Archive for October, 2022

A very dangerous ballot

Author: admin

We are about to cast ballots in the most important and scariest election of my four-score-plus years.

There is simply no other way to say it. While the times we live in are unsettled and confusing, the election we face in two weeks could easily be the “end times” for our democracy, depending on the results.

From top of the ballot to the bottom, the Republican Party clearly poses such a threat. Deniers of the 2020 Presidential contest are on ballots in many places. Should they be victorious, the term “free and fair” election will be just a distant memory.

And, they’re not hiding it. They’re putting their plan right in your face in ways never seen before.

Example: Kevin McCarthy – the guy who covets the Speakership of the U.S. House and who’s already rearranging the furniture in the Speaker’s suite of offices – has announced the priority agenda in the next congressional Session.

Cut Social Security. End Medicare.

What damned fool would make such a claim in the final days of a national campaign? What damned fool would scare – and piss off voters over age 65? Who the Hell would make such a brazen threat?

Speaker-wannabe McCarthy. A very dangerous and overly ambitious cretin. That’s who! He’s so damned cocksure he’ll be moving up that he has no shame. His “in-your-face” bravado is absolutely mind-blowing. And, he means it!

It used to be Republicans talked about cutting government “entitlement” programs like Medicaid or food stamps or child care. Not anymore. Not where McCarthy is concerned. He wants to go after what is literally the life blood for many seniors.

But, even if the GOP has a majority in the House, it seems doubtful he can make good on his boast. Both Social Security and Medicare are trust funds. We’ve paid into them all our working lives. They aren’t “entitlements.” We’ve all made deposits for our later years. In his grand chest-pounding, McCarthy seems to be more confused than normal. And dangerous.

But, the “mountain” he has to climb to be successful is (1) sell his entire majority caucus on the murderous effort and (2) get a Senate which may – or may not – have a Republican majority to go along and (3) get past a Presidential veto stamp.

For at least the next two years, a Democrat in the Oval Office is the backstop for anyone in this country over the age of 65 who lives paycheck-to-Social Security paycheck.

Example: the Secretary of State race in Arizona. According to current polling, Trumper Mark Finchem is going to win that contest. He was a leader in the abortive election recount of Arizona ballots from the last election. He’s repeatedly said if future voter numbers aren’t to his liking, he’ll change ‘em.

And – Arizona could wind up with a Trumper as Governor. Kari Lake and current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs are in a statistical tie. Lake is also an election denier and a Trump acolyte.

There are others who pose threats to our Republic. In Ohio, Wisconsin, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and more. All have candidates for various offices that are Trump followers or just plain unfit for service at any level. Does the name Herschel Walker ring a bell? How about J.D. Vance in Ohio or Marjorie Taylor Green in Georgia?

This election – possibly more than any other in recent times – could result in serious – and dangerous – changes in the direction of our country. The increase in far-right candidacies up and down the ballot should be a warning to us all. Most of them out there aren’t hiding their dangerous dialogue. Just like the outrageously political lusting of a McCarthy or a Finchem or a Lake.

At our house, we’ve voted. But, not before looking carefully at each race and a thorough review of the state voter guide.

We do live in dangerous times. Making careful, informed choices on your ballot can help reduce that danger.

In a long life, a person can have many memorable experiences and, for most of us, some mysteries. Questions we can’t answer but they linger in the mind.

I have one such. I could use your help.

The time was the late ‘60’s. Locale was Boise, capital city of Idaho.

A fella came to town. I don’t remember his name but he was being hustled around by local bigwigs for “selected” unsolicited interviews.

Now, I’ve always had negative feelings about such people. And of the product or person being hustled. As someone trained to be a reporter – a viewer of people and happenings – it’s always seemed to me a matter of professionalism that the reporter should be the one searching out what is – and isn’t – the news of the day.

When the aforementioned fella was brought to the radio station where I was news director, we sat in the lobby and chatted a bit about the visitor and I was asked to interview him. “Now.”

To this day – nearly 60 years on – I can’t tell you why. But, there was something about the man – and the local businessman’s intense push to get me to do an interview- that was off-putting. Both men seemed a little intense about the subject matter of the interview. I got one of those feelings you get when something just doesn’t seem right.

Not wishing to put the station and its ownership in a bad light, I took both men to a vacant studio and did a quick interview. They were soon on their way, satisfied their “story” would be broadcast on Idaho’s only 50,000 watt AM radio station.

Well, I listened to the taped conversation. Again, something just didn’t feel right. I erased the tape. It seemed – at the time and now – it was the right thing to do.

But, other media folks apparently didn’t feel the same or had more pressure applied. The guy and his subject matter were all over town and on the next day’s front page of the local bird-cage liner.

At this point, I should identify the local guy escorting the visitor around town. His name was Skip Hall. For a couple of years in the mid to late ‘60’s,’ he was head coach of the Boise State football program. During his tenure – and for a couple of decades later – the BSU Broncho’s were just another small town varsity team with a so-so record on the field.

But, Skip was a talker and a bit of a show-boater. A so-so coach who talked a good game. His style of talking was probably the reason a group of local business leaders gave him the job of promoting the out-of-town visitor. And his program.

The next day, there was a gathering at the largest meeting room in town. All the prominent local names were in attendance. All. And some not so prominent. All male.

The visitor was introduced and he, in turn, held forth for over an hour about his program. It was simple enough. With only a bit of religious overtones befitting today’s “born again” churches. There was a heavy emphasis on brotherhood and small group forming. Under a so-called “Captain.”

If a group wanted to include the Bible, that would be good. It seemed innocuous enough. Rather uplifting. But, with peer pressure. And a degree of expressed urgency.

Basic idea was to forge new friendships with like folks, get to know your neighbor or something like that. And, in fact, some small groups of men – only men – were formed. We now might call similar groupings “networking.” Of a sort.

Coach Hall held forth about the program at the drop of a hat. Although participants slowly drifted away in a couple of years, it was Skip’s constant voice that made things last as long as it did.

But, eventually, as happens with such loosely-organized endeavors, end it did. Skip got a bigger and better coaching job and left town. Local “captains” went separate ways. Or lost interest. And the program disappeared.

Or did it?

And, therein lies the mystery. For me.

You see, the visitor that came to town was pushing a program called “Oath Keepers.” Yep. The same name as the group now on trial for seditious conspiracy in Washington D.C.. “Oath Keepers.”

Today’s felonious “Oath Keepers” also believe in organizing small, local groups. Under a “Captain.” The Bible is mentioned openly in their materials. Each group conducts paramilitary exercises and stands ready to join forces as we saw on that January day. Leadership in all groups is male.

If you spend enough time scouring the I-net, you can find sources of material about “Oath Keepers” in the ‘60’s and from the ‘90’s to the present day. But, there are lapsed periods where the name doesn’t seem to exist.

So, the question is, can a straight line be drawn from the today’s seditious “Oath Keepers” to the days of Skip Hall in Boise, Idaho, and the very real pressures brought to bear on local leaders to join, sponsor and maintain a religion-based group called “Oath Keepers?”

I just don’t know. But, I’ve got that feeling. Again.


Herschel Walker.

The Herschel Walker story is not about the abortion – whether there was one and if so, who paid with purported receipts or whether rape was involved. The Walker story is really none of those things.

The real Herschel Walker story is how in hell someone who apparently is totally unfit, morally bankrupt, intellectually challenged ever got to be a major political party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate!

There have been many other unqualified folks nominated for various elective public jobs over the years but, to my recollection, none so much as Walker. The man cannot tie together two complete sentences on any subject. Watch him – listen to him on CSPAN, Fox or in any other forum – it’s painful to your ears. And completely nonsensical. Just gibberish.

Republicans in Georgia are relentless in their zeal to prop him up from whatever his latest public pratfall. And there’ve been dozens. They’re working overtime to tell reporters Walker didn’t mean what they just heard him say – buying up all the advertising space they can to paint some flattering-but-unreal images of a guy who couldn’t be flattering under any condition.

The GOP is stuck with the most outrageously, demonstrably wrong and totally dim-witted candidate since – since – well, since the first public election for anything.

While Walker may be all those things and more, it’s not his fault he’s under the bright lights of media and public scrutiny. Rather, he’s the result of right-wing inbreeding in a political party that’s been closed to honest intellectualism, deep thought about any subject and which has repeatedly rejected anyone not adhering to political thinking just to the right of Attila The Hun.

In short, Walker – with the blessing of one D. Trump – is the one Georgia Republicans “brung to the dance” and they’re stuck with him.

Republicans have done this to themselves. Any attempt, post-election, by that Party to downplay what happened if Walker loses will be just so much B.S.. They created his candidacy – they and they alone.

But, here’s what’s truly outrageous in the Walker story. Nearly all polling – nearly ALL – shows Walker and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock tied or within the margin of error. It’s astounding that Walker, and what he represents as the future of Georgian Republicanism, could be perceived to be the political – much less moral – equal of Warnock.

Warnock is the polar opposite or all things Walker. He’s a man of God with no stories of abortions, payoffs or other hidden behaviors. He’s an intellectual. He’s articulate in both public and private settings. He got through college with no athletic scholarship.

I mean, c’mon here. We’re talking apples and oranges.

The Walker candidacy is, by no means, the only one of significant unsuitability. There are others. Many others. Legislative, statewide offices, dog catcher, etc.. Like Walker, many reflect what has become of the close-minded, far-right side of Republicanism.

In several states, candidates for Secretary of State openings are election-deniers of our last national free-for-all in 2020. And, winners of those SoS contests will be the vote counters of the 2024 election. The likely next governor of Arizona also rejects the official outcome of our last presidential election. And she ain’t alone!

It’s taken about 65 years for local John Birth Societies, Liberty Lobbyists and other splinter, far-right groups to extend their grasp of Republican machinery to the national party. They’ve been in the trenches, doing the grunt work and pushing, pushing, pushing Party regulars to the sidelines all this time. And now, the GOP is theirs.

Their dominance won’t end with our next election. Or, the next. It will take far longer for those of responsible Republican thought to wrest back control. It’ll be a tough slog for awhile. The extent of the far-right culture is top-to-bottom in a lot of places. It took many years – and many elections – for that control to change hands. So, it will take many subsequent years – and many subsequent elections – to get things back to some moderation.

We need that to happen. Call it a “purge,” if you will. A healthy, viable, responsible Republican Party is needed by all of us. We’ve lost the honest pull-and-tug of ideas in our political marketplace. We’ve allowed ourselves to be splintered by the “my-way-or-the-highway” politics of what the GOP has become.

I’m sure there are Republicans in Georgia for whom a Herschel Walker Senate candidacy is an embarrassment. There have to be. And those of similar GOP “Herschels” in other races in other states, up and down the ballot.

It’s up to those Republicans – in Georgia and elsewhere – to take back control. If they’re not successful, the likes of a Herschel Walker will have to be referred to as “Senator Walker” in the future.

What about them

Author: admin

Over the past few days, I’ve made several attempts to write a column for this space dealing with Hurricane Ian’s romp across mid-Florida.

Watching the news coverage, I’m literally left powerless when trying to create a word picture dealing with what happened. It’s just not possible.

So, let these few words be the last attempt.

I’ve a friend who visits Sanibel Island several times a year. He said simply“There’s nothing left.” A recent news story said the island would not be habitable for a year. No infrastructure. “Nothing left.”

Checking with another friend who lives in the Fort Meyers region, I was told Ian left major damage in and around Fort Meyers but, he only lost a few shingles and a bit of siding. Close call. Much more fortunate than those thousands who have nothing left.

For those of us living in hurricane-free places, it’s easy to close the books on Ian and go about our normal business. But, what about them? What about the thousands who have nothing to go back to? Nothing left. Just dirt. Just water.

Some reporter reminded us of the homeless on Central Florida’s coast. What about them? No facilities. No place for a meal and none of the usual volunteers who – instead of serving lunches – have their hands full just finding shelter and meals for their own families.

These tidbits could go on and on. But, the real point of any attempt to describe the Florida story always comes back to the same place: nothing left. Nothing.

If you or I haven’t come home to an empty lot – tried to find that lot where there are no road signs or landmarks – been forbidden to go home by local law enforcement – can’t find our friends or, in even worse cases, some of our family – been told there’s nothing left to go home to – well, it’s impossible for us to feel the depths of loss now the constant companion of so many Floridians.

For thousands, no home, no place of work, no neighborhood, no car, no boat, no docks, no shopping center – nothing.

Adding to the mountain of loss, many homes and businesses were not covered by flood or hurricane insurance. Now, some have 20 years or so left on a mortgage and the secured property is gone. Just gone.

Ian came. And, Ian left. But, thousands of lives will never be the same.

In our neighborhood, we don’t have hurricanes. We don’t have tsunami’s. We don’t have the risk of massive, Florida-style flooding. Or, winds measured by the hundreds of mile-per-hour.

It’s not possible for us to feel what they feel. We – unlike them – are insulated from the likes of Ian. We watch the TV, turn it off and go to bed. A safe, warm bed. And, we’ll wake up in the morning, padding around the house while the coffee brews.

What about them?