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Posts published in “Rainey”

Stressful oceanside living

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Most of us move many times in our lives. For whatever reason exists at the moment. Life’s exigencies as it were. In the process, we’re deluged with changes in nearly everything. New environment – new and different shopping – new geography and place names to learn – sometimes different local customs or practices – new driver’s licenses or passports. Leaving friends. Meeting new people. The whole moving experience is often change top to bottom. We get used to it.

I’ve moved many times. Many and often. Across town, state-to-state, coast-to-coast and border-to-border. Life’s adjustments caused by relocating have been regular and varied. So often, in fact, I thought our most recent was just another “pack-‘em-up-and-move-‘em-out.” Wrong.

The first time we moved to the edge of the Pacific was a decade ago. We did it because we’d never lived there. Simple as that. Lots of exciting new things to experience and a very different living environment. My flat land artist wife has been ocean-smitten for years. So when the moving bug hit this time, like Brigham Young, she pointed westward and the family wagons moved. And we learned all over again.

Coastal living – Oregon coastal living – is a whole new deal. Take shopping, for instance. Most communities are small with limited store selection. If you want a Costco or Mode or Best Buy, you have to drive more than 50-75 miles inland. Then back. There may be an occasional Safeway or Fred Meyer but most grocery outlets are small, regional types like IGA or Ray’s or Grocery Outlet or Mom & Pop’s.

Prices for everything – everything – are higher. It’s a lifestyle premium you pay for rainfall that can exceed 90 inches a year. Yes, Virginia, 90! And there’s the fog and cold and other things that aggravate your arthritis and rheumatism. Lots of seniors try living near the ocean but find some of the frailties of age can make it a painful experience. So they either develop a tolerance or move inland again.

You can’t just go to a store near the ocean and buy anything you want or need at any time. One June, I was looking for a long-sleeved shirt at the largest chain store in Brookings and was told they only carried long-sleeved shirts between September and April. If I really wanted one in June, it would be a 180 mile drive. Until September, of course.

Medical care is most often sketchy. Hospitals – where they exist at all – are small and specialists are few. So major medical needs result in 100-200 mile drives inland or, in the case of a real emergency, air ambulance. Cost for that? Don’t even think about it. (more…)

Right wing amoeba splitting

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A basic tenet of folks on the right in this country is they can’t abide unity. It’s what they preach. It’s on their signs in the streets and is the major theme of their boisterous and usually crazy gatherings. But unity is a concept they can’t grasp. It happens again and again. And it always will.

The Achilles’ Heel of the extreme right is distrust coupled with anger. Why? Because the prime motivational forces of those most drawn to the lunatic fringe are – wait for it – distrust and anger. The passions that bring them together are most often distrust of – or anger with – government. Or some element of thereof. Read their literature. Listen to their preferred media. Hear their spokesmen. No words of peace. No talk of love. No promise of better times. No plans offered. Just the ever-present distrust and anger. Of someone or something. Always.

But, while these two traits draw them together, sooner or later they’re the same forces that create divisions of loyalty, splits in “philosophy” or give birth to factions which break off from the original group to form one or more new cells of the distrustful and the angered. This basic truth is what’s likely to make the Republican Party a minor national influence for years to come. And many elections to come. Evidence is everywhere.

Take the now-discredited Texan Dick Armey – around whom tea baggies gathered so faithfully a couple years back – that same Dick Armey had a “philosophical” falling-out with the big money guys in their faux “grassroots” club. He walked out the door with a “severance package” of $8 million plus. Stage far right of course. Seems he was seeing things differently from the billionaires who’ve been putting the big money in his pockets all this time. He was angry and distrustful. “Grass roots movement?” Oh, sure. Yeah. You betcha!

Then consider Jim DeMint quitting the U.S. Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, which began long ago as a respected conservative “think tank” but which has become a bastion of all things far, far to the right. His stated reason? He can “be more effective.” Sure. If you’d been reading his clippings recently you’d have known he was angry his far right minority views weren’t being adopted by the majority of his GOP colleagues – that he was feeling “stifled” and couldn’t carry out his “agenda.” He even put hundreds of thousands of dollars into 2012 primary campaigns against sitting senators. In his own party! Anger. Distrust. He also more than tripled is income!

Rep. Shelley Capito of West Virginia, says she’ll run for the U..S. Senate in 2014. Years of GOP membership and service. The ink wasn’t dry on the press release before three – count ‘em – three “republican” groups (small r) denounced her, saying they’d support someone else in the primary. Their joint “reasoning?” She occasionally voted for things they didn’t like and all said “she couldn’t be trusted.” Oh, yes. They were angry, too.

The Koch boys tried to take over the Cato Institute this year – another fortress of GOP “conservatism.” Not far enough right for the Koch’s and their phony “Americans For Prosperity” front. They lost in court. They were angry. From Pine Street in Meridian, Idaho, to “K” Street in Washington, DC, the far right is constantly in a state of amoeba-like throes of joining – then splitting. It was ever thus. It will ever be.

Faux news chief Roger Ailes was very angry when he took Karl Rove and political whore Dick Morris off the payroll this year. Temporarily for Rove. “Unprofessional behavior,” he said. “Angry and distrusted,” sez I.

Even John Boehner had to “fire” four members of his caucus from important committee spots so he could assure passage of whatever budget deal he and the White House might agree to. And they will. Naysayers who opposed him from within did so because he wasn’t “pure” enough – because he appeared willing to compromise. Purity rejects compromise.

Basic, child-like reasoning would say “put all your similarly inclined, disaffected into one organization – one club – one party – and you’d be a force to be reckoned with. Your numbers would be sizeable and your affect on elections could be greater.” It won’t happen. (more…)

The move from hell

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

We – Barb and I – have just finished “the move from Hell.”

With a quick curtsey to the folks still living back there under the trees in the old forest in far Southwest Oregon, I don’t mean you’re still in Hell. It’s just, well, politically warmer there.

No, I mean by “Hell” one of life’s little experiences that really tests the limits of one’s patience, strength, durability and causes you to think you really are in Hell. Of course, all of those things are magnified when you both reach your 70′s and still try to do the things you did in your 40′s. You may look younger than your years. You may feel younger. You still may be living a lifestyle that belies those 70 years. But inside, when push comes to shove – or rather when push comes to lift and carry again and again and again – there’s no fooling about the rings on your trunk. Those higher numbers kick in with the accompanying pain.

From the off-the-beaten-path ‘50′s approach to life and seclusion of the forest, we’ve resettled beside the sea. The Pacific Ocean as it were. We’ve traded about 40 inches of rainfall per year for something like 70. Also more fog – more wind – more gray skies. And a chill in the bones that angers the old arthritis.

But, when the sun shines – and it does often here – and the ocean appears as blue as the skies – it’s a marvelous place to be. We’ve lived on the coast before – Curry County actually. Rainfall in Curry routinely tops 90 inches. But temperatures are so balmy year-round that growers plant lily bulbs and harvest the grown flowers all twelve months. Periods of heavy rain – very heavy rain- are punctuated by several days of beautiful skies. And it’s not unusual to hit 70 degrees in Brookings in December while the rest of Oregon shivers.

Now we’re enjoying the welcome and comfort of Lincoln County which – like much of the rest of Oregon – is a two-party neighborhood. Everything we own resides in four large storage units and we’re sharing a 30-foot motorhome with Rat Terrier Winston and Calico Clementine. Unusual names, yes. It’s a Churchillian thing. We’ve changed our driver’s licenses, the vehicle registrations and have become registered voters. Independent, of course. A different life awaits.

But – recovering from “the-move-from-Hell” is taking longer than before. The sore muscles and sprains are going to be felt for more weeks than previously. Going from living in 2,000 square feet to about 180 is not as easy to adjust to as in previous relocations. Even an older Winston is grouchier than he used to get. (more…)

Some radical thinking

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Sitting in the timberlands of Southwest Oregon – after having lived in several other states over the years – I hear many people tell me how “conservative” the area is. They’re right. But they don’t go far enough.

These five wooded counties harbor more radicals, political extremists, flat-earthers and outright socially-disconnected people than any other place I know. Despite my lengthy residence and familiarity with some of these people, I am unable to tell whether they were radicals before they came here or whether living here has radicalized them.

But one thing I do know is that, after a decade of residing here, some of this “different” thinking is rubbing off on me. Not that I’m becoming a flat-earther or developing a strong desire to buy dried food supplies and more ammunition. No, it’s more that I’m having the beginnings of some “radical” thinking, too.

Here’s a bit: the political structure of our government is not currently serving us well. Together with some goofy political practices – like the phony GOP filibuster carpet bombing that appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – we’ve tried to live more or less as the founding fathers intended. But, in doing so, we have become gridlocked, separated from recognized solutions to our own problems and are unable to react to national conditions that change much faster than they did in 1776.

The intention of the authors so long ago was to have co-equal branches of power: executive, legislative and judicial. Worked fine for awhile. Even with the resulting slowness with which government operates. We’ve had times in the past when slowness – or outright inaction – saved us from making some large mistakes or going down the wrong road. That’s not entirely bad.

But we now can achieve little or nothing playing by the old rules because of the highly partisan, fractured nature of modern politics and huge changes of technology in our lives. The system of balances has become a three-way struggle for control. Answers to problems immediate and massive job creation are really achievable. There really are remedies to our national economic and financial mess that economists and other professionals know will work. There are many doable ideas to streamline the military, make government more effective, improve everyone’s quality of life and realistically reorder our national priorities and goals.

All that – and more – can be done. Now. But not if we cling mindlessly to the old ways because 235 years ago, a couple dozen guys in a hot Philadelphia meeting room did the best they could to negotiate solutions to the issues of their time. Their time! Slavery. British tyranny. Taxes. A war in some of their states that threatened an entire nation as they knew it. Then. Not one of them could imagine supersonic flight, computers, organ transplants, cloning, sending men to the moon and beyond, a worldwide economic system tying all nations together and all the other things we take for granted. Well, maybe Franklin could. But no one else.

Still, we try to run a country as if we were using quill pens on parchment paper to send messages by horseback. Jefferson had a three-day ride from his home to Philadelphia but we send people in space around the entire world every 90 minutes. George Washington couldn’t find wooden dentures that fit well but we now grow human ears and noses in a laboratory and graft on entire faces.

I haven’t yet designed a new system. But I’ve been looking at others that offer some interesting tools to help us change our current bitter stalemate.

Parliamentary is just one example. A prime minister is elected every four years or when a “vote of confidence” is necessary. That post virtually controls the political system when it comes to a national course of action, the economy, relations with other countries and much more.

Can mistakes be made? Sure. But corrections can come quickly in a streamlined decision and action process designed for our time. Does this vest a large amount of power in one person? You bet. But accountability is achieved at the ballot box and parliament. Does it work where it exists today? Pretty well, actually.

Of course, this is all just a guy here in the forest talking to the trees. Such a major redesign of our national government would take years to bring about and require an awful lot of work. And trust.

Would it be worth it? Well, you decide. How do you think we’re doing now?

They’re watching you – really

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Lots of folks have their shorts in a knot these days – mad because they’ve found out our own government is reading our emails and listening to our phone calls. Reading, watching and listening.

We don’t know exactly how this has been done or precisely how it started. And we don’t know what other sorts of officially sanctioned violations of our personal lives may yet be out there. But, with grudging thanks to Bradley – er – Chelsea Manning and Eric Snowden, we know more than we did. It ain’t good.

Well, get over it. If you’re fretting because you feel you’re being spied on, it’s because you are. If you’re worried about personal privacy, forget it! That horse left the barn years ago. Only thing different these days is we finally know about it for certain. You haven’t had a moment alone in years. Which may cause you to rethink some of the things you’ve been doing. Or saying. In what you thought was privacy.

Can this citizen surveillance by government be justified in a nation of guaranteed liberties? Depends whether you’re a hawk or a dove, I guess. I’ve heard seemingly solid justification and I’ve heard seemingly justified protests. But neither really matters. It’s going to continue and there’s nothing we on the local main streets of the country can do about it. Won’t matter who controls the White House or Congress. It’s here to stay.

A lot of us may never have stopped to think about how much we’re watched even without federal participation. Or how long it’s been going on. When was the last time you were in a bank without a camera overhead? What about your gas station or your favorite 24/7 convenience store? Been to an air or rail terminal lately? How about a major department store? If you live in a large city, when was the last time you got in an elevator and didn’t have a camera looking you over? Well, maybe that’s not a fair question because cameras may have been so well disguised you didn’t see them. What about the hallways and parking lots of your local hospital? Or courthouse? Or commercial storage shed?

A couple of decades ago, our favorite supermarket put up some cameras and a sign that told us it was “for your shopping convenience.” Or “your shopping security.” Major B.S.! It was for the store’s “convenience” and “security” and nothing more. Cameras over exits and checkout stands were to record robberies or see whether a clerk was skimming the receipts. The ones toward the back of the store were there to see if the lady who claimed she “slipped and injured herself” on aisle 12 was making a legitimate claim or working a scam. Cameras in stores are – from a corporate standpoint – a C-Y-A tool. Always have been. Your personal “convenience” and “security” have nothing to do with it.

About the same story for banks. Unless someone with a gun is in the act of holding it up, banks are one of the more secure places you can be in today’s hectic world. Quiet. Unhurried. Peaceful. It’s not your “security” the bankers are interested in.

Have you any idea how many cameras are watching every card – every slot – every table – in your nearest gambling den? I saw a documentary awhile back on a major Vegas casino. There were more than 200 eyes-in-the-ceiling. Just on the gaming floors! There were many more in the 30-story hotel. A lot more. (more…)

Luxury tampons? Really?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Well - yes and no. There’s still the regular, “low cost” version. But there’s also the new Tampon “Radiant” which costs 59 percent more per unit and comes in “designer packaging and wrappers.” Same product inside but a new look on the outside. As I said, “yes and no.”

Then there’s the new Bounty “Dura Towel” with thicker plastic packaging and embossed print resembling a dish cloth. Procter & Gamble says it’s “3X cleaner than a germy dish cloth - fresh and clean.” It’s also a nickel-a-square-foot more expensive - nearly double the cost of regular Bounty towels still made for the poor folk. Same paper. New design is all.

P&G has a new Cascade “Platinum” dishwasher soap on the market called “the ultimate clean for dishes” that “keeps the dishwasher sparkling.” Costs 12 percent more than the regular stuff. There are the new Tide Pods for “a great new way to wash clothes” for the rich and a new, lower-priced version of Tide called “Simply Clean” coming for the rest of us. Same basic stuff.

Yes, Virginia. There’s a point here. And it’s this. Major companies have been watching the spending patterns for the upper and middle classes. And those patterns are heading in starkly different directions. The U.S. Census Bureau figures our national “real median household income” in 2012 was $51,017. That figure is - wait for it - 8.3 percent lower than 2007 and 9.0 percent under the income peak in 1999.

Boiling down all the numbers, the middle class has less buying power - is buying less - and is buying cheaper. But the “upper class” is willing to pay more for what’s being hawked by manufacturers as “superior quality” or “top-of-the-line.” You know. Some guy buys a Lexus while the rest of us buy Toyotas. A lot of the same engineering but better packaging. (more…)

Let ’em eat

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

More than one in every five households in Oregon depends on food stamps.

Just so you don’t miss the point here, I repeat: MORE than ONE in EVERY FIVE households in Oregon depends on food stamps. Depends. That is more than any other state and nearly double what it was in 2008. Double.

Are we clear?

Think of 10 families you know. The Census Bureau figures, statistically, two of them are getting outside government assistance to keep eating. We’re talking “families” here. Suppose each family is five people. Now we’re talking 10 individuals. Ten out of every 50 of us. And if you don’t think that applies to anyone you know, then someone else knows even more folks using food stamps just to get by. So the ratio in your neighborhood could be even higher.

Dig further down in those numbers and you’ll find the large majority of assistance went to people in rural areas. Maybe in your small county, it was more like two of every five families. Or three.

I am sick of the blatant ignorance that says the majority of food stamp go to (1) lazy Democrats or (2) lazy blacks or Hispanics who won’t work or (3) deadbeats or (4) anyone who doesn’t look like the speaker or live in his neighborhood! Pick one. Pure B.S.! It’s on the I-net daily – spread by “dittoheads” who won’t do their homework. Well, here’s the homework!

When all but three Republican members of the House of Representatives vote to cut $40 billion out of the food stamp budget, chances are you knew a few families who’d have an even harder time trying to buy necessary basics.

And here’s something else to consider about that shameful vote. In all the history of the annual farm bill vote – 50 years more or less – its always been a total package. Always. Billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers or corporations – even a few members of Congress – AND the food stamp assistance program. It’s always been that way. Until this year.

With their majority in the House – and driven by a suicide-like urge to appease their old, white political base in the farm states – Republicans split the bill. Kept the billions rolling out to the farmers – private and corporate – killed the billions to feed people needing help. The rich get richer and the poor go hungry. The vote in the House was so blatantly purely political that even newspaper editorialists in a number of farm states pounded Republicans they traditionally praise. (more…)

Go get ’em, Ted!

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. (more…)

Republican, heal thyself

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. (more…)