Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: August 24, 2016”

ISU’s red sky (part 1)


The following story came close to happening. The reader can decide whether it should have.

It was mid-November of 1994, a few days before Thanksgiving. Early in the morning a black cadillac with plate #1 briefly stopped in front of an apartment in downtown Boise. Walking briskly through the door was governor-elect Phil Batt, who jumped in the passenger seat. At the wheel was four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

The two old friends, though of different political persuasions, respected each other and had worked well together over the years. They chatted about Batt’s narrow election win over Attorney General Larry Echohawk as they drove to the private aviation side of Gowen Field. There they were met by Echohawk, Lt. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Senate Pro Tempore Jerry Twiggs.

They quickly boarded a jet provided by Hewlett-Packard and headed for Idaho Falls where they touched down briefly to pick up House Speaker Mike Simpson. Then took to the air again heading south. Their destination? Salt Lake City. Their purpose? To explore with the leadership of the LDS Church the sale of Idaho State University to the Church in lieu of the Church turning Ricks College into a four year college and renaming it Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Earlier that fall Andrus had received a memo from a former top aide urging him to consider the idea. The memo argued compellingly that if the LDS Church turned Ricks into a four-year college it could lead to significantly less enrollment at ISU and ultimately a regression to a junior college status akin to the College of Southern Idaho or North Idaho College.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to secretly negotiate the sale of ISU to the Church, which would then avoid the expense of building additional capacity in Rexburg? The State might gain $150 million from the sale; there would be more general funds available to Boise State and the University of Idaho if ISU were out of the mix; and, tying its future to the Church might be a better guarantee to the people of Bannock county for campus longevity than its continuing role as the poor third sister in Idaho’s university mix, living most often off of the crumbs.

So the memo argued and so Andrus persuaded the Republican legislative leadership and the governor-elect to at least explore the idea.

The delegation was met by Apostle Dallin Oak at the Salt Lake airport. A former president of BYU and a former Utah Supreme Court justice, he was the acknowledged expert on higher education among the 12 apostles and he was interested in talking. Soon, the delegation was sitting in President Howard Hunter’s office in the LDS office building next to the Temple. The rest is history.

The above scenario is imaginary. The memo and the recommendation to Andrus, however, was a fact. Andrus flat rejected the idea saying there were too many obstacles to overcome in taking a public entity private, and such a drastic move would have to be approved by patrons and the public by some kind of plebesite before he would even think about it. He never raised the issue with Batt.

Perhaps he should have for the memo was prescient. BYU-Idaho is now bursting at the seams and has the second highest enrollment among the state’s seven public colleges and universities and its three private colleges. It has a total enrollment (both full-time and part-time)in excess of 15,000 students whereas the University of Idaho and ISU are both experiencing declining enrollment with Idaho having approximately 11,534 and ISU having 12,543. Boise State tops the list with 20,000 students.

A case can be plausibly made that much of BYU-Idaho’s growth has come at the expense of ISU. Folks at ISU point out, however, that they are the beneficiaries of more LDS graduate students pursing their advance degrees at ISU. They also point out that BYU-Idaho has announced there will be no new buildings at the Rexburg campus which could portend a resumption of more LDS student attending ISU.

Trump 76: The profiteer


Habits can be hard to break, and for Donald Trump the habit of wringing personal profit wherever he can seems to be just too irresistible.

The most recent case, involving relatively few dollars but a clear problem of profiteering, had to do with his latest book, Crippled America (or Great Again, in the paperback). On May 10, a Trump campaign that by them was floated in large part by external donations, made an unusual purchase at Barnes & Noble books: For more than 3,500 copies of Crippled, at full price.

In a stateent, "A spokesperson for the Republican nominee told The Daily Beast the books were purchased “as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do.” Sure enough, delegates in attendance at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July were given canvas tote bags, stamped with the Trump slogan, and filled with copies of Crippled America, as well as Kleenex and Make America Great Again! cups, hats, and T-shirts. Delegates were also given plastic fetus figurines."

That full-price purchase is highly unusual. At that kind of volume, Trump surely could have gotten a deep discount from B&N, or if not from it then from his publisher. But if the campaign bought the books at such a discount, Trump personally wouldn't profit from the sale. That presumably means money going from campaign donors into Trump's personal pocket.

Presumably. There's a catch here: This kind of personal profiting from a campaign, by a candidate, is forbidden under federal election law. So we'll have to wait and see how the money ultimately is accounted for. But a profit scheme by Trump seems to have been the original idea.

That case at least went through an outside publisher. A great deal of Trump spending since the start of his campaign has gone directly to Trump companies.

The Daily Beast reported on February 29 that "Between June 16, when he announced his candidacy from the lobby of Trump Tower, through the end of 2015, the Trump campaign spent $2.2 million patronizing Trump businesses. The majority—$2 million—was spent on Tag Air Inc., where Trump is CEO."

There is, of course, much more: "The Trump campaign also made 34 visits to Trump Cafe and Trump Grill, restaurants in Trump Tower where you can eat Ivanka’s Salad (diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, mediterranean cured olives, feta cheese and romaine lettuce with greek dressing…$18) the Gold Label Burger (our premium blend of Angus short rib, sirloin and Kobe brisket…$19) and Mr Trump’s Mother’s Meatloaf (a family recipe, served with mushroom gravy…$13.50).
And paid $90,000 in in-kind rent to Donald J. Trump, Trump CPS LLC, and Trump Plaza LLC. Rent and utilities were also doled out—to the tune of nearly $74,000—to Trump Restaurants LLC and Trump Tower Commercial LLC."

A case could be made that if Trump wants to spend his campaign's money on his own businesses (which he does not exclusively but heavily), in effect wasting a good deal of it, that it's between Trump and his backers.

But it raises some real questions about what might happen if Trump were elected. What sort of spending patterns might we see at the White House, and around the federal government?

We might have gotten one clue back in 2011, when Trump was also mulling a possible White House bid. In a conversation in that period with the chief executive of NBCUniversal, the two discussed what would become of Trump's show The Apprentice if he ran and won. One of the ideas: Host the show from the White House.

The reportage about that conversation is a little thin, so I'll not try and hang it on Trump too tightly. But it has a place here, because after all the other self-interested things Trump has done in the last year, the account at least sounds perfectly credible. - rs

Trump 77: Mentality


The question had arisen before, but it blew up at the Democratic National Convention after former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say in urging a presidential vote against Donald Trump: "Let’s elect a sane, competent person.”

With that implicit assertion that Trump is neither sane nor competent, the question of Trump's mental condition semi-officially became a public topic of discussion.

The American Psychiatric Association forbids its members, the nation's psychiatrists, from offering diagnoses of public figures who they personally have not even met. It's an understandable rule; few of us would like to be so analyzed from a distance, and long-distance analysis inevitably is going to be far from perfect. The origins of the rule, which lie partly in the 1964 presidential election, help prove the point. That year a magazine polled psychiatrists on whether Barry Goldwater, who was being being caricatured as loony, was mentally fit for the presidency; 1,189, who had never met the man, wrote back to say they thought not. Goldwater's long and quite respectable service in Congress in the years after made for a strong counter to their estimate.

Okay. Fine. Still, and all that said.

“Donald Trump is not of sound mind,” conservative pundit (not psychiatrist) Stephen Hayes opined in the Weekly Standard."The most common amateur diagnosis of Trump is narcissistic personality disorder, a condition characterized by an 'inflated sense of their own importance,' 'a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others,' and 'a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism,' the Mayo Clinic said [in describing the condition]. ... He boasts of his own unparalleled magnificence. He creates and promotes wild conspiracy theories. He tells easily disprovable lies. He fails to finish sentences before he gets distracted by unrelated thoughts. He appears to fly into a wounded rage at mild criticism."

Hayes has lots of company. In the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday psychiatrist Matthew Goldenberg recited: "A former dean of Harvard Medical School tweeted that Trump “defines” narcissistic personality disorder. New York Times columnist David Brooks has said the GOP nominee “appears haunted by multiple personality disorders.” Entrepreneur Mark Cuban was cruder, calling Trump “batshit crazy.” Trump’s coauthor for “The Art of the Deal,” Tony Schwartz, labeled him a “sociopath.” Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker found Trump’s behavior reminiscent of a brain injury."

Goldenberg declined to offer his own analysis. He points out, for example, that most diagnoses of mental illness start with how a person is functionally impaired - and Trump seems to be able to function just fine, to the point of being nominated for president.

But he also said this: "Perhaps the most important reason to skip a psychiatric assessment of Trump is that it just isn't necessary. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to know that there’s something seriously wrong with the candidate. The lessons I learned in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school — not in medical school, residency and years of psychiatric practice — are what tell me that Trump is unfit for the job. My core values as an American — not my professional training — are what make me concerned about a Trump presidency."

You don't need to put a clinical name on it, in other words. You just need to describe it for what it is. - rs