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Posts published in January 2016

Fools and the FBI

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As domestic terrorists (No, Virginia, not militia - terrorists) continue to hold the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, hostage for another week, the latest FBI statement amounts to a deep pile of bureaucratic B.S..

“Our response has been deliberate and measured as we seek a peaceful resolution” sayeth the feds. Apparently folks at the Bureau on the Potomac just can’t grasp the obvious: these bastards don’t WANT a “peaceful resolution.” They want what they want or they say they’re ready for Armageddon. The only folks not understanding the Bundy boys, three weeks into this criminal adventure, appear to be the folks who’re supposed to end it.

The latest Bundy-driven lunacy coming out of the compound in Harney County is a request that all ranchers/farmers everywhere tear up valid federal grazing and other land use contracts and refuse to pay one more cent. Day before that, their proclamation was “God has spoken to Bundy” and approves of his terrorist activity. Even demanded he continue it.

Does that sound like this band of deadbeats, convicted criminals and psych cases wants a “peaceful solution?” They’re in this for the long haul. Law enforcement has become a willing accomplice by allowing these criminals free access into town to buy food, gas, hit the bars and do anything else their larcenous hearts desire. To talk to the media, too. As long as law enforcement acts as a handmaiden, the Bundy boys feel no pressure to quit. In fact, some are now bringing young children into the compound.

Time here for a bit of a review. There are actually at least three separate stories in this stew. First, local ranchers the Hammonds - father and son - are in the slammer for good and proper reasons. They have a lengthy history of destroying federal property, illegal hunting, not paying contracted fees and threatening federal personnel. Also, at least two court convictions. Justice was warranted and they belong in jail.

The second and entirely separate story is how the Hammonds were handled in the courts. They were sent to jail under a minimum sentencing law. That’s a process I’ve soundly criticized in the past. Though put on Oregon’s law books by voters, I believe it’s wrongheaded. It removes the administration of justice - and consideration of possible mitigating circumstances - from duly qualified judges. It allows only one-size-fits-all sentencing, regardless of the situation. Given the extensive history of violations by the Hammonds, justice was likely served. But the way it was handled - sent to jail, then released, then re-sentenced and back to jail for the same crime(s) - was not right. Except for that damned “minimum sentencing” law, they’d be free today. To sin again, as it were. Or not.

The third story involves the criminals holed up in the Malheur Wildlife compound. And, criminals they are. Because law enforcement has let this illegal occupation go on for weeks, two sets of facts have become clear. First, the people inside the compound are not sterling, standup citizens. Not in Oregon - where apparently none of them live - nor in their home states. As more of their individual backgrounds come to light, we find felons, ex-cons, dopers, deadbeats and liars. Also some guys with bad mental health histories drawn to this bunch of misfits.

In addition, the hypocrisy of some of these guys is not unexpected. Terrorist-in-chief Ammon Bundy, for one. While blasting all things governmental at the top of his lungs, he took out a $550,000 federal loan on which he ultimately defaulted. Another liar in the gang had, as his primary source of income, foster children in his care for which the State of Nevada was paying him big bucks. He then loudly complained to national media that he was being “penalized for his free speech” when Nevada authorities removed the kids. Who the hell did the background check originally?

There are more of these “hidden histories” showing up almost daily. One question I’ve had since day one, how many of these criminals are drawing federal/state/county checks every month? Social security, federal and or military retirement, government disability, etc. I’d bet it’s a bunch.

Now, they’re carelessly rifling through thousands of Native American artifacts in the compound and plowing new roads over what are burial grounds on the refuge where the Paiute tribes trace much of their history. They’ve torn down signs and fences not to their liking. They’re bulls breaking things in a very valuable china shop.

The FBI is scared they’ve got another Waco/Branch Dividian situation. They don’t. The isolated Oregon location and makeup of the people holed up is entirely different. There’s no need for the frontal assault the Bureau handled so badly in Waco with tanks and SWAT teams. A communications blackout, no media, no power, no water and a road blockade through which the Bundy bandits can’t go back and forth to town. Just sit in your heated federal SUVs, tell old war stories, drink a lot of coffee and wait. Just wait.

Bundy now says he won’t talk to the FBI again (a) without the media present and (b) unless the Harney County Sheriff deputizes the feds because he doesn’t recognize any law authority above the county. Further, he won’t leave until the Hammonds are out of jail which ain’t gonna happen. Where in there do you read “peaceful solution?”

There’s no basis - none - for the occupation. Again, none! Laws - county, state and federal - are being broken hourly. Locals are frightened of the whole situation and want the bastards out! Our governor has pleaded with the feds to act. No response. Damage is being done not only to the land but also to decades of cooperation between the BLM and Forest Service and ranchers, farmers and other public land users. Valuable historic artifacts are being mishandled at best - destroyed at worst. It’ll take months - if not years - to clean up the compound and restore it to working order when this is over. Innocent people are being held hostage by not having safe access to their own community. City, county and federal property is being vandalized.

Now, sympathetic elected officials from other states are making trips to Burns to meet with these lawbreakers. With media in tow. Criminals receiving support from politicians as crazy as they are. They’re getting care packages from all over the country. What was thought to be a short protest - of something - has now turned into a national disgrace and a gathering spot for more nut cases. Still they come. Daily.

Nothing good has come - or will come - from this self-serving, criminal enterprise. Nothing! The vast majority of citizens affected want this ended. Now! These guys must be starved out, charged and jailed for a dozen or so crimes against the rest of us. The land they’re squatting on is our land. Not their private, illegal domain.

There will be no “peaceful resolution” under any other circumstance. Anyone who still holds out that ludicrous hope is a damned fool. Or, works for the FBI.

First take/tax match

One of the routine bills at the Idaho Legislature every year - every year for decades at least - is the tax match bill.

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service changes the rules, in ways large or small, for federal income taxes. And each year, reliably, Idaho follows suit, for the same reason other states imposing income taxes do: If they did not, residents and organizations would have to cope with far more complicated bookkeeping, trying to deal with two different tax standards. Are taxes a hassle for you? Failing to keep state rules in step with the federal would double the hassle factor.

Sometimes those changes do result in revenue changes for the state, either up or down. This year, a newly-allowed federal deduction on equipment buys by small businesses apparently could cost the state $22 million next year. It's not a huge ding in the context of the state budget, but it was enough to get mentioned when the IRS compliance bill came before the House tax committee.

Three committee members voted against the bill because of the change allowing joint filing by same-sex married couples.

Actually, in the current environment there's a little surprise that this normally routine bill doesn't become a cause celebre, with protests and nullification and all. After all, this is an issue with "federal" and "tax" written all over it.

Maybe though some legislators reflected on just how difficult filing their own taxes could become if the state doesn't fall in line. - rs (image/efile)

$12k

This is from the Bernie Sanders campaign, but the key part isn't Sanders (though the camera stays on him). He asks what it's like to live on $12,000 a year - and he gets some answers.

Sticks and stones

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The predictions of everyone claiming any expertise were unanimous that Bernie Sanders would never be a viable Presidential candidate because as soon as the fact that he is a socialist sinks in, his standing in the polls will plummet into oblivion. Trump, to accelerate this expectation, has been referring to the senator not only as a socialist but also as a communist.

All were wrong, obviously. Sanders’ numbers have continue to improve. The revelation of Sanders’ economic philosophy, even with Trump’s help, is having little effect. The outcome is far from certain, but the senator from Vermont who proclaims himself to be a democratic socialist is clearly a viable candidate. What happened here? How did the predictors miss the mark by so much? As is readily apparent, the labels of socialism, or even communism, no longer appear to strike fear in the heart of the mainstream voter. The increasing reaction to such labels is a mild shrug and casual “meh!” A brief look at history reveals what has probably happened.

Everyone of age at after the end of World War II, and continuing into the 1980s, lived in the shadow of the former Soviet Union, the bastion of what was called international communism and the dedicated enemy of the free world. Although Joseph Stalin had been an ally by necessity in the war, he was considered by the western powers only slightly preferable to Adolf Hitler. After Germany surrendered, Winston Churchill even advocated that the western allies preemptively invade Russia to depose Stalin for good. Instead, a Cold War resulted that lasted for close to 40 years. One brutal Soviet dictator followed another as our nation endured Korea and then Viet Nam, all the while believing we were at risk for immediate nuclear annihilation. Because of the dreadful circumstances of all of this, the term “communist” with all its variations, and to some extent the term “socialist” with all its variations, acquired the same pejorative connotation as the term “Nazi” had earned during the war.

It used to be that to call someone a “communist” anywhere, or a “socialist” in those regions which did not carefully distinguish the meaning of such terms, was to accuse the individual of treachery, high treason, incitement to overthrow the government, conspiracy to murder and perhaps grand theft – all rolled into one word. Even though the actual meaning of the words pertain to benign economic theories, and even though the economic theories were of no relevance to the cruelty of the totalitarian Soviet regime, nevertheless the words became powerful insults capable, often unfairly, of wrecking the reputations and destroying the dreams of many. Branding anyone as such, and making it stick, was considered the ultimate disenfranchisement one could impose upon a political opponent.

Time passed. Suddenly, in the mid-1980s, the Evil Empire crumbled and the Cold War ended. The fear of mutual nuclear annihilation dissipated. As one generation passed on to be replaced by another, the electorate began to fill up with voters who came of age after the Cold War ended. With the imperialistic Soviet Union no longer, and the fear of nuclear attack evaporating, the provocative nuances of the terms “communist” and “socialist” began to dissipate. Furthermore, the United States economy, which had been edging away from capitalism since the beginning of the century, had, in the post-war years, turned into a true amalgam of socialistic and capitalistic mechanisms. The distinctions between democratic socialism and regulated capitalism became differences being of degree in application rather than of philosophy.

With this background in mind, we come to the present day. For the first time, with the elections of 2016, a majority of the electorate will belong to generations born after 1960 and coming of age after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. To these individuals, the attempts by Trump and others to slur Sanders by reference to his economic philosophy provoke only blank stares. The pejorative connotations of calling one a “socialist,” or even a “communist,” simply no longer apply. If anyone is curious, and looks the terms up, all that will be found are the definitions of benign utopian philosophies.

Today, anyone in the category of a grandson listening to his sage grandfather try to explain socialism as a disabling factor in modern politics would simply roll their eyes.

The times they are a changing.

First take/early indicator

A week away from the Iowa caucuses, a lot of people other than presidential candidates are wondering what effect the presidential race may have on races down below.

That's true in both parties, where discussion about exactly that topic has ramped up as talk of which candidate will do their party the most good, or harm, roars on.

Here's a report in the Daily Kos site about a race in Alabama that may suggest an early indicator of things to come. - rs

Over at the National Journal, Kimberly Railey profiles a March 1 GOP primary we haven't talked much about. In this solidly Republican Montgomery-area seat, third-term Rep. Martha Roby faces an intra-party challenge from Becky Gerritson, who heads a local tea party group.

On the surface, it doesn't look like there's much to see here. Unlike Eric Cantor, the tea party's most famous primary victim, Roby actually appears to be taking her race seriously. The incumbent raised a solid $310,000 over the last quarter of 2015, and she holds $884,000 on hand. While Gerritson brought in a non-trivial $105,000, she burned through most of it and only has $31,000 in the bank. And while a few minor tea party-friendly groups have endorsed Gerritson, major organizations like the Club For Growth haven't gotten involved yet. It's very hard to beat a scandal-free incumbent in a primary, and Gerritson just doesn't look like she has what it takes to defeat Roby.

However, there's another level to this race that could make things a bit more interesting than it seems. Alabama is one several states that will hold its downballot primary on the same day as its presidential primary. Normally, incumbents like Roby benefit from this arrangement. Presidential contests tend to draw out more casual voters who don't care much about the other races on the ballot, and will often just select the incumbent because it's the name they recognize.

But as Roll Call's Eli Yokley recently noted, there's a good chance that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will turn out voters who utterly despise the GOP establishment and will lash out at their incumbents. Cruz and Trump should do well especially in Deep Southern states like Alabama: In 2012, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich took a combined 64 percent of the vote, while Mitt Romney only won 29 percent.

Still, in the words of Dr. Horrible, sometimes there's a third, even deeper level, and that one is the same as the top surface one. Even in this caffeinated age, most tea party candidates still fail to unseat establishment Republicans, especially without any major outside help. While ultra-conservatives across the country will try to replicate Dave Brat's victory over Cantor, Cantor was the only congressional Republican to lose renomination to a tea partier last cycle. Most Republicans have learned to take their primaries seriously, and they're often very good about portraying themselves as solid conservatives who are fighting the good fight against liberals.

Ultimately, it's very difficult to see Gerritson prevailing on March 1, at least without help from well-funded groups like the Club for Growth. But this contest is worth keeping an eye on just in case. Roby is a bit of a canary in a coal mine: If she wins without much trouble, it'll be a good indication that the crazy presidential primary isn't about to cost GOP incumbents renomination. But if Roby has an unexpectedly tough time or even loses, a lot of Republican congressmen are going to get nervous very fast.

Different sessions

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In theory, there isn’t much difference in Idaho between the first session of a legislative term, and the second one – like the one just started.

The differences are not exactly subtle but, if informal, they are real, and they can affect the laws the state lives with for years to come.

Many states differentiate clearly between the “odd-year” session, the one (like 2015) right after election year, and the “even-year” session held early within an election year. Washington, for example, has a 105-day limit (a limit often violated anyway) on its odd-year sessions, but just 60 days on its even-year. Until recently Oregon had regular legislative sessions only in odd years; now it allows 160 days in the odd year and 35 in the even. (Idaho has no formal limit on its session length.) There are also some differences in what is routinely considered in those sessions, and what isn’t.

The length difference you notice between those sessions reflects the idea that most of the subject areas that need to be addressed need not be addressed twice in a two-year period. The bar is set relatively low in Washington and Oregon for introducing legislation in the odd year, but only financial matters and higher priorities typically make the cut in the even.

For people in Idaho who wonder if efficiencies can be found in the time legislators spend in session, those examples might suggest one. Idaho could run a longer session in the odds, and a shorter money-oriented session in the even.

It’s not hard to figure out why this approach has happened, and it has to do with elections. In the odd years, legislators are new in their terms, hot off the campaign trail, and want to pursue some of the ideas they talked or heard about. In even years, a primary election is just around the corner, and most legislators would rather get back home early if they can.

Idaho, which went to biennial session in the ate 60s, does not formally differentiate between the two regular sessions – legislation can be considered in one as well as the other. Sometimes advocates of failed legislation in an odd year come back in the even to give it another try, before the same group of legislators. Occasionally it works; more often it doesn’t.

There’s an attempt being made this year, for one example, with the “add the words” legislation, on civil rights. A bill was proposed last year, given several days of committee hearings, then rejected at the committee level on a party-line vote. Democratic Senators Grant Burgoyne and Cherie Buckner-Webb have brought it back, with some amendment reflecting concerns expressed in testimony from a year ago. Its future is unclear. Will Republican legislators be willing to give it another hearing after last year’s marathon, much less send it to a chamber floor? Maybe, but Burgoyne and Buckner-Webb will have a tough job convincing them.

If they do, the reason would be that a number of members, reflecting on last year’s session and the arguments they’ve heard then and sense, may simply have reconsidered their views.

If you think, as many people do (and as Washington and Oregon do) that a second session should be limited and fiscal-oriented so time isn’t spent on retread issues, you may have a point. It works pretty well in a number of states.

But a full-on session in the even years does have its benefits: The chance to reconsider decisions made the year before, sometimes in haste or under pressure. We’ll see soon enough how this session does with this year’s version of decision-making.

Party switch

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People who are members of a party always reserve the right to change them. That's happened too tho the Oregon Independent Party, as this release shows. - ed

An announcement by David S. Taylor Jr. , who had previously filed as an Independent Party candidate for Oregon House District 30 (Hillsboro).

Saturday, January 16, 2015

It has been a great experience for me to learn more about the political process over the last few months. In that time I met some really great people and learned a lot about what matters to Oregonians.

I have always considered myself an Eisenhower Republican, meaning that like Eisenhower I believe that: “In all those things which deal with people, be liberal, be human. In all those things which deal with the people’s money or their economy, or their form of government, be conservative”. I believe strongly in individual liberty but also in the responsibility to safeguard those most vulnerable.

I have said from the beginning of my campaign that I was a reluctant Independent. I am appreciative of the avenue of opportunity the IPO offered me to take part in the political process, however after careful consideration I have decided to take a different direction for myself, my family, and my community.

Recently, I have been inspired by the Republican idealism of Marco Rubio and he has renewed my belief in the American system and Republican Party. I have decided to become more involved in his mission for a New American Century.

As such I am suspending my campaign and will be registering as a Republican. This is not the end, this is only the beginning and I am optimistic for what the future will bring to my district and the state of Oregon.

Very respectfully,

David S. Taylor Sr.

While Mr. Taylor isnt eligible to file as the GOP candidate, he could seek the GOP nomination for HD-30 as a write in candidate. So far, there are no Republican candidates for that nomination. Democrat Joe Gallegos now holds that seat.

Taylor is a poverty fighting, pro marriage equality candidate. If elected as a Republican, he could join with Rep. Knute Bueller to form the core of a more modern Oregon GOP.

Coal in the ground

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It’s tempting to think of Indian Country as a “singular” voice. The vast majority of Native Americans agree that the United States should live up to its treaty promises. Most of us think that tribes are the best mechanism for governing our lands and people (all the while watching a steady stream of our citizens moving from reservations to cities and towns across America). And, we share a deep respect for the land, Mother Earth. Add it up and it shows that if we all vote together, our voices will represent a powerful bloc.

Except, that is, when we disagree.

That should not be a surprise. The phrase “tribal politics” earns an instant nod from folks who understand that Native people have the same divisions - philosophical, tribal, and familial - that surface in any governing structure. Generations ago this was an easy problem to resolve: Leaders who found themselves in a minority, just left camp, and followed their own way. Today tribal people who have different ideas about the future live and work in the community and use elections to determine the governing coalition.

Perhaps the greatest division within Indian Country is the debate about the environment and the extraction of natural resources. There are Native people on all sides of this question and it’s already an election issue.

Earlier this month the Crow Nation announced that some tribal employees “will have to be furloughed for some time during this quarter.” A Facebook post quoted Chairman Darrin Old Coyote saying that “because of revenues reduced by the Obama’s “War on Coal,” we are faced with a shortfall to our operating budget under the general fund. Our Cabinet Head and Directors are faced with reducing their budget to make it through this quarter. We do have funds out there but, will not be available in time. As a result, there will be wage reductions, and other steps taken to make sure the furlough will not last long.”

Crow is rich with coal - one estimate shows a reserve of 17 billion tons - and it’s the primary source of tribal revenue as well as jobs for more than 13,000 tribal members. Last year Old Coyote told a Senate hearing in Montana: “I simply desire for the Crow Nation to become self-sufficient by developing its own coal resources and to provide basic services for the health, hopes and future of the Crow people. With help from you – our historic treaty ally – in leveling the energy development playing field, we can achieve my vision and both benefit immensely.”

Obama might get the blame, but the coal industry has been collapsing on its own. Its use as an energy source in the United States is being replaced by natural gas which is both cheaper and cleaner. That leaves China as the major market for coal. But China is giving up on coal too. A report by Clark Williams-Derry from the environmental think-tank Sightline sums it up this way: “Many folks still believe that China has an unlimited appetite for coal and that the country’s industries and power plants would be delighted to buy any and all coal we send their way. But in reality, China’s coal consumption peaked in 2013, fell by about 3 percent in 2014, and fell another 4 to 5 percent over the first 11 months of 2015. All told, China’s cutbacks have totaled some 300 million tons per year—the equivalent of one-third of total coal output in the US, the world’s second largest coal producer. So while China still has a huge appetite for coal, the country has slimmed down impressively.”

The sharp decline in the Chinese stock market will likely speed up this trend.

But proponents of coal continue to promote plans that would make it easier for coal to reach Asia. Cloud Peak Energy Company has the option to lease 1.4 billion tons of coal from Crow lands. That company, and the Crow Nation, are investors in two new shipping terminals in Washington state. If completed, this would be the biggest coal export terminal in North America and account for nearly 500 sailings of ships transporting coal to Asia.

Northwest tribes are adamantly opposed to the terminal. Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby told The Seattle Times last week: “Coal is black death … There is no mitigation.” He and other tribal leaders say that the project would be a clear violation of treaty fishing rights. Cladoosby is president of the National Congress of American Indians which in a 2012 resolution called for a full, transparent environmental review.

Then again, as The Times put it: “Burning coal creates pollution that harms human health and the environment. In addition to particulates, burning coal generates more carbon dioxide emissions than any other fuel, implicated as the number one source of human-caused climate change.”

The politics of coal remain a dividing line in U.S. and tribal politics. The Obama administration has stepped up environmental regulations of coal and just last week the Interior Department announced a review of coal leasing on federal lands.

“Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases so that decisions about those leases can benefit from the recommendations that come out of the review,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “During this time, companies can continue production activities on the large reserves of recoverable coal they have under lease, and we’ll make accommodations in the event of emergency circumstances to ensure this pause will have no material impact on the nation’s ability to meet its power generation needs. We are undertaking this effort with full consideration of the importance of maintaining reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses, as well other federal programs and policies.”

This action comes at a moment where there is a worldwide push to leave coal and other carbon-based resources in the ground as a way to hit the UN targets limiting C02 emissions. New data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says nearly 90 percent of the world’s coal is “unburnable.” Coal is considered the most polluting type of fossil fuel.

“The implication is that any fossil fuels that would take us over-budget will have to be left in the ground,” writes Roz Pidcock for CarbonBrief. “Globally this equates to 88 percent of the world’s known coal reserves, 52 percent of gas and 35 percent of oil.”

So the tribal bets on coal are coming at a bad time, both in terms of market-prices and meeting international agreements to reduce emissions. Neither the Congress nor a future president can change this fact. Markets are not going to suddenly come back for coal and the rest of the world has already made a decision about the future of energy.

Of course, the Crow are not the only tribal government or Alaska Native corporation that’s sees a future in coal. The Navajo Nation purchased a coal mine in 2014. And the Tyonek Native Corporation has plans to develop the Chuitna Coal project with the PacRim Coal Company. The village corporation favors the project, while the Tyonek Native village, a tribal government, is opposed because of the mining’s impact on rivers, salmon and the community.

The impact of climate change is a huge concern for many tribes. But even before climate change the Northern Cheyenne - also a coal rich tribe - decided on a different route.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Northern Cheyenne demanded that its trustee block leases with Peabody Coal. Then the Northern Cheyenne successfully set higher air quality standards. According to the Bureau of Land Management: “The Tribe became concerned that, because of prevailing wind patterns, air pollution from these massive plants would pollute the Reservation airshed. Under prevailing legal standards, the powerplant was not obliged to minimize such pollution … The Tribe decided to become the first unit of government in the Nation – Federal, state, local or tribal – to voluntarily raise the air quality standard within its territory to the most pristine standard under law. Specifically, the Tribal Council moved to raise the Reservation air quality standard to the highest permitted by law – Class I – a standard which theretofore applied only to National Parks and Wilderness Areas.”

When I was a young reporter, during the late 1970s, I had several interviews with the late Alan Rowland who was then Northern Cheyenne’s chairman. He joked that you cannot breathe money. He said clean air and water were essential to his tribe’ health. Jobs come and go, but not water or air. When I think back, it’s almost as if Rowland saw the challenges of climate change ahead.

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. On Twitter @TrahantReports