Archive for September, 2023

Necessity of gadflies

Author: admin

From my deskside Merriam-Webster:

GADFLY: “a person who stimulates or annoys other people.”

Many, many moons ago, I had a friend in city government in Idaho. Two term councilman, one term mayor. Then, more terms as councilman. Asked why he went back to a council seat, he said “As mayor, I couldn’t vote unless there was a tie, wasn’t allowed (by rule) to debate issues and had almost no voice and little room in which to operate. But, sitting in the chair on the end of the dais as a councilman again, I could be the gadfly.” And, he was an excellent gadfly!

I’ve found government, at all levels, to be more responsive and more effective, when there was an active, well-grounded gadfly – or two – stirring conventional thinking.

Consider our current, feckless, ineffective U.S. Senate. No active, responsible gadflies in the GOP majority. None. Eunuchs, mostly. What few there be are Democrats. The two most prominent “irritant” voices on issues needing attention are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Because of their continued prodding of the body politic, they’ve had a few successes: Warren in banking issues and consumer legislation; Sanders on veteran’s affairs and health care.

If Democrats take the next Senate with a solid majority, they’ll need Sanders and Warren right where they are. Sanders long history of working for national health care and proven knowledge of veteran’s issues will be even more valuable. So, too, will Warren’s passion for consumer financial protections in the marketplace. They’re positioned to be the real “wheel horses” – and gadflies – for necessary changes in those important areas.

The popularity of both Senators seems, at least to me, more based on celebrity and personality than the “heavy” experience necessary for an effective, long-term presidency. Both have hardcore constituents, of course. But, the depth of their support seems confined to just each Senator.

To retake the presidency, the successful candidate will need not only that core of support, but party unity. Sanders and Warren appear to have mostly diehard backers that, in the past, have shown a deliberate unwillingness to get behind anyone else. Might talk to Hillary about that.

While the continued congressional service of both to the Democrat Party is highly desirable, their long-term value seems even more important leaving them right where they are. Their tendency to be gadflies, irritating inattentive cohorts to action, has proven effective in years past.

Good gadflies need freedom to operate effectively. Freedom to be successful. An old friend from Pocatello would vouch for that.

A bike for Kevin

Author: admin

I remember well, walking up to the polling place some years ago and marking a big “X” for the federal candidate of my choice. The person who could make a difference. Or, so I believed at the time.

But now, looking at the Republican dogfight in the U.S. House, can anyone in that place make a difference? Is there any GOP sanity left in those (formerly) hallowed halls?

It doesn’t seem so.

The whole current mess stems from one simple thing. One man’s ego-driven – almost maniacal – attempt to cling to power. The power that is attached to the Speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives. A military jet on call. A large suite of offices. A significantly larger staff. Media attention. Much bowing and scraping before that person.

Compounding the problem is the individual who currently holds that power is someone who’s never effectively used it to any worthwhile end. The most ineffectual Speaker in my long memory.

Democrats in the House can quietly sit on the sidelines and watch. This is an internecine squabble that has brought the wheels of legislative action to a complete halt. The best thing Democrats can do is just keep quiet.

Kevin McCarthy’s struggle to stay in that high office is a craven example of grasping for power simply for self. He’s brought nothing in the way of accomplishment to the fray. His previous occupancy shows miserably few successes. He’s used the powers of the office to settle scores with old “enemies” while trying to keep a lid on the contentiousness of his own Party. An effort he’s not been able to accomplish.

While McCarthy is waging this fight for political power, our nation is about to hit a meaningful deadline: the necessity of a budget for the coming two years. A deadline of September 30th.

He’s well-aware of that fact. Yet, he continues to put himself before country and before the oath of office he’s taken several times. The fight he’s waging is driven by ego. He’s got the power – and all the accouterments of that power – and thoughts of what’s best for the nation or even his own political Party are nowhere to be found.

When former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ousted by a new majority in the House, she quietly took a seat in the back and kept her mouth shut. She’s probably been a source of invaluable experience for the Democratic Caucus. But, she’s not voiced any undue criticism of McCarthy or his actions. Though he certainly deserves criticism.

If McCarthy loses his fight, the next question is, if not McCarthy for Speaker, then who? Any Republican names come quickly to mind? Anyone who’s been able to form an effective coalition in the House?

I can’t come up with a name. I’m certain there are plenty of “wannabees” but, not on my radar.

The national Republican Party has become such a fractious mess and no one, it seems, can bring all the pieces together. Good, solid voices – like Mitt Romney – are walking away from a Party that badly needs the voice of reason that is now lacking in the GOP.

There exists a divisiveness not seen in many, many years. It’s not just the normal discontent within a Party. It’s become so much an “us vs. them” struggle within the GOP that the Party lacks direction and has become ungovernable. I’d guess that has a lot to do with Romney’s decision to quit. And, there’ll likely be others.

There are forces building that’ll make the elections of 2024 much more important than other recent turnouts. Voting for a President, yes. But, down-ballot voting is looking like a whole new and vastly important exercise. Every seat in the House will be up-for-grabs. And, a third of the Senate.

It’ll be directly up to voters to determine what the next Congress looks like. And, sounds like. If voters can look beyond their usual balloting for incumbents – if they’ll be open to researching new faces and new voices – the next Congress can be very different. And, maybe less contentious. Maybe more effective. And, younger.

New – and much younger – candidates can change the face of an aging political body. The new blood, represented by 40-50 and even 60-year-old new faces, can get things back on track. Can rise above the stalemate we’re currently living with.

This nation is facing serious issues that need full attention. Issues like climate change and environmental damage. Issues lost in the calamity of a badly divided political Party – a badly divided Congress – a damaged and divided country.

Considering the work to be done, the political fortunes of a Kevin McCarthy pale to almost nothing. McCarthy made his deals with the devil(s) on his doorstep years ago. In his personal, ego-driven grasp for power, he now faces “payback time.” The petard on which he’s impaled is his own.

What’s facing this nation – in multiple challenges – is so much more important than whether McCarthy keeps his government-provided limousine service. There’s a large, mostly unused bicycle rack at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Time for Kevin to get pedaling.

Will we survive

Author: admin

“We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.”

The words of President Biden. Fearsome words that chill the heart but aptly describe the feelings of many of us. A “significant test of our democracy.” Right now. Not some far off time when we may or may not face such a foreboding reality. NOW!

I’m a child of the 1930’s, privileged to live a long life, enjoying the rights of citizenship in this great nation. Rights that were always there. Rights we dearly defended whenever challenged by another nation. Rights we cherished so we could be sure our children – and their children’s children – would have and enjoy the same.

But Biden is right. We are a nation facing a new challenge to those rights. A challenge from within. Now!

Many, many years ago, another President – Abe Lincoln – made a prediction which most folks, at the time, thought a fantasy. Abe opined he had no fear of repelling any other nation who attacked this country.

“The danger, I fear,” he said, “will come from within.”

Stated in the mid-1860’s, about 160 years ago, Lincoln’s fear has never been realized. Until now. Until recognized and stated by another President.

We are witnessing the splintering of a national political party. Ironically, the Party of Lincoln is at war with itself and in danger of ceasing to exist in any realistic sense. The internal battle has begun.

We’ve heard, with our own ears, Republican members of Congress ignore their oaths of office, which were sworn before God, speak and vote falsely. Instead of supporting what’s best for this nation, they’ve trampled on truth, lied about fact and have used their voices to uphold a false prophet. In what has become a frantic effort to retain the power associated with their offices, far too many politicians are groveling at the feet of a twice-impeached fraud.

The balance of power in our nation’s highest legislative body is, itself, in danger. The effectiveness of Congress to serve is currently dependent on one Party – Democrats. The give-and-take of normal times has ended. At least for now. Comity, collegiality, respect – largely gone..

We’ve got dangers in our streets. The January six attack. Proud Boys. Oath Keepers. Deluded “patriots” answering the call of a siren’s voice now confined to the political wilderness. Armed. Dangerous. Unpredictable.

The all-out political attack meant to undermine the nation’s historic faith in its elections is a one-party Republican effort. Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and a few other states have conducted meaningless audits of the 2020 election results. All ended with spurious counts.

Our all-important electronic connectivity is under attack from abroad. Businesses and individuals in our nation are being threatened and held hostage by cyber-criminals. Our vital marketplace is being disrupted.

Russia and China are flexing their military muscle. Not just cyber-crimes. They’re openly challenging our defenses as our military operates in open territories on the sea and in the air. Fly-by’s and intentional near physical skirmishes in international spheres are becoming more dangerous.

Maybe, more than anything, the dangers to our Republic can be found in two words defining large groups of Americans: indifference and ignorance.

Evidence of indifference is everywhere. Numerous man-on-the-street interviews show a massive lack of understanding of current issues, of government, of elected leaders, of history and a general ignorance about the functions of this country.

The ignorance – and in some cases, determined ignorance – can be easily discerned in Americans swallowing the “kool aid” of Trump – of national right-wing media – of well-paid voices of verbal corruption.

Cut off from rational thought or differing views, the herd of millions of Americans responds faithfully to the lies coming from Trump and his minions. They have no competing views to contend with. Only the fraud and lies they see as truth – as a deformed and often false reality. Dangerous. We’ve already seen one full-throated call to action that sent several thousand of them to attack our nation’s Capitol.

Lincoln foresaw the possibility of danger to the Republic coming from within. Biden is seeing and warning of just such a fact now plaguing our country. Again, it’s not some far-off possibility.

It’s happening. Now!

“We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.”

When it’s time to go

Author: admin

BONA FIDES: I’m 87-years-old. Living an active, mostly healthy, retired life in a small Northwest community.

About six-years-ago, after extensive testing for dementia, the diagnosis was “early onset.” Well, here we are, about 60-months down the road. If tested again today, the result would probably be the same. “Early onset.”

The words still hang over the household, but nothing’s changed. I’m feeling fine and am suffering no more than the usual memory vagaries typically associated with nearly 90-years. I have not – yet – found my car keys in the refrigerator.

I give you those bona fides so you know I have some experience with being old. Certainly in body if not necessarily in spirit.

All of this has come to mind in recent weeks as we hear of the various ailments coming out of the U.S. Congress. Especially, the video of Mitch McConnell “freezing up” mid-speech in two of those awful Congressional leadership “news” conferences.

Instead of Big Mac delivering the typical tripe about whatever he wanted to place in the media, he froze. It happened “on camera” once before, several weeks ago, under similar public circumstances. And, we’re now told, similar “freezing” has happened off-camera during the regular conduct of Senatorial business and at home.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is 90 and has been in and out of the hospital in recent months for treatment of dementia. NEWS FLASH: treatment for dementia doesn’t result in “refreshing” the brain. Other Congressional octogenarians have been reported being treated for this-and-that infirmity usually associated with advanced years.

Also appearing, in what passes for news these days, is the charge of “ageism,” a poorly conceived charge casually tossed about by staff and other supporters of the afflicted.

Reporting on the mental difficulties of folks who write laws by which this country is governed is legitimate news. If you’re going to fly with a pilot whose age is 91, you’d want that person to have all the faculties of a careful, responsible pilot present in the cockpit.

Let’s check the requirements to run for President of this fractured nation: be a natural born citizen – a resident of the country for at least 14 years – be at least 32-years-of-age. That’s it. Disturbingly, even Marjorie Taylor-Green could run. Unsuccessfully, we’d hope.

The McConnell and Feinstein mental problems, to me, raise this question. With the qualification of how old you have to be to run for President, why is there no discussion of an age limit requirement at the top?

Yes, I know. There are old folks – like Joe Biden and me – who can apparently participate in reasoned discussion well into our 80’s. But, my life experience has also found some folks who couldn’t mentally handle the job in their 50’s.

So, should we implement some sort of competency test for candidates for high office? We pay attention to physical conditions. What about mental conditions?

Lots of career fields have age limitations. Commercial pilots, for example, are out at age 62. Gone. Even though they’ve been watched and tested regularly. But, people who write the laws by which this nation is governed can stay on the job until their “light” goes off. What’s wrong with this picture?

This issues of age and competency requirements for public office need to be addressed. We’ve walked around the subject for many years. The pace of technology, and the many changes in our lives caused by its constantly demanding presence, have many of us struggling to keep up.

Yes, our Congress uses advanced, legislative-specific software on a day-to-day basis. And, each elected member has staff to help stay on top of things. Though, eventually, decisions have to be made. Decisions by the elected member who uses staff research and support for making those decisions.

The final “thinking” – the final decision-making – is a one person process. And, the mind that must reach many decisions, on a daily basis, must be alert, up-to-date, well-versed and competent to carry out the duty. There are some members, right now, who don’t meet those requirements. Their deficiencies, in many cases, are being covered by good staff work.

What’s happening with McConnell and Feinstein are medical conditions. They’re being examined and treated by competent medical professionals. But, at 80 and 90 years-of-age, faced with the recognized medical issues, isn’t it time to re-evaluate, seek medical advice and – possibly – step down?

I know the perks of high office and, especially, the life-style of being a U.S. Senator, are difficult to walk away from. But, is staying in office so long you have to be carried out by medical personnel, really serving their various constituencies?

If McConnell and Feinstein aren’t in condition to make that decision, then someone else must take action for them.

In both cases, that time is now.