The Russian invasion of the Ukraine is madness. Vladimir Putin is a mad man. And the likelihood of this happening under a Donald Trump administration is just about zero. I hope I’m wrong, but there seems to be international blood in the water at the perceived (or real) weakness of America’s President Joe Biden.

Lurking out there is China toward Taiwan (and where we get most of our semi-conductors and computer chips), North Korea toward South Korea and Iran toward Iraq. It’s not a pretty picture.

Biden’s feckless and completely failed exit of Afghanistan, his incoherent Covid-19 response, the worst inflation since the 1980s, the catastrophe at the southern border and the transportation crisis, all squeezing the energy out of the President has emboldened international criminals like Putin. We have exactly the wrong guy in the White House at the wrong time.

But this is where I can’t begin to grasp the President’s logic and why he won’t help himself and his 32-38 percent approval rating. Because of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, Biden tells Americans that we are going to join in the suffering, virtually all economic and mostly at the gas pump and in terms of home heating.

The energy crisis, caused by Biden’s kowtowing to Green New Deal religionists is now front and center. A year ago the U.S. was a net exporter of petroleum, coal and natural gas. Oil was under $40 a barrel under Trump policies. Fracking, off shore drilling, the XL and Keystone pipelines were all creating American energy independence that Biden killed on his first day of office.

Now, as Russia invades the Ukraine, the U.S. is in a position of weakness, purchasing oil from Russia. Russia! It is incomprehensible.

Even more incomprehensible is Biden’s refusal to fix the problem as war in Europe breaks out. With a stroke of his Presidential pen, he could re-start America’s energy industry. But he won’t, apparently because he is comfortable letting Americans suffer under skyrocketing gas prices, heating oil, natural gas and LP gas.

If you listened to Biden’s Energy Czar John Kerry speak last week, you would hear a man who has no concern for human life. His main concern over Russia murdering Ukrainians is the effect it has on the climate and their march toward bankrupting the petroleum, natural gas and coal industries. Biden may have serious problems with cognitive decline and dementia, but Kerry is pathological in his desire to rid the world of all forms of energy save for wind and solar.

So Americans (Iowans and Albians) are left with $3.50 per gallon gasoline, natural gas and LP gas prices double what they were a year ago and inflation rising to over eight percent. And we have a President who is unable to adjust, to counter punch, to change his strategies to meet the demands of a changing world economic dynamic.

Watching Biden barely able to read the prepared speeches on the monitors in front of him and his unwillingness (inability) to answer questions from reporters at age 79, makes Sen. Charles Grassley’s performance in front of his 99-county tour audiences seem dazzling.

Grassley is 88 years old and is as nimble both physically and mentally as he was when he started his Congressional career in the mid 1970s. You can argue that Grassley routinely mangles his speech and is often times inarticulate, but trust me on this, I covered his first Congressional run as a college newspaper editor/reporter in 1975 and he mangled his speech pretty much the same way back then.

He couldn’t hold a candle to William Jennings Bryan, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan or even Barack Obama in terms of his skill as an orator, but it’s likely they couldn’t match his ability to connect intimately with his constituents with his listening ability, his eye contact and his ability to provide understandable answers.

He spoke to a gathering of about 50 people at the Monroe County Courthouse last week and pretty much had us eating out of his hand, although that suggests he had some manipulative hold on the crowd. That’s not the vibe Grassley exudes. It’s more like when I sat at my grandfather’s kitchen table, bitterly complaining about my completely unreasonable parents and he would puff on his King Edward cigar, look me in the eye, nod and say things like, “Mmmmm,” “Yup,” and “I see.” I was absolutely convinced he heard every word I said, even though he said little back.

“Thanks for the talk, Gramps,” I’d say feeling way better, and he would reply, “Any time Bub.”

Of the dozens of times I’ve attended Grassley’s town hall meetings, asked questions and interviewed him, and was invited to ask questions on the radio show he prepared for local stations, I haven’t always agreed with him, but I can’t ever remember a time I didn’t think he heard me or the people in the room asking questions.

The King Opera House reopened Sunday after a hiatus of two years due to COVID-19 and an exasperatingly long shut down because of a Phase I restoration project. For the past 14 years a group of country music enthusiasts, led by the gifted keyboardist, Cindy Rhodes, have performed the Bob Reed Country Music Showcase in memory of a great friend of local players and performers of country music.

We performed the show the last Sunday in February of 2020 and that was pretty much the last thing that happened in the venerable old theater until last Sunday. In the mean time we lost one of our regulars, John Van Weelden, to the pandemic and in some form, we’d all suffered, not only from the disease itself, but from separation and not being able to play music.

I’m not sure you could have provided any better therapeutic for Covid, the winter blues and any other ailment than having a full auditorium listening to the music we were honored to be playing.

Dear Dr. Fauci:

If this ever happens again (and we pray it never does), provide us with reasonable advice, good medicine and encourage us to keep playing music. We’re pretty sure it will get us through whatever comes our way in much better mental and physical health.

Sincerely,

The Pickers and Grinners of America