We ain’t who we were

Author: admin

Men. Hang in there! Especially you unmarried ones. The numbers are shifting in your favor. Just wait for it.

There are currently 103 million folks over the age of 18 in this country who aren’t married. That’s 44.1% of all of us.

But, here’s the good news, guys. Of the 103 million singles, 53.6% are women – 46.4% men. Works out to 100 unmarried women for every 87 men. And the gap is widening. Sociologists have several theories. More women pursuing professional careers – many deciding against being mothers – some in same sex relationships which were not so numerous in the 2010 census – some not wanting to be married – some in long-term relationships while remaining single – more women living longer than men.

In fact, we’re told about 56 million households are maintained by unmarried men and women. That’s some 46% of all households.

There are about 17 million Americans over the age of 65 who aren’t married – some 16% of all single folks. A lot more women than men there.

Also, this statistic. In a population of just over 300 million, about 33 million people live alone. And that figure has increased about 10% in the last 40 years.

So, here’s what we have. More people keeping their single status. More keeping it longer – more keeping it permanently. More people creating households of families without being married. More people living longer and not marrying or remarrying. Legal recognition of same sex relationships in more states – married or not. Number of children per household going down. Just some of the social shifts taking place.

Which prompts this question. Is there now – or will there be – a political effect because of all this? Hard to tell. But those who call themselves political “professionals” should keep these stats handy. Because, just as we’re changing racially as a nation, there are many sociological patterns shifting under our feet. These are just a few. Demographers are finding people are living longer. They’re better educated. They’re forming different types of family units. There are more interracial and same sex marriages. All these factors – and a few dozen more – are just as important as that change of racial balance.

Now, add one more ingredient. An angry – very angry – voting population made up of these ever-changing groups. In the 2012 elections, many pollsters, many politicians and too many media sources badly missed determining – in advance – the mood of people at the ballot box. Too much statistical research was done to support a political point of view rather than pure analytics. A lot of politicians and their supporters accepted only their own sampling, weighted – in many cases – to confirm what they wanted to hear. In the end, their circuitous, closed process let them down – hard.

There were many elections over many years that simply built upon the rather static sociological patterns existing in the nation after World War II – patterns we now know no longer exist. In just the last dozen years, so much has changed in how we live, what we think and what we’ll accept as a society.

The 2014 elections are going to be very, very important for many reasons. Not just for the outcomes. But also for what the postmortems tell us about who we are now, how we live now and what we think as a nation. Now. Today. Researchers are already poised at computers – ready to sift through the mountains of information yet to be collected.

It could be – from a “getting-to-know-you” point of view – the 2014 elections may be the most important off-year balloting in our lifetimes.

You shouldn’t miss it.

OOPS two

Author: admin

Ah, Ebola. Seems like only yesterday we imported our first case of this terrible, headline-grabbing disease. Our very first. It’s so fresh in the mind I can still see and hear ol’ Rick Perry and the loud “SWOOSH” made by his running to the national TV cameras.

“We’re proud – (proud, I say) – that a Texas hospital has been chosen to treat the nation’s first Ebola patient,” he said through a big Texas good ol’ boy smile. “Texas is proud – (proud, I say) – of our best-in-the-country hospitals and the tremendous people we have giving such wonderful care.”

He turned from right to left. Then left to right so the cameras could catch that sculpted Texas chin. Then he departed – stage right. Of course.

Since then ol’ Rick’s been on the campaign trail in three states and off to France for . . . . . well, I don’t know what for. You can bet it’s something to do with running for president in 2016. Or at least HE thinks so.

So let’s recap what’s happened in that “state-of-the-art” Texas hospital since the old boy hopped a jet after his phony, office-chasing welcome mat for Ebola was broadcast worldwide.

First, the patient died. But there’s more. Seems the Dallas staff of one of the “best-in-the-country” hospitals sent the patient home with antibiotics when he showed up with all the symptoms of – wait for it – Ebola. The old “take two and call me in the morning” shuffle as I recall my own emergency room visits. Rick, of course, didn’t check out details or the history of how that Ebola patient got Ebola or what the hospital’s nonexisent software bridge between the doctor’s and nurses’s computers had caused before he rushed to center stage. As I said, detail.

Then a nurse there came down with Ebola. Then a second. Same place. Center for Disease Control folks got so mad they wouldn’t let new patients anywhere near Texas – pulling one out to ship to Atlanta and another to Emory Medical Center. Several C-D-C higher-ups even muttered publically something about “incompetence” at the Texas “best-in-America” hospital. Ricky, of course, was in France and didn’t pick up on that. OOPS.

Ebola is a terrible, dreaded disease with a near 70% death factor. Also deadly is the uncontrolled, lemming-like disease of running for president. Once infected, most “patients” seldom survive. In this case, France or no, a second nationally broadcast “OOPS” moment for Perry should be enough for permanent residence in the political graveyard. Oh, he may not realize he’s deceased for awhile. What with all the zombie phobia these days. But I have to think he’s among the “walking dead.” Again.

Perry’s is not the only voice politicizing what is really a terrible international health issue. John McCain and his hand puppet L. Graham blame the administration – read president – for not appointing an Ebola “czar.” McCain – who has previously loudly complained about the existence of “czars” in Washington – not only looks foolish but has omitted one serious fact. He and the puppet helped block the last Surgeon General nominee, keeping the job vacant for many months. They claimed 36-year-old Dr. Vivek Murthy was “much too young” for the job – despite an exemplary scholastic and medical record.

Putting the lie to that claim was the fact that the good doctor had once written of his belief that “gun violence is a public health issue.” Damned right! But the NRA pulled the string tight on some political “privates” and Murthy’s nomination died aborning. The jobs still vacant. Thanks, John.

Ebola must not be a political football. It’s a damned serious theat everywhere. Though it’s odd to note no Ebola cases in Germany, Japan, England, Russia, Canada, South America, Mexico et all. Wonder why.

The plain fact is McCain, Graham, Perry and other Republicans have joined other fear mongers scaring the hell out of millions of Americans. A few Democrats, too. Rather than use the power of their public offices to throw governmental clout and tools into the battle to control the disease, they daily fling outrageous charges of failure and danger in all directions.

Ebola is here. On our soil. It’s going to get worse. It’s not going away anytime soon. National Institutes of Health and CDC leaders need to stop with the soothing platitudes and the “we’re-in-control” falsities and give the public honest facts and evaluations based on medical knowledge rather than ass-covering or political fright. The White House needs to stop with the same tones of overconfidence and bring to bear the most qualified help from any source available in the nation. Or the world, for that matter. Now!

And the media? Ah, yes, the media. We have three Ebola patients, folks. Three. There will be more. We don’t need phony “Breaking News” banners and ridiculous helicopter shots of hospital complexes and overblown patient transfer motorcades. Again, find facts – gain knowledge – and report both. Accurately. Factually. End the sensationalism and report.

We are a mobile society. Ebola is not going to stop that. We cannot seal our borders, shutter our air terminals and hide from the rest of the world. We need information. Real, well-researched and well documented information to become as informed as possible.

Political hacks and grandstanders like Perry, McCain and their cohorts are a disease we’ll never conquer. We stand a better chance with Ebola.

Let’s get together

Author: admin

We’re still killing people in our homeland prisons. Death penalty it’s called. Makes no difference whether you support such extreme societal retribution or you don’t, it’s always a bit jarring to read morning headlines telling of another overnight execution.

Texas has done it again. That’s nine for the year. While Texas is the “death penalty capital” of the country, about half the 50 states still kill someone from time to time. Happens often enough reporting of the details shouldn’t be unsettling. But it usually is.

Oregon hasn’t killed anyone for awhile. Not because the law doesn’t allow for it. The governor just won’t let it happen on his watch. Not sure what the legal entanglements are for having a law on the books that the chief executive won’t enforce. But, hell, we have sheriffs ignoring black letter law for all sorts of things. And that Nevada BLM freeloader backed down the government with no retribution so far. In fact, a lot of folks – in law enforcement and out – seem to treat laws as “suggestions” rather than requirements for some sort of action. Pickin’ and choosin’ so what’s one more governor, right?

But how ‘bout that death penalty? You for it? Opposed to it? Don’t give a damn either way? I think most folks fall into that last category. Haven’t given the subject a lot of quiet time to think on it and have no hard-and-fast feelings. Many who’re for it have personal experiences related to some horrible crime or know someone who has. And a lot of folks opposed have religious or other personal reasons. Unlike that old sure-to-arouse topic of abortion where people are hard one way or the other, the subject of killing bad guys (and bad women) seems mushy by comparison.

Every time I hear someone sound off on “state’s rights” or “get the government out of my life,” several subjects come to mind. The death penalty is one. How we vote is another. Drivers licenses, too. There are a few others on my list but the point is this: sometimes having 50 states do things we all do 50 different ways makes more of a mess of our democracy than it should.

Take driver’s licenses. I’ve had to apply for a license in quite a few states over the years. Aside from whether a school zone is 20 or 25mph or a particular states top speed on an Interstate, all the questions have been pretty much the same. Never had a single one about driving in snow which would make those same Wyoming tests valid in Florida.

The point is, some careful standardizing of a few minimal issues could result in a single license. Might develop some sort of short study requirement for unique local laws but that could be handled on the I-net and we could all avoid the dreaded DMV.

Same thing for insuring our vehicles. One set of standards for all. Liability is liability and most other driving issues are nearly all the same no matter where you live.

And voting? Just look at the current 50 state voting situations. Nearly a dozen of ‘em are trying (unconstitutionally I believe) to disenfranchise minority citizens because nutball Republicans want to win more elections. Sorry, my Republican friends, but there ain’t a state with a Democrat majority where the same thing is happening. Not one.

If more states like mine (Oregon at the moment) would go to our nearly foolproof system of voting-by-mail, using a single set of national voting eligibility requirements, we wouldn’t have civil rights lawyers running to the courts to protect the guaranteed rights of hundreds of thousands of minority citizens. In all the years Oregon has conducted hundreds and hundreds of elections – local-state-federal- you can count confirmed cases of voter fraud on less than the fingers on your right hand! And our turnouts for those elections have been notably higher than nearly any other state. Year after year after year.

Back to the death penalty. Is it a “state’s rights” issue? Or a moral issue? Should you be more likely do die for committing a crime just because you live in Texas rather than Idaho or Utah? Does that make death penalties more a “geographic residence” issue than a criminal one?

Take Idaho. Please! (Sorry, Henny.) Idaho has all the requisite laws to kill bad guys but doesn’t do it very much. There’s a guy named Creech who’s killed several folks over the years. Inside prison and out. He first went to Idaho’s version of death row in the 1970’s where he killed again. Still there. And he’ll likely die there. Sentenced to death several times. In Oregon, as long as the current governor continues being our governor, Mr. Creech could get yet another four year guaranteed reprieve after the November elections. Which our current governor will win. See what I mean by “residence” issue?

Point is, there are many subjects that could be handled by a single set of federal laws rather than a hodgepodge of 50 local ones. There are precedents: taxes, social security, national draft, passports/visas, food, environmental and health standards etc.. If local tweaking is needed, so be it. But the basics of a lot of things could be – and should be – standardized.

Doing things that make sense – doing them as a country – “one nation under God” – used to be the way we lived. But we’ve fractured our politics- and society in general – in so many ways. Doing what we do with uniform standards that make sense has succumbed to uninformed anti-government rhetoric that has created fissures in our society that separate us. From common sense. From each other.

The time has come to say it. So here goes. Government employment – especially federal – has, in too many cases, become a haven from the unemployment lines for too damned many people. In addition, holding elective office – especially federal – has become a haven for too damned many idiots who’ve proven they should be unemployed.

Strong stuff? You bet! But sometimes the total incompetency in both classifications is so overpowering you can’t reach any other conclusion. What follows is my small offerings of proof(s).

Take Ebola. Within hours of the arrival in a Texas hospital of the first known case in this country, Gov. Ricky Perry – trying to boost his hopeless run for president – leaped before the cameras to claim “I’m proud Texas has become the location for this emergency. We’re the best equipped state in the nation to deal with this – we’ve the best medical resources and the best know-how to defeat this before it becomes a national disaster.” Oh, Hell yes.

Within 24 hours, we found out the “best medical resources” in Texas had seen the guy and turned him loose with some pills. Seems the nurses with the “best medical resources” had an intake computer program with the right questions but it didn’t “talk” to the one the doctors use.

Then, with four of the man’s relatives imprisoned in a small apartment, the State of Texas ordered them to move and a hazmat team activated to delouse the place. Except. The Texas health department could find no place in the whole damned state to relocate the people. And the hazmat team was stopped from acting because it had only a license to transport and dispose of the garbage but no Texas permit to remove it. A private citizen found a new “home” for the sequestered four and the hazmat folks waited 48 hours before a permit was issued. But the State of Texas? “Best equipped?” Hell yes. And Perry left for a weekend campaigning in Iowa.

CDC and Ebola. CDC top brass has been living on TV with complete assurances our health system “is the best in the world,” “it’s working” and “this will soon be behind us.” Guess they were too busy in front of the cameras to catch the Texas mess. They also weren’t truthful about those congressional jackasses who arbitrarily cut the CDC budget through “sequestration” and, since those carefully-designed-but-very-expensive CDC programs to handle emergencies like Ebola hadn’t been used, they were cut back or eliminated. Don’t need ‘em ‘cause they ain’t been used, according to the Louie Gomer (SHAZAM) – er Gohmert – School of Deep Think. Texas again. Hell yes.

VA health care. Anyone else want to jump in here? The billions we’ve spent have propped up a system rife with duplicitous civil “servants” who’ve been a cancer within. Too few medical professionals – too few programs to take care of the new medical and psychological problems veterans suffer from these days and an indifferent congress cutting budgets with no regard for the human suffering caused by their indifferent and arbitrary actions.

How about the IRS? A couple of offices of people targeting certain political groups (left and right) for special audits. Administrative perversion on that scale can’t survive without a lot of folks knowing what’s going on. Whether they participate or not.

The Pentagon. Hundreds of examples. But one will do nicely. No one in the Pentagon – NO ONE – can tell taxpayers how much equipment the military owns and where it is. Or whether it still exists. No one. The claim is inventory is too big to – wait for it – inventory.

How about the CIA? Read the other day CIA wasn’t aware of ISSA’s strength or size before things hit the fan in Iraq. “We underestimated,” said the Director. Oh Hell yes. We got the same crap when Bush-the-Junior was lying us into Iraq in the first place. Then Syria came along and another “surprise” at CIA. How about those riots in Egypt? And murders at Benghazi? Terrorist sponsorship was “news to the CIA!

Then the CIA “underestimated” the Russia-Ukraine mess. “Didn’t see that coming,” was the response. Aside from listening to our phone calls and reading our emails, what the Hell does the CIA do? Why is that spy agency alone in not knowing what’s happening?

There’s a lot more. And it’s not confined to the above miscreants. I’ve called local, county and state offices over the last few years looking for help in their areas of responsibility. I can’t count the times the response was “we don’t do that any more because of budget cuts” or “we’re too short-staffed to do all the things we used to do.” Then what’re the people left doing if they’re not doing the jobs that were the reason for their employment in those offices?

This whole loony and totally crazy illogical crap of cut, cut, cut in all areas of government is gutting what’s left. Citizens needing help with basic necessities are hitting brick walls trying to find someone to do what’s needed. People are hungry. People are homeless. People are dying. Families are being broken up. We taxpayers footing the bill are, in far too many instances, not getting what we’re paying for. If this country has ever truly had “taxation without representation” it’s happening now. The gutless political hypocrisy of “sequestration” – created by too many in congress who don’t know how government works and who’re operating in some sort of ignorant vacuum of a phony political theology – is eating necessary government functions.

What’s needed – and we’ve needed it for a very long time – is a total reappraisal of what government is – what it should be – what it must do to maintain the “common good” – what is required of it for the peace and security of the nation – all these things and more. Efforts to deal with our 21st century challenges are being crippled and our leadership in so many of the world’s activities is being undermined.

Until that reappraisal and the massive, intellectual and political work is done by newer and better qualified Americans, too much of our government will continue to be a haven for the otherwise unemployed. That should not be taken as condemnation of those in government who are honestly trying to do their jobs. But it damned well should be taken as a flat out condemnation of the intellectual idiocy and complete ignorance of a political system too full of both.

Voter assisted suicide

Author: admin

When someone commits suicide, two things happen. Someone dies. Those left behind feel shock and grief. Would those same attributes apply if an entire county died by its own hand? We’re about to find out.

Voters in Oregon’s Curry County seem determined to end life on this planet and set sail for an unknown destination in the afterlife. Try as they might, political, civic and moral leaders in-residence seem powerless to stop the self-induced destruction.

Already faced with the most serious local governmental fiscal hole in the state – following defeat of half a dozen bond issues for this and that – voters have said a loud “NO” to the latest measure – a small tax increase dedicated only to keeping doors open at the county jail. Just for keeping the bad guys locked up.

Bad enough. But it gets worse. Curry has been privileged to have the services of Sheriff John Bishop for many years. As good a professional cop as you’ll find. He’s tried and tried to make his case with voters that his lockup is out of compliance with nearly all legal – if not humane – requirements for keeping prisoners. He’s stacked up enough reasons for a better jail so effectively even voters in neighboring counties have been swayed.

He’s pleaded. He’s begged. He nearly single-handedly forced the latest bond issue before voters. All his labors have ended up in the trash. The latest – a rejection of something so basic to public safety it should be automatic. But it wasn’t even close.

Now, he’s leaving the job. The sheriff’s doctors have told him he’s got to get out from under the load of stress he’s carried for so long or he’ll die years before his time. He’s taken a new job in Salem. But that’s not all. His wife – who’s in charge of county corrections – is leaving, too. They’re both worn out. He and his corrections director wife will be gone before the end of the year.

The newly appointed sheriff – a younger veteran of the department – says the latest voter “shot-to-the-head” leaves him with one choice. He can lock up only the “really, really bad guys” and keep jail doors open ‘til January. Or he can keep taking those arrested and those sentenced by the courts and run out of money in a few weeks. Your call.

Curry County has been on this self-destructive path for several years. All the usual government services – including those required by law – have been cut, cut and cut again. Good people – people you’d want running things anywhere – have bailed out. Staffing in all departments – ALL – is less than minimal. Even 9-1-1 calls are screened for seriousness before anyone responds. And sometimes – they don’t. Bad guys – sometimes really bad guys – have been cycled from arrest to jail to court and back to the street for months.

Oregon has a new law allowing a county to declare bankruptcy and turn to the state for a bailout. A lot of voters in Curry seem to be counting on that. Counting, too, on getting out from under the current – and very deep – debt. They’re about to get a very large surprise.

While the state will be forced to step in, that new law also allows those who take over to make some major decisions. What services will be provided. What won’t. What those services will cost. And who’ll pay the bill. In fact, the state can lay on new “taxes” for certain things. Costs likely to be significantly higher than that old jail bond issue that was junked. The new, temporary help from the State of Oregon will come with a price tag. And with the authority to force payment.

Curry has only five “cities” with some 25,000 souls. More than three-quarters of ‘em live in Brookings, Harbor and Gold Beach – a stretch of Highway 101 of about 24 miles. A small county, yes. But it has a large land area and requires all the services of any other county. Given a long Pacific coastline and weather that wreaks havoc on roads and other public facilities, it also has some serious operating costs. Some of the required maintenance hasn’t been done in a long, long time because of the continued bond issue and county budget rejections. There’s a lot of deferred problems that need prompt attention before the entire infrastructure falls apart.

Curry County’s been “dying-by-a-thousand-cuts.” We lived there. We left. We found an attitude of false self-sufficiency among many people there. Curry may have the largest percentage of over-60 voters in the state. Maybe even over 70. Lots of retired folk. Lots of former government workers. Lots of former military. Fixed income folks.

But there’s something else. The largest population base is the unincorporated community of Harbor across the Chetco River from Brookings. Folks in Harbor have repeatedly refused to incorporate – preferring to leech the “free” services and shopping of the City of Brookings rather than carry their own costs. It’s been ever thus.

That may have to change if the county goes under. State of Oregon administrators charged with reviving the victim may have something to say about this longtime financial abuse of citizenship. Infrastructure costs disproportionally levied on some residents more than others may need to be readjusted some way. Freeloading may have to be ended.

If politics is your bent, watching developments in Curry County, Oregon, may be worth your while for a few months. Several other counties are in precarious financial conditions, too. But Curry seems closer to the edge of the cliff than any of them. Whether Curry jumps or is pushed off that cliff is the question. It got into this suicidal position at the hands of voters. This last “no” vote may have been the killer.

The good times rolled

Author: admin

Summer is over on Oregon’s central coast. No big news for you, maybe. But very big news for those of us beach side. And good news it is. Very good! Stores, restaurants, bars, campgrounds and all the usual places tourists spend their dollars are saying this has been the best – very best – year ever. Not just since the recession. Ever!

Even the real estate market, which went in the tank in 2007, has come back in a big way. Average sales prices in the $270,000 bracket a year ago hit an average of $340,000 in August. The number of sales has been pretty consistent for the last few months at 70 or so in our county. But prices have been going back to pre-recession levels. Best residential buys around now are condos and townhouses. Time shares are also firming up.

But – part of the reason for these record-setting numbers is likely to present a big future downside, we’re told. The weather. The summer months have been absolutely beautiful. But, it seems, too much so. Traditional rainy periods that occasionally drive sunbathing tourists back to the motels temporarily have been few. Less than two inches in August. About the same in July.

Biologists are saying coastal rivers aren’t running high enough for returning salmon to get all the way back to their spawning grounds. The absence of the usual amount of rainfall is also likely to affect lobster and crab futures because shallower waters near the coastline are warmer than usual. Not enough cold inflow from rivers.

So, it may be a “win-some, lose-some” situation. But it really has been just beautiful!

This was our first full summer during “the season.” We’d been warned the influx of all the touristas would have a daily affect on our lives. Lines at the good restaurants. Crowds in the stores. Lots of waiting when shopping. And traffic. Lots and lots of traffic in our little single highway towns. We’d have to learn the “back routes” to get from one end of the community to another.

It wasn’t really so bad. Except for the “left-turners.” Damn, how they screw up traffic. Rather than making three right turns to go around the block and head safely straight ahead to the beach, they just stop and hit the left blinker. And they stay stopped for one or more complete cycles of lights while traffic piles up behind.

In summer months, traffic moves north and south through little towns like ours in an almost unending stream. No problem as long as the movement continues. You deal with it. Except for those damned “lefties.” But when we locals complain, someone downtown who relies on the transitory dollars screams banning turns would cost them their livelihood. Sounds like B.S. to me but they win. Every time.

Speaking of traffic, during the season, it seems the most out-of-state plates we see are on vehicles from Washington, California, British Columbia and Idaho. In that order. All, of course, want to get close to the Pacific. And Oregon is where they chose to do so.

I think the reason for that lineup is this: Oregon is the only West coast state with an “open” beach law. That means no individual or corporation can buy up a chunk of coastline and keep the public out. Gov. Tom McCall – bless his craggy, departed heart – fought for eight years to get the “open” beach law on the books. And court decision after court decision has kept it there. It’s been challenged by Hilton, Marriott, and about every millionaire seeking an Oregon compound with a private ocean. None of ‘em has won.

But Washington, California and B.C.? Unless you can go through a state, county or local park, an Indian reservation – or a hotel lobby – the wall between public access and private property in those places is high and impenetrable. Just try to get to a public piece of the Pacific around Monterey that doesn’t fall into private ownership. Lotsa luck.

People come to the Oregon coast because they can get to the ocean. And the local people who count on those other people to come should say a little prayer of “thank you” to Ol’ Tom every night at bedtime. His legacy is one of unrestrained access to wet bare feet, happy but worn out dogs and sand in your car.

As for that high number of Idaho visitors? Well, guaranteed public access to the nearest ocean plus getting out of the continuing right wing political inquisition to see how the real world lives and see how very well things run in a real two-party state – the attractions are obvious.

ISIS and the talkers

Author: admin

One of my secret character flaws is occasionally getting a deep and continuous chuckle out of someone’s political discomfort. Oh, not real people. I mean the hate-mongers and loonies on the far right. Or left.

Such is the case these days noting the very untypical near-silence and even greater-than-usual oral confusion of Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, Hannity and their fellow travelers. They’re absolutely flummoxed and having a most difficult time trying to attack the President. The source of their confusion seems to be – ISIS. Anything to do with ISIS.

They want to heap scorn, criticism and verbal garbage on those in the White House. As is their usual bent. They want to loudly claim the administration is charging off in the wrong direction. But none of them – not one – has landed a blow. They’re as totally tongue-tied as the rest of us when it comes to trying to figure out what to do with this latest, most murderous turn in our world.

Oh, they blather and posture and exhibit the same kind of flatulence we’ve come to expect. But they’re even further off-target with their specious rambling than usual.

Same on the far left. None of the usual suspects over there has managed much more than a whimper about “homicidal psychopaths.” The videos of beheadings and executions have taken this latest outrage against the civilized world to such extremes that even the most accommodating ultra-liberal can’t muster much more than a “tsk tsk.”

This absence of informed criticism and our so far restrained response to ISIS seems to me three-fold. One – the extreme cruelty and seeming lack of any sort of conscience in these murderers is so stunning and such an affront to an otherwise civilized world that it knocks the mental wind out of us. They commit the sorts of acts we’ve learned of in ancient history classes. It’s the stuff of video games and violent movies. Not real life. We just can’t get our heads around it.

A second reason, I believe, for our failure at the moment to have a national response – other than extreme revulsion – is how to respond. What can you do? What actions can you take? When such a merciless adversary is inviting you onto the battlefield in hopes of killing more of our youth in frenzied battle, do you take the bloody challenge and show up? Or, do you gather your best advisors and try to create a civilized – and more traditional – reaction?

The fact is ISIS presents such an unorthodox and merciless enemy that even the military is somewhat stunned. They aren’t teaching “ISIS-101″ at West Point or Annapolis. Our cadets and midshipmen aren’t learning how to deal with beheadings, mass executions and slaughter of any and all people ISIS hates. Which seems to be all the rest of us.

This is an enemy you can’t bomb into submission. Napalm will take out a few. But – like cockroaches in a cheap hotel – more will crawl out of the nearest hole and the murder will continue. You can’t use tanks or traditional battlefield tactics and weaponry because there is no battlefield. Unless you count some city street, the next block down or a supermarket in an unnamed world city.

Third, whatever major national action there is behind-the-scenes is being handicapped by the public reluctance of Arab states to take up the fight. And ISIS is their fight. No one should doubt the American military and diplomatic activity that is – so far- hidden from public view. The major U.S. agencies directly responsible for coming up with a planned response are working 24/7. Count on it! But without large and total commitments from Arab nations that are or will be facing ISIS eventually, any response from this country will not eliminate the problem. It’ll just ease our national conscience that we killed a few of ‘em. Nothing more.

It’s interesting our impotent Congress is largely staying on the sidelines for this one. The same Congress that’s suing the President for “exceeding his authority” is now perfectly at ease to let him make all the decisions this time. All, that is, but McCain and Graham. Ol’ John and his sock puppet have been blasting away like a couple of drunk squirrel hunters.

Graham, especially, has taken the ignorant rhetoric further into the twilight zone this time with his “they’re-coming-to-this-country-to-kill-us” claim – stopping just short of demanding we arm boy scouts. ISIS is not a laughing matter. Graham is.

No, ISIS is most serious. You can bet no one responsible for dealing with the problem is laughing. There WILL be a response. This is as serious a situation as this nation has faced. We will respond.

Still, I have to chuckle a bit in all this as Limbaugh et al – usually claiming to have all the answers – have none this time. Their traditional foul attacks on various targets of opportunity that can’t fight back don’t work on this one. Their continual demeaning blather we’ve become accustomed to is just so much more sewage under the bridge.

You want to feel safer? Turn ‘em off!

End of the food chain

Author: admin

Collectively, Barb and I’ve lived in many different environments across our very large country. New York City (9 million folks) to Middleton, Idaho, when it was about 1,200. Always new experiences. But we’ve never lived in a more remote, end-of-the-food-chain location than the Oregon coast.

Lots of people want to live by the sea. Even many who’ve never seen more water in one place than a swimming pool. The idea’s been so romanticized – and commercialized – that many folks spend lots of time poring over computer-enhanced pictures of coastlines, ships, lighthouses and empty oceanscapes. Being an old Oregonian, I’ve fantasized about it for years. So, when the wife decided that’s where we ought to be, I was O.K. with it.

And here we are.

To make my point of being unaware of life’s little things we take for granted, here’s something you might not know. Every President of the United States during my lifetime has made the same personal admission after being in that office a few months. Different words, maybe, but same thought. Long-term politician or newbies in national politics, all of them – all – have admitted they never really knew the full scope of the job. Even Bush-the-elder – with decades of elective and appointive experience – said the day-to-day experience of being President was something he was not totally prepared for.

Well, my friends, so is the awakening to the realities of living on the Oregon coast. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. Most of the time. We like it. We’re adjusting. But, like Bush-the-first, the realities are not something we were entirely prepared for.

In the month of May, I wanted a new long-sleeved shirt for some reason. There was one “department” store in our area – the only one within 50 miles. I looked and looked but could find only short-sleeved. When I asked the clerk where the long-sleeved ones were, she said “We only stock them September through April.” I made do. We’ve learned to “make do” a lot.

There’s one store in our town that sells TVs. Just one. I was in the other day and counted six. Not six of one size. Six in ALL sizes.

There are three new car dealers 30 miles from where we live. All in the same town. I recently had the need for someone to apply some striping and decals to our new RV. At all three dealers I was told, “Well, there’s this one guy we use. But he’s going through a messy divorce right now and doesn’t want to be bothered.” The decals are still in the shipping box. And will likely stay there until that one guy gets his life reorganized.

Speaking of RVs – if you go 60 miles North of us – and 60 miles South – you’ll find one guy who works on ‘em. One. There used to be two but one died. Given the large numbers of RV’s that ply Highway 101 all year – plus the hundreds of full-timers living in those 120 miles – waiting for help with a bum refrigerator in summer or a busted furnace in winter can be heartrending experiences.

There are a lot of things you can’t run out and buy here. So you make lists of things people inland take for granted. Then, every few weeks, Barb and several friends make the trip to “the city” for supplies. We call it “the Costco run” no matter how many stops they have to make. They fill up someone’s large SUV with all the “necessaries,” then hit a few latte and quilt shops to make an occasion out of it.

We ordered satellite TV service. Oh, they’d sign us up right now and charge the old credit card on-the-spot. But we’d have to wait three weeks for the installer to drive the 100 miles between us and him. Nobody closer.

Given the age of utilities on the coast, you get used to power outages, sewer line ruptures and water line failures. Not just from old age but those storms that we’re famous for. You get used to waiting to flush. Or do it less.

Which reminds me. When we get one of those big Nor’wester’s in our forecast, there’s always the NOAA warning to avoid travel, stock up, stay inside and hunker down. After the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you wanna guess when we see the second highest tourist traffic? Right! Lines at motels with ocean views and low-lying campgrounds. And people parked at the beaches. The first row of seats for the tsunami.

“Blow, damn it, BLOW!!!”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all “life on the frontier.” We’ve got the necessities. If your list of necessities is kinda short. And when the days are sunny and the Pacific is blue and smooth, watching the whales spouting and enjoying the breezes can make a lot of the inconveniences seem small.

Besides, we’ve got a good selection of really great restaurants and dozens and dozens of coastal craft breweries and wineries. How the Hell do you think we locals get through all those storms?

Life is good!

Facts not fashion

Author: admin

Story placement is always a bugaboo for print journalists. Sometimes the rule is the most important story of the day goes at the top. Other times, the editor reaches for one that will “grab” readers because it’s cute or funny or sensational. But my latest experience in lousy headline juxtaposition came the other day with these two. Side by side. Both treated equally.

“HENRY KISSINGER: WORLD ORDER IS CRUMBLING.”

“FASHION EXPERTS REVIEW PRESIDENT’S TAN SUIT”

Now I suppose the value – importance, if you will – found in those two items depends on how you look at world events. Personally, I find stories of cataclysms and threats to our worldly existence a tad more of interest than the color of Mr. Obama’s sartorial selection of the day. Apparently not so for the editors of The Huffington Post and nearly all other national media.

I checked seven national news sites after finding the breathless reviewers comments about that suit. All had similar stories: one had three! Only two mentioned “Doctor K’s” rather mind-numbing remarks.

Henry always has had a flair for being quotable if not just a bit over-the-top. In this instance, it’s hard not to agree with him. Look at a Congress where order has already crumbled into chaos and stupefying inaction. Check out Vladimir Putin’s barefaced international lies denying invasion of another country while his military does just that. At the moment, the civilized world is absolutely flummoxed about the merciless killing machine known as ISIS or ISIL and what to do about the mindless slaughter being perpetrated on thousands and thousands of innocent people.

If these world order-defying items don’t hit home, there’s always the climate change that’s redesigning and eliminating parts of the earth as we stand flatfooted and take no meaningful steps to reverse it. Or, the many longstanding racial injustices leaving young, dead bodies on the streets and thousands of innocent people in jail.

There’s the outright racial hatred of our duly elected President and the piling on of blame for anything and everything never exhibited with any other President in our nation’s history. Add some of the most ignorant and dangerous people elected to public office with no thought of the responsibilities they’ve sworn to undertake. They make a mockery of the very Constitution a lot of ‘em have never read but use repeatedly as a verbal dressing gown.

“Doctor K” was also referring to the widening disparity of economic well-being in this and other countries. Disparity brought about by self-indulgent thieves with billions of dollars at their disposal to buy whatever elected officeholder is necessary at the moment to gather more power and privilege. You can add to that category the sell-outs in public office who feel their own employment – and their own bank accounts – are more important than the honest conduct of the business they were elected to perform.

Kissinger’s discussion of national and world conditions was predicated on these and any other factors – breakdowns in political and economic orders – mayhem and lawlessness – elected impotence in this and other countries – wrongs against civilized nations going unpunished and a lot more. I read the details of his interview more than once. And – in the main – agree.

In his prime, Kissinger could have been lumped in with some of those irresponsible politicians. As it did with his bosses, Viet Nam spilled blood on his resume and made him a liar many times. He had many moments in his storied career he’d like to forget. Historians will not let that happen.

But, he also had moments of leadership and brilliant decision-making to handle many tough situations. Despite some flaws in the performance of his public duties, he was right a lot more than he was wrong. He’s right in his most recent public utterances. His words deserve a much larger audience.

In nearly universal fashion, the media – all media – is failing its most important reason for being – informing. Telling us what we NEED to know rather than what it thinks we WANT to know. The ratings-watching bean counters who worry more about return-on-investment or the economic interests of some vague group of stockholders are leading this decay in the traditional role of media information necessary in our society. They’re being ably assisted by too many media people more attuned to trivia than history – gossip than reality – too many unable to distinguish the important.

And that tan suit? I don’t give a damn if a president wears jeans, a t-shirt and is barefoot. What he says – how he says it – what it means. Those should be the criteria reported.

And speaking of clothing and fashion – check out the media next time you see some of those folks at one of your local news events. A tan suit would be more welcome.

One of the fastest places in the world to quickly learn new life skills is in the middle of a large street demonstration or riot. Pure fact from someone who’s “been there, done that.” Watching the news out of Ferguson, Missouri, brings it all back.

It’s also recreated that eerie feeling of being lost in the crowd – finding yourself unable to control your own direction of motion – scared – trying to get your bearings. And the smells. Lots and lots of unforgettable smells.

There are really just two kinds of street demonstrations – focused, calm, centered, deliberate. Peaceful. Several of those I experienced as a reporter at anti-war gatherings of several hundred thousand in Washington D.C., in the late ‘60’s – early ‘70’s. Except for twice being ridden to the ground by mounted National Park Service cops, those gatherings fit that description.

The other type was brought sharply watching events in Ferguson. Crowded – scared – charging cops – tear gas – arrests – walking wounded – strangers trying to help strangers. I got into several of those, especially around the DuPont Circle area of D.C.. As in Ferguson, cops could get aggressive and out-of-hand.

All those years ago, Media people in D.C. were issued I.D. badges to be worn on a chain around the neck – about the size of a postcard, orange and black with our pictures in the middle. Supposed to keep us safe and free from arrest as opposed to media experiences in Ferguson – where they also have “credentials.” Except they were actually used by cops to target the media with tear gas canisters and to get you arrested, hauled off to busses and taken to RFK Stadium for processing. At that time – and maybe even now – wearing your name tag simply meant this was your first street riot. We been-there-before guys kept them in our pockets.

One of the best descriptions of feelings in a riot situation with thousands of people, tear gas, cops, police dogs and panic is “alone in a crowd.” From the second it starts, people have a cattle-like urge to run some direction. If you came with a friend, most likely you are quickly separated. You find yourself breathing gas, feeling your skin burn, choking, eyes running and that terrible taste in your mouth before you can cover your face. You are instantly disoriented. One experience like that will NOT be forgotten. Nor the sights and sound. And that smell.

I’m sure many of the unarmed demonstrators in Ferguson would attest to these descriptions. The intervening 44 years or so between my experiences and theirs haven’t brought much change. People – mostly honest folk feeling deeply about a grievance – still take to the streets. The herd-like stampede can still start at any second for any reason. Cops are still armed – though better now and able to wound or kill more people more quickly. No amount of intervening time has made the affects of tear gas any less painful.

My generation grew up with strong parental admonitions to “respect police” and even help them when we could. I believed that and tried to teach my own offspring the same. As a young reporter, I spent a lot of time on the “cop beat,” riding with ‘em at all hours. I saw a lot of things they were confronted with that most folks don’t hear about. I witnessed lightning-quick decisions – nearly all right decisions. I knew a lot of good cops. And a few – very few – not good.

Despite that exposure and years of respect for law enforcement, I’ve never seen such an out-of-control, heavily armed and dangerous situation as we’ve seen in Ferguson. Not just once or twice. But most nights. There can’t be any well-trained supervisory structure or it wouldn’t be repeated so damned many times. Capt. Johnson of the Missouri State Police seems to be a helluva spokesman. But even his people seem overly aggressive and quick to strike out. And the presence of the equally well-armed national guard is completely unjustified. Very bad decision.

I know there are provocateurs in the crowds. Sustained demonstrations anywhere always draw the bastards out. But after a confrontation or two, they can be identified and arrested. Maybe more plainclothes cops are needed in the crowd to find ‘em and weed ‘em out. There’s no damned reason for the night-after-night violent police reaction we’ve witnessed to legitimate crowds of earnest and peaceful folks gathered in the streets. Boot the troublemakers. Jail ‘em.

I tell of these demonstration experiences and of the uncalled for response by poorly trained law enforcement for one reason. To describe why – after the first confrontation – I believe things have gone so badly. No matter how innocent the demonstrator – no matter how willing to be directed by responsible authority – no matter how legitimate the initial grievance – once faced with heavily armed and irresponsibly aggressive cops using tear gas and abusing their authority, after the first night the protest swings from the original reason for the demonstration and becomes an us-versus-them situation for most participants from then on. Almost impossible to control.

Every night since the first one, that’s what we’ve seen on the streets of Ferguson. No longer outrage over the killing of one black teen for many. No longer the emotions such a violent act would have on citizens. After the first night, its been us-versus-them. More a protest of the heavy-handed authority and badly mishandled response. Rocks, bottles and bricks don’t come from a peaceful assembly of honestly aggrieved people supporting their own impassioned feelings.

I’ve got two scars – some 44 years old – reminding me of all that every day.