Archive for January, 2021

Big events

Author: admin

So, we’ve had a big week!

A new President sworn in. I got my first COVID shot.

These several days later, I’m still wrestling with which was the bigger event. I suppose, for the sake of unity – “unity” being our new national watchword – I suppose for the sake of “unity,” the interests of the nation are more important than my tender left shoulder.

The Biden day in our lives was most certainly a keeper. Make that KEEPER. We’ve never seen an inaugural done quite that way. Instead of a hundred thousand or two filling the Capitol Mall, we, the nation – Covid wary and weary – were electronically treated to a show unlike any previous presidential inaugural. A show of necessarily limited “Pomp and Circumstance” stolen by a 22-year-old young woman, wise beyond her tender years, who spoke critical truths.

President Biden’s speech – uncharacteristically short for the former Senator – didn’t ring with new, soaring words. Word like “Ask not what you can do for your country…” It was a pretty plain old speech with words of few syllables so more of us could understand without running to our favorite dictionary.

But, that’s just what we wanted and needed. Plainly written. And plainly spoken. No “pie-in-the-sky” promises. No challenges to a “new and better land.” No “Mission to Mars” in our lifetimes. Just sleeves-rolled-up, “here’s what we’re gonna do.”

The line that spoke to me was, “We must stop this uncivil war.” Good play on words because it’s a fact and because we must.

I’m sure most of us believe Biden’s a good man. He is. But, he got to the Oval Office with about 70-million or so Americans voting the other way. Why they voted the other way will keep historians and barflies busy for years.

Bottom line is, many of those folks are going to fume for a long time, making many in their families angry at upcoming Thanksgiving dinners and other family events. They’ll keep their right-wing peace until 2023. By then, they’ll have – in the words of a treasured friend – found another “Great Pumpkin” to rally around. And the rest of us will, again, be treated to their venom, ridicule and lies.

But, that’s the hard core. Seems to me, those looking for a new leader may be more in number than it presently appears. Politically “squishier” than the core believers. They may just watch Biden and crew to see how things pan out. Some could even be Democrat voters by that time. Much depends on what Biden gets done and some of their issues getting resolved.

There’s also a large pool of voters – some undecided, some disaffected, from both national parties – some looking for something new who could be tapped if things calm down. If they see a return to normalcy in their lives. And some better financial conditions for us regular guys.

Time Magazine has a beautiful cover page this week. Shows Biden quietly looking out an Oval Office window. Behind him, a telephone receiver thrown on the floor – piles and piles and piles of bundled paper stacked everywhere. Even a desecrated gold curtain. More than any other examples I’ve seen, it summed up the size of the mess Biden and his crew have to clean up before they can seriously get down to work. Of course, some of the folks at Faux Neus were pissed. Made fun of their former White House “correspondent” they say.

Those who expect Biden to do this or that quickly have to realize, before dealing with the future, he’s got to clean up – or clean out – the toxic mess of work that hasn’t been done for at least four years. And, at the same time, he’s got to start building those new political relationships he talked of during the campaign. Without those, as we’re already seeing, nothing’s gonna happen.

Now, back to my tender shoulder. It was a tough online experience to get that shot. Someone on Facebook said her “81-year-old father would never have figured it out.” Well, I”m 84 and I did. But, it wasn’t easy. Arizona’s Department of Health, etc. put up a horrendous website with “triggers” going every direction. Most were dead ends. Emails came back promising phone calls or other personal contact to answer questions. Nothing of the sort happened.

We have a shot site a mile from us. But, we had to drive 23 miles to be served. And the site of the vaccination was just as bad. Serpentines to drive everywhere with more than one going nowhere. Nurses were pleasant enough and the shot was just a little sting. But, the whole damned thing – online to shot line – was Rube Goldberg personified.

It’s my fervent prayer someone with a little organizational expertise takes charge and reduces the wasted motion and energy by the time my second shot is due two weeks hence. Then, we have to do the same for Barbara when it’s her turn. Twice.

But, wherever you are, PLEASE get yours as soon as your age group is called. Do the paperwork in advance and get it filed out for your appointment. The only way – THE ONLY WAY- we’re gonna kill this Covid animal is getting those shots. Both of ‘em. And I don’t want to hear any of this “anti-vaxer” B.S..

Do it as soon as you can. ‘Course, it won’t give you that special two-major-event-week I had. A presidential inaugural and my Covid shot. Some people just have all the luck.

Under seige

Author: admin

We’re a nation under armed siege. That comes as news to a lot of us. But, more than news, it’s a hard fact.

It sort of “snuck up” on us. And, it didn’t really seem so until January 6th and the attack on Congress by an armed mob. A mob, it seems, that was more organized and focused than first thought.

But, it’s not just there. It’s in nearly all the 50 states as legislatures begin meeting. Local and state police have been called to provide extra security at your nearby statehouse. While still debating whether to meet in person or by remote electronic means for health reasons, the new threats of possibly armed confrontations have taken over as topic #1 for members nearly everywhere.

We’ve already seen some skirmishes in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and elsewhere. Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and more. Local folks – and some not so local – showing up with assault rifles and grenades.

The thing that bothers me most about all this – scares me most – is some members of the bodies being attacked seem to have been in on it by skirting security measures and opening doors for attackers. In nearly all such cases, the believed traitors have been Republicans.

And listen to the loud bitching by some in the same party about the new security measures on Capitol Hill. Some GOPers refuse to go through the new metal scanners and deliberately go around them. It’s gotten so bad the Speaker of the House is talking about fines for the miscreants of $5,000-10,000. And higher.

In nearly all instances, the attackers heads are filled with fantasies, irrational conspiracies, Qanon B.S. and whatever Hannity and Ingraham said last night on Faux Neus. Mental junk and mental poison.

In D.C., some of those storming the House and Senate chambers were organized and, as the FBI has discovered, wanted to capture certain members of Congress. “Capture and kill” some hollered.

This is serious business. And it’s getting “seriouser” by the day. So, how to stop this craziness and lawlessness before it gets worse? Because the usual measures won’t work in these unusual times. I see at least one dangerous – and possibly – unconstitutional answer.

When a farmer wants to cut off the supply of water to his crop, he closes the head gate. When someone is snake bit and wants to be sure it doesn’t happen again, he cuts off the head. In other words, you go to the source and kill it.

When “free speech” is twisted out of shape – when “free speech” is weaponized, it becomes our enemy. It becomes something it was never meant to be. Lying, perverted, hate-filled, evil fantasies, deliberate perversion of our “mother tongue” were never meant to be either “free” or “protected” speech.

Now, I’ve spent much of my adult life defending the 1st amendment and free speech. I’ve defended some hateful, rotten speech. I’ve done so while firmly holding my nose at times. I’m a firm believer of the right to free speech.

But, the common denominator here is not “free speech” but speech meant to pervert – too enrage. Meant to create followers, “believers” as it were. Meant to delude minds not centered in reality. It’s meant to bring disparate and often lonely people together with other such folks. And, as we’ve seen on January 6th, its speech meant to arm – to attack – to kidnap.

The I-Net is one “feeder” offering gathering places and unedited, unchecked, totally biased and totally dangerous “free speech.” The private companies that make such speech available must step up, must muster the guts to police and stop the spread. If they don’t, the freedom they enjoy – that other forms of communications don’t – can quickly be cut short by the FCC and Congress. Firm regulation of the unregulated.

Companies – other private and public companies – must stop sponsoring the I-Net platforms, hate radio and lie-filled TV if they continue as is. They – and their advertising companies – need to make certain their dollars are not spent providing hate speech – racist speech, ignorant speech meant to dis-inform and inflame. Money – or the discontinuance of it – speaks very loud.

But, perhaps the hardest thing that must be done deals with Hannity, Ingraham, Limbaugh, Carlson, News Max and the other purveyors of deliberate lies, twisted facts and hate-mongering. They – and others of their ilk in local broadcasts – must be silenced. I know. I know. First amendment and all that. But, again, hate speech is a deliberate attempt to pervert free speech for other purposes. Lies and damned lies, fact-bending, deliberately distorting reality and stoking hate among willing-but-dangerous followers is not free speech.

England has a “media regulator” called Ofcom. It enforces broadcast rules on impartiality and accuracy for all news broadcasters. Those who breach the rules are censured or fined, putting pressures on radio/TV operators to play stories fairly straight.

We need constitutional scholars to gird up for a very important review of “free speech.” NOW! There exists already a list of court-approved banned speech:” pornography, blackmail, threats, etc.. Hate-mongering, deliberate lies, demented fantasies passed off as fact and much, much more need to be re-examined for inclusion.

Desperate times = desperate measures.

Wither thou

Author: admin


So, we’ve had an act of sedition or insurrection, vandalism, a death being investigated as homicide, a cop killed, members of Congress being forced to flee or hide-in-place – some seen wearing gas hoods as they ran – theft of significant government property, an undermanned police force overrun and what could accurately be described as an act of attempted government-overthrow underwritten by our President.

Just another chapter in the life of one Donald James Trump? Or, possibly, a forced end to his four-year-term and unrelenting acts of Napoleon-like activities of his presidency?

Hardly! And, a day after the attack, we have a national poll showing some 48% of the Republican Party supports what happened. (IPSOS/MSNBC.) Can you believe that? Nearly half of a long-established, national political party is O.K. with acts described above.

Much has been said/written about all that. More will be. I’ll let the national folks sort it all out. They’ve got larger budgets.

But, here are a few thoughts on all the above. Quite possibly, you can add the end of some young political careers. You’ve got a Senator from Missouri, for example – one Josh Hawley – who’s attached his fortunes to a series of bad decisions by leading the charge to throw out some legitimately cast votes of a few – if not all – states.

On the day after the riot, it was interesting to hear the words of his political mentor – former Senator John Danforth of Missouri – who ran interference for Hawley in the 2018 Republican primaries and helped him beat former Senator Claire McCaskill in the general. Said Danforth, 24-hours after the Capitol attack, about his decision to mentor Hawley, “That was the worst decision of my life.”

You can also add the widely-circulated description of Hawley by another Republican – Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Just two words: “dumb ass.” Words not heard much in public by one member of “the world’s greatest deliberative body” to describe a peer. But, “dumb ass” it is. Imagine those words from a Frank Church or a Len Jordan.

But, let’s lift our eyes to the horizon and consider this. The 261 Republicans in Congress are at a dangerous point in their political careers – danger they’ve spent years courting and building. Do they continue to support Trump unquestioningly as they did last year during the impeachment hearings? Or, will they have a “come-to-Jesus-moment” after which they take a hard turn toward the middle of the political landscape?

Our last national vote had some 70-million – more-or-less – Republican souls backing Trump. In other words, listing to the far right. But, subtract those voting “no” on Biden, and those who may be heart-sick, if not downright outraged, by the Capitol attack. And, maybe a few million more who looked at the stock market and didn’t want to upset anything.

My guess is, if that same national election were held today, the outcome might be significantly different. We Americans don’t have much empowerment over the daily activities of our members of Congress. So, we sort of “accept” whatever happens over a two-and-four-year political stretch and use our vote – our legally permitted hammer – to make ourselves heard via the ballot box.

Given Trump’s comments and tweets since the Capitol attack about “staying active” and being “supportive” of those who hew to his crazed line of thought, he’s not going away. For now.

Which creates a problem for the national media. After leaving office in disgrace – to nearly everyone but him – how much coverage does the media give Trump in the future? Like it or not, he’s not going anywhere. He’ll just be getting his mail at a different address. Remember, the media bears some responsibility for DJT’s public persona, giving him, at times, a larger-than-life character status.

So, as he starts bloviating from Mar-A-Lago or Trump Tower, as a former President of these United States, how many minutes does he get nightly on the tube or inches of type in the papers? Aside from the certain legal problems he’ll have, will there be viewer and reader interest in his “comings-and-goings?” Some hard choices ahead for producers/editors concerned with ratings and circulation.

As for the rioters, will those arrested be treated with “kid gloves” as has been the case for decades after D.C. protests? Or will judges, there and around the country, use maximum sentences as the various laws allow? Will the courts send a message to those sick souls that national patience is at an end? One can only hope.

It’s not just politicians who’ve reached a time of political decision-making. Each of us is at that same moment, as well. What kind of governance do we want? How do we want to deal with miscreants who chose violence? What about Hannity/Limbaugh/Beck/Ingraham/Proud Boys/Qanon/Deep State and all the rest?

How will WE deal with them? That’s where you and I come in.

It’s winter here in Arizona. Daytime highs in the 60’s-70’s. Nigh time lows in the 40’s-50’s. No rain. Ever.

This is the time of the “Birds.” Snowbirds.” Except this year.

As I walk Skeezix each morning – or as he walks me – we note the number of empty houses. Lots of ‘em. Many are the second homes of “Snowbirds.” Under normal conditions, those vacant dwellings would be filled with folks from the Dakotas, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Wyoming and Utah. Also, from Europe and elsewhere.

Not now. Covid-19, you see.

There are several related reasons for the reduced number of birds” this year. First and foremost, Maricopa County has been one of the virus “hot spots” in the nation. To date, about 380,276 cases – 7,200 deaths – 26,500 hospital admissions. In a county of some four-million souls. As I said, “hot spot.”

So, a lot of the “Birds” have cancelled the usual trip South. For good reason.

Also, many from up North usually drive down. But, Canadians – and we have a lot of ‘em – have a problem. They can’t drive across the border because of restrictions on travel in both countries. And, if they fly, many have no car/SUV/pickup for local transportation for 4-6 months here. It’s one thing to own two or more residences and, apparently, quite another to rent a vehicle for up to half-a-year.

So, one way or another, COVID-19 has hampered folks in several countries and has cut into the local economy which is almost entirely dependent on tourism. And the ‘Birds.”

We, who live here year-round, view the “Birds” with mixed emotions. Some are friends. Some brighten up the neighborhood with new faces.
In normal times, they certainly add numbers to activities at our multiple, supremely equipped recreation centers and on the dozens of golf courses hereabouts. A real boon to local economies.

But – they also overcrowd our roads and highways, create long lines at almost every venue, bitch about why they weren’t “consulted” when some sort of changes are made to the community in their absence and fill our roads with even more golf carts. Or, as we call the ones equipped to go 35-miles-an-hour, “neighborhood cars.”

Sometimes, you can feel a little tension between the “Birds” who flit back and forth and those of us who “tough it out” in the Arizona summers when the mercury hits 115 or so. But, for the most part, we’ve found them to be good neighbors, happy not having to deal with low temps of 20-30 degrees below zero as happens often in Dakota-Minnesota winters.

In our unincorporated community of some 29,000 folk, we have more than 130 clubs or hobby groups who, for the most part, use our four excellently equipped “rec” centers. Yep, 130+. You get five or six people interested in something and you, too, can charter a club.

When the “Birds” are here, most clubrooms are full of people doing God knows what. Some of their output is very professional. It could be sewing, quilting, leather craft, woodworking, sheet metal or just about anything you can dream up. A lot of it goes to a “village store” for sale.

We have a computer club that’ll fix your clogged up machine for free. The auto club has a world class garage, paint shop and tools only the pro’s use. Wood workers have a first-class facility with anything needed to make just about whatever you can imagine. Large or small.

Snowbirds are an integral part of it all. But, this year, not so much. I see neighbors going into empty “Bird” homes to check to see if everything’s O.K.. Lines at the gas station and the grocery stores aren’t as long as usual for January.

So, between international travel restrictions and some of the highest local COVID-19 numbers in the nation, we’re not seeing the influx of people normal for this time. Yes, some of the “birds” come from other countries.

So, “Birds” haven’t “flown” South this Winter in the typically large numbers. I’d guess those in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the rest are grumbling about the snow and cold they usually escape.

But, to be honest, the rest of us are enjoying the peace and quiet.