Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Not all columns herein need to be lengthy to make a point. To prove ‘tis so, just consider this brief set of facts from the National Journal’s vote ratings of members of Congress.

“For the third consecutive year, no Republican Senate member had a more liberal voting record that ANY Democrat. No Democratic Senator had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican.

“In the (435 member) House, just 10 Democrats had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican. Just five Republicans were more liberal than the most conservative Democrat.”

Put another way, there are nearly no ideological crossovers anymore. Democrats are “liberal” – Republicans are “conservative.”

For three decades – the Journal started this annual survey in 1982 – it was the norm to find a handful of ideological crossovers in the Senate. Even more in the larger House. Now, the norm is “purity.”

No more middle ground in which to seek compromise. No middle ground in which to exchange positions. No more middle ground. Period!

With those findings, you’re going to have a breakthrough? You’re going to find reasoned solutions to our immense national problems? You’re going to find political leadership?

That’s it. Short and sweet.

Gridlock explained in 60 seconds.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In a sort of bipartisan piling on, critics of federal support for auto makers or of that proposed oil pipeline from Canada or lost tax dollars in failed alternative energy company Solyndra have captured a lot of attention. Filled with political expediency, what all the critical voices have failed to articulate is any sort of long term view or alternatives dealing with each subject. And there are many.

Before dealing with them, here’s a basic fact: government – and government alone – is often the best (if not only) entity that can make major investments in very large undertakings. Despite our love of “independence” and those who cling to our lost system of “free” enterprise – which hasn’t existed for 150 years – sometimes government has to go first, pay the heavy bills for development and then step aside for private capital to take over at some point.

There are many examples but the best I can think of is our space program. If President Kennedy had not led us into it in 1961, we would likely be speaking Russian. No private company – no group of private companies – could raise the billions and billions of dollars to do what government did. As a nation – and as individuals – we are massively richer for that undertaking. And it’s almost impossible to count the ways we benefitted from computers to cell phones to – well – thousands of things.

And where are we now? Private companies are using that taxpayer-bought engineering, incalculable experience, hundreds of thousands of patents and thousands of highly-trained taxpayers to open space travel to all. We’ve got hundreds of private satellites and even private space shuttles flying around.

For those who say government had no business putting billions into the auto companies – that we should have let them sink – Road Apples! Anyone with any economic smarts knows it had to be done to avoid even more massive unemployment, disaster for thousands of small businesses and a financial mess that would have been incredibly costly.

And look what happened. GM has closed its most profitable year in history – reopened several plants – ramped up production – and has built more and better vehicles than ever. It’s paid back most of the taxpayer loan while GM stock many Americans own has gotten even more valuable. Chrysler basically avoided corporate death – threw out many bad models while developing new lines – reopened closed plants – rehired thousands – and has paid off the loan. And both companies are using new, cutting-edge technology to build the best cars in both their histories. A lot of that new technology the government pioneered in other programs.

No private companies were ready to do what government did. No investors or venture capitalists were willing to ride to the rescue. The results will be taught in business schools for decades to show how government and an entire industry can build huge successes in the face of certain disaster.

Some of this same logic applies to Solyndra, too. The alternative energy business is very much like other new technologies in their infancy. Just as computer and software pioneers, weapons system developers, aircraft builders and others needed government participation to get going, so have those firms trying to build us new energy systems. The much-touted Silicon Valley would have been Death Valley without direct government investment in the early days, favorable tax treatments, regulation relief and other federal and state support. Solyndra failed. So will others. But some won’t. Eventually, more will thrive. And we’ll be better for it.

As for that pipeline, there are many facets to that story. Will oil shale eventually be turned into petroleum? Yes. Would that Canada petroleum reduce our need for as much foreign oil? Probably not since even developers say most of it would be exported. Would it bring gas prices down? No, for the same reason. But, even without it, projections are we will still be our own largest supplier of oil within a decade.

Oil shale conversion to usable petroleum is an expensive and dirty process. It produces huge amounts of greenhouse gasses. Conoco-Phillips currently has a TV ad touting it can refine shale with “no more adverse effects on the environment than current production.” In other words, “It will be bad but no badder than we’re already doing.” Marvelous corporate double-speak.

Maybe that pipeline should be built. Someday. But it should be built for rational reasons using the best technology. At the moment, the whole project is a political football with a lot of demagoguery. Even the developers say there are environmental concerns not completely addressed. Nearly all the eventual output already has been designated for export. Not all the rights-of-way have been obtained. Those don’t sound like sufficient reasons to jump into this at the moment. Any decision on this project should be scientifically-based for the long-term and not as a political “fix.”

And that word “fix” is important. Producing more and more petroleum products should not be our only national energy goal. Developing other, non-petroleum energy sources should be equally important. Our dependency on the stuff – especially foreign – is foolish. And risky. South Sudan, Syria and Yemen are in turmoil with a lot of oil production offline. Canada and North Sea are having production problems for one reason or another. Iran is out – or may soon be – as a source. Market disruptions elsewhere – for many reasons – are adding to our pump pain.

As Kennedy did with the space program four decades ago, we should undertake a new national priority with the same zeal and commitment of all our resources. Large-scale, sweeping development of alternative energy sources. Top to bottom. All sources. We should dedicate ourselves as completely to that as to our previous commitment to send man to the moon.

Ironic, isn’t it? Those astronauts and their moon buggy? Damned thing ran on electricity. That was about 40 years ago.

Old Tom Edison had a saying. “I’ve not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

Well, Solyndra didn’t work. The auto industry investment of tax dollars did. And the oil shale pipeline might. Critics of all – and critics mad about government dollars being involved – need to look at the larger picture. Like Edison.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Damned near impossible to turn on your old HDTV these days without seeing the master political ventriloquist and his sock puppet – McCain and Graham. Often, McCain is out of the picture so you don’t see his lips move. But ol’ Lindsey has his mouth flapping aplenty, mimicking the words of a former national hero that – as Dangerfield used to say – “can’t get no respect.” Especially in Arizona.

Public Policy Polling – one of the most reputable question-asking outfits on the planet – queried about a thousand Arizonans in recent days. Bottom line: McCain has a 55% disapproval rating around the homestead. PPP says he’s now “the least popular senator in the country.” Take that, Ted Cruz! Quite a come-down from years back when the Navy war hero – and former North Vietnamese POW – came down the gangplank and decided to turn his military celebrity into a career in public office. But that’s where he is today.

Perhaps it’s ironic that sock puppet Graham is also a guy with some military experience. Of course, his is more paperwork and less suffering. Depending on how you feel about lawyers. Graham has a combination of active and reserve USAF and even had G. Bush the younger prominently pin on his eagles sometime ago. But – there IS that one part of his resume that always gives readers pause.

Graham apparently believes he spent some of his military time in “confinement,” too. As a USAF attorney. In his resume, he points proudly to his “service in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.” He does so as some who served at the same time point out Graham never left South Carolina during those campaigns. When challenged, Graham said he never meant to mislead – he was just “in uniform” during those years. Meaning if you and I were in the military in Oregon at the same time, we’d be entitled to wear the same ribbons even if we, too, didn’t go. How do you suppose those that went and ducked the IED’s feel about that?

With the advent of the Obama presidency, McCain became one of the most vocal in the Republican pantheon with repeated – and often nutty – criticism of anything Obama. Like a stopped clock that can be right twice a day, McCain sometimes latched onto something legitimate. Unfortunately, like that broken timepiece, he was wrong a lot of the time, too.

McCain is a master junketeer. Wherever an internal political struggle turns to violence, there he is. He’s slept in a lot of beds on former Soviet real estate and lent his loud support to nearly all. “We are all Georgians,” he pledged to citizens of that breakaway nation when Russians were pounding on the Georgian door. He will, I’m certain, show up in Crimea in a few days – promising “We’re all Crimeans.”

With Graham speaking from the sock on his right fist, the two have been war hawks for several years. They seem to have never encountered a foreign internal struggle that couldn’t be settled with more American arms and – in some cases – troops. McCain wanted us to bomb Syria. Graham, too, of course. McCain wanted us more militarily active in Lybia. Graham, too. Of course. It must be their military affiliations that have made them so disposed to violence when statesmanship and negotiating more often are the pathways chosen by others. Like war, those two efforts are not always successful. But fewer people die when they’re tried first.

In our house, McCain and Graham have worn out their welcomes on the Sunday political talk shows. Not so much for what they’ve said as much as for continually saying it. Frankly, I’ve never heard Graham say anything on Sunday that hadn’t already come from McCain’s mouth.

At one time, McCain had a great deal of credibility because of his years of honorable military service and his experiences in North Vietnamese prisons. We cut him a lot of slack and – while not always agreeing with his outlook – we paid attention because he had certainly given more than his share. Now, even at home in Arizona, more than half the voters are saying publically they’ve had enough and are ready for someone new.

As for Graham, the Tea Party is chewing on him from the far right in South Carolina. So, he’s running that direction quickly to out-flank the crazies by getting on the record first with “righter” positions than the fringe GOP candidates. For all his years of public service as a moderate in the Republican ranks, Graham has been fairly well respected. Now, he’s making the Koch’s and the three-cornered-hat crowd happy campers.

I mean no disrespect. I was raised to honor various points of view even while disagreeing with them. But these two long ago left the point of civil disagreement to engage in often mindless criticism simply for the sake of criticism. At a time when we’re talking about ending production of weapons designed to re-fight World War II – while redesigning our military to fight the battles of the future – McCain and Graham offer irresponsible rhetoric as outdated as a cavalry horse. Rather than use their military experiences to help lead the changes necessary to deal with today’s battles – and tomorrow’s – these two long for the “good old days” and criticize those who’re thinking ahead.

Critics we’ve always got. It’s leaders we’re short on now. And these two ain’t helping.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“NO WORK EXPECTED
FROM CONGRESS
REMAINDER OF 2014″

That“Washington Post” headline of a week or two ago struck me on two counts: it was some experienced observer’s recognition we have a totally ineffective branch of federal government – as I’ve speculated for some time; it was not unexpected news.

Both the conclusion and the fact it was not unexpected combine to make a powerful statement that this nation – for all intents political – is blind, lost and leaderless in one-third of the constitutional government we’ve been taught to respect. In reality, the U.S. Congress has become an employer of last resort for too many folks incapable of doing – or even understanding – their jobs.

That headline was further reinforced last week when the U.S. Senate was unable to pass a bill to put $21 billion on the table to provide additional education benefits, an unemployment extension and badly needed improved medical care for veterans of our most recent unnecessary wars. Democrats put up the legislation – Republican killed it. They did so despite the fact it was Republican presidents who got us into those wars-of-choice.

Can you come up with a single, acceptable reason why the people who got us – and those veterans – into extended, unwinnable wars in the first place won’t honor the other side of the accompanying commitment to provide the best possible support for those we sent onto the battlefield? I can’t!

Veterans aren’t the only Americans being screwed by their own elected government. You can add millions more who’ve lost food stamps to help with basic family needs – long-term unemployed who’ve been unable to end the downward economic spiral many got caught in through no actions of their own – elderly who’ve lost housing and even food program assistance they need to survive – school lunch programs on which millions of kids rely for at least one good meal a day – local government infrastructure assistance for highway construction, updating sewer and water systems, law enforcement, environmental programs and more.

All of these things – and many other necessary if not outright life-saving government programs – have been decimated by members of a congress so wrapped up trying to stay publicly employed that the needs of their own constituents have been ignored.

The story under that despicable headline went on to say the basic “reason” for the projected inactivity was the 2014 election. And 2016. Already. Seems nobody wants to piss off anybody so they wind doing exactly that by doing nothing for everybody – except PACS, Super PACS, anti-government wacko organizations, the Koch’s and any other money faucet they can find.

The founders of this nation were mostly businessmen and professionals from various fields. Before their political midwifery attempts to create a new nation in Philadelphia, they had lives of their own. And, for the most part, careers. They were doing their “good citizen” stint birthing a nation in addition to otherwise normal lives. They intended to create a “citizen government,” not one of perpetual politicians. No, they didn’t make this congressional litter box for ego-driven feral “cats.” We did that on our own.

The lengthy perpetuation of people in public office is a cancerous concept that often ends up badly. Like ticks. Once in, hard to get out. Yes, institutional memory is important to the concept of good government. Yes, we get some good ones now and then who belong on the Potomac River banks because they’re effective. And, yes, we might sometimes throw out both baby and bath water.

But – term limits are not the answer. Term limits would only create new and likely more unacceptable problems than we have. They would – among other things – create a government of supra-bureaucrats with more lasting power than the elected who come and go through the electoral revolving door. If anyone should fear the long-term affects of term limits, it should be the Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, Americans for Freedom and all the rest of the whirly-gig, tinfoil hat crowd.

The only acceptable answer to me is a better-informed electorate – a smarter electorate that takes the time to do its own vetting of people who want to be elected to anything. But that takes work. That takes some concentration and some diligence on our part. The current crop of government wreckers and the intellectually-vacant shows we haven’t done enough of those things.

That Washington Post headline should frighten a lot of us. To look ahead nearly a calendar year and expect 535 members of Congress to do absolutely nothing in the performance of their duties – to accomplish nothing – to allow our continuing national problems to fester and worsen – to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to simply a government employment program we call “elected office” – to allow millions of our fellow citizens to suffer by withdrawing the badly needed support that good conscience would dictate we underwrite – all of that and more reflects a national shame. Not a national pride.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

When someone has an asset or significant advantage in life, it may’ve come from hard work, inheritance, luck or just serendipitous circumstance. Most of us don’t give such a situation much thought and go on our way.

But when someone so advantaged – regardless of how that advantage was acquired – brags about it or expects the rest of us to construct a special pedestal from which the wealthy can gaze lord-like over the rest of us, I get pissed. Such is my state at the moment.

We poor plebeians are suffering a torrent of billionaire bitching as some of them suddenly come out from the secured grounds of their compounds to complain we don’t appreciate them sufficiently. We’re being told they don’t deserve our scorn – that we’re treating them the way Nazis treated Jews – we “have-nots” should stop complaining about the “have’s” and spend more time admiring their success – voting should be based on “one-dollar-one-vote” – people who pay no taxes shouldn’t be allowed to vote – yadda, yadda, yadda.

Much of the arrogant blathering has been so ridiculous as to make me wonder how in hell they were smart enough to make a pile of bucks. Maybe Daddy left it to ‘em.

One of the craziest voices is that of Bud Konheim, CEO of a luxury fashion brand. I’m not going to give the bastard a dollop of publicity so if you want to know which one, look it up.

He says 99% of Americans should stop complaining and realize how lucky they are. He says our “poverty level is wealth in 99% of the rest of the world. Exact quote: “The guy’s making, oh my God, $35,000 a year. Why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China. Anyplace. The (in America) guy is wealthy.”

If you’re trying to make sense out of that blather, don’t bother.

Konheim’s disconnect from reality interested – and revolted – Yale School of Management prof Jeffrey Sonnenfeld who said such “thinking” shrieks of “insensitivity and grandiosity.” “It makes you wonder about other decisions he’s making,” Sonnenfeld said.

Then there’s billionaire Tom Perkins who believes the mass of us poor folk are making “progressive war on the 1% as did the Nazis on anti-Semitism.” Perkins also has proposed giving each of us as many votes in elections as we have dollars in the bank. He, of course, would get a billion ballots or two. Damn! The last 15 years of her life, my mother – with only Social Security and family care for income – paid not a dollar in taxes. But she never missed an election in her life. Doubt her citizenship record could be matched by ol’ Perk.

Fellow billionaire Sam Zell defended Perkins with this gem: “The 1% works harder.” Said it with a straight face, too.

AOL’s Tim Armstrong slashed corporate contributions to 401(k) programs of thousands of employees because of high medical costs of two births. Said his self-insurred company just couldn’t afford it. Lululemon CEO Chip Wilson even blamed the failure of his company’s latest line of yoga pants on the women who bought them. “Some women’s bodies just actually don’t work,” he opined arogantly. And unfeelingly. Bet he sleeps alone.

Several years ago, social psychologist Paul Piff rigged a Monopoly game, sat back and watched the players. He found those who were given more money at the beginning of the game – those who used the advantage to get richer quicker and acquire more property – got ruder, less sensitive to “poorer” players and more demonstrative about their own “successes.”

When the game was over, Piff asked the winners how they did it. Most replied it was their wise purchase of property, handling their money well, quick thinking and making the right decisions. None of them brought up the privilege and extra bucks they got at the beginning.

In another dip into our social connection – and behavior – with wealth, Pitt found people making less than $25,000 a year gave 44% more of their income to charity than people making upwards of $200,000.

For every Warren Buffett among the monied class there seems to be a significant number of rich deadheads who’ve forgotten where they came from, how to relate to others not so privileged, are isolated in their “thinking” and totally divorced from the realities of people who make up the vast majority earth’s population providing their wealth. We’re currently being verbally assaulted by such monied flatulence.

One of my favorite lines from the theater was written by Philip Barry for “The Philadelphia Story” in 1939. A working stiff photographer was standing to the side of a large group of millionaires. All were jovial and enjoying the company of each other in their plush surroundings.

“Nothing like watching the idle rich enjoying their idols,” he opined.

As a proud member of the 99% or the 47% or the pick-any-percent crowd, I’d advise these guys – and the others hiding behind their security systems – to read up on Dr. Piff’s rigged Monopoly game and its findings.

Oh, yes. As Flo used to say, they can also “Kiss my grits”.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I gotta admit. Writing a think piece or two a week can be tough when you hit a dry spell. “Writer’s block” it’s called. Just nothing in the tank. But every so often, inspiration comes along like a lighting strike. BOOM! Such a “loud” inspiration struck the other day – easy enough for even that Palin woman to put it together. Well, almost.

Idaho’s attorney general has been trying to make the case with legislative budget types for a larger legal staff. Eight years he’s been scratching on that door without success. Of course, what success can you have when your hard-to-focus governor passes the idea off wittily by telling the media “We don’t need more money for lawyers. We need fewer Idahoans suing the state.” Butch always was a “big concept” guy.

Last three years, Gem State paymasters – read “taxpayers” – have coughed up $18 million for outside attorneys to help the state’s understaffed staff. $18 million! Downtown legal beagles charge $125 $400 an hour for their help. A.G. Wasden bills his staff lawyer’s work about $54 an hour. As I said, even that Palin woman could subtract a smaller number from a large one and – with help – see the problem. But – alas! She’d be wrong. Again.

Here’s the problem. The 105 people on the third floor of the Idaho Statehouse euphemistically called “legislators.” If you replaced that number with about the bottom 10% of any local high school graduating class, you’d solve the issue. Because “the issues” are outright stupid bills written, passed and sent to various governors. Session after session after session. Year after year after year. And they are SIGNED! Over and over and over.

Case in point. A state senator named Vick has put one of these “ain’t-got-a-chance-in-court” bills in committee. It would charge any Idaho cop who tried to enforce any as-yet unwritten federal gun law with a crime. If the guv signs it into law, which legal meter starts running? The $54 an hour in the A.G.’s office or the $400 an hour downtown? You guess.

Case in point: At a speed to make Carl Lewis proud, the folks on the third floor are ramming through a bill allowing concealed carry of guns on Idaho college campuses. On public record already: no college president wants it – no police chief wants it – most students don’t want it. Teens, alcohol, drugs and concealed 9mm’s. What could possibly go wrong? This one will be in court before the first shot’s fired.

Case in point: Another Senator – Thayne by name – has put this little gem up for consideration. If the current POTUS somehow declares war on another nation – which he can’t – Idaho and all who live there would be exempt. Wouldn’t have to fight. Just ignore the war. Now, even I know only Congress can declare a war. But nobody told Thayne – er – Sen. Thayne. Or George Bush, for that matter. So if a majority of the other 104 upstairs sent this bowl of idiocy down to the governor – and he forgot his one constitutional law class of 50 years ago and signed it – whose legal meter starts on this one? And at what per-hour cost? With what outcome?

Terrible case(s) in point. Ol’ Rep. Luker and his two ALEC-written pieces of guaranteed court time that would allow Idahoans not do business with gay or homosexual citizens – or others who “offended” someone’s “religious sensibilities” – to refuse service regardless of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or other laws. Say, a gay man was robbed but a Pentecostal-believing sheriff refused to do anything based on his “sincerely held religious belief” that the gay man’s “lifestyle” was an affront to the sheriff’s way of life. Can’t you just see the worms struggling to get out of the can on that one? Do we hire the $54 an hour Deputy A.G. or does Idaho government turn to the $400 an hour private folk downtown? Again, to what end? It’s a loser. Mr. Luker has withdrawn his paperwork while he “thinks” about it. Prediction? It’ll come back in some form. This year or next. Bet the farm on it.

NOTE: Arizona has just put this on their books. Let them pay the big legal bucks!

I’ve watched the Idaho Legislature for 50 years or so. And I can tell you – without hesitation – the quality control department has closed. For decades – with assistance from a series of governors on the second floor – Idaho taxpayers have underwritten a permanent “Idaho Lawyer’s Perpetual Retirement Fund.” ILPRF for you government readers. And the won-loss record isn’t even close. Big bucks paid. “Laws” shot down in flames.

Even with pretty constant use of several search engines, I have yet to find a state that’s had to go to court to defend dumb state laws more often than Idaho. Or one that LOST more often! I’ve tried to get my attorney daughter to quit her job on a neighboring state’s A.G.’s legal staff and open up a small office in Boise specializing in just defending the Idaho Legislature. My grandkids could not only GO to Harvard. They could BUY the place!

The kicker to all this: more often than not, Idaho’s A.G. Wasden has told the legally obtuse upstairs – well in advance – what they were doing was likely wrong – probably unconstitutional on its face – another legal loser. To no avail!

The breakdown of quality control in selection of Idaho’s legislators really rests with voters. Most specifically Idaho GOP voters, since that party took almost all the keys to legislative bathrooms away from Democrats years ago by keeping the number of the opposition down to a point they need only one. It’s been those same voters who’ve gullibly given anything breathing with an “R” after it a seat in the chambers. Many sent annually to Boise in recent years have failed the admission test of pounding sand into rat holes but they’re not being exposed by keeping the failed efforts classified. The absolute proof has been this record faulty “legal”output.

Many states are racking up more bad legislation cases these days with the advent of ALEC. The one-size-fits-all effluent coming from that right wing “Hall of Legislative Horrors” has meant poorly-conceived bills on abortion, taxes, limiting voting rights and outright racial and religious discrimination. So, duplicate laws in more states have gone down in flames more often because of thoughtless rubberstamp enactment – time after time. One state loses and eight carbon copies fall as well. But the lawyers. Yes, Virginia, the lawyers – they win. Win, lose or draw. The ILPRF keeps paying off.

So, give a thought to Idaho taxpayers from time to time. They’re paying higher – much, much higher – costs-per-vote than you because they have to pay for all that time in court. And they lose so often.

But the lawyers? The Idaho lawyers. As long as the legislature refuses the A.G. more staff attorneys – and his legal advice – theirs is a splendid life of just staying near an open Statehouse window, listening for the scratching sound of the governor’s pen on the next piece of unconstitutional legislation. The well-worn road from downtown to Statehouse and over to the courthouse is a definition of perpetual motion.

Good old ILPRF. More assured than state retirement.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The growing coarseness in our society seems an unstoppable trend many folks just take for granted. Especially those with teens in the house. Most of us don’t like it but we seem powerless to stop it. We ignore it when we can; deal quietly with it when we can’t. Comes now a new, even lower level of character assassination vulgarity that should offend nearly everyone.

It comes from one of the least contributory and most obnoxious members of the U.S. Senate and his contempt for a former member of that body – a former member that conducted the office with far more dignity and many more contributions than his own. The over-rated and under-performing offender is Rand Paul. The target of his warrant less B.S. is Hillary Clinton.

Paul has spent his limited time in Congress accomplishing absolutely nothing. A check of recorded business of the Senate shows Paul’s name connected to zero legislative sponsorship of any substance while contributing to numerous instances of unseemly behavior and self-promotion. Neither his home state of Kentucy nor the nation at-large have benefitted from his presence along the Potomac. His time in office has not been much longer than it takes to find the Senate men’s room but he’s already off on what will likely be a dead end run for the presidency.

From his place near the bottom of the national political totem pole, Paul has already embarrassed himself in a number of ways. But nothing he’s done or said previously comes close to his effort to somehow tie former Sen. Clinton to the Monica Lewinsky scandal of her husband.

NBC’s David Gregory showed his own professionally ignorant coarseness when he asked Paul on nationwide television if the Lewinsky scandal was fair game in a presidential political contest.

Rather than point out the obvious disconnectedness of the query, Paul launched off into his “reasons” why that 20-year-old episode involving two other people was “relevant” to today’s political environment.

“Fair game,“ was the sum of his addled response.

No, Mr. Paul. It’s not “fair game.” Any more than the years of insane statements, impossible politics, early racist writings, public rants and other dubious activities of your father are “fair game” in someone’s campaign against you. In both situations, the principal players were others beside you and Sen. Clinton.

Did you rush to either defend or castigate ol’ Pater for publishing his yellow, baseless trash on his own congressional letterhead? Or did you just ignore what he was doing and saying? Or – even worse – did you agree and keep quiet?

When your father was running scam after money-making scam and calling them “presidential campaigns,” did you publically distance yourself from his felonious activities or did you just learn the old man’s tricks and file them away for your own future use? Your father bilked hundreds of thousands of people out of millions of dollars for many years in what any rational person knew were impossible presidential campaigns. He followed up with more money-making slight-of-hand with paid newsletters, poorly executed videos and amateurish, fact-challenged books pitching the same old crap. Are three decades of fleecing sorry souls with his medicine show tactics relevant for your opponent to use in the 2016 presidential campaign?

No. And neither is the Lewinsky episode for you or anyone else.

From the alleged diary of a dead former Clinton friend, it’s been widely reported Sen. Clinton – then First Lady Hillary Clinton – used the words “loony narcissist” to describe Ms. Lewinsky. So what? What’s it to you. Or anyone else? My own more limited experience with the woes of marital infidelity tell me that’s a pretty calm reaction. If, indeed, that WAS her reaction. What’s it to you?

Frankly, as I recall, a good portion of this country – especially women – found her response underwhelming, restrained and the decision to keep her marriage active very courageous things to do. While she and Mr. Clinton may have had one or more private set-to’s over Ms. Lewinsky, her public persona and demeanor were quite acceptable to a lot of us.

In fact, aside from the obvious “snowball’s chance in hell” of you waging a successful presidential campaign with all your own baggage – and that of dear ol’ Dad – you may have hit a nerve with a lot of us who felt that Mrs. Clinton has shown a great deal of class and grace with a very tough personal situation many of us can identify with. And many tough, difficult moments while in public life in her elective and appointed service.

The fact is, Rand, there should be no place in any campaign involving Mrs. Clinton for talk of her husband’s transgressions. Unless, of course, you want to explain some of the money-grubbing, racist transgressions of Pops..

Aw, go ahead. Give it a try.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

While nearly all of us have said – one time or another – we’re mad about something and want to move to another country, few of us have packed up for the trip. But, last year, not only did a record number of Americans flee the good ol’ U.S. of A., they also renounced their citizenship. Just quit!

The exact number – 2,999 – is 217% more than the year before.

It’s likely some left with hurt political feelings. But the Treasury Department blames three other things: increased awareness of an obligation to file U.S. tax returns by U.S. citizens and U.S. “tax residents” living outside this country; the ever-increasing burden of complying with our tax laws and fear generated by the potentially bankrupting penalties for failure to file tax returns when an individual holds substantial non-U.S. assets.

In other words – they reason – file or flee.

This country is one a very few requiring its citizens permanently living abroad to continue filing returns and paying taxes in the nation of citizenship. And the policy is very actively pursued. In 2009, UBS Bank of Switzerland was fined $700 million for providing services to more than 4,000 U.S. account holders on the tax evasion list. Department of Justice and other fed agencies regularly publicize names of banks and other sources who aid in hiding wealth of Americans as well as the names of the “hiders.”

Filing forms are quite complicated and there are lots of ‘em. Next year, the recently enacted Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act will require foreign financial institutions to report accounts and other holdings of American citizens to the I.R.S. Every year.

So, a lot of folks with a lot of assets decided to pack up and leave. For good. And a lot of ‘em paid a large “exit tax” on their way out the door.

Now I’m a long, long way from being a financial “heavy hitter” and certainly don’t have the counsel of high-priced folks to advise how to handle weighty money matters. But, it seems to me, there must be some other way of resolving international tax matters with Uncle Sam besides telling him to “go to Hell” and skipping the country of your birth. I mean, if Mitt Romney can still live in four states with all the foreign deposits we know he has, there must be ways of dealing with our tax laws besides quitting.

And it’s not just the wealthy all upset about things these days. The W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University did some extensive research which showed a lot of us are damned mad and damned angry about certain things. Their “customer rage” investigation found 68% of American households mad about the way they’re being treated in the marketplace. It found instances of yelling and cursing customer “service” representatives at an all-time high. Yelling alone up 36%! Swearing, too.

Among those actually complaining about something, 56% felt they got absolutely no help. And what category of service enraged customers the most, you ask? Cable and satellite TV providers. Unhappy folks doing the calling said it wasn’t government issues that got them all upset. It was problems stemming from private companies.

Now, I’ve got to admit, if I got really, REALLY mad about something, I wouldn’t leave the country over it. Of course, if I had Romney’s money, I wouldn’t be doing the calling, either. So, maybe money DOES buy happiness.

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Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

At the end of 2013, United Van Lines checked moving tickets for the year and found the greatest percentage of people for whom the company hauled household goods went to one state. Oregon.

More than 61% of all interstate moves made in Oregon last year were for people coming from some other place. Lest you think this is some small sampling, the company tracked 129,000 trips in the country for the period. And Oregon topped the pack. Washington D.C. had led the list for the previous five years but – in 2013 – dropped to fourth,

Why Oregon? Why do so many folks want to come here? What is it about the place? What makes our real estate so desirable? Oh, lots of answers could be the Pacific Ocean, the Cascades, Mt. Hood, a good and varied climate, better environment, outdoor activities, cleaner water, better air quality and on and on,. You hear all those a lot.

My take is – as usual – different. I think people come here because we’ve “got our s*%t together.”

“Oh, Momma, look what he said!”

Well, it’s true. We do have it together. Especially politically. Compared to a couple dozen other states, we’re downright – rational. Oh, we’ve got some dim bulbs and political zeroes. One of them is actually the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party. But we’ve got him right out there on a stick where he can be seen so we know what foil-hat-idiocy he’s up to. That’s different. In North and South Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas – especially Texas – residents have allowed them to go underground – into the legislatures and governor’s bedrooms. Real folks lost control.

But here – in Oregon – we’ve kept the system pretty balanced and most of the loonies penned up. When you think back a couple of years, we ran an evenly divided House of Representatives with dual Speakers from different parties and duplicate committee chairs and, all in all, it went very, very well. How many other states could do that today? The two major parties get along most of the time around here. That sort of sends messages to folks in other states that we’ve “got our s*%t together.”

“Good Lord, Momma. He said it again.”

And it’s still true. Nobody here is trying to stop “undesirables” from voting. Nobody here is living under legislated “uterus attacks.” The governor is not talking secession. We’re not drug-checking people who just happen to be unemployed at the moment for whatever reason. We’re not even making food stamp recipients take a leak in a bottle!

Idaho, for example, used to have a slogan: “Idaho is what American was” which they really can’t say anymore ‘cause the nation’s reddest state is falling further behind with an increasingly flat earth contingent that has pretty well contaminated government. Idahoans have lost control. Oregon’s Republicans and Democrats still “Howdy” each other and the state is better for that. “Oregon is still what it was,” I guess.

We, in Oregon, even vote differently than voters in most other states. By mail. And it works! The only fraud we’ve had in recent years was a couple of over-zealous office volunteers messing up a few ballots. We caught ‘em. I think they were escorted to the border. Idaho, maybe.

We’ve got a lot of clean industry percolating along in a relatively stable economy that’s the envy of lots of other states. Our tax base is stable. We’re welcoming to the retired who like our more moderate ways. We’ve got an education system that – for the most part – is the envy of others. We’re not on top but we’re a long way from the bottom. Just goin’ along.

With the possible exception of three or four Southwest Oregon counties, we value diversity. Not just because it makes things more colorful. But because it adds value to our economy. It’s good for business – our neighborhoods – our relationships with each other – and it works wonders when raising our kids.

I’m not surprised at the United Van Lines numbers. But I don’t think our attractiveness to outsiders is all the doing of the media advertising programs out of Salem. No, I think a lot of people want to come here because they don’t hear the name “Oregon” bandied about in negative media messages. Stories about racial profiling or purging unwanted minorities from voter registrations or a legislature hellbent on criminalizing lifestyles and personal choices. We aren’t known for sending little people to Congress wearing tin beanies who put chewing gum in the wheels of democracy. We have a relatively quiet and productive political system that usually functions as it should. We sort of hold to the moderate path in all things.

For folks from Oregon reading this in other places, I’d bet you miss the place and harbor some thoughts about eventually “coming home.” For others who aren’t firsthand familiar with the place, you’ll likely come on out for a visit one of these days. And when you do, there’s good chance you’ll like what you see. You might even call United Van Lines and make it permanent. ‘Cause we’ve got out s*%t together.”

“MOM!!!”

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Oregon Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“No one should watch sausage or laws being made.”
That old joke has been around for many, many years. It was probably funny when first used. But time and wide-spread law making incompetence have proven at least the second part of the phrase too often very unfunny. The latest example of that has cropped up in the Idaho Legislature.

Idaho is often called the nation’s “most red state.” It’s probably not. I’d call it a “mooshy crimson.” But the current, right wing edition of the Republican Party has been in nearly complete control for a long, LONG time and shows no signs of fading. Want to get your collie into Idaho politics? Call it a Republican and it’ll get elected to something.

Comes now proof that not all the players in the political game of Idaho legislative politics have 52 cards in their personal decks. This week’s award to someone a few cards short – who’s managed to wrap homophobia, paranoia and irrational thought into legislative sausage – is one Rep. Lynn Luker. Republican? Certainly. By today’s standard. Responsible and wise? Not by any measurement known to rational people.

In what he calls a “pre-emptive strike” for God-knows-what, Mr. Luker has scraped two bills off the sludge at the bottom of the legislative barrel – HB426-HB427 – deciding citizens of Idaho should stand squarely behind new laws codifying homophobia and discrimination. Absolutely. Put ‘em on the books.

One would keep the state from revoking any professional license if the licensee withholds services – or refuses services – on the basis of a “personally held religious belief.” So, if a cab driver cited “personal religious belief” for not transporting a gay couple in sub-freezing temperatures, said driver could just say “My religion keeps me from taking these people in out of the cold.” And that would be that. They might freeze to death by the side of the road, but the cabbie would – in his head – be square with God. And – in Mr. Lukerls world – the State of Idaho.

Luker’s other badly tarnished gem of ridiculousness is in a similar vein. It would amend the Idaho Religious Freedom Act to allow an employer to fire someone for being gay, then hide behind a claim of “religious belief.” “I can’t abide those people,” he/she could say. And that would be that.

Luker – who somehow has his own license as a lawyer – says he’s worried about the future and wants his legislation adopted now because “this is pre-emptive – the issue is coming.” He cited a Gresham, Oregon, baker sued because he wouldn’t bake a wedding care for a gay couple. And the New Mexico photographer who wouldn’t take pictures of a gay wedding, arguing “free speech” and some sort and “artistic freedom” – whatever that is in this instance.

Rep. Luker’s backup in this trashy effort is something called “Cornerstone Family Council Advocacy Group.” A spokesman for the “council” claims governments are increasingly passing or interpreting laws to “keep people from living their faith” – a double standard against people of “traditional religious faiths.”

Luker claims he wants to be fair. So he’s not trying to keep people from being fired if he/she deserves it. He just wants to make sure the bigot – er, employer – doing the firing doesn’t lose his/her professional license for doing so. Well, sure. That seems only “fair.”

If this trash became law, it would have quite an effect on a lot of Idahoans. The Bureau of Occupational Licences involves 29 occupations. We’re talking doctors, nurses, police, fire, teachers, real estate salespeople and on and on. A whole lot of folks.

Lots of really creepy things could happen. Suppose a friendly Realtor refused to show a lesbian a certain house because friendly Realtor doesn’t want that gay client moving into his/her neighborhood. Suppose a Muslim pharmacist wouldn’t fill a prescription for a Christian dying of cancer. Or, the barber that told a Hindu he’d have to go someplace else for his haircut or, a school principal fired a gay teacher for no other reason than some “religious belief.” Or, a Catholic landlord wouldn’t rent to Methodists. Or, a Pentecostal fishing guide wouldn’t guide for Mormons.

Oh, the worms would just keep falling out of the can on this. Big time!

My history of being around the Idaho Legislature goes back nearly 50 years. I remember a lot of very fine Republican men and women who gave honored service to the State. Democrats, too, when they were allowed to participate. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the people in all those years who might buy into this piece of garbage.

But that long experience tells me the current crop – when asked to do so – could easily exceed both fingers and toes. Whether there’s enough of them who’d get behind Luker is difficult to say. One would hope not. But to say it’s not certain, also makes quite a statement of how far the Idaho Legislature has fallen from assured responsibility of the past. Various editions have done some very un-responsible things in recent times.

As someone who’s seen both sausage and bad legislation made over the years, I’d vote to grind up Mr. Luker’s “handiwork” and drop it in the nearest landfill.

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Rainey