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Posts published in May 2016

Who’s on First

mckee

The national campaigns are careening totally out of control. We have jumped down the rabbit hole and have no idea of where the damn rabbit went. We don’t know who’s driving, where we’re going, what to expect from either campaign, or how this will all play out through the conventions and into the fall. It may seem like November is still a long way off, but in real time it is just around the corner. Nobody in the entire panoply of cognoscenti has even a faint clue of what the landscape is going to look like as that critical day in November approaches.

On the Republican side, the media has become a circus, mesmerized by Trump to the point of the absurd. He has been handed the lead of every news cycle in recent memory. Any event of his campaign is now treated as though it were a national disaster, meaning wall to wall coverage of little more than the grass growing around the venues of the day, with blank time filled with interviews of ticket-takers and janitorial staff. Whenever Trump is cornered into a one-on-one, little information beyond what he wants to release comes out, for Trump is a master of the spin and pivot. Press interviews of The Donald have become reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s classic “Who’s on first?” only for keeps and in real time. Trump is obviously having a ball, and the media, trying to keep within traditional campaign rules, is left collectively chasing its tail.

Although the party stalwarts are grudgingly beginning to fall in line, Donald is not making it easy. He has not made peace with the Speaker yet, and has announced that he may not even try. He continues to lob verbal hand grenades at anyone he perceives to have slighted him in any fashion – no matter who or from which party. His recent target for a totally unnecessary verbal slam-down was the governor of New Mexico, who is not only a popular Republican in a potentially purple state, but also (a) a woman, (b) Hispanic and (c) the national chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

On the issues, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Trump is not a Conservative and probably not a Republican. The purists among the R’s are appalled at all the inconsistencies and U-turns, as Trump is beginning to walk back from deeply held conservative tenets in foreign policy, national security, economics and even social issues. On policy issues he is, in a word, whatever the current trend at the present locale appears to want him to be – for that moment – if it will get him elected. All of this would, in other times, result in a mass exodus from the Republican party – except for the deep seated and unshakable fact that overwhelmingly, most Republicans so despise Hillary Clinton, that they would vote for the devil himself before they would be caught crossing over.

On the other side, the Democrats are not doing it that much better. The D’s are stuck between a proverbial Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, as they try to figure out whether the interloper is something out of Lewis Carroll or the Brothers Grimm. Was Bernie Sanders sent by the good fairy to rescue the kingdom from the evil red queen, or is he just a Kafkaesque crusader sent in to illustrate the futility of it all? No one has nailed an answer to this yet, and no one has been able to get Bernie to quit beating up Hillary while they try to figure it out.

Hillary Clinton has focused her sights on Trump and is trying to run on policy issues germane to the general election. Her efforts to concentrate on policy keep getting overridden by process issues that won’t die. The current flap is the State Department Inspector General’s report that no one has actually read but everyone cites with hand-wringing concern. It is casting a low pall over Hillary’s campaign at the moment, even though in reality there is nothing new there. Everything contained in the IG report has been out in the open and examined to death. But despite the best efforts of the Clinton campaign to bury the issue, it keeps recurring.

What would undoubtedly be worse is for the FBI report to recommend prosecution. This report could pop out at any time, or could remain hanging until after the election. While opinions abound from all sides over what will be in it, those who appear to be more objective believe the expected FBI report will not find criminal involvement. If such were likely, letters of caution would already be flying around and the investigatory interviews would be far more circumspect. Nevertheless, until the shoe drops, the specter of a criminal prosecution continues to glow and give off heat, fanning the fervor of the entire line-up at Fox News. The issue will not die.

In times past, even the hint of such a mess would have disqualified the individual at the very get-go. It speaks volumes to the resilience of Secretary Clinton’s strength as a candidate that she has continued to weather all of this nonsense through everything thrown at her up to now, and has still sustained her position as the leading and now probable Democratic candidate. On the other hand, it also speaks volumes about how deep into the barrel the Democrats found themselves willing to reach in their search for suitable candidates this term.

Senator Sanders is now fighting a battle that is statistically impossible for him to win. Of the handful of states left, only California is of any size in total delegate count. The polls indicate that at best, it may wind up a tie. But Clinton does not need to win California to win the nomination. Even if she gets the lesser end of the election in California, unless she goes all the way to zero she will still receive enough delegates to push her total of committed delegate count over the needed line for the nomination at the convention.

In every situation in the past, the traditional step has been for the one with no realistic chance to withdraw and deliver up his support to the leader. Sanders must be gambling either upon the release of an FBI report recommending prosecution against Clinton, or upon some sort of mutiny among the uncommitted super delegates. But even in such event, from a practical electability standpoint, the enigma facing the Democrats would still be which would be worse – the patina of socialism swirling over the non-Democrat, or one more anchor added to the thirty years’ worth of anchors the leader is already dragging about?

It might appear that the predicted result will be for Clinton to succeed at the convention, albeit with a few more scars administered by Sanders and his minions. Clinton stands to beat Trump in most of the polls. But it will be close. The negative numbers might influence the final result, but both sets of negative results virtually cancel each other out. Because of the history of everybody’s predictions up to now, nobody is predicting anything on the relative negative poll standings. It is going to be an un-callable crap shoot from here on out.

On a deeper note, what cries out for further comment and analysis is that both parties managed to bring forward seriously flawed candidates for what should have been posts demanding the best of their best. We have never seen anything like the debacle that faces the electorate during this term.

How did it happen that we had to tolerate a bus load of unqualified prospects this term? How did it happen that so few answered the call to challenge Mrs. Clinton? Is it enough that every person who wants can declare themselves to be candidates, fully entitled to seats on the stage for as long as they want to remain? Would different processes at the outset have produced better candidates, and avoided the slow motion train wrecks we are viewing today?

No matter what happens, these issues need to be examined by both parties with steps taken if necessary to ensure that this nightmare is not repeated.

Ignorant, dangerous

rainey

First time I voted for a president was 1960. I was stationed in northern Greenland near the North Pole. My “polling” place, as it were. So, registering, getting a ballot, marking it up and assuring it got to the proper counting place stateside on-time made for a bit of a job. But pride in the experience drove the process and we “got ‘er done.”

I remember how seriously I treated that first voting exercise. We had no Internet - no TV - no satellite phones - no phones of any kind. Best most of us could do to keep up with things at home was have folks send us newspapers that were generally two weeks old by the time we got ‘em.

Having been raised in a Central Oregon Republican household, I leaned a bit toward Nixon - to my later, everlasting shame. But Kennedy was new, younger, articulate - different. So, my “boning up” included reading all I could find on both, trying to be a informed as possible - given the circumstances.

That’s how you participated in the first rite of citizenship 56 years ago. You assumed the two national political parties had put forth their best, most qualified candidates. You studied. You talked with friends. You gathered as many facts as you could to be an “informed voter.” It was an important requirement of being a good citizen of this country.

Damn! Times have certainly changed.

If you assume Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the two “most qualified” candidates of their respective parties, you start with a flawed basis that’ll get no better no matter the winner. As the one casting the ballot, you can study till Hell freezes over and not end up picking the “most qualified” candidate either party could field. Those names - whoever they might be - aren’t on your official form.

We voters are failing the exercise, too, by not being as informed as we were six decades back. Most folks aren’t spending the required time and energy to get beyond headlines, sound bites, hate radio or phony “facts.”

I’m not a big “social” media believer - limiting myself to Facebook as a means to stay somewhat in touch with people I mostly enjoy. There are plenty of FB participants I don’t “enjoy” but their presence on my “page” is only because of their relationship to those I do.

If you pay attention to what shows up, you can learn a few things. For example, during some of the recent primaries in our Northwest neighborhood, it absolutely floored me how many people asked other folks who to vote for. Yep. People I had regarded as upstanding, wise, learned participants in our democracy were admitting they “hadn’t kept up” or “had been so busy” - or some other lame excuse - and were hitting up friends for names of the best candidates.

I recognized some of them - actually, far too many - and was greatly disappointed. I’d become accustomed to reading their posted complaints about government and certain politicians. I’d read many of their previous rants and figured they knew what they were talking about. Apparently they didn’t! And we’re not talking a couple of folks here. No, it was a good deal more than a few.

You can get a pretty good idea how many millions of Americans really have no idea how their country operates by starting with these who’ve shown their ignorance, then watching other interviews with people “on-the-street.” Jay Leno used to do that. Letterman and Fallon from time to time. Seemed like good clean fun then. But not now!

I’m constantly stunned - and extremely disappointed - by how many people have absolutely no idea how the U.S. of A. works. A year ago, a University of Oklahoma journalism grad student set up a camera on campus and interviewed passers by. One question was: “Who were the participants in the Civil War?” Another: “Who won the Civil War?” Again, those questioned were UofO students AND faculty.

I quit watching after about 10 responses. Ten wrong responses. Ten ignorant, unbelievable responses. This wasn’t a hoax. This wasn’t some kind of setup. This was part of her master’s work.

Lately, some media interviews with Trump supporters have turned up. Painful to watch. Unbelievable to watch. Disgusting to watch. Every bit as bad as those Oklahoma voices. Worse, in most cases, because the speakers were allegedly voters espousing their beliefs and support for Trump’s repeated lies, slander, racism, misogyny and his own ignorance.
But, possibly even worse, we’re now hearing daily of “important” Republican officeholders lining up behind this loud-mouth, civic embarrassment. Doing so, they say, to unite their party. Unite the party be damned! What the Hell about the country? When did doomed-to-fail efforts to unite a devastated political party take precedence over the national good? When, in the last 60 years, was responsible citizenship of being a more informed voter replaced by political hacks acting civically irresponsible to maintain their employment at the federal tit?

The GOP is NOT going to “reunited” any time soon. Humpty Dumpty had a far better chance of being “reunited” than today’s National Republican Party. Those along the Potomac, sacrificing their intelligence and trustworthiness to hold public office by pledging to support the worst thing that’s happened to this country’s politics in my lifetime, deserve no more than our scorn. Certainly not our vote.

Up in that frozen wasteland 60 years ago, I was proud to have my ballot counted on election day, 1960. No little sticker to wear. Not even able to see the returns that night. And 40-below outside.

But, I voted then with pride and a sense of “coming-of-age” that felt awfully good all those years back. That’s not how it’ll feel in November, 2016. We’ve passed the point of so many recent elections in which we voted for “the lesser of two evils.” Now, we have to be totally concerned with keeping this nation intact. And with saving millions of Americans from themselves. How’s that for a new responsibility of citizenship?

Local factors

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One of the hazards of punditry is a tendency to wrap things up in a neat package – a nice simple conclusion and overview of what usually was a messier reality.

Last week I pointed out a trend line in the recent Idaho primary election, in which relatively “establishment conservative” candidates, some challengers and others incumbents, tended to do better in seriously contested races than the more ideological insurgents. As a broad-picture view, I still think that was a reasonable take.

But a series of communications from the field over the last week reminded me that elections are a more complex thing than one simple trend line will allow. Why did someone win or lose? The reasons may be many, and the big picture might be only a piece of the story. And maybe not so big a piece.

One of the key primary contests was in District 15, in western Boise, where incumbent Patrick McDonald was challenged by Rod Beck, a veteran of legislative campaigns. Beck has been allied with the more insurgent side of the party, and McDonald with the more establishment conservatives (he got primary backing from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, Senator Jim Risch and others). The race fit within the overall trend.

But there was more to it than that. One caller pointed out that McDonald and other Republicans in the district organized hard and pursued door-knocking intensively, even trying to visit every registered Republican in the district several times. That as much as other considerations probably paid off on election day.

In District 23, centered around Elmore County, Republican voters tossed out both incumbent House members – Pete Nielsen, given to viral quotes and sort of a member of the insurgent side, but also the much less controversial Rich Wills, backed by more establishment conservatives like Otter. Nielsen’s loss fit within the framework, but people who have watched the race develop note that personal and campaigning factors played a role there. Why did Wills lose? I suspect one factor is that he was pulled in by the undertow; when Nielsen got only 22.1% of the vote, and Wills lost with 44.9%, it’s easy to suspect a spillover effect was involved. But so too may have been a strong campaign from Wills’ opponent, Christy Zito.

Then there’s the case of Ron Nate of Rexburg, who narrowly survived a challenge from Doug Ricks. Ricks was a newly-minted candidate, but he was well positioned. Like Nate he worked at Brigham Young University-Idaho, and his father is the veteran former state senator and Lieutenant Governor Mark Ricks, a significant figure among establishment Republicans; Otter endorsed the younger Ricks in the primary. Nate was top-ranked in the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s “Freedom Index,” which loosely helps measure where you’re at on the insugent-establishment scale. A high rank like Nate’s marks you as an insurgent, and Ricks’ campaign zeroed in on Nate’s opposition to school spending bills and other insurgent causes.

The result was close; Nate won with 51.6%, a thin lead for an incumbent. But he didn’t come across like many of the insurgents from, say, northern Idaho. His language and tone seemed lower-key (befitting the Rexburg ethos).

And the insurgent side did score a few wins, even taking out a couple of legislators (Merrill Beyeler from Leadore and Paul Romrell from St. Anthony).

Overall, I think the initial impression of what happened stands. But there’s also a lot more to see in the details.

Portrait of Kitzhaber’s legacy

jorgensen

The official portrait of former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber continues to hang in the hall of the state capitol in Salem. It’s still there, alongside those of his predecessors like Ted Kulongoski and Vic Atiyeh, and right next to the office he occupied for longer than most of the people who have ever held it.

Kitzhaber’s portrait was particularly popular among tourists to the building in February 2015, in the days surrounding his resignation amid federal investigations and allegations of corruption and influence-peddling. Groups of people and individuals would pose for pictures with his portrait, taking selfies in the anticipation that the scandals and controversy would ultimately result in it being taken down.

Not much has been said publicly about the man in recent months, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation tends to be tight-lipped about its work. Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, occasionally break their silence with recorded video statements, social media posts and interviews in which they disclose very little while loudly proclaiming their innocence. Hayes even took a job with a startup magazine in Bend, an unusual career choice for someone with literally no background in journalism and who has blamed the news media and its members for her very public downfall.

The latest reminder that the trials and tribulations of John and Cylvia are nowhere near over hit this week like a one-two punch. First came the call from Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform for a criminal investigation into the disastrous $305 million Cover Oregon debacle, in which federal dollars were spent developing a website that never functioned or signed a single person in the state up for health insurance coverage.

Cover Oregon was supposed to be one of Kitzhaber’s crowning achievements and accomplishments, as he and others in the state’s political leadership were eager to have the state be the first in the nation to fully implement the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Instead, Oregon taxpayers get the privilege of paying for attorney fees years later as the state and software giant Oracle fight it out in multiple court cases and venues and point the finger at each other in an attempt to assign blame for the fantastic failure that followed.

The fact that the state didn’t have to build a website from scratch is often lost upon many during discussions on this issue. I had actually reported in December 2012 in an Estacada News article that former State Representative Patrick Sheehan grilled Cover Oregon officials about that decision during a committee meeting. Patrick, who has a background in website development, had received live product demonstrations from a company that could have licensed existing software to the state for $6 million and customized it for another $6 million. His concerns about the state wasting money were met with seeming derision by officials who were later fired or resigned in disgrace. They flippantly told Sheehan that they weren’t worried about wasting money, because if the state ran out, it could simply ask the federal government for more.

All of the constant calls for somebody, somewhere, to investigate what happened during Kitzhaber’s tenure as the state’s chief executive officer have grown into a chorus. Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has, not surprisingly, never seemed to be very eager to investigate the man who appointed her to her position. But those of us who have been screaming for it all this time have become quite hoarse, in the hopes of eventually being heard.

At the end of that same news cycle came a story from The Oregonian newspaper that Hayes has been ordered by a judge to pay $128,000 in attorney fees to that publication after her failed attempts to keep her e-mails from being disclosed. That dollar figure is nearly the same amount that her consulting business supposedly made in a single year not all that long ago during her stint as First Lady. It’s also a full six figures higher than the amount she apparently disclosed to the Internal Revenue Service for that same year. As a former longtime reporter, I’m sure that it’s substantially more than she’s bringing home through her current occupation.

As these events unfolded, members of the Legislature convened at the capitol for a week of interim committee meetings. They include the Department of Energy Oversight Committee, which was formed in the hopes of figuring out what happened with that agency’s Business Energy Tax Credit boondoggle during Kitzhaber’s administration. Several state agencies have faced turnover at the director level in recent months and colossal budgetary shortfalls loom on the horizon for the Oregon Health Authority, Department of Human Services, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Public Employees Retirement System.

That’s a stark contrast to the legacy that I’m sure Kitzhaber was hoping to leave behind. In the meantime, though, his official portrait remains in its current location, much in the same way that former governor Neil Goldschmidt’s did until its removal.

I suppose the possibility exists that Kitzhaber’s may still someday be taken down. And maybe it will be placed alongside Goldschmidt’s so the two of them can hang together. Such a scenario might be the most fitting end for it once this whole situation has finally been resolved.

A title rejection

From Dan Meek of the Oregon Independent Party, on May 25:

In a stunning display of democracy suppression, this afternoon the Secretary of State of Oregon refused to issue a ballot title for Initiative Petition 77 for 2016, which would amend the Oregon Constitution to allow limits on political campaign contributions and expenditures and allow laws requiring disclosure of the true sources and amounts of such contributions or expenditures in the communications they fund.

The Secretary of State claims that the Initiative would constitute more than one "closely related" amendment to the Oregon Constitution.

"When a similar contention was made against Measure 46 (2006), the Oregon Supreme Court rejected it in Meyer v. Bradbury (2006)," noted attorney Dan Meek. "This decision now requires the chief petitioners of Initiative Petition engage in costly litigation to defend the right of the people to amend their own Constitution to achieve campaign finance reform."

The 3 Chief Petitioners are officials in three of Oregon's political parties. Seth Woolley, Executive Director of the Pacific Green Party's Portland chapter, stated:
"This rejection doesn't pass the smell test, as single subject issues were already adjudicated in 2006. The AG purports to believe the same decision wouldn't be made and so pro-democracy reforms shouldn't get a vote. It's absurdly undemocratic that an unaccountable opinion by a bureaucrat paid by an elected official can derail attempts to hold our elected officials accountable to the public with such clearly nonsense opinions."

Liz Trojan, member of the Oregon Progressive Party's State Council, added: "Initiative Petition 77 is a very simple constitutional ballot proposal to do two things: 1) allow for campaign contribution limits, 2) allow laws requiring disclosure of campaign contributions. The SoS and Attorney General have deemed that these two items are somehow not related. I am a citizen of Oregon and not an attorney, but to my simple understanding of Article XVII of the Oregon Constitution these two items are clearly related. It is profoundly disappointing that this is being turned into a political football. All we are seeking to do is what at least 44 other states have done."

Robert Harris of the State Caucus of the Independent Party of Oregon stated: "I am resigned to the fact that the Oregon political establishment and particularly its major donors are opposed to any campaign reforms, including something as simple and obvious as informing voters who is paying for the ads."
The Chief Petitioners and other supporters of badly needed campaign finance reform in Oregon will have further comment tomorrow.

Here is the full text of Initiative Petition 77 (2016):
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Oregon, there is added an Article II, Section 25, of the Constitution of Oregon:

Oregon laws consistent with the freedom of speech guarantee of the United States Constitution may:
(1) limit contributions and expenditures (including transfers of money or resources) to influence the outcome of any election; and
(2) require disclosure of the true sources and amounts of such contributions or expenditures (a) to the public and (b) in the communications they fund.

The Secretary of State has not posted her rejection letter in the Initiative Log at http://egov.sos.state.or.us/elec/web_irr_search.main_search or elsewhere. We posted it at http://cfr.progparty.net

Back to Pocatello

carlson

Most residents of the Gate City are familiar with the expression used by journalist, author and Oregon politician Richard Neuberger to describe the phenomena that characterized many of the members of Congress, who, once defeated, or opting to retire, stayed inside the Beltway never to leave the Nation’s capitol.

Many who travel to D.C., especially those coming from the west, almost immediately sense the surrealism that pervades the place. Too many people frenetically rushing about, caught up in their own self-importance no matter how small or trivial their little piece of power is. Then there are the 24-year-old still wet behind the ears staff for members of the House and Senate, who not too deceptively allow how their “horse” will be unable to meet with a group despite the meeting having been scheduled months before.

You see, the President has just called the member down to the White House, or there’s a special vote, but don’t worry, it is really staff who run the office (wink, wink), so you’re talking to the right person, the aide pretentiously proclaims.

The city is all about power, money, greed, pecking orders, influence-peddling misnamed as lobbying, and that lovely phrase used by attorneys---billable hours. The classic example is a Hill staffer who has moved down to K Street to lobby, after a decent interval, former colleagues who know how the game is played becausae they too want to cash in on their connections.

The former aide bumps into his old Boss who says hello and moves on after 30 seconds. The ex-staffer rushes back to the office and immediately bills ten of the firm’s clients $450 (his hourly charge) each though the meeting was only a minute.

Its all perfectly legal and after all, everyone does it. Even a decent former congressman I knew once billed an Indian tribe $10,000 a month for one luncheon with a minor official from the Environmental Protection Agency. They had a “retainer agreement” in which the client pays to have the former congressman on “stand by” in case he may be needed. Most normal folk cannot get back home fast enough. There’s a cost for this greed and lack of ethics, though. It also may help to explain why many Americans are looking for an outsider to come into that surreal world to restore sanity and common sense.

Many have lost any confidence in or trust for those who live and work in the greater D.C. area. The irony is that many folks who go to D.C. either as a member of Congress, or a staffer, or an appointee to some post, get trapped by the high salaries. When they start to explore returning home they realize they cannot afford it.

They may sincerely want to return, but everything from private schools to reading the Washinton Post and the New York Times to start their day keeps them in place. Don’t forget either the parties in Georgetown and the easy sex that underlies “business” relationships.

So what about Idaho’s Congressional delegation? When Neuberger wrote the essay for the Saturday Evening Post in the early 50s he reportedly was looking for a former senator in Pocatello and was asking about. An agent for Union Pacific looked at him and uttered the phrase “those fellows never come back to Pocatello.”

Well, it turns out that the agent should not have used the word never.

Not double-counting those who were congressmen then senators, nor those still in office, since 1946 of the 33 members of Congress from Idaho slightly less than half, 15, have returned home to Idaho while 18 have remained.

Despite Neuberger’s catchy title, in the case of Idaho, many did return to Pocatello. Sadly, Richard Neuberger was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1954 from Oregon but never had the opportunity to decide whether to return home. He died at the age of 47 in 1959 while still in office.

Today’s the day

rainey

The future success of the National Democratic Party in the November election is at a critical junction today. This day. Right now. Today. Not some months down the road. NOW!

Ironically, it’s in the hands of just two people. Two. Just two human beings in the entire universe can assure the party’s immediate future ascendancy. Or disaster. If they don’t make the right, gut wrenching decision at this moment, we’re going to have a Trump in the White House and a totally unpredictable future as a nation.

Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton. It’s all up to you!

Ol’ Bern set out to do something a year ago that the wisest political chiefs of any persuasion thought was impossible. While he isn’t likely to meet his goal of being the party’s presidential nominee, he’s had astounding success in all sorts of things: amassing an amazing pile of dollars from individuals while refusing PAC and large donor bucks; tackling subjects this nation needs to hear more about and take action on; reached an unheard of number of young people with little previous political interest; getting them to act; staying true to his ideals without currying support by changing them. And a whole lot more.

Candidates and their professional hired hands will examine the Sanders campaign inside and out for years. Political academics will do repeated autopsies on the body politic to understand how he, with very scant support from his own party, was able to reach so many people, motivate them and come so close to the national prize as just one guy remaining true to himself and those who supported his candidacy. Amazing!

But now it’s time - today - for Bernie to admit the statistics and facts are all against him getting any further up the political ladder. He cannot - and he will not - be the Democrat Party presidential nominee. His road has ended. Very, very near to the finish line. But short of it.

This is not to say he hasn’t been successful in many areas. Nor is it to believe he’s failed in any way. Not at all. His campaign trail from near obscurity to how close he got to the mountaintop is to be admired. Nor is he without the ability to be an effective influence as a Democrat.

But, now is the time for him to put all his cards on the table - use the accumulated power he holds by simply representing the desires of some eight million voters and offer up his petition of those desires for the future of his party. What he wants talked about and acted on - issues like minimum wage increases, equal pay for equal work, commitment to kill Citizen’s United which has befouled our national politics, necessary system-wide improvements in veteran’s health care and a couple of other major items. All good.

Then, the spotlight - and the immediate urgency - must shift to Hillary. She must - must - be magnanimous, gracious and open to including some if not all of Bernie’s issues in the party platform to be built at convention in Philadelphia. She already supports many of his positions and could easily accommodate the others. After all, platforms hardly ever come up in campaigning. Even most of the people at conventions don’t read ‘em and their impact on the general public is flat nil.

But, the moment of her very public acknowledgment - and her open acceptance of what Sanders presents - can create the foundation on which immediate party unity can be built. She loses nothing - suffers no handicap - by allowing Sanders and his eight million followers to feel included and represented. She gains immediate additional widespread acceptance of her own by assuring Sanders - with his list of desires - a seat at the head table. And, she’ll suddenly have millions more backing her in November.

Then the light will shift back to Sanders. It’ll be his turn to act the role of the effective leader those who have turned to him believe him to be. He loses nothing. He’s no less a man or less an effective politician. But, if he makes that turn at that moment - and does it with the sincerity and the fire he’s known for in his campaign - he’ll keep a compulsive, lying, racist, politically ignorant, misogynist from tearing this country apart.

Someone Sanders goes to for counsel - someone whose advice he routinely takes - whose wisdom and support he relies upon - that person alone can keep Bernie from setting fire to this Republic while realizing only a hollow and worthless personal victory. This is no time for false pride. Sanders first - then Clinton - then Sanders.

This is political Russian roulette with five live rounds in the six shot cylinder. And it’s NOW!

Edging back

stapiluslogo1

Whatever will Idaho do for viral quotes next legislative session? The most reliable providers won’t be back, and neither will a number of their allies. Or newcomers to the task.

The Republican primary election on Tuesday yielded a persistent theme in its results among challenged races. The more extreme insurgent candidates, whether incumbent or challenger, tended to lose to the more establishment conservative alternative.

You can find no better case study than in Coeur d’Alene’s District 4, where the House seats were held by one from the insurgent group – Kathleen Sims – and one from the establishment conservative group, Luke Malek. (The Senate seat, held by Mary Souza, was unchallenged.) Malek, challenged by an insurgent, won his primary with 58.4%. Sims, challenge by an establishment conservative, lost hers at 48.4%

There’s Sheryl Nuxoll, the three-term senator from Cottonwood whose statements have gone as viral as anyone’s. Remember the Holocaust/health insurance exchange comparison, the “false faith with false gods” of Hinduism, and so many other greatest hits? This time she lost (48.8%), a result probably not widely expected. Likewise the bigger loss in the same district by Shannon McMillan (38.7%), known for her frequent votes against spending on education without explaining why.

The theme was repeated up and down the state, not in every instance but in enough to make the trend line clear.

Up along the Canadian border the new co-chair of the legislature’s budget committee, Shawn Keough, has faced insurgent challenges for several cycles, and the margins have been getting closer. Still, in possibly the highest-profile legislative primary this year, she again survived (with 55.7%) another determined effort this year.

Runner up among top primaries may have been in west Boise’s district 15, where relatively new establishment conservative Representative Patrick McDonald was challenged by Rod Beck, who has been active in Republican politics for a long time (more than a quarter-century ago, he was state Senate majority leader) but is allied with the insurgents on the right. McDonald won, decisively (57.9%).

Other serious insurgent challenges fell short too, to Representatives Kelley Packer in Bannock County (she had blasted the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s legislative index), to Maxine Bell (Keough’s House budget chair counterpart) and Stephen Hartgen of Twin Falls.

Here’s another useful measure. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, more or less Idaho’s lead “establishment conservative” (with his own primary challenge two years ago to show for it), recently took the unusual step of endorsing a dozen Republican legislative candidates contested in the primary, some incumbents and some challengers, but all (obviously) on his side of the fence.

Of that dozen, which included three challengers and nine seriously challenged incumbents, eight won, and one of the others lost only by a hair. Election night wasn’t bad for Otter on the legislative front.

If the 2014 primary election was something close to an overall holding action in the internal battle among Idaho Republicans, this year’s election marked some definite ground gained by the establishment.

Does that make Idaho an outlier in the national Republican picture? More thoughts on this to come.

Get back

carlson

Forty years ago, like a dandelion spreading its seeds, the bumper stickers started to appear in and across Idaho. Then they proliferated like rabbits as native Idahoans announced their deeply held view: Don’t Californicate Idaho!

Folks in Ada, Canyon, Kootenai and Bonner counties in particular had a sense that an invasion was underway, but few realized at the time how much these transplanted Californians were changing Idaho politics. Many of the newcomers were retirees from places like Orange County and San Diego County, California, and with the huge uptick in real estate values in southern California, they were selling homes at multiples of two, three or four times what they had paid.

They would carry the proverbial boatload of cash north with them and quickly discovered they could buy twice the house size they had in California at half the price. Many of these immigrants were also public employees who were retiring - teachers, firefighters, police—and thus their generous pension was provided by one of the wealthiest and strongest public pension systems in the world - CALPERS.

The vast majority of these immigrants had fallen hard in 1964 for Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s conservative mantle which saw government as the enemy and the consumer of confiscatory taxes with few returns. California Governor Ronald Reagan, who delivered a memorable last minute television plea for Goldwater, picked up the standard and started his march to the White House.

Reagan narrowly lost the 1976 nomination to the un-elected but appointed vice president, Gerald Ford, who inherited the office from the disgraced Richard Nixon. In 1980, Reagan won going away just about the time the in-migration of Californians started to decline.

These California transplants became active in Republican party politics, both regionally and statewide, started to field quality candidates, and following the lead of a very active party chairman, former State Senator Phil Batt, executed in election game plans that brought about victory after victory.

When the smoke cleared the take over was complete. At the local level the GOP captured county commissions and city councils throughout the ten northern counties. The once solid Democratic north was now solidly Republican and Idaho was a one party state.

Thanks a lot, California, for these immigrants brought their values and views with them, which shows Idaho’s support for public education as a percentage of income and economic growth declining steadily since 1994.

Take second district Representative Vito Barbieri. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary this transplanted Californian has voted no on almost every spending bill that has come before the Legislature in the six years he has been in Boise.. This “head in the sand” approach has actually cost the taxpayer more through the annual adoption of over-ride levies that increases one’s property taxes to off-set the Legislature’s consistent under funding.

Rep. Barbieri also voted this year to cap the homeowner’s exemption at $200,000 which will result in further increases in property taxes in coming years.

Barbieri is relying on the voters remaining ignorant and not finding it conceivable that Republicans could ever do anything to increase taxes, Wrong.

Then there’s the case of Alan Littlejohn, a retired firefighter from Placer, California, who is running against State Rep. Eric Redman. He arrives here three years ago, retired, and in his early 50’s with an annual income from CALPERS of $59,000 a year. He decides he’s paid enough in taxes to support the public schools in California. So to hell with paying for Idaho’s children.

His solution is to require school levies to be approved by 2/3’s of the district’s eligible voters instead of the current 50% plus one of the registered voters.

The answer to stem this influx of disease and selfishness is to close Idaho’s borders to any more California immigrants (but we’ll still take Syrian refugees) and to send back to California where they belong any legislator that ever has had anything to do with California by birth, education or business.

We would thereby eliminate ten state representatives and five state senators (see attached list) but in going from 105 to 90 legislators think of the money we could save and put toward building a wall around Idaho.

Admittedly, we might lose a few good legislators but that’s just going to have to be considered a cost of protecting Idaho from further Californication in Donald Trump's brave new world.

(Editor’s Note: Chris Carlson readily admits he recruited former student Kathy Kahn to run against “Veto Vito.”)

List of California connected legislators:
Name Current hometown Connection

1. Vito Barbieri Dalton Gardens, Dist. 2 law school in Fullerton
2. Don Cheatham Post Falls, Dist. 3 LA Police
3. Sue Chew Boise, Dist. 17 born in Oakland
4. Lance Clow Twin Falls, Dist.24 born in LA
5. Sage Dixon Ponderay, Dist. 1 San Jose State
6. John Gannon Boise, Dist. 17 born in Ross
7. Ryan Kerby New Plymouth, Dist. 9 Biola, La Miranda
8. Lynn Luker Boise, Dist. 15 Lompoc; Cal-Berkeley
9.Jason Monks Meridian, Dist. 22 born in Ridgement
10. Paul Romrell St. Anthony, Dist. 35 USC Hospital Admin
11.Lori Don Hartog Meridian, Dist. 22 born in Escondido
12. Maryanne Jordan Boise, Dist. 17 San Jose State
13. Jim Rice Caldwell, Dist. 10 law degree, W.H. Taft
14. Michelle Stennett Ketchum, Dist. 26 born in Sacramento
15. Janie Ward-Engelking Boise, Dist. 18 Whittier College

Win some, lose some

bondlogo1

The biggest win in yesterday’s Idaho primary election was Carl Crabtree’s toppling of the Sherry Nuxoll juggernaut, and down with Nuxoll went Shannon McMillan.

Crabtree’s win was skinny, just a couple of hundred votes, but that’s why we vote. Priscilla Giddings’ triumph over Shannon was decisive, and God bless Priscilla.

Fare-thee-well to the crazies. Good bloody riddance. It means that as we once opposed the Aryan nations and won, we can also beat the also out-of-state Idaho Freedom Foundation. These creepy outfits invade Idaho’s small population and occasionally pull one off, but we are Idahoans and we fight back.

My fear is that having won the good fight, we’ll go hit the couch again until some other annoying and poisonous pestilence re-invades – and we will react too late, as we have done in the past. It’s our nature.

It is time to get out of the feathers and go to those miserable rubber-chicken dinners again, and raise Hell.

What finally killed the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s candidates’ candidates? I have McMillan’s last mailing she sent, via snail mail here. She was against Roe v. Wade, supports the 2nd Amendment, supports state land claims against the federal government. These are all federal issues over which even the 10th Amendment even gives credit and states no control. The IFF went too far. They are not us. Time to kick them to the curb.

Good riddance, IFF. Go back to California, and if Dick Butler’s still alive, snuggle up. You’re done here.

For the rest of us, meet Carl Crabtree. He’s the first of the new good guys and actually gives a shit.

Tuesday numbers

stapiluslogo1

From the point of view of Oregon and Idaho, the numbers Tuesday told a mostly consistent message: Some backing off on the right, in the case of some of the further-out candidates, and on the other side of the primary a bit of movement left.

Though that's not an absolute and some qualification is needed.

The whole left-right thing (mostly on the left) was a little more subtle in Oregon, though there was a good example of it at the top of the ballot and some other good case studies further down.

Bernie Sanders was the substantial winner in Oregon, keeping his streak of election-day wins alive (while thinly losing Kentucky). It was an across-the-board win, too; he seems to have won all but two (Deschutes and Gilliam) of the state's 36 counties.

A little further down, the hottest primary contest in Oregon may have been the Democrats for secretary of state, won by Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian. Realistically, there's no big philosophical divide between him and his opponents (Val Hoyle and Richard Devlin), all being relatively liberal Democrats. But Avakian seized onto a string of liberal causes, some only barely related to the SecState job, in building his case. Some Bernie-Brad linkage may have been at work.

Locally, there was the Hood River vote over whether to allow Nestle to bottle water at Cascade Locks. It was a hot issue in the area but it turns out lopsided: By two to one, voters sought to deny Nestle the water.

More locally for us, in Yamhill County a rare defeat of an incumbent county commission, Allan Springer, who has been one of three extremely conservative commissioners. His replacement, McMinnville Mayor Rick Olson, is expected to be considerably more moderate.

Over in Idaho, where the Democratic philosophical divides tend to be less clear than the Republican, the backing off from the edges of the right seemed fairly evident.

A bunch of legislative races featured contests between relatively establishment (but, it should be noted, almost all quite conservative) candidates, and farther-right insurgents. In nearly all of these cases, the latter lost. Challenged incumbents like Shawn Keough, Luke Malek, Patti Anne Lodge, Patrick McDonald (opposed by the well-known Rod Beck), Stephen Hartgen, Maxine Bell and Kelley Packer all pulled through. But that doesn't mean this was a solid election for incumbents. A bunch of incumbents associated with the insurgent hard right went down: Kathleen Sims, Sheryl Nuxoll, Shannon McMillan and Pete Nielsen.

More on this in the weekend column.

But one other Idaho note should be made. In the four-way Supreme Court two of the candidates - Clive Strong and Sergio Gutierrez - got the lion's share of the newspaper endorsements and community leader support. That was the right assessment: Those two were clearly, even obviously, the most qualified for the high court. They were also, the voters decided, the two who came in third and fourth, and will not advance to the runoff in November. Are partisan primary elections the right time to make this kind of choice? This election was a good argument against.

Costs of gentrification

jorgensen

I recently celebrated my 36th birthday with some friends in an increasingly trendy Northeast Portland neighborhood. The occasion was also somewhat bittersweet, as it was our group’s last hurrah in the Alberta Street area.

My friends have lived on the street for the last eight years. Since then, we’ve seen the historically African-American neighborhood slowly transform over time as gentrification took place.

All of that culminated a few weeks ago, as my friends were given a no-cause eviction notice amid rising rents as Portland and its residents grapple with that city’s affordable housing crisis. One of my friends is actively seeking a place near his new job in Beaverton, another area where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find reasonably priced housing.

The other is returning to her native Texas after coming to Portland a decade ago to attend college. Her stints at Portland Community College, Portland State University and Concordia University have culminated in six figures of student loan debt, more than enough credits to graduate, yet no actual college degree from any of those three institutions.

We all watched as more specialized boutique stores opened up in the area and the neighborhood’s traditional identity gradually faded away. A house directly across the street from my friends’ studio apartment was purchased for $110,000, fixed up for another $100,000 and later sold for four times that amount.

A highly publicized gang-related shooting in the neighborhood last year still wasn’t enough to drive those housing prices and costs down, or the demand for any of it.

Against that backdrop, Metro continues its refusal to expand the Urban Growth Boundary. This happens despite the fact that vacancy rates remain at extremely low levels. There’s also the ongoing denials from politicians and bureaucrats about the correlation between the prices of land and their ultimate effects on housing costs due to policy decisions that were made in the 1970s that have somehow become sacrosanct.

While reminiscing about our time in the area, we realized that every time we spent money at one of these new stores, we were helping to fund the gentrification that is now pricing our friends out of the neighborhood. The success of those stores caused other stores to move in, which raised the property values further and further.

At one point, we shared a laugh over another revelation—if we had just pooled all the money we otherwise would have spent at a local bar that had since burned down, we could have invested it in some real estate. It’s entirely possible that we could have bought the apartment complex that is now being refurbished to make way for tenants willing to pay more to live there.
It’s truly sad that our group of friends will no longer have a foothold in the Alberta Street neighborhood. The fond memories of our shared experiences will soon be the only connection we’ll have to it.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and find another part of Portland to hang out in, at least until other people discover it and the whole gentrification process starts all over again. And perhaps we’ll have to repeat that process a few more times until Portland and its leaders come up with sensible solutions for the same problems that past decisions appear to have caused and made worse, at the expense of working people throughout the city.

After all, if these trends continue, they’ll eventually run out of neighborhoods to kick residents out of while welcoming the next rounds of new developments, specialized shops and condos that are well beyond the financial reach of the people who have called these areas home for years.