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Keystone Bill Vetoed!

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Half of the US Is Broke

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The myth of the Christian country

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Jeb Bush's damning secret history

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Red states that mooch

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Trust in government is 'dead, Jim'

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“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR, 2nd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1937

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A Just Peace

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SIP contract online

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Oreaviationwatch

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Middle East friendship chart

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Corporations enriching shareholders

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- Intel tax abatements

- INTEL, come clean!

- Leashing INTEL  

- Free to Be Hungry

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Facts not fiction on universal gun background checks

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"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere"

Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The GOP - Not One of US.

Wall Street, our new criminal class...       

   Business in the USA is sitting on $2 trillion dollars refusing to invest their own funds in expanding and hiring workers.  

   When one adds to this the reserves that banks, equity firms and hedge funds have - the picture is clear - "capitalism in the USA is on strike." 

   The engine of our economy - the spirit of entrepreneurship is not in evidence today.  So much for business being dynamic and risk taking. 

   They hire K- Street lobbyists and their ilk at the state level because they are averse to risk taking - pleading for tax breaks, tax credits and endless loopholes. 

   The "business of business" in America today is not about job creation, it's about wealth hoarding and redistribution from the middle class to the top 1%. 

   So for those who claim government doesn't create jobs, my response is that business doesn't either until given "corporate welfare" by government.  The fact is that the private and public sector are highly integrated, something the anti-tax, anti-government Tea Party types don't understand. 

   Job creation requires public/private partnerships but the benefits of such collaboration should go to the 99% not just the 1%.  

 

RAD'S

WEBSITE PICKS: 


 

  • An Independent View

Oregon Outpost

  • A Middle East View      

Rami G. Khouri

  • RealClearPolitics:

Realclearpolitics

  • Jim Hightower:   

Jimhightower.com

  • Robert Reich:

Robert Reich

  • Thomas Friedman: 

Friedman Column

  • Nicholas Kristof: 

Kristof Column

Oregon's Motto: 

She flies with her own wings! 


Hard Times in Oregon: 

Hardtimes

The Oregon story - the rich get richer, the poor and middle class lose ground.  Check this front page Oregonian article out. 

Oregon wage gap widens

Homelessness in Oregon - a call to action

Chuck Currie The crisis of homelessness


  

      Oregon's coming 34th out of 41 states in the Obama "Race to the Top" illustrates the failure of leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and his predecessors as they have built an educational bridge to nowhere called high stakes testing.

   Instead of being in a race to the top we seem to be dumpster diving to the bottom despite doing education reform since 1991.  Insanity is termed doing the same thing over and over again.  When can we put a fork in this stupidity? 

   To confuse matters more the Oregonian's editorial board has pontificated that this was a lost opportunity to get federal funding for innovation.  How firing principals and teachers equals innovation is a mystery to me.   

   The way to reform schools is to reduce class sizes, to encourage teacher collaboration and to support their continued education.  High stakes testing and performance based assessment of teachers are NOT the answer!    

   If you want students to succeed you first have to resolve the issues they confront before they come to school.  Children who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, health care issues and family instability require wrap around services for them and their families, 24/7.   

   Every child needs a safe home of their own and parents who know how to be good parents.   

There is only one way to address this impending crisis.  Schools must have a stable source of funding. Until that happens - we will limp from crisis to crisis.   

 

 

    

    Why does the richest nation in the world have the moral blight of homeless people?

Invisible People

http://www.npr.org


 Homelessness

    Connecting the dots between homelessness, hunger & health care disparities in Oregon and Washington County: 

Homelessness:  

•    The faces of the homeless are families with children, single men and women, vets, and many who are impaired. It is estimated that in Washington County up to 56% of homelessness occurs to families.

Hunger:

•    Hunger is highest among single mother households (10%) and poor families (15%) as well as renters, unemployed workers and minority households. 

Heath Care Disparities: 

•    Adults in Oregon without insurance represent 22.3% of the state’s population compared to 19.7% of the nation.  In Washington County approximately 


A RAD rhetorical question - Were Madison & Marx "Marxists"?  

 

"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments."   

- James Madison

 

"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways. The point is, however, to change it. 

- Karl Marx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAD Lines

Divaville.org

Thanks for the memories Christa!  

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 Explore Intel emissions

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#1445: Tommy, Riposa in Pace

requiescat in pace

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"There are men who believe that democracy... is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate [and that] tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future..." 

FDR, 3rd Inaugural Address, Jan 20, 1941

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Obamacare is working in Oregon!

Oregon's uninsurance rate cut more than half following federal health reforms

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Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

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Taking on the Pro-Israel Lobby 

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Sign the petition ►

Walgreens - pay your fair share of taxes!

"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws." - Mayer Amschel Rothschild

Miguel de Cervantes, from The Duke - "I accuse you of being an idealist, a bad poet and an honest man."  Cervantes' response - "Guilty as charged, I have never had the courage to believe in nothing."   from Man of La Mancha  

Intel failed to report fluoride emissions for almost 30 years   

     Why do Intel employees who are house hunting in Hillsboro, Aloha or Beaverton refer to an area within a 5 mile radius of Intel plants as "the dead zone?"  

      Do they know something we don't?  QuestionIntel.com  We couldn't trust banks "too big to fail," so why should we trust Intel?

Professor Kingfield, from the Paper Chase

   "I'm not a teacher: only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead – ahead of myself as well as you." 

- George Bernard Shaw

 

BLOGS:

From the Left Wing:

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman - The New York Times

Democracy Now
democracynow.org

The Daily Kos

dailykos.com

Blue Oregon

blueoregon.com

 

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." 

- Emilie Buchwald 

 


    "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law." 

- Justice John Paul Stevens, Bush v. Gore, 2001


    The state of our union - check out the map, it's a reality check for those who can't figure out why people are so ticked off... 

americanobserver

    Here's Garrison Keillor's rap on the rightwingnuts:   

GarrisonKeillor

 

     Garrison Keillor - "...The Founding Fathers intended the Senate to be a fount of wisdom... but when you consider...  moon-faced Mitch McConnell, your faith in democracy is challenged severely. Any legislative body in which 41 senators from rural states that together represent 10 percent of the population can filibuster you to death is going to be flat-footed, on the verge of paralysis, no matter what. Any time 10 percent of the people can stop 90 percent, it's like driving a bus with a brake pedal for each passenger. That's why Congress has a public approval rating of [11] percent...." 


"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war"

- John Adams

 

"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."  

- Mark Twain  

 

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  

- George Santayana 

 

"The love of one's country is a natural thing.  But why should love stop at the border?" 

- Pablo Casals

 

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." 

- William Butler Yeats  

 

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?'

But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?" 

- George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921)

 

"...the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government..."

- James Madison, Federalist Papers #11


"Why … should we have government? Why not each individual take to himself the whole fruit of his labor, without having any of it taxed away?”  

The legitimate object of government, is to do for the people whatever they need to have done, but which they can not do, at all, or can not do, so well, for themselves – in their separate and individual capacities … There are many such things … roads, bridges and the like; providing for the helpless young and afflicted; common schools … the criminal and civil [justice] departments."

- Abraham Lincoln

 

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society

- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

 

"Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates, but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole..."

- Edmund Burke 

 

“It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again, and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind.  These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions.”

- Jonathan Swift

 

" Every satirist who drew breath has flung pots of ink at this parade of tooting lummoxes and here it is come round again, marching down Main Street, rallying to the cause of William McKinley, hail, hail, the gang’s all here, ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay."

- Garrison Keillor


 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

  

 


  

 

Wednesday
Mar042015

THE DAY AFTER A TRIP TO THE "PUZZLE PALACE"

A LEGISLATIVE HEARING IN THE PUZZLE PALACE      On Tuesday I joined my cohorts of the Taxpayer Return on Investment Coalition to talk to legislators about our TRIA bill, HB 2087. 

     Our bill is focuses on making sure the taxpayer funded investments through SIPS, tax credits, grants et al are carefully monitored to make sure we get the “biggest bang” for our taxpayer buck.  This requires more transparency and a more robust accounting of how our money is spent.  

     The key question is are subsidies for corporate Oregon which result in property and income tax reductions for them producing the high quality jobs that are promised and helping local communities navigate a global economy or are they draining money from basic services?    

     In meeting with House members it became clear that legislators on both sides of the political aisle want to get more transparency and accountability when it comes to doling out millions of Oregon taxpayer dollars to corporate Oregon.  

     In the afternoon we attended a hearing in the House Revenue Committee on three bills dealing with SIPS – Oregon’s strategic investment program managed by Business Oregon  the executive branch agency charged with developing this program. 

     SIPS are the biggest tax abatement program in Oregon.    

  • HB 2672 Requires each county in which exempt strategic investment program property is located to certify to Oregon State Lottery Commission amount of property tax that school districts within county do not receive due to strategic investment program.

  • HB 2084 Indexes minimum total costs of eligible project to increase in U.S. City Average Consumer Price Index since 1993.

  • HB 2098 Limits property tax exemption under strategic investment program to real property, other than land and buildings, and personal property.

     At one point in the Q&A from legislators to Washington County’s lobbyist who was defending the SIP program, a very interesting question was posed – “is there any way the SIP program could be improved?”  After a very telling moment of hesitation, the lobbyist’s answer was “NO.” 

     Needless to say, not everyone in the hearing room was thrilled with this answer not legislators nor audience members.  It was all I could do not to jump up and say that’s a “bogus” response to be expected from the mouthpiece of our county commission, the TROIKA. 

     Washington County is in a very privileged position as the home of Intel and it’s 17,000 employees. Intel gets millions in SIP property tax breaks more than any corporation in Oregon and doesn’t pay a dime of state income taxes, Washington County gets Gain Share funds in return.  

     Gain Share funds are meant to replace the money lost from Intel’s property tax and income tax breaks.  Washington County gets the lion’s share of Gain Share money because we are the home county that generates these funds thanks to the income taxes paid by Intel employees who reside in Washington County.    

     What’s left is shared by neighbor counties and the left overs put in the general fund presumably for the benefit of the “other Oregon.”  However, legislators from outside the Metro area see it in Orwellian terms “while all counties are equal some are more equal than others.”  

    Gain Share money Washington County gets has become a “slush” fund which Chair Duyck et al use as a form of patronage to reward their local political cronies.  Some money goes to schools, some to transportation and some to funding a pet project, a multi-purpose community center. 

     But despite Gain Share not enough money is in the pot to fix the long-standing deficits accrued over the years with the passage of Measure 5 in 1991 and its progeny Measures 47 and 50.  So the tax breaks Intel et al get from SIPs leads to an accumulating budget deficit at the local level.

    After the failure in May of the transportation levy the funding problems are even more daunting.    

    When our county lobbyist says there is no reason to change the SIP – he’s blowing smoke.  We have a 19,000 affordable housing deficit.  If I were a board member I’d split it 50/50 between housing and schools not a convention center which residents voted NO on. 

     But this doesn’t solve the problem those in the “other Oregon” have with the SIP program – the privileging of Washington County – on the arrogant assumption that because Intel is located here – we should get 50% of Gain Share money.  Huh? 

     My good friend Laurie Wimmer’s testimony puts things into perspective – check out her testimony in the “comments” section of this post.  You can find the other testimony by going to the bill links (above) that will take you to the hearings record.  

     Our business friendly lobbyist trotted out the canard that without SIP funds, Intel would pack up and leave Oregon?  This is “bogus” proposition that is pure 100% prime bull…   Intel has a huge investment in Washington County – they can’t afford to leave, SIP or no SIP. 

     Besides, Oregon got rid of the unitary tax in the Atiyeh era.  Not taxing a corporation’s world-wide wealth is the biggest tax break of all and incentive enough to stay in Oregon.  And then Kitz gave Intel & Nike a 30 year “no new taxes” freeze.  But like spoiled brats they want more.

     It was suggested they might move to China, Mexico or Israel.  Clearly “our” well-paid lobbyists doesn’t know much about the global economy.  China is teetering on the biggest growth bubble in the world.  When it bursts it will make the Great Recession seem small by comparison. 

     Does Intel really want to do business with the Mexican drug cartel or locate in the Middle East with the growing threat of ISIS?  It’s time Oregon leaders quit letting Intel and Nike “play them” by the myth that they might take their marbles elsewhere. Oregon should double dare them! 

     As one legislator put it – when corporations locate they don’t look at the tax breaks, they look at the education system and whether it can provide a quality work force.  In the hi-tech case they also look for cheap electrical power and a plentiful source of water. 

     Washington County has the latter two but if our K-12 and higher ed system continue to be defunded we won’t be able to provide the quality work force the hi-tech industry depends upon.  With an increasing drop out rate and a pittance of 6% of general fund support for higher education tax breaks alone will not “seal the deal.”  

     In the meantime, thankfully the grass is not greener elsewhere given the other options that are profiles in ossified elites (China), narco-violence (Mexico) or regional terrorism (Israel).  So don’t buy the spin that “they” will leave Oregon.  It’s time to invest in Oregon not Intel et al…   

    

Sunday
Mar012015

ENDING HOMELESSNESS

Rosewood Homes in Roseburg, Oregon consists of 59 duplexes. The project was built in the 1950s and has been remodeled several times.  It is located in mixed income area adjacent to Fullerton Middle School - where RAD attended 6th grade.  My father was the Executive Director of the Douglas County Housing Authority from 1952 to 1975. The DCHA has smaller projects in Riddle, Winston, Yoncalla, Reedsport, Oakland and Drain.   

For more info on the DCHA check out this link - Housing Authority of Douglas County

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     The UnOregonian has done a series of investigative reports on homelessness written by Anna Griffin.   I've included the links to the articles below.  It's an excellent series BUT as usual it has the same flaws too much of the media coverage on this issue displays - a Portland centric focus, a "victim" focused framing on individuals who've made bad personal choices and/or on vets who have been left out in the cold by the VA. 

      The facts are that of the 20,000 homeless Oregonians most are families with children not "bums on Burnside" or homeless "couch surfing kids" but peeople who were victims of the Great Recession and predatory lending practices by "banks to big the fail."  Even before the Great Recession half of those facing foreclosure were those facing catastrophic health costs and/or a lost job. 

     The modern media has a penchant for "framing" issues like homelessness by focusing on the personal trials and tribulations of persons caught in the web of a socio-economic system that doesn't work anymore for the most vulnerable.  In all began in the LBJ era when we didn't deliver on the promise of moving from state mental hospitals to community mental health and when the feds in the Reagan years ended public housing. 

     In place of the public investment in war housing during WW II and public housing after WW II we no longer build projects like Rosewood homes switching instead to a hodge podge of public/private partnerships which are so convoluted and muscle bound with red tape it takes years to get housing built for the working poor, the homeless, vets, elderly and/or victims of spouse abuse.  

     "...a lack of affordable housing is a huge component of the homelessness problem... The National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates a 7 million-unit shortage nationwide..."  

     In Washington County we have a growing gap of 19,000 low income rental housing units needed to met the current need let alone what it will be by 2035 when the Metro area has 1,000,000 new residents.  And in Salem the most powerful voice in the Puzzle Palace - the Oregon Home Builders, OHBA, led by John Chandler oppose inclusionary zoning which is a necessary tool to address this gap. 

     The politics of false priorities:  The County Board of Commissioners considers building a convention center with Gain Share money more important than investing in low income housing or schools.  

     One can point the fickle finger of blame on urban renewal or on housing authorities too politicized to do the right thing.  Each is a valid point of critique.  Urban renewal in the '50s and '60 tore down low rent private housing (slums) to build freeways for suburbanites to drive into and out of the inner city.  Public housing built in big cities too often reinforced existing patterns of segregation. 

     What such misguided policies reflect is the political reality of housing policy in the USA that has reflected the power of red-lining banks, realtors making profits by breaking up neighborhoods, homebuilders maximizing profit and public officials unwilling to stand up for poor people.  The issue is no longer what will happen to your property values if a minority family moves next door - it's all about gentrification. 

     The pattern of creating racial and income based segregated communities is a deja vu experience.  In Portland this means as NE Portland is gentrified, outer SE becomes the new "Albina."  In Washington County this means the poor are pushed east out of the county or to its western rural edge.  Not to invoke a mythical "golden age" it's hard not to conclude that the more things change, the more they stay the same!  

     There’s no one answer to OUR homeless crisis. Long-term success is going to take a series of policy changes and new investments. It’s also going to require us to change the way we view people in poverty.

 

Friday
Feb272015

TIME TO PULL THE PLUG ON THE OEIB

EDITOR'S NOTE: 

    This op ed was posted on the UnOregonian's website Friday in the On The Stump column. 

     It's worth reading and reflects a perspective I've articulated in my posts, guest posts, my own op eds, in my School & Society course at Pacific & PSU and in the Puzzle Palace ever since Oregon became a "leader" in education reform back in the early '90s under Vera Katz.  

By Ramin Farahmandpur

     On the heels of Gov. John Kitzhaber's resignation, his pet project, the Oregon Education Investment Board, faces an uncertain fate. A proposal, SB215, which would extend the OEIB's shelf life beyond its March 15, 2016, expiration date, is currently under consideration in the state Capitol. If the teachers, parents and community organizations who have rallied against OEIB have their way, the bill will falter.

     Members of the Senate Committee on Education heard school activists and parents lay out the OEIB's shortcomings in its four years of existence. Created by the 2011 Legislature in SB909, the board was developed to oversee the "seamless" alignment of the state's public education sectors, from pre-K through post-secondary education.

     Pat Muller, a teacher who testified against the bill, said, "This experiment has been an expensive disaster for public education and for the students we serve. By its own admission, OEIB has failed to meet its objectives and remains functionally accountable to no one."

     Opponents of the bill also testified that the board had become a wasteful and ineffective bureaucratic layer whose members -- not elected by voters -- serve at the "pleasure of" the governor. And, because the board is composed of gubernatorial appointees, its aims are at odds with its public mission.

     But that's not all, they say. Only one of 13 appointees is a schoolteacher.

     Others who testified against the bill said that the board's budget, drawn from the general fund, could be used instead to hire additional teachers in school districts to reduce class size. But the former governor's staff has pushed back.

     OEIB champions itself ferociously behind the scenes and graciously in public testimony. Its lofty ambitions seem hard to oppose, even if they seem out of touch with the reality of today's youth and the state's inability to meet their needs. While the board has focused its efforts on education accountability, outcome-based funding, teacher evaluation, assessment and achievement compacts, hoping to reach the state's aspirational goal of 40-40-20, it has nonetheless failed. Why?

     Perhaps it is because the OEIB refuses to acknowledge Oregon's shamefully inadequate level of education funding. Because of the state's decision to disinvest in public education, Oregon has one of the largest class sizes, the shortest school years and the lowest graduation rates in the nation. Yet, critics continue to insist that public schools, teachers, educator training programs and unions are to blame for some students' poor high-stakes test scores.

     Although no one would disagree that public education could always be improved, it must be said that it cannot achieve these goals without sufficient resources. In 2014, the Quality Education Commission calculated that the 2015-2017 biennial cost to optimally fund Oregon's public K-12 system is $9.158 billion. The state is more than $2.382 billion short of that goal.

     At its annual retreat in August, OEIB members admitted that they have no authority to increase school funding. More telling is the fact that under the board's tenure, student achievement gaps have not closed.

     Reluctantly, the board gave itself a failing grade.

     The Oregon Legislature and new Gov. Kate Brown have an opportunity to reinvest in the schools Oregonians love. They can do this in part by ending the subsidy to the failed Oregon Education Investment Board. It's time for the OEIB to ride off into its sunset.

     Ramin Farahmandpur is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy in Portland State University's Graduate School of Education.

Friday
Feb272015

VISITING THE PUZZLE PALACE

    There are three types of citizens - 1) the passive majority, 2) the complainers and 3) those who engage.  Make a difference be an "engager."    

     I spent Thursday in the Puzzle Palace with 60 Occupational Therapy students from Pacific University and Linn/Benton Community College.  My mission as their guide was to familiarize them with the physical scenes of the legislature in action and to help them navigate the legislative process.  Over my 41 years career as a professor of politics and government it's field trips like this which bring the "book learnin" alive. 

     Students like ordinary citizens really get jazzed by interacting with lobbyists and legislators once they get over the "fear factor" that they are like fish out of water.  This is "their" legislature not a wholly owned subsidiary of Phil Knight, 400 well paid lobbyists and 90 legislators.  When you break it down it's all about developing relationships and putting a human face on the political process.  

     It was fun introducing them to legislators, lobbyists, staffers et al in the Puzzle Palace including two of my former students at Pacific, lobbyists Paul Phillips and Jessica Adamson.  The most important lesson is that as OT's they are the "experts" not legislators nor lobbyists.  And this is true of citizens who dare to walk the corridors of power to share their experience and expertise - their "agency" with legislators.  

     As they said if you don't vote you can't complain about election results, likewise if you don't engage with your legislators don't complain when they do things you don't agree with.  E-mail them, call them, visit them at their town halls, work on their campaigns, write letters to the editor - get engaged!   Better yet visit the Puzzle Palace when in session!  Why let the gun rights types or the "suits" have all the fun!    

     Oregon's legislature is citizen friendly unlike larger states such as California or the US Congress.  If you don't believe me check Puzzle Palace website -

 

 

Wednesday
Feb252015

ISIS - NINJAS OF THE "CALIPHATE?" - UPDATE  

21st century anti-ISIS ninjas?

     As an avid PBS viewer I watched a travel program on Japan last week.  Reference was made to geishas (who were not prostitutes), samurai and ninjas who served the feudal war-lords of Japan before the unification of Japan under the Takugawa shogunate.

     Lesson -  learn from history so as not to make the same mistakes, again and again! 

     This was a period when Japan was struggling to establish a centralized and orderly government between 1600-1800.   Recalling a yearlong Asian history course at Whitman in 1963 and then graduate course on Japan and China at the U of Minnesota in 1965, it gave me a new perspective on the troubles in the Middle East.  

     Here’s a brief summary of this important era in Japan’s history thanks to Wikipedia –

     The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the Tokugawa bakufu (徳川幕府?) and the Edo bakufu (江戸幕府?), was the last feudal Japanese military government which existed between 1603 and 1868.[1] The heads of government were the shoguns,[2] and each was a member of the Tokugawa clan.[3] The Tokugawa shogunate ruled from Edo Castle and the years of shogunate became known as the Edo period.[4] This time is also called the Tokugawa period[1] or pre-modern (Kinsei (近世?)).[5]

     Following the Sengoku Period of "warring states" central government had been largely reestablished by Oda Nobunaga during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, central authority fell to Tokugawa Ieyasu.[1]

     Society in the Tokugawa period, unlike the shogunates before it, was supposedly based on the strict class hierarchy originally established by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The daimyo, or lords, were at the top, followed by the warrior-caste of samurai, with the farmers, artisans, and traders ranking below.

     In some parts of the country, particularly smaller regions, daimyo and samurai were more or less identical, since daimyo might be trained as samurai, and samurai might act as local rulers. Otherwise, the largely inflexible nature of this social stratification system unleashed disruptive forces over time.

     Taxes on the peasantry were set at fixed amounts which did not account for inflation or other changes in monetary value. As a result, the tax revenues collected by the samurai landowners were worth less and less over time. This often led to numerous confrontations between noble but impoverished samurai and well-to-do peasants, ranging from simple local disturbances to much bigger rebellions.        

     None, however, proved compelling enough to seriously challenge the established order until the arrival of foreign powers.

     In the mid-19th century, an alliance of several of the more powerful daimyo, along with the titular Emperor, finally succeeded in the overthrow of the shogunate after the Boshin War, culminating in the Meiji Restoration.

     The Tokugawa Shogunate came to an official end in 1868, with the resignation of the 15th Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu and the "restoration" (Ōsei fukko) of imperial rule.

     Notwithstanding its eventual overthrow in favor of the more "modernized", less feudal form of governance of the Meiji Restoration, the Tokugawa shogunate oversaw the longest period of peace and stability in Japan's history, lasting well over 200 years.

     So what is my takeaway from this brief history lesson?      

  •      Establishing order in any nation as it moves from a decentralized feudal to modern centralized regime takes hundreds of years not a “mission” accomplished in 10-year increments. 

  •      Creating a stable nation-state is often preceded by years, decades maybe centuries of what Hobbes refers to as the “state of nature” – the war of all against all.  Only when the locals become fed up with chaos can order be achieved. 

  •      Order must grow from an organic movement not enforced by outsiders though as in Japan it may be precipitated by the fear of the outsider – the alien, the imperialist, the colonialist. 

     Ironically the Middle East seems engaged in a similar process, albeit the scale of violence seems much larger to American eyes than Japan’s experience.  But this may be an illusion created by a social media based global village tethered to a 24/7 media cycle.   

     The destabilizing influence of “foreigners” in the Middle East has been a fact of life since the 18th century be it the British, the Soviets and the Americans and dare one say the Zionists of Israel by contrast to Japan’s insulation.  

     So as we read articles like the ones below let’s keep the chaos of the Middle East in perspective.  Japan’s experience should be a cautionary tale that “foreigners” can really muck things up...  

     Admiral Perry opened up Japan to the West but the consequences of his “visit” placed an historical time bomb that blew up on December 7th, 1941 not on his generation's watch but into the faces of the so-called “greatest generation.” 

     Was 9/11 our generation's Pearl Harbor?  

     We live in a global village so we can’t turn the clock back to the 16th – 18th centuries.  But perhaps we should be more humble about the uses and abuses of American military power in the world of the 21st century.

     The question we face in such a world what to do, if anything?  

Here is Jeb Bush, the most likely Republican candidate in 2016, speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

“America does not have the luxury of withdrawing from the world. Our security, our prosperity and our values demand that we remain engaged and involved in often distant places. We have no reason to apologize for our leadership and our interest in serving the cause of global security, global peace and human freedom.”

And here is President Obama, introducing his administration’s 2015 National Security Strategy, an annual announcement as to how America’s defense and foreign policy cliques intend to get us through the year:

“Any successful strategy to ensure the safety of the American people and advance our national security interests must begin with an undeniable truth—America must lead. Strong and sustained American leadership is essential to a rules-based international order that promotes global security and prosperity as well as the dignity and human rights of all peoples. The question is never whether America should lead, but how we lead.”

     The key difference is in Obama's words "how we lead."  In the Dubya era we attacked al Qaida and toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan and then taking our eyes off the ball we lost our way by invading and occupying Iraq using the big lie of WMDs.  In the Obama era we have gradually withdrawn our troops while leaving token forces to bolster fragile regimes. 

     In the meantime - the backlash from two centuries of colonialism is playing out everyday in the Middle East and beyond.  Unlike the world of 16-18th century Japan, we have no place to hide.  

     Because we have no place to hide we can't simply stand by while ISIS pursues the delusion of a new Caliphate by their version of ethnic/religious cleansing.  We should lose no sleep over our work to "degrade" ISIS...   

     As Martin Luther King said - "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere." 

     Some argue there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the Bush and Obama foreign policy narratives - they are both based on the premise of "American exceptionalism."   I disagree. 

     What is "exceptional" about the USA is not our military might but the words of the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal..." 

     We are our best, "that shining light on a hill" when we live up to those words, we are our worst when we fail to do so.  The difference is that unlike any nation on earth those words are "written" not merely implied standing as a benchmark to keep us on task.  They are a cautionary tale which remind us we can do better!  

     Whether on the home front or in the global village as in scripture when we see children drifting down river we must save them from the rapids but also go up river to determine the cause of such "drifting" and then set about repairing the breach in the safety net, the social contract to do less is to descend into the state of nature.       

  • Fear of the Islamic State spawns a renegade Afghan militia

http://a.msn.com/01/en-ca/BBhW6Lv