Archive for May, 2012

From time to time, I’ve used this space to describe the unique nature of the several counties of Southwest Oregon. Politically, socially, economically – they don’t resemble any other section of the state. Now, because of some of our “differences,” folks here are starting to feel a lot of hurt. In several ways, that hurt is – and will be – self-inflicted. It’s already begun.

First, some background. Geographically, we’re isolated. Only Interstate 5 and Highway 101 on the coast run north and south through several counties. Some communities have no direct east/west access. Several are large but most land is owned by one level of government or another. Most communities are small. Timber cutting/processing is big. But – because of limited access to those government trees and given today’s sluggish economy worldwide – unemployment is high and the standard of living for many is pretty low. The economic importance of commercial fishing is not near what it used to be and likely won’t ever be again.

Population in several counties is older than typical. Several regional Vet’s Administration hospitals account for a lot of that. Retirement, too. Not much here to keep lots of young folks. So, with many older people on fixed incomes – and without the usual liberalism balance of youth – politics hereabouts is very conservative. From right-of-center to edge-of-earth. Seceding from Oregon is not uncommon talk in our neighborhood,.

A lot or our county commissions, city councils, boards and the like often have people who’ve served 10-20-30 years or more. Because of that – and the fact our county-city populations are mostly small, the folks that serve and folks that elect often have close relationships. Which – in some ways – has added to our problems.

Example: a multi-county electric cooperative nearby had a member who had been on the board more than 40 years. The co-op board prided itself on almost never raising electric rates, regardless of increases in costs of power it bought. It just didn’t pay all the bills each month. The situation got so out-of-hand the federal agency that loaned the millions for all the system improvements over the years demanded a new repayment plan. Now! Or the Bonneville plug gets pulled! Rate increases – sizeable rate increases – hit the mailboxes and restructuring of the board of directors soon followed.

Another problem. Several counties have been receiving sizeable federal checks annually for years. The millions are supposed to support schools and other services because (a) the feds own so much land here and (b) the feds don’t pay taxes. So “in lieu” monies were paid under a special program – a program that’s now going away. Most everyone knew it would.

So – in the midst of our national economic troubles – these counties have been hit double. The hurting has begun. But only begun.

Our little burg is a one example of the problem, even though details here are better than most. Consider this: every dime of property tax raised here goes for county law enforcement. Every dime. All other county expenses come from various fees, the state and other sources. Like those federal timber payments. The ones ending. Our commissioners created a savings fund several years ago and it has helped. But when it’s gone soon – then what?

For the last few months, the sheriff and some leading Republicans in Josephine County have been pushing hard for a small tax increase dedicated entirely to law enforcement. No increase, the sheriff said, and he’d have to reduce the number of jail prisoners from 90 to 30 and fire 70 deputies and staff. He’d have three contract deputies to patrol an entire county. No court security – no detectives – fewer prosecutors. A few weeks ago, voters said “NO INCREASE” at the polls by a large margin. The pink slips have gone out. Property and other “minor” crime lawbreakers are getting tickets and a pass. Permit applications for concealed weapons permits are skyrocketing. What now, Josephine County?

Lane County is hurting. Jail and court operations curtailed. Dozens of prisoners turned loose. Lane D.A. Alex Gardner says “”It’ll really be the Wild West here” meaning more lawbreakers on the street. Lane, Jackson and Coos Counties are cutting in all areas.

Curry County planned to go to voters for a local sales tax in a few months and had already told the State of Oregon it would go broke without it. But remember that consumer-surprise delayed electric rate story? And the vote in Josephine County? Curry has no savings account. In a county with a population of about 25,000 or so, who’s gonna pay? And how much? And now this. NEWS FLASH: In the primary election a few weeks back, the two commissioners who proposed the local tax vote earlier this year – just proposed a vote – were defeated in their primaries this month. Defeated badly!

It is no overstatement to say the conservative nature of politics in SW Oregon, the isolation, the end of a long-standing federal support program and local dependence on what are now more limited natural resources have combined in something of a “perfect storm.” And all of that is playing out around a sizeable population of people who live here just for that isolation and who want to be “off the radar.” They are not highly sociable – not joiners – not part of the folks who do the volunteer and other tasks necessary to make a community close. And they hate taxes of any kind!

Though sprouts of green are showing up in the nation’s economy, we’re hurting here in SW Oregon. A unique set of circumstances – combined with an isolationist mind-set of far too many folks – is creating more problems than solutions. I don’t hear a lot of “let’s-get-our-shoulders-to-the wheel-and-get-back-on-the-road” talk. We’re seeing more folks at local food distribution centers even though things may be getting better in Seattle and Omaha and Cleveland. Too many people who should be in jail around here are not. And some of the laid-off people responsible for putting them there are leaving.

If none of this applies to conditions where you are, I’m happy for you. But these are the conditions in our neighborhood. And it’s gonna get worse.

From time to time, seems to me the “correctness police” take things a step too far. A State of Oregon busybody group is the latest “correctness” over-reacher.” Specifically our Board of Education which has decided that – henceforth- our public schools may no longer have mascots, nicknames or logos that are Native American in nature.

The official “thinking” behind banishing all things Indian connected to Oregon schools is that somehow they’re “racist,” “shameful,” “dehumanizing.” Apparently some in the American Indian community feel that way. Equally apparent, some don’t. Also apparent, some don’t give a damn.

I’ve never attended an Oregon school with an athletic team or image that contributed to this official human “shame.” We were the Bend High Lava Bears and, frankly, we didn’t much care if a few bears in Central Oregon or elsewhere were bent out of shape about it. The notoriously bad play of our football team in my senior year would have created enough shame even if we were St. Catherine’s of the Cascades. Bummer.

But here in the “burg-in-the-woods” where I now live, the local high school must surrender to this “correctness” which means removal of all things Indian from buildings, uniforms, letterheads, football end zones, basketball courts and cheerleader outfits. All must be done because the Board of Education “correctness police” are watching. And if all “dehumanizing” accouterments aren’t gone in 60 months, state funding will be withheld!

Imagine, for a moment, your state legislature took a dislike to the name of your town for some “correctness” reason, and told your city council to rename your village posthaste or there would be no more state dollars come 2017. “BLACKMAIL,” the cry would go up. “FISCAL BLACKMAIL!” Schools, however, are expected to roll over and get their collective tummies scratched.

What makes it even more ridiculous is this. In the community of Oakridge, school athletic teams are called “Warriors.” And they’ll continue to be called “Warriors” because the “correctness police” have drawn a fine hypocritical line between that label and any other thing “Indian.”

Suppose you lived in the little Oregon town of Marcola where teens attend Mohawk High School? All of the identity there is “Mohawk!” What are you supposed to do?

Social “critics” abound in all societies. That’s what they do. Sometimes they even have something valid to offer. But there’s the occasional rant that goes too far. In my mind, this is one of them.

As a nation, we’re supposed to be a “melting pot.” Indian, Chinese, Polish, Jew, Mexican, Jew, Indian. Keeping the values of one’s ethnicity while sharing that value with others was a founding principle. Honor the heritage but become American. Be proud of your ancestry while becoming something more by sharing in the new identity.

Instead, we act like victims of ethnic division (read “correctness police”) and followers of those who would keep us apart. We’re a nation heralding our differences rather than honoring our oneness. Our unique sameness. While there can be abuses of someone’s heritage, 11 guys in football uniforms don’t seem to me to add up to that.

I’m a native westerner. With a good number of Indian relationships. I’ve been blessed by getting to know their uniqueness and have opportunities to share their pride. I even quote some of their history from time to time because – in many ways – their history is my history, too.

I know of no school – no athletic team – no community – which identifies with American Indian history that does so in a demeaning way. While I’m sure there are some Indian Americans who may feel so, none of my Native American acquaintance do. To have a governmental body like the State of Oregon Board of Education levy this type of societal censorship – backing it with a blackmail threat – is demeaning in itself.

Our little burg has many Indian residents. Lots of local folk are employed in various Indian businesses. One of our major employers is the confederation of tribes in their many businesses. Their culture is celebrated many times during the year in these parts. Huckleberrying. Fishing. Pow-wows. Hunting. We even gamble in their casino which is all decked out in an Indian theme. Where WERE the “correctness police?”

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to find anyone who believes our little high school with it’s “Indian” athletic teams is a source of societal complaint to a lot of people hereabouts. Indian or not.

What IS a source of complaining is a State Board of Education – listening to a minority of voices which seem to be outside the mainstream of community majority – acting as the “correctness police” and using an economic hammer to enforce a solution looking for a problem.

A new name from the Northwest has entered our lives. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of him. His name is Nick Hanauer. He’s not a politician. But, if politicians would listen to him – as you’ll have a chance to do in a minute – that swamp of gridlock we call the U.S. Congress could solve every problem before it in a one-week session. Guaranteed.

Hanauer lives in Seattle. He’s a billionaire. Several times over. Looks to be about 50. He started in a family-owned Seattle business, co-founded another local company and franchised it. In the 90’s, he was one of the first investors in, then another company called – which then merged with In 2007, he started aQuantive which Microsoft bought for $6.4 billion. As I said billionaire+.

He gave a speech to a business group a couple of weeks ago. What he said so surprised and angered the sponsors they tried to suppress videos made of his presentation. They got most. Not all. You can see one they missed.

This is about six minutes long. No music. No special effects. Nobody but Nick. Please listen. Then keep reading.

The simplicity and clarity of Hanauer’s speech are remarkable. You didn’t hear it all. Here’s a couple of additional thoughts.

To further make his point about building a strong and economically comfortable middle class on which to base a stable, growing national economy, he used this example. If 3,000 families have enough income to each go buy a new car, that’s 3,000 new cars sold. But if Hanauer – the billionaire – makes enough money to buy 3,000 cars, he might go buy – one. Or he might not. Even a member of congress ought to see the very basic and solid economic value of that example. Well, most of ‘em anyway.

Hanauer believes we need more shoppers. “I can’t buy enough of anything,” he says, “to make up for the fact that millions of underemployed and unemployed Americans can’t.” Also this. “Consider, for example, that a puny three-percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time.”

As you might expect, there was an immediate knee-jerk reaction from the establishment set. Again, the sponsor of the event tried to kill recordings of Hanauer’s speech. And Forbes Magazine predictably did a quick hatchet piece headlined “The Ignorance of Nick Hanauer’s TED Speech.”

One staffer wrote of the efforts to round up all the recordings “It was just a case of the…organizers deciding this particular presentation was categorically mediocre, a conclusion with which I firmly concur.” Another Forbesian chimed in “It was worse than mediocre: it was deeply ignorant of the very subject under discussion.” And on and on. And on some more.

If you took my invitation to listen to just six-minutes of Hanauer’s speech, I leave it to you to decide. My vote – after the speech and a cursory reading of his book “The True Patriot” and a visit to the website of his political action think tank “The True Patriot Network” – that vote goes to Hanauer.

Republicans in Congress that used to be called “leaders” are leaders no more. On one hand, they’re prisoners of the far right and scared to death they’ll lose their fancy titles and Gucci loafers if they consider – even consider – a penny in new taxes. On the other, they’ve been given so much money from the very billionaires who ought to be paying more that they’re more attentive to the “whine and cheese” set than to public polling saying repeatedly “Do your damned jobs!”

Maybe some billionaires look at Nick Hanauer as a traitor. But from what I can determine from his successful career(s), his writings, his think tank positions and his pronouncements, he ought to be more listened to by the billionaires, the congress and the rest of us. He has more to gain by keeping his mouth shut and enjoying his 15% tax status and all the other “legal” hiding places the rich have available to them.

But he chooses to make his points in easy-to-understand ways no matter which of the avenues available to him he uses. If the folks at Forbes want to call him “ignorant” and “mediocre,” while sipping their $40 a bottle scotch, so be it. If members of congress want to ignore the pathways he offers out of our national problems, so be it.

But a guy who makes the kind of elementary sense he does, speaking from personal platforms of demonstrated successes, ought to be listened to by the rest of us. We may be better educated by his message.

If we fail to undertake some of the actions he suggests, I believe we do so at our own national peril.

There’s no other way to start this than by admitting I’m totally confused and need your help. The more I try to understand the facts in some recent news stories, the more at a loss I am to explain them. Certain elements just seem to run against all common sense and everything I’ve ever learned.

Here’s one. JPMorgan Chase – one of the largest banks on the world – lost $2 billion speculating in world financial markets a few days ago. But, at a shareholders meeting this week, the top guy responsible for running the whole operation was given a $23 million pay and benefits package. Considerably higher than the year before.

Now the financial gambling his minions were doing was apparently well-known in higher echelons of the company. Also recognized was it violated the spirit – if not the letter – of the Volcker rule which is meant to stop banks from using our dollars to invest for their profits. The investment officer in charge of that division was fired along with several traders. But the boss – responsible for running the whole empire and keeping things on the up-and-up – gets $23 million and goes right on with this privileged life.

What the hey?

Then there’s that Zuckerberg kid and his beardless cronies. Some eight years ago, they came up with an idea while sitting around a Harvard dorm room. Sort of an interactive college yearbook but with the ability of classmates to put up pictures of themselves and chat with each other using computers. One of the original “thinkers” said later he was really only concerned about finding more dates.

Now, Zuckerburg and several of his friends are multi-millionaires before reaching their 30th birthdays. And if a stock offering goes as planned one of these first days, Zuck and some others will matriculate to billionaire status while still in their 20’s. Without doing more than they’ve already done.

What the hey?

Here’s another. There’s a story this morning about the glut of oil on world markets. As I sit at the keyboard, crude oil prices are at their lowest point in over a year. $94 and change. But overnight, gas prices downtown went up 12-cents to sit at about $4.16 a gallon!

What the hey?

Then there’s this in the day’s headlines. Ol’ John Boehner – Speaker of the U.S. House of Reps – says we’re about to hit the debt ceiling again and it’ll have to be shoved up a notch. But not, he says, without bi-partisan agreements on “massive cuts in federal spending and no tax increases.” The old “cut-our-way-to-better-times” argument that’s been discredited by everybody from Donald Duck on up the economic brain chain.

So, the people we sent to Congress to do our business won’t do our business the way our business needs to be done while they ignore the professional counsel of economists and other experts who say it can’t be done the way they want to do it.

What the hey?

A common element of these stories is that each of them deviates from rules, laws, common business practices and even common sense when viewed from the perspective of us average citizens.

In the banking scenario, why does someone with the sole responsibility of keeping the affairs of an international company lawful and profitable personally make millions of dollars when what he’s responsible for runs into a ditch and loses an amount of money few of us can comprehend? That just seems to run counter to sound business fundamentals. Not to mention common sense. Risk and reward. Doing the right thing. You know.

The Harvard kids. In about eight years, Zuckerburg and friends have gone from sleeping two-to-a-room to billionaire status. How do kids who aren’t old enough to shave regularly go from mac-and-cheese dinners to international corporate status in eight years? How do those of us who’ve worked a lifetime for food on the table comprehend the making of obscene amounts of money by kids just trying to re-invent the old college yearbook?

The petroleum rape at the pump. When knowledgeable economists tell us $95 a barrel crude should result in no more than $1.50 a gallon gas, why does today’s $95 crude result in this morning’s $4.16 a gallon downtown? How did oil companies get so big and so independent that laws of economics – much less laws of government – don’t apply to them? The old rule of supply and demand has become demand and supply. At any outrageous price they want to charge.

And finally, Mr. Boehner and his politically-impaired Tea Party constituency. They’ve already cost this nation the best-in-the-world credit status we earned over the years. They’ve stalled, mutilated or killed any and all attempts by better-thinking members of congress to address any of this nation’s problems that don’t involve a uterus. They’ve been unresponsive to repeated polling showing their actions are not only opposed by most voters but their in-action has damaged large portions of our economy and families coast to coast and border to border.

Congress has perverted the constitutional system of checks and balances by simply doing nothing Economic and social harms inflicted over the last three years will leave permanent scars on not only our political history but also on millions of Americans whose lives have been adversely impacted by gridlock, arrogance and stupidity.

A common thread running through these four activities of our lives this day is that the old rules don’t seem to apply. A guy who oversees a bank’s gambling loss of a couple billion dollars is rewarded with new millions of his own. Kids with laptops becoming kings of industry – while still in late stages of puberty – as a nation struggles to keep itself afloat. Petroleum companies holding this country hostage while making obscene profits in the hundreds of billions of dollars as a political system greases their appetite for even more dollars through tax shelters and incentives. A congress expressly ignoring the needs of it’s constituency despite repeated proof members are at odds with a majority of voters on nearly every major issue.

I keep trying to understand. To apply the rules learned growing up that successfully applied to my life and the nation . Looking for systems of government and business to operate in ways we’ve always known. In ways that worked.

But – what the hey?

Why do you have the friends you do?

Author: Barrett Rainey

We have some awfully good neighbors. Their home has lots of curb appeal. The outside greenery is always well-kept. Well-behaved kids – mostly grown and off to college or careers. We chat now and then. They have many friends who visit often. We always get a friendly wave when outside or driving past their home. Really good folks.

Now, let’s consider these questions about our neighbors:

## Are they practicing Protestants, Catholics or agnostics?
## Are they vegetarians?
## Did either or both attend college?
## Are they planning on having more children?
## Do they drive American-made vehicles or foreign?
## Are they married or simply in a long-term relationship?
## Are they gay or straight?

The answers to those questions – rightly or wrongly – help define our neighbors in our society. Some answers even help us chose our friends. That may not be a good way to base our opinions about the value of people. But it’s what many of us do when – in reality – the answers to those questions are none of our damned business. Including the answer to that last one. Especially that last one.

Yet the issue of an individual’s sexuality has become an overriding topic in our national political world. In our lives in general. It consumes miles of newsprint and seemingly endless hours on radio and TV. It should not.

Looking back on a long life, I’ve tried to remember why certain people meant more to me than others – why some relationships developed into lengthy friendships across years and miles – why keeping up with some has been important while losing track of others didn’t get a second thought. In no instance – not one – has sexual preference been important.

I look at people in my life today – most recent acquaintance of church, service clubs or other relationships. Most I respect, would help in an instant and am glad to call them “friend.” But none of that personal attitude hinges on whether each is gay or straight.

Running some small businesses over the years, I’ve valued customers loyalty and their repeat use of our services. Nearly all were long-term customers who kept accounts current and were a joy to work with. Not one comes to mind because of the sex of a life’s partner. Theirs or mine.

I’ve even tried to think of the names of many who’ve crossed my path over the last five or six decades and who’ve faded from my life. Close once but, due to separations caused by relocating, taking a different job or joining a different activity, they slipped away almost unnoticed. None of those relationships ended because of anyone’s sexual orientation. Not one.

All those life circumstances involve literally thousands of people not chosen by – or kept close by – their sexual makeup. All. Not one exception. Why, then, has the issue of homosexuality become such an overriding concern? If we devalue it or ignore it so much in our own lives, why is such attention being paid to it in the media and by certain groups?

I find no basis to make this a religious issue. It’s human rights issue. The structure of a person’s domestic arrangement is a personal decision. Attempts to insert outside opinions – based on religious or any other societal practices – are unwarranted. For people who want less governmental or any other outside influence in their personal lives to attempt to use that same government to intrude in someone else’s private life is pure hypocrisy.

All people in my life have a right to every opinion they express – every vote they cast for whomever – every decision they make regarding how they and their families will live – every faith-based decision – even not to practice any particular faith. I can honor their choices, make my own and still find common cause on which to base a relationship.

We pride ourselves as living in a country where we value our freedoms of every kind. We’ve fought wars for no other reason than to allow people to live free of criticism or oppression by others – freedom from unwanted intrusion in their lives – freedom to worship any God as that God appears to them – freedom to worship no God at all.

Yet we are currently engaged in arguments and heated debate over whether two people – any two people – can live together in whatever societal arrangement they chose. Am I alone in seeing the hypocrisy here?

Our decisions – our values if you will – make us who we are. Most of us are lucky enough to have our own life experiences based almost entirely on the decisions we’ve made for ourselves. And if conditions formed to change our lives, we’re the ones who made new decisions of how to adjust based on those altered conditions. That is to be valued. Greatly!

But your right to make a decision affecting my everyday life, my thinking and my decisions ends about two inches in front of my nose. Past that point, the only one responsible is me. And those I chose – for whatever reason – to include. That is as it should be.

The President’s decision to honor the rights of gays to marry is his decision and his alone. As is Mitt Romney’s or any one else to believe otherwise. No one – presidential or otherwise – has the power to force their thinking on any of us. The choice each made by those two gentlemen should have no bearing on election day. Especially when considering current polling on the subject is split nearly 50-50. And moving rapidly to the acceptance side.

If you look at factors inside that polling – the demographics of who thinks what about gay marriage – you’ll find folks under 40 much more supportive than folks over 60. What that says to me is this subject will become more of a non-issue in years to come as the “againers” die off and the “approvers” age. And that’s good. To more than half of us, it’s irrelevant in our daily lives already.

Of course, that’s going to force some folks to change – to evolve – to come to new decisions based on that new environment. If that lessens suspicions, division and hatred, that’s all good, too.

“Breaking News – Part Two

Author: Barrett Rainey

Where were we? Oh, yes. CNN’s “Breaking News” bulletin of the engagement of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who’ve been “living in sin” for years while creating a “family.” (See post below “Too often “Breaking News” is broken news.”)

It’s a “given” absentee ownership of broadcast media has contributed to news coverage that’s more limited in scope, is in the hands of many who can “read” the news but not “report” it, and is less in both quantity and reliability. The Annenberg Foundation and other reliable groups have found ‘tis so. I won’t argue.

In this vein, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd – one of the best – has opined national media – including his own – have become the source of “manufactured controversies” which are denying us coverage of real news. Especially in reporting on our current presidential political campaigns. He cites three: Etch-A-Sketch, the ‘hot’ Obama microphone and Hilary Rosen.

In order: Etch-A-Sketch was a comparison – made by a Republican on his own staff – of Mitt Romney who seems to change his positions on political issues more than he changes his shorts. Like an Etch-A-Sketch on which you draw words or a picture, shake it a couple of times and it disappears.

The “hot” microphone was when President Obama said something he thought was private and personal to Russian President Medvedev while in range of an open media microphone.

The Hilary Rosen brouhaha was after she said Romney’s wife had “never worked outside the house” so she couldn’t understand the problems of women who do. What Rosen meant to say was that a mother in a family with a quarter-billion-dollar personal fortune could not know the problems of a mother with an annual income of $25,000 or so. That’s not what she said but later said that’s what she was trying to say. It also should be factually noted that Rosen has no official connection with the White House or the Obama administration. Though she and the President are both Democrats. Didn’t keep the media kids from wasting time trying to connect dots that didn’t connect.

Todd rightly points out none of these three “stories” deserved the huge media coverage that went on ad nauseam. And ad nauseam. None were important. None were newsworthy. The relentless repetition by ALL national media was “manufactured.” And it was done so while other stories of real news value were shunted aside or not covered. In my view, this gay marriage overkill is more of the same.

I follow national news pretty closely. But I don’t know actual details of Romney’s current position on national defense, specifics of foreign policy or much else. He’s damned the administration for this-that-and-the-other while saying he wants to “return America’s greatness.” What the Hell does that mean? 1776? 1945? 1963? Don’t ask the national media. ‘Cause they haven’t asked him.

Todd also points out Romney called the President “incompetent” after North Korea had it’s fireworks show and blamed Obama for the launch. But no media types questioned the baseless charges. They just “reported” what amounted to nothing. The incompetence, as Todd said, was North Korea’s. As for the charges, Todd noted real experts in American foreign policy – in both parties – were alarmed at Romney’s knee jerk reaction and lack of anything coherent to say about this country’s relationship with North Korea. Either what it is or what it should be.

On Obama? I don’t know what he wants to finish from his first term and in what area, what he wants to undertake in his second four years and what his plans are if he has to deal with the same congressional mess he has now because this country can’t take another four years of political stalemate. But we’re getting an overload of B.S. about his personal support for same-sex marriage.

I’m a harsh critic of Fox News. From a professional journalist’s perspective, I believe rightly so. But CNN, MSNBC, the Associate Press, Reuters and the rest are just as guilty of this same “manufacturing” crap. While important facts we should know, and information necessary to create a more capable and better informed electorate go unrecognized, we get hours and hours of the same file footage over hours and hours of the same blather about “he said – she said.”

This country’s national political affairs are suffering because a lot of voters went to the polls two years ago and elected a lot of know-nothings who didn’t have a clue about the workings of government. Still don’t. But people were pissed. It was a case of an angry electorate – far too many unaware of how our civic affairs are conducted – electing other angry people similarly handicapped who turned out for the most part to be opportunists looking for new employment. I lay a lot of blame for that at the feet of the media. And a system of public education that has failed to require all of us understand the basic civics of government operation most other democratic countries obviously do more effectively.

Our Constitution talks of an “electorate.” It makes no mention of an “informed” electorate. That’s our individual responsibility. We have an educational system that has failed to assure we are informed. And we are saddled with a media inhabited by too many “professionals” who are equally as stunted in matters of government operation to further inform. Might say “they don’t know what they don’t know.”

Given those related failures – and the sad congressional proof thereof – it falls to each of us to do the homework to undertake the self-education to change things in our country. Answers are out there. And it has fallen to each of us to find them for ourselves.

The failure of our two trusted institutions of media and education have given us a third and a fourth – an incompetent and unworkable congress elected by a largely uninformed populous.

If there is a common trait among most state Republican primaries this year it’s this: the far-right operators of those disparate elections have made a major mess of things. Demonstrating- once again – on their climb to take over the party nominating apparatus during the last 25-30 years, they were so intent on winning they failed to learn how to work the machinery.

Taken to the next level, the same applies to those Tea Party types sent to Congress. They won. But most of ‘em are following the deep, Sarah Palin theory of political success: “I won – I’m here – I don’t need to know what I don’t know. Let’s do it.”

Romney won Iowa – the most publicized GOP primary so far – and largest administrative mess of the year. No, wait. Santorum won Iowa. Yes, that’s it. Santorum. No, wait! Paul may have won Iowa. They’re checking again. Then, to top it off, the guy who ran the most fouled up Iowa primaries ever resigned when it was over to become state party chairman.

At least nine states went pretty much the same troubled way. Winners crowned then uncrowned. Numbers sworn to on election night had major changes in the daylight. Winners became losers. Losers won. Weeks later.

But wait, Virginia! Even if the last GOP primary were already over, it ain’t over. What couldn’t be won at the polls or through balloting is now going to be challenged by trickery and deceit. And purity testing. Idaho is already Exhibit “A.

Romney won all 32 delegates in the primary. But there’s a state party convention in June. During primary voting, Paul people quietly picked up a good number of those “unimportant” precinct committee jobs while everyone was concentrating on the big picture. Now they’re going to be delegates to that state convention. Voting delegates. Not all national delegates Romney won will be the state gathering. But voting Paulies will.

One of them – Ryan Davidson- says “If two-thirds of those delegates are Paul people, we can vote to suspend the rules, disregard the primary results for Romney and give all the delegates to Paul.” Makes no difference what everybody agreed to before the primary. This is war. Take no prisoners. As Davidson adds, “I’ll do the scorched earth if I have to.”

While that battle plan may sound implausible, it’s being conducted in just about every state in which a Republican primary has been held and will be in each state until the voting is over. Regardless of who won. Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Georgia. Romney and Santorum may have won the election but those precinct victories down-ticket mean votes on the state convention floor. National, too.

If Paul can pull this off in just five states, he gets his name placed in nomination at the national convention. Then he can have significant input developing the national platform. And, unlike so many previous years when the party platform disappeared after the convention, the Paulies will squawk and scream each time the eventual nominee goes off-message before November. They’ll keep the feet in those expensive Massachusetts loafers firmly to the fire. Which means Romney had better tilt right.

What does that mean? Well, how about abolishing the federal reserve – going back to the gold standard – destroying the Department of Education, Health and Human Services – EPA – Homeland Security – taking away your vote for seats in the U.S. Senate? You think Romney wants to conduct a general election campaign on that? Well, my friends, if all of this works out the way the Paulies think, he’ll either support those things or he can go home and play with his garage elevator.

While the Republican National Committee is taking a dim view of all this Paul plotting, it could happen. If I were running that Tampa Bay gathering, I’d be looking for a parliamentarian the likes of George Patton!

Stay tuned.


At last count, there are 18 Republican “birthers” running for Congress this year. Seven are incumbents. Another two call the President a Communist. One thinks there are 80 or so members of Congress carrying Communist Party membership cards. He’s a nut case incumbent, too.

Goofy – and somewhat dangerous – as they all are in my view, they don’t hold a candle to Roland Sledge who’s running for Texas Railroad Commissioner. His first TV campaign ad is getting lots of viewers.

The central figure is a man peeing on an electric fence. Got the picture?

The voice of Sledge is heard saying “Isn’t it about time we elected political leaders that have enough sense not to pee on an electric fence?”

For those of you who wonder why I have so much trouble with the current Republican Party, these are exhibits A thru S! “S” for Sledge.

“BREAKING NEWS FROM C-N-N” Accompanied by their children, long time couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie today announced their engagement though they did not set a specific date for their wedding.

Given my very low professional opinion of nearly all broadcast news over the past decade or two, I shouldn’t have been surprised by those words coming from my television. But I was. Stunned and damned mad!

TV and radio networks – and a couple of thousand local outlets – have cheapened the words “Breaking News” over the years. Those words used to be saved for assassinations, plane crashes, earthquakes, floods and the like. But that’s only a symptom of what’s wrong.

The basic problem is nearly all broadcast ownership is no longer in the hands of broadcast professionals. Thanks to 30 years of presidential appointments of the wrong people to the Federal Communications Commission, the industry is being run by bean counters and other management types who are solely responsible to boards of directors, shareholders and private investors.

Clear Channel Communications is one of the largest radio owners with more than 850 stations. It amassed nearly all of them in the 1990’s when the F-C-C changed rules of ownership and radio licenses became just so many Monopoly board properties to be acquired by big bucks investors. No matter how small the local market, stations were snapped up by Clear Channel and others at prices not supported by their sales income. This became all too apparent when Clear Channel and a lot of other “investors” eventually wound up in bankruptcy proceedings. Television outlets suffered much the same fate though nearly all belong to groups with far less holdings than most radio ownerships.

Why is this important and how is it connected to my outrage with CNN and it’s “Breaking News” prostitution? The upshot of all this – regardless of radio or TV – is that it has become strictly a “bottom line” business with faceless owners disconnected from – and too many times ignorant of – actual operation, demanding profits on investments no matter how badly made years ago in the purchasing.

The effects are everywhere. Have you noticed, for example, that CNN and Fox are no longer “24 hour” news operations? Have you watched weekend “news” and the pablum that fills the hours? Budgets have been drastically cut, staffs reduced, bureaus closed, satellite time pared to minimal levels. Stories such as there are get endless and inane “reporting.” Does the name Treyvon Martin ring a bell? Does groundless speculation beyond the basic facts sound familiar? Way too familiar?

One major reduction in both quality and reliability at news networks is the firing of long-time professionals – with higher contract salaries. They’ve been replaced by new, younger faces with minimal experience and much less access to newsmakers which only comes with years of development. But their contracts cost much less.

As a result, we viewers/listeners are getting more “news release” chaff published by politicians, government agencies, corporations and others. Few “reporters” go beyond that stage so “news” has largely become whatever is in the handouts. Without such freebies, local broadcasts would have little to fill the newscasts. Fact is, many of them show no embarrassment at all when saying “…according to a news release.”

Under Ronald Reagan, his appointees even removed the requirement of most local broadcasters to carry local news. Operation “in the public interest” became just so many words on a license application. Local programming has been replaced on many stations by three-hour blocks of “talk.” Followed by another three-hour block of “talk.” And even some of them are recorded and reused. Many music stations no longer originate programming, subscribing instead to satellite broadcast operations in New York or California or Chicago. Much cheaper cost.

My wife often tells visitors to our home, “Don’t get him started.” Well, it’s too late. Check back in this same space in a few days and there’ll be more on the same sorry state of America’s broadcast “news.”

“Breaking news” as it were.