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8/23/2015

ROLLING STONE: MATT TAIBBI HIT THE ROAD WITH THE REPUBLICAN CIRCUS…INSIDE THE GOP CLOWN CAR…

Filed under: prairie musings, print news, GOP — Peg Britton @ 9:05 pm

Inside the GOP Clown Car

On the campaign trail in Iowa, Donald Trump’s antics have forced the other candidates to get crazy or go home

By Matt Taibbi August 12, 2015

Matt Taibbi hit the road with the Republican Party circus Illustration by Victor Juhasz

The thing is, when you actually think about it, it’s not funny. Given what’s at stake, it’s more like the opposite, like the first sign of the collapse of the United States as a global superpower. Twenty years from now, when we’re all living like prehistory hominids and hunting rats with sticks, we’ll probably look back at this moment as the beginning of the end.

In the meantime, though, the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination sure seems funny. The event known around the world as hashtagGOPClownCar is improbable, colossal, spectacular and shocking; epic, monumental, heinous and disgusting. It’s like watching 17 platypuses try to mount the queen of England. You can’t tear your eyes away from it.

It will go down someday as the greatest reality show ever conceived. The concept is ingenious. Take a combustible mix of the most depraved and filterless half-wits, scam artists and asylum Napoleons America has to offer, give them all piles of money and tell them to run for president. Add Donald Trump. And to give the whole thing a perverse gravitas, make the presidency really at stake.

It’s Western civilization’s very own car wreck. Even if you don’t want to watch it, you will. It’s that awesome of a spectacle.

But what does it mean? Or to put it another way, since we know it can’t mean anything good: Is this enough of a disaster that we shouldn’t laugh?

I went to Iowa to see for myself.

Rockwell City, Iowa, evening, July 30th. I’ve just rushed up from Des Moines to catch my first event on the Clown Car tour, a stump speech by TV personality Mike Huckabee, whom the Internet says was also once governor of Arkansas.

Traditionally, in these early stages of a presidential campaign, very little happens. Candidates treat their stump work like comedians practicing new material between the lunch and dinner hours. In the old days, they tiptoed their positions out before small audiences in little farm towns like this in an effort to see what minor policy tweaks might play better later on in the race, when the bullets start flying for real.

That’s what one normally expects. But 2016 is very different, as I found out in Rockwell City right away.

Two factors have combined to make this maybe the most unlikely political story of our times. The first is the campaign’s extraordinary number of entrants. As The Washington Post noted last fall, this is the first time in recent memory that there is no heir-apparent candidate (like a Bob Dole). For some reason, during the last years of the Obama presidency, the national Republican Party chose not to throw its weight behind anyone, leading a monstrous field of has-beens and never-weres to believe that they had a real shot at winning the nomination.

So throughout this spring and summer, a new Human Punchline seemingly jumped into the race every week. There were so many of these jokers, coming so fast, that news commentators quickly latched onto the image of a parade of clowns emerging from a political Volkswagen, giving birth to the “clown car” theme.

But the more important factor has been the astounding presence of Donald Trump as the front-runner. The orangutan-haired real estate magnate entered the race in mid-June and immediately blew up cable and Twitter by denouncing Mexicans as rapists and ripping 2008 nominee John McCain for having been captured in war.

Both moves would have been fatal to “serious” candidates in previous elections. But amid the strange Republican leadership void of 2016, the furor only gave Trump further saturation among the brainless nativists in his party and inexplicably vaulted him to front-runner status. The combination of Trump constantly spewing crazy quotes and the strategy actually working turned his campaign into a veritable media supernova, earning the Donald more coverage than all of the other candidates combined.

This led to a situation where the candidates have had to resort to increasingly bizarre tactics in order to win press attention. Add to this the curious dynamic of the first Republican debate, on August 6th, in which only the top 10 poll performers get on the main stage, and the incentive to say outlandish things in search of a poll bump quickly reached a fever pitch. So much for the cautious feeling-out period: For the candidates, it was toss grenades or die.

Back in the Rockwell City library, the small contingent of reporters covering the day’s third “Huckabee Huddle” was buzzing. A local TV guy was staring at his notes with a confused look on his face, like he couldn’t believe what he read. “Weirdest thing,” he said. “I was just in Jefferson, and Huckabee said something about invoking the 14th and 5th amendments to end abortion. I’m really not sure what he meant.”

This GOP race is a minute-to-minute contest for media heat and Internet hits, where positive and negative attention are almost equally valuable.

A moment later, Huckabee sauntered into the library for an ad-hoc presser, and was quickly asked what he meant. “Just what I said,” he quipped. “It is the job of the federal government to protect the citizens under the Constitution.”

He went on to explain that even the unborn were entitled to rights of “due process and equal protection.” The attendant reporters all glanced sideways at one another. The idea of using the 14th Amendment, designed to protect the rights of ex-slaves, as a tool to outlaw abortion in the 21st century clearly would have its own dark appeal to the Fox crowd. But it occurred to me that Huckabee might have had more in mind.

“Are we talking about sending the FBI or the National Guard to close abortion clinics?” I asked.

“We’ll see when I get to be president,” he answered.

Huckabee smiled. Perhaps alone among all the non-Trump candidates, Huckabee knows what kind of fight he’s in. This GOP race is not about policy or electability or even raising money. Instead, it’s about Nielsen ratings or trending. It’s a minute-to-minute contest for media heat and Internet hits, where positive and negative attention are almost equally valuable.

Huckabee launched his campaign on May 5th, running on a carefully crafted and somewhat unconventional Republican platform centered around economic populism, vowing to end “stagnant wages” and help people reach a “higher ground.”

But emphasizing economic populism is the kind of wonky policy nuance that doesn’t do much to earn notice in the Twitter age. After an early bump pushed him briefly up to fourth place, Huckabee began a steady slide in the polls as the unrestrained lunacy of Trump began seizing control of the race. By late July, Huckabee’s numbers had fallen, and he had to be worrying that he would land out of the top 10.

But then, on July 25th, Huckabee gave an interview to Breitbart News in which he shamelessly invoked Godwin’s Law, saying that Barack Obama’s deal with Iran “would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.”

The quote hit the airwaves like a thunderclap. Virtually everyone in the English-speaking world with an IQ over nine shrieked in disgust. The Huckster’s “ovens” rant brought MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski to near-tears on air. Huckabee even prompted an Israeli transportation minister to exclaim, Dirty Dancing-style, “Nobody marches the Jews to ovens anymore.”

Even in Huckabee’s own party, he was denounced. Jeb Bush, anxious to cast himself as the non-crazy, Uncola Republican in a field of mental incompetents, called on everyone to “tone down the rhetoric.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, known as one of America’s most dickishly unscrupulous hate merchants, said, “You’re not hearing me use that sort of language.”

But far from being deterred by all of the negative attention, Huckabee shrewdly embraced it. Much like the Donald, Huckabee swallowed up the negative press energy like a Pac-Man and steamed ahead, and was soon climbing in the polls again.

Huckabee had stumbled into the truth that has been driving the support for the Trump campaign: That in this intensely media-driven race, inspiring genuine horror and disgust among the right people is worth a lot of votes in certain quarters, irrespective of how you go about it. If you’re making an MSNBC anchor cry or rendering a coastal media villain like Anderson Cooper nearly speechless (as Trump has done), you must be doing something right.

In Rockwell City, it seemed like Huckabee was consciously trying to repeat his “ovens” stunt. He smiled as the media in attendance filed out of the presser, surely knowing we would have the “we’ll see” quote up on social media within minutes.

At the event, he was glowingly introduced by Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, who revved the crowd by bashing the Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for gay marriage. King had apparently been told on good authority by a lawyer friend that Obergefell v. Hodges meant that only one party in a marriage had to be a human being. “What that means,” he said, “is you can now marry my lawn mower.”

A reporter next to me leaned over. “King’s lawn mower is gay?”

I shrugged. In the modern Republican Party, making sense is a secondary consideration. Years of relentless propaganda combined with extreme frustration over the disastrous Bush years and two terms of a Kenyan Muslim terrorist president have cast the party’s right wing into a swirling suckhole of paranoia and conspiratorial craziness. There is nothing you can do to go too far, a fact proved, if not exactly understood, by the madman, Trump.

Huckabee’s speech tossed plenty of red meat into the grinder, explaining that America was divinely created by “providence of almighty God,” which is the only explanation for the extreme longevity of the Constitution. He stepped down to hearty applause, giving way to a performance by a group of Rockwell City Republican women, who sang what they called a “rap song.” There was no beat and each of the 10-odd singers was off from the next by a word or two:

People want the freedom

To make medical and personal choices!

And we want representatives

To listen to our voices!

Listening, I suddenly worried that the International Federation of Black People would detect this “rap” performance from afar and call in an air strike. Sneaking out the front door, I checked my phone to see how Huck’s abortion-clinic play was doing: He’d already set off a media shitstorm.

Within 24 hours, he was being denounced across the blogosphere, but he was soon riding up in the polls again, one of the few shoo-ins to get on the main stage of the August 6th debate.

It was astounding, watching the other entrants try to duplicate Huckabee’s feat. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was last seen on the national stage choking on his own face in an infamous 2011 debate performance, when he was unable to name the three federal agencies he himself had promised to do away with. He returned to the race this year basically the same gaffe-spewing yutz he was four years ago, only dressed in preposterous “smart” glasses, a deadly error in a fight with a natural schoolyard bully like Donald Trump.

“He put glasses on so people will think he’s smart,” Trump croaked. “And it just doesn’t work!”

Perry was so grateful to even be mentioned by Trump that he refocused his campaign apparatus on an epic response, apparently in an attempt to draw the Donald into a Drake/Meek Mill-style diss war. He tossed off a 3,000-word speech denouncing “Trumpism” as the modern incarnation of the Know-Nothing movement (one could almost hear Trump scoffing, “What the fuck is a Know-Nothing?”). He decried Trump himself as a “barking carnival act” and a “cancer” that the party should “excise” for its own sake — and, one supposes, for Rick Perry’s.

Trump, too busy being front-runner to notice Perry’s desperate volleys, basically blew the Texan off. A week later, Perry was in a tie for 10th place in the polls. Asked if his campaign was finished if he didn’t make the debate cut, Perry replied, in characteristically malaprop fashion, that making the debate was “not a one-shot pony.” He ended up missing his shot, or his pony, or whatever, and was squeezed out of the debate.

Many of the entrants tried nutty media stunts to re-inject energy into the race. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul attempted to revive his flagging libertarian-niche campaign by putting out a video. In it, the candidate appears dressed in shop goggles and jeans, curly hair flying, chain-sawing the tax code in half. He looks like Ryan Phillippe doing a Billy Mays ad.

Then there was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the few candidates with a sense of humor about how much of a long shot he is. “I do bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings, funerals – call me, I’ll come,” he cracked. Once in the race, though, Graham immediately trolled Trump by calling him a “jackass,” then briefly enjoyed some press limelight when the furious front-runner gave out Graham’s telephone number to the public.

Graham responded to the blessing of a Trump insult by putting out a video celebrating his Trump-victimhood. In it, the candidate chops up his cellphone Ginsu-style, mixes it in a blender in a foul-looking yellow liquid, and whacks it with a nine-iron, or maybe a wedge (note: the Graham camp says it was a nine).

All of this actually happened. Can we be that far from candidates putting out dueling cat videos?

In late July, in a cramped conference room of a Marriott in West Des Moines, Graham showed up to introduce himself to voters. In person, he’s an odd character, like an oversize ventriloquist’s dummy, with too-bright eyes and cheeks frozen in a half-grin.

He calls his event a “No Nukes for Iran” rally. Clearly gunning for a Cabinet post in Defense or Homeland Security, Graham is running almost a one-issue race, campaigning on being the candidate who most thinks Barack Obama’s Iran deal sucks.

Of course, all 17 of the Republican candidates think Obama’s Iran deal sucks, but Graham wants you to know he really thinks it sucks. Part of his stump speech is ripped straight from Team America: He thinks the Iran deal will result in “9/11 times a hundred.” Actually in Graham’s version, it’s 9/11 times a thousand.

“The only reason 3,000 of us died on 9/11 and not 3 million,” he said, “is they could not get the weapons.”

Graham would seem to be perfectly suited for this Twitter-driven race, because he has a reputation in Washington for being a master of the one-liner and a goofball with boundaries issues who not infrequently crosses lines in his humor. “Did you see Nancy Pelosi on the floor?” he reportedly once quipped. “Complete disgust. If you can get through the surgeries, it’s disgust.”

But in person, Graham is a dud. His nasal voice and dry presentation make Alan Greenspan seem like Marilyn Manson. Still, it doesn’t take too long for him to drift into rhetoric that in a normal political season would distinguish him as an unhinged lunatic, which is interesting because pundits usually call Graham one of the “sane” candidates.

First, he firmly promised to re-litigate the Iraq War. “I’m gonna send some soldiers back to Iraq,” he said. “If I’m president, we’re going back to Iraq.”

Promising concretely to restart a historically unpopular war is a solid Trump-era provocation, but Graham then took it a step further. He pledged to solve the Syria problem by channeling Lawrence of Arabia and leading an Arab army in an epic campaign to unseat the caliphate.

Graham, a politician who reportedly once said that “everything that starts with ‘al-’ in the Middle East is bad news,” insisted he was just the man to unite the Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Turks and other peoples in battle, and also get them to pay for the invasion (getting dirty foreigners to pay for our policies is another Trump innovation). “We’re going into Syria with the Arabs in the lead,” Graham said. “They will do most of the fighting, and they’re gonna pay for it because we paid for the last two.”

I looked around the room. No reaction whatsoever. An old man in the rear of the hall was picking a cuticle off his middle finger, but otherwise, nobody moved. There were reporters, but Graham’s hawkish bleatings don’t rate much in an America obsessed with Caitlyn and Rachel Dolezal and the Donald.

Instead, later that same day, news leaked out that a Trump political adviser, Sam Nunberg, had once referred to Al Sharpton’s daughter as a “n—–” on Facebook. This is news. It virtually obliterated all other campaign information.

Within a day, polls showed Trump surging like never before. One Reuters poll released on August 1st showed him scoring nearly 30 percent of the vote. The second-highest contender, Jeb Bush, was now nearly 20 points off the lead. When Trump completed the news cycle by giving Nunberg an Apprentice-style firing, his triumph was total.

If the clowns who engaged Trump mostly came out looking awful, the ones who didn’t engage him came out looking even worse, including several of the ostensible favorites.

Jeb Bush was supposedly the smarter Bush brother and also the presumptive front-runner in this race. But on July 4th, just a few weeks after entering the race, Trump basically ended the fight in one fell swoop with a single kick in the balls, retweeting that Bush has to like “Mexican illegals because of his wife.”

With a wife’s honor at stake, most self-respecting males would have immediately stalked Trump and belted him in the comb-over. But Bush stayed true to his effete Richie Rich rep and turtled. He said nothing and instead meekly had an aide put out a statement that Trump’s words were “inappropriate and not reflective of the Republican Party’s views.”

It was such a bad showing that the Beltway opinionators at Politico ran a story asking, “Is Jeb Bush turning into Michael Dukakis?” Game, set, match! Bush has been plunging in the polls ever since.

A similar fate befell Marco Rubio, the boy-wonder Republican. Rubio cruised through the early portion of the race, when voters were impressed by his sideswept, anal-retentive, Cuban-Alex-Keaton persona, rising as high as 14 percent in the polls. But then Trump entered the race and blasted the clearly less-than-completely-American Rubio for favoring a pro-immigration bill. “Weak on immigration” and “weak on jobs,” Trump scoffed. “Not the guy.”

He battered Rubio with tweet after tweet, one-liner after one-liner. Trump aides hit Rubio for having “zero credibility” and being a “typical politician” who favored a “dangerous amnesty bill.” Rubio meanwhile defended Mexicans in general after Trump’s “rapists” line, but has passed on engaging Trump’s personal attacks. As a result, Rubio’s support for a path to citizenship for the undocumented has stood out like a herpes sore, and he’s plummeted to five percent in the polls.

The only candidate to really escape Trump’s wrath has been Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and that’s because Cruz has spent the entire political season nuzzling Trump’s ankles, praising the Donald like a lovesick cellmate. The Texas senator, whose rhetorical schtick is big doses of Tea Party crazy (his best line was that Obama wanted to bring “expanded Medicaid” to ISIS) mixed with constant assurances that he’s the most Reagan-y of all the candidates, even reportedly had an hourlong “confab” with Trump. “Terrific,” he said of the meeting, calling Trump “one of a kind.”

The subterranean Cruz-Trump communiqués are a fantastic subplot to this absurdist campaign, hashtagClownCar’s very own Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact. It could mean the two plan to run together, or it could mean Cruz will plead for Trump’s votes if and when the party finds a way to beg, threaten or blackmail Donald out of the race. Whatever it means, it’s a microcosm of the campaign: simultaneously disgusting and entertaining.

It’s not surprising that Trump’s most serious competition will likely come from Wisconsin’s Walker, who is probably the only person in the race naturally meaner than Trump.

Gov. Scott Walker listens as Donald Trump responds at the first Republican debate. Scott Olson
A central-casting Charmless White Guy who looks like a vice principal or an overdressed traffic cop, Walker traced a performance arc in the past year that was actually a signal of what was to come with Trump. Back in February, when addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, Walker answered a question of how he would deal with Islamic terrorists by saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Like Trump’s Mexican remarks, Walker’s gambit comparing American union workers to head-chopping Islamic terrorists seemed like a bridge too far even for many Republicans. He was criticized by the National Review and future opponent Perry, among others. But instead of plummeting in the polls, Walker, like Trump, gained ground.

The irony is that this was supposed to be the year when the Republicans opened the tent up, made a sincere play for the Hispanic vote, and perhaps softened up a bit on gays and other vermin. But then the lights went on in the race and voters flocked to a guy whose main policy plank was the construction of a giant Game of Thrones-style wall to keep rape-happy ethnics off our lawns. So much for inclusion!

Waterloo, Iowa, August 1st. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie showed up at Lincoln Park downtown to attend the Cedar Valley Irish fest, a multiday fair with street cuisine, tents full of hand-made crafts, live music and a 5K road race. In a state where a more typical event is a stale VFW hall buffet or a visit to the world’s largest truck stop (the I-80 meet-and-greet is a staple of Iowa campaigning), the Irish fest is a happening scene, featuring good food and sizable numbers of people under the age of 60.

Two years ago, Christie’s arrival at an event like this would have been a major political event. Back then, Christie was a national phenomenon, a favorite to be dubbed presumptive front-runner for 2016.

Christie’s the type of candidate political audiences have come to expect: Once every four years, commentators in New York and Washington will fall in love with some “crossover” politician who’s mean enough to be accepted by the right wing, but also knows a gay person or once read a French novel or something. In the pre-Trump era, we became conditioned to believe that this is what constituted an “exciting” politician.

Christie was to be that next crossover hit, the 2016 version of McCain. Washington’s high priest of Conventional Wisdom, Mark Halperin, even called him “magical,” and Time called him a guy who “loves his mother and gets it done.”

But two years later, Christie has been undone by “Bridgegate,” and the buzz is gone. When he showed up at Cedar Falls, there were just a few reporters to meet him. One of the Iowa press contingent explained to me that with the gigantic field, some of the lesser candidates are falling through the cracks. “We just don’t have enough bodies to cover the race,” the reporter said. “It’s never been like this.”

Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, made their way patiently through the crowd, shaking hands and talking football and other topics with a handful of attendees. It was old-school politics, the way elections used to be won in this country, but it was hard not to watch this painstaking one-person-at-a-time messaging and wonder how it competes in the social-media age.

Trump has perversely restored democracy to the process, turning the race into a pure high school popularity contest conducted in the media.

After the event, I asked Christie whether the huge field makes it difficult to get media attention. “Well, I’ve never had any trouble getting attention,” he said. “I just think it’s differentiating yourself. I think it plays to our strengths, because we’ve always worked really hard.”

Right, hard work: that old saw. Later in the day, back across the state in Rockwell City, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum played the same tune at the town’s “Corn Daze” festival. Dressed in jeans, a blue oxford and a face so pious that Christ would be proud to eat a burrito off it, Santorum rushed through a speech explaining that it is in fact he who is the hardest-working man in politics.

“I just want to let you know that we’ve gone to about 55 counties,” he said. “Last time, we went to 99. We’ll probably have 99 done here in the next few weeks.”

I asked how anyone can distinguish himself or herself in a field with so many entrants? “Win Iowa,” he answered curtly.

Right, but how? “What happens in August stays in August,” he said mysteriously, then vanished to his next event. He had, like, 11 events in three days, far more than most other candidates.

Santorum actually won the Iowa race four years ago with his overcaffeinated, kiss-the-most-babies approach. But watching both he and Christie put their chips on the shoe-leather approach to campaigning feels like watching a pair of Neanderthals scout for mammoth. In the Age of Trump, this stuff doesn’t play anymore.

Not that the old guard will go down without a fight. The much-anticipated inaugural Clown Debate in Cleveland was an ambush. Fox kicked off the festivities by twice whacking Trump, Buford Pusser-style, asking him to promise not to make a third-party run (he wouldn’t) and sandbagging him with questions about his history of calling women “fat pigs” (”Only Rosie O’Donnell,” Trump quipped). After the show, Fox had Republican pollster Frank Luntz organize a focus group that universally panned Trump’s performance. “A total setup,” one of Trump’s aides complained on Twitter.

Trump didn’t seem to care. Hell, he didn’t even prepare for the debate. “Trump doesn’t rehearse,” an aide told reporters. All he did was show up and do what he always does: hog everything in sight, including airtime. As hard as Fox tried to knock him out, the network couldn’t take its eyes off him. He ended up with almost two full minutes more airtime than the other “contestants,” as he hilariously called them on the Today show the morning after the debate. It’s the scorpion nature of television, come back to haunt the “reality-makers” at Fox: The cameras can’t resist a good show.

Politics used to be a simple, predictable con. Every four years, the money men in D.C. teamed up with party hacks to throw their weight behind whatever half-bright fraud of a candidate proved most adept at snowing the population into buying a warmed-over version of the same crappy policies they’ve always bought.

Pundits always complained that there wasn’t enough talk about issues during these races, but in reality, issues were still everything. Behind the scenes, where donors gave millions for concrete favors, there was always still plenty of policy. And skilled political pitchmen like Christie, who could deftly deliver on those back-room promises to crush labor and hand out transportation contracts or whatever while still acting like a man of the people, were highly valued commodities.

Not anymore. Trump has blown up even the backroom version of the issues-driven campaign. There are no secret donors that we know of. Trump himself appears to be the largest financial backer of the Trump campaign. A financial report disclosed that Trump lent his own campaign $1.8 million while raising just $100,000.

There’s no hidden platform behind the shallow facade. With Trump, the facade is the whole deal. If old-school policy hucksters like Christie can’t find a way to beat a media master like Trump at the ratings game, they will soon die out.

In a perverse way, Trump has restored a more pure democracy to this process. He’s taken the Beltway thinkfluencers out of the game and turned the presidency into a pure high-school-style popularity contest conducted entirely in the media. Everything we do is a consumer choice now, from picking our shoes to an online streaming platform to a presidential nominee.

The irony, of course, is that when America finally wrested control of the political process from the backroom oligarchs, the very first place where we spent our newfound freedom and power was on the campaign of the world’s most unapologetic asshole. It may not seem funny now, because it’s happening to us, but centuries from this moment, people will laugh in wonder.

America is ceasing to be a nation, and turning into a giant television show. And this Republican race is our first and most brutal casting call.

From The Archives Issue 1242: August 27, 2015
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MOST ABORTIONS ARE SPONTANEOUS….NEIL deGRASSE TYSON

Filed under: prairie musings, print news — Peg Britton @ 2:53 pm

“Most abortions are spontaneous and they happen naturally within the human body. Most women who have such an abortion never even know it because it happens in the first month. It’s very, very common. So in fact the biggest abortionist, if in fact god is responsible for what goes on in your body, is the, god.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

David Aeolus Smith with Jason Lightyear and 43 others
I saw an anti-abortion billboard this morning that said abortion is wrong because life begins at conception. It reminded me of this meme and I decided to provide some statistics to make the case that, if you believe this is true and that the Christian god is responsible for all life, your chosen deity is responsible for billions of natural abortions.

Estimates have placed the amount of humans who have ever lived around 100 billion. Anywhere between 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. In fact, approximately 30-40% of all fertilized eggs miscarry, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. With just some simple math we can see that billions have been naturally aborted throughout human history. That’s being generous too, since our ancestors did not have access to modern medicine and had to deal with harsh conditions like diseases, infections, and malnutrition.

It gets better though! Let’s take a look at a few scriptures from the good book concerning “abortion.”

In Hosea 9:11-16, Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Terminating a pregnancy unnaturally is abortion, right?

In Numbers 5:11-21, there is a description of a bizarre, brutal, and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife suspected of adultery. “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.” Basically, if a husband suspects his wife of adultery, he should take her to the priest and have her drink a “bitter water.” The priest will cast a curse, that she will miscarry the child if she has been unfaithful, in the name of Yahweh. Inducing a miscarriage is abortion, right?

In Numbers 31:17, Moses gives the command, “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words, women that are with-child should be killed. Killing the mother of an unborn child is abortion, right?

In 2 Kings 15:16, God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”. The verse states, “At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” Something tells me that ripping open the bellies of pregnant women might just be categorized as abortion.

I have intentionally decided to not mention the passages on infanticide, the murdering of children, and the vast number of other examples of Yahweh not being as “pro-life” as Christians claim. Read your Bible.

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8/18/2015

WHY THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES ARE ATTACKING SOCIAL SECURITY BY PAUL KRUGMAN

Filed under: prairie musings, print news, GOP — Peg Britton @ 3:21 pm

MON AUG 17, 2015 AT 10:37 AM PDT
Krugman: Why All The Republican Candidates Are Attacking Social Security
byDartagnan

Historically speaking, politicians who have attacked Social Security (oft-described as the “Third Rail” in American politics) have not fared well with the American people. The program, originally designed to provide supplemental retirement security for all Americans, is actually a critical financial lifeline for millions. Many elderly people would either be pushed into squalid, poorly equipped nursing homes, forced to live with their children (assuming they have them) or cast out into the streets without the modest monthly income most paid taxes for all their lives to support and ensure. When George W. Bush began to push to “privatize” Social Security into accounts dependent on the stock market, his efforts were quickly squelched by Democrats and even some Republicans who responded to the public’s overwhelming disapproval of such measures. In retrospect this probably saved millions of older Americans from becoming destitute when the Bush economy crashed in 2007-2008, wiping out billions in stock values.

It seems, however, that the near-universal popularity of Social Security has failed to make much of an impression on nearly all of the current Republican candidates for President, who have publicly announced their intent to impose cuts in benefits, privatization, or other drastic reductions to a program that is neither “insolvent” nor in any financial peril: Thus, Jeb Bush says that the retirement age should be pushed back to “68 or 70”. Scott Walker has echoed that position. Marco Rubio wants both to raise the retirement age and to cut benefits for higher-income seniors. Rand Paul wants to raise the retirement age to 70 and means-test benefits. Ted Cruz wants to revive the Bush privatization plan.

Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, writing for the New York Times, thinks he knows why the new and prevailing Republican line is so completely contrary to what the vast majority of Americans want–it’s the simple fact that these GOP candidates do not represent the vast majority of Americans. In fact, they only represent a tiny, miniscule sliver of Americans, barely enough to fit into a skybox at a professional football game. That is the entirety of the American electorate to whom these candidates are beholden to. And that tiny group wants to get rid of Social Security: The answer, I’d suggest, is that it’s all about the big money. Wealthy individuals have long played a disproportionate role in politics, but we’ve never seen anything like what’s happening now: domination of campaign finance, especially on the Republican side, by a tiny group of immensely wealthy donors. Indeed, more than half the funds raised by Republican candidates through June came from just 130 families.

And while most Americans love Social Security, the wealthy don’t. Two years ago a pioneering study of the policy preferences of the very wealthy found many contrasts with the views of the general public; as you might expect, the rich are politically different from you and me. But nowhere are they as different as they are on the matter of Social Security. By a very wide margin, ordinary Americans want to see Social Security expanded. But by an even wider margin, Americans in the top 1 percent want to see it cut.

The study Dr. Krugman refers to was conducted by Northwestern University and is titled Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans. As far as academic studies go it’s fascinating stuff, a one-of-a kind window into the mind of the one percent highest wage earners in the country. One of the marked findings of the study was how active wealthy Americans are–vastly more active compared to the rest of the population. And these folks think they know what’s best for the rest of us, particularly with regard to Social Security: We have seen that our wealthy respondents—in sharp contrast to the general public—tilted toward cutting rather than expanding Social Security.The SESA survey did not explore precisely how such cuts would be made. But the proposals for doing so that have been put forward by various experts, politicians, and deficit-reduction commissions—raising the retirement age at which benefits can be received, slowing cost-of-living adjustments, and the like—mostly appear to be opposed by majorities of the general public.

But in reality the 130 or so families who are now effectively in charge of the Republican Party are not even the “1%”. They are a much tinier sliver, and it is they who are entirely calling the shots for these candidates. As the study notes, these people are far more conservative, overall, than even the top 1%:
Variation within this wealthy group suggests that the top one-tenth of 1 percent of wealthholders (people with $40 million or more in net worth) may tend to hold still more conservative views that are even more distinct from those of the general public.

As a result, the Republican candidates, beholden to these ultra-conservative Billionaire donors, must mold their policy positions to accommodate their desires. And this is how and why the Republican Party functions–not as a vehicle for the needs of their actual constituents–the folks who keep marching into the voting booth and pulling the “R” lever because they’ve been brainwashed by the NRA gun-industry lobby into believing Obama will take their guns away– but as a means for their donors to ultimately privatize–and profit off of–the vast amounts of money that go into the Social Security system through our payroll taxes. This despite the fact that 80% of Americans oppose raising the retirement age, which most see as a prelude to more and more cuts. It doesn’t matter to them, for example, that lifting the payroll cap of $118,500 would resolve Social Security’s funding issues in an instant. The fact is that the abolition or privatization of Social Security has been a longterm goal for decades by those who now control the Republican Party: In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party called for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party is that “entitlement reform” is absolutely necessary.

It’s important to recognize that the desire to transform or eliminate Social Security at the behest of these Billionaires is not limited to these particular candidates. The Republican Congress and Senate are just as much under the control of the Kochs and their ilk. As a result a Republican in the White House would encounter little if any resistance to implementing these cuts from the very institution that would vote them into existence. Krugman concludes by describing the implications this has for the rest of us: What this means, in turn, is that the eventual Republican nominee … will be committed not just to a renewed attack on Social Security but to a broader plutocratic agenda. Whatever the rhetoric, the GOP is on track to nominate someone who has won over the big money by promising government by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent.

8/15/2015

A REMINDER TO THOSE WHO LIKE TO ISOLATE A QUOTE FROM THE BIBLE TO MAKE A POINT…FROM JAMES M. KAUFFMAN…

Filed under: prairie musings, print news, religion — Peg Britton @ 2:46 pm

It’s the middle of the night so I’ll shamelessly poach something I found at Naked Capitalism, it’s amusing.

Time for a change of pace. This came via e-mail from Marshall Auerback:

In her radio show, Dr. Laura Schlesinger (a popular conservative radio talk show host in the USA) said that homosexuality is an abomination according to the Bible Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, and was attributed to a James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual unseemliness – Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.
Professor Emeritus Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia

7/29/2015

PLURALISTIC INSTITUTIONS ARE FADING FROM OUR CULTURAL LANDSCAPE BY JIM EIGHMY

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 7:10 pm

Pluralism. Ruminations. Very long. Skip if you aren’t bored. Synopsis: we need to quit undermining important pluralistic social institutions or go found our own country.

I have been wondering how to frame what has been bothering me about the current fracturing of American institutions. I have not had the luxury to think about anything much lately, but recent events have made it urgent. I have been wondering about and carefully considering the positions of people I know, some of who condemn the public schools on principle, some who decide to fracture their religious communities, and more recently individuals who think the only solution to what they consider a deep moral crisis is to start a competing “christian oriented” alternative to century old youth organizations.

All this fracturing is part of the natural human processes of establishing community and identity. Social Scientists know all about this stuff. Yet what bothers me is exactly that fact: we DO know all about this pattern and still we do not pull ourselves up short when it is clearly detrimental to our own future. All of us have been given enough background to avoid this trap. It has been a favorite topic of ancient and modern philosophy. It is one of the central subjects of social studies and U.S. history in schools. Still everyone just runs off the cliff when they suddenly find their own pants are on fire.
So here is the cliff notes version: political exclusivism arises from religious and social exclusivisim, and political exclusivism is the mortal enemy of democracy,

Now, unless all my talented grade school, high school, and college teachers as well as the writers of the Federalist Papers were very much off base, the founding idea of the American experiment was pluralism. Pluralism is not assimilation, or individualism, and it is certainly not exclusivism. It assumes functioning social institutions can be built and maintained despite diversity in culture and religion. What is crucial to it’s success….OUR success..is the public support of cultural institutions which are decidedly and consciously pluralistic, institutions which serve as bridges and mediators between diverse groups. Without those institutions, both social and political, the American experiment is without foundation. There is no “plan B” as far as I can tell.

It took me a while to identify the source of my current sour outlook and malaise, but I think it is rooted in my perception of the abandonment rather than reform of pluralistic institutions in our society. Mainline denominational churches have long formed pluralistic functions (try to find two Episcopalians, Presbyterians, or Lutherans for example who actually agree on anything, or Catholics either for that matter) by being tolerant of wide ranges of theology and promoting ecumenical relations. Today these institutions are in decline and only the more theologically “conservative” and exclusivist groups are holding their own. Current polls show that most Americans are trending towards “a church of one”, agnostic, or atheist so that the moderating and communal functions of religious structures are fading, especially among evangelicals. Our public schools are a primary pluralistic institution which are also in decline and in desperate need of reform, support, and care. Our conversations are increasingly centered on promoting charter, private, and home schooling (not questioning the solution, just the symptom). Of course, fraternal service institutions like the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis, The Masons, Eastern Star, the Elks, Oddfellows, the VFW/American Legion, all these served pluralistic goals.
The number of these organizations has fallen precipitously over the last 50 years as have their memberships. Because all these institutions once performed important functions their eclipse has left gaps in our social networks, gaps which we have tried to fill through public governance, a process which has not gone unopposed. Even the military, which was once built upon conscription and served to help integrate society, has become in many ways a small and culturally isolated social institution.

Pluralistic institutions are fading from our cultural landscape.

Which brings me finally, of course, to the topic of the day: Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. The GSA seems to have successfully negotiated the retention of their pluralist structure, and whatever failings the GSA has in its program (another rant) it has managed to preserve it’s social function. I have yet to hear a Brownie be berated for their organizations discriminatory or liberal membership policies. They can sell as many boxes of bad cookies as they can make. Ponder that.

What is it about the membership of the BSA which is different? That seems to be a much more complicated sociological question. To answer it you would have to look at the traditional role of male leaders in our dominant culture and especially in dominant religious congregations, then furthermore at the increasingly integrated relationship between those religious institutions and the BSA. This has been a radically different pattern than seen within the GSA. The LDS church, for example, has long operated an essentially parallel but exclusive and fundamentally different variant of Scouting in their programs.
The early promoters in the LDS church took advantage of and supported the framework of the National organization as it grew while holding the central pluralistic mission of the BSA at arms length. This is the extreme example, but to a certain extent the growing dominance of Church denominations at the National Council table has infused the organization an increasingly conservative Christian (yes the LDS considers themselves Christian) positions. This process is well and convincingly documented in many sources, so this is certainly no original claim of mine.

What can be said is that the 2013 exodus of individuals away from the BSA to found “alternative” and exclusive Christian-based organizations (e,g, Trail Life USA) is a reflection of how conflicted Americans have become about the interaction of civil and religious institutions within our society. This pattern is not at all about Boy Scouts per se but the BSA is a good microcosm of the issue. For that reason recent events in the BSA should be a topic for wider public discussion and analysis IMHO.

Now I can say from personal experience that the fracturing of established charitable institutions is almost always detrimental to the members in the short term and usually in the long term. Loss of membership, duplication of effort, diffusion of economic support. Economies of scale apply here. We should be able to avoid this cycle in the arena of religion and society. Why? Because we have been there and done that. The old trope is true; most of our European ancestors came to this country to escape the horrors of religious wars and state sponsored churches. Certainly all of mine did, and some of them were involved in the founding of this country. The entire point of the experiment of 1776 was to escape the seemingly eternal hell produced by the toxic combination of pious tyrants and zealot citizens imposing their singular vision of social morality on their neighbors. The enlightenment was an intellectual rejection of that model of society. It is such a deeply black irony that the upholding of “American Values” can now be claimed to justify the dismemberment of fundamentally pluralistic institutions given our nation’s history. Franklin is probably spitting up pebbles.

Pluralism and democracy requires an active engagement with people who have radically different views on some issues but share common values in others. The differences are given, commonality is what is constructed. The forging of the cannon of common values is the process of building a civil society, they are not “handed up” from somewhere (Jefferson recommended a complete constitutional overhaul every few years to effect this change). Building pluralistic institutions requires compromise, sometimes deep painful compromise, not instance on conformity or exclusion. From that emerges the acknowledgement of common moral standings on the most important issues of human rights, the acceptance of other views on less important issues, and the critical ability to tell the difference.

More than anything else, pluralism depends on the rock-solid and thoughtful commitment to the existence and maintenance of pluralistic institutions as necessary to the preservation of our society. Without that unwavering principle the game is up. So maybe it is worth repeating each to ourselves what we already know: the most important active principle of citizenship in a democracy is not abandonment of personal beliefs but an affirmation of our commitment to our common community and the support of its democratic institutions. Walking away is not an option.

Done. Thanks.

Jim

6/13/2015

BURDETT LOOMIS: LEGISLATURE, BROWNBACK HAVE FAILED THE STATE OF KANSAS

Filed under: political musings, print news, Sam Brownback, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 1:53 pm

Burdett Loomis: Legislature, Brownback have failed the state

BY BURDETT LOOMIS

The Kansas House of Representatives, and by extension the Legislature, and by further extension the GOP-controlled government of Kansas, imploded Wednesday.

After the Kansas Senate cobbled together (and I mean no disrespect to shoemakers) a mean-spirited tax bill to (barely) fill the state’s coffers, the House initially voted down that bill, 44-73, before heading into a death spiral in which support eroded as House leaders kept the vote open – first for two hours, then until Thursday morning, when it finally perished by a 20-95 vote.

In other words, the GOP leadership somehow thought it could arm-twist 20 votes or so to eke out a win on a speculative, regressive tax bill.

In a career as a legislative scholar, I’ve seen a host of tricks, but this may take the cake – all in a useless, losing cause. Seriously, what is the matter with these folks?

The Kansas GOP controls the House 97-28. Yet its leadership could not muster one-half of its overwhelming majority to support a bill that might have balanced the budget for the coming year. The best metaphor that the speaker of the House could come up with was: “This is the last train out of here.” Please. It was both hackneyed and untrue.

After 111 days in session, the House could only manage about half an hour of semi-serious debate. To put it as kindly as possible (as the metaphors keep popping up), the Republican leadership, along with Gov. Sam Brownback, went down in flames. Who, exactly, brings up a bill when it’s going to get a maximum of 44 votes, 19 shy of passage?

The Senate, to its relative credit, at least had 21 votes to pass a patched-together tax bill that its leaders knew would probably not win approval in the House. But, hey, they got to 21.

For much of this session, Topeka lawmakers – and I use that term loosely – have been in some state of altered reality when it’s come to the budget and taxes. On Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, they descended into “Lord of the Flies” territory.

No matter what happens in the remaining days of this session (I can’t believe I just wrote that), we need to be clear: This is what it looks like when a political institution fails.

Make that two institutions, given that the governor bears his full share of the responsibility, as he has backed unrealistic tax policies way past the point of seeing them flounder. Then, remarkably, he drew a line in the sand, saying he would veto any bill that reimposed any taxes on 338,000 Kansas pass-through entities.

Well, the Legislature and the governor will pull themselves together, so to speak. They’ll build some kind of budget, probably doing further harm to the citizens of the state. But make no mistake, on Wednesday evening the Kansas state government failed, big time.

More than 40 years ago, the Legislature won an award as the “most improved” body in the nation. My late friend and academic colleague Alan Rosenthal worked with the Legislature then, as it moved into the late-20th century. From Bob Bennett and Pete McGill and Pete Loux to hundreds of other serious-minded, responsible lawmakers, the Legislature continued to function in the messy but effective way that characterizes such bodies.

No more. On Wednesday night, the Legislature jumped the shark. One more metaphor for failure, and they just keep coming.

Burdett Loomis is a professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

5/18/2015

DEAN POTTER AND GRAHAM HUNT DIE IN BASE JUMPING ACCIDENT AT YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK…

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 11:27 am

Dean Potter and Graham Hunt die in BASE jumping accident at Yosemite National Park
05/18/15 07:33 AM
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By Richie Duchon and Henry Austin
Renowned extreme athlete Dean Potter and another man have died in a BASE jumping accident in Yosemite National Park, an official said Sunday.

Yosemite Chief of Staff Mike Gauthier said Potter, 43, and Graham Hunt died Saturday night after attempting a wingsuit flight from Taft Point. The men were attempting to fly through a gap between two notches but smashed into a rocky outcropping, he said.

BASE jumping is illegal in the California national park.

“Dean is forever in the pantheon of climbing legends in Yosemite Valley and he always will be,” Gauthier said, adding that Hunt was on course to join Potter as a climbing luminary. “Yosemite is full of legends, and there will be more, but for the climbing and adventure sport community these two names stood as pillars.”

The two men were photographed by their friend and spotter, who reported hearing two distinct pops as the two men crashed the cliffs. After trying desperately to make contact with Potter and Graham, she later sought help.

A search-and-rescue mission began overnight Saturday, and a helicopter crew spotted their bodies early Sunday in Yosemite Valley. No parachutes had been deployed.

“We are really grieving right now,” Yosemite Climbing Association President Ken Yager said. “Climbers of all generations really respected Potter, and we’re all very sad.”

Potter held the record for the longest wingsuit flight, covering nearly four miles of ground in 2 minutes, 50 seconds, after jumping from the Eiger in Switzerland.

He was also renowned for his bold, speedy and sometimes rogue climbs and he was the first to scale Yosemite’s three most famous big walls in a single day.

Earlier this month, Potter set the record for the fastest ascent of Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s iconic monoliths, completing it through a combination of trail running and free-soloing, or climbing without a rope.

He also completed solo ascents and tightrope walks across some of the world’s most famous rocks, and he recently appeared in a film BASE jumping with his dog.

“Everybody kind of fantasizes about flying and it’s an amazing place in history right now that man actually has the ability to pull it off,” Potter once said in a video released by Sender Films.

This story originally appeared on NBC News

5/16/2015

LETTER TO THE EDITOR…

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, print news, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 3:38 pm

You Americans Have No Idea Just How Good You Have It With Obama
Many of us Canadians are confused by the U.S. midterm elections. Consider, right now in America, corporate profits are at record highs, the country’s adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is below 6%, U.S. gross national product growth is the best of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there’s no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, the deficit is rapidly declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money.

America is leading the world once again and respected internationally — in sharp contrast to the Bush years. Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden.

So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason.

When you are done with Obama, could you send him our way?

Richard Brunt

Victoria, British Columbia

5/4/2015

40 THOUSAND PATHWAYS TO THE AMERICAN DREAM: (KANSAS SCHOOL FUNDING) BY AARON ESTABROOK

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, Sam Brownback, Kansas — Peg Britton @ 9:34 am

40 Thousand Pathways to the American Dream: (Kansas School Funding)

When it was ratified, the Kansas Constitution acknowledged the responsibility of the state to provide a uniform system of common schools and schools of higher grades for its people. Even before Kansas was officially a state, pioneers settling in harsh conditions pooled their limited resources to build our iconic one-room schoolhouses and hired a teacher. They knew then what we know now. Public Education is the foundation of civilization. As the needs of America expanded so too did the requirements and expectations of our public schools.

Earlier this year, I joined Kansans from across the state and marched more than 60 miles to our state capitol to raise awareness of the political assault on our public schools.  Upon arriving, I sat in the statehouse and said to those gathered that we are fighting a war that we did not start, but it is a fundamental right that we aim to protect for generations to come.

In 2012, Kansas lawmakers at the behest of Gov. Brownback set the stage for the assault on public education by implementing a tax structure that is unsustainable. He called it an experiment. The structure made it possible for the top earners to pay no income tax while middle and low income Kansans pay into the pool while receiving less services. State revenues have steeply declined and public education has been on the chopping block like never before.  Much of this economic mismanagement is defended by thick ideological rhetoric, while facts and reality are dismissed. Real leadership would require introspection and figurative heads to roll for the self-inflicted crisis we now find ourselves in.

Over 40,000 Kansas children will enter kindergarten in August. My daughter is one of them. On a recent trip to a local hardware store she joined me with a few dollars she had earned doing chores around our home. To my amazement, she wanted to buy a small ladder. Her rationale was that she could do more chores and earn more if she could reach higher. Today, in Kansas our state government has created a system of taxation that allows for those who have climbed the economic ladder to pull it up from behind and relish in their treasure.

Each rung on the ladder to the American Dream is laden in education and knowledge. Every dollar we invest now in early education gives children a better chance and saves taxpayers eight dollars later on. It simultaneously opens the door to more employment and higher incomes for working parents today.  The evidence is undeniable that investment in education and expansion of early education is key to fulfilling the tacit goal of America, to ensure that our children can have a better life than we did.

A year ago, Gov. Brownback toured the state and repeatedly said he would fully fund all-day kindergarten. Ever since the “K” was placed in K-12 Public Schools, it has been funded at a half time rate. Nearly all Kansas schools teach kindergarten all day, requiring local school districts to pick up the tab on the other half. Gov. Brownback reneged on his promise.

Last summer, school districts across the state put together an application to apply for “Pre-School Development” grants from the U.S. Dept. of Education. America was about to invest hundreds of millions in pre-school or pre-K programs, and Kansas educators wanted to be ready. Then last fall, Gov. Brownback refused to sign the application, the final step in the process. $226 million was awarded to other states in December and Kansas would have been poised to receive between $15-20 million for pre-school development, but one man stood in the way of more than 40,000 four year olds receiving that opportunity.  Pre K-12 should be the standard for Kansas, for the last 16 years every child in Oklahoma has been guaranteed a pre-school education.

To this day we have no clear answer why Gov. Brownback refused to sign the application to compete for those funds with the rest of America. No economic logic makes sense, so we must conclude that it was an ideological decision. Soon our Supreme Court will rule on the adequacy and equity of our public schools. Evidence points to underfunding, complicated by the extreme ideological decisions by lawmakers who want to pull that economic ladder up from behind them.  I personally have witnessed the impact of extreme ideology as a soldier in Afghanistan. My generation has fought two wars and toppled two governments that were built on extreme ideology. Coming back to Kansas from those wars I never expected to be in the midst of another battle being instigated by extreme ideologues in Topeka. One thing is certain; this generation will not tolerate it. We have sacrificed too much and those extremists in Topeka need to understand that what they have done is simply wake a sleeping giant in form of parents, educators, and moderates all across our state.

Aaron Estabrook
Board of Education
USD 383 Manhattan-Ogden

4/25/2015

ANOTHER LOOK INTO THE TEA PARTY HELLHOLE KNOWN AS KANSAS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Sam Brownback, Kansas, GOP — Peg Britton @ 8:29 am

Another Look Into the Tea Party Hellhole Known as Kansas
— April 22, 2015

From Ring of Fire
Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has pretty much ruined the entire state of Kansas. Brownback has signed numerous bills he says will help the economy, but they actually help the wealthy and hurt the poor.

The Washington Post reported that Kansas will have a $143 million budget shortfall in 2016 and that “the proposals that look most likely to succeed are sales and excise taxes that would be paid disproportionately by Kansas’s poor and working class.”

The Kansas state tax code shifts the heavy tax burden unfairly onto the working poor. The bottom 20 percent of income earners pay 11.1 percent of their income in local, state, and sales taxes. Comparatively, the top one percent of earners in Kansas only pay 3.6 percent of its income.

Essentially, Kansas lawmakers want to raise taxes for those who are least able to afford a tax increase. Groceries are not tax-free in Kansas and Kansans can receive tax rebates on purchases. However, “those who make nothing or too little to owe income tax aren’t eligible.”

Brownback is the enemy of the poor and middle-class. VICE reported that Brownback signed a law that bans Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients from withdrawing more than $25 from an ATM at one time. The law is part of Brownback’s effort to make sure that welfare recipients get as little out of their aid as possible.

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Brownback has added to the burden that the poorest Kansans already carry,” said Kansas Action for Children president Shannon Cotsoradis. “It’s always been hard to be poor in Kansas. Now, it’s going to be a lot harder.”

Brownback is responsible for the largest tax cuts in Kansas history, all of them favoring the wealthy. He called it a “real live experiment.” However, his actions dropped the state’s Standard and Poor credit score.

As per the usual Republican agenda, Brownback’s economic plan isn’t to help the majority. He only seeks to give the rich more money, and he’s damaging the state’s economy in the process.

4/7/2015

SALINA JOURNAL MUST READ…THANK YOU, GOVERNOR, FOR YOUR CONCERN FOR THE CITIZENS OF KANSAS. NOT.

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings — Peg Britton @ 5:04 pm

It’s baffling why Kansans continue to vote against their own self-interest.

Case in point: We keep electing politicians who promise to stand up to President Barack Obama and Obamacare. Sticking it to the man, death panels and all of  that, right? Actually, we’re sticking it to ourselves.

Kansas hospitals and others have been warning us since our state first refused to join the Affordable Care Act that by not doing so and expanding Medicaid, Kansas hospitals would lose out on millions of  dollars in reimbursements. This is on top of  the millions in Medicare and other reimbursements that those hospitals lost because of  cuts under the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Kansas Hospital Association, rejecting Medicaid expansion thus far has cost Kansas an estimated $475 million. And, according to a story by the Kansas Health Institute, the state’s rejection of  Medicaid expansion is the main factor that might force some hospitals to close.

The two hospitals mentioned in a recent KHI story, Mercy Hospital, Independence and Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, are looking to stay alive, for now, by partnering with neighboring hospitals.

The Independence hospital is facing cuts of  nearly $570,000 in Medicare reimbursements and federal money designed to partially cover the costs of  treating uninsured patients. However, if  Kansas were to expand Medicaid, it would generate an estimated $1.6 million yearly for the hospital.

Hospitals, especially low-volume facilities in the 21 states that didn’t expand Medicaid, are hurting. Since 2010, 48 rural hospitals have closed and more than 280 are listed as “in trouble,” according to the National Rural Health Association.

In all but the very small towns, there are two things that are seen as essential. The first is a school, and the second is access to health care. Without those, towns go away.

The question is, how will those who pledge allegiance to conservative politicians and radio and TV talk show hosts react when it’s their hospital that closes? The attacks against Obamacare will slow when more rural Kansans have to pay more in taxes to support their local hospital, or when their town loses the good jobs and tax revenue a hospital provides.

Sticking it to the man? No, we’re sticking it to ourselves.

From The Salina Journal, April 7, 2015

LOSING MY RELIGION FOR EQUALITY….

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, print news, religion — Peg Britton @ 6:32 am

Losing my religion for equality

The Age
July 15, 2009

By Jimmy Carter

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphacize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as preeminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

4/5/2015

ORSCHELN FARM AND HOME TO OPEN STORE IN ELLSWORTH…

Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 9:21 am

New Store Openings or Existing Store Relocations

Orscheln Farm & Home is proud to announce the opening of a new store in Ellsworth, KS - spring, 2015.
To prepare for the success of the new store, we are accepting online applications for the following positions:

Store Manager
Assistant Managers
Department Heads
Sales Associates
Cashiers

Full-time and part-time positions available with flexible schedules and competitive wages.  Full-time associates are eligible for a comprehensive benefit package.

4/4/2015

SPRINGTIME IN THE PALACE…AND ASSORTED DIVERSIONS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 1:55 pm

Spring has attached itself to me and I’m loving it.  It’s not that there is any measurable difference among the four seasons within the walls of the Palace, thanks to hands- on temperature controls,  but now that spring is here and the  sun  shines gloriously through large, all-encompassing windows  revealing the awesomeness of the world beyond, it is wondrous to behold.  It puts a spring in my ‘springless’ legs, fresh air in my tired lungs, and contentment in my heart.

That’s it.  I’m content here. Comfortable and content. I don’t know how I could make my life better.  And, I am in full control of it, for the time being.

The serendipitous events that resulted from moving here nearly  two and a half years ago are the rewards I’ve reaped in my continuing effort to reinvent myself.   Along the way, I find I’m discovering wonderful new things to explore and interesting people with whom to exchange ideas on a regular basis.  It’s been a journey that has evolved out of my lifelong nagging curiosity about almost everything.  It’s part of my genetic makeup and not one generally shared by others who find it aggravating, I’m sure.  Many are too fearful living the routine of life itself to be curious and adventuresome  enough to discover the hidden treasures around them.  I think they spend so much time concerning themselves about the hereafter that they fail to enjoy the rewards that  each day offers.  That’s where openly secular people have a definite advantage over religious folk.

Speaking of rewards…the other evening I went to the lobby to mail my absentee ballot and I heard beautiful piano music emanating from the Ivory Keys Cafe.  I knew it had to be my neighbor across the hall, Dorothy Carmichael as she’s the only one living here who plays that well.  So, the music called and I followed its charm to the nearest chair next to the piano where I remained until she stopped playing over an hour later. Then we came to my apartment where we listened and watched YouTube concerts of some famous pianists playing Beethoven and Ravel Concertos for another two hours.

Dorothy’s specialty is religious music and I rarely hear her playing anything else.  She has some beautiful arrangements that I really enjoy.  Music is her passion and her husband was a Lutheran minister.  And, I like religious music…I just don’t want to have to go to church to hear it.  So, as an example, I have access to almost every requiem ever written on my computer, and 50 or 60 different arrangements of Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (which isn’t even one of my favorites), dozens and dozens of Gregorian Chants and all kinds of other liturgical music.  For, not holding any religious beliefs, I clearly enjoy the music that has sprung from various religions.  Likewise, I’d fail miserably if asked what the lyrics were to any hymn.  I’m not interested…in fact they are just an unpleasant distraction for me.

Religious beliefs should be closely held, I think.  I think Jesus said so too. People here love to  talk about church, going to church, thinking about church, who was in church, what was said at church, what music they sang at church, when the next service is, and so on.  I don’t have a problem with that but   I have do have difficulty keeping my eyes from rolling backward when I’m hear what some people actually believe to be true.  It’s as if Newton and Galileo never existed not to mention half the members of the National Academy of Sciences, the brightest people in the world.  It’s okay to believe whatever you want but it just bears out the stupidity factor when one doesn’t pay attention to lessons in science.  It also  explains the cognitive dissonance they express and the stress they feel because of it.  It’s a simple fact: some folk encase themselves in superstitions and fairy tales for so long that they are afraid to find out they may have been mistaken so they surround themselves with like-minding individuals.  They are truly afraid…of everything.

On another topic:    I love it that Obama is going to Kenya because it will reignite the crazy  “birthers” and radical right wing conservatives like spontaneous combustion.   It’s so ridiculous (think borderline insanity)  to believe Obama was born anywhere other than Hawaii.  His mother was born in Wichita and I’m not sure she ever left the US. I am positive Barack  Obama was born in Hawaii. I have a photocopy of his live birth certificate.  That’s aside from two different newspapers published in 1961 both announcing  his birth on Aug. 4th long before anyone thought he might be the future POTUS.  I guess one has to remember there is a need, after all, to fabricate conspiracy theories for the Fox Entertainment Channel.

So, I digressed.

Thanks for tuning in…

3/20/2015

I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO THINK…MY BLOG: There are currently 7,956 posts and 2,758 comments, contained within 108 categories.

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 11:25 am

3/19/2015

OUR RIDE ON THE GOODYEAR BLIMP…BY JOYCE GOSNELL

Filed under: prairie musings, friends, About Peg — Peg Britton @ 9:15 am

The ride on the Goodyear Blimp and  the day spent on the USS Topeka, a LA Class Nuclear Submarine, with my friend, Joyce Gosnell, were two of my most memorable travel adventures in my life.  Here is her account of our Blimp trip.

us-america-goodyear-blimp.jpg

The controls of the Goodyear Blimp

By air - the Goodyear Blimp by Joyce Newcomer Gosnell

On Monday, January 6th, 1992, John and Jim took Joyce out to dinner, for her birthday.  We went to the Japanese restaurant at the Overland Park Marriott, and were seated with a family of four, and a single man, all of us ready for the flashy show of Japanese cooking with twirling knives.  J & J handed me a BlimpBucks certificate, see attached, and so, being totally without inhibitions, I asked for everyone’s attention, stood up and sang the demanded tune.  The two children in attendance, 13 and 8 years old were agog, the father was a bore, the mother was mildly amused and the single gentleman was tickled.  I did have the grace to explain this seemingly peculiar behavior, and we got to chatting, while the chef tossed rice balls all around us, demanding the return of same even after they’d landed on the floor, and eventually hitting our mouths (along with our hair, clothes, etc.)

peg-and-joyce.jpg

We enjoyed the outing, and my BlimpBucks were more-than-generous, covering my airfare as well as my meals.

I’m 62 years old today, and have achieved a dream I’ve been cherishing since March, 1978Calmost 14 years ago.

Tuesday afternoon, Peg Britton and I flew to Houston, bunked at the Intercontinental Airport Sheraton, where we’d secured connecting rooms, for the simple reason that Peg could enter, perhaps win, a snoring contest with Betty B.  We had a nice dinner in the hotel and bedded down.  So far, this is pretty boring stuff, although we brightened things somewhat with matching Groucho Marx glasses (fortunately Peg has no shame either!)  And Peg’s gift of a day-glo red condom was source for much speculation by both of us.  (Need I add that said object is yet to be used?  But it’s nice to know that one has such a thing available at all times.  Who knows, huh?)

The national weather forecast for the Houston area called for rain, fog, and more rain for the next several days, but I leaped from my bed at 5:30 AM on Wednesday the 8th to determine for myself that it was, for a certainty, pouring down rain.  Why, you might well ask, did I give a damn about the weather?  Well, I answer, because Peg and I were scheduled to ride the Goodyear blimp America at noon, the big catch being the two words, Aweather permitting.@  At 6 the rain had stopped, at 7 it began, at 7:30CCwell, you get the idea.

We called the Blimp Airfield at Spring (pronounced locally as Sprang), Texas, and spoke with my by-now-old-pal Eddie Ogden, the Blimp Coordinator.  He seemed glum regarding the weather, mumbling something about a Pacific front that was stalled.  I point out to Eddie that rain is just water, and he points out that when you spread water over an item that’s 192 feet long and fat, there’s just too much weight.  Peg and I secured our Ford Escort rental car, barely averted getting strangled by those damnable automatic shoulder harnesses, and headed north for Sprang, with Peg reading the map and me driving.  With a minimum of miscues, we found both Sprang and the Goodyear airfield, the latter being not too difficult since there’s precious little in Sprang of any account other than the Blimp.

blimp-trip.jpg

Eddie was not encouraging, and said thanks for the rum bread I’d brought him, but allowed as how even a rum-bread-bribe would not affect the weather.  Peg acted truly pitiful, mentioning casually the fourteen years I’d been writing Goodyear, the fact that we’d come 1,000 miles (a stretch of the truth by probably 300 miles give or take,) the cost of our journey (no stretch needed here,) and she seemed to me to imply that this jaunt was our last fling in lives soon to be snuffed by some unnamed and mysterious malady.  A model of public relations skill, Eddie just suggested we first go to the hanger and study the America, asking questions of the crew there, and then find Sprang Oldtown, and browse through the scads of touristy shops, and call him every hour.  Dutifully we did both, but being with the blimp just whetted our appetites to see her in the air, with us in the gondola.

Again with a minimum of miscues, mostly my fault because without the sun I’ve no sense of direction whatever, we found Sprang Oldtown.  We were further depressed not only by the rain, but by comments from fogies young and old who felt certain we’d never get a blimp ride today.  One snippet of a clerk in a Quik-Trip told Peg definitively that we’d never get a ride unless we Aknew someone.@  Heck, I know lots of people, so her opinion didn’t seem valid to me.

We wandered in and out of rain showers, rain puddles, and the truly-ghastly little shops in Sprang.  The selection varied from T-shirts to candles, but all the shops vied to have the sweetest, nastiest odor of potpourri.  I felt like I’d been swirled about in a toilet housing one of those pink thingies that reek.

We call Eddie.  No go.

We ate lunch, not bad, in an about-too-cute Texas cafe.  Peg and I split a bowl of seafood gumbo, and note that it has sausage in it.  We later note that in Texas there’s sausage in everything but ice cream.  What a peculiar eccentricity.

We call Eddie.  No go.

We wander around the streets in Sprang.

We call Eddie.  No go, although we are re-scheduled for the last flight of the day, which is 4:30.  Why don’t we check in about 3:45.

We tire of calling Eddie, the shops in Sprang, and the rain, and elect to go sit in the nice little waiting lounge at the airfield.  The waiting lounge needn’t be large since the blimp carries only six passengers.

Slumped in our chairs, studying our muddy tennis shoes, we keep insisting to each other that there’s more visibility and that it’s getting brighter outside.  Just as I notice that the hangar door is slightly open, Don McDuff, one of the two pilots on call that day, comes out to chat with us, and says that if the rain will hold off just a bit, we’ll get our ride in.  Eddie Ogden sails out of the building, telling us to enjoy our ride, and we’re scheduled for an hour-long ride instead of the usual twenty minutes.  My already wrinkled old body is awash with goosebumpsCan appalling but true fact.

The hangar doors open wide, and a big yellow tractor with a super structure appears, latches on to the nose of the blimp and starts pulling her outside.  She’s so beautiful.

“We’re really going?”

Trailing under and around the blimp are fourteen men, holding ropes, guiding, attending.  I’m  eyeing the sky and mentally egging the crew to speed it up before it starts raining again.  Don McDuff escorts us out to the launch site, and we pause while he takes pictures of us standing before the America.  Our pilot is to be Larry Chambers, so Don McDuff waves goodbye and we climb up the short ladder into the gondola.  After an introduction, we seat ourselves for our private blimp ride.  It’s at this point that I have a terrible feeling that I’m going to embarrass myself and cry.  Maybe I’m older than I think?

I’m rescued from maudlin when Larry says for one of us sit up beside him, so I graciously shove Peg aside and leap into the copilot seat.

Larry chats with the office, the men outside are doing >things= and then Larry begins explaining the procedure.  We hover just above the ground, the nose tether is released, and the crew is hanging on to their ropes.  We must get weighed, which event was, and still is, a bit foggy in my mind, although it involved an instrument dangling from the nose that a crew member plugged into something he was holding.  We must be AOK for weight, because the crewmen release their ropes, Larry pulls back on a big wheel by his seat (much like a wheelchair wheel) and the America is aloft.  Larry starts the two small engines that power the small propellers, and away we go.

Yes, it’s a tad noisy, but not bad, and we begin asking questions.  I’m surely repeating the questions asked by virtually every person who ever gets a ride, and Larry is answering each query as though he’d never heard it before.  We check out the weather.  With the nose down, there’s just ground clutter on the radar screen.  With the nose up, we find rain over downtown Houston, and rain around the Intercontinental airport.

Ideal altitude is 1,000 feet, although she can go to 10,000 feet.  Usual speed is 52 miles an hour, although at one point, a head wind reduces that 52 MPH to a snail’s 5MPH.  Wishing to appear intelligent, and curious besides, I ask, AAnd what is that digital readout?  It’s surely important because it’s so bright and big.@  Larry dryly informs me, AWe call that a clock.@  True, it was military time, but my idiocy draws a muffled guffaw from the back seat.  I retaliated in like fashion when Peg inquired if this machine had an autopilot.  We were pretty much even.

Peg ceases her picture-taking and moves to the front seat.  I’m happy.  Larry says that it’s now time for us to fly, so he moves to the far seat, plugs his headset in on that side, and Peg takes the controls.

Big wheel forward, the nose goes down.  Big wheel back and the nose goes up.  Left foot pushing left rudder pedal, she turns to the left.  And so forth.  Peg seems to me to be entranced by the left and right part of flying, and to hell with altitude adjustment.  If you leave that big wheel alone, the blimp flies level, so Peg doesn’t fool with it.  We zig and zag, gee and haw.  A lot. A whole lot.  I’m happy.

Then it’s my turn, and since Peg had ignored the altitude part of flying, I take to working that big wheel and we duck and dive repeatedly.  Oh wow, I’m happy.  I note that the rudder controls seem sloppy, and Larry explains that a blimp does not have ailerons, so there’s no banking as in a plane, just flat turns.  Of course.  We head for the airfield, and Peg and I are both checking our watches, because it can’t possible have been 45 minutes since we left the ground hanging below that big bag of helium.  We crab into the wind, and I head us, more or less, back to the airfield.

We’ve learned that there are two compartments, front and back, in each blimp, that air is taken in through a pair of scoops to keep the envelope inflated, air is released through a simple release plug, that this particular blimp requires about one tank of helium a day, that if you took a knife and stabbed a hole in the fabric, it might not be noticed for a month because the outside and inside pressures are so nearly the same, that the fabric for this blimp was manufactured in 1980, that all passenger seats are removed for the light shows or televising a sporting event, that Goodyear supplies its own cameramen, that the gyroscopic camera hangs ten feet below the gondola, that the light show is computer generated and can be programmed to read or show most anything, that Larry just smiles when I inquire whether he’s ever had a desire to spell out something really tacky for all the world to see, that Larry’s been a blimp pilot for 23 years (but doesn’t look it,) that the Houston base is closing, and the America is moving to Akron, that the new blimp being manufactured will be called the Spirit of Akron, which is a poopy name in my opinion since all blimps until now have been named after winners of the Americas Cup races, which means that the Spirit of Akron should be the Stars and Stripes, that all the fabric for this blimp can be stored in a crate roughly the size of a Volkswagen beetle, oh well, I’ll stop.

Larry takes over the control, moving back into the wheeled and ruddered seat, the crewmen appear from the hanger, and Larry adjusts to the wind, and brings that large craft straight to the tether, where a man on top of the tractor scaffolding hooks her up.  Engines shut down, the crew hustles forward with little canvas bags of sand to attach to the ropes dangling from the blimp.

Larry fills out cards for Peg and me stating the date, log time, dual instruction, .5 hours of instruction  L.T.A. (that’s Lighter Than Air,) the blimp number, his license number and name.  We cherish those little cards.  Larry was scheduled to fly a light show tonight, and so planned to stay in the craft, but Don McDuff informs him that it’s starting to rain, so all flights are over for the day.  Peg and I have lucked into the single one-hour window of the day.  Don McDuff escorts us back to the lounge, and Peg mentions how difficult it is to push those rudder pedals (she should know, she did it enough!)  Don allows that on his first ten hour cross country flight, he flew five of the hours, and couldn’t get out of bed the next day.  He now keeps those thighs and knees in shape by riding a bicycle thirty minutes a day.

We gush thank-you=s over everybody and glow back to our car.  Peg’s in favor of trying to locate that snippy Quik Trip woman, but I veto that idea.

With only a single misstep and backtrack, we reach our hotel, make a few calls, and dine in the hotel bar, but, thanks be, there’s no sausage in my cheeseburger.

Peg’s busy chatting with a pal of hers, a nun who was kicked out of the convent for driving a tractor down the streets of Houston.  I guess all would have been well except that she didn’t know how to stop the big thing, and some police had to jump aboard and bring that tractor to a halt.  Can’t imagine why the nunnery would frown on an exploit of that nature, but apparently they did.  I retire while Peg chats on.

Now, I’ve told you that this blimp ride experience was an upper, but little did I guess how much so for Peg, who rises wide awake at 2:30AM.  By five in the morning she’s bored, and effects my wakening by turning on her television full blast.  Give the devil his (or her) dues, Peg did not once blow a whistle in the night, so no complaints.  We stir about, and head out for NASA, making our way on the beltways through downtown Houston, straight south to NASA, arriving at the gate to be told that they don’t open until 9:00 for visitors.  We bide our time at the local Denny’s, eschewing the sausage.  No doubt touring NASA, seeing the exhibits, and enjoying the well-presented tour of Mission Control should be a highlight, but I must tell you it was a pall compared to riding the America.

We scour about, with our usual number of stops to ask directions, and find the Flying Dutchman, right on the water, for lunch, pigging out on shrimp salad, fried oysters, and gumbo, glory be, without sausage.  We even manage to find the recommended Roses seafood shop, where Peg buys a cooler, ten pounds of shrimp, two quarts of oysters, and suitable amounts of ice.  The trouble with this purchase, of course, is that it takes two of us to lift it.

Back to the hotel, avoiding the Houston rush hour, a single falter in direction, check in the seat-belt-strangling Ford, and then wait to catch our 8:45 flight back to a pumpkin.

3/13/2015

FAMILY LOOKING TO ADOPT

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 2:40 pm

Friends of my granddaughter, Mackenzie, are looking to add another member to their family through adoption. They do not have a gender preference but would like a newborn or a baby under 1 year old. If you know of anybody looking to place their baby for adoption, please let me or Mackenzie (mbbritton@gmail.com) know.

2/11/2015

TRYIN’ AGAIN…

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 5:04 pm

I had a blog almost completed the other day then hit the wrong key and sent it to neverland.  It’s exasperating to have that happen as I can’t duplicate what I said.  It’s never the same the second time around. So…to start again…with new topics.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed is well worth the time it takes to read, which isn’t long, as  I had trouble putting it down even though I knew while reading it that she made it through the solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail alive or I wouldn’t be reading a book she wrote about it. I don’t know how she endured the pain of her tortured feet or the intense heat and lack of food and water, which would have been major obstacles for me back in the days when I was in good shape.  Add to that the rattlesnakes and bears and other imponderables, and it was a superhuman accomplishment on her part.  I had to relate the various episodes to my lunch mates…Hazel, Margie and Ivy… to keep them abreast of the author’s progress.  They just shuddered in disbelief.

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) is a treasured pathway through some of the most outstanding scenic terrain in the United States. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the PCT travels a total distance of 2,650 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. I think it encompasses the John Muir Trail which is a challenging task of its own.  The scenery is some of the most beautiful in the world.  It’s a far more difficult and longer challenge than the Appalachian Trail which is also more heavily populated with adventurous souls.

Another interesting book I just read was Gone Girl.  Gillian Flynn, the author, has an amazing head on her shoulders and comes up with material I’m sure never enters the minds of most of us.  I’ve also read Sharp Objects that she wrote.  Read at your own peril. Gone Girl is a fantastic read.
Now, I’m reading Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World.  In nominating Judge Sotomayor to the highest court in the land, President Obama pointed out that her life story was the embodiment of the American dream. She grew up poor in a Bronx housing project at a time when gangs were carving up the neighborhood, learned she had juvenile diabetes when she was seven and lost her father a couple of years later. She would go on to Princeton (where she won the prestigious Pyne Prize), Yale Law School, the Manhattan district attorney’s office and ultimately the Supreme Court, where she became the nation’s first Hispanic justice.   If I had the opportunity to have dinner with anyone alive (other than family), she’d be one of my first picks.  She’s an amazing woman.

Right off the bat she wrote about something I really could relate to:  She had been writing about achieving our dreams though challenges and why does adversity spur us on rather than knocking us down? She said: ” A student recently posed another question that gave me pause:  Given that there are only nine Supreme Court Justices, each with life tenure, can anyone realistically aspire to such a goal?  How do we hold on to dreams  that, statistically, are almost impossible?”  …she goes on to say that becoming a SCJ would invariably elude the vast majority of aspirants…and although she wanted to be a judge, being a SCJ  never occurred to her except as the remotest of fantasies.

And here is the good part I thought… “But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire.  That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward.  And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you’ve done today.”

Next up:  Girl on the Train
So much for my love of books.

Thanks for tuning in…

2/9/2015

HAZEL’S BIRTHDAY PHOTOS…

Hazel’s 95th birthday party pictures…
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Tyler and and his Aunt Ally…
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Tyler and his proud mom, Karen…
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Moi, Ally and Hazel…

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Hazel Beggs and I, just hangin’ out…

Thanks for tuning in…

BIG SURPRISE….TYLER’S HOME FOR THE EVENING…

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 8:38 am

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Last evening, our family members were gathering in my apartment in the Palace to celebrate Hazel Beggs 95th birthday.  Hazel lives in the apartment next to mine and has become a very good friend since I moved to 2 west.   I was expecting Todd, Karen and Ally…and, much to my surprise,  in walks my grandson, Tyler, who, as it turns out, had driven here from Cincinnati yesterday for the birthday gathering and was heading toward the Grand Canyon this morning.  It’s a long haul by yourself from Cincinnati to the Canyon but he has never seen it and was taking advantage an opportunity that presented itself.  That’s how you see the world and Tyler has that all figured out.

That’s Todd on the left and we’re enjoying the evening at Longhorn’s.  Ally took the photo.
Thanks for tuning in…

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