Archive for May, 2013

A friend at the factory

Author: Barrett Rainey

Bear with me a minute. This takes some background.

From our little burg-in-the-Oregon woods going South on I-5 to the California border, it’s about 125 miles. Within the last half dozen years, four multi-lane bridges along the way have been replaced/rebuilt and smaller ones in the communities on both sides of I-5 improved.

Now, North on I-5 to Corvallis, it’s about 100 miles. From here to there in that same time period, there have been four new multi-lane I-5 bridges built and another half dozen overhauled or strengthened. Bridges and two-lanes in smaller communities on both sides of I-5 have had similar attention.

Between the Pacific and Eugene, there’s a rail line used by commercial shippers. Several years ago, a major tunnel was declared unsafe and traffic stopped. Those shippers – mainly regional timber guys – hollered. Loudly. Sending things the long way around by truck was prohibitively expensive. In short order, the feds, state and some shippers came up with the big bucks and things were put in first class order.

Hold onto all that as we introduce you to our representative in Congress from the Fifth District – Pete DeFazio. He’s one of the older heads – a Democrat in a heavily Republican District. He relies on the more liberal Lane County voters to hold off Republicans in all the other counties that vote against him every two years. All of ‘em.

Would it surprise you to know Pete’s the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit? Or that he’s been on the Subcommittee on Railroads for many years?

Now, tie all that together. Highways, bridges and railroads. If you didn’t live in the Fifth Congressional District, you’d call all that “pork.” Strictly speaking, you’d be right. Good old federal bacon brought home by a ranking member of Congress. Taxpayer largess. Yep, pork.

But, also strictly speaking, all that federal help in our little corner of the Oregon forest is exactly what the federal government of this nation has been charged to do since 1776. Help us do the big jobs that need doing that we can’t do for ourselves. National defense. National monetary system. National transportation systems. Yes, highways, bridges and tunnels, too.

When the folks on the right loudly complain about “pork,” what they’re really saying is government dollars spent in their backyards are wise expenditures on badly needed projects. But, when it’s someone else’s backyard getting the attention – well, now – that’s “PORK.”

This sequestration business that’s strangling our economy – and deliberately hurting millions of people – is really mostly a lot about “pork. That’s really the bottom line with most of the naysayers. They want to bring government spending to a halt. Then slash and burn their way backwards. While they’re wrapping themselves in the Constitution and Bill of Rights few have likely read, they’re ignoring one of the prime reasons for having a government in the first place – to help us do for ourselves together those things we can’t accomplish alone. Says so. Right in those documents.

Imagine taking federal spending out of safe water systems, airline safety, food safety, public education, higher education, law enforcement, national defense, disaster relief, communications, electrical power creation and transmission, space projects, medical research, wilderness preservation, public lands management and more. Oh, yes. Those highways, bridges and tunnels all over the country. Like the ones we were talking about.

There are proper and necessary roles for government. The balance point most likely comes down in the middle – between the “government-is-the-answer-to-all-problems” utopia of the far left and the “get-government-the-hell-out-of-my-life” rants of the far right. That’s where the answers to most of our problems are usually found.

But, for now, this nation is being held hostage by a minority of mindless ideologues with their collective minority fingers around the throat of government. We are being slowly strangled. Baby, bath water and the nanny are all being thrown out the window.

A little interstate bridge over the Skagit river should remind us all we have urgent, life-threatening problems. Problems in the billions of dollars that endanger us everyday as we move about our nation. Two undeclared wars of choice and a financial system run amok for lack of proper government oversight have diverted our attention – and hundreds of billions of dollars – from more direct threats to our national security. Direct threats to our lives.

We need – we must have – a redirection of national priorities to the reasons we create governments in the first place. We need the resources of all – together – to do what we individually can’t do for ourselves.

After all, not everyone can have a little fella in Congress on the Subcommittee for Highways and Transit or the Subcommittee on Railroads.

Poverty has moved out

Author: Barrett Rainey

Like a lot of other things in our America these days, poverty ain’t what it used to be. It’s not where it used to be. It’s not who it used to be. And we in the West are among the prime statistical examples of the “new” poverty that seems to be under most people’s radar.

When we think of poverty – if we do – the picture that normally comes to mind is inner city or some of the smaller, mostly rural communities around us. Not so, McGee. Suburban poverty is the fastest growing segment of poor in America – up 64% in the last decade.

Brookings Institution has a new book out – “Confronting Suburban Poverty In America.” Using Census Bureau records and other numeric profile sources, the bottom line is this: almost 16.4 million suburban residents now live below the poverty line with just under three-million more in cities.

Check out the numbers for our region’s largest population areas. In the last decade, the number of people living in poverty in the suburbs of Seattle has increased 78.9% – Portland 99.3% – Boise 129.7% – Las Vegas 139.3% and Salt Lake City up 141.7%!

Co-author Elizabeth Kneebone found many reasons for this silent shifting of people below the official poverty line of $23,021 income per year.

“As wealthier folks moved to the suburbs,” she says, “a lot of companies did, too. Following along, people from inner cities looking for jobs joined the quiet parade. Service sector was a major employer but most workers were paid minimum wage or slightly higher.” Then the bottom fell out.

When the “great recession” came along, many of those jobs disappeared. Lower income folks were stuck. Businesses closed, unemployment went up and formerly middle class families started to slide down the economic ladder into poverty.

Compounding this new and growing problem has been a government that’s kept directing resources to the inner cities where poverty has historically existed. As people being served moved out to the ‘burbs, the programs didn’t move with them. Now, with our damned sequestration, agencies that have been providing the “safety net” are both miles away and losing their own funding. So, people at or near the poverty level fled inner cities to follow the jobs but the government support resources didn’t. Now they can’t.

As is the case with so many other “people” programs, the faces of Americans feeling real pain – and hunger – are unseen by members of the most disgraceful Congress in recent American history. Between crippling gridlock and sequestration – neither of which are being addressed – millions of people are losing employment, losing homes, losing whatever savings they may have had and – in too many cases – going hungry.

What the hell does it take to get 535 people making $174,500 a year each – plus travel and expenses – to get off their asses and back to work to stop the suffering in this country for the millions of Americans who make less than $23,021 a year?

The poverty that used to be out there – inner cities and small, rural communities – is now in America’s vaunted suburbs. People – strangers – who need our help to have shelter and food – have gone from over there to here – right next door.

Life – however tough – goes on. Out of sight and out of mind for those we elected to take care of things.

What the hell do we have to do?

Civic assisted suicide

Author: Barrett Rainey

A few miles from our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, we’re witnessing an act of economic, civic and politically assisted suicide being committed by residents of Curry County. It’s a deliberate failure to shoulder local fiscal responsibility unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Especially considering Curry has one of the very lowest property tax rates in the state.

Curry County borders California on the South and the Pacific Ocean on the West. It’s a bit isolated. About 25,000 people live there – give or take one more retiree. Over 50% of monthly deposits in financial institutions in the area come from government benefits or retirement plans – many from out-of-state. Gives you an idea of the age and status of the population.

Of the dozen or so Oregon counties hurting right now because of the reduction – and pending elimination – of a federal subsidy paid in lieu of taxes on local federal timber lands, Curry is in the worst shape. The county has three towns – Brookings-Harbor, Gold Beach and Port Orford. City and county budget cuts made over the last couple of years already have gotten into muscle and bone. Unemployment, homelessness and crime are all above normal. Even for there.

Sheriff John Bishop is working with nearly no resources. He’s already on half-staff, not covering the county several hours each day, reduced patrols and living with a jail that’s mediaeval. People are being arrested – some more than once – arraigned and turned loose. Bishop is a hardworking professional dealing with the worst county civic support in Oregon.

This month, Curry commissioners put a special property tax question on the ballot with all future proceeds – all – going to law enforcement. If passed, city homeowners faced a property tax increase of $1.97 per thousand evaluation – county residents $1.84 per thousand. The hope was to raise $5.4 million for the jail, Sheriff’s Office, juvenile department and the district attorney. Absolutely no question about need. None.

On election day, just under 50% of the 13,501 registered voters took time to do their duty. Final count: 44% yes – 56% no. Killed big time. One of the commissioners was absolutely giddy. “I think the failure is an opportunity – huge opportunity to sit with citizens and see what we can do. It’s all good!”

To understand how goofy those remarks are, you should know an 18-member committee of local, very experienced citizens – selected by the county commission – spent nearly a year with expert outside consulting, going over every dime in recent budgets. With a great deal more talent than is represented on the current commission, that group came up with more than a dozen, well-researched ideas to deal with the situation. Answers.

The report was shelved and ignored. There’s some evidence some of the appointers may not have even ead it.

Sheriff Bishop has been very, very clear about the situation. Without the tax, many criminals will not be arrested, no officers may be available to promptly respond to even the worst crimes, should an arrest be made there may be no place to jail the offender. Curry County is already a favored spot of – as the Sheriff puts it – “the Mexican Mafia” for back country marijuana growing, insurance rates for homeowners and businesses are going up because of increased crime and reduced law enforcement, the county’s liabilities and the sheriff’s obligations – required by law – to maintain safety and welfare are becoming impossible.

He’s got an additional problem from neighboring Josephine County which previously rejected a law enforcement tax levy. Criminals arrested are charged and routinely released because the jail is all but closed. At least two armed posse comitatus groups are circulating in rural parts of that county. Just a matter of time till someone gets killed. And that action is spilling over into Curry thanks to Highway 199.

“But wait,” as they say in those irritating commercials. “There’s more!”

The Oregon Legislature is working on several bills to handle the situation if Curry goes down the tubes. Which is becoming more likely. But the three city councils and the commissioners are fighting because each is afraid the State would take local revenues and reapportion them based on need and not by the old traditional formulas. Somebody could come up short.

So – here’s the picture. Within weeks, Curry County is likely to be insolvent. Bankrupt. Local law enforcement is becoming increasingly unable to carry out responsibilities of safety and citizen welfare. Crime and unemployment are rising. Homeowner and business insurance rates are going up as a result. Some folks are moving out. More businesses will fail. Local elected officials are at each other’s throats. And citizens are firmly unwilling to fix it.

Oregon is an “assisted suicide” state. But the law says the patient must already be in a terminal condition. Residents of Curry County have gone beyond that. They’re actively killing their way of life. And that’s murder.

Open Letter to Fox “News”

Author: Barrett Rainey

My Fox Friends:

Because I know you operate with limited “fact” checking folk – relying instead on GOP in-house “research” and the Heritage Foundation for that – I’d like to pass along some old fashioned, shoe leather research Ben Cesca of Huffington Post recently did. All from the public record. Because of the nature of his findings – pre-Benghazi – I’m certain none of you were allowed to read it. Forbidden, actually. So, here goes.

Jan. 22, 2002: Calcutta, India – Harakat-ul-Jihad as-Islami attack U.S. Consulate – five employees killed.

Jun. 14, 2002: Karachi, Pakistan – al Qaeda suicide bomber hits U.S. Consulate – 12 employees killed – 51 injured.

Oct. 12, 2002: Denpasar, Inbdonesia – Diplomatic offices bombed.

Feb. 28, 2003: Islamabad, Palistan – Gunmen fire on Embassy – two killed.

May 12, 2003: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: al Qaeda stormed U.S. diplomatic compound – 36 killed including nine Americans.

Jul. 30, 2004: Tashkent, Uzbekistan: U.S. Embassy bombed – two dead.

Dec. 6, 2004: Jeddah Saudi Arabia – al Qaeda stormed U.S. Consulate – nine dead.

Mar. 2, 2006: Karachi, Pakistan – For the third time in four years, U.S. Consulate bombed – four dead including Ambassador David Foy.

Sep. 12, 2006: Damascus, Syria: Gunmen storm U.S. Embassy killing four.

Jan. 12, 2007: Athens, Greece – Rocket attack on U.S. Embassy. Bad shots.

Mar. 18, 2008: Sana’a, Yemen – Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire mortar at U.S. Embassy. Missed. Hit school next door killing two.

Jul. 9, 2008: Istanbul, Turkey – Terrorists attack U.S. Embassy killing six employees.

Sep. 17, 2008: Sana’a, Yemen – Terrorists with car bombs and RPGs kill 16 including an American student. Second attack there in seven months.

That’s 13 American embassy and consulate attacks during the two-term tenure of G-W-B. Two terms during which you were just not as worked up as you are today.

I realize Hillary Clinton was not Secretary of State during the time frame of Reporter Cesca’s outstanding work. And Barack Obama was still a U.S. Senator and not President. So none of the above information is likely to be important for you. Especially to those GOP “research” folks in-house.

And now, you must be even more dispirited. The co-chair of the Accountability and Review Board – Thomas Pickering – says the most comprehensive – and honest – review of the Benghazi attack yet has absolved the former Secretary of State of any wrong-doing.

Thomas Pickering – a four decade diplomatic professional – said the Review Board “knows where the responsibility rested.” Addressing the political witch hunt by Republicans, Pickering said “They’ve tried to point a finger at people more senior than where we found those decisions were made.” He’s even offered to testify at an open hearing of Mr. Issa’s witch hunt.

The Review Board’s report was scathing in uncovering and identifying “systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels.” But not – repeat not – in the Secretary’s office or even near it at the top of the State Department. Period.

There you have it, Fox Folk. Excellent reportorial research and first-person testimony from the co-chair of the most unbiased and official, in-depth review yet of Benghazi. I know none of this helps your all-out effort to make – as one of your right wing minions said – “a cover-up worse than Watergate.” But it’s all true!

Now, don’t get used to this little professional assist from the Oregon woods. This is a one-time deal. I can’t afford to do this all the time. For that – given your proclivity for relying on that in-house GOP “research,” – I’d have to put on a much larger staff. Just can’t now. Sequestration and all that.

Yours for accuracy in reporting:


When explanation becomes exploitation

Author: Barrett Rainey

Nearly all our lives, we adults take great pains setting ourselves apart from each other – our individualism, if you will. Whether in appearance, style of dress, cars we drive or books we read, we spend our lives expressing our differences rather than our shared sameness. Then a commonality sneaks up on us – the shared experience of all – because we were once six or seven years old. Each of us. All of us.

That one genealogical thread of age may be the largest single reason why the Newtown massacre struck our consciousness so deeply. Months after a school meant for learning became a chamber of mass murder, we’re not letting this one fade from memory as quickly as we have so many others. All of us have been six or seven. We’e all been in classrooms.

A few miles up the road from my own little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, we had our own indiscriminate killings in a shopping mall a few months ago. But I’ve had days and weeks in that time without thinking about Clackamas Mall. Not so Newtown, Connecticut. Despite other distractions of daily living, the Newtown horror still intrudes from time to time.

Several years of my life were spent as a hospice volunteer, ministering to the dying one-on-one. Death – impending death – certain death. You learn not only how to provide comfort to the “client” – you learn to deal with death after death after death of people you come to know as friends. Even if for only a brief time. You learn how to do that. Or you fail.

But most of my life has been spent in journalism – passing along the daily events of our lives. You used to learn how to do that in much the same clinical way – observing but not getting personally involved. Not anymore.

Maybe it’s the collision of experiences in those two backgrounds that makes my disgust with so much of the media so overwhelming in these months following the Newtown killing. Most of my anger is caused by the so-called broadcast “professionals.”

All of us experience a period of grief following the death of someone close. It permeates our entire being. Some survivors or onlookers handle it better than others. But it’s always there. When the death is that of someone we don’t know or aren’t particularly close to, there may be feelings of sadness but usually not disabling grief. But what happened in Newtown – though involving complete strangers for most of us – what happened in Newton has – in many ways – shown up in a sort of national grief.

The anger I feel so deeply is directed at a national media and started just hours after the December tragedy. Almost immediately, the talking heads were going far, far beyond a professional charge to report – to inform – putting cameras and microphones in the faces of people who were grieving. Especially confused children who survived that day. Because most of the dead were so young and the means so violent and unexpected, my guess is the grief being felt overwhelmed. Some parents and other family may take years to deal with it. Some may never know a day without it.

It makes no difference if some people deliberately make themselves available – or even volunteer – for interviews. Not one of them is doing so with clear intent or full thought. None. While it’s not uncommon for someone grieving wanting to share a photo or a story about a loved one, CNN, FOX, MSNBC and all the rest should not be the platforms. Death is personal. So is grieving. Photos – those so-personal stories – are often shared with hospice workers or other health professionals. But the media has no place there. In the future, some of the grieving will deeply regret what they did. And, ultimately, the experience can cause even more extended suffering.

Cops, medical professionals, community leaders – these are the people where the story is – where the known facts are. Where the media belongs. Where we in the audience belong. A weeping mother – being interviewed in a living room decorated for Christmas -may be good for ratings. But it can also be a dangerous, personally destructive experience when time passes – the lights and cameras and reporters are gone – and the ever-present struggle with grief continues. In silence. In absolute loneliness.

We are a voyeuristic nation – for better or worse. Most of the time, it’s no big deal. But now, electronic media as incapable of dealing with the realities of Newtown as the rest of us, are the voyeurs – probing into areas that are none of their damned business. Exposing people in their most vulnerable and helpless moments.

Facts. Details. Explanations, if possible. Those are the requirements of a good journalist’s work. But interviewing stunned, grieving parents and confused children?

Explanation, yes. Exploitation, no.

Badge beats gun

Author: Barrett Rainey

The question of “a gun or a badge” for security in school classrooms seems to have been answered this week with the very successful testing of a WiFi-based system in a Nampa, Idaho, high school. (See “A gun or a badge” column below)

The equipment – made by EKAHAU – replaces badges most teachers already wear around their necks daily. But this one is sensitive to applied pressure in several spots. When touched, it silently calls for help, puts the school on “lockdown” and notifies local police dispatch – all in seconds. And I mean “seconds.” On Monday’s test in Nampa, it did all that in less than four!

A randomly selected teacher decided when to send a signal. Could have been any classroom on campus. All similar badges in the building flashed, a computerized map lit up and the school resource officer took off. From start to his arrival – less than 20 seconds!

In Sandy Hook Elementary, the gunman killed 26 people in just over five minutes. Using the Nampa cop’s response time of about 20 seconds – with gun drawn – you might have had some fatalities. Certainly not 26. What if this system saved 15 kids – or just one? Saved three teachers- or just one? Or you could have had 30 scared kids run screaming in all directions while a scared teacher tied to find a gun in a locked drawer to have a gunfight with a crazy person filling the classroom with bullets while waiting for a resource officer who might have been unaware of the danger.

The answer for me – from personal experience – is very simple. Several years ago, my teacher wife was attacked in a classroom by a teen almost her size. But stronger. A male teacher heard the racket and eventually responded. But what if she had been wearing one of these Ekahau badges? Would she have had the scrapes and bruises? Or been seriously injured?

A donor put up the $20,000 necessary for the system in Nampa. While $20,000 is a large sum, it allowed this state-of-the-art coverage in an entire high school.

We can’t expect all schools in all districts to have such citizen support. But the system works. It works so well districts across the country should begin budgeting school-by-school starting now. Make it a 10 year plan Or 20. Have some community fund raisers. Contact foundations, service clubs, corporations. Have bake sales and carwashes if necessary. Set a goal of one of these badge systems for the school your kids or grandkid go to and get started!

Or, as our friends at the NRA have decided, we can put a gun on the hip of every school teacher in every classroom and let ‘em shoot it out with the bad guys. Over and around the heads of ourloved ones. Our choice.

A gun or a badge?

Author: Barrett Rainey

Armed police in every school. Every teacher packing a gun. The NRA’s outrageous ideas for school safety. Just how outrageous will be even more evident if a little test going on at a high school this week in li’l ol’ Nampa, Idaho, works as everyone thinks it will.

Imagine each teacher replacing the badge most now wear around their necks with a similar one that tracks their immediate locations, calls the police and puts a threatened school on “lockdown.” Within four seconds. Automatically. That’s what they’re trying out in Nampa this week.

EKAHAU is the outfit that makes these things. Along with a lot of other hi-tech gizmos used in hospitals and mental institutions that work off a common WiFi system.. One version is a little device that looks like a badge but you hang this one in the refrigerated cabinet where blood or certain drugs are stored. If the temperature varies outside desired degrees, it flashes a warning at the nurse’s station.

Or, a violent mental patient attacks an employee. Touch one of the tag “hot spots” and security – even off-campus local police – know instantly help is needed. All kinds of uses.

Put one on a teacher, for example. In an emergency, a “hot spot” touch will summon help if that teacher is attacked. Or, pull the badge and lanyard apart quickly and the school immediately goes on “lockdown” and the nearest police emergency dispatch is notified. Immediately. Silently.

Obviously something this good is not cheap. The cost for all the badges and peripheral gadgets in the Nampa case is a little more than $20,000. But a local donor has put up the money for the tryout.

Now, which would you rather have? A teacher carrying a gun trying to shoot it out with an armed assailant while also trying to protect 30 screaming and terrified, running kids. Or, a teacher with a small badge giving an immediate silent warning to the entire school and local law enforcement? Go ahead. You decide. I’ll wait.

So, is the NRA idea to make sharpshooters out of teachers outrageous? It certainly is in my book. A “good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun?” Or an alert teacher who can communicate with the entire school staff and local police just by touching a piece of plastic hung around her neck.

We’ll keep an eye on the Nampa experiment and let you know. I wish ‘em well. Seems like a damned fine idea. And please don’t tell Wayne LaP. This is a bit outside-the-box for him.

No minimum standard

Author: Barrett Rainey

The election of South Carolina’s Mark Sanford to Congress raises some questions at our house. But his victory answers only one of them: there IS no moral minimum to be elected to Congress.

Statistically, Republican Candidate “X” would be the odds-on favorite in Sanford’s district, as if ”X” lived in Idaho or Utah. So Republican Sanford had the situation pretty well locked up just by seeing his breath on a mirror. From a party preference point of view, no surprise.

But, as I said, we had some questions. For starters, Sanford is an admitted adulterer and liar. Not just one foolish, drunken time. Or one foolish, drunken lie. But over a period of a couple of years. He lied to his wife – his own staff – his Republican Party – voters – media – everyone. No mere cover-up. Lied. Repeatedly.

His Republican peers in South Carolina government found him guilty of misuse of public funds for financing his first-class affinity for repeated amorous flights to Argentina for his long-term, intercontinental trysts on the taxpayer dime. His wife divorced him and even had to get a restraining order because he kept hanging around her backdoor. His former backdoor. And he violated that court order – more than once – by showing up again and going through that backdoor.

Now, in the little Oregon town where I grew up, any guy like that in elective office would’ve been lucky to have escaped a lynching and would’ve been bounced out of office by some irate voters. Oh, he might have been the center of attention at one of the logger bars for awhile. But, even there, he would have eventually slid into well-earned oblivion.

But – sizeable baggage and all – not in the First Congressional District in South Carolina. Not the heavily Republican-dominated First District.

Which brings up another question. As an Independent, I’m often derided by Republican friends for not having an “official” set of beliefs – political, philosophical and/or moral. Not true, but they keep saying it. In other words, as someone who moves back and forth with my vote, I’m accused of being susceptible to the “changing popular tide” and not following “Party precepts.” Not “standing for something permanent and good for the country.” No “moral code.” You know the B.S.

For the last couple of decades, these folk have preached one of their adopted “principles” more often than the others. “We’re the party of family values – we love our children and we’re standing on firm Christian ground to raise them to be good, loyal and moral Americans.” You know the B.S.

Henceforth, I can bring future conversations challenging my voting wishy-washiness (I’d rather think of it as “informed selection”) to an immediate halt with just two words: “Mark Sanford.”

Many on the astro-turf Right chatter incessantly about the Founding Fathers. “Good Christians.” All “men of God.” That’s a sure tipoff that most who spout that gibberish have never studied the documents or checked out some of those “good Christian men of God” or they would’ve known more about the Deists and Atheists among their number.

But suppose – as we’re so often told – those guys really were all the divinely inspired, morally informed gents a lot of the strident voices believe they were. If they were such solid citizens. – so high-minded and moral – why didn’t they include some language in their founding documents about suitability to serve in Congress or other elective position? With the spread of intellect and worldliness among them, why didn’t they set some character guidelines – speak to the issues of morality and conduct? Excepting Ben Franklin, of course.

If Sanford had been running for mayor or city council or dog catcher in most communities, his abhorrent personal behavior would’ve likely kept him off the ballot – much less from being a winner. We’ve enough morally bankrupt folk in public office already that previously got by us at the polls. So we should tend to be more reluctant to add an admitted liar, adulterer and violator of government fiduciary trust to their number.

Henceforth to be known as the “Sanford Qualification Bar For Public Service.” Set very, very low.

Our National shame

Author: Barrett Rainey

Wayne LaPierre is a driven guy. Finishes what he starts. No quitter. He’s single-handedly determined to become the most hated S-O-B in America. With one more NRA national convention under his belt – or maybe one more appearance before a congressional committee – he’ll likely achieve the dream. Trump – the distant second – isn’t even close.

It’s no secret Wayne doesn’t speak for responsible gun owners. Hasn’t for years. His overblown salary is paid for by firearms and ammunition companies – not dues from responsible member shooters. His job is to be the lightening rod keeping public attention and anger off the industry while killing any legitimate effort to craft responsible gun legislation by anyone. Takes a special kind of guy – one willing to subvert personal morality and conscience to the demands of people who don’t give a damn about the rest of us. Or him, either, when he finally leaves the job.

Following daily insights into the gross affairs of last week’s NRA convention, I was struck – make that grossed out – by two items. Not that there weren’t several dozen others to turn responsible stomachs.

First item: the exhibit booth of Zombie Industries which – hang on to your lunch now – sold life-sized targets that bleed when shot. Yep, give it a good “kill” shot and the damned things gush red “blood.” If that’s not gross enough, one on display for conference attendees to try their aim on was – I hate to use the words – a dead ringer for President Obama. I’ve seen the picture in all it’s gory glory and you ain’t gonna see it here.

In a fit of uncharacteristic “conscience,” someone from the NRA asked the Zombie folks to take it down. But only after the media had taken pictures and many folks had literally taken their “best shots.” When the operator of the grizzly exhibit was told the bleeding target looked like Obama, he said “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”

Second item: LaPierre’s annual speech and the lies therein. All of it could easily be classified as morally disgusting. But he really hit the lowest note when he got to the Boston Marathon tragedy. While the event itself was gruesome enough to stay with us the rest of our lives, Ol’ Wayne had to take it down further.

“How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago” he asked? “Imagine living in a large metropolitan area where lawful firearms ownership is heavily regulated and discouraged. Imagine waking up to a phone call from the police at 3 a.m. warning a terrorist event is occurring outside and ordering you to stay in your home.” A lie, of course.

Shouts from the crowd of “disgusting” and “outrageous” responded to his crazy premise that some citizen militia was prevented from forming and taking to the streets in the name of justice. Authorities did NOT tell people to stay off the streets. And many did not.

Well, let’s take his crazy premise into reality. Every law enforcement group – every emergency outfit within 100 miles of Boston – was somehow involved in the aftermath of the killer explosions. Media was running rampant with facts, speculation and hearsay. Authorities were asking people to “stay in place.” Not “ordering” but “asking.”

Now, let’s go where Wayne wanted to go. As darkness settles over Beantown, small groups form in neighborhoods. Some have automatic rifles. Some pistols. Some shotguns – regulation and sawed-off. Even two guys with machine guns on one corner. Nearly all wearing the NRA-approved Wal-Mart camouflage outfits with combat boot knock-offs. Let’s see. In this group, there are several auto mechanics, a pediatrician, three shoe clerks, a cab driver, two lobster fishermen, an insurance salesman, two teachers, three real estate sales ladies, two grocery checkers and a retiree who just turned 87. Yep. That’s our heavily armed citizen militia, ready to do it’s job. ‘Cause that’s how the NRA wants it.

Now, they split into teams of two and spread out. Some get in personal cars to patrol the neighborhood. Some creep down both sides of the streets in darkness. Others go around back – down alleys and around back fences. Some have flashlights some don’t.

Then – BANG. The pediatrician saw something. Then BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG. Silence. Then BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG. They all turn loose the neighborhood firepower. Then – silence. Because the pediatrician, one clerk, both fishermen and one of the checkers have been hit. One police officer, too.

For the record, the terrorist they were looking for – the guy from the bombing – when they got him, he was unarmed!

We followed the Boston affair pretty closely at our house. And not once – not even once – did an NRA militia group meet on any corner in any part of Boston. Not one. Is that because Boston is a “heavily regulated” place that “discourages” gun ownership? Or is it because – even with weapons – most of us know such searching is best left to professionals and we civilians should stay the hell out of their way? Even rank-and-file NRA members?

Over the years, a lot of us who used to carry NRA cards tore ‘em up. We did so for two main reasons: the NRA didn’t do squat for the individual shooter; the NRA adopted such outrageous political positions we wanted nothing to do with the outfit. Those were the reasons in our household.

The NRA is no longer a support and fraternal organization for casual gun owners. The shooting and youth safety classes have become just P-R covers for ammunition and gun makers who want no – repeat no – regulation of any sort interfering with their billion-dollar industries. What was once a fine association representing citizen hunting and sport shooting interests has become a juggernaut political machine wielding unchecked power. It operates – not in the public interest but in the self-interest – of major corporations who pay very big bucks to keep the spotlight off themselves. LaPierre is not an association executive. He’s a hired gun. In my book, he’s a hired killer. Run afoul of him and your career goes to Boot Hill.

We’re hearing victim voices telling us things are “different” this time. They’re saying they “won’t go away.” They say they’re “going to keep at it.” I wish them well. Very, very well.

But the political reality is there’s no evidence that what needs changing – and the politicians that need changing – are being changed. The political blackmail numbers the NRA needs to keep us from feeling safer may not be as great as they were some years back. But they’re high enough that effective – really meaningful – gun safety laws won’t be part of our immediate national future.

As long as we use a 1776 document – written in the days of single-shot muzzle loaders that took nearly two-minutes to reload – to prohibit civilian sales of 150-bullet-per-minute assault weapons, the NRA will hold us their national prisoner. That the NRA has such power is a disgraceful, murderous, national tragedy. That LaPierre can represent such power to make the ridiculous claims he does every time he opens his mouth is reason for national shame.

Ain’t gonna happen

Author: Barrett Rainey

When asked if there’s a likelihood Republicans can take the White House in 2016 – or even 2020 – I have two answers. “No” and “I hope not.” Most often, that starts a verbal tennis match – sometimes resulting in my parentage being questioned.

I’ve voted for a lot of Republicans over the years and have absolutely no animosity toward the brand. None. Historically, many fine folk among the elephants – many who’ve served the nation well. But today’s GOP variety pack is less political “health food” and far too many salty “nuts.” Until the recipe is re-mixed to provide a more balanced philosophical diet, they’d be unhealthful and should be avoided in the nation’s – and our – best interests.

The evidence of unfitness to serve is everywhere. But let’s just focus on these stories of Republican political activities in just one 24-hour national news cycle. For the record keepers reading, that would be April 30 – May 1, 2013. You can fact-check anything herein.

Huffington Post Headline: “GOP Census Bill Would Eliminate America’s Economic Indicators.” They’ve introduced a bill to bar the U.S. Census Bureau from conducting nearly all surveys except the decennial population count. That would end government’s ability to provide reliable estimates of employment (or unemployment) and nearly every other Census Bureau tabulation at every level of government, most national businesses, statistical professionals, immigration, economy, academics.. It’d cripple health care, manufacturing, education, law enforcement and nearly everything else..

Washington Post Headline: “Lamar Smith: Science Peer Review Process Would Improve Political Oversight.” The GOP Chairman of the House Science Committee introduced a bill to require political oversight of ALL scientific work done by the National Science Foundation. Every conclusion of every scientific study by the Foundation would have to be reviewed AND APPROVED by politicians before being published. Legitimate scientists would be barred from contradicting any outcome of the political oversight.

Salon.Com Headline: “Republicans Embrace Conspiracy That DHS Is Buying Up Ammo.” Sen. Inhofe and Rep. Lucas introduced bills to stop Department of Homeland Security from “buying up the nation’s supply of ammunition as a way to take over the market and institute gun control.” They have Republican co-signers. Only Republican co-signers.

Huffington Post Headline: “Arizona Silver & Gold Bill Passes State Senate.” Claiming a “lack of confidence in the international monetary system,” the Arizona Senate approved a House-passed measure to make gold and silver legal currency in the state. It should be noted Idaho and Utah Republicans have tried this for many a year. It never goes anywhere but they keep trying. But in Arizona, it got very close to being law. Should the GOP ever be in a national position to pull this off, the resulting calamity around the world can’t be overstated.

Huffington Post Headline: “Pat Toomey: Background Checks Died Because GOP Didn’t Want To Help Obama.”
Sen. Toomey (R-PA) tells the world fellow Republicans told him they voted against background checks to weed out unfit purchasers of guns because they “didn’t want to be seen helping the President.” When faced with a simple, greatly watered-down bill to take one small step to help assure national safety – and possibly avoid more mass executions by madmen – nearly all Republicans and four Democrats just couldn’t put national priorities above their own self-interest.

Los Angeles Times Headline: Tea Party Group Hopes To Draft Sarah Palin To Run For U.S. Senate. She’s looking at it. ‘Nuff said.

National Review Headline: “Ted Cruze 2016? Freshman Senator Eyeing Presidential Run.” The most nationally divisive Republican Senator since Joe McCarthy looking at the White House in his first year? That’s “first year” not “first term.”

This is just one day’s news cycle – 24-hours of headline-making Republicanism. Add to that previous headlines: more than 300 bills in Congress and GOP-controlled legislatures to restrict or end abortion; 122 bills to limit voter access; dozens of bills to break up unions – especially public employee unions of teachers, police and firefighters; Republican bills to allow states to take control of federal lands; bills in three states to allow discrimination by race/gender now banned at the federal level; GOP bills in Congress and four states to make Christianity the national religion; five GOP states trying to require drug testing for welfare recipients and the unemployed; and on and on and on. All by Republicans already elected!

And now, House Majority Leader Cantor says there will be a 37th vote to kill Obamacare. That follows 36 losses on 36 previous tries.

A two-party government runs most effectively when both parties are healthy, positive and directed toward goals of unity and progress. “Healthy,” “positive,” “unity” and “progress” are not words any thinking political observer can apply to today’s Republican Party.

There’ll be no unity in the GOP in the near future. Maybe not for a decade or more. No sudden re-invention of healthy, positive Republicanism because the warring factions can’t agree on what – or who – that may be. There’ll be splits – re-splits – re-re-splits in philosophy, direction and candidates. Primaries and conventions will be bloody and divided. Saner heads seeking unity and direction of Party purpose will either be forced out or the divisive voices now in control will exit – stage right – to form one, two, three or more “Republican purity” parties. GOP subdividing would (or will) guarantee decades of minority-of-a-minority status.

As long as these types of stories represent daily activities of Republicans already elected to some office somewhere, my answers to the question “Will Republicans soon have a national majority” will continue to be “No” and “Hell No!”