FOUNDING FATHERS CAN STOP HIM

  When our nation faces difficult issues of a political nature, the usual conservative response is to pursue a solution which best adheres to the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Though I view myself as a liberal, I believe our country now faces a grave crisis which requires a direct focus on the Electoral College, and most specifically, on the purpose the Founding Fathers intended for it.

As our nation came into being, there was considerable controversy as to how best select a president.  Then a major concern was that each state might nominate a “favorite son ” and it could become difficult to achieve a majority of votes for one individual.  Also, the Founding Fathers greatly mistrusted the development of political parties, believing that an individual should not “run” for office, but that government would seek out leaders with recognized abilities.

Specifically, James Madison was concerned that “factions” might develop, groups of citizens who joined together for a common cause.  But Madison feared, what if this cause harmed the nation, or the rights of citizens?

Alexander Hamilton expressed in “The Federalist Papers” that the “office of President” must never “fall to the lot of any man who is not endowed in an eminent degree” with the skills and abilities to serve as “the chief executive of our nation.”  Thus, argued Hamilton, the Electoral College should be comprised of those “most capable of analyzing the qualities” of an individual who would serve as our president.  Would that individual be “favorable to deliberation”?  “Would he (or she) be of a “judicious” mind?

In a true sense, the Founding Fathers saw the Electoral College as a screening committee which would stand guard against the selection of a president who was not qualified to hold the position.  That is why the Founding Fathers’ intent was for the Electoral College members to have the ability, education, and experience to make such a determination.

Over time the Electoral College has become more directed on directed on reflecting the public vote.  However, the structure of the Electoral College has caused several instances in which the winner of the public vote was not determined to have been elected president.

One key problem in its structure is that the Electoral College gives a more “weighted” vote to states with smaller populations than to more populous states.  For example, Wyoming has three Electoral College votes, while California has 55.  At face value, that may seem appropriate. However, based on Wyoming’s population, California should have 199 electoral votes.

In the 200o election Al Gore had an estimated million more votes that George Bush, but just missed getting enough Electoral votes due to a controversial Supreme Court decision.  At the time Donald Trump described the College’s decision as “disastrous” for America.  It appears now that the final popular vote of the 2016 presidential election will have Hillary Clinton with nearly two million votes than Donald Trump, who apparently appears to have the Electoral College majority.

But never in the history of our nation has it been more important for the Electoral College to be reminded of the intent of the Founding Fathers regarding its responsibility to protect the Presidency from those unfit to hold the position.  The 2016 election is perhaps the most significant in our history.  The failure of the Electoral College in 2000 to be guided by the popular vote, rather than an antiquated system which gave more influence to states with smaller populations, denied the actual will of a majority of American citizens.  One can only wonder, considering the impact of the Bush-Cheney administration, how our lives and our entire world might be different, if the Electoral College followed the Will of the People.

Yet, serving as President of the United States requires defending our Constitution.  However, the current Electoral College is now faced with a situation in which the apparent Electoral winner has advocated proposals which would violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Trump’s deportation plan would ignore constitutional safeguards of unreasonable search and seizure and equal protection under the law.  His Muslim ban violates due process. Trump wishes to weaken the First Amendment by limiting the ability of our Free Press to do its job.

President-elect Trump has promoted racial profiling, creation of a Muslim data base, mass surveillance, and an ideological test to become a citizen.  He has also said he would order our troops to torture enemy combatants.  These are just some of the assaults on the Constitution he is advocating.

These reason alone are significant to require that the members of the Electoral College do not select Donald Trump as our 45th President.

Yet, the situation is even more complicated.

Never before has a foreign nation so aggressively interfered in a presidential election. Our nation’s security agencies, and our allies, agree that Russia is behind the WikiLeaks attacks against Hillary Clinton, Trump’s presidential opponent,  and the Democratic National Committee.

It is disturbing that throughout the campaign Trump consistently praised Russian President Putin, and has stated, ignoring US and international officials, that no one knows who is behind the WikiLeaks hacking.  Amazingly, Trump even urged Russia, if they were behind the hacking, to further hack Clinton’s e-mails.

Related to this, Trump is the first presidential candidate in decades to refuse to release his taxes to the public.  Considering Russia’s hacking of Trump’s political opponent, it is inconceivable how the Electoral College could just “trust” any candidate that there was no undue influence on the candidate by a foreign government. It is prudent to see Trump’s taxes before the Electoral College vote to verify there no inappropriate financial ties to a foreign nation.

Even more puzzling is Trump’s refusal to place his business interests in a “blind trust” after stressing his only concern would be “serving” the American people.  Permitting his children to run his business concerns, which is not a true “blind trust”, only further implies a Trump reluctance to be transparent about any Russian financial ties, and his taxes in general.

It is also deeply disturbing that after Trump’s recent communication with Putin as President-Elect, that Russia immediately resumed the bombing of Aleppo, where rebels are fighting the Asaad regime.

Previously Trump referred to Aleppo as already lost, which Russia would certainly prefer.

Every major newspaper in the United States, both Democratic and Republican-influenced, has warned its readers that Trump is unfit to be president.  Now he seeks to place his campaign chairman, who has endorsed white nationalism, to be a key advisor.  Trump himself was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, and has made consistent statements which indicate prejudice against minorities and the mistreatment of women.

However, our Founding Fathers have prepared us for the challenge of Donald Trump.  Just as they feared the election of a “favorite son” in our modern, internet-fed, mass media society, a noted television celebrity without any record of public service, now apparently has enough electoral votes to be president.

That is why the intent of the Founding Fathers for the Electoral College….that it should protect America from those unsuited to lead it, and from individuals who would attack our constitution, rather than defend it.

We must repeat the mistake of the 2000 election.  The Will of the People must not be ignored once more. The Electoral College must honor its original intent as defined by our Founding Fathers.

The Founding Fathers direct the Electoral College that the Constitution be preserved, nor overturned provision by provision by a man who practiced the policies of hate and fear to achieve a political voice.

I hope this will be the last vote of the Electoral College.  Other than to ensure a candidate is fit for office, today’s world of mass media and internet access does not require such an antiquated system.  Let the Will of the People speak.

It is critical the Electoral College be prudent and wise.  Justify the faith the Founding Fathers placed within them.

For theirs will be a significantly historic vote.  I pray if this is the last vote of the Electoral College that it is based on the Founding Fathers’ guidance and the actual voice of our citizens.

Only in this manner will the Constitution best be defended and the Will of the People honored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Believing In Democracy

By Andrew Leheny

Both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation both agree Russia, with the specific participation of Vladimir Putin, in fact interfered with our nation’s recent election, promoting the election of Donald Trump.

Only one Republican, Senator Marco Rubio, said publicly it was improper to use hacked information against a presidential candidate. Yet, Donald Trump aggressively did, even encouraging Russia to further hack.

Despite this hacking, and the uncertainty of its actual impact, the discussion of the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president continues. It is my understanding President Obama wished to confront this issue on a bipartisan basis prior to the actual election, but Senator McConnell said he would accuse President Obama of partisanship if he did so.

I am also amazed the request of Electoral College members to receive a thorough briefing of what occurred has been denied.

It is important that Electoral College members remember the intent of the Founders that EC members block such foreign influence. Yet Donald Trump, who refused to accept the election results unless he won, continues to defend those that our security agencies said did attack us in this manner. Even more amazing Trump is attempting to place in his cabinet individuals with close ties to Russia.

Trump has not released his taxes to verify there are no foreign entanglements, which are not permitted by the Constitution. What the Electoral College. has become has diverged away from the intent of the Founders. As much as preventing foreign influence the Founders gave you, the Electoral College, the responsibility to assure someone without the “requisite” ability to be president does not serve in the position.

As of this day, December 17, Hillary Rodham Clinton has a nearly 3 million vote lead over Donald Trump, yet Trump could be determined by you as our president based on 70,000 total votes in three states. But we now know of thousands of uncounted votes due to mechanical failure (or perhaps hacking) and GOP obstructionism.

Consider these factors on December 19. Why are we proceeding to voter certification without fully determining what occurred? Are we comfortable lifting sanctions against Russia, not only after their involvement in our election, but after the Syrian murder of men, women, and children in Aleppo, aided by the Putin and the Russians.

For me there is an easy solution before us. An antiquated Electoral College system, through a technicality, would reward the office of President not based on the Will of the People, but based upon where certain citizens live whose votes are given more “weight”. Especially until the full impact of Russian hacking is known, the fact that despite the foreign actions against her, Hillary Clinton still achieved a significant popular vote win.

As a nation we must not reward those who attack our democracy.

In fact, there is an absolute best way to punish Putin for what he has done.

The Will of the People is clear. Despite cheating and voter suppression the People chose Hillary Rodham Clinton for President.

I pray Electoral College members that you honor the Will of the People rather than permitting a technicality and cheating to deny it. And by We the People “letting Freedom Ring”, Russia would receive the most meaningful punishment, and repudiation of all.

We the People, and the Founding Fathers, are depending on you.

The Christmas Moon

Our son is nine, soon to be 10,

sitting by me at the side of his bed;

staring through his frosted window,

again and again, at the flickering stars,

and the Christmas Moon, far overhead.

 

Christmas will come with morning light,

and I ask him if he has any questions on this

Christmas Eve night.

 

He doesn’t ask what he will find beneath

the tree as morning arrives,

but instead says, with serious eyes,

gazing at the Christmas Moon’s light…

 

“Dad, my wheelchair has red stripes,

can I drive it to the moon tonight?”

 

“Son, ” I reply, “you can drive it anywhere,

as long as Mom and I are there.

Drive it high into the starry night,

but never drive it out of sight.

 

“Circle once around a star, and

then the moon won’t be that far.

Look for a cow overhead,

but guide your wheelchair down instead.

 

“You’ll land in soft, lumpy cheese,

make sure your seatbelt’s buckled please.

Ask politely the Man in the Moon,

and he’ll sing you a wonderful tune.

 

He’ll push your  wheelchair on a tour

of craters, moon mice, and so much more.”

Then, our son, he smiled again, and said..

“Dad, can I drive my black and red car..

can I drive my wheelchair where the angels are?

“Certainly,” I said, “Certainly you can,

because angels can live on the tips of your hand

Angels are here, angels are there.

When it comes to young boys,

angels are everywhere.

 

“But Dad, where do I find them?”

our young son said.

“Do I drive up….do I drive down,

or should I just drive around?”

 

“Listen son,” I said.  “Listen carefully too,

because these directions always are true.

First, take a right turn at your Father’s heart.

That’s always a good place to start.

 

Then turn left into your Mother’s arms,

and give her a kiss;  it’s a traveler’s charm.

 

“Look right away into Mom and Dad’s eyes,

because I heard that’s where angels hide.

Say “God I love you’, and before you can sigh,

A pair of angels will be at your side.”

 

He paused for a moment, still gazing at

the Christmas Moon, but then replied,

“Dad, my black and red wheelchair is so fast,

sometimes I know it can fly.

Tell me, tell me please,

where should I drive?

 

“Oh son,” I sighed.

“We all take the same trip,

yet all take different drives.

The secret is to travel with eyes opened wide.

Listen to what those who love you say…

…..always start your trip today…

and never let tomorrow get in the way.

 

“Take a road well-traveled and true,

and it’s best to take someone you love with you.

Say your prayers along the way,

and God will guide you every day.”

 

Then our son laid down to rest,

my hand held his against his chest.

 

“As you drive,” I whispered soft,

“the years will go fast,

and your childhood will quickly past.

One day you will become a man

and a young boy will take you by the hand,

 

And will ask you ‘Dad,

can I fly…to the moon?

And do you think I’ll go there soon?

 

“And you will smile,

and you will understand,

the blessings God gives

to a woman and a man,

as they hold the hands of a child,

whose dreams, they pray, are answered soon.

By the gracious light of the Christmas Moon.

By Andy Leheny

Through Santa’s Eyes

If you’re fortunate to meet Santa Claus, you never forget it.

Just like a kid, you tug at his beard.  A gentle pull just to be safe….just to be sure.  But yes, it’s real.  As are those eyes, alive with the joy and goodwill of the countless children his love and generosity have touched.

I am among the fortunate.  I met Santa Claus when he offered me a wonderful opportunity.

You probably have heard the term Santa’s Helper.  A Santa’s Helper can be anyone of good heart willing to help bring a Merry Christmas to children throughout the world.

He asked me to become a Santa’s Helper too.  To meet with children at a nearby shopping mall and learn their Christmas wishes.  As a Santa’s Helper I was allowed to wear his traditional red and white fringed robe during the Christmas season.

His instructions were simple.  Listen with true interest.  Be friendly and open with every child.  And always remind each to share their Christmas wishes with their loving parents or caregivers who work with Santa to make each Christmas special.

Finally, to wish each child a joyous and “Merry Christmas.”

As for me, I will never forget my memories as a Santa’s Helper.

Hundreds of children shared their Christmas wishes with me.  Most approached me cautiously during their visit, mentally debating whether to sit upon my lap, or to sit beside me as we spoke.  I encouraged whichever was most comfortable for each child.

Oh, the wonderful children I met.  I grew up in a time when so many boys were named Tom, Mike or Jim, and common girl names were Debbie, Becky, or Sue.  But now i met far more Andrews, Emmas, Seans, and Austins than when I was a child.

The Christmas wishes the children shared were an odd mixture of old and new.  Requested were traditional toys such as Barbie dolls with a myriad of accessories, or super hero figurines, with members of the Avengers being asked to join Batman and Superman under the tree.  But now there were also the new toys of technology, with Santa being asked to bring the latest video device system, with one or more of the hundreds of games available to be played.

There were special moments as well.

As when my visit with a shy four-year-old girl ended and she began to walk away.  Until she unexpectedly turned and ran back, blessing me with a strong, honest hug.

Or of the thoughtful 10-year-old boy who returned an hour after his visit, and asked if I enjoyed my lunch?  And what Santa’s reindeer ate for lunch?  And how big was my Christmas tree at home, and so on, and so on.

I also remember the oh so quiet three-year-old boy who spoke so softly, head facing downward, and asked for a toy tractor for Christmas.

“A John Deer tractor?”  I questioned him.

But he said nothing, and after a moment’s pause, I thanked him for his visit.  He took several steps before turning back to face me.

“No, not a John Deere tractor,” he corrected me.

“I want a Massey Ferguson.”

There were some visits which cause a Santa’s Helper to pause and to offer silent prayers.

As when the reserved seven-year-old girl said she would not reveal her Christmas wishes.

“Only father decides what we will get for Christmas,” she said.

I clearly see in my memory the face of the five-year-old boy who did not want a specific toy or game for Christmas.

“I just want a present for Christmas,” he said with frank sincerity.

“I just want a present from Santa.”

Whether this boy’s Christmas desire was created by family economics, or by the coaching of a parent, I am certain Santa made his wish come true.

Being a Santa’s Helper is special moments one upon another.  Holding a weeks old baby cautiously, my arm a temporary cradle as she slept.  Giving small presents of chocolate to each child not brave enough to sit upon the lap of a Santa’s Helper.  Providing comfort and understanding when first visits do occur.

I am grateful for this gift from Santa Claus…to have been one of his helpers.  I hope he asks me again.

It is a sacred responsibility Santa gives to his helpers…to each loving mother or father..every dedicated foster parent or child caregiver…all persons of good heart who give  children a safe haven, and the joy of a simple gift each Christmas.

Santa allows his helpers to be his eyes to the children of the world.  He allows them to hear the wishes of those who desire a shopping list of presents, as well as each child anxious to receive the Spirit of Christmas through one simple gift.

To those of you who would become a Santa Helper in the years to come.

Be of good cheer.  Be of good heart.

Because Santa Claus will find you.

By Andrew Leheny

 

The Christmas Moon

 Our son is nine….soon to be 10,                                                                         sitting by me at the side of his bed,                                                                 staring through his frosted window                                                                 again and again,                                                                                                         at the flickering stars,                                                                                                   and the Christmas Moon, far overheard.

 Christmas will come with morning light,                                                         and I ask him if he has any questions on this                                     Christmas Eve night.

  He doesn’t ask what he will find beneath                                                           the tree as morning arrives,                                                                                 but instead says, with serious eyes,                                                               gazing at the Christmas Moon’s light…

“Dad, my wheelchair has red stripes,                                                                 can I drive it to the moon tonight?”

 “Son,” I reply, “you can drive it anywhere                                                               as long as Mom and I are there.                                                                                   Drive it high into the starry night,                                                                             but never drive it out of sight.

  “Circle it once around a star,                                                                                        and then the moon won’t be too far.                                                                          Look for a cow overhead,                                                                                              but guide your wheelchair down instead

  “You’ll land in soft, lumpy cheese.                                                                             Make sure your seatbelt’s buckled please.                                                                Ask politely the Man in the Moon,                                                                              and he’ll sing you a wonderful tune.

 “He’ll push your wheelchair on a tour                                                                        of craters, moon mice, and so much more.

  Then, our son, he smiled again, and said:

  “Dad, can I drive my black and red car..                                                                    ..can I drive my wheelchair                                                                                          where the angels are?

 “Certainly,” I said.  “Certainly you can,                                                                     because angels can livc on the tips of one’s hand.                                                 Angels are here, angels are there,                                                                      when it comes to young boys,                                                                          angels are everywhere.

 “But Dad, where do I find them?”,                                                                                our young son said.                                                                                                 “Do I drive up…do I drive down,                                                                                   or should I just drive around?

 “Listen son,” I said.  “Listen carefully too,                                                            because these directions always are true.                                                            First take a right turn at your father’s heart.                                                That’s always the best place to start.

 “Then turn left into your Mother’s arms,                                                                 and give her a kiss;                                                                                                         it’s a traveler’s charm.

 “Look right away into Mom and Dad’s eyes,                                                              because I hear that’s where angels hide.                                                                 Say, ‘God I love you,’                                                                                                     and before you can sigh,                                                                                               a pair of angels will be at your side.”

   He paused for a moment,                                                                                              still gazing at the Christmas Moon, but then replied,                                “Dad, my black and red wheelchair is so fast,                                                          sometimes I know it can fly.                                                                                        Tell me, tell me please,                                                                                                  where should I drive?”

   “Oh son,” I sighed.                                                                                                        “We all take the same trip,                                                                                            yet all take different drives.                                                                                        The secret is to travel with eyes opened wide.   

    …..always start your trip today….                                                                                  and never let tomorrow get in the way,

    “Take a road well-traveled and true:                                                                           and it’s best to take someone you love with you.

    “Say your prayers along the way,                                                                                 and God will guide you every day.”

    Then our son laid down to rest.                                                                                   My hand held his against his chest.

    “As you drive,” I whispered soft,                                                                              “the years will go fast,                                                                                                    and your childhood will quickly past.

    “One day you will become a man                                                                                   and a young boy will take you by the hand.

     “And will ask you,                                                                                                           Dad,  can I fly to the moon?                                                                                            And do you think I’ll go there soon?

     “And you will smile,                                                                                                          and you will understand,                                                                                                the blessings God gives                                                                                                    to a woman and a man.  

      as they hold the hands of a child,                                                                               whose dreams, they pray, are answered soon,

      by the gracious light of the Christmas Moon.

                                                                                           By Andrew Leheny

DEAR CHRIS MATTHEWS

I have been a fan of “Hardball With Chris Matthews” for many years.  I have enjoyed his pragmatic approach to politics.  That’s why comments he made on MSNBC following President Obama’s press conference on Wednesday literally shocked me.

Tuesday evening’s election returns had to have been difficult for the President to watch.  I know it was for me as an unabashed liberal and a sincere admirer of the president.  But I felt President Obama handled today’s press conference very well.

I was surprised how Chris Matthews experienced the press conference, and specifically some of the remarks of the President in a very different manner than I did.

Matthews offered what I found to be unfounded criticism of President Obama’s use of the phrase “common ground”, in the sense that he hopes areas of common ground between Republicans and Democrats can be the basis for legislative action by Congress.  Matthews, however, viewed the President’s use of “common ground” in a very demeaning manner.  Matthews said compromise must be the focus, with trade-offs between political parties critical to breaking the Congressional Gridllock of recent years,

Upon hearing Matthews’ remarks, my first reaction was “Chris, where have you been since Republicans took over the House in the 2010 midterms?”

Matthews seems to have forgotten the use of the phrase “common ground” by Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnelll, in fact officially by the Republican Party since that election.  Neither Republican leader, nor other members of the GOP,  could even say the word compromise.  It was verboten to even suggest that a Republican ever should compromise with the President.

But during President Obama’s press conference I did not perceive the President was opposed to compromise……but he did admit there were a few key areas where common ground does not exist.   He stressed he would welcome examining ways to improve the Affordable Care Act, but was unwilling to compromise away it’s demise and hurt millions of Americans that now have medical insurance for the first time.

In his post-press conference comments Matthews also implied that the President’s remarks about two-thirds of the eligible voters not voting in the midterm meant he did not recognize the validity of their vote.

That was not my perception at all.  He was simply stating a traditional observation about midterms.  But there is a much bigger point.  Does Matthews suggest that the results of the 2014 midterms somehow negate the significance of the 2008 and 2012 general elections?  We elected Barack Obama in 2008 based upon his policies as we then perceived them.  A significant majority of Americans re-elected him in 2012, and in this case the election specifically was a referendum on the Affordable Care Act, because the Republican Party made it one.

i am aware many Republicans are maintaining the 2014 midterm were a referendum on Obama, and specifically the Affordable Care Act.  But that isn’t what exit polling indicates at all. Two topics accounted for nearly 50% of the noted motivations of their vote……..better job creation (although there’s been over 60 straight months of job growth) and wanting to end Congressional gridlock.  As the President repeatedly shared despite the statistics most Americans are not feeling the economics benefits of the recovery, although the House has refused to vote on the President’s jobs bill.

Only seven percent of respondents listed health care and social security as their major concern.  Ebola and ISIS were each less than five percent despite all the Republican fear mongering.

When I voted for President’s Obama’s re-election it was nowhere in my consciousness that I was only voting for his performance goals until the next midterm.  No, I and I’m sure the millions of us who voted for his re-election were voting for his commitment to pursue his priorities for another four years.  But he was absolutely right during his press conference that if Congress is unwilling to act to improve the lives of the American people, then he should…he must…take what legal executive actions he can until Congress can supplant his executive actions with their own legislative ones.

I was impressed with Senator McConnell’s comments Wednesday regarding “common ground” so perhaps progress will be made.  I am disappointed that the road to this point was for the Republican Party to tell so many lies and half-truths about President Obama that unless one is a diligent fact-checker, the anxiom about if a lie is told sufficiently often…it is accepted as truth.

Chris, I am fully confident that President Obama is far more willing to compromise with Republicans because the GOP was forbidden by its Far Right…..and by Rush Limbaugh again Wednesday to even use the words Obama and Compromise in the same sentence.

My liberal arts focus decades ago in my youth was in History.  Watching the President’s news conference reinforced in me my conviction that Barack Obama will be recognized by historians as a significant president whose leadership our nation was fortunate to have during such a challenging time.

During my six plus decades of life, I have never seen a president deal with such hatred and obstructionism. The closest was Bill Clinton, who was actually called America’s first black president.

But for me President Obama has been the Jackie Robinson of Presidential Politics, generating a core of hatred which his detractors rarely can explain, because they always answer in lies and half-truths, and then jump to another Obama fallacy when presented with facts.

Rationalizations often mask racism.

Perhaps if Presidents wore uniforms, one future day, his number will be retired.

DEAR MILLENNIALS

I believe mistakes can be avoided, but it is a difficult thing to accomplish.

I make this comment because tomorrow, on November 4, your generation can play a significant role in helping our nation to avoid a terrible mistake.  That mistake would be allowing the Republican Party to assume control of both Houses of Congress.

That statement is made not just to promote a political philosophy, but more due to my commitment to focus on facts.  Over the decades I’ve covered countless meetings as a reporter, interviewed thousands of persons concerning various topics, and simply had to get the facts right.

I am now 63.   As the oldest of seven children, when I made a mistake in life, and there were many, I usually tried to share with my brothers and sisters how they might avoid the error I made.  I am also a parent, becoming a father a bit later than most, and as the Dad of a 15-year-old I try to help Noah manage that maze of emotions and confusion intertwined with being a teenager.

That’s not to say my advice is regularly followed.  In fact it seems we humans are driven to disregard advice over “learning for ourselves”.  But sometimes advice is actually heard and understood……and some mistakes are avoided.  As a person old enough to be your father, I ask you to please consider my advice.

After I became eligible to vote, although my political philosophy preferred the Democratic Party, I often voted for Republicans whom I felt were true public servants.

But unfortunately, that is not the Republican Party which exists now.  Their stated platforms, and the actions they’ve already taken, in my mind, prove that at least right now……until persons of common sense can once again lead their party, they must not hold political leadership in our nation.

This is likely the most radical political statement I have ever made.  But never before have I seen a political party create a problem where no problem exists.  Such is their rationale for making it harder for certain populations, the poor and minorities for example, to vote.  They maintain the reason is Voter Fraud.  But let’s look at the facts.  In Texas, since 2000, approximately 62 million votes were cast in the state.  So how many documented cases of voter fraud has there been?  The answer is two.  And for that rationale the state’s Republican dominated government has incorporated restrictions which it is estimated will prohibit 600,000 persons, mostly poor and minority individuals who traditionally associate with the Democratic Party, from voting.  This pattern has been repeated across the country.

Look where the Republican Party stands on the issues…..Republicans, with a few exceptions, voted against efforts to increase the minimum wage.  Although 90% of Americans favor a background check to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, even the mass murder of children could not motivate the GOP for this common sense step which does not restrict gun ownership for the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Our nation made a huge mistake in the 2010 election.  The Republican Party ran on the promise of jobs, jobs and more jobs.  But upon entering office, the issue of jobs became a talking point only, and instead their focus went to social issues.  In Congress, and in GOP controlled states across our country, Republicans began restricting a woman’s right to choose.  In some states the majority of women’s clinics have been closed by Republicans who refer to these facilities as solely abortion clinics, except that only is one aspect of what occurs there.  They are also an important provider of breast exams and other critical health screenings for a woman.

Is it radical to believe a woman should have the right to consult with her family and doctor to make decisions about her own body?  But if we as a society, or Republicans as a political party, wish for a woman to carry a baby to term, then make sure there is an environment to promote such a decision.  But the GOP is cutting family supports across the board, such as food stamps for the economically needy, relying on stereotypes of a government giving away the farm to a lazy poor.  But the truth is the average beneficiary of the food stamp program is a young white child.

As a reporter, the period since the election of President Obama has been frustrating.  I do not agree with all of his policies, but I believe he has done an amazing job against an unbelievable assault of lies and half-truths.  To permit the GOP to now also control the Senate is to reward a party for the most anti-American behavior I have ever seen. There is an old maxim that if one tells a lie often enough people will believe it is true.  That appears to be the case here.  The GOP is trying to have the public vote on the lies against President Obama rather than the reality of what he’s achieved,

So let’s see where we are.  Despite GOP obstructionism, we have had 55 consecutive months of job growth.  The unemployment rate is now below six percent.  The number of persons seeking unemployment benefits also has hit a low.  And before we leave this point, House Speaker Boehner has never permitted a vote on the President’s jobs bill so that it would impact even more Americans.

The gross national product is up.  The stock market is at record highs. The price of gas is predicted to go below $3 per gallon.  Although a hospital made an error which led to an Ebola death, the President’s response has been sound with others exposed now free of the virus,

I am glad that a thoughtful, intelligent political leader is dealing with an extremely complicated mess of a Pandora’s box opened by the Bush/Cheney administration.  How do we combat ISIS without benefiting the Asaad regime in Syria?  This needs to be a response in which we support local efforts.  If Bush/Cheney had understood that just think of the American and Iraqi lives which would have been saved.

One big lie which seems to have taken hold is that the stimulus failed.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It should have been even bigger, and the investments in our roads and bridges, key to the President’s jobs bill, would have improved our nations and provided even more jobs.  If the Republicans assume control, they plan to further slash spending.  All we have to do is look to Europe and see the disaster of that approach.  America has weathered the financial meltdown which reared its dangerous head just prior to President Obama’s election.  His approach has clearly been proven right.  It struck me as so telling over the weekend when Rand Paul proposed a Republican Congress invest in America’s infrastructure when the President’s exact plan for this has been ignored by the House.

Those are some of the dangers of a Republican led Congress.  They also opposed an constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision which ruled corporations have the same rights as a citizen…….except few citizens have millions of dollars at their disposal to advocate on behalf of their beliefs, as corporations have done for their own special interests.

Dear Millennials……..this old man may have rambled on here.  Us older folk normally do.  But as I understand the facts, there are about 80 million or so of you.  For those of you of voting age, I urge you to vote tomorrow.  I’ve shared my beliefs, but don’t take my word for it.

Check the facts yourself.  There’s a great website, http://www.factcheck.org.  It is what America should be, bipartisan.  If you check the site I believe you’ll find I’ve attempted to be as accurate as possible.

From everything I’ve heard and read yours is a generation which believes in the right of individuals to pursue personal happiness.

Please vote tomorrow.  Use this tool…use this opportunity to vote for leaders who seek a just, and inclusive nation, that advocates opportunities for all and not the special interests of the few.

Whatever your faith, however you experience God or embrace life, let us always work together to benefit the reality of, and the future promise, of this great nation we call our home.

A Tap on The Shoulder

A Tap on the Shoulder

By Andrew Leheny

We all have a favorite ghost story.

Mine, however, does not involve chains clanging in pitch-black hallways, the spirits of girls cruelly detoured from senior proms, or headless former queens who walk the fog-draped English landscape.

My favorite ghost story is almost beautiful in its simplicity. Because nothing goes “bump in the night”, or surprises one at the top of a staircase, the matter-of-factness of the story conveys its sincerity.

It is also a good ghost story because it is true.

Perhaps all ninth grade students have the opportunity to go on a three-day class trip. When I was a student at Aliquippa High School back in the day, ninth grade trips to Washington, D.C. were as common as bland school cafeteria hot dogs and cheerleaders named Debbie.

Another universal ninth grade fact, or of any grade for that matter, was The Best Friend. Every boy or girl had at least one….a confidant who shared all your secrets. My Best Friend in ninth grade was Mike Kachmar.

Mike was not going to go on the ninth grade trip and around our friends, Mike acted as if the didn’t really care. It was no big deal. But being his best friend, I knew money was the real reason Mike wouldn’t be going.

Mike’s dad was a serious, no-nonsense man who saw nearly everything in black and white terms. The money wasn’t readily available for Mike to go, so he didn’t get to go. That was all there was to it. Very few “grays” clouded Mr. Kachmar’s vision. Food and rent must come first.

Because he couldn’t go, Mike asked me a favor. Handing me a roll of film, he asked me if I would take pictures of the trip for him.

I agreed, telling Mike at every stop I would take two photographs, one for him and one for me.

The trip was pretty much as any reasonable person, or parent, would expect ….teenagers being led in and out of national monuments with fading levels of
patience. Very few of us appreciated what we saw and experienced until years later.

Then, the thrill was just being away from parents for three days and two nights, staying up talking half the night in a hotel room, enjoying our first taste of freedom.

But there was one visit which did make an impression.

Even a ninth grader stops and thinks at Gettysburg National Cemetery. Our class trip stopped there on the way back from Washington, D.C.

We read about war in our history books. We almost regularly saw pictures from Vietnam on the nightly news. Although many of us thought Gettysburg was only for
the remains of Civil War soldiers, actually those who sacrificed their lives in any of our
national’s wars may be interned there. It was hard for war not to take on some form of
reality with those thousands upon thousands of real graves before us.

After leaving the bus, I walked down one long row of graves. I remember thinking how they all looked identical, like rows of blockhouses, all the same in color, shape and to the sight.

I was nearly three-quarters down the row when I remembered my promise to take a picture during each visit for Mike. I stopped, deciding I would take a photograph of a grave of one soldier. I turned to my right and walked to the tombstone of the grave nearest where I stopped.

The name on the grave read Steven Kachmar. It said he had died in 1943.

I was amazed by the coincidence and took a photograph of the tombstone.

When we returned home, I took my rolls of film in the same day to get them developed. Although it was difficult for me not to tell Mike, I wanted him to see the picture when I told him what happened.

Back then, it took nearly a week for film to be developed, and after I finally paid the drugstore and got the pictures, I rushed to Mike’s home.

I showed him the picture of the grave first, and pointed out the name on the tombstone.

Mike stared at the photograph for a moment, then led me into the kitchen where his father and mother were drinking coffee.

He handed the photograph to his father, asking him to look at the picture I had taken.

His father stared at the photograph and for the first and only time in my memory the seriousness on his face vanished. The closest word to describing his look then would be bewilderment.

He set the photograph down on the kitchen table and turned toward Mike and me.

“That’s my brother’s grave,” he said. “He was killed in World War II.”

*************

Have you ever met someone in an unfamiliar place and it turns out they know, or are related to, one of your closest friends? Just as you’re about to walk away, they tap you on the shoulder and ask you, by the way, to say hello to that friend or relative they haven’t seen in years.

One time, when that happened to me, the request came from farther away than I ever imagined.

-end-

Ghost at the Foot of the Bed

(A fiction based on fact story)

One would imagine that living next to a cemetery could be at least a bit scary.

We have a child, little Ruthie, who just turned two. Plus, there’s Sam our four-year old Jack Russell terrier. So it would seem a cemetery next door could provide plenty of opportunity to create a few phobias in a child or pet.

But we don’t feel that way about our cemetery, or perhaps I should say THE CEMETERY. because there is no other cemetery quite like Chippiannock.

Unless you’re familiar with the Quad-Cities, you may never have heard of Chipiannock Cemetery . Located on a rolling hillside in Rock Island, Il., its name honors the local Indian culture of several hundred years ago.

Describing Chippiannock has always been a challenge for writers because it is far removed from a traditional cemetery. No subdivision-like layout here, with rows of perfectly spaced plots, with clone-like headstones. Chippiannock is …well…different.

A full-size anchor adorns the grave of a ship’s captain. Huge metallic balls appear at several gravesites seeming like the discarded marbles of the child of some ancient giant, rather than memorials whose significance I can’t even imagine.

Stone trees, an eternal baby’s casket, these and more grace the thousands of graves on that rolling Illinois hillside. Has Chippiannock ever frightened me? Truthfully no, because it always seemed so unique, almost a living tribute to the departed men, women and children now in the merciful Hand of God.

Chippiannock does not make me think of the deaths of those buried there but rather of their lives. That’s why I love walking its grounds so much and why Sam and I have done so for many years.

Then a few months ago Ruthie became old enough to join us on our excursions. Of course, Ruthie isn’t much of a walker yet, which makes it interesting to watch me coaxing Ruthie, while trying to stop Sam from running after every squirrel in sight. We certainly have our fun, and I know Ruthie and Sam enjoy Chippiannock as much as I do.

After several visits, Ruthie developed a favorite stop where we just HAD TO GO each time. This was the grave of the Dimick children, Eddie and Jose, who were taken by illness from their families well over a hundred years ago. But after this tragic loss, Eddie’s and Josie’s pet dog would go day after day to their gravesite, and just wait attentively for the children he loved so much.

The Dimicks were so moved by the dog’s devotion that they commissioned a full-size statue of the dog to rest alongside Eddie’s and Josie’s grave…to always be their eternal friend.

There was something about that dog (he appears to have been a collie) that just moves my little Ruthie. Every time we visit Chippiannock she gives the statue of the dog a hug.

I frankly didn’t think there could be much harm in it until the other day when Ruthie told me about “the doggies who sleep by her bed.”

“You mean doggie, don’t you Ruthie?” I told her, because I knew Sam often slept by the foot of her bed. He was very protective of Ruthie.

“No,” she said. “There’s Sammy, and the other doggie.

“My new friend I always hug.”

Well, besides Sammy, there could be only one dog, “she always hugs,” but I decided not to say anything more about it. My wife Becky and I would have a talk about her imaginary friend later.

I debated whether or not to stop our Chippiannock visits for awhile, but frankly Becky and I felt there were far worse imaginary friends a child could have, so our walks, and Ruthie’s hugs, continued.

I didn’t think much about it for several weeks, until last night.

I often peek into Ruthie’s room late each night. I am one of those fathers who worry about the slightest thing. Is Ruthie all right? Is she breathing OK? So I turned the doorknob quietly and looked into her room.

I don’t feel I have to worry as much anymore.

Ruthie looked fine, sleeping calmly, peaceful, content. I glanced to the foot of the bed and saw Sam, also sleeping, but a dozen pounds of comfort to me.

At first I almost didn’t see just beyond Sam, but then I did.

Opaque, like a mist, lay the collie, crouched quietly sleeping. His face turned to me and I felt his devoted eyes tell me :

“Thank you. Let me love your child too.”

And his gaze returned to Ruthie…faithful, obedient, eternal in his devotion…my child’s newest friend…

The ghost at the foot of the bed.

-end-