Archive for February, 2020

The real importance

Author: admin

I took a tour the other day. Out to Luke Air Force Base, about six miles from my house as that mythical crow flies. Might not be important to you at the moment but, humor me. Read on.

Luke is our nation’s main training base for pilots flying F-16 fighters and the newer F-35’s. The F-35 is a single-seat, stealth aircraft. Twin engines with afterburners and, probably, the loudest plane in the USAF inventory. Pilots from at least 18 nations have been – or are being – trained at Luke. To qualify, training takes at least a year. Sometimes, more. Buy an F-35 and you train here. No matter the country.

The F-16’s’ and F-35’s fly over our house almost daily. If landing in the usual pattern, the noise level is low. But, if the wind shifts to the Northeast, as it can do, the afterburner-takeoffs can rattle windows and wake the dead. It’s that loud! And, remember, our house is about six miles away.

During the tour, I stood on a catwalk outside the control tower – about 150-feet up. Two F-35’s took off about 200 yards away. The noise level was the worst I’d ever heard. And I spent nine years in the Strategic Air Command so I was familiar with aircraft noise. Even the B-52 with eight engines doesn’t come close.

On the base, there’s a large concrete block building housing several multi-million-dollar virtual reality cockpits for both aircraft. The F-16 is a two-seater so an instructor can eventually fly with the student. But, the F-35 seats only the pilot. So, on that first flight, the trainee had better get it right! Hence, a year of practice.

In another building, we learned about parachute rigging – both for the pilot and for the aircraft. Drogue ‘chutes are used to slow planes at touch-down if the runway is shorter than those at Luke, which are two miles long. The same young airmen also prepare and package the most complete survival pack I’ve ever seen. Even an inflatable life raft the looks like a huge shoe. Packed, it’s no bigger than football.

We learned ejecting from the F-35 at 700 mph shrinks the pilot’s spine a half -inch. Permanently! If he/she has to do a second bailout, it’s another half-inch shrinkage and the pilot is removed from flight status. Period!

Oh, and one more thing. The helmet each pilot wears is custom-made for that one person who will wear it for the balance of his/her career. And, it costs – wait for it – $500,000+. Each one! Covers the entire head and face. Computers inside. Heads-up displays. Wearing one can be like living in another world. But, it works!

Maybe the best part of the tour was meeting TSgt Cantu. Short stature, wearing the most bulky fatigues I’ve ever seen. Her long, black hair tied tightly in a bun under her fatigue hat. The fatigues were shapeless. As the Sergeant said, “The Air Force doesn’t want a girl to look like a girl.”

Sgt. Cantu retired last Friday – three days after our tour. It was learning her story that made the tour memorable.

When she graduated from high school 24 years ago – like me 66-years ago – she had no idea what to do with her life. College wasn’t affordable, good jobs were scarce and she had no goals. So, like me and hundreds of thousands of others, she joined the Air Force. 1996.

Over those 24 years, she was stationed in England, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Iraq. Promotions and new responsibilities came. Life experiences were learned. Travel, housing, health care and other military benefits accompanied her experiences. Pretty good life.

Oh, and she studied for – and received – a BA degree. And, currently, she’s halfway through her Master’s program. All paid for by Uncle Sam. Accomplished by determination and motivated by goal-setting learned in her Air Force training.

For several months, she’s been interviewing with major corporations in the Phoenix area, looking for a spot in corporate communications. Given the personality I observed in those bulky fatigues and, noting the sincerity and the confidence of someone who’s developed her own career path, my money is on her. She’ll be just fine.

In retirement, she’ll receive about $1,700 a month retirement pay, access to free medical and dental care, shopping at the base exchange and dropping by the NCO Club from time to time while pursuing a well-paid civilian career. A pretty good life.

When I related Sgt. Cantu’s story to wife Barbara, her response brought me up short.

“When I graduated from high school in a small Idaho town 58 years ago,” she said, “women, at the time, had few career choices. Maybe nursing, teaching, being a secretary. Or, a stay-at-home wife and mom. That was about it.”

“But, what this young woman’s done is a great example of how women’s lives have changed,” she said. “Careers in almost every field are there. And, if women pursue those careers with the same determination as the Sergeant, their lives will be so much more fulfilled.”

And that, my friends, suddenly became the most important part of my interesting military adventure. The comments from my wise wife made the point. All the whiz-bang, Buck Rogers equipment I had been so impressed by suddenly took on less importance. What really matters is the young people. The ones who made a choice to learn, develop, travel and settle into a meaningful career.

Good luck, former Sergeant Cantu!

What we’ve lost

Author: admin

Being a member of the “senior population,” we’re faced with changes every day. New ways of doing things, new genius electronic devices, changing social morals and a host of others. Constant change.

As older folks, we’re often reluctant to accept the new because of a lifetime of doing things the “old way.” Fact is, in some cases, many of us continue the “old way” because it’s more comfortable, more sensible, familiar and – in many cases – more reliable.

Remembering clear back to elementary school, high school, even college, we were taught to believe in the flag, in our country, in government and, especially, in our President. It wasn’t an issue of right versus wrong. Those institutions – those people – were what made us great, we were told. We matriculated into adulthood with a sense of permanence, of truth, of believing we lived in a nation with worldwide credibility and acceptance.

Now – this day – I sit in my home, looking at the institutions of government and our President, not feeling confidence or comfort or even security as events of recent days play out. I clearly remember all those years of training – of believing – of fully accepting what I’d learned. And now, trust has been replaced with mistrust. Confidence has been replaced with skepticism. Comfort and security have been replaced with a sense of fear and anxiety.

The “representative” government we were taught to respect is no longer “representative.” It’s become an angry, divided place filled with men and women more concerned about continued employment than truly representing folks at home. We put them in office with the expectation they would respond to our civic needs and honestly conduct the affairs of national government.

Both houses of Congress have become so angrily divided there seems to be no way of bridging the gap or to expect members to return to their original responsibilities in the foreseeable future.

In the House, one party, with an advantage of 20 or so out of a total membership of 435, managed to find the President guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and narrowly passed a bill of impeachment.

But, in the Senate, in the “trial” prescribed in the Constitution, 53 of the 100 members voted to have no witnesses or documents upon which to fairly render an honest verdict. That was followed by 54 members voting to acquit without witnesses or documentation. Fifty-four out of 100. Case closed. Justice denied. They acted despite taking an oath “before God” as they were sworn into office and a second oath “before God” to conduct a fair trial and to render an honest verdict.

Now, we have a President unrestrained. A President who has, on many occasions, talked of being “President for life” and who’s conducting the affairs of state as though he were a dictator.

He is defying laws and the Constitution. He’s abandoning or demolishing laws and regulations enacted to protect the environment, assure even-handed immigration policies, opening sacred and protected lands to developers and fossil fuel companies. And much, much more.

He has admitted to repeatedly lying to Americans about affairs of state – most notably conduct of his “personal representative” and issues regarding Ukraine. He’s lied under oath. He’s lied in countless interviews. He’s violated laws dealing with national security. He’s caged at least 55,000 children taken from parents who crossed our southern border seeking protection from violence in their homelands. Now, we are told at least 7,500 of those children have been adopted and will likely never again see their birth parents.

We seniors grew up in the security that government “of the people, by the people and for the people” was ours. Many of us fought in wars believing those words and thousands have perished believing the same.
We were taught government was created to serve the people. That government would protect us, provide security, care for our needs and assure liberty and freedom for all.

Now, it seems, government has become, not the servant, but the master. In many instances, government has become a threat to our freedoms. Its power and reach are now in the hands of people determined to act in their own self-interest to, as the late Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus put it, “Rape, ruin and run.”

We’ve got members of Congress who lie, cover their own backsides, travel worldwide on our dime, conduct affairs of state in secrecy and some who won’t even meet with constituents. Voters.

I remember well the John Bircher’s and other conspiracy crazies of the 50’s and 60’s who railed against “big government” and found conspiracies behind every tree and bush. “Nut cases” we called them then. A lot of ‘em are gone now. But, I can’t help but wonder what the few remaining “nut cases” think of current federal affairs

I’ve lived through 13 presidencies, disagreed with several while developing a life-long interest in politics. Disagreed, yes. But, feared none. Until now.

Some very respected voices have warned our Republic, as we know it, is in danger. And, should Trump be re-elected, several have predicted it will take generations – if ever – to recover the national government and institutions we’ve all lived under.

Our institutions are failing us and some have actually become something to be feared.

And, I do.

Just thinking

Author: admin

Well, that certainly was “the week that was.”

Two – count ‘em – two political disasters. A guilty president walked and a state Democrat primary fell on its – er – face.

I’m not a Romney fan but, give the devil his due. He showed guts and conviction while the rest of the Republican sycophants just puckered up and planted kisses on Trump’s backside.

Of course, not 24 hours later, the guy who walked, pounded Romney and House Speaker Pelosi at – of all places – the National Prayer Breakfast. Can you imagine what the attending men and women “of the cloth” were thinking as Pelosi sat eight feet away at the same head table? What went through their religiously-trained minds as Trump berated Romney for voting his conscience and because he took an oath to God?

Trump is not “the devil incarnate.” But, his multiple, oft-proven “sins” make him deserving of “dishonorable mention.”

Trump will exact his vengeance on Romney and others he sees as traitors or “Democrats-in-sheep’s-clothing.” Being “cleared” by Congress of solidly proven, muiltiple crimes, while ignoring the permanent stain of impeachment, he’ll spend the next 10 months ranting as the dictator-wannabe he is.

As for the Iowa disaster, the whole miserable experience could have been avoided if Democrats there would come into the 21st Century and run the effort as so many other states do. The “caucus” method of trying to pick a winning candidate by people playing “Red Rover – Come Over” derives from many years ago when people in small towns held town meetings to accomplish some common goal. Even deciding political issues and picking candidates.

When it comes to national elections, I’ve long believed something that seems to offend people when I suggest it. And it’s this.

We need a national election system as opposed to 50 states running this way and that with varying processes and widely varying outcomes. There needs to be some uniform process that results in realistic results.

A lot of folks get their backs up when you talk of doing something on a national basis. Well, when I was a private pilot, I was licensed and flew under uniform federal regulations rather than individual state laws. It worked. Many services and occupations live with national rules and standards and they seem to do alright. Industries like airlines live with uniform national – and even international – laws and regs.

The end result of national elections is a national office holder. Why can’t such elections operate under national laws to assure accurate, national results? Let the 50 states go their 50 different directions with whatever state election processes they choose. But, unify national elections under federal election laws for federal purposes.

And, another thing: voting by mail.

We did so in Oregon and we do so now in Arizona. It’s great! No lines. No waiting. No trips to some polling place. You get the ballots, voters guides and even postage-free mailing at home. Take time to make your important choices. And, with your free voter guide, you may wind up making more informed choices.

Some folks like polling places. They like hearing “Suzie Smith has voted” announced by poll workers. And, that’s O.K. You can still have polling places but you can have fewer of them. Cuts some of the costs of elections and means using fewer volunteers.

My feelings about uniform national election laws leads to another topic we need to address: updating our Constitution. Our technologically operated country is still tied to a document written 244 years ago. Can you see any successful businesses running on 244-year-old policies?

I’m not suggesting we abandon the principles of the original Constitution. Those principles of honesty, freedoms and purpose are timeless. But, remember. In 1776, it was a two-day horse trip from Philadelphia to Washington. Now, it’s two-hours by train or one hour by air, And long-rifles, back then, were muzzle-loaded and it took roughly two-minutes to reload. Now, an AK-47 can fire 600 bullets in a minute and it takes just 10-seconds to insert another clip.

We are a world that faces change – often massive changes – every day of our lives. We relearn. We adjust. We “change with the times.” But, we cling to the Constitution as if Moses brought it down from that mountaintop and it’s “God’s immutable law.” It’s not and it’s time we recognized that.

The Constitution is often referred to as a “living document.” It is and it should be. And there are very real concerns – very real – about a Constitutional Convention that could be a disaster. But, we need to either bring it into the 21st Century as the “living document” it is or we need to write a new one in keeping with the nation we live in.

We see nothing wrong with changing a law when problems develop. We amend or write new ones as conditions and practices change.

Don’t stone the messenger! I’m just suggesting.

And, I’m also suggesting – no, demanding – we send a new President to address the next National Prayer Breakfast. One that knows why he/she is there and acts accordingly

Anger and citrus

Author: admin

“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office. …
(Sen. Marco Rubio 1/31/20)

Taken alone, that hideous piece of convoluted “thinking” can be brushed off as the ignorant rumination of a nutcase devoid of political savvy. Taken as the cloak chosen to hide behind by 50 other Republican U.S. Senators on a vote leading to impeachment of the President of the United States, it’s ludicrous.

When the vote total on the TV screen showed 49-51 to prevent witnesses from being called to testify on Trump’s incredible misuse of power, the founder’s creation of a balanced governmental structure was deliberately attacked. Further votes this week will – at least for now – shift that power to the executive and render congressional and judicial authority to minority roles.

Disappointed? Yes! Angry? Yes! Mad as Hell? Absolutely!

Over a lengthy lifetime, many of us develop protection mechanisms to maintain our sanity and avoid – as much as possible – responding to outrageous events irresponsibly. We try to avoid immediate striking out or venting our extreme disappointment in destructive behavior.

My personal “shield” against irresponsible reactions at those times is to focus on one or more diversions. Like citrus.

Outside my office window there are three trees loaded with ripe citrus: oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. On the other side of the yard, a loaded lemon tree. Hell of a change for a Pacific Northwest boy used to pines, sagebrush, apple, peach, pear and cherry trees.

There are no individual fences in our neighborhood. So, standing in the backyard, I can look a couple of hundred yards away and see dozens of citrus trees with loads ready for the picking. Or gleaning.

First year here, when everything was ripe for picking, I tried to do so. Big, big mistake. Unlike other fruit trees, citrus tree branches are hard, unbending and sharp. Though the citrus may be ripe, it’s almost as if the trees are intent on keeping their burden.

After a couple of minutes – and learning citrus fruit require a strong, two-handed pull to separate fruit from branch – my arms were bloody up to the elbows. I realized, then, why the Hispanics who trim and shape such trees during the year wear long-sleeved shirts – even when the temperatures reach into the 100’s.

So, we contacted a local church with members who form volunteer gleaning teams each Spring. For a donation of about $40, a team of 10-15 will descend on your lot, spread tarps under each tree and clean them all in about 20 minutes. Like the Hispanic landscapers, they’re dressed for the task. Long sleeves. The church makes some extra money and the fruit goes to several local food banks. Win-win.

As a couple of lifelong Northwesterners, Barb and I are still not really acclimated to desert living. But, when you can go out in your own backyard, pick oranges, juice ‘em and learn what real orange juice tastes like, well, you can’t do that in Pocatello.

Using thoughts of picking oranges, tangerines and grapefruit to keep from thinking about how 51 Republican Senators purposefully destroyed, at least for now, the balance of government in our nation?


Thinking of how to care for citrus trees for a year and enjoying the bounty they produced this week instead of thoughts of what our dictator-wannabe will attack and destroy in the next 11 months with nearly unchecked, ill-gotten power?


Trying to assuage thoughts of how 51 self-serving politicians opted to vote in a manner undercutting 244 years of observance of laws based on the U.S. Constitution to keep their own assess in office rather than do their “sworn” responsibility?


Attempting to understand how 51 people can swear to God in their acceptance of elected office, then swear to the Almighty again to be impartial jurors, then violate both sacred oaths out of fear for one man proven to have repeatedly broken many laws under which we live?


I feel anger. I feel a sense of loss. I feel betrayed. I feel scorn for 51 oath-takers who violated oaths and the duties of their offices who, likely, will never face voter retribution. Like Risch and Crapo.

There are 51 MAGA hats in the Senate. And one on a head from Florida who’s trying to justify himself by turning truth, law and his sworn oaths into jibberish.

But, at least for now, I’m going out to pick a couple of oranges and then enjoy something really good.

And Marco Rubio can go straight to Hell!