Archive for September, 2015

“Bye-Bye Boehner”

September 26, 2015


I agree with our President.

“John Boehner is a good man. He is a patriot. He cares deeply about the House, an institution in which he has served for a long time. He cares about his constituents and he cares about America.” – Barack Obama – September 25, 2015.

Not Ted Cruz.

The shocking news of John Boehner’s abrupt and unanticipated resignation as Speaker of the House and from Congress broke last Friday morning just as Senator Cruz (R-Texas) was about to address the laughably titled “Values Voters Summit” in Washington.

This ultra-conservative gathering, funded by the similarly delusional “Family Research Council”, broke into thunderous applause upon being informed of Boehner’s decision. Senator Cruz, who electrified the crowd with an updated list of lunacies, then launched them to mind boggling heights of fantasy as he further gloated over Boehner’s pending departure, threatened the assassination of Iran’s supreme leader and called President Obama a communist.

I first met John Boehner on August 27th of 1992 during his first term representing Ohio’s 8th Congressional district. He was accompanying President George H. W. Bush when the President landed at Toledo Municipal Airport near the end of the ’92 election campaign.

Executive Vice President of a major Midwest radio group at the time with Secret Service clearance, I was allowed on the tarmac as Air Force One rolled to a halt and the President and his entourage embarked.

Since one of our more important radio facilities, 50,000 watt WZRZ – serving both Cincinnati and Dayton — included his district, it seemed appropriate to introduce myself to Representative Boehner and spend a few minutes in conversation. I found the new congressman to be a “Hail fellow well met” – that somewhat archaic phrase referring to a person whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial. I have never changed my opinion since.

Readers of this column should quickly observe that I have often expressed serious misgivings about Speaker Boehner’s actions or lack thereof, but my severe reservations have always been about the politics, not the person. He remains beloved in his district, but not by many in his delegation.

John Boehner is a good man trapped by bad dynamics.

It’s hard determining exactly when things started unwinding so viciously in our national dialogue.

Perhaps it started when sophisticated voter measurement revealed that negative campaign ads worked wonders at gaining elective office?

Was it when the Republican Party found a perfect embodiment of conservative beliefs in the emergence and election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980, in the process converting millions into becoming “Reagan Democrats” – including primary beneficiaries of FDR era legislation that created the first viable American middle class – making them feel they were finally rich Republicans?

Was it the subsequent audience acceptance and amazing ascension of Rush Limbaugh introducing his “Excellence in Broadcasting Network” in 1988 which many believe ultimately brought about 1994’s “Contract with America” and Republican capture of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years?

Rush tripled the ratings on our Toledo AM – catapulting us to #1 in the market. There were “Rush Rooms” everywhere in Northwest Ohio – Restaurants, Bars, Coffee Shops and Snack Bars that carried Rush on loud speakers so lunchtime customers wouldn’t miss a word. I even broadcast him twice a day, repeating his Noon to 3 PM show from 3 till 6. Guilty!

But in the decades since, we have surely become a people self-divided, “indivisible” existing only as a wistful word in our national “Pledge of Allegiance.”

Ultimately it was paralyzing polarization that brought about John Boehner’s pending departure – a decision unlikely to generate healing change in any meaningful way.

It makes me sad.

“We have met the enemy and he is us!” – Pogo (1971)


September 18, 2015


On a clear day you can see forever – or at least the top of Deadwood Mountain.

After an egregious onslaught of weather conditions over Labor Day Weekend with smoke from the 140,000 acre “Rough Fire” becoming trapped under a late summer inversion layer, things have radically improved. We can finally breathe a deep sigh of relief without risking instant cardiac arrest.

As California is undergoing its worst fire season in history, we’ve been lucky so far. And such fate is not due to mere good fortune.

Much more is owed to the courageous efforts of Cal Fire management, crews, aircraft, and all associated local, regional and state agencies involved. They have kept us safe. With uncommon efforts far beyond reasonable expectation, these men and women have risked life and limb saving homes and lives with relentless dedication and awe-inspiring endurance.

Guess what? They also prove government can work. But not when we elect those who claim it can’t.

This brings to mind another kind of smoke blowing about last week – a particularly hazardous haze generated by various participants in the Second Republican Presidential Debate, a.k.a. – “Clown Car Two.”  

Donald Trump sealed his decline from top spot in polling by characteristically talking the most and saying the least until blind-sided by a wildly effective cutting slash from Carly Fiorina on what “that face” meant to women everywhere – followed by an icy glare that would have frozen hell thrice over.

Carly is no stranger to us Californians who saw her soundly thrashed in her Senate run against Barbara Boxer in 2010 by ten full percentage points (52% – 42%) despite the fact that Boxer was facing an uphill battle against a multimillionaire candidate and a wave of attack ads from out of state business and conservative groups.

For pure performance points, Fiorina impressively outclassed the rest of the field last Wednesday night with a polished presentation rightfully earning her a dramatic leap in polling preference, instantly replacing a quickly fading Ben Carson in the process. It now seems Dr. Ben was a temporary placeholder all along.

Ms. Fiorina’s most dramatically effective moment of the evening was an impassioned recital of having watched a video depicting “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, it’s legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”  No such video exists or ever has. Carly? No. Car-LIE.

But Jeb Bush wins first prize in spectacular spin for the most outrageous assertion of the night – ironically greeted with thundering applause as a powerful endorsement of his brother’s presidency and family name. Jeb said of George, “When it comes to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe!” 

The crowd went wild with — I suspect — a soothing measure of relieved self-congratulation. After all – most in attendance put “W” in office.

Yet it was almost eight months AFTER becoming President in 2001 that 9/11 changed our lives forever as Jeb’s brother “kept us safe” – ignoring repeated intelligence community and allied warnings about a pending Ben Laden attack against America by plane. Fact can be stranger than fiction.

Speaking of which — local authors of both fiction and non-fiction books will be waiting for you this Saturday with the “Second Annual Authors’ Faire” from 10:30 till 12:30 in the Community Room of the Oakhurst Branch Library. Central Valley writers, publishers, editors, illustrators, and various writing groups have been invited. This columnist will be there with a few copies of “Local DJ” available for signing.

“Peter Cavanaugh is magical with his ribald recollections and praiseworthy prose. “Local DJ” brings back a single point in time and space. Not for little children, old ladies or small domestic pets.”


Content details at — or Saturday at the library.

“No Room at The Inn”

September 11, 2015


There wasn’t an empty seat at Denny’s.

Pedro Elias, Public Affairs Director of Planned Parenthood in Fresno, spoke before a packed house at our September meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club.

It’s probably just as well a certain someone wasn’t there.

She would have been 112 years old today.

My mother, Isabelle Marion Cavanaugh, despised Planned Parenthood.

I hope you’re sitting down for this.

Starting at the age of 8, I was an altar boy for more than nine years.

A walk to serve daily Mass from our home on Ashworth Place took us directly past the Syracuse Chapter of Planned Parenthood on East Genesee Street, so noted by a large sign prominently placed on its front lawn. My widowed mother, President of the St. Joseph Altar & Rosary Society, was abundantly clear she did not approve of the organization, the sign or the grass upon which it rested. Yet, when pressed for details, she demurred on specifics. “Ask Father Norcott”, she would say.

I eventually discovered at summer camp that the main Catholic issue against Planned Parenthood in the late ‘40’s was birth control. Any kind. It wasn’t until much later that the subject of abortion entered the forefront, although it’s historically proven Margaret Sanger’s original motivation in founding The American Birth Control League was anti-abortion from the outset. Sanger, an Irish-American Catholic, herself, was one of eleven children. – her mother also having suffered seven miscarriages and finally dying at the age of 50.

A fertilized human egg is approximately the size of the dot at the end of this sentence. Potentiality is not personality.

It was 42 years ago that the United States Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision (Rowe vs. Wade) that the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a women’s decision to have an abortion. The vote wasn’t even close. 7 to 2.

The last time “fiscally responsible” Republicans brought about government closure, its ultimate cost to the American economy was over 24 billion dollars.

Ignoring major areas of strategically critical priority — such as almost everything else — now we have our Republican led 114th Congress threatening to recklessly shut down the government – again – but this time over funding Planned Parenthood since it allegedly chops up and sells baby body parts. The fundamental fact that it does no such thing seems hopelessly lost in the hyped hysteria of right wing propaganda as asinine as its assertions.

A major editorial in the New York Times calls the “Center for Medical Progress” campaign “a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and life saving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal.”

The San Jose Mercury News writes, “Anyone with half a brain can see through the heavily edited “gotcha” videos.”

The Sacramento Bee succinctly states, “The charge that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal parts is cynical and bogus.”

Fetal tissue research has produced vaccines that have saved millions of lives and is now working toward major advances in the life or death struggle against Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other terminal diseases.

California Planned Parenthood affiliates are providing services to nearly one million patients this year, including 866,000 emergency contraception kits, 435,000 pregnancy tests and 112,000 Pap tests detecting and preventing possible cancers. In our state alone, Planned Parenthood schedules more than 90,000 breast exams annually and initiates well over two million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

I agree with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren:

“Republicans may think it’s fun to play politics with Planned Parenthood to score points with presidential primary voters, but this isn’t a game to the millions of women who depend on Planned Parenthood for basic medical care each year – and who have nowhere else to go.

That’s so.

“Thanks, Donald!”

September 4, 2015


Iowa signaled the end.

Stick a fork in Donald Trump. He’s done.

A Monmouth University poll on the last day of August declared Trump suddenly tied for first place by Dr. Ben “Who’s He?” Carson among Republican presidential contenders in The Hawkeye State. This finding echoes similar ascension for Dr. Ben in other surveys –suddenly establishing him as a solid #2 to Trump and well ahead of the rest of the pack – a full field offering obvious quantity, if not overwhelming quality.

This strongly indicates a powerfully organic, unplanned, welcomed coalescence of traditional Republican voters loath to accept national leadership from an uncouth lout who is — in the final analysis — not much more than a common vulgarian.

By comparison, Dr. Carson is as nice as Trump is nasty. It also seems embarrassingly evident this prominent retired neurosurgeon from Detroit offers as limited an understanding of foreign and domestic issues as his credentials are unquestionably extensive in the field of medical science.

But the majority of his competitors display kindred intellectual sophistication as deep as a frozen birdbath, particularly those seeking evangelical endorsement. Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz practically tripped over each other lining up behind hillbilly heroine Kim Davis – the four times wed Kentucky County Clerk — in her refusal to accept the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriages, even just one.

Former Governor Mike Huckebee said he’d be visiting her in the slammer. But would he have done so if Davis were a radical Muslim — insisting that all license applicants first accept Allah as their personal Lord and Savior?

While Donald Trump has certainly provided exotic entertainment and naughty pleasure these last few months – it’s been like watching NASCAR. We profess to believe no one likes crashes, but when they happen – who would deny that wild, secret rush?

But we should thank Mr. Trump for bringing us invaluable insight by exposing a heretofore-unimaginable degree of naked narcissism in which unthrottled self-interest at the expense of all others reigns supreme.

The confidence he exudes reflects passions best left in our shared primitive past, but Donald Trump remains correct in his blunt assessment of the way things are when he says: “Our system is broken. I give to many people. When they call, I give. And, you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.”

What a revealing, extraordinarily candid analysis of the depth of corruption ubiquitously inherent in elected office as Trump presents himself mastering ”The Art of the Deal” to such an extent that he alone can be trusted to resist it. Or not.

It was English historian and moralist John Acton who wrote in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always – – bad men.”

 While Hugh Hewitt and I share few opinions of a political nature, the fact remains that he is an accomplished conservative national talk show host on the Salem Radio Network with a recognized reputation for thorough preparation and an accomplished professional presentation.

Just as candidate Trump fussed and fumbled over familiarity with specific passages after describing The Bible as his “favorite book of all time” when interviewed by Bloomberg Media, he similarly assumed that “deer in the headlights” stance last Thursday when Hugh quizzed him about the identities of important Middle East personalities, including leaders of ISIS and Hezbollah. After babbling incoherently and revealing himself as the buffoon he’s always been, the next day Donald blamed Hewitt for asking him “unfair questions”, dismissing Hugh as a “third rate radio announcer.”

Interestingly, this “third rate radio announcer” will be co-moderating the second GOP primary debate on CNN next Wednesday along with Jake Tapper.

As we know – paybacks – ummmmm – make you itch.