Archive for January, 2019

The census counts

Author: admin

The upcoming 2020 census is important. Damned important!

Given that fact, why are a full one-third of Americans saying they may not fill out forms or answer the questions or are only “somewhat likely” to do so? (See above graph.)

The U.S. Census Bureau has been polling and using focus groups to determine how close we’re likely to get to a nearly complete count next year. And if we don’t, why not? It’s an effort to understand citizen attitudes about the census, what potential barriers to participation are out there and what motivations are for those who don’t intend – or are unlikely – to respond.

The survey reached a national sampling of about 50,000 homes. With a 35-percent response rate, results are well-above an average sample return size and considered reliable. The Bureau also conducted 42 focus group sessions in 14 cities. Every attempt was made to include hard-to-count populations such as racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speaking, those with low Internet proficiency, young people who move frequently, rural communities and other populations at low risk of response. Pretty comprehensive effort.

Bottom line, here’s what was learned.

Two-thirds of responders are “extremely likely” or “very likely” to fill out the census form. But, at the same time, many people said they were unfamiliar with the census process with only about a third being “extremely” or “very familiar.”

Five main barriers were found that might prevent people from participating. In order, they were: privacy concerns about data/confidentially; fear of repercussions of some sort (probably regarding residency status); feeling the whole census“doesn’t matter;” distrust in ALL levels of government; belief that completing the census forms might not “benefit me personally.” To me, those last two are sad commentaries on what parts our society have become in some quarters.

Another disturbing finding was this. While funding for public services was a top motivator in respondents, less than half knew the census results were used to determine that community funding. Seems sort of a mental contradiction there.

The Census folks have decided on several steps to deal with issues uncovered in their outreach efforts.

Probably the most expensive (this is government, after all) is the need for an extensive PR campaign (lots of paid advertising, individual mailing and the like) to tell a wide audience of the importance of both the census and its needed participation. Second, there’s a necessity to reach out to the younger population to explain what census taking is, what the process involves and why it’s important for them to be counted. (Secondary teachers and college instructors take note.)

The Bureau also intends to involve local communities to explain how census results benefit them now and in the future. There’ll be an effort to get local leaders to participate in advance publicity.

It’s also apparent just addressing expressed concerns about data collection and privacy alone will not necessarily mitigate those issues. While much of the ad campaign will feature reassurances about privacy and confidentiality, inside the Bureau, it’s not widely believed those worried about such things will be assuaged. Another commentary about the society we live in.

None of the head-counting importance is lost on politicians of all stripes. Legislative and congressional district representation is largely determined by the numbers. Small states like Idaho, Nevada and Utah could see an increase in congressional representation. And, the numbers could greatly influence state legislative districts. Especially if we can draw new lines with some impartial integrity. In other words, put an end to politicians gerrymandering for their own interests and third-party panels using the most reliable statistics available.

Yes, the ten-year count is important. Very important! Which is why that nearly one-third of Americans being “unlikely” or “unwilling” to take part is so discouraging.

One other note: none of the sampling dealt with the unwarranted attempt by the Trump administration to stick a citizenship question into the census-taking. At the moment, a federal judge has blocked use of such a query. But, you can bet the issue is far from dead.

Familiarity and seniors

Author: admin

“All things old are new again”

Nowhere is that old saw more practiced than in a combined senior retirement community of 90,000. Evidence is everywhere.

Probably the most conspicuous evidence is in the cars many folks drive around here. We recently bought a new one with most of the “whistles and bells.” Fits our needs nicely and will for many years.

But, you’d be amazed how many 1970-1990 large, four-door sedans travel our wide streets. Chevy’s, Cadillac’s, Lincoln’s, Buicks, Mercury’s, Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, (Yes, Virginia, Mercury’s, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs which haven’t been built in years). And nearly all we’ve seen, so far, are in top shape – inside and out – with high-gloss paint jobs, flawless glass and restored upholstery. Our parking lots often look like classic car shows.

Took awhile to figure out why so many old fellas here are hanging onto these gems of the past. It was only when we recently took delivery of our new model that I figured it out. A 2018 model with so much electronic gadgetry that it came with three owner’s manuals. Three!

There are several good reasons why the beautiful older cars are kept. For one thing, they came with just one owner’s manual. That’s all they needed. They came with buttons and switches – not the icons, multi-function buttons and multiple screens in our newer versions. You could set the heater or turn on and tune the radio by touch without taking your eyes off the road to find the right icon or figure out which function that multi-function screen is currently in or which other screen is needed for what.

Power steering, power brakes, pushbutton windows and air conditioning have been standard fare for decades. So, when it comes to “necessary” equipment, the older cars have all that stuff. But, they don’t require drivers in their 70’s and 80’s – and, I’m sad to say, too often around here in their 90’s – to take electronics courses to get around. They’re paid for, are cheaper to license and insure and – at 4,000-5,000 pounds – ride nicely. And safely. They’re also cheaper to maintain which is why there are so many independent auto shops in the area. Dozens.

When you’re 70 or 80-years-old, you tend to value familiar things, whether it’s friends, food, a well-used recliner or older cars. There are enough senior “challenges” to deal with without trying to learn new vehicle operating systems every time you trade cars.

It isn’t that older folks stop learning. Not here. We’ve got more than 300 clubs involving every hobby and leisure activity you ever heard of. And some you haven’t. Big clubs with all sorts of modern equipment and resources. Adult learning classes with hundreds of offerings available at no or minimal cost. Like five bucks. Met a lady in her ‘80’s the other day. Quickly pushing her walker to get to a free class on iPhones so she could text and stay in touch with her grandkids in New York.

No, these classic vehicles we see so often in our community are not necessarily signs of people avoiding change. They don’t always represent someone’s effort to hold onto the past. Rather, they’re sufficient to today’s senior needs. They’re in prime shape from years of good care and often extensive restoration. They’re dependable. Without all the electronic gadgets and they’re much cheaper to maintain. They’re comfortable and safe.

But, above all, they’re familiar. Drivers who don’t have the reflexes they used to have, don’t see or hear as well as they did in they’re 30’snd 40’s and didn’t grow up with computers and electronic gadgetry, may still be active and alert enough to be behind the wheel.

Their transportation may not have satellite radio or power lift gates or tire pressure monitors or even a sunroof. But, it has a “feel” you can’t find in any showroom. It’s got a responsiveness derived from years of use. It fulfills a basic need with comfort found in familiarity.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got that third owner’s manual left to read.

Dems have the hard road

Author: admin

The national political air is full of 2020 talk these days. For both parties.

Ohio Governor John Kasich seems ready to formalize his run against Trump. Jump in early, suck up media attention but, more importantly, get into the pockets of Republican fat cats. Wise move. To some extent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is doing the same with Dems.

The GOP field to take on Trump will be small. But, Democrats are coming out of the trees to float their names around. And that’s healthy. Shake out all the contenders, give ‘em their head and see who’s left by convention time. Like Republicans, they’re looking for big bucks because 2020 will be the most expensive fray ever. It’s also guaranteed to be the dirtiest race in our long history of presidential elections.

Several factors are concerning about all this. The first is Trump himself. Short of being in the slammer by then, when the Muller report comes out – and it will despite expected Republicans all-out effort to stop it – Trump’s immediate fate will be an open question.

Those disclosures will damage him. Whether it sinks his political future, we don’t know today. But, even if he escapes the crossbar hotel in the short term, he’ll still be damaged goods. We don’t know how the Muller results will play with Trump’s vaunted base. Safe to say, there’ll likely be some erosion.

The second concern is, if Trump’s in the race, which is nearly certain despite investigations and trials, and the Democrats decide on a woman candidate. The rest of us see nothing wrong with that. But, as he’s proven in the past, Trump will attempt to savage her. His previous attacks on Hillary Clinton and Warren guarantee a name-calling, how-she-looks-and-dresses, character assassination tirade. He doesn’t like or respect talented women professionals. Except Stormy.

Based on his previous treatment of women, a campaign based on issues will be completely overshadowed by sexually bigoted vitriol. Which the media will repeat ad nauseam.

A third danger is one I hear too many Democrats and “talking heads” repeating. Dems need “someone who can win.” Forget qualifications. Ignore the lack of experience and other necessary credentials. “We need someone who can win.”

Remember 2016? Trump ran against about the most qualified and experienced woman on the planet. A sure winner, right? And what did we get? A non-experienced, definitely unqualified male. Determining “who can win” in advance of actual voting has repeatedly been proven very difficult. Oh, there’s the occasional nutcase candidate everyone knows will lose. But, that’s rare.

Many of the names Democrats are bandying about at the moment clearly lack the necessary experience and breadth of knowledge we want to see in the White House. On that list, I’d put Harris, O’Rourke, Booker, Castro, Swalwell, Gabbard, Bloomberg and Inslee. Pick one with firsthand experience in foreign affairs, military, international economics and proven diplomatic skills. Good people but in need of a broader knowledge of – and experience in – such things.

The short list of very qualified Democrats, at least to me, has the names Biden and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Especially Biden whose long history in the Senate not only includes the above requirements, but also professional – and in some instances – personal relationships with many world figures. In his own long tenure, Brown has had various committee posts that have proven invaluable. He’s also a low-key, soft-spoken thinker – good skills in themselves.

I’m not proposing Biden or Brown be presidential candidates; only pointing out the kind of well-rounded background a suitable nominee ought to have. Biden comes with his own negatives including a case of plagiarizing in the ‘70’s which Trump would use as a political club.

The “someone-who-can-win” approach is a dangerous one. All recent presidents have acknowledged it’s not a “learn-on-the-job” situation. And, regardless of previous political background, they’ve also found the actual conditions of being president were much different from what they expected.

!n 2020, Republicans seem stuck with what they have. Democrats face a much harder path. The “who-can-win” argument versus someone with the all-important experience and knowledge necessary in a good president.

Right now it’s all talk and speculation. But, when the bell rings, Democrats had better have the right man. Or woman. Or both.

I was raised in an old line Republican home and voted that way much of my life. Richard Nixon brought an end to that, even before Watergate. Amazing how corruption and outright criminality can change a guy’s voting habits. Permanently.

So, I came late to the ways of the donkey party. Though that happened some 45 years ago, I still don’t understand their near-suicidal politics. From the grassroots up, Democrats are a bitchy, noisy, disorganized and oft-times self-defeating bunch.

While a lot of Dems are tooting their own horns and clinking champagne glasses over their House of Representatives wins, some of the old negative ways are already intruding.

They’ve got a right to celebrate and be a little daffy. For a few days. The November change from minority to majority was an uphill slug against every mean trick Republicans threw at them. Gerrymandering, massive voter disqualifications, lies in advertising about nearly any subject, and fraud on a massive scale. We’ve never seen such political arrogance and deceit in a modern election.

But, that was then and this is now. As the late Cecil Andrus used to say, “It’s a whole lot easier standing outside the circle throwing spears than to be inside that circle trying to catch ‘em.”

Democrats need to settle down and start to govern. Oh, in the first few hours, they passed some “feel good” bills that will die aborning on Mitch McConnell’s office floor. What Dems did was send a message home to voter supporters that they “heard” them and are trying to make good on some campaign promises. “Promises made-promises kept” and all that.

That’s not governing. To govern successfully, you need to carefully examine the political playing field and figure out what the real issues are – the ones that need work first. And the ones you can get passed through the Senate and signed by our out-of-control President. Otherwise, you’re spinning your wheels and acting like Republican lite.

The most important key to accomplishing that is the new Speaker of the House – Ms. Pelosi. No one in that body has more experience, more legislative talent, a better understanding of political clout and how to use it. No one. She’s also the biggest Republican target. The Capitol Hill market for Pelosi lookalike voodoo dolls can’t keep up with the GOP demand.

But, she’s an old warrior. Lots of battle scars from old political battles. She knows how to throw a legislative punch and how to take one while staying on her feet. She’s also got some other deeply experienced old soldiers in key spots to help run the gauntlet. Given her head, House Democrats have got a helluva leadership team.

Still, some in the Dem freshman class are acting like spoiled – and very inexperienced – children. With assistance from our national “show business “media, some are “performing” more like celebrities than legislators. Others thought it would be cute to vote for someone other than Pelosi in the speakership race. Ten of ‘em. A few even posted media notices of their idiocy.

And we’ve got one who wants to play tit-for-tat with her GOP critics by making in-your-face videos like a hooker on a porn site. She’s also publically pouting because her “pie-in-the-sky” legislative wants aren’t going to be the first order of business.

Governing – and doing it right – is hard when the people needed to pull it off do and say things that distract from what the pros are trying to get done. It’s hard enough with a small majority (235-199) if all the troops are in line. When some want to primp and pose for constituents or personal promotion, it’s tougher.

I suspect Nancy Pelosi, with the grace of a good parent, will let the “kids” romp for a couple of weeks. Let ‘em get it out of their systems. Then, there’ll be a tug on the leash. And, if that doesn’t get the desired results, there’ll be a few “woodshed” sessions. Not that the Speaker will always get her way. She knows she has to keep the troops happy and there has to be some horse-trading. Again, Pelosi knows just what to do. And how and when to do it.

I like the noisiness and disorder of Democrats. Lots of people with lots of opinions and varied backgrounds. I also like the multiple ethnicity inclusion and the “everybody-is-somebody” attitude. All good.

But. Just as our military can claim the same attributes during informal times, when it comes to the fight, the chain-of-command and the orders are clear. Line up and follow the leaders. There’s time enough for individualness. When trying to win the battle, well, that’s not the time and Congress is not the place.