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Posts published in September 2016

Trump 66: Stereotyped


When Donald Trump announced for president last June, his first major controversial statement - minutes into his candidacy - was this:

"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

This is how bigoted stereotypes - take it back to Archie Bunker - work, even when the bigotry is meant to suggest something positive (say, Jews being skillful handlers of money). How it works is this: The immediate and powerful association is made between the group (Mexican, in this case) and the quality they supposedly and in general are said to embody (criminals, rapists). This is followed quickly by the get-me-off-the-hook qualifier ("And some, I assume, are good people.")

That last bit, and other offhand comments by Trump about how wonderful the Mexican people are, should fool no one, as it apparently doesn't. In the same speech in which he referred in passing to what a great country Mexico is, he spoke for minutes on end about the people who had crossed the border illegally and killed American citizens. That is the image his listeners are left with: It is where Trump focused his attention, and it is where the power and emotion of the speech was directed.

Some bigotry - some of Archie Bunker's, for instance - may have been ignorant but wasn't necessarily malevolent. Trump's is darkly malevolent. His language is too sharply pointed not to be intended to hurt his target and rile his supporters. Bigotry and stereotyping is a problem generally, but this is where it reaches into some of its darkest backwaters. - rs

In the absence of perfection


A few years back, when Idaho legislators debated whether to establish a state insurance exchange program under the Affordable Care Act, I criticized most of them for an obsession, not with the health of uninsured Idahoans, but with the perceived evils of the federal government.

Today, the exchange in Idaho is established, popular, heavily used and without doubt saving lives and improving health. Debate has nonetheless continued over what to do about the 78,000 Idahoans who earn too little to qualify for participation in the exchange and get payment help for health care – if at all – through a state and local government catastrophic health program, which pays hospitals for some emergency care no one else will compensate. The answer adopted by 31 states, and proposed by many in Idaho, is to allow expansion of Medicaid to cover the 78,000.

After four years of that debate, some progress: At least now, they’re talking to a significant degree about health care. Progress should be noted where it happens.

But don’t consider the progress, even after four years with a good, working example right in front of them, too spectacular.

The most recent discussion of Medicaid expansion came in an interim legislative committee on August 29. The pro side included savings of many millions of dollars (now paid out in expensive emergency medical care costs) to state and local governments, clear help for the health of many Idahoans and overwhelmingly positive public comments to legislative and others panels over four years. And on the other side?

Senator Steve Thayn said he doubts federal rules on food stamps or Medicaid encourages people to become productive. “If we’re really, truly looking at an Idaho solution, we need to look at what we can do with Idaho money, Idaho rules, and what we can do to change the cost of medical care.”

What is that exactly – we’d all love to know – and if there are such options why has no one found them in the last four years?

Representative Judy Boyle of Midvale: “I think we’ve heard of some other [non-Medicaid] options. … I think we can come up with a really good solution that fits Idaho.”

What sort of options? There’s a non-profit from Seattle that arranges for free care for some low-income people. And a lone (apparently) Idaho Falls physician who takes no insurance payments, just charges very low rates and keeps his overhead down. Interesting instances both, but if you ask why they’re not more widespread – nothing in the Affordable Care Act or other law is stopping them – you’ve halfway answered your question. Or just ask your local hospital or physician why they’re not doing it this way. Their responses would run much longer than this column, but probably point out the many costs, services and risks left addressed by operating essentially as a pure charity.

Limiting costs is a great thing to do, would be smart to bear in mind, and must be part of where health care planning goes in the years to come, but it won’t be easy. Finding ways to do it everywhere in the health care system would be useful work for lawmakers and others for years to come.

In the meantime, 78,000 Idahoans are stuck in a holding pattern of being without health care coverage except the most expensive kind (in crisis condition in hospital emergency rooms) which when paid for at all is paid by local taxpayers or by hospitals who pass on the costs to everyone else. It is a nonsensical system, both in terms of finance and health. The most positive spin for not improving it seems to be that some people insist on finding perfectly satisfying answers, in opposition to merely fostering public health and saving lives.

Trump 67: Salute! Salute!


I really shouldn't keep interrupting the planned roster of 100 reasons Donald Trump has disqualified himself from the presidency, but the daily news keeps screaming out for inclusion.

Speaking at a veterans event Thursday at Cincinnatti, he said, “We will stop apologizing for America, and we will start celebrating America. We will be united by our common cultures, values, and principles, becoming one American nation, one country under the one constitution, saluting one American flag—always saluting.”

And Donald Trump, and the White House, and the power of the federal government, presumably will make all of this happen.

It doesn't take a tremendous leap of the imagination to see it . . . (as conceptualized at Daily Kos) . . .

The reason I've called you in both in today, Mr. and Mrs. Turner, is that little Billy is getting a B in Patriotism this semester and I think it's something we need to look at. In his last homework assignment I asked him to come up with six reasons he loves America, and he was only able to come up with five. His P.E. teacher reports that his saluting is sub-par; the form is acceptable, but we're looking for a more snappy execution in the elbow and at the wrist. These would by themselves be only a matter of general concern, but I'm told that at lunch earlier this week he was saying some somewhat unsavory things about America's generous resettlement of native populations.

Now we've noticed that these sorts of things generally tend to start at home, and so I have to ask—is your household fostering a nurturing patriotic environment? I presume Billy has a flag in his room—have you noticed any drop-off in form, during his bedtime salutes? Are his television habits being monitored? National Geographic is fine, it’s a Fox production now, but I hope you've been getting the notes we've been sending home about the Cooking Channel.

I'm sure I don't need to remind you both that we here at Eric Trump Middle School take patriotism very seriously, and while a B effort in most classes would count as a fine grade, the president himself has directed that students with a semester grade of B+ or lower in Patriotism be referred to patriotism camp. There is still time for Billy to get his grade up, but it's going to require some work. He’ll be needing to come in for extracurricular patriotism activities after school. This week we'll be egging the house of ... let's see, Gerald Stutch, whose family was recently deported for mentioning segregation. I believe Billy and Gerald knew each other, if our files are right. We're all just one big happy family here!

So will Billy be able to attend? Oh, good, I was certain we could make this work.

Oh yes, this is a disqualifier all by itself. - rs

Redoubt redux


The anniversary passed largely unnoticed last week, but it is part of the context which one must weigh in order to understand the “Redoubt Movement” taking place in north Idaho today as well as isolated and sparsely settled parts of Montana and Wyoming.

Inspired by a manifesto written (2011) and posted on his website ( by survivalist author James Wesley, Rawls, the document urged folks worried about the next financial crash or Armageddon to move to the sparsely settled areas of the upper mountain west.

Rawls pointed out that these areas would be good places to live by those who felt oppressed by exploding government regulations and a federal government over reaching in people’s lives. He noted places like north Idaho had a justifiable reputation for being libertarian and a terrain that could more easily be defended. Thus, he urged folks to relocate where their numbers might be few but their unity could disproportionally influence their political milieu.

With Rawls emphasizing little interference in their private life and the access to nearby U.S. Forest Service lands for hunting, fishing, berry-picking and a real estate agent aggressively marketing all this, Rawls supporters claim thousands of folks have migrated here.

Local officials in Bonner and Boundary counties dispute those claims, but the truth is no one really knows. What is known is the “redoubters” are participating in local politics. State Reps. Heather Scott and Sage Dixon, with “redoubter” support, have captured two of the three legislative district one seats. They have failed, however, to knock off Senator Shawn Keough, current co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Critics see similarities between the “Redoubt” movement and the old posse comitatus in its emphasis on the sacred status of the Constitution and the supremacy of a county sheriff as the top law enforcement officer. Rawls has been careful to avoid anything close to appearing to be a racist. To the contrary, all are welcomed, he says, who share a desire for less government.

The contextual aspect mentioned earlier with regard to an anniversary still lingers in the minds of many Idahoans. August 21st was the 24th anniversary of the beginning of the siege at Ruby Ridge in which federal agents were responsible for killing Randy Weaver’s wife, Vicki, and one of their children. Anyone who reads former Spokesman-Review reporter Jess Walters’ excellent book on the siege comes away convinced that the federal government engaged in pure entrapment.

A brilliant Wyoming defense attorney, “Gunning for Justice”
Gerry Spence, proceeded to tear apart the government’s case and a Boise jury acquitted Randy Weaver of all charges after 19 days of deliberation.

The message many took away from Ruby Ridge is that the federal government can literally kill with impunity. However, if the time comes, Rawls’ message to redoubters is also one of possible murder, though he would call it self-defense. What they preach is, be ready to shoot to kill all the panic-driven folks who will pore out of cities in search of sustenance.

Seeing Idaho as a haven for anti-government, take the law into your own hands types is not the image Idaho wants to convey. It can have a real downer impact on a local economy, especially if some national organization serves notice of a boycott. Losses could be in the millions.

The legitimate concern that Idaho’s elected officials should be sounding alarm bells about is the tendency of national media to want to characterize the Redoubt movement as the reincarnation of the Richard Butler/Neo-nazis plague that afflicted Idaho’s image world-wide for years.

Jame Wesley, Rawls and the redoubters are certainly hard right libertarian conservatives who can intimidate simply by showing up at meetings wearing their pistols whether there is an open-carry law or not. There is no evidence, however, that they espouse the hate-filled, white supremacist racist views of Butler. National and even international media are already monitoring and watching perhaps hoping they are.

The August 6th Economist magazine had a long and some would say sympathetic article extolling the desire for less government regulations and more individual freedom. The author errors though in repeating the belief that thousands have already moved here. He also seemed to think people can still homestead in the west. In addition, two months ago the Washington Post sent one of its Pulitzer prize-winning reporters, Kevin Sullivan, to northern Idaho to explore the possible story. (Editor’s note: Sullivan’s article appeared in the August 28th issue of the Post, two days after this column was written and distributed.)

An obvious question is what’s the difference between the Butler era and the Rawls era? The answer is that though it took some time to get it together, local leaders in Coeur d’Alene did unite with the state’s political leadership to denounce the racist, hate filled language of the neo-Nazi’s.

Governors Andrus, Batt and Kempthorne all worked with local leaders like Tony Stewart, Father Bill Wassmuth and Marshall Mend to denounce Butler and company. In other words there was real political leadership both at the local and state level.

One has yet to hear a peep from Governor Otter, or Senators Risch and Crapo, or Congressman Raul Labrador, speaking out that even the “redoubt movement,” possibly a more benign posse comitatus group, is not reflective of Idaho, its citizens and its collective values.

Trump 68: The Muslim database


After several weeks of confusion over the presumed signature policy initiative of Donald Trump's presidential campaign - immigration - it's worth recalling that, for all the forthrightness his followers like to attribute to him, he has been remarkably unclear about many other things.

Consider, for example, the instances of the infamous Muslim database.

Part of the confusion came about after Trump cautioned, in effect, that he didn't mean what many people thought he meant. The whole Muslim database question became - and this redounded, likely, to Trump's benefit - too convoluted for many people to want to revisit, for fear of getting it wrong. (This whole subject of being confusing and unclear is, by the way, yet another ample disqualifier from the presidency, where clarity is of real importance.)

One organization that did take a serious look at it, and come up with some conclusions, is Politifact, which last November took a serious look at what was and wasn't said.

Speaking after last fall's terrorist attack in France, a reporter from Yahoo asked Trump, "do you think there is some kind of state of emergency here, and do we need warrantless searches of Muslims?"

The reply, no model of clarity, was: "We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago."

Seeking some specificity, the reporter asked, "Do you think we might need to register Muslims in some type of database, or note their religion on their ID?"

Trump's response to that clarified nothing: "We’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely. We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully."

A day later, with unanswered questions still in the air, an MSNBC reporter asked, "Should there be a database or system that tracks Muslims in this country?"

Trump said in reply, "There should be a lot of systems. Beyond databases. I mean, we should have a lot of systems."

Beyond database? What was he talking about? Maybe he himself didn't know, because he tried moving on the subject of the Mexican wall, when a reporter interrupted: "But that’s something your White House would like to implement."

"I would certainly implement that. Absolutely." Absolutely a database, a wall, something beyond a database, or something else?

Most candidates would by now have sensed that whatever they intended or wanted to say was going south, mired in confusion. But when Trump was immediately afterward asked how the database would be researched and created, Trump replied, "It would just be good management."

Did Trump understand the question, or didn't he care?

Later in the same day, when a reporter asked him to contrast the idea of a registry of Muslims with the Nazi registry of Jews, Trump replied, "You tell me." If he didn't support the idea of a registry, he seemed to be willfully allowing it to grow and to identify with it. Then still later that same day, he tweeted - accurately - that a reporter not he had brought up the idea of a registry database.

Soon after, as controversy grew, he turned up on Fox News and appeared to dismiss the idea of a registry database, sort of. He said that he wanted a watch list, surveillance (or who or what he didn't say) and a database of Syrian refugees.

The next day, he added even more confusion (if that was possible) at an Alabama rally, where he said, "So the database - I said yeah, that’s alright fine. But they also said the wall, and I said the wall, and I was referring to the wall, but database is okay, and watch list is okay, and surveillance is okay."

After parsing through all that and more, what Politifact finally came up with was, "No, he would not rule out a database on all Muslims. But for now, he wants a database for refugees."

That seems like a reasonable end point to all the analysis.

But what would be the end point in a Trump Administration? None of us really have any way of knowing. - rs

Trump 69: Immigration day


On August 31, Donald Trump's immigration day, he managed to undertake a mesh of events that, hour by hour, demonstrated bad practice for anyone aspiring to the White House.

You can start with the visit to Mexico City to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Actual public officials know that visits of that type, between heads of state of countries important to one another, are not done of the spur of the moment, but are carefully planned, with specific results intended and sought. Trump dreamed it up and carried it out on the spur of the moment. This isn't the way leaders in either the United States or Mexico traditionally operate.

There was this much to be said for Trump's visit: His stated goals, stated repeatedly in the course of campaigning for president, do affect Mexico directly, from his plan to build a wall between the two countries - a wall Mexico would pay for - to the deportation of millions of people from the United States back home. The president of Mexico took issue with a number of Trump's statements, and - taking advantage of the translator situated between - called him a liar and before early in September.

Things got no better when he took off for Arizona and delivered his talk on immigration, which focused on doubling down on the harsher provisions from early in his campaign. It was both unrealistic and likely to aggravate most Americans. It also included remarkably few details.

His idea of specificity was to describe opponent Hillary Clinton's immigration proposal as "open borders, let everybody come and destroy our country, by the way." That bore no more relation to reality than did his description of immigration as a crisis; the reality of more people exiting the United States to head south of the border than are entering illegally, over the last eight years, would not fit his narrative very well.

From Josh Marshall at Talkingpoints memo: "As Trump has fudged on whether he'll deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, he's tried to anchor himself on the Wall. In other words, well, maybe we'll deport everyone or only 'the bad ones' or something. But the real thing is the Wall. And Mexico will pay for it. If that gets jettisoned, he doesn't have a lot of his campaign positions left to fall back on."

Immigration Day, pitched as one of the most important days in Trump's campaig for the presidency, was a day of frantically sown chaos and fear. - rs