Archive for the 'Rainey' Category

Jul 11 2014

Shut the hell up, Sarah

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’ve wanted to do a column under that headline for five years now. Even got to the keyboard a few times but held back. Really don’t know why. Lord knows she’s given any thinking person a pot full of reasons to tell her to “take a hike.” But now it appears she’s pissed off more than half the country and a majority just wants her to shut up and go away.

A new NBC/Wall Street/Annenberg poll has found 54-percent of voters – regardless of party – have heard enough of the Wasilla wastrel. Even four-in-ten Republicans don’t want to hear her uninformed babbling anymore. Among Democrats the margin is two-thirds.

But it’s not just the self-serving Alaskan opportunist the public is fed up with. More than half the respondents are tired of hearing Rev. Jesse Jackson’s opinions on this, that and the other. Nearly half would like former Vice President Cheney to put a sock in it and go silently back to Wyoming with about 43% saying “enough already” to Newt Gingrich.

Aside from being just plain without talent or knowledge enough to make any sort of meaningful contribution to the national dialogue, Palin’s problem – and to some extent the others – is the result of several things. First, none of those named has any legitimate public platform. All did at one time. But no more. They have no substance and nothing relevant to say. They’ve worn out their welcome.

Second, the media made them “personalities.” As such, they have nothing meaningful to contribute. No public office. No institutional connection. No platform of any kind. They’re just supposed to be opinionated, funny, crusty, say controversial things, be available and show up.

Think all the people you know. You know lots of folks. But are they all friends? Do you invite all these folks to your house? Do you even want all of them at your house? Probably not. Oh, you may work with some, socialize with some, go to church with some. But are they all people you want to hang out with all the time? Probably not. People come and go in our lives but few relationships stay. Those that do are based on something more than “personality.”

The media has “made” these people – Palin, Gingrich, Jackson et al. Not because they’re good, upstanding, honest folk with something important to say. No. They’ve made them “personalities” to fill long stretches of what would otherwise be “dead air” or empty pages because they can be counted on to be controversial or entertaining if not illuminating or meaningful. They’re creatures of the media and, when they no longer can bring ratings or subscriptions numbers, they’ll be discarded by that same media. Old news.

Palin, in particular, is nothing more than a media “personality.” She’s offered nothing positive or important to the national dialogue since you first heard her name six years ago. She’s a creation: partly by the media but mostly by her own hand. When the national spotlight accidentally shined on her in 2008 – at the behest of a confused John McCain – she was ready. Immediately ignoring McCain speech writers and political advisers much smarter than her, freelancing interviews without campaign approval, copywriting her name and image and signing a long-term contract with a major speaker’s bureau before the campaign was over, Palin grabbed the brass ring. The media loved her. Well, more like developed a case of heavy breathing. Continue Reading »

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Jul 04 2014

The fallacies of endorsements

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In recent days, I’ve looked at many congressional races around the country. Using my “student-of-politics” proclivities and some very good research, I’m going to give you my list of picks so you’ll know who’s who – how they stack up. I’m going to “name names” so you’ll know whom you should support.

Wait? What’s that? You don’t care who I like? You don’t want to know which ones I’m endorsing for Congress? What? Why?

Actually, that would be my response if you – or anyone – told me a list of candidate selections. It wouldn’t make a damned bit of difference.

And therein is my problem with endorsements. Who someone else – anyone else – ANYONE else is supporting is just not relevant to my ballot. Oh, we might eventually vote for the same candidate. Maybe more than one. But we do so individually. Not because of anyone else backing ol’ so-and-so.

There was a time endorsements were somewhat important. Used to be Democrats put a lot of stock in labor union picks. If the president of Amalgamated Widget Makers told members which candidate to support, that’s pretty much how everybody went. Major corporations often got behind one name and word went out to various branches of the business. “Smith’s the guy” and everyone was expected to mark “Smith” at the polls.

Union, corporate, workplace endorsements don’t carry the weight they used to. Nor should they. But all keep trying. Even some “churches.”

Newspapers endorse a lot – claiming they’re giving you the benefit of hours and hours spent in face-to-face extended interviews and “Candidate Glutz is our pick for county treasurer.” I’d rather they change current employment practices and hire someone who can actually write accurately and tightly – then publish well-written summaries of what that extensive interviewing showed about the office-seeker. Things the paid advertising didn’t show. Skip the endorsement. Factual summaries will do just fine, thank you very much. Again, well-written, of course. I’ll do the deciding.

The “endorsement” I hate most is the one that comes from one politician of another. The endorser may be boosting a friend or someone he works with. But often it’s a sham. Sometimes the two are even strangers to each other.
Politicians endorsing other candidates they’ve never even met has always been a vote killer for me. Party politics at it’s finest. Or worst. If you think such “blind” party line politics has been helpful for us in recent years, you haven’t been paying attention.
Then, take Chris Christie’s trip to New Hampshire awhile back to loudly announce his support for political transient, Scott Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Very firm words. Unqualified Christie backing. Yet, when immigrant Brown was “Senator Brown from Massachusetts,” Christie locked horns with him repeatedly and – in true Christie style – did so at the top of his lungs. Now it’s all better? Yeah, sure.

Political endorsements are almost always about getting an advantage or keeping the advantage. Chairman Christie of the Republican Governor’s Association, for example, is interested only in getting more Republicans in statehouses. Experience or qualifications be damned. Hand him a piece of paper with the name of your local Republican wannabe governor and Christie will make you think they grew up together. Buddies for life.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s just a job Christie and others are doing. But you need to know that because if you believe the hollow, verbal garbage and let the endorsement make your voting decision for you, then there’s a lot wrong.

And, of course, there’s the double-edged sword of endorsements. May look good to the one receiving the endorsement. Or, it may be a message to voters who don’t know the candidate but know they don’t like one or more of those doing the endorsing. Associated guilt, as it were.

The national political mess we’re in has been caused by a lot of things. But three factors stick out for me. First, too many voters don’t know one candidate from another and – like picking the “pretty brown horse” at the track – they cast a vote for the wrong reason. Second, too many of us don’t do our homework to find out which are the smart rabbits and which shouldn’t be allow to handle sharp objects.

And, third, many are “turned off” to politics – all politics – and either don’t vote or don’t make informed choices. So they wind up cancelling out wise decisions by more informed voters. And we wind up with a Louie Gohmert when we’d be better off with Gomer Pyle.

Each informed vote – honestly cast – does make a difference. That’s just a fact. Each vote. Every vote. But especially the vote that’s the result of a little research – a little extra effort – a little independent thought. The information is more easily accessible now than ever. Getting it is not hard.

What’s hard is living with the results of a bad vote – an uninformed vote – or a vote that wasn’t cast. Or falling for an endorsement of someone you don’t know BY someone you don’t know.

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Jun 24 2014

This pork is a hog

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

For many, many a moon, it’s been hard to say anything positive about our miscreants in congress. Especially those in the Grand Old Party of “NO.” About the time you think they’ve reached the bottom, one of ‘em digs a little deeper and any thoughts of saying something positive about recalcitrant elephants are immediately dashed.

But one fella – Idaho’s Second Congressional District part-time dentist – has acquitted himself with more positive job performance than a majority of others in the herd. Mike Simpson can be honestly castigated for making a number of wrong-headed votes in the name of Republican “unity” – a phrase rapidly becoming inappropriate for anything GOP. He’s gone along with his leadership on some things unnecessarily partisan. Still, on the whole – as far as his folks at home are concerned – he’s been quite helpful.

But now, he finds himself doing something for the sake of some of those same home folk that may be politically smart but it’s also politically abhorrent to a lot of us – and maybe even him – because it’s wasteful of our tax dollars and is little more than pork wrapped in the old American flag.

The brass hats in the Pentagon maze have been trying for years to thin out our inventory of obsolete, costly and no-longer-effective weapons systems. Things change. We move on. Technology keeps getting better. We can kill more people with less. And, sometimes, we can even kill them one-at-a-time from 5,000 miles away – if everything operates properly. So, some of the deadly toys we bought many moons ago should be retired or recycled.

But – when the folks on Capitol Hill – the ones who think holding elective office is a tenured “career” regardless of performance – hear such talk, there’s an immediate reaction of sphincter puckering and a rush to head off any loss of defense spending in the home district. One of the leaders in this embarrassment of pork preservation has been the Speaker himself. The Army has been telling Congress for years it doesn’t want any more copies of certain models of current tanks – wants to stop building ‘em – and it wants a particular company to stop refurbishing the ones damaged on current battlefields. Stop, already!

Ah, but the company that does all that tank rebuilding is where? Where? All together now – OHIO! And that district is represented in Congress by whom? All together now – SPEAKER BOEHNER! And in his mind, we’ll never have enough tanks – especially not enough rebuilt tanks – until Hell freezes over. It’s called “pork,” boys and girls. P-O-R-K!

So, what about Mike Simpson? Well, he’s now caught up in something very similar. He’s “going to the mat” to save a flying weapons system the U.S. Air Force doesn’t want anymore – the A-10 Thunderbolt. Or, as it’s more informally known, the “Warthog.” The “Hog” first flew in about 1976. It’s been called an “airborne tank” because it can take a lot of punishment and keep on flying. It’s a twinjet craft used in close support of combat troops for strafing, rocket launching and putting a lot of hurt on those threatening our people. It’s been a great airplane and the most effective aerial weapons carrier for such work. Continue Reading »

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Jun 17 2014

Time for house cleaning

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Last week’s shameful, amateurishly conducted, unbelievably arrogant and utterly unnecessarily divisive Idaho GOP convention was – is – and always should be – looked upon as the state’s absolute low point in political history. But – it should not be remembered as a surprise.

Those of us with a lifelong interest in things political can’t help but look upon that horrendous display and want to think – to say – to write something thoughtful and meaningful in it’s wake. Anyone who tries to do so will embark on a fool’s errand. But that won’t stop some of us from trying.
There was nothing in the raucous display of political throat-cutting upon which to base any thoughtful review. It was an expensive embarrassment for the party. And, as word spreads through the national political networks, equally as embarrassing for the state.

Idaho’s Republican Party has been headed off the cliff for a long time. Like the party nationally, it’s been organizationally kidnaped by narrow-minded absolutists in no way representative of either the long and honored conduct of the GOP or the mainstream of its historic membership. Both groups have created platforms filled with homophobic, racist, close-minded and hurtful language. Both are exclusionary. Both have espoused political goals antithetic to good government. Both have turned their backs on historic accomplishments of past Republican leaders who worked in the best interests of the country at-large rather than some imagined utopia of better days.

When a handful of party “loyalists” meets ahead of convention, voting to disenfranchise some 30-percent of the delegates who were to attend, it doesn’t take a great deal of political acumen to see who’s in charge and how the experience will end. This particular convention was not only doomed from day one, it was doomed years ago as unity, comity, accommodation and compromise were drummed out of the party vocabulary. The Idaho GOP has been walking along the cliff’s edge for a long time. The convention finally proved to be one foot out in space. There will be a fall. In fact, it’s started already.

Republicans have become more divisive – more likely to exclude those who differ in thought and word. The GOP has become an intolerant, narrow-minded group. Nowhere has that been on display more arrogantly than in Idaho in the past week. If one or more sheep differed on any subject from the single-minded theology presented, such sheep were quickly cut from the flock. The aforementioned organized effort to exorcize nearly a third of voting delegates was proof positive. Three entire counties were targeted for elimination in the convention process. Continue Reading »

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Jun 13 2014

Did the Army fail Bergdahl?

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’m going to advance a theory about Sgt. B. Bergdahl that I suspect you probably haven’t seen anywhere else. The fact that you likely haven’t means I’m probably crazy as hell. But, hey, those of us who write on the old I-net machine aren’t real writers and thinkers anyway, right?

This kernel of digital thought is based on my own years in uniform and the thousands of people I met while doing so. Because many of those years were spent in locations with personnel from other services, I got a pretty good look at people in all branches. Sans uniforms, we were a good cross-section of American life. Some very intelligent individuals – others that had to be reminded daily which foot was the left and which arm was the right.

A basic fact I learned is not everyone in uniform should be – whatever their motivations for joining. But, in my day, a lot of folks were either drafted or so scared they would be that they jumped into one branch or the other just to have a choice. The topic of an “all volunteer” military was never mentioned. You gambled the draft wouldn’t get you or you went off to “march” in the military.

Regardless of which branch, you’re immediately thrown into a lifestyle of life-changing experiences with people you’d never meet any other way. If you were from a small, all-white Oregon town, you quickly learned there really were others who didn’t look, talk or act like all the folks back home. Not that you weren’t intellectually aware of that. You just never showered with ‘em or ate with ‘em or – if you were a bit social – got to know ‘em.

If you were a “normal” heterosexual male, you found not every other guy was. In those days, that meant a quick discharge. If you were of a race with a learned hatred of the other, there were new social techniques to learn – quickly – to deal with that. If you had no patience with those whose hygiene skills weren’t up to yours, you had another learning experience. In fact, service in any military unit was – and is – a constant “learning experience.”

Even back then, not everyone “made the grade.” We had “washouts.” Guys who couldn’t adjust. Or wouldn’t. The primary goal of basic training in any of the branches has always been to quickly whip recruits into at least a basic military unit for further training. Almost as important has been the need to find those that can’t make the transition and weed ‘em out. Even in today’s all-volunteer military, not everyone who does so – regardless of motivation – should be accepted.

Given that background – and extensive reporting of Bergdahl’s days in the military and of his family’s lifestyle – my hunch is the sergeant is one of those and that he slipped through the cracks.

Hailey, Idaho, is a relatively isolated community of some 8,000 souls Though only about a dozen miles South of Ketchum/Sun Valley, Hailey is a more rural town with a slower and more local flavor – the sort of place rural South Blaine County folks go to buy necessities. Compared to Ketchum/Sun Valley, Hailey is definitely not in the “fast lane.”

Bergdahl’s family seems not to be a “fast lane” bunch, either. His father and mother talk more like some of the more liberal crowd in the area. Some of their words bring memories of what were called “hippie-types” about 45 years ago. Their descriptions of Bowe, and quotes of many other locals who’ve said something of his background, talk of a “good kid” – one who was sort of quiet – who didn’t have a lot of problems with school or other local authority. A kid with conscience. And a bit of a dreamer. A kid who kind of kept to himself – not part of the popular crowd – pleasant enough – smart enough but not outstanding.

Some reporting since Bergdahl’s release has told of a few times when he just wandered away from his army duties. In basic training, he once said he just wanted to go see a sunset. In Afghanistan, he had gone – unarmed – on more than one foray into local areas to look around. In an email to a friend, he talked to wanting to walk to China into “the artist’s painted world, hiding from the fields of blood and screams- hiding from the monster within.” He’d also repeatedly expressed concerns to fellow soldiers about what the American military was doing to the native population and of his serious concerns about it. Continue Reading »

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Jun 08 2014

Secession voices in the woods

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

This week’s results of the secession votes in Northern California have been posted. The score is two to one: two deciding to continue their established relationship with this country – one opting to join four other counties that previously decided to pioneer a new “State of Jefferson.” Butte County, California, voters will decide the issue for themselves come Tuesday next.

Now, to some it might appear all this “smoke-in-the-California-woods” is just that: people blowing smoke. But, if you clear the air a bit, you’ll see there are some “flames” to all this and some real problems – maybe more violent problems than voting – could be ahead.

In Del Norte and Siskiyou Counties deciding to stay with the union, the count was roughly 60-40. Tehema County voted to go, and it was about the same ratio to leave. About six in ten. In other words, no terribly lopsided majority either way. So, the secession question isn’t going to disappear, regardless of how impossible such a move might eventually be. The discontents and the malcontents still equal 40-60% of the residents. They’ll continue to create very heated political situations in anything those counties try to do. Anything.

There really is some “beef” to all this secession business. Watched a spot on the T&V the other day showing several dozen kids with dummy wooden rifles being marched across an open field ala the British in 1775. They also were getting lectures from old guys in uniforms – astride old horses – about “freedom” and “personal rights” and all that. In other words, prepping the next generation of Northern California kids to carry on the fight when the old guys and the old horses are long gone. That’s dangerous.

When you have 40-60% of the local population getting onboard this secession train, the reality is not all these folks are on the loony fringe. Several I’ve heard support leaving California express some very legitimate concerns i.e. political and economic dominance by large cities, unequal distribution of government assets and programs, little representation in matters of government, etc. All fact maybe, but also all legal.

The U.S. Supreme Court put us on the “one-man, one-vote” highway in the 60’s. Soon, rural sections of all states found themselves losing their grips on the levers of government and commerce. Power began shifting to metropolitan areas. Idaho may be one of the last states where this isn’t necessarily true. And that’s only because the legislative bunch from Ada and Canyon Counties – where a third of the population lives – have clout in numbers but keep fighting among themselves over political B.S. So less populated regions of the state still kick their butts in the legislature because the rural communities have learned to stick together. Continue Reading »

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Jun 03 2014

Failure to inform

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The media’s outburst of sustained patriotism and flag-waving over the Bowe Bergdahl story in recent days seems symptomatic of that same media’s oft-repeated failure to report stories rather than announce events. Now, after the first 48 hours, nearly all of them have run the other way in a “rush to judgment”.

Bergdahl, of course, is the Idaho soldier released by the Taliban in Afghanistan a few days ago. For 48 hours, the media was ecstatic and breathlessly related lots of fluff without much substance. Rather than go back to the original reporting on file to flesh out details of his capture five years ago, the kids slathered viewers and readers with gooey gossip severely lacking in fact. Chasing crumbs on the floor while leaving the loaf on the table, seems to me.

Bergdahl may ride in a parade or two around Idaho. But there’s also reason to believe he could wind up in prison or, at the very least, be charged with desertion, given time-served as a prisoner-of-war and dishonorably discharged. Some of the things said by his parents at hastily called bi-coastal media events, could do their son more harm than good. To wit: his father’s decision to learn the Afghan language, comment about hardships caused Afghans by America and the war while growing a big, bushy beard like real male Afghans.

Then add some of the comments from soldiers who risked their own lives to find Bergdahl in the early days after his disappearance, the death of several soldiers on that detail and reports Bergdahl simply loaded up a canteen with water and walked off into the countryside – without his rifle – and you’ve got far less a wonderful story and more of another tragedy of war. And desertion.

The Bergdahl story is far from over. But, if the media had been doing any professional job at all, these details and a lot more could have been reported right at the top along with what was known about his release. The story wasn’t so much about his negotiated freedom as it was about how he was captured in the first place. The story has bookends. And – sadly – both were simply not included in all the reportorial B.S.

There was a time newspapers adequately reported these kinds of things. Lots of detail massaged by editors and proofreaders. Then radio came along. Radio wasn’t designed for long, fully-reported stories. You got the gist of things, then sought a newspaper for details. Then TV hit the scene. Facts gave way to pictures and pictures drove the coverage. TV newscasts had to have “graphics – pictures – movement – action.” Radio gave you the immediacy, TV showed you what happened (sometimes) and newspapers had the details. Now – not so much.

When Ronny Reagan’s Federal Communications appointees deleted all requirements for local radio news, we information seekers took a hit. When they knocked down barriers to same-market-ownership and cross-ownership of competing media, we were hit again. With the advent of the I-net, we turned to electronic data to satisfy our need for detail. That didn’t last long. Between reduced hours of staffing and interminable repetition, even the I-net – with rare exception – has succumbed to “flash-and-dash” coverage.

With brevity, understanding a story can be difficult. Today’s media kids – in all types of media – are being told to “write down.” In newspapers, a few paragraphs al la “Huffington Post.” In radio, standing network protocol is no more than 30 seconds! TV “packages” are supposed to be less than two minutes. With pictures. Continue Reading »

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May 30 2014

Voting on secession. Again.

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Here they come again! This time it’s California. Again. But, over the horizon, we could be talking about several counties in Oregon. Again.

The secessionist birds are flying once more in California’s Tehama and Del Norte Counties where they’ll be voting Tuesday – officially, of course – to have county commissioners – they’re called “supervisors” South of our border – push harder to pry certain counties loose to create the State of Jefferson. Butte County folks will deal with the same issue on the 12th. Glenn, Modoc, Siskyou and Yuba have already voted to go – stage right. Far right. And out.

Given how long malcontents in Oregon’s Josephine, Jackson, Douglas and Curry counties have been trying to bring the issue of secession to a vote, this new effort may “juice” them up to try yet again. Wouldn’t be surprised.

At the root of these useless expenditures of time and money is, of course, frustration. Some of it real. Some not so much. A guy named Aaron Funk in Del Norte, makes the “frustration case” for leaving California.

“We have 11 counties up here that share one state senator while Los Angeles has 20 and San Francisco 10 more,” he says. “Essentially, we have no representation whatsoever.”

There is some tiny, frustrated logic to that. Except for laws requiring equal representation based on nose-counting. One basic point adding to Mr. Funks angst is the real isolation of Northern California from the rest of the folks. The seven counties that have voted to leave – and the others who likely will next week – have a combined geographic area twice the size of New Hampshire but only about 467,000 souls residing. Mt. Shasta and all the redwoods are there along with some of the state’s poorest citizens. Racially, the population is nearly all white.

But Washington and Oregon residents living east of the Cascades could make almost the same case for almost the same reasons. Far from the seats of power, less political representation, lower economic scales and heavily white. So far, they haven’t. Officially.

Siskyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong already wants to pull out. She’s one of the Tea Party secessionists and says there are “too many nanny laws” coming out of Sacramento. Continue Reading »

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May 22 2014

Shut the hell up

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Primary election season is over. For now. Control of your television viewing has been returned to you. For now. Campaign signs blooming like unwanted weeds along all your routes of travel have been removed. For now. Other, more newsworthy events are being reported. For now.

So – looking back at the onslaught on our senses for all these months – what has been wrought for all the millions of dollars spent? With rare exception – not much. Not much at all. Do we feel pride for what we’ve just been through in exercising our democratic rights at the polls? Not much. Not much at all.

Given the obscene amounts of money spent, all the noise-making, all the charges and countercharges made, all the lies told about opposing candidates, all the time consumed making frivolous charges while allowing important issues to go without comment – what have we gained? All together now – “not much.”

Matter of fact, damned few of us cared enough to vote. In Idaho, about one-in-five registered voters made the trip. Even in Oregon – where you’re sent a ballot, given two weeks to think about your choices and return the form for free – less than half did so.

Pundits are now pawing through the crumpled ballots looking for trends – trying to find clues to what we’ll face at November’s general election – digging in the various Secretary of State’s computer files for statistical evidence of messages the minority of the electorate may have been sending. They won’t find much.

Since so many stayed away from the polls, there’s little meaningful “treasure” in the remnants of primary day. Except maybe this. Those of us who cared enough to show up seemed to be saying “Let’s just stay where we are – let’s not make any serious moves left or right.” Like all of us, I backed some winners and I some losers. That’s just politics. That’s just politics the way it’s supposed to be. Win some. Lose some.

There were a few messages sent. Idaho’s governor took a kick in the shins from many in his former constituency while hanging on to his office key. At least for now. An Idaho legislative candidate who wasn’t running said he wouldn’t serve if elected. He was. He likely will. Oregon Republicans opted to support a senatorial candidate who appears to have serious emotional and relationship issues. Several Northwest legislators found abrupt ends to long careers with voters finally saying “Enough already.”

Yes, there are some interesting stories to be had if reporters want to spend the time digging around. But with far less than half the voters showing up to have their say, will there be enough readers or watchers who give a damn to make their efforts rewarding? Continue Reading »

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May 11 2014

A loss of confidence

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

For decades, the far right has warned the rest of us that government – from local to federal and back again- was “not our friend” and, in fact, was something to be suspicious of – if not downright feared. Now that so much of our government is in the hands of creatures of the far right, I’m forced to agree. Government – and many of its institutions – can no longer be counted on to be there for us when we need it and, in fact, much of it has become something to be feared.

Additionally, too many of us WASP’s have tut-tutted as rights of non-WASP’s have been blown this way and that in the political winds. “Too bad,” we’d say quietly. “Someone ought to do something. But that’s not my problem.”

Well, Virginia, it’s become our problem. In spades!

From legislature to congress, hardly an American alive today has not been legislated against in recent months. Pick a subject: taxes, voting rights, medical care, immigration, adequate education funding, curbing violence, personal safety, a hideous expansion of gun “rights,” rejection of highly credentialed people to judgeships, eliminating access to vital health care for millions of women, hampering reproductive rights, rejection of access to necessary medical care and other promised benefits for returning military personnel, union busting, denigration of police, fire, teachers and other government workers, illegal declarations of “wars-of-choice,” slashing food stamps and other necessary social safety programs, unwillingness to pursue criminal charges for those financial types who nearly bankrupted the country. There are more. Add your own.

Fact is, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in what used to be the American middle class – which has historically been our national pride and joy – who hasn’t been adversely affected by some level of government. Or more than one! If you feel differently – if you feel untouched in those areas – if you think you’re unaffected by denial of rights of citizenship or have not had any of your liberties infringed – you’re either in the one-percent or living in a dream world. Or wrong!

Consider a personal experience. My father was an Oregon Republican of the first order. Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Dole. Dirksen and others in the pantheon of prominent GOP politicians of the ‘40’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s were men he respected, whose careers he followed and for whom he voted. Repeatedly. Small town Oregon, rock-ribbed, God fearing Republican guy, my father. Over many years, we discussed politics. Often. Those men and those values formed the foundation of his love of country and his respect for those who led it.

Then Richard Nixon.

I’d been away for some years – several in Washington D.C. in broadcast journalism. While we regularly kept in touch, Dad and I hadn’t our face-to-face, political fireside chats on the patio in Bend recently. Nixon was forced out of the presidency about that time. Shortly after, I came home on vacation, looking forward to more political bantering with him. Continue Reading »

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May 02 2014

Racism fix is personal

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rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The recent massive coverage of occurrences of racism in the news may have been justified, for the most part, by several well-documented events. Racism, after all, has been adjudged by our society to be a bad thing – something shameful and disgusting. Something to be eradicated wherever and whenever it appears. The problem is – racism will only disappear in a perfect world. And this ain’t it.

As long as one person’s skin color is different from another’s – as long as one person’s heritage is different from another’s – as long as languages and backgrounds and ancestries can be judged different one from the other, there will always be a degree of racism. A sense – spoken or not – that we’re not all the same. An ever-present mental classification system noting difference.

To me, the issue is really more how we individually handle those differences. How we learn – how we adjust – how we accept. And how we reduce them to values less important than how we think of them today. Eradicate? Not likely. Understanding and acceptance? More likely.

I find many similarities to the issue of gay marriage and our recent national “get-over-it” attitude. In just a few short years, it’s become – on the one hand – more widely accepted – and on the other – less of a societal division. We entertained a lesbian couple at dinner in our home a few nights ago. The subject never came up. We never gave it a thought. And we have two new friends. May not have happened a few years back. But with understanding and acceptance – and a first-hand experience to challenge us – it’s not a dividing or defining issue around here.

As a culture, we may never abolish racism or language or individual actions that bring color and other racial differences to mind. But – like gay marriage – the issue may just become less a conscious one and less divisive as we come face-to-face with it more often as individuals. What we seem unable to do as a society, we may be more successful at individually.

Should the Bundys and the Sterlings of the world not suffer personal vilification and disgust for racist speech and thought? No. They deserve our outrage and our condemnation. But neither man will be changed by the experience. Both have long-standing histories. Shameful histories. Racism will always be alive and accepted in their lives. Unless – like Saul on the road to Damascus – they experience some sort of heavenly conversion, they’ll live out their lives unchanged. They’ll continue their racist ways.

The best we can hope for is that others – witnessing these two men embarrass themselves and become targets of condemnation – will learn from their tragic examples. That others who harbor such thoughts will have their own moments of personal – if not public – recognition that racial division is wrong. That others will be intimately involved in personal situations in which they come face-to-face with their own prejudices and learn such differences are inconsequential. One-on-one.

Abolish racism? Not likely. Personally experience, understand and accept? More likely. Become less divisive? Could be. And, in the end, that can change a nation. Or a world.

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Apr 25 2014

Suicide at Bunkerville

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Cliven Bundy is dead. A suicide by his own hand….er…mouth. The hero of the far right – and Faux “News” – belched up a string of lies and racist B.S., drowning in a sea of disclaimers by former Republican supporters.

I swore I wasn’t going to revisit the Bunkerville mess again until something definitive happened. But suicides are hard to overlook. And this one in particular – so much of a “surprise” to right-wing politicians and Hannity – begs some last attention. There needs to be some separation of facts from all that B.S. – some definition of what “was” and “wasn’t.”

Let’s deal with the “wasn’t” first. The story wasn’t “ a Constitutional confrontation.” Wasn’t “First Amendment.” Or “Second Amendment.” Cliven Bundy wasn’t and isn’t a hero. For the purposes of this mess, he’s not a “patriot.” Neither are the whackos who’ve congealed around Bundy and proclaimed him a “freedom fighter.” He’s not a “freedom fighter.” Bundy’s family did not settle his ranch in the late 1800’s. The BLM wasn’t singling Bundy out for some kind of special “persecution.” The story wasn’t about who controls the cattle at any given moment.

Now, what “was.” Bundy WAS – and IS – a deadbeat. Bundy WAS – and IS – a liar. Bundy’s family didn’t buy the ranch land until 1948 as proven by a recorded deed. Bundy IS in arrears to the federal government more than $1 million and has ignored legitimate payment demands required under his deal with the feds for more than 20 years. Bundy WAS – and is – in receipt of valid court documents – apparently served several times – ordering his cattle off the BLM land and requiring him to pay off his massive debt. The fact is, neither has been done. Bundy has a long history of being a local trouble-maker and has had numerous run-ins with county, state and federal authorities over the years.

The real issues here are cut and dried. Proper, clear and repeated court orders have been issued. And ignored. Bundy did stop paying two decades ago. When the BLM moved to take the livestock, it did so with well-supported authority. Facts show Bundy was spoiling for a fight for years and used this excuse to crank up his crackpot, verbal effluent to garner support from others who are similarly constitutionally illiterate. He has deliberately attracted several hundred well-armed folk to his side who are as deluded, as ignorant of history and as mentally vacuous as himself. They’ve been pumped full of phony right wing B.S. at the hands of the Limbaughs, Becks, Hannity’s, Coulters and others using wing-nuts to make millions. Bundy has absolutely no legal ground to stand on to have a face-off with the feds. If he did, he’d have gone to court many years ago.

But the feds DO bear some fault for this powder keg – most by the bureaucrats who didn’t step in two decades back when Bundy first stopped making payment on a duly executed grazing contract. A contract similar to thousands of others with ranchers and cattle operators – executed in good faith in dozens of states by BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.

Now the feds are in a corner. On one hand, they’ve let Bundy “cow” them while he’s gotten rich by not honoring his legal obligations. On the other, if Bundy is not prosecuted, other lessees in other areas may stop making the payments due on their contracts. That can’t be allowed to happen. For many good and legal reasons. Continue Reading »

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Apr 20 2014

Uncertainty chills our economy

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The number one thing keeping our national economy – and thus all lesser economies – from growing as quickly as conditions would otherwise dictate – is the monumentally constipated and completely ineffective U.S. Congress. And you can take that to the bank.

Geoff Colvin, Fortune senior editor-at-large, has been talking to CEOs and economists. While hearing the usual bitching about regulations and taxes, the dialogue this time has been far overshadowed by one thing: uncertainty. In terms easily understood by economic dolts like me, the issue could be framed this way: “What the Hell’s going to happen tomorrow?”

Regulations and taxes have always been topics of discussion when people making large business decisions gather over their martinis. It used to be, no matter what changes and challenges there were in those two areas, business adjusted and life went on.

BUT – uncertainty has become the largest impediment to business – large and small. For example, the new healthcare law – regardless of what you think about it – is law. Republicans have vowed to repeal it. They can’t. But, as they keep trying, if you’ve got 50 to 100,000 employees in your business, how do you adjust your future planning? For what? Taken another step, if Republicans ever posed a serious legal challenge to the ACA, how long would Democrats tie the whole thing up in court? And to what outcome?

Then, there’s the “fiscal cliff.” With no congressional action to the contrary, there are those huge mandatory cuts in federal spending. Sequestration. Crippling cuts and possible tax increases to offset some of them. Despite how you feel personally about all that, remember the current crop of ideologues, naysayers and the ignorant will still control what Congress does – or doesn’t do. Wanna bet your farm on the outcome? Neither does General Motors. Or your neighborhood grocer.

Then, there’s the Federal Reserve. Its governing body holds the outlook that things economic are “more uncertain than they has been in the last 20 years” so no major actions have been taken. You get any sense of corporate direction out of that?

Life has always been a crap shoot. That’s just life. So, is all this something new? Yep, it is. Normally, as the government moved, changes it fostered affecting marketplace conditions could be anticipated and planned for. You knew what was coming and could adjust. Not now. Polarization in Congress has badly crippled oversight of federal agencies and their regulation-writing and enforcement. Congressional action that was supposed to happen last week – last month – or next month – has ceased. No new-from-the-ground-up federal budget for several decades is likely to be matched by no new-from-the-ground-up federal budgets for the next several years. Contracts expected by the private sector are still sitting on some bureaucrat’s desk. New programs languish in the congressional swamp because there are still no decisions on old ones.

And on and on and on and on. Continue Reading »

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Apr 14 2014

Ready, aim . . .

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The situation with the Bundy family out in the flatlands some 80 miles from Las Vegas is akin to a truck load of dynamite with a very, very short fuse – parked next to a wildfire. Even an accidental spark could get a lot of people killed. So the federal government has blinked – backing away from executing a very valid court order and made the pathologic freeloader a hero in the eyes of his government-hating friends.

At first glance, this is about a professional deadbeat who owes us taxpayers more than a million dollars in grazing fees – running his cattle on BLM lands for decades and ignoring the bills. Rather than back down, the BLM should have served the court order, confiscated his herd, sold ‘em at market and arrested the bastard for inciting sedition. Seems simple enough.

Like so many of their push-it-to-the-limit kind, Cliven Bundy and his family have taken the totally irresponsible position their ancestors were there before the BLM – their water rights predate federal ownership of the land – they’re not obligated to pay the bills the feds have been sending for more than two decades. And they haven’t! Not exactly living up to the promises made signing that federal grazing contract many years ago. Makes one wonder what changed their minds. And when.

Now, the Bundys claim they’ve tried to makes some payment on their water and grazing bills recently but nobody will take the money. And they’re right. The State of Nevada and the federal government will not accept payment. They can’t. That’s because the recent court order allowing the BLM to confiscate the cattle also freezes the whole Bundy situation. And their assets. The Bundys are in massive default.

But all that fades now because the Bundys have taken the position they’re the “aggrieved” party in this situation – that the feds are exceeding their authority – that the government is out to make an example of them – they’re victims of government excess – that they’re “patriots” who will hold out until the end. About 98.7% B.S.

The feds do appear to have some blame here. The BLM should’ve stepped in years ago with direct legal action to put an end to Bundy’s use of federal grazing lands for free. While I haven’t read the contract, I’d bet the farm there’s a section dealing with default – what it is – when it is deemed to have taken place – remedies for forcing contract compliance. And penalties. I’ve never signed a major contract without such language. And Bundy has been in default, according to the courts and government, for more than 20 years.

To let the Bundys run up a million dollar grazing tab for that long without collection action is, to my mind, completely irresponsible on the feds part. Get two months behind on your house payment and you can expect a guy from the bank at your front door. So – to some extent – this situation could have been nipped in the bud years ago.

But – as I said – because of the dangerous situation the Bundys have created by word and deed – trying to make themselves out the martyrs here – we’ve got an armed encampment of federal officers “cheek-by-jowl” with several hundred armed faux “freedom fighters” from half a dozen states who’ve come to the Bundy homestead to stand against anything governmental.

There’s a dangerous element in this country using the I-net and other media to whip itself into a frenzy of camouflage-wearing, government-hating, heavily-armed anger. Without knowing any firsthand details of Ruby Ridge or Waco, they blame the feds for those and any and all perceived attacks on their “personal freedoms” – most especially the Second Amendment to the Constitution – a document most of them have likely never read. They’re as unstable as a gallon of nitro on a bumpy road. Reasoning and logic are out of the question. They talk violence as if it were the only satisfactory response to their trumped up hatred. How many will actually stick around if shots are fired is anyone’s guess. But shooting is what they say they’ll do.

The back ridges and valleys of our Pacific Northwest also harbor a lot of very unstable people. Some hiding from something or someone. Some mentally over-the-edge from wars or simply lack of professional treatment. Others who call themselves “survivalists” and are convinced the world is soon to meet some cataclysmic end and believing they alone will be spared. Some are flat-out criminals growing marijuana or engaging in other illegal activities. And some have built heavily fortified compounds in which they’ve gathered family and vow to kill anyone who comes snooping about. Continue Reading »

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Apr 08 2014

Keep the change

Published by under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’m at an age when I’m slow to accept change. If something has worked well most of my life, it should continue unabated. The comfort zone should not be disturbed. Even as I remember that old saw “change is the only constant,” when it happens it’s still unsettling.

Two recent discoveries are causing my current discomfort. One is that more and more new cars are being sold without spare tires. Now that may be acceptable to those who live in large urban areas where service stations, tire repair shops and tow trucks are readily available. For those of us used to driving several hundred miles at a stretch through empty Western landscapes, the idea is most certainly unacceptable. Most of Oregon’s Harney and Lake Counties fit that empty description. Idaho’s Owyhee, too.

Car companies claim putting a spare tire in each new model costs about $30. Now if you have an annual production run of 200,000, that fifth wheel and tire will cost about $6 million. I once had a flat in Harney County, so far from civilization, that I would have personally paid the $6 million. But, apparently, CEO bonuses are being threatened so we are being asked to sacrifice. Again.

Car makers argue new generations of tires are made of better rubber, are stronger and less apt to have problems. There are also the new “run flat” tires on some of the more expensive models that will normally get you to the next service station. If that service station fixes flats – which many don’t. And is less than 50 miles away. Which many aren’t.

Their weakest argument is that taking out the weight of a tire and wheel makes the vehicle lighter so, therefore, you get better mileage. They make that claim but the savings are so small they don’t try to put a number on it. I could make the same argument that removing all seats but the drivers would probably increase mileage as well but, again, statistically insignificant when compared with convenience.

The second upheaval in my life recently came with the news that fewer K-12 schools, colleges and universities are publishing the traditional yearbook. Again, cost is the reason given. As one principal said, “We’re firing teachers so, when it comes to teachers versus yearbooks, yearbooks are going to lose.” At least that makes more sense than the effect of no spare tire on gas mileage. Continue Reading »

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