Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Monday, February 18, 2008

At last the dreadful suspense ends...

At last, the suspense is over: John Ensign, Dean Heller and George H.W. “Who Would Have Thought Version 2.0 Could Be Worse?” Bush all came out today for . . . .
Go ahead, take a guess.

Did the former one-term, widely scorned president and Nevada Ideologues No. 2 and 3 (Gov. Jim Gibbons being, of course, No 1), after long and painstaking consideration, decide to throw their might behind:

  • Hillary Clinton?
  • Barack Obama?
  • Or John McCain?

Aw, you peeked.
The non-development here, though, does point up an interesting phenomenon, perhaps the only one left in this tedious and enervating presidential campaign:
Do endorsements really make a difference? A positive difference?
I’ve been trying to imagine a scenario under which the endorsement of a politician might change my mind, and I’m almost unable to do it. Every effect I can concoct is deleterious: I would be less likely to support a candidate endorsed by Ensign, Heller or Bush (or Gibbons, for that matter). No matter how much I thought I liked him or her, one of them coming out in favor would send me looking for what I’d missed.
But maybe that’s not fair: I’ve long thought Gibbons and Ensign dwelt on the bottom tier of desirability where elected officials were concerned, and Heller has demonstrated sufficient obliviousness to seem certain to join them. It’s natural that I’d reject almost any candidate they favored.
But the recommendation of a politician I liked wouldn’t sway me much, either.

It’s a hard thing to measure, actually, because I don’t like many politicians. There are some I can tolerate, but it’s a stretch to say I like even many of those I’ve voted for.
My favorite national pol of all time is probably Jimmy Carter, a decent man trying to fight his way upstream against the confluence of a horrible congress and a perfect storm of bad luck, plus he’s the greatest ex-president in American history (if you want to feel even worse than you already do, imagine what kind of former pres George W. Bush is going to be).
So far in 2008, now that John Edwards is out, I’m undecided between Clinton and Obama—I’d rather see Obama in office, but the thought of how unhappy a Clinton victory would make a lot of people who deserve to be unhappy sustains me in my despair. If Carter were to endorse one over the other, I might go along.

Other than that, though? A recommendation by Harry Reid, say, or Nancy Pelosi or Barbara Boxer (all of whom I admire; I’m not using those names to indicate disapproval)? Probably not. I’d still go with the candidate who best represents what I want America to be.

Let’s be generous and assume that some conservatives are about as smart, about as honest and about as patriotic as I am, and that they’d demonstrate those qualities by, first, paying attention, and second, voting in what they saw as the best interest of the nation. I don’t actually believe that , but let’s just say.
So why would a recommendation at this juncture change anybody’s mind?
Certainly there was no possibility of surprise. Ensign has been as predictable as the coming of night (which he in some ways resembles) since his first day in public life, Heller works off the same script and Bush hasn’t had an original thought since, “Read my lips—no new taxes.” You could have predicted five years ago whom they’d endorse. That they waited this long to announce, you'd think, would weaken their endorsement even further: Even though everybody knew which way they'd go, they didn't jump until the nomination was locked up, so they wouldn't offend The Base by getting a half-beat out of step. Way to take a chance, guys.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why there's no hope for democracy

We all would like to believe in a pure, sun-speckled democracy, with responsible leaders chosen by informed voters making wise decisions to guide our nation to peace, shared prosperity and as much happiness as reality allows.
By "we all," of course, I mean "Democrats." Republicans have trouble with some aspects of that dream, notably the parts about voters being informed, prosperity being shared and happiness being desireable for the lower orders.
But let that slide. The basis of democracy is faith in the common man's ability first to gather information, then to evaluate it and cast votes for those best able to lead the nation in the way it should go.
Ronald Reagan put a serious crimp in that faith for me, and George W. Bush's re-election nearly destroyed it. Nobody in modern times, though (by which I mean, "since Trent Lott fell out of power and Larry Craig was busted for nudging with intent to waggle"), has slammed my belief in the essential wisdom and goodness of man like Mitch McConnell.
McConnell is a senator from Kentucky, in appearance and utterance a classic ignorant southern politician. He probably isn't ignorant, except of life in the bottom 95 percent, but he cultivates the country-boy image, leaning on his thick Kaintuck accent the way New England native George Bush leans on Texas.
And in his syrupy drawl, McConnell says things that, in a reasoned world, would have his constituents marching on Washington with torches and signs demanding recall (in fact there's a Web site devoted to that,, which is a hopeful sign and the main reason I haven't given up on democracy completely).
prospects for his party are not looking bright.
There's good reason for that; they've dicked things up to the point that the next president, whoever it turns out to be, is almost inevitably doomed (that's a double tragedy, by the way: If Clinton or Obama wins, and is ground up by the Bush legacy, it will be cited for a generation as evidence women, Blacks and Democrats aren't able to govern).
Mitch is up to the challenge, though: Nearly the first words out of his mouth after Democrats in Congress refused to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies this week--companies that contributed massively to GOP campaigns--was that the Dems were more interested in seeing trial lawyers get rich than in seeing terrorism defeated.
Note, now--this hasn't been emphasized in the media--that the Dems did nothing to reduce enforcement of existing laws. Everything the government could do last week to apprehend terrorists, it can still do today (the president has said otherwise; he's either lying or uninformed). What they refused to do was hold telecom companies harmless for breaking the law in violating Americans' right to privacy.
If there is a God, why does he allow Mitch McConnell to exist.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm on TV, but probably not enough to hurt anything

For the benefit of dozens who've asked (technically, 0.25 dozen), my schedule on KOLO TV has been set: I'll be doing taped commentary, a couple of minutes or so, on the 6:30 News on alternate Wednesdays, then make a fleeting appearance live on Daybreak, the morning show, the next day. This is final until it changes, and I'll try to give notice here.
I say "fleeting" because Television Time, it turns out, is different from other time. While I was waiting for my first morning gig a couple of weeks ago, host Anne Cutler glanced up and said, "You've got a lot of time. What are you going to talk about?"
This was a dual surprise. I didn't know I had any time--I thought she'd ask questions and I'd say things like, "That's an interesting point, Anne" and "I hadn't considered that angle, but you may be right." And because I'd figured she'd steer the ship, I didn't have anything in mind to say.
Not a novelty, actually. I often started columns with no idea where they'd end.
In writing a column, though, you have a keyboard, a BACKSPACE key and a couple of hours. In this case, the camera was rolling in 3, 2, 1 ....
Well, OK: I said something (I have almost no recollection of what), and nothing bad happened, and after awhile I began to develop a notion of what I was talking about and where I was headed. I figured I'd wrap it up in a couple of minutes, nod at Cutler and let her figure out what to do with the rest of my "lot of time."
About then, though--I think this may have been a minute or so into my warm-up--she scribbled something on a piece of paper and turned it so I could see it.
"30 seconds," it said.
Thirty seconds? Thirty seconds? When she said "a lot of time," I was thinking along the lines of 10 minutes. Not that I wanted that long, but that's what "a lot of time" means outside of television.
Half an hour; that's a lot of time. The only place I knew of where 30 seconds was a lot of time is in the dentist's chair.
Shutting up in 30 seconds required not just a change of plan, but a change of topic: I realized I wouldn't have time to make whatever my final point was on whatever I was talking about (I'm telling the truth when I say I can't remember it), so I pretty much just . . . stopped. Rush Limbaugh's gotten away with that for years: Ramble on until the second hand gets to the 12, put some stress on your last two words as though they were clinched your argument, then just stop talking.
Cutler blinked, and I may have detected a half-second pause while she registered the fact that I'd fallen silent. Then she picked up wherever she'd left off, the camera shifted away from me and I got up and went to breakfast.
It may be harder than it looks, this "television."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Is it bias if you distrust ALL religions?

I've been heartened many times, usually fleetingly, by stories I've heard on National Public Radio.
None of your blathering about "liberal bias," now. In an era when almost no "news" source spends more than necessary or looks further than required to find out what's going on, NPR will take the time and invest the bucks to look at least around the edges of a story, if not to crawl behind it. Stories that begin "The White House said today" or "The Governor's office announced this afternoon" are pretty sure tipoffs that you're being spoon-fed what somebody wants you to believe. You don't hear a lot of those on NPR.
So I'm listening this morning, and there's a segment indicating, in apparent surprise, that about half of all Americans say they'd be reluctant to vote for a Mormon for president.
The surprise, I suspect, was feigned. I know Mormons who say they're reluctant to vote for Mormons.
"I grew up in the church," one of them told me a few weeks ago in a discussion of Mormon president manque Mitt Romney. "When he says his religion won't influence how he governs, he's absolutely lying."
I have no opinion on that and take no position; I'm just reporting what I was told.
Similar findings kept popping up when Joe Lieberman (Selfserver-Conn.) was running for President: Surveys, some pundit was always pointing out, showed that many Americans would be reluctant to vote for a Jew. You think?
The announcer and a reporter discussed the Mormon issue for a few seconds, arriving at no conclusion. Then, as they left the topic, the announcer dropped in the finding that cheered me up:
45 percent of American voters also say they think evangelical Christians have gone too far in promoting their views.
Hallelujah at last. Maybe Democracy has a future in this country after all.
In the matter of religion, I have no preference. I don't care what you believe or what you preach, though I'll be obliged if you don't preach creationism to my children. This nation is far enough behind in the sciences without digging that hole any deeper.
Where elected officials are concerned, though, I want decisions to be made on pragmatic grounds.
I have friends, for instance--OK, more like acquaintances--who see no reason for any kind of conservation, because they believe God will come back and carry us all somewhere before everything runs out. Use up the oil, cut the old-growth trees, foul the air and water--makes no difference, because soon there will be a flash of light, a burst of music and we'll all grow wings and flutter off to Heaven.
I may have some of the details wrong, but that's the gist of it.
Certainly they can believe that if they choose. But I don't believe it, and I don't want a politician who thinks as they do making decisions that affect what the world will be like after they're gone.
We tend to shy away from talking about religion in politics, unless we believe God has spoken directly to us and chosen us as his messengers (too much of that going around these days, by the way--personally, I believe God is a little choosier than that evidence seems to indicate). That's a mistake for a couple of reasons:
First, it drives the conversations underground. If we don't trust Mormons or Jews or evangelicals, wouldn't it be better to have those conversations in daylight? "Say, Mitt--I like some of what you say, but I'm really worried about your church's position on Blacks. How about a straight answer on that, at least?"
And second, now and then it lets the wackos sneak into office. I mean, really Mike Huckabee?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We now return to our regularly scheduled program...

On the perhaps unwarranted assumptions that, A) anybody noticed, and B) anybody cared, I'd like to apologize for my long absence from this space. If I'd known I'd be gone so long, I would have mentioned it.
The good news, though, is that I'm not dead. On Saturday night we came over Donner Summit in a howling blizzard, doing fine with chains on the Mazda and criticizing, as is my wont, the abilities and perceptions of nearly every other driver on the road, particularly the buttwipe in the four-wheel-drove Moron Pickup who tailgated us for eight miles from the chain control.
If I'd had any place to pull over, I would have done it. At least if he hadn't been seven feet behind me with his high beams on.
Then things got really exciting.
Somewhere a few miles the other side of Donner Summit, in a single line of cars moving slowly in bad but not horrible conditions, we hit a gust of wind. I've heard the term "whiteout" all my life, and I thought I'd seen whiteouts a time or two, but I was fooling myself. When this one hit, I not only couldn't see the front of the car, I couldn't see the washer nozzles on the hood or the reflection of the headlights from the swirling snow. It was like being inside a cotton ball.
I just had time to think, "Brakes . . . no, that buttwipe in the truck will hit us," before we drove into the snowbank.
Full confession: I've been critical for years of people who crash their cars, particularly in snow and ice. Every crash, I've written several times, is the result of a mistake, and if you're the only driver involved, the mistake has to be yours.
I've been thinking about this one for three days, though, and I don't see what I could have done to avoid it short of staying home (which, in fact, I had argued for, but I was overruled). If Tony damn Stewart had been sitting where I was when that wind blew up, he would have been where I was seven seconds later: Stuck in a snowbank up to the windshield.
There was almost no impact. I felt a gentle slowing, snow rolled over the glass and we were done, in so deep my wife couldn't open her door. We both crawled out mine. Traffic moved sedately by 10 feet away from us, drivers pointedly not looking so they wouldn't feel bad about not stopping to help.
I generally carry a shovel, tow rope and basic gear for dealing with emergencies, but we were in Terri's car, which meant we didn't even have one of the dozen or so flashlights I've given her over the years, and which have mysteriously disappeared. The car was fine, not a scuff, but it wasn't going anywhere.
I was wearing a heavy jacket, and I had a hat, but just jeans and running shoes, the perfect garments for getting wet, then freezing to death while I waited for help. My gloves were on the kitchen table, barely 40 miles away. A call to AAA revealed that they were busy and we probably couldn't expect help until morning, 10 or 12 hours away.
This rather limited our options, but I figured I might as well keep busy. With no clear goal in mind, I started sweeping snow out from under and around the car with my arms, and made surprising headway. When it looked clear and the wheels had a straight path to pavement, I cranked it up, slipped into reverse and spun the tires for awhile. Even with chains, though, they couldn't get enough grip to go.
"Are you OK?" came a voice.
I bit back my first answer, which might have sounded snippy ("Yeah, fine. I just thought I'd lie here next to the car for awhile").
"We've got a tow strap," said the passenger in a big pickup, the kind I've reviled in print a hundred times. "Maybe we can yank you out."
I nearly broke my neck nodding, and they swept into action. One guy jogged back and stopped traffic while the other handed me one end of the strap. I flopped on the ground and hooked it under the back of the Mazda, and he got back into the truck while the first guy looped the other end of the strap around the hitch on the truck. I slipped the clutch just enough to keep the wheels from spinning, they pulled back slowly, and in 10 seconds we were out.
I started to get out to thank them and get their names, but I slipped on the ice and by the time I recovered, they were packed up and gone. I don't even know what kind of truck it was. But if you were in it, thanks.