How the feds want to control elections

April 8th, 2021 by Ken

HR1, the bill making its way through Congress, has been called a federal takeover of local elections.  The bill passed the House on an almost party-line vote of Democrats and now sits in the Senate awaiting approval from that Democratically control body.

The moaning, groaning and crying about the impact the bill will have on state and local elections made it necessary for me to take a long hard look at just what the bill contains.   I did not read the entire bill – – it’s 800 pages of government speak – – but I did read a fairly complete synopsis of it.

It basically consists of two parts – election reform – and Democratic efforts to become the dominate party in American politics.

Election reform changes include:  Same day registration (We already have that here in Washington State.)   Allows changing of party affiliation on election day.   (We have no party affiliation in Washington State.)  Early voting for two weeks prior to an election.  (We have all vote-by-mail and get our ballots at least 18 days prior.)  Registering to vote at state agencies and state universities.  (I’ve been told we do that here and that all state agencies have voter registration forms.)

Make election day a Federal Holiday.  (Because election day is on a Tuesday, government employees will also endeavor to take Monday off and make it a four-day weekend.)  Creates a Federal Assistance Commission.    Allows 16-17 year-olds to pre-register.  (We already do that here.)  Limits state ability to purge voting rolls.  (Here all registrations are kept.  Someone who fails to vote in two federal elections can be purged, but is often kept on a standby status.)  Restores voting rights to Felons.  (Recently passed legislation here allows voting for anyone who is not on a parole status.)  Requires a paper trail for all computer voting.  (Most states have abandoned computer only voting.)

Now for the efforts to make the Democratic Party the dominate party (and in response to President Trump.)

HR1 supports the overturn of the Citizen United ruling by the Supreme Court which recognized Corporations as citizens with the same rights.  Requires all candidates for president and vice president of the United States to release 10 years of Federal Income Tax forms.  Supports making Washington DC a state. Requires an impartial commission for redistricting.  (Here we have a redistricting committee composed of two Republicans and Two Democrats, one from each House.  They appoint a fifth member.   This is still a political committee although slightly better than asking the full legislature to undertake the effort.)

As far as I can tell, that’s what the bill contains.  I may have missed something but 800 pages is a daunting task and I wasn’t about to read the full bill.

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Should I drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper?

April 4th, 2021 by Ken

I’m not planning to watch a single major league baseball game this year.  When the Major League Baseball association pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta, Georgia because of a politics, I became a fan of the boycott.

Even if the Seattle Mariners make it to the World Series, I plan not to watch a single pitch.  (Of course, if they actually do make it, I retain the right to change my mind.  I would have already made my point by then.)

I also plan to stop drinking Coca Cola.  I’ve been a Coke addict for as long as I can remember.  I still drink two or three Cokes a day.   This is in response to the Coca Cola company’s support of withdrawing the All-Star game from Atlanta.

Coca Cola is headquartered in Atlanta.  Atlanta is one of the largest majority black cities in the United States.

Liberal groups have been calling for the MLB to withdraw the games because of new voting laws approved recently by the Georgia legislature.

Two facts – – I’ve been to Atlanta.  I’ve taken the tour of the Coca Cola museum and enjoyed every minute of it.  Atlanta is a beautiful city.  Coke is a major employer.

I’ve also read the new voting rights act (on-line) approved by the Georgia legislature.  As far as I can tell, the law was passed in response to loosen rules in force during the Covid-impacted election.  The new law seems alright to me.  Of course, we’ve had all vote-by-mail in this state for a decade now.  So many of the actions taken by the Georgia legislature wouldn’t mean anything to voters in Washington State.

My complaint is how quickly MLB bowed to the Cancel Culture and how rapidly the largest corporation in Atlanta fell into line.

Therefore I’m boycotting MLB for this year and am going to find a replacement for my Coke drinking.   Should I change to Pepsi or Dr. Pepper?  This could be Coke’s biggest mistake since New Coke.

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Commissioners to adopt ordinance affecting county operations and public scrutiny

March 30th, 2021 by Ken

Our Thurston County Commissioners are about to adopt a new ordinance which will give them more independence of operation while at the same time, making it more difficult for the public to have input and oversight of their operations.

The ordinance (as yet unnumbered) rescinds two previous ordinances which restricted when and where the commissioners could meet and what items of business they could address in those meetings.  The new ordinance says the commissioners can meet anytime and any day during the average work week with only a 24-hour notice to the public.

Further, the ordinance removes commissioner work sessions from applications of the Public Meetings Act.  Previously anytime two commissioners met together was considered a “public meeting” and required public notice and note taking available to the public.  Now the commissioners can meet together or with staff for a work session on any issue without reporting to the public.

Further the ordinance gives the board authority to designate the County Manager as its designee to set the budget calendar and set the time of the public hearing on the budget.

The last section of the ordinance says “The Board finds that it would be unduly burdensome and costly to Thurston County taxpayers and would interfere with effective and timely county operations to develop an index of all current records as specified in RCW 42.17.260(3).”  It goes on to say that the Board and county departments produce volumes of correspondence, reports and studies and that making those all available to the public are taxing the county.  (That last line was my interpretation).

That action is in response to the publics requests for documents specified by the public records act.  It appears that the county is unable to produce certain files and records, some dating back to 1999 and some current.  That section of the proposed ordinance is probably illegal and is an attempt to “cover their ass.  (My words and interpretation of the ordinance)

The meeting on adoption of the ordinance will be on Tuesday, April 13 at the 3 p.m. meeting of the board.

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Who actually runs your government

March 24th, 2021 by Ken

If you think your elected officials run your government, think again.  The Covid pandemic and resultant shut-downs have exposed the dirty, little underpinnings of our society.  Elected officials may pass the laws, but its those they hire which actually run things.

Take education for example.  While our state school chief and our local school boards may seem to be in charge – the real power lies with the local school unions and those who run them.  While government wants to reopen schools, the unions have deemed them unsafe for its members.  In order to get teachers back in school, Congress has bribed them by allocating millions and billions of taxpayer dollars to get teachers back in class.  Much of that money will be siphoned off as additional benefits for teachers and directed by the unions which represent them.

While I’ve harped on the power of teacher unions before, power to control elected officials are often exercised by other government employee unions.  In Lacey for example.  The local police guild recently negotiated a 19 percent pay increase for all its members, making Lacey cops some of the highest paid law enforcement officials in the state – – outside of King County.  The increases were negotiated by the city manager.  And, while the city council approved those increases in the general budget, it had no choice but to do so since they were properly negotiated.  Council members have no say other than yes or no on the overall budget.

In our own Thurston County, manager Ramiro Chavez controls the flow of information and thus controls what the county commissioners see and hear.  Because we have a three-member commission, they are not allowed to talk with each other without violating the open meetings act.   They can’t tell their fellow members what they’re thinking.  Any flow of information between them is first relayed to Chavez or one of his employees, who may or may not relay it to the commissioner for which it was intended.  This control of information gives the county manager unlimited control over the knowledge received by individual commissioners.

Over the decades, as our government has grown larger and more complex, elected officials are often at the mercy of those whom they hire to manage the system.  These are just a few of the problems with our current system.

I have two suggestions.  Lacey should junk the council/manager form of government and look at a strong mayor form of government similar to Tumwater and what Lacey had in place originally.   This will give our elected officials some power to make decisions.  Thurston County should expand its commission to five members which would allow them to talk with each other without being censored by staff.  In any case, Thurston County has grown so large, that three members no longer suffice to handle regional agreements.

As far as government unions go – that decision will have to be made by voters who elect officials not beholding to the money or the power of these self-serving unions.



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No concept of time

March 18th, 2021 by Ken

Re-setting my clocks for Daylight Savings Time recently reminded me of just how many clocks I have in my house.

I have clocks on my stove, my microwave oven, my coffee-maker, my phone, the television, my computer, in my car and even on my wrist.  Some of them re-set automatically.  Some of them require finding out just how to re-set them.  But, they all have one thing in common – – they’re all digital.

They may tell me the time, but they give me absolutely no concept of time.

When I look at a non-digital clock, the first thing I notice is that it is round and is divided into pieces, 12 pieces to be exact.  These are then divided into quarters.   I can glance at a non-digital clock and know instantly just how much time I have before I have to be someplace.   I don’t even need numbers on the dial.

With a digital time-piece I always know what time it is.   But, I have no concept of just what that means.  With the old-fashioned clock, I know how much time I have and a concept of how much time is remaining.   A digital clock will show 2:45.  But, you can’t read it.

You can look at a non-digital clock and tell it’s a quarter to three.  You not only know what time it is, but you also know how much time you have left.

I’m certain the fact that I am of a certain age makes my dependence on digital time a little uneasy.  I’m also certain that the generation growing up with digital will adjust and be comfortable with knowing the time. They will also develop their own sense of time.

Still there’s something missing. It may be 3:15, but to me its always a quarter after three.

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Am I a racist?

March 10th, 2021 by Ken

Am I a racist?

The Thurston County Commission recently approved – unanimously – a resolution declaring racism is a crisis in Thurston County.  Am I a racist?

For the past 50 years I’ve been actively involved in making Thurston County a better and more attractive place to live.  As an opinion maker (self-proclaimed) I have an an impact on making my home county what it is today.  If racism is a crisis in Thurston County – am I a racist?

I grew up in a state whose population was more than 90 percent white. With the exception of our native tribe, I never saw a person of color until I joined the Army.  That was my first exposure to racism.  I never questioned it.  Am I a racist?

Growing up I used all the negative terms.  It took me years to call Brazil Nuts – Brazil Nuts.  As a child I used to sing the Ennie Meanie, Minnie song without the birdie.  When I started smoking (at age 11) I sometimes got the cigarette and later the joint wet and was asked to stop doing it.  Am I a racist?

Is the mere fact that I’m writing this article in coded language imply that  I’m a racist?

Do I judge people on their appearance?  Yes, of course, unless I know them.  When I meet a person for the first time I notice his/her color.  I notice their gender.  I notice if they’re over-weight, unkempt or wear glasses.  We all make judgments based on appearance.  Am I a racist?

Do I suffer from White Privilege?  If I do, I didn’t even know such a term existed?   Does that make me a racist, or am I just ignorant?

The Thurston County Commissioners, by declaring racism a crisis in Thurston County imply that I am a racist.  Does that term apply to all of us who live here?


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Daylight Savings Time

March 8th, 2021 by Ken

“That’s dangerous,” she said.  “Somebody might get killed.”

“What’s dangerous,” he asked

“Daylight Savings time,” she said.  “I get up at 6 am, except this time it was 5 am.  I’m so tired.  My body just can’t adjust to the time difference.  I almost hit someone this morning and then I tripped on the escalator.  They ought to do something about it.”

“What do you want them to do,” he asked?

“Stop messing with the time,” she said.  “It’s just not natural to keep changing it all of the time.  Who’s to blame for this mess?”

“Blame the Monks,” he said.

“What have the monks got to do with it? she asked.

“They’re the ones that started marking off time.  They needed to know what time it was so they could all get up for the morning prayer, so they invented time and a way to measure it,” he said.  “Before that, no one cared about time.  They got up when it got light and went to bed when it got dark.”

“That’s it?” she asked.

“Not quite.  The industrial revolution meant that everybody had to be at work at the same time so they could work with the machines.  So, everybody had a clock.  In some places, the company just had a whistle.  When it blew, everyone knew the time.”

“And, that’s it?” she asked.

“Not quite.  When the railroads stretched their iron rails across the country, they needed common time across the whole United States so the trains could arrive on time.”

“Getting a little poetic, aren’t you,” she said.  “So I can blame the railroads?”

“Not quite,” he said.  During World War One the government started Daylight Savings Time so the factories producing war material could operate longer in the day without burning up so much energy.  They did it again during World War Two, and they just keep continuing it.”

“So, I can blame the government?” she asked.

“Can if you want to,” he relied.  “I’ve got the number of our Congresswoman on my phone.”

“Well, if I hit someone with my car this week, I’m going to blame the government.”

“It’s alright with me,” he said.

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County’s recognition of George Bush is already in existence

February 25th, 2021 by Ken

Efforts to build a monument on the State Capitol grounds for Black pioneer George W Bush and his son William Owens Bush is well deserved.  Both father and son were early pioneers in this area and contributed substantially to the future of Thurston County.

But, to say there is no monument to the Bushes is in error.  In 1989, the Thurston County Historical Commission built a memorial to the Bushes on Bush Prairie at the intersection of 84th Avenue and Old Highway 99.   The monument is built in the form of the original homestead and is an all-encompassing tribute to this Washington pioneer.

The  four-sided monument tells the history of the Bush family, complete with pictures of the senior Bush and his son.  The monument covers his time in Missouri, his involvement in the War of 1812,  his involvement in the Simmons Party, his troubles in Oregon, his generous support of later arriving homesteaders  and all complete with pictures and quotes, including the State Legislature’s original tribute to the senior Bush upon his death.

A new monument on the state capitol grounds will just echo the tribute already contained on the many paneled monument already in existence.  The Thurston County Historical Commission and the residents of Thurston County are appreciative of our pioneering families and do all we can to recognize them.

I suggest the Black Heritage Society of Washington State and its president Stephanie Johnson-Toliver contact me and I will be happy to take her and any other on a tour of the memorial to George Washington Bush and William Owens Bush.

I am currently a member of the Thurston County Historical Commission.  However, the memorial was built before I was appointed to the commission.


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Significant property tax increases a shock

February 19th, 2021 by Ken

Paying property taxes this year was a shock.

My total cost was up nearly 16 percent over last year, while voluntary taxes (those voted on by us – such as school and fire district) was up by nearly 30 percent.

An increase in valuation of my house and property, went up only 8 percent.

Last year and the year before, (for collection this year) voters were very generous in approving new taxes and raising property tax lids.  So you and I have seen a major increase.   A 16 percent in taxes and a 30 percent increase in newly approved property taxes seems a little excessive.

Lets not forget, voters also approved significant increases in the sales tax, including a .03 cents for Intercity Transit.  Not included on this bill is the increase in utility taxes brought about by water and sewer costs.  Look at your utility bill closely and see how it has increased.

The question I ask, is who’s watching the store.  Who’s looking at all of the local taxes we pay?  It doesn’t seem that our local elected officials are doing a very good job.

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School unions are the bullies in the community

February 17th, 2021 by Ken

This Covid 19 Pandemic might signal the beginning of the end for the all powerful teacher unions which control every aspect of K-12 education in this country.

For decades, the teacher’s union, nationally The National Education Association, statewide the Washington Education Association and various local unions in every school district in the country, with a few exceptions have controlled education in this country.

No one gets elected to a local school board if the local teacher’s union objects.  No one gets elected to the top education spot in the state – Superintendent of Public Instruction – without the support of the state teacher union, and very few Democrats get elected to a state office without the support of the teacher’s union.

The power of this particular association of teachers is accomplished by members of the union – teachers.  Their dues support the union and a significant portion of those dues go to political action.  Teachers are encouraged to donate time and energy to political activities such as doorbelling, making phone calls, waving political signs and engaging in  fund-raising activities for politicians they support – who are then beholding to this particular constituent group.

Lets bear in mind that the teachers unions don’t care about the children.   Individual teachers do, and they care about the education students receive.  But the unions only care about their member – teachers.  And teachers support their union as long as it gets higher salaries, shorter working hours and school policies that favor teachers.

The Democratic party, locally, statewide and nationally is controlled by the teachers unions.  In the 2016 National Democratic Convention a full 40 percent of the delegates were educators.

But now, the Pandemic is casting an eye on the union’s power.  They are resisting sending teachers back into the classroom until everyone of them has been inoculated against Covid.  Despite that fact that Science says there is very little danger for teachers and students to resume in person education.

Many of the largest teacher unions in the country are in Democratic cities and states.  While parents scream for a return to classroom instructions, the union uses its political sway over mayors and governors, to resist the desire of the parents and the students.

This Pandemic, for the first time, has exposed the teacher unions as bullies.  For the first time, parents have begun to see how the education system operates – and they don’t like it.

I don’t know if parent anger at teacher unions will continue once all schools are re-opened.  We’ll find out when it comes time to pass school levies, vote for school board members and support Democratic candidates for state offices.



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Valentine’s Day – Another Sexist holiday

February 8th, 2021 by Ken

Who can be against love?  What person in his or her right mind can object to an innocuous holiday like Valentine’s Day?

Well, count me in as one who thinks Valentine’s Day has outlived its purpose.

Historically, Valentine’s Day has been the time when a man, through buying presents for a woman (usually flowers, candy or jewelry) proclaims his life long love and promises a romantic future.

Nothing of course could be further from the truth.

Men buy gifts for women on Valentine’s Day for one reason – and one reason only – he’s expected to.  A man can forget his lover’s birthday, he can forget his anniversary, but woe be unto the man who forgets a present on Valentine’s Day.

Media and merchandising messages have created an expectation in women, that the man in her life will show her affection on this day of the year devoted solely to love.  And he will show that love through the purchase of a romantic gift.

And on February 15, women across the country, will gather at the water cooler at work, or wherever they’ll gather this year and compare notes on their Valentine’s gift.  No woman wants to be left out of the conversation or made the butt of jokes.  Men buy women gifts on Valentine’s Day because he is expected to do so.

Valentine’s Day has outlived its purpose – if there ever really was one.

So, why do we still have this silly, sexist holiday?

Guess I better hurry and buy a card before all the good ones are gone.   Is it too late to order flowers?

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Local solar power efforts come up short

February 4th, 2021 by Ken

In 2006, the City of Lacey installed Data Collection Units  (DCU) on city light poles to read individual water meters on homes.    Those DCU’s are powered by solar panels.

The city up-graded its collection units with new software.  Now, the solar panels don’t provide enough energy to power the DCUs.   According to the city, we don’t get enough daylight during winter months to adequately power the DCUs.

The city is currently unhooking the DCUs from the solar panels and connecting them to street light power.

Thanks to the City of Lacey for providing this information in its monthly newsletter.  I reprinted here for those who don’t get the newsletter, or who don’t read the newsletter when it comes.

There are two lessons learned.

The current government effort to disconnect the national power grid from gas, coal and oil and hook it up to wind and solar generation has major problems.  Not the least of which is the inability of “renewable” energy to meet the current needs let alone future needs.

And, the fact that solar power isn’t working for water meter data collection was released by the City of Lacey.   Thanks to them for doing so.  But, we have come to depend on government to provide us information on government activities.  All too often we fail to get bad news by way of those government channels.   We need a local media which can monitor government action.  Please support your local media – be it “The Olympian”  Thurston Talk or JOLT.

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A radio adventure

January 30th, 2021 by Ken

(Editor’s note:  I celebrate my 50th year of media involvement this year.  I wrote this article about one of my radio ventures for my book “Personal History of Lacey.)

Everyone who knows Bob Blume has their favorite Bob Blume story.  Here’s mine.

Bob always wanted to be involved in the media.  He supported The Lacey Leader in its early days but turned away when the paper wrote articles he didn’t like.  But being a media owner remained one of his interests.

When word came that the FCC had allocated a new 50,000 watt  FM radio station for the greater Olympia area, Bob jumped at the chance and filed the necessary paperwork to obtain the station.  After months of paperwork and money, the FCC made their decision.  They awarded the station to Dave Rauh and Toni Holm, two former Evergreen students.  They started and continue to operate KXXO FM radio station in Olympia.

But Bob found an alternative.  Leasing property from him in South Sound Center was an AM radio station KLDY.  Owned by a Tacoma woman the station played a female oriented music selection.   When Bob had an opportunity to buy the station, he did so.

Now bear in mind, that Lacey had a long history in radio.  KGY radio began at St. Martin’s College, and though now headquartered in Olympia, it at one time had a studio in South Sound Center where it broadcast daily.  Other radio stations have also had a Lacey location.  KITN Radio moved from downtown Olympia into Lacey in the 1980’s and operated from a facility off of Sixth Avenue until it moved away and eventually went out of business.  KTOL radio broadcast from studios in Lacey off of Pacific Avenue until it too eventually moved away and faded out.

So, while Lacey was no stranger to radio stations, the same couldn’t be said for Bob Blume.  Bob had absolutely no concept of radio or just how it worked but he had his radio station and began pumping money into equipment, facility and staff.  He hired good staff, well-paid staff and set off to turn the world of broadcast on its ear.  He even hired me.

I did “Man on the Street” interviews.  I took a tape recorder and each day would ask people a “Question of the Day.”  I took the tape back to the station and they edited it for broadcast.  Bob paid me $10 an interview.  Without much effort and in just an hour or so, I could do 10 interviews and make $100 a day.  That was good money at the time.

But after a few months it became obvious that the station wasn’t doing what Bob wanted it to do – – and it was losing money.  Bob never liked to lose money.  One day he called me into his office.

“I’m losing $30,000 a month on this radio station,” he said.  “Why?”

Being honest like I was, it didn’t take me long to give him the answer.  “You’ve got too many people working for you and you’re paying them too much money,” was my reply.

The next morning Bob called me into his office and fired me.

The story ended for me there, but KLDY continued to operate for several more months with a very reduced staff and eventually, like KITN and KTOL it just kind of faded away.

Bob never again entered the radio business.


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The Breakfast Clubs

January 29th, 2021 by Ken

 Every village, town, city, burg and borough in this country has a Breakfast Club.  A group, who meet every morning for coffee, conversation and food.

While the excuse to gather together is for breakfast, the real reason is to talk about the day, catch up on the latest gossip, explore the deeper meaning of things and to act as the community bulletin board.

These groups, usually men – although more recently women have joined –  meet wherever there is a place to sit, food to eat – coffee to drink – and a place that will tolerate them.

From the beginning in Colonial America, to the present day, these breakfast clubs were informal community meetings and a major force in their communities to talk about the subject of the day.  Whether it be the government and the need for new taxes, the weather and its impact on the crops, or the need for a new school or sidewalks in the neighborhood, these breakfast clubs were a way to gauge public opinion, and ascertain where the community stood on the events of the day.

Lacey has had its breakfast clubs.  They’ve met at the Flavor Nook, Pat’s, the Chuckwagon, Sambos, Hawks Prairie, Dennys and Shari’s. The roster of attendees is the beating heart of the city.

But, now, they’ve been sidelined in the cause of a greater community good – – the Pandemic.  For several months now, these groups have been unable to meet and these public meeting places have been closed down.

It’s true, you can continue to meet on-line.  A few have attempted Zoom meetings and other forms of technology to keep in touch.  But it doesn’t have the punch of in-person communications.

Open the restaurants and coffee shops.  They are the public meeting houses of America – and America can’t long function without them.


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Footprints in your mind

January 26th, 2021 by Ken

It was 1964.  I was in the Army stationed at Ft. Lewis.  I didn’t have a car, but my friend Gary did.

When the weekend came, we decided to go cruising and look for girls, but Gary wanted his car to look good and wanted me to help.  So we spent the day, washing, waxing, vacuuming and cleaning out his car until it was ready for any young lady to appreciate.

We drove up and down State and Fourth, “dragging the gut”  several times before heading into Kings Drive In.  We pulled into a parking spot and noticed, one stall away a car with two young women in it.  Gary said, “Bet you, you won’t go over and talk to them.”

“How much,” I replied.  “I’ll buy you a burger,” he said.  “You’re on.”

As I walked towards the car I noticed the driver was an attractive brunette while in the passenger side was a cute blonde with curls that hung down over her collar.

I tapped on the driver’s window.  She rolled it down and looked at me.  I reached in through the window, took her drink, downed as much of it as I could in one gulp and handed it back to her.  “Thanks,” I said and walked back to Gary’s car.

It didn’t take more than a minute before she was at our window.  I rolled down the window and heard her ask, “Why did you do that?’

“First of all,” I said, “I was thirsty.  And second of all, I wanted to meet you.”

Eventually we all got out of our cars and stood around talking.  The driver’s name was Margie.  She and her friend were from Shelton and came into the big city this weekend “just to see what was happening.”

We talked for a while and I got her phone number.  Gary got the other girl’s name.

I called her a few days later and made a date to pick her up in Shelton.   Gary was driving up because the blonde was coming as well.

In those days, there was no freeway to Shelton.  You had to take the long winding road along the bay and it took 45 minutes to an hour to get there.   We did the normal things on a double-date.  A meal, some talk and then a little “making out”.  Me and Margie in the backseat and Gary and the blonde in the front seat.  I’m pretty sure I got to second base with Margie but it never went any further than that.

Gary and the blonde broke up.  He wasn’t going to drive to Shelton any more.  I  borrowed my brother’s car and went Shelton one time, met Margie’s folks, but that was the end.

The Army called me away to do six months in Alaska at Fort Richardson.  When I came back, I was interested in someone else.  I thought of Margie occasionally but only saw her one other time.  I ran into her on the Capitol Campus.  We said “Hi, how are you?” and went on our way.

But, obviously, 60 years later, I still think of her, because I did write this story.  Guess it goes to show that while people come and go in our lives, they all leave their footprints.


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Trumpism – the new McCarthyism

January 21st, 2021 by Ken

There’s a new “McCarthyism” casting a shadow over the face of this country.  It’s called “Trumpism.”   And, just like McCarthyism, it will bring pain, anger, disbelief and fear to millions of Americans.  Some 70 million to be exact.

I was a young teenager in the 50’s when McCarthyism ran rampant and unrestrained.  While I was not directly affected by it, I was aware of it.  Friends of my parents, particularly those trying to unionize the Metal Craft company in Tumwater where my folks worked, were tarred with the brush of “Communist.”

When they talked about their unionizing efforts, it was always with hushed tones and quick glances around the room to see who was present  Often it was me.  As a child I was not always knowledgeable of the full scope of McCarthyism, but I did watch television news and I knew that communists were not people I wanted to associate with.

It wasn’t until a decade later that I realized the full extent of McCarthyism and how it managed to evolve and spread because no one in power spoke up in favor of “Free Speech.”  Their silence condemned people to huddle in their own minds and keep their feelings to themselves.

McCarthyism was one of the most significant assault on the First Amendment particularly the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Now, however, comes “Trumpism.”  The idea that those who supported President Donald Trump are enemies of the “new” state and need to be identified and placed in the newly created world of shame populated by shameful people.

They need to be deprived of their right to speak and their right to influence others.  They need to feel shame and to publicly confess their sins and cleanse themselves of “wrong” thoughts.

McCarthyism sprang from an alcoholic, egotistical senator, whose rhetoric kept the political leadership from speaking out against it until many Americans were harmed.

What’s different this time is that “Trumpism” is being led by our political leaders and their young followers, who have no sense of history and apparently no understanding of what happens when speak and thought are controlled by those in power.

Decades from now, when the memories of Donald Trump fade, historians will look back at this time and wonder how we let it start and how we let it go on so long.


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What is Friendship?

January 18th, 2021 by Ken

According to the dictionary, a friend is a person ones knows well and is fond of.  A friend can also be a supporter or a sympathizer.  Webster’s has half a dozen definitions of a “friend”.

I have 501 Facebook friends.  I have to admit, I don’t really know some of them well, but I do know many of them.  For the most part, they are people whom I am fond of – to varying degrees.

Because of Facebook and other media, we now throw the term “friend” around without a great regard to what it really means to be a friend.  In many instances, we use the term loosely as a definition of “acquaintance”.

When it was noted that I had been infected with Covid 19;  I had nearly a hundred people post notes of support (and love) on Facebook.  I had more than two dozen calls from those concerned about my health.  And, I had half-dozen friends (other than family) who visited me in person despite the perceived danger to their own health.

But, is that really the defining element of friendship?  Is being a friend as simple as showing concern?

I believe showing compassion and concern is a significant sign of friendship. But, I also believe that having a friend requires that you spend time and emotional energy in fostering that relationship.

I have friendships which have lasted more than half-a-century.  I have many “old” friends.  Some of them I see on a regular basis and enjoy their company as I have always done.  Others I see only once or twice a year, but when we get together its as if we saw each other only last week.

But, I also have many new friends.  Relationships that are only a few years old and in some cases only a few months old.  Those friendships are old friendships in the making, just waiting for time to add its flavor in the form of common activities, spice in the form of disagreements, and the sweetness of conversation and spending time with each other as the defining element.

When I lose a friend, through death or through some unthinking action on my part – – I mourn.  Next to the death of a family member, I can’t think of anything worse than the loss of a friendship.

These recent few years has made it more difficult to retain some friendships.  Often we are judged on some minor slight, or uttered statement, which affects our perception of each other.  For some, these can’t be overcome.  But, for me, disagreements and even arguments are the elements which test the strength of the relationship and bind us to each other.   From that, we get the compassion. concern, and mutual understanding which are the basis of all friendships.


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Goodbye America

January 14th, 2021 by Ken

By Ben Stein

A spectacularly perfect day here in Beverly Hills. I swam for about half an hour in my super-warm pool. Then my wife and two friends and I had a secret AA meeting at a secret location. We love our AA. It has saved all of our lives for decades. It means everything to us. It’s all about bringing ourselves to God and falling into His loving arms.

Then, a quick lunch and then out to our house in Malibu. The sky was cloudless, light blue. Once we got to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), we could see forever out over the ocean. It was shimmering, gorgeous, calm, or “Pacific” as one might say.

I called a close relative in a large eastern city and asked her what she had been doing all day. “Really interesting stuff,” she said. “I had a Zoom lecture with a Jewish group about our own racism. First, a man spoke to us for about an hour about what were the signs of racism within ourselves. There are so many,” she said breathlessly.

“Then we had four hours to answer questions and to create our own ‘racial autobiography.’ That’s when we first noticed our own racism and the racism in our families and neighbors.

“Then we wrote about how sorry we are, and how we would make it up to the people we oppressed.”

My head was spinning.

“I wrote a lot about how so many neighborhoods in our hometown were restricted against Jews. Then I thought about how those neighborhoods were also closed to blacks. Then I wrote again about how sorry I am and about how I will make certain my children and grandchildren will be free of that same kind of racism.”

It was pure Maoist, Communist Chinese self-criticism and confession. This is what is happening in our beloved America in the family of multi-millionaires. It’s really true. Our fellow citizens are being taught to hate their own country and themselves. I did not bother to argue with my relative. She’s into this kind of “thought,” and nothing I can do will change her.

The call ended with a bad connection, and then I was at the supermarket called Pavilions in mid-Malibu. It was deserted of customers but filled with fish, meat, chicken, and everything else good. How blessed we are.

I sped along PCH in my breathtaking new car, an Audi with something like 533 horsepower, a huge V-8 and twin turbochargers, and it goes like a banshee. I went into our house and walked out onto the deck to take pictures of the setting sun. The phone rang. It was another relative calling me from far, far away. She was in Potsdam, doing research on how helpful the East German (yes, I said East German) government was in helping Nelson Mandela and ending apartheid while the USA was helping out the white supremacist racist regime. I told my caller I could not get a good connection.

Yes, my caller was telling me how great the East German government was and how horrible the USA was. This is where we are now, and Biden hasn’t even been inaugurated yet. I didn’t want to tell my caller that East Germany and its Stasi secret police were the most violent, vicious entities in Europe during the 1950s and 1960s. What good would it do? None so blind as those who will not see.

What the heck happened to our beloved America? Where did we go off the rails? Anyway, I slept for a short while, and then I got in my spaceship Audi and headed home.

At home, my wife, world’s most wonderful human, an actual goddess, was reading a mystery and smiling a big smile. I sautéed a huge steak for her, and now here I am wondering what the future holds. Probably best not to think about it.

My wife looks awfully good, and so does the steak.

(Editors note:  Ben Stein is an American humorist)

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January 12th, 2021 by Ken

The first time I saw Carol she was pouring coffee.  The last time I saw Carol, she was pouring coffee.  It never occurred to Carol that someone would want to come into her small diner and not order coffee – particularly in the morning.

I was up early. I couldn’t sleep.  A little from nerves and a little from excitement. It was 1965 and  I had just gotten out of the Army after nearly six years of service. I had my first job interview in the morning.  I was going to Tumwater City Hall to be a cop.

It was still early and I decided to stop at the Trails End, a small cafe adjacent to the Tumwater Inn tavern on the corner of Trosper and Capitol Boulevard.   I had some time to kill and I wanted to try and get my thoughts together.

The Trails End seated about a dozen customers, although in the evenings, Ted would open up the backroom and meet the needs of his half-drunk customers from next door.  It was busiest on Saturday night, when due to the Blue Laws and no booze on Sundays,  The tavern had to close its doors at midnight.

But, while tavern-users were the customer-base in the evenings, the mornings belonged to Carol and the men who stopped by for breakfast, conversation and coffee.

I walked in the door.  Carol looked at me, nodded towards a seat at the counter and poured me a cup of coffee as I sat down.  “What’ll it be,” she said.   I thought about asking for a menu, but felt a little ill at ease so I ordered bacon, eggs – over easy and hash browns.  Carol repeated my order to the wall behind her, moved the sugar and cream a little closer to my cup, then walked away to pour a refill for one of her regulars.

I was taken by the scene.  Men, a dozen men, of all ages, were sitting at the counter and the small two-person table crammed against the wall, under the window.

Carol was taking care of them all – not only pouring coffee, but talking with them, asking them questions about their sick wife, the job they hated, whatever happened to Bob.

When my order was up, she brought it to me and sat it down.  “Anything else – ketchup, hot sauce,” she asked.  She didn’t ask if I wanted a refill on my coffee, she just topped it off and turned to do the same to the guy sitting next to me.

But she didn’t leave.  “You on your way to work?” she asked.  I told her about my job interview.  “We have a couple of them who stop in pretty regularly,” she said speaking about the police.  “They’re nice guys.”

Shortly sounds of “Goodbye Carol” and “See you tomorrow” began to fill the diner, as her customers got up to continue their day.   I notice that very few of them got a bill.  Most just put a few dollars on the counter and left.

I began to realize that Carol was more than a waitress to these men.  She was the mother, the wife, the friend, the person they needed every morning to get their day started.  It wasn’t the food – or the coffee – that brought them in every morning.  It was the feeling of being part of something that gave them comfort.  It was being part of a family.

Carol refilled my coffee again as she began picking up the plates and cleaning off the counter.  I realized that I was almost alone, with only a couple of  guys a few seats away.  I decided it was time for me to leave, even though I would be early for my interview. I didn’t know what the bill was but like the others, I just left the money on the counter.  I put out a five dollar bill, although I was certain that was more than enough.

As I turned to leave Carol said, “Good luck on your interview.”

“Thanks,” I said and walked out.  When I got to the door, I turned to take one more look.  Carol was pouring coffee to the sole remaining customer.

(I was offered the job, but turned it down, when I went to work for the state in a job that paid more.)

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How did we get in this homeless mess?

January 5th, 2021 by Ken

Homelessness  in the shape we see it today, didn’t just appear overnight.  It has been coming for a long time and slowly worked its way into a situation which has over-whelmed social and government agencies.

Homelessness has always been with us, particularly since the days of the Industrial Revolution.  There’s a great deal of blame to place on many actions of government which forced this issue upon us.  But in modern society, the digital revolution and misplaced activities of well meaning people all play a role.

During the Industrial Revolution workers began moving from the farm into the big cities, Homeless was always a problem.  As long as people stayed on the farm, homeless was not something most people thought of.  But, as the movement to the cities began to take place in the 18th Century, homelessness began to make itself known.

In the United States, the consumption of alcohol in significant amounts by the general public began to affect a growing number of users.  We saw this throughout American history with the Skid Rows and the Flop Houses and the alcoholics laying in the streets.   But the problem was ignored until the passage, in 1919, of the 18th Amendment banning the sale and distribution of alcohol.  This well-intentioned action ignored the number of casual drinkers who also wanted access to their evening drink.  The result of course led to an increase in crime, an increase in drinking and an increase in social problems.  Approval of the 21st Amendment in 1933 repealed the ban on alcohol.  But by then, the damage had been done.

It wasn’t the last time a government policy or procedure, while well-intentioned, would worsen a problem it was designed to solve.

Following World War II, American society began to change.  The war had needed women in the workplace and left many children to fend for themselves during the process.  When the war ended, women returned back to the homes.   The resultant Baby Boom and the increase in the number of children in the community led to a desire to make communities better and safer. Parents began to look to government to do just that.

With an increase in children and the resultant demand for housing, a major home building boom began.  Millions of single-family homes were built in the decades of the 50’s, 60’s and into the 70’s.  This rapid increase in houses began to make itself felt in cities.  Government felt forced to take some control over growth.  They began to put in place zoning ordinances which restricted where growth should occur.  This increased the cost of available land.  They also began to approve measures to make the houses safer.  The restrictive rules and regulations began to add to the cost of building houses.

Restrictive government rules made the cost of undeveloped property more expensive.  Banks make loans for builders based on the cost of the property.  Increases in the cost of property required builders to build larger and more expensive homes if they wanted a bank loan.

The decision of government in the 1980 to make growth pay for growth, resulted in housing impact fees which also significantly contributed to increases in home prices.

With millions of young people exploring their world,  the drug culture exploded. Many experimented  with drugs in the 60’s and the increase in drug distribution from organized criminal gangs took hold in the United States in the 70’s.  Drugs were cheap and plentiful.  In an effort to get control of the problem city and states instituted harsh penalties for possession of controlled substances.  Our jails filled with thousands of youth.  The result was a generation of young people with a criminal record and little way of making a living upon release except through the skills they learned in prison.

Government began to see the negative results of their war on drugs and turned to the pharmaceutical industry to come up with drugs of their own which could  soften the impact of illegal drugs.

At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry was asked to help in the fight against mental illness. Insane Asylums had been the answer for those suffering from mental illness.  Many patients had been confined for decades often suffering debilitating treatment.  Asking the pharmaceutical industry to help develop drugs which could treat some forms of mental illness, became the answer to emptying the mental institutions.  In the 1980’s many mental facilities were closed because the new drug therapy was working.  Unfortunately, drug therapy was often expensive, difficult to administer and difficult for some patients to remember.  Soon, these patients were in jail or on the streets.

Meanwhile, government, in its efforts to create room for new housing and to assure adequate construction rules, began to eliminate cheap housing.  Gone were sub-standard houses.  Cheap hotels were demolished.  Trailer parks were forced out of urban areas or relegated to rural lands.  Housing that alcoholics, addicts and those suffering from  mental illnesses would have gravitated towards were nowhere to be found.  Those suffering from drug or alcohol abuse or mental illnesses, were now, out on the street. .

Just as the Industrial Revolution impacted society and created urban poor, the Digital Revolution did the same to modern American cities.  Wherever large Tech Corporations, with their well-paid employees.  settled, the scarcity of housing to meet the needs of these behemoths caused the price of housing  to increase substantially.  It happened in California, it happened in King County and Washington State and its happening now in Arizona and Texas.  Big monolithic industry drives up the price of everything including the price of housing – often putting it out of range for those not employed in the high tech field.

The housing recession of 2008-2009, showed many former home owners that the cost of owning a single-family home may be out of reach of many who thought they had secure employment.  This recession slowed the demand for single-family homes  .Apartments and condominiums became more prevalent, again adding to housing shortage.  While some young and old can live in apartments with some sense of permanency, families cannot.

That’s the historical background leading to our current situation,.

The answers to the problem are multi-faceted and multi-pronged   There is no single solution.  The issue has been with us for decades and government and social service agencies have debated for decades in an effort to find an answer.

The first step is to recognize that it is not a homeless problem.  It is a drug, alcohol and mental health issue. Nearly 80 percent of all the residents of the camps have those problems.  The other 20 percent are homeless through no  fault of their own – domestic abuse, job loss, medical costs and family disputes.  We currently have programs that work for those individuals and they are rapidly re-housed.

As for the bigger problem, Federal, State, and Local government are stymied.

A recent Federal Court ruling that –  homelessness is not a crime and people can’t be moved unless there is somewhere to move to –  has complicated the issue.  But local government’s decision not to enforce misdemeanors like drug use, littering, theft and other anti-social behavior has complicated efforts to remove “homeless camps.”

The  major responsibility of government is to provide for the safety of the people.  Our elected officials should be forced to honor that commitment.  We must provide more funding for police, jails, prosecutors and the legal system in general.

Until we stop the crime spree associated with homeless camps, we’ll continue to argue and fight over what to do with the drug addicts and those suffering from mental illness.

Once we get the “camps” under control and the criminal activity associated with them, we’ll be able to talk about the next step. Such as treatment, temporary housing, rehabilitation and jobs.

History has shown that government action often doesn’t work and in some cases actually has a negative impact. But, history has also shown that the people will eventually force government to take action.

And, right now, that action seems to be paramount.


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