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Commentary

0-3 for Predictions

2021 is not off to a good start, not just for the country as a whole but for my predictive abilities as well. Last week, I posted my predictions for the new year. Among them was that Republicans would win both senate races in Georgia, and that the political temperature in the country would cool down now that the election is over. I was very, very wrong on all accounts.

First, I predicted incumbent senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans, would win their races on January 5th. Instead, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock squeaked over the finish line by narrow margins.

On November 3, 2020, Republican candidates in the Georgia special general election (including Loeffler) received a combined total of 2,426,120 votes. If all those same people showed up to vote for Kelly Loeffler on January 5th, she would have won.

However, as the sole Republican on the ballot, she ended up receiving 233,344 less votes. In the Perdue – Ossoff race, David Perdue received 258,043 less votes on January 5th than he received on November 3rd.

Either those people decided to vote for the Democratic candidates (unlikely), or they stayed home, which is why questioning the legitimacy of the previous election was a stupid strategy.

As for my prediction that the temperature in the country would cool down, we all know how that bit of wishful thinking went up in smoke last week. With the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building and the crackdown on social media by Big Tech, I fear things are only going to get worse.

Categories
Commentary

A Shameful Day in America

The parallels between what I saw in Baghdad in 2016 and what happened in Washington, DC Wednesday afternoon are chilling.

I was stationed in Baghdad at the end of April 2016, when Iraqi Shia protestors breached the Green Zone for the first time since it was established after our invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was at the gym when the U.S. Embassy was locked down and everyone was ordered to shelter in nearby buildings. For several hours, no one knew whether the protestors would attempt to storm the embassy. Would this turn into Tehran in 1979

A short time earlier, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr held a fiery press conference in the city of Najaf. He gave no orders to his supporters to riot, and in fact he condemned the violence during and after, but on the crowd came, pulling down sections of the concrete walls surrounding the Green Zone and breaking into the Iraqi parliament building. Their grievance was with the Iraqi government and not with us, thankfully, but Iraqi officers with whom I worked repeatedly compared Al Sadr to then candidate Donald Trump. They were downright prophetic.

Listening to President Trump address the crowd in Washington, DC yesterday, then seeing video and photos of protestors breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building and taking selfies in the House chamber brought back strong feelings of déjà vu. In 2016 in Baghdad, panicked lawmakers fled as the crowd rushed in, then Iraqi authorities declared a state of emergency and fired teargas to clear the building. It was nearly beat-for-beat what we witnessed in our own capitol Wednesday afternoon. 

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Saudade

A Freshman’s Lament

My first semester at EIU at the dawn of the new millennium wasn’t quite what I expected.

As a newly minted 18-year-old at Morehouse College in 1947, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “…We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

That must be why, in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, hangs a large portrait of the building’s namesake covering his forehead with one hand in a gesture of either bewilderment or exasperation.

On Orientation Day the summer before my freshman year at Eastern Illinois University, my fellow prefrosh and I nervously and excitedly shuffled into the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union ballroom to watch a video addressing our fears of dorm life and living away from home for the first time. “EIU doesn’t have dorms,” it assured us. “It has residence halls.” The freshman in the video anxiously dreamt of having a nightmare roommate, but when they finally met, they became best friends.

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Commentary

Predictions for 2021

A new year is finally here and most of us can breathe easier knowing we survived 2020. It was a wild ride, with unforeseen events occurring almost every week. Last year I thought impeachment would be the biggest story. Oh, how wrong I was!

I thought it would be fun and interesting to write down some predictions for 2021, then, at the end of the year, go back and see if I was right. Some of these are based on what I actually think will happen, and some are just wild predictions.

I prefer to see 2021 as a winding down period for 2020, meaning that a lot of the crises that arose last year will be resolved this year.

COVID-19 – The vaccines that came out in December will become wildly available and Coronavirus will cease to be a major issue. Infections might still happen, but not nearly in the numbers they have been. In March, I thought predictions for COVID deaths in the hundreds of thousands was wildly pessimistic, but now I’m predicting a final U.S. death toll of at least 500,000. I hope I’m wrong.

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Musings

Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bobbie Jean Ashley

Bobbie Jean Ashley is the seventh daughter of eight girls of Bud and Opal Ashley. She graduated in 1991 from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois with a degree in Radio/Television communications. She has been singing since the age of four and writing songs since her teens. From 2000 to 2002, she sang with a band called Southtown and opened for Kentucky Headhunters at the Effingham County Fairgrounds. Boofuhluh is her first album.

How long have you been interested in singing/songwriting, and what inspired you to create this album at this time?

I’ve been writing songs since the age of 14/15 and have written close to 300 songs so far. Most I will never share with another person because they just aren’t ready for another’s ears but maybe one day I can rework some of them so that they are ready. The inspiration for this album came after a prayer I made to God and asked him why my life has been spared so many times at deaths door.

I’ve nearly died over 9 times. I was walking when I said that prayer and I looked down and saw a piece of string on the floor and I took that as a sign that I need to do my music. I wanted this album to be filled with inspiration, love, and beauty because of that sign and I dedicated this album in part to God.

Do you have a favorite song on the album, and why?

My favorite is “The Hope and the Love” which is the song I wrote for God. I’ve had several people tell me that this song was just what they needed during this time of COVID.

Categories
Musings

“Oh Lady” by Bobbie Jean Ashley

I haven’t posted about music in a while, but my friend Bobbie Ashley just recorded her first album and I think it’s really great. Bobbie hosts a morning show on WIKK 103.5 The Eagle in Newton, Illinois. She’s an author too!

Her new album is called Boofuhluh and it’s available on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and more. It has nine tracks, including “Dream on Baby”, “Speak Up”, and “Oh Lady”. “Oh Lady” is among my favorites and you can listen to it above.

She describes her sound as folk Americana, and her strong voice reminds me of Joni Mitchell. I’m planning on having an interview with her up on my blog on Monday.

Categories
Commentary

How (Not) to Lose an Election

Accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression have become annoying common, but it’s often the candidates themselves who are to blame for their own defeat. No one wins by crying foul. Running an effective campaign, not post-election litigation, is the key to victory.

April 2013, at an election night party at Murphys Pub in Rockford, Illinois, I approached an acquaintance to see how he fared in that day’s race. He ran for Harlem Township Supervisor, the latest in a series of offices for which he put his name on the ballot. He wanted so badly to get elected to public office.

That year, there was a debate in Machesney Park, located in the boundary of Harlem Township, whether or not to allow homeowners to keep chickens in their yards. Joe disagreed, in contrast to his Republican and Tea Party base. When the final vote was tallied that night, he lost by four votes: 2,045 to 2,049. He looked up at me through smeared Coke-bottle glasses, his eyes strained from staring at a laptop for hours, with a look of utter devastation on his face and gasped, “It was the chickens!”

No one likes to lose, especially when you pour your heart and soul into running for office. Candidates put their reputations, time, and often their personal finances on the line with no guarantee of success. I should know. In 2012, I ran in the Republican primary for county board and lost 43% to 57%. In 2013, I was the Republican candidate for Mayor of Rockford and received 18.32% in a three-way race.