Archive for October, 2021

From the pew

Author: admin

Barb and I attend a local church that’s going through the trials and tribulations associated with our COVID pandemic. In our case, we’re talking about United Church of Sun City, AZ.

For several months, the sanctuary was closed, with services – such as they were – recorded and put online. For we elderly, not born with a keyboard to reach out to our electronic world, such a transition was a poor substitute for the real thing. But, with so many “substitutes” in nearly all normal life activities these days in a COVID world, we made do.

Now, UC of Sun City is dealing with the same problems most churches across the nation face in this time of declining congregants in what we hope will soon become the “post-COVID” era.

For example, masks or no masks? Make masks mandatory for entrance or leave it to individual choice? Remove masks when seated or leave them in place for the entire service? Have masks at the door or turn people without coverings away? No masks? Limit the number of worshipers?

In reopening the sanctuary, what new – and distanced – seating arrangements are necessary? Open every other pew? Rope off half of each pew? How best to create a welcoming service environment without making congregants feel uncomfortable while observing the added recommended spacing requirements of the CDC?

Then, there’s the choir. Normally, we have 30 or so singing in the Chancel area. Singing in close proximity to others has been confirmed as an excellent disease spreader. Reduce the number of singers? Space them out on both sides of the Chancel? Sopranos over here – tenors over there? No choir at all?

Hymn singing. Keep hymnals in the pews or remove to keep the best sanitary conditions. The pew Bibles? Keep ‘em? No, out with both.

And communion. Worshipers stay seated and elements brought to them as usual? Worshipers come forward for communion by intinction? Worshipers bring their own elements? Our church opted for the last choice with congregants asked to bring a grape and a cracker. That’s what we did. As you’d expect, it just wasn’t the same. But, we were together.

How about coffee hour following worship? Keep the convivial process going? How about those ubiquitous homemade cookies? Keep ‘em coming? And the social chatting and “catching up” time. Keep it up?

In our case, we decided to stop the coffee hour. Not a popular decision but a necessary one. For some of us seniors, used to the conviviality of coffee hour, that may be the biggest change. When the preacher says his last “Amen,” what’s a guy supposed to do? No coffee hour!

And the office. Do you keep it open the normal hours? Do you make it a “No Visitors” area? What about those endless committee meetings? For some, a time of catching up with others over the ever-present coffee.

As with most other churches, we’ve come up with reasonable answers for all the necessary changes. Took some time, but we did it. Actually, we’re still doing it.

The Cathedrals and mega-churches around probably faced many of the same issues. Maybe more. But, the backbone of Christianity today is most likely the small church – the neighborhood church like UC of Sun City. Close to the congregants. Nearby to provide all the services expected. Nearby to keep lines of communication open and people connected.

There was a time when being a Christian could mean imprisonment or even death. There was a time of gladiators. And lions. And whips and chains. And stake burnings. Those who stayed true to their beliefs – stayed with the church despite the dangers – found their reward in an open door – in a gathering of like souls – in the certain redemption of Jesus Christ.

So it is today. In our time, it’s a pandemic that’s killed millions around the world. It’s the invisible presence of a potentially life-taking virus called COVID. A disease that cares not if you’re a Moslem or a Jew or a Hindu. Or, a Christian.

UC of Sun City, AZ, and all the other churches and denominations, have been wrestling with questions of how to keep members – neighbors and friends – safe from today’s enemy. From today’s scourge. Little by little, leaders have begun the process of returning to “normal” – if normal there be. Small steps to accommodate the threat but to do so in a new and safer environment. Small steps. Steps to lead us back to where we’ve always been.

Your church has been doing the same things. Taking many of the similar steps. Working to welcome you back just as we have.

Sundays at 10am. It feels better already.

It ain’t over

Author: admin

Arizona’s “fraudit” count is over.

The Cyber-Ninja has gone where numerically-challenged Cyber-Ninja’s go. Republican Senator Karen Fann has quietly faded to her chambers to avoid a nosey media. The count has been cussed and discussed ad infinitum by all sides – with varying numbers and sources. Four-million voter forms have been returned to Maricopa County election folks. The five-million-dollar show is over. Time to move on, right?

You are wrong, ballot breath!

This Arizona fiasco is simply “the gift that keeps on giving.” Even so, The Arizona Republic newspaper had to pry the newest paperwork out of legislative hands with public records requests.

Surprisingly, a third group of ballot counters has been quietly at work, finding the “fraudit” by the Ninja was off by more than 312-thousand votes. Also, the Ninja didn’t tally another 167-thousand mailed ballots in its five-months of work. And five-million-dollars spent.

This new 695-page report was produced by former Arizona GOP chair Randy Pullen and was supposed to provide a “snapshot” of the two-million ballots cast. Some “snapshot” at 695-pages.

The hand count numbers in THIS report reflect a 15-percent error rate when compared to the machine count sponsored by the Arizona Senate Republicans. That Ninja guy.

Vote counting professional Larry Moore of Boston-based Clear Ballot Group, said this is “proof the Cyber-Ninja count wasn’t real.” No kidding.

Moore is part of a three-person Arizona group called “The Audit Guys” which includes Benny White, a GOP data analyst and Tim Halvorsen, Clear Ballot’s retired technology chief. Taken together, these three carry a lot more weight when it comes to ballot audits.

The Audit Guys called the Ninja hand count a “work of fiction,” basing their statement that 17 pages extracted from the 695-page report showing a 10-percent error rate in the counting. About 200-thousands ballots.

As I said, the whole damned thing just “keeps on giving.”

Now, other states are trying to mimic the work done in Arizona. More millions of dollars are being picked from the pockets of folks who want D. Trump back in the Oval Office.

It would all seem ridiculous if somehow you forgot the whole damned scheme is the work of Trump and his lackeys to undermine public trust in future elections. That takes it from the realm of “ridiculous” to “damned serious.”

The 2022 off-year election is just about a year away. The disgraced and twice-impeached former President is already marshaling his minions with the continued claim he “is the rightful Commander-In-Chief” and “Biden lost in 2020.” He’s making libelous claims at the top of his voice as he tries to make us all think the upcoming election will be a work of fraud if “his candidates” don’t win.

And, in a handful of states where Biden’s edge in 2020 was close, the cries of “fraud” and “cheating” are already heard from local watering holes to State Houses. How many of these states will actually conduct some sort of “fraudit” remains to be seen. But, the more that join the farce, the more “regular folks” will hear about it and all the accompanying talk of election “irregularities.” Which there weren’t!

In some ways, what Trump is doing is attempting a verbal “coup.” He’s trying to get us to disbelieve voting outcomes when he doesn’t win. His thinking is, if he can get enough Americans to doubt the stability and honesty of a national election in 2022, he can return to the White House. Especially if the numbers in many states are close. And, he’s got elected Republicans by the dozens drenching themselves in his “unholy water” as accomplices.

I know, for most people, elections are some “far off” thing that doesn’t merit attention ‘til the week before. For many years, it’s been that way. It’s different this time. Dangerously different.

This “unindicted co-conspirator” and international con artist has about 20-25-million Americans listening to his every word. Right-wing hate radio/TV are making his lies seem real with their constant yammer of support. Those folks live in a world foreign to the rest of us. Their “reality” can cause them to be a force to be reckoned with at the polls and elsewhere.

We can’t turn our backs on these people – the Trump believers and voters. National media needs to keep up-to-speed on their comings and goings. We – all of us – need to remain faithful to our traditional foundation of truth, honesty and respect for our system of governance. Our respect for free and fair elections. And the validity of their outcomes.

Here in Arizona, our “fraudit’s”done. The Ninja’s gone. Peace reigns in the Valley. Except for the bilge emanating from right wing radio. A constant reminder of what could happen if we don’t pay attention.

A lack of permanence

Author: admin

A friend and I were lunching the other day, talking about this and that as friends will do. Discussions on any topic were fair game. Good guy.

One such topic was when he asked what was on my mind and I said “The lack of permanence.” I blurted it out. Then I expounded on it before giving it much serious thought. But, I gave it a lot of thought driving home. And since.

“The lack of permanence.”

For several years – and to this moment – I’ve felt anxieties, anger, a tendency to worry more about conditions and just a general unease. At first, I thought all these emotions – and more – were part of the aging process. After all, I’ve never been four-score-and-five before. And we aren’t born with a book of instructions to refer to as we go.

For nearly all my life, there’s been a sense of permanence, normalcy and order in nearly everything. Through all the troubles of this nation, we’ve survived, our living conditions normalized and our institutions stood firm. Some changes occurred and we adjusted. Returned to normal.

No longer! It just keeps changing and causing – in many – a sense of impermanence. A general lack of stability.

Take the USPS. You know, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor dark of night….” Permanence? Not under Louis DeJoy! Maybe the President can’t directly fire this guy who’s tearing our mail service apart. But, he can damn well fire the Board of Directors who keep the bastard in the job. Permanence? No!

Take public schools. Business as usual? Not since COVID, masks and “critical race theory.” Just consider the scholastic “wars” going on between school boards and angry parents nationwide. Some actual brawls over subject matter or vaccinations or just about anything. Definitely not permanence or the historic scholastic calm we’re used to.

Been shopping or dining out recently? Permanence? We tried to have breakfast out the other day. We were told we could be seated immediately but not served for an hour! Staff shortage in the kitchen? Quite likely.

Tried to drop off the family pup for a bath. Noted line from the back wall of the store to the single checkout. Poor management or staff shortage? Really doesn’t matter. That’s the “usual” in stores and other service business these days.

Church? Permanence? Ours didn’t meet in the sanctuary for months. Used the I-net. Now, meeting in person, more than half the seats roped off, no touching and masks highly recommended. No social time following services. Is that the church you remember all these years?

Car buying? Is it “business as usual” at the dealership? Not now. Inventory down to 10-12 cars on the lot. Prices at sticker. Or above. Shopping for cars online is the big thing. But, even there, sold-out or greatly reduced inventory. Chip shortage. Some dealerships closing. Try making a shop appointment. A week or two out.

Grocery stores. Same old shopping experience? Hardly. Many shelves empty. Short inventory. Fewer check-out stands open.

Personal banking? Some have closed lobbies. Others allow only two or three customers at a time if lobby is open. Staffing levels cut. Branches with four or five employees. In some, no loan officers. Business as usual?

Congress? Effective? NO! The political parties are so divided little is done while needs of citizens go unmet. Poll after poll shows where the nation is on urgent issues – jobs, infrastructure, foreign affairs – even abortion. But, none seem to matter to congressional leaders, as they ignore the will of voters who sent them to the Potomac shores.

Sense of permanence in government? Again, hardly. We’re running month-to-month paying our national bills with a total shutdown looming over our heads. We’ve got a national party hellbent on stopping any important legislation. Fractures in governance have made Congress nearly useless.

A new national budget, tailored to our needs, hasn’t been devised in many years. Pentagon spending so bloated even the military can’t conduct a complete – much less accurate – accounting for hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year. Spending completely out of control. And, for the first time in my long life, our military has lost two wars. Wars lost to people with no air force, no navy, no up-to-date military equipment. Yet, we spend some 800-billion-dollars a year on “defense.”

Government has lost touch with the people. At some state and local levels as well. The postal service is a mess with higher prices and poorer services. Our national treasury is running nearly on empty. Our vaunted military is in disarray and defeated. Civic continuity and comity are gone in many places. Institutions valued for generations are being challenged as never before and some have been rendered nearly ineffective.

Our world is unsteady in ways we’ve never known. If you, too, are searching for permanence and find it, please let me know.


Author: admin

A friend died a few days ago at the age of 73. Cause of death was a combination of ills of being a senior.

He was East Indian. Born in Kenya, where his father was posted in India’s diplomatic corps, though he lived much of his life in India and England. He was well-educated and was a successful businessman in England and the States. He and his wife, Nilini, raised two very successful – now adult – offspring who live overseas.

Though we met and started our friendship in Oregon, somehow, we found ourselves in Arizona years later. He, to own and operate a profitable business and me, to retire. Lived about 30 miles apart.

His name was Madhu Patel. In India, the name “Patel” is synonymous with “Smith” or “Jones” in this country. Lots of ‘em. The name originated among farmers and other agrarian folks centuries ago. I have two doctors named Patel and Barb has one. No relation.

Though Madhu was successful in business, he was a shy man. If you got to know him, he had a good sense of humor. He was honest to a fault. I found him to be a good friend. The kind of friend you could not see for months, then, when you got together, you just picked up where you left off.

So, why are we describing a man you probably never heard of? Because he lived. He was not a statistic! He was not just a number in someone’s record keeping of the comings and goings of medically-related outcomes.

Neither are the 680-thousand or so American dead. Victims of COVID. Each one a person. Each had a life that mattered to someone. Each was an individual in his/her own way. They weren’t just another digit on the national rolls of the deceased.

But, as the media reveals COVID-related deaths each day, that’s how it seems. Numbers. Statistics. Not flesh and blood. Not real.

I’d guess each of us knows someone who is/was a COVID victim. Someone who lived an otherwise “normal” life. Someone who mattered. To you. To many others. A Madhu Patel. A singular name with a real life. Someone who made a difference to others. Flesh and blood. Someone who was respected and cared about.

One thing that makes me so damned mad about the list of hundreds of thousands of COVID dead is a sizeable percentage made the list of their own volition, clinging to some excuse – some alleged “patriotism” – a resistance to authority – a loudly proclaimed “individualism.”

A bucketful of verbal B.S.!

Too often, the denier of medical science breakthroughs and qualified medical advice, becomes a statistic. Another number in the national death count. So much for denial. So much for “individualism.”

My friend, Madhu, didn’t want to die. He had family, friends, business success, a beautiful home and eventual retirement to live for. But, with the deepening physical failures caused by age, his death was inevitable. Those of us – family, employees and friends – who knew and loved him – are left to mourn. The man. Not the statistic.

So it has to be for each of the hundreds of thousands of COVID victims. Each had family. Each had friends. Each had a career. Each had aspirations for the future. I suspect none wanted to die.

Which makes the millions of voluntarily unvaccinated a mystery. Surely some have had family members or friends die. Or, knew someone who did. Surely some mourned. Have seen an unvaccinated life snuffed out. Have suffered loss.

Yet, millions of them – voluntarily unprotected – continue to cling to the denial of lifesaving science. Why do they let themselves in for hospital bills and/or burial expenses in the many thousands of dollars? Many may be forced into bankruptcy or lose their homes. And a shot that likely could have avoided all that takes only a few seconds. And it’s free!

Some deaths – like Madhu’s – can’t be avoided. They’re part of the natural cycle of life. We come. We go. And we, left behind, go on.

But, hundreds of thousands of the 690-thousand or so who suffered avoidable deaths – the agony and mourning – the high cost of life-saving medical care – the failure to recognize the dangers of turning their backs on free care that could sustain them in this COVID period – all of that could have been avoided. Except for ego. Except for vanity. Except for belief in some “invulnerable” being. Except for ………………

For Madhu, the father, brother, husband, businessman and friend, we mourn the man. The individual we knew. He didn’t die of COVID, but he’ll be remembered as a person – not a number.