Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Stress Buster

These are stressful times as Americans and others vitally interested in American government policies ponder the damage caused by pronouncements emanating from the White House and quiver at thoughts of what is yet to come.

Responding to the excessive worry, experts in the workings of the human mind have produced hundreds of words of advice on how to cope with stress. Ideas range from hugging your puppy to taking a strenuous run through the park. So far, only a few I've read have suggested a hearty laugh.

Yet laughter can be good medicine in trying times. It was years ago when I was one of about 100 college students taking the final exam in Psychology 101. The multiple-choice test would determine a full half of our grade for the course. The lecturer was a newly appointed PhD who brought lots of enthusiasm to his task. He was serious about his work and had presented a ton of information. No one thought the final would be a snap.

Sure enough, there was dead silence in the lecture hall and sweat popped forth on more that a few foreheads as we started work on the problems. But after about 20 minutes a few snickers were heard. Then mild laughter filled the hall, followed finally by raucous guffaws.

Most of the students had reached the tenth question:

     "10. The Fallopian tubes are:"

And read the third choice:

     "Subways in Rome."

Arrivederci, stress.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump Started a War He Cannot Win

On Friday, Donald Trump once again lashed out at the news media, this time for no apparent reason. He endorsed a comment by his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, that the media are "the opposition party in many ways."

Trump added, "I'm not talking about all of them . . . but a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, total deceit and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely."

That garbled prose seems to indicate that Trump is slightly narrowing the number of his journalistic enemies. Earlier, he exempted no one in a talk at the Central Intelligence Agency. There he said, "I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth, right?"

I'm a journalist. I've never considered myself to be a dishonest person, let alone one of the most dishonest on the planet.

By coincidence, two of the most principled people I've ever been acquainted with, both journalists, died recently. Their passing and Trump's assaults on the profession caused me to spend some time recalling my hundreds of encounters with journalists both as a newsman and as an information specialist in government and private industry. How many individuals do I remember practicing "deceit and deception?" Exactly two.

One was a young television reporter who interviewed me about a Forest Service program. Before he turned on the camera, we agreed that he would not ask questions in one area. To my amazement, his
Trump will be scrutinized as no other has been
second question hit directly in that area. I learned from others at his station that he was totally dedicated to advancing his career, and sometimes bragged about using questionable tactics to enhance his stories. How did that work out for him? Several months after he embarrassed me, he disappeared from the airways and never was seen on television again. Apparently his supervisors did not endorse deception.

The other miscreant was a reporter for a small radio station. He taped a speech I gave at a luncheon following the announcement of the closing of a Job Corps Center operated by RCA where I served as public relations coordinator. I was astounded to hear his broadcast that evening. The tape of my talk had been edited to completely reverse the meaning of what I said. That reporter merely was running true to form. He was opposed to the Job Corps as part of his personal political ideology, and took every opportunity to show the program in a negative light. Certainly, there are people like him associated with media in small and large markets, but I believe their numbers are relatively small.

It's only one person's experience, but two bad apples in a barrel with hundreds may indicate there is little reason to disparage the entire group.

Above all, journalists who follow the code of ethics that guides the profession attempt to be objective. They often fail. Humans develop biases and it is difficult, perhaps impossible, for anyone to completely set theirs aside when reporting events or selecting which items to include in print or programs and how to present the stories. Nevertheless, the true professionals strive for personal integrity in their work and balance in the products.

When anyone, especially a person who frequently displays his own lack of integrity, accuses journalists of deliberate dishonesty he is making a mistake. I take Trump's remarks along those lines as a personal insult, and I've been out of the workaday information business for a long time. You can bet many in the media are going to have more than the usual struggle to keep their anti-Trump biases under control. They will try to treat him fairly, but they also will be extra diligent in their responsibilities to serve as watchdogs over government, and they will pull no punches in their reporting.

Mr. Trump can expect to see a whole lot of reports such as the one that appeared in the January 24 New York Times under this headline: "Trump Won't Back Down From His Voting Fraud Lie. Here Are the Facts." An editor who had not been insulted by the major player in the story might have created a more kindly label, yet it is not "dishonest and deceitful."

Trump's assaults on the media ensure his activities will be scrutinized as no other president's have been. Every move will be reported, and not kindly. Who will win this "war"?  We might get a clue from an historic figure who participated in many wars: 

"Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets."--Napoleon Bonaparte


Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Do Lunch--Got Three Dollars?

It's mid-January, and much of the annual bad economic news for retired geezers is in. The meager cost-of-living increase in my annuity and social security payments was eliminated by increases in medical insurance premiums. Gasoline prices and our annual auto registration fee soared, courtesy of hefty tax increases imposed by our Michigan legislature. Property taxes also increased. Yes, state and my local governments are under complete Republican control. Those are the same guys who preach, when running for election, that they will spare no effort to cut taxes.

Lesser items not subject to political control also increased in cost, or are projected to do so. What's a poor retiree to do? Of course, it's the American way to combat bad news by ingesting a heavy dose of comfort food. That's just what I did, although to feel completely comforted I had to hold the cost to a minimum to blunt effects of the rising costs of just about everything else.

Aided by some advance actions, my net cost was $3.18 (including sales tax) for a very satisfying (and
What made America fat--hard to resist at any price.
quite unhealthy) midday meal at the local Burger King. The lunch featured a Whopper sandwich (regularly priced at $4.48), french fries, and a good-sized coffee blended to my specification.

Normally, that meal would have cost nearly $7.00. How did I get it below half price? First, I spent about five minutes filling out an online customer satisfaction survey after a previous visit to Burger King. That got me a coupon for a free Whopper. Then I used a gift card bought online at a 13 percent discount to pay my tab. Next month, I'll knock another 1 percent off the meal cost because I paid for the low-cost gift card with a credit card for which I always get at least 1 percent off all purchases by paying my balance every month.

I had to visit a store right next to Burger King for a necessary purchase, so no transportation costs were involved in getting to my comfort luncheon. And, on the way out I picked up a free copy of the local weekly newspaper, courtesy of Burger King. It costs 75 cents at the supermarket next door. So we might say my net luncheon cost really was less than $2.50. But that's a bit of a stretch, so let's stick with $3.18.

Don't worry, I'm not going to reduce my life span by changing to a diet dominated by burgers and fries, even at three bucks a meal and no matter how tasty the comfort food is. I'll keep my healthy standard items on the menu--tuna or chicken chef salads. Now where can I find discounted gift cards for tuna and chicken? 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Please, Just One Tie in the New Year

Which do you root for when two of your favorite sports teams collide? I'm going to have that difficult choice on Jan. 2 when the University of Wisconsin Badgers and Western Michigan University Broncos square off on the Cotton Bowl football field.

I started backing the Badgers in 1953 as a student at UW. The main attraction was watching Alan "The Horse" Ameche run over and around opponents. Contributing to my interest in Wisconsin

football, which continues to this day, was the fact that fraternity brother Bob Gingrass led a lot of the blocking that allowed "The Horse" to set rushing records.

Ameche, the first Wisconsin player to be named  an All American, led the team to its first post-season game, a visit to the historic Rose Bowl. In recent years, bowl appearances have become old-hat for the Badgers. This year's contest will be their 15th consecutive bowl game. About half of them have been "major" bowl contests.

Led by a young, enthusiastic coach, Western Michigan has fired up folks where I live by going undefeated. Two of the 13 victories were against Big Ten teams (Illinois and Northwestern) so nobody can claim the Broncos rolled up all the wins against minor opposition. Western has appeared in eight bowls over the years, but this one will be special because the Cotton Bowl is one of the Big Six. No question, it is a "major."

Why am I unsure about which team to cheer for? I've been rooting for both all year. Since moving to southwest Michigan I've become acquainted with many Western grads and several faculty members. It's been fun joining them in pulling for the Broncos. The team's winning streak has had positive effects on the Kalamazoo community, including people who previously had zero interest in football. A page 1 headline in the local newspaper summed it up: "Cotton Bowl Bid Ties City Together."

I've always been amazed that success in sports, especially following years of mediocrity by local teams, actually could inspire a whole city or area. But it can. The city-wide celebrating in Chicago when the Cubs finally won a baseball pennant is a good example. In my youth, when the Braves arrived in Milwaukee to make the city "major league" business pretty much came to a standstill on game days as everybody was at the ballpark or listening to the radio. That happens nowadays in Green Bay when the Packers play at home.

The same kind of pride on display in those cities has been appearing in Kalamazoo of late. Management of a large movie theater announced yesterday that it will provide free seating for those who want to watch a closed circuit broadcast of the Wisconsin-Western game. Other merchants and organizations are sponsoring similar events or other types of recognition of the importance of the game. A Broncos' win in the Cotton Bowl would be a big deal.

The bottom line is I would like both teams to win on Jan. 2. That is impossible, so I would appreciate a tie. That can't happen either. Although tie games were fairly common throughout the first 125 years of American college football, those players, coaches, and fans who found them unsatisfying finally prevailed. In 1995, the rules were changed and ties became impossible. Teams tied at the end of regulation time must continue to play until one becomes a clear winner.

But, please, football gods, won't you allow just one more tie? It would make this Badger-Bronco backer very happy.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Our Holiday Traditions

Seasons greetings from Dick and Sandy Klade. As we get ready to usher out 2016 our activity review shows we stayed pretty much with old but good things. Among them were a couple of holiday traditions.

Dick continued a Klade family tradition that dates back nearly 150 years when he celebrated his 80th birthday on January 1. Dick's grandfather Friedrich C. Klade and father Fred J. Klade both were born on Christmas Day. Our New Years guy somehow picked the wrong holiday to arrive (his mother always joked that he was stubborn), but for us it is a special day nonetheless.

We more than a half century ago began carrying on family traditions when decorating our Christmas tree. Here we chatted before a completed tree while son Lee rode "Blaze." Blaze was a gift from his Grandfather Ed Steinmetz. Our matching sweaters were gifts knitted by Sandy's Mom, Vannie Steinmetz.

We've just finished an annual task that has been a family tradition for decades. Both Dick and Sandy's parents decorated their Christmas trees in silver and blue every year, and we adopted an identical practice more than 50 years ago in our first year of marriage.

The tree decor always has featured only blue ornaments. Until it became impossible to buy good quality tinsel, family members meticulously placed tinsel strips in every available space, a process that took many hours. We now maintain the silver look with strips of glass and snow flakes.

The blue glass ornaments we bought during our first year together have faded a bit with age, but all have survived a half dozen moves in their original thin cardboard boxes and many annual unpackings
and repackings. They bring us joy year after year.

May you enjoy happiness continuing the good things in your life in 2017 and many years beyond.


                                                                 








Thursday, December 01, 2016

Hands Off Our Rights, Mr. Trump

Still weeks away from our presidency, Donald Trump is acting more and more like the type of  establishment politician he continually criticized during his campaign. Trump is waffling all over the place.

Sometimes it's all to the good. Regarding LGBT rights to marry, an idea vigorously opposed by hard-core Trump supporters, The Donald recently said he had no problem with such unions because the matter was settled by two Supreme Court decisions.

Soon thereafter, Trump said that anyone burning an American flag should be treated as a criminal and face consequences--perhaps a year in jail or loss of citizenship. The Supreme Court twice has ruled that burning the flag as a protest, which Trump was referring to, is protected as a free speech right by our constitution. The court also has ruled that revoking citizenship is prohibited as a punishment for wrongdoing.
 
Making this a crime will make me a criminal
Trump obviously was pandering to his "alt-Right" followers, who consider themselves to be the ultimate patriots. This group was irate when he reversed his position on pursuing an investigation of Hillary Clinton ("crooked Hillary," he called her without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing). Trump now says he won't do anything to hurt the Clintons, because they are "good people."

I consider myself a patriot, but not the "my country, right or wrong" type that supports Trump and condones violence or discrimination for questionable reasons. I have generally good feelings about my country, although it is not perfect. My parents weren't  poor, but certainly were not members of a privileged class. The U.S. proved to be a place where I was free to choose my own path and work my way up to achieve a much better lifestyle for myself and my family than my parents had. I'm grateful for that.

We lived for a dozen years in a planned community where homeowner association rules precluded flying a flag, to my disappointment. When we moved to our present home nine years ago, a flagpole came with the property. I've flown Old Glory every day since we arrived.

I have no respect for a protester who thinks burning an American flag furthers whatever cause is at issue. However, I fully support their free expression right to do so.

Dave Stalling, an associate of mine in the U.S. Forest Service, expressed my feelings very well in a recent Facebook post. Dave served proudly as a Marine sergeant in a Force Recon unit, among the best of the best of our military personnel. He said: "Personally, I don't understand why anyone would want to express their freedom by burning a symbol of that freedom. However, although I may not agree with it, I have (and would again) defend with my life people's rights to do so. I have never considered burning an American flag, but if Trump makes it a punishable offense, I will burn one out of defiance and--to paraphrase Trump himself--I would not hesitate to use my Second Amendment rights to defend my First Amendment rights."

I'm not big on joining protests, but I'll go at least part of the way with Stalling on this one. If Trump succeeds in making flag burning a criminal offense, I will haul mine down, burn it, and invite the sheriff to drop by, observe my crime,  and arrest me. Spending some time in jail to defend freedom of speech is something I definitely would do.

I'm not so sure about the armed protest part of Stalling's declaration. I did qualify as a sharpshooter with a rifle in the U.S. Army, but that was long ago. I would be pretty rusty now and, even with expert coaching by Stalling, as likely to shoot myself in the foot as to seriously threaten anyone. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Second-Class Vets Get the Call

Another Veterans Day has passed, and it's once again time to thank those who so generously thanked me for my service. And once again, it's time to point out that in the United States not all veterans are created equal.

Thank you, Applebees, for a delicious dinner. The place was packed with veterans. This year, the brewers of Sam Adams provided a free beer with my complimentary meal. Thanks, Sam.

We wanted to replenish our dog and bird feed supplies and pick up several hardware items. Our local Tractor Supply store was the place to go, and they gave a 15 percent discount to vets. Thanks, Tractor guys.

A surprise gift showed up the day after Veterans Day. We went shopping for several exotic holiday gift items at World Market. At the checkout stand was a sign offering vets a 25 percent discount throughout the weekend. Thanks, World Market.

My local newspaper marked the day with a feature story about Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in the area recruiting honor guard members. The honor guards traditionally present a flag to the family of diseased vets and fire 21-gun rifle salutes at burial sites. Seems several posts can't come up with enough members who can shoulder a rifle to handle the duties, so they now seek members of the American Legion and even honorably discharged vets who are not members of the VFW or Legion to serve in honor guards.
 
They want us to help honor Legion vets who don't honor us.
I served two years in the U.S. Army, and was honorably discharged on May 19, 1960. I don't qualify for VFW membership because all my service was stateside and VFW members served overseas. I have no problem whatever with that.  However, I think it is reprehensible that many honorably discharged veterans are ineligible for American Legion membership.

Overseas service is not required by the American Legion. Members need only honorable service during seven "war eras," defined by arbitrary dates. Because my service dates don't fit into an "era," I am a second-class veteran not eligible for Legion membership, even though some of my less fortunate fellow soldiers were being dispatched to Viet Nam as "advisors" during my service time. Strangely, if I had served for just one day in the "era" that began nine months after my discharge, I would be welcomed as a Legionnaire.

Thousands, perhaps millions, who served honorably in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force are with me in the ranks of second-class veterans.   

It seems the ultimate irony that we now are being invited to join honor guards to shoulder a rifle and fire a salute to fellow veterans whose largest organization bars us from membership. Perhaps those "patriots" in the U.S. Congress, some of whom never gave a day of military service to their country, could act to give second-class veterans first-class status. The American Legion operates under a Congressional charter.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trumpism Will Test Our System

The fact that the American people have chosen an unethical, unqualified, racist as our president has been met by a mixture of  shock (me and many others), stark terror (some immigrants who fear deportation), outrage (young people protesting in the streets), and glee (by the small hard core of Donald Trump supporters).

Those, like me, who simply were amazed that polls could be so wrong and so many fellow citizens would vote for such a miserable human being should have done a better job of reading many signals that a huge demand for change was all around us, the Democratic Party candidate was not inspirational, and the samplers of public opinion were using antiquated models.

The youngsters now clogging up traffic and wasting our law enforcement dollars with pointless demonstrations should have used their energy getting out voters to support their causes. Their time now would be better spent in classrooms or adult education courses learning about our democratic system and history. Once the people have selected a leader, our tradition is to move on, more-or-less together, respecting the office of president, no matter how personally repulsive we find the choice to be. That works. Continuing demonstrations in our streets serve no useful purpose.

Trump's more zealous supporters ought to temper their satisfaction, because at least some of his more outrageous proposals will not be enacted. How many, and which ones, remains to be seen. Certainly, the next four years will provide extreme challenges to the checks and balances that are the bedrock of the American form of democracy.

Some opponents charged throughout the campaign that Trump never presented a real program, claiming he merely advanced ideas at random through often vague and confusing televised sound bites and internet tweets. Although a program statement was late in coming, one did appear near the end of October in a speech outlining what Trump pledged he would do in his first 100 days in office. Those interested can find documentation of the speech in several places with a computer search for "Trump's first 100 days." It is interesting reading.

Trump's action items are a strange mixture of Republican (huge tax cuts) and Democratic (public works to stimulate employment) Party ideals and some weird thoughts (a massive concrete wall will solve illegal immigration problems). We have early indications that at least some are not going to be adopted at all, and others will undergo considerable modification.

For example, Trump proposes imposing term limits on Congress, an idea that a fairly large number of Americans would support. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's reaction was, "It will not be on the agenda in the Senate." That means it is dead, at least for the foreseeable future.

McConnell took a dim view of Trump's plans for massive infrastructure work, saying it will not be high on the Senate's priority list. He did say he backed achieving improved border security, but made no mention of an immense, and immensely expensive, border wall.

I found McConnell's lack of enthusiasm for major expenditures especially telling. Throughout the campaign, both candidates shied away from detailed discussions of our horrendous national debt situation. I don't think a Congress dominated by conservative Republicans, including many who have been openly hostile to Trump, is going to quickly pass legislation requiring big new expenditures, if it passes such measures at all.

And if some of the crazier stuff on Trump's action list does get through Congress, it faces stern tests in the judicial system. Unfortunately for those of liberal persuasion, the Supreme Court is going to tilt toward conservatism for a long time as the effects of Trump appointments come into play. That, I think, is the most important consequence of the election. However, history has shown that the thinking of even the most biased justices can be balanced by excellent legal arguments by other members of the court.

Will our checks and balances work to keep America great? Let us hope and pray that they will.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

What Price Vanity?

I'm tired of complex numbers. Every news source the geezer follows has been crowded with a variety of poll outcomes, complicated analyses, and sometimes just plain wild guesses regarding the presidential election. The only big numbers I want to fill my head with in the immediate future are the results that will start appearing Tuesday night.

Those numbers will tell us whether our nation will be led for the next four years by a responsible, experienced person with a reasonable set of goals--Hillary Clinton--or an unbalanced, racist, egomaniac--Donald Trump.  I voted several weeks ago with an absentee ballot, something permitted by the State of Michigan for all people over 65. All the complex numbers tell us the election will be close in Michigan. Here's hoping we'll arise Wednesday morning to welcome our first woman president.

To stay away from the complicated numbers games, I decided to make this post about single digits, one displayed on my garage wall, the other adorning a luxury auto on the other side of the world.

Early last month, Balwinder Sahani, an Indian businessman, paid $9 million at an auction in Dubai for a one-digit auto license plate. It seems unique plates have become a fad in the glitzy United Arab Emirates. Auctions for them are held every two or three months, and millions of dollars are at stake.

 
Balwinder Sahani proudly displaying his D5 license plate (equivalent to No. 9)
About 300 bidders and observers crowded the auction hall when Sahani acquired the D5 plate. He said he will attach it to one of his Rolls-Royces. I don't understand Arabic or Indian mathematics, but apparently "D5" equals the numeral 9.

"I like number 9 and D5 adds up to nine, so I went for it," Sahani said. "I have collected 10 number plates so far and I am looking forward to having more. It's a passion."

I acquired a number 9 auto license plate in 1972. It had nothing to do with passion, and everything to do with luck.

I was registering our old Chevrolet shortly after we moved to Idaho. When my turn came, the clerk looked around at boxes of plates behind him and said, "How'd you like a really nifty number?"

"Sure, why not," I said. With that, my clerk and three others made a dive for one box. My guy came back clutching No. 9, which he promptly issued to me. He explained that Idaho had a license plate pecking order. The governor got No. 1, the lieutenant governor received No. 2, and so on down the political ladder. The line ended at No. 8 with the secretary of state. So by possessing No. 9, I had the lowest plate number a common citizen could get.

My number 9 didn't cost nine million dollars. As I recall, the vehicle registration fee in 1972 was just $12 or so.

We got a lot of comments and questions from folks who noticed our distinctive tag. One was from my supervisor, Ed Maw. Ed had many political contacts, and he was proud of his status in the community. He appeared to be miffed that I had the low number when he believed he deserved any such honor. I played the game. "Ed, it's all in who you know," I told him.
 
My No. 9 currently graces our garage wall.
It was fun while it lasted, but it didn't last long. About four months after my registration Idaho changed to a whole new plate design and numbering system. I got an unimportant replacement number just like the rest of the common people.

I kept Idaho 9 as a souvenir. It now graces my garage wall. Since Mr. Sahani could well afford the gesture, I hope he'll send one of those Rolls my way. I'll be pleased to drive it around displaying No. 9 for all to see.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Place Better

We could take a plane or a train to enjoy the magnificent colors this weekend as New England hardwoods prepare for winter. Or, we could hop in our car and take a four hour drive into the heart of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to view similar woodsy splendor.


Or, we could simply look out our living room windows . . . .