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 . . . .



Monday, October 17, 2016

Our Rare Little White Neighbors

Sunday's regional newspaper carried a headline: "Rare albino squirrel seen." The sighting was in a subdivision of Brighton, a suburban community northwest of Detroit.

The story said a representative of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources stated she was surprised to hear of an albino squirrel being seen. The albinos result from an unusual genetic defect. The DNR spokesperson said the defect is so rare that the state doesn't even have a record of sightings. In addition to a low birth rate, predators easily spot the white fur of  babies and few albinos live to become adults.

We were a bit surprised to see the newspaper headline. About eight years ago, beautiful wife Sandy spotted an albino squirrel racing through our side yard and into the woods. About two years ago, a woman in our community about a quarter mile from us photographed an albino in her yard. Perhaps they are a bit more common in the western part of the state than in the east.
 
  Our neighbor's photo was blurred, but the color clearly was white
Making squirrel watching interesting for us are many resident black squirrels, another subgroup of fox squirrels and the eastern gray squirrel. The blacks are rare in parts of the U.S., but quite common in woods near us and elsewhere in North America. We guesstimate that about as many blacks as grays raid our bird feeders and frolic in the woods behind our house.

Our black and gray squirrels get along very well, and we presume the only problems the occasional albinos have are with predators. Perhaps some Americans who can't seem to accept neighbors of different colors could take a lesson from our furry friends.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Gd Gd Almighty, It Is Grand

Four summers ago, the Geezer posted the following lament with the full expectation that words here would have no impact on the highway gurus in Lansing.  Does the restoration of Grand to our signage signify the power of this blog to carry a message, or simply the dawn of common sense? I think the latter.


Thursday, August 09, 2012


Were I in charge of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, I would be irate and demanding change in the way the name of my city is routinely butchered by the Michigan Department of Transportation. MDOT consistently replaces Grand with Gd.

Yes, they could sneak "ran" in
Grand Rapids deserves a full ID.  It is known for several, admittedly not overly important, things.  Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city.  Grand Rapids is the birthplace of former President Gerald Ford. Grand Rapids is a leading producer of office furniture.  More important to me, the city has two really good Mexican restaurants. 

How demeaning is a contrived Grand abbreviation? Can you imagine a sign saying: Gd Canyon--27 miles? 

Could MDOT put the “ran” back in Grand as a practical matter? Of course it could.  Possibilities include compressing the type, enlarging signs a bit, moving arrows, and changing the shape of arrows.

Because I am not the head honcho at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the strange signage is of no personal concern. Anyway, it is starting to pop up all over, so Gd may be making a move toward supplanting Grand in common usage. A recent Google travel search yielded this instruction: Turn right to merge onto US-131 N toward Gd Rapids.”

                                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Lo and behold . . . This summer MDOT decided to make things right. At least a dozen signs in our area suddenly pointed the way to GRAND Rapids!  Included was the one I photographed back in 2012. Here it is today. The picture was snapped from a slightly different angle because a tree limb had grown to block part of the sign from the original camera viewing point.



Isn't it grand?

Friday, October 07, 2016

How Do You Feel . . .

When I started this blog ten years ago, I had the misguided notion that it would provide some widespread benefit as younger readers thirsting for knowledge about life eagerly sopped up my accumulated wisdom. I simply forgot a truth about human nature, at least the nature of most Americans.

It is clear that young adults in the U.S. have scant interest in learning from the experiences of fully mature adults (AKA honey, sweetie, old man, granny, etc.). Advertising predominantly portrays the young enjoying life with the product being pushed. Television shows and movies glorify youth and often portray parents and grandparents as silly old people to be circumvented when necessary and ignored when possible.

This seems strange. It is obvious that people learn from experience. One would think, then, that the less experienced among us would want to avoid pitfalls by consulting the most experienced at every opportunity. However, as a teenager and beyond, the older a relative or friend became, the less inclined I was to ask them about anything. I've seen no evidence that things have changed.

Because we all obviously are subjected to the aging process, it also would seem that as they grow older the kids would ask fully mature adults how we feel at various stages of our lives so they would have an idea of what's to come. Yet, I've never had that sort of question put to me by anyone a generation or more younger than I.

Since we geezers are unlikely to be asked to provide serious information, we may as well offer some light-hearted thoughts about how we feel. Most of the time, I feel very good. There's a lot to feel good about. Blogging friend Ramana Rajgopaul provided a look at some of the less important positives with a list defining a "Seenager" a few posts ago. It brightened my day--perhaps it will do the same for you:

Friday, September 30, 2016

A True Spartan Sportsman

Amid all the sordid news about bad conduct by athletes and coaches throughout the sporting world, it is good to note there have been many instances of true sportsmanship. Two recent unrelated events caused me to recall one of my favorite positive sports stories.

Last Saturday, I watched the Michigan State University football team in action because they were hosting my Wisconsin Badgers. The next day, Arnold Palmer died. Palmer dominated professional golf for years, first on the regular tour and later as a participant with other older stars in the Legends of Golf tournament and similar events.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s I played golf many Saturday mornings at a course near our home in  Ogden, Utah, with a group of men who jokingly referred to themselves as the "Local Legends." Some of us were as old as Palmer and the rest of the real "legends," but none of us came anywhere close to their skill level. It was easy to join our group; anyone who wanted to play could.

By the luck of the draw, one Saturday I wound up in a foursome with a newcomer named Jones who was a professor at Weber State University. Dr. Jones was a big man who hit golf balls a long way, but not terribly accurately.

It was fall, and the chit-chat in our foursome naturally turned to football. "Did you ever play?" Jones was asked.

"Oh yeah," he replied, I was a  defensive tackle for a couple of years at a small west coast school."

"Which small school?"

"Stanford."

That exchange got some laughs, and also led to a question about Jones' experiences on the gridiron. He said only one was memorable.

"We played Michigan State. They had a lot of talent that year; we were pretty lousy. They beat up on us every which way.

"After we took our licking, we were sulking in our locker room when the Spartan coach knocked on the door. He asked our coach if he could speak to us. No one I know ever heard of an opposing coach doing that.
 
Daugherty earned many well-deserved honors
"Duffy Daugherty stood in the middle of the room and told us we had nothing to be ashamed of. He said even though we were over-matched, we had played our best to the very end, and he was impressed. He told us it had been an honor to coach against us that day. He said if we lived the rest of our lives with the perseverance we had shown, we would always have reason to be proud of ourselves."

Although he didn't specify the contest, Jones probably was referring to a game in 1961 when the Spartans beat Stanford 31-3. That year MSU's record was 7-2; Stanford went 4-6.

Several years later, Daugherty's Michigan State team was named national champions in a poll of coaches. Dr. Jones' story led me to believe coach Daugherty was one of the true champions we sorely need today in sports.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We Must Thump Trump

I watched the first televised presidential debate in 1960. It pitted Richard M. Nixon against John F. Kennedy. Nixon appeared sinister with his dark "five o'clock shadow" beard and evasive answers to questions. In contrast, Kennedy's image was one of a handsome, confident young man making clear, crisp comments.

As a confirmed Republican, I voted for Nixon anyway. That turned out to be one of the major mistakes of my lifetime.
 
She got it right, he got it wrong.
Last night, we watched a bully talk over his opponent and interrupt both her and the moderator increasingly as the debate wore on. Donald Trump's comments more often than not were exaggerations, inaccuracies, far off the point, or downright lies. Hillary Clinton stayed calm throughout the onslaught, made only two questionable statements I could detect, and was clear and crisp in presenting her positions.

Electing a deceitful racist whose interest appears to be limited to himself would be a tragedy for America and the world.

I'm not going to repeat my 1960 mistake. Hillary Clinton clearly is the candidate who as President will continue working hard to make America stronger and the world a better place.