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Moderate Breeze- the Background Behind the Member Uprising

The second installment of the Lincoln Electric member uprising.  I need to include a bit of an explanation of the Rural Electrification Act and the Rural Electrification Administration – Rural Electrification Administration (REA) provides a good description of how and why legislation was passed that gave the Electric Cooperatives a financial advantage (over the private electric companies) in providing electrical service to rural areas.  Go ahead – read it.  I’ll wait.

Essentially, the conflict boiled down to structure – a private electric company (Montana Power for example) was supervised by Montana’s Public Service Commission.  With Lincoln Electric (and the other Montana Rural Electric Cooperatives) the assumption is that the coop board members will represent the cooperative’s owners and users.  The slogan is still on the wall: “Owned by the people we serve” and we still hear the deliberate misquote “Owned by the people we screw.”  Both versions can show some support.

I knew most of the board members.  I worked with many on projects unrelated to electricity before and after.  Still, Lincoln Electric’s management only needed to convince six out of ten to go along – and they had worked together for a long time, and developed trust.  Gareth Eaton and Duke Baney weren’t so easy to convince – and it was their dissatisfaction with the explanations that led to the member uprising.  Gareth talked to his son Craig.  Duke shared his concerns with Kenny Gwynn  and Al Luciano.  The management and remainder of the board didn’t see it – but the member uprising was coming.

There’s a 1944 publication online that tells of the strengths and weaknesses of cooperatives at historians.org.

  1. A cooperative business is set up by a group of individuals to obtain services for themselves at cost—not to obtain profit from rendering services to others.
  2. A cooperative business tries to render the greatest possible benefit to its members—not to make the largest possible profit.
  3. A cooperative distributes any surplus income over the cost of doing business among those who are served by it, in proportion to their use of its services—not in proportion to their investment.
  4. A cooperative is controlled by its patron members, each of whom ordinarily is allowed a single vote—not by the owners of its capital stock, if any, in proportion to the number of shares they hold.

    In other words, the chief aim of cooperative business, as contrasted with other kinds of business, is to provide goods and services to its members at cost. A cooperative does not engage in buying and selling in order to make a profit for its members. Although it may buy and sell from the general public in order to carry on its own business, this is incidental to its chief aim—serving its members.

A common problem with co-ops is that the organization is theoretically operated for the benefit of its members, but there is a tendency for co-ops to shift from that emphasis to being operated more directly for the benefit of the employees.  A glance at Lincoln Electric’s declining numbers for a quorum at the annual meeting suggests that a lack of general interest from most of the membership.  At the most recent annual meeting, the report on the website shows 101 members required for a quorum and 25 employees of the cooperative.  Those numbers show how difficult it is to “render the greatest possible benefit to its members” as a priority over rendering the greatest possible benefit to its employees.  It is a natural tendency of management to look for agreeable board members.  (Board members have been known to argue against this statement, but I have yet to be convinced by those arguments)

The big concern that led to the members revolt was that the manager was retiring, had pretty much selected his own successor, and the board supported paying him his full wages for the next two years as a consultant.  Another concern was nepotism.  The electric service was probably close to the best in the state, and office services were available to the public 5 days a week. 

Next installment:  Force 5: Fresh Breeze – small trees in leaf begin to sway

Community

The NRA Shows Montana’s Noncompetitive Elections

This time I didn’t need to bother our overworked election officials to find out how many and which of our state senators and representatives will be unopposed on November’s ballot.  I could go to nrapvf.org and find out . . . as well as learning the candidates NRA grades.

Unopposed for the State House are:

District 1         Steve Gunderson (R)                          District 2         Neil Durham (R)

District 6         Amy Regier (R)                                   District 8         Terry Falk (R)

District 9         Tony Brockman (R)                            District 11       Tanner Smith (R)

District 14       Denley Loge (R)                                 District 16       Tyson Running Wolf (D)

District 18       Llew Jones (R)                                    District 19       Russel Miner (R)

District 27       Josh Kassmier (R)                               District 29       Douglas Flament (R)

District 32       Jonathan Windy Boy (D)                    District 34       Rhonda Knudsen (R)

District 35       Brandon Ler (R)                                  District 36       Bob Phalen (R)

District 37       Jerry Schillinger (R)                            District 39       Gary Parry (R)

District 40       Greg Oblander (R)                             District 43       Kerri Seekins-Crowe (R)

District 45       Katie Zolnikov (R)                              District 53       Nelly Nicol (R)

District 54       Terry Moore (R)                                 District 55       Lee Deming (R)

District 56       Sue Vinton (R)                                   District 66       Eric Matthews (D)

District 71       Ken Walsh (R)                                   District 75       Marta Bertoglio (R)

District 78       Gregory Frazer (R)                             District 80       Becky Beard (R)

District 81       Ron Marshall (R)

Thirty-one of Montana’s 100 state representatives have no opponent in the general election.  Since legislative districts are apportioned according to population, this essentially translates to 31% of Montanans not having a choice on their state representative in November – because subsection 7 is ignored by their county election administrators.                                

In the State Senate, the following are unopposed:

District 1         Michael Cuffe (R)                                 District 5         Mark Noland (R)

District 9         Bruce Gillespie (R)                               District 19       Kenneth Bogner (R)

District 20       Barry Usher (R)                                     District 27       Dennis Lenz (R)

District 29       Forrest Mandeville (R)

Since state senate terms are 4 years, only 25 state senators are up for election this year.  The 7 unopposed candidates translates to 28% of Montana voters not having a choice on their state senator in the upcoming election – because subsection 7 is ignored by county election administrators. At least the folks voting for a US Senator in Pennsylvania can choose between a pair of bad candidates – here in Lincoln County when the primary ballot is printed, choice vanishes.  The problem here is not bad candidates – it’s that subsection 7 is being ignored and the voter’s last option for choice is taken away by unelected administrators.  I would probably vote for Mike Cuffe and Neil Durham . . . but with the decision already locked in stone by Paula, why bother?          

                         

 

Community

The Working Class Extinction

Claremont Institute has an article called “The Looming Extinction of the Working Class.”

It begins with this paragraph: “You can’t have a democracy—at least outside of a one-party “people’s” version—without a middle class. Much of the last half millennia is the story of the bumpy rise of an expanding middle class, which successfully replaced ancient aristocratic structures, creating a remarkably innovative economic culture and a vital democratic society. But over the last four decades, this class—which includes artisans, small business people, and skilled workers—has been declining, largely as the result of economic forces but also because of political decisions to adopt policies inimical to those groups’ needs.”

I think the statement is about right – I came to the decision in early adulthood that small business ownership – particularly retail – was no place for me.  I never went so far as to describe the reason as “political decisions to adopt policies inimical to those groups’ needs” – but I won’t argue with the statement.

The article describes the influence of the Netherlands in developing the bourgeois class and the republican form of government:

“Across Europe, the old medieval order was undermined by a diminishing threat of invasion, more efficient agricultural practices, a demographic rebound, and the revival of commerce and urban culture, particularly around the Mediterranean and the Baltic.[11]

But it was in the Netherlands where the bourgeois class flourished most. At a time when property ownership was limited to a few, Netherlanders expanded their territory by draining swamps and building dikes, establishing new farms and businesses. Improvements in agricultural methods led to an early commercialization of the countryside and fueled a wider economic boom. As the economic historian Jan de Vries observed, “capitalism grew out of the soil in Holland.”[12]

After expelling their Spanish Habsburg rulers in the seventeenth century, the Dutch built the world’s most powerful maritime empire, with a fleet larger than all the rest of Europe’s combined. Amsterdam’s large port bustled with a rich trade in foodstuffs, hemp, hops, and dye plants. The opportunistic Dutch expanded their commercial activity in part by pioneering technological changes decades ahead of their competitors.[13]

But arguably their greatest achievement lay in creating a republic free from aristocratic or clerical domination.[14] The growing ranks of proprietors set down “the geographical roots of republican liberty,” notes historian Simon Schama.[15] Dutch culture was family-centered, inventive, sober, frugal, and tolerant.[16] Although it was majority Calvinist, the country boasted large colonies of Catholics, Jews, and other outsiders, including Muslims; indeed, roughly one-third of Amsterdam’s population in 1650 was foreign-born, though European.”

Further in, the article goes into our more recent history: “Between 1940 and 1950, the incomes of the bottom 40 percent of American workers surged by roughly 40 percent, while the gains in the top quintile were a modest 8 percent and the top 5 percent saw their incomes drop slightly.[33] Between 2005 and 2014, the percentage of families with flat or decreasing real incomes rose to over 60 percent in the twenty-five most advanced economies.”

Under the heading “Why the Middle Class Declined we find: “these remarkable achievments of liberal capitalism are now distinctly threatened. This is likely not a “conspiracy” but the collective result of private actions driven by rational decision-making.

Until the 1990s, fields that were growing and promised higher profits invited newcomers, as one would expect.[36] Since then, there has been a marked decrease in the percentage of all small firms in both the United States and Europe as larger firms continue to increase their share of the pie.[37] Technology has played a critical role by facilitating global commerce and, increasingly, driving business from the Main Streets and local companies to massive firms with the ability to adjust to changing conditions.[38] . . . Roughly one hundred and ten thousand restaurants have shut down during the lockdowns, and some two hundred thousand more businesses overall have simply shut down.[40] It is no surprise that barely 16 percent of small business owners, according to one recent survey, think the federal government is performing well for them.[41] As executive compensation reached the stratosphere at the big tech and finance firms, the Harvard Business Review notes that small businesses—the bulwark of the yeoman class—face “an existential threat” to their existence.[42] The pandemic shift clearly favored big companies, who could deploy far greater resources make the necessary transition to the new reality. Big Pharma companies have reined in lucrative profits with vaccine revenue.[43] CEO compensation reached record levels this year; investment bankers on Wall Street enjoyed record bonuses; and the giant tech firms now boast a market capitalization greater than the bloated federal budget.[44] The biggest tech firms achieved new record valuations and ever-increasing domination. As millions struggle to fill their gas tanks and pay their rent, sales of business jets to the rising ranks of billionaires have soared to new heights.[45]

As the article move on to the effects of “the clerisy” – the group the author identifies as responsible for the end of the working class – we note that author Joel Kotkin doesn’t feel that the extinction of the middle class is inevitable – but he looks at it as a social trend – not a conspiracy theory.  It’s worth reading.

Community

Light Breeze . . . Vane sets to wind, sock begins to fill

I’ve been asked several times to put the story of the 1988 member uprising that replaced the Lincoln Electric Board on paper.  I suppose it should be written down – few electric cooperatives have had successful member uprisings, and, of the most active members of CREAM (Concerned REA Members), only Craig Eaton and I are still around to tell the tale.  Kenny Gwynn, Al Luciano, Duke Baney have long since passed on, but this is their story just as well.

And I am not going to identify the inside source.  Promised to keep the secret over 30 years ago, and the promise is still good.  Not going to tell you if our source – the other side used the word snitch – is male or female, alive or dead. 

I wasn’t involved at the beginning.  We started watching the board meetings in June or July, when Craig had commented on nepotism in LEC hiring.  The June 27, 1988 issue of the Mountain Ear headlines “Lincoln Electric Has New Nepotism Policy.”  “The new policy prohibits hiring of relatives (of management and supervisory employees) of the third degree and closer.”  July 25 included, “The board discussed proposed policy #700.  Policy #700 will require the public to be on the agenda before being heard.  The policy seems to be in response to Craig Eaton’s appearance before the board last May.”  September 5 headlined “REA Manager to Retire” and described how the manager would stay in Eureka for two years after retirement, as a consultant, with no managerial responsibilities or duties, receiving his regular salary as fixed in June 11, 1989.

In retrospect, it’s obvious things were heating up, and we were reporting them.  In the September 19 issue, I commented that I had 3 months off because of a broken back.  On September 26th we wrote:

“We’ve been attending Lincoln Electric co-op meetings for about 3 months now–since Craig Eaton told of nepotism in REA hiring. 
By and large, we hadn’t seen a need to cover these meetings before.  I turn the switch, and my lights, computer, whatever go on.  Trego has better electric service than anywhere else I’ve lived or worked–and considering the places I’ve packed a computer into as a consultant, that says a lot.
Unfortunately, several of the trustees, along with Craig Eaton, have brought us to the realization that you can’t judge every aspect of your electric co-op by pulling a light switch in the morning.
There’s a story to be told, and some accusations to be investigated.  We’ll be running a series of articles on the REA covering the accusations and making our own conclusions.  The Mountain Ear is too small a publication to cover all this in a single issue, and advertising is the tail that wags the dog–we can’t afford the single issue approach.
Besides, with this much controversy, we’ll get even better readership during the next couple of months.   

Community

Documents from Darris

I got a handful of documents from Darris Flanagan the other day – one was an ego booster . . . a copy of an article from 1980 in the Montana Farmer Stockman, telling about the gravity sprinkler systems we’d been setting up as we built new siphons for Glen Lake Irrigation District.  It had a picture of me, pointing out a gushing leak on the Sinclair Siphon.  I was younger then.  The quotes from Dick Brinton brought memories back of an old friend.  If I had an “I love me wall” I’d think about posting it.

Another was notes taken by Shirley Farley from a visit with my mother.  There was some information that was new to me, and some that was foggy.  The notes on Trego School might be a bit confusing, but they’re what we have:

“Herrig was the teacher in 1924 and for several other years.”  (I assume this was the wife of Ant Flat’s first Ranger, Fred Herrig)  Leola was an Ingram.  She married Phil Delager and then Walt Ritter. (Leola was Trego’s school clerk in the sixties)

Mr. Belmont taught in the new white school across the road from the present school ball field.

The lunch room cooks rotated shifts for 2 weeks.  They received no pay, but their children did not have to pay for their hot lunches.

There were 5 schools in Trego:

            First: Brown Log across from present ball field.

            Second:  White in same location.

            Third: White across the road from the first two – where present ball field is located.

            The first 3 schools burned.  The third one burned in 1945.

            Fourth: White school in the same location as the one that burned in 1945.  Abandoned when tunnel was built.

Fifth: Present school on top of hill behind teacherage.  Location selected by Loretta Johnson Todd.

She took notes on the old families:

Dexter Schemerhorn built a small cabin on a stream by the Fortine Place.  He was one of the first settlers.  (Now following that story might lead into Eureka’s politics)

Also the Homiers were among the first settlers.  There were 3 Homier brothers: Trifle, Eli and Frank.  It is believed they came from Quebec.  Eli married a girl named Anne who had previously been married to Isaac White.  Ann and Isaac had a son named George who lived in Trego until he moved his family to Helena in 1959 so he could be near the VA hospital at Fort Harrison for diabetic care. 

Trifley had a daughter named Lorraine.  She married Joe LaBelle.  Two brothers live in Libby.

(As we were getting the house built by the pond, in 2015, one of the drivers delivering material explained his family had been early residents of Trego.  He introduced himself as O’Mier, and since I’d met George Homier when I was really young, I knew the H was silent.  During the 20th century, the family appears to have gone from French-Canadian to Irish.)

Thanks, Darris – occasionally fragments of stories can provide more data

Community

Buffalo Chips Last Fight

History tells of the battle of Slim Buttes on September 9, 1876.  As battles went during the Indian Wars, it didn’t have a particularly high casualty rate . . . but it was the first time that the US Army caught up with the Indians they were chasing since June 25th, when Custer’s command caught up with the tribes in southeast Montana.

The battle wasn’t supposed to occur – Colonel Mills’ command had been sent out to get to Deadwood and come back with food.  Instead they encountered American Horse and the Brule . . . low on ammunition, Mills attacked, and sent word back to General Crook that he had bitten off more than he could handle.  A forced march by starving soldiers shifted the odds into the soldiers favor.

Only two soldiers died there – well, actually one soldier, Private John Wenzel, and scout Charles White . . . a friend of Buffalo Bill Cody, known by the derisive handle of “Buffalo Chips.”  The story, taken from Military History Fandom follows:

Crook’s scouts positioned themselves on the opposite side of the ravine just above the cave. The bank of the ravine was probably eight to ten feet high, and the scouts could converse with the Indians below without the danger of getting shot.[108] After Lieutenant Clark’s unsuccessful assault, Scout Charles “Buffalo Chips” White attempted to get a shot in the cave and was immediately killed by the defenders. Frank Grouard witnessed the incident: “Buffalo Chips was standing opposite me. He was one of those long-haired scouts, and claimed to be a partner of Buffalo Bill’s. He thought it was a good place to make name for himself, I suppose, for he told Big Bat that he was going to have one of the Indians’ scalps. He had no more than got the words out of his mouth before he yelled, “My God, I am shot.” I heard this cry and looked around, Buffalo Chips was falling over into the hole where the Indians were hiding. Bat was looking into the cave where the Indians were, and about five seconds afterwards jumped out with an Indian’s scalp in his hand, telling me that he had scalped one of the redskins alive, which I found out to be true. He had seen the Indian that killed Buffalo Chips, and he jumped down onto him as the Indian was reaching to get White’s six-shooter. Bat had jumped right down on top of him and scalped him and got out of the cave before anybody knew what he was doing.”[109] “Buffalo Chips” White was a boyhood friend of Col. Cody and also a scout. He wanted to be like Buffalo Bill and acquired the sobriquet “Buffalo Chips” when Gen. Phillip Sheridan said he was more like Buffalo Chips than Buffalo Bill. Major Bourke described him as a “good-natured liar who played Sancho Panza to Buffalo Bill’s Don Quixote.”[110] Gen. Charles King said Buffalo Chips was a “good man.

We’re not sure of much more about Buffalo Chips.  Charles King’s report identifies him as James White.  His gravestone at the battle site identifies him as Johnathon White.  It seems certain that his body was dug up and further mutilated by hostiles after the soldiers had moved on to the Black Hills.

Buffalo Chips didn’t get a particularly respectful nickname.  He didn’t fall heroically in a decisive battle.  His grave doesn’t receive the many visitors that show up at the Little Bighorn site.  He seems to have been a decent man who died at the end of the Summer that took Custer and Hickock, unphotographed and forgotten.  Sancho Panza never got much respect.

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Is it an Election if it isn’t Competitive?

I’ve been looking at Congressional districts on Nate Silver’s page.  The title is 270 to win, referring to the electoral college – yet I see that they expect 203 democrat wins and 219 republicans.  With a total of 435 congresscritters, that translates to 13 competitive seats.  RealClearPolitics shows 34 competitive seats.  Either way, most Congressional seats are decided in the primary.  34 of 435 means voters have a real choice in almost 8% of Congressional elections . . . Eldridge Gerry would be ever so proud.

We have an election coming up in November.  There are no democrat candidates at the county level.  Nate Silver sees the congressional race going to Zinke – and he is usually correct.  Since Trump took 53.5% in our new district back in 2020, I can’t argue with Silver. In the absolutely unopposed races, I can cast a conflicting ballot, but the election judge handbook has given our unelected election administrator the power to refuse to count write-in votes. 

If my vote has no chance of making a difference – not even an infinitesimal chance – what difference does voting make?  I mean, they’ve left me the privilege of filling out a ballot, but I have no choices.   

President Biden made a speech Thursday night and in part he spoke on the need for elections so that “We, the people” can choose those who would govern us.  There are occasional spots where Slow Joe and I agree . . . but Joe sees the MAGA republicans as the entire problem, while I see the entire political establishment as having worked for years to take away my ability to influence which official is elected.

Woody Jenkins, a Louisiana representative, said (in 1976): “There are four great protections for our liberties: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”

The Ear still provides me with the soap box.  The election administrator and secretary of state have chosen to ignore subsection 7 and left only a sham ballot box in my county elections.  I want the ballot box back.  Elections without choices do not support representative democracy. 

We shouldn’t have to sue the state to force the bastards to quit ignoring subsection 7.

Community

Just Mallards and Coots

There are few neighbors on the pond as we move into September.  The Mallard hens are always a surprise as they bring their broods onto the water late in the Summer.  The coots?  I like coots.  They are so generally incompetent, that each year when they appear with three, or even four little coots it seems a great success.

See, the coot isn’t related to the ducks.  They have what is termed a “frontal shield” – a featherless callous running from forehead to beak . . . and the aspect of a coot that shows up in 1430 according to the Oxford dictionary, in the descriptive phrase “bald as a coot.”  The old bald-headed coots got the term from the bird, not the other way around.

In the garden, the problem is the bald-faced hornets.  We’ve planted a row of blackberries, and the berries are ripening.  The problem is that the bald-faced hornets are eating the berries before we can pick them . . . and they’re aggressive about protecting the berries.  Next year, the traps will be going out early.  Pest control can be a challenge.

Penn State Extension has a publication on the bald-faced hornet.

“The baldfaced hornet is an ‘aerial yellowjacket’ – one of 7 or 8 species in the genus Dolichovespula in North America.” 

As Fall comes in, our residents fly south – but the bald-faced hornets seem to have no such inclination.

 

Community

Who Benefits from Student Loan Forgiveness

Obviously, the guy or gal who never attended college and has no student debt doesn’t benefit. 

This chart shows the majors connected with the largest student debt. (taken from an article at dailywire )

It’s fairly obvious that the folks who benefit from student loans being written off are the folks who attended school the longest.  An attorney or physician has a lot more time to rack up student debt than the kid who attends school to be a cosmetologist or a welder.

You’ll note that in the field of law, the annual loan per person is about $32 thousand.  In medicine, it’s only $17 grand per year – but that includes folks who enter the workforce with two year and four year degrees.

Excerpting three paragraphs from the Daily Wire article gives this view:

 “In a recent year, the University of California-Los Angeles awarded 255 degrees in ethnic or gender studies. They graduated with an average of $40,000 in student loan debt, and earned about $26,000 the year after graduating.

At Winston-Salem State University, graduates of the communication and media studies major had some $30,000 in debt, and earned less than $19,000 in their first year out of school. Twenty to thirty-nine percent were in default on their loans three years later, according to federal data.

Meanwhile, one of the nation’s largest law schools, Georgetown University, granted 651 law degrees, graduating with more than $160,000 in debt. But they earned $166,000 in their very first year out of school — enough to pay it off entirely.”

The college experience has changed – the best example i heard was a department secretary who had seen the same apartment where she had lived with four other students 25 years later – a single student, her daughter’s boyfriend, was the sole occupant.  As a faculty member, with an office that had started life as a dorm room, I watched “luxury dorms” constructed for new students.  I recall a dean explaining how, with Pell grants available, raising the price of tuition and fees made no difference to the students. 

This comment, found here shows the change:

“Over the last two decades, the number of managerial and professional staff that Yale employs has risen three times faster than the undergraduate student body, according to University financial reports. The group’s 44.7 percent expansion since 2003 has had detrimental effects on faculty, students and tuition, according to eight faculty members.

In 2003, when 5,307 undergraduate students studied on campus, the University employed 3,500 administrators and managers. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on student enrollment, only 600 more students were living and studying at Yale, yet the number of administrators had risen by more than 1,500 — a nearly 45 percent hike. In 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education found that Yale had the highest manager-to-student ratio of any Ivy League university, and the fifth highest in the nation among four-year private colleges.”

Another article at thefederalist describes the same situation: 

As evidenced by the financial report from 2002-2003, Yale employed 3,500 administrators and managers while there were 5,307 undergraduate students enrolled at the university. Less than two decades later in 2019, before the pandemic affected enrollment, Yale employed more than 1,500 additional administrators while the undergraduate population had only risen by 600 students. Now undergraduate enrollment has dipped to 4,703, with more than 5,000 “managerial and professional staff.”

As a result of this seismic increase in administrators and managers, Yale has the highest manager-to-student ratio out of the Ivy League schools and the fifth-highest among four-year private nonprofits according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.”

The latin phrase cui bono describes identification of crime suspects by asking “who benefits?”  I think we have the answer.

Community

Low Expectations and High Offices

There were two surgeons available for my first arthroscopic knee surgery.  One was abrasive, obnoxious and in many years had a record of no post-op infections.  The other was a pleasant fellow who had several post-op infections on the record.  I try to vote in a similar fashion to that surgeon selection – I want the candidate who is most likely to provide a satisfactory outcome.

When Donald Trump was elected President, I had low expectations.  He exceeded those low expectations.  Having watched Joe Biden for most of my adult life, I again had low expectations when he was inaugurated.  I have to admit, they weren’t low enough to be accurate.  Still, Joe reached a new level about 10 days back with this statement:

“If we elect two more senators, we keep the House and Democrats, we’re going to get a lot of unfinished business we’re going to get done. Folks, look, we’ll codify Roe v. Wade. We’ll ban, we’ll ban assault weapons. We’ll protect Social Security and Medicare. We’ll pass universal pre-K. We’ll restore the Childcare Tax Credit. We’ll protect voting rights. We’ll pass election reform and make sure no one, no one, ever has the opportunity to steal an election again.”

Still, this was about the same time that he announced the Republican opposition as “semi-fascist.” 

We’re careless with the creatures we accept as leaders. 

Last week I read (and listened to) another Biden quote: “Do you realize the bullet out of an AR-15 travels 5 times as rapidly as a bullet shot out of any other gun.”

Well, Mr. President, I’ll fact check you on that one.  Back in the late seventies, I bought a 223 rifle – there was some appeal to cheap military surplus ammo.  It’s a bolt gun.  With a longer barrel, it’s 223 bullet goes a little faster than the AR-15.  The bolt action doesn’t tap into the gas to work the action – so the bullet is a little faster than one from the AR-15.  We have a lot of ignorance in the oval office.  It isn’t the first time.

We have a system that provides little choice.  Trump ran against Hillary Clinton.  I recall a friend explaining, “I’ll hold my nose and vote for Trump.”  That still strikes me as a rational decision – his primary criteria was how the 2nd amendment would be interpreted.  Another friend, a long-term republican politician, went for Hillary . . . and that, too, was a rational decision.  Can’t say I agreed with the basis, but it was not my decision, and not my basis.

Both continue to be friends.  Each made a choice for his own reasons.  I do wish my friends had had more options to pick between in 2016 and 2020.  I fear that I won’t have great choices for the top spot in 2024.  I know that the system has left me without a viable choice in 2022.