Archive for January, 2013

A dark Republican future

Author: Barrett Rainey

A number of my Republican friends – in their cups and glasses since the November drubbing at the hands Democrats and the right wing of their own party – are sobering up nicely and beginning to talk of better days ahead – in 2014. Given what’s been happening – and not happening – inside the GOP since those losses at the polls, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Things don’t look any better for 2014. Or 2016.

In fact, a fine op-ed piece from NPR the other day declared “Forget 2016. Soonest to look for improvements might be 2020!” Given the irrefutable evidence thus far, that might send my GOP friends back to their glasses.

Look at this from two angles. The first is what to expect our national ethnicity will look like by 2020. Director Paul Taylor of Pew Research says today’s white 63% majority will have shrunk to 60%. “Not a loose prediction, he says, “ because it’s the statistical future we already know.” Further, according to Taylor, our voting patterns are highly aligned by race. Have been for many years and many elections.

Fact: the white voter pool is draining. Quickly. In 2012, white voters accounted for 220 fewer electoral college votes than just 14 years ago. President Obama took 80% of the non-white vote.

As Hispanics age and parent future generations, fortunes for Democrats look much brighter than the GOP. A 15-year-old Hispanic sophomore high school student today will be a 24-year-old adult in 2020, will have gone through our public school system and, by that time, have either college or work experience. Just look at “red state” Texas where, in two more national elections, Hispanics will be the majority population. Which party would be favored by heritage and education then? Those numbers clearly put Republicans everywhere on the wrong side of what’s coming. What we KNOW is coming.

Ironically, George Bush was on the right track to gain Hispanic support for Republicans in 2005 with prominent Hispanic appointments and outreach programs to reach Hispanic voters. But the Republican party operators – glad to see Bush go and to bury his memory – failed to follow up after he left office and Democrats have been actively making connections.

Now, look at the second angle: what today’s Republicans are doing to catch up. Basically – nothing. Oh, there’s that new bi-partisan immigration bill in the U.S. Senate. But, even if it gets to the floor for a vote – no sure thing – it likely will die there. Or, whatever’s left after House Teapublicans get through with it will be unrecognizable.

Then there are these facts. The National Republican Party this month re-elected a chairman who presided over 2012 losses from coast to coast and a reduction of seats in both Senate and House. Nearly all national GOP officers were re-elected as well. A day or two later, Speaker Boehner pledged ending abortion “is one of our most fundamental goals this year.” Several dozen anti-abortion bills are sitting in Boehner’s own House committees. More than 100 others are in Republican-dominated state legislature’s. Of interest to Hispanic and other immigrants? You bet!

House Budget Chief Paul Ryan has a new impossible federal budget to pay the national debt off in 10 years by – among other draconian measures – savaging Medicaid and Medicare, many of whose clients are Hispanic. In GOP dominated Texas, funding for Planned Parenthood was eliminated in a state where access to women’s health care is most used by – Hispanics. The same Hispanics who will soon be the majority there. Republican-dominated legislatures in six states are trying to change election laws to reduce minority voting and re-jigger electoral college votes to do the same.

Columnist Paul Krugman looking at all this – and much more – summed it up “Their proposals for a (party) makeover all involve changing the sales pitch rather than the product.” I’d add, “Changing deck chairs on the old Titanic again.”

So, here are just two factors working against the Ol’ GOP for upcoming elections. On one hand, they’re actively pursuing a diminishing supply of white voters while ignoring – in every substantive way – irreversible ethnic changes of epic national proportions. And not just Hispanics. On the other, they’re sponsoring whitewash, “feel good” ideas while continuing direct legislative assaults to limit minority voter access to the ballot box and feverishly trying to change historic national campaign rules to undermine the entire electoral process.

If you’re not Black or Hispanic, but words such as “deceitful,” “dishonest,” double-dealing,” “lying,” “cheating,” “uncaring” and more come to your mind because of all this, imagine if you were actually a member of a minority. Imagine the magnification of your feelings if these were your rights under the Republican knife.

Bottom line. If the National Republican Party really hopes to win at the polls anytime soon – anytime in the next 20 years or so – leaders are ignoring the one word of serious change absolutely required to do the job: CULTURE. If the current CULTURE of in-party extremism, playing to a diminishing white voter source while trying to placate a declining membership base of ignorance and confused ideology goes unchanged, perhaps 2020 is too soon to think of GOP gains. Trumped up, feel good legislation is NOT going to by minority votes. Not while the Party continues efforts to block minority access to voting and other rights of citizenship.

It takes a long time to change an entire culture. It takes even longer to re-establish trust once broken. Where the fortunes of the National Republican Party are concerned, it may be a generation. Or two. Depends on when they stop changing curtains in the window and get around to fixing the problems in the foundation.

I owe you an apology

Author: Barrett Rainey

No question. I owe everyone who regularly follows these wandering thoughts an apology. And I offer such. Now. I apologize. I screwed up.

One of my frequent rants has been how I seriously believe far too many Americans go to the polls with little knowledge of the issues – of how government operates – of worthiness (or lack thereof) of candidates. Now, after a lifetime of media and civic participation, I’ve stumbled. Badly.

I’m a law and order kind of guy. Proud to say I’ve had some excellent experiences with outstanding people in law enforcement for decades with a number of friends in the business whom I deeply respect and admire. In our last local unopposed election for sheriff, I listened to the incumbent and cast what I thought was a knowledgeable vote. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know the real candidate and I didn’t know what he intended to do. Or not do. He didn’t come clean. I didn’t do my homework.

With a four-year renewal of his contract in hand, our local fella announced he’s not going to enforce all the laws. Oh, some he agrees with and you can expect he’ll do his duty on those. But there are others he won’t touch. A few days back, he even fired off a letter to Vice President Biden telling him the same thing. He went on quite a bit about what he’d decided was “constitutional” and what wasn’t. And he said he wouldn’t enforce laws he said were “unconstitutional.” No, Sir. If some gun laws come his way, he’s gonna pick and choose. He’ll decide what’s legitimate – “constitutional” he said – and act only on the ones he agrees with. Forget the others.

A week or two passed after his heated missive to Washington and I thought he might feel better now that he got it off his chest – that he’d simmer down and do his duty after all. But, no! Not our sheriff! He subsequently told the crew at our little almost-daily, almost-newspaper the other day he still meant it. No backing down there.

What’s really got his knickers knotted is if he’s told to “disarm” our county citizenry. If the feds tell him that. Of if the feds try to do that, he would “not tolerate” them doing so in his jurisdiction. To allow it, he said, “would mean violating (my) constitutional oath.” The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t tell him that. He decided on his own. Sorta from the hip.

Now, I’ve read the vice president’s recommendations. All of ‘em. Pretty reasonable stuff. I can’t find that part about “disarming” citizens – who would recommend it – under what conditions – who would authorize it -who would carry it out. Or that anyone would even think about it. The only voices I’ve heard even coming close to such conspiratorial crap have been on Faux “news” and we all know how they’re crazy as hell. Maybe that’s where our local sheriff got it. He might be a “Faux guy.”

He carefully pointed out “more than 4,000 people in Douglas County are “concealed carry” gun owners,” making it “one of the safest parts of the country.” Well, maybe. But figure 4,000 citizens in a county population of about 110,000 is less than four-percent. They’d all have to do a lot of shootin’ and killin’ to make it “one of the safest parts of the country.”

Suppose 40% or so in our county owned guns and were inclined to use them on other people. I doubt they would – but suppose. That means about 60% are unarmed with no intention of shooting anyone. So, in both cases, he’s concerned about a minority rather than the majority. Interesting that it was the majority of us who put him in his job – not the minority. And it was the protection of ALL of us he swore would be his job.

None of this “I’ll decide what to enforce and what to ignore” was part of his campaign for office. No, he presented a very positive law and order image. Not one word of choosiness about constitutional issues. Or his unique “knowledge” to decide what is and what isn’t.

Another sheriff – two counties over from us – looked at that same list Biden’s committee presented and said he found nothing wrong – nothing “unconstitutional.” “Nothing new – nothing that’s not already happening,” said Sheriff Bishop. Of the nearly three-dozen sheriff’s in Oregon, only about half-a-dozen have set themselves up as “constitutional deciders.” The other 25 or so looked at the list and went on with their duties. Same thing happened across the country. Sheriffs by the thousands took a look at the proposals and went back to work. No thousands of angry letters. No huge outpouring of declarations of what was – and was not – “constitutional.” In their unscholarly opinions.

Elected officials – yes, sheriffs, too – often have to find a dictionary to look up the word “malfeasance” during their careers. It gets used a lot when people in elected office become contrary or decide which of their duties they’ll carry out. There’s a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo when defining “malfeasance,” but it’s really just “improper professional conduct.”

Our reluctant sheriff is playing to the paranoid fears of a goofy minority of a minority while telling the majority of gun and non-gun owners – under his lawful protection – he won’t uphold laws he “thinks” are wrong. He’ll gamble with their safety – their lives. Is that proper professional conduct?

Law enforcement – like the military – is not a career in which each individual can decide which orders he’ll obey and which he’ll ignore. There are courts for that. There are other people hired to decide what is – and what is not – lawful. That’s their job. With proper procedures to involve them if necessary.

Peace officers – like the military – are given an order and expected to say “Yes, Sir” and get it done. The lives of each person in the military – and law enforcement – depend on the absolute willingness of all others given similar orders to carry them out. The successful can do that and do it well. Others chose a new career.

So, I apologize for not doing the same electoral due diligence I’ve long castigated others for ignoring. I let a candidate for office have my vote before I found out how unwilling he was to do his job. All of his job.

Whose God is the real God?

Author: Barrett Rainey

Politics and religion. I can think of no better definition of eternal incompatibility. Dive into our history at any point – world history, for that matter – and you’ll find the friction of one against the other. So, for your contemporary reading, let’s dive into the shallow end of the history pool – current events – to find more examples. Ah, and classic they are.

The first is a recent sampling of Americans and their feelings about religion in today’s culture – findings which resulted in a complete contradiction. Especially in the evangelical community.

The study was conducted by the Barna Group, a respected California think tank known for studies of American religion and culture. When 1,008 people in the general population were asked if our religious liberties are threatened, 29% of said “yes.” But – faced with the same question – 71% of evangelicals said “yes.” Asked what they see as the threat, 97% of that group said others are trying to move society away from “traditional Christian values.” 97%! Groups they identified most? Gays and lesbians were named by more than 72%.for trying to remove “traditional Christian values” from the country.

“Where’s the conflict,” you ask? Well, the same responders said their Judeo-Christian beliefs should dominate our culture. They live in a multi-faith nation but want their beliefs supreme to all others. And the others are the ones they blame for attacks on their values. “The belief system is under attack.” “Our belief system should be the standard.” Harder to find a more direct conflict in a single group espousing religion than that.

For the second political-religious conundrum, we turn to our Catholic brothers and sisters. Specifically Lori and Jeremy Stodghill of Canon City, Colorado. This one’s a doozy!

Lori, pregnant with seven-month-old twins, was rushed to a Catholic hospital on New Year’s Day, 2006. Massive heart attack. Ironically, her obstetrician was on-call that night but didn’t answer his page. Hospital staff wanted him to save the fetuses by caesarian even as Lori was dying. He didn’t come. All died. In a Catholic hospital. Jeremy sued for wrongful death of all three. The born and the unborn, so to speak.

Responding, hospital lawyers literally turned Catholic church directives upside down in defense – directives for all Catholics but especially Catholic hospitals – that claim the unborn are “persons.” They argued Colorado law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds those fetuses are NOT persons with legal rights. Attorney Jason Langley argued Colorado courts define “person” under its Wrongful Death Act to include “only those born alive.” Therefore, Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses. “Not alive,” the Catholic defenders claimed.

The case is now in the Colorado State Supreme Court. And Catholic Health Initiatives – running 170 health facilities in 17 states – is still pressing that argument. The Catholic Church may say a fetus is a “person.” But trying to defend a multi-million-dollar legal action, that same church is saying that “person” has no legal right to life.

Contradiction here? You bet. Politics? Big time! This little case from Canon City, Colorado, is being followed very, very closely by the Church, abortion activists, the anti-abortion folks and politicians of all stripes.

As if all this isn’t enough, the New Mexico legislature has a bill in committee today that – if it became law – would send rape victims to jail – rape victims – if they became pregnant by the rapist and had an abortion. The charge? Tampering with evidence. While we’re all entitled to think about this in our own ways, my verdict is that author State Rep. Cathrynn Brown is one sick puppy. Politics? You bet. Religion, too.

We’re a nation of rights. Your rights. My rights. We’re a nation that’s historically prided itself for being a “melting pot” of different nationalities, customs, languages. Guided by our founding principle of religious freedom, a nation where each citizen could follow whatever religious path he/she desired. Without interference.

But we’re now beset by people trying to trash those “melting pot” and “religious freedoms” concepts/rights in the name of God. Their God. And I don’t mean gays and lesbians. The trashers deem “rights” a concept so long as it’s their “rights.” Using religion as a political wedge, they’ve filled our courts with frivolous legal challenges, attacked our public education system, tried to undermine our national health laws, suppressed minorities, openly attempted voter intimidation and filled our state and national seats of government with ideological sycophants intent on reshaping our national rights to look more like their “rights.”

If you dig deeply into state and national political divides in our country, you will consistently find intolerance of the religion of others. You’ll uncover repeated attempts to replace the religion of most with the religion of some. You’ll find efforts to justify discrimination and racism in the name of someone’s – or some groups – “religious” beliefs.

All of this is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around the centuries. But our electronic interconnectedness now gives equal voice to both the wise and the unwise. Our unfettered freedoms work both for and against us. The strengths of the many are under siege by the few. It’s become increasingly difficult to tell the wheat from the chaff.

Politics and religion. We may not have yet harkened back to the Crusades. But the divisions are getting more pronounced. And more onerous.

Lies – NRA lies – Fox lies

Author: Barrett Rainey

I’m going to tell you a lie. You’ve heard it before. You’ve heard it many times before. You’ve heard it on Faux “News. The NRA has told you this lie many times and crazy Wayne LaP. even lied to you in his book. The nuttier gun loons have repeated it – sober or drunk – in many a saloon.

Here it is as closely as I can recall: When Hitler took guns away from the German people, they were powerless to defend themselves. Ol’ Wayne LaP. tells that one a lot. And here’s another. If the Jews had guns, they could’ve defended themselves and millions wouldn’t have been killed. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and many gun liars often publish a poster with a picture of Hitler giving the Nazi salute and the text “All in favor of gun control, raise your right hand.”

Problem is they’re all lies – top to bottom! University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt, for one, put the lie to all that in the Harvard Law Review in 2004. Before Hitler, Harcourt wrote, there was the Weimar Republic – the German government that immediately preceded him. Under surrender terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature created a 1919 law banning all firearms. That law led to confiscation. In 1928, the law was relaxed a little but citizens still had to get government permits to own, sell or carry.

The Nazi Weapon Law of 1938 did just the opposite of what LaPierre repeatedly has claimed it did. Under Hitler, that law totally deregulated bans on buying rifles, shotguns and ammunition. Opened the market, as it were. It also extended permits from one to three years and lowered the age of gun ownership from 21 to 18. Crazy Wayne lied big time. Because it suited his twisted purpose. And he keeps doing it.

But because that law did keep Jews from buying guns legally, you’ll hear another untruth – “Jews with guns would have lived and maybe won the Warsaw Ghetto battle in which many died.”

Historian Omer Bartov at Brown University says “not true.” In his words, “Just imagine the Jews of Germany exercising the right to bear arms while fighting the SA, SS and the Wehrmacht. The entire Russian Red Army lost seven-million men fighting just the Wehrmacht despite tanks, artillery and planes. Jews with pistols and shotguns would have done better?” Professor Bartov was an officer in the Israeli Defense Force before becoming an academic. He knows his guns and his Jewish history.

Then there’s Faux “News” and Judge Napolitano who repeatedly has claimed Jews would’ve been much better off if they had guns in Warsaw.

Oh, yes? Consider – in reality, only about 20 Germans were killed in the Warsaw Ghetto battles while 13,000 Jews died. Another 50,000 Jews who survived were sent off to the camps. Rifles, shotguns and a few pistols would have changed all that? Like LaPierre, Napolitano sees fit to make up history as it suits him.

Another lie from the gun huggers. They claim Hitler said “This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient and the world will follow our lead into the future.” They use it on their blogs and even posters. They claim he said that in 1935.

Problem is, it’s a lie. There’s no correlation between 1935 and German efforts at gun control and – with the Weimar law of 1919 – you would not need more “gun control” laws. Which, when he took over, Hitler actually did away with in 1938.

The liars also “quote” Stalin saying he “implemented gun control.” Again, honest history says “not true.” Stalin wanted every Russian citizen armed. Every one. He was a big believer in all citizens having guns, Comrade. When he needed ‘em, he released Gulag prisoners and gave ‘em all guns. Gave ‘em. Every one.

Napolitano, LaPierre, Alex Jones, Joe the plumber,” Limbaugh, Beck, Larson and all the other high-pitched, screaming voices are twisting facts, lying, are ignorant of history and making up scandalous accusations to fit their own money-making purposes.

The right-wing media – from Fox to Huckabee and all the rest – is a money machine. Their proclamations are an inch deep and a mile wide. Sometimes, not even that deep. They’re stoking fear, anger, hate and senseless paranoia in the name of the almighty dollar. As my grandmother used to say, “The truth is not in them.”

Nothing President Obama is considering is “gun control.” Nothing in the package of “recommendations” to him poses any threat to honest people who own – or want to own – guns. Nothing. In fact, much of what’s been presented is already covered by laws that have not been enforced. Again – “not been enforced.”

Congress should accept whatever proposed legislation MAY be forthcoming from the White House or other sources, conduct impartial hearings, amend what needs amending and take proper action. But that will not happen. No accepting. No hearings. No action. It won’t because the aforementioned liars – and others of their ilk – will intimidate, threaten, coerce and blackmail to maintain the murderous status quo. Those who could take responsible, significant steps to reduce the mass slaughter haunting this nation will do nothing. They’ll be bought off. Their “job security” will be threatened. They’ll be lied to.

You want truth about history and guns? Go to people who know both – like academics and historians. You want more lies? Well, you can always count on the NRA and Fox News.

“Ignorance breeds anger.”

That’s my iconic shorthand for the outrageous behavior causing so many raised and uninformed voices in today’s national “discussion” of gun ownership responsibility. Not gun control. Gun ownership responsibility. How they’re used. Which ones should be generally available. Who should not have them. Who should not. The national responsibility we have to each other to see that guns are used properly for the safety of all concerned.

State legislatures – especially in the West – are being deluged by constituents who’re scared. Scared someone is going to take their guns away. Who? Many will say “President Obama” or “the feds” or “Congress” or some other “they.” Angry? Yes. Ignorance In spades.

No one has – and no one will – take away anyone’s guns. No one. No time. No how. No one in the recent – very preliminary – federal examination of what can be done to stop shooting massacres and improve public safety is talking “gun control.” No one that is except those who aren’t paying attention. They’re angry. And the anger comes from what? Ignorance.

No one’s talking “control,” that is, except the NRA and others who have large economic interests in assuring guns are more available than ice cream.

Fear of the unknown is driving much of the public clamor. Fear because many causing the most noise and disruption have not looked carefully at what’s been done in recent weeks. And what’s NOT been done. For that, I blame the bloody NRA and the right wing nuts in public office. And – in many respects – a media carelessly dealing with the issue of guns and throwing around the words “gun control” where no such words – and no federal legislation – exist in today’s dialogue. Institutional ignorance causing public anger.

Case in point. In an attempt to be oh, so very clever – Idaho largest fish wrap “newspaper” topped it’s Jan. 18th editorial page with this headline: “SHOOTING FROM THE HIP CLIPS DEBATE.” Needless to say, the subsequent editorial below that journalistic crap didn’t measure up. How could it?

But what it did do was make an absolutely false claim – in black and white – in the first sentence. “Vice President Joe Biden … slapped together one of the most sweeping gun-control bills in American history.” Direct quote. Absolutely false. After meeting with more than 250 groups involved in any way with guns and public safety, Biden produced a report with some 27 recommendations. Not a “sweeping gun-control bill.” A list of recommendations. In it were two which would require legislation if – IF – the President wants to go forward. So far, no bills have been written.

Small point? No, it’s not small. Not when you add CNN, Fox, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC and all the rest. All of whom are tossing around words like “gun control” and “pending legislation.” Words that distort. Words that are wrong. Words that inflame. Words that add to the ignorance. Words that anger and scare.

In a number of state legislature’s, the fear mongers are publishing proposed bills to let the states ignore federal laws regarding guns, health care and other things. Nullification. Some will be passed. But case law on nullification is stacked 12 feet high. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. But people elected to public office are adding to the bad information – spreading their own ignorance – which in the end will cause more anger. And fear.

So, some of the ignorant – some of the angry – fueled with false “information” – have turned to local law enforcement. In several western states, some sheriffs – especially ones with overly tender butts about keeping their core voting constituency happy – have added to the cacophony. They’ve made wild promises about not enforcing laws or regulations they deem “unconstitutional” and have promised to keep federal law enforcement officers from doing their job. The local media has relayed this paranoia on the front page of every little cage liner. More ignorant disinformation to stoke more anger. Instead of competent leadership, these badge carriers are showing their own lack of understanding of how our criminal justice system works. Of how American’s government works. About their own damned jobs!

I’ve long believed many of our nation’s ills have been caused by the lack of understanding by many people about government – how it works – what it does – what it can do – what it can’t do. Extensive polling supports that thesis. Now, from that under-informed – misinformed – pool, we’ve elected too many people to public office who continue to operate with little to no more understanding than they started with.

Systemically, our public education system has contributed to this problem of ignorance of our civics. Now, some of those civically illiterate former “students” are in our media. In Congress and the legislature. City hall and the court house. And some – as we’ve seen in recent days – carry badges.

More than discussion, this nation needs to act on the issue of responsibility with firearms. Not “gun control.” Gun responsibility. Just as not everyone should drive on our highways or pilot an airplane, not everyone should have a firearm. We must find them and isolate them as we do with highway and aviation safety. For the same reasons of public interest and public protection. There are medical issues. There are law enforcement issues. There are legal issues. There are responsibility issues.

A media that can’t accurately report – public office holders fanning verbal fires for their own self-interest – law enforcement officials who make ignorant statements with false and inflammatory promises – these we can’t afford. The subject is just too damned important.

We’ve kicked this can down the road for decades. We are at a national moment in which we need to pick up that dented can and dispose of it in a wise manner for our national interest. For our national survival.

Agree or not, Sheriff, it’s the law

Author: Barrett Rainey

We’re experiencing an outbreak of ignorance by some elected officials coast-to-coast since this week’s debut of President Obama’s attempt to rein in mass murder and stop some of the killings on our streets and in our institutions. Sadly, some of these voices are in our own neighborhoods.

Here, in our little burg-in-the-woods, our fine sheriff has added his voice to others in similar offices across the country, threatening to ignore federal laws and court decisions. He and the others have so notified Vice President Biden – in writing – of their intent. If the subject of responsible gun ownership were not so important, some of those letters would be Exhibit “A” in a court test of competency in how our government works. They would not look good.

The form of these misbegotten writings is so similar it’s not hard to imagine their source is a national organization. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? NRA? Council of State Governments?

I’ve read several. Here’s the common theme: that the Vice President “NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment (to the Constitution)… any actions against, or in disregard for our U.S. Constitution and 2nd Amendment rights by the current administration would be irresponsible and an indisputable insult to the American people…we must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”

Then there is the direct threat from our sheriff, though it is essentially the same in all these ranting epistles. “…federal regulation enacted by Congress or by executive order of the President offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County. I will refuse to participate in, nor tolerate enforcement actions against citizens that are deemed unconstitutional.”

There’s so much wrong with these legally-illiterate threats it’s hard to know where to start. But, for our purposes, let’s go to Article XV of the Oregon Constitution: “Any person elected or appointed to any office under this Constitution, shall, before entering on the duties thereof, take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States and of this State.”

Seems pretty clear. If it’s in the federal or state constitutions – or in law – you enforce it. I read nothing about a sheriff “interpreting” – nothing about “agreeing” – nothing about “ignoring” – no option to “refuse to participate” – and no authority granted to interfere with “federal officers” in the performance of their federal duties. Can’t find any of that.

All these angry epistles I’ve read contain the same tone – the same arrogance – the same refusal to uphold the oaths the signatories took upon their entry into service. They all ignore the fact that the U.S. Constitution is not amended or altered by presidents or even Congress. It’s only done by a vote of two-thirds of the states. They all talk of “NOT violating” the constitutional oaths they took, then threaten – in writing – to do just that. They all promise to interfere with “federal officers” trying to enforce “unconstitutional regulations or orders.” They all promise sedition.

Now, if the FBI, the BATF, or the Secret Service show up at our courthouse, I’d hate to think our sheriff – or any other elected official – would not recognize the legitimacy of their orders. Because such refusal IS sedition. And that could put a sheriff on the other side of the bars in his own jail.

None of these letters – none – seem to recognize the constitutional authority – the constitutional responsibility – the reason for the very existence of the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt much of what the President has proposed will make it into federal law. But, if somehow it does, and if the U.S. Supreme Court says “That’s the way it is,” to all the sheriffs out there – “That’s the way it is!”

I suspect some of these badge carriers are playing to their local political base. Our Republican guy doesn’t have to. In our county, you could slap an “R” on a Rottweiler and elect it to something.

Our nation is rife with voices of elected officials at all levels threatening to go their own ways – attempting to erode one of the most basic tenets of our national existence: the rule of law. When a local sheriff tells the federal government he’ll pick and chose which laws he’ll enforce and which he’ll ignore – when a sheriff tells a higher level of government he will deliberately interfere with others carrying out their lawful duties – that sheriff is in direct violation of his oath of office. And the trust of the citizens who put the badge on his chest.

That is malfeasance defined. It’s sedition defined. It’s cause for removal from office. And it’s the law!

A few days after the 2012 general election, we opined in this space the President had become stronger and Congress weaker – that the election had altered the balance of power in favor of the White House. A couple of correspondents said we were wrong – that the President had received no “mandate” and Republicans still controlled the House of Representatives.

In the weeks since, the President’s approval rating has gone up while Congress is now down to unprecedented polling levels – falling in favorability below colonoscopies and root canals. Obama has – with full assistance of that Republican “majority” – secured a stronger bargaining position while Congress – especially the House – has become a swamp.

To the aforementioned skeptics, we now safely advise – it’s gonna get worse for the GOP. And it will be at their own hand.

Several Republican 2016 presidential wannabee’s are already flitting about the country, doing dozens of media interviews, popping more antacid pills because of all the rubber chicken dinners attended and proposing all sorts of new legislation to make the party more “open and welcoming” They’re demonstrating – in spades – they haven’t a clue how to improve the standing or acceptance of the GOP. It’s just so much verbal flatulence.

In weeks since the election, there’s been a single, lifelong Republican voice worth the hearing. After accurately quoting the ignorance of former Republican governors Palin and Sununu, he said this:

“Let me be candid. My party is full of racists and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.”

Colin Powell also accused his own party of ignorance – of intolerance of different views – of demanding ideological purity rather that proposing solutions to the nation’s many problems – of failing to offer an acceptable and viable alternative to the Democrat Party – of failing to understand the fundamental changes of ethnicity taking place in this country today.

To the minorities the GOP is trying to attract – to the independents with whom the GOP must connect – to disaffected Republican moderates who have been exiled from the GOP table – Colin Powells may be the most respected Republican voice in the country today. If other Republicans of similar stature don’t follow his lead – if the Party continues to ignore such right-thinking – there will be Democrats living uninterruptedly in the White House for the next 30 years or more. And controlling Congress.

To the Rubios, the Santorums, the Bachmans, ol’ Newt and the other rabbits out there, all that’s needed are some speeches, some new immigration legislation – some talk of a “big tent” – some new curtains in the windows. So, that’s what they’re proposing. And they’re dead wrong.

What’s absolutely necessary – before any of that – is a change of culture within the Party. Culture. Top to bottom. Culture defined by doing. Culture defined by change. Culture defined by action. That’s really what Powell was saying.

But don’t look for significant action despite the wisdom of his words. Don’t look for any fundamental changes within the Party. Because to change the basic culture you have to change the people in charge – the people who make decisions – the people who have the power. And they’re not about to easily give that up. The far right worked long and hard within the national Republican Party organization for several decades before getting their hands on the machinery of committee structure – control of nominations- of electing “their people” to office. They run the place. And changing the culture is not in their DNA. Because they typify the culture that needs changing most.

Powell’s message was, it seems to me, directed as much to Republican moderates – if any there be – as it was to the right wing now calling the shots. I think he was saying to all Republicans to the left of the fringy right – We’ve lost our relevancy – we need to regain our balance – we need to demonstrate Republicans are responsible and responsive. We need to go back to our roots and conduct ourselves and our party by articulating and doing what we learned and used to do very well. And, if those things are going to happen, you and I are the ones to do it.

Though 2014 is far, far away – and 2016 even further – if the heartfelt admonitions and advice from a most respected American are unheeded within his party – the outcomes of those future contests are not hard to predict. There will be no viable second party in our two-party system.

Teachers make lousy killers

Author: Barrett Rainey

Inside the typical second grade classroom, 25 kids are working in several places. Nobody uses four rows of fixed, old-fashioned desks anymore. At a small table, six kids are doing an art project. At the computer keyboards across the room, five others are busy. The rest are scattered, working on today’s assignments. The teacher – as she does daily – is walking around, stopping to encourage or offer a prompt. Just the daily routine.

A guy in camouflage clothing, a bullet-proof vest and carrying an assault rifle steps into the room and starts firing immediately. The teacher – 20 feet from a locked cabinet – is stunned. She’s also among the first to die.

But, had she lived, she would have had to cross 20 feet through panicked children going every which way, find her purse, find her key ring, find the right key to the cabinet – which must be locked at all times to keep kids from accidentally getting hold of a firearm in the classroom – put the key in the lock, open the drawer, reach for the pistol, make sure she has it in her grip, unlock the safety, find her target and fire.

I tried a simulation. My best time for doing that is 40 seconds. A semi-automatic rifle can discharge about 90 large, flesh-ripping, bone-breaking bullets in the same period. So, how many died in those 40 seconds? Besides the teacher?

Or, consider this. An armed guard stationed at the school is called to the gym where a teacher has found an unlocked door. At that moment, the shooter – who earlier opened the gym door – comes through the school’s main entrance on the other side of the building. He turns left to the office which is always located near the front door and sprays it with 40-50 bullets – killing whoever’s there. And anyone on the other side of the now shredded thin wall. Then he fires off a dozen or two rounds down the hall – hitting anyone there. He replaces the empty clip with another 100 rounder and steps into the first classroom – about 50 feet from the office – spraying it with another 50 bullets. My best time for that was 40 seconds.

For the armed guard on the other side of the building to recognize the sounds of firing, decide which direction it’s coming from, draw his pistol and sprint to the right location, line up a shot – with no kids between him and the shooter – well, that would take over a minute. Easily.

So how many died in those 60 or so seconds?

Those who want to put more guns into our public school system are as fanatical as any shooter. Not only would kids and teachers be no safer, the odds are more people would be killed.

Teachers are not killers. And we should not try to make them killers. Any teacher who wants to take a gun into a classroom – under any condition – is not fit to have my great-grandkids in the same room. Anyone’s kids, grandkids or great-grandkids.

Unless you’ve stood in front of someone – both of you armed – and unless you’ve taken your best shot to kill another human being, you have nothing to add to idiotic ideas to put guns in schools. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t give a damn if you’re top dog at your gun club or a trick shot artist . If you’ve never taken a bead on another human being with intent to kill, you don’t know if you could pull the trigger. I don’t care what the circumstances. If you’ve not faced that moment, you don’t know.

You don’t know the fear. You don’t know the uncertainty. You haven’t heard your heart beat so loudly it deafens you to all other sounds. You have not felt the instant sweat that soaks your clothes. You haven’t had your eyes go in and out of focus as you try to see your target. You haven’t felt your hands and your whole body shake. You haven’t felt so damned scared in all your life! If you haven’t killed a human being before that moment.

Those offering the demented argument of the NRA and other ignorant voices supporting such craziness who’ve never stood in those shoes – who’ve never felt those emotions – who’ve never pulled a trigger to take a life – they, too, have nothing to add to realistic solutions to mass murders. It’s all bar talk!

The killing is happening in our schools – our shopping malls – supermarkets – movie theaters – beauty salons – barber shops – service stations – city parks – city streets – our highways – and our churches. Left to a controlling minority in the NRA – and the demented voices who insist on “gun ownership at any price” – we’d need armed guards everywhere or we’d all have to carry. That is insane! As insane as trying to make killers out of teachers. With your kids standing between that teacher and that shooter.

Whether the nutty fringe of the NRA or WalMart or anyone else declines to participate, we need the very best minds on this issue of mass murder. Because the victims belong to all of us. The victims ARE all of us. The work Vice President Biden’s committee is doing right now is as important as any issue of national debt or defense or anything else on the table.

When that committee is done, two things are certain. There WILL be a set of recommendations for the President – a list of steps that could be taken on several fronts. Bet on it. I expect topics of mental health, weapon registry, better and deeper background checks, reorganizing the A-T-F bureau, law enforcement tasks and more. I expect the President to act unilaterally on several things and send appropriate legislation to Congress as necessary.

The second expectation is that there will be the usual profane outcries and the usual refusal to deal with reality we’ve come to expect from so many in our Congress. There’ll be efforts to stymie the process, to kill attempts to put both reason and teeth into gun laws. There’ll be a lot of water-carrying for the NRA and a lot of ass-covering for members scared for their continued employment.

That’s where we come in. You and I. Those of us who believe the work of solving problems of guns in the wrong hands must start before anyone sets foot on a school property. We, who believe teachers should teach – not kill. We, who believe the Constitution’s First Amendment is more important than the Second. We, who believe the right to life for us and our children is more important than the right to carry.

We will have a chance to be heard – to exert maximum possible pressures on politicians of all stripes. If we don’t do that – if we don’t coerce, demand and threaten where necessary when the time comes, the killings will continue. This is one arena where the unarmed have more clout than the NRA. If we aren’t afraid to use it.

Our family concerns may be yours, too

Author: Barrett Rainey

For several years, I’ve occasionally written somewhat lightly of concerns about our burgeoning personal electronics revolution. – what effects it may have on society in general and personal relationships in particular. Now, some recent developments in our extended family are raising those concerns to the next level – high alert!

For the record, I’m a computer and cell phone user. Daily. They’re very useful tools. I’d hate to be without either. At my late stage of life, I’m better informed, have examined greater amounts of information I’d never have been exposed to without them and have valuable links with people that would have otherwise been lost. I’m an electronics believer.

We all know the basics. Computers can elevate learning – expose us to art, music, education, entertainment experiences for a lifetime – give us access to a truly international learning opportunities. All good.

Smart phones are similarly valuable. Quick, personal links to family and friends, worldwide access to quick information sources and very helpful in most emergencies. Yep. Good things. Glad we got ‘em.

No, my increasing concerns aren’t for the effects of this battery-powered revolution on you and me. It’s for those effects on my grandkids. Your kids and grandkids. Everyone’s grandkids. What my experience tells me it’s doing to them. What it’s doing to interpersonal relationships. Or – how it’s eliminating such societal interactions.

Use of these tools can be addictive. At Christmas, I gave my mostly well-adjusted teacher-wife an iPad. I did so after a lot of forethought. And some personal angst. Knowing her constant pursuit of knowledge – her vast world of friends, associates and interests – I had some fear she would dive into her new electronically-expanded world and wouldn’t be seen again.

Well, though I still see her from time to time, I’m seeing her less post iPad. Often, when she would otherwise be reading, she’s searching for new “apps” or taking pictures of the cat. Watching TV, there’s this intermittent absence as she uses the little screen in her lap to watch or do something else. Go somewhere else. Find something else. Talk to someone else. Learn something else. Read something else.

“Nothing wrong with that,” you say. “Sounds fine with me. So what’s your problem, Rainey?”

The problem is this. She and I are at an age when – after long lives of many experiences and personal relationships – we can put these battery-powered marvels in their place and in proper perspective after a lifetime of integrating other new ideas and fashions that came along. If we chose to. We have a prior knowledge base of information and interpersonal relationships to which these new tools are added. Not used to replace. Not used “instead of.”

Kids don’t have that background. No perspective. They accept these new tools as the way things are. They learn to operate them – to use them – to live with them as the useful appendages they appear to be.

Then a parent talks of her teen coming home, closing a bedroom door and turning on a computer. Maybe for homework. Maybe not. For hours. In a fast food joint, kids texting the other kid – across the table. In a car going to school, texting from front seat to back – same car. Walking on the street, texting the kid walking with them. In a classroom, texting others in the same classroom. In all cases, building or maintaining relationships without having to relate – without knowing how to relate.

Then along comes a personal or family upheaval – an event that throws them out of their safe, non-personal environment And they can’t relate. They can’t cope. They can’t handle it. They take refuge in their “safer” world.

I wrote at the outset about some recent events in our “extended family.” That’s where these words – these fears – are based. They’ve been there – mostly third party – for years. But now it’s our teen – or teens – unable to relate face-to-face or in a world without keyboards. It’s our teen – or teens – unequipped to deal with personal trauma where touch, compassion, sharing and feeling – mostly feeling – are badly needed. It’s our teen – or teens – hiding because the sterile, electronic, impersonal relationships they’ve developed cannot help them standing next to a hospital bed or during a bad, real life personal experience.

Some will think I’m an alarmist or read these words as the rambling of an out-of-touch old-timer. But some won’t. They won’t because they see links between our experience and their own teen – or teens. They can see someone they love with constantly bowed head, starting at a little device in one hand, punching the small keys with the other. They, too, know of the closed bedroom door. The silence. They can relate. And they know – and probably love – a young person who can’t love back..

If we don’t quickly and firmly get a handle on this problem, our young families are going to live in a much different world. A world where the expressions of friendship, caring, sharing and love are going to be lost.

There may be many sounds of clicking keys. But not sounds of a lot of laughter.

Suppose you get a bill from your credit card company. It shows a large balance due the end of the week. Deciding you should pay in full promptly, you get out pen and checkbook. You draw what looks like one of your usual checks, fill in the exact amount and drop it in the mailbox. Bill paid.

Yeah. Sure.

But, before you ashcan this example of substituting worthless paper for currency-of-the-realm to pay bills, consider what folks are tossing around in Washington, D.C. circles. And not all of ‘em elected incompetents.

We’ve hit the debt ceiling. Did it a couple weeks ago. Federal debt reached $16.394 trillion. That’s the current limit. The ceiling. So, until the zoo we used to call Congress fixes the problem, the Treasury Department is playing shell games with the loose change still available to pay bills. Even that slight-of-hand will have to stop about the first of March. Flat broke.

So – let’s have the folks at the U.S. Mint create a platinum coin in the exact amount of the national debt – $16.394 trillion. We’ll take that new coin down to the nearest bank and deposit same in the federal account that’s brimming over with red ink. Bill paid. Debt gone.

Crazy? Maybe. Legal. Yes.

Our federal laws allow the Secretary of the Treasury to do just that. The specific authorization was written many years ago to allow for creation of commemorative coins. But – the Secretary has blanket authority to “mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins” in any denomination and for any purpose desired. No congressional approval needed. No new laws necessary. Just do it!

While the President has carefully avoided comment, some of the folks at the “zoo-on-the-hill” are giving the idea some consideration. There’s even a petition on the White House website which says – in part – the $1 trillion coin “may seem like an unnecessarily extreme measure” though “no more absurd than playing political football with the U.S. – and global – economy at stake.”

If that scheme – which is being taken seriously in some quarters (pardon the pun) – is not to your liking, former President Clinton has another idea. Just invoke the 14th amendment to our Constitution and let the current President raise the debt ceiling all by himself. The 14th was written after the Civil War and says – in part – “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Clinton says President Obama should just “do it.” When we went down this ridiculous road in 2011, Clinton said, if he were still in office, he’d have done it and “forced the courts to stop me.”

The current legal staff at the White House has looked at this scheme and is not convinced it’s a “good” idea. But it’s still an “active” idea.

If all this sounds like we’re living in the Land of Oz, it’s ‘cause we are. Our dysfunctional government – stalemated politics – anger and dissension – the ideological nuts – all have brought this nation to a political dead end. Getting anything done – especially the last couple of years – has meant using parliamentary gimmicks and goof-ball tactics. Neither party can control the legislative process. There’s no effective leadership to assure things get done. We haven’t even had an original government budget in more than a decade. Just those damned “continuing resolutions.” Patch-and-scratch. Keep propping things up. Steal from one pocket to fill the other.

Printing phony coins to pay real bills – using Civil War remedies to take care of complex, 21st Century national problems – ideas as weird and warped as the times we live in. And serious people are taking them – seriously.

The rest of the world watches us and wonders at our seemingly endless battles among ourselves. We’ve become more of a world curiosity than a world leader. We’re a productive, capable population – with an economy we know how to run – being constricted and hamstrung by our own government.

Abe Lincoln’s warning that this nation’s downfall – should it ever happen – would “come from within” is more and more on my mind these days. It should be on many more minds than just this ol’ fella..