Welcome to our house

Author: admin

Seniors, by virtue of having lived many years, often fall into mental “traps.” One such is thinking you’ve “seen it all.” Another is “there’s nothing new under the sun.” And, of course, “because I’m older, I’m wiser.” Fact is, if you stay connected to the world while learning to let your thinking “go with the flow,” there are lots of new things to see, plenty of new things to experience and you’ve found age and wisdom are entirely unrelated.

All of this has come home in the recent days as I’ve experienced the most disgusting, racist, obscene, hate-filled and embarrassingly ignorant rhetoric of too many fellow citizens and, especially, the trash talk coming from many of the Republican candidates for president. It’s the subject of likely Syrian immigration. With the possible exception of John Kasich, that bunch has earned our contempt and outrage by engaging in behavior unfit for anyone in public life. Or, aspiring to be.

As a registered Independent in Oregon, my voting pencil swings from side to side on our election ballots. Neither major party earns blind allegiance nor acceptance of the entirety of all candidates offered. So, when I condemn the major affront to our national dignity by Trump, Huckabee, Bush, Paul, Forina et al, it’s without picking one party over the other. All are deserving of our collective contempt as individuals and by the despicable trash coming from their own campaigns. Party aside.

Maybe more than any other recent issue, this one of how to deal with accepting Syrians fleeing war and all its madness has exposed the absolute fractures and canyon-like separations found in our national consciousness. It appears all who’ve voiced their opinions from the neighborhood bar to the national Capitol are entrenched and unmoveable in support or opposition to accepting these human beings in our house.

I came across a new word in all this rhetoric as I’ve tried to see this issue from more than one viewpoint. It’s “asylee.” Not something found in everyday conversation. It means an alien at our doorway “found to be unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.” That “persecution or fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Asylees are eligible to adjust to lawful, permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States. The number of immigrants defined by this description is limited to 10,000 per fiscal year. The same number the President has set for 2016.

This seems to be the nub of the whole immigration legal status. Oh, there are presidential executive orders, various laws and even the U.S. Constitution. But the asylee status is regarded by most immigration experts as the best definition under which the current crop of Syrian and other refugees from war and persecution fall.

My point of going into this one brief, non-political and non-emotional example is to show there really are some legal and humanitarian parameters for a realistic discussion without all the B.S. emanating from presidential campaigns and cowardly, uninformed residents of statehouses coast-to-coast. Of course, there are other legally descriptive and fitting approaches to the immigration debate. But reasoned debate has been entirely overcome by huge numbers of people with no idea what they’re talking about. Voices playing to other sick minds with unfounded fears with large helpings of racism and unfounded nationalistic hate.

As usual in subjects of national political import, the governors of Oregon, Washington and California seem to be leading voices of what the situation is, what the facts are and what actions need to be taken. Or avoided. All three have said Syrian refugees will be admitted and welcomed. The plain fact is, any citizen, governor or ignorant politician who takes the opposite stance does so with no recognition of what the laws are in such instances and what powers they have – or don’t have – to deal with immigration.

When the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, exhibited massive ignorance for all to see in a letter to the White House, bringing up the shameful subject of internment camps for Syrians, he established the bottom of the barrel on the issue of immigration. What we did to Japanese-Americans in 1942 was the most unconscionable act of widespread degradation this nation has ever taken into the depths of racist hatred against an entire segment of our society. If hizzoner is truly serious – and that stupid – I propose his personal Virginia living room be designated “Camp One.”

This Syrian issue represents a lot more than just a new home for people trying to keep their families safe and together. It goes to our national conscience – it questions if we really mean all the words in our Pledge of Allegiance – it challenges all those high-flown images of a truly just America we all were brought up to believe in. It questions that massive statue in the waters off New York City – the one inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … send these, the homeless, tempest tost (sic) to me.”

We have an empty house next door. A Syrian family would be as welcome to move in as any other – much more welcome than the bellicose, racist, trash-talking, mindless political hacks that fill our evening airwaves. Their kind should not be welcomed anywhere. Especially at the ballot box.

The real world war

Author: admin

The old world war – war as we’ve known it – is over. The new world war – as we’re learning in France, India, the Philippines, South Africa, England, Nigeria and elsewhere – has begun.

What we used to call “world war” really wasn’t. Many countries weren’t involved. Whole parts of the world remained peaceful during “world wars.” But, we called it “world war” as in WWI and WWII. Now, as the massacre of 130 or so civilians in France has joined massacres of thousands of others in dozens of countries, all of us are involved. We’re truly engaged in a first-ever, real “world war.”

War has evolved from a relative few on the battle field to the entirety of the world’s population. War has gone from the geographic isolation of army facing army to the new war – terrorist killings striking anyone, anywhere at anytime. The battlefront is now our world, our nation, our state, our street.

With the powerful exception of 9/11, America has been pretty much unscathed in this war thing. Oh, we’ve made our contributions of material, treasure and the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people over the years – all considerable contributions. Each, of course, affected many in our country. But, the nation as a whole – the entirety of our population – has never experienced the reality of being on the front lines – of being under fire – of participating in the battle. Of being the next casualty. Now, we are.

When I was eight or nine, I used to lie in front of my granddad’s old Sears Silvertone console radio and soak up news of where our various military services were fighting. I made little cardboard maps to keep track of where some of our naval fleets were involved – where the Sixth Army or the Eighth Air Force or other units were in Europe or North Africa or the Pacific- and their daily progress. Or the beatings they took. Looking back, it was probably that prolonged activity that led to my own military service and a long career in broadcast news.

But, one of the things I learned then – without really thinking about it – was that “world wars” were always fought “over there.” Somewhere else. Never within our nation’s borders. Never near me. So there was always this sense of detachment – a sense that, if I didn’t enlist or get drafted to go to battle, I wouldn’t be involved. I wouldn’t be harmed. Life would go on peacefully. I’d go to school tomorrow and never feel the horrors of war.

That sense of being a third party – of being only an observer and never a participant – that detachment and that false sense of security are over. For all of us.

Watching events unfold in France, several very personal thoughts came to mind. Like how many concerts I’d attended over the last 50 years or so – how many restaurants I’d been in for a fine meal or just pizza and a beer – how many large crowds I’d mingled with in various countries. All of those experiences uninterrupted by gunfire, hand grenades or a suicide bomber.

Then, like the settling fog blanket outside our living room windows here on Oregon’s central coast, something more realistic – more personally terrifying – filled my thoughts. The terrorists have won this new world war.

Saying something like that in a bar in one of the Northwest’s timber towns could get a guy killed. Some burly boozer would immediately be in your face to tell you “America has NEVER lost a war and NEVER will!” He’d be wrong, of course, but that happens a lot these days when it comes to people talking U.S. history with all the factual “education” of Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter or Faux Neus.

What’s made terrorism such an effective tool for thousands of years is this: terrorists almost always succeed. Some guy tried to set his socks afire on a commercial jet in Michigan about 10 years ago but failed to get a flame. Still, for those last 10 years, millions of us have had to stand in our stocking feet in airport terminals all around the world. He won. Terrorists crashed three commercial jetliners on 9/11, killed nearly 3,000 people and millions of us haven’t set foot in an aircraft since then while our government immediately spent hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to revamp airline security which will never stop the attacks. Terrorism won.

Shopping centers have been the target of terrorists. Public buildings, big box stores, office towers, parking lots, churches and public schools, too. All have been struck and all have changed how they deal with the public. Ever notice those cement posts in front of the doors at Staples or Best Buy? Ever look at the cement planters and concrete-and-steel barriers around statehouses, in front of court houses or your city hall? How about the hydraulic barriers designed to flatten tires that surround the U.S. Capitol building? Tried to walk unchallenged into a college football game lately?

All a few terrorists have to do is set off some explosions in unsuspecting public places or use automatic weapons to kill a few dozen people at laundromats, drug stores, a bank, a car dealership or in an expensive bistro. Preferably in some little burg in middle America. Maybe blow a San Francisco cable car off its tracks or bomb a cruise ship. A little murder – a little devastation – goes a long way. Terrorists – really committed folk not afraid to die – have changed our world completely.

The night of the Paris massacre, President Obama said “this country will stand with all other countries to bring terrorists to justice.” Sounds good. Sounds proper. Sounds like what you’d expect the head of a country to say. But it’s absolutely impossible. All but one of the murderers in Paris blew themselves up with suicide belts. Cops killed one.

When people wrap themselves in explosives and are fanatically dedicated to their mission, life, as we know it, means nothing to them. They want to die. They’re dedicated to their own deaths. Their sense of justice is death for a cause greater than themselves. Even if caught, death – to them – is nothing to fear. We are powerless to administer “justice.” That’s why terrorism is so effective. Historically, it always has been.

War as we’ve known it – war “over there” – has ended. The war we face now – world war – is as close as your nearest WalMart.

There is a better way

Author: admin

Alright. Here’s the deal. Don’t read another word if (a) you’re a Democrat and can’t put that aside or (b) if you’re a Republican and can’t do the same. I’m gonna say some kind – and some unkind – things here and I don’t want a lot of hate mail saying what’s being written is biased in either direction.

Now do it! Or quit right here.

At our house, we sat through what have euphemistically been called Republican “debates” and we’ve now watched the one joint appearance of Democratic presidential candidates. The former was a waste of time – theirs and ours. The latter was both engaging and informative – for all.

The difference wasn’t in the candidates or their political party affiliation. It was in the presentation. It was in the format. It was in the substance. Ignore who sponsored what or who asked what question or who attacked whom or any other extraneous B.S.. The experiences were very, very dissimilar. For good reason.

Fact: there hasn’t been a political “debate” on TV since William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal savaged each other in the ‘60’s. Not one. The closest to that term might have been the Kennedy-Nixon appearances in 1960 but, even then, what little “debate” there was, seemed overshadowed by the personalities. The media needs to get over this “debate” label and find something more descriptive. (Mud wrestling comes quickly to mind.)

The Republican appearances – regardless of sponsor – have been colossal failures. No issues addressed. No inkling of any participant’s thought processes revealed. No presidential qualifications discussed or displayed. Lots of carping. Some useless bantering. Nonsense questions. No meaningful follow ups. Junk. So far.

Now, the Democrats. Separate one-on-one questions – more like conversations – each person talking with a single host/moderator. Each made his/her points without interruption. Each responded to questions and situations designed to bring out some knowledge of their character or where they stood on foreign aid, immigration, budgeting, cross-party relationships, wars this nation is involved in, voter discrimination and other subjects. There was substance, real information and a more personal view of candidates thinking “on their feet.” While sitting.

Now, some Republican partisan is going to quickly and loudly claim you can’t do that with 15 candidates. Yes, you can! You could do it just as well and produce the same realistic, personal appearance by each one. Can do!

The MSNBC show ran 90 minutes. Each candidate got about 20 minutes with timeouts for commercials, scene-setting, open and close. If you recall, the first GOP “debate” ran three hours. Twice 90 minutes. A couple of the participants – two who won’t be on any Republican Party general election ballot in 2016 – complained three hours was too long and they wouldn’t “play” anymore if future appearances ran longer than two hours. So, the broadcast networks caved.

But, let’s consider this. Three hours or 180 minutes, with commercials and other network business deducted, would leave some 140 minutes open. Now, if you use the current polling percentage qualification, you’d have probably nine people. If you want to lessen the field – as it will be eventually – raise the polling qualification bar to 8-9%. That would likely give you six candidates and more time for each.

But, even with nine participants, each would have 15 uninterrupted minutes with one person asking questions. That would give each person a lengthy period to answer, make statements, work in campaign positions and take the time necessary to make their points. No interference or side-tracking. If they wanted to wander off into the swamps of bitching, complaining about their fellow candidates or make wild charges, that would come out of their allotted time. With that format, each would have total control of what he/she said, what he/she thought was important and be able to literally make their own case. Uninterrupted. Direct. And you could rotate moderators for each period if desired. (Six candidates would have 20+ minutes. Each.)

The GOP “debates” so far, have given us – the voters – nothing! The candidates are unhappy. The viewers are both unhappy and poorly served The Republican National Committee is complaining. We’ve had lots of excuses from all involved but nothing proposed to get it right.

I think MSNBC did it right. We follow politics more than the average bear(s) at our house. And even we learned some new things from each of the Democrats using this different approach to dealing with candidates.

This is not a Republican thing nor a Democrat thing. It is a production thing. A process thing. Staging. Making the most of limited time for each candidate while giving viewers better insight to thought processes, individual knowledge of the job being sought and a better look at each one.

The Republican Party is in a total mess by its own making. Wounds on the GOP body politic were self-inflicted. The predominance of totally unqualified presidential candidates is the result. At the moment, two of the “unfittest” are drowning out a couple who should be more prominent and given an unfettered chance to make their cases. One more travesty like the CNBC fiasco and people will begin tuning out big time. That’s not fair to the qualified candidates or the voter. Not when it can be fixed!

We older folk tend to compare our society these days to what we grew up with and experiences of years ago. Most of the time, the younger population thinks those changes are “no big deal.” “Just how things are,” they tell us.

Well, some of them ARE big deals. And just ‘cause that’s “how things are” doesn’t mean we have to accept them. Or, that they’re right.

One such change that rankles me is the ever-present attitude of too many folk who’ve come to believe they’re right – despite all facts to the contrary. Rather than accept losing an argument or an election, they cling to their case, ignore reality and reason, keep espousing their B.S. and, in many cases, actively work against their fellow citizens.

While this societal “change” is found in just about everything we do these days, it’s most prevalent in politics. It shows up after elections when one side prevailed and one side lost. Rather than honoring the outcome and putting away the campaign paraphernalia until next time, the new attitude is to hold fast to losing arguments – even fact-less propaganda – and become obstructionists. Congress is Exhibit “A” for this type of behavior. Many legislatures, too. And just some people.

I remember my small town Republican parents doing their part for Tom Dewey when he ran against President Truman. They distributed yard signs and flyers for Dewey and Deschutes County GOP candidates. Mom often served on election day as a volunteer. But I also clearly recall, when the election was over and Truman was back in the White House, they helped pick up all the yard signs, closed out the election paperwork and accepted the results. That’s what you did. Until next time. Until 1952.

That’s not true today in too many elections. Instead, the losing side circles the wagons, reloads the ammunition and becomes an entrenched opposition trying to gut the winners and the obvious decision of the majority of voters.

The latest “winner” who’s going to face land mines from losers is Paul Ryan. And, they’ll come from within his own Republican party. The losers who’ll keep on fighting. Even with their own kind.

Ryan was elected Speaker of the House 238-9. But the plain fact is some of those 238 ballots were cast with clenched teeth. The day before, 45 Repubs voted for someone else besides Ryan during a closed-door caucus vote. Ryan had held out agreeing to be Speaker as he sought a more unanimous vote. You can bet the phones were busy overnight.

Ryan’s opponents within his own caucus are hardcore GOP zealots. Count Idaho’s Rep. Raul Labrador among them. Their driving political sense is that of the Kamikaze pilot who believed not in the facts of the day – Japan had lost the war – but of the eventual “rightness” of the cause. Where the two differ is Labrador and cohorts have no “cause,” damned little facts and a determination to just destroy the opposition regardless of political party.

They don’t give a damn if government is already run by Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. Those of their party in control don’t “represent” the zealots outlook on things. Their leaders are often seen as part of the problem. Just like those damned Democrats. Purity of cause is the mother’s milk of these people. One instance of “collaboration” and Ryan will be deemed “impure.”

The best and most successful politicians know you don’t get everything you want on every issue. So, they determine what’s possible by compromise and inclusion to get the job done. To Labrador and his ilk, that’s treason.

This you can take to the bank. Early on, Ryan will decide on something – anything – he wants to achieve. Something he’ll go to the mat for. Something the zealots oppose. When that happens – and it will – the knives will come out. Ryan may convince a majority of his caucus to support him then. But that support won’t total 238. It’ll be something closer to 190.

Which means Ryan – if he truly wants to carry the day – will have to turn to House Democrats to be successful. When that happens, the target will be removed from the corpse of John Boehner and pinned on Ryan’s back.

We’re told Ryan wants to be president someday. Good for him. Every one should aspire to something. Even president. But, if – like Boehner – he’s drawn and quartered politically by the crazies in his own party, he’ll have to shift his presidential hopes a bit lower. Like president of the Janesville Rotary Club.

Yep, times have changed. Our vaunted electoral system has become home for too many zealots who don’t understand why their political ancestors accepted negative election results – why they put away the signs and worked with the winners until the next go-round. Why they didn’t keep their swords drawn and charge up one political hill after another to defeat what the majority of voters had said they wanted.

Me? I prefer the old ways. So Dewey lost in ‘48. Now, was Harry all that bad? Really?

For the last couple of decades, the Republican Party’s been hellbent on not just changing various levels of government but dedication to deliberately destroying them. The challenge for these zealot absolutists has been not to govern once in office but to dismantle what they see as too much government. In most cases, they don’t know how to govern. And they’re wrong. But they’ve succeeded in making things difficult for millions of us.

Federal budgetary sequestration was their first dubious success. The still operable – but almost never mentioned – spending stranglehold on nearly all things federal has crippled everything from scientific research to public education to military capabilities to food sizes on the school lunch program.

For taxpayers in the West Ada School District in Idaho, the Republican wrecking crew has brought this dismantling of an excellent, working board down to a very, very local level. Largely driven by three school board zealots, the state’s largest – and one of the most successful – districts, has lost the talents of a gifted and supremely dedicated school superintendent.

Linda Clark’s 37-year history is well-documented. She is a respected voice for public education, not just in Idaho, but nationally with leadership roles in many regional and national organizations. She has been a champion for K-12 education, brought about many significant changes and worked in harmony with dozens of previous board members for more than a decade. An exemplary professional with a very public record. Until two of these political destructors were elected to the West Ada Board a few months ago.

Of the two, the most damaging haranguer and loudest voice is that of a guy who used to be a teacher and administrator in the public system. Someone with his own personal school employment problems. He’s been an incessant pain-in-the-ass since his first board meeting and has made no secret he wanted Clark out of her job. He’s redirected the school board’s attention away from it’s primary mission of setting policy and directing management of district educational efforts to a personal, very public attack on Clark’s tenure as superintendent.

As she resigned, Clark said “the Board” – this guy, his hand-maiden acolyte and another member – had spent their recent time “directing” things without once having a conversation with her about details of district management issues, policies or administration. Their primary contacts with her over three month, she said, were to talk about getting her to retire shortly or to pursue details of her contract status as determined by previous boards. They’ve even demanded all of her emails, a la Hillary Clinton.

It’s only a few days since the donkey dung hit the fan in this unnecessary embarrassment. My guess is some of the more rational community and civic leaders in the district will step up to Clark’s side. A recall drive against the two main troublemakers had been previously talked of by Clark’s immediate predecessor in the superintendents’s job. While what’s left of any local adult media goes about reporting from the news releases and other handouts, I hope one or two of the brighter ones does some checking on the backgrounds of the two main antagonists. The public needs to know who these people are, what baggage – personal and professional – they carry and let the public balance their “professionalism” and effectiveness against Linda Clark’s.

Viewed with a broad perspective, this Idaho situation bears close resemblance to the machinations we’ve had in Congress. Again, the one common, over-arching fact in both cases is these Republican zealots are not there to govern. They don’t know how to govern. They’re there to destroy – to tear down – to gut whatever level of government they were chosen by a minority of voters to represent. We’ve watched Congress devolve into an ineffective pile of the aforementioned donkey dung as an intransigent minority has crippled the majority into surrender. Millions of people are being hurt, responsiveness to voters has disappeared, lobbyists have become the ruling class and a handful of billionaires move these GOP place-sitters like so many chess pieces.

The national embarrassment of trying to find someone – anyone – to become Speaker of the House – second in line to be President of the United States – has got to have foreign governments looking at us like we’re a bunch of idiots trying to become a more responsible banana republic. I give Paul Ryan 90 days – make that 60 days – before these cretins stab him where it hurts. He will unify no one. These destructive voices trust no one, will turn on each other for little to no reason at all, and will turn on Ryan the minute he tries to use his authority to accomplish something they don’t like. Which is anything – anything – they disagree with. Politics – governance – the art of compromise – none of these a part of their Captain Destructo worlds.

From the West Ada School District to the banks of the Potomac, we’re being eaten by a cancer of zealotry and unguided hatred of all things governmental. Large doses of voter chemotherapy – accompanied by some surgery at the ballot box – are needed if we are to ever experience again a functional, people-serving system of government.

In Meridian, Idaho, at the moment, the patient is especially sick.

Midst all the media coverage of the student massacre at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College in the last month – some good – some over-the-top – some just plain wrong – there was a short interview you may have missed. Too bad, because it offered some very good support for those of us who argue against concealed carry weapons. On campus or anywhere else.

In the first hours of reporting, when accurate information was hard to come by, one young Oregon reporter got hold of a 30-something student who’d been in the building while the shooter was doing his killing. The interviewee didn’t see the shooting but heard it and it was close. Like most on campus, when he realized what was happening, he thought for a moment – then took off running away.

The 30-something interviewee was an average fella – baseball cap, windbreaker, some facial hair and a quiet manner of speaking. An average looking guy. What set him apart – and what the interviewer never quite figured out how to handle – was the fact that the guy had a loaded pistol in his belt. Along with his carry permit. Took ‘em when he got out of his truck to go to his first class.

So, here’s the scene. A 20-something with four weapons is killing students in one part of the building and a 30-something with a pistol in his belt is hearing the shots fired and – after thinking for a minute – he splits without going toward the classroom where the murders are being committed. At that very minute. If what it takes to stop bad guys is “a good guy with a gun,” why did the “good guy” leave?

The pistol-packing guy’s answer was spot on!

“If I had opened fire,” he said, “when the cops got there, they might have thought I was the shooter and killed me.” In all the gun debate, no truer words were ever spoken.

In my younger days, I did a lot of “ride alongs” with cops. Some authorized. Some not. Here are some of things I picked up that make me a believer in the words spoken by that young Roseburg fella. Police patrolling is most often lots of quiet, punctuated at times by a sudden emergency. Might be a wreck, a break-in, a domestic battle, a bank alarm. Or a “shooting in progress.” When the dispatcher says “Code Three,” that means “get there now” with lights and siren. The quiet ends immediately.

The flashing lights and the noise begin. Immediately. Study after study has shown an officer’s adrenaline goes straight up. Doesn’t make any difference if it’s a veteran or a rookie. The body’s response to that call to immediate action is the same. And that’s not a bad thing because that’s when the training is supposed to kick in and cops – and other emergency responders – do what they’re supposed to do.

That adrenaline rush continues at the scene. It will likely be above normal until whatever prompted the emergency is resolved. Which is why you see lots of firemen and police officers sitting or leaning against their equipment after things are settled. The adrenaline has stopped pumping and the body is returning to normal. It’s “coming down.”

But go back to what the 30-something said. An armed officer – possibly a heavily-armed SWAT team member – enters a classroom full of people where he’s been told to expect a civilian shooter who’s firing shots in all directions and who’s known to have already killed one or more. The cop comes through the door ready to fire. Certain he must fire.

But, before he pulls the trigger, he has to determine – in a split second – who’s “the bad guy with a gun.” And “who’s the good guy with a gun.” He has that split second to decide and take a shot. Just that fast! And suppose what he sees is the “good guy” taking a shot at the “bad guy.” But how does the officer know? Which one appears – in that split second – to be the bad guy? Maybe the “good guy?”

And that’s what stopped the 30-something with a gun from getting involved in an “active shooter” situation hat day on the UCC campus. You might say – in very long hindsight – he should have tried anyhow. He might have saved one or more lives. I say – he did the right thing. And, truth be known, I’d bet those armed officers would say the same.

Despite what the loonies at the NRA and their gun-hugging followers say, teachers, frightened school children, movie goers huddled under seats and people in department store aisles don’t wear tags saying “GOOD GUY.” In split seconds, lawmen have to read a situation, make a shooting decision and take action. Shoot! Don’t shoot! Often, they have no idea which civilian may be a shooter. Or, which may be an innocent trying to run away.

Arming people – allowing concealed carry in bars, stores and campuses large and small – is not the answer. We already have guns going off at the check stands killing people (Idaho) and bar arguments ending in sudden death (Arizona and Texas).

For my money, the armed 30-something on the Oregon campus that day made the right decision. Took his concealed gun and got out of the way of officers with shooting of their own to do.

For my money, he had better presence of mind than the whole NRA.

A bullet for Jesus

Author: admin

The extended coverage of the Umpqua Community College massacre – much of it wrong or unnecessarily overwrought – has inundated about everyone with a communications device. Lots of real and deserved anguish from and for many folk. But also a lot of fully expected “duck-and-run“ by politicians, strained voices on both sides of the gun debate with nothing helpful to add – also fully expected – with no new answers to keep these killings from continuing. Again.

When reviewing reports of some of the 294 multiple gun murders in the country as of the first of the month – and throwing in Sandy Hook Elementary, Aurora’s movie massacre, the Clackamas shopping center and the rest we’ve become so familiar with – there’s not much new in this one.

They all seem to follow the same script i.e. unsuspecting victims, public areas where we’ve always assumed our safety, a depressed/suicidal/angry or otherwise deranged young male, multiple weapons, a shooter’s decision to die (most of the time), massive law enforcement response, demands for gun control, demands for less gun control, excuses, blame-casting and denial. That about covers it.

But the UCC shooting near Roseburg, Oregon, did have one new wrinkle. A shooter, with no apparent particular religious faith, is said by survivors to have tried to determine which of his targets would die immediately or more slowly for their faith. Which impending victim would say he/she was a Christian – or believed in God – and which wouldn’t. And that got me thinking. Would I take a bullet for my faith? Would I take a bullet for Jesus? Would you? Would anyone? Especially when you’ve just seen fellow classmates killed after answering?

Each person to be murdered or wounded was reportedly asked beforehand about a religious belief? If the answer was “Yes” or “I’m a Christian” or “I believe in God,” the shooter put a bullet in the respondent’s head. In the case of other answers, there was a body shot which might – or might not – kill but would certainly inflict huge pain. It can be surmised most victims – dead or alive – answered one way or the other. What’s not clear is what would’ve been the case if someone responded with “Hebrew,” “Muslim” or “Atheist.” A wound or dead on the classroom floor?

Taking a bullet for Jesus. Not something you can give a quick answer to.

History is full of instances of Christians being killed for no other reason than professing their faith. Or denying it so as not to be killed. One of the first such recorded was when Salome danced and got the head of John the Baptist as payment for services. Or, maybe when Jesus was being tried and sentenced to death. All of his followers – the ones closest to him on this earth – fled. Peter – the “Rock” – even denied him three times in a span of a few hours. No “bullet for Jesus” among even his closest companions. Of the 12, only his brother, John, came to the crucifixion. But, eventually, all of them died violent deaths for being Christians.

We’re told the UCC shooter had expressed an interest in the Irish Republican Army or Irish Catholicism or some such. But he wasn’t known to be affiliated with any religious grouping personally. So why was the questioning of a certain victim’s faith important during what he believed were his own final hours? The answers to that – if answers there be – died with him. Just as well.

Still, there’s that other question. Would you – would I – tell someone with a rifle aimed at us that we were practicing Christians? Would we do that after seeing classmates and friends just murdered for their answer? What would our responses be?

To my deep personal shame – as a self-professed “Christian” – I have to say I don’t know my answer. Believing a statement affirming my “faith” could get me killed on-the-spot, makes the stakes as high as any I’ll face in this life. Opening my mouth – much less coming up with a truthful answer – seems impossible.

But, if I could speak, what words would come tumbling out? A plea for my life made to someone intent on killing? Some sort of effort to get this mad, irrational person to stop in the middle of a mad, irrational act to which he seemed committed? Words of prayer for him and the victims he’d just created? Would I say loudly and firmly, “Yes, I AM a Christian?” Or – nothing. How would I respond?

What would be YOUR answer?

A sheriff scofflaw

Author: admin

Some time ago, I wrote in this space of Oregon’s Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin and his 2013 temper-tantrum letter to Vice President Biden.

Hanlin was putting the VP on notice that he – and now more than 20 other Oregon lawmen – would not be enforcing any new federal gun laws. Further, Hanlin bluntly told VP Biden, his officers would arrest any federal types that came into “his” county to enforce such laws. So there!

Well now, our nation’s latest gun massacre of innocent Americans has taken place in Hanlin’s county, about seven miles from his desk. We’ve got nine grieving families, hundreds of saddened friends and relatives, the cold body of a deranged killer and a national media trying to get Hanlin to say the blood-letting has given him reason to re-evaluate his position.

I know Hanlin. And I’ll give ol’ Wolf Blitzer the Sheriff’s ultimate response. “NO! There will NOT be a change.” Wolfie can take that to the bank.

In my own Oregon county, we’ve got another badge-toter saying he has better things to do. Oregon’s scofflaw lawmen aren’t alone. Many hundreds of these artless dodgers across the country are taking a similar defiant and dangerous stance on gun laws. While all have sworn various oaths to uphold state and federal constitutions, the plain fact is – they aren’t.

Like that crazy, in-it-for-the-money Kentucky county clerk who won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples, these guys have set themselves apart from the rest of us by openly flouting both their oaths and the law. That clerk, by the way, has signed a book deal and has an agent talking to movie and TV producers. I’m waiting for one of these sheriff guys to follow suit.

There are probably lots of excuses for these “tough” law enforcement guys to hide behind. You’re certain to hear Hanlin’s choice before this is all put to bed and we’re “shocked” by another mass killing spree elsewhere. I’ll give you one scenario I’ve thought about for awhile.

Most sheriffs I know are elected to office. They have to become politicians and openly compete. They have to solicit endorsements from other local political heavyweights, recruit volunteers and raise money. Just like others who want to be on the city council, the county commission or the legislature. Those “talents” are not in the official job descriptions we have for our local law enforcement chiefs. But they’re real.

Playing into that is the fact most people who run for sheriff – and in some communities chief of police – have many years of experience behind them. That’s their prime requirement to compete for the job. In that regard, their concern about future retirement at the public trough is no different from any other civil servant working for any other level of government. Like the rest of us, they’re looking for future monetary security.

Now, given those two factors – personal future job concerns based on all the years of employment already served and having to be a politician who doesn’t want to make enemies among the voters needed to keep you in office – you’ve got a toxic mixture. If the sheriff goes around willy-nilly enforcing all those pesky laws, that could mean stepping on a voter’s toes – or even worse, on those dollar donor’s pinkies. So, well, you can just see longevity in the job would be sorely threatened.

Over the years, I’ve known many, many lawmen at all levels of government. Private, too. The vast majority have been honorable and carried their responsibilities with courage and respectability. Until you mix politics – money and votes – into the mix. Then, my respect factors have taken hits.

I’m not saying the best course would be to appoint or hire sheriffs from the open market. Lots of problems there, too. But we can’t have effective enforcement of our laws – ALL our laws – if fear of losing votes or political support or campaign funding factors into how and which laws are effectively enforced.

Sheriffs know their constituents. They get a feeling for how much enforcement is going to be tolerated and when there will be resistance – even armed resistance- as we’re seeing across the country right now. The easy way out is to not provoke that pushback by aggressive sheriffing. In Oregon and other Western states, gun laws create pushbacks. And while that means public safety is often compromised – and it really is – by looking the other way and letting gun laws slide, some of these guys think that’s important to their political and economic futures.

That’s not the kind of sheriff I want in the job. The guy who blasted nine people off the face of the earth in Roseburg, Oregon, had no concern for the political future of his victims. Or, the economic future of Sheriff Hanlin. If Hanlin and these other guys want to choose which laws they’ll enforce for the good of their retention in office, it’s time voters who need and expect full lawful protection in all instances choose someone else to do the job.

One other thing about Hanlin’s performance bears noting. He told reporters they would never hear him say the name of the shooter. Since Hanlin made himself the chief spokesman between the sheriff’s office and the public, where should news people go to get that name?

Turns out a Los Angeles news bureau came up with it. Hanlin has yet to confirm – or deny – the information.

One of the prime duties of law enforcement, when acting as the lead agency in an emergency or crime, is to get as much information to the public as possible in the shortest time. Hanlin personally put himself in that spot, yet wouldn’t disclose important information his staff had developed and confirmed. And which the public had a right to know.

Seems Sheriff Hanlin won’t enforce laws he doesn’t like and won’t fulfill his public obligation when faced with a situation he finds personally objectionable. Could be he should consider another line of work where the duties he swears to uphold aren’t so personally distasteful.

Term limits testing

Author: admin

There are those who believe term limits for elective office will “fix” some of the problems we face with “career” politicians. While the idea is tempting for some reasons offered by supporters, I’m not convinced. In one Oregon county, we’re about to see if term limits are even legal.

Last year, Douglas county voters approved term limits for just their county. Now, one of the best and most effective commissioners in the state is running into the limit wall and taking the issue to court. While her case pertains to only one county in one state, it offers a look at how the issue could play out elsewhere. And where the courts are on the subject.

Susan Morgan has served two consecutive terms. Prior to that, she was in the Oregon legislature for several years. She’s experienced, effective, dedicated to public service and is as good at her job as they come. She is NOT the kind of public servant you want to lose in some “one-size-fits-all” attempt to rid the system of bad apples.

But, as she attempted to file her re-election papers with the County Clerk, she was rejected because of the Douglas County term limiting law. Viewed from the outside, it appears the clerk was simply doing what he was legally bound to do because of the 2014 referendum. So, Commissioner Morgan has filed what can be called a “friendly” action challenging the law.

In her filing, she says two independent legal opinions have concluded term limiting is “most likely unconstitutional because it imposes additional qualifications on the office of county commissioner (in addition to) the qualifications set out in the state constitution.” Further, “the ordinance limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

But, even before Morgan got to the filing stage, Clerk Dana Jenkins had been seeking some legal advice to have on hand if/when the term limits issue came up.

The legal eagle contacted opined the limiting ordinance is more than likely “unconstitutional as it impermissibly imposes additional qualifications to the office of county commissioner.” As for implementation, “It is evident the text and context of the Measure are ambiguous. It clearly imposes a term limit of eight consecutive years (but) is not clear…to whom or when the term limits apply and how they apply. It uses undefined and inconsistent terms and addresses similar concepts multiple times but in different ways.”

Term limiting is another “simple answer to a complex problem.” There are several basic reasons to oppose it. One is the loss of “institutional memory” from those who’ve served for some years. That’s often important because it can keep newcomers/reformers from making the same mistakes of the past. (NOTE: The Idaho Legislature is a stark exception to that as evidenced by the continuing waste of tax dollars in repeated losing attempts to fight both state and federal law. And common sense.) Institutional memory is more often than not deemed a good thing in almost any other field – and any other state – and is certainly important in public service areas.

Throwing excellent, long-serving office holders out just for the arbitrary mathematic hell of it also means more power for lobbyists who’re often around for many years. The newly elected would have to rely on the “institutional memory” of professional “civilians” paid to influence lawmaking. Is that how you want the process to work?

That same transfer of power would go to long-serving – but unelected – civil servants who’re also around for decades in their careers. If one such “servant” wanted to thwart creation of a new law – or of some elected lawmaker – he/she could just wait around, outlasting the office holder trying to get something done.

There are many other reasons why the seemingly simple “solution” offered by term limits would not be in the nation’s – county’s – state’s best interests. As the Morgan suit moves through the legal system, I expect many such problems will be duly expressed.

I’ve known Republican Commissioner Morgan for a number of years and would put her in the ranks of the best elected officials I’ve ever met, regardless of office. In some ways, it’s too bad such an effective politician has to be the test case for a bad law. On the other hand, she’s respected all over Oregon because of her tireless work in the legislature and elsewhere. It could be her justifiably respected reputation will assure her legal action is expeditiously handled by the courts before she gets to the absolute filing deadline and Douglas County loses her talents. And experience.

I admire many professionals who support term limits. I just disagree. Besides, we’ve already got ‘em. It’s called the ballot. Use it. It works!

“Off your ass”

Author: Barrett Rainey

I know many people in many occupations – the vast majority of whom I admire. But, once in awhile, someone comes along who is so absolutely unsuited in a chosen career, you just have to just say “DAMN!” The continued under performance of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is the most worthy example of that epithet as anyone I know.

John Boehner is not just bad at his job. He’s set a new low bar for achieving badness. And crudeness And divisiveness. And spinelessness. And arrogance. And crassness. Actually, his bar is now flat on the floor.

Boehner’s televised “Democrats-ought-to-get-off-their-ass” outburst some weeks ago, betrays what little is left of 240+ years of decorum in the operations of our Congress. You can go back to the “You Lie!” shout from that idiot South Carolina Republican during the President’s “State of the Union” speech a couple years ago. That cretin was not punished or censured for his arrogance and obvious violation of House rules. After that, others of his ilk started spewing more vitriol and verbal garbage into the House record. Spend some time reading that daily log and you’ll find a lot of crap you’ve not heard before. For mental health reasons, I don’t recommend it.

Boehner’s words might be something you’d expect to hear as he talked to other Republicans in his suite of offices. Or the Ohio bar he grew up in. Probably worse. But not on national television and not in your living room.

If those words are meant to express some sort of personal disgust with who he sees as his “foes” in Washington, he ought to seek out those other members of what passes for Congressional leadership these days and say what he feels directly. Facing a scrum of reporters with microphones and cameras is the coward’s way of throwing around verbal abuse without having to look the abused in the eyes, then listen to someone his equal – or better – respond with a few well-chosen and pointed words of their own.

Boehner is no fool. You don’t amass a survival record such as his by being outwitted and outmaneuvered by your adversaries. But, since his caucus was first contaminated with the crazies from the old Tea Party crowd, he’s acted like one – more often that not playing their game rather than his own. If he once thought giving the governmentally-ignorant back-benchers a small voice in the direction of the House was going to appease them, he certainly knows by now appeasement is not part of their square worlds. Yet he’s still being operated like a hand puppet by that vocal minority of minorities.

Boehner’s words and attitude are just part of what’s wrong with too much of our politics these days. People in government with little to no understanding of how that government works or even fulfilling their own job descriptions. Civically illiterate. Just listen to ‘em talk. Painful as that is. Idaho’s Raul Labrador comes to mind for some reason.

Look at all the GOP rabbits running for president. Twisting, turning, denying past positions on issues, pandering, lying. None of them – not one – can utter a statement of personal belief without following up with a whimpering disclaimer if they think you disagree with ‘em. All of ‘em are trying to find some “safe spot” in the midst of the political winds so they can slip under the radar of real public questioning.

Democrats have little to brag about. The whole pack is standing around waiting for the Clinton coronation at convention. Biden, Sanders, Webb, O’Malley not going anywhere. Quick now. Come up with another realistic Democrat. Quick. The next tier for any sort of candidate is so far removed from consideration they’ll be lucky to even get credentials to the convention.

Really, is this the best this nation can do? Are the names out there – regardless of party – names of people you want in the Oval Office? Are they capable of negotiating with leaders of other nations? Are they thoughtful, strategic-thinking heavyweights? Do they have positions on issues important to you that are morally and intellectually honest? Is any one of them someone you’d go to for help or you’d want to confide in?

So far, I haven’t found one. And we damn-well need one. Now!

From that unpunished cretin who hollared “You lie” with no consequences to the “Democrats-ought-to-get-off-their-ass” crassness of Boehner, we’re witnessing the kinds of small-minded politicians who are feverishly dividing a nation. They represent the worst political cancer of perpetuating themselves in office rather than being the cure of honest public service.

There’s a reason why the Koch’s and other billionaires have turned their attentions to the 50 statehouses. They’ve succeeded in poisoning the waters in Congress with people who’ve crippled it. Now, they’re attempting to “breed” the next generation of office seekers in state politics where most in Congress come from. With the full bought-and-paid-for participation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), their work to build an oligarchy they can control is doing real damage to our entire nation.

It’s not just the Democrat targets of Boehner’s disgraceful remark who need to “get off their ass.” It’s the rest of us. Off our asses and into the polling places where we can deliver some electoral justice. Surely we can do better.