July 13, 2017

“Oakhurst Top 10”

“Should I stay or should I go?” – “Combat Rock” – The Clash (1980)

Eileen and I moved to Oakhurst in November of 2006 to spend more time with daughter Susan and her family. Earlier this year, Susan and Rich decided to head for exciting new high-tech opportunities in Nashville, departing last week with Allison, Asher, Isaac, two cats and two fish. They got there in four days. This leaves our entire immediate family well east of the Mississippi, but not abandoned to strangers.

“Bitsy” and I just love it here. But is this the time to consider geographic transition ourselves? We’re not getting any younger. Or stronger. Or faster.

Perhaps wiser.

With Fresno International Airport right down the hill, we’re still less than a half-day away from closest kin and simultaneously offer a spectacularly attractive destination for those enticed to visit. That’s how I’d start a ‘Top Ten” list of why I want to stick around Oakhurst like industrial strength Velcro. Or Super Glue. Or those two Quesadillas I ate late last night before sliding into bed. Nine more reasons come quickly to mind, listed as a matter of personal priority. See if any click with you.

(9) Cal Fire. Anyone who thinks government can’t work should check these heroes out.

(8) Cool local bars. The Oak Room, Dirty Donkey, Southgate Brewery and Hitching Post head the list. Erna’s is way too fancy for the likes of me.

(7) Wildlife. Herds of Mule Deer, flocks of Wild Turkey, squads of squirrels and coveys of quail abound in these foothills. October brings Tarantula time. Don’t kiss the rattlers.

(6) An active and harmonious political environment allowing for what I call “positive cross pollination.” During election season, almost all of our speakers at monthly meetings of the Oakhurst Democratic Club are Republican candidates. I consider John Pero, Central Valley Tea Party Coordinator, a friend. Folks seem amazed when they see Bill Atwood and I having lunch together at El Cid’s. They’re even more dazzled when Bill picks up the tab.

(5) A solid spiritual base. Virtually every major religious group finds representation in Eastern Madera County, as well as evolving philosophical thought. I am particularly impressed by such prominent Oakhurst originals as Angelo Pizelo and his work with the Emerson Institute, now of nationally renown. Angie always makes me laugh.

(4) Community Clubs and Projects. We’re not a city, suburb, village or town. But for a “Designated Census Area”, we certainly offer a multiplicity of organizations dedicated to addressing specific needs and projects.

(3) Exceptional law enforcement. The California Highway Patrol #456, part of CHP’s Central Division, covers over a thousand square miles of state highways and unincorporated roadways in an around Oakhurst. The Madera County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Jay Varney now offers an Oakhurst substation on Liberty Drive to better serve the foothills area. Similarly, District Attorney David Linn has opened a satellite office at that same location to make his services more accessible.

(2) Our wonderful neighbors. We are blessed with friends and acquaintances of all kinds and minds.

(1) Yosemite. Always first and foremost in evaluation must be the stunning, breathtaking beauty of America’s première national park. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is celebrated internationally for its granite cliffs, crystal streams, dramatically plunging waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers and biological diversity. And here we are with Half Dome in our own backyard. Five million visitors are expected this year.

But we get to stay.

Here in the Misty Mountains. Where the spirits go. Over the hills, where the spirits fly.




July 6, 2017

"My Summer Vacation"

 

When a lab technician stares at the screen and loudly proclaims, “Wow!” — adding, “Don’t you feel that?”, one realizes he is at the scene of breaking news.

Every year in early summer, Eileen and I travel back east to Syracuse, NY, where we were both born at Memorial Hospital on “the hill” adjacent to Syracuse University. I remember Jim Brown jogging on the sidewalk in front of our house on Ackerman Avenue when I was a kid.
We enjoyed a great week with family and friends, including several days at Alexandria Bay near the Thousand Island Bridge on the St. Lawrence River, now at its highest level in memory and threatening to flood the city of Montreal upstream. Many of the little islands are completely underwater. Tourism has been greatly curtailed and it has recently kept on raining days at a time. But there’s no such thing as global warming.

Then I suddenly started feeling weird and super tired. By Sunday morning I was huffing and puffing like that little train that could, except I couldn’t. I could barely stand up.

Moderate COPD enthusiastically earned smoking 2 1/2 packs a day for 40 years colliding with the mysterious onslaught of severe heart arrhythmia in the form of Atrial Flutter (with a consequential pulse rate relentlessly racing at 150 beats and above for over 50 hours) brought about radical shortness of breath and marked pneumonia .

Ejection fraction is a measurement of the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts. The left ventricle is the heart’s main driving chamber pumping oxygenated blood through the ascending aorta to the rest of the body, so ejection fraction is usually measured only in the left ventricle. An LV ejection fraction of 55 percent or higher is considered normal. I was clocked at 30 — a little over half of that. Stroke City, here we come.
Such warranted four days of hospital stay, but all has been successfully addressed. Happily there was no permanent heart muscle damage as originally anticipated when treatment was initiated. But Eileen and I did miss our Tuesday flight home.

Arranging our delayed return home, an exercise complicated by heavy Fourth of July bookings, brought an unpleasant encounter with corporate compassion. Although armed with a handwritten note on hospital stationary penned by a prominent Syracuse cardiologist explaining my plight, it cost more for us to fly back to Fresno than the price of our original round-trip tickets. “Sorry. Company policy!” It was pay or stay. Climate change deniers must be in charge.

While I was recuperating, Clown Boy struck again with a brutal attack on Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC with five major lies viciously compressed into two mindless tweets.

Legendary New York ad agency icon and TV host Donny Deutch, guest appearing on “Morning Joe”, proclaimed Trump “a pig” adding, “Let’s face it. When it comes to appearance, a quality he constantly brings up criticizing others, Donald himself looks absolutely disgusting.” Cautioned that he was taking “the low road”, Deutch emphatically stated, “It’s time we all did. This guy is a menace.”
This weekend Cheese Child finally meets Putin in Hamburg.
“Step into my parlor said the spider to the fly.”

It’s great being home again.

Don’t smoke.

 

July 6, 2017


“Eve of Obstruction”

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.”

Donald J. Trump
3:55 AM – 15 June 2017

Nice.

The “Russians story” isn’t phony, there’s plenty of proof, and “obstruction of justice” is certainly much clearer than how you can possibly think you look good with that thing on your head.

Mister President? Why don’t you just jump on a broom like the Wicked Witch of the West and circle the White House, replacing “Surrender Dorothy” with -- “I’m Guilty!”

That would save us all time, attention, money and face. We do need to move along, discarding you on the trash heap of history as a mock messiah unworthy of memory for having shamed us all with bitter betrayal, national disgrace and global dishonor.

The self-indicting tweet confirmed a report in the Washington Post that the Republican President was personally the subject of an extensive criminal investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for obstructing justice. Upon learning of same, Trump seriously contemplated firing Mueller just as he had FBI Director James Comey, but was finally dissuaded by the few clear heads left in his inner circle. Not you Steve Bannon.

All this was after Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard “Pee Wee” Sessions testified under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee as it continued its own investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as any ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Futilely attempting to radiate elfin innocence with a sugar sweet smile and an occasionally engaging “y’all” drawl, Pee Wee did past audition as a future poster boy for the Smedema Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting amnesia. Rolling Stone magazine counted 25 separate times Pee Wee encountered a major memory lapse while testifying. They might have been stoned. Several other publications came up with 26.

California’s own new Senator, Kamala Harris, pointedly noted to Sessions that even in the brief opening remarks he submitted to the Committee in advance of his appearance, “Just on the first page you wrote,” nor do I recall”, “do not have recollection” and “do not remember it.”

Senator Harris did us proud in rapidly pounding away at Pee Wee until Senator John McCain interrupted her in mid sentence by pounding the table, yelling, “Mr. Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question!”

Sessions did so, although confessing with due embarrassment that Senator Harris made him “nervous.” Yes. And she’s a woman!

The question Pee Wee was wildly attempting to wiggle his way out of was what he meant by refusing to answer anything he discussed with President Trump, alleging a long held “policy of communications confidentiality.” No one present had ever heard of such a thing. Pee Wee insisted this was not a matter of “Executive Privilege” or even “classified information.” He also wasn’t sure any such rule existed in writing. Anywhere. Adding intentional avoidance to chronic amnesia has started quite a fuss. Some feel Pee Wee should be charged with Contempt of Congress. Senator Elizabeth Warren flatly stated he should be immediately dismissed. Others swear they will never again eat Keebler Cookies.

Trump will be going down. All loyal hangers-on will be going down. History will be unforgiving.

Although “Obstruction of Justice” is emerging as initial candidate for inclusion in a Bill of Impeachment before the House of Representatives, we are scratching the surface.

The ultimate end will be a dollars deal. It usually is.

Forget the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy.

Follow the money.

June 15, 20117

“Batman v. Trump”

Batman’s dead – but Trump lives on.

Last week we lost 88 year-old Adam West, an iconic actor best known for his role as DC Comic’s Batman in the spectacularly successful ’66-’68 ABC TV revival of the legendary franchise dating back to May of 1939.

As with other super heroes packing movie theaters through succeeding generations, the Batman character epitomizes beliefs, balances and behaviors commonly regarded by the greatest majority of our citizenry through the years as core national values. The kinds of things you teach your kids.

Perhaps Superman proclaimed it best. “Truth, Justice and The American Way!”


Batman would have had little use for Donald J. Trump. Nor would Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy or Wonder Woman. Try giving HER a grab, President Puffball.

Trump can’t tell the truth, thinks “justice” means “just us” and believes the American Way is measured in karats, not character.

I watched former FBI Director Jim Comey’s live testimony under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee from start to finish. I found him clearly confident and highly credible. As any professional pool player would quickly recognize, Comey brilliantly set the table for future things to come. When ABC’s Jon Karl later sprang his own trap on Trump, Donald instantly snapped at the bait like a starving sturgeon. Would the President testify giving his “version of events” under oath? You bet. “One hundred percent!” roared the response. Don’t hold your breath.

Latest Quinnipiac polling shows the Republican President hitting yet another new low with a plunging approval rating of 34%, the worst ever recorded. A full 57% of the 2,000 + sample registered disfavor. An even larger majority of respondents (68%) believe that the President is not “level headed” – including 64% of Republicans. Incidentally, these figures were obtained before Comey went before the Senate Committee and swore under penalty of perjury “the administration chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, and that the work force had lost confidence in its leader. These were lies – plain and simple.”

The initial White House response?

“I can definitely say the President is not a liar,” lied Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee “Southern Baptist Minister’s Daughter” Sanders.

Being unable to secure personal representation from four respectable Washington law firms due to his established legal reputation for “not listening and not paying,” Trump has turned to an old go-to lawyer, New York’s Marc Kasowitz, to act in his stead during the current Russia probe. Marc arrives on the scene quite cozy with the subject at hand since Kasowitz recently represented a major Russian bank, OJSC Sberbank and one particular company owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska with proven connections to the Kremlin. It’s a small world after all.

And it’s going faster all the time.

I can’t believe it’s been seven and a half years since Alan Cheah and I began writing this “For Your Consideration” column, starting in January of 2010. Along with Editor Brian Wilkinson, Publisher Betty Linn has been with us all the way, providing Sierra Star readers with a perhaps more progressive outlook on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness “(more Superman) than otherwise occasionally encountered. As you may have read, Betty is retiring from the Star at the end of this week, but surely not from Oakhurst and all the friends and admirers who love her dearly.

Thank you Betty for being there for all of us, right, left and center, all the time every time.

 












June 8, 2017

“Duck, Donald!”

Here comes the sun.

With former FBI Director James Comey’s sworn words of damning testimony inexorably about to unfold, rumbling and roiling like vengeful, redemptive storm clouds on the near horizon, an inevitable beginning to the end may be drawing near. It’s none too soon.

For the first time in my 75 years of life, an American President is no longer leader of the free world. When our Demander- in - Chief cut and ran from a signed global commitment to the 2015 Paris Accords, his disgusting display of woeful ignorance represented a federal government in full flight from rational responsibility, signaling to the rest of the planet cowardly surrender to naive nationalism at its most pernicious and imperiling.

Trump’s Rose Garden retreat was filled with exaggerations, distortions and outright lies, consistency evidently emerging as one of his few remaining virtues. He actually pontificated before a carefully selected audience of solicitous sycophants; “We don’t want other countries laughing at us anymore!” Here’s when they’ll stop. When the door hits a certain prodigious posterior on its way out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, President Pudge.

The new leader of the free world could be Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel or even France’s brand new President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is the one who delivered an unanticipated and prolonged power handshake to Trump when they met in Brussels. The Washington Post reported, “Each president gripped the other’s hand with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white, their jaws clenching and faces tightening.” Reuters cheerfully added, “Trump just seemed to want his hand back.” Macron called it. “A moment of truth.” Merci!

The Chinese might even find themselves in a position to fill the vacuum created by Trump’s defiant dump, moving to the forefront in developing extensive innovations in green technology - an area in which they have already gained significant traction. On the brighter side, it also seems that there is wide support among American business leaders, local mayors and state governors such as our own Jerry Brown to step in where Donald has struck out, embracing the immediate need for critical change. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used to say that true political power is always local. That might still save us all.

London Bridge wasn’t falling down, but it was unfortunately back in the news Saturday afternoon as we were suddenly jarred by yet another senseless terror driven tragedy. With all three cable news networks presenting live coverage, CNN was first to report that “top advisors” were being “summoned to the White House to meet with the President and determine a course of appropriate responsive action.” While in the past I’ve always found such news certain to bring reliable comfort, my stomach was suddenly churning in knots -- fearing yet another round of universal global embarrassment. Donald didn’t disappoint.

Prioritization often provides insight. The President’s very first tweet offered no sympathy, concern or compassion for the victimized. Trump simply twittered: “We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” A few minutes later, handlers had him add that the U.S. would do whatever it could in offering assistance. He followed up Sunday with attacks on Sadiq Khan, the Muslim Mayor of London, and then renewed support for the American gun lobby, proclaiming, “We are not having a gun debate right now because they used knives and a truck!”

Satisfied with his shrewd sagacious sharing, “Two-Scoop Donny” then retired for the night with extra chocolate cake, several gallons of Diet Coke and a Teddy named Eddie.

Had he been spending the preceding night in Oakhurst, Trump probably would have slept through till Noon and missed an extraordinary opportunity to be both brightened and enlightened.

Tim Z. Hernandez delivered an outstanding presentation before a full capacity crowd at Denny’s Saturday morning for our June meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club. There’s a major difference between a standard speaker and a gifted storyteller. Mr. Hernandez was very much the latter; bringing his nationally heralded, “All They Will Call You” to vibrant life with passion and power. We’ll be taking the month of July off, starting things up again on Saturday, August 5th with Joe Moore, KVPR Director of Programming Content, discussing “Valley Public Radio and Freedom of the Press.”

Real patriots arm themselves with information.

 

June 1, 2017

 

 

“Adios mis amigos”

“The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon…”
Woody Guthrie, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” (Deportee)” (1948)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeCstLTB0EI

Here’s a letter I wrote to Rychard Withers, General Manager of
Fresno’s KFCF in late August of 2015:

Dear Rychard:

Last night I was leaving a “Town Hall Meeting” conducted by our
regretfully conservative Fifth District Congressman Tom
McClintock at the Yosemite Lakes Clubhouse -- hidden way in the
middle of Nowhere, California in the general vicinity of Coarsegold.
Suffice it to observe, the location was rabble free and safe from any madding crowd, particularly those perceived as dauntingly different. There was substantial audience feedback on “dangerous immigrants”, “Illegal
foreigners” and “job stealing freeloaders” with special emphasis on
the “Mexican threat” being so courageously outlined by
presidential candidate Donald Trump. Cries of spirited affirmation
filled the room. Trump! Trump! Trump!

Gasping for sanity as soon as I got in my car to head home with a dazzling, fiery red summer sunset blazing on the horizon, I dialed up 88.1 FM for a breath of fresh air. I was blown away by an explosive version of Woody Guthrie's "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" ("Deportee") by ?????. It turns out "La Raza Chronicles" was scheduled in that time slot, except that "Plane Wreck" selection was playing when I tuned in, but was followed by some sort of interview in Spanish joined in progress at the end of the song. In any event, that particular selection after that specific meeting couldn't have been more perfect.

So -- Do you have any idea what happened and who did that version? It featured a powerful Bruce Springsteen-like vocalist and wonderful slide guitar with someone softly speaking Spanish in the background. Maybe it was some sort of magical hallucination. I've had stranger things happen.

With best wishes,

Peter Cavanaugh
Executive Committee
Oakhurst Democratic Club

Rychard informed me that this marked an occasion of pure
serendipity. It turned out that there was a software glitch in
broadcasting “La Raza Chronicles” and the KFCF programming
computer had filled the sudden dead air with “Plane Wreck at Los
Gatos” by Lance Canales and Tim Z. Hernandez as a
matter of pure random chance. I don’t believe in coincidence.

Early this year, I discovered Dr. Ruben Casas' excellent article on
"All They Will Call You" in the February issue of Fresno’s
“Community Alliance” along with rave reviews of this new book by
Mr. Hernandez. It tells a remarkable story with
precision and perseverance, presenting a brilliant, experience
driven narrative with deeply personal compassion and powerfully
persuasive insight.

I immediately tracked down Mr. Hernandez and asked him to visit Oakhurst. He said he would be pleased to do so.

The next monthly meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club will be this Saturday, June 3rd, at Denny’s on Highway 41 with breakfast starting at 8:30 AM and program beginning at 9:30.

Our featured speaker will be Tim Z. Hernandez, author of “All
They Will Call You”, a history of the 1948 plane crash in Los Gatos
Canyon that killed 28 migrant workers.

Recipient of numerous national book awards, Hernandez is an
American writer, poet and performer. Tim was raised in the
San Joaquin Valley, the son of migrant farm workers. In his adolescent years he became immersed in school plays and recitation, eventually studying poetry and performance at California State University in Long Beach.

Mr. Hernandez earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Writing and Literature from Naropa University --- the first accredited Buddhist institute in the West. He holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Bennington College in Vermont and is currently an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Texas in El Paso.

His books and research have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Public Radio International and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
The general public is enthusiastically encouraged to attend.
Anne Driscoll of Branches Books & Gifts is celebrating the store’s Fourth Year Anniversary this weekend and has ordered copies of “All They Will Call You” -- offering a special 20% discount to those mentioning Mr. Hernandez’ Oakhurst appearance. If you buy one, be sure to have it at the meeting for signing.

See you Saturday. Bring friends. It’s free!

“This land is your land, this land is my land.
From California to the New York island.
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters.
This land was made for you and me.”

Woody Guthrie -- “This Land” --- (1940)


 

May 25, 2017

“Tripping With Trump”

Jared is scared.

Along with being the President’s son-in-law and Ivanka’s marginally honorable husband, Jared “The Kid” Kushner is or may soon be the “subject of interest” referenced late last week in the Washington Post.

According to the multi-sourced report, a “senior White House adviser close to the President” is under scrutiny in connection with the newly configured probe into certain Russian connections between the Trump organization and Donny’s pal, Putin.

The Kid and Ivanka are together personally worth around $700 million, so whatever Jared might have dared was undoubtedly prompted more by love than money. Overlooking this romantic aside, when Kushner sought top-secret security clearance in becoming his Liar-in-Law’s senior adviser, he was required to list in writing all encounters with senior government officials over the last seven years. This was tantamount to sworn testimony. It says right on FBI Standard Form 86, “Knowingly falsifying or concealing material facts is a federal felony that may result in fines or up to five years imprisonment.” Whoops. The Kid left a few things out.

In what must have been a temporary burst of amicable amnesia, Kushner neglected to include dozens of dalliances, including a meeting only weeks before with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak (there he is again) and the head of Vnesheconombank, Russia’s state owned bank. That would be yet another Sergey, Sergey N. Gorkov, whose credentials include graduation with honors from Russia’s top spy school, Moscow’s Andropov Institute. It is said to achieve distinction at The Institute, one must learn to disappear in an empty room. Impressive.

Kushner’s assumedly apoplectic attorneys have since referenced these omissions as being “inadvertent” – brought about by a “premature submission.” There are certain things with which one must learn to take more time.

Whether or not Jared ever cared to update his data, there he was as usual -- right down front in Riyadh at the beginning of Trump’s widely heralded first big trip overseas, dripping in golden opulence and staggering splendor in the court of King Salamander. Yes, things kicked off in Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca, Mohammed and 15 of the 19 terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11. This Memorial Day Weekend, we should not forget. Never.

Trump presented an amazingly subdued address to the assembled Muslim leaders, more than a few being despotic dictators, but what’s gruesome to some may be unrestrained guidance to others – surely nothing that forbids friendship. This “Donald on Downers” was much more laid back than I’ve ever seen – appearing more embalmed than emboldened. Not a bad look.

While being lavishly entertained like the monarch he seeks to be, Trump was joined by his Secretary of Commerce, 79 year-old Wilbur Ross, Jr., prancing about like Flopsy and Mopsy during an official Saudi victory dance, ceremonial swords held high or, in Wilbur’s case, about halfway up. Speaking of which, Wilbur was there with his third wife, the blond and beautiful Hillary (ironic, eh?) Ross. Mrs. Ross III, is said to be a “fixture of Washington and Palm Beach” and a “Power Society Hostess.”

Wilbur is worth several billion bucks, much of which he earned investing in corporate takeovers costing thousands of American workers their jobs, staging career executions on cue – carving up assets and bleeding pension funds to the last penny. Wilbur offers a prime example of vulture capitalism at its worst -- awful, but lawful. And our current Secretary of Commerce was only two short years ago Vice-Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus -- generally recognized as being primarily created to launder dark Russian money with deep ties to Vlad the Bad. It is heavily rumored that, in many ways, as Vice-Chairman of the Bank, Ross reported directly to Putin.

There’s one thing certain about the parties in Saudi. Everyone there had big money. Lots of it. Lots. That brings me to Netflix.

‘Get Me Roger Stone” just came on line for streaming. Watch it more than once. It pretty much explains everything we are experiencing in the hallucinogenic-like, mind-mauling horror of our 45th President as we continue tripping with Trump.

Accordingly to the Washington Times, Stone recently admitted that he has been in private communications with Russian-connected hackers into Democratic National Headquarters. Stone also boasts of having a “back channel” to Julian Assange -- Wiki-leaker extraordinaire.

Roger Stone goes back to Goldwater. He is a colorful cockroach of a character – delightfully diabolical. You can’t help but marvel at his manipulative genius, while sadly recalling the immortal words of P.T. Barnum, “You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Die-hard Trump fans?

You’ve been played.


May 19, 2017

"Downward Donald"

Allegiance is shifting.

Self-survival requires nothing less.

Tipping point reached, balance lost, we now witness rapid acceleration of a plunging decline to eventual abandonment as former Trump supporters, shocked and silenced by behavior as bewildering as his broken promises, firmly and finally withdraw open endorsement.

NBC’s “Face the Nation” resounded Sunday with honest Republican reevaluation.

“A Presidency without guardrails.”

“Richard Nixon on steroids.”

“This guy scares me.”

Not much time is left for those who wish to remain on the right side of history.

Consider the astounding enormity of Drumpf’s (original German spelling of Trump’s family name) latest miscalculation in foolishly fantasizing that Democrats would delight in the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.

Parenthetically, HBO’s John Oliver defines the word “Drumpf” as meaning either “a serial liar” or “the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy store.”

I just read that. It’s too good to leave out.

While many Democrats do believe Comey’s handling of the Hillary email probe was less than stellar (including Mrs. Clinton) – virtually everyone still agrees that Comey nevertheless was and remained valiantly virtuous by almost every other measure during his long and dedicated years of government service. For such extended devotion to honor and duty he was abruptly dismissed without fair warning or the slightest pretense of proper protocol – ignominiously fired before millions on cable TV.

Effortlessly tossing some of his closest surrogates (including Poodle Pence) under the Lester Holt “NBC Nightly News” bus that following day in a live interview and introducing a brand new set of alternate facts in the process, President Pigeon kept insisting that he personally was not being investigated. That came down as item #1. He even made up some fresh fibs -- straight from the oven steaming hot. Sniff the snit. Everyone else? The campaign? Those Russian guys taking pictures in the Oval office? Who knows?

After every new “worst week” comes another.

Now he’s about to represent us in his first overseas mission since being inaugurated. Saudi Arabia. Israel. The Vatican. Then comes the NATO Summit in Brussels followed by a G7 Meeting in Sicily. What can possibly go wrong? Everything.

Horrid organizer. Pathetic planner. Destructive delegator. Move over, Miley. Donald J. Trump is the ultimate wrecking ball. It’s quite conceivable he can unite the world by making everyone on the planet hate us all at once. But it won’t be his fault. Nothing bad ever is.

Donald feels his good things include Pee Wee.

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions the 3rd, whose middle name may soon disappear in the middle of the night along with the rest of him, didn’t tell the truth on January 10th when he told Senate peers under oath he hadn’t meet with any recent Russians.

Oh, wait! That “Sergey Kislyak?” Him? Isn’t he a tailor or something? Sessions later allowed that he had met with the Russian Ambassador twice in 2016, but not as part of the Trump campaign. And Pee Wee didn’t buy any suits.

To alleviate any consequential concerns about his lasting love of law and order, Jefferson the Third has just ordered that federal prosecutors should “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in drug cases, even when that would trigger mandatory minimum sentencing. This would bring back pre-Obama era incarceration policies that led to the United States – representing 5% of the globe’s population, housing 25% of its prisoners.

Mandatory sentencing for drug users has been controversial of late with significant bipartisan support building for review and revision.

Many reflective Republicans now oppose the concept as proven to be unfair, ineffective and far too costly. Not Sessions. Pee Wee likes the P.R. – characteristically treasuring form over substance.

Most of Trump’s cabinet appointees are moving in predictable directions, even though much of his new administration is alarmingly understaffed, particularly the State Department. That should work out well on this weekend’s trip.

Obstruction of justice was one of the first charges outlined in the proposed impeachment of Richard M. Nixon on July 27, 1974. When the investigated (Donald) dismisses his primary investigator (James), this would seem to offer a classic definition of such obstruction.

Harvard Law Professor and leading constitutional authority Lawrence Tribe now categorically states, “Trump’s impeachment is an imperative.”

Professor Tribe adds, “Impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. Political reality made impeachment seem premature. No longer. To wait for the results of multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader.”

Preach impeach.

Tom McClintock -- (916) 786-5560 or (202) 225-2511

They count every call.

 

May 11, 2017

“Zombie Trumpcare”

Horror stalks the land.

Spawned once again in the darkest part of night, the monster rose anew. Like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.”

Its putrid essence wafting olfactory insult as it passes, the vile villain now slithers toward The Senate on a mission to maim millions – hacking healthcare to reward the rich with a trillion dollar tax cut over the next ten years. The have-it-alls get more. It’s the least we can do for our betters.

Frankensteins by the dozen celebrated their vivisection resurrection with beer by the barrel on White House steps, led by President Pretense and his precious Prince Pence. Pass the pretzels, Poodle.

Victory was staggering. 216 votes were needed for success. 217 were scored. It was another historic, off the charts, big league landslide. Really special. Tremendous. Incredible.

Here’s a quick rundown.

Most Republicans hate the Affordable Care Act of 2010 because someone named it “Obamacare” and that somehow stuck. Even President Obama started calling it “Obamacare.” Year after year, survey upon survey has conclusively proven beyond any doubt that a significant majority of Americans like what’s in ACA when you break it down. That’s become especially true these last few months. Check out those Town Hall Meetings from coast to coast if you can get in the door anywhere.

The cost of medical coverage has been increasing by leaps and bounds in our lifetime DESPITE “Obamacare”, not BECAUSE of it.
This is statistically indisputable. Ask anyone in the insurance business, not Donald J. “Truth Trasher” Trump. The brakes were hit in 2014 when the provisions of the Act were fully in place.
Representative Fred Upton (R-Michigan) came up with a scheme at the last minute adding eight billion dollars to the beast for theoretical assistance to those negatively impacted by having a “pre-existing condition” -- such as – gender. Anyone shoved head first into a high-risk pool might be able to draw upon this fund for assistance. According to every reasonable estimate, there’s enough there to take you from being ten feet underwater in the pool to being only eight feet beneath the surface. But there’s less pressure, assuming you can hold your breath long enough to tell the difference. Glub - Glub. Gulp. Gone.

Taking cowardly cover from this cynical last minute cosmetic, enough earlier wobblers came on board to breath life into the creature. This included our own Tom McClintock.

Tom!

How can you kiss your wife with those lips?

Rachel Maddow put our guy under a bright MSNBC spotlight after the vote came down, prominently featuring several area constituents loudly labeling him, “Tom McTRUMP.” As of last count, four (4) ladies have lined up to run against McTrump next year, recent Democratic contender Dr. Bob Derlet having decided to sit this one out. You’ll have the chance to meet them all in the near future. They have lots to say.

Zombie Trumpcare elevates and celebrates the worst instincts of self-serving economic privilege. It momentarily pacifies the young, outrageously services the wealthy and permanently injures the old, sick and poor. Zombie Trumpcare is the Sermon on the Mount upside down. Zombie Trumpcare sucks.

Although he and I share little concurrence in specific political outlook, I have always admired conservative pundit George Will for his diligent pursuit of truth, intellectual prowess and mastery of language. And I also love baseball, as does George.

Internalizing the accidental election of Trump far past the point of such silly concepts as “mild nausea” (which must be somewhat akin to “partial pregnancy”) – I find myself constantly struggling each week to find adequate words to express my ever increasing discomfort. Pejoratives offer nothing more than a partial panacea at best and overt overkill at worst.

A single column by George Will was the talk of Washington last week. I found it brilliantly inspirational and utterly fascinating. I close this column with his words.

“It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination, but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. The dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something. It is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man…”

Tom?


 

May 4, 2017

“Freedom Can’t Protect Itself”

Democracy is not automatic.

In fact, it still remains a fragile commodity.

Only 43% of the global population currently enjoys relatively full political rights and liberties.

The Democracy Index constructed by the Economist Intelligence Unit of the United Kingdom is based on 60 separate indicators. These are grouped into 5 different categories measuring pluralism, civil freedoms and political culture. In addition to a numeric score and comparative ranking, the Index then rates nations as one of four regime types – full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

Of the 167 countries most recently reviewed, the United States ranks 21st on the list with North Korea coming in last. No surprise there.

But we have been downgraded from a “full” to “flawed democracy” -- this development generated not by Donald Trump winning the presidency, but, quoting the report, “caused by the same factors that led to his election” – defined by The Economist as “declining trust in government.”

The consequence of Trump’s elevation nevertheless has spawned a new generation of swamp creatures now threatening core American beliefs and principles unlike any before -- a conquering cabal of craven intent dedicated to their own private interests and displaying extraordinary exclusion of everyone else. This is particularly true of anything dealing with the public good and “general welfare’’ – even though those last two words are enshrined twice in the Constitution – both in the Preamble and later in the Tax and Spending clause.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to defending and preserving guaranteed individual rights and liberties. It has over a million members. In 2020, it will be one hundred years old. Get ready to stand back from all the candles on that cake.

The ACLU was formed in 1920 by a group of prominent citizens concerned about government censorship. This had become commonplace. Magazines were regularly being confiscated under anti-obscenity laws. Permits for labor rallies were often denied. Right-wing groups were enjoying enormous political power, while anyone promoting unionization, socialism or governmental reform was branded as being un-American and unpatriotic.

ACLU founders included Felix Frankfurter, later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Felix served for 23 years through 1962.

The first five years didn’t get much done, but things sure changed in 1925 with The Scopes “Monkey Trial” in rural Dayton, Tennessee. Those who recall the film “Inherit the Wind” (1961) know the story. Spencer Tracy received an Academy Award Nomination as Best Actor for his portrayal of legendary attorney Clarence Darrow, renamed “Henry Drummond” in the movie, just as three-time Democratic candidate for President, William Jennings Bryan, became “Matthew Harrison Brady” played by Fredrick March.

Even way back then, it was “Evolution” vs. “Creationism.”

Darrow, a member of the ACLU National Committee, argued against the fundamentalist, literal interpretation of The Bible endorsed by Bryan, who won the jury, but in real life died only a few days later. Many say Darrow plain wore him out and actually carried the day by favorably introducing the ACLU to millions of newspaper readers across the nation. They followed the trial on a daily basis thanks to extensive syndicated coverage by the legendary H. L. Menken of The Baltimore Sun, a character portrayed in the movie by Gene Kelly.

It seems to be a common belief in certain circles that the ACLU is nothing but a “liberal” group of folks. Not so fast.

Allies in litigation through the years have included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Rifle Association. The American Jewish Congress and the Ku Klux Klan. The Nation of Islam and Westboro Baptist Church.

The ACLU has risen to the defense of left-leaning advocates such as
Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dick Gregory, but was equally energized and effective in providing critical legal assistance to staunch conservatives Henry Ford, Oliver North and Rush Limbaugh during troubled times.

Freedom of Speech is a core American value and a fundamental
ACLU belief. The organization simply states: “It is easy to defend freedom of speech when the message is something most people find at least reasonable. But the defense of freedom of speech is most critical when the message is one most people find repulsive.”

The Oakhurst Democratic Club is honored to present Katherine Pantangco of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California this Saturday, joining us for our May meeting at Denny’s on Highway 41. Breakfast will be served starting at 8:30 AM with our program beginning at 9:30. Ms. Pantangco will be addressing us on “Your ACLU in the Age of Trump” with plenty of time for questions.

As it says on their letterhead; “ACLU of Northern California: Freedom Can’t Protect Itself.”

We need you.


April 27, 2017

The 100 Daze”

You are not alone. In fact, you are in the American majority by a 2 to 1 margin according to late breaking polls.

Dazed? Confused? Frustrated? Depressed? Can’t sleep?

Your tummy turns every time you see his boastful, bloating, blubbering body bulge across your TV screen?

Relax. You’re enduring “The 100 Daze” – a completely rational response to what has become a tragic travesty with this Saturday marking (marring) the completion of Donald J. Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Our Crybaby-in-Chief -- tail firmly trailing between his legs -- will observe the occasion by scurrying away from the annual White House Correspondence Dinner in Washington where they might make fun of him. He’ll be running off to Harrisburg for hastily assembled adoration from what handlers hope will be another throng of truculent Trumpoids eager to growl and grovel at their masters bone spurred feet. At least that’s what he says kept him out of Vietnam.

Matt Reed was in town last week, filling in for Representative Tom McClintock’s District Director, Rocky Deal, in a regularly scheduled constituent visit over at the Chamber of Commerce. Matt did a fine job, even describing with a perfectly straight face Tom’s reluctance to accept “climate change” as established science.

Annie from North Fork wasn’t having any of this, passionately presenting Matt with an extended explanation and personally handing him more than ample documentation proving her point. Matt accepted both with an appreciative smile, never attempting argument. Smart.

Joseph from Oakhurst annoyed a few folks by video recording the goings on, perhaps overlooking the fact that because something’s legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cool. Matt didn’t seem to care. Smart.

Perhaps the most succinct commentary from those filling the room with almost exclusively anti-Trump attendees came from a gentleman who simply and courteously stated that it is now impossible to believe Trump would not be “going down” far before the end of a full four year term. He pointedly and firmly added that Republicans in Congress who failed to act responsibly in the face of such outrageous behavior and incontrovertible evidence of dangerous delusion would also “go down” – perhaps for no fault of their own other than timid complicity. This wasn’t lost on Mr. Reed. Smart.

Counting all the spectacular achievements as President constantly touted by Trump at every turn, I come up with one – Neil Gorsuch – the latest Supreme. That’s it. And that was really Mitch “Turtle Time” McConnell’s win. Most of Trump’s numerous “Executive Orders” (when he remembers to sign them) merely attempted to overturn what Barack Obama had thoughtfully put in place after many hours of thoughtful reflection. It can take a month to build a house, yet just a minute to bulldoze it down. I am not a fan of mindless negation – however convenient and time efficient.

Part of the curse of this“100 Daze” is a complete inability to provide any sort of cohesive summary as to exactly where we are right now. It’s like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in quantum physics – an impossibility to precisely measure both the location and velocity of an object at the same instance – or even theorize same. Trump’s that wacky.

Meanwhile, our new Republican Attorney General, Jeff “Pee Wee” Sessions doesn’t seem to know Hawaii is a state, wants to wage war on weed, and stunned ABC’s “This Week” viewers Sunday morning by declaring without substantiation that the “Giant Border Wall” should not only be built, but be paid for by $4 billion dollars a year in excess tax payments that go to “mostly Mexicans.” Pee Wee was apparently referring to a six year old Treasury report that never mentioned Mexicans or any other nationality. Along with other horrors, it now seems the “Wall” would be an environmental disaster as well as a global embarrassment.

It was terrific seeing my old friend Alan Cheah back in print last week with his Guest Commentary -- “On The Chopping Block.” I join Alan, the California Alliance for Retired Americans (”CARA”) and the Oakhurst for Peace group urging you to attend a special “Town Hall Meeting” from 2 till 4PM this coming Sunday at the Oakhurst Library.
I hope Conservatives, Liberals, Progressives (Liberals with Attitude) and all in between will join together in urging our government to keep “HANDS OFF OUR SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE AND MEDICAID!” Congress is proposing huge cuts and changes. Don’t stay home.



 

April 13, 2017

“Any Way The Wind Blows”

War by impulse.

The newsman’s voice rang with startling alarm: “Trump shows the world he’s not afraid to attack without warning!”

Great.

So much for calming down frazzled foreign fears --- especially our closest allies. We should excuse them if they take a few steps back.

It didn’t take long for things to settle down after last week’s fusillade of Tomahawk missiles worth thirty million bucks raining havoc (or at least sprinkling sparkle) on Syria’s Shayrat Air Force Base. This was supposed to be a message sent. It turned out to be more of an “Itchy-Kitchy-Koo” tickle than a serious kick in the assets of President Bashar al-Assad.

Operations pretty much returned to normal at the installation the following day with renewed attacks by Syrian and Russian jets on Khan Sheikhoun, the same poor little town that had earlier undergone poisonous chemical exposure, precipitating American intervention in the first place.

It’s all Exorcist level head spinning – round and round we go – and where we stop nobody knows – particularly Donald J. Trump.

A cheering cowboy chorus of clamorous congratulations has since given way to more somber reflection with the realization that once again our Philanderer-in-Chief has done exactly the opposite of what he promised countless times he wouldn’t do. No voice was louder than his in 2013 urging President Obama not to intervene with air power in Syrian affairs. That position was repeated throughout Trump’s shockingly successful run for the Presidency and echoed only days ago by Secretary of State Rex “Let’s Try That Again” Tillerson and his recommendation that any sort of regime change in Damascus be “left up to the Syrian people.”

I hope you’re sitting down for this. Ready?

Hooray for Tom McClintock!

Our Fourth District Representative has issued the following statement:

“The Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons is an atrocity and a war crime, but it is not “a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” as provided in the War Powers Resolution. No matter how strongly we may feel about the actions of the Syrian government, the President had no legal or constitutional authority to order this attack without the consent of Congress. This action crosses a bright line that separates the fundamental powers of our government and risks a constitutional crisis if continued.”

I could not be more in agreement. Let’s remember what happened almost four years ago.

President Obama had gone on record, however imprudently, suggesting that a “red line” for action would be any future use of chemical weapons by government forces in the Syrian conflict. Then in August of 2013 -- a team of UN weapons inspectors confirmed that the nerve gas sarin had been unleashed on the Ghouta agricultural belt -- killing more than 1,400 people with thousands more seriously injured.

In reviewing any number of unpleasant options, the President decided that choosing sides in a civil war of infinite complexity would be ill advised. Instead, he welcomed a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin that called on the Syrian government to destroy all remaining chemical weapons under its control. In fact, Putin offered a personal guarantee this would happen. Now look. Oh, Vlad. So sad.

Responding to continuing cries from some that this was a whimpy way to wiggle out of a call to action, President Obama then formally asked Congress to authorize full-fledged air strikes on Syria. “I am prepared to give that order”, said the President. “But – I am also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” In response, it was crickets on chloroform. The silence was deafening. No vote was ever proposed or taken in the House or Senate. The issue remains essentially unresolved. Barack Obama was correct at the time. Tom McClintock remains so now.

Many have commented on the blatant hypocrisy arising from President Trump’s expressed horror at having “little babies” die from chemicals, seemingly as long as they perish far from here. Under Trump’s temporarily court blocked Muslim travel ban, those same victims would remain unwelcome on our shores. But why should we enjoy the slightest measure of clarity and consistency on this issue when the White House has become a Tower of Babel with different voices offering varying positions on a variety of critical topics?

When will we ever learn?

Only Trump Tower is tall enough to reach heaven -- with a moral code under random rule. What might be nice? Let’s roll the dice!

“Nothing really matters
Anyone can see.
Nothing really matters to me.”

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)



April 6, 2017

“Patsy”

pat-sy – [?pats?]

Noun – A person who is easily taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for something. A fool. A sap. A sucker.

Used in sentence --- Representative Devin Nunes (R- Tulare) was, is and forever will be – a patsy.

You can see it in his vacuous stare. You can hear it in his ever-changing lies. You can read it in his querulous quotes – peevish and fretful over a self-inflicted predicament -- foolishly initiated, amateurishly executed and clumsily concealed.

In case you’re a Sierra black bear only now rising rested from a long winter of hibernal bliss, here’s what happened:

Through patronage-prodded party politics, this nitwit Nunes somehow ended up being Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, pretty much like putting a mouse in charge of cats. Investigating possible Russian influence on Donald Trump’s White House, Nunes broke all sorts of past practices and procedures in a doomed effort to provide the President with “vindication” for an insane claim that his orangeness had been “wiretapped” by a predecessor. What a jerk. Make that jerks.

How anyone can regard Nunes as anything less than “a stain on his office” (Nancy Pelosi said that) is beyond comprehension. How Nunes has dishonored his duties, discredited his profession and denigrated his district is evocatively evident. How Devin Nunes can ever avoid criminal liability for such blighted behavior seems profoundly problematic.

Far past Nunes’ mischievous mission is the expanding horror of an administration gone mad, displaying every sign of rampant paranoia as it wildly strikes out at perceived slights, presenting the world with a schizophrenic posture lacking clarity, resolution and/or substance.
Each new day dawns with yet another affront to civilized sensibilities, oftentimes twitted from the offal office in semi-literate, often misspelled, tirades. Does “cat” have one or two “k’s”?

I fear worst is yet to be, particularly since a full third of our population seem oblivious to the fact they are supporting a cause not only lost, but exhausted. Just look at the man. He is not having a good time, finding out far too late that being President is a regimen, not a role. It’s work. Non-stop. 24/7/365. That’s why we see such aging in office. Last week Trump staged a big “Executive Signing” – then tried to leave the room without signing a thing. An aide caught his attention. “Huh?”

In the cornered rat department, fired National Security Advisor Michael “Thin Skin” Flynn, having gone on record stating that only criminals need immunity, suddenly wants a little of that action himself. His attorney enticingly writes that Flynn “certainly has a story to tell”, but doesn’t want jail when he tells his tale. No takers so far. Mister “Lock Her Up” from the GOP Convention wants no stay in any house of detention.

As a champion of “the little guy”, Donald J. Trump certainly hasn’t brought many on board in structuring his staff. In fact, 27 Trump hires are collectively worth more than $2.3 billion dollars, including his daughter, Ivanka, and hubby, Jared Kushner, who score a cool $750 million all by themselves without a nickel of Donald’s dough.

This information was part of a massive White House release of financial disclosure forms late last week for dozens of officials as required by law. The details are fascinating.

Guess how much loudmouth Kellyanne Conway made last year defiantly defending “The Donald? ” $800 grand!

White House Chief of Staff Reince “E.T. Call Home” Preibus only knocked down $500,000 as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, but hauled in an extra $750,000 in a buy-out by former law partners.

But leaving behind two-bit players, Chief Economic Policy Advisor Gary Cohen pulled in $75 million or so in 2016, but that might be more. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could write a check for $1.3 billion that wouldn’t bounce and, even on a slow day, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is worth about $2.3 billion and change. Trump, himself, is estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at having $3 billion in assets, which Donald can always be counted on to round up past an even $10.

Presidential Historian Robert Dallek writes, “You’d have to go back to Herbert Hoover to see a cabinet that was this reliant on wealthy people, but the wealth has changed. Millionaires have become billionaires.”

It was the administration of Herbert Hoover that brought on The Great Depression of 1929.

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it!” – British Statesman and Philosopher Edmund Burke (1794) – generally viewed as the intellectual founder of modern political conservatism.







March 30, 2017

“Fool!”

“I guess I’m here, what? 64 days? I never said, “Repeal and replace Obamacare” You’ve all heard my speeches. I never said, “repeal it and replace it within 64 days.” -- President Donald J. Trump late Friday afternoon after “Trumpcare” was pronounced D.O.A. and laid to rest by imperial decree.

Trump was at last truthful in this fumbling, stumbling, bumbling utterance. He never did use those exact words. What he said instead over and over again dozens of times was that “repeal and replace Obamacare“ would be virtually immediate (on his “first day in office”) and easy (“no problem for me”) and universally beneficial without exception (“giving everyone big league coverage in every state at much lower premium cost.”)

The walls are tumbling down.

Recent days have revealed cascading consequences of a White House in full disarray, displaying chronic chaos, staggering ineptitude and rampant presidential paranoia at seemingly every turn.

Begorrah! Hope you had your bets down March 17th! We were treated to a world class Trifecta during Trump’s Saint Patrick’s Day meeting with visiting Chancellor Angela Merkel when he managed to insult three major global powers all at once in the same Press Conference.
Claiming Germany owes the U.S. money for NATO, hallucinating England wiretapped Trump for Obama and castigating a trade-cheating China, pompous posturing hit a new milestone in disingenuous diplomacy.

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers have now testified under oath that no proof exists to support Trump’s claim that he had been “wiretapped” in any way by President Obama. Comey has also publicly announced that the Bureau IS currently investigating the possibility of criminal connections between Russian operatives and members of the Trump team.

On the crippled legislative front, “Trumpcare” had proposed to work its worst on the elderly, sick and poor as an $880 million dollar cut to Medicare over ten years would have produced a virtually equal tax reduction targeted to the super rich.

In late hours of mindless panic the night before failure was final, Trump agreed it might be a fine idea to win ultra conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus to his increasingly more caustic campaign by proposing the option of doing away with specific “essential elements” guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act. These would include such things as ambulatory patient and emergency services, basic hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services laboratory work, chronic disease management and pediatric offerings.

Undoubtedly, all of this would deliver cheaper insurance (“lower premiums”), but with almost nothing of meaningful consequence properly covered, accompanied by sky-high deductibles.

For spurning this generous Trumpian offer of legislative leniency and not “giving him a win” (Donald’s single thought clearly expressed in anemic efforts at persuasive dialogue according to all testimony) members of the House Freedom Caucus experienced heavy incoming tweet fire early Sunday as an enraged chief executive twittered away, blaming the entire right wing of his party for “saving Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.” This sentiment was immediately echoed on Sunday morning talk shows by White House Chief-of-Staff and Guy With Space Alien Name, Reince Priebus.

With Trumpcare dead as Donald’s diet, it seems “tax cuts” are next on the agenda for financial wheeling and dealing, dicing and slicing, cutting and gutting.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s initial proposals for the 2018 fiscal year are obscene with massive increases in military expenditures, outrageous slashing of social spending and nothing at all for climate change -- an item Mulvaney has relegated to mythological status.

But Trump still has his troops.

“Lock her up!” yet rings from the rafters.

In November absence at the polls of an educated electorate -- our slowest learners often select their fastest talkers.

Batten down the hatches. It’s full greed ahead.

But will The E.P.A. Go Away? Can Spicer Be Nicer? Dump Trump?

This Saturday, April First, the Oakhurst Democratic Club presents: “Won’t Get Fooled Again” -- An April Fools’ Day 2017 Special -- An Uncensored Open Discussion – A Free-For-All Forum in which everyone who wishes to speak about anything gets a chance to talk.

It all happens at Denny’s on Highway 41 with breakfast served at 8:30 AM and our presentation beginning at 9:30.

The public is cordially encouraged to attend regardless of party affiliation.

Coming in May, the Oakhurst Democratic Club will feature, “Today’s ACLU” -- in June, Award Winning Author Tim Hernandez and “All They Will Call You” and in August, KVPR Director of Program Content, Joe Moore and KVPR President & General Manager Mariam Stepanian discussing, “Valley Public Radio and Freedom of The Press.”

It’s time to leave the sidelines!



 

March 23, 2017

“Chuck Berry”
(1926 – 2017)

The following are excerpts from “Local DJ” – an extended memoir recalling many decades in Rock & Roll Radio.

“Chuck Berry played Flint in early fall of 1967, appearing with the Beach Boys. After the performance, a few of us took him to The Stardust Lounge - a major station hang out. I got to carry Chuck’s guitar case and diligently guard it when he jumped on stage to join a few local musicians play his songs.

Mr. Berry was a soft-spoken gentleman, but had prison-hardened eyes from time served and bitter experiences with authorities of the late ‘50’s who hated “that music.” Certain suspicions and cynicisms remained. Chuck Berry had been horribly mistreated more than once. It showed. Many stars carry scars.

In January of 1971, I received a call from a Detroit booking agent informing me that Chuck was spending several weeks in Lansing, recording a new album with a young Michigan group called “The Woolies.” They had constructed a makeshift recording studio in a garage annex next to their house.

After his incredible success in the mid to late ’50s and a period of incarceration brought about more by his choice of skin complexion and unparalleled popularity among white youth than overt acts of felonious illegality, Mr. Berry had fallen on marginal times. He had never been the primary beneficiary of his earlier triumphs. As a black artist, he was not unique in this distinction, but his experience was singular in terms of magnitude.

As a consequence, Chuck Berry had become a lone rider on the Rock & Roll Range. He was his own manager now and all he carried on the road was a guitar. His contract specified simple amplifier requirements and local support musicians of acceptable ability.

Whenever Berry was booked in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana or Ohio -- The Woolies were his first choice. Promoters were instructed accordingly. Chuck was also without a recording contract. When The Woolies offered him use of their humble facilities at extremely favorable terms, Mr. Berry was most pleased. He had set aside much of January for the project.

Chuck had also reflected upon the possibility of generating a few dollars in the immediate vicinity during his stay in Lansing. Learning of his proximity, I agreed instantly to promote a Flint appearance.

Backstage we had gone through a ritual prior to performance -- standard when dealing with Chuck Berry. He had carefully reviewed the ticket count and then audited the money given him. He had gone into percentage and was thus entitled to $1,770.00 for the night. This amount was presented in cash, mainly in one and five dollar bills. Mr. Berry carefully counted each and every dollar. It took approximately ten minutes. Satisfied that all was in order, a giant, tooth-filled grin crossed the showman’s face. With the word “mellow”, he signified his satisfaction. One would not wish to see Chuck Berry frown.

During one of several encores, he introduced a novelty tune about a little boy and his bell. Crowd participation was requested and given. A studio version performed with The Woolies was later discarded in favor of a live recording made during an appearance the following winter at the Lanchester Polytechnic College Arts Festival in Coventry, England. The BBC resisted severe pressure to ban the song after being accused of being “a vehicle for mass child molestation” by self-styled protector of British morals, Mary Whitehouse. “My Ding-A-Ling” sold over two million copies around the world.

September First of 1971 was our last major outdoor concert of the season at Sherwood Forest. Chuck Berry closed the show with his famous “Duck Walk”. Later, we proceeded to a friend’s house with several close acquaintances and partied through the night. I just listened to his stories. We were on the air over WTAC at 5 AM as he co-hosted the first hour. He made it to the Flint airport for a 6:20 flight.”

Working with Chuck Berry was a major highlight of my life, both professionally and personally.

He was kind enough to allow me to use his lyrics without charge from “Roll Over Beethoven” in a book I was writing.

I have his permission signed by attorney on file here in my office, allowing me to start my life story with Chuck Berry’s own words:

“I’m gonna write a little letter, gonna mail it to my “Local DJ.”
It’s a jumpin’ little record I want my jockey to play.”

Chuck Berry – (1956)

Long live Rock & Roll!

 

March 9, 2017

“Fire Trump”

Enough!

I suggest Donald J. Trump’s insane assertion that Barack Obama personally authorized electronic surveillance of Trump headquarters prior to the November election offers final proof of his mental imbalance, emotional instability, and incapability to serve. Moreover, his continuation in office presents an immediate clear and present danger to our national security and continued existence as a free state.

We need not wait four more years.

25th Amendment to the Constitution – Section Four

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

The Amendment goes on to provide further mechanics in the process of Presidential removal, ultimately concluding with finalization by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate.

I trust that enough of our Republican brethren in Congress will soon place patriotism over party, particularly since true conservative goals under a Pence administration could be more realistically reached without a maniac in charge.

Let’s face it. Donald J. Trump has proven himself time and time again utterly unworthy of trust.


And it’s time for forgetting -- “Extreme Vetting.”

This hysterical phrase has never meant anything of merit other than to those stuck on stupid.

As an extensive “60 Minutes” segment recently outlined, Middle East refugees are already formally “vetted” by various governmental agencies for up to two or more years before being conditionally approved. More than 99% of all applicants fail to make the cut.

Included in the process are United Nations screenings, a State Department examination, several background checks, three levels of fingerprint analysis, an extensive interview by Homeland Security, cultural orientation and a multi-agency security review. The whole process is as tight as a tick on tequila.

Then came official word from Homeland Security, the State Department, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Executive U.S. Citizenship and Terrorist Service
that our Republican President’s aborted attempt to ban travel from certain “Muslim States” was dangerously dumb, as would be any attempt to resuscitate it. Not admitting error has become a bullheaded bulkhead rapidly emerging as a Trump trademark.

This combined report by multiple agencies concluded: “We access that most foreign born US based violent extremists are likely radicalized several years after their entry to the United States, limiting the ability of screening and vetting officials to prevent their entry because of national security concerns.”

Bottom line? Homeland Security believes Trump’s court-condemned, world reproved, temporarily abandoned ban would have accomplished nothing other than fueling radicalization, making America much less safe. Impatient to make an impressive macho move only days in office, Trump couldn’t help but just rush in.

Speaking of Russians, the number of Trump-connected individuals who made meaningful contact with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump was inaugurated jumped from zero to five last week, but not one remembers what might have been discussed in an amazing demonstration of virtually total amnesia, protectively collective as well as politically convenient.

Prior to his breathtaking Saturday backslide, last week also witnessed a temporarily dialed-down-Donald, addressing Congress Tuesday night and sticking to his teleprompter like that thing hanging on his head, offering plenty of platitudes, but sparse on specifics.

Many raved about his trimmed tone, briefly thankful that our new occupant of the now Awful Office had successfully completed what must have been an exhausting exercise holding back characteristically torrid twitters, tasty taunts and tantrum tweets. Even unfriendly fact checkers later reluctantly admitted that he only blatantly lied outright no more than several dozen times in his speech.

Alas, our new Mr. Nice lasted less the life span of a
Mayfly – approximately 24 hours.

Hopefully, Trump’s tenure in office will shortly offer relatively similar brevity.

He’s gone over the edge.

Let’s not follow.

Instead, let’s get ready for our annual Saint Patrick’s Day column next week with John O’ Mahony -- Editor of “Killarney Today” – offering Sierra Star readers an exclusive Irish perspective on today’s America from a bar five thousand miles afar.

First round’s on me.




March 2, 2017

“Together Divided”

Daniel had his Lion’s Den.

Tom McClintock had us.

Building “A’ at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds was overflowing with concerned constituents last Tuesday as Fourth District Representative Tom McClintock faced a crowd estimated by the Los Angeles Times at over 900 attendees. McClintock generated a similar turnout in Sonora the following night with the Union Democrat reporting Sonora High School’s 569-seat auditorium was filled to capacity with another several hundred left outside. A rock star was born.

While Tom McClintock was our local headline attraction, Donald J. Trump deserves all the discredit for packing both places to capacity and then some, just as he did at dozens and dozens of similar “Town Hall Meetings” across the land. It was all over TV. This nation’s gone nuts, nuts being particularly hardy, healthy and helpful in this instance.

Roughly two-thirds of the folks in both Mariposa and Sonora were on a vibrantly vocal anti-Trump side of the political divide, while the rest were loyal McClintock fans who came out to back their guy and, to a certain extent, their new Republican President, although sounding much more in tune with Trump’s politics than persona. All in all, things were loud and lively, but not unduly so. Everyone basically played well together, even though widely circulated email allegedly authored by The Mariposa “Republican Central Committee” predicted otherwise.

I obtained copies from four separate sources.

It announces the McClintock Meeting, then states, ““The progressive
left has targeted this and all other town halls hosted by Republican
Congressmen to be disrupted and shut down. You are being asked to
stand for Mariposa and what is good and proper and if necessary
showing the left that we will not tolerate their behavior.”

We were quite surprised.

The communiqué added – “Spread the word by e-mail and voice only. Don't use social media. We don't want the progressives to get wind of our movement.”

Oops.

Grammatical curiosities aside, while those of us in “the progressive left” were, in fact, “good and proper”, requiring no lessons in behavior toleration or any other matter, four vehicles in the Fairgrounds’ parking lot with Bernie Sanders bumper stickers had their tires slashed. The following night in Sonora, Representative McClintock properly referred to the “sniveling cowards” guilty of such behavior in Mariposa, adding, “When we catch you, we’re going to throw the book at you because your crime is not only directed at the victims whose property you damaged, it is aimed at every one of us who are seeking to exercise our constitutional rights to assemble and seek redress of grievances.” The crowd in Sonora loudly applauded, as does this columnist.

Our Congressman still embraces the concept of climate change as being more cyclical than man made, hopes to abolish the Affordable Care Act, equates dislike of Trump with prior concerns about Barack Obama, stands solidly against abortion and suggests increased insistence on initiating an extended investigation into Russian links is being primarily driven by election disappointment.

McClintock remains rigidly locked into similarly traditional conservative positions as immovable as Half Dome. No one can claim Tom McClintock isn’t completely consistent with his convictions and hasn’t been rigidly faithful to his flock through the years – qualities woefully lacking in today’s unbalanced occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as measured in milliseconds.

In only 40 days our national government has become a theater of the absurd.


Immediate measures have been taken against undocumented families; Planned Parenthood, transgender teens, and state sanctioned marijuana, but that trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure to create millions of jobs can wait till next year.

Trump’s escalating war against the press can only be rationally understood as pathetic preparation for final revelation when his self-initiated involvement in Kremlin intrigue can longer be avoided or denied. Convictive views? Fake news!

White House communication skills? Kellyanne Conway’s bold faced lies were first replaced by Sean Spicer’s puerile petulance, followed by ultra white Steven Miller’s glorious Gestapo glare, then substituted last Sunday by Deputy Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders’ stumbling stupidity on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, who couldn’t keep a straight face.

Thunderous applause at last week’s CPAC meetings in Washington certified the Republican President’s canonization as the new conscience of American conservatism.

His conservative cabinet is already encountering embarrassing contradictions with global snickering reaching thunderous roar.

Confusion reigns supreme.

Who’s in charge? No one. Not even a mouse.


February 23, 2017

“Even Odds”

Bet one -- win one.

Odds in Las Vegas that Donald Trump will be impeached before the end of his first term in office were 5 to 1 after his election on November 8th. Following last week’s latest bursts of insanity, including the Republican President’s unhinged tirade during his impromptu Thursday “Press Conference”, it’s now an even bet.

The scary part is – we’re betting our lives.

Michael Flynn is gone, having resigned as National Security Advisor, allegedly for the offense of lying to Vice-President Pence. That’s the current White House spin.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Trump, himself, was directly involved in a decision to undermine President Obama by contacting the Russian Ambassador and signaling a new day was on the way. Pal Putin was so happy he cancelled plans for reciprocal retaliation against newly leveled American sanctions and even invited American kids to the Kremlin for Christmas. Deck the halls with boughs of folly!

This, of course, would mean our new Republican President is lying about having initiated such an order in the first place, lying about why he kept Poodle in the dark for two whole weeks after learning leaks were looming, and lying about how he coaxed Flynn into falling on his sword as a final proof of allegiance with an act of heroic hara-kiri.

Does Donald J. Trump tell the truth?

Is Smoky the Bear Catholic?

Does The Pope sleep in the park?

A heavy hint of probable culpability was dropped during Thursday’s laborious, 77 minute long Trump-a-thon as Donald declared the following when asked if he authorized Flynn’s contact with Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak:

“No, I didn’t. Mike was doing his job. He was calling countries and his counterparts. So, it certainly would have been OK with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job”.

Let’s recall there is absolutely no question that it is highly illegal for a private citizen to conduct diplomacy on behalf of the United States. In fact under The Logan Act of 1799 -- it’s a felony. At the time of this “calling other countries”, Trump’s Inauguration was more than three weeks away. Barack Obama was President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief. General Michael Flynn was still -- a private citizen.

Reputedly suffering from “cabin fever” after spending his first four weeks with so many boring hours stuck in the Oval Office and urgently needing to bask in the love and affection of a fanatical following who worship him with dog-like loyalty, the Republican President aimed Air Force One at Melbourne, Florida Saturday and his first Campaign Rally for re-election in 2020. It was a typical crowd of Trump’s wrestling world worshippers – pretense being a participatory prerequisite.

Melania Trump kicked things off with “The Lord’s Prayer”, initiating a new Beltway rumor that third wives are the holiest. It was the “Protestant” version too, adding that last part about “The Power and the Glory”. Hopefully this didn’t bring undue concern to our current Supreme Court comprised of five Roman Catholics and three members of the Jewish faith. Nominee Neil Gorsuch could become the first Protestant on the Court since 2010. He’s an Episcopalian thanks to Henry the 8th of England, who had five wives.

It’s certainly possible Judge Gorsuch will be a Supreme Court Justice by the time push comes to shove, kick, scream and shout as serious legal charges are finally levied against our 45th President following the completion of formal investigations.

The 22nd District’s own Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) – a Trump sycophant through and through -- isn’t being particularly helpful moving such serious matters along. This chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (???) wants to guard the guilty and whack the whistle blowers.

While Senate leaders seem committed to conduct a legitimate inquiry into allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 elections, Nunes is instead focused with fury about Flynn’s resignation and the “leaks to reporters” which brought this about.

The Fresno Bee, our sister paper, nailed it in a Sunday Editorial.

“The Congressman --- despite all his fire-breathing rhetoric – is nothing more than a paper tiger.”

I completely agree.

What we need now – is more than “meow.”

February 16, 2017

 

“Act One”

Wah Wah Wah.

Our Big Baby-in-Chief is finally getting spanked.

First it was those mean judges putting a hold on his Executive Orders to “protect our borders.”

Then that Chinese President made him personally sign a formal statement admitting there is only “One China” after all and insisting that this personal guarantee be hand-delivered to the Chinese Embassy in Washington before any “I’m sorry” phone call might be received. It was. He phoned. Apology accepted. For now. Too bad, Taiwan.

It was tough enough Baby’s promise to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare quicker than you can say “Big League” must be put off a year or two or three, but can you imagine having to back away from moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem only days before Benjamin Nut and Yahoo comes calling? Oy vey!

This followed that mess with Kellyanne Convict defending Ivanka’s getting dumped by Nordstrom (Kmart and Sears have since followed suit) and National Security Advisor Mike “Thin Skin” Flynn getting much cozier with the Russians than previously known. Or admitted. Dasvidaniya!

Now the dishonest press is making fun when Alec Baldwin’s much less attractive lookalike reports that “busloads of people from Massachusetts” were sent into New Hampshire to fraudulently vote against him and former Senator Kelly Ayotte. That’s in addition to the three to five million “illegals” – all of whom voted for Hillary Clinton -- which is why she won the popular vote, which he would have done if he’d really wanted to. No puede haber ninguna duda!

Many of the New England Patriots, winners of what well might have been the greatest Super Bowl in football history, aren’t going to come see him in The White House. The game’s MVP and most winning quarterback in NFL history, Baby’s buddy Tom Brady? Even Tom’s got better things to do.

His Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is telling the world that referring to the judicial branch in a disparaging way seems “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Conservative Republicans are loudly voicing shock and awe that last weekend’s Presidential Hosting of the Japanese Prime Minister’s “Making Golf Great Again” stay at Trump-owned Mar-a-Largo, now Donald-designated as the “Winter White House”, will cost taxpayers approximately three million dollars. That’s $3 million for one weekend. Those caddies need tips.

Saturday’s festivities concluded with a lovely salute from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the form of a provocative intermediate-range ballistic missile test tracked for over 300 miles across North Korea and into the Sea of Japan a bit short of the island itself. No crash. Splish-splash.

Normally all this would be enough to drive a man to think.

But Baby is a different kind of infant. That’s what got him elected.

A hastily convened back porch response to Kim’s surprise in the skies concluded with more Trump trash talk while Melania looked on with admiration and the Shinzo Abes stood by with polite forbearance. A guest must seem impressed.

Stressing that “only a President” knows how dangerous the world really is, the five times Vietnam era draft dodger flaunted his heroic concern for the safety and well-being of all fellow Americans ready for rock and rule. He’s all about super security. The ultimate protector knows who loves us and who does not. His heart is true. His mind is clear. After all, unlike John McCain, Donald J. Trump was never captured by the enemy.

Each time Baby hesitatingly recites obviously unfamiliar words from handy twin teleprompters – clumsily shifting left and right in formal lurch – it is becoming more and more painfully evident that most of the time he doesn’t have the vaguest idea what he’s talking about, nor the intellect or interest in doing otherwise. It’s all just a show.

Not even four weeks in, serious murmurs of inevitable impeachment are already blowing in the wind from sea to shining sea. Four YEARS? Even die-hard supporters are seriously wondering where we’re going and how long it will take to get there, assuming there’s a “there” to reach. How much time will pass before promised jobs, premium pay and other false prophesies of a greater tomorrow are replaced by dire disappointment and deeper divisions?

Hold fast to your playbills and hang on tight.

Act One has just begun.

February 9, 2017

“Kakistocracy”

While things got wild and wooly for our Fifth District Congressman Tom McClintock -- requiring a heavy police escort leaving his Town Hall Meeting up in Roseville Saturday -- things were quite different that same day here in Oakhurst at Denny’s.

The first meeting this year of our Oakhurst Democratic Club generated the largest turnout ever with a standing room only crowd exceeding over a hundred in attendance – but you could have heard a pin drop as the soft, unamplified voice of featured guest, Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, spoke of deeply shared values, prolonged spiritual reflection and a genuine, sustainable commitment to enduring world peace.

Abu-Shamsieh, formerly Director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Fresno and currently Community Outreach Liaison at Hinds Hospital, verified with his polished presence and powerful presentation the reality that we ARE “all in this together” – and need to pledge ourselves to continued cooperation and unshakable unity in the face of a frightening instability never before experienced at the highest levels of American elective office.

Mar-a-Lago is a 126 room, 110,000 square foot, Trump-owned palace containing a members-only club with guest rooms, a spa and hotel-style amenities. The Trump family maintains private quarters in a separate, closed-off area. As a taxpayer, you’ll be subsidizing this high-tone hangout to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years. Make sure those Treasury checks are made out to Eric. Donald no longer has anything to do with the family business.

Even as Democrats and friends met in Oakhurst, the creature was twittering and tweeting deep discontent from the bowels of Mar-a-Lago -- his self-designated “Winter White House” on Palm Beach Island.

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.”

Our so-called President was referencing a nationwide restraining order signed by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart in Seattle halting parts of an Executive Order temporarily barring some immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The way it is written, Syrians might have to stay away forever. Robart was nominated to the federal bench by Republican President George W. Bush in 2004 and confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 99 to 0.

Characteristically confusing historical with hysterical, Trump thus added Robart to his list of judges refusing to discern the endless wisdom hyperbolically pouring from his 500 word vocabulary, spurting forth in 140 characters at least a dozen times daily. He also doesn’t like that Mexican one born in Indiana.

All weekend the King of Kakistocracy continued his relentless attacks on Robart. Kakistocracy is a delightful new word I picked up at our Saturday meeting.

Kak.is.toc.ra.cy

NOUN

“Government by the most unscrupulous or unsuitable people, or a state governed by such people.”
Trump insists he only wants to keep his country safe, although virtually universal consensus indicates exactly the opposite is true.

Look at leaders elsewhere. Justine Trudeau in Canada. Francois Hollande in France. Angela Merkel In Germany. Theresa May in Britain. Vladimir – oops. Wait. Putin’s siding with his pal. The Russian President owes D.T. at least that much for seeming to accept the potentially functional merits of casual killing as the whole world was watching FOX on Super Bowl Sunday. By the way, “D.T.” is also old slang for “Delirium Tremens” – involving shaking, confusion and hallucinations. Purely coincidental, I’m sure.

Bill O’Reilly kept a fairly straight face as Trump changed his time line for completely repealing and replacing ObamaCare from “three or four weeks” to “sometime next year”, implied that President Enrique Pena Nieto, with whom he ”gets along very well,” might be fine if we invade Mexico to help him deal with drug cartels, kept insisting that three million illegal voters cost him the popular vote and threatened that if California becomes a “Sanctuary State”, he just might withhold federal funding. This obviously ignores the fact that California sends much more money to Washington every year than it ever gets back in return. The Art of the Steal?

It’s really starting to look like a one-man show. Who needs Congress or the Federal Courts? Expect a steady extrusion of future Executive Orders oozing from the Oval Office. Anticipate regular live coverage of that special, glowing, look of infantile happiness joyously revealed on Donald’s face as he completes and contemplates his daily duty -- proudly holding aloft on full display the end product of signing efforts for all present to see.

That’s entertainment.



February 2, 2017

“In This Together”

Rocky was ready.

Rocky Deal concluded an exemplary 28 year career in the U.S. Navy as Chief of Staff to the Commander of Naval Air Forces Pacific, having previously served as Commanding Officer of America’s Flagship, the super carrier USS Constellation and leading the legendary “Jolly Rogers” Fighter Squadron -- “The 54” – as his outfit was named “best in the Atlantic Fleet.”

It was quickly evident these and other stellar career highlights more than prepared him for the overflowing crowd at the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday when Rocky, now District Chief of Staff for California’s Fourth District Congressman, Tom McClintock, filled in for his boss listening to local constituents expressing passionate opinions – most of such commentary not necessarily of a positive nature.

Despite tolerating a pinched nerve and additionally burdened by a heavy cold, the District Chief graciously extended his stay until all were heard.

Congressman McClintock was praised by attendees for his courageous vote on January 13th against Republican House members in their current stampede to kill the Affordable Care Act through legislative maneuvering masked as “budget reconciliation.”

It’s encouraging to note that Rocky must have passed along the word from Oakhurst, since Representative McClintock was quoted in the New York Times a few days later cautioning fellow Republicans at a planning session in Philadelphia that -- when it comes to replacing “Obamacare” -- “We had better be sure that we are prepared to live with the market being created because that is going to be called “Trumpcare”. Republicans will own it lock, stock and barrel – and we’ll be judged by that!”

That’s why Peace Oakhurst, the Oakhurst Democratic Club and other concerned entities packed the Chamber of Commerce headquarters for Rocky’s visit with a standing room only crowd. We asked that Congressman McClintock know we are paying critical attention and that we implore our representative to, in my own words, save us from a mad man – this Republican President -- wholly unsuited, fatally flawed and dangerously unbalanced.

Forget Inaugural crowd size. Meaningless messaging has turned to menacing.

Our Sissy-in-Chief now sees fit to alarmingly share his inferiority filled fantasies and shrieking insecurities with an Executive Order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States for the next 90 days, suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days, and keeping Syrians, displaced by millions, out of America indefinitely. You’ve seen the picture? Omran Daqneesh? That poor little five year-old boy from bombed out Aleppo hopelessly covered with rubble and ruin? No way. He can’t come here. Too bad. Trump’s scared.

Global shockwaves have been seismic.

It’s a Muslim ban, but not where Trump has hotels or any other business interests and absolutely not with any country having anything to do with 9/11.

Alexander Nowrasteh is an analyst of immigration policy at the Cato Institute, a highly regarded conservative think tank in Washington. Alex just compiled a list of the number of persons killed on American soil by citizens from the seven “geographic areas” selected for initial emphasis by the Trump terror team over a forty-year period – from 1975 through 2015. Ready?

Iran – Zero. Iraq – Zero. Syria – Zero. Libya – Zero. Yemen – Zero. Sudan – Zero. Somalia – Zero.

From certain nations NOT included?

Egypt? 162. United Arab Emirates? 314. Saudi Arabia? 2,369.

Connect the dots.

The Oakhurst Democratic Club has.

We hope you’ll join us this Saturday at Denny’s on Highway 41 for our very first meeting of 2017. Breakfast is served at 8:30 and at 9:30 Kamal Abul-Siehsem, former Director of the Fresno Islamic Center, will join us with reflections on how -- “We’re All In This Together!”

Kamal, currently Community Outreach Liaison at Hinds Hospital,
was born in Ramallah, Palestine and is currently a PhD candidate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in the area of practical theology and Islamic Studies. He has been focusing on Islamic spiritual care with particular focus on end-of-life situations.

Since 2013, Kamal has been serving as consultant to healthcare institutions and training leaders to offer chaplaincy services in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, across the US, and in Europe.

In Fresno, he served as director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno (2005-2012). In addition, he previously held a leadership position with the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles and the Washington DC-based Interfaith Alliance.

Kamal will leave plenty of time for questions. The general public is cordially invited to attend regardless of party affiliation.

The eyes of the world turn our way with frightened focus.

We’ll be thinking of Omran Daqneesh.

“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of mine, ye have done it unto me.” ---- Matthew 25:40


 

January 26, 2017

“Oakhurst Rising”

The liar’s liar – red faced with rage – faced down the press with marked petulance.

Sean “The Brat” Spicer so began his first official White House Press Briefing late Saturday afternoon, shouting at those in attendance for lying to the American people about the Liar-In-Chief’s sparse size.

At issue was the crowd count at Friday’s Presidential Inauguration, estimated by media consensus at around 250,000 folks, although the new President claimed he personally saw “between a million and a million and a half.”

The Brat went on and on with his contentious castigation, inadvertently providing excellent sound bites in later news reports contradicting everything he said. Pictures told an irrefutable story.

There was the Washington Mall in 2009 for Obama. There it was in 2017 for Trump. Ta-da! Comparative aerial shots dramatically demonstrated the extraordinary extent of Spicer’s nonsensical claims, including the ridiculous allegation that Friday’s Inauguration turnout was “the biggest in history.”

Of course, that craziness didn’t start with him.

Only hours earlier, our 45th President saw fit to befoul the Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia that honors 117 fallen CIA officers who gave their lives in the line of duty. The sore winner spent most of his time complaining to a hastily summoned group of CIA employees sprinkled with Trump team lackeys that he had been once again viciously attacked by “the most dishonest human beings on earth”, thundering that he had been depicted by the terrible press as addressing “an empty field.”

Ex-Deputy Chief of Staff Nick Shapiro quickly twittered that Former Director John Brennan “is deeply saddened and angered at Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Trump should be ashamed of himself.” In reply, Trump trash talker Kellyanne Conway promptly told viewers on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that the highly regarded Brennan was nothing more than a “partisan political hack.” Let’s hear it for unity building.

Even as Sean The Brat finished his diatribe and scurried from the room like a frightened ferret without taking a single question from reporters, it had already become established that Trump had just been overwhelmingly out performed by countless women around the world in pink pussy hats.

Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington dwarfed Trump’s audience on The Mall, even as it generated similar response in dozens of cities nationally and globally.

Special congratulations to Tim and Susan Madden, Rebekah Jensen, Judy DeRosa, Joe Nelson and the many others connected with Oakhurst Area for Peace. This group brought forth dozens of participants braving icy rain and freezing cold at the corner of Highways 41 and 49 from 8:45 until 9:30 on Friday with a vigil “in silent reflection and contemplation on the state of the union” even as Donald John Trump simultaneously took his oath of office.

Their success increased by tenfold for Saturday’s remarkable local gathering of several hundred in support of the Washington March, proceeding from Oakhurst Community Park to the intersection of Highway 41 and Road 426 – featuring live music, shared message signs and spirited commentary.

While the Oakhurst organization reflected admirable altruism in their planning and staging of both events, stressing the need for non-partisan cooperation and collegiality, the underlying universal theme was decidedly and passionately anti-Trump and all he stands for, whatever that might eventually be.

Along with the daunting challenge of attempting to decipher a specific vision from the twists and turns of down the rabbit hole Donald - speak, we are now faced with Trump’s deeply concerning nomination of cabinet and other top-level positions. These primarily consist of aging white guy generals, billionaires and multi-millionaires. Then there’s a black dude named Carson, but no Latinos for the first time in the last 30 years. Vergonzoso!

For all of Trump’s promises to take care of the little guy, he’s already stacked the deck with big time players.

For his repeated denunciation of Wall Street power brokers and their practices, he’s emphatically shown his cards by selecting six Goldman Sachs heavies to lead the supposedly “populist” charge. The Goldman Sachs stock price has surged almost 30 percent since the election and it reported a four times increase in quarterly profits just last Wednesday – outperforming every other investment firm on the exchange.

For Trump’s solemn declarations of “love” of anyone or anything temporarily in his favor, Ivana and Marla should come to mind.

Is anyone paying attention?

We are, in Oakhurst.

“Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight”

Bruce Springsteen – “The Rising” -- (2002)


January 19, 2017

“Obstreperous Obstinacy”

Obstreperous – adjective --“Stubbornly defiant; attended by a loud and tumultuous noise”

Obstinacy – noun --“Not yielding to argument, persuasion or entreaty.”

Obstreperous obstinacy in human form – Trump team adviser Kellyanne Conway telling Fox and Friends’ viewers on Sunday that serious allegations of scandalous behavior on the part of the president elect while romping in Russia be kept secret “to protect the public.”

One curious thing I keep getting asked is why I use “big words” all the time instead of simply “saying it like it is” like -- for example -- Donald Trump.

I have no idea. It’s quite mysterious, particularly since such observation ignores the fact that Trump routinely combines incompetence with incoherency heretofore experienced only by those in the throes of deep delirium. I do credit the Sisters of Charity at Cathedral Academy in Syracuse and those no nonsense Jesuits at Le Moyne College for mandatory vocabulary enhancement. I must have been actually paying more attention than I thought.

When I sit down at the keyboard to write this column each week, I tap into whatever emotional key triggers a torrential rush of thought. More often than not this last year it’s been Mr. Trump’s insidious and dangerous rise to political prominence. Tomorrow he becomes the 45th President of the United States. My heart is pounding. My mind is reeling. My head is exploding.

Here’s the deal. While it is traditionally and Constitutionally understood that we Americans will accept without question the national leadership of those selected by established protocol, I find myself intellectually incapable of regarding Trump as anything other than an improbable imposter – a horrible electoral accident and a continuing threat to our general welfare and collective security. A fan for decades of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, I will “rage, rage against the fading light” of our shared historic democracy and “not go gentle into that good night” of the incoming Trump administration.

And why has no one done anything to stop this travesty? That phrase “obstreperous obstinacy” sailed into my head and won’t go away.

Good Republicans have fallen into line like Pavlov’s pups, opportunistically barking belief and wagging their tails at the thought of total federal control and an immediate potential for substantial professional gain. They intentionally have ignored dozens of damning deficiencies and have brushed aside glaring inadequacies becoming ever more crushingly evident with each new passing day. In pursuit of personal fortune, they embrace a perfect fool. This will not end well.

Who would believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend would witness a personal assault by Trump against a civil rights icon who marched with the slain leader in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, and was beaten bloody in his fight for freedom?

Since Representative John Lewis (D-Alabama) was uppity enough to question his presidential legitimacy while interviewed by Chuck Todd on NBC, Trump twittered, “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape and falling apart – not to mention crime infested, all talk, talk, talk. No action or results. Sad!”

Social media became instantly flooded with commentary from Lewis’ constituents in Atlanta expressing shocked consternation over Trump’s classless, outlandish claims. The Congressman’s district includes the Georgia Institute of Technology, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the busiest airport in the world.

I love what political strategist Howard Wolfson tweeted in response to Trump’s tirade -- “John Lewis did more to make America great in one day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge than Donald Trump ever will.”

By the time my twelve grandchildren and great-granddaughter are old enough to read these words, history will have hopefully reached initial conclusions as to what forces on earth might have been so inexcusably irresponsible as to bring about the election of Donald J. Trump.

I herein nominate “obstreperous obstinacy” and its practitioners.

They surely knew better.

As we all now pay the price.

It won’t come easy.

January 12, 2017

“Dog Catches Bus”

“They’re like the dog that caught the bus. They don’t know what to do about ObamaCare.” – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) January 4, 2017.

Canines chasing buses, bikes or Buicks display an instinctive urge to engage in predatory aggression. This phenomenon is called “prey drive.” The desired consequence is an eventual ripping, tearing and brutal death savagely delivered to a victim, immediately followed by delicious din-din for the doggie.

Congressional Republicans have been chasing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bus ever since it gained passage and was signed into law by President Barack Hussein Obama on March 23, 2010. Who’s sane? Check this out.

Reviewing primary features of the Act, an extensive survey recently conducted by the prestigious Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that 85% of Americans support the idea of allowing children to remain covered by their parents’ health plan until the age of 26. 80% of voters think providing proportionate federal subsidies for those subsisting on limited incomes is a fine idea. An identical 80% look with favor at expanding Medicaid services through the states. 69% of voters believe it makes sense to not allow insurance companies to discriminate against clients due to preexisting conditions and a full 60% find a mandate for businesses with fifty or more employees is fitting and perfectly proper.

While certain Republicans squeal and clamor that the Act is responsible for wild premium increases across the board for everyone purchasing health insurance, including those on employer plans, simple arithmetic dramatically depicts a completely different story.

In reviewing premium rise between 2006 and 2011 before the Act took complete effect, annual increases averaged 31%. Between 2011 and 2016 with the Act in place, this dropped to 20% -- representing an average decrease of 35.4% in yearly escalation. Thanks again to the Kaiser folks for figuring this out.

So what’s the deal here? How come something offering so much good became perceived as being so horribly bad?

In a dazzling example of brilliant branding, foes of The Affordable Care Act cynically, maliciously and effectively labeled the measure and all its provisions, “ObamaCare.” Giving the devilish dogs their due, this proved to be a genius move. Really!

In a classic case of undeniably successful Freudian transference, Congress thereafter tried more than sixty times to repeal the Act, hoping to kill the bill – even if they couldn’t end the man. As President he stood in their way. In eight days Obama leaves office. His successor has promised to “repeal and replace” with “something better for less money” --- these things combined being factually and functionally impossible.

Republicans have had six years to come up with a viable replacement for “ObamaCare” -- a concept endorsing mandated health care initiated by the ultra conservative Heritage Foundation in the first place. As Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan stumbled, fumbled and jumbled in responding to a reporter’s question last week regarding specific planning: “Ummmm – we have a plan. Errr. Ideas! Ummm. We have lots of ideas!”

Let’s consider one more item here.

Because of a technical move in the Senate to avoid Democratic filibuster opposition to immediate replacement of ObamaCare as promised by Republicans on their first day -- look at what just happened.

By a vote of 51 to 48 last Wednesday -- without one single mention of The Affordable Care Act by that name or any other -- The U.S. Senate approved a measure that establishes “appropriate levels of the public debt” would rise from the current $20 trillion to $29.1 trillion in the next ten years. Yes. And by the tenth year, annual deficits will easily top another trillion bucks. That’s every year. Excuse me? Accountability?

Leading GOP lawmakers insist these are “just numbers” and everything will be worked out in the end. But these specific figures have now been officially voted into the record and will shortly be sent to the House for eagerly anticipated approval.

Oh, and as long as that darn dog is catching the blighted bus of ObamaCare, why not toss Planned Parenthood under that same vehicle? More points with the pious!

The poor -- primary beneficiaries of Planned Parenthood facilities -- will need to settle for our pity –being no longer able to grab pennies from the public purse.

That’s being privatized.

 

January 5, 2017

“Twitterdee Dumb”

Our Clown Prince waits not for his formal coronation.

January 20, 2017 ---- a date which will live in infamy.

Anyone who believes the pending inauguration of Donald J. Trump represents anything less than an immediate threat to democracy and a direct attack against core principles of this Republic had best get their heads out of their assets and start paying serious attention to certain alarming realities.

In his loving embrace of Russia’s Vladimir “Smarty Pants” Putin, his audacious support of Israel’s Benjamin “Bribery Boy” Netanyahu and his accommodating acceptance of Taiwan’s Tsai “Just Saying Hi!” Ing-wen’s phone call threatening to unravel decades of established bipartisan American policy toward China, “Twitterdee” Trump has become truly unruly. So much for rising to the occasion as he sinks ever lower beneath contempt. This man is a menace.

I regard the President-elect’s conduct over the past two weeks as treacherous -- if not treasonous. “One president at a time” is not just a silly slogan – it is a Constitutional command. Look it up.

Over the Holidays, I was standing in front of Von’s casually minding everyone else’s business when a well-comported, fashionable attired, middle-aged gentleman was introduced to me as a “Good Republican.” I greeted him warmly, saying, “These days we need all the good Republicans we can get!” My reliably rebellious reputation evidently preceding me, his response exploded with a notable measure of challenge. “I voted for Trump! You people had the last eight years! Now it’s our turn!” And so it was -- in mere seconds – I heard the most ignorant utterance since moving to Oakhurst a full decade ago. Here’s why.

My virulent opposition to Trump has absolutely nothing to do with party ideology and everything to do with plain common sense.

In my lifetime I have voted for many Democrats, but I also voted once for Nixon, twice for Reagan, once for George The Father and even once (the first time he ran) for George the Son. This last example was because I despised Tipper Gore for helping to create the Parents Music Resource Center in 1985 and threatening the radio industry with censorship, so I took it all out on Al. I know. Pretty shallow motivation. I suppose I was a “single issue voter” at the time, so I understand how that works.

Donald Trump is not a conservative, nor a liberal. He is not right, center or left. He is a pompous, vulgar, sociopathic dimwit whose success in life is totally attributable to being born to wealthy parents and being blessed with outrageous good fortune, avoiding cataclysmic collapse only by hubristic hook and cunning, conniving crook.

Trump has no moral compass, determining direction by wayward whim in random fits of fleeting focus. He displays the attention span of a comatose gnat. His scurrilous skin is thinner than the atmosphere of Mercury. Astrophysicists will observe that Mercury has no true atmosphere – being far too close to the Sun --- just as Donald basks in the golden glow of flaming self-reflection – a New Age Icarus fatefully launched into ultimately terminal orbit.

Crisis is about to become commonplace with daily disappointments.

Cries of “Repeal and Replace ObamaCare” have already changed to “Immediately Repeal and We’ll Figure Something Out By 2018” – more currently morphing into “Well -- Let’s Wait Until After The Next Presidential Election in 2020.” That’s correct. I even saw that on FOX.

Mexico will not be paying for that giant border wall because one won’t be built.

There will be no trillion dollar federal investment in new infrastructure, although such is desperately needed.

Blue-collar workers will soon discover – as The WHO once warned –they did get fooled again.

Heavy governmental subsidy for advanced technical education – the primary element required for upward mobility in the 21st Century -- won’t be sufficiently available. The rich need to get richer – and they will.

They always do.

“While the poor people sleepin’ with the shade on the light – while the poor people sleepin’ – all the stars come out at night.”

Steely Dan – “Show Biz Kids” (1973)





December 29, 2016

“Flashback 2016”

Cool TV establishes continuity beginning each new program with a standard phrase I herein borrow:

In previous episodes of “For Your Consideration” --

January 2016 started with “Takedown” -- suggesting Donald J. Trump should be disqualified once and for all as a serious candidate for the American presidency. “Town Hall Tonight” again commended Tom Wheeler for holding outstanding local meetings. There’s another scheduled for January 12th. “Breakout for Bernie” congratulated Senator Sanders for besting Hillary Clinton in their Democratic Debate, while “Flint” discussed the discovery of poisonous lead in the water of what was once home to the highest paid factory worker in the history of the human race.

“Trump Goes Thump” on February 4th saluted a headline story in the New York Daily News discussing The Trumpster’s loss to Ted Cruz in the Iowa Primary. “Taking the Cannoli” took Hillary to task for hauling in those big bucks from Wall Street interests. “Little Miss Sneaky” again scolded Hillary for presenting a highly altered interpretation of Bernie Sanders’ perspectives on health insurance and “The Nine Lives of Donald Trump” included a quote from one of my favorite old time Country songs, “The Cat Came Back”.

“Stress Test” on March 3rd addressed our 2001 Buick Park Avenue sedan bursting into flames in a self-ignited Viking funeral going up Deadwood. “It Ain’t Over” depicted how the election seemed to be tightening up for both major parties. “The View from Killarney” brought us St. Patrick’s Day thoughts from John O’Mahony in the Emerald Isle. “Both Sides Now” encouraged consideration of Senator Elizabeth Warren as a V.P. candidate on any eventual Democratic ticket.

“KOLS-LP” on April 7th discussed my filing of a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission protesting the illegal operation of 98.5 in Oakhurst, an action that has placed the facility under formal review. “Landmark Legislation” saluted Governor Jerry Brown for signing into law an increase in the California minimum wage. “Hotter Happenings” observed that both major party Conventions would be held during the hottest time of the year. “Saudi Duty Time” called upon Saudi Arabia to own up to their possible involvement in 9/11, however peripheral. “Prince” bemoaned his death.

On May 4th, “Requiescat” similarly lamented the passing of Father Daniel Berrigan, political activist and the toughest teacher I ever had. “Citizen Trump” joylessly saluted the Cheetos Chiseler for locking up the Republican nomination. “Hating Hillary 101” stressed that Secretary Clinton was trailing her opponents in many polls due to an historic, virulent, deep-rooted hatred that might prove difficult to diffuse.

“News” on June 11thnd discussed Troy Pope, Editor-in-Chief of the Fresno Collegiate, and his appearance at a meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club. “Welcome Mister President” celebrated Barack Obama’s visit to Yosemite. “Hail Incitatus” suggested Donald Trump was the most curious candidate to enter politics since the Emperor Caligula appointed his horse to the Roman Senate in 40 AD. “Independence Day” discussed Britain voting to leave the Common Market. “Time Machines” suggested how lucky we are having some fabulous area museums within easy reach.

July arrived with “Doofus Days” on the 7th – a column referencing how Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was both stupid and incompetent. In fairness, it is herein acknowledged that Chaffetz’s impetuous demand submitted to the FBI for more information on Hillary was directly responsible for Director James Comey’s letter to Congress just prior to the election. This probably cost Mrs. Clinton the Presidency. “Of Mice and Men” and “Death Wish” presented more election rambling. “God and Politics” promoted Dr. Andrew Fiala’s pending presentation for Yosemite Democrats at Denny’s. Andy was terrific.

“President Poodle?” on August 11th questioned Trump’s choice of such a blatantly sycophantic running mate. “Dear Tom” begged our Fourth District Congressman to disavow the Donald. He didn’t. “Expression Suppression” condemned a hateful attack against the political signage of a Gold Star Mother on Stagecoach Road. “Collapse” heralded what promised to be the final days of Trump in national sentiment just before that cat came back anew.

September 7th saw “75” discuss how both Bernie Sanders and yours truly would turn three-quarters of a century old on the 8th, while “Down The Stretch”, “’Fraidycat”,“All That Rises” and “Voice Your Choice” produced more election reflection.

“Poodle’s Puddle” obviously continued this theme on October 6th, even as did “Jumpers” and “Lady and The Trump”. “Life on Pluto” returned to a critical examination of Director Comey.

“Snow On The Water” November 2nd took a break from politics, even as “Free Fall”, “Goodbye Medicare” and “Bamboozlement” brought more miserable meditation on our eerie election outcome.

December’s “Hamilton”, “President Putin” and last week’s “Shout Hallelujah!” brought the year to an end – even as it brings this recounting to a close.

Regardless of party affiliation –

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot – keep your eye on the Grand Old Flag!” – George M. Cohan (1906)

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2016

“Shout Hallelujah!”

“Forget your troubles
Come on get happy.
You better chase all your cares away.
Shout Hallelujah.
Come on get happy.
Get ready for the judgment day.”

Ted Koehler/Harold Arlen (1930)


The Creature had a Mobile mob booing Michelle Obama at his final “Worship Me” Rally, but let’s leave all such cleverly concise commentary aside as we await the pending arrival of 2017.

With the Winter Solstice, our sun returns even as it retreats, bringing ever-increasing brightness with each turn of the earth -- even as days begin to darken from Venezuela to Valparaiso. Perception thus finds itself dependent on geographic placement, just as allegiance. And laughter. And love.

It is the Holiday Season around the globe – a universal time for reunion, reflection and renewal.

In many ways, Christmas has become a more secular than religious celebration in the western world during recent decades with “Santa Claus” referenced in the popular press tenfold more times than Christ. You can count it up yourself. This is purely observational.

St. Nicholas was a Turkish Patriarch of the Fourth Century and Bishop of Myra, who became renowned for his legendary habit of secret gift giving. Theologians should note that he was a participant at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and was consequently one of those who composed and signed the Nicene Creed, to this day an early fundamental doctrine summarizing Christian belief.

It is written that when Arius, a priest of Alexandria and Council participant, insisted that Jesus was a lesser spiritual figure than God the Father, St. Nicholas punched him in the face, gifting Arius with a black eye and branding him a heretic. Tough love.

Through the centuries, the name of Saint Nicholas became interwoven with all sorts of year-end phenomena, many customs pagan in origin. The traditional Christmas tree springs from the Nordic tradition of decorating solstice homes with branches of evergreen fir as promisingly symbolic of the spring to come.

Ironically, the early Christian Church during the time of Nicholas vigorously condemned the practice, as did the Prophet Jeremiah much, much earlier in 620 B.C. -- when “heathens” would chop down trees, carve or decorate them into the form of a god or goddess and overlay them with precious jewels and metals for veneration, much as Donald Trump has covered the floor of his towering New York penthouse with gold and diamonds. He actually did that. Whoops. I promised to leave him alone for now. Please ignore the preceding twenty-one words. Thanks.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th Century that Christmas trees became cool. This was all because of a story conveyed in what is generally regarded as the most important, impactive poem in the history of American literature.

“The Night Before Christmas” was published anonymously in 1823 and written with wild, festive imagination probably by Henry Livingston, Jr., although it was 1844 when Clement Clark Moore claimed he wrote it and that’s what stuck in terms of general attribution. How fickle is fleeting fame. And how rhythmic the language penned by Livingston possibly ripped off by Moore. All the reindeer have perfect two syllable names.

Dasher. Dancer. Prancer. Vixen. Comet. Cupid. Donner. Blitzen.

In 1939 – Robert L. May added Rudolph.

A rap masterpiece.

Eat your heart out Kanye West.

With the Solstice now passed, if these have seemed like times of deep darkness of the soul, recall not only the Old Testament promises of a caring God, or the lessons of Jesus so brilliantly conveyed in His Sermon on the Mount, or the teachings of Muhammad that the most virtuous jihad is when one speaks the word of truth to an unjust ruler.

It is from the teachings of Gautama Buddha one might learn that the Beatles had it right. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing that you sing that can’t be sung.

Love IS all you need.

Merry Christmas and love to all from Peter and Eileen Cavanaugh – and their little old kitty -- Fiona Marie.

Catnip is waiting right under the tree.





December 15, 2016

“President Putin”

“There are no nations. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.” –
Paddy Chayefsky – “Network” (1976)

“You’d better watch out” – Santa Claus (2016)

Barring unlikely divine intervention, it seems as though we may fall under the spell of a new President on January 20th.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born October 7, 1952 in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he obtained his law degree in 1975. Rising through the ranks of the KGB as a foreign intelligence officer, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1991 to enter politics. He became acting Russian President on December 31, 1999 upon the resignation of Boris Yeltsen. He has functionally run things in Russia ever since.

In 2007 Vladimir was chosen as Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” and was #1 on the Time’s “Most Influential People List” in 2013, 2014 and 2015, this last also being the year he was ranked first on Forbes Magazine’s “List of the World’s Most Powerful People.”

No wonder Donald John Trump, 2016’s Time’s “Person of the Year”, trembles with eager anticipation, swooning at the very thought of sharing the world stage with such a manly winner of enviable and desirable global distinction.

Guess what? Here’s breaking news of critical importance. Putin’s not a communist. The old socialistic Soviet Union was left on the trash heap of history long ago. The government of Russia has become an “oligarchy.” In this instance that simply means -- rule by the rich.

Reviewing Trump’s announced cabinet choices to date, it appears “little guys” are in the cross hairs of the oncoming administration. Not only will blue collar Trump supporters soon discover cynical promises to “bring back jobs” and “invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure” were bold faced, undeliverable lies, but small businesses will similarly learn they’re not important enough to hang with the big boys. Please. Even today small business owners rarely get best parking spaces at the Country Club.

There seems to a pattern forming. According to NBC News, the personal wealth of combined key nominations so far in the emerging Trump government tops $14 billion dollars – more than 30 times greater than the crew under our most recent Republican President, George W. Bush.

It’s a burgeoning billion-dollar bullpen of pending appointees radiating major corporate interests.

Billionaire Betsy DeVos will be Trump’s new Secretary of Education.
DeVos advocates schools of choice and is convinced “traditional public schools are failing” -- primarily due to teacher’s unions.

Billionaire Linda McMahon is due to head up the Small Business Administrator. Linda and hubby, Vince, founded World Wrestling Entertainment -- where faking means everything. This resonates like a tuning fork with Trump. He threw Vince to the ground in WrestleMania 2007.

Billionaire Wilbur Ross is waiting to become Commerce Secretary. Ross is best known as owner of West Virginia’s Sago Mine. It was there a dozen miners lost their lives in a 2006 explosion.

Billionaire Todd Ricketts will be Ross’s Deputy Commerce Secretary.

Then we have a bunch of mere multi-millionaires such as Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Junior and Hardy’s Restaurants. Andy is set to become Labor Secretary. He doesn’t believe in a minimum wage or universal health care and can’t wait for technology to replace human workers.

There’s Steve Mnuchin, former investment banker and hedge fund investor. He’s earmarked for Secretary of the Treasury. Mnuchin made much of his fortune foreclosing on thousands of homes while CEO of OneWestBank.

Elaine Chao is incoming Secretary of Transportation. Elaine’s worth around $22 million and it’s a good thing there’s a serious breadwinner in the family. Elaine’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, only hauls in a quarter of a million buck annually, but Mitch did come in handy back in September when he killed the idea of conducting an open investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Other multi-millionaires waiting in the wings for major jobs are radical right hero Steve Bannon (Chief Advisor), Senator Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), Tom Price (Health and Human Services) and Dr. Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development).

ExxonMobil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State? Tillerson was accorded singular honors in 2012 when he received Russia’s coveted “Order of Friendship” medal – personally awarded by a very special friend -- President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Last Saturday a new Russian/Islamic agreement endorsed by Putin will place strict limits on oil production in both Russia and OPEC countries to drive up prices.

Better head for a pump and fill it up fast.

Our new President means nothing but big business.

December 8, 2016

 

“Hamilton”

When Donald Trump said that President Obama destroyed jobs -- he was lying. The 4.6% national unemployment rate reported last Friday (12/2/16) is the lowest recorded in the last nine years.

When the Trumpster claimed that Obama opened our borders to immigration without consequence -- he was lying. Federal prosecutors have pursued more undocumented immigrants in the last eight years than under the previous two administrations combined.

When Trumpty Dumpty bellowed that Obama ruined the economy – he was lying. America became great again under Barack Hussein Obama.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was a feeble 7,949 points when President Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009. Last week it soared to new heights at 19,195, having grown 241.47% during his tenure. That’s an average annual increase exceeding 30 percent.

Compare this with the last eight years under a Republican President (George “Dubya”) when the market fell from 10,587 in January of 2001 to the 7,949 he left for his successor. Such was the legacy of Wall Street rule, woeful wars and supply side stupidity – these horrors now preparing for a rousing comeback.

Donald Trump's latest frenetic tweets charged that two million "illegal" votes were cast in the recent election with California declared a primary culprit, suggested that flag burners spend a year in jail and lose their citizenship, and insisted that he won a “mandate” by a “landslide” despite the fact he lost the final national count by over two and a half million votes.

Let’s face it. Can there be any doubt in the mind of any rational person that our so called “President-elect” is not mentally unbalanced?

As a clear and present danger to our collective safety and national security, there is no way he should be allowed to assume any public office -- let alone the highest in the land.

Hamilton may offer remedy.

“Hamilton” is one of the most successful theatrical presentations in the history of Broadway. The rap musical is pretty much sold-out through the end of next year at an average ticket price exceeding a thousand bucks a seat. It was “Hamilton” for which Mike “Poodle” Pence was sitting way down front when the cast politely expressed hope that the new administration would represent ALL Americans and it was “Hamilton” that Trump subsequently twinkingly twittered as being “overrated” with a “disgraceful” cast.

The real Alexander Hamilton, upon whose life the production is based, now strikes back from the grave.

It was Hamilton who authored much of the U. S. Constitution, particular designing The Electoral College as one final safeguard against unintended folly and popular whims – evaluating the fitness of candidates offered and casting votes accordingly.

Hamilton provides specific language toward this end in his Federalist Paper Number 68: “Talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State. But it will require a different kind of merit to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union.”

With the wisdom of our founding fathers and focus on the future, Alexander Hamilton saw Trump coming!

Other than minor exceptions, those chosen as electors are NOT bound to vote for a specific candidate on December 19th, the designated date established by law, even though theoretically pledged to do so. If only 37 electors out of the 306 currently labeled as Trump supporters fail to vote for the Cheetos Chiseler, he’s through.

If this miracle should appear before our wondering eyes in perfect sync with the Christmas season, a lot of wild things could happen.

Although Hillary Clinton now leads Trump by two percent or so in final tabulations -- ironically where she was actually placing in most advance polls – there’s no guarantee she would gain The White House. A final determination might even wind up in the House of Representatives with some sort of “Grand Compromise” as it did back in 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes became our 19th President.

I’d take a fine true Republican over Trump any day of the week and twice on March 17th.

Although prematurely so designated by a media he despises, Donald J. Trump will not officially be “President-elect” until so chosen by The Electoral Collage.

Such ultimate honor would be crushingly dishonored until the end of time by his horrid selection.

Oremus et sperabunt.

Let us hope and pray.

December 1, 2016

“Bamboozlement”

Happy December!

Our operative word for this month of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mawlid un Nabi (Muhammad’s Birthday), the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve is -- “Bamboozlement”. As Oliver Hardy might say, “That’s what gotten us into this fine mess!” Who’s Oliver Hardy? Ask your grandparents. Or their grandparents.

Definition of Bamboozle (Merriam-Webster):

(1) To deceive by underhanded methods: dupe, hoodwink.
(2) To confuse, frustrate or throw off thoroughly and completely.

Love him or hate him, any reasonably objective assessment of Donald Trump’s astounding victory in November concludes it was due to unparalleled bamboozlement of the highest order, including a stunning realization that the liar was finally triumphant lying about his lying – successfully branding his opponent with such damning designation -- even in the lack of any valid supporting evidence.

That’s right.

Benghazi? Emails? The Clinton Foundation?

Conservative talk show commentary to the contrary, there was never anything there upon which to truly hang Hillary or “lock her up”, but there was plenty of unfounded innuendo with which to hatchet her mercilessly. Secretary Clinton’s campaign died of a thousand cuts. This proves anew Adolf Hitler’s infamous observation in “Mein Kampf” that “A big lie must be so colossal that no one would believe someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Hitler’s chief Nazi propagandist, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, picked up on the theme. He wrote, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating, people will eventually come to believe it.” Goebbels thoughtfully added, “”The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all its powers to repress dissent.”

On Monday, November 21st, Donald Trump appeared at a meeting with several dozen media heads and primary network anchors, summoned to a boardroom at Trump Tower in hopes of establishing a more congenial relationship with the press. But Donald detonated, starting the meeting by directly addressing CNN President Jeff Zuker with these words: “I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and CNN is a network of liars!” Then things went way downhill. Trump has made several outright threats to “open up libel laws” and “take the press to court” when elected. Think about it.

It’s become disturbingly easy to discredit Trump by simply quoting his own words. I have also come to believe that Donald J. Trump functions almost exclusively by intuitive impulse, often sacrificing logic and reason in the process.

This is terrifying.

We are about to live under rule by whim. Donald shifts with the wind and appears powerless to do otherwise. Maybe we’ll get lucky.

Yet along with “bamboozlement”, there’s another big word starting to make the rounds. It’s right there in the U.S. Constitution plain as day - “Emolument.”

“No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatsoever, from any King, Prince, or Foreign State.”

Definition of Emolument (Merriam-Webster):

(1) A return arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.
(2) Money you receive from working.

Trump has every intention of keeping business interests intact without restriction, stating: “The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the President can’t have a conflict of interest.”

Trump’s projects, loans and business deals include such things as hundreds of millions owed to Deutsche Bank in Germany, an institution from which Federal regulators are now seeking a $14 billion dollar fine for issuing toxic loans during the 2008 housing crisis.

Trump companies are also hundreds of millions in debt to the Bank of China, owned by the government of China – a nation directly competing with us for worldwide influence. These are just two highlights from extensive holdings all over the planet.

Will the new Republican Congress provide the consent Constitutionally required for Donald to do as he will? I’m herein asking our newly re-elected Fourth District Representative, Tom McClintock, for his take in this matter. I trust you’ll do likewise.

I also hope I see you this Saturday morning at Denny’s for “Homeless for The Holidays: 2016”. That’s the theme for our December meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club. Mike Rhodes, noted progressive journalist and former editor of Fresno’s “Community Alliance” newspaper, will join us for a discussion of his book, “Dispatches from the War Zone.” We’ll also be reviewing election results and wondering -- where do we go from here?

As we – Rock On.

“Still lookin’ for that blue jean, baby queen.
Prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.
See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean.”

David Essex – “Rock On” (1973)

November 24, 2016

 

“Goodbye Medicare

At the risk of appearing unduly self-aggrandizing, perhaps even petulantly annoying, please allow me to repeat an observation originally expressed on April 2nd, 2015 in The Sierra Star, a McClatchy publication serving the Yosemite region.

“Now – only one man stands in their way. No matter whom you voted for or how much it’s become fashionable to publicly despise his name in certain circles as a sign of fraternal conviviality, without Barack Obama — you can kiss Medicare, as we know it, goodbye.”

I was writing about how Barack Obama alone could be counted on to block any efforts by a new Republican Congress to gut Medicare.

Obviously, this will no longer be true after January 20, 2017.

Ominously, the writing’s on the wall.

President-Elect Trump is now stating that he is about to “modernize” Medicare with the help of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan’s been trying to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance for several years. It will be based on a voucher system. Everyone will get a certain amount of money from the government to buy the best policies available on a free market, “free” in this instance potentially meaning unregulated – and expensive. If your voucher won’t cover the cost of adequate protection, maybe that serves you right for not setting aside enough retirement money back when you could. It’s really your own fault. Don’t blame the Speaker of the House. He hopes you’ve learned your lesson.

Mr. Ryan will finally enjoy a unified Republican government under Trump’s leadership or lack thereof and has signaled he will rush things along to realize his goal of establishing a “patient-centered health system” – whatever that might be -- other than warm and fuzzy words that suggest everything and promise nothing.

But wait. Trump has guaranteed he wouldn’t touch Medicare.

Oops. Looks like the joke’s on us.

The Trump transition team has now gone on record unequivocally stating that the boss should certainly not be taken “literally” for “things he says in public.” Those are just words. Such clarification was presented to representatives of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before Abe’s hastily arranged meeting with Donald last Thursday. Shinzo was trusting that perhaps Tokyo won’t have to built their own nuclear weapons after all. Are there kits for that sort of thing?

They got together at Trump Tower, now informally designated as a new “White House North” – where President Trump apparently will be spending most weekends back in the glitter and gold of his mighty erection -- away from the depressing slums of our nation’s capitol city, including a certain decrepit old building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It doesn’t have escalators. Call in the bulldozers.

Melania has already announced that she and Barron won’t be moving to Washington. Unfashionable.

The only horrible thing about New York to Trump & Company is that residents of Manhattan insolently voted for Hillary Clinton over the Trump/Pence ticket 86.4% to 9.9%. That’s not a typo. But that’s why Vice President-Elect Mike “Poodle” Pence shouldn’t have been particularly surprised when he encountered considerable booing Friday night when he sat way down front at the Richard Rogers Theater. He wanted up close enjoyment of the red-hot Broadway hit, “Hamilton”. Poodle got more than he came for.

At the conclusion of the musical, Brandon Victor Dixon (in the major role of Aaron Burr) acknowledged that Pence was in attendance, thanked him for being there and added an appeal to “uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.” The audience broke out in applause and cheers. Not the Trumpster.

In yet another dazzling display of tenuous temperament and shrieking insecurities, Trump tweeted from the Tower, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of “Hamilton”. This should not happen. Apologize!” Sunday morning he upped the ante. “The cast and producers of “Hamilton” which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.”

Sunday’s thin-skinned twitter fest also took another shot at NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”. Tweeted Trump, “I watched parts of “Saturday Night Live” last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all.”

Here’s what’s not funny. Donald John Trump has not received any sort of meaningful mandate, nor does he reflect the majority will of the American people. He is President-Elect only due to an antiquated, archaic legal technicality known as The Electoral College, having lost popular support by well over a million and a half votes. His transition team shows every sign of backward motion at blinding speed. We are being shattered.

“Here comes the night.
The long and lonely night” – Van Morrison (1965)


November 17, 2016

“Free Fall”


It was the greatest political upset in American history.

We are in free fall.

I'm still reeling from the shock. As national returns starting scrawling across the screen, it was like being nailed with a 2' by 4' right between my eyes, again and again. Even if I enjoyed that sort of thing, Election Night 2016 wasn't any fun.

No one knows what Donald J. Trump is going to do, particularly Donald J. Trump. They say a chimp on a computer keyboard, given enough time and random opportunities, will eventually write "Romeo and Juliet" -- word for word. So the Trumpster DOES have a chance to make America White Again. I mean Right. I mean Great.

In fact, I have one desperate fantasy. There does seem to be potentially persuasive evidence suggesting that Donald Trump is a savant.

The word savant is derived from the Latin “sapere,” meaning, “to be wise.” “Savant syndrome” is defined as a condition in which a person with a developmental disability, such as autism spectrum disorder, demonstrates profound capabilities far in access of that which could be considered normal. Savants often exhibit highly functioning behavior combined with obsessive compulsions, simultaneously displaying pronounced deficits in social and language skills. I’m not making this up.

John Pero is my favorite local Tea Party person. He and I were congenially discussing the pending Trump presidency last Thursday night at Tom Wheeler’s Town Hall Meeting. I pointed out to John that I would have preferred Ted Cruz or any other clearly Conservative leader to Trump purely for purposes of predictive clarity. I know where they stand. Trump?

The Donald’s past pronouncements on certain progressive issues sure sound like Bernie Sanders. Rebuilding our crumbing infrastructure? Expanding Social Security? Reforming an economic system that enables billionaires to not pay a penny in federal income tax? Retaining critical aspects of The Affordable Health Care Act? Renegotiating NAFTA and other trade deals unfairly balanced against U.S. interests? Ending any further pursuit of a Trans-Pacific Partnership? Count me in.

But then there are such items as lifting restrictions on fossil fuel production, cancelling millions of dollars in payments for U.N. climate change programs, appointing new justices to the Supreme Court pledged to reverse Roe vs. Wade, deporting millions of “illegals”, banning Muslims from our shores, ignoring the plight of Syrian refugees victimized by terrorism, opening the door to Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition, repeatedly offering horrid examples of appropriate adult conduct to impressionable children and so on. Count me out.

Two old friends from Michigan were back in the news right before the election.

Far right Ted Nugent, with whom I worked dozens of times through the ‘60’s and ‘70’s as a rock concert promoter, introduced the Trumpster before a cheering throng of blue collar workers in Grand Rapids on the last night of the campaign. I watched incredulously as Trump wildly promised he would bring the auto industry back from overseas – or wherever -- with “big league pay.” The crowd went wild.

Far left Michael Moore, whom I introduced to an unsuspecting public on WTAC’s “Radio Free Flint”, predicted Trump would win way back in August and vaulted to top spot in iTunes sales that same evening with “Trumpland” – a film he tossed together at the last minute. Mike’s been back on all the network talk shows ever since. He says the Democratic Party and Hillary took far too much for granted -- believing working class support for Secretary Clinton would be inherently automatic. This turned out to be a fatal miscalculation.

Even FBI Director James Comey’s unforgettable, unforgiveable, blundering, thundering, utterly witless impact on the election would not have proved the fatal tipping point it was -- were it not for deep seeds of discontent previously sown and inarticulately addressed.

Descend we now to a future uncertain and unforeseeable.

Consider the first two schizophrenic twitter tweets of our President Elect less than 48 hours after the polls closed as he watched thousands upon thousands of protestors march spontaneously in dozens of cities against his ascension to prominence:

6:19 PM – “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

3:14 AM – “Love the fact that the small group of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud.”

In the immortal words of the late Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”

How optimistic ring the words of The Rolling Stones in their classic anthem with which Trump closed his victory speech early Wednesday morning:

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes -- you just might find --you get what you need.”

A trying time has begun.

 

November 10, 2016

“Snow On The Water”

I wish Charlie were here.

Charlie Speights was one of my oldest and dearest friends for more than half a century. He passed away in June at the age of 88.

He’s exactly the guy I’d go to for insightful commentary during crazy times such as these, although we did have several occasions to discuss the whole Donald Trump deal before he departed. Charlie couldn’t believe such a thing as Trump was happening. Not in America.

I first met Charlie in January of 1964 when I arrived in Flint for my 7-Midnight DJ shift on WTAC. He had played trumpet as a young man with a horn back in the late ‘40’s when he was still in his early 20’s, working with such notables with Ray Anthony, Claude Thornhill, and Jimmy Dorsey. After he married and settled down in Flint, Charlie looked for “the next best thing to a real job” -- deciding a radio career perfectly fit the bill.

Charlie was WTAC’s Vice President & General Manager when I arrived on the scene, but was always much more coach than boss. I never heard him raise his voice in anger. He was very active expressing progressive thinking, sharing his perspectives with weekly editorials over WTAC’s powerful signal throughout much of Michigan and surrounding states. When George McGovern visited Flint in 1972 as he ran for President, it was Charlie who introduced Senator McGovern before a cheering crowd of autoworkers – at that time enjoying the enviable distinction of being highest paid factory workers in the history of the world.

When I wanted to introduce “Radio Free Flint” with locally controversial Michael Moore into WTAC’s Sunday morning programming, Charlie not only provided permission, but happily and expertly ran extended interference for us against more conservative elements in the community, particularly General Motors. He left broadcasting in 1974 and headed for Las Vegas, where he paid his union hall dues and returned to show business, spending a number of years back on trumpet, playing behind all sorts of major stars at all the big casinos.

Charlie is very much on my mind as I write this column early Saturday afternoon. Election 2016 is still three days away, but I’m taking a break and heading down to Palm Desert. There’s a special “Remembrance Celebration of Life” being held in Charlie’s memory on Sunday, put on by his friends at Desert Falls Country Club, where they’ve already installed a permanent commemorative plaque in his honor. He was that rare sort of a guy -- earning that kind of lasting respect without even trying. I wouldn’t miss Charlie’s party for all the tea in the Tea Party.

When this week’s paper is published, November 10th, it will be ten years to the day since Eileen and I arrived in Oakhurst.

We drove across the country from Michigan to California in a twenty-two-foot Penske Rental Truck containing all of our earthly belongings, including two cats and a cockatiel named Clancy. Every few hours Charlie would call from his condo in Palm Desert as he tracked our journey West with pins on a map. He was glad we were finally moving closer.

We visited Charlie and his wonderful wife, Toby Meyers Speights, a number of times in subsequent years, including an extended stay with them at Incline Village on Lake Tahoe, where Charlie and Toby had rented a house over the 4th of July Weekend in 2008. Charlie was in his 80th year, but was still running all over the place. I could barely keep up. We bought this cool German Shepherd named “Captain Mike” several beers at a cowboy hang out in Truckee. “Captain Mike” put his great big doggie feet right up on the bar and lapped those suds out of a giant glass ashtray filled to the brim with bubbly Bud Light.

Charlie always said he really didn’t miss radio at all. He felt the whole business and, in fact, much of what seems important in life at any given point is ultimately just “snow on the water.” He always felt everyone should just slow down, relax and enjoy the ride. He’d say, “What, me hurry?”

There’s no doubt in my mind that “snow on the water” is how Charlie would summarize this last year and a half of national political insanity.

The phrase is from an Incredible String Band song called “Big Ted”.

“Big Ted’s dead and gone.
Gone like snow on the water.
Goodbye.”

Election 2016?

Goodbye.

More on Charlie?

https://petercavanaugh.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/charlie/

November 3, 2016

“Life on Pluto”

He unraveled.

Back in the day, folks would say he had a “nervous breakdown.”

Yet it is difficult not characterizing FBI Director James Comey as being other than a self-righteous, supercilious, sanctimonious fool.

In plain English, dismissing him as a selfish jerk. Such designation is seemingly warranted for displaying such a deluded, distorted sense of purist personal integrity at the expense of an overriding national interest in our collective security.

Comey tossed a live grenade into the final days of Election 2016 on Friday in the form of an inexplicably terse, extraordinarily ill advised and possibly illegal announcement that the Bureau had suddenly stumbled upon certain emails that appeared “to be pertinent” to Comey’s testimony under oath before members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

While Comey had agreed to keep the Committee informed of any substantial new developments in the case of Clinton’s emails, it didn’t take much time before it became evident that that Comey, acting alone and against the advice of his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other top Justice Department officials, didn’t have any idea what he was declaring --- the word “clueless” coming to mind both literally and figuratively. There didn’t seem to be much substance in the “substantial development” after all.

This new possibly “pertinent” material had been found on a laptop computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, husband of Huma Abedin, long time assistant to Hillary Clinton. Weiner is under FBI investigation for prurient activities involving his surname -- otherwise defined and immodestly transmitted.

When the ship hit the sand in a megaton media explosion rivaling the discovery of life on Pluto, Comey hurriedly sent out a staff memo that sheepishly confessed, “Given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.” He added, “In the middle of an election cycle, there is a significant risk of being misunderstood.”

Yep. He nailed it there.

Here’s Donald Trump bellowing onstage only moments after word got out: “This is bigger than Watergate!” – to which his characteristically menacing mob, red hats stylishly substituting for the more traditional brown shirts, screamed at the top of their tobacco encrusted lungs, “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Just down the road, 22nd District Congressman Devin Nunes, in a typical break from reality, told Fox News on Sunday, “I just don’t see Director Comey opening this case back up 11 days before the election unless it is quite serious.” Representative Nunes is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. This thought alone dramatically demonstrates the desirability of electing a Democratic House majority come Tuesday.

Although I hate being redundant let alone repeat myself, here’s what was observed in this column way back on July 21st:

“James Comey is the straightest man I’ve ever seen on national TV – the ultimate Boy Scout — as tight as a mouse’s rear stretched over a barrel. He is extraordinarily conscientious, perhaps even perilously proper to extremes. When he scratches an itch, he thinks it’s sex.”
This was written in the context of trying to figure out why Comey had felt compelled to add the word “extremely” to his assessment of Hillary Clinton being “careless” with her email handling, although he also had testified that Mrs. Clinton wasn’t the first Secretary of State to use a private server. Far from it. Such judgment didn’t seem to fit with Comey’s more important bottom line evaluation that Hillary hadn’t done anything remotely approaching criminal behavior, nor had those with whom she worked. He later said this decision wasn’t even a close call. I surmised that “extremely” was unfortunately incorporated into the Director’s presentation in a doomed effort to placate former Republican friends hating Hillary and dedicated to her destruction.
After weeks of being referenced in the alt right press as a moral moron, legal loser and hack for Hillary, Comey panicked at news of the Weiner revelation and yielded to irresponsible self-interest in fear of further infuriating conservative sensitivities.
In detonating his bombshell, James Comey sought to present us with a dutifully delivered exclamation point, but instead produced a divisive, highly prejudicial question mark.
Here is a man thought above reproach falling far below the most minimal standards of dutiful responsibility.
Appropriate resolution? Immediate expression of regret, followed by eventual resignation.
Uncertainty is ubiquitous. Few things are absolute. Blurred lines abound.
Loosen up, Jimmy.
Confidence born of constricted consciousness muddles minds and limits life.
Those who dwell in a black and white world never see rainbows.

October 27, 2016

“Lady and The Trump”

It was Round Three.

The lady looked lovely. The Trump looked scared.

The biggest laugh of the night came when The Trump said, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody!”

This proved to be too much for an audience pledged to silence.

Muffled giggles quickly yielded to choked chuckles before finally bursting into loud, unrestrained laughter. After all, it’s not just a “He said/She said” anymore. Now it’s a “He said/She said /She said/ She said/ She said/ She said/ She said/ She said /She said/ She said/She said /She said-- with more to come.

Even though Secretary Clinton continues to climb in polling with the election just 11 days away, it’s clear The Trump still commands a significant amount of national support, particularly remarkable in the light of his demonstrable deficiencies and utter unsuitability for high office.

In far too many quarters, civic ignorance reins supreme.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be” – Thomas Jefferson (1816)

It is important to remember that “ignorant” does not mean dim, dumb, or demented. The most basic dictionary definition of “ignorant” is simply “lack of knowledge.” At a deeper functional level, Webster points out that the root verb “ignore” specifically means “to deliberately disregard, pay no attention to or refuse to consider.”

I sadly suggest that millions of our fellow citizens who regard themselves as law abiding, God-fearing, patriotic Americans are convincingly well intended, but critically clueless as to how government works. You can’t fix it if you don’t understand it. You can’t understand it if you don’t study it. You can’t study it if you don’t want to learn. You can’t learn anything without an open mind.

Four years ago – way before The Trump started his pursuit of the presidency -- here’s what former Supreme Court Justice David Souter said at a public forum on the U.S. Constitution in New Hampshire: “When problems are not addressed, what I worry about is that people will not know whom to blame. Some one person will come along and say, “Give me total power and I will solve these problems. This is how the Roman Republic fell. This is the way democracy dies.”

Behold – The Trump.

“I am your voice! I alone can fix it! I will restore law and order!”

Donald Trump, although wildly unprepared, clinically crazy and thoroughly thuggish, is nevertheless correct about crushing inequity.

The top one-tenth of one percent of all Americans owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. More than one half of all new income generated since the Wall Street Crash of 2008 has gone to the top 1 percent. We are working longer hours for lower wages and have one of the highest child poverty rates on the planet with a quarter of our kids going to bed hungry tonight.

It is un-American to ignore such things.

According to Fortune Magazine, the U.S.A. currently is confronted with the largest inequality gap of any major nation in the entire free world. Our economy IS “rigged” against the middle class, let alone those even more unfavorably positioned. Flag waving Trump cheerleaders at revved up rallies boisterously chanting “U.S.A. – U.S.A.” are ironically paying continuing tribute to their own escalating decline.

Worried about “The Establishment?”

The Trump IS “The Establishment” – a self-proclaimed billionaire and self-confessed sexual predator who’s scammed the system, cheated on wives, conned contractors, flaunted the rules, scorned “losers” stupid enough to pay taxes, and credits no one but himself on all he is and has – a narcissistic megalomaniac loose in our midst.

Hillary Clinton has paid her dues and then some.

This lady was the first ever student commencement speaker at Wellesley College, a distinguished graduate of Yale Law School, a former Law Professor at the University of Arkansas, a former First Lady of Arkansas and First Lady of the United States. The lady was elected twice to the U.S. Senate from New York, the second time in 2006 with 67 percent of the vote against her Republican rival’s 31 percent. That’s a two to one win. Then she served for four years as Secretary of State, having been appointed to that position by a former adversary who admired her intensity, intelligence and integrity.

As much as one might pillory Hillary for human flaws and failings, Donald Trump is a garbage dump.

I’m one old white guy who’s voting for the lady.

If The Trump doesn’t like it – he can sue me.

October 20, 2016

“Jumpers”

We have descended into madness.

In the face of outrageous, undisciplined, unprincipled behavior on the part of the Republican Party’s national standard bearer, a significant percentage of our fellow Americans are nonetheless prepared to leap off the ledge November 8th and cast their ballots for a mental midget whose tiny paws can’t stay where they belong.

Trump no longer speaks to the masses. He screams to the mobs with incendiary rhetoric more common in earlier times from Caligula’s throne, Mussolini’s balcony, or Hitler’s podium at Nuremberg.

A new acquaintance in his early 80’s just informed me that Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine is a secret Muslim, running covert operations for ISIS in every major city across the land, recruiting dozens by the day. This gentleman faithfully watches FOX News, but caught wind of the Kaine conspiracy from a pal of his who watches Alex Jones on You Tube.

Jones is a multi-millionaire who’s made his fortune making up crazy stuff. What he comes up with is so far out that it gets reported by mainstream media, where ratings and revenue rule. Political correctness notwithstanding, everyone loves a freak show. This free promotion brings more viewers aboard who subscribe to his website, buy his books and ring that cash register. Ka-Ching. Alex makes them feel smart. They make Alex rich.

Alex scored again last week, saying this about Hillary Clinton: “She is an abject, psychopathic demon from hell that as soon as she gets into power is going to try and destroy the planet.” Jones added that President Obama is a demon too, “and they both smell like sulfur.” I understand this caused quite a stir the following morning in early risers’ coffee cups at Judy’s Donut Club, aging heads nodding in tacit agreement over how we really do need to be great again.

In many circles, rhyme and reason have been banished from discussion. Nothing matters except keeping Hillary and Bill Clinton from returning to the White House.

No matter what, mystifying consensus continues to pretend there’s a genuine possibility that Donald Trump can bring back all those jobs lost in the rust belt, create a giant border wall from sea to shining sea paid for by the people of Mexico, end poverty in the inner cities, replace The Affordable Care Act with something “much, much better”, deport millions of “illegal immigrants”, quickly defeat “Radical Islamic Terrorism” within weeks, balance the budget by the Fourth of July, teach dogs how to talk and knock down the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to make way for “Trump Tower Two”, the highest human edifice ever created, stretching 238,857 miles into the sky all the way to the moon.

A primary argument heard from Trumpies and Trumpettes is that our next President will be appointing a number of new Justices to the Supreme Court, perhaps as many as three or four. They fanaticize that while Hillary would surely nominate Communists, at least Trump, nuts or not, is a much safer bet. Hah!

What if Donald “Law and Order” Trump decides to put a real cop on the Court and chooses his buddy, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Jr. for such powerful distinction? Clarke is a major supporter of Mr. Trump. Sheriff Clarke’s latest pronouncement on the pending election was that “It’s incredible that our institutions of government, the White House, Congress, the Department of Justice and big media are corrupt. Pitchfork and torches time!” This tweeted appeal for a violent patriotic uprising surely suggests that Clarke would be an ideal, ruthless enforcer of stern judicial wisdom in a Trump administration. Take no prisoners. Just shoot them. Our safety will be secured.

Jumper Tom McClintock, our Fourth District Congressional Representative in this neck of the woods, still seems reticent to accept my humble recommendation of several months ago to “scrape Donald Trump from the bottom of (his) boot”. However, I feel it most appropriate to conclude this column commending Tom for his recent decision to support Proposition 64 legalizing recreational marijuana in California. Representative McClintock properly observes, “Legalization take the criminal profit out of the equation and allows us to regulate marijuana the same way we currently regulate alcohol.”

I’ll smoke to that.

October 13, 2016

“Poodle’s Puddle”

There are established predictors.

When a Pope seeks signs of divine selection in nominees for Catholic Sainthood, he demands a minimum of two confirmed miracles.

As Napoleon Bonaparte would review junior officers for elevation to higher military status, he would ask of their superiors, “Are they “lucky?””

And in considering candidates for managerial promotion in our radio group when I was Chief Operating Officer, I would always openly wonder if those offered for selection were “housebroken.”

By this I would hope to determine whether the parties under consideration had that certain indefinable, instinctive grace to behave properly with acceptable decorum and effective action when confronted by surprising, often unpredictable, even unsettling situations -- achieving a positive outcome without embarrassing themselves or the company in the process. Using that word came into my head early on. I always found “housebroken” easily understood and awesomely functional.

In evaluating our recent Vice-Presidential debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike “The Poodle” Pence, I must suggest this Poodle is not housebroken.

For purposes of full disclosure, I herein admit that I watched the proceedings with supremely subjective bias, screaming at my flat screen with wild invectives every time Poodle offered yet another lame defense of the indefensible and hoping in each instance that Kaine would simply reach over and soundly, savagely slap him.

See? This whole election process has me passionately out of control. I offer no apology. Any other response would seem disgustingly irrational and wholly inadequate, yet I do promise to externally behave much more than not with professional propriety, desiring to break no houses myself in offering admirable adult example to twelve impressionable grandchildren and any number of their small domestic pets.

As my own Irish grandfather, William McClaskey, once warned, “Never trust a man with not a hair our of place!” I suppose that’s when my own instinctive dislike of Pence first started. This judgment has been consistently reaffirmed ever since.

The embarrassing doglike loyalty Pence unapologetically offers in his relationship with The Donald earns Mike his Poodle nickname and was evidenced once again only hours after the debate.

Concerned that Trumpty was infuriated with reports that Pence had pulled off a better and more distinguished performance than his Excellency, Pence proclaimed, “Some people thought I won, but from where I sat, Donald Trump won. His vision to make America great again carried the day!” This fawningly confirmed Trump’s instant public declaration after the sparring concluded that he was “getting lots of credit” for choosing Mike Pence as his running mate and that was his “first hire.” This attempts to erase memory of Donald’s initial campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was fired for general incompetence just before Pence’s selection. The Trumpster’s second organizational chief, Paul Manafort, was dismissed only days later for receiving multi-million dollar pay-offs from pro-Russian clients. Some relationships offer more in immediate compensation than eventual comfort.

Although remaining calm, cool and collected during the proceedings, particularly when compared with his master, Pence’s puddle became dramatically self-evident once fact checking was underway. Keeping faith with Trump campaign culture as he displayed a perfectly straight face and ramrod straight composure, Poodle lied his tail off. This splashed down smoothly without the slightest hint of personal embarrassment.

Abundant evidence easily available to the contrary, Pence repeatedly denied almost everything both he and Trump have said during the course of the campaign. A true indictment of the currently bewildered state and sadly unpredictable future of the Republican Party can be found in a new, widely held popular opinion in GOP land. The whispered word is that even if Pence didn’t really do Trump that much good in the debate, at least he brilliantly got a leg up over future competitors, setting himself up as Trump’s inevitable successor.

Voices of darkest desperation thus ring with hollow hope.

Lasting shame, thy name is Trump.

Thy pooch is Poodle Pence.

 

October 6, 2016

“Voice Your Choice”


Presidential Campaign 2016 has less than five weeks to go.

Here’s a question for “undecided voters”.

What’s wrong with you?

On January 20, 2017, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States.

The only signal a vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein might send is that you placed personal political purity over practical public priority. Sorry. I’m not impressed.

Not voting is also a vote letting others choose your future -- putting on your slave collar. Surrender to surroundings? I’d rather fight.

Never before in my lifetime have I seen two candidates for the highest office in our land being more decidedly different in style and substance by any meaningful measure. This is not an election calling for deep philosophical reflection on positions presented followed by a rigorous review of issues, ideas and initiatives. The Democratic and Republican standard bearers are polar opposites this time out. It’s left or right. On or off. Up or down. Come on. Commit.

Although Hillary Clinton was not my first choice to lead this nation, she’s the only one now. Please.

The churlish cries of “Hillary lies” have become a primary rallying screech for most who oppose her election, yet ask anyone to honestly cite a single specific accusation not yet extensively explored and thoroughly discredited. Other than shameful sheep bleats from the FOX NEWS echo chamber (please watch where you step), silence will reign. All charges involving Benghazi, Emails and The Clinton Foundation fall into this category. For extended examination and grueling analysis to the point of utter exhaustion and sporadic suicidal impulses, you may check out past “For Your Consideration” columns at sierrastar.com. That’s what it’s there for. The new format is really cool.

Sniff. Donald J. Trump, on the other hand, is a spectacular liar. Sniff. It was super easy picking a new “Top 10 Donald Doozies” just from that last debate alone. Sniff. Trump rudely (he interrupted Hillary 55 different times -- 40 in the first 26 minutes) and loudly (his microphone was working perfectly well) lied about the following items before 82.5 million viewers.

Setting The Record Straight Thanks to Rachel Maddow

· Bill Clinton did NOT sign NAFTA. George H. W. Bush did.
· Trump DID go on record saying that global warming was a “Chinese Hoax” and he did so more than once.
· Trump DID repeatedly question President Obama’s citizenship long after the President released his official Birth Certificate.
· The New York City murder rate is going DOWN, not UP as Trump insisted.
· Trump WAS in favor of invading Iraq in 2003 before it happened.
· Hillary Clinton has NOT been fighting ISIS “all of her adult life.”
· Hillary did NOT start the “Birther” movement.
· “Stop and Frisk” WAS ruled unconstitutional by a Federal judge.
· Trump DID suggest that he would “negotiate down the national debt.”
· Trump DID support our Libyan involvement at the outset.

As witnessed above, a fair comparison between Hillary and Donald on the “fibbing front” seems quite one-sided. Are you kidding?

In weighing such matters as demeanor, experience, focus, character, self-discipline, temperament, intelligence, preparation and performance, I submit that Secretary Clinton is infinitely preferable to Mr. Trump for these and other crucial qualities.

Yet with everything factored, we still see men, particularly those who have not attended college or finished high school (the man in your life?) favoring Donald over Hillary by double digits. Discounting other thoughts and theories in attempting to comprehend what seems inexplicable in Trump’s rise and at least temporary resilience in this grouping; the outrageous gender differential remarkably evident in every poll being taken surely suggests -- that which dare not speak its name. Gynophobia.

Gynophobia: “An abnormal, extreme or irrational fear of women.”

It is important to note that gynophobia should not be confused with misogyny, which references hatred and contempt for women.

Gynophobes aren’t scornful -- they’re simply scared.

Ladies, tell your guys it’s perfectly safe. Women make fine rulers. Look at Joan of Arc. Elizabeth the First. Maggie Thatcher. Rosie O’ Donnell.

Gentlemen, let’s climb into our big boy pants – the stretchy ones from Duluth.

Barack Obama has declared that no candidate in modern history has been “more prepared than Hillary Clinton” to assume the office of the American presidency. In that assessment, President Obama includes himself and Hillary’s husband.

It’s hard imagining anyone less prepared than Trump.

Unless it’s Pence.

 

September 29, 2016

“All That Rises”

After forty eventful years in broadcasting and what we thought was an early retirement, Eileen and I moved to Youngstown, Ohio in 1998, right after we helped the Toledo Irish-American Club join with the Lucas County Ancient Order of Hibernians to bring in The Wolftones - Ireland's biggest rebel group. It was wall to wall.

Youngstown is Flint, Michigan without the glamour.

As the car industry collapsed in Michigan, steel mills had already closed their gates in Youngstown, crushed by the forces of unrestrained, steadily increasing overseas competitors. Jobs had flown across the Pacific to the shores of Japan.

In Mahoning County, Youngstown pumps water from Meander Reservoir. Locally it's often said that's where old gangsters dumped their dead. While we were there, the water was a peculiar, dusky color and tasted like watermelon. City fathers swore it was algae.

There's little consolation in consolidation. It was the beginning days of extensive corporate expansion. A broadcast outfit called Gocom Communications had purchased WKBN-TV, the big #1 CBS Television affiliate, and wanted to add five radio stations to Youngstown holdings. Their bank made a multi- million-dollar loan conditioned on my involvement as Vice President/General Manager to assemble and operate the radio group.

Necessitated by circumstance, I ran the five new properties acquired from separate former ownership through the end of the year, faithfully combining facilities, compressing logistics and sacrificing dozens of long time broadcast employees upon the altar of corporate efficiency. Thinning the herd. When I finally admitted to myself that I had become much more a Chief Executioner than Chief Executive, I left the radio business. Bob Dylan was right. Times were changing.

Youngstown was back in the news last week when Donald Trump’s Mahoning County campaign chair, Kathy Miller, announced there was no racism in America until Barack Obama was elected President. Elaborating on the subject, Ms. Miller proclaimed to the press, “If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your fault. You’ve had every opportunity. It was given to you.” Miller added, “You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages.” Miller also called the “Black Lives Matter” movement “a stupid waste of time” and said lower voter turnout among African Americans could be related to “the way they’re raised”.

Youngstown is a traditional Democratic stronghold. After decades of economic decline, it is now ground zero for disaffected white, working-class voters who are drawn to Donald Trump’s cynically hollow, utterly implausible promise to “bring back jobs.”


Before the primaries, some 6,000 Democrats in Youngstown switched party affiliation to Republican in order to vote for Trump, seeking remedy from a raging renegade and bitterly blaming all but themselves for sustained misfortune.


As well as chairing the Trump campaign in Youngstown, Kathy Miller was also an official Ohio elector to the Electoral College for Donald J. Trump. Backlash from Kathy’s comments has forced her resignation from both positions. Nonetheless, she represents a sad, resentful segment of our society willing to believe the brags and boasts of a bellicose bully offering fast facts, tough talk and easy answers.
In 1998 there was a wretched resonance in the air. I first saw it in Flint, then Toledo and finally Youngstown. It echoed in empty bars surrounding shuttered plants. It crowded into long lines at the unemployment office. It flashed and death danced in the eyes of abandoned factory workers resolutely pondering their unexpected fate and silently wondering without hopeful heart, “What happened to mine?” Often left unexplored was, “What can I do about it?” Personal initiative can be unfortunately uncommon.


In these troubled times so much farther down the road, perhaps Trump was inevitable. But beware. Highest reward can never be found in the lowest common denominator.
Democracy is not automatic, nor does success in any form arrive without adequate preparation, perseverance and patience. A stark reality not yet accepted by many is that yesterday’s jobs are not tomorrow’s answers. They are gone for good. Opportunities abound, but only for those willing to apply themselves and engage what lies ahead with determined dedication.


For every position eliminated by foreign competition, three are being lost to technology. This ratio is about to explode.
Whatever their occupation, workers need to begin learning how to add value that complements soft-powered automation. This is the future.
How to fairly and equitably distribute the product of such modern magic remains to be resolved. This is the new politics.
Upward motion can drive us all. And unite.


“All that rises must converge”. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1941)

September 22, 2016

“Fraidycat”

You may have missed it.

In early September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that Wells Fargo employees, facing pressure to meet unrealistic sales quotas, opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts for customers who never asked for them.

Almost immediately, the bank agreed to pay $185 million in fines for these illegal acts in attempting to defraud its customers. 5,300 employees in connection with the scandal were fired.

Their boss, 56 year-old Senior Vice President and Head of Community Banking, Carrie Tolstedt, has submitted her resignation. For diligent efforts on behalf of Wells Fargo, Ms. Tolstedt will receive a severance package totaling $125 million.

In announcing her separation from the company, Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer, John Stumpf, called Ms. Tolstedt, “a role model for responsible leadership” and “a standard bearer of our culture.”

Got that kids?

A role model.

Donald Trump has promised to do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as one of the first acts of his new administration.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau back when she was still a Professor at Harvard Law School in 2007. She thought it would be a good start in climbing out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Trump doesn’t like Senator Warren either. He calls her, “Pocahontas.”

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of this current election cycle is the stunning prioritizing of form over substance, packaging over contents, tripe over truth.

As the First Presidential Debate is scheduled for next Monday, let’s see if Donald Trump can go one on one with Hillary and deal with real issues without displaying his fraidycat essence.

“Fraidycat.” That’s the word (it’s even in Merriam-Webster) Michael Moore wrote me in November of 1998 describing Donald Trump’s persona when they appeared together on a New York TV show. Trump had to be assured by Michael that Moore wouldn’t “go after him,” threatening to leave the studio without that understanding established. Mike amiably complied. Donald calmed down.

We’ve seen a whole lot of that fraidycat recently.

Flint Pastor Faith Green Timmons backed Trump down last week in one swift move, cutting him off in front of her entire congregation with a single hand grab as Donald was reaching mid-bellow. He instantly looked like a whipped weasel, but was much braver the following day, being safely away and out of reach when he called Reverent Timmons, “a nervous mess” on Fox & Friends.

In visiting the Mexican President on August 31st, Trump choked and never mentioned “The Wall” or “Who will pay for it?” until later that same day securely across the border in Phoenix, when he also implied President Enrique Pena Nieto lied in stating the Trumpster had been functionally told, “No way, Jose!” in opening comments by Nieto about border building. Donald also took the occasion on home turf to unleash a xenophobic tirade before such Latino antagonists as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe “Make ‘Em Wear Pink” Arpaio, just found guilty of contempt of court by a U.S. District judge and awaiting criminal prosecution.

Then we witnessed Trump abruptly refusing questions after staging a phony press conference last Friday in Washington. That’s when he solemnly declared that Barack Obama WAS born in America. But he replaced one fib with another, declaring Hillary Clinton was the one who started the “Birther” movement in the first place. He then scurried from reporters like a frightened ferret. I’m almost out of rodent references.

You can count on it. When push comes to shove, Donald scoots.

But it’s time to forget all this election business for a while and settle down with a good book.

Here comes the third annual Authors Faire from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday – this year taking place at the Oakhurst Community Center. Come and meet the authors, purchase signed copies of books and learn about writing in today’s publishing industry. A number of local businesses have donated raffle prizes. Food will be available for lunch.

I’ll be on the scene peddling “Local DJ” – “A Rock & Roll History.”

"Of all who had a major influence on me while growing up in the Midwest, none matched the audaciousness, tenacity and gonzo-like behavior of Peter Cavanaugh. He was the one who taught me how to go up against the powers-that-be and live to tell all. Thank you, Peter Cavanaugh, for “Local DJ” and for saving a generation of Flint kids from the likes of Pat Boone"

---- MICHAEL MOORE --

September 15, 2016

“Down The Stretch”

Never toss college words at kindergarten minds.

Last Friday night, Hillary Clinton told enthusiastic supporters at a Manhattan fundraiser, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

For those suffering from laggard learning, Hillary might better have replaced the phrase “grossly generalistic” with a more easily understood “overstating very badly”—this being a perfectly acceptable, Webster-approved substitution for reasonably sophisticated ears. But reason is rare in certain circles.

By early Saturday morning Trumpty-Dumpty was bellowing from his golden fortress in Trump Tower, “Wow, Hillary Clinton was so insulting to my supporters. I think it will cost her in the polls!”

So signaled, Vice Presidential candidate Mike “The Poodle” Pence then belligerently barked before Christian conservatives in Washington, “Hillary, they are not a basket of anything. They are Americans and they are due your respect.” Assumedly, Poodle is including those torch bearing, pitchfork waving Neanderthals howling, “Lock her up!” at every perceived rally prompt. Yes, Neanderthals. Science says those recessive genes still reside in some. There was cross breeding 600,000 years ago. Check out your next Trump crowd. You can’t miss it.

Realizing her Friday phraseology had ignited a new volume of viper venom, Secretary Clinton qualified her comments Saturday, stating that use of the word “half” may have been a mathematical exaggeration, but it still remains certain that a large segment of Trump supporters include racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic viewpoints and that Trump’s new campaign CEO, Breitbart News executive Steven Bannon, is an individual that David Duke and other white supremacists openly honor as a champion of their values.

Now less than 8 weeks before Election Day on Tuesday, November 8th, we’re finally coming down the stretch. Many will be voting earlier by mail-in ballot. These will be sent to Madera County residents enjoying “Permanent Vote by Mail Status” in early October -- approximately 29 days before the General Election.

The fact that the Trump campaign can take (or fake) exception to perceived “insults” from Hillary Clinton is as ludicrous as Dumpty’s run for the Presidency itself.

By way of brief review, in the last few days, he who questioned a Federal judge’s honesty due to Mexican ancestry, attacked Gold Star parents for daring to oppose him and labeled women “fat pigs”, “dogs” and “bimbos,” just added a few new spins in his degrading diatribes. Trump heaped more praise on the leadership of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, insisted anew that “nobody wants to see (his) tax returns” and suggested that in a Trump administration, Iranian boats would be “shot out of the water if they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to.” Full fire at a finger? This outburst alone should settle the “temperament” issue once and for all.

American media isn’t helping matters any in attempting to bolster ratings and readership by fostering an assumed equity between Trump and Clinton in a disturbing and mindless portrayal of false equivalency that is dangerously irresponsible and misleading.

Each time some new crazy actions or accusations spring forth by, for or against Trump, the press seems obliged to trot out a corresponding negative story leveled against Hillary Clinton to provide an appearance of “balance” and “equal treatment” in their reporting. Thus, we keep repeatedly hearing thoroughly refuted nonsense about “Benghazi”, “Emails” and “The Clinton Foundation” ad nausea (to where it makes you sick, Trumpies) – when that’s evidently all they can try to hang her with against a continuing torrent of troubling Trump trip-ups.

President Obama said it best last week during his press conference in Laos: “I think the most important thing for the public and the press is to just listen to what (Trump) says and ask questions about what appear to be either contradictory or uninformed or outright bad ideas. Somehow behavior, that in normal times we would consider completely unacceptable and outrageous, is becoming normalized.”

I hope you’ll be asking hard questions of “The Battling Bobs” next Monday, September 19th, as Dr. Bob Derlet and Robert Carabas join us for a “Meet the Candidates Pizza Party” from 6 till 8 PM at the Pizza Factory in Oakhurst. Democratic Doctor Bob is seeking to replace Tom McClintock as our Fourth Congressional District Representative, while Bob Carabas wants to unseat Frank Bigelow in the State Assembly.

Come on out for the fun Monday at The Pizza Factory. If you elect the Battling Bobs, you WON’T want to toss ’em. They’re awesome!

 

September 8, 2016



September 8, 2016

On this date Bernie Sanders turned 75.

So did I.

O.K., Bernie, where do we go from here?

I’m not sure about you, but I never thought I’d get past 10.

Back in 1950 when you and I were 9, we Fourth Graders played “duck and cover” at least once a month, diving under school desks as sirens wailed -- covering our eyes from that ever anticipated, permanently blinding flash of brilliant irradiated light accompanied by a searing wave of flesh scorching heat heralding the dreaded detonation of an enemy nuclear bomb.

Only five years had passed since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were blasted to kingdom come in the only two atomic explosions ever unleashed against our species, fate having chosen the Japanese people for this dubious distinction.

Doctor J. Robert Oppenheimer of UC Berkeley headed our government’s top secret “Manhattan Project,” a massive effort dedicated to designing an ultimate war weapon. The idea was to split atoms and unleash unimaginable energy generating thermonuclear heat of one hundred and fifty million degrees Fahrenheit, five times that of the sun’s fiery core. Witnessing the first successful test of his new “super bomb” on July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert, Dr. Oppenheimer watched in awestruck terror, then gasped these words from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Oppenheimer felt enormous personal responsibility for bringing such exotic theoretical physics to deadly practical fruition. As Chairman of the General Advisory Committee of a newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission, he lobbied after the war for international control of nuclear power to avert dangerous proliferation and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. For these “Un-American” sentiments, he was removed as Committee Chairman, suffered complete revocation of security clearances, and was stripped of any meaningful political influence for the rest of his public life.

These were the “Joe McCarthy years” when the wild ravings of a drunken Wisconsin Senator took precedence over common sense and secured safety. There were “Commies” in the State Department, “Reds” way across town and “Pinkos” right up your block. Joe said he had solid names. He had only shameful notions. Edward R. Murrow nailed McCarthy coast to coast on CBS. Murrow’s closing words on the program come down to us through the years, perhaps particularly resonant today in the light of the seemingly inexplicable Trump phenomenon.

“The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67–22, making him one of few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion. McCarthy died of alcoholism on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48.

So here we are, Bernie.

75!

As your “birth brother” -- you’ve made me proud.

You’ve awakened, enlightened and energized a whole new generation of dedicated young Americans, driven not by false memories of imagined yesterdays, but by the promising possibility of truer tomorrows.

Being a hero of our youth at 75 is no small achievement, Bernie.

I’m a hero to my cat, but only after a half can of “Puss ‘n Boots” and a healthy helping of Temptations “Savory Salmon” Classic Kitty Treats.

For purposes of full honest disclosure, Bernie, I should herein confess that I am actually a bit younger than you, having been delivered seven weeks prematurely by C-section. I spent my first two months outside the womb enclosed within the warm, comforting confines of a climate controlled hospital incubator, thus not having been born so much as hatched. Chirp. Chirp.

Thank you for resisting what must have been a powerful urge to launch a third party bid this election cycle despite enormous pressure to do so from highly inspired, hard fighting, true believing supporters. Yielding to this temptation might have split the Democratic Party in half and all but assured the election of Donald J. Trump.

You have saved us from collective catastrophe, international condemnation and universal scorn. And made more unlikely a sudden, blinding flash of brilliant white light.

 

September 1, 2016

“Collapse”

This time it’s different.

Labor Day Weekend is straight ahead – a marker normally signaling the true start of an American Presidential campaign when typical citizens take a few minutes to actually notice their immediate environment.

This year it’s already over. Done. Finished. Gone.

Even as his national polling averages started their death spiral in late July, Donald Trump now calls Hillary Clinton a flat out bigot and predicts he will get 95% of the African American vote when he runs for reelection in 2020. And maybe deportation squads won’t boot out all 11.5 million “illegal immigrants” on Inauguration Day after all. Or possibly so. He’ll decide that when he needs to. Maybe. Could be.

Donald Trump has become a “Chuck Berry Existentialist.”

“Sometimes I will and again sometimes I won’t.
Sometimes I do and again sometimes I don’t.”

“Reelin’ & Rockin’” – Chuck Berry (1957)

Trump is understandably convinced by their addled adulation that his core supporters will endorse anything he does, says or thinks – everything he dreams, schemes or screams. This would appear tragically true.

After saying “You’re fired!” to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on June 20th, Trumpty-Dumpty just repeated the same thing to Paul Manafort on August 19th, then immediately appointed Steve Bannon as his new “Campaign Chief Executive Officer” – a title which has never existed before in the history of any party.

Bannon’s been running Breitbart, an extreme right-wing news and opinion website. A former Breitbart employee and mainstream conservative favorite, Ben Shapiro, has gone on record stating “Bannon is a nasty, vindictive figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies.”

Continuing his latest impetuous shakeup, Trump simultaneously appointed smiling, beguiling spin mistress Kellyanne Conway as his “Campaign Manager”. In admiration of Ms. Conway’s abilities to circumvent facts and cleverly cloud issues, legendary reporter Dan Rather told MSNBC: “This woman can talk the legs off a table.”

Even so, Ms. Conway found herself in a difficult position last Sunday when Chris Wallace asked her on FOX News whether Trump had acted properly in response to the horrid shooting death in Chicago of Nykea Aldridge, a mother of four and cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade. Learning of the travesty, Trump hastily tweeted: “Just what I’ve been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!” Avoiding direct response, Kellyanne suggested we should all remember Trump did add his condolences in a new tweet a full four hours later.

And how will Campaign Manager Conway get along with CEO Bannon? Said Kelly to Chris: “Donald Trump chose me to run his campaign. I report directly to him.”

Oh.

I still hold out hope that our Fourth District Congressional Representative, Tom McClintock, will finally ditch Donald. It seems Tom’s apparent certainty over gaining an easy fifth term in Congress running as a Republican in this crimson red district overshadows any need to be noble in the classic and classy sense of this word – i.e., “Having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.”

There is a determined David running against McClintock’s grinning Goliath.

Dr. Robert Derlet grew up in a working class Los Angeles neighborhood, selling newspapers to traffic at Santa Monica & Vine in Hollywood when he was eight. School and summer work continued through college with Bob handling jobs ranging from construction to cattle ranching and working in a merchant ship boiler room. He can handle the heat.

He eventually graduated with highest honors from John Marshall High School and the University of California in Santa Cruz, being the first in his family to attend a four-year college. After completing medical studies, Dr. Derlet spent his career as a Professor and Chief of Emergency Medicine at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, serving two terms as Chief of Staff.

Contemplating retirement and wanting to live year-round near the Sierra Nevada, Dr. Derlet moved to Twain Harte five years ago and became a front-line primary care physician at a Rural Health Clinic in Tuolumne City. Listening to the struggles of patients trying to navigate a complex health care system while staying economically afloat galvanized him to run for Congress as our Democratic candidate in the Fourth District.

Dr. Derlet will be speaking this Saturday in a special Labor Day Weekend Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club at Denny’s on Highway 41 with breakfast at 8:30 and our program at 9:30.
Along with Bob Derlet will be another Bob – Robert Carabas – running for the Fifth California District Assembly seat currently occupied by Frank Bigelow.

Carabas, a graduate of UC Berkley with a degree in English, is the father of two and grandfather of five. A retired corporate credit manager from Sonora, this Bob’s particular area of concern is Global Warming.

See you Saturday!

August 25, 2016

“Expression Suppression”


Frances Hagen is an 84 year-old former schoolteacher and Gold Star Parent who lost a son in Viet Nam. Mrs. Hagen lives near the top of 425A (Stagecoach Road) in Oakhurst, where she has resided for more than forty years.

Frances’ father, legendary baseball great Bob “Dusty” Rhoads, threw a no-hitter pitching for Cleveland against the Boston Red Sox on September 18, 1908, becoming the first in team history to do so.

Her son, Eric Hagen, is Principal of Glacier High School and Mountain Home School Charter here in Oakhurst.

Mrs. Hagen has been active in our community for many decades and was a founding member of the Oakhurst Democratic Club.

She placed a “Hillary for President” sign at her driveway entrance last week. A few days later -- hidden by the dark of night -- in a cowardly effort to frighten and intimidate Frances -- the sign was alarmingly defaced with the word “Prison” substituted for “President” on the front and filled with vile hate language on the reverse.

It was a message addressed to the “Nigga” who was so uppity as to have placed the sign -- implying increased reprisals from the “Trump Gang” might be forthcoming for any future efforts expended in support of Secretary Clinton.

Thankfully, Mrs. Hagen’s life is filled with nearby friends who have made no secret of expressing their absolute disgust at this violation of property and propriety.

A neighborhood watch group on Facebook (“425A – Stagecoach Road”) has been unanimous in expressing their strong support for Frances and in vigorously condemning the incident with such observations as “To turn on each other is the last thing we need to do”, “I am not for Hillary, but I would never allow anyone to do that” and “Although I’m on the other side, one does need to respect the view of others.”

Upon being informed of the vandalism, Sheriff Jay Varney immediately initiated appropriate action and launched a formal investigation. Similarly, District Attorney David Linn personally called Mrs. Hagen to assure her that his office would do all it could in addressing the situation and protecting her against any further concerns of a threatening nature. These days you don’t mess with a Gold Star Mom in Madera County.

Mrs. Hagen’s disappointing discovery presents new evidence that this particular election cycle has reached a level of contentiousness previously unknown, extending even up here into the Sierra foothills.

In 2008 and 2012, Mrs. Hagen’s pro-Obama/Biden signage was left completely untouched when placed in exactly that same spot at the side of the road. This local escalation of angry, ugly, thuggish behavior has assuredly been directly generated by Donald Trump’s unprecedented plunge into his poisonous pursuit of the presidency.

Last week I offered our visiting Fourth District Congressional Representative Tom McClintock several promising alternatives to replace his unfortunate endorsement of the current, doomed-to-fail Republican candidate. I did this both in print and in person. Alas, I was scorned, although civilly so. During his Town Hall Meeting in North Fork, Tom passed on an opportunity to courageously scrape Donald Trump from the bottom of his boot. He then publicly called me a “Mother.”

Although mightily tempted to end my North Fork testimony right there and move on, fairness and decorum demand an explanation.

After earlier dismissing my brilliant suggestion to support Libertarian Gary Johnson and his efforts to reach a 15% polling average and consequential admission to the forthcoming “Great Debates” featuring Donald (in the huge orange trunks) and Hillary (in the true blue pantsuit), McClintock asked those attending if anyone knew what the “Mother Rule” might be. This was something to be invoked if “Mother baked a pie and her two sons had to decide how to divide it between them.” “Yes!” I gleefully exclaimed from my front row seat. “One cuts, the other chooses!” “That’s right!” said Tom, adding, “Thank you” --- (pause for comedic effect) – Mother!”

Everyone laughed, including me. He really did that well. Touché!

It was a lovely, light-hearted moment in an otherwise sullen, somber election season.

Now if we can just punch up local business for the rest of the summer with one of those uniquely new, tourist attracting, excitingly different “Naked Donald” statues in the parking lot at Von’s.

They’re made of foam.

From right out of his mouth.

August 18, 2016

 

“Dear Tom”

The following is an open letter to our 4th Congressional District Representative Tom McClintock. Congressman McClintock has two area appearances scheduled today -- a restricted private meeting at 2:30 here in Oakhurst for Chamber of Commerce members only and a Town Hall meeting at 5 PM in North Fork to which the general public is invited.

August 18, 2016

Dear Tom,

Welcome back!

I haven’t written much about you lately. We are clearly polar opposites on virtually every national issue, although I remain pleased with your decision three years ago to support President Obama’s determination not to launch air strikes against Syria. I also congratulated you for resigning from the House Freedom Caucus last September and refusing to go along with its plans to shut down the Federal government over Planned Parenthood funding, even though you remain steadfast in your opposition to abortion. That was a bold, courageous, principled move.

I am asking that you use your visit today to make another one.

You are regarded by most professional observers of such things as being the most conservative member of the United States House of Representatives. Here in the Fourth District you are assured of safe re-election to a fifth term as our voice in Congress.

He is a clear and present danger. He is neither believed nor admired by Republican icons across the land. He is a babbling buffoon and a narcissistic fool. Please use your visit with us today to disavow Donald Trump.

I’m certainly not asking you to support Hillary, but I suggest there are two promising candidates who would each seem to offer an attractive option for your consideration.

Gary Johnson served two successful terms as Governor of New Mexico and is the Libertarian Party’s 2016 nominee for President. His running mate, Bill Weld, enjoyed the unique distinction of being elected Governor of Massachusetts, one of the nation’s strongest Democratic strongholds, then being re-elected in 1994 by the largest winning margin in state history. Mr. Johnson has recently been moving up in polling, currently averaging eight percentage points nationally and climbing into double digits in several states. As you know, this is of critical importance, Tom, since reaching 15 points will allow Gary to take part in the coming Presidential debates and place him in front of an audience in the tens of millions. Your valuable support might mean all the difference.

Although less well known and a more unlikely choice, Evan McMullin of Utah has seriously entered the race. McMullin is a graduate of Brigham Young University, later earning a Masters degree in Business Administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Serving with distinction in the Central Intelligence Agency for ten years in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, McMullin joined the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs in 2011 where he gained substantial experience in the areas of technology, energy, consumer goods and biotech research.

Announcing his candidacy only last week in the face of Trump’s disastrous decline in popularity and severe threat to Republican candidates across the board, McMullin states, “In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

Congressman McClintock, having heard you speak over a half dozen times and following your Congressional career with keen focus through the years, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump must be providing you at this point with both agonizing professional disappointment and deep personal disgust.

Given your widely acknowledged stature among fellow Republican conservatives and esteemed national reputation, you can make a move this very day here in Eastern Madera County that will ring around the world – presenting a new “Profile in Courage” in the finest traditions of both Ronald Reagan and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Save us from the beast.

Denounce “The Donald.”

It’s never too late to do the right thing.

 

August 11, 2016

“President Poodle?”

With Donald Trump’s poll performance suddenly plummeting in gallows drop free fall, should Mike “The Poodle” Pence start preparing for the Presidency?

It’s no secret Trump’s recent stumbles following a wildly acclaimed Democratic Convention have Republicans scrambling for an alternative option, however exotically conceived.

This might include resorting to curious language in the official party rules which state that “The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which might occur by reason of death, declination or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States.“ Many suggest that “otherwise” is a weasel word intentionally inserted to cover unexpected contingencies that might arise during a campaign – in this case Trump’s ever more glaringly obvious unsuitability for office.

One scenario would see V.P. hopeful Mike Pence romp up to the top spot and have Poodle select his own running mate.

Acclaimed statistician Nate Silver projects that if the election was held today, Hillary Clinton now enjoys a staggering a 92.9% chance of becoming our 45th President vs. Trump’s 7.1%. Moreover, this represents an historic 50-point swing in just ten days for Silver’s “Now-cast” projection. On July 27th, Donald led Hillary 55.4% to 44.6%.

Swing states such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio and Michigan are suddenly surging toward Secretary Clinton. Even Arizona, Georgia and Florida show significant motion in her favor.

We seem to be witnessing a cosmic convergence of historic proportion as a mountain of evidence piles up against Trump’s molehill mind.

Gold Star parents punished, a baby banished, Putin praised, Ryan rejected, an imaginary tarmac tale, a pathological inability to leave well enough alone – all of these things transpiring in less than a single week’s time. Mind-boggling? It’s Lucy and Ethel dipping those chocolates at Kramer’s Kandy Kitchen. You just can’t keep up.

And here’s a new one for you – possibly a Sierra Star exclusive.

Drawing upon my years in Rock & Roll Radio, did you know that Donald Trump’s official new campaign song – the one with which he closed his speech at the Convention and has been using ever since – is about picking up a hooker?

“All Right Now” by the English rock band “Free” (1970)

“There she stood in the street
Smiling from her head to her feet
I said "Hey, what is this?"
Now maybe she's in need of a kiss”

There’s a lot more. It gets even better. Go to Google.

Donald Trump was 24 years old in 1970, avoiding military service in Viet Nam with his fifth draft deferment. Melania was born that same year on April 26th.

Hillary Clinton was 23 in 1970 – in her first semester at Harvard Law School. She had obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree the prior year from Wellesley College where she received a standing ovation lasting seven minutes for her commencement address. This was covered by Life magazine. She then spent that summer working her way across Alaska, washing dishes in Mount McKinley National Park and sliming salmon at a fish-processing cannery in Valdez. The factory was shut down overnight after she complained about unhealthful conditions. Hillary was fired. And she’s often being treated unfairly to this day.

After Mrs. Clinton courageously faced a live, no holds barred interview with Chris Wallace on – of all places -- FOX TV, the Washington Post unkindly presented her the following day with four “Pinocchios” – its highest score for flat-out fibbing. This judgment garnered immediate media coverage across the land --- generally unquestioned by the press as though divinely documented.

I herein award the Washington Post with eight Pinocchios, ten Jiminy Crickets and a giant J. Worthington Foulfellow the size of Donald Trump’s ego – all of which being granted for headline grabbing gratuitous malfeasance.

Come on.

The FBI verifies the fact that of the more than 30,000 emails reviewed during more than a full year of investigation, only 110 were finally judged by others after the fact as containing classified material, although not one was ever labeled as such on Hillary’s watch. This evidently bears emphatic repeating: “Not one was ever labeled as such.”

FBI Director James Comey specifically stated: “We did not find evidence sufficient to establish that she knew she was sending classified information.”

Comey went on record affirming that classified information was sent.

At the same time it’s been irrefutably established quite possible -- if not highly probable -- that Secretary Clinton truthfully didn’t know it at the time.

These are not mutually exclusive concepts other than to those irretrievably lost in the haze and horror of tragic self-delusion.

Such as Donald Trump and his poodle.

 


August 4, 2016

“God and Politics”

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca - 62 A.D.


During his five-day visit to Poland last week, Pope Francis encouraged hundreds of thousands of young people gathered for World Youth Day to ignore computer screens and video games in favor of social activism and political interaction.


Both of our Republican and Democratic Conventions here in America prominently included mentions of Hillary Clinton’s Methodist upbringing, Tim Kaine’s Jesuit education, Mike Pence’s lifetime embrace of fundamentalist Christian values and Donald Trump’s unbelievably huge, bigger than anything you could ever imagine religious beliefs --- the ones that everybody’s talking about.


Alleged divine initiation and encouragement of all parties involved in virtually every war in the history of our species is a matter of established record. God, by any name or concept, always seems to be on both the winning and losing sides of every fight. Our “Battle Hymn of the Republic” mentions Christ by name, even as Hitler’s Germany was a Christian nation of over sixty million souls, although Adolf was never called a “Radical Christian Terrorist.”


Christianity remains by far the world’s largest religion with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31%) of all 6.9 billion people on the planet. Islam is second with 1.6 billion believers or 23% of the global population. Hinduism places third with a billion members (15%) and Buddhists come in fourth with a half-billion practitioners representing 7.1% of worshipers. Meanwhile, 1.1 billion “Non-Affiliated” folks (16.4% of earthlings) aren’t on board with anything traditional. This grouping includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion. By 2050, demographers predict that Christianity and Islam will tie for first place with a total of six billion practitioners – around three billion each.

It seems embarrassingly clichéd, if not childishly simple to suggest that we all need to get along together, but anyone who denies the absolute, immediate, critical urgency of such a notion is nothing more than a dangerous fool.

With all this in mind as our contentious election cycle spins toward incomprehensible chaos, this seems a perfect time for serious reflection.

Dr. Andrew Fiala, Ph.D. is Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Director of the Ethics Center at Fresno State University. Professor Fiala is well known to area readers for his excellent “On Ethics” column that appears every Saturday in the “Insight” section of our sister newspaper, The Fresno Bee.

Dr. Fiala has degrees from UCLA and Vanderbilt University and is the author or editor of a dozen books. He has published more than 50 scholarly articles and has written hundreds of op-ed essays. His scholarly research focuses on war and peace, politics, religion, and ethics.

As a member of the Executive Committee of the Oakhurst Democratic Club and moderator of our monthly meetings, I contacted Andy a while back and asked him if he would consider being a special guest speaker as we ended our summer hiatus in August – after the national conventions of both major parties concluded and things were really starting to heat up.

Dr. Fiala stated that he would be delighted to do so, but wondered what he should talk about. Flashing back on many challenging hours of Philosophy and Theology courses with those ‘Take No Prisoner” Jesuits at Le Moyne in Syracuse, I instantly suggested he speak on ”God and Politics.” Andy enthusiastically replied, “I’ll be glad to!” And he will.

I hope you’ll join us this Saturday for our August 6th Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club at Denny’s on Highway 41. As usual, breakfast is served at 8:30 AM and our program with Dr. Fiala will begin at 9:30. He’ll speak for around a half-hour, then we’ll have plenty of time left for questions and discussion. Bring cool friends. It doesn’t cost anything. The general public is always invited, meaning you don’t have to be a Democrat to attend, but if you are and wish to join the club, please consider this a personal invitation.

Make yourself matter.

Get in the game.

November 8th is less than a hundred days away.

This one’s for keeps.

July 29, 2016

Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes was one of the WSAI-AM DJs in 1964 who invited the Beatles to play at Cincinnati Gardens that year. This large photo from a press conference hangs in his conference room in the county administration building. Dusty Rhodes is top row second from right with the pipe, with the Beatles seated, from left, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney. (Photo: The Enquirer/Glenn Hartong)

“Death Wish”

William Emerson “Dusty” Rhodes is one of my oldest and dearest friends.

We bitterly fought for audience as teenage DJ’s on competing radio stations in Syracuse while still in high school back in the late ‘50’s, but I was Dusty’s best man when he married Jo Anne after heading west and becoming Cincinnati’s top-rated air personality in 1962.

While remaining active in broadcasting through the years on a more limited basis, Dusty went on to enjoy great success as a Paine Webber stockbroker, simultaneously becoming involved in local politics. First elected as a Trustee in Delhi Township, Ohio; Dusty is now in his seventh term as Hamilton County Auditor, having held this office for the last 26 years. Hamilton County, with a population exceeding 800,000, includes the city of Cincinnati. For quite some time, Dusty was the only Democrat holding major office in County government.

Dusty Rhodes loves Donald Trump.

He called me Friday afternoon and right off the bat asked me what I thought of the Republican Convention. This is called “baiting” – which Webster defines as “to tease or goad so as to provoke a strong reaction”.

Surely knowing better, I jumped like Pavlov’s dog and went for it. Initially exploding into an emotionally charged diatribe furiously filled with indisputable facts and undeniable figures, it soon became evident I was raging in vain.

Dusty, a graduate of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University and one of the brightest folks I know, doesn’t care if Donald Trump builds a wall, water boards prisoners, makes fun of cripples, demeans women or strangles tiny starving orphans with rusty barbed wire. I made that last one up, but should have thought of it at the time. Darn.

Dusty Rhodes wants Donald Trump elected because he wants “a change” since “nothing is working.” And Dusty hates Hillary.

I suggested that supporting Donald Trump requires complete dismissal of certain glaring realities and overt suspension of any pretense of fair judgment, but decided not to add that it also might be viewed as an act of moral abrogation bordering intellectual cowardice. Friends don’t talk that way, overheated rhetoric being reserved for bar room rants, back room brawls and newspaper columns.

I remain firmly convinced that Donald J. Trump is an oozing, open, festering sore on our American body politic. Yet many well-intended, otherwise responsible citizens seem to see him as a simple solution -- if not sole savior as he so humbly self declares. As witnessed by Dusty’s mystifying allegiance, it has become uncomfortably evident they are deadly serious – mortally and terminally committed to see President Trump take office in January. I am therefore forced to speculate such folly represents nothing less than a classic death wish.

In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the demon of death. Sigmund Freud chose to use that word in defining the death drive – a powerful instinct toward chaos – ever lurking in our psychoanalytic nature.

According to Freud, we all basically have two life instincts; “Eros”, which drives us to thrive and survive, and “Thanatos”, which often causes us to engage in risky, self-destructive acts. It is theorized by some that this subconscious yearning for death masks a desire to return to our original, inorganic state, but we’ll leave such speculation to greater minds.

One primary quality commonly associated with a serious reflection on destructive behavior makes perfect sense in trying to figure out what’s happening with Trump. Simply stated, let’s consider the phenomenon of stress relief. Just letting go. The Rolling Stones might call it, “Some kind of ventilator.” In fact they have. Often we just can’t help ourselves.

Smoking. Racing. Cutting. Skydiving. Speeding. Fighting. Fasting. Overworking. Defiant drinking. Dirty dancing. Dangerous dating.

All bring temporary satisfaction offering genuine emotional release and a sense of immediate personal control as phony and fake as the empty promises of Donald J. Trump.

Even another old friend, Film Director Michael Moore, has come to believe that Trump will be our next President. Mike states with typical restraint – “This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath is going to be our next president.”

Among other reasons, Mr. Moore cites “The Jesse Effect” -- observing that the people of Minnesota once elected a professional wrestler as governor –“ just because they could” and “voting for Ventura was their version of a good practical joke on a sick political system.”

I know this all sounds crazy. We’re living in crazy times. If you don’t feel crazy – you’re crazy. I’m crazy too.

Crazy loves company.

But don’t vote for Trump.

“It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap” – Bruce Springsteen -- “Born to Run” --1975

July 21, 2016

“Of Mice and Men”


“What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.” -- Mark Twain (1893)

Most of my rowdy friends at local watering holes catering to the common man still call Hillary Clinton a liar. When pressed for specifics, they cry, “Benghazi!” After I amiably observe that I watched all 11 ½ hours of Hillary’s testimony under oath before the Republican led House Select Committee last October and they never caught her in a lie, my drinking buddies jump to “Emails!” as evidence of Secretary Clinton’s proven untrustworthiness. That’s when I quote those fundamentally undeniable, FBI certified, painstakingly established official numbers.

Of the more than 30,000 emails reviewed during more than a full year of investigation, only 110 were finally judged as containing classified material, although not one was ever labeled as such. There were 3 with tiny “markings” which might indicate confidentiality to the sophisticated reader, but it turns out even these were incorrectly placed.

Then I cordially mention in my loud radio voice from the end of the bar it has been established by FBI Director James Comey that Hillary never lied to the Bureau when interviewed for 3 ½ hours and Director James Comey also specifically stated: "We did not find evidence sufficient to establish that she knew she was sending classified information.”

In conclusion I point out to my collective companions this means any charges Mrs. Clinton was not telling the truth when she said she wasn’t lying – are lies. By then they are sick and tired of hearing me talk.

I suggest a beer and a shot will shut me up. This works like a charm. I return the favor -- then off we go – launching into more important matters such as following football, trimming trucks and gunning for gophers.

Hillary Clinton still has plenty of time left before the election for image improvement. An immediate challenge is dispelling those curious words “extremely careless” with which she was labeled by Director Comey just before he got around to finally saying in summary that she wouldn’t be charged with anything after all. This has provided Donald “Nothing But The Truth” Trump and his new running mate, Mike “The Poodle” Pence with valuable campaign ammo.

Having poured over everything Director Comey said in his surprise initial announcement on July 5th and subsequently repeated at length for almost five hours of sworn testimony two days later in another hastily conveyed “Let’s Hang Hillary” hearing, I can find nothing in Comey’s words to understand such a judgment except – Comey himself.

James Comey is the straightest man I’ve ever seen on national TV – the ultimate Boy Scout -- as tight as a mouse’s rear stretched over a barrel. He is extraordinarily conscientious, perhaps even perilously proper to extremes. When he scratches an itch, he thinks it’s sex.

Director Comey allows that the “extreme” carelessness he observed during his investigation was not limited to the State Department under Hillary Clinton, but endemic to the institution long before she arrived. This now seems all but forgotten by pundits in the press

Knowing full well that his decision would be greeted with ridicule and derision by about to be former Republican friends, I suspect the Director wistfully hoped placing a pejorative adjective such as “extremely” before the word “careless” might offer a slight measure of embarrassingly apologetic consolation for his inevitable determination. And it has.

Trumpublicans have jumped on “extremely careless” with pit bull tenacity, growling and scowling with typically feigned ferocity. They are ignoring in the process a majority observation by clear national consensus that their new leader is emotionally immature --demonstrably unstable – and clinically nuts.

This week’s events have born that out.

The Democratic Party convenes next Monday in Philadelphia.

Kindly compare.



July 14, 2016

“Doofus Days”


Doofus: (doo’·fus) [do?of?s]) – (1) Stupid and incompetent (2) a foolish person who doesn’t have a clue (3) Utah Republican Representative
Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

It was Representative Doofus who insisted last week that Congress provide the FBI with a referral request to investigate whether Hillary Clinton lied under oath about her handling of classified information. This would have been when the Secretary testified before Congress for 11 ½ hours back in October during the ill-conceived, thoroughly unproductive Benghazi Hearings that completely exonerated Clinton of alleged misbehavior -- as did six other formal investigations on the same subject.

Chaffetz gleefully announced with a happy little laugh his firm intention to keep Hillary-hate alive in Congress as FBI Director James Comey dramatically testified for almost five hours before an “Emergency Hearing” of the Republican dominated Oversight Committee last Thursday. This gathering was hastily called into session by Doofus in a panicked response to Director Comey’s historic decision two days earlier that he not recommend any criminal charges be filed against Mrs. Clinton nor any of her aides in connection with their use of unauthorized Internet servers while working at the State Department.

In 2003 Representative Chaffetz had applied for a position with The Secret Service, an organization he now oversees. He was rejected. At the time the agency told him it was considering “better applicants.”

But here’s the official bottom line on Hillary Clinton after more than a full year of FBI investigation:

· There is no evidence that Secretary Clinton, her staff or attorneys intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.

· Hillary Clinton was truthful in all of her testimony provided to the Bureau under formal questioning.

· Of over 30,000 emails studied, only 110 were determined to contain information considered “classified.”

· Of these, none were actually labeled “Classified” and only three contained small “c” markings suggesting classification. That’s 3 out of more than 30,000.

· Director Comey, a long time Republican of unquestioned integrity, went on record under oath saying he was unsure whether Mrs. Clinton had the technical sophistication to know what the tiny “c” markings buried somewhere in the material might mean. The Director plainly stated, “I think it’s possible she didn’t understand what a “c” meant when she saw it in the body of an email like that.”

· Of these remaining three emails, it now appears they were incorrectly coded in the first place and were never supposed to be considered classified in the first place.

· There was no “double standard” used by Director Comey in his recommendation that criminal prosecution was unwarranted – a determination unanimously supported by all of the agents and authorities involved in the investigation.

· The FBI could find no direct evidence of an intrusion into Clinton's server by hostile foreign governments.

Representative Chaffetz is not alone displaying Doofus characteristics. Another would appear to be none other than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who has formally asked Director of National intelligence James Clapper to deny Secretary Clinton access to classified information during the presidential campaign – an accommodation extended to major party candidates dating back to the Truman Administration.

In a letter to Clapper, Ryan wrote, "There is no legal requirement to provide Secretary Clinton with classified information. I firmly believe this is necessary to reassure the public that our nation's secrets are secure."

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that this gratuitously pretentious, outrageously insulting statement from Ryan is accompanied by
his newly discovered, awkwardly fawning embrace of the presumptive Republican nominee – a 180-degree turn of heart ordered at the highest levels of party control. This signals a Trump takeover. A fait accompli. The crazies appear to have won.

Get ready for some fun viewing – assuming one entertains an abnormal preoccupation with fiery car crashes, violent train wrecks or obsessively binge watching lost episodes of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”

The opening gavel of the 2016 Republican National Convention will pound to disorder this coming Monday, July 18th. Things will ricochet right along until a probable closing with Donald Trump crowned as candidate next Thursday the 21st -- another dark date that may thereafter, in the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “live in infamy.”

The universe watches as our nation goes mad.

July 7, 2016

“Time Machines”

It’s the end of the first week in the year’s second half and it’s 2016’s third month beginning with a “J.”

There won’t be a fourth.

Summer offers a perfect time for random thoughts of minimal consequence – an opportunity to temporarily abandon elaborately detailed explorations of national trajectory or brilliantly structured insights into a myriad of topics otherwise remaining alarmingly mysterious and dangerously opaque.

And get away from all those big words.

Let’s take a break, leaving polarizing politics alone for a week.

There’ll be time enough for that when the conventions commence, starting in Cleveland on July 18th with Philadelphia in the spotlight seven days later.

How lucky we are to live where we do.

When visitors arrive, we get to take them places habitually reserved for special occasions, accessing an amazing environment easily available, yet enjoyed all too infrequently. Such was the case last week when daughter Colleen and granddaughter Riley arrived from Cincinnati, providing a perfect excuse to cut loose.

I love that time machine only a town away.

The Mariposa Museum and History Center was founded in 1957 and is dedicated to the discovery, collection, preservation, interpretation, exhibition and demonstration of material culture, visual objects and documents that best illustrate the history of Mariposa County. That’s what their website says. They deliver the goods.

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has gone on record stating that Mariposa offers “The best little Museum of its size west of the Mississippi.” It’s open year round from 10 till 4.

Walking through elaborately cataloged displays sweeps you back in time from the Native American and Spanish periods of the county through the early 1900s. Inside exhibits include an extensive Miwok Indian section; an interior miner’s cabin, a one-room schoolhouse and furnishings belonging to the West’s most famous explorer, Mariposa’s own John L. Freemont. There’s also an authentic Mother Lode saloon with extra big shot glasses for mountain men of righteous thirst.

Outside you’ll see the only operational 5-stamp gold ore mill in California and a fully functional Blacksmith Shop along with other significant pieces of mining equipment.

Loving volunteers eager to share their impressive knowledge of local lore staff the museum.

There was an authentic player piano offering pre-programmed music recorded on perforated paper by ghostly, unseen hands. It was “Roll Out The Barrel” and who should be doing the rolling and operating the unit during our tour than the very much alive Ron Loya, President of the Museum’s Board of Directors.

Ron honored Eileen, Colleen, Riley and me with a quick peek inside “the vault” – a large, private research area, heavily secured with tight atmospheric controls to preserve yet more amazing archeology and artifacts. It was all quite cool, both environmentally and emotionally.

Shortly thereafter serendipity struck again at another time machine -- this one at the Yosemite Museum in the village, completed in 1925 by architect Herbert Maier in the newly emerging National Park Service Rustic Style.

As visitors enter the foyer, a geology room occupies the first space to the right. From there, a U-shaped path leads through to natural history exhibits, a life zone room and an Indian room. As we arrived at this last, it wasn’t WHAT was there that proved to highlight Colleen and Riley’s stay, but WHO was there.

National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson has worked in Yosemite for 23 years of his 29-year career. Ranger Johnson appeared in Ken Burns award winning documentary film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” and was subsequently acclaimed as an “unexpected star” of the mini-series. Attending a preview at the White House on September 27, 2009, Johnson discussed the project with President Obama, a conversation he had an opportunity to renew during the President’s recent visit to Yosemite.

We entered the Indian Room to the soft, gentle sounds of an authentic Indian flute, expertly played by a superbly talented individual sitting unassumingly alone as though he was merely a casual part of the general background. Ranger Johnson was then kind enough to engage us in a wide-ranging conversation covering countless subjects, evidencing an awesomely knowledgeable, highly entertaining, thoroughly engaging representative of the National Park Service. Anyone who believes government can’t work hasn’t met Shelton Johnson.

Here in Oakhurst we are blessed and surrounded by many other time machines in our immediate proximity, such as the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa and smaller installations such as the Coarsegold Historic Society Museum on Highway 41, the Raymond Museum and Historic Town Site and the Sierra Mono Museum in North Fork.

Make the present more pleasant with a prolonged pause in the past.

It waits with awesome wonder.

 

June 30, 2016

“Independence Day”

It struck in a flash.

Only hours after polls closed in the United Kingdom, a Prime Minister resigned, the British Pound dropped to its lowest level in 31 years and two trillion dollars in value instantly vaporized as financial markets around the world perilously plummeted with no easy end in sight.

By the relatively thin margin of 51.9% to 48.1%, U.K. voters determined it was time to leave The European Union – a politico-economic grouping of 28 member states with a total population exceeding 500 million. The EU was formed in the aftermath of World War Two in an effort to create, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “a United States of Europe.” The U.K. has been a member for more than four decades.

Moments after final results were tallied, right-wing leader Nigel Farage joyously proclaimed. “June 23rd will go down in history as our Independence Day!” This was before the bottom dropped out.

Farage had to admit only hours later that a key claim insisting that “Leaving” would mean that “350 million pounds a week ($500 million US dollars) currently going to the European Union would go to National Health Service” was an outright lie.

When ITV’s Susanna Reid pressed him on this issue before an incredulous national TV audience, Farage admitted that allegation was “a mistake.” Reid hammered on, “You’re saying that 17 million people have voted to leave on the basis of that? That was a huge part of the propaganda – you’re now saying that was a mistake?” Deafening silence followed.

Then Google reported experiencing a major surge in U.K. searches not only relating to the ballot measure, but also with basic questions concerning implications of the vote, especially “what happens if we leave the U.K.?”

It now seems that many of those voting really had no idea what they were supporting other than displaying xenophobic concern over immigration, signaling deep personal discontent over economics and expressing general disappointment with the immediate status quo. They answered the siren call of a simple solution like petulant children – blindly striking out against perceived injury and neglect without a hint of proper understanding or meaningful reflection.

Donald Trump praised the outcome from his golf course in Scotland, boastfully stating that the same forces causing the U.K. to leave the European Union will elect him President in the fall. Trump bellowed, “I think I see a big parallel…people here want to take their country back!” This ignored the fact that Scotland, itself, along with Northern Ireland, dramatically voted to remain in the EU. The outcome has also renewed cries in Scotland to again vote on independence from England, yet one more thread among thousands threatening to unravel in the wake of Thursday’s alarming -- and until recently unexpected vote.

More than three million people have now signed a petition calling for a second referendum on the issue, already gaining far more than the 100,000 required to be considered by Parliament for debate, its website crashing several times due to high demand.

It seems entirely plausible that a more enlightened U.K. electorate may soon find an opportunity to overturn what might ultimately be regarded as an unfortunate, yet only temporarily inconvenient misunderstanding driven by nativist naïveté-- speedily resolved by concerned common consensus.

Our Constitutional Republic does not allow for quick second chances.

Barring impeachment and consequential removal from office, an event that has never transpired in our history, November 8th will lock in a new American President for four years.

As valid analysis continues on the threat of uninformed populism around the globe, there is no assurance that tragic collective misjudgment, however inadvertent, can’t happen here.

Pray for clueless friends.

As we honor this nation’s history and celebrate our own Independence Day next Monday on the 4th of July, there is much remaining unsettled.

Hounds of misfortune howl in the night.

Danger is at our door.

Donald Trump menaces us all.

June 23, 2016

“Hail, Incitatus!”

It ‘s drawing depressingly near - the most bizarre political elevation in human history since Caligula appointed Incitatus to the Roman Senate in 40 A.D. – Incitatus being the Emperor’s favorite horse.

Barring unexpected oppositional developments, Donald J. Trump will formally accept nomination as the GOP’s 2016 Presidential candidate just four weeks from today on July 21st in Cleveland, thereafter becoming the ugly face and grunting voice of the Republican Party for a frightening foreseeable future.

Hillary Clinton is now trouncing Trump in recent national polling by ever increasing margins. Knowledgeable Washington pundits have started openly discussing the House of Representatives returning to Democratic control in November. Many are now forecasting a distinct possibility of the Senate doing likewise – all of this because 16 other Republican hopefuls couldn’t get out of each other’s way -- allowing a clamoring clown to emerge triumphant as their party now dances at the very edge of dissolute disintegration.

If Trump continues spirally downward in voter sentiment over these next few weeks with verifiable velocity, watch for new signals of desperation.

Serious discussion is already underway at the highest levels to avoid bringing Trump into play for “down ticket” reelection bids by substituting George W. Bush in his place as a more palatable surrogate to draw crowds and engender support. What?

“George the Conqueror” hasn’t been seriously included on any significant invitation list these last seven and a half years. It has become generally accepted in all but the most recalcitrant circles that 2003’s Bush - initiated invasion of Iraq was a debacle on almost every level, costing us thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars in treasure trashed. “Dub-Ya” ultimately ended up replacing yesterday’s Saddam Hussein and his Ba’ath Party with today’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS.

What a tag team. “Tonight -- filling in for Grumpy -- here’s Goofy!”

There’s also sudden collusion among a handful of pledged Trump delegates to consider the potential value of effectively becoming conscientious objectors at the convention, declaring that the candidate’s conduct since becoming presumptive nominee has become embarrassingly intolerable.

An amendment has been prepared by members of the Republican Rules Committee to provide a way out of requiring a vote for Trump on the first ballot. The exact wording states that delegates would be permitted a “vote of conscience” for “allowable personal reasons” which would include “notorious public statements of support for positions that clearly oppose or contradict the policies embodied in the Republican Party’s platform.”

Don’t hold your breath. Since Trump has already rooted out 1,542 committed convention supporters with only 1,237 needed for his official selection, this means more than 300 of these would need to become functionally “conscientious” – highly unlikely, but not impossible in the face of what might be shaping up as virtually certain annihilation in November by a month from now.

Meanwhile, it seems fair to observe the Democratic Party is realizing its own share of internal challenges.

I’m baffled why Attorney General Loretta Lynch, appointed to office by Barrack Obama in April 0f 2015, is allowing Hillary Clinton to metaphorically twist slowly in the wind to such an agonizing extent over Secretary Clinton’s “private server” issue – an aging topic now having been laboriously investigated by Lynch’s FBI for almost a full year.

While exercising an abundance of caution in such matters is surely advisable, I suggest such extended reticence on the part of Lynch to reach definitive judgment is functionally raising serious questions about her prioritization of responsibilities. Be it good or bad for Hillary, let’s go!

And what’s this shallow talk about Hillary needing to “move toward the center” now that she has clinched the Democratic nomination?
Anyone suggesting such clichéd claptrap had best reflect upon the last twelve months of progressive evolution in America’s electorate, particularly among younger members of our society who will define direction and determine our future.

Bernie Sanders didn’t win millions of votes and carry 22 states in Democratic primaries and caucuses due to his youthful vigor, fashionable dress and trend setting hairstyle. Senator Sanders was singularly successful in authentically articulating a critical need for meaningful change on an immediately accelerated basis. This commitment is not going away. Nor is Senator Sanders.

And probably not that horse of a different color – the unctuously orange -- Donald Trump.

Neigh.

June 16, 2016

“Welcome, Mr. President”

For the fifteenth time since taking office, he spoke to a nation again shaken to its core by yet another act of senseless hate and terror – this one with a single individual killing 50 and injuring 53 more at a gay nightclub in Orlando – becoming the largest mass shooting in American history.

Even as President Obama spoke early Sunday afternoon from the Oval Office, authorities were taking a suspect into custody in West Hollywood after discovering an arsenal in his car that included tannerite powder, assault weapons and a camouflage outfit. The suspect told authorities that he was there for the Los Angeles Pride festival.

I was struck by the restraint exhibited by our President in those Sunday remarks, particularly because of his former passionate commentary on the insanity of allowing high capacity military grade assault weapons and group killing ammunition to remain nationally available with minimal federal controls. These words have continually fallen on deaf elected ears. This pronounced intransigence has come despite widespread popular sentiment to the contrary and is due to collective congressional cowering in the face of powerful lobbying efforts by the National Rifle Association and its leader, Wayne “Dead Kids Don’t Vote” LaPierre.

The right for private individuals to bear arms as defined by the Second Amendment of our Constitution is hardly deemed “sacred” by anyone who can read beyond first grade level.

The exact wording says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Get that? “Well regulated?” “Militia?” “Bear arms?” This is where Homer Simpson goes, “D’oh!”

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975 and served for 35 years before retiring in 2010. Stevens contends that Federal judges understood for more than two centuries that the Second Amendment is limited and applies only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, nor does the amendment limit the power of state or local governments to regulate firearms.

Warren Burger, appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Richard Nixon in 1969, served for 17 years as Chief Justice. Hardly a lily-livered liberal, Justice Burger categorically stated on the MacNeil/Leher News Hour following his retirement that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word “fraud” on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

The subsequent 2008 landmark decision by a conservative Court in “District of Columbia v. Heller” establishing precedent for an individual to bear arms was determined by a single vote (5 to 4) and even this ruling was restricted to such matters as self defense within the home.

Now comes the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a decision only last Thursday upholding a California law that requires gun owners to show valid reason before being licensed to carry a concealed handgun. Tracing the rights of gun owners from medieval England to the founding of the United States and through the Civil War, the Court ruled 7 to 4 that local laws have traditionally and almost universally prohibited such without requiring sufficient cause.

Conservative Breitbart News immediately leapt into action with screaming headlines declaring, “Only Donald Trump Can Save Our Gun Rights” and “Hillary Clinton Will Abolish The Second Amendment.” Both of these observations are tragically misinformed and insipidly stupid. So is the constant drone of ignorant allegations ever since he took office in 2009 that “Obama will take away our guns.” He hasn’t, he wouldn’t and he won’t. Barack Obama just wants common sense restored to an enormously critical dialogue.

Welcome to Yosemite, Mr. President. Here’s hoping a well-earned visit to our beautiful region will prove both restful and restorative as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its 100th Anniversary.

And thank you for your service to this country as our Commander-in-Chief. You’ve worked for peace, brought troops home and done much in restoring our national honor following tragic misadventures in the Middle East initiated by your predecessor and his administration, however unwittingly.

May you and your family travel safely and securely on your journey through God’s country -- and all travels ahead.

You have led us well.

June 9, 2016

“News?”

It was another full house at Denny’s last Saturday morning for the June monthly meeting of our Oakhurst Democratic Club and an exceptional presentation by Troy Pope, Editor-in-Chief of the Fresno State Collegian – a student run publication.

It was Troy who gained significant national attention back in February when he ran a front page editorial in the Collegian comparing Donald Trump’s unanticipated ascension in American politics to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany. This brought forth from readers an impressive volley of cheers and a passionate cascade of jeers. A special extra edition of The Collegian quickly followed containing commentary from both sides. There wasn’t much in between.

In discussing “A Millennial’s Perspective on Election 2016” Pope suggested it was the continuous attention provided Trump by American media across the board that is largely accountable for Trump’s primary victories and his current status. I couldn’t agree more. It’s cuckoo crazy, but completely comprehendible.

When I started my radio career in the late Fifties, broadcast news was sacrosanct. In return for being federally licensed to offer programming to a certain geographic area from a limited number of available public frequencies, owners were required to submit detailed specifics on how the general public would be served by their stewardship. These included binding pledges to dedicate a certain percentage of each broadcast day to public service, public affairs, educational announcements and, most importantly, local, regional and national news.

The FCC would review such commitments at license renewal time by examining station logs that were rigidly maintained at each facility listing all such programming deemed in the public interest and sworn to under penalty of law. Failure to deliver on promises made could result in heavy fines and other disciplinary measures up to and including license forfeiture or even jail time.

All of this is now ancient history, dismissed, dismantled and discarded by free market forces treasuring profits above all else; an era that many believe began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. “Government” went from collaborator to culprit in a single generation as growing deregulation was embraced and greed deterrence erased.

This is when “we” turned into “me!” “General welfare” as constitutionally defined by our founding fathers gave way to unlimited, often ungovernable self-interest. My Tea Party friends would point out that the “general welfare” clause is mentioned twice in the U.S. Constitution: first, in the preamble and second, in Article 1, Section 8.

With accountants in charge, “News” ceased to be justified by concerned consensus as above the common fray and became simply another profit center. This meant that enhanced listenership or viewership created by increased audience ratings -- instantly convertible into automatic revenue -- became the only goal. All else became meaningless and replaceable.

Traditional “News” morphed into attractive “Entertainment” and is often now a distinction without true difference. ABC/NBC/CBS are competing to fulfill Paddy Chayefsky’s dystopian vision of the future forecast in “Network.” Walter Cronkite has become FOX NEWS.

Through the years in less culturally sensitive times, carnivals and circuses across the land energetically tempted otherwise proper patrons with titillating “Freak Shows” and not without cause. For a few pennies more, one might see peculiar manifestations of -- who knew what? Often displaying gross human deformities as items of heightened interest and elevated entertainment, “Freak Shows” packed in the crowds. Such primal attraction in modern times would guarantee outrageous ratings and constant, continuous exposure to mass audience. We’re seeing that now.

Donald J. Trump is the ultimate Freak Show. Trump is the Bearded Lady, the Alligator Man, the Half-Ape/Cross-Dressing Jungle Boy – and the Quadruple-Eyed Alien Baby in a Jelly Jar -- all rolled into one. There’s never been anyone like him. Thus depicted, Donald Trump is also the ultimate hoax.

In the finest tradition of P.T. Barnum’s “Fiji Mermaid” with the head of a monkey and tail of a fish, Trump is nothing more than an outlandish joke running askew.

Accepting Donald Trump as a serious candidate for President is disingenuously dangerous, and except for those unbalanced or uneducated, surely must be self-deceptive.

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows this Emperor has no clothes.

He’s just a rude, crude dude in the nude -- a pile of piggy pink.


June 2, 2016

"Hating Hillary 101"


I never thought I'd see this day.


Here we have Donald Trump polling evenly with or ahead of Hillary Clinton in current national voter preference, even as Democratic contender and renegade long shot Bernie Sanders handily trounces Trump by as many as fifteen points across the nation in that same research.


Yet Bernie and Hillary are in general agreement on almost every policy issue -- timing and intensity being their only real variance. Trump believes in Trump, all else being irrelevant. If it's good for Donald -- it's good for America. "Making America Great Again" means transitioning our country into a flattering reflection of Trump, himself, from flaccid orange top to big fat bottom.


Never mind "issues." Donald will decide them for us. Remember, his biggest weapon against all evil forces seeking our destruction is the shock and awe of absolute unpredictability. That's why it's critical our future President remain unencumbered by prior comments or commitments. Such things are meant to be permanently temporary. It will keep us safe. Unless he changes his mind.


It seems alarmingly clear that Donald Trump's stunning performance in recent one on one match ups with Hillary Clinton are much more due to a widespread, long lived, virulent hatred of Hillary than any true affection for Trump. Given a choice between the "two evils", a large segment of voters, particularly independents, would opt to vote against Mrs. Clinton, insisting in the process they don't support Mr. Trump. But the effect remains the same.


Intellectually, I find Hillary to be astounding well qualified for the Presidency. She is vastly experienced, thoroughly accomplished and scary smart. Yet on an emotional level, she seems haughty, arrogant and annoying. While some orators might evocatively raise their voices in thundering passion while concluding a speech, Hillary's attempts to do so make my ears bleed. That old "chalk on a blackboard" metaphor fails miserably by comparison. As an old friend used to say of Yoko Ono's attempts at song: "She sounds like the mournful wail of a beagle pup having his (deleted) nailed to the floor."


I can't imagine why professional advisers haven't coached Hillary out of this obvious, potentially fatal flaw.
Forget "Benghazi" or "private servers" or any other dredged up nonsense from troublesome Trumpublicans. In the minds of many, Hillary Clinton sounds like every man's first wife, her attorney and Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over The Coo Coo's Nest" on serious speed.


But I firmly believe that Hillary would make a good American President. And Donald -- a fine asylum resident.


Let's get the vote out next Tuesday. I'm very much in favor of "Proposal C" for all the reasons given by its backers and I'm personally feeling the Bern, especially after visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last week. I finally got to see their new "Rock Radio" exhibit. A peek is yours at www.petercavanaugh.com.
As one spirals up a winding staircase from level to level in with what can only be described as the Smithsonian Museum of Rock & Roll, concluding Levels 5 and 6 now present "Louder Than Words" -- "Rock, Power and Politics." This special exhibit created in partnership with the Newseum in Washington, D.C. explores rock music's power to change attitudes about peace, equality, patriotism and hope.


With this in mind, I hope you might join us on Saturday at Denny's for the June meeting of our Oakhurst Democratic Club. When Troy Pope, Editor-In-Chief of the Collegian, Fresno State's student run newspaper, gained national attention back in February with a front page editorial comparing Donald Trump's unanticipated ascent to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, I knew we had to have him stop by Oakhurst for a talk.
Troy will provide "A Millennial's Perspective on Election 2006" with breakfast at 8:30 and Troy's presentation at 9:30. The general public is always invited to attend, especially our young Sanders supporters.


We aging children welcome the future.

May 12, 2016

“Citizen Trump”


What can be more tedious and unwelcomed than an unavoidable social necessity to openly and publicly endorse absolute absurdity?

The Republican Party must now slather layers of lipstick on their pig named Donald.

Barring the unforeseen, Hillary Rodham Clinton will probably be sworn in as our 45th President on Friday, January 20, 2017, having run on a progressive platform heavily influenced by an historic challenge for the Democratic nomination waged by a socialist Senator from Vermont named Bernie.

It’s a wrap.

Although Hillary was not my first, or second, or even third choice to become our next Commander-in-Chief, she is far superior to the presumptive GOP standard bearer by any measurement, in each instance, on every level.

Any negatives brought into the mix by Hillary the person are completely outweighed by Hillary the politician. That’s right. Politician.

Those who seek to abandon “politicians” in this election cycle seem to forget that they who voted were the electors, not the elected. Even more responsible are those who stayed at home, abrogating the most basic responsibility of good citizenship, leaving to chance choices unmade.

Seeking to appear conversationally adroit by scorning “politicians” is as thoughtful as suggesting brain surgery be performed only by practitioners who’ve never attended medical school. Come on.

Fair comparison makes a morally binding obligation obvious.

First Lady of Arkansas for nine years, First Lady of the United States for eight, another eight years as U.S. Senator from New York and four years as our nation’s 67th Secretary of State vs. 69 years of privileged, pampered, pestilent pomposity. Are you kidding?

Anyone concerned about “Benghazi” didn’t watch Hillary’s appearance under oath on global television for eleven and a half hours last October before a Republican dominated House Subcommittee dedicated to her destruction. They never laid a glove on her.

Folks panting for her indictment on federal charges for periodically using a private server while Secretary of State, an openly admitted error in judgment shared by several Republican predecessors, will shortly learn this particular molehill was never remotely a mountain. How ironic it now appears the Chinese government has successfully cyber-hacked official State Department files, but not Hillary’s.

Being proudly on the left side of any political dial, I should take proportionate pleasure in the pending election of yet another Democratic President and all that goes with it, especially a properly realigned Supreme Court. But I find myself sickened that Donald Trump has made it as far as he has in what originally appeared to be a non-threatening, highly entertaining, curiously quixotic quest to become leader of the Free World. What a joke. But suddenly the joke’s on us. All of us.

Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, wants Trump to tame things down. Trump knows his die-hard supporters would hate such a thing. What’s the fun in that?

Our Fourth District Congressman, Tom McClintock, is quoted in the Fresno Bee as saying that “despite some lingering questions”, he has decided to support Trump, having determined that the candidate is a “runaway favorite” among Republicans in our area. Such a decision witnesses the elevation of instinctive insouciance over intellectual integrity. And I’m not at all sure to whom Tom is listening. My Republican friends locally were favoring Cruz, Rubio and Kasich in that order till Donald’s divisive darkness finally descended.

We have watched a sociopath succeed on an unparalleled scale – pathologically lying, threatening and bullying his way to political preeminence.

Come November, Donald J. Trump deserves not only defeat and dismissal, but designation to lasting disgrace.

Our reputation in the world and the future of our nation demands nothing less.

May 5, 2016

“Requiescat”

How sad.

Father Daniel Berrigan has passed at the age of 94.

Berrigan died at Murray-Weigel Hall, a Jesuit health care community in New York City after a long illness. He would have been 95 on May 9th.

Father Berrigan was very influential on my old Flint friend, film director Michael Moore, and it's not that much of a stretch to suggest that Berrigan's influence on me strongly impacted my decision to unleash Mike before an unsuspecting public with "Radio Free Flint" on WTAC & WWCK-FM in the early '80's.

I was blessed having this brilliant Jesuit rebel as instructor in Philosophy and Theology during my years at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, an institution which I have referenced several times in recent years – usually in positive commentary on Francis, our current Jesuit Pope.

Berrigan gave me the only "F" I ever received at Le Moyne for submitting a five page report on a book I'd never read, even though Father Carmody rewarded that same report with an A+ the prior year in Freshman theology. “This makes me pot boiling mad!” Father Berrigan wrote with giant red marker flourishes. “See me after class!”
I was wise enough to immediately confess my foolish transgression and was assigned a penance requiring me to submit a 1,000-word book report every week until the end of the semester a month away.

After that bumpy start, Father Berrigan and I got along fine. In my senior year, I would give him rides to the Jesuit rectory after Theology instruction on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I last saw him in 1998 while I was running a radio group in Youngstown. He had come to the area on a speaking engagement, remembered who I was and asked if I'd "actually read any books lately."

Father Berrigan was quite enamored with French Jesuit philosopher, mystic and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and regularly corresponded with Thomas Merton, Trappist priest and author of "Seven Storey Mountain". Merton is generally regarded at the most important American Catholic author of the 20th Century.

Berrigan made headlines when he went to North Vietnam in 1968 to bring home the first three U.S. prisoners of war. Historians would note that the Vietnam War didn’t officially end until April 30, 1975.


Later in ’68, Berrigan and his brother Philip, who was also a priest and decorated World War Two hero, attracted national attention as "The Berrigan Brothers." They and seven other Catholic protesters, known as the Catonsville Nine, used homemade napalm to burn draft records they had taken from a Maryland selective service office.
Sentenced to several years in prison. Daniel Berrigan spent four months living underground before the FBI finally captured him.


Until he was well into his 80s, Berrigan was taken into custody time after time in challenging the status quo, particularly in seeking social justice and repeatedly engaging in dramatic action against the terrifying prospect of nuclear war. In 1980 he was arrested for taking part in raiding a General Electric missile plant in Pennsylvania, where he and brother Philip rained hammer blows on atomic warheads and in 2006 for blocking the entrance to the Intrepid Naval Museum in Manhattan.
On the day of his 80th birthday in 2001, when asked how long he would continue his bold rejection of mindless militarism with acts of civil disobedience, he told reporters, “The day after I’m embalmed. That’s when I’ll give it up.”


In his final years, Berrigan’s primary efforts were directed at helping AIDS patients in the New York area. In 2012, he appeared in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to support the Occupy Wall Street protesters.


He was a most uncommon man – engagingly social, intellectually dazzling and profoundly spiritual.
Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. was the toughest – and finest teacher I ever had.

I deserved that “F”.

 




April 28, 2016

“Prince”

Perhaps even more unsettling than the shocking news of his untimely death were the mysterious revelations that quickly followed.

Prince was found alone last Thursday morning, dead for hours, slumped to the floor at the bottom of an elevator in his lavish 65,000 square foot Paisley Park studio complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis. The $10 million edifice features two recording studios, a soundstage with rehearsal room, private offices, an underground parking garage, an outdoor basketball court and a solid steel basement bank vault containing hundreds upon hundreds of hours of unreleased master recordings -- potentially worth as much as the current value of his estate, already estimated at more than three hundred million dollars.

Prince Rogers Nelson left this all behind at the age of 57, unmarried and childless, his immediate living relatives being one sister and seven half-siblings. His father, John Lewis Nelson, died in 2001 and his mother, Mattie Della Shaw, passed in 2002.

Was it inadvertently death by faith?

Although there is ample testimony from multiple sources that, unlike rock star peers, Prince assiduously avoided drugs and alcohol throughout his entire professional life, recent times may have seen him resort to powerful narcotic relief from chronic hip pain following decades of highly energized concert performances.

Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, he became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2003 and was consequently reluctant to undergo a strongly recommended double hip replacement due to that sect’s proscription against blood transfusions.

Although a full autopsy has been conducted, it may be weeks before a final cause of death is officially pronounced. Convincing evidence has been released, however, suggesting that Prince apparently suffered an overdose of the prescription drug Percocet a week before he died while flying back to Minnesota following what turned out to be a final performance in Atlanta.

Percocet is a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. It features a high risk of addiction and dependence.

All of that sadly stated, Prince stands alone and unchallenged as the ultimate musical performer of his generation. Borrowing a phrase from the #1 global hit he wrote for Sinead O’ Connor in 1990 – nothing compares. Or even comes close.

I was running top-rated radio stations in the Midwest when Tipper Gore, wife of then Senator and future Vice-President, Al Gore, joined a handful of woeful, woebegone Washington hand ringers without much else to do and formed “The Parents Music Resource Center” in 1984. This was in reaction to having heard “Darling Nikki” by Prince from his enormously successful film, “Purple Rain”. Tipper identified Prince as being “a public menace.” Inspired by such lunacy, I authorized every cut from the soundtrack for airplay on our facilities, believing then, as I do now, that “Rock & Roll” is ultimately an attitude – rock music being an important, but not exclusive form of expression.

It’s also no surprise learning more about Prince’s deeply held spiritual beliefs, a serious commitment to eternal, transcendental values readily evident in any fair, unprejudiced review of his music through the years.

And I agree with the late Kurt Vonnegut that all music is sacred. Vonnegut wrote, “Music is, to me, proof of the existence of God. It is so extraordinarily full of magic, and in tough times of my life I can listen to music and it makes such a difference.”

Here in Oakhurst, we’re in for a rare treat this Saturday night at 7 PM when the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra appears at Sierra Vista Church as part of an historic five county orchestral tour in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

Les Marsden, Founder and Conductor of the Orchestra, promises that his commemorative musical work, “Our Nation’s Nature” is “a cycle of four distinct, unique, large-scale symphonic poems united by shared thematic materials composed accessibly in my personal style with respect, awe and love for our great outdoors.”

The public is most cordially invited to attend this extraordinary performance and early arrival is surely suggested.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $6 for students, with discounted pricing for members of the Mariposa County Arts Council.

“Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down?
Oh, no. Let’s go!”

Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy!” (1984)

 

April 21, 2016

"Saudi Duty Time!"

It’s an obligation they owe the free world.

It’s high time for Saudi Arabia’s Royal Family, a.k.a. “the government,” to dutifully step up and accept responsibility for their clandestine involvement in fueling radical Islamic terrorism in recent years and to provide significantly increased economic and military aid driven by dedicated Arab leadership in a unified international effort to crush ISIS at home and abroad.

Anything less perpetuates an unacceptable status quo.

President Obama is traveling to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to discuss counterterrorism and regional security threats with Gulf state allies.

Subjects under review are bolstering missile defense systems, dealing with escalating threats from cyber hacking and possibly addressing a particularly thorny issue that has arisen with the Saudi regime over potential financial liability stemming from the 9/11 attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.

Although generally ignored by a national media currently diverted into incessant, round the clock, blow by blow coverage of this election cycle’s pugilistic presidential primaries, it seems that Congress is about to conclude consideration of bipartisan legislation that has the Saudis issuing ominous threats.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator John Cornyn (R- Texas) are co-sponsoring a slightly revised version of “JASTA” – the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.” This bill, under discussion for the last several years, would allow victims of terrorism to pursue foreign states and individual supporters of terrorism with direct financial damage claims in American courts. It would also prohibit the invocation of “sovereign immunity” as a defense against such liability, specifically when an American is killed on American soil.

This measure is now up for final approval in the Senate as S. 2040 and before the House as H.R. 3815. It stands in stark contrast to business as usual in this bitterly divided 114th Congress. Along with heavy support from Schumer and Cornyn, it enjoys backing from an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative senators such as Al Franken (D-Minn) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). It passed though the Senate Judiciary Committee in January without a single dissent. Even Bernie Sanders is on board.

Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir delivered a message from the kingdom to Washington threatening to sell $750 billion (three quarters of a trillion dollars) in U.S. Treasury securities and other assets it holds in the United States if the bill is passed and signed into law by the President. The Obama administration is opposing “JASTA” in what can only be described as a matter of diplomatic pragmatism, evidently believing it’s simply not practical to embarrass and antagonize a traditionally reliable and vitally strategic ally unless resorting to such is utterly unavoidable.

Although Saudi Arabia has long denied any involvement in condoning or supporting the nightmare of 9/11, it does seem reasonable to suggest after almost fifteen years that certain persons and/or elements in Saudi society were quite possibly major contributors to the debacle. Perhaps “probably” would be more precise. It’s not difficult believing there were and are those of wealthy means more than willing to enthusiastically fund terror elsewhere in the world as extortive insurance against having it strike at home. Throughout history, that’s how bullies get by.

Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. Of the nineteen September 11th hijackers affiliated with al-Qaeda, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. The others were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon.
Not one was from Iraq, a sovereign nation we invaded on March 20th of 2003 with a subsequent loss of thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives (primarily civilians) and trillions of taxpayer dollars wasted at war.

One of the most sobering memories of The Iraq Conflict was a slogan emphatically referenced at the outset and often repeated since --- the proudly declarative, defiantly patriotic phrase: “We Will Not Forget!”

Has the time come to remember with proper response?

I’d give a rousing cheer.

April 14, 2016

"Hotter Happenings”

Any delusions that Bernie Sanders should be dismissively regarded as a kindly old grandfather type were shattered into shards last Wednesday after the senator unleashed a sharp, heated response to headlines in the Washington Post alleging that Hillary Clinton had declared him “unqualified” to run for President.

It’s all in how you look at it.

When Mrs. Clinton was specifically asked earlier that day by Joe Scarborough on MSNBC whether Senator Sanders was fit to occupy The White House, she was careful to avoid actually using the word “qualified”, but clearly and cleverly implied he wasn’t – specifically calling into question his overall truthfulness and political expertise. In a speech later that night in Philadelphia, Bernie didn’t hold back – categorically stating that Hillary, herself, was assuredly not “qualified” due to her support of the War in Iraq, her acceptance of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street and other concerning issues. And Sanders certainly did use the “Q” word. Functionally, according to Webster, that’s the same as the “E” word – as in --“Eligible.”

For purposes of clarity, the Constitution states:

“No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.” Article II, Section I, Clause 5.

That’s it. Period. There are no other qualifications or quantifications required to be President.

So Hillary and Bernie are both qualified for the presidency, as are Donald Trump, John Kasich and probably Ted Cruz, although he was born in Canada – unnaturally or not. There are probably a hundred million more of us similarly suitable and even Hillary and Bernie have now backed off the subject, but that’s the first time edgy campaign tempers have so dramatically flared in the Democratic race, even as Republican counterparts continue careening toward a colossal collision in Cleveland.

It won’t be pretty.

Cleveland is Detroit without the panache.

July is the hottest month of the year in Cleveland with an average daytime temperature of 83 degrees, accompanied by a sweltering humidity of 86% and relatively restless residents.

The 2016 Republican Convention will take place from July 18th through the 21st within the marginally air conditioned confines of Quicken Loans Arena. For a party ostensibly dedicated to decreased governmental borrowing, pardon me for noting a certain irony in choice of venue.

It now appears certain that attendees will either face the nightmare of an immediate first vote Donald Trump victory -- or more probably encounter the potentially worse horror of a wildly contested, no holds barred, wide open convention --- brokered, if not ultimately broken.

Not to be outdone by the G.O.P. in saluting financial institutions or enduring heavy heat, The National Democratic Convention is scheduled for the following week from July 25th through the 28th at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia with an average daytime temperature of 87 degrees and 93% humidity.

The Democratic nomination still appears Hillary’s to lose, although Bernie Sanders has already so far achieved the impossible in his incredible run against formidable odds, enjoying recent victories in state after state.

Next Tuesday’s New York primary is obviously critical. An unanticipated win there and subsequent miracle victories up through our own California voting on June 7th could bring about one of the most significant political shifts in American history and genuine initiation of the desired revolution at the heart of Sander’s campaign.

Bernie is polling better than Secretary Clinton against all possible Republican opponents, consistently demonstrating superior strength among the young and with independent voters.

And November remains more than a full half-year away.

April 7, 2016

“Landmark Legislation”

This week Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation making California the first state in the nation to approve a $15 minimum hourly wage.

Even though it will be six years until fully realized, this is a landmark achievement and long overdue.

The current minimum wage of $10 will be increased to $10.50 in January of next year, then to $11.00 in January of 2018. It will subsequently be raised $1 a year until it reaches $15 in 2022. Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees will get an extra year to effect these adjustments. Provisions have been made to slow overall implementation in the event unanticipated recessionary or budgetary challenges arise in the future.

With a full one-third of California’s workforce currently being paid the minimum wage and often cynically expected to live on such, arguments that $10 an hour should be regarded as “entry level” compensation exclusively limited to novice employees are as absurd as they are self-serving.

Similarly preposterous is the claim that capitalism and socialism are diametrically opposed – an archaic notion now cleverly revived with sinister malice by the surprisingly well-received presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, his candidacy especially supported by enthusiastic younger demographics. Senator Sanders proposes having the Federal government follow California’s example by increasing the minimum to $15 an hour nationally.

I have previously discussed my own experiences being on both sides of a picket line in earlier days, initially as “Audit Man” for Local 46 of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) in Michigan when I was a young DJ at WTAC in Flint, Michigan, then eventually negotiating with the union for management as President and CEO at that same facility ten years later.

This was in Flint -- home of the United Auto Workers and site of the historic 1936 Sit-down strike at General Motors that brought forth a now disappearing American Middle Class.

Flint taught me this:

(1) Unrestrained unionism yields anarchistic chaos.
(2) Unchecked management breeds aristocratic tyranny.
(3) Blessed is the balance.

Balance is always a precarious proposition.

There’s a long history of who gets what in return for a day’s work.

Ironically, the first modern wage laws date back to feudal times in 1389 and a decree by King Edward III of England, a wealthy landowner, that set a maximum amount lords and vassals might pay their serfs. The Black Plague of 1348 had decimated the population, seriously driving up labor costs. With a majestic frown, those wages came down. But it wasn’t long before equitable payment to the under classes became tied to the cost of food when a “living wage” was established with “The Statute of Laborers” in 1389.

The pendulum has swung back and forth for centuries.

There can be no doubt that one of the most politically conservative and wildly successful entrepreneurs in American history was the legendary Henry Ford, who shocked his industrial peers in 1914 by introducing the “socialistic travesty” of a “Five Dollar Day” at his plants in Detroit. In fact, Henry’s decision not only immediately doubled workers’ pay, but also reduced their workday from nine to eight hours.

As stated on the Ford Motor Company website, “Workers entered the middle class, and could afford to buy the cars they built. Henry Ford became a hero to millions. And eventually, other manufacturers had to follow suit.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 under the Administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt first introduced statutory minimum wages in The United States. This brought about such radical notions as guaranteeing a forty-hour workweek, setting Ford’s eight-hour workday as a national standard, providing time and a half for overtime pay and condemning “oppressive child labor.” As industrialization had moved workers from farms into urban factory employment, children were often preferred as employees since owners considered them more manageable, cheaper and less likely to strike.

And Henry Ford is not the only conservative voice of sound business practice ringing down to us through the years.
“It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty’s subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions” – Sir Winston Churchill – April 28, 1909


Take that, King Edward.

 



March 31, 2016


“KOLS-LP”


It’s simply a matter of accountability to our community.

In certain specific situations, the Federal Communication Commission licenses “Low Power FM” stations to provide geographically limited populations such as Oakhurst with local radio programming otherwise unavailable.

Such service is designed to offer area clubs, churches, schools, educational forums and other non-profit organizations an opportunity to discuss issues, promote events, and otherwise exchange thoughts and ideas on an interactive, participatory basis.

When the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011 with strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Low Power FM stations are small, but they make a giant contribution to local community programming.”

In comparative hearings for “Low Power FM” facilities, applicants are graded on such items as a commitment to “originate locally at least eight hours of programming a day” and “maintain a publicly accessible main studio that has local program origination capability, is reachable by telephone, and is staffed at least 20 hours per week between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.”

There are numerous other mandatory technical and regulatory responsibilities -- particularly rigid requirements to maintain a public inspection file, make available for inspection a political file tracking requests for candidate and/or issue discussion, and to regularly file ownership reports in a timely manner.

The sudden, mysterious appearance of KOLS-LP (98.5 FM) last summer on our Oakhurst radio dials generated extended inquiry that had now culminated in the filing of a formal complaint with the Federal Communication Commission calling for a full investigation into the construction and operation of this illegal station.

I have signed and submitted to the Federal Communications Commission a sworn affidavit stating the following:

“Peter Cavanaugh, a resident of Oakhurst, California, hereby states the following under penalty of perjury:

I am an occasional listener of radio station KOLS-LP. I have noticed:

A. KOLS-LP does not broadcast any local programming;
B. It does not have a main studio;
C. It does not have a political file;
D. It does not have a public inspection file and
E. It has not filed ownership reports.

I am disappointed that KOLS-LP is in flagrant violation of the Commission’s rules and urge that the Commission initiate an investigation.”

After considerable evaluation and review by Washington attorneys and several informal discussions with regulators, it was determined best to file an initial narrative limited to certain easily verifiable technical violations, leaving many other pertinent issues subject to eventual investigative inclusion. Even so, the complaint is 65 pages long.

KOLS-LP broadcasts from the roof of a vacation home in Cedar Valley, a full 7.5 miles from our Oakhurst town center at the junction of California Highways 41 and 49. Father Daniel White of Winnetka, California – a Los Angeles suburb – is said to own the home. White is listed as President of “Radio Catholic” – a self-created, nonprofit religious corporation. Although the KOLS-LP call letters are alleged to represent “Our Lady of the Sierra,” Pastor Joel Davadilla did not authorize the project and has stated he knows little about it. Nor does the Diocese of Fresno.

100% of current KOLS-LP airtime exclusively consists of national EWTN programming originating in Birmingham, Alabama -- this fare already easily accessible in Oakhurst on Sirius/XM Radio, both Dish and Direct Satellite TV, and via the Internet.

Founded by 92 year-old Franciscan nun Mother Mary Angelica, EWTN – ‘Eternal Word Television” is the largest religious media network in the world, reaching over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories. EWTN does not permit inclusion of non-Catholic religious programming in its broadcast day.

Repeating my closing words from a November column, we need “Community Radio” in Oakhurst to be truly “catholic” in nature, a word defined in Webster’s as being “of general scope or value; all-inclusive; broad in sympathy, tastes and understanding.”

That means for all people, parties, pursuits and persuasions.

Including input from the 20+ local churches of different denominations highlighted on page 6A of last week’s Easter issue of The Sierra Star.

And the 75+ area groups and organizations listed on page 7A’s “Community Calendar.”

As intended.

 

March 24, 2016

“Both Sides Now”

Politico scores him at one major new lie for every five minutes he speaks.

PolitiFact reports that more than three-quarters of his formal pronouncements are “mostly or totally false.”

FactCheck says he “tramples the truth.”

Donald Trump repeatedly lies about so many things at every turn, often contradicting himself several times in the same breath. Any attempt to discern lucidity in his rambling diatribes is doomed to failure. One might as well attempt to adequately describe the color of air.

The man is an utter fraud. The fact he is capturing such a loyal, fanatical following should bring deep pause and sleepless nights to all but the badly bewildered. Disregarding this danger is unpatriotic and un-American.

To his credit, our own 4th Congressional District Representative Tom McClintock has not succumbed to the trumpeting call of deceitfully deranged Donald. Tom is supporting Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during these final primary days. For resigning from the House Freedom Caucus last September and observing that this ultra right-wing group had displayed “hardball tactics that undermines conservative goals”, Mr. McClintock should also receive congratulatory recognition – herein extended.

Things are coming to a head on both sides of the political spectrum.

Recognizing that Senator Bernie Sanders may be nearing the end of his long sought, valiantly fought, immeasurably impressive presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton could well make history as our first female President. If that’s so, why not double our pleasure and double our fun by choosing Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as her running mate?

I was first introduced to Senator Warren in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story.”


At the time, she was chair of a Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the U.S. banking bailout that involved hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. When Michael asked her in the film where the money went, she candidly replied with genuine frustration and refreshing candor, “I don’t know” -- a question that remains largely unanswered to this day.


A seemingly perfect choice to develop and oversee a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren was named as a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on September 17, 2010, then went on to earn her nickname “Sheriff of Wall Street” -- ruffling more than a few feathers outside and inside the Obama Administration.


Five years ago while testifying before a congressional panel, Warren questioned the scope of state and federal investigations into alleged mortgage abuses and illegal foreclosures perpetrated by the nation's largest mortgage companies, marking the very first time a senior White House official publicly broke ranks with the President over the issue and raising fresh questions about the wisdom of the government's rush to settle with the firms.


She testified that government agencies might not have sufficiently investigated claims that banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial illegally seized borrowers’ homes.


Four days later, bowing to heavy political pressure, President Obama announced Warren was being passed over as his choice to become permanent Director of the very organization she had created, instead choosing to nominate Warren’s second-in-command, thus caving in to those who decided Elizabeth Warren was being far, far too serious in her quest for meaningful banking regulations and reform.


Since she couldn’t beat the boys in the Senate, this former Harvard Law Professor decided to join them. Running for office against heavy odds and big money thrown against her, Senator Warren was elected to replace Scott Brown in November of 2012. Elizabeth Warren is now Senior Senator from Massachusetts -- offering impeccable credentials -- having consistently proven herself these last few years as an unwavering voice of progressive thought.

Senator Warren offers the Democratic ticket a perfect answer to those concerned about maintaining the allegiance and passion of youth this critical election cycle -- without which victory cannot be assured.

Yes!

Clinton/Warren in 2016!

It’s a Tennessee mountain point of view.

“If you’re gonna have one -- might as well have two!” – Miranda Lambert & The Pistol Annies (2011)

 

March 17, 2016

"The View From Killarney"

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2016.

When the time came to write this week’s column – due to being published on the blessed day itself – I decided to ask an old friend in Killarney if he might provide me with his own insights into this year’s American presidential primary season.

Finbarr Slattery is a legend in County Kerry. We became acquainted when Eileen and I were visiting Killarney on our first trip to Ireland in 1992. For many years, Mr. Slattery wrote a brilliant weekly column in The Kingdom newspaper and has been published around the world, including Time Magazine. We kept in touch for quite some time.

Alas, I have just learned that Finbarr, housebound and well into his 90s, has become extremely frail, but his former editor at The Kingdom, which sadly ceased publication in January of 2011, now comes to our rescue.

John O’Mahony is editor and publisher of KillarneyToday.com, a daily online news, sports and current affairs service in Killarney, Co Kerry – Ireland’s best known tourism town. Thousands of miles away from the relentless political pounding we receive around the clock, here’s a March 17perspective provided at a discerning distance from the land of saints and shamrocks, courtesy of the graciously accommodating Mr. O’Mahony.

“Ireland’s slow to play the Trump card”

THERE’S a rousing ballad penned specifically for the 1971 film adaptation of Walter Macken’s wonderful children’s book, Flight of the Doves, in which the chorus cheerfully proclaims, you don’t have to be Irish to be Irish.

And that certainly rings true if one’s association with the Emerald Isle can be mutually beneficial in terms of commercial considerations or promotional opportunities; a sort of you scratch our back and we’ll return the compliment arrangement.
It also highlights the traditional Irish hospitality, famous the world over and, almost without exception, genuine, warm and wonderful.

The President of the United States of America, whoever holds that office at any given time, has always been well within the promotional radar of those charged with the responsibility of boosting Irish tourism and finding reason – any reason – to throw a party. If there was a VIP guest list, 1600 Penn would be at the very summit.

It started with JFK in June 1963 when he sipped tea from the best bone China cup that could be found in the village at his ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford. That’s a visit that remains one of the most important, groundbreaking, celebrated and poignant occasions in Irish history, right up there alongside the arrival of Pope John Paul II in 1979 in terms of landmark moments in time.

But it didn’t end there. If the sunny south east could claim Jack Kennedy, then the land of the little potato in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary could do likewise with President Reagan after he came calling to the land of his roots in 1984.

The sleepy County Offaly village of Moneygall has built a busy plaza and museum dedicated to President Obama following his all too brief visit, in May 2011, to the little rural hamlet where his great-great-great grandfather on his mother’s side once walked the land and where his eighth cousin, Henry Healy, affectionately known locally as Henry VIII, occasionally waits on tables at the in-house diner.

President Bush, senior and junior, both came calling as did President Nixon when he visited his own ancestors’ graves in County Kildare in October 1970. But, of course, the charismatic President Clinton, the only American President that came anywhere close to JFK in terms of respect and admiration in the eyes of the Irish people, spent so much time in Ireland, between 1995 and 2000, that he ran the risk of developing freckles and a fondness for creamy porter.

So admired was President Clinton that the locals even erected a larger-than-life statue of the great man in the heart of the seaside town of Ballybunion, County Kerry where he played golf with former Irish Labour Party leader and foreign affairs minister Dick Spring.

Despite the great history between American presidents and the Irish people, strangely, or perhaps not strangely at all, it would appear that there is no great clamor to fast-track an invitation to the man who now wants to be president to visit the land of saints and scholars.

Besides, Donald Trump doesn’t need to avail of Irish hospitality as he already has a pretty impressive place to lay his head following his purchase of the stunning Doonbeg Resort and Country Club out of bankruptcy in February 2014. It is set on 400 acres in County Clare, has a 25-mile coastline and world class golf club. How could Ballyporeen or Ballybunion compete with that?

Truth be told, even despite his barnstorming, electrifying successes in the Primary season, few people in Ireland are still taking the Trump campaign very seriously. They should do so, but they refuse to.
That he is likely to secure the Republican nomination is greeted with sheer disbelief and, quite honestly, loud bar stool guffaws. Ireland simply refuses to play the Trump card.

The Donald’s take on immigration has greatly irritated the Irish people who watched, helplessly and tearfully, for generations as their young, and not so young, were forced to flee the land to salvage some dignity and to try to earn enough dollars to stuff in an envelope to put bread on the table and medicine in the cupboards back home.

His stance on foreign policy is, well, frankly, pretty scary. Building walls when the rest of the word is knocking them down defies logic. His bullish nature and brash swagger is not going down well in a country where people like those in power and with power to remain modest and unassuming from whatever lofty perch they stand on.

Sanders, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich are largely unknown in Ireland to anyone other than total political anoraks and when it comes to their chances of kicking off their slippers under the White House bed, the view here is that there is more of a possibility of spotting a snake slithering down O’Connell Street on St Patrick’s Day.

Ireland loves a Clinton. For all his faults Bill remains a national hero for his commitment to the long and complex campaign to bring peace to Northern Ireland. He treated the Irish people with respect, with dignity, with compassion and with a glint in his eye that went down a treat. That was appreciated. And it won’t be forgotten.

Forging another link between Ireland and the US of A, Chelsea Clinton penned a highly regarded and valued 150-page thesis on the Northern Ireland and she even spent a vacation in Killarney, County Kerry, departing just before she qualified to have a statue of her own cast in bronze.

As for, Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, well, she’s the campaigner Ireland is rooting for. She doesn’t possess her husband’s charisma. She’s prone to more than an occasional foul up bleep and blunder and she often comes across as having a tendency to be single-minded, calculating and divisive.
But, hey, she’s a Clinton. And if Hillary is good enough for America then she is most welcome into the Irish parlour, where there will be a welcome on the mat, a kettle on the boil and the best bone china in the village awaiting.

Just as long as she brings himself with her.

John O’Mahony
Killarney, Ireland

 

March 10, 2016

“Stress Test”

I no longer smoke tobacco. After two and a-half packs a day for forty years, I stopped while living in Youngstown when I almost stopped living in Youngstown. It was a Saturday night – May 16th, 1998. Something felt catchy in the middle of my chest.

There was an Irish anesthesiologist from Killarney with whom I was happily chatting until he whispered, “Here’s a little magic” and applied his craft, instantly initiating extensive orgasmic bliss. I thoroughly enjoyed my quadruple bypass.

In the almost eighteen years and five subsequent stents since, I have become remarkably consistent following doctors’ orders -- more or less – faithfully losing fifty pounds of waddling weight in my daily walks up 425A and avoiding such former practices as ordering triple cheese pizzas with extra cheese, downing a full bag of barbeque chips with dip watching a single episode of “Cops” and drinking beer by the barrel.

I was heading for my annual stress test with Dr. Gen in Fresno on Leap Year Day when our 2001 Buick Park Avenue Ultra burst into flames heading up Deadwood, blocking traffic on Highway 41 for an hour or so and making it unnecessary we travel any farther for stress. Eileen and I escaped without a scratch. The Buick did not – concluding its earthly responsibilities in a spectacular, albeit self-inflicted Viking funeral.

I cannot adequately express our deep appreciation and heart felt gratitude for the extraordinary efforts extended on our behalf by Cal Fire Engine 4254, Madera County Engine 12, Madera County Sheriff’s deputies, the California Highway Patrol and total strangers who pitched in to help. We’re so glad we live where we do. Walt Disney was right. It’s a small world after all, especially in Oakhurst.

CHP Officer Chris Lutz was there on the scene helping to sort things out, direct traffic and make us feel safe on Deadwood, and it was CHP Public Information Officer Kaci Lutz who addressed a jam-packed, spellbound audience last Saturday at Denny’s for our March Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club. We had to squeeze in extra chairs.

When Lt. Jason Daughrity became CHP Commander in Oakhurst in January of last year, a high priority item on his agenda was public outreach. Chris married Kaci after they met serving our country in the military. Lt. Daughrity chose Kaci to head up his community campaign. Both are to be congratulated on having made a brilliant decision.

As I mentioned to Kaci after I saw her address the crowd at Tom Wheeler’s
Oakhurst Town Hall Meeting in January, if I was still running a radio group, she could write her own ticket in Sales. Residents of Eastern Madera County are most fortunate. Deciding to serve the public and write tickets for the CHP instead, Kaci is providing us with the services of an extraordinarily talented, highly dedicated professional. Her topic Saturday was “Cool New Things with the CHP!” Democratic Club members would put Kaci at the top of the list. And they’re a tough bunch to please. Trust me.

Kent Byers graduated from Yosemite High in 1981 and has since gone on to a remarkable career producing world class events involving decades of experience, including the presentation of halftime Super Bowl shows, the Golden Gate 50th Anniversary Celebration and Opening Ceremonies for the 1984 Olympic Games.

As Founder and CEO of “Events by Kent” headquartered here in Oakhurst, Kent enjoys a sterling national reputation for his expertise in staging projects big and small for clients such as United Airlines, Sony PlayStation, Nestle USA and the Seagram Company.

And he’s a fabulous Master of Ceremonies, so it was a particular honor working with him Saturday night at the Eighth Annual Yosemite High School “Nite on the Town.”

Yosemite High School Choir Director Christel Biasell and YHS Music Director Francisco Marquez are to be congratulated on staging a truly extraordinary event, as are the 100 students who directly participated, as well as their family and friends.

Paraphrasing The Beatles, although the rain came -- no one minded. In fact -- at YHS Saturday night -- the musical weather was particularly fine.

 

March 3, 2016

“It Ain’t Over”

“It ain’t over till it’s over!” -- Yogi Berra (1973)

“Super Tuesday” is now dangerously behind us.

This runaway train known as the 2016 Presidential Election Cycle is charging down the tracks with Donald J. Trump evidently all but done savaging Republcan opponents, even as Hillary Clinton seems to be suddenly steamrolling over Bernie Sanders squishity- squish -squish.

Not so fast.

It’s all too crazy to not get crazier.

I find it impossible to believe that the Republican Party will allow itself to be terminally and permanently debased by a raging fool. Similarly, it may be unlikely that Hillary Clinton can gain the White House without continued opposition from disgruntled Sanders’ supporters led by militant millenials who just don’t buy her act.

What if Trump wins the Republican nomination and the party shatters in two with John Kasich as presidential nominee of a newly revitalizd GOP under some other name? He appears to be the only current Trump competitor not completely unhinged and surely deserves growing recognition as “the only adult in the room” among debate participants. The governor of Ohio brilliantly demonstrated that last Thursday night as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tag teamed against Trump in a heated match that reached epic proportions in an exchange of vile invectives and loutish language -- in the process insulting the intelligence of any viewer over the age of 6.

On the Democratic side, forget any problems with “Benhazi”. Mrs. Clinton took care of that herself for eleven and a half hours under oath last October, enduring vicious grilling before a Republican Select Committee dedicated to her destruction. But suppose Hillary ultimately faces Federal charges of who knows what springing forth from that current “email investigation?” Although highly unlikely, this could provide an immediate game changer, as would be any major negative revelation about the millions of dollars flowing into the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as Secretary of State and/or her own “speaking fees” through the years.

Quick! Elizabeth Warren? Now you have no choice! Joe Biden? Get back in there! Oprah?

Then we have former Mayor of New York and multi-billionaire Michael Bloomberg waiting in the wings for someone to seriously falter. There’s always Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal wondering if they might not have given things up and pulled out too soon. That happens. And there’s even Mitt Romney, only days ago pathetically attempting to regain relevance by strangely and uncharacteristically tweeting wild allegations of a “bombshell” hiding in Donald Trump’s tax returns.

How about a four way race on November 8th? Donald Trump for President on the Republican ballot vs. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton vs. John Kasich on a “We’re All Not That Nuts” ticket vs. Bernie Sanders as head of a new, insurgent “Let Me Be Even Clearer” movement.

Why stop there?

Let’s add Kim Kardasian and run her for Queen, or haveTed Cruz and Marco Rubio joyfully join forces in an energetic “Co-Presidents Can Be Go - Presidents” campaign or watch Dr. Ben Carson sleeping to a win with his “I Can’t Believe No One Ever Notices I’m Always Stoned” Party?

Perhaps instead of Congress, we should have a Parliament -- with dozens of parties representing views of all hues?

Or have bare-knuckle fist fights on Pay TV to pay down the debt and have the last two combatants standing simply draw straws?

We’ll explore these options and even more this Saturday as the Oakhurst Democratic Club holds its March Meeting at Denny’s with breakfast at 8:30 and a program beginning at 9:30 featuring Public Information Officer Kaci Lutz of the California Highway Patrol speaking on “Cool New Things With The CHP!”

And it’s looking like a complete sell-out this Saturday night at Yosemite High School for the Eighth Annual “Nite on The Town” -- the largest fundraiser of the year for the Yosemite High Music Department. With 100 students performing 30 memorable pieces, I will be assisting Oakhurst’s own Kent Byers in performing Master of Ceremonies duties and look forward to the “Nite” with great enthusiasm and more than a slight measure of appropriate trepidation at being asked to take part in such a classy affair.

 

“The Nine Lives of Donald Trump”

“Now the cat was a terror and he thought that it was best -
to give it to a fella who was headin' out west.
The train went around the corner and it hit a broken rail.
Not a soul aboard the train was alive to tell the tale.
But the cat came back. The cat came back.
I thought he was a goner, but the cat came back.
'Cause he wouldn't stay away.”

“The Cat Came Back”
-- Harry S. Miller (1893)

Even his most ardent supporters suspected “The Donald” might finally have done himself in.

In two short days leading up to last Saturday’s South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary, Donald J. Trump told off The Pope and then technically defined our country’s last Republican President as a war criminal. Trump subsequently swept the field in weekend voting -- grabbing top spot and almost all the delegates with double digit leads over runners up Ted “The Single Biggest Liar I Ever Met” Cruz and Marco “I’m Not Even Sure He’s Eligible To Run” Rubio.

As Pope Francis flew back to Rome on Wednesday after concluding a wildly successful visit to Cuba and Mexico, including Mass held at the very border between Mexico and the U.S.A. at Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso, the Pontiff responded to a reporter’s question about Trump promising to build a giant wall between the two countries. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they might be, and not building bridges, is not a Christian”, said Francis. Hearing this, Trump characterized the remark as being “disgraceful,” fantasizing that the Holy Father should only hope President Trump is there to fight “when ISIS invades The Vatican.”

On stage with fellow contenders Jeb Bush and John Kasich during that following night’s CNN “Town Hall Debate”, Donald proceeded to explode when Jeb again attempted to depict his brother, George W. Bush, as having “kept us safe after 9/11.” “That happened during his reign”, bellowed Trump, adding that the Bush Administration had cost thousands of lives and trillions of dollars – creating ISIS in the process by intentionally “lying about weapons of mass destruction.”

“W” was even called in from painting landscapes for some rare appearances hither and yon in South Carolina in support of his younger brother’s candidacy. Our 43rd President, with a hairline having receded even faster than his popularity, seemed a sad site. Despite all, I can’t help but begrudgingly like the guy. “George The Conqueror” surely tried his level best during eight years in office – handicapped by limited reflection, awkward skills and avaricious advisors interested first and foremost in force-feeding an insatiable war machine. Dick Cheney’s not worth $100 million today for past good looks. But even “43” couldn’t help Jeb In his try to be “45.”

Jeb! Bush always did seem to be more a question mark than an exclamation point with his hesitate speech, slouched shoulders and hangdog smile. Seconds after the polls closed Saturday night and seeing only 8% support in his column, he finally and mercifully called it quits.

Donald Trump now seems ready to run the table all the way to a Republican Presidential Nomination in Cleveland come July. If so, our Fourth Congressional District Representative Tom McClintock can look forward to supporting all sorts of interesting ideas, including “bombing the hell out of ISIS”, instituting interrogational torture far past water boarding and other novel – if not nasty -- notions.

If John Gotti was “The Teflon Don”, here we have a genuine “Teflon Donald” with nothing sticking to him other than whatever keeps that thing on his head.

I’ve often written that Trump will never be President and repeat that again, but it surely looks more and more as though he just might become standard-bearer of his Party when all is said and dumb.







 

February 18, 2016

“Little Miss Sneaky”

I am about to be politically incorrect.

As one can easily discern with the quickest of glances at the picture on this printed page, I am not an African-American.

In fact, I’m pleased to report that I can finally be somewhat more specific about ancestry. That’s thanks to my first cousin, Deanna Drake Denver, who just received results from DNA testing. She passed -- scoring 50% Irish, 21% Europe West, 18% Scandinavian, 3% Iberian Peninsula, 3% West Asian (Caucasus) and 0% Scots Terrier. It’s probable I am similarly configured, perhaps a wee bit heavier with the Irish count, particularly next month on the 17th.

If you saw the Navy SEAL film, “Act of Valor” you’ve seen Deanna on the big screen -- playing the part of “Lt. Rorke’s” mother. Naval Reserve Commander Rorke Denver is Deanna’s actual son. His new TV series, “American Grit”, premieres April 14th on FOX. That’s called sneaking in a plug.

But even though the first 78-rpm record I ever bought was “Hound Dog” by Mama Willie May Thornton (1952) (way before Elvis did it) and despite the fact I never missed James Brown when he came to town (7 shows through the years – right down front) and it’s also true “Parliament and Funkadelic” (led by the spectacularly outrageous George “Atomic Dog” Clinton) was my chosen headline act more than once during Michigan rock concert years, I suppose these things still give me no right to publicly criticize the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee, but here I go.

Little Miss Sneaky strikes again.

Last Thursday’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders by the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee was rushed by Hillary, her campaign and the 20 member PAC board after Clinton’s 22 point loss to Senator Sanders earlier in the week. The next big test comes this Saturday in South Carolina, where African Americans represent a 55% majority of registered Democrats. But wait. The Black Caucus Political Action Committee is not the same as the 46-member Congressional Black Caucus. That group features only actual members of Congress, including one Republican. And a sharp review of the PAC reveals that the 20 Committee members include 11 lobbyists, many of who have clients in industries that have been vigorously attacked by Sanders during his campaign and, intriguingly, have significantly contributed to Hillary in hers.

As Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) properly pointed out, the actual Black Congressional Caucus, to which he belongs, has not yet endorsed anyone, adding, “Endorsements should be the product of a fair, open process. That didn’t happen.”

Bernie Sanders record on the fight for civil rights and his consistent struggle for fairness, equality and equity stands the test of time.

Way back in the ‘60’s, as a student at the University of Chicago, Sanders was active in both the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1962, he was handcuffed and arrested for protesting segregation in Chicago Public Schools and for distributing flyers throughout the city detailing police brutality to blacks.

As tension builds, we watch Secretary Clinton keeping a straight face in debate as she insists she wants to “avoid another contentious fight with Republicans” by “keeping The Affordable Care Act.” Hillary is against moving on to a single payer system and “Medicare for All.” What?

The first Republican controlled House vote after Paul Ryan became Speaker early last month was to kill The Affordable Care Act by a margin of 240 to 181. With Senate concurrence (52 – 47), only President Obama’s immediate veto saved the five year-old law.

There’s going to be plenty of “contentiousness’” with Republicans over health care no matter what, Hillary. Let’s go for the gold!

Or would that upset donors?

 


February 11th, 2016




“Taking The Cannoli”


“Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this gift.” – Don Corleone – “The Godfather” (1972)

Those words ricocheted through my mind last Thursday night during the first “one on one” debate between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders prior to New Hampshire primary voting Tuesday.

Hillary was challenging Sanders to provide a specific example proving she was being “paid off” to provide certain services in return for campaign contributions. The subject had come earlier when Anderson Cooper of CNN asked Mrs. Clinton about a payment of $675,000 she received from Goldman Sachs for three speaking engagements. When Cooper questioned the amount, Hillary breezily replied, “Well, that’s what they offered.” Oh.

This is the same Goldman Sachs that agreed just last month to pay a civil settlement of up to $5 billion with federal prosecutors in order to take care of claims arising from the marketing and selling of faulty mortgage securities to investors. Believe it or not, this was a good deal.

Goldman’s Chairman and Chief Executive Office, Lloyd C. Blankfein, went on record stating, “We are pleased to have reached agreement in principle to resolve these matters.” You bet. In 2014, Bank of America paid over $16.6 billion in a similar deal with governmental agencies, even as JP Morgan was good for another $13 billion in “we’re sorry” money the prior year.

Here’s what Chairman/CEO Blankfein said on CNBC last Wednesday about Bernie Sanders’ campaign for President. “It has the potential to be a dangerous moment.” I hope so.

For thousands of careers destroyed, trillions of dollars lost and countless lives ruined in 2008’s Wall Street debacle, hardly a single soul has spent a second in the slammer or faced serious criminal charges. Madoff went down big, but had gotten away with his outrageous Ponzi game for decades.

For the third quarter of 2015, Goldman Sachs reported a profit of $1.3 billion. During one 16-month period after leaving the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton together received $25 million in fees and professional stipends.

Hillary’s main defense when pressed on campaign contributions is that “everybody does it. Even Barack Obama.” And she’s right. The average member of Congress spends have of his or her time soliciting funds for the next election cycle. That’s half their time – all the time.

I was particularly struck near the very end of Thursday’s debate when moderator Chuck Todd asked both participants how they would prioritize issues, specifically citing immigration reform, gun control and climate change. Senator Sanders emphatically stated that every subject itemized was functionally secondary to an overriding and unavoidable truth -- nothing meaningful can ever be accomplished, “So long as big money interests control the United States Congress.”

This is not a wild, radical, off-the-wall, “revolutionary” idea. It’s a plain, simple, challenging call to duty.

Here we go.

Only two candidates competing for our nation’s highest office are turning down big money – Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders hasn’t been begging for bucks because he’s raised over $53.6 million in the last four months alone from 1.3 million separate contributors who have each donated an average grand total of $27 apiece. And Donald Trump hasn’t had to grovel for money by the shovel because – “The Donald” IS big money.

A new national Quinnipiac poll released late Friday shows Senator Sanders, who was twenty points behind Secretary Clinton just a month ago, now trailing Hillary 44% to 42% -- a statistical tie.
This was then echoed by a brand new Reuters/IPSOS survey indicating Hillary leading Bernie 48% to 45% -- well within a mathematical margin of error.

Shazam!

Hear the excitement? See the crowds? Feel “The Bern?”

The lady and gentleman have started their engines.

It’s a real race!







February 4, 2016



“Thump Goes Trump”

He’s a loser.

"Unless I win, I would consider this a big, fat, beautiful—and, by the way, a very expensive—waste of time" -- Donald Trump -- Sunday afternoon in Iowa.

Of all the thundering headlines following Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, none echoed louder than news that “The Donald” not only lost his first true test as a presidential candidate, but had almost thumped to third place in the process.

Trump’s 24.3% performance represented a crushing decline from his Iowa polling averages in recent months, suggesting massive crowd turnouts were probably more due to celebrity appeal than meaningful message.

Marco Rubio was nipping right behind Donald’s big behind with 23.1% of the voting – a dramatic upsurge for the youngest GOP hopeful – ever more thirsty in his frenetic bid for the White House.

Winning first place in the hearts and minds and tractors and plows of Iowa Republicans was Ted Cruz at 27.7%, pretty much performing as predicted. Cruz rewarded his followers with an interminable, three-quarters of an hour victory speech. Even FOX TV bailed well before it ended.

There’s something visually unsettling about Senator Cruz. Perhaps when little angel Teddy Cruz passed through Heaven heading here, another little angel stepped on his head. This would account for more than mere appearance.

Then there’s that Canadian question, eh?

With Ben Carson in single digits (9.3%) heading back to Florida for “fresh clothes”, his continuation in competition seems unlikely.

Rand Paul (4.5%) did a bit better than expected, but Jeb Bush demonstrated irrefutable evidence that when $14.1 million spent in Iowa buys but 2.8% of the final vote (approximately $2,800 for each vote received) – denying the inevitable has become clearly indefensible.

That’s 18 times as much per ballot as winner Cruz, 10 times as much as Marco and 34 times as much as silver medal winner Trump -- no investment chump.

Jeb? Perhaps it’s time to throw in your monogrammed towel.

Everyone below Jeb (Fiorini, Kasich, Huckabee, Christie and Santorum) ended up with less than 2.0%, while former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore came in with a total of twelve (12) votes, putting him in very last place behind “Other”, who attracted 119 fans.

Huckabee has announced he is “suspending his campaign”, although not “ending” it, since that would cost money.

What’s left? Pun intended, Monday night’s other big story was obviously Bernie Sanders meteoric rise from relative obscurity to tie Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side of things, even as Hillary’s campaign prematurely and ungraciously announced with much of the vote yet uncounted that she had won. In July of 2015 polling, Sanders was behind Hillary Clinton 52% to 33% after initially scoring only single digits when he announced his candidacy. Bernie is a man on the move.

While final tabulation Tuesday morning projected a Hillary win by the narrowest of margins (49.9% to 49.6%) – such proximity would normally require a recount under usual circumstances – but probably won’t. The difference in this instance is fundamentally of no consequence. Hillary was landing 22 delegates to the national convention, while Bernie nailed 21 with one still contested. It will take 2,383 delegates to win the Democratic Party’s nomination in Philadelphia (July 25 – 28), one week after the Republicans choose their nominee in Cleveland. Iowa was the starting gate on a race really just underway.

And Democrat Martin O’Malley has joined Mike Huckabee -- riding off the track on separate happy trails into similar sunsets.

My head is spinning from all these numbers, making all the more amazing to me how Todd Miller could have so marvelously pulled things together on such short notice and in such a brief period of time.

Our first 2016 meeting of The Oakhurst Democratic Club will be held at Denny’s this Saturday with Madera County Auditor/Controller Todd Miller and a presentation entitled: “County Money: Where It Comes From and Where It Goes.”

Since becoming Auditor/Controller in June of 2014, having been forced to leap to the rescue by unanticipated circumstance when his predecessor succumbed to a curious case of premature retirement, Mr. Miller has seen his office complete the county’s annual audit by its March 31st deadline for the first time in 17 years. This achievement brought about an A1 credit rating from Standard & Poors in July and a $500,000 yearly savings in interest payments alone.

And there’s lots more good news too.

See you Saturday!

 




January 28, 2016

“Flint”

It was home to the highest paid factory worker in the entire civilized world.

Then it became a city abandoned by many and cited by all in scholarly national narratives on the pitiful plight and awesome blight of post-industrial America.

Today headlines scream that its children are poisoned, many permanently so -- as tempers flair, fingers point and the future darkens even more over a town turning to dust.

In all the decades I spent in Flint, no one drank the river water. Or swam in it. Or fished in it. You’d have to be crazy.

Fresh glacial water from Lake Huron flowed through city taps as the Great Sit-down Strike of 1937 brought about recognition of the UAW and rising prosperity for all -- workers and wealthy alike -- in what is recognized by historians as the birth of the American Middle Class. I learned much from old men who had mattered.

Michael Moore’s stunningly prescient “Roger & Me” was filmed on the streets of Flint in the late ‘80’s. Observing its 25th birthday in 2014, “Roger & Me” correctly predicted the demise of American industry, beginning with corporate abandonment of the epitomic factory town.

I had introduced Mike to an unsuspecting public over WTAC-AM and WWCK-FM in the late ‘70’s with a program called “Radio Free Flint.” It ran Sunday mornings from 8 until 10 -- a live, unrehearsed talk show with minimal censorship and an accent on challenging involvement. Our radio station switchboard would light up like a Christmas tree.

On one program Michael featured an extended segment interviewing the head of the Flint National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) appearing with the Grand Dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan. They got along fine. This was in 1982 when WWCK became the highest-rated Rock Station in America and won a National Billboard Magazine Award for “Best Local Programming – All Markets.”

Mike was back in Flint last week seeking the resignation and arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for hapless leadership, criminal negligence and grand malfeasance in office. I know that’s strong. But look what happened.

In the great Flint Diaspora following “Roger and Me” years, the city’s population was cut in half, leaving barely 100,000 suffering souls -- 56% minority African-American. Of these, 41.5% are living well below Federal poverty levels. A quarter of Flint families have an annual income of less than $15,000 a year.

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated in April of 2014 when a state-appointed emergency manager reporting directly to the Republican governor’s office was running the city. To save money, city government was ordered by the State of Michigan to abandon its use of Lake Huron sources and draw water directly from the Flint River. Along with other consequences of pollution, the river water turned out to be markedly acidic and highly corrosive, leaching lead from pipes and fixtures – many over a century old.

Originally denying any problems existed, only after a year and a half in October of last year did the governor’s office allow the city to switch back to input from Lake Huron, except irreparable damage had already been done. The fresh water surged into ruined, deteriorated plumbing. Too little too late.

Estimated cost of repair? A quarter of a billion dollars. Time frame if such funds can be raised? Years. Population effected? Anyone who drank the water. Number of children already poisoned? Over 8,000.

There are no easy answers here, but perhaps a hard lesson has been learned.

Expedient political decisions can bring unexpected personal consequences.

I offer a powerful reminder to Governor Snyder:

“Inasmuch as you have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

Matthew, Chapter 25, verse 40



 

January 21, 2016

“Breakout for Bernie”

Bernie was best.

That long- tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs ducked and weaved and shimmied and shook all the way through Sunday’s Democratic Debate like Tony Dorsett for the Dallas Cowboys in ’83. Remember? 99 yards from scrimmage to touchdown – the longest run in NFL history! The wild, crazy, unlikely turns of fate these last two playoff weeks are making me think the old goat might just have a chance.

I hasten to add that Bernie and I were born on the same date – September 8, 1941.

I was highly enthusiastic that we might elect our first female President this year, initially abandoning such hope when Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts chose not to run, then reluctantly accepting the fact that we might have to settle for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton – baggage and all.

As far as I’m concerned, Hillary’s “baggage” has nothing to do with “Benghazi” or “Email“ or “Possible Federal Indictments” or any other nonsensical right wing fantasy bubbling forth from the frothing caldron of hate-filled talk radio -- or even the wild ways of a wandering Willie.

Hillary’s baggage includes an uncomfortably close association with big money, a disturbing reticence to acknowledge such and, most of all, a marked tendency to blithely resort to fabrication in the pursuit of ambition.

During Sunday’s debate, Senator Sanders characterized Secretary Clinton’s attacks on his gun control record and health plan ideas as being “duplicitous.” I would more bluntly use the word, “deceitful” and alarmingly so.

Hillary’s shrill accusations that Bernie will “tear up the Affordable Care Act, hike taxes on the middle class and push our country into a contentious debate with Republicans” is a gross distortion.

Senator Sanders courageously states that he wants “Medicare for All” with a single payer, universal health care system that covers every American as a basic human right.

Bottom line? Each dollar you now pay for insurance premiums would be replaced by sending half as much to a collective fund – this action now termed a “tax hike” by Hillary rather than what it actually is – part of a viable plan to save the average middle class American household five thousand dollars a year. That’s hard-earned cash back in your pocket -- even if this upsets Republicans.

Republicans have enough to be upset about these days without any help from the Democratic Party. I would give an alphabetical grade to the GOP debate of last Thursday from South Carolina, but, alas, there are no letters after “Z”.

Ted Cruz wants to nuke Tehran for embarrassing us by detaining American sailors who were released the very next day despite their inexplicable violation of Iranian waters only hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union address to Congress. Ticklish timing.

Marco Rubio appears more and more like a pugnacious pug. Down, doggie, down!

And The Donald --- is The Donald – a billionaire with a trillion red ties.

And why does former front-runner Jeb Bush always seem on the verge of tears?

The rest of the field is inconsequential -- as is O’Malley with the Democrats – more decoration than meaningful declaration.

Definitely of consequence was January’s Tea Party Meeting here in Oakhurst at the Best Western Gateway Inn on January 12th that enjoyed overflowing attendance for a talk by Tony Gurule on Islam and Sharia Law. Invited by my friend, Central Valley Coordinator John Pero , I found Tony’s address informative and instructive, although final conclusions drawn might differ from my own subjective analysis. Still, it was A+ in presentation and provided a valuable learning experience.

Folks in my old hometown of Flint, Michigan, are learning that pennies saved can bring a nightmare earned.

Attempting to limit spending on a basic necessity, State government decided the Flint River should be used as a supply source instead of slightly more expensive Great Lakes water, bringing on extensive lead poisoning of the entire city population for well over a year. There was a cover up.

And even as Bernie Sanders keeps climbing the polls in his historic rise against the most uneven distribution of wealth in our nation’s history, what other two words mean “corporate greed?”

Delaware North.

We’ve been victimized and violated.

Ripped off.

No thanks for the memory.

January 14, 2016

“Town Hall Tonight”

It wasn’t until Eileen and I moved to Oakhurst that I had the time and interest to become more actively involved in the political process, especially on a localized level.

It was almost ten years ago in November of 2006 that we left Michigan and headed west, the same week Tom Wheeler was first elected Supervisor in Madera County’s Fifth District.

Beginning his second year of a third term in office, Tom will be holding a Town Hall Meeting tonight from 6 till 8 at the Oakhurst Community Center. He doesn’t need any help attracting a large turnout, but I thought I would add my own strong endorsement and suggestion to be there. It’s a fine opportunity to become engaged in responsible and accountable democracy in action.

For those not familiar with the format, here’s a brief rundown of what to expect.

Boredom is not on the list. Get there just a bit early. Tom starts right on time and works from a prepared agenda, keeping things moving right along in a concise, speedy, entertaining manner from start to finish. He invites a few additional figures from our community to bring everyone up to date on various projects and events coming our way on the immediate horizon.

Tonight we’ll meet Denise Tolmie, a new District Ranger with the U.S. Forest Service and hear from our old friend, Darin Soukup, formerly Executive Director of the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce and now Director of the Oakhurst College Center.

Michael Baird of Oakhurst Community Alliance will discuss the Community Disaster Relief Fund, followed by Madera County Transit Manager Jerome Jackson with an update on community connections. Dexter Marr of Environmental Health will briefly address onsite wastewater treatment and Troy Cheek, Battalion Chief of Madera County Cal Fire, will present his latest projections for 2016. Despite recent, widely welcomed precipitation, the drought is far from over.

Then Supervisor Wheeler and other county staff members and officials will discuss county and district issues – with questions and comments from the audience enthusiastically encouraged. It’s a wide-open forum. Such interactivity with Tom and everyone involved is really what sets these get togethers apart from other assemblies of a similar, but significantly less participatory nature.

What’s happening with Chukchansi now that the casino is once again open? What’s the deal on those new motels on 41 across from The Oak Room? How about that 670-acre open pit rock quarry at the corner of highways 41 and 145 proposed by Vulcan Materials?

Tom Wheeler’s Town Hall Meetings are your best opportunity to find out first hand what’s happening in and around Eastern Madera County.

Citizen involvement is crucial to American democracy. While national and state issues and our influence upon them remain separated from us by definition and distance, your chance to become a “high information voter” locally is only minutes away this very night at the Community Center. It’s a two-way deal.

Representative government requires ongoing dialogue between the elected and actively concerned constituents. Successful governance is never automatic. Success requires days and weeks and months of hard work. It surely doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Supervisor Wheeler holds these Town Hall exercises to inform, but even more importantly -- to be informed. He listens. And learns. Then more effectively leads.

We’re fortunate to enjoy Tom’s ubiquitous community presence, proven dedication and fierce devotion to the duties of office.

If Supervisor Wheeler might find such public praise the source of personal embarrassment, as I fear he might, I herein apologize for such discomfort.

But in an age dominated by negativity, I truly believe positive press should be given when energetically earned, consistently evidenced and thoroughly merited.

Good guys usually finish first, bringing the rest of us along for the ride.

Thank you, Tom.

 

January 7, 2016

“The Whole World is Watching”

With a New Year come new rules.

Push must become shove.

As the first presidential primaries are drawing near with actual votes about to replace polling predictions, the Republican Party faces a nightmare.

While proudly reaffirming my own progressive perspectives, I passionately believe a clueless clown should not be allowed to shred the heart of the Grand Old Party. There is far too much at stake.

Donald Trump’s powerful, seemingly irreversible hold on roughly one-third of those who claim Republican allegiance is terrifyingly primal – appealing to the most base instincts of supporters. He is the meanest monkey on the mountain – furiously flailing his fists, beating his chest and grunting for glory.

“I am king!” “I kill!” “Be free!” “Worship me!”

While it should be reassuring this scenario still leaves a rational, responsible majority of Republicans securely enjoying two to one dominance over the wild-eyed crazies, such opposition could well be fatally fragmented by the quantity of candidates taking precedence over the quality of their convictions.

Herein amiably offered for purposes of internal party reflection, although written in another era under different circumstances, these time-treasured words of a true American Patriot come to mind:

“We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately” –Benjamin Franklin (July 4, 1776) – Upon the signing of The Declaration of Independence.”

Although outside looking in, it seems abundantly evident after all those months of boorish behavior, vile temperament and outlandish utterances that Donald Trump is not remotely worthy of trust.

Imagine his fat, fatuous finger fixed on our nuclear trigger. Recalling that earlier mountain monkey metaphor, we might as well put a chimp in charge.

It would be a shame and horror if Trump should ever triumph over divided opposition and become the official 2016 Republican candidate for our American presidency merely because worthy contenders simply couldn’t get out of each others’ way --- ironically offering a tragic demonstration of the perils of self-interest aligned against a common good.

Could a Tea Party coalition come to the rescue? Dennis Patrick was once a prominent aide in the Reagan administration and is a former head of the Federal Communications Commission. He summarizes the plight faced by many. “Many of my colleagues from the Reagan administration would have a hard time pulling the lever for Trump. We weren’t just Republicans, we were conservatives. It is very difficult to square any principled theory of conservative governance with much of what Trump says."

Way over on the Left, my old friend Michael Moore discussed a meeting he once had with “The Donald” 17 years ago while waiting to mutually appear on a national talk show. The program’s producer pulled Mike aside and informed him that Trump was “nervous” about being on the air with the famously confrontational documentary director and requested that Mr. Trump be put at ease. Michael was happy to do so as he and Donald privately spoke behind the scenes. In a public letter last week to Trump, Moore wrote: “I was struck by how you, a self-described tough guy from Queens, seemed like such a ‘fraidy-cat. You and I went on to do the show. I didn’t pull your hair. I didn’t put gum on your seat. All I remember thinking was, “What a wuss!””

Ultimately, it now appears that Donald Trump could well do even more damage to the Republican Party by running as -- rather than against -- its nominee.

Should Hillary Clinton become our 45th President, I would infinitely prefer her winning against admirable opposition than defeating an obnoxious oaf. There’s but marginal merit in vanquishing vermin.

As an American, I honestly believe we’re better than that.

The whole world is watching.




December 31, 2015

Flashback 2015”

Here we teeter on the brink of another year’s birth at Midnight tonight, even as I traditionally would be teetering in wild celebration as the moment arrived – maintaining precarious balance against the ever-relentless forces of mean Mister Gravity.

This was surely yet another strange year, such observation emerging as a considerable understatement as one reviews the ghosts of 2015 from “For Your Consideration” columns past.

In January -- “Delaware North vs. US” questioned the surprising claim that such names as The Ahwahnee, Badger Pass and Curry Village were owned by DNC – about to be replaced in March by a subsidiary of Aramark. It’s not a friendly divorce. In September, Delaware North filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the National Park Service over this yet unresolved issue, seeking compensation for intellectual property rights. Then “Missing Mister” congratulated Megyn Kelly on her ascension to the top at FOX News as jolting journalism reigns supreme.

February saw thumbs up to “American Sniper” and down to “Bad Bibi” -- criticizing the Israeli Prime Minister’s pending appearance before Congress.

“Shamrock & Roll” in March reminisced about St. Patrick’s Days of earlier times, while “McClintock’s Magical Mystery Meeting” expressed chagrin over our Congressman curiously visiting Oakhurst without both yours truly and friends in the Tea Party knowing anything about it.

April’s “Goodbye Medicare” stressed that with the new House and Senate dominated by Republicans, only Barack Obama stood between Congress and the end of Medicare as we know it. “Matthew 7: 1-2” thanked Harry Baker for his stunning lifetime achievements in Oakhurst. “Hail Elizabeth” saluted the rise of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on the national scene. She wasn’t alone.

We moved into May with “And Then Along Comes Bernie”, acknowledging the Vermont Senator’s entry into the 2016 Presidential race with the observation that “he has the same chance as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.” “Changes” discussed subtle evolution in Catholic thinking under Pope Francis, while “Sleep Now in The Fire” explored paralysis between rigid political positions.

“Compression Confession” in early June tracked an unfortunate explosion of outrage over poor service at a certain local pharmacy to an unavoidable, genetically driven Irish predisposition to such behavior. The following week’s “Money Honey” bemoaned the wretched state of contemporary radio economics, even as “Solstice Sunday” celebrated the arrival of summer and Father’s Day while “Matthew v. 2015” proposed that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount provides an exceptional political platform.

July’s “Markers” praised the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling on The Affordable Care Act. “Dump Trump” spoke for itself. “Girls, Girls, Girls” joyfully saluted the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team on becoming World Champions. “Children of God” supported the hard reached agreement to keep Iran from having nuclear weapons. “Bow Wow” decried the dog days of summer.

August rolled in with ”Enough?” recognizing strong local support for that long-tailed Bernie cat. “Rockin’ with AARP” dealt with a wonderful “Radio Reunion” in my hometown of Syracuse and “Shame on Schumer” criticized the New York Senator for his opposition to the Iranian deal.

September’s “Tea Time With Tom” addressed Representative McClintock’s appearance far away from the madding crowd at Yosemite Lakes Clubhouse, “Thanks, Donald” predicted the still anticipated end of Trump’s White House aspirations, “No Room at The Inn” reported a wall-to-wall turnout at Denny’s for Pedro Elias of Planned Parenthood and “Smokehurst” thanked Cal Fire for keeping us safe.

“Bye-Bye Boehner” on October 1st thanked the departing House Speaker for his years of service despite differences in political philosophy, “Saint Kim of Kentucky” explained an ecclesiastical accident, “Ellie” expressed deep sadness over the passing of Ellie Schermerhorn, a remarkable local activist and wonderful soul who would have enjoyed the following week’s “Benghazi Thursday” calling upon Hillary critics to either “put up or shut up.” So far they have done neither.

November brought forth “Community Radio – Parts One and Two” –explaining the nature of “Low Power FM” as authorized by the FCC and calling into question the operation of KOLS-LP, clandestinely licensed to Oakhurst in late July. Big news on this is shortly forthcoming. “Bark For Bernie” on November 19th reviewed response to the word “socialist” being more reactionary than realistic.

December’s “Christmas Questions”, “Oremus”, “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” represented holiday offerings, even as this one closes things --- over and out.



December 24, 2015

“Merry Christmas”

If time were a truck -- it would get speeding tickets.

How can this be Christmas Eve? Thanksgiving was a half hour ago. Easter was yesterday. Last year was last week.

Everyone talks about it, but there’s nothing to be done. Being locked in time, imprisoned by existence, we all share an unavoidable consequence of our common humanity – uncertain, yet ever accelerating travel toward the unknowable.

Back in Ohio, the Shamrock Lounge in Perrysburg was only two blocks from where we lived and a mere fifty feet from where Ronald Reagan addressed a cheering throng in the fall of 1984. Perrysburg was the final destination on a whistle-stop train-tour through Ohio. It had been arranged to capture a nostalgic sense of traditional American political campaign history. There were Secret Service agents swarming all over our little town.

President Reagan’s last words were that Democrats always thought it was April 15th, but Republicans wanted every new day to be the Fourth of July. Right on cue, fireworks exploded in the distance and a band struck-up “Stars and Stripes Forever” as Reagan’s train pulled away. Pure Hollywood. Even Sidewalk Joe agreed it was slick as hell.

Joe hung out at the Shamrock all the time, but you wouldn’t want to talk to him unless he wanted to talk with you. In his late eighties by then, Joe would lean forward in rumpled repose on the classically scarred mahogany bar (circa 1850) -- an unfiltered Lucky Strike dangling from the corner of his mouth, slowly sipping a shot glass of Jack, tolerating no trifles -- suffering no fools.

Joe had moved to Perrysburg to live with his sister several decades earlier. When she passed, he inherited her tiny yellow house across from the Post Office. Once every week, a chauffeured limousine would pick Joe up at the bar and transport him to Detroit, where he would play cards with masters of industry, champions of sport and inheritors of great wealth. He was a master magician and card player, having been apprenticed for many years in his youth to Ehrich Weiss -- The Great Houdini. I saw the press clippings.

One night just before he died, Joe dramatically whispered he had finally figured out something so plain and obvious he was horribly embarrassed such important a thing had taken so long. He wanted to officially go on record, solemnly stating: “Peter! Listen to me! It’s all now! It’s always been now. There’s never been anything but NOW!

That following week, magicians from throughout the Midwest attended Joe’s services and burial in Fort Meigs Cemetery on the Maumee River just south of Toledo. In certain mysterious circles, “Sidewalk Joe” was more of a legend than I had ever imagined. I’ve never forgotten what turned out to be among his final words. And what they implied:

v To be anywhere is to be everywhere.
v To be anything is to be everything.
v To be at all is to be always.

Time is an illusion. So is space. I know that sounds weird, but it’s all part of now.

What does this have to do with Christmas time? Everything.

In the words of French Philosopher/Paleontologist/Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

v “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (1955)
v “The heart of Christ (is) at the heart of matter.” (1948)
v “Christ has a cosmic body that extends throughout the universe.” (1916)

So it was I thought of Sidewalk Joe and Father de Chardin during the Sixth Annual Community Christmas Program at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, a superlative presentation featuring the combined efforts of New Community United Methodist Church, Oakhurst Lutheran Church, Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church and the Sierra Chamber Singers.

Special congratulations are due Directors Susan Moore, Monika Moulin, Mary Posluch and Catherine Walker.

The production met and surpassed Broadway quality standards in professionalism, presentation and performance – with the voices of angels.

It was magically spiritual.

And deeply moving.

Merry Christmas from Peter, Eileen and Fiona Cavanaugh.

December 17, 2015

“Happy New Year!”

Call me old fashioned.


Why wait a full two weeks until the arbitrary time line imposed by the institution of Pope Gregory XIII’s fancy new revised calendar in 1582? Let’s follow ancient tradition and rely upon our old, dependable cosmic sky clock -- greeting 2016 here in Oakhurst as the winter solstice arrives at 8:49 PM next Monday, December 21st.

Since time immemorial, this is when the earth’s axis starts slightly tilting with every next rotation, bringing increased sunlight into our lives. This is when each New Year is truly born.

That’s why I’ve always considered Newgrange not a tomb, but a womb – celebrating fresh renewal of life.

Superstitious rural residents of Ireland’s Boyne Valley considered Newgrange a dangerous “Faerie Mound” for many centuries -- terrified to go near. It had been sealed and covered by earth for several millennia and existed only as a whispered rumor in Irish folklore and mythology. It wasn’t until contemporary times that archaeologist Michael O’ Kelly led extensive excavation and restoration, uncovering a large circular monument hiding a stone passageway leading down to three interior chambers.

These become fully lit by a single beam of brilliant sunlight penetrating through a slender, perfectly aligned shaft for less than twenty minutes duration. This happens only at the exact point of the Winter Solstice and has done so for the last six thousand years.

Newgrange is older than both Stonehenge of England and the Pyramids of Egypt by hundreds of generations.

No one knows who constructed Newgrange or why, but it clearly suggests a celestial celebration of extraordinary cultural importance older than human memory, yet younger than Ireland, herself.

Did you know the whole Emerald Isle was buried under a mile of ice only an epoch ago? It wasn’t until the end of the last glacial period around 8,000 BC that the island became sparsely populated by small contingents of Mesolithic people arriving from Europe by boat -- Syrians of yesteryear.

An important mentor in my life was Uncle Vince.

Vincent was my father’s older brother and had studied for the priesthood. With my father’s death when I was 6, he had become my mentor. He didn’t have much money either.
Vincent had been noticed as a very young man by the nuns and had been educated in the finest schools at Church expense. While in Rome completing his education, Vincent enlisted in the U.S. Army, fighting in World War One and being gassed in the trenches of France. After the war ended, he spent many years teaching Greek, Latin and Theology at Mount Saint Mary near Baltimore -- a major Catholic seminary.


Returning to Syracuse upon retirement, he moved in above us and would bring me to the library all the time to choose “important books.” I would sneak out of my room in the middle of the night and study the stars with him through an old, dusty telescope on his porch. His namesake, our grandson Vincent, has that telescope today.
As I would ask him of life, Uncle Vince would answer all of my questions with questions. I later came to know he practiced the Socratic method of instruction. He loved Socrates and would sign that name to many articles submitted to our local newspapers.


When I was to receive my Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Sciences from Le Moyne College in 1963, Uncle Vince made it a point arriving early to be certain of proper seating. He proudly waved at me from the front of the stands clutching a small Irish flag. I briefly saw him after the ceremony and we made plans to see each other the following weekend. I had parties to attend. He went home and died alone within hours.


He left me everything he had. His estate primarily consisted of over three thousand books covering every subject known to man. The volumes filled every room in his tiny apartment from ceiling to floor. Keeping the important ones, the rest went to the Jesuits at Le Moyne.


It was Uncle Vince who called the star-filled, dark heavens of night our “sky clock” and thus he sprang to mind as I wrote this column. So, from Doctor Vincent Cavanaugh and his less credentialed nephew, you are herein wished a hearty Irish “Shona Bhliain Nua!” – Happy New Year!


As I remain still around – with questions yet unanswered.




December 10, 2015

"Oremus"

 

Let’s face it.

The man was right about “that giant sucking sound “ being U.S. jobs heading south in the aftermath of the North American Free Trade Agreement that eventually went into effect January 1, 1994.

With CNN prepared to host the Fifth Republican Presidential Primary Debate next Tuesday night (6 PM Pacific) from the Venetian in Las Vegas, might I suggest we are about to witness initiation of America’s first serious Third Party/Independent candidacy since 1992. That’s when Texas businessman Ross Perot defied the odds in November and garnered an astonishing 18.91% of the popular vote against 31.2% for incumbent President George H.W. Bush and 43.01% for Bill Clinton – elected to his first term as 42nd President of the United States.

Perot’s performance was all the more impressive when, after running a strong first place in June polling with 39% support against Bush’s 31% and Clinton’s third place 25%, he dramatically announced he was quitting the race in July due to the
threat of Republican operatives disturbing his daughter’s wedding, a discomforting allegation never proven. But this turned out to be squirrely enough to lose Perot significant backing when he decided to reenter the game a short time later

It’s only a matter of time until Donald makes his move.

As 2016 approaches, there are several factors convincingly established.

After over five months of serious campaigning, Donald Trump now consistently maintains a firm lead over all other serious Republican contenders in poll after poll, no matter what he does, says, exaggerates, fabricates or fanaticizes. His people just eat it all up.

It would appear that this base of committed support represents approximately one-third of potential GOP voters – pretty much hard-core conservatives with substantial evangelical backing.

Although thankfully removed from traditional mainstream thinking, this grouping has sporadically surfaced during transitional times in our common past -- always extraordinarily nativistic and selectively secretive, such as the “American Party” in the 1850’s.

The catalyst for this band of belligerents, also popularly referenced as “Know Nothings,” was an increase in immigration in the 1840s, especially the great numbers of foreigners who flooded east coast cities during the years of Ireland’s “Great Starvation.” The American Party particularly despised the poor, blacks and virtually all new immigrants, especially Irish and German Catholics.

While Trump stays convincingly in the lead as currently configured, an overwhelming majority of Republicans – at least two out of three – certainly want someone else. That’s undeniable. Period. Case closed.

So – get ready for fireworks on Tuesday. This could be the last stand for Kasich, Huckabee, Christy, Fiorina, Paul, and even Bush. And Carson, Cruz and Rubio can’t afford pretending any longer that Trump is anything less than a manipulative, maniacal menace.

Donald Trump has no intention of abiding by his agreement to endorse whomever is eventually chosen as presidential candidate of the Republican Party -- if it’s not Donald Trump. He’s already signaled such recently with renewed reflections on the importance of “fairness” on the part of the Republican National Committee.

A decision to go it alone would delight his fans, catapult media coverage and electrify the electorate.

Trump has the money, moxie and mania to forever enshrine himself in American pop culture.

He’s hit his popularity ceiling, but that’s not Donald’s “art of the dealing”.

I strongly suspect Donald Trump has never really wanted to be President in the first place – just a prolonged, extended, unavoidable center of fascinated global attention – if not beloved – as least beheld by billions.

MSNBC Superstar Rachel Maddow has gone on record saying that a Donald Trump third party effort would be nothing less than a continuing “gift from God.”

That Latin chanting altar boy from my ancient past now springs forth in memory and breathlessly offers this single Christmas whisper: “Oremus.”

“Let us pray.”

December 3, 2015

“Christmas Questions”

What’s next?

Can things get stranger?

Has our world has become a giant lunatic asylum staffed by morons and run by inmates – the laughing stock of whatever intergalactic universe may or may not exist?

But that’s harsh, the Herald Angels sing.

It’s Holiday time – so let’s look at the bright side of things.

Donald Trump will never be President of the United States.

Nor will Dr. Ben “Casually Catatonic” Carson.

Nor Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley, whose name I can finally recall just in time to no longer have to.

Bernie Sanders is still a long shot against Hillary, while Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio seem to be scooping up support from former Trump and Carson enthusiasts like elephant handlers in a circus.

The rest of the field is miserably moribund -- competing for the title: “Best Also Ran.”

I was listening to KFI AM 640 out of L.A. on Friday when news of the Planned Parenthood gun assault in Colorado Springs broke. The announcer, Tim Conway, Jr., instantly lamented, “Watch! Liberals will cite this is another example of gun violence and domestic terrorism!” He was right. It is. Perhaps Tim was being facetious. While KFI offers relatively conservative programming, it is brilliantly staffed and Tim is dependably hilarious – as is his more famous father.

We just saw Vladimir Putin push his luck with President Recep Erdogan of Turkey, who promptly shot down a Russian jet when it crossed into Turkish air space for less than twenty seconds. Any serious retaliation by Russia could trigger a cataclysmic conflict. The United States is treaty bound to defend Turkey as a member of NATO – a deal becoming decidedly dicey.

Dr. Carson labels certain Syrian refugees as “rabid dogs”, then heads for the Middle East to hang out with a few.

Not to be outdone in inexplicable conduct, Donald Trump, ever plunging to new depths of disgust, makes fun of a crippled New York Times reporter, finally claiming that the poor man is brazenly using the bloated bully for publicity.

In poll after poll, two-thirds of our fellow citizens consistently claim, “the country is heading in the wrong direction.” Similarly, an even stronger majority insists that Congress sucks and politicians can’t be trusted, so we need “outsiders ” to run government.

All of this crazy talk comes from reputedly “average folks “– whining at the sidelines as though they have had absolutely nothing to do with failed expectations. Respondents either voted or didn’t vote in recent elections. Not voting is also a vote. Nothing comforts many of us like the soothing isolation of self-imposed ignorance.

Look out. Here comes Baby New Year 2016 in three short weeks. I want to yell – “Go back! Go back! It’s a trap!”

Yet unavoidable optimism herein concludes this narrative. If nothing else, let’s enjoy the rest of good old 2015 and celebrate its pending retirement, wishing joy to the world and happiness to all.

On Saturday, I hope you will make plans to be on the scene for a major Oakhurst annual highlight as our Community Christmas Tree Lighting takes place starting at 5 PM at Road 426 and Highway 41, sponsored by Sierra Tel and hosted by Century 21 Ditton Reality and Victorian Village. I’m informed there will be carol singing, pine cone decorating, a petting zoo, pony rides, and free hot cider, cocoa, cookies and hot dogs – all of which might more wisely be consumed by our little ones AFTER they enjoy the bounce house.

Earlier in the day, our December meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club takes place at Denny’s with breakfast at 8:30 and a timely program at 9:30. Michael Baird, Administrator at Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, will be discussing “Homeless for The Holidays” and providing updated information on our area homeless. There will be ample time provided for questions and you don’t have to be a Democrat to attend. Or a Presbyterian.

No one even checks.


November 19, 2015

“Bark for Bernie”

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a pioneer in behavioral psychology who won a Nobel Prize in 1904 for his work on conditioned responses.

Pavlov is classically referenced as discovering that dogs salivating at the sight of food could also be conditioned to do the same at the sound of a bell, providing a pattern was established in which such was rung as a matter of routine just before feeding time – the doggies reacting to the bell as though it was food itself.

More than half of American voters seem to be similarly predisposed to dismiss Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate for president since he is a self-declared “socialist” – this word conditioned through the years by dubious definition and careless commentary as being the same thing as a “communist.”

A recent Gallup survey measuring electorate bias indicates that 93% of us would vote for a Catholic, 92% for an African-American, 92% for a woman, 91% for an Hispanic, 91% for a Jewish candidate, 81% for a Mormon, 74% for a gay or lesbian, 73% for an Evangelical Christian who believes the world is 6,000 years old and cavemen rode dinosaurs and 58% would even back an atheist. But only a minority 47% would support putting a socialist in The White House.

Such mindless conditioning is desperately in need of righteous revision.

There’s a major disconnect here as far as Bernie Sanders’ campaign is concerned. It’s truly astounding. Issues the Senator endorses score majority support across the board – many by impressive pluralities.

A resounding 84% of voters, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, agree that money has far too much influence on political campaigns and 77% think there should be limits on amounts individuals, corporations or political action committees can spend on their favorite issues or candidates. That’s what Bernie says.

80% of registered Democrats are in favor of a “Single Payer Option” in health insurance, also known in Bernie-talk as “Medicare for All.” Sadly, such a concept was the first casualty in early 2009 health care debates when President Obama completely left it off the table in a doomed effort to obtain early Republican cooperation.

73% of Americans want Citizens United (2010) overturned, not believing that “corporations are persons” and “money is speech” -- underscoring the fact that concern about the dominance of elections by corporations and the wealthy is overwhelmingly bipartisan. That’s a biggie with Bernie.

67% of our people believe there is obvious unfairness in the current national distribution of wages and wealth across the board.

64% of us state that many major corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes.

63% would favor Bernie’s “College for All Act” which would provide free education at public colleges funded by a small tax on Wall Street transactions, including 47% of Republicans who are comfortable with the idea.

57% of our citizens are not opposed to Same Sex Marriages.

My colleague, Alan Cheah, was wonderfully succinct in his Sierra Star column of 10/25/15 discussing “socialism” when he asked in puzzled challenge – “What are we afraid of?”

Questioning Senator Sanders about taxes during last Saturday night’s Democratic Presidential Debate, a reporter seemed stunned to learn that the rate on upper incomes was a full 90% under President Dwight Eisenhower, true American hero and prime architect of the Normandy Invasion as leader of all Allied Forces during World War Two. Sanders promised his final number would be significantly less than that – then joked – “I’m not that much of a socialist compared with Eisenhower.” Even Hillary had to laugh.

An honest review of what Bernie Sanders represents brings quite a revelation. Senator Sanders is the new voice of mainstream America as our young lead the way.

In a late October NBC News/Monkey Survey poll of probable Democratic voters between the ages of 19 and 29, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton by an outrageous 2 to 1 ratio – 54% to 26%.

Millennials are paying attention and on the march.

I’m betting they won’t get fooled again.

 


November 5, 2015

“Community Radio” – Part Two

Kevin Bowman of KRYZ-LP in Mariposa spoke before an overflowing crowd Saturday morning at the November meeting of our Oakhurst Democratic Club. He spread the gospel of Low Power FM.

As outlined in last week’s column, the Federal Communication Commission licenses “Low Power FM” stations to provide small communities such as Oakhurst with local radio programming otherwise unavailable.

Such service offers area clubs, churches, schools, educational forums and other non-profit organizations a volunteer supported opportunity to discuss issues, promote events, and otherwise exchange thoughts and ideas on an interactive, participatory basis.

While KRYZ-LP is operating at 98.5 FM in Mariposa, this same public frequency was clandestinely licensed to Oakhurst on July 13, 2015 by a thus far phantom group calling itself “Radio Catholic” and headed by one Father Daniel White of Los Angeles. Although the FCC approved call letters of KOLS-LP are said to stand for “Our Lady of the Sierra”, initial investigation determined that Father Joel Davadilla, Pastor of “Our Lady of The Sierra” did not authorize the project and knew little about it.

Father Joel did report that Father White “though not assigned to our Lady of the Sierra Catholic Church, is a priest from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who has his own residence close to the Bass Lake Area. He made mention to me about the beginnings of a Catholic Radio Station here a year ago to broadcast Church events and the like. This was all of his own initiative.”

After discovering KOLS-LP’s existence, I examined its FCC application in September and wrote to Father White at his residence in Winnetka, California – a Los Angeles suburb. Congratulating him on obtaining the license, I explained that the Oakhurst Democratic Club had scheduled a meeting on “Community Radio” for November 7th and invited him and his group to take part. This was to specifically share with us his pledged intentions of providing local programming to the people of Oakhurst, such being a critical requirement in being granted FCC permission to broadcast.

In subsequent communication, Father White agreed to do so.

Having had no further contact after three weeks, I sent him a note on October 19th, repeating my request.

He has yet to acquiesce.

What Father White did do is stop by The Sierra Star and speak with Editor Brian Wilkinson and Publisher Betty Linn in an effort to suppress any mention of KOLS-LP in my column until he was “ready”.

100% of current KOLS-LP airtime is exclusively a rebroadcast of national EWTN programming out of Birmingham, Alabama -- this already easily accessible in Oakhurst on Sirius/XM Radio, both Dish and Direct Satellite TV, and via the Internet.

Founded by 92 year-old Franciscan nun Mother Mary Angelica, EWTN is the largest religious media network in the world, reaching over 230 million television households in more than 140 countries and territories.

Although there would appear to be obvious infirmities in Father White’s KOLS-LP application formally submitted to the Commission as well as demonstrable deficiency in “Radio Catholic” conduct since receiving approval, I have extended to Father White one final chance at redemption.

Unless he signals appropriate penance and agrees to provide meaningful opportunity for local programming origination and adequate studio facilities in Oakhurst to facilitate production of same (another Federal requirement) – a formal complaint will be filed with the Commission demanding sanction, fines and other available remedies, including license revocation.

We need “Community Radio” in Oakhurst to be truly “catholic” in nature, a word defined in Webster’s as being “of general scope or value; all-inclusive; broad in sympathy, tastes and understanding.”

That means for all people, parties, pursuits and persuasions.

As in – democracy.

“Bark for Bernie”

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a pioneer in behavioral psychology who won a Nobel Prize in 1904 for his work on conditioned responses.

Pavlov is classically referenced as discovering that dogs salivating at the sight of food could also be conditioned to do the same at the sound of a bell, providing a pattern was established in which such was rung as a matter of routine just before feeding time – the doggies reacting to the bell as though it was food itself.

More than half of American voters seem to be similarly predisposed to dismiss Bernie Sanders as a viable candidate for president since he is a self-declared “socialist” – this word conditioned through the years by dubious definition and careless commentary as being the same thing as a “communist.”

A recent Gallup survey measuring electorate bias indicates that 93% of us would vote for a Catholic, 92% for an African-American, 92% for a woman, 91% for an Hispanic, 91% for a Jewish candidate, 81% for a Mormon, 74% for a gay or lesbian, 73% for an Evangelical Christian who believes the world is 6,000 years old and cavemen rode dinosaurs and 58% would even back an atheist. But only a minority 47% would support putting a socialist in The White House.

Such mindless conditioning is desperately in need of righteous revision.

There’s a major disconnect here as far as Bernie Sanders’ campaign is concerned. It’s truly astounding. Issues the Senator endorses score majority support across the board – many by impressive pluralities.

A resounding 84% of voters, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, agree that money has far too much influence on political campaigns and 77% think there should be limits on amounts individuals, corporations or political action committees can spend on their favorite issues or candidates. That’s what Bernie says.

80% of registered Democrats are in favor of a “Single Payer Option” in health insurance, also known in Bernie-talk as “Medicare for All.” Sadly, such a concept was the first casualty in early 2009 health care debates when President Obama completely left it off the table in a doomed effort to obtain early Republican cooperation.

73% of Americans want Citizens United (2010) overturned, not believing that “corporations are persons” and “money is speech” -- underscoring the fact that concern about the dominance of elections by corporations and the wealthy is overwhelmingly bipartisan. That’s a biggie with Bernie.

67% of our people believe there is obvious unfairness in the current national distribution of wages and wealth across the board.

64% of us state that many major corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes.

63% would favor Bernie’s “College for All Act” which would provide free education at public colleges funded by a small tax on Wall Street transactions, including 47% of Republicans who are comfortable with the idea.

57% of our citizens are not opposed to Same Sex Marriages.

My colleague, Alan Cheah, was wonderfully succinct in his Sierra Star column of 10/25/15 discussing “socialism” when he asked in puzzled challenge – “What are we afraid of?”

Questioning Senator Sanders about taxes during last Saturday night’s Democratic Presidential Debate, a reporter seemed stunned to learn that the rate on upper incomes was a full 90% under President Dwight Eisenhower, true American hero and prime architect of the Normandy Invasion as leader of all Allied Forces during World War Two. Sanders promised his final number would be significantly less than that – then joked – “I’m not that much of a socialist compared with Eisenhower.” Even Hillary had to laugh.

An honest review of what Bernie Sanders represents brings quite a revelation. Senator Sanders is the new voice of mainstream America as our young lead the way.

In a late October NBC News/Monkey Survey poll of probable Democratic voters between the ages of 19 and 29, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton by an outrageous 2 to 1 ratio – 54% to 26%.

Millennials are paying attention and on the march.

I’m betting they won’t get fooled again.


 

November 5, 2015

“Community Radio”

Once upon a time, there was no TV.

This was roughly from the dawn of man to the late ‘40’s, when the wonder of televised black and white images accompanied by FM sound was introduced into living rooms across America.

In my hometown of Syracuse, an RCA 8TR29 with a 10-inch screen sold for $948.00 in 1948 – the equivalent of $9,524 in today’s dollars -- big bucks back then. Our family had to wait a bit for our first set. So it was that I grew up with radio alone as my primary gateway to the world.

Even this technology was then still relatively new. The first federally licensed radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, signed on the air 95 years ago this very week on November 2, 1920.

By 1941 when I was born, there were countless receivers coast to coast tuned each week to local variety programs, news, sports, and commentary. Audiences were riveted to the networks for such classics as Lux Radio Theater, Amos & Andy, Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger, Bob Hope and dozens more, but it was the local connection that truly bound us together.

Even after television revolutionized our culture turning listeners into viewers by the millions -- local radio still featured fully staffed news departments monitoring police, fire and weather radios, reporting important nearby events, tracking local politics and covering municipal court houses well into the ‘60’s. If it happened down the street, you’d hear about it in minutes.

Then all that was gone, primarily since replaced by nationally syndicated conservative talk on the AM band and computer-driven, consultancy programmed music stations on the FM side with most becoming little more than 50,000 watt iPods. For broadcast communication, the new global village had become a lonely old town.

But in 2000 -- a wonderful thing happened. To address a critical need for local program origination, the Federal Communication Commission created Low Power FM radio service, authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting. With an effective radiated power of 100 watts, “Community Radio” would cover approximately a 3.5-mile radius, not enough to serve a territory, but certainly a town or two.

This Saturday morning, I hope you’ll join us for the November meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club at Denny’s when Kevin Bowman of KRYZ-LP in Mariposa tells us all there is to know about our adjacent county’s “Community Radio.”

KRYZ-LP features prominent club events, significant regional issues, local news, extended interviews, wide reaching panel discussions and emergency broadcast programming.

Kevin reports that volunteer operated KRYZ-LP is designed to engage Mariposa citizens with a station dedicated to being a participatory medium in which home town listeners can be an important part of a vibrant, interactive radio experience.

Current local programming features Jon Youngblood with “Mariposa Town Talks”, “Easy on the Ears” is guided by Ron Judice, Michelle Marcell gets “Curious and Curiouser”, Chris Adcock visits the “Haunted Steakhouse”, Stephanie Means brings us “Fire in The Head”, Eve Elder tames “The Musical Managerie”, while Saturday’s speaker at Denny’s, Kevin Bowman, brings listeners both “Public House” and the Irish flavored “Slainte” with Trudy Williams.

You can find KRYZ-LP on the Internet at www.KRYZRadio.org or 98.5 on the FM dial, but not on your Oakhurst radios for two reasons.

First, there are some serious signal blocking ridges between here and Mariposa. Secondly, there seems to be – a possible interloper in our midst.

With absolutely no local content featured and efforts made to avoid publicizing its existence, KOLS-LP has occupied 98.5 FM, licensed to Oakhurst, since July of this year. Operated by “Radio Catholic” and exclusively featuring programming from the EWTN Catholic Radio Network, the KOLS-LP call letters stand for “Our Lady of the Sierra”

Intriguingly, Father Joel Davadilla, Pastor of Our Lady of the Sierra, did not authorize the project and doesn’t know much about it.

I’m sure we’ll have much more to share at our Saturday meeting, your friendly columnist having engaged a leading Washington law firm to check things out for all of us.

Community Radio – KOLS -- “Keep Oakhurst Locally Served.”

 

October 22, 2015

“Benghazi Thursday”

It’s time to put up or shut up.

Today is October 22, 2015 -- a date forever to be enshrined in American political history as “Benghazi Thursday” – when the United States House Select Committee on Benghazi finally brought forth indisputable evidence of Hillary Clinton’s cold blooded complicity in the unforgivable murder of four innocent American lives – or to have the Committee finally, fatally, farcically collapse under the unyielding weight of irrefutable, irrepressible testimony to the contrary.

$4.5 million dollars of taxpayer money has been spent so far and seven separate congressional committees have exhaustively reviewed the tragic circumstances surrounding the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others in the 2012 attack on our government outposts in Benghazi, Libya. There has been nothing discovered remotely verifying wild claims of sinister malfeasance by Hillary Clinton spinning forth from right-wing media machines ever since news broke of the incident – only wild fabrications, unsubstantiated innuendo and outright lies.

Today Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify before the Committee under oath and for the record on live global television. They can ask her anything they want. I’m betting they’ll be getting much, much more than they bargained for.

Hillary has not been my first choice as a presidential candidate, but if anything is powerfully pushing me in her direction -- it’s the deplorable content of venomous anti-Clinton hate speech poisoning our airwaves in recent days.

And she was great in the first debate. Bernie was better. And if Bernie Sanders is a “Socialist/Communist”, Donald Trump is a “Capitalist/Cattle Rustler.” Both of these characterizations are untrue, but the former allegation was seriously offered by Mr. Trump last Wednesday at a campaign rally in Virginia, while the latter is herein presented as a similarly caustic, invented, hyperbolic aside.

Continuing my brief review of the first Democratic Presidential Debate on CNN, I felt that Anderson Cooper was marvelous as moderator, while O’Mally was mediocre, Webb made me wince and Chaffee choked.

Comparison between Republican and Democratic debate content so far offers easily discernable differences separating the principles and positions of both parties with remarkably evident contrast. There is no doubt such variances will continue up to and through next year’s election cycle – to the benefit of those sincerely interested in finding and supporting important new directions and advancing ourselves forward – or continuing our backslide to ever more reduced status here at home and in the eyes of the world.

If I were a Republican, I wouldn’t know what to do. I don’t envy the immediate G.O.P. dilemma – metaphorically choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea – that is – making a selection between essentially undesirable outcomes. For possible bar bets (an occasional friendly feature of this column at no extra charge) – please note that extensive research (several seconds) reveals the original meaning of the phrase may be a nautical reference citing the deep ocean and a “devil” – this being “a piece of wood or joint important for navigation that is difficult to reach on a ship.” I didn’t make that up.

Donald Trump remains a frump and Dr. Ben Carson is getting just plain spooky in plenty of time for Halloween. That soft, smooth, soothing tone belies a truly frightening take on almost everything he suggests -- decidedly more smarmy than smart. Kindly condescension drips from his lips in unctuous flow. He’s no Ben Casey.

Speaking of whom, for those who remember Vince Edwards starring as Doctor Ben Casey in the early ‘60’s ABC hit TV series, what’s this we hear about Medicare “B” costs going up as much as 50% in 2016 for some of us, even while there’s no increase coming our way in Social Security payments next year?

Feel “The Bern?”

 

October 15, 2015

“Ellie”

She left us as we knew her – softly, sweetly, elegantly gone -- with awesome dignity and uncommon grace.

It wasn’t long after Eileen and I moved to Oakhurst nine years ago that we became acquainted with Eleanor Schermerhorn. This person was writing “Letters to the Editor” published in both The Sierra Star and Fresno Bee all the time -- wonderful summations I found extraordinarily well presented with marvelous precision, brilliantly focused and comfortably resonant with my own personal perspectives.

Shortly after submitting my own “Letter” to The Star, Ms. Schermerhorn – then a complete stranger -- sent me a note of confirmation and encouragement, including a list of additional reference sources and a suggestion that I consider attending the next meeting of “The Oakhurst Democratic Club.”

I had already heard of this wild bunch from a gentleman named Scott Hill whom I had met by chance a short time before, so we were there at the “Ol’ Kettle” that following Saturday and happily discovered an active, progressive, friendly group of folks up here in the foothills deeply involved in community activities and vibrantly attuned to issues of the day. We also learned that Scott was married to Ellie, who turned out to be considerably younger than my initial suspicions and surely much prettier than Scott.

For much of my life I was unaffiliated with any one political party, primarily because my broadcast career suggested a position of balanced neutrality was the wisest professional option. I privately cast my ballot for the person running for office more than his or her party or platform.

There really wasn’t a lot of major difference between Democrats and Republicans in the immediate aftermath of World War Two and the decades that immediately followed. Bless me Father, but I voted for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, right along with John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton. But our move to Oakhurst coincided with what I perceived to be an alarming rightward drift in American politics. These are different days. Simply stated, I believe genuine concern for others should take ultimate precedence over individualized self-interest. In caring and sharing, we find connection, unity and purpose. Ellie Schermerhorn never had to preach this. She lived it with unwavering commitment, steadfast loyalty, exemplary dedication and, as a licensed Certified Public Accountant, astounding attention to detail.

Along with being a founding member of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, Ellie was also enthusiastically engaged with Mountain Community Women, the Sierra Historic Sites Association, La Sierra Guild for Valley Children’s Hospital and, Patriots kindly note, the Sierra Foothills Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Sharing her first name with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first lady, Ellie was particularly proud of the Democratic Club’s annual Eleanor Roosevelt Community Service Awards with annual scholarships provided to competing Yosemite High School graduates.

A highlight of her great success in lining up monthly speakers came in August of 2010 after she wrote Debra Bowen requesting that someone join us in Oakhurst from the California Secretary of State’s office to discuss changes in voting laws. Ellie ended up landing Secretary Bowen, herself. We moved over to the Community Center for that meeting.

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago and having enjoyed a period of remission that became all too brief, Ellie faced the end with incredible courage and an awesome will.

Her loving concern for others never ceased. In our final time together, attending an Executive Committee Meeting only days before she passed and reflecting on our acute awareness of her plight, she gently whispered to me in that last moment before we parted, “I hope I’m not scary!”

Words failed me – all transcended -- as I hugged her goodbye.

 

October 8, 2015

“Saint Kim of Kentucky”

Carlo is a naughty boy looking at speedy retirement.

Conservative Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano couldn’t help himself.


Openly and vehemently opposed to gay marriage, he’s the one who snuck renegade Kentucky County clerk Kim Davis into the Vatican Embassy in Washington for a brief encounter with Pope Francis during the Pontiff’s visit in our nation’s capitol without prior knowledge or approval of the Vatican or the Pope.

What was supposed to be a confidential moment didn’t stay that way.

Kim and her husband were picked up at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 23rd in a plain tan van by private security guards who spoke Italian. Ms. Davis had been instructed to change her hairstyle so the press wouldn’t identify her. The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, had been entrusted to clear a few special folks to briefly meet Francis. It now appears he hadn’t bothered explaining to Francis or his aides specifically who Davis was and/or exactly why she was there.

It turns out that Vigano had been introduced to Davis’ attorney, Matthew D. Staver, as they both attended the 3rd Annual “March for Marriage” at the National Mall back in April, several months before the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage absolutely Constitutional.

Staver is also President of the “Liberty Counsel”, a conservative outfit that leapt into the limelight as soon as Davis gained screaming national headlines by denying gay couples any marriage licenses in her God-fearing county, U.S. Supreme Court be damned – or “darned” – I suppose -- for a good, four times married, ex-adulteress Christian such as Kim. The “Liberty Counsel” has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Center, a group which keeps track of such things.

Several days after Francis returned to Rome, bilaterally pledged discretion gave way to subjectively edited public disclosure when Mr. Stayer informed the media of a “private meeting” the same time it was reported on the website of “Inside the Vatican”, a conservative publication not authorized or authored by The Vatican. As many an old sailor says, that’s when the ship hit the sand. Initial conservative spin suggested that, along with Father Junipero Serra, Kim Davis, herself, had been canonized.

Father Serra became Saint Junipero during the Pope’s visit, so honored for establishing 21 Spanish missions in California during the late 18th Century and bringing thousands of Native Americans to Christ -- at least those the Conquistadors didn’t maim, rape, torture or kill. Serra’s elevation by the Church is not being universally acclaimed, nor was Kim’s once word got out.

Ms. Davis’ own testimony reveals unrestrained, ecstatic self-congratulation, categorically claiming that Pope Francis “agreed with” what she “was doing” and “that kind of validates everything.”

Archbishop Vigano turns 75 in January, the age when Bishops are required to submit an official letter of resignation to the Vatican. In most instances this is a mere formality. In Vigano’s case -- an eventuality now hopefully hastened.

Prominent American Catholic theologians concur that the meeting with Ms. Davis was clearly a misstep. Dr. Massimo Faggioli of the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota states, “on the whole trip to the United States, Pope Francis very carefully didn’t want to give the impression he was being politicized by either side.”

At first hoping the whole thing would dissipate like wispy altar smoke, the Vatican finally issued a declarative statement last Friday stressing --“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation with Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”

One Vatican official said there was “a sense of regret” that The Pope had ever seen Kim.

In other words, quoting the immortal prose of former Governor Rick Perry of Texas, “Oops!”

Infallibility may emanate from “The Chair of Peter” – but not the vagaries of Vigano.

 

October 1, 2015

“Bye-Bye Boehner”

I agree with our President.

“John Boehner is a good man. He is a patriot. He cares deeply about the House, an institution in which he has served for a long time. He cares about his constituents and he cares about America.” – Barack Obama – September 25, 2015.

Not Ted Cruz.

The shocking news of John Boehner’s abrupt and unanticipated resignation as Speaker of the House and from Congress broke last Friday morning just as Senator Cruz (R-Texas) was about to address the laughably titled “Values Voters Summit” in Washington.

This ultra-conservative gathering, funded by the similarly delusional “Family Research Council”, broke into thunderous applause upon being informed of Boehner’s decision. Senator Cruz, who electrified the crowd with an updated list of lunacies, then launched them to mind boggling heights of fantasy as he further gloated over Boehner’s pending departure, threatened the assassination of Iran’s supreme leader and called President Obama a communist.

I first met John Boehner on August 27th of 1992 during his first term representing Ohio’s 8th Congressional district. He was accompanying President George H. W. Bush when the President landed at Toledo Municipal Airport near the end of the ’92 election campaign.

Executive Vice President of a major Midwest radio group at the time with Secret Service clearance, I was allowed on the tarmac as Air Force One rolled to a halt and the President and his entourage embarked.

Since one of our more important radio facilities, 50,000 watt WZRZ – serving both Cincinnati and Dayton -- included his district, it seemed appropriate to introduce myself to Representative Boehner and spend a few minutes in conversation. I found the new congressman to be a “Hail fellow well met” – that somewhat archaic phrase referring to a person whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial. I have never changed my opinion since.

Readers of this column should quickly observe that I have often expressed serious misgivings about Speaker Boehner’s actions or lack thereof, but my severe reservations have always been about the politics, not the person. He remains beloved in his district, but not by many in his delegation.

John Boehner is a good man trapped by bad dynamics.

It’s hard determining exactly when things started unwinding so viciously in our national dialogue.

Perhaps it started when sophisticated voter measurement revealed that negative campaign ads worked wonders at gaining elective office?

Was it when the Republican Party found a perfect embodiment of conservative beliefs in the emergence and election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980, in the process converting millions into becoming “Reagan Democrats” – including primary beneficiaries of FDR era legislation that created the first viable American middle class – making them feel they were finally rich Republicans?

Was it the subsequent audience acceptance and amazing ascension of Rush Limbaugh introducing his “Excellence in Broadcasting Network” in 1988 which many believe ultimately brought about 1994’s “Contract with America” and Republican capture of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years?

Rush tripled the ratings on our Toledo AM – catapulting us to #1 in the market. There were “Rush Rooms” everywhere in Northwest Ohio – Restaurants, Bars, Coffee Shops and Snack Bars that carried Rush on loud speakers so lunchtime customers wouldn’t miss a word. I even broadcast him twice a day, repeating his Noon to 3 PM show from 3 till 6. Guilty!

But in the decades since, we have surely become a people self-divided, “indivisible” existing only as a wistful word in our national “Pledge of Allegiance”.

Ultimately it was paralyzing polarization that brought about John Boehner’s pending departure – a decision unlikely to generate healing change in any meaningful way.

It makes me sad.

“We have met the enemy and he is us!” – Pogo (1971)

 

September 24, 2015

“Smokehurst”

On a clear day you can see forever – or at least to the top of Deadwood Mountain.

After an egregious onslaught of weather conditions over Labor Day Weekend with smoke from the 140,000 acre “Rough Fire” becoming trapped under a late summer inversion layer, things finally improved. We could finally at last breathe a deep sigh of relief without risking instant cardiac arrest.

As California is undergoing its worst fire season in history, we’ve been lucky so far. And such fate is not due to mere good fortune.

Much more is owed to the courageous efforts of Cal Fire management, crews, aircraft, and all associated local, regional and state agencies involved. They have kept us safe. With uncommon efforts far beyond reasonable expectation, these men and women have risked life and limb saving homes and lives with relentless dedication and awe-inspiring endurance.

Guess what? They also prove government can work. But not when we elect those who claim it can’t.

This brings to mind another kind of smoke blowing about in mid-September – a particularly hazardous haze generated by various participants in the Second Republican Presidential Debate, a.k.a. – “Clown Car Two” -- a meeting of the miserably mindless.

Donald Trump sealed his decline from top spot in polling by characteristically talking the most and saying the least until blind-sided by a wildly effective cutting slash from Carly Fiorina on what “that face” meant to women everywhere – followed by an icy glare that would have frozen hell thrice over.

Carly is no stranger to us Californians who saw her soundly thrashed in her Senate run against Barbara Boxer in 2010 by ten full percentage points (52% - 42%) despite the fact that Boxer was facing an uphill battle against a multimillionaire candidate and a wave of attack ads from out of state business and conservative groups.

For pure performance points, Fiorina impressively outclassed the rest of the field with a polished presentation rightfully earning her a dramatic leap in polling preference, instantly replacing a quickly fading Ben Carson in the process. It now seems Dr. Ben was a temporary placeholder all along – more so now that he has decided Islam is unconstitutional and therefore no Muslim should be president.

Ms. Fiorina’s most dramatically effective moment of the evening was an impassioned recital of having watched a video depicting “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, it’s legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” No such video exists or ever has. Carly? No. Car-LIE.

But Jeb Bush won first prize in spectacular spin for the most outrageous assertion of the night – ironically greeted with thundering applause as a powerful endorsement of his brother’s presidency and family name. Jeb said of George, “When it comes to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe!”

The crowd went wild with -- I suspect -- a soothing measure of relieved self-congratulation. After all – most in attendance put “W” in office.

Yet it was almost eight months AFTER becoming President in 2001 that 9/11 changed our lives forever as Jeb’s brother “kept us safe” – ignoring repeated intelligence community and allied warnings about a pending Ben Laden attack against America by plane.

Gore Vidal was powerfully prescient. Most Republican stalwarts surely do live in “The United States of Amnesia.”



September 17, 2015

“No Room at The Inn”

There wasn’t an empty seat at Denny’s.

Pedro Elias, Public Affairs Director of Planned Parenthood in Fresno, spoke before a packed house at our September meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club.

It’s probably just as well a certain someone wasn’t there.

She would have been 112 years old today.

My mother, Isabelle Marion Cavanaugh, despised Planned Parenthood.

I hope you’re sitting down for this.

Starting at the age of 8, I was an altar boy for more than nine years.

A walk to serve daily Mass from our home on Ashworth Place took us directly past the Syracuse Chapter of Planned Parenthood on East Genesee Street, so noted by a large sign prominently placed on its front lawn. My widowed mother, President of the St. Joseph Altar & Rosary Society, was abundantly clear she did not approve of the organization, the sign or the grass upon which it rested. Yet, when pressed for details, she demurred on specifics. “Ask Father Norcott”, she would say.

I eventually discovered at summer camp that the main Catholic issue against Planned Parenthood in the late ‘40’s was birth control. Any kind. It wasn’t until much later that the subject of abortion entered the forefront, although it’s historically proven Margaret Sanger’s original motivation in founding The American Birth Control League was anti-abortion from the outset. Sanger, an Irish-American Catholic, herself, was one of eleven children. – her mother also having suffered seven miscarriages and finally dying at the age of 50.

A fertilized human egg is approximately the size of the dot at the end of this sentence. Potentiality is not personality.

It was 42 years ago that the United States Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision (Rowe vs. Wade) that the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a women’s decision to have an abortion. The vote wasn’t even close. 7 to 2.

The last time “fiscally responsible” Republicans brought about government closure, its ultimate cost to the American economy was over 24 billion dollars.

Ignoring major areas of strategically critical priority -- such as almost everything else -- now we have our Republican led 114th Congress threatening to recklessly shut down the government – again – but this time over funding Planned Parenthood since it allegedly chops up and sells baby body parts. The fundamental fact that it does no such thing seems hopelessly lost in the hyped hysteria of right wing propaganda as asinine as its assertions.

A major editorial in the New York Times calls the “Center for Medical Progress” campaign “a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and life saving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal.”

The San Jose Mercury News writes, “Anyone with half a brain can see through the heavily edited “gotcha” videos.”

The Sacramento Bee succinctly states, “The charge that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal parts is cynical and bogus.”

Fetal tissue research has produced vaccines that have saved millions of lives and is now working toward major advances in the life or death struggle against Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other terminal diseases.

California Planned Parenthood affiliates are providing services to nearly one million patients this year, including 866,000 emergency contraception kits, 435,000 pregnancy tests and 112,000 Pap tests detecting and preventing possible cancers. In our state alone, Planned Parenthood schedules more than 90,000 breast exams annually and initiates well over two million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

I agree with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren:

“Republicans may think it’s fun to play politics with Planned Parenthood to score points with presidential primary voters, but this isn’t a game to the millions of women who depend on Planned Parenthood for basic medical care each year – and who have nowhere else to go.”

That’s so.

September 10, 2015

"Thanks, Donald!”


Iowa signaled the end.

Stick a fork in Donald Trump. He’s done.

A Monmouth University poll on the last day of August declared Trump suddenly tied for first place by Dr. Ben “Who’s He?” Carson among Republican presidential contenders in The Hawkeye State. This finding echoes similar ascension for Dr. Ben in other surveys --suddenly establishing him as a solid #2 to Trump and well ahead of the rest of the pack – a full field offering obvious quantity, if not overwhelming quality.

This strongly indicates a powerfully organic, unplanned, welcomed coalescence of traditional Republican voters loath to accept national leadership from an uncouth lout who is -- in the final analysis -- not much more than a common vulgarian.

By comparison, Dr. Carson is as nice as Trump is nasty. It also seems embarrassingly evident this prominent retired neurosurgeon from Detroit offers as limited an understanding of foreign and domestic issues as his credentials are unquestionably extensive in the field of medical science.

But the majority of his competitors display kindred intellectual sophistication as deep as a frozen birdbath, particularly those seeking evangelical endorsement. Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz practically tripped over each other lining up behind hillbilly heroine Kim Davis – the four times wed Kentucky County Clerk -- in her refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriages, even just one.

Former Governor Mike Huckebee said he’d be visiting her in the slammer. But would he have done so if Davis were a radical Muslim -- insisting that all license applicants first accept Allah as their personal Lord and Savior?

While Donald Trump has certainly provided exotic entertainment and naughty pleasure these last few months – it’s been like watching NASCAR. We profess to believe no one likes crashes, but when they happen – who would deny that wild, secret rush?

But we should thank Mr. Trump for bringing us invaluable insight by exposing a heretofore-unimaginable degree of naked narcissism in which unthrottled self-interest at the expense of all others reigns supreme.

The confidence he exudes reflects passions best left in our shared primitive past, but Donald Trump remains correct in his blunt assessment of the way things are when he says: “Our system is broken. I give to many people. When they call, I give. And, you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.”

What a revealing, extraordinarily candid analysis of the depth of corruption ubiquitously inherent in elected office as Trump presents himself mastering ”The Art of the Deal” to such an extent that he alone can be trusted to resist it. Or not.

It was English historian and moralist John Acton who wrote in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always - - bad men.”

While Hugh Hewitt and I share few opinions of a political nature, the fact remains that he is a well-established conservative national talk show host on the Salem Radio Network with a recognized reputation for thorough preparation and an accomplished professional presentation.

Just as candidate Trump fussed and fumbled over familiarity with specific passages after describing The Bible as his “favorite book of all time” when interviewed by Bloomberg Media, he similarly assumed that “deer in the headlights” stance last Thursday when Hugh quizzed him about the identities of important Middle East personalities, including leaders of ISIS and Hezbollah. After babbling incoherently and revealing himself as the buffoon he’s always been, the next day Donald blamed Hewitt for asking him “unfair questions”, dismissing Hugh as a “third rate radio announcer.”

Interestingly, this “third rate radio announcer” will be co-moderating the second GOP primary debate on CNN next Wednesday along with Jake Tapper.

As we know – paybacks – ummmmm – make you itch.


 

September 3, 2015

"Tea Time with Tom”

You could barely hear Tom over the continuous rumble of ancient arteries ominously hardening.

I was one of the kids in attendance -- even though turning 74 next Tuesday right along with Bernie Sanders that very same day.

The Yosemite Lakes Clubhouse was definitely Tom McClintock’s cup of tea last week as our Fourth District Congressman held a “Coarsegold Town Hall Meeting” quite a distance from the nearest town. Coarsegold, itself, is a full 8.3 miles away, but the relative seclusion of this venue successfully kept away the rabble, providing a perfect audience of the patriotically geriatric for our ultra-conservative representative.

To his credit, Tom starts these get-togethers exactly on time. To no surprise, he tells his folks exactly what they want to hear. Then he lets them have at it.

McClintock spoke for a smooth 25 minutes. When it comes to a Tea Party type pitch, he’s as good as any and better than most. I’ve heard him at least a half dozen times and it’s pretty much a standard rap, although this time he added his displeasure against President Obama’s proposed Iran agreement, calling it “a breathtakingly dangerous act.” He also blamed poor people for the economic collapse of 2008 – not those banks that were victimized by intrusive governmental meddling according to Tom’s revisionist interpretation of all perspectives deemed politically incorrect.

What followed Representative McClintock’s opening remarks was more than an hour of primarily outrageous commentary from a crowd seething with aging angst. Speakers competed in spewing specifics on a litany of suspect subjects – impressing each other in the process with fiery diatribes delivered with fierce dedication.

These seemed to be their Top 10 – although, in fairness, not universally so:

* The voting age should be raised to 25 or higher since young people are stupid.

* The IRS should be abolished.

* John Boehner should be replaced as Speaker of the House for “caving in to Obama.”

* Ditto (as Rush would say) Mitch McConnell – who must be tossed out as Senate Majority Leader for the same reason.

* Illegal Mexicans should go back where they came from.

* The Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution guaranteeing birthright citizenship should be immediately overturned since it is so – unconstitutional.

* Presidential Executive Orders should be abolished.

* Hillary Clinton should be in prison.

* Congress shouldn’t be afraid to shut down the government over raising the debt ceiling.

* And – Congress should be willing to shut down the government over funding one more penny to Planned Parenthood, especially since its founder, Margaret Sanger, was a blatant racist who wanted to eliminate African-Americans from our midst through eugenically driven, socially engineered abortion.

This last won my personal originality prize for being -- hands down -- the absolute doozy of the night and one I’d never heard before.

I was subsequently shocked to discover after only minimal research that the only individual who ever alleged such a thing about Ms. Sanger was Angela Davis, a leading Marxist and Communist from the radical ‘60’s, who was thoroughly denounced at the time and since by her peers for this and other loony lamentations.

Accordingly, since this and other crazy notions about Planned Parenthood have been quite in evidence of late, I would suggest anyone seeking full disclosure should join us this Saturday at Denny’s for our September Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club. Our featured speaker will be Pedro Elias, Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood in Fresno.

As usual, the public is cordially invited. We start with breakfast at 8:30 and our program kicks off at 9:30. I’ll be moderating to keep things moving along in a casual, courteous, convivial way. There’ll be plenty of time for questions, but please fact-check sources before presenting them in public.

Karl Marx was not the father of our democracy.

August 27, 2015

“Shame on Schumer”

He folded like an accordion.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) has chosen base political expediency over basic common sense in his unfortunate decision to oppose President Obama’s support of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

Bowing to enormous pressure from The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the country’s most influential pro-Israeli lobby, Schumer has turned his back on a multi-national accord reached after years of strenuous negotiations. In doing so, the Senator presents a perilous profile lacking courage and simultaneously jeopardizes his chances of replacing retiring Harry Reed as Democratic leader in the Senate.

With a Congressional vote on the agreement still weeks away, here’s how it looks right now.

For approval – Virtually the entire free world, our negotiating partners Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia; President Obama, most Democrats, dozens of retired top-tier military leaders in both the United States and Israel, Gulf Arab states, The United Nations Security Council (by a vote of 15-0) - and retired Navy Rear Admiral Harold L. Robinson, who chairs the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces. In supporting the agreement Robinson states, “As a lifelong Zionist devoted to Israel, a retired general officer and a rabbi for over 40 years operating without institutional encumbrances, I have a unique perspective.”

Against the pact – Almost all Republicans, Benjamin Netanyahu, hard-liners in Israel, weapons manufacturers, Chuck Schumer and a handful of embarrassingly intimidated Democrats.

By no stretch of the imagination does this represent a perfect pact. There is nothing that can’t be “better.” But arguments in opposition seem intrinsically illogical and emotionally charged far past any perspective that open, measured, honest discourse should allow.

In my mind there is no question that the long established historic ties that firmly bind Israel and the United States to each other are inviolable and irrevocable for any number of reasons. We are and will be friends forever.

It is in our mutual national interest that Iran not be allowed nuclear weaponry under any circumstances and that its population, exploding with millions of youth, eventually attains a level of freedom impossible under the suffocating, oppressive reign of radical Islamic fundamentalism.

The ten-year time frame cited in the agreement’s final draft does NOT mean that Iran will be allowed to proceed unencumbered toward nuclear military capability at its conclusion. It does provide a decade long respite, allowing an extended period during which further, more specific, lasting remedies may be thoroughly discussed and hopefully attained.

Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran, a stand-alone group sponsored by AIPAC, may wind up spending more than forty million dollars in a massive public relations campaign against the agreement, including thousands of TV ads in major markets. Additionally, a volatile payback campaign against members of Congress who vote for the measure has been threatened. Ironically, while I agree whole-heartedly with the goal intended, I remain firmly convinced that rejection would engender exactly the opposite effect and play directly into the hands of antagonistic Ayatollahs.

As far as Senator Schumer is concerned, his well-earned popularity among fellow Senate members may well override suffering any permanent damage after opposing his party and his President on this issue, particularly since the decision is so nauseatingly pragmatic. It’s old school politics at low tide on the Potomac.

But perhaps way down the road, Schumer might be replaced in office by someone younger, brighter and much more in touch with the times. Like -- cousin Amy.

Turning down the Iran Agreement would be yielding to unreasonable fear, abandoning genuine hope and unilaterally deserting our allies -- leaving us alone in the world.

An ultimate train wreck.

 

August 13, 2015

“Rockin’ with AARP”


It was a once in a lifetime gathering of “Awesomely Ancient Radio Personalities.”


“The Dinosaur” - Syracuse, New York’s leading Classic Rock station - had invited all the Rock & Roll DJs from earlier times to join in celebrating the 75th birthday of WOLF - AM. Wolf and WNDR-AM were the first radio facilities in Central New York to pioneer Top 40 programming in the late ‘50s and had been bitter competitors for many years.


A permanent truce established after six decades, disc-jockeys from both outlets were interviewed last Saturday in a four-hour program broadcast over four separate frequencies and streamed on the web around the world. I was particularly honored being asked to host a final hour of commemorative programming before the start of a live concert featuring two great local bands.


Treasured memories flooded in.


WNDR days marked the very birth of the Rock era. It advanced in a vacuum more than partially enhanced by traditional radio professionals shunning any aspect of the new music, a fusion of grass roots Country and Western and black-based Rhythm and Blues. I and other young enthusiasts were more than willing to step forward and grab the microphones.


I started riding my bike out to WNDR, which had moved to a swampy area just outside town where the towers were located. I was soon answering phones on weekends for 50 cents an hour. I would have paid them to be there.


My first efforts at WNDR were extended to include writing early morning news. I cajoled my way into doing a few trial newscasts, and then a regular weekend news schedule. It was temporary dues paying on the road to the holiest of all possible grails. Almost everyone acknowledged the real radio stars.
After mounting a relentless, non-stop campaign to get a shot, Program Director Bill Quinn finally acquiesced. It was determined that I be allowed a one-hour live on-air audition at midnight the following Sunday when the station would normally sign-off for maintenance.


I wrote every word I would say on paper, practiced every record introduction hundreds of times, sat in the control room hours on end watching every move made, and memorized dozens of different one-liners to use if I needed to ad-lib. I prepared for my moment of glory with unyielding commitment.


The adrenaline hit as soon as I sat down. The very first time I reached to open the microphone, an ignition switch on my own, personal “rocket to stardom,” I totally crashed. Big time. Bad.


Instead of the control panel “microphone-on” button, my humble hand brushed against a “master-off” lever directly beneath the intended target. I promptly plunged WNDR into twenty minutes of starkly stone silence.


The engineer on duty, fairly new to the business himself, took that long to determine the extent of my stupidity. After my first hour was finished, I assumed I was as well - my premiere performance also a swan song.


By an astonishing stroke of fate or fortune, no one in management heard my curious initiation. I blamed the engineer for not discerning my dumbness more diligently. Soon I was pulling full DJ shifts on weekends. During my senior year in high school, I worked each evening from 7 p.m. to midnight. Hooper Ratings, then the accepted standard in radio listening measurement, displayed a 58% total audience share during the time period, more than every other station combined.


It was a single point in time and space brought back ever so briefly - old time dinosaur radio jocks in joyous reunion roaring like thunder with scorching, blow-torch Rock & Roll.


Hope I die before I get old.

 

August 6, 2015

“Enough?”

Marsha Medina made Oakhurst matter last week.

It was spectacularly the biggest political event yet seen in this new presidential election cycle as over 100,000 private citizens packed 3,500 separate venues from coast to coast for a 73 year-old candidate still being written off as a loser by major political pundits of every persuasion.

Not so fast.

When I received my invitation to join a “Bernie Sanders House Party” in Oakhurst a few days earlier, I was surprised and intrigued. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Oakhurst Democratic Club and moderator of our monthly meetings, I hadn’t received any notice about such a gathering from party leaders in Sacramento. Was this authorized? Who was in charge? What was the deal?

So I was blown away when I entered the Oakhurst Branch Library Community Room Wednesday night and found every seat taken -- packed wall to wall by total strangers for the most part -- meeting for the very first time. There were a few friends in attendance, but these were greatly outnumbered by dozens of brand new faces – just regular folks moved to action by a common, collective concern.

Martha Medina had heard about the national organizing plan and decided to do something about it.

Martha, her husband and three children moved to the foothills from Sonoma County 12 years ago. She’s not formally affiliated with any group or organization – but feels things are horribly wrong with our political system and believes in “standing up for the oppressed”.

Martha tells us, “I donated the day Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy and received emails. One email explained the 29th and how we all needed to join or create an event. I started off becoming part of a Fresno event, then created my own at home with friends until I realized I'd need a larger venue.

Good call!

She adds: “Bernie Sanders has always been a fighter for the middle class.” Martha suggests we listen to Senator Sanders after omitting the word “socialist” from our “Automatic No-O’ Meter.”

This seems particularly timely since last week also witnessed an important 50th Anniversary celebrating passage of the biggest and most far-reaching socialist program of my lifetime – national health insurance for those over 65 – most commonly known as -- Medicare.

That’s right. Medicare is democratic socialism in action. So is Social Security. Go on. Check it out. Give it a Google.

Bernie spoke live Wednesday night -- video streamed from the living room of a modest two-bedroom apartment in southwest Washington, D.C. The effect was stunning. He spoke directly into the camera in a firm, gentle tone. Only occasionally glancing at notes on a yellow legal pad, he summarized in 20 minutes a number of critical bullet points, introducing each topic with the words: “Enough is enough!”

In evaluating his chances for election, Senator Sanders stressed that that he is fighting incredible odds in the face of strongly established, deeply entrenched, powerfully committed corporate and political entities and that he will be outspent by hundreds of millions of dollars as time goes on.
He is one man raging against many machines.


He acknowledges that his campaign is completely dependent upon those who recall the words of Abraham Lincoln -- rallying enough true believers in government of, by and for the people to carry the day in the formation of a new political order.


“The American people are saying loudly and clearly enough is enough,” says Bernie.
But will they act?


Can unified, unbowed solidarity replace jeering cynicism and dark despair?
Is there magic in the wind?


And will that be – enough?

 

July 30, 2015

"Bow-Wow"


Here we are in the dog days of summer -- an old expression referencing the hottest days of the year.

These usually run from July 3rd through August 11th – a period extending from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and our sun. It’s amazing what one can learn spending dozens of decades in hundreds of bars with thousands of interesting folks. Don’t try this unless you’re a professional.

Usually dog days are slower times, but not so this year.

Here’s July winding down with the powerfully porcine presence of Donald Trump facing “great danger” at the Mexican border while surrounded by enough bodyguards to annex Nuevo Laredo. And there’s Congress with Republican members chanting their “No Iran Agreement” talking points like mad monks on mescal. Then we have those knee jerks in the House of Representatives yielding to Trump initiated, headline grabbing, anti-Mexican hysteria and voting 241 to 179 -- passing legislation cracking down on “sanctuary cities” that shield residents from federal immigration authorities.

This deserves special attention.

A young lady was randomly shot and killed in San Francisco by a Mexican national who had been deported five times in the past. This horrible tragedy provided convenient accelerant for a wild GOP stampede seeking instant remedy with maximum press coverage. So the Republican Party suddenly found it functionally expedient to elevate federal over state and/or local law in an absolute reversal of their normal philosophical stance. Political vice must become a virtue when it’s on your side of the aisle, intellectual integrity falling victim to handy hypocrisy.

The tiniest bit of investigation quickly reveals that San Francisco is not the only “sanctuary city” in America. There are hundreds more, designated as such by municipal ordinances supported and endorsed by local law enforcement. These include Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, Salt Lake City, El Paso, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle.

It’s simply a matter of efficiency and practicality. Local, county and state authorities say they have enough to deal with without getting into the potential minefield of immigration enforcement. Additionally, involvement in this area has been found to greatly hinder successful cooperation and communication between undocumented residents and law enforcement.

In threatening a presidential veto, the White House says this bill would threaten the civil rights of all Americans by allowing governmental officials to gather immigration status information from any person at any time, making citizens subject to purely arbitrary stop and search procedures from coast to coast.

The most baffling phenomenon of all can be found in the many Trump supporters proudly proclaiming that “The Donald” speaks for them with every word. Every random sixty seconds of his squealing rants contain a myriad of immediately evident self-contradictions, leaving George Orwell’s fabled “1984 doublespeak” far behind in the past.

Unfortunately, that’s not all these dog days of summer are leaving here in Oakhurst.

He will be remembered as a community stalwart, a good man and a fine friend.

An unavoidable aspect of the aging process is to find oneself in ever increasing acceptance of the impermanency of earthly life – each new year exponentially increasing the tally of those we know who’ve gone beyond.

I was saddened to learn that Dale Miller passed away last week after an extended battle with cancer. Although we tended to occasionally entertain varying political perspectives, Dale provided charming and delightful company without fail whenever our paths crossed. He was a joy to behold and cheerful to the end.

Whenever I saw Dale, he made me smile.

July 23, 2015

“Children of God”

There they were – right in his face -- a half dozen Confederate flags hatefully hoisted by presidential protestors taunting Barack Obama’s arrival in Oklahoma City last Wednesday with scorn and ridicule.

However abhorrent, it’s shameful such open, mocking antagonism nonetheless represents a dramatic measure of honest expression notably absent in the more hidden depths of national political intrigue.

The Republican Party has been relentlessly dedicated to the downfall of President Obama ever since the night of his inauguration when key GOP leaders clandestinely met and agreed to oppose him at every opportunity.

Such obstinacy was again experienced in a shocking action some called treason in early March of this year when 47 Republican senators sent a letter to Islamic leaders in Tehran saying that anything reached between Obama and Iran without the approval of Congress could be revoked by the next president. This renegade move initiated by rookie Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and lamely followed with lemming-like loyalty by “patriotic” party parrots blatantly undermined the president’s authority and temporarily imperiled the talks until wiser, less sophomoric heads prevailed.

Now we witness new emotionally charged, partisan driven, mindless opposition freshly evidenced by unanimous Republican opposition to an agreement reached by the United States and a coalition of world powers that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

That’s all the Republicans in Congress choosing probable war over possible peace – including our own Fourth District Representative Tom “Keep Me Out of Oakhurst” McClintock.

As the Confederate Battle Flag mocked our President in Oklahoma City on Wednesday -- McClintock similarly belittled him that same day in the House of Representatives.

Tel Aviv Tom trilled: “I don’t know how adequately to express my alarm and outrage at the President’s agreement with Iran. It is a breathtakingly dangerous act. Some have compared it to Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Accord with Nazi Germany, but that doesn’t fully illustrate the danger.”

What nonsense.

Weren’t Iraq and Afghanistan enough, Mr. McClintock?

The proposed Iranian accord is not merely “the President’s agreement.” It is first and foremost an understanding painstakingly reached after two years of negotiations between Iran and the United States, France, China, Russia, The United Kingdom and Germany. That’s like obtaining complete unanimity on any given subject among all relatives in attendance at your next Thanksgiving Dinner -- even the ones who’ve been drinking.

History teaches that friendship – or at least reasonable conviviality – eventually evolves more times than not between our country and former enemies – past foes such as France, China, Russia, The United Kingdom and Germany.

We should also bear in mind that “The State of Israel” is NOT Benjamin Netanyahu, a ruthless politician who barely maintained a tenuous hold as Prime Minister in recent elections, resorting to an outright lie the night before balloting started in pledging to abandon support of a Palestinian State, only to completely reverse his public position after retaining office. This man can be a trusted friend?

President Obama said it best in an extended press conference held the day following announcement of the accord when he stated --“Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war. Those are the options.”

Force isn’t even a true option. That just doesn’t work anymore. We can bomb them, strafe them, knife them, shoot them, strangle them, drown them, poison them, torture them, kill them in any manner imaginatively contrived – and it won’t win us anything except reciprocal atrocities leading up to potential planetary annihilation.

“Blessed are the peacemakers – for they will be called children of God” – Matthew 5:9


July 16, 2015

“Girls, Girls, Girls”

“Girls, Girls, Girls
Girls, Girls, Girls
Girls, Girls, Girls.”

Mötley Crüe – Elektra Records – May 1987

It scored the highest soccer ratings in the history of American television.

The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team shattered global record books on Sunday, July 5th, becoming World Champions with their 5-2 win over an exceptional Japanese contingent, including a breath taking four goals scored in the first 16 minutes. 25.4 million viewers watched the game on Fox Sports – peaking at 31 million during the final 15 minutes.

By comparison, recent NBA Finals on ABC only reached a high of 23.25 million in the 6th and final game. This year’s men’s college basketball title game between Duke and Wisconsin pulled 28.26 million viewers. No Major League Baseball game has drawn a larger audience since the 2004 World Series.

So why did our world champion women’s team receive only $2 million dollars for winning the 2015 World Cup while the U.S. men’s squad received $8 million for losing last year in Round 16 of the 2014 World Cup, a prize eventually captured by Germany – along with $35 million dollars for the players? Right! That’s our U.S. women getting 5.7% of what the German guys got for winning a World Soccer Cup.

Discrimination and sexism can easily be traced to the top. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, having recently resigned due to scandals involving hundreds of millions, outrageously stated in 2004 that female soccer players should “play in more feminine clothes” to make their involvement “popular.”

According to Fusion Magazine, the average salary in the U.S. Men’s Soccer League is $305,000. For women it’s not quite 5% of that --$14,000. Over 20 times less.

While free market forces have much to do with such a radical “sock her” differential, it’s clear that soccer is yet another frontier about to be influenced by irresistible forces of long delayed change.

Although parity still waits on a distant horizon, sales of U.S. Women’s team jerseys rocketed by 3,000 percent immediately following our ladies’ victory over Japan, throngs of New Yorkers jammed “The Canyon of Heroes” in lower Manhattan for a spectacular ticker tape parade, and major endorsement offers are flowing in -- recognizing a stunning historic achievement.

My mother was born in 1903 -- 17 years before progressive forces finally brought women the right to vote.

As the father of four daughters and grandfather of four more women, I find myself deeply impatient that the average working woman still makes less than 80% percent of that earned by her male counterpart, all things considered.

While this is a vast improvement since 1980 when the female to male earnings ratio was a shocking 60.2%, most of this positive trending took place between ’80 and ’90 (to 71.6%) and has been slowing to a crawl these last 25 years.

And as the grandfather of eight young men, I hope they join their sisters as part of a new generation dramatically emerging with bright attention, new hope and fresh promise.

2015 marks the year our nation’s “Millennials” will finally out number us “Baby Boomers” 75.3 million to 74.9. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates this auspicious occasion will occur on or about September 8th, when Bernie Sanders and I both turn 74.

Our young have at their disposal astounding technical capabilities unimagined as we entered the 21st Century, particularly in the area of instant universal communication. Truth is becoming ubiquitous and unavoidable.

Politicians of all persuasions -- be aware. Our children are awake.

Unlike their immediate predecessors, it is my fervent hope and lasting prayer -- they won’t get fooled again.

 

July 9, 2015

"Dump Trump”

Donald Trump is a bloated, boastful, blowhard bully.

But that’s not why I hope he disappears as quickly as tycoons at tax time.

The fact is Trump makes all fourteen of his competing Republican contenders in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes look like Rhodes Scholars and paragons of propriety endorsed by the ghost of Mother Teresa. That even goes for (shudder) Ted Cruz, (wince) Rick Santorum and (choke) Lindsey “I Know I’m Not Married, But John McCain and I Are Just Good Friends” Graham.

I watched “The Donald’s” official announcement of his candidacy on June 16th with stunned disbelief as he attacked Mexico for “sending people (here) that have lots of problems and bringing crime”, declaring – “They’re rapists.” He also called on Mexico to build and pay for “a great, great wall” along our southern border to prevent the influx of more “Mexican criminals.” Trump burbled on to offer irrefutable testimony verifying the scientific accuracy of his analysis, boasting, “I speak with border guards!”

Such assertion differs sharply from an acclaimed study by Dr. Bianca Bersani of the University of Massachusetts (Justice Quarterly 2014) that reveals, “Foreign-born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their entire life course.”

Thankfully, the blowback to Trump has been magnificent.

NBC/Universal has fired him from their “Apprentice” series. The network has also followed Univision’s lead in cancelling coverage of Trump’s “Miss Universe” and “Miss USA” Pageants as Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man and owner of the Ora Television Network, calls Trump “a racist.”

Cristian de la Fuente and Roselyn Sanchez, scheduled to host “Miss USA” have bailed from the project, describing Trump’s comments as “disrespectful” and “a rhetoric of hatred and discrimination.” Fuentes, added, “It’s a shame that such an important institution as “Miss USA” is now in the hands of a clown.”

Other entities with Trump business connections are reeling away in revulsion. Retail clothing giant Macy’s is cutting all ties with Trump, announcing last Wednesday, “We have no tolerance for discrimination in any form and have decided to discontinue our business relationship.” In response, Trump trumpeted, “Clearly NBC and Macy’s support illegal immigration, which is totally detrimental to the fabric of our once great country.”

Borrowing from Steve Martin and Dan Aykroid on Saturday Night Live, what a wild and crazy guy! I mean “wild” as in dangerously uncontrolled and “crazy” as in -- clinically nuts.

Donald Trump has been pandering for political support in his narcissistic campaign by evoking a vile common denominator – time tested by demagogues through the years. It's pure Xenophobia – an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers. Trump’s despicable diatribes spouting this vitriol are paying off in certain circles.

Donald is now a solid #2 to Jeb Bush in a number of national polls measuring current comparative strength of GOP rivals. For a national political party that declared its desire for substantially increased diversity after danger signs in the 2014 elections, this must present Republican leadership with a devilish dilemma. Such a quandary was made unavoidable by its Faustian alliance with the rich and powerful -- an elite, privileged, legislatively favored, Country Club grouping that clearly includes Mr. Trump, who became fabulously wealthy the old fashioned way -- inheriting a real estate empire from his father.

It’s just four weeks away. Mark your calendar for Thursday, August 6th when the first GOP Presidential primary debate takes place on – surprise – surprise – FOX TV. Since participation is promised to candidates finishing in the Top 10 of an average of the five most recent national polls up to that time, Donald Trump’s inclusion based on his current trajectory is now all but assured.

We can count on Mr. Trump to provide the choicest of chuckles. Donald won’t duck any issue placed before him, but the real fun in this first debate will be watching his fellow Republicans as they twist and shout and shake it up baby dancing around the issue of immigration – now at the forefront thanks to the heat of intense media coverage as hot as summer in San Salvador.

Yet -- as one with progressive leanings more on the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders side of the dial -- please know I take no partisan pleasure as the world watches with wonder this blustering fool. When all is said and done, we’re in this together.

Donald Trump is a national embarrassment.

July 2, 2015

“Markers”

It makes me sick.

How unhealthy.

A landmark decision challenged anew.

Having survived 67 separate attempts by the House of Representatives to abolish it, after an impressive presidential campaign win in 2012 during which time it became a central contentious issue, and following a 6 to 3 Supreme Court decision affirming its legality (the second time the Court has ruled in its favor), the Affordable Health Care Act still remains a target for right-wing Republican wrath.

In a clear display of dissociative delusion, Speaker of the House John Boehner moans: “We will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families."

These “solutions” -- featuring only wild, focus group-tested generalities -- are the best the Speaker has been able to come up with after over five years of trying. Specifics? He’s still working on those.

Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, now leading in Republican polling, tentatively and a bit oddly exclaims: “This is the direct result of President Obama. He deliberately forced ObamaCare on the people in a partisan and toxic way.”

And look who’s in second place! Donald “We Will Overcomb” Trump bellows: “ObamaCare is a lie! A filthy lie!”

I was taught way before Kindergarten not to be a poor loser.

“ObamaCare” was coined by the GOP as a nasty pejorative. Thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court, it now lives on as a lasting legacy, honoring and crediting our 44th President with successful guidance and tenacious support leading to the implementation of the nation’s first major step on our road toward universal health care, decades behind the rest of the civilized world.

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders notched a place in history as he drew a capacity crown of 3,000 into the University of Denver gymnasium as several thousand others listened in an adjacent atrium where speakers were set up, and on a nearby lacrosse field where the speech was streamed on a scoreboard. The event was one of the largest political rallies of the 2016 election cycle so far and was promoted only a few days in advance with minimal funding almost exclusively on social media.

I like what Bernie Sanders said about health care in the wake of Thursday’s victory:

“While I am glad the Supreme Court upheld the law, in my view, the only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a Medicare-for-all single payer system.”

Senator Sanders went on to assert that profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry and private insurance companies causes the United States to spend more per capita than any other nation on earth, while our life expectancy, infant mortality and preventable death outcomes are worse than almost every other country.

He seems to have facts and figures to back this up. Check for yourself. Google till you get it.

And then came Friday -- a payday gay day.

In the last major decision of this current session before an extended summer recess, the Court determined in a sweeping ruling that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right and handing advocates an historic, milestone victory.

By a vote of 5 to 4, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority with these words: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. The Constitution grants them that right.”

In a scathing, petulant, abrasive dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote -- with firepower characteristic of a flatulent flea – that the decision was ”a threat to American Democracy. The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me (he fibbed) – but what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.” “Putsch” is one of those “Nazi words” some people resort to when they’re really putsched off.

That’s still not quite as weird as Scalia’s commentary the preceding day on the Court’s Affordable Care Act vote, which he decried as: “Somersaults of statutory interpretation”, “Applesauce”, and “Interpretive jiggery-pokery.”

This last displays a somehow discomforting familiarity with “Harry Potter”, but may well account for Scalia’s darkest reflections from his own secret world of private legal fantasy.

But enough of this.

On behalf of my Great-Great-Grandfather, Thomas Newcomb -- and myself as well – We wish you a Happy Fourth of July!

Thomas rests buried on a hilltop in Central New York under a well-preserved marker indicating, “Thomas Newcomb. Soldier. Revolutionary War. Died Oct. 8, 1851. Aged 90 Years.” Directly above his name proudly flies our Star-Spangled Banner -- deeply carved in lasting stone.

Yet waving.

As we march ever forward.

June 25, 2015

“Matthew v. 2015”

It doesn’t happen overnight.

From start to finish (“novitiate” to “final vows”) it can take up to twenty years to complete formation as a fully professed Jesuit priest.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Flores, Argentina, a middle class barrio of Buenos Aires, was 36 years old on April 27, 1973, when he took his final “Fourth Vow” pledging obedience to the Pope. Three months later he was named Provincial Superior of the Society in Argentina.

After a series of promotional advancements within and outside the Order, Bergoglio was named Archbishop of Buenos Aires in February of 1998, Cardinal in February of 2001 and became Pope Francis on March 19, 2013 following the abrupt and somewhat suspect resignation of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Benedict still lives in the Vatican as a self-cloistered contemplative with no official duties or responsibilities, referenced by some as the “Pope in the Attic.”

Pope Francis speaks Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, Latin, Ukrainian and English and has earned educational degrees in Chemistry and Philosophy and a Doctorate in Theology.

In terms of intense preparation, grueling self-sacrifice, academic brilliance and unwavering commitment to Jesus and the poor, Jesuits are the Navy SEALS and intellectual vanguards of the Roman Catholic Church. Many march to become “Soldiers of Christ”. Few finish. Only one now reigns as supreme Pontiff over 1.2 billion human souls.

Francis is the first Jesuit to do so.

“Devout Catholic” Jeb Bush is not impressed. “I think religion ought to be about making us better people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

Neither is “Anti Birth Control Catholic” Rick Santorum. “We are probably better off leaving science to the scientists.”

Or especially “Not Even a Little Bit Catholic” Rush Limbaugh. “Pope Francis is a Marxist.”

What twits.

What has them all twitchy and twittery is last week’s official Vatican release of “Laudato Si” -- “Praise Be To You” – subtitled – “On The Care of Our Common Home.” It is the first major encyclical solely authored by Francis. An encyclical carries heavy weight, being a papal letter sent to all Roman Catholic bishops – in modern times conveying the most important utterances of the Holy See given to the world.

In “Laudato Si”, the Pope deeply criticizes heedless consumerism and irresponsible development, insisting upon “swift and unified global action” to fight environmental degradation and the undeniable reality of man-made climate change.

Along with working as a chemist in his youth prior to ordination, Francis was also a bar bouncer, so it should come as no surprise that he pulls no punches all the way through this 183-page document.

“Mother Earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

“Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive.”

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. It is true that there are other factors, yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is a result of human activity.”

“A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful.”

“The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests.”

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or distain.”

Reception of “Laudato Si” in this country so far falls pretty much along party lines -- a sharp, cutting, divisive reality that demonstrates the power of paralysis vs. papal persuasion.

I only suggest that those with open hearts and minds spend a bit of time becoming familiar with “Laudato” even in summary form, then ask themselves if a single contradiction can be found between its insights and those revealed in Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 & 7.

Also know as --- “The Sermon on the Mount”

“For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Matthew 7:29


 

June 18, 2015

"Solstice Sunday”


You won't feel a thing.

At 9:38 AM (Oakhurst Time) this Sunday, June 21st -- it will suddenly be Summer 2015 -- the exact point of the Summer Solstice.

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin “solstitium”, combining “sol” (sun) and “stitium” (stop). Such occurs twice a year as winter and summer begin. The sun seems to stop, then reverse its angle toward us in the days that follow. It’s not immediately evident. Don’t try staring. Doing so could make you blind, unlike other actions that really don’t, no matter what folks say.

The fact that Latin is involved suggests the phenomenon has been happening for quite some time -- since way before the dawn of man, monkeys or even mud. That last didn’t come about until sufficient water was formed and eventually mixed with earth 2.4 billion years ago.

Actually, the age of most water is even older than the sun since almost every drop on our planet comes from interstellar ice, showering our planet in fiery magnificence from some time after the Universe exploded with a great big bang 13.82 billion years ago – coming into being out of what might even be nothing.

Incidentally, I find absolutely no contradiction between “Evolution”, “Creationism” and “Intelligent Design” since 6,000 years and 13.82 billion are all the same to a God Who is eternal and timeless. I’d like to thank Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. for such helpful insight.

A different Jesuit priest, Father George Coyne, S.J. is a bit more dismissive, bluntly criticizing both “Creationism” and “Intelligent Design” as “not being scientific.” Astrophysicist Coyne is now McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, that alma mater of mine.


For 28 years Father Coyne was Director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome. He even has an asteroid named after him. He writes, “We’re born of stardust in a very real sense.” He also states, “God shared with the Universe his own creativity. It’s a marvelous God.”

Our sun was worshipped as a God, itself, throughout much of recorded history in various forms, such as in Egyptian Atonism in the 14th Century B.C. and the Sun Dance of The Plains Indians of North America. Ancient Rome celebrated the feast of Sol Invictus (The Unconquered Sun) with great joy on December 25th, a date later celebrated by many in the world as Christmas. Pagan predecessors would commemorate the Summer Solstice by dancing around bonfires, but that’s hardly a good idea in Oakhurst this year.

We’re more responsibly celebrating Summer Solstice Weekend with “Sounds of Solstice 2015” from Noon till 8 PM at Oakhurst Community Park this Saturday featuring live music, vendors, children's activities and more. My friend and current Oakhurst Honorary Mayor, Mat Sands, has put together a totally terrific time for the whole family. Think “Little House on the Prairie” and “Woodstock” combined without worrying about “brown acid” or any of that mud previously discussed, celestially derived or not.

An exceptional band lineup includes special guest “Dave T”, “The Dave Henderson Group”, “The Executive Rockers”, “Richfield”, “Ten Ton Chicken” and “Green Machine.”

Mat says attendees can enjoy shopping with local vendors selling jewelry, clothing, crafts and other assorted goodies. There’ll be a well-anchored bounce house for the kids and fun contests galore offering special treats. Adults can enjoy alcoholic beverages from South Gate Brewing Company, and fine wine from our award winning Idle Hour Winery.

Bring whatever you would normally carry with you to the park, including a chair for lounging, a canopy for shade, a football for tossing, or a chest of Kool-Aid. You can even cart along a dog or two. But the only alcoholic beverages allowed must be purchased on site. That’s not only the law, but to help increase “Sounds of Solstice” proceeds for The Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst. And if you spent $200 to see The Rolling Stones in LA, relax. Admission is only $10 for adults. Kids under 12? Free!

I also hope to see you Saturday at The 16th Annual Oakhurst Rib Fest at the Community Center, this year celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

This Rib Fest is the only annual fundraiser sponsored by the Community Center with a Board of Directors that includes leadership from every significant service club in the area and The Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce.

Solstice Sunday is also Fathers Day 2015. So make Dad glad with Rock in the Park and Ribs after dark, then a fun day on Sunday – the only day of the week named after you know what.

Because like an eternal Sun – fathers are forever

.

June 11, 2015

“Money, Honey”


“I finally got my baby about half past three,
She said I’d like to know what you want with me.
I said, “Money, Honey.
Money, Honey.
Money Honey.
If you want to get along with me.”

“Money Honey” – The third song recorded at Elvis Presley’s first RCA session. (1956)

It’s a fast, wild hustle.

“We’re here for three reasons –the money, the money, the money” -- Rich Bressler, President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of iHeart Media – Speaking with Morgan Stanley investors in New York just last week.

iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel) is the largest mass media group in America with over 800 radio stations coast to coast, including eight facilities in Fresno – KALZ, KBOS, KCBL, KFBT, KHGE, KRDU, KRZR and KSOF.

In 2014, iHeart paid near $2 billion dollars in interest alone on a growing debt now totaling $21 billion, an amount no one with the brains God gave geese believe they can possibly repay. One out of every three dollars coming in the front door goes out the back in interest payments to banks -- forget the principal.

Similarly, our nation’s second largest radio group is Cumulus Media with 460 stations in 90 cities, including Fresno, where they own and operate KMJ-AM/FM, KMGU, KSKS and KYWE. Cumulus is on the hook for almost $3 billion. Last year Cumulus stock was worth eight bucks a share. Now it’s struggling to stay above two.

Combined employee dismissals at iHeart/Cumulus over the last decade add up to well over ten thousand jobs eliminated with more hatchets swinging every dawn to keep the game going.

More than 90% of these positions were zapped at facilities generating superlative profit levels of 20% to 25%. Those are the kind of numbers your average small business owner would find nothing short of a triumph. But that’s not the 40% margins and higher demanded by Wall Street’s fee-feeding lenders.

Top-level broadcast management knows the ability to borrow more at ridiculous rates is all that matters. This sets the tone for increasing termination tally.

When revenue stalls out as it has, slashing critical expenses becomes the last hype of the hopeless – prioritizing personal success over personnel survival.

Just down the hill we recently saw what’s becoming uncomfortably common.

A newly formed group called Peak Broadcasting paid over $120 million for stations in Fresno and Boise in late 2006. When P&L projections crashed by 2012, the corporation filed for bankruptcy under Chapter Eleven Reorganization. A Federal Judge sprinkled financial fairy dust and granted relief under a plan that reduced debt load by about half ($45 million) and a brand new outfit stepped forward with an almost identical name. But that was to be expected, since this emerging entity was created and controlled by the same individual who started things off in the first place and won – by losing.

A subsequent shell game saw ownership shift to yet another company, then quickly to a third outfit on the same day, August 30, 2013 when Cumulus picked up its current Fresno holdings – becoming less hometown radio stations than pawns on a churning chessboard with an actual worth that’s anyone’s guess, surely far less than current theoretical values based more on wishful fantasy than real world fact.

None other than Ron Paul has been lately gracing our TV flat screens with an invitation to stop by his website and see why the American dollar is doomed to destruction, dragging our personal savings and national security down with it. I took him up on his offer. Sadly, an extensive and accurate description of current concerns directly relating to the disappearance of American middle class wealth are accompanied by an astounding, however endearing naïveté in terms of causation.

Dr. Paul believes a potential currency collapse will be derived from too much government regulation, whereas I humbly submit exactly the opposite seems true. Those same 2008 foxes of finance are still guarding our hapless hen house, having recruited Dr. Paul as a sincere, yet specious spokesperson. He’s a nice man with the wrong plan.

Along with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders is measurably more on target.

You’ll be there too when you get as much information from as many sources as possible and trust your own common sense.

Thinking can be scary.

But more dangerous when you don’t.

 

June 4, 2015

"Compression Confession”

The ancient Gaelic word is “ríastrad”, loosely translated into English as “warp spasm.” It was a notable characteristic of the mythological Irish warrior hero Cú Chulainn, “The Hound of Ulster”, who was said to have single handedly defeated the armies of Queen Medb of Connacht at the age of 17.

“Riastrad’ is classically defined in Irish literature as a “terrifying battle frenzy”, distorting the possessor into a violent, raging, angel of death - - an “unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe. “

This DNA conveyed “Irish temper” can prove quite handy in warfare and was a greatly sought “killer instinct” in such renowned Irish-American prizefighting champions as Jack Dempsey, Gentleman Jim Corbett and the great John L. Sullivan. But such a complete abandonment of self-control and acceptable behavior in orgasmic-like surrender to the instinctively violent satisfaction of unrestrained emotional release has no place in civilized society. Or even an Oakhurst pharmacy.

Hereafter, certain specifics are omitted to protect the guilty, but general circumstances may be familiar.

Last week I encountered a number of difficulties obtaining a prescription for a chronic viral infection as my first attempt to obtain medication was met with a claim that no order had been received.

After verification was established that the request HAD been conveyed in a timely manner, my authorizing agent was informed that the matter would be immediately handled. Two hours later, I spent 10 minutes waiting at a "Pick Up" line and was again informed that no prescription was in their system. I was directed to speak with someone in the "Drop Off" section to find out if there was any paperwork pending that had yet to be acted upon.

Following another feverish 10 minutes in THAT line, I spoke with a nice lady, who sorted through a stack of orders and found what we were looking for, located the goodies from their inventory and went over instructions for its usage. When I pulled out my credit card to pay, she told me she couldn't handle the actual transaction, but would need me to deal with a pharmacy cashier for that. Calling upon her colleague, she was then firmly, loudly, and repeatedly informed with a strong note of irritation, "Hey! I'm taking my second lunch break starting NOW!" I was then sheepishly informed I would have to "come back in a half hour." WHAT? I lost it -- instant “RIASTRAD!”

Although holding back on the "F-Bomb" (I think), I shared my extreme disappointment in colorful terminology with all within, say, a hundred yards, demanding to see a manager. After yet another 10 minutes passed, I asked where the manager might be and was told, "There’s no one available." I then said, "Forget it" and left, calling the store as soon as I returned home, requesting that I be contacted by “whoever was in charge.” I have yet to receive the courtesy of a response.

You can tell when people hate their job. Upon reflection, that “cashier” who demanded an immediate second lunch (damn the customer -- full-feed ahead) is quite probably as accommodating and polite an individual as one would ever care to meet. I suspect she hit “riastrad” level” just before I did. You don’t need to be Irish.

I’m seeing it more and more. Major chains seeking maximized profits by restraining labor costs are laying off thousands and dumping enormous workloads on their remaining employees, simultaneously limiting, if not reducing wages and benefits. While not excusing rude conduct when encountered, this does provide probable causality – certainly understandable and deeply concerning.

It’s simply a matter of unrelenting compression. Less money. More debt. Longer hours. Lost hope. Bad government. Worse leadership.

America’s traditional nuclear family has become economically unviable. There are no easy solutions within the constraints of this current plutocratic environment.

Lets come together.

Although we usually include a featured speaker at our monthly meetings of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, we’ll be running with an open agenda this Saturday to collectively plan for the future.

Please join us. You don’t even have to be a Democrat to attend and take part. And if you’re under 35 years of age, you’ll get a special treat. You ARE the future. Just ask for me when you arrive at Denny’s. Breakfast is 8:30 and the program starts at 9:30.

What kind of folks will you meet?

The kind of folks who brought about the abolition of slavery, the eight-hour workday, an end to child labor, the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, women’s right to vote, unemployment insurance, the interstate highway system, educational grants, our national parks, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, the Clean Water Act, Universal Public Education and, yes, the American Revolution.

Every substantial improvement in the lives of Americans throughout history has been initiated by liberals and opposed by conservatives -- not that they don’t have their place in proper pacing.

Democrats even invented weekends.

Let’s celebrate this Saturday!


May 28, 2015

“Sleep Now in The Fire”

In our nation’s capital, reality remains a rumor.

Congress is paralyzed by party politics. At times the administration appears to be losing face, faith and friends with each new headline. Effective distraction and diversion of focus has become prioritized, lest forces operating in true control behind the curtain be revealed.

Surface change is everywhere, but not in the deeply hidden mechanisms of mass manipulation.

In 1976, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the adoption of our Declaration of Independence. It was also during America’s Bicentennial year that we witnessed a threatening new declaration in Paddy Chayefsky’s multiple Academy Award winning film, “Network”. Ned Beatty plays TV boss Arthur Jensen as he savagely chastises rebellious newscaster Howard Beale for daring to defy the established order.

“You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Beale, and you will atone!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKkRDMil0bw

Widely regarded at the time as satirical in nature, “Network” now seems wildly understated, its anticipation of FOX News being particularly predictive.

There’s no braking “breaking news.” Every new happening is hyped. Our electronic town criers are at dependable yowl a full 24/7. Bad news is best, pulling powerful ratings.

More Iraqi forces fled in fright before last week’s abandonment of Ramadi to ISIS insurgents, leaving behind millions of dollars in U.S. supplied weapons and supplies now turned against us. The historic Syrian town of Palmyra has similarly fallen to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, jeopardizing the continued existence of ancient temples, ruins and priceless archaic treasures. We’re fighting with Iran in Syria and against Iran in Iraq. Often we’re with the Sunnis against the Shiites, then the other way around. Sometimes both. Got that?

Our tragic invasion of Iraq in 2003 was militarily magnificent, then mindlessly managed. And for every American life lost, fortunes were made.

It’s just a mess. Big money loves it. That’s how they bet.

On Armed Services Day in Iowa earlier this month, most of a dozen GOP presidential prospects at a state party dinner in Iowa called for a more confrontational stance toward Iran. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s answer for handling things was to: “Load up our bombers and bomb them back to the seventh century.”

I find myself in the company of the sporadically brilliant Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) when I suggest we load up our guys, gals and goodies and leave a nightmare neighborhood where we’ve never belonged. The road to winning needs a whole new beginning.

Those chickens coming home to roost are starting to look like pterodactyls.

In January of 1999, Michael Moore filmed the rock group, “Rage Against the Machine” at Federal Hall in downtown Manhattan across from the New York Stock Exchange.

“Sleep Now In The Fire” quickly went into heavy rotation on MTV and was nominated at the 2000 MTV Music Awards as “Best Rock Video” of the year. In this eerily prophetic production, we see vocalist Zack de la Rocha screaming prescient epithets as the true voice of a self absorbed ruling class solely dedicated to the exponential furtherance of a guarded private agenda. Against Tom Morello's relentlessly righteous guitar, the rich speak to us.

In November of 2000, George W. Bush was elected 43rd President of the United States, serving two full terms in office. Under his watch, we completely lost our way.

And we sleep now in the fire.

“Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past – control the future.” – George Orwell --“1984”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w211KOQ5BMI


May 21, 2015

"Changes”

Father Simon Le Moyne was a Jesuit missionary to The New World, a vocation that saw many of his fellow priests conclude their careers in an untimely manner at the wrong end of an Iroquois tomahawk.

Father Le Moyne fared much better. He was particularly held in high regard at the Salt Springs of the Onondaga nation, arriving there on August 5, 1654. On October 21, 1945, it was announced that a new Jesuit college would be named in Father Le Moyne’s honor on a hill in Syracuse near the site of his efforts.

I had the honor of graduating from this institution in May of 1963 and have mentioned it from time to time in these columns, particularly since Pope Francis became the first Jesuit ever elevated to such prominence in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. I predicted Francis wouldn’t fool around. He hasn’t. And neither have more than 600 current students and faculty members at my alma mater, including the majority of the graduating class. Last week, they even made FOX News. They wanted a Cardinal canned from Commencement.

Pope Benedict XVI named Timothy Dolan Archbishop of New York on February 23, 2009, then to the College of Cardinals in January of 2012 a year before Benedict’s curious early retirement and succession by Francis.

Cardinal Dolan is generally regarded as a gifted and entertaining orator, although not “the head of the Catholic Church in America” as glibly reported by the typically clueless Steve Doocy on “Fox and Friends”. Looking for a bit of hierarchical star power at this year’s Commencement ceremonies, Le Moyne was successful in scheduling the Cardinal, although keenly aware that Dolan holds traditional, conservative viewpoints on most major Catholic issues. Certain rigid perspectives have become sharply controversial in contemporary society. Jesuits like to stir things up. In this light, the invitation for Dolan’s appearance before 2015’s graduating class of Millennials worked like a charm.

A petition demanding cancellation of the Cardinal alleged, “Over the years, Cardinal Dolan has been involved with sexual abuse scandals dealing with the clergy, homophobic comments and does not represent the ideals we have come to know at Le Moyne.”

The school firmly stood by its decision. Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura even says the controversy makes her proud: “In reality I see it as a great call for celebration. Our students are questioning decisions we’ve made. They want to understand the rationale at a deeper level. I think Cardinal Dolan will take some joy in the fact that our students are well educated and want more questions answered. It’s a sign of engagement.”

How’s that for spin?

And how cool it was for the Jesuits to appoint Dr. LeMura as President a year ago, making her the first non-ecclesiastical female to lead a Jesuit college or university in the world. Hopefully I am not expressing undue optimism in suggesting this might well be a harbinger of similar positive changes within the Church in days ahead.

Let’s face it, guys. Sometimes these ladies can make us look pretty stupid. Look what Laura Ingraham just did to our very own Fourth District Congressional Representative.

Ms. Ingraham, regarded as a trusted conservative talk show host, was interviewing Representative McClintock. She exclaimed with disappointment: “Oh my God. The idea that you, Tom McClintock, with all of your brainpower on immigration, don’t see the writing on the wall… I’m flabbergasted… Once you pass TPA, the fix is in.”

Laura later told her listeners: “Despite having been the man selected to deliver the GOP’s pitch to the nation on Obama’s massive global trade and labor pact, Rep. McClintock admitted today he’d never read it.”

Then we have Senator Elizabeth Warren scoring a major, unanticipated win over President Obama in “fast track” voting, forcing various changes and adjusted provisions in language before initial Senate passage.

And a 19 year old female college student, Ivy Ziedrich, flummoxed Jeb Bush on the campaign trail by insisting his brother George had “created ISIS”, explaining why she felt so in amazing detail.

The unexpected has become the unavoidable.

Perhaps none too soon.

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me --

But I can't trace time."

David Bowie (1971)

May 14, 2015

"And Then Along Comes Bernie”

He has the same chance as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.

Although my personal choice for election next year to our nation’s highest office remains Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, I’m happy Bernie Sanders is now in the race.

Although Bernie has announced his candidacy as a Democrat, he has acted and voted in Washington as an Independent from Vermont since 2007 – the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.

In identifying his political philosophy through the years, Senator Sanders allies himself with such notable American icons as Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Jack London, Lucille Ball, Harry Belafonte, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, James Baldwin, Woody Guthrie, Ernest Hemingway, Walter Reuther, Kurt Vonnegut and Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bernie Sanders is an avowed “Socialist.”

And – what is “Socialism?”

I’ve avoided quoting Webster’s Dictionary since Junior High and Sister Vincent de Paul’s admonition that doing so should be “the last resort of a first class mind”, but will do so here for purposes of political purity.

Webster says: “Socialism is any of various theories or systems of ownership and means of production and distribution by the society or community rather than by private individuals, with all members sharing in both work and product.”

A critical key to understanding this general definition is the word “various”, since “Socialism” comes in many different flavors and varieties – like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or Campbell soups.

Bernie Sanders describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist.”

Democratic Socialism seeks a delicate, cooperative balance between individual and collective ownership, matching the rewards of private enterprise with the priority of common good as fairly and efficiently as human nature allows.

Those are my own words, Sister de Paul. I can feel you smiling up in Heaven.

We already “own” many things together. That’s where the word, “Commonwealth” comes from. In America, we all share ownership of the police, the military, public schools, our roads, our courts and so on. You get the picture.

Forget what we’re being fed on FOX. Here’s what Bernie the Socialist believes.

* Government should belong to the people. When certain folks say, “Government is bad”, they speak for rule by wealth – however unknowingly. Even though he surely knew better, Ronald Reagan had it down to a science.

* America today witnesses the most unequal income distribution of any major country on earth -- worse than at any time since the 1920s. This must change.

* We need a massive federal jobs program that puts millions of our people back to work and brings about an end to disastrous trade policies that have sent so many jobs overseas.

* The minimum wage should be a living wage with pay equity for women.

* The United States must lead the world in combating climate change and transforming our energy system to efficiency and sustainability.

* Every person in this country who has the desire and ability should be able to get all the education they need regardless of family income.

* The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people. Health care should be a right, not a privilege.

* In a democratic, civilized society -- no one should be hungry or live in desperation. We need to expand Social Security, not cut it.

* We should insist on real tax reform that makes the rich and profitable corporations pay their fair share, not hide loot stashed away in the Cayman Islands.

* As a result of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, American democracy is up for sale to the highest bidder. It must be overturned – if necessary by Constitutional amendment.

When Bernie Sanders formally announced his bid for the Presidency, these were his exact words:

“Ever since I was a kid I never liked to see people without money or connections get put down or pushed around. When I came to Congress I tried to be a voice for people who did not have a voice – the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. And that is what I will be doing as a candidate for president.”

Every major political pundit says the poor guy doesn’t have a chance. He’s up against it all: not owned, yet not owing and not afraid. He looks like a mad professor. But what makes Bernie mad makes me angry too.

In researching this column, I just discovered an amazing thing. Bernie Sanders and I were both born on September 8, 1941 – the first day of The Siege of Leningrad by German forces in World War Two.

This was before Pearl Harbor. At the time, most folks thought there was no way the Nazis wouldn’t win.

 

April 30, 2015

“Hail Elizabeth”

It’s time we put a lady in charge.

She’s not named Hillary.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) comes from a working class background. Her father, a janitor, suffered a heart attack when Elizabeth was twelve. Remaining in school, she subsequently helped support her family as a waitress while excelling as a student at Oklahoma City’s Northwest Classen High School, eventually winning a debating scholarship to George Washington University at the age of 16.

Ensuing years saw her graduate from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science Degree in speech pathology -- then obtain her law degree at Rutgers. She married Jim Warren, a NASA engineer, and became the mother of two, working as a lawyer from home writing wills and handling real estate closings.

After her children entered school, Senator Warren initiated a stunning academic career teaching law at such institutions as Rutgers, The University of Houston, The University of Texas and the University of Michigan. She became a full professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987 and then a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School in 1995. At Harvard, Warren was recognized as one of the most highly cited law professors in the United States with particular expertise in bankruptcy.

Senator Warren voted as a Republican for most of her life until 1995, when she concluded that general financial policy was starting to consistently favor the rich over the poor with potentially threatening long-term consequences.

13 years later, following cataclysmic economic collapse, Elizabeth was recruited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to chair a five member Congressional Oversight Panel. In this capacity, she oversaw implementation of the Emergency Stabilization Act in November of 2008.

Barack Obama bowed to severe political pressure in July of 2010 and failed to appoint Warren as Director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans had feared Elizabeth Warren, Obama’s original choice, would be an ”overly zealous regulator.” Warren resigned from the government – and took on her adversaries.

If she couldn’t beat them – she would fight to join them and obtain equal footing.

In spite of significant, well-funded opposition from major corporate interests, Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown on November 6, 2012 to become the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from the State of Massachusetts. She’s been making history ever since. I hope she makes even more – with election next year as 45th President of the United States.

Ignoring those clamoring clowns bellowing “Benghazi” as though it magically encapsulates unimaginable sins of negligence and naïveté, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton has surely worn out her welcome among those conscientiously concerned. Bill Clinton gets a half-million bucks dressing for the Russians? Come on.

Senator Warren so far remains a loyal soldier, pledged to support Hillary’s bid for ultimate office. Yet Elizabeth has been most outspoken against the Trans-Pacific Partnership pending before Congress, not afraid to take on even President Obama in her strong opposition.

The President told Chris Matthews on MSNBC, “I love Elizabeth, but she’s wrong on this.” Warren’s response? “The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret. Why? Here’s the real answer people have given me: “We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what’s in it, they would be opposed to it.”

Even much of the Tea Party is with Elizabeth on this one in opposing TPP.

“There’s a great number of people in Congress on both sides of the aisle who are very beholden to big business -- the chamber of crony capitalism,” says Jay Devereaux of Unite in Action, a Tea Party group that received heightened scrutiny from the IRS. “It’s all about favors for their buddies, and the average American be damned.”

Let there be no anointing in this land of the free and home of the brave. It’s time to resort to initiative and take bold, decisive action.

Head home, Secretary Clinton, and leave the field open to fresh faces and new ideas. Your legacy will be immeasurably enhanced by such unselfish surrender and gracious withdrawal. Let future generations recall with appreciative commemoration, these words of wisdom:

“Elizabeth Warren never lets us forget that the work of taming Wall Street’s irresponsible risk taking and reforming our financial system is far from finished, and she never hesitates to hold powerful people’s feet to the fire: bankers, lobbyists, senior government officials and, yes, even presidential aspirants.” – Hillary Clinton (April 2015)





 

April 16, 2015

"God Bless Harry Baker"

 

“Judge not, that you not be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” -- Matthew 7: 1-2

After we moved to Oakhurst in November of 2006, I kept seeing Harry Baker’s name all over town. It was here. It was there. It was everywhere.


When I started asking about him, I heard all sorts of stories. It was clear from the outset of my inquiries that here was a man of superior civic consequence. What hadn’t he done?

An honored World War Two veteran and life member of the American Legion and VFW. President of the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce. Eastern Madera County Man of the Year. Oakhurst Sierra Rotary Business Person of the Year. Sierra Historic Sites “Man of the Millennium.” Recipient of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Award. A member of the Madera County Board of Supervisors for twelve years. Yosemite High School’s first Board President. I’m skimming highlights.

Harry Baker’s involvement with charitable endeavors is similarly impressive.

He gave us Oakhurst Community Park, brought an ambulance service to town, was responsible for our annual Community Christmas Tree, led the way to establishing Yosemite High School and was immensely supportive of such area endeavors as The Elks Lodge and Sierra Historic Sites, including Fresno Flats.

Harry Baker’s entrepreneurial genius and stunning triumphs with Sierra Tel are nothing short of breathtaking by any measure, taking a tiny rural phone company and guiding it to a position of major industrial prominence serving tens of thousands with state of the art technology, moving into the future with brilliant leadership and focused determination.

With rare exception, his employees loved him. I’ve spoken with many.

I was delighted when I saw Harry Baker’s passing headlined in our Sierra Star with the words, “Philanthropist Harry Baker dies in Fresno” – for -- of the many qualities he represented, Mr. Baker surely should best be remember by future generations for his remarkably generous contributions in time and treasure to the advancement of this community.

I write this even though I solemnly promised to never again refer to him as “Mr. Baker.”

It was a wintry night in early 2012 when I was returning to my car in front of Von’s and saw an elderly gentleman slowly stepping through a light snowfall to his own vehicle, grocery bag held close and pronounced care taken with every measured move. We had never met, but I couldn’t help but loudly exclaim, ”Good evening, Mr. Baker!” He stopped, stared in my direction, and then proclaimed with feigned annoyance, “My name is NOT Mr. Baker.” Walking toward me with hand extended, he said, “My name is Harry! You call me Harry!”

So I did from that point forward, then and upon several other occasions when we would encounter each other for brief, passing, inconsequential chats as we traveled separately through time.

It still seems impossible reconciling my own impressions of “Harry” and his stunning, lifetime achievements in Oakhurst with the horrid public humiliation that haunted his final years, concluding with six months of incarceration and death under guard -- deserved or not.

Sordid details need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say it would seem to me that admittedly seedy, tawdry, mindless indiscretion was subsequently followed by a tragic legal miscalculation with the debatable victimizer thus turned ultimate victim.

But let Harry Baker be recalled for his best, not his worst.

Goodbye, Harry. I was honored making your acquaintance.

You were a great man.

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.”

Romans 14:10

 

April 2, 2015

"Goodbye, Medicare?"

 

Now – only one man stands in their way.

As our new Republican Congress adjourned for a hardly earned Easter recess last Friday, the Senate completed work on their Fiscal Year 2016 Budget by a final vote of 52 to 46. It slashes $431 billion from Medicare over the next ten years without ever saying how. An earlier House of Representatives budget, approved 228 to 199, was more specific, whacking a cool $148 billion from Medicare funding and converting the program to a voucher system with strict, controlled limitations on benefits.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, states, “Both the House and Senate versions of the budget hurts seniors and puts retirement security at risk. Make no mistake. These budgets are radically anti-retiree.”

It’s a solid fact.

Although a final budget will be structured in conference between House and Senate when Congress reconvenes, no matter whom you voted for or how much it’s become fashionable to publicly despise his name in certain circles as a sign of fraternal conviviality, without Barack Obama — you can kiss Medicare, as we know it, goodbye.

For Republicans, this should be a wake up call. For Democrats, it’s a frightening glance at how close we hover at the abyss.

Both budgets also call for tax breaks into the pockets of millionaires and billionaires, significantly increased defense spending, a sharp cutback in social programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan for little children and, of course, demand a complete end to The Affordable Care Act of 2010 a full five years after its enactment.

This major legislative achievement finally has us on the road to catch up with the rest of the civilized world in universal health care, but has unfortunately encountered the potentially terminal misfortune of being labeled, “Obama Care.” I am convinced if were named “Second Amendment Anti-Sickness Rights” up here in the foothills everyone would love it. And they should.

So as the game kicks in again in DC, we’ll see a bunch of Congressional get-togethers and some sort of compromise language developed which will be folded together, voted upon and sent to our President to be signed into law. This, thank The Lord and all things Holy — including lots of fine Republicans who understand The Sermon on the Mount wasn’t about horseracing — he doesn’t have to do.

An official White House statement says it best:

“The President has been clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration or one that increases funding for our national security without providing matching increases in funding for our economic security. The Administration will continue to abide by these principles moving forward.”

If Cyrano de Bergerac had a very big nose – Barack Obama has an extra big NO!

As we hopefully learned in Social Studies many years ago, a Presidential Veto can only be overcome by a two-thirds vote in each Chamber. Historically, Congress has overridden fewer than ten percent of all presidential vetoes.

Our own Fourth District Congressman Tom McClintock predictably chastised governmental spending in his own budgetary narrative, referencing “the ominously growing shadow of unprecedented debt that has literally double in the last eight years” – outrageously blaming “this administration” for the shortfall, not the trillions of dollars wasted in unnecessary warfare and tax favors for the rich supported by McClintock and his party time and time again.

Any pending theoretical deficits in Medicare or Social Security down the road can be immediately remedied by such measures as increasing the taxable wage cap above the current $118.5 thousand in annual personal income, increasing tax rates on those earning above, say, a million dollars a year or more, and continuing to develop and encourage operational efficiencies.

At a time when economic disparity has never been more pronounced in our American society, many feel we should look at actually increasing Social Security benefits for our elderly. In fact, this exact idea was brought up as a formal budget proposal in the Senate only last week by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The amendment lost on almost a completely straight party line vote.

That was to be expected from this 114th Congress — facing Barack Obama, our Commander-in-Chief through 2016 – unfairly bloodied — but fiercely unbowed.

You may count on him.

 

March 26, 2015

"McClintock's Magical Mystery Meeting"


When both John Pero and I get politically blindsided, it's a rare day indeed.

Perhaps I went too far.

After Fourth District Congressman, Tom McClintock, made his usual local Spring appearance last year at Oakhurst Elementary on April 23rd, my subsequent Sierra Star column, “21st Century Tom”, bemoaned the fact that so few folks had shown up. I wrote, “All that was missing was the chirping of crickets.”

I was hoping next time would bring more people, looking forward to again providing the Congressman with a list of helpful questions to assist in his presentation, although he completely ignored all of them at Oakhurst Elementary, even publicly berating me with the words, “Peter! This is NOT a political meeting.What?

You can only imagine my sudden shock and sad surprise to learn that Tom had come and gone again like a phantom ship slipping by through heavy fog in the dark of night. Even worse, I was discovering this a full ten days after the fact in a headline story published by my very own paper. It was like “The Twilight Zone.”

Then I found out that John Pero hadn’t known about Tom’s visitation either. As Central Valley Oakhurst/Coarsegold Tea Party Coordinator, I respect the fact that John stays right on top of things even as I do on my side of the aisle, making all the more mysterious McClintock’s obvious decision to stage his recent Oakhurst stop as a drive-by.

In asking about, it would appear that Tom McClintock has become quite guarded in limiting his exposure to unscreened questioning and unforeseen challenge with careful and cautious venue selection.

Early this year, his office heavily promoted an evening “Town Hall Meeting” on Tuesday, March 10th to be held at the Mariposa Senior Center – hardly Candlestick Park or even a decent sized Dunkin’ Donuts. As McClintock anchored his day around this strategic centerpiece, it was then the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce became somehow connected -- enticing Tom to travel 27 miles south on Highway 49 and participate in a comparatively exclusive private get together to which the general public and, in fact, much of the Chamber’s own membership list was NOT invited nor informed of the event.

Details on Chamber involvement remain murky, particularly what criterion was used for selecting invitees -- by whom – and why so many were excluded.

While I am heartened by McClintock’s ringing endorsement of the critical need for more water as reported in The Star, he blames this four year drought pretty much exclusively on the Feds, perhaps hoping to carpet with forgiveness his own “Stairway to Heaven” by giving The Lord a pass in the process – just like Congressman Aaron Schock (R – Illinois) wanted his Washington office to look like Downton Abbey.

Well, Tom, here’s the deal.

I’m sorry if I have made you uncomfortable with any column I have ever written containing negative commentary about you, which would be all of them, and herein propose to made amends.

There’s nothing to fear. No more crickets. Come back to Oakhurst and our Community Center and do a real “Town Hall.” John and I could ask the questions, all of which you’ll see beforehand, and you could give the answers. It’ll be fun.

There’ll be a place for everyone who wants to be there.

Wall to wall.

Guaranteed!


 

March 12, 2015

"Shamrock & Roll!"

 

It was a far more joyous time — before accountants were in charge.

With St. Patrick’s Day 2015 hardly more than a hundred thirsty hours away, all sorts of random recollections come reeling through the years, but one unique event leaps to the head of the six-pack.

In 1980, a mere 35 years ago, our WTAC Sales staff had hit and greatly surpassed first quarter target goals. Consequently, as promised, we headed out that morning for a gloriously extended, all expenses paid “lunch” at Paddy McGee’s, Flint’s #1 Irish Pub. It was wall to wall by the time we arrived a bit before 10.

Home by dinnertime, a rare March 17th achievement, I was greeted at the door by my lovely Eileen with a fierce frown and multiple questions.

“Who was the blonde? Who was the redhead?

The best defense is a strong offense.

Feigning shocked surprise and wounded innocence in a futile attempt at borrowing adequate time for situational assessment, I lamely blurted: “WHAT blonde? WHAT redhead?”

“The ones sitting on your lap!”

Oh. Those.

Subsequent review of a leading story that night on ABC 12 revealed yours truly captured in animated merriment with, in fact, two attractive young ladies symmetrically arranged with one on each knee, beneath which read a caption presented in screaming green font proclaiming: “WTAC’s Peter C. Cavanaugh celebrates St. Patrick’s Day at Paddy McGee’s!”

Yes. That.

As the years bring to most of us a measure of responsible maturity, I reluctantly suppose I am pleased to report that such moments have become more rare than any remotely similar occasion recently realized. Yet that particular St. Patrick’s Day in Flint is the one I fondly remember most — outrageously self-busted in front of tens of thousands or not.

Being of Irish descent on both the paternal and maternal side of things, St. Paddy’s Day has always been a particularly special occasion from my earliest memories. Accordingly, radio promotions celebrating such a special day during Michigan years were inevitably subject to sharply focused and significantly extended creative attention.

We gave away six pound notes drawn on the Bank of Ireland, itself, during the entire month of March. Our station also won a Gold “Addy” award from the Flint Advertising Federation for designing WTAC “Lepre-Cans” featuring “an actual leprechaun trapped inside his magical chamber of eternal enchantment.” We gave these away every hour for a week. Winners were warned, “No Refunds If Opened!”

We recruited a dozen volunteers from “Little People of America”, dressed them up in wild emerald green and had them picket the station March 17th with signs protesting “Leprechaun Bowling”, an audio fantasy being simultaneously produced and broadcast by our morning DJ. We received live coverage during newscasts on both Flint and Detroit TV. An accord was finally reached with bowling ended and peace restored.

Everyone then piled into our ”WWCK 105 Super Van”, including those leprechauns, who now waved large shamrock shaped signs declaring: “One O’ Five FM – Irish Radio!” For the rest of the day and into the night, we visited every major bar within a fifty-mile radius distributing “WWCK Lepre-Condoms” tastefully engraved with our station logo – amiably encouraging “safe Irish sex.”

That was in 1984, when Flint’s “FM One O’ Five” became the highest-rated Rock station in America.

With St. Patrick’s Day now celebrated around the world since the great Irish Diaspora, March 17th is a Holy Day of Obligation in Ireland. You’re supposed to be in church.

In Oakhurst, given my own take on blessed surroundings, I’ll be looking for you next Tuesday at The Brewery, Roman’s Bar, The Dirty Donkey, The Oak Room and The Hitching Post in Ahwahnee — wearing my official Dublin City “Roma Atletica” Full Zip Track Jacket.

Made in Pakistan.

February 26, 2015

“Bad Bibi”

I do not welcome Benjamin Netanyahu to America.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, is scheduled to address a Joint Session of Congress next Wednesday in a major, historic breach of traditional protocol, political etiquette and basic good manners – the ones our mommies taught us all.

In a disappointing and disgusting overreach of authority and in a pathetic attempt to appear relevantly assertive, Speaker of the House John Boehner officially invited a panicked Netanyahu to enjoy this unique honor and privilege without White House knowledge or approval. In attempting to show Barack Obama who is boss and in charge, Boehner has only succeeded in woefully displaying yet another reason he will never be either.

“Bibi” is running for re-election back home as Israeli voters will head for the polls and select a new Knesset, the unicameral legislature of Israel, on March 17th. Netanyahu, no Saint Patrick by any measure, has seen his national approval ratings plummet by a full 50% since last August, falling from 77% to a current 38%.

Netanyahu’s horribly one-sided retribution against relatively ineffective rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza last summer earned him dismay and scorn from most of the watching world.

The 50-day conflict in Gaza between Israel and vastly inferior militant opposition left at least 2,189 Palestinians dead, including more than 1,486 civilians, and 11,000 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, with scores more wounded.

The International Criminal Court announced last month that it is launching a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes committed in Palestinian territories. The ICC, which is independent of the United Nations, was established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Now facing recently surfaced accusations of misusing public funds at his private residence, Netanyahu has petulantly and obstinately demonstrated limited patience with our current administration’s efforts to reach a more stable peace in the Middle East.

Insisting upon a complete freeze of increased settlement construction by Israel on the West Bank as a critical step in this direction, President Obama stated in 2009, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of more Israeli settlements.” Even though this position has since been modified in diplomatic efforts aimed at placating “Bibi’s” characteristic belligerence, major new friction with Netanyahu has developed over negotiations with Iran in attempts to eliminate the possibility of Tehran developing nuclear weapons.

As with other Washington initiatives of a similar nature, Benjamin Netanyahu has gone out of his way to effectively sabotage such efforts by our President and State Department at each and every turn.

Now, thanks to John Boehner, a resolutely self-defined foreign adversary has been given the opportunity to undermine our elected leader before a worldwide audience from the very center of American power.

I herein emphasis that “Bibi” is the referenced adversary here, most definitely NOT the State or people of Israel. Although FOX News and other right-leaning media mouthpieces have been droning endlessly about Israel being ignored and abandoned by Washington, such allegations are staggeringly stupid and easily refuted by even the most casual review of our decades of relationship with Tel Aviv and the mutually friendly nature of our permanently established status, however ignorantly challenged.

Netanyahu’s cynical attempt to divide and conquer popular opinion by exploiting our continually perplexing polarity is understandable, but unforgivable.

Regardless of party affiliation, a fundamental pillar of our political process has been to address the rest of the world with a single voice – that of our Constitutional President.

Like it or loathe it, that President is currently Barack Obama.

“Bibi?”

Stay home!


February 12, 2015

"American Sniper”

At first view, I held my breath from start to finish.

I've seen it twice since.

When Howard Stern interviewed Bradley Cooper on satellite radio in early December, Howard asked how someone as old as 84 year-old Clint Eastwood could have possibly directed such a remarkable film at his advanced age. Cooper, whose portrayal of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is positively metamorphic and, hopefully, Academy Award winning, laughed aloud and passionately exclaimed, “Howard! What people need to realize is that Clint can make a film like this only BECAUSE he’s 84!

From the eerie chanting of morning Islamic prayer across a barren, sadly foreboding Iraqi landscape to closing credits rolling over actual video footage of Kyle’s memorial services in Texas, “American Sniper” is a cinematic masterpiece. The fact that it has broken all-time box office records is secondary to the extraordinary quality of the remarkable work itself.

This is not a pro-war or anti-war production, although I would subjectively tend to lean toward the latter. “American Sniper” is ultimately a complex character study as to what forces bend and shape a modern day warrior and, most importantly, the price at times paid for such a triumphant, yet potentially tragic transfiguration.

Navy SEALS do not choose war. Faithfully and obediently following orders from leaders whom we, the people, select, they ARE war.

Rushing in where angels fear to tread, my old friend Michael Moore saw fit to tag the movie’s opening weekend with an online “Twitter” message stating that Martin Luther King, whose birthday was being simultaneously commemorated, had been killed by a sniper.

Michael wrote: “ My Dad was in the First Marine Division in the South Pacific in World War II. His brother, my uncle, Lawrence Moore, was an Army paratrooper and was killed by a Japanese sniper 70 years ago next month. My Dad always said, "Snipers are cowards. They don't believe in a fair fight.”

The flying-monkey right quickly translated this into: “Michael Moore Calls Dead Navy SEAL Coward!” and we were off to the races, even though Michael made no mention of Kyle or the movie in his uniquely untimely remarks.

My cousin, Rorke Denver, eloquently stated a sharply differing perspective that was published several days later in The Wall Street Journal. Rorke, now a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve, appeared as “Lieutenant Rorke” in the SEAL movie, “Act of Valor” and served with Chris Kyle as a teammate on SEAL Team Three.

Among numerous other points, Rorke emphasized: “Snipers engage individual threats. Rarely, if ever, do their actions cause collateral damage. Snipers may be the most humane of weapons in the military arsenal. The job also takes a huge emotional toll on the man behind the scope.”

I would add that creative deception in warfare can be fancifully traced as far back as those “Dawn of Man” monkeys in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Monolith-enlightened, they surprise, ambush and defeat enemy apes with jawbone weaponry. Tools! It is striking and more than a bit ironic to observe that Sir Arthur C. Clarke saw fit to present this “military victory” as the first meaningful display of higher intelligence in human history.

But the efficacy of naked force no longer holds viable sway, alas; an epic sea change first witnessed in early August of 1945 with mushroom clouds boiling over Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- introducing “The Atomic Age.”

Ever since, only assured mutual destruction has kept us from a new and final World War.

How strange such reality has become so elusive in our thoughts – as renewed cries for “boots on the ground” rise again in certain quarters, ignoring the selfless sacrifices expended on our behalf by those heroes now -- in the ground.

Including Chris Kyle.

January 29, 2015

"Missing Mister”

“You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between”

“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” --
Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer (1944)

Mister In-Between is not only missing, but the first two lines of that Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters classic have been flipped like a flapjack. “Gotcha” carries the day – good news gone away.

It’s a money thing.

When I started my broadcast career back in the late ‘50’s at WNDR in Syracuse monitoring police scanners, checking updates from a Western Union teletype machine and writing local copy, virtually every station in town had a full time newsroom, staffed around the clock.

Providing extensive local news coverage was seen as a critical public service, serving the community as an important consideration in being granted a license by the Federal Communication Commission to operate over limited public broadcast frequencies. This was true for both radio and television. In the pioneering days of “free market broadcasting”, anyone could go on the air on any frequency with any power they wanted. The predictable result was a chaotic cacophony of unintelligible gibberish. Can you imagine a busy intersection without traffic lights or stop signs? Same idea. Regulation was required.

Subsequently, the business model for radio and eventually television allowed enormous profits to be generated from paid advertising in return for presenting a certain amount of public affairs and public service programming, particularly emphasizing news. This was spelled out by competing entities that pledged specific percentages in their license applications and renewals. An informed electorate was seen as essential to democracy.

Alas, all of this is long gone. Such noble intent has now been swept away by the prioritization of profit over public policy. “News” must score ratings. Only this directly and immediately impacts revenue.

Here human nature takes over. What sounds better? Vegetables and vitamins or candy and cookies? Me, too! But our current diet of journalistic jam offers little more than immediate gratification at the expense of critical thinking, a recipe for the triumph of ignorance over information.

Negativity reigns supreme. Its alluring attraction is hard-wired in us all. Do we secretly prefer Gospel or gossip? Truth or trash? Salvation or sin?

With indifference to integrity, performance takes powerful precedence.

The new darling of FOX News, the attractive and vivacious Megyn Kelly, snarled her way past both Sean Hannity and Bill O’ Reilly in the recent November ’14 ratings sweeps to become #1 and Queen of Cable TV. She’s brutally candid about what it takes. According to a profile in the New York Times Magazine, Megyn enthusiastically states she would have gladly gone to work for MSNBC, her current progressive competitor, ten years ago when she was seeking a network position. “I’d have done O.K. there, too”, she unabashedly states – humility taking a back seat to honesty.

Last year’s 43-8 blowout of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII scored 111.5 million viewers on Fox TV. This year’s Presidential State of the Union Address was watched by only 33.3 million on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, Azteca, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC combined. That’s less than one-third of those football fans and barely ten percent of our overall population.

Why worry about unemployment, foreign affairs, immigration issues, the national debt, an outrageous and shocking disparity in wealth distribution and our collective future as a nation when there’s a “Deflate-gate” to debate?

That’s not to say we won’t be discussing the results of this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX at our February Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club on Saturday, February 7th, at Denny’s. But we’ll also be hearing from our new California Highway Patrol Commander, Jason Daughrity, as we welcome him to the area. He’ll have some important things to say you won’t hear on the radio.

Breakfast is at 8:30 and the program starts at 9:30. As moderator, I keep things moving along. You don’t have to be a Democrat to attend and/or actively participate in discussions. It’s a democracy. Whatever your political persuasion, you’ll do O.K. with us, too.

See you at Denny’s!

January 8, 2015

“Delaware North vs. US

That’s how it’s coming down.

Delaware North vs. The People of the United States.

It’s January 8, 2015. On this date in history, the first American commercial corporation was chartered as The New York Fishing Company in 1625.

Today we see the Delaware North Companies claiming ownership of these names: The Ahwahnee Hotel, Badger Pass, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel and Yosemite Lodge. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, such allegation arises as the National Park Service is accepting bids for a new concessionaire’s agreement at Yosemite with the submission window now closing on January 20th.

Curiously, Delaware North had yet to officially put itself in the running at the start of this New Year, although it’s had plenty of time to do so. DNC has only held the current contract since 1993. It was supposed to expire in 2008, but was extended by mutual agreement until now.

This privately held corporation, one of the world’s largest, says it wants 51 million dollars for “intellectual property rights” to Yosemite names, several of which date back more than 100 years – the Wawona Hotel to 1865 and Curry Village to 1899. Perhaps it’s going to bail and simply wants a goodbye sweetener?

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman is quoted as being surprised by DNC’s position, saying, “These names belong to the American people.”

I couldn’t agree more. Judging from area comments coming from all sides of the political spectrum, I’m certainly not alone.

John Pero, Oakhurst/Coarsegold Tea Party Coordinator, states, “I think Delaware North is trying what Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton are so good at. A shakedown of any business or group that doesn’t agree with them. This is nothing more than a blackmail attempt by DNC to poison the well and attempt to make it extremely difficult for any other concessionaire to win the bid at Yosemite. Get the hook and remove them, they’ve overstayed their welcome. “

Madera County District 5 Township Supervisor Tom Wheeler expressed his chagrin. “What I really don't understand is how DNC got the trademarks without our park service knowing about it. Someone dropped the ball. Now everyone who bids faces a disadvantage. But I do think DNC does a really good job.”

George Whitmore of the Sierra Club, among the first to successfully ascend El Capitan in 1958, notes that the DNC also succeeded in trademarking the name of the Park itself. He observes, "Yosemite National Park" is a name that DNC now claims. I guess I won't be able to peddle my "Yosemite National Park" T-shirts at the Fresno County Fair next fall.” Whitmore continues, “I suspect that DNC has kicked the sleeping dog. Renewal of the concession contract had been a non-issue until now, but this has awakened the public to the fact that there is something to be concerned about. “

While Yosemite action, valued at over 140 million dollars annually, was Delaware’s first venture into operating within a National Park, it has since extended its involvement to the Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yellowstone. Is the name “Old Faithful” now regarded as Company property? How about “North Rim”, “Park Gate” or “Shenandoah?” DNC is even running the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Will they soon say the names Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and poor little Pluto belong to them? We’ll see what Walt Disney has to say about that last one.

What I find most surprising in this whole creepy development is that my own experience with DNC has been nothing but positive since moving to Oakhurst eight years ago. Up to and including highest executive levels, I have always found local DNC employees to be extraordinarily helpful, thoughtful, competent and thoroughly professional in every way without exception.

There’s something happening here I just don’t understand.



December 26, 2014

“Flashback Friday”

A massive breach of Internet security? “The Interview” terror-ripped from theaters? Coziness with Cuba? Russia’s critical economic woes? Now Harry’s heading for trial?

Noting that today (12/26) marks the final Sierra Star edition of 2014, reeling from a sudden onslaught of truly major items during what is normally a super slow news cycle and observing that a year-end review would override perilous prioritization of freshly presented concerns, here’s where I weasel out of anything heavier than a quick retrospective of 2014 by column title.

While “For Your Consideration” runs weekly, Alan Cheah and I take turns at these tiny tomes, so this rundown will cover only my own humble contributions, although we often view the same material through different lenses. Mine were surgically implanted five years ago, so technical clarity is assured. I submit Mr. Cheah offers similar optical and political proficiency with his efforts.

In January, “Getting Some” reflected on national polarization and the unfortunate closure of Yosemite with Representative Tom McClintock called to task for voting to shut things down – a theme repeated in subsequent columns.

In early February, “Chances with Francis” brought praise for the new Pope and shared a bit of background from my own Jesuit education and lessons from a tough teacher – former Federal fugitive, Father Daniel Berrigan. Along with straightening out Church matters, I’m delighted our Holy Father announced only days ago that dogs might go to Heaven. Hopefully, kitties too.

Later that month, “Get In The Game” offered Beatles’ memories from 50 years earlier on The Ed Sullivan Show and invited all locally to become more politically involved, particularly by attending “The Great Debate” between candidates for District Attorney – presented by the Oakhurst Democratic Club at the Oakhurst Community Center.

March 6th saw “Winners”, so designating as such those filling the Community Center a week earlier. Prominent Oakhurst attorney David Linn challenged incumbent Michael Keitz and newcomer Miranda Neal in competition eventually leading to Mr. Linn’s impressive November victory. Then “Wooly Bully” revived President Eisenhower’s warnings about the “Industrial Military Complex” with the U.S. still spending more than the next dozen nations of the world combined, including 20 times as much as Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

April 3rd introduced “A Moore who’s not Michael” -- welcoming Major Art Moore into the Fourth Congressional Race as a young Republican running against Representative McClintock. On the 17th, “Freedom in the Fourth” heralded a pending visit to Oakhurst by our Congressman, including a list of pertinent questions to assist him.
“21st Century Tom” on May 1st started with the words, “All that was missing was the chirping of crickets” -- bemoaning a sparse turnout as Tom personally chastised this columnist for believing it was “a political meeting.” I still haven’t figured that one out.

“Ozzie Benghazi” in mid-May took to task unwarranted fixation on molehills turned to mountains as Obama-hate continues unabated on the far, far right. The month ended with “Tuesday is Choose Day”, urging voter turnout in the critical June Primaries.

On June 12th, “A Prodigal Son” discussed the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity in the context of evaluating proportionate evil, including an illustration of such from the film, “Gravity.” “From Sea To Shining Sea” on the 26th shared reflections from a 2,572 coast-to-coast flight -- witnessing in compressed time this great, sprawling country of ours on an amazingly clear journey at 525 miles per hour six miles high.

It was cinematic adulation July 10th with “Dawn? Plan It!” – perhaps too esoteric a title in praising and promoting “Dawn of The Planet of the Apes” – now my favorite monkey movie of all time. “Water Whirl” on July 24th discussed my first attendance at a Tea Party Meeting, which I found socially enjoyable, if not intellectually illuminating.

“No Hope For Ray” on August 7th outlined the national decline of conservative talk programming, particularly Ray Appleton on Fresno’s KMJ. August 21st and “Forty-Five Years Gone” commemorated Woodstock with promises made and commitments lost.

“Choose or Loose” and “More from Moore” again stressed the importance of political participation, inviting everyone to Oakhurst Democratic Club meetings in September and October presenting all major candidates for local office in public forum.

“God Save the Queen” October 2nd stressed the importance of striving for national unity in the face of formidable odds, while “Ground Zero” on the 16th recounted the plight of Flint, Michigan – once home of the highest paid workers in the entire industrial world. “The Ghost of Elections Past” was a final pre-election Halloween piece on the 30th.

“Frozen” from November 13th predicted a continuing post-election gridlock in Washington with hope that Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts might provide a rallying point for Progressives. Hey! She just did! “No More Mister Nice Guy” on the 27th projected a more energized, proactive Barack Obama in his final two years as President. Wow! Check out that Cuban move!

“Llilyhammer” two weeks ago concluded with a wistful, fanaticized resolution of the Chukchansi standoff, but don’t hold your breath.

Now here’s “Flashback Friday.”

Final thought for the year?

For 2015, why wait for a storm to pass? Political or climatological. Let’s dance in the rain!

Lots and lots of rain!


 

December 11, 2014

“Lilyhammer”

The dog gets it first.

I was going to open with a “Spoiler Alert”, but Frankie “The Fixer” Tagliano’s treasured pooch, “Lily” is sadly caught in a hail of savage gunfire during opening seconds of Episode One, so that’s how everything starts -- with an end.

This triggers Frankie’s retributive decision to accept refuge in a Witness Protection Program dangled by The Feds as enticement to turn on his assailants. Fondly recalling the 1994 Winter Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway and deciding to honor his dog’s memory, Tagliano chooses the pristine little town of “Lilyhammer” as his new home and the adventure begins.

“Lilyhammer” presents odd juxtapositions on any number of levels.

Here we have a European TV series starring Steven Van Zandt, known to rockers around the world as “Little Steven,” lead guitar and mandolin player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Steven appears as Frankie -- essentially encoring and duplicating his eight-year role being “Silvio Dante” in HBO’s multiple award winning “The Sopranos.”

You can also catch Van Zandt’s outstanding DJ work hosting “Underground Garage” on Sirius/XM’s Channel 21 featuring the greatest Rock & Roll of all time. Steven picks everything played. He’s never wrong.

But “Lilyhammer” is as politically incorrect as one might possibly imagine. That’s the charm. If there might be any perceived harm, such would be solely due to lack of appreciation for brilliant execution (a perfect verb in this context) of an outrageously absurd, darkly comedic premise.

“Lilyhammer” takes a little getting used to. Much of the spoken dialogue is in Norwegian with English subtitles as gangster clichés pile up like a rugby scrum, a beautiful schoolteacher falls head over heels for our hard-core hero and curious cultural clashes abound.

With breathtaking wintry scenes as background, Frankie (a.k.a. “Giovanni Henrickson”) pretty much gets his way with everything, but cruel fate intervenes at the most unlikely of moments time and time again, interspersed with more plot twists and turns than Chubby Checker on a Starbucks jag.

When “Lilyhammer” made its debut on Norway’s NRK25 in January of 2012, it scored 998,000 viewers. That would translate to one fifth of the country’s entire population. A similar rating in the States would be 60 million folks. Last week’s #1 program, NBC Sunday Night Football, drew less than a third that number. Producers knew they had an instantaneous smash with “Lilyhammer.” The series has now been sold to over 130 countries worldwide.

It’s a major Netflix hit here at home as it enters production on a third eight-episode season in Norway. Rumor has it Springsteen will be playing Frankie’s “Lilyhammer” bar this year. How cool.

I hadn’t heard of “Lilyhammer” until recently and quickly fell victim to its oddly attractive addiction. With unrelenting craziness and insolent insanity, it offers irreverent escape from all the true travails endlessly escalating in this “real world” of ours.

Will police vest cameras meaningfully curtail authoritative violence when a coroner-determined “death by homicide” is video recorded from start to finish and seemingly ignored by secretive Grand Jury proceedings that conclude no wrong was done?

What will it takes to meaningfully address the continuing collapse of our national infrastructure from coast to coast with disastrous catastrophic failure all but guaranteed within the next decade?

How can threats of yet another “government shutdown” with Yosemite closed once more be considered a viable political option by any but anthropoids?

It’s all beyond my understanding, but there’s one thing I know for sure.

If Frankie Tagliano needs to go on the lam again, I hope he chooses Oakhurst.

There’s a great big building on a hill nearby that needs fixing.


Chukchansi Hotel & Casino -- Coarsegold, California

Temporarily Closed Due To Tribal Conflicts



November 27, 2014

“Bye-Bye Nice Guy!”


Only 14% of American voters voiced approval for the 113th Congress in polling averages just prior to our November 4th election. This came as no surprise since the 113th enjoys the dubious distinction of being the least productive two-year legislative session in modern times.

Then 96.4% of incumbents were triumphantly re-elected.

In the immortal words of Star Trek’s Dr. Spock -- “This is highly illogical!”

The “new” 114th Congress starting in January will be the same as its predecessor– just a bit more Republican -- except a tipping point was reached in the Senate. The GOP will now lead both chambers, really hitting the brakes with new reactionary and obstructive chairpersons in place and in charge.

Since fewer than one out of five citizens voted in support of this vacuous victory, any claims that the 114th represents the “will of the American people” is delusional and pretentious.

But it’s also embarrassingly clear that the Democratic Party was disappointingly ineffective at generating meaningful support from the younger “Millennial” (18-33) age group, performed poorly at sustaining earlier minority momentum such as that witnessed in 2012 and, most importantly, failed miserably at adequately responding with an energized, confident counter attack against hundreds of millions of Obama Hate dollars dramatically in evidence, flooding the airwaves and our collective consciousness with relentless efficiency from coast to coast.

In lacking the intestinal fortitude and testicular courage to firmly stand behind their elected national leader with dedicated conviction, the Democratic Party hierarchy blew it big this time.

Republicans were brilliantly successful in hanging Barack HUSSEIN Obama out to dry. Now they pay the price.

Although Ronald Regan and four other Republican Presidents used executive authority to act on immigration issues, President Obama’s decision to finally deliver meaningful, promised resolution in many important areas of legitimate concern has exploded with predictable outrage on the right and powerful ovations on the left.

I am delighted our Commander-in-Chief is moving with such resolute determination in the face of deeply entrenched opposition hardly loyal to him in the past. Despite repeated efforts at collegiality, conciliation and cooperation from the day Barack Obama assumed office in January of 2009, our soon to be Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has been dedicated to the President’s destruction with more than ample documentation of same easily accessible. All of this was again echoed only weeks ago in our most recent election cycle with billionaire backing. Think of that.

It’s weird. My main disappointment to date with the President is that he hasn’t done in his first six years what everyone on the far right boisterously claims he HAS done. He’s been much more a conscientious “community leader” than “king”, “dictator”, “tyrant” or “demagogue” to our decided disadvantage.

Why did President Obama leave highly promising “Single Payer” mechanics out of earliest discussions leading to The Affordable Care Act?

Why did the President approve the ill-fated, failed 20,000-troop Afghanistan “surge” in late 2009?

Why have deportations of undocumented immigrants soared under his watch with border fencing, security patrols and technical surveillance substantially increased?

Because all along -- he’s been trying to get along.

Alas, it’s time for Alice.

“ I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing –‘til they got a hold of me.
I’d open doors for little old ladies. I helped the blind to see.
But I’ve got no friends ‘cause they read the papers.
Now I’m feeling mean.”

Alice Cooper -- ’”No More Mister Nicer Guy.” (1973)

Here it comes, Mitch.

No more Mr. Nice Guy!



November 13, 2014

"Frozen!"

 

Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf aside – icy times are straight ahead.


Since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the U.S. stock market has almost TRIPLED in value — the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbing from 6,443 on March 6, 2009 to 17,568 on November 7, 2014. Unemployment has dropped from 10% in October of 2009 to 5.8% today. The federal deficit has declined from 9.8% of Gross Domestic Product in the 2008/2009 fiscal year to 2.8% at the end of September 2014 – a figure smaller than its average over the past 40 years of 3.1%.


All of this took place after our collective national treasury was drained by trillions of dollars lost in unnecessary warfare and our world suffered a near total collapse of the global economy – both the catastrophic consequence of sadly misguided, horribly managed, ill-fated Republican rule under the woefully misbegotten, however well-intended presidency of George W. Bush.
In a mind bending, stomach churning, tragic illustration of the age-old axiom that no good deeds go unpunished, less than 20% of the American people bent to the will of big money politics on Election Day ’14 and rewarded horrendous abrogation with historic elevation.


That’s all it took. Not even 1 out of 5. Do the math.


Crushingly conservative, polarized, deeply divisive forces will now control the 114th Congress starting in January with Republican domination of the House and Senate enjoying numerical dominance by the largest margin since the early 1940’s.
Here’s what’s going to happen these next two years. Nothing.


Founding Father Patrick Henry’s prophetic words gravely pronounced at the conclusion of his final public speech in March of 1799 have never rung truer. United we stand, but divided we fall. We are not united.


Disunity carried the day on November 4th, locking us into two more years of temporarily irreversible political paralysis. Abraham Lincoln’s government “of the people, by the people, for the people” threatens to be further gutted by renewed attempts at reactionary reduction. A President sworn to defend our Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic — will hopefully hold such measures in check.
Checkmate. Not stalemate.


Even the most novice chess player knows checkmating one’s opponent normally wins the game. But there will be no winners here.
The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a report stating that child poverty in America is at its highest point in 20 years, putting millions of children at increased risk of injuries, infant mortality and premature death. 25% of children don’t have enough food to eat and 7 million have no health insurance. For far too many, the land of the free has become home of the hungry.


According to the Rupert Murdock owned Wall Street Journal, the gap between the richest and poorest Americans has widened even more.


The top 3% of our population now own more than twice as much as the bottom 90% combined – 54.4% to 24.7%. And the top 1% actually own 37% of everything with the other 99% stuck with what’s left. There’s no other country in the developed world with such a degree of economic disparity. Think about that.


Forbes magazine reports today’s Chief Executive Officer earns 331 times as much as the average worker and 774 times as much as a minimum wage employee putting in a full 40 hour week without benefits.


But we can always count on Walt Disney for hope and inspiration.


As real life imitates art, a fearless Princess is coming to our rescue.


Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is right.
“The game is rigged and the Republicans rigged it.”

Senator Warren is not talking about Republican voters. Her reference
Is toward unelected leadership at the very top of an all but invisible power pyramid representing an unparalleled concentration of wealth and influence –aimed at getting lots more of everything they can for themselves while leaving much, much less for everyone else.
I’m in the “everyone else” bunch.


And believe the moment has come for the ultra rich to find a conscience and abandon their bought and paid for stranglehold on American politics.


Time to – “Let it go.”

October 30, 2014

"The Ghost of Elections Past"

 

Erin go bragh? Erin go BOO!


Not a St. Patrick’s Day goes by without the spirited shouting of “Erin go bragh!” in every Irish pub worth its weight in leprechauns.
Yes! “Ireland forever!”


But rarely is heard,” Oíche Shamhna Shona!” even whispered in the most hushed of tones, even though “Happy Halloween” would surely be appropriate in the language of those who decided to honor their dead eons ago with a special day of dedicated remembrance. They lit bonfires and dressed in disguises.


“Samhain” (pronounced So-ween’) has pre-Christian roots in Ireland and was regarded as a magical time at the end of summer when spirits, fairies and souls of the dead could more easily cross between worlds. The practice of ritualistic commemoration has been echoed in many other cultures around the world since time began.


Never inclined to let a good pagan holiday go to waste, the Roman Catholic Church in the 9th century shifted the date of All Saints Day to November 1st and named November 2nd, “All Souls Day.” The ancient festival of Samhain is regarded in many esoteric circles as “The Celtic New Year”


And here comes November 4th – Election Day 2014 – another special moment offering genuine potential for fresh beginnings.


Tom McClintock has haunted the halls of Congress long enough.
For more than three decades, this classic specter of a self-serving career politician has known nothing but a relatively sheltered existence with pension benefits and a life style guaranteed and subsidized by hard working taxpayers. Since 2009, he has earned the dubious distinction of being the most reactionary representative on the Tea Party right whose main claim to fame was shutting down Yosemite last fall.


When trapped, he disingenuously snarls back with fanciful facts and loose logic.


In the September 16th issue of the Sierra Star, I wrote, “Sheriff John Anderson, about to leave office after seventeen years of outstanding service to the community, publicly observed that his personal efforts to obtain intervention from Congressman McClintock in the ongoing dispute over Chukchansi tribal control have been in vain. Moreover, Sheriff Anderson reports that McClintock has never even displayed the professional courtesy of returning any of his calls.”


Subsequently, the Star published a response from McClintock stating, “Peter Cavanaugh accuses my office of ignoring a request for assistance from Sheriff John Anderson.” He then proceeded to allege that his “staff” intervened and, by his own admission, accomplished nothing.


No, Congressman. I stand by my story that you failed to personally return any of the Sheriff’s calls or deal with him directly yourself, leaving resolution of this critical and now tragic situation to hapless office flunkies you can blame for failure. Up here in the mountains we know the difference.


Art Moore is a hard driving, combat-tested, Conservative Republican who gets my vote next Tuesday. He led our troops in war. I will be proud having him lead our 4th Congressional District in Washington.
And there’s a former Navy Commander I’ll also be supporting. David Linn promises to restore public trust. His endorsements are outstanding and, by any standard, completely outmatch those of his competitor. David Linn will make an exceptional District Attorney. I’m delighted he’s in the race.

And where will you be Election Night?


The Oakhurst Democratic Club will be raising funds for our Eleanor Roosevelt Community Service Awards, each year providing scholarship assistance to graduating seniors from Yosemite High School.


Here’s the deal. My colleague, Alan Cheah, and I will be acting as “Celebrity Bartenders” at Crab Cakes, “acting” being the operative word. Look for us upstairs Tuesday night in Roman’s Bar from 6 till 9:30.


And here’s an important tip. Get there early for free food. There’ll be home-fried Tortilla chips and salsa, domestic cheese and crackers, Buffalo wings with whiskey BBQ sauce, meatballs with cabernet cream sauce, Risotto Aranchinis with Shitake mushrooms, cream cheese, and assorted fruit.


We’ll be tracking election returns by all electronic means available, including TV’s, Laptops, iPads, iPhones, Androids and Miracle Ears.
We’ll even stick our heads out the window listening for howls of joy or scowls of scorn from winners or losers aimlessly wandering through the night — hoping for one particular ghostly gasp signaling the beginning of a new era in our underserved Fourth Congressional District.
It’s time.

 

October 16, 2014

"Ground Zero"

It’s a sad little town.

The week The Beatles were first introduced to American viewers in February of 1964, I began what was to become an extended relationship with Flint, Michigan.

Having left my hometown of Syracuse, I joined the air staff of WTAC radio as nighttime DJ during Flint’s halcyon era as the city enjoyed global recognition for being home of the highest paid industrial workers in the entire free world.

Virtually every entity in town was organized, many affiliated with the mighty United Auto Workers, whose struggle for economic justice won a milestone victory in 1937 after a historic sit-down strike at Flint’s Fisher Body #1, leading to the eventual signing of the first contract ever between General Motors and the union. That next year, UAW membership grew from 30,000 to 500,000.

Workers in other organizations quickly followed suit.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians represented every radio and TV station in the market, including WTAC. NABET Local 46 President, Clair Bowser, was control operator during my shift — meaning he ran all the technical equipment and I just talked.

We enjoyed such benefits as free health care with dental and vision fully covered, paid life insurance, guaranteed wage increases, unlimited sick days, up to four weeks of annual vacation time and similar perquisites as a matter of honest exchange. We weren’t “entitled.” It was earned.

I left the air after joining management in 1974, promoted up through the ranks to become president of the station in 1979. But for most of 1974, I was still “Peter C.” and all the kids at Flint Southwestern High listened regularly.

Little Lou Werbe was calling for requests and dedications all the time back then, but I was amazed a few months ago when he contacted me anew. Lou is now the 6’5 Chief Operating Officer of a major Los Angeles general contracting firm with a client list which includes dozens of America’s top companies. He wondered what it would take to have “Peter C.” as DJ at the 40th High School Reunion of the Flint Southwestern Class of 1974. I told him such an event would be my first time back in Flint as a disc jockey in 40 years, but if he’d send me the plane tickets, I’d be there. He did and I was.

Last Saturday night, the Flint Country Club rocked way past midnight with hot music turned up loud as the Class of 1974 celebrated the moment and each other with loving kindness, caring and affection now extended throughout their lives. It was obvious. Some things you just can’t fake.

And you can’t ignore the sad realities of Flint today.

General Motors employment in Flint has dropped from 80,000 in 1978 to under 8,000. Correspondingly, the city’s population has plummeted from 200,000 in 1964 to under half of that in 2014, the first time it’s been under 100,000 since the 1920s. Buildings, factories and former homes have been abandoned by the thousands. Entire blocks rest in ruins. Poverty is omnipresent.

There’s an important connection Flint has with Oakhurst.

Jery Stewart Lacayo passed away only weeks ago.

Quoting my friend, Les Marsden, in this month’s issue of “The Mountain Democrat: “It’s unimaginable that any other person so greatly influenced the course of organized local Democratic institutions in these mountains as Jery Stewart Lacayo.”
Jery’s grandfather was the legendary Wyndham Mortimer — firebrand leader of the early UAW. It was Mortimer who ignored threats on his life and organized Flint’s Sit Down Strike — a true tipping point in the American labor movement, then personally negotiated the first General Motors — UAW agreement.

Michael Moore’s Uncle LaVerne was another major strike organizer and participant. It’s been a full quarter-century since the release of Mike’s landmark “Roger & Me,”gaining ever-increasing recognition as being powerfully prophetic. In 2013 the film was added to the official National Film Registry, a unique distinction.

Twenty-five years ago, Michael showed us the future. Work was crossing borders. Free trade had no barriers. The free market economy only provided freedom to those able to pay for it. Money and power became concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
Flint was ground zero for the beginning of our American middle class decline.

A visit there brings sorrow.

And commitment to a better tomorrow.

That’s what I spoke about at Monday’s Flint Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, encouraging entrepreneurial leadership and individual initiative, but most of all, thanking those in attendance for staying so long when so many others have left.

Striving for the day when so many things can once again be made in America.

And shared by all.

 

October 2, 2014

"God Save The Queen!"

On September 17th, we were halfway to St. Patrick’s Day.

God save the Queen!

The ground around Ballyoughter, Ireland is about to shimmy and shake with the grandest of grave spinners as this Cavanaugh (Caomhánach) herein states he’s glad Scotland is staying with the Brits in a United Kingdom. There’s been too much separation in this world of late.

In a vote that went virtually unnoticed here in the States until only days before balloting September 18th, Scots went to their polling places and turned down an opportunity to divorce England after 307 years of union by a respectably definitive margin of 55% to 45%. The election forsaking independence saw an extraordinary turnout of 84.5%, a degree of participation which should make all of us emerald green with envy, particularly here in Madera County where our June Primary with a number of hotly contested races churned up a relatively apathetic 30% of those registered to vote.

Antipathy toward Britain by the Caomhánach clan is easily demonstrated by this bitter notation recorded by my Great-Grandfather and namesake in his own hand
from the flyleaf of an old, worn book on Irish history passed down to us through time:

“Cavanaugh
Diocese of Fern
County of Leinster
Town of Ballyoughter
Irish Nobility
Evicted by The English
And Abandoned by God.”

But as Ireland was both England’s first and last colony, having endured over 800 years of often brutal tyrannical rule, the undeniable truth is that we now live in a whole new world, brave or not, where getting along together has become critically imperative for the very survival of our species. That’s not hype.

Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only the absolute guarantee of complete mutual destruction through a full nuclear exchange has kept the globe free from a Third World War. Now we have cult-led crazies promising ultimate enshrinement to penniless illiterates and psychotic misfits all too willing to embrace martyrdom in pursuit of eternal glory -- complete with a 72 virgin pay off. Ukraine is torn in two and no one really knows where all those silly bombs might be. Genocide is increasing exponentially around the planet. Even backward North Korea, where satellites show the lights go out at night, has atomic weapons. All in all, this is no time for rational folks to get disorganized.

We desperately need world government. I always thought it would be us.

Watching Ken Burns’ superb new film series on “The Roosevelt’s” from PBS convincingly brought to mind the unmatched contributions of this one family to our collective progress through the 20th Century, leaving Kennedys, Clintons and Bushes quite behind.

“The Square Deal.” “The New Deal.” Labor legislation promising fair hours, wages and working conditions. The Pure Food & Drug Act. The Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote. The Conservation Corps. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The Security and Exchange Commission. The Agricultural Adjustment Act. The Tennessee Valley Authority. Social Security – and much else -- ever onward.

I remember growing up fascinated by American History, not only due to my own alliance and allegiance, but because our story is such an amazing evolution in the phenomenon of man. An indivisible nation – “E pluribus Unum” – “One out of many.” Those espousing “exceptionalism” need search no further. We are utterly unique.

I’ve written that our national “Pledge” has often been more a prayer than a promise, but our most fundamental political game plan remains war-won, time-tested and rock solid.

September 17th, in addition to marking the halfway point to Patrick, was also Constitution Day, celebrating the 1787 ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, our supreme law of the land -- offering proven institutional mechanics to peacefully expand collective territory theoretically without limit.

If Hawaii and Alaska are American states, why can’t we contemplate adding more willing and qualified volunteers to -- sign up?

There may be millions of reasons why this seems an absurdly ridiculous idea.

But that’s what George the Third thought way back when.

“This is the biggest band you’ll find.
It’s as deep as it is wide.
Come on and join together with the band!”

“Join Together” – The Who (1981)

September 17, 2014

“More from Moore”

It was a great morning.

Denny’s was wall to wall with more views presented than a Yosemite bus tour for the September monthly meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club when Art Moore came to town.

Art is hoping to replace Tom McClintock as our Fourth District Congressional Representative and none too soon.

So there we had Republican candidate Moore facing not only a wild, generally progressive band of vocal Democrats, but also an energized, extra conservative group from the Central Valley Tea Party led by my friend, John Pero, upon whom Art called for the first question when Q & A time arrived. There were a number of folks somewhere in between, but everyone got to chime in while Major Moore was present and following his departure, when we spent some time discussing the six statewide propositions we’ll be voting on November 4th. Know what these are? That’s why we have our meetings.

Art was well received and quite candid about his commitment to individual liberty, limited government and personal responsibility. He also spoke extensively about enforcing our immigration laws and better managing our borders. Moore, a combat-hardened veteran and Bronze Star recipient, discussed the necessity of handling ISIS and other threats to our collective security with conviction and determination, but spent much of his time stressing the imperative need to join together politically regardless of party affiliation in addressing critical needs above and beyond national defense, such as not taking Yosemite National Park hostage in an effort to punish oppositional perspectives.

So Art has pledged to try working with Democrats. Shocking. This particular commitment would seem to be the source of enormous concern on the part of Mr. McClintock’s reelection team.

Matt Reed, President of Sacramento State College Republicans, works for the campaign and has successfully attempted to infiltrate and video record Moore’s appearances before “suspect organizations” such as Democrats, provoking unpleasant confrontations in the process.

On August 7th, Reed set up a tripod and video camera toward this end at an Amador Progressive Women’s Lunch, occupying space at the front table for this purpose without permission. On August 21st, Mr. Reed snuck in a back door and assembled his gear without consent for a gathering of Sun City Lincoln Hills Democrats, instigating a subsequent parking lot confrontation in the process. Wisely, he avoided Oakhurst.

Amador County is looking like a tough place for Dems. In January, The Amador Democratic Club had to change locations for a showing of Robert Reich’s excellent film, “Inequality for All,” when their office were broken into and most of the club’s electronic equipment was stolen.

Amadorgate?

In February, Mr. Reed spoke at this year’s Amador County Republican Club Lincoln Dinner with Congressman McClintock.

But the Amador Progressive Women should be pleased to note that one issue
dramatically separating Moore from McClintock deals with their positions on the Violence Against Women Act. McClintock has passionately voted against the measure three separate times. Major Moore unequivocally states for the record, “This Act elevates the issue and provides resources to fight for victims. My opponent was wrong to oppose it and I would have voted differently.” Moore adds, “ Tom McClintock’s legacy in politics is not to fight for others, but only to feather his own nest while feeding at the public trough.”

This brings to mind an astounding announcement by Madera County Sheriff John Anderson at our September meeting. Sheriff Anderson, about to leave office after seventeen years of outstanding service to the community, publicly observed that his personal efforts to obtain assistance and/or intervention from Congressman McClintock in the ongoing disputes over Chukchansi tribal control have been in vain. Moreover, Sheriff Anderson reports that McClintock has never even displayed the professional courtesy of returning any of his calls. I suggest this revelation by one of our county’s most respected and trusted public servants says it all.

For this column, I need write no more.




September 6, 2014

“Choose Or Lose”

Beheadings.


It’s intriguing how a single word can transfix a million minds.


An ordered world is spinning out of sync -- balance betrayed. We are left with these final thoughts from the Wicked Witch of the West:
“Oh! What to do? What to do?”


Nike’s right. There’s nothing to it -- just do it. Doing it in Oakhurst means finding a political group with which you identify and getting involved and active. I’m talking Tea Party, Madera County Republicans, Mountain Democrats. You name it -- I’m for it. As long as it’s folks paying attention, being thoughtfully reflective, mutually respectful and dependably supportive.


As autumn leaves of red and gold drift by our window, The Oakhurst Democratic Club kicks off its “New Fall Season” this Saturday, September 6th, at Denny’s on Highway 41.


In keeping with a concerted effort to maximize political candidate exposure to membership regardless of party affiliation, joining the group on Saturday will be Art Moore, campaigning for Congressional Representative in the Fourth District as a committed Republican.
Major Moore, a graduate of West Point with a combined fourteen years of active military duty and National Guard service in his background, faces an uphill struggle against our current Congressman, Tom McClintock, running for a third turgid term.

Moore plans to work across the aisle, get things done and keep Yosemite open. McClintock promises little and does much less. He still hasn’t moved into the district he represents despite continual pledges to do so. Tom’s primary achievement of late was to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives honoring Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of early California pioneer and politician, John Fremont.

McClintock, in a token bow to the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Land Grant, mistakenly credits Ms. Fremont with influencing President Abraham Lincoln to endorse the Act, although there is no actual historical evidence supporting such a fantasy. To the contrary, whatever limited relationship Ms. Fremont had with the President seems to have been confrontational and adversarial in nature.

Trusting McClintock’s recommendation, the Republican House approved H.R. 1192 redesignating Mammoth Peak as Mount Jessie Benton Fremont on July 15th before leaving on their five-week summer vacation, a classic illustration of form triumphant over content.

The Congress of California Seniors is a statewide, nonprofit advocacy organization focusing primarily on legislative and consumer issues that impact older adults. They publish a “Friends and Foes of Seniors Report Card.” Project Vote Smart reports that on this listing, Tom McClintock scores a remarkable 15% out of a possible 100 percentage points, the rock bottom lowest performance of 119 California names listed.

But Congressman McClintock is a perfect tire iron in the spokes of effective government and warrants re-election if one wants Federal gridlock to continue with paralysis preserved, even if it means voting against personal self-interest for a man who’s gone on record time and time again against virtually every progressive position from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal onward.

Social Security? McClintock calls it “morally bankrupt” and “nothing more than a tax levied against youth.” Medicare? McClintock voted for Congressman Paul Ryan’s abhorrent budget scheme that offers to turn our current system into a voucher plan with tight restrictions on treatment options and expenditures. Immigration Reform? While our former District Representative, Jeff Denham (R- Turlock), courageously advocates comprehensive legislation eventually incorporating a path to citizenship, McClintock is dead set against any such idea, assumingly embracing Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” notion – as viable a concept as screen windows on submarines.

I’m hoping to see you Friday night at the Oakhurst Community Center for the 12th Annual Sierra-Oakhurst Kiwanis Run For The Gold Car Show Dinner at 6 PM – this year featuring the Yosemite Jazz Band and a Minarets ensemble. Then Saturday morning we’ll be at Denny’s spending some time with Art Moore, who will be arriving around 8:15, so get there plenty early.

The October Oakhurst Democratic Club meeting will be a “Meet the Candidates Morning” with Oakhurst attorney David Linn and incumbent Michael Keitz competing in the race for Madera County District Attorney -- and candidates for the office of Sheriff, those being current Undersheriff, Michael Salvador, and Chowchilla Chief of Police, Jay Varney.

The right to vote is our most precious political inheritance.

We must use it or could lose it.

It is we who have the final responsibility to select those who choose to serve.

“A well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy” – Thomas Jefferson (1789)




August 21, 2014

“Forty-Five Years Gone”

“By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation.”


“Woodstock” – 1969 --Joni Mitchell

This month marks the 45th Anniversary of The Woodstock Music and Art Fair at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York from August 15th to 18th, 1969.

They were all there – 32 acts in all – including Janis Joplin/The Who/Sly and the Family Stone/Arlo Guthrie/Joan Baez/ Country Joe/ Santana/John Sebastian/Canned Heat/Mountain/The Grateful Dead/Creedence Clearwater/Jefferson Airplane/Joe Cocker/Country Joe/Ten Years After/The Band/Johnny Winter/Blood Sweat & Tears/Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Sha Na Na and Jimi Hendrix -- closing the show Monday morning over a field of emulsified mud with his now iconic version of the National Anthem.

On my office wall here in Oakhurst is an unused Woodstock ticket -- #00279 – comfortably priced at a hardly outrageous eight dollars – good for “One Admission Only” all day and night Sunday, August 17th.

I didn’t make the event. We had our own vibrant Rock & Roll music scene exploding back in Michigan, where two months earlier I had produced the first of what was to become many outdoor concerts at a place just outside Flint named “Sherwood Forest”, a several hundred acre complex owned by another farmer – this one named Don Sherwood. We called these gatherings “Wild Wednesdays.” They ran through 1974 headlining such artists as Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, Blue Oyster Cult, Chuck Berry, Montrose, MC5, Joe Walsh, Badfinger, Spooky Tooth, Grand Funk Railroad, Bloodrock, Iggy & The Stooges, Question Mark and The Mysterians, Stevie Wonder, Parliament and Funkedelic, The Ides of March and Mitch Ryder.

WildWednesday.com will tell you more than you would ever want to know.

It was particularly fitting that CNN’s outstanding series on “The Sixties” last week headlined, “Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll” in offering extensive coverage of the “Woodstock” phenomenon – properly acknowledging its triumphantly unique and lasting impact on worldwide culture -- then so sadly concluding with innocence lost barely four months later in the knifings and deaths at Altamont Speedway.

I watched the program with an unanticipated rush of unsettled emotion -- so many milestone recollections unavoidably enshrouded with wistful recognition and resigned acknowledgement that all things inevitably pass away – the good with the bad and all in between.

And how can those young rock stars today look so – so – so -- not young? I can’t bring myself to write the “O’ word. It’s like looking in the mirror.

It had all seemed so natural – so spontaneous – so authentically automatic.

Maybe it’s me, but this particular summer of 2014 sure doesn’t seem to have as many of those “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days” Nat “King” Cole sang so joyfully about back in ’63 when I graduated from college. “Soda and pretzels and beer?” Nah. We face paralyzing political polarity, escalating climatological catastrophe, the savage evolution of ISIS and crisis upon crisis. Now Robin Williams is gone.

Institutional memory in and out of government has been lobotomized and obliterated by greedy gamblers occupying the highest echelons of global finance – rigging the system -- manipulating the masses -- buying politicians seemingly cheaper by the dozen.

There are rare exceptions.

I ask that you pay attention to Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. If Hillary falters, Senator Warren could be our first lady President.

Maybe just in time.

For Woodstock and “The Sixties” still call those with hopeful hearts.

“We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.”

August 7, 2014

“No Hope For Ray?”

Ray Applesauce is going down.

For years Fresno’s reigning radio king on KMJ-AM, Ray Appleton has hit the skids.

The most recent ratings (7/21/14) from Nielsen Audio (formerly Arbitron) show that KMJ-AM, once a proud, unchallenged #1 broadcast facility and one of the nation’s leading News/Talk stations, has tumbled from what were double digit listenership figures just a short time ago to a soft 3.7% Total Audience Share, ranking them 9th in the market. That’s still better than KMJ’s little FM sister, KMJ-FM, displaying an anemic 0.5% overall measurement – good for a 20th place finish and pretty close to broadcasting in complete confidence.

Although it’s clearly unfitting to take pleasure in the misfortune of others, I can’t help but find substantial comfort in watching Ray take the plunge. While his professional presentation skills are major market quality -- among the best I’ve ever heard -- Appleton’s mindless, fawning, self-serving, client pleasing embrace of ultra-right wing Conservative ideology has been horribly disappointing and thoroughly disgusting. Here’s a guy who should really know better.

Having been removed from important morning programming and relegated to a three hour block from 11 AM to 2 PM, Appleton’s Obama-hating, liberal-baiting, nerve-grating diatribes have become dreary, weary and worn – but so has the rest of “Conservative Talk” across the nation.

KMJ AM & FM’s prime format competitor, Clear Channel’s KALZ-FM, inherited the once powerful Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Mark Levin/Glenn Beck “Power Talk” package in January of 2013. The new numbers place them only 10th in Fresno, right behind KMJ-AM with a 3.2% share, more than thirty percent down from last summer’s 4.7%.

Although no time for wild optimism, there seems to be a pronounced, provable swing toward radio sanity long overdue and warmly welcomed. What we see happening in Fresno is being echoed across the country with Rush, Sean, Mark and Glenn exhibiting free fall in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. The writing is on the wall, driven by stridently constant, thoroughly unsubstantiated, Henny Penny hysteria over The IRS, Benghazi, Fast & Furious, invading alien hordes, anything with the name Obama preceding or following it and the ever more mysteriously mesmerizing Agenda 21 – a Pandora’s Box of perplexing paranoia.

Fear mongering can generate a societal response clinically referenced as the “Chicken Little Syndrome”, a phenomenon inferring catastrophic conclusions that subsequently bring about political paralysis -- a sense of despair or passivity ultimately limiting or
abandoning meaningful action. The term dates back to the ‘50’s and has been universally recognized in various social contexts.

One needs only to reflect on the woefully inadequate achievements of our current Congress, particularly the Tea Party pounded House of Representatives, to witness systemic strangulation. If this bunch deserves their current five-week vacation, Rocket Raccoon should be Miss America. There’s Ted Cruz -- the man who closed Yosemite with Tom McClintock -- at it again last week in attempting to terminate meaningful handling of what everyone knows is a critical, life-threatening crisis on our southern border -- in the process in tripping up both House Speaker John Boehner and a clear majority of thoughtful Republicans. Obstinacy is virtuous only to the obnoxious.

Yet cable viewing remains dominated by opinion confirming, politically soothing FOX News, expert at providing devotees with exactly what they want in offering a perfect, reassuring, continually non-threatening comfort zone. But Ray Appleton’s Nielsen-demonstrated demise just might prove to be a happy harbinger for American TV.

For what is television -- but radio resorting to pictures?


 

July 24, 2014

“Water Whirl”

It was my first official Tea Party

 

 

Personally invited by my friend, Central Valley Tea Party Coordinator, John Pero, and further enticed by front page story in this very paper headlined, “Speaker to Address Water Crisis”, I was present and accounted for at last Tuesday’s monthly meeting of our local group at the Best Western Yosemite Restaurant.

Although known and recognized as a writer of the Star’s “Commie Column” (my phrase – not theirs) (I think) – I was greeted with extraordinary courtesy by all and made to feel right at home. I hope to attend more of these get-togethers in the future and trust John and associates will be present at upcoming Oakhurst Democratic Club functions as they have in the past. Cross-pollination is a very good thing.

The evening’s main attraction was Debbie Bacigalupi, a reasonably credentialed former Congressional candidate from Siskiyou County, that political entity whose supervisors have already opted to leave California and become part of “The State of Jefferson” at some fanaticized point in time.

Ms. (or “Miss” should that be her preference) Bacigalupi put on a fine, highly spirited, emotionally charged show from start to finish, the conclusion of which included the usual de rigueur comparison of Barack Obama with Adolph Hitler – such evaluation scoring not much difference between those two at all, save complexion.

It was a remarkable, whirling spin --- all sound and fury -- signifying nothing other than a bit of selective sharing -- given the fact that the bulk of Debbie’s presentation was a tiresome, tedious Power Point presentation on “Agenda 21”. This was the fifth time I’ve endured the pitch, having pulled four other iterations off the Internet for review these last few years.

Although being quite active in Progressive Politics through time (I put Michael Moore on the radio back in the late ‘70’s), I honestly can't recall hearing of “Agenda 21” until I learned about it from the Tea Party.

For the fortunately uninitiated, “Agenda 21” is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development --- a product of the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro back in ’92. Just being nice, the United States signed on, even though it’s not even an actual treaty. Then most players pretty much forgot about the whole deal except a handful of folks with wild imaginations and well-funded friends. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Consequently, “Agenda 21” in certain circles has come to mean a concerted effort by (?????????) (Undefined?) (The Tri-Lateral Commission?) (Obama?) (The Easter Bunny?) that will result in the abolition of private property, loss of national sovereignty, an 80% reduction in global population, the disarming of all citizens, U.N. control of the military and the replacement of religious values with primitive nature worship. And that’s just where the bad stuff starts.

Debbie did add something new with tears in her eyes, accompanied by somber, dirge-like music and a screen filled with dozens upon dozens of remarkably piled sheep carcasses – presented as proof that a presumably Agenda 21-inspired introduction of Grey Wolves into the Idaho wilderness had brought about such horrible slaughter. A subsequent check of “Wildlife News” following the meeting revealed “the sheep apparently were stampeded off a rocky slope by two remnant members of a local wolf pack, most of which had already been killed off by the Federal Government’s Wildlife Services. While uncommon, this sort of thing has happened before.”

Sierra Star readers might hearken back to August of 2009 when a similar phenomenon dumped 35 dead cows into the Fresno River near Coarsegold “having been chased through a barbed wire fence and off a 50 foot cliff by either coyotes or a pack of dogs.”

This single illustration of inappropriate interpretation pretty much sums up my disappointment with the content of the evening’s proceedings. Ms. (Miss) Bacigalupi kept adding two and two and coming up with – twenty-two. Connecting divergent dots can be dangerous.

It wasn’t until the last few minutes of the program that we finally got down to the subject that drew me there in the first place -- WATER.

We were shown a brief, well-produced video clip of a documentary with which Debbie is involved as “co-director” – entitled – “No Water. No Farmer. No Food.”

No kidding.

That’s why I posed this exact question to John and Debbie and a few others following the event verbally and in writing:

“What percentage of the current drought crisis is man made (by governmental regulations) vs. our Good Lord cutting way back on the faucet these last three years as a natural, albeit undesirable phenomenon? Saying it another way, how much water would we find available right now if ALL regulations were lifted, even on an interim basis?”

So far, a definitive response has proven extraordinarily elusive.

Did you know that when a Delta Smelt gasps for air, its socialistic lips form the “O” in “Obama.”

I just made that up.

But - let’s see if it spreads




July 10, 2014

Dawn?" Plan It!”

Ground Zero is a four-hour drive from Oakhurst.

Muir Woods is on the Pacific Coast of Southwestern Marin County, just northwest of San Francisco. In this postmodern world, it represents a primeval paradise. That’s where we last saw Caesar.

He’s back again starting tomorrow in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, a follow-up to 2011’s Oscar-nominated “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.

While many still shake, shudder and shiver over the notion that our human species has descended from apes, I have always deemed “ascended” to be more appropriate terminology and have never felt theologically threatened by such notion, sensing a deity of any determination should be given proper credit and acknowledgment for bringing us about any old way deemed divinely desirable at the time of extended origination. Who are we to question or contradict an ultimate causal effect? Huh?

Avoiding any plot spoilers here, suffice it to observe that this latest (eighth) addition to a story line that started with 1968’s original “Planet of the Apes” starring Charlton Heston is the best one yet, combining electrifying cinematic action with surprisingly insightful reflection. Chill out, Cheetah. This hairy hit gets down with it.

What I can relate is the central point of focus. What makes us kill each other? What intuitive, instinctive, integral aspect of our nature often brings us to a biochemical boiling point from which we can only obtain release, relief and retribution through violently forceful action against fellow creatures?

The Middle East has seen enough insanity these last few weeks with I.S.I.S. unilaterally carving out its own new nation from parts of Syria and Iraq as an Islamic Caliphate. This well-armed, tightly disciplined Sunni military group exclusively recognizes Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi as “leader for Muslims everywhere”, a distinction dramatically bolstered by his systematic use of torture, beheadings and crucifixions as a preferred means of winning friends and influencing people. Even Al Qaida dispises him.

And now we see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacting with Old Testament style vengeance against Hamas, a radical Palestinian organization he accuses of kidnapping and killing three young Jewish teenagers, although leaders of that rebellious body, never reticent in the past to admit culpability in acts against the Jewish state, have disavowed any connection with the crime.

As Israeli jets bombed and strafed Palestinian Gaza, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a 16 year-old Palestinian teen, was burned alive, simultaneously igniting what threatens to become a Third Intifada – another major Palestinian uprising against Jewish rule. As recorded on security cameras, Muhammed was sitting on a wall outside a mosque and his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat at 3:34 a.m. Wednesday of last week, waiting for dawn prayer, when a gray Hyundai pulled up and two people forced him into the car. His charred body was found 90 minutes later in the Jerusalem Forest. That’s all video verified.

Over 200 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have now been sentenced to death in Egypt, a country ruled by a former leader of the Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected President in June of 2012, only to be overthrown by the military barely more than a year later in July of 2013.

Syria remains a quagmire of tangled allegiance and Afghanistan a nightmare of betrayed alliance.

Hatred even finds a home in Murrieta, California, when busloads of refugee children from Central America are angrily confronted by hundreds of openly hostile, epithet screaming, flag-waving “patriots”, providing a new portrayal of “Ugly Americans” reminiscent of Selma, Alabama and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.

How ironic to perhaps discover Abraham Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” in a wildly imaginative monkey movie, but isn’t that what the finest of films are for?

You never know what you just might learn.

“Ape alone weak. Apes together strong” – Caesar – “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011)




June 26, 2014

“From Sea to Shining Sea”

It was a 2,572-mile flight.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, departing New York at 8:26 AM EST and arriving in San Francisco at 12:08 PM PST, I had over six hours last Wednesday to reflect upon the sudden, yet utterly predicable turn of events in Iraq as the Boeing 737 traveled coast to coast over this great, sprawling country of ours on an amazingly clear journey at 525 miles per hour six miles high.

Across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, I watched below as our California bound jet traveled from the mountains to the prairies, then across vast expanses of no man’s land before bright, sunlit reservoir reflections signaled the end of our journey.

How could so great a nation have been so wrong?

Of all people, Megyn Kelly of FOX News, of all networks, was spectacular in courageously challenging former Vice-President and Iraqi War architect Dick Cheney in a live interview, hurling back at him his own words from the Wall Street Journal that same day.

“In your op-ed, you write: “Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.” But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well, Sir.”

Kelly then recited numerous shortcomings of the Bush administration, particularly Cheney’s assurance that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators, that the war would be brief and that Iraqi insurgency was “in the throes” in 2005.

Kelly then quoted the Washington Post, which stated, “There is not a single person in America who has been more wrong and shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney.” Megyn finally observed, “The suggestion is that you caused this mess. What say you?”

A clearly rattled Cheney responded that Megyn was wrong, baldly and untruthfully alleging that, “We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about the extent of Saddam’s involvement in weapons of mass destruction.” This clearly doesn’t explain why 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the war at its initiation, including hundreds of thousands in dozens of American cities.

As Cheney and a handful of co-conspirators again pollute the airwaves with pathetic attempts at revisionist history, George W. Bush ducks public exposure, hiding behind his easel -- painting pets.

Reviewing all in my mind’s eye as we touched down at Terminal 3 of SFO, I concluded that if there was ever a time for honest evaluation, such moment must be now. In this light and with such measurement, Megyn Kelly seems undeniably heroic.

I have always saved a five-page term paper for which I received an A plus during my college years earning a Degree in Social Sciences. I retain this essay as a lasting reminder of ever lurking fallibility.

In this piece from the early ‘60’s, I applaud our anti-communist efforts in Vietnam, endorse “the domino theory” as though it were my own, and unequivocally predict a quick and final victory by the South Vietnamese with the help of our American advisory teams and weaponry. I was thoroughly convinced in the righteousness of our cause. As currently witnessed in CNN’s outstanding series on “The Sixties”, I couldn’t have been more completely wrong.

Those who outrageously suggest that new nightmares in Iraq are due to President Obama’s withdrawal of troops are similarly in error, again seizing any opportunity to viciously attack our Commander in Chief with spiteful ignorance and hateful rhetoric bordering committable lunacy.

Enough!

Over two decades of well-intentioned, but ill-advised military adventures, we have proclaimed “democracy” while functionally crying “havoc” as we let slip the proverbial dogs of war – leaving a legacy of devastation, death and destruction in our wake.

Redemption begins with recognition.

In our “America The Beautiful.”

“America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.”

Katharine Lee Bates (1895)


 

June 12, 2014

"A Prodigal Son”

“It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

Luke 15:32

An area of theological instruction reserved for senior year study at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, my alma mater, dealt with the dicey issue of “Proportionate Evil”. Simply stated, one can find oneself trapped in a situation offering only two choices, both carrying negative consequences and requiring unavoidable immediate resolution. A stunning example can be witnessed in Alfonso Cuaron’s multiple Oscar winning space thriller, “Gravity.”

Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) must determine whether to sever his linked umbilical connection to Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and die -- or guarantee killing both by not doing so – effectively being forced to decide between suicide and a double homicide.

Not nearly as dramatic back here on earth, but nonetheless offering situational comparison, here’s Barack Obama agreeing to obtain the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban after five years of enemy captivity in exchange for five enemy combatants caged at Guantanamo for more than twice that time, unleashing in the process an explosion of hypocritical right-wing political wrath. But it was that or leave him abandoned in chains or worse as we begin our withdrawal from combat, Sgt. Bergdahl being the only member of the United States military held captive in Afghanistan.

One out of five young American soldiers repeatedly sent to fight needless wars in the merciless heat and dirt of Iraq and Afghanistan since March of 2003 are now displaying classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Over 5,000 of our troops have been killed. Over 70,000 have been seriously wounded, these warriors returning to often face inexcusable delays in obtaining basic health services from the Veterans’ Administration.

Bergdahl’s family may display unsettling eccentricity and the Sergeant, himself, hardly seems the heroic John Wayne type, but let’s reflect on the irrefutable truth that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and Afghanistan’s Taliban involvement should have been ancillary and temporary. We can call them “terrorists”, but we’ve always been on their turf. Taliban is NOT Al Qaida. Three trillion dollars of our collective treasure has been lost with nothing gained but strained foreign alliances and a people divided by irresponsible media and limited leadership.

National insanity is individually contagious and reliably self-perpetuating. As more facts emerge, it seems clear that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl answered his country’s call to service only to find himself psychologically unstable, chronically conflicted and deeply disturbed, perhaps even pathologically so. It appears probable that Bergdahl left his post near the Pakistani border and disappeared with disillusion --unarmed into the night.

As men and women from our “Greatest Generation” were properly recognized and honored last Friday upon the 70th Anniversary of “D-Day”, it should be recalled that over 21,000 American soldiers were convicted of desertion during World War II. 49 were sentenced to death, but only Private Edward Donald Slovik of Detroit became the first and only American to be tried and executed for desertion since the Civil War. Sgt.Bergdahl may well be eventually determined to be a deserter.

Yet with more than a small measure of emotional reluctance, I cannot help but agree with President Obama’s assertion that “Whatever circumstances turn out to be, we still get a soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.”

I also support 31-year-old Gerald Sutton of Michigan, a member of Bergdahl’s abandoned combat unit, who contends, “Whatever the tribunal or whatever he faces, whatever judgment they pass will be – if they just decide to give him a black mark and a dishonorable discharge – I think he should face the music.”

As harsh rhetoric increases with dedicated fervor from Obama haters and as wild speculation and unfounded innuendo continues screaming from both press and pulpit, I would hope we might find unified concurrence on one simple fact.

A war is mercifully ending as a prodigal son comes home.

It is the American way.

“There won't be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after -
One tin soldier rides away”


“One Tin Soldier/ Theme From Billy Jack” -- Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter -- (1969)

 

May 29, 2014

“Tuesday is Choose Day!”

If time went any faster, tomorrow morning would be Christmas -- followed by Easter at Noon.

But it’s been a full three months since Campaign 2014 officially kicked off locally with the Oakhurst Democratic Club’s “D.A. Debate” at the Community Center on February 28th and here we are with the June Primary only five days away.

The Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce presented subsequent well-attended debates among all the candidates April 17th and May 1st, even as various “Meet and Greet” fundraisers and similar gatherings were staged throughout Eastern Madera County by those running for public office and their supporters.

Having attended all three formal debates and quite a few other associated events during this election cycle with November still comparatively a long way off, I feel we are blessed with an unusually strong lineup of choices this time around with a group of gifted candidates who present themselves well -- offering confident conviction and impressive credentials.

I’m particularly pleased with the extraordinary civility and courtesy displayed by all in public forum, unlike the outrageously contentious Fresno catfight currently being waged between District Attorney, Elizabeth Egan, and her opponent, Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp. Meow! How ‘bout determining the winner Election Night with a bare knuckle fist fight on live Pay TV with all proceeds going to “Stop the Violence?”

Ironically, the highest office being seriously contested in the upcoming Primary offers unfortunate examples of questionable tactics. This race involves our Fourth District Congressional Representative, Tom McClintock, attempting to undermine his Republican opponent, Art Moore.

McClintock’s first volley at Art Moore was fabricating an alleged character deficiency based on Moore’s absence from voting while serving his many years in the military, as has become Constitutionally customary throughout our nation’s history in the established tradition of George Patton, George C. Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower and David Petraeus.

When the blowback on this absurd notion was instantaneous from the general public, particularly veteran’s groups and affiliated organizations, McClintock quickly shifted his attack on Moore with a classic “red herring” move, meaning to create something which distracts from the most relevant, important issue. In this instance, Art Moore’s candidacy is the bothersome issue as McClintock attempts to erase the existence of Bronze Star Medalist Moore by pretending his only opponent is actually a LIBERAL named Jeffrey Gerlach.

I’ve spoken a number of times with Mr. Gerlach and found him to be highly articulate and well intended. Although quite pleased at his unanticipated and unaccustomed notoriety thanks to McClintock’s pronounced fear of Moore, Gerlach states that he is a LIBERTARIAN, not a LIBERAL, and McClintock’s summary of his various positions are seriously misleading in several areas, although cleverly so. Gerlach also suggests that he is really more a “Rationalist” than anything else and does emphatically support increasing the federal minimum wage and gay marriage.

What’s missing from McClintock’s most recent “The Choice is Clear” flyer is any mention at all of West Point graduate Art Moore, who has now been endorsed by former Congressman George Radanovich, numerous Placer County, El Dorado County and Mariposa County Supervisors, and Nate Beason, Chairman of the Rural County Representatives of California. Mr. Moore has also received a ringing endorsement from The Fresno Bee, which states that “McClintock has been an elected official for nearly three decades -- all the while portraying government as the enemy of the people. Moreover, he is totally ineffective. The sooner he exits Congress, the better for 4th District residents.”

As our Congressional campaign has now come under national focus thanks to the New York Times and Time Magazine, voting with meaningful issue awareness and honestly thoughtful reflection next Tuesday is all the more important.

For our neighbors and our nation, may the best men and women win.

So we can all get better.


 

May 15, 2014

“Ozzy Benghazi”

“Crazy, but that’s how it goes.
Millions of people living like foes.”

Ozzy Osbourne -- “Crazy Train” from “Blizzard of Ozz” (1980)

For a gentleman who bit the head off a bat only days earlier in live performance, Ozzy Osbourne was quite sober and subdued
as we had a few drinks together at a Fort Lauderdale Radio Conference in late January of 1982. I found him to be both articulate and intelligent reflecting on his ascension into the hierarchy of Rock & Roll, albeit admitting continuing personal challenges from chronic use of “recreational drugs”, a phrase in which he intentionally and emphatically stressed the first syllable.

But Ozzy sure comes to mind as we witness John Boehner, Speaker of that Crazy Train called the House of Representatives forming a “Select Committee” headed by Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on an incident which took place over two and a half years ago and has already been the subject of 13 public hearings and 50 full Congressional briefings containing 25,000 pages of reviewed documentation. So far, nothing remotely sinister has turned up other than mounting frustration on the part of right wing radicals whose search for a smoking gun hasn’t produced anything other than ever growing madness in every sense of the word.

In a bulletin I received moments ago, a major GOP headline boldly screams, “If we were to measure big events in the last 40 years, this ranks above the Nixon Watergate scandal!” Included in the release is a brief video clip of Chief Investigator Gowdy in which he challenges the media and brings them to “stunned silence” with such questions as, “Do you know the origin of this mythology that it (the attack) was spawned as a spontaneous reaction to a video? Do you know when that started? Do you know how we got from no evidence of that to that being the official position of the Administration?”

What? Even my cat is aware that heavy rioting the day before in Cairo, Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world causing hundreds of injuries and over fifty deaths was fueled by YouTube clips from “The Innocence of Muslims,” a production perceived as denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. Mitt Romney, himself, commented on the video and its impact six hours PRIOR to the Benghazi attack.

But 225 Republicans on the Crazy Train voted for HR 567, providing for the “Establishment of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi.” Naturally, that included our own Fourth District caboose, Tom McClintock.

Trust Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to sum it all up in her own succinct, clear, no nonsense manner:

“House Republicans are doing whatever they can to distract the American people from what's really going on in Washington – a rigged system that works great for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers but that leaves everyone else behind. It's wrong, and it's shameful.”

Speaking of Representative McClintock, while appreciative of his
tardy response in last week’s Sierra Star to questions I raised several weeks ago, particularly his reluctant admission that, when all is said and done, our Yosemite Park closure was about killing “ObamaCare”, I find myself stunned and embarrassed by a glossy, full color flyer which arrived in today’s mail from his “McClintock for Congress” campaign.

This expensive and well-circulated piece does nothing but excoriate
McClintock’s young Republican opponent, Art Moore, for never voting. That’s it.

Ironically, McClintock displays the outrageous audacity to observe, “The right to vote in America is sacred. It’s enshrined in the Constitution. We’ve fought wars to protect that right.”

Well, Tom, Art Moore certainly HAS fought to protect that right in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, while you, a career politician, have never spent a single, solitary second in military service.

Major Moore, a West Point graduate and Bronze Star recipient, has already more than satisfactorily addressed the “voting issue” - noting that he observed self-imposed discipline during his many years of active service honoring a belief that military officers should not participate in politics as a matter of faithful adherence to well-defined Constitutional guidelines.

Perhaps it’s the minimal turn-out McClintock has been experiencing at recent local events or the fact that his former Chief of Staff, Igor Birman, is polling horribly in the adjacent Seventh District primary race, but McClintock does seem more than a bit rattled of late.

I probably shouldn’t add to his discomfort by noting McClintock didn’t even vote for himself last time around.

He doesn’t live in the Fourth District.



 

May 1, 2014

"21st Century Tom"

All that was missing was the chirping of crickets.

When an incumbent Congressman representing 711, 815 Californians in our Fourth District, which encompasses the Sierra from Truckee to the Sequoia National Forest and includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties and parts of Fresno, Madera, Nevada and Placer, comes to Oakhurst and well under four dozen folks show up for his widely promoted “Town Meeting Hall” – something’s up.

I have no idea what or why.

But such was the case last Wednesday (4/23) at Oakhurst Elementary as Representative Tom McClintock (R- Elk Grove) came to town.

I briefly and pleasantly spoke with Mr. McClintock prior to the start of proceedings. He referenced the fact he was familiar with questions concerning his tenure raised in my Sierra Star column of 4/17/14 and assured me he was prepared to address them in his talk. Other than concern expressed over last year’s costly governmental shutdown of Yosemite, he pretty much ignored the rest.

With national interest suddenly focused on our district thanks to an Easter Sunday article in the New York Times about Art Moore’s Republican challenge to McClintock in this year’s race, I couldn’t help but raise my hand Wednesday to introduce that issue as well.

McClintock’s response was a somewhat bristling, “Peter! As I said, this is not a political meeting!”

Remaining puzzled even now by exactly what that was supposed to mean and what I might have missed in his introductory comments which seemed to define exactly the opposite, Tom was still kind enough to offer a fairly involved accounting of anecdotal examples citing Democrats who were going to challenge him, only to drop out, several “at the last minute.” This included an individual in Placer who was “bluntly told” by local party officials not to run. When I then asked, for purposes of clarification, whether Mr. McClintock was suggesting a “Democratic conspiracy”, he quickly exclaimed, “No!”

As one is left marveling at the wonders of such seemingly contradictory evidence spinning about in the mind of McClintock, yet even more puzzling is how an articulate man of obvious intelligence can maintain a perfectly straight face when he pronounces such inane craziness as “the government taking over one-sixth of our economy” with The Affordable Care Act. That’s not only astoundingly wrong, it is inexcusably irresponsible.

All in all, nothing truly important, innovative or even interesting came down Wednesday night, but I salute Representative McClintock for coming by and energetically staging his full presentation as advertised, despite what must have been deeply disappointing attendance, particularly in a room packed wall to wall for him just a year ago.

What we all should have been talking about was “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by French economist Thomas Piketty, still the hottest selling book on Amazon.com, remaining a solid #1 this week after spending its first 40 days in the Top 100.

Piketty reviews data from 20 countries spanning decades of economic trends and patterns as far back as the 18th century. Ultimately, extreme inequality stirs deep divisions of discontent that severely undermine democratic values, not only here in America, but around the globe. Piketty doesn’t believe capitalism is doomed or that ever-rising imbalance is inevitable, but argues solutions cannot be independent of politics. He feels both the left and right should examine powerful solutions mutually agreeable and cooperatively obtainable.

Right now, here at home, Piketty writes: “In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is probably higher than in any other society in the past, anywhere in the world.” He adds, “If current trends continue, the consequences for the long-term dynamics of wealth distribution are potentially terrifying.”

I’ve just ordered a copy of “Capital in the 21st Century” for Congressman McClintock and trust he might take the time to scan a few pages on his jet flights to and from Washington.

Next time in Oakhurst, it would be extraordinary hearing him explain how, among the 20 most highly developed nations on earth, the United States indisputably has the most extreme wealth concentration of all. The top 10% of our population are holding 75.4% of the goodies and grabbing more all the time – and that’s not because the rest of us aren’t working harder than ever just keeping the bills paid, the kids in school and the dog fed.

But we all have our challenges, even Congressman Tom.

It’s hard discussing fair play when one represents the rich.

 

April 17, 2014

“Freedom in The Fourth”

Attention all Freedom Loving Patriots.

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why.

Fourth District Tea Party Treasure Tom McClintock’s coming to town.

But this Tom’s no turkey.

Although the choice of Oakhurst Elementary School for his pending “Town Hall Meeting” next Wednesday, April 23rd, certainly seems to perfectly reflect the intellectual sophistication of Congressman Tom McClintock’s polished political pronouncements, our Representative does have a handle on his hooters; i.e., those who “shout in scorn and disapproval of things they abhor,” such as The Affordable Care Act, Food Stamps and cost free contraceptives. That’s right out of Webster. The hooters part.

McClintock’s impressively singular platform is that The Constitution of the United States contains everything we could ever possibly need to know about government -- pretty much the same way fundamentalists accept The Bible as revealing all that God expects. As is true of both the Constitution and Bible, any parts that appear to contradict other parts must be the product of errant interpretation, misguided logic, or a bad hangover.

There’s an almost irresistible purity there. McClintock gets that. And works it well.

Simplicity is the key – sadly and simultaneously creating the inexcusable abrogation of a moral obligation to engage in meaningful reflection on questionable or complicated ideas beyond the mind numbing, reason slumbering, beatific bliss of comforting contentment.

Beware of that Judgment Day ahead when a loud, booming voice from above thunders, “Do you think I only gave you brains so your hair had somewhere to sit?”

Let’s face it. Thinking is hard work.

With this in mind and to save Congressman McClintock the trouble of coming up with topics of primary interest here in Eastern Madera County, I thought I might be helpful and propose a few items in this week’s column which may or may not make it past Tom’s scrupulous screeners.

Congressman McClintock –

Why did you cost this area millions of dollars in lost local revenue pushing a useless governmental shutdown that accomplished nothing more than providing Texas Senator Ted Cruz with a national propaganda platform which went nowhere fast?

Why did you vote against Children’s Health Care (HR 2), Violence Against Women (HR 4920), Food Safety (HR 2749), Campaign Disclosure (HR 5175), Employment Discrimination (HR 12), and Transportation and Jobs (HR 4348)?

Why did you vote against Rural Development Funding (HR 2112), Science and Technology Funding (HR 5116), Whistle Blowers Protection (WPA) and Equal Pay for Women?

Why did you give your congressional staff an average salary increase of 31% between 2009 and 2012 in the aftermath of the worst American recession since the Great Depression?

Why did you boost the salary of your loyal and obedient Chief of Staff, Igor Birman, from $127,405 to $150,000 when he was about to launch his own campaign for Congress in California’s 7th District, where you still reside in Elk Grove?

Why do you continue to live outside our 4th District when you promised to move into it way back in 2008?

Are there any elements of “ObamaCare” you support, such as not allowing insurance companies to drop coverage of anyone who gets really sick, denying participation to those with a history of even minimal health problems or permitting young adults until the age of 26 to remain under their parents’ policies?

Although you informed the Los Angeles Times in 2008 when you first ran for Congress that you had no pension coming from your years in the state legislature, why have you changed your mind since being elected and now stand to indefinitely receive over $77,000 annually in pension funds from California taxpayers and a similar amount from the Feds should you be defeated this November, including annual cost-of-living increases?

Earlier this month The Senate voted 59 to 38 in favor of a bill that would restore federal funding for extended unemployment benefits for 2.8 million Americans who are considered “long-term unemployed.” A corresponding measure, HR 4415, has become stalled in the House of Representatives, primarily because your Speaker, John Boehner, has refused to allow a simple up or down vote on the issue. Do you support Speaker Boehner on this and other matters?

Do you endorse requiring undocumented immigrants to return to their country of origin before they are eligible for citizenship, even those who have lived here since early childhood?

So there’s a quick “Top 10” for Tom McClintock’s consideration while stopping by next week. I hope you add a few of your own. Let’s not be boring. But not inconsiderate, contentious or combative. There’s enough of that in Washington.

You might even bring this along to score what Tom does and doesn’t touch.

There are times when nothing shrieks louder than silence.


 

April 3, 2014

A Moore Who’s not Michael!”

Rejoice!

There’s a choice!

Although California Fourth District Congressman Tom McClintock is running for reelection this fall without facing a Democratic candidate in as heavily Republican a district as you’ll find anywhere in the entire free world, there’s hope on the horizon.

I’ve met and spoken with Congressman McClintock and have always found him personally charming, engaging and thoroughly professional, but Tom’s claim to fame as being one of only four House members to receive a 100% pure rating from such corporately controlled organizations as FreedomWorks and Club for Growth verifies his extreme conservatism.

This is a static stance I find intellectually uncomfortable and severely limiting, surely not representing my own basic values or those of many folks I hold in high regard, including quite a few Republican friends.

A headlined article in last Thursday’s Fresno Bee proclaimed, “McClintock faces credible threat,” and brought to my attention a gentleman named Art Moore, someone I sense we’ll be hearing a lot “more” about these next few months.

Former Eagle Scout Moore wears a class ring from West Point and served our country as an Army Major with multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt, during which time he was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. Remaining as a Major in the National Guard, Art moved back to Roseville in December and is seeking to bring a fresh, new innovative face to Republican politics in the Fourth District.

I’m told he’s not afraid of moving things along with Democrats in Congress toward mutually agreeable and attainable goals. That’s the way government is supposed to work in our representative democracy to the benefit of all, something we haven’t seen in recent times.

Accordingly, the Oakhurst Democratic Club’s Executive Committee has voted unanimously to arrange and sponsor an Oakhurst debate between the incumbent, Mr. McClintock, and his challenger, Mr. Moore. Art Moore is opposed to federal funding of abortion, a bloated bureaucracy and The Affordable Care Act. He supports individual liberty, limited government, a strong military and personal responsibility.

Appropriate contacts have been initiated.

Quoting Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee, “The question for the district’s voters is simple: Do they want their congressional members to ruminate, speechify and argue the fine points of what it means to be a conservative, or do they want a legislator who will legislate?”

The Oakhurst Democratic Club gets along with our local Republican leaders quite well. Our April monthly meeting this Saturday (4/5) at Denny’s will include a presentation by Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce President Todd Miller, CPA, who’s running for Madera County Auditor/Controller in the June Primary. I expect Mr. Miller will also be reminding us that the Chamber, itself, will be presenting “Debate Night With the Candidates” at the Community Center from 6 till 8 PM on Thursday, April 17th.

This Saturday morning, we’ll also be hearing from Paul Cliby, seeking election as Fifth District County Supervisor, and current Madera County Undersheriff, Michael Salvador, who hopes to replace retiring Sheriff John Anderson in January. We’ll also meet Paulina Miranda, running for the California 16th District Senate seat.

Saturday’s get together will start with breakfast at 8:30. The program begins at 9:30. Each of our guests will speak for ten minutes and then take five minutes for questions and answers. We’ll move things right along. I promise.

Although he won’t be at Saturday’s Meeting, I’d like to thank Ray Krause, busily campaigning in the First District Madera County Supervisor’s race, for asking me to fill-in for him on March 22nd as a “speech judge” in the 2014 Academic Pentathlon at the Ranchos Middle School in Madera. The young participants were simply outstanding and Office of Education Events Developer, Kristi Winter, is to be commended for her excellent organizational efforts.

So -- during these last few weeks -- I have found positive promise in our youth of today.

Including new leadership from 35 year-old Art Moore.

A Republican from Roseville.

 

March 20, 2014

“Wooly Bully”



“Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw.
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw.”

“Wooly Bully” – Sam the Sham (June 1965)

Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Vladimir Putin may pugnaciously posture with a scary pit bull stare, but the top ten bullies on my scorecard don’t have Russian names.

They even pretend to be a friend.

They are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Halliburton, BAE Systems, United Technologies, Huntington Ingalls Industries and SAIC, Incorporated.

They steal billions of our collective lunch money every year with a time-honored scheme unbelievably simple and perfectly legal.

They hire thousands of lobbyists recruited from top military decision makers, important congressional staffers and duly elected public officials, thereby providing a sweet payoff for “good behavior” over decades of unspoken, unwritten complicity in advancing and approving costly new weapons systems and associated schemes, rarely critical and often completely unneeded. That’s just for openers.

One thing they do quite well is frighten us out of our wits, often succeeding to an astounding degree. And they keep FOX News viewers glued to their flat screens or old-fashioned boob tubes, confirming every comforting suspicion.

Right now, these lobbyists are pushing the insane notion that the new proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2015 will reduce our military strength to a level not seen since before World War Two, ignoring the fact that 21st Century warfare operates with completely different dynamics. Global troop strength will be reduced by 9.2% with the active-duty Army trimmed from 520,000 to 450,000, the Army National Guard moving from 355,000 to 335,000 and Army Reserves drawing down to 195,000 soldiers -- 10,000 less than currently participate.

Here’s current Mississippi Senator (R) and probable future Lobbyist Roger Wicker –
“Amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, President Obama is proposing defense cuts that could jeopardize the future vitality and preparedness of America’s armed forces. At a time for demonstrating “peace through strength”, the President’s budget blueprint instead suggests America is on retreat.”
Are you kidding me?
Consider this one critical FACT:
Even with the reductions outlined above, the total United States Military Budget for fiscal year 2015 will still be larger than the next DOZEN nations of the world COMBINED.
According to the highly regarded Stockholm International Institute, 2013 expenditures around the world looked like this:

The United States ---- 1,753 Billion Dollars
People’s Republic of China – 682 Billion.
Russia ------ 90 Billion
The United Kingdom – 61 Billion
Japan – 59 Billion.
France – 58 Billion
Saudi Arabia – 56 Billion
India – 46 Billion
Germany – 45 Billion
Italy – 34 Billion
Brazil – 33 Billion
South Korea – 32 Billion

If size matters, Putin’s present purchasing punch is approximately five percent of our own. We’re twenty times bigger. Ouch. Indeed, we spent more last year in Afghanistan alone than the entire Russian military budget on everything they’ve been involved with, including outer space.

The day we can simply “send in the jets” and have our way in the world has long since disappeared – if it ever existed in the first place.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates properly observed last year at the Dwight David Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas – “Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined – 11 of which are our partners and allies?”

President Eisenhower, the only general elected to our nation’s highest office in the 20th Century and victorious Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War Two, warned against the dangers of a powerful “military-industrial complex” threatening our American way of life in his famed “Farewell Address” to the nation on January 17, 1961.

In this last public speech of his phenomenal career, Eisenhower also stressed: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft. The cost of one modern, heavy bomber is this: a modern, brick school in more than 30 cities.” And then he thoughtfully added: “Together, we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms – but with intellect and decent purpose.”

With those words, it’s not difficult imagining “Ike” fondly recalling his formative childhood days faithfully attending weekly Sunday School in old Abilene.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Matthew 5:9.


 

March 6, 2014

“Winners!”

There’s no doubt in my mind who won “The Great Debate.”

With a standing room only crowd filling every chair at the Oakhurst Community Center and lining the back of the room from start to finish, David Linn delivered on his passionate promise to present detailed reasons for running against the incumbent; District Attorney Michael Keitz was similarly energized in thoughtful responses to accusations generously leveled in his direction and Madera County Deputy Counselor Miranda Neal made an impressive debut in her admittedly novice effort at gaining major elective office.

But the real winners were those hardly souls who braved whipping winds and a torrential downpour to attend this first significant political event in Election Year 2014.

My last column challenged local residents to come together at this Oakhurst Democratic Club sponsored debate, regardless of party affiliation or philosophy, and become “participatory in political activities of all valid persuasions, consistently considering the opinion of others with any honestly open mind.” The title of the column was “Get in the Game.” You enthusiastically did and were awesomely pro.

With the Community Center figuratively filled to the rafters, one could literally hear a pin drop from 7 P.M. until our conclusion at 8:35 with a jam-packed audience maintaining respectful, thoughtful, reflective silence throughout the entire exercise.

Various spectrums of thought and candidate preference were in evidence as response to a request for written submission of questions was beyond our most optimistic expectations. This provided the Democratic Club’s Executive Committee with an opportunity to insure that the mix of questions included all publicly expressed areas of focus in the D.A. race, ranging from “softballs” to “sliding curves right over the plate.” None of the candidates heard any of the questions until they were announced and I believe everything important was covered -- and then some.

Prior to last Friday night, the most attentive audience I had ever encountered was years ago when Eileen and I were in Dublin, Ireland, attending a sold-out performance at the Abbey Theater of Eugene O’Neill’s classic “The Iceman Cometh”, starring Irish-American Brian Dennehy as “Hickey.” The play was performed as originally written without edit and ran over four hours in length. From opening curtain to closing lines, the theater was surrealistically, stunningly, contemplatively quiet - - like church. This was our Community Center Friday night. Ask anyone.

And, Begorrah!

Since this is my last column before St. Patrick’s Day (Alan O’Cheah writes next week’s “For Your Consideration,”) I’m going to smoothly segue from those Irish references above to my favorite St. Patrick’s Day story of all – surely as true as all other tales connected with this heroic Celtic figure.

Although the legend of St. Patrick, as with many fables of the past, is filled with varying contradictions in a wild assortment of stories half-myth and half-true (Ireland, for example, never had any snakes to start with) -- one incident reported by several prominent Irish historians of the time dealt with a mass conversion held for Eastern Irish tribes on the sacred Druidic Hill of Tara. During fairly prolonged ceremonies conducted by Patrick, himself, the High King, seeking to find more comfort for the duration, removed his iron sword from its scabbard and sought to drive it into the ground – there to rest without support.

Alas, his aim was a bit off and he inadvertently drove the sword through his right foot, pinning himself to the ground. Filled with, some would say, the instinctive grace of his heritage and being unwilling to interrupt the service over such a potentially damaging public embarrassment, the King merely ignored the mishap, registering not the slightest degree of discomfort.

The rest of the King’s immediate warrior entourage, assuming that the act was an official part of the strange liturgical observances they had been ordered to embrace, promptly drew their swords and plunged them into their own right feet without hesitation or questioning comment.

As has been often said, surely our good Lord only invented whiskey to keep the Irish from taking over the world.

So Happy Saint Patrick’s Month -- and keep your feet clear.

 

February 20, 2014

"Get In The Game!"

“One thing I can tell you is you got to be free.”

“Come Together” — The Beatles — 1969

How could a full half-century have passed?

CBS-TV spectacularly came through on Sunday, February 9th, with a wonderfully produced commemorative salute to John, George, Ringo and Paul marking fifty years to the very day since”The Beatles” detonated at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and, with 73 million watching, changed the face of contemporary music forever.

I woke up Monday morning — my head filled with Beatles music — marveling at the passage of time and reflecting upon the curious world where we’ve all wound up, often captive to forces beyond our control rendering us incapable of exerting meaningful influence on what may well matter most.

Income inequality. Afghanistan.The drought. Syria. Immigration reform. Iran. Minimum wage standards. Iraq. Global warming scares. North Korea. Voter supression issues. North Carolina. The list builds on and on in what can easly become an endless assortment of ominously threatening things.

To our rescue comes the often quoted, though all too infrequently practiced “Serenity Prayer” by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971) that goes, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Living in a region clearly devoted to the preservation and enhancement of Second Amendment Constitutional rights, might I suggest it’s time to more seriously guard ourselves with a commodity mightier than bullets, more precious than diamonds, more valuable than gold — and freely ours for the taking. It is more critical than ever before that we boldly and with true commitment arm ourselves with knowledge — the ultimate power.

That means tapping as many different media sources as possible, becoming participatory in local political activities of all valid persuasions and consistently considering the opinion of others with an honestly open mind.

A fine opportunity for meaningful knowledge enhancement comes our way from 7 till 9 PM on Friday, February 28th, at the Oakhurst Community Center as the Oakhurst Democratic Club will present a spirited debate between candidates competing for the office of Madera County District Attorney.
These would be Michael Keitz, David Linn and Miranda Neal.

Mr. Keitz is currently completing his first full term as District Attorney. David Linn, a resident of Oakhurst, has practiced law for the past 37 years and is currently senior partner at the law firm of Linn Law Offices. Ms. Neal, whose new entry in the race was encouraged and welcomed by Mr. Linn, has been a licensed attorney since 1991 and has been in her current position for the past eight years as a Madera County Deputy Counsel.

With litigation against the county, questions of mismanagement and an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by the Madera County Board of Supervisors for release of a county financed report, the Oakhurst Democratic Club is pleased to present Mr. Keitz with an opportunity to address these and other matters, as well as provide Mr. Linn and Ms. Neal with a chance to discuss their own qualifications and perspectives.

This is where you come in. Format rules will be identical to those used in prior debates sponsored by The Oakhurst Democratic Club based on general guidelines from the League of Women Voters.
Accordingly, questions for the debate should be submitted in advance to the Oakhurst Democratic Club in care of mizzes12@yahoo.com.

Please do this. Google search “Madera County District Attorney” or candidate names or anything else which might churn up meaningful data and — after reflection — send in just one interesting question. Then join us at the Community Center on the 28th for your response. Word is — get there early! We won’t be taking questions from the audience that night in conformity with established protocol, so this is your chance to lock and load beforehand.

You’ll find an opportunity to ask as many questions as you wish the following morning as the Oakhurst Dems hold their monthly meeting on Saturday, March 1st, at Denny’s with Madera County Fifth District Supervisor Tom Wheeler in attendance at featured speaker. Tom, recently elected Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, will bring folks up to date on various local fronts and offer his own analysis of significant issues of the day.

At the Democratic Club’s April meeting, you’ll have a chance to meet, greet and hear from Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce President Todd Miller, CPA (running for Madera County Auditor/Contoller); Paul Cliby (candidate for Fifth District County Supervisor); Paulina Miranda (competing in the 8th District State Senate race) and Undersheriff Michael Salvador, hoping to replace current Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, who’s retiring from office in January 2015.

The Keitz/Linn/Neal Debate on February 28th and Oakhurst Democratic Club Meetings of March and April (and every month) are open to the public regardless of party affiliation.

Let’s go!

It’s time to come together!

And get in the game!

 

February 6, 2014

“Chances with Francis”

Phil Everly’s left us at 74.

He got me into trouble at 17.

When I was a young DJ in Syracuse during my senior year at Cathedral Academy, a Catholic school I had faithfully attended from 5th Grade onward, Father Shannon called me into the Principal’s office for committing a sex crime before thousands in public.

The good priest reported he had been listening to my Saturday night radio show over WNDR, Central New York’s most listened-to station, when I played, “Wake Up Little Suzie” by The Everly Brothers -- a horror rendering him instantly apoplectic.

It was surely a Mortal Sin to have done so; he droned on, since the song “strongly suggested that a boy and girl were sleeping together without having partaken in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony”, an interpretation that had never remotely dawned on me or any of my classmates, particularly since the song’s lyrics stressed exactly the opposite.

Sierra Star readers may note that my “For Your Consideration” colleague, Alan Cheah, submitted a wonderful column in the January 2nd issue heralding several initial achievements of Pope Francis the First during his first year as Pontiff, even as I also had the pleasure of referencing many promising signs indicating positive reform in the Catholic Church when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was first elected back in March – becoming the first Jesuit Pope in history.

Consider these Papal quotes:

“Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor, so that they are not abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers.”

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them?”

“I have met many Marxists who are good people.”

“Those who struggle to find a past that no longer exists – they have a static and inward view of things.”

“No to a financial system, which rules rather than serves. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God.”

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those welding economic power.”

And my personal favorite – “I have never been a right-winger.”

To be sure, my own spiritual perspective still remains at sharp variance with certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, finding myself much more aligned with the visionary brilliance of theologian and evolutionary theorist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose “Phenomenon of Man” remains, in my estimation, a philosophical masterpiece.

Father de Chardin was a famous French paleontologist, mystic and -- Jesuit.

He found God in all things and believed mankind was inexorably evolving toward a collective sphere of human thought generated by integration and unification which will eventually culminate in what he termed, “The Omega Point” – the most sacred and highest form of consciousness – somewhat similarly referenced in Catholic Theology as “The Mystical Body of Christ.”

It is stunning to reflect upon the awesome realization that our Internet of today, with all those blogs and chats and tweets and deletes, lines up precisely with what de Chardin predicted so many decades ago, however technologically unanticipated.

He was a favorite of Daniel Berrigan, S.J., former Federal fugitive and “Radical Priest” of the ‘60’s – the most demanding teacher I ever had during my four years at Le Moyne College. Father Daniel “Don’t Call Me Danny Boy!” Berrigan gave me the only F minus I ever received at Le Moyne for submitting a three page book report on “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” (1883) by Alfred Edersheim -- which I had never read -- although I had received an A plus from Father Carmody for the identical book report submitted a year earlier in Theology 101.

So I am becoming ever more enthusiastic about this Jesuit-In-Charge-Of-The Church, although there’s a great distance to go. It makes my heart happy. I find myself quoting our new Pope to conservative friends at every turn, delighted he’s at home in Rome -- quite content taking my chances with Francis.

 

January 9, 2014

"Getting Some"

 

Buried under eight feet of snow and six feet of earth, he’s not going anywhere.
 
That would be my great grandfather and namesake, Peter Cavanaugh, who was born in Ballyoughter, Ireland in 1816 and now rests under a remarkable Celtic cross next to St. Mary’s Church in Fulton, New York -- having established permanent residency at such a fine location upon his death in 1892.
 
Fulton, on the leeward shore of Lake Ontario, averages 179.6 inches of snowfall per season. It is 30 miles northwest of Syracuse, which receives a comparatively puny 115.6 annual inches.  It was 72 ever so dry degrees on our back deck in Oakhurst last week as I spoke with my brother in Syracuse, where it was 8 above zero with two feet of freshly fallen snow on the ground.
 
As anyone who watches the Weather Channel or just looks out the window knows, we are being confronted with increasingly strange and potentially ominous environmental conditions in current times, the jet stream dividing us into two separate realities between East and Far West in this latest instance of marked deviance from national norms. We are becoming as temporarily polarized climatologically as we are even more sadly separated in our political persuasions – devolving into a new U.S.A. – The Un-United States of America. Yet, unlike the scientifically undeniable realities of global warming, this social disintegration won’t last long. Formed by the unwavering forces of unstoppable demographic change, a new America awaits us all.  I say, let’s get on with it.
 
Following Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012 and a pronounced diminution in the popularity of ultra-conservative candidates by an awakened national electorate, the Republican National Committee undertook several months of serious study into what went wrong and what to do about it.  This massive “Growth and Opportunity Project” conducted 36,000 online surveys, initiated 800 conference calls and employed fifty focus groups. Its final recommendations involved increased efforts to clarify messaging with a renewed focus on appeals to minorities -- particularly Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, women and youth. Since the results of the exercise were presented for consideration and action last year, the national GOP has moved in exactly the opposite direction.
 
Last week’s Sierra Star presented a summary of 2013 highlights in Madera County, beginning with “a substantial loss of income for area businesses” due to October’s governmental shutdown, which included a closure of Yosemite National Park for 16 days. Jerry Rankin, who manages Oakhurst’s Comfort Inn, is quoted as saying, “Within the first 4 hours, we had about 15 rooms cancel. That’s $1,500 in lost income.” Similarly, with over an estimated million local dollars vaporized as a direct consequence of the unwarranted slam down, Dan Cunning of the Yosemite Visitor’s Bureau noted, “If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it is that it didn’t happen during our peak season.”  Not so fast, Dan. It could happen again this brand new year if our Congressman, Tom McClintock, has anything to say about it.
 
This Representative has gone on record time and time again in his dedicated efforts against the trumped up specter of “big government” in general and President Barack Obama in particular. McClintock presents himself as a champion of individualism, opposed to such nonsensical collective fantasies as “economic fairness” and “social justice.” What’s wrong with that new Pope? In attempting to tie repudiation and overturning of “ObamaCare” into approval of last fall’s temporary congressional budget deal, McClintock was directly responsible for Yosemite’s closure and this region’s ensuing financial woes, sharing such shame with fellow supporters in the GOP’s hard-right wing.
 
And where is Tom on Immigration Reform? Infrastructure investment? Job creation? Voter suppression? Tax reform? Unemployment Insurance? Women’s Rights? And yes – where is our Congressman on still another prohibitively expensive government closure?
 
He’s busy rolling up his 2014 campaign kitty – much of which he’ll not even need to spend – being securely cocooned in a “safe district.” 
 
Tom McClintock is not worried about you – or for you – at all.
 
He’s got his.
 
Get your own. 

 

December 26, 2013

“Duck!”

Phil Robertson is not an obvious quack.

He presents himself as the real deal – a true believer – unkindly referenced by non-supporters as an ignorance driven, self-made, white trash, super rich, unrepentant, full-blown, mega-star bigot and damn proud to be one.

The genuine article.

Like that “Okie from Muskogee” Merle Haggard once sang about, but times ten.

A&E’s “suspension” of Phil from his phenomenally successful “Duck Dynasty” series is as ludicrous as it is unfair.

For the sparsely informed – Phil put down his Browning Auto-5 Semi-Automatic and shot his mouth off in the January 2014 issue of the ever so elegant GQ “Gentleman’s Quarterly” with remarks regarded by many as racist, homophobic and sacrilegious – quickly perceived in certain circles as a taunting trifecta.

Phil made the cut for such a high tone publication after this season’s premiere of “Duck Dynasty” recently drew over 11 million viewers – the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history. When you’re hot, you’re hot.

The man’s self-definition couldn’t be more clearly conveyed. No one should be even slightly surprised by what Robertson rapped, particularly his partners at the Hearst Corporation and Disney- ABC, both 50% owners of A&E. And the fact remains he didn’t utter his nonsense during any of the“Duck Dynasty” episodes, all of which are subject to extremely heavy editing to extract the most out of what normally starts out as a mushy mess.

Here comes that overused, but ever true cliché:

While I deplore much of what Phil had to say in GQ, I equally and unequivocally support his right to say it and for others to react accordingly.

If honesty is a virtue, Phil might be granted points for that as well, yet only to a limited extent, for honesty untempered by wisdom signals the folly of a fool.

For someone holding a Master of Arts Degree in Education from Louisiana Tech, as does Patriarch Phil, one would normally expect a bit more sophistication than displayed in his chronically crude and widely quoted pronouncements, both on and off the air. By example, comparing one’s wife to a Labrador Retriever is not generally recommended as persuasive foreplay in all but the most canine of cultures.

Did you know that Phil was also a schoolteacher, Willie has a Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Human Performance from the University of Louisiana and Korie is a graduate of Harding University? This is why I herein propose that “Duck Dynasty” - for all its down home, by golly, gee wiz charm -- is pretty much a great big act.

So is A&E’s supposed punishment of Phil, who’s already completed most of his fourth season work and isn’t even due back on the set till March, by which time all will be amiably settled to everyone’s contractual satisfaction, leaving issues of unresolved morality and propriety for others – elsewhere -- some new day.

“Reality Television” is a contradiction in terms – like – “Military Intelligence” or “The Vegetarian Tiger” or “A Fish Camp Socialite.”

And if all this hasn’t made you want to duck and cover – I hope you’re sitting down.

A few days ago, Dr. Bill Atwood, J.R. Froelich, Alan Cheah and I were sitting around the bar at Crab Cakes amiably and festively conversing about all sorts of things, when Dr. Bill came up with an outstanding idea. You might only read about it here this one time, since part of the concept is to maintain confidentiality as a critical aspect of the initial exercise until we see what happens during and after our first “session”.

The genius of the proposed intellectual adventure rests in its simplicity.

Just the four of us will pick a certain time and place and sit down together. Each will summarize our basic thoughts and generalized philosophy without interruption, contradiction or debate in any form. There will be no note taking and nothing discussed may be used in any future columns by anyone present other than that which may be, in time, unanimously agreed upon.

That’s it!

If you don’t believe me, ask any of the others.

In a phrase, it would be quite cool individually and collectively discovering “where each of us is coming from.”

I think that would be an extraordinarily positive way to begin a New Year and congratulate Dr. Atwood for his proposal, as well as Alan and J.R. for their enthusiastic endorsement of the basic concept.

Happy 2014!

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

Imagine!

 

December 5, 2013

 

“The Fourth Estate Fades Away”

Recent coverage in commemorating the Kennedy assassination a full half century ago sheds intriguing light on the astounding changes in American journalism we’ve seen evolving these last few decades. As technological revolutions in the delivery of news content have combined with a pronounced national shift to the political right, the traditional role of the American press to act as unofficial watchdog in the preservation of democratic rule has undergone a powerful and radical transition.

With ownership reduced to three or four major players, radio and television broadcast and cable news operations, both locally and nationally, have been reduced to churning out limited coverage on almost everything with minimal investment chasing maximum profit.

Ratings rule the day -- prioritizing potential popularity over mundane matters of genuine importance. Similarly, newspapers and magazines have slashed staffing across the board, their old business models shredded by Internet competition. What the public needs to know has been replaced by what it heeds to know – interesting and entertaining material presented in as titillating and emotionally evocative a manner as possible. Negativity dominates discussion.

The New York Times’ classic promise to deliver, “All the news that’s fit to print” has been replaced by virtually all commercial media entities with, “If it bleeds, it leads!”

Consequently, the American public has generally become as intellectually fat and lazy as physically displayed on full public view by your average Walmart shopper on any given day.

“The American people” are easily bought. No wonder John Boehner constantly invokes this phrase with such confident conviction, especially with “Citizens United” having unleashed even more hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to enhancing brilliantly targeted thought control.

“One man – one vote?” Hah. What a sad thought.

Thanks to redistricting maneuvers performed with perfection in the aftermath of our 2010 census, the Republican Party now controls the U.S. House of Representatives by a commanding majority -- even though Democratic candidates for the House received a million and a half more votes than their GOP counterparts.

While Fox News fans remain thrilled with their tailor made, customized vision of the world soothingly being reinforced hour after hour by polished performers, even our somewhat more objective networks are now answering Wall Street’s siren call for revenue through revisionism.

In the last few months, we’ve seen ABC’s White House Correspondent, Jonathan Karl, breaking an “ABC News Exclusive” unfavorable to the Obama Administration that was quickly revealed to be fundamentally unsubstantiated. “Sixty Minutes” from time honored CBS News suffered professional humiliation last month when now formally discredited and reprimanded correspondent Lara Logan carried a Benghazi report filled with lies from start to finish. Even MSNBC’s Political Director, Chuck Todd, caused many an eye to roll when he proclaimed it wasn’t his job to inform viewers when politicians spread misinformation, having also expressed his opinion that a proposed NBC special on Hillary Clinton was nothing but a “total nightmare” for him.

Perhaps the most irresponsible demonstration of media abrogation can be found in a mindless stampede against the Affordable Care Act triggered by initial launch of the official website – an admittedly major technical disappointment which was immediately and erroneously conflated by the Press into cataclysmic failure of the overall Act itself.

Guess what? We’ve proven “ObamaCare” can work like a charm!

By mid-November, while 27,000 individuals had been qualified for private health plans through the federal site serving 36 other states, “Covered California” alone had enrolled 80,000 applicants with more coming on board every minute. We are dramatically leading the nation in this and numerous other aspects of ACA implementation, but such success has been relegated to brief, minimal recognition rather than receiving the jubilant headlines such success deserves.

Locally, although KMJ’s Ray Appleton has been known in the past to interject his own deplorable negative commentaries and/or grunts of disapproval during live Presidential broadcasts, a new low was reached on Thursday, November 14th, when “John and Jen” interrupted President Obama in mid sentence while he was holding a White House Press Conference on “The Affordable Care Act.”

John Broeske suddenly jumped into the broadcast without a semblance of traditional professionalism as he solemnly and arbitrarily declared, “That’s about enough from this guy” – thus ending KMJ AM/FM coverage of the event, even as the Presidential Press Conference continued for another half-hour on live TV.

Aldous Huxley envisioned a “Brave New World” would commence in 2540 AD.

Look what’s getting here early.


 

November 21, 2013

11/22/63

 

I was casually roaming about the kitchen of our family home in Syracuse making a tuna fish sandwich — living room TV droning in the background.


At that exact moment, the most honored newsman in broadcast television was standing next to a United Press International wire machine at CBS headquarters in New York on Friday, November 22nd, 1963, when the first horrifying words clattered into teletype view. Since there was no adequate time to properly prepare normal telecast logistics for that era, a single slide proclaiming “ A CBS News Bulletin” quickly leapt onto TV screens coast to coast, interrupting “As The World Turns” at 1:40 PM Eastern Standard Time. The deep, resonant voice of Walter Cronkite solemnly intoned history unfolding at the speed of light.


“Here is a bulletin from CBS News. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”


My heart stopped. Cronkite? Off-camera? Unheard of!


There was a shuffling of papers with excited, muted murmurings audible in the background as the newsman then continued:
“More details just arrived. United Press says that the wounds for President Kennedy
perhaps could be fatal. “


Everything that followed comes back with astounding clarity in relentless, wrenching, slow motion recall.
Finally appearing on camera wearing shirt and tie, but without suit coat, Cronkite continued providing additional facts with proper qualification for almost an hour as they chaotically became available. At 2:38, his powerful delivery finally trembling with deep emotion, viewers heard confirmation of the dreaded truth.


“From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: “President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time – 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time. Vice President Johnson has left the hospital, but we do not know to where he has proceeded. Presumably he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States.”


I had initiated my radio career at WNDR (AM 1260) six years earlier at the – in my case — not so innocent age of 16 — and was by then doing both a morning (6-9 AM) and afternoon (4 – 7 PM) DJ show on the highly-rated “Top Forty” station.


As soon as our President’s death was confirmed, programming was completely and drastically altered for a three-day period all the way through Midnight of John F. Kennedy’s State Funeral and Burial in Washington’s Arlington National Cemetery on November 25th.
Even before the tragic reality of the assassination became finally determined, I responded to a call from WNDR’s Program Director — assembling and delivering to the station a fairly extensive collection of classical music from various sources. The most somber selections were used to provide appropriate interlude between constant informational updates that continued throughout the period. In the absence of a formal network affiliation, I and a dozen other WNDR announcers took turns reading fresh copy from United Press International, the Associated Press and even our old Western Union Telegraph machine that spat forth limited bits of data on yellow ticker tape – the earliest digital electronic communications medium from the time it started transmitting stock prices in 1870. With one letter or symbol at a time, it moved about as fast as Twitter.


We had TV sets tuned to NBC, ABC and CBS. That’s all there was. I watched live as Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed that Sunday in the basement of the Dallas Police Department.
Most of us never left the building until late Monday night on the 25th. When I departed – it was for good.


I had taken it upon myself to cancel several weekend dance appearances or “Sock Hops” which I felt it inappropriate to present due to the assassination. One of them involved an important station client, who was furious. Following a loud and fierce shouting match with our WNDR General Manager, I resigned on the spot – never to return.
It was then I headed West.


“The West is the best. Get here — and we’ll do the rest.”


Jim Morrison – “The End” (“The Doors” — 1967)


I did.


They have.

November 7, 2013


“Oakhurst In The Blind”

There I was -- twice at the Met, then heading down the hill.

“Gravity” is the only film I’ve ever seen in The Fresno Bee’s “Critics Choice” movie listing scoring “A’s” straight across the board.

That’s five out of five – with The Bee, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle all weighing in on a unique cinematic wonder.

Relax.

If you haven’t seen “Gravity” yet, there’s no “spoiler alert” necessary here.

But it shouldn’t hurt to mention that the technical frontiers crossed in this stunning achievement four and a half years in production are simply breathtaking, combined with an incredibly paced digital soundtrack by Steven Price and brilliant performances by George Clooney and, most particularly, Sandra Bullock.

Viewing it at our Met Cinema on two separate occasions opening week, I couldn’t help but yield to fierce temptation and travel down 41 for the full IMAX 3-D presentation at the Edwards 22 Stadium complex in Fresno, catching even more unanticipated subtleties with this third experience.

I had never before been exposed to “in the blind” phraseology – since confirmed by NASA as a haunting tag to astronaut communications cast into a vacuum offering only unconfirmed, perhaps non-existent reception -- however hopefully transmitted.

Yes! Like writing a newspaper column!

Comparing notes with my Sierra Star colleagues, it’s fascinating to learn that one thing -- perhaps the only thing -- we all share in common is puzzlement at how relatively little feedback we receive from readership no matter how hard we try to stir things up.
Along the same lines and to make my brother and sister writers feel better, it has been clearly established in the world of broadcasting that far fewer than one percent of listeners ever call their favorite Talk Radio host to voice opinions.

There seems to be a generic predisposition in our species for most of us to let others lead, perhaps even necessary as an evolutionary necessity for viable social organization until now.

Hey, you. It’s time to wake up, look around and check in. Don’t be afraid to think boldly, question everything and trust yourself. Most of all, keep an open mind.

Hopefully providing worthy example, my candidate for heroic move of the week is Greta Van Susteren of FOX News.

Generalization for purposes of simplicity is dangerous at best -- convenient conveyance taking precedence over challenging complexity.

In summarizing consequences of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, President Obama went on record stating, “If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable.”

This was not a lie and remains as true as the sky is blue.

But retrospectively, he would have been better adding, “I’m not talking about maintaining rip-off “junk insurance” which isn’t real insurance at all, guaranteeing corporate profits -- not personal benefits -- and I’m speaking on behalf of the government and myself, not insurance companies.”

So when a small percentage (less than 5%) of our "insured" population holding trash contracts starting receiving cancellation notices in advance of further ACA implementation after the first of the year, predictable yowls and screams of feigned indignation exploded coast to coast.

With Walter Cronkite spinning in his grave like a dreidel on Dexedrine, even time honored CBS News ended up looking extraordinarily stupid when a junior producer passed along a completely unsubstantiated item to Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning” which reported that 56 year-old Dianne Barrette of Florida was going to pay “ten times as much” for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

That’s where Greta comes in. Following up on the CBS story, Ms. Van Susteren interviewed Ms. Barrette on the air and discovered that the “10 Times” allegation was totally lacking in substance and, moreover, that the ACA offered considerable, cost-efficient benefit to Ms. Barrette once she actually understood the law. Fox executives quickly canceled future interviews with the Florida woman as a consequence of Greta’s persistence in tracking down the truth.

The Republican Party was against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid way back in the day and is opposed to The Affordable Care Act in our times, even viciously so in radicalized circles. There is consistency in such contrariness. But it’s time to catch up to the rest of mankind.

“The entire cost of medicine for people of all ages – all of it. Doctors, hospitals – from the time you’re born to the time you die. All are included in a government program. What we are talking about doing, most of the countries of Europe did years ago. The British did it thirty years ago!” – President John F. Kennedy – unsuccessfully endorsing universal health care for all Americans in 1962.




 

October 24, 2013

“Accountability Thirty-Ought Six”

$24 billion flushed down the drain, but Ted Cruz gained his fleeting fame.

That seems to be bottom line for the disastrous Tea Party Slam Down that brought our Federal government to a wrenching halt for 16 painful days, continuing right up to a last second Congressional deal avoiding chaotic global consequences, possibly concluding with catastrophic collapse.

Standard and Poor’s, a highly regarded, non-partisan financial services company, says the debacle has also reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3% to 2.4%, a significant blow to our national economic health. Here in the foothills, an extensive article in Friday’s Fresno Bee cited such specifics as revenue cut in half at Todd’s Barbeque in Oakhurst, a reservation cancellation rate of 90% at the Gateway Restaurant and Lodge just outside Sequoia National Park and similarly stark developments at the Narrow Gauge Inn near the southern entrance to Yosemite. All told, over a half million business bucks were blown here in Madera County alone.

One of the most disturbing aspects of our first Federal shutdown in 17 years, now ranked as possibly the most severe ever, were the well-worn canards, clichés and quaint commentaries emerging from an oftentimes seemingly clueless general public.

A now famous and clearly catalytic NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published October 10th demonstrated a decisive majority of voters blamed Republicans more than Democrats for the suspension of services. Less reported was the fact that an astounding sixty percent also said that they would vote and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, if such action was possible.

“Government sucks.”

“They need to get along.”

“Everyone is to blame.”


False equivalency is the sign of a sluggish mind.

While a requirement to pay taxes is important, the need to pay attention is even more imperative.

Watching Fox News is not paying attention.

Updated studies confirm that those watching FOX are less informed than those watching no news at all. That doesn’t mean FOX viewers are stupid – just unknowingly susceptible to cynical, ratings-driven programming that elevates form over substance. Human nature finds comfort in the confirmation of righteous pre conviction. Ask Bill O’Reilly on his way to the bank.

But turning off TV and referring to our President as a “tyrant”, “thug” or “disgrace” is insipidly, abysmally lazy and hateful – demonstrating not only pungently pretentious posturing, but shameful ignorance of information easily accessible from a multitude of alternative media sources.

Our own Congressman Tom McClintock (R-California) shares direct responsibility for all of the horrors recently encountered in the Tea Party Fiasco and should be held appropriately accountable.

His Republican colleague, Devin Nunes (R-California) said it perfectly in voting to reopen the government along with seven fellow GOP California representatives. Nunes exclaimed, “No more lemmings!” -- having earlier described colleagues who were willing to bring about the shut down as “lemmings with suicide vests.”

I’m hoping that Devin can convince his furry friend Tom to agree with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and publicly confess that any similar actions in the future should be judged as hopelessly irresponsible.

In an interview Thursday, McConnell admitted that his party had learned a painful political lesson. He said he saw no reason to go through the agony again in January 2014 when the current stopgap measure is set to expire. Quoting McConnell, “One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. The first kick of the mule was when we shut down the government in the mid-1990s and the second kick was over the last 16 days. There will not be another government closing. I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is.”

In a Sierra Star column last April, I unambiguously stated that Tom McClintock was no fool. We’ll soon find out if he’s a mule.

I’d hate to have to call on Tom Waits.

“And I filled me a sachel full of old pig corn. And I beat me a billy from an old French Horn. And I kicked that mule to the top of the tree. I kicked that mule to the top of the tree.”

Tom Waits – “16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six” --“Mule Variations” (1999)



October 10, 2013

“Lynching a Law”

“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” --- Tea Party Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-Indiana) offering characteristically definitive insight explaining his vote last week to shut down the government.

“You should be ashamed of yourself!”
-- Tea Party Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) addressing a young female Park Ranger forced to turn back visitors at Washington’s World War Two Memorial -- something for which Neaugebauer had voted and was responsible.

“He has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity” – Tea Party Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona), speaking of our President.

The inmates are not only running the asylum, they’re forcefully ruining it.

Any assessment by political poseurs that the shutdown was a consequence of failing to negotiate and compromise completely ignores the stark reality that a handful of bitter, spiteful Obama-haters have successfully leveraged themselves into a command position by fanciful fabrication, skillful manipulation and raw intimidation.

President Obama defined everything succinctly in addressing a Maryland construction company gathering Thursday morning when he called for a simple up or down vote in the House on an already approved Senate Bill that would end the impasse. The President said House Speaker John Boehner could reopen the government and send 800,000 people back to work “in just five minutes”, rightfully declaring that Boehner “doesn’t want to anger the extremists in his party.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went even further condemning Boehner’s refusal to yield to reason, openly calling him “a coward.” Reid also insisted that Boehner was reneging on a prior promise to facilitate a continuing resolution to fund the government without partisan strings attached.

But the Tea Party isn’t interested in simple strings. They want a hangman’s noose around ObamaCare -- for some second best to one around the man himself.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law on March 23, 2010. That was three and a half years ago.

Since that time, the essential features were reviewed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012.

Running against an opponent who dramatically promised to “end ObamaCare”, the President easily won re-election on November 6, 2012 by trouncing Mitt Romney in the Electoral College 332 to 206 -- defeating the former Governor of Massachusetts by more than 5 million votes.

The American people have surely spoken.

But the House of Representatives refused to listen, even though there were almost two million more votes for Democratic House candidates than Republicans nationwide in 2012, but GOP redistricting through state gerrymandering resulted in a Republican House Majority of 234 to 201 in the 113th Congress and has led us to where we are.

And where will you be this weekend?

Mountain Democrats hope you’ll be spending some time at the 2013 Oakhurst Fall Festival on Saturday and Sunday in the Community Park from 10 AM to 4 PM. Stop by our booth to say, “Hi!” and ask any questions you might have about “ObamaCare.” We’ll have answers available and/or information directing you to reliable sources. We happen to believe The Affordable Care Act is an excellent start on providing what every other country in the entire developed world has enjoyed except us -- until now.

It’s good for you and long overdue.

Like fine wine & tasty chocolates!






 

September 26, 2013

“Déjà-Vu -- All Over Again”



There’s been nothing like it since “The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. “

And so we witness another futile fight against the unstoppable forces of predestined inevitability.

On June 11, 1963, Governor George Wallace became a national symbol in bold defiance of federal law when he attempted to block the entrance of two black students to Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama. It was a symbolic effort to honor his inaugural promise to support “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Confronted on the spot by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach supported by a phalanx of Federal Marshals, Wallace abandoned his one-man blockade and many years later in 1979 stated, “I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over.”

Whether House Speaker John Boehner will eventually experience a similar “Road to Damascus” conversion remains to be seen, but he now embarrassingly stands in open rebellion against the expressed will of the American people in abject surrender to the most conservative elements of his hopelessly divided, morally bereft Republican Party.

Even while remaining under attack from ultra-extreme fringes calling for his immediate ouster as Speaker, Boehner announced last week in an abrupt turnaround that, while still not allowing a House vote on Immigration Reform for fear of instantaneous majority passage, he would yield to Tea Party pressure and approve a vote on defunding The Affordable Care Act of 2010 as the cost of approving a stopgap spending measure.

The government will theoretically run out of money at Midnight September 30th, so you might not have to bother looking for your Social Security check in October if Republicans don’t get their way.

No Medicare payments. Or extended Unemployment Benefits. No Food Stamps for anyone. No Army. No Navy. No Air Force. No government!

Hey, No I.R.S!

Down with all “Takers.”

Up with “Freedom” – finally honestly and openly defined as “keeping all our money instead of paying taxes.”

It’s a matter of principle!

“Limit” government?

Hell, let’s just blow the whole thing up!

Or maybe that won’t happen till a few weeks later in mid-October, when raising the debt ceiling to pay for things already purchased becomes hostage as it did thanks to the GOP in the summer of 2011 – resulting in the first downgrade of credit in U. S. Government history. Factoring everything, a new study by the Bipartisan Policy Center indicates that fiasco will cost taxpayers $18.9 billion over 10 years as a consequence of higher interest rates on government borrowing.

Experts warn that inability to make a deal this time around may well lead to an immediate risk of U.S. government default, a major financial crisis and downward economic momentum well on the road to deep and prolonged recession.

As President Obama properly observes, “We have not seen this in the past, that a budget is contingent on us eliminating a program that was voted on, passed by both chambers of Congress.”

But that’s where we seem to be -- locked in a renewed confrontation with fantasy driven, tri-corner hat sporting, Obama hating, pretentiously posturing, self-designated “patriots” who clutch to their hearts a Federal Constitution they seem amazingly incapable of fully understanding, truly appreciating or ultimately defending.

An ever-careening cartoon.

It would be laughable if it were not so terribly tragic.

“Those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things.” “ I have never been a right winger” – Pope Francis I – New York Times (9/19/13)

 

September 12, 2013


“Goodbye Hannah Montana”

Annette

Miley

With every tune came a memory.

Joining the Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis last weekend at the Oakhurst Community Center for their 11th Annual “Run For The Gold”, I received a rare opportunity to play “DJ” again – spinning only music from the 50’s and early 60’s to properly match dozens upon dozens of ageless classic cars shimmering in proud display.

As closing strains of “Venus” by Frankie Avalon (Chancellor Records – 1959) filled the air, I briefly reminisced about all those early “Beach Party” movies featuring Frankie and, of course, everyone’s favorite Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer– Annette Funicello. Even as I said her name, my mind flashed back fifty years.

I had started my radio career five years beforehand at WNDR in Syracuse and was still doing both a morning and afternoon show there in September of 1963. But WNDR’s signal didn’t reach Utica, New York, fifty miles to the east. Consequently, WTLB reigned supreme in the Utica-Rome market, also enjoying extended listenership through much of the historic Mohawk Valley toward Albany.


At the invitation of WTLB’s Program Director, I would occasionally jump into my ’63 Chevy SS Super Sport Impala (425 hp) (9 miles per gallon) and head down the Thruway to pull a Sunday afternoon air shift. The format was much looser in Utica and a young, imaginative DJ could experiment with interesting techniques and approaches.


It was upon such an occasion I received a call on our WTLB “Hitline” from a young female purporting to be – Annette. Believing the caller to be charmingly fraudulent, I cheerfully expressed my disbelief, concluding with a challenge to prove her identity with an immediate visit to the station. Fifteen minutes later, accompanied by a protective cohort of several large male cousins, there was Annette -- spending a few days in Utica visiting her family.


Interspersed with a few tunes, I interviewed her on the air for two and a half hours. I mean, come on! It was Annette! Having become known as “America’s Sweetheart”, she still exuded that untouchable, unknowable virginal innocence I had always associated with female Mouseketeers and all Catholic High School girls.


“M-I-C”—–See you later!”
“K-E-Y”—–Why? Because my body is the Temple of The Holy Ghost
and/or Walt Disney and they won’t share me.”
“M-O-U-S-E!”

But how things change.

Contemporary Disney darlings from the revived “Mickey Mouse Club” (’89 to ’96) included Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, while Lindsay Lohan starred in Disney’s remake of “The Parent Trap”, “Freaky Friday” and, with a title unintentionally prophetic, “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

While Annette’s beach movies at their hottest were considered “slightly spicy,” Christina, Britney and Lindsay have left illusions of perpetual celibacy far behind. But the transformation of Disney’s All-American, clean cut, utterly wholesome “Hanna Montana” to the real life Miley Cyrus on this year’s MTV Music Video Awards must have witnessed poor Walt Disney spinning away in his rumored cryogenic chamber faster than light speed squared.

Joining Robin Thicke in live performance of his undisputed #1 Summer of 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines” (introduced to Sierra Star readers in a characteristically predictive column way back in early June), Miley was agonizing in her sad professional determination to turn from sweet to slattern without the talent to pull anything off other than clothing.

What was dependable in the past is dicey in the present.

Ask retirees of International Business Machine, long considered a paragon of corporate stability and trustworthiness.

Here’s a headline from last Sunday’s Huffington Post: “IBM To Move Retirees Off Its Health Plan Due to Rising Costs.” The article went on to explain that 110,000 former employees will shortly have to pay a significant portion of premiums for medical, prescription drug, dental and vision coverage. Other large employers are also moving away from formerly guaranteed health benefits, including American Airlines, as the United States remains the only nation in the entire industrialized world without some form of universal health care for its citizens.

The first serious step in that direction, our Affordable Care Act of 2010, is under renewed attack again by a retrogressive Republican Party determined that only the strongest deserve to survive as a matter of natural order and national priority.

Last week, former President Bill Clinton initiated a series of discussions aimed at explaining various components of the Act, legislation made even more complicated by necessary adjustments, capitulations and compromises demanded by bitter partisan opposition to its passage.

Summing things up, Clinton stated, “The current system is unaffordable and downright unhealthy for millions of Americans” and emphasized, “other prosperous countries cover everybody and do it at far less cost”, even though the United States ranks first “by a country mile” in the percentage of income spent on health care.

Those who scoff at “ObamaCare” are either embarrassingly clueless or intentionally misleading, depending upon the reliable ignorance of “low information voters” to join them in pejorative, mocking dismissal of remarkable, life saving legislation long overdue.

There are times when change is good.

This is one.

 

September 5, 2013

Tom

Dennis

“Huh?”

I couldn’t believe my lying ears.

They were telling me our ultra-right, super conservative Tea Party Congressman, Tom McClintock, was openly extolling the virtues of Dennis Kucinich, a far-left, extremely liberal, former Democratic Congressman from Ohio.

McClintock, representing California’s newly reconfigured Fourth District, was holding a “Town Hall Meeting” last Wednesday in the North Fork Rancheria’s Community Center as part of an ambitious four-appearance schedule that also included stops in Oakhurst, Shaver Lake and Prather.

An earlier gathering hosted by the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce was co-sponsored by “Women in Business”, a group clearly placing politics above gender in their support of McClintock, who refused to vote for the "Equal Pay for Women Act" and the “Violence Against Women Act", while being completely supportive of the anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act.” Even our right-leaning Supreme Court has now declared “D.O.M.A.” unconstitutional.

But this same McClintock was suddenly before me in North Fork praising Dennis Kucinich, a man once described by Cleveland Tea Party Patriots as being “Ohio’s Top Socialist”.

The reason for McClintock’s out of the blue endorsement was a statement made by the former Mayor of Cleveland a day before referencing President Obama’s rumored decision to level a punitive, “surgical blow” against Syria as retribution for crossing a “red line” in resorting to the use of poisonous gas against a civilian population.

Here’s what Kucinich said that obtained McClintock’s sanction and blessing: “So, what? We’re about to become Al Qaeda’s air force now? This is a very serious matter – and to try to minimize it by saying we’re just going to have a “targeted strike” – that’s an act of war.”

After extended reflection, I find myself agreeing completely with Representative McClintock and Mr. Kucinich in this matter, even as I maintain widely dissimilar notions on almost every other issue mentioned during the Congressman’s well-received, hour-long presentation. And that includes frogs and toads.

McClintock, as astute a politician as I’ve ever encountered, is wisely tapping understandable local concerns over economic consequences of past federal environmental legislation with his virulent opposition to proposed endangered species designation of the Yellow-Legged Frog and threatened species designation for the Yosemite Toad. His view is that U.S. Fish and Wildlife guidelines will likely cause severe restrictions on land access and could limit or forbid activities such as grazing, trout stocking, logging, mining and recreational use -- resulting in a devastating impact on our regional economy.

Similarly, he is firmly against recent proposals from the National Park Service and its much-discussed (some say “disgusting”) Merced River Plan.

“Radical environmentalists want us to look – but not touch”, summarizes McClintock.

Given the fact that these topics have pretty much risen to the top of foothill community issues, the September Meeting of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst will feature, as our guest speaker, George Whitmore, Chair of the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Yosemite Committee. The Tehipite Chapter encompasses all of the counties of Fresno, Madera, Merced and Mariposa, and parts of two other counties, including all of Yosemite National Park.

Mr. Whitmore has held various assignments at the local, regional and national levels of the Sierra Club for the last fifty years. He also attended Representative McClintock’s meetings of last week in North Fork, Shaver Lake and Prather.

While observing that our Congressman is “very smooth, even when handling sticky questions”, Whitmore also declares, “Tom McClintock was clearly born a hundred years too late – and would have been more in sync with the way things were done – or not done – in the 1800’s. He probably thinks that Teddy Roosevelt was one of the worst Presidents we ever had, perhaps even worse than Obama.”

But Mr. Whitmore also adds, “All of the dire predictions of impending doom if we try to rescue the frog or toad from oblivion could come true if we leave the Fish and Wildlife Service or other entities free to do whatever they wish. These agencies need to hear from the citizenry. The widely divergent views as to how Yosemite should be managed are only to be expected, given the very strong connections people feel to this remarkable place. To me, it is a cathedral – a cathedral as many as possible should be allowed to visit.”

As a member of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst’s Executive Committee and moderator of our monthly meetings, I herein cordially and enthusiastically invite you to join us at the new Denny’s at 9 AM this coming Saturday– regardless of party affiliation – to engage in a spirited, yet admirably amiable question and answer session following our speaker’s opening remarks.

Then, after the meeting, you are also encouraged to attend the 11th Annual Run for The Gold Car Show at the Oakhurst Community Center, where this columnist gets to glide into his blue suede shoes and spin a few Rock & Roll Oldies again this year for the Oakhurst Kiwanis.

And for our October Meeting of the Democratic Club?

How ‘bout David Martin from the U.S. Forest Service?

 

August 29, 2013

"Justice"

The Butler” begins with an exclamation point and ends with a question mark.

As this week marks the 50th Anniversary of 1963’s “March on Washington” with Dr. Martin Luther King sharing his historic dream before hundreds of thousands, “The Butler” was #1 at the box office for a second triumphant weekend before millions of moviegoers.

The film’s first few minutes are not for the feint of heart – a savage encapsulation of deadly oppression – while the last moment is powerfully inconclusive and appropriately so -- for that’s where we are.

“The Butler” (PG13) ostensibly traces the White House career of Eugene Allen, who served eight U.S. Presidents over the course of 30 years, witnessing sweeping social changes during his three decades of dedicated service at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.But this is a movie, not a traditional documentary.

For cinematic purposes, Eugene Allen is morphed into a marginally fictional character named Cecil Gaines, brilliantly portrayed by Forest Whitaker – perhaps Oscar-bound again.

As was true in the case of “The Last King of Scotland”, a film that won Whitaker his 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor in a powerful portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, “The Butler” is a fictionalized chronicle, so leave your fact checker home.

That observed, it nonetheless presents an extraordinarily encompassing mosaic of recent American history with a sharp black perspective rare in its raw revelations. It centers on a continuing struggle for civil rights, an effort only partially realized in our times with mileposts reached, but great distance remaining.Timing couldn’t be more perfect, perhaps the primary reason our local Oakhurst audience burst into appreciative applause as final screen credits rolled – an enthusiastic endorsement of the movement at least as much as the movie.

In a serendipitous prelude to “The Butler”, Rachel Maddow appeared last week in a live MSNBC broadcast from Boone, North Carolina, where voting in Watauga County has been reduced by a new Republican controlled County Board of Elections from three separate precincts to a single, barely accessible polling place for over 9,000 registered voters, including students at Appalachian State University, a predominantly black institution. Simultaneously, the GOP chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is attempting to shut down an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University – another minority school. And the Pasquotank County Board has just proclaimed students at Elizabeth City State University with a majority African-American enrollment ineligible to cast local ballots in November.All of this is happening in tandem with passage by the North Carolina State Legislature of what has been generally referenced in the national press as “the nation’s worst voter suppression law.”

Let it be noted that the theoretical excuse for such a draconian measure --“widespread hidden voter fraud” – accounted for far, far less than one percent of all votes cast in North Carolina in 2012 – actually .00174%.

In an interview Sunday on “Face the Nation”, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told Bob Shieffer of CBS, “These kind of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote, I think, are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote, and I encourage that.”

I herein salute General Powell for such prescient commentary and praise Ms. Maddow for bringing desperately needed focus to these virulent attempts at reviving the soul-scarring, rights-robbing, humiliating ghosts of moldering Jim Crow legislation, now rising from the dead like vampires at dusk.

And such things do not exist in sterile isolation.“The Butler” serves up significant food for serious thought.

It is not so much a summary as a summons.

Work undone remains justice unknown.

But not unreasonable, undeniable or unobtainable.

Justice.

It’s all up to – just us.

 

August 22, 2013

 

"A Challenge to The Challengers"

 

Reince Priebus is a mealy mouthed mouse with a Star Trek name who just
squeaked “surrender” again.


Reince is National Committee Chairman of the Republican Party, elected
on January 14, 2011 after seven rounds of voting in the aftermath of
union busting Scott Walker’s election as Governor of Wisconsin. Walker
endorsed Priebus' bid for the Chairmanship from the get go, attributing
the party's and his November 2010 victories in Wisconsin to "Priebus'
leadership and involvement in the Tea Party movement that swept the
state and the nation" during that election cycle.


So here we are with over 600 dead and thousands wounded in a single
vicious day of bloody Egyptian rioting last week with hundreds more
killed those same 24 hours in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon as “The
Arab Spring” has disintegrated into a savage summer.


Ignoring all that, as even Fox News now solemnly intones the American
Middle Class is well on the way to economic extinction and global
scientists have again universally confirmed our planet is undergoing
the most severe degree of climate change in the last 65 million years,
Priebus priorities have elevated to pathetic first place prominence --
a new Republican pastime -– the art of cable spanking.


In a letter sent on behalf of the Party to Robert Greenblatt, Chairman
of NBC Entertainment, and Jeff Zucker, President of CNN Worldwide,
Reince demanded the networks cancel two independent productions because
both projects still in development would be about -- Hillary Clinton.
When refusal was instantaneous, Reince introduced and obtained a
unanimous vote from all attending the National Summer Republican
Committee Convention in Boston to ban CNN and MSNBC from covering
Republican Presidential Primary Debates in 2016.


Setting aside the fact that Reince and the GOP have no actual power to
enforce such a restriction, this marks another tactical capitulation on
the part of Priebus to extreme right-wingers who remain dominant in
Party planning, even though there was serious talk from Reince
immediately following Obama’s victory last November about becoming more
centrist.


But in an interview with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC in March, Priebus
used such phraseology as “a lot of idiotic things” and “a lot of stupid
biological things” in characterizing Republican campaign rhetoric in
the lost Presidential election. Ever more evident is a continuing
retreat from reality and reinforced realignment to the newly emerging
theme that “the candidate was the problem”, theoretically making any
contemplated departure from hard core conservative principles more
heretical than ever. This was again signaled a few days ago at the
Boston gathering when Priebus told reporters Mitt Romney’s reference to
“self-deportation” on the issue of Immigration Reform was “hurtful and
horrific.”


As top traditional Republican faithful gathered at that same Boston
hotel where Mitt Romney learned he would not be President on November
6, 2012 -- as these key players tried to determine and define the
future direction of their imperiled Party – Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and
Tea Party partners in the North Carolina State Legislature enacted and
signed a broad bill to massively restrict voting rights, a move
designed to deeply curtail minority and youth voting in the state.
And here’s Texas misanthrope, Ted Cruz, calling for the abolition of
the Internal Revenue Service, perhaps leaving the payment of federal
taxes to be defined as an optional exercise.


Not to be outdone, Rand “Surly But Curly” Paul keeps elevating attacks
on New Jersey Governor Chris Christy for being fat and fatuous, but
really because he was photographed being cordial to Barack Obama.
And there’s renewed discussion in Washington of once again holding the
nation hostage by refusing to shortly raise the already Congressionally
limited debt ceiling unless Obamacare is overturned.


But anything with our President’s name attached is automatically and
bitterly challenged in certain circles completely regardless of
content, branded as “bad” only because it involves “Barack.”


As a dramatic illustration, we witness California’s own national
embarrassment, Congressman Darrell Issa, turning up absolutely nothing
in extensive hearings before his House Oversight and Government Reform
Committee tying the Obama Administration to any sinister wrong doing in
the case of “Fast and Furious” and/or “Benghazi” and/or “The IRS”
and/or anything else. Forget “mountains of proof.” He couldn’t even
find molehills. Nothing. NOTHING. N-O-T-H-I-N-G.


I herein defy anyone, particularly local pundits, to produce a single
shred of actual evidence indicating otherwise.


Come on.


Show what you’ve got.

Put it out here.


As Clara insisted in those old Wendy’s commercials, “Show us the beef!”


Or let us blissfully find rapture in your sullen silence.

 

August 8, 2013

Caring? Sharing!"

The House and Senate have adjourned for their hardly earned annual five-week summer break, so it’s business as usual these lazy, crazy days of August in Washington with nothing of meaningful significance happening in the halls of Congress.

One of the last things passed in the House last Friday was a record 40th anti-Obamacare vote (232 to 185) on a measure introduced by Tom Price (R-Georgia) charmingly entitled, “The Keep The IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013”-- doomed to failure from the outset with a Democratic President and Senate fortunately in place. Price, a national Tea Party hero, has gone on record time and time again condemning "The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010" as a “government takeover of health care”, a characterization as patently false as it is insipidly stupid. However, this qualifies Price to be often mentioned as a possible new House Speaker if John Boehner doesn’t talk the talk and walk the walk, trembling at every turn lest he upset Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and other beneficiaries of rich, self-interested, ever wealthier campaign donors, the infamous Koch brothers coming quickest to mind.

After 24 years in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has become a multimillionaire -- and not just for good looks. Dedicated to Barack Obama’s political destruction since the day our President took office, McConnell ironically now faces primary competition for his Senate seat in 2014 from even more conservative candidates pledged to out-hate Mitch at the drop of a hood.

As with their previous 39 attempts to undermine the expressed will of the American people, our uptight right continues wasting time and talent in petulant pursuit of party purity. We can look for more of the same just down the road unless responsible GOP traditionalists can wrestle party control away from its wistfully wayward John Galt wannabes -- dedicated do-nothings with dreams of an Ayn Randian inspired Utopia dancing through their heads like sugar plums on Christmas Eve.

For the uninitiated, John Galt is the iconoclastic hero of “Atlas Shrugged” -- a long-winded, bombastic 1957 work of political fiction from Alisa Rosenbaum writing under the pseudonym “Ayn Rand."


Alisa was a Russian-born atheist heavily influenced in her early years by William Edward Hickman, an American serial killer. The hero of Rosenbaum’s novel “The Fountainhead”, Howard Roark, is said to be based on Hickman and is admiringly described in the book with these words -- “He was born without the ability to consider others.” Hickman was hanged from the gallows at San Quentin on October 19, 1928 for the gruesome kidnapping, killing and dismemberment of 12 year-old Marion Parker. Justice Clarence Thomas has described “The Fountainhead” as his “favorite book.”


"Objectivism", a core philosophy developed by Ms. Rosenbaum and now espoused in our times by Tea Party Libertarian types, essentially preaches that the proper moral purpose of one's own life is the singular pursuit of individual happiness -- concern for others being relegated to the dust bin of history -- as antiquated a notion as Christianity. WHAT?

Behold the following directly copied this instant from the Ayn Rand Institute's website as written by Dr. Edwin Locke: "Christianity cannot be practiced consistently, destroys the integrity of man's mind, and is incompatible with living successfully and happily in the real world."


I prefer Matthew 25: 34-50 in the Standard American Bible and these words of Jesus:


"Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you are the blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me."
Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger and invite you in or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?" The King will answer, "Truly I say to you, to the extent you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to me."


Ultimately, it all comes down to caring and sharing.


Godliness and selfishness are intrinsically oppositional.


Let he or she who achieves material success enjoy first and foremost the fruits of their labor, yet remain ever thoughtful of those with less attained, especially children of poverty whose lot is surely not of their own design.


"Blessed is he that considers the poor: The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." -- Psalm 41:1


When we elect folks to government who scorn the concept of social equity and a common good -- government won’t work. It never has. It never will.


It simply can't.

July 25, 2013

"You Never Can Tell"

"It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well.
You could see that Pierre did truly love the Madamoiselle."

"You Never Can Tell" -- Chuck Berry -- (1963)

You can't buy it where they make it.

Lynchburg, Tennessee is the home of Jack Daniels, distilling fine bourbon whiskey by the billions of barrels, but it's in Moore County. That's been dry since way before Prohibition.

A bit north of Lynchburg is Cookeville, about 80 miles east of Nashville, where our oldest granddaughter, Katherine, was married on Saturday to a handsome
young Second Lieutenant named Patrick. He'll be heading off to Flight School in just a few weeks.

I've known Katherine for almost 21 years, holding her in my arms that first day she was born on December 20, 1992. She was baptized in a fine Irish Christening gown Eileen and I brought from Killarney a short time before for just such purpose. In the years that followed as she began to ever so magically enter early childhood, the enchanted "Riverdance" unexpectedly exploded from a Dublin stage into the global phenomenon it became, reviving traditional Irish music and dance from modern cultural obscurity to unparalleled prominence - lifting both to world renown.

Following my presentation suggestions with proper precision, Katherine would patiently hide behind the living room couch biding her time as I would elaborately initiate her introduction in my announcer voice to an imagined audience bubbling with anticipation. As opening strains of "The Countess Cathleen" filled the room with fiddles and flutes, I would continue my recitation of exaggerated hyperbole until a specifically selected instant, at which point two year-old Katherine would leap into sight with electrified launch and River Dance in joyous abandon exactly as did Jean Butler in the original production.

I was most honored when Katherine called several weeks ago and asked if I might assist her in preparing music for both her wedding ceremony and the reception to follow. And so it was that extra tears flowed when she appeared in dazzling view, hitting that exact cue once again - but this time slowly and gently gliding down the aisle like the most graceful of beautiful swans accompanied by her wonderful father, Paul.

Katherine and Patrick had scripted everything out with acute attention to every tiny detail. "Riverdance" selections with ten edited tunes from George Clooney's highly eclectic "O Brother Where Art Thou?" was surely creatively brilliant and was accompanied by outstanding visual elements, further elaboration upon which must await some future time. Suffice it to observe that "Blue Grass" music directly evolved from its native Scotch - Irish origins in the hills and valleys of early Appalachian settlement. I'm quite proud that Katherine knew this and figured out a way to combine both in theme and execution.

Shifting mood, her Reception following lunch started with Chuck Berry's early Rock & Roll classic, "You Never Can Tell," then rocked right along - virtually offering every form of contemporary tunes right up through today.

At the entrance to the Cookeville Town Center, wedding guests were confronted with a large, down-home, hand-lettered sign which simply read, "Today two families become one, so pick a seat - not a side."

That immediately brought to mind my colleague, Alan Cheah's "For Your Consideration" column from last week 's Sierra Star, which I had just read before leaving the hotel.

As mentioned previously, we have never found need to read each other's words until actually published, an excellent approach which has proven most viable in our collaborative effort - great minds thinking alike.

Alan's basic theme was that, despite basic differences in fundamental political persuasion, there is every reason to discover common ground in oppositional positions wherever found and act collectively toward better times in mutual best interest. I herein echo those sentiments.

It just might work.

Whenever we can, let's agree to agree.

You never can tell.

 

 

July 11, 2013

Lenny and "The Lottery"


It has been judged a "chilling tale of conformity gone mad."

"The Lottery" was first published by The New Yorker magazine in June of 1948 and is today regarded as one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature -- dazzlingly brilliant in its relentless darkness.

In an annual rite of spring, a rural community chooses -- by random drawing -- a sacrificial victim, who is then stoned to death by one and all to insure a bountiful harvest.

Written by Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery" is a study in collective mentality, an evolutionary adaptation that provides a mechanism for common consensus, but also offers an ever present possibility of group sanctioned, morally reprehensible behavior.

An extreme example in modern times is easily witnessed by brief reflection at the ultimate horrors unleashed under Hitler's Third Reich.

Discernable resonance might be cited in mindless generational adherence to traditionally cherished, but demonstrably antiquated notions such as belief in an utterly flat world from which we might sail straight off the edge without due caution. It's been far less than a thousand years since our relatively ancient species set that matter straight.

An even milder, but similarly concerning development in recent days has been the stunning cultural castigation of Paula Deen, a stoning I feel is both unwarranted and unfair.

66 year-old Paula Deen is an American celebrity chef and Emmy Award winning television personality with whom I had been completely unfamiliar until she admitted using the "N-Word" during questioning in a legal deposition and now the you-know-what has hit the you-know-where. Mind you, Ms. Deen didn't use the "N-Word" on her TV show or in her cookbooks or yell it at someone in public, especially at an "N". She merely admitted that she had allowed that word to pass her lips at some point in life. Her exact testimony under oath was, "Yes, of course. But that's just not a word that we use. I don't -- I don't know. As time has gone on things have changed since the 60's in the south."

Since this display of sincere candor exploded on the front page of the National Enquirer last month, Paula Deen has been brutally ostracized by the American press -- her integrity bashed, her endorsements crashed, her reputation thoroughly trashed.

She has been effectively fired by The Food Network, Walmart, Target, QVC, Home Depot, J.C.Penney, Sears, K-Mart and Ballantine Books in an outrageous example of wimpy, smarmy, patronizing, knee-jerk, lemming-like response to potential accusations of marginally offensive racial insensitivity or something vaguely akin.

What's wrong with us?

I find myself in complete agreement with former President Jimmy Carter who courageously states, "I think Paula Deen has been punished, perhaps overly severely, for her honesty in admitting the use of the word in the distant past. She's apologized profusely and should be forgiven."

I'll go one step further. I think we should all use the "N-Word" as often and as loud as we can till it's all worn out and we can throw it away forever.

Here’s Dusty Hoffman quoting Lenny Bruce as directed by Bob Fosse back in ‘72:

"It's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness.”

Lenny Bruce was a high wire act. A gentle genius.

When Michael Richards of "Seinfeld" fame tried to use Bruce's classic monologue on the " N-Word" in 2010, he failed miserably. It's one of those stream-of-consciousness ramblings one has to repeat perfectly, word for word, beat for beat, or not try at all. Richards is not a real racist - just a poor performer. He tried some Lenny lines, blew his balance and killed his career in less than two minutes time.

Rather than bring my editor-boss-friend Brian Wilkinson to the point of instant cardiac arrest by suggesting we print the heart of Bruce's observations in this obviously family-friendly publication, daring and adventurous readers may visit www.petercavanaugh.wordpress.com for more complete elucidation.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you” (Traditional Children’s Chant) (Timeless)

One more thing about Lenny Bruce:

“Dirty Lenny died so we could all be free”

Steve Earle -- "The FCC” (2005)

"N-Wordly" yours,

Peter "The Mick" Cavanaugh

 

June 27, 2013

"Uncle Elmer Rides Again!"

My little brother and I sat quieter than mice on cotton.

Several times each year, my widowed mother would book us on New York Central's mighty "Empire State Express" from Syracuse through the Mohawk Valley to Albany, where we would spend a few days visiting my grandfather, William's, three aging sisters in their expansive second floor flat on Grandview Terrace overlooking the Hudson River.

There was Aunt Bumps and Aunt Ellie, married to their respective husbands for over fifty years, and Aunt Belle, who hadn't been married for even fifty minutes to anyone at all. Belle, my feisty eighty-two year-old favorite, had been engaged to a handsome young Irish policeman named Steve when he dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of Albany's 1897 St. Patrick's Day Parade. At least once a month after Sunday church, Aunt Belle would take a trolley car to Saint Agnes Cemetery with a picnic lunch to bring Steve up to date. She never took another lover.

Aunt Bumps was married to Uncle Jack, while Aunt Ellie's husband was my Uncle Elmer, a taciturn, solemn Baptist who never spoke a word he could avoid, but always furtively slipped me a quarter for ice cream -- quite a score back then.

The five octogenarians had moved in together during The Great Depression and never found reason to drift apart. The secret of their remarkably amiable coexistence was faithful adherence to certain points of protocol established over time to insure group tranquility while honoring specific individual priorities.

Uncle Elmer's supreme moment of unchallenged control occurred three times weekly at 7:30 PM when everyone would take his or her place in a favorite living room spot, all household lighting would be extinguished without exception and thirty minutes of unbroken family silence would begin as the opening strains of Rossini's "William Tell Overture" filled the air and the sonorous voice of announcer Fred Foy solemnly intoned, " Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!

It was a holy moment. Elmer would take a mighty hit from his ancient briar pipe and rock deeply back with eyes tightly closed - lost in supreme contentment.

With tens of millions listening over the ABC Radio Network, "The Lone Ranger" was broadcast live from the studios of Detroit's WXYZ, 1270 on your AM dial starting on January 31, 1933. Partners George W. Trendle and H. Allen Campbell owned the program, as well as "The Green Hornet" and "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon" which also originated in the Motor City.

Trendle was notoriously cheap, choosing to use "The William Tell Overture" and other classical pieces as background music in his productions since they weren't subject to copyright payments.

Fran Striker, who wrote virtually all of the "Lone Ranger" scripts, received nothing other than a minimal salary for his efforts through the years and was once briefly fired when he asked Trendle for a three dollar per episode raise.

As radio historian Jack French noted in his 1999 essay on Trendle
entitled, "The Miser of Motown", "The strength and popularity of WXYZ and its syndicated network programming became a gold mine for Trendle and his banker cronies. But the talented cast, crew and production staffs of these shows always got short-changed. Many of the high-handed practices Trendle perfected would not have been successful in any era other than The Depression, where any job was eagerly sought by desperate Americans."

Perhaps that's why Striker, in formally composing a list of essential Lone Ranger characteristics for writing assistants, included these exact words: "The Lone Ranger believes that men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number."

Trendle and Campbell eventually used part of their "Lone Ranger Money" to put a new radio station on the air a few miles north of Detroit in Flint, using their "Trendle and Campbell" initials for the call letters of W-T-A-C. I joined WTAC in 1964 as a local DJ and ran into many of the "WXYZ old-timers" during my Michigan years, including "The Lone Ranger" himself, Brace Beemer. That role came to be played by Clayton Moore in the subsequent TV series and is now inherited by Armie Hammer in the new movie opening next Wednesday, July 3rd, at the Met Cinemas.

With Johnny Depp as Tonto, this new "Lone Ranger" promises to be THE summer movie of 2013 and, judging from the trailer, looks like another Disney masterpiece. I'll be there for the first showing, saving an empty seat right next to me.

For Uncle Elmer.

"Hi-Yo, Silver! And away!

 

June 13, 2013

"Blurred Lines"

Megan Richardson was so mad she could spit.


The source of her anger was Scott Sloan and his unabashed enthusiasm for “naked young girls.”
Scott is the midday host on 50,000 watt powerhouse WLW — throughout the years Cincinnati’s most listened-to radio station.
I was in Cincinnati last weekend for our grandson, William’s, High School graduation.


William, an Eagle Scout, is headed for Ohio University in the fall where he has entered an ROTC program in preparation for extended military service following college. When he rose with other similarly pledged classmates during formal commencement ceremonies to indicate his commitment, I was filled with pride. It wasn’t that long ago I carried him on my shoulders as he laughed and pulled my hair.


Joining daughter Colleen and son-in-law Lindsey Pyron (William’s Mom & Dad) — with us in Cincinnati for William’s happy occasion were our three other daughters — Laurie from Nashville, Candace of Detroit and Susan from right here in Oakhurst — all of the preceding accompanied by their own families. It was the first time in six years all of us were together. Eleven grandchildren aside, I was the only non-Republican in the bunch. Spirited political discussion is never excluded from our conversations, but we truly love each other. The joy of reunion always takes unchallenged precedence over all else whenever and wherever we meet.


WLW is owned by Clear Channel, a media giant offering extraordinary conservative programming, including syndication rights to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and others of that ilk. In fact, WLW’s primary coverage area, a combination of Southern Ohio, Eastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky counties, is about as conservative an area as you’d ever hope to find this side of Ho Chi Mihn City. That’s why Scott Sloan’s live interview with Megan Richardson of the “International Womens’ Council” struck me as hugely entertaining and spectacularly unique. It also illustrated a particularly pertinent point. Against every principled position — an opposite usually exists. For genuinely sharp focus on any subject, we are decidely dulled without debate. In the search for truth, black and white sometime join and merge to gray. Clarity often waits only behind blurred lines.


And it was “Blurred Lines” that was driving Megan Richardson nuttier than a pound of pecans on Scott Sloan’s WLW show.
“Blurred Lines”is an R&B/Hip-Hop smash here and overseas. Robin Thicke (Alan’s kid) is the recording artist, accompanied by American rapper T.I. and singer/producer Pharrell. It is #1 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and the Netherlands and listed among the Top Ten in Belgium, Denmark, France, Portugal, Switzerland and here in The States. But in Megan’s view it’s not the song that’s wrong — it’s that “disgusting video.”


In the visual presentation we see Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell casually standing around appearing almost oblivious to topless models Emily Ratajkowski, Jessi M’Bengue and Ell Evans prancing about in wild, provocative frolic — almost ignored by the targets of their seduction. You almost get the impression the guys would rather be at a ballpark. Since the topless part of the piece and certain suspect gestures violate YouTube’s terms of service, they keep taking it down, then someone puts it back up. Make no mistake. This is for mature viewers only. Ask your teen.


Richardson’s talking points were the usual “we’re all going to hell in a hand basket” rap, mixed with outrage at Sloan’s insistence that she’s completely missing the fact that “Blurred Lines” graphically presents an excellent “learning opportunity” to teach his own daughter about reactionary rhetoric, exploitive sex and media manipulation. While I initially suspected Scott was brilliantly baiting Megan, I eventually came to conclude he was honestly being truthful in his general assessment and summary dismissal of Ms. Richardson’s novice naivite.


My own perspective is that both the song and video are pretty cool, though admittedly hotter than your average bare.


The “Blurred Lines” video was produced and directed by Diane Martel.


Watching kids go hungry is obscene.
As is ignorance, intolerance, stupidity and war.
Not bouncy breasts.


Hey! Hey! Hey!


Click Here For Video

 

May 23, 2013

ABC Outfoxes Competition

Bill O’Reilly? Sean Hannity? Megyn Kelly? Make way for King Karl!


On Friday, May 10th, ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl grabbed major media attention across a wide spectrum with an “ABC Exclusive” now revealed to be woefully inaccurate, significantly misleading and pathetically unprofessional.


What appeared to be direct quotes from the e-mails of White House and State Department aides turned out to be significantly less. After CNN challenged Karl’s credibility, he admitted he hadn’t actually reviewed the material in question himself, but was “quoting verbatim” from someone who allegedly had. The White House finally put an end to all speculation with the release of documentation proving Karl’s inaccuracy — and once and for all establishing beyond doubt that the Administration did not engage in any Benghazi talking points cover up.


Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkley, unequivocally says of Karl’s “Exclusive”, “It’s highly problematic ethically, and the failure to acknowledge or correct is even worse.” Wasserman’s review is echoed by Tom Fiedler, dean of the Boston University College of Communication, who stated Karl’s report “cries out for a correction.”


Ramping up the craziness — it seems that the Obama White House had already made the alleged source of Karl’s revelations available to Republican leadership several months earlier in tandem with Confirmation Hearings for CIA Director John Brennan, except the actual documents offer a much different conclusion than that so self-servingly and haphazardly presented by Karl.
The fact that so many Congressional Republicans expressed shock and dismay over initial coverage of the phony ABC “discovery” offers woeful witness to and undeniable evidence of their own gross negligence in not reading what had been in front of them all along.


After Benghazi blaming went the way of reported flying saucer landings on Von’s roof, Big Foot sightings in North Fork and the most recent alien abduction up near Fish Camp, at least Obama haters still had FBI subpoenas of Associated Press phone records and IRS persecution of the Tea Party to fall back on — for a few minutes. But if scandals were sandals –they’d now have sore feet.


New information indicates that no laws were clearly broken in either instance, although both subjects remain areas of deep concern in terms of obviously conflicting interpretations of applicable legislation on the part of underlings who, in every instance, had no direct connection to or communication with the President regarding their actions. Even in the face of House Speaker John Boehner’s “Who’s going to jail?” pandering, ambiguity is not a felonious offense.


But the big buzz bursting out of Jonathan Karl’s sloppy journalism has left its toll. A new survey by Public Policy Polling reveals that 23% of Americans have come to believe that “Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American History”, although a full 39% of this number have absolutely no idea where Benghazi might be located.


This grouping presumably includes the 17% of our fellow citizens who still insist that President Obama is a Muslim and the 24% who “know he was born elsewhere”, including more than half (55%) of registered Republicans according to a Dartmouth poll.
By my estimation, a “low information voter” is infinitely worse than a “no information voter” — the latter representing simple ignorance while the former illustrates a simple mind.


Rhetorical venom seeps into some, yet poisons all.

 

May 2, 2013

"Them Or Us?"

 

"Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay.
Yeah, well maybe that wasn't exactly what they was thinkin' --
Version six-point-oh of the American way.

But hey -- we can just build a great wall around the country club
To keep the riff-raff out until the slump is through.
Yeah, I realize that ain't exactly democratic, but it's either them or us and it's the best that we can do."

Steve Earle --"Amerika v.6.0" (2003)

 


It's now 2013 -- 10 years down the road.

I live ever more unencumbered by great wealth.

And with plenty of company.

A new study released last week by the Pew Research Center dramatically demonstrates an undisputed fact -- economic inequality has widened substantially during the first two years of our current recovery from the Great Recession as the upper 7% of American households have witnessed an average net worth increase of 28% -- almost a full third -- while the wealth of the remaining 93% of us has flat out declined. Got it?

From 2009 to 2011, the average accumulated worth of America's 8 million most affluent households jumped from $2.7 million to $3.2 -- even as the average holdings of the bottom 111 million families fell from $140,000 to $134,000, a drop of 4%. OK with you?

That top 7% owned 56% of the nation's wealth in 2009, but it jumped to 63% by 2011 and is still climbing, leaving the rest of us to fight for little pieces of the remaining less than 37%. Paul Taylor, Director of the Research Center, summed it all up as follows -"It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of wealth distribution, but there has been no recovery for the lower 93% -- which is nearly -- EVERYBODY." Think that's cool?

Let's face it, folks. Forget redistribution. We need restitution. That's not evil envy -- just honest observation. For over thirty years the American middle class has been on a slow but steady decline. Anyone who doubts this only need look about and take a true count.

Want more jobs? At living wages? With real security, a return to prosperity and pride restored?

The whole sad scene needs a time machine. Climb in! Get set! Hang on, Sloopy!

Yes! Eisenhower era tax rates! Dwight David Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces when he won World Was Two as a five-star general, let alone being elected to our nation's highest office as a great Republican.

Let's see. For the wealthiest Americans making over $400,000 a year that would be a marginal rate of -- 91% -- effective from 1954 through 1963 when I graduated from college, still leaving the rich with tons of money. My friends and I were doing fine as well. Today it's way less than half that -- only 35% above $388,350, even as The Tea Party sulks and sobs over "highest in history" taxation as they continue their vigilant search high and low for FEMA Concentration camps wherein Barack Obama is worshipped as a living god, women wear pants while voting and spoken English is forbidden.

For those who preach financial belt tightening as a hangman knots his noose, that whole "austerity" deal was finally revealed as the fraud it was only days ago with the discovery of "a spreadsheet coding error" in a seminal economics paper quoted time and time again by conservative elements insisting "spending is the problem." It's not. Long constriction by wrong conviction is. We're collectively being had while those having us laugh all the way to the bank -- amused that so many still unwittingly accept free fall when it's promoted as freedom. Free? Dumb!

We can flash the cash. Borrowing has rarely been cheaper. Only the badly bewildered doubt we're good for it. Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Paul Krugman is correct. "The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor."

The only true burden our grandchildren might bear will be the inevitable consequence of not trusting in ourselves. Their future well being depends upon a collective commitment to our flag, our nation and, most of all, to each other.

Nothing to it -- but to do it.

And why not make lobbying a Federal Felony, punishable with all the money anyone has and life imprisonment in a padded cell with 200 decibels of Justin Bieber piped in 24/7?

We ARE the Country.

Let's take our CONGRESS back!

 

April 18, 2013

"A Classic Case of Premature Capitulation"



In the frenzied world of political foreplay, there are few things that offer the same degree of collective embarrassment as a revival of premature capitulation.

I just don't get it.

With any number of viable options remaining open toward reducing a Federal debt primarily bloated in little over a decade by two unneeded wars and radical tax cuts for the wealthy under Republican leadership, President Obama's unconscionable surrender on Social Security and Medicare issues in his new budgetary proposals are more mysterious than quantum mechanics, the Bermuda Triangle and Donald Trump's hair all rolled into one.

That's why the 125 member Oakhurst Democratic Club approved the following resolution at its monthly meeting on April 5th:

"It is hereby resolved that the Oakhurst Democratic Club strongly condemns any action on the part of President Obama which would in any way negatively impact upon future payments of Social Security benefits, including any changes in annual cost-of-living adjustments as currently structured."

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am on the Executive Committee of the Club and moderate our monthly meetings. I would also observe that the vote referenced above was not unanimous. After all, we're Democrats. At least a third of those in attendance expressed certain reservations on issues dealing with party loyalty, phraseology, timing, and other understandable concerns. But a clear majority joined me in supporting the desirability of an immediate, decisive response to what seems to be an odd and unhelpful inclusion in our President's initial overture to a chronically recalcitrant and oftentimes mindlessly oppositional Congress.

In such matters, this is not Obama's first rodeo.

On January 13, 2009, a young President-elect prefaced his first term in office with a three-hour dinner meeting at the home of conservative columnist George Will in Chevy Chase, Maryland with other G.O.P. luminaries at the table, including the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post. This and a number of other Administrative olive branch gestures through subsequent months and years have conclusively proven that any motion toward conciliation and compromise with "the other side" has normally come to naught, particularly after dramatic Tea Party victories in 2010. Reflection upon such Democratic losses offers further reason to scorn such unwelcomed abandonment of fundamental basics as we witness in President Obama's new proposals.

John Boehner became Speaker of the House of Representatives with an astounding Republican majority even as separate state elections saw Republicans seize control of governorships from Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Tennessee, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin. By the time all votes were counted, the GOP had additionally won at least 19 state legislative bodies from Democrats, including both chambers in Alabama and Wisconsin, the Michigan House, the Ohio House and the Pennsylvania House -- just in time for gerrymandered redistricting.

It is my strong contention that this powerful and impressive 2010 Republican resurgence was a direct consequence of disaffected, disappointed, disillusioned 2008 Obama supporters, particularly the young disenchanted, staying home by the millions. There was a sad and self-defeating abandonment of hope in a President who, during his first two Oval Office years, was seen not practicing what he had so passionately preached.

"Yes, We Can't?"

The concept of a simple single payer approach to universal health insurance being trashed at the very outset of "Obama care" planning in its earliest stages?

No serious legislation addressing financial horrors that brought about a financial crisis threatening the entire world?

A "surge" of 20,000 more young American warriors sent to Afghanistan authorized by the President on December 3, 2009?

The only true hope of passing progressive political legislation in the relatively near future rests with a wrestling of House control away from current conservative extremes in 2014. Such a transformation, combined with a "filibuster proof" Senate majority and a sitting Democratic President, could finally put obvious objectives derailed in 2010 back on track, but not if we once again fall victim to déjà vu.

On September 6, 2008, candidate Barack Obama stated the following in a speech to the National AARP Convention in Washington, D.C.--

"John McCain's campaign has gone even further, suggesting that the best answer to the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut the cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. I will not do either."

But now he is?

I fail to see any tactical reason for the obvious change of heart outlined in this singularly outrageous aspect of Obama's budget, particularly since the overall plan otherwise offers exceptionally promising positions on pre-school education, veteran's benefits, deficit reduction, vital infrastructure investment and other gratifying goodies. Even with a cynical suspicion of purely political posturing, one cannot imagine any potential upside. I believe there is every reason to conclude this unnecessary notion was at best -- ill advised and at worst -- a return to excessive expurgation.

Jeremy Weinstein worked at the Obama White House as a member of the National Security Council and quotes the President as specifically insisting to many visiting activist groups, "Your job is to hold my feet to the fire. You need to be out there everyday raising these issues, telling us when we’re doing the right or wrong thing. My role is to be President of the United States, and your role is to be a strong voice for people who aren’t always heard."

This remarkably echoes the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, upon meeting with prominent labor leaders after his election in 1932 and hearing their ideas on reforms and restructuring, said, "I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it!"

Forceful intervention at the Executive level being criminally unlawful and surely unwarranted, I suggest considering this a respectful attempt at appropriately polite persuasion.

Although I remain absolutely delighted that Barack Obama is our President instead of Mitt Romney, now almost as unknown and unwelcomed in Republican rhetoric as George W. Bush, I am thoroughly convinced there are a multitude of other moves to be made in addressing governmental spending other than slashing into COLA. How about moving FICA payments above the current threshold of $113,700, changing income tax rates back to Clinton Presidency levels and, most of all, closing billions of dollars lost through corporate loopholes?

Wait! What about Eisenhower era rates? He was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces when he won World Was Two as a five-star general, let alone being elected to our nation's highest office as a fine Republican.

Let's see. For the wealthiest Americans making over $400,000 a year that would be a marginal rate of -- 91% -- effective from 1954 through 1963 when I graduated from college. Today it's 35% above $388,350, even as The Tea Party sulks and sobs, tears flowing in that crazy crocodile way over "highest in history" taxation even as they continue their vigilant search high and low for FEMA Concentration camps wherein Barack Obama is worshipped as a living god, women wear pants while voting and English is forbidden.

Perhaps Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, often seen wearing pants, says it best for The Oakhurst Democratic Club:

"I was shocked to hear that the President's newest budget proposal would cut $100 billion in Social Security benefits. Our Social Security system is critical to protecting middle class families, and we cannot allow it to be dismantled inch by inch. In short, a "chained CPI" is just a fancy way to say, "cut benefits for seniors, the permanently disabled and orphans."

I love that lady!

But hate those cuts.


April 11, 2013


"McClintock No April Fool!"

Guilty.

When I first learned the date of April First being fortuitously chosen for our Fourth District Congressman Tom McClintock's first appearance at an Oakhurst "Town Meeting", I herein confess being overcome with exuberant expectation. I savored the joyous prospect of reviewing his visit with some sort of playfully pejorative "April Fool" headline. As can be seen above, this was not to be.

It was pretty much a Tea Party party.

Even North Fork Steve was there -- a political peacock fully costumed in colorfully enchanting, majestically magnificent, red, white & blue patriotic garb. Betsy Ross would have been proud. Steve got to close the session with a passionate, almost tearful expression of gracious gratitude extended to Mr. McClintock for his service to the nation, including an apology for having inadvertently exposed such a distinguished visitor to a lack of proper decorum on the part of certain unspecified individuals.

This would have undoubtedly included Susan Rowe, Chair of the Madera County Democratic Central Committee, who provided McClintock with the "most applause of the night", as accurately reported by Carmen George in last week's Star.

When called upon, Ms. Rowe noted that, while the overwhelmingly Republican U.S. House of Representatives recently approved The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 by a two to one margin, our Congressman voted against it. She pointedly asked the Congressman for a "Yes or No" answer as to whether he would cast his ballot in the future for or against similarly progressive legislation.

McClintock replied, "I'm not going to vote for a bill just because it sounds good. You can't tell a bill by its title." This thrust of admittedly clever repartee fully quenched any remaining audience thirst for intelligent analysis of the issue. It simultaneously energized loud and continuous hand clapping which realized the additional purpose of drowning out Ms. Rowe's repeated refusal to accept anything less than crystalline clarification from the Congressman. The timing was superb. If I didn't know Susan, I would have expected McClintock planted her in the audience for just such a thing and herein hope to dispel subsequently whispered rumors reflecting such suspicion.

It's important to understand that Susan wasn't present to win friends and influence people. With media in attendance and the courage of her convictions, she was there to set the record straight. She later stated -- "McClintock is never going to forget that Town Hall Meeting. He became increasingly uncomfortable when he was pressed for an answer. I think I did what I went there to accomplish."

But that little exchange pretty much sums things up.

Tom McClintock is an intelligent, articulate, highly polished professional who can measure an audience well and speak with confident assurance, albeit more than occasionally bringing forth in his often vitriolic ruminations more wistful fantasy than witnessed fact.

Why get flustered by fancy figures such as impudently offered by that annoying Alan Cheah, for example, when there are dependable sources to be conveniently referenced who simply make stuff up? For Fresno Bee readers, Doonesbury recently did a whole week's worth of brilliant panels on this very subject.

Yes, Alan was at the meeting, too, speaking up about how utterly mindless the House approved "Ryan Budget" is, a project McClintock proudly takes credit for helping to create. Everyone knows that Cheah is obviously a Keynesian, if not from Kenya, itself, like his Socialist hero in what used to be The WHITE House.

The newly configured California Fourth Congressional District, which runs in a narrow band roughly from Lake Tahoe to somewhere south of Guatemala, was constructed to be "safely Republican", but not for the likes of Karl Rove. McClintock was most pointed in his candid observation that Rove's recent moves to potentially discredit certain Tea Party type candidates were "very much misplaced" and Rove "has done enormous harm to the Republican Party."

I enjoyed hearing that and take heart in McClintock's promise to monitor and address local concerns in conjunction with new Merced River Plan, his commitment to include petroleum and "all energy companies" in closing federal tax loopholes and his pledge to avoid implementing changes in current Social Security cost of living formulas.

With Tom McClintock -- we have a man with a plan. Foxy! Rural constituency or not, folks, this is no "Country Bumpkin."

Setting aside obvious political differences, I consider Tom McClintock to be a top tier, high grade, first class act -- an experienced player of obvious talents and practiced skills. Indeed -- even as he watches out for us -- Congressman McClintock is surely someone to unfailingly and consistently keep our own eyes on.

Susan Rowe will.

 

 

March 28, 2013

"Rejoice, Dear Hearts!" -- Part Two

With time flying by at laser velocity even faster than Superman's iconic speeding bullet, it's amazing to recall that our "For Your Consideration" column is now well into its fourth year as a regular weekly feature.

Initiated through the efforts of Lynn Jacobsson in late Autumn '09, colleague Alan Cheah and I have enjoyed sharing a hopefully more progressive perspective on national and local politics than that so generously offered by other regular Star contributors such as Dr. Bill and Junior Froelich.

There are even times when we are accidently more prescient than usual, such as in the newspaper's February 21st issue. In an offering entitled, "Rejoice, Dear Hearts." I devoted significant space to a discussion of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, a Jesuit institution.

The whole thrust was stressing the importance of critical thinking as encouraged by a Jesuit philosophy exposing students to comparative schools of reflective thought without fear of concurrent contamination. One learns to avoid confusing knowledge with belief or firm facts with fanciful fiction. My specific point of focus was the brilliant early '60's comedy of a gentleman named Dave Gardner, who reminded me very much of "a Jesuit" in his awesome ability to seemingly reflect on almost everything at once.

Little did I know that within a few short weeks Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina would be chosen to head the Roman Catholic Church, naming himself Pope Francis the First. In the process, our New Holiness also becomes the first Pope ever hailing from the Americas and, of even greater significance, the first Jesuit to reign supreme over a billion plus faithful souls around the world.

Make no mistake. There's much more happening here than meets the uninformed eye. Don't look for immediate, obvious, rapid change. Do expect extraordinary thought, rigid reorganization, steel discipline and exemplary dedication to social justice and economic equity.

Less welcomed by many will be initial adherence to traditional male organizational dominance and most matters concerning S-E-X. This wild and dangerous area includes negative outlooks on homosexuality, promiscuity, birth control, abortion, masturbation, all sensitive body parts, and fond memories of innocently discovering puberty -- or any extended conduct --mental or physical -- relating to all of the preceding.

So I submit Francis the First will be sexually and constrictively conservative, while socially and positively progressive. You know what? I'll take that for openers.

Late last year, I lost an old friend.

Father Philip Keane, S.S. had attended school with me for six years at Cathedral Academy in Syracuse. When we graduated in '59, I headed for Le Moyne as Phil began his studies for the priesthood, eventually becoming Proctor at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore and obtaining global renown as a major Catholic Theologian.

In 1977, the Paulist Press published a masterwork by Father Keane entitled, "Sexual Morality." Among other brilliantly reasoned positions was Phil's argument that "homosexual conduct cannot be understood as absolutely immoral." In May of 1984, the Vatican's Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ordered the book banned by officially lifting its imprimatur, believing Father Phil was promoting an "intrinsic evil."

This is the same Joseph Ratzinger who despises Rock & Roll music for being "an expression of elemental passions," referencing "Heavy Metal" as "an instrument of The Devil", and hates Harry Potter for being guilty of "subtle seductions which act imperceptibly and deeply, dissolving Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly." Yep. The same former member of Hitler Youth who -- in 1990 -- defended the Church's Inquisition driven condemnation of Galileo in 1633 as being "rational and just." Galileo's mortal sin, of course, was to insist that the earth moves around the sun.

In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. A few weeks ago, Benedict became the Sarah Palin of Pontiffs, quitting before his job was done.

Phil Keane would have made a fine Jesuit.

I remember Father Phil's final words to the class after celebrating Mass at our 50th High School Reunion in 2009.

"I'll pray for you for all Eternity."

To which I responded at the time in my heart and now in print -- "Rejoice, Dear Hearts!"

Perhaps there's hope in this new Pope.

 

March 14, 2013

"Bullfighting in Coarsegold?"

Although the Oakhurst area has been treated to two separate displays of impressive support for gun rights these last few weeks at the intersection of Highways 41 and 49, local participants might as well have been demonstrating against the introduction of bull fighting at next year's Coarsegold Rodeo.

No one is discussing any such thing, just as no one is talking about taking anyone's guns away or introducing any major legislation nationally that hasn't already been the law here in California for at least the last two decades.

The old "Slippery Slope" argument isn't remotely applicable. That's like arguing for no speed limits in characterizing any form of collective restraint as inevitably opening the door to complete restriction. As Mr. Spock would observe -- that's not a logical perspective.

So let's use basic reason.

What has President Obama's history been on gun legislation since he took office in January of 2009?

In February of that year, he supported former President George Bush's last minute rule before leaving office allowing loaded guns in national parks.

In 2010, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave the President a report card of seven F's for his first year in office, including one on "standing up to the gun lobby."

FactCheck.org reported at the end of 2011, "We've seen little or no evidence that the Obama Administration is doing much to regulate guns or gun ownership."

Caroline Brewer, Director of Communication for the Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says, "We certainly don't have a record of President Obama calling for an elimination of any kind on handguns in the United States." Brewer adds, "After the near fatal shooting of U.S. Representative Gabby Gifford, the President called for better background checks, not banning guns."

All of the above is presented in response to a number of anti-Obama, anti-government proclamations included in the recent Tea Party supported Oakhurst demonstrations.

Can't our poor President do anything potentially right for the seemingly outraged politically right? And let's be mindful of the fact that President Obama's record on Gun Safety prior to the Sandy Hook killings, particularly lack of inclusion or even the slightest reference to the issue in his successful re-election campaign, has earned him significant negatives from the left wing of his own party.

To help set the record straight, the Democratic Club of Oakhurst will be distributing informative leaflets on both Saturday, March 16th, and Saturday, March 23rd, from 2 till 4 in front of Von's.

I already have my own sign ready. It simply says, "Support the Constitution! NO Confiscation!"

We'll have a copy of the Second Amendment visible as well. It states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I am of the opinion that the phrase “well regulated” clearly necessitates reasonable measures of control, meaning it's probably not cool to keep nuclear tipped rockets in one's garage. And I believe the words "free State" can be fairly defined as the new government existing on December 17, 1791 -- known to all these days as our current United States of America. It's hard for me to envision our Founding Fathers declaring, "If we get this wrong, shoot us!"

Anyone who thinks they're going to overthrow a tyrannical federal government with their AK-47's might want to read up on drones, cruise missiles, our Navy SEALs and APC's.

Please.

 

February 21, 2013


"Rejoice, Dear Hearts!"


As any of our four daughters and eleven grandchildren would surely testify, my primary philosophical observation about life in general and any subject in particular all comes down to this: "It's all in how you look at it. All in how you study it." For me, this really does seem to say it all.

I herein pay tribute to my original source for such a deceptively simple and powerfully influential and inspirational saying, that being one "Brother Dave Gardner".

"Brother Dave" was a singer/comedian from Jackson, Tennessee. After a one-semester term as a Southern Baptist ministerial student at Union University, he began a musical career as a drummer and vocalist. He started filling time between songs with stream-of-conscious commentary and was surprised when he discovered his audiences came to see his "comedic routines" rather than music, even though Dave had a Top 20 hit in 1957 with an instrumental called, "White Silver Sands."

Legendary RCA artist Chet Atkins was amazed with "Brother Dave" and produced a comedy album in 1959 that catapulted Gardner into national prominence. "Rejoice, Dear Hearts!" sold a million copies. Numerous appearances on "The Tonight Show" continued his ascent into the entertainment stratosphere, but arrest for marijuana possession in 1962 brought his career to a screeching halt. This was seven years before Woodstock. He died of a heart attack in 1983 at the age of 57.

Many folks considered Dave Gardner to be blatantly Conservative. In the early 1980s, Texas Oilman H. L. Hunt moved Brother Dave and his wife to Dallas, but soon became disenchanted with Gardner's alcohol and drug abuse. Simultaneously, Gardner was often quoted in the Liberal press for "telling it like it is", particularly his strong opposition to American involvement in Vietnam. Referencing his own experiences, Gardner would say, " I was in World War Two and I saw lots of blood spilled, but it never sent anyone to Heaven."

Those who knew him report it was impossible pinning Gardner down on anything given his amazing proclivity to verbally dance between subjects, positions and ideas with lightning rapidity, juxtaposing all elements at every turn. The universal consensus was -- Brother Dave Gardner made you think.

I'm sure that's why I took to him so quickly. Brother Dave Gardner was like a Jesuit!

I was particularly blessed in my youth receiving the benefit of a four-year Jesuit education at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. I still often tell friends, "The Sisters at Cathedral School taught me WHAT to think, but the Jesuits at Le Moyne taught me HOW to think."

The essence of Jesuit instruction is to present as many sides of a given topic as possible, then insist you make up your own mind without claiming absolute certitude. The Jesuits are often said to be "the intellectual vanguard of the Catholic Church" -- a distinction historically supported by being booted out or suppressed individually and as a group by The Vatican more than once. A Doctor of Philosophy from Syracuse University who taught one senior class in Theology at Le Moyne was an atheist.

So I delight in talking with everyone about everything.

I just finished communicating with John Pero, Central Valley Tea Party Coordinator, about a "Gun Control" meeting scheduled for Oakhurst. I enjoy my conversations with John and have applauded his dedication to civic involvement in print as well as in person, even though we hold widely disparate views on many national issues.

I look forward to hosting Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, a fine Republican, at our March 2nd Meeting of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst. With the Ole' Kettle gone, we've moved to Sweetwater Steak House for a while. Sheriff Anderson will be bringing us all up to date on various local law enforcement fronts and will be glad to answer any questions raised.

I remain continually impressed by District Five Supervisor Tom Wheeler's Town Meetings at our Community Center and again urge everyone to be at the next one here or in Ahwahnee, Coarsegold, North Fork or Raymond. Tom does more shows than Elvis in his prime.

And I wish that our Congressional representatives in Washington in both Senate and House could put us first in their thoughts and learn to listen to -- rather than talk at each other. They might just find out they share much more in common than not and that hard work and cooperative effort over time can bring brilliant consequences. I haven't given up yet.

"Don'tcha know a diamond ain't nothin' but a piece of coal that's stuck with it?" --

Brother Dave Gardner (1959)

 

February 14, 2013

"Fairly Unbalanced At The Speed of Lies"

It sometimes seems half my old friends are three-quarters nuts, but few of them watch FOX.

Given a career background in broadcasting and advertising from the late '50's onward -- "Mad Men" being outrageously authentic -- this might not come as a complete surprise, but I should offer further subjective commentary that these particular vocational endeavors did and do require a certain degree of basic smarts, however jaded.

And so it was I found myself not thoroughly mystified near the end of last year when a "Press Release" was released by an outfit identifying itself as "The Intelligence Institute" stating that its researchers tested 5,000 people measuring everything from cognitive aptitude to common sense and found that people who identified themselves as FOX News viewers and "Conservative" had, on average, significantly lower intelligent quotients. The results of this "4 year study" were said to solidly establish the fact Americans who obtain their news from FOX News channel have an average IQ of 80, which would represent a 20 point deficit from a norm of 100 -- not that far from special needs.

But there was no Santa Claus. Such dramatic testimony quickly turned out to be a fanciful hoax concocted as a Pre-Christmas prank by who knows whom, but I am happy to report that investigation into the authenticity of such a delicious allegation did establish several unchallenged findings by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

It seems Conservatives regularly demonstrate their proclivity for accepting without challenge many outrageous falsehoods presented by FOX personalities and their foam-at-the-mouth counterparts in Talk Radio due to enlarged -- and here's a word you don't often hear at the barber shop -- "amygdalae" -- such condition being associated with greater emotional inflexibility and accelerated danger response.

Amygdalae are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located within the media temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates. That includes us. Have you checked yours today?

This physiological variance would seem to account for many Conservatives displaying a greater susceptibility to conspiracy models of thinking, "they're coming for our guns" being a timely case in point.

Absurdly spun tales driven by anxiety and fear find immediate, almost pleasurable acceptance in the minds of our enlarged amygdalae brethren, perhaps making more understandable ready acceptance of such novel concepts as "FEMA concentration camps", "Obama otherness" and "enhanced interrogation."

An excellent book entitled, "The Republican Brain" by Chris Mooney ((John Wiley & Sons - 2012) tends to strongly echo the idea of congenitally impaired cognizance, as does a Fairleigh Dickinson University study which reveals that FOX viewers are the worst-informed media consumers in the America they profess to love. PBS came in first, just ahead of "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. How 'bout that? And the Colbert Report is right behind. Pun intended.

Mooney offers fascinating elaboration, but it pretty much comes down to ready Republican acceptance of only those thoughts, ideas and philosophies that offer comfortable conformity with already established, often pre-conditioned beliefs. Ultimately, it seems more a case of "nothing new" than "low I.Q" -- Resurgent Isolationism -- the last mind set we need as ready or not we accelerate our collective slide through time.

Paraphrasing the late Bette Davis as she so brilliant spoke of aging -- "The 21st Century is no place for sissies."

And perhaps no place for FOX News without substantial changes in programming and presentation.

Check out this -- "Breaking News!"

In January of 2013, FOX News had its worst prime-time ratings in the coveted 25-54 demographics since August 2001 and its lowest total day ratings since June 2008. And -- gasp -- MSNBC's Rachel Maddow beat "Studio B" and the 11 PM repeat of "The O'Reilly Factor" for the very first time. Even many "Republican Brains" have had enough -- FOX's interpretation of the famous phrase "fair and balanced" finally perceived as the hideously cruel joke it always was.

As for a concluding analytical summation, I love the quote Mr. Mooney chose to open his book and close this week's column with it here:

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias" -- Stephen Colbert

 

January 24, 2013

"N.R.A."

There's recklessness in the air.

This is a winter of deeply divisive discontent.

Even though the American people have spoken.

Barack Obama was elected in November for a second term as our President with a 51% to 48% win over his opponent -- a three and a half million vote victory margin. Democrats in The United States Senate now outnumber Republicans 54 to 45 and picked up eight seats in the House of Representatives, where they now trail the GOP by just 33 votes, a significant shift away from their former 49 member majority. In fact, there were a million more Democratic ballots cast for House members than Republican on a national basis in 2012, but some fancy pre-election hanky-panky (formally known as "Gerrymandering") is keeping John Boehner as Speaker for another two years of crocodile tears.

Elbridge Gerry was Governor of Massachusetts in 1812 and helped engineer the restructuring of several state senate districts to benefit his political party, said organization curiously known at the time as "Democratic Republicans". Their opposition was The Federalists. A local Federalist newspaper in Boston casually noted that one of the new "carved out" sections resembled a grossly contorted -- salamander. Combining this humorous imagery with the good Governor's name, the practice of gaining advantage by such chicanery became known as "Gerrymandering." The name has stuck ever since for over two centuries, therein offering an important cautionary note for writers of all stripes. Words do live on.

Elbridge Gerry continued his political career to become Fifth Vice President of the United States under James Madison -- as everyone knows.

But one clear, undisputed, unqualified fact of the entire matter is that the sole reason the GOP controls the 113th House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts through a 30 million dollar investment during the 2010 election cycle in "blue states" such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This campaign was so successfully executed that Republicans went from controlling both legislative chambers in 14 states before Election Day to 25 states afterward, paving the way for new salamander art.

Now they're trying to work that same slithering magic with rules governing the Electoral College, scheming and dreaming that a future Presidency might similarly be sliced out.

All of this was released last Thursday by the Republican State Leadership Committee, along with the specific admission that only through such activity was the House not lost. This was also the same time Lance Armstrong gave it up to Oprah, although not nearly as fully as the RSLC in honestly owning up to cause and effect. Admittedly clever manipulation carried the day. Score a big one in memory of the Gipper.

So -- here's the deal.

Along with all the aforementioned realities, even Ronald Reagan wanted to ban assault rifles. He remembered being shot. Latest accredited polling shows 56% of American voters believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict while 7% say regulations ought to be lessened. 85% of respondents are in favor of background checks for private and gun show sales with only 12% opposed. 63% of the American people support a stringent limitation on high capacity magazines. A total ban on military war weapons, such as used to kill twenty little kids in Connecticut, is favored by an overwhelming majority of fellow citizens 55% to 40%.

So who are these creatures calling our President an "elitist hypocrite" in a misleading radio and television ad referencing his young daughters with a dangerous appeal to the worst instincts of gun-rights subversives?

How can any fair-minded individual consider the National Rifle Association to be anything other than a cowardly cabal of antagonistically angry and horribly frightened old men?

As English Moralist Samuel Johnson reminded us on April 7, 1775, false patriotism is "the last refuge of a scoundrel."

They dare to flamboyantly wrap themselves in our treasured flag with feigned defiance, hiding from their fear as a small child shakes and trembles behind its mother's apron.

Pathetically pitiful.

Outrageously antiquated.

Surely shameless.

The N.R.A.?

Not Really American.

January 10, 2013

"Sheikh it up, Baby!"

Al Gore didn't sell out to Al Jazeera just because they have the same first name.

There's that half a billion bucks.

Al and a pal, businessman Joel Hyatt, formed Current TV on August 1st of 2005 in an effort to create a viable "Progressive" cable information channel to position against Rupert Murdoch's phenomenally successful FOX News. While becoming available in forty million homes through Gore's considerable political clout, the basic Current mission has been a big flop. That is -- until now.

Riding to the rescue comes Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, Chairman of Qatar Media and, more importantly, Emir of Qatar, Supreme Chancellor and head of the government of Qatar -- a family run business for the last hundred and fifty years. Having overthrown his father in a bloodless 1995 palace coup, the Sheikh enjoys enormous popularity among the 250,000 citizens of this tiny nation geographically squeezed between Iran and Saudi Arabia and it's no wonder. His constituents are the richest people on the face of the earth, pay no taxes, enjoy free education and health care and have moved from transportation by camel to 747s in a single generation.

The Sheikh is paying an estimated $20,000 per "Current" viewer with his five hundred million dollar purchase of the channel, which should make you feel important if you've been watching, but please know he's buying viewing location, not viewer loyalty. He'll be tearing down the old house and erecting something quite new in the neighborhood.

The current lineup and name "Current TV" will shortly disappear, to be replaced by "Al Jazeera America" - programmed out of New York and Qatar. I know that sounds weird, but this is a changing world -- and to influence future change and stay on top -- we need to be aware.

My own familiarity with Al Jazeera -- The Island" -- comes about through Fresno Free College Foundation's 50,000 watt KFCF (88.1) which carries both evening news reports and live breaking coverage when appropriate from "Al Jazeera English."

Admittedly quite skeptical at first, I now regard the service as thoroughly professional, impressively produced and journalistically superior to much of what we find ourselves receiving these days from our traditional commercial broadcast networks, squeezing every penny for more profit to the bottom line.

News bureaus have been closed by the dozens and staffers fired by the hundreds as viewers and readers have been short changed by the tens of millions.

To the embarrassment of our culture, the most penetrating foreign reporting is often found in documentaries that run on the financially challenged Public Broadcasting Service, often in the work of young journalists who are forced by circumstance to finance their own projects or rely on the occasional philanthropic grant.

So here comes the Emir with billions to boogie.

Since its creation in November of 1996, Al Jazeera has become one of the most powerful media sources on the globe and is generally credited with being "the engine of the Arab Spring".

Bob Simon conducted an extensive interview with The Emir in an impressive "Sixty Minutes" segment about Qatar on January 15th of last year. Check it out. It's worth your Google.

Qatar was our ally with NATO in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and is recognized by many as a force for lasting peace in the Middle East, a view not shared by the current Israeli government.

American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the U.S. because it offers "real news" -- something she said American media was falling far short of doing. The Secretary added that other countries and global news outlets were making more inroads around the world than we are and that "the United States is losing the information war."

Wait? What do I hear?

"The Muslims are coming! The Muslims are coming!

Hey, they're already here!

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia -- with a personal wealth of 28.7 billion dollars -- is the second largest owner of -- FOX News.

In this changing world.


December 27, 2012

"Still Stoned!"

"I had a dream last night. I was piloting a plane. And all the passengers were drunk and insane. Lost all the treasure in an overseas war. It just goes to show you don't get what you pay for!"

The Rolling Stones -- "Doom & Gloom" -- December 2012

The world is still here.

So are death, taxes and The Rolling Stones.

Shortly after Eileen and I moved to Des Moines upon my appointment as Program Director of KSO Radio in 1964, a group of young investors brought a new English band into town who were heralded as a bunch of “dirty Beatles”, sporting not only “long hair”, but “street clothing”, an “insolent attitude”, “coarse language” and “rude behavior”. I found the first two allegations to be true, but the last three were nothing more than flamboyant record company press agent drivel.

Their first American release, an explosive remake of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, had not been a smash hit, but had brought them to the public eye. Standing before the microphone in only a partially-filled auditorium with easily less than several hundred in attendance, it was clear the boys were very much on the ascent given the unusually enthusiastic welcome accorded by the crowd following my words of introduction.

“Ladies and Gentleman. The Rolling Stones!!”


I found the Stones to be thoroughly engaging, although genuinely exhausted. They were disappointed in the turnout, but pleased to be playing in “The States” and were convincingly confident that better things lay ahead. They were looking forward to again spending some recording time in Chicago on their tour and were particularly excited about a return visit to Chess Records in the Windy City where Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and other Black Icons had put it in the grooves.

Judging from the title of their first million-seller which was to come out of the Chess sessions, Mick and company certainly found playing within such sacred studio walls the source of inspired “Satisfaction”.

Shortly thereafter, our two year old daughter Laurie stopped repeatedly going “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” like the Beatles and started imitating Mick Jagger’s “Come-On!” which sounded more like “Ka-Mow!” Her Irish grandmother asked me if she had been “exposed to Negroes”. Of course, with her father blasting every cut off "Aftermath" at top volume on the family "Stereo Hi-Fi" from dawn till dusk, she had -- and in a particularly important way.

The Rolling Stones' early successes and later global triumphs brought final international recognition to the primitive urban blues typified by their heroes at Chess Records, especially African-American artists such as Muddy Waters, writer of "Rollin' Stone", for which the band is named.

While early Rock & Roll represented an explosive fusion of "Country & Western" and "Rhythm and Blues", both basic music forms purely American in origin; it was the English who engaged in an amazing resynthesis -- elevating "black music" to a position of cultural preeminence in the world of white Rock. It was The Rolling Stones who effectively did this first and, to many and to this day, do it best.

And it's The Rolling Stones I still find myself listening to these days on my morning walks up Stagecoach, now on an iPod cranked to 11, finding continuing inspiration from a band celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary this very month.

Their newest lyrics are as ancient as their old -- eternal, primal hope springing forth -- utterly irrepressible even in the worst of horrid circumstance.

National debt? Fiscal cliff? War weapons on civilian streets?

"All I hear is doom and gloom. All is darkness in my room.
Through the night -- your face I see.
Baby, come on!
Baby, won't you dance with me?"


December 13, 2012

"Heave Ho-Ho-Ho"

It didn't matter if they'd been naughty or nice.

Last Thursday (12/6/12) yet another several hundred radio employees across the nation were unceremoniously heaved out the door in time for Christmas by Clear Channel Communications, including many who had been at their respective stations for many decades. For any practical purpose, most are discovering they have no place to go. Traditional business models in the broadcast industry have been savaged by unrestrained self-interest. Make no mistake. These are not "layoffs". They are career executions -- loyal service and consistent performance reflecting a job retention value of ice cold zero.

Why not ignore former pledges to serve a community by fulfilling FCC license obligations on airways owned by the people with dozens of employees covering important assignments in news and public affairs programming when you can get away with effectively not offering anything to anyone? After all, isn't that what makes a market free? Reducing statutory obligations to a desirable state of functional impotency until they mean absolutely nothing?

An accompanying Clear Channel Corporate Press Release patronizingly states: "Like every successful business, our strategy continues to evolve as we move forward as a company; this creates new jobs and unfortunately eliminates others. These are never easy decisions to make."

What nonsense. Clear Channel has become alarmingly facile in reaching such determinations, particularly since Bain Capital got involved four years ago. Last week's gallows drops brought the total body count to over eleven thousand dismissals in the wake of industry consolidation driven by governmental deregulation and the escalation of leveraged borrowing. As far as being a "successful business" is concerned, even as many banks are celebrating the end of a banner year boasting record profits and payoffs, Clear Channel is now over eleven billion dollars in debt with major balloon payments due just around the corner.

This is a pernicious pattern we see elsewhere, most notably in recent days with the much discussed and disgusting Hostess Brand debacle in which 18,500 employees are paying the price for decades of miserable mismanagement -- malfeasance continuing with the absurd allegation that demise of the "Ding Dong" represents an unavoidable consequence of American unionism.

Ultimately "Twinkies", "Ding Dongs" and "Wonder Bread" will rise again as these valuable franchise names are sold to new owners, but with a work force severely crippled in consequential compensation. Meanwhile, former bosses have personally made millions of dollars wheeling and dealing their way out of self imposed crisis after crisis, funded by fast times, hot action and easy money. You can bank on that.

Wild gambits have been paying off far too often for wily gamblers at the escalating expense of all not financially fixed in a wretchedly rigged game.

That's why I'm so happy Massachusetts Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren (D) is said to have been chosen for a leading role on the new Senate Banking Committee in our 113th Congress about to convene in January.

Harvard Law Professor Warren handily defeated incumbent Republican Scott Brown in November to become the first woman senator in Massachusetts state history and now inherits the seat held for 47 years by the late Edward Kennedy.

Senator Warren's position on the Banking Committee will come nearly two years after oppositional forces successfully campaigned against her from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she both envisioned and created.

Now she's back to address desperately needed changes, including the introduction of appropriate remedial legislation and reinstitution of the Glass-Steagull Act -- abandonment of which in 1999 lead directly to subsequent economic nightmares in 2007.

Here's hoping 2013 will witness Senator Warren decisively delivering a retributive "Ho-Ho-Ho!" against all those banks that feed wild corporate greed. Wall Street has regarded Elizabeth Warren as an enemy ever since 2008 when she served as chief watchdog in overseeing the seven hundred billion dollar bailout, taking both the institutions involved AND the Federal government to task time and time again for ineptitude and incompetence.

It's taken her five years to reach a position of prime power.

The last laugh is the longest.

 

November 29, 2012


"The Right Amount of Dumb"
 

That I've found more truth in bars than churches through the years is more a subjective recollection than a substantive recommendation, but it's a reflection that found new validation recently when Casey came up with a wonderful phrase seemingly out of nowhere.
 
Casey Schuetz is President/Owner of MAMA TRYD Productions and has been busy staging live band presentations locally at The Oak Room for the last year or so. We were recently enjoying a few adult beverages together at that fine establishment when Casey started reminiscing about an uncle of his who had a way with words. In offering qualified evaluation of the world in general and certain people in particular, Casey's uncle would often say that sometimes it all comes down to "just the right amount of dumb."
 
Those words struck me like a diamond bullet. I almost spilled my Irish Car Bomb. Almost. For the uninitiated, an Irish Car Bomb is made with Guinness Stout, Bailey's Irish Cream and Jameson's Irish Whiskey. It was invented in 1979 at Wilson's Saloon in Norwich, Connecticut. Once poured, it must be consumed quickly or it curdles like a lost love, perhaps abandoned for chronically exhibiting "the right amount of dumb."
 
Indeed, until that close to a wasted whiskey moment, it had never dawned on me that there actually might be a critical mass of ignorance that, once achieved, renders future reversal or redemption functionally impossible. In this context, please note that the word "ignorant" doesn't mean stupidity, but, according to Noah Webster, indicates "a deliberate disregard of reality" and "dumb" should be similarly considered by its first dictionary definition as "lacking the power of speech; mute."
 
In a collective sense, "the right amount of dumb" comes about when, for reasons of conviviality or convenience, we tolerate and at times enthusiastically embrace core nonsense even at the risk of cataclysmic peril.
 
Setting aside all 70,000 square feet of "Creation Museum" in Petersburg, Kentucky ($29.95 for Adults 13-59) -- the science is irrefutable.
 
We balance in precise planetary alignment. Above is the Sun, while beyond orbit frigid sister planets. Below churns the molten core of an Earth upon which we rest in cool comfort -- between Fire and Ice.
 
We’re moving one hundred miles per second (one quick breath) in our annual journey around the Sun, and that doesn’t factor an expansion of the Universe that may even exceed the speed of light.
 
“Hang On, Sloopy” — The McCoys (1965)
 
“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19
 
In the physical realm, we are pure stardust.
 
We cooled four billion years ago when Earth was formed.
 
We’ll be free again in another four billion years when the Sun runs out of hydrogen and becomes a giant red star.
 
We humans haven’t been in charge very long. It took hundreds of generations thousands of years to guess our planet has more sides than one. You’d think the Moon might have provided the clever with a clue.
 
In one of his more wildly optimistic moments, noted Astronomer/Scientist/Pot Smoker Carl Sagan once calculated chances of the human race avoiding self-extermination through a full nuclear exchange at less than one percent.
 
It’s become so fashionable to ignore the obvious.
 
And yet I somehow intuitively sense that in the end we'll all be fabulously fine in spite of ourselves.
 
If it's not too late to preach and practice the right amount of smart.
 
This Holiday Season seems a perfect place to start.
 
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." -- Luke 2:14

 

November 15, 2012

"Strange Daze"



Early Wednesday morning on November 7th, following his re-election as President of the United States, Barack Obama graciously attempted to call Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to assure them of his desire to constructively work with the new Congress in addressing many pressing concerns facing our nation. In both instances, the President was told Boehner and McConnell were sound asleep with instructions not to be disturbed.

I initially found this more than a bit puzzling- -- perhaps even an unpleasant echo of last July's refusal by Boehner to return three Presidential phone calls near the conclusion of the divisive and completely unnecessary "debt ceiling crisis" instigated by Tea Party purists last year. This debacle eventually resulted in adoption of the infamous "Budget Control Act of 2011", which then led Standard and Poor to downgrade the credit rating of the United States government from AAA to AA in early August and set the stage for the "Fiscal Cliff" looming before us on December 31st -- a challenge which really isn't news at all to anyone who's been paying attention.

But Boehner and McConnell weren't the only ones displaying strange behavior in the wake of final election results. A number of sources report Governor Romney was absolutely "shell shocked" and "dazed" as the reality of his dramatic defeat became more and more undeniable, particularly since he had only written an acceptance speech, disdaining the need for preparation of any concessionary language. Romney also had authorized a "Transitional Website" depicting him as President-Elect, a decision causing further embarrassment when it accidentally went on line. Plans were scrubbed at the last minute by the campaign for an eight-minute display of fireworks over Boston Harbor. Meanwhile, things were even more publicly humiliating over at FOX News.

Karl Rove is a leading Republican operative and fleecer of several hundred million dollars in political action committee (PAC) funds from billionaires who should have known better and won't be getting their money back. Mr. Rove is also on the payroll as a "News Commentator" on "Fair and Balanced" FOX and was right there in the thick of things Tuesday night when he freaked-out on the air before millions of stunned viewers who had been promised a landslide Romney win of historic proportion. Ohio was his Waterloo.

At 8:13 PM Oakhurst Time, FOX News analysts declared that President Obama had carried Ohio, a win that virtually assured him a second term in office. Karl Rove instantly insisted that couldn't possibly be true, claiming that he was on the phone with a senior Romney official who was furious that the network had blown the call.

After twenty minutes of heated confrontation between Rove and FOX's team of voting analysts, anchor Megyn Kelly took matters in her own hands and stormed thirty yards down the hall on camera to confront Arnon Mishkin, leader of the decision team. In no uncertain terms, Mishkin more than satisfactorily proved his position before everyone watching -- by that point adding that President Obama had not only placed first in Ohio, but had conclusively carried the day nationally.

With all this in mind, my own suspicion is that Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner were "sleeping" when the President called following his victory because --they just didn't know what to say. Without reservation or qualification, they honestly had become thoroughly convinced that Romney would crush his opposition and commence the initiation of an irresistible ideological fantasy --a Republican Permanent Majority in Congress and the Presidency - a reign faithfully promised by Rove and his ill-starred ilk. Few things can leave one feeling so alone and vulnerable as failed group-think.

As a people, we cannot afford to be represented by those who only believe what comforts convictions and conforms to preconditioned mindsets. Open hearts are a prerequisite for congenial debate and wide-awake leadership is essential for just governance.

I'm trusting my friends of Conservative persuasion will note the emerging consequences of choreographed, talking point, echo chamber rhetoric.

And won't get fooled again.


 

"Sea Change?"

November 8, 2012



"If we don't run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we'll lose."

-- Ann Coulter -- Pedantic pundit and fingernails on a blackboard screaming scourge of anyone politically left of King George the Third -- February 12, 2011 -- addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

So how ironic it was witnessing the Governor of New Jersey, keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention, repeatedly lavishing effusive praise on Democratic candidate Barack Obama last week as Federal and State governments effectively and efficiently joined forces in the aftermath of one of the most violent oceanic storms in our American experience -- in the process providing a critical pivot point in one of the closest Presidential elections in history.

What a finish line first!

And it all made perfect sense.

Talk about a "win-win-win" proposition!

President Obama obtained an enormous boost in bi-partisan acceptance and credibility.

Governor Christie scored equal measures of both and paved the way for a smoother road to re-election next year in New Jersey and possible nomination as head of the G.O.P. ticket in 2016.

But, most importantly, America won.

In setting aside arbitrary, unyielding ideological positions and offering up each other's available talents and treasures for a common good, President Obama and Governor Christie got things done.

How wonderful it will be should this represent a truly sea changing harbinger of positive things to come.

Let's unlock some doors and throw away some keys.

I've always been intellectually perplexed and emotionally frustrated by the horrible notion that conventional custom requires friendly dialogue to avoid any discussion of "religion or politics." What could be possibly more interesting? Zumba?

The fact of the matter is -- we all actually know very little about a lot.

In earliest days, radio was my window to the world. Recalling living pictures more than sound,“Let’s Pretend” from CBS was unmatched. Cream of Wheat was the first and only sponsor of “Let’s Pretend”. It was the early ’40′s.

“Cream of Wheat is so good to eat, Yes, we have it every day. We sing this song, it will make us strong, And it makes us shout – Hooray”!

“Let’s Pretend” was make believe – a Saturday morning children’s program offering whimsical tales of fantasy and fairy tales. It was the life work of Nila Mack, a Kansas woman who had been an actress on Broadway. She felt the best way to tell a children’s story was with kids. Mack developed a company of versatile juveniles who could play a variety of changing roles week after week. She trained and directed two generations of child actors. She was known as “the fairy god-mother of radio.” When I met LuLu Finley of "Golden Chain Theater", I thought of Nila.

Nila would say -- “Hello Pretenders! Hello, Uncle Bill!” "LET’S PRETEND!"

Were I in charge of all organized religions in every church, temple, synagogue, mosque or Irish bar around the world, I would insist that the beginning of each formal service require all in attendance to rise in unison from their seats, hold hands, and joyously, lovingly whisper:

“Permissum Nos Simulatio!”

“Let’s Pretend!”


A collective quest for sanity only becomes credible in honest acknowledgement of the universal proclivity of our species to make stuff up, simultaneously acknowledging one's own tiresome tendencies to tickle truth in the telling of a tale.

It's all in how you look at it -- all in how you study it.

And share.

Kitchy-kitchy-koo.



Peter Cavanaugh & Michael Moore

Flint, Michigan (1982)

WWCK had just become the highest-rated Rock station in America

October 25, 2012

"Michael Moore Meets Oakhurst"

Your boss knows best.

Vote as you’re told.

That’s the implicit command 45,000 employees of Georgia Pacific received in the mail last week from their employer -- Koch Industries -- owned by the Koch brothers.

A generally unrecognized aspect of the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision defining corporations as “persons” and money as “free speech” is that it also overturned previous Federal Election Commission laws prohibiting employers from expressing “electoral opinions” directly to their workers.

Florida billionaire David Siegel has informed his 7,000 employees of Westgate Resorts that an Obama victory would likely lead to layoffs at his company.

ASG Software Solutions CEO Arthur Allen has specifically warned employees that an Obama second term might well cost them their jobs.

Mitt Romney even told a group of self-described small business owners; “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

The November 6th elections are shaping up as the most important in our lifetime, establishing a governmental framework for generations to come in a political configuration either boldly moving forward into the future or ripping us backward toward a time before Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and other enlightened benefits that eventually emerged in the wake of the 19th Amendment granting universal suffrage in 1920 -- giving women the right to vote. But have they had control of their bodies long enough?

It’s happening all over the place. Big money is moving in for the kill. And the most infamous freedom killers of all are the Koch brothers.

Yet -- even as a front page Fresno Bee headline earlier this month alarmingly proclaimed, "Super rich Kochs aim to save America", the Democratic Club of Oakhurst had completed arrangements to offer "Koch Brothers Exposed" as a key attraction in their "Pre-Election Bringing Home the TRUTH Rally" at 7:30 PM this Saturday, October 27th, at the Oakhurst Met Cinemas. "Koch Brothers Exposed" is a full-length, 55 minute documentary, wildly heralded as timely, true and terrific.

I’ve asked an old friend to join us.

Academy Award Winning Film Director Michael Moore wrote and produced “Fahrenheit 9/11”, the highest grossing motion picture documentary of all time with over two hundred million dollars in worldwide receipts. It was 2004 winner of the Palme d’Or -- the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival. Other film projects include “Roger & Me” (1989), “Canadian Bacon” (1995), “Bowling for Columbine” (2002), “Sicko” (2007) and “Capitalism: A Love Story” (2009.) Michael has also gained notoriety as a writer, “Stupid White Men” (2001) and “Dude: Where’s My Country?” (2003) and as a television producer/performer with “TV Nation” (1994-1995) and “The Awful Truth” (1999).

But he was just Mike Moore when the Richfield Township Board of Supervisors tried to put us both out of business in the mid-70’s. I was running outdoor rock concerts attended by Mr. Moore and his friends from Davison High at a place called "Sherwood Forest." Mike had established “The Davison Hotline” as a call center for troubled teens. Township authorities told our local paper I was "The Pied Piper of Satan” promoting “rock music from hell” and claimed Mike was obviously a “major trouble maker” dealing with such forbidden, un-American topics as birth control, mental health and drug counseling. Joined together by a common foe, I put Mike on the radio with “Radio Free Flint” and -- we’ve never looked back.

As fate would have it, Mike’s sister, Anne Moore, lives in Grass Valley. Her Congressman since 2008 has been Tom McClintock, running in the new Fourth California Congressional District that now includes Oakhurst. When I mentioned our “Pre-Election Bringing Home The TRUTH Rally" to Mike, he said he’d love to take part and share a few thoughts about the national scene, but, even more critically, discuss his endorsement of Jack Uppal and how this decision relates to ever increasing domination of the rich over the rest -- oligarchy at its best.

This subjugation of Constitutional intent is dramatically witnessed by McClintock’s own words in the Stockton Journal on October 9th when, in excusing himself from debating candidate Uppal, he bluntly stated, "I'd be happy to debate Jack in a neutral forum the moment he takes the race seriously. But he is not. He hasn't raised enough money to be competitive in a county supervisor's race let alone in a Congressional race."

Sitting on almost a million dollars in his campaign fund against less than forty thousand in his opponent’s, McClintock’s fear of debate is further verified by his refusal to appear with Uppal at The Queen’s Inn on October 10th, although invited to do so by our non-partisan Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce. McClintock’s campaign also haughtily turned down an offer from The League of Women Voters, finding this female organization much too “ Democratic.”

Michael Moore will be linked live from his home in Northern Michigan to fully explore the relationship between Congressman McClintock and big bucks -- then take any and all questions from those in attendance.

So, it’s “Koch Brothers Exposed” and “Radio Free Oakhurst with Michael Moore" this Saturday at 7:30 PM at The Met Cinema. Free admission. The general public is enthusiastically encouraged to attend. Bring Republican friends.

I’m Peter Cavanaugh and I approve this message.


 

October 4, 2012

"Someone I'd Like You to Meet."

There’s someone I’d like you to meet.

The timing is perfect.

We all just received our “Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet” from Rebecca Martinez, County Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters for Madera County, and this year it’s none too soon.

Did you know Roseanne Barr is running for President?

Are you aware your polling place may have moved?

Have you had time to review all eleven Propositions being placed before us - several somewhat ambiguous and curiously named?

Since retiring from a “regular job” after five decades in broadcasting and moving to Oakhurst from Michigan on Election Day ‘06, I have enjoyed an opportunity to become more involved in the political process, something I wish I had done sooner in life.

As I was discussing with area Tea Party Coordinator John Pero just a few days ago, although we certainly hold divergent views in a number of areas, we completely agree that patriotic vigilance calls for much more than simply voting once a year.

Regardless of party affiliation, political philosophy or competing priorities, every one of us should pay much more attention to governmental activity at all levels and, particularly, to our own roles in determining the nature and extent of such governance.

Individual review and reflection are critical to positive collective progress and the actual realization of a government so eloquently defined by our 16th President as being “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Politicians and Parties are not “all the same” and any such observation is no more than a lazy excuse for irresponsible citizenship. It is critical that we review every side of an issue, analyze all options presented and critically evaluate competing candidates for public office.

Jack Uppal will be driving over 400 miles roundtrip from his home in Lincoln, California, to visit with you next Wednesday, October 10th, with a “Meet and Greet” from 5:30 till 7:30 at the Queen’s Inn on Highway 41.

It will be a casual, informal event. There is no admission fee. Come as you are. Jack will share a few thoughts, then be on the firing line for any questions anybody has about -- anything at all. He wants to represent you in Congress from California’s newly defined Fourth District and won’t be holding back.

Jack is running against Tom McClintock, currently completing his second term representing the old Fourth District. Since neither Tom nor Jack are from “around here”, they’re both as new to us as an iPhone 5, just not as shiny and slick. At least not Jack. Since we’re losing Jeff Denham anyway, we’re really starting from scratch in choosing either Tom or Jack. A fair comparison between the two is not only recommended, but also essential in formulating honest judgment, let alone proper representation.

I'm hoping that Tom McClintock will join us next Wednesday at the Queen's Inn and engage in a debate with Jack Uppal over the future of our lives and liberties. Mr. McClintock's campaign office has received a formal invitation to do so -- extended through the non-partisan auspices of the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce -- and he has been assured of impartial moderation, convivial questioning and courteous civility extended at every turn during his stay in Oakhurst.

Jack Uppal has already enthusiastically agreed to such an arrangement.

By way of a "sneak preview", you are herein encouraged to turn to Page 20-1
of that Madera County Voter Information Pamphlet you received in the mail. You will find a formal "Statement of a Candidate For US Representative in Congress Fourth District." Both Jack Uppal and Tom McClintock offer a brief summary of their respective positions.

Jack writes, "I will cut unnecessary spending, bring jobs back to our district, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and invest in science and technology programs for our future."

Tom states, "I stand with America's Founders."

Hopefully, Representative McClintock will temporarily adjust his vantage point and stand with us here in the Twenty-First Century next Wednesday night for a "Meet and Greet Jack Uppal" at the Queen's Inn from 5:30 until 7:30.

Wine not?

"We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." -- Thomas Jefferson (1816)

 

 

September 19, 2012

Debate Goes On?

 

McClintock had them in stitches.

It was his blowing up a church story.

As painstakingly chronicled by Carmen George in last week’s issue of The Sierra Star, Fourth California District Congressman Tom McClintock visited us on September 6th and told a group gathered at the Coarsegold Community Center about how awful it’s been having our nation involved in “sort-of-wars”. For example, McClintock cited recent rules of engagement that prohibited chasing insurgents seeking sanctuary into a mosque. He then spoke of a grizzled old World War Two vet who was asked if he would have followed Germans into a church during combat. “Good heavens, no,” the veteran said. “We would have blown up the church” - “an answer met by a roar of laughter from the crowd.”

If we re-elect Tom McClintock, the joke’s on us.

In reading Ms. George’s extensive McClintock quotes from Coarsegold and an earlier session before several dozen folks at Erna’s --”Heaven Sent for the One Percent” -- it almost seemed as though our Sierra Star had become "The Troglodyte Times."

Rather than drag readers through an endless litany of sad misjudgments, multiple contradictions, paranoid reflections, utter fabrications and agonizingly turgid rhetoric, suffice it to say Tom McClintock won’t have my vote -- or that of anyone honestly paying attention and making a fair evaluation. Such consideration would come from balancing Tom McClintock’s history and hysterics against ---???????????????

Do you know anything about --??????????????????

Most folks around here haven’t clue-- and it’s not their fault.

Democrats usually don’t stand a chance in this new “Fourth District” and some years haven’t even put up a candidate in the old “Nineteenth District” in which we used to reside. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by double digits and can outspend them a million zillion trillion to one, this observation only slightly hyperbolic.

So here comes this guy from way up in Lincoln, over 200 miles north of Oakhurst, who arrived here from India in 1961 at the age of 10 without knowing any language other than that of his birth. His immigrant family was poor and struggled on a minimal income, his mother babysitting and his brother delivering newspapers to bring home more money. By the age of 18, he became a naturalized citizen speaking perfect English. Then he worked hard and studied harder.

He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from the State University of New York and his Ph.D in Chemistry from M.I. T. in 1980. Not a slouch. This led to a brilliant career in the semiconductor industry as an engineer, rising in management to oversee new products and businesses and implement annual budgets of over a billion dollars.

Jack Uppal has retired and is ready to work for you.

May he have an interview?

An opportunity for such may be shortly forthcoming through the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce - a “Meet and Greet” in October similar to that afforded Representative McClintock with plenty of time to ask questions, take notes and enter into conscientious reflection and open discussion with Mr. Uppal and others in attendance.

What would really be perfect and put us all on the map would be an Oakhurst debate between Tom McClintock and Jack Uppal. Jack has already indicated his enthusiastic acceptance of such a challenge and herein encourages Tom to follow his lead and do likewise.

Representative McClintock is certainly used to sharing the stage with others, having spoken at this year’s Central Valley Tea Party Freedom Rally on the Fourth of July just before Jesse Peterson’s bitter commentary on Barack Obama, referring to our President as a “far-left,” “liberal”, “white-hating”, “black liberation theology believing”, “wealth redistributing”, ”lying”, “weak”, “poor excuse of a man” -- and other hints of displeasure.

Jack Uppal is supportive of the Transportation & Jobs Act, Returning Tax Dollars to the District, Lowering Student Loan Costs, Rural Development Funding, Children’s Health Care, Equal Pay for Women, The Violence Against Women Act, the Food Safety Act, Homeland Security, Funding for our Military, the Campaign Disclosure Act, Opposition to Employment Discrimination, Payroll Tax Cuts and Science and Technology Funding, while Tom McClintock has voted against all these things.

Jack is strongly opposed to Privatizing Social Security and Ending Medicare, while Tom has voted for and/or indicated his firm endorsement numerous times of both. Hey, seniors! He’ll even open up that “Donut Hole” bigger than before. Want to fall back in?

Do I have anything wrong there, Congressman McClintock? Candidate Uppal?

We’re waiting in Oakhurst -- hoping to close the door on vacuum inflicted ignorance with a public hearing and open minds.

We can't become more with anything less.

 

"Panic in the Party"

August 30, 2012

I totally agree with Mike Huckabee on this one.

“The Party’s leaders have for reasons that aren’t rational, left Todd Akin behind on the political battlefield, wounded and bleeding, In a Party that supposedly stands for life, it was tragic to see the carefully orchestrated and systematic attack on a fellow Republican. Who ordered this “Code Red?” -- Mike Huckebee -Letter to Supporters -- 8/23/12.

Everything all started when Congressman Todd Akin, running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, was being interviewed early Sunday morning, August 19th, on KTVI -TV in Saint Louis. Discussing possible exceptions to an absolute ban on abortions, Akin came up with a doozy when he observed, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” As nuts as that sounds - and is -- poor Todd didn’t make that up all by himself.

In his book “Why Can’t We Love Them Both: Questions and Answers About Abortion,” Dr. John C. Willke, former President of the National Right to Life Committee, claims that the trauma associated with “assault rape” makes “a woman’s body less habitable and thus lessens the possibility of pregnancy.”

Although the scientific community at large has declared this allegation intellectually baseless, Mitt Romney himself welcomed the endorsement of Dr. John Willke in 2007, declaring in an official campaign release -- “Dr. Willke is a leading voice within the pro-life community and will be an important surrogate for Governor Romney's pro-life and pro-family agenda.”

So it’s a mystery why, in less than 48 hours, Todd Akin was utterly castigated by fellow Republicans for parroting what investigation reveals was a fairly popular ideological fantasy. Almost every major party figure faithfully fell into immediate obeisant lock step line without further question or commentary in calling for Akin’s withdrawal from the Missouri race.

And that’s the part that scares me. Who panicked? Who did order this “Code Red?” It sure worked. Sort of.

It doesn’t seem to have been Mitt Romney. Displaying characteristic out front leadership, Mitt waited till everybody else went first before bravely intoning, "Todd Akin's comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country." It wasn’t until another 24 hours passed that Romney summoned up enough testicular fortitude to add,"Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race."

But Akin wasn’t afraid of the big, bad Mitt. He’s in the fight till the finish, not only against sitting Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, but also in opposition to powerful pressures from virtually the entire national Republican establishment. Mike Huckebee is the only clear and -- I must say -- heroic exception to obviously top-ordered consensus. But, again, just who is "on high" in all this with firm control on a remarkably efficient and, I admit, functionally enviable lever?

I assure you such a display of unequivocal, automatic, mindless unity would never occur in Democratic circles. Hah! Are you kidding me?

That’s why those who repeat allegations that "Obama could have done anything he wanted his first two years in office with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate” ignore one plain fact. Reality. Factoring into the mix a large segment of “Blue Dog” (i.e., “conservative leaning”) Democrats in the House and, more importantly, a Republican minority in the Senate still large enough to block dozens upon dozens of progressive initiatives with the threat of a filibuster, Barack didn’t stand a chance.

So it is that -- as much as I abhor Akin’s since rescinded recital on "legitimate rape" and hope Ms. McCaskill trounces him thoroughly in November -- I must salute Todd Akin’s unwavering dedication to his beliefs and Mike Huckabee’s loyalty in backing same.

Ultimately, the idea of inherent, God-ordained resistance to rape sperm is really no crazier than other right-wing delusions of the day, including demonizing Obamacare, denying the desired destruction of Medicare and Social Security, insisting that “trickle down” still works, stoking the flames of yet another profit-laden Mideast war and, yes, even hoping we can be forced to pretend that an acorn is an oak tree in defining “personhood”.

However -- all that doesn’t help in determining who -- or what -- ordered “Code Red” on Congressman Akin.

There's an unknown big hand moving our way.

August 16, 2012

Miles Parker Romney (1843 - 1904)

“Chicken ala Huckabee”

"There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
getting so much resistance from behind"

"For What It's Worth" -- Buffalo Springfield (1966)

Assuming that Dan Cathy, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A, meant what he said when he told The Baptist Press that he was “very much supportive of the Biblical definition of the family unit”, it might be cynically suggested that hundreds of area Christians lined up at Fresno's River Park Chick-fil-A outlet on August 1st in enthusiastic support of boundless polygamy as endorsed by Mitt Romney's Great Grandfather, Miles Park Romney, when he fled to Mexico in 1885 with his five wives -- Caroline, Millie, Catherine, Alice and Hannah -- Mitt's Great-Grandmother.

The Old Testament is loaded with ladies who were a one-man woman to a many women man. That's just how things were -- a culturally inherited predisposition to just be that way.

Genesis 4:19 --”And Lamech took unto him two wives.”

Genesis 26:34 -- “Esau ... took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.”

And -- taking the gold --1 Kings 11:2-3 -- “Solomon ... had seven hundred wives ... and three hundred concubines.”

In the New Testament, we see such passages as Matthew 25:1, which reads, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” At the time of Christ, polygamy was common in Jewish culture and practiced as a traditional custom by early Christians, although banned by Roman law.

Justin Martyr (AD 100 -165), an early Christian apologist considered a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church, observed it was common for a Jewish man to have four or five wives. In fact, polygamy remained a Jewish institution until formally banned by Rabbi Gershom ben Judah in 1000 A.D.

One of the few true constants in our human experience is the inevitability of change, an obvious notion ignored at substantial intellectual peril by many who should know better. Mr. Cathy's pronouncement has nothing to do with First Amendment rights, such stipulations enacted to curtail governmental restrictions against free speech. But there is no guarantee of impunity - no Constitutional limitation to reaction for -- or against such commentary.

Dan-Dan the Chicken Man had a perfect right to say what he did, historically and theologically nonsensical or not. Supportive forces had an equally perfect right to answer Mike Huckabee's clarion call for communal chicken and I hereby claim my perfect right to suggest the Chick-fil-A turnout was driven immeasurably more by latent homophobia than liturgical heroics.

The faithful flock at Westboro Baptist believes that God hates queers.

The average Christian recoils at such despicable lunacy and considers those Westboro Baptists insufferable - if not insane.

But in the case of Same Sex Marriage, we witness an uncomfortable confrontation between what are perceived as the laws of God against those of man. It's nothing new.

“And Jesus answering said to them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marveled at him.” Mark 12:17

Thus -- Biblically -- ambiguity abounds.

Nothing is crystal clear - or clean cut - or plain as day.

Is Barack Obama "not a Christian" for waging a "War against Religion" by recognizing the value of -- gasp -- "contraceptives?"

The search for Truth can be found in all lands and in many diverse philosophies, none greater or wiser. Each belief system offers its own dynamics and is a reflection of the transcendental nature of its core culture.

The Holy Bible or Koran or Talmud or Book of Mormon or Book of The Dead or Rig Veda or Avesta or Amitabha Sutra or hundreds of other sacred scriptures represent "God's word " only as defined by fallible followers -- particularly errant when accompanied by self-serving insistence on spiritual exclusivity.

It's just that way.

 

August 2, 2012

“Obamaphobia for Dummies”

If you’ve got it - you don’t get it.

“Obamaphobia” is herein defined as an emotionally ravaging, soul savaging, highly irrational fear of anything having the most remote connection to the 44th President of the United States of America.

For purposes of helpful diagnosis, the most obvious example can be found in the pejorative phrase “Obamacare”, a label immediately applied to The Affordable Care Act of 2010 by oppositional forces. By way of illustration, although national polling consistently reveals dramatic across-the-board majority support of the Act’s key elements, such approval drops significantly when presented as “Obamacare.”

A new Reuters poll in late June shows that while 56 percent of Americans claim to oppose the law as a whole when it’s spoken of as “Obamacare”, most of those surveyed emphatically back its primary components.

61 percent of respondents favor allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. 72 percent wish to maintain the requirement that companies with more than 50 workers provide health insurance for their employees and a full 82 percent of respondents favor banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Other easy examples of Obamaphobia are the dozens upon dozens of outright lies fashioned by coldly cynical, brilliantly sophisticated, highly paid manipulators and fed to millions through the Internet, Talk Radio and Fox News. And I don’t mean good old fashioned, all American “spin.” They just make stuff up.

Consequently, many folks have honestly come to believe that Barack Obama is a Marxist-worshiping, Communist-kissing, Socialist-leaning, power-crazed, job-killing, deficit-loving, freedom-ending, dope-smoking, wife-swapping, orphan-strangling, Satan-worshipping African Muslim with suspiciously expansive ears hiding secret communications gear directly linking him through implanted microchips to invisible masters elsewhere -- unknown and unseen.

The biggest lie of all is that our President “can’t run on his record.”

Kindly consider that Barack Obama has:

§ Ended the war in Iraq.
§ Completed planning to get us out of Afghanistan.
§ Greatly increased access to health care for all Americans.
§ Signed The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for Women.
§ Created at least 3 million new jobs through his economic recovery program.
§ Protected Women’s Right to Choose.
§ Closed the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole.”
§ Forced Insurance Company rebates to consumers.
§ Saved the American Auto Industry from collapse.
§ Supervised our lowest Federal Tax rates in the last 30 years.
§ Presided over the smallest increases in Federal spending of any recent President and
§ Killed Osama Bin Laden.

Then compare Barack Obama to his presumed opponent in November -- "Mighty Mitt." Here he comes to save the day! "Mighty Mitt" -- a wealthy, robotic, smarmy puppet of the ruling class who believes corporations are people, has kept five sons out of military service and changes his stories faster than a frog on fire. "Mighty Mitt" -- judged by the British press as being "worse than Sarah Palin" following an epic display of horridly failed statesmanship at the Summer Olympics. What a tool. What a fool. Hardly cool.

The slowest snail on a fish tank wall should understand these things.

And spread the word --

“Obamaphobia" is for Dummies!



 

“The Reign at Bain"

July 19, 2012

 

“There's room at the top they're telling you still -
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill -
If you want to be like the folks on the hill.”

John Lennon -- “Working Class Hero” (1971)

I fired twenty-eight people in less than a year.

In the final decade of the last century, massive consolidation of corporate holdings was well underway. My broadcast profession was no exception.

Late in the first Bush administration, our Federal Communications Commission doubled prior ownership restrictions on radio stations, allowing the acquisition of two FM and two AM licenses in any market by a single entity. And we can’t blame just Republicans. The 1996 Telecommunications Act, signed by President Bill Clinton and supported in Congress with bipartisan unanimity, doubled things again. Many companies came to own eight radio stations in a single city and these corporations were purchased by even larger groups which operated hundreds of outlets in dozens of states.

Senior management positions were reduced by well over 60% in the first two years. The savings were incredible. Serious format competition was eliminated in many instances with former promotional dollars flowing to the bottom line. Cash flow was superb. Commercial rates started to climb with clients often paying considerably more for significantly less. Investors were ecstatic. And these were the early days.

In 1998, an outfit called Gocom Communications purchased WKBN-TV, a big CBS Television affiliate in Youngstown. Wanting to add five radio stations to their Ohio holdings, Gocom’s primary investment group, Bain Capital, made a multi- million dollar loan conditioned on my involvement as Vice President/General Manager. I ran WBBG/WRTK/WICT/WWSY/WPAO through the end of the year, faithfully executing dozens of faithful employees upon the altar of corporate efficiency. Thinning the herd. When I would fire no more, they fired me.

“Corporations are people too!” -- Willard “Mitt” Romney (2012)

“The Corporation” is a 2003 award-winning documentary film detailing how modern-day corporations are systematically designed to behave with the clinical symptoms of a complete psychopath, including utter disregard for the safety and feelings of others, difficulty maintaining human relationships, deceitfulness in business practices, an incapacity to experience guilt, and a tendency to ignore social norms and respect for the law. If corporations were actual human beings, their behavior might often land them in jail or a padded cell or tightly strapped to an execution gurney.

Responding to accusations of having shipped American jobs overseas in the interest of corporate profit and personal enrichment, supporters of Mitt Romney last week ran a million dollar TV campaign in targeted markets calling Barack Obama a liar. The next day, startling revelations in the Boston Globe and Mother Jones magazine completely vindicated our President and provided ever- increasing anxiety among traditional Republicans.

I wanted to share my own experiences to offer personal testimony verifying observations as outlined in “The Corporation” -- characteristics dramatically and specifically evident in relation to Bain Capital and, particularly, to Bain’s Chairman of the Board, CEO and single shareholder, Willard “Mitt” Romney.

Social justice and economic fairness have no place at Bain Capital or other practitioners of vulture capitalism.

Along with other tottering investments, Bain Capital was successful acquiring controlling interest in Clear Channel Communications for $18.7 billion dollars in 2008. Clear Channel has licenses for over 850 radio stations, including KALZ-FM, KBOS-FM, KCBL-AM, KFBT-FM, KHGE-FM, KHGE-FM, KRDU-FM, KRZR-FM and KSOF-FM in Fresno. They also own syndication companies offering exclusive rights to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Michael Savage with 5,000 affiliates reaching 190 million listeners a week.

The newly renamed Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Company is now $19.9 billion in debt, having lost over $200 million last year alone. Mitt Romney, although allegedly now “out of the picture”, still has a huge financial stake in Bain as the body count continues to mount.

Jerry Del Colliano, one of the industry’s most respected analysts, estimates that around 10,000 people have lost their jobs at Clear Channel properties over the last few years with more coming. Jerry tells the Sierra Star, “What they are likely to do is kick the can down the road and refinance at higher interest rates. After all, Bain makes money whether Clear Channel succeeds or fails.”

Willard “Mitt” Romney does know how to make business work -- for himself -- at the expense of -- who cares how many?

Having perfected the art of smiling as he kills.

Just look.

“Death To The Boogeyman!”

July 5, 2012

John Roberts killed him.

Ever since Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23rd of 2010, the measure became cleverly and effectively branded by rabid Republican opponents as “Obamacare” -- yet a new Boogeyman designed to scare and frighten a faithful flock with outright lies and unrestrained deceit. Such manipulation successfully spawned a mindless, mobilized opposition - elevating timidity and fear of change to the level of virtuous patriotism.

You’ve heard variations of the rap.

“Obamacare is a socialist takeover of one-sixth of the American economy, engineered by the worst Kenyan-born, secret Muslim President in our history, with government run health care, confiscatory taxation, thousands of unelected “Czars”, IRS agents behind every tree, the end of private property, no more HBO, bad haircuts and Death Squads dropping Gramma in a dumpster.”

None of this is remotely true, but much was generally believed by many. Until now.

God Bless John Roberts.

In what surely qualifies as a Kennedyesque “Profile in Courage”, John Glover Roberts, Jr., the 17th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, not only provided the deciding vote in the Court’s historic (5-4) affirmation of the Affordable Care Act’s Constitutionality, but he actually found a brilliant way to make things come together -- piecing the puzzle into place -- preserving integrity through ingenuity. As with most complex issues, simplicity carried the day.

“You don’t like “mandate?” Let’s call it a “Tax.” No one claims Congress can’t do that. Thank you and good night.”

Appointed by George W. Bush in 2005, this clearly Conservative Chief Justice’s sudden and completely unexpected shift to join his four more “liberal” brethren on the left in rendering one of the most critical Supreme Court decision of our lifetime -- one of multigenerational implication, quickly brings to mind one of our own -- a prominent Californian.

Earl Warren was one of only two people to be elected Governor of California three times, the other being Jerry Brown. Warren ran for Vice-President on the GOP ticket in 1948 behind Thomas E. Dewey.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower thanked Warren for his service to the party through the years by appointing him as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in September of 1953. Chief Justice Warren then proceeded through subsequent years to lead the Court in a transformational series of progressive decisions that revolutionized the role of the Court in such landmark cases as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Reynolds v. Sims (1964) and Miranda v. Arizona (1966).

The ultra-right wing John Birch Society initiated a strong “Impeach Earl Warren” Campaign from the late ‘50’s onward, as I suspect similar disapproval will be leveled at Chief Justice Roberts from this point forward by Latter-Day Birchers parroting Tea Party slogans or similar expressions of divisive discontent.

But in making his stand and drawing sharp, detailed attention to exactly what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act IS against what it IS NOT, John Roberts has also succeeded where the Administration had inadvertently failed -- in simply -- explaining itself.

With the Boogieman down, most of us now know that “Obamacare” was designed to reduce healthcare costs by making services available to 32 million fellow citizens who currently can't get insurance. The states will be required to set up insurance exchanges to make it easier to shop for private health insurance coverage and Insurance companies can no longer deny children coverage for pre-existing conditions, a benefit which will apply to adults in 2014. If you get sick, you can’t be dropped from coverage. Parents can put their children up to age 26 on health insurance plans. If Insurance Companies pay too much in Executive Compensation and other non-health related items, you will receive a refund on your premium payments. In 2012 alone, this will be more than a billion bucks coming back to taxpayers. The Medicare "doughnut hole" gap in coverage will be eliminated by 2020. The Act will lower the budget deficit by $143 billion for the next 10 years by raising some taxes and shifting more cost burdens.

Oh, and that “mandate”, now a “tax?” That will effect just freeloaders who want us to pay for them by refraining from participation. They’ll be only about two percent of the population. Two percent. All of this comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

And -- as if our President needed more good news -- extensive polling by the National Geographic Channel now reveals that the American people, by an overwhelming two to one margin, believe that Barack Obama is better equipped than Mitt Romney to handle an alien space invasion.

Sleep well tonight.

“Money Talks”

June 21, 2012

“Tailored suits, chauffeured cars
Fine hotels and big cigars
Up for grabs, up for a price
Where the red hot girls keep on dancing through the night --
Come on, come on, listen to the money talk.”

AC/DC --- (1990) -- From “The Razor’s Edge”

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s multimillion dollar victory in Wisconsin has blessedly assured President Barack Obama’s reelection in November with commanding Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.

There are lots of moving parts here, perhaps including loose screws in my head, but I firmly believe that the American people are finally starting to get it. Having dramatically witnessed an undeniable demonstration of arrogant, self-serving, primarily inherited riches -- unleashed without reservation or restraint by a few against the many, recognition is at last being given that -- when a handful of billionaires can dominate mass media with their exclusive message by an eight to one margin -- the voice of the people can no longer be heard. Such silence is our deadliest enemy.

Nobel Prize Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz, in his latest New York Times Best Seller, “The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future”, categorically states that economic injustice is killing the American dream. Stiglitz cites irrefutable data showing that in the "recovery" of 2009-10, the top 1% of US income-earners captured 93% of growth. The trend is one of concentrating income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle and increasing poverty at the bottom as the five Walton families (of Walmart fame -- not John-Boy’s folks) enjoy greater wealth than the bottom 30% of the rest combined -- all one hundred million of us.

And those who believe we still are THE land of opportunity should kindly notice their environment. Bootstraps have broken and many a Horatio Alger can’t find work. I include this arcane observation by way of also stressing that, for the first time in my seven decades on the planet, young folks have a better shot at rising to the top elsewhere than right here at home -- almost anywhere else in the free world. But I’m not going anywhere and they’re not either. This is all fixable, but that means not pretending everything’s fine except for “big government” ,“taxes”, “regulations”, and mindless devotion to a “free market economy” -- all of which are just part of the big lies designed to keep us powerless, poorer and in our proper places. Markets are “free” only as paid for.

My Great-Great-Grandfather, Thomas Newcomb, lies buried in a cemetery in Upstate New York, beneath a large grave marker prominently displaying an American Flag under which can clearly be seen the words, “Soldier - Revolutionary War.” Drafted into George Washington’s Army at the age of 16, Thomas was a Rebel -- a Renegade --a Traitor against the King. Quoting from official documentation, “On 5 Aug. 1781, Thomas rendered service near Peekskill, and in a whale-boat on Long Island Sound; captured a sloop, and, immediately after, another armed with ten guns, making her a prize, with three other sloops, loaded with wood and forage for the British army; carried them into Stamford, Connecticut.”

I am pleased to report that Thomas was also a man of committed social conscience. Again from the archives, “Following his discharge from the Army, Thomas became a farmer and wagon maker. In 1821, Mr. Newcomb moved to Onondaga Valley, New York, and from there canvassed the country in supporting The Anti-Slavery Movement.”

The Fourth of July is but four weeks away, when we celebrate our freedom with fun, frolic, festivities and fireworks.

Political Conservatives in 1776 were Tories, also known as “Loyalists” or “The Kings Men” -- supporters of the status quo and unquestioned British rule. How ironic that many who will be adorned in all sorts of red, white & blue attire this 2012 Independence Day, wearing breeches, woolen stockings, leather shoes and those iconic three corner hats dangling gayly festooned Lipton bags, will be sporting historically verifiable rebel wear from an otherwise Conservative era. Yep. That was the LIBERAL LOOK!

There is no doubt in my mind that, without question, my patriotic Tea Party friends have their hearts in the right place. I remain ever hopeful their heads will soon follow.

“The Beat Goes On”

May 31, 2012

 

Late one Saturday night in May of 1998, while managing a group of radio stations in Youngstown, Ohio, I felt a wild tickling in my chest. It wasn’t remotely painful and might even have been considered mildly pleasurable were it not for the fact that my Dad had died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52. Such family history made me more cognizant of potential personal peril in this area than otherwise may have been the case. This saved my life.

With complete blockage of two main coronary arteries and dangerously high percentages on two others, a ten hour quadruple bypass bought me a measure of time long enough to see eleven grandchildren (each one smarter than the other ten) grow and flourish. These last 14 years also witnessed abandonment of a three pack a day cigarette habit, the adoption of much healthier dietary practices and, most unbelievable of all, the loss of over 40 pounds of waddling weight through regularly daily exercise. That’s me you see on 425A every weekday morning from Live Oak right up to the fence and back. Coming down is easier than going up. And, even though I’ve never felt better, I regularly undergo annual stress testing. This time, that’s what saved my life.

Spotting an almost undetectable aberration, my cardiologist explained that, although there was a computer generated analysis predicting only 5% blockage, there was “something that bothered him” and a full angiogram study was worth of serious consideration. This soon proved that the practice of medicine is, in its finest form, a combination of both art and science. I herein thank my son-in-law, Richard Seiling, for this insightful observation.

For those unacquainted, I should briefly mention that an angiogram is no casual walk in the park, day at the beach or teddy bears' picnic. One is securely strapped down as a needle and thin tube are run straight up into your heart for the insertion of telltale dye. Then they shoot interior pictures, but you don’t have to smile.

On May 23rd, Eileen and I celebrated our 48th Wedding Anniversary with a trip down the hill to St. Agnes Hospital and a rendezvous with a most prescient Dr. Michael Gen and his merry band of astoundingly professional assistants.

The following is personal correspondence I just sent to family and friends:

“I have returned from an unexpected overnight stay at St. Agnes Hospital in Fresno after a fortuitous angiogram yesterday morning revealed over 90% blockage in my Left Anterior Descending Artery, more popularly known as "The Widow Maker." This precipitated the insertion of two stents and a more careful study of the rest of the heart. Bottom line seems to be that my 1998 Youngstown bypass now is pretty much shot, with three of the four grafts completely gone and a fourth barely functioning. There is the possibly of yet another stent in the not too distant future. I'll know more after my next appointment June 14th. C'est la vie. So, the GREAT NEWS is that a completely unsuspected and immediate "LAD" threat is enormously diminished, but the CONCERNING NEWS is that I'm now told I must have experienced a "silent heart attack" sometime in the last few years as the Youngstown bypasses collapsed, rendering around 10% of my heart "deadened."

And that’s what initially freaked me out the most. A SILENT HEART ATTACK??? Yes, and the stunningly attractive administrative associate who detailed the situation offered -- in explanation -- these exact words, "Dead meat -- no beat!" Honest! I feel much better now, having been assured that the initial graphic image of an ancient cheeseburger lying a-mouldering in my chest like John Brown’s body has been thoroughly dispelled and that “no longer functional muscle tissue” (my words) has been more or less absorbed by a comparatively healthy surrounding environment.

And so here I am as the beat goes on, still crazy after all these years (along with Paul Simon), hoping this testimony might remind all of us (myself included) that all those things it takes time to learn and accept are extraordinarily important in such lives as we lead. And yet when the end must come, I still fantasize blissfully toppling down into eternity from the towering heights of a well-worn bar stool, my face on the floor frozen in lasting, perpetual, satiated smile. But that’s me -- reserving the right to -- upon ever more age limiting occasions -- not practice what I preach.

May 24, 2012

Remembering Remembering"

 

“I’m not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.” -- Willard “Mitt” Romney -- May 17, 2012.

What Republican Presidential Candidate Romney couldn’t recall were words spoken only weeks ago on Sean Hannity’s radio show when Mitt proclaimed that President Obama wants to make America “a less Christian nation.”

But total recall is not one of Governor Romney’s strongest suits. When recently confronted with uncontested allegations by five former school mates from Cranbrook, an elite Michigan prep school, that he had personally led a vicious bullying attack on another classmate found guilty of “being different”, Romney blurted, “I don’t remember”. And as far as that “being different” deal is concerned? Mitt just had to chuckle. "I certainly don't believe that I thought the fellow was homosexual. That was the furthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s."

WHAT?

As a proud graduate and President of the Student Council at Cathedral Academy in Syracuse, New York, back in 1959, I must emphatically observe this is outrageous nonsense. Although boastful of Irish ascent, I went out of my way to avoid “wearing green on Thursdays” (other than March 17th) since that might signal I was “queer.” Back then, “queer” meant a bit as “gay” does now, but in a much meaner, more slashing fashion. “Queer” defined the dangerously deranged, particularly in Catholic School. That added the eternally damning label of “Mortal Sin” to the unholy mix -- never mind what went on in the Rectory.

But Mitt’s not alone with his memory challenges.

In 2004, American Author/Historian Gore Vidal (quintessentially “queer” and mighty proud of it) wrote his brilliant “Imperial America: The United States of Amnesia”, the primary point being that, as a people, we tend to forget what we should most remember. Oops. Not good.

Next Tuesday is Memorial Day 2012, a day set aside to honor our fallen heroes, recalling those who have given their all, offering themselves in ultimate individual sacrifice for our collective American freedom. It is most fitting and proper that we do. I suggest it may be of even greater value that we seriously reflect upon our own responsibilities in the waging of American wars. It is a debt owed by the living to our consecrated dead.

We’re getting there.

Public opinion against our continuing military efforts in Afghanistan now equals opposition to the Vietnam conflict at its highest point in the early ‘70’s. But the same mind set which brought us Vietnam, Iraq, and a full decade in Afghanistan now regards Iran as another golden opportunity worth more billions every profit-laden week - a mind set which blames our current Federal deficit on a President who inherited an unmitigated disaster in progress when he assumed office in January of ‘09 -- a mind set now stunningly unmindful of “George the Conqueror.”

George W. Bush will be, according to all Republican sources, not remotely involved in this year’s campaign, nor will he be asked to contribute anything more meaningful than his complete absence from this year’s Republican Convention in Tampa Bay. Out of sight -- out of mind.

As soon as “W” pronounced his support of “Mitt” last week to a group of reporters hounding for a quick sound bite, he immediately disappeared behind a suddenly closed elevator door, leaving all to wonder if the darn thing was even going up or down.

Wealthy whispers are reaching a roar. “He was never a real Conservative!” “He was dumber than we hoped.” “His brother would have known better!”

Poor George -- doing as told -- now there to scTry to find friends who remain staunch supporters of Barack Obama’s predecessor’s policies or openly remember if they ever were.

Ask how they felt about heading into Iraq in the first place -- guided by what is now universally recognized as intentionally altered information as we witness 4,408 American dead, 33,184 American injured, two trillion American dollars squandered and 100,000 Iraqis killed since the initiation of “Shock and Awe” in March of 2003. Do they recognize that along with Afghanistan adventures through 2008 and billions upon billions in tax cuts primarily for those already rich, none of it was paid Inquire as to the whereabouts of “George the Invisible” and relentlessly ponder the undeniable suppression of traditional American conscience.

For without such questions, there can be no answers.

In these United States of Amnesia.

 

May 3, 2012

"A Double Header in Oakhurst!"

“Take me out to The Kettle -
Bring me there about 9.
Buy me some breakfast - then sit right back
Les will be there just to get us on track.

Then on Sunday, Marc Boyd will visit.
We’ll all be right there in the Park.
For it’s one - two - both things are true.
First it’s Les -- and then - our Marc!”

As my friend J.R. Froelich and I were discussing several days ago, one of the nicest things about Oakhurst is that we all seem to get along quite well in personal interactions, while
maintaining the right, if not responsibility, to hold vastly varying opinions on important issues of the day elsewhere, particularly those of national interest. Bill Atwood and I have even fantasized doing a radio talk show together, Bill playing Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity to my Ed Schultz/Rachel Maddow/Lawrence O’ Donnell. That would be a hoot and a half!

Bill was sharing his recent Tea Party activities in last week’s Star -- stressing the right to protest -- and suggesting civility as a more appropriate response to same than drive-by demonstrations of digital disdain. I couldn’t agreed more and, in fact, Bill’s extended commentary offering Conservative perspective prompts me, as a card carrying member of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, to enthusiastically extend an invitation to all, especially Tea Partiers and, for that matter, Republicans of all ages. We’ve planned an exciting two for one weekend just for you!

On Saturday, Les Marsden joins us at the Ole’ Kettle for our May Meeting at 9 AM. Les is not only Founder and Conductor of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra, but also
Chair of the Mariposa County Democratic Central Committee and Trustee of the Central California Democratic Council. Setting these and even more impressive credentials aside, the fact is that Les Marsden is one of the finest public speakers you will ever hear anywhere in the known Universe. The reason that’s important is that Les has agreed to tackle what sounds like a hideously boring subject; i.e., “The Impact of Top Two Primary Voting.”

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

See?

But Les will wake us up to the extraordinary importance of this new twist in California voting law and, transitioning to an immediate application, Marc Boyd is hoping you’ll ask him a few questions in person the very next day.

Marc is running for office in the newly defined Assembly District 5. The Oakhurst Democratic Club would like to introduce him to you with a “Meet and Greet” this Sunday at the Oakhurst Community Park Pavilion from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. We’ll have music,