Congressional unwisdom

Author: admin

It’s always seemed to me, people who attempt to do their own taxes should first try to take out their own appendix. If they’re successful doing the latter, they should have no trouble doing the former. This year, the tax side of that self-challenge may be even riskier for honest filers.

Self-tax doers normally have a backup at the IRS – the ubiquitous phone call for help with questions. There’ll be some new issues this year because of some tax law changes in 2014 and the matter of how to deal with subsidies – if qualified – and other issues dealing with Obamacare that will likely raise some need for assistance. Lotsa luck!

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is the bearer of some really bad news. For instance, of the millions of people who annually call for filing help, less than half will get through to someone at the agency this tax season. Less than half! Of those that DO get to a live person on the other end, many will spend as long as an hour on hold. Those who want to try emails or some other electronic avenue for assistance will have no better luck. Forget it.

Remember that old term “sequester? Or “sequestration” which always reminds me of “castration” because the result is about the same. Well, your friends in your old do-nothing Congress have approved an IRS budget for 2015 which is the lowest since 2008! Yep. The outfit has to make do with less money than seven years ago.

And therein are those telephone waits and the emails going into a bottomless electronic pit and the six-out-of-ten callers who’ll never get someone on the phone. Oh, and a hiring freeze meaning the loss of some 4,000 more full-time employees by July. Since 2010, the IRS has lost about 17,000 employees while the tax load has increased and increased again.

Then, there’s the matter of audits. Yes, Virginia, there’ll be fewer audits for many of the same reasons. And while you may says that’s “good news” ‘cause you aren’t likely to have someone sniffing around your tax returns and checking your math, it also means more tax cheats and non-filers will get away with tax larceny. Since 2010, the Commissioner estimates the agency has not been able to collect about $6 billion owed because the enforcement division has 5,000 fewer employees than in 2008. He’s estimating you can add another $2 billion to that loss for 2015.

Now, a billion here and a billion there can really add up – especially during your old sequestration. But if you take more sheriff’s deputies off the trail, there’ll be more stagecoach holdups. ‘Twas always thus. And thus it still is.
And you just know the non-filers and tax cheaters know all this news, too.

If you’re expecting a refund, your wait will be longer. Especially if you’re a paper filer. Those using the old computer machine will see their refunds held up but only by a few days.

For years, Idaho’s excuse for a legislature did the same thing. “Get that damned old tax commission out of our business,” cried the folks at home. So the cretins came to Boise for years with avowed intent to cut, cut, cut the Commission budget. And they did, did, did. Then one legislative day, someone got them to understand basic math: fewer auditors to look for dollars meant fewer dollars for them to spend. On frivolous unconstitutional lawsuits and failed challenges to the federal government and the like.

So, the legislature relented just a bit by increasing the Commission’s staff of auditors by half a dozen or so. And voila!!! A year or two later, the old Commission was auditing more and improving the amount of taxes collected. It really worked! More hands doing the digging meant more tax dollars in the bucket.

Now, Idaho’s two U.S. Senators – Crapo and Risch – who were members of that old Idaho Legislature when the “more-auditors-means-more-income” lesson was learned, seem to have forgotten all that. They’ve become hardy supporters of “castra…” er, I mean “sequestration” with the I-R-S one of their favorite targets.

Remember, IRS Commissioner Koskinen is projecting a tax income loss – because of staff cuts – of about $8 billion. Imagine adding that “found money” to the nation’s education budget. Or, as our current Congress thinks, $8 billion more for Afghanistan bombs and missiles.

And the cherry on top for the IRS? Koskinen says, if it’s necessary keep his budget balanced, it may be necessary to close the agency for several days later this year. After tax season. Just lock the doors.

In the wise words of my favorite Russian comic: “What a contry!”

Yes, Spell Check. “Contry.”

We lost the war

Author: admin

The war of terror is over. The terrorists won.

Before reaching for your friendly keyboard to throw electronic “rocks” my way, consider the evidence. As a matter of fact, consider a lot of evidence. The latest: three guys massacred 16 people in France. Though they met their own violent end(s) hours later, there are now 10,000 French army troops walking the streets of that country with 10,000 automatic weapons at the ready. Three dead guys – 10,000 armed troops. Plus God knows how many local cops, security types and various private guns-for-hire.

One guy – just one – puts some explosive powder on his shoe in an aircraft and tries to light it afire. From that day forward, hundreds of millions of us have had to walk barefoot in airport lobbies. One guy – millions barefoot.

Another guy – just one – had what appeared to be an explosive in his shorts while being an airlines traveler. From that day forward, hundreds of millions of us have had to endure full body scans and/or body scans with hand wands. One guy – millions of us being body scanned.

I could fill a few dozen more paragraphs but you get the idea. When dealing with terrorists, they almost always win by definition because, from the moment of the violence, everyone else reacts. Or over-reacts. Someone breaks into your house – you buy a burglar alarm. Or a gun. Or both. You buy new and heavier locks. More of ‘em. Somebody bashes your parked car. You fix it and park it somewhere else. You react – doing things you otherwise wouldn’t have done. Your thinking changes.

First the violence – the terror, if you will. Then the response.

Many moons ago, I landed in Washington D.C. – unemployed. Thanks to the late Sen. Len Jordan, I was hired as a uniformed Capitol police officer. Now days, Capitol officers are professionals – as well-trained as the D.C. cops. Patronage employees are now limited to copiers and staple machines.

I used to wander the halls of the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings, first as a tourist and later as a reporter. You don’t do that today. Scanners, badges, armed police, body searches and more. All over the place. There are large cement planters everywhere on the Hill to block someone trying to ram a vehicle into a building. Acres of blacktop and more of just grass – cordoned off to keep open spaces on the Hill – open. Sharpshooters on the roofs of many federal buildings around the Capitol. Same with the White House and other locations.

Terrorists. Just a handful over the last 40-50 years. But billions spent in that same time reacting. Just in Washington D.C..

Checked your local court house or city hall carefully lately? Looked really close at those new cement planter boxes out front? The little security cameras in the trees or jutting out from the eaves? How about the new “No Parking” areas or the removal of parking spaces that used to be so handy? Noticed an armed officer or two in public buildings – or schools – in our little towns? How about all that new military hardware for local cops?

Terrorists. Winning. While we react.

Been listing to all the TV “talking heads” claiming to be terrorism “experts” lately? A lot of ‘em couldn’t find a terrorist in a barbershop. But there they are. “Experts.” A guy named Jeremy Schaill really nailed all the media the other day on CNN. Even CNN. Scahill has credentials in the terrorism business second-to-none. Authored several books. Has personally jumped back and forth across the front lines in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and other “hot spots” for years. He’s dealt with many terrorists face-to-face. Knows his business. And knows the phonies.

His take on these “experts?” “CNN, MSNBC and Fox are engaging in the terrorism network industrial complex having people on as paid analysts who’re largely frauds who’ve made a lot of money portraying themselves as terror ‘experts’ but have no actual on-the-ground experience.”

Even there, the terrorists have won. A few of them have scared the Hell out of hundreds and hundreds of millions of us around the world. And created a new cottage industry of frauds. The media reacts. We react.

We now live in a world where terrorists and their deadly acts are becoming part of our daily lives. New York City, Washington, D.C., Pocatello, Idaho, Colfax, Washington and Madras, Oregon, are the front lines. A local water supply – a key bridge across the Columbia River – a little courthouse in Curry County – a National Guard armory in Wenatchee. Your street. My street. Every street. Now a front line for terror. The war is no longer “over there.” It’s “right here.”

We have not yet begun to see the changes – the dramatic, life-altering changes – coming in our lives. So far, we’ve been reactive to terror and those who practice it. By definition and by specific acts, that’s how it’s always been. That will change. It must. What we don’t know is how.
And how much. Or what. Or when.

As I said, so far, they’re winning.

Ever Met a Muslim?

Author: admin

Hate mail on the ol’ I-net keeps hitting new highs. Or lows. For several years, the target was Pres. Obama, his wife, kids and any non-white person supporting the President. Told a number of my friends to knock it off. Lost several.

Now the target I see most is Muslims. Any Muslim. Since the Paris terrorism, there’s been a sharp increase. Hardly a day goes I don’t get a couple hate mails. Some are supposed to be “joles” but many are filled with lengthy quotes from speeches or writings of some “noted authority” here or abroad on the dangers of the Muslim way of life. Checking the background of some writers, I found several hated somebody else before they got around to Muslims. Hate and racism du jour, I guess.

Just speculation on my part but I doubt many who circulate this mental garbage have ever met a Muslim much less had one as a friend. They’re a distinct minority in our Northwestern back yard. Had it not been for the military and living in Washington, D.C. as a reporter for a few years, I probably would’ve lived my entire life Muslim-less.

But I ‘ve gotten to know a few. And, while not being an authority on all things Muslim, I can say my experiences were interesting, mind-broadening and I found not a whole lot of difference from anyone else with a strong religious base in their history. Orthodox Jews are a good example. Some practice faithfully; some don’t. Baptists, Catholics and we Presbyterian/Methodists, too. Sometimes.

“But what about their supposed violence against all things not Muslim?” you ask. “And Sharria law and ‘death to the infidels’?’” Yes, there is that. Sometimes. “Course we non-Muslims had our crusades and some witch burnings. But we don’t talk much about those.

As a Presby/Methodist hybrid, I’ve attended a lot of Bible study classes trying to stay protestantly multilingual. One of the things that’s struck me repeatedly was how much violence and death there is in our own religious teachings. Lots of it. Moses, for example, wiping out whole villages and thousands of families from elderly to children during the trek from Egypt to the Promised Land. Wholesale slaughter! Before leaving Egypt, there was all that Passover killing. And all the murders of babies after Christ’s birth. Crucifixions, stoning, stabbing, poisonings, etc.

Then there were the instructions from God and/or his spokesmen on earth to kill certain people, punish family members, exact deadly vengeance on misdoers, run people out of town, confiscate property and on and on and on. Not to mention famines, plagues, drought and drowning everybody. Or those stake burnings.

Yep, Christianity is pretty blood-thirsty. Kind of like that Sharria law thing. Except nobody in our town has sacrificed a virgin or stoned a prostitute or cut the hands off a thief for… damn … I can’t remember when. But it’s been a long, long time.

I suppose if I lived in a Muslim country and ignorantly hated the Christians -as some ignorant “christians” hate Muslims – I could come up with hundreds of examples of biblical “teachings” to fill up some hate e-mails for friends. Lord knows, the Bible is a treasure trove of murder and retribution for enemies of God. There are some doozies!

In case my point isn’t clear here, it’s this: if we insist on developing our thinking and feelings based on someone else’s selective information – if we go around talking about or warning about some stranger’s murderous intent using some other nut’s phobia’s and hate-mongering as our sources of information – we’re going to show a lot of ignorance that really doesn’t become you. Or me. Are there bad guys? Yep. Muslim? Maybe. Maybe not. Do they live next door? Not likely.

More than anything else, that’s the basis for most hate e-mails I’ve seen lately. Ignorance. Fear. Wanting to believe the worst. A susceptibility to the voices of hate that relentlessly fill our national airwaves and in-boxes. A need to feel superior to someone else by making them villains. Used to be Blacks. Then Hispanics. Now it’s Muslims. Or all of the above.

But being a Muslim and practicing the tenets of your faith doesn’t automatically make you a bad guy. No matter how hard ignorant individuals and ignorant countries try to make it so. Universally banning certain styles of clothing does more to inflame than build a bridge to understanding. Burnings copies of the Koran – or threatening to – won’t improve cultural relationships. Burning Mosques says more about the mental vacuum of the match-holders.

I’m treating the forwarded anti-Muslim e-mails exactly as I did the ones about our President. Heavy use of the “delete” key. I’m just one. But, if you do it too, maybe we can make a dent.

Wiping out a hateful electronic lie and striking a small blow for world peace. Now that’s a good day’s work.

I don’t know anyone who “hates” cops. No one. Oh, I’m sure there are some criminals, psycho’s and maybe a few ex-spouses who harbor some bad feelings. But “cop hating” by the general public? I don’t know ‘em.

So this begs the question: Why is so much of today’s media chock full of ‘stories’ of police hatred? Where’s it coming from?

Seems to me there are two sources – or maybe “suspects.” First, many in the New York City and national media – including the usual hate voices – who’ve either become very sloppy in their “reporting” or have deliberately perverted what the original street protests were about.

In some media, the words have become a sort of shorthand when reporting interactions between officers and citizens – especially citizens in large groups like a protest march. Scan the headlines of major newspapers. Read the “crawl” lines below TV talking heads. The words “cops” and “hate” appear a lot. Listen to Beck, Coulter and the other professional political perverts dropping them into their verbal garbage.

Months ago, when all this street marching started, it had nothing to do with “cops.” It was an expression of outrage at a local Missouri system of justice that seemed blind to justice – a grand jury had been force fed deliberately misleading information by a prosecutor with his own agenda. A small town tragedy became a national disgrace when local authorities reacted badly and confronted legal demonstrators with a display of military force. The original message of distrust of a system turned to outrage at the city’s terrible judgement and irresponsible actions. But not cop hatred.

As the number of demonstrations increased across the country, the basic message was still the same: distrust of a system that didn’t provide equal treatment for all. Distrust of the system. Not cop hatred. Yes, there were agitators who took advantage of the situation to loot and steal. But the overwhelming numbers of demonstrators were orderly and, for the most part, responsive to local authorities. No cop hatred.

The second suspect? If I had to pick a moment in time when the “cop hatred” words entered the larger, national picture it would be about the moment a police union boss – running for his own re-election – charged the New York City Mayor with attacks on the city force. Charges even the police commissioner refuted.

While NYC politics have always been rough-and-tumble, this voice was unnecessarily shrill, incredibly ill-timed and stupid. As his caustic words tumbled out of HDTV’s across the country, those not accustomed to New York political “discourse” heard something new. Cops, we were told, were “pushing back” on a city official who had “betrayed” them. He hadn’t. But the latent anger of a few, who’re always there, was suddenly taken as the voice of the “majority” of the city’s 35,000 officers. It wasn’t. But it seemed so. And since then, too many NYC cops have been acting like spoiled children.

From that point – and reinforced many, many times since nationally – we’ve heard the words “cops” and “hatred” joined. The original – and seemingly justified – reasons for people in the streets disappeared from the story. Then, with the coincidental assassination of two NYC officers by a deranged loner, the “us-versus-them” embers blew up to become a full-scale distortion. A couple of other disconnected cop killings across the country got thrown into the mix, talk show haters grabbed hold, headlines turned to cop killings and the original messages which began in Ferguson, MO, all but disappeared.

The brutal fact is police officers have been getting killed in-the-line-of-duty since biblical times. It’s a risk that goes with the job. But so is this: most officers have served a full career to retirement without ever having fired their sidearm in anger. Good men. Good women. When faced with danger, they used their heads instead of their weapons. Not always possible but more often than not, it was. And it worked.

Nobody is well-served with all this “cop hatred” B.S.. It’s divisive, cruel, untrue and avoids the real issues of why people are in the streets. The NYC police union loudmouth getting too much attention is trying to feather his own re-election nest and is using a minority of badge-wearing miscreants to prop up his personal goal. Interesting that leaders of the other four NYC police unions are either keeping their silence or using much less inflammatory rhetoric.

Police professionals are not “citizen haters.” The vast majority of citizens are not “cop haters.” So why is something that doesn’t exist getting so much attention? And so many headlines?

We need to return national attention to the real criminal justice problems that brought people to the streets. We need to silence – or at least ignore – voices using division and hatred to draw us away from that original purpose. The national task at hand is not to listen to voices of hate trying to drum up ratings or advertising dollars. Or, trying to stay employed at any cost.

The honest national interest here is the singular pursuit of justice. For all. Yes, even for the haters.

A distraction of lies

Author: admin

Rudy Giuliani. When a “practicing” Catholic mayor of New York City, he moved his wife out of the official mayor’s residence so he could move his girlfriend in. Rudy Giuliani. Once a Democrat who couldn’t get elected to anything; now a Republican. Rudy Giuliani. Who, since his term of office expired in 2002, has consistently been rejected in runs for various offices and political appointments by his own “adopted” political party. Rudy Giuliani. A man with nothing of essence to say who won’t shut up!

His most recent worthless “contribution” to public discourse is as outrageous and irresponsible as it is flat wrong. His attempt to blame President Obama and hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators in our nation’s streets for promoting distrust and hatred of our civic police forces is contemptible. His pouring of verbal gasoline on deep societal divisions demanding long denied justice for millions of Americans belies his years as an effective federal prosecutor and further amplify that he’s a crank busybody with nothing to say worth public attention,

This ignorant empty suit is not alone in his effrontery to Americans legitimately in the streets to express their anger and frustration. New York Rep. Peter King demanded apologies from the President on down for fomenting police hatred and mistrust. Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Coulter and other usual suspects from the hate crowd piled on with equally as insulting and contemptuous vitriol.

A deranged, lifelong lawbreaker assassinated his girlfriend and two NYC officers before killing himself. Case open. Case closed. No responsible office holder and no justice-seeking crowd in the street in any American city contributed, sponsored or urged the killings. That the killer tried to justify his actions before they occurred by using social media to trumpet the names of Michael Brown and other blacks recently killed by police only confirms his estrangement from reality and the rest of us.

Giuliani, King and the shooter aside, this country has a long-simmering racial divide deeper and further across than the Grand Canyon. The only fact worse than its existence is the refusal of all of us to take it seriously enough to honestly examine and end it. All of us. If any good can come of the spate of recent killings of unarmed black men and children it would be to keep the subject of racial discrimination on the front burner and to deal with it in all of its many ugly facets until we get it behind us.

That won’t happen. Much as it’s needed to make this nation whole, that won’t happen. Giuliani, King, a New York City mad man and millions of unnamed Americans who believe such despicable trash won’t let it. At every turn, where progress can be realized, they’ll pop up and pop off for national media consumption. They’ll continue the outrageousness and lies that attract national recording and repetition – a minority refusing to affirm legitimate efforts by a majority who will work for justice. A justice we promise “for all” in our national Pledge of Allegiance.

Not since anti-war marches of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s have so many Americans taken to the streets in a national show of frustration, anger, demanding equal treatment under the law. This is not a cop-versus-citizen or cop-versus-politician outpouring any more than those earlier marches were meant to blame the military for following orders of a civilian hierarchy.

There were those who tried to make it so. A loud crazy minority then – as there is now – attempting to twist legitimate national outrage and pain into some sort of anti-American movement. Then it was the marchers “hated the military.” Now it’s marchers “hate cops.” Not true then. Not true now.

Lest we forget, recent injustices carried out against those dead black men and children don’t stop with officers and their guns. There’s a judicial system that needs re-examining. There’s a prosecutorial climate requiring a thorough review by the highest authorities. The errors of omission and co-mission run the gamut of the law enforcement world. From supreme court to traffic court. From city prosecutors to attorneys general. From national law enforcement to the local “cop shop.”

And one more thing. In each of those environs are good people – excellent, well-intentioned, honest and caring officers, prosecutors and judges. If there is to be real change in our relationships with each other – regardless of race or any other factor – those on the inside can be the most effective agents by confronting and disciplining their own ranks. Nothing would make a more meaningful statement of real progress than to have those sharing the police and peacekeeping load thinning out the racists, bigots and miscreants of all sorts that exist within their own peer groups.

The Giulianis, Kings and assorted deranged assassins on the street have always been with us. They’ll always be here to stand as the most vivid examples of arrogance, distrust, blatant hypocrisy, ignorance and cowardice. They’ll be here trying to redirect the honest energies of more learned voices who want justice and fairness.

If we’re to affect real national racial and economic change – achieve honest discourse – reach a point where justice is achieved – it’ll be because we who seek those ends are willing to work and, if necessary, sacrifice to achieve them. Along the way to those goals, we must not be distracted by the siren lies of the Rudy Giulianis and the Peter Kings. Their mindless drivel is fit only as grist for the sewer.

Hell in a handbasket

Author: admin

We “punditry” types rely on words to praise or condemn when dealing with political, economic or related issues. The words and opinions come easier than facts and, too often, we throw the nouns and adjectives out there and walk away with few facts to support the opining.

But statistics – especially those compiled by people with a dedication to neutrality and letting the numbers speak for themselves – have garnered my respect over the years. While I don’t really understand how they do what they do, I’ve learned to appreciate those who work with numbers. Especially when their findings tend to support what many of us have said for a long, long time. These do.

Idaho is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Those are just my words again. But they’re based squarely on the findings of the Idaho Center For Fiscal Policy. A “gang that can shoot straight.”

Rather than go into all the messy numbers, here are just the headlines from the Center’s latest report.

“Idaho collects less in taxes than all but two other states.”

“Support for Idaho’s schools has been steadily decreasing and is unequal across school districts.”

“Idaho’s support for higher education has dropped sharply, leading to big increases in tuition and fees.”

“Idaho has steadily cut revenues since the late 1990’s.”

“Idaho’s low and moderate income residents pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the highest earners”

“Idaho’s per capita income is lower than all but one state – Mississippi.”

Those are their clinical, statistical findings. And they form the factual basis for the words “Idaho: Hell in a handbasket”

To my mind, those six headlines tie together in an endless circle. You can enter the circle at any point and exit randomly. But the pattern of disintegration in Idaho’s economic conditions just goes on and on. Down and down.

Native young Idahoans now graduating from the state’s universities have lived in a political environment of one-party politics all their years. And that single political domination is a big reason for these disastrous findings – and headlines, the findings and headlines that show why their education cost them as much as it did. When it shouldn’t have.

It’s possible, had the party in power all those years been Democrats, conditions could have been the same. I doubt it but let’s say it’s possible. The issue isn’t so much that it’s Republicans who have their fingerprints over this economic disaster as it is more the absence of a competing political voice for so many years. There’s been no strong, effective dissent from bad taxing policies and other lousy, self-serving, basic economic decisions – those created and enacted by unchallenged people making bad decisions after bad decisions. The spiral has kept gaining in downward intensity.

In this case, solidly Republican. And, for the most part, solidly rural Republicans ignoring the shifts in people moving to the cities and the racial and age demographics that were left out of the basic calculations necessary for good public policy. For decades! Without meaningful opposition.

And one more important point. While urban residents far outnumber rural, dominant elected Republican party and, thus, legislative leadership comes from small counties with declining populations. In a one-party state, decision-makers don’t represent the majority of the population. Which affects how tax laws are written, exemptions granted and to whom.

The Idaho business sector could give lessons to the Koch brothers on how to dominate a state government and to make that domination so effective in serving its own interests. The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy doesn’t make that case in this report. But it has in others. The shifts of taxes from corporations to individuals and the outrageous exemptions given to large businesses and farmers have been going on for many, many years.

School districts – faced with increasing enrollment demands coupled with decreasing state support – have had to plead/beg with local constituencies to pass bond issues to keep the doors open. Not to update and do the best for children. No! Just to keep operating. As legislators went home – proudly boasting about the “tax cuts” they’d sponsored – taxpayers found themselves paying more because the “tax cuts” for business came at the expense of highways, water projects – and all of education.

It would be comforting if the Center’s report could be the basis for voter upheaval and give legislative and statewide offices a housecleaning. But that won’t happen. Those findings will wind up on another bookshelf to gather dust alongside others that found – in pure statistics – that Idaho is going to Hell.

Forget the handbasket.

Shut up and sit down

Author: admin

The Hell raising by most Republicans in Congress over publication of the Senate torture report is as off-base as it is loud. Not unexpected. Certainly true-to-form. And – as has so often been the case with them – dead wrong.

The outcry over the black and white evidence this $40 million report lays bare about the “official” actions the Bush administration conducted – then lied about – is baseless B.S.. Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Meyers, three of Meyers’ predecessors at CIA and the hundreds of Americans who conducted, who knew and who lied, over and over and over. Those should be your targets for condemnation.

The self-serving, political lying continues with hourly, ill-aimed blasts at the media and/or at Dianne Feinstein, Jay Rockefeller and all Senate Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. “Kill the damned messenger!!!”

What these liars, deniers and political justifiers ignore is fact. Had there been no torture – illegal, inhuman torture with this nation’s sponsorship – there would’ve been no report. Nothing to investigate. Nothing!

My strong personal “thank you’s” go out to each member of the Committee who voted to conduct the lengthy investigation, then publish the findings. Had the decision to put these grisly facts on the public record not been made by this week, the new Republican majority in the Senate would’ve buried it – every nationally embarrassing, humiliating, loathsome truth would have disappeared from any outside knowledge. Bet the farm!

In recent years, I’ve found it hard to say anything positive about the public utterances of John McCain – leading Senate militarist – who seems to have gone “round-the-bend” on many subjects. Following his usual urging, we’d be at war about everyplace in the world except maybe Kansas. But, this time, using his terrible life experience as the only member of Congress to undergo protracted torture at the hands of an enemy in wartime, McCain became an eloquent defender of both the public’s right to know and the facts that should be known. Alone in his party’s upper ranks, he stood on the floor of the Senate and soundly condemned those who tortured and those who covered it up. He was right!

Then, there’s the Bush-Cheney axis. The 500+ page executive summary seemed to say the President was not told what the CIA was doing. Maybe. Maybe not. But, you damned well can bet Cheney knew. And approved.

You see, there’s this tidbit – not part of the damning document. In the hours after release this week, CNN unearthed a piece of video from 2007 in which Bush-the-Junior said flat out “This nation does not torture anybody!” Direct quote. Yet the report says Bush was briefed on what the CIA was doing in 2005. Even gives the exact date. And by whom. Eighteen months before his televised press conference denial.

There’s an interesting Northwest side note. Faced with the possibility the report would not be published, Oregon’s Sen. Wyden loudly pledged to use every power available to him to get the document on the record. Then, when the document hit the table, Idaho’s Sen. Risch – himself an experienced attorney – twisted both fact and logic condemning all Senate Democrats – and their firstborns – for publishing. He publically screwed up in his own description of what’s in the report. My experience with him is that Jim’s often got a problem with candor. And truth.

Finally, the torture report makes a somewhat overlooked note about the Bush administration and who knew what. Seems, according to those who briefed the White House on what the CIA was doing all those years, one important official was left out. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He was named specifically as the one senior Cabinet member not told.

That fact needs more airing. If there’s anyone left in the Beltway media with any sense of curiosity and journalistic integrity, every attempt should be made to contact Powell and ask him two questions: was he told and, if the answer is what the report says, why does he think not? The Committee has documented a full 25% of all the countries in the world participated in our shameful torture program. So, why was the nation’s top diplomat – who was in continual communication with those nations – not told?

Given that fact – and additionally how badly Powell was used in the Iraq “chemical weapons” lie to the world – he might have some interesting insights to share. About both instances. He’s been speaking more candidly lately on lots of things. I’d like to hear his thought on this.

To those who became the messenger, providing the extensive and undeniable truth of our government’s cancer, we owe gratitude and deep appreciation for making us face the facts as they are – not as some sick political minds have covered up and lied to us about far too long.

To those who would kill that messenger – and, in doing so, continue the tragic betrayal we should’ve known long ago – shut up and sit down!

You too, Jimmy.

An old debate among journalists – and some who think they are – has begun again. Wherever some of the more serious media types are gathered in more social surroundings these days, the discussion can be heard.

“Must the media present all people or issues to its audience/readers if the media knows the person/issue is wrong or false?” Or words to that effect.

It’s not as goofy – or as arrogant – as it sounds. It’s an issue more common these days with political and philosophical divisions within media sources. It’s also more relevant because of the slide in national politics to the right.

We older media types tried to operate under a rule that, when talking strictly news events or stories, the interviewees words were the news and the media served only as messenger – not to judge or critique or interpret. Simply the conduit – unless you’re talking editorials, byline columns or opinion pieces. Let the subject/facts talk. That’s the news. You report the news.

As our nation has become more politically divided, so has the media. Rather than simply report, major networks have slowly integrated points of view – either by the reporter or anchor or in the way the story is presented.

By any traditional standard, Fox News is the worst offender. CNN does a bit of its own. And for those who constantly remind me that MSNBC is the liberal offset for Fox, remember this: MSNBC has never – never – referred to itself as a “news” organization. Fox does constantly. Even in it’s name.

Here’s an issue that fits the problem perfectly: global warming. By nearly all scientific evidence presented by legitimate research organizations, global warming is a fact. You can argue cause. You can argue effect. You can argue how much. But the basic fact is, global warming exists and its effects are too overwhelming for thinking minds to ignore.

Here’s another fact. The two committees in Congress charged with dealing with this subject – one in the House and one in the Senate – are chaired by two men who’re vocal, absolute denyers of the evidence. All of it. And it’s these two who have the absolute power to refuse to let either committee – and thus the full Congress – do anything in our national interest to deal with our warming world.

So, go back to the question stated before: “Must the media present people or issues to its audience/readers if the media knows the person/issue is wrong or false?” If Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) continues leading the denyers from his powerful pulpit, is the media acting properly by giving his distinctly minority voice a platform to proclaim his distinctly minority and distinctly untrue view? When poll after poll shows some 80% of us believe global warming not only exists but is a serious problem, is the media doing a service – or a disservice – by giving Sen. Inhofe a platform when he’s factually wrong? After all, it’s not the media’s job to go find someone to speak for the majority side of the global warming issue every time a minority denyer pops off just to keep things balanced. Should the media give him a platform?

Another example you see far too often. Say the vote on a particular bill in the U.S. Senate was 97-3. The media will always – always – identify the three but not the 97. Why? Why identify three loser votes when the overwhelming 97 “ayes” won? It’s not practical – in time or space – to name all 97 though they were, after all, the victors. Why name the three losers?

Until Ronald Reagan, broadcast media operated under the “Fairness Doctrine” which required – by law – fairness/access in reporting both sides. He threw that out the window so now Faux Neus – among others – can operate with impunity by selecting only the view it wants to. Other outlets do some of the same at times, but Faux is the habitual offender. Its very foundation is one of lopsided coverage and twisted “fact.” Ain’t it, Rupert?

Survey after survey has shown Faux Neus viewers are less informed, more poorly informed and more inaccurately informed. The only variance is by how much. There is ample empirical evidence Faux viewers score much lower when asked to compare what they’ve seen on Faux versus what the facts really are. But Faux Neus keeps cranking out the propaganda.

So, the question becomes what is the media’s responsibility when it knows the newsmaker’s position – or the media itself – disregards fact – ignores valid scientific evidence – and is contrary to overwhelming proof?

But suppose, on another issue, that minority expression is eventually proven the right one? Suppose the newsmaker in 2001 opposed our intervention in Iraq when that was a very minority view. At that time the minority was called “wrong” by the majority before the minority view of non-intervention became the majority opinion. What if the media ignored them then?

There’s no easy answer to this conundrum. Maybe no answer at all. We used to know when fact was fact. We did our best to operate within that parameter. But divisions of media to appeal only to those holding similar views has resulted in distorted “facts.” Slanted “facts.” Too often, phony “facts.” If you don’t believe that, spend a week reading or watching a source you don’t normally see or agree with. You’ll be surprised.

So, what’s your answer? What’s the obligation? What’s the media responsibility? The honest answers ain’t all that easy to come by.

Say it aint so, Bill

Author: admin

As we age, many situations and things that were “certainties” of yesteryear are the “uncertainties” of our later times. Early black and whites nearly always are seen through much older eyes in muted shades of gray. Rocks of principle and learned things are – in some cases – no longer firm and unyielding – often a bit skittish and harder to nail down.

Thus it is I’m faced with a story of our recent days – a story of possible multiple cases of sexual abuse and forced submission of women – in which I’m having a hard time applying a lifetime of certainties. And I am, in fact, dealing with five decades of empathy for the accused. Not the accusers.

The accused is Dr. William Henry Cosby Jr. He’s a dozen months younger than me so interest in his career has been a part of my own life 50 years or so. Because his is a type of humor that is a favorite, I’ve followed him from his earliest days in coffeehouses, college campuses and small clubs.

With no sincere apology to media kids who ignorantly label him a “comedian,” he’s not. Nor has he ever been. Cosby is – like Mark Twain or Mort Sahl or Mark Russell or Garrison Keillor – a humorist. He doesn’t tell jokes as comedians do. He’s made a highly successful career of just finding humor in the daily events we all live with. Humor we don’t see.

One of my favorites of this “humor where there is no humor” is a Cosby routine about going to the dentist. “You spend your whole life being told to keep sharp objects out of your mouth,” he says, “And the first thing this guy does is stick a pointy steel spike in there and starts poking things.” Humor where you don’t expect it.

Or, when arguing with a teenage child – definitely no humor there. Right? Except when Cosby says “I brought you into this world and I can take you out!” What exasperated parent wouldn’t chuckle? Finding simple humor.

But there’s nothing funny about Cosby’s life and career now. Now, he stands accused of rape and other sexual charges proffered by a growing list of women he’s alleged to have had contact with over the last 30 or so years. Cosby faces what likely will be career-ending accusations that could – if pursued – become criminal charges meaning jail for the rest of his life.

What the hell happened?

Cosby’s name has been linked to similar situations in the past. Once, he even reportedly paid a cash settlement to someone who had claimed sexual mistreatment at his hands. But now, the list of women coming forward to point to him for alleged past crimes grows weekly.

If you look at the totality of his life, Cos has been nothing if not a voice of reason and accomplishment in a world of racial discord. He developed a love of education and learning mid-life and even got a doctorate in elementary education from the University of Massachusetts.

He undertook hundreds of private efforts to improve classrooms and schools in the Black community. He donated millions and raised millions more to build schools. He criticized and often lectured Black men on their responsibilities to be part of their kid’s lives. He was vilified by some for using his wealth and fame gained in a largely white world for being critical and seemingly judgmental of those in the Black world. He kept it up.

He’s received hundreds of awards and been loudly acclaimed for doing what he’s done – for standing for the family issues he has – for using his own wealth and fame to help millions of others – for “walking the walk.”

But here we are. All he’s done and all he’s stood for could be reduced to ashes blowing in some wind. Good works and leadership in difficult roles mean nothing now. His huge contributions of humor and joy in people’s lives must be put aside. Whether these charges have merit and what to do about them are the only issues to be considered. Must be considered.

Media kids – still trying to learn how to use a toilet without getting their hands wet – are falsely “reporting” no other public performer has ever faced such charges. Of course, they don’t know who Fatty Arbuckle, Errol Flynn, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. were, either. Sexual accusations against public figures are nothing new.

But, for me, the Cosby story IS something new. The charges that keep mounting say there is some fire under the smoke here. The willingness of so many to put themselves and their families under public and official scrutiny do deserve our attention. Cosby’s refusal to confront any of the stories simply amplifies issues being brought up without rebuttal.

The “newness” is, deep inside, I continue to admire the performer I’ve known for 50 years. I continue to chuckle at issues of daily life only Cosby found and shared. Whether Fat Albert or the Huxtable clan or the solitary person in the spotlight in a 50,000 seat arena – Cos has been a favorite.

So now comes the issue. Now I – and millions of others like me – have to separate all of that from the real person that may well become a criminal defendant charged with crimes we all hate.

Damn it, Cos!! DAMN IT!!!

London who?

Author: admin

Here on the central Oregon coast, we seldom make headlines. Most of us like it that way. That’s one of the reasons we live here. Usually peaceful, quiet sort of place – except for tourist season. But, even then, people come and go and life still runs at an acceptably normal pace for most of us.

When we do make the national news, it’s almost always because something bad has happened. Something very abnormal – usually dealing with death and/or destruction. The news kids from Portland and Eugene run over to take notice, shoot some pictures and spread whatever the details may be of our latest anomaly. Like – well – like a mother leading her six-year-old boy by the hand out a quarter mile to the middle of a very high bridge, throwing him 133 feet to his death – then calling the cops. Things like that.

The 3,260 foot long Yaquina Bay Bridge at Newport is a major icon on the Oregon coast – one of 11 bridges designed in the 1930’s and ‘40’s by engineer Conde McCullough. All his work has a sort of art deco flavor with large curved arches at the center. Nearly all are on the National Historic Register and, when repairs have been required because of age and wear and tear, the structures have been faithfully kept true to the original designs. We who traverse them regularly don’t give them much thought. Not much, that is, until someone uses one as a murder weapon.

The self-confessed killer is Jillian McCabe. The victim was her autistic son, London. That evening, immediately after throwing London to his death, she called 9-1-1, confessed, then waited on the sidewalk of the center span we locals have traveled over so many times without thinking of it as a possible crime scene. She just waited as cops, EMT’s and onlookers arrived in ever-increasing numbers. In about two hours later, everyone was gone and Jillian McCabe was on a suicide watch in the Lincoln County jail.

Four hours later, some folks walking on a dock at an upscale condominium complex a couple of miles East of the bridge saw the small, broken body floating a few feet out.

About the only other factual details available at this point are these: Jillian’s husband had been recently diagnosed with MS and lost his job – London was autistic and required special expensive care he wouldn’t be able to get – his mother had no special employment skills and her family said she had mental problems for a long time.

So, now you know the facts. Such as they are.

Oh, one more thing. A couple of hundred adults and children – most of whom had heard of London McCabe – descended on Newport to hold a couple of vigils in his memory and to tell local media “we’ll never forget.”

The problem is, they will forget. In a way, they already have. They’ll go home, get involved with their normal lives and an Oregon mother’s murder of her child will soon be just another distant memory. If that.

Jillian McCabe will be arraigned eventually. She’ll be shuttled off to a state institution for mental evaluation – one that should’ve been done years ago when her family watched a person they knew had problems get married and have a child. Jillian will come back and, given the facts and that taxpayer-funded exam, be judged on her proven incompetence, be assigned to a state institution and become just another closed case in the files of the Lincoln County Prosecutor. In a year – maybe two – most of us will forget.

But there are others – many others who should remember. Others who include politicians who fail to adequately fund society’s responsibilities to care for those with mental defect or injury. Like the hundreds of thousands of young people sent off to war with no damned thought about their medical- AND psychiatric – needs after multiple trips to the battlefields. We paid to train ‘em and send ‘em out to kill. But we never thought about ‘em coming home with unseen mental injuries caused by the killing and now so many are killing themselves at home we don’t even report the statistics any more. There are Jillian McCabes in their numbers.

How about the millions of mentally disaffected now roaming our streets? We call them “homeless” as if they were out there as the result of financial problems instead of the basic need for mental and physical health care that should be afforded all who live in this country. What of our responsibility for them? Are there more Jillian McCabes we drive past on our streets?

When loving, caring people want to adopt a child in this county, we’ve put so damned many hoops and bear traps in our systems that many give up. But nearly anyone with diminished mental capacity can have kids by the litter – some of whom are guaranteed to require the kind of expensive care London McCabe couldn’t have. What about our responsibilities to them? To the unborn? What about the treatment and habilitation they need?

Mental illness treatment – whether inherited or conditioned by war or other mind-bending experiences – has never – never – had full support of society. We’ve banished millions to institutions. We’ve closed institutions when politicians needed to show the folks at home they could “reduce the size of government” or avoid a tax increase. The vastly overly esteemed Ronald Reagan did that in the ‘80’s – shuttering thousands of mental health facilities – saying churches and others “could pick up the slack. Oh, Hell yes!!! Can your church substitute for a mental health clinic?

We’ve underfunded and understaffed our public education system’s ability do deal with kids with mental problems because such care “ain’t readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic.” How many Jillian or London McCabes have flunked out or wound up in jails – or killed someone – because we couldn’t “see” their injuries – couldn’t “see” their hurt and their lifesaving needs?

Jillian McCabe will likely spend the rest of her life in one taxpayer-supported jail or hospital or other institution. If she lives to 80 or so, we’ll pay a million-dollars or more to see to her needs. What would it have cost society to guarantee she had the care she needed BEFORE had kids – BEFORE she led her son out on that Newport bridge to his death? How many thousands of dollars up front would have saved millions at the other end? And maybe London McCabe’s life? Just in this one case?

Yeah, there are folks now who believe they “won’t forget.” There are many who say they’ll never figure out how a mother could kill her own child. The little memorial sites will continue to collect stuffed animals and loving notes and candles in memory of London until a county employee eventually sweeps them all into a trash bag for the garbage heap. There won’t be anymore.

Remembering is one thing. Working for – and bringing about – change in how we treat mental illnesses is a whole different and much more difficult deal than just not forgetting some kid somewhere. There are a lot of Jillian and London McCabes in this world. And so far, we haven’t done a helluva lot for them.