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Posts published in June 2016

Don’t drink the water


It was announced last week that Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Carole Smith plans to retire after the end of the next school year. This came as no surprise to me. In fact, I called it weeks ago.

Smith’s golden administrative parachute means that that she’ll probably make more from the state’s Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) than most people earn working 40 hours a week.

All of this might have something to do with a certain water-related scandal of some sort. We can’t call it Watergate, because apparently that’s already been taken.

The story, of course, is that Smith and other PPS officials knew for years that there was lead in the water of drinking fountains at literally dozens of Portland schools and didn’t bother to tell anyone.

Parents are understandably upset about it. There was a meeting a few weeks back, and my friend Bruce Broussard was among those in attendance. Bruce is a Vietnam veteran and a small business owner who also happens to have grandchildren in Portland schools. He ran as the Republican candidate for Portland mayor and took fourth place, despite not raising or spending much money, and is also the host of Oregon Voters Digest on Portland Community Media. I occasionally appear as a guest on his show.

Bruce was hoping to get some answers from Smith at that forum, which was moderated by Sen. Mike Dembrow (D-Portland). And when Dembrow tried to change the subject and move on, the angry parents in the audience turned on him all at once and nearly booed him out of the building five times in the space of three minutes.

The teachers union is also pretty unhappy. They do, after all, exist to ensure safe working conditions for their members. It’s not quite the same as the t-shirt factory fires that helped cause unions to be formed in the first place, but it’s not an ideal situation, either.

Another function of those unions is to negotiate their members’ salaries, although teachers everywhere are chronically and notoriously underpaid. Smith was seemingly able to negotiate her generous compensation package on her own and presumably without the help of any union representatives.

There seems to be a certain set pattern in Portland these days, in which officials know about clear environmental hazards and choose to do absolutely nothing about it. The other great example of this is the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) dropping the ball on preventing pollution in Southeast Portland.

I was at one of Governor Kate Brown’s press conferences at the capitol not too long ago when a reporter asked her about the situation.

“Hey…isn’t that near your neighborhood?”

When Dembrow was asked about all of this at the meeting, he indicated that some state funds would have to be involved as part of the solution. That will probably end up being the case.

The state’s reaction to the DEQ issues leaves much to be desired, as the agency announced surprise inspections of businesses throughout Oregon who had nothing to do with the Portland pollution problem.

These events have caused much of what I’ve seen while working in the Legislature the past few years to make much more sense. That body is, after all, dominated by Democrats from Portland, where layers upon layers of big government are still somehow inadequate to protect the city’s residents from pollution and its children from lead in the water at their schools.

Public officials with six-figure salaries well above those of the average taxpayer fail to do their jobs, are never held accountable and ultimately ride off into the sunset, paid with pensions. Those pensions are far beyond what the average Portland resident who pays for it all will ever make. It means that people like Smith and those DEQ officials will be paid more to not work than most of their tax base does to work just hard enough to stay poor.

Those residents then get mad—and understandably so—and call legislators like Dembrow to demand that the state do more to hold polluters accountable. They, in turn, pass laws in kneejerk response that threaten the very existence of struggling small businesses in rural parts of the state. The people there end up suffering, even though those parts of Oregon are among the most pristine on Earth.

That is, unless there are catastrophic wildfires going on. This was the case about a year ago. There were multiple fires burning in the rural district represented by my boss, and elsewhere in the state, too. A DEQ official was in the office explaining the modeling used by that agency as part of environmental legislation like the controversial Low Carbon Fuel Standard. He claimed that one-third of Oregon’s carbon output was from transportation.

“How much is from catastrophic wildfires?”

None, as it were. Presumably, that’s because they can’t tax it. Because the state is going to need as much money as it can get if it’s going to keep paying elaborate pensions to officials like Smith and those fine folks at DEQ.

Those retired officials can then move from Portland and Salem to the rural areas, and be among the best-off people in those communities. They would probably be pleased that they won’t have to rely on the local economies there to subsist, after Portland legislators and DEQ officials under their direction put their last remaining industries out of business.

But once enough of that happens, there won’t be a tax base to fund their lavish lifestyles anymore. People like Smith would then have to come out of retirement and put their sharply honed skills to work in whatever remains of the private sector, where incompetence of the kind they’ve demonstrated typically leads to termination.

Success, on the other hand, results in your business being targeted and shut down by DEQ.

This is the same agency that can’t protect you from pollution in the state’s largest city, where kids and teachers are exposed to lead in the drinking water at their schools, and officials who know about it fail to take action and respond to the scandal by announcing their retirements.

The cycle will keep repeating itself as expensive failures add up, unless and until we demand better from our leaders.

Idaho’s glass ceiling


Now that Hillary Clinton is about to shatter the glass ceiling hanging over the White House’ Oval Office, one has to ask when is Idaho going to get with the program?

All of the states touching Idaho’s border save Nevada, have had at least one female governor. Oregon and Washington have had two. Some have been as good if not better than any male who has held the office. One need look no further than former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. History will treat her tenure (2005-2013) far more kindly than Washington’s first female governor, Dixy Lee Ray (1981-1985), who despised the press and the media returned the love in kind.

Governor Ray was upset in the 1984 Democratic primary by State Senator Jim McDermott, who many thought would coast to election only to be upset himself by King County Executive John Spellman in the general.

Oregon’s first female chief executive was veteran legislator Barbara Roberts. A bit like Dixy Lee Ray, she had a tart tongue, sharp wit and a hard time masking her intelligence. She chose not to seek a second term. Indeed, if there is one common denominator among the female chief executives in the states bordering Idaho, all except Gregoire only served one term: Barbara Roberts of Oregon, 1991-1995; Olene Walker of Utah, 2003-2005;Judy Martz of Montana, 2001-2005; and, Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, 1925-1927.

So how come no female figure has emerged in Idaho? There’s no easy answer as both parties have had talented women who could handle the job with ease as well if not better than many of the men who have served as governor.

On the Republican side many thought Louise Shadduck, who started her career as a journalist in her hometown of Coeur d’Alene, working for the Coeur d’Alene Press. She almost single-handidly over the years built up the Republican Party in Kootenai county. She mentored a number of Republican males who went onto public service, both elected and non-elected. Talented Republicans from Steve Symms to Phil Reberger to David Leroy considered Louise a mentor.

She was the first female administrative assistant to an Idaho governor, serving Governor C.A. “Doc” Robins from 1946 to 1950. She became the first female head of a department when under Governor Bob Smylie she created and ran the forerunner of the Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

She seemed a sure bet to be Idaho’s first female governor but an attempt to unseat Gracie Pfost from the First District Congressional seat did not succeed. It was, however, another first for Ms. Shadduck. It was the first time in the nation’s history both major political parties chose female standard bearers in a congressional race. Louise never put her name on a ballot again.

The only Republican female actually to file for governor was State Senator Rachael Gilbert from Boise. She ran second, however, to Middleton State Senator Roger Fairchild in the 1990 Republican primary, losing by some 5000 votes.

Among current GOP officeholders the best bet for a female to break that glass ceiling would be JFAC co-chair Shawn Keough from Sandpoint. A moderate, pro-education Republican she has proven to be a tough campaigner rebuffing three serious primary challenges from hard right-wing Tea Party types.

Though she has never expressed any interest in being governor some pundits speculate that current Lt. Governor Brad Little might encourage her to run for his job when he runs for governor in 2018 with the thought they might be an attractive winning “ticket.” If Little were to then move onto the Senate Keough might inherit the job.

Another more than qualified Republican female is Sandy Patano, former Senator Larry Craig’s State Director. Intelligent, articulate, a superb strategist and a long-time political activist, she would be a good bet also---if she ran.

There’s one other dark horse possibility: rumors persist that the reason Governor Otter is raising funds for his PAC is that while he won’t run for a fourth term, his wife, Lori, just might. No slouch at campaigning, she could be a formidable candidate and if she won the primary a lock to break that glass ceiling.

When one turns to the Democratic side it says something that few names come to mind. Former Governor Cecil Andrus always thought Orofino State Senator Marguerite McLaughlin would have made a terrfic governor and he encouraged her to run. Despite rumors to the contrary, Andrus never pushed daughter Tracey to run for Boise mayor or any other elective office. Nonetheless, had she ever sought to be governor she too would have been a good bet to break the ceiling.

Likewise, former Democratic National committeewoman Jeanne Buell from Worley could have been a credible, winning candidate. None of these folks ran, however. Among today’s current crop of Democrat officeholders only former State Senator Holli Woodings is a possibility. Minority Leader Senator Michelle Stinnett has said never.

There’s a bright young talent working in Democratic state headquarters, however. Her name is Shelby Scott. If she doesn’t return to her native Nevada, she might be a good Democrat bet in 2026.

Heads we lose, tails they win


Is the United States winning or losing in the Middle East? The answers are confusing and mixed.

Measured from purely military considerations, no one can deny that ISIS is being ground down. Their military leaders have been decimated by drones and direct attacks. Their organized forces are on the run or embattled in losing situations throughout the region. While there are still areas between Syria and Iraq under ISIS control, it is only a matter of time before military operations will strangle the organized ISIS forces and eliminate its military capabilities.

However, the military defeat of ISIS is only a fraction of the puzzle facing the United States and its allies in the Middle East. With its theological underpinnings, ISIS is not just a political entity with military power, capable of being defeated or eradicated by military force, or of being overhauled and reorganized by a dominating captor, such as the allied powers did with the German Reich and the Empire of Japan following the last world war.

Underlying ISIS, at the foundation of its existence, is the fundamental belief of Islam. While foreign powers may consider such to be radical jihadism, to the Muslim follower it is part of an intangible ideology or system of belief ingrained in Islam from the biblical times of the Prophet Mohammad.

Whether the physical entity of ISIS as we know it today survives is irrelevant to the survival of the fundamental ideology of its followers. Radical jihadism is a condition of the mind, and thoughts are incapable of being conquered and overturned by force. Converting the followers of today’s ISIS to another way of thinking is the only way of eliminating a distorted ideology, and this can only be achieved through means other than military force. It is a problem within Islam, and must be solved from within Islam. As is becoming increasingly obvious, for any entity from without Islam to attempt to impose a solution, whether it be by carrot or stick, serves only to exacerbate the situation and prolong the dissention.

The United States has proved itself to be singularly incapable in this area. Our only methods of persuasion towards cultures who refuse to embrace our ways of governance purely on our say-so have been by the brute force of our military or the economic influence of our wealth. When these methods do not work, we historically have been at a loss to know how to react.

For examples of how we have repeatedly demonstrated our inability in this area, one need look only to the consequences when our decision to prop up the Shah of Iran turned out to be wrong, when our attempts to form a balanced secular government in Iraq failed, when we bungled attempts to influence the emerging governments of Egypt and Libya, and in our continuing futile attempts to organize a viable government in Afghanistan. We – individually and as a nation -- do not know what to do when power and money are not sufficient to carry the day.

The only way out of this mess is to scrap completely everything that we have been doing, and start over. Defeating the essence of ISIS is not a matter of the proper application of force or military power, or of the effective exertion of economic sanctions, or of more effective diplomatic intervention into the internal affairs of errant governments. The eventual solution will be one that eliminates direct military intervention entirely, reduces diplomatic interference to zero, gets all foreign interests out of Middle East functions completely, and treats Islamic terrorists of any brand as international criminals.

This is not a partisan issue. The present political landscape does not offer a choice between right and wrong in the Middle East, but only choices between wrong and worse. While Trump’s announced policies would lead to disaster much faster and with greater potential for catastrophic results, Clinton’s policies are also destined to fail.

Both sides must recognize that success will not come until we get out of the way while Islam cleans its own house.

Damned Brits


It’s a day or so after Great Britain’s Brexit vote and I’ve been sitting at the old computer machine for several hours watching the bottom drop out of my IRA. Nearly 40 years of saving and, at this hour, the listed value of my retirement plan is about $38,000 less than the cash amount I put in over all those years. Forget the interest. Others, I’m sure, are seeing that and much worse.

World markets are drowning in red ink, keepers of the economies of nations around the world are wondering what the Hell just happened and the Brit’s home ground is cracking beneath their feet. Politicians everywhere are struggling to get on the “right” side of what’s happening although most have no idea which side that is.

For many years, I’ve privately clung to the belief some important national issues should never be given directly to the public to decide en masse. Brexit is one such. One proof of that is how many millions of Brits and others were asking Google “What does Brexit mean” and “What is the EU” the day AFTER. Where were they the day BEFORE and in the last few weeks as England’s media covered little else?
You know how the enormously complicated Brexit issue got to a referendum ballot? We’re told it’s ‘cause PM David Cameron, his chief of staff and a couple of other British politicians were sitting in a pizza shop at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport a few months ago and wondering what to do. Cameron was trying to come up with an idea to heal some of the many riffs in his nation’s populace at-large. He wanted home folks happier.

One of the four hit on the idea of a referendum on whether the nation should remain a member of the European Union or go its own way. So, the pizza gang - after a brew or two, I’d guess - decided nothing could be more “unifying” than a vote on the country’s entire economic future.

So, how did that work out? Well, Cameron resigned the morning after the vote and it can only be deeply hoped the others - with tomato sauce and cheese on their fingers - do so as well.

Thanks to those four pepperoni-loving pols, a nation previously dealing with a number of far lesser political disagreements is now one deeply divided smack down the middle. About 52% on one side- 48% on the other. And the economic wreckage will pile up for years. Yes, Sir. Nothing like a good, old popular vote to smooth everything out.

Like it or not, the British system of government - and ours - requires the election of people to public office. It’s how we do things governmental. Once in office, their chief responsibility is to research and study issues, use the committee process to get all the facts, make an educated recommendation to the entire larger body for that body - with a studied committee report in hand - to decide what to do. It works, most of the time. But odds of it working are a whole lot better than dropping this terribly complicated question into the laps of millions of citizens when most of them are unprepared to cast an intelligent ballot using whatever facts may - or may not - be at hand. Or even knowing the facts at hand.

Suppose, just for giggles, our nation faced the question of whether to return to the gold standard. Our Congress studied, researched, conducted endless committee meetings and came up with no clear decision. So, over a large Domino’s, the powers-that-be decided to put the issue on the good old American ballot. Let the voter decide. What kind of a well-informed, fully educated, studied decision would be forthcoming? Look up and down your street. How many of your neighbors would you think could cast a fully-informed vote?

Yes, there are issues which should be in the hands of the electorate. Most questions should be decided by those who will have to live with the consequences. But, once in awhile, a subject comes along that defies the ability of the public-at-large to come up with a researched, intelligent decision. That’s why we have a government. Why we elect people to office - to study issues of great import and make decisions based on research and recommendations of well-informed experts. Think seriously about that the next time you vote for someone.

Most Americans have no idea what the implications of switching an entire nation’s monetary system would mean. But that ignorance could be the basis of the collapse of an entire economy. Or, the world’s.

Such, I think, was the case with Brexit. Rather than cold, hard facts that could be understood by “the least of these” - if they cared to pay any attention - the issue was handled like a major marketing program. Thousands of slick TV commercials, newspaper pages filled with thousands of fancy ads and wall-to-wall talk radio going in all directions. If there was a repeated, easily accessible program of facts and a full disclosure of lasting, national effects either way, it was hard to find in the flotsam.

Our own little Faux News proudly proclaimed Great Britain was “pulling out of the United Nations” - which it isn’t. The Trumpster on his way to Scotland tweeted how happy he was the Scots had voted to leave the EU - 64% of Scots voted NOT to leave. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan called the vote “the worst economic happening in my more than 40 years of public service.” And on and on and on.

Well, the market is now down another 150 points in the last hour. That’s about $500 more cash loss to the retirement plan. I think it was Mark Twain who quipped “England and America - two nations separated by a common language.” Given today’s dire effect on my standard of living here in the senior years, that separation hasn’t been near far enough.

Truth limping after


The Twin Falls incident that blew up around the world actually went something like this.

On June 2 at the city’s Fawnbrook Apartments, a five year old girl encountered three boys, ages seven, 10 and 14. The older two were natives of Sudan, and the youngest from Iraq. One of the younger two is believed to have physically touched the girl, but the incident mainly seemed to have centered around humiliating her. A video of the incident was shot, police were called and responded soon after. The two older boys were taken into policy custody. Not many more details were released by authorities because records in juvenile cases generally are kept under wraps.

It was a sad event, maybe traumatic for the girl. But compare the facts – laid out clearly by Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs and Twin Falls law enforcement – with the accounts many people first heard.

For many people, that first report came in the form of a Drudge Report headline, “REPORT: Syrian ‘Refugees’ Rape Little Girl at Knifepoint in Idaho.” Variations of that headline, with short unsourced stories to match, shot around the Internet for days before reality set in.

To underline it: There were no Syrians involved; no Syrians have even been settled in the Twin Falls area through the (highly controversial) refugee programs. Whether the boys were refugees is not clear (albeit possible). There was no rape. There was not even a knife. The only part of that headline that was true is that the incident purportedly referred to occurred in Idaho.

Since this was a Drudge headline, I wouldn’t necessarily have expected any better. But some actual news organizations picked up on the report and also posted it online, making the situation worse.

According to the Twin Falls Times News, some versions of the story had the boys’ parents celebrating the attack. That wasn’t true either, but it apparently was enough to get at least one of the families involved evicted from their rental residence. There were also loud claims that law enforcement was slow in responding and local authorities were engaging in a coverup. Also not true.

How did this happen? Loebs suggested that “There is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth.” Based on the way the story developed and spread, that seems likely.

But let’s expand this a little, because we may be back in this area again.

Please: Don’t be too quick to believe what you hear – especially if it supports your bias.

Or, in the old cautionary aphorism of the professional group Investigative Reporters and Editors: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Okay, maybe the second one was a little harsh: You may already have plenty of good evidence for believing that proposition. But the point is reasonable. At least pause to ask what sources there are for a given piece of information (in the case of at least some of the early articles on the assault, none were cited).

Too much of what you see online, or hear on radio or television simply isn’t true but does have the primary effect of tearing communities apart and turning neighbor against neighbor. Don’t let that happen. Again.

Trump tells the convention (maybe)


Again turning convention and conventions on its head, Donald Trump addressed the Republican Convention on its first day of the gathering in Cleveland. The following is an imagined text of what he said (or should say).

“My fellow Republicans. First, let me welcome you all to the great city of Cleveland, home of the NBA World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. That man has game, doesn’t he? He promised he would bring a world championship to Cleveland and he delivered. It is so rare nowadays to see a man stand up, promise something and then deliver. Pretty rare, pretty rare.

So unlike the professional politicians and pundits who live inside that surreal world inside the beltway called Washington, D. C. We all know the answer to that old question - how can you tell when a politician or a pundit is lying? That’s right, their lips are moving.

Nine months ago I announced that I was running for president. All those experts and all those media mavens treated it as a joke but I knew something that they didn’t see or care to see. I knew the American people were tired of being lied to by their president and their government.

I knew that those hard-working folks in what they call the middle class felt that the playing field was no longer level, fair and balanced, that their son with a degree from Cleveland State stood no chance of competing for a job with a rich kid who had gone to Harvard or Yale.

I knew that they knew they were being screwed every day, taxed to death and over-regulated. I knew they knew that the American dream was disappearing with jobs being shipped to the Chinese and the Indians.

I knew that many Americans no longer felt safe in their own country, that illegal immigrants, many of whom were criminals, were getting ino this country and I knew they knew we had to stop the flow of refugees from the Middle East into this country until we figured out a better way.

I knew that you knew our fine military was hamstrung by a president and a secretary of state who didn’t trust our military to do a job, tied their hands and then lied about their failure to save some of America’s fine diplomats.

I knew that you knew America was on a downhill slide into mediocrity. And I knew you knew that America could and should be great again.

I knew too what you knew, that what this country needed was some real changes, real reforms and I knew that you knew that kind of change would never come from anyone on the inside; that you knew and I knew that the next president had to be an outsider, someone who was uncorrupted by the wealthy and influential.

And I knew that you knew this country could not withstand allowing the Clintons and their way of doing business back into the White House.

And I knew that you knew there were millions of alienated voters out there who would respond to my message----that I shared their dismay, that I knew what they were saying, and I knew I could lead our nation to greatness once again.

Guess what? I was correct and all those pundits and critics and nay-sayers were wrong.

Guess what, my friends? All those pundits and wanna be presidents still don’t get it, do they? It should not be that difficult to figure out that only an outsider can bring real change, but they don’t get it.

The consequence of their ignorance is a constant distortion of what I say or how I say it. Words are taken out of context, phrases are misconstrued and misunderstood.

The elite media have decided conclusively that they want the status quo and the old way of doing business and that Hillary Clinton is the one who will take care of them.

They are going to do everything they can to see me smeared, my family besmirched, my taxes re-examined, my private life researched.

Well, I have a surprise for them my friends.

I wanted to address this convention on the first day,rather than the last because I have decided it is in the best interests of the nation and the Republican party that I withdraw my candidacy and free my delegates to vote for whomever they wish.

Without me to kick around your, choice will be given a better shot at making a case to the American people.

As General Sherman said, “if nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve!”

So with sadness I renounce my presumptive nominee status. I’ll make no endorsements and accept whomever you choose. Good luck in your deliberations.

God bless America.

Good guys with guns


Let’s explore the urban myth that the gun lobby and their followers bring up every time there is a mass shooting. The one that says the best answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Donald Trump is advocating this as his answer to the Orlando shooting. He pumps up his crowd by suggesting that things would have been different if someone in that crowd had a gun, and had used it on the shooter. Trump points his finger at his forehead and pulls the imaginary trigger. “Boom!” he suggests, “end of problem,” to the sound of loud cheers and applause from his crowd.

Balderdash. Anyone truly familiar with guns, with crowds, and with what happens when somebody starts shooting should be able to easily figure out with a few minutes logical concentration that the myth is just that and that Trump’s solution is utter nonsense.

Let’s suppose that out of the crowd of 300 or so that might have been in that nightclub that there were 10 individuals who were armed. What would have been the expected result? First of all, when the bad guy fired the first shot, there would have been pandemonium. A goodly number would dive for cover or head for the exit, a fair number would rear up and look around to see what was happening, and the rest would mill around in confusion. The point is that the entire room would be immediately filled with unpredictable movement in all directions.

Into this setting, we introduce the 10 vigilantes. They do not know one another, have never practiced or trained together, and are spread generally throughout the club. (In real life, the cops practice these scenarios repeatedly, but in our situation, the 10 vigilantes are on their own.) They all pull out their guns. Now there are 11 people in the club with guns out.

You and I know that only one of these is the bad guy and that all the rest are good guys, but no one else knows this. What is worse, the 10 do not know anything of each other. For all any one of them knows, anyone else with a gun is a potential bad guy. Somebody sees somebody across the room with a gun. People are milling around back and forth, and nobody knows what anyone else is doing. Finally, this is all happening in a bar where the booze has been flowing steadily all evening, including, probably, to our stalwart vigilantes. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s make it worse; two or three of the good guys see the bad guy shooting, and they start returning fire. Now the other gunmen can see and hear gunfire from the three good guys, but they don’t know who’s who yet, because they don’t know where the bad guy is, and they can’t tell where all the shots are coming from. If one starts shooting now, there is a good chance it will be against one of the other good guys. And the clear chances are that if anybody else starts shooting in this melee, everybody is going to start shooting. Bullets are going to be flying everywhere, and the casualty count is going up, not down.

Yes but, someone might argue, one of the good guys might shoot the bad guy and that would take the assault rifle out – which would be a big improvement, right?

Wrong. Accuracy with a pistol is an inordinately difficult task. It takes a ton of training, hours of dry fire practice, and hours more of live fire practice on a range to become even moderately accurate with a pistol. Maybe on a well-lit shooting range, with plenty of time and no distractions, a person with some training could learn to put a round or two into the target killing zone. But in all likelihood, regardless of how accurate the vigilante is on the range, the probability of that accuracy carrying over to a crowded nightclub, or dark theater, or school gymnasium, or crowded shopping mall, with all the yelling and movement and commotion that would be going on in a real life situation, is very, very slim. Once the shooting starts, the odds of anyone being able to hit whoever is actually being aimed at – unless the shooter is right up on top of his target – is going to be very, very slim.

I recall a police shootout several years ago where the cops fired close to 100 rounds at the bad guy without hitting a thing. The perp finally threw his gun out and surrendered. When I was in the military 50 years ago, I qualified on every weapon available from the M-1 rifle through all manner of automatic fire machine guns to the 105 mm main tank gun – except for the standard issue Army 45 caliber pistol, with which I could not hit a barn door at anything over ten paces. Nor could anyone else who went through the orientation with me. The point here is that to pick off the gunman from any distance with any degree of predictability would take someone who is not only an expert shot with a pistol but also is accustomed to shooting in high stress and confusing situations, where the target is shooting back.

Then the cops show up. Doesn’t take long, and they show up in force with swat teams deployed. It is still pandemonium inside, of course, with everybody yelling, the shooter still blasting away from some corner somewhere, and 10 guys with guns milling around, firing off whenever they think they have a shot. It’s dark, the cops are in swat gear. Everybody starts yelling to drop their weapons and come out with hands up. How could this be expected to turn out? Are all 10 good guys going to immediately drop their guns, stand up and walk out with their hands up? Oh yeah? Who’s going to be first? The plain fact is that it will take the police much longer to get control of the situation with a room full of vigilantes as it would if the bad guy shooter was the only one with a weapon.

One last exercise: pretend you are one of those good guys with a gun. You have been looking for the bad guy and the cops are finally on the scene. You don’t know if they have the bad guy yet or not. You move down a hall and around a corner and run into this.

Take a look at the picture: Tell me fast, what do you do? (1) Shoot the guy with the gun; (2) drop your gun before the guy shoots you; or (3) run?

Doesn’t matter what you say – all answers have an equal probability of being wrong. If you pick (1) and shoot the guy with the gun, its wrong – he was a sheriff’s deputy in swat gear, and he had the real shooter under arrest. When you shoot him, the kid grabs the sheriff’s gun and shoots you.

If you pick (2) and drop your gun, it’s wrong – the guy is actually the shooter and the other guy was the deputy sheriff. As soon as you drop your gun, the bad guy shoots you.

And if you pick (3) and run, its wrong – the guy with the gun is one of the other “good” guys just helping some kid to safety, and when you run with your gun in hand, he spooks and shoots you.

How can anyone in their right mind think that setting up a situation where some number of complete strangers would be expected to pull out handguns in a room full of other complete strangers and, not knowing each other or anything of the shooter, and never having practiced an operation like this before, and without hours and hours of practice necessary to shoot straight under pressure, manage pull off the miracle by taking out the bad guy without injuring themselves or anyone else?

Does anyone still maintain that the best answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun?

Brown’s bad week


Former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber broke his typical silence earlier this month via social media to publicly criticize his successor.

A recent post on Kitzhaber’s Facebook page took Governor Kate Brown to task for her position on Initiative Petition 28, or rather, her lack of one.

“With all due respect, I find it hard to understand how any public official or candidate for statewide office could be neutral on a measure that would bring about the most sweeping change in Oregon’s tax system since Ballot Measure 5 passed in 1990,” Kitzhaber wrote.

Brown became Governor in February 2015 after Kitzhaber resigned amid federal investigations and allegations of corruption and influence peddling. She is up for election this November to serve out the rest of Kitzhaber’s very brief fourth term in office, and is neither supporting nor opposing the corporate tax measure.

Instead, Brown’s office has released a plan on how to spend the money that the measure’s passage would bring into the state’s coffers, a move that apparently did not impress Kitzhaber.

Multiple media outlets picked up on the post and wrote stories about it, which creates a conundrum for Democrats seeking office at the state level. If they support the measure, they risk drawing the ire of the business community. Opposing it could upset some of the same special interest groups that typically fund their campaigns.

Kitzhaber’s swipe at Brown, and the media’s reaction to it, means that avoiding taking a stance on the measure is simply not an option.
It begs the question of what, exactly, is Kitzhaber’s motivation. Is he seeking redemption? Perhaps. But if that’s the case, he still has a lot of work ahead of him.

An Oregonian article released last week cited a poll showing Kitzhaber with a 23 percent approval rating. That’s not great by any measure, but it’s still much higher than that of his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Her favorability rating is at five percent, though I have no idea who any of those few remaining supporters might be.

Could it be that Kitzhaber is out for revenge? I suppose it’s possible. Brown was among the Democratic leaders who threw him under the bus before he stepped down, and you could physically hear the hurt and sense of betrayal in his voice in the recorded announcement of his resignation.

I actually don’t think it’s either of those things, and have another theory: Maybe Kitzhaber still cares about the state and the people in it, and made his comments out of genuine concern for them.

As someone who deeply loves Oregon, I’ve been very critical of Kitzhaber over the past couple of years. However, under our system, people are innocent before proven guilty. While he presumably remains under investigation, Kitzhaber has not been charged with any crimes. Neither has Hayes.

And in this case of IP 28 and Brown’s position on it, Kitzhaber happens to be completely correct.

He pointed out in his post that the measure was “written by pollsters rather than economists, and is the product of ballot title shopping.” Kitzhaber even managed to take a swipe at former rival Bill Sizemore, who unsuccessfully challenged him for the Governor’s office in 1998.
Those written remarks by Kitzhaber set off a series of seeming setbacks for Brown and her administration, which happened in rapid succession.

Brown was panned in the press days later by another prominent Oregon Democrat, Congressman Peter DeFazio, over an entirely unrelated matter. It also came out in the media around the same time that Brown will not be debating Republican gubernatorial nominee Bud Pierce at an Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association (ONPA) conference in July.

Our sitting incumbent governor shouldn’t be afraid to debate a political newcomer, should she? After all, Brown has been a public figure in Oregon politics for quite some time, having served in the Senate prior to being Secretary of State and Governor. Pierce, on the other hand, has never held elected office. He is, however, extremely sharp, surprisingly good off the cuff and getting better at campaigning literally by the day. His campaign has also released a poll showing him trailing Brown by just a couple of points and, between the two of them, he’s obviously having a much better month.

This isn’t the first time a gubernatorial candidate has opted to skip out on the debate at the ONPA conference. Republican Chris Dudley passed up the chance to share a stage with his opponent during the 2010 election. That opponent? None other than John Kitzhaber himself, who may very well have the last laugh by the time all of this is over.

Mad as hell


For many months now, the chattering class of talking heads has been telling us people in this country are mad. More directly, a lot of prospective voters are angry at nearly everything governmental, they say. Thus, the voices reason, that pent up anger is being turned to support for the most unqualified belligerent ever to run for president. Trump.

We’re repeatedly reminded this anger comes from feelings of frustration, disappointment and outright rejection of all things governmental. The rise - so far - in political influence of the far right is being offered as “proof” of this oft-quoted speculation. Trump - though he lies, cheats, lacks facts or ideas for improving our national condition - he’s become a lightening rod attracting every sort of angry condition being thrust on our national political environment. So we’re told.

Here - at the edge of the Pacific - my response to this “common wisdom” is that it amounts to a lot of conjecture, speculation and outright B.S..

The flaw in this widely accepted “theory,” is only a portion of the populace is “angry” and acting out - that the rest of us looking for sanity, leadership and exceptional quality in our next President aren’t unhappy, too. That we are content with things - accepting of how governmental affairs have been conducted - and are trudging along in a national attitude of peace and love.

Not by a long shot! A VERY long shot!

Like Howard Beale in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” I’m “mad as Hell.” And, as followers of the electronic musings in these “SECOND THOUGHTS” can attest, I’m not a dues-paying member of any right-wing fringe element. Neither, I’m happy to say, are most of my friends, most of my day-to-day contacts and regular correspondents who are equally as mad but who’ve not turned to supporting or accepting the aforementioned B.S.. Still, we ARE angry. We ARE mad! We ARE frustrated every bit as much as any Trump backer. And we’ve probably got more concrete examples for our angst. Here are a few raising my civic temperature:

## One Greg Abbott, governor of Texas. He’s launched an effort to call a constitutional convention to rewrite portions of our grand old document so states could refuse any federal government law or mandate states don’t like. This from a licensed attorney. Now, I’ll be first to say, being a law school graduate doesn’t give him any special intellectual prowess. But the doctrine of federal supremacy - over which an entire Civil War was fought - was settled many eons ago. He could, of course, have slept through an entire six weeks it was featured at the University of Texas. But this bastard’s serious!

## One Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas. His new Executive Order 16-01, “Protecting Kansas from Terrorism” attempts to block relocation to Kansas of refugees from “anywhere in the world” who present a “safety and security risk.” Which, to him, means all. For the rest of us, details of how to define or assure someone meets those two qualifications were, of course, not defined. Read “shut the borders of Kansas.”

## One Matt Bevin, governor of Kentucky, who, upon election, promptly killed the state’s Obamacare participation which immediately disenfranchised a half-million people who lost coverage.

## A U.S. Supreme Court that made Citizen’s United the law of the land. Also, the Chief Justice who said “states have learned their lessons, changed their procedures” and portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring federal approval of local voting changes “are unnecessary.” Since that decision, the legislatures of Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, North and South Carolina, Florida and Mississippi have enacted new laws disenfranchising voters totaling a million-plus. Wiped ‘em out.

## The U.S. Congress which has voted 59 times - 59 - to kill the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Would have become law were it not for a Democrat in the White House with a veto stamp. More than 12 million Americans could’ve been without health insurance.

## Louis Ghomert, Steve King, Raul Labrador, Darrell Issa, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Tom Cotton, Duncan Hunter, Michael Burgess, Pete Sessions, Don Young, Pete Sessions and several dozen more members of Congress who’ve repeatedly shown their existence along the Potomac is for no other reason than to remain on the banks of the Potomac and perpetuate themselves at the public trough they repeatedly decry. They offer nothing constructive, author no positive legislative improvements, complain bitterly about a system of government they were elected to run - if not improve. All the while depositing $175,000 a year from us. Plus-plus-plus.

I could run this on for a couple more pages. I won’t.

The point is, there are millions of Americans just as mad - just as angry - just as frustrated about government, about stagnation and bitterness in our political system as those the media counts as Trump voters. But the fact is, we who reject those voices of political lunacy, may be more deeply affected because we know why we’re “in the winters of our discontent.” We understand the failures. But we’re not ignorantly casting around for someone - anyone -regardless of qualifications - to solve our national issues. Our anger is because we know what’s wrong. We understand why. And who. We even have some serious thoughts about how to get back on track.

Trump is not the answer to our anger. More accurately, he represents the cause of it! A system - a political party - that can produce nothing more positive than that cretin is the result of previous elections when voters lashed out by choosing flawed candidates offering no answers to perceived wrongs at the time.

Like anchorman Beale, I, too, am “MAD AS HELL!” His next words were “...and I’m not going to take it anymore!.” Individually, none of us can make that a meaningful, serious threat. But - collectively and informed - we can answer what the talking heads tell us is anger from the right. We can express our own displeasure with conditions - doing so in a more thoughtful and informed way.

The ballot’s in your hands. Just how mad are you?