Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Different Merry Christmas! "Empty Nest Syndrome" in Reverse: Grandma Went Over the River and Through The Woods to My House!

First and foremost I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, in the truest meaning of the phrase. This year, in fact, as of this past Monday, Christmas in my household took a somewhat unexpected twist.

A few columns back I wrote about the death of my Uncle Bob earlier this month at the age of 104. The death of Bob Mandeville at such an advanced age was neither tragic nor unexpected, but that doesn't mean there weren't consequences.

It was a tremendous blow to my mother, who will turn 92 in a couple of weeks. Even though she has lived long past the average American life expectancy, my mother was and still is the baby of her family.

Her late brother and older sister are gone; my Mom and one older brother who is 95 are still with us. But Uncle Bob was the emotional rock of the family and for the rest of us who were junior in age to him, which means all of us, he had always been around.

His health wasn't bad and even though he died a few days after his 104th birthday, there had been a sense among some of us that he might yet live to see 110. As I wrote earlier, I think he reached the point in his life where he didn't need another milestone. Yet his death was still a shock.

The impact of his death put my mother into a temporary bout of what appears to be depression, and her diet dropped off for a few days, which is not good when you are 92. No one noticed because she lived alone, in an apartment about 120 miles from my house, and a mile or so from other family members. The day before my uncle's funeral I received a phone call alerting me that my mother was in the hospital.

As it turned out, she had become dehydrated, which led to other complications and for a few days it appeared Mom would be placed in an extended care facility. But once her bodily fluids and electrolytes were back in order she rebounded quickly, and I suggested that putting her in any kind of facility would do more harm to her than good.

My wife and I have been discussing this issue for a long time as our families have aged. We had already concluded that we could put an addition onto our house, a mini inlaw apartment if you will, and care for our elderly parents ourselves should it become necessary.

It has become necessary. I offered to take my mother in at my home, and my siblings quickly agreed. On Monday, Mom and a bunch of her belongings were bundled into my brother-in-law's car for the 120 mile journey from her home to mine.

As the plans were being made for her trip, my home office was torn asunder. It had been my son's bedroom when he was young, and has been my office since he moved out nearly two decades ago. Now my computer, phone and assorted paraphernalia have formed the inner ring of my bedroom castle.

The outer ring consists of those things that belong in a bedroom. The inner ring forms a second layer of defenses against unwanted intruders, and inside the inner ring you will find ... me. Typing away, checking out the latest news, reading political diatribes from those who agree with me, and from those who don't, trying to maintain a semblance of normality in what has quickly turned abnormal.

The room that had been my son's bedroom, then my office, now is back to being a bedroom. We took everything out, and replaced it with a bureau, bed, recliner, television, nightstand, end table, and telephone. A Christmas arrangement, prepared by my wife and daughter, with holly, pine boughs, pine cones, and candy canes in a silver sleigh was waiting for Mom as a welcome home present.

When she first entered she was pleasantly surprised, which is a good thing.

It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that there is a serious readjustment underway. My mother was opposed to moving into any type of facility that isn't her home, but she still is undergoing a major upheaval in her life.

In the meantime, we will be providing 24-hour care for her, and in the spring I will be adding a bedroom, sitting room and specially outfitted bathroom to my house. This will enable my mother to maintain a sense of independence, and to keep many of her belongings, especially those that mean the most to her.

She will have family as near or as far as she wants, since the addition I have planned will include unfettered access to the rest of the house. She will be able to look out a slider at my wife's flower beds and the vegetable garden from spring to fall, and she will be encouraged to do her own gardening if she wants.

We will be able to monitor her food and fluid intakes, and since I still maintain my personal trainer certification she has asked that I establish an exercise regimen for her. That should help offset the muscle atrophy that has resulted from her spending far too much time alone and idle.

Mostly what is required here is attention. There will be no leaving her for hours on end with no one to look after her. In fact there will be no leaving her alone period. Someone will always be here.

This could become tiresome, I am well aware of that, but there also are programs available where we can get some help if we need it. There are six hospitals within a half-hour of my home, and there is a 24-hour emergency room facility, complete with helipad, only 7 minutes away.

We have a very active senior center in my town, vans to take the elderly shopping, or to medical appointments, or even to get their hair done. There are events at the center where she can meet other people, and we have good neighbors who are sure to stop in every so often to say hello.

Basically she has an opportunity to live her final years with a semblance of independence and dignity, and have some fun along the way.

The only fly in the ointment came from a friend who mentioned to me the bumper sticker that tells senior citizens to "Live Long Enough To Be A Burden To Your Children."

I got to thinking about that and I couldn't help but wonder if Mom still remembers the stunts I pulled when I was a teenager. I mean, her short term memory has lapses but she is crystal clear on long term remembrances.

Do you think she would remember that time I raided the liquor cabinet when I was 16? She and Dad went out for the evening and I made two discoveries that night. The first was that blue label Smirnoff vodka tastes really, really good when mixed with Hawaiian Punch. (Kids don't try this at home.)

The other was that anyone who has never had Scotch Whisky previously should never try it out by taking a full shot all at once. Talk about making a beeline for the sink to spit it out! Wow. It's amazing I ever developed a taste for single malts.

I'm not sure if Mom figured out what went on that night, but I do know that my parents kept close tabs on the booze in our house. She probably knew something was up but couldn't prove exactly what it was.

Then there was the time my girlfriend MaryJane came over for the evening. That was the night I experienced my first ... cigar. Hah, thought I was going to say something else didn't you?

MaryJane was pretty much my first real girlfriend. I was a faithful member of the Methodist Youth Fellowship back then, which is where I met MaryJane ... and learned how to kiss. At the same time actually.

But the night I am talking about - it was winter, it had snowed, and we sneaked away to my neighbor's driveway which was lined with huge evergreen trees and really private.

We probably smooched a few times, but the real big surprise was when MaryJane drew two White Owl Tiparillo cigars out of her jacket pocket. She showed me how to light them and how to smoke them. What a night!

We must have smelled like chimneys when we returned to my parent's house and I got some really strange looks from my folks. But they never said anything.

You don't suppose my mother has been harboring that memory all these years do you? Would she really wait this long for payback? I still smooch girls, my wife anyway, and I still smoke an occasional cigar, but after all, I've been an adult for several decades now.

I drink single malt scotch, in addition to some nice blends, and a cigar company in Ybor City, Tampa, sends me a batch of very smooth Coronas every so often. There is nothing in that to warrant payback is there?

Kissing MaryJane on a snowy night under the fir trees, smoking cigars, and sneaking liquor when the folks were away. What kind of punishment do you suppose a modern-day mother would consider appropriate for those offenses?

What did she consider an appropriate form of punishment way back then?

Oh, I remember! Grounding me and forbidding me to see my girlfriend!

Uh-oh! My wife is not going to pleased if my childhood comes up again in this fashion. This could get very ... interesting.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears and Mike Christy; Christmas in Hollywood

Mike Christy and I exchange emails and occasionally talk on the telephone, but we live on opposite coasts and have never met.

Mike served as an enlisted man in the Marines in the late 50s, then went back to college and afterward joined the Army where he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel before retiring. He is a highly decorated multi-tour Vietnam veteran, and Mike also is my "brother" on the Together We Served website that I refer to occasionally in my blog columns and feature on my home page.

Beyond his service in the military Mike is a Hollywood veteran who has been a technical adviser, actor, writer, director and producer for more than 25 years. He was featured both onscreen as Major Duncan, and behind the scenes in numerous capacities, on the Tour of Duty television series on the Vietnam war. (If you Google Mike Christy you'll find a ton of information about him.)

So, you must be asking yourself by now, what does this have to do with Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears? Well, today Mike will be featured on the Ellen DeGeneres show as the somewhat bemused homeowner who opens his front door in Hollywood to find Ellen and Brittney Spears ready to do a holiday song and dance on his front porch.

I don't usually write about the things going on in Hollywood. Nonetheless I enjoy good movies immensely and use them for reference quite often as regular readers of this column are aware.

I also enjoy the theater and once upon a time in a prior existence wrote theater reviews. Although I rarely comment on the private lives of the people who act in these productions, there are a lot of reasons why I think it is important to note that a friend whom I have never met in person, got a surprise Christmas gift and is sharing that gift with us.

Not the least of the reasons is that Mike's "gift" will be featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today. You can see a preview of their dance here:

Just copy and paste that web address into your browser field. I don't know how long it will last before it is taken down so it is probably best to do it now.

Also, as anyone who reads or watches television news is probably aware, Britney Spears has had her share of troubles over the past few years. She has been a near constant presence in the headlines, and not for the right reasons.

But lately she has been making what we can only hope is a serious effort to turn her life around. If Ellen DeGeneres is willing to help out and guide a fellow entertainer in a better direction, teach her that good times don't have to involve the entertainment industry's usual definition of "fun," then I say, let's lend a hand.

One of the things Mike told me in an email that really caught my attention was that even though he lives in Hollywood, surrounded by entertainment industry people, and sees stars all the time, he was still somewhat amazed when he opened his door to find Ellen, Britney and the film crews on his lawn. Here, let him tell you in his own words:

Living in the land of movie making, we are accustomed to seeing movie and television stars, well-known actors, and the men and women whose faces we know but not their names. They are at grocery stores, restaurants and at the park near our house. We even have a number of actors living in the neighborhood.

Zachary Levy, star of "Chuck" lives the next street over with the same house address as ours. Leslie Bibb, featured in "Iron Man" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," lives two doors down. Until a year ago Jon Cryer of "Two and a Half Men" lived directly across the street.

We encounter celebrities often. But what happen yesterday was totally different.

My wife took our new dog to the vet's. I am home alone with Lady Bird, our older dog. Birdie loves to bark when people walk past the house, especially if the person has a dog on the end of a leash. I look out the front window to see what the barking is all about and I see maybe 20 people outside. Some have film cameras. Some carry clipboards. They are on my lawn, others are on the sidewalk and even more are standing in the street.

Then two blonde women walk past the window and one knocks on the door. I open it and standing before me is Ellen DeGeneres who asks if she and her friend can sing me a Christmas song. I look at the other blonde and it is Britney Spears! I must admit I was taken aback.

So the two chat between themselves to determine what to sing and they decide it will be "Jingle Bells." Ellen will take the low harmony with Britney taking the high. It is really good. I applaud! Then Ellen, always the spokeswoman, asks if they could dance for me. "Sure," I say. They turn their backs to me to play to the cameras and I watch.

Now keep in mind the cameras are on them and I suspect me for my reaction. Naturally, I look at Britney gyrating. They finish and Ellen asks what I thought of it all and I all I can say is "Great!" Ellen then asks if I would like a Christmas tree and when I said yes, a guy dressed as an elf, presents me with a perfectly formed table-top tree.

Ellen then asks who else I think they should sing and dance for. I send them up the street to Leslie's house. I applaud once more and off to Leslie's house goes the whole crowd.

I have been in the entertainment industry for nearly 25 years yet I am always somewhat thrilled when I see celebrities. This moment, however, was somewhat bigger. Only in Hollywood (or anywhere near)?!

So guess what I am doing this afternoon at 3 p.m.? Yes, I am tuning in to the Ellen DeGeneres Show to watch my Internet friend and Marine brother watch Ellen and Britney Spears dancing and singing for him.

I think next week we should shoot for an appearance on Oprah. Maybe she'd like to read my book!
Saturday, December 13, 2008

Classy Cussing for Disgraced Democrats: Rod and Patti Blagojevich Read This!

An example of just how difficult it is to be a woman in politics these days surfaced late this week when the Democrat Attack Machine, known here as the American Terrorist Media, ATM, went after Patti Blagojevich, wife of the embattled Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.

Aside from the rampant misogynism that also launched the attacks on Hillary Clinton, and the ongoing character assassination on Sarah Palin, the reasoning behind the attacks on Mrs. Blagojevich is that she swears!

The government has wiretapped tape recordings of her husband allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's now vacant Illinois Senate seat to the highest bidder, and in the background a woman who allegedly is Patti Blagojevich is yelling obscenities. How dare she?

What gives with this woman? Swearing!?

I know what you're thinking and you're right. Back in the 60s one of the premier identity factors for the new, liberal, liberated, feminist-type woman was taking the shackles off their mouths, and cursing word-for-word, obscenity-for-obscenity with the guys. And not just any guys, because most educated and refined guys didn't use four letter words and related curses, especially in the presence of women.

No, the sign of the liberated woman was using the worst type of gutter language in the presence of anyone, anywhere, to show that aged social conventions were no longer in vogue. But obviously times have changed and it no longer is a sign of the ultimate feminist to stand toe to toe with any man in the room and swear him under the table.

Considering that no one has claimed she has Tourette's Syndrome, Patti Blagojevich apparently didn't get the memo. Or maybe she was a journalist in a previous incarnation and is just trying to conserve words and get her point across in as few as possible. Interesting isn't it that the only time a Democratic woman's use of the King's English becomes an issue is when the ATM decides she is no longer a useful tool for the prevailing political agenda.

If you ever wonder if the ATM conspires before "reporting" the "news" in unison you only have to listen to a Rush Limbaugh montage of the Democratic National Committee's daily talking points. He does this every so often, and on Thursday it was obvious that the word for the day was "delusional" when talking about Gov. Blagojevich.

Some really, really clever Democrat talking heads tried to use other words to cloak the origin of the copy they were reading - like "crazy" in place of delusional - but it didn't work. We all know where it came from. Obviously the Governor of Illinois is being thrown under the bus and the ATM is in place and doing the DNC's bidding.

But then the heads focused their venom on Patti Blagojevich. Common phrases were: "She swears like a sailor - my apologies to sailors." Or, a variation on that theme "She swears like a truck driver - my apologies to truck drivers." I also noted that no one said she cusses like "a politician." That would have been the lowest form of insult, too low even for the ATM.

A close associate told me, "No one said 'She swears like a Marine,' because in that case no apologies would have been necessary." Ha. Ha. Ha.

Anyway, I don't like to see these vile attacks on women just because they get involved in politics. They can fight just as hard and just as dirty as the men without being low-browed gutter snipes.

I have been around the world in the service of my country, drinking and fighting and swearing in some of the most illustrious stateside service town bars, and some of the best international dives on three continents.

There was a time when I could tell you if someone was saying "F' Off" in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and even the Filipino dialect of the Spanish language. A Scotsman who was nearby when I was sipping a Glen Morangie in a pub in Glengyle a few years back translated the phrase "Grreat Soft Tarrrt," which one denizen of the pub said to another during an argument, as an insult based on sexual preference. But we won't go there in this column.

Thus, I hereby offer my services as an astute observer of international profanity who just happens to hold a Bachelor's Degree in English, to all women politicians who want to cuss out the competition without incurring the wrath of the ATM.

Nearly everyone who was badmouthing Patti Blagojevich the other day was saying that she and her husband regularly drop "the F-Bomb," as well as its vile expansion, the "MF-Bomb," so let's start there.

We shouldn't say the F-word in polite company. It's not polite. Let's work on a few alternatives shall we? Everyone, I want your full attention now. Put down your I-pods, turn off your cell phones and Blackberrys, and for crying out loud STOP TEXTING!

OK. Rather than referring to someone as an MFer, let's say they're an "Oedipally Orientated copulator!" That's Ed-eh-pully for currently serving Democratic members of Congress.

Practice that a few times just to make sure you have it down. Good, good, you're all doing quite nicely.

Many English language swear words involve various bodily excretions, in addition to the always popular sexual actions, positions and preferences.

One of the 'excretion' swears is to say that a person who doesn't "get it," is a S**t For Brains. Once again, you are stuck in a situation where you really want the target of your cussing to understand the extent of your dissatisfaction, but you don't want to resort to commonality in formal social situations.

So rather that getting caught calling someone a S**t For Brains, I suggest that, especially in the case of women, you smile nicely and refer to the offending individual, either directly on in the abstract, as possessing a "Fecal-level Intellect."

Similarly, when people want to really disparage the intellectual abilities of their enemies they are prone to calling them a D**k Head. Again, there is a better way without wallowing in the gutter. Merely tell everyone in earshot that the person is really named Richard Cranium - my apologies to the Cranium family, especially anyone whose Christian name is Richard.

Then we have the age-old B**w J*b, as in "He or she is a ... ." I am well aware that students of recent political history have been referring to this as "A Monica" due to some well publicized activities during the Clinton Administration. But I think that having gone through eight years of the Bush Administration and all the figures who came and went, rose and fell - so to speak - in that time, we should move on.

It just so happens that the incoming president-elect has a close friend and advisor who has shown an affinity for making things go BOOM!; Blowing them up in other words. So I think it is time to retire the phrase A Monica and reintroduce it as An Ayers! What do you think? Help me out here if you want. Suggestions are always welcome, although not always heeded.

Then, straight from the gutter we have the following: A$$hole - which becomes Anal Cavity - pretty straightforward I know, but it works; F'ing A**hole - which can be redefined as Rectum Copulator; while F' Yourself is translated as Self-applied copulation;

There are other possibilities for some well known offensive insults, such as "Put a Lip lock on my love muscle;" or if you prefer "Land a hurricane on my member." But let's try to keep this at least on the sidewalk.

Kiss My A** is really pretty base, so I suggest "Rim Job my rectum," in its place. But it should be used sparingly.

There undoubtedly are many, many more combinations of classy words that can be used in classless situations. But I don't want to overload anyone's gray matter in the first lesson.

Let's just take what we have learned today and consider that it is preferable to hear a governor's wife say "Tell that Oedipally Orientated Copulator, Richard Cranium, that he can rim job my rectum if he thinks this Senate seat is going 'on account.'"

That is so much classier than what was contained in some of the federal wiretaps.

Next week we'll tackle Knee-walking, snot-slinging, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, bottom-feeding, unibrow, Neanderthal wannabes.

For today, however, here endeth the lesson.
Friday, December 12, 2008

The Deacon's Masterpiece - Uncle Bob - Rest In Peace at 104

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss-shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it - ah, but stay
I'll tell you what happened without delay
The Deacon's Masterpiece, by Oliver Wendell Holmes

My Uncle Bob died on Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, after living on this earth for 104 years and four days.

Some might say that age aside my uncle lived an entirely normal life. He spent his working career in one place, attended the same Methodist church for nearly 90 years, lived in the same house nearly all that time, raised his family, voted conservative Republican, and volunteered in his church and community.

But I would say that in addition to his advanced age, my uncle was a unique individual who touched many people in his long life, virtually all of them positively.

For the first phase of my life my family lived next door to Bob, and I saw him virtually every day for nearly 10 years. At that time I lived in a two-family farmhouse that was owned by my grandparents in Center Brunswick, New York.

The land that surrounded our houses was the remaining acreage of what had been my grandfather's farm, and I grew up on a 10 acre natural playground - fields that were bordered by a small stream - The Crick - in upstate New York dialect. Across the road that bordered our property was a marshy area where the crick occasionally overflowed, and in the spring and summer we would awaken to the liquid trill of red-winged blackbirds that gathered among the cattails and rushes.

On the hill behind our house wild strawberries flourished in the summer, and an apple orchard provided blooms in spring, fruit in fall, and endless play possibilities all year long. Wild honeysuckle could be found in abundance, and nearby woods made for countless adventures. Uncle Bob had chosen well when he decided to live there permanently.

Uncle Bob was born in Sayre, Pennsylvania, but his Dad, Robert Mandeville, for whom he was named, died when Bob was very young. His mom, my grandmother, eventually remarried. She had been Maude Clarke when she came to America from Ireland, alone, when she was 16 - then she became Maude Clarke Mandeville, then Maude Clarke Brimmer when she married my grandfather.

The family, which by then included my Uncle Vic, my Aunt Olive, and my mother, had lived in Waverly, New York, and moved to Center Brunswick around 1921 a couple of years after World War I ended. When Uncle Bob turned 100 he was feted by the Center Brunswick United Methodist Church, of which he had been a member for some 86 years, so he apparently arrived there around the time he was 14.

Originally the house that became the focal point of his life wasn't even a house; it was an outbuilding on my grandfather's farm. The main house sat on a slight knoll, and about 100 feet away was a farm building, a small barn according to my mother, that was falling into disrepair.

Uncle Bob, a carpenter, set about turning the barn into a house. I'm not sure exactly when he began living there, but it was sometime in the late 1940s after World War II ended and his family needed the room. Ultimately the old barn took on an entirely new look, in the Cape style. It was Bob's residence for about six decades and still stands there in excellent condition. Quality work or what?

When we were living up the hill from him, I remember Uncle Bob expanding the second floor of his house, then building a garage for his car, then adding onto the garage to provide storage for farm equipment, primarily my cousin Paul's tractor. He built an all-weather porch on the back, where the whole family would often gather on summer evenings to enjoy the breeze and watch the moon rise - without the inconvenience of mosquitoes.

I enjoyed the smell of fresh cut lumber and the shavings from his carpenter's plane when Bob was working, and I hung around as much as I could when he was on a project.

The house and surrounding yard and gardens were always well kept. Bob was "a stickler" as he used to say, about keeping things in good working order. His tools were stored in the basement, and he had peg boards on the walls above his workbench with the outline of every hand tool he owned indelibly drawn on them so he knew where everything was supposed to go, and if anything was missing.

If I was to give you one adjective to best describe my uncle I would have to say "cheerful." He always seemed happy to see us, and greeted everyone with an exuberance that seems to be missing in modern society. In all the years I knew him I don't ever remember my Uncle Bob saying a bad word about anyone.

It was common to see Uncle Bob working outside, regardless of the season. But one of my fondest memories was of a summer day when he was washing his car in his driveway. My younger brother, Larry, who was maybe two years old, picked up Bob's garden hose and squirted our uncle, but also pointed it straight up, thus squirting himself as well, which caused him to drop it and run away laughing.

Bob picked up the hose and squirted him right back, adding to the fun. I was reminded of that scene at a family gathering a few years ago. My grandson, who was about two at that time, started picking apart his hamburger and throwing pieces at Uncle Bob, who picked them up and threw them right back.

Remember, this guy was now 100, but it didn't stop him from engaging in a mini-food fight with an opponent who was nearly a century his junior.

I don't want to give the impression that Bob's life was all wine and roses. It wasn't. In fact, he bore more than his share of burdens.

His only son, my cousin Paul, could give his father fits at times. Once Paul stuck an apple in the exhaust pipe of the school system's travelling music teacher's car. When she finished her class and started her car, the apple flew out of the tailpipe and right through a windowpane in the schoolhouse.

On another occasion Paul spent part of one Saturday afternoon lying under his dad's car with a hammer and screwdriver, poking holes in the muffler so the car sounded like a race car. I think that was listed among the "Things That Cause Parents To Look Skyward and Mumble."

But Paul was born with diabetes, and although he was immensely strong as a teenager, more than holding his own with farm chores - he also could put his back against the front of his tractor and lift it off the ground - the disease ultimately took his eyesight and then his life.

Bob was not a classic strongman, but he was an emotional rock. When my aunt Irene collapsed at Paul's funeral, no one was surprised that Bob was there to support her. He must have been enduring unimaginable pain himself, but his primary concern then was for his wife.

Bob's life away from home revolved around his work, his church and the Center Brunswick Volunteer Fire Department. Bob went to work for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, RPI, in Troy, as a carpenter in 1926 and stayed there for 47 years before retiring.

As a charter member of the volunteer fire department he not only worked in his community, but just around the time I was born he accompanied our neighbor Milo Hyde Sr., out of town to spend several days helping flood victims. Uncle Bob was a member of the Fire Police, and he directed traffic at emergencies until he was 99. He founded the local Boy Scouts chapter and was the first scoutmaster. I can still see him teaching my brother how to tie a square knot.

Bob was a member of the Methodist Church literally from the time he arrived in Center Brunswick until he died. He was a member of the church's Men's Club and bowled with his friends from that organization for decades.

But you know what I liked best about him with regards to religion? He was devout, but not pious. By that I mean, Bob was the guy who always said Grace at family gatherings, and it was always heartfelt and meaningful.

However, he never portrayed himself as "Holier Than Thou." He never looked down his nose at the less fortunate or the less reliable, and he never pushed his faith on others.

If you watched his actions though, you would be impressed by him as a man of quiet faith, and you would be inspired.

Even though he was rooted to his home and community, Bob travelled when the urge hit. He spent enough time in St. Petersburg, Florida, known irreverently as God's Waiting Room, to know that he couldn't wait that long, so he returned north.

He and my aunt Irene once showed up unannounced at my home in Connecticut. Seems they had been driving Rt. 44 from point to point, just to see what was there. They stayed for a chat and some lemonade, then were off to finish their adventure.

On his 90th birthday, as family members gathered to throw him a surprise party, Uncle Bob suffered a heart attack. But he didn't tell anyone until the next day when he finally called for an ambulance. He spent a couple of days in the hospital, and then went home, picking up his life as if nothing unusual had occurred.

Over time, Uncle Bob saw his son die, his wife die, his friends and other family members die. In recent years he lost his daughter.

Two decades ago, a few years after my aunt Irene died, Bob met and became close friends with a lady named Margaret Busby, and though they never married, and kept their own houses, they were virtually inseparable. She was a quiet and kind woman, a decade younger than Bob.

But earlier this year when visiting Bob's house, Margaret suffered a stroke and died.

I think that was the beginning of the end for Uncle Bob. He said he only had two remaining wishes, to see his 104th birthday and to die in his own home.

Bob spent Thanksgiving with family, but didn't appear to be feeling well. On Sunday, Nov. 30, he was taken to the Samaritan Hospital in Troy, with shortness of breath and an overall feeling of malaise. The doctors said he was dehydrated.

My cousin Bob, whose Mom, like my mother, was Uncle Bob's half-sister, lives to this day in the house on the knoll where I spent my early years, just up the hill from Uncle Bob's house. My cousin reported that he, his brother and his sister-in-law were able to hold a small but enthusiastic birthday party for Uncle Bob in the hospital - cake and candles, and hospital staff joining in.

My uncle's spirits appeared better he said, and my cousin and I discussed whether Uncle Bob might just need a better diet and a little more company. Bob lived with only a cat for companionship now, my cousin told me.

But he also reported that doctors were saying Uncle Bob could never go home again and would have to be placed in a convalescent home. Family members were already talking about placing the cat with someone else.

But Uncle Bob would have none of that. I had called to talk with him and he told me that 104 was going to be his last birthday. I was surprised, and saddened to hear him talk like that. But he said it matter of factly, not with animosity or even regret.

My cousin told me that Uncle Bob was adamant about going home, just as others who wanted him in a care facility were unyielding, and he said it looked like a showdown was looming.

So, four days after he turned 104, having survived more than a century of good times and bad, maladies and celebration, during which he never lost his faith or his composure, Uncle Bob did the only thing he could do to avoid being sent to a care facility instead of back to the home he had built with his own hands. He up and died before anyone could place him elsewhere.

I guess he got the last word on that argument.

My mother said it best. He wanted to die in his own home, but he was being told he couldn't go back. It took the heart out of life for Uncle Bob.

He had built that house out of a barn on his stepfather's farm and it has stood as a home since then with little change. It was his home and it was a reflection of his values. It was where he wanted to lay his head down one last time.

Uncle Bob never craved the spotlight, yet his actions spoke volumes more than words, and through his steadfastness and faith made very real contributions to humanity. To the very end he was in full command of his faculties, and as I see it, he pretty much decided it was time to die, so he did.

I doubt it was mild dehydration, nor even the shortness of breath that brought the end. Bob made it clear in our last conversation that he still cared very much about his remaining family and friends. But if you look at his life objectively, it is not hurtful to conclude that the people who were the closest to him over the years are gone.

Sometimes death comes when a person believes there is no longer a good reason to stay alive. And it is quite likely that Uncle Bob believed there is a better place waiting for him, and there was no reason to delay going there.

If we are lucky, and deserving, he will be right, and waiting for us.

You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once.
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

The Deacon's Masterpiece, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whatever Happened to the Stutz Bearcat, Cord, and Duesenberg? CATO Institute Asks Why We Need a BIG THREE?

There was nothing wrong with many of the automobiles produced from pre-World War I through the 1920s and into the 1930s. In fact many were far superior to other models of their day, and would surpass many autos made today.

Ram Air, hydraulic brakes, turbocharging? Check out the Duesenberg! Hand built luxury, all the rage with the high society types of the time. But gone now, done in not by unions, ho-hum cookie cutter designs or excessive corporate salaries, but simply by a business model that could not survive hard financial times.

No one got a bailout. So why do we need one now? Please click on the You Tube video above produced by the CATO Institute that puts the question succinctly on the line, and then take a few minutes to ask yourselves the same question.

Barney Frank is throwing around the word "billion" as if we all had a few in our pockets. But can these billions really change anything? Or is this just Washington D.C.'s way of letting their union backers and corporate sponsors down easy? Will they all fold in the next year anyway if hard financial times continue?

But then, the politicians will be able to claim they did all they could to "rescue" the industry won't they?

I bet we'll still be able to buy a new car five years from now, even if it doesn't have an old familiar name. It probably will be something we want, that satisfies our sense of good workmanship, modern design and cutting edge technology too.
Sunday, December 07, 2008

Let's Talk About Tina Turner, Single Malt Scotch, and Meeting New People

When you consistently write about politics and war you run the risk of being typecast as writing only about war and politics.

To avoid that pitfall, today we are going to discuss a few issues that are close to my heart - good scotch, good music, and meeting new people.

In the good music category Tina Turner took the stage in Hartford, Connecticut Saturday night, in a place that used to be called the Civic Center but now has a corporate name that I'm not using because they don't pay me to advertise here.

The concert was one of the best I have seen ever - bar none, and the really great thing about it was that Tina put on as much of a show, if not more, during the encore as she did during regular performance. She ranged from her own classics including Nutbush City Limits, performed during the encore from a mobile stage platform that took her out and over the crowd, to her famous cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary, then on to What's Love Got To Do With It, with major audience participation, and a full program of hard driving rock and roll.

She had a great blues set including Undercover Agent For The Blues which I really, really liked. What a beat, what a sound! What dancers - the Flowers - backing up the singing. Whoa!

But it wasn't just about music, it was about performance, and stage presence, a multi-media production that included videos of Tina's past performances with groups including the Rolling Stones, in movies such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Mel Gibson - in which Tina was costumed similar to the role she played. Tina mixed modern dance with martial arts, had plenty of pyrotechnics, dancing - on stage and in the audience - and most important, she put on a show that at once entertained and sealed a connection with her fans that goes back decades.

Tina still has her voice, she still has her moves, she still has unsurpassed abilities and best of all, she has a work ethic that is sadly lacking in so many younger performers' productions who think the sizzle really is the steak. At a Tina Turner concert you get the sizzle, the steak and a wide range of side orders too.

What made the night even better, was the place my wife and I found for a pre-conference drink, and the people we met there. We haven't been wandering around downtown Hartford in quite a while and had no idea where to find a bite to eat.

But a half-block from the former Civic Center that now has a name I won't use here because ... well you know ... we found McKinnon's Irish Pub. It was jammed to standing room only, the music was nearly as loud as what we would hear in the concert, the beer was cold and the food was hot.

My wife, who is a world class weaseler - by that I mean she can navigate the densest crowd with the skill of a, well, a world class weaseler - soon had blazed a path right to the bar, where we met Colleen Ryan and her daughter Elizabeth, who had actually scored seats and food! Elizabeth had purchased concert tickets for her Mom and they were about to get their money's worth.

But here is where it got really nice. Colleen saw us trying to catch the bartender's attention and volunteered to help, making contact far faster than we would have otherwise. Then as fate would have it two seats opened up right next to the Ryans and we were in.

Colleen noticed that I had ordered a scotch, a well known bar blend, and asked if I ever drank single malts. Hah! You betcha.

I responded that I usually order the blend when I go out because so few places carry the singles that I like best, starting with Glen Morangie - 10 year old is very, very nice; the 12-year-old finished in Madeira wood is a favorite.

That got us going on single malts and what we like and don't like. Peat based brands are way down the list. Glenlivet was mentioned, and I brought up Taliskers which I haven't tried but is on my Christmas list. (It was featured in the movie Charlie Wilson's War starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Ned Beatty. I AM mentioning here not because they are paying me to advertise it, they aren't, but because I like it - the movie.)

I told Colleen I had recently sampled 15-year-old BruichLaddich, brought to me by a close associate who has another friend who makes an avocation of finding rare Single Malts.

I neglected to tell her that as I write these columns the calendar right next to my computer screen, given to me last year by my wife as a Christmas present, features month-by-month Single Malts, a picture of a representative bottle with a history of where it is distilled, how long it has been around, and sundry bits of relevant information.

This month it features The Dalmore, aged 21 years, distilled on the north shore of the Cromarty Firth, an inlet off the Moray Firth. It is north of Inverness but south of Tain where the 16 Men produce Glen Morangie.

While Colleen and I were talking Scotch I was passing tidbits of the speech I give to my college classes, What Every College Student Should Know About Drinking, to her daughter Elizabeth. Meanwhile, my wife ordered a corned beef Ruben that not only was well prepared and delicious itself, but came with two of the best pickle slices I have tasted in a long time.

Time passes quickly in these circumstances and soon the clock on the cell phone said it was time to go. Imagine, we had what otherwise would be considered a really enjoyable evening BEFORE we attended the concert.

It was a pretty good night all the way around. We found a decent pub, we had good food, good drinks, good conversation and made a couple of new friends along the way. Then we got to see a concert that reminded me of why I have spent a lifetime loving Rock 'n' Roll.

I suppose this being a political column and all I should make one last semi-political point. Many of the supporters and media outlets who comment on our current president-elect claim that he is bringing racial harmony to America.

Obviously, these people have never been to a Tina Turner concert. Tina has been bringing harmony of all types, racial and otherwise, to the world music scene since before the president-elect was born.

From what I saw Saturday night in Hartford Connecticut, we can only hope she will still be doing it long after his 15 minutes have passed, and that if the president-elect is really interested in leaving a legacy of a better America, he can look to Tina Turner for lessons on human relations.
Saturday, December 06, 2008

Auto Industry "Bailout" Just Another Freebie; I Won't Drive a VOLT! It's A Fraud On The Public!

For most of my early driving years I was a Chevy man. I liked big-block Chevelles both for their engines and their back seats, I thought the 454 was a technological breakthrough, and I wanted a 1963 Corvette convertible, powder blue, with a fuel-injected 327 with a near religious fervor.

But in the mid-1980s I bought a four-on-the-floor, V-8 Chevy pickup from what I thought was a reputable dealership. Truth was, it was a piece of junk. Among other issues it had a problem in the rear end gearing and every time I shifted it made a thump no matter how gently I engaged the clutch.

I must have made a half-dozen trips to the original dealer in upstate New York, and it turned out the guy talked a lot, telling me at various times that I was hearing things, which really endeared me to him and his company, and even padding the vehicle's tailgate once, which did nothing but further infuriate me. Ultimately I found another dealer who took my business more seriously and after only two trips to the service department they discovered a defective gear, replaced it, and the thump ended.

That also ended my love affair with Chevy. The next vehicle I bought was a 1988 Lincoln Town Car, Cartier model with all the bells and whistles that I drove for 15 years and 230,000 miles. We also purchased a 1997 Ford Ranger pickup that my wife drove for something well in excess of 100,000 miles with no major problems.

I traded that in for a Ford Explorer, V-6 SUV that I drive to this day, again with no major problems. It is roomy, gets relatively decent mileage - about 24 mpg on the highway - and is the most comfortable vehicle I have ever owned.

The moral of this story is that if a car manufacturer makes a vehicle that I need, can rely on, that doesn't give me non-stop headaches or thumps in the rear end, then I will probably buy from that manufacturer. I will continue to be a good customer as long as I believe my concerns are paramount all the way from the plant to the dealership service department.

But even though I have been very happy with Ford Motor products and will look to Ford before I go to any other domestic or foreign models when I am car shopping again, I do not support the so-called "bailout" of the auto industry using taxpayer dollars.

I believe this is a form of corporate welfare that constitutes a gross fraud on the taxpayers. I think Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank and his coterie of Congressional inquisitors should be investigated, and the Big Three should be told to get back to Detroit and work this out with a pencil, not by taking a free ride on my dime.

During the day Friday the headlines were saying that chances for a bailout of the US auto industry looked pretty slim. For a few hours I was hopeful that we taxpayers would be dodging another bailout bullet.

The Big Three - Chevy, Ford and Chrysler - had sent their top execs to DC again, this time holding their hats in their hands, driving instead of flying in private jets - only the president-elect and his family are allowed to do that - and taking unwarranted abuse from Barney Frank, to beg like street urchins for a few billion taxpayer dollars to get them through Christmas.

After all there is jewelry to buy, new airplane orders to place, luxury vacations to be taken, expensive clothes just waiting to be handmade to order, and of course top shelf booze and imported cigars that need temporary residence in Michigan mansions.

But overnight the headlines changed to a much more positive view - for certain Congressmen and auto industry executives - who are now saying a deal is in the works. Which means there probably will be a bailout and Congress will give the taxpayers a good screwing for Christmas, but the taxpayers won't enjoy it.

The latest proposal won't be for the $25 billion everyone was talking about two weeks ago, nor the $34 billion the auto industry was claiming it needed just last week. Oh No, it will only be for $15 to $17 billion.

I have a proposal for Barney Frank. How about you front me one percent of the difference between 15 billion and 17 billion? I can use that money to start up a couple of businesses in my community that will put good people to work in productive occupations and generate business and sales revenues that will help ease the property tax burden on homeowners.

What do you say, Barney? To sweeten the pot, I'll even write another column about you that won't be anywhere near as harsh as this one. I probably could be convinced to say a couple of good things about how you have had a change of heart and are actually helping America get out of this recession instead of just feathering your own boa, er, nest.

Think about it. This offer is only good through midnight.

Maybe I'm being overly harsh here, but Frankly, I was sick and tired of the US Congress back when it was just the occasional Republican using the Congressional Page system as a recruiting ground for homosexual dates with underage teens. That was a few years back and things have just gotten worse with the Democrats in charge.

Every time someone brings up Term Limits, some buffoon in Congress does something that proves the point. Then you get Barney Frank hiking up his skirts, screwing up his face and telling us all to go to hell, but not before he skims a few more billions out of the federal treasury to keep the United Auto Workers happy and sending him plenty of campaign contributions every two years.

I am against the bailout because I think the combination of union excesses and corporate greed have driven the price and the quality of the average American automobile right out of the market. Foreign manufacturers have come in to fill the void, and while I am strongly leaning toward another Ford next year, you can bet I'll take a look at some of the foreign models before I make a final decision.

I saw a video the other day about a new Ford plant in Brazil that uses cutting edge technology to meld assembly line robotics with appropriately applied human input, and also incorporates the primary manufacturing process - the chassis, engine, and transmission assembly - under the same roof as secondary parts such as exhaust, dashboards and interiors.

So the people who make the seats are making those seats in the same building where the rest of the vehicle is manufactured, cutting transportation and assembly costs dramatically. The plant also is ecologically sound - except that it was built where a rain forest used to be - and is seen as a model of cooperation between management and labor, without union threats and pressures.

So why don't we have a Ford plant like that in the US? Excessive built-in labor costs, and excessive government regulations. Our country has forced our original car manufacturer, the one named for the guy who invented the assembly line, to head south to do business because it is too expensive here.

The result is the circus we saw in Congress last week with Barney Frank holding hearings and treating the auto execs like recalcitrant children. Of course that was just another example of the Congress losing sight of its pronouns - meaning Congressmen think they are Lords over the people, instead of representatives working for the people.

Then in the middle of all this sound and fury, Chevrolet comes out with a new model electric car that should be no more than a prototype, but we are told it will save the industry, the nation, and end pollution - even though it can only go 40 miles before it needs to be recharged.

Excuse me. What happened to the electric cars that were all the rage in California a couple of years ago that could go a couple hundred miles on one charge? Oh, right, they were recalled and shredded. Hmmmmm.

I have a question. If Chevy can build an electric car that goes 40 miles, and then can do it again when the battery is recharged at some basic electrical outlet like the one in most people's garages, why can't it be recharged as it is moving?

Gasoline powered cars do that all the time and they have been doing it as long as there have been batteries and moving parts. This technological breakthrough, called the generator, or alternatively the alternator - pun intended, occurred a century ago.

It works like this. The battery provides the initial electricity to engage the starter with the flywheel, which turns over the engine, and simultaneously provides the spark to the spark plugs in the proper order as determined by the distributor - which distributes electricity to the plugs.

The engine catches, and as long as the electricity keeps flowing to the spark plugs, and as long as there is fuel, the engine continues to run. The crankshaft spins, and from that motion we power the water pump to keep the engine cool, the air conditioner to keep the driver and passengers cool, and the generator/alternator which keeps the battery charged so there will continue to be electricity for the spark plugs, and around it goes.

So why does the new Chevy Volt not have an alternator that will continue to recharge the battery as long as the electric motor is powering the vehicle, thus extending its range? There still are moving parts, so why not?

Need a bigger alternator to recharge a bigger battery? Come on, we have the ingenuity to solve that little issue.

It appears that Chevy is well aware of the recharging issue. Just check out the advertising from Chevy's website:
The Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world is no longer just a rumor. In fact, its propulsion system is so revolutionary, it's unlike any other vehicle or electric car that's ever been introduced.

Chevy Volt is designed to move more than 75 percent of America's daily commuters without a single drop of gas. That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.

Unlike traditional electric cars, Chevy Volt has a revolutionary propulsion system that takes you beyond the power of the battery. It will use a lithium-ion battery with a gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when you drive beyond the 40-mile battery range.

Are these guys serious? The Volt has a hybrid engine that uses a generator the same way generators have been used for a century - but only after the battery is too low to power the electric motor? So you get 40 miles gasoline free, but after that you revert to the same old, same old?

Why can't the lithium-ion battery be recharged by this generator as the car is being propelled by the electric motor? If you can do it at home every night you should be able to do it on the road. And they want 15 billion taxpayer dollars to push this on the public?

I'm not buying a Volt. There is superior technology available and we should be using it instead of trying to fool the motoring public yet again. I bet the guy who sold me that defective truck will have a lot full of these, if he is still in business.

I guess today's auto execs are too young to remember the Edsel. Look it up guys, you may learn something.

I want hydrogen. I want to use the technology now available on US Navy submarines that employs electrolysis to separate hydrogen from oxygen in sea water, allowing them to stay submerged for extended periods. But instead of using the oxygen and venting the hydrogen, I want to use the hydrogen - which creates water as a byproduct of burning - to power the internal combustion engine, and vent the oxygen to the atmosphere.

We don't need a hydrogen infrastructure to do this either. The "fuel tank" can be filled with water, which can provide hydrogen on demand. And yes, it would have a generator that would provide power for the electrolysis.

That is what I want and I absolutely believe it is doable because in a slightly altered form it already is being done. And I don't want to hear another word about junk science posing as a new breakthrough in automobile technology.

While we're on the subject, give me my money back! Christmas is just around the corner and I have to save the economy.
Friday, December 05, 2008

Connecticut Legislature Attempts to Stifle Rob Simmons! Fat Chance! Media Working for Rell and Dodd?

The Connecticut Legislature has eliminated the post of state Business Advocate - in a sense - claiming it will save the state money. Right.

What the state legislature actually has done is a blatant attempt to force the person who holds that post, former US Congressman Rob Simmons, into cold storage, by merging his position with the state Department of Economic and Community Development. There, Simmons can be moved inch by inch, step by step, into political obscurity - or so the theory goes.

Simmons lost his seat in Congress by 83 votes two years ago, and didn't run again this year, preferring to help his state dig itself out of the economic morass the Legislature has guided it into over the past decade. As the Business Advocate, Simmons was visible, transparent, energetic and probably far more effective as a one-man show than the entrenched bureaucracy that is failing miserably at keeping Connecticut economically viable.

There are myriad reasons for taking Simmons out of the public eye, but two come to mind immediately - Jodi Rell and Chris Dodd.

Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell is halfway through her four-year term, and within another year will be in a new race in which she will be trying to keep her job while the Democrats pull out all of the stops to take it away from her.

But before the classic showdown begins Rell still must win her own party's nomination. At the moment Rell's favorability rating is very high - not as high as Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's which the press falsely claims is in a nosedive ever since the media declared Jihad against moose hunting - but high nonetheless.

Until recently Rell enjoyed balmy relations with the media, and according to the media polls, which are tied directly to media stories and how naughty or nice those stories may be, she is still well liked by Connecticut voters, at least those contacted by the media.

But within the past week one Connecticut newspaper did a story alleging that Rell is merely a figurehead governor who spends her mornings calling in to drive time talk radio shows, and then fills the rest of her mostly empty schedule with groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, and speeches. The media report, which also is circulating on the Internet, says the actual work of the governor's office is left to Rell's office staff.

The article quoted liberally from potential Democratic challengers, thus it is fair to deduce that it likely was the opening salvo in a long-range effort to bring Rell's approval ratings out of the stratosphere and into the vulnerability range.

Which is why Simmons needs to be kept on ice, at least as far as Democrat strategists are concerned. Because should Rell falter, Simmons is one Republican who could challenge her for the nomination and give any Democrat in the state a good race should he win the nomination - if he is even interested that is.

The media love fest with Rell could be over, but that isn't her only problem. Rell's support within the GOP often is a matter of what you hear in public versus what is said in private, and easily could evaporate if there is a serious challenge for the nomination. That in turn depends on what the media does with her approval ratings, since a year of negativity will certainly create a downburst in her popularity.

But bashing Rell in an effort to bring down her poll numbers could have the opposite affect of boosting Simmons' popularity, which is the last thing the Democrats want to do.

Then, there is US Senator Chris Dodd who is watching his popularity drop like a rock over his financial dealings. Dodd has a bit more time to bury voter resentment over his actions before he faces reelection, but that presumes he does something to erase the current resentment toward him. He will have to make some dramatic improvements in his favorability rating if he is to remain untouchable in 2010.

Dodd has been given a free ride by the media on his sweetheart mortgage deal, his complicity in the collapse of the credit and housing markets through support of the Community Reinvestment Act, and the subsequent Wall Street bailout.

But one needs only to listen to Connecticut conservative talk radio such as Jim Vicevich's "Sound off Connecticut" morning show, to understand that the media is completely out of touch, but the voters are not. (I listen Jim on the Internet which also has blog postings, forums and live chat that provide even more opportunities to see what voters are saying about Dodd and others.)

Vicevich's callers and forum posters aren't fooled one bit by the media running interference for Dodd. They are angry and it may well take a lot longer than three years to dig his ratings out of the cellar, if it can be done.

(Full disclosure required here: Rob Simmons is my friend. For those of you who have already purchased the paperback version of Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam, you know that Rob gave me a great endorsement on the outside back cover. I also have met Sen. Dodd, and he has an autographed copy of Masters of the Art, if he hasn't sold it on eBay. I also have known at least one staffer in Dodd's office for many years and hold that person in high regard.)

All that aside, trying to minimize Simmons by hiding him away in a cubicle deep inside a state office building is like trying to contain a cyclone. Simmons is energetic, highly intelligent, and has deep support from veterans - a major voting bloc in Connecticut - both because he is a Vietnam Veteran and because he stayed in the reserves for a full career. Simmons is a former CIA agent, leaving in the Carter era, and has been a senior staff member for intelligence issues in the US Senate, as well as serving in Congress.

Simmons can sit at a constituent's kitchen table sipping coffee and discussing the intricacies of state and federal economic issues, and seamlessly slip into fluent Chinese when discussing why he knows what he knows about intelligence matters.

People who know Simmons, and a lot of people know him, also know that he he calls things as he sees them, genuinely likes people, and he is genuinely liked in return.

Trying to stifle Simmons for political purposes, under the guise of saving money when the state is headed into a $6 billion deficit, not only is classic politics, it is a classic misunderstanding of Simmons, and the voting public. In fact, it is an insult to the voting public.

It really doesn't matter what the Legislature does in the next year. If Rob Simmons is awake he is moving, working, analyzing, getting things done. When he walks into a room or a meeting the place lights up.

If the press is anywhere near, Simmons will be interviewed for the simple reason that he tells the truth and gives understandable answers to reporters' questions. That could be another reason why the Democratic Legislature - and possibly some Republicans - want Simmons on ice; he gets far more favorable press than they do.

But burying him inside the state bureaucracy won't do anything to keep Simmons out of the public eye. And even if he is buried deep inside the state bureaucracy, he has plenty of friends on the outside who will be only too happy to drop a trail of pebbles for the media to follow - straight to his desk.

After all, Simmons is an honest man, and when you are reporting on government you need quotes from at least one person who is telling the truth - to give the appearance of fairness and balance off all the other quotes in the story.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chambliss Praises Palin as He Trounces Dems; Polls Off - Again

Isn't this interesting? Take President Bush out of the election, bring the issues down to the state level and suddenly the vaunted invincible Democrat machine falters, sputters and dies!

Saxby Chambliss, Republican senator from Georgia, who was supposed to be in a nail-biting, cliff-hanging runoff after failing to receive 50 percent of the vote in the general election Nov. 4, emerged on top of a landslide Tuesday, as his Democrat challenger was swallowed up in a quagmire.

The general election had featured several candidates for the Georgia Senate seat and although Chambliss was the favorite, he didn't receive the requisite 50 percent of the vote to be declared the winner. That necessitated the runoff against the next highest candidate, Democrat Jim Martin.

(Too bad we can't have Georgia's election laws transplanted to Minnesota, where a recount is underway that has all the earmarks of a stolen election - if Al Franken can generate enough new votes to overcome his current deficit.

An independent candidate took 15 percent of the Minnesota vote, leaving Franken in second place. Ever since Election Day uncounted votes for Franken have been springing up all over Minnesota, in dumpsters, in backyards, in election officials' car trunks, in morgues, in cemeteries, in crypts, but mostly in Al Franken's warped mind. I'd love to see Franken have to go through a runoff instead of a highly questionable "recount.")

Back in Georgia, Chambliss crushed Martin by approximately 57 percent to 43 percent. It could be closer to 60-40 when the final votes are counted. The polls had the race within the margin of error at 3.0 percent. Well, someone's margin of error anyway, but not the one that matters the most, the one imposed by the voters. Their margin was much, much wider.

Those polls provide subject matter for lots of talk by people who should know better, but when the votes are cast, it all just adds up to hot air.

Chambliss was effusive in his praise for Sarah Palin, who had injected so much energy into the John McCain campaign as his running mate that the Democrats and the Democrat infiltrators running McCain's campaign fell all over themselves attacking her. Nonetheless, Palin was one of many Republican individuals and organizations who went to Georgia to campaign for Chambliss, who said that the crowds "exploded" when she showed up.

There was an avalanche of personal attacks on Palin from inside the McCain campaign, not to mention the president-elect's campaign and the media, before and after Election Day. The attacks continue from the Democrats, as they will as long as she remains on the national scene. Thus, I have a question for my Democrat friends.

If it is true, as many of you claim, that the Republicans are the originators of the ad hominem attacks that comprise so much of modern politics, then why was Sarah Palin swarmed over by the Democrat attack machine literally from the instant she appeared on the national stage? She hadn't said a single critical word about the Democrats, other than she disagreed with their positions and was going to work to put a GOP team in the White House.

But every single aspect of her public and private life was ripped into with the ferocity of a rabid pack of jackals. Nothing was too personal, nothing was off limits, and much of what was said about her was flat out untrue. Her family life was scrutinized, her comments were taken apart, reconstructed and then mocked even though she hadn't said what was claimed.

I don't agree with her on every single point. But I do take a step back and determine exactly which of her personal beliefs she can transform into public policy and which she can't. If she can't make national changes on issues with which I disagree with Gov. Palin, I dismiss that as people agreeing to disagree, not something that qualifies as permission to rip into every facet of her being.

I am glad to see that Gov. Palin was such a positive factor in the Georgia race, and I am happy that crowds came out to cheer for her. She has had an opportunity to emerge from John McCain's shadow and let the voters see her as an individual, and they responded very favorably.

I believe that if the media, the Democrats and renegades from her own party didn't crush her in the presidential race just passed, they won't do it in the next four or even eight years. I'd like to see her running on her own ticket.

In the meantime, Democracy has worked as it should. The voters have thrown one hell of a lot of Republicans out of office in the last four years. Not all of them deserved it by any means, although some of them certainly did.

But yesterday in Georgia, the voters made sure that no one, especially the incoming administration, will have free rein to change the basic nature of our government while the minority party stands by helplessly wringing its hands, outraged but impotent.

At least there are enough people in Congress of differing minds that major legislation will have to be decided on with input from all sides, and nothing can just be rammed through.

I see that as a good thing.


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