Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in October 2016

Trump 34: Nothing broader


You can't quite say that Donald Trump is completely unable to draw a connection between his approach to an issue and the way it would affect real people. His first answer in the last presidential debate (though none of his answers afterward), on trade, did contain some linkages along that line. But left alone, without the advice of staff ringing in his ears (even a half-hour after the debate's launch), he loses the plot.

Among many examples of how he has lost the connection between policy ad presidential decisions on the one hand - which is to say, his preferences - and real impacts on the other, you need go no further than one recent comment about a recent incident.

Last month an apparent political coup was launched in Turkey, shortly after renewed conflict in the Kurdistan area.

JF The morning after an attempted coup in Turkey — a country that is a NATO ally, where U.S. nuclear weapons are based, which is at the center of international tensions over refugees and the struggles within Islam and dealing with ISIS and dealing with Syria — Trump’s comments, as potential commander in chief, were, in toto: “So many friends in Turkey. Great people, amazing people. We wish them well. A lot of anguish last night, but hopefully it will all work out.”

Such a broad view of international relations: It goes no further, in the mind of Donald Trump, than the handful of people he personally knows. Nothing else is a factor. - rs

Trump 35: Maybe yes, maybe no


Up to now, every candidate for president of the United States has been in deadly earnest about taking the office campaigned for. Sincerity in the desire to do that job has never been a question.

Until now.

It is true that in some records Donald Trump has said that of course he wants to serve.

But he also said, responding to a scenarioTrump has scoffed at criticism that he is not serious about becoming president, suggesting that his businesses have not benefited from his controversial presidential campaign and that he is truly in the race to "make America great again." about his winning the election and then declining to serve, that "I'll let you know how I feel about it after it happens," Trump told The New York Times.

As CNN reported, "Trump has scoffed at criticism that he is not serious about becoming president, suggesting that his businesses have not benefited from his controversial presidential campaign and that he is truly in the race to 'make America great again." -


Squaring off for SOS


Far from the fanfare of Monday night’s presidential debate, the two main candidates for Oregon Secretary of State squared off the following afternoon on the campus of Willamette University in Salem.
Members of the Statesman Journal editorial board moderated the forum, which was attended by around 20 people.

Republican candidate and former state representative Dennis Richardson described how his passion for public service was inspired by reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin in the mid-1990s. That later led to stints as a city councilor and in the Legislature, where he was unanimously elected speaker pro tem at the beginning of the 2005 session.

Richardson, who later served as a co-chair of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, said he thought he was done with politics after unsuccessfully challenging then-governor John Kitzhaber in the 2014 general election. He spent the following months volunteering at a local employment office before filing to run for Secretary of State.

Democrat Brad Avakian, a civil rights attorney and former legislator, pledged to use the Secretary of State’s office to ensure fairness and equity, and said he’s taken that approach in his current position of Labor Commissioner. Avakian said his accomplishments as Labor Commissioner include shrinking wage disparities between men and women in the state, bolstering apprenticeship programs and returning shop classes to schools.

If elected Secretary of State, Avakian said he would break down barriers to the ballot box, pursue campaign finance limits, ensure access to voter pamphlet statements via smart phone apps, return civics education to the classroom and use his spot on the State Land Board to make Oregon a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Richardson bemoaned the fact that audits were never conducted for Cover Oregon or the Columbia River Crossing project. Nearly $1 billion was spent on the Oregon Department of Energy’s controversial Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program, he said, yet it took six years for an audit to take place. One-third of those BETC projects were “clouded,” Richardson added, and turned over to the Oregon Department of Justice for further investigation.

The Secretary of State’s Office should function as a non-partisan Government Accountability Office, Richardson said, and can use audits to stop waste.

Differences between the two candidates became very clear in response to a question about Measure 97, a proposed corporate tax projected to bring $3 billion into state coffers annually if approved by voters in November.

Richardson cited an analysis of the measure conducted by the non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office, which estimated that its passage would result in the loss of 38,000 private sector jobs and cost the average Oregonian $600 per year. He added that the money it raised would go to the Legislature as a “blank check.”

Avakian said the measure was necessary, as schools have been “stripped” of music, art, shop and physical education programs. The Legislature has failed at revenue reform, he said, and Measure 97 will “fill the void.”

Both candidates did agree, however, on the need to have more clear and precise language for ballot measure titles and descriptions.

In his closing statements, Richardson characterized Avakian as an “activist” labor commissioner, and said the Secretary of State’s job is not to force change.

“I don’t think we need that kind of aggression,” Richardson said.

Avakian countered by stating that he has been putting Oregonians’ values into action. In concluding his remarks, Avakian said his vision for the Secretary of State’s office includes being assertive and standing up for the rights of Oregonians.

Trump 36: Chains of command


We often are reminded in this season that one of the most important roles of a president is that of commander-in-chief: The top-ranking, the ultimate, leader of the military of the United States, which by orders of magnitude has the most powerful and effective military in the world. It is a military formidable enough that, as Donald Trump once put it, no one is going to mess with us.

Well, that almost was his point. Our military really is so powerful that any frontal attack on it would be an outright suicide mission, one reason the attacks we have seen amounted to sneak attacks from guerrillas and terrorists. Which sometimes have had a certain amount of effectiveness (you might remember that incident from years ago called Vietnam), but none of which existentially threatened it. And the years since Vietnam have seen our military transformed into a professional and technically spectacular force beyond the imagining of Americans from a couple of generations ago.

So it's hard to see what Trump uses as evidence that - to extract from his actual statements - our military is so weak and ineffective it invites attack. Nothing remotely like that is true, and in itself such a conclusion represents so drastic a misreading of the real world as to amount to a presidential disqualifier.

But it goes further. Trump, who took five deferments to stay out of the military, believes he understands our military and our military options better than the officers and enlisted military who live and work with the reality every day. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” Trump said at the national security forum hosted by NBC.

And it goes much further than that. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank said in a September 9 column, "Trump later implied that he would fire current generals — who, in the American tradition, are avowedly nonpartisan — and replace them with retired generals who have supported him politically. His advisers on defeating the Islamic State will 'probably be different generals' from the current ones. My former Post colleague Tom Ricks, author of 'The Generals' and four other books on the military, tells me that would be 'banana republicanism.'”

Little wonder the bipartisan core of national security experts and advisors - Republicans as much as Democrats - sounds scared out of their wits by the prospect of a Trump presidency. They have good reason. - rs

No sale!


“Nyah” “We told you so.” “Told you so.” “Nyah nyah!”

Sometimes - most times - when politicians and special interests scheme against the public interest, all of us have a right - yea, a duty - to stand very tall and say very loudly, “NO.” Then put an end to the underhanded deed they’re trying to underhandedly do.

Such is the case in Idaho these days where the good folks are getting a firsthand lesson in why no one - NO ONE - should attempt to sell off - or privatize - lands now owned by the state or the fed. It’s damned hard to put a fence around 172,000 acres and post large signs saying “NO TRESPASSING.” But it’s been done.

Some months back, a couple of Texas billionaires started buying up what public lands they could find in several states. In Idaho, that included acres mostly in and around Idaho, Adams and Valley Counties. With the sale went hundreds and hundreds of miles of roads to the back country. Roads known to thousands of hunters and recreationists as their entry to whatever hunting, skiing, hiking, or just walking around they had in mind.

Except now, they can’t. Now those acres are posted with signs and bright orange posts to tell everyone who used to prowl around them, “PRIVATE! KEEP OUT.”

Dan and Farris Wilks are the brothers. DF Development is their outfit. They got their hands on most of the acres in a sale by Potlatch Corp. When finalized, up went the posts, up went the signs and up went the temperatures of hundreds and hundreds of hunters and others who ran into ‘em.

For many years, a large crowd of us has been loudly protesting the selloff of large plots of government land to private parties. “NO! NO! NO!” But, a solid string of mostly Republican legislators and members of Congress has been holding hearings, sponsoring meetings and gathering all the listeners they could find to promote said sales.

They’ve used some specious and, some would say, faulty “facts” that such marketing of government lands - especially Forest Service and BLM - are possible. And beneficial. Many fact-checking legal sources have said it’s NOT possible and NOT legal in most cases. Plus, the accompanying required costs to states, counties and cities for maintenance and care would be astronomical - absolutely impossible for such governments to handle.

As if those common sense rebuttals to selling off federal and other large chunks of governmental lands were not enough, the issue of loss of public access has always come up. But, the answer from those pressing the sell-off idea has always been the same. “Don’t worry. That wouldn’t happen.”

Tell that to the folks today in Adams, Valley and Idaho Counties. Suddenly, ranchers, grazers, hunters and recreationists of all stripes are facing exactly that. Yes, this was a private sale. But the lesson - and the dangers of government sales - are there to see.

Idaho Fish & Game had to call off special tag hunts with the accompanying loss of dollars badly needed by the Department. Counties are being told maintenance of access roads to snowmobile trails is ending. Leases that traditionally meant access are being cancelled. And everyone in charge of anything official is finally figuring out the situation is going to mean heavy losses of tourists, hunters and recreationists whose dollars have made big differences in local budgets.

Being a curious sort, my mind wanders to this: what’s going to happen when one or more large fires hits all that now private timberland? And they will. When the Wilks boys call for firefighting help, who’s going to answer the phone and say “Sure, we’ll be right out?” When a couple of good ol’ Texas boys have slammed the door to all former users of those acres, you just know they’ll be feeling helpful down at the local watering holes. Sure.

The Wilks story is going to be the talk of all future meetings trying to drum up support for government land sales. Because we now know whoever buys land buys access and can damn well slam the door on the entire public. Because it’s happened. And I’d be willing to bet more than a few state folk, county commissioners and city councils are taking a new look at the sell-off talk.

Nothing reaches a politician’s heart faster than a large group of supporters who’ve been adversely affected by some issue. Even just ending traditional access to hunting and recreational areas.

I don’t believe I’ve ever quoted the “wit and wisdom” of former Idaho Senator Steve Symms before. But a line he gave me many years ago seems very fitting to this land sales business.

“Makes no damned sense,” he said, “to sell the farm to buy a sports car.” In Idaho, that’s very sage-like.

Trump 37: “Lock her up!”


One of the many (other) things that long has separated American politics from those of countries in chaos, undergoing violent revolution or in the throes of dictatorship, is that we don't imprison the political loyal opposition.

We don't call for it, either, at least not much. Some people, largely unassociated with organized political activity, have made such calls on occasion in the last 15 years or so. But it's not been part of the campaigns of major candidates, and those major candidates haven't offered support for the idea . . . until this year.

The National Republican Convention was an almost endless chorus of "lock her up!" - her referring to Hillary Clinton (the name hardly needed to be said), and the for what? being, well, unclear. Lock her up for something, apparently.

Actually, something intended to be a bill of goods was once presented, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie positioned himself as prosecutor and the convention delegates as jury - there being, evidently, no need for a judge or for a defense - seeking to build a case against her. It wasn't much of a case. But even if it were, the sense of what was going on here was stunning: A national party convention turned into a pitchforks-and-torches mob, seeking not what party delegates usually do - electoral victory for themselves, defeat for the other guys - but imprisonment, conviction. In the case of those insisting on a conviction for treason, more than that. This was a national party convention turned into a lynch mob.

The peak of that activity preceded Donald Trump's acceptance speech, but it was all of a piece, and it has replicated, over and over, at Trump rallies. We don't want to defeat Hillary and the Democrats. We want to destroy them.

For a while Trump seemed to distance himself, a little, from the "lock her up" business.

But then, speaking on July 29 at Colorado Springs (as reported by CNN), he said: "I've been saying 'let's just beat her on November 8th'. But you know what, I'm starting to agree with you. . . . You know, it's interesting. Every time I mention her, everyone screams 'lock her up, lock her up.' They keep screaming. And you know what I do? I've been nice. . . But after watching that performance (by Clinton at the Democratic National Convention) last night - such lies - I don't have to be so nice anymore. I'm taking the gloves off."

Actually, that was a return to what he had been saying for some time. As the Washington Post noted, "In reality, Trump has made comments for months on the campaign trail about Clinton belonging in prison."

And - oh yeah - he called for Hillary Clinton's imprisonment in his rally on October 1.

Remmber Nixon’s enemies lists? How quaint. - rs

Trump 38: An inciter of violence


The Phoenix Arizona Republic, which in its more than a century of publication has never endorsed a Democrat, has done so this year, backing Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump. The endorsement was positive for Clinton as well as a negative commentary on Trump.

But in recounting the chain of events that led the Republic to its startling change this year, Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas began with a specific incident from last November:

". . . when an African-American man was beaten at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama. As Boas recalled, Trump, at the lectern, following the man’s beating, said, 'Get him the hell out of here.' Shortly afterward, Trump went on Fox News and said of the man, 'Maybe he should have been roughed up.' This prompted a series of editorials in the Republic that were critical of Trump. 'We found, in that event, the bass notes of authoritarianism,' Boas told me. 'It kind of raised the siren or the alarm for us: that this is a dangerous type of behavior we’re witnessing here, somebody who would incite political violence.'”

Authoritarianism, the strongman approach to government this country was founded in opposition to, has a number of components, but one of the most basic is the use - and the threat of - violence by people in power against the political opposition. That has been the main course for every tinpot dictator in human history, from the beginning of civilization right up to know.

And Donald Trump encourages, incites, even revels in political violence, in a way no major political figure in American history has done before.

Trump himself, of course, has denied this: "I certainly don't incite violence," he said to CNN in March, after he cancelled a Chicago rally after threats of violence had surfaced.

But the site Mashable, in an article published a few days later, noted that "Trump, however, has a history of calling for violent acts against those who protest at his events that goes back until at least August of last year."

Only days after the Chicago incident, Trump said in St, Louis, after another protester surfaced, “You know, part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?"

Days after that, he said in Florida - speaking of another incident of audience violence - that "The audience hit back and that's what we need a little bit more of."

Then in North Carolina: "In the good old days this doesn't happen because they used to treat them very, very rough."

And so on, and on, and on.

Democracy has survived in America in large part because we - metaphorically - check our guns at the door. We may argue, but we don't beat each up because of which candidates we support.

Thanks to Donald Trump, in 2016 that is changing. And he most certainly is inciting it. - rs

Freedom to hunt


Those who reflexively find private ownership and control freeing and liberating, and government control and ownership the reverse, will find a conundrum here.

About 305 hunters, some Idahoans and some from out of state, were eagerly anticipating the opening of hunting season to start tracking down elk in certain southern parts of Idaho backcountry, pieces of which are publicly-owned, but much of which was long owned by Potlatch Corporation and Boise Cascade. Those companies generally did not object, though they could have, to the hunters being there or pursuing game.

Recently, however, Potlatch sold many of their large tracts, reported to consist of about 172,000 acres, to DF Development, a Texas property development firm led by members of the Wilks family. The Wilkses have been, as Rocky Barker reported in the Idaho Statesman, “buying up land all over the West, and closing off much of the access to those lands. . . . The Wilkses are closing off the timberlands to hunting and other recreation. They already canceled leases with Valley County to maintain roads that provided access to snowmobile trails on public land.”

The hunters, who were left with little area to hunt, were stunned. But there wasn’t much they could do. Local communities around Adams and Valley counties and their leaders were likewise left with few options. They faced the loss of a big part of the outdoors attractions they depend on to bring people to the area; many places where people have enjoyed the backcountry now were off limits. And with the loss of access comes significant loss of revenue to local businesses.

That Valley-Adams buy was the second really large Idaho lands purchase by the Wilkses. In 2015 they were reported to have purchased 38,000 acres in Idaho County, and there too promptly cut off recreation access.

These are only a part of the family’s massive land buys around the West.

Attempts on the part of Idahoans, including private citizens and the Department of Fish and Game (which has tried to mediate), have had little success. Maybe the Wilkses may have figured Idahoans wouldn’t object, on political grounds.

They have been major multi-million dollar donors to the presidential campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was the top choice in Idaho’s presidential primary this year. Cruz has suggested that Texas, which (surprisingly given the size of the state) has almost no federal public lands, should be a public lands model for the nation. In 2014, Cruz proposed an amendment to a sportsman’s law capping the amount of federal lands in any one state, and forcing federal agencies to either give to the states or sell to the top bidder any overages. Late last year, he told the Review-Journal in Las Vegas, “I believe we should transfer as much federal land as possible back to the states and ideally back to the people.”

The point, as he explained it, was to maximize freedom.

Freedom for some, apparently those like the Wilks, but not for all. It’s a diminished freedom for the hunters and other recreationists who find that a decision by the new land owners – one that could have been made by previous owners, but wasn’t possibly in the interest of good will, has significantly cut their options.

As compared to publicly-owned lands where hunting, fishing and recreating may be regulated but still are broadly allowed.

Try applying all this to the formula of private=free, public=locked up, and you’ll quickly wrap yourself in pretzels. Or maybe the ideologues among us simply need to come up with new and more creative definitions for words like “freedom.”

Trump 39: Fear and loathing


In a recent column, New York Times writer Nicholas Kristoff reported on how, in the small community of Forest Grove, Oregon (about 15 miles from where Kristoff grew up, and about 18 from where I live), a number of incidents have sprouted in the local schools. A group of white students chanted “Build a wall! Build a wall!” at Latino students, and elsewhere chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!"

Kristoff wrote, “We need not be apocalyptic about it. This is not Kristallnacht. But Trump’s harsh rhetoric tears away the veneer of civility and betrays our national motto of ‘e pluribus unum.’ He has unleashed a beast and fed its hunger, and long after this campaign is over we will be struggling to corral it again.”

This set of incidents is, needless to say, only one among many erupted all over the country.

He's right, on both counts: This isn't cause for panic, but it is time to recognize a serious problem, and its source.

The problem has been widely recognized. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups and hate incidents around the country, saw cause to issue a review on Trumps campaign, which among other things said this:

“Our report found that the campaign is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported.”

“It’s producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported. Other students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail. Educators are perplexed and conflicted about what to do. They report being stymied by the need to remain nonpartisan but disturbed by the anxiety in their classrooms and the lessons that children may be absorbing from this campaign.”

That's happening in the course of a few months. Imagine the impact of this extending year after year after year. - rs