Archive for September, 2015

Term limits testing

Author: admin

There are those who believe term limits for elective office will “fix” some of the problems we face with “career” politicians. While the idea is tempting for some reasons offered by supporters, I’m not convinced. In one Oregon county, we’re about to see if term limits are even legal.

Last year, Douglas county voters approved term limits for just their county. Now, one of the best and most effective commissioners in the state is running into the limit wall and taking the issue to court. While her case pertains to only one county in one state, it offers a look at how the issue could play out elsewhere. And where the courts are on the subject.

Susan Morgan has served two consecutive terms. Prior to that, she was in the Oregon legislature for several years. She’s experienced, effective, dedicated to public service and is as good at her job as they come. She is NOT the kind of public servant you want to lose in some “one-size-fits-all” attempt to rid the system of bad apples.

But, as she attempted to file her re-election papers with the County Clerk, she was rejected because of the Douglas County term limiting law. Viewed from the outside, it appears the clerk was simply doing what he was legally bound to do because of the 2014 referendum. So, Commissioner Morgan has filed what can be called a “friendly” action challenging the law.

In her filing, she says two independent legal opinions have concluded term limiting is “most likely unconstitutional because it imposes additional qualifications on the office of county commissioner (in addition to) the qualifications set out in the state constitution.” Further, “the ordinance limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”

But, even before Morgan got to the filing stage, Clerk Dana Jenkins had been seeking some legal advice to have on hand if/when the term limits issue came up.

The legal eagle contacted opined the limiting ordinance is more than likely “unconstitutional as it impermissibly imposes additional qualifications to the office of county commissioner.” As for implementation, “It is evident the text and context of the Measure are ambiguous. It clearly imposes a term limit of eight consecutive years (but) is not clear…to whom or when the term limits apply and how they apply. It uses undefined and inconsistent terms and addresses similar concepts multiple times but in different ways.”

Term limiting is another “simple answer to a complex problem.” There are several basic reasons to oppose it. One is the loss of “institutional memory” from those who’ve served for some years. That’s often important because it can keep newcomers/reformers from making the same mistakes of the past. (NOTE: The Idaho Legislature is a stark exception to that as evidenced by the continuing waste of tax dollars in repeated losing attempts to fight both state and federal law. And common sense.) Institutional memory is more often than not deemed a good thing in almost any other field – and any other state – and is certainly important in public service areas.

Throwing excellent, long-serving office holders out just for the arbitrary mathematic hell of it also means more power for lobbyists who’re often around for many years. The newly elected would have to rely on the “institutional memory” of professional “civilians” paid to influence lawmaking. Is that how you want the process to work?

That same transfer of power would go to long-serving – but unelected – civil servants who’re also around for decades in their careers. If one such “servant” wanted to thwart creation of a new law – or of some elected lawmaker – he/she could just wait around, outlasting the office holder trying to get something done.

There are many other reasons why the seemingly simple “solution” offered by term limits would not be in the nation’s – county’s – state’s best interests. As the Morgan suit moves through the legal system, I expect many such problems will be duly expressed.

I’ve known Republican Commissioner Morgan for a number of years and would put her in the ranks of the best elected officials I’ve ever met, regardless of office. In some ways, it’s too bad such an effective politician has to be the test case for a bad law. On the other hand, she’s respected all over Oregon because of her tireless work in the legislature and elsewhere. It could be her justifiably respected reputation will assure her legal action is expeditiously handled by the courts before she gets to the absolute filing deadline and Douglas County loses her talents. And experience.

I admire many professionals who support term limits. I just disagree. Besides, we’ve already got ‘em. It’s called the ballot. Use it. It works!

“Off your ass”

Author: Barrett Rainey

I know many people in many occupations – the vast majority of whom I admire. But, once in awhile, someone comes along who is so absolutely unsuited in a chosen career, you just have to just say “DAMN!” The continued under performance of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is the most worthy example of that epithet as anyone I know.

John Boehner is not just bad at his job. He’s set a new low bar for achieving badness. And crudeness And divisiveness. And spinelessness. And arrogance. And crassness. Actually, his bar is now flat on the floor.

Boehner’s televised “Democrats-ought-to-get-off-their-ass” outburst some weeks ago, betrays what little is left of 240+ years of decorum in the operations of our Congress. You can go back to the “You Lie!” shout from that idiot South Carolina Republican during the President’s “State of the Union” speech a couple years ago. That cretin was not punished or censured for his arrogance and obvious violation of House rules. After that, others of his ilk started spewing more vitriol and verbal garbage into the House record. Spend some time reading that daily log and you’ll find a lot of crap you’ve not heard before. For mental health reasons, I don’t recommend it.

Boehner’s words might be something you’d expect to hear as he talked to other Republicans in his suite of offices. Or the Ohio bar he grew up in. Probably worse. But not on national television and not in your living room.

If those words are meant to express some sort of personal disgust with who he sees as his “foes” in Washington, he ought to seek out those other members of what passes for Congressional leadership these days and say what he feels directly. Facing a scrum of reporters with microphones and cameras is the coward’s way of throwing around verbal abuse without having to look the abused in the eyes, then listen to someone his equal – or better – respond with a few well-chosen and pointed words of their own.

Boehner is no fool. You don’t amass a survival record such as his by being outwitted and outmaneuvered by your adversaries. But, since his caucus was first contaminated with the crazies from the old Tea Party crowd, he’s acted like one – more often that not playing their game rather than his own. If he once thought giving the governmentally-ignorant back-benchers a small voice in the direction of the House was going to appease them, he certainly knows by now appeasement is not part of their square worlds. Yet he’s still being operated like a hand puppet by that vocal minority of minorities.

Boehner’s words and attitude are just part of what’s wrong with too much of our politics these days. People in government with little to no understanding of how that government works or even fulfilling their own job descriptions. Civically illiterate. Just listen to ‘em talk. Painful as that is. Idaho’s Raul Labrador comes to mind for some reason.

Look at all the GOP rabbits running for president. Twisting, turning, denying past positions on issues, pandering, lying. None of them – not one – can utter a statement of personal belief without following up with a whimpering disclaimer if they think you disagree with ‘em. All of ‘em are trying to find some “safe spot” in the midst of the political winds so they can slip under the radar of real public questioning.

Democrats have little to brag about. The whole pack is standing around waiting for the Clinton coronation at convention. Biden, Sanders, Webb, O’Malley not going anywhere. Quick now. Come up with another realistic Democrat. Quick. The next tier for any sort of candidate is so far removed from consideration they’ll be lucky to even get credentials to the convention.

Really, is this the best this nation can do? Are the names out there – regardless of party – names of people you want in the Oval Office? Are they capable of negotiating with leaders of other nations? Are they thoughtful, strategic-thinking heavyweights? Do they have positions on issues important to you that are morally and intellectually honest? Is any one of them someone you’d go to for help or you’d want to confide in?

So far, I haven’t found one. And we damn-well need one. Now!

From that unpunished cretin who hollared “You lie” with no consequences to the “Democrats-ought-to-get-off-their-ass” crassness of Boehner, we’re witnessing the kinds of small-minded politicians who are feverishly dividing a nation. They represent the worst political cancer of perpetuating themselves in office rather than being the cure of honest public service.

There’s a reason why the Koch’s and other billionaires have turned their attentions to the 50 statehouses. They’ve succeeded in poisoning the waters in Congress with people who’ve crippled it. Now, they’re attempting to “breed” the next generation of office seekers in state politics where most in Congress come from. With the full bought-and-paid-for participation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), their work to build an oligarchy they can control is doing real damage to our entire nation.

It’s not just the Democrat targets of Boehner’s disgraceful remark who need to “get off their ass.” It’s the rest of us. Off our asses and into the polling places where we can deliver some electoral justice. Surely we can do better.

Aw, shoot

Author: admin

Remember when a teacher/professor once gave you a low grade you didn’t think you deserved? As you dealt with the shock of the perceived injustice, you probably said something like “I’ll get him” or “I could just kill!” Well, now a days, friends, you can actually do that.

About a year ago, a grad student at the University of Maryland just picked up the old .45, made a beeline for the prof’s office and BANG! No more undeserved, low grades from that S-O-B. You showed him!

Sorry to say, that educational tragedy was not a first. No, not by a – pardon the phrase – long shot. Universities, colleges and even public schools have been the locales of low grade avengers, fraternity haters, slighted sorority pledges, disgruntled athletes and even a jilted staff member or academic or two. This week it was an apparent love triangle at Mississippi’s Delta University. The Smith & Wesson solution has been all too apparent.

Which got me thinking. Aside from the ivy-clad walls of higher education, where else have we innocents been used as clay pigeons by the unhinged. Let’s see, now. Theaters, bars, gymnasiums, school lunchrooms, banks, classrooms, grocery stores, shopping malls, car dealerships, doctors and dentists’s offices, beauty salons, barbershops, interstate highways, airports and airplanes, cruise ships, marinas, football, basketball or baseball seating areas, sidewalks, a plethora of stores in shopping malls, mobile home parks, funeral homes, churches, synagogues, museums, art galleries, military bases, hospitals, nursing homes, city halls, county courthouses, state capitol buildings, under the U.S. Capitol dome, the White House, backyards, living rooms, bedrooms and – as in the Pistorius case – the ever lovin’ bathroom.
In case I missed a few, go ahead and add your own.

The American public has been worried for years about “right to privacy” and being under surveillance by cameras here, there and everywhere. Not me. I gave up stressing about strange folks watching and listening to my comings and goings long ago. The damned devices are everywhere with more coming. Including those nearly silent drones we can’t hear and don’t see whirring over our heads. Can’t be stopped. No, Sir! I’ve just made up my mind to dress better and pay more attention to my personal appearance with so many agencies and governments watching and listening.

I’m far more stressed by going to a movie. Or, shopping for new clothes. Or, wandering a used car lot. Or, sitting in a prayerful mood at church. Or, jogging the nearest greenbelt – driving the interstate – sitting at a stoplight – stopping for a latte. I get nervous now in my dentist or doctor’s waiting room. Noises I used to think were cars backfiring or blasting from a movie soundtrack now send me behind a tree or under the seat in front.

We used to be the good ol’ U.S. of A. But now, U.S. of A means “United State of the Armed.” Thanks to the N-R-A – and all the political cowards that won’t tell ‘em to take their money and “shove it” – we’ve traded our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” for becoming shooting targets agt anyh moment we try to reach for those lofty guarantees.

The same bastards who wrap themselves in a “Constitution” they’ve likely never read – and which far too many don’t understand – are in danger of taking away the rights assured by that document for the rest of us. Including those who HAVE read the damned thing. And DO understand it.

How did we get to be a nation that witnesses Americans of all ages being blown away because of a idiotic gun culture instead of living under our recognized system of laws and of enforcement of those laws?

When the boys in Philly signed off on the Constitution in 1776, they realized a lot of the new American communities needed to be protected when the men of those communities were out fighting in the Continental Army. So they provided for a “well-armed militia” to protect the home front. Good idea then. Before creation of the National Guard as an instrument of “protecting the home front.”

Second Amendment rights have been twisted into a contorted definition meaning any breathing soul has a “right” to be able to kill anyone he/she pleases regardless of competence or mental state. That has to stop!

The N-R-A uses a scoring system to determine which member of Congress will receive an uncontested primary or access to outsized political handouts. The higher the score, the more loved/rewarded you are by its old PAC. Well, here’s a “breaking news” flash for Wayne LaP. I’ve checked on your rankings for every politicians on my ballot in 2016. Any of them scoring higher than zero will not get my vote. Makes no difference the political party or where that person is on any other issue.

I used to loudly condemn “single issue” voting. But this issue – an Americans’ right to live life without being in someone’s cross hairs – is just too damned important.

Happily watching a public falling out among political thieves is one of my more harmless diversions – particularly when it’s the right wing where such events are regular and always predictable. It’s happening again. This time, it’s the big guys. The really big guys. And a whole political party. And I don’t mean that jerk Trump. And it’s been a really big insider secret.

A couple of years ago, I noted in a previous column how the then-reclusive Kochsters were gutting the top level staff of the National Republican Committee. Charley and Davy wanted to step up their cancerous growth on the body politic. So, they went looking for talent. They settled on the top GOP staff and proceeded to lure many of ‘em out with big bucks. Really big bucks.

They nearly cleaned out the information technology office at the top. They also took several department folk who knew the ins and outs of mailing lists and operations of GOP field offices. They paid highly – read richly bought – a pollster or two. Poor ol’ Reince Priebus almost wound up alone.

They did one other – at the time – curious thing. Charley and Davy laid out some of their greenbacks to help what was left of the GOP crew develop some new computer software – programming that would identify such things as all state office staffs, workers – paid and unpaid – and a very snazzy voter identification system. Rience apparently agreed if only in an effort to stop the talent raiding and keep at least some of his staff intact. The deal was the GOP would do the development work and the Koch’s would pay the bill. For two years or so. Then they’d talk again.

Some months back, it was time for that talk. But Charley and Davy had other ideas. Apparently, in the original agreement, there was a clause allowing the Kochs to duplicate all that software and all the goodie information it contained. And guess what’s believed to have happened?

The Koch’s – who have more money than the national GOP AND Trump combined – and who can raise more money than the national GOP – now apparently have at least a working copy of all the computer files and all the voter info the national GOP thought it owned exclusively. It appears the stage is set for Charley and Davy to step up and over Reince’s body and what’s left of the NRC and go straight to voters with ad campaigns, direct mail, registration efforts and voter identification. Whoops! Wha’ hoppened?

The plain fact is the Kochs appear now even more in a position to become major and even more viable actors on the American political stage. They’ve got the bucks – they’ve got a new and higher public profile – and they’ve got direct access to millions of voters. Seems to me all this mostly defines what a political party is supposed to be. They now seem to be one!

The Kochs and all their various political fronts have been playing fast and loose with the truth for several years now. So have Priebus and his minions. Rience has dictatorially tried to limit debates, limit media access, pick and choose media “favorites,” stack the cards for who gets the most national GOP support. Hint: those running for office that sign “no tax” pledges, hold the line on abortion, help disenfranchise whole classifications of voters and generally see things his way.

But now, all the GOP office-holders – and would-be GOP office-holders – have a new voice in their ears. Make that “voices.” Trump. And Charley and Davy. Directly. Distinctly. With the background sound of dollars clinking. Dollars they own. Dollars they can give. Dollars they can withhold. More of ‘em than the national GOP.

It would seem the Koch boys have – or will soon possess – a parallel Republican Party. It would also seem the boys have reduced – or are about to reduce – the national GOP to National Republican Party Lite.

Now, some reading this may say “Look, Rainey. The National Republican Party is a recognized national political entity with a long history and lots of resources. These Koch guys may have big bucks but they’re just a couple of guys. And, while they may have some clout, they’re more like the tail on the elephant.”

Oh, yeah, sez I? Consider what a teenager with a bad complexion and an anti-social streak can do with his laptop in his basement in Cincinnati. One such teen can use today’s technology to infiltrate federal computers, bring large banks to their knees with a few keystrokes and tap into national security files. All with just a bit more knowledge about technology than the average bear. And the Koch’s ain’t your “average bears.”

With massive amounts of information they now apparently “own,” Charley and Davy can do a lot more than that Cincinnati kid. With their various front organizations, a heavy hand in the affairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – which has operatives in every state capitol – and with the political propensity of many political candidates to grovel for folks/companies with big bucks, seems to me the Koch’s are more scary now than they’ve ever been. Being “outed” by the media hasn’t reduced their clout. It’s just easier to see what that clout is and how/where they use it.

The public falling out of thieves. But it’s really more than that. It’s about the largest power grab in American politics in the last 80-90 years. And it almost got past us.

This is something that needs watching. Notice I didn’t say “fun to watch.” ‘Cause “fun” it ain’t!