Archive for September, 2020

Fearful and afraid

Author: admin

I’m afraid. No, in truth, I’m scared.

Please don’t take those words – or the ones to follow – as a rant. They are not so intended.

I’m 84-years-old. Born and raised in the Northwest. I’m a Protestant – veteran of a hot war – a cancer survivor. I’ve enjoyed some successes in life and overcome my share of grief and setbacks. While life has not always been great, it’s always been good.

I’ve been involved both directly in politics and on the fringes. I’ve watched good people – and some not so good people – pass through Congress and the White House in their normal terms of elective office. Though there have been occasional bumps in the road – a war or two – one presidential resignation – some flare-ups of overheated and overrated political egos – my life has never really been directly affected. Until now.

We’ve heard our misbegotten president hint that, if he loses the November election, there may not be the usual, peaceful transfer of office from one administration to the next. I’ve listened to him repeatedly claim the election will be a fraud, “fixed,” run by Democrats, and that legitimate mail-in voting is both “illegal” and “unlawful.” They aren’t. He’s threatened to use our own government against us, tear-gassed people lawfully assembled in our streets, overseen violence by his supporters and, in ways both open and subtle, used many government buildings and other public venues for his own enrichment.

He’s seen by millions as a pariah, masquerading as “leader” of the nation. When attending a solemn, official ceremony, he’s booed and heckled by a crowd of mourners. He’s openly jeered at other public appearances. He’s been asked not to visit certain cities and states. He is, to many people, a fraud, a crook, someone whose stolen millions of dollars from government and private sector activities.

No president, in memory, has talked so openly about having more than the Constitutionally allowed two terms in office. None has told millions of his supporters he’s somehow “entitled” to a third term because, he claims, he’s “been so badly treated.” As if respect unearned has automatically been denied.

I’ve never seen so many elected members of a political party swim silently through a river of malfeasance with none openly resisting such egregious behavior by a president. The Senate’s Republicans – and the House’s 154 of the same party – have given a “pass” to a man who’s violated our Constitution, broken many of our laws and openly operated as a wrecking ball damaging government institutions and undermining public confidence and respect for governance. A “pass.”

Now he, and the heretofore silent Republican Senators, are trying to quickly shift the judicial and philosophical balance of the U.S. Supreme Court. A shift that could result in depriving 30-40 million Americans of health care. A shift that could overthrow previous black-letter law allowing women to be in charge of their own bodies and their own reproductive systems. A shift that could destroy the necessary balance of legal parity necessary to assure equality under our laws.

If that happens, and if Democrats sweep both Houses of Congress and the White House in the upcoming election, there’s already talk of adding two new members to the present nine justices to re-balance conservative-versus-liberal thought. Whether that’s the right and proper thing to do is an open question.

Then there’s the virus. COVID-19. The current president and his political minions have turned what necessarily should be a medical issue into a political one. In the process, they’ve sown confusion, lies and half-truths into millions of minds. Deliberate medical procedures, such as vaccine development and testing, have been subjected to political posturing that directly affects all of us. The virus – and how we deal with it – means life and death for the nation.

No one can say we don’t live in fear of being infected. But, because of the political lies and perversions, millions of Americans are not treating the issue as one that brings the possibility of death. They’re continuing to live as though the coronavirus doesn’t exist. It does. And their way of life threatens all of us. So do the anti-vaxxers who won’t take a medicine that could save their lives. Most of us know friends and family members who’ve died or been infected. For some victims, recovery may mean a lifetime of health problems.

Our new “normal” – whatever that turns out to be – is a long way away. The virus has us sheltering in our homes, changing our entire economy, putting some 50-million Americans out of work, changing the way we travel, eliminating congregate worship for all faiths, altering our lives in ways we haven’t fully realized. And, in truth, has changed people’s lives in all nations.

Now, researchers tell us coronavirus is morphing, becoming new stains we must identify and conquer. So, will we ever have a meaningful and effective vaccine against this menace? Or, will we continue to live our lives in fear, hiding behind our masks, maintaining our separations from family and friends as new versions of COVID-19 confront the medical world?

After a long life, normal has disappeared. The retirement to leisurely live out our last years has gone. Much of what we’ve expected – planned for – has disappeared. The confines of our home have become the new, smaller world.

So, I, and many like me, are frightened. Afraid. Yes, scared.

On one hand, the virus has made us fearful. It’s an unseen but ever-present factor in all we do. We can’t see the unseen threat to our lives. We’ve got no lasting defense. Our freedom to move about, to travel, to join together in community, to use the market places – even to worship together – all have been curtailed or denied.

On the other, we’re watching unparalleled attacks on our system of government – on the institutions created to serve our collective needs. We’re seeing an intimidated national political party cave in to the whims of a wannabe dictator by ignoring their oaths to God to “protect and defend” our Constitution. And a large population unwilling to listen to truth or educate themselves with facts.

We know much of our national security has either been gutted or ignored. We’re witnessing laws and regulations meant to protect us and our environment destroyed in the name of private economic gain. We’re watching politicians devoid of intellectual integrity become fodder for a president also devoid of both. We’re seeing an uncontrolled – and uncontrollable – president attempting to change our national political structure into something autocratic and personally controlled.

For those of us who’ve lived long lives within the familiar boundaries of citizenship, respectability, and regard for a well-coordinated national government, these are frightening times. What could happen to our beloved country in the next 120 days or so is a specter unlike any we’ve ever faced.

I don’t feel alone or isolated in my fear. And I am afraid. Very afraid.

Face it. We may eventually survive COVID-19. But, two things are certain in our future.

First, COVID will be with us from now on. No matter what eventually surfaces in the vaccine market, it’ll still be there. Just like a lot of other viruses. We’ll learn to live with it just as we have colds and other common varieties of flu. It’ll continue morphing into new strains and we’ll rely on science to keep pace. We’ll invent new security methods of keeping it at bay. But, it’s not going away.

Second, the world as we knew it only a year ago will never return. When we get through this ordeal – and we will – it’ll be a different world.

Take jobs, for example. Thousands and thousands of sales jobs are gone. And, in many cases, they’re not coming back. During our sequestration, we’ve turned to the I-Net for many of our regular needs. From new shoes to grocery shopping to health care to buying cars. It’s going to be a whole new deal.

Take cars. Carvana is one of those places where cars are bought (and sold) on the I-Net. One of their locations is a few miles from us. Currently, they’re advertising to fill about 100 job openings. Sales will be handled by a new call center. Other staff will be delivering and picking up vehicles in the designated coverage area. Fewer sales personnel, no mechanics. Fewer admin and other support folks. And fewer brick-and-mortar car dealers.

With many major retailers taking out bankruptcies or going out of business, same story. Floor salespeople, fewer or gone. Admin support staff, smaller or gone. More brick-and-mortar stores closing. Entire malls vacant or up for sale. The retail apocalypse long predicted because of e-commerce appears to have arrived.

Business-to-business jobs are disappearing because of automation. So, more sales jobs lost. Office and administrative vacancies will not be filled. In the last decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, jobs most likely to be replaced because of new technology were not in manufacturing, as predicted, but in office and other support positions. As companies – large and small – downsize and turn to more technology, fewer people needed. Those jobs not coming back.

Take higher ed. Look at the shift to the I-Net. At our house, Barb has students all over the world trying to get advanced degrees. Online. She teaches for two universities. Higher ed institutions are designing many more online offerings. They’re not getting as much revenue support from local and state governments, so they’re turning to the I-net. Fewer professional ed staff, fewer support staff, lower costs per-student, reduced housing costs by going electronic. We may even see mergers of institutions and some historic campuses close for good.

How about “work-from-home?” Lots of companies have found certain jobs can be done with the I-net, resulting in lower overheads. Working moms can often skip costs of babysitters while spending more time with their kids. Also, no commuting costs. For thousands of parents, it’s a “win-win.” Employers can cut spending in reduced admin costs and lower overhead with less support staff.

How about air travel and hotels? Well, don’t look for any return to as many jobs as pre-COVID. Again, I-net. More travelers using the I-Net for their meeting needs. Lots of folks who used air travel for conferences and other group meetings are doing just fine with electronic gatherings. Business travel, according to those Census Bureau folks, found pre-COVID bookings accounted for about 70% of income for airlines and hotels. Look for a post-COVID world of fewer hotel and airline jobs.

Fewer travelers. Less need for so many airplanes. Again, a few miles from us, airlines are moth-balling hundreds of planes. And there are more such locations in five other states. United will cut 17,000 jobs next month. Delta another 12,000. Other airlines? Who knows? Will United and Delta and all the others be buying new planes when they’ve got hundreds they already own that can be quickly returned to service?

So, what happens to Boeing, Airbus and other aircraft companies? And their thousands of suppliers? Job cuts in the thousands.

Non-residential construction has already taken a hit. The old I-Net, again. With nearly all sections of the economy using I-Net and other assorted electronic conveniences, less higher ed construction, less retail and mall building. In addition, fewer cleaning companies and security folks.

Look for governments – from local to the feds – not only not rehiring for already vacant positions, but continuing hiring freezes and layoffs. They, too, have adjusted to current conditions and, using the I-Net and new software, working from home will likely continue, less building space will be needed and other adjustments will reshape the future.

Our world has always evolved. As we’ve aged, we’ve adjusted to the “new” as necessary. But, COVID hit us and our environment HARD! For many of us, our world just stopped. No eating out. No movies. No sports events. No church. No social events. No large family gatherings. Just “shelter-in-place” and stay there. Restrictions on our borders and nearly no international travel. Having to sequester for months. And, a lot more.

But, outside our homes, massive changes have already happened with more to come. Lots more. Our forced adjustments to almost everything in our lives will continue. How we individually accept and adjust will say a great deal about who we are and how we’ll face the future. Who’ll survive and who won’t.

These are dangerous, threatening times. But, we’ve faced dangers before in wars, pandemics, hurricanes, etc.. We’re still here.

That’s the really good news.

Setting a bad example

Author: admin

So, now we know. Our incompetent President lied to us about COVID-19. Well, Boy Howdy! D-U-H.

The difference between those lies, and non-stop torrent of others in the last four years, is nearly 200-thousand people have died and millions of others are likely scarred for life or will have continuing health problems. Because he lied.

At the end of my life – four score plus – it grieves me to write the words “our incompetent President.” There have been 13 Presidents in my years. And not one – not one – could have been called “our incompetent President.” Some were better than others; some worse. But none could be called “incompetent.”

Or a liar. Oh, there have been lies in all those administrations. To be sure. But, nowhere near the avalanche of pure verbal B.S. we’ve experienced since 2016. Not even close. DJT is the hands-down winner!

His lying and law-breaking ways have, in my opinion, unleashed a violent strain of anger, rage, in-your-face behavior that’s been just under the surface of our society for a long time. We’ve seen occasional outbursts. But, nothing like recent events of protests, vandalism, thievery, deliberate violence and outright murder – much of it by self-proclaimed followers of Donald.

“Proud Boys,” Prayer Boys,” KKK,” “Sons of the Confederacy,” “Antifa Killers” and individuals like 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, the shooter in Kenosha, WI. All have burst into our consciousness because of their violent behavior, public militance and their attempts – often successful – to turn legitimate protests into near-riots.

Then, as if the senseless murder of two innocent Wisconsin protestors wasn’t heinous enough, the aforementioned President gave his personal support for Rittenhouse that may become the cornerstone of his trial defense.

Trump’s lies, law-breaking and occasionally putting himself above the law, can be tied to lots of things. Take that September 10th game between the Kansas City Chiefs and The Texans. At the end of opening ceremonies – and after playing the National Anthem – the field announcer called for a silent moment to honor those fighting racism in this country. The players joined arms and stood quietly. But, after about 10 seconds, the boo’s started. The boo’s. During a silent moment honoring those “fighting racism?” Yep. Did you check the MAGA hats?

In Portland. Hundreds of peaceful protestors in the streets. Suddenly, some 600 Trumpers – many armed – drove pickups and other vehicles into their midst. They sprayed chemicals on surprised marchers. They clubbed a few. And beat a few. All the while waving guns and dozens of large “Trump-Pence – 2020” flags that looked official. But, in large, red letters across the bottom of all those flags was printed “Stop the Bullshit.” Real “Trump-Pence” signs expressly printed for a law-breaking attack on innocents.

That charge had to be planned weeks before. Professional printing of those banners had to be ordered way in advance. The “Prayer Boys” were from out-of-state. Their demonstration permit was for another Oregon county about 20 miles south of Portland. Still, there they were: breaking laws, attacking innocents and doing so in the name of our President. Our President. A guy who has not discouraged such violence and who has, in fact, openly “excused” such acts. In Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, Oregon and elsewhere.

Here in Arizona, we’ve got a GOP guy running for sheriff who has 38 years of service in the Maricopa department. On the surface, he looks proper and imposing in his official uniform, a large badge and military-style crewcut. But, his campaign signs are the tipoff.

Across the top, they read “Enforce our laws.” Across the middle, “Turn back the mobs.” Now, Maricopa County, which has four-million citizens – has had a few street protests. Yes, we have. A few arrests – very few – but no deliberate “mob” scenes. Fact is, the largest “mob” gathering around here was when the last Costco store opened. And the average age of that “mob” was well into the 60’s.

But, this veteran cop has taken a page from Trump and Joe Arpaio (for whom he worked many years), made up his own “facts” and prominently displays his lies on our street right-of-ways. He’ll likely lose. We already have a good sheriff.

We’ve got two GOP representatives – both Trumpers. One denies the existence of Coronavirus, saying it’s a lie created by Democrats and tells his followers to throw away their masks. The other decries immigration of any type, wants borders sealed “from sea to shining sea” and is also a virus denier. They’ll likely be re-elected.

Look at the Trump “rallies.” Listen to the crowds. Hear their chants which are often racist. Watch their demeanor. Trump’s lies at such events often have racist undertones. The crowds of Fox-watchers have refused reality and have no factual basis for refuting what he says.

And, what he says, supports their distorted view of reality. They often leave the events roused and armed with his lying speech confirming their own warped thinking. Too often, they’re angry and feel threatened by societal changes they don’t understand and are unwilling to accept. They openly distrust the very government that, in many cases, makes a monthly deposit in their bank accounts.

Been to a theater, a concert, a ball game or other large venue lately? Is crowd behavior what it was five or six years ago? Have you seen more instances of road rage? Do your kids respond properly to your family rules or are they more defiant? Do you get angry more often? Does it seem there’s more violence in the news? That’s because there really is more violence. In the news. In our streets.

We’re living in a new environment, very different from what we knew just a few years ago. COVID-19 has affected normal behavior in nearly all phases of our lives. It’s isolated us. Made us more fearful. More tentative. It’s changed the way we shop. The way we do business. The way we educate our kids. We’re wary of crowds. Relationships have been changed by the virus and, often, by more aggressive behaviors by those we come in contact with. Life is very different.

While Trump can’t be blamed for our involvement in a worldwide pandemic, he certainly can be blamed for his lies to all of us, his denial of fact, his deliberate and willful rejection of international intelligence when faced with reality. As Nero is said to have “fiddled while Rome burned,” Trump has rejected the responsibilities of his high office as he spends 10-12 hours daily watching Faux “news”

His behavior, his domination of the airwaves, his distorted view of reality, his personal support of violence and violent people, his all-consuming lies about everything – all this has permeated our lives. Even WE are different. Truth is often hard for us to find. We’ve been under constant “attack” from the top of our own government.

It’s up to each of us to “counterattack.” November third.

Good cop/bad cop

Author: admin

UP FRONT: I support law enforcement. Period.

In my media years, I spent a lot of time around cops. Even made a few friends. Assigned to hang out at the “cop shop” for several years in different cities, I learned a lot about the professional – and often personal – lives of those who make up city, county and state police agencies.

On the whole, as professionals, most were highly trained, extremely loyal (especially to each other) organized, effective and – most of the time – performing varying assignments with attention to detail.

Some emphasis has to be placed on two words in that description: “professional” and “loyal.”

Cops often have an “us-versus-them” attitude in performance of their work. Spending some years doing “ride-alongs,” getting shooting range practice, sitting in on daily shift-change briefings, being an observer of many arrests and even times of violence, it’s easy to see why a lot of cops feel that way. From their perspective, “us-versus-them” is real.

As for “loyal,” that’s real, too. In performance of day-to-day duties, being “back -ups” when other officers are in dangerous situations, learning to quickly “partner up” when they face violence with another officer they don’t know – loyalty is basic to survival. It’s basic to being a good cop.

Having said all that, there’s this. As a reporter, covering a string of arsons in a small Idaho town for several nights, I got lucky by photographing an off-duty sheriff’s deputy setting a barn on fire. The serial arsonist was a cop.

During a “ride-along,” I saw a cop shoot an unarmed drunk. I watched a detective throw a belligerent teenager up on the hood of his car and pound the kid’s head into the sheet metal until he was unconscious. I watched a cop throw an unarmed woman to the ground and kick her repeatedly until he was pulled off. By me.

There are, I’m sure, many, many other examples of poor thinking – criminal cop conduct – unnecessary violence – going too far. In other words, yes, Virginia, there are bad cops, too. And we’re seeing some of them in our nation’s streets.

Then, there’s this.

Have you watched the over-the-shoulder video of the Jacob Blake shooting? I have. Probably two-dozen times. Enough times to shake my trust in policing.

Watch it again. Closely. Blake was jammed between the open driver’s door and the side pillar. Trapped tightly. He was in the grip of two officers – two – one with his gun drawn. Blake could have had a machine gun in his car. But, crunched between the door and the car frame – in the firm grasp of two cops – he couldn’t have reached any further. So, from a distance of less than two feet, a cop put seven bullets in his back! Seven!

Watch it again. Physically trapped and in the grasp of two cops. Stopped! Then the shots. Seven!

No one can accurately guess what was in the shooter’s mind the second(s) he pulled the trigger. Maybe even he can’t remember. Not now, anyway. A subsequent review board will likely take his badge.

One of the problems with firing a bad cop is they usually go to another branch of law enforcement – in their community or somewhere else – and hire on. Two reasons for this. First, training is expensive, especially for smaller communities and that previously trained man or woman can go to work on day one. Second problem, finding men and women who have to be trained has to do with recruiting laws. The one most cited is any drug use, no matter now small. Even some pot 20 years ago. One time. Knocks out some good people.

Even with an extensive background around cops, I’ve got to admit, that Jacob Blake video turned my stomach. In cop lingo, it was not a “good shoot.” It was damned near murder – unjustified murder. A bad cop with a gun who panicked.

Then, our nation’s “chief executive” went to Kenosha, WI, to meet with the principals in the shooting. Really? He ignored the Blake family to meet with city officials and law enforcement. Yes, Virginia, there are bad presidents, too.

Thanks to one Donald J. Trump, other situations around the country that may have resulted in a few disorderly conduct arrests escalated into killings. What might have been peaceful, lawful and quiet marches have been turned into riots. Marches for this-that-or-the-other rightful grievances have attracted unidentified federal “cops” – or mercenaries – courtesy DJT. Also armed Trump supporters. Our right of peaceful assembly has been abridged – wait for it – by our President. And our Attorney General.

Anyone who thinks the hundreds of “Peaceful Prayer” invaders who showed up in downtown Portland without outside “support” isn’t paying attention. Their parade permit was for Clackamas County, not Multnomah. They were supposed to be no closer than 25 miles from downtown Portland. Did you see the foul-mouthed DJT-Pence 2020 flags flying from many of those several hundred vehicles? They didn’t just buy those at Wal-Mart. Semi-automatics, open carry, paintball guns, chemical sprayers. Some planning went into their “invasion.” And some supplying, as well.

Many months ago, Portland marches were peaceful affairs until some grifters and vandals joined in. Vandalism and thievery occurred. Apparently unable to seek out and arrest the miscreants, police presence was doubled and tripled in the faces of subsequent marchers. As the criminal activity continued, “peace-came-to-shove” and arrests of lawful marchers lit a fuse. Things got more militant and Trump – with the able assistance of his “personal” Attorney General – added some gasoline – those armed and unidentified feds – and, sure enough, things got hotter.

The escalating street problems in Portland and Kenosha – and elsewhere – are really political problems. Rather than let locals deal with locals, Trump and his minions have inserted themselves onto the scenes and have fanned smouldering ashes into full-blown fires. Now he – and only he – can be the “law and order” president who brings further federal resources to bear to restore peace. A peace he has deliberately shattered.

Bad politics and a few bad – or panicked – cops share much of the blame for problems we’re seeing in the streets. The thousands of good cops, doing their daily duties, don’t get the recognition or the notoriety. Neither do the politicians who are trying to mediate and solve problems.

But, Trump and the cop who fired the seven bullets into Jacob Blake’s back make the front pages and the 11 o’clock news.

My faith’s shaken a bit. But, the “bad guys” won’t prevail.