Archive for November, 2018


Author: admin

Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.

Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.

We have about 16,000 military there at the moment – down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.

The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.

When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out – in just the last year – $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!

Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?

In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.

Afghans – who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago – wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other – and one nation or another – since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one – not even one – left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally – to his shame – has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.

The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are – and have been for years – unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.

Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”

Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.

Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.

Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.

Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.

Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?

Why can’t we learn? Why?

P-I-N it

Author: admin

Our recent national election contained the most outright, in-your-face cheating and lying of any in my lifetime. Just flat-out scandalous and, at times, illegal behavior. We’ll be living with the after effects for a long, long time. But, it may be just the precursor of the next one. And the next. And the next.

In state after state, the Republican Party – or what’s left of it – was the prime ruinous sponsor and leading miscreant. There may have been some Democrats flouting ethics and laws in some places. But, overwhelmingly, Republicans outdid themselves in despicable, lying behavior. Some are still at it.

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in our neighborhood looked straight at the TV camera in her commercials and told of the times she had voted to “protect pre-existing conditions for all Arizonans.” But, her votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than 40 of them, were to kill ACA (Obamacare) and some specifically to erase pre-existing conditions. She lost by less than two-percent. Nearly half of all voters apparently believed her.

That’s one case. Across the country, thousands of misleading, false or outright bogus claims and gross behavior. Names like Scott, Kemp, DeSantis, Anderson, Rohrabacher, Hunter, Akin, Kobach, and many more tried every lying trick-in-the-book. Some still are.

Many GOP efforts were to disenfranchise voters – make getting to the polls (especially in Dodge City, Kansas) nearly impossible. Or, legislating Native Americans out of the process. Voting machines with no power cord or were inoperable when installed. Some switching votes electronically. Overseers who were candidates themselves rigging outcomes. (Kemp and Kobach.)

Republican gerrymandering, in some places, meant a Democrat had get more than 60-percent to win. (S. Carolina and Alabama.)

Candidates are who they are. Some qualified. Some not. Some honest. Some not. Too many of the latter – not enough of the former. With the current lack of trust in both national parties, getting better, more qualified people to run is nearly impossible. That’s got to be a priority in 2020.

But, it’s gerrymandering and blocking voters that’s so heinous. Republicans, in many legislatures, used the 2000 census to twist, splice and draw voting districts to their benefit. Now, Democrats say, if they’re in the majority in 2020, they’ll be more honest. I’d like to believe that. But, I don’t. The most accurate description of political power I’ve ever been told was “When they’re in power, they do it to you; when you’re in power, you do it to them.” From an Idaho Democrat.

Several states blocked registered voters – especially Black, Hispanic, Native American – by all sorts of contrived schemes. More than any other factor, that needs to be addressed.

Oregon, in so many instances a leader in creative thinking, has some excellent approaches. One is “motor voter” registration. Register your vehicle and you’re automatically registered to vote. Parties assigned randomly. If you don’t like the assignment, change it. It’ll take several generations to reach 100-percent but, eventually, all Oregonians will be registered voter.

Also, as in Oregon and several other states, voting by mail should be federal law. I realize there are still people who like to go to a polling place. I’m one. I always felt a bit prouder when the little gray-haired lady announced for all to hear, “Barrett Rainey has voted.” But, like so many other things, times have changed. Voting by mail is one of those changes. There are some wrinkles to work out but they’re not insurmountable.

Do away with signatures on ballots. Assign each voter a PIN – personal identification number. Banks worldwide use ‘em. All credit card outfits use ‘em. They know within seconds when one of us hundreds of millions of users buys lunch anywhere in the world. Instead of laboriously checking signature authenticity – which in my case is impossible – check the PIN by high-speed scanner. Cut down or eliminate recounts.

Use a standardized national ballot format. Leave flexibility for states to enter necessary information. But, format all the same. In Florida, a U.S. Senate seat hinges on the way one county laid out its ballot with that race separated from all the others. Exit polling shows some people didn’t see it.

Require all counting to be done electronically. Standardize machines.

There are many more ideas out there. But, the plain fact is, we can’t keep doing things as we are. We can’t do much about political parties or individuals who want to lie, cheat, block and steal. But, no large corporation would run a national business the way we run the most important element of our democracy: voting.

We need our ballots handled accurately and treated with the certainty that our most basic, guaranteed freedom requires. Leaving it to political parties is not the best way to assure that.

Many things must be changed. Updated and streamlined. One of those things seems a natural: “P-I-N it.”

A too-slim majority

Author: admin

We’ve been hearing for a couple of years now that our country is “divided,” “broken,” “fractured,” “splintered” and that current society is “tribal.”

All of those descriptions seem mostly accurate. Signs of strain, fractured will and stress are everywhere.

The most recent evidence is in many of the outcomes of our recent national elections. While some candidates and ballot issues were decided by solid majorities – Idaho’s Governor and Medicaid expansion for example – such one-sided results were rare.

I didn’t look at all national races, but in the 63 I did examine, 57 were decided by less that three-percent – many by tenths of a point. Yes, Democrats picked up the U.S. House. They needed 23 wins. They got 30. In a body of 435, hardly a landslide. If a few don’t follow caucus instructions on whatever the vote is about on any given day, that majority can evaporate. The new majority “whip” is going to be kept busy.

Less than a one point separation is likely to give Florida a Republican governor and, less than two-points, a senator. Same margains in Texas with Cruz over O’Rourke. Kansas, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, Nevada and more had Senate and House victories by two and three points. Or less. Many state races and ballot issues were squeakers. Arizona is still counting Senate votes. No winner in Alabama Governor yet, either.

“Well, Rainey, a win is still a win,” you say. “What’s the matter with you?”

I see several “matters.”

For one, like Jack Kennedy faced, when one of these squeaker winners walks down the street, that person has to realize nearly one of every two people passing by voted against her/him. So much for a mandate. So much for real constituent support.

Another example. Legislating. If your majority in a congressional or legislative body is around one-percent or so, keeping your “horses” going in the same direction on significant issues is very difficult. Especially issues of conscience. Think Supreme Court candidates, budgeting or abortion rights. Without the heft of a solid majority, such issues are often near-impossible to settle.

There are many folks still saying we must stop speaking ill of each other – must stop the arguing and fighting – must return to a “kinder, gentler time.” Must “come together.” “Love your enemy” and all that.

It seems to me we’ve gone too far down the national road of vitriol, hate and division for any of that to be effective. We’ve got a serial liar president with millions of supporters who say “Sure, he lies, but he says what’s on his mind, he’s not a politician and I like that.” When what’s “on his mind” is constant lying about everything, how do you reach those people?

Another example. During exit polling in Florida, the question CNN put to voters, regardless of party affiliation – or none – was “Which national party do you want controlling Congress?” The answer? Dead even at 49% for each. How do you create effective governance out of that?

Other exit interviews on just about any issue or candidate there were many similar near-tie responses, regardless of what region of the country was involved. If you take nearly any national issue, you’ll find just about a 50-50 split. A few choruses of “Kum-ba-yah” will not heal our coast-to-coast ills.

Seems to me we’re in a situation similar to what Quakers in this country faced during the Civil War. They made gallant efforts to stick to their pacifist culture and stay out of the fighting for a long time. But, eventually, many of them realized they’d lose that culture and all they had if they didn’t take up arms. So, many of them did. They joined up and helped overpower the enemy.

We’re now faced with significant threats to all our culture. To our peace and tranquility. To our chosen way of life. Even to preserving the Republic.

The sources of those threats are many. Politicians more concerned with continued public-trough employment than concerns constituents face. A political party using lies and terrible tactics – some illegal – to gain or keep control in Congress and many states. Millions of Americans divorced from reality by sick rightwing media and “consultant” forces pounding away in a closed environment of lies and half-truths. Millions of citizen naysayers believing their willful ignorance is as good as your factual reality.

There were way too many razor-thin victories in our last election – far too many candidates elected by hundredths-of-a- point to make real progress. The serious – some terrible – issues we face as a country can’t muster a significant majority to solve. The outcome – and the numbers – prove it.

The time for peaceful solutions seems over. It may take a national force-of-will to form the majority needed to get back on the right path. Force-of-will and a few more elections.

Like those Quakers, we may have to join a fight we really don’t want to.

After Tuesday, what?

Author: admin

Well, here we are. One day out from exercising our voting franchise. At least by those who desire to do so. Twenty-four hours from finding out how things shake out politically across the country.

No more polling on this one. No more talking heads with their “best guesses” about what you and I want our nation’s governance to be for the next two years. Back to a media resurrecting regular commercials and public service announcements while corporate accountants total up the windfall from the political ad huckstering.

Yep, we’re back to normal. Not!

Like so many other thoughtful folks, I’ve no idea what normal is now or what it will be in the future. “Normal” isn’t anymore. It’s been abolished by the political catastrophe of the last couple of years. It’s been erased from our lives by the cacophony of lies, betrayal of the public trust, demagoguery on a scale we’ve never seen in our political affairs, a spineless Congress ignoring the human cost of a presidency of false witness and the widespread national racism more prominent now than ever.

What the Hell is normal now? What will it be after our votes are counted? What will the new political and societal landscapes look like on Wednesday?

Many of us have already voted – in person or by mail. For us, these last weeks have been filled with candidate noise and expensive messaging wasted at our house because we’d already made our decisions. In fact, I haven’t talked to anyone for months who hadn’t already decided who and what to vote for.

The danger in tomorrow’s voting is the widespread ignorance of candidates, issues and even process by millions of folk living under the Trump spell. They know what they know but, for many, they have no idea what they don’t know. They’ve swallowed a constant diet of lies, half-truths and fantasies cooked up by Trump and their favorite rightwing media. They listen to no one who’s messages are more grounded in reality and fact.

Example: The other night, I watched an interview of a woman in her 70’s. Cherub face, big smile. Probably someone’s kindly grandma. Atop her silver hair was a stovepipe hat in red, white and blue with small America flags on either side. She was asked if she still supported Trump.

“Oh, yes,” she said excitedly. “He’s trying to protect us from all those criminals who want to cross our borders. People with MS-13 tattoos on their arms. They’ve got guns and other weapons. The President is trying his best to protect us.”

Sweet, she may be. But, absolutely divorced from the reality of the thousands of families fleeing death and violence in search of unknown and uncertain futures. Futures that might mean jails, new forms of violence and even separation. Those “criminals.”

The reporter didn’t try to correct her. Why should she? The lady was absolutely sure of her “facts.”

Trump is believed to have some 30-million supporters – many like Granny. Like the rest of us, many of them will be voting tomorrow, too. They’ll mark their ballots with certainty as we all do. They’ll want their voices heard as we all do. But, they’ll do that armed with their own “facts” created for them by Trump and the far right media barrage.

They’ll vote under the influence of a verbal “stew” of lies, racism, anti-Semitism, fear of the unknown and false prophesies. The fruit of their “reality” will go into the same universal ballot box into which we cast votes based on our version of reality. Their vote will have equal weight in the outcome. One ballot cast, we hope, informed. The other, it appears, deformed. But, equal.

So, back to the question: what will our future look like? Out of that mixture of fact versus “facts,” what will be the outcome? What will be our direction? What will be the new normal?

We’ll have the picture tomorrow. I pray it’ll be reality-based.