Institutional loss

Author: admin

Though our lives are different in many ways, we all share experiences of growing up with – and becoming reliant upon – certain communal foundations. Call them institutions. Always there – always relied upon – constants as we aged.

My institutional list includes family, schools, media, government, religion, the bank downtown – things denoting permanence used as points of reference as I grew up. Constant and familiar. We relied on those constants and familiarities as our worlds expanded. They just – were. Maybe, for you, those characteristics of permanence continue. They don’t for me.

Take schools. Education. Teachers taught. Proof of learning was required before moving up a grade. Without it, you went nowhere. For kids, fear of failure was often a real motivating pressure to keep up with everyone else.

Is that true today? Do teachers “teach” or do many “teach” to the next test? Are they free to teach or hamstrung by “educational standards” laid on by mandates from outside? Are kids moving through public schools by merit or just being shuttled up a year – deserved or not? Is education – the process and assurance of children gaining knowledge and new skills – the constant you remember?

Banking. Most banks were local. They did business with a personal relationship between lender and borrower. A call or a handshake usually got the deal done. Banks were stable. Employees were part of the community. Trust, service and solvency were inseparable. And taken for granted.

Are those institutional memories accurate today in your relationship with banks and other financial institutions? Solvency? Stability? Security? Service? Trust? With few exceptions, banks and other financial companies have become remote, lacking in personal service, fee-burdened to meet expectations of boards of directors and shareholders. Some seem to operate with impunity from laws and regulations. We’ve attached the false label “too big to fail” and, while allowing outright criminal activities to go unpunished, have granted them status – above the law – that was never intended. Firm foundations? Trust?

Media – the most important parts of it – was local. Print media and, eventually, broadcast started where they lived, conveyed a permanence to readers or listeners – a usually reliable source for what was going on – which continued for a long, long time. Until deregulation. Until, dominated by huge amounts of money, newspapers and broadcast operations were relegated to a status of just so many pieces on a national chess board. Often sensationalized. Too often unreliable.

Much of today’s media output is suspect for truth and accuracy. Some sources have become tools of ideologues. Monopolies have been created to deliver profits rather than to publish or broadcast reliable and comprehensive information. News has become “what sells” rather than “what is.” More people are suspicious of media bias or deliberate disinformation than ever before. Sensationalism – formerly found in grocery store magazine racks – now blares at us from oversized TV screens – being passed off as “news.” Is it the community “foundation of trusted information” you remember? Or has it failed, too?

Government. Ah, yes, government. We’re a nation built on unchanging documents guaranteeing permanence and sound institutions – a stable base upon which to grow and prosper. For all of us. Not just the few. We learned the Bill of Rights and Constitution were the bedrock of our Republic. Today, we still hold the authors of those documents to some sort of higher – often mythical – standards than those we choose to live our own lives by. Good fiction.

But is government still the foundation? Is it still responsive to the governed? Does it protect the weak – defend the defenseless – assure all are treated equally? Is it representative of who we are as a nation? Is it still reliable? Is it fair? Is it trusted? Does it “provide for the common good” as designed?

The reason for posing this – for asking questions – is a current feeling abroad in this country of helplessness when, as individuals, we interact with our institutions. Rather than being served, we often feel we’ve been tolerated at best – ignored at worst. It’s been years – many congresses and many presidents ago – since I felt “served” by a bank – had trust in media. Decades have passed since feeling my kids and grandkids were “well-served” by our educational system – that our civic and structural needs were being met by government.

We live in a world with the best communications tools in history. But we’re more poorly informed, more removed from national relationships, more cutoff as individuals, less valued as customers/clients of businesses we rely on which – during the same period – have grown large, impersonal and distant.

Civic, fraternal and even some religious communities have disappeared to be replaced by impersonal and often changing electronic “communities.” Those that are left seem to be diminished in both membership and relevance.

Political, civic and economic foundations are not as close to us nor as responsive to our needs as they once were. Basic national infrastructure of roads, bridges, transportation, water and electrical systems is in rotten shape – being ignored by a government whose prime responsibility it is to maintain and improve all of them.

We have a national malaise. Distrust, anger and violence are directed at authority. Usually governmental authority. Our basic institutions have been under sustained attack for so long a new generation is growing up with those traits ingrained in their lives as natural emotions.

We’re a wandering nation starting – and losing – wars for no purpose. We’re ignoring basic human needs and problems important to our sense of national purpose. Our national political system has become an employment source for too often unqualified participants. Our leadership in world affairs has been undermined by poor decision-making and failure to focus – and fund – those things that have made us great.

It just doesn’t feel like home anymore.

Lessons from Baltimore

Author: admin

“Why am I being arrested? I haven’t done anything wrong. Why am I being treated this way? I live here. The curfew law is stupid. I live here. The law’s stupid. Why are they arresting me? This is so wrong!”

Those were the words of a young woman in Baltimore about 10:30 on a recent Friday night as police were hustling her off to a waiting prisoner transport van. I’d guess she was in her early 20’s – well dressed – good makeup – nice looking young lady – probably a college student. Oh, and she was white. It was a small moment in the nights of rioting and police baiting. But it was a microcosm of the week in all the noise and activity.

There is so much wrong with what she was shouting to the TV camera as she was being hauled away. So much.

First, the curfew was not a law. It was an executive order of the mayor approved by the Baltimore City Council. Second, the order had been widely published and had been enforced two previous nights. Third, the time of her arrest was 30 minutes past the curfew limit which was being broadcast from helicopters and police vehicles on the ground and which thousands of others had obeyed. Fourth, she obviously did not live in this section of the city – maybe some other Baltimore neighborhood – not this one. Fifth, just because she thought the order “stupid” gave her no legal standing not to abide by it.

Finally, she had no idea why she was there. My guess is it was to be “seen” – to be where the action was. Or because some of her friends were there. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Suppose she was a young, bleeding-heart who wanted to stand beside her oppressed “brothers and sisters.” Suppose her motives for being in a place she didn’t live with people she didn’t know – and with many black citizens who likely wouldn’t have welcomed her misguided participation – were pure as snow. Christian, as it were.

The facts were these. It was well-past the curfew limit – the well-publicized curfew limit – which made her a violator whether she agreed with the “law” or not. Her white face sent a clear message she didn’t live in the neighborhood and she was there during a curfew applied to all of Baltimore – not just the west end – though it was being enforced primarily in the west end. Police had lawful orders to close streets and arrest anyone out past a certain time. It won’t take Clarence Darrow to prosecute her appearance in court.

The young lady was in the wrong place at the wrong time learning nothing. Plus being wrong at the top of her lungs.

The place to be for nearly all of us to learn was in front of the TV. There was a lot to see and learn. You could learn, that is, if you ignored the often broadcast grandstanding, self-promotion and some of its deviant journalistic behavior. Especially Faux Nues which promoted the cops at all times in spite of what may have been going on.

At our house, we were surprised to learn how many black public officials – Congress on down – have had ”the talk” with their teen sons about how to deal with cops on the street. Media types and clergy. too. Few of us have had to do that. We learned of – and watched – the individual heroism of retired USAF M/Sgt Robert Valentine who put himself alone between police lines and young demonstrators to keep the two sides from clashing. He did it several nights running.

We watched a black minister live his faith when someone torched his church’s nearly completed multi-million-dollar senior community center. “We’ll begin again,” when asked how he felt. No condemnation for the arsonist. No self-pity. Just “begin again.”

We learned courage and tough love from a scared black mother who charged into the street to pull her teenage son out of the rioting crowd. Yes, she hit him in the head with her hand. Yes, more than once. She yanked off his black ski mask. She pummeled his head, arms and back with her fists. She got him back. And, 24-hours later on national television, the kid said “Thank you.” I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d hit him with a 2×4 in her terrified act of love. Mother love.

We watched some of the crowd offer bottled of water to the heavily-dressed officers on the line. We heard many officers say “Thank you.” We watched citizens put themselves in the smoke-filled space between crowds and police lines amid flying debris to carry signs saying to the crowd “Go Home.” For several nights. And most did.

We saw dozens and dozens of clergy, business people and just plain folks walk into the fray to plead with both sides to “stand down” and avoid confrontation. We learned courage could come from people who had probably never thought of themselves as “courageous” people. But there they were. Being courageous.

We, who do not live in Baltimore’s west end – or any other large city’s depressed community – had no business being there those nights. Never – never – could we understand what so many innocent people were saying to authority out there on the asphalt. We could not know or understand the indigenous frustrations and fear caused by simply facing another day or month or year living under those conditions. Even after nights of watching, we still don’t know how to feel it. We do know a little more about it.

These days, the streets of Baltimore’s west end are no place for white 20-something’s who live comfortably somewhere else and who have no use for or understanding of “laws” they believe are “dumb.” There’s simply too much work to be done by people who are charged with the many and varied tasks of community rebuilding. We need to sympathize – to understand – but to stay out of the way.

The young prosecutor who brought charges against six cops will likely not get convictions – at least at the level of those charges. What the reaction will be then – several months if not years down the line – will have to wait. Right now – now while most west end residents seem to want to work for better days – now is the time to put some flesh on those desires. I hope those who are leading will get to work. Now.

For over a year, Ridenbaugh Press Publisher Randy Stapilus and I have been writing about the worsening conditions in several counties in Southwest Oregon – Curry, Jefferson, Jackson in particular. Problems started several years ago when millions of federal dollars previously paid to those and some 15 other Oregon and Washington counties began to dry up. We’re now at a point of instances of open lawlessness.

Those dollars originally came from timber sales on federal lands – lands from which local governments receive no taxes. The original purpose was support for public schools. A few counties squirreled away some of those bucks against future conditions. Several – including the three above – spent ‘em all to keep up with budget growth without raising taxes. Now, sequestration and other federal pressures have reduced the flow to a trickle. And several counties – most notably Curry – are close to bankruptcy.

While county commissioners and others have lobbied hard for a resumption of the federal payment, they realize long-term continuation of the program is highly unlikely. They also know there’ll be no White Knight riding to their rescue and tax increases – large tax increases – are dead ahead. Now the public knows that, too.

Curry voters face a bond election next month. If it passes, the minimally staffed jail and the minimally staffed sheriff’s department will survive. Somewhat. If it fails – as several other issues on the same subject have repeatedly – it’s almost certain the jail and the whole department will close. My money’s on the “no” vote.

Jackson County law enforcement has been curtailed for several years. In Josephine – Grants Pass – conditions are already grim. With nearly no county deputies, several “posse comitatus” groups roam the county 24/7 – armed to the teeth – looking for “bad” guys. Mountain-sized legal liabilities go with them. And it’s getting worse.

As Stapilus blogged here the other day, a mine has been operating illegally near Grants Pass without operators filing all required permit paperwork with the feds. On more than one occasion – when BLM people showed up onsite – they were met by armed civilians of the “Oath Keepers” group. BLM folks backed down each time – as they did with Clive Bundy in Nevada. Still no BLM paperwork today. No apparent county law enforcement involvement. Except a former sheriff siding with the lawbreakers. Now, the BLM has closed the Medford office, some 30 miles away.

As Stapilus wrote, “Hardly any law enforcement . . . groups of angry and heavily armed ex-military wandering around . . . what could go wrong here?” What indeed?”

All of this was in my mind this week when a column by Professor Robert Reich popped up on the old I-net headlined “Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless.” He was reading my mind! His main point was government, large corporations and our political system have become unresponsive to the American public. Power has become so concentrated that us average guys are being flipped off by all of ‘em.

Among his points: corporations firing workers with no warning and/or making more of the labor force part time. In 2005, we had nine major airlines – today just four. Eighty percent of us are served by just one I-net provider – Comcast, AT&T or Time-Warner. In 1990, the five biggest banks held just 10 percent of all banking assets – now they hold 45 percent. Fifty years ago, more than a third of workers were unionized – today less than seven percent. Major health insurers are larger – giant hospital chains are far bigger – powerful digital platforms like Amazon, Facebook and Google are “gigantic!”

Then, there’s politics. Over 85 percent of congressional districts are called “safe” for incumbents in the 2016 elections and only three percent are toss-ups. Presidential election states are already being called “red” or “blue” with only a handful to be statistically contested. Voters in most states will not see a presidential candidate on their home turf. So, more and more voters feel disenfranchised. Voter turnouts are smaller.

I believe there’s a straight line between the points Dr. Reich makes about so many Americans feeling powerless in their lives and the increasing instances of lawlessness we’re seeing in Oregon, Nevada and elsewhere in the country. Whether they call themselves “Oath Keepers” or “posse comitatus” or “Bundy’s Freedom Fighters,” they all fit into the same mold – mad at government in nearly all forms, feel their personal “liberties” are being take away, say they “want their country back,” are armed to the teeth with up to and including automatic weapons and large supplies of ammo.

Wife Barbara drove Interstate 5 in California the other day. She saw many signs posted on barns and other outbuildings from Redding north reading “State of Jefferson.” Many local license plate frames read the same. Four Northern California county commissions are on record officially endorsing creation of the State of Jefferson for themselves while Southern Oregon border county governments are being heavily lobbied to join in.

Jefferson is not a new idea. It goes back to the 1930’s. But there’s a different, angry, more well-armed mood abroad in the countryside now. While it’s nearly impossible to exit the 50 states, when you have publicly elected officeholders in contiguous jurisdictions voting to try it – backed by a well-armed public and a widespread feeling among Americans that they aren’t being listened to any more – the idea can easily gather momentum. Throw in some citizen posse groups with automatic weapons, closing of government offices, voter strangulation of law enforcement agency budgets, add some Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey for the posse people and you’ve got a fire ready to light.

Please don’t chalk this up to an old alarmist living in a small town next to the Pacific with a myopic view of the world. Aside from actually living in Josephine, Jackson or Curry Counties, this is a pretty good spot to assess the situation. Especially when considering that our little county – Lincoln County – has one of the highest crime rates in Oregon. And law enforcement agencies scrapping services. We’re living it.

My prayer

Author: admin

A few days ago, a friend’s entry popped up on the old Facebook page, taking me by surprise, because it said precisely what’s been in my head for lo, these many months.

“Dear Lord. Please tell someone who isn’t crazy to run for president.”

There it was! Someone who felt exactly the same way about our national political follies and said it – said it out loud for all to see. Er, read.

Sometime ago, Barbara Bush came close to reading my mind when she opined “Certainly there are other, well-qualified people to run for president besides a Bush or a Clinton.” Yes! Aside from the obvious reference to Americans who might also have the abilities to perform the duties of commander-in-chief other than members of just two families, what appealed to me most was her use of the worlds “well-qualified.” Then, responding to obvious pressure from inside the Bush family after her quote, Barbara later did a little sidestep and voiced support for son Jeb. But – inside – I’ll bet she still feels the same.

I’ll grant my Democrat friends, Hillary Clinton seems to have better credentials with which to seek the job than any woman – and many men, too – who’ve tried in the past. Not all the ones I’d like to see – but good. And, if your rather simplistic goal is just to have a woman finally make it to the Oval Office, she’s more qualified than any others who’ve made the run in my lifetime. But another Clinton? Really?

Then there are the 20 or so occupants of the “clown bus.” Commander-in-chief? Qualified? Really? REALLY?

Just take this one example. Just this one. For the last several months, the Obama-Kerry-et al team has been negotiating with Iran – the major player in the Middle East – to keep that country from getting into the nuclear bomb business. Negotiating. Tough dealing. Lots of sweat. Lots and lots of nerves. Talk or fight. Trying to avoid what so many ignorant political hacks seem to want: an “end-of-the-world” holocaust because of some phony political ego or testosterone-filled sword-waving. Or should we talk? Keep talking. Work through the seemingly insurmountable problems. Negotiating. Give-and-take. Compromise.

Is there anyone on the clown bus – ANY ONE – who’s been saying negotiating is the right thing to do – offered support for peaceful efforts – offered backing for the team that’s already achieved a “handshake” deal that seemed impossible and is working on the nits of final editing? Any one?

No. Not one. What we’ve heard from them is a cacophony of complaints, criticisms, finger-pointing and B.S.. None has added a voice to what poll after poll after poll of the nation’s citizenry have shown we want. We overwhelmingly want peace. We don’t want more unwinnable foreign wars. We want the troops home. We want the killing to stop. We want to tend to our own business for a change. We want to use our formidable resources to solve some of our many societal and infrastructure problems.

From the clown bus, we either get silence or we get shrill cries to “Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb, bomb Iran.” We get cheap shots about “America backing down” and “Obama hasn’t got the guts for war” and “We’ve lost our will to fight.” We get non-issue blather like needing new federal anti-abortion laws, support for states making it tougher for Americans to vote, promises to cut taxes for the rich, cut Social Security and Medicare, bowing and scraping before the altars of billionaires and on and on and on. B.S..

We’re getting criticism and complaining about “what is” – or what they think “is” – without any discussion of how they’d solve some of our national ills. No one has explained how he/she would deal with a Congress so mired in deliberate self-destructiveness that it’s become an impediment to our national welfare. No one has proposed new ideas, new thoughts for how to use our vast technological resources to make government a more productive servant instead of an unresponsive and unproductive swamp. No one is talking about – or listening to – military proposals for modernizing our defenses instead of forcing production of more outdated weapons systems because they’re built in someone’s congressional district. How about climate change? No one is offering proposals to do a proper – and totally bi-partisan – redrafting of our national tax code. These are the issues. And they’re being ignored.

All the current crop of candidates – regardless of party – continues to play to one “base” or another without regard to the nation as a whole. It’s all about raising another million dollars or saying just the right thing so as not to make somebody mad or appeasing some loud voice that might hurt the candidacy. The torrent of words rolls on like some sort of verbal sludge.

Both national parties have people in them who should be in the running but aren’t. Both have names and faces who’re sick of what politics has become and who would not be afraid to negotiate or compromise with each other or do whatever it takes to get things back on track. They pop up on political talk shows from time to time. You listen to them and think “Why doesn’t he/she get into the race – why aren’t they on the campaign trail presenting fresh faces – and fresh ideas – to an electorate looking for new blood?”

What we need – what we REALLY need – is an answer to the prayer: “Dear Lord. Please tell someone who isn’t crazy to run for president.”

I’m told God doesn’t need to be reminded of a prayer – that it’s not forgotten. Well, maybe. But I’m going to keep at it. Just to be certain.

Jail his butt

Author: admin

Can anyone explain to me why Clive Bundy’s old, wrinkled ass isn’t sitting in some federal crossbar hotel? A year after the BLM and other agencies we taxpayers expected better of backed off and let the old bastard off the hook for a million dollars, he’s throwing parties to celebrate his “victory.”

The tab Bundy owes the feds for more than 20 years of unpaid grazing on our land has now risen above a million and it appears he’s gonna keep right on doing what he’s been doing. Stealing. Trespassing. Lying. Blowing smoke. Rabble rousing. Playing right wing “folk hero.” Ignoring a legally-binding contract he signed with the government more than 20 years ago. And not payed a dime on since.

Last weekend, more than a thousand people showed up at his place with RV’s, tents, sleeping bags and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags. And, oh yes, lots and lots of guns. Bundy had put out a “social media” invitation to come eat some of his fine beef (which you and I paid for), listen to more lies and hate speech (on land you and I own), fire off a few rounds at government shooting targets, badmouth all things federal and hear his loud claims that he’s “beaten all unconstitutional” authority with his thieving, illegal acts.

How come? Why is this rural Nevada welfare cheat still able to strut around on land you and I own while flicking his middle finger(s) at us and the whole world?

The original Bundy-BLM contract of over 20 years ago was legitimate and binding. Moreover, it was tested some years back in federal court and upheld. The BLM has absolute authority to enforce it and can call in any other agencies necessary to help solve the issue. But it hasn’t made a move.

Ah, but don’t lose hope. Bureau spokeswoman Ceclia Boddington sent out a press release last weekend – a press release – saying the agency “remains resolute” in its goal to resolve the “dispute administratively and judicially.” She came in on Sunday to write it.

ROAD APPLES!

If you or I owed the IRS a million for six months, we’d have agents at the door, bank accounts tied up and a date with zealous penal authorities to be fitted for a jumpsuit. This old bastard owes $1.1 million and he’s serving steak burgers and cold beer to a bunch of armed nuts while flipping off the rest of the world.

When law enforcement backed off last year, it was a black eye for justice but it was understandable, given the amount of ammunition and the number of boozed up, itchy trigger fingers poised to do God-knows-what. Hard to swallow – but it was right.

So – we’re a year down the trail and nothing’s changed. Certainly, during that time – 365 days – a few well-armed and determined government reps could’ve called on the old boy, served the right documents and hustled his butt off to jail. Proper agencies could have cut his electricity, turned off any outside water supplies, stopped his mail, cut off his Internet access, blocked his roads and collected his cattle. They didn’t. Why?

Something else I’d like to know but never will. How many other unprincipled rural hustlers out there have started defaulting on their contracts because one old bastard in Nevada appears to have – you should pardon the word – “cowed those damned bureaucrats?” You can bet your maiden aunt’s silver collection there have been some. So, what’s the total red ink on government books from uncollected, legally contracted obligations for this-that-and-the-other? Timber. Mining. Drilling. Water. Exploration. Tourism. Recreation.

Bundy is not just a national disgrace. Not just a lawbreaker. Not just some crazy old coot out in the desert. More than those, he represents a total disrespect for – and the flaunting of – law in particular, and society in general. And our government – like a detached parent – has so far let him default on his so-called “binding obligations” to both government specifically and society in general. Us!

What he considers “patriotism” is to defy and deny the government obligations under which he lives – the government that furnishes electricity, water, roads and infrastructure making it possible for him to live 100 miles from nowhere out in his fantasy land. The rest of us define patriotism as loving our country, living with our neighbors in peace, joining in a sense of community to improve the nation. And paying our obligations.

It’s time- damn it – it’s way past time for that old SOB to be brought to heel – for him to relearn the civics lessons he got in elementary school – to get in the national boat with the rest of us.

Failing that, he ought to be given extended residency in that crossbar hotel. With or without the tailored, orange jumpsuit.

Going Independent

Author: admin

‘Tis silly season once again. Well, we used to call it that. Now, given the burgeoning crop of intellectually vacant, politically unknowing and governmentally deficient rabbits wanting to be Commander-In-Chief – without knowing what the job entails – it probably should be renamed “Threat To The Republic” season.

The first two “out-there-hares” to escape the hutch probably won’t finish near the top about 15 months from now when Republicans convene. One wants to bomb Iran back to parking lot status while denying global warming; the other is a serial plagiarizer who wants to eliminate half the federal government and deny foreign aid to any country for any reason.

A lady “hare” about to take the plunge blames liberals for California’s massive water problems. And global warming. Her various “positions” make it abundantly clear why – while seeking to promote women to upper management several years ago – a major company tossed her out of that upper level for continued incompetence. A fellow traveler – a former brain surgeon, no less – believes prison makes you gay – sees no difference between gay Americans and people practicing bestiality and being a pedophile – believes “the Affordable Care Act is the worst social idea in this country since slavery.”

Others of equally detached “thought” are whizzing around looking for a pet billionaire or two to pick up the tab for their assuredly abortive presidential candidacies. It’s an uncommonly unqualified field of some 18 or so seeking nothing more than to raise their profiles for subsequent speech, book and video sales post 2016, ala Newt and Santorum.

Looking to reality beyond these characters, Pew Research Center has been sampling again. Overall result is that more than 39% of us are moving away from the two parties and into “Independent” status. Highest level in more than 79 years of research. Asked which party they might “tilt” to a bit, a third said “Democrat” and about 20% said Republican.”

But here’s the meaty part. In the last year, negative impressions of government have displaced the economy atop Gallup’s continuing monthly polling of what we believe the most important national problem to be. For the first time in it’s lengthy history, Gallup found positive feelings for the two major parties has dropped below 40%. “Independent” continues to rise.

The single most important factor feeding the growing voter independency is young people. Under age 34, 48% consider themselves independents. At the same time, trend lines for older, white Americans have flattened. Bad news for the GOP. Other survey data shows more young folks are moving away from Republican leanings. Democrats get a bit of a bump but “Independent” twice as much. Republicans flat.

When pushed by Gallup questioners to pick one of the two established parties, those under age 34 go Democrat 51% – Republican 35%.

More bad GOP news. Those parts of the population growing most quickly – Hispanics, Asian-Americans, the non-religious and those with college degrees – vote far more Democrat than others. For Republicans, the core group of white, silent generation and white evangelical Protestants is in numerical decline.

While we have a couple of Independent Party U.S. Senators, most states don’t recognize Independent as a legitimate group – able to field candidates and register voters. So the “tilt” factor is still important for the two parties we do have. But that’s changing. Oregon has recognized Independent with party status. Other states are moving in that direction. It may take a decade or two but it looks like momentum is there for a national third party in all respects.

If Gallup and Pew Research findings are correct, the political party rankings a few years out may be Democrats first, Independents second and Republicans third. A few years more, Independents could lead the pack. Think what that could mean for allowing more qualified candidates to rise on merit from a wider field rather than having the two-party horse race playing to narrow constituencies.

Overall quality of candidates for national office has diminished in both parties in recent years. This time, one party has one candidate – the other, a goofy battalion of rabbits with little knowledge of – or appeal to – a sizeable, viable base. And most are without any well-thought-out vision or plan or even understanding of the job they seek. We, as a nation, need more. We face major national and international problems that must be intelligently addressed. What we have is a pool of candidates for the job that defy the use of the word “intelligent” to describe their skills.

At the moment, meaningful, knowledgeable, articulate independent candidates are rare and the system is stacked against them. In a few years, conditions may be radically different. As a registered Independent in
Oregon, I pray we see that day. And soon.

Religion it ain’t

Author: admin

So the state of Indiana has adopted a new non-religious “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA). The national media has come unglued with coverage every five minutes. “Breaking News,” you know. Corporations and governors and millions of individuals are threatening to boycott the state. Human rights groups are up in arms. Why? Why now?

What’s curious about all this attention is Indiana is the 20th state to put this garbage on the books. It ain’t new! And this. The National Council of State Legislatures says 13 other states have it in process. And this. Forty percent of the states have done it or something similar. And this. The federal government, too! Feds call it “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

RFRA was enacted in 1993 – signed by Bill Clinton – but was successfully challenged in 1997 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states wouldn’t have to comply. So, over the next few years, some states wrote their own.

But the dam broke a couple of years ago when the billionaire-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent out “sample” legislative bills so no one in the states would have to think too hard. Just fill in the blanks. Went by a lot of names but the guts were the same.

In our Northwest backyard, Idaho Republican bigots made the list of 20 with electronic copying (Idaho Code §73-402). Oh, there was local muttering from folks who could see this discriminatory trash for what it was. But the national media – the folks who’re now bombarding us with minute-by-minute updates – didn’t say “squat.” “What the Hell – it’s just Idaho. Again.”

Checking the list of 20 entities who’ve decided to discriminate “legally,” more than half are in the “bible belt.” All 20 – all – Republican-dominated. Though Arizona’s effort was repealed in 2014 after a lot of economic pressures were brought to bear – including playing the Super Bowl – the bill was passed and made law in 2012 so it made the list. New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are the only other western states among the 20.

Aside from the obvious targeting of gay and lesbian Americans in this trash, the thing that makes it so insidious is that it leaves the “discriminator” free to invent any sort of excuse to do his/her discriminating. You don’t have to be LDS or Presbyterian or Catholic or Lutheran or Hindu or anything else. You can just claim providing goods and/or services violates “your beliefs.” Whatever the hell that means. Make something up. That’s your “out.”

The one thing different this time is the national reaction to Indiana joining the other bigoted legislative cretins under the bridge. I have damned little use for the NCAA. But I think if this law had been enacted 30 days sooner, the final four playoff would likely have been played in Chicago or New York or Philadelphia and not Indianapolis.

So, here we are. The Republican age of cut ‘em off by law. These 20 GOP-run states are discriminating against different sexuality or race or anything else different from the “norm.” Some of them – and others – are using new laws to cut off voter access. More than a dozen are violating common sense and public safety by passing laws putting guns in schools, on college campuses, bars, churches and everyplace else. Some are abolishing training for concealed carry. U.S. House Republicans passed a budget cutting taxes for the “haves” while slashing food stamps, Medicaid and other critical welfare programs for the “have nots,” hitting seniors with cuts in Medicare as well.

Putting all this into some kind of perspective is damned difficult. But I found this on my Facebook page the other day and it makes the point about as well as anything I’ve seen:

“Isn’t it interesting that a country founded to allow freedom from religious persecution is now using religion to persecute freedoms?” Works for me.

So what

Author: admin

Ted Cruz is running for president. I’ve got to get the gutters cleaned this week. At most American homes, I’m happy to say, the latter is far more important than the former.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) said it best on a weekend talk show the other day. “Ted Cruz is unfit to run for president,” was the quote. Note he didn’t comment on whether Cruz was fit to be president. Didn’t have to.

So, we’ve got the Cruz “missile” and about 15 politico’s of various intellect making noises about wanting to live in the White House. Any of ‘em qualified for the job? Any of ‘em strike your fancy? Any make you want to run to the polls today?

Or this. Any of ‘em running – or likely to – seem like a person of honesty, intelligence, compassion, sincerity, common sense or experience that you’d turn to for help if you had a problem? Either party? Any one?

We’ll be bombarded with presidential candidate B.S. for more than a year before we get to the first national political convention. Primary after primary will prove nearly nothing. Various names will surface as “flavor-of-the-month” signifying nearly nothing. The names Cain or Paul or Bachman or Santorum from 2012 mean anything these days? National media will coronate one after the other as “front runner.” Again, meaning nothing.

Unless Hillary Clinton hits some sort of unexpected wall between now and July, 2016, Democrats will meet in Philadelphia simply to kiss the ring and spend five days partying and singing “Kumbaya.”

But Republicans – ah, Republicans. Only people who’ll make bet on who comes out of that convention at this point are those 1-800-California psychics. We’ve got about 20 GOP primaries to suffer through before convention and, in the end, most of those will signify- again – nothing, But there is something to watch on that side of the rabbit run.

For many elections, Republicans have used a divide-and-conquer strategy. From courthouse to White House, they put up more than one candidate of their choosing. If you go back a number of elections, you’ll find that’s how we got Bachman, Gohmert, Issa, Paul and the rest won. Multiple candidates in their own races so they never had to reach 51-percent to be elected. Some won with way less than 30 percent.

At the moment, we’ve got at least 10 GOP names out there. Statistically, the one getting 11 percent wins. Not 51 percent. Not 40 or 30 or 25. Just 11. So, what about the 89 percent who voted for somebody else? If the minority crazies can get just a few other, similarly inclined minority voters to join the cause, you’ve got another minority winner. Playing the numbers just like Vegas. Now, add to that several hundred millions dollars from ambitious billionaires who want to own one or more officeholders and you can win all sorts of elections without a majority. Marco Rubio’s already signed one up. Or, has been “signed up” would be more like it. Santorum, too.

Then, there’s the “binding” and “non-binding” primaries that may – or may not – mean anything at convention. A state containing rational Republican voters may elect a rational GOP candidate. But that same state may also have a “non-binding” clause that allows delegates to go to other, less rational candidates at the national convention. Happens every four years.

And this. Conventions are mostly controlled by party officers who’ve worked their way up. The current Republican bosses no more represent the rank-and-file Republican voter than Mickey Mouse. (With apologies to Walt.) Even if a candidate comes into convention with the most states “won,” the crazies at the top can nullify that with one barroom deal. So, winning some primaries before convention is important. To a point. Unless sanity suddenly comes to Priebus and his hand-picked loons, they’ll go on their merry way to the edge of their flat earth and nominate a member of the loser Paul family while loudly pledging “purity-over-winning.” Again.

As for Dems, Hillary’s got a heavy load. First legitimate presidential candidacy for a woman. Plus the name “Clinton.” That name conjures up all sorts of mixed national feelings. And, there’s the question of Bill being “First Husband.” I’d guess, if Sen. Clinton is the nominee, Republicans will deliberately run against both of ‘em. Interesting strategy if it comes to pass. Though not necessarily a winning one. Still, imagine Bill out their hustling the Clinton Foundation donors all over the world for eight years while sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom. “What a country!”

I don’t mean to say national politics in the coming months will be inconsequential. Far from it. But we’ll take it all with a grain – make that a tablespoon – of salt at our house. You’d probably be wise to do that, too. “Sound and fury signifying nothing” as that Brit writer wrote.

The real meat for this political buffet is a long way down the table. Between here and there, you’ll find a lot of tasteless salads, some limp vegetables, stale rolls and mashed potatoes with too much garlic. Wise buffet-ers usually pass on all the stuff meant to fill you up and concentrate on that big hunk of beef – or ham, in this case – at the end.

Now, about those gutters.

The dangers of ignorance

Author: admin

February, 1865, emissaries from the North and South were meeting secretly, trying to set terms for ending America’s Civil War. Killing continued on the battlefields. But talks continued in private meeting places. And it was the results of those talks that brought an end to the killing in April, 1865.

Imagine this alternate scenario. Imagine that 47 members of the then-U.S. Congress wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in February, 1865, warning him any deal he cut with President Lincoln to end the war would not be binding – that Lincoln would not be president forever – that the next Congress could (and likely would) void any agreement arrived at in the current negotiations.

That didn’t happen to Lincoln. But it has to Barack Obama. In an effort almost perfectly defined in the word “sedition,” 47 Republican senators very publically wrote the leaders of Iran that any agreement reached in current multi-nation efforts to keep Iran from owning nuclear weapons could – and might – be ended by Congress. Further, such agreement negotiated would not likely last beyond the Obama presidency.

Reaction – nearly all of it surprise, anger, disgust and negative for what those 47 did – is raining down in this country and in many abroad. The action was unprecedented, dangerous, unnecessarily divisive, wrong, just plain stupid. And it might’ve been illegal.

Ironically named for a Republican, the Logan Act, created in 1799, has seldom been used. In sum, it prohibits U.S. citizens from negotiating directly with other nations on behalf of the American government. It specifically prohibits “correspondence … with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government … in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Whether the Act would apply in this case depends on which lawyer you’ve talked to last. Some “yes.” Some “no.”

Several incidents where Logan could’ve been applied have occured in recent years though no one was charged. One was when Rev. Jesse Jackson went to Cuba and Nicaragua in 1984, while President Reagan was involved in his secret deal with Iran to trade American prisoners for military hardware. Jackson was threatened, but that was it.

The second was Idaho’s own international publicity seeker and professional interloper – the late former Republican Cong. George Hansen. He trotted off to Iran in the ‘80’s to be a one man negotiating team. He got lots of publicity but – like most everything he did – the effort was mostly for self-aggrandizement. No charges.

This most recent attempt to kneecap the President also touches Idaho in a direct way. Both U.S. Senators signed on. I’ve known each for more than 40 years. The participation of James Risch doesn’t surprise except his name is out there on this and his usual modus operandi is to do his deeds behind your back. This time – 3rd name, right column, second page.

Mike Crapo’s participation is also not surprising though, a few years ago when he seemed to be thinking more clearly, he likely would’ve kept a lower profile and not publically signed such an odorous document. This is another personal disappointment in how far to the right he’s drifted since his more effective earlier days as a Senator and – previously – in the Idaho Legislature. This time, 4th name, right column, second page.

Though real damage to our international credibility and trustworthiness has been done, it’s unlikely there’ll be legal action against the 47 miscreants. Some should. But it won’t. They’ve undercut efforts of this president and others to follow him. Their arrogance has publically demonstrated how little they really know about our U.S. Constitution – to say nothing about the totality of their own job descriptions and the balance of powers of American government.

Perhaps there was a fitting irony when one of Iran’s leaders – with a proper American university pHd in government – had to publically correct the 47 and accurately define for them the limitations members of Congress have in such international affairs. In fact, of the two dozen or so at the top of Iran’s political system, about half have attended U.S. educational institutions. More of them speak and understand English than any of the 47 speak or understand things Iranian.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton – self-acknowledged primer cord in this foreign affairs bomb – has been a senator for less than two months. You’ll probably still find bread crumbs scattered on the floor from his senate seat to the men’s room so he doesn’t have an accident. His publically demonstrated ignorance of the duties of his office – and of the role of the Senate as one-half of the legislative branch of government – are not surprising. He exhibited the same vacuous abilities in the U.S. House for several years. But, there he was one of 435 – not one of 100.

Cotton is the poster child for what’s wrong in our Congress. Empty-headed, self-serving, ignorant of protocol or responsibility, operating in an ideological vacuum with no sense of compromise or give-and-take required of successful politicians. He comes from the same intellectually-challenged brood as Imhofe, Bachman, Irish, Lee, Cruz, Ghomert, etc.

Their single-minded goal in life was to get to Congress. Having achieved that, the single-minded goal is now staying in Congress at all costs – including abusing the electoral system to assure their “permanence.” Now, with Republican-controlled state legislatures rigging local election laws in their favor, the likelihood of getting rid of them grows dimmer with each passing year.

The far right has been a cancer on the body politic for too many years. Where members were previously just a damned nuisance, some – like Cotton – have now become dangerous in their disregard of both law and protocol. This latest bomb-throwing could well sink hopes of a peaceful no-nuke agreement if not actually light the political fuse for a new international war. Such activities by these – and their equally as uninformed ilk across the rotunda – have now slopped over into dangerous, life-threatening places where they don’t belong.

Our peace – our security – even our lives – cannot afford the likes of Tom Cotton. And, with their signatures on this inflammatory document, the likes of Crapo and Risch, either.

Tsunami redux

Author: admin

Couple of weeks ago, I wrote about we folk living with the tsunami “Sword of Damocles” off our Pacific shores here on the far west edge of Oregon. A reader/friend accused me of making light of the daily threat and said – given the 9.0 Fukushima quake – there had to be major facts I was omitting.

He’s right. I did omit. I was “making light.” So, here’s tsunami redux – the “story-behind-the-story.”

Should we get hit with a 9-point shaker, it’ll likely be because the Cascadia Subduction Plate on the ocean floor about 50 miles out and the San Juan Plate from the north either collide or one suddenly moves atop the other. The same deadly results will probably occur either way. At the moment, Oregon State University geologists and others have evidence those plates may’ve already met and are locked. They believe that likely means pressure is building up which has no apparent means of escape short of a real blast when it can no longer be contained. Underwater seismograph evidence.

Which means, we could have a real “barn burner” of a blast – possibly that 9.0. Or more. And what would that mean?

Well, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) surmises all bridges along the coast … ALL bridges … will fail! Further, most of the bridges for 50-70 miles inland between us and Interstate 5 – which runs north and south between Washington and California – will go, too. Hundreds of major landslides. Most – if not all roads from I-5 to the coast – would be impassable. ODOT believes we on the coast would be isolated for up to three years!

We coastal folk couldn’t go north or south. We couldn’t go inland, either. Again, ODOT predicting we’d be completely cut off for three years or so.

Want more? Bonneville Power estimates all coastal communities – from Astoria to Brookings – could be without power for three to five years before the electrical infrastructure could be rebuilt. How would that affect your daily lives?

More? Well, water, sewer and other necessary services would be destroyed within the first few minutes of a major quake. No public entity is willing to even hazzard a guess about how long it would take to replace all that, too.

So, yes, I was underplaying the effects of a tsunami a couple of weeks ago. Truth is, it would be Hell! But there’s one thing that keeps most coastal dwellers calm. Most – yes. MOST – don’t know what you do now. I’ve talked to many – in church – at service clubs – socially – and the projections from ODOT and Bonneville and other agencies don’t come up in the conversations. Even when you ask. Sort of “What-I-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-me,” I guess. Or, “Que Sara.”

Among those of us who are aware of the danger out there in the Pacific, I can’t tell you how others reconcile living here – waiting for “that day.” But here’s how I handle it.

When it comes, I hope me and mine go in the first large tidal wave. ‘Cause there ain’t gonna be much of a life left for survivors. If there are any.

For many years in my Air Force life, I was stationed at Strategic Air Command bases in various locations. All were high on the missile targeting list of the old Soviet Union. The last several years were in the underground command post near Omaha. Since all U.S. intercontinental nuclear operations were controlled there, we knew we were in the top three or four on that Soviet target list.

During those years, the biggest scam going in this country was building underground “shelters” in your backyard. For what? To marginally survive six or seven months and come up to what? Radiation so high you’d die in a week. No food left. No potable water. Not even healthy air! Survive for what? How?

In the military at that time, unless your dad was a member of Congress who could get you assigned far, far away, you learned to live with “swords” like that hanging over your daily lives in many places. Part of the job. The lives of your nearby family, too. Trained by the military in the after-effects of nuclear blasts, it wasn’t so much surviving as it was deciding when you wanted to go. And how. I chose quick!

To some of us, that same sort of mindset is handy when thinking of tsunami’s and 9.0 quakes and immense tidal waves. Yes, there are days when life inland seems a smarter, safer way to live. Then, you think, “What are the odds? Today? This week? This month? This year?”

Maybe when we were in our 20’s or 30’s, living near the Cascadia Plate would’ve meant rethinking the decision that brought us to the water’s edge. Maybe. But, when the years you’ve got left can probably be counted on your fingers, the lure of blue skies, warm temps, crazy-but-beautiful coastal storms and all that beach-time can bring you to a different conclusion.

So, to my reader/friend who thought I was holding out on describing the tsunami dangers, now you know what some of us know. But you’re still 450 miles inland in Boise. We’re still at ground zero. And it’s not so bad.