Archive for June, 2013

Living with contradiction

Author: Barrett Rainey

Here’s the truth of it. Hard and quick.

The Census Bureau has determined Oregon is the third fastest growing state in the nation. Third! But, here in the southwest part of the Oregon woods, the Oregon Department of Employment says half of all residents – 16 years and older – are unemployed and not looking for work. In two neighboring counties, it’s even worse.

How about that for a total contradiction in one state?

The growth is coming from manufacturing – especially in the computer and electronics world. Intel, for example, has six campuses west of Portland and employs about 17,000 people there – Oregon’s largest employer. The largest contributor on the downside – all that unemployment and staying that way – is a whole other industry – trees. Not cutting as many. Not milling as many. Not shipping as much lumber. It’s been that way for several years.

But the contradictions continue. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney carried our whole neighborhood by a large margin. Not unusual, speaking politically. You could carve an “R” on a Douglas fir around here, run it for the Oregon Legislature and it might even wind up in leadership. Our backyard is that Republican.

“The contradiction,” you ask?

By any social or economic measure, this part of Oregon is firmly in that “47%” of people Romney said were reliant on government and “would never vote for a Republican anyway.” But here, they do. In very large numbers. Out-of-work, government-dependent Republican voters. Douglas, Curry and Josephine Counties just don’t recognize a second political party on the ballot.

Now, let’s look at that 50%+ of people over the age of 16 around here not working and not looking. You can subtract the disabled who can’t and seniors at an age they can’t or don’t want to work anymore and aren’t looking. Suppose all those folks totaled half of the 50%. That still leaves thousands who’re unemployed and not looking to go back into the labor force. Their income is lower and they’re likely to be on one or more government programs or retirement savings. Or nothing. We’ve got a lot of ‘em.

Still, Romney proclaimed those folks were a lost cause at the polls for him and the Republican Party. And the Party pro’s seem to accept his faulty premise. Seems they think if you ain’t working, you’re a Democrat. But around here, these folks turn out for the GOP. And they did for Romney.

Some months ago, we were told of a $12-million turn-around project to be undertaken by the National Republican Party. New technology. New staff. New message. “Kinder-gentler-softer.” “More welcoming.” “More inclusive.” So far, pure B.S.

While continuing their overwrought anti-abortion excesses at all levels and working harder to exclude minority voters, the GOP has changed absolutely nothing. At the moment, the right and far-right in Congress are fighting each other and the Republican Party seems Hellbent on going down the tubes on immigration reform, too. Pick a subject that was supposed to be a target of “change” and you’ll find nothing has. Changed. In fact, on abortion, curtailing voter rights and immigration reform, the Party has – or is about to – doubled-down on what’s cost ‘em recent elections while narrowing the party base.

Congress has become a zoo – failing us on virtually every issue. What significant economic progress achieved recently has come from a private sector laboring against an intransigent government more often creating roadblocks than making the job easier. We’ve become a nation attempting to right itself economically in the face of elected federal opposition.

Think Oregon for a moment. In the most economically active, thriving and prosperous region of the State that’s made us third fastest-growing in the nation, Democrats are winning elections from city hall to Congress. While here in the most Republican-dominated part unemployment is the highest in the state, food banks are trying hard to keep up with the accelerated demand, and the homeless are everywhere. But they’re voting for the elephants. Romney was wrong about that, too.

Oregon and a few other states have become microcosms of this situation. We’re capturing technology and what’s next while also contending with failures caused – in large part – by clinging to the way things were. One of the ironies in our backyard is that many of the timber companies have used this economic downtime to wire up new technology and learn how to do more with fewer employees. The old days ain’t coming back. But – as 50% out-of-work-and-not-looking shows – thousands of people here don’t believe that.

So, let’s take stock of what we have: a neutered, ineffective congress – a National Republican Party doomed to compound a self-inflicted, losing history at the polls – a technologically-involved private sector doing its best to grow despite political indifference and governmental failure – a significant portion of people who’ve given up or just don’t care anymore, seemingly written off by their own political party leaders – a rapidly shifting demographic to a new minority-majority nation within a few years.

We not only live in interesting times. We live with the contradictions of those times as well.

Back to square one

Author: Barrett Rainey

While the U.S. Supreme Court gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) can probably be strictly legally supported, minorities in this country have even more to fear. The decision – questionable or not – throws their future access to the polls into the hands of the most do-nothing, divided, regressive and inoperable congress in recent history. And that ain’t good.

The challenge to the VRA was based primarily on Section 5 – that portion requiring certain states and other government entities holding elections to get U.S. Justice Department approval of their election rules if they appeared on a list of locales where previous election discrimination had been proven. In the 1960’s. The plaintiff’s argument was basically “We’ve changed and what we intentionally did wrong before we don’t do now so we shouldn’t be forced to comply with decisions based on 50-year-old data.”

While the Justices bought that claim 5-4 – apparently believing previous discriminatory practices had likely ended – the question is: have they? Some new serious statistical evidence suggests – they haven’t.

In May, law professors Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer (University of California Cal-Davis and University of Connecticut) published a study arguing “the list of states required to obtain federal approval under VRA ‘remarkably mirrors the geography of anti-black prejudice’ in the United States today.”

“What we generated,” Elmendorf said, “is an answer to the question (whether racial voting conditions in specific states had really changed) asked by the chief justice during oral arguments. Defendant was unable to answer.”

Using a 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey, the professors asked non-blacks to rank their own racial group against blacks regarding intelligence, trustworthiness and work ethic. Respondents ranked their racial group above blacks by an average of 15 points in each category.

The results were striking. Their mathematical model suggests, of the states with the highest percentage of people biased against blacks, six are Southern: Lousiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. All have been previously required to seek fed approval for election law changes under the VRA based on past bad practices. But no longer.

Two other states – Arizona and Alaska – also were required to get government approval of voting changes. But Elmendorf and Spencer note, while those two ranked much lower in black bias, their data indicates Arizona’s bias is against Hispanics and Alaska’s is anti-Native American.

Certainly some racial bias likely exists in all states. But – no matter how the researchers crunched the numbers in this example – “the Deep South states went right to the top,” according to Elmendorf.

So, let’s take stock. SCOTUS says things have changed racially. The above-cited survey – and others – show the same old bias’s still exist. Which leaves the whole thing up to 435 people who can’t agree on what time it is or whose watch to use. If that’s not bad enough, states-after-Republican-controlled-states are doing their damndest to stop minorities from registering and voting. At a time in our political history when we need some stability, SCOTUS has tipped the scales to even more problems.

Minorities have a right to worry about being disenfranchised. Responsible Americans in the majority should be equally concerned. Speaker Boehner has proven he can’t even pass gas let alone serious legislation. It’s quite likely his farm bill debacle will be followed by a similar disaster dealing with any immigration bill that passes the upper house. And, failing some prompt corrective action on voting rights in Congress, the offending states will continue to be hellbent on cutting access to the vote. That’s not just speculation. It’s been happening for several elections. Even in some of the states on the now-defunct list of violators.

We’ve got a long string of domino s here. The right of full, free access to the voting booth needs the support of the court. But to get effective court backup, justices need to be presented with a new law that meets constitutional standards. But such a law must come out of a congress that is gridlocked and hopelessly ineffective. Without such a law, states that have proven they will deny voting access to non-whites have free range to construct all sorts of barriers. Barriers that would have to be broken by – wait for it – the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minority access to the vote is as much in danger today as it was in 1965. What the Hell just happened?

I smell something burning

Author: Barrett Rainey

The absolutely most hated thing in the “Republican Book of Hates” is when someone up the political food chain tries to give orders to someone further down the chain – tries to tell ‘em how to live – what to do – what not to do – what to pay for. When any of those happen, it sets Republican hair on fire!

So saying, consider one of the dumbest moves the Idaho Republican Party could make when such philosophy is threatened – by Idaho Republicans.

The State Central Committee has decided the Goofy Old Party must step in to save local governments from themselves. Those down the ladder. To wit – no city or county in Idaho should be able to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect all its citizens. And – should that sentiment be ignored – the legislature should make sure those passed are unenforceable.

Am I alone in seeing a “do-what-I-say-not-as-I-do” situation here? Shouldn’t there be a smell of burning hair in the air?

Two immutable facts. First, all citizens – ALL citizens everywhere – deserve equal protection of our laws. Protection assured and provided in the most even-handed of ways. Just Basic Citizenship Guarantees #101.

Second, to all intents, Idaho is a one-political-party state. GOP. Total control of all state offices and overwhelming numbers in the legislature. Further, nearly all legislative leaders (the tails) come from small communities and they’ve wagged their big city cousins (the dogs) for a long, long time.

Over the past year, half a dozen Idaho cities put anti-discrimination ordinances on the books. A couple more are considering it. In fact, a quarter of the state’s population already lives under such rules.

Now to be fair, the closed-minded Republican cretin types that make up the State Central Committee aren’t saying there should be NO protections. No, Sir! They just don’t want to offer equal protections for different “sexual orientations.” Just that one group of citizens. Just “them.”

One of the excuses – pardon me – “reasons” for this GOP attempt to exempt some of us from the protections assured for all of us is that such local ordinances could interfere with the “free exercise of religion.”

Say what?

I suppose the continuing national Republican onslaught to keep minorities from voting in state after state is somehow tied to interfering with someone’s “free exercise of religion.” Or maybe cutting food stamps – defunding Planned Parenthood – erecting every conceivable roadblock to abortions and gutting gun laws at every turn slops over into this “free exercise of religion” B.S.

While Idaho is the “pig-on-the-verbal-barbeque” here, the small-minded efforts of that state’s controlling party are just one more affront to this nation’s democracies and guarantees of full rights of citizenship. A minority of scared – mostly white people – is striking out at our institutions of government and privileges of citizenship with increasing fervor. Despite promises to be more “inclusive” the daily Republican proof is just the opposite. If it ain’t white, a selected shade of Protestant and preferably Anglo Saxon to the core, it’s gotta be killed before it can multiply. And “infringe on our religious exercise.”

If the patently discriminatory State Republican Central Committee demand of the Idaho Legislature seems quaint or weird to you, that’s only because you haven’t been following the actions of that bunch for long. The Idaho GOP has cost all taxpayers within the state’s wandering borders millions of tax dollars over many years in continual losing court battles – trying to do things single-mindedly unconstitutional or illegal. Many of the warped laws created in that body have caused establishment of – and funding for – the “Idaho Attorney Perpetual Employment and Retirement Fund.”

The only bright spot for an Idaho taxpayer is several other states have previously passed bills authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which are already being thrown out by various courts. If the Idaho Legislature moves just a bit slower – and can refrain from signing up as co-sponsor on some of this ALEC trash or that of its own central committee – enough money may be saved to better fund the state’s education system and get it out of 49th place. Just ahead of Utah. Where Republicans ….. well, you know.

There were many other backward-looking and strange items up for action on the Idaho GOP Central Committee’s agenda. Requesting a law allowing discrimination based only on sexual orientation was just one. But I gotta go. Something’s burning.

We’re doing it again

Author: Barrett Rainey

I was a kid during WWII but old enough to be aware of the national condition (1941-1945) at our house. It was wartime with rationing – air raid drills at home and school – primitive recycling – black shades on all the windows. And racism. And hate. You didn’t need to be an adult to recognize it. Now, more than seven decades later, it’s happening again.

In the early ‘40’s, it was “Nazi’s” and “Japs.” When kids played “war,” someone had to be one of “them.” Others got to play “good guys” – the Americans. It wasn’t racist to us then. We were children just acting out what we’d heard parents and other adults saying. We were giving life to what we saw in our comic books and movies. We had posters in our grade schools warning us about “strangers” – about people who looked “different.” About “them.” Little kids can learn very quickly.

But we also learned fear at times. Even today – all these years later – the fear I felt watching my Japanese-American friends being hauled out of Mrs’ Kirk’s first-grade class by large men with guns in 1942. It’s still with me. So are their screams as they disappeared forever down hallways of East Wenatchee Grade School. To internment camps. To prisons. To our everlasting national disgrace.

An adult now, I don’t believe in racism in any form. But, during two simultaneous wars affecting everything in our daily lives, we accepted depictions of it then because it drew a clear, easy-to-understand line between what was “right” and what was “wrong.” We, of course, were right. They, of course, were wrong and deserved national condemnation. But – even to a kid of six – those screams erased some of that national pride we were supposed to feel. Even then, it somehow didn’t fit with us being the “good guys.”

Now, we’re doing it again.

Since 9-11, we’ve experienced a growing anti-Muslim movement based largely on ignorance. We see it in anonymous hate-emails and hear it on hate talk shows. Muslims are the butt of nightclub “humor.” A dozen years later, many TV shows – top rated “NCIS,” the other night for one – and movies are about swarthy people “tied” to various Muslim terrorist organizations. Often, you don’t hear the word “:Muslim” but the villain has a Mideast-sounding name or appearance. Some made-up organization sounding terrorist-like is attached to a murder or a bombing or some other destructive act. So, of course, it’s them bad ol’ “Muslims.”

I got a hate-email the other day intimating our President was a (gasp/choke) “Muslim!” He was photographed “trying to hide” a book in his hand – “The Post American World” – written by a (gasp/choke) “Muslim.” Just two sentences there. But (1) the President is NOT a Muslim – (2) he had chosen to read the book on a flight and was not trying to hide it in any way and (3) the book was written by the highly regarded Fareed Zacharia, a Hindu. Not a Muslim. EDITOR’S NOTE: Damned good book.

The anonymous email originator set out to put Muslims in the worst possible light and tie the President to these “unsavory” people by lying about both him and Zacharia. Send it to 10 people – they send it to 100 – they send it to 1,000 – then 10,000 and, within hours, this piece of racist B.S. is around the world.

In the late ‘30’s and early ‘40’s, Oriental actors made big money in Hollywood playing murderous Japanese soldiers and pilots. A Japanese comic named Richard Loo – born in Seattle – made a lot of money adopting a funny, Japanese accent. (“Die, Yankee Dog!”) Many had never been out of the United States but they looked the part so they were in casting demand. Now, it’s Muslims. Or anyone dark-skinned who can pull of an accent that sounds Muslim-ish. Even if they were born in New Jersey.

Today’s comic books and video games are full of villainous characters who look and sound Mideastern, are given foreign-sounding names or are actually labeled “Muslims.” Like my generation 70 years ago, our kids are being fed negative stereotypes to create negative impressions. “Bad guys” and “good guys.”

We’re doing it again. It’s as wrong in 2013 and it was wrong in 1942. Except now – much more than then – we’re inundated with mass communications assaulting us with this racist effluent. We have people paid to stoke racist fires – scorn those who look or talk differently – heap suspicion and hate on the innocent – influence already narrow minds to be even more afraid.

Our nation is fearful and angry. Our financial institutions have ridden roughshod over us. Our government is unresponsive. Politicians have turned their back on what we’ve told them we want done. Too many of them – and too many of wealth with private agendas – are disconnected from the citizenry and acting in self-interest and greed. Security has been replaced with insecurity. Familiarity replaced with unfamiliar social and convoluted economic conditions. Societal civility has been replaced with societal incivility. Peace and calm in our neighborhoods have been too often replaced with gunfire and terrorism.

At a time when we need more understanding – more civility – more patience – an increased ability to adjust to swift changes all around us – especially in these times, we must not fall back into characterizing a religion or a group of people different from ourselves as we did all those years ago.

Have there been Muslim terrorists among us? Yes. Have they done damage in our country? Yes. A few. But, before condemning a way of life – a religion – here’s something to remember. The Sunday before he bombed the Murrah Office Building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, Tim McVey was in church. The Baptist Church where he grew up.

Damned Christians. Like most of us in America.

Friends, it ain’t “1984”

Author: Barrett Rainey

How’s about we rewrite the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

The most interesting story on my plate right now is public reaction to the disclosures that our government is “spying” on us. On the far right and far left, folks are coming unglued – bending what facts are known into either some massive conspiracy – or some massive conspiracy. Just what kind of “conspiracy” depends which reasoning-challenged theorist you’re talking to.

Of more rational interest, is the reaction of the majority in the middle of the political scale. Polling indicates most of us think government has little choice but to technologically look over our collective shoulders to find the bad guys – the really bad guys – out to brutalize this nation. That “middle majority” isn’t actually endorsing prying eyes in our communications but seems to understand that terrorism has to be rooted out and the terrorists use the same communicating technology we all do. Not endorsing but not condemning. For now.

Is the officially sanctioned snooping violating one or more of our rights of citizenship? Probably. Should we be upset about that? Probably. Angry enough to demand it stop. Doubtful.

In my book, this new facet of our technologically-driven lives shares a commonality with gun control and a couple other modern issues tied to our founding documents. We’re 237 years from the signing of the Constitution – living in a world the signatories never dreamed of. But, despite the overwhelming differences, we’re still trying to push, pull and stretch the two-century old dictums to cover today’s problems. You can’t get five pounds of old lard into a new two pound bucket. But we keep trying.

Take the gun issue. In 1776, we had one army that moved by putting one foot in front of the other – walking to where it was needed. Took about four to six weeks to walk the length of the 13 colonies. Local militias were needed to handle local problems until the army – which may have been two or three weeks away – could get on the scene. Now, a fleet of Apache helicopters can go from Maine to South Carolina in a few hours. Do concepts about militias conceived then still make sense?

Rifles then were muzzle loaders. Took about two minutes to fire, load and shoot again. Now an AK-47 shoots 150 rounds a minute. Are the rights to private ownership and use of the private firearm still valid 237 years and a few hundred million citizens later?

In 1776, dispatch riders delivered messages to our military in the field – sometimes taking several days. Now it’s point-to-point, computer-based, satellite-relayed and orders are delivered instantly. If you wanted to thwart military actions then, you killed the messenger. Now, you hack. Is military security still run the same way? Want to talk about drones?

Our lives – our world – have changed. Big time! While we still pride ourselves on maintaining the original freedoms and rights, we can’t do so forever with 200-year-old rules that don’t account for two centuries of technological, military, political and societal changes. In 1776, for example, America was about 90% Caucasian. About 20 years from today, Caucasians will make up less than 50% of the population.

So, what about it? Want to make some modifications to the Constitution? The Bill of Rights? I do. But it’s not likely we’ll do so very soon. While the methods of changing the Constitution are clearly laid out, the process is deeply flawed. And, given today’s polarized politics, a Constitutional Convention would be a disaster. Totally!

Most scholars agree such a gathering would be limited to a single issue. But there would be icebergs in Hell before you could keep the nut-cases from trying to load up on abortion, gun control, immigration, the gold standard, state sovereignty and a dozen other favorite targets. It would be “Katy-bar-the-door” and a battle royal.

So, back to government snooping. Most of us seem willing to cut ‘em some slack. For awhile. National security reasons for needing unfettered access to communication links are just too damned important to argue with. But, if we’re to tolerate – or even encourage – government reading our mail and listening to conversations for our safety, we need adequate and public assurances about how it’s done – by whom – and why. We need members of Congress more concerned with our welfare and protection that their own. Something we don’t have at the moment. We need clearly defined rules – rules available for all of us to read and understand. We need the right legal hammer to drop on those who abuse our approval.

And, oh, by the way – within a week after the operations of the National Security Agency were reported, sales of Orwell’s “1984″ on Amazon increased 6,000%!!! The fictional 1948 novel went from a ranking of 7,636 to 124 in 72 hours.

“1984″ it ain’t. But you see what I mean about problems for success with a one-topic, orderly Constitutional Convention? No way!

She’s just one of too many

Author: Barrett Rainey

Sorry to see Bachman go? No. I’m just sorry about 40 more of the same ignorant ilk aren’t going with her.

That feeling is likely shared by a lot of others who follow the machinations of our national political system. Others who remember “statesmen” like Dole, Baker, Humphries, Dirksen, Roberts, Byrd, Brooke, O’Neill, Nunn, Hatfield, Church, Jackson, Mansfield, Jackson, Kennedy (2), Fulbright, McClure and many more. Talented people who made the system work. Sudents of government as well as politics. Whatever party affiliations – whatever their places on the political spectrum left to right – they were good at what they did. They loved what they did. They were – above all – effective in what they did.

Take the words “good,” “loved” and “effective.” Do those adjectives work for Bachman? Gingrigh? Gohmert? King? Issa? Ryan? Brown (2)? Paul (2)? Rubio? Cruz? Flake? Imhoff? Several dozen more?

Those people – and far too many others – came to the national spotlight unwilling to serve their expected apprenticeship – to learn the fine art of the deal – to understand the “big picture” of government and their elected role in it. To grow beyond themselves.

Those named – and many more – suffer from the “Palin Syndrome.” They have all the symptoms – the most deadly of which is the “I-know-what-I-know-and-I-don’t-need-to-know-any-more” fever. Each achieved – as did the principle practitioner of that illness – a modicum of success by running for – and being elected to – public office. And there the learning process stopped. Those who are successful in affairs political will tell you “that’s where the learning begins.”

Clinton, Reagan, Kennedy, Bushes (2), Carter, Ford and many more who got to the Oval Office after lengthy successful political service agreed on one factual statement. Nothing – even years of national political experience – nothing can prepare you for the presidency. The same is true coming into your first months – years – in Congress. It ain’t the city council.

But Palin, Bachman et al got to the front door of their respective elected offices, sat down behind the desk and proceeded to talk and act as though all us other poor, frightened folk had just been waiting for their ascension to save us from the fires of bureaucratic Hell.

Bachman and her wingnut peers fit that description. In addition to the “I-know-all-I-need-to-know” fatal flaw, Bachman and a couple dozen fellow travelers have been serial liars. She’s been dishonest with her backers and many people around her who trusted her and looked up to her. She’s also the subject of two current government investigations into her campaign and business affairs. And ethics. If any.

In eight years, she has produced one useless piece of legislation. But she’s made millions fleecing the right wing with fact-less speeches, phony charges and outright lies. A showman she may be. Fit for public service she is not.

Palin, Bachman, Gingrich, Santorum and Ron Paul – among others – have used national public office as a stepping stone to riches. None of them distinguished themselves in public service – Gingrich forced out of office – Palin quitting halfway through her term – Santorum badly defeated at the polls at the end of his first term. But each has used celebrity – good or bad – to make millions off frightened people who hang on their every word. Books, videos, over-priced speeches. Anything for a buck.

Can you apply the words “good,” “loved” or “effective” to any of them?

We’re in our current economic mess for many reasons. But one large factor is because those folks – and others like them – helped put us there through ignorance and self-service. Can you say “sequester” as just one example? Debt ceiling failures for another? Now, though our national economy is gaining momentum, Bachmnan and the rest are impeding progress and have become roadblocks rather than boosters. Instead of using government as a tool to help improve life for millions of Americans, they blame government for all our troubles and – through the sequestration idiocy – are instead making that life miserable for millions.

Recent polling in her congressional district has shown an eroding electoral base as voters have gotten tired of her failed political antics. There are others who deserve similar rejection to remove them from participating on the national stage. Palin, Gingrich and the rest are seen less and less these days. Former supporters are looking for new idols. New false “gods.”

Because we seem to put up with these unfit publicity seekers longer than we should, there will be others. Trying to make a buck out of celebrity. Like Bachman, Palin and Gingrich, they’ll fail, too. You can bet on it.

It’s hard to fulfill the needs of others when you’re so full of yourself.

A word we can do without

Author: Barrett Rainey

Though you’ll find stout defenders of freedom of speech at our house, there’s a word appearing more often these days in our politics – nationally and locally – we’d actively work to abolish from any public political expressions in this country. It’s a despicable word. It’s a word with no place in thoughtful political dialogue. In nearly all cases, it’s a clear demonstration of the ignorance of those that use it. It has no place in any intelligent discussion of America’s politics.

The word is “Hitler.”

Used as a name, the word’s moat terrible meaning has been around our national culture since the 1920’s. Used as a political brickbat – a demeaning, disgusting weapon – the word was roundly resurrected in the early days of the tea party. It showed up in much of the literature – was repeatedly flung to crowds from microphones – and was on many, many placards, banners and signs announcing the arrival in the streets of the loony, far-right fringe of the Republican Party.

The other day, Sen. Grassley – an Iowan whose recent public rants have become more weird than usual – reached into the verbal dung pile to attach the word “Hitler” to American foreign policy. Grassley said this country “has no foreign policy” and the last time that happened was in “Sept. 1939, when Hitler started WWII in Poland.” There is so much wrong with that bogus claim Iowans of all political stripe should be embarrassed.

Here in our little burg-in-the-Oregon-woods, the word popped up recently
in a local column about an 84-year-old woman who sells guns out of the back room of her home. Lots of ‘em. She was referring to the latest nutty far right conspiracy tale that the Dept. Of Homeland Security is buying up all the ammunition as a means of gun control.

“We saw the same thing during Hitler’s regime and I’m old enough to remember it” was the quote. Pure crap. But she made it into the local almost-daily, almost-newspaper with it.

I’ve used this space before to dispel the oft-told lie about Hitler taking guns from Germans in the 1930’s. He made it tougher for Jews to have guns and required them to be registered, yes. But Hitler actually loosened gun laws and encouraged all “pure Germans” to arm themselves – a complete contravention of the Treaty of Versailles which required disarming of the German Republic following WWI.

But the lie persists. I ran across a Georgia gun dealer’s site on the old I-net the other day. Prominent picture of Adolph giving the salute behind and to the right of a picture of President Obama with a Hitler moustache and the warning “This one’s after your guns, too.”

Our nation is awash in controversy. Too much of it real. A great deal of it not. The unlimited access of anonymous nut cases to publish their crackpot lies on the unedited Internet with the same freedom as the New York Times or the Washington Post is feeding the nation a mixed bag of information and B.S.. It would be comforting if all of us would take the time to know the difference – learn from the one and ignore the other.

But fact is, we’ve become a nation of readership – and listenership – of too many folks who read or listen to only what supports what they already believe. Hundreds of surveys and national polls have shown we have less tolerance for what’s different from what we believe and that we seek out media and other people who share our preconceived views. Factual or not.

Now that might be fine for the church you belong to. Or the community you live in. Or your circle of friends. Whatever makes you socially or religiously comfortable. But, just as we need a balanced diet of food for good health, we all need a balanced diet of information for good mental health and good decision making. However, such well-rounded choices are becoming more rare, we’re told. And that’s not good.

For those who like to ignorantly throw the word “Hitler” around, there’s one Nazi quote that’s very accurate – even today. Information Minister Goebbels’ words are as true now as when he was cranking out all that Nazi propaganda.

Tell a lie big enough, often enough and it will become truth.”

Those that fling the word “Hitler” around in our politics are doing something like that. Trying to make a bad lie legitimate. It’s up to the rest of us to see they don’t.