Archive for November, 2016

I’ve got this friend

Author: admin

The little towns on the Oregon coast are quite unique – one from the other. But one trait they share: a lot of people from many interesting places with amazing and interesting backgrounds live here.

Here are some examples. Last week I went to a local senior educational seminar. The speaker – who lives about 10 miles up the highway – was one of the surgeons who performed the autopsy on the body of John Kennedy at Bethesda in November, 1963. Another fella who lives South of us has been a Middle Eastern expert for NBC News for several years and you’ve often seen him on your TV. Near him, a former Hollywood producer with a few Oscars for “High Noon,” “Longest Day” and some others. As I said, amazing and interesting backgrounds.

I’ve made a friend in these parts I’d like to tell you about. An influential fellow? Yes. Maybe not as famous as some of the others, but, in my long life, he’s one of the finest men I’ve ever known.

Let me tell you a little about him.

He’s four months older so I call him “Pops.” He lives in a house three times larger than my own. He travels a lot! I don’t. He’s dedicated to kids. Any kids. Me, not so much. He’s a “man of means” with a comfortable retirement. I’ve got Social Security. He’s on this-that-and-the-other Boards of Directors. I’m not.

He and his wife entertain a lot. We don’t. He has friends on several continents. We don’t. Politically, he’s very conservative. Me, not so much. He has a strong dislike for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I don’t. He ocean fishes and kayaks alone at the age of 80. I don’t. He spent all of his life in Iowa until moving to the coast several years ago. I’m a native Northwesterner. He has a law degree and has taught law in Europe and the Middle East. I don’t and haven’t. He was a US Navy officer. I was a USAF NCO. He drives a new Audi 8 Quattro. I’ve got my four-year-old pickup.

Just two peas in a pod, right?

By now, you’re probably wondering (1) how two such disparate individuals got together (2) what’s my point and (3) what in the world we talk about when we have long breakfasts or lunches every couple of weeks.

We first got together because our wives belong to PEO and we met at a social function for husbands, then renewed our acquaintanceship at a local church. As we talked, I said I’d like to get together for lunch of a breakfast. He was similarly inclined. So we did.

As we spent more time together, it was increasingly obvious we had little in common. We agreed on nearly no subject and our views on just about everything were not only different but almost in direct conflict. Socially, educationally, economically and politically we were a couple of opposites.

So what do we talk about? In all our time together, he and I have discussed those “social, educational, economic and political differences” head-on. And you know what? We’ve never had an argument. Not one. The reason is, we deeply respect each other. We accept the differences – and there are many – but never challenge them in a personal way. We acknowledge the strength of character of each person and work from a basis of mutual respect.

What we’ve found in getting to know each other better is we accept each for the distinct individuals we are. We’ve realized the importance of what ties us together is greater than what could separate us. We’ve recognized the differences – and many there are – have offered us an opportunity to learn and grow. The relationship has been mutually beneficial. And educational.

And my point? Just this. Our badly divided nation is made up of people just like my friend and me. Very different backgrounds. Very different viewpoints. Almost nothing in common. Strangers to each other and to millions of others. But we also share many, many things. Just like my friend and me.

Suppose we stop talking “AT” each other, began to listen “TO” each other; cast aside those voices working daily to divide us (hate radio, phony religious hacks, the know-nothing rhetoric of ignorant political nutcases, etc.) and struck up some personal conversations with people outside our own comfort zones. Suppose, in doing so, we discovered and dwelt on those areas of commonality like patriotism, raising the kids, paying the bills, pride in our communities and all our hopes for a better future.

I’d like to think the experience of my disparate friend and me could be extrapolated to a nation in political and social trouble. That acknowledging and accepting national differences could take a backseat to personally honoring those things that bind us together. Things too often forgotten when hate takes over the conversation.

I really believe it can. If we’ll stop talking AT and start listening TO. Like my friend and me.

I really think you’d like him, too.


Author: admin

It’s been nearly a week since we common sense, right-thinking Americans lost control of the White House. That control – whatever is left of it – will be in the hands of the worst national party nominee for the office of President in our long history. There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest he’ll be any better after assuming full authority.

I’ve written nothing about the terrible miscarriage in the exercise of our democratic franchise. Voices and scribes far more thoughtful have summed up our political disaster – and what it bodes for our future. I’ve listened and read much of their output and am, for the most part, willing to let their words speak for me. But, there are some areas of the electoral process that need fixin’.

One is the Electoral College. We need to kill it. As is the case with some other items in our founding documents, this one seemed right for those times but is not for these times. The forefathers feared decisions made at the polls in 1776 (and beyond) might not be “good” decisions. In other words, not the ones more “professional” and “experienced” members of the Continental Congress might make. To head off what they saw as possible misdirection at the hands of citizens, they created the College as a sort of “safety net.” The “professionals” reserved the right to overrule the populace and decide the “correct” choice if – to them – the electorate screwed up.

Might have worked in 1776. But not 2016. Because of the existence of the Electoral College, and it’s flawed place in our political process, we’re now to have a “winner”who received less popular votes than “the loser.” Happened in 2000, too, with Gore and Bush. In fact, the “minority winner” scenario has been repeated several times.

Now, there may be scholars who’d opine the College is “holy” and “sacrosanct.” They’d posit the College was created by “visionaries” who got everything right in one shot. Road apples!

By their own terms, those 1776 “visionaries” repeatedly stated national authority was supposed to flow up from the people – not down from the elected. The College has become an impediment to that flow and that authority. Again, Gore-Bush, the College and the Court in 2000.

The claim “small states votes won’t count” holds no water. Small state votes don’t count now.

Voters in our day – as they did in 1776 – deserve the guaranteed right to make the national choice of a President. He/she with the most votes gets keys to the front door. Period. That’s the way we run all other elections. Not perfect. But it’s the right way to do things.

The other issue needing our urgent attention is who votes and where they live. Americans in 49 states got a lesson this year – a bitter lesson. They got “gobsmacked” the same way voters in Idaho have been for years. The “rural tail” wagged the “city dog.”

Idaho’s elected government has run that way for many a decade. Voters in the most populated areas are dictated to by country folk in the making of many important legislative decisions. Makes no difference that, as cities have grown and outlying communities have become smaller, the power has remained out in the hinterlands. If the words “urban renewal,” for example, offended country folk, they simply dictated to cities, who might be making good use of the development tool, and added so many restrictions it became more difficult to use. In some cases, impossible. Small town Idaho has also stopped population centers from passing certain local laws. Non-discrimination ordinances, for example.

Taxes, too, have been jiggered to benefit rural residents where possible. Allocations for rural roads versus city highways. Seats in the Idaho Legislature gerrymandered for both rural and Republican benefit. And a whole lot more.

Nationally in 2016, country folk stuck together in state after state to overcome urban voting blocks. It wasn’t just Montana or the Dakota’s or New Mexico where this has happened for years. No, it was Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and Michigan and Illinois and Wisconsin. Large urban areas were “gobsmacked” by what had traditionally been the lesser vote totals from “out there.”

Coupled with the sometimes illegal gerrymandering of Republican districts by Republican majorities in national census years, the 2016 election was far from “one-man, one-vote.” Or “one woman,” if you prefer. Courts have had to step in when boundary fudging got too far afield to direct state authorities to redraw some of the lines.

Taken together, head counting, vote counting, legislative and congressional redistricting and continued existence of the Electoral College have got to be seriously addressed. Little by little, national decision-making by popular vote has been distorted and twisted so far out of shape, the average American marking a single ballot has little to no voice in the Republic.

Finally, the issue of disenfranchising voters had a large affect in 2016. SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act a year ago and look what happened in the next national election in the Carolina’s, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas, Florida and Missouri to name a few.

We’re in frighteningly new territory now in politics, society, economics, business and by all other measurements. Old rules and old ways, which were the security of this nation for 240 years, have either been ignored or become outdated or have been selfishly perverted.

Our national government and our individual freedoms are now a whole new ball game. Like it or not, here we are. What the hell will happen with the next “gobsmack?”

What now

Author: admin

So. Here we are. Day before the big election. Normally, this is the time those of us in the political swamps live for. The eve of knowing the results of two years of campaigning. Just hours from finding out “the will of the American voter.” Political “World Series” time.

That’s how it’s always been for us “nattering nabobs” near the first Tuesday in November. But not this time. At least for your scribe. No, this time the usual curiosity about what tomorrow will bring has morphed into something near fright. Deeper than just a concern about the outcome. More of a “What the Hell happens now?” We’re at a time when becoming an ungovernable nation is a possibility. At least for the short term. Should you think I’ve gone “‘round the bend” let’s review.

Until a couple of decades ago, national elections meant polling voters, accepting outcomes and getting back to work. No more. Now, keys to the White House go to the winner while losers plot to make sure that winner is frozen motionless in a political aspic. This time around, some idiots in Congress are already talking “impeachment” and possible “criminal prosecution” of the likely winner before votes are counted. Several have mentioned “killing.”

On the other hand, if the guy who’s supposed to lose wins, all Hell will break lose at home and overseas. World economies will shake. International governments – allies for many decades – will likely fear the U.S. will break treaties going back many decades. Alliances nations have trusted to provide for world security will be weakened, if not destroyed. There will, most assuredly, be diplomatic and world economic chaos.

Our national government has ceased functioning as created. Millions of citizens are actually suffering because of federal intransigence – if not outright failure – to provide for “the common good.” Congress seems almost driven to destroying the vital link of citizen-to-elected-representative. Lobbyists for out-of-control billionaires and corporations are given access and deference the Constitution reserves for citizens. Response to national needs that used to flow up from the electorate are largely ignored while the “needs” of a few are decided at the top and passed down.

Several states have become insolvent through poor tax policies and mismanagement. Others are living on borrowed revenue which will have to be paid back down the line – probably by large tax increases.

Nearly a dozen states have disenfranchised voters of the absolute right to participate in elections. Now, an impotent U.S. Supreme Court has removed previous protections for millions of citizens. Congress has gerrymandered to assure winners without regard to “one-man, one-vote” requirements. Some elected cretins are even talking publically about destroying that Supreme Court – abolishing one-third of our constitutionally designed government.

State after state has freely armed its citizens with “open carry” laws and removal of firearms training requirements. College campuses, shopping centers, schools, churches, many public buildings – all open to any nut with mental problems and a gun.

Too many law enforcement officers have been indiscriminately shooting unarmed – mostly black – citizens without adequate impartial review. Officers are being killed in ambushes. Firemen are called to fires only to be open targets for some armed nutcase.

Dozens of local sheriff’s are telling government agencies they’ll ignore laws they don’t agree with. Some are aiding lawbreakers by looking “the other way” instead of doing their sworn duties. Armed citizens are supporting them with guns and votes. The verdict in the Bundy case in Portland, while possibly legally correct, has sent the wrong message to people wanting to thwart legal government actions. Those who’ve been doing so without being punished have already announced plans to step up their armed resistance.

Paid hucksters are sowing division and hate 24/7. The Internet has given voice to racists, pornographers, irresponsible “militia” wannabes, hackers and other deranged. Rumors and lies are passed off as “fact” and the citizenry – too many ignorant or our nation’s laws, civic and legal structure – is fed a diet of lies as fact.

Lack of a well-informed electorate has resulted in too many unqualified office holders. This has bred a politics of survival and job protection rather than a corps of dedicated public servants willing to do the right thing and take whatever consequences. Members of Congress admit spending a full third of their time in Washington D.C. begging for dollars. Not legislating for voters at home.

Finally, when tomorrow’s election is over, it won’t be over. We’re going to see piles of legal actions, threats, demonstrations and possible outright lawbreaking. The seeds are all there. There are more – lots more – examples of social and political problems inflicting large wounds on this country.

Unfortunately, when the ballot boxes go back into storage, their contents, I believe, will not have changed much in our seemingly dysfunctional society. Losers will continue to obstruct winners. Voices of deceit and hate will still be heard. Guns – many in the wrong hands – will continue to kill and maim. Mass murder will still be a staple of life. Racism, bigotry and ignorant religious hatred will continue. Our national government, regardless of who wins, will still be nearly unmanageable. The neediest of us will still be ignored.

Yep. I may have finally gone “‘round the bend.” So, if things turn out better than I think at this point, let me know. Otherwise, as Bette Davis said, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”