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Posts published in December 2012

We are one family despite the NRA

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While trying to fight back my anger at the National Rifle Association’s contempt for civilization the other day, I got to thinking about the concept the demonic LaPierre was spewing. He didn’t use the actual words I was thinking of but there was no mistaking they formed the irrational concept he was spouting.

It’s called “Mutually Assured Destruction.” Or maybe you remember the utterly accurate acronym: “MAD.” The world lived with that MAD sword hanging over us for some 60 years. To some extent, we still do.

It began in the 1950′s when both we and the Soviets – at that time -had nuclear bombs. The idea was, if one of us decided to lob a nuke over the North Pole, the recipient would return the favor – plus a dozen, dozen additional. The concept was simple:” You kill me – I’ll kill you more.”

It was taken to the lunatic extreme of us having some 2,000 nukes in the 60′s and they had about the same. So it got to be: “I’ll kill you a thousand times but you’ll only have time to get off enough to kill me 438 times.” I’d always thought being killed once was sufficient but – since I wasn’t asked to help with national security issues – I just sorta lived with it.

In the 50′s and 60′s, I was in the Strategic Air Command – the outfit that would do all the long-range killing for this country. Adding to the MAD irony for me was the motto of SAC emblazoned on the nose of every bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile: “Peace is Our Profession.” Looking back, you gotta admit that was kinda sick. (more…)

Why we can’t solve our problems

peterson
Martin Peterson
From Idaho

When Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s million-dollar-a-year executive director, held his press conference on December 21 responding to the Connecticut school shootings, the national response was quick and largely negative. However, what was overlooked by both the
media and the public was the fact that in his response, LaPierre did a fine and concise — although entirely unintentional - job of demonstrating three of the major ills that are keeping this country from solving many, if not most, of the major problems it faces.

The first ill is to always blame someone else and ignore any contribution you may have made to creating a problem. We hear it day-in and day-out in the halls of Congress. Republicans blaming Democrats and Democrats blaming Republicans. Never accept personal responsibility for a problem when you can point the finger at someone else. Assault weapons and large capacity clips didn’t create this problem, according to LaPierre. It’s video games, movies and lack of armed guards that are the problem.

The second ill is to identify a problem and then ask the federal government to pay for it. That is the mind-set that has helped lead us to the serious fiscal problems the federal government currently faces. The NRA offices in Washington must be in a soundproof bunker. Apparently LaPierre is unaware that Congress and the President are currently dealing with serious budget issues that will likely make it impossible for them to consider his proposal that the federal government fund armed guards at every school building in the United States. If he is really serious about obtaining the support of Congress and the President for his proposal, and he really thinks that those guards will eliminate school shootings, while protecting second amendment rights, he should consider recommending the means of paying for it.

Two privileges the government gives me that I enjoy are driving motor vehicles and fishing. I drive on roads that are largely funded by persons like me who use them, with fuel taxes and registration fees. The same with fishing. I buy an annual license and those fees are used to support the state’s fisheries program. If you don’t want to enjoy the privileges of driving or fishing, you don’t have to pay. The same could be true with the proposal to protect the rights of gun owners by using armed guards at schools. (more…)

What Crapo needs to do

Crapo
Mike Crapo/Alexander VA police

Becoming Idaho's senior senator has started turning into a bad-headline situation: There was the internationally-famous Larry Craig incident from about five years ago, and now the DUI arrest of Mike Crapo.

One difference between the two is that while a long-running rumor circuit made the Craig arrest a surprise but not a complete shock, it's probably safe to say not many people saw a DUI arrest in Crapo's future. Crapo has always appeared to be a totally observant, teetotaling Mormon; he has specifically said that he doesn't drink, and he seems to have given no reason till now to doubt that. His name never has shown up - as far as I know - on any informal list of quiet occasional drinkers among the politically active faithful, at least outside his circle of closest friends and relatives.

Crapo was arrested early Sunday morning, and police in Alexandria, Virginia, reported he had a .11 blood alcohol level, substantially above the .08 line for DUI (in Virginia as well as in Idaho). That BAC level is ordinarily an indicator of being not just tipsy, not close to borderline sober, but being seriously sloshed.

The senator's first statement out of this was appropriate enough: "I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance. I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter."

He isn't, evidently, trying to dodge, prevaricate or avoid, which is a good sign.

Two other points are worth making before more plays out.

One is that Crapo has no cause - no external reason, apart from whatever his own preferences may be - for resigning. That may sound awfully premature since no calls for departure have surfaced (that I have seen), but expect some to materialize, from anti-drunk driving activists if not elsewhere. Remember that in Craig's case, the chorus for resignation was deafening, not least from Idaho, and Craig's legal offense (while much more spectacular from a tabloid perspective) was lesser than Crapo's.

Crapo is being charged with a misdemeanor, however, so there's no legal requirement to leave. He appears ready to accept the consequences, which is all you can ask at this point. And we don't, or at least shouldn't, hold our officials to some standard of perfection. There's no reason Crapo can't, if he chooses, go on doing the job the voters of Idaho hired him to do.

There is something else, though, Crapo owes those voters, and in a looser sense (as a relatively senior senator, and top Republican on the increasingly significant Banking Committee) owes the rest of the country: An explanation.

At some point in the days ahead, as he has the chance to collect his thoughts and re-evaluate whatever needs to be evaluated, Crapo ought to open up about what's going on in his life and what led up to his driving under the influence - and, for that matter, being under the influence. This would not be an easy thing to do, and facing this up to his fellow Mormons would be awfully tough.

If Crapo wants to retain the support and confidence than Idahoans at least (and people outside the state as well) give him that allow him to function effectively in the Senate, then he needs to come clean about what's happening. And how he intends to deal with his challenges, so that he can do the job he was elected to.

A good deal of Crapo's support over the years has come from the sense that this is a man of strong and upright character. Now, in this moment of challenge, Idaho will get to see more clearly than it has before exactly what is the nature of Crapo's character - not so much in in the mistake that led to a DUI arrest, but in what he does from this point forward in response to it.

Personal property tax: What it is …

idahocolumnn

For those who have to pay it, the personal property tax must be one of the most aggravating.

Many Idahoans probably don't know much about it – don't often encounter it – and may have wondered what the deal was when a report about the Idaho personal property tax was released by the state Tax Commission last week. It may be one of the least liked taxes among small businesses; under its terms, businesses have to itemize things like office equipment – furniture, computers and much more – and estimate their value, with taxes to be paid on them. The taxes have not been massively high, but in relative terms the paperwork can be extensive.

Unsurprisingly, there's been a movement for some years to eliminate the personal property tax, and it's picking up steam. (The lobby at the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry is working on it, for one, following up on lobbying it did last year.) Prospects are fair or better that the personal property tax in Idaho may be amended or maybe even eliminated next session.

At the same time, not a lot has been known about it – what it raises, where it goes, what it covers.

Some of that information gap ended with the Tax Commission report's released on December 18, and it should provide the information base around which debate will run. It's the first report on the subject the commission has ever released. After reading it, you suspect it won't be the last.

It tells us, for example, that the PPT brings in about $140 million a year. Split among the hundreds of local government districts (the sewer districts get $12,852), that's a fairly small piece of the tax pie. Even so, $140 million would make a dent of some kind, especially in the cities and counties, if it abruptly went away.

A close read of the report suggests, though, that changes could be made that might ease its often onerous nature without cutting away all the revenue – and in fact the personal property tax probably due for some good review and a legal rewrite anyway. (more…)

They know not what they do

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Within a span of just 14 hours, we’ve been exposed to two terrible examples of belligerence, selfishness, ignorance and behavior dangerous to who we are as a nation. One was a handful of carelessly elected zealots – hellbent on fiscal destruction of our economy. The other, a tone-deaf, arrogant, in-your-face example of the dangers the existing National Rifle Association presents to the civility of our culture.

For the record, what John Boehner tried to ramrod through the U.S. House was lousy legislation – ill-conceived legislation – bad for middle class Americans legislation. It deserved a procedural death. But not the way it happened. Or for the reasons it happened.

Boehner’s “Plan B” was DOA in the Senate and stood to get a stake in the heart at the White House if it accidentally got that far. It was proposed simply as a GOP “show horse.” Toss tax issues to the Democrats and make them fall on their swords. But it blew up in Boehner’s face. The faulty legislative grenade was triggered by about three dozen members – loosely called “tea partiers.” Small “T” and small “P.”

Make no mistake. These are not “Tea Party” people in the original meaning of that title which was believed a clever nomenclature for some disgruntled Americans wanting to make a political statement to the country a few years back. These people are vastly ignorant about the affairs and conduct of the government they espouse so much hate for. They know nothing of how it’s structured – how it works – or what’s expected from people who currently hold the elected offices they do. Single-issue zealots to the core, they routinely subvert their own “causes” by stepping on their own feet.

What they’ve done is treasonous. They’ve cut the throat of an entire political party. Giving Boehner absolute benefit of any doubt, his was the only voice of the entire Republican Party in that body that could’ve negotiated solutions to our terrible financial perils. If he and the rest of our national elected voices were to find common cause to deal with the thorny issues, his voice had to be supported. Sadly, it was not. And is not.

What the ignorant have done is cut the ground out from under him. In the process they’ve created something they profess to hate: a unilateral voice of one to create an agenda – or solution – as that voice sees fit. I don’t like government-of-one. We need the best of each of the two parties we send to conduct our national affairs. The tension of two knowledgeable, reasoned, intelligent sets of hands is needed on the rope to keep us from being pulled too far in any one direction.

GOP Rep. Steve La Tourette spoke for a lot of us at the moment of failure. “It’s unbelievable, this is horrible. I’m angry, sad for my friend the Speaker and I’m sorry for the country. We deserve better.”

Hear hear.

What the GOP miscreants have done is effectively cripple the two-party system. Boehner will never have a chance to undo what they’ve done from this day forward. He will never again be regarded as the leader of all things Republican in the House. Through no special fault of his own, he’ll never be trusted to speak with an effective, unified political voice. (more…)

If elected …

Oregon Republicans are losing a capable party chair in Allen Alley, the former candidate for governor who led the party through difficult times, departing at the end of his term to return to relatively private life. How difficult the Oregon Republican situation may be in 2014 could relate to who becomes Alley's successor.

In most cases it wouldn't matter greatly. (Alley, who did reasonably well, nonetheless presided over a bad election cycle for Oregon Republicans.) But it might in this case:

The first public candidate for the job is former two-time congressional candidate Art Robinson, he of the, ah, unusual ideas about nuclear waste (sprinkle it on the ocean) and public schools (which he has equated to child abuse).

From the Democratic-supporting Blue Oregon blog: "I find it hard to believe that the money people behind the Oregon GOP would allow Art Robinson to be their spokesman in Oregon. It would basically be a sign that they're just throwing in the towel entirely. But he's not without his supporters - particularly in the Ron Paul wing-ding sector. And they're fired up, feeling that they were mistreated in the convention delegate selection process. Pass the popcorn!"

Magnet

This may never materialize - for various reasons, probably won't - but you can easily imagine the turn of mind that would cause it to be taken this far.

A story in the St. Maries Gazette-Record says that a survivalist group operating at The Citadel Project has plans to set up a walled community (with amenities including schools, medical facilities, recreational outlets and an armory) housing about 3,000 to 5,000 people, with an economic base consisting mainly of gun manufacture. A rural area in Benewah County, Idaho, is proposed as a possible site. (It's not clear how many other places may be in the running.) And, as the paper noted, "Whether backers of the effort own anything more than a website is unclear."

Why Benewah County? The indications were that it was thought to be amenable, generally. And as for the specific site, one backer wrote, "I have walked the ground on one mountain, and you'll have to take my word for it at the moment, the terrain favors the defender."

(Against let us say, one wonders, drone missiles?)

The groups statement said they'd comply with the laws of the United States, but only those they deem constitutional. You can see where that goes.

Guns are a big part of this. "Every able-bodied Patriot aged 13 and older" would have to pass an annual shooting test and "Every able-bodied Patriot of age within the Citadel will be armed with one AR15 variant in 5.56 mm NATO, at least five magazines and 1,000 rounds of ammunition."

Further developments will be awaited with interest.

Intervention and prevention

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus said it best: I never met a deer armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

He’s well known as a sportsman who gets his elk and deer annually for the family larder, and fills the edges of the freezer with pheasants, ducks, geese, wild turkeys and chukars, all of which he hunts annually. This past fall he nailed his six-point bull elk with one shot at 340 yards.

He fundamentally supports the Second Amendment right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. He does not believe, as some interpreters of the Constitution do, that the right is meant just for a militia. That said he also believes common sense has to be applied. That means society can through Congress sanction reasonable curbs such as banning cop-killer bullets and imposing waiting periods before purchase.

The tragedy and the carnage at Sandy Hill Elementary demands at a minimum re-opening the debate on whether there should be a restoration of an outright ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles and their incredibly lethal magazines (up to a hundred rounds in some cases.).

AR-15’s and other semi-automatic rifles are built for one purpose: to kill human beings. They are neither a hunting rifle, nor usually a sporting or target shooting rifle. They are a lethal weapon meant to kill. Only police agencies and the military should have them. One can defend his castle from any home invader with a Glock 21 semi-automatic .45 caliber pistol, or a shotgun.

The problem of course is when the Brady Bill ban on the sale of these weapons and their magazines was allowed by Congress to expire, people could legally buy them and many gun collectors as well as individuals have. Common sense says we’re not going to confiscate these legally acquired weapons.

Rather than focus first on the irresolvable debate over whether stricter controls on the sale of these weapons could make elementary schools safer, there ought to be a focus on establishing ways of identifying and intervening with individuals who have mental issues and almost always are heard by someone saying they are going to exit this world and take a bunch of innocent people with them.

Meaningful intervention means society is going to have to cough up a lot more funding to address mental health issues and fund campaigns on television and radio urging people to report on “rats.” Set up toll free lines that can be directed to agencies who can legally engage in preventative detention and also direct concerned parents to services that will help them deal with a troubled son or daughter.

We also have to make part of the debate some way of discouraging these awful video games young people are consumed with playing which glorify action heroes who gun down their enemies by the hundreds. Bottom line is in our culture we glorify violence and encourage people to think they can be Lone Rangers taking the law into their own hand to wreak vengeance.

In the debate over possible restoration of the ban on automatic weapons, if not a ban then we should insist on examining better registration requirements as well as longer waiting periods before sanctioning a sale. Additionally, we should consider prohibiting gifting these weapons as well as an outright ban on their sale at gun shows across the nation.

There is no single simple answer to trying to minimize the circumstances that lead to these tragedies. Placing more restrictions on the millions of legitimate owners is simply feel good legislation that harasses the law abiding.

A combination though of both ways to identify and intervene with these deranged individuals, while making it tougher for them to acquire the kind of lethal fire power an AR-15 has to create absolute carnage seems to be a good starting point.

Let’s not fool ourselves either. It will take more money to fund properly mental health intervention programs as well as monitor the stricter controls on sales of automatic weapons and place more police “resource officers” in public schools.

We all pay lip service though to the belief that children are the future. As a society we just have no choice but to step up to the responsibility to ensure they are truly protected in their schools, their homes and on the streets. We best walk the talk.

President Obama can get the debate going by unilaterally announcing in six months he will sign executive orders placing more funding through ObamaCare into mental health prevention programs and the reinstating tighter controls on the sale of assault weapons.

Let the debate begin.