Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Were I a thinking, moderate Republican – which I’m not- but if I were, I’d not only embrace Ted Cruz, I’d be an advocate for everything he stands for. I’d do anything I could to help him get his venomous message out. Seldom has a national political party had such a quick and ready answer to solve what ails it. And how to fix it. Cruz is “da man!”

At this point, some of my more independent, moderate – and especially liberal – friends are reaching for their heart meds and asking for water. But hear me out.

Interviewed by CNN in San Antonio last weekend, Cruz flat out said Republicans “are the single most damaging thing” for the GOP in 2014. The exact quote: “The single most damaging thing that has happened to Republicans for 2014 is all of the Senate Republicans coming out attacking the House Republicans – attacking those pushing the effort to defund Obamacare and lining up opposite the American people.”

Wow! Right on, Teddy! Let the good times – and the divisive rhetoric – roll, baby! Give ‘em Hell! Pure B.S. but go for it!

O.K. Let’s check out some facts. Republicans are going to have tough sledding in the 2014 national election. There are lots of very valid indicators around – all with bad news for Republicans – enough to make professional GOP campaign folks consider taking the year off.

The latest from Public Policy Polling – taken during the height of the budget-debt ceiling fracas – was in 25 GOP held districts. Remember – the questions were asked of folks who already had a Republican member in Congress. In 15 of the 25, respondents preferred a “generic Democrat” to their own representative by name. Just “any old Democrat” to whoever was there now. Ouch!

But it gets worse. Combined with other surveys by the same pollster in the last three weeks, those old “generic Democrats” win 37 of 61 Republican-held districts! Ouch again!

And when told their Republican office holder supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped to”generic Democrat” and one race was a tie. OUCH big time!

Democrats need 17 seats to retake the House. These results show they could get as many as 49! Doubt it’ll happen but some will flip. Maybe 17.

Here’s another sampling – CNN/ORC International polling during the same time. Folks questioned – 54% – said it’s a bad thing the GOP controls the House. 54%! That’s up 11 points since December. Just 38% say it’s a good thing and that is a 13 point dive during the period.

The same sampling found more than six in ten people said Speaker John Boehner should be replaced. AND – nearly 60% favor the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or say it doesn’t go far enough.

So – what has all this to do with Ted Cruz and thinking, feeling Republicans? Simple. Whether the numbers cited here hold up or things move a bit more to the right, the Republican Party is going to take a “hit” at the polls next year. People are fed up with congress. No sampling of public opinion in the last year has found otherwise. None. Only question is who and how much. The brand is sour for all but the most diehard GOP voters.

The Party is badly divided. Party machinery – those controlling who gets on the ballot in many states and who gets monetary support – is in the hands of the far right in a lot of places. Candidates of a more moderate stripe will be – as they often have been – shut out. Oregon is a prime example. The Party chairman is a nut case elected to the job by other similarly politically handicapped souls. New faces on our 2014 national ballots will most certainly be tilted toward the edge of their square earth. Moderates need not apply.

For the last 30 years, the Republican Party has been lurching ever farther out. It has been a happy hunting ground for the Bachmanns, Ghomerts, Brouns, Labradors, Robinsons and others of their ilk. There is no question the Party – in its continued attacks on women and minorities – is headed to oblivion as it tries to appease a diminishing base of older, white voters.

Despite repeated proclamations from its leadership to the contrary, the GOP – as it now exists – is headed to the basement. To become viable again – to become more open and welcoming to a broader base – there must be a complete housecleaning top to bottom. Wiser, more moderate members must find their voices and their place in a new leadership. But that takes time. That takes years.

Then, voila! Along comes “Texas Crude” – our man Cruz. The one guy that might just cut years off that purging and rebuilding. The one political kamikaze pilot that could speed up that process for all Republicans.

Given their head, Cruz, Lee, Rubio, Paul and a few others could bring the intra-party cleansing to a head in the next few months. A year or two tops. Cruz – especially Cruz – could be the crazy shepherd who first divides, then leads the far right lambs off into political swamps in a minority-minority GOP splinter party destined to fail. Yes, this would leave the majority of thinking Republicans in a minority. But only for awhile. Far less time than if the contaminated mess now extant in the party hierarchy continues. Rebuilding the Republican Party into a functioning, welcoming, more attractive place for moderates and independents – even disaffected Democrats – could come a whole lot sooner if the Cruz cancer is exorcized. Surgery and healing now is better than letting the disease – which is killing the Party with more and more voters – metastasize until there is nothing left to save.

Cruz may be just what the doctor ordered. A strong dose of politically curative castor-oil followed by self-directed excommunication. Cut the whackos out and get on with the healing.

For that reason, I’m a Cruz booster. Whatever he says is fine with me. Go for it, Teddy! Drink the Kool-Aid.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Anyone who’s undergone cancer or similar surgery knows such treatment is often dangerous, could be life-threatening and done only when absolutely necessary. But removing pieces of the body is often the only way to save it. The time has come for honest Republicans to put their party under the knife.

What this nation has just been through can most accurately be described as completely unnecessary – a terrible body blow to our already weakened economy – the most politically divisive challenge to our freedoms we’ve seen in some 170 years – a weakening of our standing in the world community – and done so at a cost of human suffering for millions of Americans. For nothing! For absolutely nothing.

Our current national political mess has not been caused by Republicans per-se or Democrats per-se. We’ve long survived the blessings and curses of a two-party system without the economic and human damage inflicted in the last two years. As a nation, we’ve survived many political calamities. What we’ve NOT experienced since the Civil War is the organized efforts of some 150 members of Congress determined to destroy a government they can’t control. Simply because they can’t control it. No matter the cost. But that’s what we have today.

As the midnight hour approached which would put our nation in world economic default and contine the paralysis of a half-closed government, no one – NO ONE with any understanding of the situation – could have done anything but vote to end both calamities. But 18 members of the Senate said “NO” and 144 more in the House joined their chorus. These are some of the parts of the GOP body politic that need to be surgically removed.

I realize some of those folk were highly educated. I understand some actually call themselves “students of government.” I personally know some who had successful careers before they were elected. I’m also very aware of the phrase “educated fools.” In my book, all 162 who voted “no” are in that category.

Seldom have we seen such unified outpouring of advice, warnings and even threats from the American public – and most especially from corporate, academic and intellectual leaders – as we have in the last three weeks. From the top-most levels of all those has come the single message – stop the madness before this country suffers economic and human damages from which we may not recover. When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO and labor unions of all stripes sound identical alarms with identical messages, the range of interests between those two extremes covers just about all the institutional and civic voices of the majority of this country. For those 162 “Republicans,” the warnings went ignorantly unheeded.

National media talking heads can’t seem to figure out how we got into this mess – where the idiots and destructive voices in our Congress came from. Well, we’ve respectfully offered what we believe to be the reason in this space on several occasions. Here it is again. Respectfully.

At the national level – and in most states – candidates in the Republican Party are chosen by the Party structure and not GOP voters at-large. For the last 30 years or so, that structure has been in the hands of former Bircher’s, Freedom Lobby nuts and other right-wing groups who slowly took over the interior operating machinery in the ‘70′s and ‘80′s. Where they were successful, many shut the door to thoughtful candidacies by ending open primaries, going to closed nominating conventions and taking absolute control of the nominating process so only their people got to the ballot. If your voice offered a reasoned, moderate philosophy – anything but far right gibberish – you were ignored.

Additionally, many Republican primaries have been stacked. Take Michelle Bachmann. Please! (Sorry, Henny.) She’ s never had a heads-up, two-candidate race. Never. There’s always a second or third “candidate” from Libertarians or other minorities in her party. Divide the GOP vote and she wins with 30-40%. Same for Gohmert, King and the other crazies. Either they came from heavily (gerrymandered) Republican districts or were minority percentage winners of an election with more than a single candidate.

Our nation’s political backbone is at its strongest when our two-party political system has been healthy: when the thoughtful struggles of opposing ideas have been open, honest, deliberate – debated by serious and informed voices. At our national best, we need the yin and yang of differing political philosophies to arrive at the most acceptable solutions to any issue. Our national balance is best when there are competing ideas to steady it. Our national difficulties today are simply because we’re being shoved out of that balance by ignorant forces who “know not what they do.”

The debacle of these last few days has not been the fault of honest, fair-minded Republican members of Congress. The only real blame they share is letting the know-nothings, false “prophets” and other idiots control the process too long. They’ve withheld criticism in the name of “unity” but that phony “unity” damned near killed us.

Many voices are predicting the Republican Party – shambles that it currently is – will be beaten solidly in many upcoming elections. That WILL happen. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If better Republican thinkers – real conservatives, moderates and, yes, even the few remaining liberals – will put the Party on the surgical table and cut out the cancers of ignorance, false ideologies, greed, extreme self-service and the haters feeding all this – the Party will truly be stronger and more competitive. And – maybe best of all – really more open and inclusive.

If surgery will remove the disease killing the GOP, it’s very likely a follow-up prescription of openness and inclusiveness will heal it. If so, a stronger Republican Party can emerge to the benefit of all of us. But we need it now!

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Note to all media – especially Idaho: Evel Knievel did NOT jump the Snake River Canyon near Twin Falls. Evel Knievel got less than 150 feet out from the South rim and dived into the Snake River Canyon. Evel Knievel likely NEVER INTENDED to jump over the Snake River Canyon. Got that?

Sepember 8, 1974. It was my first full week as a private pilot. I flew to Twin Falls to bring film of the “jump” back to a Boise TV station. So I was at the site when the fizzing, phony rockets lashed to an aluminum clad motorcycle scooted up the ramp and out – very briefly – into space.

Robert Craig Knievel was on the downhill side of his stunt career at that point. He’d been in various jails a number of times. Finally, one judge told him to go to jail again or join the army. He actually got the name “Evel” from a jailer in Montana who couldn’t spell. He tried – and failed at – a number of career choices including being the owner of a small time hockey team. At some point, he got interested in motocross and rode on the circuit for several years. Another dead end.

He got together some other starving cycle circuit riders in 1966 and had the idea of doing “daredevil” stunts including the jumps he was famous for. Many of the longer ones were in Las Vegas. Pretty good money for a while. But Evel had expensive tastes. At the end, he said he spent about two million more than he made in his lifetime and died broke.

The Idaho jump was the idea a friend of his after Kneivel had been turned down for a permit to jump the Grand Canyon. Twin Falls Commissioners granted the license and he built his “takeoff” ramp on the South side. Publicity went into overdrive. ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” got into a tizzy to get it all on “live” national television. Local Idaho stations didn’t have the satellite gadgetry they do today. So those wanting to show the Knievel “Snake River Canyon jump” on their own air had to have a film crew onsite. That’s how I got involved.

Nobody really stopped to look into the engineering and/or aeronautics of such a feat. Ol’ Evel just strapped a couple of noisy, smoky little rockets to the aluminum-enclosed “Buck Rogers” cycle inside. That was really it.

As “earth shaking” promotions of that sort often are, it completely lacked any sense of reality. But, Evel waved profusely to the crowd – and cameras – cranked up the “space cycle,” the phony rockets spewed a lot of smoke with some flashy sparks and made a whooshing sound. All the cameras rolled. Kneivel rode straight up the ramp, made a very small arc and disappeared. He went no further than 100 feet or so – nearly straight out. From the South side of the canyon, we couldn’t see where he went.

The parachute popped open as planned. The cycle tipped nose down and ol’ Evel floated down inside while the little “rocket ship” bounced off a few rocks. The crowd got excited. The camera guys pushed and shoved to get to the edge of the canyon. Lots of screaming by the crowd. But that was it.

Evel lived to jump ramps in Vegas and elsewhere for several more years before getting so busted up he couldn’t lift either leg over a bike. Some county fairs and a rodeo now and then. But after the Snake River Canyon “jump” his career petered out.

He died Nov. 30, 2007, at the age of 69. His busted up body is buried in Butte, Montana, where he was born. His son Robbie made some long jumps after Dad was grounded. But he found little success after a couple of widely-televised crashes and many broken bones.

A few weeks ago, after years of refusing to get involved with more “daredevils” and all the legal liabilities, Twin Falls Commissioners sold a permit for a future second try to a Texas promoter named “Big Ed” Beckley. He outbid several competitors by agreeing to pay $943,000 for a two-year lease on state land near the canyon rim. Beckley will also pay the State of Idaho $25,000 land rent each year, buy a $10 million liability policy and share some of whatever revenue he gets from various sources as he promotes whatever he intends to offer a couple of years hence. Once his project is up and ready to go, he’ll pay more permit fees, buy more hold-harmless bonds and underwrite other costs.

Now Ol’ Ed may well come up with a real machine able to clear the nearly half mile distance from one rim to the other. He just might. Or – he could very well just slap some rockets on a fancy piece of sheet metal with a motorcycle inside and fizzle his short way out into space for another scenic parachute trip. We’ll see. At nearly 300 pounds and in his late 50′s, “Big Ed” probably won’t be the actual jockey.

In the meantime, to all media – ALL media – the headline “Texas stuntman picked to re-create Evel Knievel jump over Snake River Canyon” contains some flatly false information. Evel did NOT jump the canyon. On that September day. Or any other. And I’d bet the farm he never intended to.

Still – standing there about 100 feet from the ramp that day – I wouldn’t have traded places with him for anything. ANY thing! Heading back to Boise an hour later, I know we were much more comfortable in that Cessna. And we got all the way across that damned canyon.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I fear for the future of our country.

There. I said it. Those eight words have been in my consciousness for several weeks but seemed too, well, dramatic to say – possibly overstatement or too fatalistic. But, as the battles in Washington D.C. swing from absurd to savage, such fears may not be ungrounded.

My deepest concerns are two. First, what lasting damage will the structure of our government incur before this political internecine warfare ends? And, two, what will our future form of government be – or look like – from that time?

Our constitutional political framework has been under attack for about 240 years. From just about everywhere. And everything. It has withstood wars – internal and external – depressions, recessions, assassinations and upheavals of all sorts. Its been challenged by forces of greed and destruction – man-made and acts of God. It has withstood them all.

But the warfare is from within now. American versus American. Or more accurately put, our political system versus the citizen. The battle isn’t over an issue like slavery or one’s beliefs. There aren’t two clear sides trying to gain the support of the rest of the country. Much of the fight – at its most basic level – is future elected job security on the part of some people – a very few people – many of whom know they’re wrong but will pursue the fight anyway. They’re in positions of authority. They have the power to compromise. They have the power to end it. Immediately. But they won’t.

The argument is not really about the direction of policy despite all the threats and overblown rhetoric. It’s not about fiscal issues or reducing national spending. There is no ideology at the bottom of this. This is simply extreme self-interest facing ignorant anger out to destroy.

That’s not hard to prove. Just listen to some of the combatants – members of Congress – listen to them when they say they don’t support a government shutdown – they don’t support hundreds of thousands of people being thrown out of work through no fault of their own – they don’t want people going hungry – whatever political “victory” was to be won has been lost. “It’s over.” Listen to them. Then watch how they vote. When their names – their offices – their personal futures are on the line – compare their words to their vote. Time after time after time after time.

This isn’t a battle of political parties. It’s not even about some 360 million citizens of this country. The threat to our system of governance – the war of words and wills – the strident defense of this-or-that – all this continues as a very personal cowardice of self-interest.

Yes, there are a few hellbent on gutting the government. And, yes, they and those who crazily support them with their dollars or any other way are to be feared. They offer nothing. No alternative. No plan for the future. No solution to national problems. Not one positive point. They’re out to destroy in the name of some farcical “patriotism” and in the guise of being “good Americans.”

But they offer no patriotism. They offer no acceptable alternatives. They have no plan. They’re ignorant about governance and history. They’re absolutists with no sense of compromise. And, what makes this loud, ignorant few most dangerous, is others who do offer those things – those who do have alternatives and do know how to govern – are being cowed. They’re afraid to stand for what they know is right – afraid to offer legitimate resistance – afraid to tell the know-nothings to “Sit down and shut the Hell up!”

Self-interest on a massive and nationally dangerous scale.

There’s more – much more – at stake at this moment in history than budgets or parties or political choices. Leaders of our economy – heads of international corporations – leaders of other world nations – academicians and still others with unquestioned wisdom and experience – all these and more are warning this internal battle of self-survival at any cost poses dangers even to other nations. Much less the calamity of our own markets – our economy – every person in this country.

Ask yourself this. If this increasingly hostile situation were to magically end today – just quit – how would those 535 in Washington deal with each other tomorrow? Would trust suddenly be restored? Would comity? Would the extreme self-interest just disappear? Would compromise break out to solve what today is “unsolvable?” Would healing begin? What would be the condition of our government to function going forward?

There are no innocents in this challenge to our democracy. No heroes. No leadership. No honest brokering of solutions – whatever solutions there may be. There is simply the cancer of self-interest creeping through the body politic. And, each day that goes by – every phony vote disguised to show “unity” to the folks at home – every lie – every character assassination leveled against anyone of any party – each threat – each intransigent act of personal ass-covering – all lead nowhere. Except to waste another day.

We’ve long been proud of the strength of our chosen governance. We’ve dared hold it up to the world as enlightened and free. We’ve carried torches of freedom and liberty to light dark corners of other nations. We’ve called ourselves “proud citizens.” If you look to the rest of the world in recent days – as I do daily reviewing media from many countries – you’ll find no mention of these. No willingness to follow our lead. No admiration of our successes of democracy going back nearly 300 years.

We are increasingly being looked at with astonishment – as confused – as rudderless – a victim of our own making – being imperiled by the very freedoms that used to make us strong – a nation in decline. Those aren’t the views of our enemies but the astonishment and disappointment of our friends.

Until those who know better stand up to those who know little – the ones out to ravage and destroy what they can’t understand and control – we’ll be a very changed nation when this current madness ends. And it will end.

The question is: if allowed to go longer – if paralysis continues to defy our progress – if the unenlightened madness and destructive dedication of a few are not contained now and ended – what will a new and drastically altered American system of governance look like then?

Again – if it ended today, what would our elected national government be? What would be the relationship of each person there? And their relationship with each of us – the constituents? Would it truly “be over?”

This standoff – this political chaos that’s sapping our economic stability – hurting millions of fellow citizens- this madness of watching cowardly self-interest being whipped by maniacs out to destroy without a plan to rebuild – is more than two political parties that can’t get along. So much more. This has become a nation-changing duel that can eat us from within. It has become a matter of our constitutional survival.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

This being the season for flu shots, I was sitting in a clinic waiting room this week with seven other seniors awaiting the seasonal puncture.

The other six apparently knew each other and – while we waited – they had a lively discussion about health care. Specifically “Obamacare.” All opposed it and each had animated – if false – “facts” to support their opposition. They used words like “socialism,” “communism,” “big brother,” “government interference” and other colorful adjectives.

Then, one by one, all surrendered to the nurse for the necessary swab and shot, signed a form and were on their way. The form each signed showed the name of the clinic, who administered what, and medical coding for the vaccine. And a charge of $57 each – to be paid by the federal government’s Medicare program. That old “socialist” health care. The 60-year-old precursor of today’s Affordable Care Act – the dreaded “Obamacare.”

Now, I live in a part of Oregon in which Vlad the Impaler would be an acceptable candidate for any public office for much of the population. Moderates are extremists. Liberals are only good for boat anchors. But conservatives – of any stripe – are “God’s chosen people.” The problem is – as affirmed in conversations with local friends – too many get their “news” from sources that simply affirm their beliefs. Like the Romney campaign of 2012, there is no room for information that conflicts with their “truth.”

My eavesdropping experience with the flu shot group is not an unusual occurrence in our neighborhood. And far too many others. Republicans have been trying their damndest to kill the ACA. They’ve been spreading disinformation and outright lies for several years. Many – including leaders who know better – still call it a “bill.” It’s LAW. Affirmed up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court. The principle sponsor was elected – and elected again – by a majority of Americans. It’s a damned LAW!

Now they’re crying “I-told-you-so” because there were lots of hiccups in the first days of implementation. I did a little digging in old news files this week to see how smoothly things went in the 60′s when Medicare started – the 70′s when Medicaid came along – and the 2000′s with Pres. Bush’s new Medicare prescription drug program.

It wasn’t hard to find stories of significant problems with the initial rollout of all three. Surprised? Hardly! The first days – the first years – were filled with issues and problems. Even supporters expressed concern. Predictions of failures – for all three – were common.

But they didn’t fail. And the ACA won’t, either.

In my mind, two factors have complicated the situation more recently. One is the I-net. The other is the 24-hour news cycle and the thousands of sources for information. Some true. Too many not. It took six weeks for news of the murder of Abraham Lincoln to reach all the nation. Now, when something happens, we have words within minutes – pictures in an hour. And – too often – maybe facts later. No matter where in the world it is.

The more significant problem is the I-Net. Looking at The New York Times, Washington Post, The Oregonian, or “Seattle P.I., you knew one very important thing. What you were reading had been written by professional reporters and reviewed by professional editors. At the time it was printed, it was fact as far as anyone knew.

Now, with the I-Net, some idiot in East Arm Pit, NM, can post something – anything – put it on a colorful website and pass it off as “fact.” It’s not. But how do you know? You can find professional-looking garbage all over the I-Net masquerading as truth. So, if someone wants to shoot down, oh, let’s say, the ACA, – even a political party – just put it on the old I-Net with lies, pictures and lots of colorful images and – VOILA – it’s “fact!”

The whacko Republicans in Congress and the political party they represent are losing their fight against the ACA. Consider just this one FACT courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Major health insurers, who funneled $86 million into the battle to kill the ACA before it was born, have stopped the cash flow. Instead, they’re watching their stock prices go up. Up. The same companies – recognizing reality – have adjusted operations to deal with ACA and now enjoy record enrollments. And they appear headed to record profits. So, a major source of Republican funding is no more.

But bad information – the lies – are still out there – being pedaled by politicians who know better and people who won’t bother to find out the real facts. The insulated folk. Like the seven waiting with me for flu shots. Bitching’s easier than research. “O’Reilly says it’s so. So it’s true!”

Here’s a real example of people who refuse to accept fact – or even try to find facts. Consider one Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) – a foe of the ACA with a repeated congressional vote to shut our government. These are his words in The Washington Examiner this week.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Stutzman said. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Another voice of determined ignorance. Who likely doesn’t pay for his flu shot, either.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Having become thoroughly disgusted at the mess in Washington – and believing little – if anything – will change in 2014 – I’ve been trying to find some sort of solutions to our congressional problems. Yep, even here in the old growth, Oregon forest, we try to keep up on current events and even chip in an idea now and then. Now, I’ve got one.

And it’s this. No one – NO ONE – should be allowed to run for any seat in Congress until that person has served at least a full term as a mayor, city councilman or county commissioner. Such political apprenticeships should be an absolute first step for anyone wanting higher office. No exceptions.

Think about it. Few other professions – and that’s what national politics is now – few professions allow someone right off the street to step in at the top without some sort of internship – some special training for the duties about to be undertaken. From medicine to professional sports to banking to flying an airplane – we’ve been conditioned to studying and preparing under supervision before assuming control. Whether it’s a medical residency, minor league ball or ground school – you first learn rudiments of the craft before you get the “license.”

I began thinking along these lines when that goofy Palin woman pranced out of the Alaskan bush with solutions to all our dilemmas. But HER problem was she “knew what she knew” and was supremely confident she didn’t need to know anymore. Half a term as governor and some whispers in her ear from John McCain were all she needed to become “expert” in the heady world of national politics. We all know how that ended. “ Sarah who?” Had she gone back to her days as part time mayor of Wasilla, she might have had some useful backgrounding for higher office. But noooo! She had to start at the top.

I’ve long-believed the most practical, most useful, most important political decisions are made in city halls and county courthouses. From pot holes to zoning issues to drinking water to street lights to prompt fire department response to levying taxes to pay the bills to neighborhood policing to the local jail – it’s all right here at home and it’s all got to be taken care of by local folks. None of this “Potomac living” and “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality so many in Congress quickly adopt.

How do you expect someone who can’t balance a checkbook to go to Washington and effectively deal with a federal budget in the trillions of dollars with no experience? Now, if you start with a mayor or a commissioner, for example, those folks have had to balance local budgets to pay for all operations because various laws require a balanced municipal or county budget. Require! None of this “running a deficit” crap. They know how to do it. If they don’t do it each year, they don’t last.

Communication. Another valuable qualification for office we’re slowly losing. You send ‘em back there and about all you hear from them is the continual “newsletter” accompanied by a plea for campaign donations. Yes, I know. A congressional district is most often larger that a city or county. Harder to keep in touch. But it can be done. Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden do it. For a whole state. They hit just about every community in person once a year and keep up a steady stream of emails and briefings on major legislation weekly. Very unusual. But county commissioners and city council members know how to stay in touch. Damned important.

Negotiating. If you can’t work out differences over local zoning, sewer districts, highway placement, bridge building and dozens of other hot button issues face-to-face at home, what else could better prepare you to go to Washington D.C. and get along with 99 others in the Senate or 434 others in the House when it comes to getting done what you want done? If you can’t plan and build a local park or builkd a new sewer system, how can you be successful getting federal approval to log in old growth national forests? Oh, you might luck out. Once or twice. But not over the long haul. You develop the skills at home for long term success back there.

Oh, yeah. I know. Some of you are thinking I’ve finally gone off the deep end. But think about it. Wouldn’t you rather have someone back there representing you who had some prior experience in the job? Wouldn’t it be more effective if the people taking on those large, important, well-paying tasks had some “on-the-job” experience before they leave home? Wouldn’t you be better and more effectively served if people in congress had some prior training? Wouldn’t you rather have a professional with at least some experience rather than someone who was selling shoes last month? Or trying to pray gays straight?

We’ve sent too many amateurs back there with half-vast experience. Which is why we’re getting too many half-vast responses to our national problems.

And, frankly, I’m getting sick of all those half-vasts.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Balance in life is a wonderful thing. The yin and off-setting yang of things can bring joy – balance – warmth – satisfaction. Such a moment of perfect equanimity has touched my life. A moment when two disparate thoughts arrived at the same time – quietly nestling down next to each other.

One was that moment when the U.S. Senate’s biggest educated fool – Tex Cruz – shut his Harvard-educated mouth and voted for the thing he’d been talking against for 21 hours. The other was “BREAKING NEWS” that county commissioners in California’s Siskiyou County had voted to join neighboring Shasta County in a desire to secede from the Ol’ U.S. of A..

POW!

There it was. They want to get rid of us. We want to get rid of him. The immutable balance of life. I tell you, such a moment of harmony just doesn’t come along every other day. You’ve just gotta just stop. Savor it.

Ol’ “Texas Crude” wants desperately to be somebody. Anybody. At the moment, he wants to be president. Of anything. Siskiyou commissioners want to form a new state and – along with fellow commissioners next door – are in search of a new state which will need – wait for it – a new governor!

Now “governor” isn’t “president.” I’ll give you that. Cruz would have to back up a bit. Just a step. For only a little while. But, in the meantime, he WOULD have an entire “state” to run. And if Shasta County joins to create the new “State of Jefferson” they’re talking about, well, it would be a much larger “state” and only a matter of time till Teddy could find himself way up the ladder – living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Take a tip from that Palin woman. Follow her success. Run for governor – then quit. A couple of years at most. He wouldn’t be the first Harvard president of the country. But he’d certainly be the most disliked Harvard grad to get the job.

All that may seem weirdly improbable to you. But around here – in the nearby old-growth forest shared by Oregon and California – you could get even money at any logger bar. Really! They’ve been talking about Jefferson and their great plans for telling the rest of us to “Go To Hell” for a long, long time.

The problem with all this is that neither plan is going to work out. Shasta and Siskiyou will continue to be California real estate. And Cruz will remain in the Senate to taunt political reality and intelligence for just over five more years. Neither dream will come true. Ever.

But while we’re talking about dreams, I have one. I dream that Sean Hannity, Wolf Blitzer and the other broadcast “political experts” will stop calling Cruz a “ brilliant, Ivy League-educated” Senator. He may have gone to an Ivy League school. It may even have been Harvard. But Tex Cruz is not brilliant by any political measurement. In fact, when looking at his chosen path to greatness – adopted during his college years, – most political professionals will tell you this guy is on a self-destructive rant.

There’s nothing “brilliant” or “bright” or “long-lasting” about Cruz. He’s a driven self-promoter, putting even that Palin woman to shame. His “slash and burn” self-serving style offers nothing in terms of making a contribution to this nation. He has no interest in building – only destroying. In just this one week alone, he has demonstrated he fails to understand why he’s in Washington and has no appreciation for the “give-and-take” of how successful politicians have enjoyed their success since before the glory days of Rome. He has no idea how to operate within a system that’s broken better men than him. He is “my-way-or-the-highway” to the core.

Cruz is often compared to Joe McCarthy – the Red-hunting, alcoholic demagogue of the 1950′s. Maybe. I clearly remember those days and the torturous Senate hearings designed – not to get to truth – but to spread a giant lie that McCarthy and his sick supporters wanted to believe was truth. The lives destroyed – careers ended – the celebrity sycophants who kissed the McCarthy ring and carried him around on their shoulders.

And I remember watching Ed Murrow. The craggy-faced, chain smoker at CBS who ripped the scabs off McCarthy and showed him to be the cancerous, drunken corpse he really was.

But times have changed. When Murrow exorcized McCarthy from the body politic, he was alone. Even his CBS bosses tried to tone him down. But we no longer must rely on traditional national media to deal with such miscreants in our system. In just the past few days, we’ve seen even those in his own political party go after Cruz by unloading reams of “opposition research” – read “political back stabbing” – to stop him before he becomes a major problem for thinking Republicans. That won’t end. It’ll increase.

Cruz will not – can not – be more than he already is. A loud voice of lies, half-truths, distortions, character assassination and underhanded political gamesmanship. He serves neither true Republicans nor true Democrats. He serves only Tex Cruz. When he finally is shown to be the despicable, politically soulless animal he is, the death blow will come at his own hand.

God, I hope it’s soon.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In recent days, several readers have responded to these irregular musings with decidedly different views – most of which are quite welcome. We keep putting words and thoughts on the old computer machine in hopes of getting readers to think about various issues. Think their own thoughts – not necessarily the views and opinions on the screen. So when others give feedback, I’m exposed to different – mostly welcome – views.

Notice the “mostly welcome” exception. The “un-welcomed” aren’t such because they aren’t well-expressed or vastly different. No, the most aggravating are those that jump to assumptions not written or indicated – assumptions that if I’m not “this” then I’ve got to automatically be “that.” Attempts to label. Which are wrong much of the time.

Two fallacies show up a lot. One is that what’s on the screen with my name attached is necessarily fact – which it sometimes is. But often, it’s opinion. My opinion. The second misconception is if I’m castigating Democrats then I must be a Republican. Or, if I’m chewing on the GOP, I’m automatically a Dem. As a registered Oregon Independent, neither is true.

One reader wrote awhile back that he wanted to be taken off the “subscription list” because “if I want a Democratic Central Committee newsletter, I’ll subscribe.” Needless to say, he was responding to a piece that was highly critical of Republicans. Not all Republicans. Just the 50 or so trying desperately to gut our federal government.

He noticed – as have many others – that GOP members of Congress – at least some of them – are often cast in these musing as cancerous growths on the body politic. Since that depiction is not an unusual occurrence – and not entirely wrong – the “obvious conclusion,” is that said scribe is a “bad ol’ Democrat.” Ironically, the critic was a professional journalist, too.

Well, this scribe found it interesting that – on the very same day as this latest mislabeling and faulty logic was emailed to me – Mitt Romney was talking to a group of Eastern Republican donors and party officials. His message was very clear. And very similar – though maybe more muted – to thoughts expressed here a day or two earlier.

Romney, following his election defeat some months before, was warning those 50 or so Republicans wanting to shutter our government that – if they succeed – the GOP will lose badly in 2014 national elections. He wisely said the Party should return to its traditional roots of support for business, lower taxes and the rest. Further, Romney predicted, if his Party didn’t support immigration reform, “Democrats will win big.” Again.

Romney’s not alone. Many top Republicans are forcefully carrying the same message to the same obstructionists. Knock off this right-wing suicide mission and get behind the elephant you used to get yourselves on the ballot. Romney and his peers are doing what House Speaker Boehner won’t. Shut the idiots down and get to work on a real Republican Party agenda. Stop the 42 efforts to kill Obamacare which will never succeed. Stop screwing over women, Hispanics, Blacks and other minorities. Stop playing to an ever-diminishing old, white base while ignoring a racially evolving electorate. Hear! Hear!

To be critical of the Republican Party these days doesn’t automatically make one a Democrat. If that were true, 86% of Americans fed up with what’s happening – or NOT happening – in Congress would be called “Democrats.” They’re not, of course.

Even thinking Republicans are fed up with the crazy ideologues – and others like them – dragging the Party off the right-most edge of their square earth. It’s not that Democrats are doing everything right or being entirely responsible or providing superb leadership. They aren’t. But loudmouth Republican crazies in Congress aren’t being challenged – or even disciplined – by their own party elders. The good works both parties could be doing are being mucked up by a small group that needs to be exorcized. Banished!

Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives. At the moment. And that’s where you’ll find the bulk of our political mess. To intelligent folks, criticism of what’s happening there can come from a thinking Democrat – or a thinking Republican – or even a thinking Independent.

There’s no need – or excuse – for misplaced labels. Which are most often wrong anyway.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In 1968, we started the tradition of honoring our Hispanic population with a National Hispanic Heritage Week. By 1989, that was officially expanded to National Hispanic Heritage Month – Sep. 15-Oct. 15 – which covers the anniversaries of independence in five Latin American Countries. If things keep growing the way they are, we’ll soon have a National Hispanic Heritage Year.

At this point, we’re going to talk statistics – something I hate to do. But all these numbers – taken from the U.S. Census Bureau 2010 reports – are not familiar to many of us. They should be. Because – more than any other single societal factor – they accurately depict the most profound changes of our ethnic makeup since this nation’s birth.

Jul. 1, 2010, 53 million Hispanics lived within our borders. Just over one million were added in the previous 12 months. That number was a little over half of all immigrants moving here in that period. Over half. And – as a percentage – that added more than two percent to the Hispanic community in one 12 month period.

At the rate things are going, America’s population in 2060 will include 128.8 million Hispanics – far and away our largest minority at that time. In fact, it already is today! Fact: the only world nation with more Hispanics than American right now is Mexico.

So, where do most live? Texas has 10 million while Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York have eight million each. Fact: More than 50 percent of the total number of Hispanics live in just three states: California, Florida and Texas. In New Mexico, 47 percent of the state’s total population is Hispanic. Of the 21 states where they’re the largest minority, you’ll find Oregon, Washington, Utah and Wyoming.

For the congressional bigots who are trying futilely to hold back this brown flood, some surprising news. The number of Hispanics living in poverty is going – down. The number of Hispanic businesses is going – wait for it – up.

Over three percent – or about 3.7 million – have at least a bachelor’s degree and another 1.2 million have a master’s, advanced professional or doctorate. Sort of shatters still another lie for Iowa’s Steve King and his racist claim Hispanics have “cantaloupe-sized ankles from carrying illegal drugs across the border.” The Census Bureau figures more than 14 percent of all grad and undergrad students now enrolled are Hispanic. And this one. Nearly 20 percent of Hispanics 16 years and older worked in management, business, science and the arts in 2010.

But one other statistic should strike terror in hearts of thinking Republicans. In 2010, Hispanics were seven percent of voters. In 2012, 8.4 percent. Just 24 months. And every institution that studies national trends is projecting not only more Hispanic immigration but higher and higher percentages of them voting from now on. It’s already begun.

At the moment, we’re saddled with a Congress that can’t decide whether the toilet paper goes over the roll or under. But, for reasons known only to the deadhead right-wingers who’ve clogged our democratic process, their repeated refusal to develop a workable immigration program – while many of their number backhand Hispanics and other minorities as intruders among us – is a great way to kill an entire political party.

Here’s another fact that escapes them. When someone like that idiot King doubles down on his racist rants against Hispanics, he’s being heard by the Black, Asian, Mideast, European and other immigrant groups. When he and his Republican cohorts in Washington trash any minority – while suffering no apparent political consequences for their outrageous actions – no disavowal – it’s not just Hispanics who notice. And remember. You total up the voting age population among all the immigrant groups who see firsthand the Republican Party’s seeming acceptance of King and his buddies, and the GOP will start the next national election in a deep, deep hole it can’t get out of. And the next. And the next. And the next.

The Census Bureau says the number of Hispanic business owners is now over two million. While that’s a healthy number all by itself, consider that it represents a 43.6 percent increase since 2002. 43.6! And the more than $350 billion in receipts they took in is an increase of 58 percent in the same period. 58%!

These are people who’re developing not only political clout but their own economic power. They’re taking a page from the Anglo’s and organizing both bases to increase their economic and voting importance. At the moment, thanks to King, Cruz, Lee and other flatulent GOP anti-immigration foes, all Democrats have to do is keep quiet, do some homework in precincts and stand at the polling box with arms wide open.

Again, I don’t like writing about statistical tables and miscellaneous numbers. But these are significant. These statistics are the best way to draw the new picture of who we are – of who we’re becoming. To ignore them is to ignore our future. And right now, a lot of people don’t seem to be paying much attention. They do so at their own – and their political party’s – peril.

Share on Facebook

Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Idaho is well hidden from the national media spotlight when it comes to quotable prominent voices making prominent quotable quotes. But it’s happened twice in recent days. One worth nothing. The other not so much.

The less worthy words came from Speaker Boehner as he visited Boise to raise more Republican money for still more Idaho Republicans. People who should know better paid big bucks to hear Boehner promise a “whale of a fight” over the debt ceiling struggle just over our political horizon.

Our country is torn apart by out-of-control partisan politics, government intransigence to deal with any meaningful issue in any meaningful way, sequestration that’s deeply affecting millions of Americans, financial big guys raping investors and customers alike, our military sacrificing young people in Afghanistan for no discernable purpose and a president tip-toeing around on getting us into another civil war.

But Boehner chose to ignore all that and put Idaho in the media spotlight with yet one more GOP threat to close up government when the bills come due for all the federal dollars already spent. That’s what the national debt ceiling is, you know. Paying for what you’ve already bought – not what you might buy in the future. But the GOP has been making a useless fight over this debt ceiling business as if it were some kind of Holy Grail. It ain’t.

Rome burns. Emperor Boehner grabs his fiddle. And he plays still more uselessly partisan tunes for the national media to broadcast. All with Idaho’s name attached. Well, maybe better than skinhead stories. Maybe.

The far more noteworthy appearance by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor got some national play. Though not as much as the Boehner babble. She was in Boise – not to make money for perpetually dollar-starved politicians – but to honor and promote efforts on behalf of women in the marketplace. Any marketplace. Seeking any goal.

She spoke to her subject. And she did it well. But, along the way, she detoured into some comments that got little note – except on MSNBC. What she said in Boise should be heard by millions more of us.

Here’s the sum of Justice O’Connor’s remarks. About two-thirds of us can’t name one Supreme Court justice – only about a third can name the three branches of government – four out of five high school seniors can’t explain how citizen involvement benefits a democracy – less than a third of eighth graders can state the purpose of the Declaration of Independence though that purpose is right in front of them in the title of the document.

And worse. O’Connor said research has shown young people getting out of college have just about the same level of civics ignorance as when they went in. Even those leaving grad school. They go in without it – spend thousands of dollars – even tens of thousands – for more education and come out with no more understanding of how our system of government operates.

She had more examples but you get the idea.

Rather than just complaining about a problem – as in the Boehner example – O’Connor’s has been doing something. She and a few others formed icivics.org. – an online site for students. And teachers – many of whom are just as ignorant of government history as the kids in their classrooms. It’s bright and colorful. It’s full of history and games. It’s fun. And it’s a great, easy way to learn about government. For kids. And the rest of us.

Boehner’s all-too-familiar remarks got a lot of national media play. O’Connor’s learned criticism and tragic facts – very little.

As if putting an exclamation point on O’Connor’s quotes – a national polling outfit this week found nearly three times as many Americans could discuss the unseemly Miley Cyrus TV gyrations as knew anything even remotely connected about Syria and the use of chemical weapons. Three times as many!

There are too many Americans who say they’re disgusted with politics – don’t like politicians – think they’re all a “bunch of crooks” – never watch or read political news – don’t have time for politics – don’t understand it – have other, more important things to do. Road Apples!!!

The intellectually-challenged Congress we have is the result of too many people not participating – or not participating knowledgeably in our system of governance. It’s the result of too many people elected to office with little to no understanding of how to do the jobs they were elected to do.

To those described above – the unknowing and the uncaring – last week’s real news out of Idaho represented by these two national figures is this: O’Connor is the kind of intelligent, contributing American who will leave a positive impact on history when you pay attention to our national political affairs. John Boehner is what you get when you don’t. O’Connor will have a place in history Boehner can only dream about.

If you feel a little short on American government – maybe need a little brush up – or just want to add to your own education – the site is icivics.org.

You might just learn a thing of two.

Share on Facebook

Rainey