The week that was

Author: admin

In one week. The Affordable Care Act is upheld by the nation’s highest court – in the process assuring more frantic right wing attacks to end its life-saving existence. The same court then cast aside unconstitutional – and poorly argued – barriers to universal marriage. And the Confederate flag – long regarded as a defining symbol for 13 states in our nation – is suddenly being swept into the dust bin of history as an icon of slavery.

In a week!

It would be hard to find a single period in the last 100 or so years in which so much of the basic societal tapestry of this country was so drastically altered. In one week!

Then the inspirational coda: America’s first Black president, in the pulpit of a Black church that had been tragically assaulted, summing up those days – and that deadly assault – in 35-minutes of classic oratory, climaxed by his breaking into song and leading the congregation – and much of the nation – in the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Others, with a better grasp of the English language than mine, are struggling to recap the historic political, legal, social and racial meaning(s) of all this. I wish them well. The after-effects will linger for a long, long time as they reflect and attempt to define.

One of the facets of all this capturing my attention has been watching reactions to both those whose causes have been vindicated or upheld and those who’ve seen their opposition to all this overridden legally and morally.

In a general sense, the vindicated have been happy, ecstatic, joyful, prayerful and – above all – gracious. Those in the first person, who’ve had their lives and social conditions changed for the better, have generally not been angry or expressed vindictiveness or scorn for either the process or for those who forced them into our courts for relief.

The same cannot be said for many of those who found little support for their views in our highest court. Among our Republican presidential aspirants, for example, Bush and Rubio came closest to a civilized response, expressing anger and disappointment while admitting laws of the land had been changed in proper and accepted ways; the nation needs to adjust and move on.

But Mike Huckabee – the only ordained minister and “man of God” among the GOP presidential contenders – spoke for many of his supporters and those of other candidates in a totally unfounded way regarding the gay marriage ruling. Said the “pastor:” “This flawed, failed decision is an out-of-control act of unconstitutional judicial tyranny.” Vindictive. Angry. Scorn-filled. Wrong.

Time was, you took your issue to the courts, argued your best case, presented your best evidence and placed that issue in the hands of a judge or judges. The outcome, whatever it was, was the outcome. You either accepted it and went on your way or you regrouped and began your judicial journey again, hoping for a different verdict. You did not reject the decision and you did not insult those who decided it. Now, we have elected officials urging people to “ignore” or “pick-and-chose” which laws/decisions to obey and which to disregard. Wrong headed. Dangerous. No nation – no society – can exist when laws become “suggestions” or are ignored because someone doesn’t agree.

In a most basic way, the U.S. Supreme Court exists for a single purpose: to measure issues before it to the justices’ interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Justices aren’t tyrants. They aren’t “out-of-control.” Their decisions – whether you agree or not – are not failures despite whether your argument prevailed or lost. Those decisions are deemed to be the legal application of the Constitution by the court and are not “unconstitutional” unless subsequently proven so in another case.

Huckabee is not the problem. But he certainly is symptomatic of the way things political have been conducted in this country for too long. One group – usually Democrat – trying to do something which the other group – usually Republican – has attempted to stop the issue under discussion. In the case of the Affordable Care Act – most of which has been upheld twice now by SCOTUS and victorious over more than 50 failed legislative challenges – Republicans have not offered a version of their own. Not one. But Speaker Boehner says the efforts to eradicate ACA laws will continue. So much for acceptance.

As for the gay marriage decision, many GOP governors are telling state officials to either ignore the SCOTUS finding or not honor it by not issuing licenses until new state laws (doomed to ultimately fail) can be written and enacted. One governor even says he’ll introduce legislation to stop ALL marriages in his state. Acceptance? Gracious? Scorn!

Republicans nationally are slipping into a posture of irrelevance in politics. The courts – the demographics – the country – are changing. Foot dragging, obstinance, unrestrained opposition, angry epithets, unsubstantiated challenges to our legal system, futile efforts to swim against the tide of public opinion of reasonable gun laws, immigration and other issues will assure reduced GOP influence on this country’s direction. All of that is confirmed by overwhelming evidence.

Quietly looking back, that presidential coda to the week’s nation-changing events seemed to have even more relevance far beyond the walls of a South Carolina church than a local eulogy for a local pastor. In an often plain-spoken way – in an often soaring use of the English language – the President tied all these events of joy, anger, sorrow and tragedy into a tapestry of acceptance and hope this country has rarely seen.

Whatever your politics – whatever your personal beliefs – whatever your religion – whatever your ethnicity or race – if you haven’t heard the President’s words – all the President’s words – please search the I-net for the Pinckney eulogy. Set aside your worldly joys and concerns for 35 minutes. Watch. Listen.

The massive change our society has undergone in recent days is reason enough to take the time. Trying to understand what all this change means for the future makes it absolutely essential.

We lawbreakers

Author: admin

In the wake of the bloody church massacre in South Carolina, this nation – with the electronic aid of a frantic national media – is entering into an asinine debate: the end of Confederate flag displays. The mindless media is busy taking quotes from people who haven’t thought the issue through or don’t see the racism of it’s own such action represents. Breast beaters and vote chasers. Or both. Mindless because banning the Confederate flag from flying in the so-called Confederate states is not likely.

Commonly accepted use of the words “Confederate states” says it all. Yes, the North won the war. At least on the battlefield. But, to millions of Americans in the South, their former flag is still the most powerful visible reminder of their true history. Offensive to most of us? You bet! But, to many of them, it’s history and tradition. Racist representation? To some, I’m sure. But not to many. Not as is to the rest of us.

Then there’s this. Can you say “First Amendment?”

Freedom of speech is not “freedom of good, likeable speech.” Freedom of speech is all speech no matter how distasteful – no matter how wrong – no matter how hateful. Whether our founding fathers intended it to be that way, I don’t know. But for 239 years, the nation’s courts have pretty much interpreted the issue to include nearly every utterance. It exists to protect the speech you don’t like – not the speech you do.

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a lower court order to remove the C-flag from license plates in Texas. Keep an eye on that because I doubt those plates will disappear. Just the Texas way of ignoring laws Texans don’t like. Germany outlawed use/display of the Nazi flag many moons ago. But, surf the I-net for a few minutes and you’ll find Nazi flags all over the Fatherland. The rest of the world, too.

There’ll be thousands of hours of time and millions of dollars wasted in various legislatures and Congress as bills are introduced to sweep the Confederate flag into history’s trash can. You can already hear the chest-pounding. Some may become law. For a time. Then will come the challenges in many courtrooms. Taking passion out of the issue, it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect banning the C-flag will be achieved. And, even if it does become the “law of the land,” it’s equally reasonable to expect thousands and thousands of southerners – and racists – will ignore it.

We have a lot of that going on within our borders now. People ignoring law, regulations, rules, human rights, tradition. Even common courtesy. All of us do it. Some by speeding. Some by throwing trash out the window. Shooting off illegal fireworks. Smoking in non-smoking areas. Sneaking liquor into sports activities. Not shoveling snow off our sidewalks after a storm. Drinking underage. Ignoring curfews. And on and on and on. We do it without thinking because we do it so often it’s a matter of course.

Someone once told me a law can be enforced only so long as a majority of people abide by it. One example: a stretch of highway posted at 60 mph. But authorities have found most people drive 70-75. Sooner or later, the speed limit is usually raised. Oregon’s legislators play with that constantly on I-5 and I-84 because state cops have found drivers routinely drive 10-15 mph faster than law allows. We’ll get it raised one of these days. By continuing to break existing law.

There are many instances when most of us who call ourselves “law abiding” actually violate law, ordinances, rules – thinking or not. Sometimes laws are changed to accommodate what has become fact. Sometimes laws stay on the books but enforcement stops. Look at public lands welfare queen Clive Bundy in Nevada. He owes the BLM over a million dollars in unpaid grazing fees but now the feds are talking about writing the whole thing off – much less not enforcing existing contract law.

With police officers being killed at record rates, murders of school children by the dozens, massacred church worshipers in a Bible class, thousands of illegal and unchecked gun sales, hundreds of unpunished Wall Street crooks damned near wrecking this nation’s economy still enjoying their freedom, illegal protests in our streets, racists ignoring our first Black president’s good works while spreading unbridled trash at will in social/public media, a Congress ignoring laws requiring voting decisions on declaration of war for more than a decade, a government operating on a federal budget that hasn’t been changed, updated or even thoroughly reviewed for years. Wanna keep going? With the exception of the poor and most minorities, too many of us break laws with impunity.

In their efforts to become our next president, Rick Perry calls the Charleston murders “an accident,” Rick Santorum blames those killings on the current president, Ted Cruz is on the campaign trail cracking jokes about guns and gun control, Mike Huckabee refers to a case of well-publicized incest as just “kids experimenting” and they’ll “outgrow it.” Anyone there you want to install as a new president of a nation already having problems of civic order?

If all the money and all the time and all the talent sure to be wasted on futile efforts to outlaw display of the Confederate flag could be directed to some more useful civic purpose, we might get a handle on some of the other, vastly more important issues going unchecked in our nation. I’m sure even ol’ Bobby E. Lee would agree.

Another shot

Author: admin

Did anyone but me notice this?

The front page, top-of-the fold banner headline of the Charleston, South Carolina, newspaper today was about the nine people murdered in a local church. Quite proper.

But…..

Affixed to the masthead directly above that headline, was a blue sticker advertisement now commonly used by newspapers everywhere. A sponsor buys it – you read it – you pull if off without damaging the newsprint.

This morning’s sticker ad – above that headline – was for a local shooting range. SHOOTING RANGE!!!

Now, the paper was first printed with the headline of the murders. THEN the sticker was attached by a circulation worker. Whoever did that had to know what the headline said.

That person – the one who applied the stickers by hand or machine – is my nominee for the dumbest ass in the world. Not for today. But for the rest of the year.

Two disparate story lines in our living rooms these days seem – at least to me – twin warnings about one of the most dangerous failures occurring in our society. Ignoring fact. while believing lies. Maybe you’ve put it together, too. It’s a seeming connection between Benghazi and police shootings.

The dangerous commonality is this: in both cases, hardcore groups have – without fact or even in the face of fact – determined an outcome and will accept no other. Until either faction sees headlines supporting their view – accurate or flat earth crazy – neither will surrender to any other reality.

In the case of Benghazi, there’s that kamikaze mentality among Republican loons that they’ve been lied to from the get-go. They absolutely “know” they’ve been deliberately deceived by Democrats who’ve “destroyed evidence” while creating a Satanic lie about what happened that fateful night in Libya. They “know” “murders” of American heroes have been covered up to save face for the Obama administration. They’ll accept nothing less – not one penny short – of the full “truth” they and they alone have seen since the shots were fired. Benghazi was treason!

And facts? Well, facts be damned! But FACTS there are. And if you know none of the others by which to make a rational, informed decision about Benghazi, all you need to know is ONE fact: there have been six – six – full-on, quite independent investigations costing tens of millions of dollars. The same event has been microscopically examined – beginning-to-end – by a State Department team – another by the Defense Department – a bi-partisan congressional oversight committee – an independent blue-ribbon group given total access to all information held by anyone – two exclusively by Republicans in one guise or another – and the seventh – another Republican witch hunt is currently working feverishly with spades in hand.

But it’s that sixth top-to-bottom scouring by Republicans – led by one of the most Democrat-hating GOPers – that should have buried Benghazi once and for all: the Issa committee. After two years trying to find something – a shred of incriminating evidence against anyone not of the Republican cloth – this last effort to find proof of a foregone belief of “treachery and treason” should have slammed the door. No evidence. Against anyone. Of any political persuasion. None. Zip. Nada. Officially. In writing!

No. No, now there’s yet another GOP-led group going at it again. No matter Issa and his minions have contaminated any future finding from this new bunch. The sounds of shovels can still be heard in the night coming from the GOP caucus room. Supporters – Limbaugh, Beck, Lindsey Graham and others – wait outside in the dark – pitchforks at hand and torches ready to light. They – and only they – know the Benghazi “truth.”

Then Ferguson. And Boston. And Cincinnati. And New York. Nowhere can you find better “how-not-to” examples of ignorant police administration and conduct. Nor a more treacherous display of prosecutorial abuse of office than we’ve witnessed in Ferguson. Conduct of local authorities that’s plainly outrageous. Some will be – and some are- the focus of outside investigations and there’ll be more than a few prosecutions.

And that Benghazi link? As in the case of those determined to create “facts” to justify their absolute certainties of what happened in Libya, so too, in these police shootings, many folks simply decided what “really happened” and will accept nothing less than support for what they “know.” Nothing.

The Benghazi-like similarity I see is with those in the Missouri, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania streets who – like the D.C. witch-hunters and others with conspiratorial mentalities – will not accept any outcome of any case differing one iota from “facts” they alone know. “Truths” they alone “understand.” Many – far too many – of these folks are unable or unwilling to deal with reality.

When people are determined to disbelieve, they will disbelieve. No amount of fact – no amount of evidence – no amount of truth will alter perceptions. All that can be done is for reasonable people to make reasonable efforts and, when that is done, move on. Talk time is over.

With unlimited resources and the power of federal subpoenas in both hands, Darrell Issa could not overcome the true facts of Benghazi. A superhuman effort in pursuit of an outcome that didn’t exist was a monumental waste of time and money. The destructive crowds in city streets are on a similar fool’s errand.

Issa had only the court of public opinion left. He lost there. Credibility. Integrity. Worthiness. Any residual value to his constituency. He’s a liar and a fool and will have to console himself with just being the richest member of Congress.

Protestors of police actions – if their protests are legitimate – have at least state and federal laws to stand upon and can attract other, more informed and more honest government and private support to their side. They still have a future in which they can prevail. And, maybe change some minds.

But not if they continue to follow other “Issa” delusionists and hold to “facts” legitimately discredited by truth. Reality is not Fox “News.”

Most of us were raised to believe the basic glue of democracy is the rule of law. You can refer to our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, federal and state laws, local county or municipal ordinances or that large stack of regulations some spend a lifetime complaining about. They’re rules. Our rules. All of ‘em.

We’ve learned to live with them. Or change them. Amend them when time or other conditions require – void them when courts decide they’re invalid or unnecessary. Rules, we’ve always believed, have separated us from the uncivilized or the lesser nations that live without them or under “rules” made by some dictator.

More than just having rules, we expect those in public leadership to know the applicable ones and to live by them. Be guided in the conduct of public business and in the conduct of their own lives. Which is why we get angry when they don’t. Like a Dennis Hastert. Or a Newt Gingrich. Or a Bill Clinton. Or a Bob Packwood. Or – well you get the idea.

More troubling to me than these and other public figures who befoul their own nests are the other ones – those in the current crop of “leaders” who know the law, but won’t uphold it, or have vowed to take actions that will directly break one or more laws.

Here are some examples. In Nebraska, the multi-millionaire governor knowingly, secretly and illegally purchased chemicals with which to enforce the state’s death penalty law. He bought them from a foreign country – action which U.S. laws expressly forbid. The Nebraska legislature subsequently passed a bill to eliminate the death penalty which the governor vetoed. Legislature overrode. Now, the governor says he doesn’t give a damn and will proceed with both the illegal poison purchase and what will now be illegal executions. Damn the legislature. Damn the laws he swore to uphold.

Take that goofy teapartier governor of Maine. Please! He’s been flouting numerous laws of his state for the first two years of his term. And now, with the legislature refusing to pass his irresponsible tax reduction bill that would severely damage Maine’s economy, that same nutball has promised to kill any legislative-passed bill that hits his desk – no matter the subject and no matter the consequences – if that bill was originated by Democrats. Damn the laws he swore to uphold.

Then, there’s that little bitty governor of Louisiana who wants to be somebody. Anybody. Even his own party leaders have publically said he should not be president. Well, Bobby has set out to prove his fellow Bayou State GOP brothers and sisters correct. Now, he’s promised to ignore the upcoming decision from the U.S. Supreme Court if said decision upholds the Affordable Care Act, as is expected. The dreaded Obamacare. Bobby says he’ll never let his state be a participant despite SCOTUS. Damn the laws he swore to uphold. Damn the Supreme Court of the land.

Rick Santorum. Removed from the U.S. Senate by voters in Pennsylvania and twice since rejected in bids for public pay. Now, he’s one of the more unqualified among the totally unqualified running for his party’s presidential nomination. He sides with that l’il Louisiana fella against the power – much less the wisdom – of SCOTUS. In his case, the issue is gay rights. Ricky says “SCOTUS is not the final judgement” on the subject, calling the court “a set of liberal judges.”

Rickie scores a Palin award on that one – twice wrong on a single issue. SCOTUS is not full of “liberal judges” and SCOTUS IS the final voice in our system when it comes to the constitutionality of our laws.

There are far too many ignorant scoff laws in our public life. Rather than master a system which has served this country’s legal needs for centuries, they’d sooner play to small constituencies for their own purposes. Rather than conduct themselves in accordance with laws, their personal and professional lives often run counter to them. Is it any wonder so many Americans are “turned off” to politics – that so many won’t participate even as voters – that ignorance and self-service have given us political office holders with little regard for the work to be done while doing and saying anything to preserve their places at the public trough?

These “damn the laws” and “win by saying anything” attitudes are also creating another very real problem for our nation. Good people, who might be outstanding leaders, look at this bunch of political heretics and decide against public service. People with intellectual, academic and personal skills that could restore common sense and civility to our badly abused system of government won’t put themselves forward because they don’t want the abuse. Because they see other good people walking away in frustration. Because they see the public’s disdain for politicians and politics in general. Because they don’t want to risk their futures and their family’s futures in a public service career held in lower esteem than hookers.

Election to public office is the voter’s extension of a contract to the winners. Conduct of those offices is governed by law. If the elected flout those laws – break those laws – or promise such conduct regarding those laws – they should be removed. Quickly.

Our body politic has been badly damaged by the cancers of ignorance, self-service, intemperance, malfeasance and personal greed. Those in public life who renounce the laws by which we are governed are unfit to serve. There’s just too damned much at stake.

Open for business

Author: admin

ATTENTION Washington, California, Idaho, Utah, Canada, et al: The Pacific Ocean is OPEN.

Traditionally, Memorial Day is the start of “the season” and, equally traditionally, it runs through Labor Day. I’m not so sure that holds true now as much as it used to since we’ve gotten more mobile and have the ol’ I-net to keep us connected for business, education or “reality.” To me, it seems to run from Spring Break to about mid-October. At least from traffic on our little piece of shoreline. But tradition is – well, tradition.

Life for we “locals” changes during the extended summer. Lots of little things visitors don’t see. For one thing, when driving Highway 101 through the downtown of any Oregon coastal community “in season,” locals learn to drive only in the right hand lane. That’s because there are always – ALWAYS – tourists who will try to make a left hand turn off 101 to get to the ocean. Typically, they do so at the intersection where the big “NO LEFT TURN” sign is posted. Above the painted arrow. Next to the flashing light.

If you live here all year, you spend some of your time researching alternate driving routes to get around town. May mean 10 or more stop signs from one end to the other but you stay off the main drag as much as possible. So, for half the year, local commutes to church or shopping – or the bar – take us a bit longer.

Locals hit the grocery stores during earlier hours in the summer. That’s because tourists who shop, do so later in the afternoon. After a day in surf, sand, wind and sunburns. We don’t usually shop Monday-Wednesday since many restaurants are closed those days. When visitors find those doors locked, grocery stores get crowded as people line up in late afternoon at Safeway and Fred Meyer for the usual vacation health foods – chips, Ding-Dongs and beer. Others travel in RV’s so they do much of their own cooking.

In our part of the central Oregon coast, the license plates we see most are from Washington and California. My guess is that’s because Oregon is the only West Coast state with an “open beach” law. Took the late Gov. Tom McCall two terms in office and all his political capital to get that mandate on the books despite voter and legislative opposition. Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Red Lion and many other “biggies” have tried to bust through. So far, the Oregon Supreme Court has rejected all comers. And McCall is revered for his perseverance.

Washington and California people either understand that or have unknowingly taken advantage of what Gov. Tom labored so hard to get into law. In those two states – and all but one other on the East and West coasts – unfettered access to the ocean is available only with city-county-federal land ownership or other designated public space. Hotels, tribes and folks with deep, deep pockets have bought up most of it and locked the rest of us out. Not so Oregon. Doubt it ever will be.

The next most seen license plates in our neighborhood are Canadian – British Columbia and Alberta. Lots of ‘em. Especially when their dollar buys more in the U.S. than at home. We’ve met many in the winter. Oregon is “snowbird” territory for them with December-January temperatures here 30-40 degrees warmer than their native land. I’ve found them – on the whole – to be friendlier than a lot of American tourists. And generally better stewards of the areas where they recreate or park their RV’s.

You don’t need a calendar to know when Memorial Day arrives near the Pacific. Just watch prices at gas stations. We pay more per gallon than anywhere else in the state year ‘round. But, end of May, add 20-30-cents per gallon. And don’t give me any B.S. about “refinery shortages” or “drops in oil reserves” or “prices at the wellhead.” In the local paper, some weeks ago, the largest wholesaler on the coast was asked why our prices are always higher – especially in the Summer months. His ballsy answer – “Because we can.”

Summer on the Oregon Coast is also a time to “get-out-of-Dodge” for a lot of locals. Many rent their homes May-September and head inland. Or South. Income at home to offset expenses on the road.

Nothing brings strangers to the Oregon coast more than weather forecasts. In Spring and Fall, it’s the ones with blue skies and temps in the 60’s-70’s. In the Winter, nothing swells the local population like a really good storm prediction. Thunder, lightening and high winds – coupled with a good Oregon wine and a fire – seem to be magnetic to lots of folks East of the Cascades and in the Portland area.

November through March, you see lots of empty storefronts or seemingly permanent “Closed” signs on the coast. Two reasons for that. First, some operate on a part-time basis like candy, small restaurants or novelty shops with their wind socks and kites. Tourists come – they open. Tourists go – they close.

Second, we get a lot of folks who’ve saved money for retirement so they could go into business turning a hobby into a second career or even something entirely new. Living the American dream. Unfortunately, when the summer is over, so is the income it takes to stay in business 12 months a year. A lot of ‘em don’t plan for that or find year-round expenses higher here than they’re used to. Happens a lot.

We locals have a few other little secrets for living with the seasonal interlopers. I can’t share ‘em all. Local privilege, don’t you know. Besides, we all take an oath when we start paying local taxes.

But the “OPEN” sign is out. Y’all come. We’ll deal with it.

Institutional loss

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It just doesn’t feel like home anymore.

Lessons from Baltimore

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My prayer

Author: admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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