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Posts published in September 2016

Missing the debates

stapiluslogo1

When Republican Senator Mike Crapo was last up for election, and was overwhelmingly favored for a re-election he easily won in a landslide, he showed a little vulnerability at one point.

That was amidst his debate with Democrat Tom Sullivan, who lobbed one tough debate point after another at Crapo. In Idaho terms it was not out of bounds but was pungent. What went on inside Crapo’s mind only he knows, but he looked to be steaming, furious, and he didn’t come across well. If the race with Sullivan had been close, it might have been seriously up for grabs after that debate.

Crapo’s first Senate debate, in 1998, was a different matter. There, his sparring with Democratic Boise attorney Bill Mauk was no less intense than the 2010 model. But it also was so high-minded, so intelligently geared to ideas and issues that people spoke of it afterwards in terms of being Idaho’s version of a Lincoln-Douglas debate. It may be the best joint debate performance I’ve ever seen in Idaho. One of the things it accomplished was this: Whether you were a Republican or a Democrat, you got your side of the case made solidly by those two candidates.

Today, if you’re an Idaho Republican, you may not feel as if you need your side of the case explained: Unless the state this year takes an abrupt left turn from what it’s done for the last quarter-century, it will vote down the line Republican, mostly if not entirely in landslides. Still, absent some kind of formalized debate – and Idaho’s debate structure is better formalized than some states have – there’s no explanation for it. An unchallenged position can become a mindless one.

But if you’re an Idaho Democrat, when you heard that the state’s three Democratic candidates for Congress – Jerry Sturgill for the Senate and James Piotrowski and Jennifer Martinez for the House – all missed the filing deadline for the debates, you probably were appalled. The phrase “political malpractice” circulated around Democratic circles, and for good reason.

For Democrats, the debates are not only the best place during campaign season they have to make their own case, and the best place to criticize the Republicans, they’re also the one singular spot where they’re on a playing field with Republicans that’s level. Differences in money, in organization, in incumbency, in interest groups – none of it matters.

In a debate, there’s just two candidates saying their piece. It’s the most dramatic point in a campaign: Two antagonists going head to head. The presidential debate on Monday will get a big audience for that reason. The Idaho debates could draw a decent audience too, in Idaho terms. They still have the potential to change a few minds.

How it happened that all three Democratic congressional candidates missed the deadline for filing is unclear. The Idaho Debates organization, which includes people from Idaho Public Television, the League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club, for years have been the organizers of the state’s only statewide debate series; the filings they require are intended among other things to show that the candidates involved are running serious campaigns.

The Democratic candidates and the state party were, at this writing, trying to put together another debate series through some other media outlets. Whether they can get the media support and the Republicans to go along is another question.

Incumbents generally would just as soon pass on debates if they can; it’s probably the most stressful single point along the way for a strongly-favored incumbent, as the current Idaho three are.

But they could pick up some points for participating. And it would keep them in practice for when the next closer call comes around. In the larger picture, everyone gets something useful out of campaign debates, even if it’s sometimes just an uncomfortable look in the mirror. Or sometimes, a stretch into stronger thinking and communicating.

Trump 46: Health care demolition

trump

Generally I try to avoid on this list items which come down to policy judgments. People of good will, and similarly presidential candidates, may disagree about some of these items.

But can people of good will really disagree about the wisdom of abruptly throwing 20 million people off health insurance? Donald Trump has proposed exactly that, saying he would move to demolish the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as soon as he became president. Plenty of people, including many other Republicans, agree.

But think for a moment before you do that. The effect of doing that would be to throw 20 million people off health insurance, and upend the country's health infrastructure for years to come.

This is not to argue that the ACA is perfect and can't improved. Of course it can, and no less than Barack Obama has made that case.

But 20 million people deliberately and swiftly thrown off health insurance. Preseisting conditions or – hell, any reason at all – for dropping health coverage will return.

How is that helping or protecting the people of the United States? Or even - since for some politicians the well-being of businesses matter when that of individuals does not - what does that do to the economic and financial side of health care in the United States? Health insurers and providers spent years adjusting to the ACA; imagine the chaos if they have to adjust virtually overnight to going back to what was. And what was, for millions of people, was no great bargain. To put it mildly. - rs

To win the elections

trahant

It’s time.

It’s time for politicians to treat American Indians and Alaska Natives as an important constituency, not an outside group living in our own homeland.

The words of North Dakota’s representative in Congress, Kevin Cramer, capture the old thinking perfectly. He told Oil and Gas 360 that the Dakota Access Pipeline will be built no matter what. “I think DAPL will be finished due to the investment and amount of construction already completed. Regardless of short-term decisions, I don’t see how you can’t eventually finish the pipeline. In the short-run, the question is whether the three agencies’ review will further delay the project by implementing a full-blown EIS or whether the review will approve of the process and apply any changes prospectively rather than retrospectively. I’m optimistic that [the work] will be up and running in a few weeks.”

And what about his constituents, the people of Standing Rock, who object? “I think the appropriate people at the tribe didn’t pay enough attention to the proceedings, but I don’t have any insight as to why they chose not to meet with the Corps of Engineers. I will say that the government to government expectations of tribal governments can sometimes get in the way of participation in more mundane, routine aspects of the regulatory process, which is unfortunate because they miss the opportunity to have their say in the matter.”

Geesh. No additional comments are needed. Add this quote to the dictionary as an example for “condescending.”

It’s time politicians use both hands. Sure a Republican is supposed to be the voice of oil and gas. It’s in the job description, especially someone who wants to be in a Trump Administration. But a representative of all the people could also at least try and understand his constituent’s concerns are and propose a solution. He could say, should say, “on the other hand …” and then restating an argument even if it’s one he disagrees with. That’s what is supposed to happen in representative democracy.

How do we make that happen? By making certain that Indian Country votes like never before. In North Dakota that means finding, roughly, forty-thousand votes. Can’t happen, right? North Dakota is a deep red state. But what if people who never vote, did? What if every reservation in the state showed up at unprecedented turnout rates, 80 or 90 percent of those who are eligible? That would be at least 10,000 more votes. Add to that voters from the camps at Standing Rock. Let’s say, 3,000 new voters.

But that’s like the refrain before stick games where you only hear the call, “Short! Winning side.”

Short? Winning side? Yes. Because Indian Country has more allies who need to be called up. If you add into the voter mix, GenX and the Millennial generation — terrible voters, they — there becomes a potential pool of 90,000 voters. Millennials are now the largest age group. But as Pew Research points out, “eligible voters don’t necessarily translate into actual voters – that all depends on who shows up to vote on Election Day. Whether Millennial and Gen X adults outnumber Boomers and other generations in November will hinge on voter turnout.”

Standing Rock is the kind of story that can accomplish that. Because it calls for people to do something more. It’s not just about candidates, but about the idea of what can be done. (Although don’t forget that there are three Native American candidates are running statewide in North Dakota, a record, Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun.) Iron Eyes who’s running against Cramer reflects the mirror image on just about every issue, especially climate justice. He posted on Facebook: “People have asked where I stand on the Dakota Access pipeline issue. I have said it many times in many different media sources that water security is foremost in the world. There is no Bakken play, there is no lignite coal development, there is no farming, no ranching, no agriculture, no hunting, no fishing, no tourism, no industry, no jobs, zero economic development whatsoever without water. None. This is a matter of national security. So I don’t think the pipeline should cross the Missouri, at all.”

When it comes to the issue of climate change young people think differently than their elected representation.

“Climate Change is the issue of the millennial generation,” wrote Joelle Thomas in Scientific American. “Millennials,research suggests, are increasingly driven and motivated by a sense of purpose. As the world’s greatest cities risk disappearing under water during our lifetimes, the call to save the world we know becomes more compelling … millennials understand that the problems of 2050 are already our problems.”

Then the only way to fix our problems is for younger people to defy history and vote. A surprise turnout adding 40,000 votes would change everything.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Trump 47: The ultimate outsourcer?

trump

There is some reason - if you're a Trump loyalist - to question the undergirdings of Disqualifier 47.

But the credibility of the case looks strong, and if you think there's even a realistic possibility it's for real, it should absolutely disqualify Donald Trump from the presidency,

It suggests, after all, that Trump really doesn't want to be president after all, maybe doesn't think he can do it, and he'd rather someone else do the work and he take the credit.

The Trump campaign has laid the basis for this on its own. In May, then top-advisor Paul Manafort told the Huffington Post, “He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do. He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

So presumably substantial parts of the job, at least, he simply "doesn't want to do." Only the fun parts.

But then came the July 20 New York Times report about how he wanted to outsource practically all of the power of the job - to his vice president:

One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before. As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination. But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“Making America great again” was the casual reply.

There's been, apparently, no indication he's made a similar offer to his actual VP nominee, Mike Pence.

But still, such an offer is jaw-dropping. The man is running for president and he isn't even interested in exercising its powers? Stunning. - rs

Buying a pig with lipstick

carlson

Chris Walsh, the realtor who has made a fortune selling north Idaho land to “preppers” - those folk who believe they have to stockpile food and weapons to protect that food from hungry urban hordes come Armegeddon or the Russians invade - is buying three “double page” ads for three Sundays in a row in The Coeur d’Alene Press telling readers Donald Trump is the person to lead America back to prosperity.

Why not spend $3000 a pop or about $10,000 total? After all, his business feasts off fear and people being afraid, so afraid that they spend a fair amount of money purchasing land from which they can plug the starving hordes trying to steal their food-supply.

Walsh was recently quoted extensively in a long piece on the American Redoubt Movement in the Washington Post by Kevin Sullivan, one of their fine reporters.

Donald Trump, therefore, is the only choice. Trump doesn’t mince words as he plays to American insecurities about the future, too much illegal immigration, crime, the drug epidemic, American troops fighting proxy wars; and, the state of the economy. You’ve heard it all and so supposedly you’ll blindly stampede to the polls to vote for the biggest con man in history.

So, you bet, Mr. Walsh, let’s do what’s good for your business and urge people to vote for the fear-mongering artist par excellence, Donald Trump.

Walsh buries his real goal in copy that says the universal answer is creating more good-paying jobs.

In looking at his polemic it is easy to spot classic rhetorical devices such as rhetorical questions, false either/or’s, false syllogisms, use of the vague “they” as in “they said,” and the straw dog argument one builds and then tears down.

Early on Walsh uses a false syllogism regarding youth’s alleged lost work ethic. He claims if the unemployed young had good-paying jobs they would rediscover the forgotten virtues of a decent job. Not necessarily so, Mr. Walsh.

Then he makes use of the vague “they,” as in “they sold us down the river,” “they told us that moving jobs overseas would not hurt,” “they were wrong, it’s a lie.”

Just who are "they?” Well, of course, the politicians and the super-rich. You can bet when Mr. Walsh is flying any of the super-rich around looking for property he doesn’t read this part of his thesis.

He throws out for consideration one of the mantras of this world’s cons: “The answers are actually simpler than most think.” I’m sorry but that is a pure lie. Life is full of complexities, ambiguities, and nuance. The thoughtful know there are no simple solutions to any serious divisive issue. Those that say otherwise just don’t get it and probably never will.

Walsh then lays out four ideas on how to creat jobs and get America moving. He sees a resumption of more natural resource conversion as the first principle. He sees a hard-working citizenry; he sees government at all levels as supportive, not dictatorial; and, he sees the need for legitimate trade agreements. Even I can agree with much of this and we could find common ground. The touble is this is Walsh speaking, not Donald Trump. Like many, Walsh thinks he knows wehere Trump is coming from. The truth is he doesn’t have a clue and neither does Trump himself.

Walsh also believes all these Trump generated jobs will end racism in America. I wish. Where’s he been the last eight years as the hard-right mounted its vicious, hate-filled campaign against President Obama?

Given all these preliminaries Mr. Walsh stuns with his primary reason to support Trump: “Because the Democrats and Establishment Republicans hate him.” That’s it, Chris? Seriously? Because he is hated Trump should be elected?

Walsh ends by saying it comes down to a hard choice. However, he again makes the mistake of framing matters in the false language of the either/or.

He ends by invoking a phrase made famous by the Beatles: The words “come together.”

The entire phrase in the lyrics is “come together, right now, over me.”

Not going to happen, Chris. Trump is a divider, not a unifier, and you know it.

Trump 48: Shirker

trump

In some ways this is something that ought to be of most direct concern to his fellow Republicans. But the implications do run much wider.

Remember - and we shouldn't forget - the way Donald Trump sluffed off the whole Republican convention, all responsibility for it, the same convention for which he once had declared he would run it and it was his baby?

Here's Trump on the convention, shortly beforehand: “One of the best produced, including the incredible stage & set, in the history of conventions. Great unity! Big T.V. ratings!”

As Time magazine reported, "Trump’s campaign argued that it would be a “Trump convention,” and the line-up of speakers proved it. His four adult children and his wife spoke. But Melania Trump’s sentimental address was overshadowed by the revelation that she had cribbed from First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic Convention address. The Trump campaign, in typical form, refused to admit error for days ..."

As the negative reviews came in, Trump rewrote his personal convention history. He told the New York Times, "I didn’t produce our show — I just showed up for the final speech on Thursday.”

Then, throwing his own party "under the bus" (as as number of pundits fairly had it), he went on to suggest that both parties' conventions were about as good. “I’ve liked both shows,” he said.

As soon as something becomes uncomfortable, Donald Trump shirks it off. Staying the course? Steely determination? If you want that in your president, look elsewhere.

If you're looking for loyalty to anyone but himself, once again - keep looking. - rs

Trump 49: Do as I say

trump

As Donald Trump holds rallies around the country, he routinely talks about how he's going to bring more jobs to Americans - by keeping workers from other countries out, and by keeping businesses from sending jobs overseas.

The latter point we'll circle back around to. But as for the first, Trump's campaign point about ensuring that businesses hire native Americans, not people from abroad, surely has to rank high among his priorities. It is a direct tie to his number one issue, illegal immigration, even if the issue here is broader than that of legality against illegality.

There may be some changes in law he could try to do in effecting some of this. But he may find other businesses resistant to those efforts.

Especially when he would be asking other businesses to do for jobs what he has been demonstrably unwilling to do.

Among many other instances, here's one noted from Daily Kos:

Mr. “I’m going to bring jobs to America” is bringing jobs to America … and looking for foreign guest workers to fill them. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter are looking for 78 servers, housekeepers, and cooks.
But instead of making sure those jobs go to Americans, he is seeking to import foreign workers for the positions, which pay $10.17 an hour for housekeepers, $11.13 an hour for servers, and $12.74 for cooks. He filed applications this month claiming he couldn’t find enough Americans to do that work, and is seeking temporary visas to bring in 65 workers at Mar-a-Lago along with another seven waiters and six cooks at the golf club.
A director at a local career services agency tells Buzzfeed that his agency:
… has a database of 1,327 Palm Beach County residents interested in server, cook, and chef positions. He said local hotels are currently seeking his agency’s help to fill more than 856 such jobs. Mar-a-Lago does not appear to be among those that contacted the agency directly, he said, adding that he could not immediately provide information about the Jupiter golf club.

Oregon’s new party numbers

harris

August in a presidential year is conventions, parties coming together, voter registration drives and building interest in national elections. So its no surprise that membership in the Democratic and Republican Parties increased in August.

PARTY New: Motor Voter New: Non MV TOTAL
Democratic 1,278 1,829 3,107
Republican 969 1,577 2,546
Independent Party 228 2,033 2,261

What is a real shock here is the continued growth of the Independent Party of Oregon. That's a big number for the IPO, and in raw numbers compares very well with the Democratic and Republican Party gains.

Where is all this IPO growth coming from? While the IPO continues to get about 9% of new motor voters who select a political party, it leads both the Democratic and Republican Parties in adding new party members who weren’t registered through motor voter. These include some new voters but probably more party switchers. This table shows the breakdown of new major party membership as a percentage and by source.

PARTY MV share % Non MV share % Total Share %
Democratic 51.6 33.6 39.2
Republican 39.2 29 32.2
Independent Party 9.2 37.4 28.6

Motor Voters as a group are likely younger voters. If we were to adjust these percentages using just Motor Voter registrants and assumed that NAV’s typically make up 24% of the electorate, the breakdown for new major party members among MVs is:

Democratic: 39%
Republican: 30%
IPO: 7%
NAV: 24%

This isn’t a big difference from the current total registration percentages, though the IPO is doing 2% better.

It’s the non Motor Voters that are the more interesting story. Some of these new members are new voters, but most must be voters switching parties or NAV’s starting to join parties. As the primaries are long over, these new members are not joining any party in order to vote in a Presidential primary. They are joining, or switching, for other reasons.

Where are all these new IPO non MV members coming from? One clue is to compare the shares the parties are earning from Motor Voters and non Motor Voters.

Democratic share drops from 51% of MVs to only 33.6% of non MVs. Drop of 18%
Republicans share drops from 39.2% of MVs to 29% of non MVs. Drop of 10%
IPO share increases from 9.2% of MVs to 37.4% of non MVs. Increase of 28%

When Oregon voters who are being registered through Motor Voter select a party, after normalizing for an historical 24% NAV rate, they are opting to join the major parties in about the following percentages: Democrat 39%, Republican 30%. IPO 7%

In August the new voters who are not registered through Motor Voter, and party switchers, and NAVs who decided to join a major political party are opting for IPO 37.4% of the time, Democratic 33.6% and Republican 29% of the time.

This is a big surge in the IPO membership. It could be the result of this Presidential election, where fairly or not, the Democratic and Republican candidates are two of the least liked nominees in history.

These numbers are a big turnaround for the IPO. Whether its an outlier, or a trend remains to be seen.

Trump 50: Judgment call

trump

For the halfway mark on this list, a short one.

But nonetheless critical.

The difference between officials we elect or simply have appointed mainly comes down to this: We rely on our elected officials, more than for anything else, for their good judgment. If they have that, we can all more or less make do, or maybe do better. If they lack good judgment, nothing else can make up for it.

There's no specific metric for assessing the quality of judgment of another person. Any person.

But in the case of Donald Trump, this one short paragraph, from an online article today in the New Yorker, should offer serious food for thought.

In “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire” (2004), Trump wrote that others “are surprised by how quickly I make big decisions, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts and not to overthink things.” He added, “The day I realized it can be smart to be shallow was, for me, a deep experience.” He prides himself on vengeance and suspicion. “If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck!” he wrote, in 2007. “Be paranoid,” he said in 2000.

Good judgment can't be found here. - rs

What about the kids

rainey

As our kids and grandkids grow up, most of us have recurring thoughts about what kind of world they’ll inherit - whether they’ll be better off than we were - whether their lives will be more peaceful - and loving hopes they’ll experience better conditions than we have.

The way everything changes so quickly these days, it’s hard to tell what the reality of those hopes will be. Some things better - others not so good. Given the nuclear fractiousness we live in, there may be no world to inherit.

But something new - something more personal - has come to mind lately - something that worries me more than all other situations they’ll face. And it all springs from our current national disgrace of a presidential election.

Few media types enjoy writing or talking about Donald Trump. National talking heads excepted. Most of us do it with clenched teeth. Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus, for one. He’s midway through a 100 day exercise of 100 reasons - often excellent reasons - why Trump should never be president. His jaw has been excessively tight for the last few weeks. Teeth grinding is probably involved, too.

The fear I have is not Trump - the most unqualified, most dangerous candidate for national office in my long lifetime. Nor is it the monumental, simplistic ignorance of millions of Americans who plan to vote for him without the slightest thought of how a Trump presidency would damage the political, legal and moral fibre of this entire country. No, my fears are of something else.

I’m deeply frightened how such a disastrous occurrence would adversely affect the next several generations of Americans. More specifically, my fears are for our children and grandchildren.

Talk to classroom teachers right now. Anywhere. Ask them if they’re seeing more “acting out” - more one-on-one violence - more playground bullying - more disruptions - more bad behavior from kids in the lower grades. Go ahead. Ask ‘em. And don’t be surprised when they answer “yes” to several or all of those factors. And more.

How can children not be affected with the 24-hour cacophony of accusations, lies, confrontations, charges/countercharges, despicable behavior, violence and adults behaving badly that surrounds them? Many kids get regular, traditional lectures about proper behaviors expected of them - civility and courtesy to others; lessons we all were taught. But, what they’re seeing and hearing on all those electronic devices they live with is just the opposite.

Under no condition - none - will there be “peace in the valley” when this national mess is declared over on November 9. Not a chance. The divisions that separate us now will - if anything -be more sharply drawn and more formally pronounced. Donald isn’t going to disappear “into that good night.” In fact, I believe he’ll be an even greater presence with or without the key to the Oval Office.

I believe he’s going to look to the millions of votes he received as a “mandate” to continue his arrogant, racist, misogyny-laced, lying, bomb throwing. Roger Alies - the deposed sexual deviant from Fox News - has not taken up space at the top floor of Trump Tower just to enjoy the view. With Ailes political proclivities and media contacts - and Donald’s ability to come up with the big bucks - creating a “Trump Media Company” would be a no-brainer.

With it, he could outfox Fox. Trump would get his international podium and Ailes would be able to hold his middle finger high in the face of Rupert Murdoch who embarrassed him and separated Ailes from the blonde airheads in his former playground. Trump disavows the idea. Now. But, remember, this is a guy who, if he told you the time, you’d still look at your watch. I don’t believe him for a second. The only thing real about Trump is his ego. His word on any subject isn’t worth the hair spray on his over-coiffed head.

But, even if that doesn’t come to pass, Trump will continue to dominate national media whenever he opens his uninformed mouth as he’s been doing for over a year. Millions will continue to treat him as a “messiah” - deeply flawed but their “messiah.” The divisions he represents - deep and wide - will still be dangerous threats to the life and welfare of our Republic. His political blasphemy isn’t going away.

Adults - at least thinking and informed adults - can and likely will tune out most of his noise and BS. And the wrong-headed millions who support his civic and political ignorance will continue to do so. But, what about the kids? What about young people who - though they’d deny it - take their cues from what they see and hear their elders doing and saying? How could they not be affected? What societal, civic, political and governmental foundations we’ve historically nurtured will erode because of this cretin?

It’s not our future in jeopardy. It’s theirs.