Writings and observations

rainey

The time has come to offer my Republican friends an apology. A really sincere apology. Like a lot of opiners, I’ve been guilty of painting the GOP with a very broad brush lately. And, to their oft-expressed dismay, these folk feel lumped in with the bad guys of their political persuasion. I really didn’t mean that. I’m sorry. O.K.?

It’s easy to do – this lumping. After all, there isn’t much of a Republican Party left that can be readily administratively identified. The “members” you hear most about these days are those in Congress. Or that dangerous, temporary President fella.

The intended recipients of my apology have nothing in common with those Potomac folk. They’re good people – living good lives – doing good works – raising good families – making good contributions to their communities. Nothing like those similarly labeled “Republicans” in Congress.

Again, I apologize for speaking/writing so loosely that it appeared to conflate one group with the other.

Nearly all of us were raised to understand we lived under a “representative” system of government. We were taught it began with us voting for a member of a governing body who most closely represented our thinking about issues. Further, we were expected to keep them informed of how we wanted things done and they were expected to respond accordingly to a majority of us. Representing us, as it were. And it really worked as designed for a very long time. Always seemed a good and efficient way to run a country.

But, in recent years, that governing concept has disappeared. It went from us telling them how we wanted things handled to them telling us to “go to Hell” and doing whatever they damned-well pleased. It’s happened in both parties to some degree. It’s happened most completely with Republicans in Congress. Which is why I feel obligated to apologize to my GOP friends at home who, like me, still believe in that representative system we were raised with. They’re not part of the problem. They’re being ignored just like the rest of us.

I could take up a lot of column inches enumerating all the issues in which GOP members of Congress have told us lately to “stick it!” But you already know a lot of ‘em. No, let’s just deal with the largest one – the one they’re hellbent on running with – the one they haven’t got a chance of winning on their present course. Health care reform.

More than eight in 10 of us, according to several years of national polling, have said “Don’t – DO NOT – repeal the Affordable Care Act Don’t do it!” “FIX IT,” we told ‘em. We’ve even told ‘em which parts we want to keep – insure the previously uninsurable – keep kids on parent’s policies – remove lifetime dollar caps – stop increasing premiums until they’re unaffordable – no Medicaid denial to selected individuals, etc.

But, instead of listening and acting appropriately, they’ve raised a collective middle digit, turned their backs on us and literally demolished what we told them we wanted and wrote something certain to die aborning. They even came up with personal tax breaks just for CEO’s of health insurance companies already making millions in self-enrichment.

What they created was so grotesque doctors, hospitals, financial institutions, labor unions, patient advocacy groups – just about everybody involved in anyway with health care – rejected the “Rosemary’s Baby” they created.

Did they hear us before acting? Sure they did. But they also heard the siren’s song of billionaires with money. Lots of money. Money to finance primary elections. Money to build up campaign coffers. Money to assure their continued, uninterrupted federal employment as “the peoples’ representatives.”

The fact is, many of these GOP “peoples’ representatives” fear a healthy, balanced primary contest more than they do a few angry voters. It’s that fear – coupled with fat cats with fat checkbooks – that’s killed what was our representative form of government.

These are the same “public-be-damned” S-O-B’s who backed an ignorant and dangerous President by affirming the most seemingly corrupt, most intellectually vacant governing cabinet in our history. They did it with the same “facts be damned” attitude they exhibited when violating our instructions to be careful with health care reform. And with the same extended middle digit!

My Republican friends deserve an apology. Not being billionaires, they’re suffering the same congressional contempt as the rest of us. And, ironically, they’re the only ones who can fix it. ‘Cause they’re the only ones who vote in the Republican primaries. They’re the only ones who pick the Republican candidates. They’re the only ones who can cut the idiots and self-servers out of the herd.

So, I’m sorry. Now, get up off your collective Republican ass and go to work!

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Rainey

rainey

Awaiting the eventual end of an American Presidency is a rare experience for the younger of us. Only other such occasions in my lifetime were the death watches for Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. You knew it was coming. Only date and hour were missing.

As we hold the same “wait-for-the-hour” session for Trump, I’ve come to a new appreciation for his seemingly random method of operation. Misdirection, it’s called in the craft. While making an ass of himself in the headlines, his minions – and those similarly inclined in the leadership of what was the Republican Party in Congress – are quietly gutting some very important programs. With the daily melodrama of his “presidency,” we hardly notice. He’s that good.

You could make a good list of what’s being undone as we look the other way. Gutting EPA regulations (thus protections), slashing important and necessary professionals off the payroll at the State Department (thus much-needed experience and expertise), gagging all federal personnel down to the cleaning crews in agency after agency with threats of job terminations for violators, ending major research projects dealing in science and health and the list goes on.

One such misdirection play of recent days is likely to cause serious harm to some of us in Northwest states. Especially Idaho and Oregon. And that’s the Muslim immigration ban. Ironically, it’s likely to hit a lot of Trump supporters in small towns therein.

Our part of the country has benefitted greatly from a federally-backed program which brings a goodly number of foreign doctors to our most rural and low income areas. And by rural, the feds are including some pretty good-sized places like Salem, Boise, Yakima, Spokane and Nampa-Caldwell. One of my own current physicians is from Ethiopia and he’s a good one.

Foreign doctors are offered some very good enticements to come to America and practice for several years in rural and medically under-served communities. Enticements like paying off medical school loans and other benefits. But a new survey by Harvard Medical and MIT has found the Muslim ban is going to greatly reduce the flow of applicants. Not just from the six banned countries but several others who worry about overall changing immigration policies. The Association of Medical Colleges is projecting the loss of hundreds of new docs yet this year alone.

While the newcomers tend to settle most in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan, we Westerners attract our share. In 2010, more than 25 percent of doctors and surgeons practicing in this country were foreign-born.

Oh, and something else. Trump’s also ended an expedited process which sped up approval of H1-B visas granted to highly skilled foreign workers. That’s part of the entry hurdle for physicians who complete their medical residencies and ultimately go into practice here. It also affects a lot of high tech folks.

Here’s another personal medical experience that relates. I’ve been referred to a neurologist for an examination over in the Willamette Valley. The earliest appointment? Three months out no matter the symptoms! Clinics are closing. Physicians are quitting. Others will take no new patients. Uncertainty about the political future has got to figure into some of their decisions.

The loss isn’t only in medical students. Grad departments in science and engineering claim student applications for many programs have declined by 20 to 30 percent for 2017. Partly because of the ban but also because of the uncertainty of what the hell Trump will do next.

This is just one of the important government functions being gutted by Trump and Republicans in Congress. He keeps the media mystified with craziness on the nightly news while the GOP bandits behind the scenes do their dirty work. The fine art of misdirection.

And finally, if you think no detail is too small to get the attention of government-castrating Republicans with budget knives to our throats, I give you exhibit ”B.” An excellent example of whose “health” concerns them. Not you and me. That’s for damned sure!

No, it’s those millionaire health insurance company CEO’s. The ones just struggling to get by. Tucked inside the GOP health care “replacement” is a special little gift for these indentured “servants.” A personal income tax reduction on their “paltry” earnings.

Misdirection? Not on your life!

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Rainey

rainey

There used to be a fun, entertaining social fixture on the Washington D.C. annual event calendar called “The White House Correspondent’s Dinner.” A night to get duded up, shove some job resume’s in your breast pocket, enjoy some good food and a show at the Shoreham Hotel, have a toddy or two and mingle with the Who’s Who of the national media business. Alas, no more.

The fun, the entertainment, the food and drink, the job hunting and a few hours rubbing shoulders with network news big shots effectively died when some idiot – maybe more than one – turned it into a televised prime time “special.” “Special” it ain’t.

Really enjoyable professional media comradery left the room the first time that happened. “Celebrities” became the focus. Some on the way up – many on the way down – and some you never heard of. Too many of ‘em with no firsthand knowledge of the edgy relationship between politicians and media. So a lot of comedic material with a good bite to it went right over their coiffed heads.

Media and politicos used to make up the audience. You’d put on a tux – mine were always rented and looked like it. You were allowed – but not especially encouraged – to bring a guest. Entertainment was always first class. For the two I attended, headliners were Pearl Bailey and George Carlin.

But, for many reporters in the large crowd, the most interesting hours came after the formal event ended. That’s when many of us in the ranks toured the suites sponsored by CBS, NBC, ABC, and many large, regional broadcasters. The hors d’oeuvres were good and the booze free. You could spend a few minutes chatting with Mike Wallace or Harry Reasoner, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings or others from the “nets.” You might even get a resume’ in the hands of just the right producer or corporate news VP.

It’s been many years since my “tour of the suites” and I’d guess not a lot of that goes on now. What was a damned good evening is now a TV “reality” show meat market for those who like reality unreal.

The spotlighted guest at the head table for many, many years has been the President of the United States. Only one in the last 70 or so years that didn’t show up was Reagan . His limp excuse – somebody tried to kill him. But, even then, he called in from his hospital bed to crack a few one-liners and receive a lot of warm applause. A pro. Never had done a standing ovation for a phone call till that time.

Even Nixon – a guy who hated the press and who generally reaped the same feeling from most of us media folk – even Nixon showed up. He took a lot of shots. And he gave a lot. Most in the audience had little regard for the man. But they had to give him a lot of credit for just being there. Especially toward the end of his White House days. It couldn’t have been fun. Or easy.

Trump says he won’t go this year. Which is fine. And not unexpected. He’s been in the audience for a couple previously. Took some public jabs and hated it. You could see it on his face. The ego he carries is huge and tender as a baby’s butt. If he can’t have top billing and the final word, he won’t play. Again, that’s fine.

The Association is talking about inviting Barack Obama. I hope they don’t. He made several dinners while in office. Good writing, a natural sense of humor and excellent timing made his moments very entertaining. Something Trump could never do. They’re also talking of cancelling the evening. Again, hope they don’t.

No, what I’d like to see is an empty chair right next to the podium where Trump would normally sit if he had the guts. Might even put a spotlight on it. Just the empty chair. That would say more than any comedian. Just a hot light. And that empty chair.

The Association raises a lot of bucks with this annual event. After expenses, most of the money goes for scholarships at journalism schools. Good program. Helps a lot of deserving kids.

No, “the show must go on” as Irving Berlin said. With or without a POTUS. If the nation can struggle through without one, so can the Correspondent’s Association.

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Rainey

rainey

When future historians write of these years in which we’re living, the common thread will likely be how divided – how splintered – how fractured – was our nation and nearly all political, cultural and societal relationships within its structure. How could they not?

Pick your own example for those historians. Pick a national subject like politics. Or a personal subject like religion. Pick almost any “Mom and Apple Pie” topic. You’ll almost certainly get an argument from somebody.

Divisions are open and deep. Even those who’ve been saying “Give him/them/someone a chance” have quieted down. Public debate has largely lost all tones of civility and courtesy while respect for a different viewpoint is as hard to find as truth in the White House.

No one knows how all this will shake out. But it will. Eventually.

There’s one area of our current trials of divisiveness I don’t hear much about – the subject of the rule of law. In my four score years, the rule of law has been a constant. Whatever the issue – whomever the protagonists – however divided – constancy of the law was simply taken for granted. Disrespect it – break it – ignore it – and there were consequences.

Now, our lives are filled with individuals, political entities and even government itself flouting the law and, seemingly, getting away with it.

A few years back, many county sheriffs across the country decided not to enforce any new gun laws – state or federal. They announced to all – including the federal government – that if its duly appointed agents came into the various states to enforce new laws, they’d be arrested and jailed. The rule of law? Ignored.

More recently, in Southern Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Montana and elsewhere, federal agents attempting to enforce federal laws on BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands, were faced by armed civilians who wouldn’t be moved and law enforcement backed down. In one case in Oregon, even the regional BLM office was closed and the agents transferred. Trespassing? Armed insurgence? Rule of law?

Several major cities across the country – and the entire states of New York and California – have told the President and the Department of Justice they will ignore federal orders and continue to be “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants. Rule of law?

Washington State Governor Inslee has issued an order telling state employees not to follow federal executive orders on immigration. Oregon’s Brown is doing much the same. What of the rule of law?

There are dozens more examples. The law says one thing; local government says another. Feds say “do this” and other elected officials say “No.”

There are laws on the books of various levels of government I haven’t agreed with for years. There’ve been regulations by the pile I’ve not liked most of my adult life. Our “unfit-for-any-public-office” President has been throwing executive orders this way and that for over a month. Haven’t found one yet that seems necessary and deserving of my obedience. And he’s been flouting the law and the Constitution even as he holds elected office

But – what about the rule of law? Without it – without all of us respecting and following our laws – where is this nation heading? What will be our national future if the various parts that make up the whole of our government pick and choose which laws will be followed and which ignored?

The guy sitting in the Oval Office today has the respect of only a minority of Americans. A significant majority wants him gone. He’s the punch line of social media – the butt of comedians everywhere. He’s unsuited for his job and has surrounded himself with equally unqualified minions who seem scared to death of the guy. He’s frightened and confused heads of government around the world. Honesty, integrity, moral character and respect for the office have become victims of continual lies about everything. Then, there’s his top aide, Steve Bannon, using Trump for his own purposes.

In short, the President himself has created an atmosphere which makes respect for him and his pronouncements impossible to accept by others who are far more equal to their public tasks. Many have reached a point they can no longer accept guidance from someone so obviously flawed who represents thinking antithetical to good and proper governing. Many are refusing to obey.

The rule of law is what’s at stake here. The foundation of a civilized society and the basic precept that creates the order in which that society has its being.

We are seeing ruptures in that foundation. What future will this nation have if that foundation breaks?

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Rainey

rainey

REPRESENTATIVE:
“a: Standing or acting for another through
delegated authority;”
“b: …(c)onstituting a government in which the many
are represented by persons chosen…by election”

It’s no secret an “un-representative” majority of the U.S. Congress doesn’t give two hoots in Hell about what the constituency thinks or expects from their Potomac residency. Despite what the good folks at Merriam-Webster have to say.

That comes as no surprise. But, never has it been so brazenly and gutlessly demonstrated as in recent weeks as the most intellectually vacant and outrageously unfit nominees for a President’s Cabinet were paraded before congressional committees.

Even the most unbiased observer would have to admit the more egregious examples of un-representative votes in those hearings came from Republicans far more than Democrats. In overwhelming numbers, folks at home – voters who elected the un-representatives – told them how they felt on one nominee after another. And, with a consistency rarely found in politics, those elected “un-representatives” – Republicans mostly – ignored them.

It’s widely accepted that, when considering a new President’s appointees, a lot of latitude is given to the Chief Executive to have the crew he wants. Often, this means swallowing hard because of a nominee’s tenuous talents to serve in a particular post. But this batch! Front to back – top to bottom – monied fools whose “leadership” abilities stopped far short of the vaguest qualifications. One, in fact, didn’t know for two days after appointment what his new job would be – believing it was to travel the world to promote this country’s oil and gas industries. A Dallas reporter had to “‘splain it” to him.

But un-representative members of Congress bellied up to the bar to approve everyone that reached the Senate floor.

Idaho had to look no further than Sens. Risch and Crapo to find what voters wanted them to do wasn’t worth a damn. Neither would meet with constituents – wouldn’t talk to them at district offices – wouldn’t come to the phone or return emails. In fact, neither would even make public what the public said about the list of unqualified nominees. Finally, one clerk in Crapo’s employ let slip that opposition to the Dept. Of Education chief was over 95%! Still, you know who ol’ Mike confirmed. Yep, he went with the 5%.

In state after state – district after district – across the nation, members of Congress “holed up.” Wouldn’t meet – wouldn’t talk – wouldn’t be interviewed – wouldn’t answer mail or phones. Some locked office doors – doors voters pay for in federal buildings we own. It was in your face. Our face. Locked doors and unanswered phones.

One flat out lie came from un-Rep. Cathy McMorriss Rogers, the highest ranking woman in the GOP in the House whose home office is in Spokane. She told voters she’d meet last week but only two at a time since the fire marshal had written her that was the most people that could be in her office at once. “Safety,” you know. Except he didn’t write. In fact, he said her office could “safely” handle 30 people.

Two reasons for this chicken-heartedness, I think. First, lobbyists with pockets full of money. Oil and gas people turned on all the money spigots for the new EPA chief, for example. Big bucks flooded in to D.C.. Textbook publishers and private charter school companies trucked in loads of greenbacks for the most unqualified billionaire ever to buy the Secretary of Education’s job. And so it went. Voices of greed outweighed voices of voters and filthy lucre supplanted “the right thing to do.”

Second, our un-representatives – mostly Republican – are scared to death of the President. Terrified of retribution – of having a primary opponent at home – of having their continued employment ended by a guy not worthy of his own elected position. They lack the guts to do their jobs for fear they’ll be violently ripped from the public trough in an act of Trump pique.

It’s doubtful the dollars will stop rolling in. So, there’ll likely be that obstacle between voters and members of Congress until that Citizens United decision is overturned. But, the fear factor may soon be ended. Especially in the Senate. When six or eight members – enough to sway the balance of voting – decide to do what’s right, Trump/Bannon will cease to be an employment or career threat. Then we may begin to see some semblance of independence.

There’s also the possibility a numbers/reality change in that same Senate could lead to a vacancy in the White House. You can already get betting odds in Vegas and Reno on impeachment. And those odds are slipping closer to 50-50 as we go along.

However all that may turn out, there’s a lesson here we voters must not forget. While 2018 is still a ways off – and some members won’t be up for re-election even then – we must remember who the un-representatives are. We need to clearly recall that, when we needed them to do the job we gave them, they didn’t show up. When we, in large numbers, needed to talk to them about what we wanted, they locked their doors and took their phones off the hook.

We were paying them to do their jobs. Others paid them not to.

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Rainey

rainey

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong there that at least some of my anger must have some merit. This time, the whole mess of ‘em are mucking through something that will, eventually, change reporting rules and all of us as consumers.

Having been a very small part of it many years ago, I learned a lot and am happy for the opportunity – lucky to have had the experience. Maybe that’s a big part of why I use this space to rant against some of the current practitioners from time to time. “Been there. Done that.” So, when they screw up, it touches a personal reflexive nerve which brings the angry reaction. I’ve got one of those going now. But, this time it’s different. Angry AND, for once, uncertain.

Not many in today’s media crowd were around in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s when I was learning the craft. Their early training and mine are a couple of generations apart. Oh, some of the basics are still the same i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how. Still gotta have all that.

Then we -and they as youngsters – went through the Watergate era where the most prized reporting came to those doing “investigative journalism.” Woodward, Bernstein, Mike Wallace et al. Dig out the lies, confront the bad guys and make major headlines. Or a rare 10 minute “package” leading the evening’s national news. Journalism turned a sharp corner then and the “who, what, where…” guys largely disappeared. So did a lot of “getting it right” with facts before being the bearer of constantly “breaking news.” Damn, how I hate that phrase!

Now, another “sharp corner” is being turned. Labeling public officials – up to and including the President of the United States – liars. Which – on a daily and often hourly basis – he, and nearly all the appointed minions who “speak” for him, are. Without question.

Most of the “street” reporters in the national media are less than 50-years-old. Such training as they received was much different than us older types had in the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s. That – and Trump”s continuing, reprehensible public statements – has resulted in a very different “code of conduct” between media coverage and news makers.

Case in point: Richard Nixon. I didn’t like Nixon when he was in Congress in the ‘50’s. A liar then, just as he was in the presidency. He felt persecuted, disrespected, undervalued and cursed with being a perpetual “outsider” in Washington. All of which he carried into the White House years later.

My limited, working contact with him was usually as a weekend reporter or subbing for regular, daily beat reporters. Also had a couple of minor personal occasions to be in his presence. Each time, my innards churned with disrespect. A lot of contemporaries felt the same. But all of us – all – played our different roles professionally and – all in all – until Watergate, respectfully. If not for him, then for the office. But we knew he often lied. Big time.

Now, the next generation of reporters is faced with Donald Trump – the most unqualified, unprepared, unskilled and biggest misfit ever to hold the office of President. To that can be added his penchant for distortion and outright lying on a daily basis. And, his selection and daily use of people equally unskilled at their jobs who share the same distasteful habit of publically – and often – speaking “truth” as they see fit to create it.

Trump operated in the same dishonest manner for nearly two years of the national campaign. For a long time, he wasn’t openly challenged for his regular, daily “untruths” by a media not used to dealing with an openly confident, perpetual liar at that level.

Then, editors and others in charge of content for broadcasters and print, had to make some decisions. Should they continue to avoid or soft-pedal the daily torrent of lies and, thus, become complicit in passing them on to viewers and readers as fact? Should they employ fact-checkers and give the job of separating truth from fiction to them? Or, should they step outside the boundary of simply reporting and call the torrent of lies what they were? Lies!

Though the media is currently held in very low esteem by much of the American public, I can tell you, from experience, a lot of good scotch and considerable bourbon was consumed, a lot of sleep was lost and a lot of professional soul-searching was done by some very dedicated people. To openly challenge the voices and the blatant lies would forever change the honored – and mostly respected – balance between government officials and media. The relationship would never be the same.

The resulting decision for nearly all media has been to label this administration’s lies for what they are – lies. Not just once in awhile. Not just when the lie is a big one. Not just for spite. Not just for anybody but the President. A lie is a lie is a lie is a lie. Anytime. And anyone.

To my mind, this puts us on a whole new path. Those who persist in lying are going to be called on it – regardless of who they are. At least nationally. And the national media, once simply an institutional reporting source, has become a daily arbiter of fact.

Will this continue when Trump and his minions are gone? No one knows. But, that sweeping difference in one of our most significant national institutional relationships is what exists today.

I’m not comfortable with that. But it is what it is.

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Rainey

rainey

“Well, it’s all goin’ to pot,
Whether we like it or not.
Best I can tell,
The world’s goin’ to Hell,
And we’re gonna miss it a lot.”

Willie and Merle. My favorite dispensers of wisdom. And – often – reality.

When that song made the charts a few years back, we Oregonians were tinkering with the idea of legalizing marijuana. Backers had been trying unsuccessfully to get the issue on ballot before. But, in 2014, with more research and the history of other pot-legal states on the record, things seemed more in line for passage.

Those states had taken the step and survived, making the idea of recreational pot less onerous. Their histories were largely positive. Medical and social resistance didn’t seem as strong. National statistics didn’t show necessarily higher rates of crime or more bad driving being traced to pot. Even some of the voices of opposition weren’t as strident. The question of legality got to the ballot. And passed 56%-44%.

To the legislative credit of both Democrats and Republicans, the new law was carefully crafted. An experienced Oregon Liquor Control Commission was tasked with creating the first rules and taking oversight as applicants for licenses lined up in the halls in Salem.

Sales started July 1, 2015. In general terms, all the bad things that were supposed to happen haven’t. No sharp rise in highway deaths/accidents because of new pot access. No increased cases of family breakups traced to pot use. Local communities decided for themselves whether to allow sales. Some did. Some didn’t. All in all, implementation came and went and everybody went back to whatever they were doing the day before.

But – on the plus side – things have been very, very busy. For example, the number of sales outlets in the first 18 months under the new permissive law went from zero to 487! A weed-like growth spurt. You should pardon me.

And that’s not all. Oregon has also licensed laboratories, processors, producers, wholesalers and researchers. All together, 1,802 licensees in our flourishing public pot industry. All subject to paying taxes.

So, has it paid off? Well, year-to-date (December 30), the marijuana tax of 25% has brought in – wait for it – $60,000,000 for 2016! The State will deduct costs of collection – a few million. Then, 40% of what’s left will go to education, 20% drug services and mental health. The rest to drug abuse prevention and law enforcement.

By the way, this doesn’t include what counties and local communities are taking in. Each has authority to levy a local tax. Most do. And they’ve been pleasantly surprised at the size of this new largesse. Financially, everybody’s smiling.

A monthly breakdown of when the bucks flow in – and from where in our state – is also interesting. Summer is the big “selling” season. Tourists, you’d guess. And you’d be right. Largest sales numbers are generally West of the Cascades with most along the Pacific coast from Portland to the California border.

Since Washington and California also now permit recreational pot, I’d guess – given watching license plates on our highways – Idaho, Utah and Montana are “higher” now than they used to be. Montana allows medical but the other two don’t. Idaho’s western border is solidly cheek-by-jowl up against pot-legal states. Don’t look for that to change any time soon.

So, how big a seller is recreational “MJ?” The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) figures about 13% of us have “used” in the past three years. But, that’s just the national average.

You just know California is #1. About 18% users. But, surprisingly – at least to me – Portland has about 13.32% and Seattle 14.31%. Got a little “Pacific High” goin’ there.

Some 23 states allow recreational and/or medical marijuana use. That number will increase bit-by-bit as residents demand it and states look for more income to pay the bills. Kinda like gambling. Most legislators would rather face a constituent angry about a “yes” vote on legalized pot than one on a tax increase. Any tax increase!

Our little coastal county of some 47,000 souls has about 20 pot shops. Seems excessive but no one really knows for sure. Their products, while accessible and plentiful, are not cheap. Transactions are “cash only.” No checks or credit cards. All sales are final. No returns.

For those wondering if I’ve had a “loaded” brownie or two, I have not. We retirees need to be careful with our “disposable” dollars. Besides, I’ve got a Jack Daniels budget to consider.

You laugh? Well, there’s one more legalized recreational pot factor here. Oregon booze sales are down. Down! Looks like some of that “disposable” income has jumped the fix fence.

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Rainey

rainey

Over the long haul of time, the fortunes of our two major political parties rise and fall with the changing tides of the whims of voters. That’s a good thing. Change. Still, it’s always sad to see the underdog of the moment in disarray, wandering in the weeds and accomplishing nothing. Like the National Democratic Party today.

One of the blessings of our system is no one group usually stays in power very long. Nor should they. Idaho’s late Gov. Robert Smylie once told me “Every few years, regardless of which party is in power, it’s good to open up the windows and closets and sweep things out. Keeps things healthy.” He was right.

When discussing the ins and outs of political control these days, the Dems are really out. In the U.S. Senate, they can count on two independents standing with them most of the time. But, that still only gives them 48 to the GOP’s 52. When voting, they’ve got to count on five Republicans seeing things their way to do anything. In the House, even worse. Dems have 194 to the GOP’s 241. One seat is currently vacant. So Democrats get rolled on about every issue.

We’re continually told the party’s two congressional leaders – Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi – are two of the most knowledgeable and effective users of the rules of each body. Well, maybe. Maybe not. If they’re so damned proficient, why aren’t they using their “proficiencies” to get after some things?

I got to thinking about this a day or two after the Women’s March. The streets were filled – in Washington D.C. and hundreds of other, smaller cities in 64 countries – with what we’re told was more than three-million folks. Mostly Democrats in this country, I’m sure. But there had to be some Independents. And Republicans. And many who’d previously been uninvolved in political affairs but finally figured out using the system is the most effective way to have your say.

To a Democrat in Congress, standing on Capitol Hill and watching the mass of people in the streets, one would think many of them would feel invigorated. And, feeling thus, they’d get a fresh wind and dive back into the fray in Congress with more vigor. Not so.

To be sure, there were a few, mostly Democrat members of Congress in the crowd. But not many. Not nearly enough. A lot of faces that should have been seen were likely watching it on TV or doing something else. Not good.

To put it bluntly, the people in the streets are way, way ahead of members of the party that would certainly be their biggest ally in future political warfare. And, because of the oft-repeated videos showing the marchers, they’re still ahead of most Democrats today.

Yes, I’ve watched some of the Dems hammer Trump Cabinet nominees in committee. Really hammer. Good for them. But, in reality, their televised angst will account for nothing in the long run. Just more political posturing. It’s not hard to predict which will eventually be confirmed and which rejected.

To see Shumer, Warren, Brown, Merkley and others pounding away is food for the soul – if you believe the nominees are as unfit and grossly unqualified as they seem to be. But Democrats won’t prevail if the unfit and grossly unqualified President keeps supporting them. All the televised hammering won’t change that.

I’ve covered larger protests in DC but those were focused on a single issue – Viet Nam. The Women’s March was very different. Several million people in the streets around the world for all sorts of reasons and causes. Enough causes that Democrats could adopt any one of them – or several – ride that horse as their own and have a built-in constituency of – maybe – not just Democrats. The list of reasons that brought millions into the streets last week could make a very good party platform that might finally mean something. And get read.

Start NOW to capture the momentum. Start NOW to identify marchers from your communities and states. Start NOW to get them involved at home. Start NOW to register voters. Start NOW to form volunteer squads for continuous action. Start NOW to build your data bases. Start NOW to contact and coordinate with other states and other movements. Start NOW!

If Donkeys in Congress are waiting to get all exercised on the floor in either house – if they’re figuring to out-debate the upside down numbers they face while looking for victory – if they keep lying back in the bushes waiting to pounce at some future date on some future issue – they’re passing up a rare political advantage. If that happens, all the future action is going to have to come from the streets.

Those marchers in the streets are living proof the people are ahead of the politicians on many, many things. Democrats in Congress should stop watching from the cheap seats and get out there onto the asphalt. That’s where the action is.

Get off your butts!

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Rainey

rainey

We’ve started attending a different small church near our little oceanside haven. Absolutely nothing wrong with the previous one. Not a thing. But, now and then, it’s good to see what else is going on in the neighborhood. At times, even spiritually.

It’s a small church – probably just over a hundred folks on the roles. Weekly attendance is about 60-70. Most everything about it is typical of thousands of other churches in thousands of other small towns.

One physical thing that sets it apart from others we’ve attended is a 20 foot high wall of glass on one side, running the length of the sanctuary. As you sit facing the chancel area, you’re mindful of the Pacific Ocean – off to the right – on the other side of those windows. Peaceful most of the time. Storm-tossed at others. Like our lives.

The building is a little more than 60 years old. It’s beginning to show outward signs of prolonged seaside weather on wood and glass. Inside, the feeling is homey. Seating, carpet and fixtures also beginning to show the wear of time and use. Still comfortable, though, and quite conducive to worship.

But, if you had been there last Sunday, you would have seen something quietly moving. Quietly spiritual. A wordless act that could define why churches exist. An act many may have never known.

About 10 minutes into worship, a young man entered the rear of the sanctuary. His clothes were old and dirty – his hair long and badly matted. He probably hadn’t had a bath in some days. He likely was one of the homeless that have taken shelter in our building on recent, below-freezing nights. He wore a bulging backpack filled to more than capacity – probably holding all he had in the world.

Rather than slip into a pew near the rear as other homeless visitors had done, he walked straight-shouldered down the center aisle to wordlessly take a seat on the front row directly in front of the lectern. The distance between him and that lectern was about a dozen feet. He set his pack on the floor.

He didn’t stand when the rest of us were singing several hymns. He only uttered a few words once during the service which was a quick, quiet, seemingly friendly remark to the pastor.

The service continued. The first special moment came when the lay reader stepped down to hand the young man a hymnal and her program for the service. The second was when she stepped down again – before the pastor’s sermon – to take a seat next to the visitor. She stayed by his side for the rest of the service.

After the benediction, came the special moment all churches talk about but some never accomplish. The lay reader kept her seat as other members of the congregation stepped up to join her and engage the homeless young man in conversation. As we were about to greet the pastor at the rear of the sanctuary, I glanced back to see more than half a dozen members gathered around the still-seated visitor. By just their body language, the handshakes and the smiles, you knew the greetings were real and welcoming.

All this happened on a Sunday – a Sunday six days ahead of an inaugural ceremony in Washington D.C.. An inaugural most of us in this country – as you can tell from the popular vote in November – hoped would never happen. A lying, racist, bigoted, homophobic misogynist, surrounded by the most unqualified cabinet in history, would take the required oath of office to be our President. A man who would place his hand on a Bible to swear allegiance to our country and its laws. A man who has exhibited his love of wealth over good works – power over service to others – narcissism and bigotry over duty.

Quite a contrast to hold simultaneously in your mind. A self-loving, ego-filled, materialistic worshiper of wealth with his hand on a Bible, about to put a nation and world to risk. And a man from the streets walking into a small church to acknowledge an unseen god who accepts us because of our good works and not our possessions or station in life.

It was an interesting Sunday in our little seaside church. An opportunity to be part of a faith we profess but seldom see in practice.

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Rainey

rainey

People who write and people who compose music share a common challenge. Both start with a blank page to be filled with words or notes of expression. For some of us, that’s the toughest challenge. How and where to begin.

Since our November election – and for the first time in over 50 years in some form of journalism – I’ve been stumped. Unable to begin. Unable to meet the first rule of both writing and musical expression – to begin. To express. To undertake and overcome challenges of dealing with a given set of facts. In my case, election of D. Trump.

I’ve tried. Were the computer screen replaced with pages of white copy paper, and the keyboard with pen or pencil, the wastebasket near my desk would be filled to overflowing. Several times. Unable to begin. Unable to capture necessary words to coordinate thoughts and message.

I’ve previously expressed admiration for Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus for undertaking – and completing – 100 columns of 100 reasons why Trump should not be President of these United States. He did so prior to the election as a countdown series. Clearly, articulately, well-researched and professional. I don’t know anyone else who could have accomplished such a task.

Now, on the eve of swearing in the most unqualified and unfit person as President in our modern history, the logjam of my own thoughts – kick-started by a forced reality – have broken the intellectual logjam. Perspective, I’d guess, of time and distance.

Trump scares the Hell out of me. He does so for all the political ignorance he represents – constant lies, a lack of skills of reasoning, judgment, ability to articulate in an intelligent manner and his massive ego. Yet he seems more a symptom than the cause of our national sickness. A by-product of our many national divisions.

If, in the next four years, his many character flaws don’t kill us all in some vain attempt to assuage his immature personality needs, he’ll eventually be swept off the world stage and into the oblivion he rightly deserves. If the nation survives – and I believe it will – there’ll be far worse issues to be solved.

In just the last few years, our nation has arrived at a “point-of-no-return,” ceasing to be the type of Republic we were raised in. We’ve turned a corner to something else. Permanently. The word “union” no longer describes the relationship of the various states. Politics, ignorance, disgraceful actions of corporations and the billionaires who own them, racism, sexism, misogyny, false allegiances and fear of the future are separating the 50 states more distinctly than the North/South of 155 years ago.

We’ve become immersed in “globalism” which is our new reality, forcing all nations to adopt new ways of doing almost everything. Many changes are often undertaken more for survival and benefit of corporate interests and less for the survival and benefit of whole countries. Our nation is no longer the leading producer of goods or “things” but is now a leader in “services.” Creation of middle class jobs to replace those lost when we were a “producer” nation, hasn’t kept pace with exporting other jobs. Companies now chase international profits rather than just those at home.

Many state and national laws are now written to please narrow interests rather than a need to address an issue. We’re seeing the use of faux “religious” intent on the part of minorities to control the majority i.e. abortion, same sex marriage. We see smaller, more narrowly focused zealotry invading our political system. Organized Western religions are losing adherents.

We’ve lost the “melting pot” dimension that made us great and so much more diverse than nearly any other country. We separate, cluster, fend off differences, create boundaries and make exclusive communities rather than welcome and honor our many heritages.

National politics has turned from civic service to continued “career” employment. Collegiality, comradery, willingness to compromise have been replaced with strict party divisions regardless of effects on the citizenry. Determined ignorance has overcome research, study, enlightenment and a willingness to learn. Scientists and researchers are being handcuffed and ignored. Personal pursuit of riches has overcome service to constituency. Service to self denies service to others.

We start or enter wars without due declaration, putting the burden of living sacrifice on others while requiring no personal sacrifice of ourselves. We fill our political bodies – and our media – with minutia while ignoring needs government was created to serve. We allow millions of citizens to suffer from lack of human necessities of food and housing while enriching those who live in mansions.

We’re ill-served by a failed media – poorly trained and seemingly dedicated to ratings and corporate enrichment rather than informing and enlightening. We listen to – and legitimize – gossip, hate, division, racism and division. We’re directed to focus on what separates us – not what unites us.

There’s more. Much more. Trump didn’t manufacture it. He didn’t invent it. He used it. He spread the ignorance, subjugated truth to lies, sowed division rather than unity. He lied. He manufactured whatever twisted logic was necessary to feed those willing to follow. He ignored law, protocol, truth and even the basics of decent behavior to accomplish his ends. He’s a symbol of the divisions, malaise and distortions we’re living with. He didn’t create ‘em. He simply used ‘em.

Our nation – divided and about to be without a leader of honest character – is stronger, more civilized, richer and more accomplished than this political vagrant. Our national survival is assured. His is not. Our pages are filled with words. His remain blank.

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Rainey