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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

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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

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As the national media herd runs from one embarrassing Trump affront to our national dignity to another, there’s an interesting story all are missing. In they rush to pick up another specious, ego-filled, churlish sound bite, a smarter, far more effective race is being run showing positive campaigning on just the issues is far more effective.

Though the foot-in-mouth New Yorker is drawing some civilian attendees to his traveling road show of put-downs, gaffes, insults and ego-massaging, it appears many are there because they want to see a “celebrity” rather than be swayed by his “statements” about anything. I doubt significant numbers of them go home with the thought “You know, there’s a guy who ought to be our next President.”

Now – leave the fawning media behind and walk over to the campaign of one Bernie Sanders. You won’t have problems finding him. Just look for the larger crowds – much larger gatherings than Trumps. Crowds Trump and his Cretin campaign team would kill for. Crowds they couldn’t get even if they paid people to turn out. Crowds listening intently to Sander’s views on national debt, immigration reform, Social Security, health care, voting rights, infrastructure repair and other important issues going begging for Republican – not to mention Trump’s – attention. Sanders speaks to those issues because – unlike a majority of other “candidates” – he know the issues.

Note also, at these Sanders sessions, people are respectful, attentive, boisterous when responding to statements they agree with but – above all – listening. They want to hear his message – they want to know more about this New England independent who speaks with a New York accent.

And, here’s the kicker – what the national media is just plain missing. Sanders is campaigning with entirely positive messages on the important issues that need to be dealt with. He castigates no one. He speaks without name-calling. He sticks to the subject. He’s enthusiastic but not bombastic. He knows what he’s talking about. He can communicate it! I’d guess many who hear Sanders in those large crowds – even in those red states – go home with the thought, “That guy could be our next President.”

Both national parties are losing registered membership because they’re anachronistic, money-grubbing ghosts of “politics past.” Neither stands for much of anything. Dem’s are so far from the middle nationally that many former members no longer relate. The GOP has dived into a hole with positions so narrow and irrelevant only a few diehards remember the “glory days.” For both, billionaires have replaced wide-spread voter appeal and money – lots and lots of money – has become the party purpose for existing.

To me, Trump’s “candidacy” is the most dangerous threat to our political system since the Kochs built themselves a “Tea party.” Look how far to the right – to near national irrelevance – the Republican party has gone in the last 15-20 years. Look at the absolute stalemate the elections of Ted Cruze, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, Raul Labrador and about 50 others have caused. None of them – not one – has been effective with new legislation, problem-solving, healing our national political wounds, standing for anything while doing nothing but cashing a paycheck. They’ve made a eunuch out of Congress, extended misery for the poor and homeless, played almost exclusively to the rich and ignored finding solutions to national ills that are the exclusive province of Congress.

Now, Trump is attracting audiences of the same disaffected, unthinking, scared and mostly white, elderly people. In poll after poll after poll, results show far too many people don’t have any idea how their government operates, how legislation becomes law, what our system of checks and balances is. And they have no idea what the role of government is as defined by the Constitution many of them swear by but are ignorant of both content and meaning.

People like Trump – and to some extent nearly all the Republican presidential candidates – are offering simple answers to complex problems they can’t solve. Trump – with his trashy name-calling, jingoistic, belittling statements – is capitalizing on the ignorance of those people looking for someone who talks like they do – feels like they do – about whatever’s bothering them at the moment. He’s dispensing verbal snake oil.

If some of these people who look to Trump for political salvation would set aside their fears and their loathing of a government they don’t understand – and in too many cases fear – and spend some time at a Sanders’ rally, they might be both enlightened and educated by a far different experience.

Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Sen. Sanders. It is NOT. But it IS an endorsement of the politics of any candidate of any party who understands the issues and who speaks to them with educated, informed ideas and temperate words while appealing to the best in us.

Take your choice. In a field of some 20 candidates of both parties, fill in your own choice of someone else who’s doing that. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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Rainey

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There a few changes in military recruiting stations since I signed up in one many, many years ago. Most now are staffed by members of each branch of the military rather than just one recruiter who could sign you up for any service. Today, they’re often located in strip malls rather than office buildings as they used to be. Slick promotional DVDs of colorful military action have replaced the old, dog-eared pamphlets.

My recruiter back then was an old “tanker.” I wanted the Air Force but that old sarge was pure Army from his shorts out. He wore a back brace, had “locked” knees and gnarled hands that gripped two canes. He’d served in North Africa under Patton where temperatures in those steel coffins topped 120 degrees daytime and dropped to the 40’s at night. Repeated exposure to cold and condensation caused crippling arthritis. He was overweight and deformed but he recruited with the best of ‘em.

These days, recruiters all look like they posed for “best-of-the-best” posters with tailored uniforms, all leather shined to a high gloss, smartly pressed pants, permanent-pleat shirts and regulation haircuts kept that way by nearly daily trips to the barber.

This description of latter-day recruiters probably fit all the personnel in that Tennessee recruiting station the day they were murdered. The day a deranged soul, with a semi-automatic, butchered five unarmed men. But “deranged” doesn’t stop there.

Flipping through Faux Neus a few days ago, I happened across “Judge Jeannie.” Her right wing rant was the recruiting office murders and how “Obama is to blame.” Not President Obama. Just “Obama is to blame.” And, from somewhere in the demented Faux audience, the network has dug up a Black police chief as much a racist as any white I’ve ever seen.

Let’s take a minute to discuss “Judge Jeannie.” Jeannie Pirro was 12 years a county court judge in Westchester County, NY. During that time, lobbyist husband, Albert, was convicted of tax evasion and conspiracy involving over $1 million. Jeannie was investigated by the feds for illegally taping her husband’s phones, trying to catch him committing adultery and other things. American “family values” at their best.

Jeannie made runs for lieutenant governor and U.S. senator with “significant contributions” from her ex’s friends while he remained in the slammer. But she couldn’t raise enough money or political support from the public and withdrew both times. Rejection. Then Faux Neus. With her non-journalistic background and political failures – a natural.

Back to the present. Jeannie’s charge was that “Obama” had prohibited recruiters from being armed. Not true. Except to her. If “Obama had not stopped recruiters from having guns they could’ve defended themselves and wouldn’t be dead.” The chief agreed! Repeatedly. Another “Obama failing.” said he. I flipped off – before I flipped out.

I’d bet the farm no president of these United States ever knew – or had given much though to – whether recruiters had guns in recruiting stations. I’d wager the same that no president – including the current one – ever ordered recruiters be armed or not armed. Like so many other Faux Neus charges about “Obama’s failures,” no thought has been given to cabinet secretaries, department heads, the IRS, Joint Chiefs of Staff or anyone else in government supervisory roles. Just “Obama.”

Successful recruiters have two main tools. First, they must look, talk and act like the best each branch of service has to offer. Many are combat vets with a lot of “salad dressing” on their chests. They’re smart, well-trained to “read” people, conversational, use proven sales tactics to make a case for new recruits to see “the best the military offers.” It’s a sales job. “Products” are patriotism, travel, education, lifetime careers, advancement and all the things young people look for and ask about.

Most recruiting offices are in malls or strip malls. Years of testing found access important for recruitment. The Tennessee office was next to an Italian restaurant. You can’t stash recruiters away someplace “safe” and you can’t arm them for defensive postures any more than you’d buy a car from a guy in a bulletproof glass cage. They are not in the offices to “return fire” when some nut – deranged local or terrorist – takes a shot.

Recruiting offices will continue to be targets for attack. They represent the American military – “the Great Satan” – and are not equipped repel armed cowards hitting “soft” targets. Like schools in Afghanistan or weddings in Iraq. There is no bulletproof way to change that. Not if recruiters are to be effective in their work. Before international terrorism made their offices hazardous duty.

The military will figure this out and do what it has to. No, I’m more worried about the “Judge Jeannie’s” of this world who keep up the lies and false propaganda to stir up people who fall for her B.S.. Far too many do. To me, she’s more the “enemy within.” Millions accept what she says without question – without checking – without confirmation of any kind – because she’s that “nice looking lady.” “And she’s a judge.”

No, my friends. She’s just another Faux Neus hack with clay feet up to her chin. She’s had her turn with both sides of the law. You want a friend? Go talk to a recruiter. They’re far more honest.

As for the civilian nuts showing up to “protect” the military, go home before you hurt someone and get sued down to your red-white-and-blue shorts.

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Rainey

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In the wake of the bloody church massacre in South Carolina, this nation – with the electronic aid of a frantic national media – is entering into an asinine debate: the end of Confederate flag displays. The mindless media is busy taking quotes from people who haven’t thought the issue through or don’t see the racism of it’s own such action represents. Breast beaters and vote chasers. Or both. Mindless because banning the Confederate flag from flying in the so-called Confederate states is not likely.

Commonly accepted use of the words “Confederate states” says it all. Yes, the North won the war. At least on the battlefield. But, to millions of Americans in the South, their former flag is still the most powerful visible reminder of their true history. Offensive to most of us? You bet! But, to many of them, it’s history and tradition. Racist representation? To some, I’m sure. But not to many. Not as is to the rest of us.

Then there’s this. Can you say “First Amendment?”

Freedom of speech is not “freedom of good, likeable speech.” Freedom of speech is all speech no matter how distasteful – no matter how wrong – no matter how hateful. Whether our founding fathers intended it to be that way, I don’t know. But for 239 years, the nation’s courts have pretty much interpreted the issue to include nearly every utterance. It exists to protect the speech you don’t like – not the speech you do.

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a lower court order to remove the C-flag from license plates in Texas. Keep an eye on that because I doubt those plates will disappear. Just the Texas way of ignoring laws Texans don’t like. Germany outlawed use/display of the Nazi flag many moons ago. But, surf the I-net for a few minutes and you’ll find Nazi flags all over the Fatherland. The rest of the world, too.

There’ll be thousands of hours of time and millions of dollars wasted in various legislatures and Congress as bills are introduced to sweep the Confederate flag into history’s trash can. You can already hear the chest-pounding. Some may become law. For a time. Then will come the challenges in many courtrooms. Taking passion out of the issue, it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect banning the C-flag will be achieved. And, even if it does become the “law of the land,” it’s equally reasonable to expect thousands and thousands of southerners – and racists – will ignore it.

We have a lot of that going on within our borders now. People ignoring law, regulations, rules, human rights, tradition. Even common courtesy. All of us do it. Some by speeding. Some by throwing trash out the window. Shooting off illegal fireworks. Smoking in non-smoking areas. Sneaking liquor into sports activities. Not shoveling snow off our sidewalks after a storm. Drinking underage. Ignoring curfews. And on and on and on. We do it without thinking because we do it so often it’s a matter of course.

Someone once told me a law can be enforced only so long as a majority of people abide by it. One example: a stretch of highway posted at 60 mph. But authorities have found most people drive 70-75. Sooner or later, the speed limit is usually raised. Oregon’s legislators play with that constantly on I-5 and I-84 because state cops have found drivers routinely drive 10-15 mph faster than law allows. We’ll get it raised one of these days. By continuing to break existing law.

There are many instances when most of us who call ourselves “law abiding” actually violate law, ordinances, rules – thinking or not. Sometimes laws are changed to accommodate what has become fact. Sometimes laws stay on the books but enforcement stops. Look at public lands welfare queen Clive Bundy in Nevada. He owes the BLM over a million dollars in unpaid grazing fees but now the feds are talking about writing the whole thing off – much less not enforcing existing contract law.

With police officers being killed at record rates, murders of school children by the dozens, massacred church worshipers in a Bible class, thousands of illegal and unchecked gun sales, hundreds of unpunished Wall Street crooks damned near wrecking this nation’s economy still enjoying their freedom, illegal protests in our streets, racists ignoring our first Black president’s good works while spreading unbridled trash at will in social/public media, a Congress ignoring laws requiring voting decisions on declaration of war for more than a decade, a government operating on a federal budget that hasn’t been changed, updated or even thoroughly reviewed for years. Wanna keep going? With the exception of the poor and most minorities, too many of us break laws with impunity.

In their efforts to become our next president, Rick Perry calls the Charleston murders “an accident,” Rick Santorum blames those killings on the current president, Ted Cruz is on the campaign trail cracking jokes about guns and gun control, Mike Huckabee refers to a case of well-publicized incest as just “kids experimenting” and they’ll “outgrow it.” Anyone there you want to install as a new president of a nation already having problems of civic order?

If all the money and all the time and all the talent sure to be wasted on futile efforts to outlaw display of the Confederate flag could be directed to some more useful civic purpose, we might get a handle on some of the other, vastly more important issues going unchecked in our nation. I’m sure even ol’ Bobby E. Lee would agree.

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Rainey