Archive for May, 2014

Here they come again! This time it’s California. Again. But, over the horizon, we could be talking about several counties in Oregon. Again.

The secessionist birds are flying once more in California’s Tehama and Del Norte Counties where they’ll be voting Tuesday – officially, of course – to have county commissioners – they’re called “supervisors” South of our border – push harder to pry certain counties loose to create the State of Jefferson. Butte County folks will deal with the same issue on the 12th. Glenn, Modoc, Siskyou and Yuba have already voted to go – stage right. Far right. And out.

Given how long malcontents in Oregon’s Josephine, Jackson, Douglas and Curry counties have been trying to bring the issue of secession to a vote, this new effort may “juice” them up to try yet again. Wouldn’t be surprised.

At the root of these useless expenditures of time and money is, of course, frustration. Some of it real. Some not so much. A guy named Aaron Funk in Del Norte, makes the “frustration case” for leaving California.

“We have 11 counties up here that share one state senator while Los Angeles has 20 and San Francisco 10 more,” he says. “Essentially, we have no representation whatsoever.”

There is some tiny, frustrated logic to that. Except for laws requiring equal representation based on nose-counting. One basic point adding to Mr. Funks angst is the real isolation of Northern California from the rest of the folks. The seven counties that have voted to leave – and the others who likely will next week – have a combined geographic area twice the size of New Hampshire but only about 467,000 souls residing. Mt. Shasta and all the redwoods are there along with some of the state’s poorest citizens. Racially, the population is nearly all white.

But Washington and Oregon residents living east of the Cascades could make almost the same case for almost the same reasons. Far from the seats of power, less political representation, lower economic scales and heavily white. So far, they haven’t. Officially.

Siskyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong already wants to pull out. She’s one of the Tea Party secessionists and says there are “too many nanny laws” coming out of Sacramento.

So how would the secessionists handle the financing of a separate state given that all states are required to take care of citizens therein? Well, depends on who’s doing the talking. Most often cited example of how things would be better is pretty plain. And plainly not possible in the real world. Just get rid of the feds, dissolve all those pesky state agencies that keep messing up their lives and build a government made up of only what’s necessary. But – when it comes to defining “necessary” there isn’t much commonality.

Other voices in the separatist forests go on at length how there are so many minerals and forests and agricultural lands that financing a whole new state government would be a piece of cake. Sell a bunch of it. Rent out a bunch of it. Sounds good unless you remember most of those assets are federally owned and would almost certainly remain so – new state or not. Ask other Western states about that immutable fact..

Other voices wanting to split up California have a different bone to pick. The state, they say, has become so large, so populated, so ethnically and economically diverse it’s not possible to effectively govern it all. So, you hear schemes of dividing all that real estate – and all those people – into three to six new states. But – if you just took those 13 counties that want to be in the new State of Jefferson, the state legislative analysis office puts them right on the economic bottom. Again.

Some thinking folks in those counties are damned scared. Specially educators. They don’t see any of this helping out their school systems. In fact, they fear the loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars that currently underwrite their districts. In Del North County alone you’re talking about 32 million state dollars which is 90% of annual operations costs. Where would that – or any meaningful percentage – come from if the California Department of Education dropped out of the picture? Or the hated “feds?”

Lots of more responsible folks want all this whole secessionist B.S. to go away. They see worse economic conditions and higher unemployment in counties where there are already too many jobless. They see less law enforcement in counties where cuts in the number of sworn officers and prosecutor’s staffs have already left law-abiding citizens vulnerable. They see infrastructure of roads, sewer and water districts and transportation issues deteriorating even further.

Voting takes place Tuesday and a week from Tuesday. Street gossip says all – or nearly all – counties will vote “yes.” Then what?

Shut the hell up

Author: admin

Primary election season is over. For now. Control of your television viewing has been returned to you. For now. Campaign signs blooming like unwanted weeds along all your routes of travel have been removed. For now. Other, more newsworthy events are being reported. For now.

So – looking back at the onslaught on our senses for all these months – what has been wrought for all the millions of dollars spent? With rare exception – not much. Not much at all. Do we feel pride for what we’ve just been through in exercising our democratic rights at the polls? Not much. Not much at all.

Given the obscene amounts of money spent, all the noise-making, all the charges and countercharges made, all the lies told about opposing candidates, all the time consumed making frivolous charges while allowing important issues to go without comment – what have we gained? All together now – “not much.”

Matter of fact, damned few of us cared enough to vote. In Washington State, where you still have to go to a polling place, only about one-in-three registered voters made the trip. In Idaho, about one-in-five. Even in Oregon – where you’re sent a ballot, given two weeks to think about your choices and return the form for free – less than half did so.

Pundits are now pawing through the crumpled ballots looking for trends – trying to find clues to what we’ll face at November’s general election – digging in the various Secretary of State’s computer files for statistical evidence of messages the minority of the electorate may have been sending. They won’t find much.

Since so many stayed away from the polls, there’s little meaningful “treasure” in the remnants of primary day. Except maybe this. Those of us who cared enough to show up seemed to be saying “Let’s just stay where we are – let’s not make any serious moves left or right.” Like all of us, I backed some winners and I some losers. That’s just politics. That’s just politics the way it’s supposed to be. Win some. Lose some.

There were a few messages sent. Idaho’s governor took a kick in the shins from many in his former constituency while hanging on to his office key. At least for now. An Idaho legislative candidate who wasn’t running said he wouldn’t serve if elected. He was. He likely will. Oregon Republicans opted to support a senatorial candidate who appears to have serious emotional and relationship issues. Several Northwest legislators found abrupt ends to long careers with voters finally saying “Enough already.”

Yes, there are some interesting stories to be had if reporters want to spend the time digging around. But with far less than half the voters showing up to have their say, will there be enough readers or watchers who give a damn to make their efforts rewarding?

But – for the few that still care – here’s the story to me. Our country’s in a helluva mess right now. Major problems on dozens of national and state issues. Millions of Americans being hurt – forgotten – homeless – sliding into debt for through no fault of their own. Our societal cloth is being torn in two with the rich getting richer and the rest of us losing ground every day. Our political system is fractured. We have a wholly ineffective congress successfully ignoring majority constituencies while ring-kissing the almighty dollar – read “campaign contribution.” Veterans promised support by a nation that needed them are now lost in bureaucratic wastelands seemingly inhabited by more numbers-cruncher gatekeepers than caring medical professionals. Serious infrastructure needs are being ignored in favor of meaningless political witch hunts wasting precious resources.

In the face of all that – and more – not one-in-two voters cared enough to vote in Oregon and Washington. In Idaho, just one-in-five! This isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s not “right” or “left.” It’s not philosophical or geographical or any other division. It’s a moral issue.

In a functioning democracy, the majority sets the course. So, when four out of five refuse to participate, what happens to that majority system we’ve chosen to operate under? What happens to that “functioning” part of the description?

Our political system is cancer-ridden with obscene amounts of money being used to subvert its normal operation. We’ve allowed government-haters to be elected, then fight to stay at the trough. Through inattention and/or refusal to participate, we’re suffering fools who shouldn’t be dogcatchers much less members of our national congress and too many state and local offices.

To those who’ve shown no willingness to accept responsibility for even the most basic right of citizenship – you’ve earned the contempt of those of us who have. Next time you’ve got something to bitch about, here’s some advice.

Shut the Hell up!

A loss of confidence

Author: admin

For decades, the far right has warned the rest of us that government – from local to federal and back again- was “not our friend” and, in fact, was something to be suspicious of – if not downright feared. Now that so much of our government is in the hands of creatures of the far right, I’m forced to agree. Government – and many of its institutions – can no longer be counted on to be there for us when we need it and, in fact, much of it has become something to be feared.

Additionally, too many of us WASP’s have tut-tutted as rights of non-WASP’s have been blown this way and that in the political winds. “Too bad,” we’d say quietly. “Someone ought to do something. But that’s not my problem.”

Well, Virginia, it’s become our problem. In spades!

From legislature to congress, hardly an American alive today has not been legislated against in recent months. Pick a subject: taxes, voting rights, medical care, immigration, adequate education funding, curbing violence, personal safety, a hideous expansion of gun “rights,” rejection of highly credentialed people to judgeships, eliminating access to vital health care for millions of women, hampering reproductive rights, rejection of access to necessary medical care and other promised benefits for returning military personnel, union busting, denigration of police, fire, teachers and other government workers, illegal declarations of “wars-of-choice,” slashing food stamps and other necessary social safety programs, unwillingness to pursue criminal charges for those financial types who nearly bankrupted the country. There are more. Add your own.

Fact is, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in what used to be the American middle class – which has historically been our national pride and joy – who hasn’t been adversely affected by some level of government. Or more than one! If you feel differently – if you feel untouched in those areas – if you think you’re unaffected by denial of rights of citizenship or have not had any of your liberties infringed – you’re either in the one-percent or living in a dream world. Or wrong!

Consider a personal experience. My father was an Oregon Republican of the first order. Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Dole. Dirksen and others in the pantheon of prominent GOP politicians of the ‘40’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s were men he respected, whose careers he followed and for whom he voted. Repeatedly. Small town Oregon, rock-ribbed, God fearing Republican guy, my father. Over many years, we discussed politics. Often. Those men and those values formed the foundation of his love of country and his respect for those who led it.

Then Richard Nixon.

I’d been away for some years – several in Washington D.C. in broadcast journalism. While we regularly kept in touch, Dad and I hadn’t our face-to-face, political fireside chats on the patio in Bend recently. Nixon was forced out of the presidency about that time. Shortly after, I came home on vacation, looking forward to more political bantering with him.

It was not to be. My father would talk about nearly any subject. But not politics. What I found was someone who had suffered a loss of faith – a loss of trust – in the institutions of the presidency, the White House and many in Congress. A man in his 70’s who had been raised on the fundamental values of America – a belief in the highest levels of the institutions of his government – the certainty of most Americans at that time in the reliance that those in charge would do the right things. Trust in their institutions. Small town, rock-ribbed Republicanism.

Given how most of us feel about government today, that all may seem pretty silly and very, very naive. But my father’s views of things in the ‘70’s – no matter how we view them now – represented the prevailing attitude of most older Americans at that time. Mine, too. But people his age were raised to believe in the permanence, the honesty and rightful conduct of this nation’s affairs. Those were their rocks of citizenship, if you will. Those were foundation stones of their America.

I tell you of my father’s loss of respect for many things political because I, too, am now experiencing some of the same disappointment and shame he felt in a number of previously trusted institutions.. Not that I’ve been naive or haven’t been exposed first-hand to a lot worse in our nation’s political history.

But I never thought I’d live under a government trying to keep Americans from voting. I never thought of a concentrated national effort to block millions of American women from the absolutely essential health care they’re entitled to. I never believed a state legislature – in this case Idaho – would reject overwhelming public opposition to allow concealed guns on campuses of colleges adamantly opposed to any such NRA ring-kissing. I never expected private wealth would replace unfettered democracy in the conduct of government. I never believed those who’ve loudly proclaimed their fanatical desire for more limited government would make such a nationwide spectacle to put a representative of that government in the medical exam room between a woman and her physician. I never expected elected representatives would become the most prominent destroyers of our economy by favoring the rich while making scapegoats and second-class citizens of teachers, firefighters, cops and other public professionals.

And more. And more. And more.

As this nation’s various political bodies and institutions conduct an unrelenting campaign to further divide us into the have’s and have nots, I find myself more disgusted with elective representation than supportive of it. Good people – very good people – are walking away from legislative and congressional service because of frustrations with others who’re simply there to stall, confuse and wreck the system. The good people remaining seem helpless to regain control. Responsible voices have kept quiet while the wreckers and destroyers have badly damaged national and many state political institutions.

Are they naive, too? Or, like many people I know, have they lost faith in what public service once was? Have they, too, suffered a crisis of confidence in our American systems of governance?

If you think all of us – really ALL of us – haven’t been touched or directly affected by the shameful business now going on in too many of our statehouses and Congress, you’re wrong. We have. In spades!

Racism fix is personal

Author: admin

The recent massive coverage of occurrences of racism in the news may have been justified, for the most part, by several well-documented events. Racism, after all, has been adjudged by our society to be a bad thing – something shameful and disgusting. Something to be eradicated wherever and whenever it appears. The problem is – racism will only disappear in a perfect world. And this ain’t it.

As long as one person’s skin color is different from another’s – as long as one person’s heritage is different from another’s – as long as languages and backgrounds and ancestries can be judged different one from the other, there will always be a degree of racism. A sense – spoken or not – that we’re not all the same. An ever-present mental classification system noting difference.

To me, the issue is really more how we individually handle those differences. How we learn – how we adjust – how we accept. And how we reduce them to values less important than how we think of them today. Eradicate? Not likely. Understanding and acceptance? More likely.

I find many similarities to the issue of gay marriage and our recent national “get-over-it” attitude. In just a few short years, it’s become – on the one hand – more widely accepted – and on the other – less of a societal division. We entertained a lesbian couple at dinner in our home a few nights ago. The subject never came up. We never gave it a thought. And we have two new friends. May not have happened a few years back. But with understanding and acceptance – and a first-hand experience to challenge us – it’s not a dividing or defining issue around here.

As a culture, we may never abolish racism or language or individual actions that bring color and other racial differences to mind. But – like gay marriage – the issue may just become less a conscious one and less divisive as we come face-to-face with it more often as individuals. What we seem unable to do as a society, we may be more successful at individually.

Should the Bundys and the Sterlings of the world not suffer personal vilification and disgust for racist speech and thought? No. They deserve our outrage and our condemnation. But neither man will be changed by the experience. Both have long-standing histories. Shameful histories. Racism will always be alive and accepted in their lives. Unless – like Saul on the road to Damascus – they experience some sort of heavenly conversion, they’ll live out their lives unchanged. They’ll continue their racist ways.

The best we can hope for is that others – witnessing these two men embarrass themselves and become targets of condemnation – will learn from their tragic examples. That others who harbor such thoughts will have their own moments of personal – if not public – recognition that racial division is wrong. That others will be intimately involved in personal situations in which they come face-to-face with their own prejudices and learn such differences are inconsequential. One-on-one.

Abolish racism? Not likely. Personally experience, understand and accept? More likely. Become less divisive? Could be. And, in the end, that can change a nation. Or a world.