Archive for January, 2016


January 22, 2016


It was home to the highest paid factory worker in the entire civilized world.

Then it became a city abandoned by many and cited by all in scholarly national narratives on the pitiful plight and awesome blight of post-industrial America.

Today headlines scream that its children are poisoned, many permanently so — as tempers flair, fingers point and the future darkens even more over a town turning to dust.

In all the decades I spent in Flint, no one drank the river water. Or swam in it. Or fished in it. You’d have to be crazy.

Fresh glacial water from Lake Huron flowed through city taps as the Great Sit-down Strike of 1937 brought about recognition of the UAW and rising prosperity for all — workers and wealthy alike — in what is regarded by historians as the birth of the American Middle Class. I learned much from old men who had mattered.

Michael Moore’s stunningly prescient “Roger & Me” was filmed on the streets of Flint in the late ‘80’s. Observing its 25th birthday in 2014, “Roger & Me” correctly predicted the demise of American industry, beginning with corporate abandonment of the epitomic factory town.

I had the honor of introducing Mike to an unsuspecting public over WTAC-AM and WWCK-FM in the late ‘70’s with a program called “Radio Free Flint.” It ran Sunday mornings from 8 until 10 — a live, unrehearsed talk show with minimal censorship and an accent on challenging involvement. Our radio station switchboard would light up like a Christmas tree.

On one program Michael featured an extended segment interviewing the head of the Flint National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) appearing with the Grand Dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan. They got along fine. This was in 1982 when WWCK became the highest-rated Rock Station in America and won a National Billboard Magazine Award for “Best Local Programming – All Markets.”

Mike was back in Flint last week seeking the resignation and arrest of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for hapless leadership, criminal negligence and grand malfeasance in office. I know that’s strong. But look what happened.

In the great Flint Diaspora following “Roger and Me” years, the city’s population was cut in half, leaving barely 100,000 suffering souls — 56% minority African-American. Of these, 41.5% are living well below Federal poverty levels. A quarter of Flint families have an annual income of less than $15,000 a year.

Flint’s drinking water became contaminated in April of 2014 when a state-appointed emergency manager reporting directly to the Republican governor’s office was running the city. To save money, city government was ordered by the State of Michigan to abandon its use of Lake Huron sources and draw water directly from the Flint River. Along with other consequences of pollution, the river water turned out to be markedly acidic and highly corrosive, leaching lead from pipes and fixtures – many over a century old.

Originally denying any problems existed, only after a year and a half in October of last year did the governor’s office allow the city to switch back to input from Lake Huron, except irreparable damage had already been done. The fresh water surged into ruined, deteriorated plumbing. Too little too late.

Estimated cost of repair? Three quarters of a billion dollars. Time frame if such funds can be raised? Years. Population effected? Anyone who drank the water. Number of children already poisoned? Over 8,000.

There are no easy answers here, but perhaps a hard lesson has been learned.

Expedient political decisions can bring unexpected personal consequences.

I offer a powerful reminder to Governor Snyder:

“Inasmuch as you have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”

 Matthew, Chapter 25, verse 40


“Breakout for Bernie”

January 18, 2016



Bernie was best.

That long- tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs ducked and weaved and shimmied and shook all the way through Sunday’s Democratic Debate like Tony Dorsett for the Dallas Cowboys in ’83. Remember? 99 yards from scrimmage to touchdown – the longest run in NFL history! The wild, crazy, unlikely turns of fate these last two playoff weeks are making me think the old goat might just have a chance.

I hasten to add that Bernie and I were born on the same date – September 8, 1941.

I was highly enthusiastic that we might elect our first female President this year, initially abandoning such hope when Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts chose not to run, then reluctantly accepting the fact that we might have to settle for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton – baggage and all.

As far as I’m concerned, Hillary’s “baggage” has nothing to do with “Benghazi” or “Email“ or “Possible Federal Indictments” or any other nonsensical right wing fantasy bubbling forth from the frothing caldron of hate-filled talk radio — or even the wild ways of a wandering Willie.

Hillary’s baggage includes an uncomfortably close association with big money, a disturbing reticence to acknowledge such and, most of all, a marked tendency to blithely resort to fabrication in the pursuit of ambition.

During Sunday’s debate, Senator Sanders characterized Secretary Clinton’s attacks on his gun control record and health plan ideas as being “duplicitous.” I would more bluntly use the word, “deceitful” and alarmingly so.

Hillary’s shrill accusations that Bernie will “tear up the Affordable Care Act, hike taxes on the middle class and push our country into a contentious debate with Republicans” is a gross distortion.

Senator Sanders courageously states that he wants “Medicare for All” with a single payer, universal health care system that covers every American as a basic human right.

Bottom line? Each dollar you now pay for insurance premiums would be replaced by sending half as much to a collective fund – this action now termed a “tax hike” by Hillary rather than what it actually is – part of a viable plan to save the average middle class American household five thousand dollars a year. That’s hard-earned cash back in your pocket — even if this upsets Republicans.

Republicans have enough to be upset about these days without any help from the Democratic Party. I would give an alphabetical grade to the GOP debate of last Thursday from South Carolina, but, alas, there are no letters after “Z”.

Ted Cruz wants to nuke Tehran for embarrassing us by detaining American sailors who were released the very next day despite their inexplicable violation of Iranian waters only hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union address to Congress. Ticklish timing.

Marco Rubio appears more and more like a pugnacious pug. Down, doggie, down!

And The Donald — is The Donald – a billionaire with a trillion red ties.

And why does former front-runner Jeb Bush always seem on the verge of tears?

The rest of the field is inconsequential — as is O’Malley with the Democrats – more decoration than meaningful declaration.

Definitely of consequence was January’s Tea Party Meeting here in Oakhurst at the Best Western Gateway Inn on January 12th that enjoyed overflowing attendance for a talk by Tony Gurule on Islam and Sharia Law. Invited by my friend, Central Valley Coordinator John Pero , I found Tony’s address informative and instructive, although final conclusions drawn might differ from my own subjective analysis. Still, it was A+ in presentation and provided a valuable learning experience.

Folks in my old hometown of Flint, Michigan, are learning that pennies saved can bring a nightmare earned.

Attempting to limit spending on a basic necessity, State government decided the Flint River should be used as a supply source instead of slightly more expensive Great Lakes water, bringing on extensive lead poisoning of the entire city population for well over a year. There was a cover up.

And even as Bernie Sanders keeps climbing the polls in his historic rise against the most uneven distribution of wealth in our nation’s history, what other two words mean “corporate greed?”

Delaware North.

We’ve been victimized and violated.

Ripped off.

No thanks for the memory.

“Town Hall Tonight”

January 14, 2016



It wasn’t until Eileen and I moved to Oakhurst that I had the time and interest to become more actively involved in the political process, especially on a localized level.

It was almost ten years ago in November of 2006 that we left Michigan and headed west, the same week Tom Wheeler was first elected Supervisor in Madera County’s Fifth District.

Beginning his second year of a third term in office, Tom will be holding a Town Hall Meeting tonight from 6 till 8 at the Oakhurst Community Center. He doesn’t need any help attracting a large turnout, but I thought I would add my own strong endorsement and suggestion to be there. It’s a fine opportunity to become engaged in responsible and accountable democracy in action.

For those not familiar with the format, here’s a brief rundown of what to expect.

Boredom is not on the list. Get there just a bit early. Tom starts right on time and works from a prepared agenda, keeping things moving right along in a concise, speedy, entertaining manner from start to finish. He invites a few additional figures from our community to bring everyone up to date on various projects and events coming our way on the immediate horizon.

Tonight we’ll meet Denise Tolmie, a new District Ranger with the U.S. Forest Service and hear from our old friend, Darin Soukup, formerly Executive Director of the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce and now Director of the Oakhurst College Center.

Michael Baird of Oakhurst Community Alliance will discuss the Community Disaster Relief Fund, followed by Madera County Transit Manager Jerome Jackson with an update on community connections. Dexter Marr of Environmental Health will briefly address onsite wastewater treatment and Troy Cheek, Battalion Chief of Madera County Cal Fire, will present his latest projections for 2016. Despite recent, widely welcomed precipitation, the drought is far from over.

Then Supervisor Wheeler and other county staff members and officials will discuss county and district issues – with questions and comments from the audience enthusiastically encouraged. It’s a wide-open forum. Such interactivity with Tom and everyone involved is really what sets these get togethers apart from other assemblies of a similar, but significantly less participatory nature.

What’s happening with Chukchansi now that the casino is once again open? What’s the deal on those new motels on 41 across from The Oak Room? How about that 670-acre open pit rock quarry at the corner of highways 41 and 145 proposed by Vulcan Materials?

Tom Wheeler’s Town Hall Meetings are your best opportunity to find out first hand what’s happening in and around Eastern Madera County.

Citizen involvement is crucial to American democracy. While national and state issues and our influence upon them remain separated from us by definition and distance, your chance to become a “high information voter” locally is only minutes away this very night at the Community Center. It’s a two-way deal.

Representative government requires ongoing dialogue between the elected and actively concerned constituents. Successful governance is never automatic. Success requires days and weeks and months of hard work. It surely doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Supervisor Wheeler holds these Town Hall exercises to inform, but even more importantly — to be informed. He listens. And learns. Then more effectively leads.

We’re fortunate to enjoy Tom’s ubiquitous community presence, proven dedication and fierce devotion to the duties of office.

If Supervisor Wheeler might find such public praise the source of personal embarrassment, as I fear he might, I herein apologize for such discomfort.

But in an age dominated by negativity, I truly believe positive press should be given when energetically earned, consistently evidenced and thoroughly merited.

Good guys usually finish first, bringing the rest of us along for the ride.

Thank you, Tom.











January 2, 2016



With a New Year come new rules.

Push must become shove.

As the first presidential primaries are drawing near with actual votes about to replace polling predictions, the Republican Party faces a nightmare.

While proudly reaffirming my own progressive perspectives, I passionately believe a clueless clown should not be allowed to shred the heart of the Grand Old Party. There is far too much at stake.

Donald Trump’s powerful, seemingly irreversible hold on roughly one-third of those who claim Republican allegiance is terrifyingly primal – appealing to the most base instincts of supporters. He is the meanest monkey on the mountain – furiously flailing his fists, beating his chest and grunting for glory.

“I am king!” “I kill!” “Be free!” “Worship me!”

While it should be reassuring this scenario still leaves a rational, responsible majority of Republicans securely enjoying two to one dominance over the wild-eyed crazies, such opposition could well be fatally fragmented by the quantity of candidates taking precedence over the quality of their convictions.

Herein amiably offered for purposes of internal party reflection, although written in another era under different circumstances, these time-treasured words of a true American Patriot come to mind:

“We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately” –Benjamin Franklin (July 4, 1776) – Upon the signing of The Declaration of Independence.”

Although outside looking in, it seems abundantly evident after all those months of boorish behavior, vile temperament and outlandish utterances that Donald Trump is not remotely worthy of trust.

Imagine his fat, fatuous finger fixed on our nuclear trigger. Recalling that earlier mountain monkey metaphor, we might as well put a chimp in charge.

It would be a shame and horror if Trump should ever triumph over divided opposition and become the official 2016 Republican candidate for our American presidency merely because worthy contenders simply couldn’t get out of each others’ way — ironically offering a tragic demonstration of the perils of self-interest aligned against a common good.

Could a Tea Party coalition come to the rescue? Dennis Patrick was once a prominent aide in the Reagan administration and is a former head of the Federal Communications Commission. He summarizes the plight faced by many. “Many of my colleagues from the Reagan administration would have a hard time pulling the lever for Trump. We weren’t just Republicans, we were conservatives. It is very difficult to square any principled theory of conservative governance with much of what Trump says.”

Way over on the Left, my old friend Michael Moore discussed a meeting he once had with “The Donald” 17 years ago while waiting to mutually appear on a national talk show. The program’s producer pulled Mike aside and informed him that Trump was “nervous” about being on the air with the famously confrontational documentary director and requested that Mr. Trump be put at ease. Michael was happy to do so as he and Donald privately spoke behind the scenes. In a public letter last week to Trump, Moore wrote: “I was struck by how you, a self-described tough guy from Queens, seemed like such a ‘fraidy-cat. You and I went on to do the show. I didn’t pull your hair. I didn’t put gum on your seat. All I remember thinking was, “What a wuss!””

 Ultimately, it now appears that Donald Trump could well do even more damage to the Republican Party by running as — rather than against — its nominee.

Should Hillary Clinton become our 45th President, I would infinitely prefer her winning against admirable opposition than defeating an obnoxious oaf. There’s but marginal merit in vanquishing vermin.

As an American, I honestly believe we’re better than that.

The whole world is watching.