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Posts published in “Rainey”

Will you vote on character or race?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

One of every two people reading this – statistically – is anti-black and/or anti-Hispanic. In fact, slightly more than that. Statistically.
For some time, I’ve held the opinion racism has been a large – but unspoken – factor in our national politics. A very large gorilla in our universal living room. Some of you have challenged that. Some have even called me “too sensitive” or “just plain wrong” when responding to my concerns. When it comes to expressing opinions, that’s O.K. When it comes to fact, it’s not.

I have in hand the results of a new Associated Press national survey as exhibit “A.” It was conducted by Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. While the combined results might be questioned because of regional differences, that’s hard to do when so many widely separated institutions come up with some very comparable statistics. Very.

Here is the AP’s direct quote on its survey results. “Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008, whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racial attitudes or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about the topic directly.”

In sum, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes compared with 48% in a 2008 survey using the same system. But, in the questions that let to an implicit showing of racial attitude, anti-black expression jumped from 49% to 56%.

As for Hispanics, those institutions did their baseline work in 2011. They found 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. In just one year, the 2012 results jumped to 57% in the implicit test!
If those racial results are accurate – and it seems they are when compared to similar research – what are the direct implications for President Obama when people are asked about his performance in office? Is the increase in anti-black sentiment because people are displeased with his actual performance or is it easier to be critical when you factor in his race? Even if you do so implicitly – meaning you may not know you’re harboring those feelings but they showed up in questioning? Could he have been expected to succeed even under the best of times? Which these certainly are not!

The subject of how Obama’s race would factor into how he’d be treated as president surfaced in my thinking during the 2008 campaign and was renewed after his election. I don’t mean to say I was looking for instances of different treatment – only that it was a part of my thinking about a president that had not been there before. Why should it?

The first time I made a connection was when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out “You lie” during a speech by Obama to a joint session of Congress. No historian can remember any such outburst and the breaching of what remains of congressional decorum. Wilson, it should be remembered, was one of only six members of the South Carolina Legislature who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over his state capitol. A flag that symbolizes the nation’s years of slavery to America’s black population. His legislative voting record on this and other issues is certainly open to scrutiny in matters of race. (more…)

Can free speech be too free?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While standing in the checkout line the other day at my favorite warehouse store, a middle-aged couple pushed a partially-filled shopping cart up behind me. While both were well-dressed, his demeanor told me he was probably retired military. Because of a large VA hospital in our little burg, we’ve a large retired military presence. Usually makes for good neighbors.

Noting my nearly-filled shopping cart, he said innocently “Looks like you’re stocking up.”

I smiled and said “You bet. With gas at $4 a gallon, I’m making fewer trips to shop so I try to fill the list each time.”

“There’s only one reason for gas prices to be what they are,” he said with a suddenly edgy tone. Before I could ask what that was, he continued, “That damned Muslim Obama and his Muslim friends are trying to take away all our money.”

Silence. Somewhat awkward silence. But, always one with a snappy, on-point response to such statements, my retort was – - – “Oh?”

Upon recovery I asked sort of jokingly – deliberately ignoring the obvious – “If you were running for president in a tight, national election, and could control the price of gas, wouldn’t you cut it to someplace around $1.25?”

“He’s not going to cut anything,” the man said. “He and his Muslim friends won’t be happy until we’re broke and living under Sharia law.”

Regaining my composure a bit, I asked “You really think the President controls the price of gas?”

“You bet,” he replied. “And he won’t be happy until the Muslims control everything American.”

“Are there any facts to the contrary that would make you change your mind,” I asked.

“None” was the curt, one word answer.

My turn with the cashier came at that point and we parted. Quickly.

What do you say during such an encounter? What do you think when someone says obviously crazy things like that? What do you say?

While that was the most direct, strident, hate-filled encounter with such anger and ignorance for me recently, it certainly isn’t the only one. It’s in my incoming email file every 24 hours. It’s in “news” accounts each day. It’s the picture of a guy at a Romney rally wearing the words “Put white back in the White House” on his shirt. It’s political campaigners telling their audience we need to “send Obama home to Kenya.” It’s pictures of Americans wearing pistols and waving heavier weapons at otherwise peaceful events. It’s pictures of the President morphed with pictures of Hitler. It’s hate on bumper stickers like one with a rebel flag in our burg saying “I’m paying a bounty for Obama’s hide.” And more. Much, much more.

I’ve been accused by more than one acquaintance lately of being somewhat touchy when it comes to criticizing matters of hate or race when I see public instances such as hate speech, valueless stories of racial issues in the media, bombast from the hate-talkers and just plain blatant racism in mass media or public discourse.

The accusation may – or may not – be warranted. My question in response is “Why aren’t more people angry as Hell and pointing out the same things?”
We didn’t get into this national environment of hate all at once. It’s been building for decades. A little step here. A little give there. Overlooking what should have been red flags about such issues when they came up. Little by little, well-paid, hate-talkers on radio have pushed their dirty envelopes until there’s not much you can’t find on the airwaves today. Strident hate, homophobic slurs, race-baiting, out-and-out lies about nearly any subject – especially the President. Crackpot birtherism insanity. Social, medical and personal issues being passed off as subjects of “political import.” Lies being pedaled as truth when the truth has been proven repeatedly. Political prostitutes being elected to office with open wallets of unhinged billionaires seeking to build a theocracy they can control.

You’re damned right I’m touchy. I’m fed up with it and sick at heart about what’s happening to our nation. When otherwise thinking, middle-aged people can accost me in a store checkout line with the insanity I experienced this week, I’m more than touchy – I’m damned mad!

Free speech. I know. I know! It’s been an issue I’ve defended all my adult life – up to and including jail in the District of Columbia. It’s an issue my heart is fully into. But……………….

We’ve allowed the guaranteed right of freedom of speech to be unfettered by a matching obligation of informed speech. In defense of free speech, we’ve allowed the assurance of it to overwhelm any requirement for honest speech. Factual speech. We’ve even generously rewarded those who pervert it and who foist their perversions on the rest of us.

Do I know how to fix it? No. Not really. But this perpetuation of mental sickness under the guise of a constitutional right is gutting our sensibilities and creating alternate realities for millions of Americans. My daily contact with the I-net is the living proof of that. That and a shopping trip.

Without some sort of concerted national effort addressing this problem, our other freedoms are being endangered. We should all be more touchy. More of us should be damned mad.

It works!

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

At our house, we voted this morning. As I write this, nearly all of you in other states have another 10 days or so before traipsing to the polls. For us, the campaign is over. It ended with the slight swishing sound of two Oregon vote-by-mail ballots sliding down the intake of the ballot collection box. No stamps. No extra envelopes. No mess. It’s a great feeling!

Oregonians have been taking care of their most valuable labor of citizenship this clean, trouble-free way for 31 years. First, on a test basis for state elections starting in 1981; then permanently for all state elections since ‘87. By ‘95, federal races were added. In ‘98, Oregonians overwhelmingly voted by referendum to continue the process and make it permanent for all elections. We do it all by mail. The single question about the process that remains with me – why doesn’t everybody do it this way? It works!

All the skeptics – believe me, there were some – have long been muzzled. Oh, there are still a few of the “aluminum foil beanie crowd” mumbling about fraud and lost ballots. But even they have used the system successfully and their numbers are vastly reduced.

It works!

Oregon’s statewide elections are run on a shoestring budget because they can be. The six and seven figure costs in other states are gone for us. We don’t need poll workers, poll watchers, volunteers of any stripe. Even shut-ins or other folks who can’t physically get to the polls can vote. And do.

A statewide survey done in 2003 showed 81% of us felt the process was great and should be continued. Not that there was any serious talk of quitting. But just to reassure the “powers-that-be” that we still overwhelmingly supported the idea. Actually, Democrats approved by 85%; Republicans by 76%. And a full 30% said they voted more often and more regularly since the mail idea started. All together now: “It works!”

“And voter fraud? Gotta be some fraud in the process,” you say.
Well, if there’s been such skullduggery, it hasn’t shown up in any great amount. Our Secretary of State says the process is as clean – or cleaner – than states that still use in-person polling places. It just works.

Oh, we still have a booth or two at our county courthouses so the diehards and the purists can make the trip to town to vote the old way, then hand their ballot to a real live person. But, soon, even that will disappear. Especially if gas stays at four bucks a gallon.
Living in a state in which our elections are considered well-run and honest, I’ve been damned disgusted with the Republican-sponsored efforts to keep Americans from polling places elsewhere. Yes, Virginia, it’s all been Republican-sponsored. Not one state legislature with a Democrat majority has tried to limit voter participation using the phony excuse of “voter fraud.” Not one. It’s been the Republican National Committee pushing this “fraud” scheme, trying to keep minorities from voting. At first, behind-the-scenes; then more openly once exposed. Fortunately, court tests of these partisan efforts to discriminate – especially against minorities – have been shot down one by one.

And the irony is this. So far, in 2012 alone, there have been more reported examples of Republican efforts to cheat the system than all the cases of voter fraud prosecuted in the 50 states following the 2010 election!

Study after study – sponsored by reliably independent groups – found there have been no large-scale cases of voter fraud. Period! All this Republican-backed fraud business is another example of trying to apply fixes to problems that don’t exist. Or more properly said, attempts to steal elections. According to such surveys, no state – repeat – NO state is reporting serious, sizeable examples of voter fraud. In fact, when the top Pennsylvania elections official testivied in district court in defense of that state’s new, needless voter fraud law, she admitted she knew of no cases. Not one!

Further, she said she’d not even read the law. This is the same state in which the legislature’s Speaker of the House famously told a GOP audience the new fraud law would “guarantee the election of Mitt Romney.”

North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania and a few other state Republican parties and Republican-dominated legislatures have led despicable attempts to disenfranchise many Americans at the polls. A Pennsylvania district court decision to uphold that law was struck down on appeal. All others lost at the first hearing. As they should have.

But in Oregon. Ah, Oregon. Republicans and Democrats – and all those in the other, smaller parties – wait by the mailbox about two weeks before the national voting day. Taking time to peruse our ballots at home, talk with each other about the election, make our selections and sealing the envelopes, we join political hands, walk to the mailbox and put ‘em inside. Done!

And Oregon’s voter fraud cases? You gotta be kidding.

For all parties! For everyone! IT WORKS!

Someone else swimming upstream

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I don’t believe endorsements by the media, celebrities, corporations, unions or anyone else have much effect in today’s political environs. I’ve never cast a vote for or against anyone or any issue because someone who makes scads of money said so. Nor have I ever carried a list of local newspaper endorsements into a polling booth. Such third-party opinions go in one of my senior ears and out the other with no notice.

Until Saturday, October 20, 2012! One definitely caught my attention.
On the surface, an editorial endorsement by nearly any newspaper is read by few and ignored by many. But Saturday’s exercise by The Salt Lake Tribune in old Mormon Utah had to be a shot heard ‘round the political nation.

The SLC Trib ignored Utah favorite son and part time resident Williard Mitt Romney in favor of President Obama. Right there in black and white on the old editorial page. Top of the fold! The closest I can come to a social, economic and political comparison is if the Vatican endorsed Israel’s Prime Minister to be the next Pope. Something like that.

The SLC Trib is owned by MediaNews Group of Denver, CO, but operates under a joint agreement with The Deseret News, traditionally considered the media voice of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Both newspapers share printing and other facilities under their contract and both trace their lineage in Utah back to nearly the first settlements. Very long histories – longtime rivals – sometimes nasty enemies – but now sharing a common operating contract.

Because of LDS dominance in Utah – large dominance – its history, commerce, religious and political worlds are all tanged into a larger mishmash of an almost incestuous nature. I mean that in absolutely no negative connotation. It’s just fact. It all operates very well for Utahans and has been that way for a couple of centuries. Parts of Southern and Eastern Idaho share very similar traits, the reason for which is also the large presence of the LDS Church. It just is. And Idaho’s politics are similarly affected.

So much for that. Hold that thought. Now, let’s look at a couple of the billionaire families in Utah that share a large and often dominant role there. Jon Huntsman, Sr. is the industrialist father of Jon Huntsman, Jr.. Recall Jon Jr. briefly ran for president in Republican primaries this year. Both men very rich and very influential in Utah politics. Jon Jr. was governor a few years back. Both men have been GOP deep pockets for many years. They’ve know Mitt and fellow Romneys for years and years. (more…)

Hate, fear and guilt to go around

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The lies and damned lies of this presidential election could well damage our vaunted two-party political system beyond full recovery. At a minimum, they could change elective politics in very damaging, destructive ways.

Strong words? Yes. Mine? Yes, but not mine alone. Near-daily research of opinions of some of the best political minds in this country shows many of them saying similar and, in some cases, exactly the same thing.

That we are a badly divided nation is no overstatement. Daily transfusions of hate radio, political and social lies on all our computers spread by too-often anonymous cowards and the ignorant drivel of some in high political office combine to create the toxic atmosphere. Add prolonged uncertain national economic conditions affecting us all, a national media which seeks sensation without information, sustained high unemployment and you’ve got a breeding ground for division, mistrust, ignorance and hate.

To all this, add the now-legal ability of a couple dozen billionaires to bombard our national atmosphere with poisonous media messages – often anonymous and always uncontrolled – seeking to change the foundations of our society to conform to their own self-interests. Dividing us still further.

We have a presidential contest devolving into some of those “lies and damned lies.” While the principal candidates must share some blame, the more scurrilous of the bunch come from those SuperPACs. The ones that are supposed to operate completely unattached to the candidates they support. Road apples! Two of the Obama and Romney SuperPACs are headed either by former staffers or avowed supporters very familiar with each man. Such isolation as there may be rests in the lack of emails or other direct communications but any separation stops there. They are “joined at the hip” for all practical purposes. To the extent they are, the candidates must accept a large share of the blame for the falsity of their messages.

Here are two specific examples of charges that are completely untrue. From the Obama camp, the charge Mitt Romney is “hiding” his tax returns. Not true. Romney’s returns are legally protected from publication as are those of the rest of us. Despite the false charge of “hiding,” Romney and his advisors have made a calculated political decision not to publish what he is entitled to keep private. You may argue – and I certainly do – that the decision is doing more harm than good as continued polling shows. But to claim he is “hiding” them is not true. (more…)

The fashion tipoff

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Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Despite my near total ignorance of fashion, I’ve always liked the color hot pink. It’s not for everyone. But when it’s worn by the right person at the right time – it’s dynamite! I just never figured it would help me understand candidate behavior in a presidential debate.

I’ll leave the “what did it all mean” debate details to media heavyweights more intellectually attuned to such stuff. Besides, they get paid for the job. I’ll just stick to the hot pink.

Go back to the end of the debate on Tuesday night. After all the furor was over. If you looked up in the bleachers just above the section reserved for the questioners, Ann Romney was in the first row on the right – in hot pink. Michelle Obama was in the first row on the left – in hot pink. Damn poor planning that. Each almost an equal distance from the stage. Best seats in the house.

But – within half a minute of the moderator’s last words to the camera – Ann Romney was on the stage. The candidates had not had time to even turn to formally acknowledge each other with small talk. As is customary. Not that these two guys were going to do that. Fat chance. And it appeared to me Ann Romney made sure it wasn’t going to happen if she could help it.

She quickly climbed the few steps and placed herself on Mitt’s right side – smack between him and the President. About eight feet away. If Mitt had turned to acknowledge Obama, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann. If the President had turned to his left to speak to Romney, he would have had to go around – or through – Ann.

Within seconds, she consciously nudged Mitt to his left and the small group of his supporters standing there. No further acknowledgment between the debaters was going to occur if she could help it. Obama looked left, saw the situation and – about that time – Michelle reached his side. His left side. Shoulder to shoulder, about four feet from Ann – with no glance or other recognition between the two women.

The moment hit me like a brick. Two well-dressed women – in nearly identical hot pink – separating their husbands from each other and assisting both in avoiding what would have been tough and perfunctory – if not totally meaningless – small talk. Two lionesses protecting the family.

Within three or four minutes, the Romney’s and their entourage were gone. But the Obamas hung around for some 40 minutes, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures with members of the audience. Suddenly, just one woman. Just one hot pink dress.

I immediately flashed back to the end of the earlier Biden-Ryan debate – after all the talking was done. Within a couple of minutes – and after the obligatory handshake with smiles yet – wives, kids and grandkids circled both men. Then, in a minute or two, both families mashed together into one hugging, smiling and chatty crowd. Adult Ryans were kissing each other – and adult Bidens. Adult Bidens were kissing each other – and adult Ryans. Kids in both families talking and running around the stage. It was just one of those very, very good moments in our national politics you don’t often experience. A good end to a good experience.

But the Romney and Obama slugfest? Well, if you wanted to determine the winner, all you had to do was watch the hot pink. Really made the whole winner-loser decision easy for me. Wonder what the coordinated color is for next week in Florida.

A couple things you’re not being told

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

With all the political garbage talk going on these days about tax cuts, we voters – the people who pay those taxes – are being promised impossible things while hard facts are being ignored. The kindest, most gentle way of putting it is we are being led to tax slaughter while being lied to. Even if your favorite politician sounds so reasonable and factual, there are things he’s not telling you. So, I’ll take up two of the major omissions right here. Believe me, the list doesn’t end with just these two.

When politicians talk about “rewriting the tax code” or “eliminating deductions” or “reworking tax rules” or “prioritizing tax breaks” you should be scared. Very, very scared. The last time a major tinkering of our federal tax laws was done, it was overseen by Oregon GOPer Sen. Bob Packwood. He of the “lady problems” who soon thereafter was told to go home by his peers.

Here’s the first landmine. During the 1980′s process, we middle-income taxpayers got screwed and the big guys made out just fine, thank you very much. No matter who wins this election – from president on down – you can bet the farm it’ll happen again. The reason is simple. When tax rewriting begins, you and I are way under-represented at the table. Almost ignored. But the big guys – the ones with the well-paid lobby folks ever-present on Capitol Hill – those guys have front row seats and unlimited expense accounts with which to peddle some well-compensated Gucci influence.

Since you and I won’t be attending, who’ll speak for us? Who’ll make the case that our precious homeowner exemption is more important than some international company not having to pay taxes on a corporate jet? Who’ll speak up for you when the cutting turns to second home exemptions for RVs against someone’s luxury tax exemption for a 60 foot yacht? And that child tax credit. Will that survive a “K” Street onslaught by the briefcasers when they want to eliminate it in favor of another tax goodie for the international jet set?

If you don’t think that kind of horse-trading campaign contributor pressure is not exerted to the maximum against individual citizen interest, you must think Little Big Horn was just “a failure to communicate.” The big guys have an army – a well-paid army – to speak for them. Since you won’t be there, who’ll speak for you?

Then, there’s omitted tax cut fact number two. Let’s suppose – just for giggles – we all get the 20% federal income tax reductions being promised to we middle-classers. Whoopee! Yowser!!! Way to go!!! We’re off to the BMW dealer, check in hand.

Better wait up there, “ultimate driving machine breath.” You haven’t heard from your friends in the state capitol who set budgets and write the laws regarding levies and collecting taxes. You haven’t heard from your friendly county commission that shares the same legal responsibility.

If your state legislators and your county commissioners find themselves not receiving those absolutely necessary federal dollars – the ones you don’t pay anymore – what do you think the next step is? Can you say “tax increase?” Maybe “BIG tax increase?” Because your legislature and your county commission have responsibilities required by law to provide certain public services. It’s not a matter of “IF they’ve got the money.” No. It’s a matter of they HAVE to and they have absolute authority to reach into your pocket to do so. And, believe me, they will. I don’t care what you’re being told between now and election day. In many ways, they have no choice.

Oh, and don’t forget those other taxing folks in your neighborhood. The sewer districts, road districts, school districts, water districts, mosquito abatement districts, etc.. The ones getting fewer federal dollars, too.

Take the county, state and federal taxes you and I pay right now. Put them all in a big purple bag. Every dollar in the bag has been paid because each governmental level has lawful responsibilities or budgeted demands it must cover. So, let’s say, the feds put in 20% less – that 20% tax credit you’re being promised. Well, what has to be paid for by law still has to be paid for. By law. Who’s going to make up that missing 20%? You know. The 20% you didn’t pay? (more…)

Nine female voices reaching millions

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

To our national and individual shame, the nation’s protracted presidential campaign has been short on dealing with many major concerns. Billionaires have been getting more than their deserved share of attention. So, too, have lying politicians and elected crackpots spewing ignorance and hate. Even one of the signature stars of “Sesame Street” has embarrassingly become a major talking point. But what of this nation’s moral core? What of our shared responsibilities one to the other? What about the commitment that flows to each of us via our birthright of citizenship? The commitment to care for “the least of these?”

I’m a confirmed protestant whose had several personal and somewhat difficult encounters with Catholicism. It would be accurate to say my relationship with most things Vatican-sponsored is a strained one. But I have recently been introduced to an aged face of the Catholic Church that is refreshing and exciting. Her name is Sister Simone Campbell. The wise and very intelligent leader of “Nuns on the Bus.”

In April, the Vatican’s doctrinal office made both a strategic – and doctrinal – mistake. A big one. Rather than speak its criticism through normal church channels, it went vary public and loudly charged nuns – especially American nuns – have been outspoken on issues of social justice, but silent on other matters the Church considers crucial: abortion and gay marriage.

The nuns, led by Sister Campbell, had an immediate and equally public response: “Nuns on the Bus.” They hit half a dozen states with a full contingent of international media in tow. They stopped at soup kitchens, service centers for protestant as well as Catholic churches, toured low rent housing, visited homeless shelters, stopped on skid rows and did interviews about what they were doing and seeing. Lots and lots of interviews. It was “in-your-face” time for the Vatican. And for many American bishops who were actively stirring up opposition to what they believe have been President Obama’s efforts to “violate religious freedoms.” The ladies with the wheels one-upped them. And they still are. (more…)

Corrosion or cancer: Damage either way

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Something very strange is going to happen when the 2012 presidential election is over. Something I don’t think ever happened before in my long lifetime. The winner will be the guy who got the most votes from people who hated the other guy even more.

Bit of a twist in there, eh? Go back and read that last sentence again.

Put another way, more people who don’t like the guy they’re voting for dislike that other fella more.

Proof of this comes from more than a few national polls in recent weeks. The last Gallup sampling on this question of “likeability” among likely voters showed four in 10 pledging to vote for Mitt Romney even though they didn’t like him but didn’t like Barack Obama more. Pew Research got nearly the same result.

I’d been thinking about how negative voting – and outright hatred – could chose the next president, but sort of tucked the destructive thoughts away. But Sunday on “Meet The Press,” NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd erupted during comments from other guests. Unusual for a normally quiet guy like Todd. But the passion of his words was even more noticeable. And what he said brought those negative voting findings to mind.

Newt Gingrich was spewing forth another “I hate the President” outburst he’s famous for. And former GE CEO Jack Welch was again claiming a Democrat Party “fix” to lower national unemployment numbers to favor the current administration.

Todd apparently couldn’t stand it anymore.

“This is really making me crazy,” the normally unflappable, statistical guru of NBC News broke in. “The Federal Reserve gets questioned for politics these days. The Supreme Court. (Chief Justice) John Roberts. We have corroded.”

The conversation stopped and Todd spoke again.

“What we’re doing, we’re corroding trust in our government in a way, and one-time responsible people are doing so to control it. The idea that Donald Trump and Jack Welch – rich people with crazy conspiracies – can get traction on this is a bad trend.” Host David Gregory went to commercial.

Todd’s outburst – more emotional than intellectual – was spot on! By giving credence to haters, electing incompetents to office, exalting hate radio voices as spokesmen, circulating anonymous hate emails by the millions every day on the I-net and blindly accepting the crap spewed by ignorant political “celebrities” who fill our living rooms nightly, we’re creating great weaknesses in the very government we need to survive as a nation. It used to be if someone “famous” said something stupid, it wasn’t news. Now, far, far too often, it IS the news. (more…)