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Posts published in July 2017

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

stapiluslogo1

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.

The woe on drugs

bond

Tramadol?

Rhymes with damnit-all. I want to meet the creator of this newest opioid in Hell and slit his/her throat wide open. Two days of that shit was enough.
All I was looking for was a way to alleviate my intermittent back pain as arthritis encroaches. I don't care for the effects of opiates so scratch me off as a junkie. But this Tramadol crap will double-you up in so much pain, you’ll forget why you took it.

I'd take aspirin but it's hard on the stomach-lining and exacerbates the sillicic crystals that fill up our joints and cause us such pain.

Unadulterated codeine fills the bill just fine and I don't "need it" every day. Hell, in Canada you can buy it OTC, and I don't hear of a rampant codeine problem there.
Here, in the U.S., its prescription puts you and your doc on the DEA watch-list.

Why can't we just abolish the DEA entirely, grow Oriental poppies and some weed in the back yard, and if we need a little pain relief, there they are without all of Big Pharma's help. Oh, wait, you can't patent a plant. Thus is an industry born.
I am particularly unamused by licensed physicians treating 90-year-old patients who are in agony with pain with "pain management," their reasoning being that they wouldn't want their geriatric patients to get hooked on something that actually worked.

"Just say No" - one of Nancy Reagan's greatest contributions to the dementia underlying the War on Drugs and empowering the Drug Enforcement Agency with more weaponry and thug-power than the CIA could imagine in its wettest of dreams - tell that to an addict, or somebody in severe pain.

She and Ronnie launched the largest black market since the Brits blew up China 100 years ago in order for Europe to recoup its losses in their rent-serving thousand-year-old trading agreements, hooking young Chinese on powerful opiates to regain the silver China had been paid for its advanced technologies.

(The US was no innocent bystander, either. We didn't build our famed fleet of Clipper Ships for dead-head runs to the Orient. They hauled refined opium to China and returned fully-loaded with confiscated silver and a modicum of tea. Spend some time in China and look at the villages and monuments we Americans torched and wrecked.)
After a brief shelling exchange in Canton Harbour where the Royal Navy demolished China's shore batteries, the Empress sought a truce with England: Quit bringing refined opium into our ports and selling to our youth and quit stupefying them, and we'll give you Hong Kong.

So yeah, the opium argument swings both ways. It can be, like fire, incredibly harmful or incredibly helpful. But there is a huge middle-ground about these naturally occurring plants. Are the consequences of a lost relationship with Mexico and the hundreds of thousands of annual deaths worth it? Just as importantly, are our lost liberties to the DEA, the USDA and all else worth it?

My solution is simple: outlaw refineries and put Big Pharma out of business. When our civilian military are done with that, abolish them, too.

An excellent appointment

carlson

Have to give the twin devils of President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions their proper due for their nomination of State Senator Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls) to be the next U.S. Attorney for Idaho.

With Davis they can’t go wrong. The ten term Idaho Falls State Senator and current Senate Majority Leader is one of Idaho’s outstanding legislators and one of the few true “super lawyers.” He is admired on both sides of the aisle for his probity, his sense of fairness, his courtliness as well as considerable intelligence and just plain decency.

He is a true compassionate conservative who lives and walks the talk of the Golden Rule. A few years back he and his wife showed up at a release hearing for an individual who had murdered their son. As heart-breaking as their son’s death was, they knew there were others who cared just as deeply for the perpetrator and was a case of another gone astray.

They intuitively recognized the truth contained in a statement by the great Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard who once wrote that “as great as God creating something out of nothing is, the even greater miracle is God creating saints out of sinners!” Rather than wallowing in grief, anger and a desire for retribution they followed the progress the perpetrator had made while imprisoned.

In an extraordinary gesture of true forgiveness they showed up at the release hearing and testified that the assailant be released and on probation. This incident is hard to imagine, but it speaks to the incredible humanity of Senator Davis and his spouse, Marion.

As U.S. Attorney Senator Davis will be called upon to exercise superb judgment on whether and when to bring lawsuits or convene grand jury panels. Solid, good judgment he has in abundance though and he will judiciously utilize it.

It should not be lost on folks that the U.S. Attorney has had a central role
in several high profile cases in the last 40 years. Recall for example the stand-off between Randy Weaver and the FBI at Ruby Ridge in northern Boundary County; or, that of Claude Dallas, and the murder of two Fish and Game employees in Owyhee County.

In the Weaver case his attorney, “Gunning for Justice” Jerry Spence danced circles around the U.S. Attorney and the prosecution team. It is a safe bet no one will dance circles around Bart Davis.

To his great credit Davis is not a knee-jerk ideologue. He thinks through issues and takes stands based on principle, not political expediency. It is another safe bet he will conduct himself and see that his office performs in an entirely non-partisan manner.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to sit next to Senator Davis on a panel on politics being held at Idaho State University and sponsored by the Idaho State Journal. Davis’ thoughtful, cant-free responses were refreshing to say the least. I couldn’t help being impressed.

Here clearly was a legislator at the top of his game who knew what he was talking about, said what he thought and meant what he said. When the event was over with I’ll never forget his leaning over and saying he had to return to Idaho Falls to face four censure resolutions because Doyle Beck and the Bonneville County Republican Central committee felt the good senator had not reflected their views on several issues.

Have legislators who think for themselves? Heavens no---do people think this is a Republic rather than a Democracy? Beck and his ilk are saying they don’t want a Bart Davis to be a representative who studies and thinks, they want an automaton who does what they demand.

To his credit Bart Davis stayed on the correct path he has always walked. He has to have welcomed the opportunity though to walk away while at the top of his game and to put all that game-playing, partisan crap behind him.

Have no doubts - his selection is a breath of fresh air and a well deserved honor for one of the state’s fine public servants. Hats off to the President and his Attorney General on this one.

Davis’ departure will of course set off a scramble to name his successor as Majority Leader and there’ll be an abundance of candidates. Early names being bandied about include Assistant Majority Leader and State Senator Chuck Winder from Boise; Majority Caucus Chair State Senator Todd Lakey, from Nampa, and State Senator Marv Hagedorn from Meridian. A dark horse surprise might be State Senator Carl Crabtree from Grangeville.

For refugees: Help on the way

jones

A group of Boise attorneys is forming a program to provide free legal help to low-income refugees. Volunteer lawyers will supplement on-going efforts of local law-related organizations to serve the legal needs of the Treasure Valley refugee community. The pro bono lawyers will work closely with the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program, Idaho Legal Aid, Intermountain Fair Housing and Concordia Law School to provide hands-on legal services to refugees who meet established income guidelines.

The program will not diminish legal help for non-refugees. Rather, additional lawyers are being recruited to assist refugees with their legal problems.

Additionally, the program will address issues unique to the refugee community. Volunteers will conduct informational presentations for refugees on our legal system and how to acclimate to it. Subjects will include family law, employment issues, consumer rights, immigration issues, and the workings of the criminal justice system. Many refugees come from countries where people avoid the police out of fear of their safety. The Boise Police Department has a good working relationship with the refugee community and the program’s lawyers will assist from the legal standpoint.

The pro bono program will work closely with Jannus, Inc., which operates the Idaho Office for Refugees and a variety of other programs providing social services to the refugee community. Lawyer volunteers will provide a legal component to the outstanding work presently being performed by Jannus.

One other goal of the program is to openly discuss refugee issues and the need support refugee settlement in the community. Idaho has a moral responsibility to welcome refugees into our good-hearted community.

Refugees in Idaho are settled primarily in Boise and Twin Falls. The five-year refugee population in Idaho from FY 2012 to FY 2016 was 4,350, with 3,080 in Boise and 1,270 in Twin Falls. In FY 2016, 1,121 refugees arrived in the State. Of those, 56% came from African countries, 32% were from Near Eastern and South Asian countries (including Bhutan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq), and the remainder came from Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

While the refugees in the community are from many different countries, those coming from Middle Eastern countries have been the subject of discussion in recent months. Concerns being raised about those folks are completely unfounded. If people would take the time to get to know our refugee community, it would become clear that they just want what we all do—to live and raise their families in a safe environment.

There is another reason the U.S. must provide safe harbor for refugees from the Middle East. The invasion of Iraq set off a chain of events that produced the greatest refugee crisis in recent history. Since the United States was a large contributor to the refugee crisis in the Middle East, our country can’t simply turn its back on these unfortunate people. We have an ethical obligation to provide safe harbor for some of the people we helped to misplace. Many of these refugees have been subjected to unspeakable horrors and we should step forward to give them refuge.

The chance of a refugee being a disguised terrorist is virtually nonexistent. If a terrorist wanted to get into this country, he could do it quicker and with much less vetting by getting a tourist or student visa, like the 911 hijackers did. Sitting around a hot and dusty refugee camp in the Middle East for years and hoping to be referred to the U.S. refugee program for additional screening for another couple of years would not make much sense. The U.S. subjects refugees from all countries to very careful screening, which has effectively eliminated any threat to our communities.

The pro bono group is getting organized in the Treasure Valley and will continue to recruit more attorney volunteers for that area. Organizers have been in contact with attorneys in the Magic Valley and plan to set up a similar program in Twin Falls soon.