"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

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Never – no, not ever – not once – I mean EVER – have you read anywhere in these continuous musings a defense for Faux Noise! Fox News for the newer readers. No, not ever. But, in the following verbiage, it may happen.

The continuing embarrassment that is the Republican presidential “contest” fills our airwaves, print and living rooms with the utterances and actions of the most unqualified bunch of applicants ever assembled. Even my pick of the litter – Kasich, the only marginally acceptable voice – is so flawed, with a hair-trigger temper and the habit of stretching his resume that he is only borderline acceptable. The rest continue to slip-slide on an always moving base of lies, false claims and skating to woo voters.

Watching these political lemmings offers little information. Polls are all over the place. The media chases Trump like he’s the “Hunny Pot” Pooh Bear seeks to find. He draws massive amounts of undeserved attention for conducting the most hateful campaign for president since George Wallace.

Every four years, Idaho traditionally produces a guy named Harley Brown in gubernatorial races. Even he makes sense sometimes. Oregon has nut case Art Robinson, perennially running for something – anything. Nationally, we have Trump continuing his deplorable “campaign” without regard for facts, with no position on any issue confronting this nation and offering no proof he can conduct the office he seeks with anything closely resembling what’s required. Each boast – each lie – each affront to public decency – is met with higher poll numbers and even more adoring fans.

In this surreal and obnoxious campaign, we’re now told voices are being raised – mostly by Trumpeteers – that their basic source of information has deserted them. Yep. They’re angry at Faux Noise. Imagine. The mother’s milk of disinformation has soured for them. The “reasoning” – if reasoning there be – is that Faux is no longer “conservative” enough and has sold ‘em out. “Faux,” they say, “has moved left.” Just another “liberal voice” crying in the political wilderness our national electoral system has become.

Now – wait for it – here it comes. That “defense” of Faux I never thought I’d make.

Rather than “Faux” moving leftward from being the usual unreliable source of factual information it is, it seems to me those doing the complaining have moved further to the right. They’ve followed Trump into new and more unexplored factless ground – ever closer to the edge of their square earth.

What these folk best represent is that minority portion of America with strong, uninformed, rock-hard beliefs which will accept no new information if it represents anything different from what’s already there. Even facts. These folk are not new. But, the Trumpster espouses new lies and baseless B.S. and they accept his new “facts.” They do so because he reinforces their already mythical thinking and dives deeper into the perceived conspiracy they believe has come to reflect any politics but theirs.

Watching Hannity, O’Reilly and the rest in recent days – with teeth tightly clenched – I find no movement away from the usual bile they’re noted for. Same hatred for all things not to the extreme, still espousing the same phony “conservatism,” still playing fast and loose with the truth. No, Faux seems to be still plowing that same old furrow of tainted “news” it always has.

Trump represents just about everything wrong with the country’s political landscape. That’s bad enough. But he’s also pushing the envelope of disinformation further than any major candidate in recent history. Doing so, he’s become the lightening rod of the uninformed, misinformed and disinformed. He’s hardened a base of millions willing to acknowledge his lies and deceits but still cast their votes for a guy whose feet are clay clear up to his coiffed hair. They’ll recognize his obvious faults while, at the same time, treating him as some sort of political messiah.

As the various states start their nominating activities, Trump sits comfortably atop all the polling. All the other wannabees straggle behind. Huckabee, Santorum, Fiorina and a few others will soon be eliminated. For most of us, they’ll disappear. They’ve hustled a few billionaires and gullible supporters for dollars to keep their “campaigns” active so they’ll be able to demand – and get – fatter fees on the right wing chicken dinner circuit. They’ll all write some unnecessary books and demand higher publishing fees because of their faux celebrity status. They’ll up the price on their videos. The same con Gingrich raised to a fine art.

But Trump will remain. His name will continue to show up on primary ballots and in nominating caucuses. The most unqualified, most inexperienced, most contemptible of the lot will still be with us. Those one or two others who may have some minimum qualifications, may have the experience and may legitimately have a reason to run, will be buried in a sea of angry voters. Trump – at least for the foreseeable future – will remain.

Anger is the poorest possible reason for supporting someone. Anger clouds. Anger distorts. Anger subverts reason. Anger hides truth.

No. Faux Noise hasn’t moved away from the crowd of the clueless. It’s still selling the same spoiled vegetables at the same old stand on the same old corner. It’s the clueless who’ve moved. It’s Trump who’s done the moving. To the anger of the rest of us.

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Rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rainey

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For many months now, the chattering class of talking heads has been telling us people in this country are mad. More directly, a lot of prospective voters are angry at nearly everything governmental, they say. Thus, the voices reason, that pent up anger is being turned to support for two of the most unqualified belligerents ever to run for president. Trump and Cruz.

We’re repeatedly reminded this anger comes from feelings of frustration, disappointment and outright rejection of all things governmental. The rise – so far – in political influence of the far right is being offered as “proof” of this oft-quoted speculation. Trump and Cruz – though they be liars, cheats, lacking in facts or ideas for improving our national condition – these two have become lightening rods attracting every sort of angry condition being thrust on our national political environment. So we’re told.

Here – at the edge of the Pacific – my response to this “common wisdom” is that it amounts to a lot of conjecture, speculation and outright B.S..

The flaw in this widely accepted “theory,” is only a portion of the populace is “angry” and acting out – that the rest of us looking for sanity, leadership and exceptional quality in our next President aren’t unhappy, too. That we are content with things – accepting of how governmental affairs have been conducted – and are trudging along in a national attitude of peace and love.

Not by a long shot! A VERY long shot!

Like Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” I’m “mad as Hell.” And, as followers of the electronic musings in these “SECOND THOUGHTS” can attest, I’m not a dues-paying member of any right-wing fringe element. Neither, I’m happy to say, are most of my friends, most of my day-to-day contacts and regular correspondents who are equally as mad but who’ve not turned to supporting or accepting the aforementioned B.S.. Still, we are angry. We are mad! We are frustrated every bit as much as any Trump/Cruz backer. And we’ve probably got more concrete examples for our angst. Here are a few raising my civic temperature:

## One Greg Abbott, governor of Texas. He’s launched an effort to call a constitutional convention to rewrite portions of our grand old document so states could refuse any federal government law or mandate states don’t like. This from a licensed attorney. Now, I’ll be first to say being a law school graduate doesn’t give him any special intellectual prowess. But the doctrine of federal supremacy – over which an entire Civil War was fought – was settled many eons ago. He could, of course, have slept through an entire six weeks it was featured at the University of Texas. But this bastard’s serious!

## One Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas. His new Executive Order 16-01, “Protecting Kansas from Terrorism” attempts to block relocation to Kansas of refugees from “anywhere in the world” who present a “safety and security risk.” Which, to him, means all. For the rest of us, details of how to define or assure someone meets those two qualifications were, of course, not defined. Read “shut the borders of Kansas.”

## One Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, who, upon election, promptly killed the state’s Obamacare participation which immediately disenfranchised a half-million people who lost coverage.

## A U.S. Supreme Court that made Citizen’s United the law of the land. Also, the Chief Justice who said “states have learned their lessons, changed their procedures” and portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring federal approval of local voting changes “are unnecessary.”

## The entire legislatures of Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, North and South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi have – since that decision – enacted new laws disenfranchising voters totaling a million-plus. Wiped ‘em out.

## The U.S. Congress which has voted 59 times – 59 – to kill the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Both houses this time. Would have become law were it not for a Democrat in the White House with a veto stamp. More than 12 million Americans could’ve been without health insurance.

## Louis Ghomert, Steve King, Raul Labrador, Darrell Issa, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Tom Cotton, Duncan Hunter, Michael Burgess, Pete Sessions, Don Young, Pete Sessions and several dozen more members of Congress who’ve repeatedly shown their existence along the Potomac is for no other reason than to remain on the banks of the Potomac and perpetuate themselves at the public trough they repeatedly decry. They offer nothing constructive, author no positive legislative improvements, complain bitterly about a system of government they were elected to run – if not improve. All the while depositing $175,000 a year from us. Plus-plus-plus.

I could run this on for a couple more pages. I won’t.

The point is, there are millions of Americans just as mad – just as angry – just as frustrated about government, about stagnation and bitterness in our political system as those the media counts as Trump/Cruz voters. But the fact is, we who reject those two voices of political lunacy, may be more deeply affected because we know why we’re “in the winters of our discontent.” We understand the failures. But we’re not ignorantly casting around for someone – anyone -regardless of qualifications – to solve our national issues. Our anger is because we know what’s wrong. We understand why. And who. We even have some serious thoughts about how to get back on track.

Trump, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Santorum and others are not the answer to our anger. They represent the cause of it! A system – a political party – that can produce nothing more positive than these cretins is the result of previous elections when voters lashed out by choosing flawed candidates offering no answers to perceived wrongs at the time.

Like anchorman Beale, I, too, am “MAD AS HELL!” His next words were “…and I’m not going to take it anymore!.” Individually, none of us can make that a meaningful, serious threat. But – collectively and informed – we can answer what the talking heads tell us is anger from the right. We can express our own displeasure with conditions – doing so in a more thoughtful and informed way.

The ballot’s in your hands. Just how mad are you?

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Rainey

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This damned armed stand-off in Burns, Oregon, has got to come to an end. It’s escalating to dangerous proportions. Three more out-of-state gun-toting “patriot” groups have now joined up. It’s got to be stopped. Now!

What started as some far-right nut cases with rifles holding an isolated Oregon, federal game refuge hostage has gone from that to now drawing more right-wing seditionists from other states as a rallying point. And they’ve now taken an entire community hostage – the community of Burns.

Guys with rifles slung over their shoulders are roaming the streets at all hours. People are being directly threatened – including the elderly parents of the Harney County Sheriff. Tires were slashed on the sheriff’s personal car. Schools have been closed for two weeks. Members of a local Native American tribe are being harassed and frightened. Citizens of Burns are literally being held prisoner because of these seditionists.

There’s no local radio station in Burns – only a weekly newspaper. So, the town is filled with swirling rumors and people are having a hard time finding out what’s really going on. Social media has been the main source of information and we all know how reliable that can be.

The sheriff has been extremely patient. But, when he met with the Bundy boys last week, they refused his offer to get safely out of town until all of their “demands” are met. Demands that will never be met. At that point, it would seem, the time for patience ended.

One of the more disappointing features regarding how this situation has been allowed to fester into something more dangerous, is the seeming near non-reaction of government. At all levels. County commissioners are hiding under their blankets. They’ve publically said nothing. Oregon’s governor issued one news release saying how awful this situation is and asking the Bundys and their followers to leave. The feds have been silent. Nothing from the F-B-I except another news release saying “We’re keeping an eye on things.” The only visible law enforcement presence near the occupied federal property was when the sheriff came to talk last week and a couple of vehicles of armed folk followed him in. And silently back out.

The Bundy Bunch is in the small compound of the Harney Wildlife Refuge. They’ve moved federal heavy equipment out front as barricades if attacked. Media is corralled several hundred yards away – out of sight of the place.

The plain fact is the seditionists are free to come and go as they please. And they please a lot. They go to town to eat in local restaurants – buy five gallon cans of gas for their small generators – shop for groceries with rifles at the ready – hit the bars when they need a stiffener. One of them used social media to plead for money to supply his needs “for the struggle,” then took the proceeds to a Burns bar and got blitzed. O’Shaughnesy was his name. Stealing money is his game.

In all previous encounters with these heavily armed “constitutionalists” across the country, government has backed down. No shots fired. No one hurt. No arrests. As a result, the seditionists are getting bolder, more organized, more heavily armed and more of a threat to the rest of us. They feel emboldened each time they “face down the terrible federal monster.” And do it with impunity.

Some government entity – or all of them – needs to act. Shut these bastards down. Block all communications. Turn off all electricity. Turn off all water supplies. Overnight temperatures last week dropped to near zero in the area. No heat, no water and no way to communicate with families or other supporters can become great non-violent but effective “weapons.”

However, if a government push-back produces shots fired from inside the compound, an armed response will be necessary. Required. I’d hate to see it end that way. But these guys are nothing but criminals. They have no legitimacy in the eyes of the law. They’ve committed criminal if not seditious acts. Offered safe passage and a pat on the back, they refused. But leave they must. Peacefully or otherwise.

When I was a kid, like almost all kids everywhere, I used to push my parents and their rules. I learned where to stop just short of their response triggers. That’s what the Bundy’s and their criminal ilk are doing with our government – from county locals to the feds. All previous encounters have ended with figures of governmental authority backing down and walking away. These guys have learned to just “hang in there” because they know no one is going to move against them. But someone must.

The occupation is 30 miles outside an isolated desert community, clustered in a very small compound, well-known to local law agencies and with no non-participants that can get hurt if shots are fired. Such ideal conditions for stopping these guys cold may never exist again. This is where it can end with the least amount of casualties.

One more thing. Something that hasn’t got a lot of media attention. While overwhelming local sentiment opposes the majority governmental land ownership in the area, committees of locals and feds have worked for decades to operate together. To work out their differences. Sensible locals admit relations are better than ever and cooperation has greatly improved. Not perfect. But better. All that work, over all that time, can be blown to bits if these out-of-state terrorists walk peacefully away from this.

There’s more at stake here than getting the Bundy’s and their cretin sycophants out of the compound and out of the state peacefully. Large ruptures of many relationships in Harney County and other western states could be a terrible, long-term price to pay.

The Bundy boys have been given their chance. And then some. It’s time to get ‘em out. Or take ‘em out. Now!

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Rainey

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There’s a time bomb ticking in our western states that’s going to blow one of these first days. And Americans are going to die. Whether it’ll be a gun-happy citizen out to prove some sort of perverted loyalty to the old Constitution, or a lawman who’s finally pushed into a corner, depends on who shoots first. And who shoots last.

The latest Oregon standoff is near our eastern border – about 30 miles outside of Burns in Harney county – one of the largest such jurisdictions in the nation at some 10,000 acres but only about 7,500 people. From beautiful to desolate, it’s remote by all definitions. Can be hot like the fires of Hell in the summer – frozen as the arctic in the winter. Conservative by the traditional definition of that word – not by the standard use today which too often equates to craziness.

Some 200 people have taken control of a federal BLM site 30 miles out of town. Several brick buildings and a few trees. Men, women and children in the compound. Along with enough guns and bullets to take over a small country. The occupants – some with past criminal convictions – have vowed to stay “40 years” or more. While claiming peaceful intentions, they say they’ll shoot if fired upon.

The pretext for the outlaw’s illegal activity was to come to Oregon to defend two ranchers they believed were being persecuted by the court system. Under appropriate law – and as a result of a legal conviction for their crime – the father and son were not being “persecuted” and have peacefully turned themselves in to serve their sentences. So, it would seem the armed interlopers should go home. Right? Not hardly.

Even the Harney County sheriff now says that whole “protect the innocent” claim was B.S. and the intent of the occupiers is – and has been from the start – to confront government. They’re using social media to loudly urge like-minded government haters to come to Oregon, join the movement and make the BLM compound their rallying point for a national offensive to attack government at all levels.

Two of the loudest voices in the compound are those of two sons of Nevada criminal Clive Bundy. Bundy was the focus of an armed confrontation two years ago in which feds backed down even though he’d been convicted of not paying over $1 million he owed the BLM for past grazing on federal lands. Our lands. Our money. Yours and mine.

Both Bundy boys have served time on convictions for this and that. They are what they are – small time criminals with experience in our judicial system. When the NY Times did a well-researched story on the first Bundy confrontation, it found many gun toters on-site had previous criminal and mental problems. Some were actively wanted by the law. It can reasonably be assumed the same situation exists in Harney County – likely with some of the same offenders.

This is at least the third such confrontation forced by armed outsiders in Oregon in the last year. The other two ended with the law backing down and occupiers doing high 5’s for “whupping those damned feds again.” In my opinion, the Harney county situation must not end the same way. These people must be stopped. There. Now.

While I don’t want to see anyone killed in or outside the compound, there are ways to bring this illegal occupation to a head – and to an end. First, use existing technology to block cell phone use. No communications in or out not controlled by law enforcement. Isolate those bastards in every possible way. Second, cut electricity. All of it. Temperatures there this week will be about 30 degrees during the day and low 20’s and teens at night. Third, cut the water. All of it. Nothing like backed-up toilets and no bathing for making very close quarters uninhabitable.

Shortly, based on my own survival training, I believe three things will happen. First, parents will want to get their children out. Let ‘em out. Second, the occupiers will start arguing among themselves. Not all are hardcore or there because this is the most important thing in their lives. Maybe for the Bundy boys, but not all. They’ll want out. Let ‘em out. Arrest ‘em. Third, just sit tight with guns holstered. Outlast ‘em. They’ll either start a fight the law can win or they’ll give up. I’d bet on surrender.

There should be no concessions. None. Haul their criminal butts off to the Harney County jail. Try each one on whatever charges are appropriate. Jail time for those convicted. Which should mean all.

A basic precept of our national freedoms is that we are “a nation of laws.” While administration of those laws should be done with compassion and tempered by situations at hand, we cannot – must not – allow roaming bands of armed citizens to go unchallenged when they decide to ignore our laws. Laws all of us are expected to obey. Some large American cities are being faced with the same situation. Large groups – armed or not – are flaunting the legal process we must maintain.

Citizens of Harney County have not flocked to support these criminals. News reports and social media are filled with demands that law enforcement at all levels end this occupation and punish all those involved. Get ‘em out!

One more thing. To the media. All media. The people illegally inside that federal compound are not militia. Not in thought, word or deed. The occupiers may call themselves that. But the rest of us – starting with the media – must not. They are defending nothing. They are offending many.

These are armed criminals whose activities border on insurgency. We have laws aplenty to deal with insurgency. If action isn’t taken to stop these folks, they’ll keep coming back again and again. This is the largest collection of them law enforcement has encountered. If they aren’t met with the full force of the law this time, the next “incident” will be larger and more dangerous. And maybe not in such a remote location where they can be confronted as easily.

Eventually, someone will pull a trigger. Someone will die. If this mess in Burns can be ended peacefully, I’m all for it. But if it takes the full efforts of law enforcement at every level to do it with gunfire, now is the time. And 30 miles out of Burns, Oregon is the place.

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Rainey

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Christmas presents a number of challenges for me. The first is I’m not a shopper. I’m a buyer. Need new jeans? Go from car to Men’s Department – find my size – go to cashier – back to car. Ten minutes flat! Now that’s buying. Anything more is painful.

Except Christmas. Because, personally, there’s one significant difference this time of year; something that makes the pain of “shopping” more bearable. And that’s listening to the sounds of all the dead singers coming over the sound system at the mall. Really brightens things up.

Think about it. Listen for it. Bing Crosby – Rosemary Clooney – Karen Carpenter – Perry Como – Eddy Arnold – Sammy Davis Jr. – Nat Cole – Mel Torme – Burl Ives – Ella Fitzgerald – Frank Sinatra – Dean Martin – the Andrews Sisters – Andy Williams – Patti Page – Margaret Whiting – Elvis. All dead. Except at Christmas. At the mall.

These people were recording Christmas songs before most of today’s shoppers were born. Now they’re gone. Except at Christmas. Then we – pardon the words – dig ‘em up. All of ‘em. Every year.

I’m a child of radio. I listened to Ed Murrow from London in the early ‘40’s on my little bedside Philco while doing grade school homework. All the mystery shows, the comedies, variety shows and the news. Those were my childhood friends. I knew ‘em all.

For about four decades, radio and television provided me with a fine life of earning a living, travel, one-of-a-kind experiences and making friends. TV was a large part of it but radio was where I felt most at home. Television “is.” What you see is what you get. But radio was “whatever-you-wanted-it-to-be.” Nobody else in the whole world – nobody – visualized the Green Hornet exactly the way I did. When Superman leapt over a tall building, mine was the tallest that ever was!

When you had such deeply ingrained memories of what was possible with radio, who wouldn’t want to grow up and be a part of it? I sure did. Until radio, as I knew it – as it was intended to be – died. Starting in the ‘80’s.

My last broadcasting job was in radio. And one day – I just quit. Cold turkey. Radio was gone. Time for me to go, too. Listen now. Pick anyone of three major content categories and listen. Really listen. All sound alike.

Radio is primarily a for-profit product these days. And most of the stations – too damned many of them – are not owned by professional broadcasters any more. Now, majority ownership is “chains” – some with hundreds of outlets. They’ve got investors and stockholders and bean-counters with ex-time salesmen for managers. Bottom line determines programming – not originality. Medford radio – Eugene Radio – Boise radio – Olympia radio. Run up and down the dial and you won’t find any real differences.

It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just “is.” When “The Gipper’s” Federal Communications Commission deregulated radio, it became a Monopoly game with buyers hoarding radio licenses. Buy ‘em. Sell ‘em. Trade ‘em. Pile ‘em up. It just “is.”

So, I go to the mall at Christmas because that’s where my “friends” are. Bing, Ella, Rosemary, Frank, Andy and all the rest. There’s almost no place for them in today’s fractured radio world that’s looking for the 18-to-28-year old demographic of the ratings services.

Well, my “friends” may be as dead as yesterday’s Limbaugh flatulence on today’s airwaves. But they’ll always be at the mall. I’ve tried to picture “Jingle Bells” done by Pink Floyd. Doesn’t work. How ‘bout “Let it Snow; Let It Snow” by Miley Cyrus? No? Maybe “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” by Led Zepplin?” Ugh! Or “Silent Night” by Madonna? Guess not.

Every generation’s “musicians” make Christmas albums. You hear a new one once in awhile. Or more likely catch one of their videos. Usually country/western. They’re out there. For a year or two. Then gone.

They’ll never be played on background music at the mall any time soon. They won’t be purchased for our personal music collections in anything like the numbers of “White Christmas” recordings by Ol’ Bing. So my question is this. How long can these dead-but-talented-spirits be resurrected each year? Digitally “dug up,” as it were? Even with all those contemporary “flash-in-the-pan” folks recording soon-to-be-forgotten Christmas noise, will we be hearing Rosemary and Mel and Nat for the next century or so?

The answer is, I think, yes. Because there is a quality of permanence in what they did. Because they did it once. They did it simply. They did it right. No echo chambers. No multi-track overdubbing. Except for Les
Paul. It was “Christmas lightning” in a bottle.

Well, off to the mall. Ella and Frank are going to “be there” from 2 to 2:15 this afternoon.

(This column originally appeared in 2013. But some other “ mall listeners-to-the-dead” asked for the repeat. So we dug it up.)

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Rainey

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“BREAKING: In __________, a tragic situation leaving ______ dead and, with no known motive and few details, still confirms our opinion about ____________.“ (Ron Fournier in the National Journal this morning, the day after San Bernardino.)

Fournier is being sarcastic, of course. Maybe. Or, maybe he’s just trying to make it easier for the media to report on the latest carnage by not upsetting anybody. Just fill in the blanks. Maybe sarcasm best describes the callousness of a nation refusing to act.

Well, I’m damned upset! If I hear one more political son-of-a-bitch spout the words “thoughts and prayers” after mass murder in this nation, I’m prepared get the 12- gauge out of the closet. Talk, talk, talk while innocent Americans die, die, die!

The President has warned us of the dangers of starting to take such events as commonplace because there have been so many of them. And, because there has been absolutely no commitment on the part of our society to take a single step to stop this maniacal savagery. None!

It would be easy – and wrong – to lay all blame for this national cowardice at the feet of a Congress terrified to act because of an outsized concern for personal future employment at the public trough. A lot of it correctly goes there. Just not all of it. What’s happening in your city hall, the courthouse, your statehouse? Anyone in your neighborhood who can write legislation or an ordinance or put new laws on the books in any form working feverishly to get it done? Didn’t think so.

Oh, we give it lots of lip service. We tell each other how sick and awful this unchallenged attack is. We grieve and wring our collective hands about another shooting “somewhere else.” We do it each time it happens. But what’s being done to stop it?

We’ve become cleverly artistic designing barricades out front of many buildings. We’ve gotten better disguising video cameras so they’re not intruding so we can continue with our false sense of both security and privacy. We’ve come to expect armed guards, body scanners, barefoot strolls around airports and looking at ourselves on monitors in banks, government buildings and even some theaters. We’re coping really well while armed murderers learn to work their way around our latest “barricades.” (More sarcasm there.)

As a society, we keep coming up with all sorts of mental nostrums to deal with the aftermath of these multiple, unprovoked killings. But we’ve not done a damned thing to remove the underlying cancer eating the guts of our collective security. Getting guns and other weapons of destruction out of the hands of the sick and deranged. Or anyone else who violently attacks our society. Not one damned thing. We’re treating symptoms and cleaning up after each new slaughter but ignoring the obvious steps demanded to end the killing.

Outside of more cops in our schools and insane talk of arming teachers, what’s been done since Newtown to protect our kids and grandkids? Has putting armed guards inside and outside Planned Parenthood clinics ended the murders of innocents? Is there a single college campus safer now than 10 years ago because enlightened leaders have done enlightened things? With thousands of cameras and mental detectors hidden in stores, are we less likely to see someone blasting away as shoppers dive for cover? Have we ended sniper attacks on our highways? How about theaters? Churches?

The only possible answers to all those queries is a shouted national “NO!” We’ve done nothing. And, if we keep treating the NRA as some sort of above-reproach protector of the bastardized Second Amendment, we’ll continue doing nothing. Despite the continuing slaughter of unsuspecting innocents who happen to be in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time.”

As a society, we’re bombarded by the NRA and gun fanatics – who may or may not be members – that “Obama is after your guns.” Membership campaigns are based on this B.S.. And, despite absolutely no proof, they succeed. And we let ‘em!

Speaking of that Second Amendment garbage about gun ownership being guaranteed because of the Constitution, retired SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens has an answer for that. Insert five words – just five – in that paragraph. His wording would read “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms – WHEN SERVING IN THE MILITIA – shall not be infringed.” Seems to me that would put some common sense back into the original words written by the authors a couple of hundred years ago.

Republican presidential candidates are a national embarrassment (again) as they pander for votes after another mass murder. Carly Fiorina said “liberals are wrong” to blame those phony abortion videos for what happened in Colorado Springs. She says that after (a) the makers of the trash admitted the falsity of their work and (b) the shooter told police there would be “no more baby parts” harvested there. With any luck at all, the wicked witch of H-P will melt away when cold water is poured on her latest fraudulent presidential ambitions .

We’re facing many serious national problems. But, before we can begin solving them, we MUST first secure the safety of citizens insofar as government can do that. It may mean replacing a significant number of politicians with folks who have the determination and guts to end this weaponry nightmare – to put the NRA Hydra back in its box – to shout “NO” to interests trying to keep unfettered access to guns the “law of the land.”

The Second Amendment also talks of the necessity of “the security of a free state.” We’re long overdue in quoting those words long and loud! What the Hell is it going to take? And when the Hell is it going to start?

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Rainey

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Seniors, by virtue of having lived many years, often fall into mental “traps.” One such is thinking you’ve “seen it all.” Another is “there’s nothing new under the sun.” And, of course, “because I’m older, I’m wiser.” Fact is, if you stay connected to the world while learning to let your thinking “go with the flow,” there are lots of new things to see, plenty of new things to experience and you’ve found age and wisdom are entirely unrelated.

All of this has come home in the recent days as I’ve experienced the most disgusting, racist, obscene, hate-filled and embarrassingly ignorant rhetoric of too many fellow citizens and, especially, the trash talk coming from many of the Republican candidates for president. It’s the subject of likely Syrian immigration. With the possible exception of John Kasich, that bunch has earned our contempt and outrage by engaging in behavior unfit for anyone in public life. Or, aspiring to be.

As a registered Independent in Oregon, my voting pencil swings from side to side on our election ballots. Neither major party earns blind allegiance nor acceptance of the entirety of all candidates offered. So, when I condemn the major affront to our national dignity by Trump, Huckabee, Bush, Paul, Forina et al, it’s without picking one party over the other. All are deserving of our collective contempt as individuals and by the despicable trash coming from their own campaigns. Party aside.

Maybe more than any other recent issue, this one of how to deal with accepting Syrians fleeing war and all its madness has exposed the absolute fractures and canyon-like separations found in our national consciousness. It appears all who’ve voiced their opinions from the neighborhood bar to the national Capitol are entrenched and unmoveable in support or opposition to accepting these human beings in our house.

I came across a new word in all this rhetoric as I’ve tried to see this issue from more than one viewpoint. It’s “asylee.” Not something found in everyday conversation. It means an alien at our doorway “found to be unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.” That “persecution or fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Asylees are eligible to adjust to lawful, permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States. The number of immigrants defined by this description is limited to 10,000 per fiscal year. The same number the President has set for 2016.

This seems to be the nub of the whole immigration legal status. Oh, there are presidential executive orders, various laws and even the U.S. Constitution. But the asylee status is regarded by most immigration experts as the best definition under which the current crop of Syrian and other refugees from war and persecution fall.

My point of going into this one brief, non-political and non-emotional example is to show there really are some legal and humanitarian parameters for a realistic discussion without all the B.S. emanating from presidential campaigns and cowardly, uninformed residents of statehouses coast-to-coast. Of course, there are other legally descriptive and fitting approaches to the immigration debate. But reasoned debate has been entirely overcome by huge numbers of people with no idea what they’re talking about. Voices playing to other sick minds with unfounded fears with large helpings of racism and unfounded nationalistic hate.

As usual in subjects of national political import, the governors of Oregon, Washington and California seem to be leading voices of what the situation is, what the facts are and what actions need to be taken. Or avoided. All three have said Syrian refugees will be admitted and welcomed. The plain fact is, any citizen, governor or ignorant politician who takes the opposite stance does so with no recognition of what the laws are in such instances and what powers they have – or don’t have – to deal with immigration.

When the mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, exhibited massive ignorance for all to see in a letter to the White House, bringing up the shameful subject of internment camps for Syrians, he established the bottom of the barrel on the issue of immigration. What we did to Japanese-Americans in 1942 was the most unconscionable act of widespread degradation this nation has ever taken into the depths of racist hatred against an entire segment of our society. If hizzoner is truly serious – and that stupid – I propose his personal Virginia living room be designated “Camp One.”

This Syrian issue represents a lot more than just a new home for people trying to keep their families safe and together. It goes to our national conscience – it questions if we really mean all the words in our Pledge of Allegiance – it challenges all those high-flown images of a truly just America we all were brought up to believe in. It questions that massive statue in the waters off New York City – the one inscribed “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … send these, the homeless, tempest tost (sic) to me.”

We have an empty house next door. A Syrian family would be as welcome to move in as any other – much more welcome than the bellicose, racist, trash-talking, mindless political hacks that fill our evening airwaves. Their kind should not be welcomed anywhere. Especially at the ballot box.

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Rainey

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The old world war – war as we’ve known it – is over. The new world war – as we’re learning in France, India, the Philippines, South Africa, England, Nigeria and elsewhere – has begun.

What we used to call “world war” really wasn’t. Many countries weren’t involved. Whole parts of the world remained peaceful during “world wars.” But, we called it “world war” as in WWI and WWII. Now, as the massacre of 130 or so civilians in France has joined massacres of thousands of others in dozens of countries, all of us are involved. We’re truly engaged in a first-ever, real “world war.”

War has evolved from a relative few on the battle field to the entirety of the world’s population. War has gone from the geographic isolation of army facing army to the new war – terrorist killings striking anyone, anywhere at anytime. The battlefront is now our world, our nation, our state, our street.

With the powerful exception of 9/11, America has been pretty much unscathed in this war thing. Oh, we’ve made our contributions of material, treasure and the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people over the years – all considerable contributions. Each, of course, affected many in our country. But, the nation as a whole – the entirety of our population – has never experienced the reality of being on the front lines – of being under fire – of participating in the battle. Of being the next casualty. Now, we are.

When I was eight or nine, I used to lie in front of my granddad’s old Sears Silvertone console radio and soak up news of where our various military services were fighting. I made little cardboard maps to keep track of where some of our naval fleets were involved – where the Sixth Army or the Eighth Air Force or other units were in Europe or North Africa or the Pacific- and their daily progress. Or the beatings they took. Looking back, it was probably that prolonged activity that led to my own military service and a long career in broadcast news.

But, one of the things I learned then – without really thinking about it – was that “world wars” were always fought “over there.” Somewhere else. Never within our nation’s borders. Never near me. So there was always this sense of detachment – a sense that, if I didn’t enlist or get drafted to go to battle, I wouldn’t be involved. I wouldn’t be harmed. Life would go on peacefully. I’d go to school tomorrow and never feel the horrors of war.

That sense of being a third party – of being only an observer and never a participant – that detachment and that false sense of security are over. For all of us.

Watching events unfold in France, several very personal thoughts came to mind. Like how many concerts I’d attended over the last 50 years or so – how many restaurants I’d been in for a fine meal or just pizza and a beer – how many large crowds I’d mingled with in various countries. All of those experiences uninterrupted by gunfire, hand grenades or a suicide bomber.

Then, like the settling fog blanket outside our living room windows here on Oregon’s central coast, something more realistic – more personally terrifying – filled my thoughts. The terrorists have won this new world war.

Saying something like that in a bar in one of the Northwest’s timber towns could get a guy killed. Some burly boozer would immediately be in your face to tell you “America has NEVER lost a war and NEVER will!” He’d be wrong, of course, but that happens a lot these days when it comes to people talking U.S. history with all the factual “education” of Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter or Faux Neus.

What’s made terrorism such an effective tool for thousands of years is this: terrorists almost always succeed. Some guy tried to set his socks afire on a commercial jet in Michigan about 10 years ago but failed to get a flame. Still, for those last 10 years, millions of us have had to stand in our stocking feet in airport terminals all around the world. He won. Terrorists crashed three commercial jetliners on 9/11, killed nearly 3,000 people and millions of us haven’t set foot in an aircraft since then while our government immediately spent hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to revamp airline security which will never stop the attacks. Terrorism won.

Shopping centers have been the target of terrorists. Public buildings, big box stores, office towers, parking lots, churches and public schools, too. All have been struck and all have changed how they deal with the public. Ever notice those cement posts in front of the doors at Staples or Best Buy? Ever look at the cement planters and concrete-and-steel barriers around statehouses, in front of court houses or your city hall? How about the hydraulic barriers designed to flatten tires that surround the U.S. Capitol building? Tried to walk unchallenged into a college football game lately?

All a few terrorists have to do is set off some explosions in unsuspecting public places or use automatic weapons to kill a few dozen people at laundromats, drug stores, a bank, a car dealership or in an expensive bistro. Preferably in some little burg in middle America. Maybe blow a San Francisco cable car off its tracks or bomb a cruise ship. A little murder – a little devastation – goes a long way. Terrorists – really committed folk not afraid to die – have changed our world completely.

The night of the Paris massacre, President Obama said “this country will stand with all other countries to bring terrorists to justice.” Sounds good. Sounds proper. Sounds like what you’d expect the head of a country to say. But it’s absolutely impossible. All but one of the murderers in Paris blew themselves up with suicide belts. Cops killed one.

When people wrap themselves in explosives and are fanatically dedicated to their mission, life, as we know it, means nothing to them. They want to die. They’re dedicated to their own deaths. Their sense of justice is death for a cause greater than themselves. Even if caught, death – to them – is nothing to fear. We are powerless to administer “justice.” That’s why terrorism is so effective. Historically, it always has been.

War as we’ve known it – war “over there” – has ended. The war we face now – world war – is as close as your nearest WalMart.

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Rainey