Archive for March, 2018

Doing DUE diligence

Author: admin

Six months ago, fed up with the worst winter on the Oregon coast that locals could remember, Barb and I packed up the dog and cat and drove 1,310 miles Southeast. To the “great” Southwest.

We’re now in the second fastest growing county in the nation – the Census Bureau estimates about 200 new faces a day – and surrounded by a lot of white hair, expensively tinted hair and the most bald heads we’ve ever seen in one place. The three “cheek-by-jowl” unincorporated “active” retirement communities that make up our new neighborhood total about 92,000 folks – 55 and up.

While you’ll see some criticism here, please remember I’m four score plus two. So, this isn’t being written by a critic from the outside but from my own 82 years. If you haven’t experienced this “active senior living” as it’s called, you might see some surprises here.

When we came down a year ago on a scouting mission, the first thing that caught our eye was $2.28 a gallon gas. A buck or more less than the Coast. We also found real estate taxes on a $200,000 house were about $800 a year. That’s $1,600 less than we’d been paying. A good steak dinner is about $11.00. Shopping within a five mile radius includes hundreds of stores from Neiman-Marcus to Goodwill. Everything you can name! More places to eat out than you could count and a gas station or bank on every corner.

Sounds a bit like senior Nirvana, doesn’t it? Well, while all those good things are quite true, there are other details to consider, too.

For one, our $1,100 a year car insurance went to $1,900. Same car. Same driver. Zip codes are a big factor in setting rates. When you’ve lived here awhile, and driven our roads filled with seniors from everywhere, your sense of self-preservation is heightened and you understand why the increase. Oh, and our car license went from about $200 for two years to $485 for one!

Another local phenomenon is the lowly golf cart. They look the same as those at the country club. But – these have been modified to go between 35-40mph! Gas or electric. With mirrors, seatbelts and appropriate insurance added, they move! And are driven everywhere! Right out in the rest of the traffic. Four lanes or six! Like many others, we use ours as a second car. Easier to park when shopping.

Electricity in our former home was about seven-cents a kilowatt hour. Here, 13-cents and up. Nuclear generation rather than hydro. Water/sewer bills that used to be $60 or so for two months are $60-100 a month now. Also, our state’s water rights in the regional compact are junior to all other states so an extended drought could be a disaster.

Still, just in our little unincorporated “heaven” of about 30,000 oldsters, we have nine – count ‘em – nine 18-hole golf courses to keep up. Two private. Seven public. Using about 2.4 billion gallons of water per year. Residents use about 1.3 billion. So, when water isn’t as available as it is today, (a) already high residential rates will skyrocket and (b) someone is going to have to decide which – and how many – golf courses will be cut to nine holes. Or closed. Them’s fighten’ words hereabouts.

Our current special election to replace our adulterous former Congressman features an adulterous minister – endorsed by the outgoing adulterer, another who’s a twice-convicted felon and James Dobson. The other candidate claims to have loved Trump even before he was elected. Such are our ballot choices. To say we’re a “conservative” state is to confuse “conservative” with outright nuts!

Still, at least for now, we’re not unhappy with our move. Let’s just say we’re here on a “trial basis” and continue to observe life around us. Our “due diligence” continues unabated.

Over the next few months, we’ll describe more of this newfound “active retired” senior living lifestyle and the blessings/curses that go with it. It’s really a little of both. But, you might want to make that “due” in due diligence “DUE” before you take the step.

A deep state?

Author: admin

One of the moral issues all of us face from time to time is this: is it right to support a concept or an action we may know is wrong or is without factual basis or do we reject it for those same reasons?

Here’s one I’m wrestling with at the moment. Members of the Trump “family” – and a few other conspiratorial minds – are screaming there’s a “deep state” cabal working against our president. On the one hand, that’s highly doubtful. On the other, I hope so, because, left unchecked, the man is just plain dangerous to our survival!

Let’s set a common definition for that term “deep state.” The words are most often used by conspiratorial types to describe a “deep rooted civil service – or other behind-the-scenes group – at work to undermine elected officials.” Including presidents.

The latest White House denizen to publically use the term is Trump’s second son who lumped Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres (?) together as “forces for evil.” Said it on Twitter. Just like Dad. Bannon and Faux Neus like it, too. And use it often.

It’s really too easy to poke sticks at anyone in the Trump family or others who think of him as our “political savior.” But, there’s a serious bent to this as well. Which brings about my ambivalence.

Some weeks ago, I used this space to highlight a couple of Air Force generals publically stating they would not necessarily follow a presidential order to unleash the force and nuclear weapons. The qualifier used was the question of a “legal versus illegal” order. I’ve since discovered there are as many legal definitions of those words as there are generals. Or staff attorneys. Whom we don’t have time to consult when there are incoming warheads.

But more evidence is piling up – as in some ‘50’s-‘60’s movies about renegade generals – that the military and other agencies are going their own ways on things. Rogue, if you will.

Case-in-point: last year, Trump said “no transgender people in the military.” The Pentagon, however, now says, as of January 1, transgender enlistees have been – and still are – welcome.

Case-in-point: Trump made a big public issue of claiming our embassy in Tel Aviv will be moved to Jerusalem. But State Department professionals – not Trump-appointee Tillerson – are saying there are “no plans in the foreseeable future” for such action.

Case-in-point: Trump continues to berate and insult North Korea’s leader while State Department professionals – not Trump-appointee Tillerson – continue back-channel discussions with counterparts in North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan.

Case-in-point: Trump pulls U.S. out of climate accords so individual states are now signing up directly with foreign governments.

Case-in-point: Trump’s own staff attorney did not tell him he had the authority to fire an F.B.I. director because his own staff attorney figured that’s just what Trump would do.

Case(s)-in-point: Trump continues demanding a stop to immigration – even legal immigration – but eleven courts have overruled him.

Upper level civil service professionals have often walked different paths from political appointees. That’s not new. What IS different is it’s currently being done more openly – more “in-your-face” – than previously. Especially in military, State and DOJ issues.

Trump has repeatedly proven he cannot cooperate with – nor countenance – people who are experts in their fields holding any different view from his. He refuses to recognize his job is not to call every shot but to oversee departments of government while recognizing it’s the professionals who really know what ’s going on. And how to do it. They may – and should – bend to changing political guidance. But we’re starting to see open defiance in some quarters.

Which brings us back to “deep state.” Is institutional resistance to Trump and his authority real? And, if so, who’s in charge? Which decisions will be carried out and which ignored? Is someone – or many someone(s) – working deep underground to subvert the power of the Presidency or just Trump? And, if so, who? And, to what end?

For the first time in my life, I go to bed at night wondering (a) if I’ll wake up and (b) if I do, to what? I have no use for Trump. He scares me. I want him gone. Preferably today.

But, he IS the President. He DOES have certain constitutional powers at his disposal. He DOES have the legal right to exercise them. And, what scares me more than him, is the idea that others may actually be working to thwart the lawful exercise of that authority.

We live in a technological (read nuclear, world-ending) environment requiring immediate decisions that can – within minutes – result in life-ending consequences. The evidence seems to indicate a “going-my-own-way” attitude in some portions of our government. Despite Trump, that’s not the way to run a country.

Mueller leaking?

Author: admin

If you want to keep a secret, never consider living in Washington D.C.. Nobody – absolutely nobody – can keep a secret there. Details of the most clandestine conversations often are relayed before the original speaker can take a deep breath.

Fact is, the continual sieve-like communications of the D.C. verbal plumbing system keep the place going, providing uninterrupted grist for the media mill. Some people you’ve never heard of – hangers-on mostly – make a pretty good living leaking.

The constant stream of “I-shouldn’t-say-anything-but…” is mother’s milk to the national media. Without the constant dribble, many of those folk would be unemployed. Whether that’s a good or bad thing we’ll leave for another time.

At the moment, those national writers and talkers are going on and on about the lack of leaks in the Robert Mueller investigation. “Air tight,” they say. “We have no idea what’s happening because no one’s talking.” Sitting out here in the arid Southwest, I’m not convinced.

I think the Mueller team IS leaking and it’s with such finesse and understatement those media types are either not paying attention or, if they are, some of ’em are in on the game.

Case in point. Ripped from CNN and NBC front pages as I write, a story headlined “Mueller asking if Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before release.” It goes on to report Mueller’s team is asking “pointed questions” about whether Trump was aware those emails had been stolen before that fact was known publically.

Now, that’s a detailed report. And, if true, it gives us a bit of a window to what’s going on in the investigative offices. “If true.” And I’d bet it is.

In fact, I’d bet a sizeable amount that Mueller’s people have been strategically “leaking” since the git-go.

More cases in point. Before Mueller’s people talked to Manafort, Page, Ryan or any of the others, we learned of the impending sessions from the media. There were no filed documents in advance. No news releases about upcoming talks. No talking head interviews. No published schedules. All the interviewees were privately contacted. It’s not likely they tipped the media types beforehand. Would you?

No, I suspect Mueller and team have been “creatively leaking” bits and pieces to cooperative reporters. Little dribs and drabs that make headlines.

“Why would they do that,” you ask.

Pressure, sez I. I think Mueller is lifting the curtain – just a bit – every few days or so, to keep up the mounting pressure on folks in the White House. As more names from Trump’s inner circle show up in the headlines and on the HDTVs in the living quarters, I’d wager pulses are quickening and it’s getting harder to breathe.

When subjects are interviewed, there aren’t cameras around for the coming and going. Sometimes, the face-to-face sessions are in a third party location unknown to the media. Other times, subjects converse on closed-circuit TV.

We most often see file photos of Manafort, Ryan, et al. entering or leaving a court house or other public building when pleading to charges. But, not when visiting Mueller. Public locations are routinely staked out by the media. We sometimes see old pictures of the miscreants when documents are filed or unsealed. What we see most is file footage, shown repeatedly.

Mueller and friends are running a deep, searching, wide-ranging, thorough investigation. Unintended leaks or talented reporter sleuthing have amounted to zero.

But, leaks there have been. Many. And, they’re likely to continue. Mueller seems to be using them skillfully to create tensions and nervousness among both those his team’s talked to and those yet to sit in front of his microphones and cameras. He’s controlling the atmosphere around the investigation to twist the nerves of those waiting for both shoes to drop.

How’d you like to be waiting for his call? Oh, hold on. Donny, your phone’s ringing.