"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped his bid for the speakership, the general assumption was that the reason was votes – that he thought he might not be able to collect enough of them within the Republican caucus. (This is the guy the caucus previously had easily elected to the number two spot, remember). But another possible reason has surfaced as well: “it probably has something to do with the rumors that McCarthy is carrying on a Scandal-worthy extramarital affair with Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.” What? First, these seem to be rumors only, and nothing even resembling actual evidence has surfaced; in addition to which both McCarthy and Ellmers denied anything was going on. From our standpoint, we’ll assume innocence until proof of guilt, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. But here’s the interesting part: The flames were fanned not by media reports or by Democrats but by other Republicans. Little wonder House members with any intelligence (say, Paul Ryan) want little to do with the speakership right now. For most any of them, it looks like a ticket to a political nightmare. – rs (John Boehner photo)

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First Take


The extended coverage of the Umpqua Community College massacre – much of it wrong or unnecessarily overwrought – has inundated about everyone with a communications device. Lots of real and deserved anguish from and for many folk. But also a lot of fully expected “duck-and-run“ by politicians, strained voices on both sides of the gun debate with nothing helpful to add – also fully expected – with no new answers to keep these killings from continuing. Again.

When reviewing reports of some of the 294 multiple gun murders in the country as of the first of the month – and throwing in Sandy Hook Elementary, Aurora’s movie massacre, the Clackamas shopping center and the rest we’ve become so familiar with – there’s not much new in this one.

They all seem to follow the same script i.e. unsuspecting victims, public areas where we’ve always assumed our safety, a depressed/suicidal/angry or otherwise deranged young male, multiple weapons, a shooter’s decision to die (most of the time), massive law enforcement response, demands for gun control, demands for less gun control, excuses, blame-casting and denial. That about covers it.

But the UCC shooting near Roseburg, Oregon, did have one new wrinkle. A shooter, with no apparent particular religious faith, is said by survivors to have tried to determine which of his targets would die immediately or more slowly for their faith. Which impending victim would say he/she was a Christian – or believed in God – and which wouldn’t. And that got me thinking. Would I take a bullet for my faith? Would I take a bullet for Jesus? Would you? Would anyone? Especially when you’ve just seen fellow classmates killed after answering?

Each person to be murdered or wounded was reportedly asked beforehand about a religious belief? If the answer was “Yes” or “I’m a Christian” or “I believe in God,” the shooter put a bullet in the respondent’s head. In the case of other answers, there was a body shot which might – or might not – kill but would certainly inflict huge pain. It can be surmised most victims – dead or alive – answered one way or the other. What’s not clear is what would’ve been the case if someone responded with “Hebrew,” “Muslim” or “Atheist.” A wound or dead on the classroom floor?

Taking a bullet for Jesus. Not something you can give a quick answer to.

History is full of instances of Christians being killed for no other reason than professing their faith. Or denying it so as not to be killed. One of the first such recorded was when Salome danced and got the head of John the Baptist as payment for services. Or, maybe when Jesus was being tried and sentenced to death. All of his followers – the ones closest to him on this earth – fled. Peter – the “Rock” – even denied him three times in a span of a few hours. No “bullet for Jesus” among even his closest companions. Of the 12, only his brother, John, came to the crucifixion. But, eventually, all of them died violent deaths for being Christians.

We’re told the UCC shooter had expressed an interest in the Irish Republican Army or Irish Catholicism or some such. But he wasn’t known to be affiliated with any religious grouping personally. So why was the questioning of a certain victim’s faith important during what he believed were his own final hours? The answers to that – if answers there be – died with him. Just as well.

Still, there’s that other question. Would you – would I – tell someone with a rifle aimed at us that we were practicing Christians? Would we do that after seeing classmates and friends just murdered for their answer? What would our responses be?

To my deep personal shame – as a self-professed “Christian” – I have to say I don’t know my answer. Believing a statement affirming my “faith” could get me killed on-the-spot, makes the stakes as high as any I’ll face in this life. Opening my mouth – much less coming up with a truthful answer – seems impossible.

But, if I could speak, what words would come tumbling out? A plea for my life made to someone intent on killing? Some sort of effort to get this mad, irrational person to stop in the middle of a mad, irrational act to which he seemed committed? Words of prayer for him and the victims he’d just created? Would I say loudly and firmly, “Yes, I AM a Christian?” Or – nothing. How would I respond?

What would be YOUR answer?

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There are three people, two of them aspiring public office holders, and the third a long-time veteran that political junkies in Idaho should keep their eye on over the next few weeks and months. I’ll admit bias right up front: one aspirant is a former student of mine and the other is a talented attorney I have known since he was “knee high to a graas-hopper.”

Both are answering a call to public service and are the kinds of folks we should want to serve. The veteran has proven time and again that he relishes public service and is exceptionally goodat it. He now may be the answer to a problem confronting his party.

The former student is Kathy Kahn, an outstanding educator who teachesEnglish Literature at St. Maries High School. After 27 years Kahn will retire next May, but only to take on a new challenge. She is seriously weighing taking on Second District State Representative Vito
Barbieri. Demonstrating a degree of sophistication few rookies evidence she has formed a political action committee to accept contributions while she travels the district to assess her prospects.

She intends to run as an “Andrus Democrat,” but the district is solidly a 2:1 Republican district and she is well aware that despite numerous gaffes by the incumbent it will be an uphill battle to unseat him.

She has turned heads though by attracting former veteran State Senator Mike Blackbird to serve as her campaign chair and is raising money as well asputting together a string of visits after work hours and on weekends with the
interest groups around the district.

Her first bumper sticker is already showing up on autos, particularly on the cars of a cadre to North Idaho College students, which says “Kathy Kahn Can” and leaves one saying “can do what?” The answer is Kathy Kahn can win, Kathy Kahn can do better, Kathy Kahn cares.

Vito Barbieri may still win, but he’ll know he was in the
fight of his political life. My money says Kahn will run and win.

The second aspiring public servant is attorney Andy Hawes, grandson of the almost legendary Rodney Hawes, publisher of the Owyhee Nugget, literally the last hotlead set printing press in the west. Grandpa Hawes was a classic but charming curmudgeon. Young Hawes, besides inheriting grandpa’s intelligence got the charm also. He turned a few heads when he filed for the seat on the Boise City Council currently held by three-term incumbent Elaine Clegg.

Hawes has nothing against Clegg. He goes out of his way to say his campaign will build on the good work done so far by Mayor Dave Bieter and the currrent Council. “But Boise can and must do better,” Hawes says. He then smoothly moves to his list of issues: Boise has to come to terms with the homeless issue and in a compassionate manner get at the root causes; continued support for open space, the greenbelt and foothills expansion (He supports the Clean Water bond also); and, working with downtown business, both large and small, on street parking and the
over-regulatory approach the city has towards new, small business.

Though only 35, Hawes already has served as president of the Idaho Bar and was one of the leaders in saving Boise High from the wrecking ball. He recently held a quickly organized fund-raiser that attracted 75 folks and garnered $10,000. He says people should thank Clegg for her service but 12 years is enough in any one office, that its time for a change and new energy. He’s a solid bet.

The third name Second District Congressman Mike Simpson. For many reasons the former Idaho House Speaker and dentist from Blackfoot has decided to retain his House appropriations subcommittee chairmanship and not get into the current cat fight between the hard right (Which is where one finds First District Congressman Raul Labrador) and the Tea Party wing of the GOP that favors Utah Rep. Jason Chavetz for Speaker and the moderate to conservative wing which supports Majority Leader and California congressman Kevin McCarthy.

Some observers had thought that when John Boehner gave up the Speakership he might support a bid by Simpson. Simpson, however, has reportedly told friends he would not run for Speaker. He enjoys being a“Cardinal.”

This, however, is a smart strategy for it appears that over the next two weeks Chafetz with the aid of Idaho’s other congressman, Rep. Labrador (The Spokesman-Review reported this week that Simpson and Labrador have not spoken to each other in months) will be able to deny McCarthy the votes he needs (218) to be elected.

Then all hell breaks loose. A possible compromise candidate, when the smoke clears, could be Rep. Simpson, who, an educated guess says would let the crown be hoisted onto his head at least until this session of Congress ends.

Keep your eye on all three of these folks: Kathy Kahn, Andy Hawes, and Mike Simpson.

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A guest opinion by Michael Stricland of Boise State University.

“I teach from the Harvard Business School cases; they’re not as exciting as what’s on ‘The Apprentice,’ ” said Beth Goldstein, an adjunct professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School, who used the show in her consulting class. “If there (was) a lesson on (the Donald Trump show), it can become integrated in the whole learning opportunity.” There has been an entire management class at the University of Washington in Seattle that is devoted to ‘The Apprentice,’. From Georgetown to Harvard Business school, the DVD from that first season is still discussed.

Fortunately that magic extends, in an even more special way, to Idaho …

I first met Troy McClain a month ago and can safely say that I am amazed at an opportunity I have to work with him on some writing. With Trump’s popularity booming, it is fascinating to take a look at this Idaho legend who first rose to the big stage on one of Trump’s reality TV shows.

“Who would have thought a country boy from Idaho could go on national television, be seen by 28 million Americans every week and still appreciate the simple things like fly fishing on a backcountry stream?” Troy’s official website reads. “That is Troy McClain. Troy’s rise to prominence happened as he climbed Donald Trump’s ladder on NBC’s ‘The Apprentice,’ advancing all the way to the finals.”

Called a “Living Energy Drink” by the Idaho Press Tribune, Troy is a ball of energy and enthusiasm who seeks to utilize his success to Give First to his community and to those who need help the most. Beating all odds, Troy rose to the top from the original 250,000 contestants, landing second only to Harvard MBA Kwame Jackson.

Starting from a challenging, low-income country upbringing, Troy’s philosophy is: The best way to get ahead is to give back. A classic rags to riches story, he has collaborated with the top names in business, including Warren Buffet, and has shared the stage with with Tony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen (of Chicken Soup for the Soul) and many other influential leaders, athletes and entertainers. He’s served and been honored by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, the Kellogg Innovation Network, Special Olympics International and a long list of others.

Troy has been outspoken about literacy and what he says educators and businesses need to do to improve the country. “We’re neutering the American entrepreneur because we don’t nurture innovation. Success leaves tracks. So follow them.”

The Gem State was not only Troy’s springboard, but the place to which he returned. Shortly after the Apprentice, he received scores of offers from all of the big cities. “Most people in business will tell you you’ve got to have your Ph.D., you’ve got to have an MBA. I tell everybody, I got my Ph.D. a long time ago. I was Poor, Hungry and Driven. That’s my Ph.D. Today, what I’m working on is my MBA. My Massive Bank Account. … But I’m going to give back. Why Idaho vs. LA or New York? The answer is that Idaho took care of me. Idaho embraced me and my family.”

Even before The Apprentice, Troy was a successful business man having owned, operated and sold his companies, from health clubs to lending institutes. Today, he is a sought after consultant, investor and mentor for business men and women looking to accomplish what he has done. He invests in Idaho and innovation and currently runs an online success club. Since the Apprentice, Troy has built up and invested in two Idaho companies.

I love the fact that he spends so much time working to pass the American Dream that he is living, on to others.

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The poll in this week’s Idaho Politics Weekly takes on the question of Idahoans views on the “ag-gag” law. That law was passed in 2014 in overwhelming votes by the Idaho Legislature, with few Republicans (and many of the Democrats) voting against. That would seem to indicate legislators, in general, felt they were representing constituent viewpoints in supporting the measure. But that doesn’t comport well with the reports in the IPW poll, which asked whether Idahoans agreed with Federal Judge Lynn Winmill’s decision killing the law as unconstitutional. “Pollster Dan Jones & Associates finds that 53 percent of Idahoans support the judge’s ruling, 32 percent oppose it, and 16 percent don’t know. Jones polled 508 adults from Aug. 20-31; the survey having a margin of error of plus or minus 4.35 percent.” Not only that, Jones said, “Republicans agree with the striking down of the law, 47-35 percent with 17 percent “don’t know.”” Just how closely do Idaho legislators represent the public? A review of previous IPW polls, among other things, seems in order. – rs

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First Take


Last week’s column on Muslim refugees coming to Idaho drew enough response that a follow seems warranted.

One respondent opined (in an attachment), “the bottom line is that the [College of Southern Idaho] refugee program must be terminated to prevent potential Islamic jihad terrorism and immigration jihad with increasing numbers of muslims.”

Another more measured reader: “You’ll notice most of the fear is fear of people from countries that are Islamic states. If Europe and America are going to bring in hundreds of thousands of people – many young men – from countries like Syria that are being overrun by ISIS (a Muslim terrorist group), don’t you think there’s a chance some of those ISIS fighters could enter our country along with the thousands of Syrians who don’t pose a threat? As we saw on 9-11, it only takes a few to cause a lot of chaos.”

Okay. A few thoughts then for your consideration.

First, because it’s so oft-forgotten and not irrelevant: The United States is militarily impregnable. Our military is nearly as powerful as the rest of the world’s put together. Ain’t nobody from any other country, or from the United Nations, imposing their will on us. America is going to continue to be run by Americans. If anyone suggests otherwise to you, they’re conning you.

The best way America can avoid attracting the attention of the violence-prone of the Middle East would be to lighten our footprint there.

Coming in with a group of refugees would be the dumbest way for a terrorist to enter. Every real refugee in the group would have extremely strong incentive to turn in a would-be bomber to the authorities.

Obviously, there are Muslim extremists. But obsessing on them gives them a lot more power and credibility than they warrant. They aren’t that numerous – and before you point out the more than billion adherents to Islam around the globe, bear in mind that they consist of many segments, people who have many ways of interpreting Islam and the Quran, just as the vast number of Christians do. Mostly, they have found ways to peacefully coexist with each other and the rest of the world; if that were not the case, the world would be one vast war-pit. (Which, the lunacies of cable TV news notwithstanding, it is not.) If you still doubt the many variations within Islam, look at the various segments of Christianity (say, Unitarians, Church of Christ and the LDS Church, and dare I add the old Aryan Nations church from northern Idaho) and try saying with a straight face that they’re all the same, that they all see their theology alike and that they interpret and focus on the Bible identically.

With one obvious exception, there have been few actual instances of Muslin-based terrorism in the United States. On those few occasions, the perpetrators have been either U.S. citizens or in the country on visas. They’ve had no trouble getting in through conventional means. Not only that, the borders of the United States are vast and, as we know from long experience, porous. If someone really wants to enter the United States bad enough, he or she can find a place and a way to do it.

I write this while monitoring a terrorism-related incident that has become personal and close to home. My sister, a professor at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, was teaching class Thursday afternoon in a building next to where a crazed gunman was opening fire on students and a teacher, killing 10 people and injuring seven more. The shooter has described himself as “conservative”, a supporter of the Irish Republican Army and “not religious but spiritual”. That incident was the 294th person killed in a mass shooting in the United States in the 274 days to that point this year. As in almost all of those other incidents, the perp in this case was not Muslim.

Would I be okay with Syrian refugees living in a house on my block? Yep.

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Idaho column Stapilus