Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in August 2016

There is no choice


Heard from one of my long-time column readers last week - Wayne Hoffman, the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. While Hoffman seldom agrees with me he would be the first to tell you he appreciates the perspective I bring and the thinking I provoke.

For my part I admire some of the research his group does and the issues they explore. They merit attention because he and his team do a good job of factual reporting. His recent effort to expose the way some legislators can exploit their PERSI retirement by taking a high-paying state job that allows them to average their retirement benefit based primarily on the last three years of their much higher income is one of those “let’s hide from the public this perk” that should be abolished.

Hoffman’s first note to me on last week’s column picked up on the fact that while mentioning that governors make better presidents than senators, as a general rule, and my thesis was parties could only pick for president from their pool of current or former governors, there were in fact two governors that would be on the fall ballot that I’d fail to mention - the Libertarian presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Garry Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.

Hoffman wanted to know what I thought about them and whether I might consider actually voting for the Libertarian ticket. I jokingly wrote back that I might give it some thought, but the truth is a vote for the Libertarian ticket is a vote for Donald Trump and there is no way I’m going to waste my vote on a third party candidate.

For all her shortcomings, Hillary Clinton is a far superior candidate and will be a far better president than Mr. Trump. There is simply no choice to be made, it has to be Hillary all the way. I’ll readily concede to Hoffman that the two governors on that Libertarian ticket are competent and qualified. Unlike Donald Trump, either one of them could do the job of president.

Independents and moderate Republicans, however, cannot and hopefully will not waste their vote. Too much is a stake.

I remain puzzled by those who say Mrs. Clinton is a “liar” and that she cannot be trusted. It remains a mantra chanted daily by her critics. The fiasco of American diplomats losing their lives at Benghazi is most often cited by her critics.

Yet, if one bothered to watch CNN’s coverage of the House hearing where she appeared one had to be impressed with how well she handled herself and the tough grilling for 8½ hours.

So she allegedly lies? If so why have no perjury charges ever been brought against her? And what’s the origin of this bunk about her not being trustworthy? What public trust has she violated? And don’t give me the line about selling state department changes in foreign policy in excchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

That is a serious charge of treason and I’m not aware of any responsible journalistic organization coming up with evidence to substantiate the charge nor has anyone brought a successful suit against her.

Until or unless someone comes up with a story that has real legs I suggest folks stop talking in clichés and engaging in psittacism.

It is this writer’s opinion that the trust question is really a mutation of the respect issue which had its origins in her decision to stand by Bill during the entire sad incident of Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. Many women in particular may have lost some respect for Hillary, and ascribed her decision to crass political calculation rather than accept the possibility that she acted out of true love and loyalty.

It behooves us all to remember one is innocent until proven guilty and Hillary Clinton has never been convicted of one crime, nor do she and Bill have 3500 lawsuits against them.

There really is no choice In November, Wayne, and you know it. There might have been a choice if the GOP convention had selected Governor Kasich, but they did not.

The GOP’s decision to go with Trump has started a Republican decline into the ash heap of history - to the dust from which they sprung where they will be unwept, unhonored and unsung!

Go Hillary!

Trump 96: Bad business


When Donald Trump entered the presidential stakes, one positive thought I had about him was this: "Well, he is a good businessman." He had,that at least. Or so I figured.

Turns out, when you look closer, even that assumption is a con.

The problem is that not a lot of people have a comprehensive view of Trump's business history. Most of us have heard - and Trump often has recounted - this building or project or business venture or that. But how do they fit into place? How were they accomplished? Did they succeed? What was Trump's role in these efforts; what did he do, exactly?

Short of reading the whole of an unauthorized biography, you can now get the clear answers to those questions in a half-hour or less thanks to a fine and clear piece of work just released about Newsweek, by Kurt Eichenwald. It is called, as if warning about what's ahead, "Donald Trump's many business failures, explained."

"Lost contracts, bankruptcies, defaults, deceptions and indifference to investors—Trump’s business career is a long, long list of such troubles, according to regulatory, corporate and court records, as well as sworn testimony and government investigative reports. Call it the art of the bad deal, one created by the arrogance and recklessness of a businessman whose main talent is self-promotion," he writes.

From time to time Trump has mentioned a $1 million stake his father Fred Trump, who had a generally consistently successful business track record over in Brooklyn, gave him early in his building development activities (the value of which might be about ten times as large now). But it turns out that was only one small example of the payments he got from dad - one of the smaller payments. Donald Trump was bailed out by his father repeatedly through the years, sometimes via direct payments and sometimes through political and financial contacts his father had developed over the decades (and which Donald, generally, proceeded to trash).

"To sum it all up," Newsweek said, "Trump is rich because he was born rich—and without his father repeatedly bailing him out, he would have likely filed for personal bankruptcy before he was 35."

But what about his basic business instincts, the kind of thing for which he was so celebrated on Celebrity Apprentice?

Best example here is his adventures in Atlantic City casinos. In the 80s he had the thought that money could be made through creating and running casinos. Not a bad thought; there are people who have made lots of money that way. Banks were skeptical of Trump, since he hadn't run a casino before. Talking big, he persuaded Harrah's to join with him in creating a new casino at Atlantic City. Once the money was committed, he pressured Harrah's to promote it not under its own well-known name but under his.

Next? "Harrah’s quickly learned the price—now, with Trump able to argue he knew casinos, financing opportunities that did not exist before opened up, and he was able to use Harrah’s promotion of him as a lever against the entertainment company. Soon after that first casino opened, Trump took advantage of his new credibility with financial backers interested in the gaming business to purchase the nearly completed Hilton Atlantic City Hotel for just $320 million; he renamed it Trump Castle. The business plan was ludicrous: Trump had not only doubled down his bet on Atlantic City casinos but was now operating two businesses in direct competition with each other." (Harrah's soon let its interest be bought out by Trump.)

Then, in spite of being deeply in debt and already having two casinos competing with each other, he opened a third, more expensive still, called the Taj Mahal. You don't have to be an MBA to see a business catastrophe in the making, and it arrived in short order. The only thing that saved Trump was this: The banks lending him money had too much on the line to settle for pennies on the dollar. Trump had become, like the investment banks of 2008, too big to fail. So, amid the eventual closure of the casinos, the winding down of the whole deal made for a long and unpleasant story in New York business circles.

This summary doesn't do justice to the story of Trump and his businesses, and it's only s few pieces in a long, ugly, tawdry story. His level and scope of business failure is astounding; the most amazing thing about Trump, in the end, is that he's managed to retain as much of of his reputation as he has.

But the more people find out, the less of that reputation will remain.

Trump 97: No concept of sacrifice


The intersection of Donald Trump and the concept of sacrifice has dominated news coverage in the last few days. But the significance of it goes far beyond the fact of a candidate with a tin ear.

The aggravating facts are presently well known (and may they stay so into November). At the Democratic National Convention, a couple from Charlottesville, Virginia, Kizr and Ghazala Khan, spoke about how in 2004 their son U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan was killed in Iraq by a car bomb. Their story had circulated for some years, and early in convention planning organizers asked if they would be willing to have pictures of they and their son shown at the convention, in the context of criticizing Trump's proposal to limit or ban immigration by Muslims. The Khans, who themselves are Muslim immigrants, agreed. They also agreed when asked if they would like to appear on stage themselves, to express their thoughts; they agreed again. They turned down only an offer of help from a party speech writer; Kizr Khan, an attorney, said he knew exactly what he wanted to say. On stage, standing next to Ghazala, he delivered it all without a teleprompter or any notes. He challenged Trump's knowledge of the constitution, holding up a copy and offering to lend it to the candidate. Then, noting the loss his family had incurred, he addressed Trump: "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

Trump could have responded simply with a statement of condolence for their loss and thanks and respect for his son's service, possibly with an added note that they did simply disagree on national security policy. Or something similar.

Instead, in an interview on ABC, he launched into attack. “Who wrote that? Did Hillary's script writers write it?” he asked of Khan's talk. He questioned why his wife did not speak. (She explained in an op-ed that she was afraid she would break down crying on stage seeing her son's picture there.)

Then, asked if Khan was right - that he had made no sacrifices - Trump might have acknowledged that the Khan family's was far greater than any in his own life. But no: “I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot.” That was the nature of his sacrifice.

On August 1, a surrogate was asked: Was "success" and "creating jobs" really a sacrifice? Apparently stuck for a reply, she suggested that his hard work had led to the collapse of two marriages, and that was a sacrifice. (A Democratic operative jumped in to note that his infidelities, which he often bragged about, might also have had quite a bit to do with the two divorces.)

Trump would be hard pressed after all this - and other campaign words and actions reach this area as well - to convince most people that he even understands the concept of sacrifice. A basic piece of civilized behavior ordinarily easily managed by elected officials coast to coast, from Congress to mayors of the smallest towns, seems entirely beyond him.

That would make him a lousy greeter or comforter of, for example, wounded combat troops. But the problem is much broader than that. A president fundamentally unable to grasp what the sense of loss may mean for other people, and how to cope with it both emotionally and practically, is a president unable to communicate with and lead the American people. He will have no understanding of what the American people are trying to tell him, or why it is important, and he will have no sense that there's anything he can or should do to help. He may speak, but he cannot hear - or understand what those sounds mean.

This is a fundamental disqualifer.

More turf


With the Central District set to expire in 2017, Boise’s urban renewal is looking for new fields to plow, this time on the Boise Bench according to DON DAY who has a website with details of lots of growth–much of it gleaned from building permit applications and planning and zoning meetings–Good stuff!

While a group of citizens has worked diligently with the state legislature to limit the scope and authority of urban renewal agencies statewide, the folks at Boise’s Capital City Development Corp. (CCDC) have been working quietly to create a new district outside of the four downtown districts. If they succeed, that will mean property taxes on any new development and tax on appreciated value after a new district is created will be diverted from the city, county, schools, and ACHD. CCDC will be the beneficiary. The prime target of the CCDC expansion is all the commercial property along Vista, Overland, and Curtis.

According to Day, “CCDC officials have been quietly meeting since last year to study the feasibility of adding a fifth urban renewal district in Boise. The CCDC’s original district in the downtown core will formally sunset next year, and in recent years officials have sought to keep the organization alive by adding new responsibilities and expanding the impact of urban renewal to other portions of Boise.”

Trump 98: No tax returns


You can understand why some of Donald Trump's supporters might not see his withholding of tax returns as a big deal. They're supposed to be confidential - at least, not to be released by government officials - right? What difference does it make? Would they just be fodder for gotcha questions?

The point of releasing tax returns deserves an answer. In the end, the answer is enough to disqualify Trump from a vote for presidential - all by itself.

The answer isn't simply that it has become common practice; that in itself doesn't make it important. What does are the reasons it became common practice. And it has been common practice for a long time. Ronald Reagan in 1980, and every Republican nominee since, has released his returns - except for Trump. (Before him, Gerald Ford released summaries.) Democrats have done likewise.

This year, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have released their returns, as have Republicans Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and John Kasich.

But not Trump. His one excuse, that he is under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, holds no water: The IRS has confirmed that being under audit is not bar to a voluntary release (by the taxpayer) of a return.

But what might a return tell us that we don't already know?

Quite a bit, actually. It would demonstrate what Trump's effective tax rate is: How much he's paying. What sort of deductions he takes. Because he doubtless has submitted long forms with attachments, we likely could learn who he is in business with. Russians? Unsavory characters? Where does he owe money, and who owes him?

The Russian connection, whatever it may be, might be the most significant of these. Pundit George Will said on July 26 "it’s the sort of thing we might learn if we saw the candidates’ tax returns. Perhaps one more reason why we’re not seeing his tax returns because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russia oligarchs and others. Whether that’s good, bad or indifferent, it’s probably the reasonable surmise."

Trump has made his very richness a centerpiece of his campaign, and many of his supporters have cited it as a reason for support, saying it means he can't be bought. So, just how rich is he? Trump has thrown around figures like $10 billion, but a tax return is different from loose talk because lies there translate to felonies. And Trump must know his returns would be scoured for any discrepancies with what other people know to be true. Released tax returns would likely show us just how honest Trump has been. It would give us an effective way of assessing him better than just about anything else.

"It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters," former candidate Mitt Romney wrote in a post on Facebook. No argument here.

Until such time as he does release them, the question has to persist: What's he hiding? - rs

Professionals required


I’ve recently undergone serious surgery. (Is there any other kind?) But, before they wheeled me in, I told the physician I didn’t want him in the room at the time. I’d already asked the guy in the next suite of offices in the same building to handle the cutting and snipping. He sells mutual funds and has no medical background. But better him than those damned professional doctors.

Such is the current nutball thinking abroad in our land with all those poll responders who say they won’t vote for a presidential candidate who’s a “professional” politician. “NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY” is their mantra. So, they’re jumping on the loud, three-wheeled Trump bandwagon in record numbers. Suffice to say, a more unqualified, doomed-to-fail, ego-scratching candidate for the office of commander-in-chief has not appeared on a national ballot since that damned Palin woman.

If one knows nothing about how our political system works, if one is uninformed or misinformed by a favorite right-wing media, hasn’t spent the time to understand how our government works or is ignorant of the whole process and determined to stay that way, I can understand the dumb and dangerous response to national pollsters. But it would sure play hell with our country if that ignorance prevailed.

There are, I think, four major reasons for such misplaced anger. First, our higher and lower educational systems are graduating students who have absolutely no idea how our government works. I run into it every day in conversations with white collar, blue collar or no collar folks. Even many PhD’s are “civics challenged.” Simple queries about government form and function draw off-the-wall responses or blank stares. Too often - far to often - the response is “I have no idea” or “I don’t know.” Makes it damned tough to call yourself an educated voter or to cast an intelligent ballot.

The second reason for a sizeable part of the uneducated electorate being mad at “professional” politicians is they’ve elected too damned many of ‘em who should’ve never been candidates in the first place. We’ve filled our legislatures and congress with nice looking, smooth talking people. They either have no idea what their job descriptions are or they have singular agendas for or against something and don’t give two hoots in Hell for governing or anything else. They are strident, ignorant and dangerous voices with nothing to say. And, an elected platform on which to say it.

A third factor is loss of respect for anything challenging a person’s thinking. We’ve developed a media system and, in some cases an educational system - to which people can turn for reaffirmation of whatever philosophy they have. Fact or no fact. I get in more arguments lately when I challenge someone. Their favorite media source or favorite politician or even their favorite bartender has convinced them of the “rightness” of a certain view and no other facts need apply. Further, their challenge to me is to “convert” to their thinking. There is no middle ground. No acceptance of the right to disagree without being disagreeable. No thought they could be wrong.

Finally, we’ve created a political system where winning is the goal - not filling an office with someone who both understands and can do the job. Go with someone who can win - not necessarily someone more qualified. Both parties do it but Republicans have become masters of the process. Cruz, Lee, Cotton, Ghomert, Bachman, King, McCarthy et al. are just a few who’ve contributed nothing - will contribute nothing - and who’ll muck up the process every day of their tenure in office.

People have a right to be mad at “professional” politicians. But they have a prior - and larger - responsibility to assure an intelligent and qualified person is elected and given the opportunity to become “professional” by fulfilling the duties of that office in a “professional” manner. If they don’t, chase ‘em out. Then find another real professional.

Imagine a Trump presidency. Who would be in his cabinet? Would it be a John Kerry or a Colin Powell at the State Department to conduct delicate but dangerous negotiations with nations we oppose? Would Joe Biden or a John McCain be vice president to assure smooth continuity of an administration? What professional voice would be at Treasury to guide the country’s money policies? At the Pentagon?

Professional politicians - really professional with no quotation marks - are necessary at all levels for this country to survive. The political stakes are no longer simple enough for just anyone to fill elected office. Our universities should be turning out trained, talented and qualified graduates ready for careers in public service - careers in politics. We need “best and brightest” in the Capitol, the White House, city hall and the court house. To a very large extent, we’re in the divided and uncontrollable mess we find ourselves because we made poor choices. Wrong choices. Tragic choices in too many elections.

No, I had the surgeon do the cutting and snipping. He’s a professional and right for the job. Upon recovery, I may wander over to the office next door and talk to the fella there about an investment opportunity. He’s a professional, too.

Right people in the right jobs. Seems simple enough. Why have we screwed it up so many times at the polls? Because a lot of folks were not “professional” in their voting. And look at the mess we’ve got!

Trump 99: Convenient ignorance


How ignorant would an American have to be to not know what the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK, is? More even, surely, than is Donald Trump, which would mean he's simply not telling the truth about a substantial piece of American, and American political, history.

Interviewed on CNN, he said, "Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists."

He also pleaded ignorance on the subject of David Duke, a one-time Klan leader now running for the Senate in Louisiana. This is the same David Duke whose participation in the now-defunct Reform Party (on whose line he then was considering a presidential bid) led Trump to abandon that effort in part because the party “now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke.”

Maybe he forgot . . .

Although Duke's supportive statement to his fellow travelers that a vote for anyone other than Trump would be "treason to your heritage" ought to have jogged his memory at least.

The probability is that Trump wasn't telling the truth. Or was he joking? Or was this sarcasm? You can never be sure. Regardless, the plain statement drew plenty of attention.

Joe Scarborough - a Republican - of MSNC's Morning Joe, said that "It’s breathtaking. That is disqualifying right there. To say you don’t know about the Ku Klux Klan? You don’t know about David Duke?"

He went on: “I mean is he really so stupid that he thinks Southerners aren’t offended by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke? Is he really so ignorant of Southern voters that he thinks this is the way to their heart — to go neutral, to play Switzerland when you’re talking about the Klan? And to say he doesn’t know enough information about the Klan to condemn them — exactly what does Donald Trump expect to learn in the next 24 hours about the Klan?”

In an op-ed, highlighting this comment from Trump, he asked if "this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?"

The Occam's Razor explanation for Trump's comment was that any question about the Klan and Duke put him in a pressure spot between some of his white supremacist supporters and, well, almost everyone else. And he didn't know how to handle the pressure.

But it also suggests that his response to almost any such uncomfortable topic may be to pretend that it simply doesn't exist.