Archive for February, 2018

The Graham effect

Author: admin

Rev. Billy Graham has died. Christian communities are mourning his death. Condolences are even coming from a number of foreign countries. All out of respect for a major voice of evangelism.

Though worthy of respect, many of us were disappointed in Graham with publication of the Nixon tapes. As Nixon spit out a series of slander regarding Jews and Blacks, Graham was heard repeatedly agreeing and even offering some negative comments of his own. As more people heard the tapes and read transcripts, Graham’s public persona took a big hit. He later apologized but didn’t recant.

Aside from those unexpected conversations, Graham seemed to live the life he preached. A Graham biographer once commented, after the word “God,” the second most used word in his sermons was “faith.” That, Graham seemed to have in abundance.

But, Graham was also big business. Large corporate offices, many hundreds of support staff, advance teams, DVD’s, books, tapes, tracts, movies and more.

It was this business side that attracted me when Graham held one of his crusades in what is now called Taco Bell Arena on the Boise State University campus in the early 80’s. I began an eight month continuing story about that event.

Many weeks before Graham arrived, his advance people contacted all Christian churches in Southwest Idaho. Churches weren’t so much “asked” to participate as they were told what the Crusade “expected” in support. So many choir members, ushers, set up and takedown labor, underwriting of some local expenses, etc.. Even housing.

Days before the big event, large trucks arrived with scaffolding, choir risers, lights, sound system and other staging hardware. All was made ready.

In advance, I contacted six Christian churches to determine then current average attendance. I would do so twice more after the Crusade.

Graham drew several thousand people. The event went as it had so many times before in venues all over the world. When he made his “altar call” near the end, asking those who wanted to openly express their faith to come forward, a couple of hundred did. About the expected percentage I was told later. By sunup the next day, all evidence of the Crusade was gone. As if it never happened.

My first followup calls were made about three weeks later. All denominations contacted reported attendance had, indeed, gone up. The Crusade had apparently been successful.

Six months later, I checked with each church again. In all contacts, regular attendance had returned to pre-Crusade levels. Reporting later, I termed that “the Graham effect.

It appeared what we’d seen at the Crusade was personal involvement at an emotional moment in some lives. Those walking forward seemed moved to do so right then. But, without ongoing individual reinforcement, those emotions subsided and previous lifestyles returned. Though Graham’s staff had instructed churches how to reinforce the outpouring, it didn’t seem to work.

Drop off in church attendance some months after Graham’s appearance was not isolated. I found it in other cities.

None of this is to disparage Billy Graham or his life’s work. Those who got to their feet and walked did so, I’m sure, with honest feeling and emotion.

We’re seeing something very similar right now with school students moving people to their side through emotion. As with Graham and his Crusades, that’s not a bad thing. But, emotion won’t bring success if there’s no followup – no reinforcement of initial reactions with facts and a solid plan to turn the heartfelt outpouring into long-term support.

My prayer – and I’m sure Rev. Billy would concur – is that national action replaces our individual emotional responses to mass murder. Our individual attention has been “captured.” We need to keep our sympathetic responses alive until November when we’re asked to answer the “altar call” of the ballot box.

Bottom up politics

Author: admin

The United States Congress, as now constituted, is irretrievably broken. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. If not, you can stop right here.

My belief in that statement is simple. The basic reason we have a Congress is to “provide for the common good” by meeting the ever-present needs of the nation at any given time. That may mean economic needs, societal needs, safety, infrastructure replacement or, especially, action in time(s) of war. To do what needs to be done as a nation that can’t be accomplished individually or by lesser bodies of authority.

But Congress is no longer legislating on the basis of national need. In fact, in all honesty, it’s not legislating at all! Needs – critical, life-saving and national needs – are being willfully ignored. The ability to accomplish anything meaningful has been lost in what can best be termed “bunker politics.”

Political success has always been accomplished by negotiation and compromise. I give a little. You give a little. We get the job done. The need is met. Not any more.

Yes, money is a key factor. But, it’s more than that. It’s individual and party entrenchment where one side has to be right and the other wrong. A minefield of distrust, anger, resentment, incumbent survival at all costs and a poisonous atmosphere filled with extreme partisanship separates the two sides. So, failure is predictable. Legislation seems no longer proposed to solve problems. In fact, much of it will create problems. The Idaho Legislature, for example, is now doing exactly that. Two bills have drawn warnings by the Attorney General that the Idaho House and Senate could – again – cost taxpayers millions in losing legal costs if enacted into law.

One piece of legislative cat litter would allow Idaho to ignore any federal laws or regulations somebody doesn’t like. In fact, the State would be prohibited from enforcing them. If this garbage becomes law, taxpayers – voters – will be large dollar losers. Yet again.

The other flotsam would prohibit any hint of Sharia Law in legal or legislative proceedings in the state. Something that’s never been present. Something that never will be. If passed and enacted, it’ll be some law firm’s retirement plan.

Congress, too, has hoppers filled with this crap. Some of it has actually become law! Not to address needs of the nation but the economic needs of billionaires, lobbyists and members of Congress concerned with their own job security.

Congress no longer acts on national needs from the bottom up – health care, homelessness, poverty, security, etc.. Members seem constantly in search of “top down” ways to serve small constituencies of the rich, religious zealots, conspiracy theorists and other special interests, Much like the Idaho Legislature.

All of this – and so much more – makes the November elections so damned important. Replacement candidates are, thankfully, going to be more plentiful – at all levels – than we’ve seen in a very long time. Some will be the self-serving, misfit variety we have now. But many won’t.

A lot of ‘em will be in the political fray for the first time. Many won’t have the experience needed to run successful campaigns. They likely won’t have the economic support necessary. They’ll need volunteers by the dozens. They’ll need access to service clubs and other citizen organizations to get their message out. They’ll need HELP in every way!

From dogcatcher to the Congress of these United States, this election is so very important. We can’t afford more mistakes at the ballot box. If ever we needed an informed electorate to weed out the miscreants, it’s right now.

And that message must come from the bottom up!

A shrinking mea culpa

Author: admin

Several days ago, I re-posted a news story on Facebook. It had been on the CNN website that day and appeared genuine. It outraged me so much I re-posted without checking. My bad.

Within minutes, some sharp-eyed Facebook friends started commenting they hadn’t seen it anywhere else and a few questioned its authenticity. Suddenly, so did I. Going back to the CNN page, the story I had copied was nowhere to be found. I checked every nook and cranny but it wasn’t there.

Since the story had a Nevada dateline, I looked up the state’s two largest newspaper web pages. Nothing. Not a word.

At this point, I was both professionally and personally embarrassed. So, after waiting 24 hours to do more research – and to think of a properly worded mea culpa – I checked the Nevada papers again. And there it was! Whew!

So, I re-posted one of the more detailed stories with a “soft” mea culpa and invited skeptical friends to check it out. After all, they had a right to be skeptical since I had not done my homework.

So, what’s the point?

Just this. Simply because something appears on a legitimate website like CNN, check a couple more sources before sharing. Each week, I visit some 15-20 sites – Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, Der Spiegel, London Times, The Guardian, Tokyo Times, CBS, NBC, etc. The idea is to be exposed to many issues and to check other views of all sorts of stories.

But, I think I got “had” on CNN. CNN, too. Which is a wake-up call for all my other online reading. I checked with the Atlanta powers-that-be and they couldn’t find my “story,” either. It could have been a Russian “bot.” My source didn’t use that word but did say the company’s site has been experiencing “some difficulties recently.”

So, the lesson learned is this: check, re-check, cross-check and, if necessary, check again. Corroborate. If it seems interesting enough to pass on, be sure you’re on solid ground.

Oh, by the way, the story that caused the outrage? It was accurate. Republicans in the Nevada legislature have been behind a recall campaign against two Democrat state senators. GOP sponsored. GOP run. GOP paid for. And the charge against the two “miscreants?” Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Boiled down to its essentials, Republicans are trying to take control of the Nevada Senate by shifting numbers. The two targets here have committed no crimes. Have not shirked their responsibilities. Have not engaged in “moral turpitude.” They’re not guilty of anything!

The reason this Nevada story is so important is a favorable court ruling could be a precedent for all other states. Republicans could just dream up a “recall” and try to unseat Democrats. Any Democrats. Anywhere. Or vice versa.

I’ve seen nothing to support what my gut tells me which is this: dig deep enough and you’re likely to find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and/or the Koch brothers who have large holdings in Nevada and other states. This just smells like a test run at the courts to gain leverage Republicans couldn’t get at the ballot box.

I sincerely hope the Nevada court system slams the door on this shabby Republican B.S.. The GOP has enough other shameful efforts going trying to thwart voters.

Pennsylvania is a good example. State Supreme Court threw out the Republican gerrymandering of districts. Deemed it illegal. So, the GOP went to the U.S. Supreme Court which kicked it back to the state. Now, Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to recall Democrat appointees on their own state supreme court for no other reason than the GOP wants to underhandedly take over legislative majorities. And the court!

These are important stories that more Americans should be watching closely and be greatly concerned about. These underhanded, totally flagrant and despicable Republican challenges are a flat-out challenge to the Constitution of the nation and those of every state.

So, here I am. Feeling guilty about passing along a single news report that might have been false – but wasn’t – while Republicans in at least two states are trying to overturn entire elections. And subvert several constitutions.

Suddenly, my mea culpa doesn’t feel so large after all.

There’s NO nuke button

Author: admin

I’ve been mentally wrestling with something for, oh, a year or more. Something I’ve not seen the national media explain ‘cause they probably don’t know. You won’t hear it from the Oval Office, either, ‘cause he certainly doesn’t know.

So, looks like it’s coming down to Ridenbaugh Press: a burden we didn’t ask for but have been given nonetheless. Here it is. As straightforward as it can be said.

There’s NO DAMNED NUCLEAR BUTTON. On Trump’s desk or in the entire White House! No! None! Zero! Zip! Nada! Never has been! PERIOD! His little fingers can’t push it ‘cause there’s nothing there to push! He cannot – repeat – CANNOT unilaterally order up a nuclear conflagration.

I spent a few cold war years about three-feet from where the button would have been if there had been a button to push if a nuclear button needed to be – pushed. And it wasn’t there, either! Never was! The damned thing has never existed!

So, without a “button,” what’s a guy “push” when we need to launch all the things in our far-flung nuclear arsenal? Well, therein lies a tale that needs some background.

Ever notice when a President travels away from the White House there’s always – ALWAYS – a field grade officer lurking nearby, carrying what looks like the president’s personal luggage? Always there. Always carrying. He’s one of a small cadre, holding the topmost security clearances, who have no other job but carrying that “luggage” for the Commander-In Chief.

The “luggage” is euphemistically called “the Football.” The best description of it I’ve ever seen – and of what’s inside – is an old Washington Post piece. To wit:

“The Football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase carried in a black leather”jacket”weighing about 45 pounds. A small antenna protrudes from the bag near the handle.

“There are four things in the Football. The Black Book containing retaliatory options; a book listing classified site locations; a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Alert System; a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.

“The Black Book is about 9 by 12 inches and has 75 loose-leaf pages printed in black and red. The book with classified site locations is about the same size as the Black Book and contains information on sites around the country where the president could be taken in an emergency.” End quote.

If someone in the Pentagon War Room sends a signal to the “Football,” it will be opened and the President will be in immediate contact. He’ll be given a very short update on what’s happening and will quickly be given options for military response – if any – previously developed and updated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What happens from that point is highly classified. But we do know the approximate steps. The President can choose any option. Or decline. But, if the option to launch is made, he must read a long series of coded numbers aloud to the War Room listener – most likely the Secretary of Defense.
The numbers and sequences must be verified by responder and he must read aloud his own code series.

Others in strategic military locations around the world should be listening by this time, having been alerted after the initial presidential call. Once a decision is made, more codes in more sequences will be sent to field commanders to which they have to immediately respond with confirmation codes. If all checks are positive, those military commanders will issue the direct orders to the force. All forces with nukes must acknowledge and transmit their own codes.

Not the President. No “nuclear button.”

And there’s this. It’s within the purview of the Secretary, the Joint Chiefs and – theoretically – a force commander to refuse to obey if they believe the “go-to-war” order is illegal. So, just because the order is given, there’s no basis to believe it will be blindly followed.

The President can’t unilaterally send our military to war. There are too many checks and cross-checks. As there should be. And there’s NO DAMNED BUTTON!

Anyone got an email address for CNN and the rest?