Monday, August 21, 2017

Fire the President!


The honeymoon appears to be over. Republican members of Congress and other staunch members of that party are being confronted by the stark reality of Donald Trump's belief system. I remember when he first began his campaign, just seconds after he walked down that staircase and announced he was running for the office, and then went on a tirade against illegal immigrants that went far over the top, and I thought, this man's a joke. He will get nowhere. But so many people told me, “He doesn't really mean it.” I thought, are you lkistening? “It's just what candidates say.” But all we have to judge by are the words a person gives us, especially when we have no idea of that person's track record in actions. Trump did mean what he said. He keeps saying it. Now, finally, it seems that most of the country and even some of the Republicans among us are getting it. Trump's base support keeps shrinking, down to 34% this week. 40% of Americans want to see him impeached. 6% more want him tried by Congress and thereby removed from office than support his agenda, whatever that is, and his rhetoric, which is remarkably clear. Even die-hard supporters are eroding away, and rightly so—who wants to remain associated with the closet bigotry that helped elect him and that he has so blatantly taken out of the closet? Which begs the question: can't we just look at Donald collectively and say, “You're fired!”? The answer, sadly, is no. the Constitution has never made a provision for lack of confidence. Other democracies have a vote of no confidence clause, and use it, but not the United States. We have to wait. We have to wait for the general election of 2020. We have to hope that the other party presents us with a worthy opponent whom we can trust and in whom we can believe. To act sooner, we have to wait for the 2018 mid-term elections and if, IF, the House flips to a majorty for the Democrats, then impeachment proceedings might be voted upon to begin. Otherwise, we have to hope that a Republican majority Congress votes for it now, or that they, in conjunction with the President's own cabinet, decide that he is unfit and invoke the 25th Amendment, placing Mike Pence in the top spot, which is equally frightening. Or Trump might resign. I think he'd rather drop nukes on North Korea.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Note on Free Speech in lieu of Charlottesville


In a discussion on free speech, my brother expressed to me a certain ambivalence about whether of not Confederate Robert E, Lee's statue should be removed. I asked him, what if you were in Berlin or Amsterdam and someone wanted to remove a statue of Adolph Hitler, assuming one was there? After all, Hitler is a vital part of human history. I am not equating Hitler with Robert E. Lee, but I am equating slavery with Nazism. Both were and are heinous institutions that derive(d) their power from the misery and enslavement of others. Neither is on the scrapheap of history—obviously, neo-Nazism and White Supremacy and the bigotry and hatred they engender are still loud and vulgar in America and elsewhere; and the fact is that over 26 million human beings are enslaved around the world today. So why is the removal of one statue so important: because any symbol of either Nazism or slavery is an affront and an insult to Liberty. Ironically, Lady Liberty allows someone so inclined to display suich images. But when the land is 'public,' when it belongs to and is freely open to all who wish to go there, those symbols do not belong. Those who display them privately or as an expression of free speech should be mindful of what those symbols really represent--hatred--and how displaying them makes that person appear to the rest of us. One has to think that such public displays are meant to incite violence and hatred, given what they represent. It was not a statue that was the issue in Charlottesville; the statue was an excuse to cause a riot. The First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceful assembly; I saw no intent to promote peace or understanding among the neo-surpemacists in Charlottesville. Those who exercise free speech are not required to have respect for the institutions that guarantee and protect that speech, or for the majority of citizens the speaker presumably wants to sway to their point of view. You do not have to respect us, but do not expect our respect in return.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Open Letter to Senator Danes re Healthcare


The Right Honorable Senator from Montana Steve Danes Dear Senator Danes, I am appalled that ther House of Representatives passed the health care reform bill practically in secret and before discovering the bill's potential financial impact, and before allowing the American people to see it in detail and comment intellegently. I am appalled that this bill will likely increase medical and insurance costs for individuals, making health care less affordable rather than more so. I am appalled that this bill will increase the deficit while cutting taxes only for those making $200,000 or more. One in every seven Montanans stand to be affected if this bill or similar legislation becomes law. These are your constituents, Senator. Among them are a good number of Native Americans—1,000 in Lake County alone—who now are eligible for Medicaid but would lose their eligibility under the newest plan Health care is a major issue among Native Americans. We owe it to this small groiup to be sure they are counted. The needs of the few sometimes do outweigh the needs of the many. The United States has fought wars to liberate oppressed people everywhere. Right now, at home, your own constituents face an oppression of a different sort that the ACA was helping to address and rectify, but the AHCA appears to ignore altogether. We don't know. We don't know what the Senate plan looks like, and may not get to see it before it is made law. I am appalled that passing a repeal and replace act so quickly without proper scrutiny was more important than creating a better plan. I am disgusted that this plan seems designed only to benefit the very rich, the insurance companies, and the pharmaseutical industry. I am frightened that members of the United States Senate seem to be doing exactly the same thing, trying to sneak new legislation into law without debate or amendment. Senator, when you contemplate your vote on this bill or any variation thereof, please consider how your constituents will view your vote when you come up for re-election in 2020. Please remember that more Americans currenlt approve of the Affordable Care Act than approve of the President, and by far, of Congress. The HR bill is opposed by AARP, AMA, AHA, and many other major players in the health care industry. 74% of Americans do not want to see the ACA repealed. Only 17% do. Over 55% of Americans do not want this new plan at all. The ACA is not perfect, so fix it. Don't scrap it just because your party leaders tell you to do so. The new bill is a rush to judgment that will only make things worse. If Congress fast tracks this legislation and rams it down our throats, there will be hell to pay. Be on the right side of history. Make us proiud. We are watching, despite the distractions. Thank you for your time. Roy Blokker Lakeside, Montana

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Highland Park Muses Gallery: Birds


Just a quick brag. Please check out Highland Park Poetry Magazine's Muses Gallery for 2017 Summer: Birds. There are many fine and well crafted poems and there and many excellent bird photographs as well. Among them, quite a ways down in the gallery, is my poem, "Osprey," and my own picture of, you guessed it, osprey. They are a parent and young in a nest built upon a flat platform expressly for them because they had been building their nests atop power poles, which was dangerous for them and potentially damaging for the power company. I think the platforms are a brilliant way in which human beings thought outside the box to find a solution that works for everyone concerned. Thanks for looking! Support the arts and your local poet!! The link is: http://www.highlandparkpoetry.org/themusesgallery.html or search Highland Park Muses Gallery.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Neo-Isolationism: Trump versus the Climate


I have a leak in my roof. It only shows up on rainy days. When the sun comes out, the leak's not there. I can ignore it. Better still, without the proof, I can deny there's a leak at all. But while I do, the support beam under the roof is rotting away. Slowly, yes, but in time my roof will collapse. Intellectually, I know that to be true, but the sun shines far more days than the rain falls. Despite American isolationism, climate change will continue. I have long said that the United States is no longer the power or example she used to be and now Donald Trump makes it official by removing her from the leadership role in combating the Number One challenge to global—and US—human security. We have passed that role to China. In his efforts to look powerful and decisive Trump makes America look petty and foolish. This makes the United States, at least in terms of climate change and its implications, the Rogue Nation. Even North Korea ratified the agreement. Nicaragua did not sign because they thought the accord was too weak. Syria did not sign, presumably because its “president” likes to use chemical weapons on his own people. Trump says he represents the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris, but Pitsburgh and Allegheny County voted overwhelmingly against him in 2016. And what about New York or Los Angeles or Albuquerque? Trump is supposed to represent what the majority of Americans want; instead, he tries to appease a dwindling base. The oceans will continue to rise. The ice will continue to melt. The air will continue to warm. Weather patterns will continue to grow more extreme. Whether this is a natuiral pattern of the planet or caused by human activity is irrelevant at this point (I personally believe that human activity exaserbates and accelerates the natural cycles of the planet to perilous levels). It is happening and we have to deal with the changing reality humanity faces world wide. The great irony of global warming is the probable outcome that, in time—not much, either—the surface of the planet will begin to cool and then freeze, bringing on the next Ice Age. This is because the ocean's salinity lowers from ice melt, which changes the currents that drive our weather. Meanwhile, Trump, like Scrooge, will count his pennies one by one while the snow falls, wondering why nobody is buying his outsourced ties or renting space at Mar-a-Lago anymore. What bothers me most is his arrogance. He calls the Paris Accord a bad deal for America. Trying to secure a better world for his own son Barron is a bad deal. Trying to ensure that future deal-makers have something to work with is a bad deal. The world that Barron will inherit doesn't matter to him. What matters is how Trump himself looks right now, and he looks like an idiot. Tomorrow will be Barron's problem. Don't mess with the bottom line today, Son, because I sure as hell am not investing in you. You're a bad deal. Daddy Trump doubles down on the coal industry, which is dying because coal is dirty and expensive to extract even with new mining techniques that eliminate the need for miners. His position encourages oil producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia to look away from renewable energy sources that themselves will promote new industries and new jobs. I should not be surprised. Long range thinking is beyond Trump's ken. He can barely make a plan to cover the week ahead before his next golf date at Mar-a-Lago, which, I am given to understand, will soon be, as realtors like to say, under water.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Perfect Seduction


My granddaughter wears the delightful name, CharleeRose. I call her Chuck. Or Bug. She is almost three years old and totally fearless, like her father. She runs, jumps, tumbles, and if she goes airborn she is confident that her Opa will catch her. If she stumbles and falls, or crashes into something solid, which happens often enough, she rarely cries. “I tough cookie,” she says. CharleeRose loves to come over to OmaOpa House in OmaOpa Car. “Opa Cra car white?” she always asks, as if to check the world is as she left it yesterday. “Daddy car blue.” It is a fact, dependable, certain. “Opa drive?” The world is consistent. The world is good. When she knows she is coming to our house she waits by the front door of hers, hugging her coat. CharleeRose loves to go anywhere, anytime, but OmaOpa House is special. The fun place. Her favorite thing is blocks. We have Duplos and we have soft blocks. The first thing she says when she comes in the door is, “Opa blocks?” We dutifully bring them out, one set or the other, her choice, then dump them on the livingroom floor. She loves to build them up and then knock them down. Unlike her brother at that age, she actually builds. She likes it best if I am down on the floor with her, building. We make Duplo towers as tall as she is, and when they fall she hands me some and says, “Try again!” If I am slow to join her on the floor, she says, “Opa blocks” not as a question but as a command. It means, “Play with me.” Opa always does. But for awhile, I couldn't. I had hip replacement surgery in December and for several weeks I did not dare to get down on the floor with her. It was too hard to get down and impossible to get up again. Bug was disappointed but she shouldered on. She was delighted when I could get down on the floor again. For my comfort, I would take a pillow off the couch and set it on the floor. I did this every time and do it still. The other day I was too slow joining her, so she said her command, “Opa blocks!” But first, she took the pillow off the couch and set it down for me. This may seem a normal jesture, but when your grandchild does it for t he very first time your heart swells. Not that it takes much where my Bug is concerned. She has me wrapped around her little finger and I'm pretty sure she knows it. Still, it was genuine kindness in her soul that I saw in that pillow. After all, she didnlt have to do that, she just did. She didn't have to win my heart. She had me at “I tough cookie.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why I Could Never Go on Jeopardy


I'm a pretty bright fellow, and I know a lot of stuff. In fact, I am a virtual warehouse of useless information. But put me on a television show, cameras rolling and buzzer in my hand, and I think i'd freeze. I would stand there with a blank look on my face, forget where I am and what I am there to do, and the first round would slip past before Alex Trebeck could get my attention. It's stage fright and more. I get test anxiety reading an eye chart. What if I fail? Will the opthamologist declare me blind? Will he say I can't drive? It has never happened, but what if it did? I love to drive. I love the control. It's like remote control heaven with changing scenery. I park outside the eye clinic, perfectly spaced between the lines. I step out and my confidence wanes. I'm nervous going in. They check you for glaucoma – talk about pressure. Then they dilate your eyes with drops. Is that some sort of performance enhancing drug they're slipping into you? You trust them – they're doctors, after all – but the Eyeball Olympic Committee might be watching. I know you can't “fail” an eye exam. It's a tool to help you see better. But what are they thinking when you're sitting there with that blackout circle over one eye, trying to read the back-lit letter board with the other? F looks like P. E blends and twists before my eyes into B. O grows a tail and C may or may not have a TV tray across its lap. I stare and stare and stare, trying to make certain I have it right. Are they judging me? Am I stupid if I miss one? I mean, the answer is right there in front of me. “A, E, I, O, U, Alex.” “In the form of a question, please.” “What are A, E, I, O, U?” “Eh-eh. Sorry. The correct answer is, what are vowels?”