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Posts published in November 2016


As this is written, it's still not too late to vote.


I'll be back in a few hours once the polls close ... - rs

On election day


Whatever the outcome of today's too-close-to-call voting, there will be one decisive (and deserving) loser: the main-stream media, or the press as we used to call it.

One of the most common of all those Wikileaks hacks has been the obvious and obscenely incestual relationship between the Democratic Party machine and the corporate media. It is far more grotesque a thing than any of the contemptible things Donald Trump has said or that Bill Clinton has actually done.

As a marginally Republican print reporter in newsrooms large and small across this country, that incest was always obvious to me. Being in the minority, I could not expect to loudly object and keep the paycheck rolling in at the same time.

But now it's out there. The "new media" grew out of this great divide. The "new media" has certainly produced its batch of kooks, but they are, on balance, no kookier than Dana Milbank or Bob Schieffer or Judy Woodruff -- or the editorial board of the New York Times.

Be it Trump (who likely wins the popular vote) or Billary (who looks to win the electoral college) comes out on top, the loser certainly will be the 3-network, two-newspaper media that has been carving our political culture for the past 75 years.

There was, perhaps, a consensus that they could be trusted -- not to be balanced but least conscious of their prejudices and diligent in their search for some sense of truth.

Truth's a hard thing for anyone who is not a physicist to grasp, and their own professional duty is scepticism.

Try covering a murder trial sometime. By the time the prosecution's done, you're persuaded the guy in the dock did it, and viciously. Then, after the defence is done, you're sure he was in church in another state, teaching Sunday School.

Reporters used to be conscious of their own limitations in this regard, in finagling some sense of truth out of a steaming pile of bullshit. Not, for three decades, have they considered such their civic duty. I blame the prissy wannabes of Nixon and Woodstein.

I hope the Wikileaks reports have made a credible closing argument to the jury.

What now


So. Here we are. Day before the big election. Normally, this is the time those of us in the political swamps live for. The eve of knowing the results of two years of campaigning. Just hours from finding out “the will of the American voter.” Political “World Series” time.

That’s how it’s always been for us “nattering nabobs” near the first Tuesday in November. But not this time. At least for your scribe. No, this time the usual curiosity about what tomorrow will bring has morphed into something near fright. Deeper than just a concern about the outcome. More of a “What the Hell happens now?” We’re at a time when becoming an ungovernable nation is a possibility. At least for the short term. Should you think I’ve gone “‘round the bend” let’s review.

Until a couple of decades ago, national elections meant polling voters, accepting outcomes and getting back to work. No more. Now, keys to the White House go to the winner while losers plot to make sure that winner is frozen motionless in a political aspic. This time around, some idiots in Congress are already talking “impeachment” and possible “criminal prosecution” of the likely winner before votes are counted. Several have mentioned “killing.”

On the other hand, if the guy who’s supposed to lose wins, all Hell will break lose at home and overseas. World economies will shake. International governments - allies for many decades - will likely fear the U.S. will break treaties going back many decades. Alliances nations have trusted to provide for world security will be weakened, if not destroyed. There will, most assuredly, be diplomatic and world economic chaos.

Our national government has ceased functioning as created. Millions of citizens are actually suffering because of federal intransigence - if not outright failure - to provide for “the common good.” Congress seems almost driven to destroying the vital link of citizen-to-elected-representative. Lobbyists for out-of-control billionaires and corporations are given access and deference the Constitution reserves for citizens. Response to national needs that used to flow up from the electorate are largely ignored while the “needs” of a few are decided at the top and passed down.

Several states have become insolvent through poor tax policies and mismanagement. Others are living on borrowed revenue which will have to be paid back down the line - probably by large tax increases.

Nearly a dozen states have disenfranchised voters of the absolute right to participate in elections. Now, an impotent U.S. Supreme Court has removed previous protections for millions of citizens. Congress has gerrymandered to assure winners without regard to “one-man, one-vote” requirements. Some elected cretins are even talking publically about destroying that Supreme Court - abolishing one-third of our constitutionally designed government.

State after state has freely armed its citizens with “open carry” laws and removal of firearms training requirements. College campuses, shopping centers, schools, churches, many public buildings - all open to any nut with mental problems and a gun.

Too many law enforcement officers have been indiscriminately shooting unarmed - mostly black - citizens without adequate impartial review. Officers are being killed in ambushes. Firemen are called to fires only to be open targets for some armed nutcase.

Dozens of local sheriff’s are telling government agencies they’ll ignore laws they don’t agree with. Some are aiding lawbreakers by looking “the other way” instead of doing their sworn duties. Armed citizens are supporting them with guns and votes. The verdict in the Bundy case in Portland, while possibly legally correct, has sent the wrong message to people wanting to thwart legal government actions. Those who’ve been doing so without being punished have already announced plans to step up their armed resistance.

Paid hucksters are sowing division and hate 24/7. The Internet has given voice to racists, pornographers, irresponsible “militia” wannabes, hackers and other deranged. Rumors and lies are passed off as “fact” and the citizenry - too many ignorant or our nation’s laws, civic and legal structure - is fed a diet of lies as fact.

Lack of a well-informed electorate has resulted in too many unqualified office holders. This has bred a politics of survival and job protection rather than a corps of dedicated public servants willing to do the right thing and take whatever consequences. Members of Congress admit spending a full third of their time in Washington D.C. begging for dollars. Not legislating for voters at home.

Finally, when tomorrow’s election is over, it won’t be over. We’re going to see piles of legal actions, threats, demonstrations and possible outright lawbreaking. The seeds are all there. There are more - lots more - examples of social and political problems inflicting large wounds on this country.

Unfortunately, when the ballot boxes go back into storage, their contents, I believe, will not have changed much in our seemingly dysfunctional society. Losers will continue to obstruct winners. Voices of deceit and hate will still be heard. Guns - many in the wrong hands - will continue to kill and maim. Mass murder will still be a staple of life. Racism, bigotry and ignorant religious hatred will continue. Our national government, regardless of who wins, will still be nearly unmanageable. The neediest of us will still be ignored.

Yep. I may have finally gone “‘round the bend.” So, if things turn out better than I think at this point, let me know. Otherwise, as Bette Davis said, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Trump 1: ‘I alone’


This concludes our series on reasons Donald Trump should not become president. You can see the whole list here.

This list of 100 reasons posted on this site over the last three-plus months, reasons why Donald Trump should be disqualified from the presidency, is terribly incomplete. It could have been doubled or tripled without breaking a sweat.

On Halloween day, Slate magazine offered a list of "offenses and misdemeanors" on the part of both candidates, committed during campaign season. It listed 239 instances for Trump, and one for Hillary Clinton ("poor email server management"). Some of those admittedly were glitches or foolishness, not ultimately disqualifying. But they indicate the nature of the situation. By his words and action, recently and over the course of his adult life, Donald Trump has repeatedly, over and over and apparently obliviously, disqualified himself from high office - or really, any office of trust. After what I've learned about him this year, I wouldn't trust him to park my car, much less stand two minutes away from global nuclear annihilation. I would not say the same of any presidential nominee in my lifetime, until now. I would not say any of those people (with maybe one exception in one election) had such serious and obvious disqualifiers placed before the public. Any of these reasons should be enough to say "no" to this man.

Still, we're at the finish line and we need to focus.

What's the single most compelling reason Donald Trump should not now or ever become president?

You can find that summarized in two words Trump delivered near the end of his acceptance speech at the end of the Republican National Convention:

"I alone."

He recited a long list of ills in America - nearly all of misstated, exaggerated or outright fantastical - and then told a wildly approving crowd: "I alone can fix it."

Thinking Americans should have written him off, if not earlier, at that moment. In this country we do not think that any one person is our solve-all - that is what dictatorships and monarchies like to proclaim, and history has proven them wrong. Our American way, government of, by and for the people, really is better - and at base, that is what Donald Trump is running against.

David Boaz of the Cato Institute said of Trump that "Equally troubling is his idea of the presidency — his promise that he’s the guy, the man on a white horse, who can ride into Washington, fire the stupid people, hire the best people, and fix everything. He doesn’t talk about policy or working with Congress. He’s effectively vowing to be an American Mussolini, concentrating power in the Trump White House and governing by fiat."

Presidents from the beginning, from Washington to Obama, have called on God (or "providence" other-named help from beyond) for help, and equally on the people of the country. If the American people are with you, Abraham Lincoln said, you will always succeed; if they are against, you will always fail.

Donald Trump, a massive failure at business, at human relations, at simple decency, inexperienced at and ignorant of governing, now has the gall to tell us what Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and all the rest would never have said: That he alone will solve all our problems.

Some people - more than some, by all appearances millions of Americans - actually buy this insanity.

Republican writer Michael Gerson warned, "it may not only be Republicans who abandon central tenets of their democratic faith. It is almost beyond belief that Americans should bless and normalize Trump’s appeal. Normalize vindictiveness and prejudice. Normalize bragging about sexual assault and the objectification of women. Normalize conspiracy theories and the abandonment of reason. Normalize contempt for the vulnerable, including disabled people and refugees fleeing oppression. Normalize a political tone that dehumanizes opponents and excuses violence. Normalize an appeal to white identity in a nation where racial discord and conflict are always close to the surface. Normalize every shouted epithet, every cruel ethnic and religious stereotype, every act of bullying in the cause of American 'greatness.'"

We'd better not. Or we, and the rest of the world, will regret it forever. - rs

Trump 2: Vindictiveness


Donald Trump is extraordinarily vindictive, and he makes no secret of it. He promotes it. He brags about it.

This is an extremely dangerous trait in a president.

We've had few presidents much associated with vindictiveness. Richard Nixon had a streak of it. But not many. Most have recognized the danger of a president taken over by the desire to get back at someone, whether for personal or national reasons, without considering the real political and policy implications. Most of our presidents have had at least a moderate amount of self-control.

Not Donald Trump. At the first, slightest slight, his first impulse is to strike back, however he can.

Richard Branson, the billionaire, got a view of this. He described a lunch with Trump:

Even before the starters arrived he began telling me about how he had asked a number of people for help after his latest bankruptcy and how five of them were unwilling to help. He told me he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying these five people.

He didn't speak about anything else and I found it very bizarre. I told him I didn’t think it was the best way of spending his life. I said it was going to eat him up, and do more damage to him than them. There must be more constructive ways to spend the rest of your life. (Hopefully my advice didn’t lead to him running for President!)

I was baffled why he had invited me to lunch solely to tell me this. For a moment, I even wondered if he was going to ask me for financial help. If he had, I would have become the sixth person on his list!

Afterward, Branson wrote that "What concerns me most, based upon my personal experiences with Donald Trump, is his vindictive streak, which could be so dangerous if he got into the White House."

Many of the people who have crossed his path could testify to as much. As Raw Story reported a couple of days ago, "during a public appearance, Trump vowed to sue all 12 women who have recently accused him of sexual misconduct as soon as the election is over—which might seem not so unreasonable had he not explicitly bragged about such behavior in 2005. But Trump didn’t stop there. He threatened to sue The New York Times for publishing the women’s stories, and if his lawsuit history tells us anything, it’s that these are unlikely to be just empty promises."

Do something he doesn't like, and he'll likely vow to sue you. Mostly these are empty bluffs, but even so he has been involved over the years in more than 3,000 lawsuits - surely a clear indicator of vengefulness.

In the case of lawsuits, at least, the courts will provide some barriers to outright loopiness. Make the man president, and the limitations come off - and won't be limited to the courts. Criticize the president, as many Americans so traditionally do, and - historically - you get no official blowback. Don't count on that if you get a President Trump: Who knows what may land on you?

Salon has even suggested this is his strongest motivation to become president: "Increasingly, the evidence is pointing to a certain conclusion: Donald Trump is running for president because he believes the power and fame of the White House will allow him to settle the score in his ever-expanding list of petty grievances."

The danger from a President Trump, to any of us, would know hardly any limits. - rs

What Idaho should watch for


It’s been a couple of years in the buildup, and Tuesday night gives us the payoff – for good or ill. Here’s some of what I’ll be watching for on election night from an Idaho perspective.

1. On the presidential level, Idaho will probably slip easily into the Donald Trump column. What I’ll be watching more closely is the vote percentage Evan McMullin, the independent from Utah, gets. He has been running strong in Utah, and might do well in eastern Idaho. His numbers will be worth parsing.

2. The ballot issue HJR 5 (on legislative review of executive branch regulations) has split Idaho’s governing community, with legislators (mostly) and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little in favor, and Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden opposed. Voters rejected a similar proposal two years ago, and the guess here is that they will do so again. But the lines of support and opposition will be something to see.

3. Idaho has only a few competitive legislative races this year, but several of those which do look to be close will merit close inspection.

In District 1, in the northern Panhandle, watch to see whether constituents will back Republican Heather Scott, aptly described by columnist Chuck Malloy as “one of the stars of the Redoubt movement”, or challenging Democrat Kate McAlister. Some of Scott’s supporters have been accused of harassing the opposition. (She has disavowed any knowledge.) Scott has become a statewide figure, and her win or loss will be widely noted, rightly so because it will say a lot about the character of the northern Idaho panhandle.

In District 6, House Democratic leader Jon Rusche of Lewiston, whose win two years ago was by a hairline, is being hard-pressed by Republican Mike Kingsley; billboards linking Rusche and Hillary Clinton have popped up around town. For a couple of decades Lewiston has been a closely competitive ground between the parties; a Rusche loss could indicate it is moving into a clear Republican tilt.

In west Boise’s District 15, Democrat Steve Berch is on the verge of defeating veteran Republican Representative Lynn Luker. This is Berch’s fourth election in a row running in the west/west-of Boise area. He took 32.2% of the vote in 2010, then 46.9% in 2012 and in 2014 he got 48.4%. Does he cross the line this year? If he does, he may open the door for Democrats not just within Boise city, but in some of its suburbs.

And in Twin Falls’ District 24, two hot races are said to be unusually close, as Republican Senator Lee Heider is pressed by Democrat Deborah Silver and Republican Representative Steve Hartgen by Catherine Talkington. A Democratic win in either race would be a breakthrough for Democrats who haven’t elected one of their own to the legislature here in decades. Democrats for a couple of decades have been offering the idea of winning elections in central Twin Falls; will this be the year?

4. The contested Supreme Court features two candidates with distinctly different backgrounds and approaches, though both have Republican backgrounds. State Senator Curt McKenzie has backing from a number of fellow legislators and lobbies, and he seems the more ideologically-oriented of the two. Attorney Robyn Brody got much higher markers in a state bar survey and has broadly scattered support. The race is considered competitive.

A lot of attention will go to the national maps on Tuesday, but don’t neglect those in Idaho. They’ll have plenty to say about the state, too.

Trump 3: Mainstreaming hate


One of the things a president, and only a president in a unilateral way, can do, is to set a mood, a tone, an attitude for the country. A president able to effectively do this can have a significant effect; the president is, after all, the single most-listened-to person in the country.

Typically the presidents who have some skill at it do it to encourage a sense of optimism and confidence - Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come to mind. A president who uses that pulpit for good purposes can do some important good for the country.

And then there's Donald Trump, who has become known through his current campaign as America's foremost mainstreamer of hate.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff said of Trump, "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."

He was speaking there about an incident in the town of Forest Grove, Oregon, near his rural home, where "in the middle of a physics class at the high school one day this spring, a group of white students suddenly began jeering at their Latino classmates and chanting: “Build a wall! Build a wall!” The same white students had earlier chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Soon afterward, a student hung a homemade banner in the school reading, “Build a Wall,” prompting Latinos at area schools to stage a walkout."

It takes little imagination to draw that straight line from those (newly?) racist students directly to Donald Trump. Or to imagine how many other schools have been experiencing the same thing, coast to coast. Or how many other organizations, public and private, and for adults as well as for children, have been affected. And if this is the impact from a few months of a presidential campaign, what would happen if a President Trump, who seemingly never can get enough broadcast air time, spews this same filth day after day for four long years?

This is a diverse country. Race and ethnicity, and religion, and other elements that make us different from each other, often have provided points of tension. But for all these differences among our people the United States has not (with the partial exception of the Civil War) ever become the Balkans, because we learned how to live together. We learned how to get along, at least to a point. It's a social fabric that has been stressed and violated at times, but never ripped apart completely.

Donald Trump would need considerably less than four years to do it. And America would never be the same again. - rs

Trump 4: Dangerous snap decisions


In July, the Economist magazine opined about Donald Trump, running through many ways he already has or might damage America, but concluding with this:

"The most worrying aspect of a Trump presidency, though, is that a person with his poor self-control and flawed temperament would have to make snap decisions on national security—with the world’s most powerful army, navy and air force at his command and nuclear-launch codes at his disposal."

That was just the point First Lady Michelle Obama made days later, saying "Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military at your command, you can't make snap decisions. You can't have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well-informed."

Steady. Measured. Well-informed. Does that sound anything like Donald Trump?

That Trump has at the least a difficulty struggling with it is something he has admitted himself - not least this week at a rally in Pensacola, Florida. After a few minutes of talking, he lapsed into this:

“We’ve gotta be nice and cool,” Trump said at his last rally of the day. “Nice and cool. All right? Stay on point, Donald. Stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald.”

He closed his self-administered public pep talk by repeating the word, “Niceeee…” He hung on to it for emphasis.

That's the sound of a man desperately trying to keep from blowing up, from saying something insulting or idiotic or simply weird.

He has tremendous trouble keeping from doing that.

Watch him in his debates: For the first 20 minutes or so, he stays on message - whatever light prepping he has done is still in mind - and then he loses the plot, and wanders. He can be baited, easily; fooled, easily. And angered very, very easily.

This is a personality you want to put behind the most powerful military, most powerful governments, in the world? Who you would want two minutes away from launching nuclear missiles?

Seriously? - rs

No there there


Let’s dissect this business of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the FBI report one last time.

Yes, I know that everyone’s mind is already made up here. But it might serve some purpose to actually look at the law and see if there really is any way that she could be found guilty of anything. There are only three criminal statutes that have ever been mentioned in connection with the email allegations, and it won’t take us long to plow through the weeds and take a look. Let’s take them one at a time.

18 United States Code § 798

With the caption “Disclosure of Classified Information,” this statute is often cited as the probable criminal statute under which Secretary Clinton could be charged for mishandling the State Department emails. However, upon a simple reading, it becomes apparent that this statute is inapplicable to any of the emails discovered on the Secretary’s private server up to this time. There are three essential elements to the crime defined by his section, and Clinton’s circumstance lacks all three.

First, to constitute a crime under this section, the information that is communicated must be “classified” information. This is a word of art that is defined in the statutes. To be “classified” requires that each document be properly marked at the top and bottom of each page with a label stating the level of classification. In fact, none of the sensitive emails or their attachments were properly marked as required by law during the time the Secretary is charged with mishandling them. Proper marking is a requirement for prosecution; any subjective expectation that the information might be, or should be, or could be classified is immaterial.

Second, the subject information must actually be transmitted to an unauthorized party for a use which will jeopardize the interests of the United States. Here, all the emails with sensitive information were to or from persons within the State Department who all had appropriate clearance to send and receive classified material. There is no proof that any unauthorized person received any of these emails for an improper purpose.

Third, the Secretary must have had the specific intent to disclose the classified information to the unauthorized source for an improper purpose. This is an espionage statute, and it is a crime of specific intent. There is no evidence that the Secretary had any intent to transmit the emails to any unauthorized persons in order to jeopardize or harm the security of the country.

The base facts are not sufficient as a matter of law to fit the requirements of this statute.

18 United States Code § 793(f)

This statute provides that whoever through gross negligence causes or permits a classified item to be removed, lost or stolen, or delivered to someone not authorized to receive classified information, in violation of his trust, may be guilty of a felony. This is the only statute in the espionage area that provides that gross negligence will be sufficient for conviction, instead of requiring specific intent.

Without even considering the issue of negligence, the statute by its terms cannot be made to fit the circumstances here. It was enacted in World War I for tangible objects and documents, and has never been amended to fit electronic media. It has only been used six times, with the last being during World War II. To violate the statute requires that the classified data first be “removed” from the place where it is supposed to be located, then taken to a place where it is not supposed to be located, where it is then either “lost” or “stolen,” or then “delivered” on to an unauthorized user.

First, there is the same problem with this statute as with the general espionage statute in that none of the emails or attachments were properly marked as classified at the time they were handled by the Secretary. This means there was no “classified” information involved.

Next, none of the occurrences proclaimed in the statute fit an email. An email is not relocated by any of the email processes; it simply replicates itself onto the email server of all the addressees. Any documents involved, and the email itself, are not removed from the location where they originate and are supposed to be kept. Everything remains in its original location, where it is supposed to be. When replies or additional comments are created, nothing of the original material gets changed; the replies and additional comments are just added to the thread, and the whole stack replicates itself with everything recorded at all the locations of all the parties to whom the email is addressed. Under a plain reading of the main elements of this statute, if nothing of the items covered by the charging allegation are in any way “removed,” or “lost,” or “stolen,” or “destroyed,” no crime is committed.

The second element of this section is that the subject item, if not lost or stolen, must be delivered to someone not authorized, breaching the trust reposed in the sending individual. Even if read broadly, there is no proof or allegation in this case that any of the emails passing through Clinton’s servers were ever diverted to an unauthorized person who was not authorized to receive the data sent. Any of the emails containing sensitive information that were passed on went to addressees within the State Department who were authorized to receive classified information.

The two essential elements as contained in the statute either cannot be fit to the circumstances here, or do not apply. To make this statute fit the facts of this case would require massive reconstruction of terms by the court, which the courts are unlikely to do. In the instant case, the antiquated language just does not fit electronic mail. The base facts are not sufficient as a matter of law to fit the requirements of this statute.

On the issue of negligence, the State Department has a separate, secure email system for transmission of classified data. Classified data is not supposed to be transmitted in any fashion other than through the classified system. From a negligence standpoint, the Secretary had no reason to suspect that classified data was included in emails sent to her private email address, and therefore no reason to be aware of any duty imposed upon her with regard to that data. Clinton told the FBI she was not aware of any classified data on any of her emails, and Director Comey testified to Congress that other evidence gathered by the FBI corroborated the Secretary’s contention on this point. While negligence is a subjective finding, the lack of any evidence that Clinton was aware of any duty upon her could be deemed overwhelming.

18 United States Code § 1924

This statute makes it a felony for any agent or officer of the government who obtains classified information to knowingly remove the classified material to an unauthorized location with the intent of keeping it there. The statute runs into the same problems as the others if it is to be applied to the email of the Secretary.

First, the material on Clinton’s server was not properly marked and labeled – meaning nothing of the private emails could be considered “classified” information for purposes of prosecution under the federal law.

Second, emails are not moved from one location to another, and replicating the emails on her server did not accomplish any part of relocating or hiding or withholding or otherwise interfering with the originals of any of the data involved. The original data, in its original form, is still exactly where it started out to be. The only thing on Clinton’s private email servers are replicated copies.

Finally, the statute defines the crime to be one of specific intent. The individual must know of the classified information, and deliberately intend to secret it away into the unauthorized location, denying it to others entitled to access. All of the objective proof is otherwise here. Nothing was properly marked as classified; classified information is supposed to be contained in a completely separate email system, and there were no objective circumstances to put anyone on notice that classified information was contained in any of her private emails. The base facts are not sufficient as a matter of law to fit the requirements of this statute.


The timing was awful, the optics were wrong, and Hillary is terrible at explaining herself. The whole works has been handled with the delicacy of a meat ax. But when the smoke clears, the dust settles and everything is out on the table face up, the email escapade will eventually implode upon itself and disappear.