Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Politics

I occasionally follow a Blog by Jim Gardner, a man who at one time was on the Board of our Community Association and later, inspired by seeing action from some of his plans made a well-meaning but unsuccessful bid for election to the Lake Forest City Council.

A few days ago, I received an email soliciting my interest in running for City Council myself.  Apparently Jim was reaching out to kindred souls who might be more successful than he was in getting elected and carrying forward his, or a similar agenda.

What caught my attention was his comment that it would probably take about $50,000 to get elected. To a City Council!

About this same time, I noted that President Obama is in California again, raising money for the interim election.  Comment was made that this makes almost 365 days of fund raising in less than six years in office.  Where is the ROI for this investment and, more importantly who gains from it?

I have been active in politics since before I was able to vote.  Both my mother and father were staunch Republicans, divided only by lesser levels of conservatism than what we see today.  I once asked my mother what was the difference between a liberal and conservative Republican.  She answered, “A conservative Republican, like your father thinks nothing should be done for the first time.  Myself, on the other hand think it is perfectly all right to do something for the first time.  Just don’t do it now.”

She also taught me that I should always vote for a straight ticket because that Democrat who seems so appealing at a minor state office will soon be running against a Republican on the national stage. She also reminded me that I had an obligation to financially support the party: a practice I followed for sixty years until soured by the failure of our Congress to put aside partisanship for practicality.

To the question of Return on Investment. My observation is that we don’t have a direct correlation to money spent on elections and money directly into someone’s pocket.  Instead we see changes in entitlement, changes in business enticements, changes in gerrymandering, changes in healthcare delivery, and on the national scene, changes in location of where government contracts are written.
Buddy Cianci
Of course the is the likelihood that a politician from my earlier state f residence, Rhode Island, may run for Mayor of Providence for the third time now that he is out of jail.

This is nothing new.  As someone with 25 years in the military and one who watched the military presence in California literally disappear as the state moved from Red to Blue, I am painfully aware of the consequences of not supporting the winning party.

I know two people who have tried for election to offices of greater consequence than City Council and I polled them both for this Post.  One, who ran for the House of Representatives I think has chosen to forget his experience.  The other, who ran successfully for State Representative in another state and unsuccessfully for the same state’s Senate, felt the $50,000wasa valid number.  Most goes for name recognition, and that explains his successful history.  Primary money was difficult to raise and almost entirely came from friends and family.  After winning the primary, funding came from other sources. “Funds follow winners”, he said.  And that explains why incumbents are so successful.  He verified that the $50,000ws probably a good number, considering the size and influence of the city.

Some time ago I wrote a Post called The Fifth Estate, which talked about the development of the Fourth Estate (my definition being The Press), as a means for the public to learn what Parliament was doing, thereby lessening the difference between the two groups.  What we see with politics in the United States is an increase in the separation between the two groups: to a point where the ACA does not apply to any of the three branches of the Federal government.

And a President’s wife claims they were “broke” when they left the White House.
Harry S. Truman

The WSJ had an interesting article about our last modest president, Harry S. Truman, who literally was broke when he left office: without Secret Service, by rail, with borrowed money to reenter law practice.

It make for interesting reading!

Today Mary and I went to a lecture on the Early Days of Frank Sinatra.  I learned a few things that I will share in my next Post.  I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unbroken

Old age, health issues, and aggravated war wounds finally brought an end to the life of one of America’s most heroic prisoners of war: Louis Zamperini, who will miss his final accolade; namely Grand Marshall of the 2015 Rose Bowl Parade.

He died at the age of 97 and will be remembered as much for his brief Olympic career as for his courage in two-plus years of captivity by the Japanese.  As a wayward youth from Torrance, California, he discovered his speed by outrunning the police during one or more of his youthful misadventures.   Family support motivated him to run track in high school, becoming the first high school athlete to break the four-minute mile, and gaining the attention that would earn him a place on the 1936 American Olympic team; a team that included Jesse Owens.  While he finished only in the middle of the pack, he was determined to improve both speed and position in the 1940 Olympics, which were scheduled to be held in Japan, but never happened.  While in Berlin, he fell to pattern and climbed a flagpole to get a trophy Swastika flag.  Captured by Gestapo he somehow convinced Hitler to deliver it to him the next day.

Louis found himself in Japan and earlier in Japanese-held Marshall Islands when a plane he was in, came apart from its chewing gum and Scotch tape jerry-mongering while on a S&R mission. He, and eventually one other survivor somehow survived 40 days at sea with no provisions, only to land on an island, nicknamed the Island of Death.

His undaunted spirit following the event was captured dramatically in a 2010 book by Laura Hillenbrand, who had written the best seller Seabiscuit.  Her book, titled The Unbroken was much more successful than two co-authored by Zamperini and won the best non-fiction award for that year.  The book was so well researched and is so graphic that Mary only read the last chapter; which might be called the redemption chapter, where Louis survives what were certainly years of PTSD, found faith in an evangelistic meeting with Billy Graham, and turned his life around for what would culminate in a period of true forgiveness.

He returned to japan carrying one of the six Olympic torches he was honored to carry through the years and literally visited the camp where he had been confined and tortured.  His grand nemesis, named The Bird by the prisoners chose not to meet with him, but others in the camp were more gracious.

He could have been forgiven for not being able to get past that chapter of his life: mimicking the old lady who told her pastor she could not forgive her enemies because, “All those bitches are dead.”  Instead he is a model of the true spirit of redemption and how God and religion can have a positive effect on our lives and how living them can affect others.

We soon will have a film version of his life, whether inspired by Hillenbrand’s book or by the MSCNN television show, or neither;  I am unsure.  What is sure is that with Angelina Jolie direction and the Coen Brothers producing, it is certain to be a film with staying power.

My next Post will offer a rare look at my take on what politics has become.  Don’t look for an Obama or Tea Party rehash, or even a Bill O’Reilly take.  Instead I will concentrate on a Rhode Island politician and why his probabe decision to run for Mayer brings vivid memories to my mind.  I hope to see you then.

 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jury Duty

Trials are in the news lately, some of which involve juries:  Ahmed Abu Khattallah, the alleged mastermind behind the Bengazi terrorist attack, Marvin Norwood and Louie Sanchez, who brutally beat and brain damaged Brian Shaw, one of the obstructionists in the Boston Marathon bombing, and even the competency hearings for Clipper owner, Donald Sterling.  This plus the fact that Mary was recently called to appear for jury duty got me thinking about the jury process.

The concept of trial and judgment by one’s peers dates back to 1215 and the Magna Carta, where the fiat of king’s rule was challenged.  At the time the definition of what constituted one’s peers was pretty clean cut: a wealthy land Baron.  Today, the strata of peer definition is a little more complicated.  In California, or at least in Orange County, we attempt to select a jury of peers by a process that resulted in Mary travelling to Santa Ana at 6:30 AM to sit in a large room with 300 other people, similarly summoned, they spend literally the whole day, waiting to be called, interviewed, and potentially asked to sit in a panel for as many days as required to hear testimony and make judgment on some infraction of law.

The rules governing who gets called and how often have changed little in the thirty some years I have lived in Orange County.  Names are chosen at random from DMV records or voting records; frequency is supposedly no oftener than eighteen months, which was Mary’s most recent interval, but I have only been called three times in thirty years, possibly attributable to the fact I still wear a suit and my Nixon pin when I show up.  Excuses are liberally given for planned vacations, employment that precludes absence, or military service, but result in an accelerated recall for duty.

Mary was told that only Santa Ana still uses juries; other courts, such as Laguna Niguel, Westminster, Newport and Laguna Beach now are judges only.  The last jury she sat on was a murder trial that had two previous mistrials.  My last duty was a property dispute.  Compensation only comes from actual assignment to a jury but is so insignificant that many decline even if they are not paid by an employer.

The thing I find most troubling about the process is its inefficiency.  When I was last called I was given a group number and could call in to see whether I would even have to appear.  That option seems to have disappeared.  One would think that in this day when virtually everyone has access to a Smart Phone that a selection system could be devised that would virtually eliminate the need for a cattle call appearance at a court house.  Almost all of my business meetings are now held by conference calls, some with virtual, visual presence.  Even the actual interview process could be remote, including seeing how a prospective jury member reacts to questioning.

It’s not so much the cost to taxpayers by the process as it is the loss of productivity.  Perhaps, instead of bringing reading material, or even laptops or tablets to do some work while waiting, there could be a collective process of food distribution or filing court documents: something that would gainfully use the labor force gathered at the court house.

While I don’t really expect a change, just venting about this makes me feel better.  I wonder if other states have addressed and improved the process.

Vacation took me away from my regular schedule of posts.  I have in mind a timely one for next time, the passing of a true hero at the age of 97: Louis Zamperini.  Even if you are familiar with his story, you may find some twists in my post.  Please look for it in about a week.