Archive for April, 2022

Aging out

Author: admin

I’m an old Rotarian.

I should say “former” Rotarian because, with all the moves we’ve made in the last few years, I’ve let my membership lapse and have become a “former.” Something I’ll soon fix now that we’re done moving. Again.

Rotarians have a procedure called “The Rule of 80.” When your years of being a member and your age add up to 80, you can stop paying annual dues. In other words, your annual financial obligations end at 80 years.

Me thinks something similar should be adopted by all political bodies. When your years of service and your age adds up to 80 or 70 or 90 or some such combination, you relinquish your seat.

California Senator Diane Feinstein is currently being urged to retire from the U.S. Senate because of her age. She’s currently 89 and has filed the paperwork to run again in 2024 when she’ll be 91.

The suggestion she leave comes from a California newspaper. In a lengthy story, the paper said Feinstein is having memory issues and is not able to fully do her job for the state’s constituents.

My guess is the person who wrote that piece is around 50. I’d also guess that person has had no recent face-to-face dealings with the Senator and was using second-hand information from others who had.

For those who think I have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m about to enter my 86th year on this earth and have had a 50-year media career covering a lot of political entities. Including the U.S. Senate. When it comes to subjects like aging, I believe I can address the issue with some experience.

Yes, I think there should be some sort of age ceiling in politics as there is in other careers. Commercial pilots, for example, “age out” at about 60. Some hospitals have an age ceiling for some medical practitioners within their facilities. By personal choice or rule, such end-of-career status tied to age is not something new. Idaho teachers have a “Rule of 90.” Firefighters and police, in most places, have similar retirement options.

Back to politicians. Old politicians. Nancy Pelosi is 82. Her second seat is occupied by Steny Hoyer who’s 82. Mitch McConnell is 80. Chuck Schumer is 71.

Yes, with age comes experience and – in some folks – wisdom. There’s also an accumulation of history, people skils and events that come with aging.

But, there also can be a reluctance to change, a desire to continue living and thinking as we used to. “Set in our ways” as some say. Our reflexes – both physical and mental – slow down a bit. Or, a lot for some.

Consider: Should the President, Vice President and House Speaker all become incapacitated or otherwise unable to do their duties at once, Sen. Feinstein would be President. Suppose that California news rag is right about Feinstein’s acumen. Would she be a capable President?

Again, speaking as someone who’s nearly four-score-and-six, and who’s personally felt most of the effects of the aging process, I know the loss of prowess, both physical and mental. Damn, do I know.

Personally, I’d like to see Pelosi, at 82, finish her current term – God willing – then retire or take a back row seat in another term should she run again. On her way out, she could even designate her choice of a new Speaker candidate for the next term should Democrats retain their majority.

Same for McConnell and Schumer and others in leadership. Set an age ceiling in both houses, say at 70 or 75. You could make it age-plus-service-years or just plain age.

An aging leadership, combined with an aging membership in both houses, has combined to “clog up the arteries” so to speak. A Congress, hidebound by making seniority the ruling process – with an average age of slightly under 74 – is not in keeping with the times.

Yes, there is as need for institutional memory and an awareness of the past in nearly every undertaking. Both very important. But, you don’t have to reach the age of 85 or so to have those two factors.

Being older doesn’t mean you’re not valued anymore; that what you know by virtue of a long life is not important to the legislative process. Not by a long shot. The idea of taking on an “emeritus” title in life should not be looked upon as something less than a valued participant.

Given our world today – the challenges we face as a nation – means we need our “best and brightest.” Longevity – in both life and service – is to be honored. But, depending on the individual, there comes a time when self-awareness of one’s limitations is necessary. For both the individual and the calling.

Given the U.S. Congress has operated in basically the same way for 250 years or so, it’s not likely to change the way it does business. Or, the ages of whose doing the business.

But, a guy can dream, can’t he? Even an old guy?

Face it. We will 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 the various varieties of flu. It’ll continue morphing into new strains and we’ll rely on science to keep pace. We’ll build new security methods of keeping it at bay. But, it’s not going away.

Second, the world as we knew it only a couple of years ago will never return. When we finally 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. From now on, it’s going to be a whole new deal.

Take cars. Carvana is one of those I-Net places where cars are bought (and sold) on the I-Net. They’ve been advertising to fill about 100 job openings. Such sales as are expected will be handled by a new call center. Other new hires will be delivering and picking up vehicles in the designated coverage area. Less sales personnel, fewer mechanics. Fewer admin and other support folks.

With many major retailers taking out bankruptcies or going out of business, same story. Floor salespeople, gone. Admin support staff, 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 in many places.

Business-to-business jobs are disappearing because of automation. So, more sales jobs lost. More 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 jobs. As companies – large and small – downsize and turn to more technology, fewer people needed. Those jobs are not coming back.

Take higher ed. Look at the shift to the I-Net. At our house, Barb has students all over the world working to get advanced degrees. Online. Colleges and universities 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 the costs of babysitters and can spend more times with their kids. Also, no commuting costs. For thousands and thousands of parents, it’s a “win-win.” Many don’t want to go back to the office. Employers can cut spending in reduced admin costs. And fewer job needed.

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 business 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. Airlines have mothballed hundreds of planes. And there are mothball locations in six states. United cut 17,000 jobs. 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?

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. It spirals.

Look for governments – from local to the feds – not only not rehiring for 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. We’ve had to sequester for some 30 months. Now, things are starting to loosen up though we still have to be cautious.

These are dangerous, threatening times. But, we’ve faced dangers before in wars, pandemics and more. And we’re still here.

That’s the really good news!

A loss 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.

One such 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 a bit before giving it much serious thought. But, I gave it a lot of thought driving home. And since.

“The lack of permanence.” That’s it!

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 have normalized and our institutions stood firm. Changes occurred and we readjusted. Returned to normal.

No longer, it seems! It just keeps changing and causing – for many of us – a sense of impermanence.

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. Good, experienced citizens quitting Boards because of unfounded personal attacks. Definitely not permanence or the historic calm we’re used to.

Been shopping or dining out recently? Permanence? We tried to have breakfast out at a very popular breakfast joint the other day. We were told we could be seated immediately but not served for 45 minutes to an hour! “Staff shortage in the kitchen,” we were told.

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 but 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 new cars – or less – 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 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 shore.

Sense of permanence in government? Again, hardly. We’re running month-to-month paying the bills with a total national shutdown looming over our heads every day. We’ve got a national political 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 – audit 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 the last 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. Civic continuity and comity are gone in many instances. Institutions we’ve 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.

Go help or stay home

Author: admin

There’s a lot of difference between the Republican Party and the Republican party.

Notice that one “Party” is capitalized and the other is not. Here’s why – in my world.

We have to believe – and indeed there are some small indications – that there is still a Republican Party. Capital “P.”

In Idaho, for example, there are Republican Party requests for Democrats to cross over in the 2022 primaries. Those Republicans want Democrats to help weed out some of the far-far right screwballs in a closed primary so elected Republicans can have a more centrist Party in public office. We’re hearing the same “invitations”in other traditionally Red States. Get Democrat moderates to help with the “house cleaning.”

To do that, Democrats have to change their party affiliation from “Democrat” to “Republican” for the Primary. Easy peasy. Then, after the Primary – and the weeding – Dems can change back again.

That plea for help seems, to me, an indication that there is still life in the old GOP and that deserves a capital “P” for Party.

Now, why the small “p” when talking about the Republican party? Again, in my world, the small “p” is for those Republicans who’ve become Trumpers – the nutballs – the dangerous ones. The media still calls them the “Republican Party” when reporting on their scurrilous activities. I don’t think they ARE the Republican Party. Big “P.”

In a recent CNN nationwide poll, registered Republicans were asked “Who was elected President in 2018?” Just over 60% said “Trump.” Sixty percent! Thus, it would seem logical that, give-or-take, 40% said Biden or someone else. Some of that 40% – more or less – could be seen as members of the Republican Party. Capital “P.”

So, the question is when will that 40% of Republicans stand up and take control of their beloved Party? With or without Democrats to help with the housework, when will that 40% exert whatever muscle it has left to wrest control of things and get the GOP back on track to again be a viable political force?

If a “take-back” isn’t done soon – preferably the 2022 primary and 2024 general elections – that Republican party – small “P” – could have the upper hand for years. Not good!

That bunch is making an all-out frontal attack on our voting systems – national and local. Trumpers are already signed up to compete for the Secretary of States job in several states. Where the vote certifying is done. Pennsylvania and a few other states. Others appear up and down ballots for remaining offices. At the county levels and school boards, as well.

They want to take control of the vote counting up and down the ticket. If they can’t win by actual count, Trumpers want to be in a position to do their own counting. Or, not counting. Or, to play with the vote totals. It’s actually just that brazen.

Whether the Chief Trumper himself decides to run for President again is an open question. Personally, I doubt it. But, it’s almost unimportant, really. He’s got his minions on ballots all over the country. If a sizeable number of them win, it’s the toehold he’s looking for to throw doubt in what has traditionally been our system of formerly “free and fair” elections.

That’s what makes that 2022 Primary so damned important! And, that’s why that 40% or so of the real Republican Party – capital “P” – is asking Democrats to be Republicans for a day – primary day.

But, there’s something else to consider. Democrats – lots of Democrats – have to fill open slots on the ballot, too. We got Marjorie Taylor Green because she won a primary and no Democrat showed up at the general election to make it a contest. Idaho is known for its lack of competition as well, making primary races all the more important.

So, Democrats have to do some real soul searching. Whether to cross over and help the Republican minority take charge, or stay at “home” and try to elect some Democrats.

Voters in the 2022 primary need to be more educated about candidates and issues than in past elections. Democrats must decide if helping Republicans is more important than electing some of their own. They’ve got to look at races where they can be competitive and try for wins in their own backyard. Or, failing that, assist the GOP.

Filing deadlines are yet to come. Everybody has to wait to see what shakes out. But, it seems Democrats and Independents really hold the keys this time. For them, decisions have to be made case-by-case, race-by-race.

The outcome in the next two elections has never been more important.