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  Approval of the 21st Amendment in 1933 repealed the ban on alcohol.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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2020 Hindsight

December 27th, 2020 by Ken

What kind of year was it?  I can sum it up with a few simple words.

Partisan politics – homelessness – Social upheaval – Pandemic – Economic meltdown – Partisan politics.

Those few words spell out what kind of year 2020 was.  You don’t need to read any further, unless you want my take on what those words represent.

The year started out with the impeachment of President Donald Trump.  With minor exceptions, all Democrats voted to kick the lying, ignorant, egotist out of office.  Republicans with some minor exceptions voted to support the leader they felt was being flayed, fried and fricasseed by the national media working for Democrats who were suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The issue of homeless seemed to be under control until a Federal judge in California ruled that “homeless is not a crime” and you couldn’t kick them out of public spaces unless there were other accommodations for them.  That’s when our drug and alcohol problems became a homeless problem.  Local politicians became a afraid to face the issue of minor criminal offenses over concern for violating the civil rights of the homeless.

Several well-publicized actions of police shooting and killing black men and women set off a firestorm of protest around the country, forcing the general public to gain a better understanding of racism in America.  It morphed into protests about historical racism and brought about efforts to erase 250 years of American history.

When the Covid 19 Pandemic reached the shores of the United States, first noticed in a nursing home in King County and later washing up in New York City, a quarantine was declared by the city’s mayor in an effort to flatten the curve of patients filling the city’s hospitals.  As the Pandemic spread, more and more governors and mayors declared a quarantine and shut down local businesses – forcing bankruptcy and unemployment to its highest ever.  Never mind that 99.6 percent of all people who get the virus survive.

The economic meltdown continues.  The federal government – in its wisdom – threw trillions of dollars at the problem while the banknote printing presses continue to roll out a long future of significant inflation.

And of course, we ended the year with another round of politics as the Democrats searched high and low for the person that could defeat that tyrant in the White House.  They found their savior in a man who had sought that office at least four times in the past.

That wraps up 2020.  With the exception of no presidential election next year, and maybe a vaccine that works, I suspect that the problems of this year will continue into 2021.  Unemployment, homeless, social upheaval and partisan politics will continue as usual.

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The Christmas Story

December 23rd, 2020 by Ken

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world would be registered.  So all went to register, everyone to his own city.

Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Bethlehem because he was of the House of David – – to be registered – with Mary, his betrothed wife – who was with child.

So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered – – and she bought forth her first born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes – and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were – in the same country – shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were greatly afraid.

The the angel said to them  – do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you – this day – in the City of David – a savior – who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be the sign to you.  You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager.

And suddenly there was – with the angel – a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying – – Glory to God in the highest – and on Earth, peace, good will towards men.

 

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How Evergreen changed society

December 21st, 2020 by Ken

 How did a small liberal arts college, on the outskirts of a small state capitol, tucked away in the corner of the country, spread a social revolution that changed politics and the future?

That’s The Evergreen State College story.

Founded in 1967 and opened to students in 1971, the college was charged by the Washington State legislature to “be different.”  The college embraced that charge.

Founding faculty members, many from the East Coast and New England, remade the idea of a college.  Professors were to teach, not write and do research.  To make certain that they held to that concept,  there were no permanent deans who were replaced after a period of time and eventually returned to teaching.  There were no “schools”.  Every year the teaching curriculum could and would change.  Teaching would be in a coordinated system with several students and several teachers with differing expertise working together

There were no mandatory classes and no grades.  Students would study in the areas that interested them.  Professors would evaluate each student.  The student in turn would evaluate each professor,  Upon graduating the student would have a portfolio of his/her work which would substitute for a GPA.

Over-arching all this, was a progressive concept that put skills into the hands of the individuals who would work through existing stables of power to make government more responsive to the over-all good of society.

Many other colleges around the country have been in similar situations with an ability to educate students in the progressive vein.  But those were often private colleges.  What made Evergreen so unusual  is that it was a public college, funded by government.  Because of all that it developed the power of influencing government policy on a national level?

First – it was a small college, without any historical perspective on how a college should be run.  The policies it adopted allowed the school to change with the upheavals of the 1960’s and 70’s.

Second – It was located in a small state capitol city, which at the time of founding had less than 30,000 residents and was located in an urban area of less than 150,000.  As time went on, the number of students graduating from the college and staying in the community had a level of impact far beyond most colleges.

Evergreen has more than 40,000 graduates.  A significant portion of them – perhaps as many as half – have stayed in the community.  The unique make-up of the student-body has contributed to the relatively “home base” of its graduates.  Early on the school attracted women and many classes were oriented towards those women.  Many women were first-time college students or women returning to college and many of them had family in the community.

Because state government often required a college degree to advance up the pay scale, it encouraged its employees to take classes and many of them did.  And, after having graduated, many of them went back to work for government.

Third –  As they worked their way up the ladder in state government, these “Greeners” and their “liberal” philosophy began to influence the course of state government.  The influence of these Greeners was significant.

Because the college was located in a small state capitol, the 20,000 graduates who remain in Thurston County exert tremendous influence in their jobs.  Many of those graduates are in top management position  Because state government is the primary job source, the influence of the college on the future of the state is tremendous, as its history over the last 50 years clearly shows

If the college had been located in a large metropolitan area its impact  would not be extensive.   If the state capitol had been located in a large metro area, then the college’s impact would have been insignificant.  But with a liberal arts college located in a community of around 150,000 (at the time) and with state government as the major source of employment, The Evergreen State College has driven the political bent of the State of Washington.

While most of the impact is done in the halls of state agencies it’s difficult to quantify just how extensive the influence has become.  But Evergreen’s impact on the state was made almost as soon as the college opened its doors in 1971.

Jolene Unsoeld, wife of founding faculty member Willi Unsoeld (and later Congresswoman) began the effort to create a Public Disclosure Commission.  With Initiative 276 she was successful.  Other initiatives to change state government and open it to scrutiny followed.

Vote By Mail and Top Two Primaries are just the most visible of actions taken by Washington State that can be traced back to those who work for state government, which emanates from Olympia.

These public changes were only the most visible of the impacts of Greeners on state government.   Agency policies after agency policies followed.

Because the capital of  state government is in Olympia, many advocacy groups have an office near the state capitol.  Many of those are staffed by Greeners who didn’t go to work directly with government  and became lobbyists and advocates for various positions.  Often they worked with people in state government with whom they went to school.

Evergreen’s educational bent can be seen by its advanced degree programs – Public Administration, Environmental Studies, Education.  Students who graduate from the school with master degrees in those areas of education usually go into government.  And, that  government headquarters is in Olympia.

Evergreen’s curriculum also encouraged women to go to school, or go back to school.  Women studies programs helped working women and single moms to transition into public policy jobs.   These classes and the resulting number of educated women gave them an access  into government work.  Social programs oriented around education, childcare and health then became main priorities of  state government.

By the beginning of the 21st Century Washington State was the leader in progressive government. Other states began to adopt its own policies that echoed those coming out of Olympia and the State of Washington  Leadership in our current social movement can be laid at the foot of The Evergreen State College and its thousands of graduates working for state and local government.

 

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Trump has changed political history

December 18th, 2020 by Ken

Donald Trump is not going to go gently into that good night.  He is going to rage, rage, against the coming of the light.

Until he doesn’t.

Trump has made a mark on this country which will last for generations.  His contribution to history is the realignment of the Republican Party.   He took a moderate to conservative organization and made it into a blue collar, rural, middle class party.

Realignment of political parties is as old this country itself.  Over the last 250 years, political parties have come and gone and major parties often grab the best from the old parties and adopt them for themselves.  This has been the historical precedence.  But, in the case of Donald Trump, the Republican Party changed so rapidly that we’re still trying to determine what type of party it has become.

The Democratic Party has been undergoing a change itself.  Its process of change has been slow but steady.  Historically it had been the party of rural, blue collar voters with its feet deeply planted in the soil of the “solid south”.

The change started with FDR, continued under President Harry Truman and escalated under the leadership of LBJ.  It continued its change under President Obama and is now the party of the urban elite, held together by government unions and their white collar workers.

There are some racial tones in both parties – – not necessarily black and white.

But, politics in the 21st Century has changed and Donald Trump will go down in history as the man who transformed the Republican Party into the party of the forgotten and left behind.

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Society’s forgotten minority – boys

December 10th, 2020 by Ken

While other minorities in the United States have made significant progress in the last decade, one minority is still facing discrimination in many forms, particularly in our educational system.

Boys.

I’ve hammered on this issue many times in the past, and it receives recognition from the national media occasionally until something more burning takes its place.   But the issue of discrimination against boys cuts across all racial lines, all income levels and all communities.

I’ve talked about our educational system, run by women for girls.  Boys are forced to conform to a system that rewards traditional female behavior and punishes traditional male behavior.   Boys drop out of high school in greater numbers than do girls and girls go on to additional schooling in greater numbers than do boys.

Nearly 65 percent of all students in college are females and in some fields – medicine and law – – the number of women is significantly higher.

More than 20 percent of boys with only a high school diploma had no full time employment.   (Prior to Covid).

Our national media continues to tout the number of girls who take math and science courses, but forgets the number of boys who don’t take either.

Schools need to become boy friendly.  In grade school they need to give boys space and time to be boys.  They need to find innovative ways to keep boys attentive and at their desks rather than resort to drugging them to keep them quiet.  (I don’t know how many boys are not doing on-line education now because of Covid, but I suspect they make up a large segment of those who are missing.)

It’s been a long period of neglect for our boys.  Our educational system is non-functioning for them.

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Quarantine humor

December 2nd, 2020 by Ken

I’m having a Quarantine Party this weekend.  None of you are invited.

 

Now, when I’m watching a television show or movie.  All I can think of is – everybody is standing WAY to close.

 

I use to spin that toilet paper like I was on the Wheel of Fortune.  Now I turn it like I’m paying a dollar a sheet for it.

 

After Quarantine Day 16 I’m starting to take calls from telemarketers.  Some of them are actually quite nice.  Jamar from Superior Life Insurance has a new baby.

 

My wife and I play this new game while we’re quarantined – – Why are you doing it that way?   I usually lose.

 

Just bought six pounds of cheese.  Won’t need toilet paper now.

 

My car probably thinks I’ve died.

 

Anyone else getting tan from the reading lamp?

 

I just got pulled over by the cops.  he said “I smell alcohol.”    I said, “That’s because you’re not respecting social distancing.”

 

(Editor’s note:  None of this is original from me.  I stole in from Mike Pinch.)

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Covid vaccine use full of politics

December 2nd, 2020 by Ken

When the new Covid 19 vaccine is finally in distribution there’s almost unanimous agreement that the first people to get the vaccine should be hospital workers and first responders.  They are the people at the front dealing with the impact of the virus.

Most will agree that  seniors in nursing homes and those who take care of them should be second in line for the vaccine.  After all, nursing home residents make up nearly 50 percent of all deaths from Covid 19.

But, who’s next?

You would think it would be all seniors over 65.  Or maybe those who deal with the public on a daily basis such as grocery clerks, waitresses and waiters.    But, because of politics, you’d be wrong.

The third in line to get the Covid 19 vaccine will probably be teachers.  Not because teachers get the virus any more often than you or I, but because teachers have a strong lobbying group called the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.  The teacher unions control the Democratic Party and right now, the Democrats control the presidency and the agencies which make the determination as to who should get the vaccine.

The unions want the teachers vaccinated and woe be unto any Democratic elected official who crosses the teachers union.  There’s no doubt that politics will play a major role in when you and I get the vaccine.

So, get in line, wait your designated turn and watch as decisions are made regarding distribution and use of the vaccine that seems to make no sense.  Just remember, it’s politics and politicians, who are  making the decisions about your health.

 

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Don’t expect Governor Heck to stray from the party line

November 25th, 2020 by Ken

Many of my conservative friends are counting the day Jay Inslee will be tapped to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet in some form or another.  They think that moving Inslee from Washington State to Washington DC will be good for the state because he will be replaced by another person.

According to state law, that person will be Denny Heck, the current Lieutenant Governor – who will hold the office until he is elected to the position in November 2021.  They hope that Heck will be better and more attuned to the realities of life in the real world.  They think that with Heck’s background he’ll be more realistic about the abilities of the governor to affect life in Washington State.

And, they’re right.  Almost anyone would be better than the lifetime political hack that Inslee has become.  Denny Heck will be a far better governor than currently.

But, they may be disappointed if they think Heck’s policies will differ greatly from Inslee’s.   He is looked upon as more conservative than the Democratic Party and as someone with real world experience who can understand the needs of the average person.

That is not the case however.  Heck has been shown to be an extremely political partisan.  While serving in the House of Representatives, he supported every partisan issue brought forth by Democrats including supporting the articles of impeachment against President Trump.   When he joined with his colleagues in this endeavor I criticized his actions and called him a partisan hack.  He’s never forgiven me for that and I’ve never forgotten his vote.

So, don’t expect Governor Denny Heck to stray far from the party line.  He’ll be better than Inslee, but Heck has been a partisan politician so long that he doesn’t know any different.

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Covid is not a death sentence

November 17th, 2020 by Ken

According to the Washington State Department of Health, I have recovered from my bout of Covid19.  I am free to enter the world of the living again.

Just like 99.94 percent of everyone who gets Covid, I have recovered  Although I am still a little weak and still have my cough, I have met the criteria of all those other survivors of this disease.

I have no idea when or how I caught Covid.  I have allergies and I had a cold for more than two weeks.  I thought my symptoms were just a cold.  It wasn’t until I started feeling tired all the time and it wasn’t until my wife Jan came down with similar symptoms that I begin to suspect that I might have Covid.

I had curtailed most of my activities and had spent most of two weeks prior, confined to my house.   When Jan came down sick, we decided to get tested.   Our health care provider Kaiser Permanente had an easy to use on-line questionaire.    Jan took it and was told to get tested.  I took it, and was also told to get tested.   We did the drive-through testing on November 10 and the next day got our results that we both tested Positive.

I immediately notified everyone I had contact with the previous week and asked them to get tested.  I had incidental contact with two of our children resulting in them getting tested. Both were found to be negative for Covid.

I also posted on my Facebook page asking anyone who had physical contact with me to get tested.

What are the symptoms of Covid. In my case, I had normal flu symptoms – fever, headache, queasy stomach and tiredness.  I also didn’t feel the desire to eat and my food had no taste.  (I actually lost eight pounds.)   I will be 78 in a few days and for 30 years I was a 2-3 pack a day smoker.   I was concerned about my air supply.  But continual testing found the air in my blood stream at the normal level.

I also have high blood pressure.  I had some very high readings in blood pressure tests.  We finally determined that it was the cold medicine that was affecting my blood pressure and I became more careful of what over-the-counter medicines I took.

We’ve had dozens of people offer to help.  Jan and I appreciate each and everyone who has expressed concern or wanted to help in some way.  The silver lining in all of this is the number of people who care about us.

Although I can now venture outside the house, I’m going to stay confined for a few more days.  If you want, feel free to call.  All you’ll do is interrupt my napping, and I’m doing too much of that as it is.

I want to ask one more favor.  Stop watching the news.  All it does is scare the hell out of you and that is not helpful at all.

 

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Trump’s people aren’t going away

November 5th, 2020 by Ken

It was probably the best possible outcome we could hope for.

Republicans control the Senate, Democrats lost seats but still control the House.   And, Donald Trump’s America is still there, still angry and still clinging to the American Dream.

When Trump won the presidency four years ago, it was deemed a fluke by the elites and their lackey media.  They said he only won because he was a TV Star, because people didn’t like Hillary Clinton that he’d been helped by the Russians and those that had voted for him were ignorant and racists.

This time around, 66 million Americans voted for Donald Trump.  He made inroads into the former Blue Rust Belt just as he had the first time around, and it was only through the Billion dollar effort to encourage people to vote that he lost this time around.

The forgotten American is not what many people think of.  The forgotten American is the blue collar workers, the farmers, the pink collar women, the ones who feel powerless and voiceless as the government-elite and the elite media headquartered in their urban east coast nests ignore them.   They are the men and women who can’t work from home.  They’re the cab drivers, the loggers, the iron worker, the plumber, the guy who sits all day in the cab of a combine.  The forgotten Americans are the waitress, the family which operates the local laundry, the local restaurant, the small business which employs half a dozen people – often from their own family.

These are the ones most financially impacted by government action.

They may not have liked Trump’s personality but they sure loved his work ethics and his policies.  Next time around , they’ll find someone who will speak for them and they’ll support him (or her).   And this group will again embrace the concept that American is the best country in the world – – and they’ll continue to hang on to their guns and their bibles.

 

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Anytime is a good time to visit Las Vegas

November 1st, 2020 by Ken

I just got back from my annual trip to Las Vegas to feed their economy.  And, as I expected, it was not the Las Vegas I knew from 30 years of visiting.  But, it was open and ready for visitors – somewhat.

Most of the major casinos are now open and welcoming guests and gamblers.  A few of the major shows are ready for opening in the next few weeks.  None were open when I was there last week.

But it is a different world.  It’s kind of like Vegas Lite with a major blanket over-laying it all.  Covid 19.  The virus currently calls all the shots.  It dominates the culture of the Strip and the casinos, restaurants and shops which line the banks of that river of commerce.

Masks are mandatory – not only indoor, but out-door as well.  Honestly, while I was there, I only saw two people without a mask.  Many, mostly young men, had a mask they wore pulled down to the chin.  But, it became rare to see anyone not taking the virus seriously.  That includes the visitors to Vegas as well as the residents and the workers.

Every casino (and I visited several) had security guards making certain everyone had a mask.  Most of the casinos required a temperature check before you could enter.  Gone were the handheld wands.  Each entrance had a large machine which you walked through, with a guard checking every reading.  Even local police on the sidewalks enforced the mask requirements.

Inside the casinos, masks and hand sanitizing were required.  All employees enforced the mask wearing and gave you a mask it you needed one.  Hands at the gaming table, were sanitized after every action.  Tables, chairs and other equipment were sanitized or replaced regularly.

The result is that visitors and gamblers are coming back, but currently in small numbers.  Several experts, with whom I talked, felt that the casinos were at 20 percent occupancy but slowly increasing.

If you think that costs would be cheaper because of the need to attract more gamblers – be aware.  That is not the case.  Prices of most things, from food to the minimum bet at the tables have increased.  The only things that are cheaper is the air fare and rooms.

But, I still enjoyed the trip and kept it as normal as possible.  Eating good food, enjoying the images of the lights and the action and getting in as much gambling as my purse would allow.

As far as I’m concerned, anytime is a good time to go to Las Vegas – even with a heavy blanket hanging over the city.

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Can you really believe the polls?

October 18th, 2020 by Ken

American political pollsters have been under fire every since they blew the 2016 Presidential Election and failed to predict the ascension of Donald Trump to the top elective seat in the country.  There are nearly two dozen national pollsters operating in the United States,  and all of them predicted that Hillary Clinton would win.

That national embarrassment sent them back to their process and a better understanding of the national make-up.  They did better in the 2018 election and predicted the Democrats would take control of the House and the Republicans would retain control of the Senate, but they weren’t as certain in their process as they had been in the past.

I’m not going to bore you with what they did, what they did wrong, and what they’ve changed, but it had to do with the arrogance of the educated elite.  In the past, most polling had been done in major cities without a thought to the rural areas.  Most polling had been done by educational universities which concentrated its polling to those with college educations.  Trump’s election showed that those without a college degree also vote and had often been ignored by the pollsters.

In the past, many pollsters used phone interviews because it was easier.  They could do robo calls until they reached a real live person.  By law, they cannot use robo calls on cell phones.  Now, nearly 90 percent of all Americans have a cell phone.  Those with land line are predominately older (I’m not going to use the word elderly).

Polling in 2020 is still trying to determine its future.  And, while it will be better this year, it is still unreliable as a predictor of the present.

By the way.  We have a well-known local pollster who many cities and counties hire to do survey work on controversial local matters like taxes.    In the past decade, I have been called by this firm at least half a dozen times.   I’m going to tell you a secret.  I always lie.  No matter what the question, I lie about my answer.  When you see that “margin of error” as 2- 3 or even 4 percent.  I’m that margin of error.

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What is packing the court anyway?

October 13th, 2020 by Ken

Republicans are making a mistake to refer to the efforts by Democrats to add more justices to the United States Supreme Court – as Packing the Court.  Most voters have no idea what that means.  Using that term plays into the hands of the Democrats who are now accusing the Republicans of packing the court by appointing conservative judges.

Instead, Republicans should say that Democrats want to add more justices to the United States Supreme Court so a President Biden can appoint more liberal justices.

Explain to the voters that adding more justices is rare and unusual.  That adding more justices increases costs and  results in delays in getting opinions and that the effort is a blanket threat to voters not to vote Republican.

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Boiling down the governor’s race

October 8th, 2020 by Ken

The most interesting debate Wednesday night wasn’t the Vice Presidential debate, it was the debate for Washington State Governor.  Incumbent governor Jay Inslee is running for a third-term as governor while his challenger is little known City of Republic Police Chief Loren Culp.

Only one other Washington state governor has served more than two terms and that was Republican Dan Evans, who has been slowly recognized as one of our best governors ever and who brought along several appointees with him who have gone on to be recognized public figures in their own right including Ralph Munro and Slade Gorton.

Inslee’s effort to retain his seat and get another four-years smacks of a need of his to stay in the public arena and fight his effort to combat climate change, his main issue in his run for President of the United States last year.  His concern for the citizens of the state seem secondary to his need for the limelight.

The debate between Culp and Inslee pointed out the weakness in both men.  It has boiled down to the incompetence of Inslee and the lack of competence in Culp.

Inslee has shown his incompetence time and time again.  Culp pointed out many of them.  His lack of leadership on mental health issues resulted in the closure of the state’s major mental health hospital – Western State – and the loss of $100 million dollars in federal aid.   His lack of concern for the state’s infrastructure from failing bridges to state forest management.   His unwillingness to support law enforcement and provide leadership during the Seattle riots.  He also spent a year and millions of dollars in his quixotic effort to become president.

Culp, on the other hand, has very little experience in the public sector – as his supporters like to point out.  A situation that has positive and negative qualities.  I liked the guy, but as the debate wore on, I saw how conservative he really was.  While he manifests some of the same qualities as Donald Trump, he isn’t Trump and doesn’t seem to have Trump’s ego.

So – it boils down to one simple question.  Do you want to vote for the incompetence we know.  Or do you want to vote for the competence we don’t know?

 

 

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You’re never too old to be a genius

October 5th, 2020 by Ken

When I was a young man I often thought that I should be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship Grant, more commonly known as a MacArthur Genius Grant.

Awarded annual by the John D and Katherine T MacArthur Foundation – the grant is given annually to 20-30 Americans working in many different fields of  endeavor.  Currently the grant is $625,000.  Its purpose is to free those with extreme talent from having to worry about making money and instead being able to concentrate on their work.

Since I will shortly be 78 years of age, I’ve begun to suspect that I’ve grown too old to recognized by the Foundation.

Until recently.

That’s when I read about Arthur Ashkin, who won a Noble Prize at the age of 96.  He worked at AT&T labs as a researcher for 40 years and saw many of his contemporaries win Noble Prizes in their field.   He said that he just thought he wasn’t as smart as the other guys in his research lab.  He retired in 1992 but continued his work in his basement lab.  In 2018, the Nobel committee recognized his work with photons and awarded him his Nobel Prize.

He was quoted as saying ,the Nobel Committee thought   “Oh he’s a smart guy.  Guess we’d better accept his paper before it was iffy.”  Ashkin died this year at the age of 98.

But, it gave me hope.  If he could win a Nobel Prize at 96, maybe there’s still time for me to win a MacArthur Genius Grant.

I guess the only thing standing in my way now is – – – you have to be a genius.

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Why “The Olympian” failed

September 25th, 2020 by Ken

By Danny Stusser

(Danny Stusser is the former owner and publisher of Coffee News.  He has started a new on-line newspaper called www.theJOLTnews.com.  He has written an 11 page letter to the community about his publication and why its needed.  It has been edited here for content and space.)

When I moved my family to Olympia in 1995 there were about 30 reporters and editors working at The Olympian, and the population of Thurston County was about half what it is today.  In those days, one could expect that at any public meeting there would be a reporter taking notes and maybe a photographer.  Today, (before the Pandemic) it would be a happy occasion if we saw one.

With only two reporters (as early as this past March) The Olympian can’t possibly cover everything.  Now they have four reporters, better, but still not enough.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still subscribe to The Olympian and I’m grateful it’s still in business.  I recommend that you subscribe too.

None of the problems of The Olympian are the fault of anyone who works there now or in any year since 1971 when the family owners sold the business to Gannett Company  the largest newspaper publisher in the United States.  In order to buy the paper, like other national news businesses it purchased, the company took on debt to make the acquisitions.

In 2005 Gannett traded The Olympian to Knight Ridder another national chain.  The next year Knight Ridder was sold to The McClatchy Company in another leveraged buyout and took on over $2 billion in debt to get that deal done.

The end of the McClatchy story is this.  The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020.  Millions of dollars in legal fees later, on September 4, company ownership was transferred to the company’s largest debtor for $312 million.  The new owner is Chatham Asset Management which is usually described as a hedge fund and is located in Chatham, News Jersey.

Articles in the New York Times spelled out what happened when Chatham took control of Postmedia the largest newspaper chain in Canada.   They shut down 30 newspapers in the chain and laid off 1600 employees.   According to The Times, national and political coverage is prepared at a central site and inserted in its remaining papers.

But, it isn’t just sale and resale of newspapers that has led to the decline in The Olympian.

Craiglist took away the classified advertising business which accounted for nearly 40 percent of a newspaper’s business.  Social media which printed and reprinted what passes as news stories drew away subscribers who thought they were getting actual local news.  The spiral started   When once The Olympian had 44,000 paid subscribers, it now reports around 10,000.  On-line advertising on Google and Facebook has cut into display advertising at newspapers.

We need more local news coverage.

(Editors note:  Stusser has founded www.theJOLTnews.com.  The journal of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater news.)

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Most significant events in the county’s history

September 18th, 2020 by Ken

A couple of decades ago, I pulled out an old survey I had taken among local historians, to consolidate their accumulated wisdom and determine what happened in the last decade of the 20th Century to make Thurston County what it had become today.  I chose 1950 as the base line and as recently as 20 years ago added a few new ones.

I began reviewing it a while ago because I have been asked to be a speaker at the Lacey Historical Museum’s History Talk Series.   I have asked other local history buffs for some ideas to help me update the survey and have taken their suggestions under review.

In this post, I will mention the events with a few short comments, but will not go into detail as to why they have been put into the “Significant” category.  That will be saved for my talk which is scheduled for December.  The events have been put into some order from most significant to lesser so.

Lawsuit retaining state agencies –  A Supreme Court order  in 1953 which brought the headquarters of all state agencies back to Olympia.

Construction of the Interstate Highway – Original plans called for the freeway to bypass Olympia completely.

Creation of The Evergreen State College – For better or ill, there are now approximately 30,000 “Greeners” roaming the world and Thurston County.

Organization of the Thurston Regional Planning Council –  There are now more than 20  regional boards and commissions which control government in Thurston County.

The War on Terror –  The military buildup at Ft. Lewis following 9/11 turned the area into a military community.  (This is my newest addition to the list)

Opening of South Sound Center – Eliminated downtown Olympia as a major shopping area and created the City of Lacey.

Decline of local media – Technology eliminated many sources of information and the monopoly once claimed by “The Olympian.”

The 1984 Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials –  Put Olympia and Thurston County on the national map and demonstrated the ability of volunteers.

The 1949, 1965, and 2001 Earthquakes – remind us occasionally that we live on the  Rim of Fire

Closure of the Olympia Brewery –  Took away jobs and a community icon and created an eyesore.

Lesser events include saving the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, building the LOTT reclaimed water facility, opening of Panorama City, and the adoption of the Optional Municipal Code by the cities of Olympia and Lacey.

Feel free to add or argue.

 

 

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Climate change had little to do with this fire season

September 10th, 2020 by Ken

It has been a summer of wildfires.  Searching for an answer our ,Governor Jay Inslee, has resorted to calling them Climate Fires, echoing his climate change campaign for the presidency.  It also further removes the state from any responsibility for allowing the fires to increase in size.

But, fire seasons like we’re experiencing now are not new or unusual.  The West Coast and Washington State have been plagued with wildfires for as long has humans have lived in the area – and probably before that.

The largest and most deadly wildfire in Washington state history happened in 1902 at the beginning of the 20th Century.  In September of that year, unusually dry winds from the east, swept over the Cascades.  The summer had not been unusually hot but as normal, the sun dried out the vegetation and grasses on the westside.

Starting in the Washougal River valley, the fire was started by logging operations.  Flames swept through Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania  counties and roared for three days before rain put an end to the destruction.   When all was done, the fire destroyed 370 square miles of Southwestern Washington killing 38 people.

It was called the Yacolt Burn and is the record for wildfires in our state.   It was so deadly and so disturbing to people, that it led to the beginning of the fire prevention efforts in our state.  As a result of the Yacolt Burn, the state legislature established a state fire warden system, and private landowners formed the Washington Fire Protection Association.  Shortly after, the US Forest service began to organize a wildfire suppression program.

Just like the Midwest has tornadoes and the Gulf Coast has hurricanes, wildfires on the West Coast are a normal part of the climate.   While global climate change may have played a small role in our current fire situation – to blame it for those fires gives the state an out from being responsible for maintaining our forests, cutting deadwood, clearing underbrush and funding more fire suppression services.

 

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CDavis is having a very bad day – week – month

September 4th, 2020 by Ken

A challenge to CDavis, the Republican candidate for Thurston County Commissioner, was upheld by Mary Hall, the Thurston County Auditor.  The challenge alleged that CDavis did not live at the location in which he was registered to vote.

Hall said that CDavis has the opportunity to register at his new location and has done so.  “He’ll still be on the ballot this fall,  He still lives in the district,” Hall said. Thurston County commissioners run by district.  The districts run north to south in Thurston County.  CDavis lives in District One.  His new address is in District One.

Hall said that all challenges to place of resident goes to the Auditor if done before 45 days of the election.   If the challenge is 45 days or less out from the election, then the Thuston County Canvasing Board would be convened and make the decision.  The canvasing board is composed of the county Auditor, the county Prosecuting Attorney and the chair of the County Commission.

CDavis has been facing some set-backs in his effort to be the first Republican on the Thurston County Commission in decades.  Allegations of improper behavior against him has resulted in his being kicked out of the Republican party.

There has been rumors that some supporters of incumbent Commissioner John Hutchings are thinking about mounting a write-in campaign.  So far – that’s just rumors and nothing more.

The other challenger for the commission seat is Carolina Mejia who won more than a third of the votes in the Primary Election in a seven candidate field.

 

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