The death of privacy

Author: admin

Sometimes, tying together two seemingly disparate events/stories can make a good connection to explain an issue larger than either of them. So it is as I look at the national outpouring of deserved condemnation that followed the musings of multi-millionaires Donald Sterling and Mitt Romney some time ago. Talk about disparate!

But they do share one commonality – aside from one disparaging 47% of the citizens of this nation and the other with his racist vehemence involving an entire race of Americans. Both instances involved men who believed they were speaking only to the people in their private presence while the words of each were surreptitiously recorded and later made public.

Whether the principals of either situation engaged in speech that was morally right or wrong is up to any of us who care to decide. But one thing is sure. Both fell victim to expectations of privacy that were violated – a privacy that is gone from our lives. An individual right we were brought up to expect, but which has now been eradicated by our own technology and the immoral use of that technology by those so devoted.

We’ve long been openly or surreptitiously spied upon by microphones and cameras in public – and some not-so-public – places. Banks, grocery stores, parks, street corners, while we’re driving and – if Eric Snowden’s disclosures are accurate – for years while we’ve engaged in written or spoken conversations with the expectation of absolute privacy. We can be outraged. We can be vehement in our opposition. We can demand an end to such activities. But we’ll lose. The genie is out of the bottle. We have become a world where Big Brothers – and Big Sisters – keep an eye and an ear on all we do.

From a legal standpoint, Sterling may have a case that his First Amendment rights were violated. He uttered his now infamous racist and sexist words in a two-way conversation in California where recording any such conversation is illegal unless approved – in advance – by BOTH parties. Seems obvious he didn’t know of the recording and, thus, at least in California, it appears to have been an illegal act.

Then there’s the part of the story in which someone with knowledge of that recorded conversation leaked it. His then-girl friend – the second party in this instance – denied it was her. A little shakier in the legal department but certainly a moral issue.

Big box stores – grocery and otherwise – often advise you are being recorded “for your own safety.” Pure B.S.. You’re being recorded as a shoplifting tool, a video record of robbery attempts and at the advice of insurance carriers to catch people falsely claiming injury on the property. Your “protection” figures into none of it.

Banks, convenience stores, gas stations, traffic enforcement, parking lots, city parks, toll road, pizza parlors, airports, casinos, cruise ships, theaters, museums, court houses, city halls and other public buildings, bars, merchants of all sizes – all are represented in the official “people spying” industry. Some even use sonic or ultrasonic signals to notify local police of illegal entries or other after-hours interruptions. It matters not how small a community you live in – you are under surveillance.

Cell phones have made amateur “reporters” of all of us. Think of videos or pictures you’ve chuckled about in your emails or social media. Much of the time, what amused you was the subject of the missive was unaware of his/her situation. So, innocently someone passed it to you and – innocently, of course – you saw it, laughed and – innocently again – sent it along.

I’ve seen cameras disguised as buttons. Medicine now uses “live” cameras in pills! Swallow one and the Doc can watch your innards at work. More and more cops are wearing cameras to protect themselves from false charges of brutality or other inappropriate actions. Bail bondsmen, process servers, cab drivers – even postal delivery workers – are following suit.

Awhile back, I decided to count cameras I could see in one day’s travels. The total was eight readily identifiable with another six “could be’s” in cop cars, two stores and on the highway. And I lived in a town of only 1,400 folks. Of course, the whole idea is you shouldn’t be able to spot surveillance cameras in some cases, but you can figure they’re there. In addition to those you’re told about – for your own “protection,” of course.

Privacy – personal privacy – as we’ve known it is gone. Has been for some time. Even in our most unguarded moments, we’re apt to be spied on by someone. It matters not where you live – what you do – where you go. We’ve either gotten so used to it we don’t think about it or – as in the case of those big stores – we’re told of the spying and we accept it.

Used to be old political hands warned newcomers “If you don’t want to see it in the morning headlines, don’t say it.” Not so anymore. They’ve just gotten more defensive. Check out the number of “public” meetings where professional media is turned away. Outsiders only know what went on if someone inside leaks pictures or audio recordings. Which happens often.

I can think of no defense against this invasion in our lives. Not one that works, anyway. As citizens, we can’t afford to hire security people to daily check our homes and other places of expected personal privacy for recording devices. If the professionals can’t do it, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

As the old joke goes, “even paranoids can have real enemies.” The unblinking official eyes and unofficial ears most of us are caught by each day may not be enemies. But, no matter whose hands operate them, they’ve changed our lives forever. And not for the better.

R-I-P, privacy.

No Moore

Author: admin

It’s normal. It’s natural. Happens all the time. Always has. And it will always be so.

Those claims can be used to describe the election of people to public office who are ignorant, dishonest, unscrupulous, racist, immoral, have questionable character or – in some cases – should be locked up.

As an old Oregonian – and a former Republican – I’ve cast a ballot or two for someone who had one or more of those characteristics. One of the reasons I say “former” is because my political party, at the time, was putting forth candidates I couldn’t accept – candidates I didn’t believe should be in any elected office. After a period of non-participation, I turned independent.

But, in 60 years of voting, I’ve never seen a candidate more vile and unfit as in the case of Roy Moore in Alabama. Making a bad situation even worse, is the acceptance by the hierarchy of the state Republican leadership – and most Republicans in the U.S. Senate – who’ve not renounced him and are continuing to support him.

And don’t give me that “innocent-until-proven-guilty” B.S.. We’re not talking legal matters here. We’re talking immorality and deviant behavior in society and public office. Heavily researched, cross checked and corroborated in depth.

Look at what’s happening in the entertainment and business worlds. When more than a few victims come forward and details of the assaults against them can be substantiated, the perpetrators are fired, shunned or are otherwise forced from public view. In Moore’s case, more than 30 people have supported the multiple victim’s claims. On the record.

Aside from this latest mess he’s created, his public life is one of repeated proof he can’t be trusted. He’s exhibited terrible judgement time after time. He’s proven he lacks the moral turpitude expected of the high positions of responsibility he’s been elected to. Look no further than being forced off the Alabama Supreme Court – not once, but twice – for defiance of the law and bad judgement.

Some of his defenders crazily claim Moore’s behavior can be backed up by the Bible. “Joseph was in his 30’s and Mary was a teenager,” they say. “And that relationship brought us Jesus Christ.”

How twisted is that? Hey, Bible-thumpers. Christ’s birth was the immaculate conception. Joseph had nothing to do with it! Zealotry, ignorance and stupidity wrapped up in one foul-smelling package.

But, the disgusting, deviant behavior doesn’t end with Moore. It includes all those Republicans who – knowing his background and behavior and the depth of the accusations against him – lack the guts to denounce him.

It appears Senate leadership is ready to accept Moore into the fold if he’s elected. And, when you get right down to it, all they want is his vote for a tax bill that should be aborted before it even gets to the floor for debate. It’s as simple as that. They even brought him up to Capitol Hill to discuss how they could help his candidacy.

Republican leadership at large – and Congressional “leadership” in particular – have become enablers for Moore. Rather than condemn him and his well-documented deviant behavior, they seem willing to accept someone who’s repeatedly proven himself unfit for trust and responsibility for his one vote. More like 30 pieces of silver.

The world of politics is large enough for many opinions, differing approaches to common problems and strenuous debate about any issue. But, that world has become contaminated in recent years with an overwhelming desire on the part of officeholders to perpetuate themselves in office rather than to do what’s right – what’s required. The cancer of money has replaced the healthy dignity of achieving the common good.

Moore – for all his proven failings and repeated deviant behavior – is the poster boy for the emergence of zealotry in politics – a calling of honorable service inhabited by honorable people. To our shame, he may be an aberration but he’s not the only one.

No Moore!

The other side

Author: admin

So there’s no misunderstanding, let’s get a few facts on-the-record so what you’re about to read is clear.

I am opposed to sexual harassment in ALL its forms. Period. Those who’ve been victims of it – both women AND men – deserve our support and help in any way called upon. Period. I have absolutely nothing but contempt for anyone – woman OR man – who has perpetrated any sort of sexual or mental damage to another Period.

Are we clear? “Crystal,” you say. Good. Let’s proceed.

We’re being bombarded daily with seemingly endless claims someone sexually harassed someone. Entertainment. Political. Business. Educational. Seems somebody in almost any employment or social activity has been an S-O-B. The claims are exploding everywhere.

Good! It’s time – way past time – our society recognized the issue and how large it has become in our permissive environment. There can be no excuses, no more sweeping it under the rug, no more victims suffering silently – afraid to make legitimate accusations against the abuser. Period.

But…..

What about the public condemnation and shaming of the “abuser” when those accusations aren’t legitimate? Who suffers then? Whose career, social and public images are needlessly ruined?

It happens. I had a room mate in the military from Louisiana who was loudly and publicly accused of stalking and rape. Clear descriptions to her superiors. Against my friend – a noncom with many years of good service.

He was called before the squadron commander and told of his expected punishment which included being stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged. He was confined to barracks.

Rumors circulated. While awaiting formal action, he was shunned by nearly everyone. He was called every name in the book. On several occasions, he was physically attacked. Those weeks were Hell.

He finally went to the commander and demanded an open hearing in front of a board of officers. He also asked the accuser be ordered to appear and testify. The commander agreed.

When the hearing was over, he was cleared of all charges. When faced with a lot of brass and in a formal setting, the woman recanted. Opening her own military records, it was clear she was deeply troubled, had been arrested for stalking and had been under psychiatric care.

And my room mate? He was militarily cleared of all charges, the recorded accusation was stricken from his personnel files. He was restored to his former rank with reimbursement for all pay lost.

But…..

As he continued his career, he constantly ran into someone at a new base that had been on the same one he had at the time of the accusations. He was often confronted by other personnel who hadn’t heard of the positive disposition of his case years ago. He never got away from it as long as he was on active duty. He also never received a promotion from the rank he held when being accused..

As we see more and more people hit with similar public charges, I can’t help but think of my old friend and the absolute Hell he went through for the rest of his career. I lost track of him years ago but I’ve often wondered if those phony charges followed him into retirement.

And that’s my concern now. It’s likely that most of the new accusations reported daily are accurate. That’s good. Bless those who’ve found the strength within themselves to step up and finally face their abusers and expose them for what they are. And, given the media herd mentality to uniformly traipse after the sensational or lurid, accusers will continue to have a national platform.

But …

What if the accusations are false? What it they’re baseless? What if those named are as innocent as my friend? Will careers be similarly destroyed? Will legal bills to defend themselves bankrupt them? And, if found innocent, what will their lives be like from then on?

I’ve seen a lot of accusers being publicized without anyone seeking evidence or corroboration. Just throw out the name of a celebrity and you’ll make the evening news and the front page.

My friend’s life-changing experience has made me more cautious when it comes to anyone – woman or man – who simply makes a claim. I’m happy to see many accused fess up and some to take action to deal with their problem. But what about those – woman OR man – who may be dragged innocently into the media maelstrom?

It’s great this sensitive issue is being treated openly. But charges are just that – charges. They are not proof.

I’ve always been amused at the old saw “change is constant.” Seems to me an oxymoron with “change” meaning evolving or moving and “constant” something that doesn’t evolve or move.

One of the major life issues for older persons is to either accept change and deal with it in its many forms or remain “constant” which will eventually leave you more and more alone.

Sometimes, though, change can be so vast while being so subtle, so slow, that you don’t sense it and deal with it, which will lead to confusion and uncertainty. For several decades, we’ve been experiencing a slow evolution affecting all our lives and our world. It’s becoming increasingly clear we aren’t dealing with it very well. Individually or as a nation.

For many reasons, including computer technology, education and lifestyle, constant and irrevocable change has been going on all around us. Some good. Some bad. But it’s changing everyone of us almost without notice.

Examples are many. Fraternal, business, civic and religious institutions are disappearing. Makes no difference if you’re talking about the local Rotary club, the church down the street or the chamber of commerce. Participation is waning and they’re in danger of being irrelevant or gone. Possibly not in our lifetimes but statistics are telling the sad story. We’re losing community connectedness.

The two main political parties are suffering the same lack of participation and have become less influential. They’re becoming irrelevant. Where votes have historically been their basis of clout, now it’s money from billionaires. Democrats nationally are still fighting the internal Clinton/Sanders split of 2016 and are badly divided. Significant gains in 2018 are very unlikely.

Republicans have seen their party structure disintegrate – becoming splinter groups unwilling to work together toward a common goal, fractured by religious zealots, big money, character assassination with cowardly majorities in Congress. Independent and splinter “parties” add to eroding the political power of the past for all.

Our increasing national lack of societal and political civility have overcome comity and reason. Coarseness defines our national nature. Outrageous behavior in sports, entertainment, politics and even religion have replaced common sense, caring and norms that have defied centuries of previous assault.

Kids are more violently rebelling against authority – schools are unable to cope much less educate; more children are killing themselves – and others; drugs-of-choice are used more openly – and universally- by kids and adults; outright police violence versus civil disrespect for authority; corporations are cheating customers with more concern for profits at any cost; celebrity is based on deviant behavior rather than talent; our monetary world is rife with practices abusing/cheating consumers.

There’s also a national ignorance of far too many citizens about how their government operates, i.e. what it is, how it’s run, how laws are created or abolished, the role of government in their lives and their responsibilities to it. Stunning ignorance which has resulted in intellectually vacant officeholders dreaming of lifetimes of employment rather than conducting the public’s business – if they even know of – care – what that is.

“So, Rainey,” you say. “A lot of that has been around for centuries and we’ve survived. What’s different?”

Yep, you’re right. But, something we’ve never had access to until the last 40 years or so has created a more dangerous threat to our world: computer technology. While all these things have truly been around in one form or another, computers have linked the shunned, the powerless, the outright crazies and given them voices of power and influence they’ve never had in our history.

A doped up guy in a Cleveland garage can access today’s wizardry to represent him and his delusions to the masses. Some folks have used it to talk their friends into suicides. Once personal details of our lives can now be stolen regularly to do lasting damage to otherwise upstanding people. National electrical systems can be brought down. Crackpot ideologies made to sound mainstream with millions of “adherents.” Military power can be hijacked or neutralized by a single person. World markets can be destroyed by someone with the right technology. And much, much more.

No, these words are not the result of some paranoia. They are the result of watching the evening news, reading several daily newspapers, doing some internet research. Living four score years and being observant.

Ours is an angry nation. An unforgiving nation. An out-of-control nation. The Civil War divided the country over the issue of slavery. Today, with the unlimited power of technology, we’re a fractured nation being assailed by huge pressures on every side. Better we should be split by some large single issue we can tackle and solve. As it is, we’re left to struggle individually with everything from violent children to nuclear war.

Our sense of community has disappeared. The patriotism and faith in something larger than ourselves, in too many instances, have been replaced with anxieties and a lack of national purpose.

“Change is constant.” So is the disassembling of a nation. For the old. For the young.

Fear and the presidency

Author: admin

My father – born in 1904 – used to tell me he was lucky to have seen the “best years” of mankind’s development. He’d cite invention of radio and television, development of flight, automobiles and other inventions for the masses, computers, the booming years of industry, space travel, etc. He saw ‘em all.

But, there’s one thing he didn’t see and never, never imagined: a President of the United States of America – with malice of forethought and by deliberate action on his part – cause terrible hardship for millions of his fellow citizens. He never saw a President set out to destroy whole departments of our federal government by filling his Cabinet with totally unqualified zealots holding personal contempt for various official responsibilities given them.

My father’s lifelong respect for government was badly eroded when he learned of Richard Nixon’s ruthless lying, racism and outright anti-Semitism. Those were traits my well-educated father just never would have imagined in anyone elected President of this country. While I was living in Washington D.C. late in his life, and watching Watergate unfold, he was a pillar of his small community in Central Oregon – Masonic bodies, church, successful small business, etc.. But Richard Nixon destroyed my father’s near-blind faith in the goodness and honesty of the presidency.

I regularly give thanks he didn’t see much worse – that he never knew of Donald J. Trump.

It’s no exaggeration to write in this space that I fear for our country and for our collective futures. The man is an ignorant fool, unwilling to learn or listen. He’s like a destructive child wanting to break all his toys in fits of anger. His election buffoonery has turned to unbridled rage at the President who preceded him and he’s carrying out a child-like tantrum to destroy anything with Barack Obama’s name attached. He has shown himself to be a vile, treacherous human being.

His outrageous attack on the ACA – Obamacare – will not only result in the loss of heath care for millions of Americans, it will assuredly result in the death of many. Children with life-long, pre-existing conditions, adults needing specialized medical attention, seniors who can’t afford prescriptions, anyone whose needs exceed their ability to pay- all will be left to uncertain futures. And, again, even death.

The nearly unanimous voices of health care professionals – and their institutions of healing – said “NO.” Americans by the hundreds of millions said “NO.” Even the insurance industry said “NO.” But he shunned all and uprooted the foundations of America’s health systems which will, eventually, affect just about anyone in the country.

He’s undertaken other destructive acts against the government and the governed. But the most destructive of all was to name a Cabinet of zealots dedicated to undermining – and in some cases – destroying the very agencies they oversee.

Justice, Health & Human Services, Treasury, EPA and the rest are being ransacked while Trump keeps everyone’s attention with his outrageousness. Professionals necessary to carry out missions are resigning by the thousands. Trump spies have been inserted in all agencies. Regulations designed to protect are being shredded. Hundreds of attempts are underway to privatize everything from the post office to air traffic control. Even the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA). Just about any service or government support role.

You can add his deliberate verbal attacks on our European and other international allies. He’s severely undermined American’s role as a world leader. Our nation is now looked upon as unreliable in our treaties, our promises of aid and our military protection should those become necessary. We are regarded with universal suspicion and anger.

He’s threatened to abandon an American protectorate following a massive hurricane which has left the entire population in danger. He is ignorant of our laws regarding our responsibilities to citizens of such countries and has been petulant about coming to their aid and assistance.

Finally, he’s playing “nuclear chicken” with another madman. I’ve come to pray each night there’ll be a world to wake up to in the morning. He talks of “nuclear war” with absolute disregard of the accompanying nuclear devastation. His childlike belligerence in such verbosity is frightening people all over the world. Even his fellow Republicans have openly expressed the hope there are enough “adults” around Trump to keep him from starting a nuclear conflagration.

Yes, I’m glad Dad never met “President” Donald J. Trump. I’m also sorry that, as a solid middle class American in the first years of the 20th Century, he had to come to the late realization that honesty, sincerity and service-above-self, didn’t always describe an American President.

Trump just plain scares me to death!

Fire the lot of ’em

Author: admin

Bolstered by a series of recent events, I’ve come to a new theory about where this nation went wrong – politically speaking. That was when employment in Congress was allowed to become full-time.

Over the years, many events pointed to this fact. Created some thought. Created some talk. But the Las Vegas massacre- and the absolutely blank stare coming out of Washington in its aftermath – really drove it home.

While even the NRA felt moved to say SOMETHING post-Vegas, congressional Democrats – damned near all of ‘em – have kept their collective mouth shut. The best the Republicans have come up with is “Now is not the time to discuss this.” “NOT THE TIME?”

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, was our political response “Now is not the time” to talk about our new “relationship” with the Japanese empire? When London was bombed in ‘39-40 did Churchill say “Now is not the time to discuss it?”

With the streets of Vegas still wet with blood and the cries of the wounded filling the air, there was no better time. The Vegas mass killing was not the first in the last 50 years. Or even the 40th or the 105th or any number up to about 600. To most members of Congress, it was – ho hum – just another bad day on the streets. Pure B.S.

When those guys in Philly in 1776 were writing our most important founding document, they were “part-timers.” A lot of’ em had to take some occasional time off to go home and tend the crops or do store inventories or see if the church flock was still O.K.. They all had full-time responsibilities at home while sitting in a sweltering meeting room arguing about taxes and slavery. They intended the next Congress be part-time as well. And the Congress after that. And the next. And the next. Legislating was supposed to be something you did for a short time each year. Volunteer, as it were.

No more. For far too many years – far too many decades – the first concern of members has been job security. Not the needs of the country. Not dealing with the issue(s) de jour. Not tending to the real needs of the constituency. No. The topmost concern and the reason behind nearly every action taken – or inaction – has been continued employment.

I’ve fought tooth-and-toenail for years against term limits. And I’ve backed up that strident opposition with hard facts about the dangers of such a monumental shift in governance. I believe – with all my heart – service by anyone of no more than eight years in D.C. would open us to a whole new set of problems.

BUT………………..

If we continue with this open-ended employment, we are going to further inbreed the political species with even less concern – much less contact – with the constituent. Us!

To the current denizen of the marble halls, lobbyists and billionaires have become THE “constituent.” Indeed, some members of Congress flat out refuse to meet with the folks at home. If you can’t flash a big check, many won’t even answer the phone. And, if your combination of cash and clout are large enough – say the NRA for the purposes of this discussion – no one at home who cast a ballot in the last election will even get a conscious thought. The “continued employment” autopilot will take over.

There is currently no issue – up to and including fulfilling the legal responsibility for declaring war – that can get the legally required attention of enough members to get the issue to the floor. We’re now in at least three undeclared wars without the constitutionally-required congressional authority. One of ‘em goes back 15 years!

Yes, there are still a few members who think and speak for themselves without the hands of a lobbyist up their backside. Good folks trying to do good jobs against an overwhelming tide of self-service. To suddenly go to term limits would certainly mean throwing out both the bath water and the baby. Damned shame.

But, if we don’t get control of this situation, continued electoral inbreeding will result in ever-distant governance and a “ruling class” with little to no concern for those ruled. Congress will become a self-perpetuating, intellectually vacant body from which voters will be separated.

I’ve been wrong on this issue. The time has come to apologize to the bathing youngster, open the nearest window and give a large heave ho.

Words that don’t come

Author: admin

“I pledge allegiance to the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.”

Period.

With all this B.S. about people kneeling during our National Anthem – and the millions that seem to miss the point of the demonstration entirely – I’ve got a confession to make. Attending events where the Pledge of Allegiance is recited has become a problem for me.

I first noticed this some weeks back. A weekly service club session was being opened with the usual prayer and “The Pledge.” About halfway through the recitation, I realized I’d stopped speaking. Just quit midpoint without any conscious thought.

Later, given my outsized sense of curiosity, I wondered about the sudden realization – trying to figure out how long this absence of full verbal citizenship participation had been going on. I couldn’t determine an exact time or date but it seemed clear this experience had happened before. So, the next thought was to ask “why?” That was much easier to determine.

The phrase “one nation” has not applied to my native country for far too many years. We are NOT “one nation.” We’re a badly fractured nation. And it’s getting worse.

GOP pollster Pat Caddell and EMC Research have done some serious examinations of our national psyche. Using multiple methodologies, they’ve determined two-thirds of us believe we have no voice in government. More than that, 73-percent of us believe our government no longer rules with the “consent of the governed.” Us. You and me.

“People like to say the country is more divided than ever,” Caddell says. “But, in fact, the country is united in believing two things: the political class does not represent them and the system is rigged against them.”

Here’s one of his proofs. He posed a hypothetical race for President – Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie and Candidate “Smith” about whom nothing was known except Smith was running on a platform of “reform.” The results? Clinton 24 percent – Christie 12 percent – Smith 55 percent. Anyone see a Trump here?

There were other questions Caddell has asked for years – significantly the one dealing with trust in government. A record 79 percent responded they trust government to do the right thing “never” or only “some of the time.” More than 75 percent said politicians didn’t care for people like them – the highest percentage since 1952. Just ten years ago, 50 percent disagreed.
“One nation?” Hardly.

The next words – “under God” – have always been troublesome. They weren’t part of the original pledge – added in the 1950’s after a lot of debate by a Congress seeing imagined Communists behind every tree. Despite ascribing phony claims of “Christian patriotism” much later by the radical crowd, many of our founders were quite pointed about their actions and some had no direct relationship to a “Supreme Being.” While many were religious in their own lives – and at least one was an ordained minister – Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and others clearly delineated a separation from “divine” inference in their works. Those associations with “Christianity” and “God” were created later – many years later.

The “under God” inclusion also seems to me to rule out full participation of citizenship or full-throated “love of country” by those who may not believe in the God so many of us casualty refer to as if only we had divine understanding and a close relationship. What about Atheists or Deists or others not given to believing in the God referred to in the words “under God?” Can they fully subscribe to the Pledge or are they promising “allegiance” to something they don’t truly believe in?

Then you come to “liberty and justice for all.” Anyone here want to make the case those words ring true? Anyone? I can’t. Deprivation and injustice are too common in our nation. “Liberty” and “justice” have been denied for so many. I cannot say those words with conviction. It’s simply untrue.

None of this should be taken as a lessening of love of country or some sort of reduced belief on my part in the greatness and promise of America. Not a word. But, if others are having trouble with our National Anthem and the traditional Pledge of Allegiance as serious expressions of citizenship “for all,” maybe it’s time for some editing. Maybe we ought to look at where this nation really is and create a new set of words more in keeping with our realities. Maybe we need to change the whole thing.

Or maybe – just maybe – we ought to change conditions in our country. Maybe “The Pledge” is still appropriate but we’ve allowed too many nutcase voices to distract us from the true meaning of the words. Maybe the ignorance and self-service pervading our politics need to be rooted out and replaced with thoughtful, intelligent minds that can reshape our nation to those values described in “The Pledge.” Maybe it is WE who’ve failed the real meaning of those words and have let them become just innocuous phrases we recite without feeling. Without conviction.

Surely we can be a nation like that again. Where reciting “The Pledge” is more than just a duty. Where it can again become an individual yet all-inclusive honor.

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong 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 us all 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 reflexive nerve which brings out the angry reaction. I’ve got one of those reactions going now. But, this time it’s different. Angry AND 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 dirt, confront the bad guys and make major headlines. Or a very rare six minute “package” leading the evening’s national TV 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 and ‘60’s. That – and Trump”s continuing reprehensible public utterances – has resulted in a very different “code of conduct” between them and news makers.

Case in point: Richard Nixon. I didn’t like Nixon when he was in Congress in the ‘50’s. He was 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 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 nearly all of us 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 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 of the top tier of political “leaders,” 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 most of the major 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.

Ladies and Gents:

We realize, in your diligent search for answers to national problems, you probably wouldn’t look out here on the far edge. Even we understand our remote location is not a place solutions to the weighty conundrums you face will most likely be found. Still, we do think about them. And, when we believe we may have an answer or two, we like to “belly up to the bar” as it were and make a suggestion. Or two.

Here’s one for thought. A lot of hourly wage, beer-drinking workers – and those of us formerly so – have been interested in your struggles to reduce the horrendous national debt. Seems you’ve wrestled with this for a very long time. Some of you want to raise more income. Some want to just not pay bills you’ve already run up and simply slash dollars being spent – even for the “necessities.” As we’ve stood around the bar here talking about it, we think many of you have forgotten where you came from. You don’t remember how you used to handle your personal budget problems before you got to Washington to spend other people’s money. Our money.

Take our families, for instance. If we’ve run up more bills than we have take-home pay, here’s what we do. First, we stop buying stuff. Just get along with what we’ve already got. Second, we carefully examine what we’ve acquired and see if we can get along without any of it. Like maybe driving one pickup rather than two – cut back on payments and gas. Maybe decide we’ll eat out once a month rather than once a week. You know.

Another thing. If we need more income to cover the bills already in the cardboard file box, we consolidate some of ‘em. And we may take on a second – or third – job. Increase what comes in until we cover current expenses and reduce those we’re already committed to. Like what the national debt really is to you.

Now, I’m not saying you all have to get a second job. Or even an honest
one. Even here next to the Pacific, we don’t expect that. No. What we mean is you need to have more income. Not a lot. Just enough to catch up a bit. Pay down what you – and thus we – owe. Avoid late fees – interest on the debt if you will. Keep your credit score up. Our credit score.

Now, let’s review. Stop or reduce future spending. Carefully eliminate a few expenses on things you can get along without. Raise a few dollars to stay current, with just enough left over to pay down those nasty back bills.

We think those are pretty reasonable steps to take. Together, they work for us at home. Makes no difference if we watch Fox or MSNBC. It works.

The other idea, well, you probably won’t like. But even before the third round at the bar, we had this one handled and put away. So hear us out.

Some of our Republican brothers and sisters are trying to get a handle on voter fraud. Even if they haven’t found any significant examples of it. ANY. Which they haven’t. Still, all those Republican legislature’s are changing various state laws to keep out the “fraud.” The “fraud” you found when Democrats won and Republicans didn’t. That “fraud.”

Well, this is just our suggestion, mind you. But what if state elections were run by state laws? All 50 of ‘em. Any way they want to. But, what if national elections were operated under national laws? Controlled nationally. Each state could look after its own races without federal interference. And national races would be run by a single set of rules that would assure national elections are fair and square. Without state “undue” interference. Seems pretty simple. Should take care of all that “fraud.”

And here’s another thought just from me. What if the 49 other states took a good look at how we run elections here in Oregon? What if they started to do what we’ve successfully done for, oh, 20 years or so now? Very successfully. Suppose other states copied our system of voting by mail. No registration problems. No standing out in the weather for 10-12 hours. No long lines. Nobody campaigning at the polling places. And, so far, our cases of fraud have been virtually non-existent. For more than 20 years!

So, there you go. Two problems you’ve been trying to find answers to for far too many years. Two suggestions how to handle them so you can solve ‘em and get back to work on other important things. And a bonus solution that might make the whole national balloting process better.

My calculations are you’ve spent about $800-900 million administratively and still aren’t any closer to solutions. Cost for our ideas was less than a $40 bar tab. As I said, maybe you just forgot how you used to handle these kinds of things. Here at home. Back when you were one of us.

Your friend,

Barrett

In the beginning

Author: admin

Once upon a time, there was a Sen. Cecil Andrus. Not a governor then. A simple, lowly state senator. Nothing unusual about him. Just over six feet, 175 pounds, trim physique but balding a bit on top.

I first met him in early 1965 when he came for a weekend in Pocatello with native Rep. Darrell Manning. Manning introduced us. A weekend visit that far away from his Orofino home was unusual for Andrus because, while serving in the state senate, he was selling insurance out of Lewiston. So, most weekends, he went home to check on family and the business. Just not that weekend.

I was reporting for KID-TV out of Pocatello’s Bannock Hotel. It was a couple of months later I learned why the visit to far Southeast Idaho. Manning was introducing him to local Democrats, some business and money folk. Andrus was prepping a run for governor. He came to Pocatello more and more after he announced. Always paid KID-TV a visit and, usually, sat for a short interview.

In 1966, he lost the primary to then-Democratic candidate Charles Herndon. Andrus was out of it. Then, in September, Herndon and several others died in a small plane crash. Andrus became the last minute replacement. And he took off. He and I had stayed in touch and he asked me to be his press guy. So, with a wife and three kids at home, I quit a secure job and hit the campaign road.

While I’d covered politics, being IN politics was a whole new game. Steeped in ignorance about what was expected of me, I met Cece at the Pocatello airport early one morning. Cece had been a private pilot for some years; I hadn’t started on my own license yet. In the aftermath of the Herndon crash, his wife, Carol, made him promise to quit being a pilot. So, that morning, our chauffeur was Johnny Bastida, soon to be an Ada County Commissioner. Oh, yes, he was also a solid lifetime Republican. He was, also, the finest private pilot I’d ever met.

As we cruised at 10,000 feet to Boise, Cece asked Johnny about feathering a prop. That means, turning off one perfectly good working engine and, after a short time, restarting in the air. Before the Herndon crash, Cece had been licensed only in single engine.

Obliging the request, Bastida feathered a perfectly good engine and walked Andrus through the restart procedure – while the dead prop looked like a standing tree to me. It was a warm day with lots of thermal activity – hot, bumpy air rising from the East Idaho desert. I was jammed in the backseat, balancing a very small portable typewriter on my upright knees, trying to compose a news release for Boise media, trying to think, looking at that dead prop and worrying about the descent.

You see, Bastida seemingly paid no attention to locating an emergency landing spot as he was teaching Cece how to restart an engine while losing altitude. Maybe he didn’t because we were smack over the middle of the Craters of the Moon where landing a helicopter would have been damned near impossible much less a twin-engine Cessna.

The two of them were animated and busy. In hindsight, and as a now-licensed pilot, I’m sure Johnny had things under control . But, he was so patient with Andrus who was taking what seemed forever to learn what I found out later wasn’t a very difficult procedure. We may not have been in as much trouble as it seemed to a non-pilot at the time, but it was beautiful when that starboard prop was spinning again. And the boys up front were laughing and having a good time.

I relate this story because many Idahoans didn’t know Andrus personally. To me, it fits his personality to a “T.” He was a constant learner – his eyes and ears always open to something new. And he asked questions. All the time. More hearing than talking was my experience.

But he did learn to talk politically like a master. Again, curiosity and hard work. In his first years as governor, he would talk to anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. He learned by saying “Yes” to every invitation to speak. If three others people were on an elevator, he practiced. He’d go to the furthest corner of Owyhee County to talk to a half dozen cattlemen. PTA’s, Rotary, Kiwanis, bridge clubs, hunting clubs, feed lots and cafe’s. Any audience. Anytime. Anywhere.

And he got to be a master of public speaking which served him well for 50 years. Which served Idaho well for 50 years.

I hope others who are sharing their “Andrus stories” will continue to do so. Even those closest to him, and who thought they’d heard them all, are being surprised by the outpouring. And that’s good.

Maybe, unlike so many other public figures before him, he won’t soon be forgotten or simply relegated to his political activities because there’ll always be another story. A “new” Andrus story.

He’d like that.