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Posts published in “Rainey”

The new car experience

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different choices

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Callista? No!

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey, even us Protestants have feelings.

Organizing the disaffected

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diagnostic babble

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saving their butts

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That damned eclipse

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lying has changed history

rainey

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong there that at least some of my anger must have some merit. This time, the whole mess of ‘em are mucking through something that will, eventually, change us all as consumers.

Having been a very small part of it many years ago, I learned a lot and am happy for the opportunity - lucky to have had the experience. Maybe that’s a big part of why I use this space to rant against some of the current practitioners from time to time. “Been there. Done that.” So, when they screw up, it touches a reflexive nerve which brings out the angry reaction. I’ve got one of those reactions going now. But, this time it’s different. Angry AND uncertain.

Not many in today’s media crowd were around in the ‘50's and ‘60's when I was learning the craft. Their early training and mine are a couple of generations apart. Oh, some of the basics are still the same i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how. Still gotta have all that.

Then we - and they as youngsters - went through the Watergate era where the most prized reporting came to those doing “investigative journalism.” Woodward, Bernstein, Mike Wallace et al. Dig out the dirt, confront the bad guys and make major headlines. Or a 10 minute “package” leading the evening’s national TV news. Journalism turned a sharp corner then, and the “who, what, where...” guys largely disappeared. So did a lot of “getting it right” with facts before being the bearer of constantly “breaking news.” Damn, how I hate that phrase!

Now, another “sharp corner” is being turned. Labeling public officials - up to and including the President of the United States - liars. Which - on a daily and often hourly basis - he, and nearly all the appointed minions who “speak” for him, are. Without question.

Most of the “street” reporters in the national media are less than 50-years-old. Such training as they received was much different than us older types had in the ‘50's, ‘60's and ‘70's. That - and Trump”s continuing reprehensible public conduct - has resulted in a very different “code of conduct” between them and news makers.

Case in point: Richard Nixon. I didn’t like Nixon when he was in Congress in the ‘50's. He was a liar then, just as he was in the presidency. He felt persecuted, disrespected, undervalued and cursed with being a perpetual “outsider” in Washington. All of which he carried into the White House years later.

My limited, working contact with him was usually as a weekend reporter or subbing for regular, daily beat reporters. Also had a couple of minor personal occasions to be in his presence. Each time, my innards churned with disrespect. A lot of contemporaries felt the same. But nearly all of us played our different roles professionally and - all in all - until Watergate, respectfully. If not for him, then for the office. But we knew he often lied. Big time.

Now, the next generation of reporters is faced with Donald Trump - the most unqualified, unprepared, unskilled and biggest misfit ever to hold the office of President. To that can be added his penchant for distortion and outright lying on a daily basis. And, his selection and use of people equally unskilled at their jobs who share the same distasteful habit of publically - and often - speaking “truth” as they see fit to create it.

Trump operated in the same dishonest manner for nearly two years of the national campaign. For a long time, he wasn’t openly challenged for his regular, daily “untruths” by a media not used to dealing with an openly confident, perpetual liar at that level.

Then, editors and others in charge of content for broadcasters and print, had to make some decisions. Should they continue to avoid or soft-pedal the daily torrent of lies and, thus, become complicit in passing them on to viewers and readers as fact? Should they employ fact-checkers and give the job of separating truth from fiction to them? Or, should they step outside the boundary of simply reporting and call the torrent of lies what they were? Lies!

Though the media is currently held in very low esteem by much of the American public, I can tell you, from experience, a lot of good scotch and considerable bourbon was consumed, a lot of sleep was lost and a lot of professional soul-searching was done by some very dedicated people. To openly challenge the voices and the blatant lies would forever change the honored - and mostly respected - balance between government officials and media. The relationship would never be the same.

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

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

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

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

Doing my own laundry

rainey

Despite the oft-quoted “wisdom” of the young, there are some things you really can’t talk knowledgeably about in life until you’ve lived a good many years. Gotten lots of rings on your trunk, as it were. One such subject is the dignity of work.

I’m a people watcher. Guess it’s part of the old reporter instinct - always keeping an eye on folks on the street, in a store, a fast food joint, the doctor’s office, church or ... well, just anyplace. But, because of my four-score-plus years, it’s the older ones I’ve been noticing more lately.

When I say “older,” I mean 65 and up - people who’ve retired or reached the age when they could retire if financially able. Which not everyone is. Just because you physically reach 65, that doesn’t mean retirement is automatic. And Social Security? Few of us could live on the $1,200 or so a month which is the national average. That ain’t living.

So, lots of grayhairs work. Some because we have to - some because we want to - some because that’s what we’ve considered a normal part of living during a long life. It’s where we find value and a sense of self-worth. Maybe a little extra money is nice but having a place to go - a time to be there - a task to complete - those may be as important. Or more so.

Oregon has many fine things to offer. But not legally being able to pump your own gas isn’t one of ‘em in most of the state. So, there are several examples of seniors working at the station I frequent. Just above minimum wage and no more than 20 hours weekly. No benefits, either.

One guy is retired military. Probably Marines. Always a fresh buzz cut - stout physical frame - deliberate moves when working - looks you right in the eye. Another one appears retired from business or corporate life. Short but very fit stature. Wears black slacks and white shirt like the rest but his look is tailored, black shoes shined, haircut just the right length - always. And always calls me “Mr. Rainey.” These two work, I’d guess, because they have done so all their lives, it’s important to stay active and the extra few dollars are great but not the driving force. The kid with the tattoos, an ear ring and a bad complexion while listlessly pumping gas - who knows?

Across town at a fast food joint, a small, plump woman, probably of Italian heritage - 70+ with jet black hair piled high on her head and always with a colorful comb tucked in. Light makeup. Her uniform seems to fit better than the others because she likely tailored it herself. Always a pleasant word for strangers as she empties garbage cans, mops floors or cleans public restrooms. Always! Probably working mostly for the money.

At another fast food spot in town, a guy in his 70's with the obligatory uniform complete with the ridiculous little cap on his head. He dusts things off a lot and looks like he’d rather be anyplace else. Any place. Never says a word. When a 20-something manager gives him a task, you can see hurt - if not disgust - on the guy’s face. He needs the $500-600 a month. Needs it.

There’s a 70-something guy where I get my oil changes. Greets, washes windows and checks air in the tires. They won’t let him down in the pit area. The ladder climb is bad for his legs. He doesn’t talk much but, when he does, it’s bad grammar and often a complaint about weather, politics or something else. I’d guess he’s probably related to the kid manager who tolerates the attitude because the senior family member needs the money.

These are people that come to mind when some blowhard member of Congress - making $175,000 a year plus health insurance, expense account and staff - makes threats to cut Social Security, Medicare or some other senior-earned entitlement. The mouth runs but the brain has no concept of the guys at the gas station - the lady and the fella cleaning fast food joint restrooms - the 70-something washing my windshield.

These are people who work. Some because they have to. Some because they want to. All of them - ALL are products of the 30's-40's-50's who grew up learning to work, having to work, knowing they would likely always have to. They don’t think about “entitlements.” They work now because they need the small, extra income or because they want to – some because they need something outside themselves that adds value to their lives. Maybe the value of dollars. Maybe the value of still participating and staying active. Maybe just the value of the work.

The old know it. The young will learn it. The people I know who seem to have the most meaning in their lives are the busiest. Some for money. Some for just the work itself. It’s called dignity.

On a dreary coastal morning, that sort of dignity can even help you get through doing your own laundry.

Theft of a nation

rainey

“That’s all I can stands.
I can stands no more.”

Popeye, Philosopher

For several weeks, I’ve avoided the “elephant in the room.” I’ve tried to opine about - and have fun with - a number of subjects without referring directly or indirectly to our interim President. With his name and likeness everywhere, and with his massively covered, lying bombast filling the media, it’s been difficult.

But, as in the words of the spinach eating philosopher cited above - and with precisely that feeling - “I can stands no more.”

For some weeks following the 2016 election, I tried to put a best face on the situation. I kidded myself that, sooner or later, wise and responsible heads would exercise both wisdom and responsibility to straighten out the mess and return the troll to his rightful place under the nearest bridge. They haven’t. And kidding myself is no longer providing effective mental relief.

Following the election, for many political watchers, conventional wisdom was a fear that someone in the Oval Office, with not a day of political experience, would screw up working the machinery of the job. That was quickly followed by a second widely held belief he would commit a series of major mistakes which would draw some of the Republican pros to his side to help him get a handle on things.

Neither has happened.

In the first instance, with rare exception, nearly every Trump decision made and action taken were previewed in the presidential campaign. What he’s done, most often, is what he said he’d do. Clumsy though he may be. But the executive orders, what few policy decisions there have been, appointments made and actions taken - most were foretold. The feared ignorance has been, for the most part, actions of someone with absolute determination to have his own way, regardless of both laws to the contrary and unintended outcomes. Not ignorance.

In the second instance, GOPers who could bail him out have shunned the opportunity. Some have even tried to use his ignorance and elephant-sized ego for their own ends. Evidence of that was the near unanimous and speedy Republican confirmation of his cabinet full of misfits, crooks and self-serving billionaires. The most unfit bunch ever appointed to top positions of government authority in our national history.

Additional proof of using Trump for Republican self-service came when Mitch McConnell blew aside 240 years of bipartisanship, history and tradition to put Judge Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court. There was nothing so important in the Gorsuch nomination that it required the rupture of the system of judicial - and other - appointments in the conduct of the U.S. Senate. Nothing. Feeding his own oversized sense of self-worth, McConnell has fundamentally changed how our legislative system will function for all time if not corrected.

Being four score years for the first time, I’m not sure how much of my thinking these days is due to age or other factors like predisposition. But I’ve recently had this desperate feeling we’re losing our country. That factors which seem out of anyone’s control are destroying values and traditions we grew up with and have traditionally lived by.

Advancing technology, increased scientific knowledge, new experiences, changing climate and geographic variables combine to alter conditions around us all the time. But it feels like more than that. Foundations on which this nation has stood for 250 years seem in flux - seem in danger of decay or disillusion. Traditionally unchanging factors of national pride, loyalty, fidelity, trust, sympathy, citizenship, accomplishment seem less valued and often ignored in the relationship between individuals and our current governance.

In fact, our system of government actually seems to have changed from representative to authoritarian. The idea that we elect others to represent us in matters of the conduct of state seems to have devolved into us becoming something to be ignored and “represented” only the second Tuesday in November.

This is not a time when we can afford a megalomaniac in the front office as the Syrian bombing proves. We do not want - and can’t afford - sycophants who enable an egomaniacal leader to carry out his own fantasies without defiance.

It’s been 100 days, give or take. We’re already launching missiles against another country without Constitutional authority, actively treating climate change - which can end civilization - as though it were a parlor game, denying food and shelter to millions in our nation deemed unworthy of care, threatening the quality of air, water and other resources necessary for life on this planet, denying rights of citizenship to minorities guaranteed those benefits, rewriting tax policies to reward billionaires for simply being rich, threatening the foundation of our nation’s public education system, denying national entry to diverse peoples whose ancestors built this country, using the taxpayer as a family’s personal piggy bank and more.

This is not the country I grew up in. It’s becoming one I don’t know and am growing increasingly uncomfortable living in. And those who have the power to change it seem to have no interest in doing so.