Writings and observations

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We’re now 30 days into a new year, 2016, and it’s going to be an important one. It’s an election year, and a presidential election year at that. The entire direction of this country for the next four to eight years is going to be decided in a matter of months.

All across Oregon and the United States, mayors have given their State of the City addresses. Commissioners have given their State of the County addresses. Governors have given their State of the State addresses. President Obama has already given his final State of the Union Address.

These addresses share one thing in common — they’re being delivered by politicians. Their job security depends on the public perceiving everything as being good and moving in the right direction.

Because of that, they’re not always an accurate representation of the true state of things.

This is why I’m taking a completely different approach. It’s time that we had a Citizens’ State of the State Address.

So what is the State of the State here in Oregon?

A friend asked me recently if I planned to use the phrase “falling apart at the seams.” It begs the question, Is Oregon falling apart at the seams? At the very least, it appears that we keep making national news for all the wrong reasons.

Last fall, I released my third book, On the Cusp of Chaos. A central theme was that Oregon, and particularly its rural parts, is on the cusp of chaos. That proved to be prophetic.

Within weeks of its release, there was that horrific shooting incident at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. More recently, we had that whole unfortunate situation in Burns, which started when a bunch of people from out of state decided to try and take over a federal building.

The headlines from here within Oregon haven’t been great, either.

Multiple state agencies keep making news for all the wrong reasons. There’s DHS with its foster care scandal, the Department of Energy and its Business Energy Tax Credit problems, and the budgets of several agencies are in shambles. That includes DHS, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Aside from that, judges who are in the state’s Public Employees Retirement System have overturned any efforts to reform it. The effects of that are going to be locally in a big way over the next few years. That means that every city, county and school district in Oregon is going to spend significant portions of its budgets on PERS contributions instead of providing services to citizens.

In fact, it would probably take much less time for me to list the agencies that are doing well. I can’t say that any come to mind immediately.

What else can I say about the State of the State? In my humble opinion, it’s mired in needless poverty.

Our state is consistently and persistently among those whose citizens have the highest percentage of food stamp usage. Oregon also consistently leads the nation in hunger.

How?

We are blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including a vibrant, diverse agricultural sector.

Oregon should be feeding the whole rest of the nation and the world. Instead, we lead the nation in hunger.

To me, this is evidence that the state is not living up to its true potential. This has even been cited as the second worst state in which to make a living, a distinction we probably don’t want to have.

So what is the State of the State? I would submit that its prosperity continues to be undermined by a combination of cronyism and corruption.

There was that whole crisis of confidence involving our executive branch, culminating in the resignation of former Governor John Kitzhaber almost a year ago amid federal investigations.

Efforts were made to pass comprehensive ethics reform legislation during the 2015 session. Many of those bills were blocked on party-line votes. Fortunately, some of those same bills are being reintroduced for consideration in the legislative session that starts on Monday.

So what is the State of the State? My reply is that it is nowhere near as good as it could be, or should be. But the good news is, we still have the chance to change it. The future depends largely on all of us.

We’re going to hear later on from candidates who are vying for this state’s highest office. It is obvious that there is no shortage of challenges facing whoever we choose to be our governor.

One year from now, that person will take the oath of office and give the official State of the State Address.

My hope is that we can all work together, with each other and with our elected officials, to address the issues I’ve brought up.

It all starts with a shared vision.

We need to picture the community we want and the state government we want. We need to picture the world we want to leave behind for subsequent generations.

Once we’re done doing that, we must do what we can to translate those visions into tangible actions that we can all take locally. And maybe next year’s official State of the State Address can provide a more accurate representation of what’s happening in Oregon, and we can all share in a brighter and more prosperous future.

Thank you.

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Jorgensen

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This digital age makes it possible to preserve much more than people ever could preserve before, including some of our basic public records.

Just because we can does not of course mean we will. Ask the people at the state historical society about trying to preserve, record and make available the masses of records about Idaho’s history. In the context of overall state budgets, the amount spent on that effort is a drop in an ocean, and not nearly enough to do the job comprehensively. But you never know when those efforts can turn out to be critical. Or at least useful.

Here and there, individual efforts are made, and one announced last week by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is worth some attention – and credit.

Ever since statehood, the obligations of the attorney general have included publishing each year the office’s collected opinions, case activity and related documents. These reports get almost no news attention (they’re a formal compendium of things that have already happened, after all) and probably few people outside the legal system, and only some within it, are even aware of them. But they can be a vital resource for tracing the state’s legal history, and its history overall.

Finding recent copies has usually been easy enough, and sometimes they’ve even been elegantly bound. Law libraries often have copies. But even the state law library doesn’t have all of them. In fact, no one does.

Wasden’s office said their own internal collection starts with the 1891-92 report – the first – and runs to this year. But, “The missing volumes are scattered across the decades and include: the biennial report for 1895-96; the annual report for 1953; the period covering January through June 1954; the period for July through December 1973; and the 1974 report.”

Wasden said, “We searched my office, the historical society, the state law library and even former Attorneys General for these missing publications. It’s unfortunate the set is incomplete, but I’m hoping with public help we can recover these missing volumes.”

Those they do have have been posted online, at http://www.ag.idaho.gov/publications/op-guide-cert/annualReports/historicAnnualReportIndex.html. They’re scanned in as images, so they aren’t always easy to search by text.

Some of them actually make for lively reading, maybe the first one especially.

AG George Roberts wrote an overview that seemed to betray some exasperation with the job. At that time the state had local district attorneys, and Roberts seems to have been disgusted with many of them. “I requested one of the District Attorneys in this State to attend the preliminary examination of a person charged with a peculiarly aggravated and brutal assault upon a woman with a deadly weapon,” he wrote. “He replied by challenging me to show him the section of the law which made it his duty to do so. I admitted that the law did not compel him to, but that a sense of public duty should impel him to do so . . .” The resulting trial, he said, was “a travesty.”

Roberts indicated he was hammered for those local foulups: “This office has been perpetually harassed by questions affecting the performance of public duty, not only by Boards of County Commissioners, but by Precinct and County officers, and School District officers as well.”

A candid review. Maybe attorneys general of today could follow in those candid footsteps. You wonder what they might say.

The release of these past records might even give them some encouragement.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

From the FBI: “This is the complete video footage of a joint FBI and Oregon State Police traffic stop and OSP officer-involved shooting of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This footage, which has only been edited to blur out aircraft information, was taken by the FBI on 01/26/2016 and released by the FBI on 01/28/2016.”

The Finicum incident comes at around the 9:20 mark. The drone bearing the camera was quite a distance away, and the images were not utterly clear. But it does look as if he was reaching for something – as if he were reaching for a weapon – when he was shot, which is what the law enforcement account report. And we do know these people have spent a great deal of time talking about rigorously they pack heat.

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First Take

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If our flat screen TV didn’t cost so much we would have tossed a shoe at it Tuesday.

KTVB Channel 7 had a “live” reporter with news from the airport. The attractive reporter breathlessly told viewers she had been at the airport most of the day awaiting the return of Boise’s famous preacher/prisoner, Saeed Abedini, who “may be arriving any minute.” Don’t forget KTVB had been sucking up to Mrs. Abedini for years awaiting a joyful tear-filled reunion.

Turns out Channel 2 KBOI had already reported the pastor’s return to Boise a half hour earlier, showing the private jet outside the Jackson Aviation facility.

Meanwhile, KIVI Channel 6 had a reporter staking out the arrival hall at the commercial terminal, but he reported no sign of the preacher/prisoner.

In case you have lived under a rock for the past few years, Abedini was one of the five prisoners held in Iran and released January 16 as part of a USA-Iranian prisoner exchange.

The Statesman wisely reported on their competition with this lead:
“Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned for nearly four years in an Iranian prison, returned to Boise late Tuesday afternoon in a private jet, KBOI-TV, Channel 2, reports.”

Next story to hit the airwaves was an urgent message from Boise coppers asking for help recovering a couple stolen vehicles taken nearly half a day earlier while left warming up in owner’s driveways. No description of the vehicles, no color, no license number! Just a plea to call Crimestoppers if anyone has told you they stole a vehicle.

Of course all the stations followed with twenty minutes of weather maps and promises to tell us more later in the broadcast.

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Frazier

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There’s a new player on the Idaho political scene that warrants careful monitoring and serious scrutiny. They call themselves the “American Redoubt” movement but they bear an uncanny resemblance to the survivalists and posse comitatus types that operated in Idaho in the ‘80s.

The agendas are remarkably similar: the primacy of the U.S. Constitution, support for so-called “open carry” of firearms; repeal of the 17th amendment (direct election of U.S. Senators by a state’s legislature); adamant opposition to immigrants; abolishing agencies like EPA; supremacy of a county sheriff as the highest figure in the criminal justice system, etc.

The differences between then and now are revealing.Then, they did not register or vote. They weren’t active in local or state politics; now, they have become the shock troops for the Tea Party and openly support certain candidates.

In the Republicans’ “closed primary” they can exercise tremendous influence over their fellow citizens. Several of their sympathizers, such as Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard, have been elected to the Legislature and have started referencing the writings of their spiritual founder, James Rawles.

(Scott, by the way, has truly become an embarrassment to Idaho. She unfurled and embraced the Confederate “Stars and Bars” at one rally just as police in South Carolina were finally getting a handle on things. If I’d been the U.S. attorney for Idaho, I would have cited her for trying to incite a riot. Then, Scott traveled to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge to embrace the cause of folks there engaging in sedition. The people of Harney County, Oregon, most of them ranchers who abide by the terms of their grazing leases, don’t want her or the SS-like storm troops hanging around. Scott tries to justify the unjustifiable.)

The forefathers of the American Redoubters used to embrace racism. Now, Rawles says racism ignores reason.

They say they welcome all, and that there’s no discrimination against minorities, but that’s easy to say when you have few minorities.

Then, the Redoubt types banded “together” for protection wherever they were. Now, Rawles touts political migration to smaller western states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming where he believes they can live relatively unbothered by the federal government. This in fact is the underlying concept and the key to understanding American Redoubt.

Despite the outcome of America’s great and bloody Civil War, these types still adhere to the concepts of a state’s right to secede from the Union or nullify congressional laws they dislike. The Supreme Court has firmly rejected both.

They still don’t understand what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his majority ruling and precedent setting 5 to 4 Supreme Court opinion, District of Columbia vs. Heller, ruled. Scalia wrote there was a qualified right for an individual to carry a weapon, whether concealed or not apart from being a member of a militia.

Scalia clearly said there is NOT an absolute right. He went on to write that the state in the name of public safety has the right to close off public spaces like schools and courts to the carrying of any weapon, whether concealed or otherwise. One can conclude he would not support Rep. Scott and American Redoubt’s so-called “constitutional carry” legislation.

The Redoubters say they love their country, but fear their government that protects their right to dissent, their right to free speech, their right to vote and their right to own side arms, rifles and shot guns.

However, they don’t believe in your right to an ownership interest in the nation’s public lands, its wonderful national parks, its wildlife refuges, its national forests and wilderness areas. No, beause they live adjacent to these lands, whether dedicated to multiple use or a prominent single use, they think these lands are theirs, and that they own them.

Keep your eye on these American Redoubters and their Tea Party puppets – they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Caveat Emptor.

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Carlson

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As domestic terrorists (No, Virginia, not militia – terrorists) continue to hold the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, hostage for another week, the latest FBI statement amounts to a deep pile of bureaucratic B.S..

“Our response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution” sayeth the feds. Apparently folks at the Bureau on the Potomac just can’t grasp the obvious: these bastards don’t WANT a “peaceful resolution.” They want what they want or they say they’re ready for Armageddon. The only folks not understanding the Bundy boys, three weeks into this criminal adventure, appear to be the folks who’re supposed to end it.

The latest Bundy-driven lunacy coming out of the compound in Harney County is a request that all ranchers/farmers everywhere tear up valid federal grazing and other land use contracts and refuse to pay one more cent. Day before that, their proclamation was “God has spoken to Bundy” and approves of his terrorist activity. Even demanded he continue it.

Does that sound like this band of deadbeats, convicted criminals and psych cases wants a “peaceful solution?” They’re in this for the long haul. Law enforcement has become a willing accomplice by allowing these criminals free access into town to buy food, gas, hit the bars and do anything else their larcenous hearts desire. To talk to the media, too. As long as law enforcement acts as a handmaiden, the Bundy boys feel no pressure to quit. In fact, some are now bringing young children into the compound.

Time here for a bit of a review. There are actually at least three separate stories in this stew. First, local ranchers the Hammonds – father and son – are in the slammer for good and proper reasons. They have a lengthy history of destroying federal property, illegal hunting, not paying contracted fees and threatening federal personnel. Also, at least two court convictions. Justice was warranted and they belong in jail.

The second and entirely separate story is how the Hammonds were handled in the courts. They were sent to jail under a minimum sentencing law. That’s a process I’ve soundly criticized in the past. Though put on Oregon’s law books by voters, I believe it’s wrongheaded. It removes the administration of justice – and consideration of possible mitigating circumstances – from duly qualified judges. It allows only one-size-fits-all sentencing, regardless of the situation. Given the extensive history of violations by the Hammonds, justice was likely served. But the way it was handled – sent to jail, then released, then re-sentenced and back to jail for the same crime(s) – was not right. Except for that damned “minimum sentencing” law, they’d be free today. To sin again, as it were. Or not.

The third story involves the criminals holed up in the Malheur Wildlife compound. And, criminals they are. Because law enforcement has let this illegal occupation go on for weeks, two sets of facts have become clear. First, the people inside the compound are not sterling, standup citizens. Not in Oregon – where apparently none of them live – nor in their home states. As more of their individual backgrounds come to light, we find felons, ex-cons, dopers, deadbeats and liars. Also some guys with bad mental health histories drawn to this bunch of misfits.

In addition, the hypocrisy of some of these guys is not unexpected. Terrorist-in-chief Ammon Bundy, for one. While blasting all things governmental at the top of his lungs, he took out a $550,000 federal loan on which he ultimately defaulted. Another liar in the gang had, as his primary source of income, foster children in his care for which the State of Nevada was paying him big bucks. He then loudly complained to national media that he was being “penalized for his free speech” when Nevada authorities removed the kids. Who the hell did the background check originally?

There are more of these “hidden histories” showing up almost daily. One question I’ve had since day one, how many of these criminals are drawing federal/state/county checks every month? Social security, federal and or military retirement, government disability, etc. I’d bet it’s a bunch.

Now, they’re carelessly rifling through thousands of Native American artifacts in the compound and plowing new roads over what are burial grounds on the refuge where the Paiute tribes trace much of their history. They’ve torn down signs and fences not to their liking. They’re bulls breaking things in a very valuable china shop.

The FBI is scared they’ve got another Waco/Branch Dividian situation. They don’t. The isolated Oregon location and makeup of the people holed up is entirely different. There’s no need for the frontal assault the Bureau handled so badly in Waco with tanks and SWAT teams. A communications blackout, no media, no power, no water and a road blockade through which the Bundy bandits can’t go back and forth to town. Just sit in your heated federal SUVs, tell old war stories, drink a lot of coffee and wait. Just wait.

Bundy now says he won’t talk to the FBI again (a) without the media present and (b) unless the Harney County Sheriff deputizes the feds because he doesn’t recognize any law authority above the county. Further, he won’t leave until the Hammonds are out of jail which ain’t gonna happen. Where in there do you read “peaceful solution?”

There’s no basis – none – for the occupation. Again, none! Laws – county, state and federal – are being broken hourly. Locals are frightened of the whole situation and want the bastards out! Our governor has pleaded with the feds to act. No response. Damage is being done not only to the land but also to decades of cooperation between the BLM and Forest Service and ranchers, farmers and other public land users. Valuable historic artifacts are being mishandled at best – destroyed at worst. It’ll take months – if not years – to clean up the compound and restore it to working order when this is over. Innocent people are being held hostage by not having safe access to their own community. City, county and federal property is being vandalized.

Now, sympathetic elected officials from other states are making trips to Burns to meet with these lawbreakers. With media in tow. Criminals receiving support from politicians as crazy as they are. They’re getting care packages from all over the country. What was thought to be a short protest – of something – has now turned into a national disgrace and a gathering spot for more nut cases. Still they come. Daily.

Nothing good has come – or will come – from this self-serving, criminal enterprise. Nothing! The vast majority of citizens affected want this ended. Now! These guys must be starved out, charged and jailed for a dozen or so crimes against the rest of us. The land they’re squatting on is our land. Not their private, illegal domain.

There will be no “peaceful resolution” under any other circumstance. Anyone who still holds out that ludicrous hope is a damned fool. Or, works for the FBI.

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Rainey