Stark contrasts

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A logjam breaks

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nightmare of a dream

Author: admin

I’ve been having a recurring dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Us by the numbers

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina cancer

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life’s losses

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with death

Author: admin

On Pacific Standard Time in December, it gets dark in our little seaside communities about 5:30. In off-season months, sidewalks are usually rolled up shortly after that. Outside of the bars, our “downtowns” are usually quiet till morning.

That’s how it was a few nights ago when a middle-aged transient, walking in our little business district, laid down in the middle of the southbound lane of Highway #101 – the main drag. He was wearing dark clothes. Street lighting at that location was not good. It was about 40 degrees at 9 o’clock. Rain and wind were the weather conditions.

It didn’t take long for the first car to come along. It hit the prone figure and rolled over him. Both wheels. The driver, who later said didn’t see anything given the conditions, pulled to the curb and stopped. He quickly got out of his car. But, within seconds, another vehicle came by, hitting the man again. Both wheels. He, too, stopped. He, too, hadn’t seen anything.

A cop got there within a couple of minutes. EMT’s as well. Nothing anyone could do.

The ensuing investigation found no fault in either driver. Both stopped immediately. Both remained at the scene to give what help they could. Cooperated in every way though obviously shaken. The body was removed. Onlookers eventually dispersed.

“O.K., folks. Move along. Move along. Nothing to see here.”

The deceased had no relatives. Anywhere. Local homeless folks interviewed provided the identity and said the dead man had been drinking but none saw him run over. Twice. The case remains open. For awhile. But not much more is expected to be added.

While there’s deserved sadness for the dead, my thoughts – and more than a few prayers – are with those two drivers whose lives will never be the same. I’m certain of that. I know because I watched my own father for many years.

During the depression, he drove professionally for a California commercial bus line. One dark, windy, rain-swept night, he was headed for Los Angeles with a full load of passengers. Driving on an unlit rural road.

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw an image. Nothing identifiable. Quickly, he slammed on the brakes. The big bus slid forward as he fought to stay on the wet road. But, behind him, an 11-year-old boy lay on the highway along with his mangled bike. Died on the spot trying to get to a rural mailbox.

The ensuing investigation cleared my father. Passengers told authorities there was nothing he could have done. Conditions were bad. The child was in the wrong place. Dad reacted properly. It was “just an accident.” Just.

That was 1931. Dad passed away in 1990. He’d been a driving professional. But, in all those years, he never drove in the rain again. Not once. Mom, who was also an excellent driver, always took the wheel if it rained. Never another accident in the family.

But my father was psychologically scarred for life. An otherwise intelligent, strong, bright, hell-of-a-man could not find forgiveness, even with his deep and sturdy Presbyterian faith.

Now, in the aftermath of a local transient’s death – a death evidence shows couldn’t have been avoided given where he was and the conditions – my prayers are for the survivors.

The dead man’s gone. His worldly troubles are over. But the drivers. The two who “survived” the night. However long they live, neither will forget those terrible seconds. Those seconds when one – or both – killed another human being.

I don’t know if either – like Dad – will never drive in the rain again. I don’t know if they’ll be able to accept or rid themselves of the deep feelings of guilt and anger – even if it was determined the taking of another human’s life was purely an accident in which they had no “blame.” But, being told you’re “innocent” in such a deadly experience doesn’t automatically wipe clean the minds of those involved. The survivors. Yeah. The “survivors.”

Our lives often are changed in a flash. A second or two. We’re jerked from our “realities” by a more urgent reality, forever altering everything that comes after.

So often, we concern ourselves with the dead. But, once in awhile, it’s the living for whom we should pray.

The lying “news”

Author: admin

Here we are. About four weeks after our national election. In that time, I’ve not written about the “winner” nor the tragic outcome. I won’t start now.

But, there’s an important issue related to the event that does need to be widely talked about, thoroughly examined and brought to the attention of every American: fake “news.”

The immense danger of phony news has been building in this country for a long, long time. It’s not really new. Much of hate radio is filled with it daily. Absolutely baseless, absurd, totally fabricated “stories” and commentaries meant to defame, humiliate and destroy public figures – sometimes of both political parties – or institutions like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU or the PTA.

One of the best warnings of just how ingrained this destructive B.S. has become, and how dangerous it is, comes from – of all people – Glenn Beck. Beck – one of the chief purveyors of false “facts.” A guy who’s become immensely rich from a broadcast and publishing empire built on his often lunatic participation in media lying. Now, he’s apologizing.

His point? For more than 30 years, the right wing has bashed all forms of news media coverage. Over and over and over and over. Limbaugh, Coulter, Ingraham, Jones, Medved and hundreds of local “wannabees” have excoriated legitimate media of all types. They’ve sown distrust, hate and fear for any media not favorable to their questionable – or outright fact-less – pronouncements.

Faced, as we are, with a real political threat to our national survival, Beck asks, “Is it any wonder millions of Americans don’t believe the facts of the dangerous conditions we’re experiencing?” Admitting his own guilt as a longtime participant in falsifying information and condemning legitimate national media, Beck expresses doubt millions of us will ever again really trust “The Fourth Estate.” He’s right, of course, though awfully late coming to the table.

Now, another of our technological marvels is adding endlessly to the problem. Daily. Hourly. The Internet. Specifically, “social” media. I hate that term because often its anything but “social.” Pages I scan too often contain lies each day. Call it “false information,” if you insist. But lies are lies no matter the verbiage.

Some nutcase, living in a garage in Cleveland, can pass himself and his demented thinking off on “social” media looking like The New York Times, Washington Post, Time or Newsweek. With no editor – no fact checker – no filter to catch and destroy his lies – his trash flows right into the “information river” and to our computer screens. It’s been proven repeatedly too many Americans have little to no understanding of how our system of government works and have little interest in learning. They read, watch and, too often, believe.

The spread of fake “news” is worse since the presidential election. Much worse. Coming even from the apparent winner. Outright lying tweets about “three million voting fraud cases,” or “illegal immigrants voting” and other complete B.S. without fact. No elections official has confirmed any major wrongdoing. Just more lies. But some major media pick it up and repeat it.

To anyone who doesn’t know how elections are run, what safeguards there are, how the ballots are screened or voters qualified, those lies are “truth.” And that’s just one instance.

Sometimes, it’s subtle. Here’s a headline. “Trump charges three million illegal immigrants voted.” Wrong! Here’s how it should read. “Trump falsely charges…..” See the difference? Or, “Breitbart Reports Massive voter fraud.” No. The correct headline would be “Breitbart makes unsubstantiated charge of voter fraud.”

We’ve become a divided nation largely because many, many people believe “facts” supporting previously held beliefs rather than searching for truth. If truth differs, it’s rejected. Unfortunately, the Internet has become a two-edged sword. Its ability to inform is as great as the ability to misinform. Without fact checking, confirming sources, finding and weeding out the junk, lies can look very real.

There doesn’t seem to be any solid solution to this media cancer to change the pattern. But, if you want to deal in reality, there are some Internet sites that can be trusted. “Snopes.com,” of course. But also “TruthorFiction.com,” “FactCheck.org” or “WhoWhatWhen.com.” And there are others you’ll find to cross-check articles or postings just to be safe.

The unchecked, unedited Internet too often makes us victims of our own technology. National media fall prey to the lies at times. So do the locals. Me, too. Facebook and Twitter are full of baseless charges and fact-less “stories.”

Fake “news” is likely with us to stay. It’s up to each of us to “check it out” before passing it on. Or, simply believing something that just doesn’t add up. It’s crazy out there. It’s only going to get worse.

I’ve got this friend

Author: admin

The little towns on the Oregon coast are quite unique – one from the other. But one trait they share: a lot of people from many interesting places with amazing and interesting backgrounds live here.

Here are some examples. Last week I went to a local senior educational seminar. The speaker – who lives about 10 miles up the highway – was one of the surgeons who performed the autopsy on the body of John Kennedy at Bethesda in November, 1963. Another fella who lives South of us has been a Middle Eastern expert for NBC News for several years and you’ve often seen him on your TV. Near him, a former Hollywood producer with a few Oscars for “High Noon,” “Longest Day” and some others. As I said, amazing and interesting backgrounds.

I’ve made a friend in these parts I’d like to tell you about. An influential fellow? Yes. Maybe not as famous as some of the others, but, in my long life, he’s one of the finest men I’ve ever known.

Let me tell you a little about him.

He’s four months older so I call him “Pops.” He lives in a house three times larger than my own. He travels a lot! I don’t. He’s dedicated to kids. Any kids. Me, not so much. He’s a “man of means” with a comfortable retirement. I’ve got Social Security. He’s on this-that-and-the-other Boards of Directors. I’m not.

He and his wife entertain a lot. We don’t. He has friends on several continents. We don’t. Politically, he’s very conservative. Me, not so much. He has a strong dislike for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I don’t. He ocean fishes and kayaks alone at the age of 80. I don’t. He spent all of his life in Iowa until moving to the coast several years ago. I’m a native Northwesterner. He has a law degree and has taught law in Europe and the Middle East. I don’t and haven’t. He was a US Navy officer. I was a USAF NCO. He drives a new Audi 8 Quattro. I’ve got my four-year-old pickup.

Just two peas in a pod, right?

By now, you’re probably wondering (1) how two such disparate individuals got together (2) what’s my point and (3) what in the world we talk about when we have long breakfasts or lunches every couple of weeks.

We first got together because our wives belong to PEO and we met at a social function for husbands, then renewed our acquaintanceship at a local church. As we talked, I said I’d like to get together for lunch of a breakfast. He was similarly inclined. So we did.

As we spent more time together, it was increasingly obvious we had little in common. We agreed on nearly no subject and our views on just about everything were not only different but almost in direct conflict. Socially, educationally, economically and politically we were a couple of opposites.

So what do we talk about? In all our time together, he and I have discussed those “social, educational, economic and political differences” head-on. And you know what? We’ve never had an argument. Not one. The reason is, we deeply respect each other. We accept the differences – and there are many – but never challenge them in a personal way. We acknowledge the strength of character of each person and work from a basis of mutual respect.

What we’ve found in getting to know each other better is we accept each for the distinct individuals we are. We’ve realized the importance of what ties us together is greater than what could separate us. We’ve recognized the differences – and many there are – have offered us an opportunity to learn and grow. The relationship has been mutually beneficial. And educational.

And my point? Just this. Our badly divided nation is made up of people just like my friend and me. Very different backgrounds. Very different viewpoints. Almost nothing in common. Strangers to each other and to millions of others. But we also share many, many things. Just like my friend and me.

Suppose we stop talking “AT” each other, began to listen “TO” each other; cast aside those voices working daily to divide us (hate radio, phony religious hacks, the know-nothing rhetoric of ignorant political nutcases, etc.) and struck up some personal conversations with people outside our own comfort zones. Suppose, in doing so, we discovered and dwelt on those areas of commonality like patriotism, raising the kids, paying the bills, pride in our communities and all our hopes for a better future.

I’d like to think the experience of my disparate friend and me could be extrapolated to a nation in political and social trouble. That acknowledging and accepting national differences could take a backseat to personally honoring those things that bind us together. Things too often forgotten when hate takes over the conversation.

I really believe it can. If we’ll stop talking AT and start listening TO. Like my friend and me.

I really think you’d like him, too.

Gobsmacking

Author: admin

It’s been nearly a week since we common sense, right-thinking Americans lost control of the White House. That control – whatever is left of it – will be in the hands of the worst national party nominee for the office of President in our long history. There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest he’ll be any better after assuming full authority.

I’ve written nothing about the terrible miscarriage in the exercise of our democratic franchise. Voices and scribes far more thoughtful have summed up our political disaster – and what it bodes for our future. I’ve listened and read much of their output and am, for the most part, willing to let their words speak for me. But, there are some areas of the electoral process that need fixin’.

One is the Electoral College. We need to kill it. As is the case with some other items in our founding documents, this one seemed right for those times but is not for these times. The forefathers feared decisions made at the polls in 1776 (and beyond) might not be “good” decisions. In other words, not the ones more “professional” and “experienced” members of the Continental Congress might make. To head off what they saw as possible misdirection at the hands of citizens, they created the College as a sort of “safety net.” The “professionals” reserved the right to overrule the populace and decide the “correct” choice if – to them – the electorate screwed up.

Might have worked in 1776. But not 2016. Because of the existence of the Electoral College, and it’s flawed place in our political process, we’re now to have a “winner”who received less popular votes than “the loser.” Happened in 2000, too, with Gore and Bush. In fact, the “minority winner” scenario has been repeated several times.

Now, there may be scholars who’d opine the College is “holy” and “sacrosanct.” They’d posit the College was created by “visionaries” who got everything right in one shot. Road apples!

By their own terms, those 1776 “visionaries” repeatedly stated national authority was supposed to flow up from the people – not down from the elected. The College has become an impediment to that flow and that authority. Again, Gore-Bush, the College and the Court in 2000.

The claim “small states votes won’t count” holds no water. Small state votes don’t count now.

Voters in our day – as they did in 1776 – deserve the guaranteed right to make the national choice of a President. He/she with the most votes gets keys to the front door. Period. That’s the way we run all other elections. Not perfect. But it’s the right way to do things.

The other issue needing our urgent attention is who votes and where they live. Americans in 49 states got a lesson this year – a bitter lesson. They got “gobsmacked” the same way voters in Idaho have been for years. The “rural tail” wagged the “city dog.”

Idaho’s elected government has run that way for many a decade. Voters in the most populated areas are dictated to by country folk in the making of many important legislative decisions. Makes no difference that, as cities have grown and outlying communities have become smaller, the power has remained out in the hinterlands. If the words “urban renewal,” for example, offended country folk, they simply dictated to cities, who might be making good use of the development tool, and added so many restrictions it became more difficult to use. In some cases, impossible. Small town Idaho has also stopped population centers from passing certain local laws. Non-discrimination ordinances, for example.

Taxes, too, have been jiggered to benefit rural residents where possible. Allocations for rural roads versus city highways. Seats in the Idaho Legislature gerrymandered for both rural and Republican benefit. And a whole lot more.

Nationally in 2016, country folk stuck together in state after state to overcome urban voting blocks. It wasn’t just Montana or the Dakota’s or New Mexico where this has happened for years. No, it was Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and Michigan and Illinois and Wisconsin. Large urban areas were “gobsmacked” by what had traditionally been the lesser vote totals from “out there.”

Coupled with the sometimes illegal gerrymandering of Republican districts by Republican majorities in national census years, the 2016 election was far from “one-man, one-vote.” Or “one woman,” if you prefer. Courts have had to step in when boundary fudging got too far afield to direct state authorities to redraw some of the lines.

Taken together, head counting, vote counting, legislative and congressional redistricting and continued existence of the Electoral College have got to be seriously addressed. Little by little, national decision-making by popular vote has been distorted and twisted so far out of shape, the average American marking a single ballot has little to no voice in the Republic.

Finally, the issue of disenfranchising voters had a large affect in 2016. SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act a year ago and look what happened in the next national election in the Carolina’s, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas, Florida and Missouri to name a few.

We’re in frighteningly new territory now in politics, society, economics, business and by all other measurements. Old rules and old ways, which were the security of this nation for 240 years, have either been ignored or become outdated or have been selfishly perverted.

Our national government and our individual freedoms are now a whole new ball game. Like it or not, here we are. What the hell will happen with the next “gobsmack?”