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Posts published in October 2016

Explain this

stapiluslogo1

Here is one of the ways this year’s presidential campaign is so unusual:

The elected officials from one of the two major parties are split on their nominee, but more than that, it is the in-party supporters to that nominee who will have a much harder time explaining themselves, down the road.

Presidential nominee Donald Trump has divided Republicans nationwide, and no less in the gem state. Of Idaho’s five major officials, there’s (as this is written) an even split, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (who has a position in the Trump campaign) and Representative Raul Labrador sticking with Trump, and Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson in opposition. Senator Jim Risch, reportedly was out of state and apparently not weighed in.

The kind of rejection of one’s party nominee Crapo and Simpson have made is rare coming from elected officials in either party, especially those in the upper rungs. I can’t recall any similar, after the party nominations were made official, in Idaho in the last half-century. Crapo and Simpson are not the kind, either, to lightly abandon their party; over the years they have been as loyal to the Republican brand as any party loyalist could ask. Something really powerful must have blown them loose. (Neither, I should note, has gone as far as endorsing Democrat Hillary Clinton.)

Crapo cited Trump’s “pattern of behavior .... His repeated actions and comments toward women have been disrespectful, profane and demeaning. I have spent more than two decades working on domestic violence prevention. Trump’s most recent excuse of ‘locker room talk’ is completely unacceptable and is inconsistent with protecting women from abusive, disparaging treatment.”

Simpson said he found “his recent comments about women deplorable. In my opinion, he has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President and I cannot support him.”

The large and fast-growing record of Trump statements and incidents concerning women offers plenty of backing for those statements. But you have to wonder. For these two to split from Trump, surely there was more than just a collection of statements and incidents, many of them years old.

If you listen to the ideas offered by Idaho’s congressional delegation, and its governor, over the years, you get little overlap with Trumpism. (Maybe Idaho’s Republican voters saw that in the primary contest, when the state went for Ted Cruz over Trump.)

Trumpism has attracted and closely allied itself with white supremacists and hard core nationalists of the kind Idaho, and many of its top officials, have been trying to shake off for years. Trump’s Florida speech Thursday would have gone over well at the old Aryan Nations compound.

Trumpism has no consistent policy. Those Republicans worried about who Hillary Clinton might appoint to the Supreme Court should reflect that no one (likely including Trump) has any idea who the orange whirlwind actually would appoint. Trump on any substantial topic is a spinning wheel; I can point you to 18 distinct changes of position on his hallmark issue – immigration – alone. Conservative? Liberal? Those concepts don’t seem to be understood by, and are unimportant to, Trump. Forget about any certainty.

Except this: A strong predisposition to authoritarianism, or more bluntly, an American dictatorship. Republicans no less than Democrats have raised this concern. Congress? The Supreme Court? Unimportant, along with participation by the American people. (He seems no more interested in the states, or in the 10th amendment.) Trump’s answer to all problems and issues, devoid of explanation, is what he said at the Republican National Convention and repeated since: “I alone can fix it.” He alone – no one else. You think the federal government has been too powerful? Wait 'til you get a load of this guy.

This is a Republican who doesn’t talk about freedom or liberty or opportunity, but about “safety” and “winning” and “getting tough.” His is the speech of a dictator, not an American politician.

Trump runs directly counter to nearly everything leading Idaho Republicans have said, over generations, that they support. The next time Otter or Labrador tell you how much they love freedom, state’s rights and the reputation of Idaho, ask them why they supported Trump. You may find Crapo and Simpson won’t have nearly as much trouble with the question.

Trump 25: Blank slate

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One reason we should insist on candidates for president filling in the gaps about what they would do in office is a little subtle. Yes, we should insist for the reason of knowing what direction they would take the country - what they would pursue or allow or oppose. (Presidential candidate "promises" are really a term of art: They never can be more than what a candidate legitimately might want or try to do; presidents are powerful but inevitably limited in their capacity to change the world.)

The more subtle reason we should insist on knowing their intents comes from reversing the telescope: So that we don't write our hopes and wishes on them. A candidate left vague enough, who has personal appeal of some kind, can become a blank slate on which millions of people may write their own desires, often in contradiction with millions of others. This can lead to all sorts of obvious problems.

Donald Trump's supporters may claim specificity for their candidate: Hasn't he been spending more than a year delivering hour-long rally speeches and including talk about, well, all sorts of issues? Yes he has, but that talk has been astoundingly vague and slippery, even by the lowest of standards for politicians. Where he does come up with specifics ("the wall" or banning Muslim immigrants, for example) he soon evades, alters and adjusts when challenged. His supposed platform is made not of granite but of pudding.

In Trump's case there's an application of this vagueness that's much worse than mere uncertainty.

Consider this passage from the Texas Observer a few days ago:

Trump has provided a dark, dank hole into which these folks can dump whatever it is they’re mad about. Even contradictory views, since Trump frequently changes viewpoint in midsentence, can happily nest there, swelling and breeding like poison fungus. ...

It’s a jungle out there. At least, to hear the Republicans tell it. But what it’s really about, in earthier conservative circles, is a chance for people to feel important, to think they are standing on the lines of freedom, fighting back the zombie hordes. What drives these folks is fear; but for many, it’s a delicious fear.

It’s a chance for the bored and disappointed to play army, a way to justify having tons of guns and ammunition. They feel that if not for their vigilance, dead-eye aim, and concealment due to camouflaged pants and a Duck Dynasty cap, we would be standing on the edge of a precipice looking into the bowels of hell.

This is an invitation to follow Trump they know not where, and unleash violence along the way. And inject fear into the rest of the country along with them. - rs

Educating school officials

frazier

No one (other than growthophobes) wants to stand in the way of growth–often erroneously termed “progress.” However like cancer, the Treasure Valley is on the verge of growing itself to death.

Meridian beams with pride at being the second largest city in the state. Meanwhile they also have the busiest intersection at Fairview and Eagle Road along with a school system chronically in need of more money through property tax bonds.

We often hear folks claim, “you can’t stop growth.” Maybe, maybe not.

What we can stop is encouraging growth. Every city, county, and the state all have versions of “economic development” agencies. In one form or another these agencies, while perhaps well intended, tend to PAY businesses or individuals to populate our valley which puts a tremendous financial burden on schools.
Elementary school teacher helping a student in her classroom. MR boy, student, elementary, classroom, education, study, school, curriculum, learning, teaching, teacher
The most glaring example is the overwhelming need to replace Whittier elementary school where more kids attend classes in house trailers than in the main building. School officials blame it in part on progressive teaching in multiple languages. Many parents want their kids to experience the cultural benefits and language skills offered there.

Sounds good. An admirable effort. The problem arises when Boise and Ada housing officials vow to build “affordable housing” on bare ground in the vicinity. Since it is within an urban renewal district, NONE of the taxes on the improvements or appreciated value will go to Boise City or the Boise School District–it all goes to the urban renewal agency which is dedicated to attracting more business, which attracts more people, which attracts more kids, more cars, more bikes, more demand on water, etc. The contractors, bankers, developers all love it. The rest of the community pays the bill.

Former BSU football coach Dan Hawkins had it right when he said, “Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.”

The financing scheme at Harris Ranch in Boise’s east end has created a demand for a junior high school, fire station, and now a new elementary school. In fact, Boise school super Don Coberly revealed plans for a potential BOND REQUEST from voters for $172 million. College of Western Idaho is seeking another $180 million for new facilities, including tax-exempt facilities in the urban renewal district near Whittier along the Boise River at Main St.

We calculated that Boise schools, the city, county, ACHD and others lose a combined total of about $378,000 in property taxes on the SkyWest hanger the city built for the airline. That annual loss in tax revenue is FOREVER because there is no tax on city-owned buildings. The airport charges rent to pay off the bonds, but citizens were not allowed to weigh-in on the decision to build the $20 million plus structure.

If school officials would publicly oppose some of the unwarranted growth, or perhaps have veto authority over development plans, perhaps things would be more in balance.

Trump 26: The wall

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Let's not forget The Wall.

This was where the Donald Trump campaign all began: A wall, an "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall" along the nearly 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. Not a metaphorical wall. A real physical wall intended to keep outsiders, out.

He has repeated this in rally after rally, one end of the country to the other. If he doesn't get to it quickly enough, the audience calls out "the wall!" and Trump usually obliges. It's one of his greatest hits.

Besides serving as a general symbol of so much wrong about so much of what Trump has said, the wall as a talking point is also this: profoundly false.

It is not practical. It would cost tens of billions of dollars (which, contrary to what Trump says, never would come from Mexico) from United States taxpayers. It would take years to build, and if built would immediately become the target of vandalism and general destruction. It need be, people would tunnel under rather than jump over. Either way, it would not stop them.

Just as significant, it would be terrible symbolism: No longer a country welcoming newcomers with the Statue of Liberty, now we're walled off.

It sounded ridiculous then, it sounds ridiculous now. And still at the rallies they call, "The wall, the wall . . ." - rs

Chris vs. Chris, round 2

carlson

A couple weeks back this column critiqued a “double truck” ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press written and paid for by a prominent local real estate executive, Chris Walsh, who owns Revolutionary Realty.

His firm caters in part to the “preppers,” those who seek out somewhat isolated property in northern Idaho where they build their homes, stockpile food and weapons and wait for Armageddon.

Walsh fired back and we each took another shot at the other, stereotyping the other, getting snarkier while getting close to the line, if not outright crossing it, of engaging in personal attack. I’ve long had a policy of not responding to comments on or attacks at my political musings, but also try not to engage in any sort of personal attack.

Something about Walsh’s passion as well as his still seeing Republican nominee Donald Trump as the only agent of needed change captured my attention.

So I sent him an e-mail suggesting we cease shooting and instead sit down over breakfast and listen to each other. I also apologized for the stereotyping as well as my snarky overtone. Walsh graciously accepted both the apology and the offer of breaking bread together.

We met for breakfast at the Elmer’s just off I-90 and Highway 95. We began by focusing on what we agreed upon. There was a surprising amount:

  • We felt both political parties have been captured by their large contributors, have lost touch with their base and reflect the special interests, not the public interest.
  • Both party caucuses in both houses of Congress are equally responsible for the gridlock that holds the nation’s capital in its thrall.
  • Too many federal agencies are filled with too many folks who see preserving their jobs as their prime purpose, instead of providing the public with efficient, effective service.
  • A systemic issue in the bureaucrats’ desire to preserve their jobs necessitates the writing of more and more regulations for them to interpret and administer.
  • The best vehicle for really changing the D.C. culture would be the imposition of term limits on both our elected representatives and those in the civil service.
  • Critical issues facing America and whomever becomes president are not being addressed, such as the looming bankruptcy of many of the nation’s pension funds, which all will look to our empty Treasury expecting a federal bailout which Congress will not be able to do.
  • The Simpson/Bowles Commission on Restoring Fiscal Accountability to the nation’s finances by starting down a path of reducing spending and paying down debt is an unfortuate lost opportunity.
  • Resource conversion is what brings new dollars into the economy, whether trees into 2 x 4’s, wheat into bread, minerals into metals and computers; and, while it is important to undertake more of these activities, it has to be done in an environmentally responsible way.
  • An educated workforce is critical to the betterment of any state and Idaho has to do more in the arena of support for public education.
  • The shrinking middle class does indeed subsidize the top tenth of 1% many of whom take full advantage of the numerous loopholes in the ungainly, overly complicated U.S. Tax Code, which has to be simplified.
  • Health care costs more than ever while covering less than ever.

Where we still disagreed is Walsh’s belief that because Trump is the only outsider left in the race, and the public knows change is needed, therefore he is the one a citizen should vote for.

Even if elected (which seems more and more unlikely given the release of another embarrassing tape), Trump has alienated so many of the constituencies one has to work with in order to get things done he will be utterly impotent and unable to produce anything he has promised.

With all due respect, I told Walsh my conclusion was the Donald was not the man to lead us out of the wilderness and the slough of despair. We parted friends, both the better for having sat down and listened to each other with full respect to our free speech rights. We agreed to meet again.

I presented Walsh with a copy of my three books and I accepted his offer of a flying tour of north Idaho in his vintage Beech Bonanza. I divined that he well understood the old caution to flier’s: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots.”

Trump 27: How do you fail a casino?

trump

Donald Trump roared into Atlantic City with an impressive head of steam, determined to become a dominant figure in the city's new casino economy. He started big activity in the early 80s. Within a decade, in 1991, most of that activity had crashed, and Trump filed for bankruptcy four times in connection with them.

A fifth bankruptcy, in 2009, by the business led to a restructuring. The crowl jewel of Trump's developments, the Taj Mahal casino, did continue on. But last week it too fell, filing for bankruptcy, idling 3,000 workers.

"There's no reason for this," Trump said in an interview.

Well of course there is. But it does raise the counterintuititve question: How do you lose so much money running a casino? Doesn't the house always win?

Apparently not if it's a house Donald built. - rs

BONUS Three reasons Donald Trump conclusively should not become president, packed into a single sentence on the Politico site: "On Wednesday, Donald Trump said Paul Ryan made a “sinister deal” to undermine him, charged that the Islamic State would conquer the United States if Hillary Clinton defeats him and vowed to jail Clinton’s lawyers along with their client."

Farewell Facebook?

bond

Facebook is a handy tool, but this apparent expression of favouritism towards a particular candidate or political party has put them over the line. I am going to give myself a few days to decide whether or not to close my account. I am leaning towards bagging it. Yes, FB will no doubt have unrestricted access to my Permanent Record, but at least Billary won't be reading my posts anymore.

My closest friends have my email address; others can PM me theirs while my account is still active, and I will add them to my email address book and return the favour. We can stay in touch that way.

The media are in a titanic struggle to remain in control of the American mind. They are sacrificing everything - credulity, credibility, honesty, decency, dispassionate discourse, competence - to cling to a power they have enjoyed since FDR's times.

It appears the social media is following suit.

Mainstream media can't even compound interest rates. Ask a reporter what the Rule of 78s is.

They don't understand our tax laws, the laws of physics, the multiplication and/or division of percentages, or even basic arithmetic.

Ever since Woodward and Bernstein they have enjoyed a celebrity status no more deserving than that of a Kardashian or Paris Hilton. The aspiring journalist cloyingly seeks this celebrity.

The bare-knuckled street-fighter who lives in a cold-water walk-up has replaced by a pampered, overpaid and sucked-up-to flock of unshaven sheep oblivious to the price of milk and hamburger.

Journalism and profession do not belong in the same sentence. Professionals are certain scientists, MD's, or even tugboat skippers. There are no entry credentials to become a journalist - save for looks and a lust for power.

(An old drinking buddy from the Seattle Times used to rant, "'Journalist' is just another word for an unemployed reporter!")

All this celebrity and grandiosity will be lost to them in the unlikely event that Billary loses her presidential bid, and they are fighting like rabid cobras to keep that from happening.

Sorry FB had to join in the fray. But at least, and for a little while longer, in America I can vote with my feet.

Selah.

Trump 28: Undermining democracy

trump

Donald Trump has little use for democracy. He wants to be president, but he would much rather get there in some far less messy way than being chosen by his fellow Americans. He would rather democracy be constrained, or just go away altogether.

We know this mainly from many of the people he associates with and the attitudes they hold. But that's not all: He's also doing everything he can to argue that the coming general election, which he increasingly seems likely to lose, is "rigged." In other words, it can't be trusted, it isn't valid.

He's been at this for a while. On August 1 speaking in Ohio, he said, "I'm afraid the election's going to be rigged. I have to be honest." Soon after, on Fox's Hannity show, he said, "I've been hearing about it for a long time. And I know last time, there were - you had precincts where there was practically nobody voting for the Republican. And I think that's wrong. I think that was unfair, frankly" . . . I'm telling you, November 8, we'd better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged."

He repeated this enough that On August 12, the New Yorker reported:

Suggesting an election is going to be stolen, this is Third World dictatorship stuff,” CNN’s Brian Stelter said. “The problem for Trump is that his supporters believe what he says,” Vox’s Dara Lind wrote. “If he says a Trump loss means the election has been stolen, there are millions of people prepared to believe it.” Just as there are many people who are willing to believe—or to internalize and accept, anyway—that Obama created ISIS, even though it was founded four years before he came to office. ... Healthy democracies don’t decay overnight. They gradually rot from within, with termites like Trump undermining their foundations.

As recently as October 11 he said in Pennsylvania, "I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us."

The effects of all this already are starting to set in. On the same day Trump made that statement, his running mate Mike Pence heard this from a woman in the audience: "I don't want this to happen but I will tell you personally if Hillary Clinton gets in, I myself, I'm ready for a revolution because we can't have her in." (Pence asked her not to say that, after she'd said it.)

This is how you take down democracy, one piece at a time, by tearing apart our faith in our systems and each other - systems and a people who have worked pretty well together for a quarter of a millennium. But it can happen, and Donald Trump is doing his best to turn the United States into a national run by someone other than its people. - rs

The importance of Oregon’s SOS

harris

Since Oregon became a State three Secretaries of State have ascended to Governor when the sitting Governor resigned (1877, 1909 and 2015).

We may be looking at another ascension of the Secretary of State to Governor if Hillary Clinton is elected President.

There’s been speculation in Salem that a President Clinton could tap Governor Kate Brown for a position in her administration. Brown seems a natural fit. She was an early supporter of Hillary. While most Democratic voters were favoring Sanders she came out as a Clinton super delegate.

Like Hillary Clinton, she is wonkish and policy driven. And like Bill Clinton she is one of the most affable and likable pols you will meet. You’ll find few Republicans who actually dislike the Governor. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton will appreciate this balance.

Her trajectory and ambition are similar to Hillary’s. From a USA today profile published the week after she became Governor, former Oregonian cartoonist and grade school classmate Jack Ohman described Brown:

She made friends easily, was an athlete in high school, made good grades and ran for student council, he (Ohman) said.

They met in seventh-grade math class, back when she sported a 'Nixon Now' button ….Brown was a smart, middle-class kid from a small town outside Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Not exactly an ambitious middle class Illinois Goldwater girl, but close. She is an ideal candidate for a high ranking Clinton administration official.

The latest iCitizen poll showed Democrat Brad Avakian with 29%, Republican Dennis Richardson with 26% and 36% undecided. Should Richardson win, Brown may have to decide between a job in Washington DC with the administration of the first woman President, or staying in Oregon to assure Democratic dominance.

The Secretary of State candidates recognize this. They are already running as if they may be governor. A quote from Avakian as reported by the Bend Bulletin: “When folks evaluate who should be their next secretary of state, you should think in terms of that in case it were to happen,” Avakian said of the prospect. “Where do the candidates stand on other positions that you would like to see or not like to see as governor?”

Her decision on whether to accept a DC position could be influenced by the fate of Measure 97, the large tax increase on the November ballot.

Should M97 pass, then Legislative Democrats are going to be calling most of the financial shots in any event regardless of who the Governor is. Brown may feel Oregon Democratic priorities are safe.

However, should M97 fail, then a Republican Governor Richardson would veto any revenue increase or tax reforms that don’t include Republican priorities on issues such as PERS reforms.

Supporters of M97 need to prepare for potential downsides and mitigation should the measure lose. As of today, Avakian has $478,000 in his campaign chest while Richardson has $602,000. A pretty even money race.

What this means is that an ambitious and talented Governor Browns and the powerful backers of M97 (Public employee unions) have an intense interest in the outcome of the Secretary of State race.

While Richardson may have a money edge in his official campaign account, should the Secretary of State race remain tight and the Governors race against Dr. Pierce to remain safely Browns (she currently leads by 12 percentage points), voters can expect to be inundated with negative “independent expenditure” negative ads aimed at Richardson.

Because is the Secretary of State race isn’t just about Richardson v. Avakian. There’s much more at stake for our Governor and the public employee unions who fund the Democratic Party.