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Posts published in “Rainey”

Getting facts or drinking kool-aid?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Now that Nate Silver has achieved the title of “Most Accurate Pollster To Ever Poll A Poll,” I’d guess he’s deeply involved in negotiating a new, well-earned deal at The New York Times for considerably higher wages. Wonkish to the top of his little bifocals, he called 49 out of 50 state congressional races and gave the Obama administration reason to sleep well during the late stages of the presidential run.

With campaigning over for awhile, young Nate should be taking time off to peddle his book or teach advanced statistics at Columbia. But, NO, not the Prince of Polls. He’s writing his almost-daily column and still digging around in discarded reams of other people’s polls on the campaign floor. His findings are interesting.

Mitt and many of his former gang are in various stages of seclusion. A few – at the top of what has to be the least informed and least effective presidential campaign staff in history – are speaking out about their hammering. Some are proving conclusively – on Faux News and CNN and in various op-eds- that they were bad at their jobs. Likewise, the GOP is searching blindly to see what it all means. So far, it’s clear they don’t know. All of ‘em should be talking to Silver. He knows exactly.

It’s important to remember Nate doesn’t do polling. He carefully selects data from those who do. Not all of it fits his needs. Sort of like scoring at the Olympics – throw out the top and bottom – take your numbers from the middle. Plus some mumbo-jumbo only Nate understands while adding his own “secret ingredients.” As he has said, “avoid the passion and stick with the numbers.”

While Mitt was contributing almost daily to his own electoral demise, Neal Newhouse and his other polling elves were blindly assisting. They were living in a data “cone of silence” exclusive of outside information. When that happens, and you have even one error, it becomes a part of the base data and is perpetuated in everything that comes after. Simple as that. Like getting ALL your news only from Fox. Or MSNBC. Any one source. (more…)

Fiscal cliff or backroom poker?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

A magician’s best weapon to fool you is “misdirection – a word, a gesture or a movement to make you think or look at something different from what the guy’s actually doing. When the really good ones master the concept, you’ll be fooled every time. Works well in politics, too.
All our national media is awash in “fiscal cliff” hysteria. Will we go over? Will we be saved at the last minute? How bad will it be? Who’ll be to blame? All this “cliff” business is drowning out just about everything else. To me, all that noise is misdirection. You gotta keep your eye on what they’re doing – not what they’re saying.

Both sides are dug in. Really entrenched if you believe the talking heads. “Absolutely no way they’ll get together on anything before the end of the year” all the “experts” say. Maybe. Maybe not. A little piece of news out of the U.S. House this week may have more to do with that “misdirection” analogy than the media thinks.

Speaker Boehner jettisoned four of his soggy tea baggies off two important committees. Huelskamp of Kansas and Amash of Michigan are no longer on House Budget. You remember that group? Paul Ryan chairs that one. He of “Ryan Budget” fame. Medicare vouchers and all that. The other two – Schweikert of Arizona and Jones of North Carolina – no longer have keys to the House Financial Services Committee men’s room.
All four were abruptly dropped – apparently told by the media before being officially informed – for what House leadership said was “failure to be team players.” And what had these miscreants done? Well, three voted against the Ryan budget in committee or on the House floor. And Jones openly challenged leadership by opposing the war in Afghanistan. Defiance of orders to “get in line and go along.” Plus – he’s a budget “hawk.”

While such punishments are not normally worth noting outside the inside pecking order, these four get my attention. They share a common connection – three contaminated by tea baggerism and a fourth spouting anti-war sentiments. All are bedrock hard opposing new taxes. Of course, they’re not the only ones in the House. But – when pushed to a vote in the “official” House budget process – these four have been among the loudest naysayers. They want more and much deeper cuts in the national debt and no – absolutely NO – tax increases of any kind. Not likely they’re going to change. For any reason. These are not the kind of guys you want in positions of authority behind your back if you’re Boehner and trying to compromise with the rest of your caucus and the White House.

That’s why I label this interior shuffling “misdirection” and give it some importance. Boehner’s team is going to lose some votes on the House floor no matter what the final meeting-of-the-minds compromise turns out to be. He knows that. He also knows if he can’t get enough votes from hardliners in his financial committees to get any compromise out for a full vote, all Republicans are going to get pounded in the 2014 election because the public already perceives them as obstructionists. Polling in recent days has run as high as 58% against them if there’s no deal.

Boehner – who’s been a real underachiever in the Speaker’s job – wants desperately to compromise. But, to do that, he has to do some House “cleaning” or any agreement he signs onto will die before it’s born.
At the same time, in the Senate, eight members from both parties have been secretly trying to build a budget deal. Idaho’s Mike Crapo is one of ‘em. Using the Simpson-Bowles report as a starting point, this little group has been cutting, shifting and whittling numbers for a couple of months. And – with rumored “unofficial” input from the White House. Scuttlebutt is they’ve made significant progress. Enough so their discussions have turned to how to get whatever their final plan is through the House. If this group of “four+four” is successful, odds are good their compromise will be approved by the full Senate. But, what about the House? What if all their work winds up dead in some House committee because the extreme minority of goofy tea baggerists can keep it bottled up? (more…)

Christmas of the witless and departed

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

There are two ways to know for certain when Christmas is upon us:

Faux “News” begins its annual defense against the “War On Christmas” and the stores are filled with voices of dead people singing Christmas songs.
The Faux children got an early start this year in their defense of something against which there is no “war.” Just before Thanksgiving, Murdoch’s Misfit Munchkins were sounding the alarm with “breaking news” to match their breaking zits. Christians and faux Christians were being warned that “this time it’s real!”

Actually, this is the kind of “war” I most enjoy. A phony one. As we send out Christmas cards, put up the Christmas tree, hang the colorful Christmas lights, draft the Christmas guest list, set up the Christmas manger tableau, play the Christmas music on the stereo, shop for the Christmas turkey and attend multiple Christmas religious celebrations, I feel so – well – not under attack. We’ve had no ACLUers coming down the chimney. Night after night the neighborhood groups belt out the Christmas carols. Folks up and down the street can’t get within 10 feet without saying “Merry Christmas!” Stores around town have their “Christmas Sale” banners out and are running Christmas ads in our almost-daily, almost-newspaper.

Yet the Faux children and O’Reilly – that perpetual Ghost of All Things Past – are staffing the bunkers in their seasonal farce of the make-believe threats to what appears to be a normal Christmas here in the Oregon woods. Their ammunition is mostly gibberish interviews with weird people gesturing and babbling about threats to “take Christ out of Christmas.” But, like a lot of their endless other Faux skirmishes, they appear – to really thinking citizens – to be shooting blanks. Again.
I’ve checked a lot of other news sources – print – broadcast – I-net. All the “War on Christmas” references or links I can find go right back to Faux News.

Well, if it makes them feel better. Gets them through the stress of the holiday, as it were. Their irrational output on the dangers of Christians losing Christmas in a “war” that never was is less harmful to a lot of people than their other year-round Murdoch-directed mayhem.

Then there are those dead folks. Singing all those Christmas songs. Have you ever noticed? They’re all around now. Incidentally, I’m not a fan of what is called “piped” music. That’s the scratchy, tinny noise you get out of those little speakers in the ceilings of all the stores. I like music when I listen or dance. Good music. Professionally amplified. I don’t like music when I shop. Distracting. (more…)

Their dissolution is hard to watch

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances;”

Why Willie Shakespeare put “exits” before “entrances” has always been a mystery. Had I been writing “As You Like It,” I’d have put them in reverse order – the way they really work. Well, so be it.

The need of some people to “exit” from the overwrought, noxious media stage and my life has been on my mind lately. An already limited patience is at an end when I hear certain names. I’ve even compiled a list – in no specific order – and herewith post it for those interested to see if they’re on it.

One name is “Kardashian” or any kinship thereto. The term “reality” has been attached to their grotesque lives. There’s nothing remotely real about any of ‘em – including the many silicone enhancements.
Speaking of “reality,” all those TV programs masquerading as such – which get no play at our house – made the list. All. They exist because they’re cheaper to produce than most other shows. Also, they require no talent to be on them – just strong stomachs and a has-been career in something else.

Keeping to false “reality, Bieber, Sheen Jr., Lohan, Jolie, Spears, Gervais, Beck, Limbaugh, are on the list. And Bachman, Gohmert, Gingrich, Santorum, Brewer, Walsh, West, Smith (2), Scott, Paul (2), Akin and the entire legislatures of states trying to discriminate against minority American voters. And, of course, for local Oregon consumption – Robinson. Time is long-past for them to “exit stage very far right” given the paucity of their contributions.

A special engraved “get outta my life” invitation goes to Trump – he of the squirrel-like hairpiece. We’re talking “unreality” here. Whatever credibility he has left is not measurable by any device known to man.

Then there’s John McCain and hand puppets Graham and Ayotte. While Graham has suffered previous humiliations of intellectual over-reach as a senator and McCain sycophant, Ayotte is new to the mix. Voters in New Hampshire got her out of the state by sending her to Washington. She’d do less harm there. Idaho did that with George Hansen and Steve Symms years ago. But I digress.

Why Ayotte has hitched her little freshman political wagon to the other two elephants is beyond me. Both McCain and Graham are existing on previous contributory credits and those credits are wearing thin.

It’s not hard to fault Graham – with his mediocre career – for looking like a fool recently. Allowing McCain’s hand up his back, he’s done things and said things at the senior senator’s behest- apparently without much thought to what he was doing – for several years. They’ve gotten so good together you can hardly see McCain’s lips moving when Graham is “talking.”

John McCain, however, is a whole other matter. His pre-political career was of such strength-of-steel stuff as to make him a legend while still in the Navy. Between what’s been documented and what’s been told by others who shared his Viet Nam P-O-W experiences, McCain showed the stuff of real courage. There is surely no doubt. Aside from military recognition, he’s earned many, many public accolades. Entirely justified. All of ‘em. (more…)

These are the souls that try men’s times

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

There was a time – at the end of four quarters or after nine innings or nine rounds or the last vote was counted – the game was over, play was concluded. Everybody shook hands and got back to work. But no more.

Now parents punch referees – a winning out-of-town high school football team has to run for the bus ahead of an angry home crowd – a pro baseball player charges into the stands – the fat lady stops singing, then punches the orchestra conductor. Losing political parties feast on their own candidates. And some of the candidates don’t get the message that their adoring public has just devoured them. Right, Mr. West?

The amount of anger and mayhem lying just below the surface of our society these days is huge. And it doesn’t take much to set it off once something – or someone – scratches it. Whether it’s sports, lousy weather, bad restaurant service or politics, seems many of us are just looking for a chance to angrily attack someone or something for any perceived slight.

While the picking on Mitt Romney’s corpse has not degenerated into physical violence – yet – the verbal mayhem has become very excessive. Poor Mitt is being blamed by his fellow losers for not only costing the GOP the White House and some seats in Congress, but for angering Christians and making them stay home. That last claim is not true, by the way. Only Franklin Graham thinks it is.

What brings this “it ain’t over” discourse to mind was a headline today saying many on the far right do not accept Barack Obama as President. Not just the outcome of his winning the November election. No, Sir. They don’t accept his presidency. Going back to day one. Period. And some say they’ll fight it every day he’s living in the White House.

The always empty tea “pots” of our times have come up with a new high in low for craziness. An Idaho state senator is circulating a letter from on high. No, not God. The National Tea Party whizbang. He wants all the little baggies to spread the word: “We can elect Mitt Romney if we can get 17 of the 24 states he won to boycott the Electoral College.” It ain’t legal. It ain’t gonna happen. It can’t be done. So he can return to his breakfast routine of Jimson Weed and that weird black brew.

It’s not just the bonafide idiots, we’re talking here. If you check several of the less far-out blogs on the right – the usually accepted RedState.com, for one – you’ll find that crazed rejection crap even there. Ballot boxes have been stored – poll workers have gone home – all votes tabulated and even certified in some places – yet several million folk won’t accept the outcome.

“So what?” you ask. “Most of us do and, even if we don’t like what happened, we’ll live with it for four more years.” Yes. Yes, you will.

The problem is, you don’t run the national Republican Party. And a lot of that ignorant, outright rejection is coming from – wait for it – “leadership” of that national Republican Party! Not just the malcontents and crazies in the basement. No. Some of the people who actually run the place. The ones who decide who gets on future ballots – and who doesn’t. The ones who famously brought you Bachman, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, Paul, West, Walsh, Akin, Gohmert, Robinson et al.

A lot of Republicans are engaged, once again, in the always fruitless circular firing squad of blame. Romney’s goose has been cooked to a cinder. We’re hearing about bad organization, no organization, lousy demographics, bad polling, needing more Hispanics or African-Americans or Swedish plumbers, raising more money and better candidates. “All we have to do is say ‘We’ve changed’ and they will come” you hear. (more…)

An entertaining civic education

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’ve just seen Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Were I put in charge of this nation’s public education system, no student would graduate from any high school without seeing it. Twice. Once in the freshman year – again as a senior. It’s that important.

As I remember, when a kid of about 13-14 is assigned American history studies, most approach the task with as much zeal as being asked to eat sawdust. The pages are flat. The information is boringly black and white. The names uninteresting and hard to connect with reality. Watching “Lincoln” at that age would change all that. These are real people sprung from dusty and mostly forgotten lessons. You cannot see and hear them without learning. And feeling. It’s just not possible.

William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edwin Stanton, Edward Bates and ol’ Abe himself are now – to those kids – just so many names to remember for some meaningless test. But in the hands of Spielberg and the superb actors he chose for those parts, there is flesh and blood – depth of character – motivations for their actions – ample reasons why they should be remembered for their importance to our history.

The second required exposure – at age 17-18 – would provide a review and a perspective not possible the first time around. It would bring together lessons learned since the first exposure – lessons about real people – fleshed-out, ambitious, patriotic, honest – and not-so-honest. They would understand how things happened. And why. Added to other lessons learned over those intervening years – and with more maturity – the second viewing would create an indelible memory “stamp” to last a lifetime.
All of us learned Abraham Lincoln was a great president who ended slavery and was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. As a kid, you accepted those facts and closed the book. History learned.

But scholars want us to know more. Republican Lincoln was a wheeler-dealer who “bought” votes to abolish slavery using the power of patronage. He passed out government jobs as rewards to those who’d abandon their own political party or their pro-slavery positions by voting for the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many were offered to Democrats who’d been losers in recent elections and were looking to hang on. Do most people today know Lincoln used paid lobbyists to win his victory? (more…)

Can we get rid of the malcontents?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The latest lunacy from the far right is a top-of-the-voice demand to be allowed to secede from the good ol’ U.S. of A. or, in the alternative, renounce citizenship. Anyone that wants out that badly not only has my blessing but a foot firmly planted on their ass to get ‘em started.

It’s just a wild guess, but few of them likely have checked laws of the country they want out of to see how it’s done. Or if the rest of the state can go with ‘em. Or if either can be done. Being a helpful soul, I’ve done their research for them. And they ain’t gonna like it.

First, no individual or state can “secede” from this country. They can’t just pick up their marbles – or oil wells – and go anywhere else. We have some loudmouths in our Oregon neighborhood who take to the stump or the bar- or right wing radio – every so often, demanding several Oregon and California counties dump the country and form the Sovereign State of Jefferson. Much as I’d like to see them secede – er – succeed, they won’t. The occasional full-throated exercise is probably more the beer talking than any profound, thoroughly-researched, heartfelt desire to pack up and go.

Once a state joins a Union, it comes under the protection of that Union. If a state wants to secede, that state will be considered a “rebel” of the Union – as in the Civil War – and the federal government must do all in its power to preserve the “embodied collective status.” The Union. Should the rebellious state keep trying, it does so facing “severe economic results and law enforcement issues.” In short, whether we want ‘em or not, we’re stuck with ‘em. And they with us.

Personally, I’d love to see Texas malcontents prevail. Few states get more federal money – military, space, farm subsidies, etc. – as does Texas. If the feds shut the spigot, the state would soon look like an El Paso parking lot. From border to uninhabitable border. Also, Louisiana gets $1.45 for every buck paid in taxes – Alabama $1.71. They’d lose those. (more…)

Even I didn’t see mandate – but it was

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

MANDATE: noun (1) an official order or authorization. (2) the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.

That word “mandate” has been popping up in the media since the re-election of President Obama. For a few days, I thought it was not accurate. Most people usually use it only when someone wins by a significant margin. Which Obama did not. But I – like them – was wrong. Except that I DID believe a mandate was given – not just this usual one so often misunderstood.

It would seem some of the ill-thought-through, conservative feedback I got from some readers – the ones telling me “there was no mandate” – was wrong, too. Note that nothing in the old dictionary says a mandate is anything more than just “an authority … regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.” Doesn’t say “overwhelming” or “lop-sided” or anything else. Just “wins.”

So, seems there was a “mandate” after all. While I’ve not used that word to describe last week’s Obama victory – yet – I do so now. Maybe two or three of ‘em. Not just using the dictionary definition as evidence but because of other votes. For instance, the ones that totaled 332. The old electoral college. The place where 270 wins the pot. That’s the one real political pros keep their eyes on.
To knowledgeable folks, that 332 Obama win is more important than the raw vote total of about 120 million for both candidates and an Obama final victory margin of about three million. A “mandate” the dictionary says. And more.

Pros know the electoral vote is more important when it comes to counting. That’s because they look to see WHERE those votes came from. In Obama’s case, the majority came from large states with large populations and – more important to the pols – large elected political delegations. You can rack up half a dozen small states – Idaho, Montana, Utah, Kansas and North and South Dakota for example – and not equal one Florida or one Ohio or one California. Romney got more states than Obama. And lost.

So, in the political business, Obama got a mandate in the electoral college, too. When you throw in a net Senate pickup of three seats and half a dozen or so in the House, professional nose counters see a tide beginning to turn with a large off-year election only two years hence. Got to get out front.

Now comes a new national poll with even more bad news for Speaker Boehner and that caucus he can’t control. ‘Cause it adds more pressure to that small, well-defined tidal movement now turning against them. When voters were asked – days after the election -who’d be to blame if Congress and the President can’t solve the debt ceiling and sequestration issues, 53% said House Republicans – 29% the President – about 10% to both. (more…)

Non-traditional Oregon education

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While living in Oregon offers us many blessings, two really standout for me.

One was coming up with a Pacific Ocean as a border, then putting it on our western edge. I like that. Thanks to former Gov. Tom McCall, we are one of only three ocean-side states that allow full, unfettered public access to every foot of it. We get to enjoy it a lot. And one side benefit is we deprived Idaho of oceanfront property. At least for now.

The second blessing we Oregonians share is a growing, multi-faceted and extremely valuable community college system. They’re all over the place. And communities adjacent to each of them are better for their presence.

Here – near our little burg-in-the-woods – we have one of those. It’s got a really nifty, compact campus, offers some first-rate classes in relevant subjects, is staffed by what appears to be a well-qualified and diverse cadre of instructors and seems to always be looking for more ways to improve its value to the community.

Part of this last quality is the arrival of a new president who has some real-world experience in his background – in addition to the required educational stuff, of course. But, even before his tenure, our little community educational gem launched a new, two-year degree program backed with considerable financial input from our regional grape growers and wine producers. The first year, students learn the basics of how to grow and care for grapes. The second, they learn the basics of how to make the wine.

Two factors make this a valuable addition to our neighborhood. First, students become skilled workers feeding into the more than 80 vineyards hereabouts – so skilled they can be hired at more than minimum wage and employers don’t have to do lengthy, one-on-one training with each hire. Same for the more than 40 or so wineries.

The other major benefit is, if students complete the course wanting to learn more, our little program is designed to lead into two universities less than 100 miles away that offer even graduate programs in the grape-growing, wine-making subjects. What a deal!
As one who hates the hide-bound resistance to change so present in our higher educational systems, I like the smaller, quicker response these community-based schools can provide. And we may be about to see an excellent example of that. Right here! (more…)

What kind of intrusion

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Whether we have too much government or not enough, do you know how many of such entities we really do have in this country? I didn’t until going through the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report this week. Right now – today – the count is 89,004 local governing bodies! 89,004!

But take heart, my government-loathing friends. That is DOWN from 89,476 in 2007 – the last year the census folks counted. We’re goin’ the right way!

It breaks out like this: 3031 counties – 19,522 municipalities – 16,363 townships – 37,203 special taxing districts and 12,884 independent school districts. Every five years, the feds count ‘em all and it’s the only uniform source of statistics for all the country. Knowing these numbers, the experts can do in-depth studies of trends and provide a universally accepted base for a complete, comprehensive and authoritative benchmark.

So how many of us work for all these “governments?” That would be about 16 million – also down about 1.4 percent since 2010. To relieve your angst about the “size of government,” included in that total are 8.9 million education professionals, about 950,000 in hospitals, 923,000 in law enforcement and 717,000 in corrections. Rest are your old garden variety bureaucrats, I guess. But of course we know, “government doesn’t create jobs.” Yeah.

Now, next time someone accosts you with some “government is too big and intrusive – get rid of a lot of it – damned bureaucrats – etc.” – you can counter with just how many there really are and who they are. Because that angry person likely won’t know.

A respected correspondent accosted me the other day with a claim that government – Democrats in particular as is his wont -was being intrusive in San Francisco by banning large soft drinks. Intruding in our lives as it were. Not sure I’d blame just Democrats, though. The former-Republican-now-Independent Party Mayor of New York City did the same thing with a politically-divided city council. Other communities – Democrat, Republican and some with no party affiliation at all – have, too.

No, the issue is not one political party or another when it comes to government’s reach into our lives. After all, each of those 89,004 governments was elected. So, in a “majority rules” society, most of the people governed – we/us – should be held responsible when something is decided politically. Whether we like the decision – whatever it is – or we don’t. The real issue is that, sometimes, the majority just does things that run contrary to our minority views. It goes both ways. (more…)