Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Rainey”

Importance of context

rainey

“In one week, Trump embraced a dictator, started a trade war with China and complicated the immigration debate.” - CNN, 6/16/18

I’ve written thousands of stories over the years in print and broadcast media. With only the occasional case of “writer’s block” that hits all professionals at times. Starting off with a lead paragraph, followed by details of the story, has never been a problem. Until now.

Each day, the “liar-in-chief” and a feckless GOP Congress conduct a reign of catastrophic acts. They’re conducting ceaseless attacks on the guts of our Republic, on the institutions of government that undergird this nation’s liberties and are now sponsoring the terrible destruction of innocent families.

In the past, stories were reported and days or weeks would pass as the facts settled in and reporters could turn attention to new happenings. No more. Now, the tragic news from Washington just keeps piling up. Investigations, crimes, attacks on the citizenry and our former allies and the lies - especially the lies - just keep coming. The quote above from CNN is exhibit “A.”

It’s virtually impossible to capture the full extent of what each daily calamity means before there’s another - and another - and another. As the catastrophic politics continue to spin, yesterday’s facts seems like ancient history.

We - and it seems the rest of the world - are under attack. On one hand, it’s a do-nothing Republican congress without the cojones to fulfill its constitutional role of a separate - but equal - power of government. Internecine wars have split the GOP into ungovernable fragments. Elected “leadership” in the House is unable to govern because 30-40 right wing cretins continue to fight any sensible political steps to get nearly anything done. In the Senate, a dictatorial majority leader has strangled both decorum and legitimate legislation.

On the other hand, given his constitutional duties, plus all the powers abrogated by that neutered Congress, an immoral, unhinged, lying President is emulating every tin hat, demagogue he’s ever heard of. He’s ignoring - and destroying - centuries of treaties, compacts, agreements and collaborative relationships this nation has ever produced. Suddenly, our friends are enemies and our enemies are “friends.”

Our defense budget is greater than the next six countries combined. But, current reckless conduct in dealing with other countries is making us more vulnerable than we’ve ever been. An oversupply of nukes, subs, bombers and warheads is being proven no match for protecting our nation’s computerized infrastructure. We can’t even vote - our most basic and cherished franchise - and know the election outcome is accurate. We’re truly in an electronic war unrecognized by many in public office and others who refuse to act.

Even established religions are being perverted. Evangelicals - that portion of our religious spectrum normally quick to call attention to public immoralities - have mostly turned a blind eye to our immoral President. Or, in statements by it’s leaders, has supported many of the lies and illegal activities emanating from both Capitol Hill and the White House.

Quite possibly the lowest point of human decency in our history is the inhumane act of splintering immigrant families. And, even there, many Evangelicals and other religious folks - in government and out - are using the Bible to support the terrorist act of destroying immigrant families.

Our Attorney General - a man not noted for an even-handed approach to enforcement of our laws - has joined the far right by quoting an out-of-context paragraph of Romans 31 to “justify” this terrible, racist tragedy. Something about using the powers of government to maintain order.

I would, instead, not-so-respectfully, direct him to an entirely “in context” entry in Second John, Chapter 11, Verse 31. In full, it simply reads, “Jesus wept.”

Certainly, so should we.
 

New ain’t always better

rainey

When we moved into our new home, midst some 90,000 other seniors a few months ago, I was struck by the number of 1965-1990 cars on the road around here. Some even older.

In today’s world of leasing or buying a new vehicle every few years, it seemed odd folks in our retirement haven were hanging onto such vintage wheels. After all, many living in this area of houses surrounded by golf courses have two homes. Or more. They could certainly afford to keep up with what’s new.

It took awhile to figure out this four-wheeled anomaly. And the answer is a bit surprising.

Many, it seems, don’t want to deal with all the new whistles-and-bells of technology. They feel more comfortable - and safer - with the old.

Please don’t get the idea our extra wide streets are filled with clunkers. No, Sir! We’re talking shiny paint jobs using the new longer-lasting chemicals and colors. We’re talking top notch upholstery. No pits or stains in the glass or the chrome. Latest in tire technology. Extremely well-kept cars with a few hundred thousand miles or so. Looking sharp!

Here, I need to disclose we bought a new SUV a few weeks back. Middle-of-the-line model with the usual equipment. Now, after some time driving around our silver-haired neighborhood, I understand why folks are avoiding the new.

Technology. Plain and simple. For several reasons. For one, much of the new electronic gadgetry is difficult for lots of older folk to deal with. We’re all used to dashboards of manual switches and buttons - not touch-screens and multi-function icons and buttons. Our 2018, for example, came with three - THREE - owner’s manuals. One for the overall vehicle operation and care. Two - TWO - for the electronics!

With a six button radio, for example, you don’t have to take your eyes off the road while your fingers - and mind - search for a station or the volume. With slide controls for hearing/cooling, your fingers know exactly where the right spot is. No looking away from the road to figure out which screen you want - which icon to use - what multi-function has to be changed.

If you aren’t seven or eight decades old, please don’t think these are the ramblings of some senile old guy. Not everyone here feels the same, I’m sure. But, for many, the comfort of what you’ve been used to in a vehicle for 50-60 years - the exact knowledge of where all the controls are - not wanting to turn your tri-focals away from the road at 75mph in six lanes of traffic- familiar operation is important. Could even be lifesaving.

And there’s cost: to license a new car here, it’s upwards of $450 a year. The price declines annually by $20 or so and flatlines at about 10 years. Insurance costs for older models are much less as well. Older is much more frugal.

Nearly all seniors try to keep things they’re comfortable and familiar with. A family car is one of those, it seems. The certain feel of a radio button or a headlight switch or a sliding bar on the heater control - those, too.

Besides, when the new electronics go bad - and they occasionally do - you’re out of luck if your 10-year-old grandson whiz lives clear up in Pocatello.
 

It ain’t necessarily so

rainey

Seems our national media and political voices have been perpetuating a myth about our erstwhile President’s base and his clout with members thereof. And that myth appears to be dead wrong.

Cases in point: The Atlantic proclaimed Trump’s “Building a blue collar foundation.” The Associated Press questioned what “Trump’s attraction of working class voters” would mean for future elections. Even The New York Times headlined a Trump’s 2016 victory was “a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue collar White and working class voters.”

None of that appears to be true. Recent, unconnected and widely dispersed surveys support nearly none of those claims. Especially, a newly published, and heavily researched work by Professors Nicholas Carnes of Duke University and Noam Lupu of Vanderbilt.

A key finding of theirs is most previous polling didn’t ask about voter occupations which is a statistically preferred measure of social class among scholars. So, other polls didn’t know if responders were farm workers or CEOs. And pundits - as well as other “scholars” - somehow came up with the claim Trump’s base consisted of mostly people without college degrees.

Two problems there. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, for example, aren’t college graduates. But, they’re CEO’s. Very, very rich CEO’s. While they probably didn’t vote for Trump, their presence in previous voter surveys - which included income - would certainly shatter the typical Trump backer myth.

And, two, the work of Drs. Carnes and Lupu found, while 70% of Trump’s supporters don’t have degrees, 70% is the same number for all Republican voters. So, Trump’s non-college graduate number is about the same as any other successful GOPers.

There’s more. Trump’s backers are not overwhelmingly poor. About 35% had incomes of less than $50,000 a year - both Whites and Hispanics. Meaning most of his voters - about 65% - came from the better-off half of our economy.

As for education, in this statistical examination, supporters in the last election were shown to be relatively well-schooled. “There was a 15-20% difference of Trump support between those with a college degree and those without,” they found. Said another way, among Whites without degrees voting for Trump, nearly 80% were in the top half of income distribution. And this: one in five without a degree had a household income over $100,000.

We’ve been told Trump’s base is full of beer-swilling, overweight, gun-loving, Confederate flag-waving, under-educated, poor Whites. According to this study, and some other recent work, White, non-Hispanic voters without college degrees, earning below the median household income, made up only 25%. Not exactly the “trailer trash” image the media and social media portray.

Stereotyping and scapegoating descriptions are not correct images. The narrative that Trump won mostly because of “lower income, working class” communities seems not to be true. As more academics and survey outfits use better grist for questions, we’ll likely see Carnes and Lupu’s work borne out.
 

Suffer the children

rainey

Trying to write about our national political activities these days is getting much harder to do. Used to be you could take the usual issue and the politicians involved in it and opine this way and that in reasonable commentary.

No more. The amount of misogyny, cruelty, idiocy and just plain B.S. being passed of as political “discussion” these days has made it tough even to consider some of the elected cretins fit to hold the offices they do much less quote them.

The following two despicable examples appeared on “news” pages within three hours a few days ago.

Rep. Dana Rhorabacher is known for saying alarming, ignorant and quite stupid things on a regular basis. His latest? He told a convention of Realtors in D.C. last week home sellers “shouldn’t have to sell to people who offend their personal beliefs.” Meaning buyers who are Black, gay, lesbian, atheist, Muslim, etc.. Next day, to their credit, the Realtors cut him off their endorsement list and, more important, from their PAC.

Then, the always - always - moronic Rep. Louis Ghomert. His latest? He told an interviewer Special Prosecutor Mueller had “spent his entire career defending Muslim terrorists.” Even followed up with a national news release.

Of course, there’s the House “Freedom Caucus” writing the Nobel Committee to formally push for the next Peace Prize to be given to Donny Trump for his work with North Korea. Can you even imagine the reaction within the Nobel Committee when that hit the mailbox?

But, here’s one entirely sadistic political story that didn’t just reach the bottom of the barrel. It broke through to new mud and took the current GOP “administration” to a new, much lower cesspool.

This mighty nation - this “shining beacon on the hill” - this nation made up entirely of immigrants - this proud country - has begun stripping babies and children from their families at our borders. Tearing apart families whose only “crime” has been to cross our borders, seeking their own liberties in this “bastion of freedom.”

Now, we’re told, in addition to that cruellest of acts, our “government” has lost nearly 1,500 hundred of those kids - 1,500! Authorities - or what passes for “authorities”- have no idea where they went, who has them, whether some are being sold into sexual slavery or other human bondage and, if so, by whom! Trump’s hardline Chief of Staff said they’d be “placed in foster care - or whatever.” “WHATEVER?!”

John Kelly is also trying to “justify” this inhumane family destruction by saying maybe more people “will be deterred” from trying to cross our borders if they know what awaits And our Attorney General mumbled much the same thing!

What the Hell kind of people are these?

And now our “government” claims it’s “not legally responsible.”

“NOT RESPONSIBLE?”

I cannot even imagine the sadistic political “minds” that ordered these crimes-against-humanity. Much less the actual government employees doing it - reaching out to grab crying children and stripping them from their parent’s hands. Whose “government?”

As I said, it’s much harder these days to even comprehend some of the political goings, much less write something cogent about them. The Rhorabacher’s and Ghomert’s and some of their Cretin kin are hard enough to deal with. Maybe - just maybe - a couple elections will send them back to their loyal “bases” and they can enjoy their full taxpayer paid retirements in well-deserved anonymity.

But, I’m sitting here, trying to comprehend what’s happening in our beloved country. My mind wonders how far we’ve strayed from being a welcoming nation with a compassionate populace. I’m trying to find the words to describe the cruelty, anger and rank idiocy so prevalent in our nation’s politics. Wondering if we’ll ever rid ourselves of the mindless, sadistic, lying and corrupt “leadership” currently driving this country further into a huge ditch.

As I search for words, the ones that repeatedly flash in my head are “...suffer the little children....” Biblically, the word “suffer” meant “let the little children...” or “do not impede the little children...”

Trump, Sessions, their minions and a Congress that stands idly by are using the word “suffer” in its worst application.
 

Disgusting voices

rainey

What the Hell is wrong with us?

A day doesn’t go by without someone, somewhere, making the national news with a racist act aimed at someone not Caucasian, and therefore, not “a real American.” Makes no difference what ethnic group you’re talking about.

Our own president, with more attention paid to his foul mutterings because of the office he temporarily holds, is the worst. Repeatedly calling immigrants - legal or otherwise - “animals” is his latest dip into the racist cesspool.

The other day, a guy in a New York restaurant told some Spanish-speaking customers to “speak English or get out” and threatened to call ICE if they didn’t. A woman in Ohio called the cops because a Black Realtor was prowling around a vacant house he wanted to buy and rehab. In Utah, a guy got out his rifle and stood on his front porch as a Black couple was shown a house for sale next door.

And on and on and on. Repeated public displays of outright racism. Kids of non-white families harassed and beaten on playgrounds because of their ethnicities. People in public, speaking languages other than English, being told to either “talk American” or leave with accompanying threats to call some arresting agency.

We’re destroying the old “melting pot” metaphor. And we’re doing it in the name of being “American” without regard and respect for the differences that have made us a better nation.

In many ways, the old “melting pot” claim has never seemed entirely correct to describe a nation as varied in different races and cultures as we’ve become. The fact is, from early settlers to now, people of like nationalities and cultures have pretty much kept to their own. We have Black communities, Scandinavian communities, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, etc.. Nothing wrong with that, for most purposes.

But, we’ve further divided ourselves adding exclusively Black or Hispanic or other cultures radio, TV, newspapers and other means of racial and/or ethnic communication. In some ways, we’ve created dual societies for different races and backgrounds while allowing cultural separateness. We may “melt” in the workplace - most of the time - but we’ve also encouraged divisions in the rest of our lives.

We live in an area with a very large Hispanic population. While there’s been a lot of assimilating, they still live on the fringes for the most part. But, the fact is, if they suddenly left, this area would be the poorer for it and the local economies would suffer greatly.

I get angry when I hear someone say immigrants are taking our jobs. I can tell you from personal experience that’s a lie. The value of the work most immigrants do is vastly underrated.

It’s ironic to hear loud demands for continued, unfettered immigration coming from farmers/ranchers everywhere these days. Crops are dying in the fields. Fruit is rotting on trees and vines. Work - necessary work - is not getting done. Seems American workers - “real American” workers - aren’t stepping forward to shoulder that work. The “job stealing” claim has always been a lie.

The largest current societal race issue we face is not coming from the immigrant population. It’s coming from us. It’s coming from seemingly otherwise good people being swept up in this phony “ship-‘em-back-where-they-came-from” B.S. being acted out across our nation. And much of that is being led and urged on by our racist president and those around him.

What’s being tested here is not whether can we accept and assimilate more from other nations. The test is of our national will to welcome and encourage those who've come to participate in a country they still see as a worthy example of freedom and opportunity. And, in some cases, at proven personal risk to their lives getting here.

The test is for those of us who see value in national diversity and acceptance to silence the bigotry and outrageous abuse that seems to have become commonplace.

Silence it - clear up to the White House.
 

Loud and foul

rainey

It’s no secret ours has become an ever increasingly crass society. Entertainment, media, politics and even ordinary conversation.

Evidence is everywhere. Spend time around an elementary school playground, for example, and you’ll pick up words you might not have heard before. Not that kids know much about what they’re saying. They’re just repeating what they’ve heard all around them.

Crude, foul language in political affairs is not new but it’s getting increasingly personal. More and more, we’re seeing direct public, personal and cruel attacks on people and character. Obama and Clinton are prime examples.

Last week’s stories of slander and lies directed at John McCain were disgusting evidence of how low some folks will go. One incident was in the workplace - the other broadcast around the world by our “friends” at Fox.

A Trump White House Special Assistant was the source at a Communications Office staff meeting. She casually dismissed McCain’s comments on an upcoming Senate vote by saying “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

As you read this, that woman still has her job. Why that is someone else is going to have to explain.

Adding more verbal excrement to the pile three days later, Trump Budget Director Mulvaney publically opined, while the remark was indeed tasteless, that’s not what concerned him. His ire was raised because the cruel remark was “leaked.” “Even worse,” he said.

So, I guess, if a murder is committed in the White House, it’s O.K. as long as no one talks to the media about it. DAMN!

The other outrageous and completely factless claim regarding McCain on Fox was from a retired general. Talking about torture in wartime, McCain’s name came up because of his years in a North Vietnamese prison and the extreme physical abuse he endured.

The general - who will remain nameless here - said “torture works” and pointed to what he called “Songbird John” and accused McCain of betraying his country while being tortured. A claim repeatedly proven untrue!

This “embarrassment-to-all-uniforms” has popped off with many crackpot statements and wild false claims in the past. He’s never been a POW. Why was he being used as an “expert?” Yet another “Fox Fool” with clay feet up to his knees and one of a series of “experts” used by that network that have subsequently been exposed as frauds.

McCain is in hospice care at his home about 15 miles from where I’m writing this. One requisite for such care is a diagnosis of less than six months to live. That medical opinion was made some months ago. Yet, McCain is keeping in contact with associates and issues on Capitol Hill. It’s gotta be tough.

The McCain examples of character assassination and baseless lies are only the most recent aimed at a public figure. We hear, read and watch more every day. To our national shame. Remember Trump wildly mimicking a crippled reporter? Or, referring to McCain, saying he was no hero because he was captured? Or his giving people he doesn’t like grotesque nicknames - “Crooked Hillary” or “Lying Comey?”

I can’t lay blame entirely on our dangerous and unskilled president. But, I will say, he’s given his outright approval to such crude, foul and profane public behavior by his own conduct. He has set the example for millions of crass people who’ve joined his cacophony of slander, lies and outrageous language. Racist and anti-Semitic acts are being readily accepted by millions as “the way things are.”

Well, they aren’t!

Our nation - and much of the world - is in a huge state of flux. In nearly every way. What’s past is past and we’ll never see life as it was just a few years ago. But, what we will see and experience is entirely up to us. What we do today - what we accept today - who we’ve become today - will be our future.

As long as John McCain has breath, he’ll be interested and involved in where this country’s headed. We all could use a lot more of that to set before those kids on the playground.
 

Fact or factless

rainey

With the advent of radio and television (suitcase radio), the knock on newspapers was that everything in them was “yesterday’s news.” And it was, of course.

But, readers also became listeners and viewers as well. We adjusted to three main sources of information and most enjoyed the mix. With the advent of computerized information on the I-Net machine, most of us just added the fourth source and continued with our lives.

A lot of people, it seems, don’t necessarily pay attention to all media availability, choosing, instead, to rely on one or two which best fit their lives. Or, how they see the world. Accurate or not. Few of us utilize all four daily.

But, after some 40 years of broadcast and print employment, I’m one of those who seeks more informational input than most. After daily reading-listening-viewing-scanning, and with that background, I find it curious why most sources do some of the things they do.

For example, why are we being visually and mentally accosted by people being passed off as “newsmakers” who have long-since been discredited or are known serial liars?

The ubiquitous Kellyanne Conway is a prime example of both. Yet, day-after-day, there she is on our TV boxes, being given more expensive air time to mislead, argue and outright lie about whatever the subject may be. The woman has no credibility, spends more time challenging the interviewer than answering questions and has long-since proven the old adage “You know she’s lying ‘cause her mouth’s moving.” Yet, there she is.

Anthony Scaramucci is another. White House Director of Communications for a week before being fired for his lying ways and a big, foul and argumentative mouth. Why does the media keep resurrecting him in our living rooms? What “news value” could there possibly be? Why would anyone care about anything he has to say?

And Sean Spicer, disinformation and lying piled five-foot-four inches high. No official position for anything. What the Hell can he say that anyone with a grasp on reality wants to hear?

Throw in Carter Page, Roger Stone, Mike Mulvaney, Kanye West, any Kardashian, Papadopolis, Myers, Alex Jones, Coulter and a full quarter of Congress.

Consider this. According to Pentagon sources, this country has military in 73 locations around the world. More than a quarter are actively involved in hazardous areas where they can be - and often are - killed. What about their stories? What do we know of them? When do we hear about them?

We have American men and women in actual wars. Undeclared wars. Wars where people are dying. What about them? Dover Air Force Base receives bodies on a near-daily basis. Do we know how many? Where they died? Why they had to die? Where are the reporters?

Investors buying up media properties - like so many Monopoly pieces - have turned hard news broadcasting and many print outlets into businesses of profit and loss. Corporate “bean counters” and ratings companies determine format and content more than professional journalists or broadcasters. Focus groups are used to select “pretty people” with “likability quotients” to be “reporters” when most of them couldn’t write a lost-and-found ad.

It’s not just “fake” news to be avoided. It’s also some of the well-known outfits that have sacrificed integrity and really deep coverage of important events and people in favor of fluff and meaningless drivel. CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, Sinclair and many, many others share the blame. Thanks to them, well-researched, factual coverage of people, places and events is getting harder and harder to find.

We live in a world in which technology provides us more information than ever. But, much of it is meaningless if not outright factless. As consumers, it’s no longer “what you know” but rather “Is what you think you know accurate and factual?”

Hard to tell sometimes. Not everyone you hear from is as easy to spot as Kellyanne. A true “professional.”

A dishonorable evening

rainey

By now, most everyone watched the entire televised Washington D.C. Capital Correspondent’s dinner Saturday, sat through some of the grotesque outtakes or read the disastrous - and deserved - criticism.

I’m a former card-carrying member of that organization and have attended a couple of the soirees. As such, I’m embarrassed and deeply ashamed of what that formerly worthy and hugely entertaining event has become.

The evening had honorable roots. There were several reasons for its original purpose. The most important was to celebrate raising funds for journalism scholarships. Recipients were - and are - journalists in the field wanting to continue their educations. Some media folks you respect and enjoy may have had their careers advanced by the Correspondent’s Association.

The second reason was to see some excellent entertainers of the time - in my case, 1970-71. One year, it was Pearl Bailey who charmed everyone in the sizable Shoreham Hotel Ballroom. The next year it was George Carlin, the hippy-dippy weatherman and just plain comedic genius. Each year, most of the program was just that - entertainment.

Thirdly, it was a private time for D.C. politicians and the media members who covered them to have some off-the-record relaxation and fun, taking a few jabs at each other. Nothing was televised. Spouses weren’t generally invited if they weren’t in the media business. It was a white tie affair. If you wanted, you could bring one friend. Period.

There was a lot of joking among participants which usually included the sitting President of the time. Though I had no use for Richard Nixon, twice I watched him sit on the dias taking “hits” from media people. Not professional comics. It was all journalists, writers and producers active in day-to-day news work.

In each case, Nixon got up and gave as good as he got. It was funny stuff. Both ways. The “humor” got a little close for comfort sometimes. For both the media and the politicians. Alcohol consumed in liberal quantities can do that. But it wasn’t the cutting, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed crap the nation witnessed Saturday last.

Fnally, the whole evening was the best damned job-hunting experience a young reporter could ever have. As I said, white tie. So, there we were, in our rented tuxes, pockets filled with folded resumes as we spent hours before and after the main event going from one hospitality suite to the next. All the networks sponsored one. Tidbits of food and lots of free booze.

But, it was also a place to find people like Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, David Brinkley, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Harry Smith and many more. Their producers and directors were also noshing and imbibing. Nothing like rubbing shoulders with the top of your profession while trying to get some of those resumes in the right hands. Someone like a Don Hewitt from “Sixty Minutes.” Some of the people you see and hear now may have gotten their “big break” at a Correspondent’s Dinner.

No longer. It’s become a “meat market” appearance for “celebrities” and wannabe’s trying to get noticed. It’s an embarrassing experience for truly professional people. Even some who may have been ordered to attend by their employers to “carry the corporate flag.”

What used to be an evening of good natured humor between professionals has given way to belligerent, foul mouthed , non-media “comedians” throwing piles of crap both ways. It’s no longer the “Correspondent’s Dinner.” It’s now a junior varsity Emmy or Oscar publicity event drawing hundreds of people who aren’t media “professionals.” A lot of ‘em couldn’t write a “help wanted” ad much less a cohesive news story.

There were scholarships presented this year. Several of ‘em. There were respected members of both politics and mass media in attendance. There was good fellowship and conviviality enjoyed by many.

But, what the public saw Saturday night was a verbal dung heap, passed off as televised “entertainment” with none of the original class and good natured humor.

I sincerely hope the Correspondent’s Board takes quick action to get the cameras and microphones out, send the hangers-on back to the streets and return what used to be a very honorable and rewarding evening, back to the professionals.
 

Oh yes, it’s different

rainey

“He’s 92 and I’m 88 and we’d like a divorce,” she said.
The attorney asked, “Why did you wait so long?”
Said she, “We didn’t want to do it when the kids were alive.”

Disgusting, right? A bit sick, too? Yep. But, when you live in one of three adjoining 55+ communities comprised of about 90,000 seniors, you hear “jokes” like that. Few folks seem to take offense and often have one to give back.

Though we moved here when I was past four score years, we’ve learned a lot about retirement we never knew. Things no amount of “due diligence” visiting would have uncovered unless you lived here awhile.

For example, normal driving here doesn’t exist. It’s rubber tired bumper cars. Our insurance rate went up 40% - same car - same driver. Most companies use zip codes in their factoring of rates. After six months here, it’s easy to see why we got a hike.

As I said, I’ve passed four score years. But, we got a new state driver’s licenses with no written or behind-the-wheel testing. So did everybody else it seems. Crazy! So, pick a violation. Aw, go on. Pick an imaginary driving aberration. You can’t come up with one we haven’t seen. Daily.

Despite the fact a lot of our major roads are six lanes wide - excellent roads - many oldsters drive “souped up” golf carts. Hundreds and hundreds of ‘em. Not your usual country club variety. No Sir! These have been updated with “mechanical steroids” to go 30 mph! Seat belts, mirrors and (unused) turn signals added. State licensing and liability insurance required. Imagine yourself sharing those six lanes with these miniature hotrods being driven by 80-somethings.

Church is interesting, too. At ours, the director of our wonderful music program is a pro. Stickler for detail in everything. When he wants the choir to stand or sit, he wants them to all move at the same time. Boom! But, with a couple of dozen hip and knee replacement choristers in their 80's, the ups and downs look more like exposed cylinder heads in an idling Chevy V-8.

“Snowbirds” are a pain for permanent residents. “Birds” come from all over - even Europe and Asia. Canadian “birds”can only stay for six months so they’re usually here first - come down in September. Rest arrive in October and leave in April/May.

When “birds” are here, tee times at the dozens of golf courses in the area are booked out days-weeks in advance. Lines at theaters and restaurants are never-ending. When your gas gauge is on “empty,” you’ll make eight loops around the gas pumps looking for a spot. Beards can grow just while waiting in checkout lines.

The better grocery stores are an experience. Because folks come from all over, shelves are stocked with not only the usual wares found at Safeway or Fred Meyer, but with larger kosher and outsized Hispanic departments. Even Norwegian and Swedish. For the Michigan-Minnesota-Dakota crowd. And, for those who want a little more in a shopping experience, one of our local markets has a large wine and beer bar right in the middle of the store. Opens each morning at eight and seating goes on until evening. Nice rest stop between frozen foods on one wall and bakery across the huge store on the other. And you meet the nicest people. Usually after you’ve been there awhile.

Almost no residential grass here. Which attracted me. Fool! Most “lawns” are crushed rock with citrus trees and cactus for greenery. What we didn’t expect is that the rock needs to be “raked” because, somehow, it moves. People walking leave footprints or kick it up. Our resident coyote leaves the extract of his digestive tract. Birds, too. Rain (yes, rain) exposes the black vapor barrier. Underground digging critters leave holes and unexpected gravel piles. The yardwork may be different. But it’s still damned yardwork!

Unusual businesses. Rabid rightwing politics. Very different utility practices from the Northwest. Unusual ecology efforts for- well - unusual ecology. More grist for future columns.

Oh yes, there is this one other thing. Nearly every building material for houses and all other buildings for dozens of square miles is stucco. Top to bottom. And, nearly all are the same color - tan. Entire subdivisions of tan stucco. Far as you can see. Every subdivision. Every where.

Makes it damned hard to find your way home after a grocery trip. And an extended layover at that wine bar.
 

The timing is right

rainey1

So. Paul Ryan counted on his fingers and toes and found there probably wouldn’t be enough Republicans in the House after the next election to make up a bowling team.

And, faced with a minority - probably a distinct minority - the best he could hope for would be leader of a distinct - well - minority. And maybe not leader.

Ryan decided to cash in his 20 years in Congress and take his taxpayer $79,000 a-year lifetime “entitlement.” Since he failed to slash Social Security, he must have figured, “What the Hell, gimmie some.”

With Ryan’s exit - stage right, of course - that Trump fella has taken complete control of what used to be a functioning, respected Republican Party. A national Party now headed into a well-deserved irrelevance for at least a couple of election cycles. Maybe more. A Party without honor as it uses what’s left of its “influence” to prostitute itself to dishonestly defend our dishonorable president.

It’s to be dearly hoped that, during that enforced hiatus, the GOP will do some surgical cleansing of philosophy. That it will return to what made it respectable before letting the far right purge intelligence and common sense.

The only humans likely to believe the cover story that Ryan “checked out” to “spend time with his growing kids” are likely the kids themselves. He saw the handwriting on the wall and decided he didn’t want to be part of the graffiti.

Ryan’s fleeing the mess on Capitol Hill might also be a good time for Democrats to do some cleaning in their own houses - House and Senate - after the 2018 elections.

Nancy Pelosi is 78 - Chuck Schumer is 68. They’ve each served much of their elected time in some form of leadership. They’ve done well in those posts, have weathered many political storms and - for the most part - honorably carried the Democrat banners.

But, January, 2019, might be a good time for each to pass the torches and either exit - stage left, of course - or take more comfortable seats on the “back bench” in more advisory capacities.

Judging from candidacy filings, the next crop of new faces in Congress will be younger - in their 30's to 50's. There’ll be more women in both houses. Many will be new to both Washington and national politics. While they’ll be coming in with their own ideas and energy, Pelosi and Schumer could provide a lot of quick education about the “ins and outs” of how things work. Not telling them WHAT to do - more like teaching them HOW to do.

As for the vacancies, if Pelosi and Schumer were to step aside, there are some seasoned, younger people ready to go. In the Senate, Patty Murray, Rob Wyden, Amy Klobuchar, Ed Markey and Chris Van Hollen have “earned their spurs.”

In the House, Joe Kennedy, Joaquin Castro, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Barbara Lee and a dozen more have grounded themselves in the grunt work and earned promotions to leadership.

Democrats are in a much better position to reorganize their Party than are Republicans. They have a more singular set of values, broad enough nearly all can get behind. They can, that is, if they’ll bury the Clinton-Sanders squabbles. That battle is over.

Republicans, on the other hand, are so fractured they don’t have enough “timber” to build the stairs to a platform, much less flooring for a platform itself. It’s to be dearly hoped the GOP will find new, more moderate blood to move things more to the center of the road instead of noisily floundering in the right hand ditch.

Whether Trump will still be there in 2019, is an open question at this point. With or without his divisive presence, real power is likely to shift to Congress and the courts for the next several years. That’s what makes this November’s balloting so damned important.

About 60% of Americans eligible to vote in 2016, did not. And look what happened. Given the damage Trump and his band of unfit minions have done to our government, we cannot afford that again.

Ryan’s exit can mean more than just one zealot being kicked to the political curb. The “attack” by voters has to be twofold: cut the irresponsible and dangerous voices off at the bottom of the ticket and encourage new leadership at the top. (photo/Gager Skidmore)