And it was so

Author: admin

Live long enough and that old saw “all things old are new again” will have more meaning. The six communities of Idaho’s Ada County may be about to step into a time warp and make the “old new again.” It appears political bubbling and boiling just beneath the surface could soon break out with a decision – likely in court – to return control of county roads to cities. For many of the same reasons the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) was created in the first place 40+ years ago. How’s that for irony?

In the ‘70′s, the hot topic was how those six local governments could save taxpayers so much money on road and highway care if they threw all their various road departments into a central unified “highway district.” After all, six highway departments were just “creating lots of duplication.” Just made all the sense in the world!

And it was so.

But, shortly after creation, you could hear whispers of discontent. “We’ve lost control of our streets.” “Our taxes are subsidizing all the others.” “Another level of government we just don’t need.” “Boise’s going to get more money than us.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

And it was so.

I don’t recall a year from creation of ACHD to now that there hasn’t been bitching about something. Though directors of ACHD are elected from districts more or less representative of all six communities – plus the rural areas – there have always been battles about distribution of dollars, cars versus bikes, mass transit versus more roads, who gets what, where the new roads will go, snow removal, where maintenance should be done and how much. And on and on and on. Long ago, ACHD should have hired Ann Landers or “Dear Abby” to keep peace in its multi-governmental “family.”

Case in point. Boise recently installed some new computerized parking meters around town. If a car left a spot with time remaining on the meters, these electronic bandits would “zero out” so the new occupant couldn’t get a break. After an expensive installation, ACHD said Boise didn’t own the parking spaces, had not applied for “permission” and should take ‘em out. Post haste!

And it was so.

With a whole new round of bitching.

Now, with issues of bike lanes, parking, mass transit – what kind and where – whether Boise should build a downtown transit system and an accompanying terminal of some size – all these have candidates and local governments in a war of words. Boise law firms must be salivating on the sidelines as the cities and ACHD edge ever closer to the courtroom.

The old arguments of “cost savings” and “avoiding duplication” are still at play. What’s added now is the fact that Ada County’s two largest communities – Boise and Meridian – have physically grown so close together through urban sprawl that issues of mass transit and local freeways are more important than ever according to new traffic counts. The other locales – Eagle, Kuna, Star and Garden City – are fearing they’re going to be left out because those issues aren’t their issues.

The most contentious subjects in the current ACHD director’s election are mass transit and bike lanes. There are strong supporters. There are strong opponents. Both camps vocal. Both camps firmly planted. Middle ground seems impossible to find. So, the elections have taken on a new and higher level of importance. The winners will have made some pretty solid promises to go one way or the other.

That means the issue of whether the combined district should continue, or be returned to the six communities because of their different needs, is likely to be the central question to be solved before movement on future transportation plans. Which could mean idle hands at ACHD until some answers are found and a direction determined.

Some 40 years ago, ACHD was born out of a desire for everyone to work together and realize better economics. Cooperation and better use of tax dollars. Motherhood and apple pie. Now, a lot of voices are saying there would be more cooperation if each city was allowed to determine local needs and taxes would be saved if not all of them were required to contribute to transportation needs that didn’t affect them. More motherhood. More pie.

“All things old are new again.”

And it was so.

About 25 years ago, I loudly and publicly complained about one of the many policies our government was engaged in at the time that had roused my ire. As I recall, the words were proper, the thoughts well-organized – as usual, of course – and the anger was not hidden amongst flowery phrases. In typical government reaction, my well-delivered suggestions for immediate change were ignored.

All these years later, my angst regarding the issue has doubled. And doubled again. But government persists. And the bad policy continues to exist – redoubling again a few times itself. The issue: equipping and training community law enforcement to be hometown armies rather than agencies to “ protect and serve” as is written on the doors of so many local police cars.

The black anger in the streets of Florence, Missouri, these days is exactly what I was talking about two decades ago. These unarmed, frustrated, socially-suppressed and mad people are in those streets of their own neighborhoods – often their own yards – being faced by officers in camouflage combat fatigues, snipers in the open on top of armored trucks, nearly all cops wearing gas masks and carrying many, many automatic weapons. Anyone speaking “protect and serve” speaks pure B.S..

All of this was brought sharply together in my livingroom a night or two ago when one of the TV networks was using some stock video footage as the faceless voice was talking about much the same issue – inappropriate police dress, tactics and weaponry. What connected it all was one of the scenes shot in a Caldwell, Idaho, neighborhood some months back, showing police in the same type of combat dress and carrying the same types of weaponry. And they were prominently accompanied by an MRAP! An MRAP parked on someone’s subdivision lawn!

An MRAP is a terrifically heavy behemoth, designed to ward off bullets of nearly any size as well as land mines and rocket fire. While these armed monsters of steel have undoubtably saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they seem terribly out of place in a community of 25,000 or so near the Snake River in Idaho. Like machines from science fiction movies.

This “uparming” of local law enforcement began under President Bush-the-Elder and has continued under Clinton, Bush-the-Junior and Obama. It started after we “freed” Kuwait from Saddam. All that hardly-used military hardware was just going to be scrapped. Until some in-over-his-head political appointee decided America’s local law enforcement agencies would pay 10-cents-on-the-dollar for it. And pay they have.

Since our beginnings as a nation, we’ve successfully carved out roles for our national defense – our military. Planes, tanks, drones, rockets of all sizes and all sorts of specialized vehicles. To take on any foreign adversary. We can kill and maim as well as any nation and better than most. “Hooray,” sez I. And we’ve got a well-trained – but badly misused – national guard in all states. Aside from being sent off to foreign battles over and over and over again, beyond most humans abilities, guard units have valuable, more localized peacekeeping roles. Read the rest of this entry »

Punishment is overdue

Author: admin

The most fundamental structures of our country are being challenged. Put another way – even more basic – America is under attack. No airplanes. No bombs dropped. No anti-aircraft batteries. No tanks or missiles. Not even an invasion of our shoreline. But the attacks are real. Numerous. Sustained. Sometimes orchestrated. And worst of all – from within.

I’ve not just left the most recent mindless histrionics of the John Birch Society. Nor am I a Limbaugh or Beck adherent. And I still believe Michelle Malkin is the most ignorant voice ever to foul national airwaves. But there are things afoot challenging our way of life – deliberate lawbreaking activities of too many citizens and even some we’ve elected to public office. In both political parties – right and left.

Worse than all that – nearly all of these assaults are – so far – going seemingly unchallenged by legal authority. And – at times – some of them are being committed by the legal authorities we rely upon.

Here are some examples:

## The governors of Idaho and eight other states formally told the U.S. Justice Department they wont enforce certain mandatory federal requirements regarding their legal responsibilities for protecting the safety of inmates in their various penitentiaries. Won’t do it.

## More than 100 people with ATV’s invaded archeological sites in Utah where such vehicle use is prohibited by law. They spent much of one day posing for various media by trafficking through the “off limits” areas with their children – and guns – riding along.

## Some 200 sheriffs have told federal authorities they’ll not enforce laws dealing with guns which THEY deem “unconstitutional.” Further, they’ve served notice they’ll stop and/or arrest any federal officer trying to do so.

## Several dozen “citizens” deliberately carried exposed weapons to an anti-gun law demonstration in Washington D.C. where the law expressly forbids such displays.

## A Nevada rancher is in arrears over $1 million to the feds. He not only refuses to honor a contract of longstanding with the government but has also used his unearned notoriety to gather other lawbreakers to break other federal and state laws on his behalf.

## The armed and unlawful assembly at Bunkerville has continued unabated with citizen guns turned on government employees doing their court-ordered duties. They’ve been impeding traffic on federal and state highways for nearly two months and trespassing on the private properties of locals. Several months now. Unimpeded.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center sums up these and many more recent examples of in-your-face actions by people hellbent on condemning anything governmental. Called “War on the West” it delves deeply into the Bundy mess.

Center Director Mark Potok cites these and other examples as warnings of things to come if the feds don’t gain an understanding that this is the volatile nature of what’s happening. The Bundy lawbreaking “was not an organic plot. It was a coordinated effort to bring the threat of violence to the federal government.”

SPLC cites many examples of hundreds of militia types, conspiracy theorists and other angry extremists who quickly responded to Bundy’s call for a range war. So far – without consequence.

I’ve heard a number of honestly-offered arguments about why there’s been no ”push back.” I’ve heard ‘em and I reject ‘em. Even the ones contending there would have been gunfire and casualties at Bunkerville. Which likely would’ve been the case. And may yet be. But that’s what can happen when people take up arms against their government. Those doing so need to learn that hard truth when they do it. Not just get a lecture and a ticket.

But – we’re now several months past the first day of that standoff and dozens of people on-site continue committing illegal acts – including harassing locals who’ve done nothing and who want to be left alone. The feds – and the local sheriff – have turned deaf ears to the local member of congress who’s asked repeatedly for action to disperse the armed violators of others civil rights.

Those who rode roughshod over the fragile federal lands in Utah have suffered no response from law enforcement. The disparate pack of armed lawbreakers in that D.C. federal park broke several laws with seeming impunity. Sheriffs who’ve openly made themselves arbiters of the law rather than enforcers of the law have not been rebuked by those in positions of authority to do so.

Taken individually, much of this can be looked at as not terribly significant. But – taken in sum – it is. Because these are only a few of the in-your-face illegal acts of armed lawbreakers. They continue unchallenged – as do other legal “authorities” – flaunting laws and acting out imagined grievances against their own government. They – and too many others like them – are violating rules of law which are the foundation for our liberties.

At some point, we – all of us – must demand action. Those who administer our laws are accountable to the rest of us who live by them. Nothing will erode a society faster than allowing deliberate law breaking to continue with no accountability for illegal and often dangerous acts. The “envelope” will continue to be pushed. And it WILL break.

Until legitimate authority draws a line and says “no more,” these people will continue to act out. If the innocent majority is not protected by the laws we live with – if armed lawbreakers can continue to intimidate a legitimate government – if taking up arms against lawful authority isn’t stopped and punished – if all of this is allowed to continue without response – what will happen to our society and our national way of life?

Lincoln warned us about these types of activities when saying he feared no takeover of America by foreign interests. But, he warned, successful subversion of our government – should it ever be attempted – “would most likely come from within.”

The cited examples represent some of the cancers he feared.

Rant-less

Author: admin

If you’re looking for the usual rant about this-that-and-the-other usually found in this space, there’s disappointment ahead. The historic mess we’re in at the moment – politically and congressionally speaking – has about left me rant-less.

Criticism after criticism and well-worded complaint after well-worded complaint by others more intellectually-gifted and less intellectually-challenged have made no mark on the consciousness of our politicians so historically bad at their jobs. The oligarchy we’ve become has left no sense of responsibility to the folks at home. None. As long as some billionaire continues to kick in big bucks to whichever party he wants to buy at the moment, those with their hands out will pay us no mind.

As Mitch McConnell has run rule book circles around the backbone-challenged Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has become the place where common sense legislation goes to die. Operating as no other political sphere I’m aware of, the minority has held firmly to Reid’s gonads and dragged him and the will of the majority all over hell’s half acre. The wasteland that used to be a respected and fully-functioning part of our democracy is littered with crumpled legislation that never had a chance.

In the House, a gutless Speaker – trying hard to keep his limousines, the taxpayer jet aircraft, secret service details, his huge suite of offices filled with an overabundance of staff, his additional pay and private dining room – that guy has allowed a few dozen cretins to stifle an entire government. Cretins who deny science, deny law, deny common sense and even deny the multiplication tables – these beneath-the-bridge-dwellers have proven their next attempt to repeal something could well be the law of gravity. It’s this bunch of hypocrites that has brought about my political confusion.

I started having trouble with my civics education when these animal crackers drove Republicans in the House to find a lawyer hungry enough to take their meaningless “case” to sue the President! One branch of one branch of our three branch government suing one of the other two. As this lunacy slowly sank into my cortex, I quickly visualized Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and some other feisty founders rising from their graves to ask each other if this was what they intended when they created the three-legged stool of our democracy. Republic, if you will. The balance.

Trying to make sense of that portion of the court filing dealing with the reason for such lunacy, it all came down to this: faced with dead ends at every turn when dealing with Congress, our President took it upon himself to do something without crawling up Capitol Hill only to find a closed door and degrading voices making nasty references to his manhood. And this added curiosity. What he did is what they wanted to do but didn’t because they couldn’t get their own act together!

So they sued. Or are trying to.

But my confusion came to it’s current maximum state when those same political terrorists failed on another issue – immigration – just a few days later. Once again, the factually-limited minority forced a stalemate with its own majority and the whole stack of watered-down immigration legislation was trampled on the House floor to be replaced by a piece of villainy trying to deport half a million people. DOA legislation that was pure sewerage. It passed. Then the herd of 435 impotent officeholders raced back home to campaign for extensions of their employment contracts.

BUT – the precise second fog settled over all my rational thinking was when Speaker Boehner – the most ineffective politician to hold that office in this or any other century – that Speaker opined “If Congress adjourns without action on immigration, the President should do what he can.”

BOOM! CRASH! Fade to gray and then to black. Really black.

The ink is hardly dry on Boehner’s signature on those legal papers and he’s publically urging the man he’s suing to take action unilaterally. The same type of unilateral action that Boehner and his miscreants got so riled up about that they sued!

There’s no reason to believe the next Congress will be better than the one coming to an ignominious end in a few months. In the next 100 days, there are only about 20 scheduled “working” days on the Hill. There’s zero reason to think any of those 20 will produce anything positive or meaningful. No one – right or left – has reason to be hopeful for anything productive the remainder of this Congress or at the onset of the next.

No one I know – right or left – has come up with a prediction of when this long national nightmare of ignorant, self-serving political stalemate will end. No one has been so foolishly optimistic as to say “Just hang in there. This can’t go on. It will pass.” Maybe it will. I wouldn’t bet on it.

As I said, confusion reigns supreme. I can’t even work up a good rant anymore.

“Why, Daddy, Why?”

Author: admin

When Dad got tired trying to answer my childish questions of “why” to nearly any new, youthful encounter, his standard response became “You’ll know when you’re older.” Being a trusting kid, I blindly accepted his promise of future knowledge.

Dad’s gone now. And, after my nearly four score years experience, it pains my soul to say it – he was wrong. At least so far as being able to comprehend by knowing the answers to my continued queries of “why.” If his advanced age during my growth years truly gave him understanding of hard-to-understand situations, he was really quite an extraordinary man because my added years haven’t always helped me all that much. On the other hand, maybe some things happening now beyond my ability to grasp are far more complicated and I’m just not up to the task.

Here’s one.

Why would leaders of the National Republican Party – and their elected offspring – formally adopt a position of banishing access to health care for millions of voters and their families? Even want to go to court over it? What sane reason could there be to take away life-changing and even life-saving medical care from adults and kids who now have it – many for the first time in their entire lives? Why would a political party take a position to disenfranchise Americans needing what should be considered one of those “unalienable rights?” “Why, Daddy, why?”

Here’s another. Why will both parties in our national Congress – after endless bloviating about the problem of tens of thousands of children flooding into this country seeking personal refuge and safety – why will those Washington folk go home and not do anything to deal politically or humanely with the situation? Why are they walking away?

Human-being-by-human-being, we have an entirely non-political and extremely human tragedy on our hands. Children from South American countries being used as pawns. Children with absolutely no voice in the matter being pushed and/or dragged into this country with promises of a better life. Or their parents are being threatened with death if they don’t blindly ship their kids off unaccompanied into a trip of thousands of miles filled with all sorts of life-threatening dangers.

And the Congress, from which all resources must come, is going to quit without undertaking a single effort to ease this human tragedy. Why?

And more “whys.”

Why would the governor of Texas call up the Texas National Guard to stand along that border? Why send a guardsman with tank and a rifle to face an eight-year-old child trying to surrender? Why use uniformed – and heavily armed – Texas fathers and mothers to face this flood of young humanity and what are they expected to do? Why uproot members of the Guard – trained in dealing with ecological and natural disasters, equipped to deal with armed foes in other countries but not trained in dealing with the needs of children who don’t understand what’s happening to them and who probably don’t speak English – why send the military and their weapons to deal with kids needing food, shelter and some sense of security? Why?

Here’s another “why” beyond my understanding.

Why would politicians – who sent hundreds of thousands of young people into foreign wars for no legitimate reason – now refuse to pay for the medical, psychological and educational support promised before those young people walked onto those damned, doomed battlegrounds? Why are lying politicians now going home begging for renewal of their employment while the walking wounded of Iran/Afghanistan continue to suffer? Why?

Why would Republican-dominated legislatures in eight states do their damndest to keep people who may not look like them and maybe don’t talk like them from their legal right to vote? Why?

Why are soulless, bloodless – and in some cases heartless – corporations considered to be “human” for the purposes of perverting our nation’s politics? Why are these “humans” allowed – even encouraged – to take their profits and skip out to other countries so their “human” share of the responsibility to support our national economic life is avoided? Why are these “humans” able to prosper here at great cost to real humans but not be responsible for paying for the infrastructure and other needs that make their profits possible? Why are those “humans” able to avoid the inexorable taxes all the rest of us humans must pay? Why?

We’re living in an age in which the “whys” stack up faster than ever before. We have an unresponsive national government – even an adversarial national government – that’s damaging this nation daily by inaction and perversion in the misconduct of its duties. Some of its “human” parts are denying science, education, health care, voting and other basic fact while favoring any “human” that will help finance a re-election campaign.

Our “citizen congress” has become a lifetime employment sector for too many self-serving, intellectually challenged politicians who shouldn’t be allowed driver’s licenses – much less be in positions of power to “direct” the affairs of this nation. The driver’s license analogy is entirely proper given the deep ditch they’ve driven this country into.

Running in tandem with this Potomac train wreck, too many state legislatures are following the same destructive path as they try to deprive rights and expectations of citizenship from minorities. Again, the bloodless “humans” – read “corporations” – have their greedy hands in the pot. The expectation of continuing our Republic is being replaced by the reality of an oligarchy.

Dad’s been gone for many years now. So, I ask you. Why?

Facts more than balance

Author: admin

A small, informal discussion has started in some media circles – the first quiet conversations about a most basic journalistic tenet – balance. Balance in coverage of the news. Balance in representing all sides. Balance to assure fairness. The discussion is long overdue. It’ll call for judgments and – for that reason – there’ll probably never be a satisfactory solution.

There isn’t much left of the days of really responsible journalism – the professional output that was traditionally expected and – for the most part – traditionally produced. Given more than one side to any story, efforts were made to present all. That, of course, was in the days before “gotcha” journalism, reporters mixing opinion with reporting and the need to report otherwise worthless B.S. that fills too many pages and far too much airtime.

The most recent stimulus for this self-examination is climate change. Yep, simple as that. Or, if you will, as complex as that. With the preponderance of scientific evidence that such change is happening all around us and our world is already the poorer for it, some news organizations are asking how much time – how much ink – should be given those who deny both the science and the reality. What is the media responsibility for reporting the scientific facts accepted by the overwhelming majority of experts, then giving time and ink to the distinct minority denying reality? Denying fact?

It’s long been said the media should just report the facts and let those facts speak for themselves. I buy that. But when what’s on the front pages and what’s leading the nightly news contains no factual merit – climate change denials – irresponsible and baseless impeachment ranting – conspiracy claims without proof – phony stunts of one branch of government to sue another – what facts are being reported? Where does news start and “Entertainment Tonight” end?

Take the climate change story, for example. One very significant fact is that the chairman of the House Science Committee is a climate change denier and flat-earther who loudly proclaims his ignorance by telling all who’ll listen the earth is just 6,000 years old and man lived with dinosaurs. Why is that not reported with such a repetitive assault that he and half a dozen other “deniers” on that important panel are removed? This nation and the world needs strong, responsible and effective political leadership to deal with the terrible realities of climate change. But the power to do that is in the hands of idiots – a distinct and irresponsible minority – who’re blocking attempts to deal legitimately with facts that – ignored much longer – could end our world. Why?

To me, the answer to this “balance in reporting” conversation isn’t as illusive as it seems. Not in these examples. Or in many others. Go back to the original reason for mass media in the first place. Reporting of the facts. Put the facts – all the facts – in the lead story and on the front pages and ignore the garbage. Keep the facts there. Stop trying to balance realities of life – be it political or any other form – by giving time and ink to voices plainly lacking facts – lacking truths – lacking responsible evidence to support them and their irresponsible conduct. That’s not achieving balance. That’s distributing distortion on a large scale.

A prime reason for media existence in the first place is to inform. Make that “responsibly” inform. So stop with the misinformation. Stop spotlighting people and voices with no facts. Stop being a conduit for self-serving voices of ignorance as if they were necessary to “balance” what the rest of know are the facts. Use the power of fact to educate.

We’re a nation gripped by paralysis. To some extent, that paralysis has been caused by an outsized effort to give “balance” to all sides. We’ve mixed fact and ignorance together in an effort to give voice to all – to give balance. In doing so, fact has often been diluted and ignorance is too often accepted as reality. Too many people can’t tell the difference.

The traditional media role to inform is more important than ever. The soul-searching attempts to “balance” need to stop. Stick to the facts.

Shut the hell up, Sarah

Author: admin

I’ve wanted to do a column under that headline for five years now. Even got to the keyboard a few times but held back. Really don’t know why. Lord knows she’s given any thinking person a pot full of reasons to tell her to “take a hike.” But now it appears she’s pissed off more than half the country and a majority just wants her to shut up and go away.

A new NBC/Wall Street/Annenberg poll has found 54-percent of voters – regardless of party – have heard enough of the Wasilla wastrel. Even four-in-ten Republicans don’t want to hear her uninformed babbling anymore. Among Democrats the margin is two-thirds.

But it’s not just the self-serving Alaskan opportunist the public is fed up with. More than half the respondents are tired of hearing Rev. Jesse Jackson’s opinions on this, that and the other. Nearly half would like former Vice President Cheney to put a sock in it and go silently back to Wyoming with about 43% saying “enough already” to Newt Gingrich.

Aside from being just plain without talent or knowledge enough to make any sort of meaningful contribution to the national dialogue, Palin’s problem – and to some extent the others – is the result of several things. First, none of those named has any legitimate public platform. All did at one time. But no more. They have no substance and nothing relevant to say. They’ve worn out their welcome.

Second, the media made them “personalities.” As such, they have nothing meaningful to contribute. No public office. No institutional connection. No platform of any kind. They’re just supposed to be opinionated, funny, crusty, say controversial things, be available and show up.

Think all the people you know. You know lots of folks. But are they all friends? Do you invite all these folks to your house? Do you even want all of them at your house? Probably not. Oh, you may work with some, socialize with some, go to church with some. But are they all people you want to hang out with all the time? Probably not. People come and go in our lives but few relationships stay. Those that do are based on something more than “personality.”

The media has “made” these people – Palin, Gingrich, Jackson et al. Not because they’re good, upstanding, honest folk with something important to say. No. They’ve made them “personalities” to fill long stretches of what would otherwise be “dead air” or empty pages because they can be counted on to be controversial or entertaining if not illuminating or meaningful. They’re creatures of the media and, when they no longer can bring ratings or subscriptions numbers, they’ll be discarded by that same media. Old news.

Palin, in particular, is nothing more than a media “personality.” She’s offered nothing positive or important to the national dialogue since you first heard her name six years ago. She’s a creation: partly by the media but mostly by her own hand. When the national spotlight accidentally shined on her in 2008 – at the behest of a confused John McCain – she was ready. Immediately ignoring McCain speech writers and political advisers much smarter than her, freelancing interviews without campaign approval, copywriting her name and image and signing a long-term contract with a major speaker’s bureau before the campaign was over, Palin grabbed the brass ring. The media loved her. Well, more like developed a case of heavy breathing.

But, like those people you know but don’t necessarily want in your home, Palin’s reliance on marketing rather than any real political knowledge, made her someone with no staying power: hot at the start but destined to burn out with the broad market. And she has. There’s never been any “there” – there.

Now, she seems unaware times have changed – that her popularity is only with a minority of people as totally uninformed about realities of the world as herself. Her books aren’t selling. Her TV show is gone. No political group with broad appeal is inviting her to the stage. The mainstream Republican Party is ignoring her. Were it not for Fox “News” she’d have no public forum at all but she’ll eventually lose that, too. Oh, she’s still making appearances at trade conventions and right-wing gatherings. But not for the large six-figure fees she got a couple of years ago. Now she’s signing autographs for fewer people and hawking books and bumper stickers out in the lobby.

Personality without talent – without smarts – without some sort of knowledgeable, serious core – has no staying power. Something newer and shinier will always replace it. Palin’s 15 minutes of fame are about gone. She offers nothing relevant to today’s discussions. Never has really. Only criticism and senseless carping. You can get that at any neighborhood bar.

So, along with a majority of you, I offer my own heartfelt advice to the former Wasilla mayor: shut the hell up and sit down.

In recent days, I’ve looked at many congressional races around the country. Using my “student-of-politics” proclivities and some very good research, I’m going to give you my list of picks so you’ll know who’s who – how they stack up. I’m going to “name names” so you’ll know whom you should support.

Wait? What’s that? You don’t care who I like? You don’t want to know which ones I’m endorsing for Congress? What? Why?

Actually, that would be my response if you – or anyone – told me a list of candidate selections. It wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference.

And therein is my problem with endorsements. Who someone else – anyone else – ANYONE else is supporting is just not relevant to my ballot. Oh, we might eventually vote for the same candidate. Maybe more than one. But we do so individually. Not because of anyone else backing ol’ so-and-so.

There was a time endorsements were somewhat important. Used to be Democrats put a lot of stock in labor union picks. If the president of Amalgamated Widget Makers told members which candidate to support, that’s pretty much how everybody went. Major corporations often got behind one name and word went out to various branches of the business. “Smith’s the guy” and everyone was expected to mark “Smith” at the polls.

Union, corporate, workplace endorsements don’t carry the weight they used to. Nor should they. But all keep trying. Even some “churches.”

Newspapers endorse a lot – claiming they’re giving you the benefit of hours and hours spent in face-to-face extended interviews and “Candidate Glutz is our pick for county treasurer.” I’d rather they change current employment practices and hire someone who can actually write accurately and tightly – then publish well-written summaries of what that extensive interviewing showed about the office-seeker. Things the paid advertising didn’t show. Skip the endorsement. Factual summaries will do just fine, thank you very much. Again, well-written, of course. I’ll do the deciding.

The “endorsement” I hate most is the one that comes from one politician of another. The endorser may be boosting a friend or someone he works with. But often it’s a sham. Sometimes the two are even strangers to each other.
Politicians endorsing other candidates they’ve never even met has always been a vote killer for me. Party politics at it’s finest. Or worst. If you think such “blind” party line politics has been helpful for us in recent years, you haven’t been paying attention.
Then, take Chris Christie’s trip to New Hampshire awhile back to loudly announce his support for political transient, Scott Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Very firm words. Unqualified Christie backing. Yet, when immigrant Brown was “Senator Brown from Massachusetts,” Christie locked horns with him repeatedly and – in true Christie style – did so at the top of his lungs. Now it’s all better? Yeah, sure.

Political endorsements are almost always about getting an advantage or keeping the advantage. Chairman Christie of the Republican Governor’s Association, for example, is interested only in getting more Republicans in statehouses. Experience or qualifications be damned. Hand him a piece of paper with the name of your local Republican wannabe governor and Christie will make you think they grew up together. Buddies for life.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s just a job Christie and others are doing. But you need to know that because if you believe the hollow, verbal garbage and let the endorsement make your voting decision for you, then there’s a lot wrong.

And, of course, there’s the double-edged sword of endorsements. May look good to the one receiving the endorsement. Or, it may be a message to voters who don’t know the candidate but know they don’t like one or more of those doing the endorsing. Associated guilt, as it were.

The national political mess we’re in has been caused by a lot of things. But three factors stick out for me. First, too many voters don’t know one candidate from another and – like picking the “pretty brown horse” at the track – they cast a vote for the wrong reason. Second, too many of us don’t do our homework to find out which are the smart rabbits and which shouldn’t be allow to handle sharp objects.

And, third, many are “turned off” to politics – all politics – and either don’t vote or don’t make informed choices. So they wind up cancelling out wise decisions by more informed voters. And we wind up with a Louie Gohmert when we’d be better off with Gomer Pyle.

Each informed vote – honestly cast – does make a difference. That’s just a fact. Each vote. Every vote. But especially the vote that’s the result of a little research – a little extra effort – a little independent thought. The information is more easily accessible now than ever. Getting it is not hard.

What’s hard is living with the results of a bad vote – an uninformed vote – or a vote that wasn’t cast. Or falling for an endorsement of someone you don’t know BY someone you don’t know.

This pork is a hog

Author: admin

For many, many a moon, it’s been hard to say anything positive about our miscreants in congress. Especially those in the Grand Old Party of “NO.” About the time you think they’ve reached the bottom, one of ‘em digs a little deeper and any thoughts of saying something positive about recalcitrant elephants are immediately dashed.

But one fella – Idaho’s Second Congressional District part-time dentist – has acquitted himself with more positive job performance than a majority of others in the herd. Mike Simpson can be honestly castigated for making a number of wrong-headed votes in the name of Republican “unity” – a phrase rapidly becoming inappropriate for anything GOP. He’s gone along with his leadership on some things unnecessarily partisan. Still, on the whole – as far as his folks at home are concerned – he’s been quite helpful.

But now, he finds himself doing something for the sake of some of those same home folk that may be politically smart but it’s also politically abhorrent to a lot of us – and maybe even him – because it’s wasteful of our tax dollars and is little more than pork wrapped in the old American flag.

The brass hats in the Pentagon maze have been trying for years to thin out our inventory of obsolete, costly and no-longer-effective weapons systems. Things change. We move on. Technology keeps getting better. We can kill more people with less. And, sometimes, we can even kill them one-at-a-time from 5,000 miles away – if everything operates properly. So, some of the deadly toys we bought many moons ago should be retired or recycled.

But – when the folks on Capitol Hill – the ones who think holding elective office is a tenured “career” regardless of performance – hear such talk, there’s an immediate reaction of sphincter puckering and a rush to head off any loss of defense spending in the home district. One of the leaders in this embarrassment of pork preservation has been the Speaker himself. The Army has been telling Congress for years it doesn’t want any more copies of certain models of current tanks – wants to stop building ‘em – and it wants a particular company to stop refurbishing the ones damaged on current battlefields. Stop, already!

Ah, but the company that does all that tank rebuilding is where? Where? All together now – OHIO! And that district is represented in Congress by whom? All together now – SPEAKER BOEHNER! And in his mind, we’ll never have enough tanks – especially not enough rebuilt tanks – until Hell freezes over. It’s called “pork,” boys and girls. P-O-R-K!

So, what about Mike Simpson? Well, he’s now caught up in something very similar. He’s “going to the mat” to save a flying weapons system the U.S. Air Force doesn’t want anymore – the A-10 Thunderbolt. Or, as it’s more informally known, the “Warthog.” The “Hog” first flew in about 1976. It’s been called an “airborne tank” because it can take a lot of punishment and keep on flying. It’s a twinjet craft used in close support of combat troops for strafing, rocket launching and putting a lot of hurt on those threatening our people. It’s been a great airplane and the most effective aerial weapons carrier for such work.

But times have changed. Technology has improved. We’ve got new planes – drones – better ground weapons. USAF equipment buyers want to phase out the old “Hog” and spend our tax dollars on better, newer and more effective killing stuff. And therein lies the trap drawing Mike Simpson’s “Luke Skywalker” over to “the Dark side.” Fight for the folks at home. Support that pork!

Gowen Field is a small Idaho National Guard base on the South side of Boise’s busy commercial airport. It should have been moved years ago. One of the prime reasons it exists is to be Idaho’s home for “Warthogs.” A couple dozen of ‘em. And all the support personnel, local payroll and purchasing power it takes to keep ‘em flying. So you just know any USAF decision to disrupt that flow of federal dollars is going to bring instant screams from Idaho And that’s where our GOPer Simpson is caught.

I’ve known Mike for years. He’s a good head. And he’s done his share of pork banishment. But now the pork on the political spit is his. Gowen Field is about the distance of a Peyton Manning pass inside his congressional district. Just inside the line. So, after years of campaigning on the old Republican lie – er, line – of “lower taxes” and “an end to unnecessary spending,” our legislative tooth fixer is hoist on his own pork petard.

His chances of winning are very slim without some pork-passing help. The defense bill has cleared the House and is buried in the Senate. Of course, there’ll be some amending and some cutting and some pork added. But the lift to pull the aerial pork out of the fire is gonna be a heavy one. Unless senators from Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Utah jump in to help. They’ve got “Hog” bases, too, you see. Or “Hog” maintenance facilities. Got to spread that tasty “pig meat” around, don’t you know?

Given his long-standing, squeaky-clean conservative record, Simpson’s in a strange place. He’s waging a good fight. But whether he’ll have his whole Republican “cost-cutting” heart in the battle is another question.

Still, seems to me quite fitting that the pork at the center of Simpson’s political conundrum is a “Hog.” And remember, boys and girls – pork is always – ALWAYS – in the eye of the beholder.

Time for house cleaning

Author: admin

Last week’s shameful, amateurishly conducted, unbelievably arrogant and utterly unnecessarily divisive Idaho GOP convention was – is – and always should be – looked upon as the state’s absolute low point in political history. But – it should not be remembered as a surprise.

Those of us with a lifelong interest in things political can’t help but look upon that horrendous display and want to think – to say – to write something thoughtful and meaningful in it’s wake. Anyone who tries to do so will embark on a fool’s errand. But that won’t stop some of us from trying.
There was nothing in the raucous display of political throat-cutting upon which to base any thoughtful review. It was an expensive embarrassment for the party. And, as word spreads through the national political networks, equally as embarrassing for the state.

Idaho’s Republican Party has been headed off the cliff for a long time. Like the party nationally, it’s been organizationally kidnaped by narrow-minded absolutists in no way representative of either the long and honored conduct of the GOP or the mainstream of its historic membership. Both groups have created platforms filled with homophobic, racist, close-minded and hurtful language. Both are exclusionary. Both have espoused political goals antithetic to good government. Both have turned their backs on historic accomplishments of past Republican leaders who worked in the best interests of the country at-large rather than some imagined utopia of better days.

When a handful of party “loyalists” meets ahead of convention, voting to disenfranchise some 30-percent of the delegates who were to attend, it doesn’t take a great deal of political acumen to see who’s in charge and how the experience will end. This particular convention was not only doomed from day one, it was doomed years ago as unity, comity, accommodation and compromise were drummed out of the party vocabulary. The Idaho GOP has been walking along the cliff’s edge for a long time. The convention finally proved to be one foot out in space. There will be a fall. In fact, it’s started already.

Republicans have become more divisive – more likely to exclude those who differ in thought and word. The GOP has become an intolerant, narrow-minded group. Nowhere has that been on display more arrogantly than in Idaho in the past week. If one or more sheep differed on any subject from the single-minded theology presented, such sheep were quickly cut from the flock. The aforementioned organized effort to exorcize nearly a third of voting delegates was proof positive. Three entire counties were targeted for elimination in the convention process.

Idaho Republicans – and too often national Republicans – do not close ranks after the type of failed purity debacle seen last week. They either withdraw from further participation or immediately begin efforts to further institutionalize their divisions. One Idaho county has birthed four Republican central committees. Four. Compromise? Comity? Unity?

Many years ago, Gov. Robert Smylie – himself a long-serving Republican – gave me some good political thought. He said, after a certain length of time occupying power, both parties would do well to “open some closet doors and air the place out.” Despite his own failed effort to try holding onto power too long, he was right. And Idaho’s political climate has reached the point some thorough house cleaning seems long overdue.

And “house cleaning” there may be. Already there’s talk in the state of disaffected – or even embarrassed – Republicans getting behind Democrat gubernatorial candidate A. J. Balukoff in November. Republican reasoning seems to be – if elected – he would face the usual solidly Republican legislature which would hold him in check for four years. That would give Idaho Republicans time to do some philosophical “house cleaning” and be in better shape to take back the governor’s office in 2018.

Risky reasoning, that. But that’s how bad things have gotten in the Idaho GOP. That’s how badly things went in the state convention last week. And that’s just what could happen because the Republican dog looked off the bridge, saw what appeared to be a bigger bone and dropped the one he had.

Old as Aesop. As fresh – or as despoiled – as Idaho’s Republican Party.