or so, Idaho’s legislature has suffered from arrogance, ignorance and outright stupidity dealing with some issues. Proof of that is found in the millions and millions of tax dollars paid to attorneys after losing cases involving legislative bone-headed decisions made while ignoring competent legal advice. And other millions awarded to individuals and organizations because of unconstitutional and illegal actions pursued – again, after being warned.

While some of that may be charged to nutcase, right wing political blackout regardless of age, I’d guess some older, not as sharp minds contributed as well. Not understanding the issues, not wanting to appear so to peers and more easily swayed by illegitimate arguments.

Taking stock of one’s physical and mental abilities in later years is not only wise, it’s absolutely essential if you want to enjoy that period you’ve been working and planning for. Endurance as a senior – physical and mental – is highly individualized and differs greatly. And, for some, stepping aside for younger folks not as experienced is hard to do.

But doing so is, more often than not, the right thing. And it should happen long before the overwhelming desire to play shuffleboard. Or go to Jackpot!