Cracks in discipline

Author: admin

All military services have boot camps – the entry period of weeks or months in which unsmiling drill instructors in perfectly pressed uniforms try to blend a lot of sows’ ears into a functioning silk purse.

The D.I.’s most abiding point – made in many verbal and physical ways – is that each recruit is to become part of a team that always – ALWAYS – follows orders. Makes no difference what branch of the military you’re talking about, the absolute adherence to order-taking is the most basic element in each. From slick-sleeved private to four-star general, receiving an order comes with the expectation you’ll carry it out, is the basis of military discipline.

While military history has provided a number of instances when an order was questionable and should not have been followed, the vast majority of that same history points heavily to the responsibility of each member of a military unit to act when and as told.

In recent week, we’ve witnessed some worrisome events as some military voices have been raised in objection to following orders. Not privates or corporals. We’re talking voices from the top. Where stars and gold braid sit atop the chain of command.

First, it was members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff openly objecting to the Commander-in Chief’s announcement he wanted transgender troops out of the military. Now. While Trump’s decision – proclaimed by tweet – was widely reported as new policy, the Chiefs representing all branches of service responded with a unison voice “Not so fast.”

For them to act, they intoned, the order had to come through proper Pentagon channels and be accompanied by written policy changes detailing how removal of transgender personnel was to be accomplished. Without such channeling and documentation, the “order” would not be obeyed. There was no White House response. The Commander-in-Chief’s voice was ignored.

Within a few days, the commander of the U.S. Coast Guard said his branch of the military had no intention of identifying and removing anyone on the basis of transgender identity. Period. Again, no White House response.

Even more concerning, in these six months of Trump’s ruinous reign, there have been numerous insider reports of conversations among the most senior officers of whether to act on a presidential order to use military force. In other words, if some sort of attack is ordered from the White House, what will be the miliary’s response?

A month or so ago, that sort of discussion might have been a bit less important. But, now that Trump has threatened North Korea and Venezuela with possible military action, the subject of “will we comply or won’t we” has been moved to the front burner.

As Trump has thrown his bellicose verbal weight around with threats, there’s been no apparent eagerness of military leaders to get into a new war. Far from it. John McCain, John Kerry, former defense secretaries and other politicos with extensive military experience, have cautioned against such action and recommended diplomacy. Even our inexperienced (Exxon) Secretary of State has not endorsed his boss’s threats, preferring talk over shooting.

In about 230 days, Donald Trump has managed to break or screw up much of our national government. In ignorance and/or deliberately. We’re seeing damage inflicted in nearly all federal departments. Good, professional people cashing out and leaving. Hacks and administration spies being sent into nearly all agencies and important vacancies across the board being left unfilled which further weakens the system.

Some disagreements at the top of the Agriculture or Human Services Departments are one thing. But, dissent regarding orders from the Commander in Chief expressed in the highest echelons of the Defense Department are quite another.

Millions of lives are at stake. Nuclear bombs, creating nuclear wastelands across the globe, are launched from there. The very issue of who survives and who doesn’t is decided there.

If the American military is having discussions at the very top of the organization about what to do with a presidential war order, that issue had better be decided promptly. And publicly. Your life and mine are riding on how that seemingly gray area is resolved.

A doomed Marine

Author: admin

The new high level employment of Gen. John Kelly (Ret.) isn’t likely to last more than six months. And that may be generous.

In a very real sense, a White House Chief of Staff is administrative president of the United States. The guy he works for gets his picture taken a lot. If the CofS does his job, he’s in very few pictures. The president makes public statements and handles the outward artifices of politics. The CofS does the nitty gritty of making those statements reality and is detail-oriented to always make the boss look good.

CofS runs the staff. Almost nothing gets to the President he hasn’t seen or approved. He hires and fires. He organizes, assigns work, ramrods the smallest details, is gate keeper to his boss and, in the best circumstances, has a full range of authority. The CofS is the eyes and ears of the administration, the top collector of information, the dispenser of rules and the power behind the Oval Office.

He has one other job. Telling the President when he’s wrong. When he is. Which, currently, is daily. About most everything. He’s as close to being a remote conscience as Jiminy Cricket.

Now, set all that aside. Now, think of a man in his 70’s who’s completed 45 years of military service – a “Marine’s Marine” – who’s lived his entire adult life going from a stripe on his sleeve to four stars on his shoulder. His body carries wounds of combat while his head is filled with massive details that go with command of hundreds of thousands of men and women. In peace and on the battlefield. Imagine four decades of being instantly ready to carry out any order – or give one – expecting the same immediate response.

All of that – and more – is Ret. Marine General John Kelly. Who is now in the employ of one Donald Trump.

It’s not necessary to “background” Trump. You know him. If there were ever two lives lived at opposite ends of a set of values, you’d be hard-pressed to find better examples.

Trump has filled his White House offices with arrogant egos, political newcomers with little to no experience of how to successfully operate at the top of government. Dozens of political neophytes and political zealots. He’s attracted hangers-on bringing no experienced skills to their new jobs. He’s got a staff filled with wannabees looking out for themselves and not for the President. And now, after the firing of the previous Chief of Staff and a trash-mouthed communications boss, Kelly is inheriting an incompetent and lying press spokesperson, power struggles within the offices and the Trump family as well. Senior staff conditions that could be properly likened to a snake pit.

These are the people and the working conditions being dropped in Gen. Kelly’s lap. A man with the reputation of a “straight shooter” is being tasked to bring order to a gang that can’t shoot straight. He’s got dozens of employees with no first-person familiarity with anything military – part of a generation that abhors restrictions in anything. He’ll compete with family members, in-laws, business partners and now lawyers having absolute access to the Oval Office and who won’t be giving up that access anytime soon.

But most of all, he’s going to have to take orders from a racist, lying, unprincipled, duplicitous misogynist who, thus far, has ignored all attempts at self-control and adherence to decorum from any and every one. He’ll be dealing daily with someone with no understanding of military codes of honor, ethics and brotherhood.

His marching orders will come from someone who takes orders from no one – who has no understanding of the structure and roles of the separate branches of government much less military and political protocols – a man who has proven he honors no agreements or contracts – a president who advocates police brutality and believes the presidency carries with it supreme powers akin to dictatorships.

In other words, the military respect for authority, personal responsibility, honor and truth of a Gen. Kelly will run smack into a commander-in-chief devoid of such characteristics who’ll be assigning his daily duties. What could possibly go wrong?

The only “positive” factor here is that, currently, Kelly believes in Trump, voted for him and has -so far – managed to overlook nearly all of Trump’s massive flaws and shortcomings.

But, how long will a principled former U.S. Marine general stand his post, defending a boss who neither respects nor practices the qualities that have combined to make Kelly the respected wearer of the four stars his lifetime career has bestowed?

Six months may be entirely too long a prediction.

Say the words “health care” these days and most informed folk will immediately think of the national embarrassment we’ve witnessed from congressional Republicans for the past seven years. Especially the Senate bunch who damned near wrecked the entire system.

But, for seniors, those two words usually first bring to mind our own interactions with the traditional delivery of care that’s morphed into the complicated – and terribly expensive – animal it is today. I’m one.

In the last 20 months, I’ve interacted with 10 physicians and dozens of other medical professionals in three hospitals on both an “in” and “out” patient status. “Up close and personal,” as they say. As a result, I’ve had an education.

If Senate Republicans had managed to pass any of the abortive and secretive “legislation” they devised, it’s damned safe to say the three small hospitals of my recent experience would have disappeared. All are under the same professional ownership and, because of highly creative business practices, exist to serve communities as few as the one we currently live in – population 1,200. They do it well.

Hospitals and clinics survive – first and foremost – because of good business practices and not the care given. If a facility doesn’t “pencil out” business-wise, it won’t exist medical-wise. Plain hard truth.

With Medicaid and Medicare as their most significant sources of income, hospital bean counters have had to be creative. Especially in small communities. Neither government-sponsored program fully reimburses costs of patients who are covered by them. Plus, any hospital that accepts federal funding of any sort – and nearly all do – must serve the uninsured and deal with the uncompensated costs of that care. So, insured and other private pay patients are overcharged to help balance the ledger and keep the doors open. More truth.

Another wrinkle is hiring doctors as staff. Many docs like it because, while most of ‘em will make less money, they won’t have to hire/fire nurses and other professionals, pay office expenses, buy ridiculously priced liability insurance, won’t work nights and weekends, they’ll have support staffs and major equipment readily available and most won’t make hospital visits.

But, to us senior patients especially, that can be a double-edged sword. On one side, hospitals can control costs like salaries and expenses which is good. But, on the other, we’re often just another old 15-minute face who doesn’t get the personal attention or involvement with doctors as we used to “in the good old days.” General practice docs go day-after-day seeing the same types of patients hour after hour with the same types of ailments under a patient load that keeps many from having time for personal interaction or deeper knowledge of patient needs. So care – and the relationship – can seem impersonal and/or sterile

Of the ten physicians seen in my recent medical journey, most had a hard time remembering my name, recalling previous information or test results between visits and had little to no prior knowledge of my appointment needs until grabbing one of the endless charts in the box outside the exam room door as they entered the room.

Adding to the problem, a lot of docs – especially in small facilities – have already retired once and are working part time to keep up their skills while adding to the retirement income. For hospitals, they’re low maintenance and cheaper than full time staff. Keeping costs down. But, part time makes it difficult to schedule consecutive appointments for care resulting in longer periods of treatment or forcing patients to live with the ailment(s) and symptoms longer and – possibly – having to make costly emergency room visits for care between times.

None of this is meant to complain. Institutional medical care has never been better – in my experience. But, as consumers who may – from time to time – have need of serious interaction with the medical community, we all need to understand what’s happening out there.

Small hospitals are no longer as independent. For survival, they’ve been bought and sold – often several times – to assure the doors stay open. Care is often some distance away as facilities have merged or taken on more restrictive “specialty”roles. Some nursing and other support staffs work in more than one location several days a week to keep personnel costs down while trying to provide services to more distant patients. Expensive equipment may be spread among several jointly-owned facilities – miles apart – to avoid duplication but, at the same time, forcing patients to visit more than one hospital for care or drive substantial miles in my case.

And a lot of doctors, who used to more often practice independently or in clinics with ownership, now may be employees with eight-to-five working hours, often seeing patients in more than one location, be unavailable nights and weekends, might never follow their patients admitted to hospitals, while often seeing twice as many patients daily for shorter visits.

You can also add to this changing landscape the increased use of specialists. Again, many are employees or contractors. Seeing more bodies but for much shorter appointments. Some scheduling new patients six to eight months out to manage their practice time and increased patient load in several small communities. Some visiting several locations a week.

Like the Old Grey Mare, health care “ain’t what she used to be.” In rural areas especially. More than ever, business decisions are affecting which will survive. And which won’t. Chain ownerships of hospitals and clinics have altered staffing practices and how major equipment and bulk purchasing decisions are made – and by whom.

Computer systems, while creating huge advances in diagnostics and care, are also depersonalizing many of the traditional interactions between medical professionals and patients.

The availability of care – or the lack of it – is forcing many patients to move from small towns to cities to find the continuing care they need. The number of independent docs and clinics is shrinking. Patients normally seen by physicians are now just as likely to be seen by a physician’s assistant. In some areas, more likely.

For most of us, all this change has been happening with little notice. We seldom think about the structures of medicine or its delivery until we are in need of personal attention. Even then, after diagnosis and treatment, we tend not to look further.

But, all our lives are being quietly reshaped daily by these forces. Fact is, at our house, we’re planning a long distance move shortly. One of the major factors: a 10-story hospital and more than 100 physicians of all stripes right in the subdivision. Recent personal experience has shown these are considerations we need to pay more attention to.

Three Johns

Author: admin

No, Virginia. This column is NOT about three customers of a Vegas hooker. No! At least I think not. Though I have no idea what the gentlemen above do on their own time.

No, what’s illustrated here is a scene that appears in the hall outside the Senate Majority Leader’s office several times a week. The four meet in Mitch McConnell’s suite, get their stories straight, then proceed out to the marble marsh to enlighten all of us on the important “news” of the day from the Senate Republican caucus. Which lately ain’t been much.

Most often, only the fella in the front wearing glasses is allowed to speak. The others are there as a “show of unity” by that aforementioned GOP clan. Since I’ve heard people ask who they are, I thought it might be useful information to provide some details on the “three Johns.”

First, there’s the baleful looking guy on the far left. I mean, in the picture – not politically. That’s Sen. John Barrasso, M.D. of Wyoming, third ranking Republican. Used to be an orthopedic surgeon in real life. He almost never speaks publically. But he votes. Among his positions: voted for school prayer; sponsored an anti-abortion bill making it a double homicide to kill a pregnant woman; voted against gun buyer background checks; has an “A” rating with the NRA; introduced a bill to stop EPA from limiting background carbon emissions; leading critic of anything thoughtful about climate change; urged pulling this country out of the Paris Climate Agreement; and, since 2012, has received $585,000 from the oil and gas folks.

On the far right – pictorially and politically – is Sen., John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip. Ted Cruz’s stable mate as it were. Former Sen. Phil Gramm of that fine state quit his term early in 2002 to give Cornyn a leg up in seniority so he could get larger office space. Cute. Problem was, there had been a Senate policy on the books for more than 20 years forbidding that. Sort of gave his fellow senators a graphic example of how little either of them knew about their job.

One of Cornyn’s more “interesting” quotes was about gay marriage: “If your neighbor marries a box turtle, that doesn’t mean it’s right. But you raise your children in a world where that union of a man and a box turtle is on the same legal footing as a man and wife.” Doesn’t that sort of cut right to the heart of the issue?

Cornyn sponsored a bill allowing police to force anyone arrested or even detained to give up samples of DNA for a central crime database. Voted for constitutional amendments outlawing gay marriage and flag burning and voted against the Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 which would have expanded educational benefits for military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The third “John” is Sen. Thune of South Dakota. Maybe the brightest of the three, third ranking Republican in the Senate, considered a “comer” and has already been urged to run for President. He’s wisely refused so far. More moderate than the rest of the faces in our picture, Thune sponsored legislation to monitor the population of black-tailed prairie dogs. Guess that’s big in South Dakota. He introduced five bills to end the TARP program and has repeatedly tried to get through bills to prohibit the EPA from monitoring carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide or methane emissions in agricultural areas. Keeps losing. Blame the cows.

Thune has also challenged Facebook for having anti-conservative views. Got nowhere. But the media loved it.

So, there you are. Three Johns and a Mitch. The quartet of senior Republicans on your flat screen TV several times each week with messages of Republican unity and effective leadership. Three former lawyers and an ex-orthopedic surgeon. Now that you know a little about them, I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable with their regular joint appearances. And that “unity” and “leadership” stuff.

Kakistocracy

Author: admin

I’m someone who spends a good deal of time writing. Always have. So, I’m into words because they’re the basis of the craft. Always like to find new ones. A few days ago, I came across a dandy.

KAKISTOCRACY. It’s fun to say. Any idea what it means? Or, like me, is this the first time you’re heard of it?

Well, boys and girls, the old dictionary on the shelf defines it this way: “Kakistocracy – government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.”

Next time someone talks to you about America being a “democracy” or a “republic,” you whip out the old Funk & Wagnalls and lay “kakistocracy” on ‘em. ‘Cause the fact is, at the moment, that seems to describe us more accurately.

With any luck at all, it won’t always be that way. If the justice system doesn’t eventually get the current bunch, we’ll have to take ‘em out at the polls. At least that’s the hope at this house.

But there’s an open question. And that’s whether the liar in the Oval Office has taken America’s political fortunes to such a low level that future participants will see his as an acceptable standard. Will role models for future candidates for the presidency continue to be Lincoln, Kennedy, Roosevelt or Eisenhower? Or Trump? Will his blend of lies, arrogance, extreme cronyism and dictatorial behavior be the norm or will the electorate turn to more traditional two-party nominees who’ll try to raise the standards of the presidency?

The answer to that, seems to me, depends on us. Not them. Will we reject this political abnormality and demand – with our votes – a return to civility, a renewed attempt at honesty and a demand for a higher moral code? Will we – with our educated support and with our ballots – select more highly qualified candidates? Maybe not.

The reason for my pessimism is based on poll after poll, survey after survey of citizens in countries around the globe. Polls and surveys measuring what people know about their system of government, their economies and their history.

The nearly unanimous result of all this statistical prying is that we Americans are just about the least knowledgeable about those basic articles of citizenship among all industrial nations. Not just poor knowledge of our governmental structure but real ignorance.

Now, there’s a new corollary showing up. Not only is the American general public more ignorant of our history and governance – we’re also the most dedicated to the falsehoods and myths associated with those categories. Put another way – many who don’t know the basic civics of how this country operates have their own “facts” and are likely to reject real information.

Adding to this lack of knowledge – or belief in mythical facts – is a growing ignorance in the national media of just these same subjects. Examples aren’t hard to come by. NBC reported last week the Governor of Illinois “passed a bill” on some subject. Legislatures “pass bills” not governors. A similar story from New York had the legislature “passing a law.” Legislatures pass bills, not laws. When signed by a governor, bills become law.

Small items to be sure. But wrong. Would you accept “small” errors from your surgeon or a pilot or your banker or your lawyer? “Small errors” left unchecked work their way into our information system and become “facts.” When repeated, more people accept them. People who hear them without knowing the difference become “wrongly” educated. So the error is perpetuated. And accepted.

The value of an educated voter cannot be overstated. But the lasting damage caused by someone ignorant of the political system he/she lives under can be disastrous. Think of all the B.S. we heard in 2016 about wanting an “outsider” for president; someone with “no political experience.” Well, if that was you, you got what you wanted. “How’s that working out for ya? “

The likelihood that significantly more prospective voters will become better informed about our civic and political structure by 2020 – much less by 2018 – is not realistic. About the best we can hope for is there is a reverse education component at work. That disappointment in the 2016 outcome and what it has wrought upon this country has been, in itself, that education.

If not – if more knowledgeable voters stay home – if we repeat the electoral tragedy of the past – we’d all better get more comfortable with that word “kakistocracy.” K-a-k-i-s-t-o-c-r-a-c-y.

Real change is doubtful

Author: admin

Lots of folks talk these days about the need to “lower the rhetoric,” “speak more kindly,” and generally find ways not to add to the rampant divisiveness in our little country.

That’s just fine. Give it a try. Go ahead. And, while you’re at it, try pushing a peanut up Pike’s Peak with your nose. I’d bet you find more success doing the latter than the former.

The evidence is overwhelming that simply speaking more kindly and turning the other cheek may be fine religious instruction but, the fact is, we’ve long passed the point where such methods can – or will – be effective on a national or world basis.

Politicians can join hands and work for “the common good.” The Birch Society and the ACLU can hold joint garage sales. The KKK and the DAR can co-sponsor a cotillion. All God’s angry children can suddenly become peace-loving Hippies. But – the hate – the anger – the divisions will continue.

The evidence of these dark thoughts is this: the sources of discontent, hatred, anger and division surround us every day, have become part of our way of life and will be with us from now on.

Are the Limbaugh’s, Ingram’s, Jones’s, Dobson’s of the world going to disappear at midnight? Will they give up the lifetime careers that have made them multi-millionaires and brought them fame? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Did Megyn Kelly kill her terrible “in-depth interview” of Alex Jones that was broadcast into our homes? Did NBC pull the plug because that rabid, conspiracy-creating, lying S-O-B might just add to the national hatred from a higher platform? Are you kidding me? Think of the ratings! (Editor’s note: They BOMBED!)

Will the armed members of the U.S. Congress put down their concealed weapons and stop the crazy talk? Will the congressional political ass-kissing of millionaires at the expense of food, shelter and medical care for millions end in a huge Kumbaya of spiritual forgiveness and reconciliation?

Is the Trump crowd suddenly going away – never to be heard from again? Will the Oval Office turn into a place of truth and light? Will lies, continuously flowing from the president’s lips (lower case “p” please, Mister Editor) like water down the Columbia River, turn to truth-telling? Will those in Congress trying to eliminate health care access for 23 million people fall to their knees and plead for forgiveness? Is the NRA going to require background checks and registration of all its members?

These and hundreds of other examples of sources of national mistrust and cancerous anger abound. The most ridiculous voice of those seeking a “kinder, gentler nation” is that of the Trumpster himself. The bomb thrower. The loudest of the loud continuing to spew hate, lies and vitriol all over our landscape. Like a sick joke, he asks the rest of us to lower the volume and speak kindly.

No one in public life today has talked bigger lies, told them more often, called people he doesn’t like more names, challenged more rules of decency, ignored necessary protocols, defamed honest Americans – and a few world leaders – and made a mockery of free speech and common courtesy. Nobody!

Rudeness, crassness, disrespect, greed, name calling, lying, duplicitous behavior, hate speech, racist actions. All part of our everyday lives. Our kids talk it. Movies and TV are full of it. We see and hear it in our workplaces, on our highways and in crowds at any event. It’s worldwide with terrible examples everywhere.

To expect it all to stop – to go away with a few words of positive thought and better behavior – to have the experiences and the extreme feelings disappear in a cloud of more courteous speech – to revert to better, more civil attitudes – is ignoring fact.

In the last 10-20 years, our society has experienced fundamental change. We live in a more crass environment, speak and hear cruder speech, are inundated by anger and violence on a scale we’ve never known. Like it or not, we’ve all changed because of it – either by participating, by ignoring or by simply accommodating it in our personal lives. For more than eight years, the Obama family was subjected to the most horrendous slander, lies, racist behavior and verbal savagery.

To those who want to try – who believe better public behavior and kinder speech will make a better world – have at it. And God bless you. You’re on the side of the angels. You may not live long enough to see real systemic improvement but at least you tried. But you’ll find it doesn’t stop simply because someone – or several someone’s – say “play nice.”

For those of us who believe all that is here to stay, and that real change is not possible, we can continue on our merry way doing little or nothing. Or, make it incumbent upon ourselves to start hammering out new societal rules. We can challenge what we’ll accept in the behavior of those around us and in public life. We can change what we can by accepting the best and acceptable in speech and behavior while excoriating those who befoul our society and our world.

Even if that includes the White House. No, especially if that includes the White House.

Hateful Christians

Author: admin

Hate groups. Raucous, loud, foul and dangerous. We’ve got a lot of ‘em out there. They come in all sizes, shapes and twisted minds. Still, I was startled the other day when finding a couple of Christian organizations on the latest lists. Yep. “Christian.” Or so they claim.

There’s a widely accepted definition of a hate group. And that’s any organization having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

There’s no question the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has earned the international respect it enjoys. For more than 45 years, it’s been a credible source of detailed information on hate groups, their leaders, followers, locations and activities.

Still, it was a bit of a shock to see a couple of so-called “Christian” groups listed among such low-lifes as the KKK, skinheads, “patriot” nutballs, neo-Nazis and the like. But there they were. And, upon reflection, their inclusion – at least to me – seemed justified.

Among those on the dishonor role, Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel. More surprising were American Family Association – Don and Tim Wildmon – and Family Research Council headed by slick Tony Perkins. All four are loudly anti-LGBTQ and Muslims among others. Not only intolerant, but at times downright hostile in their public pronouncements. Both groups claim larger memberships than they can prove and say they speak for “millions of God-fearing Americans.”

They talk of branding those they see as “harmful to society” and accuse such movements as being “pedophiles” and “dangers to American families.” They advocate all this “in the name of Jesus” and claim to be living the “Christian way of life.”

Another outfit tracking such things is Guidestar, which calls itself “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.” Though primarily interested in how groups handle their funding, who’s listed in the membership and such, Guidestar has added a category to track social – or anti-social – conduct. It was on that list that “Christian” groups first appeared.

Leading the listing of hate groups, of course, is still the KKK. Today’s Klans aren’t nearly as large and organized as they used to be. There’s been a lot of infighting, as there always is on the far right. Battles for leadership and dogma have splintered things so, today, while there are more Klans, some may have only three or four active members.

Those who track these types have found the Pacific Coast Knights in Oregon and California. Washington is the “home” of the White Knights of the KKK of America. Idaho has a “chapter” of Traditionalist Knights of America. It’s believed these groups, together, have no more than a couple dozen members.

Nationwide, authorities count no more than 3,000 KKK members and a few followers. Trying to make the public think they’re more sizeable than they really are, several small Klans will hold marches together, then disperse back under their various rocks. More than half of today’s active Klans were formed or restarted within the last three years. About the time of the beginning of a bitter national political campaign. Hmmm.

The latest effort by the KKK to appear larger than it is has been an attempt to hookup with the neo-Nazi crowd. The Pacific Coast Knights are one such. It’s likely some of the former neo-Nazi group from Hayden Lake, Idaho, are among those folk. Also an old Nazi outfit that has been in Northeast Washington for decades.

Another recent issue compounding noise and hatred from the far right fringe is the emergence of more small offshoots of the white supremacist element. Not surprisingly, SPLC lists the new “Alternative Right” or Alt-Right as part of the mix. They showed up about three years ago. About the time we had a bitter national election campaign starting. Naw, just coincidence.

At the moment, SPLC tracks some 917 hate groups across the country – most in the deep South and lower Midwest. The largest percentage claims some sort of “Christian” affiliation. About ten percent adhere to “Christian Identity,” a longstanding racist and anti-Semitic religious sect.

Still, it seemed startling to see the term “Christian” in the listing of fringe elements and organizations that represent violence and danger to our otherwise mainline society. As a Christian, I found it embarrassing.

But, on some reflection, why not? More important, maybe, what took so long? Perkins, Dobson, Robertson, Falwell (one and two), Baker and the junior Grahams have been mixing their brands of hatred for anything socially different with “Christianity” for decades. Maybe it’s time to recognize their false doctrines for what they are.

Christ’s admonition about “guilt” and “throwing the first stone” was certainly wasted on that bunch.

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.