January - June, 2018
IT GETS WORSE.Recently, a character by the name of P. Daniel Smith accepted the job of acting director of America's most beloved federal agency, the National Park Service.
It was the worst appointment in the history of the agency. It is not a permanent Schedule C appointment or Smith would have had to go before a congressional committee and even the rankest Republican would have had problems anointing this joker for the job.
Truly, this Administration's political appointments are beginning to resemble Seymour Magoon and Tick Tock Tannenbaum. One of his staffers, a serial wife beater named Rob Porter, is accused of stubbing out his cigarette on his wife's hand. Where do they find these people?
In the case of P. Daniel Smith, Rob Arnberger, illustrious veteran of many superintendencies, observed:
"Over the years, I have had much contact with Dan Smith. During these years he was a designated hit man, loyal to himself and his particular political viewpoint. I was appalled that he was able to burrow his way into a superintendency and career employee status. While I am hopeful that his return will not bring ruin to the NPS, I am aware that the only reason he was appointed is because of his support for an administration I hold in contempt.
(Arnberger will probably not be invited to the White House Christmas Party.)
The environmental gadfly, Edward Abbey, once observed, "Never trust anyone who uses an initial as his first name, as in J. Edgar Hoover." (Or, apparently, P. Daniel Smith or J. Steven Griles.)
P. Daniel Smith was a Schedule C political appointee under President George W. Bush, serving directly under Bush's NPS Director, Fran Mainella.
Mainella was perhaps less controversial than the present acting Director, but not for lack of trying. She was a scandal waiting to happen.
The scandal was not long in coming.
Billionaire Dan Snyder, owner of the controversial Washington Redskins football team, decided to buy a mansion with a view of the Potomac River.
Now neighbors, you have to be careful in dealing with realtors, even if you are a billionaire.
Technically, the mansion had a beautiful view of the majestic Potomac; but only if you chopped down all the mature trees growing between the mansion and the C & O Canal National Historical Park.
With no private view of the Potomac, the mansion resembled any large tract home in Palookaville, Maryland, with a view of weeds and trees.
"Who owns the trees?" Asked Snyder of his staff.
"You do, sir."
"Great! Chop 'em down!"
"There are some complications, Sir!"
"What complications?" growled Snyder.
His staff then explained the glories and mysteries of the Scenic Easement Concept in land management to our favorite billionaire.
With scenic easement, it is not necessary for cash strapped government agency to own all the land in order to preserve a swatch of nature. All that is necessary is that the government agency buy the development rights to the property. Depending on the stipulations in the contract, the landowner can still keep on doing what he's been doing; hunting, fishing, even in some cases, farming or ranching. He just can't build another dwelling or a WALMART on the property,
This is, generally speaking, a win-win situation for everyone.
The National Park Service was not going to restore and rewater the entire canal and break the federal budget, but they were going to restore the entire tow path from Georgetown in the District of Columbia to Cumberland, Maryland; a distance of 184 Miles.
Indeed, an imaginative and creative National Park Service planned (and succeeded in symbolically completing the dream of the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company by establishing a hiking and biking trail from Georgetown, entry to the Chesapeake Bay all the way to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, headwaters of the Ohio River).
In order to maintain the illusion of hiking or biking through unspoiled wilderness, the NPS would need a thick screen of trees to block the view of suburban backyards.
That was just fine with the owners of the suburban back yards who did not want their tennis courts, swimming pools, barbecues, etc. surveyed by hordes of curious hikers and bikers.
Like we said, Scenic Easement was a good deal for everyone.
Except for Mr. Snyder.
The extroverted owner of the Redskins did not mind if someone gazed upon his mansion; that was one of the joys of being rich, you should be able to show it off.
In return, Dan Snyder wanted a view of the Potomac River.
That should not be too difficult Snyder reasoned, everything is negotiable, you just must be persistent.
Persistence is the hallmark of the successful billionaire; you must know what you want and go after it and never give up
As Rob Danno, the much-persecuted former Chief Ranger of C & O Canal National Park wryly observed, "Snyder just would not take "No" for an answer."
Snyder, like most billionaires, tried to stay within the edge of the law, even if this meant rearranging and/or reinterpreting the law.
He needed that edge. It came in the form of the Park Service's well-known aversion to invasive exotic species.
Snyder proposed eliminating the exotic trees on his scenic easement and replacing them with virtuous native species at no cost to the federal government, (native trees are slow growing compared to exotics), so if Snyder clear cut his land and then planted native saplings, he would be long dead before the saplings grew tall enough to obscure the view.
From Snyder's point of view, it seemed to be a win-win situation with no need for the normal skullduggery associated with billionaire activities.
Indeed, the political ranger, P. Daniel Smith, could not imagine that the NPS would not leap at the chance to get rid of the exotics at no cost to the federal government.
Ah, but there was some foot dragging on the part of the NPS. It seems that there were some native trees mixed in with the exotics. Moreover, even exotics have rights. You must do the paper work.
Snyder wanted it done right away. There were murmurs of a "contribution" to the park's donation fund if the superintendent could see the light on "exotics" eradication. NPS Director Mainella was apparently not only wined and dined but also footballed in one of Snyder's luxury boxes at Redskin's stadium.
The superintendent of the park was instructed by political ranger Smith to "assist" Mr. Snyder in anyway possible.
All this was news to the C & O Chief Ranger Rob Danno when one of his patrol rangers reported the clear cutting of a scenic easement belonging to one Dan Snyder.
Danno was a Dudley Do Right type right out of BOY'S LIFE, (He is even an Eagle Scout!). He was supremely competent and incorruptible. He told supervisors of the clear-cut and expected action. None was forthcoming.
After a reasonable interval, Danno blew the whistle, notifying THE WASHINGTON POST.
Snyder and the NPS were embarrassed and political Ranger Smith was "disciplined" (but not too severely) and transferred to Colonial National Historical as superintendent, where he spent an uneventful decade before retiring.
As for Danno, the NPS reacted to Danno the same way the Mafia would react to an informer. They tried to destroy him. He was subjected to the combined Travails of Jean Val Jean, Alfred Dreyfus, and the biblical Job, but he survived, with the aid of pluck, luck and PEER. (All of this and more are described in Danno's fascinating book (WORTH FIGHTING FOR).
Now then, how will Mr. Smith do as Director of the National Park Service?
The bars of achievement for this Administration are depressingly low.
The main question being: Will he steal?
(None of this namby pamby politically correct drivel about "Preserve and Protect" that beset wimps like Mather and Albright, but rather the stark reality of "Will he steal?)
The answer is a firm "No".
The possible source of temptation is a tract of land in DC owned by the NPS and coveted by none other than Dan Snyder as a possible venue for a stadium.
Why won't Mr. Smith accommodate Mr. Snyder?
Because the nation will be watching Acting Director Smith with the same fixed intensity as teen aged boys watching a "Stormy Daniels" flick. He will not be able to attend a Redskins game without showing proof of ticket purchase. Even acquisition of a gourmet ham sandwich better not cost more than $19.95, or the voracious reporters of the THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WASHINGTON POST will be over him like Poison Ivy.
J. Daniel Smith will be with us for a little less than 300 days, according to law. At the end of the 300 day temporary appointment, he must either be replaced by a Senate confirmed political appointee who will serve at the will of the President for the President's term of office. (Or until paranoia sets in.)
So what will P. Dan do? Probably not much.
It is the custom for every NPS director, conservative or liberal, to issue bromides on the preservation of the parks, very much like the Pope telling us to be kind to the poor.
P. Dan will do this, with the usual right wing twist; that the NPS has been "Living Beyond Its Means and Needs to rein in its Prodigal Spending and therefore, No New National Park Units until the 11 billion dollar maintenance backlog is resolved."
This, of course, is Bullshit.
One of the dumbest moves in the history of NPS bureaucracy occurred when NPS bean counters breathlessly came up with a laundry list of 11 billion dollars of "deferred maintenance".
They naively believed that conservatives in Congress would leap at the chance to go bipartisan and fund a maintenance backlog in "America's Best Idea".
The reverse was true. Tea Party types regarded the "backlog" as a Hades-sent opportunity to beat the NPS with the club of Fiscal Responsibility.
It is good strategy. You see, virtually every family has a relative (or relatives) that are financially impecunious; a son or daughter that demands to be bailed out of their financial disasters; spendthrifts who believe they deserve a Mercedes-Benz or a Las Vegas vacation. These relatives must be taught to "Live Within Their Means." They must be treated with "tough love" and the NPS, according to greedhead Republicans, is no different.
Ah, but the NPS IS different!
The NPS maintenance backlog is not due to the Chief Rangers flying first class or purchasing BMW's for the superintendents, or some other wild extravagance but simply that stuff wears out: Roads need mending, bridges need replacing, interpretive signs are faded by the sun.
Now conservatives have a point in wondering just how much of the "backlog" may be a "wish list" and how much is actual, falling down, park destroying, safety issue, and loss control stuff?
Tea party types and just about everyone else has the right, to suggest that the 11 million dollar figure be revisited and renegotiated. After all, when Jesus Christ and His Father were running the parks, there was no maintenance backlog. Perhaps we should start by using the Deity's efforts as a baseline.
As for J. Danny Smith's suggestion that there be no additions to the National Park System until the Maintenance backlog is resolved; you are arguing apples and oranges; acquisition and maintenance are two different things.
As a politician, J. Dan should realize that no Congressman is going to give up on his favorite park project in his district; there would always have to be "exceptions" to the "Iron Law" of fiscal responsibility.
Could the alleged maintenance backlog be resolved in some other manner than freezing the park inventory? No, History marches on and there will always be events and people to commemorate, as well as ecosystem samples to be preservedt
To fund the erasure of the maintenance backlog the Administration might consider the scrubbing of unasked for weapon systems. Even the Military has questioned the need for some of these expensive gizmos.
Then of course, the President could announce that he had found Jesus and that there were more Christian ways of handling illegal immigration and that building a wall was not necessary and that the monies could be used for other things such as dealing with the NPS maintenance backlog.
As the above scenario is about as likely as a blizzard in Brazil, we must consider other alternatives.
One alternative is that proposed by none other than the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. (Full Disclosure: Your editor is automatically prejudiced against people who use his family name as their first name; see Ryan Bundy.)
Anyways, if you're ranking Trump appointees on who is the lesser of myriad evils, probably Zinke comes across as the most reasonable and least despicable. (Contain your ire!)
The alternative that Zinke proposes is called "The National Park Restoration Act" and is sane enough that the Secretary was able to gain bi-partisan support among some Democrats.
According to The Secretary: "I think if you're going to gain Resource and Wealth from public lands, then a fair proposition is you should also contribute to solving the maintenance backlog and the preservation of these lands."
Now neighbors, this "Aw shucks" homily is about as close to John Muir and Henry David Thoreau as you are going to get with this Administration.
The National Park Restoration Act proposes that half the monies that the Department of Interior earns from the sale of oil, gas and other minerals on Department of Interior land or offshore holdings as well as rent obtained from the leasing of DOI land for solar and wind power production, be used for the maintenance of and the restoration of public lands.
However, FORTUNE magazine, not exactly a bastion of Socialist thought, debunks Zinke's plan as "diabolical", pointing out that funds to reduce the maintenance backlog would only start to flow when revenues from fossil fuel exploitation reached 7.8 billion; a figure that would require maximum exploitation of federal land and highly unlikely due to the oil and gas glut.
In addition, the National Park Restoration Act funds are not to be used for the purchase of new public lands. That would remain the mission of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which buys land for federal, state and local parks and is also financed by royalties from mineral leasing of federal lands.
Conveniently for the Administration, the enabling legislation for the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires on September 30.
Secretary Zinke has blown hot and cold on the subject of renewing the LWCF, which of course is up to Congress.
As Edward Abbey famously remarked, "National Parks are one of the very few nice things that a remote and suspicious government does for its subjects" so the parks and public lands are popular. Indeed, the national parks are approaching the status of Social Security in which an attack on either results in Congressional death at the polls.
A PIECE OF PAPERThis administration has a numbing, Novocain-like effect on people. The President is able to make the wildest, most outrageous statements and no one raises the point that the statement might be false or extremely improbable: The latest example being Presidential courage.
Commenting on the abject failure of the Broward County Sheriffs' Department to protect the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, the President stated that, unlike the deputy, he would have "rushed in" and "saved" the students.
No one, not THE NEW YORK TIMES or THE WASHINGTON POST or any of the blonde television goddesses, have pointed out that risking the Presidential pelt to save others is an extremely unlikely scenario in the case of this narcissistic President.
Courage, or the "Moment of Truth" as Ernest Hemingway defined it, is hard to quantify or predict. People seem to have it in greater or lesser abundance, but as combat veterans have observed "You just never know." Proper training for a situation is certainly help as it gives one confidence to do the right thing, pushed along by muscle memory.
Still, you never know.
One group that does know is members of the Federal and State Land Management Agencies. That would be the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the various state parks.
Unlike the military, which can have decades of peace, spanning an entire career between major wars, members of the land management agencies face death or dismemberment from a bewildering number of sources both natural and man made, on a daily basis. Threats can range from landslides, avalanches, irate bears, angry campers, drowning visitors, falling trees, fires both structural and wild, and myriads of other threats to life and limb.
Naturally, risk to life & limb fall disproportionately on the protection personnel of the various agencies, but no one is exempt from being courageous. Indeed, due to a lack of personnel, some unlikely staff members are called upon to be brave.
In one western park, a maintenance man armed himself with a mop handle and charged the rear of an infuriated mob that was bent on lynching two vandals as well as the ranger who was trying to arrest and protect them. The surprise attack broke up the mob and possibly saved the ranger's life.
Now what does our land management person get for bravery?
There is a monetary award in certain cases and both the Department of Interior and the US Forest Service award medals for valor.
Curiously, the medal is almost never worn. The reason being that, unlike the military, land management personnel have constant, everyday contact with the visiting public.
The visiting public would have a natural curiosity about the ribbon on the ranger's shirt and would not be shy about asking him to do a "show and tell" in excruciating detail about how brave he/she was.
Aside from the embarrassment, constantly explaining valor would leave the Land Management employee little time to perform the mundane, everyday aspects of the job.
Thus the medal is relegated to a desk drawer or, usually after retirement, to a place of honor on the retiree's den wall.
However, medals cost money and most land management agencies make do with a single sheet of paper to reward valor. (You can't be too thrifty, neighbors!)
The acknowledgement of valor is on letterhead stationery and is usually one page long. It tersely describes the Act of Valor, politely thanks the recipient for responding in a timely and effective manner, and is signed by the hero's immediate supervisor, the park superintendent and (sometimes) the Regional Director.
The original goes to the hero and copies are placed in the office files and in the personnel file of the hero.
The original is worth only one cent, but it is treasured and never thrown away.
Which brings us to the 45th President of the United States, The Great Orange Menace.
In the Land Management agencies, it is considered extremely bad form to write a citation for Valor for yourself; in fact, we have never heard of that happening.
Yet the GOM tells us how he would have rescued the 17 students and faculty had he only been there.
Now the President of the United States has many billions of dollars (so we are told) but one thing his billions can't buy him is that single piece of paper.
Does that bother him?
You bet it does.
A NOTE FROM ROGER SIGLINFrom time to time, readers will send e-mail to the Christian Bureaucrat expressing concern about something or other.
Here is a rather scary prophecy from Roger Siglin concerning our esteemed Secretary of the Interior.
Roger is correct as usual. Zinke plans no good for the environment or its protectors.
However, Siglin may be overly pessimistic; Just as a broken clock is right twice a day, Zinke may be on to something with his geographical regions based on watersheds and ecosystems. Big, square states do not make a lot of sense ecologically; nor do big, square national parks. Yellowstone should be a lot bigger and jagged.
Fortunately, for the sake of the environment and the American people, the electoral gate swings both ways. The mid term elections are not that far off and Articles of Impeachment cannot be far behind.
MORON IN CHIEF
"As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents more and more the inner soul of the People. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of this land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by an outright Moron."
Neighbors, that day has arrived.
The electorate (or at least the Electoral College) has gifted us with Mencken's "Outright Moron" as our President.
Rex Tillerson, former Secretary of State, confirmed that in his opinion, the President is a moron.
The man is a walking, talking stereotype of everything that is greedy, stupid, wrong, racist, misogynist and mean-spirited about America.
He seemingly has no redeeming virtues; unless you count predatory greed as a positive.
Not all cabinet members and media figures believe the 45th president to be a moron; some, such as H.L. McMasters and press mogul Rupert Murdoch, believe him to be an idiot.
Idiot is the correct label if we accept Ambrose Bierce's definition in the DEVIL'S DICTIONARY:
"IDIOT n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The idiot's activity is not confined to any special field of thought but pervades and regulates the whole. He has the last word in everything: His decision is unappeasable."
His "base" elected him, the I.V.Y League (Ignorant, Vicious, Yahoos!) and a collection of Useful Idiots who wished to vandalize the government just to see what would happen. (Why do WE need so many of those national monuments and all those environmental rules and anti pollution rules?)
Mencken also remarked that:
"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
The Great Orange Menace was placed in office by a swarm of millions of Archie Bunker types who can't understand why things have to be so complicated and confusing:
"When the wind changes direction, some men build walls; others build windmills."
TRUMP PHOTOSWe are still eagerly awaiting the photos of the 45th President of the United States and that traveling man, the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke as well as the photo of The Mystery Ranger, the future Director of the National Park Service.
Veterans of the Federal Bureaucracy will tell you that it is customary for every federal building normally open to the general public, to display photographs of the current President, Cabinet Secretary and the Agency Chief.
Normally, the President and his advisors have sorted out his/her cabinet and agency choices within a few months of taking office. Then, faceless bureaucrats of the General Services Administration (GSA) will ask the President and his various appointees to sit for their official photo portraits.
Upon approval, GSA puts the finished photographs in GSA issued frames suitable for hanging, and mails them out to the hundreds of federal agency offices throughout the nation and abroad.
Surprisingly, there is no criterion for where, exactly, the portraits are to be hung. It is left to the judgment of the local agency chief to determine where to hang the portraits.
Now, neighbors, as you know, the unofficial motto of every federal agency is "SI AUTEM NON VIS TRIBULATIONIS" which translates from the Latin as: "WE DON'T WANT ANY TROUBLE!"
You see, the average federal administrator is not a heat-seeking missile.
He she/has no desire to answer Congressional Inquiries sparked by the enraged constituents of demented politicians. Our average NPS bureaucrat sees no point in stirring up the natives by hanging portraits of "controversial" office holders in public places.
You will recall that the 44th President of the United States was a gentleman of the Afro-American persuasion. In addition, his Secretary of the Interior was a woman (one a' them, Lem!) This meant if you were a Good Ol' Boy, you were going to git yore eye balls rubbed in Liberal Triumphalism every you entered an NPS visitor Center.
UNLESS, of course, discretion prevailed and the portraits of Obama and Jewel were displayed in a remote part of the Visitor Center Admin Office where they would not offend the locals.
This proved to be the case in one national park in the Southwest (Portraits hung on wall of a passage way not frequented by the public) and one historical site, also in the Southwest, where the portraits were hung in a conference room again not frequented by the public.
Admittedly, that was a pretty small sample, but in our current study of the current president portrait placement in National Parks, we have yet to find a portrait of the 45th President and his minions.
Umm, why not?
The answer is easy; the GSA has yet to mail out the portraits of The Dear Leader, The Secretary of the Interior, and the Mystery Ranger who will run the national parks.
Again, why not?
No one seems to know, but there is much speculation.
One speculation is that the thrifty GSA does not wish to waste taxpayer funds. There are rumors floating about that the 45th president may not be with us much longer; that he may be impeached on various charges. (See "Manchurian Candidate") leaving the GSA stuck with thousands of portraits of a character some believe to be the Antichrist.
Another rumor cites the belief that the GSA would prefer to play with a full deck. (No, the GSA is not casting aspersions on the President's mental stability; rather, it is a matter of efficiency. GSA would prefer to issue a 'full deck" of Presidential portraits and the President's appointees all in one mailing; more efficient that way.)
As you are aware, although the President has named a Secretary of Interior, he has yet to name a Director of the National Park Service, thus making it a "full Deck" and thus easy to package. (As previously noted, P. Daniel Smith doesn't count; he is an "acting" caretaker type, more interested in picking up 300 days of loose change than in rocking the boat.)
Therefore, it may be difficult to obtain a bona fide Director of the National Park Service.
Unlike the Director of Housing & Urban Development, where the only apparent requirement is that you live in a house in an urban area, there are definite qualifications for the Directorship of the National Park Service. You must have high ranking, hands-on experience in the running of a land management agency at the federal, state or local level, or sufficient academic clout (PhD) in environmental or historical management.
That is, you must have a background of experience and/or knowledge. This means that you have a reputation to protect. By moral definition, you will risk that reputation by agreeing to work for a man who is basically a thug and a traitor to the nation and the environment. Needing the job is no excuse; better to go on welfare.
But what of the former acting Director Michael Reynolds?
Reynolds was an innocent bystander, he was doing the job as a civil servant before the President elect appeared on the scene and was delighted to hand over his sword to the Trump interim appointee and swap Washington for Yosemite before the stench of sulfur and brimstone became overpowering.
THE SAFETY MESSAGE
Congratulations! You have reached THE SAFETY MESSAGE: Your sole reason for googling up THUNDERBEAR. Before the advent of the Great Orange Menace the SAFETY MESSAGE was largely hypothetical; it was unlikely that anyone in a normal administration would bother you for seeking a whimsical view of the environment as noted in THUNDERBEAR.
However, this is not a normal administration, neighbors.
Mr. Zinke is proving to be as paranoid as his boss when it comes to worker "loyalty".
Zinke estimates that one third of the Interior work staff are members of The Resistance. That is, they are capable of passive or active sabotage of the Administration's plans for the environment, or at least capable of leaking embarrassing information to Democratic Congresspersons, the Media or (worse) to Jeff Ruch and PEER.
It is not known how Zinke arrived at these figures concerning staff "loyalty" but it is daunting that the Secretary considers as many as two thirds of the Interior staff to be Administration toadies, capable of providing The Great Orange Menace and his minions with what ever they desire.
"Whatever they desire" might be names; your name for example.
You will recall that the GOM vowed to reduce the DOI work staff by some 8 percent or around 4,000 jobs.
Now some of this reduction can be achieved by attrition. People retire or die and their positions are not filled. However, to really throw red meat to his base, the GOM and his minions are going to have to fire people.
Naturally, the fireees are going to have to be guilty of SOMETHING: It could be moral turpitude; sleeping with someone not your spouse, or watching prostitutes urinate on each other, or watching pornography on government time and on a government computer or gross incompetence or dereliction of duty or theft of government property.
However, one does not want to fire miscreants indiscriminately; some of them might have voted for the President.
It would be best to nail the surplus liberal employee on charge of insubordination; that is, reading anti-administration material on government time and on a government computer.
Fie! Off with his head!
It is for this reason that we feature THE SAFETY MESSAGE in every issue.
Now Safety is a bipartisan issue: It is neutral. There is no Liberal or Conservative way of being safe.
So if Zinke or one of his minions inquires, this is the reason and the only reason, you plow through each issue of THUNDERBEAR: To find the all important safety message.
This issue's Safety Message deals with what might be called "The Coach Rafferty Syndrome."
You may recall from high school football days, that Coach Rafferty did not like people lying on the ground, writhing in pain, or worse yet, complaining. Coach Rafferty wanted everyone vertical as soon as possible; you were to "shake off" any injury short of a compound fracture.
This might not always be a good idea.
Strangely enough, The Coach Rafferty Syndrome persists among people who have never frequented a football field.
If someone falls on a street or stairs, good Samaritans appear like magic to hoist the fallen into a vertical position and to inquire, "Are you all right?" (To which the response might well be "I was until you severed my spinal cord!")
For some reason, people abhor the prone position and demand the vertical. I suspect that it is a way of erasing an embarrassing situation; get the person moving as if nothing happened.
This can be very dangerous.
This was brought home to your editor in an incident in Hilo, Hawaii.
My wife Joan and I were attending an evening lecture at the Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii. It was a dark night. Joan missed a curb and went down hard.
"I hit my head," she said. Important clue.
The Coach Raffferty Team appeared out of nowhere. They wanted to pick Joan up and set her on her feet. Not a good idea.
By this time, your editor had a firm grip on her shoulders to assure that this was not going to happen. "Don't move her until the EMT's arrive" I said firmly.
By this time, Joan had a noticeable lump on her head and a flowering bruise from eye line to Jaw line.
"Please call 911." I asked.
We live in remarkable times, neighbors. In my youth, "calling 911" meant some Good Samaritan sprinting for a telephone booth, a place of business or a private residence. If the Good Sam happened to be a person of color, this could lead to complications; he could get shot.
Nowadays any passerby over the age of five can put you in contact with the rest of the world with his/her trusty cell phone.
The 911 dispatch told our Good Sam that the EMT's were on the way.
More good news arrived in the form of a medical doctor who was passing by. She examined Joan for possible concussion by asking a few questions; one of which was "Who is the President of the United States?"
Now Joan is a liberal Democrat and the question sent Joan into an illiberal tirade that assured the good Dr. that she knew who, unfortunately, was president.
The doctor then examined her extremities. Joan cried out in pain at her touch.
"I'm afraid you have a broken hip. We'll know for sure with the X-Rays," The doctor averred.
The Fire Department's EMT's arrived with great light show drama and expertly lifted Joan onto a gurney.
The X-Ray proved the doctor correct. Joan had a broken hip; good reason for NOT being lifted into the vertical by well meaning strangers.
SOME NOTES ON FIRST CLASSFor the very first time in our lives, for medical reasons, Joan and I would be flying first class from Hawaii to Washington, DC. As previously noted, Joan has broken her hip. Her surgeon had recommended that she return to Maryland via first class, so she could stretch out, have plenty of room and not have other passengers clambering over her enroute to the toilet, she would also get more help from the First Class cabin crew should the need arise.
At least that was our excuse for the considerable upgrade.
Then there was Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Scott's reason for flying First Class was fear of being lynched by the Economy Class passengers once they found out who he was.
(You can visualize the leader of the incipient lynch mob, pointing to Pruitt and yelling:
"LISTEN UP, PEOPLE! HERE'S THE GUY WHO LETS HIS CORPORATE BUDDIES POISON OUR DRINKING WATER!
You can understand Scott's concern for his safety)
However, like Detective Lieutenant Columbo, there's just one little thing that puzzles me:
How did the Economy Class passengers find out who he was and what he did?
As a federal bureaucrat and a private citizen I have huddled in coach seating with no one finding out who I was and what I did----unless I chose to tell them.
I mean did Pruitt rise from his seat and state: "YOU PEONS MAY NOT REALIZE IT, BUT YOU ARE IN THE AUGUST PRESENCE OF A TRUMP APPOINTEE! I AM NONE OTHER THAN SCOTT PRUITT, HEAD OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY!"
I doubt if Scott was so rash or so naïve. Just curious.
Ah! But we are begging the question: Is First Class worthwhile?
Alas! Probably not.
It would seem to work best for the determined alcoholic. You get a bottomless booze glass for whatever poison suits you. I don't drink and Joan stops after the first glass of white wine, so it doesn't compute for us. Nor would it work for thrifty Mormons.
The First Class seating is better than Coach by a quantum leap in size and comfort. However, the seats do not recline much more than Coach; a grave disappointment for someone planning to sleep prone through a five hour flight.
The food is both good and substantial, which has to be a plus over the Economy food, which is basically non-existent.
It is true that you have more crew members inquiring if they can do anything for you, but when you think about it, there is not much that can be done for you at 30,000 feet.
There is of course, the possibility of celebrity viewing, but we struck out: No sight of H.R. McMasters , Rex Tillerson or even Scott Pruitt.
So, as far as First Class goes, save your money and spend more time in a natural area.
TRUMP FREEYou will recall that in the last issue of THUNDERBEAR that your editor promised to swear off mention of the 45th President.
Why has your editor broken his promise?
Well, basically, for better or for worse, Trump is hard to ignore; sort of like Chlorine gas you ignore at your peril.
Left unchecked, he can seriously damage the nation.
Indeed, in one of his more hair-raising tweets, he inferred that a Third World War would be useful in uniting the U.S.
Fortunately, he is remarkably thin-skinned. One of the first skills that a successful politician must learn is how to roll with the punches, ignore insults and develop a thick skin. Trump has done none of the above. He reacts to criticism by throwing infantile temper tantrums worthy of any third world dictator.
Readers believe that THUNDERBEAR should continue criticism of our President, adding a small but persistent voice to the rising volume of protest.
Be sure to vote this November.
PJ Ryan can be reached at: