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The East Oregonian reported yesterday on the speculation that Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) may be preparing to run for Oregon Governor.

The long time Democrat however is taking a different path. Understanding the difficulty of running as a centrist/conservative Democrat in the Oregon Democratic primary against a sitting liberal Democratic she is reportedly thinking of running as a candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon.

One meeting the East Oregonian didn’t mention in it’s list of hints that Sen. Johnson may run as an IPO candidate was an August 4th presentation to the Bend Chamber of Commerce. There, Sen. Johnson appeared on a political panel that included Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) and two leaders from the IPO, Party Secretary Sal Peralta, and Party Counsel (and Oregon Outpost Editor) Rob Harris.

For the record, Senator Johnson stole the show and thrilled the main street business audience. Her connection to small and medium size town business interests can’t be denied. While she wouldn’t stand a chance in the Democratic primary, a Betsy Johnson / Kate Brown race for Governor would give Oregon voters a real choice in November.

Much more competitive than a race between Kate Brown and a (Pierce / Alley / Wehby) perennial losing GOP candidate. In fact, in a Brown v. Johnson race, the GOP nominee would be the “spoiler”.

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Harris

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Big stories and hot topics don’t always burst on the scene in a recognized way so we’re all suddenly aware of them. Often, they creep up on us a little at a time and the “watchful” national media look right past ‘em. One such story is moving under our feet at the moment – apparently out-of-sight of that “watchful” bunch. And it scares the Hell out of me.

Two words. “Oath Keepers.” If you haven’t heard of ‘em or don’t know much about ‘em, I strongly advise you do your research and get familiar with this band of armed misfits. Because they’re here – from coast to coast.

If you believe the “official” website, they’re just former military fellas out to have a good time or – more realistically – here to see to it the federal government is kept in its place. By force. The founder has written “The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government.”

“Oath Keepers” was hatched in 2009 in Nevada as a non-profit by one Stewart Rhodes – Yale law grad, former paratrooper and former Ron Paul staffer. One of Rhodes “beliefs” is, if German soldiers and police had refused to follow orders, Hitler could’ve been stopped. Maybe. But think about that. If two groups whose sole purpose at that time was to keep the peace had REFUSED to follow orders, Hitler would have been powerless? Really? Rhodes may have gotten out of Yale law but he sure missed a few classes. Especially one about circular logic. And others on 1930’s history.

Membership is open to active and former military, Guard, police, fire fighters, other first responders, sheriffs and their staffs. In other words, anyone who wears or has worn a uniform. They’re armed to the teeth. Weapons of choice – anything semi or fully automatic. Camo outfits with military boots. Lots of patches signifying anything military. Oath Keepers is flat-out a paramilitary unit. Rhodes calls his various sub-groups “cells.”

Rhodes and his military minions have popped up all over the country recently. A few months ago, they were near Grants Pass, Oregon, to defend a miner who was in violation of several BLM regulations and at least two federal laws. With AK-47’s at the ready, they took up positions between the feds and the miners for a couple of weeks.. The feds blinked and left.

Remember ol’ Clive Bundy – Nevada public lands scofflaw and cattle-grazing welfare queen who still owes you and me over a million bucks? Oath Keepers showed up there. Armed to the teeth. BLM backed down again. Then, they traveled to Montana this month to, again, “defend” a miner near Lincoln who was in violation of federal rules. Again, feds left.

They got to Idaho this month, too. A retired Navy vet up north had been notified by the VA his medical records showed a deteriorating mental condition and he had to surrender a very large collection of guns and other weapons. Up popped Oath Keepers with their automatic firepower to get into the action. Most troubling thing here is the local sheriff sided with the Keepers against the feds. In the end, feds backed away. Seems to have been true in several other cases as well. Paperwork error was the claim.

Now, they’ve turned up in Ferguson, Missouri. To do what? Defend the cops, that’s what. Siding with the St. Louis County Sheriff who didn’t seem to mind the unrequested “assistance.”

So here’s why this group really terrifies me. Seems local law enforcement has been O.K. with these gun nuts in all these instances – and more – because none of them have been arrested or chased back under their rocks by any jurisdiction. If not welcomed with open arms by lawful authority, there’s certainly been a tacit acceptance of these militaristic civilians. Why?

The explosion of people openly carrying guns everywhere is one thing. But why are the feds and local law folk giving these guys a pass? What if one of them fires on a fed – or a crowd – for whatever reason? Who’s liable? Who goes to jail? Does anybody go to jail? What’s the difference between some local citizen with an AR-15 on the scene – who’d normally be chased away or arrested – and these Oath Keeper guys? What about some of their armament? Are private citizens supposed to have fully automatic weapons?

The Southern Poverty Law Center – watcher of all things violent, anti-Semitic and racist in this country – calls Oath Keepers “a fiercely anti-government, militaristic group.” SPLC is seldom wrong.

I’m one of those who believes our government is not responding to our needs and concerns at the moment – that billionaires have squeezed the rest of us from representation and participation – that we need to change direction, tone and a lot of elected personnel in Washington D.C.. But damned if I’ll pick up an AK-47 to prove the point. Oath Keepers should not be allowed that option, either.

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Rainey

One of the concerns voiced by many conservatives about benefits offered to low-income people is this: “But they’ll just spend it on booze and drugs and wasteful junk.” So how about this one, from a bill recently introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders: The Low Income Solar Act of 2015. The idea is to offer loans and grants to set up residential solar panels for low-income residences. Solar costs so little now that such efforts need not be expensive. And to the extent that a paid-for solar panel replaces power from a utility company, that’s a direct benefit to low-income people, one that can be spent on nothing else other than the power bill. What say you? – rs (photo/Tom Chance from Peckham)

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First Take

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Of course, someone had to come up with “666.”

But there’s more than this to recent decisions that, at long last, Idaho will move out of its long-standing single area code and into the world of two of them.

The Public Utilities Commission, which oversees area codes, has faced the issue before and managed to kick it down the road. The need has been mentioned as far back as the 80s, but not really confronted head-on until 2001, when the national private company administering area codes figured that Idaho would run out of 208 numbers by the end of 2003. The PUC, putting off that day, cut the numbers assigned to phone companies in single blocks (from 10,000 to 1,000) for the Boise area, which bought some time. It used the same tactic a few years later, on a statewide basis, to buy more time. Now, at last, the game will be up in another three years.

After that, the state could go two ways: Either divide geographically (like it has with congressional districts), which would mean half of the state getting a new area code number. This would allow everyone to still make seven-digit local phone calls. But it would amount to a lot of hassle and changed phone numbers for a lot of people, so the likelihood is an “overlay” – starting a new area code right on top of 208, statewide. That would mean you have to dial an area code even if you’re calling two houses down. But it would also probably mean you can keep your existing phone numbers.

Much of Oregon uses an overlay system that works this way. On one hand, dialing the extra three numbers is a small annoyance. On the other hand, many numbers most of us call these days are programmed into smart phones and the like, so the practical difference is apt to be a lot smaller than in the days when people actually dialed their phone numbers. (Assuming here you’re among the shrinking group who used to use rotary phones? Never mind.) The overlay is a little complicated for callers, but keeping your accustomed number is probably a much bigger tradeoff, especially for businesses and other organizations but for many residents too. A lot of people still do, after all, have local phone tethers, even if they use wireless signals for their local numbers instead of wires (as our house does).

The PUC is taking comments on all this through October 6.

Comes next, of course, the question of what new three-number area code Idaho should get.

It can’t be one already in use elsewhere, which limits the possibilities. The “666” suggestion noted above actually would work, since for some reason no one has gotten it assigned to their local area. But it doesn’t seem very likely for Idaho.

The lively crowd at the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Huckleberries blog has come up with some additional suggestions too, based on the letters attached to the numbers. You could get GEM (436), which isn’t in use elsewhere. Someone suggested GOP (467), also not in use.

Others suggested that apparently would qualify include LDS (537), LOL (565), or 384 (DUH).

What’s your preference?

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Idaho Idaho column

A person – officials haven’t yet released whether male or female, much less a name – was mowing a lawn on July 30, some miles east of Canyonville. He or she was doing this on one of the days when mowing was prohibited, but the moving in and of itself wasn’t an unusual kind of activity, or something most people might reasonably assume would trigger a massive wildfire. Somehow, though, accidentally and inadvertently, that is what happened. The Stouts Creek fire, as it has been labeled, has become a big deal, involving upwards of 1,500 firefighters from across 23 states plus Canada, and whole platoons of equipment. The cost of fighting that fire has topped $22 million so far. The Oregon Forestry Department then added this: “Because of the [timing] violation, the individual may be liable for fire suppression costs and damages resulting from the fire.” In other words, the rather petty offense of mowing a lawn during an hour of the day when it was supposed to be banned – mowing at 3 p.m. rather than 10 a.m., say – lands you a penalty of more than $22 million. Seems irrational. Failing to put out a campfire, which most of us know can lead to wildfires, ought to be in a different category than mowing a lawn. A fine? Okay. $22 million, which will never be paid? Someone’s lost a sense of proportion there.

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First Take

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A lot of smoke being blown about the Confederate flag seems to have set off a fever in this country that is more than a little worrisome to me. Take it off government buildings? Yes. But now, there’s a bunch of folk who want to wipe out other public displays – too many public displays – of too many things they find “disturbing” to their sensitivities. Seems a bit like overkill. The State of Idaho is dealing with such a case.

The old Ada County Courthouse, owned by the State has leased portions to the Idaho Supreme Court and the University of Idaho College of Law. Uof I wants a Boise campus for its Moscow-based law school since Boise is the state capitol and, not surprisingly, the Idaho Supreme Court is there. Along with its attendant excellent law library. So far, so good.

Except someone an overdeveloped sense of “correctness” – apparently at Uof I and possibly inspired somewhat by efforts to take Confederate flags off public property – is pushing that “correctness” a shade too far.

Let’s step back for some history here. The old court house was built in the late 1920’s and was functional for a long time; beautifully designed, sturdy, well-built and located across the street from the State Capitol. It served very well until the ‘90’s when a new court house was built on 14 acres several blocks away. Eventually, the State of Idaho bought the old landmark and struggled for some time to find a suitable use for it. Recently, along came a Boise law school campus and the rest is history.

More history. In 1935, the Works Progress Administration was created as part of the Roosevelt administration’s “New Deal” to put people back to work in post-depression era days. WPA it was called. Between 1935 and 1943, more than eight million Americans worked under WPA, building bridges and highways, water and sewer plants, airports, dams and other public projects. Also, the arts. Music was composed by WPA musicians. Poetry and books were published under WPA. And art. Lots of public art for many public buildings.

It’s here – at the old Ada County Court House – where WPA and the State of Idaho intersected. Works of WPA art were commissioned for interior walls. It was wisely and appropriately decided those paintings would depict Idaho history. The good, bad and ugly. And they do. Large colorful paintings based on real events or – with some artistic license – depictions of life-in-general in Idaho’s early years.

Two scenes depict lynching of a Native American. Of which there were some, I’m sure, in darker parts of Gem State history. Other states, too. But, with UofI preparing to occupy a major portion of the court house, someone decided these two panels, having been there for more than 60 years, had to come down or be covered from public and law student eyes. As we used to do with nudity.

After a lot of justifiable public fuss, fuming and oral outrage from preservationists, a deal was struck. The murals would stay. But they’d be covered “temporarily” until a decision can be reached “long term.” Whatever that means. And “decision” by whom? And on what basis?

Which that brings us back to the flag. Should Confederate flags be removed from general public display and retired to museums or other suitable representations of Civil War remembrance? Certainly. It flat out represents slavery in all its forms and all that means to the shame of an entire country. And those statues of Southern historic figures, too? “Out! OUT,” they cry. Banished. Loud voices want things burned, buried or otherwise dumped in the dust bin of history.

Mine is not one of them. History is history. State’s rights are history. Slavery is history. Indian lynching in Idaho is history. And Oregon. And Washington. And Wyoming. And Colorado. And on and on and on. Legitimate history. As are the ruins of World War II Japanese-American internment camps. Shameful history. But our history, too.

We’re big boys and girls. We’ve all had a history class or two. We know, however noble and high-spoken our national goals and efforts are, we’ve committed terrible atrocities and run over more than a few people in our national aging. Slavery? Certainly. But can you say “internment camps?” Can you say “abridging guaranteed rights of citizenship” in the guise of “national security? Can you say “police brutality?”

Banishment of representations of our national history is wrong. We are who we are. And we got where we are by means fair and foul. We’re dedicated, honorable, well–meaning, patriotic, gutsy and proud. We’ve also been arrogant, shameful, deceitful, murderous, dishonest and cruel. We’re all of these things. And, a whole lot more.

Rather than fill the air with platitudes, breast-beating and knee-jerk reactions to the parts of us – or the symbols of those parts – we find shameful and criminal, we need to honestly reassess where we are and who we are. We need to examine the totality of being an American, then decide how we honestly want to represent what that means.

In a true, historical sense, these are “baby-and-bath-water” situations. A great deal of care needs be taken to see we do right by ourselves. And right ain’t always nice. Or “correct.”

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Rainey