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Race realism

politicalwords

To be realistic & understand that stereotypes within each race exist for a reason and are usually backed by hard data. To understand that although facts surrounding a particular race can sometimes be hard to hear, it's still a fact, therefore it is more valid than how you feel.
► Urban Dictionary, definition 1

A term used by idiots to justify racial generalizations against nonwhites by using out-of-context statistics and pseudoscientific studies. The overwhelming consensus among evolutionary scientists is that zero evidence exists of inherent behavioral, intellectual, or anatomical differences between races. But don't tell that to the idiot race realist; it will hurt his ego and his false sense of superiority.
► Urban Dictionary, definition 2

The overarching reality of race shows slippery and elusive it is. Barack Obama has typically been described as the first black president of the United States, and photos of him appear to confirm that; but he’s actually bi-racial. And that makes him not at all unusual in the racially complex United States (not to mention the world).

“Individuals often share more genes with members of other races than with members of their own race,” Gavin Evans, who has written extensively on genetics and race, wrote in 2018.2 “Indeed, many academics have argued that race is a social construct – which is not to deny that there are groups of people (‘population groups’, in the scientific nomenclature) that share a high amount of genetic inheritance. Race science therefore starts out on treacherous scientific footing.”

If you want a rationalization for something, notably an argument or data point that makes yourself look better, you usually can find it, especially in the age of the internet. But the search for justifications for racial superiority goes back to ancient times, and continued through human history, reaching perhaps its peak of awfulness in the Nazi holocaust.

What is now called “race realism” is sometimes presented as a non-racist way of looking at race, but in practice usually is a more centrist-friendly term for the former “scientific racism.” And that, Wikipedia reports, is “the pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism (racial discrimination), racial inferiority, or racial superiority. Historically, scientific racist ideas received credence in the scientific community but are no longer considered scientific.”

If this had no specific social or political connection it might not really matter very much; but those connections are significant, and long have been. It is a central project of spokesmen “alt-right” (which see), which as Evans noted “like to use pseudoscience to lend intellectual justification to ethno-nationalist politics. If you believe that poor people are poor because they are inherently less intelligent, then it is easy to leap to the conclusion that liberal remedies, such as affirmative action or foreign aid, are doomed to fail.”

Attitudes about race, as about many other things, are not, as it were, black and white, but exist through endless shades of gray. The range of people who accept hard white supremacy is small, but larger segments do agree with pieces of what supremacists have to say, and more skilled communicators in the new millennium have been targeted those softer ideas to try to advance their overall racist agenda.

In his last book, Martin Luther King, Jr., argued that “To live with the pretense that racism is a doctrine of a very few is to disarm us in fighting it frontally as scientifically unsound, morally repugnant and socially destructive. The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.”

Then there’s also a very different concept: racial realism. Turning the first word into an adjective made quite a difference.

One 2013 book4 argues that “Race is now relevant not only in negative cases of discrimination, but in more positive ways as well. In today's workplace, employers routinely practice ‘racial realism,’ where they view race as real – as a job qualification. Many believe employee racial differences, and sometimes immigrant status, correspond to unique abilities or evoke desirable reactions from clients or citizens. They also see racial diversity as a way to increase workplace dynamism. The problem is that when employers see race as useful for organizational effectiveness, they are often in violation of civil rights law.”

Shorter: It’s not a subject we can avoid.
 

Change

rainey

All my life I’ve been told “change is constant.” And, all my life - 80+ years - it has been. In nearly all ways. But, just because it’s a “constant” doesn’t mean it may always be good change.

I recently got some medical news that’s made me reflect a bit and take note of some of that “change.” For much of it, I’m not happy with the review.

The media has changed. As someone who spent a good portion of his life embroiled in it, that change has been one of my greatest disappointments. In so many ways.

For one, nearly all media outlets turn off the lights Friday evening and don’t show up till Monday morning except for weekend sports. We live in an area of about 4-million souls, “served” by a lot of media outlets. Still, this week, an airplane crashed locally Saturday morning and there was no account of it - or the deaths involved - until Monday mid-day. Anywhere.

Newspapers - and even some broadcast outlets - routinely “report” a story with the words “...according to a news release” prominently displayed. Might be a mainline water break or two 18-wheelers meeting head-on or a jailbreak. Makes no difference. Wait for the news release. Even in our 4-million+ market.

Don’t get me started with spelling errors, wrong picture ID’s, words dropped from sentences or headlines, an over-abundance of “fluff” and a neglect of real news.

Coarseness in our language is another disappointing “change.” Been to a sporting event lately? Or a restaurant? Even movie theaters. Or how about Facebook? Have you listened to teens - or 2nd graders - talking? Sounds like a coal miner’s workplace. Even network TV shows and some of our political speeches. Lots of #/@+.

Churches have changed, too. You can find a good number these days with “answers” to your every question. The historic, individual search for faith and connectedness is now too often met with “our way or the highway.” Some even try to overrule laws or political principles with their narrow, self-serving views of things “religious.”

Adherence to laws has, for far too many, become old fashioned. Especially on the highway. Rules of the road seem to be thought of as “suggestions.” “I’m here and I’m going there so get out of my way.” See it everyday.

Lots of disturbing “changes” in law enforcement as well. Elected, professional lawmen refusing to enforce one or more laws they don’t agree with, cherry-picking what they see are acceptable ones and ignoring those they don’t like. Or, ones that might have a bearing on their next re-election campaign.

There are many more examples of changing social norms and customs that aren’t for the better. But, none more so than national governance.

Possibly the most unacceptable “change” politically has been those in office - especially federal - becoming a self-perpetuating ruling class rather than representatives of the people. Somewhere along the line, our issues became less important than their fanatical desire to stay in place. Too many officeholders look upon the electorate as a means to their own ends rather than acting as people we’ve chosen to temporarily deal with our national needs.

“Town Hall” sessions and other constituent events are, in the eyes of many pols, things to be avoided. No phone calls. No meet-and-greets. No direct contact if it can be eliminated. Idaho, especially, has a couple of Senators for whom those are the rules, not the exceptions.

In my life, I’ve met too many politicians who’ve said, “If you knew what I know, you’d agree with me,” Time and time and time again. Too damned many. We’ve lost the ability to have our legislative desires dealt with. We’re often treated as subjects rather than citizens.

And, of course, the Internet, fraught with change. Some good: access, education, communication, medical, et al. Some bad: communication. While the I-net has enhanced nearly every aspect of our lives, it has also exhibited and communicated hate, bigotry, danger and outright criminal behavior for millions. While most of us have learned to use it as an ever-changing tool for good, it’s also had a concomitant effect for criminal and immoral activity.

Sometimes, it’s the resistance to change that’s more troubling. Idaho, for example, has a vocal group of “anti-changers” vowing to cut the operating budget of Boise State University for instituting gender-neutral restrooms on campus. Loudest voice is a “legislator” from Eastern Idaho who was thrown out of a Boise restaurant for carrying a rifle with him at lunch. Methinks payback is more on his little mind than who uses what bathrooms at BSU 250 miles from his home.

That old saw “change is constant” is as apt today as it was when the first Neanderthal muttered it. While there are many examples of change not necessarily for our betterment, it’s safe to say most has been beneficial. The continuing evolution of change is, actually, about the most constant thing in our lives these days. There’s really not much we can do about it except to take the “hits” and keep on going. Resistance - even in bathrooms - is futile.

You might have noticed I haven’t included our miscreant liar of a President in these musings about change. Deliberate, I assure you. After all, not all change has to be permanent. And he’s the textbook case for the necessity of c-h-a-n-g-e.
 

Deserving of thanks and respect

jones

My Mom, Eunice Martens Jones, was born just as World War 1 was ending. She grew up in a German-American community south of Eden. Her father was an immigrant from Hamburg, Germany, and her maternal grandmother had immigrated from Bremen. Grandma Martens told me in the 1960s that the community of German-Americans had been viewed with suspicion and some hostility during WW1, even though they were loyal Americans. That was not an uncommon situation across the country during that war.

During both World Wars, German-Americans stepped forward to fight German forces. That is the unique feature of America. We are a nation of immigrants and a nation that foreign-born settlers believe is worth protecting with their lives, even in hostilities with their former countrymen. Those who serve and protect the nation are deserving of our trust, thanks and respect, regardless of where they were born.

Shortly after I was born, Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were rounded up and forced to live in camps sprinkled around the west, including the Minidoka Internment Camp located about 6 miles from my home. They were regarded as untrustworthy, even though the majority were American citizens. Many of their sons fought the Axis Powers in Europe and many gave their lives for this country—their country. Their unit, the 442 Infantry Regiment was the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history. Those brave American earned and deserve our thanks and respect.

Several years ago, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, died in 2004 while serving this country in Iraq, were disrespected by some for standing up for basic American values. It had much to do with the fact that the parents had immigrated from Pakistan and, with their deceased son, were members of the Muslim faith. This Gold Star family and their son were entitled to our respect and thanks.

On October 28, a Ukrainian-American serviceman was attacked by Fox News and others for honoring a lawful subpoena to testify before a Congressional committee. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and his twin brother, Yevgeny, were born to a Jewish family in Ukraine and came to this country 40 years ago as 3-year-olds. Both have provided distinguished military service to this country over the last two decades.

Alexander is a combat veteran who has received numerous decorations, including a Purple Heart for injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004. He and his brother both work for the National Security Council in the White House, for which they have top security clearances. They are patriots who deserve the thanks and respect of their fellow Americans.

Unfortunately, some with Fox News did not see it that way. Hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade questioned Alexander’s loyalty, which played into the dangerous old trope about divided national loyalties on the part of members of the Jewish diaspora. John Yoo, a Fox regular suggested Alexander’s obeyance of the lawful subpoena could constitute “espionage.” Wow! This comes from the guy who wrote the notorious “torture memos” during the so-called War on Terror. Thanks to the interrogation techniques approved by Mr. Yoo, we still have not been able to send the 9-11 terrorists to trial.

The point is that those who put their lives on the line to serve this great nation deserve our thanks and respect, regardless of their country of birth, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or other distinguishing factors. We should hold our veterans in high regard even if they served in an unpopular war like Vietnam or in a largely forgotten war like Korea. Service to country—service above self-- is the name of the game. Let’s stand up in unity to honor all of our veterans and active duty service personnel this Veterans Day, November 11.
 

It will get harder

johnson

The Trump-defending Idaho congressional delegation was reminded yet again this week of the dangers involved in shielding a president who can’t tell the truth and won’t let most of his subordinates even try.

Spoiler alert: Defending the president is only going to get more difficult; more difficult by the minute.

An unlikely villain with Pacific Northwest roots emerged fully this week to vastly complicate the calculus for Trump defenders and expand the abuse of power allegations that ensnarl the White House. A widening cast of characters ranging from the Secretary of State to Rudy Giuliani to Roger Stone, a guy who went on trial this week for lying the Congress about interactions with WikiLeaks and Russians in 2016, is now involved in scandal and cover-up.

The old Sopranos television series offered a no less motley collection of mountebanks, grifters, crooks and sycophants.

A star witness this week turned out to be a guy named Gordon Sondland, owner of a chain of boutique hotels in Portland and Seattle, who, clearly afraid that he was staring down a perjury charge, told House investigators that he had “refreshed my memory” since first testifying in the Trump impeachment inquiry in October. Sondland is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

As Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss wrote, Sondland’s “recollection needed help: The transcript of his initial, October 17 testimony shows Sondland used the phrase ‘I don’t remember’ 36 times and ‘I don’t recall’ another nine times.”

On November 4 Sondland’s memory recovered and he produced revised testimony confirming there was a quid pro quo – better descriptions might include the word extortion – that connected Ukrainian aid to Donald Trump’s desire to see a political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, investigated by a foreign government. What’s more Sondland admitted he personally delivered the extortion promise.

Republicans will continue to use the “angels on the head of pin” approach to all this by saying Sondland did not specifically connect the quid pro quo to Trump personally. Stay tuned others will make the connection. And make no mistake this is the very definition of abuse of power.

It turns out Sondland is a classic character in Trump World, a transactional namedropper with a fondness for the gaudy and grandiose. Mostly a financial supporter of Republicans, Sondland has also made significant contributions to Democrats, including the Portland mayor who just decided to hand over the $16,000 Sondland gave him to non-profit groups, including ironically one pushing for impeachment.

Sondland originally supported Jeb Bush for president in 2016, but when Trump won the Republican nomination he scrambled to get on the right side. Sondland was scheduled to host a Trump fundraiser in Seattle during the campaign but abruptly pulled out when Trump trashed the family of a Muslim soldier who died in Iraq. It was a momentary speed bump in his plans.

After Trump won Sondland donated a cool $1 million to the inaugural committee and angled for an ambassadorial job and finally landed the plush position at the European Union. The job comes with a nice house in Brussels that Sondland immediately began to redecorate using $1 million of U.S. taxpayer money.

Sondland had, of course, no previous government or diplomatic experience and is demonstrably unqualified for the post he holds. Nevertheless, the Senate confirmed him on a voice vote after a pro forma hearing. It turns out $1 million buys a lot in politics, both prestige and, in Sondland’s case, big trouble.

Since Ukraine is not part of the EU, Sondland’s involvement in the Ukraine affair is almost certainly due to his having expressed undying loyalty to Trump and a willingness to implement the president’s basest desires.

“His behavior in all this tracks perfectly with his personality,” an Oregonian who knows Sondland told me. “He wanted to be relevant to Trump so he made himself useful to Trump and Rudy. He is 100% transactional with no scruples. This all fits.”

Now that Sondland his rolled his quid pro quo hand grenade into the middle of the impeachment investigation, Politico reports that, “Republicans are starting to turn on him.” After speaking to a host of Republican lawmakers about Sondland, Politico said he was variously described as “a lackey, a chest-thumper and a rube. Of course, perhaps that’s because he turned on the president.”

Of course none of this will move the most loyal of Trump defenders, the faction of the Republican Party that former Florida GOP congressman David Jolly calls “spineless politicians rotten to the core without virtue, without any level of human integrity, devoid of self respect … Without courage and without the moral compass to recognize their own malevolence.”

Still the Sondland memory refresh this week vastly complicates the Republican defense of Trump. They’ve tried the argument that the process is unfair, they’ve tried smearing career foreign service officers and career military people, but to defend the president now they must admit that demanding a quid pro quo from a foreign leader in order to influence domestic politics does not constitute corruption and abuse of power. Trouble is it does.

Some Republicans – I’m thinking of Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Russ Fulcher – will have little trouble justifying such presidential behavior, but what of Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson? Are they really willing to go there? Are they willing to sanction presidential behavior they would completely reject if the other party had done it?

Crapo, after all, voted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about consensual sex. Simpson is a pragmatic institutionalist who you know in your heart of hearts loathes Donald Trump for a host of reasons. Simpson serves in Congress because he wants to do important things not because he enjoys covering for a charlatan who looks more and more like a common crook.

And there will be more, including public testimony soon from William Taylor, a career foreign service officer who has been the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and whose earlier testimony (under oath) confirmed the quid pro quo.

The day is fast approaching when Idaho’s members of Congress will need to reflect profoundly on the oath they took, hand on the Bible. That oath was to protect and defend the Constitution, not to protect and defend Donald Trump.
 

Perils of the long run

stapiluslogo1

Stay in elective office long enough, the sages say, and for the voters the time will come when it’s too long. That can be true even if the voters aren’t really interested in a major change of direction.

Consider the different stories told by the Meridian and Boise mayoral elections on Tuesday.

In Meridian, four-term mayor Tammy de Weerd decided not to run for a fifth term this year. The campaign to replace her was not especially contentious but did draw five candidates, several of them serious contenders. One was a long-time state legislator who raised quite a bit of money (his signs seemed to be all over town). But the easy winner was a city staff person: de Weerd’s chief of staff, Robert Simison, who was backed by much of the local business community and many civic groups. De Weerd will depart, but an approach not too different from hers probably will continue under Simison.

Boise is a somewhat different situation even though, remarkably, it too has (as of right now) a four-term mayor, David Bieter.

Unlike de Weerd, Bieter opted to run for a fifth term. And that seems to have been a bridge too far.

The longest-serving mayor before him was Richard Eardley, who served three terms and decided in 1985 that would be enough. (As a reporter who closely covered the 1985 Boise elections, I would suggest that Eardley’s political instincts were on target.) First elected in 2003, Bieter had light opposition in his next three re-election campaigns. But time takes its toll.

I’ve spoken to quite a few people who supported Bieter in past elections (and still would give a strong thumbs-up to his years as mayor overall) but not this time. He and his approach to the job, and the city, have changed, they say - in their view at least. His administration was transparent and open in earlier years; now, they say, there’s more of a tendency to ram through mayoral and city hall preferences.

And it’s not hard to pinpoint some of what they meant: Two major elements of that were on the ballot alongside the mayoral race: Local propositions, both requiring voter approval before the city could proceed with work above a certain dollar level on major projects (one related to the main city library, the other to sport stadium development). One of those passed with 69 percent of the vote, the other with 75 percent. Both results were direct rebukes of Bieter, since he had proposed pushing through both projects without a popular vote. (The fact that both issues were on the ballot also served as an immediate reminder of what many Boiseans were complaining about.)

So when about three-fourths of Boise voters chose someone other than the incumbent for mayor, the pieces fit together cleanly.

It also suggests the likely results of the runoff election next month. To win, Bieter would have to make up a tremendous portion of the vote that went against him; few incumbents in this kind of position manage such a large burden.

The rebuke here is one of style and approach more than of general policy. Lauren McLean, the city council member who took about 45 percent of the vote to Bieter’s 30 percent - about half again as many - originally was appointed to the council by Bieter, and over the years they usually have been on the same side on most city policies. The larger direction taken by Boise city hall likely would not change greatly in a McLean administration.

But if McLean does take over in January, she will enter office with a message having been made and delivered: Be transparent and work in concert with the will of the voters. Or face the consequences.

Next election season is just four years away.
 

Helping out

schmidt

This last week I ran into a guy in clinic that made me thankful for Idaho voters. We were able to help him out. You should know about this. It’s not about politics or policy, just about how we were able to help out a hard-working guy.

He was in his work insulated coveralls since he had gotten in a couple hours on a chilly October morning before his appointment. He’d made an appointment with our clinic since he’d heard we offer a sliding scale fee structure.

About 16 months ago on a job he had been holding a board for a brace and another guy shot a nail into the two by four. The tip of the nail had come through the board and embedded into his left hand. He was able to wiggle his hand off the nail and it hurt like heck, but with a bandage in his glove he kept working. It got real swollen over the next week but never infected so he figured it would be ok. The swelling and pain went down, but over time the wound developed a small lump that kept getting bigger.

It was on his left hand on the thumb side of the junction of the pointer finger knuckle. It would hit on things when he grabbed them and it was now, when I saw it, the size of a marble. It felt really solid, not like a fluid-filled abscess or cyst. His finger moved just fine. He wanted it taken off. I didn’t blame him. I could see how it would get in his way and be a problem.

The trouble was, I am not the right doctor to take that lump off. Hands, especially fingers are tricky to work on. He needed to see an orthopedic doctor, maybe a hand surgeon.

“Do you have health insurance?”

He looked at me blankly, a young healthy working man. “No sir, that’s why I came to you guys (meaning the clinic with the sliding scale fees).”

“Did you file a workman’s comp claim?”

“Naw, I just kept working.”

I explained to him the delicacy of dealing with this part of his body. I could recommend a local orthopedic doctor that might see him for a reduced amount, but I expected the surgery would include hospital or operating room costs; probably thousands of dollars all added up.

The physician assistant was in the room with us looking at the bump. He asked, “Can you wait until January?”

The young man looked at him a bit confused.

“Next week you can sign up for Medicaid here in Idaho and coverage will begin in January. You’ll have health insurance.”

“Heck, I’ve lived with it this long.”

I warned him if it got red or painful or started swelling more he should come back in, but given his situation it was fine to wait.

Idaho voters did the right thing for this guy and their fellow citizens last November when they overwhelmingly passed Proposition 2, Medicaid expansion. The Idaho legislature did the right thing this last session when they were putting on all those waiver sideboards. They mandated that none of their sideboard waiver applications would delay the enrollment of those eligible under the Medicaid expansion initiative. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has been doing the right thing for the last ten months and preparing to enroll the newly eligible for Medicaid health insurance.

This isn’t the story of a life saved or a bankruptcy averted. It’s just a small story of how health care can be of service when a bump gets in the way. But it’s also a much bigger story of how we can make decisions to help out our fellow citizens. It made my day.
 

Election night

stapiluslogo1

One of the lines of thought in the last couple of weeks, in some of the many sources of political punditry, is that the election results of 2017 and 2018 should be considered something of an outlier, a bit of a normal reaction to a change in election results in 2016.

Put another way, Democrats in the last couple of years did better than they should have any right to anticipate this year or next.

2020 is still ahead of us, but we now do know about the results of 2019. Short version: They're in line with the results of the last two years. This looks like a persistent pattern, and not on likely to simply vanish a year from now, in the heavyweight presidential and other election contests.

President Donald Trump may have had some confidence in this temporary-shift theory. He campaigned in Kentucky, on behalf of incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevan, only a day before the election. He said there that if lost, "they're going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world... You can't let that happen to me!" Well, Bevin lost.

There were many local factors involved in that governor's race, as there are in most governor's races (not least, in this instance, that Bevin personally was deeply disliked and was by some measures the least popular governor in the country). But Trump put himself out there, tied himself to Bevin, and sent the explicit message to his supporters throughout that state that Bevin's win was critically important to him. Bevin did come close, very close, but he still lost in a state Trump carried in 2016 by 30 percentage points.

The point shouldn't be pressed too far. Analyst Dave Wasserman tweeted, "Reality check: a <1% Dem win against an unpopular GOP governor is *not* a sign KY is competitive at the federal level in 2020." True: Kentucky is extremely unlikely to go blue in the presidential. And other major office Republican candidates did much better than the disliked Bevin. The fact that it was willing to bend this year as far as it has, though, is a real indicator of what might happen in the battlegrounds.

That was the most startling result on election night, though it was not the only result of note. Democrats flipped both houses of the Virginia legislature, where they had made great progress two years ago but fell short of outright control. Now Democrats have the vaunted "trifecta" there - control of state government generally, and through the redistricting season.

The other major national contest, for governor in Mississippi, was always a longer shot, though the Democratic candidate - Attorney General Jim Hood - was the strongest contender his party had available. Mississippi may simply have been too hard a reach for anyone not Republican. But Hood's vote too was certainly respectable in a difficult environment.

Like the elections of 2017 and 2018, there's not much comfort for Trump to be found in the election of 2019. Next stop, 2020.

IDAHO As this is written only early votes were available in the Ada County city races, two of which - in Boise and Meridian, the state's two largest municipalities - had some regional significance.

Meridian had an open mayoral seat, with the retirement of veteran Tammy de Weerd. Local analysts tended to figure Robert Simison, who had been de Weerd's chief of staff for some years, as the top contender, and it seemed to work out that way; as this is written he was getting about half of the vote in a five-person field, enough for an easy and clear win. Legislator Joe Palmer spent a good deal of money but that seemed good enough only for a distant second place. Immediate lesson: Meridian voters weren't looking for a change; Simison seems likely to mostly hew to de Weerd's direction of encouraging growth and steering away from unnecessary controversy.

Boise is a different situation. As this is written - with less than a third of the vote counted - incumbent Mayor David Bieter was stuck in a distinct second place (30.5% of the vote at this moment) behind council member Lauren McLean (45.8%), who was explicitly taking him on and calling for some change in approach. The five other candidates in the race were far behind, and if later counts fail to push either McLean or Bieter over 50% - which seems less than likely - they will be face off in a few weeks in a doubtless hotly-contested runoff.

That the four-term mayor seems to be receiving only around a third of the vote (as of this writing) seems quite a commentary. More on that in the column to appear in another few days.
 

al-Baghdadi bites the dust

jones

The United States rightfully celebrated the death of the Islamic State (ISIS) leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on October 27. The killing of this despicable cutthroat was a clear setback for ISIS, but the group will continue to threaten the U.S. and its allies. Just as the death of Osama bin Laden did not eliminate al-Qaeda, Baghdadi’s death will not stop ISIS.

Our efforts to further reduce the danger posed by ISIS suffered a substantial setback because of the President’s abandonment of our Syrian Kurd allies. They provided the intelligence that allowed the highly disciplined and effective U.S. Joint Special Operations Command warriors to end Baghdadi’s loathsome existence. The Kurds had previously killed and captured tens of thousands of Baghdadi’s followers in northeast Syria on our behalf.

After receiving a green light from the President, the Turks forced about 180,000 Kurdish fighters and their families out of their homes along the Syria-Turkey border in a classic ethnic cleansing operation. As a tragic result, we will no longer be able to count on the Kurds as our eyes and ears on the ground in the fight against ISIS.

The President claimed he wanted to bring our troops home, but somehow they ended up in Iraq. The Iraqi government was apparently surprised by their arrival, saying they could not stay for more than a few months. Now, it appears that some will be sent back to Syria to guard oil wells, partly to keep ISIS from getting the oil. Wouldn’t it have made sense to keep ISIS from reforming so that it would not be in a position to grab the oil?

Just five days after the retreat from Syria was announced, the President ordered almost 3,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. It is not clear whether the troops will be protecting the Saudis or their oil. In any event, we will have a significant military presence in the kingdom that produced most of the 9-11 terrorists. It is the same kingdom that is using a great deal of sophisticated U.S. military equipment to rather indiscriminately kill people in an ill-advised war in Yemen.

It should not be forgotten that the last time a significant number of American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia, they became terrorist targets. On June 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers barracks was bombed, killing 19 members of our Air Force. Bin Laden rose to international infamy cursing and bemoaning the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia.

The abandonment of the Kurds has caused great anxiety on the part of our few remaining friends in the Middle East. An October 11 Washington Post report from Jerusalem says that Israel’s national security experts were “badly rattled” by the abrupt pullout. The Kurds were viewed by Israelis “as long-standing allies of Israel, a reliable, moderate pro-Western group that has fought on Israel’s side in multiple conflicts, most recently in the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria.” The Israelis are concerned that Iran’s increasing influence in Syria will endanger their security.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said the withdrawal will cause his country to “recalibrate” its relationship with the United States. He said the staying power of the U.S. “is being questioned in a very, very serious way,” and that our allies “are worried about the dependability of the United States.” He declined to rule out closer alliances with Russia and Iran.

It is likely that the Middle-East terrorist threat to America will only increase because Trump dumped the only really reliable ally we had in the region. Without a trusted partner to look after our interests there, we will have to go back at some point in even greater force, simply as a matter of defending the homeland.
 

Two complete mysteries

rainey

This impeachment business has become an overwhelming saga. It’s taken all the air out of the room. Not that it isn’t warranted. It is. And will continue so for several months.

Trying to keep up with daily disclosures and the changing cast of characters is quite a job for political junkies. As the old movie posters used to say “cast of thousands.” Though I’ve kept pretty current, I’m still trying to wrap my head around two pieces of the saga. Just two.

First, why, according to polls, do some 30-million Americans continue to support Trump? Given the list of outright legal and moral atrocities he’s committed - both in office and before - why does polling still show a solid block of nearly a third of voters from the 2016 election still waving their MAGA hats?

In fact, a reliable national poll a few days ago showed 52-percent queried would still vote for him “NO MATTER WHAT HE DOES!” Fifty-two percent!!! And that wasn’t just Republicans.

As a secondary issue under that same query is yet another of even more curiosity. Given his repeated marital infidelities, payment of bribes to buy the silence of a couple dozen women, his continual lying, outrageous flaunting of “family values,” defying the constitutional requirements of his office and all his other political and moral felonies, why do the Evangelicals still back him to the hilt? Why do they - by the millions - loudly professing their adherence to a godly life and the holy teachings of Jesus Christ, stand so solidly behind him? How do they square that with their own moral beliefs?

The second confounding issue is strictly political. In last week’s vote to proceed with impeachment in the House, why did 192 Republicans - every single one - vote against the resolution laying out that process? Though some may not have meant their vote as meaningful support for Trump, there really is no other viable political reason given the public evidence so far. I’d bet a few swallowed hard. Real hard.

I know. I know. They’re bitching about the “process.” Absolutely bogus. If there’s any certainty in this whole mess it’s that Speaker Pelosi and her crew will take every precaution and run that process strictly “by-the-book.” They’ll make absolutely sure the bill of impeachment that goes to the Senate has every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed. You can bet the farm.

The reason for my consternation about last week’s vote is this. Trump has turned against dozens of people in his administration. He’s fired - or otherwise forced to quit - cabinet members, chiefs of staff, lawyers and assorted flunkies. And he’s publically vilified other staffers who - for reasons unknown - took the undeserved beatings and stayed on the job. He’s betrayed so many people he can’t find highly qualified candidates for all the openings available.

Congressional Republicans, we’re told, say in private they fear Trump will put up someone to run against them in the next GOP primaries. He’ll try to get revenge. Road apples! If some nutcase in your own primary scares you, that’s hardly sufficient cause to turn your back on the oath you swore to “uphold the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Somehow, getting into - and staying in - Congress has become more of an employment issue than a desire to undertake public service for its own sake. We’re seeing proof of that in so many ways as members of Congress bend this way and that to stay ahead of the political winds. Last week’s vote was just the most recent example.

Sooner or later, Trump will turn on any one of them. Bet on it. For example, any day now, watch Giuliani disappear under the bus. And those two Ukranian criminals? If we can keep ‘em in the country long enough for a trial, they’ll have Trump tire marks right up their backs.

Trump’s most certain trait is self-preservation. In his mind, he’ll survive even if everything goes to hell. Look at what he’s doing now. Handing out thousands of dollars to Republican senators running for re-election. Put another way, imagine the criminal on trial in your hometown, standing on the count house steps, handing out big bucks to the jurors as they file past. That’s exactly what he’s doing. Bribing the jury. Nothing more than base self-preservation.

Many Republicans standing with Trump today will be tomorrow’s bodies on the political landscape.

Evangelicals by the millions, accepting the moral degradation of someone who violates all they espouse in their own morality and Republican members of Congress who’re selling their self-respect at the foot of a false political prophet.

However this impeachment story turns out, I’ll never understand either.