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Posts published in April 2016

Redirected role

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As unexpectedly skillful as Bernie Sanders turned out to be as a presidential candidate, he may be positioned now to be even better in another capacity: Movement leader.

The Vermont senator has done a terrific job getting as far as he has in the presidential primary. Starting with almost nothing in the presidential run against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he battled very nearly to a draw. Up until the New York primary, he retained a plausible route to the nomination, scoring some overwhelming wins along the way.

New York turned a page. To win the nomination, he would have to take a majority of the pledged delegates nationally, and after yesterday that means he would need overwhelming wins almost everywhere still on the calendar. Wins he probably will get (Oregon, likely, for one), but not on that scale. That's not going to happen.

The typical response to this kind of situation is to "suspend" the campaign - call a halt, keeping the organization technical alive for a while to allow for additional fundraising to pay off the bills.

Sanders' response may be a little different, and in the interest of his cause probably should be.

He still has money and enthusiasm, and he can leverage them. He could stay active through the rest of the primary season, into June and California, winning as many delegates as he can. The object would not be to defeat Clinton, whose eventual nomination is close to a lock now. The point rather would be to form a large and powerful bloc at the convention, and beyond. It would not constitute a nominating majority, but it would be so large a portion of the overall delegation that it could not be safely ignored. It could make demands. And it could apply pressure, as it has for most of a year now, on Hillary Clinton.

When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 he did it with a massive organization organized extremely well. Had he kept it operative as an active grass roots effort supporting his administration's efforts, a great deal of the history since - notably the off-year elections of 2010 and 2014 - might have turned out quite a bit differently. At this point, even while falling short of the nomination, Sanders has an organization as large and enthusiastic, and capable of financing itself, as Obama had, and maybe more so. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, she might well run into the same kind of Republican brick wall - even if Democrats retake the Senate - that Obama has. A Sanders-led grass roots organization could both serve as a counterweight to that brick wall, and push Clinton into more ambitious efforts than she might attempt otherwise.

There's an old story about Franklin Roosevelt that tells of one of his political allies urging the president to undertake some program. Roosevelt was not opposed, but he saw the political obstacles, and the possible overall political cost to his administration, if he tried launching it on his own. His response to the ally: "Make me do it."

In other words, pressure me into doing it, in such a way that the political forces in favor of passage amount to not just me, but also much more.

You could consider it a sort of value-added shadow presidency, that Sanders could pursue if he keeps his organization intact and active beyond November. What could happen as a result might be no small thing.

Enough, already!

rainey

We here on the central Oregon coast have been concerned about rain - or the lack of it - for the last several years. Rain is not usually seen as a nuisance in these parts. It’s our life blood. For many reasons. But we’re catching up. And I’m more than ready for some blue sky. Damn, it’s wet!

Since 2012, rivers have been too low for many of the Salmon to reach their spawning grounds. That’s adversely impacted both commercial and sport fishing industries. What river flows there have been are reaching the ocean too warm for several fish and animal species. Starfish are almost gone. Sea anemones are disappearing. Many sea lions and otters have been forced further North to find colder waters. Lobster and crab seasons have been less than record-setting. All because of a stretch of unusually low rainfall.

But we’ve had some recent relief. We’re wet. Boy, are we wet! The last couple of months we’ve been so soaked the animals are walking in twos. I’ve been to the dictionary three times to check the length of a cubit. We are - to put it dryly - soaked.

“How wet is it,” you ask?

Well, let’s take our own little coastal puddle as an example. First 22 days of December, we had just over 22 inches. Average an inch a day. Rained every damned day! Double normal December rainfall. A good number of folks from Waldport to Tillamook have been flooded out. In one Newport neighborhood, an elderly lady just made it out the front door before her house split right down the middle and half of it slid 70 feet into a ravine. Highway 101 - our asphalt link to each other - has several places where guardrail posts are hanging exposed over open space left when slides took out the earth underneath. Other places where pavement has shifted, lifted or sunk.

Between Roseburg on I-5 and the coast, Highway 42 is the main route. It was closed by a slide that just kept moving. Took transportation folks were a month getting even one-way traffic. You could stand there for days and hear the trees crack as the ground kept moving downhill under them.

But, let’s put all this wet excess in perspective. The whole State of Oregon gets about 42 inches of rain a year. Pretty dry over on the East side so the average statewide is higher West of the Cascades. Coastal average is over 70 inches. Still, it’s pretty liveable. Most of the time. On average. But, remember: you can drown in the water held in a tablespoon - on average.

We do have our special occasions - to put it mildly. The day after Christmas, 1926, the stretch from Newport to Lincoln city got hit with - are you ready for this - 10.98 inches in 24 hours. In 24 hours! Imagine what that would do in your own neighborhood. Pictures taken in the aftermath of that 1926 soaking show nearly all roads impassable - hardly a building left undamaged. In some places, hardly a building left all, in fact.

So, with those numbers and images in mind, our inch-a-day so far in December and much of January seems liveable. But it’s going to take several years of more-than-average rainfall to mend the fishery and habitat damages we’ve already seen. Local fishermen say they have to go many miles further away from the shoreline to find the usual schools of fish. Also, most of ‘em are using heavier weights to get nets to sink lower where the colder water is.

Oh, lodging and restaurant businesses have been cutting a fat hog during the extended summer dry spell in 2015. Tourist traffic - and the resulting tourist room taxes - set records. To the joy of local governments. Just one happy headline after another. But, those were just short term benefits of more than the usual amount of sunshine. The downside - and their certainly is one - is logging, fishing, crabbing and other outdoor industries have quietly lost ground without the usual rainfall. We’ll need an awful lot of wetness to make up.. It’ll take years.

So, as usual, Mother Nature seems to delight in feeding the needs of some of the population at a some cost to the rest. Whichever way it goes, somebody makes a buck and somebody else loses one.

But, consider this. With the resultant widespread coastal damages we’ve seen with our less-than-record rainfall of the past several years - not to mention that 1926 gully-washer - how do you suppose we’ll fare when that “big one” hits? When the ocean is pushed onshore 50-90 feet high at 75-100 miles an hour? Given what we know about what’s been - and it ain’t been nearly anything like that - what will be left around here? Who will be left around here?

Aw, maybe we can live with an inch of rain a day. But I’ll still cuss every time I take the dog out.

Eeny, meenie, minie . . .

mckee

We are now 15 years into the wars in Afghanistan with no end in sight. We stiff-arm Iran in order to embrace Saudi Arabia, which is suddenly causing problems. Inconsistencies abound as situations continue to stagger and wobble from worse to worse, with no clear paths to follow, and no favorable solutions in sight. All this illustrates with unmistakable clarity that choosing up sides in the Middle East has become really, really tricky.

Some of this is inherited from Bush, some is the result of Obama’s decisions, much is just the consequence of unfolding events and choices that appeared to be right at the time but are turning out badly today.

The cacophony of bumper-sticker quality criticism from the Republican candidates, and the equally abbreviated responses from their Democratic opponents, are of no real help in understanding the depth and breadth of the problems we are about to face. It is disingenuous to think that the solutions to the Middle East quagmire is to be found in any of the sound-bite size proclamations coming from either end of the current political spectrum.

As an example of the complications that exist, let us examine one strong pull of a single tangled thread of diplomacy all the way to the end. The beginning of the thread is a bill that Congress is considering to allow individual victims terrorist attacks to bring lawsuits for damages in federal courts against the foreign countries responsible for the attacks. It might appear to be a simple little issue.

Several groups of victims of 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center are attempting to seek damages from the nation which is believed to have been responsible for financing al Qaeda operations. Their efforts have been stymied, at least in part, because of a 1976 law that recognizes judicial immunity of most foreign nations from suit for money damages brought by private citizens in U.S. courts. So, a bill has been drafted and is pending in Congress that will carve-out a narrow exception from the general policy of sovereign immunity, and allow suits for damages where the defendant nation is directly culpable for a terrorist attack that actually occurs on United States soil. The bill has some healthy support; it is jointly authored and supported by a prominent list of senators from both parties, and has already cleared the Judiciary committee on a unanimous “do pass” vote.

A laudable objective, one might think; who could be opposed to this? Well, as it turns out, plenty. Pull the thread some more, and the main foreign opponent of the bill appears. Saudi Arabia is probably the principle target for such litigation, and it is up in arms over the prospects of this bill. It has announced that it will dump over $750 billion in U.S. treasuries and related securities if the bill passes and is signed, rather than risk impoundment by an American court.

Pull some more thread out, and we see that most economists doubt that Saudi Arabia would carry out such a threat, as it would de-stabilize the economies of the entire region and do proportionately more harm to Saudi Arabia than to the United States. Nevertheless, there is now unrest in the economic markets throughout the world waiting to see what happens to this little bill in the Senate.

As a consequence, the White House is weighing in with pressure on Congress to accommodate the Saudi objection and sidetrack the bill. Aside from offending our supposed chief ally in the region, and potentially wreaking havoc on the financial markets of the world, the administration also argues here that weakening the reciprocal sovereign immunity provisions of our laws would put the government at legal risk generally abroad if other nations retaliated with their own legislation. To start monkeying around with the reciprocal provisions of sovereign immunity, the argument goes, is to play with fire. Secretary Kerry told a Senate panel in February that for this reason, the pending bill would create a terrible precedent.

Viewed from a few steps back, we see that the thread of difficulty with Saudi Arabia over this bill is but the most recent of a long line of disagreements with the Saudi royal family. Also involved are the Saudi’s interference with White House attempts to improve relations with Iran, the Saudi’s objection to our participation in the nuclear arms negotiations with Iran, the White House concerns and objections to the manner in which the Saudi military is conducting its part of the fighting in Yemen, ongoing disagreements between the Pentagon and the Saudi military over the accounting and use of military resources being provided by the United States, and, quite recently, our aghast reaction to the ISIS style beheading of 47 individuals in Saudi Arabia, including a Shiite cleric whose only crime was his vocal disagreement with the Saudi royal family.

What may be of more strategic concern, while we appear to be accommodating the Saudi requests on one hand, we also appear to be ignoring the ongoing support and financing by the Saudi regime, or at least individuals within the Saudi regime, to the more extreme of the Wahhabis and Salafist factions Islam, both in Saudi Arabia and out. These extreme factions of Sunni ideology fueled al Qaeda in the past and appear to be at the base of ISIS in the present.

In the past, our dependence upon Saudi Arabian oil forced us to turn a blind eye to such inconsistencies. Our present increased production of petroleum from the shale fields of North America have all but eliminated this economic dependence, and there is now no reason to ignore such practices by a supposed ally. Nevertheless we continue to not question the Saudi actions here.

The White House is cautiously beginning to make overtures towards Iran, but much of what will be needed to warm relations between the countries will require Congressional approval.

Further, a significant problem to improving relations with Iran is the perpetually sour relations between Iran and Israel, and the strong insistence, both by Israel and by her supporters within the United States, that the United States stand fast behind Israel no matter what. At the present time, Congress appears to favor continuing relations with Saudi Arabia at the expense, if necessary, of relations with Iran.

Western Europe, on the other hand, appears to be beginning to swing toward Iran. The apparent belief is that Iran, not Saudi Arabia, will inevitably emerge as the stabilizing force in the region. Iran is clearly seen as the key to peace in Syria and Iraq and to the containment of ISIS within the Middle East. The European community is appalled at the recent executions, and at the insouciant attitude of the Saudis towards any improvements in the area of human rights. Unless there is another change in direction, we may find ourselves backing the wrong team – or at least a different team from that of the rest of the Western World.

Swinging around to even another view, the general consensus is that the Saudis do not want any reconciliations with Iran. They would prefer that Iran be derailed from any engagement with the West, and this includes throwing monkey wrenches into any effort to bring Iran into the peace effort in Syria. It is difficult to imagine a peace accord for Syria, for example, that would not involve cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Without their joint involvement, peace in Syria may be unattainable unless refereed by either Russia or the United States.

If that day comes, whoever lands the job as POTUS will be wound into a political pretzel trying to determine whether to accept Russian participation in the region, with Russian troops occupying Syria and the contested regions, or to tolerate the commitment of necessary U.S. forces to occupy the territory, and to oversee the tasks ourselves. This probably means that countries with mixed Sunni and Shiite populations – Syria and Yemen, where civil war is presently raging, and perhaps Bahrain, where there is a potentially explosive division between the religious factions – will continue to fall even further into chaos.

After pulling this one little thread to the end, the take away that jumps out is that there are no right answers on the horizon. No matter what is done, no matter who does it, and no matter which way it goes, every action we take from this point on is going to be wrong. Period.

How could it possibly get worse?

Judicial architects

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Idaho may soon fill a critical job vacancy that opened when Edward Lodge announced in September 2014 his intent to “assume senior status” - more or less, semi-retire – the following July.

That would allow a deep breath of relief on the underpopulated Idaho federal bench, which long has sought more judicial help. The Obama White House and Idaho’s two Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both lawyers by profession), have agreed on David Nye of Pocatello, a 6th district judge, to fill the job. Kudos all around.

Pause a moment on the 6th judicial district aspect. The 6th, which is on the state not federal level, is based in Pocatello and includes counties to its south and east. It is one of the smaller Idaho judicial districts, but it has outsized federal impact. One former judge from the 6th (from 1987 to 1995) is Lynn Winmill, who now is the chief federal district judge in Idaho. Another (from 1995-2007) is Randy Smith, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, who maintains an office in Pocatello.

Winmill and Smith have in common a political background running political party organizations. Winmill once chaired the Bannock County Democrats, and Smith once chaired the Idaho Republican Party. Still, you’d probably find most attorneys in Idaho agree that those backgrounds seem not to have interfered with their judicial work. As with Lodge, their reputation is of being good, fair judges.

The new federal nominee, Nye, worked for the same law firm, Merrill and Merrill, that Smith did before his move to the bench. He has far less visible political background than the two other judges, which may help in his selection now. And he’s gotten good marks for his judicial work. Crapo and Risch are asking the Senate to push his confirmation through.

Last week, Idaho Democratic Chair Bert Marley pointed out that the senators have at the same time refused even to consider another court appointment by the president, Merrick Garland for the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland, somewhat like Nye, seems to have not a lot in the way of political involvement in past years, and there’s been little to no argument against his merits. So, Marley asked, what gives?

Risch told McClatchy News the difference was between a lower-level judge and one on the high court. The district judge is “not involved in being an architect of the culture of our country, which is what a U.S. Supreme Court judge does. The U.S. Supreme Court is very, very political, just like Congress is, just like the president of the United States. People wring their hands and say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible, you shouldn’t bring politics into it.’ How do you not bring politics into it?”

The role of “architect of the culture” is a piece of Supreme Court job description I’ve never seen before (you won’t find it in the Constitution) and, as Marley said, seems to run directly into the critique of many Republicans who decry activist judges, most especially on the Supreme Court.

It also downplays the powerhouse role federal district judges often play. Supreme Courts, after all, hear a fraction of the cases they’re asked to review. District or circuit judges in effect decide a whole lot of law. Reviewing Winmill’s impact on Idaho in a book a last year, I wrote: “He ordered a delay in megaload shipments over Highway 12 and said the Forest Service had to take some responsibility for them. He killed state laws related to abortion on constitutional grounds. He ordered dissolution of the St. Luke’s acquisition of the Nampa-based Saltzer Medical Group, citing anti-trust laws (creating major implications for more medical mergers in the area; that case is still on appeal). He said the federal government has to reconsider if it has acted as thoroughly as it can to protect sage grouse before declaring the species endangered. He delivered a split decision on the protesting rights of Occupy Boise. He approved a state Republican Party push to “close” its primary election to registered Republicans only.”

How do you not bring politics into any of these things? The answer is, the best we can do at any level of court is to hire fair judges. Would Nye and Merrick be fair judges? That seems to be the relevant question.

What shall we call them today?

mckee

There is not yet a definitive name for the main militant group drawing all of our attention in the Mid-east. The lack of an acceptable, universal label here is much worse than the petty disagreements over the spelling of “Qaddafi” or “al Qaeda” (here, The New York Times preferences) which troubled us somewhat in years past. How can we mount a serious campaign against an enemy if we don’t even know what to call it.

Most of the media, including The New York Times, and all of the candidates on both sides, usually say “ISIS,” short for “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” or perhaps “Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham,” where “al Sham” refers to Damascus, the capitol and surrounding regions of Syria. While descriptive, there is no historical significance to the term ISIS. One feature in support of the term is that it appears generally accepted in all major publications to write the abbreviation without periods.

President Obama avoids the term “Islamic Terrorists,” for good reason, preferring the more generic term “radical jihadist” when he wants a generic reference that might apply throughout Islam. But that term is too broad to refer to the particular militant group battling for control in Syria. Then, Obama uses “ISIL,” short for “Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant.” “The Levant” is a historic or traditional name that originally referred to the entire belt of countries on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean, from Greece to Egypt. To a minority of academic declarants, “The Levant” is used to describe the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon. The French adaptation apparently fostered the use of the term in today’s circumstances, although it is relevant only to Syria and not Lebanon.

While the term ISIL has some history and tradition to support its use, it includes unacceptable inconsistencies which are inaccurate and misleading in today’s setting. Also, the term ISIL now brings an immediate political reaction depending upon whether one favors or opposes Obama’s policies.

Secretary Kerry, and some others, have begun referring the militant jihadist group as “al Daesh,” an acronym from the true Arabic name ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī 'l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām, which is largely unpronounceable to the Western tongue. Abu al Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph, and his followers accept the full name, but reportedly do not like the shortened acronym. Abu al Baghdadi calls his domain the “Islamic State,” or IS, a term or abbreviation that none of the Western allies have adopted.

While I personally prefer the historical panache of ISIL, even though not geographically accurate, I would lean towards “al Daesh” if it picks up steam and becomes generally accepted. At the present time, this is not happening, for the term, whenever used, continues to draw blank stares.

All this leaves me with The Old Gray Lady, and her unswerving insistence on ISIS with no periods. But then, all said, this is pretty good company.

A pope that understands

carlson

Call it “The Francis Way” or the “Way of Francis.” Know that it is different. It belongs neither to the right nor to the left. It is neither liberal nor conservative, socialistic or capitalistic, Democrat or Republican, Vandal or Bronco.

Instead, it is firmly grounded in words directly attributable to Jesus in two commandents 1) You shall love your neighbor as yourself; and 2) Judge not lest ye be judged.

Pope Francis clearly lets the two commandments guide him, the result of which is a Catholic Church that is becoming more compassionate as this Pope teaches the clergy and laity alike to be more tolerant.

In a remarkable 256-page apostolic exhortation on “Family Life,” the Pope admits the obvious---the “family unit” across the world is changing and one cannot promulgate a one-size-fits-all definition. The traditional family unit we baby boomers thought the norm was Cleaver’s in the mid-50s television show, Leave It to Beaver: a father, a mother (who vacumed the rugs in a dress and pearls), married and two children both their biological progeny.

The “family,” however¸ has changed dramatically in 60 years. The Cleaver “family” comprises less than 20 percent of the population in many parts of the United States. There are more couples living together before they marry, if they marry at all. There are more single-parent housesholds, more grandparents raising their grandchildren, more same sex couples than ever before. There are more divorced people who are practicing Catholics and in good conscience still take communion despite the Church forbidding it, if they have remarried, until the first marriage is annulled.

Pope Francis also appears to understand the American Constitution better than his “conservative” critics. He gets what separation of Church and State truly means.

Take the subject of gay marriages. Within the Catholic Church marriage is a sacrament and a sacred, mystical union between a man and a woman the purpose of which is to bind the couple even closer through the intimacy of sex and propagate the species.

The Church will never change that position. However, this Pope understands that in secular society the State strives for equality and equal distribution of rights to all. Therefore, one can speculate that the “Francis Way” understands secular society has recognized that two people of the same gender can cohabit, can have visitation rights and inheritence rights. This would fall under the render unto Caesar solution proposed by Christ.

Call it a civil union, call it gay marriage, call it whatever but recognize the individuals involved are largely decent people seeking love in this lonely old world who can and do undertake vows to each other which they in good conscience believe to be every bit as binding as a Catholic’s sacramental marriage.

So long as the State does not try to dictate to the Church what its sacraments are, they can co-exist. The “Francis Way” is pushing decision making down to the diocesan and parish level. He is saying to bishops and priests, embrace those divorced Catholics, the single parents, the gays and lesbians, the transgendered and make them feel welcomed. You can accept the individual without embracing the philosophy, just like in the old days when Democrats and Republicans could be friends and still not agree.

Leave judgment to God. The “Francis Way” is to recognize Christ in everybody. One premise is an absolute verity: We are all sinners. We must love sinners but not our sins.

Today, almost every couple, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has had sex before marriage and many have cohabited. A sizable majority are guilty of fornication. For Catholics that is a major sin. For secular society, it is a simple fact of life and rightly decriminalized.

The “Francis Way” is to teach individuals that sex before marriage damages the chances of a couple’s union, regardless of gender, succeeding. We all pay for the consequences of the dissolution of marriages or unions. Pope Francis reminds us those most victimized by these failures are children.

What many miss is this Pope reiterating the primacy of an individual’s conscience. Buried within the 256-page exhortation is this wonderful statement: “We form consciences; we don’t make them.”

The “Way of Francis” is an expression of confidence that if one understands Catholic teachings on most issues, this educated conscience will make correct choices that mirror what Jesus would do under similar circumstances. The bottom line though is to recognize that Jesus underscored mercy and compassion towards all and avoidance of intolerant judgments. Francis recognizes at the end of the day most folks act in accordance with that formed conscience.

This “middle way,” this path of Francis, is also premised on positing our trust in the Almighty. Pope Francis would urge us to trust God always and in all ways.

(Editor’s note: Besides serving as press secretary to former Governor Cecil D. Andrus, Chris Carlson is a self-described “bead-carrying Roman Catholic” and he is on the board of Catholic Charities of Idaho.)

Merkley’s endorsement

Top-rank Northwest politicians often this year have been slow to endorse candidates for president. In Oregon, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden endorsed Hillary Clinton a couple of months ago. Today, his seatmate, Jeff Merkley, endorsed Bernie Sanders. He is the first of Sanders' fellow senators to endorse him. From his statement:

NO decision we make as Americans more dramatically affects the direction of our country than our choice for president. He or she is more than the manager of the executive branch, commander in chief or appointer of judges. The president reflects, but also helps define, our national values, priorities and direction.

After considering the biggest challenges facing our nation and the future I want for my children and our country, I have decided to become the first member of the Senate to support my colleague Bernie Sanders for president.

I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.

My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.

Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.

Many middle-class Americans are working longer for less income than decades ago, even while big-ticket expenses like housing, health care and college have relentlessly pushed higher.

It is not that America is less wealthy than 40 years ago — quite the contrary. The problem is that our economy, both by accident and design, has become rigged to make a fortunate few very well off while leaving most Americans struggling to keep up.

And as economic power has become more concentrated, so too has political power. Special interests, aided by their political and judicial allies, have exercised an ever-tighter grip on our political system, from the rise of unlimited, secret campaign spending to a voter suppression movement.

Under President Obama’s leadership, our country is fairer and more prosperous for all than it was seven years ago. But as we look toward the next administration, there is far more work to do. We need urgency. We need big ideas. We need to rethink the status quo.

Unlike the Republican primary circus, Democrats have a choice between two candidates with lifelong track records of fighting for economic opportunity and who are committed to America’s being a force for peace and stability and who are eager to meet today’s challenges and move our country forward for all its citizens, together.

From her time advocating for children as a young lawyer to her work as first lady of Arkansas and the United States, and as a senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has a remarkable record. She would be a strong and capable president.

But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country.

He has opposed trade deals with nations that pay their workers as little as a dollar an hour. Such deals have caused good jobs to move overseas and undermined the leverage of American workers to bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create in our remaining factories.

He has passionately advocated for pivoting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to save our planet from global warming — the greatest threat facing humanity. He recognizes that to accomplish this we must keep the vast bulk of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground.

Bernie is a determined leader in taking on the concentration of campaign cash from the mega-wealthy that is corrupting the vision of opportunity embedded in our Constitution.

And he has been unflinching in taking on predatory lending, as well as the threats to our economy from high-risk strategies at our biggest banks.

It has been noted that Bernie has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination. But his leadership on these issues and his willingness to fearlessly stand up to the powers that be have galvanized a grass-roots movement. People know that we don’t just need better policies, we need a wholesale rethinking of how our economy and our politics work, and for whom they work.

The first three words of the Constitution, in bold script, are “We the People.” The American story is a journey of continuous striving to more fully realize our founding principles of hope and opportunity for all.

It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation’s success not at the boardroom table, but at kitchen tables across America. Bernie Sanders stands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president.

Sheriffs as outlaws

raineylogo1

Given what’s going on in our world at the moment - especially in our national political activities - you really don’t need anything more to worry about. Just kidding. Here’s another - your local sheriff. I’m very worried about mine. And you ought to do some checking on yours.

A goodly number of sheriffs - especially in the west - are quietly joining an outfit called “Constitutional Sheriffs & Peace Officers Association.” Let’s just call it CSPOA. It’s joined at the hip to the more well-known “Oath Keepers.” If you’re familiar with the right wing profile of Oath Keepers, move the scale for CSPOA a few notches right of that.

The CSPOA main website has a lot of mumbo jumbo about peace, love, liberty and extensive quotes from our constitution. But, under that B.S. and between the lines, CSPOA members believe there is no higher legal authority in the country than the local sheriff and federal laws should be enforced ONLY if a sheriff “thinks” or “believes” they’re constitutional. One of the badge wearing self-determiners of federal law and a co-founder of CSPOA is that famous constitutional “expert” from Arizona - Joltin’ Joe Arpaio. Clearer now? Any questions about parentage?

Washington, Oregon and Idaho are listed as member states claiming some sheriffs therein are practicing members. Several in Oregon - Douglas, Josephine and Lincoln Counties - espouse the CSPOA line and, therefore, should be counted as “fellow travelers” since the membership list is a big secret.

CSPOA’s legal counsel is a “Judge” Navin-Chandra Naidu who believes counties are supposed to be “Christian by nature.” Incidentally, he was a wanted man in Fiji in 2001 for forging his law degree. Also, he represented the Pembina tribe in North Dakota several years back and got the Anti-Defamation League all over his case.

CSPOA focuses on sheriffs, calling them “the highest executive authority in a county and therefore constitutionally empowered to keep federal agencies out of the county.” Co-founder Richard Mack believes “the greatest threat we face ... is not terrorists; it’s our federal government (and) one of the best and easiest solutions is to depend on local officials, especially the sheriff, to stand against federal intervention and federal criminality.” Much of the other flotsam comes straight out of “sovereign nation” and “posse comitatus” movements. Great bunch of guys.

Upon close investigation, the Southern Poverty Law Center - a respected clearinghouse for identifying and following hate groups - calls CSPOA “a remarkably radical organization, considering who their members are.” My sheriff and maybe yours

High on CSPOA’s current agenda is the defeat of local lawmen and law women who don’t see things their way on such issues as gun control which, by the way, is no control. Criminal or nutcase, CSPOA says all are entitled to arm up without any restrictions.

Several Oregon and Idaho sheriff’s are being CSPOA-challenged at the polls this year. Many candidates have no law enforcement background but express innate ability to “judge for themselves” what, in our constitution, applies to their communities. And, possibly more important, what does not.

Take Oregon, for example. Our Harney County sheriff, who did a fine job trying to get the Bundy Bandits out of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, is facing a CSPOA-backed challenger in November. Dave Ward was called “weak” and “ineffective” because he wouldn’t tell the FBI and other feds to “butt out.” Apparently CSPOA doesn’t think much of patience and respect for our laws as virtues.

John Hanlon, over in Douglas County, made headlines a year or two ago denouncing all things federal in a widely-publicized letter to V.P. Biden. Hanlon proudly - and loudly - proclaimed he’d not only not enforce federal gun laws, but he’d arrest federal agents who came into his county to do so. A dozen or so other sheriffs jumped on Hanlon’s publicity bandwagon with the same claim so it could be fairly assumed they’ve got connections with CSPOA as well.

But, on the other side of the ledger, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, who called the Bundyites “patriots” and tried to chase the feds away, is being challenged by a local non-CSPOA type with experience and more common sense. And ol’ Sheriff Palmer is also on the wrong end of an investigation of his activities by Oregon authorities. Could end his career if he’s found to have “aided and abetted.” Which it looks like he did.

In my view, any sheriff who wants to believe this sewage flowing out of the CSPOA has a perfect right to do so. But, because of the flawed “thinking” and legally very questionable precepts of CSPOA, that sheriff should resign from office. None of them - not one - is empowered to decide for themselves which portions of our U.S. Constitution to enforce and which to ignore. None of them - not one - has legal authority to replace our national court system as arbiters of constitutional law.

There is nothing “constitutional” about CSPOA. In fact, what it preaches should be classified as sedition and those that act on that preaching are - in my mind - guilty of it as well.

Anyone who tries it - Hanlon, Palmer or any other - should be removed from office if attempting to thwart laws and court decisions instructing them how to conduct their official duties. Upon assuming office, all sheriffs take an oath to uphold the constitution - state and federal - and all laws - state and federal. They swear “So help me God.”

CSPOA seems to be telling sheriffs there were some weasel words in their oaths of office giving them special powers to decide right and wrong. Oaths that end “So help me God” are not known for weasel words.

Better water

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Water is critical everywhere, but Idaho notices more than most when the water levels are off.

And things go better when they’re not.

Idahoans see it in the stream levels, and in so much else of what they do. In the populous areas of southern Idaho, when water levels are low, people go for each other’s throats – not in a physically literal sense anymore (although there is some history of that), but in the courts, and in business. Low water levels determine whether a farm or an industrial business gets the water to survive, to stay in business. Courts, and the state government, determine who gets water and who goes parched.

The effects ripple. A good water year can mean overall prosperity and a sense of community. Poor water years can tear at the social fabric.

So if, in some ways, Idaho has a little more upbeat feel this year than last, you can find some of the reason as I do in reviewing the water levels.

I check them every week, starting with a web page updated daily by the National Resources Conservation Service, called “Snotel narrative.” (You can see it at their site.) The data are technical, and the lines I follow are described this way: “The Accumulated Precipitation Percent of Average represents the total precipitation (beginning October 1st) found at selected SNOTEL sites in or near the basin compared to the Average value for those sites on this day.”

It gives you a feel for how the snowpack, which as the year goes on will dictate much of the water flow, is developing compared to the historical norms, in all the basins in Idaho. A reading of 100 is normal; higher is more water, lower is less. Great variations can mean flood or drought.

Five years ago, for example, the Northern Panhandle area was at 106 – just a bit above normal. The Salmon basin was at 98, the Boise at 106, the Little Wood 103, the Henry’s Fork 96, the Bear River 78 – the lowest in the state. So in 2011, the state overall was running just about average.

Last year at this point, here were the figures for those same basins: the Northern Panhandle 97, the Salmon basin 87, the Boise at 89, the Little Wood 70, the Henry’s Fork 76, the Bear River 71. The lowest last year at this time was the Medicine Lodge and Camas Creek area (in eastern Idaho) at just 61 – a sign of a very tough water year to come. In fact, the whole state was running short of water, and the legal battles and economic tensions were running high.

This year, things have changed.

A week ago, here is what the comparable reading show: the Northern Panhandle 121, the Salmon basin 112, the Boise at 114, the Little Wood 105, the Henry’s Fork 97 (tied for lowest in the state, with the Snake River above the Palisades Dam), the Bear River 100.

Quite an improvement.

The U.S. Geological Survey last week released a series of drought area maps covering the period up through March. Idaho’s – which last year was piled in with eerie shares of yellow, orange and even dark red markers of strong drought warnings – this year is producing only a few widely-scattered dabs of lightest-level drought warnings.

Don’t be surprised if some of the tensions around the state don’t ease off just a little as the months ahead progress. Plentiful water makes for some happy civic medicine.

RIP

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Thinking of a lost friend. Robert Hopper, RIP.

When you got to know him, he preferred Robert to Bob. When you didn't know him well, he would answer the phone as "Bunker Hill, Bob Hopper speaking." Which, the way he tossed it out, sounded like "Fuck Your Mother" in Russian.

I always accused Robert of having a Bolshevik streak in him and he never denied it. You should've heard his stories about growing up in Flint, Mich. He was such a tough SOB his parents sent him off to reform school. And that was one tough company town.

Robert hacked around Alaska, Nevada, central and western Washington, doing everything from digging ditches for wealthy mine-owners to painting bridges with red-lead paint. Between injuries he suffered mining and driving long Nevada roads he was in pain all the time we knew him, but he rarely talked about it.

I would take 10 more minutes with Robert than a month with Albert Einstein. Robert and I became friends when we broke out into a discussion of over which was better for the desert island: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or Roger and Me. And then, whether it was smarter to use ether or WD-40 on a balky Diesel. We actually agreed on that one. WD-40 is easier on the heads and valves than a straight bang of ether. (Name its secret ingredient and win a free glass of ice-water.) He also knew how to keep a lead-acid battery alive for centuries. I'd learned the same, from an old Scotsman 50 years ago. Answer that question and I owe you a beer.

Good Lord, do I miss that guy. We could get so ferocious and feisty, then land laughing at ourselves, all in the space of a few minutes. RIP, my friend Robert.

My only regret is that the people of Kellogg never knew the giant that was in their midst. Robert and a pair of partners bought the Bunker Hill because, to this rough-cut kid, it was "the shining city on the hill."

Even from Flint, that meant something.