Archive for September, 2019

The complicit

Author: admin

At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? When does a lack of responsible, legal action become malfeasance in office?

And, the next question: are Republicans in the U.S. Senate guilty of both?

The evidence is overwhelming that Senate Republicans have become Trump’s personal sycophants, unwilling to execute the Constitutional powers given them. You have to wonder if that inaction has made them complicit in his oft-illegal conduct.

Clearly, the most dangerous name in today’s political world is Mitch McConnell. Aside from stacking literally hundreds of federal judgeships with unqualified Trump nominees, he’s personally throttled all House-passed legislation that’s come to his desk as Senate Majority Leader. He’s the dam holding back the flow of responsible progress on climate change, defense, budgeting, minimum wage, worker safety, voter protections and much more.

McConnell represents the terrible misuse of power granted his position under the rules of the Senate. For him, the elections of 2016 and 2018 continue. With a slim margin of just four votes, he has beaten back any reasonable attempts at bipartisanship and exacted a terrible toll of division and hatred. Strong words but apt.

More than that, he’s used treachery and willful suppression to keep the muzzle on those in his party who might otherwise chose to work in the interests of the country rather than support the arrogance of McConnell. There are some who’ve cautiously dared to put forward some thoughts of responsible legislation. But, he’s kept the lid so tight nothing gets past his round file.

There are others of McConnell’s ilk, such as Jim Risch of Idaho, who have clear Senate responsibilities but who’ve failed miserably. Risch, chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has ducked every opportunity to stand up to Trump, stop some of his egregious activities in foreign affairs, take some serious role in the conduct of international diplomacy and undertake serious attempts to mitigate some of Trump’s effects on world matters.

Senate Republicans have, by inaction, made Trump more powerful and more dangerous. Our Constitution provides clear checks and balances between Executive and Legislative branches of federal government. Under McConnell, and typified by Risch’s lack of leadership in foreign affairs, Trump has stomped around the world breaking treaties, reneging on relations with our historically significant partnerships with other countries and made enemies of world leaders in the process.

Thanks, in large part, to McConnell and his GOP cohorts, we have operated for the last couple of years, not as a Republic, but as a demagogic authoritarian state. We’ve watched checks and balances ignored while a federal judiciary has been loaded with incompetents, historic treaties abrogated, federal agencies ransacked, valued professionals forced to resign, seen protections of our environment rolled back or obliterated, watched lobbyists write laws, watched Trump’s “friends” in powerful Cabinet positions forced out by corruption and scandal.

And more. Much more. All the while, McConnell and his 51 Republican minions have stood by, watching the willful destruction, seeing the damages to responsible governance attacked and witnessing damages to institutions that will take decades – if ever – to restore.

This has nothing to do with the traditional two-party system of government. Not a thing. But, it does have everything to do with one man’s irresponsible, ignorant behavior and another’s willingness to damage a governmental structure for his own personal power.

So, again, the question. At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? Are Senate Republicans guilty of both? The answer has to be yes! The length and weighty evidence is damning.

It’s going to be up to the national electorate to pronounce judgment in 2020. Some of the guilty will, no doubt, live to further avoid future obligations another day.

But, some, like McConnell, are on the ballot next year. And, some, like McConnell, have opposition. Worthy opposition. Very qualified opposition.

If punishment isn’t extracted at the polls, if those in office who’ve stood by and callously watched without action are not disavowed, then we, too, may share their complicity.

I’m done forgiving

Author: admin


Most of us, I suspect, have lived our lives usually honoring those wise words. With the possible exception of serial killers, terrorists, school shooters or a Trump presidency, that old maxim holds pretty true. Few of us have led such exemplary lives that we can’t use a little forgiveness now and then.

But, something’s happened in the world of politics to push such advice to intolerable limits. “Erring” has become so despicable that “forgiving” is damned near impossible. Yet millions of voters keep buying in.

There were times when politicians, asking for our support, knew that support carried with it a high level of expectations of proper behavior. And, if one turned out to be a miscreant – or worse – they paid the penalty of being ostracized by the electorate and were most often shoved off to some lonely, deserted place. They paid for bad behavior with the loss of both job and our respect. Today, not so much!

In 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart was an odds-on favorite to be the next shining star of the Democrat Party. Good looking. Reasonably middle-of-the-road outlook. A good bet for future political success. Until 1987. Media reports began popping up linking the married Hart to blond – and single – Donna Rice. Hart responded with the expected denials. Then he said something to the national media that was really stupid. “If you think I’m messing around, follow me and see how wrong you are.”

Follow they did. And right they were. Hart was photographed living the “single” swinging life with Ms. Hart. Career ended on a boat dock and he rightfully disappeared from public life.

Over the years, a few other “bright lights” suffered the same two-timing fate as Hart. Some cheating on their spouses. Some with criminal activity. Some with misusing political funds. And who can forget the night a prominent Texas Senator frolicked in a D.C. fountain with his mistress – Fannie Flagg. Career ender.

Today, it seems, nearly anything goes and, whatever deviant behavior an office-holder prominently exhibits, often seems to have no negative effects on his/her career.

Mark Sanford is exhibit one. A few years back, while governor of South Carolina, he lied to his staff, the media and wife about disappearing to “hike the Appalachian Trail.” What he really did was fly to Argentina to shack up for a week with his mistress. He was “forced” to take a break in his political life. Then, he resurfaced, ran succesfully for the U.S. House and is now a Republican candidate for President. Wha Hoppen?

In Arizona, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of ignoring a federal court order, is trying to get his old job back. Two years ago, he wanted us to send him to the U.S. Senate. We didn’t.

Arizona also has two members of Congress found guilty of behaving badly with state campaign funds. One was subsequently elected to the Senate and other, after losing that Senate race, was appointed to the same job voters said she shouldn’t have.

One of Florida’s senators was elected governor – then to the Senate – even after being nailed by the feds for ripping off federal health care dollars in the millions. Last year, California re-elected a member of Congress even though he and his wife had been indicted for using campaign accounts for luxury living he obviously couldn’t otherwise afford. Before him, they repeatedly elected his crooked father to the same office several times.

Two members of Congress are enjoying the high life of national politics even as both are under current indictments for insider trading. Both re-elected AFTER the charges were filed.

In Idaho, former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, forced out of office for misusing public dollars, did time in the slammer. Now, he’s running for mayor again. Former State Senator John McGee of nearby Canyon County fame, forced out of office for improprieties with female staffers and stealing a car. Now, he’s running in a new election.

“To err is human.” I got that. But, in every field of endeavor, there’s a whole lot of “erring” going on. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, the clergy, politicians and hookers. We’ve got that “erring” thing down pretty good. And, in many cases, we also do pretty well in the “forgiving” department.

But, politicians have pushed the “forgiveness” envelope all out of shape. Scott, Rorabacher, Sanford, Coles, McGee, Arpaio, McSally, Trump and a bunch of others. They “erred” and kept right on going. Public trust be damned!

Those who’ve “erred” and seemingly ignored the consequences of such behavior will not be getting my vote in 2020. Nor should they be getting yours.

Whither thou the F-35

Author: admin

So, Boise is still wrestling with the issue of whether the U.S. Air Force should put F-35 jets at Gowen Field on the South side of the Boise Airport. Good luck with that.

We can speak to the F-35 issue with some personal experience since we live about 10 miles in a straight line from Luke Air Force Base outside of Phoenix. Luke is the training site for nearly every nation that we’ve sold F-35’s to. Pilots come here from all over the world to learn how to handle what I’ve been told is one tough aircraft to fly. Currently, Luke has about 100 F-35’s with a full compliment of about 180 due in coming months. Imagine those numbers at Gowen Field. Not hardly.

Our home is nearly under the downwind landing approach to Luke on the Northeast as are thousands of others. So, noise levels aren’t nearly what they are on the takeoff side which is to the Southwest. Most of the time. Occasionally, when prevailing winds shift, we get a taste of takeoffs. That’s when the windows rattle. Not often. Just once-in-a-while.

Boise’s F-35 problem is largely one of its own making. With some terrible assistance from Ada County.

The first airport in Boise was on Boise State University campus. Old dirt strip where Varney Airlines started, grandfather of United Airlines, we’re told. When growth forced re-locating, the plateau on the edge of the desert above town was chosen. So far, so good. And it worked as planned for a long, long time.

But, not now. And that’s where the failures of the City of Boise and Ada County come into play.

As Boise and the county grew, each allowed residential and commercial growth at both ends of the runways, except for the required minimal space for aircraft operation patterns required by the FAA. Soon came cries from folks bitching about aircraft noise. What the Hell did they expect? As subdivisions grew so, too, did the airport with demands brought on by that same growth. Didn’t anyone in local government see what was coming?

Because of increased civilian/military demands, airport facilities expanded. As a former pilot who flew out of there, considering safety and growth values, I’d argue not much more activity can be crammed into that space. Something’s gotta give.

In the Phoenix metro area, with huge residential and commercial growth around the Luke AFB area, government got it right. When we bought our house two years ago, we – and thousands others in about a 20-mile-square area – signed a legal closing document that told us about Luke, expected noise and other conditions of an active flight area. A very active flight area. No future bitching!

Given prevailing winds and angle of the runways at Luke, we really don’t have a problem. But, as you drive past the other end of the runways – to the Southwest – you see no subdivisions for miles. Some industrial and farming allowed. But, no homes.

The dual jet F-35 uses afterburners on takeoff. That about triples normal noise. Once aloft, afterburners are shut down. But, if you’re under planes at takeoff, it’s a bitch. I’d hate to live Northwest of Gowen for 10 miles. Add to that, more often than not, there are multiple takeoffs at the same time. F-35’s usually fly in pairs or groups of four.

F-35’s should operate out of Mt. Home AFB, some 40 miles South and West. Not Gowen. But, Boise/Ada County officials would come unglued because of expected short-term economic loss.

So, you’ve got the physics of multiple jet aircraft operations in an area with thousands of residents under the flight path or you’ve got some sizeable fiscal loss of those same operations.

From outside, looking in, Mt. Home is the place for the F-35’s. Period. That aircraft is going to be around for a long, long time. Just as B-52 bombers will likely fly for 100 years with occasional engineering updates, the F-35 will last for many years with the same sort of re-engineering. It’s a multi-function plane, tailored for USAF, Navy and Marine use. Some fly normally. Others jump straight up. You’re really talking about an aircraft platform with several configurations. Much cheaper to update than to go to a whole new aircraft.

Length of service of the F-35 is not often discussed. It should be. Putting F-35’s at Gowen is not a short-term proposition. Once the base is reconfigured for them, they’ll be there a long time.

Future military flight operations should be at Mt. Home where the area is set aside for such. In time, it’s likely the National Guard at Gowen will expand and need more room.

Bringing the F-35 to Idaho should be decided on the basis of needs of the military and safe aircraft operations, not the local economic situation. Put ‘em where they belong. Out there.

Oh, and one more thing. Last week near Tucson, an A-10 Warthog – like those at Gowen – accidentally fired a missile. Accidental, yes. But that happens. No one hurt. But, what if it has been off the Northwest end of Gowen Field. Oh, say near Five Mile Road and Amity. Just sayin’.

Politics and religion?

Author: admin

A man-of-the-cloth friend asked my advice recently.

“Wait a minute,” thought I. “We supplicants are supposed to be the ones asking his advice when we have issues.” And I wasn’t prepared for his question.

“What do you think about a church study class dealing with politics and religion,” was his query? “I know both are touchy issues.”

“Touchy?” No more than cooking steak for a Hindu picnic. But what surprised me more than his question was the quickness and firmness of my response.

“Not only do I think you should,” I said, “I think it should be part of the faith programs of all churches that feel a responsibility to work in the worldly community of their parishioners. Not so those same parishioners are taught some obligation to vote or think a certain way, but so they can resolve issues of religion and politics that most of us have but are unsure how to reconcile.”

Then, in days following our discussion, I ran across an article by Rachel Held Evans who writes professionally about issues of faith and politics from an evangelical perspective.

Armed with a bundle of recent religious surveys, Ms. Evans concluded many young adults are turning their backs – especially on evangelical churches – because “they perceive evangelical churches to be too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

She wrote, “I point to research showing young evangelicals often feel they must choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a set of rules when these same millennials long for faith communities in which they’re safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.”

Ministers wearing jeans, a fancy coffee shop in fellowship hall, larger worship bands and other current “style changes” are not what she means. She points out millennials were raised on advertising and rock bands and have a “sensitive B.S. meter.” It may be those “style changes” are some of the very things causing an exodus among the young.

Evans says many of her peers are being drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem unpretentious, unconcerned with ‘being cool’ and are refreshingly authentic. “We want a truce between science and faith,” she wrote. “We want to be known for what we stand for – not what we’re against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the Kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single (political) party or a single nation.”

One more thing from Ms. Evans: “Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from 40-somethings and grandmothers – Generation Xers and retirees. Their messages are clear: ‘Me, too!’”

Just after reading her latest work, the collective worlds of modern Christianity and politics collided full-on for me as Pope Francis stunned many Catholics and much of the rest of the world. When asked about gay men in the priesthood, he responded “Who am I to judge them?” That must have put some new cracks in the old Vatican walls.

Just as many Americans are feeling their recent votes have brought them a political world they weren’t expecting, some are also re-examining recent religious swings away from mainstream churches. They’re looking a second time at the newer, hipper, more flashy services that mask an unforgiving base of rigidity mixed with similar unforgiving political themes. They’re finding churches of the “you’ve-got-questions, we’ve-got-answers” approach to Christianity are more exclusionary than inclusive.

Many years ago, we were told of old-line Baptist – and even Mormon churches – where congregants were told to seat themselves on one side of the aisle if they were Democrats and the other side if Republican. I never experienced that but heard the stories too often to discount them.

A lot of more moderate, mainline clergy are hesitant to introduce the subject of politics in religious study classes. For good reason. Some have either been handed their walking papers after doing so or found themselves with a congregation splintered along political lines. If you wear a turned-around collar, mixing the two can be a career-changer. It shouldn’t be.

But, as Ms. Evans writes, “Millennials want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in care of our world and becoming peacemakers. You can’t hand us a latte, go about business as usual and expect us to stick around.”

At the end of any hour-long worship service, congregations walk back out into the other world where they’ll spend 167 other hours before meeting again next week. For one hour. Many will either find their belief system challenged by a world of politics or their politics caught up in their beliefs. Some will try to reconcile the two – some will simply be confused.

Without trying to convert votes like souls, churches have a responsibility of spirituality of citizenship for the family and body as they do for preparing us for life everlasting. We turn to religion for comfort, for perspective, for truth, for relief, for sustenance, for meaning, for the outreach it provides to make us more well-rounded creatures of God.

But, our lives are lived overwhelmingly in a secular world. If churches don’t help us understand and become more comfortable with our surroundings and decisions in that world, they’re avoiding a responsibility to help us become better individuals. We don’t need to be told whom to vote for or what to vote against. We don’t need to be told what Jesus would do. We don’t need to be given lectures about political issues.

If approached in an open, moderate manner – if reasoned discussion can make us better informed – if acceptance of other’s views can be allowed as equally important as our own – if new associations can be made between our American systems of governance and our faith to create more informed, more intelligent participants – the worlds of religion and politics can be very compatible. And we may be better for the experience in both our worlds.

A unique skill

Author: admin

The night Donald Trump was elected, I said to Barb, “Before the end of his term, he’ll have pissed off everyone he comes in contact with. Every one.” Being prescient isn’t one of my strong suits but three years of evidence seem to make the case.

From individuals to entire nations, he’s angered them all. He seems to have a real knack for it. But, there’s significant evidence of a growing “push back” of sorts taking place.

Here’s one. General James Mattis. Former Defense Secretary, lifelong Republican and someone whose 40 years of military service have been honored by just about everyone. Except you-know-who.

Those who’ve followed his career know Mattis is Marine down to his camo shorts. A professional who knows intimately – and who lives by – the chain-of-command. An order is given and his answer is always “Yes, Sir.” Even when Trump criticized and belittled him both during and after his Secretary of Defense posting, Mattis kept his military bearing.

But. Mattis has written a book about his career and includes some hints of how he feels about Trump. Not out-and-out blatant criticism but you get the idea when he writes “I found him to be of limited cognitive ability.” And several other verbal jabs.

Yet, while Mattis is holding his tongue – for now – it’s likely we’ll be getting a fuller picture soon. “There is a period in which I owe my silence,” Mattis said, referring to his post-Trump days. “It’s not eternal,” he added, “And it’s not going on forever.” Boda Bing! Boda Boom! My guess is about December, 2020.

Another case. Trump criticized Faux Nuews. Told his followers, “They’re not working for us” and suggesting that a new and “more supportive” media network was needed.

Now, many of us figured Faux would knuckle under and “come to heel.” But, no. Fact is, several of the major Faux players got up on their hind legs and told Trump they weren’t “working for him.” They got downright indignant and claimed media “impartiality” and told him they’d report the facts as they happened to be.

Putting Faux Nuews and the word “facts” in the same sentence has been – and likely will continue to be – an oxymoron. But, at least they took a stab at journalistic professionalism for once and bit back.

Still more evidence. The exodus of Republican members of Congress.
Lot’s of ‘em. Many angry at Trump and tired of defending him. The reasons vary but the flight is real. Going into the 2020 election, Democrats needed a net gain of four seats to take the majority in the Senate. That is, keep all they have and add four. Seemed out of reach. Now, not so much. Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Georgia, for example, seem winnable. How ‘bout that?

And more. As Trump has fired former “best people,” many have not just shuffled off to deserved anonymity. Several have written fiery books and others have taken to more respectable media to tell “the inside story” of White House chaos. Some are even making big bucks on the “chicken dinner” circuit telling their tales to other Republicans. Yes, Virginia, Republicans!

And this. One night last week, little Donny Junior went to Kentucky for a well-publicized speech to the GOP faithful on behalf of the one-term, right wing governor who’s in a surprisingly hot re-election fight. Kentucky Republicans in Mitch McConnell’s home state spent heavily to promote Donny. Even rented a 7-thousand seat auditorium. And when Donny went to the mike, he looked out on a throng of 200. Yep, 200! In Kentucky?

And more. National farmer’s organizations are coming unglued over the beating they’re taking from Trump. The same guy they backed so heavily in 2016. The tariffs – real or promised – are killing ‘em. Along with a couple of years of bad weather. You can see the bib overalls on TV, night after night, swearing both at-and-off Trump. Lots of rural vows of “Never again!” Who’d a thunk?

And those examples are all domestic. We haven’t talked about other entire countries. Some who don’t even want him to visit. The President of the United States persona-non-grata. Media – and many politicians overseas – are skewering anything Trump related. And, in those few countries still trying to keep up appearances, heads of state are plotting ways of dealing with Trump. Or going around him.

Yep. Real push back. Not to say ol’ Donald will be a one-termer just yet. With Russian election meddling and worldwide computer hacking, 2020 results could go sideways. And, as we learned to our sorrow in 2016, there’s the Electoral College to deal with. He’s already lost the popular vote once and won. Could it happen again? Who knows?

Trump’s continual back-stabbing of once loyal staff, supporters and entire countries continues unabated. But, we’re seeing more people openly turning on him and biting back. Or staying away. We’re seeing once valued fellow-travelers taking open stands of opposition.

Still, there’s that one last bastion standing with him. Republicans in Congress who’ve every reason to dump him but lack the guts to do it. He’s still got the most dangerous politician in America – Mitch McConnell – riding shotgun. At least for now.

But, as said at the outset, Trump has this one unique quality of turning friends into enemies. So, a guy can always hope!