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Posts published in October 2015

First take/travels

After an enjoyable four-day run through the mountains and forests of northern Idaho, it's hard to miss the growth and expansion in the area again. That's notably true around Coeur d'Alene, but visible in many spots other than the more remote. (As usual, the really rural areas aren't keeping up.) Since my last visit to the lake city a couple of years ago there's been a massive new development off Northwest Boulevard, and the downtown area seems notably more prosperous. Moscow seems to be prospering too, and Lewiston at least hanging in there. Of course, all this is part and parcel of the national economic recovery in recent years, but it ought to generate a positive attitude locally. Not that you could tell, yet, by the votes. - rs (photo)

Three to watch

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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.

Making good, giving back

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.

First draft/opinions

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

A sheriff scofflaw

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Some time ago, I wrote in this space of Oregon’s Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin and his 2013 temper-tantrum letter to Vice President Biden.

Hanlin was putting the VP on notice that he - and now more than 20 other Oregon lawmen - would not be enforcing any new federal gun laws. Further, Hanlin bluntly told VP Biden, his officers would arrest any federal types that came into “his” county to enforce such laws. So there!

Well now, our nation’s latest gun massacre of innocent Americans has taken place in Hanlin’s county, about seven miles from his desk. We’ve got nine grieving families, hundreds of saddened friends and relatives, the cold body of a deranged killer and a national media trying to get Hanlin to say the blood-letting has given him reason to re-evaluate his position.

I know Hanlin. And I’ll give ol’ Wolf Blitzer the Sheriff’s ultimate response. “NO! There will NOT be a change.” Wolfie can take that to the bank.

In my own Oregon county, we’ve got another badge-toter saying he has better things to do. Oregon’s scofflaw lawmen aren’t alone. Many hundreds of these artless dodgers across the country are taking a similar defiant and dangerous stance on gun laws. While all have sworn various oaths to uphold state and federal constitutions, the plain fact is - they aren’t.

Like that crazy, in-it-for-the-money Kentucky county clerk who won’t issue marriage licenses to gay couples, these guys have set themselves apart from the rest of us by openly flouting both their oaths and the law. That clerk, by the way, has signed a book deal and has an agent talking to movie and TV producers. I’m waiting for one of these sheriff guys to follow suit.

There are probably lots of excuses for these “tough” law enforcement guys to hide behind. You’re certain to hear Hanlin’s choice before this is all put to bed and we’re “shocked” by another mass killing spree elsewhere. I’ll give you one scenario I’ve thought about for awhile.

Most sheriffs I know are elected to office. They have to become politicians and openly compete. They have to solicit endorsements from other local political heavyweights, recruit volunteers and raise money. Just like others who want to be on the city council, the county commission or the legislature. Those “talents” are not in the official job descriptions we have for our local law enforcement chiefs. But they’re real.

Playing into that is the fact most people who run for sheriff - and in some communities chief of police - have many years of experience behind them. That’s their prime requirement to compete for the job. In that regard, their concern about future retirement at the public trough is no different from any other civil servant working for any other level of government. Like the rest of us, they’re looking for future monetary security.

Now, given those two factors - personal future job concerns based on all the years of employment already served and having to be a politician who doesn’t want to make enemies among the voters needed to keep you in office - you’ve got a toxic mixture. If the sheriff goes around willy-nilly enforcing all those pesky laws, that could mean stepping on a voter’s toes - or even worse, on those dollar donor’s pinkies. So, well, you can just see longevity in the job would be sorely threatened.

Over the years, I’ve known many, many lawmen at all levels of government. Private, too. The vast majority have been honorable and carried their responsibilities with courage and respectability. Until you mix politics - money and votes - into the mix. Then, my respect factors have taken hits.

I’m not saying the best course would be to appoint or hire sheriffs from the open market. Lots of problems there, too. But we can’t have effective enforcement of our laws - ALL our laws - if fear of losing votes or political support or campaign funding factors into how and which laws are effectively enforced.

Sheriffs know their constituents. They get a feeling for how much enforcement is going to be tolerated and when there will be resistance - even armed resistance- as we’re seeing across the country right now. The easy way out is to not provoke that pushback by aggressive sheriffing. In Oregon and other Western states, gun laws create pushbacks. And while that means public safety is often compromised - and it really is - by looking the other way and letting gun laws slide, some of these guys think that’s important to their political and economic futures.

That’s not the kind of sheriff I want in the job. The guy who blasted nine people off the face of the earth in Roseburg, Oregon, had no concern for the political future of his victims. Or, the economic future of Sheriff Hanlin. If Hanlin and these other guys want to choose which laws they’ll enforce for the good of their retention in office, it’s time voters who need and expect full lawful protection in all instances choose someone else to do the job.

One other thing about Hanlin’s performance bears noting. He told reporters they would never hear him say the name of the shooter. Since Hanlin made himself the chief spokesman between the sheriff’s office and the public, where should news people go to get that name?

Turns out a Los Angeles news bureau came up with it. Hanlin has yet to confirm - or deny - the information.

One of the prime duties of law enforcement, when acting as the lead agency in an emergency or crime, is to get as much information to the public as possible in the shortest time. Hanlin personally put himself in that spot, yet wouldn’t disclose important information his staff had developed and confirmed. And which the public had a right to know.

Seems Sheriff Hanlin won’t enforce laws he doesn’t like and won’t fulfill his public obligation when faced with a situation he finds personally objectionable. Could be he should consider another line of work where the duties he swears to uphold aren’t so personally distasteful.

First take/immigration

This should come as common sense, but it helps make some sense of things. Pew Research, which is as close as we get to a gold standard among pollsters, has some new data about presidential politics and immigration, among other things. Its numbers show that, in the Republican contest, Donald Trump remains in a strong lead (about 25%) over Ben Carson (about 16%) and others far behind. Still no significant change there. Pew also asked questions about several specific issues, including immigration, and among other things emerged with this: "Eighty-four percent of those who favor mass deportation say immigration is the most important issue in the 2016 election, while only 44 percent of respondents who do not favor deportation say immigration is their top priority." That fits: The most extreme response matches with the people who are most emotionally invested in it. - rs

No refuge

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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.

First take/names

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin has been wrong about a number of things related to this week's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College at Roseburg, but one general impulse he got at least sort of right was downplaying the shooter's name. He got wrong the matter of releasing it at all: We needed to have that much. But news editors might bear in mind the problem of glorifying these guys. The tangled strands of motivation behind their horrific acts may be tough to work out perfectly, but one that can usually be found somewhere in there is a place for fame and immortality: A thing wanted badly by the ignored and lonely. That certainly seems the case with the Umpqua shooter (who will not be named here). He apparently spent a good deal of time studying past shooters, and an online posting found by the site Gawker, which appears to have been written by the shooter, said: "I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more your’re in the limelight." Not that it's a solve-all, but giving these people less personal attention, running their names in less visible ways and pictures sparingly and in an low-key way, might be the right thing to do - as a pushback and out of relative respect for the people who died. - rs

First take/Umpqua

Yesterday, for me, mass shootings in America got personal.

A year ago my sister, who had been teaching geology in the Portland area, was hired as an assistant professor, teaching geology, at Umpqua Community College at Roseburg. She's had an enjoyable year there and was beginning on a second yesterday afternoon, teaching a class as usual, when a student came into the classroom saying a shooter was killing people in the building next door.

Karen and her students were lucky enough to get out uninjured, but the 10 people who were killed and seven more injured were less fortunate. Umpqua, and Roseburg (a town of about 20,000 people), is in shock.

These shootings are getting personal for more and more people. The FBI reports that the number of mass shootings so far this year in America are coming at a rate of more than one a day.

So take care. If we don't at some point try to get a handle on this, a mass shooting coming soon down the road may get personal for you. - rs

A quote Thursday from President Barack Obama: "And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic. I would ask news organizations - because I won't put these facts forward - have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports. This won't be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?"

The website Vox did what Obama suggested, and came up with this.

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