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Posts published in November 2016

If it isn’t broke


On our ballot this year in Idaho is HJR 5 asking whether the state Constitution should be amended to add a provision permitting the legislature to oversee agencies’ implementation of their administrative regulations. Sounds reasonable enough. What could be wrong here?

Brent Hill, senate president pro tempore, wrote a guest editorial in The Statesman recently, pitching for approval of the resolution. The good senator suggested that administrative rules in Idaho come into being through arcane procedures carried out in secret with no place for public input from the constituents.

What poppycock. Under the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act, proposed agency rules and regulations are posted or published for review, with plenty of time for anyone affected to get involved. The process provides mandatory opportunities for public participation and comment. Further, most agency boards are carefully balanced politically or by region to assure wide representation of those affected throughout the areas answering to the agency action. Any inference that these things are created by disinterested bureaucrats who put them together in the dead of night, without input from those affected and without any public participation, is total nonsense.

Even more malarkey is the notion offered by the senator that the legislative process would provide for better public participation than the administrative process. As anyone who has tried to petition the legislature on any controversial matter knows, public input at a legislative hearing is at the pure whim of the chairman; most bills go to the floor on a committee vote dictated by party caucus, without any public hearing and only minimal committee debate. They often reach the floor under suspended rules, meaning even further limitation on debate, if any at all.

The senator’s article also perked my interest because he did not present a single instance of any individual or entity suffering from the lack of this legislative authority. There were no examples of wrongs that went begging for lack of this solution, of some process that had been ignored and needed attention. With the maxim, “If it isn’t broke, why fix it?” beginning to ring in my ears, I looked a little deeper.

Sure enough, there are already laws on the books that say exactly what the proposed resolution would provide, only more precisely and with a great deal of procedural machinery. Idaho Code §§ 67-5223 and 67-5291, for example, provide for legislative review of all rule making actions taken by administrative agencies in Idaho, with specific provisions for carrying out the oversight both upon the initial adoption of the administrative action and on a year to year basis thereafter. Further, the authority of the legislature to act under these statutes in this area of ensuring that the legislative intent is carried out has been specifically upheld and approved by the Idaho Supreme Court.

But the law is just hanging by a thread, the argument goes, for some future legislature may decide to repeal or revise the existing legislation, or some future court could overturn the existing case in the blink of an eye. By putting the thing into the Constitution, this would prevent future legislatures or some future court from tinkering with it.

Ignore the practical absurdity of the argument that some future legislature might, for no reason, up and repeal a set of laws that have been in place for close to 50 years, being constantly upgraded and kept current with modernizing amendments right up to the 2014 legislature. Consider instead, if it does come up, that this is exactly the sort of decision that we expect the future legislature to be able to handle. We expect our legislature to constantly survey and improve upon the laws to make sure they continue to serve the purposes for which they are intended, and when no longer needed, we fully expect the legislature to act and toss them out.

What is it about this particular power that makes it so important that it needs to be in the Constitution? What is wrong with leaving the whole works to the legislature, with recourse to the courts where needed, as we have done for the last 124 years? If something comes up that we have not thought about here, why would we want to tie the hands of our future legislators? Is there something we are missing here?

Aha – there it is, in the last line of the proposal. The proposed amendment in HJR 5 says any action by the legislature under this new power would not be subject to gubernatorial veto. It would grant constitutional power to alter or amend any administrative action by a veto proof action that the governor could not interfere with and the courts could not touch.

This would make the legislature into a super power over all administrative agencies in the government, eviscerating the concept of balanced branches of government, and elevating the legislature above the executive branch entirely.

Here is the obvious reason this unconscionable power grab is so strongly opposed by the Governor, the Attorney General, most of the members of the bar, and a by good measure of editorial writers throughout the state. Which presents a very good reason why it should be rejected by the rest of us in November.

Trump 7: On their knees


In pursuing his seeming goal of insulting as many people as possible, Donald Trump may have found some efficiencies: Every time he insults women, he trashes more than half of all human beings all at once. Could that help explain why he does it so often?

After all this time, after all these cases, probably there's no need to run through all the occasions when Trump has insulted women. There's not enough room around here to cover all the cases, anyway. But to recap a few of the highlights:

Of women generally, he said, "You have to treat 'em like shit".

In a 1991 interview with Esquire, he said “It doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass” from an interview with Esquire, 1991

He said he refused to take care of his children, contending that husbands who change diapers are “acting like the wife”/

Trump told a female contestant on his old show Celebrity Apprentice, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees”.

Maybe the best-known such case came when at the first Republican primary debate in August 2015, Fox News' Megyn Kelly reminded him: “You have called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’, and ‘disgusting animals.” Trump's response was to laugh it off, saying he doesn't “have the time for total political correctness.” He later described her as a “bimbo”.

He said giving your wife “negotiable assets” is a terrible mistake. “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?” Trump is quoted as saying of his then-wife in a 1990 Vanity Fair piece.

In his 2006 book Trump 101: The Way to Success, Trump wrote: “Beauty and elegance, whether in a woman, a building, or a work of art, is not just superficial or something pretty to see.”
Tweet from May 7, 2013: 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these genuises expect when they put men & women together?

When a lawyer facing Trump in 2011 asked for a break to pump breastmilk for her infant daughter, The Donald reacted very poorly. “He got up, his face got red, he shook his finger at me and he screamed, ‘You’re disgusting, you’re disgusting,’ and he ran out of there,” attorney Elizabeth Beck told CNN. Trump’s attorney does not dispute that his client called Beck “disgusting.”

In a way, none of these statements are terribly important, suggestive though they may be. What they're very important for is telling us the mindset of a would-be president. And that's plenty scary. - rs

To ponder


ADA COUNTY–We have been informed that two former “operations managers” at Ada County (mostly the landfill duties) have retired, but are back at work as consultants or contractors. One has reportedly been hired by a temp agency which charges the county more than $100 an hour. Seems like it would be cheaper to eliminate the middle man on an insider trade.

ST. LUKE’S PURCHASE–If Saint Luke’s is able to dodge the taxes on their purchase of the old M-K Plaza 23 plus acres it will cost taxpayers well over $600,000 in lost revenue. Seems to us that it is time to eliminate the tax-exempt non-profit status of an outfit that is able to milk the government and insurance companies out of so many millions of dollars and pay such high wages to the medical people they buy.

DOWNTOWN–With the completion of the publicly funded foundation of the Gardner project (underground bus station) there has been an avalanche of publicity, but no mention about the apparent lack of a simple escalator. Bike lockers and we assume an elevator, but no moving stairs. Even the mall has an escalator!

The Greater Boise Auditorium District is reveling in the new addition which will cost about $23 million with no public vote on the debt.

Nice place, but with the new building, Aspen Apartments, Simplot’s JUMP and Hq, we noticed a distinct lack of trees. In fact, from the new area all you can see looking south and west is glass, metal, and brick. Stand in the treeless “Grove” and you could easily be in L.A. San Diego, or Atlanta.

TRAFFIC–Seems like everyone has a traffic horror story over coffee these days. Rude, inattentive texting, aggressive driving.

SINGLE CAR ACCIDENTS–We get the reports from ISP on all the fatals and major mishaps statewide. There is an inordinate number of single vehicle accidents and the report is often the same: “The driver left the right side of the road, overcorrected and a) rolled over, b) crossed the median, c) entered the oncoming lane and crashed head-on. Seems like a no brainer: playing with an electronic device or TEXTING!!

Trump 8: The unfree press


Yes, our news media is not passing through 2016 festooned by medallions of glory. Evidence point number one for that propositions is a statement from February by Leslie Moonves, chief executive officer at CBS, about the Donald Trump-led circus that had become the campaign for president: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS ... the money's rolling in and this is fun." No presidential candidate in history has benefitted like Trump from the immense amount of free coverage he has received - estimated about six months ago to have been worth (by that point) more than $2 billion.

Hard to remember how broadcasters once spoke of television as operating in, gulp, the public interest. Circuses and ratings are all that matter now.

In some quarters. In others, actual journalism still manages to break through and make itself felt. And for every clod-minded misstep (to take the most recent example, the way so many in the media fell for last weekend's FBI non-statement on non-Hillary Clinton e-mails), others manage to come up with serious reporting.

Which Donald Trump cannot stand. The Washington Post has probably been the single most effective investigator of the endless issues and problems associated with Trump, and the Trump campaign's response (not one normal in politics, it should be noted) was to ban the paper from his campaign. Post editor Marty Baron called that "nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press".

Actually, Trump may have done the press, and those of us who depend on it for information, something of a favor: By kicking them out, he forced them to rely on serious shoe-leather investigation like the great pieces on Trump finances by reporter David Fahrenthold, rather than "insider" pablum.

But there's a lot more to Trump's war on the press than playing games at rallies. (Where, by the way, he's only barely stopped short of siccing ramped-up-for-violence crowds on the penned-up reporter.) He has, for example, said that he plans to go after Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post (as well as the founder of, should he be elected. This candidate well known for personal vendettas, who gets out of control in pursuit of them, will be all over the news media if he wins.

If that only meant some heat on the top players, our concern might not be so great. But it would mean much more.

As first-amendment attorney Marc J. Randazza said in an opinion piece early this year, "Donald Trump has said a lot of strange things - some funny, some creepy, but none scarier than what he said on Friday: that if he is elected president, he will "open up our libel laws" to make it easier to sue the media and "win lots of money." No matter what you may think about his other policy ideas, if he keeps this promise, we won't be able to effectively express dissent against anything else he might want to do. We can fight any bad policy if we have a robust First Amendment."

Writer Matthew Yglesias sums it up, "His recent anti-media tirades have, again, featured the suggestion that he’s not just complaining but would genuinely like to subject the press to an unconstitutional censorship regime."

To which Ezra Klein added, "In my experience, it goes yet deeper than this. Quietly, privately, political reporters wonder if Trump is a threat to them personally — if he were president, would he use the powers of the office to retaliate against them personally if he didn’t like their coverage of his administration? How certain are they that their taxes are really in order? How sure are they that a surveillance state controlled by Trump would tap their phones and watch their emails for leverage?"

The America a Donald Trump would lead is not the America we know. - rs