Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Shoddy Job of Bridge Patching in Wasena

A few weeks ago, I ran a photo of this eroded patch of Wiley Drive in Roanoke's Smith Park and mentioned that the City of Roanoke would do well to patch it, lest the erosion affect the bridge's integrity.

The city finally reacted with a patch, but the quality of the work is laughable. I worked a summer building rock walls when I was younger and I can tell you that this is not professional work, not  close. The patch area doesn't appear to have been prepared. There is a small bush still growing  in the middle of the patch and in a couple of spots limbs were not picked up and removed; the concrete was simply poured over them.

All that affects the aesthetics of the patch, but it also hints that the integrity is compromised with shoddy work. Whoever supervised this work needs to have a prayer meeting with his supervisor, who should have a come to Jesus meeting with the city manager. This level of work is not acceptable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Does Liberty Really Want To Replicate Baylor?

"Ian’s [McCaw] success really speaks for itself. You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure, it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going. This is an exciting time for us.” --Jerry Falwell, Jr. on hiring the disgraced Baylor University AD.

McCaw was one of several casualties resulting from a massive sex scandal at Baylor, one that saw Coach Art Briles fired and the college president, Ken Starr, demoted and eventually departed. Baylor and Liberty are both Baptist and Liberty has its eyes on becoming a Division I school. Baylor has had successful programs under McCaw, but its national image right now is in the toilet because of the sex scandal.

The fact that "it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going" could well be problematic for Liberty.

Meanwhile, Regent University, another far right Christian political entity, recently hired former Gov. Bob McDonnell, who barely dodged jail time after a conviction for misusing his office.

Getting the Right Amount of Exercise

Hiking provides a good workout for me.
On the way down to Blacksburg yesterday for a basketball game, my friend and coach Susan and I got into an exchange about how much exercise is the right amount for a guy my age (70).  Susan had several pretty strong recommendations which, on the surface, seemed pretty light to me, but this morning she sent me the official guidelines and they are close to what she recommended Sunday.

That gives me considerable comfort because it's awfully close to what I've been doing for a good while. During the cool/cold months, I work two or three times a week in a gym, but when it's warm, I'm outside, hiking, kayaking or doing other types of brisk exercise--as much for the joy of it as for the exercise.

Here are the recommendations Susan sent:

The basic American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommendations – categorized by cardiorespiratory exercise, resistance exercise, flexibility exercise and neuro-motor exercise – are as follows:

Cardio-respiratory ExerciseAdults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise. Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk. People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity.

Resistance Exercise
Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment. Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise. Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power. For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

Flexibility Exercise
Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.
Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective. Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

Neuro-motor Exercise
Neuro-motor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week. Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults. 20-30 minutes per day is appropriate for neur-omotor exercise.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Day of Getting To Know Each Other ... Again

Photogirl at work.
My best girl and I took a little time off for ourselves over the weekend, as she and my son's family were here from their new home in Memphis for the holiday weekend. Maddie and I decided to walk Roaring Run, a scene of an earlier adventure (one where we were attacked by bees).

It also gave us time by ourselves to rediscover the magic that is there for the two of us, and has been all along. This little girl, who now 11 and might object to that description, is now 5'2" tall and about as big around as a stick. She's all personality, all smile, all dimples and an incredible joy to be around.

We, of course, took some photos and Maddie is getting better with the camera--yes, a real camera, not a phone--each time I see her. I fully expect she'll be quite accomplished in short order. Here's some of what we shot. At the top is one of my favorite portraits of her, taken at the waterfall at Roaring Run.

Me crossing Roaring Run.
Looking grown up.
On a big rock at a lower waterfall.
On top of the waterfall, leaving a sign she was there.
Sampling the fresh water.
Maddie at the furnace.
We like each other.
Maddie crossing the creek.

A Fine Time in Hokieville

Susan shows off her alma-mater shirt.
Susan and me outside Cassell Coliseum.
My friend Susan and I drove--slowly because of absurd traffic--to Blacksburg this afternoon to see Virginia Tech's undefeated women's basketball team play nationally-ranked (and pretty much legendary) Tennessee because we thought it would be a great time. It was, from every angle.

Susan's action shot (from the stands).
Susan is a Tech grad and her team won (while my Lady Vols played entertaining basketball) and we were in a boisterous crowd intent on enjoying itself. I think we all did. Tech's is a good basketball team full of color, adventure, attitude and effort that will take it far. It is led by a waterbug guard named Chanette Hicks from Charlotte and three international players (Samantha Hill from Canada, Regan Magarity from Sweden and and Vanessa Panousis from Australia). Hicks is an indomitable spirit, worth the price of admission by herself.

I fully expected to see Tech equit itself well, then face in the second half. It was up by nine in the first half, trailed briefly in the second, but for the most part was in control throughout because the Hokies play good basketball, team basketball, fully entertaining basketball. I strongly suggest you see a game soon. The crowd was about half a house and my guess is that as the season progresses, tickets will be harder to come by.

On the way home, we stopped Mountain View Restaurant in Ironto, the place with the great pizza. We had a Stromboli and a Calzone and they lived up to the restaurant's reputation. Yum.

Here's some of what the day looked like.
Susan shot this of me.
The house was about a third full (3,100 people). I expect crowds will be larger shortly. The basketball is entertaining.
Food for hungry people at Mountain View.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Two Smiling Sweeties

This is my two best girls tonight at our Thanksgiving celebration at the Smith manse on Edinburgh Dr. That's grandgirl Maddie on the left (growing faster than I can deal with) and my sweet Margie on the right. Great smiles, both.

Fall Lingers Beautifully on Thanksgiving Day

A Thanksgiving noon hike brought out the color.
A sun-roof kinda day.
It's Thanksgiving Day and the family's not coming over until this evening (Madeline earlier to help cook), so I headed out for a Turkey Hike around lunch time. It was a beautiful afternoon and the spectacular fall color is still hanging around, as you can see here.

The day was so gorgeous (70 degrees, bright sun, light breeze) that I opened my sun roof on the Bug coming home. Felt splendid.

The black and white of winter is creeping in.
Fall color remains impressive.
The burning bush is still spectacular.
Cool water along Murray Run.
I'll hold on to this vision for a while.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Was Wrong, and I'm Sorry, Sir

I just had an awakening in a grocery store that may well have given me the best lesson of the day--albeit an uncomfy one.

I was rushing through and spotted an opening at a register and sped toward it when I saw an old man doddering toward the short line, holding one small bottle of spice ... cinnamon, I think. I pulled up, looked at him and said, "Why don't you go ahead of me. You won't take long and I'm not in that much of a hurry." He smiled and said, "Thank you, sir," pleasantly. That's when I noticed the white TRUMP hat with the navy lettering. Oh, shit, I thought.

I stood there silently grumbling to myself as the old man enthusiastically engaged in a conversation about gardening with the pleasant black woman ahead of him in the line. I thought, "That old man hates you because of your color, lady," but I didn't say it. Thank god.

As the woman bid him au revoir, he turned to me, looked at my few items of groceries, faced the cashier and said, "Put that on my bill." I was stopped in mid-nasty-thought. "Oh, no-no-no-no-no-no," I said. "You don't need to do that."

"But I want to," he said, about as warmly as a human person can say it. I know I turned bright red and my eyes went to my feet, full frontal embarrassed. Here I was making all these assumptions about this lovely man because he wore a hat that pushes me into all kinds of nasty thoughts.

I was wrong and I'm sorry. I'm glad the old man didn't know what I was thinking, but my guess is it wouldn't have bothered him. He would have bought my groceries anyway.

(Photo: digitaltrends.com.)

The Media Has Become Its Own Worst Enemy

Trump: The media be damned!
"What struck me most as I spoke with readers is how much, to a person, they had something to say that was smart and reasonable ... they had reactions that were well worth hearing. I found myself wishing someone from the newsroom was on the line with me, especially to hear how many of the more liberal voters wanted more balanced coverage. Not an echo chamber of liberal intellectualism, but an honest reflection of reality."--Liz Spayd, NYTimes Public Editor (here)

I get it that The Times is really trying to humble itself, to reach for an apology, to explain, but when you begin a thought with the condescending and patronizing admission that "to a person" those complaining about coverage of the presidential election "had something to say that was smart and reasonable," you have offended your audience.

Lordy, that brings back my newspaper days memories of insufferable arrogance, of the thought that only newspaper people could possibly understand anything. It was a defensive posture, one, I suspect that shielded us against the pain of being wrong. We thought we were always right, or nearly so, but we listened to the voices of the people as if they were children and we were patient parents. There, there little boys and girls ...

Yesterday a planned meeting between Trump and Times representatives was cancelled (by Trump) because he wasn't allowed to change the rules of the meeting. Trump blamed The Times for not doing what he wanted.

The insufferable arrogance of the major American press (TV this time) was on display yesterday in a White House comedy only the Trump Administration could possibly have manufactured. The Great Man Hisself summoned the pearly-toned mouthpieces of the major networks in order to tell them they suck, and he did. There was no diplomacy here, no effort at reaching any kind of understanding, no hearing of explanations or reasons. Just a blunt-instrument attack from a bully against an institution that has become so thoroughly infected with corruption that it may well be un-salvageable.

The Times has represented the very top of the journalistic mountain for so many years that people assume a lot about it that isn't always true ... things like motive. We expect The Times to be pure as the driven snow, but it is closer to the purity of the driven snow piled on a New York City street. It suffers the same influences as Fox, CBS, The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and the entire host of other "mainstream" outlets, all of which are publicly owned by corporations, easily influenced by money.

Trump's dog and pony show Monday was an abject demonstration that he is in charge, that he will accept no dissent, no criticism, no question of his decisions. He will run the government--in as close as he can get to an authoritarian manner--and he will book no objection. He will do bad things to the media if he doesn't get his way.

That is exactly how I expect this silly little man to operate for the next four years. It is what we have come to expect and though some will say that his forthrightness about what he expects is "just honest," I suggest that it is treasonous. This is a man who plans to sell the presidency and our country to the highest bidder in order to personally profit. We've had some crooks in the White House upon occasion, but nothing like this. Not even close to this.

We should all be terrified. And we should demand a press that is tough as nails, that is fair, that doesn't back down from a fight and that is, by god, honest.

(Photo: mediacaffeine.com)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, with a Remembrance

This ticket is from a long-ago (early 1930s; the last number is obscured) Virginia Tech vs. VMI football game at Roanoke's Maher Field, a game in which my dad played. Andrew Pitzer sent it to me (thanks, Andrew).

The game was played at Maher--which houses baseball fields today--for many years before it moved to the brand new Victory Stadium next door in 1942 (my former mother-in-law was a cheerleader for Jefferson High in the opening game at the stadium).

Maher became a Roanoke Red Sox baseball stadium 1943-1954 and I actually have a baseball program for a game on Aug. 8, 1946, a little over a week after I was born.

My dad, George Smith, was a good player at Tech (that's him, bottom right) and told a few (very few, because he didn't talk a lot) very good stories about those days. The ticket means a lot to me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Do We Imagine Mr. Trump To Be a Smidge Touchy?

OK, Lucy, 'splain me this: 

Donald Trump paid $25 million in a legal settlement over Trump University cheating its students out of a lot of money because, he says, he didn't have time to pursue the case. Something about having to do his new day job. 

However, he has time to tap out a tweet about the members of a Broadway play reading a statement to Mr. Trump's President of Vice Mr. Pence, asking that all people be treated equally.

I'm wondering what the president-elect's priorities are and whether his skin is so thin that we can actually see through it. I'm also wondering how what the cast members read could possibly be considered a criticism--and not a simple request for respect--except by somebody who is so deeply paranoid that he should maybe visit a shrink during the coming week.

(Graphic: 2big2fall.wordpress.com)

Plenty of Action--and Seats--at Tech Hockey Game

Margie and Susan in their choice seats.
The three of us, squeezed in tight.
Susan, Margie and I took in a Virginia Tech-University of Virginia hockey game Saturday afternoon and I was met with a few surprises.

First, the hockey was pretty good: fast, youthful, energetic and entertaining. Two fights and either two or three expulsions for those keeping that particular score. Second, we were almost alone in the cavernous, 10,000-seat coliseum (maybe 200 in attendance). Third, a bottle of water costs $5, a pretzel $4 and a beer (which I don't drink and never would have at this price), is $9.

Tech plays a bunch of home games and the price is right: $5 for admission and free parking. But, for heaven's sake, sneak in your own food and drink. You can go broke quickly at those prices.
The post-game handshake ... after two fights saw two or three players ejected from the game.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fall Color Still Hanging On

The color is astonishing on the back side of Tinker Mountain.
The red stands out against b/w.
I hiked up the Tinker/Hollins Greenway trail today and was deeply surprised at the brilliance of the color on the first half of the trip. You can above how bright the reds and yellows (and even the greens) are on this half of the trail. Back side, not so much. It was more burgundy, glossy brown and a very little yellow.

The color is lingering, though, so get out and enjoy it. My guess is that it won't last much longer than the coming weekend.
More brilliance in the sunshine.
That's me on top of the ridge with Carvins Cove below.

A Simple Warning About Your Insurance

"... if Obamacare is repealed, rates and deductibles will return to their prior cost-curve trajectories — spikes in rates that’ll far outpace the more modest increases seen with the law in place. Couple that with a return to what’s called 'rescission,' in which health insurance companies can legally strip people of their insurance after they get sick — a practice banned by Obamacare — along with sick people flooding back to emergency rooms, and Trump voters will have made healthcare far worse than it’s ever been, after the repeal."

--Bob Cesca in Salon (here)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hey, Nice Parking, Dude

This parking job probably doesn't represent a record--six parking spaces the near blocking of a seventh--the old man driving this truck and trailer seemed to have nobody in mind but himself and his wife today when they parked at Vic Thomas Park.

Well, where would you park a rig like this? you may ask. How about across the street in front of Black Dog Salvage where parking is available--directly parallel to this rig--and it's easy to just pull into it. No parallel parking, no slant drive, no maneuvering. You have to think this man was simply trying to inconvenience as many people as possible while taking his constitutional on the Greenway or visiting the junk shop.

This happens fairly frequently in this lot and I wish to hell it would stop.

Monday, November 14, 2016

How To Lose My Business

I have been putting together family photo books with Shutterfly for several years and although I always found its site to be clunky, often unresponsive and often difficult to figure out (I always do my own layouts, but finding the "custom" button is always a challenge).

The product is quite good though, so until today I have always just put up with the inconvenience and even the sometimes shady marketing (the discounts are rarely what I expect them to be and the retail price is absurd compared to other publishers in the same field).

I will also add that customers service, whom I've had to call with nearly every one of the more than two dozen books I've done, has always been polite, efficient and fair. Today, that ended.

This is the photo on the cover of the book in question.
I put together a small photo book of some of my recent work--Christmas gifts--and had a $10 off coupon that Shutterfly sent me with its most recent catalogue. The coupon says succinctly on the front "Can be combined with site offers," meaning the 50 percent discount that is in effect is also valid.

But customer service told me that wasn't true. I asked for a supervisor. She said it wasn't true. I argued that the coupon said it was. They both acted as if I were lying.

So now, I feel like Shutterfly's reps lied to me and cheated me. It is not about $10. It is about the principal and, as I mentioned pretty strongly, hell will freeze before Shutterfly gets another book or calendar or card order from me.

It has traded hundreds of dollars in future business (maybe more than that) for $10 now. I hope the execs don't spend it all in one place.

Local Actress Opening New Theater

Ami Trowell and her Theatre 3 daughters.
Ami Trowell, known throughout the Roanoke Valley for her improvisational skills, plans to open a new theater, catering to “under-resourced and under-represented communities.” It is called Theatre 3 and “we are committed to presenting works that represent a diverse set of perspectives, with a focus on illuminating the artistic expression of frequently marginalized populations along the lines of race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation and other social markers.”

Theatre 3 is located in Roanoke's historic Dumas Center for Artistic & Cultural Development. Located across the railroad tracks from Warehouse Row, the Dumas was once a hotel and social hub for black Roanoke in the days of segregation. 

The schedule is already packed. "I took over the lease in August,” says Amy. “Our first performance is Dec. 10, a variety show. I've been teaching improv workshops on the first Saturday morning of each month. The next one is the first Saturday in December. Starting in January I will be having weekly classes for improvisation and and after school program for girls in the neighborhood.”

“The name comes from a couple of sources, one is I have three daughters. And for them I want to emphasize that one of the most important actions we can take is being involved in our community. I love participating in community art events and performances, but when I look around I see a lot of people who look a lot like me.

Ami with Big Lick Conspiracy.
“Roanoke is a community rich with diversity and I'd like to see that reflected in our arts community more. That's way the Dumas center is geographically so crucial to this mission. This is a building that was a hub for the Roanoke arts scene. Many amazing artists stayed and performed there, but many Roanokers don't even know where or what it is. I want to revitalize this space to be a place for all Roanokers.”

Ami's training is in theatre and improvisation, “so those are the kinds of performances I am putting on first. But it's a great space for music, spoken word, new works and more.” She is a key member of Big Lick Conspiracy.

The money is coming from couch cushions and under car seats,” she says, tongue firmly in cheek. “Once I have my non-profit [authorization] I'm hoping to start receiving grant money. In the meantime, I have to keep my day job in order to fund this. It's my passion and I think it's one of the most important things I can do, so I'll make it work as long as possible.”

The first project, she says, is to “organize is covering the not-so-attractive chain link fence that surrounds the back parking lot. I want kids from area schools to paint pallets that will be hung on the fence. And I really want to take down the barbed- wire that tops the fence, which makes the place look more like a prison than a cultural arts center.”

If you want to support Theatre 3, says Ami, "visit the website to contribute or simply mail me a check to 108 Henry Street Roanoke Virginia."

Pampa, Can You Put Me in a Book?

This picture is in the book, as I recall.
My grandgirl, Madeline, called the other day and asked right off the top, "Pampa, can you write a book and put me in it?"

Seems one of her new buddies in Memphis--her family just moved there--has a relative who writes and who mentioned her in book. Maddie simply wanted equality in this.

"You're in a book, Maddie," I said.


"Yes. The book is almost as old as you are and I'm updating it right now. It's called Burning the Furniture and I wrote it when you were a baby. It is a memoir, which is a biography only from my perspective and without all the requirements for complete historical accuracy you find in a history or biography.

"There's a picture in it of me holding you. I didn't write a lot about you then because there wasn't much to write--babies are about as interesting as slugs--but you know how much I've written in my blog about you in the past 10 years. And that's equal in length to a book. When I update Burning the Furniture, there will be a good bit about you in it. Does any of that count in what you're asking?"

"Oh, yeh, great. I'll see if Mom has a copy of your book." I could hear her smiling. And I wondered just how easy she believes it to be to write a book.

Pundit: It's About the Economy, Stupid!

James Nolt, writing in TheStreet (here) has an interesting take on Donald Trump's victory that has nothing whatsoever to do with Trump's personal, intellectual, and social faults. He believes it's all about the economy and I think he has a good point to a degree. Trump's obvious "isms" are all too real and they--quite frankly--make him unfit for any public office. But many of the people who voted for him--people who oppose his "isms" are frustrated and simply want a dramatic change ... one they could not envision with Clinton.

Here's some of what Nolt posits:

Trump has promised to return capital and jobs to the U.S. with extraordinary import duties. This is a promise that no presidential candidate has made since Republican Alf Landon in 1936. ... the political economy matters to voters.

The crash of 2008 was a huge blow to American confidence, while the decades-long loss of high-paying union manufacturing jobs has festered in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Energy jobs were also at stake in the Dakotas and West Virginia. Most of these traditionally Democratic or swing states went for Trump.

Many college-educated pundits took comfort in the fact that higher education correlated with support for Clinton. However, they missed the real reason for this. In a way, their university educations in multiculturalism and textbook economics blinded them to the depth of discontent outside the Northeast and the West Coast. Instead of thinking of Trump voters as ignorant, they should have recognized them as distressed. Trump understood this and pandered to it in his speeches. 

Whereas he won the votes of discontented people, including a higher percentage of the Latino vote than Republican candidate Mitt Romney received in the 2012 presidential election, despite insults about illegal Mexican immigrants, Hillary Clinton gained support from donors and voters who are reasonably satisfied with the status quo. Trump tapped into a nerve among many people who see the media as arrogant and superficial, ignoring the depth of their angst.

Whereas establishment pundits heard Trump's political incorrectness, what Midwestern voters heard from Trump was restoration of one of their core values: fairness. ... Construction jobs used to be monopolized by well-paid workers in century-old unions but are now more often going to illegal immigrants. Whereas farm work in California has long been done by Mexicans, now even the summer farm jobs in the Midwest go to illegal immigrants.

A university education used to be affordable for the kids of working families, now the price is skyrocketing, and foreign students with money to pay high tuition are displacing American students.
Hundreds of thousands of decent people are getting addicted to legally prescribed opiates pushed by big pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies get well compensated by the Affordable Care Act, sticking consumers with the soaring bills.

The Great Recession of 2008 devastated home ownership and retirement savings, leaving broken dreams and debts that can't be paid. The bankers who prospered from that won massive rewards.
Nobody went to jail for dispossessing millions.

Why doesn't Congress fix these problems? Because politicians Washington are awash in donor money. They ignore people and pander to donors.

For those who really want to understand why Midwesterners, in particular, gave this election to Trump, the categories of cultural politics and white supremacy don't get at the issues that really enthused these voters. They grasped at the hope that he is, as he claims, a voice for distressed people.
They want to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington and restore fairness. If Trump is angry and abusive, they can forgive that because many of them are anxious, too.

But their anger isn't principally racial. It is about a rigged political economy that makes them economically insecure.

Fixing Congress: The Buffett Solution

Pontificating Warren Buffett
The following is making the rounds of Facebook, and Warren Buffet, the richest liberal in the country, says it can lead to a constitutional amendment quickly if we pressure Congress by telling members this is what we favor.

I am skeptical of that and have seen these proposals before, but I'll pass it on because it's a good idea. A better idea would be to get the money out of politics completely, setting up an equal position for office holders and challengers and providing minimal amounts of government money for campaigns, while requiring the nation's media to give equal time and space to them.

Anyhow, here's Buffet's proposal:

The Way It Is Now
Salary of retired US Presidents .. . . . .. . . . . .. . ..........$180,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of retired House/Senate members .. . . . .. . . . $174,000 FOR LIFE
Salary of retired Speaker of the House .. . . . .. . . . . . .$223,500 FOR LIFE
Salary of retired Majority / Minority Leaders . . .. . . . $193,400 FOR LIFE
Average Salary of a teacher . . .. . . . .. . . . . .. .. . . . . . .$40,065
Average Salary of a deployed Soldier . . .. . . .. . . . . . . $38,000

Buffett said recently,  "You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."
Congressional Reform Act of 2017
1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when out of office.
2. Congress participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.
3. Congress can purchase its own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote itself a pay raise. Raises are the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses its current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws it requires of the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 3/1/17. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and go back to work.

Let me say I'm skeptical, but it's worth a try. I don't expect anything at all from the current Congress, though, especially anything that would be beneficial to the American people. Those who voted for Trump will see that soon enough when their jobs start disappearing.

(Photo: http://vintagevalueinvesting.com)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Here's Why the Bad Guys Win

People on my side of the deep and wide political divide are looking desperately for a sensible explanation why Hillary Clinton is not the president-elect today. The answer is as deep and wide as the political division, but one point is certain and urgent:

More people wanted Donald Trump to lose than wanted him to win. More by a lot.

Trump finished second in the actual voting by a few hundred thousand votes, but more than 45 percent of Americans did not think enough of the future of their country to vote. A lot of the reason for that can be laid at the feet of Republicans in power, people who don't want the majority of Americans to vote because they would never win another national election. They do all they can to depress the vote, from eliminating polling places in colored or immigrant neighborhoods, to gerrymandering, to sending thugs to polling places carrying guns, to threatening violence. They purge voting lists, make it difficult for felons who have paid their debt to vote, shorten voting hours and days and make it as inconvenient as possible to vote.

All that said, however, Democrats must shoulder much of the blame for their defeat here. Clinton's campaign was an abject lesson in how not to do it. And this was her second chance. She should have learned something, but she didn't. She took for granted states like Michigan and Wisconsin, states where Bernie Sanders annihilated her in open primaries. She performed miserably when all people could vote in the primaries, winning only in those primaries where the vote was controlled by the party and actually cheating in many of those.

She refused to acknowledge the issues that were real to the Trump voters, preferring to call them stupid racists (which is correct in many cases, but certainly not all), rather than to hear them out and adjust to try to meet their needs. Job-scared Michigan voters took her absence from their state to conclude she didn't care about them. They may be right. She assumed they would not vote against their own interests. People will always vote against candidates they hate and don't trust. She never got that memo.

Democrats with the most to lose--those of color and immigrants--simply didn't turn out in numbers representative of the threat to them. Of course, the GOP targeted them and made voting more difficult, but if they want to win, they will have to try harder. Ask women. They've been doing that all their lives.

I am truly disappointed by those oppressed factions of our culture who simply lack the courage, the will, the strength to face the enemy and to fight back with all they have. If we are to have a new American Revolution, we will need every voice that opposes oppression and that will require commitment and, for god's sake, courage.

We can't win without it. The bad guys will ... and have to this point.

(Photo: kmov.com)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump's Economy: Smoke, Mirrors and Tax Cuts (for the Wealthy)

Donald Trump made a lot of promises to his base, many of them economic in nature. Let's assume--safely--that a bulk of his supporters are blue collar workers who depend on American-made goods to keep them employed.

According to a NYTimes piece (here) this morning, these are WalMart shoppers and WalMart is the third largest importer of Chinese-made goods in the world (behind two countries, one the U.S., which includes WalMart's totals in its). At the very center of the Trump economy and the point that has billionaires giddy, is his proposed $5.8 trillion tax cut, even as he increases spending in a number of areas, including a big boost in defense. By 2025, more than half of tax reductions would go to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.

He wants to put 35 and 45 percent tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods (risking not only a trade war and perhaps inspiring China to call in the U.S. debt to it). Trade is already slowing--costing American jobs--and would almost certainly slow dramatically with the taxes. More jobs in the toilet, as many as five million.

In Trump's crosshairs are education (he wants to eliminate the federal department) and R&D support, which is where new products, and thus new jobs, come from.

He wants to ditch regulation (as Republicans tend to want to do), and is likely to crush the EPA (along with several other environmental initiative, which will make the world's headlong hurtle toward self-destruction much more probable). This is a small sample of the changes Trump expects to make, with relative ease. Acts like destroying the ACA will require 60 votes in the Senate, which he does not have, so it is likely to be safe for now. Unless the Senate changes that rule, which it can.

Hold on to your hat (and your breathing apparatus). Big, big changes is coming and there's a lot that will shock even--maybe especially--the Trump voters.

A Day When Gratitude Helps

Gratitude for the small things (my friend Susan shot this).
I'm in almost desperate need of a little gratitude today, so here goes:

I am grateful that I have a wonderful family and friends who don't hesitate to encourage, hug, offer a hand, go for a hike or a paddle or a movie or a ballgame, or a jazz night, or a reading. (Thank you immediate family, Margie, Susan, Roland, Caroline, Kurt N., Keith, Pete, Christina--ex-wives count--and a ton of others.)

I am grateful to have young people around for the hope, encouragement and positive conviction they share. (Thank you Sarabelle and Madeline and treasured others).

I am grateful for my health. (Thank you Dr. Renee Bierne and Nancy Agee, real heroes to me.)

I am grateful for Social Security and Medicare, which is making my current lifestyle (modest, but plenty for me) possible.

I am grateful that some editors still value my work and still hire me to write fascinating stories involving fascinating people.

I am grateful that when I tackle my memoir update (Burning the Furniture, Too), I will have interesting additions. (Problem with any memoir is that you're not dead when you finish it and you still have to try to live interestingly.)

I am grateful for the people who have rallied around my grandgirl, my favorite person on earth, to help form her into a woman we can all be proud of (today's contribution is from Dina Bennett of Mountain Shepherd Survival School, whose importance in the formation of young girls is ever more crucial today than at any time in the past. Dina is a hero).

I am grateful for being able to learn daily, being able to listen, being able to apologize when I am wrong (that muscle is very healthy), being able to love without expectation, being able to hold my end of a conversation, being able to demonstrate compassion, being able to fight injustice.

Oh, that feels better.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Michael Moore's Comeback Strategy

Michael Moore: Predicted Trump victory.
Michael Moore, the leftist spokesmen who can sometimes be a bit much to take (even for people who are far left, like me) gave us a list of "things to do" this morning that seem to make a lot of sense to me.

I feel totally let down by the Democratic Party (I am not a member of it, but it's far closer to my philosophy than that of the Repubs) in this election and have for many years. This is a party that has basically abandoned its base--much as the Repubs did, and look what happened to them--and gone after the monied interests. Moore spoke of that months ago and predicted a Trump victory long before even Fox News and Rush Limbaugh saw a remote possibility.

He understands the electorate and he fully understands that it is not Donald Trump's electorate. Nearly half of all eligible American voters did not vote Tuesday. Clinton won the popular vote and Trump won the election with a bit more than 25 percent approval each among registered voters. Reagan's landslide in his second term was won with about the same percentage.

Americans are failing to be excited by positive candidates because we so rarely have any (Obama was positive, but he was also African-American and America is basically a racist country). I would love to see an 80 percent turnout, but as long as we have heavy voter suppression--especially among a growing majority of minorities, who don't vote in sufficient numbers, and women--we will not ever approach those numbers. Republicans want low turnout because they thrive with it as a minority party. They are constantly figuring new ways to suppress the vote and they are quite successful at undermining our "democracy" (which has become an oligarchy).

In any case, here is Moore's take on it and I suspect he's right on every point:

1. Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. It has  failed us miserably.

2. Fire all pundits, predictors, pollsters and anyone else in the media who had a narrative they wouldn’t let go of and refused to listen to or acknowledge what was really going on.

3. Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.

4. Everyone must stop saying they are “stunned” and “shocked.” What you mean to say is that you were in a bubble and weren’t paying attention to your fellow Americans and their despair. Years of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew. Along came a TV star they liked whose plan was to destroy both parties and tell them all “You’re fired!” Trump’s victory is no surprise.

5. You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: “Hillary Clinton Won the Popular Vote." ... The only reason[Trump is] president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want.

(Photo: theboeskool.com)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wishing Trump and His Supporters Well

OK, liberals, now we must demonstrate our grace, our humanity and our good will in the midst of the most devastating political result--across the board--in our personal histories. Bush in the White House was our nightmare. We have reached even lower in our despair with last night's election results.

But I will wish Mr. Trump well and I will pray that he is good.  I will ask god that she guide Mr. Trump and those around him to build a better America, to forget the man he was during the campaign and be a president with compassion, understanding, wisdom, intelligence and a deep desire to learn what is right.

Trump is brighter than Bush and is far more savvy in many ways, though he has not shown himself to be a good man. It is up to him to demonstrate that he can use his strengths to make America a better place, not one that makes life miserable for large portions of its people--citizens and non-citizens. It is up to him and his advisors to feel for the poor, the aged and the ill, to protect the rights of those who are different from the older, white, middle class and blue collar people who voted for him. His administration, we hope, will restore the middle class and workers' rights in order to sdtrengthen our economy. Those at the top will be fine, regardless.

It is especially crucial that he understand the absolute power he has and that he not be a vengeful child when yielding nuclear weapons. I fear for the entire world in that instance.

Finally, I want those of us in opposition to Mr. Trump's stated stances, to continue to fight, to mend fences with our friends and family who supported him, and to try to create an America that is far better than Donald Trump.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A 'Grand Lunch' with a Couple of Real Pals

That's me, Robin (middle) and Caroline.
Had a lovely lunch today, one that crackled with interesting, intelligent, entertaining conversation and so much warmth that I nearly had to take off my shirt.

I was with the fabulous Caroline Hammond (my sometimes-grandgirl, Sarabeth's, mom) and her best bud Robin Miles, whom I have adored for years.

Caroline has her own wedding and party business--one of the most successful in the region--and Robin is a Lowe's executive. They are both on top of the current political climate (and in general agreement with me), so we thought an election day lunch would be beyond cool. And it was. We ate at Carrabbas and lunch lasted nearly two hours.

If nothing else good happens today--and I suspect it will--the three of us at least had our grand lunch.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Simple Repair Made Agonizing

There is a solid reason I almost never call big companies to work inside my house. When I want electrical, plumbing, painting or assorted other work, I generally ask friends (Facebook is great for references). I broke that rule when an electrical switch had a problem Friday and called Southern Trust, partly because it has 24/7 service.

Immediately, I found that a weekend call would be $99, instead of $49. That's just to show up. I told them Monday would be early enough; I'd get by. The problem was that the on/off switch for the kitchen lights broke off in my hand. I took a stab at fixing it, but didn't trust myself (a good policy). I discovered that the switch controlled about half the electricity on the house's main floor and everything upstairs, but it was all lights, nothing that heats, so I was OK.

I ran an extension cord from one of the working outlets downstairs and made sure my TV and computers were working. I was set until today.

The young man showed up a little after 11 a.m. today and immediately launched into an up-sell, which took him more than 15 minutes to deliver. I said three times during his spiel that I only wanted the outlet replaced, nothing more and especially nothing that would total $813.72, his proposal's cost.

I finally convinced him that I just wanted the one service and he went to work. He finished in five minutes, then went back into up-sell mode, insisting that I needed what was essentially insurance coverage, surge coverage and other stuff. No, I said, as firmly as I could. Then he went into billing mode, which took another 10 minutes to fill out as many forms as it takes to buy some cars.

He finally left me with coupons for future service and a card that asked me to evaluate his performance. I'm not going to fill it out--preferring to write this--but Danny is a competent electrician from what I can tell, one who is burdened with all the bullshit he has to sell.

The total bill--for installing a switchplate--was $247.12 (I had a $50 coupon printed from the company's website, so I wrote a check for $197.12). That's crazy expensive. Danny spent five minutes on the work and 40 selling. Shouldn't be that way.

(Graphic: http://www.wikihow.com)