Archive for October, 2011

In the overheated – and often false – rhetoric of politics, glib sound bite claims and charges are too often presented as fact when a little checking shows quite a different message. Here are three currently popular charges – mostly Republican – that are not quite what they appear.

First: “The Obama administration has created a wave of new regulations strangling business, prohibiting growth and stopping companies from hiring.” Various versions of those claims have been around a long time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly surveys business to take the pulse of the marketplace. First quarter this year, 2,085 new unemployment claims nationwide were attributed to “government regulation.” Nearly 55,760 were tied to “insufficient demand” for products and/or services.

The fact here: companies are more worried about poor sales. Dr. Gary Burtless, labor economist with the conservative Brookings Institution, puts it this way. “There’s little evidence suggesting regulations are killing jobs. It’s more a lack of confidence in marketing of products and services.” And he adds, “There are business leaders who blame regulations even when the economy is booming.”

As for claims the 2010 health care law and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law are “job killers?” Well, the Congressional Budget Office says those laws haven’t gone into full effect so how can they be limiting jobs?

In short, my guess is reduced profits and fewer sales provide the fertilizer to the “too much regulation” complainers.

A second not-so-true claim by politicians: “Give companies more tax breaks and they’ll bring their profits (dollars) home.” Maybe. Maybe not.

Bi-partisan bills now in the House and Senate are being are being hyped that they’ll coax U.S. based companies to bring overseas profits home by offering a lower tax on earnings than the current 35% for strictly U.S. goods and services. Backers of reducing taxes on profits claim companies have more than $1 trillion “trapped” abroad in low-tax companies. Let’s check.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation says the fact is large portions of earnings of big companies – read profits – are kept liquid. That liquidity, in turn, is largely in U.S. investments, commercial paper and Treasury notes. So, much of those profits “trapped” overseas is already at work somewhere – at home – in the U.S. economy.

A new report from the Congressional Subcommittee on Investigations out this month shows a 2004 tax “holiday,” to give businesses the same sort of relief on taxed profits, resulted in a loss of some 21,000 jobs in just 15 corporations benefitting. Further, it said other studies found no evidence that any “tax holiday” increased overall employment.

So let’s just conclude here that independent facts don’t really show letting companies keep more profit means more jobs and more U.S. investment.

The third political claim that doesn’t stand up to investigation is this: “Raise taxes on the rich and you put job creation at risk.” Republicans are holding out for 33% and 35% which are now top tax rates. The Obama administration wants 36% and 39.6%. The GOP claims small businesses would be hurt because many of them file under tax laws for individuals.

Urban Institute Resident Fellow Economist Howard Gleckman says that’s just not true. “In sharp contrast to the rhetoric,” he says, “current data suggests (a) small businesses do not create an outsized number of jobs, (b) very few small business owners fall into the top two brackets and (c) tax cuts for small businesses have proven to be ineffective stimulus measures.”

Then there’s the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report saying “only 2.5% to 3.5% of small business would be affected by rate increases.” Instead, almost all individuals who report small business income fall into lower brackets. Further, CBO says those few small businesses in the top two brackets are usually doctors, lawyers and members of limited partnerships and not “mom and pop” owners.

Also in the report, while small businesses do create some jobs, the number of them that fail is very high which means the jobs go when the doors close. Thus, trying to cite small businesses as “significant job creators” that would be hurt by higher tax rates really s-t-r-e-c-h-e-s the point.

So, let’s sum up. Unbiased evidence shows regulations are not always “job killers” as many politicians continually assert. Reducing taxes for multi-national corporations won’t necessarily mean more profit kept at home or more jobs created. Increasing corporate tax rates by about 3% won’t have a large affect on small business.

It took me about two hours to do the research for this column. Sound bites of claims to the contrary from politicians take 15-20 seconds. You are I are reading my findings while tens of millions of people hear the TV quotes. So which information will go to the polls with voters in November?


Watching the Republican presidential debates this season has done nothing to answer my one question of the Grand Old Party into which I was born: “Is this the BEST you can do?” Eight fawning politicians – or wannabe politicians – who have yet to put forth the intellectual skills they are offering to govern or make a single case of why we should change horses – or donkeys – here in the middle of the river.

Each of them has gone to great lengths to castigate the others while all have attacked the current president with every negative they can think of. A little attacking is fine but then the “attacker” needs to offer a better way or solution. As I watch the talking heads replay what they believe are “key portions” of each bitch session, I wait.

“Maybe now.” I say, “Maybe I missed an important point or the minute when he/she said something about governance, proposed an idea for solving at least one of our many national problems or stated an unequivocal, well-thought out position point. Maybe now.”

But such is not to be. The negative prattle continues. The bitching goes on. The whining for attention is abysmal. The tug-of-war about all sorts of social issues – which realities like unemployment, home foreclosures, wars and rumors of wars have eclipsed in the minds of most voters – still pour forth from their lips.

Not one debate – not ONE – has produced a glimmer that any one of these people has a grasp of the real duties and responsibilities of the presidency. We’ve not been given a reason to hope any one of them can do better than what we already have. As a registered Independent, I’m looking for that spark that says “I need to re-evaluate this one because of such-and-such.” So far, it hasn’t come.

When I was learning about arctic survival techniques in the military, one of the key points hammered into our heads was, all things being equal, “before you leave the where you are, make sure where you’re going offers better than what you have if you stay put.” By that, the instructor meant safety, cover, security, access to food and water or drier – if not warmer – conditions. I’ve used that advice through a long life as I looked at employment, home selection, making major purchases, even relationships.

Haven’t you ever made a move, bought something, changed a relationship or started a new job only to say later, “I wish I’d stayed right where I was?”

Well, that’s where I am with these debates. If you weed out the book sellers, the self-aggrandizers, the publicity seekers, the know-nothings, the ones trying to increase their future speaking appearance fees, there isn’t much left. Either I’m looking for someone in the Republican Party that doesn’t exist or my requirements for better than what we have are too high.

Again, as part of the great detached – those registered and unregistered Independents all the candidates are supposed to be courting – the GOP/TP had better come up with a savior before the filing deadline; someone that eclipses the current herd. If none such rides upon the scene, a lot of us middle folk are going to stay right where we are.

And that means, given the necessity of having our votes in their pockets if they want to win, none of these time-wasters is going to pose a household moving threat to the current First Family in 2012.


P.S. Seems Gov. Perry has now decided – following several miserable appearances on his part – he thinks all the presidential debates are a “waste of time.” Despite conclusive proof he’s wrong, he says the media is “running them just to create controversy.” He says he has better things to do with his campaign time.

Question: If, by some unexpected twist of fate, he becomes the GOP/TP nominee, how will he handle general election debates with the current President? If he can’t make a decent showing against Bachmann, Romney, Paul, Cain et al, what will he do when faced with the man in the White House – someone with top notch communication abilities far beyond what he’s been dealing with?

Maybe the other Republican candidates should give the Texan back his bat and ball and let him go home. According to current polling, he won’t be missed.

Given the paucity of issues so far in the GOP/TP debates, it looks like it’s up to us – the viewers and listeners – to chip in some subjects more worthy of the candidate’s discussions. I mean beyond abortion, who’s a politician and who’s not, who hired/laid off more state workers, whose book sold more copies, who had illegals mowing the law, etc.

Well, a barnburner surfaced this week. This one ought to bring out the Hellfire and brimstone response Rick Perry is known for down home.

Texas jails have decided to stop serving prisoners lunch on weekends. That’s right! Just two meals a day from now on. Tighten up! Matter of fact, the Texas Dept. Of Criminal Justice has already made the cut.

Seems Texas is trying to save money. Going lunch-less, it’s claimed, will cut about $3 million in the current fiscal year. I’d guess, from the current prison population in Texas, they’ll also loose about 300,000 pounds in the same length of time. Smaller prisoners means more in a cell. Now that’s saving!

What used to be weekend breakfast is now called “brunch” and is available from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. with dinner from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. So, it seems at least in Texas, when they say “belt tightening,” they really mean “belt tightening.”

Now, sometime back, Perry got all over ol’ Mitt Romney about having illegal immigrants mowing his lawn. Or lawns, as the Romney case may be Mitt, of course, denied it. Seems the illegals contracted with somebody else. So Mitt puffed right up and said, “I told them I couldn’t have illegals working on my lawn because I’m running for public office.”

Not because employment of illegals is, well, illegal. Not because we have laws prohibiting such situations. Not that it was morally wrong. No, as Mitt said exactly, they can’t work here “because I’m running for public office.”

Now that’s having your priorities straight and your moral bar set high!

But now the shoe’s on the other right foot. Now Mitt can go after Rick on the internationally important controversy that illegals in Perry’s temporary care are being deprived of lunch. They’ve got to go for a minimum of eight hours each Saturday and Sunday without food and nourishment.

This is no mere lawn mowing situation. No, Sir. We’re talking depriving people of life, liberty and – well – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a timely manner. Given the importance of what the eight Republican candidates have talked about so far in their nationally-televised debates, this subject ranks right up there.

I expect Newt to quote from the Federalist Papers; Ron Paul to draw strict Constitutional comparisons; Santorum will go straight for the Un-American denial of the right to adequate amounts of tuna; Cain will produce a 3-3-3 approach showing pizza would be a good economical lunch replacement. And Michelle? Well, she’ll just have to help her husband get a contract to teach those hungry prisoners how to pray themselves full.

Yep, it doesn’t get any more exciting than this. What a country!

If there’s any one trait all of us share on this earth, it’s a desire to be liked and/or respected. As children, we focus on those around us to whom being liked is important – parents, siblings, kids at school, etc.. We share, and are shared with, in the quest to be liked. That desire may later become linked to a desire to be respected. For most, it’s just the natural way of things.

Unless you’re a bank!

If you’re a bank – especially a large bank – there is an endemic nature to tell everyone how “likeable” you are – thru advertising – while conducting day-to-day affairs with an “I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-you-think” attitude – thru actual business practices.

Sum up all the motivations in the “Occupy” movement that have people in streets around the world right now, and you’ll find financial issues in nearly all of them. Further distilled – especially in this country – it’s banks, stock traders and mortgage lenders. The people who have our money or control how we spend our money. In the American version of “Occupy” the co-equal is a congress that can’t give competent directions to the nearest men’s room. But that’s another story for another time.

All this comes to mind at the moment because this is the month when most major financial corporations disclose their profit-and-loss figures for the recent quarter. What we’re learning from banking reports is certain to add more fuel to the “Occupy” fire. It does mine.

Here’s just one example. From July thru September, Bank of America (BofA) had a net profit of $6.2 billion. A year ago, it lost $7.3 billion for the same period. That’s a cash swing of $13.5 billion UP in 12 months! Where do you suppose most of that came from?

Now, on top of that stash, BofA is implementing a $5 monthly charge on all customers who use the debit card BofA wants you to use because it reduces massive amounts of paper shuffling with checks. Which they DON’T want you to use. If BofA has, for example, about three million customers at any one time, that’s “found” money of $15 million a month – $180 million a year – for which the bank does nothing – provides no additional service – incurs no additional cost – actually reduces its own cost because you aren’t writing those nasty checks.

But there’s more. Bof A is closing 10% of its branches nationwide and putting 30,000 people out of work!

So what does BofA Chief Executive Brian Moynihan have to say about the outrageous profit, the debit card blackmail and putting 30,000 Americans into the unemployment line? Just eight words: “We have a right to make a profit.” “We have a right to make a profit.” Now, isn’t that likeable?

In the last two weeks, Citi Corp., Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and other major banks have produced similar numbers. Profits in the many billions in just three months. Added to their other billions in the previous six months. So where do you think all those billions came from? Where?

And there’s more. These banks are in business today, taking in billions in profits, because of what? Because you and I loaned them more than $40 billion – $40 billion – in bailout funds when these outfits had their backs to the financial wall three years ago. Some of them have missed the payback dates. Try that with your friendly banker and see what treatment you get.

Still more. Collectively, these same corporations – with their Olympic-sized profits – are using millions of those dollars from that profit pile to hire lobbyists to kill recently-enacted laws governing their activities. AND other regulations they don’t like. They’re actively fighting imposition of new capital requirements banks in other countries have lived with for years. They’ve gotten so arrogant in such affairs that corporate leaders in other major businesses are worried these banks they do business with – left to their own devices – will drive us back into another financial meltdown.

And the issue of home foreclosures? Banks have done literally nothing to address them unless forced to do so. By regulators. They’re going about business as usual. Rather than become good citizens – respected citizens – they continue to amass profit while exhibiting – in large letters – the same “I-DON’T-GIVE-A-DAMN” attitude we all know and hate.

Big banks are losing customers. Lots of ‘em. Small banks – community banks and credit unions – are growing. And will continue to grow until the hated biggies change the way they do business. Still, they don’t care.

So, millions of us are in the streets. While our reasons for protesting are numerous and varied, it’s the “thieves-in-the-temple” that have brought many of us out. Government has failed to clean up their financial act with laws and regulations. Government will continue to fail. So maybe depositors, by the millions, can do what an impotent congress has not and will not: force change.

Seems there are adequate laws to keep us from robbing banks. But none that are effective to keep them from robbing us.

Well, I was wrong. Our little right-leaning community here in the forests of Southwest Oregon really did try its hand at the “Occupy” demonstrations last Saturday. I’d previously said it likely wouldn’t happen here where all things political list to starboard. More of a sharp slant, actually.

A few more than 100 folks from seniors to toddlers gathered at the Douglas County Courthouse, then marched across town to the BLM offices for another round of speech-making and display of signs. They picked the BLM, I guess, as the local representative of federal government. The only local fed site larger is the V.A. Hospital campus and who wants to picket a hospital where some of your friends are? And where you may end up?

The kids at the local almost-daily paper duly recorded the thoughts of a few of the participants and published several pictures. But, as usual, there was more to the story that escaped them. First, a little history.

A few months ago, a dozen or so mostly seniors – mostly Democrats – gathered in a local park to sit at tables and talk politics. And grandkids and the price of gas and other subversive things. Soon they were confronted by mostly male – and completely right wing representatives – with nasty signs and nasty, confrontational words. And a fella who shot a video – of what to normal folks would be an embarrassment – to post on a local fringe website.

When the Dems left the park to reconvene at a private residence, the nut jobs followed, tried to trespass, were turned away and settled for blocking the driveway for an hour or two. For the next several weeks the screwballs were roundly chastised by the local, literate citizenry in letters to the editor.

O.K., back to this weekend’s “Occupy” day. The kids at the almost-daily missed – or deliberately avoided mentioning – the collection of some of these same righties standing – where else – on the fringes. One, who likes to think of himself as the epicenter of all-things right locally – was taking pictures of individuals and making a written list of the names of those he knew. He even tried to bait a few passers by, challenging their right to entitlement programs or their “socialist” demonstration. Nobody bit.

Another of his fringy cohorts had a video camera. At first, he stayed back and shot from a distance. Then, when no one seemed to notice, he moved into the crowd and got closeups of faces while his wife and small dog stood by. I’d hazard a guess his electronic handiwork will appear on the nut-page.

Several others from the previous park confrontation leaned on parking meters and pointed, laughed and boosted each other’s egos as they made light of the demonstrators in front of them. They, too, tried in vain to get into “conversations” with attendees as they moved to the street to march. The young fella who was heading up the day’s events patiently talked to them for a few minutes then, realizing explanations were not what the interlopers wanted, he rejoined the street crowd.

The right wing guys were at least smart enough not to do anything to call overt attention to themselves, realizing they’d land back in the bad graces of even the more responsible, strongly conservative local element. After boosting each others testosterone levels, they got in their SUVs and pickups and headed down the street.

So much for them. Back to the marchers. It was heartening to see democracy in action as they expressed their views. All the signs were personal and handmade, including two that caught my attention for color, neatness and simplicity. A couple of elementary teachers I later learned.

There were students, teachers, a firefighter I recognized, some local business people, a retired minister and family, an elderly lady on oxygen, some veterans, some unemployed, some on crutches or canes; just plain folk. No political affiliations obvious. I even recognized a couple of Republicans; one with a sign. A well-behaved little guy of about six had a large sign saying he was the future. A few even made up small signs on some blank whiteboard, using markers they brought with them.

Our little whimper for justice was, like nearly all the others now worldwide, a quiet, heartfelt outpouring of people’s concerns: failure to punish bankers and brokers who helped bring us to the edge of our financial cliff; lack of jobs; layoffs; entire subjects eliminated in our school system; planned school closings; organized efforts to make all unions the “bad guys;” and a completely dysfunctional congress ignoring the relentless pounding on the middle class. Pretty much the same messages you see on the network news from New York City, San Francisco, Seattle or elsewhere.

It was a serious gathering. Those few the fringe element tried to bait just kept on walking. People were there to have their little say. And they did. They even picked up all the paper and other leftovers before marching. It was a marvelous display.

You should have been there.

The latest phenomenon in our streets is both upsetting and fascinating. Upsetting in that normal, red-blooded, everyday, middle class Americans feel they have to take to demonstrations to get the attention of our nations political power structure. Fascinating because the bulk of the demonstrators – not all but most – are normal, red-blooded, everyday, middle class Americans doing what our history tells them to do in peaceful assembly.

Marchers in “Occupy Wall Street” – or whatever it’s called in your town – have multiple messages: the national political structure is broken and unresponsive to the basic needs of citizens; higher-ups in the financial world that bear great responsibility for our lousy economic state have, thus far, gone unpunished; American workers need jobs; outlier ideologies have strangled our national politics; billionaires are making more billions while the people who do the work from which all that profit comes are sinking into an economic hole that has all but killed their American dream. There may be more sub-texts but those cover most of the participants.

I support them. Were they to march in my little Southwest Oregon community – where unemployment exceeds 14% – I’d join them. But there will be no marches here because it’s easier to sit in the bars and blame Pres. Obama and the Democrats.

Having used the adjectives “upsetting” and “fascinating,” let me add a third that raises my blood pressure as I contemplate all this: ignorance. Congressional leadership ignorance. So far, nearly all of it Republican. If Democrats add their voices to the ignorant GOP in the future, then a pox on their houses, too.

Several of the $164,000 a year GOP/TP “leaders” in Congress have called marchers “un-American,” described their gatherings as “mobs,” labeled them “anti-capitalist,” accusing them of “class warfare.” Having finished their slander, Cantor, King, Issa, Paul, Bachmann, et al adjourn to the Congressional Club to enjoy their $12 bourbon and branch water while watching themselves on national TV.

Making such accusations proves they have not listened. Or, having listened, proves them incapable of representing the very people they are supposed to be serving. They’re that insulated; that ideologically pure; that ignorant of what’s happening in their own “home” districts. That arrogant.

If you want to label people in the streets supporters of class warfare, start with the egregious Tea Party and the billionaire backers without whom it would not exist. Highly paid organizers, thousands of printed placards and signs, racist parodies of the President, sidearms; hundreds of busses to take marchers from place to place, speakers – including members of Congress – who propose shutting down the federal government, discriminatory attacks on voting laws, overt support to change the social fabric of this nation. You want to talk “class warfare?”

One interest I have so far in the “Occupy” demonstrations is lack of any of the above. It’s reading individualized, hand-lettered signs on cardboard box bottoms. It’s the absence of threatening language or display. It’s the messages of need for positive change rather than challenges to authority or mocking the country’s leaders. It’s the absence of weapons. It’s listening to teachers, librarians, out-of-work professionals, firefighters, well-spoken students, seniors who are worried about their kids futures. It’s the apparent lack of organization or leadership that have marked their efforts thus far.

I think these people will stay in the streets for awhile. To me, the critical things to watch in all this are whether demonstrations can be sustained, how costs will be paid, what leadership develops and where it will come from. While labor unions may play a part in certain areas, if it’s union-driven nationally, that will not be a good thing. The strongest bond these marchers have right now is their breadth of participants. All are welcome. No litmus test. No ideology pledge. No membership card. Just bring your own reason and join the march. But, to be effective, there will have to be organization from some quarter.

Rather than the “class warfare” arrogant Republican voices are decrying, these people represent – more than any other recent group – an honest, from-the-heart, spontaneous outpouring of citizens with legitimate issues. There are no threats. No attempts to intimidate. No phony moralizing. No flag-waving, trumped-up patriotism. No weaponry.

We became a nation because we had grievances. We’ve remained a nation because we addressed grievances. It is totally within our national character to be in the streets when grievances are ignored by those in power. As is the case right now.

When following the often garish verbal output of too many politicians in this country – especially in Congress – only newcomers to the wonkish game are shocked when statements are made containing little if any truth. To our national sorrow, we’ve come to expect it and even learned to live with it.

But arrogance? Now that’s another story. Our political roadsides are littered with the carcasses of truth-challenged politicians who fooled the voters for awhile, then succumbed to arrogance. Two political names making unwanted headlines in recent days are my most recent nominees for the Wall of Shame that certainly must exist somewhere.

First, Herman Cain, the Godfather’s pizza guy who wants Republicans to move him into the White House kitchen. He’s a highly opinionated multi-millionaire, brim full of ego, taking his personal success far too seriously. For our purposes, in one week, he struck out twice at the plate.

While being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal – speaking of opinionated – Cain said the “Occupy Wall Street” protestors in the streets of dozens of cities in recent weeks, are “anti-capitalist” and are “orchestrated by the Obama administration to distract from its failed economic policies.” He quickly added he has no evidence that is factual. But he ignorantly and most arrogantly said it for worldwide publication anyway. One strike for lying; one strike for arrogance. One more and he’s out of the game, right?

Well, it took him less than three minutes to get strike three. These are his exact words: “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” POW! Strike THREE!!! Even my apolitical career teacher wife came unglued! Now that’s ARROGANCE. All capital letters.

There is so much wrong and purely hypocritical in those quotes I refuse to spend any more time with them. Or Mr. Cain.

The second Wall of Shame award goes to the Republican Majority Leader in the U.S. House, a little fella never known to be timid in speaking his small mind or spreading arrogance like so much fertilizer. Eric Cantor is the epitome of the arrogant politician. Check your Webster’s Dictionary. That’s his picture. Right there next to the definition.

His current offering also dealt with the very peaceful and seemingly multi-cultural “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations. Cantor was speaking to a group of like-narrow-minded people at the “Voter’s Values Summit.” An oxymoron if ever there was one.

Cantor’s arrogance: the protestors are “a mob.” His exact words: “This administration’s failed policies have resulted in an assault on many of our nation’s bedrock principles. If you read the newspapers today I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street. And, believe it or not, some in this town have condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans.”

Now wait just a damned minute! “Mob?” “Americans against Americans?” Let’s do a little fact checking.

A year or so ago, we had people in the streets of Washington, D.C., waving American, Confederate, skull and crossbones and “Don’t Treat on Me” flags. None on Wall Street. They flashed their protest posters, reprinted by the thousands by billionaire backers. In streets today, bottoms of cardboarad boxes with hand lettering. The D.C. “protesters” carried pictures of our president with a Hitler moustache. None in the current marches. Many wore sidearms or carried long rifles. No guns on Wall Street. Now, you define “mob.”

The far right contingent of Congress greeted the first group with open arms and speeches. None in New York. Among the TP speakers? Yeah, him! Cantor. “We’re with you,” he promised.

Normally, I’d take the next paragraph or two to further contrast the “Tea Party” and the “Occupy Wall Street” gatherings. Cantor’s widely distributed ignorance – and that arrogance – make that unnecessary.

If Speaker Bohner were Julius Caesar, certainly Eric Cantor would be his Brutus. He’s not even careful in concealing the dagger. Cantor and a lot of his followers are completely divorced from reality. He’s one of those who have sickened politics in this country with far right ideology and ego-driven tactics to be “somebody.” When you unscramble the mess that is our grid-locked and hopelessly impotent Congress, you’ll find Cantor at the bottom of the pile, struggling to control the ball.

The Cain’s and Cantor’s of this world have no care for people on Main Street, Anytown, U.S.A. They wallow in their detached worlds, trying to climb over everybody else to get to the top. Even with a couple of beers in him, you couldn’t make Eric Cantor see the difference between the marches in New York and Washington. Remember, after the last hurricane that smashed a good portion of his own congressional district, it was Cantor who said he would not allow FEMA supplemental funding to help even his own folks unless the same amount of dollars were immediately cut from other federal budgets. Case closed.

Sadly, nearly all the GOP presidential candidates this year are cut from the same Cantor-Cain cloth. They’re chasing and claiming the same narrow-minded ideological base. They differ only in sex; not philosophy.

I hope the “Occupy Wall Street” folks – like the ones we’re seeing in our own Northwest backyards – prosper and multiply. I pray the messages of the most personal survival needs of jobs, mortgage relief and a government that supports rather than destroys carry the day. Today and every day.

The arrogant elixir represented by Cain and Cantor has poisoned our political system. They and their ilk have been allowed to stand in our national spotlight far too long.

Something is happening in our streets. Something new to me. While I’ve had more than the usual amount of exposure to demonstrations large and small as a member of various media organizations, what’s happening out on the asphalt in several dozen locales is something entirely different from what I’ve seen before.

The genesis occurred a few weeks ago on Wall Street. A few hundred folks got together under a loose title of “Occupy Wall Street” to send a message to trading houses, banks and the government. There were many voices with many messages. But the gist could probably have been boiled down to something like “Prosecute the criminals in the financial industry who have stolen from us, gotten richer and have created our huge economic mess.” There were some lesser voices talking about jobs and foreclosed homes but that pretty well captures the essence.

In one more week, new but similar groups got together in several cities espousing much the same message. Another week went by and more people began marching in other places. And the Wall Street group continued protesting. In about the third week, Portland, Seattle and other Northwest cities got in on the action.

Now we’ve seen all sorts of marches in this country. From spontaneous reactions to something like 9/11 where the message was sympathy mixed with patriotism to the highly organized street theater of the Tea Party in Washington, D.C. where the message was dictated and controlled by those paying the bills. And pulling the strings.

But these more recent outpourings – these are different. No fancy printed signs handed out by organizers. No mixed messages tinged with racism and contrived patriotic symbols including the American and Confederate flags. Or the “Don’t Tread On Me” emblems. No signs or banners depicting political leaders as Hitler or threatening to use weapons to accomplish their desired results. No guns on their hips. Rather, if there are signs at all, we’re seeing mostly hand-printed words on flattened cardboard nailed to a stick. The speakers – if there are any – tend to be economists not rabble-rousers.

And the people. The faces. Very different kaleidoscope. Lots of 20, 30 and 40 somethings. Most dressed in sport clothes or other casual wear. Their demeanor, for the most part, is quieter and seems focused on the many messages of individual economic hardship, wanting both help and justice. Nothing threatening or hateful as we’ve seen so often recently.

Oh, there’s some theater. Especially in New York where street theater is part of life. A few kids with wild makeup playing the role of zombies as if those they were protesting against were treating them as less than human. But, again, peaceful, nonthreatening and nonviolent.

As a reporter, I’ve stood in the midst of 300,000 people – sometimes more – who wanted us out of an Asian war. I’ve been tear gassed and arrested during street marches making headlines around the world. I’ve been confronted by police officers out of control, angry at the crowd and striking out at anyone they could reach. Demonstrations can get pretty nasty.

Ones we’re seeing now are a far cry from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. The tone is more temperate. The message more personal. There are no folk musicians or rock groups. Aside from a few over-eager cops in New York early on, no police anger, baiting or interference.

But two large changes strike me. The first is there really appears to be no one behind these outpourings; no billionaires, no political opportunists, no central organization pushing a pre-determined, self-serving message. They are what they appear to be: spontaneous.

The second difference seems to be there’s no desire to have thousands of people descend on New York or Washington as we’ve seen so often in the past. The drive this time appears to be to have more and more homegrown demonstrations until all states are involved. Locally.

If these two differences are borne out, and if we see more of these gatherings, it will be extremely difficult for any one group or any self-serving opportunists to get control or direct the message as we’ve seen in the Tea Party. What you’ll have is a truly people-driven movement of like messages reflecting the widespread distrust and anger most of us feel toward political entities and financial institutions.

I’m damned mad at both. And I’m ready to take to the streets. Again. This time as marcher and not an observer. It may be nearly impossible to get changes in our financial institutions by demonstrating. But members of Congress and the guy in the White House are more within our reach. In those cases, we might make a difference there.

Actions in the streets gave birth to the political will to end a war. Maybe this time we can start a war. For justice – delayed or denied.

As a teen in Central Oregon in the ‘50’s, I spent a lot of time in the forests. Good times. I learned to drive on logging roads, always careful at the turns going up to listen for a gyppo trucker heading down with several tons of logs and sometimes minimal brakes. He had absolute right-of-way.

I learned to shoot in the forests. Sometimes we’d pin a target on an old tree stump. Or we’d find squirrels or other varmints running through the trees.

Hiking in to higher lakes was fun, too, learning about flora and fauna from older, wiser heads. There were places so quiet and untouched you swore you were the first to ever be there. Special times and places..

Now, if you talk to Northwest lawmen – and women – you are advised of the dangers of such outings. Dangers that didn’t exist when I was growing up. Things like marijuana growers with automatic weapons. Some may be there because a cartel is watching their families in Mexico and threatening to kill them if the crops are discovered. That’s a powerful incentive to kill a hiker or two and bury ‘em deep. They often hang barbed fish hooks from trees, put sharp sticks in buried pits or use trip wires on explosives.

There are others in our Northwest forest these days. Men – and sometimes women – who used to be in our military. You’ll often find them in mobile homes, travel trailers, pickup campers, tents or even under some limbs and brush used to make a temporary lean-to.

Law enforcement officers, hikers and campers in our woods occasionally run across these people who, for the most part, just want to live separate and apart from what we call “civilization.” Maybe not too friendly to visitors but not a particular danger, either. They want to be left alone.

But some are dangerous. To those who stumble across them. And to themselves. They’re called “dis-associative,” “loners,” “antisocial” and some psychiatric terms way over my head. Wartime experiences have changed them. Memories of what they’ve seen and done in service to this country won’t leave them. Though some have been prescribed powerful drugs to give them relief, there are those who won’t take them. Maybe because of side-effects. Maybe because they can’t afford them. Maybe because they think they don’t want to forget.

As we discover more about the terrible effects of traumas on the brain – traumas like war – we also discover we have new problems to diagnose and treat. And, for the most part, we do that. But mental illnesses are still not recognized by a lot of people as being just as debilitating – or often more so – as physical injuries because “broken” parts of the brain are not visible. So a lot of vets, suffering these invisible wounds, don’t get the care they need.

For centuries, generals planning wars, often compute, in advance, what the loss of life and other major casualty counts will be. So many dead. So many wounded. So many missing. But I’ve never heard one yet plan for – or even be able to estimate – the count for “mental losses” and what we call “post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD. It can’t be done. But it’s very, very real. And should be very much part of the “casualty” count.

This country is engaged in two “wars-of-choice.” It’s impossible to make a factual case for invading Iraq even using the phony “our national defense” excuse of the Bush administration. We’ve lost thousands of young American lives, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraq civilians and wasted hundreds of billions of dollars because a handful of politicians and intellectual war hawks decided to do it.

A case can be made the war in Afghanistan was also by “choice” when other, more appropriate actions – civilian and military – could have accomplished the original intent to find and kill Bin Laden and those around him. Remember, we got Bin Laden, not in Afghanistan, and not with an army. We used a couple of dozen guys operating alone. In another country. But, again, a handful of “deciders” committed thousands of young lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in treasure to a “mission impossible” if the history of several thousand years means anything. And it should.

Quite a jump from the forests of the Northwest to the impenetrable jungles, valleys and mountains of far off countries, isn’t it? But these is a direct connection. In fact, there are hundreds – and possibly thousands – of direct connections between wars-of-choice and young Americans living – and hiding – in Northwest wilderness areas and a lot of other remote parts of our nation. It’s those very American refugees themselves.

The Mexican cartels and their marijuana crops? Law enforcement is dealing with those. But who will search out our wounded? Who will find our injured we carelessly and thoughtlessly sent into battle without sufficient reason, sufficient forethought and sufficient planning for their welfare? Who will deal compassionately with them? Who will bring them back from their wooded exiles?

No, our Oregon and Washington and Idaho forests are not the same as I remember from my 50’s youth. Years before many of these injured refugees from what we now call “normal” were born.

We are poorer for our loss. And for their very real, unattended burdens.