Writings and observations

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The lies and damned lies of this presidential election could well damage our vaunted two-party political system beyond full recovery. At a minimum, they could change elective politics in very damaging, destructive ways.

Strong words? Yes. Mine? Yes, but not mine alone. Near-daily research of opinions of some of the best political minds in this country shows many of them saying similar and, in some cases, exactly the same thing.

That we are a badly divided nation is no overstatement. Daily transfusions of hate radio, political and social lies on all our computers spread by too-often anonymous cowards and the ignorant drivel of some in high political office combine to create the toxic atmosphere. Add prolonged uncertain national economic conditions affecting us all, a national media which seeks sensation without information, sustained high unemployment and you’ve got a breeding ground for division, mistrust, ignorance and hate.

To all this, add the now-legal ability of a couple dozen billionaires to bombard our national atmosphere with poisonous media messages – often anonymous and always uncontrolled – seeking to change the foundations of our society to conform to their own self-interests. Dividing us still further.

We have a presidential contest devolving into some of those “lies and damned lies.” While the principal candidates must share some blame, the more scurrilous of the bunch come from those SuperPACs. The ones that are supposed to operate completely unattached to the candidates they support. Road apples! Two of the Obama and Romney SuperPACs are headed either by former staffers or avowed supporters very familiar with each man. Such isolation as there may be rests in the lack of emails or other direct communications but any separation stops there. They are “joined at the hip” for all practical purposes. To the extent they are, the candidates must accept a large share of the blame for the falsity of their messages.

Here are two specific examples of charges that are completely untrue. From the Obama camp, the charge Mitt Romney is “hiding” his tax returns. Not true. Romney’s returns are legally protected from publication as are those of the rest of us. Despite the false charge of “hiding,” Romney and his advisors have made a calculated political decision not to publish what he is entitled to keep private. You may argue – and I certainly do – that the decision is doing more harm than good as continued polling shows. But to claim he is “hiding” them is not true.

On the Romney ledger of lies, the charge that Obama is the “most divisive president in our history” and that his is an administration of “separation and destruction of our society.” Not true. For two reasons.

First, he’s done nothing overt to divide. But many in society have made it clear they don’t want a black man in the White House. Hateful, racist examples of that have been plentiful these last four years. Right wing media, hate radio, street demonstrations and intellectually vacant – and most often anonymous – emails by the millions. Division – if division there be – can be more accurately described as coming from outside the White House than within.

One oddity of that is that Obama is not a black man. He is an American of mixed race who has chosen to live his life as a black man. He has written of his decision based on his skin color and of his father’s Kenyan birth.

The second proof of the “divider” lie is Obama’s training and education. He has been a constitutional law professor, counselor and head of several groups which exist because of their ability to compromise, modify messages and cooperatively bring about change and attract others to their cause. Fellow Democrats have often complained of his too-easygoing political conduct because of Obama’s intense efforts to get opposing political forces to come together in conciliation and compromise. His most memorable political losses have largely been because he attempted compromise when he should have resorted to arm twisting. Not the legacy of a “divider.” The charge is false.

But these and other lies persist as the anger levels rise and the attacks become more personal. As a student of political history, I’m aware of many previous campaigns of hate and division. What differs now is the means of communications – instant and everywhere. Nearly 150 years ago, it took the news of Lincoln’s assassination nearly a month to cross the continent. Today, when a political lie is told, it reaches from Florida to Alaska in seconds. I-net, Facebook, Twitter and the rest send fact, lies and gossip all mashed up with a keystroke. No fact-checking; no editing; often no truth.

Neither presidential candidate is blameless. Both parties share guilt. SuperPAC’s – anonymous, cash-glutted, self-serving, lying – are cancers causing damage to our electoral system which may fundamentally change our nation forever. It is not overstatement. Proof is everywhere.

Whether the elections are a significant contributor to national fear and anger or are a symptom of what’s already there is a fair debate. But this fact is crystal clear. The middle class is being savaged and gradually eroded. No good can come from that. Only worsening economics and a making a weaker nation. Hate, anger, racism and unbridled spending by those who amassed their fortunes because of the historic labors of that middle class are combining to gut such democracy as we’ve historically preserved through wars and other challenges. What irony if we are undone by a court decision that gave corporations the rights of individuals. Free, unfettered speech.

Yes, it’s that serious.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Despite my near total ignorance of fashion, I’ve always liked the color hot pink. It’s not for everyone. But when it’s worn by the right person at the right time – it’s dynamite! I just never figured it would help me understand candidate behavior in a presidential debate.

I’ll leave the “what did it all mean” debate details to media heavyweights more intellectually attuned to such stuff. Besides, they get paid for the job. I’ll just stick to the hot pink.

Go back to the end of the debate on Tuesday night. After all the furor was over. If you looked up in the bleachers just above the section reserved for the questioners, Ann Romney was in the first row on the right – in hot pink. Michelle Obama was in the first row on the left – in hot pink. Damn poor planning that. Each almost an equal distance from the stage. Best seats in the house.

But – within half a minute of the moderator’s last words to the camera – Ann Romney was on the stage. The candidates had not had time to even turn to formally acknowledge each other with small talk. As is customary. Not that these two guys were going to do that. Fat chance. And it appeared to me Ann Romney made sure it wasn’t going to happen if she could help it.

She quickly climbed the few steps and placed herself on Mitt’s right side – smack between him and the President. About eight feet away. If Mitt had turned to acknowledge Obama, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann. If the President had turned to his left to speak to Romney, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann.

Within seconds, she consciously nudged Mitt to his left and the small group of his supporters standing there. No further acknowledgment between the debaters was going to occur if she could help it. Obama looked left, saw the situation and – about that time – Michelle reached his side. His left side. Shoulder to shoulder, about four feet from Ann – with no glance or other recognition between the two women.

The moment hit me like a brick. Two well-dressed women – in nearly identical hot pink – separating their husbands from each other and assisting both in avoiding what would have been tough and perfunctory – if not totally meaningless – small talk. Two lionesses protecting the family.

Within three or four minutes, the Romney’s and their entourage were gone. But the Obamas hung around for some 40 minutes, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with members of the audience. Suddenly, just one woman. Just one hot pink dress.

I immediately flashed back to the end of the earlier Biden-Ryan debate – after all the talking was done. Within a couple of minutes – and after the obligatory handshake with smiles yet – wives, kids and grandkids circled both men. Then, in a minute or two, both families mashed together into one hugging, smiling and chatty crowd. Adult Ryans were kissing each other – and adult Bidens. Adult Bidens were kissing each other – and adult Ryans. Kids in both families talking and running around the stage. It was just one of those very, very good moments in our national politics you don’t often experience. A good end to a good experience.

But the Romney and Obama slugfest? Well, if you wanted to determine the winner, all you had to do was watch the hot pink. Really made the whole winner-loser decision easy for me. Wonder what the coordinated color is for next week in Florida.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

With all the political garbage talk going on these days about tax cuts, we voters – the people who pay those taxes – are being promised impossible things while hard facts are being ignored. The kindest, most gentle way of putting it is we are being led to tax slaughter while being lied to. Even if your favorite politician sounds so reasonable and factual, there are things he’s not telling you. So, I’ll take up two of the major omissions right here. Believe me, the list doesn’t end with just these two.

When politicians talk about “rewriting the tax code” or “eliminating deductions” or “reworking tax rules” or “prioritizing tax breaks” you should be scared. Very, very scared. The last time a major tinkering of our federal tax laws was done, it was overseen by Oregon GOPer Sen. Bob Packwood. He of the “lady problems” who soon thereafter was told to go home by his peers.

Here’s the first landmine. During the 1980′s process, we middle-income taxpayers got screwed and the big guys made out just fine, thank you very much. No matter who wins this election – from president on down – you can bet the farm it’ll happen again. The reason is simple. When tax rewriting begins, you and I are way under-represented at the table. Almost ignored. But the big guys – the ones with the well-paid lobby folks ever-present on Capitol Hill – those guys have front row seats and unlimited expense accounts with which to peddle some well-compensated Gucci influence.

Since you and I won’t be attending, who’ll speak for us? Who’ll make the case that our precious homeowner exemption is more important than some international company not having to pay taxes on a corporate jet? Who’ll speak up for you when the cutting turns to second home exemptions for RVs against someone’s luxury tax exemption for a 60 foot yacht? And that child tax credit. Will that survive a “K” Street onslaught by the briefcasers when they want to eliminate it in favor of another tax goodie for the international jet set?

If you don’t think that kind of horse-trading campaign contributor pressure is not exerted to the maximum against individual citizen interest, you must think Little Big Horn was just “a failure to communicate.” The big guys have an army – a well-paid army – to speak for them. Since you won’t be there, who’ll speak for you?

Then, there’s omitted tax cut fact number two. Let’s suppose – just for giggles – we all get the 20% federal income tax reductions being promised to we middle-classers. Whoopee! Yowser!!! Way to go!!! We’re off to the BMW dealer, check in hand.

Better wait up there, “ultimate driving machine breath.” You haven’t heard from your friends in the state capitol who set budgets and write the laws regarding levies and collecting taxes. You haven’t heard from your friendly county commission that shares the same legal responsibility.

If your state legislators and your county commissioners find themselves not receiving those absolutely necessary federal dollars – the ones you don’t pay anymore – what do you think the next step is? Can you say “tax increase?” Maybe “BIG tax increase?” Because your legislature and your county commission have responsibilities required by law to provide certain public services. It’s not a matter of “IF they’ve got the money.” No. It’s a matter of they HAVE to and they have absolute authority to reach into your pocket to do so. And, believe me, they will. I don’t care what you’re being told between now and election day. In many ways, they have no choice.

Oh, and don’t forget those other taxing folks in your neighborhood. The sewer districts, road districts, school districts, water districts, mosquito abatement districts, etc.. The ones getting fewer federal dollars, too.

Take the county, state and federal taxes you and I pay right now. Put them all in a big purple bag. Every dollar in the bag has been paid because each governmental level has lawful responsibilities or budgeted demands it must cover. So, let’s say, the feds put in 20% less – that 20% tax credit you’re being promised. Well, what has to be paid for by law still has to be paid for. By law. Who’s going to make up that missing 20%? You know. The 20% you didn’t pay?

Yep. Since the demands are still there, it’s us. You and me.
“But wait,” you say. “The answer is to knock off some of the things we pay for – those things that aren’t necessary. We just get ‘em to cut out those unnecessary things until income and outgo are the same. Ha! Gotcha, Rainey.”

Oh yeah? Go back up the column and reread reopening the tax code. Then think about this. Are you going to cut my “necessary” program or your “necessary” program? What if our “necessaries” aren’t the same? What about the other guys “necessaries?” And more important, who’s going to speak for you?

Remember, those corporations and those billionaires have that well-shod army of lobbyists. The ones with the healthy expense accounts who have nothing more to do with their well-paid time than represent the big guys. The situation here is exactly like the first scenario. Who speaks loudest? Where do all those major political contributions come from? Where is the most influence? Who speaks for you against the horde of professional political influence peddlers? And who decides the “necessaries?”

The answer is they get the beefsteak and we get the bones. And we pay for that beefsteak they get. Happened just that way in the 80′s.
So, in case number one, the problem is when you open the tax code for changes, which changes and for whom? And, in case number two, the problem with tax cuts or increases is how big and for whom? In both cases, it’s Pandora’s box all over again.

Oh. And one more thing. Fees. Now, there are legal definitions of fees and taxes. One is not the other. But to we who pay the bills, it makes damned little difference because it’s dollars. Either way. We pay. And – in addition to the above on taxes – you can expect to pay more and larger fees on many things. You can take that to the bank. When a taxing entity has hit the roof on its legal limit to raise taxes, the next alternative is fees.

So when someone tells you their magic math can produce huge tax cuts while still paying the bills, it’s snake oil of the worst kind, my friend. The government giveth and the government taketh away. When you put your hand in your pocket to feel that wonderful tax cut saving – IF you get it – yours won’t be the only hand in there. That’s a promise!

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

To our national and individual shame, the nation’s protracted presidential campaign has been short on dealing with many major concerns. Billionaires have been getting more than their deserved share of attention. So, too, have lying politicians and elected crackpots spewing ignorance and hate. Even one of the signature stars of “Sesame Street” has embarrassingly become a major talking point. But what of this nation’s moral core? What of our shared responsibilities one to the other? What about the commitment that flows to each of us via our birthright of citizenship? The commitment to care for “the least of these?”

I’m a confirmed protestant whose had several personal and somewhat difficult encounters with Catholicism. It would be accurate to say my relationship with most things Vatican-sponsored is a strained one. But I have recently been introduced to an aged face of the Catholic Church that is refreshing and exciting. Her name is Sister Simone Campbell. The wise and very intelligent leader of “Nuns on the Bus.”

In April, the Vatican’s doctrinal office made both a strategic – and doctrinal – mistake. A big one. Rather than speak its criticism through normal church channels, it went vary public and loudly charged nuns – especially American nuns – have been outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other matters the Church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.

The nuns, led by Sister Campbell, had an immediate and equally public response: “Nuns on the Bus.” They hit half a dozen states with a full contingent of international media in tow. They stopped at soup kitchens, service centers for protestant as well as Catholic churches, toured low rent housing, visited homeless shelters, stopped on skid rows and did interviews about what they were doing and seeing. Lots and lots of interviews. It was “in-your-face” time for the Vatican. And for many American bishops who were actively stirring up opposition to what they believe have been President Obama’s efforts to “violate religious freedoms.” The ladies with the wheels one-upped them. And they still are.

Sister Simone, an attorney by education, responded “We’re doing this because these are life issues. And by lifting up the work of Catholic sisters, we’ll demonstrate the real need of the very programs and services that would be decimated by (Paul Ryan’s) budget.”

She noted financing for Catholic social services increased “significantly” under the Obama administration, adding “We’re celebrating the religious freedoms we have.” And she roundly rebuked the Ryan budget – near and dear to the hearts of congressional Republicans – because it would eliminate nearly all government programs for the poor at a time when the economy is hurting the most Americans in decades.

She cited a study by “Bread for the World” – an acknowledged nonpartisan group advocating on hunger issues. To make up for just food stamp cuts in the Ryan budget, the group found every church in America – again, EVERY church in America – “would have to come up with $50,000 dedicated to feeding people.” And do so every single year for the next 10 years!

Asked the Sister, “Can government walk away like this? Can we realistically expect our houses of worship to pick up such a tab?

Have the nuns been effective? Have they gotten a nation’s attention? By any measure, yes! And they got at least Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to speak up. And publically support them.

It appears the nuns and most of the bishops have found common ground on proposed budget slashing directly affecting the poor. Along the bus route, Sister Simone and the others are publicizing letters the bishops have sent to Congress protesting the Ryan plan. Bishops in dioceses along the way are showing up when the bus stops. Not all bishops. But an awful lot of ‘em. Lay leaders, too. Lots of ‘em. And many, many Jews and Protestants. And Hindu’s and Muslim’s. And the unchurched.

The Vatican had previously criticized the nuns for challenging bishops it referred to as “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” Well, seems some of the bishops have read that ol’ letter, reconsidered what terrible impacts the Ryan budget would have, totaled up how much more resources their churches would have to pony up to offset the loss of government support, repeatedly looked at the bus on their television sets and watched the overwhelmingly positive public reaction to the nuns and their message. Even for a bishop, that can make Vatican criticism seem much smaller and awfully far away.

Sister Simone does not wear a nun’s habit publically. She dresses in civvies. Aside from a small, tasteful cross, she looks like most other professional women in their 60′s. But her appearance is very disarming. Because, when she talks in any forum, she does so with a mastery of fact, figures, a bit of theology, excellent logic and sentences laced with the word “love.” She makes her case in every situation I’ve watched. And she includes charm and wit in her arsenal.

Though Sister Simone and her entourage represent the Catholic Church in their mission, it’s not possible for me to think of her as just a socially active person in one faith being effective in serving others. If you read the responses from all over the world that appear on the website, “Nuns on the Bus,” that mission has crossed all traditional lines separating religious thought. Colors and languages, too.

Though “Nuns on a Bus” are traveling only a few miles in only a few states, the phenomena has produced an ecumenical outreach worldwide. Makes me remember Christ’s travels were less than a hundred miles. But his message was world-changing.

Caring for the poor. Being keepers for our brothers and sisters. Respect. Love. The messages do seem very, very similar.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Something very strange is going to happen when the 2012 presidential election is over. Something I don’t think ever happened before in my long lifetime. The winner will be the guy who got the most votes from people who hated the other guy even more.

Bit of a twist in there, eh? Go back and read that last sentence again.

Put another way, more people who don’t like the guy they’re voting for dislike that other fella more.

Proof of this comes from more than a few national polls in recent weeks. The last Gallup sampling on this question of “likeability” among likely voters showed four in 10 pledging to vote for Mitt Romney even though they didn’t like him but didn’t like Barack Obama more. Pew Research got nearly the same result.

I’d been thinking about how negative voting – and outright hatred – could chose the next president, but sort of tucked the destructive thoughts away. But Sunday on “Meet The Press,” NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd erupted during comments from other guests. Unusual for a normally quiet guy like Todd. But the passion of his words was even more noticeable. And what he said brought those negative voting findings to mind.

Newt Gingrich was spewing forth another “I hate the President” outburst he’s famous for. And former GE CEO Jack Welch was again claiming a Democrat Party “fix” to lower national unemployment numbers to favor the current administration.

Todd apparently couldn’t stand it anymore.

“This is really making me crazy,” the normally unflappable, statistical guru of NBC News broke in. “The Federal Reserve gets questioned for politics these days. The Supreme Court. (Chief Justice) John Roberts. We have corroded.”

The conversation stopped and Todd spoke again.

“What we’re doing, we’re corroding trust in our government in a way, and one-time responsible people are doing so to control it. The idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch – rich people with crazy conspiracies – can get traction on this is a bad trend.” Host David Gregory went to commercial.

Todd’s outburst – more emotional than intellectual – was spot on! By giving credence to haters, electing incompetents to office, exalting hate radio voices as spokesmen, circulating anonymous hate emails by the millions every day on the I-net and blindly accepting the crap spewed by ignorant political “celebrities” who fill our living rooms nightly, we’re creating great weaknesses in the very government we need to survive as a nation. It used to be if someone “famous” said something stupid, it wasn’t news. Now, far, far too often, it IS the news.

Other polls – far too many other polls – have found huge numbers of American citizens know little to nothing about how government operates. A week ago, Pew Research found only 33 percent sampled could name the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. One in three! Where the Hell have they been?

Evidence is overwhelming that citizens of this country know much less about their system of government than most other developed countries. Why that is, who’s responsible and what can be done about it are subjects that would take too long to develop here. But the oft-proven fact is, too many people don’t pay attention until something touches them – war, taxes, disasters, etc.

When that ignorance is coupled with acceptance of the hate speech now overwhelming our national politics, and broadcast and other lies are accepted as fact, corrosion of our belief in our system of government is the only possible outcome.

A sitting member of Congress has widely claimed some 80 Democrats in the House of Representative are Communists. We have some 30 members of that body signed onto a ‘document” claiming President Obama is a foreign national or not otherwise accepting his U.S. citizenship.. Paul Ryan’s “legitimate rape” bill drew 17 co-sponsors. Mental midgets like Bachman, Walsh, Gohmert et al are making the laws under which we live. Why?

Each member of the House is supposed to represent about 700 thousand constituents. Do these incompetent fools really have that many supporters who mark a ballot for them? Who believe what they stand for? The answers must be “yes” because they exist as “representatives” of our political system. None of these folks – and many more not named – belong in office if you want a functioning democracy. But there they are.

One need look no further than the national Republican Party over the last year or two to see good people sitting on the sidelines and crazies being allowed free run. Romney took the primary simply because he was the least objectionable. Can my Republican friends really tell me the crop in the presidential primary was the “best of the best?” Were there really no other sane, competent, sharp, politically-experienced Republicans who could have more properly represented the bulk of the party? No one better and more qualified comes to mind? No one?

The truth is – the good ones – the sharp ones – the competent ones – “took a pass” and yielded the presidential race to the crazies who showed up. In their own way, the better-qualified Republicans added to the corrosion of government Todd was talking about. Rather than get in the fray with better ideas, better political backgrounds, better appeal to thinking Americans, they stayed safe on the sidelines. Waiting for 2016 and an open presidency.

Todd’s use of the word “corroded” is kinder and gentler than my use of the word “cancer.” But we’re both being emotionally and intellectually moved by the same sick source, eating away at our trust in things governmental. Hate. Distrust. Fear. Anger. Crazies. Ignorance.

I believe it is a cancer being given fertile ground by anti-intellectual and dangerous voices both in and out of government. It’s being nourished by people like Gingrich, Santorum, Bachman, Paul (2), West and others who have been given too much credence for their smallness of mind. We’ve allowed our school systems to graduate civic illiterates who then become illiterate voters. We’ve accepted the Limbaughs and Becks and Savages of the world as “authorities” rather than the instigators of mistrust and hate they really are.

We’ve not demanded the best and the most competent. We’ve not aided our democracy by being an informed electorate. Corrosion in American’s trust in government. The cancer that’s eating the guts of this nation. Neither could exist were it not for our acceptance of the unacceptable.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The basic rule of political punditry is you’ve got to be interesting, original and not sound – or read – like all the other pundits. But most of all, you’ve got to have your facts straight. Regardless of whether anyone has thought to write it down somewhere, the same rule applies to political debates.

The participants in the first presidential debate of our overlong political season seemed to have skipped right over that requirement.
First, the Obama side. His claim that Social Security is “fundamentally solvent” and “does not need fundamental changes.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says those are the facts today but will not be the case in 2030. Fundamental changes must be made. He knows that.

The President claimed his authorship of a “$4 trillion dollars deficit-reduction plan.” Actually it’s $3.8 trillion, counts letting the Bush tax cuts expire – not likely – and counts savings already agreed to a year ago. Bit slipshod in the math. He knows better. There were some other “stretches” to make points but nothing that most debaters don’t do when in full stride.

As for his performance, Obama needs to offer sincere apologies to all his supporters for showing up with less than his “A” game. He ignored obvious openings, walked right past distortions of fact, offered no challenges of his own and seemed sort of bored with it all. He had a bad attitude problem going in and coming out. And it showed.

The respected David Gergen nailed it for me. “Romney drove the debate,” he wrote. “I sensed the president had never been talked to like this over the last four years. I think he was so surprised that he thought Romney was just flat-out lying – that he never proposed a 20% tax cut. I think it sort of threw (Obama) off his game.”

As for Romney, this will be a longer list. But if my Republican friends will take off their GOP sweatshirts for a moment and look at Romney as only nondescript “Candidate A,” you’ve gotta go with me on this. Because “Candidate A” flat out lied. Many times.

Romney scored high in presentation, seeming interest in the debate, attacking openings and camera presence. Very high. Even some of his own staff said they had never seen him perform so well in public before. High “5′s” all around.

But – as a friend of mine has said – Romney became a human pretzel trying to make his various points. He stretched “maybe’s” into “sure things” and ignored fact when trying to make several points. While he certainly scored well for his side in appearance and presentation, he was near the bottom of the chart in substance and fact. He even flatly contradicted some of his own previous campaign rhetoric.

Here are some cases in point. Romney repeatedly claimed Obama has taken $716 billion out of Medicare and crippled the program. Fact: Obama has transferred $716 billion from insurance company payouts and hospital- approved provider payments to add solvency to Medicare. The dollars are still there. While saying he would not substantially change Medicare, Romney has repeatedly endorsed the Ryan plan which does – a plan he has repeatedly said he would sign into law. And he has endorsed the Simpson-Bowles Commission report which does the same.

Romney claimed he was not in favor of a $5-trillion tax cut – something he has supported on the campaign trail. He said he would not put any tax cut in place that would add to the deficit. But the non-partisan Tax Policy Center concludes Romney’s tax plan would cost $4.8 trillion over 10 years. The top one-percent would also get an average tax cut of more than $246,000 each under Romney’s plan. And he again refused to give specifics, saying he didn’t want criticism of his plan before he’s elected.

Romney said he would not cut education funding. While campaigning, he has said he would make such cuts or he’d pass whatever lesser federal dollar amount he approved to the states. But, again, the Ryan plan does cut education funding and Romney has endorsed that plan – even promising over and over he would make it law.

There are more items on the fact check list. Many more. In the next few days, you’ll be seeing and reading a lot of media and government kickback as the fact checkers do their business in depth. But here – in the first headlines – is a summary worth noting:

Chicago Sun-Times: “Romney wins on style – Obama wins on facts.”
CNN: “Mostly fiction.”
FactCheck.org: “Romney sometimes came off as a serial exaggerator.”
NPR: “Romney goes on offense – pays for it in first wave of fact checks.”
Huff Post: “Romney walked back many positions – denied own tax plan”
David Gergen: “Romney was just sort of flat-out lying.”

But the saddest fact about this first debate is this: far more people will have seen the movie than will ever read the book.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The other day, I overheard someone say the one thing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan need right now is a “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” as Tammy Wynette used to sing. As someone who’s made more than one trip down the aisle, the comment stuck in my consciousness. Now, 30 days or so out from the election, I not only agree but suggest the principals act quickly.

To say the candidate mating of Ryan to Romney was made in Heaven taxes both my political and religious beliefs. Romney chose Ryan with the far right of his own party holding a white shotgun between his shoulder blades. “It was white for the formal ceremony,” as they used to say. The “outwingers” of whatever base there is left of the Republican Party didn’t start off liking Romney. They still don’t like him all these months later. They trust him even less. So they chose the “bride” to keep an eye on the “groom” as it were.
Let’s take this analogy a few steps further. Let’s also – in a moment of total jest – suppose Romney wins the White House. No, I don’t think that will happen. But play along a minute.

Mitt becomes President. He sits in the Oval Office wondering what to do now. He has no previous relationship with Congress. He’s completely over his head in foreign affairs. His own party doesn’t like him – or trust him. Being a man of good faith, he’s gathered around him the same ignorant staff that served him so poorly in the campaign. There sits a guy with no idea what to do. And outside the fellow billionaires, no friends to speak of.

Now, next door in the old Executive Office Building – (E-O-B as it’s called in Washington) – next door sits Vice President Paul Ryan. I know that’s not likely, but just bear with me a minute. With his years in Congress, he’s created a large phone and computer directory – lobbyists, donors, bundlers, party throwers, committee chairmen and – wait for it – all members of Congress and, more importantly, their staff people who really know how to operate the government. More than that, he can put a face with nearly all the names. He’s got relationships, emails and unlisted phone numbers. Don’t you wish “President” Mitt had one of those files? Well, Paul has. Mitt hasn’t.

Add to this insider’s advantage yet another. The Republican Pro’s – and the base – like him. Trust him. They’re looking to him to keep Mitt – across the street there – on the straight and narrow. Ryan’s their guy. The other guy? Well…….

Now here’s where we get to the real problem. During the campaign, Mitt – er President Romney – had either no positions on issues or every position on issues – depending on the glass half-full, half-empty theory. He had what I charitably call “situational” positions. Name the situation and he’ll come up with a position.

Ryan, on the other hand, comes from the zealot wing of his party. Because he’s a much younger person without some experience to tell him better, he’s got fixed positions on issue after issue which he’ll share at the drop of a Powerpoint. He’s even got an executive budget. Sure, it may be crazy and entirely bogus. But he’s got one. And “President” Mitt doesn’t. More than that, all the Republicans in Congress have a copy. Most of them have already voted for it at least once.

Ryan’s got an abortion position – none – no way – no how – never – for no reason. Romney has had every – pardon the word – conceivable position on abortion. Ryan’s campaigned to privatize both Medicare and Social Security. Romney says he’ll “protect” seniors on Medicare and his jury’s still out on Social Security. Ryan has hardcore positions on issues Mitt still hasn’t developed more than one or two responses for.

The more serious point here is – as far as Congress and party pros in Washington are concerned – Ryan is one of them and Mitt isn’t. Ryan has access to – and relations with – people Romney has yet to meet. Ryan has political partners on Capitol Hill waiting to get on his bandwagon on issues near and dear to all their hearts. Romney doesn’t.

“Oh yes,” you say. “But Mitt is President and Ryan is number two.” That’s a fact. And protocol says the President runs the show. Yeah. Can you say “Dick Cheney” and “George Bush?” Where was the power in that match-up? Whose hand was up whose back?

A President Romney in the White House who, in eight years of running for President, still hasn’t a clue about operation of the executive branch of government. Sitting directly behind him, Ryan, in his 40′s and firmly fixed in both his political status, his youthful zeal for enacting his own agenda and in high favor with the power structure of the far right in Congress and his own political party.. If you were Romney, would you be comfortable? If you were Romney, would you be looking over your shoulder? Would you sleep nights? Is this really be a “marriage made in Heaven?”

As a guy with his own faulty record in the marital bliss department, this Romney-Ryan nuptial looks to me to have more than its share of land mines. I think it’ll take more than counseling. Does the Supreme Court do divorces on the side?

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

In the 1960 presidential election, John Kennedy received 49.72% of the popular vote; Richard Nixon 49.55%. Kennedy’s actual “win” came in the electoral college. Still, even in victory, he had to walk down the street knowing one of every two people he passed voted against him. Not a comfortable situation. Nor one that makes for effective governing.

Members of Congress knew that, too. Which was why his administration got off to a difficult legislative start. When half – or nearly half – the people vote for someone other than the winner, opposition in Congress tends to be stiffer because members know – statistically and politically – half the folks at home won’t be unhappy about their opposition.

Which is yet another sterling piece of evidence that Mitt Romney – the guy who wants be “Chairman of the Board” rather than a serving president – just doesn’t understand the office and hasn’t a clue about White House and congressional relationships.

One of Romney’s most used stump speech lines – public and private – is he doesn’t need to win by a large margin; “only 50.1%.” It’s his mantra. The phrase “50.1%” is never far from his lips. And it’s usually said with a smile as if he’s just pointed out something only he knows. Well, he may know the number, but has no idea what it means. ‘Cause it ain’t good.

Bill Clinton – the Lazurus of American politics – knows that. He knows, too, 50.1% wouldn’t be enough in this year’s poisonous politics to break the congressional stalemate. Democrats have more than 50.1% of the Senate already and it’s done them no good.

If – as I suspect – the makeup of the House and Senate won’t be much different in 2013 from what it is today, a president who doesn’t receive a mandate from the voters will have no more chance to break the logjam than Obama had these last four years. It’ll be more of the same.

So what would be a mandate? Hard to say. I’d put it at 54-57% at least. A percentage high enough that the president could go over the heads of members of Congress and make his case with the people directly on any given issue. High enough that his support and popularity would be greater than most members of Congress so he could pose a threat to their continued residence along the Potomac in 2014.

Romney is playing grade school logic here. If he were elected with just 50.1%, he couldn’t do any more with Congress than Obama. Many members, likely to get a higher percentage in their campaigns, would be emboldened with their own popularity to stop him at every turn. And remember- it’s not just Democrats a President Romney would have to contend with. It’s those pesky TP-GOP kooks as well. His 50.1% would buy him nothing.

Lazurus -er Clinton – believes if the next president doesn’t get a mandate, the other thing that could shake up the mess in Washington would be what he terms “an action-forcing event.” During Clinton’s presidency, Newt Gingrich and that over-hyped “Class of 94″ elected to Congress, forced a government shutdown. Closed ‘er right up for a couple of weeks. The backlash from voters in both parties was nasty enough Gingrich and his “pirates” were forced to back off. “After that,” Clinton said, “we worked together and had five good years together.” That overlooks an impeachment but you get his drift.

Some moderate members in both parties think letting the government “go off the cliff” in January isn’t such a bad idea. I think so, too. Let sequestration have its head. Let the budget slashes hit. Let the Bush tax cuts expire on everyone. Let those who voted for that idiotic “sequestration” rather than do their jobs twist in the wind a bit.

Then, first day of the new session of Congress, Senate Democrats – who will likely still have a majority – could immediately introduce a bill to restore tax cuts for everyone making less than $250,000 a year. Odds are some Republicans looking for cover would vote for that. A few have already said so. That could be the “action-forcing” event Clinton talks about.

As for budget cuts, once the tax business is out of the way, the coalition formed to pass that could become the bi-partisan working base necessary to take up the budget issues. The necessary cutting could be done then with no artificial deadline – more carefully selected reductions where they would do the least harm. I think it’s worth a try. Especially if the composition of Congress remains essentially unchanged in 2013.

These are the kinds of things a president can sponsor and work for – if he has a mandate. If he goes into the new year with some voter strength that comes from a 54% or greater election. Romney’s repeated “50.1%” simply shows he’s talking only of winning – not governing.

I hate to be the one out here in the Oregon woods to break it to you, Sir, but your idea of winning would be a national loss. Yours, too. It’s the governing you should be worry about.
Well, given the new polling, maybe you’d just be worrying needlessly.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

By July, 2050 – just about 38 years from today – 132.8 million Hispanics will be living in the good old U.S. of A. at which time they’ll make up more than 30% of the entire population. You can embrace that or – in some cases – fear that. But the Bureau of the Census says ‘twill be so.

In Northwest states – Idaho, Oregon, Washington – Hispanics are already the largest single minority group. That’s also the case in 22 other states from coast to coast. Each of the 50 saw major growth in the numbers from the 2000 census through 2010. In fact, at 52 million, Hispanics are the largest minority in the country. Period.
Couple these figures with growth in all other minorities and you’ll find we are living on the cusp of the largest racial and ethnic changes in our history – unless you count when the Pilgrims started pushing local Indians back from the Atlantic shore.

In fact, given officially projected growth in all minorities, the white, Anglo Saxon majority of today will no longer hold that distinction after 2050. We’ll be a nation of minorities with no single majority. Some minorities will be larger than others. But no single majority.

That’s never happened before. And you can already see signs this inevitable sea change of skin color and backgrounds is making some people fearful. Academics and others who study our national culture have been writing of this fear for some time. A few have posited that, because this nation has its first mixed-race president, racial appearance – and the too-often resulting prejudice – has contributed to the unreasonable hatred directed at him by some in our society.
It’s a fear, they say, fed by two major things. One is a feeling – true or not – that a white majority is being replaced in positions of authority. That some – used to being in the majority race and identifying with controlling events – are fearful of losing that power.

The other most cited factor deals with what people look like. Basically, their racial appearance. For example, until most immigrants to this country from Europe start to talk, no one usually considers that person to be in the minority he/she really is. They don’t look – well, different. But Asian or Black or Hispanic – that’s a difference that can be seen. And a difference that can often make some people uncomfortable.

Still, facts are facts. And the inevitability of this country not having a single racial majority in the near future is not open to question.

Let’s go back to the Hispanics. In 1968, President Johnson proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage Week starting September 15th and Congress extended the observance to month-long in 1988. Doubtful many non-Hispanics gave it much thought at that time. Unless they had roots in Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

But now Hispanics make up about 19% of the total U.S. population. Their number increased by 43% from the 2000 census to the 2010 recount. California, alone, has an estimated 14.4 million Hispanics. More than 50% of all Hispanics live in just three states: California, Florida and Texas. And in South Carolina, the Hispanic population increased 147.9% in the years between those census takings. 147.9%!
There are lots of other rather startling findings by the Census Bureau folks. But the point is, how is this nation going to adjust to this remake of our society as we lose a single majority to become a nation of combined minorities? What affects will this new mash of cultures have on business, lifestyles, education, health care, entertainment, agriculture and on and on and on? What sorts of changes are we all going to have to make – or undergo – to accommodate the new realities? All of us? Each of us?

Maybe I don’t fully grasp the life-changing significance of all this because – to me – this is an exciting time to be right in the middle of this ethnic redesign of our country. Being someone with a Heinz 57 racial makeup, I’ve always admired those who have a more simple – more direct – ethnic heritage. One with its own music and history and dress and even language.

We have East Indian friends, for example, who have shared their culture, food and history with us. It’s been a fascinating experience. Years ago, I sponsored a Panamanian friend for U.S. citizenship and learned firsthand of his native language and national history. Beautiful! One of my daughters was married in a Buddhist ceremony and, again, we learned of another minority culture here in our midst.

They’d been near us for years but we gave it little or no thought until our family was drawn into their lives.

Exciting time? Fearful time? This new reality is going to affect each of us. I pray the experience will be more the former and less the latter.

And, one more thing. Living in this country at the moment are 1.2 million Hispanics or Latinos who are veterans of our military. Seems they didn’t have much fear of putting themselves on the line for their adopted country. We need to consider that, too.

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Rainey

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

You. Fox News viewer. You who no longer get your “news” anywhere else. You folks who call yourselves true Republican “conservatives.” Listen up. Listen carefully. This is just for you.
IT’S NOT YOUR NEWS ANYMORE! Faux News is no longer reporting the “news” for true Republican “conservatives.” None. Zip. Nada.

This is not my message. It’s actually from Frank Rich of New York Magazine – a man made of much sterner stuff than I. Frank Rich – a most respected journalist for many a year – did something few of us with little patience for the phony faux-journalistic outpourings of Rupert Murdoch’s little Republican talking points factory could ever do.

Frank Rich immersed himself in seven days of nothing but right wing media – written and broadcast. He read and listened to everything he could find to the exclusion of normally accepted newspapers and broadcasters. Even the I-Net. From responsible conservatives like George Will and David Brooks to the flatulent Rush and others further out there who believe “true conservatives” use only tinfoil as a head cover. He spent an entire week buried in a range media output from solid information to fearful paranoia.

And you know what he learned? The one overriding insight he gained from such mental depravity? Listen up, Fox believer.

Frank Rich learned Faux News is not broadcasting “true conservative stories,” not dealing with “true conservative facts” and seems to be ignoring the real issues of concern to real conservatives.
Rich found denizens of the conservative forest are talking to others in the trees about massive federal debt and how to reduce it – their desires for real immigration reform – putting some Wall Street types in jail for nearly sinking our national economy – beefing up the military – gaining control of state governments – and other issues seldom found on Fox in any detail.

Most of all, the folks out there aren’t talking much about Mitt Romney. Rich found sizeable evidence “true conservatives” have written off Romney and are looking for more information about this year’s congressional and state races. They’ve conceded the next four years to Obama and want to find someone better than Romney to get behind in 2016. They want that search to start – today.
If your digestive system will handle it, settle down in front of your TV for a couple of hours with Fox. A good sour mash whiskey helps. Listen to the verbal chaff from the talking hand puppets. Make a list of what they’re chatting about, who they’re talking about and how many times you hear the name “ Romney.”

Then compare your list to what Rich says folks are really talking about in the REAL conservative world.. What you’ll find – as Rich did – is very little of the former and a lot of the latter.

Especially a lot of Romney/Ryan on Fox. You won’t find much detail about what real conservatives are saying, subjects local Republican cental committees are dealing with or conservative efforts to find a new presidential candidate. Now. Today.

Several national surveys by respected institutions have shown Fox viewers are poorly informed about real issues, are getting faulty information to reinforce the skewed views of the far right, have little accurate information about foreign affairs, and tend to believe “facts” that aren’t true. Now, it seems, even those real world subjects the true conservatives are talking about are being avoided by their trusted voice.

Rich and others have discovered the secret of Fox News. The real reason for its existence. To be a megaphone for the views of Rupert Murdoch. That’s really all it is. And, as we’ve learned about the operation of Mr. Murdoch’s British newspaper empire, the lengths to which he will allow his people to go to pursue his personal outlook on life. Even if they have to break the law or manufacture “facts.”
As a near-lifetime member of the media, I’ve long hammered Fox for a lot of things – for what I believe are good and professional reasons. But I’ve missed something. Something Frank Rich discovered by sealing himself off from the real world for seven days and existing on a diet of right wing propaganda while avoiding the Kool-aid.

Fox is not only untrue to honest facts in its skewed presentations, it’s also untrue to the audience that has long believed it to be the banner carrier of their political outlook. Its own base. And now, Frank Rich has discovered it’s lying – even to them! It’s serving only the guy who signs the paychecks.

Well, there you have it, my Fox friends. That’s the way it is. Your favored media bastion of all things conservative is no more real than Disneyland.

How about it? Want to grab a glass, an ice cube or two and spilt the rest of that bottle of sour mash?

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Rainey