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Posts published in July 2017

Changes near and far

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In a state legislature of 105 people, the shift or departure of only a few key people can make a big difference. And with a couple of recent announcements, the Idaho Legislature may change in the next couple of years more than it has in upwards of a decade.

The majority leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives has been remarkably stable - static? - for a long time; the players hardly ever change. In this millennium, the Senate has had but two top leaders (pro tems) - longevity unprecedented in the Idaho Senate’s history. The position of Senate majority leader has been even more stable: Since 2003, that job has been held by Idaho Falls Senator Bart Davis. Next session, assuming his (highly likely) confirmation by the U.S. Senate, he will leave to become Idaho’s U.S. attorney.

That means a shift in Senate leadership, and depending on how that goes the majority caucus could wind up sounding more ideological than it has. Davis has been a cooler personality, and has been something of a cooling factor in the Senate. With his departure, that governor may be gone, or at least be diminished.

Last week came another major change in a legislative long-timer when Senator Shawn Keough of Sandpoint announced her legislative retirement. She is co-chair of the legislature’s budget-writing panel (the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee), and while she’s relatively new to the chairmanship, she was co-chair for a long time before. (Keough is in her 11th term in the Senate.) With the prospective retirement next year as well of the veteran House co-chair, Maxine Bell of Jerome, the budget committee will see some significant leadership shifts in the 2019 session.

The budget panel long has been a place for the ideological and the pragmatic to do battle - there’s never a place better to do that than on a field of money. For years, and for most of its history, JFAC has been run primarily by pragmatists. (Dean Cameron, now the state director of the Department of Insurance, was for many years Keough’s predecessor at Senate Finance.) But while the chairmanship of JFAC usually goes to the next most senior member, you can never be entirely sure of that.

And chairmanships, like other committee memberships, are determined by the Senate and House leaders. The departure of Davis in the Senate could unleash some pent-up agitation and frustration, and the possibility of serious leadership contests after the next election, of a sort more intense than the Statehouse has seen in quite a few years, is a live possibility.

And there’s one more change coming around the bend: A new Idaho governor, after a dozen years.

Probably a Brad Little governorship would not in itself lead to drastic changes at the Legislature. However, a win by U.S. Representative Raul Labrador (himself a former Idaho House member) or businessman Tommy Ahlquist could have all kinds of impacts. If one of them wins the Republican nomination many Republicans, including many legislative Republicans, are likely to read that as an overturning of the GOP establishment. And that in turn could accelerate leadership challenges and contests unlike any Idaho has seen for a while.

Things are shaking up.

Trump to Putin: I’m your puppet

richardson

I admire John McCain for his military service to our country but I find his political behavior extremely disappointing. Although McCain is a frequent and outspoken critic of Trump’s abhorrent conduct, he remains a reliable supporter of Trump’s agenda. McCain leads us to think he will call out the president once and for all, and then – at the last moment – scurries back into the party fold, unwilling to draw any line in the GOP sand.

But McCain has been consistently right on one point that bears special focus in light of recent events: Vladimir Putin is a thug and a murderer.

When Trump nominated Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state, McCain critically noted that Tillerson had received Russia’s “Order of Friendship,” award, given to foreign nationals who promote relations with Russia, directly from Vladimir Putin. Tillerson received the award after signing deals with the state-owned Russian oil company to drill in the Arctic. McCain said, “I would never accept an award from Vladimir Putin because then you . . . give some credence and credibility to this butcher, this KGB agent. . . .”
Indeed, in Putin’s Russia, political opponents – those who aren’t fortunate enough to be exiled for decades to Siberian work camps – are simply murdered. There is no concept of minority rights. The territory of neighboring countries is forcefully annexed; and brutal dictators, like Syria’s Bashar Assad, enjoy Russian military support.

Trump’s “bromance” with Putin has long been troubling. Last year, when Joe Scarborough confronted Trump about Putins’s extensive record of atrocities, Trump’s answer was chilling: “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.” He added, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader.”

Now, after his obsequious conduct at the G-20 meeting, Trump has shown himself to be much more than Putin’s fanboy: He is Putin’s puppet, an apologist for the Kremlin.

An American president does not say he is “honored” to meet a foreign despot whose hands are dripping with innocent blood. An American president does not denounce another American president and disparage the American media on foreign soil. An American president does not discredit the unanimous findings of American intelligence agencies and instead countenance empty denials from the man who orchestrated an unprecedented attack on our most cherished institutions.

The president has demonstrated time and time again that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. What will it take for the likes of John McCain to stand up to Trump, to urge invocation of the 25th Amendment or call for impeachment?

By even suggesting the U.S. should work with Russia to stop cyberattacks, Trump offers to give aid and comfort to our nation’s adversary, the corrupt regime whose attack on our national election was tantamount to an act of war. Trump will not protect us from enemies foreign and domestic. Instead, he will deliver us to them. If that isn’t grounds for removal, I don’t know what is.

A fantasy while sleeping

carlson

Largely due to my Parkinson’s disease I have unusually vivid dreams. I don’t sleep walk, but I do sing, recite poetry, give speeches, get into fights and occasionally cut loose with a profanity.

When I awake I can recall in detail just what the dream was about.

For example, I awoke from a dream the other night by a sense that the house was moving and I was in an earthquake. There are earthquakes, and then there are earthquakes.

Turns out my dream processing was not all fantasy, that I was indeed experiencing a modest earthquake whose epicenter was only about 70 miles distant near Lincoln, Montana. Around 11:35 p.m. I snapped awake in time to see the entire house move slightly. To say the least it was surprising. As quakes go, this one was relatively weak and short (5.2 on the Richter scale and only about 15 seconds).

The dream I was having had a current context to it. Psychologists tell us we often “work on and process” challenges and problems confronting us while we sleep and dream. In my dream I was trying to work out what a probable solution could be to the debacle that Donald Trump, our 46th president, is presenting.

I’ve seen enough, heard enough and watched enough that I believe he will ultimately be impeached, and if he does not resign he will be convicted and removed as provided by the Constitution. That he lies constantly is incontestable. That he is deliberately trying to stomp on the media’s first amendment rights is undeniable.

That he has neither the historical sense nor the moral context to make decisions that could see literally millions of people die should frighten the bejesus out of any thinking person. That he is a misogynist with no respect for women has been demonstrated all too frequently.

The one due I will grant this inept and unqualified to be president individual is the obvious: he is one hell ‘uv a marketeer. He knows how to sell the Trump brand and operates on the thesis that as long as they spell his name correctly there is no such thing as bad news.

The exception though is he can’t take criticism - he can dish it out but he can’t take it.

So what’s the answer? In my dream I found the solution, but of course the cold face of reality will never see a scenario like my fantasy unfold. In the interest of promoting readers to come up with their own legal solution here is the fantasy interrupted by a real earthquake.

Take it as a given that Russian President Vlad Putin has some sort of grip on Trump. It is the classical Faustian bargain with the devil. Keep in mind that Arizona Senator John McCain characterizes Putin as a cold-blooded KGB-trained killer.

What’s the nature of the “hold?” Your guess is as good as mine. It ranges from provable material regarding campaign collusion at the very top to Putin possibly possessing film of Trump cavorting with Russian prostitutes during an early days visit to Moscow, to incriminating acceptance of Russian generated funds diverted into Trump’s campaign.

By whatever means---Putin orchestrates a leak, or the Post or New York Times uncovers “smoking gun”evidence - it all becomes public and Trump, facing impeachment, conviction and certain removal, resigns the presidency.

Vice President Mike Spence then in my fantasy becomes president just long enough to pardon Trump. Pence then resigns which means the line of succession now leads to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan, however, recognizes that he, like Pence, is too tainted by Trump to try to bring people together. So he resigns the Speakership (but not his congressional seat). Now hear is where my fantasy gets “creative.”

The Founding Fathers placed in the Constitution one little known concession to the Parliamentary form of government. Believe it or not, the Speaker does not have to be a current member of the House. The House can elect any person they want as long as they meet the age and natural birth requirement.

This allows for the representatives to choose a man or a woman for the times, someone who stands out as particularly well placed to become the next leader.

It allows the Liberal Party in Canada, for example, to elect as the party leader a Justin Trudeau, give him a safe riding to represent and be elected from, and then, if his party has a majority in a national election to become the new prime minister.

So, who in my dream did I see as the successor to Trump to be the answer to the prayers of most sane people? The answer is Ohio Governor John Kasich, the only major Republican with enough guts to refuse to endorse Trump.

Now there would be a real political earthquake well worth waking up to and hope it becomes a reality.

Contrary to American values

jones

Raul Labrador’s refugee bill is ill-advised legislation that needlessly targets some of the most vulnerable people on earth. The legislation, H.R. 2826, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on June 28 on a 15-11 vote. This is a pernicious bill that will leave a stain on the moral standing of the United States.

Rep. Labrador acknowledges that America has “a long tradition of helping refugees who, through no fault of their own, are fleeing war and persecution,” but has authored a bill that is contrary to that tradition. Among other things, H.R. 2826 would limit refugee admissions to 50,000 per year, triple the waiting period for refugees to apply for lawful permanent residency from one to three years, subject refugees to continuous surveillance, give states and localities a veto over resettlement, impose needless new red tape requirements, and provide preference to religious minorities.

All of these requirements are justified by bill sponsors as necessary for national security. However, experience does not support their case. U.S. refugees have not and do not pose a danger to our country. Refugees do not pick the country they want but are referred to a country by the U.N. refugee agency. Those destined for the U.S. are subjected to about two years of rigorous screening.

A terrorist posing as a refugee would have to wait a long time to carry out his plan--spending years in a wretched refugee camp in Turkey or Jordan, hoping to be referred to the U.S. by the U.N. rather than one of the 27 other resettlement countries, and then undergoing another couple of years being vetted by U.S. authorities. He might be tempted to take the quicker and easier way that the 911 hijackers chose--to get a tourist or student visa and jump on a plane to the U.S. Interestingly, none of the countries from which those hijackers came is subject to the President’s current travel ban.

In the past, America has been a shining moral beacon for persecuted immigrants. The world has been inspired by the Statue of Liberty’s call to “send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” We have opened our door and our hearts to terrorized people from around the globe. Our help is needed more than ever now because the world is facing the largest displacement crisis on record. There are more than 21 million refugees worldwide, more than 5 million of which are registered from Syria alone. In FY 2016 the U.S. took in only 84,994 refugees. To date we have taken in a total of less than 20,000 refugees from Syria. In comparison, Turkey has registered 2.97 million Syrians and another 2 million are registered in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

We have hardly done our part, considering that our invasion of Iraq contributed directly to a refugee crisis in that country and indirectly to the much greater crisis in Syria. The leadership of ISIS is composed largely of participants in the earlier insurgency in Iraq. Colin Powell said that “if you break it, you fix it.” Rather than helping to alleviate the mess that we helped to create, we seem to be turning our backs on a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

The religious preference in the bill is an inappropriate and uninformed religious test. The refugees that are currently most in danger are from Sunni-majority Syria and they are being terrorized by the Alawite-minority government of Bashar al-Assad. Those people with the greatest need would get no preference. Proponents of H.R.2826 focus primarily on refugees from the Middle East but less than half of the refugees taken in by the U.S. last year were from the Near East and South Asia. About an equal number were Christians and Muslims.

As far as the 50,000 refugee limit in Mr. Labrador’s bill, that is simply not enough to fulfill our responsibility as a civilized nation. There are more than 50,000 Iraqis who endangered their lives by helping U.S. forces and who are desperately awaiting resettlement in the U.S. We are honor bound to give safe harbor to those individuals but that would take up the entire measly quota set by this bill.

This country, as great and warm-hearted as it is, has had momentary lapses in the past when it has treated immigrants badly because of anxiety stirred by fear-mongers. Irish people who fled the Potato Famine in 1845-1852 were subjected to great abuse, even as their sons fought valiantly to save the Union in the Civil War. After imported Chinese workers risked life and limb to build the western section of the transcontinental railroad, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 based on unfounded fears. The Immigration Act of 1924 was designed to hinder migrants from Italy, East European Jews, and East Asians and, again, was driven by the politics of fear. Japanese Americans on the West Coast were rounded up and imprisoned during World War II, while their sons fought and died for America in Europe.

As a Vietnam veteran with many South Vietnamese friends, I was personally incensed by the behavior of some of my fellow Americans after the fall of South Vietnam in April of 1975. They claimed that refugees from Vietnam would endanger our country and should be denied entry. The fear-mongers were wrong because we resettled close to a million Vietnamese refugees, who have been great citizens and contributed much to this country.

After each of these unfortunate episodes, we have looked back in shame and regretted giving in to fears stoked by demagogues. Let’s not let it happen again. H.R. 2826 targets refugees, who are not a terrorist risk, while failing to target home-grown, social-media-inspired persons, who do present a risk. The legislation is either ill-founded and uninformed, or it is intended as a vehicle for politicians to ride to political stardom at the expense of powerless and vulnerable refugees.

Real change is doubtful

rainey

Lots of folks talk these days about the need to “lower the rhetoric,” “speak more kindly,” and generally find ways not to add to the rampant divisiveness in our little country.

That’s just fine. Give it a try. Go ahead. And, while you’re at it, try pushing a peanut up Pike’s Peak with your nose. I’d bet you find more success doing the latter than the former.

The evidence is overwhelming that simply speaking more kindly and turning the other cheek may be fine religious instruction but, the fact is, we’ve long passed the point where such methods can - or will - be effective on a national or world basis.

Politicians can join hands and work for “the common good.” The Birch Society and the ACLU can hold joint garage sales. The KKK and the DAR can co-sponsor a cotillion. All God’s angry children can suddenly become peace-loving Hippies. But - the hate - the anger - the divisions will continue.

The evidence of these dark thoughts is this: the sources of discontent, hatred, anger and division surround us every day, have become part of our way of life and will be with us from now on.

Are the Limbaugh’s, Ingram’s, Jones’s, Dobson’s of the world going to disappear at midnight? Will they give up the lifetime careers that have made them multi-millionaires and brought them fame? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Did Megyn Kelly kill her terrible “in-depth interview” of Alex Jones that was broadcast into our homes? Did NBC pull the plug because that rabid, conspiracy-creating, lying S-O-B might just add to the national hatred from a higher platform? Are you kidding me? Think of the ratings! (Editor’s note: They BOMBED!)

Will the armed members of the U.S. Congress put down their concealed weapons and stop the crazy talk? Will the congressional political ass-kissing of millionaires at the expense of food, shelter and medical care for millions end in a huge Kumbaya of spiritual forgiveness and reconciliation?

Is the Trump crowd suddenly going away - never to be heard from again? Will the Oval Office turn into a place of truth and light? Will lies, continuously flowing from the president’s lips (lower case “p” please, Mister Editor) like water down the Columbia River, turn to truth-telling? Will those in Congress trying to eliminate health care access for 23 million people fall to their knees and plead for forgiveness? Is the NRA going to require background checks and registration of all its members?

These and hundreds of other examples of sources of national mistrust and cancerous anger abound. The most ridiculous voice of those seeking a “kinder, gentler nation” is that of the Trumpster himself. The bomb thrower. The loudest of the loud continuing to spew hate, lies and vitriol all over our landscape. Like a sick joke, he asks the rest of us to lower the volume and speak kindly.

No one in public life today has talked bigger lies, told them more often, called people he doesn’t like more names, challenged more rules of decency, ignored necessary protocols, defamed honest Americans - and a few world leaders - and made a mockery of free speech and common courtesy. Nobody!

Rudeness, crassness, disrespect, greed, name calling, lying, duplicitous behavior, hate speech, racist actions. All part of our everyday lives. Our kids talk it. Movies and TV are full of it. We see and hear it in our workplaces, on our highways and in crowds at any event. It’s worldwide with terrible examples everywhere.

To expect it all to stop - to go away with a few words of positive thought and better behavior - to have the experiences and the extreme feelings disappear in a cloud of more courteous speech - to revert to better, more civil attitudes - is ignoring fact.

In the last 10-20 years, our society has experienced fundamental change. We live in a more crass environment, speak and hear cruder speech, are inundated by anger and violence on a scale we’ve never known. Like it or not, we’ve all changed because of it - either by participating, by ignoring or by simply accommodating it in our personal lives. For more than eight years, the Obama family was subjected to the most horrendous slander, lies, racist behavior and verbal savagery.

To those who want to try - who believe better public behavior and kinder speech will make a better world - have at it. And God bless you. You’re on the side of the angels. You may not live long enough to see real systemic improvement but at least you tried. But you’ll find it doesn’t stop simply because someone - or several someone’s - say “play nice.”

For those of us who believe all that is here to stay, and that real change is not possible, we can continue on our merry way doing little or nothing. Or, make it incumbent upon ourselves to start hammering out new societal rules. We can challenge what we’ll accept in the behavior of those around us and in public life. We can change what we can by accepting the best and acceptable in speech and behavior while excoriating those who befoul our society and our world.

Even if that includes the White House. No, especially if that includes the White House.

Water Digest – July 10

Water rights weekly report for July 3. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Access to clean drinking water and the nation's water infrastructure are major concerns for Americans across the country, according to "Perspectives on America's Water," a new study. A total of 6,699 American adults shared their views on water-related topics in this comprehensive online study conducted on behalf of Nestlé Waters North America by the global market research firm PSB in May 2017. The study, the first of its kind to gather both the opinions of the U.S. general population and those of experts in the field, found that water is viewed as the most important natural resource in Americans' daily lives, more so even than clean air (87 percent compared to 81 percent). Yet, 61 percent of American consumers and 66 percent of experts characterized water problems as a crisis or major issue for the United States.

How does fill in a lake, where the fill affects navigtable area, affect the public trust doctrine? The Washington Supreme Court reviewed those pieces in its July 6 decision in Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Co. and city of Chelan.

The Flying L Hill Country Resort will get a faster water allocation after a June 29 settlement with the Bandera (Texas) County River Authority and Groundwater District.

Idaho Briefing – July 10

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 10. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The 4th of July holiday led to a short week of formal activity, and members of Congress were relatively quiet during their visits back to the state. Things are likely to gear up a little this week.

The Idaho State Board of Education on July 5 made two major decisions to enable the College of Eastern Idaho to offer academic programs starting with the Fall 2017 semester.

The Idaho State Police Bureau of Criminal Identification released their annual "Crime In Idaho" report for 2016 today, July 3, 2017. The report is a synopsis of statewide crime statistics gathered from law enforcement agencies across Idaho and includes such things as the Statewide Crime Profile, Crimes against Persons, Property, Society, the Arrest Profile, Hate Crime in Idaho, Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted, crimes categorized by jurisdiction and many other statistics.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointments of Boise resident James Classen, Emmett resident Kevin Dickey, and Moscow resident Dr. Renee Breedlovestrout to the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on July 5.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney received a request by email on Friday for specific information pertaining to Idaho state voter registrations from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

The city of Nampa and Nampa Parks & Recreation Department invites the public to join the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Orah Brandt Park on 2 p.m. Thursday, July 13. A short presentation will take place near Franklin Boulevard at the entrance of the Franklin Village subdivision.

PHOTO What was once a wind-blown wheat field near the small Idaho town of Genesee is now an environmental success 12 years after the Idaho Transportation Department created a thriving, marshy wetlands area where one never existed. Genesee is a quiet community in the rolling hills of the Palouse between Moscow and Lewiston. When road construction on U.S. 95 in the spring of 2005 from the top of Lewiston Hill to Genesee required using land designated as wetlands, ITD launched a mitigation project to construct wetlands as compensation. Known as “Cow Creek Wetland,” along a half-mile of Cow Creek in Latah County. (photo/Idaho Department of Transportation)

The uses of big data

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Not always are federal requests spooky overreaches with eerie implications for actual Americans. But this new one sure was.

That is the request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, the task force established by President Donald Trump and headed by contentious Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The commission’s formal purpose is to “study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections,” which on its face seems peculiar, since these are state processes, not federal, and in general they have been in use for many years, operating successfully. Idaho, which with the rarest exceptions has had smoothly-run elections for generations, generally is a typical example. Where problems have arisen, they’ve been very small one-off situations.

The more exact purpose was in looking for “those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.” Since the levels of voter fraud reported in this entire country over the last several generations have been microscopic, you have to wonder where this would be headed.

The task force has asked for a vast array of data, down to partial Social Security numbers and criminal records, about the voters in all 50 states. Officials from nearly all of the states have, to a partial or fuller degree, told the commission to jump in a lake.

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney was more genteel than that, but his response was in line with what you might expect from any state official, much less an official in a state where the top elected honchos have made careers out of talking about federal overreach.

Some information asked for, he pointed out in a statement, is explicitly public record and often is distributed to political parties and others as a matter of course. There would be no basis for denying it to the commission (or to you or me), if it put in a public records request.

But his office’s statement goes on: “While additional information is requested in the letter (such as driver’s license and the last 4 of a voter’s social security number), that information is NOT considered public and Secretary Denney could not be compelled, outside of a specific court order detailing the need for and intended use of such data, to provide that information under Idaho Public Records statutes.”

The voter information being asked for includes dates of birth, part of the Social Security numbers, active or inactive status, felony convictions and voter registration elsewhere.

How exactly would all that (and more, if used in conjunction with the immense corporate and other databases now available) be used? What sort of massive national database of voters would be compiled - and for what purpose?

State Representative John Gannon raised some of the followup questions in an opinion piece last week: “What are they going to do with this data? How are they going to track those who move, and what right does the federal government have to even do that? Are federal investigators going to contact landlords, look at assessor records and interrogate voters regarding residences in order to determine ‘vulnerabilities’”?

If you’re among the many Idahoans who’ve thought about federal intrusiveness in the past, think about that.

The truth is not self-evident

richardson

Independent journalism has been critical to our country’s past; and it is absolutely essential to our country's future.
  
Today, we have a White House that calls real news fake and fake news real. It was bad enough when a nominee for the nation’s highest office trafficked in conspiracy theories, manipulated the media, and lied with impunity to the American people. Now that the nominee is our president, we have a recipe for disaster. And we – all of us – must rise to the defense of the Fourth Estate.

Unfortunately, the truth does not speak for itself. It is not self-evident. In our modern society, we must rely on ethical and independent journalists to tell us what is happening, to report – not distort – the news.

But this president has put a bull’s eye on the back of every credible mainstream journalist. He calls the media “totally dishonest,” “disgusting,” “corrupt,” “scum,” and – most horribly “the enemy of the American people.” His goal is simple: He wants to bully, silence, discredit, and coopt the media. If a reporter will not sing his praises – he aims to silence them – no matter the cost to our republic, no matter the damage to the First Amendment.

We know what happens in countries where the media is a nothing more than a mouthpiece for the regime. We know what happens to journalists who dare to report facts that reflect poorly on the potentate in power. They are abducted, exiled. They go missing and are imprisoned. They are killed.

In Washington, D.C., there is a place called the Newseum. It is a museum – about news. If you visit this museum, you will see a glass memorial, two stories tall. Etched in that memorial are the names of the 2,291 editors, reporters, broadcasters and photographers who died covering the news.

Not all of them died in global hotspots like Syria, Palestine, Libya, Iraq, Gaza and the Ukraine. But many of them did.

“Alternative facts” are, of course, not facts at all, but lies. Make no mistake, the Breitbart trained brown shirt that holds sway in the White House is a modern and audible echo of Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. It is important to remember the lessons of history.

At a rally on the campaign trail, the president – then the GOP nominee – discussed Vladimir Putin’s treatment of the press in Russia. After repeatedly bellowing that he hates journalists, he said he would never “kill” them. But then he seemed to reconsider saying, “Uh, Let’s see, uh, no I wouldn’t. But I do hate them.”

When reminded by Joe Scarborough that Putin kills journalists and political opponents, the response was pathetic: “At least he’s a leader.” It would seem that our president not only admires Putin, but seeks to emulate him.

No, the media is not the enemy of the American people; rather it is the reckless demagogue who stubbornly, stupidly, and wrongly makes that claim.

As the president seeks to undermine our free press, it is more important than ever that we take concrete steps to check his actions and support a diverse and independent media. There is much we can do. Here, in no particular order, are my top ten suggestions.

1. Support public television and public radio.

2. Subscribe to progressive, independent news publications – both local and national, and give gift subscriptions to your family members and friends.
3. Support public libraries.

4. Write and submit letters to the editor and/or reader’s view commentary.

5. On social media, share only stories that you know come from a credible source. If you find that you have inadvertently shared a false story, delete it and note a correction.

6. Support the Committee to Protect Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Society of Professional Journalists, and/or Common Dreams – Free Press, all non-profits that advocate for the rights of reporters to do their jobs free of intimidation, censorship, arrest, imprisonment, torture and death.

7. Support net neutrality.

8. Encourage public school administrators and trustees to emphasize media literacy at all stages of education. Also encourage public school administrators and trustees to prioritize the humanities and social sciences. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM subjects) are important. But not every student is going to need advanced training in these areas. However, every citizen is eligible to vote at age 18 and needs to be prepared to responsibly exercise the franchise.

9. Contact your U.S. Senators and Members of Congress. Tell them that you strongly oppose the president’s assault on the First Amendment and that you expect them to publicly denounce his authoritarian tactics.

10. Support candidates for public office – local, state and national – who honor the First Amendment and speak out strongly and consistently against those who, like the president, undermine it at every turn.

Make no mistake. The president’s latest tweet showing him beating up a person upon whose head the CNN logo has been superimposed is not, as his apologists assert, simply "a tongue in cheek" joke. It will, in fact, incite violence against members of the press.

It is slowly dawning on him that he will be found out. That is why he has so rapidly escalated the viciousness and frequency of his attacks on the media. He mistakenly thinks that the only way to salvage his presidency is to thoroughly discredit the free press.

In coming days, I expect the First Amendment will be subjected to unprecedented assaults from the White House. The Fourth Estate needs our support now more than ever.