Archive for January, 2024

The crap shoot

Author: admin

One of the best teachings during my long-ago childhood was “count the day lost you don’t learn something new.”

We live in the heart of Oregon wine country.  North, South, East and West.  We are surrounded by row upon row upon row of vines.  And, tasting rooms.  It’s a wine lover’s paradise.  Pinot Noir is the single largest product flowing from the neatly kept fields.  It’s the life “blood” of our community.

But, not all is “peace and quiet” in our lush valley.  Several large legal cases have been filed in multiple counties, charging smoke from wildfires a few years ago ruined both grapes and the wine made from them.  Smoke.  See?  You learned something new.

The villain, if there is one, is Pacific Corp.  Apparently, several years ago, some power lines touched during high winds and set off large fires.  Other utilities turned off power transmission during those storms.  Pacific Corp. did not.  So, there are multiple lawsuits.

It’s the vintners alleging fires tainted crops and the resulting wine was ruined by smoke.  They claim at least a year’s worth of lost production and sales.  And, they’re looking at Pacific Corp to “make them well.”  Pay for the “damages” as it were.  We’ll see.

When I was a kid, we lived on a very large apple ranch in the Wenatchee Valley of Washington State.  We had wildfires.  We had floods.  We had record freezes.  In the ’40’s, we had several years of back-to-back freezes.

But, whatever the disaster – and there were some – nobody looked to the government or any other entity to “make ’em well.”  That’s just the way things were.  You either replanted and carried on or you went to work for your neighbor.

Basically, if you were a fruit rancher, it was a crap shoot.  You did the best to care for your trees – apple, cherry, cots or peach – and you took your chances.

For me, that was more than 75 years ago.  I remember, back then, we had a stretch of back-to-back late freezes that wiped out everything. But, the crap shoot continues to this day.

As you drive around our upper Willamette Valley, everything looks just like it’s supposed to.  Long lines of vines, neatly spaced, carefully trimmed and well-tended.

But, each day, there could be a wildfire, or some other “act of nature” and growers would be back to “square one.”  Oh, there are a few owners who are “well-heeled” and have big pockets.  They could “take the hit” and start over.  But, there aren’t many.

That’s the way it is.  We consumers shop at the store, we buy the fruit or the wines and we don’t give it a second thought.  We don’t because, whatever we’re shopping for, it’s always there.

We don’t think about freezes or long stretches of bad weather or smoke from wildfires.  Everything’s just “always there.”

It’ll be interesting to see the current legal effort works out.  Crap shoot.  We’ll keep you posted.


The boomer factor

Author: admin

Aside from current political wars tearing this country apart, other forces are at work changing our entire society.  They’re seldom talked about but they’re very, very real.

I’m about to make some generalizations.  You may find fault with those comments if they pertain to you.  That’s O.K.. And, if they do, I’d appreciate some feedback.  But, for the moment, let’s deal with these – generally.

Across our nation, we’re seeing a rapidly declining rate of participation in traditional practices – mainstream religion, service clubs, social organizations, volunteerism in traditional activities and more.  All are losing members/workers and not seeing the usual influx of new people to carry on the tradition of free labor.

Granges have all but disappeared.  Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Eagles, Masonic bodies, Knights of Columbus and other civic and/or fraternal groups have declining memberships and, in some cases, have forfeited their charters.  Had some not taken in women a few years ago, many would likely be gone by now.  Many small Chambers of Commerce have expanded boundaries to include nearby communities to keep membership up.  Some small chambers are just about gone.

Barb and I live in a small community of about 35,000.  Much of what might otherwise be done by paid city employees is done by volunteers i.e. parks and rec duties, swimming and golf operations, security, beautification, etc..  All groups – and I do mean ALL – are losing volunteers and not seeing enough new ones.

Here’s one of those generalizations – though where we live, we’re seeing plenty of specific evidence.

Boomers – born in the mid-forties through about 1964.  They’re retiring now.  But their unique societal habits and lifestyles are drastically changing life.  Here and everywhere.

Many Boomers, generally, tend not to join existing groups.  They often go their own exclusive way about things.  They sometimes start their own clubs rather than joining existing ones.  They’re the first retirement generation for which computers are basic to their way of life.  They seem to prefer electronic social connections over face-to-face groups i.e. service clubs, mainstream churches, etc.

Now, I’m not finding fault with that.  It is what it is.  But, to think life is going on “as usual” is to ignore this large societal shift going on under our feet.  And to ignore even larger changes ahead.

If you don’t think huge change is out there, I invite you to check those three teens in that fast food joint as they text each other at the table rather than talk face-to-face.  They’re the advance party for generations to come that will be largely unable to interact in business, political, societal or any other direct form of interpersonal communication.

“Rainey,” you say.  “You’re all wet!”

Maybe.  But, we’re steadily moving in our communities from volunteerism – which is disappearing – to hiring people to do the same tasks.   Dues/fees have to be raised and that may price some elderly, who retired here and elsewhere many years ago, out of their homes.

Leadership recruitment pools are shrinking in size.  In a community in which we used to live, there was a large managing board election a year ago for an organization that runs a $20 million annual budget. Three seats open.  Election advertised for months.  Three folks volunteered in a community of nearly 35-thousand.  Thirty-five-thousand!  No election.   Just appointments.

As our aging demographics change, there’s less participation – less involvement – less volunteering.  But, the fastest growing group here – and elsewhere – is the Boomers.  Example: they’ve organized several exclusive duplicate clubs – limited to Boomers – taking members away from other groups who’re starting to feel the loss.

And, when you reach an age of about 70, you find yourself not always being included in Boomer activities or on mailing lists.

These aren’t isolated instances for just this community.  Sociologists are finding growing evidence of these Boomer trends all over the place.  Changes are subtle – very subtle.  But, they’re becoming more apparent and more important to the fabric of our society.

We’ll talk about this again.


Silence the children

Author: admin

QUESTION: Recalling the last couple of sessions of Congress, when was the last time Republicans brought forth a single piece of positive legislation?  Any legislation?  In either house?  When?

Anyone?  Any enlightened thoughts?  “Positive legislation?”

We’ll wait.

The answer is – for the last two sessions at least – none!  Republicans – especially in the U.S. House of Representatives – have become the party of – none.

They’re angry at Democrats, voters, the White House and each other.  They own the slim majority but have done nothing with it.  They’ve garnered the Speakership but have no majority Party cohesiveness.

So, that House Speaker can’t control his own minions because he sold his soul to the far, far right to get the gavel he holds.  A dangerous nutcase group of about 40 GOP’ers owns him.  Forty out of 222 Republican members.

Consequently, nothing is being done because of intra-Party fighting.  Speaker Johnson is being manhandled and roughed up – by the splinter bunch of crazies – to introduce impeachment articles against President Biden.  He seems not to want to do it.  But, the crazies hold his “I-O-U” for his rise to Republican power.  He’s beholden right down to his expensive leather loafers.

Johnson is smarter and more experienced than those 40 crazies.  He knows impeachment is impossible.  He knows there aren’t the votes for impeachment.  And, he knows Biden has done nothing to sustain a bill of impeachment.  Nothing!

Johnson’s caught in a sort of “Catch-22.”  If he moves impeachment legislation against Biden, the bill(s) will fail for lack of votes.  BUT, if he doesn’t toe-the-line for the crazies, they’ve promised to introduce impeachment bills against him!

Johnson’s ‘deal with the Devil(s)’ has come back to haunt him.  How will he get himself out of this mess?

Then, there are those other House GOP’ers.  The one’s that are the numerical “majority” of the Majority.  He has to face them, too.  With a caucus already fractured over almost everything, his hold on the Speakership may not be strong enough to stay in the chair.

The losers in all of this – the real losers – are you and me.  With so many things needing to be worked on – very real climate change, an out-of-control budget, re-examining federal spending priorities, etc. – nothing is being done.  We haven’t had an actual, original budget for years so we’re operating on “continuing resolutions.”  You wouldn’t run a business like that.

There is so much work to be done.  Work that’s not getting done.

Progress being stymied by a small, ignorant and belligerent bunch has to be overcome and silenced.  If that can’t be done – if there is no push-back by reasoned and intelligent voices – our national government will be in danger of collapse.

There must be – has to be – adults in the room who can effectively silence the ‘children.’

They need to speak up.



Author: admin

If you can read that, you probably swear as much as I do and you know just what I meant instead of using the actual words.  Those are not good, respectable words, actually.

I find myself using more “foul” words lately – more than in previous times.  Our mass and (un) social communications are full of the foul and getting – er, well – fouler.

As a journalist/broadcaster for several decades, I usually know the right words – the respectable words – to use.  I was raised in a home where “not a discouraging word” was used or heard.  In short, I know better.

But, as a casual Facebook user, I’m amazed – and often disgusted – by the continual use of such printed words in postings.  Both in memes and individually written texts.

Sometimes, the gutter words – F***, S***, pi***d and more – seem to be in nearly every post.  They’re used – and reposted – by people I know who don’t all use such words in everyday activities.  For others, they’re probably repulsed by those who use them.  But, we all know what they are.

They’ve become verbal crutches for many who think their use makes them sound more angry or more “adult” or “authoritarian.”  In the stands at sporting events, heard at an adjoining table in a restaurant or just used in otherwise normal, day-to-day talk or postings between acquaintances.

As a society, we’ve either become more accepting of their use or we’ve learned to ignore them.  They add nothing to any communication so if you block them out, you won’t have missed anything.

For most of us, the shock value – if there ever was such a thing – has worn off.  Maybe that’s why they creep into our speech without a second thought.  I read more of them in a week online than I remember hearing in a year, living on a military mountaintop above the Arctic Circle with 50 other guys 60 years ago.

It wasn’t so long ago the American public was shocked – shocked, I tell you – when Clark Gable said to Vivian Leigh in Gone With The Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”  Now, you hear a lot worse than that on your TV any night of the week.  You can even watch “constipated” actors sitting on toilets or bears in the woods wiping their butts with the latest tissue.  The goal posts for shock value have been moved way, way down the field.

The overall courseness in our nation is an ever-present and growing societal reality.  You don’t like it.  I don’t like it.  But, it’s hard to escape.   Politicians are using the “bad words” in speeches.  (See Trump rallies.)  Older folks, raised in more restrictive times, now post or re-post online words I would have gotten a soapy mouthwash for at home.  A lot of young people – who certainly know better – pepper conversations and texts with ’em.  They’re everywhere.

We’ve gotten way past “damn” or “hell” or other such old expletives.  The new, casual, more common use of profanity has worked its way into our usual, casual everyday language.  Most of us try to ignore it.  Most of us don’t regularly use them.  But it’s ever-present.  And we’re getting inured to it.




The Jennie

Author: admin

Sometimes, two widely disparate items in your life combine to offer a jarring dissonance.

Example.  For months, we’ve been reading, hearing, watching Israel’s military in action in the Mideast.  Action filled with inhumanity and violence in a seemingly no-win situation.  Just destruction and death.  For Jews, it’s been that way for centuries.

In fact, especially since Israel claimed it’s homeland in 1947, that nation has been continually engaged in some sort of violent activity, trying to find a secure and safe place among nations.

The rest of the world has become accustomed to this continuing violence involving Israel.  Jews have historically been faced with it from biblical times.  Since the days of Moses leading his people into the wilderness.

I confess.  For many years I’ve associated Israel and Jews with anger and violence.  Just a natural connection given the constant barrage of news of the many struggles of that nation.

But, the other day, I was brought up short by “news” of something Hebrew-connected I found on the old I-net.  Another side of Jewishness.

It was a news release announcing the opening of enrollment for a special educational opportunity.  The Jennifer Barnum Luria Early Childhood Learning Center in Portland, Oregon.

The announcement read: “With the opening of The Jennie, fulltime reform Jewish early childhood education returns to our historic campus.  With child-led programming for children aged six weeks to pre-kindergarten, “The Jennie” empowers children from the youngest ages to ask questions, explore their curiosities and be advocates for their learning desires.

“We strive for beauty and peace through respect for art, kindness and Kehillah – the Hebrew word for community.  This collaboration allows children to feel nurtured and (to) engage with their inner curiosity and inspiration to learn, providing a lifelong love of learning to grow.”

I had just read a lengthy story of the continuing inhumanity in Gaza.  Then the item on the opening of “The Jennie.”

Two sides of contemporary Jewish life.  Lavish, gentle words about teaching “beauty” and “peace” and “respect” and “community” for little children while adults of the same faith clash with their enemies in violent confrontations.

I had to stop to reread the announcement of “The Jennie.”

So, we’re proudly teaching the meanings of humanity, love and respect for our fellow man to little children, while at the same time their elders are fighting and dying in a war half-a-world away.

The awful disparity of the two stories – adult Jews at war while their children are learning of love and peace – the two divergent thoughts seemed impossible to hold in one’s mind at the same time.

What went wrong?  When did the teachings of peace and love fade, to be replaced by violence and hatred?  Why aren’t we able to live the ways we were taught?  When did we lose sight of the human values we learned in childhood?

I pray children enrolled at “The Jennie” can retain the teachings of peace, love and community better than their elders.  All of us who were taught the same things but who’ve seemingly turned our backs on those teachings.  We’ve forgotten just how important that early education really was.

I truly hope there are more “Jennies” out there.  I hope they’re reaching out to other small children.  I pray they’re teaching about peace – about community – about love – to little, open minds who need to hear about those things.

It would do well for all of us to spend some time learning at “The Jennie.”