Archive for October, 2015

“Benghazi Thursday”

October 22, 2015


It’s time to put up or shut up.

Today is October 22, 2015  — a date forever to be enshrined in American political history as “Benghazi Thursday” – when the United States House Select Committee on Benghazi finally brought forth indisputable evidence of Hillary Clinton’s cold blooded complicity in the unforgivable murder of four innocent American lives – or to have the Committee finally, fatally, farcically collapse under the unyielding weight of irrefutable, irrepressible testimony to the contrary.

$4.5 million dollars of taxpayer money has been spent so far and seven separate congressional committees have exhaustively reviewed the tragic circumstances surrounding the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others in the 2012 attack on our government outposts in Benghazi, Libya. There has been nothing discovered remotely verifying wild claims of sinister malfeasance by Hillary Clinton spinning forth from right-wing media machines ever since news broke of the incident – only wild fabrications, unsubstantiated innuendo and outright lies.

Today Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify before the Committee under oath and for the record on live global television. They can ask her anything they want. I’m betting they’ll be getting much, much more than they bargained for.

Hillary has not been my first choice as a presidential candidate, but if anything is powerfully pushing me in her direction — it’s the deplorable content of venomous anti-Clinton hate speech poisoning our airwaves in recent days.

And she was great in the first debate. Bernie was better. And if Bernie Sanders is a “Socialist/Communist”, Donald Trump is a “Capitalist/Cattle Rustler.” Both of these characterizations are untrue, but the former allegation was seriously offered by Mr. Trump last Wednesday at a campaign rally in Virginia, while the latter is herein presented as a similarly caustic, invented, hyperbolic aside.

Continuing my brief review of the first Democratic Presidential Debate on CNN, I felt that Anderson Cooper was marvelous as moderator, while O’Mally was mediocre, Webb made me wince and Chaffee choked.

Comparison between Republican and Democratic debate content so far offers easily discernable differences separating the principles and positions of both parties with remarkably evident contrast. There is no doubt such variances will continue up to and through next year’s election cycle – to the benefit of those sincerely interested in finding and supporting important new directions and advancing ourselves forward – or continuing our backslide to ever more reduced status here at home and in the eyes of the world.

If I were a Republican, I wouldn’t know what to do. I don’t envy the immediate G.O.P. dilemma – metaphorically choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea – that is – making a selection between essentially undesirable outcomes. For possible bar bets (an occasional friendly feature of this column at no extra charge) – please note that extensive research (several seconds) reveals the original meaning of the phrase may be a nautical reference citing the deep ocean and a “devil” – this being “a piece of wood or joint important for navigation that is difficult to reach on a ship.” I didn’t make that up.

Donald Trump remains a frump and Dr. Ben Carson is getting just plain spooky in plenty of time for Halloween. That soft, smooth, soothing tone belies a truly frightening take on almost everything he suggests  — decidedly more smarmy than smart. Kindly condescension drips from his lips in unctuous flow. He’s no Ben Casey.

Speaking of whom, for those who remember Vince Edwards starring as Doctor Ben Casey in the early ‘60’s ABC hit TV series, what’s this we hear about Medicare “B” costs going up as much as 50% in 2016 for some of us, even while there’s no increase coming our way in Social Security payments next year?

Feel “The Bern?”


October 15, 2015


She left us as we knew her – softly, sweetly, elegantly gone — with awesome dignity and uncommon grace.

It wasn’t long after Eileen and I moved to Oakhurst nine years ago that we became acquainted with Eleanor Schermerhorn. This person was writing “Letters to the Editor” published in both The Sierra Star and Fresno Bee all the time — wonderful summations I found extraordinarily well presented with marvelous precision, brilliantly focused and comfortably resonant with my own personal perspectives.

Shortly after submitting my own “Letter” to The Star, Ms. Schermerhorn – then a complete stranger — sent me a note of confirmation and encouragement, including a list of additional reference sources and a suggestion that I consider attending the next meeting of  “The Oakhurst Democratic Club.”

I had already heard of this wild bunch from a gentleman named Scott Hill whom I had met by chance a short time before, so we were there at the “Ol’ Kettle” that following Saturday and happily discovered an active, progressive, friendly group of folks up here in the foothills deeply involved in community activities and vibrantly attuned to issues of the day.  We also learned that Scott was married to Ellie, who turned out to be considerably younger than my initial suspicions and surely much prettier than Scott.

For much of my life I was unaffiliated with any one political party, primarily because my broadcast career suggested a position of balanced neutrality was the wisest professional option. I privately cast my ballot for the person running for office more than his or her party or platform.

There really wasn’t a lot of major difference between Democrats and Republicans in the immediate aftermath of World War Two and the decades that followed. Bless me Father, but I voted for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, right along with John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton. But our move to Oakhurst coincided with what I perceived to be an alarming rightward drift in American politics. These are different days. Simply stated, I believe genuine concern for others should take ultimate precedence over individualized self-interest. In caring and sharing, we find connection, unity and purpose. Ellie Schermerhorn never had to preach this. She lived it with unwavering commitment, steadfast loyalty, exemplary dedication and, as a licensed Certified Public Accountant, astounding attention to detail.

Along with being a founding member of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, Ellie was also enthusiastically engaged with Mountain Community Women, the Sierra Historic Sites Association, La Sierra Guild for Valley Children’s Hospital and, Patriots kindly note, the Sierra Foothills Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Sharing her first name with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first lady, Ellie was particularly proud of the Democratic Club’s annual Eleanor Roosevelt Community Service Awards with annual scholarships provided to competing Yosemite High School graduates.

A highlight of her great success in lining up monthly speakers came in August of 2010 after she wrote Debra Bowen requesting that someone join us in Oakhurst from the California Secretary of State’s office to discuss changes in voting laws. Ellie ended up landing Secretary Bowen, herself.  We moved over to the Community Center for that meeting.

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago and having enjoyed a period of remission that became all too brief, Ellie faced the end with incredible courage and a powerful will.

Her loving concern for others never ceased.  In our final time together, attending an Executive Committee Meeting only days before she passed and reflecting on our acute awareness of her plight, she gently whispered to me in that last moment before we parted, “I hope I’m not scary!”

 Words failed me – all transcended — as I hugged her goodbye.

“Saint Kim of Kentucky”

October 3, 2015

St. Kim

Carlo is a naughty boy looking at speedy retirement.

Conservative Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano couldn’t help himself.

Openly and vehemently opposed to gay marriage, he’s the one who snuck renegade Kentucky County clerk Kim Davis into the Vatican Embassy in Washington for a brief encounter with Pope Francis during the Pontiff’s visit in our nation’s capitol without prior knowledge or approval of the Vatican or the Pope.

What was supposed to be a confidential moment didn’t stay that way.

Kim and her husband were picked up at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 23rd in a plain tan van by private security guards who spoke Italian. Ms. Davis had been instructed to change her hairstyle so the press wouldn’t identify her. The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, had been entrusted to clear a few special folks to briefly meet Francis. It now appears he hadn’t bothered explaining to Francis or his aides specifically who Davis was and/or exactly why she was there.

It turns out that Vigano had been introduced to Davis’ attorney, Matthew D. Staver, as they both attended the 3rd Annual “March for Marriage” at the National Mall back in April, several months before the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage absolutely Constitutional.

Staver is also President of the “Liberty Counsel”, a conservative outfit that leapt into the limelight as soon as Davis gained screaming national headlines by denying gay couples any marriage licenses in her God-fearing county, U.S. Supreme Court be damned – or “darned” – I suppose — for a good, four times married, ex-adulteress Christian such as Kim. The “Liberty Counsel” has been formally declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — a group which keeps track of such things.

Several days after Francis returned to Rome, bilaterally pledged discretion gave way to subjectively edited public disclosure when Mr. Stayer informed the media of a “private meeting” the same time it was reported on the website of “Inside the Vatican”, a conservative publication not authorized or authored by The Vatican. As many an old sailor says, that’s when the ship hit the sand. Initial conservative spin suggested that, along with Father Junipero Serra, Kim Davis, herself, had been canonized.

Father Serra became Saint Junipero during the Pope’s visit, so honored for establishing 21 Spanish missions in California during the late 18th Century and bringing thousands of Native Americans to Christ — at least those the Conquistadors didn’t maim, rape, torture or kill. Serra’s elevation by the Church is not being universally acclaimed, nor was Kim’s once word got out.

Ms. Davis’ own testimony reveals unrestrained, ecstatic self-congratulation, categorically claiming that Pope Francis “agreed with” what she “was doing” and “that kind of validates everything.”

 Archbishop Vigano turns 75 in January, the age when Bishops are required to submit an official letter of resignation to the Vatican. In most instances this is a mere formality. In Vigano’s case — an eventuality now hopefully hastened.

Prominent American Catholic theologians concur that the meeting with Ms. Davis was clearly a misstep. Dr. Massimo Faggioli of the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota states, “on the whole trip to the United States, Pope Francis very carefully didn’t want to give the impression he was being politicized by either side.”

At first hoping the whole thing would dissipate like wispy altar smoke, the Vatican finally issued a declarative statement last Friday stressing —“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation with Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”

One Vatican official said there was “a sense of regret” that The Pope had ever seen Kim.

In other words, quoting the immortal prose of former Governor Rick Perry of Texas, “Oops!”

Infallibility may emanate from “The Chair of Peter” – but not the vagaries of Vigano.