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Posts published in February 2017

Un-representative

rainey

REPRESENTATIVE:
“a: Standing or acting for another through
delegated authority;”
“b: ...(c)onstituting a government in which the many
are represented by persons chosen...by election”

It’s no secret an “un-representative” majority of the U.S. Congress doesn’t give two hoots in Hell about what the constituency thinks or expects from their Potomac residency. Despite what the good folks at Merriam-Webster have to say.

That comes as no surprise. But, never has it been so brazenly and gutlessly demonstrated as in recent weeks as the most intellectually vacant and outrageously unfit nominees for a President’s Cabinet were paraded before congressional committees.

Even the most unbiased observer would have to admit the more egregious examples of un-representative votes in those hearings came from Republicans far more than Democrats. In overwhelming numbers, folks at home - voters who elected the un-representatives - told them how they felt on one nominee after another. And, with a consistency rarely found in politics, those elected “un-representatives” - Republicans mostly - ignored them.

It’s widely accepted that, when considering a new President’s appointees, a lot of latitude is given to the Chief Executive to have the crew he wants. Often, this means swallowing hard because of a nominee’s tenuous talents to serve in a particular post. But this batch! Front to back - top to bottom - monied fools whose “leadership” abilities stopped far short of the vaguest qualifications. One, in fact, didn’t know for two days after appointment what his new job would be - believing it was to travel the world to promote this country’s oil and gas industries. A Dallas reporter had to “‘splain it” to him.

But un-representative members of Congress bellied up to the bar to approve everyone that reached the Senate floor.

Idaho had to look no further than Sens. Risch and Crapo to find what voters wanted them to do wasn’t worth a damn. Neither would meet with constituents - wouldn’t talk to them at district offices - wouldn’t come to the phone or return emails. In fact, neither would even make public what the public said about the list of unqualified nominees. Finally, one clerk in Crapo’s employ let slip that opposition to the Dept. Of Education chief was over 95%! Still, you know who ol’ Mike confirmed. Yep, he went with the 5%.

In state after state - district after district - across the nation, members of Congress “holed up.” Wouldn’t meet - wouldn’t talk - wouldn’t be interviewed - wouldn’t answer mail or phones. Some locked office doors - doors voters pay for in federal buildings we own. It was in your face. Our face. Locked doors and unanswered phones.

One flat out lie came from un-Rep. Cathy McMorriss Rogers, the highest ranking woman in the GOP in the House whose home office is in Spokane. She told voters she’d meet last week but only two at a time since the fire marshal had written her that was the most people that could be in her office at once. “Safety,” you know. Except he didn’t write. In fact, he said her office could “safely” handle 30 people.

Two reasons for this chicken-heartedness, I think. First, lobbyists with pockets full of money. Oil and gas people turned on all the money spigots for the new EPA chief, for example. Big bucks flooded in to D.C.. Textbook publishers and private charter school companies trucked in loads of greenbacks for the most unqualified billionaire ever to buy the Secretary of Education’s job. And so it went. Voices of greed outweighed voices of voters and filthy lucre supplanted “the right thing to do.”

Second, our un-representatives - mostly Republican - are scared to death of the President. Terrified of retribution - of having a primary opponent at home - of having their continued employment ended by a guy not worthy of his own elected position. They lack the guts to do their jobs for fear they’ll be violently ripped from the public trough in an act of Trump pique.

It’s doubtful the dollars will stop rolling in. So, there’ll likely be that obstacle between voters and members of Congress until that Citizens United decision is overturned. But, the fear factor may soon be ended. Especially in the Senate. When six or eight members - enough to sway the balance of voting - decide to do what’s right, Trump/Bannon will cease to be an employment or career threat. Then we may begin to see some semblance of independence.

There’s also the possibility a numbers/reality change in that same Senate could lead to a vacancy in the White House. You can already get betting odds in Vegas and Reno on impeachment. And those odds are slipping closer to 50-50 as we go along.

However all that may turn out, there’s a lesson here we voters must not forget. While 2018 is still a ways off - and some members won’t be up for re-election even then - we must remember who the un-representatives are. We need to clearly recall that, when we needed them to do the job we gave them, they didn’t show up. When we, in large numbers, needed to talk to them about what we wanted, they locked their doors and took their phones off the hook.

We were paying them to do their jobs. Others paid them not to.

Idaho Briefing – February 20

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 6. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Bureau of Land Management Challis Field Office and U.S. Forest Service Salmon-Challis National Forest are developing a draft plan for the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness and are soliciting public comments.

Citing the stress on many rural county budgets, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined 78 of their colleagues in sending a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the Office of Management and Budget calling on it to provide funding for the Secure Rural Schools program in the President’s upcoming budget request that will be submitted to Congress.

The Sawtooth National Forest is soliciting public comment in response to a proposal by the City of Ketchum, the City of Sun Valley, the City of Stanley, Blaine County, and the Idaho Conservation League to establish the ‘Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve’ on both public and private lands within an area that includes the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, portions of the Ketchum Ranger District, and the cities of Stanley, Ketchum, and Sun Valley.

The State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, an innovative regulatory improvement program created under the States First Initiative by two state-based organizations, finds Idaho’s oil and gas regulatory structure to be mostly in line with the regulatory practices of other oil and gas producing states, and provides guidance for Idaho as its regulation of oil and gas exploration, drilling and production continues to evolve.

Senator Jim Risch, chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, released the following statement regarding the Senate confirmation of Linda E. McMahon to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

(photo/Homestead Ministries, the Boise Rescue Mission and The Ambrose School in Meridian at their Feed the Need event on February 10. This event incorporates crops grown in the Pacific Northwest and packaged by 500 students in one day. (photo/Governor Otter)

Water digest – week of February 20

Water rights weekly report for January 9. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

A special master on February 14 sided with Georgia in its dispute with Georgia over water rights in the Apalachicola River, Chattahoochee River and Flint River.

Despite objections from many water suppliers that drought conditions have ended, the State Water Resources Control Board this week voted unanimously to extend emergency water conservation regulations throughout California.

Dropping water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana following the development of dams and plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo Valley threaten the livelihoods of half a million indigenous people in Ethiopia and Kenya, Human Rights Watch said on February 14.

The Idaho Senate has voted to confirm four members of the Idaho Water Resource Board who were reappointed to new four-year terms by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. Idaho Water Resource Board Chairman Roger Chase of Pocatello was confirmed for a third term; Albert Barker, a Boise attorney, was confirmed for a second term; Vince Alberdi of Kimberly, retired, was confirmed for a third term; and John “Bert” Stevenson of Rupert, retired, was confirmed for a second term.

A measure that would have let Wyoming state agencies negotiate for water rights in Lake DeSmet failed on February 15 in the state Senate.

Behind ‘enemy of the people’

stapiluslogo1

Lest Donald Trump's use of the phrase "enemy of the American people" - to describe the news media - be dismissed as just another rhetorical flights by an incoherent president, put it into some context.

The phrase has a long and deeply chilling history.

First, what he said on Friday, was wrapped in a criticism (vague and unspecific, which is not unusual) of the news media. Presidential complaints about news organizations is nothing new; that goes back all the way to Washington, with examples available from all or nearly all presidents since. Richard Nixon famously considered the press his "enemy."

The phrase "enemy of the people" is something different, and far more toxic. And if there's one "enemy of the people" out there, other similar designations won't be far behind.

The phrase was used in ancient Rome, though there it tended to be applied to one person, and to one person in power (in the best documented case, by the Roman Senate of Nero).

The French Revolution made significant use of the phrase, this time to apply to categories of people, as in this 1793 quote from Maximilien Robespierre: "The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death".

Vladimir Lenin adopted the usage during and after the Russian Revolution. From Wikipedia: "The Soviet Union made extensive use of the term (Russian language: враг народа, "vrag naroda"), as it fit well with the idea that the people were in control. The term was used by Vladimir Lenin after coming to power, as early as in the decree of 28 November 1917: 'all leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the revolutionary court.' ... An enemy of the people could be imprisoned, expelled or executed, and lose their property to confiscation. Close relatives of enemies of the people were labeled as 'traitor of Motherland family members' and prosecuted."

What Lenin did, his successor Josef Stalin did more. During his long reign in the Soviet Union, "enemy of the people" designations got a massive workout, covering dozens of categories of people - anyone, really, Stalin didn't like, whether or not they were a threat to him. And as University of Pennsylvania professor Mitchell Orenstein notes, "What it basically meant was a death sentence. ... The formula 'enemy of the people' was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals."

Mao Zedong picked the lesson for China too. There, as Chinese writer Li Yuan pointed out, “every dissenting voice was ‘the enemy of the people’ under Mao.” People so designated got under Mao about the same as their counterparts in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Trump surely is no great student of history, but some of the people around him have looked into some these precedential areas enough to understand the meaning of the phrase. (Top presidential advisor Steve Bannon was quoted as saying in 2013, "I'm a Leninist." Some context for the phrase "enemy of the people" would undoubtedly be familiar to him.)

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein tweeted after the Trump statement: "The most dangerous 'enemy of the people' is presidential lying - always. Attacks on press by Donald Trump more treacherous than Nixon's." Unlike Nixon's, which were dismissed widely as personal animus, this new attack by a president easily could lead to murders to journalists, even aside from direct state action. (In mirror image to the scene in Russia under its latest autocrat, another Vladimir.)

One addition to that is merited: What a president, or other national leader, does can be even more dangerous than what they say.

Can you hear me now?

stapiluslogo1

After describing in a recent column annoying cell phone service gaps in the Idaho Statehouse, the Lewiston Tribune’s William Spence remarked how that serves as a metaphor for this:

“I can’t count the number of hearings I’ve attended where the testimony is skewed entirely one way or the other and the committee votes the opposite way.”

In my days covering the legislature years ago, that happened seldom. If the testimony was strongly weighted in one direction, that ordinarily was how the committee would vote. Apparently not so much these days.

I crowdsourced the question of whether Spence was right. The crowd told me that he was.

The legislative examples cited most were guns on campus, Medicaid expansion and “add the words.” Large crowds showed in support of the the latter two and against the first; few people countered; the committees involved wasted little time siding with the few. (They did at least, it should be said, hear out the public first.)

Holli Woodings, a former state representative, offered: “Guns on campus. I listened to an entire day of testimony against it, and still was in the committee minority voting nay. There were two, maybe three folks who testified in favor, and dozens against, including law enforcement, educators, students, administration, and others who actually had a stake.” The proposal won approval.

Activist Donna Yule: “Happens all the time in the Idaho statehouse. It's extremely frustrating to all the people who take the time to testify. I've come to the conclusion that most of the GOP Chairs of the committees already have their minds made up, and they care more about their base voters than the people of Idaho. But I still think the testimony matters. Even though they ignore the people testifying, it still makes them uncomfortable, and maybe eventually the people will get angry enough to rise up against them and vote in some new people who WILL listen.”

Do your representatives listen? Actually listen, or just sit there with minds made up?

Idaho’s United States senators have been barraged with comments and protesters in recent weeks, but there’s been little response from them.

After Senator Mike Crapo’s office rebuffed media requests to find out how Idahoans calling in on Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos stood, a staffer let slip to the Payette County commissioners: “DeVos is the one we’re hearing the most about … and I think 95 percent are against her.” Crapo, and fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch, voted for DeVos’ confirmation, and said little or nothing about what they were hearing from back home.

Okay. It’s possible not every protesting call or visit came from a constituent (though I’d bet the great bulk of them did). It isn’t the job of a representative to vote in the popular direction every time. Yes, it’s those in opposition who usually are most motivated to step up, more than those in support. Sometimes the majority is wrong; it happens.

But when this kind of dissonance happens as often as it seems to (and yes, Idaho is not alone in this), something is wrong.

In saying this, I’m looking most directly at the voters. Are you not being listened to? Are your concerns not being met? Are your representatives not doing what you want them to do?

If you think so, then: Are you getting organized and out to the polls? That’s the message that will be heard without a doubt.

The biggest deficit

schmidt

Idaho conservatives are proud that the state runs a balanced budget and doesn’t do deficit spending like “the Feds”. But I have long maintained we do sustain deficit spending in three areas, we just don’t put these figures on the balance sheet, so they are easy to ignore.

Our infrastructure maintenance deficit for just our roads and bridges amounts to about $190M a year; further, deferred maintenance on state owned buildings adds another $500M, not annualized. I don’t consider it a conservative value to neglect what you own.

The second running deficit not on a balance sheet is the constitutionally required investment in public education. Governor Otter even acknowledged we weren’t sustaining this obligation a couple years back, and we are paying the costs of this deficit in our low wages. The symmetry of Idaho being 49th in the nation in education spending and 50th in average household wages is not just a coincidence.

But two articles in our local paper this week highlighted the third area where we run a deficit: governance. In two separate incidents, two employees of different small water or sewer districts have been charged with misuse of public funds. One seemed a pretty clear case of fingers in the cash drawer, but the other made me think of a slowly crumbling stone wall, falling down out of neglect.

The commissioners of these small districts are elected officials, thus responsible to their constituents. They should have procedures in place to maintain the integrity of entrusted funds. Such procedures require work and deserve reward. But I doubt the small towns have many citizens clamoring for this thankless responsibility. I know how hard it is to get people to run for school boards, but think what happens to institutions that aren’t supported: they crumble.

One of the employees charged with misuse had been the treasurer for 16 years, after all the other board members resigned. She collected payments in a jar by the register in the small town’s café. She employed her son to do maintenance work because she couldn’t physically do it at the age of 80.

I am hearing all the time from folks in our rural areas how things would be better if “the guvmint would just get out of our business”.

This sentiment ignores the fact that we, the people are our government. And if you have an institution you rely on be it water from the tap, the waste you flush, the power in the socket, the roads or the schools, if you aren’t willing to contribute something, your valuable time or some of your wealth or income to that institution, it will crumble. But even more insidious is the growing belief that our elected officials are all corrupt or incompetent or self-serving. When or if this proves true, prosecution is in order. But if we citizens have failed to invest in our civic duty and we let the institutions we value degrade, there is some blame looking back at us in the mirror.

Finally, if you have a neighbor who does donate some of their time to city council or cemetery district service, thank them and maybe wonder what they deserve for such effort besides your generous gratitude. If you expect such service for free, you will probably get what you pay for, maybe worse.

Public service deserves our respect, our vigilance and our gratitude. It is a debt we owe.

The harm in judge bashing

jones

Please welcome our new columnist - Jim Jones, former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice and a former Idaho attorney general.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch expressed what many judges around the country were likely thinking when he commented that the President’s criticism of judges and courts was “demoralizing” and “disheartening” to the judiciary.

Whether such comments were rehearsed or spontaneous, they were on the mark. Not that judges have tender feelings - they often are criticized by unsophisticated litigants who lose in court. The disparaging criticism here came from the chief executive of our country, a person who has personally resorted to the courts of this country thousands of times to seek redress for perceived grievances.

Our system of justice is unrivaled in the world. One reason the United States became such an economic powerhouse is that we have a court system that is honest and even-handed. Litigants know that they will be listened to and treated fairly. Not every judge is perfect but the overwhelming majority are dedicated to the rule of law, both in state and federal courts.

The U.S. District Judge in Seattle who ruled first on the travel ban case was not a “so-called” judge. He was appointed by former President George Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The Ninth Circuit Court panel that heard the case on appeal acted as an appellate court should - it reviewed the record carefully and asked searching questions of both sides. The hearing was not “disgraceful” but conducted with fairness and dignity. The problem for the Government was that it provided no factual basis to support the ban, relying instead on the mantra that its decision could not be reviewed.

That argument might well prevail in Russia, where Putin gets everything he wants from his courts. It does not work so well in a country where wise founding fathers set up a system of checks and balances to keep government from overreaching. As part of that system, three co-equal branches of government were established - the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. It is the responsibility of the judicial branch to call the balls and strikes when executive action is challenged as being in violation of statutes or the Constitution. This has occurred many times over the years in previous administrations.

It is fair game for a president or governor to criticize a court decision. But lambasting judges or courts for the decision is hurtful to the integrity of the judicial branch. Judges are ethically limited from speaking out to explain or justify a decision or to defend themselves against accusations made by disgruntled litigants. Unfair attacks on judges or the court system as a whole undermine public confidence in the courts.

I served 12 years on the Idaho Supreme Court and was impressed with the work of judges throughout the State--magistrate judges, district judges and appellate judges. I can’t recall any instance where a colleague made a decision based on ideology or personal beliefs. I can recall numbers of times when each of us decided a case contrary to our personal beliefs in order to be true to the law. That happens every day throughout the country. Our legal system is not “broken,’ or “disgraceful,”or “politically motivated.” Our court system is dedicated to the rule of law and will remain so unless it is eroded away by uninformed and unfair charges.

Three of the members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation are lawyers and members of the Idaho State Bar. They should step forward to defend the integrity of the courts and judges.

Jim Jones served as a Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court from 2005 through 2016.

Where the statesmen?

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At the risk of dating myself some readers may recall an old folk song by Pete Seeger made more famous by the Peter, Paul and Mary trio whose first line is “Where have all the flowers gone/Long-time passing?/Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?” It is a poignant plea for something lost which never will be recovered.

Sometimes on weekends, my wife and I prowl through thrift stores and old bookstores. Recently, while cruising through a thrift place in Kellogg, I came across a tear sheet of a page from the Idaho Statesman of September 1, 1912. The tear sheet was full page write up by the Statesman’s Washington, D.C. News bureau on the considerable legislative accomplishments of “the Lion of Idaho,” Senator William E. Borah, during the five plus years he had served in the Senate.

The old Pete Seeger song ran through my mind with a slight variation in the words: “Where have Idaho’s senators gone/Long time passing?/Where have the statesman gone/Long time ago?”

Admittedly, the full page article was a “puff piece” so glowing was the praise. It was clearly slanted with quotes from other senators on what an energetic dynamo the Idaho senator was.

Borah had been chosen by the Idaho Legislature to take a vacant senate seat in March of 1907. The 17th amendment to the Constitution changing senators’ elections to a popular vote had yet to be enacted. The Statesman article was also clearly signaling that the paper would be supporting Borah’s bid for a second term, which Borah received from the Idaho Legislature in early January of 1913.

Here are two quotes from the article. As you read ask yourself if you have ever heard anything similar said about Idaho’s two current senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch.

From the Statesman of September 1, 1912:

“A review of the Congressional Record for the past few years shows that no member of either branch of congress has been more successful than Senator Borah of Idaho in securing the enactment of legislation, and important legislation at that.”

Another quote:

“So successful has Senator Borah been with his bills of late that it is a matter of comment among senators. Not long before adjournment, one of the senate leaders, who has been in public life for nearly thirty years, remarked to some of his colleagues that “Senator Borah is the most successful man in charge of a bill that has been in the senate since I have been a member of that body.”

Few of the issues were simple or easy. Borah’s list of legislation passed included the three-year homestead law, the children’s bureau law, the eight-hour workday law, and the law giving early patent for homesteaders on government reclamation projects.

Borah also took pride in defeating an Alaskan government bill which would have denied Alaskans any voice in their government. He led the charge for an alternative bill which provided a great degree of self-government. He also strongly supported passage of the 17th and 19th amendments which provided for the direct election of senators and the vote for women.

Though a staunch Republican, Borah was a true progressive. History notes his opposition to the League of Nations and his isolationist views, which, coupled with his reputation for great oratory, would have one think he was more of a show horse.

Aside from the fact that his favorite form of exercise was horse-back riding early each morning through Rock Creek Park, Borah was clearly a work horse.

By all accounts a decent, honest, hard-working senator and loyal to his friends the only blemish on his distinguished record was a rumored affair with Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who was married to the then House Speaker Nicholas Longworth (a notorious rake himself). The affair produced a daughter and the story is the Speaker vetoed naming the daughter Deborah (as in de-borah). Instead she was named Paulina (and nicknamed Aurora Borah Alice) and sadly took her life at age 30.

Borah collapsed and died in 1940 at age 74. His widow, Mary McConnell (herself the daughter of a former Idaho governor and senator), survived him by 36 years, passing away in 1976 at the age of 106.

Some 77 years later Borah is still remembered in Idaho along with his progressive record of accomplishments.

I have a challenge for readers: Name one piece of legislation today you can attribute to Senators Crapo or Risch. They hold the two safest seats in the United States Senate. Senator Crapo has just been re-elected to his fourth term, which when completed will tie him with Frank Church for the second longest tenure. He could go on and perhaps break Borah’s record of 33 years. Thus, he still has time to make a mark.

Right now, though, neither he nor Risch are going to be remembered by history for anything other than warming the seats. I wish it were otherwise.

“Where have the Statesmen gone/Long time passing?”

Full of sound and fury

mckee

Almost completely overshadowed by the immigration fiasco, Trump released an executive order last week that so far has drawn very little comment. It is an order to the Secretary of Defense which Trump claims will launch the “great rebuilding of the armed forces” that he promised in one of his bumper-sticker policy statements during the campaign.

It does no such thing. The order is, in fact, an utter waste of time that will accomplish nothing.

First, the order directs General Mattis to conduct a 30 day review of the readiness of the armed forces to combat ISIS. The Secretary does not need an order, nor does he need 30 days, to come up with any readiness report on the capability of the military to combat ISIS. As anybody with even a modicum of familiarity with military operations would know, such a report is already prepared in excruciating detail by every unit in every command every single day, with a comprehensive consolidation placed on the Secretary’s desk, and probably included in the President’s daily briefing – if he know what to look for. Asking the Secretary to prepare a report on this subject is merely asking the Secretary to read and summarize the reports that are already under everyone’s nose. It is an indication that Trump does not know any better, and worse, does not have anybody on his staff that he can turn to before putting his foot in his mouth.

Second, the order directs the Secretary of Defense to come up with a plan to rebuild the military in 60 days. In fact, there is a precondition that has to happen first before any plan can be prepared – whether in 60 days or 600 days. The President has to tell General Mattis how much money he can spend.

The blunt facts are that the combined troop levels of all forces of the U.S. military have been reduced from a high of 556,000 in fiscal 2011 to 490,000 in fiscal 2015. The figure is heading toward 450,000 or perhaps even 420,000 by 2019. The reductions are all due almost entirely to the sequester of funds mandated by the Budget Control Act passed at the insistence of the Republican Congress in 2011.

A thorough study that examined the military from the end of WWII was completed in 2010. A Defense Strategic Guidance was based on that study, released in 2012. Under the DSG, the first mission of the military was defeating terrorism through counter terrorism and irregular warfare. The second mission was to deter and defeat aggression by any potential adversary in conventional warfare. It is hugely important that this second mission statement no longer demanded maintaining two or more large scale operations under conventional warfare as necessary to the mission of U.S. forces. The land wars of Korea and WWII, and what the United States had accomplished in WWII in defeating both Germany and Japan were no longer as relevant under the expectations of modern warfare. The change in mission was a crossroads for Obama. His hand after that date was guided by the differences in mission and differences in expectations expressed in that release.

What Obama has been trending towards was to live within the means dictated by the Budget Control Act. This would entail the acceptance of a reduction in standing forces, a reduced ability to sustain large scale combat operations for any length of time, and increased reliance upon allies and coalition operations. The “leading from behind” pejorative arose from Obama’s recognition that the U.S. could not always expect to go into hotspots first and heaviest; sometimes it was more prudent to take a supporting role and allow an ally to lead the way. Further, that the time may have come for the United States to pick its battles, and not respond automatically with military force anywhere in the world anytime an international event was touched off, without assurances of allied support going in.

This means that before the Secretary of Defense should be expected to come up with any plan on alternatives to improve readiness in the military, someone has to answer this questions: (a) must the Secretary work within the budget constraints demanded by the BCA, or (b) may the Secretary expect more funds for defense, and therefore a change in the basic approach? One ought not to need a separate study to choose option (a) or (b) as presented here.

Finally, the executive order directs the Secretary of Defense to work with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to revise the funding requests. But this directive is the wrong way around. Asking the military to come up with what it wants before the President has established limitations on what it can spend is like expecting some parents to rely upon their five year old’s letter to Santa Claus to set their budget for Christmas. This is just plain not the way it is supposed to happen.

Even with the budget reductions to date we still spend more than the next eight countries of the world combined on our military and its operations. We spent close to $600 billion on defense in 2015, while China spent around 1/3 and Russia 1/10 of that amount. By all measures, we still have the strongest military force ever assembled. If Trump wants a larger military than the existing budget will allow, he must be the one to declare it so. He has yet to tip his hand on what he intends in this area, but until he does, his directions to the Secretary of Defense are pointless.

The upshot here is that this executive order as written is pure malarky. A piece of paper to assuage Trump’s base that he is acting on a campaign promise, and has good intentions, but that, in fact, is otherwise worthless. It is, in the word of the Bard, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!”

Eyes tight shut

mckee

The 9th Circuit opinion was a complete rout.

Trump lost on every single point raised. Further, it was a unanimous opinion of the three-judge panel, leaving no room to maneuver.

The application for an emergency order was denied outright, leaving the lower court’s full temporary restraining order in place, which stopped completely all aspects of Trump’s executive order on immigration practices.

The cognoscenti are having a field day trying to predict what Trump will do next. Most predict that he will not take the obvious and logical step of pulling the executive order back and starting over. Everyone who has touched this thing concedes that if carefully drafted, an order could be entered which would achieve the national security objectives within Constitutional mandates.

Instead, the overwhelming consensus is that Trump, with eyes tight shut and refusing to listen to anyone other than those who agree with him, will continue to defend the sloppy, poorly drafted hodge-podge existing order to the bitter end. And so it goes.

The one person who gained the most out of all this is the right Honorable James L. Robart, that usually unsung trencher from the district court bench who will now and forever proudly carry the Presidential sobriquet of the “So Called Judge,” and upon whom the appellate court rewarded with that rare and most revered of instruments – a copper plated, gold starred, four cornered affirmance suitable for framing that kicked everybody’s ass in sight except his.

Well done, Judge James!