Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Rainey”

Friends, it ain’t 1984

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

How’s about we rewrite the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

The most interesting story on my plate right now is public reaction to the disclosures that our government is “spying” on us. On the far right and far left, folks are coming unglued – bending what facts are known into either some massive conspiracy – or some massive conspiracy. Just what kind of “conspiracy” depends which reasoning-challenged theorist you’re talking to.

Of more rational interest, is the reaction of the majority in the middle of the political scale. Polling indicates most of us think government has little choice but to technologically look over our collective shoulders to find the bad guys – the really bad guys – out to brutalize this nation. That “middle majority” isn’t actually endorsing prying eyes in our communications but seems to understand that terrorism has to be rooted out and the terrorists use the same communicating technology we all do. Not endorsing but not condemning. For now.

Is the officially sanctioned snooping violating one or more of our rights of citizenship? Probably. Should we be upset about that? Probably. Angry enough to demand it stop. Doubtful.

In my book, this new facet of our technologically-driven lives shares a commonality with gun control and a couple other modern issues tied to our founding documents. We’re 237 years from the signing of the Constitution – living in a world the signatories never dreamed of. But, despite the overwhelming differences, we’re still trying to push, pull and stretch the two-century old dictums to cover today’s problems. You can’t get five pounds of old lard into a new two pound bucket. But we keep trying.

Take the gun issue. In 1776, we had one army that moved by putting one foot in front of the other – walking to where it was needed. Took about four to six weeks to walk the length of the 13 colonies. Local militias were needed to handle local problems until the army – which may have been two or three weeks away – could get on the scene. Now, a fleet of Apache helicopters can go from Maine to South Carolina in a few hours. Do concepts about militias conceived then still make sense?

Rifles then were muzzle loaders. Took about two minutes to fire, load and shoot again. Now an AK-47 shoots 150 rounds a minute. Are the rights to private ownership and use of the private firearm still valid 237 years and a few hundred million citizens later? (more…)

She’s just one of too many

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Sorry to see Bachman go? No. I’m just sorry about 40 more of the same ignorant ilk aren’t going with her.

That feeling is likely shared by a lot of others who follow the machinations of our national political system. Others who remember “statesmen” like Dole, Baker, Humphries, Dirksen, Roberts, Byrd, Brooke, O’Neill, Nunn, Hatfield, Church, Jackson, Mansfield, Jackson, Kennedy (2), Fulbright, McClure and many more. Talented people who made the system work. Sudents of government as well as politics. Whatever party affiliations – whatever their places on the political spectrum left to right – they were good at what they did. They loved what they did. They were – above all – effective in what they did.

Take the words “good,” “loved” and “effective.” Do those adjectives work for Bachman? Gingrigh? Gohmert? King? Issa? Ryan? Brown (2)? Paul (2)? Rubio? Cruz? Flake? Imhoff? Several dozen more?

Those people – and far too many others – came to the national spotlight unwilling to serve their expected apprenticeship – to learn the fine art of the deal – to understand the “big picture” of government and their elected role in it. To grow beyond themselves.

Those named – and many more – suffer from the “Palin Syndrome.” They have all the symptoms – the most deadly of which is the “I-know-what-I-know-and-I-don’t-need-to-know-any-more” fever. Each achieved – as did the principle practitioner of that illness – a modicum of success by running for – and being elected to – public office. And there the learning process stopped. Those who are successful in affairs political will tell you “that’s where the learning begins.”

Clinton, Reagan, Kennedy, Bushes (2), Carter, Ford and many more who got to the Oval Office after lengthy successful political service agreed on one factual statement. Nothing – even years of national political experience – nothing can prepare you for the presidency. The same is true coming into your first months – years – in Congress. It ain’t the city council.

But Palin, Bachman et al got to the front door of their respective elected offices, sat down behind the desk and proceeded to talk and act as though all us other poor, frightened folk had just been waiting for their ascension to save us from the fires of bureaucratic Hell.

Bachman and her wingnut peers fit that description. In addition to the “I-know-all-I-need-to-know” fatal flaw, Bachman and a couple dozen fellow travelers have been serial liars. She’s been dishonest with her backers and many people around her who trusted her and looked up to her. She’s also the subject of two current government investigations into her campaign and business affairs. And ethics. If any. (more…)

A word to do without

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Though you’ll find stout defenders of freedom of speech at our house, there’s a word appearing more often these days in our politics – nationally and locally – we’d actively work to abolish from any public political expressions in this country. It’s a despicable word. It’s a word with no place in thoughtful political dialogue. In nearly all cases, it’s a clear demonstration of the ignorance of those that use it. It has no place in any intelligent discussion of America’s politics.
The word is “Hitler.”

Used as a name, the word’s moat terrible meaning has been around our national culture since the 1920′s. Used as a political brickbat – a demeaning, disgusting weapon – the word was roundly resurrected in the early days of the tea party. It showed up in much of the literature – was repeatedly flung to crowds from microphones – and was on many, many placards, banners and signs announcing the arrival in the streets of the loony, far-right fringe of the Republican Party.

The other day, Sen. Grassley – an Iowan whose recent public rants have become more weird than usual – reached into the verbal dung pile to attach the word “Hitler” to American foreign policy. Grassley said this country “has no foreign policy” and the last time that happened was in “Sept. 1939, when Hitler started WWII in Poland.” There is so much wrong with that bogus claim Iowans of all political stripe should be embarrassed.

Here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, the word popped up recently
in a local column about an 84-year-old woman who sells guns out of the back room of her home. Lots of ‘em. She was referring to the latest nutty far right conspiracy tale that the Dept. Of Homeland Security is buying up all the ammunition as a means of gun control.

“We saw the same thing during Hitler’s regime and I’m old enough to remember it” was the quote. Pure crap. But she made it into the local almost-daily, almost-newspaper with it.

I’ve used this space before to dispel the oft-told lie about Hitler taking guns from Germans in the 1930′s. He made it tougher for Jews to have guns and required them to be registered, yes. But Hitler actually loosened gun laws and encouraged all “pure Germans” to arm themselves – a complete contravention of the Treaty of Versailles which required disarming of the German Republic following WWI.

But the lie persists. I ran across a Georgia gun dealer’s site on the old I-net the other day. Prominent picture of Adolph giving the salute behind and to the right of a picture of President Obama with a Hitler moustache and the warning “This one’s after your guns, too.” (more…)

A friend at the factory

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Bear with me a minute. This takes some background.

From our little burg-in-the-Oregon woods going South on I-5 to the California border, it’s about 125 miles. Within the last half dozen years, four multi-lane bridges along the way have been replaced/rebuilt and smaller ones in the communities on both sides of I-5 improved.

Now, North on I-5 to Corvallis, it’s about 100 miles. From here to there in that same time period, there have been four new multi-lane I-5 bridges built and another half dozen overhauled or strengthened. Bridges and two-lanes in smaller communities on both sides of I-5 have had similar attention.

Between the Pacific and Eugene, there’s a rail line used by commercial shippers. Several years ago, a major tunnel was declared unsafe and traffic stopped. Those shippers – mainly regional timber guys – hollered. Loudly. Sending things the long way around by truck was prohibitively expensive. In short order, the feds, state and some shippers came up with the big bucks and things were put in first class order.

Hold onto all that as we introduce you to our representative in Congress from the Fifth District – Pete DeFazio. He’s one of the older heads – a Democrat in a heavily Republican District. He relies on the more liberal Lane County voters to hold off Republicans in all the other counties that vote against him every two years. All of ‘em.

Would it surprise you to know Pete’s the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit? Or that he’s been on the Subcommittee on Railroads for many years?

Now, tie all that together. Highways, bridges and railroads. If you didn’t live in the Fifth Congressional District, you’d call all that “pork.” Strictly speaking, you’d be right. Good old federal bacon brought home by a ranking member of Congress. Taxpayer largess. Yep, pork.

But, also strictly speaking, all that federal help in our little corner of the Oregon forest is exactly what the federal government of this nation has been charged to do since 1776. Help us do the big jobs that need doing that we can’t do for ourselves. National defense. National monetary system. National transportation systems. Yes, highways, bridges and tunnels, too.

When the folks on the right loudly complain about “pork,” what they’re really saying is government dollars spent in their backyards are wise expenditures on badly needed projects. But, when it’s someone else’s backyard getting the attention – well, now – that’s “PORK.” (more…)

Poverty has moved out

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Like a lot of other things in our America these days, poverty ain’t what it used to be. It’s not where it used to be. It’s not who it used to be. And we in the West are among the prime statistical examples of the “new” poverty that seems to be under most people’s radar.

When we think of poverty – if we do – the picture that normally comes to mind is inner city or some of the smaller, mostly rural communities around us. Not so, McGee. Suburban poverty is the fastest growing segment of poor in America – up 64% in the last decade.

Brookings Institution has a new book out – “Confronting Suburban Poverty In America.” Using Census Bureau records and other numeric profile sources, the bottom line is this: almost 16.4 million suburban residents now live below the poverty line with just under three-million more in cities.

Check out the numbers for our region’s largest population areas. In the last decade, the number of people living in poverty in the suburbs of Seattle has increased 78.9% – Portland 99.3% – Boise 129.7% – Las Vegas 139.3% and Salt Lake City up 141.7%!

Co-author Elizabeth Kneebone found many reasons for this silent shifting of people below the official poverty line of $23,021 income per year.

“As wealthier folks moved to the suburbs,” she says, “a lot of companies did, too. Following along, people from inner cities looking for jobs joined the quiet parade. Service sector was a major employer but most workers were paid minimum wage or slightly higher.” Then the bottom fell out.

When the “great recession” came along, many of those jobs disappeared. Lower income folks were stuck. Businesses closed, unemployment went up and formerly middle class families started to slide down the economic ladder into poverty.

Compounding this new and growing problem has been a government that’s kept directing resources to the inner cities where poverty has historically existed. As people being served moved out to the ‘burbs, the programs didn’t move with them. Now, with our damned sequestration, agencies that have been providing the “safety net” are both miles away and losing their own funding. So, people at or near the poverty level fled inner cities to follow the jobs but the government support resources didn’t. Now they can’t. (more…)

Civic assisted suicide

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A few miles from our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, we’re witnessing an act of economic, civic and politically assisted suicide being committed by residents of Curry County. It’s a deliberate failure to shoulder local fiscal responsibility unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Especially considering Curry has one of the very lowest property tax rates in the state.

Curry County borders California on the South and the Pacific Ocean on the West. It’s a bit isolated. About 25,000 people live there – give or take one more retiree. Over 50% of monthly deposits in financial institutions in the area come from government benefits or retirement plans – many from out-of-state. Gives you an idea of the age and status of the population.

Of the dozen or so Oregon counties hurting right now because of the reduction – and pending elimination – of a federal subsidy paid in lieu of taxes on local federal timber lands, Curry is in the worst shape. The county has three towns – Brookings-Harbor, Gold Beach and Port Orford. City and county budget cuts made over the last couple of years already have gotten into muscle and bone. Unemployment, homelessness and crime are all above normal. Even for there.

Sheriff John Bishop is working with nearly no resources. He’s already on half-staff, not covering the county several hours each day, reduced patrols and living with a jail that’s mediaeval. People are being arrested – some more than once – arraigned and turned loose. Bishop is a hardworking professional dealing with the worst county civic support in Oregon.

This month, Curry commissioners put a special property tax question on the ballot with all future proceeds – all – going to law enforcement. If passed, city homeowners faced a property tax increase of $1.97 per thousand evaluation – county residents $1.84 per thousand. The hope was to raise $5.4 million for the jail, Sheriff’s Office, juvenile department and the district attorney. Absolutely no question about need. None.

On election day, just under 50% of the 13,501 registered voters took time to do their duty. Final count: 44% yes – 56% no. Killed big time. One of the commissioners was absolutely giddy. “I think the failure is an opportunity – huge opportunity to sit with citizens and see what we can do. It’s all good!”

To understand how goofy those remarks are, you should know an 18-member committee of local, very experienced citizens – selected by the county commission – spent nearly a year with expert outside consulting, going over every dime in recent budgets. With a great deal more talent than is represented on the current commission, that group came up with more than a dozen, well-researched ideas to deal with the situation. Answers.

The report was shelved and ignored. There’s some evidence some of the appointers may not have even read it. (more…)

A letter to Fox

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

My Fox Friends:

Because I know you operate with limited “fact” checking folk – relying instead on GOP in-house “research” and the Heritage Foundation for that – I’d like to pass along some old fashioned, shoe leather research Ben Cesca of Huffington Post recently did. All from the public record. Because of the nature of his findings – pre-Benghazi – I’m certain none of you were allowed to read it. Forbidden, actually. So, here goes.

Jan. 22, 2002: Calcutta, India – Harakat-ul-Jihad as-Islami attack U.S. Consulate – five employees killed.

Jun. 14, 2002: Karachi, Pakistan – al Qaeda suicide bomber hits U.S. Consulate – 12 employees killed - 51 injured.

Oct. 12, 2002: Denpasar, Inbdonesia – Diplomatic offices bombed.

Feb. 28, 2003: Islamabad, Palistan – Gunmen fire on Embassy - two killed.

May 12, 2003: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: al Qaeda stormed U.S. diplomatic compound – 36 killed including nine Americans.

Jul. 30, 2004: Tashkent, Uzbekistan: U.S. Embassy bombed – two dead.

Dec. 6, 2004: Jeddah Saudi Arabia – al Qaeda stormed U.S. Consulate – nine dead.

Mar. 2, 2006: Karachi, Pakistan – For the third time in four years, U.S. Consulate bombed – four dead including Ambassador David Foy.

Sep. 12, 2006: Damascus, Syria: Gunmen storm U.S. Embassy killing four.

Jan. 12, 2007: Athens, Greece – Rocket attack on U.S. Embassy. Bad shots.

Mar. 18, 2008: Sana’a, Yemen – Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire mortar at U.S. Embassy. Missed. Hit school next door killing two.

Jul. 9, 2008: Istanbul, Turkey – Terrorists attack U.S. Embassy killing six employees.

Sep. 17, 2008: Sana’a, Yemen – Terrorists with car bombs and RPGs kill 16 including an American student. Second attack there in seven months.

That’s 13 American embassy and consulate attacks during the two-term tenure of G-W-B. Two terms during which you were just not as worked up as you are today. (more…)

From explanation to exploitation

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Nearly all our lives, we adults take great pains setting ourselves apart from each other – our individualism, if you will. Whether in appearance, style of dress, cars we drive or books we read, we spend our lives expressing our differences rather than our shared sameness. Then a commonality sneaks up on us – the shared experience of all – because we were once six or seven years old. Each of us. All of us.

That one genealogical thread of age may be the largest single reason why the Newtown massacre struck our consciousness so deeply. Months after a school meant for learning became a chamber of mass murder, we’re not letting this one fade from memory as quickly as we have so many others. All of us have been six or seven. We’e all been in classrooms.

A few miles up the road from my own little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, we had our own indiscriminate killings in a shopping mall a few months ago. ut I’ve days and weeks in that time without thinking about Clackamas Mall. Not so Newtown, Connecticut. Despite other distractions of daily living, the Newtown horror still intrudes from time to time.

Several years of my life were spent as a hospice volunteer, ministering to the dying one-on-one. Death – impending death – certain death. You learn not only how to provide comfort to the “client” – you learn to deal with death after death after death of people you come to know as friends. Even if for only a brief time. You learn how to do that. Or you fail.

But most of my life has been spent in journalism – passing along the daily events of our lives. You used to learn how to do that in much the same clinical way – observing but not getting personally involved. Not anymore.

Maybe it’s the collision of experiences in those two backgrounds that makes my disgust with so much of the media so overwhelming in these months following the Newtown killing. Most of my anger is caused by the so-called broadcast “professionals.”

All of us experience a period of grief following the death of someone close. It permeates our entire being. Some survivors or onlookers handle it better than others. But it’s always there. When the death is that of someone we don’t know or aren’t particularly close to, there may be feelings of sadness but usually not disabling grief. But what happened in Newtown – though involving complete strangers for most of us – what happened in Newton has – in many ways – shown up in a sort of national grief. (more…)

Badge beats gun

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The question of “a gun or a badge” for security in school classrooms seems to have been answered this week with the very successful testing of a WiFi-based system in a Nampa, Idaho, high school. (See “A gun or a badge” column below)

The equipment – made by EKAHAU – replaces badges most teachers already wear around their necks daily. But this one is sensitive to applied pressure in several spots. When touched, it silently calls for help, puts the school on “lockdown” and notifies local police dispatch – all in seconds. And I mean “seconds.” On Monday’s test in Nampa, it did all that in less than four!

A randomly selected teacher decided when to send a signal. Could have been any classroom on campus. All similar badges in the building flashed, a computerized map lit up and the school resource officer took off. From start to his arrival – less than 20 seconds!

In Sandy Hook Elementary, the gunman killed 26 people in just over five minutes. Using the Nampa cop’s response time of about 20 seconds – with gun drawn – you might have had some fatalities. Certainly not 26. What if this system saved 15 kids – or just one? Saved three teachers- or just one? Or you could have had 30 scared kids run screaming in all directions while a scared teacher tied to find a gun in a locked drawer to have a gunfight with a crazy person filling the classroom with bullets while waiting for a resource officer who might have been unaware of the danger.

The answer for me – from personal experience – is very simple. Several years ago, my teacher wife was attacked in a classroom by a teen almost her size. But stronger. A male teacher heard the racket and eventually responded. But what if she had been wearing one of these Ekahau badges? Would she have had the scrapes and bruises? Or been seriously injured?

A donor put up the $20,000 necessary for the system in Nampa. While $20,000 is a large sum, it allowed this state-of-the-art coverage in an entire high school.

We can’t expect all schools in all districts to have such citizen support. But the system works. It works so well districts across the country should begin budgeting school-by-school starting now. Make it a 10 year plan Or 20. Have some community fund raisers. Contact foundations, service clubs, corporations. Have bake sales and carwashes if necessary. Set a goal of one of these badge systems for the school your kids or grandkid go to and get started!

Or, as our friends at the NRA have decided, we can put a gun on the hip of every school teacher in every classroom and let ‘em shoot it out with the bad guys. Over and around the heads of ourloved ones. Our choice.