Hell in a handbasket

Author: admin

We “punditry” types rely on words to praise or condemn when dealing with political, economic or related issues. The words and opinions come easier than facts and, too often, we throw the nouns and adjectives out there and walk away with few facts to support the opining.

But statistics – especially those compiled by people with a dedication to neutrality and letting the numbers speak for themselves – have garnered my respect over the years. While I don’t really understand how they do what they do, I’ve learned to appreciate those who work with numbers. Especially when their findings tend to support what many of us have said for a long, long time. These do.

Idaho is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Those are just my words again. But they’re based squarely on the findings of the Idaho Center For Fiscal Policy. A “gang that can shoot straight.”

Rather than go into all the messy numbers, here are just the headlines from the Center’s latest report.

“Idaho collects less in taxes than all but two other states.”

“Support for Idaho’s schools has been steadily decreasing and is unequal across school districts.”

“Idaho’s support for higher education has dropped sharply, leading to big increases in tuition and fees.”

“Idaho has steadily cut revenues since the late 1990’s.”

“Idaho’s low and moderate income residents pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the highest earners”

“Idaho’s per capita income is lower than all but one state – Mississippi.”

Those are their clinical, statistical findings. And they form the factual basis for the words “Idaho: Hell in a handbasket”

To my mind, those six headlines tie together in an endless circle. You can enter the circle at any point and exit randomly. But the pattern of disintegration in Idaho’s economic conditions just goes on and on. Down and down.

Native young Idahoans now graduating from the state’s universities have lived in a political environment of one-party politics all their years. And that single political domination is a big reason for these disastrous findings – and headlines, the findings and headlines that show why their education cost them as much as it did. When it shouldn’t have.

It’s possible, had the party in power all those years been Democrats, conditions could have been the same. I doubt it but let’s say it’s possible. The issue isn’t so much that it’s Republicans who have their fingerprints over this economic disaster as it is more the absence of a competing political voice for so many years. There’s been no strong, effective dissent from bad taxing policies and other lousy, self-serving, basic economic decisions – those created and enacted by unchallenged people making bad decisions after bad decisions. The spiral has kept gaining in downward intensity.

In this case, solidly Republican. And, for the most part, solidly rural Republicans ignoring the shifts in people moving to the cities and the racial and age demographics that were left out of the basic calculations necessary for good public policy. For decades! Without meaningful opposition.

And one more important point. While urban residents far outnumber rural, dominant elected Republican party and, thus, legislative leadership comes from small counties with declining populations. In a one-party state, decision-makers don’t represent the majority of the population. Which affects how tax laws are written, exemptions granted and to whom.

The Idaho business sector could give lessons to the Koch brothers on how to dominate a state government and to make that domination so effective in serving its own interests. The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy doesn’t make that case in this report. But it has in others. The shifts of taxes from corporations to individuals and the outrageous exemptions given to large businesses and farmers have been going on for many, many years.

School districts – faced with increasing enrollment demands coupled with decreasing state support – have had to plead/beg with local constituencies to pass bond issues to keep the doors open. Not to update and do the best for children. No! Just to keep operating. As legislators went home – proudly boasting about the “tax cuts” they’d sponsored – taxpayers found themselves paying more because the “tax cuts” for business came at the expense of highways, water projects – and all of education.

It would be comforting if the Center’s report could be the basis for voter upheaval and give legislative and statewide offices a housecleaning. But that won’t happen. Those findings will wind up on another bookshelf to gather dust alongside others that found – in pure statistics – that Idaho is going to Hell.

Forget the handbasket.

Shut up and sit down

Author: admin

The Hell raising by most Republicans in Congress over publication of the Senate torture report is as off-base as it is loud. Not unexpected. Certainly true-to-form. And – as has so often been the case with them – dead wrong.

The outcry over the black and white evidence this $40 million report lays bare about the “official” actions the Bush administration conducted – then lied about – is baseless B.S.. Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Meyers, three of Meyers’ predecessors at CIA and the hundreds of Americans who conducted, who knew and who lied, over and over and over. Those should be your targets for condemnation.

The self-serving, political lying continues with hourly, ill-aimed blasts at the media and/or at Dianne Feinstein, Jay Rockefeller and all Senate Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. “Kill the damned messenger!!!”

What these liars, deniers and political justifiers ignore is fact. Had there been no torture – illegal, inhuman torture with this nation’s sponsorship – there would’ve been no report. Nothing to investigate. Nothing!

My strong personal “thank you’s” go out to each member of the Committee who voted to conduct the lengthy investigation, then publish the findings. Had the decision to put these grisly facts on the public record not been made by this week, the new Republican majority in the Senate would’ve buried it – every nationally embarrassing, humiliating, loathsome truth would have disappeared from any outside knowledge. Bet the farm!

In recent years, I’ve found it hard to say anything positive about the public utterances of John McCain – leading Senate militarist – who seems to have gone “round-the-bend” on many subjects. Following his usual urging, we’d be at war about everyplace in the world except maybe Kansas. But, this time, using his terrible life experience as the only member of Congress to undergo protracted torture at the hands of an enemy in wartime, McCain became an eloquent defender of both the public’s right to know and the facts that should be known. Alone in his party’s upper ranks, he stood on the floor of the Senate and soundly condemned those who tortured and those who covered it up. He was right!

Then, there’s the Bush-Cheney axis. The 500+ page executive summary seemed to say the President was not told what the CIA was doing. Maybe. Maybe not. But, you damned well can bet Cheney knew. And approved.

You see, there’s this tidbit – not part of the damning document. In the hours after release this week, CNN unearthed a piece of video from 2007 in which Bush-the-Junior said flat out “This nation does not torture anybody!” Direct quote. Yet the report says Bush was briefed on what the CIA was doing in 2005. Even gives the exact date. And by whom. Eighteen months before his televised press conference denial.

There’s an interesting Northwest side note. Faced with the possibility the report would not be published, Oregon’s Sen. Wyden loudly pledged to use every power available to him to get the document on the record. Then, when the document hit the table, Idaho’s Sen. Risch – himself an experienced attorney – twisted both fact and logic condemning all Senate Democrats – and their firstborns – for publishing. He publically screwed up in his own description of what’s in the report. My experience with him is that Jim’s often got a problem with candor. And truth.

Finally, the torture report makes a somewhat overlooked note about the Bush administration and who knew what. Seems, according to those who briefed the White House on what the CIA was doing all those years, one important official was left out. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He was named specifically as the one senior Cabinet member not told.

That fact needs more airing. If there’s anyone left in the Beltway media with any sense of curiosity and journalistic integrity, every attempt should be made to contact Powell and ask him two questions: was he told and, if the answer is what the report says, why does he think not? The Committee has documented a full 25% of all the countries in the world participated in our shameful torture program. So, why was the nation’s top diplomat – who was in continual communication with those nations – not told?

Given that fact – and additionally how badly Powell was used in the Iraq “chemical weapons” lie to the world – he might have some interesting insights to share. About both instances. He’s been speaking more candidly lately on lots of things. I’d like to hear his thought on this.

To those who became the messenger, providing the extensive and undeniable truth of our government’s cancer, we owe gratitude and deep appreciation for making us face the facts as they are – not as some sick political minds have covered up and lied to us about far too long.

To those who would kill that messenger – and, in doing so, continue the tragic betrayal we should’ve known long ago – shut up and sit down!

You too, Jimmy.

An old debate among journalists – and some who think they are – has begun again. Wherever some of the more serious media types are gathered in more social surroundings these days, the discussion can be heard.

“Must the media present all people or issues to its audience/readers if the media knows the person/issue is wrong or false?” Or words to that effect.

It’s not as goofy – or as arrogant – as it sounds. It’s an issue more common these days with political and philosophical divisions within media sources. It’s also more relevant because of the slide in national politics to the right.

We older media types tried to operate under a rule that, when talking strictly news events or stories, the interviewees words were the news and the media served only as messenger – not to judge or critique or interpret. Simply the conduit – unless you’re talking editorials, byline columns or opinion pieces. Let the subject/facts talk. That’s the news. You report the news.

As our nation has become more politically divided, so has the media. Rather than simply report, major networks have slowly integrated points of view – either by the reporter or anchor or in the way the story is presented.

By any traditional standard, Fox News is the worst offender. CNN does a bit of its own. And for those who constantly remind me that MSNBC is the liberal offset for Fox, remember this: MSNBC has never – never – referred to itself as a “news” organization. Fox does constantly. Even in it’s name.

Here’s an issue that fits the problem perfectly: global warming. By nearly all scientific evidence presented by legitimate research organizations, global warming is a fact. You can argue cause. You can argue effect. You can argue how much. But the basic fact is, global warming exists and its effects are too overwhelming for thinking minds to ignore.

Here’s another fact. The two committees in Congress charged with dealing with this subject – one in the House and one in the Senate – are chaired by two men who’re vocal, absolute denyers of the evidence. All of it. And it’s these two who have the absolute power to refuse to let either committee – and thus the full Congress – do anything in our national interest to deal with our warming world.

So, go back to the question stated before: “Must the media present people or issues to its audience/readers if the media knows the person/issue is wrong or false?” If Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) continues leading the denyers from his powerful pulpit, is the media acting properly by giving his distinctly minority voice a platform to proclaim his distinctly minority and distinctly untrue view? When poll after poll shows some 80% of us believe global warming not only exists but is a serious problem, is the media doing a service – or a disservice – by giving Sen. Inhofe a platform when he’s factually wrong? After all, it’s not the media’s job to go find someone to speak for the majority side of the global warming issue every time a minority denyer pops off just to keep things balanced. Should the media give him a platform?

Another example you see far too often. Say the vote on a particular bill in the U.S. Senate was 97-3. The media will always – always – identify the three but not the 97. Why? Why identify three loser votes when the overwhelming 97 “ayes” won? It’s not practical – in time or space – to name all 97 though they were, after all, the victors. Why name the three losers?

Until Ronald Reagan, broadcast media operated under the “Fairness Doctrine” which required – by law – fairness/access in reporting both sides. He threw that out the window so now Faux Neus – among others – can operate with impunity by selecting only the view it wants to. Other outlets do some of the same at times, but Faux is the habitual offender. Its very foundation is one of lopsided coverage and twisted “fact.” Ain’t it, Rupert?

Survey after survey has shown Faux Neus viewers are less informed, more poorly informed and more inaccurately informed. The only variance is by how much. There is ample empirical evidence Faux viewers score much lower when asked to compare what they’ve seen on Faux versus what the facts really are. But Faux Neus keeps cranking out the propaganda.

So, the question becomes what is the media’s responsibility when it knows the newsmaker’s position – or the media itself – disregards fact – ignores valid scientific evidence – and is contrary to overwhelming proof?

But suppose, on another issue, that minority expression is eventually proven the right one? Suppose the newsmaker in 2001 opposed our intervention in Iraq when that was a very minority view. At that time the minority was called “wrong” by the majority before the minority view of non-intervention became the majority opinion. What if the media ignored them then?

There’s no easy answer to this conundrum. Maybe no answer at all. We used to know when fact was fact. We did our best to operate within that parameter. But divisions of media to appeal only to those holding similar views has resulted in distorted “facts.” Slanted “facts.” Too often, phony “facts.” If you don’t believe that, spend a week reading or watching a source you don’t normally see or agree with. You’ll be surprised.

So, what’s your answer? What’s the obligation? What’s the media responsibility? The honest answers ain’t all that easy to come by.

Say it aint so, Bill

Author: admin

As we age, many situations and things that were “certainties” of yesteryear are the “uncertainties” of our later times. Early black and whites nearly always are seen through much older eyes in muted shades of gray. Rocks of principle and learned things are – in some cases – no longer firm and unyielding – often a bit skittish and harder to nail down.

Thus it is I’m faced with a story of our recent days – a story of possible multiple cases of sexual abuse and forced submission of women – in which I’m having a hard time applying a lifetime of certainties. And I am, in fact, dealing with five decades of empathy for the accused. Not the accusers.

The accused is Dr. William Henry Cosby Jr. He’s a dozen months younger than me so interest in his career has been a part of my own life 50 years or so. Because his is a type of humor that is a favorite, I’ve followed him from his earliest days in coffeehouses, college campuses and small clubs.

With no sincere apology to media kids who ignorantly label him a “comedian,” he’s not. Nor has he ever been. Cosby is – like Mark Twain or Mort Sahl or Mark Russell or Garrison Keillor – a humorist. He doesn’t tell jokes as comedians do. He’s made a highly successful career of just finding humor in the daily events we all live with. Humor we don’t see.

One of my favorites of this “humor where there is no humor” is a Cosby routine about going to the dentist. “You spend your whole life being told to keep sharp objects out of your mouth,” he says, “And the first thing this guy does is stick a pointy steel spike in there and starts poking things.” Humor where you don’t expect it.

Or, when arguing with a teenage child – definitely no humor there. Right? Except when Cosby says “I brought you into this world and I can take you out!” What exasperated parent wouldn’t chuckle? Finding simple humor.

But there’s nothing funny about Cosby’s life and career now. Now, he stands accused of rape and other sexual charges proffered by a growing list of women he’s alleged to have had contact with over the last 30 or so years. Cosby faces what likely will be career-ending accusations that could – if pursued – become criminal charges meaning jail for the rest of his life.

What the hell happened?

Cosby’s name has been linked to similar situations in the past. Once, he even reportedly paid a cash settlement to someone who had claimed sexual mistreatment at his hands. But now, the list of women coming forward to point to him for alleged past crimes grows weekly.

If you look at the totality of his life, Cos has been nothing if not a voice of reason and accomplishment in a world of racial discord. He developed a love of education and learning mid-life and even got a doctorate in elementary education from the University of Massachusetts.

He undertook hundreds of private efforts to improve classrooms and schools in the Black community. He donated millions and raised millions more to build schools. He criticized and often lectured Black men on their responsibilities to be part of their kid’s lives. He was vilified by some for using his wealth and fame gained in a largely white world for being critical and seemingly judgmental of those in the Black world. He kept it up.

He’s received hundreds of awards and been loudly acclaimed for doing what he’s done – for standing for the family issues he has – for using his own wealth and fame to help millions of others – for “walking the walk.”

But here we are. All he’s done and all he’s stood for could be reduced to ashes blowing in some wind. Good works and leadership in difficult roles mean nothing now. His huge contributions of humor and joy in people’s lives must be put aside. Whether these charges have merit and what to do about them are the only issues to be considered. Must be considered.

Media kids – still trying to learn how to use a toilet without getting their hands wet – are falsely “reporting” no other public performer has ever faced such charges. Of course, they don’t know who Fatty Arbuckle, Errol Flynn, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. were, either. Sexual accusations against public figures are nothing new.

But, for me, the Cosby story IS something new. The charges that keep mounting say there is some fire under the smoke here. The willingness of so many to put themselves and their families under public and official scrutiny do deserve our attention. Cosby’s refusal to confront any of the stories simply amplifies issues being brought up without rebuttal.

The “newness” is, deep inside, I continue to admire the performer I’ve known for 50 years. I continue to chuckle at issues of daily life only Cosby found and shared. Whether Fat Albert or the Huxtable clan or the solitary person in the spotlight in a 50,000 seat arena – Cos has been a favorite.

So now comes the issue. Now I – and millions of others like me – have to separate all of that from the real person that may well become a criminal defendant charged with crimes we all hate.

Damn it, Cos!! DAMN IT!!!

London who?

Author: admin

Here on the central Oregon coast, we seldom make headlines. Most of us like it that way. That’s one of the reasons we live here. Usually peaceful, quiet sort of place – except for tourist season. But, even then, people come and go and life still runs at an acceptably normal pace for most of us.

When we do make the national news, it’s almost always because something bad has happened. Something very abnormal – usually dealing with death and/or destruction. The news kids from Portland and Eugene run over to take notice, shoot some pictures and spread whatever the details may be of our latest anomaly. Like – well – like a mother leading her six-year-old boy by the hand out a quarter mile to the middle of a very high bridge, throwing him 133 feet to his death – then calling the cops. Things like that.

The 3,260 foot long Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport is a major icon on the Oregon coast – one of 11 bridges designed in the 1930’s and ‘40’s by engineer Conde McCullough. All his work has a sort of art deco flavor with large curved arches at the center. Nearly all are on the National Historic Register and, when repairs have been required because of age and wear and tear, the structures have been faithfully kept true to the original designs. We who traverse them regularly don’t give them much thought. Not much, that is, until someone uses one as a murder weapon.

The self-confessed killer is Jillian McCabe. The victim was her autistic son, London. That evening, immediately after throwing London to his death, she called 9-1-1, confessed, then waited on the sidewalk of the center span we locals have traveled over so many times without thinking of it as a possible crime scene. She just waited as cops, EMT’s and onlookers arrived in ever-increasing numbers. In about two hours later, everyone was gone and Jillian McCabe was on a suicide watch in the Lincoln County jail.

Four hours later, some folks walking on a dock at an upscale condominium complex a couple of miles East of the bridge saw the small, broken body floating a few feet out.

About the only other factual details available at this point are these: Jillian’s husband had been recently diagnosed with MS and lost his job – London was autistic and required special expensive care he wouldn’t be able to get – his mother had no special employment skills and her family said she had mental problems for a long time.

So, now you know the facts. Such as they are.

Oh, one more thing. A couple of hundred adults and children – most of whom had heard of London McCabe – descended on Newport to hold a couple of vigils in his memory and to tell local media “we’ll never forget.”

The problem is, they will forget. In a way, they already have. They’ll go home, get involved with their normal lives and an Oregon mother’s murder of her child will soon be just another distant memory. If that.

Jillian McCabe will be arraigned eventually. She’ll be shuttled off to a state institution for mental evaluation – one that should’ve been done years ago when her family watched a person they knew had problems get married and have a child. Jillian will come back and, given the facts and that taxpayer-funded exam, be judged on her proven incompetence, be assigned to a state institution and become just another closed case in the files of the Lincoln County Prosecutor. In a year – maybe two – most of us will forget.

But there are others – many others who should remember. Others who include politicians who fail to adequately fund society’s responsibilities to care for those with mental defect or injury. Like the hundreds of thousands of young people sent off to war with no damned thought about their medical- AND psychiatric – needs after multiple trips to the battlefields. We paid to train ‘em and send ‘em out to kill. But we never thought about ‘em coming home with unseen mental injuries caused by the killing and now so many are killing themselves at home we don’t even report the statistics any more. There are Jillian McCabes in their numbers.

How about the millions of mentally disaffected now roaming our streets? We call them “homeless” as if they were out there as the result of financial problems instead of the basic need for mental and physical health care that should be afforded all who live in this country. What of our responsibility for them? Are there more Jillian McCabes we drive past on our streets?

When loving, caring people want to adopt a child in this county, we’ve put so damned many hoops and bear traps in our systems that many give up. But nearly anyone with diminished mental capacity can have kids by the litter – some of whom are guaranteed to require the kind of expensive care London McCabe couldn’t have. What about our responsibilities to them? To the unborn? What about the treatment and habilitation they need?

Mental illness treatment – whether inherited or conditioned by war or other mind-bending experiences – has never – never – had full support of society. We’ve banished millions to institutions. We’ve closed institutions when politicians needed to show the folks at home they could “reduce the size of government” or avoid a tax increase. The vastly overly esteemed Ronald Reagan did that in the ‘80’s – shuttering thousands of mental health facilities – saying churches and others “could pick up the slack. Oh, Hell yes!!! Can your church substitute for a mental health clinic?

We’ve underfunded and understaffed our public education system’s ability do deal with kids with mental problems because such care “ain’t readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic.” How many Jillian or London McCabes have flunked out or wound up in jails – or killed someone – because we couldn’t “see” their injuries – couldn’t “see” their hurt and their lifesaving needs?

Jillian McCabe will likely spend the rest of her life in one taxpayer-supported jail or hospital or other institution. If she lives to 80 or so, we’ll pay a million-dollars or more to see to her needs. What would it have cost society to guarantee she had the care she needed BEFORE had kids – BEFORE she led her son out on that Newport bridge to his death? How many thousands of dollars up front would have saved millions at the other end? And maybe London McCabe’s life? Just in this one case?

Yeah, there are folks now who believe they “won’t forget.” There are many who say they’ll never figure out how a mother could kill her own child. The little memorial sites will continue to collect stuffed animals and loving notes and candles in memory of London until a county employee eventually sweeps them all into a trash bag for the garbage heap. There won’t be anymore.

Remembering is one thing. Working for – and bringing about – change in how we treat mental illnesses is a whole different and much more difficult deal than just not forgetting some kid somewhere. There are a lot of Jillian and London McCabes in this world. And so far, we haven’t done a helluva lot for them.

If you think national government has been unresponsive to our national needs for the last several years, get used to it. ‘Cause you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! Unresponsiveness is about to hit a new, record low.

“Whoa, there Rainey,” you say. “Yeah, that was pretty much a Republican sweep of Congress. And things have moved to the right of center quite a bit. I’ll give you that. But a ‘new low’ in conducting the affairs of the nation? C’mon, now. It’s not that bad.”

“It is,” sez I. And here’s the big reason why. The Cruz ‘missile.”

Yes, Sir. Theodore Cruz – late of Canada by way of Texas. See, Teddy has already loudly voiced his opposition to Mitch McConnell being named majority leader. (Note how the vote to do so was by voice only?) Yes, Sir. And he’s not going to stop running across the Capitol building to work his crazy mischief in the House of Representatives ‘cause now he’s got new help over there. Yes, Sir. And Ol’ Teddy says he’s going to hold up just about anything that comes to the Senate that doesn’t meet his “high standards” for American freedom and democracy! We’re talking legislation, appointments, debt ceiling, budgets – anything that runs counter to his “thinking.” Anything! And, under the rules, he can do that.

Though I’ve never cared much for Mitch – along, it seems, with just about everyone with whom he’s ever come in contact – I’ll give him this. He’s among the best in the politics of the Senate, winning many a battle with deep knowledge of not just the rules of the place but also reading people and knowing how to move them like so many chess pieces. You don’t survive in leadership as long as he has without such tools.

But Mitch is about to face something that’s going to test his legendary skills. To say nothing of his Kentucky patience. Cruz and a rump Republican caucus of crazies. ‘Cause “the Missile” has been talking to some of the old – and all the new – kindred spirits about his plans. And some of that talk has leaked, as it always does in Washington.

For all its high-flown reputation as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” the Senate no longer represents the true meaning of those words. In the face of the new confrontational style politics – and the “you’re-with-me-or-against-me” philosophy that’s become so commonplace – senatorial decorum on the floor or in committee has become as theatrical as the World Wrestling Federation. Fits and spats – name calling – back stabbing – undercutting one another just for spite.

There’s no more perfect breeding laboratory for the kind of divisive, in-your-face politics that typifies Ted Cruz. You add to him (current or incoming members of his political void) Mike Lee, Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis, Dan Sullivan, Tim Scott. Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, and likely Ron Johnson among others, and you’ve got a little rump caucus that can tie knots in the best laid legislative procedural plans. Each of them -without reason or question – can deep-six nominations for the cabinet or courts, keep any bill off the floor with a single anonymous whisper or stop movement of any critical legislation such as debt ceilings.

Now, consider McConnell and the Republicans have a majority of half-a -dozen seats or so, and if Cruz – alone or in concert with five or six naysayers – decides to hold up the proceedings, who’s to stop him? What sorts of demands can Cruz and his loony cadre make to get what they want in exchange for supporting ol’ Mitch each day? Or, does Mitch violate the Hastert rule by going to the Democrats to keep things moving? Is McConnell going to have to operate with a coalition of loyal Republicans and a few willing Democrats to conduct the Senate’s business?

One thing we know about Cruz. His brutish style is “my-way-or-the-highway” in all he does. He believes he – and he alone – has the clearest vision of things political and that only he sees the “correct” path. No one yet – no one – has been able to shut him down or keep him out of the limelight. Even John Boehner hasn’t been able to stop ol’ Teddy from trotting across the rotunda to stir things up in the House where he has no standing, doesn’t belong and has clearly undercut Boehner’s leadership. He’s already been “advising” a rump caucus there. Now, the 2014 election outcome has given him a few more malcontent voices.

Throw in the media, too. Though Cruz is a political heavyweight only to himself, the media will put him on more Sunday talk shows than current record holder Johnny McCain. Faux Neus will put a bureau in Cruze’s Senate office so his latest attack philosophy can immediately be broadcast as “Breaking Cruz News.”

We’re going to be seeing more of Cruz on your hi-definition than the linguistically dysfunctional Wolf Blitzer. Bet on it!

Well, we had an election. Some of us are pleased with the outcome – some of us are renewing passports and searching the I-net for details of New Zealand’s immigration laws.

Speaking strictly of candidates and not political parties, I’ve never seen a slate of more unqualified, unknowing and woefully unskilled winners. Consider. One governor returned to office owned a company found guilty of numerous counts of Medicaid fraud. That may’ve been how he could afford to throw more than $24-million into his race. Two new members of Congress have felony convictions while a third was re-elected while still under indictment on multiple criminal charges yet to be tried.

There’s the new senator who authored – authored – a bill in both the Colorado legislature and the U.S. House to not just outlaw abortion but also essentially criminalize any form of birth control. Then he claimed he didn’t know that would be the result of his labors – then repeatedly denied any connection with either bill though both still carry his name.

Idaho voters elected a Supt. of Public Instruction who lied about her educational achievements, couldn’t remember when she was divorced or remarried, hadn’t voted in a dozen or so elections and said she had no knowledge of the state’s educational budget but would “study it” if she were successful.

Idaho also elected a new Secretary of State whose honesty and integrity have been repeatedly and publically criticized by his own party and who says he wants to enact new voting laws that would discriminate against and/or disenfranchise some of Idaho’s citizens. And Idaho voters re-elected a State Treasurer who ignored Idaho’s investment statutes while losing more than $10-million in the markets and whose practices were soundly criticized in an official audit.

Idaho’s governor was re-elected, too. Not content with just thanking voters, his acceptance speech included a promise to waste even more tax dollars in repeated attempts to override the federal court decision to allow same sex marriages in the state. He’s already failed twice.

The hog castration lady from Iowa will be a U.S. Senator though she showed repeatedly during the campaign she has limited knowledge of both the job and the role of government in general. And after a campaign in which she admitted always having an automatic pistol on her person – not only for personal protection but also for use at that moment when “government rights” interfere with her “rights.”

There’ll be far too many members of Congress with questionable backgrounds for moral or ethical reasons, criminal convictions, limited knowledge of the offices to which they’ve been elected, positions on issues that would discriminate against certain categories of citizens. Far too many conducted campaigns showing little knowledge of American government – which they will now represent.

But – we’ll survive. We always have. That survival, however, will likely come after a couple of years of deadlock, bad decisions, heated political and economic battles and some very real pain being inflicted on too many Americans. Especially minorities and the poor. Those factors are guaranteed. They were assured by those who voted – and those who didn’t.

The outcome seems to say a majority was disappointed with the direction of things and wanted to go in another direction. That’s as it should be in our Republic. However, the inherent problem with our system is that it doesn’t choose the new direction. Just stop going this way and – in the future – go that way. Seems a lot of winners weren’t chosen so much for what they said or promised but because they weren’t the guy in office. Voters said “No, we don’t want you anymore. We want him or her.” Not so much a choice of candidate as a choice of “something else.”

Aside from the skewed balance of Congress, the other factor that’ll likely make all this happen is President Obama’s seeming lack of skill at brass-knuckle politics. Where Bill Clinton made progress “wheeling and dealing” with a Republican Congress, Obama’s background is as a negotiator – a conciliator. He has shown neither ability nor willingness to do the “horse-trading” it takes to accomplish anything when faced with such resistance.

It’s gonna be a rough couple of years. Maybe more. Despite Democrats believing Hillary Clinton is almost unbeatable in 2016, this week’s results show we out here in the boondocks have our own ideas. We may not have the political “knowledge” of the talking heads nor their “inside-the-beltway” understanding of the political process.

But we have marker pens and voting machines we’ve learned how to use. We’ve proven we’ve got some ideas that might not square with the “experts.” We’ve shown even the pollster guru’s don’t know us as well as they claim. We’ve got some things we want done.

It’s up to Republicans now. We gave ‘em the keys to government and told ‘em we want to “get on with it.” If they get the message and satisfactory progress is made in the next 24 months, great. If it’s acceptable change, that’s great, too. But if they run Congress the way they have the last four years, we’ve shown we can take those keys away and give ‘em to the donkeys. The ball’s in their court. And we can “take ‘em out.”

I’ve never been a real fan of Halloween. Might be because, when I was a kid, we lived on a large ranch in Central Washington. Nearest neighbor was a long, long way down the dirt road. Making the rounds to get a really good-sized bag of treats would’ve taken most of a tank of gas in the truck. May have been only $0.20 a gallon then, but that was a lot of money to Dad.

So, Halloween came and went without me. Ranch chores were always – always – the top priority. Guess by the time we’d moved to Oregon and had real neighbors – real close – I was too old to get the Halloween bug.

All these years later, I’m still amazed at some of the statistics connected with Halloween. Such as, according to the Census Bureau, there are about 41 million kids in this country ages five to 14. And there are about 132 million occupied housing units – nearly all potential trick-or-treater stops.

And this. The six top pumpkin-producing states are Illinois, California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. The value of their annual crop is about $113 million. Talking some big bucks.

So, what about costumes? Well, the Census folks figure there are 1,634 costume rental and formal wear stores in the country. Not sure what the formal wear stores contribute to the occasion, but they’re counted. Not to mention discount and department stores.

And candy. Of course, candy. Glad you asked. Across the nation, there are 1,155 chocolate manufacturing locations. Imagine that. Pennsylvania has 102 all by itself. Can’t forget the folks at Hershey’s. There are 100 more chocolate producers in California. Tip of the hat to Ghiradelli, too.

And the candy corn, mellow pumpkins and other non-chocolate goodies are created in another 409 businesses. Some 55,000 people are employed in the candy-making craft. So I’m told.

Just so you’ll know, there are a few places in the good ol’ U.S. of A. with names befitting Halloween. My favorite is Transylvania County, North Carolina. Just has a nice, spooky ring to it. Then there’s Pumpkin Center, North Carolina and Cape Fear, North Carolina. Seems North Carolina is spooky for more than just crazy Republican politics. And don’t forget Tombstone, Arizona, and Skull Creek, Nebraska. How about Death Valley?

Well, there you are. Some Halloween facts and figures for your history books. If you’ve got youngsters in your household, I wish them good times in their door-to-door scavenging. Up to about age 14. I’m sure it’ll be lots of fun.

As for taxpayers in Idaho this Halloween, it will pass largely unnoticed by anyone over the age of 15. For Idaho taxpaying folk – given the latest string of absolutely wasted tax dollars for outside attorneys to represent them in guaranteed loser political issues in various courts – every day is Halloween. With no end in sight.

For we older folk living in more realistic political surroundings, October 31, has an even scarier meaning this year. General election. Now, you talk about striking fear in the heart!!!

Donald Trump has been divorced more times than the number of people who’ve died of Ebola in this country.

I hate to do that to you but someone has to put the Ebola story in perspective. That statement alone is clearer than nearly any national media coverage these days. Or, most of the garbage emanating from the mouths of too many politicians. Seldom has this country heard more fear-mongering, baseless information and verbal garbage on any issue.

Just to be perfectly clear: one person has died of Ebola on U.S. soil. Well, Texas, actually, but close to U.S. soil. He died after contracting Ebola overseas and bringing it with him to a hospital that – through something close to medical incompetence – was where he died. One person. One!

National media coverage has been, more often than not, outrageous. Fearful headlines making otherwise respectable major newspapers and broadcasters look like tabloids at the market. Near-factless reporting from outside hospitals that simply repeated the same old minimal information over and over and over. Same crap – different faces.

The most absurd television “coverage” to me was the so-called “patient transfer” that consisted of nighttime chopper shots of an ambulance doing 25 mph with five cop cars ahead and five behind. For nearly an hour. No one had any proof an Ebola “patient” was inside and it really didn’t matter. Could have been two medics playing Gin, for all we know.

And the “news” conferences. Newsless in too many cases. The other night, Rachel Maddow wasted an entire hour showing many “continuing coverage” shots of an empty rostrum in New York where we were supposed to get an update on the latest Ebola patient. A whole hour. Not to be outdone, “Faux Neuws” did the same. That’ll show those damned liberals!

And the talking heads. Far too many have had no more to offer than what they’d read or heard in other media “stories.” Then, there were the two chiefs from NIH and CDC that literally raced from network to network for days to repeat the same comforting messages that things would be alright.

Of course, there were the politicians mouthing off without engaging brains. One in the House repeatedly shouted to all assembled he wanted all flights to this country from affected African countries halted immediately. It was days later he found out there are no flights directly to this country from that part of Africa. None.

And there was Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah’s Third District, loudly disparaging the Obama administration for not having appointed a surgeon general to take charge of these catastrophic events. What escaped him was the President DID make a surgeon general appointment earlier this year. One that spineless senators killed at the behest of the NRA because the nominee wrote, some years ago, gun violence was a public health problem.

There were more. Many, many more examples of politicians and media speaking with no facts, using inflammatory and/or ignorant language, trying to make stories where there were no stories and spreading unfounded information. All of which added to the fears of many viewers and readers simply looking for facts while finding few. It continues today.

With the exception of the NBC News cameraman who contracted Ebola on assignment in Africa while working extensively around Ebola victims, all who’ve been diagnosed in this country were health care workers obviously not trained or properly equipped for treating the disease. The one death was that of a man who came in direct and prolonged contact with an Ebola victim in Africa and then brought his contagion to this country. Even his family members – with whom he lived for a week before presenting symptoms – were not infected.

We live in a society conditioned to believe the worst in nearly everything. We’ve become comfortable with what we know and fearful of learning. Too many have surrounded themselves with like-minded people and like-minded media to the exclusion of facts they don’t agree with or don’t even know exist. Or both. I call it the “Palin Syndrome” – “I know what I know and I don’t need to know any more.” Like a member of Congress blaming an administration for no surgeon general appointee who doesn’t know other members of the same Congress scuttled the named appointment.

Ebola is not going to be a national epidemic. And that’s a fact.

People often say “Oh, I don’t believe the media – or politicians – anymore.” Much of our media – and too many of our politicians – can be faulted for cheap, surface and often questionable coverage or comments on events. The Ebola hype we’re living with these days is proof.

Not all reporting has been questionable, of course. But too many people see only the one perspective of the one media that most often agrees with their thinking. Same with their politicians. If the source is contaminated, Ebola isn’t our only national disease.

With apologies to the former Mrs. Trumps.

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.