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Posts published in “Rainey”

Contradictions

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

If pressed for the most apt definition of the word “contradiction,” there’s no better one in our times than the Republican far right. What passes for philosophy with too many denizens of that political swamp is espousing one set of ideals while working feverishly against them – wrapping oneself in the law and our founding documents while deliberately attacking both.

For many years, the clearest example of these philosophical cheap shots have been ceaseless attacks on women and the extremely personal topic of abortion. While decrying the intrusion of all forms of government in our private lives, these same voices have demanded an agency of government be represented in gynecological examining rooms where only physicians and their patients belong. To be in the home as a family struggles with intimate – and completely private – decisions. The total contrariness of that position is a hallmark of the far right.

Likewise, voting rights. The assurance of the individual franchise – guaranteed since our beginnings – has become another example of complete contradiction with a sizeable portion of the Republican right. More than a dozen states under GOP political control have tried to legislatively abridge voting access for all but themselves. Some have done so with new laws sure to be challenged. Several bills have even been introduced in Congress to do the same. While loudly proclaiming the polling privilege as “the cornerstone of our liberties,” some of the same voices have been attempting to exclude Americans who don’t “think” as they do. Or have a different skin color.

Now comes religion – the newest outright challenge to a most basic right granted to all of us in the Bill of Rights. The prohibition can’t be clearer:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

In North Carolina – where Republicans control the legislature – one of their number dropped a bill in the House basket to “establish Christianity as the state religion.” While a number of Republicans signed on as co-sponsors, the Speaker of the House stopped formal introduction. This time.

So, were these GOPers just a few nuts? Will we see similar attempts elsewhere? Is there a constituency for this abortive – and patently illegal – challenge to our Bill of Rights? One answer may surprise you. A new national HuffingtonPost/YouGov poll found 34% sampled favored establishing Christianity as the official state religion where they lived. Among those who called themselves Republican, the total was 55%. More than half! In another finding, 46% of Republicans supported officially changing our federal Constitution to allow it. (more…)

Wherefore art thou, Mr. Chief Justice

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

As the U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with issues of our sexual differences and their standing in our society, I’m less worried about the ultimate decisions than I am about the connection of the Chief Justice to reality.

There can be little argument DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) became a law because of prejudice and bigotry. It was largely born of a narrow belief held by a religious minority which has previously sponsored similar “moral” legislation. Enactment of the California law known as “Prop 8″ came from the same despoiled garden of fear and hatred – and $28 million from the LDS Church. But remarks made by Chief Justice Roberts from the bench during arguments on the two issues seemed to reflect his mental world is one in which no law is created from any soiled motivations.

During general questioning of the DOMA case, Roberts seemed to reject the proposition that Congress could be motivated to create a law – any law – out of discrimination or animus. In fact, during discussion, he and some other Justices appeared ignorant of the roots of DOMA – until Justice Kagan read this part of the law aloud to Solicitor General Verrilli during her questioning.

“Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.”

There were gasps in the room,. Then, from the Congressional Record dealing with the committee creation of DOMA, Kagan again quoted:

“…the Committee briefly discusses four of the governmental interests advanced by this legislation: (1) defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; (2) defending traditional notions of morality.”

BOOM! Then silence in the court. After brief subsequent give-and-take between Kagan and Verrilli, Roberts simply said “Thank you” and matters moved on while other Justices wrote lengthy notes to themselves – apparently about what they’d just heard. But not Roberts.

Editor’s Note: Why did so many Justices seem surprised by what Kagan read? Had their law clerks not read all the briefs and summarized for the Court? Didn’t the Justices at least read the law before hearing arguments? Why the hurried note-taking?

Roberts’ personal and judicial history are spotless. There is no doubt of his moral and professional character. But – there is ample evidence of his seeming real world ignorance that less-than-honorable intentions can create bad law. In one case – PICS vs. Seattle School District No. 1 – he wrote “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” He basically dismissed the need for judicial action in the face of demonstrated outright discrimination. His side lost. (more…)

The armed ‘defense’

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In a public display best called “neanderthal,” and “outrageous,” the NRA has stepped all over its own feet in the worst case of self-inflicted public relations injuries I’ve ever witnessed. It chose the wrong place to debut its latest “independent” gun safety B.S. and it did so with two dozen armed “body guards” for protection. From there, it went straight downhill.

The chosen site was the National Press Club in Washington D.C. I used to be a member and can assure you it’s one of the safest – and also most boring – places in D.C. For nearly 100 years, presidents, kings, prime ministers, celebrities and wannabee celebrities have used its podium to make statements profound and ridiculous. The NRA set a new low for ridiculous.
The occasion was to announce an “independent” committee’s findings and recommendations the NRA would “adopt” on gun safety. The committee was far from independent and the “findings” could have been published before its first meeting.

Chaired by former Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) the NRA tried to use his credibility as its own. In other words, the NRA bought and paid for that “credibility.” Hutchinson admits he was “hired” but won’t reveal his price. He picked his own “committee” which also was bought and paid for by the NRA. Again, Hutchinson won’t talk dollars. But there was nothing “independent” or “citizen volunteer” about it. No one connected to schools of any sort.

While the back-story of this NRA-front group was bad enough, the worst was how the NRA chose to publish the “findings.” Used to coming in the front door of the Press Club unfettered, reporters and crews were stopped by armed guards who conducted body and equipment searches. NRA guards. Some in private security uniforms; some not. But nearly two dozen of them and all “packing.” Reporters who would not submit were barred.
During Hutchinson’s presentation, he was flanked by armed guards. Others mixed with about 60 reporters and crews – shoulder and hip holsters bulging. When Hutchinson was finished, they circled him like the Secret Service and the proceedings were over. No more questions. No follow–ups. Hutchinson was hustled out. To “safety.”

To anyone reading this who feels this is just a case of the media getting its nose out of joint, go back and read it again. And again. And again. Until the weight of this demonstration of the perverse use of power sinks in. (more…)

Not getting our money’s worth

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Today’s word is “SEQUESTER.” The two most popular definitions are “to hide away” and “to take by authority.” I would propose a third: “a nationally crippling action – totally self-inflicted – taken by the most incompetent Congress to ever sit in Washington, D.C.”

We’re entering our second month of this sequester madness. Little by little, “we, the people” are feeling the pressures. Each day brings word of new restrictions or ending a government service or program. Each day, millions more citizens who can’t afford the loss are forced to do so. Each day, the collective members of Congress sit on their collective asses and do nothing.

Here we are – two months in – and the only time you hear the word “sequester” is when it’s attached to some news story describing another loss of the government services we’ve already paid for. That’s the ONLY time!

Think about it. In the last two weeks, for example, have you heard the word “sequester” used positively in a story describing how concerned our members of Congress are about the load they’ve thrown on the electorate? Us? Have you read a single story – just one – saying Democrats and Republicans are working feverishly to end the moronic fiscal madness their infighting has caused? I mean, of course, aside from elimination of public tours of the White House which has angered traveling GOP constituents.

I have not. From beltway media, we’ve heard about immigration, gun safety, phony budgets passed in one house that won’t even get to a vote in the other. We’ve heard blame, name-calling, descriptions of new Republican-backed abortion bills and the 35th attempt to kill Obamacare. We’ve witnessed spineless filibusters to block presidential appointees and legislation that should’ve been placed for an up-or-down vote. We’ve heard tea party-types and their ignorant rants and even heard Hispanics called “wetbacks.” All in the last three weeks.

But honest work to solve real problems their intransigence and bickering have cost millions of Americans? None! Action to end this madness that threatens our national security? None! And it’s getting worse. Each day.

Here’s a tiny example in our northwest neighborhood. In Idaho, four small airports are losing FAA controller staff. Sequester. Accompanied by yet another government lie. “Closing the tower (and 148 others) should have no effect on safety,” according to an FAA spokesman. Take it from a former pilot, that’s not true. When existing traffic control was instituted at those airports, the FAA justified it by saying new services would “improve safety.” Well, if it did that then, how would removal not affect safety now? Which is it?
Some airlines won’t fly into airports without traffic control. Stop flights and how many lodging, restaurant, rental car companies and others will soon feel it? How many minimum wage employees will be let go? How many will turn to state and county governments for assistance? And who pays those bills? (more…)

Change or perish

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I’m about to offer several suggestions for which – I’m certain – there’ll be a pile of reasons (excuses) why each won’t work. Failing the smart test, there’ll be more reasons (excuses) why none of them can be done. But I’m a persistent guy and used to swimming upstream. So, here goes.

The premise for these offerings is this one statement. No state in the country really needs all the counties it has. None. In fact, 2012 Census Bureau statistics show one in three U.S. counties is dying. Dying. Put another way, 1,135 of the nation’s 3,143 counties are now experiencing “natural decrease” as deaths exceed births. The young – and immigrants – are moving to the cities.

Oregon has 36 counties – Idaho 44 – Washington 39. That’s 119. Each with commissioners (three to five each), sheriffs, assessors, clerks, judges, treasurers, courts. And jails. Lots of jails. Lots of rundown jails. Some crowded. Some nearly empty. All expensive. With decreasing residents for support. Taxpayers. You and me.

So, Sheriff Kiern Donahue in Idaho’s Canyon County is now publicly asking why several nearby counties can’t pool their resources to build regional jails to serve multiple counties? I’ve been asking that for years.

Idaho has seven judicial districts. Sheriff Donahue wants to know why all counties in each district couldn’t share one judicial district jail? “Corrections facility” or whatever. Huge construction savings. Reduced staff. Video links for arraignments rather than deputies tied up on costly travel. Less crowding. Seems to make a lot of sense. So much so the naysayers are out even at the suggestion stage.

Let’s just stay with Idaho for a minute. I’ve wondered for a long time why it needs 44 counties with 44 duplicate governments. Seems to me you could put one prosecutor, for example, in each of the seven judicial districts to handle major crimes and deputies with much smaller staffs in individual counties for lesser crimes. If you can have a county seat, why not a district seat with smaller and less expensive “little seats” in the counties?

Same for assessors, clerks, treasurers. One per district with deputies in the counties. Why not an elected commission per district with an administrator in each county? Even make the local administrators elected if need be.

Go even further. Do we need all of our school districts? Why not several regional superintendents per state with county of deputy “super’s” at county or district levels? Idaho, for example, has 118 districts. Do we really need 118 duplicate administrations and all the added costs?

Really?

Much of this government business is created by state constitutions or state codes. “Engraved in stone” as it were. “Just can’t be changed,” some say. I don’t buy that. When needs change or ways of doing things make the old ways unnecessary or outdated, state laws – and state constitutions – can be changed by the electorate. You and me.

Well, needs and times have changed. Technology has changed how we do a lot of things. We don’t think or live the same daily lives as our ancestors did in 1890 when Idaho became a state or 1859 for Oregon or 1889 in Washington. Everything we do has changed – everything – but we’re still hamstrung by what were perceived to be the governmental needs and formats of pioneer citizens over a century ago. (more…)

Headlines we could do without

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The first headline:

COMMANDANT TO AFGHANISTAN MARINES
“MAKE EVERY SHOT COUNT”

A day or so later, the second headline appeared:

GUN SHOPS RUNNING
OUT OF AMMUNITION

The next day, another:

DEATH THREATS CANCEL
MICHAEL VICK BOOK TOUR

Taken individually, each of those headlines stands alone as events in today’s news. Taken together, they tell a different story of a nation stagnating under political failure, citizens arming themselves against their own government and each other and a society where fear of lawlessness – steeped in ignorance – interferes with the conduct of our daily lives.

While the first story seems to be about the top general in the Marines passing along some common sense combat philosophy – probably already learned in basic training – it’s really more a tragic statement about our current national political failures.

The real reason for the general’s admonition is the sequester! The self-inflicted “let’s-play-political-chicken-with-our-national-economy-and-our-national-defense” idiocy our “representatives” have created in Washington. What the commandant was really telling the troops was “We’re running out of money to buy the ammunition and other weaponry you need to beat the enemy while trying to get yourselves out of that damned country alive.”

In fact, all our military services are being crippled by politicians – not all politicians – just the idiots who’ve absolutely no idea what the hell they’re doing in elective office. The army is cancelling training maneuvers and other preparedness activities. Including weapons use. The air force has curtailed training missions and many routine operations. The navy has called some ships back to port, limited flight operations because of the costs of aviation fuel and is foregoing certain readiness activities. The coast guard has reduced its sea-going drug interdiction missions. All services have begun laying off civilian support workers. Because our Congress has taken a meat axe to make indiscriminate cuts in our entire national budget.

The second headline is also a dreadful commentary on this country at the moment. A country slowly being paralyzed by paranoia and fear. Gun sellers are running out of weapons and the ammunition for the first time in our nation’s history because a bunch of scared people are hoarding it all to use on their government. Or their neighbors. Or each other.

New polling shows most Americans don’t own a gun and they’re not the one’s out there buying one for the first time. Today’s buyers are more likely to be people who already have guns and now are buying still more while putting dozens more boxes of ammunition into the crawl space under their homes.

The third headline – Michael Vick and his book tour – is really connected to – and an outgrowth of – the gun craziness and speaks to irrational fears and our personal safety. For all of us.

I’m not a big fan of Michael Vick. The savagery of his dog fighting years is repulsive – a stain he’ll carry for life. But he was convicted – served his time – has engaged in some extensive charitable work regarding animals – has rededicated himself to responsible animal care – and has resumed his professional football career in fine manner. The way I was raised, he did the crime – he did his time – he’s trying to make amends. That should square him with society. Those are our normal expectations of someone who’s done something wrong. As the anti-gay crowd is fond of saying “Love the sinner – hate the sin.”

Now he’s written a book about his experiences – and his growth – as a lot of people in public life have done. But his publisher has had to cancel all his book-signing appearances because of repeated anonymous threats to kill him if he appears in certain cities. For a book signing? In a book store?

In nearly all instances, threats against Vick are anonymous. That’s the curse of the blessing of technology today. The Internet. Cretins with the mental acuity of moss can lob their threats with no personal responsibility. But several police departments have taken it seriously enough to ask Vick to stay away. So he has.

Is it too much to connect the dots here? From cowards among us who use anonymity to foist their irrational hate on the rest of us so our normal behavior is changed to avoid violence? To national paranoia and more irrational fear that causes thousands of Americans to create personal armories to use against any of the rest of us who might appear to be a threat to them? To our very national defense which is hamstrung by politicians irrationally who fear the size of their own government and, in that fear, are putting our national security and those who provide it in jeopardy?

I don’t think so. Fear seems to have become our common national theme. It’s manifest in nearly everything we do. We’re being consumed by it nationally – in politics – in our personal relationships – in groups trying to divide themselves from the rest of us in what used to be a united country.

But if you really want to feel fear – to be afraid – put yourself in a fox hole in Afghanistan – 20-years-old – and your commanding general has just told you to be careful with your ammunition because politicians have made it impossible for the Marines to buy more.

Now THAT’s fear!

A new highway bridge – by McDonald’s?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Several weeks ago, some new express lanes were added to the Washington D.C. beltway – not normally a point of interest or concern here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods. Your neighborhood either, I’d guess. But, you might pay more attention if you knew who paid for those improvements and who owns them – private construction companies Flour and Transurban.

“And just why did those two private outfits put up the millions to add to our national transportation system?” you ask. “To make a profit,” sez I. “To own them,” sez I. And that worries me. A lot.

The new D.C. traffic lanes are for carpool use. But, if you’re alone, want to get out of the other four lanes and into the much lighter traffic, go ahead. After you pay the fee. For a few bucks more, you can just whiz to work alone with the carpoolers. And your money goes where? Why, Flour and Transurban, of course. After all, it’s their road now. Or, at least part of it.

One of the tenets of conservatism I’ve long agreed with is government should do the things government does best – private enterprise should do what private enterprise does well. Good balance. Philosophically and often fiscally. But the key is “balance.” And that’s too often hard to achieve.
We look to government for a sound military and conducting our national defense. But, over the last decade or so, we’ve turned over more of the responsibility for our military operations to private business. Housing, food service, construction and a lot of other formerly military-only tasks are now done in many places by civilian contractors.

You might be O.K. with that. But how about the same civilian contracting for security and fighting a war? How about the thousands of mercenaries we hire? Civilians. Is that just the same concept? Firing the bullets instead of cooking food or building a base? Killing on behalf of our government so the military can do something else?

As I said, balance.

In a more mundane way, this privately-owned highway business raises a lot of questions about who should be doing what. Historically, some level of government has always built all our highways. We have city, county, state and federal systems. We build ‘em and we maintain ‘em. We own ‘em.

But, as our various governments are pushed harder against the financial wall, they’re looking for help. Really big construction and engineering companies like Bechtel and Samsung are talking with the big – really big – banks. Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs are two – with billions in pension funds and all those insurance dollars just lying around. The idea is they put up large amounts of up-front funding, getting paid back – plus a lot of interest – by owning them and charging us for using them. (more…)

The change that won’t be

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“Will they try to change the pizza inside or the box it came in?”

I’ve forgotten who asked that when Republicans announced shortly after the November election defeat they’d be trying to figure out what went wrong. But now the official GOP post-mortem has been published and the question is more relevant that ever. Also easier to answer. The box.

The apparent centerpiece of the Republican Party’s new effort for 2014 is the request $10 million to be set aside to hire more staff to do “fieldwork.” The idea is to put more GOP staff on the streets and in neighborhoods to spread messages of inclusion and cooperation. Of meaningful change. Create converts, as it were. Normally a good plan.

Leadership also wants to hire a technology guru – with support staff – to try to catch Democrats in the use of polling and social media. Reince Priebus and company want a reduction in the number of presidential debates and to move the national nominating convention earlier in the year than August because the races are pretty much over by then.

I’ve read the autopsy report at length. As a plan to redesign the box the pizza came in, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. The problem is, I can’t find any recommendations for a more positive message or to eliminate the social issues that’ve angered voters and cost the GOP recent elections. No new plans for improving the quality of candidates fielded or concrete steps for real inclusion and outreach. Nothing to improve the pizza inside. It’s all remodeling the box.

There’s no mention of ending Republican-sponsored efforts to erect barriers to minority voting, for example The report talks about “connecting” with minorities. But how to you do that truthfully when the Party has been proven to be the sponsor of congressional and legislative attempts to keep minorities from the polls?

You won’t find a new, more moderate position on gay marriage, either. How do you tell the LBGT community you want to include them for their votes but you deny them access to CPAC or other Republican programs? (more…)

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…)