Politically, I want to see more of Hillary Clinton on the news live or on the ‘phone. So far she’s been almost aloof from the crowds of clamorous reporters and commentators hanging on her ever word – going so far as roping them off at a parade to keep them at bay. “The Pen” is set up far away from the front of the audience and she rarely takes questions except in intimate gatherings with a few people over coffee or snacks. Lately, she’s caved in some because Donald Trump has been picking on her and she has appeared in a number of interviews with news commentators. Still, the crowds are staying away in droves. Unlike Trump – and even Bernie Sanders – Clinton draws crowds in the hundreds, rather than thousands. Last week she started a campaign against The Donald by making up tall stories using his bombastic style to gather controversy and headlines. Rather than continue picking fights with his republican peers, Trump has taken the battle to Clinton and her people. Trump has pretty much always been available to the press, which he calls “liars” and “bad people.” He keeps them tied up in knots by actively soliciting interviews when not creating liguistic traps for them. Trump knows how to combine grains of truth with bawdy language that his fans just eat up. Meanwhile, Clinton has been unable to create controversy on her own without Trump stealing her thunder! So, in the new year I hope to see as much face time from Hillary as Trump has been getting by just being Trump. Maybe we’ll learn more about Clinton that way than from all those ad nauseam reports questioning her character.
The news media, meanwhile, needs to stop asking politicians what they think about the latest remark from The Donald. Republican and Democrat candidates for The United States’ highest office need to be heard proposing ideas and solutions to the pressing troubles of our time, rather than caving in to the mainstream media’s manic quest for negative sound bites about Trump. Shouldn’t the candidates be defending and detailing their proposals instead? I believe in our media’s right to pester public figures in the quest to obtain grist for the latest news cycle. While it’s true the First Amendment backs them up, I don’t believe the media should have a right to create news out of lies, unconfirmed allegations and rumors – in other words creating fiction to be presented as fact. This is particularly vexing when you consider the likes of respected NBC News anchor and whopper-teller Brian Williams and the venerable CBS Evening News and Sixty Minutes anchor Dan Rather, both of whom fabricated details for news stories out of thin air! Scottish philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle wrote in 1841, “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” So it is in these United States; we have three estates or branches of government – Legislative, Executive and Judicial – with the Press, bound by our Constitution, as a Fourth Estate charged with unfettered oversite of the other three. My wish for 2016, as unlikely as it appears on the face of it, is that the Fourth Estate somehow returns to its traditional journalistic role as unbiased fact-finder and reporter of unvarnished truth.
Education is the most contentious issue facing our country today. At the core is Common Core, another one of those mandated government programs assembled by so-called experts and designed to make all kids smarter by testing them regularly to a nation-wide standard. The idea, when it was first proposed, was to help kids from lower-income families rise from illiteracy to intelligence. It has resulted instead in a dumbing-down of kids nation-wide. The most contentious issue facing local, state and national educators and politicians is the fact that dumb kids almost always come from ghettos and other similarly impoverished areas of our cities. How do you teach a kid from the ghetto to learn? How do you keep the gangsta life and drugs out of your schools and still educate the kids who bring them? One answer to learning has been the Charter school. Test scores over the years have shown that Charters have consistently done a better job of educating their students than the public schools. That’s because Charters generally don’t receive funding from local property taxes, but rather from state coffers which tend to be very tight at giving money away. Charters have to work/teach smarter and make every penny stretch to the max. It also means that discipline goes to the top of the list – no gangs, no drugs, no roughousing, no cussing, no grafitti, no baggy pants, no failing to do homework – and parents are brought into the fold, required to back up their kids in every way possible, including participation in mandatory student-teacher conferences. Parents are encouaged to provide their offspring the same level of discipline at home as they get at school. Real education begins when a child is not distracted from its primary task of learning how to learn. The amount of money spent per capita doesn’t appear to make a difference. According to Wallethub.com/edu, based on standardized testing Grand Rapids, Michigan students’ average scores are 84.99%, 2nd best in the nation with per capita funding of just $1,234. On the other hand, Rochester, New York kids test scores average just 24% while per capita spending there is 2nd highest in the nation at $3,176 per pupil. Rochester ranks 86th out of 90 most impoverished cities in America, with the 88th largest percentage of single-parent families. So there is some truth to the proposition that dumb kids almost always come from the ghettos and the poorest areas of our cities. Conservative politicians in the latest election cycle are clamoring to get the feds and the states out of the education business, allowing local school districts to determine their own testing standards and taxing structures. That’s not likely to happen anytime soon, so education will probably remain our most contentious issue for some time to come. I wish it wasn’t so.
Americans are angry. Their anger is seething and simmering deep inside our country’s soul. Evidence of that anger was expressed recently in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper penned by Gayl Overgaard, former Chairperson of the Gila County Democrat Party. Overgaard called for the President’s impeachment, charging that “… now we are well on the way to major international tensions leading to war. Obama is determined to continue aggravating the Russians. He is a warmonger that needs to be removed from office.” Those are some powerful fightin’ words! Overgaard is one of the most liberal Democrats I’ve ever known. I served eight years with her as Vice-chair of the Gila County Dems. Most of my Democrat acquaintances are just as angry as my Republican and Independent friends. They’re angry about the blatant manipulation of the laws, rules and regulations imposed on us by our government bureaucracy and its appointed and elected leaders. And they’re enraged that our government manipulates facts – like the fiction that there is five percent unemployment when almost a third of our 321 million Americans are out of work. They’re irate that ObamaCare (PPACA – The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act) hasn’t cost Americans less, as promised, but has significantly increased costs, decreased services, and will become more expensive in the coming years. They are indignant that the President, while seeking to calm public fears about terrorist activities, speaks in meaningless platitudes rather than displaying convincing manly leadership. The folks are tired of politically correct speech and government-mandated restrictions on their American liberties. They are furious that they pay an average of sixteen percent for credit (3.5% for home loans, 29.99% for unsecured credit cards) while big banking institutions can borrow money from the Fed at one-quarter of one percent and get away with paying a mere one-half of one percent on savings accounts. Faced with creeping tyranny every day in our beloved America, I hope we can calm down some in the coming year.
An uncertain future is making almost everybody crazy! Most of the folks I know are worrying about tomorrow and planning for disaster. Will the markets crash? What if the power grid goes down? Can terrorists really poison our water supplies? What about this Climate Change thing? People have been stockpiling food packaged to last twenty-five years. They are stashing water to last at least a month – just in case. Fearful that neighbors will steal their stashes, they’ve bought firearms and ammunition enough to outlast a serious siege. Out of the many families I know, most are hoarding cash in assorted denominations, as well as precious metals, as hedges against a collapse of the monetary system. There are a lot of people out there that have been doing their best to become completely self-sufficient … just in case. Some are called survivalists. Others have done nothing more than adopt some of the best of the Mormon faith’s best teachings, like keeping a year’s-worth of supplies available to be able to take care of yourself and family and still be able to help your neighbors in tough times. Speaking of faith, I’m hearing a lot more today than in the past about the End Times. Are the Four Horsemen coming soon? Is Armageddon just around the corner? We all know that the Good Lord takes care of those to take care of themselves, so it seems only logical that having a workable plan in the face of disaster is probably a good thing – just in case. I think we all can do better in planning what happens in the face of a natural disaster – torrential rain, flood, tornado, hurricane, blizzard – as well as how to handle days or weeks without public access to power, fuel, food, water and communications. So, I guess having a plan for disaster can reduce one’s worries about tomorrow. But, wouldn’t it be great to know that the rest of the country is on the same page? So far, though, it doesn’t appear to me that Jeh Johnson, DHS and the FEMA folks have a very good grip on how to handle a real national disaster. Good idea to cross your fingers. Better to be ready.
Hey, Claudette and I wish you and yours a happy and prosperous 2016 filled with positive expectations and a little hands-on participation in shaping the future of our great nation.
Improvise – Adapt – Overcome. Semper Fi.
J E Ted Thayer