Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown is Anytown, USA

There, but for the grace of God, goes all of us.

What happened in Newtown, Conn., and suburban Portland last week could easily happen in Bend.

Central Oregon is an outdoorsman's paradise and that includes hunting.

There are plenty of guns here.

But, real hunting does not mean using semi-automatic assault weapons with 30-shot clips.

No, such weapons are only needed to kill multiple people in the shortest amount of time as possible.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, the rights of the killer in Newtown to use such high-powered weaponry to murder 20 kindergartners and seven adults, supersedes the ability of the community of Newtown, or any city anywhere in this country, to ban such weapons of warfare.

In essence, we are banned from protecting ourselves through non-lethal methods.

America, sadly, is addicted to violence and guns.

Newtown isn't going to change those obsessions overnight.

There will be plenty of blather about funding mental health programs, curbing the sale of assault weapons and arming teachers.

You can get bet which one will likely happen.

Imagine this scenario: In order to get a teaching credential, a teacher must be proficient in the use of a Glock pistol. Also, that teacher must buy his or her own gun and take yearly classes to keep current with usage of that gun. Plus, wearing a Kevlar vest would become part of the dress code for teachers.

Next, the NRA and other gun nuts will want to arm schoolchildren themselves.

Because the Supreme Court made our 2nd Amendment of the Constitution the de facto 1st Amendment, we can't be like Japan or the United Kingdom, which ban most firearms and have few gun-related murders.

Lord knows we can't hire armed guards for our schools, because we don't want to pay for those guards.

Afterall, it's all about cutting spending not creating another entitled class of government workers whose subsequent pensions will drain our coffers.

So, we are stuck with what we have.

The massacre in Newtown, which has followed scores of massacres around the country, will happen again and again.

There will be more memorials and more grief.

We should just leave our flags at half-staff on a permanent basis.

For television, the horrific gun carnage provides another form of "entertainment" around which to sell ads.

Hollywood sure knows how profitable violent movies are to the bottom line.

This is who we are as a nation. We tolerate the killings of kindergartners, and thousands more each year, by firearms.

This is what the price of freedom means to gun nuts and the NRA.

This is America.

As always, if you feel that you must kill someone, do us all a favor and kill yourself first.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

'Lincoln': A House divided

Daniel Day-Lewis is Lincoln
As we crawl toward the infamous "fiscal cliff," it's a good thing we have "Lincoln" at the multi-plex. It lets Americans watch a painful debate over a truly consequential issue.

In "Lincoln," as the House debated passage of the 13th Amendment that outlawed slavery, the country was still at war in January 1865.

Flash forward to 2012, a year in which an African-American was re-elected president and when we're in year 11 of the war in Afghanistan, the greatest issue of our time is whether or not we can raise taxes on the rich from 35 percent to 39 percent to pay for that war and all the rest that we demand.


Compare our current Speaker (weeper) of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), with a real "radical Republican" in "Lincoln," Thaddeus Stevens (R-Penn.), who spent his life trying to abolish slavery.

Boehner is merely trying to reward his rich benefactors, like the Koch brothers, and to genuflect before the anti-tax god, Grover Norquist.

To say that our current, toxic political climate knows no precedent, is ridiculous.

In "Lincoln," Republicans argued with Democrats, most from border states next to the Confederacy, about the constitutional amendment to forever ban slavery in these United States. It seems like a no-brainer now, but there was a time when many legislators had no brains. Shocking? No.

Democrats, who supported the war effort against the rebellious southern states, could not stomach the idea that Negroes could eventually have the same rights as whites. What would be next? Extending voting privileges to women?

Yes, that sentiment was raised by a Democrat in "Lincoln."

And, yes, there will be moviegoers who will say, "Yeah, look at those Democrats. They haven't changed a bit. They're always trying to stop Republicans from doing what's necessary for the nation."

Well, for anyone with a pulse, today's Republicans are the mirror image of the Democrats in "Lincoln."

Dixiecrats, those folks in the Confederacy and sympathizers in neighboring states, were reliably Democratic until President Johnson signed civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.

"Northern" Democrats were finally willing to shed their racist brethren in the south, even if it meant losing a lot of elections in the short term.

Republicans were ecstatic to embrace the racists, who've been reliably Republican for a generation now.

Of course, the current GOP is willing to embrace anyone so long as they are white and male. Here's a story showing how that pathway leads to a dead end.

Anyway, the strength of "Lincoln," aside from Daniel Day-Lewis' award-winning performance, is that it reveals how racist this country was in 1865. Sadly, America is still divided by race as the recent election attests, though not as much as it was back then. There is some progress.

Also, "Lincoln" shows how horse-trading and cronyism were necessary to getting legislation passed, much as it is today.

Politics is a dirty business. However, when one party asserts total domination over the other, without any room for compromise, then civil disturbance will follow.

Republicans, emboldened by their Tea Party absolutists, believe that to compromise with President Obama or Democrats is like surrendering to terrorists.

As long as extreme Republicans believe that, then we will be a divided nation for quite some time.

And, as Lincoln said, a House divided against itself cannot stand.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Barram, Clinton for city mayor, pro tem

Bend is the largest city in Oregon that doesn't allow voters to pick its mayor.

As it stands now, Bend's city councilors select the mayor among themselves, in secret.

It doesn't really matter that much, but citizens should vote for their town's "leader."

The city manager wields the most power in the city and the citizens really have no control over who the city manager is.

Right now we have a young, inexperienced city manager who is pulled in different directions by an ideologically divided council.

Consequently, we have an expensive water project, that the council approved, on hold by the state due to challenges from Bend's citizens.

The problem with the $68 million water project is that the common household must pay a disproportionate amount to finance it.

The biggest users, the local beer industry, are subsidized by the basic household, even when that household has only one person using the water system. For the past 10 years, city water rates have increased each year at triple the rate of inflation.

Also, for years, ratepayers have subsidized developers and the bill is now due.

Jim Clinton, the oldest and longest tenured councilor, understands this and that is why he is opposed to the water project.

But, as smart and capable as Clinton is, he doesn't have the personality to be mayor. And, we know that personality goes a long way. That is why Jodie Barram is preferred for this position.

Clinton is not a back-slapper type. Neither is Barram, but she is younger and has more energy to devote to the position. Also, it's important to have a progressive woman as a leader in our city because it shows that Bend is forward looking. Clinton should be mayor pro-tem, or the substitute mayor.

In this era of "standards" and "accountability," it's vital that we have leaders willing to demonstrate these attributes rather than be shills for the development community.

Barram and Clinton look out for all of Bend's citizens, not just those with the deepest pockets.

The elephant, sadly, is still in the room

Just when we thought we would jump off the "fiscal cliff" nice and leisurely, Republicans are distracting our attention yet again.

First, they learned their lesson of the last election, when women voters returned President Obama to the White House, by appointing white men to all of the 19 committee chairmanships of the House.

When there was a modest uproar, the House quickly added a white woman to chair the committee that keeps the House in order.

Senate Republicans felt overshadowed by their buddies in the lower chamber and so they voted against the disabled ensuring the bill's demise.

Of course, the bill they voted against was a ratification of a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled modeled after the American with Disabilities Act.

The treaty states that all nations should attempt to ensure that disabled people enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as every citizen, but the 38 Republicans warned the treaty poses a threat to America's national sovereignty.

One of the tenets of Republican philosophy is paranoia.

And, the UN is as good as it gets these days in the paranoia department now that the Soviet Union no longer exists.

That onetime GOP "Big Tent" is getting smaller every day.

Add the disabled to the GOP's "Unwanted List," which includes women, African-Americans, gays, Hispanics, Asians and Muslims or just about anybody who isn't white, Christian and male.

Good luck with that.