Archive for May, 2011

In my three score plus 15, I’ve bought a lot of vehicles. Cars, trucks, SUV’s, travel trailers, motorhomes and a couple motorcycles. It would be more correct to say I’ve spent a lot of money on toys for a long time. The point is, I’m no stranger to showroom or process.

So why do what passes for “salesmen” these days think I need to understand the company, be pushed and shoved through corporate “sales steps” and be talked to as if I’d just landed on the planet?

I admit: I’ve bought more than my share of new cars. No matter the chronological age, I’m just a kid around that new car smell. Which, by the way, we’re now being told, is from chemicals in the manufacturing process that are harmful to humans. Who knew?

Some guys buy shotguns, dozens of bowling balls, golf clubs, campers, pick-em-up trucks, fishing gear, airplanes or other fancy toys. I buy cars. It’s a continuing family wonder how I’ve stayed out of the profession.

These days, we’ve been in the market to replace Barb’s perfectly good Malibu. It’s a fine car but it’s got 18,322 miles on it. First time that’s happened in this family. It’s got a lot of bells and whistles, all of which are in great shape. But we’ve got the – well, you know – itch.

It’s been over a year since we last bought a new vehicle. Mine. Which has at least a year left in it. But we’ve had Barb’s for three years and I’ve wondered why. Making contact with car dealers this last week, I now remember. It’s a real pain in the ass! Discordant memories have come flooding back as I try to give some poor hunk of metal a new, permanent home. Well, permanent in my world.

More than half a dozen Internet contacts have shown dealers – all of them – have a great deal of work left to do to make electronic selling as effective as it could be. Of the seven emails used to contact a dealer about a specific vehicle, four got no response. One resulted in a young woman calling to say a salesman would be calling in an hour. Now, eight days later, he/she hasn’t. One salesman called to say the car I wanted had been sold but he would check inventory and call right back. One: if it was sold, why was it still listed in inventory? Two: if he knew it was sold, why not check inventory before calling so I had an alternative to consider while I was still a possible customer? And, three: if he was to call “right back” 10 days ago, why didn’t he?

Just one person responded by email with the “Internet special price.” Which was about $300 less than MSRP. Big deal. He also wrote, “Of course, we must see your vehicle because, when trading, it takes two cars to represent both sides of the transaction.” Now why didn’t I think of that?

But, despite the young man’s ignorance of the many years of customer experience – some if it before he was born – his response highlights the problem with Internet car sales: how to accurately evaluate the trade-in. In this case, I would have to drive 150 miles round trip – at $4 a gallon for gas – for an eyes-on appraisal. And we may not end up getting together on price. I’ll bet this kills a lot of prospective deals.

So, I have a suggestion for the car sellers of the world. Two national companies – Kelley Blue Book and NADA – publish monthly valuations for nearly every kind of vehicle. Nearly all dealers use them as the authority on vehicle appraisals. Those appraisals are based not just on model and year but also on condition: excellent, good, fair. A number of items are listed to make such judgements: mileage, condition of body, glass, tires, interior. So it’s not really a subjective situation.

My suggestion for dealers is this. When considering a trade with an unknown vehicle, develop a sliding scale value to be used with the distant potential customer. Whatever number Kelley/Blue Book gives for each condition, use that as a place to start.

So, if I say my car is in good condition, use the “good” figure from the books; excellent, poor and so on. If my car lists for $12,000 at the top, $11,000 midrange and $10,000 low, use those numbers in conjunction with the value of the new car. With one caveat: if a dealer inspection doesn’t verify the customer’s appraisal, the deal will be adjusted accordingly. If I overvalue, tell me onsite. To be really fair, if I undervalue, tell me that, too.

This isn’t a perfect solution. Experienced dealers would have to shape it to the reality of the marketplace they work in.

But I’m here to tell you, you’re losing business without something like this in place for a potential deal. I’m not going to drive 100-200-300 miles at $4 a gallon prices to find out there’s no deal. At least using the Kelley/NADA idea as a starting place, the customer would know if he’s in the ballpark with estimated numbers and then have some basis for buying the gas and making the drive. I’d do it.

Suppose, on a daily basis, a dealer has five calls with this kind of situation. Suppose four decide not to make the drive because of the lack of even an estimated set of numbers. On a six-day sales week, that’s a potential of 24 lost sales; on a 52 week year, that’s 1,248 people who were interested enough to make contact. If a dealer could convert even 10% of any contact to a sale, that’s 125 new customers.

Note to dealers: The expensive bucket you’re using called Internet Marketing has a very, very large hole in it. Potential sales – like mine- are falling out the bottom. Every day. How long can you afford that?

From the “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” file, your favorite member of congress is being drawn into the federal gas tax-charged-by-the-mile debate. You know, stop collecting the 18.4 cent-a-gallon and replace it with one based on how far each of us drives.

In Oregon, as with so many other issues, we’re way ahead on this one. Which may be good or bad, depending where you stand on the idea. The Oregon pilot program, run a few years ago, found the scheme doable with certain considerations i.e. how far each of us drives, some individualized considerations for in-town or in-city drivers compared to many of us who roam the reaches of the far west and the Interstate and how the tax could be collected. Doable, yes. But no one has jumped up and said “Let’s start today!”

Now, some members of congress are reading our Oregon report, doing some test designs and starting to throw it out there for consideration.

The basic reason why it’s on the table now is because you and I have been more careful consumers of gasoline, buying more fuel efficient vehicles and driving less. Not that $4 a gallon gas won’t get our collective attentions. So, we’ve bought less of it. We should be rewarded for saving, right? The problem is that federal taxes going to national highway construction and repair are coming up short because those good habits reduce the tax income. And therein lies the reason this topic is in the “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t” file.

This idea could be compared to a large – very large- onion. You’ve got a couple hundred million consumers and their various driving needs to consider. Peeling away each layer of problems contained in the onion simply presents more problems. It’s one of those issues that can’t be dealt with using our government’s typical “one-size-fits-all” approach.

So, what would it cost us? Nobody really knows. The feds currently take in about $35 billion annually by the gallon. To keep up that pace, you’re probably looking at a penny-a-gallon built-in to start with. But, keep in mind, that $35 billion isn’t enough to keep up with highway construction needs. From 2008 to 2010, the government had to feed the Highway Trust Fund another $30 billion a year. So, the penny would likely turn into two-three pennies per mile to keep up with need.

Of course, some Republicans are already screaming, wanting to spending less on highways. They must not be driving I-5 or I-84 or I-90 or I-205. Or trying to drive across some of the federal bridges that are falling down. Maybe it’s those donor corporate jets that keep them above it all.

There are lots of details like whether the tax would be collected at the pump or billed by mail, number of axles your truck has – more axles would be less tax because of less road wear – whether you drive around town or long miles cross-country, if you drive a hybrid or a regular engine and on and on. All solvable with some proper planning.

GPS technology would work. Some people think that would amount to government tracking but it could be designed to avoid that. You might pay different rates for certain times of day or which roads you use. New cars might come with on-board computers . Lots of issues which, according to our Oregon tests, could be accommodated.

But, to me, the main issue to be solved is us driving long distances in the West. We don’t do it on purpose. It’s the different geography and fewer people. This could probably be handled by establishing zones. In Miami or Chicago, a zone might be 30 square miles. Around Pocatello, Tri Cities or Bend, that zone might stretch to 300 square miles. Differences would also have to take into consideration whether public transit is available. Lots and lots of variables that would require some major planning. But, again, doable.

You’re going to hear more about this approach to federal highway funding. A lot more. Those vocal Republican protesters aside, our highway system – local, state and federal – is crumbling like a lot of our infrastructure we’ve ignored while paying for a few unwinnable wars. Just the billion a month going into Iraq and Afghanistan would buy a lot of concrete and bridge steel. Add in, with the current “cut back” pressures on all levels of government, those bad highway conditions are only going to get worse faster without some action.

And here’s a comforting thought. Whatever system is designed for this by-the-mile-tax program, it’ll all be run by computers. All of it. From your own personal computer experience, is that going to make you sleep better at night?

Makes you long for the day when figuring your costs of travel by the mile was dependent on how much hay you fed the horse.

Was it prophecy profit-cy?

Author: Barrett Rainey

There’s something downright empowering about surviving an end of the world prediction. Today, I feel absolutely in control!

We are now several days beyond 6pm (PDT), May 21, when all of us faced mass extinction. Barb and I were prepared. She was on the couch. I was in my recliner. It’s big green, homely but very comfortable. We’d shared our last thoughts, re-pledged our love and were ready. Looking forward to life on the other side.

But, by 6:05, CNN was still going on the TV and I was starting to get hungry. I hadn’t eaten much in the previous days as I was preparing to disappear in the maelstrom of heavenly judgment. Suddenly a good sausage pizza seemed more important than mankind’s annihilation. Even my own.

What happened? Suddenly I felt let down. We Presbyterians are sort of pre-ordination thinkers. Yet I’d let myself get drawn into watching all those motorhomes with the painted messages running around the country. I’d taken the billboards in our neighborhood more seriously than I should. We were ready to go. Then POOF! Nothing!

Another crackpot. Another false Profit. Er, Prophet. I should have known better. If that old guy was sitting on top of $70-80 million … which the IRS said he was … he wasn’t going anywhere. Which means WE weren’t going anywhere.

But a lot of ink was wasted by newspapers to keep us abreast of the old boy’s ravings. A lot of electronic crap was dished into our living rooms so we’d know the very latest on a story that (a) wasn’t a story and (b) didn’t deserve a mention on an outhouse wall.

Just the latest goofball in a long line of goofballs, preying on the weakest and most gullible of humanity since the first guy looked out a cave and said “Gee, this is too good to last.”

But there are a few sobering things to think about before dumping this one in the garbage. Last week, MSNBC ran a very good feature about a young family torn by these apocalyptic road apples. In the pictures, a good looking couple in their 40’s and three good looking teens, all neatly and fashionably dressed. A very good depiction of what some would like to see the modern American family to look like.

The parents were committed to the profit-cy … er prophecy … that the end was upon us. Even shedding some of their goods. But the kids were unanimously opposed to what their parents believed and what they were doing. Not violently opposed. Just thought Mom and Dad were making a huge mistake. And reasonably said so. I was very impressed with the earnestness of the piece. And the teens.

So much so that Saturday, about 15 minutes after the “apocalypse” failed to show, I got to wondering about that family. As a parent, I wondered what Dad and Mom could say to the kids. What would the kids say to the parents? What had the experience done to the communication and trust that seemed to be so honest in the story?

What the vast majority of us didn’t believe for a second, those parents did and they committed themselves, their kids and their possessions to what they honestly felt was going to be an act of God. What has the experience done to those five people? How many more are out there who acted out of some moral and – to them – religious imperative? What has happened to their family relationships?

It’s easy to blame the media for giving this old man an inch of space on the page or a minute of time on the air. But this is one of those damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations for media types. Motorhomes circling the country with end-times messages; billboards on the Interstates; some 68 radio stations counting down the hours and shoveling the message around the clock; web pages littered with his crackpot blather all neatly wrapped with the latest electronic gadgetry. Hard to ignore.

But there is a very real underlying human element to all this. Many of the most affected folks are very nice people with very heartfelt reactions to being told “Judgement day is coming and you may – or may not – survive.” Those are the people on my mind. What sorts of family situations may change the lives of impressionable people all over the world? Change them for the worse?

As for the “reverend” Camping, I hope there is a special corner of Hell reserved for the old crook. He’s not some nice but maladjusted old man. He’s the latest in a long line of phonies wrapping themselves in the Bible and laughing all the way to the bank while creating very real problems for very real and trusting people.

In Luke’s writing in the Bible, Jesus is asked about the end of the world. When will it come? His answer is good enough for me. I paraphrase here but it was something like “I don’t know.”

Which prompts my question for you: do you really want to know?

“Justa lookin’ for a home”

Author: Barrett Rainey

We live in one of the five counties of Southwest Oregon. Mild and pleasant most of the time. In many ways, a scenic and comfortable place to spend your later years. Lots of people like it here. Many come looking for Nirvana. And, I suppose, some find it. We haven’t.

Several factors have precipitated a relocation decision but much of our discomfort here is political. If you hold any publically expressed thought to the left of Rasputin, this can be a very cold and lonely environment. Should the Republican primary ballot contain the names of Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln, Ol’ Abe would be returned to his law practice in Illinois. Or maybe become a lobbyist.

Friends can be hard to come by if your moderate ways are exhibited. We have a number of folks we enjoy. They’re good people. But it’s easy to feel like a distinct minority when anything political is discussed in the general population.

Though our county is large geographically, there are only about 110,000 souls living in it. Our community of about 21,000 is the largest concentration. So, there’s lots of room. But that 21,000 population, for example, can be deceiving. That’s the 2010 census. Go back to 2000 and the number was 20,000. That’s a growth factor of less than 1% without compounding. In ten years! The fact is more people die here than are born here.

One reason for that is a large Veteran’s Administration health facility. Many who move here are vets; retired or otherwise. So, not only is this not a typical growth area with all ages represented, it’s also resulted in one of the older county populations, on average, in the State of Oregon.

Then there’s unemployment. Officially about 12%. Given the closing of some timber operations and reduced staffing at others, and the fact many of those previous jobs won’t be coming back, the rate is calculated by our county commissioners at more than 20%. Throw in those who have run out of extended benefits, those who’ve quit looking, others who aren’t eligible for assistance in the first place and that rate could well be 25%. Or more. Times are tough. And that feeds the feelings of frustration and anger that can isolate people. So, some have just moved on. A good many businesses have closed.

Politically, the atmosphere can be normal at times. At county level, for example, despite an overwhelmingly really conservative electorate, we have a Democrat and two Republicans. A real local aberration. But, as a group, I’d give them high marks for dealing with so many problems so well and effectively. We’ve lucked out there.

But congressionally, well, it gets strange. In November, 2010, we had a choice. A “ho hum” Democrat incumbent of many years. Or a Republican Party nominee with a doctorate degree who makes a good part of his living publishing and selling racist home schooling texts. He calls public education a “prison system,” would eliminate the Dept. Of Education, wants to go back to the gold standard, sees conspiracies in all who differ with him, flings unfounded charges at the state’s university system for “conspiring” against his doctoral candidate offspring and whose highest claim to fame is he was once fired by fellow scientist Robert Oppenheimer. Another good decision, Bob.

Still, the nutcase got a lot of votes. Only neighboring Lane County, with a high Democrat Party base associated with the University of Oregon, kept us from sending this educated crackpot to Washington, D.C.

I’m a believer in a robust two-party system. As an independent by both nature and registration, I like to take a little bit from here and some from there and keep it interesting. I’ve never been a fan of political inbreeding. Congress is “Exhibit A” on that.

But the Oregon Legislature is currently working with a 30-30 party tie in the House. Despite some doubt going in, the seemingly inevitable stalemate hasn’t occurred and, in fact, some very good legislation has emerged. Proof again that neither party has all the answers or a lock on talent.

I don’t want to be too hard on our five county neighborhood. I’m sure there are folks who feel right at home here, surrounded by like-minded thinkers. I’m happy for them.

But we’ve begun looking over the horizon to some other Oregon locales where conditions are more – well – bipartisan. There are such places and several seem to fit our desire for more diverse and accepting surroundings.

Keep an eye on your street. That moving truck that starts off-loading next door may be us.

O.K. You and I agree. At least 83% of you agree. Pres. Obama was born in Hawaii, one of the legitimate 50 states of America and he is – if for no other reason than 50-state elections results, courts, Congress, the electoral college and the College of Cardinals – the duly elected and qualified American-born fella he claims to be.

The subject has truly become boring and ridiculous. Of course, it was that from the git-go. “Bury it,” you say. “Deeply and forever,” sez I.

But wait a minute! Let me get this one last piece of confirmation on the official Ridenbaugh record. The last “coffin nail,” so to speak. I know who the doctor was that delivered him in that Hawaiian hospital. His daughter lives in Idaho and she has verified his notarized signature at the bottom of the birth certificate!

That’s right. And now you know. Because the daughter of the late Dr. David Sinclair is Kathy Sinclair-McClatchy, a rancher in Gannett (GA-net), Idaho. Her spread is about 30 miles south of Sun Valley, near some of the best fresh water trout fishing in the world.

She hadn’t paid much attention to the “birther” crazies and had gone about the daily ranch chores in Idaho without knowing her family had information the unbelievers didn’t. Oh, some of them had it. They just chose to ignore it.

Then, a couple of weeks back, her sister woke her up in the middle of a black, central Idaho night to tell her “Dad delivered Obama!” Boy, talk about that “3-o’clock-in-the morning phone call.”

That day, her sister had seen the Obama long-form birth certificate photo in an Oahu newspaper. And there, right at the bottom, was the signature of the attendant to the birth, Dr. David Sinclair, and the date 8/8/61. Barak Obama had been born Aug. 4, and his mother signed the document Aug. 7. The sister and the women’s mother, Ivalee Sinclair, still live in Hawaii. They dug out something with the late doctor’s handwriting, compared it to the now-public document and – VOILA – it was a match.

Dr. Sinclair lived in Hawaii when Oahu was attacked in 1941. He joined the Army Air Corps and flew fighters and bombers in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he went to med school and started a practice on Oahu as an obstetrician-gynecologist.

His widow told the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper her doctor-husband “probably delivered 10,000 babies.” But he’d never have had any thought that one of those he “birthed” in 1961 would eventually become president of these United States.

“I hope this puts it to rest and we can move on to issues like the economy and getting our troops back home,” she told the Express.

“AMEN,” sez I!

But don’t take my word for it. Next time you’re on I-84 across Southern Idaho, turn north on Highway 93 at the Twin Falls junction. Go about 65 miles up the highway and you’ll see the sign to Gannett. Look for the McClatchy ranch. If you don’t see it, call ‘em on the phone.

Note to “birthers:” It’s a local call. No charge.

The world ends this week. Saturday, 6pm PDT, to be exact. Life as we know it will be over. That’s the message on billboards around Southern Oregon and the Norhwest these days. No one’s quite sure just what comes next. There’s also a sizeable caravan of RV’s, trucks and cars out on the roadways of the nation with the same warning for all who pass their way. Or whose way THEY pass. Whatever. I’m wasting precious time.

While the messenger behind this current warning of our extinction has been wrong at least twice before, well, maybe the third time’s the charm. We all know, if he keeps doing it long enough, someday – somewhere – we’ll look at him and say, “Well, you were right.” My world will probably have ended before that. His, too, I imagine.

But I’ve been thinking! Have you ever thought about the world ending before you do? I mean, really thought about it? I used to have a very good Methodist pastor friend who had. With a couple of hours notice, he said he’d take out that bottle of rare Italian wine he’d kept for years, share it with his wife, then get on his 250cc motorcycle and try some of those trail jumps he’d looked at in the Boise Foothills. Crash and burn? So what?

Seeing these billboards along our Interstate highway everyday has made me not only think about our impending demise, but also to come up with a list of things I want to do before Saturday. Some items I’ve thought about for years. I want to find Jimmy Swearingen who was in my second grade class in East Wenatchee, WA. The little sucker hit me in the head with a rock at recess one day and my bloody little scalp required four stitches. Scared my Mom to death! I’ve always wanted to pay him back.

Many years ago, when I was working with several real estate developers on new subdivisions, my broker fired me one day because someone had told him I was going to take my considerable pile of listings and go to another office. He yanked my framed license off the wall and threw it down the stairs and told me to follow it. Post haste. A month or so later, he found out he’d been lied to about my intentions and he fired the other guy. Never apologized to me, though. I’d like to bloody his nose after all these years. Before the world ends, I mean. Oh, wait. He died two years go. Well, I’m still mad.

Before Saturday’s world-ending cataclysm, I want to take Barb to Ruth’s Cris Steakhouse in Seattle for one last really great steak dinner. Nobody does it better! Oh, the Dodge House in Omaha is good but not enough to waste a last dinner on. We’re talking really “last” here!

Before we end in a fiery Hell Saturday, I want to take our much-loved rat terrier to Bandon for an unleashed long run on the beach. Winston loves chasing up and down the sea shore, getting all those exotic smells only dogs can find. If the world is going to end in a couple of days, I doubt Winston can come up with a much better final image. We do love him so and only want the best.

I’ve got to call my banker before Saturday. Our very fine small community institution has been charging us a $2 monthly service fee for a couple of years. We’re supposed to have one of the free senior accounts. But the folks repeatedly tell me there is a computer glitch they can’t find and the charge keeps appearing. Haven’t been able to talk them into an offsetting credit so the angst has been building up. Yep, the banker’s definitely on the final list.

In the next day or two, before extinction, I’ve got to take care of a couple of political things. I’ve been wanting to email House Speaker John Boehner to tell him to watch his back. That Republican majority leader of his is just waiting to take Boehner out if he gets a couple more Tea Partiers on the GOP side. Nasty little man from Virginia.

And Sen. Harry Reid. I’ve got to get an email off to him, too. Worst majority leader in years. Great when on minority defense. Absolutely incapable of leading when in the majority. Real personality flaw.

You know, this end-of-the-world business is really quite interesting if you just let loose and go with it. I can forget about house payments, cavities, next year’s taxes, dementia, which day to put the garbage out, renewing my driver’s license, getting a haircut, shaving, that messy old deodorant cream, prescription refills, liver spots, buying groceries and watching Newt Gingrich self-immolate.

There’s just one disappointment in our imminent demise. I’ve got thousands of frequent flyer miles I’ll never get to use.

Wait a minute! I know what to do. I’ll call the guy who’s on his third end-of-the-world prediction and offer half to him. Maybe he’s got someplace to go. Next month

I’ve begun putting the Republican/Tea Party in my prayers at bedtime. I almost did a year ago but, at the time, thought, “Oh, they’ll get it together. Something good will happen and they’ll get through this mess.” It hasn’t. And they haven’t.

Fact is, looking back a year, things have gotten worse. A lot worse. To the point we may be in danger of losing the viability of one of our two main parties nationally. It looks that bad to me.

I know there are some good, thinking, responsible Republicans out there. Quite a few. But, for current party leadership, it’s “Whack-a-Mole” time. When a Dick Lugar or a Scott Brown takes one of those “good, thinking, responsible” positions on an issue, out comes the right wing club and “WHACK” in Indiana or Massachusetts. And a few other places.

Day after day, the beltway pundits bemoan the latest antics of the national GOP/TP – and legislatures in some states – while wondering aloud “How did this happen? Where did all these oddballs come from? How did they get control of an entire political party?”

At the risk of seeming immodest, I’m gonna tell ‘em.

Long, long ago – late 60’s and early 70’s – in a land far, far away – Utah, Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama and a few others – local, state and national portions of the Republican party suffered a drought in the party worker corps. While Viet Nam opposition fired up Democrats, the protracted war seemed to demoralize a lot of GOP rank and file. They had the White House and sufficient numbers in Congress. Things were good. But not changing enough for some GOP’er’s. And the war dragged on.

Then Richard Nixon became a major Republican problem. With Nixon’s protracted, embarrassing downfall and the war dragging on, some mostly older Party folks became angry and disillusioned with the GOP. Many of the more moderate Republicans who had formerly been worker bees and believers turned away from the Party and put their volunteer labors elsewhere.

It got harder and harder to find precinct workers, party registrars, people to serve on committees, fold envelopes, run phone banks and do all the myriad chores it takes from Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue to run a political party. There was a vacuum. About the only folks around who had any real organizational experience at that time were those from the John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby and the other fringy groups that had been largely ignored by the mainstream. Fringy, yes. But the sort of folks driven by a dedication to their right-of-center causes, its leaders and what passed for a different Republican “philosophy.”

They flowed into this vacuum. They took over the worker bee jobs no one else wanted. They became block captains, precinct committeemen and women. They carried the signs, folded the envelopes, manned the phone banks and did all the other anonymous and often distasteful jobs those other party workers had done for years. And they moved the Republican party to the right. Without much – if any – opposition. Especially in the states already mentioned.

By the 90’s, these lower level functionaries had matriculated up the party chain and began to fill the national hierarchy. Over the span of a few national conventions, they moved into leadership. And people like Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, George Bush II and some others became the spokesmen and banner carriers of a much different party than the GOP was in the time of Bob Dole, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford and their more moderate compatriots.

So people who had been the outsiders or a mostly ignored element of GOP politics for years were now in control of the state and national nominating process and state and national Republican conventions. Anyone who wanted a place at the new table had to pass litmus tests further right. The smaller tail now wagged the larger dog.

I’ve got a few politically-savvy friends who pick a little at that four decade scenario but admit it’s probably close to what happened.

What we’re currently seeing playing out nationally is the fruit of ideological roots planted 30 years ago at the local level. The vines have produced a crop of ideologues rather than accomplished politicians. It’s in the breeding. Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Eric Cantor. All 40-60 years old. Republicans who learned their philosophies at the knees of people not in the old moderate political mainstream but who then controlled the nominating processes of the various states. They are products of the 70’s-80’s-90’s administrative takeover of the GOP. They wouldn’t be where they are today if not for the changing of the guard starting three or four decades back.

To move the Republican party to a more moderate stance in the next 10-20 years will be nearly impossible without those who want to make that move challenging the current structure from within. From the bottom up. But that will take a lot of dedication and a lot of work.

Which is why I believe it’s entirely possible for some who want a more philosophically moderate GOP to start another party. Might be less work and quicker. It’s going to take two things. People who want their party to grow by attracting more moderate members will have to admit the party they’ve belonged to for years no longer represents their thinking so they stop supporting it with votes and dollars. And someone – or several someone’s like Colin Powell or other respected gray hairs – will have to offer themselves as catalysts for change at the core.

“Fantasy,” you say. “Never happen,” you say. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’ve got a lot of pet peeves. Possibly more than most people. Which may be why I got into the media business. What better place to get things off your chest? Except some peeves don’t go away, even after exposure. This is one.

Every time someone brings up the subject of changing or adding to the tax base … local-state-federal … Chambers of Commerce and other alleged “voices of business” take up the chant “you’re going to drive more companies” – and thus jobs – “out of state.” You can count on hearing the mantra over and over. Every time.

Why is that a peeve? Because, Virginia, more often than not, it’s just not true. It gets the attention of politicians everywhere and scares people who think their jobs may be “threatened.” But there is little empiric evidence someone packs up the company – especially large ones – and says “I’m outta here” because of the regular tax changes all states undergo.

In fact, many polls and surveys have found issues of transportation links, trained work force – or lack thereof – utility costs, educational availability, corporate restructuring and proximity of suppliers are often behind a decision to move the company. The plain fact is, taxes just don’t show up near the top of the list in much of the research.

Here’s a prime example. Kendall Auto Group has been a Eugene, Oregon, based company for quite awhile. It’s grown from a couple of local dealerships to operations in Alaska, Montana, Oregon and Idaho. It’s a major player in the Northwest vehicle business, representing many brands, both domestic and foreign. Eugene is where it started and Eugene has been home.

But maybe no more. Kendall Auto has packed up the president, the vice presidents and key support staff and moved the whole bunch to Boise, Idaho. Yep, the executive suite was moved 500 miles to the East and across the border. Kendall leased a Boise building last month and bought one this month. So it appears the move is permanent. I’ll get to why, according to the company, in a moment.

First, you should know a couple of things about Idaho’s current business climate. Especially Boise. It’s not as highly rated as it once was. Several recent studies of the Treasure Valley have ranked it quite low among metropolitan areas for such things as trained workers and a local environment favorable to business. The Idaho Business Review, quoting Chief Executive Magazine, found a survey of 500 CEO’s opined “Idaho has lost more ground in the last year than almost any state, based on workforce quality, quality of life, regulation and” – wait for it -“taxes.”

While a changing tax structure was one of the rated factors, it was not the game-changer so often claimed.

Then why did Kendall pack up the executive suite, exit Oregon for Idaho and that kind of poorly ranked business environment? According to Kendall President Dave Blewett, transportation factors were key. Yep, transportation.

Kendall operates dealerships in four states with long distances between them. So, it has acquired a Challenger 300 business jet. Blewett said Boise’s airport is set up for corporate jets complete with certified jet mechanics not available in Eugene. Additionally, there was no hanger at Eugene’s airport large enough to house the jet so it sat outside. In Boise, she’s inside. When you’re talking multi-million dollar aircraft, that’s a good thing. A big thing. But move the top echelon of the company? That’s what the man says.

The whole Kendall headquarters hasn’t moved. Yet. But the company will start a new auto finance subsidiary in Boise this year. That means new jobs; Idaho jobs, not Oregon. While Kendall will continue an administrative presence in Eugene, don’t be surprised if the moving trucks show up one of these days.

If what Blewett says about transportation advantages being the key factor for relocation are true, fine. But if you look deeper and find the City of Eugene or Lane County were unable or unwilling to help making a new jet hanger possible at the airport, well, my gut feeling is there may be more to the story.

And that’s why, using the Kendall example, the overused and often false threats of business will go somewhere else if such and such a tax or override or initiative becomes law have become a peeve of mine. Businesses are as individual and different as people. They have many needs and look at many circumstances for success just like the rest of us. The good ones are not monolithic and they don’t do things on a whim. Company environment is one of constant change and seldom does just one factor – taxes or anything else – cause an exodus.

But there’s more to the Kendall move than maintaining and housing their little jet. I’d bet on it. But if taxes were at the bottom of it, I’d really be surprised. If that were the case, Pres. Blewett would have said so. Loud and clear.

Demonstrations in Washington, D.C. seem far removed from our Southern Oregon neighborhood. Some group – formal or not – supporting or protesting something or other. Some images on television, then back to finish the crossword puzzle.

But, in my media life, huge national rallies were “up close and personal” for a number of years. I didn’t show up as a proud or angry citizen. I was a broadcast reporter and that meant getting in the middle of them, getting the nessage and the flavor and telling a large, often times national audience what was going on. Live.

These days, a rally of 20,000-60,000 is called a “big deal.” During my years – 1969 through 1971 – many crowds were 200,000 to 700,000. So large that speakers could not be heard by most attendees no matter the electronics of the time. So many people, so many flags, so many ethnic groups forming a patchwork of America that, at ground level, it seemed like nearly every American had come to join in.

Most events were peaceful. Most were conducted by experienced leaders with volunteer staff workers keeping things in order. While a few simply came to an end and everybody went home, most either climaxed with a concert by some of the biggest headliners of the time or drifted into a huge line-of-march to walk Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues before heading for home.

A few rallies had problems. My personal experience is that, sometimes when things turned nasty, it was over-reaction by one of the law enforcement agencies in attendance that set things off. Or they deliberately lit the fuse. I’ve been ridden down by mounted park police, tear gassed by D.C. Police and arrested while broadcasting. I was hit in the head with a nightstick once though a large orange and black D.C. Police-issued press tag hung around my neck. Made a great target and I soon learned to work without it.

One scene, especially, haunts me even today. The D.C. Transit system was owned by a rabid Nixon supporter named O. Roy Chauk. Back then, he owned every bus in town. Most were not in terribly good shape but they got you from place to place in a city where weird streets and erratic traffic posed constant challenges to drivers. They still do.

Before one large Vietnam protest rally, the Secret Service used many of Chauk’s buses to totally isolate the White House. Hundreds of them ringed the entire area up Constitution and back down Pennsylvania. Bumper to bumper. On top or inside about every third bus was a uniformed sharpshooter with a rifle or shotgun. Atop the White House, more snipers on the roof.

I radioed in a report. Then those damned buses caught my eye. I just stared at them for a few minutes. And I thought to myself, standing among hundreds of thousands of people, “sharpshooters taking cover inside a fortress made of busses to keep the president safe from the people.” At that moment, I was more ashamed for my country than I had ever been. When I think of it now, 40 years later, it’s the same emotion.

There was no need for that armed affront to free speech in 1970 or since. Most rallies – then and now – had messages of rights and liberty and country; Americans believing their presence on the National Mall meant something.

Today, we have small groups gathering there whose unfounded claim is that someone has “taken their county away” and they “want it back.” That, of course, is nuts. But 40 years ago, some one … many some one’s … had really taken the country away and sent it down the wrong deadly road. Public anger over that war at that time was palpable and became overwhelming. There was little support for continuing the killing.

My sense is that scenario is being played out again. No matter who conducts the polls now, Americans are walking away from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today’s polls show a distinct majority wants out of both. Iraq is our longest war ever and no one militarily or politically has been able to enunciate a clear, convincing, legitimate, achievable goal. No one. Not once.

Looking back on those ‘60s and ‘70s national rallies, I don’t hear the singing as loudly. I don’t see the seemingly endless crowds of people as clearly. But I can still smell the tear gas and feel the pain of that police baton.

And those buses. Those damned buses with the sharpshooters. We must not let any national argument go that far again.

The killing of Osama bin Laden has resulted in many reactions. Some expected. Some not. Some thoughtful. Some crazy. The occasion of all this is just too much for an opinion writer to pass by. And I won’t.

First, the S-O-B is dead! Dead and buried at sea where only the fishes can profit from his demise. That’s a very good thing. I think most rational people have agreed on at least that one facet of the story.

He was unarmed when killed. Yeah, and so were 3,000 Americans in the Trade Towers when they died. The breast-beating by those who think he should have been brought back for a lengthy and unnecessary trial are wrong. Personally, I think if most Americans had been driving a Humvee in downtown Baghdad, and found bin Laden in a crosswalk, they’d have taken him out on the spot. Armed or not. Those high, wide steel bumpers are wonderful tools.

And, of course, the photos of bin Laden’s corpse. Show them? Not show them? As a military and media type, I’m curious. I’ve seen really bad pictures in my career – accidents, plane crashes, fires – and doubt I’d have a problem with the military pics of a dead terrorist. But – about the only reasons to show them are vengeance and curiosity. That’s not enough to jeopardize national security. And they would.

In this case, I’m with the president. To much of the world, death photos on our nation’s front pages would look like we were hanging up a trophy. As he said, “That’s not our style.” They likely would become rallying points for Islamic nut-jobs worldwide that would take it as their personal challenge to retaliate. Here. There. Somewhere else. Why should we light their fuses?

But there is an option. As in the case of the John Kennedy autopsy pictures and other sensitive national information, in a few years, make them available to researchers and scholars under circumstances that would assure they aren’t copied or transmitted publically. It’s done all the time.

Then there are the whiners – mostly on the right – who complain because George Bush didn’t go to ground zero when Pres. Obama went to see the families of some of those 3,000 dead. Bush was invited. Bush declined for his own reasons. End of story. Stop the whining.

And finally, criticism about conflicting “facts” in these first few days after the mission. I find some of that complaining justified. But only if you divide the issue of criticism into three areas: what the government is saying; eyewitness statements; how the media is reporting.

First, as tightly held as this mission was from the git-go, any statements from the administration should have been held off until the military team was fully debriefed. After an operation of nearly nine years, another 24-48 hours would have made it possible for facts to have been gathered, participant accounts to be authenticated, photos reviewed and a legitimate, factual basis established for information to be released. That was not done.

Second, I have a reporter’s working lifetime of dealing with eyewitness statements. Some are accurate. Some are somewhat accurate. Some are just plain wrong. No matter the issue. No two people will see an incident and subsequently describe it the same way. Much less 24 combatants on the field of battle with events changing instantly over and over and over again. Lacking complete photography of every detail, every moment, the best you can do is debrief all 24 and reconstruct what happened using the most remembered details that match. Then – maybe – you’ve got what happened. Mostly.

Then that media “reporting.” Over an hour before the president’s announcement of the mission, CNN, MSNBC, Fox and others were already proclaiming bin Laden’s demise and reporting “details.” In just an hour, all of them went from “something big is happening” to “bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan along with members of his family.” The second Obama was finished, off they went on all sorts of tangents with many “facts” they later had to correct. And still are.

A “developing story” is just that: developing. The size of this one was huge. The number of participants many. Distances involved great. The action fast and deadly. While all news organizations want to be “first” with the story, there is an accompanying responsibility to be “right” with the story. Right with the facts. Accurate.

This is one of those stories that will continue to change. To evolve. Some do that. It’s not always “cut-and-dried.” All media reporting on this one should make that clear repeatedly. There are a lot of parts – multiple government agencies, hundreds of direct participants and thousands who, over the years, were part of the intelligence, military and political facets. What we think we know today will probably change regularly for awhile. That’s just how it works.

So, all we can really say for sure, at this moment, is bin Laden is dead. Because he was the worldwide “trademark” for his terrorist cells, his absence will surely change conditions in many countries where they operate. About all we who want to stay abreast of this story can do is watch for the facts as they emerge. And change.

This story is not over yet. That’s life. And sometimes, death.