Voter assisted suicide

Author: admin

When someone commits suicide, two things happen. Someone dies. Those left behind feel shock and grief. Would those same attributes apply if an entire county died by its own hand? We’re about to find out.

Voters in Oregon’s Curry County seem determined to end life on this planet and set sail for an unknown destination in the afterlife. Try as they might, political, civic and moral leaders in-residence seem powerless to stop the self-induced destruction.

Already faced with the most serious local governmental fiscal hole in the state – following defeat of half a dozen bond issues for this and that – voters have said a loud “NO” to the latest measure – a small tax increase dedicated only to keeping doors open at the county jail. Just for keeping the bad guys locked up.

Bad enough. But it gets worse. Curry has been privileged to have the services of Sheriff John Bishop for many years. As good a professional cop as you’ll find. He’s tried and tried to make his case with voters that his lockup is out of compliance with nearly all legal – if not humane – requirements for keeping prisoners. He’s stacked up enough reasons for a better jail so effectively even voters in neighboring counties have been swayed.

He’s pleaded. He’s begged. He nearly single-handedly forced the latest bond issue before voters. All his labors have ended up in the trash. The latest – a rejection of something so basic to public safety it should be automatic. But it wasn’t even close.

Now, he’s leaving the job. The sheriff’s doctors have told him he’s got to get out from under the load of stress he’s carried for so long or he’ll die years before his time. He’s taken a new job in Salem. But that’s not all. His wife – who’s in charge of county corrections – is leaving, too. They’re both worn out. He and his corrections director wife will be gone before the end of the year.

The newly appointed sheriff – a younger veteran of the department – says the latest voter “shot-to-the-head” leaves him with one choice. He can lock up only the “really, really bad guys” and keep jail doors open ‘til January. Or he can keep taking those arrested and those sentenced by the courts and run out of money in a few weeks. Your call.

Curry County has been on this self-destructive path for several years. All the usual government services – including those required by law – have been cut, cut and cut again. Good people – people you’d want running things anywhere – have bailed out. Staffing in all departments – ALL – is less than minimal. Even 9-1-1 calls are screened for seriousness before anyone responds. And sometimes – they don’t. Bad guys – sometimes really bad guys – have been cycled from arrest to jail to court and back to the street for months.

Oregon has a new law allowing a county to declare bankruptcy and turn to the state for a bailout. A lot of voters in Curry seem to be counting on that. Counting, too, on getting out from under the current – and very deep – debt. They’re about to get a very large surprise.

While the state will be forced to step in, that new law also allows those who take over to make some major decisions. What services will be provided. What won’t. What those services will cost. And who’ll pay the bill. In fact, the state can lay on new “taxes” for certain things. Costs likely to be significantly higher than that old jail bond issue that was junked. The new, temporary help from the State of Oregon will come with a price tag. And with the authority to force payment.

Curry has only five “cities” with some 25,000 souls. More than three-quarters of ‘em live in Brookings, Harbor and Gold Beach – a stretch of Highway 101 of about 24 miles. A small county, yes. But it has a large land area and requires all the services of any other county. Given a long Pacific coastline and weather that wreaks havoc on roads and other public facilities, it also has some serious operating costs. Some of the required maintenance hasn’t been done in a long, long time because of the continued bond issue and county budget rejections. There’s a lot of deferred problems that need prompt attention before the entire infrastructure falls apart.

Curry County’s been “dying-by-a-thousand-cuts.” We lived there. We left. We found an attitude of false self-sufficiency among many people there. Curry may have the largest percentage of over-60 voters in the state. Maybe even over 70. Lots of retired folk. Lots of former government workers. Lots of former military. Fixed income folks.

But there’s something else. The largest population base is the unincorporated community of Harbor across the Chetco River from Brookings. Folks in Harbor have repeatedly refused to incorporate – preferring to leech the “free” services and shopping of the City of Brookings rather than carry their own costs. It’s been ever thus.

That may have to change if the county goes under. State of Oregon administrators charged with reviving the victim may have something to say about this longtime financial abuse of citizenship. Infrastructure costs disproportionally levied on some residents more than others may need to be readjusted some way. Freeloading may have to be ended.

If politics is your bent, watching developments in Curry County, Oregon, may be worth your while for a few months. Several other counties are in precarious financial conditions, too. But Curry seems closer to the edge of the cliff than any of them. Whether Curry jumps or is pushed off that cliff is the question. It got into this suicidal position at the hands of voters. This last “no” vote may have been the killer.

The good times rolled

Author: admin

Summer is over on Oregon’s central coast. No big news for you, maybe. But very big news for those of us beach side. And good news it is. Very good! Stores, restaurants, bars, campgrounds and all the usual places tourists spend their dollars are saying this has been the best – very best – year ever. Not just since the recession. Ever!

Even the real estate market, which went in the tank in 2007, has come back in a big way. Average sales prices in the $270,000 bracket a year ago hit an average of $340,000 in August. The number of sales has been pretty consistent for the last few months at 70 or so in our county. But prices have been going back to pre-recession levels. Best residential buys around now are condos and townhouses. Time shares are also firming up.

But – part of the reason for these record-setting numbers is likely to present a big future downside, we’re told. The weather. The summer months have been absolutely beautiful. But, it seems, too much so. Traditional rainy periods that occasionally drive sunbathing tourists back to the motels temporarily have been few. Less than two inches in August. About the same in July.

Biologists are saying coastal rivers aren’t running high enough for returning salmon to get all the way back to their spawning grounds. The absence of the usual amount of rainfall is also likely to affect lobster and crab futures because shallower waters near the coastline are warmer than usual. Not enough cold inflow from rivers.

So, it may be a “win-some, lose-some” situation. But it really has been just beautiful!

This was our first full summer during “the season.” We’d been warned the influx of all the touristas would have a daily affect on our lives. Lines at the good restaurants. Crowds in the stores. Lots of waiting when shopping. And traffic. Lots and lots of traffic in our little single highway towns. We’d have to learn the “back routes” to get from one end of the community to another.

It wasn’t really so bad. Except for the “left-turners.” Damn, how they screw up traffic. Rather than making three right turns to go around the block and head safely straight ahead to the beach, they just stop and hit the left blinker. And they stay stopped for one or more complete cycles of lights while traffic piles up behind.

In summer months, traffic moves north and south through little towns like ours in an almost unending stream. No problem as long as the movement continues. You deal with it. Except for those damned “lefties.” But when we locals complain, someone downtown who relies on the transitory dollars screams banning turns would cost them their livelihood. Sounds like B.S. to me but they win. Every time.

Speaking of traffic, during the season, it seems the most out-of-state plates we see are on vehicles from Washington, California, British Columbia and Idaho. In that order. All, of course, want to get close to the Pacific. And Oregon is where they chose to do so.

I think the reason for that lineup is this: Oregon is the only West coast state with an “open” beach law. That means no individual or corporation can buy up a chunk of coastline and keep the public out. Gov. Tom McCall – bless his craggy, departed heart – fought for eight years to get the “open” beach law on the books. And court decision after court decision has kept it there. It’s been challenged by Hilton, Marriott, and about every millionaire seeking an Oregon compound with a private ocean. None of ‘em has won.

But Washington, California and B.C.? Unless you can go through a state, county or local park, an Indian reservation – or a hotel lobby – the wall between public access and private property in those places is high and impenetrable. Just try to get to a public piece of the Pacific around Monterey that doesn’t fall into private ownership. Lotsa luck.

People come to the Oregon coast because they can get to the ocean. And the local people who count on those other people to come should say a little prayer of “thank you” to Ol’ Tom every night at bedtime. His legacy is one of unrestrained access to wet bare feet, happy but worn out dogs and sand in your car.

As for that high number of Idaho visitors? Well, guaranteed public access to the nearest ocean plus getting out of the continuing right wing political inquisition to see how the real world lives and see how very well things run in a real two-party state – the attractions are obvious.

ISIS and the talkers

Author: admin

One of my secret character flaws is occasionally getting a deep and continuous chuckle out of someone’s political discomfort. Oh, not real people. I mean the hate-mongers and loonies on the far right. Or left.

Such is the case these days noting the very untypical near-silence and even greater-than-usual oral confusion of Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, Hannity and their fellow travelers. They’re absolutely flummoxed and having a most difficult time trying to attack the President. The source of their confusion seems to be – ISIS. Anything to do with ISIS.

They want to heap scorn, criticism and verbal garbage on those in the White House. As is their usual bent. They want to loudly claim the administration is charging off in the wrong direction. But none of them – not one – has landed a blow. They’re as totally tongue-tied as the rest of us when it comes to trying to figure out what to do with this latest, most murderous turn in our world.

Oh, they blather and posture and exhibit the same kind of flatulence we’ve come to expect. But they’re even further off-target with their specious rambling than usual.

Same on the far left. None of the usual suspects over there has managed much more than a whimper about “homicidal psychopaths.” The videos of beheadings and executions have taken this latest outrage against the civilized world to such extremes that even the most accommodating ultra-liberal can’t muster much more than a “tsk tsk.”

This absence of informed criticism and our so far restrained response to ISIS seems to me three-fold. One – the extreme cruelty and seeming lack of any sort of conscience in these murderers is so stunning and such an affront to an otherwise civilized world that it knocks the mental wind out of us. They commit the sorts of acts we’ve learned of in ancient history classes. It’s the stuff of video games and violent movies. Not real life. We just can’t get our heads around it.

A second reason, I believe, for our failure at the moment to have a national response – other than extreme revulsion – is how to respond. What can you do? What actions can you take? When such a merciless adversary is inviting you onto the battlefield in hopes of killing more of our youth in frenzied battle, do you take the bloody challenge and show up? Or, do you gather your best advisors and try to create a civilized – and more traditional – reaction?

The fact is ISIS presents such an unorthodox and merciless enemy that even the military is somewhat stunned. They aren’t teaching “ISIS-101″ at West Point or Annapolis. Our cadets and midshipmen aren’t learning how to deal with beheadings, mass executions and slaughter of any and all people ISIS hates. Which seems to be all the rest of us.

This is an enemy you can’t bomb into submission. Napalm will take out a few. But – like cockroaches in a cheap hotel – more will crawl out of the nearest hole and the murder will continue. You can’t use tanks or traditional battlefield tactics and weaponry because there is no battlefield. Unless you count some city street, the next block down or a supermarket in an unnamed world city.

Third, whatever major national action there is behind-the-scenes is being handicapped by the public reluctance of Arab states to take up the fight. And ISIS is their fight. No one should doubt the American military and diplomatic activity that is – so far- hidden from public view. The major U.S. agencies directly responsible for coming up with a planned response are working 24/7. Count on it! But without large and total commitments from Arab nations that are or will be facing ISIS eventually, any response from this country will not eliminate the problem. It’ll just ease our national conscience that we killed a few of ‘em. Nothing more.

It’s interesting our impotent Congress is largely staying on the sidelines for this one. The same Congress that’s suing the President for “exceeding his authority” is now perfectly at ease to let him make all the decisions this time. All, that is, but McCain and Graham. Ol’ John and his sock puppet have been blasting away like a couple of drunk squirrel hunters.

Graham, especially, has taken the ignorant rhetoric further into the twilight zone this time with his “they’re-coming-to-this-country-to-kill-us” claim – stopping just short of demanding we arm boy scouts. ISIS is not a laughing matter. Graham is.

No, ISIS is most serious. You can bet no one responsible for dealing with the problem is laughing. There WILL be a response. This is as serious a situation as this nation has faced. We will respond.

Still, I have to chuckle a bit in all this as Limbaugh et al – usually claiming to have all the answers – have none this time. Their traditional foul attacks on various targets of opportunity that can’t fight back don’t work on this one. Their continual demeaning blather we’ve become accustomed to is just so much more sewage under the bridge.

You want to feel safer? Turn ‘em off!

End of the food chain

Author: admin

Collectively, Barb and I’ve lived in many different environments across our very large country. New York City (9 million folks) to Middleton, Idaho, when it was about 1,200. Always new experiences. But we’ve never lived in a more remote, end-of-the-food-chain location than the Oregon coast.

Lots of people want to live by the sea. Even many who’ve never seen more water in one place than a swimming pool. The idea’s been so romanticized – and commercialized – that many folks spend lots of time poring over computer-enhanced pictures of coastlines, ships, lighthouses and empty oceanscapes. Being an old Oregonian, I’ve fantasized about it for years. So, when the wife decided that’s where we ought to be, I was O.K. with it.

And here we are.

To make my point of being unaware of life’s little things we take for granted, here’s something you might not know. Every President of the United States during my lifetime has made the same personal admission after being in that office a few months. Different words, maybe, but same thought. Long-term politician or newbies in national politics, all of them – all – have admitted they never really knew the full scope of the job. Even Bush-the-elder – with decades of elective and appointive experience – said the day-to-day experience of being President was something he was not totally prepared for.

Well, my friends, so is the awakening to the realities of living on the Oregon coast. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. Most of the time. We like it. We’re adjusting. But, like Bush-the-first, the realities are not something we were entirely prepared for.

In the month of May, I wanted a new long-sleeved shirt for some reason. There was one “department” store in our area – the only one within 50 miles. I looked and looked but could find only short-sleeved. When I asked the clerk where the long-sleeved ones were, she said “We only stock them September through April.” I made do. We’ve learned to “make do” a lot.

There’s one store in our town that sells TVs. Just one. I was in the other day and counted six. Not six of one size. Six in ALL sizes.

There are three new car dealers 30 miles from where we live. All in the same town. I recently had the need for someone to apply some striping and decals to our new RV. At all three dealers I was told, “Well, there’s this one guy we use. But he’s going through a messy divorce right now and doesn’t want to be bothered.” The decals are still in the shipping box. And will likely stay there until that one guy gets his life reorganized.

Speaking of RVs – if you go 60 miles North of us – and 60 miles South – you’ll find one guy who works on ‘em. One. There used to be two but one died. Given the large numbers of RV’s that ply Highway 101 all year – plus the hundreds of full-timers living in those 120 miles – waiting for help with a bum refrigerator in summer or a busted furnace in winter can be heartrending experiences.

There are a lot of things you can’t run out and buy here. So you make lists of things people inland take for granted. Then, every few weeks, Barb and several friends make the trip to “the city” for supplies. We call it “the Costco run” no matter how many stops they have to make. They fill up someone’s large SUV with all the “necessaries,” then hit a few latte and quilt shops to make an occasion out of it.

We ordered satellite TV service. Oh, they’d sign us up right now and charge the old credit card on-the-spot. But we’d have to wait three weeks for the installer to drive the 100 miles between us and him. Nobody closer.

Given the age of utilities on the coast, you get used to power outages, sewer line ruptures and water line failures. Not just from old age but those storms that we’re famous for. You get used to waiting to flush. Or do it less.

Which reminds me. When we get one of those big Nor’wester’s in our forecast, there’s always the NOAA warning to avoid travel, stock up, stay inside and hunker down. After the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you wanna guess when we see the second highest tourist traffic? Right! Lines at motels with ocean views and low-lying campgrounds. And people parked at the beaches. The first row of seats for the tsunami.

“Blow, damn it, BLOW!!!”

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all “life on the frontier.” We’ve got the necessities. If your list of necessities is kinda short. And when the days are sunny and the Pacific is blue and smooth, watching the whales spouting and enjoying the breezes can make a lot of the inconveniences seem small.

Besides, we’ve got a good selection of really great restaurants and dozens and dozens of coastal craft breweries and wineries. How the Hell do you think we locals get through all those storms?

Life is good!

Facts not fashion

Author: admin

Story placement is always a bugaboo for print journalists. Sometimes the rule is the most important story of the day goes at the top. Other times, the editor reaches for one that will “grab” readers because it’s cute or funny or sensational. But my latest experience in lousy headline juxtaposition came the other day with these two. Side by side. Both treated equally.

“HENRY KISSINGER: WORLD ORDER IS CRUMBLING.”

“FASHION EXPERTS REVIEW PRESIDENT’S TAN SUIT”

Now I suppose the value – importance, if you will – found in those two items depends on how you look at world events. Personally, I find stories of cataclysms and threats to our worldly existence a tad more of interest than the color of Mr. Obama’s sartorial selection of the day. Apparently not so for the editors of The Huffington Post and nearly all other national media.

I checked seven national news sites after finding the breathless reviewers comments about that suit. All had similar stories: one had three! Only two mentioned “Doctor K’s” rather mind-numbing remarks.

Henry always has had a flair for being quotable if not just a bit over-the-top. In this instance, it’s hard not to agree with him. Look at a Congress where order has already crumbled into chaos and stupefying inaction. Check out Vladimir Putin’s barefaced international lies denying invasion of another country while his military does just that. At the moment, the civilized world is absolutely flummoxed about the merciless killing machine known as ISIS or ISIL and what to do about the mindless slaughter being perpetrated on thousands and thousands of innocent people.

If these world order-defying items don’t hit home, there’s always the climate change that’s redesigning and eliminating parts of the earth as we stand flatfooted and take no meaningful steps to reverse it. Or, the many longstanding racial injustices leaving young, dead bodies on the streets and thousands of innocent people in jail.

There’s the outright racial hatred of our duly elected President and the piling on of blame for anything and everything never exhibited with any other President in our nation’s history. Add some of the most ignorant and dangerous people elected to public office with no thought of the responsibilities they’ve sworn to undertake. They make a mockery of the very Constitution a lot of ‘em have never read but use repeatedly as a verbal dressing gown.

“Doctor K” was also referring to the widening disparity of economic well-being in this and other countries. Disparity brought about by self-indulgent thieves with billions of dollars at their disposal to buy whatever elected officeholder is necessary at the moment to gather more power and privilege. You can add to that category the sell-outs in public office who feel their own employment – and their own bank accounts – are more important than the honest conduct of the business they were elected to perform.

Kissinger’s discussion of national and world conditions was predicated on these and any other factors – breakdowns in political and economic orders – mayhem and lawlessness – elected impotence in this and other countries – wrongs against civilized nations going unpunished and a lot more. I read the details of his interview more than once. And – in the main – agree.

In his prime, Kissinger could have been lumped in with some of those irresponsible politicians. As it did with his bosses, Viet Nam spilled blood on his resume and made him a liar many times. He had many moments in his storied career he’d like to forget. Historians will not let that happen.

But, he also had moments of leadership and brilliant decision-making to handle many tough situations. Despite some flaws in the performance of his public duties, he was right a lot more than he was wrong. He’s right in his most recent public utterances. His words deserve a much larger audience.

In nearly universal fashion, the media – all media – is failing its most important reason for being – informing. Telling us what we NEED to know rather than what it thinks we WANT to know. The ratings-watching bean counters who worry more about return-on-investment or the economic interests of some vague group of stockholders are leading this decay in the traditional role of media information necessary in our society. They’re being ably assisted by too many media people more attuned to trivia than history – gossip than reality – too many unable to distinguish the important.

And that tan suit? I don’t give a damn if a president wears jeans, a t-shirt and is barefoot. What he says – how he says it – what it means. Those should be the criteria reported.

And speaking of clothing and fashion – check out the media next time you see some of those folks at one of your local news events. A tan suit would be more welcome.

One of the fastest places in the world to quickly learn new life skills is in the middle of a large street demonstration or riot. Pure fact from someone who’s “been there, done that.” Watching the news out of Ferguson, Missouri, brings it all back.

It’s also recreated that eerie feeling of being lost in the crowd – finding yourself unable to control your own direction of motion – scared – trying to get your bearings. And the smells. Lots and lots of unforgettable smells.

There are really just two kinds of street demonstrations – focused, calm, centered, deliberate. Peaceful. Several of those I experienced as a reporter at anti-war gatherings of several hundred thousand in Washington D.C., in the late ‘60’s – early ‘70’s. Except for twice being ridden to the ground by mounted National Park Service cops, those gatherings fit that description.

The other type was brought sharply watching events in Ferguson. Crowded – scared – charging cops – tear gas – arrests – walking wounded – strangers trying to help strangers. I got into several of those, especially around the DuPont Circle area of D.C.. As in Ferguson, cops could get aggressive and out-of-hand.

All those years ago, Media people in D.C. were issued I.D. badges to be worn on a chain around the neck – about the size of a postcard, orange and black with our pictures in the middle. Supposed to keep us safe and free from arrest as opposed to media experiences in Ferguson – where they also have “credentials.” Except they were actually used by cops to target the media with tear gas canisters and to get you arrested, hauled off to busses and taken to RFK Stadium for processing. At that time – and maybe even now – wearing your name tag simply meant this was your first street riot. We been-there-before guys kept them in our pockets.

One of the best descriptions of feelings in a riot situation with thousands of people, tear gas, cops, police dogs and panic is “alone in a crowd.” From the second it starts, people have a cattle-like urge to run some direction. If you came with a friend, most likely you are quickly separated. You find yourself breathing gas, feeling your skin burn, choking, eyes running and that terrible taste in your mouth before you can cover your face. You are instantly disoriented. One experience like that will NOT be forgotten. Nor the sights and sound. And that smell.

I’m sure many of the unarmed demonstrators in Ferguson would attest to these descriptions. The intervening 44 years or so between my experiences and theirs haven’t brought much change. People – mostly honest folk feeling deeply about a grievance – still take to the streets. The herd-like stampede can still start at any second for any reason. Cops are still armed – though better now and able to wound or kill more people more quickly. No amount of intervening time has made the affects of tear gas any less painful.

My generation grew up with strong parental admonitions to “respect police” and even help them when we could. I believed that and tried to teach my own offspring the same. As a young reporter, I spent a lot of time on the “cop beat,” riding with ‘em at all hours. I saw a lot of things they were confronted with that most folks don’t hear about. I witnessed lightning-quick decisions – nearly all right decisions. I knew a lot of good cops. And a few – very few – not good.

Despite that exposure and years of respect for law enforcement, I’ve never seen such an out-of-control, heavily armed and dangerous situation as we’ve seen in Ferguson. Not just once or twice. But most nights. There can’t be any well-trained supervisory structure or it wouldn’t be repeated so damned many times. Capt. Johnson of the Missouri State Police seems to be a helluva spokesman. But even his people seem overly aggressive and quick to strike out. And the presence of the equally well-armed national guard is completely unjustified. Very bad decision.

I know there are provocateurs in the crowds. Sustained demonstrations anywhere always draw the bastards out. But after a confrontation or two, they can be identified and arrested. Maybe more plainclothes cops are needed in the crowd to find ‘em and weed ‘em out. There’s no damned reason for the night-after-night violent police reaction we’ve witnessed to legitimate crowds of earnest and peaceful folks gathered in the streets. Boot the troublemakers. Jail ‘em.

I tell of these demonstration experiences and of the uncalled for response by poorly trained law enforcement for one reason. To describe why – after the first confrontation – I believe things have gone so badly. No matter how innocent the demonstrator – no matter how willing to be directed by responsible authority – no matter how legitimate the initial grievance – once faced with heavily armed and irresponsibly aggressive cops using tear gas and abusing their authority, after the first night the protest swings from the original reason for the demonstration and becomes an us-versus-them situation for most participants from then on. Almost impossible to control.

Every night since the first one, that’s what we’ve seen on the streets of Ferguson. No longer outrage over the killing of one black teen for many. No longer the emotions such a violent act would have on citizens. After the first night, its been us-versus-them. More a protest of the heavy-handed authority and badly mishandled response. Rocks, bottles and bricks don’t come from a peaceful assembly of honestly aggrieved people supporting their own impassioned feelings.

I’ve got two scars – some 44 years old – reminding me of all that every day.

And it was so

Author: admin

Live long enough and that old saw “all things old are new again” will have more meaning. The six communities of Idaho’s Ada County may be about to step into a time warp and make the “old new again.” It appears political bubbling and boiling just beneath the surface could soon break out with a decision – likely in court – to return control of county roads to cities. For many of the same reasons the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) was created in the first place 40+ years ago. How’s that for irony?

In the ‘70’s, the hot topic was how those six local governments could save taxpayers so much money on road and highway care if they threw all their various road departments into a central unified “highway district.” After all, six highway departments were just “creating lots of duplication.” Just made all the sense in the world!

And it was so.

But, shortly after creation, you could hear whispers of discontent. “We’ve lost control of our streets.” “Our taxes are subsidizing all the others.” “Another level of government we just don’t need.” “Boise’s going to get more money than us.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

And it was so.

I don’t recall a year from creation of ACHD to now that there hasn’t been bitching about something. Though directors of ACHD are elected from districts more or less representative of all six communities – plus the rural areas – there have always been battles about distribution of dollars, cars versus bikes, mass transit versus more roads, who gets what, where the new roads will go, snow removal, where maintenance should be done and how much. And on and on and on. Long ago, ACHD should have hired Ann Landers or “Dear Abby” to keep peace in its multi-governmental “family.”

Case in point. Boise recently installed some new computerized parking meters around town. If a car left a spot with time remaining on the meters, these electronic bandits would “zero out” so the new occupant couldn’t get a break. After an expensive installation, ACHD said Boise didn’t own the parking spaces, had not applied for “permission” and should take ‘em out. Post haste!

And it was so.

With a whole new round of bitching.

Now, with issues of bike lanes, parking, mass transit – what kind and where – whether Boise should build a downtown transit system and an accompanying terminal of some size – all these have candidates and local governments in a war of words. Boise law firms must be salivating on the sidelines as the cities and ACHD edge ever closer to the courtroom.

The old arguments of “cost savings” and “avoiding duplication” are still at play. What’s added now is the fact that Ada County’s two largest communities – Boise and Meridian – have physically grown so close together through urban sprawl that issues of mass transit and local freeways are more important than ever according to new traffic counts. The other locales – Eagle, Kuna, Star and Garden City – are fearing they’re going to be left out because those issues aren’t their issues.

The most contentious subjects in the current ACHD director’s election are mass transit and bike lanes. There are strong supporters. There are strong opponents. Both camps vocal. Both camps firmly planted. Middle ground seems impossible to find. So, the elections have taken on a new and higher level of importance. The winners will have made some pretty solid promises to go one way or the other.

That means the issue of whether the combined district should continue, or be returned to the six communities because of their different needs, is likely to be the central question to be solved before movement on future transportation plans. Which could mean idle hands at ACHD until some answers are found and a direction determined.

Some 40 years ago, ACHD was born out of a desire for everyone to work together and realize better economics. Cooperation and better use of tax dollars. Motherhood and apple pie. Now, a lot of voices are saying there would be more cooperation if each city was allowed to determine local needs and taxes would be saved if not all of them were required to contribute to transportation needs that didn’t affect them. More motherhood. More pie.

“All things old are new again.”

And it was so.

About 25 years ago, I loudly and publicly complained about one of the many policies our government was engaged in at the time that had roused my ire. As I recall, the words were proper, the thoughts well-organized – as usual, of course – and the anger was not hidden amongst flowery phrases. In typical government reaction, my well-delivered suggestions for immediate change were ignored.

All these years later, my angst regarding the issue has doubled. And doubled again. But government persists. And the bad policy continues to exist – redoubling again a few times itself. The issue: equipping and training community law enforcement to be hometown armies rather than agencies to “ protect and serve” as is written on the doors of so many local police cars.

The black anger in the streets of Florence, Missouri, these days is exactly what I was talking about two decades ago. These unarmed, frustrated, socially-suppressed and mad people are in those streets of their own neighborhoods – often their own yards – being faced by officers in camouflage combat fatigues, snipers in the open on top of armored trucks, nearly all cops wearing gas masks and carrying many, many automatic weapons. Anyone speaking “protect and serve” speaks pure B.S..

All of this was brought sharply together in my livingroom a night or two ago when one of the TV networks was using some stock video footage as the faceless voice was talking about much the same issue – inappropriate police dress, tactics and weaponry. What connected it all was one of the scenes shot in a Caldwell, Idaho, neighborhood some months back, showing police in the same type of combat dress and carrying the same types of weaponry. And they were prominently accompanied by an MRAP! An MRAP parked on someone’s subdivision lawn!

An MRAP is a terrifically heavy behemoth, designed to ward off bullets of nearly any size as well as land mines and rocket fire. While these armed monsters of steel have undoubtably saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they seem terribly out of place in a community of 25,000 or so near the Snake River in Idaho. Like machines from science fiction movies.

This “uparming” of local law enforcement began under President Bush-the-Elder and has continued under Clinton, Bush-the-Junior and Obama. It started after we “freed” Kuwait from Saddam. All that hardly-used military hardware was just going to be scrapped. Until some in-over-his-head political appointee decided America’s local law enforcement agencies would pay 10-cents-on-the-dollar for it. And pay they have.

Since our beginnings as a nation, we’ve successfully carved out roles for our national defense – our military. Planes, tanks, drones, rockets of all sizes and all sorts of specialized vehicles. To take on any foreign adversary. We can kill and maim as well as any nation and better than most. “Hooray,” sez I. And we’ve got a well-trained – but badly misused – national guard in all states. Aside from being sent off to foreign battles over and over and over again, beyond most humans abilities, guard units have valuable, more localized peacekeeping roles. Read the rest of this entry »

Punishment is overdue

Author: admin

The most fundamental structures of our country are being challenged. Put another way – even more basic – America is under attack. No airplanes. No bombs dropped. No anti-aircraft batteries. No tanks or missiles. Not even an invasion of our shoreline. But the attacks are real. Numerous. Sustained. Sometimes orchestrated. And worst of all – from within.

I’ve not just left the most recent mindless histrionics of the John Birch Society. Nor am I a Limbaugh or Beck adherent. And I still believe Michelle Malkin is the most ignorant voice ever to foul national airwaves. But there are things afoot challenging our way of life – deliberate lawbreaking activities of too many citizens and even some we’ve elected to public office. In both political parties – right and left.

Worse than all that – nearly all of these assaults are – so far – going seemingly unchallenged by legal authority. And – at times – some of them are being committed by the legal authorities we rely upon.

Here are some examples:

## The governors of Idaho and eight other states formally told the U.S. Justice Department they wont enforce certain mandatory federal requirements regarding their legal responsibilities for protecting the safety of inmates in their various penitentiaries. Won’t do it.

## More than 100 people with ATV’s invaded archeological sites in Utah where such vehicle use is prohibited by law. They spent much of one day posing for various media by trafficking through the “off limits” areas with their children – and guns – riding along.

## Some 200 sheriffs have told federal authorities they’ll not enforce laws dealing with guns which THEY deem “unconstitutional.” Further, they’ve served notice they’ll stop and/or arrest any federal officer trying to do so.

## Several dozen “citizens” deliberately carried exposed weapons to an anti-gun law demonstration in Washington D.C. where the law expressly forbids such displays.

## A Nevada rancher is in arrears over $1 million to the feds. He not only refuses to honor a contract of longstanding with the government but has also used his unearned notoriety to gather other lawbreakers to break other federal and state laws on his behalf.

## The armed and unlawful assembly at Bunkerville has continued unabated with citizen guns turned on government employees doing their court-ordered duties. They’ve been impeding traffic on federal and state highways for nearly two months and trespassing on the private properties of locals. Several months now. Unimpeded.

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center sums up these and many more recent examples of in-your-face actions by people hellbent on condemning anything governmental. Called “War on the West” it delves deeply into the Bundy mess.

Center Director Mark Potok cites these and other examples as warnings of things to come if the feds don’t gain an understanding that this is the volatile nature of what’s happening. The Bundy lawbreaking “was not an organic plot. It was a coordinated effort to bring the threat of violence to the federal government.”

SPLC cites many examples of hundreds of militia types, conspiracy theorists and other angry extremists who quickly responded to Bundy’s call for a range war. So far – without consequence.

I’ve heard a number of honestly-offered arguments about why there’s been no ”push back.” I’ve heard ‘em and I reject ‘em. Even the ones contending there would have been gunfire and casualties at Bunkerville. Which likely would’ve been the case. And may yet be. But that’s what can happen when people take up arms against their government. Those doing so need to learn that hard truth when they do it. Not just get a lecture and a ticket.

But – we’re now several months past the first day of that standoff and dozens of people on-site continue committing illegal acts – including harassing locals who’ve done nothing and who want to be left alone. The feds – and the local sheriff – have turned deaf ears to the local member of congress who’s asked repeatedly for action to disperse the armed violators of others civil rights.

Those who rode roughshod over the fragile federal lands in Utah have suffered no response from law enforcement. The disparate pack of armed lawbreakers in that D.C. federal park broke several laws with seeming impunity. Sheriffs who’ve openly made themselves arbiters of the law rather than enforcers of the law have not been rebuked by those in positions of authority to do so.

Taken individually, much of this can be looked at as not terribly significant. But – taken in sum – it is. Because these are only a few of the in-your-face illegal acts of armed lawbreakers. They continue unchallenged – as do other legal “authorities” – flaunting laws and acting out imagined grievances against their own government. They – and too many others like them – are violating rules of law which are the foundation for our liberties.

At some point, we – all of us – must demand action. Those who administer our laws are accountable to the rest of us who live by them. Nothing will erode a society faster than allowing deliberate law breaking to continue with no accountability for illegal and often dangerous acts. The “envelope” will continue to be pushed. And it WILL break.

Until legitimate authority draws a line and says “no more,” these people will continue to act out. If the innocent majority is not protected by the laws we live with – if armed lawbreakers can continue to intimidate a legitimate government – if taking up arms against lawful authority isn’t stopped and punished – if all of this is allowed to continue without response – what will happen to our society and our national way of life?

Lincoln warned us about these types of activities when saying he feared no takeover of America by foreign interests. But, he warned, successful subversion of our government – should it ever be attempted – “would most likely come from within.”

The cited examples represent some of the cancers he feared.

Rant-less

Author: admin

If you’re looking for the usual rant about this-that-and-the-other usually found in this space, there’s disappointment ahead. The historic mess we’re in at the moment – politically and congressionally speaking – has about left me rant-less.

Criticism after criticism and well-worded complaint after well-worded complaint by others more intellectually-gifted and less intellectually-challenged have made no mark on the consciousness of our politicians so historically bad at their jobs. The oligarchy we’ve become has left no sense of responsibility to the folks at home. None. As long as some billionaire continues to kick in big bucks to whichever party he wants to buy at the moment, those with their hands out will pay us no mind.

As Mitch McConnell has run rule book circles around the backbone-challenged Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has become the place where common sense legislation goes to die. Operating as no other political sphere I’m aware of, the minority has held firmly to Reid’s gonads and dragged him and the will of the majority all over hell’s half acre. The wasteland that used to be a respected and fully-functioning part of our democracy is littered with crumpled legislation that never had a chance.

In the House, a gutless Speaker – trying hard to keep his limousines, the taxpayer jet aircraft, secret service details, his huge suite of offices filled with an overabundance of staff, his additional pay and private dining room – that guy has allowed a few dozen cretins to stifle an entire government. Cretins who deny science, deny law, deny common sense and even deny the multiplication tables – these beneath-the-bridge-dwellers have proven their next attempt to repeal something could well be the law of gravity. It’s this bunch of hypocrites that has brought about my political confusion.

I started having trouble with my civics education when these animal crackers drove Republicans in the House to find a lawyer hungry enough to take their meaningless “case” to sue the President! One branch of one branch of our three branch government suing one of the other two. As this lunacy slowly sank into my cortex, I quickly visualized Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and some other feisty founders rising from their graves to ask each other if this was what they intended when they created the three-legged stool of our democracy. Republic, if you will. The balance.

Trying to make sense of that portion of the court filing dealing with the reason for such lunacy, it all came down to this: faced with dead ends at every turn when dealing with Congress, our President took it upon himself to do something without crawling up Capitol Hill only to find a closed door and degrading voices making nasty references to his manhood. And this added curiosity. What he did is what they wanted to do but didn’t because they couldn’t get their own act together!

So they sued. Or are trying to.

But my confusion came to it’s current maximum state when those same political terrorists failed on another issue – immigration – just a few days later. Once again, the factually-limited minority forced a stalemate with its own majority and the whole stack of watered-down immigration legislation was trampled on the House floor to be replaced by a piece of villainy trying to deport half a million people. DOA legislation that was pure sewerage. It passed. Then the herd of 435 impotent officeholders raced back home to campaign for extensions of their employment contracts.

BUT – the precise second fog settled over all my rational thinking was when Speaker Boehner – the most ineffective politician to hold that office in this or any other century – that Speaker opined “If Congress adjourns without action on immigration, the President should do what he can.”

BOOM! CRASH! Fade to gray and then to black. Really black.

The ink is hardly dry on Boehner’s signature on those legal papers and he’s publically urging the man he’s suing to take action unilaterally. The same type of unilateral action that Boehner and his miscreants got so riled up about that they sued!

There’s no reason to believe the next Congress will be better than the one coming to an ignominious end in a few months. In the next 100 days, there are only about 20 scheduled “working” days on the Hill. There’s zero reason to think any of those 20 will produce anything positive or meaningful. No one – right or left – has reason to be hopeful for anything productive the remainder of this Congress or at the onset of the next.

No one I know – right or left – has come up with a prediction of when this long national nightmare of ignorant, self-serving political stalemate will end. No one has been so foolishly optimistic as to say “Just hang in there. This can’t go on. It will pass.” Maybe it will. I wouldn’t bet on it.

As I said, confusion reigns supreme. I can’t even work up a good rant anymore.