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Posts published in September 2016

Trump 57: Spoils


One of Trump's throwaway lines, one he's used with some regularity is about how if those Middle Easterners don't settle down and behave themselves, he'd order the seizure of "the oil" in various countries in that area.

For more than a year, he's talked about seizing the oil in places like Iraq, Iran and Libya. Those are three he's named specifically; presumably, if you asked, he'd tack others onto the list.

It's been reported from time to time, yes, but largely glossed over - maybe because the boast/threat sounds so quintessentially Trummpian. But there's no particular reason to think that he doesn't mean it, that if he were in the White House, that he simply would forget about it.

So what are the implications of seizing, or trying to seize, the oil of one or more countries in the Middle East?

Writer Bruce Riedel, at the Daily Beast, did give it some thought, and concluded, "Taking the oil is the most dangerous and irresponsible of all of the Republican nominee’s policy proposals. . . . If you want permanent war in the Middle East and a titanic clash of cultures between Islam and America, it’s your best bet."

Riedel addressed only Iraq specifically, but the scenario in Iran or even Libya would be no more promising. (Trump to Fox News on Libyan oil: “I would go in and take the oil — I would just go in and take the oil. We don’t know who the rebels are, we hear they come from Iran, we hear they’re influenced by Iran or al-Qaeda, and, frankly I would go in, I would take the oil — and stop this baby stuff. . . . I’m only interested in Libya if we take the oil. If we don’t take the oil, I’m not interested.”)

In Iraq, substantial oil supplies are spread across the country, much of which has at the least security issues, but the largest concentration is in the south near the Basra area. Getting the oil out would involve securing extraction facilities over a large area, and over many years - as any Texas oilman can tell you, a large supply doesn't all pump itself out of the ground in a week or two. That would mean a massive deployment of American military, and associated contractors.

Riedel said that "Since Basra province has over 2.5 million people, almost all Shia Arabs, their resistance alone would be challenging. But they would not be alone. The Shia- dominated government in Baghdad would support its citizens, adding to the struggle. It will turn attention away from fighting for Mosul, and focus on recovering Basra. It will be a grueling war."

Nor is that all, since the Basra area is next door to Iran, which also would back the rebellion, whether openly or not.

Do you suppose Trump actually knows any of this?

If Trump had gotten into the mire this far, he'd probably be tempted - in good business fashion - to get improved return on investment if he could. That would mean taking over the large oil fields in Kuwait. The good news there would be that we already have significant forces in Kuwait, and it's a friendly country. The bad news is that Kuwait's three million people would be friendly no longer, and the war zone would simply have increased. The business-minded solution to that? Take over more oil fields, in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia, giving the United States overwhelmingly control of the oil system, but at an immense military cost.

And that would be only the beginning: "No Muslim state would host American troops or cooperate with counter-terrorist operations. Friendly Arab governments like Jordan would have to break ties with Washington or face massive unrest. Americans traveling in the Islamic world from Morocco to Indonesia would be at risk. Sunnis and Shia alike would stalk Americans. None of our Western allies would support taking the oil. (Canada would have to wonder if Alberta is next.) The Europeans would see such a naked land grab as a return to the era of Hitler and Stalin. Russia, on the other hand, would claim its seizure of Crimea was post facto legitimized."

Does Trump pause, even for a couple of seconds, to think through this garbage before he spews it forth? Or is that too much to ask from this famously attention-disabled candidate for the presidency? - rs

No babies born here


Imagine a small meeting room filled with about 25 people - more than half in some stage of a pregnancy. They’ve come to hear about plans for a brand new multi-million hospital and what they hope will be a state-of-the-art Ob-Gyn department. Imagine the reaction when the hospital administrator says it ain’t happenin’.

That’s the picture in remote Gold Beach, Oregon. Prospective parents looking for hope - and a couple of authoritative voices saying in no uncertain terms “no.”

Gold Beach is the county seat of Curry County on the far Southwest side of Oregon, just above the California border. It’s one of the prime tourist spots in the state. It’s also one of the poorest counties and - from a political standpoint - Curry is the most screwed up place I’ve ever lived.

Some background just in health care delivery there. The county has about 23,400 residents and one small hospital in bad shape, built in the ‘50's. About two-thirds of county residents live outside the boundaries of the hospital district and pay no taxes to support it. They also live 25-70 miles away from it. Bad situation all round. Yet all the folks expect the best care when they need it even though they pay no taxes to support it.

More than half the county population is in the Brookings-Harbor area 25 miles south of the hospital and outside the district. The hospital is trying to build an emergency room and a couple clinics in Brookings - where most of the people are - with some of the money approved for the new physical plant in Gold Beach. Dollars are stretched very, very thin.

Still, it was quite a shock to hear the hospital CEO and the Board President speak so candidly about the planned absence of Ob-Gyn services. None.

Curry Health Network CEO Ginny Razo: “If you’re planning on having a child lin Curry County, you’re rolling the dice. We don’t even have a physician to care for your baby. If things go wrong with a midwife and you come here, you’re putting yourself in a dire situation. This organization is not prepared to take care of such an emergency.”

Razo again. “I can’t afford three RNs and a physician to catch a baby. You’d have to have two Ob-Gyn docs because one can’t work 24/7/365. You’d also need several nurses and all that would cost another million dollars.” The situation now, she added, is there aren’t enough babies born in Curry to keep one doctor busy.

Board President Ryan Ringer: “It’s very black and white. We’re not interested in Brookings (25 miles South) because we want to serve Brookings. We want to make money off Brookings because it brings services here (25 miles North at the new hospital). I’m ultimately responsible for the health and well-being of this community. But I’m also responsible for the well-being of this organization (the district).”

Pretty tough talk. But, as I said, Curry is a mess in a number of ways. Unincorporated Harbor - where most people live - time and again has refused to merge with Brookings, which is incorporated. They don’t want to pay the city taxes. They want the services but don’t want to pay for them. Just as they pay nothing in taxes to support the hospital district.

Which puts more than half the people 25 miles away from a hospital they want and need but for which they pay nothing in direct support. So, if you live in Brookings-Harbor, you’ve got a 25 mile, twisting coastal drive when Mom’s labor starts at 2am or you rush 30 miles South to Crescent City, California, to another facility where there may be a qualified doc at 2am. Or, maybe not.

There’s more to this story if you widen your focus to all our Northwest neighborhood. A lot of other small towns are fighting all sorts of battles to keep their hospitals open and up-to-date. Some are losing. Burns, Moses Lake, Grangeville American Falls, Chelan and dozens more. Because health care is first and foremost a business. As patients, we don’t often give that a thought. But, birthing babies is a money loser. The profits are in surgeries, outpatient clinics and orthopedics.

Maybe that’s why the chiefs at Curry Health Network were so plain spoken in a room with a couple of dozen expectant parents. You gotta put the bucks where the institution is or it won’t be there. Makes perfect business sense.

But, to a 20-something woman in her last trimester and already feeling the baby inside, it’s not “business sense” she wants to hear. She must have had a long, dark drive home at the end of the meeting while feeling the kick of a tiny foot. God love ‘em both!

Trump 58: Run for the border


Just because it was one of the very first among the outrageous things Donald Trump has said since declaring for president, his comments about illegal border-crossers from the south seem sometimes to have been forgotten. They should not be.

Apparently assuming that all the incomers are Mexican (many come from elsewhere south of the border), Trump said on the day he announced his candidacy, "When Mexico sends its people ... they're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

You could say that Trump was referring only to the people who crossed the border, not Mexicans generally. But Trump has done little to make that distinction, or the fact that illegal arrivers tend, once here, to be more law abiding than other residents. (It makes only sense that they would go further out of their way to avoid contact with officials.)

But a statement he made later covered all Mexicans - and who knows who else? - with its reasoning. Trump has a court case before U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, a judge sitting in California, a native of Indiana, whose family has roots in Mexico in earlier generations. Trump said he was biased against him because of that family background, and Trump's positions in the campaign: "Let me just tell you, I have had horrible rulings. I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall."

Still later in the campaign, Trump took a one-afternoon jaunt to Mexico City to have a photo op and a brief discussion with the Mexican president. Mexican politics have been in uproar since - all but calling on the president to resign - and Trump had to admit that, given the opportunity to call on Mexico to pay for the fantastical well, he had taken a powder.

Never would a president take office with relations with our southern neighbor more - and unavoidably - in such awful shape. - rs

Trump 59: The advisory corps


No president can walk into office knowing everything of importance to the decisions that have to be made. Even after four or eight years, albeit better educated than at the beginning, a president still needs good advisors. Even if the advice isn't always taken - and a good president is neither bound by nor dismissive of advice from the specialists in everything from drone warfare in Yemen to medical care in rural counties - that advice is important. A good support staff is nearly as important as a good president.

You might be inclined to dismiss that a little more in the case of Donald Trump, who famously has pronounced himself to have "a good brain" and declared himself his own best advisor. There's the feeling that he may, in the end, listen to no one but himself.

In this case, that might be as well, since his gaggle of campaign operatives is the weakest in the last few generations.

Ordinarily, in both parties, you don't reach the level of working upper operational or advisory levels of a major presidential campaign without becoming one of the best in the country at that kind of work. Going back at least a couple of generations, nominees for both political parties have brought in top-flight help to run the campaigns and provide advice. That core of support often carries over into the White House; many White House staffers in recent years, again in both parties, have graduated to there from campaign jobs (much as the television series The West Wing depicted).

That's the case with the Hillary Clinton campaign, a corps with deep political and policy experience in recent Democratic campaigns. Most of the Republican candidates for president probably would have had a counterpart in place now, but the actual nominee, Donald Trump, from the beginning has scoffed at the idea of running an actual campaign organization. What do you need that for if you have rallies and free media?

Actually, you need a substantial organization for many things, but one of those, if you do manage to win the election, is to help provide a staff core for the next administration.

So what does Trump have along those lines?

The closest he has had to a conventional experienced campaign staffer was former manager Paul Manafort, who wound up being a political liability over his connections with Russia and being on the outs with others in the campaign. He was far from an optimal choice - his direct experience in American presidential politics is more than a generation in the past - but at least he had some idea of what the norms were.

Now the closest to that mark is his titular campaign manager but in effect spokesman, Kellyanne Conway, who does have useful experience as a pollster but not in any of the other jobs she seems to have been asked to do. The CEO of the campaign, Steve Bannon, has no campaign or governmental experience of any kind - he's been a stirrer of controversy and little more. And a variety of people hanging around the campaign and evidently getting Trump's ear more than many of the staffers do are no more helpful. (A few mid-level staffers do have some significant Republican Party political experience, but they seem not to be exerting major roles in the campaign.

The Breitbart web organization last year quoted Trump on the subject of where he got his advice on military action: "I watch the shows."

If his campaign careens now, you could expect a Trump White House would do the same. Or worse.

The outsider


When this summer Idaho’s Department of Education brought on board a new legislative liaison, the choice was someone highly unusual: An outsider.

Maybe that has to do with the recent outsider status of the person who did the hiring. But it’s different enough, and the prospects for change in Idaho’s school policies partly as a result, that it shouldn’t pass without notice.

If you hang around the Idaho Statehouse, and nearby buildings, long enough, you find that job titles often change faster than the people do.

If you’re a journalist covering state government, you may wind up in your next career move working, most often as a press spokesman, for one of the people you used to cover. You can find examples in the governor’s and attorney general’s offices, among other places.

And if you’re a legislator or legislative staffer, there’s plenty of precedent for going to work in a lobbying or similar legislative-related role afterward. The list of registered lobbyists includes a lot of people who know the legislature, it’s people and byways, because they’ve worked there in other capacities.

This isn’t especially horrible. It has the advantage of building institutional memory in the larger community around state government. But it does become incestuous. And a very subtle kind of bias starts to develop, involving people who have been on the inside, and those who haven’t, who in turn may find themselves disadvantaged when legislative season comes around.

When Sherri Ybarra, who was elected superintendent of public instruction in 2014, arrived as a surprise winner and definitely a political outsider, she initially made the kind of choice for legislative liaison that many others in a similar position would have made. She appointed Tim Corder, a former state senator, who had lost a recent primary seeking re-election, but had built some good will around the Statehouse during his time there.

Corder stayed only a little more than a year. A bit more established in place by then, Ybarra decided to move in a different direction to replace him.

Early in her term, Ybarra obtained planning help from a national association of her counterparts (the Council of Chief State School Officers), and it sent to Idaho one of its analysts, a former teacher and policy specialist named Duncan Robb. As the Idaho Ed News reported, “something clicked.”

It quoted Robb as saying, “When I would take a visit I’d make jokes and comments about how much I like it here. . . . I think they knew I would be interested, and they let me know when the position was open.”

Robb isn’t steeped in the people and ways of the Idaho Legislature, but he does bring an unusually broad background for working in a state education department. He grew up in California, and earned a master’s in public policy at Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore. He has taught math in big-city schools in Houston and worked with state-level education policy makers around the country.

The sometimes arcane approach to effective lobbying, which the already-insider group brings with it, is one area where he may still have a learning cure. Assuming he masters that, the payoff – in bringing an unusually broad background and expertise to bear on working with the Idaho Legislature – could be large.

Trump 60: This is loyalty?


A five-year-old does this when he gobbles a slice of cake before dinnertime: He tries to frantically excuse his way out of it. Blame it on someone else, if he can.

In this latest Donald Trump case, of course, the stakes are a lot higher, even if the response is essentially the same. Maybe that's partly because Trump didn't even realize what the stakes were.

What he did was to talk to interviewer Larry King for about 10 minutes. Nothing unusual about that; he's done it many times. This time, however, King's program is on RT America - the Russian television network, essentially under the Kremlin's direct control. (King's production company said that the program was produced independently, but RT is licensed to use it.)

During the show, he reiterated several of his greatest hits, including his effusive praise for Russian strongman Vladmir Putin. On whose network, as a matter of practice, he was speaking. During his minutes on RT, Trump did his typical blast at the American media and said this about the United States government: “Hillary Clinton with her policies and Barack Obama — you know, look, we should have never gone into Iraq. Period. But once we went in, Larry, we shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. And the way they got out really caused ISIS, if you think about it. We got out in such a horrible, foolish fashion, instead of leaving some troops behind.”

Trump tried to squirm out from underneath the mess by saying he thought King would use the interview only for a podcast. That one doesn't come close to passing the smell test.

The whole performance - in fact, Trump's whole buddying-up with Putin and Russia - might put some conservatives in a mind to recall protesters during the Vietnam conflict (Jane Fonda likely most prominent among them) who were bitterly criticized for speaking against their home country while speaking on the local turf of an adversary.

Apply whatever further descriptive word you choose for that, at least in Trump's case where no claim was even attempted toward a moral high ground. But whatever word you choose isn't going to be pretty. - rs

Trump 61: Chickenhawk-in-chief


To say that Donald Trump has a bias for war doesn't begin to cover it.

You can see as much by simply watching his demeanor at his rallies and elsewhere: He comes off as highly warlike. But unlike most recent presidents, who leavened war talk with an undergirding of seriousness and maybe a streak of mournfulness at having to take this step . . . Trump sounds like he'd simply be having great fun.

On the August 10 Morning Joe program, he declared, "I am the most militaristic person there is”. Unlike so many other Trump statements, there's no good reason to doubt this one.

He just hasn't decided that country he wants to invade first.

Almost three decades ago, on a 1987 edition of Meet the Press (and what the hell was he doing on that show back then?), he said that if someone from Iran fired a shot toward an American - even by accident - that the United States should invade that country, steal its oil (he didn't say how that impossible task might be accomplished) and then “let them have the rest” of the country.

In November 2015, he said in Iowa, “I love war. . . I’m good at war. I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war in a certain way, but only when we win.” Was he thinking here about real-world combat, where lives are lost and shattered and the consequences for thousands or millions of people can be drastic . . . or maybe the board game Risk. Or does he know the difference?

Put that comment in among the most drastic jaw-droppers Trump has yet uttered. But again, there's no good reason to disbelieve what he so plainly so.

Alongside a few more from the September 7 "commander in chief" forum, where he declared the current U.S. military, under President Barack Obama, a disaster. He particularly blasted the American effort against ISIS. Evidently he was unaware of the terror-nation's drastic losses of territory, personnel, financial and other resources over the last year.

The generals have been terrible, he said, but in his administration, “they’d probably be different generals, to be honest with you.” (Chosen how?)

There's been some concern on the left in this campaign that Democrat Hillary Clinton might be a little too willing to send troops into harms way. That concern, though, even if somewhat valid, has to melt under the strong likelihood that Trump, seeing a military not busy fighting enough people to keep it occupies, would give it more work to do.

After the longest stretch in our history of active warfare, the United States needs to take a break from military activism that isn't clearly and absolutely necessary, or undertaken as a defensive measure. Clinton at least seems to have some understanding of that. Trump seems only to understand he might be able to get his hands on an exciting new plaything. - rs

Polls and more polls. . .


Labor Day has come and gone which means Americans and Idahoans are about to be assaulted with a barrage of polls all breathlessly reported by a media fixated on the “horse race” viewpoint. Unfortunately, polls in recent years have become less reliable because turnout of eligible voters is becoming tougher to project.

Two recent examples should serve as cautionary flags. Most major polls in the U.S. and Canada predicted Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper would keep his ten-year hold on the office. Wrong. He was clobbered by young Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.

In Great Britain most pollsters predicted the British people would vote to remain in the European Union----the so-called Brixit vote. Wrong again.

In each case there was a significant increase in voter turnout which pollsters failed to capture.

The media makes much about head to head races because they are easy to gauge. Inevitably they fail to report that it could be totally irrelevant if there is a surge of new voters previously eligible but who have not voted before.

For example, we’ve all seen poll reporting hat shows Donald Trump with as little as 1% of the African/American vote, or only 20% of the important Hispanic vote. Then a reporter will pontificate, stating that Mitt Romney received 40% of the Hispanic vote and Trump will have to do as well as Romney. Wrong.

A surge in turnout could overwhelm either of those minority numbers.

This is why a well-organized campaign is built around identifying your voters and getting them to the polls on election day, or verifying that they have mailed in their ballot. Professionals will tell one it truly is all about turnout.

The perspective one must keep in mind is this: there are approximately 250 million eligible voters but only a little more than half actually are registered and vote. Of late, even in presidential years, the turnout has been around 50%. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, during the primary season drew a number of new voters from that eligible to vote but never voted pool.

If he continues to draw more of the disgruntled but never voted crowd he wins going away. So keep an eye on turnout predictions, not horse races.

Some other items to watch include the difficulty of matching the polling pool with the actual voting pool. The advent and explosive increase in cell phone usage has made it difficult for pollsters to get a handle on the under 50 years of age voter.

Historically, pollsters could call folks on land-line phones and could purchase lists of perfect voters, usually referred to as “four for fours” (meaning they voted in the last four elections in a row including school levies).

As most know, young people purchase a cell phone or pad, select a number with the area code of the point of sale and the number stays with them even as they move from one telephone area code to another.

Additionally, pollsters are admitting it is taking more time to obtain the response mix that reflects the area they are polling because more people are refusing to participate. Even more worrisome is the number of respondents who outright lie about their party, or age, or income or whether they are registered.

Polls one should always dismiss are the Interactive Voice Response (IVR’s) ones, often utilized by television news departments and some newspapers. An IVR also means one is talking to a computer.

Recently, the Idaho Democratic Party underwrote a poll for one of the north Idaho legislative districts. Its conclusions were totally off-base because of the skewed demographics.

For example, the usual gender split is 51% women, 49% men. This one was 58% women. Of the 403 respondents, the 50 plus age group represented 93% of the respondents, which tells one they could not come up with a proportional breakdown of the under 50 voters. Thus, it came as no surprise that they had only called folks with landline phones.

Older voters of course tend to be more conservative, more regular church attendees, and more Republican. This particular district has a 10 to 1 Republican registration lead. The IVR computer pretty much just called Republican voters.

The poll was a total waste of money. It should serve as an object lesson for all voters.

Trump 62: The meaning of it all


We don't expect our presidents to be philosophers of the cosmos.

But, really.

Asked by a Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent the question, "Who is God to you?", the self-proclaimed Christian had this to say.

“Well I say God is the ultimate. You know you look at this? Here we are on the Pacific Ocean. How did I ever own this? I bought it 15 years ago. I made one of the great deals they say ever. I have no more mortgage on it as I will certify and represent to you. And I was able to buy this and make a great deal. That’s what I want to do for the country. Make great deals. We have to, we have to bring it back, but God is the ultimate. I mean God created this (points to his golf course and nature surrounding it), and here’s the Pacific Ocean right behind us. So nobody, no thing, no there’s nothing like God.”

Can Donald Trump go more than 12 seconds without circling back and referring to himself? Does his ability to contemplate anything other than himself last longer than that?

A little more reflectiveness would be good in a president.

Or, as a writer on Daily Kos put it:

What does God mean to you, little Billy? God means beachfront property at low, low prices, ma. God is an imported gardener you never have to pay. God is the ultimate banker, and I cheated him outta some prime land on this one, no mortgage or anything. God is a magic fish, and I caught him fair and square.

This man is a narcissist so narcissistic that we may have to retire the term narcissistic and instead rename it in honor of the man. Narcissus had nothing on this blowhard.




Rick Harvey, owner of Artsmith Jewelry was just a bit emotional and bursting with pride as the official canonization of Mother Teresa was completed Sunday before 100,000 faithful at the Vatican by Pope Francis. Harvey is undoubtedly the only Boise jeweler (and goldsmith) to make a legitimate claim of “working for a real saint.”

Harvey is a devout Episcopalian–he is a clergyman at St. Michaels–and in 1994 he jumped at the chance to spend a couple of weeks in Calcutta India (Calcutta has become Kolkata), volunteering at Mother Teresa’s Catholic mission caring for the needy.

He wrote in his personal journal after a 35 minute meeting with Mother Teresa which ended with a prayer. “She walked away with determined steps that carry her toward sainthood.” He got that one right.

Harvey shared his 30 page journal with the GUARDIAN at our request. It is laced with self-contemplation and full of Christian faith. It is also a gritty account of misery, adventure, compassion, and insight.

After a final Eucharist presided over by Mother Teresa, Harvey summed up his visit saying, “She came by and as I kissed her hand, I was indeed blessed.”

It was 22 years ago that I got a lesson in humility thanks to the woman known today as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

It was about 11 p.m. when I bumped into Rick Harvey at the super market and he cheerily asked, “Been traveling anywhere interesting lately?”

At that time I was globetrotting with my camera making photos for textbooks and magazines. “Last month I was in the Philippines,” I noted rather proudly.

As an after thought and to be polite I asked, “What have you been up to?”

“I have been over in Calcutta working as a volunteer with Mother Teresa. I just got back and I need fresh milk and bread,” was his matter-of-fact reply.

I felt about two feet tall and realized how nice it is to have friends like Harvey who understand the meaning of life.