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Posts published in September 2016

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.

Trump 63: Higher, lower levels of protection


Donald Trump is running as the (would-be) president who will protect all of the rest of us. At least taken to reasonable levels, that's a fair thing for a candidate to proclaim as a goal.

In Trump's case, however, his history proclaims that he will put protection of himself above protection of the rest of us, should there be a conflict. Or even if there isn't.

There's plenty in Trump's business practices to show much greater concern, and higher levels of care, in protecting himself (and his business, and his money) compared to other people. A measure of self-protection is, of course, no horrible thing, as long as the cost is not too high. In Trump's case, it has too often meant throwing other people overboard.

It shows up in his campaign as well.

The New Yorker has reported that "He has denied that climate change is real, calling it pseudoscience and advancing a conspiracy theory that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” But he has also filed a permit request to build a sea wall around one of his golf courses, in Ireland, in order to protect the property from global warming and its consequences. Which Trump is running for President?"

Same guy. - rs

Just rewards for good works


If the drumbeat was only from Trump, I would put it into perspective and recognize it for an extension of his mantra that anything Hillary Clinton does or says is wrong, immoral, illegal, unethical and treasonous; all part of an underground left wing conspiracy to destroy the way of life enjoyed by the Conservatives among us – or at least that part of it guaranteed by the Second Amendment. One may have to keep correcting the outrageous lies are spewing forth, but so long as the facts are kept in line, the wacky conclusions can ordinarily usually be ignored and allowed to wither and die without undue attention. But this one has a disheartening twist.

In this case, Trump is bellowing, without a shred of hard evidence, that the connection between the Clintons and their foundation is corrupt and criminal, and an exploitation of the personal relationships involved. Trump and his minions maintain, without evidence, that it has grown into an example of the unethical and immoral practice of “quid pro quo” – the illegal payment to an individual or his campaign in exchange for the deliverance of a governmental benefit – except that the formula doesn’t make any sense when one of the parties is giving benefits away not seeking government deliverance, and no one is deriving any personal profit or personal gain from anything. Nobody has been able to even fashion a grammatically correct sentence that puts forth any hard facts that actually connects anything said or done by anybody involved with the Clinton Foundation that is illegal or immoral, or anything that is even remotely clandestine, or sketchy, or of questionable ethics or morality. Nothing. Nada.

The Clinton Foundation has raised and distributed billions of dollars worldwide, enjoys unparalleled friendly relations with governments and persons of wealth throughout the world; enjoys an extraordinary and close relationship with a huge cadre of donors and volunteers throughout the world; has received nothing but the highest of ratings from independent rating services for its organization and transparency; and has received nothing but praise for its works. Former President George H.W. Bush has frequently partnered with former President Clinton in Clinton Foundation program activities.

It is truly a remarkable organization that was conceived and brought into prominence largely through the energy and devotion to the cause of one man -- Bill Clinton. It is unlike any other charitable foundation in the world. Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton have taken a dime in income from the foundation, either for their personal use or for any of Hillary’s political campaigns.

The only thing offered by Trump and his surrogates is a collection of opinions based upon totem-pole hearsay and unfounded inferences drawn from some meeting calendars and a handful of emails recently released by the State Department. The worst admission in any of the emails may be the line in one written by Huma Abedin to a staffer at the Clinton Foundation, in reply to a request to Huma to arrange a meeting for an influential donor, where Huma’s response was, “I’ll ask.” Or perhaps, it was the email from the same staffer seeking help in finding a position with State for an employee leaving the foundation. The reply was that the person was known to those at State and that they would keep an eye on personnel developments, because the individual was “on our radar.” It is reported that no meeting with the influential donor ever occurred, although I do not see that it would have made any difference if it had happened. It is not reported whether the friend of everybody got the job.

Two reporters from the Associate Press wrote an expose claiming that fully half of all non-State department related meetings by Secretary Clinton involved donors of the Clinton Foundation – except that the entire premise of the story was promptly and completely debunked. The real fact is that most of the extraordinarily wealthy individuals on the Foundation’s list are already well known throughout the halls of power, and do not need to rely upon any particular portal controlled by the Clintons to gain access to anywhere. Networking is the lifeblood of society, not just politics, as is fully well known, and the communication among staffers found in the emails are merely indications of the normal level networking that exists everywhere.

Many, if not most of the Foundation programs already involve matters and issues that are also of official interest to the State Department. A natural assumption, born out by the explanation of many of Clinton’s meetings, is that any individual interested in supporting Foundation activities is probably also be interested in official State Department programs in the same area. Certainly in some of these areas it was the State Department that was seeking assistance in gaining access to resources back in the home of the contact, and not the other way around.

The point is that nothing raised by anybody so far is even remotely improper. Conversations of exactly this nature occur constantly throughout Washington and the seats of power throughout the world, and include every office of Congress and the entirety of the agencies and departments of the United States.

Despite all of this, the amazing result is that no one is coming to the Secretary’s or the Foundation’s assistance here. Even though the Clintons have acknowledged that if Hillary is elected steps would be taken to isolate the Foundation from any connection with the Oval Office, this is not satisfying many elements of the left. Although there is no legal reason to take action, no ethical breach has been demonstrated and no wrongs are likely to be committed, just because it is the Clintons, the media has determined that the “optics” are wrong. Many from the left are demanding the ties be severed at once, or that the foundation be dismantled. Dismantled!

Even if a cozy relationship did exist, and even if Bill and Chelsea ran the Foundation while Hillary ran the country, and even if they compared notes every night, so long as the Foundation continued to actually produce the good results throughout the world that have been produced up to now, why would this be any cause for alarm?

Hillary has enough on her plate fending off the atrocious slurs from Trump and the far right without any unnecessary sniping from her own backyard just because somebody thinks the “optics” are wrong.

The whole thing is a baseless kerfuffle and nothing needs to be done, now or later.

Trump 64: An unmoored perspective


Imagine a small boat, tethered to a dock. It also alongside other boats, similarly tethered, and all of them are linked in some common relationship.

Now image that small boat untethered, loosened, wandering around the ocean with not even a shoreline visible, with no frame of reference at all but . . . itself.

Now picture Donald Trump, candidate for the ultimate connected people - the single job that most directly affects other people - saying this:

“It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

He said those words on a long-forgotten video, from a 1997 interview with radio jock Howard Stern, that resurfaced earlier this year on the web site Buzzfeed.

The first thing that might occur to many people is that no real great or brave soldier would ever speak of himself in that way. It is true that Trump wasn't specifically saying he was "a great and very brave soldier," merely comparing himself to one. But the facts on both ends of the comparison specifically bear reiteration.

Trump spent time in a military academy and graduated from it in the spring of 1964. Though he participated there without comment in military-type activities, when he enrolled in selective service (the draft) in June of that year, just as America's military was starting to gear up in Vietnam, he took and education deferment, to attend Fordham College. That was the first of four education deferments, and when that ran out after his graduation in 1968, he received a 1-Y medical deferment (over bone spurs in his heels).

He appears not to have been eager to make his way to Vietnam. Possibly the idea of being captured by the Viet Cong held little appeal, since he said of contemporaneous POW John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

So - that's the reality of Trump, the military and Vietnam. What was it he was referring to when comparing himself to "a great and very brave soldier"?

That, in his conversation with shock jock Stern, was about his years in the 70s when he was engaging in lots of sexual activity: “I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era . . . I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”

As a moral actor in American society, Donald Trump is completely unmoored. How else to explain this? - rs

Colin and me


When the first Colin Kaepernick caper happened a couple weeks ago, it didn’t really hit my radar screen. Just another jock with a $114 million contract trying to get some attention. But, when he did the same thing a second time - and I’d learned more about his thinking - it registered. ‘Cause, in some ways, he speaks for me.

I’m not going to carry any water for the guy. He’s a big fella. He can take care of himself, though he’s been pounded on heavily by a bunch of disagreeable types who put mouths in gear before engaging brains. With ignorant racial name-calling, anonymous demands he leave the country and a few death threats from Bubbas even Freud wouldn’t understand, he’s clearly gotten the public attention he sought. Though, from the mostly off-the-point reactions, not a lot of people have received his intended message.

Kaepernick presents himself to society as a black man, though he’s really mixed race as is Barack Obama - a white mother and black father while his adopted parents are both white. Like our President, he’s chosen to present himself to the world as a black man. Largely, I suspect, because of the color of his skin though there may be other reasons as well.

Kaepernick wants to call attention to a number of things: unarmed and often innocent black people being killed by police; failure, he sees, to punish the shooters; societal prejudices, mistreatment of some returning military personnel - especially blacks. He picked the national anthem to make his stand because he sees - especially in the third verse - references to slavery and because it was written by a man who owned slaves.

Kaepernick says he’s doing what he’s doing because he has the platform and public notoriety that most people don’t. He plans to keep ignoring the custom of standing for the anthem until he sees what he terms “improvements.”

Maybe I tend to give Colin a bit of space because, in some ways, I have some similar feelings. I, too, see some significant faults within our society/government and hypocrisy in some of our national rituals. Not having the “platform” of a star athlete, I’ve conducted my own personal “protest” by not fully engaging in some common practices we too often take for granted.

For example, for many years I belonged to a fine national service organization which opened every meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. I can’t tell you why, but one day, I was reciting along with everyone else until it came to the last line. My throat tightened and I couldn’t say the words - “with liberty and justice for all.” Nothing came out.

I hardly noticed. But, when it happened the next week, something inside said “you need to do some thinking about this.” I did. It simply boiled down to my own sincerely held belief that this nation has not provided “liberty and justice for all” and saying the words wouldn’t make it so. It seemed false and amounted to mouthing words that didn’t mean anything.

A second such experience came in church sometime later as we sang “American the Beautiful.” The words “...Thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.” and the phrase ...“brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” Again, for the first time, the words wouldn’t come. Our cities long ago lost their “alabaster” qualities. “Brotherhood?” And our polluted oceans haven’t been “shining” for many decades. Suddenly, the words had no meaning. For me.

Now, I’m not advocating anyone stop singing the National Anthem or refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Not at all. I am saying give the words some thought. Write them down and look at each one. Those words and the others. Think about their meanings. Apply those meanings to the reality in which we live. Do you still find them relevant? Can our country still be defined by their use? Was it ever?

Nearly all organized religions in our Western world are losing adherents. Most leaving say they don’t need a building or hymn singing to define religious experience. Many say they’re opting for a more internal, personal approach to fulfill their spiritual needs. They complain organized religion is too often just rote memory or - to them - platitudes that aren’t being followed with action. They see little meaning to rituals, printed prayers or worshiping with others in a congregation. They express a need for more direct connectedness with their God. One-on-one.

In some ways, these folk are not far removed from the real meanings behind what Colin Kaepernick is doing. He’s opting to turn his back on the crowd at a strategic, very noticeable moment to say “to me, things aren’t working.” He’s turning from the expected ritual - i.e. standing at an appropriate time - to say “We aren’t the shining country we once were because too many people are not being treated justly. Our cities are not ‘alabaster’ but too often crime-ridden slums where a lot of Americans are born without the possibility of living life as full-fledged citizens. There is no ‘liberty and justice’ for all.”

We’ve fought many a war to defend Kaepernick’s right to do what he’s doing. And for the copy cats who’re now appearing. It may be hard to accept, but it’s one of our most basic rights. The First Amendment.

Our society and our reality are going through some massive and lasting changes. We’re never going back. Maybe we’ve reached a time when we need to carefully scrutinize what we’re doing, note what’s still relevant, dismiss what isn’t and change what needs changing. If that’s not Kaepernick’s message, I guess it’s just mine.

Trump 65: Liar, liar


Sometimes, lying can be a good thing. It can smooth social interactions. It can help with diplomacy. It is not always a terrible thing.

And, famously, it happens in politics; nearly all (or should we make that "all"?) major and successful politicians have at the least told the occasional white lie, and many have gone beyond that. Our greatest presidents have dissembled, to some degree or another – mostly not as usual, common practice, but effective political activity does sometimes rely on something other than brutal honesty from time to time. George Washington, for all that innocent talk about the cherry tree, was also a spymaster, a pretty good one too, and adept in the arts of deception.

Dissembling on occasion for a greater good is one thing. Lying as a matter of ordinary, standard practice is something else, and here statistics about Donald Trump jump out.

On the Q&A website Quora the question arose of why Trump is so often described as a liar. One answer cited Politifact, the "independent Pulitzer Prize wining website that evaluates the truthfulness of political statements. Look at how they rate the statements of Donald Trump. Over 70% of the time Trump’s statements are Mostly False, False, or Pants on Fire. If you include Half True it jumps to 86% of the time. Even if you (incorrectly) believe that Politifact is somehow biased, it is hard to conclude that Mr. Trump is not a habitual liar." Trump rates in a whole different environment from the other presidential candidates of both parties this year.

And that is the point. Another Quora writer noted this: "There was a great profile of Trump a while back by a tabloid reporter who was assigned to follow him. The guy said that he expected covering Trump to be pretty easy, but it turned out to be hard because no matter what story he was writing, most of what Trump told him wouldn’t turn out to be true. Trump lied about who he was dating, about the status of business deals, about anything at all."

In that article, reporter Susan Mulcahy recalled, "It should be simple to write about publicity hounds, and often it is, because they’ll do anything to earn the attention they crave. Trump had a different way of doing things. He wanted attention, but he could not control his pathological lying. Which made him, as story subjects go, a lot of work. Every statement he uttered required more than the usual amount of fact-checking. If Trump said, “Good morning,” you could be pretty sure it was five o’clock in the afternoon."

Say what you will about lying politicians: This is not normal.

PoliticsUSA reported in one headline, "Donald Told No Less Than 21 Fact Checked Proven Lies During His Acceptance Speech."

Around the end of march DailyWire compiled a list of 101 lies he had told.

That list, of course, was woefully incomplete even at the time and wildly out of date now, which must be why the New Yorker has started a new and unusual online series specifically on the lies of Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, does not so much struggle with the truth as strangle it altogether. He lies to avoid. He lies to inflame. He lies to promote and to preen. Sometimes he seems to lie just for the hell of it. He traffics in conspiracy theories that he cannot possibly believe and in grotesque promises that he cannot possibly fulfill. When found out, he changes the subject—or lies larger," writer David Remnick said.

He seems not even to live in the same world the rest of us do. - rs