A nation being divided

Author: admin

We’re told in our youth “change is the only constant.” As we age, we pass that piece of wisdom to our young. With elder perspective, we realize how much lifelong change we’ve adjusted to and how much of it we survived.

I’ve recently been confronted with a need to deal with a couple of significant changes. They’ve caused me to look both deep inside and, quite realistically, outside myself with some starkness I’ve not experienced before. Not about me. About life in general. More specifically, changes in our nation.

Since our founding, change has been a constant. For most of the last 300 years or so, we’ve slowly evolved through crisis after crisis, learning and relearning, adjusting and trying to keep up. For nearly all those years, the process was mostly doable. Whatever the change – peace or war or anything else – we adjusted, modified, eliminated the old ways and evolved into the new information or other realities. Pretty successfully.

Then came the instant communication of the Internet. The world’s learning curve for change went nearly straight up. Time was compressed. Changes – good or bad – now come at warp speed and in multiples so staggering we barely have time to adjust before we’re hit again. Most of us have kept up. Some haven’t. As that’s happened, we’ve experienced a growing communications gap which has, in turn, become a chasm between what really is and what really was. Or perceived as what was.

I believe this accelerated information flow – and the inability of millions of Americans to keep up – underlies many of the growing divisions in our country and has been successfully exploited. Coupled with hate radio/TV, anti-social media, well-paid hate mongers spewing vitriol and unchallenged lies, politicians unfit for public office and ignorant of the real constitutional role government plays in guiding our nation, billionaires buying and selling politicians and wannabe politicians, paying for and spreading divisive public legislation for private gain, our divisions are being exploited.

If you look at any demographic breakdown, those Americans most likely drawn to this destructive stew are older, white, male and with less education. They’re also less likely to have adapted to change and are, instead, clinging to and promoting a past that seems more comfortable to them, if it ever existed. They reject political, social, racial and other rapid changes while refusing to accept or support any information different from what they already “believe.”

Unfortunately, this cutting off of “suspect” societal, political communications or other inputs is not confined to the far right. Many moderates and some liberal folks do the same. I know Rachel Maddow followers who wouldn’t be caught dead tuning in to O’Reilly or Hannity. And they haven’t listened to a Limbaugh or a Coulter for years. So, with daily exposure to only a single viewpoint, knowledgeable communication with others who think differently is lost and the chasm widened.

Another factor of national divisiveness is the loss of the “melting pot” characteristics that existed in this country for a couple hundred years. That’s largely gone now as people of like races, nationalities or religions separate themselves from all others. Or are forced to. We now tend to hold to our differences rather than accept, learn or enjoy the lives, skills and beliefs of people different from ourselves.

Social media is playing a large, new role dividing us. With this unedited flow of information we face daily, there are two factors. One is there are no checks and balances to determine fact from lie. Hardly a day goes by I don’t see an entry that’s false, facts selectively avoided or copy entirely made up. We all see postings that appear as fact which are copied and re-sent so the lie expands in widening circles.

The second social media affect on our division is it offers people of like minds – rational or not – direct contact with each other, feeding only information they accept. Real or not. Again, a closed circuit without benefit of a reality that may be entirely different. Often a few can be regarded as a large group when that’s not really the case. But, again, causing divisiveness and feeding ignorance of other viewpoints.

We’re also becoming less tolerant and accepting. Look at the current irrational rejection of all things Muslim by too many Americans. Politicians wanting religious tests for immigration or allowing only “Christians” entry to our country. “Ship home11-million possibly illegal immigrants already here,” they say. Attacks on places of worship, threatening acts on their private property, ignorant derision in some media for others religious beliefs and practices. You may say that’s not how you feel or not how others you know may feel. But, too many of the folks who do are in elective office. And that’s a large – and divisive – difference.

These factors – and more – cause me to believe we’re in the throes of becoming a country much different from what we’ve known. Not necessarily a better country. But, certainly, much different. More segmented. More prone to violence with each other. Less communicative with people with whom we have differences. Certainly much more angry. A nation of less participation in organized religion or social/fraternal groups which, in the past, provided a social “glue” which helped tie us together. A nation of fewer direct, face-to-face social contacts which further isolates us, one from the other.

I don’t mean to be too dour in all of this. But platitudes (“It’ll all get better” or “It’ll all work itself out” or “We’ve survived thus far”) are meaningless. While we’ve always had factors separating us and we survived, we’re living with real divisions of issues, religions, races, politics and even families all at the same time. Divisions being actively driven by bought-and-paid-for hate-mongers with seemingly unlimited cash backing.

The distrust of government and each other have never been as real or as widely practiced in my four-score years. In too many instances, the electronic umbilical chord tying all of us together is also providing a means of separation we’ve never dealt with before.

I pray I’m wrong. And maybe I am. But, tell me, what meaningful, effective, concrete solutions can you cite being taken by anyone – or any group – to bridge the problems we face? To solve the problems we face. Taken separately, or as a whole, what real and lasting improvements do you see at work? Not what might or might not happen in the future, but now.

I can ask the questions. But I cannot provide realistic answers.

Whatever emerges as a nation in the next decade or two is guaranteed to be something very different.

Pitfalls of Facebook

Author: admin

We older folk spend an inordinate amount of time in our latter days running to keep up with technology, new social acceptances and the multitudinous current events around us. It’s absolutely mind-boggling how fast all those things change.

Those of us still able keep up mentally, socially and with the changing morality, do pretty well. But, sometimes, something comes along that’s surprising. I had such an experience the other day when I ran afoul of someone on Facebook. Interesting, speaking of change. Spellcheck doesn’t recognize Facebook. Spellcheck, either, for that matter.

We’re not habitual Facebook users at our house. We check in periodically. We sometimes find something interesting or humourous to pass along. We learn what’s going on in someone else’s life. We’re exposed to strangers who may – or may not – have something interesting to contribute. We see – and skip over – a lot of material not suitable for mixed company. These “SECOND THOUGHTS” ramblings are often re-posted there. We sometimes are brought up short by an unexpected response to something we’ve posted. That’s where my new experience came in.

First, some background. I’ve never given much deep thought to Zuckerberg’s electronic gossip line. After learning its invention years ago was pretty much to improve ways college students “hook up,” I sort of accepted its expanded role in most people’s lives as just another technological convenience. Or, inconvenience, as the case may be.

Our household use of Facebook is done without publishing a great deal of personal information about either of us. No need for the exposure. Those in our lives who need access – or have interest in such information – already have it. Those who don’t – don’t. We get very little spam. We try to be careful what we post.

But, I’ve got to admit, I let my guard down with Facebook. It sneaked up on me. Shortly after initiating my page, I got “friend” requests from lots of folks we’ve known over the years. We found old school names we hadn’t thought of in 40-50 years – found some USAF buddies long lost – even a forgotten family member or two. Quite an amazing experience for oldtimers who – like all oldtimers – spend considerable time wondering where so-and-so is now or whatever happened to cousin Grace or how an old house you lived in 35 years ago looks now. We suddenly got answers to all of that. And a lot more!

So, in the early period, Facebook seemed harmless enough and brought with it contacts that had been lost or forgotten. It sort of oozed into our consciousness and daily routine. Until a week or so ago it didn’t get much more thought than any other daily exercise. Then I got brought up short.

The insidious thing – and I now know as a hidden danger about Facebook – is it keeps growing. Usually for two reasons. First, old familiar names keep cropping up. They want to be part of the communication. Harmless enough. Except people change. Not having conversed in 30-40 years, you don’t really know that person anymore. He/she is just a “voice from the past.” You really may not know that person as he/she is today.

The second reason/danger – at least in my case – is that “friends of friends” keep showing up. If Cousin Lucy has a friend she stays in contact with, that friend of Cousin Lucy may want in on the conversation, too. So she slides into the list of contacts. No big deal.

Except. You don’t know that “friend.” You don’t know the personality – what makes him/ her laugh or cry – what, if anything, you may have in common – whether you’d like her or find her a bore – whether she’s a boozer, religious, on drugs, likes/hates kids, likes/hates animals, has a compatible personality or would walk over you on the street. A stranger. But a stranger you now “talk” to.

This last part – last danger – is what I walked into. And got gobsmacked.

Those who really know me know I love satire. I love puns and wordsmithing and Groucho Marx-style verbal sparring. My humor tends to be on the pointed side. Some would say occasionally sarcastic or caustic. Comes from many years in the media covering plane crashes, car wrecks, seeing lots and lots of bodies on the crime beat. And dealing with too many politicians. Without a sharpened sense of humor, you don’t last.

Whatever. Someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years or more – and whom I didn’t know well even then – posted something which brought wide personal praise. About 20 wonderful, positive responses. I, on the other hand, reverted to form and humorously – at least I thought so – humorously inserted a small verbal pin prick.

Not good! The immediate response pounded me. And, when I attempted to apologize, I was instantly electronically informed, “See, there you go again!” I guess we’ve “unfriended.” Maybe rightly. Maybe wrongly.

This will probably happen again. And you may run into something just as painful, too. Facebook is a good way to communicate with friends. I mean FRIENDS – people you know well-enough to appreciate their sensibilities, their likes and dislikes. And their tolerance level for all sorts of things. I didn’t know those things about my sensitive “friend” of three decades ago and stepped right in it.

So, my advice is this. Be careful out there. “Friending” and “unfriending” don’t really mean what they say. At least not on Facebook. It can actually be a minefield of people who don’t know you, don’t have other contacts with you, who’ve changed a lot since your last personal encounter, who don’t realize how much you’ve changed, who talk one way but react another or just don’t understand your sense of humor.

Be careful. Be VERY CAREFUL. When someone on your Facebook page asks for your opinion and you give it – be prepared to be unfriended. Friend.

The permeator

Author: admin

That’s a new word up there. “Permeator.” I made it up. The root for it is, of course, “permeate” which means something that “spreads throughout” – something that “becomes part of everything it touches.” Like sand in your car after the kids played on the beach. Like the foul odor when your dog has tangled with a skunk.


Since I made it up, there has to be a definition – which is Donald Trump. “Permeator.” Over the last 18 months or so, the bastard has “permeated” just about every part of our culture. You can’t get away from him, his opinions, lack of morality, false claims and outright lies. They permeate every part of our society.

Most political wonks – present company included – have grown sick of the name and the person attached to it. But, you can’t escape him. Oh, there are a few political types who run the other way – toward him – but not many. One such not running away is Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus who undertook writing 100 days of very articulate columns of 100 reasons why no one should vote for Trump. Randy’s written about 70 so far and still going. How he’s keeping his food down we haven’t discussed.

Trump, with his obvious divisiveness, has truly permeated our entire society. Only three other politicos who came about as close to that to my mind: FDR, former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long and Barry Goldwater – God rest his angry soul. If the fawning, ratings-hungry national media we have now had existed in the ‘30’s to the ‘60’s, they likely would have matched Trump’s permeating everything. But they didn’t. So we’re stuck with today’s left-overs.

In this latest mess – the sexual assault tape – he’s managed to singlehandedly bring the media down to his slime ball level. For many a year, when someone in the “news” business had to use a four-letter word normally reserved for NFL locker rooms, media cretins used one or two letters and some blanks – but at a level primitive enough anyone could quickly figure it out. They weren’t “actually” printing or saying something rude or obscene – just using “word association.”

But Trump has changed that. Now, his latest obscenity is printed/spoken without the substitution of blank spaces. Word for sleazy word. Front page of major newspapers, across the screen on your TV – even in the family hours – and unfiltered on what’s left of radio “news.” He’s crudely lowered the bar – again – and the willing media has followed right along.

Trump has wrought changes in family relationships, caused business partners to break up, lowered the standard for what .is acceptable language, befouled the electronic “pages” of what’s laughingly referred to as “social” media. He, alone, has turned off millions of Americans on politics, increased more violent “acting out” in our nation’s public classrooms, driven coverage of our three wars out of the media spotlight, introduced dozens of worthless insults to our standard of public decency, gone through the bottom of the barrel to find new lows in political discourse.

He’s falsely attacked the honor of otherwise very respectable public figures, lied continuously about every political/private issue he touches, turned our national media into a pack of sycophants bowing and scraping before his every appearance. He’s spoken in blatantly racist terms, insulted a world religion, shown himself to hold women in contempt, broken hundreds of contracts with people he’s done business with, committed personal infidelities in multiple marriages, proven his word is not his bond and has shown repeatedly in speech and deed that he can’t be trusted.


To me, all that – and likely more I’ve overlooked – is proof of just how far this worthless piece of humanity has PERMEATED our entire society. To millions, he’s made acceptable the things we’ve spent years telling our children not to do or believe in. He’s created a following blind to how our country has operated for centuries, become a false prophet to the unknowing, tied together a ragtag lot of misfits looking for something for nothing, offered false hope of quick and easy solutions to intractable problems and made promises no intelligent person could believe.

There is no joy in reciting all this. None. We’re a deeply troubled nation in search of badly needed answers to both our national ills and our anger with one another. We’re on a troubled path to an uncertain future very much different than our past. The need – the absolute need – for wise and proven leadership has not been greater since the Civil War. Then, we had someone with foresight and the absolute power to unite. We need that miraculous mix again.

What we’re left with now is The Permeator. Even when he’s defeated – and he will be – his treacherous presence will still be felt. He, and his cancerous affect on nearly all parts of our society, will last long after our national election. What he’ll leave us with is a need for a national cleansing.

No sale!

Author: admin

“Nyah” “We told you so.” “Told you so.” “Nyah nyah!”

Sometimes – most times – when politicians and special interests scheme against the public interest, all of us have a right – yea, a duty – to stand very tall and say very loudly, “NO.” Then put an end to the underhanded deed they’re trying to underhandedly do.

Such is the case in Idaho these days where the good folks are getting a firsthand lesson in why no one – NO ONE – should attempt to sell off – or privatize – lands now owned by the state or the fed. It’s damned hard to put a fence around 172,000 acres and post large signs saying “NO TRESPASSING.” But it’s been done.

Some months back, a couple of Texas billionaires started buying up what public lands they could find in several states. In Idaho, that included acres mostly in and around Idaho, Adams and Valley Counties. With the sale went hundreds and hundreds of miles of roads to the back country. Roads known to thousands of hunters and recreationists as their entry to whatever hunting, skiing, hiking, or just walking around they had in mind.

Except now, they can’t. Now those acres are posted with signs and bright orange posts to tell everyone who used to prowl around them, “PRIVATE! KEEP OUT.”

Dan and Farris Wilks are the brothers. DF Development is their outfit. They got their hands on most of the acres in a sale by Potlatch Corp. When finalized, up went the posts, up went the signs and up went the temperatures of hundreds and hundreds of hunters and others who ran into ‘em.

For many years, a large crowd of us has been loudly protesting the selloff of large plots of government land to private parties. “NO! NO! NO!” But, a solid string of mostly Republican legislators and members of Congress has been holding hearings, sponsoring meetings and gathering all the listeners they could find to promote said sales.

They’ve used some specious and, some would say, faulty “facts” that such marketing of government lands – especially Forest Service and BLM – are possible. And beneficial. Many fact-checking legal sources have said it’s NOT possible and NOT legal in most cases. Plus, the accompanying required costs to states, counties and cities for maintenance and care would be astronomical – absolutely impossible for such governments to handle.

As if those common sense rebuttals to selling off federal and other large chunks of governmental lands were not enough, the issue of loss of public access has always come up. But, the answer from those pressing the sell-off idea has always been the same. “Don’t worry. That wouldn’t happen.”

Tell that to the folks today in Adams, Valley and Idaho Counties. Suddenly, ranchers, grazers, hunters and recreationists of all stripes are facing exactly that. Yes, this was a private sale. But the lesson – and the dangers of government sales – are there to see.

Idaho Fish & Game had to call off special tag hunts with the accompanying loss of dollars badly needed by the Department. Counties are being told maintenance of access roads to snowmobile trails is ending. Leases that traditionally meant access are being cancelled. And everyone in charge of anything official is finally figuring out the situation is going to mean heavy losses of tourists, hunters and recreationists whose dollars have made big differences in local budgets.

Being a curious sort, my mind wanders to this: what’s going to happen when one or more large fires hits all that now private timberland? And they will. When the Wilks boys call for firefighting help, who’s going to answer the phone and say “Sure, we’ll be right out?” When a couple of good ol’ Texas boys have slammed the door to all former users of those acres, you just know they’ll be feeling helpful down at the local watering holes. Sure.

The Wilks story is going to be the talk of all future meetings trying to drum up support for government land sales. Because we now know whoever buys land buys access and can damn well slam the door on the entire public. Because it’s happened. And I’d be willing to bet more than a few state folk, county commissioners and city councils are taking a new look at the sell-off talk.

Nothing reaches a politician’s heart faster than a large group of supporters who’ve been adversely affected by some issue. Even just ending traditional access to hunting and recreational areas.

I don’t believe I’ve ever quoted the “wit and wisdom” of former Idaho Senator Steve Symms before. But a line he gave me many years ago seems very fitting to this land sales business.

“Makes no damned sense,” he said, “to sell the farm to buy a sports car.” In Idaho, that’s very sage-like.

James Earl Carter

Author: admin

For anyone with an honest interest in the true profession of politics, the name James Earl Carter may have been on your mind for the last few months. If you’re fortunate to have access to any form of media expression, coupled with that sincere interest in all things political, you’ve been wrestling with what to say about the Carter story – and how to say it – since his disclosure a year ago that he has cancer. And a resulting remission.

The best regional piece I’ve read was from friend Marc Johnson in Boise, on his blog “Many Things Considered” awhile back. Something thoughtfully political with a great deal of heart and substance.

Historians will continue to debate the Carter presidency as they do those of all temporary occupants of the Oval Office. The good – the bad – the important – the trivial. That’s their job and they’re welcome to it. Not possessing any of their scholarly credentials, don’t look for any of that here.

But, I’m an adult American male with some longevity and understanding of what I admire in someone of that same simple description. Politics aside, I can think of almost no other public figure who rises to the common definition of role model and just plain decent human being as does James Earl Carter.

I’m a cancer survivor. So far. As such, I’ve watched Carter’s public discussion of that very private issue of possible death with interest. In sum, his public statements about his battle contain what every medical professional looks for in someone in their care – thoughtfulness – perspective – reflection – understanding. And humor. Humor from – and directed at – the human experience that death is a part of living. If religion is part of someone’s life – as it certainly is for Carter – invoking one’s faith is not only relevant but crucial in how matters of fate can be accepted.

But, within a few hours, matters of politics soon interrupted these moments of witnessing humanity at its best. In less than a day, one of the cretins running for president took a public shot at the Carter presidency. A shot not only ill-timed but factless. As too many of recent statements have been. Embarrassment and personal humiliation don’t exist in Cruz world.

But Cruz and others – whoring for dollars and votes – have offered the most glaring examples of how far the institution of national politics has fallen compared to the humanity and moral stature of a Jimmy Carter. Trump is the worst as he usual is when taking about the value of someone’s humanity. His outright prostitution is selling himself for public adulation and to gorge his billionaire-sized ego

Try to simultaneously hold in your mind the kind of personal and public life lived and the contributions to humanity made by Carter since his White House years, while also considering those “candidates” who got into the Republican primary this year. Pick any one of the strident voices from the entire pack – just one – from whom voters could expect a future personal life of humanitarian service, public dignity and selfless contribution. I can’t.

Our recent political history is befouled by money, lies, unfounded fears of government spread by callous but well-paid voices, wide-spread willful ignorance, candidates far, far exceeding the “Peter Principle” and scores of office holders not qualified to do the jobs to which they’ve been elected.

The National Republic Party is reaping a harvest of shame from years of accepting the lowest denomination of unqualified candidates. This scrum of flotsam has been propped up by billionaires determined to set our country’s agenda for decades to come. For Democrats, the candidate is someone whose run has long been “ordained” but who’s not been sufficiently publically challenged in this campaign and who’s become profoundly rich at the public trough.

And it’s our fault. We’ve accepted all that. With the exception of Clinton and Sanders, we’ve accepted vastly unqualified people who’ve disdained educating themselves or participating in the knowledgeable conduct of their government. We – you and I – have not been involved enough with a selection process that puts names on the ballot – the names from which we have to chose who’ll determine our national course. We’ve stood at the polling place too often and cursed while making a choice of “the lesser of two evils.” By our careless and uninformed vote, we’ve allowed office seekers – and holders – to become whores chasing dollars and taxpayer-funded retirements while rewarding big donors with favoritism. We’ve failed to demand high standards and have allowed incompetence to be perpetuated and accepted. We’ve wrongfully allowed elected office holding to be perpetual employment.

Then, a former peanut farmer from Georgia displays the grace, dignity, acceptance and guts of someone you can’t help but admire, whatever his politics. He does it in our living rooms, face-to-face, showing us how to deal with our own mortality by offering the finest of ourselves.

For centuries, travelers have navigated by the North Star because of its reliability and brightness. Future presidents would do well to navigate their courses using the same qualities of humanness as James Earl Carter.

What about the kids

Author: admin

As our kids and grandkids grow up, most of us have recurring thoughts about what kind of world they’ll inherit – whether they’ll be better off than we were – whether their lives will be more peaceful – and loving hopes they’ll experience better conditions than we have.

The way everything changes so quickly these days, it’s hard to tell what the reality of those hopes will be. Some things better – others not so good. Given the nuclear fractiousness we live in, there may be no world to inherit.

But something new – something more personal – has come to mind lately – something that worries me more than all other situations they’ll face. And it all springs from our current national disgrace of a presidential election.

Few media types enjoy writing or talking about Donald Trump. National talking heads excepted. Most of us do it with clenched teeth. Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus, for one. He’s midway through a 100 day exercise of 100 reasons – often excellent reasons – why Trump should never be president. His jaw has been excessively tight for the last few weeks. Teeth grinding is probably involved, too.

The fear I have is not Trump – the most unqualified, most dangerous candidate for national office in my long lifetime. Nor is it the monumental, simplistic ignorance of millions of Americans who plan to vote for him without the slightest thought of how a Trump presidency would damage the political, legal and moral fibre of this entire country. No, my fears are of something else.

I’m deeply frightened how such a disastrous occurrence would adversely affect the next several generations of Americans. More specifically, my fears are for our children and grandchildren.

Talk to classroom teachers right now. Anywhere. Ask them if they’re seeing more “acting out” – more one-on-one violence – more playground bullying – more disruptions – more bad behavior from kids in the lower grades. Go ahead. Ask ‘em. And don’t be surprised when they answer “yes” to several or all of those factors. And more.

How can children not be affected with the 24-hour cacophony of accusations, lies, confrontations, charges/countercharges, despicable behavior, violence and adults behaving badly that surrounds them? Many kids get regular, traditional lectures about proper behaviors expected of them – civility and courtesy to others; lessons we all were taught. But, what they’re seeing and hearing on all those electronic devices they live with is just the opposite.

Under no condition – none – will there be “peace in the valley” when this national mess is declared over on November 9. Not a chance. The divisions that separate us now will – if anything -be more sharply drawn and more formally pronounced. Donald isn’t going to disappear “into that good night.” In fact, I believe he’ll be an even greater presence with or without the key to the Oval Office.

I believe he’s going to look to the millions of votes he received as a “mandate” to continue his arrogant, racist, misogyny-laced, lying, bomb throwing. Roger Alies – the deposed sexual deviant from Fox News – has not taken up space at the top floor of Trump Tower just to enjoy the view. With Ailes political proclivities and media contacts – and Donald’s ability to come up with the big bucks – creating a “Trump Media Company” would be a no-brainer.

With it, he could outfox Fox. Trump would get his international podium and Ailes would be able to hold his middle finger high in the face of Rupert Murdoch who embarrassed him and separated Ailes from the blonde airheads in his former playground. Trump disavows the idea. Now. But, remember, this is a guy who, if he told you the time, you’d still look at your watch. I don’t believe him for a second. The only thing real about Trump is his ego. His word on any subject isn’t worth the hair spray on his over-coiffed head.

But, even if that doesn’t come to pass, Trump will continue to dominate national media whenever he opens his uninformed mouth as he’s been doing for over a year. Millions will continue to treat him as a “messiah” – deeply flawed but their “messiah.” The divisions he represents – deep and wide – will still be dangerous threats to the life and welfare of our Republic. His political blasphemy isn’t going away.

Adults – at least thinking and informed adults – can and likely will tune out most of his noise and BS. And the wrong-headed millions who support his civic and political ignorance will continue to do so. But, what about the kids? What about young people who – though they’d deny it – take their cues from what they see and hear their elders doing and saying? How could they not be affected? What societal, civic, political and governmental foundations we’ve historically nurtured will erode because of this cretin?

It’s not our future in jeopardy. It’s theirs.

No babies born here

Author: admin

Imagine a small meeting room filled with about 25 people – more than half in some stage of a pregnancy. They’ve come to hear about plans for a brand new multi-million hospital and what they hope will be a state-of-the-art Ob-Gyn department. Imagine the reaction when the hospital administrator says it ain’t happenin’.

That’s the picture in remote Gold Beach, Oregon. Prospective parents looking for hope – and a couple of authoritative voices saying in no uncertain terms “no.”

Gold Beach is the county seat of Curry County on the far Southwest side of Oregon, just above the California border. It’s one of the prime tourist spots in the state. It’s also one of the poorest counties and – from a political standpoint – Curry is the most screwed up place I’ve ever lived.

Some background just in health care delivery there. The county has about 23,400 residents and one small hospital in bad shape, built in the ‘50’s. About two-thirds of county residents live outside the boundaries of the hospital district and pay no taxes to support it. They also live 25-70 miles away from it. Bad situation all round. Yet all the folks expect the best care when they need it even though they pay no taxes to support it.

More than half the county population is in the Brookings-Harbor area 25 miles south of the hospital and outside the district. The hospital is trying to build an emergency room and a couple clinics in Brookings – where most of the people are – with some of the money approved for the new physical plant in Gold Beach. Dollars are stretched very, very thin.

Still, it was quite a shock to hear the hospital CEO and the Board President speak so candidly about the planned absence of Ob-Gyn services. None.

Curry Health Network CEO Ginny Razo: “If you’re planning on having a child lin Curry County, you’re rolling the dice. We don’t even have a physician to care for your baby. If things go wrong with a midwife and you come here, you’re putting yourself in a dire situation. This organization is not prepared to take care of such an emergency.”

Razo again. “I can’t afford three RNs and a physician to catch a baby. You’d have to have two Ob-Gyn docs because one can’t work 24/7/365. You’d also need several nurses and all that would cost another million dollars.” The situation now, she added, is there aren’t enough babies born in Curry to keep one doctor busy.

Board President Ryan Ringer: “It’s very black and white. We’re not interested in Brookings (25 miles South) because we want to serve Brookings. We want to make money off Brookings because it brings services here (25 miles North at the new hospital). I’m ultimately responsible for the health and well-being of this community. But I’m also responsible for the well-being of this organization (the district).”

Pretty tough talk. But, as I said, Curry is a mess in a number of ways. Unincorporated Harbor – where most people live – time and again has refused to merge with Brookings, which is incorporated. They don’t want to pay the city taxes. They want the services but don’t want to pay for them. Just as they pay nothing in taxes to support the hospital district.

Which puts more than half the people 25 miles away from a hospital they want and need but for which they pay nothing in direct support. So, if you live in Brookings-Harbor, you’ve got a 25 mile, twisting coastal drive when Mom’s labor starts at 2am or you rush 30 miles South to Crescent City, California, to another facility where there may be a qualified doc at 2am. Or, maybe not.

There’s more to this story if you widen your focus to all our Northwest neighborhood. A lot of other small towns are fighting all sorts of battles to keep their hospitals open and up-to-date. Some are losing. Burns, Moses Lake, Grangeville American Falls, Chelan and dozens more. Because health care is first and foremost a business. As patients, we don’t often give that a thought. But, birthing babies is a money loser. The profits are in surgeries, outpatient clinics and orthopedics.

Maybe that’s why the chiefs at Curry Health Network were so plain spoken in a room with a couple of dozen expectant parents. You gotta put the bucks where the institution is or it won’t be there. Makes perfect business sense.

But, to a 20-something woman in her last trimester and already feeling the baby inside, it’s not “business sense” she wants to hear. She must have had a long, dark drive home at the end of the meeting while feeling the kick of a tiny foot. God love ‘em both!

Colin and me

Author: admin

When the first Colin Kaepernick caper happened a couple weeks ago, it didn’t really hit my radar screen. Just another jock with a $114 million contract trying to get some attention. But, when he did the same thing a second time – and I’d learned more about his thinking – it registered. ‘Cause, in some ways, he speaks for me.

I’m not going to carry any water for the guy. He’s a big fella. He can take care of himself, though he’s been pounded on heavily by a bunch of disagreeable types who put mouths in gear before engaging brains. With ignorant racial name-calling, anonymous demands he leave the country and a few death threats from Bubbas even Freud wouldn’t understand, he’s clearly gotten the public attention he sought. Though, from the mostly off-the-point reactions, not a lot of people have received his intended message.

Kaepernick presents himself to society as a black man, though he’s really mixed race as is Barack Obama – a white mother and black father while his adopted parents are both white. Like our President, he’s chosen to present himself to the world as a black man. Largely, I suspect, because of the color of his skin though there may be other reasons as well.

Kaepernick wants to call attention to a number of things: unarmed and often innocent black people being killed by police; failure, he sees, to punish the shooters; societal prejudices, mistreatment of some returning military personnel – especially blacks. He picked the national anthem to make his stand because he sees – especially in the third verse – references to slavery and because it was written by a man who owned slaves.

Kaepernick says he’s doing what he’s doing because he has the platform and public notoriety that most people don’t. He plans to keep ignoring the custom of standing for the anthem until he sees what he terms “improvements.”

Maybe I tend to give Colin a bit of space because, in some ways, I have some similar feelings. I, too, see some significant faults within our society/government and hypocrisy in some of our national rituals. Not having the “platform” of a star athlete, I’ve conducted my own personal “protest” by not fully engaging in some common practices we too often take for granted.

For example, for many years I belonged to a fine national service organization which opened every meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. I can’t tell you why, but one day, I was reciting along with everyone else until it came to the last line. My throat tightened and I couldn’t say the words – “with liberty and justice for all.” Nothing came out.

I hardly noticed. But, when it happened the next week, something inside said “you need to do some thinking about this.” I did. It simply boiled down to my own sincerely held belief that this nation has not provided “liberty and justice for all” and saying the words wouldn’t make it so. It seemed false and amounted to mouthing words that didn’t mean anything.

A second such experience came in church sometime later as we sang “American the Beautiful.” The words “…Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.” and the phrase …“brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” Again, for the first time, the words wouldn’t come. Our cities long ago lost their “alabaster” qualities. “Brotherhood?” And our polluted oceans haven’t been “shining” for many decades. Suddenly, the words had no meaning. For me.

Now, I’m not advocating anyone stop singing the National Anthem or refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Not at all. I am saying give the words some thought. Write them down and look at each one. Those words and the others. Think about their meanings. Apply those meanings to the reality in which we live. Do you still find them relevant? Can our country still be defined by their use? Was it ever?

Nearly all organized religions in our Western world are losing adherents. Most leaving say they don’t need a building or hymn singing to define religious experience. Many say they’re opting for a more internal, personal approach to fulfill their spiritual needs. They complain organized religion is too often just rote memory or – to them – platitudes that aren’t being followed with action. They see little meaning to rituals, printed prayers or worshiping with others in a congregation. They express a need for more direct connectedness with their God. One-on-one.

In some ways, these folk are not far removed from the real meanings behind what Colin Kaepernick is doing. He’s opting to turn his back on the crowd at a strategic, very noticeable moment to say “to me, things aren’t working.” He’s turning from the expected ritual – i.e. standing at an appropriate time – to say “We aren’t the shining country we once were because too many people are not being treated justly. Our cities are not ‘alabaster’ but too often crime-ridden slums where a lot of Americans are born without the possibility of living life as full-fledged citizens. There is no ‘liberty and justice’ for all.”

We’ve fought many a war to defend Kaepernick’s right to do what he’s doing. And for the copy cats who’re now appearing. It may be hard to accept, but it’s one of our most basic rights. The First Amendment.

Our society and our reality are going through some massive and lasting changes. We’re never going back. Maybe we’ve reached a time when we need to carefully scrutinize what we’re doing, note what’s still relevant, dismiss what isn’t and change what needs changing. If that’s not Kaepernick’s message, I guess it’s just mine.

What would you take?

Author: admin

World-wide calamities that cause death and destruction have been a part of all our lives since birth. So many, in fact, we most often give them little thought beyond saying something about the suffering, sending a dollar or two to some relief operation and go back to our normal lives. That’s been our family pattern.

Until it nearly happened to us.

For the last week, a forest fire has burned hotter and hotter on a ridge Northeast of us as it crept toward our little abode by the sea. Flames by night – smoke by day. We watched from our backyard which has thick, large old-growth forest on two sides. We watched large brown plumes which rose over 100 foot tall trees. Made daily living a bit tenuous.

This flare-up – which took nearly a week to contain – was mostly in a clear cut area that burned once before. But, in the 1930’s, lightening set off a huge fire near that same spot. It burned from that ridge in the Western foothills of the Cascades, down a mile or so, to stop only when flames had burned through most of our little town before reaching the Pacific shoreline. With that in mind, we’ve been more than a little unsettled.

But our pulse quickened when a sheriff’s robocall advised us to be ready for “possible evacuation.” There are three steps. First, an alert to warn to be ready to evacuate. Second, pack up stuff and be ready to go. Third, GIT! NOW!

It didn’t come to that. But it got me to thinking for the first time. What would we take? What, of all the important or valuable items – at least to us – do we load into the pickup? Food for us and Rat Terrier Winston and calico Clem – what kind and how much? Clothes – what kind and how many? Keepsakes – which ones and how many? Tools – which ones and for what use?

We have a standing 190-year-old clock. Do we take that? Or use the space it would occupy for more food and water? Computers? Which one and what peripherals? A dozen or so family albums and boxes of old, one-of-a-kind pictures. Take ‘em? Or leave ‘em? Books autographed by authors now gone. Take ‘em? Original and signed artwork? Barb’s many watercolor paintings? Basic kitchen utensils? Which ones and how many? Sheets, blankets, shoes, underwear, socks, first aid supplies, bottled water? How about bank records, office files, battery chargers, bottled water?

While all these questions filled our heads, we watched the smoke billowing over those very tall, old-growth trees and wondered if any progress was being made on the fire lines. If not, when would the order come to start packing? Or to “bug out?”

Very few seaside homes have air conditioning. So, on warm nights, you turn on a fan or two and sleep with the windows open. Which meant, during those warm nights, we slept with the ever-present smell of smoke. Not the recommended aid for a good night’s sleep.

In the end, 300 firefighters, several aircraft and a lot of ground equipment took care of things. We could breathe easier and stop thinking about all those questions. This time. But, what about next time? And, given the amount of forest we live near and the vagaries of coastal weather, there will be a next time. Will we have learned anything, answered all those evacuation queries and be wiser for the recent experience? Or will we relax a bit and say “Well, that was interesting and someday we’ll have to think about all that.”

I’d like to believe we’ll keep reviewing the activities of the recent days and come up with some good decisions. One by one, those questions require a lot of prioritizing. Maybe it’s time to give some of those things to the family inland ‘cause they’re going to wind up with them eventually. Maybe we need to cut down on some of the keepsakes and re-evaluate what we really need around us at this later time in life.

All this may sound unimportant to you because you may have never been faced with the loss of your home and valuables. Even so, it might be wise to look around your own abode, imagine some threatening situation arises in a life and property threatening crisis and answer some of those questions we’ve been wrestling with in case you’re ever faced with a fast exit.

Calamities almost always happen to the other guy. What if, someday, you’re the other guy?

One big legal ripoff

Author: admin

I hate writing about statistics. But, this is a column in which you’re going to have to wade through some, at times, confusing numbers to get the point. So, stick with me here. ‘Cause when that point comes, you’ll probably be as mad as I am.

The basis for my anger is found in an interesting report from the Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), a coalition of 400 national and state-level progressive groups. While most members tilt slightly left politically, the numbers are real and the methodology pure statistical mechanics.

We, common variety taxpayers, have known since diaper-hood that corporations – large, faceless, and uncaring – have ripped off the tax system with loopholes, shifts, tricks, offshore stashes and bookkeeping slight-of-hand. All legal but foul smelling. But, maybe – just maybe – it’s worse than we thought.

The comprehensive numbers crunching by ATF this year dealt almost exclusively with Walmart. Previous deep dives into the books included the entire American fast food industry, auto companies and other large employers. In all cases, the bottom line was this: American taxpayers are heavily subsidizing all of them on the one hand – while being ripped off with tax breaks on the other.

Here are the Walmart numbers. And, this, my friends, is where you’ll find that elusive anger point I mentioned.

For the year 2013, “Walmart workers cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion in public assistance including food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing. $6.2 billion right out of the ol’ taxpayer pockets.

Statisticians arbitrarily picked one Walmart superstore in Wisconsin. That store – that one store – cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year! Every year! That worked out to between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 employees!

ATF took the mid-point of that range ($4,415) and multiplied it by Walmart’s approximately 1.4 million workers. That’s how they got to the $6.2 billion direct cost to we taxpayers.

So, how did the numbers work out in our little Northwest neighborhood for just the Walmart ripoff? Well, Idaho has 7,026 Walmart employees for which the company receives $39.1 million in subsidies and tax breaks. Oregon’s 11,480 employees netted the company just over $70 million in subsidies and breaks. Washington had 19,350 employees and the company netted $120.2 million in government largesse.

Of the $6.2 billion overall cost to citizens, Idaho’s 7,026 employees racked up a $31 million hit to public assistance; Oregon’s 11,482 workers cost us $50.7 million and Washington’s 19,350 employees another $85.4 million drain to welfare programs.

Now, the “frosting on the cake” – how much Walmart’s U.S. stores took in through sales in just the food stamp program (SNAP). Bottom line in 2013 alone: $13.5 billion! Talk about taking it with both hands! That’s over 18% of all dollars paid out through the entire SNAP program coming back to Walmart!

And, if you’re wondering who was number two paying low wages which forced employees to use SNAP, that would be your famous “Golden Arches” folk who cost us all $1.2 billion more. And you can bet they sold millions of Big Mac’s to people who paid with food stamps. Again, gotcha coming and going..

Some of the crazier cretins along the Potomac want to badly curtail – or even eliminate – the SNAP subsidy. I would make a sizeable bet none of them have read the work of the Americans for Tax Fairness research. Or any other of the scholarly reports examining – in great detail – who the uses food stamps and why they have to just to survive.

But for the saner – and infinitely smarter – members of Congress, I’d recommend one of more than four dozen such tomes done by the Department of Defense. If they did, they’d find repeated conclusions showing more than 20% of food stamp users are in military uniform. And many of those are stateside families of one or more servicemen over in the live fire zones.

Come to think of it, that statistic makes me madder than the Walmart ripoff.