Archive for April, 2016

It won’t be over

Author: admin

Of all the discouraging, disappointing and shameful news coming out of our current presidential political campaign, two facts are crystal clear. One – when the campaign is over, it won’t be over. Two – this country – and we who call it ours – will never be the same.

Traditionally, political battles are supposed to end right after the votes are counted. Final bills are paid, campaign paraphernalia stored or – in the case of the losers – usually destroyed. Staffers seek new opportunities and life returns to normal. Whatever that was – it’s just over. History.

In recent national elections, that Norman Rockwell description of political campaigns has been fraying at the edges. Actually, it’s been torn down the middle. Disputes – actual or imagined- have been carried into political office by both winners and losers. Winners have been heavy handed in how they conducted themselves and their elected responsibilities. “Gotcha” legislation, rule changing and other attempts at muzzling losers have become standard operating procedure.

Losers – those whom voters have rejected – immediately set about trying to scuttle whatever the winners attempt to do. Cooperation and compromise have become signs of “weakness” – especially if you’re a Republican. Any attempt to work together is met with immediate scorn by supporters and, too often, recall attempts.

But this time – this year – it’s already worse. And there’s nothing in the political tea leaves to indicate a return to the Rockwell era. Ever.

In the Republican Party, cracks in party discipline have been turned into canyons separating members. The smallest philosophical differences are now verbal weapons with which to beat all others over the head. Language – usually reserved for bar fights – is so common it’s often run on the evening news with no censoring. Racism and lies have been accepted by followers of certain candidates as either correct in the mind of the ignorant believer or discarded as just their guy lying “like they all do.”

There’ll be no healing – no acceptance of different thought – no coming together for the “good of the country” after this one. There’ll be no alliances to work for the common good. We’ll see more attempts to divide – to disenfranchise – to exclude. Like the current GOP refusal to even talk to a Supreme Court nominee, much less hold the Constitutionally required hearing. The seeds for all of this have been sown. And, as the National Republican Party is learning, you reap bitter fruit from such planting.

A national GOP, as we’ve known it, has been bought out by billionaires and poisoned by narrow-minded ideologies. It’s been purged of rational thought and traditional standards. It has ceased to have a central core of responsibility as big money has circumvented even the most futile attempts to broaden a steadily shrinking base of support. As a national political representative, Priebus and the rest of his cohorts have no real political power of their own and find themselves running to keep up with the Kochs, Adlesons and others who pay the bills.

Some of this cancer has begun to mutate in national Democrat operations as well. There’s a bitter inside battle involving the national chairwoman and the former vice chair that’s become more apparent. Efforts to compete – even to rebuild – in races long-ago dominated by the GOP have not been effective. While Republicans gerrymander state political maps, Democrats have been largely silent or ineffective in trying to flatten the playing fields. The “loyal opposition” has too often become the “loyal doormat” or no opposition at all.

Both parties are losing membership and both need to rethink and rebuild. Democrats will likely have the easier job after the 2016 election. But it appears the GOP is in for some very serious problems if it’s to again represent any moderate and more progressive folk. Should Priebus and his neutered minions wish to thank someone for making that job more difficult, they need look no further than Donald J. Trump.

I doubt Priebus will survive long after November 8, 2016. Nor should he. But Trump has nearly single-handidly created a much larger problem. The evidence is overwhelming his base of followers is largely older white men with a distinct mix of racists, separatists and folks ignorant of government who’re destined to stay that way. For any rebuilding effort to be successful to achieve a modern, open and inclusive Republican Party, those folks will have to be dealt with. And they don’t have any use for “modern,” “open” or “inclusive” in their politics. Their way or the highway.

Which means – at least to me – two “Republican” parties. Maybe three. Or – and here is what the GOP must face squarely- a smaller Republican party after losing the aforementioned older white men, racists, separatists and the ignorant to a third party. Yes, it’s been tried before. And, yes, it’s never been successful. But Trump is not going to shut up. He’s got the money. And he’s delighted with the adulation surrounding him. He has a national – if not world – platform and, after the election, I don’t see him folding his tent and going back to just buying and selling real estate.

If the GOP doesn’t clean up its act, get back in charge, get the billionaires under control and disassociate itself with anything Trump, it faces no chance of being a viable political party for decades. None. It will become a neutered, narrow-minded, white and totally ineffective smaller “club.”

We need a healthy, robust, responsible National Republican Party. Our entire political structure is based on an active, effective two-party system. The new entity must be open, receptive to change, inclusive to minorities – who’ll soon make up the majority of this nation – and be more moderate in thought, word and deed. It can take a more conservative approach to things. That’s fine. But that conservatism must be more responsible and truer to the values that have defined it historically.

Hell of a job ahead. And I wish ‘em well!

Enough, already!

Author: admin

We here on the central Oregon coast have been concerned about rain – or the lack of it – for the last several years. Rain is not usually seen as a nuisance in these parts. It’s our life blood. For many reasons. But we’re catching up. And I’m more than ready for some blue sky. Damn, it’s wet!

Since 2012, rivers have been too low for many of the Salmon to reach their spawning grounds. That’s adversely impacted both commercial and sport fishing industries. What river flows there have been are reaching the ocean too warm for several fish and animal species. Starfish are almost gone. Sea anemones are disappearing. Many sea lions and otters have been forced further North to find colder waters. Lobster and crab seasons have been less than record-setting. All because of a stretch of unusually low rainfall.

But we’ve had some recent relief. We’re wet. Boy, are we wet! The last couple of months we’ve been so soaked the animals are walking in twos. I’ve been to the dictionary three times to check the length of a cubit. We are – to put it dryly – soaked.

“How wet is it,” you ask?

Well, let’s take our own little coastal puddle as an example. First 22 days of December, we had just over 22 inches. Average an inch a day. Rained every damned day! Double normal December rainfall. A good number of folks from Waldport to Tillamook have been flooded out. In one Newport neighborhood, an elderly lady just made it out the front door before her house split right down the middle and half of it slid 70 feet into a ravine. Highway 101 – our asphalt link to each other – has several places where guardrail posts are hanging exposed over open space left when slides took out the earth underneath. Other places where pavement has shifted, lifted or sunk.

Between Roseburg on I-5 and the coast, Highway 42 is the main route. It was closed by a slide that just kept moving. Took transportation folks a month getting even one-way traffic. You could stand there for days and hear the trees crack as the ground kept moving downhill under them.

But, let’s put all this wet excess in perspective. The whole State of Oregon gets about 42 inches of rain a year. Pretty dry over on the East side so the average statewide is higher West of the Cascades. Coastal average is over 70 inches. Still, it’s pretty liveable. Most of the time. On average. But, remember: you can drown in the water held in a tablespoon – on average.

We do have our special occasions – to put it mildly. The day after Christmas, 1926, the stretch from Newport to Lincoln city got hit with – are you ready for this – 10.98 inches in 24 hours. In 24 hours! Imagine what that would do in your own neighborhood. Pictures taken in the aftermath of that 1926 soaking show nearly all roads impassable – hardly a building left undamaged. In some places, hardly a building left all, in fact.

So, with those numbers and images in mind, our inch-a-day so far in December and much of January seems liveable. But it’s going to take several years of more-than-average rainfall to mend the fishery and habitat damages we’ve already seen. Local fishermen say they have to go many miles further away from the shoreline to find the usual schools of fish. Also, most of ‘em are using heavier weights to get nets to sink lower where the colder water is.

Oh, lodging and restaurant businesses have been cutting a fat hog during the extended summer dry spell in 2015. Tourist traffic – and the resulting tourist room taxes – set records. To the joy of local governments. Just one happy headline after another. But, those were just short term benefits of more than the usual amount of sunshine. The downside – and their certainly is one – is logging, fishing, crabbing and other outdoor industries have quietly lost ground without the usual rainfall. We’ll need an awful lot of wetness to make up.. It’ll take years.

So, as usual, Mother Nature seems to delight in feeding the needs of some of the population at a some cost to the rest. Whichever way it goes, somebody makes a buck and somebody else loses one.

But, consider this. With the resultant widespread coastal damages we’ve seen with our less-than-record rainfall of the past several years – not to mention that 1926 gully-washer – how do you suppose we’ll fare when that “big one” hits? When the ocean is pushed onshore 50-90 feet high at 75-100 miles an hour? Given what we know about what’s been – and it ain’t been nearly anything like that – what will be left around here? Who will be left around here?

Aw, maybe we can live with an inch of rain a day. But I’ll still cuss every time I take the dog out.

Sheriffs as outlaws

Author: admin

Given what’s going on in our world at the moment – especially in our national political activities – you really don’t need anything more to worry about. Just kidding. Here’s another – your local sheriff. I’m very worried about mine. And you ought to do some checking on yours.

A goodly number of sheriffs – especially in the west – are quietly joining an outfit called “Constitutional Sheriffs & Peace Officers Association.” Let’s just call it CSPOA. It’s joined at the hip to the more well-known “Oath Keepers.” If you’re familiar with the right wing profile of Oath Keepers, move the scale for CSPOA a few notches right of that.

The CSPOA main website has a lot of mumbo jumbo about peace, love, liberty and extensive quotes from our constitution. But, under that B.S. and between the lines, CSPOA members believe there is no higher legal authority in the country than the local sheriff and federal laws should be enforced ONLY if a sheriff “thinks” or “believes” they’re constitutional. One of the badge wearing self-determiners of federal law and a co-founder of CSPOA is that famous constitutional “expert” from Arizona – Joltin’ Joe Arpaio. Clearer now? Any questions about parentage?

Washington, Oregon and Idaho are listed as member states claiming some sheriffs therein are practicing members. Several in Oregon – Douglas, Josephine and Lincoln Counties – espouse the CSPOA line and, therefore, should be counted as “fellow travelers” since the membership list is a big secret.

CSPOA’s legal counsel is a “Judge” Navin-Chandra Naidu who believes counties are supposed to be “Christian by nature.” Incidentally, he was a wanted man in Fiji in 2001 for forging his law degree. Also, he represented the Pembina tribe in North Dakota several years back and got the Anti-Defamation League all over his case.

CSPOA focuses on sheriffs, calling them “the highest executive authority in a county and therefore constitutionally empowered to keep federal agencies out of the county.” Co-founder Richard Mack believes “the greatest threat we face … is not terrorists; it’s our federal government (and) one of the best and easiest solutions is to depend on local officials, especially the sheriff, to stand against federal intervention and federal criminality.” Much of the other flotsam comes straight out of “sovereign nation” and “posse comitatus” movements. Great bunch of guys.

Upon close investigation, the Southern Poverty Law Center – a respected clearinghouse for identifying and following hate groups – calls CSPOA “a remarkably radical organization, considering who their members are.” My sheriff and maybe yours

High on CSPOA’s current agenda is the defeat of local lawmen and law women who don’t see things their way on such issues as gun control which, by the way, is no control. Criminal or nutcase, CSPOA says all are entitled to arm up without any restrictions.

Several Oregon and Idaho sheriff’s are being CSPOA-challenged at the polls this year. Many candidates have no law enforcement background but express innate ability to “judge for themselves” what, in our constitution, applies to their communities. And, possibly more important, what does not.

Take Oregon, for example. Our Harney County sheriff, who did a fine job trying to get the Bundy Bandits out of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, is facing a CSPOA-backed challenger in November. Dave Ward was called “weak” and “ineffective” because he wouldn’t tell the FBI and other feds to “butt out.” Apparently CSPOA doesn’t think much of patience and respect for our laws as virtues.

John Hanlon, over in Douglas County, made headlines a year or two ago denouncing all things federal in a widely-publicized letter to V.P. Biden. Hanlon proudly – and loudly – proclaimed he’d not only not enforce federal gun laws, but he’d arrest federal agents who came into his county to do so. A dozen or so other sheriffs jumped on Hanlon’s publicity bandwagon with the same claim so it could be fairly assumed they’ve got connections with CSPOA as well.

But, on the other side of the ledger, Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer, who called the Bundyites “patriots” and tried to chase the feds away, is being challenged by a local non-CSPOA type with experience and more common sense. And ol’ Sheriff Palmer is also on the wrong end of an investigation of his activities by Oregon authorities. Could end his career if he’s found to have “aided and abetted.” Which it looks like he did.

In my view, any sheriff who wants to believe this sewage flowing out of the CSPOA has a perfect right to do so. But, because of the flawed “thinking” and legally very questionable precepts of CSPOA, that sheriff should resign from office. None of them – not one – is empowered to decide for themselves which portions of our U.S. Constitution to enforce and which to ignore. None of them – not one – has legal authority to replace our national court system as arbiters of constitutional law.

There is nothing “constitutional” about CSPOA. In fact, what it preaches should be classified as sedition and those that act on that preaching are – in my mind – guilty of it as well.

Anyone who tries it – Hanlon, Palmer or any other – should be removed from office if attempting to thwart laws and court decisions instructing them how to conduct their official duties. Upon assuming office, all sheriffs take an oath to uphold the constitution – state and federal – and all laws – state and federal. They swear “So help me God.”

CSPOA seems to be telling sheriffs there were some weasel words in their oaths of office giving them special powers to decide right and wrong. Oaths that end “So help me God” are not known for weasel words.

One size can fit all

Author: admin

Sitting here next to the ocean, it’s easy to get disconnected from reality with waves hitting the shore, sea birds making their unusual noises, breezes filling the local air with smells of the Pacific. So what you’re about to read may be just the mental wanderings of an old guy drifting along in a fantasy world of his own. But I had these “peculiar” thoughts long before I was told where we’d spend our retirement years.

To wit: give up on this absolute electoral mess we’ve created in the 50 states and vote for presidential and congressional candidates on one, uniform, federal election ballot using the same rules. Fifty states using the same ballot which would have room for their own races but operating under one set of rules. Same qualifications for electors. Same way to determine electors.

Our national elections have devolved into mess after mess – challenge after challenge – lawsuit after lawsuit. But it’s gotten even worse with last year’s SCOTUS decision essentially gutting the Voting Rights Act and various GOP-dominated legislatures reconstructing election roadblocks for minorities. Now, even candidates are talking about suing states over delegate selection and appointment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in “state’s rights.” But congress after congress – regardless of party dominance – has chipped away at the original intent of “state’s rights” in many programs. State operation of educational and health systems are two major areas where the feds have usurped states in all or partial control. There are many others. That’s not going to change. We’ve accepted the incursions and even gotten used to them.

When it comes to elections, we’ve created a shambles. Some states use the caucus system – others closed primaries – still others with open primaries. One just has a meeting. Anyone who thinks the national convention halls are filled with people accurately representing the folks at home is living in the Land of Oz. We’ve got delegates, super delegates and others – some sworn to this or that candidate and some with no restrictions on whom they’ll bestow their voting “honor.” Horse trading votes at national political conventions is still alive and well.

Personally, I’ve never liked the caucus method. Nor do I see any real benefit to freedom-of-choice in a closed primary. Especially in Idaho where Republicans – in charge of everything – have conned all taxpayers into ponying up $2 million to pay for their closed GOP primary. Legalized thievery. Because they could.

Candidates – national and otherwise – get tangled up in a patchwork of differing laws, unique financial reporting requirements and other obstacles. Trump’s threatening to sue one state. Sanders and Clinton protest some other outcome(s). The whole process is a mess.

We and the candidates should expect – and demand – equity, equality and some common sense be applied to running such important elections. One set of qualifications for candidacy. One set of qualifications for electors. One set of qualifications – caucus or primary – for national parties everywhere.

If you’ve been licensed to pilot an aircraft, you did so federally with the FAA. I’ve often thought a national driver’s license would be a good idea, too. I’ve been licensed in nine states. Those nine exams were pretty much the same. Very little difference. I’ve been told one license wouldn’t work because “Florida drivers don’t have to learn rules for driving in the snow or on ice.” That would be a valid argument if Florida drivers only drove in Florida and never traveled to Denver or Cheyenne.

But to believe in the possibility of one uniform election system is to believe in unicorns. It won’t happen. “State’s rights” don’t you know? We’ll continue to limp along and see it get even worse before those in charge of such things admit the system doesn’t function as it should.

There’s a certain irony here. Seems to me the “state’s rights” believers should be the very voices supporting a uniform national election code to assure fairness and equity in the freedoms they loudly advocate.

Oregon – with its mail and electronic voting system – would be a good model for the other 49 to examine as part of a change to one national set of rules for elections. It’s much cleaner, cheaper to run, easier to vote, no long lines on election day, simple “motor voter” registration and nearly no fraud. Minuscule compared to the Republican-imagined “massive fraud” in other states. Except for a couple of Oregon GOP election officials.

But, again, it ain’t gonna happen. The idea of a clean, uniform, simple national elections code is just – well – a pipe dream. In the head of one old guy sitting on the beach and listening to the waves.