Oh, someone, please stop this crazy ride! I wanna get off!!!

You know the feeling, right?  You’re on some crazy carnival ride that’s twisty and turny with lots of ups and downs and loop de loops, putting you upside down and sideways.  The kind of ride where you get so dizzy and disoriented, you just feel a nearly overwhelming need to upchuck.

coasterSometimes you’ll laugh your behind off.  Other times you’re teetering on the edge of being overwhelmed with fear.

The 2016 election’s been a lot like one of those crazy carnival rides.  It’s at least promising to stay that way right up to the time winners are declared on Tuesday night, and the way just the presidential race has gone, the ride might not even stop then.

After all, one orangeish presidential contender even said for the world to see that he’d keep people guessing on whether he’d concede if he didn’t come out ahead.

Oh, someone, please, for the love of all that’s good and decent and holy, for cryin’ out loud, stop this crazy ride! I wanna get off now!!! Enough!  Or I’m gonna hurl!

My lovely wife and I have already done our civic duty.  We sat down on the same day in the comfort of our couch with black ink pens in hand and filled out our mail-in ballots.

Into the mailbox our ballots go. (Photo By John G. Miller)
Into the mailbox our ballots go. (Photo By John G. Miller)

The next day, during some break time from my job, I found a convenient U.S. Postal Service mailbox and dropped those ballots in, with a feeling of accomplishment and pride.  Just a couple of days ago I took an extra step and checked online at my county clerk’s office just to make sure those ballots had been received.

Who did I vote for?  You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?  Well, I’m going to take a page from the orangeish candidate’s playbook and “keep you in suspense.”  I could throw you off even more by honestly saying I was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter, and I didn’t appreciate Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s games during the Democratic primaries which helped hand a nomination to Hillary Clinton.  And, no, I’m not throwing my vote to Gary Johnson when he comes across looking like an idiot by not knowing what Aleppo is, among other zany stunts Johnson’s pulled.

Here, I’ll let HBO’s John Oliver pretty much sum up my view on this election’s third party presidential candidates, including Jill Stein.

So, who did I pick for president?  For all you know, it could have been Joe Exotic.

One thing you can take to the bank, though.  There is no way in hell I’d vote for the orangeish candidate.  That’s one candidate that truly makes me want to barf out a multicolored rainbow, one candidate I’m so sick of that I’m doing everything in my power not to even mention his name.

The reasons why I’m sick of the orange-tinted candidate increase by the day.  Why, just in the last couple of days we’ve seen how this (lack of) character can take a speech where the sitting President can be interrupted mid-speech by a protester, strongly urge the crowd to show the protester some respect while having to raise his voice over the noise, and have the tangerine guy turn it into the President shouting at the protester.

But this one item is less than a tiny blip on the radar screen when it comes to why the Tang-tinged one can make me laugh and turn my stomach at the same time.  Just like a wild carnival ride.

And then comes the fear.  Just like the face of that kid on the roller coaster.

I fear a candidate who can pull the kind of strings that it takes to get the chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ignore things like the Hatch Act, guidance from his superiors, and common sense in general by getting voters riled up by Anthony Weiner emails that probably have nothing whatsoever to do with the grapefruit-colored candidate’s opponent in order to try and influence the election in the final days, making puppets out of people like Rudy Giuliani and Jason Chaffetz in the process.

I fear the logic of followers of the apricot-colored one — people who once feared that the Soviet Union would swallow the world up whole, but now seem to totally ignore the growing evidence that the flame-colored egomaniac they feel so great about has been playing a bit of patty-cake with Russian leaders.

I’ve never been a fan of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, but that’s changing when I listen to what this truly successful billionaire has to say about the citrus-stained one.

cubanA (Vladimir) Putin, or an (Julian) Assange, would say to him, ‘Donald, if you do this, I will give you $20 billion.’ What is 20 billion to them? What is 30 billion?” Cuban asked. “For them, that is nothing. If Donald Trump, who rips off people for thousands — do you think he is going to do what is right for the country, or do you think he is going to take the money?

“Do you think he has the temperament to do the right thing? Do you think he has the fortitude to do the right thing? Do you think he cares about you or his bank account?”

Anyone who searches for the truth and looks beyond the candy-colored one’s cons and knows his history is awfully nervous right about now.  Just as frightened as they’d be if they were riding on the wildest damn roller coaster in the world.

Wild rides can make us laugh, or turn us a ghostly shade of white with fear.

Hell of an election, isn’t it?

I can’t wait ’til the ride’s over, and the joker’s fans give up any foolish notion of a real civil war should things not go their way.

This ain’t funny.

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From too much attention to not enough attention

It was July of 2011.  I had a job making decent money, but I was starting to feel the pinch from several years of little or no pay increases to keep up with the cost of living.  We could feel our way of life slipping backwards.

I had taken some time off from work to make a trip up to Missoula, Montana, where my mother underwent heart surgery.  I was making a long drive back from there to my home in Utah and had pulled over at a rest stop about 25 miles north of Idaho Falls before getting on I-15 to head south.  My car had been running fine, but when I went to start it again after a quick break, it wouldn’t fire up.  The fuel pump went bad.

broke downI managed to get a niece and her boyfriend nearby to come pull the car to a shop at my brother-in-law’s auto dealership.  I wouldn’t be going back to work in the coming days like I’d planned.  Instead, I’d be staying at a home where my parents-in-law were at in Idaho Falls while their home farther south was being threatened with flooding from the Snake River, waiting for a fuel pump to come in and my car to be fixed.  It turned into a stay of close to a week.

I had plenty of time on my hands during that stay.  My father-in-law is deeply into political science.  He used to call himself a Republican, and then once he started getting deeper into studying politics he turned Democrat.  He has all kinds of books on politics, economics, foreign affairs, etc., from a variety of perspectives — both conservative and liberal.  Since I had plenty of time on my hands, I found a book in my father-in-law’s collection that looked particularly interesting.  I started reading it and didn’t stop until I’d made it all the way through.

the speechThe book was titled “The Speech.”  What grabbed my attention the most was the subtitle: “A Historic Filibuster On Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class.”  It was a published record of a speech given by independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from December 10, 2010.

Sanders’ words hit home with me.  What he was saying was what my family was living.  America’s middle class was moving backwards.  My family was moving backwards.  My broken down car with well over 200,000 miles on it was an example of that.  I had a decent job, but what I had to show for it was dwindling.  There were fears then that the venture capital company that owned the business where I worked would be selling it off, costing people their jobs.  That fear was genuine, there was good reason for it.

Some job cuts had already begun to take place at that time.  Jump ahead to the following October, and the big job cuts really started hitting.  I was among those hit.  We were among those hit … hard.

Before sitting down to read Sanders’ book that July four years ago, I’d seen some videos of Sanders speaking on YouTube.  He didn’t mince words, he didn’t back down from anyone, he spoke with a genuine sense of caring for the common person and a direction that he felt the country was going in, and he didn’t like what that direction at all.  He was like David going against Goliath.  Instead of rocks and a sling against the giants, he used words and hard facts.

I saw the same thing in “The Speech.”  As I was reading that book, I got a feeling that I’d experienced before.  The prior experience came when I watched a young senator from Illinois speak at the 2004 Democratic convention.  His name was Barack Obama.  I thought then that if that guy ever ran for President, I’d vote for him.

Obama hasn’t been perfect.  He started out trying too hard to please Republicans who had no desire whatsoever to be pleased.  But he’s come around, recognized his opponents’ games for what they are, and despite what naysayers would have you believe he’s taken what once seemed like an impossible situation and started turning it around against incredible fights.

There’s still a long way to go before we can honestly say that America as a whole is the greatest nation that it can possibly be, there are still too many issues that threaten our stability as a whole.  The greatest threat is to the middle class.  Income inequality is very real, and if something isn’t done to turn that around we stand to crumble.

Caricature by DonkeyHotey
Caricature by DonkeyHotey

Bernie Sanders recognizes that.  He’s been talking about that for years.  While I was reading “The Speech,” I thought if he’d run for President, I’d vote for him.  He is, and I still would.

There are still way too many people out there who don’t know him or have mistaken impressions because he’s a “democratic socialist,” with the socialist part striking fear in their hearts, like we’re becoming another USSR instead of the USA.  If you look at the things Sanders has to say, it’s plain to see that it’s returning America back to the days when things were more equal, tax rates better reflected how we needed to stay afloat before trickle down economics threatened to sink the ship.

It’s a return to the days before the term “greed is good” became a way of life.

But we’re not hearing enough of what Bernie Sanders has to say, and there’s something very wrong with that.  We’re fascinated by celebrities and oddball characters, like the current leader in the Republican presidential polling and his GOP opponents.  News channels break away from coverage of more important things to give live looks at speeches which say nothing, all because of that love of celebrity.

Donald Trump might get 40 minutes’ worth of discussion on Meet The Press, while Bernie Sanders might be lucky to get a quarter of that.

Bernie Sanders flatly rejects negative campaigning.  He talks issues and solutions.  These days, that’s old-hat.

The guy impressed me even more this week when he made the modern equivalent of a “Daniel in the lions’ den” appearance at Jerry Falwell’s conservative Liberty University.  He spoke words that are too much unheard these days, the biggest being “civil discourse” between people who don’t agree on many issues.

Liberty University is to be applauded for inviting him in.  And Sanders was received warmly.  He left an impression that was unique.  He got evangelicals to take a hard look at themselves and the message they’re sending out in the current political environment.  One pastoral counselor there in particular was very moved, as you’ll find in the following link:

An Evangelical responds to Sanders’ speech at Liberty U

Why are so many people so turned on by “freak shows” in politics these days?  Whatever happened to that “civil discourse” we used to see more of, back in the days when America seemed more … united?

This is why people like Bernie Sanders deserve more attention.

Feel the Bern.

 

A mountain turned into a molehill

It rises 20,237 feet into the sky.  The Koyukon Athabaskan people who live around it have a name for it, which means “high” or “tall.”  When it belonged to Russia, they called it Bolshaya Gora — meaning “big mountain.”

A gold prospector gave it the name it was known as by most people for decades to follow as a show of political support for a presidential candidate who never even set foot in the state where it is found.  The name has raised a political fuss ever since.

The mountain known as Denali.
The mountain known as Denali.

It’s Denali, in the rugged land of Alaska.  The name it was given by the gold prospector was McKinley, after then-presidential candidate later to be elected to the office William McKinley of Ohio, a Republican.

Now that a Democratic president named Barack Obama took a brief bit of time on Sunday to announce that McKinley would once again be known officially as Denali, the expressions of butthurt are renewed.

The issue of what to call a majestic mountain is a molehill.  And, as is par for the course these days, a lot of that has to do with a president named Barack Obama.  So the mountain has been turned into a molehill.

The cries come from conservatives like commentator Andrew Malcolm of Investor’s Business Daily, who showed a particularly sad unwillingness to look into the history of the name and the mountain by tweeting …

Another Obama Exec Order. Erasing Mt. McKinley from all maps (he was a Republican after all) & renaming it after the GMC Truck, Denali.

GMC Denali
GMC Denali

So, there you go.  Denali originated with a vehicle built by General Motors starting in 1999.  Who would’ve guessed?

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman expressed his butthurt in the Twittersphere this way …

I’m disappointed with the Administration’s decision to change the name of Mt. McKinley in Alaska (1/5)

This decision by the Administration is yet another example of the President going around Congress (4/5)

GOP strategist and former George W. Bush brainiac Karl Rove felt it would be a good way to sell an upcoming book of his …

Seems like good time 2 learn more about 25th POTUS. Pre-order “Triumph of William http://bit.ly/1Fa7piC http://twitter.com/FoxNews/status/638099449710014465 

Should we mention that Sarah Palin referred to the mountain as Denali in her farewell address as the short-lived governor of Alaska, or that sitting Alaskan GOP lawmakers support the move?  Maybe not, because all that would do is soothe the butthurt on the part of those who have nothing better to do than whine about changing the name of a mountain to what it’s been called for centuries … a wee bit before GMC came along.

The butthurt stretched all the way to Utah, in comments on the Facebook page of a local television station announcing the news Sunday …

All the problems that this country is facing and he (Obama) has time to rename mountains hmmmmmm…

Yeah, taking a few seconds to make an announcement or sign a document about the name of a mountain does get in the way of pressing business.

But don’t worry, folks, the backlash against those getting a hemorrhoid over the renaming has been fast and furious.  I’ve been getting a lot of likes on my own response to that bit of overly conservative concern from the Utah genius.

The first thing I looked for in this story was “do the people there (in Alaska) want it?” Answer: Yes. But nitwits who have nothing better to do than pitch a fit and moan while asking if Obama doesn’t have something better to do … Ridiculous.

Some other response gems mined from the Utah concern raging over the time spent changing a name back to its origins …

It’s done. We’ve spent more time discussing an action that took him 30 seconds to complete. There are certainly more pressing matters, which he spends the remaining 23 hours and 30 seconds of his day on. Actually, maybe he takes a crap, or eats a piece of food at some point during the day. We’ll all live.

I bet he sleeps too…the nerve!

Every time Obama does anything someone makes this SAME comment. Like this is the ONLY thing he is doing! It may be hard for some to understand, but it’s called multitasking. Let me know if you need me to transfer my comment into a drawing…..

Oh man Obama haters heads are exploding. “Do I accept that this is a good thing or hate it just because the title says Obama”…. “Hmm well I guess I’ll agree and then just throw in an Obama insult for good measure”.. Ahh you’ve been brainwashed well grasshopper.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio

Portman is hearing it in a big way himself on his tweets …

I’m disappointed that you don’t have anything better to do. What of it?

Bummer that you’re sad, . Imagine how the folks who originally named our tallest mountain felt.

YAY!!! Something new for the GOP to hand-wring over. Next you’ll question PBO’s citizenship and so on.

Why don’t you instead focus on a Jobs Bill that your Party promised 6 yrs ago and haven’t delivered?

Not as disappointed as we are with your intellectual acumen.

The great part is, when it comes to the backlash over the agony expressed by so many people who live outside of Alaska, I could go on and on and on.  Could it be that people are waking up to this kind of silliness?

The butthurt … it stings.

The end of innocence, 50 years after the fact

“We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will ‘talk sense to the American people.’  But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.” — John F. Kennedy, from a speech prepared for delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas November 22, 1963

“We now have authority to shoot Obama, i.e., to kill him.  His willful violations and alienation of our Constitution, constant disregard for our peaceful protests and corruption of all the three branches of government, (i.e., rogue and illegitiimate government), reveal the dictator that he is.  Obama and his co-conspirators disrespect our Constitution (constitutional rule of law) and abuse the American people.  The authority to kill Obama comes from the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution: He is levying war on the United States and aiding and comforting our foreign enemies — the 2nd Amendment gives us the right and duty (authority) to engage an enemy of the United States that does so with the design to reduce us under absolute Despotism.  I would be very surprised, if Obama does not leave Washington DC today (Nov. 19th) …never to return, if he is not dead within the month. PLEASE JOIN US AT CHRISTIAN AMERICAN PATRIOTS MILITIA: https://www.facebook.com/groups/417199228403274/” — From a photo posted on Facebook by Everest Wilhelmsen November 19, 2013

John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov....
John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The question has been asked so often since November 22, 1963, and it will be asked a countless number of times today alone:  Where were you when JFK was shot?

I don’t remember exactly where I was or what I was doing when the news broke, but I can guess with decent accuracy that I was in my hometown of Salmon, Idaho.  I was only 1,008 days old at the time, far too young to know or understand what was happening in the larger world around me.

Last weekend, I asked my 82-year-old mother what she remembers from that date that joins others in American history living in infamy.  Her memory isn’t what it used to be, but she did say, “I just remember wondering why they’d do something like that.”

I don’t exactly know when JFK’s death entered into my conscience.  Perhaps I came to appreciate its significance more not quite five years after he was gunned down when his brother Robert was assassinated in Los Angeles while on the campaign trail for the presidency in 1968.

Through the years, my interest in JFK has grown immeasurably.  Through the years, I’ve often wondered:  What would this nation be like if John Kennedy had lived to finish his presidency?  All we are left to do is wonder about that.

Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on...
Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So much promise and hope was wiped out in an instant.  We’ve all seen so much speculation since Kennedy was slain.  His killing has been the model for conspiracy theories.  Was Lee Harvey Oswald a lone gunman, or did others lurk on the grassy knoll or under a manhole cover?  Was Jack Ruby part of a scheme to keep Oswald from spilling the beans about a sinister plot?  Was it a coup, part of that military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned against just before he left office?  A mafia hit?  Part of some plan Cuba had to get even for any American plots to assassinate Fidel Castro?  Was Lyndon Baines Johnson a part of it?  On and on, and we have to wonder if the absolute truth will ever be known or believed by everyone.

I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but even I have to look at the Zapruder film and wonder why — if the shots all came from behind — the fatal head shot made JFK move backward instead of forward.  The mystery is intriguing.

America was not a perfect nation long before Kennedy came to power.  Kennedy himself had his weaknesses, although back in his day his personal indiscretions were overlooked a lot more than they would have been today.  But what Kennedy brought in his time in office, through his eloquent words, was a sense of innocence.  He brought a sense of idealism.  It was perfect for the time — much like the innocence that was shown in one of the television programs that was interrupted by the news of JFK being shot 50 years ago today, “Father Knows Best.”

It was as close to being an American dream as we could get.

At 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, on November 22, 1963, after the presidential limousine turned from Houston onto Elm Street in downtown Dallas, that sense of innocence was lost.  So far, we haven’t gotten it back yet.  With the current political climate — including threats made via computer over social media by yahoos like Everest Wilhelmsen of the Christian American Patriots Militia — it seems we are far from ever getting it back.

Will we ever learn?  Or are we destined to live through the same kind of horror that Americans and people around the world experienced at 12:30 p.m. CST, 50 years ago today?

Perhaps that sense of innocence that was felt during JFK’s presidency was buried along with him, marked by an innocent gesture — a little boy saluting his fallen father.

KENNEDY John F. Kennedy

44 vs. 42: The similarities are striking

It was a bit of a prescient moment.

It came after Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States in 2008.  I took a break from my work to walk outside and talk on the phone with a friend of mine, a black man possessing keen common sense and thoughtful observations on many things, including current events.

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...
With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He had the opinion that Barack Obama may not make it out of his presidency, at least not alive.  He thought that someone would end up taking a shot at him, in a literal sense.

So far, that literal sense hasn’t come to pass.  That’s a minor miracle, though, seeing as how there’s been a sharp rise over the last five years in gun nuts appearing in public places — even when the President has been in the same general area — with straps over their shoulders and holsters on their hips and legs carrying weapons of various calibers and capacities, talking about the need to water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.

No, Barack Obama hasn’t had anyone take a literal shot at him yet.  Instead, he’s been on the receiving end of more figurative shots than any U.S. President in recent memory.  The opposition is doing all it can to make my friend’s prediction that Obama wouldn’t last through his presidency come true, one way or another.

Meanwhile, the moral and civil fiber of a nation is eroding.

Remember Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher?  Sure you do.  He gained a measure of fame in the 2008 election as a Sarah Palin-like conservative darling, someone held up as an “Everyman” who simply asked Obama on the campaign trail about his taxation plans and whether raising taxes on the wealthy would hurt him and his business.  A few weeks ago, he published an article on his website that was taken from another conservative website — an article written by a conservative black author — making the case that “America needs a white conservative President” because we just can’t seem to handle the thought of having a black Democratic President who’s actually much more moderate than most conservatives would care to admit.

UPDATE:  Here’s the latest from Joe The Plumber.

With a government shutdown going on and fingers being pointed in all directions (even by the people most responsible for it), the race card was being played in a much more bold and open way.  It hasn’t lightened up since then, it only seems to have become more intense now that the struggle with this latest shutdown is over and Republicans have come away looking foolish because they haven’t gained a single damn thing out of their efforts to extort something from the opposition.

Disagree with a U.S. President — fine, believe it or not you still have that right in this country and that alone doesn’t make you a racist.  I have conservative friends who strongly disagree with Barack Obama on a variety of things, and I would not call them racist because in their case there hasn’t been any hint of his race entering the discussion.  Their disagreement is on political points alone.

But we’re seeing something different coming into the mix now, especially after the shutdown fiasco.  What once seemed more veiled now comes across more blatant.  And it’s putting the ugliest face on American politics that I’ve seen since the fight for civil rights in the 1960s.  I can even remember what it was like then from personal experience as a 7-year-old, having to avoid the monuments in Washington, D.C., and listening to a police scanner filled with the chatter that was going on when I and my family visited relatives there in the summer of 1968

Joe The Plumber sharing the article about the need for a white conservative President reminded me of a thought that had crossed my mind a time or two before.  Now, there are examples of that same kind of bigoted thinking thinking popping up on a daily basis and it’s getting hard to ignore.

Think about this:  What other President in our history has been part of an accusation involving a U.S. Congressman with a key position in the House of Representatives — in this case, reportedly being Texas Republican Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Rules Committee — looking a black President in the face during budget talks and saying, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois mentioned it on Facebook.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has confirmed it.  The White House has denied that it happened, and — naturally — Republicans have demanded an apology from those making the accusation.  But Durbin is sticking by the story.

Sessions himself only seems to be denying it by playing typical political word games.

English: President Barack Obama speaks to a jo...
English: President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress regarding health care reform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does anyone remember a sitting President being told something like that by a person in power, anything quite as personally cutting?  Whether you like Obama’s politics or hate them, the office still demands some sort of respect.  Joe Wilson yelling out “You lie!” at Obama during a State of the Union address is one thing.  Now, it’s being taken to a new level of personal slime.

And then there was this gem that came over the web Thursday.

“Even if some people say, well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that, they will hold the President responsible.  Now I don’t want to even have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get, you get it, you know … you are stuck and you are part of the problem now and you can’t get away.” — Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)

For anyone who wants to continue to turn a blind eye toward the fact or just deny that racism is returning as an unwelcome part of American politics, all you need to do is watch an interview from The Daily Show a couple of nights ago to see that it’s still alive, and it’s getting louder and more blatant with each passing day.

It’s gone beyond simply disagreeing with Barack Obama’s politics with way too many people.  Not all, but way too many.  Whether you like his politics or despise them, no sitting President deserves the kind of disrespect Obama gets, the kind that gets as personal and cutting as it is now.  And it’s interesting that we’re seeing it becoming as blatant as it is now that the shutdown is in the past and Republicans who helped force it have been dealt such an embarrassing setback.

If the trend continues, we may see more moves like this one made by Judge Carlo Key.

What we’re seeing more now with Barack Obama — from Joe The Plumber and the allegations regarding Hastings and the “tar baby” statements made by the Colorado representative, and looking back on the outright obstructionism and hatred that’s been seen in the entire five years of the Obama administration — is reminiscent of another ugly chapter in American history that lasted way too long and was endured beyond measure by the man who suffered the most from it.

It’s 44 vs. 42.  Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States and the first man with black skin to serve in the office, vs. Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, wearing No. 42 on his uniform.

Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey as Robinson signs his contract, becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball history.
Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey as Robinson signs his contract, becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball history.

The things that Robinson put up with in his historic role in history are being brought into clearer focus with the actions that we’re seeing today with Obama.

The White House may be denying that the incident with Hastings ever happened.  Even if it didn’t, it’s not all that surprising to hear about it.  Surprising?  No.  Disgusting?  Yes.  It only goes to show that a lot of people still have some “growing up” to do.

The White House may be denying that the incident with Hastings ever happened.  Or, if it did happen, they may be denying it to take the higher ground — much the same way Dodgers president Branch Rickey advised Jackie Robinson before he suited up for Brooklyn’s Montreal farm team in the 1940s.

We may not be seeing Obama’s ankle getting spiked by an opposing player as he’s catching a defensive throw, but we’re seeing a bit of the same viciousness in a different, more subtle way.

It would be nice if we could see more people “grow up” the way Dodger great Pee Wee Reese did back in the day — putting aside his own prejudices, disliking what Robinson was being subjected to, and — in front of a stadium that included members of his family and friends down South, with loud choruses of boos raining down on the field along with hurled insults — exhibiting a gesture as simple as putting his arm around Robinson’s shoulder for everyone else to see.  It was a way of showing that — regardless of Robinson’s skin color — they were all part of a team.

We need more “grown-ups” these days when it comes to the fact that we have a President with black skin.  Not a “tar baby.”  A President, of states that are supposed to be united here in America.

Do people really hate Barack Obama more than they love the United States of America?

With one eye on the jobs front, an appreciation for appreciation

I’m entering the fifth week of a new job, doing something that I was never previously trained to do in a formal manner, something for which I never earned a college degree nor a near-4.0 grade point average in college nor a dean’s list honor like I did in computer programming.

The Careers Day poster they rejected
The Careers Day poster they rejected (Photo credit: Alun Salt)

Computer programming was “starting over” career-wise for me way back then, about 19 1/2 years ago.  It was a college education which helped that “new starting point” to bear some decent fruit, financially speaking.  It was at a time when the “Year 2000” was looming, and mainframe programmers were a hot ticket.

It was a fresh, new starting point after 16 years as a newspaper journalist where I learned — mostly on the job and through hard knocks, through observing some of the real journalistic pros of the day and developing my own style through them — enough to work my way up from a sports stringer’s job to a reporter to a sports editor to a managing editor of a small daily paper.  I worked very hard, took pride in my craft, and advanced as far as I could at the time without the benefit of a college degree.  The pay wasn’t great, but I was doing something I enjoyed, something that was honest and that served in the public’s interest.

I worked hard in the newspaper business.  I worked hard as a computer programmer.  Except for the last five years of the latter career, I earned some praise for my work and I have the performance reviews to prove it.  Those last five years … well, let’s just say my performance didn’t slack off, and there are bosses in this world who could learn a few things about how to motivate their people without resorting to ridicule and intimidation.

So, now, here I am, only five weeks into yet another career change and the “rewards” are closer to where they were in the old days when everything cost less.  But even now, I’m still working hard, putting in my absolute best effort, trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can, taking some pride in what I do.

And it’s being recognized.

Here I am, only five weeks into a new career in customer service, and I’m already in line to possibly move up from an agent’s position to a trainer’s position, where I can put some previous training and coaching and motivational experience to good use.

That’s what can happen when you put in your best effort, and you’re working for and with people who recognize and appreciate it.

After five years spent mostly going without that recognition and appreciation, leading up to over one year of being unemployed, it feels good.

The non-motivational ones still have a thing or two to learn, I’d imagine.

I’m still keeping an eye on the jobs front, still watching what happens as our lawmakers squabble over the non-jobs business without really getting down to the heart of what could help turn this economy around — creating jobs; creating decent-paying jobs that keep people housed properly, fed properly, clothed properly, cared for properly.

I’ll still be keeping an eye on what comes out of the mouth of President Obama Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech when it comes to the jobs front, and an eye on any action or inaction that follows on the jobs front.

I’m still very much like a lot of people out there these days, just struggling to survive despite busting my butt, thinking it’d take a second full-time job to do it and not even being sure that’s a sure thing.

It gets tiresome.

Memories from a presidential inauguration

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Curtis Miller is a a student at the University of Utah who is serving an internship with a law firm in Washington, D.C., for the next few months.  In the three weeks that he’s been in our nation’s capital city, he’s already been making some memories to last a lifetime.  Among them, the experience of standing among the throng of those watching President Obama’s public inauguration ceremony last Monday, following the official ceremony at the White House the day before.  Here is Curtis’ account of his experience.

By Curtis Miller

I went to the presidential inauguration ceremony last Monday with reasonably low expectations, on the advice of many who’ve “been there, done that.”  Apparently, though, those expectations weren’t low enough.

English: Crowds walking down 18th Street, NW t...
English: Crowds walking down 18th Street, NW towards the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to attend Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The President wasn’t the reason why my expectations were low.  In the end, he was what kept me there (well, that and all the media attention the inauguration subsequently got and my being able to say “I was there!”).  I probably would have enjoyed watching the inauguration … at home, on a couch, with heat. But being there in person was highly overrated.

I woke up at 5 a.m. that morning (I sleep later on work days), got groomed, ate Pop Tarts, and headed to the lobby of my apartment building at 6 a.m. to meet up with the other interns, having decided to go as a group.  Most of us had yellow tickets, which could be considered second-to-worse in terms of distance from the capitol, though a couple did have orange tickets (the jerks). At around 6:15, we got on MetroRail, Washington’s subway system (dated, but superb). We didn’t regret it. There were a good number of people on the train as we headed out to the Mall, and the closer we got, the larger the crowds grew.

A couple of my roommates and I got off and headed down 3rd Street to the yellow ticket entrance. The crowd, at about 6:45, extended as far down the street as one could see, and we were nowhere near the Mall!  So we just into the back of the crowd, and inched along as they did, slowly making our way through the mass, enjoying the collective body heat that made the cold not quite so cold.  After about 20 minutes, we passed through the gate, holding up our tickets, and entered the second leg of the entrance: the line to the screening area.

What was that like?  Imagine going to an airport in Alaska with a broken heating system, and you won’t be too far off.  Even the TSA was there!  You can’t blame them, of course, for wanting to screen all 600,000-some people entering the Mall to be present at the inauguration.  After all, it only takes one nut with a gun ready to go down in history to make the party a national disaster.  The natural outcome for any one person, of course, is standing in line for nearly two hours in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd (and that’s not hyperbole) at 7:00 in the morning in frigid cold conditions.  It was miserable.  As one of my roommates quoted from “Band of Brothers,” “I’m shaking so … much, I feel like I’m dancing.”  (With him being a Mormon, he left out the “g*****n” part).  Of course, we laughed and joked even with the strangers to distract us from our own misery, and that made the situation slightly better.  But never before had passing through a metal detector been so glorious.  A cry of “Hallelujah!” seemed appropriate. But we still had hours to go before the inauguration even began.

After a pit stop at the porta-potties (disgusting, as expected), my roommates and I found where we would stay for the rest of the ceremony.  The Capitol looked magnificent, with people all over the steps, but its grandeur had been fully appreciated after about five minutes, and after those five minutes there was little to be interested in.  We were in Union Square, a good distance from the Capitol, therefore we couldn’t make out any figures on the steps.  There were Jumbotrons from which we could see the Inauguration, but the video wasn’t even in sync with the audio (I felt they owed me at least that much)!  And finding a spot that wasn’t blocked by trees or some other intermediate structures was just about impossible.  In the end, the view of the President was blocked by a camera tower.

But the two ingredients that ultimately made the day utterly miserable was the cold and the length of time needed to see the ceremony.  We spent hours sitting there in temperature below 40 degrees, the sun blocked by a cloud that enjoys human misery.  The “preliminaries” leading up to the President’s speech were well and good, but I was too cold to really enjoy them.  In fact, the speech was the only thing worthwhile that entire day.  I did enjoy it, and the more leftist tone he was taking, but once he was finished I wanted to leave.

Easier said than done.  Long story short, we got lost, wandering around the streets following people who we hoped were headed in the right direction.  One “joker” of a cop had us pause our journey to sing “Happy Birthday” to a young female soldier (we sang so awfully I couldn’t finish the song because I broke out in the giggles; my roommates still haven’t forgiven me for that).  Another sent us in the wrong direction, sending us into Anacostia, the neighborhood where 90% of D.C.’s shootings take place.  But the walk at least got blood flowing to my feet and I could feel them again.

We did find a Metro station, but more importantly a nearby Five Guys burger joint (“Praise the Lord!”).  My roommates and I discussed our experience over fries and fat cheeseburgers in that warm little restaurant, and we all reached the same agreement:  while we were glad to have the opportunity to go, and we could now say we’d been there, we would never go to one again. Unless, of course, we got better tickets.

The twisting of Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. Español: Dr. Martin Luther King dando su discurso “Yo tengo un sueño” durante la Marcha sobre Washington por el trabajo y la libertad en Washington, D.C., 28 de agosto de 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  There are a few ironies floating around this time in our American landscape as we mark this day.

There’s an irony that surrounds the issue of gun control.  There are those who would fight gun control tooth and nail who want us to believe that gun rights — or at least the right for anyone and everyone to possess a military-style weapon and a high-capacity ammo magazine — would have been supported by Dr. King.

There are those among that crowd who have gone on the record saying that the civil rights marches of the 1960s would have been better off if those marching would have used weaponry.  There are those out there who’ve been foolish enough to go on the record to say that African slaves would have been better off to have carried guns.

Like the slaves had a choice in the matter.

It’s popular to cite Dr. King as being on your side, even when it twists and perverts the true meaning of the message behind Dr. King’s words and actions.  That’s a sign of desperation.

It’s ironic that President Obama is being publicly inaugurated today as we celebrate Dr. King’s day, and those who would try to hide behind Dr. King’s stand on civil rights to push their pro-military-style weapons agenda point their fingers at Obama and say that he’s a tyrant for issuing executive orders on gun control, when so many presidents before him have issued so many more executive orders on other matters.

The ironies are rich on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  We need to remember what he REALLY stood for, especially on this day.

A case of “PR deja vu” for Whole Foods’ John Mackey

Until now, we’ve been weekly customers at Whole Foods.  We don’t usually buy much there — just a few items from the bulk bins like spelt flour or nutritional yeast or a bit of candy for a treat, a bottle of lemon juice, occasionally picking up some vitamin supplements, maybe a healthier brand of hot dogs once in a while, a loaf or two of spelt bread in the past.

Before it became Whole Foods, we shopped at Wild Oats too.  Having Whole Foods buy out Wild Oats wasn’t something to keep us from patronizing the business.  What’s kept us from getting more groceries there has been the simple reason that Whole Foods’ prices on many items are so high.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It appears that may be a thing of the past for us now, and all because of two key words spoken by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in an interview on National Public Radio this week as he gave his views on the Affordable Care Act, saying it’s “like fascism.”

So, here’s a law that was passed by both branches of Congress, signed by the President, upheld as being constitutional by the Supreme Court, considered by the most ardent liberals as not going far enough to solve the issue of high health care costs for the average American citizen (wanting a single payer system instead), and Whole Foods’ CEO deemed the ACA as being “like fascism.”

Mackey has joined the list of American business leaders who’ve gone out of their way in expressing their displeasure about “Obamacare,” and in many cases ended up backtracking just a tad when customers complained loudly.

When will these folks ever learn?  And how is it that folks like these end up running companies like these anyway?  You’d think once they’ve seen one fool mixing their business side with misstated, inflammatory political views and getting heat from a majority of customers because of it that they might learn a lesson.

If you want to see the kind of response Whole Foods has been getting after Mackey’s “fascism” comment, all you need to do is look at the company’s Facebook page and see the kinds of comments they’ve been getting even on items that have nothing to do with Mackey’s remark.

People are pissed off.

But John Mackey just doesn’t seem to get it.  Even his retraction today didn’t go all that far toward calming people down.

What’s funny is that this isn’t the first time Mackey has found himself in a bad view in the public relations spotlight.  The rest of that story goes back to the days when Whole Foods was looking at buying out Wild Oats — what used to be our favorite health food store before Mackey’s company made the move — and Mackey played a foolish online trolling game to make Wild Oats look bad.  A bit of stock price manipulation, perhaps?

NEW YORK TIMES:  How Whole Foods CEO Led 2 Lives

Aaaahhh, but that was just another case of “Conscious Capitalism,” wasn’t it?

A message to my children about guns

This is a message to my oldest son, now in Washington, D.C., doing some internship work among the behind-the-scenes “power players” in government.  What a fascinating time this will be for you.

This is a message to my youngest son working in Idaho.  If anyone asks you about a survivalist community being planned in northern Idaho called The Citadel, you have my permission to fib just a tad and say that you’re not an Idaho native in order to avoid the embarrassment of having to explain that you come from a state where such paranoid views bring about the creation of an entire walled community that encourages its residents to be sharpshooters, and to practice their firearms skills by taking aim at man-sized targets.

National Rifle Association
National Rifle Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a message to my 13-year-old daughter.  Rest assured that not all people are like James Yeager who — in his obscenity-laced way — helps to give a face to the radical side of the National Rifle Association and shows he has no clue what’s really going on around him when it comes to executive orders or gun control, threatening to kill people in the process (and, by the way, my girl, if you EVER bring a loser like James Yeager home to meet the parents, I will personally kick his butt out of the house in seconds flat).

I know I’ve talked a lot about guns in the blog this week, guys, but you’re my children and I need to teach you and reassure you about a few things.

Guns themselves are not bad.  Guns themselves are not something to fear.  Guns are something to respect and to handle safely and properly.  It’s true, guns by themselves don’t kill people, it’s people who kill people when they’re armed with a gun or a knife or a rock or a baseball bat or a muscular Chevy Camaro and that person’s intent is to go out and kill for whatever deranged reason they might have.

At the same time, don’t let people like NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre fool you into believing that the best way to fight against bad people with guns is to have good people nearby with guns.  It’s not that simple.

And, no, kids, don’t think that I’m saying that we need to confiscate all guns everywhere.  That would only feed the macho dudes out there trying to show their manhood like James Yeager and their conspiracy theories.  But what we don’t need is anyone and their dog being able to walk around with military-style weaponry and enough ammo to blow away a few dozen people before they or their dog are taken down themselves, even by a well-armed school security guard who has to hustle from several hundred feet away because they’re out of position and can’t react in time.

What I’m saying, kids, is this:  Love life, love your fellow human beings, and remember that a gun is a cold, lifeless, breathless object and not something to fall in love with to the point that you lose your perspective.  Please believe that there are good, reasonable, sane people out there who mean you no physical harm (including those who own guns), that not everyone out there is like James Yeager.  Oh, and be sure to watch your step if you travel up to northern Idaho once The Citadel gets going.  There’s sure to be a lot of ugliness in such a gorgeous place once that day comes.

End of lesson … for now.