No third parties

Author: admin

When politicized times become frenetic – when large uncoordinated, disconnected groups gather in the streets – when significant numbers of people feel frustrated and ignored by their government – when passions speak louder than reason – things can get dangerous. We are living in such times.

Several examples in that long list of conditions have gotten my attention in recent days. As more and more people, usually previously non-political – become involved, they try to seek major changes in our national governing structure. Bad decisions are usually made under those conditions and worse outcomes often guaranteed.

Here are the some that stick in my mind, listed in no particular order.

First: an oft-repeated desire to form a third political party. You hear it every day as the media interviews various opponents of the current President, his minions and a Congress filled with eunuchs. It runs something like this: “Democrats are wrong. Republican are wrong. We need new blood and a new party that can take charge and get things back to normal.”

No, we don’t need a third party. What we need are two political parties that are strong, healthy and which represent people – not lobbyists, corporations or incumbents concerned only with their continued employment. At the moment, neither party can fulfill those conditions. Nor could a third by the next decade.

Nearly all voices I hear pushing a third party are those who’ve absolutely no idea how to structure one, build one or run one. They have no concept of the time, money and organization necessary to get a new party on ballots in all 50 states. And, if successful, it would take years to reach a significant number of voters to make it a viable contender against two parties whose names are immediately recognizable to nearly all Americans. Throw in staffing, recruiting bonafide candidates and raising hundreds of millions of dollars to mount meaningful campaigns. No. No third party before 2018. Or 2020. Or……………………..

Second: Loud voices want to run Elizabeth Warren for President. No! She lacks any significant experience for the job. But, her strong, excellent stands on a few issues – mostly financial/consumer – have made her a formidable force. In the Senate. On those issues, she’s a leader and a winner. Put her in the White House and you clip her wings. Keep her in the Senate where she can argue those issues and be either a significant voice or a tenacious and successful opponent.

Third: Run Bernie for President. No! Many of the same arguments for Warren also apply to Sanders. He, too, has good, important issues. Most of them in different areas from Warren, i.e. veterans affairs, Social Security, Medicare and health care in general. Keep Sanders and Warren on important Senate committees where they can originate – and lobby for – significant political needs. If the Dems get a majority in that body in 2018, each can be a powerhouse for some of the most important programs that directly affect the most lives.

Fourth: While both major parties are in significant disarray, Democrats are in worse shape. Republicans control all but 13 statehouses and a majority of legislatures. Those are breeding grounds for most future national candidates. They’re the “farm teams” developing legislative talent. Dems need to work in the states – all states – to train future talent for major races. Then win some.

A second matter the Donkeys should be targeting now is seeking out disaffected Republicans. There’s got to be millions of ‘em. With a dead-in-the-water Republican Congress, an out-of-control GOP, and a President endangering our national survival, find ’em, talk to ‘em and get ‘em interested in returning sanity, honesty and effectiveness to our national affairs. They’re out there. Go get ‘em!

But, instead of getting to work, raising money and developing a new and stronger organizational structure, most Dems are silent or just bitching. Candidate recruitment, fund raising, rebuilding state offices and staff – all issues just sitting there. Republicans dominate statehouses and legislatures because they did that work years ago. And they keep doing it.

The string that runs through all these topics is the third party issue. That talk has got to stop. Take the well-known parties you have – either one or both – rebuild it with the right people doing the right jobs, get serious about candidate recruitment in the states, tap your big fund-raisers to get the mother’s milk flowing and get cracking. Now! Not next year.

One more thing. Republican or Democrat. Take a large axe and lop off the extremes of your political spectrums. Stop catering to far right and/or far left. Develop your message in the middle – where most of us are. Stop letting voices of extremism set your tone which encourages an ineffective minority while undermining and chasing away the voters you need most. Moderates. Independents.

There’s plenty to be mad about out there. There’s plenty to be outright scared about. But, check the polls. If Congress is supported by only 18% of voters, that means more than 80% want something more – something different – something effective – something new!

First Party there with the best candidates with the best message will win. And that could last for a decade. Or two! Or more!

A snake named McConnell

Author: admin

While our in-over-his-head president and his ignorant minions go about the quiet destruction of a government 250 years in the making, their party – and one member in particular – is behaving in the most despicable political manner I’ve seen in my four score years.

Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants are putting together legislation creating a massive health care law that will eventually contain costs amounting to more than one-fifth of our national economy. It will involve medical and life-saving care – and access to it or denial of it – for nearly a quarter of our entire population. And they’re doing it in so much secrecy some members of their own party haven’t seen it and don’t know what’s in it.

The intent is to spring it on the entire Senate and, without disclosure, debate or a single public hearing – and without disclosing the cost to the nation much less other details – force it through the entire body.

Never in the long history of Congress has one political party been so underhanded, domineering, ruthless and dishonest in its headlong abuse of its own power on such critical legislation. Some weeks ago, the House pulled a similar cowardly act by passing an equally large package without knowing costs or it even being read by more than a handful of members. But that blanket violation of public trust is about to hit an even lower low.

If McConnell is successful, most estimates are some 20 million Americans will suddenly be without health care. Many of them with pre-existing conditions will just as quickly face abandonment and possible death. Some, being kept alive by care far beyond their own ability to pay and thorough no fault of their own, will be left deserted without a lifesaving safety net.

McConnell is the chief architect of this impending disaster and cowardly act. As Majority Leader, he calls all the shots when it comes to which bills are recognized and which are assigned to the trash heap. He’s also responsible for the conduct of Senate affairs and operation of all its support systems. The buck stops with him!

McConnell is often given credit for being a master of Senate policies and procedures. A man who can pull legislative rabbits out of political hats. But such power and knowledge are beneficial only when used responsibly. And in no case can the word “responsibly” – or any derivation of it – be used to describe what McConnell and his cohorts are doing right now. Far from it. Their conduct and the secret crafting being used to create this piece of unknown verbiage are contemptible and just plain wrong.

Under control of far right Republicans in recent years, Congress has sunk to historic lows in public acceptance. Members have run roughshod over those they were elected to represent. Many have physically cut off constituent contact and some have even proclaimed they don’t have any obligation to respond to public instructions. Attempts to contact many now result in unanswered correspondence, ignored phone calls and locked doors both in the districts and in Washington. Public polls showing overwhelming support or non-support for certain legislative proposals are just flat ignored.

Case in point: the very subject of health care now being secreted by McConnell. Polling – with results as high as 80% favorability – have repeatedly shown the public wants Obamacare – the American Care Act – left in law. Make minor adjustments to improve it if you must. But do not – repeat – do NOT repeal or significantly weaken its provisions. Any bets McConnell is listening? No way.

McConnell has had a burr under his saddle for eight years to kill Obamacare. He’s said so at every available opportunity. Even while his own state was one of the original participants, he pledged to end Obama’s tenancy in the White House at four years (then eight) and his disdain for the ACA was hung around his neck like a sign. You just know that’s the driving force behind his villainous actions now.

Republicans have wanted to kill Social Security. Some still do. They tried their best to kill Medicare and Medicaid. And still are. They worked like Hell to kill the voting rights act. They succeeded in gutting parts of it. Now, they want to strip nearly 50 million Americans of health insurance coverage. And they’re using the most devious and unconscionable methods to do so.

A handful of politicians, beholden to billionaires and their ilk, is now attacking the very core of what government was instituted to do – to provide for the common good and to do those things which we citizens need but cannot do for ourselves. While we often think of establishing a military, building transportation systems, assuring clean water and air, supporting public education and the like as fulfilling that governmental role, certainly providing for the public’s health and access to medical care are as necessary as the rest.

Now, McConnell and his senatorial supporters are leading an attack on government sponsorship of a basic right of citizenship – the right to medical care and to its life-saving services. People won’t just be disenfranchised if they succeed. Certainly, some of them will die.

This is far more than a game of legislative hide-and-seek. This is life and death. McConnell has cast himself in the role of God for this outing. My thoughts on that turn more visibly to the viper.

The new car experience

Author: admin

We bought a new car at our house recently. My five-year-old pickup finally ran out of warranty and was beginning to show its age. So, we decided it was time for a replacement. Nothing big. Nothing extravagant. Just something I could carry a lot of stuff in and run around the coastal highways in semi-comfort. Old folks car.

If you haven’t had the new car experience for awhile, you’re gonna get a couple of quick lessons right up front: price and technology.

Damn, they’re expensive. And I don’t mean just top-of-the-line vehicles. Our little newcomer certainly isn’t in that category. Not by a long shot. But it cost more than my first house! With the first divorce thrown in. If you hear someone talk about cheap transportation these days, they’ve got to be Amish.

Then, the technology. Top-of-the-line or entry model, you’re gonna run into a technology gap in your experience. Guaranteed. Wait ‘til the first time you look for the parking brake handle or foot pedal, for example. It ain’t there. Neither will you find a CD player because seems folks nowadays think of them as fondly as 78rpm records.

As I said, my new little motorized buddy is closer to the entry point. It’s got the basics covered and is quite comfortable. Especially because you get to ride inside. But basic. You get the idea.

Still, I’d be hard pressed to count the computers running the damned thing. It’s all buttons, fingertip handles and touch screens. None of the operating controls are where you’d usually find them. Takes three touch screens to turn on the radio. There are multiple USB ports, three power plugins for the iPhone and a female voice coming out of the instrument panel that surprises me every time she says something. Which is quite often.

At the moment of delivery, I learned it didn’t have a spare tire. No spare! Instead, there was this little box under the trunk floor that contained a can of rubber sealant and a small, plugin device to pump the contents into a flat tire. Now I know why there were power outlets on both sides of the dash and in the trunk.

The salesman was quick to point out that more than 70% of flats are punctures and this little pump would plug any puncture and get me 50 miles or so. That almost killed the sale.

When someone tells you that B.S., it’s obvious he’s never driven US 20 from Vale to Burns or Burns to Bend. I’ve done it hundreds of times and know the absolute loneliness of the flat tire experience. Winter and summer. I also have a lifetime of having more tire blowouts on long stretches of highways than punctures. The little can of goo and the plugin pump can’t do much for blowouts.

Needless to say, I opted to trade the suggested spare tire “replacement” gadget for a compact wheel and tire from my friends at Les Schwab.

One of the tips most auto “experts” regularly impart is never buy the extended service policies dealers try to foist on you at delivery. I’ve bought into that thinking for many years. But there was something to be learned, even here, that I’d never run into before.

Most extended policies don’t cover computers. Let that sink in. They cover drive trains and everything else. But not computers. As I said before, my little beast has a dozen or more of ‘em. Barb’s car – much more technologically advanced than mine – is full of ‘em.

Now, I know pretty close what parts cost and the hourly shop labor rate to install most of ‘em. But computers? Some research on the subject confirmed what I’d already surmised. Finding and fixing faulty electronic parts AND software can break up a happy home. It’s one thing to fix a broken driveshaft. It’s quite another to deal with the several computers that make the damned thing work.

If you don’t want the usual extended coverage policy for your next car, it could be worth some study time beforehand. Check out the electronic systems of your planned acquisition and look into the finer points of added costs of some insurance to cover those.

Next time you’re car shopping, my advice is spend a little more time with paperwork. And with a 20-something kid who can explain how all those new operating gadgets work. Some of ‘em are important.

Different choices

Author: admin

I’ve recently become aware of a word with diametrically opposed meanings. Mexpat. While I’ve heard it in casual conversation, I was told it referred to an American living in Mexico.

However, doing some checking, I find it’s also used for a citizen of Mexico living out-of-country. Didn’t know that. There are worldwide social and educational organizations for both groups involving millions of folk who’ve switched national residences.

The word showed up on my radar when a friend recently said he and his wife were selling much of what they owned and moving to Mexico. Permanently. Now, I’ve known people who own Mexican timeshares, real estate or otherwise spend a good deal of time there. “South of the border” as it were. But, this was a “first” with someone literally taking up permanent residence.

My friend and I – in the interest of privacy I’ll call him Bob – have known each other since fourth grade. His parents and mine were friends in Bend for 50 years. Good small town American stock.

Bob got his college degree and started out as a banker. A good one. In mid-life, he went back to law school, graduated and spent the rest of his career helping low income and disadvantaged Oregonians. After retiring several years ago, he remarried, settled in small town Oregon, sang in the church choir, worked weekly in the local food bank and was very involved in his community. You couldn’t ask for more solid citizens and a happy couple.

So, when he dropped the “We’re leaving the country” bomb, it came as a shock. All I could respond with was the obvious: “Why?”

Bob offered several comments. Interesting, but not the kind of reasons anyone would use solely to undertake such a drastic move. So, I threw caution to the wind and asked “Did the outcome of last November’s election have anything to do with your decision?”

He answered “Yes” but didn’t voluntarily go much beyond that.

In our brief phone conversation, I didn’t pursue it. Maybe we’ll have a chance to talk again soon. Or, maybe I’ll “make” a chance.

So, let’s review. You know Bob is a fine man. Good education. A community contributor. Church going. Feels strongly about helping people. “Walks the talk.” The kind of person you’re proud to know and would like more of living in your community. Except, he and his equally fine wife have now left the country. Maybe for good. I’d like to think – maybe not.

So, the next question that hits you is how many thousands of others will follow? Or have already gone? And this. Why are such solid citizens leaving? How many more? Why?

Since our interim president’s election – (small “p” please, Mr. Editor) – I’ve heard a lot of folks talk of leaving. New Zealand. Australia. Canada. England. France. Usually the name of the country comes after the second drink. Which is as serious as we take the comment. We join in the conversation jokingly.

Then, friends you know – who make a difference – with a lifetime of serving and helping others – people whom you respect – actually take the step. After considerable reflection and discussion, actually leave their native land. They become Mexpats.

We’ve had a guy in the White House now for about 120 days or so. Each of those days, he and his misbegotten minions have ignorantly slashed, cut and burned their way through 250 years of history, tradition, compacts, international relations, treaties and political stability. The only certainty in that morass of mental midgetry is there will be more. More damage. More incivility. More political and economic destruction.

Sitting quietly, I note all that – and more – on one hand. Then, I think of my two friends who’ve left all they know behind to seek some transitory refuge in another country. Then, I seek to balance the two.

“What about the rest of us,” I wonder? What of us? What do we do?

Speaking only for myself, the only acceptable option is to stay. To be part of the resistance. To be a small part of working for an end to override this electoral miscarriage. To be a small part of the opposition.

Bob and I were brought up in that small Oregon town with nearly identical values in similarly comfortable surroundings. We were instilled with a sense of community and loyalty to people and to the national relationships we shared. We were granted the same familial love and respect in a time when both were taught in the home, in the school and the identical religious settings we shared.

I will not say his decision is wrong. I will not challenge nor argue the action he and his have taken. I will respect that, out of two very similar experiences, he and I have chosen different futures.

My hope is that they’ll come home again. Soon. We’ll be here.

Callista? No!

Author: admin

When world leaders get their heads together behind closed doors, many of us are curious about what may have been the topic of conversation.

So it was last week when our in-over-his-head president (small “p” please, Mr. Editor) and Pope Francis stepped away from what looked like an extremely uncomfortable public photo session. At least for the Pontiff. The two took a couple of steps into an adjoining room and the door closed quickly behind just the two of them.

When they emerged a few minutes later, Trump said loud enough for all to hear, “I’ll remember what you said.” So, what do you suppose His Holiness said?

Here’s what I hope it was: “I want your personal assurance that Gingrich woman won’t set foot in the Vatican as your ambassador – much less Italy!”

Trump has made a string of terrible Cabinet and ambassadorial selections. Hacks, know-nothings, revenge-seekers, government haters, politically and civically ignorant millionaires. But he surpassed even himself when he appointed a former congressional staff secretary and serial adulterer Ambassador to the Vatican.

Callista Bisek and Newt Gingrich began a six-year affair on Capitol Hill in 1993. She was a typist in Congressman Steve Gunderson’s office. Gunderson was gay but still “in the closet.” When he found out about the illicit bed hopping, he hesitated to fire Callista because she might “out” him as revenge. So, she and Newt were an open topic of conversation for years while Mrs. Gingrich (Marianne) fumed at home in Virginia.

In early2000, ol’ Newt informed his cancer-stricken – and hospitalized – wife he wanted a divorce. Bedside, it was. August 18th of that year, he and Callista made their long affair legal. Gingrich had pulled this same infidelity bit years before with his first wife but didn’t marry his co-adulterer.

While he was still in Congress, the Gingriches used his national clout to get the Catholic Church to annul his 18-year marriage to Marianne on the grounds she had been married before. Then Callista worked on Newt until he became a Catholic convert.

For several years, Newt battled his way up to becoming Speaker of the House until his “wheeling and dealing” and highly questionable ethics forced him to resign from Congress in disgrace. Or rather, it should have been disgrace.
The two have filled their time since Newt’s ouster selling books and video’s to the far right and becoming conservative celebrities. They’ve also raked in millions with public appearances and speeches appealing to the “religious” right. Apparently, serial adultery, public humiliation and disgrace can be overcome for a $19.95 video or a big bucks chicken dinner and a patriotic two-step.

The “business” of using ambassadorships as rewards for staunch, mostly rich political backers, is not new. Even John Kennedy’s Pop was an Ambassador to England in the ‘30’s because of his generous financial support of FDR. But, sometimes the appointee turns out to be a valuable asset in the largely ceremonial and administrative job. Former Senator Mike Mansfield and Caroline Kennedy, for example, were both ambassadors to Japan during some critical times and were publically praised for aiding America’s interests.

Still, most often, someone is appointed and never expected to do much more than pose for pictures, cut some ribbons and keep passport and other immigration issues to a minimum. And, of course, be the President’s eyes and ears in foreign political circles.

But, Callistsa Gingrich as ambassador to the Vatican – one of the most important geographic and moral places in all Christendom? Callista Gingrich? You’ve got to be kidding.

Those who watched the Pope and Trump closely during the short photo op couldn’t help but notice the Pontiff’s unsmiling face and the dour look he offered the cameras. A man who’s jubilant and charming manners have won him hundreds of millions fans all over the world, regardless of anyone’s differing personal religious beliefs, spent much of the brief time looking down at his shoes. Slippers?

I’d like to think there was a tipoff there – a silent pontifical message to the world that the following few minutes alone with Trump were going to be filled with very serious and important words on behalf of the Vatican, Catholics everywhere and honorable people of all faiths.

In my heart of hearts, I’d like to think the Pope said directly “I want your personal assurance that Gingrich woman won’t set foot in the Vatican as your ambassador – much less Italy.”

Hey, even us Protestants have feelings.

At the moment, our country suffers many ills. National anger, resentment, a sense of lethargy, lost direction and distrust of government and other traditional institutions. Poll after poll after endless poll confirm the national despair. It’s real. It’s palpable. It’s weighing us down and sapping energies like nothing in my lifetime.

Some pundits lay blame for all this at the feet of one D. Trump. Not totally so, I think. The symptoms and feelings, existed years before he got the political bug and became the darling of a too-willing media. At best, it seems he can be charged with brutishly using all this as a basis for a deeply flawed – but successful – candidacy. He turned them into tools with which he played to suspicions, pumped up fear, posited lies as truths, offered false hope of change and a return to some mythical country that never existed. He even created a fictional D. Trump. He’s still doing it. And will continue.

Those who believe he’ll lead this nation to some sort of political nirvana have always been with us. But two things have changed – they’ve found someone to lead them who has international access – and the Internet.

I’ve known some of these disparagers of America all my life; successfully avoiding them mostly because they appeared singly or in small groups. Remember the John Birch Society? Or the Liberty Lobby? But it’s been the I-Net that’s given voice and a realization there are others with whom they can connect. And they have.

Proof of this personal theory can be found on your own little computer machine daily. In large measure. Someone invents a name or website – bleedingpatriotsforamerica.com – and suddenly others, eager for affirmation of their flawed beliefs, copy and paste what was only the raving of a drunken individual at two in the morning in a Michigan basement. Then, someone you don’t even know – but who’s a “friend-of-a-friend” on some “social” media site – splashes it on your screen and the lie spreads like rippling water. You don’t have to be Breitbart or Drudge or Beck. You just need the I-net and a keyboard.

In those months of the worst presidential contest of a lifetime, it was Trump who had the keyboard. He didn’t invent the anger and malaise – he just organized it. He called it a presidential campaign, captured a national media of sycophants willing to act as his unpaid campaign team/ad agency, regurgitated all the angry bile of the disaffected, added some of his own and played sucker donors out of dollars to be paid to his own companies to cover his expenses.

I’ve said for months the guy doesn’t want to be president. Why would he? Money? Fame? Power? He has all those in spades. “Make America Great Again?” How? Is he saying or proposing things to reshape the country in a positive, world leadership role? Is he talking like a leader? Thinking like a leader? Acting like a leader?

Then there’s the issue of his businesses and financial affairs. The guy has proven himself to be someone who has to be – MUST BE – in charge of everything around him. Did he truly put all that in a blind trust? Did he give access to his personal/business fortunes to anyone else? Anyone? Would he actually give up “control?”

The only thing we do know is he’s a pain in the national political ass. He’s coalescing his angry followers and continues to feed the anger and division we now contend with.

Our familiar, traditional national political base has radically changed in these past 20 months. That’ll continue. Both parties are losing members. More and more people think of themselves as independents or unaffiliated. Minority voters are growing at an unprecedented rate and studies repeatedly show they want to be politically active. Voters – and major donors – are turning to state politics. Congress – proving itself ineffective and rife with partisanship – is becoming less of a factor in how this nation deals with its problems.

This all makes for a national malaise of uncertainty. Uncertainty can scare people. It can disappoint. It can disaffect and alienate countries around the world with whom we have to work. It can be a breeding ground for bad decision-making. If it continues long enough, it can alter the course of a nation.

No, D. Trump didn’t bring us to this trying time. We’ve done it to ourselves in many ways. But, he’s been clever enough, loud enough and manipulative enough to take full advantage of the situation. More than it ever should, where we go from here depends – in great measure – on how we deal with this guy. That’s a national problem we must fix. Quickly.

Diagnostic babble

Author: admin

At the behest of a national media that knows no bounds when it comes to tastelessness and meaningless trivia, there’s a group of otherwise respected health professionals seemingly betraying its own code of ethics. I’m talking about psychiatrists and psychologists.

Day after day, you see them paraded on the vapid “talk” shows – all discussing the mental state of Donald Trump. Using the deeply clinical language of their professional calling, they sound so officious as they attach their psychiatric labels to a person they’re never met or whose medical records they’ve never read let alone had the opportunity do an in-person examination.

I’ve known and worked with a goodly number of mental health professionals over the years. Nearly all have been circumspect when it came to talking about clients. The real pros just don’t. They won’t violate the one-on-one relationships they specialize in.

But, daily and nightly, people with the title of “doctor” tied to their names, prattle on and on about D. Trump’s psychiatric state.

Now, some – or all – may be medically correct in their remote diagnoses. They may know exactly what lurks in Trump’s head. They may have the man pegged to a “T.” But their pronouncements have no place on national television or in the pages of some tabloid “newspaper.” Not even after a few drinks to lubricate their educated tongues down at Clancey’s just before closing.

If a network talking head wants to get into the mental speculation, fine. That’s apparently what they’re paid to do. But the “guests” who are mental health professionals – in my opinion – have no business prostituting their credentials by trying to use their training to titillate viewers who couldn’t tell a psychosis from an oil tanker.

No question there’s been a lot of speculation about Trump’s mental state. How could there not be? The constant lying. Ignorant descriptions of history and events that never happened. His admiration of world political figures who are dictators, killers or nut cases. His refusal to take nearly any advice and an unwillingness to educate himself about his duties and responsibilities. The tweets.

If I had the advanced mental health training of a psychiatrist or psychologist, I’d probably examine the clues of what’s on the public record and have some sort of opinion about the man’s mental condition. But that opinion – backed by that professional training – should not – and would not – be part of the 11 o’clock news.

Average viewers have no extended education in mental illness. They’re not equipped with the necessary technical information to fully understand the ramifications of what’s being discussed.

I’d like to see a legal ban on such interviews and an end to participation by licensed professionals in the public conversations.

You want to have a meaningful and informative discussion of Trump’s mental state? Fine. Meet me at Clancey’s just before last call.

Saving their butts

Author: admin

When 217 Republicans voted for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) last week, many were concerned with only one thing: job protection. Or, more properly put, to cover their asses. I’ve never seen a better example of that time-honored exercise in Congress than that one act.

Many members then made these sick and sorry PUBLIC admissions: not reading the bill – not knowing what was in it – having absolutely no idea what it cost – no consideration for what would be added to the national debt – no concept of its affects on real human beings – no humanitarian concern for 24 millions (or more) people losing health insurance – nothing! Just one big, right-out-in-the-open vote based on a purely selfish personal reason: continued employment.

The traditional method of creating legislation under the rules of the U.S. House involves many steps. Unless a national emergency is involved, the normal time for bills to go from introduction to a final vote is about eight months. Sometimes, more than a year.

Nearly all members of Congress have at least one person on staff to review bills page-by-page. Some have several legislative readers. It’s not unusual for a Congressman not to read all bills, opting for a review summary from staff. Most often written. Very common.

But this “normal” process wasn’t part of the AHCA vote. It couldn’t have been. Because the printed bill to be acted upon was basically a few pages – a summary itself – lacking details of final legislation. Like cost. I believe it was done that way for three reasons.

First, leadership knew the Senate would never pass what was being sent over. So, there was no use writing a couple thousand pages of legislation that wouldn’t survive. Second, the Senate would insist on writing its own bill which would go to a conference committee to work out the differences, resulting in basically a third bill.

But, most Congress watchers believe the third reason got the highest (some would argue lowest) GOP consideration. That was to score some sort of legislative victory for themselves and the president. Like seeming to kill Obamacare while not actually doing it. No consideration for the 24 million (or more) Americans who would lose health insurance. No thought of cost. Absolutely no redeeming value once passed. Just pure partisan politics. And some ass saving.

There’s one aspect of forcing that damnable legislation through I’d like to know about but never will. And that’s what kind of pork barrel goodies were promised members for “yes” votes. Some years ago, Congress vowed to stop pork barrel practices. But there’s pork and then there’s “pork.”

Like future leadership roles and committee chairmanships. And bigger office suites, betterf/more parking spots, increased office budgets, larger staffs, more travel and any new perk you can dream up to make life more pleasant. As I said, there’s pork. Then there’s “pork.” Hope someone will include those details in a future book.

Finally, Democrats and the media keep talking about voter anger at home and negative repercussions for Republicans who voted for AHCA. Well, maybe yes. And, maybe no.

Yes, there may be a few GOP “victims” But, after years of gerrymandering, most Republicans are in pretty secure districts. Like Idaho and Eastern Oregon. Primary opponents and Democrats in the general election would have to be awfully strong and widely based to bring someone down. There would have to be a very high turnout in an off-year election which is not typical. And, consider supporters who would “forgive and forget” a single disagreeable vote if the member is otherwise doing the job and making “good” votes. Threats to job security may not be as widespread as speculators think.

But, this you can take to the bank. What we witnessed was the most flagrant public display of “voter-be-damned,” arrogant, in-your-face, self-serving political B.S. in memory. Good of the country, impact on an anxious public, dollar and personal costs to taxpayers, basic right and wrong were never part of the discussion.

For too many Republican House members “sold” their “yes” votes for all to see, it was an exercise in ass saving. The question is, how many of those asses were worth the saving. To me, not many.

That damned eclipse

Author: admin

My birthday falls on the usual date this year. It will, if I have my way, be roundly ignored since I long ago found personal health and activity level better and more reliable benchmarks than an arbitrary number on the calendar.

Besides, in our little seaside backwater, “an act of God” two days later will get more note in the month of August than my personal natal remembrance. On the 21st, our sky will go dark at about 10:17 in the morning. Birds and our local whale colony will become confused. Based on previous eclipse experience – and for reasons I’ll never understand – cameras will click and flash by the thousands in the blackness. Sun-worshipers will have nothing to worship. Local merchants will stand guard by their cash registers until the sun reappears two minutes later.

It’ll be that damned, once-in-a-lifetime, broad daylight total blackout that comes around only every century or so. Big deal! Better it should happen in Los Angeles or San Francisco or Seattle. That would give ‘em a real show.

When we moved into our little Pacific nest a few years back, we did so because the area is somewhat isolated. Aside from the summer months and spring break, people pretty much leave us alone. The sound of waves hitting the shoreline is about the most noise we hear. We’re surrounded by old growth forest. Highway 101 going North and South is the only way in and out of the area. Not truly an idyllic spot. But close.

Now, this is what we’re being told will happen in mid-August.

Starting several days before the 21st, traffic counts will go through the roof on the two state highways from inland to Newport and Lincoln City. The day of – and the day before – authorities are predicting locked bumpers from Salem, Corvallis and Eugene to the East. And where will all those that can get through wind up? Yep. Right here. On a two-lane U.S. Highway 101 that – remember now – is the only highway. And is likely to be gridlocked for the week.

Motels are already booked solid for days before and after. Rates that usually run $150-200 a night in tourist season sold out at up to $1,000 a night. Some motels have been requiring a five night stay. RV parks? Not a spot. Campgrounds, too. Some eating joints are publishing new menus with higher prices. And I can’t wait to see what a gallon of gas will sell for at the few local stations we have.

Every porta-potty in 400 miles has been rented. Extra sanitary trucks are being contracted. Emergency personnel – and all reserves – will be at full staffing and are already worried how they’ll get through all the jam-packed traffic when needed. And they will be needed.

Eye protection is another issue. We locals can get some free, heavily tinted temp glasses with cardboard earpieces. But what about the tourists? How many will come with their own proper equipment? Probably damned few. So, our two small hospitals are worried about how their emergency rooms will fare during all the hubbub. With eye burns and other injuries.

Grocery stores are already laying in extra merchandise. Locals have been advised to buy a week’s worth of food so they can hole up at home and stay off the roads and out of the expected mess. Also fill up their vehicles early since gas supplies may run out.

Every day seems to bring a new warning or caution from those in charge around here. Local “media” is full of tips and stories of expected problems. Emergency folk are already putting out news releases about this-and-that expected eclipse-related issues – most having to do with traffic and illegal parking blocking access to various locations for 40 miles either way. How does a driver pull over for a screaming siren when both sides of the only highway are blocked with empty cars illegally parked bumper to bumper?

At our house, right under the flight path, we’re trying to decide whether to get out of town for the week or stock up on supplies of everything and stay off the streets for seven days. Could go either way.

My birthday may go largely unnoticed this year. That’s fine. ‘Cause the really big deal will hit two days later. At 10:17am. That damned eclipse.

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong there that at least some of my anger must have some merit. This time, the whole mess of ‘em are mucking through something that will, eventually, change 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 10 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, ‘60’s and ‘70’s. That – and Trump”s continuing reprehensible public conduct – 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 years later.

My limited, working contact with him was usually as a weekend reporter or subbing for regular, daily beat reporters. Also had a couple of minor personal occasions to be in his presence. Each time, my innards churned with disrespect. A lot of contemporaries felt the same. But 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 would forever change the honored – and mostly respected – balance between government officials and media. The relationship would never be the same.

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

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

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

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