That was a challenge, but it may pay off – well, in a lot of ways, surely already has . . . On June 5, a fire burned down four businesses in central Idaho City, a small and rustic (a proper present-day descriptor in this case) town that doesn’t have but so many more than four businesses. This happened not far in advance of the 4th of July, which ordinarily is a big day for business and visiting in Idaho City. Would this be just a day of mourning? It turned out not. Some at least of the business owners had made a commitment to reopen at some point, and the Trading Post, which long has been one of Idaho City’s larger businesses, did reopen just in time for the 4th – a cause for celebration, in addition to the national one. “Just to have people come and see that we’re rebuilding ourselves and that we’re moving forward I think that it’s just wonderful,” the Trading Post owner was quoted as saying. A path has been marked for the way back. Good luck.

Share on Facebook

First Take

raineylogo1

It’s been about two weeks since South Carolina’s Governor Haley kicked off the “Ban-The-Confederate-Flag” Olympics. Living here in our far-removed Northwest neighborhood, we haven’t seen or heard much more about the aftermath. At least less than I would have thought. But don’t think all’s quiet in the Confederacy.

In these few days, seven Black churches in three states have burned, though two may have started by some means other than arson. Still, five out of seven is substantial for 14 days. Several Black women pastors have received anonymous letters threatening them and their families. Videos are surfacing of race baiters/rednecks with Confederate flags waving on gun-toting pickups, driving fast and wild through Black neighborhoods in several states. Southern talk radio is filled with demands to save the old banner and condemning all who disagree as “crazy racist Yankees.” White-on-black crime is up. Wonder how the How should all of us feel about that.

I’ve been tickled watching Southern politicians of all stripes trying to figure which way to jump on this one. Some Democrats – not all – have gotten on-board with the banishment. Republicans – most all – are trying to figure out which way the re-election winds are blowing before making “commitments” to one side or the other. A few GOPers have dug in their heels, issuing firm “maybes” in press releases while dodging the media.

Southern newspaper editorial opining is all over the Confederate map. Letters from readers defending the flag are running much higher than those wanting it gone. Paid ads supporting keeping the flag are commonplace. Radio and TV, too.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not defending the flag or other public symbols of the old Confederacy. Not by a long shot. No, what concerns me is some voices are going too far with this “cleansing” of public conscience. Ol’ Mitch McConnell wants a statue of Jeff Davis tossed out of the Kentucky Statehouse. Same efforts in Virginia and North Carolina. Certain members of Congress – with nothing better to do – are carefully scrutinizing replicas in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill, looking for candidates for the scrap heap. Funny thing about that is a lot of ‘em have been wandering to and fro in Statuary Hall for years without even a glance at the marble works.

Feeding all this is the usual mindless blathering of the national media. We’re being inundated with “experts” on this-that-and-the-other who appear as ignorant about Civil War era details as the makeup-covered faces posing stupid questions. Heard one chemical blonde the other day ask, “What do you think slaves would say about this issue today?” She obviously slept through a few classes in both journalism AND history.

But, lest we get too cocky in our geographical detachment from the center of the current Confederate issues, we should not forget our own historical wrongdoing and one of this nation’s most tragic sins – Japanese-American internment camps of World War II.

On orders of President Roosevelt – loudly and embarrassingly urged on by Idaho’s Sen. Borah – we abridged rights of citizenship, illegally confiscated private property in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and confined hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans in conditions sometimes less habitable than those of the South’s slave days. Our Northwest vastness was dotted with plywood and tar paper barracks in which people roasted while suffering in summer heat, then nearly froze to death while suffering in winter’s harshness. All the while surrounded by high, wire fences and armed guards. Under the American flag.

Often, some of those mixed-race Americans were farmed out to tend to land and crops formerly their own – holdings many eventually lost. We used them as conscripted labor for war projects. We provided poorly for their basic human needs. And we made them the butt of racial “jokes” and irrational thinking. Bad as it was then, what if today’s hate radio and I-net had been around in those days?

No, the Confederate flag and all its attendant issues may be geographically beyond our horizons. We may shrug and give little serious thought to the south’s history of bigotry, slavery and state’s rights dramas. But, in truth, we’re brothers and sisters in denying a generation of civil rights for thousands of innocent people here in our own backyard.
Bigotry comes in many forms. I dearly hope the South and employment-seeking politicians don’t sweep too much history of slavery and racism into the garbage heap. But, I also pray we, in our distant relationship to those matters, don’t forget our portion of the country created a period of time when we acted ignorantly and in haste to condemn and wrongfully punish hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters. Americans all.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two wrongs simply make – two wrongs.
And we’ve all done ‘em.

Share on Facebook

First Take

It’s hot. Hot enough to to be concerned about it. In many areas around the west the weather in June was the hottest ever on record – in large parts of Oregon, Idaho and Washington and lots of California (which sure doesn’t need it) among others. Now July is starting off hot, and the traditional norm is that later July to mid-August is the hottest of the year. What effects might this have on power production, on health, on agriculture, on wildfires?

Does anyone have any idea what’s up with Dan Popkey’s rap here? (He is press secretary for Representative Raul Labrador.) Would be curious to know. A lot of other people would be curious to know too . . .

Share on Facebook

First Take

It’s pot day in Oregon: Marijuana is now (generally) a legalized substance (under state law) in Oregon. The headline writers found various aspects of this, at the Oregonian (Oregon turns over a new leaf), the Medford Mail Tribune (Cannabis carry-out), the Pendleton East Oregonian (It’s legal, now what?), the Salem Statesman Journal (Last-minute legislation). Will the world (at least in Oregon) change much? Probably not. For one thing, there aren’t at the moment many places where people can legally get marijuana; people who want it and want to stay within state law mostly are dependent on people who give some to them. (Sales won’t be legal for a while.) On the other hand, some celebratory giveaways are scheduled, mainly in the Portland area, for today.

How many Republican candidates for president? I’m counting 31 on this web site which is trying to keep track of the declared and the possible. True, some are pretty obscure and never achieve any sort of traction, but most you’ve probably heard of (if you follow politics at all). There’s a lot . . .

Share on Facebook

First Take

Try to wrap your mind around 20 million bees, and how you would deal with that if they were unleashed in your neighborhood. That happened over the last few days in two places in Idaho, far apart from each other, one at Coeur d’Alene and the other not far from Idaho Falls, when in each case a truck transporting massive numbers of bees tipped over. The operators said they were swerving the avoid another vehicle. (Kind of a remarkable coincidence, no?) The location for the release at Idaho Falls may have been almost optimal, at least as far as human interaction with the bees was concerned: It was out on the desert, at Idaho National Laboratory country, far from residential centers. The release at Coeur d’Alene was in a major residential area, leading authorities to urge people to stay indoors. People in these areas need some luck – but so do the bees, which have been seeing disappearing colonies in recent years (hence the reason for trucking them from place to place). Let’s hope these don’t become among the disappeared.

Share on Facebook

First Take

Probably the most immediate and necessary task for the Oregon Legislature this year, aside from the regular work on budget and finance, has been developing state law to fill in gaps from last year’s passage of the initiative legalizing marijuana (under state law). Opinions varied widely about how to deal with it – some wanted the voters’ decision overturned as much as possible, others would have wanted it loosened further – but now the legislature seems to have settled on its approach. (It is not all the way through the legislature, but it has passed the key committee designing the measure, and seems to broad support.)

And it seems to be, overall, a mid-level proposal, broadly in concert with what the 2014 initiative contemplated. Some sections were changed not at all, such as the provision allowing people to grow up to four plants at their residences. It sets some commercial limits on grows, and some other limitations. Recognizing the differences in attitude toward pot around the state, it varied the rules on allowing commercial pot activity different for places that supported or opposed (by more than 55% negative vote) legalization. It seems designed, really, to minimize very strong opposition to the new regime.

There are glitches. Senator Floyd Prozanski, an attorney from Eugene, cautioned that “We’re setting up a system where we’ll have a three-month period … with illegal sales to people who can legally posses recreational” marijuana. More glitches probably will be found, and have to be fixed.

Still, probably not a bad place to start.

Share on Facebook

First Take

And that’s that. The practical legal questions around same-gender marriage are now pretty much done; the Supreme Court has ruled flatly that the terms of the Constitution simply provide that, under the law, sexual orientation isn’t a bar to marriage.

That was probably going to happen regardless; the trendline was moving steadily in that direction. A clear majority of the population of the United States is now in favor, as is a very strong majority of younger voters. many of the states that now have same-sex marriage owing to court decisions – Oregon is one of them – would without doubt have changed its still-on-books ban provisions quickly in the even the Supreme Court had ruled otherwise. And the pressure on the remaining states soon might have looked a lot like the pressure related to official entities flying the Confederate flag.

As it is, the only legal recourse to opponents would be a constitutional amendment. That may materialize in some places – might we see that in the next session of the Idaho Legislature – but it wouldn’t go far. The real question now is how rapidly reconciliation goes.

Meantime, the core of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision express quite well what advocates for extending marriage rights have been saying, and it will be hard to counter: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. … They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

(photo/Joshua Hoover)

Share on Facebook

First Take

The political response on the Confederate battle flag Monday was remarkable – a collapse of support among Republican political leaders for flying that flag, a recognition that it had become socially toxic. But what of the reaction down below?

The key event was the statement by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley that she would back a removal of the flag from state grounds, where it long has flown. Almost immediately, a bunch of other Republican officials around the country, from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to the speaker of the House in Mississippi (where the Confederate flag is woven into the state flag’s design) called for removal.

It’s a sudden sea change in attitude, as the debate began to be focused on the idea that the flag represents racism, not heritage – the flip of a recent bumper sticker popular in some places. The Washington Post blog suggested, “It was as if some kind of interrogation room spotlight was turned on Monday and Republican officials all over the country suddenly, all at once, saw the flag in a new and different way. Of course, opinions do change. Circumstances can make even the most complicated issues clear and new constituencies matter. But it is also possible that what we witnessed Monday was a great flight to a new position now that it constitutes relatively safe political ground.”

As always, though, the question that really arises here is, what’s going on below?

What about all those southerners who continue to plant some variation of the battle flag on their trucks, windows, or elsewhere? Did their attitudes change so quickly? Probably not, almost certainly not, and if not, what will they think about the wave of officials who they have viewed as in their corner, abruptly decamping? Will they feel betrayal? If so, how do they react?

Only part of this has so far played out. – rs

(photo/Gerry Dincher)

Share on Facebook

First Take