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Posts published in “Rainey”

If Kochs were Democrats

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The saddest people I know at the moment are my Republican friends. The ones who watched the CPAC convention last week. Eager to again be proud of the good ol’ Republican brand, they were looking for some hint – some small clue – that all this talk of recognizing the Party’s recent electoral failures and the expected new efforts to heal the badly wounded elephant would result in some good GOP news for a change.

What they saw was a parade of the same oft-rejected faces living in another time and certainly another world. They heard the same old mantras voters have ignored before. Looking for substance that Republicans at the national level were hard at work banishing defeated voices of the past while offering a glimpse of a new, more positive future, they saw time-warp presentations of same-old, same-old. All harbingers of more time to come in the political wilderness.

Thinking Republicans were treated to three days of ample evidence that those who control the GOP administration and the nominating process nationally are more committed than ever to a course of public destruction. Even with the heavily gerrymandered congressional districts and Republican-sponsored voter restrictions we’ve witnessed in many states, 2014 looks even more promising for Democrats. If the many threats heard at CPAC about challenging Republican incumbents from the far right are carried out, that’ll be the cherry on top.

I came away from the CPAC experience with such an unworldly, disconnected feeling of political fantasy, I came up with some of my own.

Suppose – just suppose – the Koch Brothers, Foster Freize, Adeleson and the other billionaires were – gasp – life-long Democrats. What if they had bankrolled the other side of the aisle 30 or 40 years ago when they began to surreptitiously worm their way into the political woodwork of a national party? What if they’d poured those hundreds of millions of dollars into candidates and causes representing the poor, educational improvements, new energy development, climate change, a redesigned military for today’s conditions, veteran’s care, mental and physical health research and … well … many other things?

If those uber-rich guys – with their vast resources – had been behind people and movements devoted to those and other important issues, would we be in the mess we are in Congress right now? With all the terribly important problems that need to be addressed in the House and Senate, would the Republican angst be as high as the one emergency national issue they’ve complained about the most? Discontinued tours of the White House? (more…)

Personal knowledge, political dishonesty

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Check any dictionary in any language and you’ll usually find these two definitions for the word “politician” among the several listed. One will be “a person holding political office.” The second will use the word “devious” in some way. A descriptive word you’ll never find there is “love.”

While historically an honorable profession, our recent experiences have made us use other words to define politicians. “Self-serving.” “Deceitful.” “Dishonest.” “Uncaring.” “Ignorant.” “Out-of-touch.” And worse. Too often, they are apt.

I’d like to see that word – love – used in politics more often because it can be a great “leveler.” In recent days, it publically appears so for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), father of a gay son. Long an outspoken conservative voice opposing gay marriage and any other homosexual recognition efforts, Portman is now getting a lot of sympathy for changing his gay marriage stance. It’s no longer just another “safe” political topic to include in speeches to his “conservative” base. It’s become a personal issue dealing with a loved one. Well, good for him. Let’s show the Portman’s – father and son – a little love. But not too much for the Senator.

Portman is only the most recent ardent Republican foe of gay marriage to seem to have a “come-to-Jesus” moment on the matter. Probably the most notable figure to be similarly affected is former VP Dick Cheney. Early in his career in Congress, neo-con Cheney’s was just another contemptible voice loudly damning the country’s gay community. Then – BANG. Suddenly he had a teen lesbian daughter who “came out.” Cheney quickly did a 180 and said marriage should be allowed for “any two people who love each other.” Very similar to the Portman “conversion.”

Except for one thing. When Mitt Romney looked around for a vice presidential running mate over a year ago, Portman’s name was right there near the top of the list. To Romney, Portman was the quintessential, very compatible candidate. Experienced. Squeaky clean. Popular with the GOP base. Represented a large swing state. Matching positions on all the major issues. Including Portman’s oft-pronounced opposition to – wait for it – gay marriage and other issues of homosexuality.

Romney’s search team called him in many months before the election. He was vetted in all possible ways. It was then – over a year ago – that Portman told Romney’s people his son was gay. He was immediately dropped from consideration. Banished. (more…)

The disappearing

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Something’s happening here in our little Burg in the Oregon forest. Something distressing and disappointing. A damn shame. I’d bet it’s happening where you are, too.

Our little Rotary club is slowly disappearing. More people going out the back door than coming in the front. The other two local Rotary clubs are in the same trouble. So, too, are the Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, VFW and other business and social organizations. Our problem’s not unique. It’s an international issue. Times have changed. We – and they – have not.

Take Rotary. Founded in Chicago over 100 years ago by business leaders to share business news, gossip and professional tips while doing good works, it’s been a highly successful civic group in many a community, eventually going international. To its everlasting credit, Rotary has nearly wiped out polio in the world. If that’s all it ever did, Rotary would have earned everlasting honor in world social and medical history. Great job!

But times have changed and too many organizations have not. For instance, take those “business news, gossip and professional tips” reasons for Rotary’s creation. In too many local clubs, heads of business no longer participate on a regular basis. Most people who belong now can’t write a company check or commit corporate resources to a given community project. Many members have been “appointed” to Rotary or other civic groups by an employer rather than joining voluntarily out of a personal commitment to local volunteerism. Others are there because they genuinely want to do the “good works” but they don’t bring the resources – financial and corporate – that traditionally made clubs viable. And valuable.

As for “business, news and gossip,” small “tips” clubs have sprung up in every city and town. They’re designed to share member news for the benefit of others. A commonality. They meet – share – and go to work. They don’t usually undertake community projects as service clubs have done historically. They’re linked electronically. For their own welfare. It’s a “network” by definition. Business oriented. Not community service.

Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, Masons, Eagles, Moose, The Grange and other business and fraternal groups – like Rotary – have done similar good works and are important parts of the fabric from which this nation was crafted. And – like Rotary – they’re suffering membership losses because – in too many cases – they’ve not changed with the times. Some are already gone. (more…)

Clinically proven politics of fear

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’ve long believed fear drives most of our politics on the right. But it’s been more an unsupported belief than a provable fact. Until I came across some interesting work by Dr. Rose McDermott of Brown University, that seems to show there really is a direct connection. She and several colleagues published their research in the American Journal of Political Science.

Using a large sample of related individuals, researchers first assessed their propensity for fear using lengthy, standardized, clinically administered interviews and tests. In subjects who were related, Dr. McDermott and her crew identified influences such as environment and personal experience and discovered some had a genetic propensity for a higher level of baseline fear. In fact, they experienced fear at even lower levels of threat or provocation than the rest of us.

The primary research finding? “It’s not that conservative people are more fearful; it’s that fearful people are more conservative.”

In one area, there was a strong correlation between social fear and anti-immigration and pro-segregation attitudes. Individuals with higher levels of social fear exhibited the strongest negative attitudes to those two subjects. And there were others.

“People who’re scared of novelty, uncertainty – people they don’t know and things they don’t understand,” McDermott said, “these people are more supportive of politics that provide them with a sense of surety and security.”

The team also found direct links to how political campaigns can be designed to manipulate some people more than others. To make a sizeable group more fearful. Deliberately.

One of the most predictable political certainties of the far right is – and has always been – that it will always frustrate its own efforts. Step on its own feet. It always goes just so long before it splits into smaller factions. Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, Americans For Freedom – you name it. Their origins were with people who were frightened, distrustful – fearful – of conditions at the time. But soon, something in the new group sparked new fears and new distrust. And, amoeba-like, there was a split. Pick a fringe group – research its history – you’ll find a breakup. Maybe two or three. Or more. Time after time after time.

The other factor always found in that scared societal segment – certain people will step up to manipulate the fear. As McDermott’s research pointed out, “political campaigns … designed to manipulate.” I give you Karl Rove, Dick Armey, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Ron and Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Wayne LaPierre. And the most skilled master of political manipulation based on fear - the shameless self-promoter – Newt Gingrich. (more…)

Our problems may soon be yours

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

While you’ve got enough national crises on your plate at the moment, there’s a new pile of ‘em building up in our little corner of Southwest Oregon that you need to keep up on. You almost never hear the subject mentioned in normal conversation. But we’ve got a county with one foot in a bankruptcy hole and others standing very close to the edge.

The Oregon legislature is wrestling with what to do about this mess but, so far, no bright ideas. There are several pieces of legislation floating around the marble halls in Salem. But no consensus. Yet.

A combination of the loss of millions of dollars tied to federal timberlands and some bad county management has Curry County going to the voters in May for a property tax levy. Asking Curry voters to approve any increase in property taxes for ANY reason is like playing Russian Roulette with six bullets in the chamber. DOA.

All 18 counties who’ve been drawing the federal O&C lands millions for decades are hurting. While several of our congressional hired hands are trying to get yet another extension through the “Congress of the Walking Dead,” don’t hold your breath. In all likelihood, the State of Oregon will have to be the hero that saves the day. If it can.

Several counties swilling at the federal timber trough all these years have managed to put some bucks away – figuring the whole O&C business would end someday. A couple of reduced dollar amount extensions have kept the budgetary wolves at bay for several years. But those days are over. Unless you can picture John Boehner and his posse riding to the rescue with more federal bucks. Yeah.

Curry is in the worst shape primarily because of bad – or maybe gutless – elected mismanagement for many years. Curry collects taxes at about the lowest assessed values in the state. That often happens in a low population county where everybody knows everybody else. A few years ago, Curry had its back to the wall because the Coos-Curry Electric Board refused to regularly raise rates to pass along increases from power suppliers like Bonneville.

It was piling up debt while its transmission system was being held together with duct tape. The Board simply tried to absorb increasing costs rather than raise rates on rate payers. The neighbors. Finally, the feds stepped in and said – to the effect – “Start paying back your loans or you won’t be getting any more.” Rates went up. Ratepayers bitched. But the rates went up. And some old board members (neighbors) were defeated.

That same scenario has been playing out with several Curry County commissions refusing to increase property assessments to keep up with costs of county operation over the years. Just bein’ neighborly. Faced with a brick wall straight ahead last year, Curry voters said “NO” and things started going to Hell.

Same in Josephine County where the crime rate is up 50% in Grants Pass and 45% in the county this year. Prosecutions are down 42%. At least two armed civilian groups have been created to keep the peace. There aren’t enough deputies to man the jail. So, unless you’re Jeffrey Dahmer, you plead and go home. Or go back to breaking-and-entering. (more…)

Support your local police chief

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Over the last couple of months, several hundred sheriffs in this nation have made some ridiculous, self-serving public statements, passing themselves off as self-appointed arbiters of what’s constitutional and what’s not when it comes to the very public issues of guns, gun ownership and gun laws.

Here in the Oregon woods, our guy was one of the first to sound the “Barney Fife alert,” announcing he would not enforce any gun laws he “believed unconstitutional” nor would he “allow federal law enforcement to do so” in his jurisdiction.

Absent a law degree or a judicial appointment – while ignoring the fact that constitutional determinations are the sole province of our court system – his unwise and certainly politically motivated announcement played only to the far right while undermining the respect a number of us previously had for him. Gun owners or not.

He certainly was not alone out there on his chosen limb. There were some others – in Oregon and elsewhere – who got on the bandwagon to play to the right while making the rest of us wonder about their suitability for the job.

Making the sheriffs appear all the more blatantly political – and all the more out of step with what all polling is suggesting the majority of us want done on these issues – are long-held official positions of the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police. The IACP has over 21,000 members and has formed a number of official positions on guns, gun ownership and gun safety.

Here are some of those IACP statements:

ARMOR PIERCING AMMO: Prohibit the sale of such ammo tested and found to fit the armor piercing description by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: Opposed the sale since 1992 and members have re-authorized that position several times and currently still do..
CONCEALED WEAPONS: Opposes any federal effort to allow concealed weapons carry in states other than where a permit is issued without new federal requirements. Applies to all citizens – including former law enforcement people.
FIREARMS ENFORCEMENT: Increase federal resources to better allow local enforcement and greater prosecution for Brady Act violations. IACP supports Project Safe Neighborhoods and others local programs because they work.
FIREARMS OFFENDER REGISTRY: Supports a federal registry for offenders convicted of felony or misdemeanor firearms violations similar to the sex offender registry.
PURCHASE WAITING PERIOD: IACP supports legislation creating a mandatory five-day wait- or “cooling off” period – prior to completion of a handgun purchase.
GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE: Wants Congress to close person-to-person gun show sales loopholes. Make all gun registry laws apply as they are supposed to.
ILLEGAL TRAFFICKING AND TRACING: IACP opposes all legislation that would weaken current federal laws dealing with law enforcement’s ability to trace illegal firearms.

These are some of the positions on guns of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Contrast them to the bombast and vote-chasing noises emanating from many of our local sheriffs who’re holding themselves out to be deciders of all things constitutional.

I know who I’d rather have watching my back.

The unfunny

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Have you noticed that comics in what’s left of our newspapers aren’t funny anymore? They’re really not. Some deal with families and kids. Others have weird characters appealing to narrow audiences. Even my favorite - “Doonesbury” - uses mostly unfunny political issues - but does so with wit and savagery. I love it.

I was brought up with “Dick Tracy,” “Terry and the Pirates,” “Smilin’ Jack,” “Li’l Abner,” “Smoky Stover,” “Little Orphan Annie” and dozens more. Funny and adventurous and memorable for well-drawn characters and good storylines. Even some laugh-out-loud stuff. All gone.

So, what’s a guy who likes daily doses of the humorous do for giggles? Well, I turn to the right wing of what remains of the old Republican Party. If you don’t take the characters therein as seriously as they take themselves, you’ll get lots of laughs. And much of the time, those characters are no more real than a good comic strip. But nearly always laughable.

I used to watch folks on the Democrat left, but they weren’t much fun. Even going back to the ‘60's, they’d pick a spot and usually stay put. Maybe anti-war. Maybe anti-Wall Street. Things like that. Pretty predictable stuff. No fun.

Ah, but the GOP right. The far right is the amoeba of American politics - always moving, shape-shifting, splitting, re-splitting. Then splitting again. Always predictable - but always different - because that’s how the right was born. Folks who were afraid and distrustful. It hasn’t changed in decades. Fear and suspicion are in the DNA. People drawn to the right move far out on that political limb because they fear government - they fear foreign countries - they fear the United Nations - they fear any monetary currency except gold - they fear people of color - they fear chlorine - and sooner or later, they come to fear each other. Always! More predictable than gravity.

And, because they’re the most fearful of any of our native political movements, easy pickin’s for the Karl Roves, Rick Perrys, Gingrichs, Bachmans, Koch Brothers and all the other hustlers that come along. Full of fear, the far right’s accepted them But, then, they’d trust anyone who talks like they do or “thinks” like they do or says things they want to hear.

Take the Tea Party scam. “Grassroots,” right? “Just we ‘average’ Americans in the street,” right? Yeah, right. Wrong! In spades!

The whole scheme was created several decades ago by the Koch boys and others in the tobacco and fossil fuels businesses. National Institutes of Health - in particular it’s National Cancer Institute of all places - discovered the long-term strategy to promote anti-science and anti-government agendas going back to 1971. Here’s a direct N-I-H quote from the research. (more…)

Out, damned Newt!

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I was raised in a Central Oregon, Republican culture when kids were taught certain rules about respectable behavior. I don’t mean just not saying bad things – although I did learn the taste of Ivory Soap at a young age. No, I mean saying or doing things that embarrassed the grownups. Say or do something that reflected badly on the family? Just not acceptable. And swiftly punished.

Whether at home or in school, deviation from rules of respectability often resulted in someone being exiled. Separated from the rest. The teacher wouldn’t call on you for the rest of the day or week. At home, immediate justice often meant sent to a lonely room – often the laundry room in my case. With the door shut. You “ceased to be” for awhile. Silence.

Sadly, rejection and punishment – and silence – are no longer the fates imposed for those who’ve become national embarrassments or politically and socially disgraced voices. How else can you explain the ever-present face of Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Dick Morris, Sanford, Robertson, Orley Taitz, Santorum, Bachmann, McCain, Paul (2), DeMint, LaPierre, Perkins, Dobson, Trump, Gohmert, et al? All have engaged in speech or conduct – or both – deserving rejection. Yet they are ever-present. Even sought out.

In a nation faced with deeply troubling national struggles for all of us, why do these discredited people remain in our living rooms, day after day, spewing the same specious nonsense into our atmosphere? When respectable leaders are so embroiled in terribly important work affecting our lives, why do these same voices of craziness and rejected thought still occupy so much of our national attention?

Gingrich is undoubtedly the most excellent example. Disgraced and forced to resign from the highest office in the U.S. House of Representatives and his Georgia seat in the body, he should have been expected to “go quietly into that good night.” A proven adulterer – at least twice – a consummate liar – repeatedly – a man who has failed every try at elective office since his well-deserved dismissal – a con artist who uses presidential campaigns to hawk his books and videos and to drive up his personal appearance fees. Why is this bastion of all things rejected and despicable in a public persona still being so prominently forced into our consciousness?
What is the national media’s fascination with this guy? He’s on the Sunday talk circuit nearly every weekend. He and his twisted – often warped – thinking are pursued by Blitzer, Cooper, Gregory, Stephanopoulos, Van Susteren, Crowley, Morgan and the rest. Why? He’s become a politically obscene “whack-a-mole” creature.

What you see in this Gingrich over-exposure is our national obsession with celebrity. From statesmen and visionaries with deserved recognition to demented serial killers – and everywhere in between – you’re assured of repeated national media exposure, millions of dollars for the book rights to your story and millions more for the movie or television series. (more…)

Read ’em and weep

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

From time to time, I’m sternly criticized by a reader or three – and an occasional friend – that the musings usually found within these digital pages are too anti-Republican. I’m accused, not necessarily of being a Democrat in journalist’s clothing, but of just not giving support to things GOP. Not finding the good, as it were.

Well, there’s some truth to that last criticism. Trouble is, my critical GOP friends, there’s not much Republican “good” tidings where most of us Americans are these days. We’re just not supporting things Republican. By large numbers.

A new Pew Research poll out this week is the best scientific evidence to date that the “Grand Old Party” is in disfavor on every single issue of national importance. All of ‘em! The statistics are overwhelming.

Taxes and the deficit. The Democrat proposal of a combination of spending cuts and tax increases is supported by 76% across the board. Republicans want only cuts and that gets the support of just 19%.

Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour? Support is 71% by all but only 50% by Republicans.

Climate change. More than 54% say the most important step to take is developing alternative energy sources (what Democrats want) versus 34% expanding production and drilling more (what Republicans want.)

Gun control. Americans favor new gun legislation 67%-29%. Specifically, expanded background checks 83%-15% – assault weapons ban 56%-41%. Those numbers find Republican and NRA oriented Democrat members of Congress on the losing end on all counts.

Pew sampled immigration. Border security and a path to citizenship – Democrat positions – favored by 47%. The GOP’s stand of prioritizing only enforcement got 25% and on citizenship opportunities 25%. And today’s Republican official position on eventual citizenship consists only of some sort of ill-defined second-class status.

But we’re not done yet. If you re-read these numbers, you’ll find one very startling fact: majorities favor federal government/legislative action on every issue. Every one! That concept – borne out by the numbers – is completely contrary to Republican positions. On all issues, most of us want federal government action. Now!

But, if I were a Republican campaign pro, here’s a result that would really send me straight to the bar. A new Bloomberg sampling this week gives the President a 55% job approval rating – highest in three years! Also, Bloomberg found 49% believe the President’s ideas to increase government spending in key areas are more likely to create jobs. (more…)