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Learning Family Values From My Grandchildren

Every time I hear someone say our nation is going to hell in a hand basket, I think of my two grandchildren.

There is a major disconnect in hearing a national discourse towards Armageddon and seeing children develop through the eyes of a grandparent.

In my eyes, Lauryn, 10, and Adam, 8, will not be burdened by a national debt passed onto their shoulders by the hapless decisions of their elders and others before them.

Rather, they will be responsible human beings carving out a life of their own and making the world less wicked. Of course, this is a loving grandparent’s dream who has seen war from afar, racial strife up close and personal and economic downturns forcing desperate but bad decisions. Yet, we remain optimistic.

How can one believe otherwise when at their tender ages they know and live the basics: Love and respect for their peers and elders.

Only now we are judging from glimpses of their actions a rosy future that is good and wholesome and the essence of family values.

A year and a half ago, Lauryn set out to achieve her first goal in life: Earning a junior black belt in karate. Trust me, it was not given to her because of 100% attendance and her parents paying class tuition.

And, yet, when you ask how she feels about it, a one-word answer follows: “Great.” Her eyes say much more.

Lauryn still is a scrawny, pretty little moppet, faster than a speeding bullet and equipped with tools of the trade that can knock a grown man to his knees.

Pity the first bully she encounters at school and in a few years the first pimple-faced teenage male who puts his hand on her against her will.

Adam arrived in this world the shape and durability of a refrigerator and the inherent speed of a snail. At 8, his world is changing with swimming, karate and flag football. “He’s my meal ticket,” his father jokes.

Like most lads, at six he mimicked  perfectly how his grandfather appears to him walking with a cane. At seven, he learned fractions from his grandmother by following recipes and whipping out tasty meals.

Actor, chef or football star, Adam has a future of which I am certain.

In the classroom both Lauryn and Adam are in the top two or three of their class. As a grandparent, I worry the academic challenges may be lacking and turn both their brains lazy for lack of competition followed by diminished curiosity. Over the dead bodies of both parents, I am assured.

Children are amazing as well as sneaky. They have an innate ability to act like they see and hear nothing when you talk to them. In fact, they are sponges.

Late last August, I told Lauryn I would miss her birthday party because that day I was having laser surgery to remove the cataract from my left eye. She listened politely but said nothing.

Two hours later as I was leaving to go home, Lauryn came to hug me goodbye and with no coaching from either parent, said:

“I hope the eye surgery goes well, Grandpa.” When I got home, I cried.

As a grandparent, I am not a bearer of presents and bribes for love and attention. They accept me for what I am as well as a simplistic understanding of medical challenges I am confronting.

Several weeks ago, their grandmother called to say she and the grandkids wanted to meet me for lunch at a restaurant of my choice at the sprawling mall a mile down the street. I told her to let Adam and Lauryn decide.

They selected a Mexican restaurant across the street from my seniors apartment complex. Their parents had taken them to that place once about a year ago. Neither rate Mexican food No. 1 for eating out. But it was close so grandpa didn’t have to travel far in his power chair. I arrived home with tears in my eyes, not from devouring the hot salsa.

These are family values as I know them. They no longer are words in a political campaign.

It is ironic, I suppose, that it takes a tragedy or a dish of diseases to bring true meaning from family and friends what family values really mean.

“We talk a good game about brotherly love,” my brother Larry said. “Now, we are living it and understand its true meaning.”

Grandpa Jer at Lauryn’s karate awards ceremony

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He’s Back …

I will keep this short. Keith Olbermann returns Tuesday from a two-day suspension to resume hosting his “Countdown” show on MSNBC.

It proves to me network executives sully the reputation of the world’s oldest profession. They caved at NBC’s half sister after four days of controversy where Olbermann received more media hits than he probably has nightly viewers.

Olbermann was “indefinitely” suspended for violating company rules. He did not ask permission to contribute to political campaigns of three Democrats, two of which appeared recently on his show.

At MSNBC, “indefinitely” is measured in hours and journalistic integrity is paid lip service only when it serves its own purpose.

And all the pompous people in corporate and small fry media wonder why they lack the public trust.

I have forgotten how many times I have shared life experiences on newspapers living by an ethics standard that is dead by today’s standards.

Even the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, whom I admire as the best explainer-in-chief of complex issues, earned a D+ in his convoluted attempt to explain Olbermann’s case.

Perhaps I have been wrong all these years. Perhaps it was a pretext of convincing myself in my published works I was an objective observer.

It was a make believe world of suppressing personal opinion, perhaps. As if the two never surface simultaneously. Sort of an attorney/client privilege.

As for Olbermann, he is one of the few professionals (only in terms of being paid) who is a brilliant newsman in his own right and not just a reader of news copy. And in today’s market, there never is a question where he is coming from, what he stands for and unblushingly puts his money where his mouth is.

To say the cable news entertainment/opinion anchors are merely messengers of the news gives credence to the kings in olden times who killed the conveyors of bad news.

One bright spot developed in all of this and I hope the cable news executives take note, again from an old newspaper salt. Thomas Roberts, the fill-in for the two nights Olbermann was taking a forced time out, was excellent: Strong on information, comfortable to watch and light on opinion.

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Good Night And Good Luck, Keith, Your Replacement Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

I understand now why MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann last Monday “temporarily” suspended his show’s “Worst Persons” segment. It was he who was the worst person of them all.

By the end of the week, Olbermann was “indefinitely” suspended by his network for contributing $2,400 to three Democratic Congressional candidates in Tuesday’s midterms in violation of company policy.

Olbermann was replaced Friday night with veteran morning and day anchor/reporter Thomas Roberts who was magnificent, a breath of fresh air who would be a great addition to the last truly good hire, Lawrence O’Donnell. Roberts w2as less politically biased — which isn’t saying much for the cables — but his professionalism showed through loud and clear.

Roberts asked good questions, got decent answers and ran the show smoothly despite a few glitches and self-deprecatory comments about paying more attention to the video than his teleprompter.

I’m sorry, Keith, but you were a damn good news anchor when you wanted to be. And you, more than anyone with a sports background, knows damn well you cannot play hard only when you feel like it. That puts you in the same category as prima donna wide receiver Randy Moss.

Anyone who watched Olbermann anchor Tuesday’s election coverage for MSNBC would agree he did a magnificent job coordinating news breaks. No one in the NBC family other than Brian Williams could have done better.

That is until his bias showed and he became snarly that his liberal Democrats were taking a scrubbing. The poor man was rooting for his team on the short end of a blowout. You don’t do that in that role.  He turned testy even at his panel of Democratic apologists —  O’Donnell, Eugene Robinson, Chris Matthews and Rachael Maddow. Of course, that is only my opinion.

I have followed Olbermann’s career back to his  days on ESPN where he was occasionally brilliant and funny second only to Chris Berman.

After some dry runs, Keith found a home at MSNBC as a prime time anchor and made his bones by lampooning the Bush administration.  Some considered him a pioneer in that field. Others considered him a jerk.

Depending what sources you read springing or leaking out of the MSNBC heirarchy, Olbermann was creative, salvaged the struggling network from obscurity, impulsive, boorish, paranoid, bullying, snarky and oftentimes unreliable.

He admitted on air his idea of escape is to attend a Major League baseball game. Roots for salvation, so to speak. I was never convinced his first love, sports or news anchor.

What role Olbermann may or may not have had in flipping MSNBC from straight news reporting with a slant and attitude, to a liberal copycat version of the uncanny success of Fox News, I do not know. He became their showcase face.

Some but not all of his “special comments” features were brilliant, erudite and extremely biting in their pronouncements at the delight of one-dimensional die hard Democratic liberals. The conservatives, every one of them at Fox and across the country, hated him. And, Olbermann feigned he loved every minute of it which I don’t think was the entire truth. Criticism hurts all men with inflated egos.

But intertwined in Olbermann’s on air antics was the core of a veteran journalist. He knew what he was doing which is more than some of his competitors can say. His impatience was exemplified mostly in Worst Persons  destroying the pompous asses of the world. He railed against bias and inaccurate news stories by Fox yet in his own right was equally guilty — of bias if not of fact but by omission.

But that seems to be the nature of the cable beast as it has evolved in recent years. Yes, the pop anchors report news but with a slant and the line is blurred — despite Bill O’Reilly’s protestations — between news and opinion.

Memo to the cable networks: The public cannot differentiate between the two most of the time.

In recent weeks, Olbermann accused Fox of hypocrisy for some of its anchors such as Sean Hannity funding Republican candidates and fund raising committees. None of those guys were fired, as Ms. Maddow reported on her show Friday, because she said Fox does not have an impartiality clause as does NBC even though that policy does not extend to MSNBC staffers below the grade of anchor. Keith charged, and correctly based on the reported $2 million owner Rupert Murdoch contributed to the GOP, that Fox was an appendage of the Republican party.

But, if you are going to point fingers, you better wash your hands first. Olbermann didn’t and two of the three candidates he mailed checks to in the past month were recent guests on his show.

Why Keith did this without company approval is a subject of psychobabble. Oh, what the hell, let me guess. I think the guy is self destructive and was thinking if Fox can do it, by golly I can too. In some perverted fashion he was setting himself up as a martyr.

You know what, folks? I am from the old school of newspaper journalistic ethics. If caught, we, too, would have been fired on the spot for admitting contributions to a political campaign we were assigned to report. How we voted in the sanctity of a polling booth was our business but we knew it best to keep our mouths shut.

In my day, ethics, honesty and accuracy were the hallmark of our existence for without it we lost all semblance of credibility.

Nowadays, we don’t even bother with a perception of credibility.
What’s more incredible, the vast majority of readers don’t care any longer. Too many want to believe what they want to hear that fits their own view of the world.

There are multiple choices out here. Keith Olbermann isn’t one of them any longer.

(Olbermann photos courtesy of, top to bottom, loonwatch.com, olbermannwatcch.com, thehotjoints.com; Roberts, incideocal.com)

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Time For A Reality Check For House Republicans

If your brain is frazzled as much as mine after listening to election results and the cheerleaders from both sides spinning their predictable garble, consider this:

As of Oct. 17, there were 420 House bills stalled in the Senate.

Need I remind you that was achieved by a large Democratic majority in the House and 59 that caucused as Democrats in the Senate.

Now, with at least 239 Republicans and 185 Democrats in the House, anyone who thinks John Boehner and his crew will do better than Nancy Pelosi in getting House bills passed in the Senate is living in a world of fantasy. The only difference is the Democratic bills were more liberal than what the Republican House most likely will propose.

I don’t care what the party numbers are in the Senate, it is the chamber where the populace-driven legislation reflected in 435 congressional districts is sent to be bent, folded and mutilated.

In his press conference Wednesday, President Obama acted more like an outside elitist playing Chicago law professor than leader of his political party not to mention President of the United States.
Obama said all the right things such as a willingness to work with the Democrats on legislation both sides can find common ground.

He showed some desire to compromise by saying the required 1040 filings by businesses in the health care reform law seemed burdensome and should be fixed, that throwing a business expansion depreciation morsel into the Bush tax cut argument may help reach a solution and conceding the cap and trade energy proposal is dead although there are other ways to skin that cat that just maybe the Republicans may accept. (Political Note: Cap and trade originally was a Republican idea.)

At the end of the presser, he offered a sound bite that as president, he took a “shellacking” in the midterm election results of Tuesday night. Unfortunately, that will get more play and buzz than what it’s worth by opponents who make a living parsing every word the president utters. It no more amused me than George Bush saying “we took a thumpin'” after the 2006 midterms. In both cases, the same dish of reality.

With all the posturing by Republicans and call for repealing the health reform act, the chances of two more years of legislative gridlock does not escape my political bones.

The focus the next two years will be on jobs and boosting the economy. At least the priorities will be headed in the right direction.

The biggest message I got from the returns was the influential role played by those saying they identify with the Tea Party movement.

What influence the new Republicans owing allegiance to the extremer conservatives will have on legislation through the Tea Party caucuses will be fun to watch. Voters did weed out some of the flakiest of that ilk in Christine McDonnell and Sharron Angle.

During the campaign, I restrained myself from bitch slapping  some of the absurd, ignorant candidates who believe unemployment insurance is unconstitutional, laws should be based on the Ten Commandments and the country should be returned to some undisclosed period in time.

For those strict constructionists, I wondered if in cutting government programs not referred in the constitution whether that would include the U.S. Air Force. I mean I can be as goofy as them when pressed.

This election was an expression people have of their politicians and fear of their own shrinking pocket books, returned a majority of Republicans to one chamber in Congress and hope something will happen that helps them more than ejactulating  over a political loss or victory.

Oh, there was a mandate in this election. It’s the economy, stupid. Fix it or perish. I hope they don’t destroy it worse than it now is. Again, the devil is in the details.

Mark my word. A conservative Republican House is no better or worse than a liberal House. The trick is getting the Senate to pass anything and avoiding a presidential veto on the most contentious items.

Cross posted on The Remmers Report

Comments are welcome. Link to my blogsite or go to my email address at temeculakid@gmail.com . Remmers’ varied career spans 26 years in the newspaper business.

 

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Rand Paul’s Road To Fiscal Sanity Or World Chaos

Forget the others ones, the projected election of Kentucky Republican Tea Party candidate Rand Paul should drive major concerns into the heart of America.

Rand in his victory speech offers speculation he could on his own kill the normally routine approval of raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

Before the cheers echo in your ears from Rand’s followers, consider that such an action could crash not only America’s but the global economy.

It would mean shutting down government as House Speaker Newt Gingrich did in 1995 appear as a minor blip on the radar screen.

The panel of MSNBC political analysts led by Lawrence O’Donnell who knows what he’s talking about as a former chief staff member in the Senate went ballistic.

It was culled from Paul’s  victory speech captured on this You Tube video.

O’Donnell maintains Paul is the only new Senator who has the intelligence, grit and stubborn desire to do what he says he will do if it means placing holds on legislation or forcing filibuster votes.

Already Paul has signaled to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, and to Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, his new best mentor, he is happy to take their campaign money of $1 million or more but will be his own man as senator.

The question remains is whether Rand Paul is posturing as so many elected officials do before voting on the debt ceiling issue.
Of all the six or more new Republican senators, Paul is the least likely to waiver between politics and principle.

By failing to increase the debt ceiling, the government will no longer be able to borrow and pay its bills and risk its credit rating to drop to unaffordable interest rates.

This may or may not be a doomsday scenario, but it is not an exhilarating example of democracy in action when one man elected by 100,000 or so people in a small state affecting the lives of 330 million Americans if not the major industrial nations in the world.

Paul’s insurgency — good or bad — will be a headache for Republican Senate leaders and he could provide the cover for a group of conservative ditto heads to follow his lead  whether to the gallows or wingnut heaven.

Don’t take my word for it. Read it from the Tea Party itself

My position is capping the debt at this point of time in economic recovery  is the same as amputating the arm because one finger has a blister.  You don’t start at the end before you fix the front. Certainly it is a worthy goal towards fiscal sanity — done in incremental fashion.

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Voting Early In California Expecting A Tsunami

I voted this morning. Riding my power chair into the senior apartment complex recreation room is election central for my precinct.

I glanced over the crowd of 16 precinct volunteers and observers. None of my compatriots were in the voting booth. So, I decided to announce my grand entrance.

“Where’s the redneck desk?”

A young precinct worker giggled. The others snarled.

In this section of southern Riverside County, Calif., a registered Democrat is an endangered species and about as popular as our resident Muslims.

The county Registrar of Voters came prepared. Three old ladies manned the Democratic registration sign up desk. Eight held fort at the Republican table.

When I signed the dotted line, I noted I was voter No. 18. It was 10 a.m. and the polls opened at 7. There are 442 tenants in my senior apartment house of laughs and daily ambulance calls and I suspect a thousand or more in the nearby neighborhoods within the precinct. It must be a diverse lot because the signs in front of the palace for seniors announced “Vota Aqui.”

As the 18th voter, naturally my political instincts kicked in, reminding myself of the Republican tsunami about to take place.

My precinct and my congressional district is so gerrymandered that a Democrat has as much chance of winning as he does the megabucks lotto. Being that what is may, the Democratic challengers are not the brightest bulbs in the room.

Now, I take my voting franchise seriously. I vote the top of the ticket down but stop at the city and special district races which I neither care or know anything about. I’m only a visitor and don’t care to intrude.

After voting for governor and U.S. Senator, the choices become bizarre. I mean we have people from both parties running for secretary of state and treasurer who campaigned for jobs jobs jobs. Those two elected positions have as much impact on the job market as the coyote catching the road runner. Beep beep. But, I digress.

The incumbent congressman in my district is Darrell Issa, a hard worker and major pest for his robo calls to constituents and first in line to launch investigations against the Democrats in Congress in his expected new role as chairman of the government oversight committee. His Democratic challenger must have had a campaign budget of three cents. Never heard from him or of him and it possibly could have been a she for all I know.

California’s bevy of state propositions are always fun. I voted for the marijuana initiative just for the joy of watching it play out. I say if we are going to tax, by golly tax the potheads.

Only in California are propositions in November that would nullify/ratify propositions approved by voters in the June Primary. That would be Props 20 and 27.

But the one I found a true test of voter I.Q. testing is Prop. 24 which was sold as the jobs initiative by giving tax breaks to a selected small group of large corporations at the expense of every other business in the state. I voted no, for what’s that worth.

Unlike more than two thirds of all registered voters in the United States, I can make the claim I voted. Think about it. Less than one third of us can dictate the future for all.

That’s sick.

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No Tax Proponents Are Delusional — Reagan’s Budget Director

David Stockman, President Reagan’s budget director, is my early winner for “Biggest Cojones” award for telling the American people the truth.

That is, lowering taxes as a way out to stimulate the economy is a big lie perpetuated by politicians from both parties. And, he is especially critical of the crying jag tears produced by the wealthiest who can afford to pay the freight.

Stockman’s latest rant was aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night in a segment in connection with a tax increase for the super rich on Tuesday’s election ballot in Washington state.

I don’t want to misinterpret Stockman, but I think his message is that tax increases are literally off the table in political policy discussions and this is a big mistake for it represents only one part of the equation for economic recovery.

Here’s one account from his 60 Minutes appearance;

Cutting taxes has become “in a sense, an absolute … something embedded into the catechism” of the GOP, Stockman tells (CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl. “Scratch the average Republican today, and he’ll say ‘tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.’ ”

Stockman brands that approach “rank demagoguery.”

“If these people were all put in a room on penalty of death to come up with how much they could cut, they couldn’t come up with $50 billion, when the problem is $1.3 trillion,” Stockman complains. “So to stand before the public and rub raw this anti-tax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, they should be ashamed of themselves.”

But Stockman says the Democrats are going the same route and cites the example of President Barack Obama advocating a permanent tax cut for the middle class.

“We have now got both parties essentially telling a big lie with a capital B and a capital L to the public,” Stockman tells Stahl. “And that is that we can have all this government, 24% of GDP, this huge entitlement program, all of the bailouts and yet, we don’t have to tax ourselves and pay our bills. That’s delusional.”

And this from a more biased news outlet:

Stockman cites a remarkable statistic: “In 1985, the top 5% of the households – the wealthiest 5% – had net worth of $8 trillion – which is a lot. Today, after serial bubble after serial bubble, the top 5% have net worth of $40 trillion. The top 5% have gained more wealth than the whole human race had created prior to 1980.”

Stockman thinks there should be a special 15% surtax on the wealthiest Americans to help pay down the deficit.

I am certain my Republican friends, even the poorer ones, would not take kindly to what Stockman has to say. Forgive them, for they are delusional, and have drunken the nectar.

The spinmeisters — CNBC’s Larry Kudlow in particular — may have plenty to say about this. Just a guess.

As I have said many times before in these columns, taxes is a four-letter word.

I think the rich are winning this con game. Some day, as the middle wage earners realize their annual income is stagnant if not lower, that they cannot afford their homes or send their children to college, that their quality of life is not as bright as their parents, the time will come to assess blame not on the politicians but the rich who own them.

Our nation is sliding into various degrees of an economic caste system. Is that really what the Tea Party Republicans mean when the few zealots among them are already suggesting second amendment remedies?

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