Archive for June, 2014

The Tea Party

You know, back in the 60’s, two neighbors could live next door to each other and happen across the subject of politics. One might have supported more conservative policies and voted for Nixon, and another more liberal and voted for Humphrey. Some conversation could have ensued about that, followed by an invitation to golf or the next family bbq.

Today, the same scenario does not seem possible. Extremism and hatred are common. As soon as one neighbor mention that he voted for Obama, the other one, especially if they have a Tea Party affiliation, would immediately conclude that their neighbor is a scumbag socialist Nazi apologist who deserves to die.

Such is the state of discourse in America today. It’s even worse on-line because there’s a layer of anonymity involved. You can make outrageous statements without ever really having to be accountable for them. Some seem to think that he with the most words with ALL CAPS wins the debate. Go figure.

The main reason I address this issue at this particular time has to do with an online sparring partner who just happens to be a mis-guided Tea Party proponent, looking for some answers. Maybe I can either shed some light or else hold a mirror up. Whatever works is fine by me, but I have every expectation that my efforts will be in vain.

Just like I’ve learned at work, it’s always better to have a face to face conversation with someone vs. trying to resolve an issue over e-mail or a blog. There are so many opportunities for misunderstanding. The same is true with other forums like FaceBook. Really bad assumptions can happen. Leaping to conclusions. I’ve run into false accusations… a whole slew of things that, if we were having a beer together instead, would not have happened. Nevertheless, they did happen, so here we are.

But this guy hates Obama. Hates him. Wants to impeach him and put him in jail. In his defense, there are some very legitimate things to be angry about, but taking it to the hate level, I just can’t relate. I was embarrassed by George W. Bush but I didn’t hate him.

I voted for Obama twice. Using guilt by association, apparently I’ve condoned every action by this President since he took office and should consequently, be burned at the stake. This was all news to me, especially as a registered Independent. The very reason to be an Independent, is to leave open the possibility of holding the ones you tend to agree with accountable at times, which we all need.

I can actually find some agreement, even with Tea Partiers on the subjects of accountability ( or lack there-of ), and broken promises that Obama has to live with, and dealing with crooks and liars within your own team. But given the toxic nature of the public discourse, I actually feel kind of sorry for him. No President has ever had to try to get things done in a more partisan, and hostile environment. And I doubt it’ll get much better the next election cycle no matter who gets elected. It’s a little naive to think that one person representing one branch of the Government can have so much influence over our daily lives.

The Tea Party complains about the mainstream media giving Obama a pass. I personally believe there could be some truth to this. But this is likely because the Tea Party has done a poor job of disguising their witch hunt. Every error. Every flub. Every bad thing that happened in the world is somehow Obama’s fault. I believe the mainstream media is tuned into the witch hunt nature of Fox’s programs, especially Hannity and The O’Reilly Factor, and figures that well, that’s enough on the negative side. Fox has that covered pretty good, let’s not get ridiculous and over-do it. Let’s get on with the news.

    Standing For Something

At least with Libertarians, they have a well-defined platform that they speak to. They are in effect, very clearly, small (minimal) government advocates with minimal interference into our lives, strong freedom advocates, and responsibility of self. Okay, that’s clear. I get where you’re coming from. I can either be for or against it because it’s fairly clear.

The Tea Party on the other hand, suffers from the lack of issues they are for. If you were to engage one in a conversation, you would soon get the sense of what they are against…. pretty much everything. The logic seems to be : If it’s the way it is now, then I don’t like it. If it has anything to do with Obama, then I don’t like it. End of discussion. Would you care to elaborate? “We have 17 trillion debt!” and a host of other talking points that sound suspiciously like a read of Rush Limbaugh’s last show.

Talk to any Tea Partier and they’ll tell you that the movement is about ‘Taking our country back!” Okay, that sounds good. Power to the People. How? This is where it gets a little vague and dangerously mis-guided.

The reference to the Tea Party itself is recognition that some things were perceived by a group of people to not be fair, and they finally said “enough!” and did something about it.

There is indeed in this country, no shortage of issues where one could say “enough!”. I don’t think I’d get too much push back on that. The deficit is too high. The middle class seems to be disappearing, but how to fix that is up for debate. Gun violence is out of control but nobody can agree on the smallest measures to make any progress at all. Even if it’s just keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We seem to lack the ability to face the tough issues of our time like immigration. We can’t get anything done. Is it a surprise to me that a Tea Party evolved out of this framework? Absolutely not. What is a surprise is the head-in-the-sand lunacy that passes for reasonable fixes to complex problems by the ignorant leaders of this faux ‘movement’.

    The Tea Party is Mad

The Tea Party would be wise to incorporate some sort of a theme around wine since they are clearly the party of sour grapes. They are mad that Obama won in ’08, and even madder that he carried the day in ’12. They are tired of the country’s rising debt ( though they haven’t mustered up enough courage make any cuts in military spending, in fact, they advocate for more aggression ), they are mad about The Affordable Health Care Act, they are mad about having to pay taxes, and they are mad about Benghazi. They are mad about Lois Lerner, the IRS, Unions, the Veteran’s Administration, any sort of discussion about keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people, and they are mad that Mitch McConnell caved and made a deal with Democrats to keep the country from defaulting on its debt obligations. They are mad about any discussion about immigration reform, not because there aren’t pragmatic ideas on the table from both sides of the aisle. They are mad because any movement on this issue could be perceived as an accomplishment for this administration and they are of one mind to not let that happen. I’m convinced they spend the better part of their day just being pissed. It must be exhausting to carry around that much anger all the time.

The Tea Party expresses its anger in the form of being obstructionists. No compromise allowed. If they don’t get their way exactly, then no positive steps forward shall be considered. Let Rome burn. This hurts the country as well as its own credibility. The problem they face is, the founders based everything on compromise and reasonable people. It only works if you have sensible people at the bargaining table though. Let enough nut-jobs in and the plan falls apart.

    The Tea Party and Credibility

The lack of credibility in this writer’s opinion, will be its ultimate undoing. In order to have credibility, you have to be on the right side of history once in a while. You can’t just be a Monday Morning Quarterback and second guess the decision makers with no skin in the game. Yet this is exactly what the Tea Party does.

Of course the truest test of one’s resolve to stand behind their political convictions is if they are willing to pay for them. There just isn’t any doubt in my mind that if the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had been pay-as-you-go, that the support would have dropped off the charts. Everyone’s taxes would have had to go up substantially or else no deal. Since it was sold as free entertainment, it was just too easy to get behind the flag waving effort. Ironic that the same people who were such strong advocates of expanding the wars are the same people now complaining about the debt.

And we can’t address credibility without mentioning just how wrong the Tea Party has been on Climate Change. Take a look at the Climate Change Deniers list, it’s a veritable who’s who of the Tea Party. Even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, they choose to put their heads in the sand and let the free markets drive us off the cliff.

    The Tea Party and Hypocrisy

Of course you can’t get your message across and convince the other side of anything unless you walk the talk. This is where I struggle the most with the Tea Party’s approach. The behaviors have to back up the rhetoric or else it doesn’t work.

Take for example the fact that the Tea Party believes in its heart that it is the party of God. I’ve blogged about this in the past, in terms of the type of roll up your sleeves Christians that I admire. As someone who, at the insistence of my parents, endured 5 years of Catholic school, I can attest to some of the more lasting teachings. One of them was more about ‘show me’ vs. talk about it. Do something nice for someone else and don’t tell anyone or expect credit for it. Practice consideration always. It wasn’t all bad, there was a lot of good in there. Most of it I’ve recovered from after about 12 years of counseling.

But most of all, don’t be a hypocrite. They didn’t like hypocrites at all at my school. You’d get called out every time. Which brings me back around to the Tea Party. First of all, how come when I debate these righteous individuals who, about 1/4 of their posts have to do with getting right with Jesus …., how come they are the ones calling me a Fucking Nazi Socialist, just to provide one example ( out of several? ). How come it is they who are quick to resort to personal attacks?
When it comes to selling me on going to your church, let me tell ‘ya, you just lost me. If it means I get to behave like you, no thanks.

One of the toughest things I had to wrestle with as a young adult was to reconcile my personal beliefs with my religious ones. This is a very difficult exercise yet one I think everyone should do. After all, if your votes don’t reflect your belief system, then how come? What went wrong?

Having been educated for a time in Catholic Schools, I can tell you that whether you believe Jesus was the son of Man or not, when it came to poor people, his response was never going to be “tough shit”

The Tea Party has the conflicting problem that they are the self proclaimed party of God — yet poor people need to get off their asses and it’s their own damn fault that they are poor. Quit moochin’ off me! This just doesn’t square with my understanding of the history of Jesus, the man, and smacks of hypocrisy, which makes the Tea Party something I’ll never choose to be a part of.

Thanks to the 1st Amendment, the Tea Party and its Duck Dynasty followers get to blather on all they want about righteousness. They get to talk about JFK as a great leader who reduced taxes — never mind the actual numbers ( he reduced the top bracket from 91% to 77%. Would the Tea Party be excited about 77%? Go JFK! ).
Reagan was a great guy who told the Russians to go pound sand. Never mind his trick-down theory was wrong by a country mile and is responsible for the mountain of debt we have now ( the top bracket has had a pass on taxes since Reagan. A pass on what it used to pay anyway ).

My father, an extremely smart man once said “You know, sometimes the best response to a ridiculous statement is a deafening silence”.
It’s apparent to me, the public discourse has been degraded into Fox News sound-bites, most of which are not worth the effort to reply to.
Can you hear the quiet?

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On Being a Father

Few things compare to fatherhood. There’s the idea that knowing your own bloodline is taking on a life of its own. There’s the feeling of responsibility to make sure they ‘turn out right’ lest I have some adult dependents later in life. There’s the excitement of watching them do well in their fields of interest, and the pain of watching them try and fail at things they thought they wanted to do. And there’s the feeling of relief when the project is all finished and you know you did your best and that it’s been pretty damn good, thank you very much.

My daughter Kelli was born when I was 20. Dan at 22. For quite a while we figured that a family size of 4 with a boy and a girl was perfect. Why mess with it? Then about 6 years later Rob came along and we couldn’t imagine life without him in the mix too. Three little personalities to observe and enjoy, each one with its own set of joys and challenges as far as fatherhood is concerned.

In most family structures, the father gets the dubious duty of being the bad cop. It’s not a fun role, really, let me just say. The tricky part is resisting the temptation to project .. to let ‘typical kid behavior’ cause us to project worse behaviors in adulthood. I struggled with this some, I have to admit. My tendency was to err on the side of keeping things in line, but it probably would have been more wise to roll my eyes at some things and hope they pass. Hard to say now. Hindsight.

I do believe that being diligent over behavioral issues in the early years pays huge dividends. You probably get to have your biggest impact before about age 12. After that, their friends are having more influence on their decisions than anything I say. If I haven’t taught them what they needed to know by now, it might actually be too late.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a father is watching your kids excel at something. My daughter Kelli was pretty good at most things she tried. Learned piano quickly and gave some incredibly memorable performances. Could be a tenacious soccer player, especially on defense. I coached her team a couple of years and she made some outstanding defensive plays that saved the game. Seemed to go on auto-pilot at school. Just always seemed to bring home the grades with little or no involvement on my part. Now she’s a teacher with 10 years experience and I have 2 grandkids. Wow. Someone pinch me.

Dan was pretty athletic from the get-go. Baseball was his thing from about age 7-14 or so. I remember my eyes lighting up when he was 9 and threw me about 10 strikes in a row with pretty good velocity. Could I possibly have a pitcher on my hands? Yep. He got some good opportunities to shine in Little League and JBA as a teen and was a joy to watch. He had this uncanny ability that, in any situation on the mound, it seemed like when he needed a strike, he could deliver one. I don’t know who was more excited about that fact, him or me. It was fun to write the article for the Tualatin Times that said “Toner faced 12 batters and struck out 11”. He was no slouch in soccer, basketball, or cross-country either.

Rob excelled in chess early on, and he was always kind of a natural at soccer. I think he finished 2nd in State in a chess tournament as a 5th grader. I tried playing him in about the 3rd grade and consistently lost. You wouldn’t think chess was a particularly exciting event to watch unless you’re the parent of someone competing. Let me tell you, it was pretty exciting! In soccer he’d make guys twice his size go flying in one-on-one confrontations with the ball. It was hilarious to watch. He could get it done with good moves and had great passing ability. But the event I remember the most was when he was 9 in ‘AA’ baseball. You know the team picture with the smallest kid in the front row with his knees crossed? That was Rob. That’s why as his coach, twice that year when I was coaching 3rd I was ecstatic that I got to wave him around 3rd for an inside the park home run. My arm was moving! He had pounded the ball in-between right and center, making the outfielders chase. That’s what’s truly awesome about being a dad.

I hope all my kids get to experience parenthood. Kelli and her husband Kyle seem to have to formula down pat and best of all, they are on the same page. My sons are both working on it and that’s fine. Take your time and do it right. The rewards are in the final result when you get to watch these self-sufficient individuals pursue their own careers and families.

Like their parents, they aren’t perfect. But it’s what I call ‘close enough’ to say no regrets what-so-ever. For Father’s Day, next weekend we are all going to run a 5K together in Tigard. What’s significant about it is that in the past 7 months I’ve had 2 strokes. One in Dec. and another one in Jan. This is my ‘comeback’ run. To me it’s kind of a big deal. I wasn’t healthy and now I’m striving to be. I’ve been training since April using the C25K program and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to work pretty hard to get ready, but I’m a week away and looking forward to running with my kids. They can all blow by Dad on the course and make me look silly now that I’m 54 and had some health issues. But little do they know, that’s what I wanted! Why? Because I enjoy watching them all do well, perhaps more than they know.

On this Father’s day, I figured I’d just reflect on these things a bit and enjoy the moment.

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The Reynolds High School Shooting

I’m going to be weak on data to back up my points on this post, but I don’t care. It’s a general common sense thought anyway.

How arrogant are we as a country to think that we know it all when it comes to public safety. Other countries have wrestled with gun violence and acted. The UK is one example as pointed out by Piers Morgan. Good for Piers for standing on principle.

We are stuck in gridlock because of monied interests. Same story, different issue.

The damage George W. Bush has done to the economy will be felt for decades. It’s not just the cost of the wars, it’s the Supreme Court appointments that I think get overlooked. The existing court stands conservative by a 5-4 vote on most issues, but the most damaging one is Citizens United because it basically supports the idea that money can win the day. He with the most dollars deserves the most influence.

Consequently, the NRA lobbyists, in the name of free speech, indirectly control what legislation gets put to the floor. Even though 80% of Americans support the idea of more thorough background checks on guy purchases, especially for mental health issues. The NRA won’t hear of it and cries tyranny at the very thought.
As a result, we get to witness school shootings as common-place events. Over 70 school shootings since Sandy Hook. Ho hum.

What we need is for the silent majority to stop being silent. Nothing will happen until the NRA backers take them to task for this position. Speak out.
It might save a child ( or 20 ) from a horrific death some day.

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Walking your dog in 2014

It’s so nice to see my neighbor taking his dog for a walk on a nice sunny day until…. you realize this idiot appears to be talking to himself, spouting off into his phone. I can hear every word from a block away. Dude, I do not want to hear your conversation. Okay???

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