Un-representative

Author: admin

REPRESENTATIVE:
“a: Standing or acting for another through
delegated authority;”
“b: …(c)onstituting a government in which the many
are represented by persons chosen…by election”

It’s no secret an “un-representative” majority of the U.S. Congress doesn’t give two hoots in Hell about what the constituency thinks or expects from their Potomac residency. Despite what the good folks at Merriam-Webster have to say.

That comes as no surprise. But, never has it been so brazenly and gutlessly demonstrated as in recent weeks as the most intellectually vacant and outrageously unfit nominees for a President’s Cabinet were paraded before congressional committees.

Even the most unbiased observer would have to admit the more egregious examples of un-representative votes in those hearings came from Republicans far more than Democrats. In overwhelming numbers, folks at home – voters who elected the un-representatives – told them how they felt on one nominee after another. And, with a consistency rarely found in politics, those elected “un-representatives” – Republicans mostly – ignored them.

It’s widely accepted that, when considering a new President’s appointees, a lot of latitude is given to the Chief Executive to have the crew he wants. Often, this means swallowing hard because of a nominee’s tenuous talents to serve in a particular post. But this batch! Front to back – top to bottom – monied fools whose “leadership” abilities stopped far short of the vaguest qualifications. One, in fact, didn’t know for two days after appointment what his new job would be – believing it was to travel the world to promote this country’s oil and gas industries. A Dallas reporter had to “‘splain it” to him.

But un-representative members of Congress bellied up to the bar to approve everyone that reached the Senate floor.

Idaho had to look no further than Sens. Risch and Crapo to find what voters wanted them to do wasn’t worth a damn. Neither would meet with constituents – wouldn’t talk to them at district offices – wouldn’t come to the phone or return emails. In fact, neither would even make public what the public said about the list of unqualified nominees. Finally, one clerk in Crapo’s employ let slip that opposition to the Dept. Of Education chief was over 95%! Still, you know who ol’ Mike confirmed. Yep, he went with the 5%.

In state after state – district after district – across the nation, members of Congress “holed up.” Wouldn’t meet – wouldn’t talk – wouldn’t be interviewed – wouldn’t answer mail or phones. Some locked office doors – doors voters pay for in federal buildings we own. It was in your face. Our face. Locked doors and unanswered phones.

One flat out lie came from un-Rep. Cathy McMorriss Rogers, the highest ranking woman in the GOP in the House whose home office is in Spokane. She told voters she’d meet last week but only two at a time since the fire marshal had written her that was the most people that could be in her office at once. “Safety,” you know. Except he didn’t write. In fact, he said her office could “safely” handle 30 people.

Two reasons for this chicken-heartedness, I think. First, lobbyists with pockets full of money. Oil and gas people turned on all the money spigots for the new EPA chief, for example. Big bucks flooded in to D.C.. Textbook publishers and private charter school companies trucked in loads of greenbacks for the most unqualified billionaire ever to buy the Secretary of Education’s job. And so it went. Voices of greed outweighed voices of voters and filthy lucre supplanted “the right thing to do.”

Second, our un-representatives – mostly Republican – are scared to death of the President. Terrified of retribution – of having a primary opponent at home – of having their continued employment ended by a guy not worthy of his own elected position. They lack the guts to do their jobs for fear they’ll be violently ripped from the public trough in an act of Trump pique.

It’s doubtful the dollars will stop rolling in. So, there’ll likely be that obstacle between voters and members of Congress until that Citizens United decision is overturned. But, the fear factor may soon be ended. Especially in the Senate. When six or eight members – enough to sway the balance of voting – decide to do what’s right, Trump/Bannon will cease to be an employment or career threat. Then we may begin to see some semblance of independence.

There’s also the possibility a numbers/reality change in that same Senate could lead to a vacancy in the White House. You can already get betting odds in Vegas and Reno on impeachment. And those odds are slipping closer to 50-50 as we go along.

However all that may turn out, there’s a lesson here we voters must not forget. While 2018 is still a ways off – and some members won’t be up for re-election even then – we must remember who the un-representatives are. We need to clearly recall that, when we needed them to do the job we gave them, they didn’t show up. When we, in large numbers, needed to talk to them about what we wanted, they locked their doors and took their phones off the hook.

We were paying them to do their jobs. Others paid them not to.

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong there that at least some of my anger must have some merit. This time, the whole mess of ‘em are mucking through something that will, eventually, change reporting rules and all of us as consumers.

Having been a very small part of it many years ago, I learned a lot and am happy for the opportunity – lucky to have had the experience. Maybe that’s a big part of why I use this space to rant against some of the current practitioners from time to time. “Been there. Done that.” So, when they screw up, it touches a personal reflexive nerve which brings the angry reaction. I’ve got one of those going now. But, this time it’s different. Angry AND, for once, uncertain.

Not many in today’s media crowd were around in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s when I was learning the craft. Their early training and mine are a couple of generations apart. Oh, some of the basics are still the same i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how. Still gotta have all that.

Then we -and they as youngsters – went through the Watergate era where the most prized reporting came to those doing “investigative journalism.” Woodward, Bernstein, Mike Wallace et al. Dig out the lies, confront the bad guys and make major headlines. Or a rare 10 minute “package” leading the evening’s national news. Journalism turned a sharp corner then and the “who, what, where…” guys largely disappeared. So did a lot of “getting it right” with facts before being the bearer of constantly “breaking news.” Damn, how I hate that phrase!

Now, another “sharp corner” is being turned. Labeling public officials – up to and including the President of the United States – liars. Which – on a daily and often hourly basis – he, and nearly all the appointed minions who “speak” for him, are. Without question.

Most of the “street” reporters in the national media are less than 50-years-old. Such training as they received was much different than us older types had in the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s. That – and Trump”s continuing, reprehensible public statements – has resulted in a very different “code of conduct” between media coverage and news makers.

Case in point: Richard Nixon. I didn’t like Nixon when he was in Congress in the ‘50’s. A liar then, just as he was in the presidency. He felt persecuted, disrespected, undervalued and cursed with being a perpetual “outsider” in Washington. All of which he carried into the White House years later.

My limited, working contact with him was usually as a weekend reporter or subbing for regular, daily beat reporters. Also had a couple of minor personal occasions to be in his presence. Each time, my innards churned with disrespect. A lot of contemporaries felt the same. But all of us – all – played our different roles professionally and – all in all – until Watergate, respectfully. If not for him, then for the office. But we knew he often lied. Big time.

Now, the next generation of reporters is faced with Donald Trump – the most unqualified, unprepared, unskilled and biggest misfit ever to hold the office of President. To that can be added his penchant for distortion and outright lying on a daily basis. And, his selection and daily use of people equally unskilled at their jobs who share the same distasteful habit of publically – and often – speaking “truth” as they see fit to create it.

Trump operated in the same dishonest manner for nearly two years of the national campaign. For a long time, he wasn’t openly challenged for his regular, daily “untruths” by a media not used to dealing with an openly confident, perpetual liar at that level.

Then, editors and others in charge of content for broadcasters and print, had to make some decisions. Should they continue to avoid or soft-pedal the daily torrent of lies and, thus, become complicit in passing them on to viewers and readers as fact? Should they employ fact-checkers and give the job of separating truth from fiction to them? Or, should they step outside the boundary of simply reporting and call the torrent of lies what they were? Lies!

Though the media is currently held in very low esteem by much of the American public, I can tell you, from experience, a lot of good scotch and considerable bourbon was consumed, a lot of sleep was lost and a lot of professional soul-searching was done by some very dedicated people. To openly challenge the voices and the blatant lies would forever change the honored – and mostly respected – balance between government officials and media. The relationship would never be the same.

The resulting decision for nearly all media has been to label this administration’s lies for what they are – lies. Not just once in awhile. Not just when the lie is a big one. Not just for spite. Not just for anybody but the President. A lie is a lie is a lie is a lie. Anytime. And anyone.

To my mind, this puts us on a whole new path. Those who persist in lying are going to be called on it – regardless of who they are. At least nationally. And the national media, once simply an institutional reporting source, has become a daily arbiter of fact.

Will this continue when Trump and his minions are gone? No one knows. But, that sweeping difference in one of our most significant national institutional relationships is what exists today.

I’m not comfortable with that. But it is what it is.

“Well, it’s all goin’ to pot,
Whether we like it or not.
Best I can tell,
The world’s goin’ to Hell,
And we’re gonna miss it a lot.”

Willie and Merle. My favorite dispensers of wisdom. And – often – reality.

When that song made the charts a few years back, we Oregonians were tinkering with the idea of legalizing marijuana. Backers had been trying unsuccessfully to get the issue on ballot before. But, in 2014, with more research and the history of other pot-legal states on the record, things seemed more in line for passage.

Those states had taken the step and survived, making the idea of recreational pot less onerous. Their histories were largely positive. Medical and social resistance didn’t seem as strong. National statistics didn’t show necessarily higher rates of crime or more bad driving being traced to pot. Even some of the voices of opposition weren’t as strident. The question of legality got to the ballot. And passed 56%-44%.

To the legislative credit of both Democrats and Republicans, the new law was carefully crafted. An experienced Oregon Liquor Control Commission was tasked with creating the first rules and taking oversight as applicants for licenses lined up in the halls in Salem.

Sales started July 1, 2015. In general terms, all the bad things that were supposed to happen haven’t. No sharp rise in highway deaths/accidents because of new pot access. No increased cases of family breakups traced to pot use. Local communities decided for themselves whether to allow sales. Some did. Some didn’t. All in all, implementation came and went and everybody went back to whatever they were doing the day before.

But – on the plus side – things have been very, very busy. For example, the number of sales outlets in the first 18 months under the new permissive law went from zero to 487! A weed-like growth spurt. You should pardon me.

And that’s not all. Oregon has also licensed laboratories, processors, producers, wholesalers and researchers. All together, 1,802 licensees in our flourishing public pot industry. All subject to paying taxes.

So, has it paid off? Well, year-to-date (December 30), the marijuana tax of 25% has brought in – wait for it – $60,000,000 for 2016! The State will deduct costs of collection – a few million. Then, 40% of what’s left will go to education, 20% drug services and mental health. The rest to drug abuse prevention and law enforcement.

By the way, this doesn’t include what counties and local communities are taking in. Each has authority to levy a local tax. Most do. And they’ve been pleasantly surprised at the size of this new largesse. Financially, everybody’s smiling.

A monthly breakdown of when the bucks flow in – and from where in our state – is also interesting. Summer is the big “selling” season. Tourists, you’d guess. And you’d be right. Largest sales numbers are generally West of the Cascades with most along the Pacific coast from Portland to the California border.

Since Washington and California also now permit recreational pot, I’d guess – given watching license plates on our highways – Idaho, Utah and Montana are “higher” now than they used to be. Montana allows medical but the other two don’t. Idaho’s western border is solidly cheek-by-jowl up against pot-legal states. Don’t look for that to change any time soon.

So, how big a seller is recreational “MJ?” The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) figures about 13% of us have “used” in the past three years. But, that’s just the national average.

You just know California is #1. About 18% users. But, surprisingly – at least to me – Portland has about 13.32% and Seattle 14.31%. Got a little “Pacific High” goin’ there.

Some 23 states allow recreational and/or medical marijuana use. That number will increase bit-by-bit as residents demand it and states look for more income to pay the bills. Kinda like gambling. Most legislators would rather face a constituent angry about a “yes” vote on legalized pot than one on a tax increase. Any tax increase!

Our little coastal county of some 47,000 souls has about 20 pot shops. Seems excessive but no one really knows for sure. Their products, while accessible and plentiful, are not cheap. Transactions are “cash only.” No checks or credit cards. All sales are final. No returns.

For those wondering if I’ve had a “loaded” brownie or two, I have not. We retirees need to be careful with our “disposable” dollars. Besides, I’ve got a Jack Daniels budget to consider.

You laugh? Well, there’s one more legalized recreational pot factor here. Oregon booze sales are down. Down! Looks like some of that “disposable” income has jumped the fix fence.

Get off your butts!

Author: admin

Over the long haul of time, the fortunes of our two major political parties rise and fall with the changing tides of the whims of voters. That’s a good thing. Change. Still, it’s always sad to see the underdog of the moment in disarray, wandering in the weeds and accomplishing nothing. Like the National Democratic Party today.

One of the blessings of our system is no one group usually stays in power very long. Nor should they. Idaho’s late Gov. Robert Smylie once told me “Every few years, regardless of which party is in power, it’s good to open up the windows and closets and sweep things out. Keeps things healthy.” He was right.

When discussing the ins and outs of political control these days, the Dems are really out. In the U.S. Senate, they can count on two independents standing with them most of the time. But, that still only gives them 48 to the GOP’s 52. When voting, they’ve got to count on five Republicans seeing things their way to do anything. In the House, even worse. Dems have 194 to the GOP’s 241. One seat is currently vacant. So Democrats get rolled on about every issue.

We’re continually told the party’s two congressional leaders – Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi – are two of the most knowledgeable and effective users of the rules of each body. Well, maybe. Maybe not. If they’re so damned proficient, why aren’t they using their “proficiencies” to get after some things?

I got to thinking about this a day or two after the Women’s March. The streets were filled – in Washington D.C. and hundreds of other, smaller cities in 64 countries – with what we’re told was more than three-million folks. Mostly Democrats in this country, I’m sure. But there had to be some Independents. And Republicans. And many who’d previously been uninvolved in political affairs but finally figured out using the system is the most effective way to have your say.

To a Democrat in Congress, standing on Capitol Hill and watching the mass of people in the streets, one would think many of them would feel invigorated. And, feeling thus, they’d get a fresh wind and dive back into the fray in Congress with more vigor. Not so.

To be sure, there were a few, mostly Democrat members of Congress in the crowd. But not many. Not nearly enough. A lot of faces that should have been seen were likely watching it on TV or doing something else. Not good.

To put it bluntly, the people in the streets are way, way ahead of members of the party that would certainly be their biggest ally in future political warfare. And, because of the oft-repeated videos showing the marchers, they’re still ahead of most Democrats today.

Yes, I’ve watched some of the Dems hammer Trump Cabinet nominees in committee. Really hammer. Good for them. But, in reality, their televised angst will account for nothing in the long run. Just more political posturing. It’s not hard to predict which will eventually be confirmed and which rejected.

To see Shumer, Warren, Brown, Merkley and others pounding away is food for the soul – if you believe the nominees are as unfit and grossly unqualified as they seem to be. But Democrats won’t prevail if the unfit and grossly unqualified President keeps supporting them. All the televised hammering won’t change that.

I’ve covered larger protests in DC but those were focused on a single issue – Viet Nam. The Women’s March was very different. Several million people in the streets around the world for all sorts of reasons and causes. Enough causes that Democrats could adopt any one of them – or several – ride that horse as their own and have a built-in constituency of – maybe – not just Democrats. The list of reasons that brought millions into the streets last week could make a very good party platform that might finally mean something. And get read.

Start NOW to capture the momentum. Start NOW to identify marchers from your communities and states. Start NOW to get them involved at home. Start NOW to register voters. Start NOW to form volunteer squads for continuous action. Start NOW to build your data bases. Start NOW to contact and coordinate with other states and other movements. Start NOW!

If Donkeys in Congress are waiting to get all exercised on the floor in either house – if they’re figuring to out-debate the upside down numbers they face while looking for victory – if they keep lying back in the bushes waiting to pounce at some future date on some future issue – they’re passing up a rare political advantage. If that happens, all the future action is going to have to come from the streets.

Those marchers in the streets are living proof the people are ahead of the politicians on many, many things. Democrats in Congress should stop watching from the cheap seats and get out there onto the asphalt. That’s where the action is.

Get off your butts!

Stark contrasts

Author: admin

We’ve started attending a different small church near our little oceanside haven. Absolutely nothing wrong with the previous one. Not a thing. But, now and then, it’s good to see what else is going on in the neighborhood. At times, even spiritually.

It’s a small church – probably just over a hundred folks on the roles. Weekly attendance is about 60-70. Most everything about it is typical of thousands of other churches in thousands of other small towns.

One physical thing that sets it apart from others we’ve attended is a 20 foot high wall of glass on one side, running the length of the sanctuary. As you sit facing the chancel area, you’re mindful of the Pacific Ocean – off to the right – on the other side of those windows. Peaceful most of the time. Storm-tossed at others. Like our lives.

The building is a little more than 60 years old. It’s beginning to show outward signs of prolonged seaside weather on wood and glass. Inside, the feeling is homey. Seating, carpet and fixtures also beginning to show the wear of time and use. Still comfortable, though, and quite conducive to worship.

But, if you had been there last Sunday, you would have seen something quietly moving. Quietly spiritual. A wordless act that could define why churches exist. An act many may have never known.

About 10 minutes into worship, a young man entered the rear of the sanctuary. His clothes were old and dirty – his hair long and badly matted. He probably hadn’t had a bath in some days. He likely was one of the homeless that have taken shelter in our building on recent, below-freezing nights. He wore a bulging backpack filled to more than capacity – probably holding all he had in the world.

Rather than slip into a pew near the rear as other homeless visitors had done, he walked straight-shouldered down the center aisle to wordlessly take a seat on the front row directly in front of the lectern. The distance between him and that lectern was about a dozen feet. He set his pack on the floor.

He didn’t stand when the rest of us were singing several hymns. He only uttered a few words once during the service which was a quick, quiet, seemingly friendly remark to the pastor.

The service continued. The first special moment came when the lay reader stepped down to hand the young man a hymnal and her program for the service. The second was when she stepped down again – before the pastor’s sermon – to take a seat next to the visitor. She stayed by his side for the rest of the service.

After the benediction, came the special moment all churches talk about but some never accomplish. The lay reader kept her seat as other members of the congregation stepped up to join her and engage the homeless young man in conversation. As we were about to greet the pastor at the rear of the sanctuary, I glanced back to see more than half a dozen members gathered around the still-seated visitor. By just their body language, the handshakes and the smiles, you knew the greetings were real and welcoming.

All this happened on a Sunday – a Sunday six days ahead of an inaugural ceremony in Washington D.C.. An inaugural most of us in this country – as you can tell from the popular vote in November – hoped would never happen. A lying, racist, bigoted, homophobic misogynist, surrounded by the most unqualified cabinet in history, would take the required oath of office to be our President. A man who would place his hand on a Bible to swear allegiance to our country and its laws. A man who has exhibited his love of wealth over good works – power over service to others – narcissism and bigotry over duty.

Quite a contrast to hold simultaneously in your mind. A self-loving, ego-filled, materialistic worshiper of wealth with his hand on a Bible, about to put a nation and world to risk. And a man from the streets walking into a small church to acknowledge an unseen god who accepts us because of our good works and not our possessions or station in life.

It was an interesting Sunday in our little seaside church. An opportunity to be part of a faith we profess but seldom see in practice.

A logjam breaks

Author: admin

People who write and people who compose music share a common challenge. Both start with a blank page to be filled with words or notes of expression. For some of us, that’s the toughest challenge. How and where to begin.

Since our November election – and for the first time in over 50 years in some form of journalism – I’ve been stumped. Unable to begin. Unable to meet the first rule of both writing and musical expression – to begin. To express. To undertake and overcome challenges of dealing with a given set of facts. In my case, election of D. Trump.

I’ve tried. Were the computer screen replaced with pages of white copy paper, and the keyboard with pen or pencil, the wastebasket near my desk would be filled to overflowing. Several times. Unable to begin. Unable to capture necessary words to coordinate thoughts and message.

I’ve previously expressed admiration for Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus for undertaking – and completing – 100 columns of 100 reasons why Trump should not be President of these United States. He did so prior to the election as a countdown series. Clearly, articulately, well-researched and professional. I don’t know anyone else who could have accomplished such a task.

Now, on the eve of swearing in the most unqualified and unfit person as President in our modern history, the logjam of my own thoughts – kick-started by a forced reality – have broken the intellectual logjam. Perspective, I’d guess, of time and distance.

Trump scares the Hell out of me. He does so for all the political ignorance he represents – constant lies, a lack of skills of reasoning, judgment, ability to articulate in an intelligent manner and his massive ego. Yet he seems more a symptom than the cause of our national sickness. A by-product of our many national divisions.

If, in the next four years, his many character flaws don’t kill us all in some vain attempt to assuage his immature personality needs, he’ll eventually be swept off the world stage and into the oblivion he rightly deserves. If the nation survives – and I believe it will – there’ll be far worse issues to be solved.

In just the last few years, our nation has arrived at a “point-of-no-return,” ceasing to be the type of Republic we were raised in. We’ve turned a corner to something else. Permanently. The word “union” no longer describes the relationship of the various states. Politics, ignorance, disgraceful actions of corporations and the billionaires who own them, racism, sexism, misogyny, false allegiances and fear of the future are separating the 50 states more distinctly than the North/South of 155 years ago.

We’ve become immersed in “globalism” which is our new reality, forcing all nations to adopt new ways of doing almost everything. Many changes are often undertaken more for survival and benefit of corporate interests and less for the survival and benefit of whole countries. Our nation is no longer the leading producer of goods or “things” but is now a leader in “services.” Creation of middle class jobs to replace those lost when we were a “producer” nation, hasn’t kept pace with exporting other jobs. Companies now chase international profits rather than just those at home.

Many state and national laws are now written to please narrow interests rather than a need to address an issue. We’re seeing the use of faux “religious” intent on the part of minorities to control the majority i.e. abortion, same sex marriage. We see smaller, more narrowly focused zealotry invading our political system. Organized Western religions are losing adherents.

We’ve lost the “melting pot” dimension that made us great and so much more diverse than nearly any other country. We separate, cluster, fend off differences, create boundaries and make exclusive communities rather than welcome and honor our many heritages.

National politics has turned from civic service to continued “career” employment. Collegiality, comradery, willingness to compromise have been replaced with strict party divisions regardless of effects on the citizenry. Determined ignorance has overcome research, study, enlightenment and a willingness to learn. Scientists and researchers are being handcuffed and ignored. Personal pursuit of riches has overcome service to constituency. Service to self denies service to others.

We start or enter wars without due declaration, putting the burden of living sacrifice on others while requiring no personal sacrifice of ourselves. We fill our political bodies – and our media – with minutia while ignoring needs government was created to serve. We allow millions of citizens to suffer from lack of human necessities of food and housing while enriching those who live in mansions.

We’re ill-served by a failed media – poorly trained and seemingly dedicated to ratings and corporate enrichment rather than informing and enlightening. We listen to – and legitimize – gossip, hate, division, racism and division. We’re directed to focus on what separates us – not what unites us.

There’s more. Much more. Trump didn’t manufacture it. He didn’t invent it. He used it. He spread the ignorance, subjugated truth to lies, sowed division rather than unity. He lied. He manufactured whatever twisted logic was necessary to feed those willing to follow. He ignored law, protocol, truth and even the basics of decent behavior to accomplish his ends. He’s a symbol of the divisions, malaise and distortions we’re living with. He didn’t create ‘em. He simply used ‘em.

Our nation – divided and about to be without a leader of honest character – is stronger, more civilized, richer and more accomplished than this political vagrant. Our national survival is assured. His is not. Our pages are filled with words. His remain blank.

Nightmare of a dream

Author: admin

I’ve been having a recurring dream.

Nell is tied to the tracks. A large locomotive bears down on her with Snidely Whiplash driving. I’m not immediaately concerned because I know Mountie Dudley Do-Right will appear, rescue Nell and derail Ol’ Snidely once again.

Except – a voice off-screen quietly whispers “Dudley resigned from the Mounties last year and is now head of security at a Calgary Safeway.” Damn! The screen goes blank. But, just before I wake up – I hear “HELP” and SQUISH.

I contacted a gypsy “dream reader” in our little coastal community. Here’s how she explained it. Dudley is really President Obama who’s now gone. Trump – I mean President-Elect Trump – Trump is actually Whiplash in the engine. And Nell? Well, she tells me Nell – tied helplessly to the tracks – is US! ALL of US! “SQUISH!”

There’s more truth than comic fantasy to my little “dream.” Snidely – er, Trump – hasn’t even been given the keys to the White House yet and he’s already tearing up the place.

Following our November election, many of us thought him to be the most unqualified President in our 250+ year history, but there would be traditional “checks-and-balances” to keep him from inflicting severe damage on the body politic. Now, in just nine weeks – all of that’s out the proverbial window. From entire departments of government, down to and including each employee in many of them, he and his “transition team” have begun treating our national structure like a field of stubble that needs burning.

A new Congress is brimming with zealots and willing sycophants already taking their own axes to the “body.” They’ve started swinging away on everything from health care to minimum wage to Planned Parenthood to God-knows-what.

All of this has been duly “reported” by a media, breathless from running from one disaster scene to the next or reading the latest “tweet.” But, none I’ve heard, read or seen has dealt seriously with one subject that really could threaten our national future – an exodus of professionals with the institutional memory and developed skills necessary for federal continuity and effectiveness..

Some cretins in the House have dug up an old government rule allowing Congress to single out an entire department for elimination or a specific employee and reduce that person’s salary to a dollar. Yep, a buck. That way, you can get rid of each one you don’t like for no reason at all and not be sued for wrongful termination. It’s called “The Holman Rule.” It’s been on the books since 1876. It was approved in the House last week and shoved into the Obamacare repealer. It could be used to wipe out entire programs. Think food stamps. Medicare. Housing.

Except – it was declared unconstitutional in the ‘40’s. But, that was a different time and a different Supreme Court. Who knows now?

Trump has selected some totally unqualified but wealthy minions to go into these departments, handing each a copy of “The Holman Rule” and expects them to use it. Liberally, if you’ll pardon the word. Rick Perry at EPA or Sessions at Attorney General. Or the rest of the equally in-over-their-heads major donors to his campaign. With a genuine lack of knowledge of their jobs – and this Rule – federal government could be crippled for several generations.

Take it one step further. Suppose you’re mayor of Washington D.C., or governor of Virginia or Maryland where most federal workers live. Can you say “unemployment?” Can you say “exodus?” Can you see a significant eroding of your tax base? Your talent base?

I’m not trying to defend every government employee as one worthy of continued employment. The point is, if allowed to run its course, with unqualified people at the top backed by a Congress full of crazies and a self-important President lacking any skills of governance, we could be watching our nation put at risk on many fronts. Defense, HHS, Agriculture, Treasury, Education, EPA, Attorney General and more.

Trump scares the Hell out of me. For many reasons. He’s not someone who knows boundaries or self-limitations. His head is full of ego-driven ignorance because – like that Palin woman and so many of his ilk – he doesn’t-know-what-he-doesn’t-know and has no desire to learn. He’s a perfect setup for anyone with a crackpot idea like the Holman Rule which could become government policy. His ignorance is a breeding ground in which Putin and other dangerous souls can plant false sincerities, ego-scratching, self-serving relationships and cause Trump to make dangerous – if not world-ending – decisions.

We got lucky once when public outrage forced Congress to back up in that ethics oversight mess. Bottom line, House leadership didn’t want and used the public outcry as support. Pressure like that won’t work every time. They’re working to federally defund Planned Parenthood right now. Where’s the huge public outrage on that?

Little by little, they’re going to keep chipping away. Without sizeable public interference. And, like Nell’s predicament tied to the tracks, Dudley Do-Right won’t be there to “save the day.”

Ah, to sleep. Perchance to dream.” Those words don’t sound as inviting as they used to.

Us by the numbers

Author: admin

Well, here we are. 2017. All 324,310,011 of us ready to start another calendar turnover. That’s the most recent guess – er, pardon me – estimate of our nation’s headcount by the U.S. Census Bureau folk.

In the next 12 months, we’re expected to have one birth every eight seconds and one death every 11. Net migration to our shores is expected to be one new face every 33 seconds. Adding those three categories together means we’ll increase our population by one new person every 17 seconds.

Also worth noting, as we begin crossing off the days of 2017, the Bureau folk are putting world population at 7,362,350,168. Up about one percent from the start of 2016.

Pardon me for digging in the statistics bin again but it keeps me from thinking about the political Armageddon we’re facing about three weeks from now. Besides, it’s important, now and then, to take stock of how many of us there are, who we are and where we are.

The Census counters have come up with a rather surprising state in the “fastest growing” category. Utah. Yep, Beehive state residents increased their number a full two percent to 3.1 million in the last year. Coming in second was Nevada. Then Idaho, (1.8 percent), Florida and Washington (1.8 percent). All gainers.

And there was this. Rural areas cover about 97 percent of our land but contain only 19.3 percent of the total population. About 60 million people.

All this comes from the Bureau’s American Community Survey of our 3,142 counties conducted every five years. No one else has such a comprehensive data set so these numbers are important since many government and private agencies use them for all sorts of things. Many assistance programs determine eligibility factors right down to the smallest communities in all states. Companies make expansion plans using this solitary base. Construction, utility growth, highways, recreation development – these and more – all use this data bank.

The median income figure from large county to small was a real stretch. Highest in the so-called “rural” counties were in Connecticut ($93,382) and New Jersey ($92,972). You can guess where the smallest median incomes showed up – Mississippi ($40,200). Rural area poverty rates varied from a low in Connecticut (4.6 percent) to a high in New Mexico (21.9 percent).

A number of other interesting facts come from this source. For one, those of us who live in rural areas are more likely to own our own homes “free and clear” (44-percent) while, in the city, it’s closer to 33-percent). More of us still live in our state of birth. And more of us have been in the military than those from urban areas.

We also tend to be older with a median age of 51 whereas folks in the cities have a median age of about 45. Folks in smaller areas have lower poverty rates but more of our kids are uninsured. Probably some of that old rural “self-sufficiency” there. “We take care of our own.”

I learned a new word from the Bureau folks – “rurality.” Take that, Spell Check. Best I can tell, it means small counties with no major city. Like Moro in Oregon or Lewis in Idaho. Rurality. Keep that around for your next word game.

As we embark on this new year, a lot of us do so with a large sense of political dread – uncertain where we’re headed and what affects there will certainly be on our lives. We’re in a time of national flux in political, social and economic conditions. A record high percentage of us has little to no respect for government and private institutions that have been our bedrock since the nation’s founding. We’re distrustful, suspicious and anxious. All in all, we’re suffering national angst.

In such times, it can be comforting to linger over some statistics that show we’re still this big, lumbering democracy we’ve always been. Folks in our cities continue to operate in their own rushed environment, seeming to ignore those out in the “hinterlands” who march to a different cadence. Out in those “hinterlands,” the pace is slower, security seems easier to attain – and keep – lives seem to rest on the same bedrock our forebearers knew.

I’m as filled with angst as the next guy. But, knowing we’re still growing and that other peoples of the world still seek us out as a better place for them and their families than where they were, gives me hope we’ll survive the coming trials. All 324,310,011 of us.

Carolina cancer

Author: admin

Before we get to the subject at hand, let’s deal with several matters.

First, a confession. Though an Independent, I really now lean to the left a bit. But, compared to how far in the briar patch the national Republican Party is currently, I’m still a bit right of center. I started out as a Republican. So I know the spoor. They moved. I didn’t.

Second issue: for the purposes of this opining piece, I want us all to move to the middle. Shed your political leanings. Forget your party registration. Swallow hard and step out here in the barren middle with the rest of us – completely unclothed, politically speaking.

Now, focus on one of the four tenets of Rotary International: “Is It Fair?” Or, if you prefer, biblically speaking, think along the lines of “Do Unto Others.” Alrighty, now. Let’s get to work.

The subject at hand is either Cuba – or North Carolina. Unless you look really close these days, it’s awfully hard to tell them apart. Keep in mind, a Democrat won the governorship. Voters turned the GOP lifetime Dow Chemical employee out. Not decisively. But out. The GOP kept the legislature. Decisively. But not the governorship.

What that headed-out-the-door governor and the lame duck legislature have been doing in the last eight weeks passes neither the Rotary example nor the biblical admonition. Not by a long shot.

The Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) is a non-partisan outfit that grades democracies worldwide on a 100 point scale. That scale is based on many factors but, among them, are voter access to polling places, influence of state-controlled media and the potential that an election was rigged. EIP rates all kinds of places and elections.

For 2016, North Carolina received a score of 58/100. So did Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia. Got that picture in mind? And that was just the election – not these last eight weeks.

UNC-Chapel Hill political scientist Dr. Andrew Reynolds wrote an op-ed for the Raleigh News & Observer in which he said “If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.” Wow! In America? Yes, Virginia, in America.

Gov. McRory and those legislative sore winners have about gutted the duties of the incoming governor. Oh, he still gets a staff car, a new credit card and keys to the executive bathroom. But that’s about it. He won’t be able to appoint his own state cabinet officials without approval of that Republican-dominated Senate – which ain’t likely to occur. The number of state appointive positions to be filled by the governor has been cut by about 80%. So the holdovers he’s forced to accept will be what? Republican appointees, that’s what.

The number of members of the State Board of Elections has been increased from five to eight. But – the GOP legislature gets to appoint four so that’ll assure a tie vote and effectively deadlock things. There are some other new “handcuff” laws but you get the idea.

One other note. The NC Legislature had rigged voting districts so badly – to shut out Democrats – that a federal court struck down the map as “unconstitutional” as of Nov. 9th and ordered new lines and a special 2017 election. EIP found North Carolina has the “least democratic redistricting in the world.” Yes, the world!

EIP also noted the USofA is the only nation that allows politicians who run by district to design the districts they run in. Only one!

I’d guess, about this point, all who were able to shed your partisan feelings to stand out here politically naked with the rest of us can see why you were asked to do that. Whatever your leanings – whatever your political sensibilities – what’s happened in North Carolina is just plain wrong. And totally unfair. Winning is one thing. Breaking the rules – and the law – is a whole new ball game.

The issue of political redistricting has been considered an “inside-the-park” issue for too many years. It’s often done only by political insiders who, too often, set lines to assure their own or their party’s survival. Very little public input is allowed and most of the public hasn’t cared. But, if war is too important to be left to the generals, creating political districts is too important to be left to the politicians.

The only way out of this morally reprehensible practice is to allow the courts to create independent redistricting panels. Take the crayons out of the hands of self-serving partisans and put them in the hands of “civilians” so to speak. North Carolina has gotten so far in the swamp a federal judge has trashed all state redistricting and not only ordered a new plan but also a whole new state election.

I remember a longtime Idaho pol once telling me “When we’re out, they do it to us and, when we’re in, we do it to them.” That really does happen everywhere to some extent. But North Carolina – and a couple of its neighbors – have gone far beyond just “tit-for-tat.” Voters are being rejected, disqualified and ignored. Voting district gaming has broken federal and state laws. The voter’s choice for governor has been handcuffed so he can’t deliver what the voters said they were buying.

Anyone who thinks Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee and a few others aren’t standing in that North Carolina shadow haven’t been paying attention.

The issue of fair and proper redistricting is more important now than ever. With a dead-in-the-water Congress, the Koch boys and other zillionaires are going directly to the states for the political candy they want. They’re changing our laws, endangering our welfare and trying to design the kind of nation they want one state at a time.

North Carolina has become a political cancer. It’s time for some major surgery.

Life’s losses

Author: admin

I’ve lost some longtime friends recently. One of them I’ve known and cared about for more 40 years. It hurt. That’s their choice. To my mind, we’re each poorer for loss of future contact. But it is what it is.

A recent column dealing primarily with my belief the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness and should be abolished in favor of a direct vote system apparently set several off. Seemed fairly straightforward journalism – here’s a problem and a suggested solution. Don’t agree? Come up with your own.

But in several emails, I’ve been accused of being a “divider.” The word “crap” was used a lot of times. Two I’ve lost told me they ignored previous columns (“crap”) and they wanted no more “crap.” There were other cutting accusations about liberals and such.

Their epistles arrived a day after Barb and I had been to church. The pastor’s sermon included remarks about inclusiveness, patience and trying to work together. Healing, as it were.

I’ve heard and read a lot about those words in the days following our recent national election. They’ve come from good, well-meaning, intelligent people and competent scribes. All good advice. If ever our nation needed to live by those admonitions, it’s certainly now.

Problem is, those words are being used primarily by people who voted against the winner. Liberals and moderates, mostly. Democrats and Republicans. But read Twitter or Facebook or other “social” media. You’ll discover kind words – the gentle words – the inclusive words – are coming mostly from folks who lost. It’s the ones who backed the winner more often using racial epithets, telling people to “go back where you came from,” “get the Hell out of ‘our’ country,” badgering/maligning blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and other “non-white” folks. Loudly and repeatedly using the “N” word.

Reports of racial threats and physical attacks are coming from kindergartens to grad schools. And in the streets. Confederate flags are all over the I-net, on vehicles and on “social” media. Hate radio is spewing more than just the usual lies and verbal venom. The President-elect himself has already threatened the national media, promised to arrest or deport more than 3-million immigrants, talking of forcing Muslims to register, to stack the Supreme Court, overturn various laws he doesn’t like and abridge or unilaterally end compacts and international agreements. And that’s all in less than a month.

He’s made appointments to his incoming administration that include acknowledged racists, anti-Semites, lobbyists he promised supporters he’d “run out of Washington” and the just plain ignorant and unqualified. He’s pledged to “put Planned Parenthood out of business” and made threats against many individuals. His representatives have warned members of Congress they may face legal action for critical public statements and hinted broadly at reprisals against anyone opposing actions of the new administration.

Now, I’m a peaceful fella. I’d like nothing better than to “live in harmony” with everyone. I mean EVERYONE! As Professor Higgins said, “I’ve the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein.”

BUT – you can’t make peace or “live in harmony” when folks who disagree with your political likes and dislikes make open, nasty threats from the top down! It won’t work.

Wounds in this nation are deep. Divisions are the size of large canyons. Acrimony and hate flow steadily from right wing nut groups. Limbaugh and his fellow travelers think they’ve been granted a new, special license to turn up the volume and take their belligerence and lies to a new level. Statistics show marriages and even business partnerships ending because of national divisiveness.

Millions of Hispanics, Muslims and Asians are living in fear. They’re facing increased daily harassment, their mosques and other religious buildings are being defaced or burned. They’re shunned or threatened just for being in a store or on a public street.

There’s a hard fact to face here. And it’s this. National civility, national harmony, national acceptance of those different from ourselves will not come from talk of “niceness,” “love,” “peace,” religion or protests in the streets. We passed those points long ago. We’re way, way beyond that.

What more likely will turn this “ship-of-state” around is for good people, smart people, committed people to step up, put themselves on the line and be elected to public office – top to bottom. It’ll likely take a generation or two. After all, “ships-of-state” are very large and cumbersome and take a long time to change direction.

Many members of Congress have wandered far from their elected responsibilities. Too many see their elected roles as maintaining full time employment. Too many have no idea what their duties are or how to conduct themselves as servants of the people. Too many have welcomed moneychangers into the temple, selling their votes to the highest bidders.

The housecleaning must include city halls and county courthouses as well. They’re often training grounds for those who run for higher office. We must have the best people possible on these “farm teams.”

There’s really no other way. This is one of those cases where leadership must start at both the top and bottom. A new tone must be determined, set, explained, leaders must lead and workers must work. There are millions of us out here who’ll acknowledge effective leadership when we see it and follow it when we trust it.

I’m going to miss some people in my life. Their choice. But I’m going to keep believing the rest of us must get out here, on common ground, deal with the realities we face and work for more effective and responsible government. That’s my choice.