“Why, Daddy, Why?”

Author: admin

When Dad got tired trying to answer my childish questions of “why” to nearly any new, youthful encounter, his standard response became “You’ll know when you’re older.” Being a trusting kid, I blindly accepted his promise of future knowledge.

Dad’s gone now. And, after my nearly four score years experience, it pains my soul to say it – he was wrong. At least so far as being able to comprehend by knowing the answers to my continued queries of “why.” If his advanced age during my growth years truly gave him understanding of hard-to-understand situations, he was really quite an extraordinary man because my added years haven’t always helped me all that much. On the other hand, maybe some things happening now beyond my ability to grasp are far more complicated and I’m just not up to the task.

Here’s one.

Why would leaders of the National Republican Party – and their elected offspring – formally adopt a position of banishing access to health care for millions of voters and their families? Even want to go to court over it? What sane reason could there be to take away life-changing and even life-saving medical care from adults and kids who now have it – many for the first time in their entire lives? Why would a political party take a position to disenfranchise Americans needing what should be considered one of those “unalienable rights?” “Why, Daddy, why?”

Here’s another. Why will both parties in our national Congress – after endless bloviating about the problem of tens of thousands of children flooding into this country seeking personal refuge and safety – why will those Washington folk go home and not do anything to deal politically or humanely with the situation? Why are they walking away?

Human-being-by-human-being, we have an entirely non-political and extremely human tragedy on our hands. Children from South American countries being used as pawns. Children with absolutely no voice in the matter being pushed and/or dragged into this country with promises of a better life. Or their parents are being threatened with death if they don’t blindly ship their kids off unaccompanied into a trip of thousands of miles filled with all sorts of life-threatening dangers.

And the Congress, from which all resources must come, is going to quit without undertaking a single effort to ease this human tragedy. Why?

And more “whys.”

Why would the governor of Texas call up the Texas National Guard to stand along that border? Why send a guardsman with tank and a rifle to face an eight-year-old child trying to surrender? Why use uniformed – and heavily armed – Texas fathers and mothers to face this flood of young humanity and what are they expected to do? Why uproot members of the Guard – trained in dealing with ecological and natural disasters, equipped to deal with armed foes in other countries but not trained in dealing with the needs of children who don’t understand what’s happening to them and who probably don’t speak English – why send the military and their weapons to deal with kids needing food, shelter and some sense of security? Why?

Here’s another “why” beyond my understanding.

Why would politicians – who sent hundreds of thousands of young people into foreign wars for no legitimate reason – now refuse to pay for the medical, psychological and educational support promised before those young people walked onto those damned, doomed battlegrounds? Why are lying politicians now going home begging for renewal of their employment while the walking wounded of Iran/Afghanistan continue to suffer? Why?

Why would Republican-dominated legislatures in eight states do their damndest to keep people who may not look like them and maybe don’t talk like them from their legal right to vote? Why?

Why are soulless, bloodless – and in some cases heartless – corporations considered to be “human” for the purposes of perverting our nation’s politics? Why are these “humans” allowed – even encouraged – to take their profits and skip out to other countries so their “human” share of the responsibility to support our national economic life is avoided? Why are these “humans” able to prosper here at great cost to real humans but not be responsible for paying for the infrastructure and other needs that make their profits possible? Why are those “humans” able to avoid the inexorable taxes all the rest of us humans must pay? Why?

We’re living in an age in which the “whys” stack up faster than ever before. We have an unresponsive national government – even an adversarial national government – that’s damaging this nation daily by inaction and perversion in the misconduct of its duties. Some of its “human” parts are denying science, education, health care, voting and other basic fact while favoring any “human” that will help finance a re-election campaign.

Our “citizen congress” has become a lifetime employment sector for too many self-serving, intellectually challenged politicians who shouldn’t be allowed driver’s licenses – much less be in positions of power to “direct” the affairs of this nation. The driver’s license analogy is entirely proper given the deep ditch they’ve driven this country into.

Running in tandem with this Potomac train wreck, too many state legislatures are following the same destructive path as they try to deprive rights and expectations of citizenship from minorities. Again, the bloodless “humans” – read “corporations” – have their greedy hands in the pot. The expectation of continuing our Republic is being replaced by the reality of an oligarchy.

Dad’s been gone for many years now. So, I ask you. Why?

Facts more than balance

Author: admin

A small, informal discussion has started in some media circles – the first quiet conversations about a most basic journalistic tenet – balance. Balance in coverage of the news. Balance in representing all sides. Balance to assure fairness. The discussion is long overdue. It’ll call for judgments and – for that reason – there’ll probably never be a satisfactory solution.

There isn’t much left of the days of really responsible journalism – the professional output that was traditionally expected and – for the most part – traditionally produced. Given more than one side to any story, efforts were made to present all. That, of course, was in the days before “gotcha” journalism, reporters mixing opinion with reporting and the need to report otherwise worthless B.S. that fills too many pages and far too much airtime.

The most recent stimulus for this self-examination is climate change. Yep, simple as that. Or, if you will, as complex as that. With the preponderance of scientific evidence that such change is happening all around us and our world is already the poorer for it, some news organizations are asking how much time – how much ink – should be given those who deny both the science and the reality. What is the media responsibility for reporting the scientific facts accepted by the overwhelming majority of experts, then giving time and ink to the distinct minority denying reality? Denying fact?

It’s long been said the media should just report the facts and let those facts speak for themselves. I buy that. But when what’s on the front pages and what’s leading the nightly news contains no factual merit – climate change denials – irresponsible and baseless impeachment ranting – conspiracy claims without proof – phony stunts of one branch of government to sue another – what facts are being reported? Where does news start and “Entertainment Tonight” end?

Take the climate change story, for example. One very significant fact is that the chairman of the House Science Committee is a climate change denier and flat-earther who loudly proclaims his ignorance by telling all who’ll listen the earth is just 6,000 years old and man lived with dinosaurs. Why is that not reported with such a repetitive assault that he and half a dozen other “deniers” on that important panel are removed? This nation and the world needs strong, responsible and effective political leadership to deal with the terrible realities of climate change. But the power to do that is in the hands of idiots – a distinct and irresponsible minority – who’re blocking attempts to deal legitimately with facts that – ignored much longer – could end our world. Why?

To me, the answer to this “balance in reporting” conversation isn’t as illusive as it seems. Not in these examples. Or in many others. Go back to the original reason for mass media in the first place. Reporting of the facts. Put the facts – all the facts – in the lead story and on the front pages and ignore the garbage. Keep the facts there. Stop trying to balance realities of life – be it political or any other form – by giving time and ink to voices plainly lacking facts – lacking truths – lacking responsible evidence to support them and their irresponsible conduct. That’s not achieving balance. That’s distributing distortion on a large scale.

A prime reason for media existence in the first place is to inform. Make that “responsibly” inform. So stop with the misinformation. Stop spotlighting people and voices with no facts. Stop being a conduit for self-serving voices of ignorance as if they were necessary to “balance” what the rest of know are the facts. Use the power of fact to educate.

We’re a nation gripped by paralysis. To some extent, that paralysis has been caused by an outsized effort to give “balance” to all sides. We’ve mixed fact and ignorance together in an effort to give voice to all – to give balance. In doing so, fact has often been diluted and ignorance is too often accepted as reality. Too many people can’t tell the difference.

The traditional media role to inform is more important than ever. The soul-searching attempts to “balance” need to stop. Stick to the facts.

Shut the hell up, Sarah

Author: admin

I’ve wanted to do a column under that headline for five years now. Even got to the keyboard a few times but held back. Really don’t know why. Lord knows she’s given any thinking person a pot full of reasons to tell her to “take a hike.” But now it appears she’s pissed off more than half the country and a majority just wants her to shut up and go away.

A new NBC/Wall Street/Annenberg poll has found 54-percent of voters – regardless of party – have heard enough of the Wasilla wastrel. Even four-in-ten Republicans don’t want to hear her uninformed babbling anymore. Among Democrats the margin is two-thirds.

But it’s not just the self-serving Alaskan opportunist the public is fed up with. More than half the respondents are tired of hearing Rev. Jesse Jackson’s opinions on this, that and the other. Nearly half would like former Vice President Cheney to put a sock in it and go silently back to Wyoming with about 43% saying “enough already” to Newt Gingrich.

Aside from being just plain without talent or knowledge enough to make any sort of meaningful contribution to the national dialogue, Palin’s problem – and to some extent the others – is the result of several things. First, none of those named has any legitimate public platform. All did at one time. But no more. They have no substance and nothing relevant to say. They’ve worn out their welcome.

Second, the media made them “personalities.” As such, they have nothing meaningful to contribute. No public office. No institutional connection. No platform of any kind. They’re just supposed to be opinionated, funny, crusty, say controversial things, be available and show up.

Think all the people you know. You know lots of folks. But are they all friends? Do you invite all these folks to your house? Do you even want all of them at your house? Probably not. Oh, you may work with some, socialize with some, go to church with some. But are they all people you want to hang out with all the time? Probably not. People come and go in our lives but few relationships stay. Those that do are based on something more than “personality.”

The media has “made” these people – Palin, Gingrich, Jackson et al. Not because they’re good, upstanding, honest folk with something important to say. No. They’ve made them “personalities” to fill long stretches of what would otherwise be “dead air” or empty pages because they can be counted on to be controversial or entertaining if not illuminating or meaningful. They’re creatures of the media and, when they no longer can bring ratings or subscriptions numbers, they’ll be discarded by that same media. Old news.

Palin, in particular, is nothing more than a media “personality.” She’s offered nothing positive or important to the national dialogue since you first heard her name six years ago. She’s a creation: partly by the media but mostly by her own hand. When the national spotlight accidentally shined on her in 2008 – at the behest of a confused John McCain – she was ready. Immediately ignoring McCain speech writers and political advisers much smarter than her, freelancing interviews without campaign approval, copywriting her name and image and signing a long-term contract with a major speaker’s bureau before the campaign was over, Palin grabbed the brass ring. The media loved her. Well, more like developed a case of heavy breathing.

But, like those people you know but don’t necessarily want in your home, Palin’s reliance on marketing rather than any real political knowledge, made her someone with no staying power: hot at the start but destined to burn out with the broad market. And she has. There’s never been any “there” – there.

Now, she seems unaware times have changed – that her popularity is only with a minority of people as totally uninformed about realities of the world as herself. Her books aren’t selling. Her TV show is gone. No political group with broad appeal is inviting her to the stage. The mainstream Republican Party is ignoring her. Were it not for Fox “News” she’d have no public forum at all but she’ll eventually lose that, too. Oh, she’s still making appearances at trade conventions and right-wing gatherings. But not for the large six-figure fees she got a couple of years ago. Now she’s signing autographs for fewer people and hawking books and bumper stickers out in the lobby.

Personality without talent – without smarts – without some sort of knowledgeable, serious core – has no staying power. Something newer and shinier will always replace it. Palin’s 15 minutes of fame are about gone. She offers nothing relevant to today’s discussions. Never has really. Only criticism and senseless carping. You can get that at any neighborhood bar.

So, along with a majority of you, I offer my own heartfelt advice to the former Wasilla mayor: shut the hell up and sit down.

In recent days, I’ve looked at many congressional races around the country. Using my “student-of-politics” proclivities and some very good research, I’m going to give you my list of picks so you’ll know who’s who – how they stack up. I’m going to “name names” so you’ll know whom you should support.

Wait? What’s that? You don’t care who I like? You don’t want to know which ones I’m endorsing for Congress? What? Why?

Actually, that would be my response if you – or anyone – told me a list of candidate selections. It wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference.

And therein is my problem with endorsements. Who someone else – anyone else – ANYONE else is supporting is just not relevant to my ballot. Oh, we might eventually vote for the same candidate. Maybe more than one. But we do so individually. Not because of anyone else backing ol’ so-and-so.

There was a time endorsements were somewhat important. Used to be Democrats put a lot of stock in labor union picks. If the president of Amalgamated Widget Makers told members which candidate to support, that’s pretty much how everybody went. Major corporations often got behind one name and word went out to various branches of the business. “Smith’s the guy” and everyone was expected to mark “Smith” at the polls.

Union, corporate, workplace endorsements don’t carry the weight they used to. Nor should they. But all keep trying. Even some “churches.”

Newspapers endorse a lot – claiming they’re giving you the benefit of hours and hours spent in face-to-face extended interviews and “Candidate Glutz is our pick for county treasurer.” I’d rather they change current employment practices and hire someone who can actually write accurately and tightly – then publish well-written summaries of what that extensive interviewing showed about the office-seeker. Things the paid advertising didn’t show. Skip the endorsement. Factual summaries will do just fine, thank you very much. Again, well-written, of course. I’ll do the deciding.

The “endorsement” I hate most is the one that comes from one politician of another. The endorser may be boosting a friend or someone he works with. But often it’s a sham. Sometimes the two are even strangers to each other.
Politicians endorsing other candidates they’ve never even met has always been a vote killer for me. Party politics at it’s finest. Or worst. If you think such “blind” party line politics has been helpful for us in recent years, you haven’t been paying attention.
Then, take Chris Christie’s trip to New Hampshire awhile back to loudly announce his support for political transient, Scott Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Very firm words. Unqualified Christie backing. Yet, when immigrant Brown was “Senator Brown from Massachusetts,” Christie locked horns with him repeatedly and – in true Christie style – did so at the top of his lungs. Now it’s all better? Yeah, sure.

Political endorsements are almost always about getting an advantage or keeping the advantage. Chairman Christie of the Republican Governor’s Association, for example, is interested only in getting more Republicans in statehouses. Experience or qualifications be damned. Hand him a piece of paper with the name of your local Republican wannabe governor and Christie will make you think they grew up together. Buddies for life.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s just a job Christie and others are doing. But you need to know that because if you believe the hollow, verbal garbage and let the endorsement make your voting decision for you, then there’s a lot wrong.

And, of course, there’s the double-edged sword of endorsements. May look good to the one receiving the endorsement. Or, it may be a message to voters who don’t know the candidate but know they don’t like one or more of those doing the endorsing. Associated guilt, as it were.

The national political mess we’re in has been caused by a lot of things. But three factors stick out for me. First, too many voters don’t know one candidate from another and – like picking the “pretty brown horse” at the track – they cast a vote for the wrong reason. Second, too many of us don’t do our homework to find out which are the smart rabbits and which shouldn’t be allow to handle sharp objects.

And, third, many are “turned off” to politics – all politics – and either don’t vote or don’t make informed choices. So they wind up cancelling out wise decisions by more informed voters. And we wind up with a Louie Gohmert when we’d be better off with Gomer Pyle.

Each informed vote – honestly cast – does make a difference. That’s just a fact. Each vote. Every vote. But especially the vote that’s the result of a little research – a little extra effort – a little independent thought. The information is more easily accessible now than ever. Getting it is not hard.

What’s hard is living with the results of a bad vote – an uninformed vote – or a vote that wasn’t cast. Or falling for an endorsement of someone you don’t know BY someone you don’t know.

This pork is a hog

Author: admin

For many, many a moon, it’s been hard to say anything positive about our miscreants in congress. Especially those in the Grand Old Party of “NO.” About the time you think they’ve reached the bottom, one of ‘em digs a little deeper and any thoughts of saying something positive about recalcitrant elephants are immediately dashed.

But one fella – Idaho’s Second Congressional District part-time dentist – has acquitted himself with more positive job performance than a majority of others in the herd. Mike Simpson can be honestly castigated for making a number of wrong-headed votes in the name of Republican “unity” – a phrase rapidly becoming inappropriate for anything GOP. He’s gone along with his leadership on some things unnecessarily partisan. Still, on the whole – as far as his folks at home are concerned – he’s been quite helpful.

But now, he finds himself doing something for the sake of some of those same home folk that may be politically smart but it’s also politically abhorrent to a lot of us – and maybe even him – because it’s wasteful of our tax dollars and is little more than pork wrapped in the old American flag.

The brass hats in the Pentagon maze have been trying for years to thin out our inventory of obsolete, costly and no-longer-effective weapons systems. Things change. We move on. Technology keeps getting better. We can kill more people with less. And, sometimes, we can even kill them one-at-a-time from 5,000 miles away – if everything operates properly. So, some of the deadly toys we bought many moons ago should be retired or recycled.

But – when the folks on Capitol Hill – the ones who think holding elective office is a tenured “career” regardless of performance – hear such talk, there’s an immediate reaction of sphincter puckering and a rush to head off any loss of defense spending in the home district. One of the leaders in this embarrassment of pork preservation has been the Speaker himself. The Army has been telling Congress for years it doesn’t want any more copies of certain models of current tanks – wants to stop building ‘em – and it wants a particular company to stop refurbishing the ones damaged on current battlefields. Stop, already!

Ah, but the company that does all that tank rebuilding is where? Where? All together now – OHIO! And that district is represented in Congress by whom? All together now – SPEAKER BOEHNER! And in his mind, we’ll never have enough tanks – especially not enough rebuilt tanks – until Hell freezes over. It’s called “pork,” boys and girls. P-O-R-K!

So, what about Mike Simpson? Well, he’s now caught up in something very similar. He’s “going to the mat” to save a flying weapons system the U.S. Air Force doesn’t want anymore – the A-10 Thunderbolt. Or, as it’s more informally known, the “Warthog.” The “Hog” first flew in about 1976. It’s been called an “airborne tank” because it can take a lot of punishment and keep on flying. It’s a twinjet craft used in close support of combat troops for strafing, rocket launching and putting a lot of hurt on those threatening our people. It’s been a great airplane and the most effective aerial weapons carrier for such work.

But times have changed. Technology has improved. We’ve got new planes – drones – better ground weapons. USAF equipment buyers want to phase out the old “Hog” and spend our tax dollars on better, newer and more effective killing stuff. And therein lies the trap drawing Mike Simpson’s “Luke Skywalker” over to “the Dark side.” Fight for the folks at home. Support that pork!

Gowen Field is a small Idaho National Guard base on the South side of Boise’s busy commercial airport. It should have been moved years ago. One of the prime reasons it exists is to be Idaho’s home for “Warthogs.” A couple dozen of ‘em. And all the support personnel, local payroll and purchasing power it takes to keep ‘em flying. So you just know any USAF decision to disrupt that flow of federal dollars is going to bring instant screams from Idaho And that’s where our GOPer Simpson is caught.

I’ve known Mike for years. He’s a good head. And he’s done his share of pork banishment. But now the pork on the political spit is his. Gowen Field is about the distance of a Peyton Manning pass inside his congressional district. Just inside the line. So, after years of campaigning on the old Republican lie – er, line – of “lower taxes” and “an end to unnecessary spending,” our legislative tooth fixer is hoist on his own pork petard.

His chances of winning are very slim without some pork-passing help. The defense bill has cleared the House and is buried in the Senate. Of course, there’ll be some amending and some cutting and some pork added. But the lift to pull the aerial pork out of the fire is gonna be a heavy one. Unless senators from Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Utah jump in to help. They’ve got “Hog” bases, too, you see. Or “Hog” maintenance facilities. Got to spread that tasty “pig meat” around, don’t you know?

Given his long-standing, squeaky-clean conservative record, Simpson’s in a strange place. He’s waging a good fight. But whether he’ll have his whole Republican “cost-cutting” heart in the battle is another question.

Still, seems to me quite fitting that the pork at the center of Simpson’s political conundrum is a “Hog.” And remember, boys and girls – pork is always – ALWAYS – in the eye of the beholder.

Time for house cleaning

Author: admin

Last week’s shameful, amateurishly conducted, unbelievably arrogant and utterly unnecessarily divisive Idaho GOP convention was – is – and always should be – looked upon as the state’s absolute low point in political history. But – it should not be remembered as a surprise.

Those of us with a lifelong interest in things political can’t help but look upon that horrendous display and want to think – to say – to write something thoughtful and meaningful in it’s wake. Anyone who tries to do so will embark on a fool’s errand. But that won’t stop some of us from trying.
There was nothing in the raucous display of political throat-cutting upon which to base any thoughtful review. It was an expensive embarrassment for the party. And, as word spreads through the national political networks, equally as embarrassing for the state.

Idaho’s Republican Party has been headed off the cliff for a long time. Like the party nationally, it’s been organizationally kidnaped by narrow-minded absolutists in no way representative of either the long and honored conduct of the GOP or the mainstream of its historic membership. Both groups have created platforms filled with homophobic, racist, close-minded and hurtful language. Both are exclusionary. Both have espoused political goals antithetic to good government. Both have turned their backs on historic accomplishments of past Republican leaders who worked in the best interests of the country at-large rather than some imagined utopia of better days.

When a handful of party “loyalists” meets ahead of convention, voting to disenfranchise some 30-percent of the delegates who were to attend, it doesn’t take a great deal of political acumen to see who’s in charge and how the experience will end. This particular convention was not only doomed from day one, it was doomed years ago as unity, comity, accommodation and compromise were drummed out of the party vocabulary. The Idaho GOP has been walking along the cliff’s edge for a long time. The convention finally proved to be one foot out in space. There will be a fall. In fact, it’s started already.

Republicans have become more divisive – more likely to exclude those who differ in thought and word. The GOP has become an intolerant, narrow-minded group. Nowhere has that been on display more arrogantly than in Idaho in the past week. If one or more sheep differed on any subject from the single-minded theology presented, such sheep were quickly cut from the flock. The aforementioned organized effort to exorcize nearly a third of voting delegates was proof positive. Three entire counties were targeted for elimination in the convention process.

Idaho Republicans – and too often national Republicans – do not close ranks after the type of failed purity debacle seen last week. They either withdraw from further participation or immediately begin efforts to further institutionalize their divisions. One Idaho county has birthed four Republican central committees. Four. Compromise? Comity? Unity?

Many years ago, Gov. Robert Smylie – himself a long-serving Republican – gave me some good political thought. He said, after a certain length of time occupying power, both parties would do well to “open some closet doors and air the place out.” Despite his own failed effort to try holding onto power too long, he was right. And Idaho’s political climate has reached the point some thorough house cleaning seems long overdue.

And “house cleaning” there may be. Already there’s talk in the state of disaffected – or even embarrassed – Republicans getting behind Democrat gubernatorial candidate A. J. Balukoff in November. Republican reasoning seems to be – if elected – he would face the usual solidly Republican legislature which would hold him in check for four years. That would give Idaho Republicans time to do some philosophical “house cleaning” and be in better shape to take back the governor’s office in 2018.

Risky reasoning, that. But that’s how bad things have gotten in the Idaho GOP. That’s how badly things went in the state convention last week. And that’s just what could happen because the Republican dog looked off the bridge, saw what appeared to be a bigger bone and dropped the one he had.

Old as Aesop. As fresh – or as despoiled – as Idaho’s Republican Party.

I’m going to advance a theory about Sgt. B. Bergdahl that I suspect you probably haven’t seen anywhere else. The fact that you likely haven’t means I’m probably crazy as hell. But, hey, those of us who write on the old I-net machine aren’t real writers and thinkers anyway, right?

This kernel of digital thought is based on my own years in uniform and the thousands of people I met while doing so. Because many of those years were spent in locations with personnel from other services, I got a pretty good look at people in all branches. Sans uniforms, we were a good cross-section of American life. Some very intelligent individuals – others that had to be reminded daily which foot was the left and which arm was the right.

A basic fact I learned is not everyone in uniform should be – whatever their motivations for joining. But, in my day, a lot of folks were either drafted or so scared they would be that they jumped into one branch or the other just to have a choice. The topic of an “all volunteer” military was never mentioned. You gambled the draft wouldn’t get you or you went off to “march” in the military.

Regardless of which branch, you’re immediately thrown into a lifestyle of life-changing experiences with people you’d never meet any other way. If you were from a small, all-white Oregon town, you quickly learned there really were others who didn’t look, talk or act like all the folks back home. Not that you weren’t intellectually aware of that. You just never showered with ‘em or ate with ‘em or – if you were a bit social – got to know ‘em.

If you were a “normal” heterosexual male, you found not every other guy was. In those days, that meant a quick discharge. If you were of a race with a learned hatred of the other, there were new social techniques to learn – quickly – to deal with that. If you had no patience with those whose hygiene skills weren’t up to yours, you had another learning experience. In fact, service in any military unit was – and is – a constant “learning experience.”

Even back then, not everyone “made the grade.” We had “washouts.” Guys who couldn’t adjust. Or wouldn’t. The primary goal of basic training in any of the branches has always been to quickly whip recruits into at least a basic military unit for further training. Almost as important has been the need to find those that can’t make the transition and weed ‘em out. Even in today’s all-volunteer military, not everyone who does so – regardless of motivation – should be accepted.

Given that background – and extensive reporting of Bergdahl’s days in the military and of his family’s lifestyle – my hunch is the sergeant is one of those and that he slipped through the cracks.

Hailey, Idaho, is a relatively isolated community of some 8,000 souls Though only about a dozen miles South of Ketchum/Sun Valley, Hailey is a more rural town with a slower and more local flavor – the sort of place rural South Blaine County folks go to buy necessities. Compared to Ketchum/Sun Valley, Hailey is definitely not in the “fast lane.”

Bergdahl’s family seems not to be a “fast lane” bunch, either. His father and mother talk more like some of the more liberal crowd in the area. Some of their words bring memories of what were called “hippie-types” about 45 years ago. Their descriptions of Bowe, and quotes of many other locals who’ve said something of his background, talk of a “good kid” – one who was sort of quiet – who didn’t have a lot of problems with school or other local authority. A kid with conscience. And a bit of a dreamer. A kid who kind of kept to himself – not part of the popular crowd – pleasant enough – smart enough but not outstanding.

Some reporting since Bergdahl’s release has told of a few times when he just wandered away from his army duties. In basic training, he once said he just wanted to go see a sunset. In Afghanistan, he had gone – unarmed – on more than one foray into local areas to look around. In an email to a friend, he talked to wanting to walk to China into “the artist’s painted world, hiding from the fields of blood and screams- hiding from the monster within.” He’d also repeatedly expressed concerns to fellow soldiers about what the American military was doing to the native population and of h is serious concerns about it.

Dig a bit deeper. In 2006, he “washed out” of the Coast Guard for “psychological reasons” before he joined the army.

“O.K., Rainey,” you say. “Where the hell are you going with all this?”

Well, here’s where. Given my own military experiences and adding what we now know of Bergdahl’s, this sounds like a guy who should’ve been “washed out” in basic training. Or rejected by a recruiter. Especially with the previous Coast Guard “psych” discharge which was certainly on the record. He sounds like a serious-minded kid, just out of his teen years, raised in a rather liberal family by parents who’ve expressed similar concerns about the war in Afghanistan. I don’t know enough about them to call them “conscientious objectors” but they’re certainly more forthcoming – and articulate – with their reservations about the war than most folks. His father’s gone so far as to learn the local Afghan dialect and grow a beard common among Afghan men. Those things also speak of someone with more than casual feelings about events. You ever hear of anyone else in a similar situation going that far? Me neither.

Seems to me Sgt. Bergdahl is a guy who should’ve never been in uniform. He sounds like a good kid who certainly would have never made “Soldier of the Month.” He sounds like a bad civilian “fit” in army fatigues.

Bergdahl – or any captive American in a war – should’ve been rescued. All else is political B.S.. The rescue was right. Now, if a subsequent military investigation finds what Bergdahl did by wandering off fits the Uniform Code of Military Justice definition of “desertion,” take the proper steps to administer punishment as specified. That’s the “army way.”

Still, it seems to me the army bears more than a little responsibility for Bergdahl being in Afghanistan in the first place. His background – his upbringing – his family beliefs – his repeatedly expressed concerns about what war was doing to other human beings – the previous discharge for “psychological reasons” – all of that should have raised red flags. He had a history before his capture. A history that was well-known to those around him in the military. A history that seems to have been ignored.

Sometimes that, too, is the “army way.”

This week’s results of the secession votes in Northern California have been posted. The score is two to one: two deciding to continue their established relationship with this country – one opting to join four other counties that previously decided to pioneer a new “State of Jefferson.” Butte County, California, voters will decide the issue for themselves come Tuesday next.

Now, to some it might appear all this “smoke-in-the-California-woods” is just that: people blowing smoke. But, if you clear the air a bit, you’ll see there are some “flames” to all this and some real problems – maybe more violent problems than voting – could be ahead.

In Del Norte and Siskiyou Counties deciding to stay with the union, the count was roughly 60-40. Tehema County voted to go, and it was about the same ratio to leave. About six in ten. In other words, no terribly lopsided majority either way. So, the secession question isn’t going to disappear, regardless of how impossible such a move might eventually be. The discontents and the malcontents still equal 40-60% of the residents. They’ll continue to create very heated political situations in anything those counties try to do. Anything.

There really is some “beef” to all this secession business. Watched a spot on the T&V the other day showing several dozen kids with dummy wooden rifles being marched across an open field ala the British in 1775. They also were getting lectures from old guys in uniforms – astride old horses – about “freedom” and “personal rights” and all that. In other words, prepping the next generation of Northern California kids to carry on the fight when the old guys and the old horses are long gone. That’s dangerous.

When you have 40-60% of the local population getting onboard this secession train, the reality is not all these folks are on the loony fringe. Several I’ve heard support leaving California express some very legitimate concerns i.e. political and economic dominance by large cities, unequal distribution of government assets and programs, little representation in matters of government, etc. All fact maybe, but also all legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court put us on the “one-man, one-vote” highway in the 60′s. Soon, rural sections of all states found themselves losing their grips on the levers of government and commerce. Power began shifting to metropolitan areas. Idaho may be one of the last states where this isn’t necessarily true. And that’s only because the legislative bunch from Ada and Canyon Counties – where a third of the population lives – have clout in numbers but keep fighting among themselves over political B.S.. So less populated regions of the state still kick their butts in the legislature because the rural communities have learned to stick together.

The California secession contingent also has the possibility of lighting fires in other places. Josephine, Jackson, Curry and Douglas Counties on Oregon’s side of the border have voices singing the same song. And have for many years. Doesn’t take more than a few beers to get those voices raised.

Is all this going anywhere? No. If 90% of all the folks living in these unhappy counties decided to leave, could they? No. Is secession from a given state even possible? Not likely. And it certainly wouldn’t be smart.

But a lot of the folks at the root of this movement are much like that Bundy fraud in Nevada. Not all, certainly. But many. Filled with questionable knowledge of our nation’s history, spouting half-truths and no-truths about “individual rights,” “constitutional rights,” “government oppression,” opposed to any government program that doesn’t benefit them and hellbent on getting on TV. They sound “good” to the uninformed, the angry, the outcast residents on the edge of society and the professional haters who’re looking for a larger voice.

These pockets of angry people are a distinct minority for sure. And the possibility of them fulfilling the empty promises of “greener pastures in a 51st state” is nigh impossible. But, in this instance, they just happen to be geographically connected – separated only by an invisible state border. There are those among them not motivated for anyone else’s welfare but their own. There are already well-established drug routes through the forests that sit astride the Oregon-California border. There are informal but well-established trails of illegals and other illicit traffic passing back and forth through the trees. There are people in a dozen or so counties covering the two states with their own personal reasons for keeping the pot boiling.

“Secession” is how all this is referred to and the media truly gives it more credence than it deserves. So far. But when you have elected officials – county sheriff’s and supervisors and clerks – publically advocating the dissolution of bonds with established states, the subject is not going away. And, like that Bundy guy, there are enough opportunists with their own agendas who see profit in the situation to keep stoking the flames.

We have too much ignorant, anti-government sentiment in this country at the moment. Much of it sponsored by voices getting rich by keeping the fires burning. Secession from either California or Oregon by established counties is not going to happen. But I’d bet this business is going to get a lot stickier and a lot louder before it ends. And how it will end is an unknown at this point.

Failure to inform

Author: admin

The media’s outburst of sustained patriotism and flag-waving over the Bowe Bergdahl story in recent days seems symptomatic of that same media’s oft-repeated failure to report stories rather than announce events. Now, after the first 48 hours, nearly all of them have run the other way in a “rush to judgment.”

Bergdahl, of course, is the Idaho soldier released by the Taliban in Afghanistan a few days ago. For 48 hours, the media was ecstatic and breathlessly related lots of fluff without much substance. Rather than go back to the original reporting on file to flesh out details of his capture five years ago, the kids slathered viewers and readers with gooey gossip severely lacking in fact. Chasing crumbs on the floor while leaving the loaf on the table, seems to me.

Bergdahl may ride in a parade or two around Idaho. But there’s also reason to believe he could wind up in prison or, at the very least, be charged with desertion, given time-served as a prisoner-of-war and dishonorably discharged. Some of the things said by his parents at hastily called bi-coastal media events, could do their son more harm than good. To wit: his father’s decision to learn the Afghan language, comment about hardships caused Afghans by America and the war while growing a big, bushy beard like real male Afghans.

Then add some of the comments from soldiers who risked their own lives to find Bergdahl in the early days after his disappearance, the death of several soldiers on that detail and reports Bergdahl simply loaded up a canteen with water and walked off into the countryside – without his rifle – and you’ve got far less a wonderful story and more of another tragedy of war. And desertion.

The Bergdahl story is far from over. But, if the media had been doing any professional job at all, these details and a lot more could have been reported right at the top along with what was known about his release. The story wasn’t so much about his negotiated freedom as it was about how he was captured in the first place. The story has bookends. And – sadly – both were simply not included in all the reportorial B.S..

There was a time newspapers adequately reported these kinds of things. Lots of detail massaged by editors and proofreaders. Then radio came along. Radio wasn’t designed for long, fully-reported stories. You got the gist of things, then sought a newspaper for details. Then TV hit the scene. Facts gave way to pictures and pictures drove the coverage. TV newscasts had to have “graphics – pictures – movement – action.” Radio gave you the immediacy, TV showed you what happened (sometimes) and newspapers had the details. Now – not so much.

When Ronny Reagan’s Federal Communications appointees deleted all requirements for local radio news, we information seekers took a hit. When they knocked down barriers to same-market-ownership and cross-ownership of competing media, we were hit again. With the advent of the I-net, we turned to electronic data to satisfy our need for detail. That didn’t last long. Between reduced hours of staffing and interminable repetition, even the I-net – with rare exception – has succumbed to “flash-and-dash” coverage.

With brevity, understanding a story can be difficult. Today’s media kids – in all types of media – are being told to “write down.” In newspapers, a few paragraphs al la “Huffington Post.” In radio, standing network protocol is no more than 30 seconds! TV “packages” are supposed to be less than two minutes. With pictures.

Two factors complicate the issue of getting facts even more. One – too many of these kids can’t “write down.” They don’t know how. And it’s tougher than you think. Try this for yourself. A 30 second story read aloud is eight lines of 40 characters each. Take what you know of the Bergdahl story and write it for a stranger who hasn’t heard any of the details. Go ahead. Try it. Get it all in there. We’ll wait.

And two – our access to news is being cut. Have you noticed that CNN, for example, has no newscasts after four p.m. seven days a week? How many local radio stations in your area have newscasts? How many of those few that do simply read the local paper? Has your local newspaper gone out of business? Or, like the once great “Oregonian” simply been gutted – reduced in size with days of delivery cut? If you’ve got a local newspaper that still publishes seven-days-a-week, that’s the exception in too many places.

We live in an age where information has never been more plentiful. But we also live in an age where too many people aren’t exposed to accurate, basic, factual information in their daily lives when necessary. They either don’t search it out or accept the half-reported stories they hear and read. Like the Bergdahl story. Or the stories-mixed-with-opinion on MSNBC and Faux News.”

While accurate, none of this excuses the first days of “reporting” in the Bergdahl episode. We’re dealing less with a “patriot” here than we are a young fella from a small Idaho town – dropped into a shooting situation that most of us have mixed emotions about. I don’t want to condemn him for what he did or why. So far, the condemnation I feel is for a media that hasn’t done it’s job to inform.

Here they come again! This time it’s California. Again. But, over the horizon, we could be talking about several counties in Oregon. Again.

The secessionist birds are flying once more in California’s Tehama and Del Norte Counties where they’ll be voting Tuesday – officially, of course – to have county commissioners – they’re called “supervisors” South of our border – push harder to pry certain counties loose to create the State of Jefferson. Butte County folks will deal with the same issue on the 12th. Glenn, Modoc, Siskyou and Yuba have already voted to go – stage right. Far right. And out.

Given how long malcontents in Oregon’s Josephine, Jackson, Douglas and Curry counties have been trying to bring the issue of secession to a vote, this new effort may “juice” them up to try yet again. Wouldn’t be surprised.

At the root of these useless expenditures of time and money is, of course, frustration. Some of it real. Some not so much. A guy named Aaron Funk in Del Norte, makes the “frustration case” for leaving California.

“We have 11 counties up here that share one state senator while Los Angeles has 20 and San Francisco 10 more,” he says. “Essentially, we have no representation whatsoever.”

There is some tiny, frustrated logic to that. Except for laws requiring equal representation based on nose-counting. One basic point adding to Mr. Funks angst is the real isolation of Northern California from the rest of the folks. The seven counties that have voted to leave – and the others who likely will next week – have a combined geographic area twice the size of New Hampshire but only about 467,000 souls residing. Mt. Shasta and all the redwoods are there along with some of the state’s poorest citizens. Racially, the population is nearly all white.

But Washington and Oregon residents living east of the Cascades could make almost the same case for almost the same reasons. Far from the seats of power, less political representation, lower economic scales and heavily white. So far, they haven’t. Officially.

Siskyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong already wants to pull out. She’s one of the Tea Party secessionists and says there are “too many nanny laws” coming out of Sacramento.

So how would the secessionists handle the financing of a separate state given that all states are required to take care of citizens therein? Well, depends on who’s doing the talking. Most often cited example of how things would be better is pretty plain. And plainly not possible in the real world. Just get rid of the feds, dissolve all those pesky state agencies that keep messing up their lives and build a government made up of only what’s necessary. But – when it comes to defining “necessary” there isn’t much commonality.

Other voices in the separatist forests go on at length how there are so many minerals and forests and agricultural lands that financing a whole new state government would be a piece of cake. Sell a bunch of it. Rent out a bunch of it. Sounds good unless you remember most of those assets are federally owned and would almost certainly remain so – new state or not. Ask other Western states about that immutable fact..

Other voices wanting to split up California have a different bone to pick. The state, they say, has become so large, so populated, so ethnically and economically diverse it’s not possible to effectively govern it all. So, you hear schemes of dividing all that real estate – and all those people – into three to six new states. But – if you just took those 13 counties that want to be in the new State of Jefferson, the state legislative analysis office puts them right on the economic bottom. Again.

Some thinking folks in those counties are damned scared. Specially educators. They don’t see any of this helping out their school systems. In fact, they fear the loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars that currently underwrite their districts. In Del North County alone you’re talking about 32 million state dollars which is 90% of annual operations costs. Where would that – or any meaningful percentage – come from if the California Department of Education dropped out of the picture? Or the hated “feds?”

Lots of more responsible folks want all this whole secessionist B.S. to go away. They see worse economic conditions and higher unemployment in counties where there are already too many jobless. They see less law enforcement in counties where cuts in the number of sworn officers and prosecutor’s staffs have already left law-abiding citizens vulnerable. They see infrastructure of roads, sewer and water districts and transportation issues deteriorating even further.

Voting takes place Tuesday and a week from Tuesday. Street gossip says all – or nearly all – counties will vote “yes.” Then what?