Writings and observations

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The latest lunacy from the far right is a top-of-the-voice demand to be allowed to secede from the good ol’ U.S. of A. or, in the alternative, renounce citizenship. Anyone that wants out that badly not only has my blessing but a foot firmly planted on their ass to get ‘em started.

It’s just a wild guess, but few of them likely have checked laws of the country they want out of to see how it’s done. Or if the rest of the state can go with ‘em. Or if either can be done. Being a helpful soul, I’ve done their research for them. And they ain’t gonna like it.

First, no individual or state can “secede” from this country. They can’t just pick up their marbles – or oil wells – and go anywhere else. We have some loudmouths in our Oregon neighborhood who take to the stump or the bar- or right wing radio – every so often, demanding several Oregon and California counties dump the country and form the Sovereign State of Jefferson. Much as I’d like to see them secede – er – succeed, they won’t. The occasional full-throated exercise is probably more the beer talking than any profound, thoroughly-researched, heartfelt desire to pack up and go.

Once a state joins a Union, it comes under the protection of that Union. If a state wants to secede, that state will be considered a “rebel” of the Union – as in the Civil War – and the federal government must do all in its power to preserve the “embodied collective status.” The Union. Should the rebellious state keep trying, it does so facing “severe economic results and law enforcement issues.” In short, whether we want ‘em or not, we’re stuck with ‘em. And they with us.

Personally, I’d love to see Texas malcontents prevail. Few states get more federal money – military, space, farm subsidies, etc. – as does Texas. If the feds shut the spigot, the state would soon look like an El Paso parking lot. From border to uninhabitable border. Also, Louisiana gets $1.45 for every buck paid in taxes – Alabama $1.71. They’d lose those.

There is an oft-quoted claim Texas is different – that when it joined the Union, there was a special contract clause to let them opt out if ever desired. Not true, McGee. The clause had to do with a possible future decision to re-divide the state. That may be why ol’ Gov. Perry – while throwing around the “secession” B.S. a year or two ago for his own political ends – has now cooled his jets and said it won’t happen.

As for renouncing U.S. citizenship, that’s a bit tricky as well. Also, as I read it, damned final. First, you must appear personally before a government official and sign an oath of renunciation at that time. You can’t just send a note to the ol’ State Department and tell ‘em “I’m quit.”

And you can’t get your Social Security, Medicare or military retirement checks sent elsewhere. Medicaid, either. Nope! Contrary to the nut crowd, renunciation of U.S. citizenship is complete – final – all the way out! There are some interesting cases in which someone petitioned to leave but wanted to take a benefit or two with ‘em. In one case I checked, the Department of State found the individual didn’t fully understand what he wanted to do and wouldn’t approve the application.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? You have to do the stack of official paperwork before you appear in person. And if you haven’t got more justification than being pissed at an election outcome or living under an African-American President, chances are you’re stuck here. Yeah, that’s how it works.

Also, if you quit us, you become “stateless.” That means no protection from ANY government and – without a passport – you can’t go anywhere. So, if you go to a foreign country, you may be deported without the proper documentation – passport or visa – from your “home” country. Which, of course, you wouldn’t have.

Here’s even more bad news. Cutting the tie doesn’t relieve you of U.S. tax obligations or other civil commitments. You can’t avoid prosecution for crimes committed before leaving. Also child support or alimony or other court-approved responsibilities are still in effect – with or without a country.

For those who still want to kiss the rest of us off, here’s a final item to consider. Renunciation is irrevocable except in very rare instances as determined by Immigration and Naturalization. Very rare. And the act can’t be set aside without a successful administrative or judicial appeal. You can’t just get mad, leave, then expect a “welcome home” when you get over your hissy-fit. Or sober up. Whichever comes first.

Following previous national elections, we probably had a couple hundred thousand malcontents. For me, it was Richard Nixon – the second time. Is racism an element? Bet on it. Southern Poverty Law Center says secession talk has attracted the “predictable rogues gallery of racists and neo-Nazis.” Given no similar sizeable effort to secede under Reagan, Clinton or when the Bushes were re-elected, there does seem to be some “white fury” here.

Fear of “creeping socialism” which too many on the far right can’t define – while cashing their Social Security checks? Sure. Just plain malcontents, drunks and phony bitchers? Yep, them, too.

But, now, they’re linked electronically. Passing around fictitious documents some guy in Cleveland devised in his basement. Sending out racist and hate screeds to the like-minded. Where they used to dwell under large rocks or in dark closets alone, they now have a party line of I-Net technology, making them more visible and forcing us to hear their illogical – and sometimes violent – outbursts. They’re fed daily diets of hate on the radio, have their own television network, their own demented publications and can exist in a world separate and apart from fact. And tolerance.

For doubters of all this, I submit exhibit “A” – the 2012 national election. When candidates for president and vice president can’t figure out why all the information they got for months from “their own sources” didn’t square with the reality of what happened, the only answer is they were operating in an insular environment with no checks and balances from other, unbiased input. Insulation in political campaigns – especially in the final days – is common. Which is why a wise campaign will look outside its usual communications links to stay balanced with real world facts. Not a common occurrence on the right.

Well, there you have it. Whatever your petty complaints about this country, most of you are stuck with us. And, unfortunately, we with you. It’s not that a lot of us who see the world with “live-and-let-live” outlooks wouldn’t like to assist you to the nearest port and wave bye-bye. We’re constrained by the laws that were well-designed to keep us together. Laws most of us accept. Laws of a homeland you say you want no more of.

Wish it were different. We’d be better off without you, too.

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The format change at Portland’s KPOJ-AM eliminating liberal talk radio in that city is not an aberration. This out today:

On January 2nd, CBS (which used to be known as Viacom before it spun off several of its business units as a separate company called Viacom) plans to convert KFNQ, formerly KPTK, to the sports radio format, along with many other stations around the country. The apparent objective is to create a stronger network of sports radio stations so that CBS can better compete for national sports programming contracts.
Seattle, of course, already has plenty of stations offering sports talk. These include KRKO (broadcasting as Fox Sports Radio 1380), KIRO (broadcasting as 710 ESPN Seattle) and KJR (broadcasting as Sports Radio 950).
But CBS executives don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, AM 1090′s current format isn’t making enough money – so they’re going to completely trash it, just like Clear Channel did with AM 620 in Portland.

This site has been in favor, for many years, of a return to the Fairness Doctrine. Reiterating the call for it …

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The last week, we’ve asked readers whether incumbent Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney or challenger Scott Bedke (the assistant majority leader) would emerge as winner when the session holds its organizational meeting next month.

Results: 87.5% say Bedke, and the rest said someone else. No one predicted Denney.

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Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

With about 6,100 jobless Idahoans facing a cutoff in their extended weekly unemployment payments by the end of December and plunging over their own fiscal cliffs, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, says Congress and the Obama administration have only a few weeks left to resolve the nation’s ominous federal budget crisis before taxes spiral up and deep spending cuts are imposed.

Conducting a November 14 iTownHall conference call from his Washington office that reportedly was tuned into by thousands of Idahoans, Crapo said, “We truly are facing difficult and historic times in our country.”

Noting the nation recently went through extremely intense presidential and congressional elections that only succeeded in maintaining the status quo – President Barack Obama remaining in the White House, Republicans controlling the U.S. House and Democrats dominating the U.S. Senate – Idaho’s senior senator said the government has been split and unable to bridge partisan differences.

Meanwhile, Americans “face very, very serious and immediate problems,” including a $16 trillion national debt swelling by $1 trillion a year, and the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlement systems “rapidly facing insolvency.”

Crapo said: “The economy is beginning to reel because of our debt load. If we don’t take prompt action soon, the world markets will soon lose confidence in the ability of the United States of America to pay its debt. We literally face the threat of losing the American dream.”

He explained the so-called “fiscal cliff” technically is different from the debt crisis but related. The cliff over which the federal government is scheduled to go over on Jan. 1, 2013 involves $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts “done in a way that is very inartful with the potential of causing great damage to the military and the economy,” Crapo said.

The Idaho Republican said he supports protecting the $1.2 trillion level of the cuts, but reforming them so they are not so draconian. On the flip side of the spending cuts is a steep spike in a wide gamut of taxes reduced eight to 10 years ago, commonly known as “the Bush era tax cuts,” enacted when George W. Bush was president.

“Every American is facing increasing taxes,” Crapo said. “Most all Americans will see tax increases, even those who don’t pay income taxes.”

Key components of the fiscal cliff include:

· The disappearance of a 2 percent temporary cut in federal payroll taxes.
· The expiration of extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
· The ending of Bush era tax cuts impacting married couples, families with children, inheritances, investments and income.
· A sharp cut in reimbursements for doctors participating in Medicare.
· Imposition of an alternative minimum tax on 26 million households, raising their taxes by an average of $3,700.
· Effecting new taxes on family investment income exceeding $250,000 to help pay for Obama’s health care law.
· A variety of smaller tax cuts for both businesses and individuals known as “extenders,” including tax credits for research and development and sales tax deductions in states without income taxes.
· A $55 billion or 9 percent cut in defense spending.
· A $55 billion in cuts to domestic programs, including a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers.

Crapo said a recent study shows the fiscal cliff could mean a $3,000 tax increase for average families in Idaho. More than 7,000 workers have left the state’s labor force since May. An estimated 1,100 left the job market in October, the fifth straight month of Idaho labor force declines.

Referring to the looming fiscal cliff, Crapo said: “Congress cannot allow this to happen. World markets would immediately react negatively.” He added the U.S. credit rating could be downgraded and the U.S. economy could implode.

Crapo continues to work with the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators organized to help tackle the nation’s deficit crisis, which he said has the support of 40 senators.

“One way or the other, it’s my hope we start seeing responsible government and responsible solutions supported,” Crapo said. “People in America are clamoring for the gridlock in Washington to stop. Frankly, we don’t have time.”

President Obama’s insistence that tax rates be raised on those earning $250,000 or more annually would hit small businesses especially hard, Crapo said, urging that the U.S. tax code be reformed. Raising taxes on the upper two brackets would not come close to generating the revenue needed to close the nation’s deficit gap, he said.

“The crisis is because spending is too high not because taxes are too low,” Crapo said.

A Pocatello woman whose husband works for Meadow Gold said the company has decided it will be less expensive to pay a fine for not carrying health care than providing coverage for employees. She said her family was in panic mode upon learning the news.

Crapo predicted Obamacare ultimately will force millions of Americans to get health care coverage from the federal government because private companies will discard their own policies. Health care costs could more than double, some analysts have said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates if the Bush era tax cuts are allowed to expire and taxes spring back up, that could raise up to $5 trillion in revenue over 10 years. About $800 billion could be raised from the top two tax brackets, Crapo said, but that’s the optimistic assessment.

“That kind of tax increase would be squarely hitting everyone in America,” he said, adding some pessimistically think it would raise only $2 trillion on the low end if unemployment were to vault and economic growth shrink by 3 percent. “I wish I could give absolute assurance the gridlock will be resolved and we won’t go over the cliff. … The worst option of everything is to do nothing and accept the status quo.”

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Idaho Mendiola

Oregon is home to a good deal of talk about the reorganizing of its liquor marketplace, prospectively moving away – as Washington state has – from the liquor store system, and possibly removing such elements as the three-tier sales system (producer, wholesaler, retailer) that without doubt adds inefficiency and cost to the system, and to the product.

Not as a final word but as a factor in thinking about this, take a look at this Washington Monthly article, which suggests – more clearly than I’ve seen elsewhere – the pluses to throwing inefficiency and extra cost into the system.

A sample: “And so, for eighty years, the kind of vertical integration seen in pre-Prohibition America has not existed in the U.S. But now, that’s beginning to change. The careful balance that has governed liquor laws in the U.S. since the repeal of Prohibition is under assault in ways few Americans are remotely aware of. Over the last few years, two giant companies—Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, which together control 80 percent of beer sales in the United States—have been working, along with giant retailers, led by Costco, to undermine the existing system in the name of efficiency and low prices. If they succeed, America’s alcohol market will begin to look a lot more like England’s: a vertically integrated pipeline for cheap drink, flooding the gutters of our own Gin Lane.”

As the region moves, apparently, in the direction of a marijuana marketplace, some of the ideas here might come into play there as well. – Randy Stapilus

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