Archive for February, 2012

For many a year, we Northwesterner’s have been told – yea loudly warned – about the “takeover” of our homeland coming from folks in California. All those “foreigners” using their ill-gotten California real estate profits to buy up our beloved Northwest – house-by-house and block-by-block.

Well, my corner-of-the-country neighbors, seems tain’t so. And the proof comes from no less a reliable group of folks than the U.S. Census Bureau.

One of the thousands of uses for all those numbers they gather each decade is to track where people come from – state-to-state – and where they go – state-to-state. Most of our cherished Northwest territory doesn’t come close to the top of the list of relocations for California transients.

Washington saw the most transplanted Californians in 2010 – 39,468. Sounds like a lot. But 68,959 of their California compatriots moved from the coast to – Texas. Yep, Texas. During the same period, 36,562 Texans moved West to California – about half as many.

Another 47,164 left California last year for the sun in Arizona. And 35,472 skipped across the border to Nevada. For Oregon, less than 20,000.

While statistics are usually pretty boring, these contain a lot of important information we should know for many reasons. So, here are a few more I found interesting.

In 2010, 59% of us lived in the state in which we were born. The state with the highest percentage of such was Louisiana at 78.8%. Given our modern day mobility, that’s hard to imagine. More than three-quarters of the folk in Louisiana have lived their entire lives in the same state. Michigan came in second with 76.6% followed by Pennsylvania with 74% living their entire lives where they started.

Another residential record showed up in the Census Bureau numbers. The percentage of people who changed living locations between 2010 and 2011 was 11.5% – lowest it has ever been. It would seem our rotten real estate and jobs markets had a great deal to do with that.

Among the few who did move in 2010, employment was the most common reason. Either getting a new job or looking for one. Those moving over 500 miles – 43.9% – cited such. But when people moved less than 50 miles, 40% cited housing-related issues. Often, losing one. But there are sometimes other causes for making a change. In 2006, just after Hurricane Katrina, 118,552 folks left Louisiana for Texas. Many haven’t gone back.

Though I’ve heard some fearsome stories about how some out-of-staters have been treated after moving to a Northwest state – I’ve even witnessed a few inhospitable encounters – it’s never been much concern to me. Born in Washington many years ago, I’ve lived in Idaho and Oregon and literally call the entire Northwest “home.” There are so many excellent reasons to live in our beautiful neighborhood, it’s no surprise – and really no disappointment – that so many folks want to live here.

When I look at my friends and acquaintances, I count a few Californians among them. Also some Nebraskans, one from Indiana, a New Yorker or two and several from other scattered locales. So what? Each brings a new set of life experiences and talents and our lives are enriched just for having them as neighbors. So I’ve never figured out why being a former Californian makes such a difference with some of the natives here. And the non-natives, too.

We Americans have long seen ourselves as a mobile society, blessed with a large country with many interesting locations in which to live. I’ve had homes coast-to-coast and border-to-border. We live where we do now – near the mountains and near the ocean shore of Oregon – because it pleases us. Many people of our senior years never get such an opportunity. We are fortunate.

Census Bureau numbers show we in the Northwest are not being overrun by Californians or anyone else despite “common wisdom.” But, as is often the case, the common wisdom can be wrong.

In this case, it is. Really.

Without an overt effort to do so, it appears the Obama campaign is attracting a new – and for him – very significant class of voters. Republicans. Given the far-edge-of-the-earth positioning of the national GOP, the news is hardly surprising. But it is interesting.

The results of a new survey by Wenzel Strategies – a national Republican polling firm – yes, Virginia, Republican – offers pretty good evidence of the cross-voting. Co-sponsored by World Net Daily, polling showed one in five Republicans questioned planned to vote for the President. What’s more, 54% of Republicans and 60% of Independents thought the President has exceeded or lived up to their expectations. Read that how you will.

Another tidbit. The only Republican presidential candidate not losing GOP support by at least 20% to Mr. Obama was Ron Paul. He’s at 19%.

While the survey turned up almost as many reasons for the GOP defections as people questioned, I think there are two main factors. The economy is improving and us average folk don’t like the candidates currently in play.

First, the economy. Presidents of any political persuasion – like quarterbacks – get too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. In both cases, there are whole teams involved and success – or failure – comes from an entire group of players. Political or pigskin. Presidents – and quarterbacks – are just the most prominent faces when an outcome is reached so they’re the ones everyone thinks of. Sometimes, success comes to both in spite of their efforts and defeat can be the outcome no matter how hard everyone worked. Just the way things are.

But the economy is improving. So, following long tradition, many people are attributing that to Obama. I think there’s enough hard evidence in improved employment, record low interest rates, healthier corporations – like the automakers – and diminished unemployment numbers to give the current administration more than a little credit. Some mistakes along the way? Yep. But, overall, we’re in better shape now than three years ago.

When people feel pressures easing, life gets a little better no matter their other concerns. If the country seems to be returning to normal, we feel relieved.

Then, there’s the GOP presidential crop. In every national poll – not just the one referred to previously – in every one, the sitting President beats all Republicans. All of ‘em. The only difference is the margin. From about seven points to nearly 30. Republican or Democrat. The message there is very, very clear. Most people don’t like any of the choices offered.

There may be a third situation worth noting. Outside the doctrinal, small, far right base of the national party, a lot of Republicans don’t see the President as some sort of socialist demon out to take from the rich and give to the poor. They may like his effort to close tax loopholes for the very rich and get them to pay higher rates. But they don’t see it as socialism or redistribution of wealth as much as they do fairness.

The plain fact is congressional Republicans aren’t helping the national party keep everyone loyal. They’ve been totally ineffective in addressing anything remotely helpful for our bad economy. They’ve done nothing to enable job creation and have stymied other’s efforts to do so. They’ve kept busy with social issue legislation that so far has not garnered popular support. Much less congressional. They’ve cost us our traditionally excellent financial rating and are poised to do it again.

And they’ve pick, pick, picked at the American middle class with legislative attempts to kill labor unions, demonize teachers, firefighters, police and other public sector workers. There’s a bill before the House Energy and Transportation Committee at this moment to strip several thousand rail industry workers of federal minimum wage and overtime protections in direct violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Go figure.

So, one in five Republican voters is telling Republican pollsters they’ll vote for the sitting president. A Democrat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lacking an acceptable GOP candidate alternative, watching the economy get better, recognizing some positive results from the current administration’s efforts – regardless of party – and seeing members of the congressional GOP run roughshod over working Americans while doing nothing to help – what other outcome would you expect from average, non-doctrinal, working voters? Of either party? Or those Independents.

But I’d bet – I’d just bet – in the upper echelons of the National Republican Committee, there will be no effort to deviate from the current suicidal course of far right policy any time soon – there will be a major bloodletting at the national convention – litmus tests will be liberally administered with those failing excommunicated and they’ll produce a deeply, politically – flawed candidate who will return to private life after the November election.

One in five, huh? Do I hear two in five? Three?

As Virginia’s legislative Republican moralists continue to look for ways to control women’s bodies, their Republican governor – who wants more than anything to be vice president – has slipped them a curve ball.

After foursquare promising to sign their garbage masquerading as legislation – requiring women considering an abortion to submit themselves and their privates for invasive exams requiring electronic probing – Bob McDonnell backed water. Seems the national outcry from people still in possession of common sense looked like it would threaten his chances for political advancement. With finger boldly placed in the political winds, he found those winds head-on instead of at his back. Nothing changes a political climbers mind quicker.

Now, he’s the one doing the “inserting” as he tries to put toothpaste back in the legislative tube. He redlined what had been passed and now small minds are trying to accomplish their twisted ends by writing a bill that comes as close as possible to the original purpose without going over some imaginary moralistic line.

The latest effort would require – yes, Virginia – require women to submit to an ultrasound. If gestational age could not be determined that way, they would be offered – yes, offered – the probe. But the offer could be declined

Produced by Virginia Republicans pledged to smaller government, less interference by that “smaller” government” and more personal freedoms, what they’re still trying to do violates all that and likely the personal protection of women who are thinking of an abortion. If enacted into law, their handiwork would require immediate growth of government to assure compliance, more interference by putting the state between women and their physicians and less personal freedom because she’ll have to contend with government’s necessary inspection of her uterus. Inside or out.

Should any of this become law, in my humble backwoods opinion, the right-wing will likely see the courts destroy this latest attempt to legislate morality. None of this crap is because most women or most thinking physicians want it. But because the State of Virginia Republican Party wants it. The purpose is to shame a woman considering an abortion from opting to do so.

From here in the Oregon wilderness, I’ve been doing a little web surfing. Not that I have a legal background, I assure you. But I have a curious mind and a deep personal love of independence. “Rendering unto Caesar” when necessary and unto others of my choosing when I want to.

Consider the following generally – and legally – accepted wording which describes assault and battery: Two separate offenses against the person that when used in one expression may be defined as unlawful and the unpermitted touching of another. Assault is an act that creates apprehension in another of an imminent, harmful or offensive contact. The act consists of a threat of harm accompanied by an apparent, present ability to carry out the threat. Battery is a harmful or offensive touching of another. The main distinction between the two offenses is the existence or nonexistence of a touching or contact. While contact is an essential element of battery, there must be an absence of contact to include battery. Assault and battery are offenses in both criminal and tort law; therefore they can give rise to criminal or civil liability.

Well, now. You’ve read what I’ve read. Can’t speak for you but I’d wager, if a Virginia woman’s body were “touched” or “contacted” under this widely used definition of assault and battery – touched or threatened to touch over her objections – some hungry attorney might see reason to pursue the matter against the State of Virginia. At least, I’d hope so.

The fact is this country has many, many urgent issues which need our brightest minds and best efforts and which should be getting our utmost attention. I’ve thoroughly examined the list top to bottom and can’t find the probing of a woman’s uterus among them. Except the list from Virginia.

I believe – because I have to – that these and other phony efforts to determine a national morality will be quashed – either by significant public outrage or the courts. Or both. Unwarranted and self-serving attacks on any of us are damaging to all of us.

This time, they’re after reproductive systems – which usually means women. But only partly. As a man, my family planning and rights of bodily protection are on the chopping block as well. Who knows what the Hell they’ll come after next time?

Well, there you are. Two consecutive columns with the same subject matter. But I hope you’ll pardon me. It’s just the when I think of the root word for “Virginia” it all seems even more ridiculous.

While I’m a bit slow on some things, I really do try to keep up. But this one really got by me. Until today when it suddenly dawned on me I’ve been sleeping next to one of the Republican party’s major presidential and legislative issues: my wife. Or rather, her uterus. Right there. Next to me. In our bed.

For too long, I’ve been concentrating on unemployment, what it would take to create new jobs, how to get companies to bring overseas jobs home, an undeclared war in Afghanistan killing our young people for no discernable military victory, a completely ineffective and unresponsive Congress, our reduced national credit standing, necessary publically-funded medical research to end cancer and other diseases, declines in our public education – both in quality and funding – how to resolve the massive political divides in our nation. Boy, have I been missing the real issues!

I’ve really been “out to lunch” on what’s important. Here we have four states passing laws this year demonizing teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees – 12 other states have such bills in progress. We have half a dozen or more state legislatures working to make a fertilized egg a person- with all the legal rights of unemployment and social security, I guess. Several want to drug test not just welfare recipients but all unemployed as well. And Virginia’s governor is signing a bill this week forcing a woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy to have a rod inserted in her uterus regardless of whether she – or her doctor – wants it.

Then there’s Rick Santorum’s multi-millionaire groupie who believes if women would put an aspirin between their knees they could immediately solve the whole issue of unwanted pregnancies. This simple concept has been right there in front of us all this time and it took only one old rich guy to end this national disgrace confounding all other Republicans. Boy, have I been out of touch!

To readers who’ve reached this paragraph thinking all of the above is satire and just some old curmudgeon ‘s attempt at political humor, the sad fact – the totally irresponsible and tragic fact is – all of the above is true. And, because of space limitations, there’s a lot more I left out. Such is today’s sorry politics at our national level and in many of our states.

For those wondering why I’ve not used the word “Democrat” to this point, it’s because Democrats have not been really involved in any of this. It’s coming entirely out of the Republican Party. Not all Republicans, certainly. But the common link between the presidential candidates mouthing this crap – and the legislatures who’ve enacted it – is a membership card in the GOP. It’s flatly undeniable.

The Republican presidential primary has devolved into a complete mess of pandering, lies and damned lies. Rather than promising to carry out the GOP conservative mantra of smaller, less intrusive government which works for me, all four of the candidates – all of them – have proposed more intrusion and, thus, larger government to see to it that their phony morality is being carried out.

Many Republican-controlled legislatures – and the U.S. House – have created their own swamps by entirely avoiding sworn responsibilities to safeguard and improve our fiscal, educational and public safety needs. Instead, they’re chasing after make-believe voter fraud, outlawing collective bargaining, making life tougher for the unemployed by requiring unnecessary drug testing and have done nothing for thousands of families losing their homes because of the fraud of bankers and other strangers.

What we’re seeing began 48 years ago when Barry Goldwater’s failed presidential candidacy took Republicans out of national and much local power for many years. But at the community level, the John Birch Society, the Liberty Lobby and other GOP fringe groups, began taking over the party. They doggedly kept at it until they controlled many county, state and, eventually, most of the national offices.

Now we’re living with the fruits of their nearly five decades of labor. Ignored by party moderates for years – many who dropped out after 1964 – they’re now in charge of the institution. They’re a narrowly-focused bunch, dedicated more to political purity and implementing their own brand of morality on the nation than in governing. Or even learning how to govern through compromise and cooperation. Anyone who doubts this need only sit by the TV set this summer when the GOP national convention in Florida becomes a bloody mess and the few remaining moderates – if any – are excommunicated.

I have some moderate Republican friends. I feel sorry for them because they’re not the ones creating this national havoc. They’re being tarred with the same brush but have no role in their party governance. They may still carry a membership card but not with the sense of pride they once did.

If we are to eradicate the right wing excesses in our national government – and in more than a few states – it is these GOP moderates who must work from inside their own party to exorcize the sickness. Some have said to me they’re about ready to form a new party. But, the way our political system is designed, that would be a very difficult thing to do effectively and, if it did work, would take many years and many elections.

Our nation’s governance works best when there is healthy debate and compromise between the established parties. We need Democrats and Republicans who understand government, who come to their elected experiences with intelligence and reasoned thought and who respect the fact that all who serve serve all.

And stay the Hell away from my wife. And all her privates.

Ridenbaugh Press Boss Randy Stapilus is one of the best research journalists I’ve ever known. Bar none. He can plow though reams of arcane statistics, lengthy court decisions and political garbage to come up with the meat of the issue at hand. And he does it sober. That’s a real talent in too short supply in our media world these days. Me? Not even close.

Yet once in awhile, a pile of numbers comes along that no one can ignore. With a message too large to overlook. The latest to cross my desk: an AARP study of the contributions of caregivers and the cost – in billions of dollars – of the care they provide. Yes, billions. Many billions.

If you’ve ever been a caregiver on a full or part time basis, you were likely so focused on your responsibility that putting a dollar value on what you were doing just didn’t come to mind. It should. Because when you add it up, it equals the gross domestic product of some large countries.

Here is a direct quote from the AARP document. “In 2009, about 42.1 million family caregivers in the United States provided care to an adult with limitations in daily activities at any given point in time, and about 61.6 million provided care at some time during the year.”

“The estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $450 billion in 2009, up from an estimated $375 billion in 2007.”
AARP used what seems a very conservative formula to come up with that estimate. Using census and other public data, AARP found 42.1 million caregivers, 18 years of age or older, providing an average of 18.4 hours of care per week to recipients, 18 or older, at an average rate of $11.16 per hour – if they had been paid.. With the exception of the hourly compensation, those are huge figures.

Here’s some context for the $450 billion: more than total federal and state Medicaid spending in 2009 which was $361 billion; as much as the total sales of the world’s largest companies including Wal-Mart of $408 billion in 2009 and the three largest auto companies; almost $1,500 for every person in the United States given a population of about 307 million; and about 3.2 percent of our gross national product.

Again, this is uncompensated care being given from one private person to another. While there were also billions in institutional costs such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, this was ALL one-on one unpaid care for family members and friends.

So what are the Northwest states portions of caregiving? Idaho: 307,000 caregivers at any given time; 201 million hours of care with a value of $ 2 billion. Washington: 1.25 million caregivers with 817 million hours of care at a value of $10.6 billion. Oregon: 678 thousand caregivers with 443 million hours of care valued at $5.5 billion.

Again, huge numbers.

At some point in our lives, many of us will give full time care to a family member or friend. Or, we already have. It’s what we do. If that care goes on long enough, we all feel the strain and symptoms of depression from the continued responsibility. Yet, we don’t think of the dollar cost as the value of what we’re doing; only that it needs to be done and we hope someone would – or will – do the same for us. Again, it’s what we do.

While the AARP study will doubtless become important data in the files of health organizations, volunteer groups and assorted “bean counters” of the world, I choose to think of it as simply a statistical picture of a “value” on which most of us can place no value. The numbers are interesting but reveal very little about the real human cost.

That, caregivers carry in their hearts. That’s the real value.


For too many months, we’ve listened to each of you slamming each other, pounding the current president, complain about dozens of subjects and generally oppose everything governmental up and down the line. Each of you has made impossible “promises” to do “this-and-that.” And we’ve heard much about your individual “social” agendas.

Herewith, a list of some of your promises from the campaign trail that ain’t gonna happen. Remember, to do any of these, you would need control of – or a huge bi-partisan vote in – the Congress.

## We will not colonize the moon in the next nine years.

## We will not eliminate the Department of Education.

## We will not eliminate the Department of Homeland Security.

## We will not eliminate OSHA, EPA or any other major federal agency.

## We will not stop airport screenings.

## We will not eliminate the new health care law.

## We will not eliminate the Federal Reserve.

## We will not go back to the gold standard.

## We will not stop issuing federal paper money.

## We will not give states the right to print their own money.

## We will not repeal the Dodd-Frank law.

## We will not stop direct election of members of the U.S. Senate.

## We will not adopt the crackpot scheme of a flat tax. Or 9-9-9.

## We will not eliminate the Internal Revenue Service.

## We will not remove more regulations dealing with Wall Street.

## We will not eliminate all federal firearms statutes.

## We will not resign from the United Nations.

## We will not eliminate foreign aid.

## We will not move our embassy in Israel.

## We will not have a federal law banning all abortions.

## We will not make grade school kids “deputy janitors.”

## We will not make Congress a part time legislative body.

We’ve been fed a steady diet of these and other fantasy, fact-free items for nearly a year. Collectively, you’ve wasted our time. You’ve wasted hundreds of millions of dollars promising all this – dollars that would have been better spent to make life easier for a lot of hurting Americans. You’ve abused our sensibilities with such phony talk. You’ve worn out your welcome in the homes and lives of millions of thinking people of all political stripe. You’ve embarrassed us as a nation in the eyes of the entire world. You have lied to us.

You’ve short-changed and badly misjudged the intelligence of the majority of voters in this country as you’ve pandered to one small group after another. All of you. You’ve made statements that would further divide us rather than unite us. You’ve shown a willingness to become political opportunists – at the expense of truth – to achieve your personal ambitions. Your collective ravings have set the bar for seeking the office of President very, very low.

Considering these things for which you say you stand, it is my dear hope that the only way any of you will enter the White House in the future is with a visitor’s badge.

You keep this up and we’ll see you on election day. For the last time.

Very truly yours,

Descriptions of politics for most of us used to be sufficient with words like Democrat or Republican – liberal, moderate or conservative – right or left. For some, those labels still apply. For me, I see and hear a new description: fear.

A lot of Americans are fearful and scared. Scared of fast-changing world economic and other financial issues few really understand. Scared because our security of having a home may be in jeopardy for the first time in our lives. Scared because some institutions we used to believe in like banks and insurance companies aren’t the rock-solid, always-there businesses we grew up with. Scared because there’s less security in our lives than there used to be. Scared because the elected national government we were brought up to respect is failing us when we badly need it to function.

We do live in unsettling times. Personal relationships with our institutions, our security, our stability, even our employers are more tenuous and unfamiliar. They don’t relate to us as they previously have and we don’t relate to them the same way, either.

“Nationally angry” may be the best words available to describe us to others outside our borders. Anger on the right. Anger on the left. The now largely ineffective Tea Party got its start because people were mad. The Occupy Wall Street movement began for similar reasons at the other end of the political spectrum.

Fear is a bipartisan emotion. Take the TP crowd and the Occupy folks, for example. Both groups are mad at government. Both feel threatened and believe our political institutions aren’t representing them or working in their best interests. Both see bad actors in our political and institutional worlds. Both are driven by people who are – scared.

Our society has coarsened in the last couple of decades. We’ve become more tolerant of aberrations in society, entertainment, politics and even in our children. Older Americans know it. But as each deviation from what used to be normally unacceptable was made acceptable, younger people grew up thinking it had always been that way. So, just as we did before them, they pushed the envelope with fashion, entertainment and even language. The next generation did the same and lots of older folks found themselves with values and patterns of life that didn’t fit anymore.

Our national politics have been badly affected by fear. In much of the rhetoric, fear has turned to hate. This week’s CPAC meeting in Washington, D.C., has been a platform of hate. Presidential candidates and nearly all other speakers have vilified any thing or any one found “unacceptable” by virtue of their own litmus tests. Not comments critical or thought-provoking. Not offering some rational alternative to what they see as wrong with the country. No advancement of ideas to fix what they see as needing fixing. No. It’s been personal and hate-filled speech.

When the Republican National Convention is held in Florida a few months hence, expect more of the same. And not just directed at Democrats. There will be visceral infighting and bloody divisions exposed which will continue past the November general elections. No one will be exempt.

Democrats have some of these fear problems, too. But, as far as the White House job is concerned, any jockeying at their convention will be for 2016 and beyond. They’ll have the usual squabbles but, because their differences aren’t at the top of the ticket, they’ll be a lot more tame.

For the rest of us, those events won’t hold much interest. Still, like many who’ll participate there, we’re a fearful electorate in danger of making bad decisions because we’re unsettled and casting about for something – anything – to regain normalcy in our lives.

But, we’re bombarded daily with misleading or outright false information being passed as fact. We’re being fed daily doses of fear and distrust by hate radio talkers, well-paid to keep the pot boiling. We’re poorly served by many in the media who either don’t know what they’re saying is ignorant or wrong. Or don’t care. Our email inboxes overflow with anonymous hate speech and bogus facts.

Of course, some of our fear is unfounded. Many of our institutions are working. Conditions are improving and those that are new and different are starting to feel more comfortable. There are voices of reasonable people being heard. The long, slow process of recovery is happening. We have fewer reasons to fear and more to embrace.

But the hate. The outrageous, bellicose, always false and always destructive hate is with us daily, being stoked with obscene amounts of money provided by a few who want to change our society to fit their goals. It has found immoral political and business recipients willing to sell out truth and soul for a few more dollars. It’s insidious. It’s creating decay in our institutions. It’s stoking fear and uncertainty. A fearful electorate is a scared electorate. It’s capable of making tragic mistakes of historic proportions that can change a country forever.

World history contains many examples of national calamities brought on when people were afraid of conditions around them. When personal livelihood and security were threatened. When lives of stability were suddenly made unstable by events outside their control. Whole nations have been lost in such circumstances.

These are the times we live in. Definitions of right and wrong – of honesty and trust – of honor and courage by our institutions have been under prolonged attack. As a nation, we must put aside fear and anger and pursue what we know is right. What we grew up with. Who we really are.

So? Congress back in session? So? You’re expecting repented souls to finally get to your work, right? You’re expecting something other than the sandbox antics of children on display before they took a Christmas vacation from their – vacation? Really? You’re new on the planet, right?

With the same huge backlog of vitally important tasks on the table as when they left a month ago – and the same cast of impotent characters – don’t look for anything to be different. In fact, when it comes to our Congress, my advice is to not look for anything promising at all. Instead, look homeward.

I’m a long-time believer – and a devoted follower – of the activities of local and state government. It’s easy to keep up with the currently embarrassing antics of national government because of the national media we are exposed to. TV, radio or Internet put what Congress does – and doesn’t do – right in your face each day. Finding out what your city councilman or legislator is up to is a lot harder. But you should make the effort.

The next 12 months of this Congress will be as failed and frustrating as the previous 36. Reducing the debt – creating jobs – improving the economy – ending one or more wars – none of these things will be effectively tackled. Much less intelligently debated. But all is not hopeless.

When expecting lower levels of government to become more vital and have a larger role dealing with our ills, certain civic and monetary realities must be remembered. While cities, counties and states have income sources – you and me mostly – much of what they are responsible for requires dollars from the feds. Highway and bridge building, new water and sewer systems, heavy support for state and local education, updating airports and other transportation systems, rebuilding our national power grid – all this and more requires very large amounts of matching federal dollars. Local funding is not adequate to get it done.

So, the time-honored position for local officials is to raise funding for what is needed, then watch the federal spigot for the expected flow of federal dollars to add to the pile so all of the above items can be undertaken.

Well, time-honored or not, it’s not happening. Not like it used to. One reason is because federal coffers aren’t as full as they once were. But the larger reason at the moment is – Congress won’t produce! Since local and state budgeting is for two or three years ahead – and given the colossal failure of this Congress to act on anything except abortion, union busting and gay marriage – even if all 535 of those miscreants suddenly came to their senses, things would continue to fall apart at home because of the time lag between allocation and receiving those federal dollars.

So, back to reality. If there ever was a time for all other levels of government to prove their value, I believe it’s now. State legislatures, county commissions, city councils – and all the other elected or appointed officialdom that makes up that structure -must take up as much slack as possible. Further, after belt tightening, all those governing bodies have to see what conditions are and – if necessary – redesign how they operate and how they interact with each other.

No state – not one – can continue operating fiscally as it used to. No city council or county commission can, either. Resources aren’t there and the fundamentally constipated federal animal is even more unreliable than in the recent past.

Some states are creating advisory sub-groups to examine their traditional style of operating; what functions are constitutionally mandated, how required services have been conducted and paid for in the past, what realignment of services and their delivery might be advisable – even necessary – and to do a little “outside-the-box” thinking. Cities and counties, too.

Oregon’s Curry County has been doing that. A couple of dozen citizens with business and management savvy – blessed by county government – have conducted hearings, brain-stormed and developed a list of 19 ideas for the county commission. Some traditional. Some “outside-the-box” stuff. New-but-experienced eyes looking at old ways of doing things and being a little creative. Some of their suggestions would require substantial changes in the way we do things locally. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Every county in this nation should do the same. Every state. Every local community. That’s not to say experienced office holders aren’t doing their jobs. Far from it. But given the current federal brain-freeze, forcing changes in traditional ways of doing things down the food chain, why not take the opportunity to get some new eyes with some valuable backgrounds to look at “what is” and maybe come up with some new ways to get us to “what can be?”

Some re-invention of state, county and community government might help us solve a few of our problems while voters wait for November to do a little house cleaning at the federal level. Do we need all those counties? Do we need all those school districts? Road, sewer, fire and water districts? Is it time for some consolidation of some of those? Should counties and cities be given more latitude in how they raise and spend their dollars? Is a local sales tax viable? They’re looking at these and more in Curry County already.

The impotence of our congressional denizens will not be cured in the November election. Or the election two years hence. Count on it. We may shake ’em up a little but not enough to restore a willingness to cooperate. With each other or with us. So why not take this time to look at things closer to home? Challenge what – and how – we’ve been doing them. Use some 21st century tools to solve our 21st century problems.

All it takes is the will to do it. To change what needs to be changed and make more use of what works. Couldn’t be a better time.

It’s too late to build a National Public Relations Hall of Shame Museum. Unless you build one with a special wing for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Then the folks at Coca Cola who came up with “New Coke” won’t have to give up permanent display status in the main exhibit area.

Not only did the ladies at Komen step off a cliff when announcing an end of financial support for Planned Parenthood, they sharpened the rocks at the end of the fall in denying the too-obvious truth behind their effort when reinstating P.P. It was political. It was done with malice aforethought. It was deliberate. And it was WRONG.

Like a pink Wile E. Coyote, Komen made a run at the wrong bird. Within 48 hours, P.P. not only exceeded fourfold in donations and pledges what it would have lost in Komen annual grant money for a single year, it picked up 10,000 new Facebook supporters. People who – like me – probably hadn’t previously given Planned Parenthood much of a personal thought. But, suddenly, they were there with offers of their time and their money.

If the idea behind Komen’s action was to deliberately cripple P.P. – and the evidence says to me it was – it had just the opposite effect. At our house – and apparently at a lot of houses – we’re going to take more seriously and more personally the continued attacks on P.P. by small-minded and decidedly ignorant politicians and others that’ve popped up everywhere.

One of the recent hires at Komen has been Karen Hendel, the new VP for public policy. If you live outside of Georgia, the name probably means nothing. You probably weren’t aware that she lost her Republican run for governor. Or that one of her major campaign points was getting rid of Planned Parenthood because Hendel thinks of herself as an “outspoken voice” – little redundancy there – for ending abortions. Which would seem to make her an odd hire for Komen. Not that she’s not entitled to her personal views. She certainly is. But Komen – at least I thought – was apolitical and neutral on abortion and other public issues. Apparently I was wrong. And so were millions of others.

So, Hendel makes her appearance in the Komen hierarchy several months ago and Komen suddenly turns its back on P.P. because P.P. is being “investigated by a congressional committee.” In December, Komen circulated a memo to all affiliates making sure they knew of the “investigation.” A memo from Hendel.

Now, throw in another fact. That House Committee is chaired by a Florida Republican fella who’s been after P.P. for years because of his own anti-abortion views. Komen conveniently cites the committee “investigation” to deny the funding but, 48 hours later, says it had nothing to do with reinstatement. Yeah. Right.

Over the last five years, P.P. received $680,000 from Komen. With just that money, P.P. health centers performed more than 4-million breast exams in the same period. No abortions. Breasts exams. Mostly in rural communities – the places where P.P. is most effective and most needed.

Planned Parenthood’s main mission – as the name implies – is family planning. Not securing abortions. Issues of abortion make up a small part of the larger P.P. role in women’s health. But that small part has become the outsized focus of zealots who see P.P. as a “danger to democracy.”

Komen caught itself in another lie when announcing Planned Parenthood grant applications would be accepted in the future. Komen said it is writing “new (grant) criteria to ensure that disqualifying investigations must be ‘criminal and conclusive’ in nature.”

So, dropping P.P. was because of the congressional “investigation” but Komen policy regarding applicants being “investigated” for something will be rewritten. Not connected to the P.P matter. Yeah. Right.

There is no question the Komen Foundation has severely injured itself. Once by taking an action driven by small-minded people. Again when trying to get itself out of a bad situation. There were either lies going in or lies coming out. Or both. My guess is a lot of people who have previously participated in Komen find-raising activities will not in the future. That will mean fewer dollars to help vital women’s health programs like P.P.

But, I’d also guess – based on public response during those 48 hours – Planned Parenthood may need less outside support from Komen down the road.

And one other bit of speculation here. Those grandstanding politicians who believe they’ve been making big points at home with their constant criticism of P.P. may want to rethink the situation. Especially the ones who represent rural districts.

Few of them could raise $3 million and 10,000 “friends” in 48 hours.