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Posts published in October 2016

Trump 37: “Lock her up!”

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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

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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

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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

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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