Writings and observations

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My intention to write a straight forward candidate profile piece turned into a more interesting story of how David Taylor, Independent Party Candidate for Oregon House District 30, ended up affiliating with the Independent Party.

The issues that David is focusing his campaign on are:

Assuring K-12 education funding meets the needs of students and teachers
Assure that veterans received their earned benefits and help them with employment and health care
Protect consumers, increase transparency in government and reduce special interest influence over the political process
Grow small businesses and expand larger businesses in ways that benefit the public and reduces unemployment.

Several weeks ago, when he was first considering a run for elected office, David set up a meeting with the leaders of the Democratic Party of Washington County. David was a registered Democrat and sought their counsel and advice. David recalled, “(The) Democrats told me my issues were not their issues and instead they were solely focused on keeping Dems in power”. He told them he was interested in running for his House District (30). This presented a problem for the Democratic leaders, since the incumbent Joe Gallegos was a Democrat. However, the word was out that Gallegos may not seek re-election. David thought there was a chance for him to get the party support, or at least their commitment to be neutral if there were a contested primary. He was wrong. “I was told they needed to keep a hispanic in the District 30 seat and I met the other candidate they planned on taking Gallegos seat should he leave office“

And it got worse.

“I was told my wife and me were not welcome with them in the 4th of July Parade (simply because I wanted to carry a banner Saying “Let’s make Oregon work for our Veterans”).

And then“The husband of the former Chair of the County told me that I needed to leave the party.” David was told, perhaps with the intent to actually give him good advice, that he may want to become an independent since his agenda was not the same as the Democratic Party.

Dejected, but not discouraged by the Democratic Party leaders shunning, David decided to approach the Washington County Republican Party. He figured, since HD-30 is seen as a safe Democratic seat, perhaps the Republicans would be interested in a socially moderate former Marine combat vet with a Masters Degree in Administration challenging The Democratic Candidate in a general election.

He was wrong.

“When I met with the republican chair (of Washington County) I was told that my veteran, unemployment and education issues weren’t the republican parties issues and instead Gay Marriage was the only “frontal assault” that they intended to use. I was told that unless I would ‘carry that flag’ I would be asking their party to set aside their beliefs and they wouldn’t. He then tape recorded my defiance to his position as I reiterated that a government that taxes equally better give civil rights equally.”

David then decided to re-register as non affiliated and reconsider his candidacy. It was then that he discovered the Independent Party of Oregon. He did a little more research and found out that the Party platform matched his views. And, fortuitously, the Independent Party of Oregon shortly thereafter achieved major party status and would allow him to campaign for the IPO nomination and appear on the May Primary ballot. So on September 10th, 2015, the first day to file for office, he was the first Independent Party candidate to file. He will be opposing Joe Gallegos – or his heir apparent who will likely not file until 5 minutes before the filing deadline which is standard operating procedure for Washington County Democrats as a way for Democratic insiders to select the Democratic nominee themselves. There may or may not be a Republican on the ticket. I guess it depends if they can find someone to “fly the anti same sex marraige” flag in Washington County.

But at least David is giving voters a real choice. A choice that both the Democratic and Republican parties in Washington Country tried to silence.

Davids experience mirrors that of voters as well. The Democrats need to limit their nominees to known insiders who can be trusted to vote with the financial interests of their donor base. And Republicans maintain a strict social litmus test for candidates they will support, losing election after election in socially liberal districts then blaming the voters for returning Democrats to office.

Come to think of it. Davids story could have been told by the many voters who have also found their way to the IPO.

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Harris

Probably I would have guessed Idaho state Senator Marv Hagedorn would have signed up with one of the Republican presidential candidates deemed more rigorously conservative, so his appointment as co-chair of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s campaign for Idaho comes as a little surprise. Still, Kasich worked on the federal balanced budget back in the 90s so that wins him some points (and figures large in Hagedorn’s own statement about his choice). It also underscores how few of the national Republican contenders have an Idaho champion. Aside from Kasich, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has Representative Raul Labrador as an Idaho leader, but that’s about all. Trump? Carson? Fiorina? Bush? Cruz? The rest? Nothing much yet. Is it a matter of leading Idaho Republicans not really having a favorite, or being uneasy about joining a campaign that might not go the distance? – rs (photo/Michael Vadon)

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First Take

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(An Open Letter to Senator Mike Crapo)

Dear Senator Crapo—Thanks but no thanks. I’m returning the fund-raising solicitation I received from your campaign today empty first because you already have $4.2 million in cash on hand and probably will not even have an opponent (which has been your good fortune before).

The hysterical tone that you need $95,000 more by the next FEC report deadline is truly implausible if not downright misleading. You are the safest bet for re-election in the nation, and you know it.

Fiscally conservative Idaho “business Democrats,” like myself, have supported you in the past where we knew you to be the better representative. Also, a few of us admire your intelligence and recognize your potential, even if you don’t.

Candidly, when you first entered the Senate I had high hopes you would be a different kind of a Republican, that you would on occasion stand up against your caucus, that you would exercise independence, that you would dare to be different, that you would be a true compassionate conservative, to borrow George W. Bush’s phrase.

When you served with distinction on the Simpson/Bowels Fiscal Reform Commission you were starting to meet expectations. You stood up against Grover Norquist, the GOP guru who tries to extract a “no new taxes pledge” from all Republicans because you recognized the long-term solution to our incredible debt was a systematic approach that required both a reduction in spending and some new revenue enhancements. That was your finest hour.

What has happened to that Mike Crapo? The one I see running for re-election today is running to the hard right, mouthing the mindless bromides of the Tea Party. Friends of yours tell me that you wanted to pre-empt any primary attack from the right. Really? Mike Crapo is running to the hard right because he’s afraid of someone acting even more heartless than Donald Trump who wants to ship all 11 million illegal but largely tax-paying contributing immigrants out of the country?

And when did you start idolizing that heartless¸wealthy colleague of yours, Senator Jim Risch, who demonstrates time and again he cares for little but himself and maintaining the growing gap between the super rich and the middle class?

That sure was a great deal he struck switching property tax relief for his large corporate contributors for more sales tax and then had the gall to tell folks it would not cut into state support for education – but it did.

Nor did he bother to disclose his personal though modest benefit from this legislation he pushed during his seven months as governor.

So imagine my disappointment when I hear you bragging that you and Risch vote the same 99% of the time? You’re honestly proud of that? Really? If voting with Jim Risch is an example of what your letter calls good old-fashioned common sense, God help us all.

Of course your letter contains the usual list of issues you’ll work on which polls tell you are popular with the electorate, but all are couched in broad generalities. You say you’ll work to repeal ObamaCare. With all due respect Senator, ObamaCare is here to stay. You know its provisions banning denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and capping expenditures are well on their way to becoming entitlements.

Senator, for the life of me, I really don’t understand why you don’t exercise more independence and display more courage. Be the salmon that swims against the strongest part of the current. You’re a good senator doing an adequte job but you could do so much more than just touting about holding town meetings in every town in Idaho.

I’m sure you are familiar with the parable of the talents in the New Testament. Do you honestly believe you are employing all your talents for the greater good of the citizens? Or are you indeed becoming more like Senator Rish, gliding along in what is the easiest job in the world when you hold one of the safest seats?

Many people have told me that you greatly admired, and rightly so, your older brother, Terry, who was taken so prematurely just as he was beginning a political career in which most veteran observers at the time thought would lead to true greatness. I had the privilege of covering one sesssion of the Idaho Legislature in which he truly stood out. I too thought he was destined to be someone who truly would make a difference.

I believe you and he are cut from the same cloth, that you can still fulfill a higher, better destiny. You’re a good man and a good senator, but dare to be great, Mike. Dare to be great.

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Carlson

This is the day Pope Francis takes Washington by storm – a good deal of it, at least. He will be a difficult figure for some people to come to terms with, because his views split so much through this country’s ideology. He stands up for the poor, for dealing with (and acknowledging) climate change and business practices that have human costs. But parts of his viewpoint encompass more traditional and conservative church positions as well.

Here is what he had to say at the White House (delivered personally, in English):

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

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First Take

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Once again Congress is finding it impossible to pass spending bills — and time is running out. The federal government appropriates money and runs its programs from October 1st through the end of September. The House and the Senate are supposed to enact appropriations and then pass on that legislation to the president for his signature.

That is how it is supposed to work.

But the entire process is chaotic. Think of Congress this way. There are really three-parties in the House and in the Senate; Republicans (the party in charge), Democrats and Tea Party supporters. It’s this third group who are holding up the budget by saying “no.” Congress could get out of this by letting Republicans work with Democrats on moderate spending bills — something that does happen in state Legislatures from time to time. And that might be the smartest route ahead. (It would likely mean the political career of Speaker John Boehner would be over. But it’s not a bad legacy to step out by doing the right thing.)

There are several issues dividing Congress ranging from the amount of debt the country has (think of a credit card limit) to how much money flows from government checks to Planned Parenthood.

That last item is the big one. Some conservative members of Congress say they will not support any budget that includes Planned Parenthood after a series of videos that purported to show the selling of baby parts.

But Planned Parenthood does many other things — such as distribution of birth control pills — and federal money already cannot be used for abortion. So it’s unlikely the president will agree to any budget that doesn’t continue funding women’s health programs and that includes Planned Parenthood. What’s more the whole controversy has been one-sided, there a case to be made that Planned Parenthood’s actions save lives. The issue is far more about abortion politics than it is about fetal tissue.

Back to the shutdown. Pretty much everyone in Washington says they do not want a government shutdown. But there is really no incentive to get beyond those words. Budget expert Stan Collender recently wrote in Politico magazine that there is a seventy-five percent chance of a shutdown. “First and foremost, there is not enough time to reach a deal. Not only have none of the fiscal 2016 appropriations yet been signed into law, none have even passed both the House and Senate. With less than two calendar weeks (and far fewer days of potential legislative work) to go, the only way to keep the government from shutting down will be for Congress and the president to agree on a continuing resolution to fund the government for a short time while a larger deal is negotiated,” he wrote. But then there is that Planned Parenthood debate — and staunch opposition to even a short-term spending bill.

Not only that but a temporary spending bill could cause additional problems. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says a Continuing Resolution would lock in spending cuts demanded by the sequestration law. “The only real fix is for policymakers to agree to provide relief from the sequestration cuts now scheduled for 2016, offsetting the cuts with alternate deficit reduction measures, as they did on a bipartisan basis in 2013, and then to enact regular appropriations legislation for 2016 (even if combined into one or more omnibus packages). As long as the current sequestration limits remain in place, no amount of re-arranging the pieces within an inadequate total will allow for necessary funding levels to reflect new priorities, new conditions, or rising costs,” the Center said.

We know that closing down government, even briefly, is rough.Two years ago the government closed from October 1 through October 16, 2013. Some 800,000 employees were furloughed and another 1.3 million had to work without pay.

Across Indian Country a government shutdown not only impacts federal employees, but it means tribes have less money and have to lay off employees as well. Two years ago, Indian Country Today Media Network reported that Montana’s Crow Tribe had to lay off some 300 people as well as closing essential reservation programs. Even some health clinics (which are supposed to be protected) had to close temporarily.

Native American organizations have been pushing for an idea to fund health, and perhaps tribal schools, a year in advance. That would be smart. Then when Congress cannot do its job, at least Indian Country won’t have to suffer needlessly. But Congress didn’t get around to that idea either.

One thing for sure: Government shutdowns cost a lot of money. The last tab was about $24 billion.

So here we go again with another waste of time and money.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.

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Trahant

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You may have noticed about a week ago reports about two polls of presidential preferences among Idaho Republicans, in separate stories. If you put them together in one story, you can see the results of the two appear to conflict.

But there’s a straight line through them that says something about who supports who.

First, Dan Brown & Associates, from Utah, released a poll of 508 Idaho adults. Among Republicans, businessman Donald Trump took 28% of the vote for the lead. Physician Ben Carson came in second with 15%. Former front-runner Jeb Bush was down in single digits at eight percent; others were in single digits. This was fairly reflective of most of the recent national polls of Republicans (or what you could see in their placement in last week’s presidential debate).

A few days later Republican organizations in Bannock and Jefferson counties tried their own local straw polls, and the results there were a little different. Both counties placed Carson in a strong first place, with about 30% of the vote in each county. In Bannock, Trump was second at 22%, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio came in third at 20%. In Jefferson, Trump was far down the list, as second place went to Senator Ted Cruz (15%), and Senator Rand Paul followed him.

These are distinctly different results, even accounting for the more local polling from the counties. What should we make of these differences?

Here’s some speculation (and if someone from Bannock or Jefferson counties has an alternative explanation, send me a note).

The Brown poll, which was scientifically conducted, probably covered a broad range of Idahoans (other parts of the poll included results among Democratic contenders), and in such a poll party leaders, foot soldiers and activists would account for only a minute portion of the total. It was a “general population” poll.

The straw polls would have been informal, with no specific attempt, as in scientific polls, to account for various percentage portions of the population: The votes they get usually come from whoever happens by. That doesn’t mean these polls are garbage. Years ago as a reporter at the Idaho State Journal I worked with straw polls the newspaper ran at local grocery stores, and when it came to local voting a few days before elections they tended to be surprisingly accurate.

But local people active in the county Republican parties easily could have been over-represented in these two new straw polls.

And that leads to this suggestion:

Among the less-organized, out-in-the-fields Republicans (or Republican-inclined voters) around the state, Trump is highly popular.

Among the more organized Republicans, he may be much less so, with candidates like Carson, Cruz and Rubio finding more appeal. Based on the polls, Bush seems for now to be losing steam in Idaho as he has been nationally.

At least, that looks like a reasonable view from September 2015. Now we can wait a few months and see what it looks like around the holidays.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

Ranked lists often pull me in, even when I know better, as here in this list of Idaho’s most redneck towns – after all, “redneck” isn’t even defined anywhere inn this case. Even if it doesn’t have a formal or statistical basis, at least describe your term and what you mean by it. Here are the 10 “most redneck” in order: Salmon, Burley, St. Maries, Ponderay, Jerome, Kamiah, Homedale, Victor, Challis and Weiser. Apart from being in a roughly similar popular span, these places don’t really have a lot in common. Some of them are generally remote from urban areas (Salmon, Challis, Kamiah, St. Maries) but others are not far from larger population centers (Ponderay, Jerome, Homedale). Some have a feeling of being under-developed without a lot of new growth or activity, but that sure doesn’t fit Ponderday or Victor (just look at the pictures). I know lists like this are mostly just for fun, but come on: If you’re going to take the trouble to do something like this, at least define your terms. – rs

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First Take