Archive for October, 2016

Voting rights guaranteed

Author: admin

We’ve voted at our house. Ballots came in the mail – we filled ‘em out – dropped ‘em off at what passes for our little City Hall – and we’re done.

Why all states don’t do it that way is beyond me. Oregon started it in the late ‘80’s with amazing results. The presidential contest was added in 2000 and more than 80% of registered voters cast ballots, That ever happen in your state? More than 80%? Didn’t think so.

Disenfranchising voters in Oregon? You gotta be kidding. When you get a driver’s license here, you’re registered to vote. No lines. No ridiculous polling hours. No legislative games by either party.

A Google search for a history of fraud in our balloting turned up nearly nothing. What I found amounted to a couple of instances of several office workers trying to copy ballots to vote more than once. I could only find three times in all the statewide elections we’ve had since 1988. Even if successful, it’s likely the fake documents would have been rejected by some computer along the line.

As for those who insist they just have to go to a polling place “because it feels good and it’s traditional,” try this. Take your ballot to Walmart. Do your shopping. Go to the check stand and, as the checker does her job, whip out the ballot and mark your choices. Right there. In front of her. You’ll get the same feeling. You could even ask her to say “Mrs. Smith has voted.”

Voting this year was somewhat more troubling than previously. That “top-of-the-ticket” contest, you know. Being a bit more moderate than my left-leaning wife, we thought up a scheme so I wouldn’t have to mark a name I truly couldn’t support. Either of ‘em. She’d do my ballot – I’d do hers. Then we’d keep the choices to ourselves and that would solve the problem. Seriously thought about it.

Other than the personal character – or lack of it – of the candidates to choose from at times, I find no fault with voting by mail. Every race in our state and county was on our ballot. Also, the referendums and other issues. We got a voter guide a couple of weeks before election day. We had time to look up things if needed. Just laid the guide beside the ballot on the dining room table – marked the appropriate places – dropped our ballots in the box. Could have mailed them in using a couple of stamps. Either way, the process was neat, efficient, timely, informative, quick and done.

Every time I hear of a state trying to keep people from their absolute right to vote, I wonder if anyone in those places has ever looked at Oregon’s hugely successful system. Our franchise exercise has been adopted in several other states. But not many. Not nearly enough. Maybe the reason for that is because one group or the other – one party or the other – would lose absolute control of who gets to participate and who doesn’t. Boy, that would be too bad.

No, we aren’t perfect here in our little state acreage by the sea. Not by a long shot. Just look at our university football teams. But when a good idea comes along – regardless of who had it – it just makes sense for others to take a look and give it serious thought.

Unless, of course, your political party wants to tip the scales when gerrymandering isn’t enough. Naw. Who’d do that?

You hear a lot of talk these days of the need for a “constitutional convention” to take up this-that-or-the-other subject. Often, this is followed by some sort of simplistic statement that such action would be “no big deal” and “the longer we put it off the harder it will be.”

Well, as in most chatter dealing with changing our founding documents, it would be a much bigger deal to get done than most folks think. For two reasons. It’s never been done and no one can agree for what purpose. A single subject? Or many? How many? If once called, would it ever end?

Yes, Article V of our Constitution says either Congress can do it or the states can if two-thirds of them agree on the need. What’s at odds is that single subject issue – or many. And that’s the stickler.

There are two schools of legal thought. First, many scholars argue for the wide-open convention. Suppose you wanted to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget be set by Congress each session. Just that. Only that. Whether called for that purpose by Congress or two-thirds of the states, these legal eagles say delegates could go off on any subject. Suddenly, there are abortion rights, women’s health, immigration or campaign spending and hundreds of delegates pulling in every direction.

The other thinking is all in attendance would be required to stick to the one subject stated in “the call.” Problem is, once the gavel sounds to get things going, who enforces the one issue agenda? Under what authority? There’s been no test resulting in a black-and-white rule, either.

The last federal convention was in 1787 when Congress set up this whole idea. Founding fathers had required all 13 states agree on a single issue. Good thought. Impossible to achieve. Delegates argued over lots of ways to fix things but finally settled on Congress convening a convention unilaterally or at the behest of two-thirds of the states. Period.

But the issue of scope for such gatherings was never put to bed. Suppose two-thirds want a convention. That meets the legal requirement. But what if, in those requests, there’s more than one subject? Two-thirds agree on the need for the convention but not on what business is to be done. Does Congress act or wait until 34 states settle on a single subject?

Other legal voices think the two-thirds threshold is fine but subject matter would have to be confined to a single topic. Good theory. Never tested.

Fact is, an Article V convention requested by the states has never been called for these very reasons. The current Constitution says Congress “shall” call them when the required number of states petition, but it does not say for what purpose or how many purposes.

There have been two fairly recent efforts to use the Constitution’s “Necessary and Proper” clause to deal with the issue. Twice in the 1970’s, the Senate unanimously approved the idea. Both times, it died in the House. How little times have changed.

So, the subject of convening a Constitutional Convention is a lot murkier than most folks believe. And the thought of a “runaway convention” with dozens of subjects, hundreds of delegates and thousands of votes terrifies the best constitutional scholars. Not to mention a few nervous politicians.

Further, if such a free-wheeling event did end, whatever actions were taken would have to be ratified by two-thirds of the states. Any bets on that?

All 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been done by Congress. States have held their own conventions to deal with their own documents more than 600 times with relatively little fuss.

So, if you’re worried about the 1st, 2nd, 4th or 15th or any other amendment to the federal Constitution being changed while you sleep, forget it. Only in your dreams.

A nation being divided

Author: admin

We’re told in our youth “change is the only constant.” As we age, we pass that piece of wisdom to our young. With elder perspective, we realize how much lifelong change we’ve adjusted to and how much of it we survived.

I’ve recently been confronted with a need to deal with a couple of significant changes. They’ve caused me to look both deep inside and, quite realistically, outside myself with some starkness I’ve not experienced before. Not about me. About life in general. More specifically, changes in our nation.

Since our founding, change has been a constant. For most of the last 300 years or so, we’ve slowly evolved through crisis after crisis, learning and relearning, adjusting and trying to keep up. For nearly all those years, the process was mostly doable. Whatever the change – peace or war or anything else – we adjusted, modified, eliminated the old ways and evolved into the new information or other realities. Pretty successfully.

Then came the instant communication of the Internet. The world’s learning curve for change went nearly straight up. Time was compressed. Changes – good or bad – now come at warp speed and in multiples so staggering we barely have time to adjust before we’re hit again. Most of us have kept up. Some haven’t. As that’s happened, we’ve experienced a growing communications gap which has, in turn, become a chasm between what really is and what really was. Or perceived as what was.

I believe this accelerated information flow – and the inability of millions of Americans to keep up – underlies many of the growing divisions in our country and has been successfully exploited. Coupled with hate radio/TV, anti-social media, well-paid hate mongers spewing vitriol and unchallenged lies, politicians unfit for public office and ignorant of the real constitutional role government plays in guiding our nation, billionaires buying and selling politicians and wannabe politicians, paying for and spreading divisive public legislation for private gain, our divisions are being exploited.

If you look at any demographic breakdown, those Americans most likely drawn to this destructive stew are older, white, male and with less education. They’re also less likely to have adapted to change and are, instead, clinging to and promoting a past that seems more comfortable to them, if it ever existed. They reject political, social, racial and other rapid changes while refusing to accept or support any information different from what they already “believe.”

Unfortunately, this cutting off of “suspect” societal, political communications or other inputs is not confined to the far right. Many moderates and some liberal folks do the same. I know Rachel Maddow followers who wouldn’t be caught dead tuning in to O’Reilly or Hannity. And they haven’t listened to a Limbaugh or a Coulter for years. So, with daily exposure to only a single viewpoint, knowledgeable communication with others who think differently is lost and the chasm widened.

Another factor of national divisiveness is the loss of the “melting pot” characteristics that existed in this country for a couple hundred years. That’s largely gone now as people of like races, nationalities or religions separate themselves from all others. Or are forced to. We now tend to hold to our differences rather than accept, learn or enjoy the lives, skills and beliefs of people different from ourselves.

Social media is playing a large, new role dividing us. With this unedited flow of information we face daily, there are two factors. One is there are no checks and balances to determine fact from lie. Hardly a day goes by I don’t see an entry that’s false, facts selectively avoided or copy entirely made up. We all see postings that appear as fact which are copied and re-sent so the lie expands in widening circles.

The second social media affect on our division is it offers people of like minds – rational or not – direct contact with each other, feeding only information they accept. Real or not. Again, a closed circuit without benefit of a reality that may be entirely different. Often a few can be regarded as a large group when that’s not really the case. But, again, causing divisiveness and feeding ignorance of other viewpoints.

We’re also becoming less tolerant and accepting. Look at the current irrational rejection of all things Muslim by too many Americans. Politicians wanting religious tests for immigration or allowing only “Christians” entry to our country. “Ship home11-million possibly illegal immigrants already here,” they say. Attacks on places of worship, threatening acts on their private property, ignorant derision in some media for others religious beliefs and practices. You may say that’s not how you feel or not how others you know may feel. But, too many of the folks who do are in elective office. And that’s a large – and divisive – difference.

These factors – and more – cause me to believe we’re in the throes of becoming a country much different from what we’ve known. Not necessarily a better country. But, certainly, much different. More segmented. More prone to violence with each other. Less communicative with people with whom we have differences. Certainly much more angry. A nation of less participation in organized religion or social/fraternal groups which, in the past, provided a social “glue” which helped tie us together. A nation of fewer direct, face-to-face social contacts which further isolates us, one from the other.

I don’t mean to be too dour in all of this. But platitudes (“It’ll all get better” or “It’ll all work itself out” or “We’ve survived thus far”) are meaningless. While we’ve always had factors separating us and we survived, we’re living with real divisions of issues, religions, races, politics and even families all at the same time. Divisions being actively driven by bought-and-paid-for hate-mongers with seemingly unlimited cash backing.

The distrust of government and each other have never been as real or as widely practiced in my four-score years. In too many instances, the electronic umbilical chord tying all of us together is also providing a means of separation we’ve never dealt with before.

I pray I’m wrong. And maybe I am. But, tell me, what meaningful, effective, concrete solutions can you cite being taken by anyone – or any group – to bridge the problems we face? To solve the problems we face. Taken separately, or as a whole, what real and lasting improvements do you see at work? Not what might or might not happen in the future, but now.

I can ask the questions. But I cannot provide realistic answers.

Whatever emerges as a nation in the next decade or two is guaranteed to be something very different.

Pitfalls of Facebook

Author: admin

We older folk spend an inordinate amount of time in our latter days running to keep up with technology, new social acceptances and the multitudinous current events around us. It’s absolutely mind-boggling how fast all those things change.

Those of us still able keep up mentally, socially and with the changing morality, do pretty well. But, sometimes, something comes along that’s surprising. I had such an experience the other day when I ran afoul of someone on Facebook. Interesting, speaking of change. Spellcheck doesn’t recognize Facebook. Spellcheck, either, for that matter.

We’re not habitual Facebook users at our house. We check in periodically. We sometimes find something interesting or humourous to pass along. We learn what’s going on in someone else’s life. We’re exposed to strangers who may – or may not – have something interesting to contribute. We see – and skip over – a lot of material not suitable for mixed company. These “SECOND THOUGHTS” ramblings are often re-posted there. We sometimes are brought up short by an unexpected response to something we’ve posted. That’s where my new experience came in.

First, some background. I’ve never given much deep thought to Zuckerberg’s electronic gossip line. After learning its invention years ago was pretty much to improve ways college students “hook up,” I sort of accepted its expanded role in most people’s lives as just another technological convenience. Or, inconvenience, as the case may be.

Our household use of Facebook is done without publishing a great deal of personal information about either of us. No need for the exposure. Those in our lives who need access – or have interest in such information – already have it. Those who don’t – don’t. We get very little spam. We try to be careful what we post.

But, I’ve got to admit, I let my guard down with Facebook. It sneaked up on me. Shortly after initiating my page, I got “friend” requests from lots of folks we’ve known over the years. We found old school names we hadn’t thought of in 40-50 years – found some USAF buddies long lost – even a forgotten family member or two. Quite an amazing experience for oldtimers who – like all oldtimers – spend considerable time wondering where so-and-so is now or whatever happened to cousin Grace or how an old house you lived in 35 years ago looks now. We suddenly got answers to all of that. And a lot more!

So, in the early period, Facebook seemed harmless enough and brought with it contacts that had been lost or forgotten. It sort of oozed into our consciousness and daily routine. Until a week or so ago it didn’t get much more thought than any other daily exercise. Then I got brought up short.

The insidious thing – and I now know as a hidden danger about Facebook – is it keeps growing. Usually for two reasons. First, old familiar names keep cropping up. They want to be part of the communication. Harmless enough. Except people change. Not having conversed in 30-40 years, you don’t really know that person anymore. He/she is just a “voice from the past.” You really may not know that person as he/she is today.

The second reason/danger – at least in my case – is that “friends of friends” keep showing up. If Cousin Lucy has a friend she stays in contact with, that friend of Cousin Lucy may want in on the conversation, too. So she slides into the list of contacts. No big deal.

Except. You don’t know that “friend.” You don’t know the personality – what makes him/ her laugh or cry – what, if anything, you may have in common – whether you’d like her or find her a bore – whether she’s a boozer, religious, on drugs, likes/hates kids, likes/hates animals, has a compatible personality or would walk over you on the street. A stranger. But a stranger you now “talk” to.

This last part – last danger – is what I walked into. And got gobsmacked.

Those who really know me know I love satire. I love puns and wordsmithing and Groucho Marx-style verbal sparring. My humor tends to be on the pointed side. Some would say occasionally sarcastic or caustic. Comes from many years in the media covering plane crashes, car wrecks, seeing lots and lots of bodies on the crime beat. And dealing with too many politicians. Without a sharpened sense of humor, you don’t last.

Whatever. Someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years or more – and whom I didn’t know well even then – posted something which brought wide personal praise. About 20 wonderful, positive responses. I, on the other hand, reverted to form and humorously – at least I thought so – humorously inserted a small verbal pin prick.

Not good! The immediate response pounded me. And, when I attempted to apologize, I was instantly electronically informed, “See, there you go again!” I guess we’ve “unfriended.” Maybe rightly. Maybe wrongly.

This will probably happen again. And you may run into something just as painful, too. Facebook is a good way to communicate with friends. I mean FRIENDS – people you know well-enough to appreciate their sensibilities, their likes and dislikes. And their tolerance level for all sorts of things. I didn’t know those things about my sensitive “friend” of three decades ago and stepped right in it.

So, my advice is this. Be careful out there. “Friending” and “unfriending” don’t really mean what they say. At least not on Facebook. It can actually be a minefield of people who don’t know you, don’t have other contacts with you, who’ve changed a lot since your last personal encounter, who don’t realize how much you’ve changed, who talk one way but react another or just don’t understand your sense of humor.

Be careful. Be VERY CAREFUL. When someone on your Facebook page asks for your opinion and you give it – be prepared to be unfriended. Friend.

The permeator

Author: admin

That’s a new word up there. “Permeator.” I made it up. The root for it is, of course, “permeate” which means something that “spreads throughout” – something that “becomes part of everything it touches.” Like sand in your car after the kids played on the beach. Like the foul odor when your dog has tangled with a skunk.


Since I made it up, there has to be a definition – which is Donald Trump. “Permeator.” Over the last 18 months or so, the bastard has “permeated” just about every part of our culture. You can’t get away from him, his opinions, lack of morality, false claims and outright lies. They permeate every part of our society.

Most political wonks – present company included – have grown sick of the name and the person attached to it. But, you can’t escape him. Oh, there are a few political types who run the other way – toward him – but not many. One such not running away is Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus who undertook writing 100 days of very articulate columns of 100 reasons why no one should vote for Trump. Randy’s written about 70 so far and still going. How he’s keeping his food down we haven’t discussed.

Trump, with his obvious divisiveness, has truly permeated our entire society. Only three other politicos who came about as close to that to my mind: FDR, former Louisiana Gov. Huey Long and Barry Goldwater – God rest his angry soul. If the fawning, ratings-hungry national media we have now had existed in the ‘30’s to the ‘60’s, they likely would have matched Trump’s permeating everything. But they didn’t. So we’re stuck with today’s left-overs.

In this latest mess – the sexual assault tape – he’s managed to singlehandedly bring the media down to his slime ball level. For many a year, when someone in the “news” business had to use a four-letter word normally reserved for NFL locker rooms, media cretins used one or two letters and some blanks – but at a level primitive enough anyone could quickly figure it out. They weren’t “actually” printing or saying something rude or obscene – just using “word association.”

But Trump has changed that. Now, his latest obscenity is printed/spoken without the substitution of blank spaces. Word for sleazy word. Front page of major newspapers, across the screen on your TV – even in the family hours – and unfiltered on what’s left of radio “news.” He’s crudely lowered the bar – again – and the willing media has followed right along.

Trump has wrought changes in family relationships, caused business partners to break up, lowered the standard for what .is acceptable language, befouled the electronic “pages” of what’s laughingly referred to as “social” media. He, alone, has turned off millions of Americans on politics, increased more violent “acting out” in our nation’s public classrooms, driven coverage of our three wars out of the media spotlight, introduced dozens of worthless insults to our standard of public decency, gone through the bottom of the barrel to find new lows in political discourse.

He’s falsely attacked the honor of otherwise very respectable public figures, lied continuously about every political/private issue he touches, turned our national media into a pack of sycophants bowing and scraping before his every appearance. He’s spoken in blatantly racist terms, insulted a world religion, shown himself to hold women in contempt, broken hundreds of contracts with people he’s done business with, committed personal infidelities in multiple marriages, proven his word is not his bond and has shown repeatedly in speech and deed that he can’t be trusted.


To me, all that – and likely more I’ve overlooked – is proof of just how far this worthless piece of humanity has PERMEATED our entire society. To millions, he’s made acceptable the things we’ve spent years telling our children not to do or believe in. He’s created a following blind to how our country has operated for centuries, become a false prophet to the unknowing, tied together a ragtag lot of misfits looking for something for nothing, offered false hope of quick and easy solutions to intractable problems and made promises no intelligent person could believe.

There is no joy in reciting all this. None. We’re a deeply troubled nation in search of badly needed answers to both our national ills and our anger with one another. We’re on a troubled path to an uncertain future very much different than our past. The need – the absolute need – for wise and proven leadership has not been greater since the Civil War. Then, we had someone with foresight and the absolute power to unite. We need that miraculous mix again.

What we’re left with now is The Permeator. Even when he’s defeated – and he will be – his treacherous presence will still be felt. He, and his cancerous affect on nearly all parts of our society, will last long after our national election. What he’ll leave us with is a need for a national cleansing.

No sale!

Author: admin

“Nyah” “We told you so.” “Told you so.” “Nyah nyah!”

Sometimes – most times – when politicians and special interests scheme against the public interest, all of us have a right – yea, a duty – to stand very tall and say very loudly, “NO.” Then put an end to the underhanded deed they’re trying to underhandedly do.

Such is the case in Idaho these days where the good folks are getting a firsthand lesson in why no one – NO ONE – should attempt to sell off – or privatize – lands now owned by the state or the fed. It’s damned hard to put a fence around 172,000 acres and post large signs saying “NO TRESPASSING.” But it’s been done.

Some months back, a couple of Texas billionaires started buying up what public lands they could find in several states. In Idaho, that included acres mostly in and around Idaho, Adams and Valley Counties. With the sale went hundreds and hundreds of miles of roads to the back country. Roads known to thousands of hunters and recreationists as their entry to whatever hunting, skiing, hiking, or just walking around they had in mind.

Except now, they can’t. Now those acres are posted with signs and bright orange posts to tell everyone who used to prowl around them, “PRIVATE! KEEP OUT.”

Dan and Farris Wilks are the brothers. DF Development is their outfit. They got their hands on most of the acres in a sale by Potlatch Corp. When finalized, up went the posts, up went the signs and up went the temperatures of hundreds and hundreds of hunters and others who ran into ‘em.

For many years, a large crowd of us has been loudly protesting the selloff of large plots of government land to private parties. “NO! NO! NO!” But, a solid string of mostly Republican legislators and members of Congress has been holding hearings, sponsoring meetings and gathering all the listeners they could find to promote said sales.

They’ve used some specious and, some would say, faulty “facts” that such marketing of government lands – especially Forest Service and BLM – are possible. And beneficial. Many fact-checking legal sources have said it’s NOT possible and NOT legal in most cases. Plus, the accompanying required costs to states, counties and cities for maintenance and care would be astronomical – absolutely impossible for such governments to handle.

As if those common sense rebuttals to selling off federal and other large chunks of governmental lands were not enough, the issue of loss of public access has always come up. But, the answer from those pressing the sell-off idea has always been the same. “Don’t worry. That wouldn’t happen.”

Tell that to the folks today in Adams, Valley and Idaho Counties. Suddenly, ranchers, grazers, hunters and recreationists of all stripes are facing exactly that. Yes, this was a private sale. But the lesson – and the dangers of government sales – are there to see.

Idaho Fish & Game had to call off special tag hunts with the accompanying loss of dollars badly needed by the Department. Counties are being told maintenance of access roads to snowmobile trails is ending. Leases that traditionally meant access are being cancelled. And everyone in charge of anything official is finally figuring out the situation is going to mean heavy losses of tourists, hunters and recreationists whose dollars have made big differences in local budgets.

Being a curious sort, my mind wanders to this: what’s going to happen when one or more large fires hits all that now private timberland? And they will. When the Wilks boys call for firefighting help, who’s going to answer the phone and say “Sure, we’ll be right out?” When a couple of good ol’ Texas boys have slammed the door to all former users of those acres, you just know they’ll be feeling helpful down at the local watering holes. Sure.

The Wilks story is going to be the talk of all future meetings trying to drum up support for government land sales. Because we now know whoever buys land buys access and can damn well slam the door on the entire public. Because it’s happened. And I’d be willing to bet more than a few state folk, county commissioners and city councils are taking a new look at the sell-off talk.

Nothing reaches a politician’s heart faster than a large group of supporters who’ve been adversely affected by some issue. Even just ending traditional access to hunting and recreational areas.

I don’t believe I’ve ever quoted the “wit and wisdom” of former Idaho Senator Steve Symms before. But a line he gave me many years ago seems very fitting to this land sales business.

“Makes no damned sense,” he said, “to sell the farm to buy a sports car.” In Idaho, that’s very sage-like.