Archive for July, 2019

A nod to the Birchers

Author: admin

One of the professional pleasures I’ve enjoyed in broadcasting and writing opinion journalism has been the freedom to occasionally chew on the nut cases of the far right. That enjoyment has been especially heightened when one or more ”targets” gets all outraged and feels personally persecuted.

That was especially true in the late 1960’s when the targets were often the Birchers and Liberty Lobby as they railed against “Communists-behind-every-tree” and “big government taking away our freedoms.” They made an awful noise.

While I still enjoy targeting those “paranoid patriots,” I’ve lately begun to feel some of their pain. My pain, however, has a more solid basis in fact than those conspiracy believers.

We’re seeing more and more evidence that government, at all levels, has taken on the role of master rather than constitutional servant. It’s happening along the Potomac and it’s happening – in spades – in Idaho.

Case in point: the legally protected right of the people to make laws by referendum and to do so freely.

The traditional Idaho Republican-controlled legislature tried to make future public petition efforts nearly impossible. In plain language, to stop the public from exercising a constitutional guarantee so legislators can do their work without “interference.”

The basis for Republican efforts to castrate the public referendum process was in response to the overwhelming 2018 success of a petition drive to expand Medicaid coverage. But, with petitions still warm on the desk, Republicans quickly moved to kill the idea. And, to clamp down on future petition drives to make sure John and Jane Q. Public would face more hurdles trying again. On anything.

Gov. Little vetoed one bill but for the wrong reason. He agreed with content but feared expensive court challenges – and high defense costs sure to come – challenges that would likely be successful as they have been in other states. Little tried to mollify both Republican legislative friends and the public. Most Idahoans wanted the referendum bills killed. So, the GOPers in the Statehouse went back to work, rewriting for another try.

Little signed a Medicaid expansion bill which tries to add work requirements. Even if the feds approve, there’ll be a court fight on that one, too. More tax dollars down the rat hole. Little didn’t seem to care how high the legal bills will be on that one. Wonder why.

Utah and several other states have been involved in similar efforts to mute public input and kill attempts to expand Medicaid in their locales, even after similar overwhelming public support.

One can sense the deformed hand of the American Legislative Exchange Council in all this. ALEC. Funded by billionaires and large corporations, ALEC works with state legislatures and Congress – and some local governments – creating and passing out copies of “master” bills to do this-and-that. Nearly always something for the “fat cats” at the expense of the public.

ALEC has positioned itself as a sort of another level of government. I’d guess most of the public would be strongly opposed to ALEC if it knew ALEC existed and why. But, most folks don’t.

There are many cases in which our national government actively works against the interests of most of us. Though reliable public polling may show large majorities supporting a national issue like needing immediate action on climate change, Congress – especially the Senate – ignores it. If we overwhelmingly oppose something like the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination – they’ll do it anyway.

Members of Congress – especially many Republicans – have sealed themselves off from voters. Try to get Idaho Senators Risch or Crapo on the phone. Even harder, to meet with them face-to-face. When’s the last time they took questions at a constituent meeting? Or, even had a legitimate constituent meeting? Same in Utah with Lee and Romney.

Many elected officials – especially federal – have separated themselves from citizens. You see more and more instances of the “servant” becoming the “master.” Rather than responding to issues and concerns of the populace, we see governments – especially the elected portions thereof – going their own way while ignoring our input.

Added to this, we have a racist, narcissistic, chronic liar in the Oval Office hellbent on destroying any parts of government he doesn’t like. Which is most of it. And, he’s telling various authorities of that government to lie and ignore federal laws – even subpoenas – to get done whatever he wants done.

In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, the Birchers and others were wrong. At the top of their voices. We’ve not been devoured by Communism, we haven’t needed the gold standard and their hero, Joe McCarthy, was a sick, loud-mouthed drunk who enjoyed destroying people.

But, they may have been onto something with their fear of government turning on the people and challenging some of our freedoms.

I’ll give ‘em that. But, that’s all.

Damn, it’s hot

Author: admin

Well, summer is officially here in our cactus-littered neighborhood.

It’s easy to tell. Temperatures this week have been 102, 108, 109, 110 and 111. The 115’s and 120’s are yet to come. Overnight lows recently have been around 80 but we expect 90’s in a few weeks.

Sometimes, I don’t think humans were meant to live here. Our closest neighbors are coyotes, bobcats, cotton tails and birds of every description. Fewer rabbits than coyotes but that’s just nature’s way.

Now, if you’re asking yourself why any self-respecting old folks from the much cooler Northwest would settle here, we often ask ourselves the same question. It’s not really as bad as it sounds. Remember, this is desert country. The humidity hovers between 0% and 10% most of the time – dry heat. Still, it’s a shock to open the door of your 75 degree home into a “wall” of 115 just to go to the mailbox.

The trick here is to keep hydrated. Lots of water. Retailers who rely on outside sales (car dealers, etc.) quickly put a free bottle of cold water in a customer’s hand. Many retail stores have bottles of water handy. It’s not considered bad form to carry water even in church.

Air conditioning is not an option in our parts when building a home or buying a car. So, for the most part, we get in our air conditioned car, drive to an air conditioned store, get back in our air conditioned car and drive to our air conditioned home. Our total daily exposure to high temps can usually be limited to 10 minutes or less.

Newcomers complain about the lack of cool tap water during our heat spells. No cold showers. Tap water until October is about as cool as warm coffee. Old timers advise those folks to call the local water company and tell ‘em workers need to check the cold water lines because they aren’t cold. I’ve wondered how many follow that advice.

The problem is we live in a desert – read “sand.” When the heat gets going, the ground (sand) is heated down several feel to a spot below water pipes running from the street. So, nothing you can do to get a cold bath unless you empty the ice cube bin into the tub.

If you want to work outside in your garden, for instance, just turn the usual day upside down. Get up early and get after it before 10 or 11am. Do daily outside chores in a couple of early hours rather than just any old time. Same for golfers of which there are thousands in these parts. Takes some adjusting for the night owls.

Actually, adjusting here is a full time job. The entire community of 30,000 lives in a place where there are no straight streets. The whole thing is built with large circles and curved streets. Not sure what prompted ol’ Del Webb to do that. All streets are wide – very wide – with rolled shoulders. In the neighborhoods, you can park cars on both sides and still run three abreast if one’s a golf cart.

On those streets you’ll find hundreds of carts that have been “fixed” to go 35mph. All over the place. “Neighborhood cars” the locals call ‘em. Stores have specially marked parking spots just for the carts. Gray hairs constantly playing bumper tag with cars.

Garbage cans are 30 gallons. Thirty! And they’re buried next to the curb. Remember the coyotes and bobcats? But, the local trash folks pick up twice a week. And they’ll pick up anything. Up to 10 extra bags. So, 30 gallons works just fine. After all, we’re old folk.

Nearly all houses are built on lots covered with gravel. Citrus, cactus and other desert greenery add color. Most people live in the rear of their homes. Some, like us, have large, covered and screened patio’s called “Arizona Rooms.” Lots of use in winter months; not so much in the summer.

Yep, adjusting is a full time job hereabouts. I haven’t met anyone yet who says this place is just like where they came from. ‘Cause it ain’t. Most who come here for retirement settle in and adjust. But, there are some who give it a try and then go back home. Our neighbor from Oregon – married 34 years – got a divorce before taking up residence. His wife couldn’t stand the place after previous visits. He loved it. That’s what I like. Compromise.

If there’s a saving factor to this place it’s the winters. Usual low temps in the 40’s-50’s. Highs in the upper 70’s. Lots of blue sky and mostly dry conditions. Pretty much that way from October through May. It’s called “Snowbird Season” around here. Lutheran churches filled to overflowing during that time. Lots of “Birds” from Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota.

Maybe the best advice when it comes to living with the very hot months is this: they’re what you put up with to have the most comfortable winter months you’ll ever experience.

Put another way, you’ll never buy a snow shovel. No one has to buy anti-freeze. You can get along without snow boots and galoshes. You’ll never find an icy street in the neighborhood. Don’t need a parka. You’ll never get stranded in a snow storm. Outdoor swimming is a 12 month deal. Golfing, too.

As I said: adjusting.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the neighborhood.

For several years, I’ve predicted the eventuality of a single-payer health care system in this country and submitted myself to verbal stoning from those who disagreed. And there were some who did, in fact, hurl some verbal rocks. Problem is, aside from criticism – warranted or not- the “throwers” offered no alternative or even decent arguments against the concept.

It’s coming, my friends. Like it or not, it’s nearer now than it was a year or two or three ago. In fact, our national health care law – the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or what’s left of it – may force the arrival of single-payer day sooner than previously expected. In my view, that may be its ultimate signature benefit.

Definition: Single payer health care is paid from an insurance pool, usually run by government – state or federal or a combination – with monies raised from individuals, employers or government. Or all three. The “payer” collects medical charges and pays for services rendered through one source – usually government using contractors. Care can be offered from many sources but there’s usually only one “payer.”

The quality of our health care is, for the most part, not in question. Neither is availability, though that currently differs somewhat based on location, ability to pay or availability of help to pay. No, the most powerful force – the most urgent – is C-O-S-T. Cost consuming about 20% of our nation’s economy. Cost bankrupting families hit with unexpected health problems. Cost leaving millions without preventative care or complete care even when needed. Cost driving profits to record levels for unscrupulous insurers. Costs – and dealing with them – that have driven gutless politicians into hiding. C-O-S-T.

I don’t believe politicians of any party – including their lobbyist friends – will solve this out-of-control national problem. In fact, it may be best they can’t – or won’t. Because any major change they’d make would be politically-based, self-serving, not systemically founded on equal access and reduced cost which are what needs fixing. The system of cost control. I’ve heard all the garbage about “getting government out of the health care business” and none – based on years of experience – makes a valid point. I’ve heard no ideas offering as sure a fix to our health cost issues as single payer. Whether government or a designated third party.

I can attest in the first person to having lived with single payer. To seniors, it’s called Medicare. Run by the government. I’ve been covered for more than 17 years. Without a single issue or complaint. Including major surgery. Access has never – never – been in question. Given my optional “medigap” insurance, cost has never – never- been an issue. The actual hands-on care has been first rate in the several locations where we’ve lived.

The Medicare option I chose costs about $100 a month. “Medigap” is about $220. A co-pay is seldom required. Never do we talk of not proceeding with care because of cost. Most prescriptions require no co-pay.

Access. First class care. Lower cost. Monthly out-of-pocket is about $320. If you’re younger than 65 and are paying any insurer, can you beat that? Are you eligible for all – ALL – necessary care for you and your family? Or, like so many in this country, are you “winging it” without insurance for cost or other reasons? Are you taking the unwinnable gamble you won’t need expensive medical care? ‘Cause, if you are, you’ll lose. Guaranteed.

Two significant changes in our national thinking are necessary to bring this about. First, a recognition that this not a problem that needs a political solution. It needs a professional, well-crafted and equally beneficial private health provider and insurer based solution with a top-to-bottom redesign to include all. All Americans. Politicians, even in the best of times – which these aren’t – can’t and/or won’t do that.

Second, Americans who have an unreasonable and entirely unwarranted resistance to all things government must join the rest of us in the real world. A chief tenet of government is to act in, and on behalf of, the “common good.” We accept that as fact in such things as the military, highway systems, aviation safety and other infrastructure needs.

Health care is an “infrastructure” need. When people are denied access – for cost or any other reason – they will cease to contribute to that “common good.” They will, instead, become economic and costly drains on that “common good.” If we agree we need government to defend ourselves as a nation – if we agree we need strong government to provide the economic and vital support infrastructure to make this nation successful – we need a common government guarantee of personal health. We’ll never truly achieve the first two guarantees if we continue to disregard the third.

If you have a workable concept for a non-political solution to our out-of-control health care problems, step up, my friend, and demand the podium. If you don’t, then rethink the concept of “single payer” and the concept of why government exists in the first place.

It will come. Bet on it.