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Posts published in “Rainey”

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…)

Pope’s retirement or confinement?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Like most of us, I was surprised when Benedict XVI decided to give up the big chair at the head of the Catholic table for – when compared to most others who’ve held the job – “early” retirement. Over the centuries, many Popes held on long past their abilities to fulfill the demanding duties.
Benedict said factors of deteriorating physical and mental health helped make his decision at this time. I believe that was part of it – especially since I’m a fellow senior – a few years younger – who’s already noted slower reaction times, aching joints and bouts of forgetfulness.

Beneath the cloak of secrecy that surrounds top officialdom of the Catholic Church, much of what goes on there is hidden from the rest of us mortals. When elected, Benedict said he wanted more transparency in Vatican affairs. Based on how little public access to Vatican affairs has changed in eight years, my guess is he found that goal more difficult to achieve than he’d imagined. Though a long-time participant in top-level matters of the Church – certainly experienced in its operation – he likely had a similar reaction American politicians have after being elected President. To really know the job, you have to be one.

But now it seems there may be more to the retirement of Cardinal Ratzinger than the infirmities of old age. Serving in many offices of Catholic leadership, he achieved some things. But he’ll fade into retirement and into the history of Catholicism a flawed personality. For him, the afterglow will be tainted because of something he didn’t do. When he should have.

The job he held when elected Pope was head of the Office of Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. Since the Inquisition centuries ago, that office has existed solely to be the doctrinal watchdog of the Catholic Church. As the name implies, all matters of doctrinal enforcement reside there. And the word “enforcement” is not too strong when referring to centuries of presiding over – and enforcing – the laws of Catholicism.

When Cardinal Ratzinger had the job, he faced many difficult situations – most of which were handled with authority. Most. Not all. During his tenure, the Church faced the outbreak of hundreds and hundreds of cases of sexual abuse within the priesthood. It had been rumored for years. Many, many years. But Ratzinger was appointed to the post at a time when the desk was stacked high with evidence. Proof abounded from America, Ireland, England, France, Germany and elsewhere. Even his own home diocese in Bavaria. Sexual abuse was no longer just “talk” – it was widespread, proven, horrible – and fact.

Also well-documented fact: Ratzinger not only personally knew of such cases, he actually participated in moving guilty priests from one church – or one diocese – or even one county – to another. And he signed off on transfers made by other Cardinals dealing with pedophile priests. He had the files. He had testimony. He had court findings. He knew. He could’ve undertaken major investigations to root out perpetrators and punish. But acting on sexual abuse issues to any extent? There’s no evidence he did. In fact, evidence exists that he knew and did not act forcefully. (more…)

A messenger with nothing honorable to say

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in South Brooklyn…if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark or you might not get home at all…nobody knows if or when the fiscal collapse will come, but if the country is broke, there likely won’t be enough money to pay for police protection…hurricanes, tornadoes, riots, terrorist gangs, lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face – not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival…responsible behavior … and it’s time we encourage law abiding citizens to do just that.”

That is a portion of the latest alarmist, racist and baseless rant from the NRA’s LaPierre. Filled with lies and race baiting, the nation’s ranking gun nut made these fact-free charges – and more – meant to inflame. To incite. Add these bloody words to the previous pile of verbal excrement from this false prophet.

Yet, nearly nobody in the United States Congress has stepped into the light of publicity to call this bastard what he is. Few condemned the groundless garbage for what it is. Oh, we heard of some who – off the record – said the NRA was going too far. We heard of some who – off the record – wished he would shut up and disappear. But only a handful put it on the record. And there were even some who said they agreed. But not “on camera.”

LaPierre is close to becoming a domestic terrorist in my view. His continued portrayal of a nation unable to enforce its own laws unless every citizen carries a gun is alarmism of high order. Rather than position himself and the NRA as defenders of law and order, he constantly invokes conditions of disorder and violence – of the need of every American to be armed. He warns one race of possible future violence to be committed by other races. He promotes visions of breakdowns in government and law enforcement – their coming inability to enforce our laws. He forecasts vigilantism to maintain personal protection. Rather than support the professionals who assure our safety under the law, LaPierre undermines their effectiveness by continually warning of their coming failure.

So, in this space – and in future spaces – we will posit the view that any member of Congress who does not publicly denounce LaPierre, his lies and racist garbage in the strongest of terms – on the record – will be considered to be his supporter. The lust for NRA PAC money and fear the NRA will end employment at the public trough can no longer be shelter for those we elect. None.

LaPierre has taken the issue of gun ownership to dangerous extremes. Extremes the NRA never claimed in its previously honorable existence. He’s become a villain obsessed with his own power. His conduct and his words are outside the bounds of reasonable discourse on issues of gun safety and citizen protection.

Member of Congress need to publically disown him. And the rest of us need to ignore him.

A tragedy to avoid repeating

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Got an email from a friend the other day – a friend who tries my patience on a regular basis with right wing B.S. from the Internet. He doesn’t originate it. He just “passes it on” like millions of other folk. Most of the time, I hit “delete” and go on about my business.

But this one got through. And I can still feel anger clear to the bottom of my old feet.

This latest spurious screed was meant to instantly alarm all who received it that “Obama appoints two devout Muslims to Homeland Security posts.” One of the reactions this specious piece of crap was supposed to stir up was “My God, we’ve got Muslims in key government places.” The other – as so many of them have been the last several years – was to perpetuate “I-hate-Obama-no-matter-what-he-does-because-he’s-not-really-our-president-and-just-look-at-what-he’s-done-now!”

Funny, those are not the reactions such garbage creates in me. Or, most others I know. No, we feel revulsion. Disappointment. Shame. Anger. Emotions you feel when someone of otherwise obvious intelligence does something really stupid and really hateful without thinking.

The gist of this phony alarmist missive was that two men of Muslim heritage and faith had been appointed to key jobs in the Department of Homeland Security. Kareem Shora – born in Damascus, Syria, and Exec. Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee – is now a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. The other fella, Arif Alikhan, son of Pakistani immigrants and a seven year federal prosecutor in California – then Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of Homeland Security since 2006 – is now Asst. Secretary for Policy Development for Janet Napolitano.

At this point, I could take several paragraphs to describe educational and professional accomplishments of both men. Suffice to say, they’re two excellent examples of citizenship, educational and personal achievement who’ve made outstanding contributions to the old U.S. of A. in many ways.

The email from my friend charged – among other things - “Devout Muslims being appointed to critical Homeland Security positions? Was it not men of the “Devout Muslim Faith” that flew planes into U.S. buildings not too long ago? What the heck is this president thinking?”

Well, for openers, I’d guess the president was “thinking” nothing about these appointments made by a cabinet secretary with the power to do so. I honestly doubt the thousands of appointments made by cabinet secretaries cross his desk. And, if he did “think” about it, he probably told the Homeland Security Secretary “good job.”

No, the real purpose of this email was to inflame. It was meant to criticize a president – of mixed race – that the originator of this crap hates and can’t accept as a twice duly-elected head of this country. It was meant to ridicule, anger and divide. It’s been passed on millions of times. By people of little to no real intelligence. (more…)

Karl Rove outed

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’ve long believed Karl Rove is a secret agent, probably on the payroll of – and operating secretly for – the Democratic National Campaign Committee. I’ve been reluctant to blow his cover because he’s obviously been effective at electing Democrats and confusing the hell out of Republicans for so long. But now, he’s very close to being forced to “come out” as it were. So the game is up.

I’m beginning to actually feel sorry for my Republican friends. They belong to a fine old Party – the “Party of Lincoln,” you know – with a long history of laudable accomplishments. They’ve produced some excellent officeholders who’ve made significant contributions to the nation’s welfare for more than 150 years. The GOP provided leadership in hard times, cared for those who needed a hand up and was a stabilizing force when the country faced dangers. You remember that Republican Party, don’t you? The one we had before the one we have?

In many ways, Rove has been the most effective – and most destructive – mole any political party has ever had. He first went under cover for the Democrats in the 1990′s, gaining the confidence of G. Bush Junior in Texas. In no time at all, he was little George’s most trusted advisor. There’s even a book about that connection calling Rove “Bush’s Brain.” He became so successful in the role that his mentor soon gave up thinking – politically. “Whatever Karl says,” he’d tell his staff.

Karl rode his Bush “horse” in Texas, then eight years in the White House. Pretty plush duty for a guy with no significant political life before the Bush clan took him in. Or, he took them in. Whichever.

From his suite of power just down the hall from the Oval Office, he operated all things Republican. Like a balding, smiling spider at the center of a large web hosted by the President of the United States. Talk about access for a guy who never previously had any of his own! Eight years. And Republicans were thrilled with their new “brain.”

Then after the Bush “horse” was put out to pasture, Rove had to come up with something to keep that national “brain” working for the GOP. So, using the unlisted phone numbers of billionaires he’d collected during his White House years – and aided by a tragic “Citizen’s United” decision from the U.S. Supreme Court – he built a SuperPAC. A couple of them, actually. And he conned otherwise intelligent rich people into parting with hundreds of millions of dollars. All those dollars – less Rove’s generous “expenses” – were thrown into the bottomless pit of trying to buy a couple of national elections. With some state contests thrown in where available.

Democrats pretended to be furious. “That damned Rove” became a rallying cry. Republicans bought it. Rove was thoroughly “in.”

Then the elections. And none of Rove’s horses won. Not one. More than $300 million down the drain. The rich folks who’d made fortunes wound up getting “skunked” and Rove got rich. The Democratic Party’s dream come true! Rove was inside and it was all working as planned. (more…)