Who needs conventions?

Author: admin

So, the GOP national convention is over. Thank god!

Now, I’d like Democrats to call off their planned Philadelphia get-together. Everyone just stay home. I think the National DNC should collect the millions to be spent on the show and donate every penny to half a dozen deserving charities. Every cent.

Crazy idea? O.K., tell me this. Repub or Demo. Even if the Dems put on a bang-up show, lit up your old flat screen with fireworks, paraded the best speakers, made the most honorable promises, would it change anything? Would it change your mind? Would you suddenly be a more loyal member of the party? Or, would you run screaming over to do all you could to get Trumpy promptly installed in the oval office?

In sum, no matter what happens in Philly, at a cost of ten or so million dollars, would it change anything? Would the country be a better place to live? Would your mind be changed in any meaningful way? Even in a small way?

I sincerely doubt it. Nothing – absolutely nothing – will change at our house as a result of a second convention. The whole business and those millions – will have gone just to give all those out-of-town delegates a few days away from home and a chance to eat a real Philly Cheese Steak sandwich made with real Cheesewhiz. Hillary and Tim will be declared the “official” nominees, a few thousand balloons will be dropped, the cleaning crew will go to work and the convention center staff will go on to other business. At a cost of another ten million or so.

National political conventions – especially those staged before the time of the TV camera – used to be special events They were the epitome of flag-waving Americana, where everyone came away with good feelings of renewed pride in their citizenship, They offered seminal moments of what political conventions – and this country – were supposed to be. We were informed, entertained and proud!

Rigged? Most of the time. Predictable outcomes? Certainly. But staging – speeches – the presentation of patriotic spirit – the entire extravaganza – everything – all designed to re-baptize delegates, crank up their enthusiasm for the selected candidates and send them home to work their hearts out. Conventions used to be – almost always – successful. And, to the public, filled with positive messages and images. The “fix” may have been there from the beginning but the exercise served an honorable purpose.

So, tell me. When the Republican show in Cleveland ended, were you re-energized, newly filled with the spirit of citizenship, ready to go out and work hard for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence? Did those four days personally change anything for the better in your life or as part of this big nation? Did you witness a life-altering experience? Or were you just mad the whole event caused the network to cancel four nights of “Walker, Texas Ranger?”

To our great national shame, both conventions will affect life in this country even less than those that came before. We already knew who the nominees would be, had already decided who we would support and who we wouldn’t and had our minds made up months ago.

One other thing we knew even before the GOP gavel came down – the divisiveness and anger of the citizenry at-large will remain unchanged regardless of what happened in Cleveland and what will happen in Philadelphia. What ails us – what’s causing chasms in our national relationships – what’s concerning other nation’s about our future stability and dependability – we knew none of that would be resolved by either party gathering.

What we need most to start healing this nation won’t be found on any convention floor or in either party’s machinations. It won’t appear as special programming or in-depth articles in our national media. We will not get up one morning and feel “healed,” “renewed” or find a special kindness and acceptance of people with whom we angrily disagree.

What we need most urgently is a huge one-on-one effort from each of us to stop rejecting new thought, end disbelieving in science and education-based fact, accept the humanity and personal worth of our neighbor as ourselves. And, we must reject – in the strongest possible way – demagoguery and the anti-intellectual fervor driving wedges in our country from border to border. We must demand – also in the strongest possible way – personal accountability and responsibility from leaders in every form of government under which we live.

But, even more necessary than all of that, we must each become more involved – more personally educated about the city, county, state and the entirety of this nation in which we live. Our national mess can be traced to two factors: personal ignorance about how this country is structured – how it functions – and a loss of a simple demand that people wanting to lead be educated, informed and able to work with others in the conduct our national affairs.

So, do we really need another convention? Or, do we need to just admit we need each other and start working on that?

I’ve recently undergone serious surgery. (Is there any other kind?) But, before they wheeled me in, I told the physician I didn’t want him in the room at the time. I’d already asked the guy in the next suite of offices in the same building to handle the cutting and snipping. He sells mutual funds and has no medical background. But better him than those damned professional doctors.

Such is the current nutball thinking abroad in our land with all those poll responders who say they won’t vote for a presidential candidate who’s a “professional” politician. “NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY” is their mantra. So, they’re jumping on the loud, three-wheeled Trump bandwagon in record numbers. Suffice to say, a more unqualified, doomed-to-fail, ego-scratching candidate for the office of commander-in-chief has not appeared on a national ballot since that damned Palin woman.

If one knows nothing about how our political system works, if one is uninformed or misinformed by a favorite right-wing media, hasn’t spent the time to understand how our government works or is ignorant of the whole process and determined to stay that way, I can understand the dumb and dangerous response to national pollsters. But it would sure play hell with our country if that ignorance prevailed.

There are, I think, four major reasons for such misplaced anger. First, our higher and lower educational systems are graduating students who have absolutely no idea how our government works. I run into it every day in conversations with white collar, blue collar or no collar folks. Even many PhD’s are “civics challenged.” Simple queries about government form and function draw off-the-wall responses or blank stares. Too often – far to often – the response is “I have no idea” or “I don’t know.” Makes it damned tough to call yourself an educated voter or to cast an intelligent ballot.

The second reason for a sizeable part of the uneducated electorate being mad at “professional” politicians is they’ve elected too damned many of ‘em who should’ve never been candidates in the first place. We’ve filled our legislatures and congress with nice looking, smooth talking people. They either have no idea what their job descriptions are or they have singular agendas for or against something and don’t give two hoots in Hell for governing or anything else. They are strident, ignorant and dangerous voices with nothing to say. And, an elected platform on which to say it.

A third factor is loss of respect for anything challenging a person’s thinking. We’ve developed a media system and, in some cases an educational system – to which people can turn for reaffirmation of whatever philosophy they have. Fact or no fact. I get in more arguments lately when I challenge someone. Their favorite media source or favorite politician or even their favorite bartender has convinced them of the “rightness” of a certain view and no other facts need apply. Further, their challenge to me is to “convert” to their thinking. There is no middle ground. No acceptance of the right to disagree without being disagreeable. No thought they could be wrong.

Finally, we’ve created a political system where winning is the goal – not filling an office with someone who both understands and can do the job. Go with someone who can win – not necessarily someone more qualified. Both parties do it but Republicans have become masters of the process. Cruz, Lee, Cotton, Ghomert, Bachman, King, McCarthy et al. are just a few who’ve contributed nothing – will contribute nothing – and who’ll muck up the process every day of their tenure in office.

People have a right to be mad at “professional” politicians. But they have a prior – and larger – responsibility to assure an intelligent and qualified person is elected and given the opportunity to become “professional” by fulfilling the duties of that office in a “professional” manner. If they don’t, chase ‘em out. Then find another real professional.

Imagine a Trump presidency. Who would be in his cabinet? Would it be a John Kerry or a Colin Powell at the State Department to conduct delicate but dangerous negotiations with nations we oppose? Would there be an intelligent and experienced vice president to assure smooth continuity of an administration? What professional voice would be at Treasury to guide the country’s money policies? At the Pentagon? Well, so far we’ve got Mike Pence who’s as scary as Trump.

Professional politicians – really professional with no quotation marks – are necessary at all levels for this country to survive. The political stakes are no longer simple enough for just anyone to fill elected office. Our universities should be turning out trained, talented and qualified graduates ready for careers in public service – careers in politics. We need “best and brightest” in the Capitol, the White House, city hall and the court house. To a very large extent, we’re in the divided and uncontrollable mess we find ourselves because we made poor choices. Wrong choices. Tragic choices in too many elections.

No, I had the surgeon do the cutting and snipping. He’s a professional and right for the job. Upon recovery, I may wander over to the office next door and talk to the fella there about an investment opportunity. He’s a professional, too.

Right people in the right jobs. Seems simple enough. Why have we screwed it up so many times at the polls? Because a lot of folks were not “professional” in their voting. And look at the mess we’ve got!

National doors

Author: admin

“You can’t control what’s happening, but you can control how you react.” Not sure where I read that – or when – but the words have become more personally important given recent political and social violence in our country.

While the phrase is certainly true, so is this: I’m having more trouble controlling my reactions. As violence escalates and our national political stew rots, efforts to control reactions to them have taken more personal strength and have sapped more willpower to keep my reactions under control.

Violence in our society is not new. But, in the last couple of decades, it’s become more prevalent – more pervasive – more deadly. Now, with the bloodshed of recent days flowing across our nation, it seems to have picked up intensity and has become more far-reaching – involving more and more of us.

One fact is extremely clear: we are in a national state of flux in all segments of our society and we are never – never – going back to where we were even four or five years ago. In anything.

It’s hard to describe. One way I’ve come to visualize it, is to imagine the largest, thickest bank vault door ever built, slowly closing on our nation, blocking from sight everything comfortable and familiar. At the same time, imagine a door of similar size beginning to open to reveal – reveal – what? That we don’t know, but you can be sure it will be a country and a society unlike anything we’ve ever known.

Here are some examples. We twice elected a President of mixed race. From day one, he’s been blocked, undercut and pilloried while doing his job. His performance in office can be debated, but one thing cannot: he’s been the target of the most vicious racism we’ve seen directed at a national public figure. Oh, it’s not called “racism.” No. It’s been couched in more politically acceptable terms like “typical two-party politics,” “liberal versus conservative” and “the normal friction found when one party occupies the White House and the other control the majorities in Congress.” Pure B.S..

I strongly believe the vision of a “black” man in the White House has become an excuse for racists and extremists of all stripes to come out from under their rocks and openly challenge authority without reprisal. Whether it’s Bundy or the NRA, Mitch McConnell, the apparent revival of the KKK or quickening pace of murdering Black Americans, it’s less about politics and more about race.

Another case: the dissolution of the National Republican Party. In about four decades, the cancer of extremist thought and the purging of anything different have gutted the GOP. The emergence of a dangerous buffoon like Trump is not surprising. He and the GOP have been looking for each other for years. The only questions is “what took so long?” And states with Tea Party-backed governors have seen resources squandered and several are so awash in debt they’re considering bankruptcy. Kansas, anyone? Michigan? Arkansas? North Carolina? Florida? Texas?

Another: Democrats have failed miserably to create a “loyal” opposition, have not been effective dealing as a minority party in Congress and have not built a “bench” team of up-and-coming people to challenge the majority for years to come. Anywhere.

Another: Both parties are becoming less viable as national representatives of voters at-large. Both are losing members. Both are less in-touch with Americans than just five-10 years ago. That trend will continue. A week ago, the respected IPSOS polling firm found 21% of registered voters – more than one-in-five – want someone other than the leading presidential candidates of both parties. That number will go up before November. Bet on it.

In some instances, this nation is close to becoming one run from the streets. The Dallas police killings and the documented and recent unwarranted police murders of several black men are galvanizing people of more races than just Black America. Whatever accountability – if any – that comes as a result of these slaughters will come because people in the streets stayed in the streets and demanded it. That’s not how an effective and lasting society works for all but that’s where we are. It will get louder and more violent in those streets until justice comes. In whatever form.

Maybe worst of all, the November election will have little, if any, positive effect on all this. The day after will be just as disruptive, just as raucous, just as violent and just as filled with national seething as the day before.

No one individual has all the answers to our national quandary. No one can make good on “taking the country back.” Our nation is in the throes of great change in every area of society – change that, at the moment, is undirected and uncoordinated.

One huge vault door has closed. The other is slowly opening. Behind that one is our national future. Unseen. Unknown. Out of full sight. But the first glimpses are not comforting. Not comforting at all.

I’m a cancer survivor

Author: admin

Physician examining rooms are usually small and windowless, with no comfortable place to sit. They’re lined with cabinets and drawers you just know contain all sorts of demonic tools with which to inflict pain. Likely on you. The usual minutes go from 60 seconds long to 240 seconds. It seems.

Finally, the door opens, doctor walks in, and the first words out of his mouth are “Hello. You have advanced prostate cancer and if you hadn’t shown up here two months ago, you’d be dead by now.” Word-for-word. Great bedside manner.

He hands you a copy of the biopsy report from last week’s visit. It’s all right there in pictures, diagrams, diagnostics by scale and the lab’s conclusion.

That was my lab report, cooly handed to me on a grey coastal day last Fall. Several depictions were cross-sections – “slices” of my prostate divided into nine regions. The lab used the commonly accepted Gleason scores ranging from zero to five with five being very bad. Mine showed a 4.9, a 4.8 and down – or 90% and 80% positive. No need for a second opinion here. The evidence in my hand was black and white. And conclusive.

I hadn’t made my first appointment with this urologist because of any bodily symptoms. With prostate cancer, there are usually no symptoms you can feel. What got my attention was a PSA score that had gone from 1.8 to 4.8 in six months. PSA means “prostate-specific antigen” and is determined by a normal blood test. Many doctors don’t give it a lot of importance. But it can be a good predictor that something is wrong if it changes radically in a short period of time as mine did. My primary care doc seemed unconcerned. But I insisted on a second test. That second test saved my life. I also got a new primary doc.

There are four major procedures to deal with prostate cancer: surgery to remove the prostate performed either by a surgeon the traditional way or with the DaVinci robot remotely controlled by the surgeon; radiation; chemotherapy; cryosurgery or a combination of two or more of these.

Most often, surgery is not “medically appropriate” – insurance talk – for seniors because of cost, compared to how much longer a senior may live without dying of some other problem. Radiation and drugs are often used in combination. But I’d had previous personal experience with both and knew the bad side-effects. I researched everything I could find, then opted for cryosurgery and hormones.

I took nine powerful hormone shots in eight months. The PSA reading went from 4.8 to 0.01, meaning the drug was killing the testosterone – the life-blood of prostate cancer. It also was shrinking the gland to be a better target for cryo.

Cryosurgery is done with two surgical rods. A cut is made in the lower body area between front and back. Both rods are inserted. One is shoved firmly into the prostate while the urologist watches using a tiny TV camera. During the two-hour procedure, gasses are used to freeze the prostate. First shot is -125 degrees and lasts for as long as the doctor believes necessary. Then wait. The second shot drops to -187 degrees. The idea is to kill as many cancer cells as possible on the first try and weaken the rest. Then, after a warming period, hit the weaker cells even harder. The second rod is a warming instrument to try to protect the bladder, bowel wall and other vital spots from being damaged in the freezing.

None of this sounds very comfortable. But, four weeks after the procedure, there’s been no pain from day one. I’m eating anything I want, bathroom habits are normal, I’ve been housebound but able to walk freely and do most daily activities. I feel great.

Based on his years of experience with cryo, the surgeon believes he got all the cancer. I’ll take the hormone shots for another four months. What we wait for now is a blood test and the PSA reading in about 70 days. We know it’s 0.01 today. If it’s at or close to that on the next test, we’ll have won this round.

One bad issue with prostate cancer is it often returns, no matter what procedure is first used. Maybe a year or two, or 10, or 12. With each return, you have reduced options depending on age. For me, at my age then, if it returns in a few years, the only options will be hormones and radiation. Eventually, the body will figure out how to make testosterone a different way and drugs will be needed to starve it again. May add another one to four years of life at that time.

Prostate cancer is a man-killer. But survival odds are getting better. Cryosurgery, while relatively new, is also improving, as my own experience shows. Medical science keeps working on this universal male problem and is improving the odds for all of us.

I didn’t describe all this to pander for attention. I want to make the most important point – in the strongest possible way – that males – ALL males – NEED TO GET REGULAR PSA TESTING! At least very six months. Especially after age 40. Most insurance plans pay for it once or twice a year. Do it! Pay for it yourself, if necessary! It’s not expensive. Record the results to track the trend between tests. A slight movement up is usually not cause for alarm.

But, if it climbs quickly, as mine did, get to a urologist immediately. He’ll probably recommend a biopsy so you’ll both know better what’s going on. With local anesthetic, it’s painless. And it’s damned good information. Quick and easy life saving information.

Now, GO. You’ve been warned!

Damned Brits

Author: admin

It’s a day or so after Great Britain’s Brexit vote and I’ve been sitting at the old computer machine for several hours watching the bottom drop out of my IRA. Nearly 40 years of saving and, at this hour, the listed value of my retirement plan is about $38,000 less than the cash amount I put in over all those years. Forget the interest. Others, I’m sure, are seeing that and much worse.

World markets are drowning in red ink, keepers of the economies of nations around the world are wondering what the Hell just happened and the Brit’s home ground is cracking beneath their feet. Politicians everywhere are struggling to get on the “right” side of what’s happening although most have no idea which side that is.

For many years, I’ve privately clung to the belief some important national issues should never be given directly to the public to decide en masse. Brexit is one such. One proof of that is how many millions of Brits and others were asking Google “What does Brexit mean” and “What is the EU” the day AFTER. Where were they the day BEFORE and in the last few weeks as England’s media covered little else?
You know how the enormously complicated Brexit issue got to a referendum ballot? We’re told it’s ‘cause PM David Cameron, his chief of staff and a couple of other British politicians were sitting in a pizza shop at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport a few months ago and wondering what to do. Cameron was trying to come up with an idea to heal some of the many riffs in his nation’s populace at-large. He wanted home folks happier.

One of the four hit on the idea of a referendum on whether the nation should remain a member of the European Union or go its own way. So, the pizza gang – after a brew or two, I’d guess – decided nothing could be more “unifying” than a vote on the country’s entire economic future.

So, how did that work out? Well, Cameron resigned the morning after the vote and it can only be deeply hoped the others – with tomato sauce and cheese on their fingers – do so as well.

Thanks to those four pepperoni-loving pols, a nation previously dealing with a number of far lesser political disagreements is now one deeply divided smack down the middle. About 52% on one side- 48% on the other. And the economic wreckage will pile up for years. Yes, Sir. Nothing like a good, old popular vote to smooth everything out.

Like it or not, the British system of government – and ours – requires the election of people to public office. It’s how we do things governmental. Once in office, their chief responsibility is to research and study issues, use the committee process to get all the facts, make an educated recommendation to the entire larger body for that body – with a studied committee report in hand – to decide what to do. It works, most of the time. But odds of it working are a whole lot better than dropping this terribly complicated question into the laps of millions of citizens when most of them are unprepared to cast an intelligent ballot using whatever facts may – or may not – be at hand. Or even knowing the facts at hand.

Suppose, just for giggles, our nation faced the question of whether to return to the gold standard. Our Congress studied, researched, conducted endless committee meetings and came up with no clear decision. So, over a large Domino’s, the powers-that-be decided to put the issue on the good old American ballot. Let the voter decide. What kind of a well-informed, fully educated, studied decision would be forthcoming? Look up and down your street. How many of your neighbors would you think could cast a fully-informed vote?

Yes, there are issues which should be in the hands of the electorate. Most questions should be decided by those who will have to live with the consequences. But, once in awhile, a subject comes along that defies the ability of the public-at-large to come up with a researched, intelligent decision. That’s why we have a government. Why we elect people to office – to study issues of great import and make decisions based on research and recommendations of well-informed experts. Think seriously about that the next time you vote for someone.

Most Americans have no idea what the implications of switching an entire nation’s monetary system would mean. But that ignorance could be the basis of the collapse of an entire economy. Or, the world’s.

Such, I think, was the case with Brexit. Rather than cold, hard facts that could be understood by “the least of these” – if they cared to pay any attention – the issue was handled like a major marketing program. Thousands of slick TV commercials, newspaper pages filled with thousands of fancy ads and wall-to-wall talk radio going in all directions. If there was a repeated, easily accessible program of facts and a full disclosure of lasting, national effects either way, it was hard to find in the flotsam.

Our own little Faux News proudly proclaimed Great Britain was “pulling out of the United Nations” – which it isn’t. The Trumpster on his way to Scotland tweeted how happy he was the Scots had voted to leave the EU – 64% of Scots voted NOT to leave. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan called the vote “the worst economic happening in my more than 40 years of public service.” And on and on and on.

Well, the market is now down another 150 points in the last hour. That’s about $500 more cash loss to the retirement plan. I think it was Mark Twain who quipped “England and America – two nations separated by a common language.” Given today’s dire effect on my standard of living here in the senior years, that separation hasn’t been near far enough.

Mad as hell

Author: admin

For many months now, the chattering class of talking heads has been telling us people in this country are mad. More directly, a lot of prospective voters are angry at nearly everything governmental, they say. Thus, the voices reason, that pent up anger is being turned to support for the most unqualified belligerent ever to run for president. Trump.

We’re repeatedly reminded this anger comes from feelings of frustration, disappointment and outright rejection of all things governmental. The rise – so far – in political influence of the far right is being offered as “proof” of this oft-quoted speculation. Trump – though he lies, cheats, lacks facts or ideas for improving our national condition – he’s become a lightening rod attracting every sort of angry condition being thrust on our national political environment. So we’re told.

Here – at the edge of the Pacific – my response to this “common wisdom” is that it amounts to a lot of conjecture, speculation and outright B.S..

The flaw in this widely accepted “theory,” is only a portion of the populace is “angry” and acting out – that the rest of us looking for sanity, leadership and exceptional quality in our next President aren’t unhappy, too. That we are content with things – accepting of how governmental affairs have been conducted – and are trudging along in a national attitude of peace and love.

Not by a long shot! A VERY long shot!

Like Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” I’m “mad as Hell.” And, as followers of the electronic musings in these “SECOND THOUGHTS” can attest, I’m not a dues-paying member of any right-wing fringe element. Neither, I’m happy to say, are most of my friends, most of my day-to-day contacts and regular correspondents who are equally as mad but who’ve not turned to supporting or accepting the aforementioned B.S.. Still, we ARE angry. We ARE mad! We ARE frustrated every bit as much as any Trump backer. And we’ve probably got more concrete examples for our angst. Here are a few raising my civic temperature:

## One Greg Abbott, governor of Texas. He’s launched an effort to call a constitutional convention to rewrite portions of our grand old document so states could refuse any federal government law or mandate states don’t like. This from a licensed attorney. Now, I’ll be first to say, being a law school graduate doesn’t give him any special intellectual prowess. But the doctrine of federal supremacy – over which an entire Civil War was fought – was settled many eons ago. He could, of course, have slept through an entire six weeks it was featured at the University of Texas. But this bastard’s serious!

## One Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas. His new Executive Order 16-01, “Protecting Kansas from Terrorism” attempts to block relocation to Kansas of refugees from “anywhere in the world” who present a “safety and security risk.” Which, to him, means all. For the rest of us, details of how to define or assure someone meets those two qualifications were, of course, not defined. Read “shut the borders of Kansas.”

## One Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, who, upon election, promptly killed the state’s Obamacare participation which immediately disenfranchised a half-million people who lost coverage.

## A U.S. Supreme Court that made Citizen’s United the law of the land. Also, the Chief Justice who said “states have learned their lessons, changed their procedures” and portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring federal approval of local voting changes “are unnecessary.” Since that decision, the legislatures of Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, North and South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi have enacted new laws disenfranchising voters totaling a million-plus. Wiped ‘em out.

## The U.S. Congress which has voted 59 times – 59 – to kill the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Would have become law were it not for a Democrat in the White House with a veto stamp. More than 12 million Americans could’ve been without health insurance.

## Louis Ghomert, Steve King, Raul Labrador, Darrell Issa, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Tom Cotton, Duncan Hunter, Michael Burgess, Pete Sessions, Don Young, Pete Sessions and several dozen more members of Congress who’ve repeatedly shown their existence along the Potomac is for no other reason than to remain on the banks of the Potomac and perpetuate themselves at the public trough they repeatedly decry. They offer nothing constructive, author no positive legislative improvements, complain bitterly about a system of government they were elected to run – if not improve. All the while depositing $175,000 a year from us. Plus-plus-plus.

I could run this on for a couple more pages. I won’t.

The point is, there are millions of Americans just as mad – just as angry – just as frustrated about government, about stagnation and bitterness in our political system as those the media counts as Trump voters. But the fact is, we who reject those voices of political lunacy, may be more deeply affected because we know why we’re “in the winters of our discontent.” We understand the failures. But we’re not ignorantly casting around for someone – anyone -regardless of qualifications – to solve our national issues. Our anger is because we know what’s wrong. We understand why. And who. We even have some serious thoughts about how to get back on track.

Trump is not the answer to our anger. More accurately, he represents the cause of it! A system – a political party – that can produce nothing more positive than that cretin is the result of previous elections when voters lashed out by choosing flawed candidates offering no answers to perceived wrongs at the time.

Like anchorman Beale, I, too, am “MAD AS HELL!” His next words were “…and I’m not going to take it anymore!.” Individually, none of us can make that a meaningful, serious threat. But – collectively and informed – we can answer what the talking heads tell us is anger from the right. We can express our own displeasure with conditions – doing so in a more thoughtful and informed way.

The ballot’s in your hands. Just how mad are you?

For those who don’t live in the world of political wonks, our presidential primaries, such as they’ve been, are about over. The mostly disenfranchised citizens of our captive “colony” – Washington D.C. – add a few ballot voices this week. But other than that, it’s finis! Right?

Ah, not so quick there, polling breath. Trips to the polls may be nearly over but the fat lady definitely has not hit her first note.

Some months ago, I opined the Trumpster might not really want the job of President of these United States. Caught some flak. But nothing has changed my mind. In fact, he’s on the record – a long, shameful, disastrous, racist, bigoted, misogynist record – saying he doesn’t see himself doing the day-to-day work. Just “chairman of the board,” an above-it-all position with details/work “farmed out” to “experts” like CEO’s and CFO’s. Says he’ll keep an eye on things but not daily duty in the office.

Well, he has his views. And, thank God, the rest of us have ours. In fact, there’s an outside chance his run to November won’t reach the finish line. The factors that could save him – make him a viable candidate if that’s possible – just aren’t there and don’t seem to be coming.

What he needs most is a team of specialists – speech writers, fund raisers, advance teams, media spokesmen, ad buyers, state campaign teams, precinct workers and local phone banks, logistics people, experienced – and trusted – advisors on all the important issues he needs to know. At least, know more than he does.

Problem is, those people aren’t swamping him with job applications. Especially the political professional types who don’t like looking foolish when the boss double crosses them in public – and the knowledgeable advisors who don’t like having their expertise given, then ignored.

Trump’s current list of “advisors” could be seated around my dining room table. His spokesmen include family members. Maybe most damaging of all, the National Republican Party has not yet stepped up with the important national resources – if it still has any. And Trump’s fund-raising efforts are largely confined to repaying himself for the millions he “loaned” his campaign. Anyone who seriously thought he was going to bankroll his run – as he has promised so many times – has little grasp on reality.

Then, there are the surrogates. The other prominent – mostly Republican – figures he needs to stump their own states and the hinterlands spreading his “message.” Whatever the hell that is. They aren’t leaping at the opportunity. Maybe that’s because (a) they can’t see themselves saying or endorsing the things he says and does and (b) they watched the only congressional candidate Trump endorsed – an incumbent – go down in flames last week. Get too close to the fire and a political career could become a pile of ashes.

Then there’s the terrible – and possibly career-ending – short list of politicians who’ve already endorsed. At least three have now “un-indorsed.” Mitch McConnell has tiptoed around doing as much. And poor Paul Ryan – the GOP’s “great white hope” – has roundly condemned Trump for his racist, bigoted mouthings while still “supporting” him to be commander-in-chief with his erratic finger on the nuclear trigger. Ryan will likely survive his idiotic move – though he, too, may un-indorse. But the dozens of idiots he’s riding herd on in the House will see fresh blood and a sign Ryan is damaged goods. (ED NOTE: First time I’ve agreed with them.)

Trump’s victory speech last week also contained some hints. Rather than using a large, public location to reach out to the masses, his toned-down, obviously non-Trump script – was badly read off teleprompters in a small meeting room at one of his private country clubs to a small, invited audience. A carefully controlled environment for a carefully controlled crowd. But, even then, he couldn’t help deviating to throw in some red meat comments and a couple of zingers. So much for the “pro advisors” who’ve told him to “tone it down.” Ain’t gonna happen.

Before the national GOP convention, Trump will have insulted something near and dear to just about every American. He’s already started. And he’s demanding his nomination – and his acceptance speech – be held in a “large sports arena” and not the Republican convention site. He’s also told several reporters – hence their media employers – they will “not be allowed” to attend to cover either event.

Then there’s this. What does Donnie do with his real estate and investment empire? A billion – 5 billion – 10 billion. Whatever. He can’t stay in control. He’s got to put everything – ALL of it – into some sort of blind trust. Which he can’t control or even check on from time to time. Who’ll take over? His son? A wife? Attorneys? Some phony board of directors that doesn’t exist or, if it did, couldn’t make a decision without him? Trump doesn’t turn loose of control. Of anything! This could be the “make-or-break.”

Bottom line: Trump seems destined to fail either at his own hand or for lack of a reality-based, professional, national support system. The “cat’s” further out on that limb than he ever thought he would be. And the fire department is not coming to his rescue.

But – Clinton is no sure thing. The entry of former governors Johnson and Weld as Libertarians could well take 15-20% of the November vote. Maybe more. Depends on who shows up to vote and who stays home. And there’ll be some others emerging from the nutball woodwork to siphon off some more numbers. Add the fact we have no idea – at this point – what the Sanders effect will be. Will he renew his donkey credentials, get behind the Clinton bandwagon and push? Or will he go back to Burlington and sit it out?

No, friends, we’re a long way from the finish line and the imponderables are many. Except one. The Donald will not be getting the keys to the Oval Office. Whether by his own hand. Or yours and mine.

Beware the seniors

Author: admin

Used to be, when people got to a certain age, they were supposed to follow the example of old elephants who – at that certain are – slowly walk out into the forest, lean against a tree and wait for the Grim Reaper. Then came “60 is the new 50,” “70 is the new 60,” and so forth. More exercise and better drugs, I guess.

These aging thoughts were brought to mind recently by a demographic survey done by the National Conference of State Legislatures and an outfit called “Stateline.” Ranked by the age of its members, Idaho’s Legislature is the second “oldest” in the country. Average age: 63. Oldest individual member: 80. Only New Hampshire averaged older: 66.

Our neighboring states came in quite a bit younger. Washington’s legislature averages 58 years with a general population average age of 47. Oregon’s lawmakers average 58 years with a population average of 46. Residents of Idaho average 47. If you’re thinking about average years of a member of Congress, it’s 59. Both parties are about identical. Democrats just seem older.

At the youngest end of the legislative spectrum, Puerto Rico and Michigan tied at 50 – with Florida third at an average of 51 years.

Now, before anyone hits the “reply” key to accuse me of “ageism” – whatever the Hell that is – let it known I am the same age as Idaho’s oldest member: 80. You may be thinking of this discussion of the elderly in terms of older folks. I’m talking about peers. And younger.

While the studies didn’t survey occupations, Idaho’s legislature has always had a high proportion of retirees. Nothing wrong with retirees, I guess, if they don’t hang around too long.

Case in point: Idaho’s late Rep. Don Maynard – a retiree from Sandpoint – who was in his 70’s at the time. He spent most of the 1960’s in the House. His one distinction: he never debated. Never. Nor did he sponsor any bills. He showed up every day, kept his mouth shut and voted when the bell rang. Until the final day of one particular session.

It had been unusually long that year. Lasted nearly till May. On the final day, the body got into a wrangle over something. Debate got heated. And long. Then, Rep. Maynard stood up and reached for his microphone – a microphone he never once used. The chamber fell silent – waiting to hear Maynard’s wise contribution to the lengthy discussion.

“I ask the members of this body to reach a quick solution to this issue and let the Speaker pronounce we are adjourned,” the ever-silent Maynard pleaded. “My wife is waiting in the ante room and the slot machines at Jackpot are getting colder.”

As members laughed, I was thinking at the press desk, “Four months of silence and this is his first contribution to debate? What the Hell has he been thinking all these years?”

People retire at different times and for different reasons. The way it should be. But there’s clear evidence many in politics hang around too long and become less of a representative of the people and more of a problem. Senators Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond come to mind. In later years – as they attempted to set some sort of record as “longest serving” – neither man could find his way from his office to the Senate chamber. And neither – despite previous legislative accomplishments – was contributing much but added payroll for on-the-job caregivers.

Commercial pilots are age-limited. In some states, so are other occupations. Cognitive abilities make no difference. Issues of risk and public safety take priority. Well, what about public good?

It’s doubtful there could ever be a qualification for public office because of advanced age. Certainly not for intelligence or common sense. But issues facing legislative and congressional bodies these days are complex, moving at a pace we’ve never seen before. More information faster and in larger amounts. Many our 70’s and 80’s may think we’re still able to keep up but, often, we really can’t. Just as our other, slower, age-related reflexes affect our athletic efforts or such things as our ability to drive as safely, our intellectual prowess isn’t as reliable, either.

For the last 30 years or so, Idaho’s legislature has suffered from arrogance, ignorance and outright stupidity dealing with some issues. Proof of that is found in the millions and millions of tax dollars paid to attorneys after losing cases involving legislative bone-headed decisions made while ignoring competent legal advice. And other millions awarded to individuals and organizations because of unconstitutional and illegal actions pursued – again, after being warned.

While some of that may be charged to nutcase, right wing political blackout regardless of age, I’d guess some older, not as sharp minds contributed as well. Not understanding the issues, not wanting to appear so to peers and more easily swayed by illegitimate arguments.

Taking stock of one’s physical and mental abilities in later years is not only wise, it’s absolutely essential if you want to enjoy that period you’ve been working and planning for. Endurance as a senior – physical and mental – is highly individualized and differs greatly. And, for some, stepping aside for younger folks not as experienced is hard to do.

But doing so is, more often than not, the right thing. And it should happen long before the overwhelming desire to play shuffleboard. Or go to Jackpot!

Ignorant, dangerous

Author: admin

First time I voted for a president was 1960. I was stationed in northern Greenland near the North Pole. My “polling” place, as it were. So, registering, getting a ballot, marking it up and assuring it got to the proper counting place stateside on-time made for a bit of a job. But pride in the experience drove the process and we “got ‘er done.”

I remember how seriously I treated that first voting exercise. We had no Internet – no TV – no satellite phones – no phones of any kind. Best most of us could do to keep up with things at home was have folks send us newspapers that were generally two weeks old by the time we got ‘em.

Having been raised in a Central Oregon Republican household, I leaned a bit toward Nixon – to my later, everlasting shame. But Kennedy was new, younger, articulate – different. So, my “boning up” included reading all I could find on both, trying to be a informed as possible – given the circumstances.

That’s how you participated in the first rite of citizenship 56 years ago. You assumed the two national political parties had put forth their best, most qualified candidates. You studied. You talked with friends. You gathered as many facts as you could to be an “informed voter.” It was an important requirement of being a good citizen of this country.

Damn! Times have certainly changed.

If you assume Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two “most qualified” candidates of their respective parties, you start with a flawed basis that’ll get no better no matter the winner. As the one casting the ballot, you can study till Hell freezes over and not end up picking the “most qualified” candidate either party could field. Those names – whoever they might be – aren’t on your official form.

We voters are failing the exercise, too, by not being as informed as we were six decades back. Most folks aren’t spending the required time and energy to get beyond headlines, sound bites, hate radio or phony “facts.”

I’m not a big “social” media believer – limiting myself to Facebook as a means to stay somewhat in touch with people I mostly enjoy. There are plenty of FB participants I don’t “enjoy” but their presence on my “page” is only because of their relationship to those I do.

If you pay attention to what shows up, you can learn a few things. For example, during some of the recent primaries in our Northwest neighborhood, it absolutely floored me how many people asked other folks who to vote for. Yep. People I had regarded as upstanding, wise, learned participants in our democracy were admitting they “hadn’t kept up” or “had been so busy” – or some other lame excuse – and were hitting up friends for names of the best candidates.

I recognized some of them – actually, far too many – and was greatly disappointed. I’d become accustomed to reading their posted complaints about government and certain politicians. I’d read many of their previous rants and figured they knew what they were talking about. Apparently they didn’t! And we’re not talking a couple of folks here. No, it was a good deal more than a few.

You can get a pretty good idea how many millions of Americans really have no idea how their country operates by starting with these who’ve shown their ignorance, then watching other interviews with people “on-the-street.” Jay Leno used to do that. Letterman and Fallon from time to time. Seemed like good clean fun then. But not now!

I’m constantly stunned – and extremely disappointed – by how many people have absolutely no idea how the U.S. of A. works. A year ago, a University of Oklahoma journalism grad student set up a camera on campus and interviewed passers by. One question was: “Who were the participants in the Civil War?” Another: “Who won the Civil War?” Again, those questioned were UofO students AND faculty.

I quit watching after about 10 responses. Ten wrong responses. Ten ignorant, unbelievable responses. This wasn’t a hoax. This wasn’t some kind of setup. This was part of her master’s work.

Lately, some media interviews with Trump supporters have turned up. Painful to watch. Unbelievable to watch. Disgusting to watch. Every bit as bad as those Oklahoma voices. Worse, in most cases, because the speakers were allegedly voters espousing their beliefs and support for Trump’s repeated lies, slander, racism, misogyny and his own ignorance.
But, possibly even worse, we’re now hearing daily of “important” Republican officeholders lining up behind this loud-mouth, civic embarrassment. Doing so, they say, to unite their party. Unite the party be damned! What the Hell about the country? When did doomed-to-fail efforts to unite a devastated political party take precedence over the national good? When, in the last 60 years, was responsible citizenship of being a more informed voter replaced by political hacks acting civically irresponsible to maintain their employment at the federal tit?

The GOP is NOT going to “reunited” any time soon. Humpty Dumpty had a far better chance of being “reunited” than today’s National Republican Party. Those along the Potomac, sacrificing their intelligence and trustworthiness to hold public office by pledging to support the worst thing that’s happened to this country’s politics in my lifetime, deserve no more than our scorn. Certainly not our vote.

Up in that frozen wasteland 60 years ago, I was proud to have my ballot counted on election day, 1960. No little sticker to wear. Not even able to see the returns that night. And 40-below outside.

But, I voted then with pride and a sense of “coming-of-age” that felt awfully good all those years back. That’s not how it’ll feel in November, 2016. We’ve passed the point of so many recent elections in which we voted for “the lesser of two evils.” Now, we have to be totally concerned with keeping this nation intact. And with saving millions of Americans from themselves. How’s that for a new responsibility of citizenship?

Today’s the day

Author: admin

The future success of the National Democratic Party in the November election is at a critical junction today. This day. Right now. Today. Not some months down the road. NOW!

Ironically, it’s in the hands of just two people. Two. Just two human beings in the entire universe can assure the party’s immediate future ascendancy. Or disaster. If they don’t make the right, gut wrenching decision at this moment, we’re going to have a Trump in the White House and a totally unpredictable future as a nation.

Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton. It’s all up to you!

Ol’ Bern set out to do something a year ago that the wisest political chiefs of any persuasion thought was impossible. While he isn’t likely to meet his goal of being the party’s presidential nominee, he’s had astounding success in all sorts of things: amassing an amazing pile of dollars from individuals while refusing PAC and large donor bucks; tackling subjects this nation needs to hear more about and take action on; reached an unheard of number of young people with little previous political interest; getting them to act; staying true to his ideals without currying support by changing them. And a whole lot more.

Candidates and their professional hired hands will examine the Sanders campaign inside and out for years. Political academics will do repeated autopsies on the body politic to understand how he, with very scant support from his own party, was able to reach so many people, motivate them and come so close to the national prize as just one guy remaining true to himself and those who supported his candidacy. Amazing!

But now it’s time – today – for Bernie to admit the statistics and facts are all against him getting any further up the political ladder. He cannot – and he will not – be the Democrat Party presidential nominee. His road has ended. Very, very near to the finish line. But short of it.

This is not to say he hasn’t been successful in many areas. Nor is it to believe he’s failed in any way. Not at all. His campaign trail from near obscurity to how close he got to the mountaintop is to be admired. Nor is he without the ability to be an effective influence as a Democrat.

But, now is the time for him to put all his cards on the table – use the accumulated power he holds by simply representing the desires of some eight million voters and offer up his petition of those desires for the future of his party. What he wants talked about and acted on – issues like minimum wage increases, equal pay for equal work, commitment to kill Citizen’s United which has befouled our national politics, necessary system-wide improvements in veteran’s health care and a couple of other major items. All good.

Then, the spotlight – and the immediate urgency – must shift to Hillary. She must – must – be magnanimous, gracious and open to including some if not all of Bernie’s issues in the party platform to be built at convention in Philadelphia. She already supports many of his positions and could easily accommodate the others. After all, platforms hardly ever come up in campaigning. Even most of the people at conventions don’t read ‘em and their impact on the general public is flat nil.

But, the moment of her very public acknowledgment – and her open acceptance of what Sanders presents – can create the foundation on which immediate party unity can be built. She loses nothing – suffers no handicap – by allowing Sanders and his eight million followers to feel included and represented. She gains immediate additional widespread acceptance of her own by assuring Sanders – with his list of desires – a seat at the head table. And, she’ll suddenly have millions more backing her in November.

Then the light will shift back to Sanders. It’ll be his turn to act the role of the effective leader those who have turned to him believe him to be. He loses nothing. He’s no less a man or less an effective politician. But, if he makes that turn at that moment – and does it with the sincerity and the fire he’s known for in his campaign – he’ll keep a compulsive, lying, racist, politically ignorant, misogynist from tearing this country apart.

Someone Sanders goes to for counsel – someone whose advice he routinely takes – whose wisdom and support he relies upon – that person alone can keep Bernie from setting fire to this Republic while realizing only a hollow and worthless personal victory. This is no time for false pride. Sanders first – then Clinton – then Sanders.

This is political Russian roulette with five live rounds in the six shot cylinder. And it’s NOW!