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Posts published in May 2016

POTUS changing parties

harris

The Secretary of State has issued press releases about the number of voters switching their registratoins to the Democratic or Republican Parties presumably to participate in their contested primaries. Here are the changes in party registration from August, 2015 to the primary election of May 2016.

Democratic 818,399 to 932,892 (change) 114,493 + 14%
Republican 643,928 to 679,889 (change) 35,961 + 5.6%
Non Affiliated 530,061 to 679,889 (change) (46,795) (8.8%)
Ind. Party 109,681 to 103,353 (change) (6,328) (5.8%)

While it seems like an unusual wave of voters to the Democratic and Republican parties, compare these changes to the changes from August 2007 to May 2008 the last time Oregon had a contested primary, though it was only the Democratic Primary that was contested, unlike this year when both Democratic and Republican Primaries appeared to the contested until just yesterday.

(Notes: The IPO was a nascent party in 2007 so it’s number is irrelevant. In 2008 some members of the Pacific Green Party split and formed the Progressive Party of Oregon. I noted the Pacific Green Party in this table as Progressive+ Green so that the historical comparisons are more informative)

Observations:

The Democratic Party’s increase in membership is consistent with contested primary POTUS years. The GOP membership increased when there was a contested primary (2016) but decreased when there was no contested primary (2008)

The left leaning minor parties are losing more members in 2016 than they did in 2018. Factors may include the fact that Sanders is a more attractive candidate than Obama was in 2008 to the far left, as well as the fact that motor voter is taking a heavy toll on party membership across the board. And these two factors are taking a heavy toll on the left leaning minor parties.

The Libertarian Party seems to regularly have about 10% of it’s members re-register (as Republican I assume) to participate in the POTUS primary, then those voters re-register as Libertarians later. They appear to have a solid loyal party base.

If you assume approximately 60% of NAV’s lean left and 40% lean right, then you can infer that Non affiliated voters are re-registering with a major party in about the same numbers for 2016 (with a contested GOP primary) as they did in 2008 (when only the Democratic primary was contested)

Though not reflected in this table, the IPO announced this week that over 20,000 NAV’s had requested an IPO ballot. So, even though the IPO lost over 6,000 registered member, it will have 20,000 more voters who will be participating in it’s primary election. If you added those 20,000 voters into the IPO’s May registration totals, the IPO will have an actual increase of 13,000 voters, or about 12%.

This is the news media?

carlson

There’s a fond dream of mine that I awake the morning after the next president’s inauguration, regardless of who it is, and the media is in a state of shock. Why? Because the the new president’s first official action has been to announce he or she has no plans ever to attend another White House Correspondent’s dinner.

This exercise in mass narcissism has morphed from a simple evening dinner between the president and the D.C. media that was “off the record” into a three-day orgy of self-congratulatory excess, televised live and very much “on the record.”

The humor is biting but the president has the last word. President Obama could probably make it as a comedian in his next incarnation.

The event though has devolved into a cross between the Oscars and the inauguration - a three day festival of parties and excessive drinking.

This is the Fourth Estate at its worst - pompous, arrogant, demanding its due, pretentious and petty.

No longer is it just the correspondents and writers sitting at the table. Now the various media companies compete to see which can be a news maker by having the most powerful guest, say the vice president or the Speaker or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Or which company will have the current “in” starlet with the most revealing dress as a guest. No longer either is it enough to score a ticket to the main event. Nope. There are pre-dinner parties and post-dinner parties that one must attend, and of course it must be the correct one. You know how important appearance is in the surreal, make believe world inside the “Beltway.”

This past weekend another one of these travesties was held. Of course the news was that creature of the media, that presidential candidate almost entirely created by the media, that ingrate, Donald Trump, did not attend. In a word he “dissed” the very people who think they had a hand in his creation.

Of course he did. What did the sponsors think he would do? If there is a quintessential example of narcissism, its Donald Trump. One suspects that next to the word in Webster’s Dictionary is a picture of the Donald. One of the world’s largest egos, grandest and greatest narcissists is not about to share the spotlight with either a bunch of junior Trump aspirants or even a President of the United States.

The ultimate irony is that the Fourth Estate, especially as represented by CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, DID have a hand in the creation of the Trump phenomena. The number of minutes devoted to coverage of Trump compared to other candidates was simply staggering, through the fall, winter and spring.

There was always an underlying presumption that it was just a matter of time until the Donald would implode, that his base would figure out he was a fraud, a liberal not a conservative, a Democrat not a Republican, pro-choice not pro-life, for gay marriage not against. His support would then start to fade and reveal itself to be a joke.

It reminds one of song from the 60’s by the BeeGees: ‘I started a joke that started the whole world laughing. . . . . “ Turns out it should dawn on somebody that the joke is on the Fourth Estate. Trump rewrote all the rules, and because he was great for ratings, and ad revenue soared, exceptions and excuses were made for Trump.

What has not dawned on hardly any member of the Fourth Estate is the Donald figured out that most media has zero credibility with the voting public. All he cares about his his name identification, which he has in astronomic numbers, and that they respond to the agenda he dictates.

When the voting public has lost almost all trust in their government and simply don’t believe most of what they hear or read in or by the media, it should dawn on the Fourth Estate that a growing sentiment to send Trump to make changes in the way they do business is not merely aimed at government, its also taking dead aim on changing the Fourth Estate.

Presumptive only

stapiluslogo1

So is that really it? Is Donald Trump now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party?

Seems so - and yet, don't oversell it. His train could slip the rails yet.

With the Tuesday Indiana vote in place, Trump seems to have collected 1,047 delegate votes. That puts him just 190 short of the 1,237 needed to win on the first ballot on the floor of the Republican convention.

With the departure of Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the race, Trump is well positioned to take to take nearly all of the 445 delegates still up for grabs in the nine states remaining. Even with Cruz still in the race, Trump was likely to win the bulk of the delegates to come (West Virginia, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey and California all were likely to go his way). Now, with only the barely-financed and slightly-organized John Kasich campaign standing in his way, he will probably emerge with all but a few dozen of those delegates. Maybe more than that.

And that would seem to be that, and it could be. If Republican organization honchos decide, as they may, that they'd be better off just letting the Trump train run through the rest of the nomination process and then hope for the best, he might in fact get the nomination without too much squabble.

But the recognition of the possible damage Trump could do to the Republican Party as its presidential nominee is not lost on the party leadership, or on the rank and file. And there remain tools available to send this whole thing off in a different direction.

The big one is credentials rules. It's been a few years since either of the parties had a good credentials fight, but it's happened before with far less provocation. The convention, through its rules, has the right to determine who can be seated there as an official delegate, and who can cast a vote. Looked at generally, there's nothing unusual or out of line about the way Trump collected his delegates, but if you want to scratch around for details suggestive of irregularities, you can come up with raw material here and there. (The most mentioned such case may be Trump's big cache of votes from South Carolina.) Knock out just enough delegates - and this would be done at the beginning of the convention, before the vote for president occurs - and you could knock out Trump.

Various other rules could be enforced rigidly, or new rules concocted. As you read this, Republican activists all over the country - probably including strategists on Trump's behalf, in defense - are considering all the many possibilities.

For now, it seems reasonably to say that Trump is the default nominee, the guy who will get the job unless something comes along to change that. And it will probably happen.

But nothing is 100% certain until after it happens. He's not the nominee until the convention votes have have been cast and counted. Until then, watch carefully.

The other view

raineylogo1

I can’t stop thinking about a piece written by my Ridenbaugh Press co-hort and friend Chris Carlson on these pages a few days back. The subject was voluntary end of life, Canada’s impending creation of a new law allowing it for some residents and a “profile” of who - in this country - his research appeared to show had ended their lives with this option.

At the outset, it should be recorded Chris and I are poles apart on the concept of assisted suicide. His well-thought out position opposing the practice is not surprising given his lifelong Catholic background and firsthand experience with a loved one’s suicide. Just as my support is not surprising given my lifelong beliefs and some years working in Hospice care.

Chris and I also are bound by a shared first-person experience with cancer. When you become the one in cancer treatment, issues of life and death rise to a level of personal attention those who’ve never had the disease can feel. The diagnosis and subsequent treatment can shape - or reshape- your thoughts on many subjects.

That being noted, you may be surprised he and I are in complete agreement in some areas. Possibly the most basic is the shared belief government should have little to no role in the matter. There are just two roles I would assign government. One is to remove laws blocking the choice for terminally ill patients. The other, allow medical professionals to create the necessary guidelines for when and how assisted suicide should be considered an option, then codify those requirements for the protection of all involved. Physicians and nurses who may participate in the final act need legal protocols. Such guidelines now exist in Oregon and Washington.

Chris and I have each been affected by someone related - or otherwise close to us - committing suicide. That desperate act may stop whatever the real - or perceived - suffering is felt by the departed. But it ignores the terribly painful load for those of us left behind. Guilt. Rage. Anger. Loss. Endless questions. Suicide is a terribly selfish act because there’s no consideration of loved ones and others who will be severely affected. The person committed to dying is beyond such thinking by that time.

He and I have other mutual experiences. So, the most interesting aspect to me is how such commonality can result in two positions so far apart.

Chris wrote of his opposition. My views come from very different exposures to end-of-life issues. I’ve been a Hospice volunteer, have had some Hospice training and participated for several years in a citizen advisory position overseeing a Hospice program. I’ve been at the bedsides of many people facing certain death. I’ve observed firsthand how patients deal with the waning days of their own mortality. I’ve seen it quiet and peaceful. I’ve seen it loud and hard.

My fervent support is not based on the Hemlock Society or any other citizen advocacy. It’s rooted deeply in personal witness of suffering and what the end of life experience is in its many guises. It’s confirmed by the many statements I’ve listened to from someone - or their families - who’ve said they wish they’d thought more carefully about the end of life before being overwhelmed by the subsequent trauma and pain.

One issue on which Chris and I disagree concerns who has used or favors use of the option thus far. He states it’s “the rich and powerful ... who come from the top one-tenth of one percent” of the citizenry who “brag about not paying taxes.”

That hasn’t been my personal experience. You may recall the 30-something woman from California who came to Oregon a few months ago with her husband to take advantage of our assisted suicide law. About as middle class American couple as anyone could be. She had a certain prognosis of a protracted, painful death. She chose not to wait. I’ve attended bakers, salesmen, blue collar workers and the homeless. Pain and death disregard economics. The choice to forestall suffering knows no social ranking or privilege.

I’m personally aware of at least three other assisted suicides in Oregon. In each case, there was no “rich and powerful” - no part of the top minuscule percentage of society. All were repeatedly diagnosed with debilitating, painful, end-of-life conditions. Whether not wanting to burden families with huge bills, no desire to suffer, or just wanting to take control of their situations, we don’t know. But those, and many other factors, come into sharp focus when you’re lying in that bed. I understand the desire to avoid those conditions and - if possessing the courage - to leave this world as easily and as comfortably as possible.

To me, the issue of end-of-life care is very much like that other one government keeps sticking it’s nose into - abortion. Both subjects are as personal and private as any can be. Both involve the patient, family and a physician. Neither has space in the treatment room for someone from government to kibbitz. There ultimately comes a time when desires of the one person at the center of both abortion and end-of-life issues are all that should be considered. Privately. We’re talking life and death.

I suspect Chris opposes abortion as well as assisted suicide. But, I suspect - despite our differing backgrounds - we hold similar views on both subjects. Our greatest commonality is a belief that there’s no role for government in such deeply personal life experiences. It grieves me politicians, bureaucrats and public do-gooders keep pushing their unwanted and unnecessary views in both matters.

Tangling web

mckee

In his major policy speech last week, and when on the stump generally, Donald Trump continues to berate Obama about the trade imbalance, contending in a string of bumper-sticker declarations, without detail or explanation, that the manufacturing trade deficit is approaching $1 trillion a year, that this is result of terrible deals negotiated by political hacks of Obama, and that the United States is losing jobs to other countries on account of it.

He promises to bring in high powered negotiators to renegotiate everything to get better deals, to impose punitive tariffs to get the trade imbalance in line, and somehow to reach out and retrieve all the jobs that have been moved offshore.

Trump is completely misrepresenting the scope and nature of the problem, and deliberately overstating the consequences that may be expected from any of his proposed solutions. He is only looking at half the picture. When all of the picture is examined in perspective, it becomes clear that Trump’s entire argument on this point is pure, unadulterated nonsense, and he should know better.

Fundamental to understanding what is really going on is the recognition that nations do not trade with one another, individuals do. A trade deficit is not the product of one nation making a lopsided deal with another, it is the net sum of thousands if not millions of separate, individual deals made between individuals and businesses in the separate countries, each expressing their individual choices within the countries involved. Trump’s promise to bring expert negotiators in to renegotiate all the trade deals that make up the trade deficit is a good indication that he has no idea what he is talking about.

As any economists will explain, a trade deficit, standing alone, is not a bad thing – it is merely the economic indicator of an existing condition. A trade imbalance or deficit occurs when the dollars out to buy imports exceeds the dollars in to sell exports. To determine whether any such deficit is good or bad depends upon why the imbalance occurred. The United States has almost always maintained a trade imbalance; we are and have been since at least 1975 a net importer as a nation, and we largely benefit because of it.

The average American consumer benefits hugely from the importation of cheaper foreign goods. Where the fundamentals of the economy are strong, any shortage from the excess in dollars flowing out over reciprocal dollars flowing is absorbed by increased GDP and normal growth without resulting in abnormal inflationary pressures. Capital returning in the form of investments in the U.S. or acquisition of U.S. securities (i.e., Toyota and Honda, for example, in constructing automobile assembly plants here) is providing a capital surplus that directly benefits the U.S. economy, which on balance has led or will lead to increased opportunity throughout the local markets.

According to a series of Cato Institute studies published in 1998-99 and corroborated in a 2015 analysis by the Wall Street Journal, a burgeoning trade deficit is consistent with a healthy growing economy and indicates an economy ripe with investment opportunity and flush with consumer confidence. Trade deficits tend to be pro-cyclical, growing during expanding economies and shrinking during times of recession. By almost every measure, America’s economy has performed better in years in which the trade deficit rose compared to years when it shrank.

Trump’s wringing of hands over the burgeoning trade deficit is further indication that he is either trying to kick sand in everyone’s eyes or he does not understand the fundamental economics of international trade.

The trade imbalance is not causing domestic manufacturers to take their plants and jobs overseas. Improvements in technology in underdeveloped nations – particularly the increasing availability of reliable electric power – and improvements in communications and shipping alternatives have made it possible to duplicate quality manufacturing capacity in underdeveloped countries. For labor intensive manufacturing, this means that production can be accomplished in an underdeveloped country at significantly lower labor costs. The loss of labor intensive manufacturing from the United States to underdeveloped countries is becoming and will continue to be an economic certainty regardless of the status of the balance of trade. Further, and no matter what Trump promises, these manufacturing processes are not going to return to the United States until further technological improvements here, such as robots and automation, eliminate the labor cost consideration.

Imposition of tariffs to dampen the benefit of cheaper labor overseas may appear to solve the problem of jobs being outsourced overseas, but it is only of short term relevance. Any tariffs that are imposed will be added to the price and be passed to the consumer, which will cause a decline in the demand for the foreign goods. The resultant increased price on the goods from foreign competition may permit the local manufacturer to continue to compete price-wise in the domestic market for a while. But the lower cost alternative will continue exist in the international markets, preventing the domestic producer from competing world-wide.

In very short order, the impact of imposing tariffs on one segment of the import market will reduce the amount of returning capital – reducing imports will lower the flow of dollars out which then become available to finance reciprocal trade, or capital investments, or acquisition of securities. All elements of the market will eventually be dampened to some degree by the imposition of tariffs or other artificial restrictions on any one segment of the market.

The net effect may appear to save some production jobs in some areas, but this will come at the expense of higher prices to domestic consumers throughout the market, lower reciprocal trades in other areas of the market, and lessened availability of foreign investment capital. If the domestic manufacturer in the tariff market attempts to continue to manufacture goods at the higher labor costs of the United States, he will be unable to compete in foreign markets. Determining the actual net value of all these elements is an ongoing and extremely complicated process. Suffice to say that theoretically and by definition, it will eventually balance out exactly, as by definition the markets will always strive to achieve equilibrium.

The take away from all of this is that Trump is simply blowing smoke in his tirades and promises around the trade deficit, and what he can actually deliver in the way of increased jobs and balanced trade. Recognizing that this is an extremely technical subject it can all be summarized in a phrase that anyone can understand:

Either Trump is a fool or he thinks we are.

Back to Big Sky

stapiluslogo1

Ever upward, we tend to think: Bigger is better, more is merrier.

But not always, and credit the University of Idaho for figuring that out.

When it has come to Idaho football, the example of Boise State University has loomed over all. BSU has moved to big time, though now in the Mountain West Conference after a 2011 flirtation with the Big East Conference.

The UI Vandal program has never quite reached those heights, even early on. Back in the mid-70s, looking for a college to attend and uninterested in one that would be football-obsessed, I found the UI amenable. From the end of World War II to the early 80s, the Vandals posted winning seasons in just three years, 1963, 1971 and 1976.

Still, a correspondent of mine (and a highly loyal Vandal) has suggested that “If an institution is going to have intercollegiate football, it should at least be competitive and enjoyable (preferably by winning), produce good memories for the associated social events, and be a common topic of interest for alumni: ‘How 'bout them Vandals?’"

From that perspective, UI did well for a stretch with the first year (1982) of Dennis Erickson as coach, through to 1995. The school may not have have become the national team BSU did, but it scored winning seasons consistently through that period. Athletics-based enthusiasm at the institution may have been higher then too.

Various factors no doubt contributed, a series of strong coaches among them. But the UI’s participation then in the Big Sky Conference, whose members overall were competitive with the UI, no doubt helped. The institution had long been a Big Sky member (and was a charter member in 1963) through its losing years too, but when other factors came together the more local conference may have helped. And local Idaho boosters could fairly easily make their way even to away games in places like Washington, Montana and Pocatello (Idaho State University).

As the Wikipedia account notes, “Idaho experienced its best years in football from 1985 to 1995, when it made the I-AA national playoffs in ten of eleven seasons with four different head coaches, reaching the semifinals twice. After 18 years in Division I-AA, Idaho returned to Division I-A competition (now called the FBS) in 1996 in the Big West.”

The collapse followed. In this new century, the Vandals have bounced around other affiliations including independent, and maybe not coincidentally saw its winning seasons turn to losers. This year, the Sun Belt Conference said that UI (and New Mexico State University) would be dropped from their group after 2017.

So on Thursday there may have been some air of resignation to word that UI was returning to Big Sky. President Chuck Staben said that “I understand the magnitude of this decision and the strong opinions that surround it, both for and against, but joining the Big Sky Conference is the best possible course for our athletics program and for our university. We have carefully weighed our options and concluded that competing as an independent with an extremely uncertain future conference affiliation would be irresponsible when we have the alternative of joining one of the most stable FCS conferences.”

Not exactly the words of hyperconfidence (and just as well), but as he suggests, this likely was the best move. It suggests retrenchment; it suggests a backing away from the big time. But that’s far better than more of the kind of seasons UI has been experiencing recent years.