Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where conservatives get it wrong on Obamacare

I listen to many conservative pundits, as I tend to be part of the choir to whom they preach. However, sometimes they uniformly get something wrong. This time, it has to do with one aspect of Obamacare, which in general I am opposed too, but if one is going to oppose it, at least do so for the right reasons.

The drum they beat that I object to is the idea that the program is unfair because it depends on the young and healthy to pay higher premiums to take care of the aged and the sick. Unless someone convinces me otherwise, I do believe that is the way insurance mechanisms work. You cannot have a pool of only older or already sick people and expect the program to work. This might be one of the few aspects of Obamacare that gets it right. That is why I said in an earlier blog, if you are going to have universal health care, everybody must participate in the system, and everybody must pay throughout their income producing and retirement income years.

One troublesome part of Obamacare is that the designers, to get it passed, had to accommodate every special interest, even if their demands were in conflict. So, the program which requires millions of young people to participate, says that they can stay on their parents plan until they are 26 years old. It says if they are not enrolled in a plan, they have to pay a fine, which is a lot less for most of them than a monthly premium. If in the period of time they are not covered, they incur a pre-existing condition, they have to then be sold insurance anyway. If they are not covered by a plan and have an accident or a serious illness, the emergency room must still provide them services. For a young person struggling economically, where is the incentive to rush out and buy health insurance? Just the fact that they are needed to make it work probably won’t do it.

This ill conceived plan was designed by Democrats who shut Republicans out of the process and was passed by a straight party line vote under questionable circumstances so “we could know what was in it.”

We are now finding out what is in it, it appears to be in deep trouble and the Democrats are mad at the Republicans because they don’t seem to want to help them fix it.

There is an easier way to bring about universal health care when it appears the majority of the public really wants it: expand Medicare to include everybody and tax all income to pay for it. Since the needed websites are already in place and the regulations already written, it could probably be done with a two page bill instead of a 2,000 page bill and 28,000 pages of new regulations.

Christmas in the parsonage

This appeared as a column in  the Issaquah Press on 12/18/13

Alyene Porter published “Papa was a Preacher” in 1944 and it has been on my reading list for years. This will be the year it gets scratched from the list, as I just ordered it from Dad was a preacher, and I look forward to commiserating with Porter as I read about her life of growing up in a parsonage, especially at Christmas time.

Dad pastored small town churches in places like Roslyn, Cle Elum, and Eatonville. No single childhood Christmas memory stands out, but the ambience of the season does. Dad was a poor preacher. I don’t mean he couldn’t preach; I mean he didn’t have much money, so presents were no big deal: socks, underwear, a new pair of trousers for school; the norm for poor kids of the era.

Mom often made my brothers (there were five of us at that time, more later) and I a pair of pajamas for Christmas. She thought that was the item that separated civilized people from the boorish masses.

They got worn until the first washing and promptly abandoned, as we all returned to our boorish ways. This was a good thing, since we were all destined for the military in the 60s, which featured open bay barracks. No self-respecting soldier would lounge around in PJs.

But I digress: back to life at Christmas time in the parsonage.

The Christmas program dominated the season. (For the best description ever of Christmas programs and their preparation, read “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving.) Who will get stuck with the embarrassment of appearing before the congregation in a bathrobe, while pretending to be a shepherd or Joseph? At least the magi got elaborate costumes.

Participants in the nativity scene escaped the torture of spoken parts. Getting tagged for a part in the Christmas play meant you prayed for short lines and few of them. If there were more girl parts than girls, and you were the preacher’s kid and your mother was the play director, it was goodbye male ego.

Christmas programs ended with treats, and at Christmas time, the parsonage became mother’s candy factory. There was fudge, something similar to Applets and Cotlets, divinity and something Mom made by dipping cornflakes, marshmallow chunks, raisins and walnuts in melted chocolate and putting them in clusters to harden. It all had to be taste tested by the preacher’s kids.

In Roslyn, the season also included a big sledding party, followed by hot chocolate and chili. To put a crown on the season, Dad rounded up all who could, and many who couldn’t, sing to walk the town singing Christmas carols for those who couldn’t get out and take in community celebrations. To this day, real caroling requires at least two feet of fresh snow.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A health care solution

Years ago, I resigned myself to the fact that we were going to get universal health care in the U.S., though I didn’t quite expect the debacle we are witnessing. I suspected trouble, though, when it came in the form of a 2,000 page bill which Nancy Pelosi declared had to be passed so we would know what was in it.

There is a simple way to set up universal health care, though it pains my libertarian brain to think about it. I will describe it, but first a discussion about the subject.

We need to quit talking about health insurance, because what has been proposed is not insurance at all; it is prepaid health care.

Insurance is something you buy when you don’t need it, so you will have it when you do need it; it is a tool for risk management. For some reason, people want to think about health insurance differently than other types of insurance.

If I drove up to the insurance agent’s office with the front end of my car bashed in and asked for insurance so I could get it fixed, with the insurance company paying for it, they would turn me down. It is a pre-existing condition; people would understand. It makes sense. But they don’t understand with health insurance; people think the health insurer should cover pre-existing conditions.

When I sold insurance and a couple would come into my office seeking health insurance and asking if it covered pregnancy, I immediately asked if the wife was pregnant. That’s when many couples begin to think about getting health insurance, and it is too late. And, even if we issued a policy, many of them would cancel it as soon as the baby was born and all related medical costs were paid.

The fact that much health insurance comes with the insured’s employment, exacerbates the pre-existing condition problem. When you leave your employment, you leave your group health insurance and are then in the marketplace with your medical history. This problem was largely created by government when a tax advantage was given to employers providing the benefit. Had the advantage gone to individual policy holders, people would have signed up with a carrier and staid with them for years as they moved from job to job, rather than looking for a new policy and wanting it to cover their pre-existing conditions.

Insurance as a risk management tool only works when more people buy it than will ever file a claim. The only reason automobile insurance or home owners insurance works is because many more people buy and maintain policies than file claims. I can’t remember ever filing a claim against my homeowners policy and rarely against my auto policy, though I’ve carried them for years with the same company.

What those who are pushing for universal health care want is not insurance, it is pre-paid health care. If we as a culture believe this is something we truly want, then we need to look at how to make it work. First, it must cover everybody from birth to death, and everybody must pay for it throughout their lifetime.

We already have Medicare in place, complete with a web site that works. The program should have simply been expanded to include everyone, with all income being taxed to cover it. That means no exemptions for businesses, unions, federal workers, or anyone else. The plan should be as basic as the current Medicare system and every doctor’s visit should have a minimal co-pay to discourage people from making frivolous trips to the doctor’s. The plan would cover all pre-existing conditions and pregnancy.

Insurance companies could than design supplemental plans for those who want the “Cadillac” treatment, as they now do for Medicare. If businesses, and unions want their people to be covered for all the possibilities the medical community wants to offer and that their people want, let them buy a supplement that appeals to their constituencies. And, of course the basic plan would be a single payer approach.

The Republicans and libertarians hate the idea of a single payer plan, as do I, but what I describe would be fairer than what Obamacare has turned out to be with all the waivers, exemptions and such. Progressives such as Obama perceived that the system as it existed was unfair, but what they have created is no more fair, and it will not really solve the problem of the many people without health care.

We may simply be watching a fiasco in the roll out of Obamacare, and in time it might smooth out and provide the health care desired; I doubt it.  You can bet the reason it took 2,000 pages to write the bill was to make sure every special interest got more than their share of the pie, and that everyone who needed to be bought off to get it passed, was bought off in some way. It is going to be more costly than anyone imagined. The proposed costs stated to get it passed were just the beginning of the many lies needed to make it happen.

One of my aphorisms states whenever the government creates a cash cow, the wrong people will come to milk it, and this one is going to get milked for all it is worth.

Remember, when someone else pays for your health care, they have a vested interest, and even a right, to interfere with the things you do that might create more expense. Motorcyclists, sky divers, rock climbers, pot smokers, fast food eaters, sugary soda drinkers, take a lesson from cigarette smokers: the progressives who champion this kind of universal health care will have no compunction about excessively taxing, or even prohibiting, your favorite pastime. And they will have a legitimate right to do so.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The fourth quarter

This was published as a column in the Issaquah Press. For you not familiar with the area, Poo Poo Point is a mountain on the edge of Issaquah where para-gliders  launch and STP is an annual Seattle to Portland bicycle ride.

I first encountered Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” while working on an MFA in creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage. It became my fourth quarter (end of life) philosophy:

Do not go gentle into that good night,/Old age should burn and rave at close of day;/Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

The Bible allots us “three score years and ten.” Even by my poor math abilities, that amounts to 70 years. So, at 71, I am in my bonus years. When I now hear if I follow a particular diet, take a particular pill or break a particular habit, I will live longer, I keep doing what I please, as an extended life now just means a few additional months in an assisted living facility, watching TV reruns and wishing someone would change your Depends.

I keep looking for examples of those who live my fourth quarter philosophy such as Burt Munro, whose story is told in the movie The World’s Fastest Indian (motorcycles, not native Americans).

Recently, Joy Johnson, 86, ran a marathon and died the next day. Great exit Joy!

The same week, Vernon Maynard, 100, didn’t exactly “go out with joy” but he did celebrate his birthday with his first skydive. Right on, Vernon.

On June 25, Ardys Kellerman, 81, died in a motorcycle accident. Yes, she was driving and had recently been awarded a certificate for having put a million miles on her various BMW motorcycles. Great ending, Ardys.

A few years back, I watched on TV as a 90- plus year-old fellow made his first bungee jump. Residents from his old folks home came to cheer him on. He climbed on the platform, put his dentures in the bib pocket of his coveralls and jumped. He said he’d be back the next year to do it again.

The poet Edwin Robinson depicts another alternative in Mr. Flood’s Party. Eben Flood is on a hill above Tilbury Town on a moon lit night, partying all alone with his jug. (Google it.) He is lonely, because he has outlived everybody he knew in Tilbury Town, and now his biggest concern is that he find someplace he can set his jug, so it won’t fall over and break.

If you want to avoid a fourth quarter like Mr. Flood’s, buy a motorcycle, arrange a sky dive, paraglide off Poo Poo Point, take a hike, bicycle the STP, or run a race. If you’re not the adventuresome type, then check out the volunteer opportunities published weekly in The Issaquah Press. There are people and organizations that need you. Your church needs you. There are service clubs that need you. “Don’t go gentle into that good night.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Facebook, old men and entrapment

With all the buzz about social media and its influence on our culture, it was time to face up to Facebook, especially since I read that kids are abandoning it because it has become popular with their parents. So, I finally opened a Facebook account.

(Actually, there was an account that bore my name a few years ago, started by some nefarious students, and I had to threaten Facebook with legal action to get it taken down.)

Since opening the account, I have made contact with former friends whom I had not heard from in 25 or 30 years and have gleaned a lot of news from relatives not normally heard from.

Then one day came a suspicious posting: “What’s her face” would like to be your friend. Along with the request for friendship was a picture of a cute little filly. I assumed she was a friend of one of my friends, trying to expand her universe of friends, so I confirmed the request.

The next day, I got a comment from her, saying she had been impressed with my picture, and passed on her phone number and email address in case I wanted to talk. This post raised several red flags.

 First, I have to wonder about anyone impressed with the picture. The picture was taken in Jasper B.C. toward the end of a 30 day motorcycle camping trip from Arkansas to Alaska. It was the look of one having been chased by a grizzly bear sow bent on committing humanality. Not only that, it should have been obvious that I was at least 50, maybe 60 years older than this “friend.” I doubt we would have anything in common to talk about. I wouldn’t know where to put the “likes” and the “you knows,” so as to sound “cool.”

This had all the trappings of police entrapment. “You know, like” in those reality TV shows where the mark shows up for a tryst with a teenager, is met with an investigative news reporter and “like” ends up being hauled away in handcuffs.

It’s not that I can’t be tempted, but at 71, I’m not yet old enough to blame lechery on senility. Besides, I believe the Apostle’s Creed, especially the part which reads “from whence He will come to judge the quick and the dead.”

I figured I’d better get rid of this little filly before she and her police handlers had me in a stable I couldn’t get out of.

With a little searching, I discovered one of those for me yet unused functions of Facebook, the icon to “unfriend.” “Cool;” it’s a lot easier than in real life. Goodbye “what’s her face.”



Saturday, August 31, 2013

campaign advice


When teaching middle and high school, I had that student occasionally who used the word s**t in an essay. I would always pen in the margin, “if this doesn’t stand for sure happy it’s Thursday” don’t use it again.

In politics, I am sure there must be a thing called the sure happy its Thursday file.

As I write this, poor President Obama is in a quandary over what to do in Syria. While on the campaign trail last election, he felt the need to sound tough in the arena of foreign policy since it had worked so well for Bush, and he drew a red line for Syria not to cross.

It sounded good and tough, except that the dictator of Syria didn’t heed it, and so the President now has do something he seems to wish he didn’t have to do or appear to be the epitome of a paper tiger.

To compound things, right wing pundits have drug out comments he and Joe Biden made back when they were both senators and Bush was in the position Obama now finds himself, and so he also runs the risk of looking very hypocritical.

There is a lesson in this for all would be politicians, whether running for the local school board or president of the United States. The incumbent has the advantage of campaigning from a position of inside knowledge, while the challenger must always run from the position of outside ignorance.

At the presidential level, if the challenger wins, and he will at least every eight years in our country, I envision the following scene taking place: Some high level security person takes the newly elected president into a highly secure vault, where he takes a file out of a cabinet and says, “Read this.” After the president reads it, he sucks in his breath and says, “Oh (sure happy it’s Thursday), so that’s what it is all about.”

So, when you are the challenger, be aware you might not be able to keep all those promises you make once you have the inside information. The fewer promises you make and the less harsh your criticisms, the less crow you will have to eat later.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Get it right for the kids

I was driving along those country roads with my radio blasting when my least favorite commercial came on: Kars4Kids.  I dislike this commercial on two levels. First, it is such a catchy tune that it sticks in my brain for hours.  Of course that makes it a commercial success. The second reason I don’t like it stems from my years as an English teacher: it misspells car.

Hillary Clinton told us it takes a village to raise a kid, and I can remember those times I got home and somebody had already called my parents to report some misbehavior.  However, the village can also damage kids when it messes with the language.

Children come to school with a language structure already in place. They don’t come to school with a history or math structure in place. The English teacher works to correct and polish that language structure. When advertisers purposely misspell words as in kars for cars, kidz for kids, lite for light or nite for night, etc., because it is kind of cutesy, they are a part of the village that damages the kids.

Another way we mess up language for kids is to use it inaccurately.  My favorite example of this actually took place each year where I taught. The National Guard would print red ribbons every year as part of an anti-drug abuse campaign and distribute them to all school children throughout the state. Emblazoned on the ribbons was “I am drug free.” Students who were drug free were encouraged to proudly wear the ribbons during “Red Ribbon Week,” and 99 percent did.

Yet, one principle told me that at least 50 percent of the students in her school were on some kind of prescription drug, which was not unique to her school. Were they drug free? I pointed out this inaccuracy to the principal, who also happened to be a former English teacher, and she agreed, but unfortunately the ribbons were not printed by the school.

I know what the ribbon meant. It meant I am drug abuse free, but that is not what it said. To complicate this issue further, we continue culturally to use the term drug free and hold it up as a virtue.  Meanwhile, you cannot turn on the television without being assaulted by commercials promoting drugs, and it becomes obvious we are not drug free nor want to be, but we can be drug abuse free.

I remember reading a column several years ago where the writer suggested if we want to make headway in the war against drugs, we need to ban all drug related commercials as a starting point. That probably won’t happen, but we could at least be accurate in our use of language.  The village can help raise a kid, but it can also damage the same.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Don't believe in sasquatch?

Sasquatch and God

We were sitting around the campfire discussing sasquatch when one camper said emphatically, “I don’t believe in sasquatch.”  I’m sure he is just one of many who make that statement.

For centuries philosophers have tried to solve the problem of how we know what we think we know, with little progress, let alone solving how we know what we don’t know.

Assuming we feel comfortable moving on without solving the apparently unsolvable problem of how we know, how can you know something doesn’t exist? We know the world is a globe rather than a disk because we have physical evidence. We know dinosaurs once existed because we have physical evidence. We know hairy mammoths once roamed in the Arctic because we have the physical evidence.

Where is the physical evidence that sasquatch don’t exist? We can’t know they don’t exist. We can only know we don’t have evidence that they do exist, but someday we might. (I kind of hope they do exist, as I included a couple of stories about them in my collection of short stories “Dak and His Great Motorcycle Adventures,” available as an e-book on for 99 cents or individually on this blog for free.)

So I asked the camper how much of total knowledge he possessed.

He said he didn’t know, but for the sake of discussion, he would claim 1 per cent, though admitted that would be a bit egotistical.

“So, don’t you think in that 99 per cent of knowledge you don’t possess, sasquatch might exist?” I asked.

Yes, that set up is not original with me. I heard it on a tape years ago where the speaker was discussing the existence of God with an atheist, which is where I am going with this tale.

How is it we come to know the things we know? We have physical or experiential evidence, we get there through a process of reasoning, or we receive some kind of revelation, which is where many religious claims originate.

Since we have no physical evidence God exists, the first step in arriving at some understanding is probably some kind of reasoning.

There is nothing like doubt to lead a person to an understanding of truth, because honest doubters tend to search. It was at a time of doubt that I asked myself what I would need in a religion if I were to start one.

It seemed to me the first thing a religion would have to postulate is the existence of a God. Why? It seems to me there are only two ways all that we know and see could have gotten here: it could all have happened as a product of time and chance and an evolutionary process. The other way is that it happened as a creative act, which also could have involved a process of evolution, but with a design and a designer.

Which of these two stretches credulity the furthest? Put simply, it is easier for me to believe in a creative force than in time and chance (In fact. it is impossible for me to even begin to wrap my brain around time and chance as the explanation.). Also, if all is the result of design, there is a greater possibility that life has purpose, that I am a creature of destiny.

The second element a religion would have to have is recognition that human nature is in some way seriously flawed.  The several thousand years of written history and many more thousands of years of archeological history bear that out. The empirical evidence that something is wrong with human nature is overwhelming. We live in a world where children have to be taught to be moral. The natural thing is to lie, steal, cheat, covet, kill and maim.  Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, depicted a microcosm of our world at large. In its original publication, it carried the sub-title A World Without Adults.  It described a world without a superior intelligence.

Again, to argue against this idea, that is to say that man is innately good, is to stretch my credulity further than it can stretch in view of the evidenced.

Then, the third element a religion would have to have is some solution to the human condition.

The fourth element necessary would be that any solution would have to be based on grace, as personal experience tells me I lack the capacity to mend my personal flaws, try as I might. Just admitting to them is struggle enough.

Looking at these four elements, I realized I didn’t need to come up with a religion of my own. The one I grew up with, Christianity, makes allowance for these four things, though it needs to shed much of its baggage gathered over time. Maybe as one writer put it, Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it has just so seldom been tried.

Though I can reason my way to a belief in God, there is still the idea of revelation. Christianity sees God revealed in two ways, through His creation and through the Bible. Both can speak to us of His nature, His purposes and His expectations. Someday, we might also have physical proof.





Saturday, May 18, 2013

let them marry

Gay marriage


With the Supreme Court taking on the issue of gay marriage, there has been much discussion about the issue in the media in recent months and there will be more, once the court issues its ruling. I have listened to the discussion with interest, but have yet to hear anyone raise what I consider to be the central question: what business does the government have being involved in marriage in the first place.

Marriage is a religious matter, and its parameters should be set by the various religious groups who want to practice it for their own members. When I was a Baptist pastor and also chairman of the Alaska Libertarian Party, I was asked at times if I would perform a ceremony for a couple that did not have a marriage license. Of course I would, as long as they understood I was performing a religious service and they were Christians. Otherwise, I was just acting as an agent of the state and they would need a license. As far as I am concerned, the wedding ceremony is a religious service in which the participants want to make a vow before God, with their friends as witnesses.

If they obtained a legal document from the government and wanted me to sign it for legal reasons, that was fine, but as far as I was concerned, it was a religious issue. I have been married to my wife for 50 years, not because of some legal action I took June 7, 1963, but because I made a promise to her, with God and many friends as witnesses, that I would stay with her through good times and bad, until death took one or the other of us.

So how did the government get involved in this issue?  I’m no historian, especially on the issue of marriage, but I will make some logical guesses. In Western cultures, it probably started when the church and the state were one and the same, as was the case in many of the European countries from which our dominate culture springs.   So we also codified it as we developed our own laws here, largely from our religious impulses and a perceived need to protect marriage as an institution.

Well-meaning politicians codified it further with laws relating to tax benefits and laws of inheritance. They granted favors on the basis of marriage, which only made those who didn’t qualify for them, want the same benefits. Getting the government involved in marriage through laws and favors hasn’t done much to preserve it, so we now have half of all marriages ending in divorce and people rightfully pushing for an expansion of the definition of marriage.

The government wrongly forced the Mormons to abandon their practice of polygamy, wrongly denies gays the right to marry, and wrongly codifies something that is primarily a religious concern. Whether homosexual, heterosexual, polygamous or monogamous, all the legal issues now protecting marriage can be dealt with contractually by those who want legal protection over one issue or another. As to any favors granted to the married by law, do away with them because they obviously have not done much to protect the institution anyway.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

One life saved


I heard the President say recently, as he has at times in the past, “if it saves one life, it is worth it.” In this case, he was talking about some form of gun control.

I’m not going to join the argument about gun control at this point. It has been well argued in public discourse, and I have nothing to add that has not already been said many times.

I want to argue instead about the statement, if it saves one life, it is worth it. Aside from gun control, that statement gets made about things mandated for our safety in many areas: traffic, automobile construction, home construction, school construction, job safety, etc.

The statement sounds so compassionate and so logical.  How can anyone put a value on human life? What is a life worth? Of course, that would depend on whether we are talking about my life or yours, my money or yours.

To begin with, you don’t know whether your efforts have saved a life until you have saved one. All we can really know is how many lives were lost. We can’t really know whether our effort was what made a difference for those who did not die.

The real question is how much money should we spend on a bet that it will save a life? Obviously, we are willing to bet some. I wouldn’t buy a new car that didn’t have seatbelts and airbags. I will spend the money on the bet that I may need them and hence, they might just save my life. But how far will I go on the grounds that it just might save any life? There was a fellow I used to see driving around Anchorage who had welded an entire roll cage around the outside of his car. I won’t go that far.

You can spend too much money, and the government can spend too much, or mandate that you spend too much, on the basis that it might just save one life.


The second fallacy is that no matter what action you take, you will not save a life. No life is saved. Even those Jesus is reported to have raised people from the dead, are no longer with us. What you saved was a few days, weeks, months or years. Life is a terminal illness, not to be saved.


So the question is not what is a life worth, but what is it worth to save a few additional days, weeks, months or years? If it is your money, I guess the answer is it is your business. But when it is public money it becomes my business.


During the election, the Republicans were making a fuss over the fact that with government health care, there would be panels deciding whether grandpa (that would be me) would get a particular medical procedure or not. Since public money is being used, I would hope some responsible person was there to determine if the cost of the procedure was worth the days, weeks, months or years it would add to a life.


The bottom line is this, don’t give into a politician whose best argument is that “if it saves one life, it will have been worth it.” There is no limit to the number of ideas people can come up with when they get to spend other people’s money.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fitting in

This editorial appeared in the Issaquah Press. The story about Nome was modified for a family paper in case you heard it another way.


Being new to the community, I wonder how to blend in and be thought an old timer or at least a regular. I have discovered that how one does this varies among geographic areas of the country.

In Alaska, you were either a chechako (newcomer)or a sourdough (old timer). How you made the transition depended on who you asked. Most of the explanations are rooted in old Alaska before the advent of modern roads and air travel. Some say you had to have missed the last boat out at least once, which meant you had been there through at least one winter. Others say you had to have relieved yourself in the Yukon River.

And then there was the fellow who walked into a bar in Nome, located in treeless, tundra and asked how to become a sourdough. He was told he had to drink a fifth of whisky, hug a tree and kill a polar bear.

He unwisely drank the fifth of whisky first and headed out the door. He stumbled back into the bar a couple of hours later all bloody and torn up and asked, “now where is that tree I’m supposed to shoot?”

I related this story to an old timer in Mt. View, Arkansas, which is so deep in the Ozarks they don’t get Grand Ole Opry until Wednesday night.  We were listening to mountain music in the courthouse square. Every evening, the hill folk come to town with their guitars, auto harps, bass fiddles, mandolins, or dulcimers, form little musical groups around the square and entertain the folks. I asked the old timer how I could become the Ozark equivalent of a sourdough.

“Well,” he drawled, “you could live here 80 years and you’d still be an outsider, though it might help a little if you were a 33rd degree Mason.”

So, what does it take to become the Issaquah equivalent of a sourdough?

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you can order at Starbucks without the barista saying “what!”

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you have renewed your Costco card at least once.

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you no longer use an umbrella.

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you prefer roundabouts to four-way stops.

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you no longer stop before entering a roundabout.

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you leave your GPS at home.

You might be an Issaquah old timer if you go on more than six hikes a year.

You are an Issaquah old timer if you went to school with Rob Pickering.

Raod less travelled

This editorial was published in the Issaquah Press


I wonder where that road goes? With that question, I am off on another of Robert Frost’s roads less taken, as I explore Issaquah, my new home. With the scarcity of streets laid out in grids, discovery is the best way to learn my way around, especially being map challenged.

Sometimes, I leave the house on my motorcycle with my only intent being to take the next right turn or the next left turn.  The most amazing find on these serendipitous trips has been the frequency with which roads lead to a trailhead or series of trailheads.

Too many years too late, I realize I am in a hiker’s paradise.

Shall I park the bike and see where that trail goes? There is a pull to do it, but having had both legs run over by a car a few years back and an aging hip declaring it is time for a replacement, I turn the bike around and look for new roads to explore.

While I ride, I think. I see Issaquah as the antidote to a serious issue raised by the naturalist and author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods.” Louv coins a phrase he calls “nature deficit disorder.”  He claims that in a high tech environment, kids need exposure to nature if they are going to develop normally.

When I think about this, I think about the many boyhood hours I whiled away playing in the woods of Roslyn.  Our house was on the edge of town, and it was out the back door, across and alley, and into the woods. It was my brothers’ and my unrestricted playground. I followed it with 30 years of Alaskan out-of-doors and 20 years of Arkansas, the self-proclaimed “natural state.”

At the age of 70, I still like to pitch a tent in the woods around Salmon La Sac, sit in a chair, watch the night sky chase the daylight away and marvel at the “starry, starry sky.” In early morning, I brew a cup of coffee, heat up a Cup-O-Noodles for breakfast and watch the daylight now dispatch the darkness. It is an experience every child should have occasionally, as it is a terrific balance to the touch screen existence they live.

You may not be able to take the kids on an overnighter, but many trails around Issaquah provide a great way to let the kids experience the work of a Creator rather than always the work of the creature. So, pack a lunch, load the kids in the car, find a trailhead, and don’t forget the Discover Pass, a real bargain at $30.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Go for the gun


     The policy of the National Rifle Association to oppose all gun legislation, even legislation that seems to just be common sense, such as a restriction on the number of bullets a clip can hold, baffles some people and makes the NRA appear unreasonably recalcitrant.

    I am not an NRA member or a big gun enthusiast, though I do own a single shot 20 gauge shot gun and an antique, pump action .22 rifle, neither of which I have shot in years.

I think the key to understanding the NRA’s policy is found in the ancient fable of the camel’s nose under the tent. Google it and you will find several versions of the story. It is one I often read to my son when he was a little boy.

    It seems Abdul was crossing the dessert, had pitched his tent and was settled in for the night, Abdul in his tent and the camel outside.

    Soon he heard the camel complain of the chilly night wind and ask if he couldn’t just stick his nose in the tent. Permission was granted, and soon the camel complained that the wind was blowing sand in his eyes and couldn’t he just stick his whole head in the tent.

    By the time the night had passed, the whole camel was in the tent and Abdul was outside shivering in the chilly wind.

    The NRA is afraid the antigun lobby has an agenda that will lead to outlawing private gun ownership, and the way they intend to get there is incrementally, one small piece of legislation at a time, just as the camel got into the tent.

    The truth of this was born out in a recent piece of antigun legislation introduce in the current session of the Washington State legislature. A part of the legislation would allow law enforcement officers to come into every house once a year without a warrant to ensure that all guns were properly secured.

    When this came to light, the three legislators who had introduced the bill claimed they had no idea that that element was there. It appears their claim was probably true. Apparently, many bills are written by lobbyists and think tanks and sent to legislators as boiler plate bills which they in turn submit because they favor the subject of the bill. That doesn’t mean they have read the details.

    This bill was written by an antigun lobby and they, like the camel, were asking for more than just putting a head into the tent. By including the part about law enforcement entering a private residence annually without a warrant, they revealed more of their ultimate intentions than they should have this early in the game. Since this is boilerplate material going to politicians across the nation, it could be coming to your state legislature too.

    The NRA is justified in their policy to oppose any gun legislation, especially since there is no evidence that any antigun legislation has ever had any real effect in reducing gun violence. Such legislation simply allows politicians to appear like they are doing something and makes some of their constituents feel good because “something” is being done. And it allows the antigun crowd to incrementally move toward their ultimate goal of outlawing private ownership of guns.


Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm Not Guilty This Time

               There seems to be an effort among some of the politically correct crowd to make those of us who are white feel guilty about having stolen this country from the American Indians and for having prospered on the backs of black slaves.  In that I did not have much choice over where I was born or the race of the womb from which I came, I refuse to feel guilty.  
              World history teaches that when people cannot defend their territory against invaders, they lose it.  When we don’t defend our territory against invaders, we too will lose it. The invasion does not have to always be military. The Western Europeans who established themselves in this country could well lose their territory to immigrants of color, without a shot being fired.  However, the peoples of color coming into this country come from many backgrounds and have no unifying culture: they are extremely diverse.  Each group has its own prejudices and racist tendencies (racism is not solely the property of white Anglo Saxons).  Because of this, minority rule, be it of one minority or a coalition of minorities, will bring with it a time of chaos and strife.
             Over the years, liberal journalists Juan Williams and Leonard Pitts, along with the many injustices reported in the news, have awakened in me an empathy for the prejudices blacks have to deal with in this country.  However, all prejudices are not race related and lucky is the person who never encounters any.  
            When I decided to leave the pastorate and return to secular work, I went to see my friend who owned a large, successful Alaskan employment agency. He told me when he would tell a prospective employers I was a clergyman, they wouldn’t even grant me an interview. Another friend who was an executive head hunter told me the two hardest people to place were ex-preachers and ex-school teachers.  This would seem a little strange to my friends in Arkansas, where ministers are respected, but not to my friends in Alaska or Washington.  I also lost out on a very desirable job once because of my lack of interest in sports.  And, we all know there is a prejudice against older people when it comes to employment. 
           In spite of all this, I have managed always to find employment when I wanted to, including a major career shift at the age of 50 and new jobs even at the age of 70.  To be sure, they weren’t the same jobs I might have been able to land when I was young and had no history as a pastor or school teacher, but they were there to be found in spite of prevailing prejudices, and there are no affirmative action programs for these prejudices.
              Knowing we live in a world of prejudices, we have to be smarter than those who would victimize us. My son told me of a black co-worker whose father made it a point to name his kids common names such as John or James and taught them to speak standard, unaccented American English.  He said his father did not want his children ruled out by prejudice before they even had a chance to meet a future employer and speak for themselves in person.  It makes sense.
              A friend who was a building contractor back in the 70s when long hair on men was not acceptable, told how a young man with long hair came on his job site looking for work. He didn’t have any work for the young man but took a few minutes to talk to him. The fellow had a wife and baby and needed work badly.  He said he knew why no one would hire him. “It’s because of my long hair,” he said. We live in a prejudicial world, so don’t’ add prejudices which you can avoid to those you can’t do much about.  This includes visible tattoos, random body piercing and many of the other things young people seem so fascinated with.  If you are going to look like Dennis Rodman, you had better be a real good basketball player, but don’t expect to avoid prevailing prejudices when it comes to your own employment.
              I grew up in a poor family, like many blacks, Hispanics, etc.  To my knowledge, my ancestors did not own slaves, and this is the best any of us can say, since the institution of slavery spans all nationalities, civilizations, races and times.  Any of our ancestors could have owned slaves, though they probably didn’t.  Even if they did, we don’t hold children responsible for the sins of their fathers. The economic wealth of this country was also built on the backs of underpaid coal miners, of which my father was one.  That does not mean the grandchildren of the owners of Northwest Mining Company owe me anything.
               I see no reason why I should expect anything from people of other races or that they should expect anything from me, other than good will.  Those blacks who are living today were not slaves, nor was I a slave owner.  The poor black and I both started poor.  We owe each other nothing except to be fair one with the other.
                As to the American Indians, they can rise up and reclaim their territory, or they can study history to find out what others did when they lost their territory.  Yes, in some ways, we have grossly abused the American Indians.  I still remember how mad and ashamed I got when reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, because of the injustices dealt native Americans.  However, compared to what happened to most captive peoples throughout history, the European invaders have treated them quite well and continue to do so.
                Recently I saw one of those bumper stickers which said, “Free Tibet.”  Lots of luck. The Tibetans could not hold their territory against the invading Chinese. They can either attempt to reclaim it, learn to get along with the invaders, or wait for some super power to run the Chinese out and return their territory to them. The Dali Lama can meditate until he dies or try to channel Crazy Horse for advice, but the invaders are there to stay. 
               The Mexicans have a better chance of retaking California and parts of Texas than either the American Indians or the Tibetans have of retaking their territory, and the Mexicans’ chances aren’t very good.  Take Israel for example: Even with pressure from the United Nations and the international community, the West Bank is still occupied by Israel and has been since they took it in the Six Day War in 1967.  World bullies might force Israel’s hand someday to give the land back, but it won’t be because the native inhabitants retook the territory.
                Even if the United States were forced to cede its territory to some superpower, the invaders would not give it back to the American Indians nor would they grant reparations to the heirs of black slaves.
                When you cede your territory to the invaders, you lose control of it until the invaders become too weak to maintain it, as in the recent history of Russia and its satellite nations, which comprised the former Soviet Union.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Road Less Travelled

I wonder where that road goes? With that question, I am off on another of Robert Frost’s roads less taken, as I explore Issaquah, my new home. With the scarcity of streets laid out in grids, discovery is the best way to learn my way around, especially being map challenged.

Sometimes, I leave the house on my motorcycle with my only intent being to take the next right turn or the next left turn.  The most amazing find on these serendipitous trips has been the frequency with which roads lead to a trailhead or series of trailheads.

Too many years too late, I realize I am in a hiker’s paradise.

Shall I park the bike and see where that trail goes? There is a pull to do it, but having had both legs run over by a car a few years back and an aging hip declaring it is time for a replacement, I turn the bike around and look for new roads to explore.

While I ride, I think. I see Issaquah as the antidote to a serious issue raised by the naturalist and author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods.” Louv coins a phrase he calls “nature deficit disorder.”  He claims that in a high tech environment, kids need exposure to nature if they are going to develop normally.

When I think about this, I think about the many boyhood hours I whiled away playing in the woods of Roslyn.  Our house was on the edge of town, and it was out the back door, across and alley, and into the woods. It was my brothers’ and my unrestricted playground. I followed it with 30 years of Alaskan out-of-doors and 20 years of Arkansas, the self-proclaimed “natural state.”

At the age of 70, I still like to pitch a tent in the woods around Salmon La Sac, sit in a chair, watch the night sky chase the daylight away and marvel at the “starry, starry sky.” In early morning, I brew a cup of coffee, heat up a Cup Noodles for breakfast and watch the daylight now dispatch the darkness. It is an experience every child should have occasionally, as it is a terrific balance to the touch screen existence they live.

You may not be able to take the kids on an overnighter, but many trails around Issaquah provide a great way to let the kids experience the work of a Creator rather than always the work of the creature. So, pack a lunch, load the kids in the car, find a trailhead, and don’t forget the Discover Pass, a real bargain at $30.