Archive for April, 2013

In case you missed it

Author: Barrett Rainey

Despite “explosive” stories being covered in national media these days, one that might be defined as such has been overlooked. As a public service, we’d like to bring you up-to-date on a news item that may soon “go off.”

In one state, a governor has adjusted his list of official priorities for legislative action and submitted an amended version. The update is apparently based on recent events in our society. Here’s the revised set of initiatives he’s asking for. In law.

** Background checks for ALL gun purchases. ALL.

** Parental consent – IN WRITING – for minors wanting to buy violent video games.

** A TOTAL BAN on purchases of the .50-caliber Barrett rifle.

** Legislation to make it easier for doctors and courts to commit “potentially dangerous” people to mental health treatment – EVEN AGAINST THEIR WILL.

The state is New Jersey. The governor is Chris Christie. A Republican. He’s running for re-election in 2014.

Just thought you’d like to know.

Just what is terrorism

Author: Barrett Rainey

One of the thorny issues in our world these days is trying to define the words “terrorism” and “terrorist.” Our federal government hasn’t done that successfully, either. One department has a definition – two others have their own “unique” meanings. Since we appear headed to court soon, we need to have some clarity on these words.

While no one in our little Oregon burg-in-the-woods would try to affect thinking at those rarified, higher bureaucratic levels, we would like offer a definition of terrorist no one along the Potomac seems to have considered.

How about someone – or anyone – who violates a minimum of more than three dozen federal/state laws while running a fertilizer plant near the center of a small Texas town? How about an ownership that deliberately stored on site 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate at the plant in violation of operating and licensing agreements? How about owners who knew – HAD to know – the last OSHA inspection was in 1985 but never – never – contacted OSHA or Dept. Of Homeland Security when their inventories increased as required by federal law?

How about three federal agencies that failed to inspect a West, Texas, plant under their purview – the lead office for more than three decades? How about two state agencies that virtually ignored what was going on at the plant for years and years? How about local elected officials who watched the fertilizer operation grow and grow for 60 years without considering more than just the economic benefits of larger payrolls?

How about the anonymous (aren’t they always?) federal bureaucrats who decided such companies – dealing in amounts of explosives to guarantee catastrophe in event of a major accident – would be tasked with “self-reporting” when increasing on-site storage capacities or letting regulators know of leaks, accidents or other anomalies? Or the federal cabinet officers up the chain who signed off on such stupidity?

This nation did everything but stand on its head for 10 days when a couple of guys set off two bombs that killed three people. But the Texas blast killed five times as many and decimated a small town. For several days, we found details on page 12. Or buried – if not ignored – in the TV news.

Now, let’s talk about the word “terrorism” from this perspective. How about applying that word to the constant political B.S. we hear about needing to reduce regulations on business? “Political B.S.” because repeated surveys have shown politicians do the most complaining – not the guy along Main Street. Repeated surveys have shown, more often than not, business people see regulation as leveling the playing field – as assuring the competition across town is playing by the same rules. Those that do complain to the politicos are far over-represented in the resulting specious, campaign-solicitation dialogue.

There are many, many legitimate reasons for regulation. Food safety – aviation safety – banking – water and air quality – hazardous chemical controls and more. Without ‘em, our world would be much more personally dangerous than it already is. Can there be too much regulation? Yes. Can regulation be overdone? Sure. Can regulation be applied unfairly? Of course. When so, specific issues need to be addressed regularly to assure they don’t happen again. But the real need for regulation is to assure necessary oversight of basic conduct of any regulated business or service to do what it’s supposed to do. Legally. Properly. Safely.

Two political factors helped West Fertilizer exist. First, federal and state regulating agencies have been starved nearly to death by politicians cutting and gutting operating budgets. Not just OSHA and EPA. FAA, banking, Wall Street. All of them. And more. Even before our current national madness called “sequestration.” Too many politicians have responded irresponsibly to favored, monied constituent claims of alleged “over regulation” and “government interference.” Their self-serving response has left our nation woefully at risk in a lot of areas.

The second political factor is allowing too many business and corporate entities to become “self-regulating.” Poorly written regulations – some with huge loopholes – left up to companies to “enforce.” And Wall Street is only the first example that comes to mind. While most businesses will do the right thing and will operate within the letter and spirit of regulation, West Fertilizer is exhibit “A” of those that don’t. And won’t.

West Fertilizer will never operate again. Owners will likely take out bankruptcy and whatever remains of insurance and other assets will be parceled out to those who win the many lawsuits to come.. Given the normal operation of Texas politics, odds are no one in the company’s ownership or employ will ever do a day of jail time.

Terrorists. Terrorism. A couple of guys with two pressure cooker bombs? Sure. How about a company that illegally piled up 540,000 pounds of unreported ammonium nitrate in one building also housing anhydrous ammonia and other chemicals? How about a Pentagon estimate that the 270 tons of nitrate on that Texas site could – had it all gone off – cause an explosion dwarfing any weapon in the nation’s nuclear arsenal? How about a company that amasses such destructive power and ignores the legal – if not moral – obligations to report it under its licensing agreements?

No one knows how all this will work out. But I’d sure like to see the feds settle on an over-arching definition of the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” with sufficient subcategories to guarantee each of us the safety we think we already have. And I’d like to know that – in the end – not only will those two brothers be included. But Sandy Hook, too. And Aurora, Colorado. And Clackamas Mall. And the streets of Chicago. And corporate terrorists as well.

Justice for all

Author: Barrett Rainey

The Boston bombing-identifying-chase-capture portion of our latest national horror is over. With our global informational reach to instantly deliver sights and sounds of such a tragedy, nearly all of us were swept along as it played out. Over those five days. Even back here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods. Emotion and information overload.

Now come two steps certain to follow such events: the slow gathering of facts; the lemming-like rush of some politicians to make damned fools of themselves in pursuit of self-service. Chalk Lindsey Graham up as the first little animal over the cliff.

Some background on the junior Senator from South Carolina. Law degree in hand, he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1982. Stayed right there in South Carolina, he did. But on his bio sheet, he calls himself a “Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran.” Fact is, he never left South Carolina. Just happened to be in the service and living at home during those campaigns. Like most of the rest of us. In the Senate, his best public statements have been made as he moves his lips – channeling John McCain.

Without waiting for more of the aforementioned facts to be discovered, and within only a few hours of capture of the surviving suspect, Graham simply dumped the American court system and our Constitution by demanding the young fella be labeled an “enemy combatant” and tried militarily.

In previous Senate committee hearings, Graham has notoriously said Americans accused of terror-related crimes should be denied due process and when they say “I want a lawyer, you say ‘Shut up! You don’t get a lawyer’.” It’s in the record.

Two other facts Graham turned his back on. First, suspect Dzhokhr Tsarnaev is a naturalized American citizen. He has the rights you and I do. Second, there’s never been a court decision about whether the Constitution permits the government to hold American citizens arrested on American soil as “enemy combatants.” That issue, itself, is a whole different can of legal worms. Unless you’re Lindsey Graham. But you have to remember. He’s up for re-election in 2014.

Of course, McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Chuck Grassley, Saxby Chambliss and Peter King – among others – jumped right off the same lemming-killing verbal cliff. All within hours of capture and with no more facts than we got in our collective living rooms. Babbling about “no Miranda right,” “need to know about future attacks,” “no right for Tsarnaev to remain silent” and other uninformed political garbage.

All of this posturing and judgement rushing – all of it and more – is regrettable. And forgettable. Wiser minds – not running for re-election – have decided Tsarnaev will be tried as a civilian. In a civilian court.

There are many more facts to be discovered. Also issues of citizenship and immigration. Constitutional law is a huge factor. Questions of whether the brothers acted alone or with others – whether there are international connections. Government agencies here and abroad are part of the active investigation. City and state authorities have multiple roles to play.

Like a bad rash, Graham and the others are only symptoms of much larger diseases in this country. Division. Alienation. Prejudice. Graham is South Carolina’s problem. The other three are the nation’s.

There can be no excuses offered in defense of what the brothers apparently did. None. There can be no leniency proffered. The cowardly, vicious and murderous act demands punishment. Not the absolute retribution Graham and the others seem to want. Punishment. Justice. Not retribution.

As events of the Boston attack unfolded, something great slowly emerged in this country. Hearing more – seeing more – knowing more – the rest of us slowly became brothers and sisters with Bostonians. Like them, we were sickened, horrified, confused, angry. We felt emotions. Many of us wanted to help – to say “whatever you need, ask.” Known or not, there were bonds developed.

In the aftermath, justice must be shared and dealt with in the same way. Emotions have their time and place. We should not forget. We won’t forget. But, going forward, the issue must be the even-handed, national administration of “justice for all.” Just as law enforcement provided exemplary service to find and capture, so must the legal system be allowed to do its job. Without interference. Without prejudice. Without emotion.

Those who continue to offer uninformed, irrational, unsought, politically self-serving advice in this matter – like Graham and his cohorts – should proceed directly to the cliff.

Time for a Senate coup

Author: Barrett Rainey

The pros will tell you there are many “reasons” for the cowardly political end of that most minimal gun legislation in the Senate this week. They’re right. As far as they go. But none I’ve seen go far enough. So, let’s take the next step. Four words. Harry Reid – Senate Democrats.

Red state/blue state – the NRA – re-election fears – guaranteed defeat in the House of anything the Senate had the guts to pass – the most common “reasons” offered in the bars on Capital Hill. Excuses all. If you wanted to paint a verbal picture, those are the word “colors” I’d use, too. But the “artist” behind that portrait would be – Harry Reid.

Reid has repeatedly failed to lead. It’s Majority Leader Reid that sets the agenda and the ultimate legislative agenda of the U.S. Senate. Short of a very rare open majority vote to force a particular bill from committee, Reid controls nearly everything else. Support him, you live. Cross him, you might as well go home. He’s not the first with such power. He won’t be the last.

So saying, Senate Democrats – all of ‘em – should have forced their leader to use his sizeable parliamentary power to end the filibuster in the first days of the new Congress in January. They did not. He did not. Rather, Reid said he had a “handshake agreement” with Minority Leader McConnell that Republicans would be “responsible” in their use of the legislative poison pill. Well, here we are three months later and we know what McConnell’s word was worth.

Whenever someone talks about ending the filibuster, there’s always one response: “But if we do that while we’re in the majority, we won’t have it for protection when we’re in the minority someday.” While true, it’s also pure B.S. Majorities and minorities are what national elections are for. Neither party – neither – should have continuously assured status in either. It’s gotta be earned. Legislatively.

Since President Obama was elected in 2008 – from day one – McConnell and his minions repeatedly said they’d do nothing to help Obama succeed. In anything. Indeed, McConnell couldn’t have been more plain spoken. “Our goal (the GOP) is to make him a one-term President.” So which McConnell do we believe? The “one term President” guy or the other one who shook hands? One’s a liar.

Still, the 2008 and the 2012 elections not only put Obama in office and renewed his contract, they also gave Democrats the Senate majority. We – you and me – we decided the matter. It was our vote – our instruction – to give Democrats majority status to do what we expected a majority party to do – what all of ‘em said they’d do.

That’s how you get to be a Senate majority. We do it! You and me. That’s how you get to be a Senate minority. We do it! And we did it. Our instructions were not to turn a majority party into a minority, then use parliamentary maneuvers to undercut the new majority. The one we created. The one we wanted. Our votes – yours and mine – have been negated by an irresponsible minority from day one. Because Reid would not lead.

There is a procedural action called the “nuclear option” which basically means a simple majority of members can eliminate the filibuster and the 60% rule, set 51% as the requirement to pass legislation and run the Senate as a majority is supposed to. That’s how the body was set up to run. That’s how it should be. Reid won’t do it.

Yes, someday Democrats will be in the minority. Yes, someday they’ll face the 51% rule as Republicans would today. So what? If a party becomes the majority and doesn’t do what it promised, it deserves to lose that status. Because it didn’t deliver. Because it was afraid to govern.

We have more than 50 judgeships hung up in the Senate. We’re missing three commissioners on the NLRB. More than 400 senior appointments to government agencies are blocked. No boss at Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Good legislation – a lot of it needed legislation – went in the trash can because of the minority’s willingness to use the filibuster. Any appointment or bill can be blocked by any one Senator. Death for any legislation is just an anonymous phone call away.

Yes, there are many reasons why the minority was able to abort the gun safety bills. All very true. I’m sure. But, if Reid had been the leader needed in his job, it might have turned out differently. Would whatever passed the Senate ultimately been killed in the House? Probably. How? The majority would have done it outright. Not the minority. Because there is no filibuster in the House. And majority works just fine.

As long as one party – either party – is effective, voters will likely keep it in power. That’s how it’s supposed to work. “Don’t mess with what ain’t broke.” Do your job and you won’t have to worry about it.

But, the effectiveness of the U.S. Senate has been severely damaged by a politically ruthless minority long enough. Rather than concern themselves with how they’d fare in a minority, Democrats should eliminate the filibuster while they can. Immediately. Today.

When the bullet-riddled bodies of nearly 4,000 American dead since December 14th aren’t enough to drive common legislative sense, majority Democrats don’t deserve the title. And Harry Reid doesn’t deserve his job.

Bring on the coup.

Contradictions from the “right”

Author: Barrett Rainey

If pressed for the most apt definition of the word “contradiction,” there’s no better one in our times than the Republican far right. What passes for philosophy with too many denizens of that political swamp is espousing one set of ideals while working feverishly against them – wrapping oneself in the law and our founding documents while deliberately attacking both.

For many years, the clearest example of these philosophical cheap shots have been ceaseless attacks on women and the extremely personal topic of abortion. While decrying the intrusion of all forms of government in our private lives, these same voices have demanded an agency of government be represented in gynecological examining rooms where only physicians and their patients belong. To be in the home as a family struggles with intimate – and completely private – decisions. The total contrariness of that position is a hallmark of the far right.

Likewise, voting rights. The assurance of the individual franchise – guaranteed since our beginnings – has become another example of complete contradiction with a sizeable portion of the Republican right. More than a dozen states under GOP political control have tried to legislatively abridge voting access for all but themselves. Some have done so with new laws sure to be challenged. Several bills have even been introduced in Congress to do the same. While loudly proclaiming the polling privilege as “the cornerstone of our liberties,” some of the same voices have been attempting to exclude Americans who don’t “think” as they do. Or have a different skin color.

Now comes religion – the newest outright challenge to a most basic right granted to all of us in the Bill of Rights. The prohibition can’t be clearer:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

In North Carolina – where Republicans control the legislature – one of their number dropped a bill in the House basket to “establish Christianity as the state religion.” While a number of Republicans signed on as co-sponsors, the Speaker of the House stopped formal introduction. This time.

So, were these GOPers just a few nuts? Will we see similar attempts elsewhere? Is there a constituency for this abortive – and patently illegal – challenge to our Bill of Rights? One answer may surprise you. A new national HuffingtonPost/YouGov poll found 34% sampled favored establishing Christianity as the official state religion where they lived. Among those who called themselves Republican, the total was 55%. More than half! In another finding, 46% of Republicans supported officially changing our federal Constitution to allow it.

These are just three examples of voices fanatically claiming undying support for our Founding Fathers and their legal handiwork while trying to violate it. In some states, where Republicans control legislative affairs, you can bet they’re going to keep at it. The evidence continues to come in.

The voting issue, for example. Several states have cut voting hours, reduced the number of polling places, shorted the time to register or stopped same-day registration. Some even argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that they should be released from restrictions placed on them a few decades ago by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Their claim? “Well, maybe we were bad guys back then but we’ve changed.” The Justices are currently mulling over that argument. Given the several recent Republican state efforts outlined above, how would you decide?

Another destructive facet of Republican nut world is a threat to the “united” in United States. Take establishing a religion. The “thinking” in North Carolina is, since the federal Constitution stops Congress from creating a national religion, nothing should prevent creating one by a state. Likewise, since Congress won’t act to stop abortions nationally, they’ll just do it in the state. Voting rights? “We’ll do it ourselves, thank you very much.”

So, we see a developing patchwork of issues illegal in all states being established in some. What’s not allowed federally is being tried state by state. Idaho and Utah are two attempting to disassociate themselves in several ways from the federal government. Both want to take title to all federally owned lands within their borders. Neither state could afford to be a good steward of all that property. It won’t happen. But they keep trying.

It’s all part of this “nullification” business. The GOP far right is trying to separate some states the party controls politically from union with the others on specific issues. Most constitutional scholars think the Civil War settled that subject. The problem is many of those reviving the arguments either have not read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights they swear they love or think they’re smart enough to get around 150 years of jurisprudence.

God, I hope they’re wrong!

Wherefore art thou, Mr. Chief Justice

Author: Barrett Rainey

As the U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with issues of our sexual differences and their standing in our society, I’m less worried about the ultimate decisions than I am about the connection of the Chief Justice to reality.

There can be little argument DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) became a law because of prejudice and bigotry. It was largely born of a narrow belief held by a religious minority which has previously sponsored similar “moral” legislation. Enactment of the California law known as “Prop 8″ came from the same despoiled garden of fear and hatred – and $28 million from the LDS Church. But remarks made by Chief Justice Roberts from the bench during arguments on the two issues seemed to reflect his mental world is one in which no law is created from any soiled motivations.

During general questioning of the DOMA case, Roberts seemed to reject the proposition that Congress could be motivated to create a law – any law – out of discrimination or animus. In fact, during discussion, he and some other Justices appeared ignorant of the roots of DOMA – until Justice Kagan read this part of the law aloud to Solicitor General Verrilli during her questioning.

“Civil laws that permit only heterosexual marriage reflect and honor a collective moral judgment about human sexuality. This judgment entails both moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.”

There were gasps in the room. Then, from the Congressional Record dealing with the committee creation of DOMA, Kagan again quoted:

“…the Committee briefly discusses four of the governmental interests advanced by this legislation: (1) defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; (2) defending traditional notions of morality.”

BOOM! Then silence in the court. After brief subsequent give-and-take between Kagan and Verrilli, Roberts simply said “Thank you” and matters moved on while other Justices wrote lengthy notes to themselves – apparently about what they’d just heard. But not Roberts.

Editor’s Note: Why did so many Justices seem surprised by what Kagan read? Had their law clerks not read all the briefs and summarized for the Court? Didn’t the Justices at least read the law before hearing arguments? Why the hurried note-taking?

Roberts’ personal and judicial history are spotless. There is no doubt of his moral and professional character. But – there is ample evidence of his seeming real world ignorance that less-than-honorable intentions can create bad law. In one case – PICS vs. Seattle School District No. 1 – he wrote “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” He basically dismissed the need for judicial action in the face of demonstrated outright discrimination. His side lost.

Four years ago, in a matter involving a Texas utility discrimination case, he wrote “Things have changed in the South.” He was attempting to argue there was no need for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Again, he was on the losing side. He said much the same thing earlier this month in yet another challenge to the same Voting Rights Act now before the Court.

We often hear of the isolation from the “real” world that comes with living and working in Washington, D.C. for very long. It’s real. I can personally attest. But to find the SCOTUS Chief Justice making repeated references to a world without bigotry, discrimination or other dishonorable motivation for many of our laws is stunning. To have to have the most damning parts of DOMA read to the Court is bad enough. But his reaction was, frankly, embarrassing and alarming. Did he do no research – no preparation?

Whether from legislative ignorance or religious zealotry, we have too many laws on the books – both state and federal – that sprang from diseased roots. The several states currently trying to savage abortion and voting rights will spend millions defending what they’ve done and likely meet with little ultimate success. Just large legal bills to be paid with tax dollars.

The Idaho Legislature has a long history of being a major drain on citizen tax receipts. Year after year, the assembled minions make runs at nullification, trying to tax the untaxable, expressing a swim-upstream mentality that nearly always ends in the legal trash can, tries to take title to all federal lands or some other doomed, cockamamie scheme. Idaho taxpayers can only look to the judicial system to keep things intact. At great expense. Years ago, the Idaho Legislature created the perpetual “Idaho Contract Attorney’s Retirement Fund.” They up the endowment each session.

Congresses – current and past – have been filled with loud, minority voices attempting to codify morality. The 50 legislatures, as well. In far too many instances, the minority has been able to prevail because the majority lacked the intellectual guts to say “NO.” When the subjects were marriage, abortion, sexual orientation or similar social “issues,” many in the majority were shamed into going along. Whether for job retention, cowardice or some other personal flaw. So our courts have spent years wading through these social “thickets” trying to separate wheat from chaff.

Which brings us back to the Chief Justice.

His indication of seeming ignorance of the roots of the DOMA case before the Court – his repeated apparent belief that laws can’t spring from deceit, racial or sexual bigotry or some other anti-social source – his repeated writings that all that’s needed to stop injustice is to stop committing injustice – these are not the judicial thoughts I want to hear from someone in his exalted position.

DOMA will probably go away. Prop 8 will likely be kicked back to the folks in California. But Chief Justice Roberts has a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. At his age – still in his 50’s – he will be there for many years to come. While his conservative legal history is to be admired, his seeming lack of understanding of the world around him is not.

In a public display best called “neanderthal,” and “outrageous,” the NRA has stepped all over its own feet in the worst case of self-inflicted public relations injuries I’ve ever witnessed. It chose the wrong place to debut its latest “independent” gun safety B.S. and it did so with two dozen armed “body guards” for protection. From there, it went straight downhill.

The chosen site was the National Press Club in Washington D.C. I used to be a member and can assure you it’s one of the safest – and also most boring – places in D.C. For nearly 100 years, presidents, kings, prime ministers, celebrities and wannabee celebrities have used its podium to make statements profound and ridiculous. The NRA set a new low for ridiculous.

The occasion was to announce an “independent” committee’s findings and recommendations the NRA would “adopt” on gun safety. The committee was far from independent and the “findings” could have been published before its first meeting.

Chaired by former Congressman Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) the NRA tried to use his credibility as its own. In other words, the NRA bought and paid for that “credibility.” Hutchinson admits he was “hired” but won’t reveal his price. He picked his own “committee” which also was bought and paid for by the NRA. Again, Hutchinson won’t talk dollars. But there was nothing “independent” or “citizen volunteer” about it. No one connected to schools of any sort.

While the back-story of this NRA-front group was bad enough, the worst was how the NRA chose to publish the “findings.” Used to coming in the front door of the Press Club unfettered, reporters and crews were stopped by armed guards who conducted body and equipment searches. NRA guards. Some in private security uniforms; some not. But nearly two dozen of them and all “packing.” Reporters who would not submit were barred.

During Hutchinson’s presentation, he was flanked by armed guards. Others mixed with about 60 reporters and crews – shoulder and hip holsters bulging. When Hutchinson was finished, they circled him like the Secret Service and the proceedings were over. No more questions. No follow–ups. Hutchinson was hustled out. To “safety.”

To anyone reading this who feels this is just a case of the media getting its nose out of joint, go back and read it again. And again. And again. Until the weight of this demonstration of the perverse use of power sinks in.

As a duly chartered organization, the NRA has a right to its own views. However destructive and grotesque those views may be. It has a right to be heard. It has a right to work honestly for its own ends.

But, having said that, the NRA does NOT have a right to attempt intimidation of the public and a free press. The NRA does NOT have a right to pursue divine attachment to the 2nd amendment to the Constitution at the expense of the 1st. The NRA does NOT have a right to falsify credibility by hiring a former member of Congress without disclosure and “renting” the credibility it lost many years ago. The NRA does NOT have a right to pay hard cash for “outside” policy development, then hold out the sham work of paid “volunteers” to be “independent” findings. The issues at stake – the lives at stake – are too important for institutionalized intimidation and deceit.

All of this – ALL of this – is especially maddening because no one – NO ONE – has said a word about taking away firearms – licensing firearms – registering firearms – or threatening responsible gun ownership in any way. ANY way! The outrageous response of the NRA leadership is completely uncalled for and the spectacle it has made with lies and damned lies is contemptible. The NRA has perverted honest efforts of Americans to live their lives unthreatened by homicidal people who need to be identified and stopped before new outbreaks of the recent slaughters we’ve endured

Consider: nine of 10 Americans say background checks for purchasers of guns should be the law – more than six of 10 NRA members agreeing. More than seven in 10 of us – including the International Association of Chief’s of Police – say no civilian should be allowed to buy an automatic or semi-automatic weapon. More than seven of 10 want high capacity gun clips banned.

These are not “threats” to legitimate gun ownership. These are not ways to confiscate legitimate firearms. These are not steps to take away rights of citizenship. Nor to impede the exercise of gun ownership by any competent individual. These ARE steps responsible Americans – gun owners or not – must achieve to restore a higher level of safety in our communities than we now experience. These ARE honest, common sense, legitimate efforts to honor the 2nd amendment rights of some without restricting access of the rest of us to all the other rights of the Constitution under which we all live.

If Asa Hutchinson wants to sell his credibility and reputation to the NRA, so be it. If the “volunteers” who identified themselves with illegitimate NRA participation did so for a few pieces of coin, that’s their business. If the NRA is so morally bankrupt it needs to hire otherwise “respectable” people to hide behind, it can certainly do so.

But the rest of us need to know that all of these things happened last week. We need to be aware of the lengths the NRA will go to – or the subterranean levels it will stoop to – to hide its own blackened reputation behind bought-and-paid-for “credibility.” We need to know the NRA itself is now using guns in the hands of contracted armed bodyguards in public appearances.

To protect itself from whom? You? Me?


Not getting our money’s worth

Author: Barrett Rainey

Today’s word is “SEQUESTER.” The two most popular definitions are “to hide away” and “to take by authority.” I would propose a third: “a nationally crippling action – totally self-inflicted – taken by the most incompetent Congress to ever sit in Washington, D.C.”

We’re entering our second month of this sequester madness. Little by little, “we, the people” are feeling the pressures. Each day brings word of new restrictions or ending a government service or program. Each day, millions more citizens who can’t afford the loss are forced to do so. Each day, the collective members of Congress sit on their collective asses and do nothing.

Here we are – two months in – and the only time you hear the word “sequester” is when it’s attached to some news story describing another loss of the government services we’ve already paid for. That’s the ONLY time!

Think about it. In the last two weeks, for example, have you heard the word “sequester” used positively in a story describing how concerned our members of Congress are about the load they’ve thrown on the electorate? Us? Have you read a single story – just one – saying Democrats and Republicans are working feverishly to end the moronic fiscal madness their infighting has caused? I mean, of course, aside from elimination of public tours of the White House which has angered traveling GOP constituents.

I have not. From beltway media, we’ve heard about immigration, gun safety, phony budgets passed in one house that won’t even get to a vote in the other. We’ve heard blame, name-calling, descriptions of new Republican-backed abortion bills and the 35th attempt to kill Obamacare. We’ve witnessed spineless filibusters to block presidential appointees and legislation that should’ve been placed for an up-or-down vote. We’ve heard tea party-types and their ignorant rants and even heard Hispanics called “wetbacks.” All in the last three weeks.

But honest work to solve real problems their intransigence and bickering have cost millions of Americans? None! Action to end this madness that threatens our national security? None! And it’s getting worse. Each day.

Here’s a tiny example in our northwest neighborhood. In Idaho, four small airports are losing FAA controller staff. Sequester. Accompanied by yet another government lie. “Closing the tower (and 148 others) should have no effect on safety,” according to an FAA spokesman. Take it from a former pilot, that’s not true. When existing traffic control was instituted at those airports, the FAA justified it by saying new services would “improve safety.” Well, if it did that then, how would removal not affect safety now? Which is it?

Some airlines won’t fly into airports without traffic control. Stop flights and how many lodging, restaurant, rental car companies and others will soon feel it? How many minimum wage employees will be let go? How many will turn to state and county governments for assistance? And who pays those bills?

Huffington Post has published 100 examples of indiscriminate cuts caused by sequester. Closed food pantries and health services – military readiness cutbacks – reduced food safety inspections – customs & immigration office closures – companies laying off workers and leaving openings unfilled – schools on military bases cut to four days – closed cancer treatment centers – medical research halted – some EMT services ended – closed job training schools – head start ended – and on and on and on.

Let’s throw another log on this pile of congressional failure. Two years ago this month, Congress cost us a reduction in our national bond rating. Another economic body blow. Totally self-inflicted. In turn, that directly meant higher interest rates for borrowed money to pay the national debt. Debt they ran up. The unnecessary additional costs? Billions! Who pays?

So, it’s been two years. What have you heard lately about congressional labors to improve our debtor standing – regain the top bond rating they lost – and stop paying billions more on the national debt? Is there a “gang of eight” or a “gaggle of four” or a “herd of three” or even a single soul working to reverse this national embarrassment? Even one?

Despite our best private efforts, our economy is being sabotaged by our own government. Rather than working for the national good, it’s being held back and even thwarted by elected partisans who never should’ve held office in the first place.

The failures and many costly failures we’re experiencing have been directly caused by one ineffective congress after another. As this needless, damaging and hurtful sequester and the continued partisan wrangling continue to eat up limited resources and create hardships on millions, there appear to be no honest efforts underway to end the problems. Those who could do what’s necessary to heal our crippled government seem content to let all this go where it will with the hope that – somehow – it will all sort itself out.

What’s our $174,500 per head buying us? Not very damned much!

Change or perish

Author: Barrett Rainey

I’m about to offer several suggestions for which – I’m certain – there’ll be a pile of reasons (excuses) why each won’t work. Failing the smart test, there’ll be more reasons (excuses) why none of them can be done. But I’m a persistent guy and used to swimming upstream. So, here goes.

The premise for these offerings is this one statement. No state in the country really needs all the counties it has. None. In fact, 2012 Census Bureau statistics show one in three U.S. counties is dying. Dying. Put another way, 1,135 of the nation’s 3,143 counties are now experiencing “natural decrease” as deaths exceed births. The young – and immigrants – are moving to the cities.

Oregon has 36 counties – Idaho 44 – Washington 39. That’s 119. Each with commissioners (three to five each), sheriffs, assessors, clerks, judges, treasurers, courts. And jails. Lots of jails. Lots of rundown jails. Some crowded. Some nearly empty. All expensive. With decreasing residents for support. Taxpayers. You and me.

So, Sheriff Kiern Donahue in Idaho’s Canyon County is now publically asking why several nearby counties can’t pool their resources to build regional jails to serve multiple counties? I’ve been asking that for years.

Idaho has seven judicial districts. Sheriff Donahue wants to know why all counties in each district couldn’t share one judicial district jail? “Corrections facility” or whatever. Huge construction savings. Reduced staff. Video links for arraignments rather than deputies tied up on costly travel. Less crowding. Seems to make a lot of sense. So much so the naysayers are out even at the suggestion stage.

Let’s just stay with Idaho for a minute. I’ve wondered for a long time why it needs 44 counties with 44 duplicate governments. Seems to me you could put one prosecutor, for example, in each of the seven judicial districts to handle major crimes and deputies with much smaller staffs in individual counties for lesser crimes. If you can have a county seat, why not a district seat with smaller and less expensive “little seats” in the counties?

Same for assessors, clerks, treasurers. One per district with deputies in the counties. Why not an elected commission per district with an administrator in each county? Even make the local administrators elected if need be.

Go even further. Do we need all of our school districts? Why not several regional superintendents per state with county of deputy “super’s” at county or district levels? Idaho, for example, has 118 districts. Do we really need 118 duplicate administrations and all the added costs? Really?

Much of this government business is created by state constitutions or state codes. “Engraved in stone” as it were. “Just can’t be changed,” some say. I don’t buy that. When needs change or ways of doing things make the old ways unnecessary or outdated, state laws – and state constitutions – can be changed by the electorate. You and me.

Well, needs and times have changed. Technology has changed how we do a lot of things. We don’t think or live the same daily lives as our ancestors did in 1890 when Idaho became a state or 1859 for Oregon or 1889 in Washington. Everything we do has changed – everything – but we’re still hamstrung by what were perceived to be the governmental needs and formats of pioneer citizens over a century ago.

If dividing by judicial districts won’t work for a particular state, make the new design regional. If not regional, then use common market areas or geographic commonality or access. Group together by whatever makes sense for the most economies, convenience or other shared situations

Prosperous businesses have many and varied reasons for success. But one thing absolutely common to all is a regular update of organization and operational structures. Seeing what’s new – what’s more efficient – what the market’s changing requirements are – how those market demands can be met using the best technology and practices.

Taxpayers, after all, are the customers of government – the stockholders, too, if you will. Whether paid for in taxes or fees, government is owned by us. When used properly, it does for we “customers” what we can’t do for ourselves individually. But, as “shareholders,” we have to assure it’s efficient, cost-effective and as up-to-date as we are. Government – at its best – should be a reflection of the governed.

State constitutions can be changed. Laws can be updated. Or repealed. Just because we’ve had “X” counties since 1859 or 1890 doesn’t mean we have to have the same number “because it’s always been that way.”

Some counties are in really bad financial shape. Many school districts are just hanging on. School buildings are crumbling and a lot of teaching curriculums are badly outdated. Many road districts are unable to fund repairs of the old ones much less build the new ones we need. Bridges are failing. Some jails are overcrowded while others are barely used. Many county and city services are being curtailed or even eliminated. Some badly needed federal and state support that used to be is no more.

We can blindly continue what we’re doing because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” But, in the end, we’ll be crushed by the weight of new realities because we refused to adjust and keep up.

Every couple of years, we think nothing of buying a new car so we have reliable transportation. Or the newest things to impress the neighbors. We replace our computers and printers when technology makes what we have obsolete. We even buy new, larger houses to fit a growing family or smaller ones because the family is grown and gone.

But we continue to operate governments and taxing districts the way they were created over a hundred years ago. And in the same number, needed or not. We ask them to service our needs today when those needs have changed but the service provider is still hamstrung with yesterday’s – and yesteryear’s – methods and equipment.

I applaud what Sheriff Donahue is trying to do in Idaho. I hope others come to his cause because he’s right! No county – no state – no nation – can continue operating in 2013 the way it did in 1950. Or 1920. Or 1890. Just because that’s how it started.

Personally, I’m getting tired of paying for buggywhips.