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Posts published in November 2017

Almost 30 years ago today

This video (on the left)  was irresistible for several reasons, mostly personal. It was shot by a man named Robert Eller in the summer of 1988, as (he noted in his post on YouTube) he was headed home from a company picnic.

In the summer of 1988 I was living in Boise and was political editor of the Idaho Statesman at Boise, and just preparing to release my first book - Paradox Politics - and launch Ridenbaugh Press. In just another year and a half I would leave the Statesman and newspaper reporting and shortly after set up RP as my basic venue. A lot was just on the verge of happening ... as Boise was as you see it here.

A time warp, for me at least. - rs

Hypocritical flip flop

richardson

How do you spell “hypocrisy?” I spell it J-i-m-R-i-s-c-h.

For years now, Idaho’s junior U.S. Senator has been preaching that “[t]he overreaching issue is the financial condition of the country.” In a March 12, 2016, column in the Idaho Statesman, Risch lamented that the national debt had risen by about $10 trillion in the preceding ten years.

When our national debt reached $20 trillion, Risch issued a statement bemoaning the fact that “each dollar added to our debt is a dollar lost from critical investments in American roads, bridges, healthcare, schools, and other essential services.”

Of course, it’s not like Risch has a record of supporting investment in critical infrastructure and other essential services, but it’s a nice thought.

Now the Senate is poised to vote on a so-called tax reform plan that most major economists doubt will grow the economy, as its supporters promise. Moreover, the non-partisan Tax Policy center has found that the tax cuts will not pay for themselves through growth. Instead of being revenue neutral, the cuts, once implemented, will likely result in a massive revenue loss.

Pouring salt in the wound, the Senate Finance Committee has announced that its plan will include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that would likely leave 13 million Americans uninsured. And now the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate GOP's tax plan would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

So who will reap the largesse of this slipshod scheme? Why those who need it least – the mega corporations and the ultra-rich, people like Jim Risch who boasts about being one of the wealthiest U.S. Senators. Just how much would this plan boost his bottom line? I’m betting he’ll see quiet a windfall.

Some deficit hawks, like Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., have the courage of their convictions and don’t try to sugarcoat things. Flake recently released a statement expressing concern that "the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt,” and cautioning that, were it to do so, our economy would be threatened. But unlike Flake, Risch appears ready – if not eager – to abandon his long-touted concerns about the debt in order to help Trump notch a “win.”

The Greek philosopher Diogenes is said to have carried a lamp everywhere in search of “one honest man.” He could have found that honest man in South Carolina senator Lindsay Graham who candidly admitted that the Republican obsession with tax cuts for the uber-rich comes down to keeping the GOP in power by ensuring that the donor spigot keeps flowing. There’s not much in the way of principle in that remark, but at least it’s honest.

Dishonest Jim Risch has for years portrayed himself as some kind of fiscal champion but his concern for the national debt has proven short-lived. Sadly, he has shown himself to be a hypocrite of the first order, and an embarrassment to the state of Idaho.
 

Notes . . .

notes

There's a completely reasonable argument - and I'd agree with it - that many women who have been sexually harassed and abused haven't been given a reasonable hearing when they report what has happened, and many have been discouraged from doing so. And many egregious predators have been at it for years as a result.

This is all fair enough. But stretch it out far enough and it turns into a witch hunt, and will lead to blowback and discrediting of the original, entirely reasonable, point. Anyone who wants justice for women who have been abused over the years should guard against things going too far.

The Garrison Keillor case, for example, based at least on what we know of it publicly. This is ready-made for blowback. Who among us hasn't done something, on occasion, to irritate someone else? (I get a little irked when I hear a waitress say "honey" or "sweetie", but I'm not going to file a complaint over it.)

And don't think that the recent poll gains by Roy Moore are unconnected to this.

Time to start working out wher the lines are, where something is a serious, obviously-wrong offense, and where something is just irksome or annoying. There is a difference. And not only people's livelihoods but our basic ability to get along with each other may be at stake here.

Be it noted that this finance bill working itsway through Congress is in no shape or form tax "reform." Reform suggersts changes that are made with the idea of improvement; this bill improves matters only for people who will not meaningfully benefit at all from it, and will damage conditions for almost everyone else, the overwhelming majority of people in our society.

This idea is not particularly unusual or one-sided. It appears to be very broadly accepted across mot of American society. - rs

 

What’s happening (gubernatorially)?

carlson

If you are puzzled about what is, and is not, happening in the race to secure the Republican nomination for governor in 2018 you are not alone.

Different strategies are being utilized, but the presumed front-runner, First District congressman Raul Labrador, appears to be master-minding a much different campaign than his two primary rivals, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and doctor/developer Tommy Ahlquist.

First, it appears that Ahlquist, true to his promise to spend whatever it takes, has spent well over a million dollars and he will continue to spend at that high rate as he tries to buy his way into office.

Little, in the meantime, is collecting a significant amount himself, but is husbanding the money. It’s a good guess that when the time comes his campaign will, like Ahlquist’s, spend gobs of bucks on negative television ads as they attempt to redefine who Labrador is through negative attack ads. That’s one of the rewards for being perceived as the front runner at this juncture.

The three of them plus expected Democrat nominee, millionaire A. J. Balukoff, will quickly shatter the previous spending mark for a governor’s race.

Labrador has apparently chosen to lower his profile for awhile, which is a practical as well as a necessary decision. As a respected libertarian, hard conservative voice his views are sought out and there’s plenty of work to be done in D.C. while still running for governor. Thus, he is not appearing every where his two rivals are.

This may be a smart tactic for a frontrunner, but some observers speculate Labrador is not raising the funds he needs to raise as quickly and as easily as he may have previously thought it would be. Thus, he is lowering the profile as much out of necessity as out of the book of tactics.

Labrador is going to have to rely on the conservative Tea Party/Donald Trump base to write lots of smaller checks that will still keep him competitive. He appears to have conceded that the GOP establishment wing will split between Little and Ahlquist, but he’s not bothered by lack of support from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), the equivalent of a statewide chamber.

It makes I easier for him to portray himself as the champion of the little guy and the governor who will best protect the average guy from the predatory practices of big business.

The guess is he’ll have enough to counter the expected attack ads and still get his key messages out to Idahoans.

Conventional wisdom says this race will be decided by Second District voters. Each of the major Republican campaigns figures that they each have a fair claim to about a third of the First district vote.

Ahlquist has touted two key endorsements: that of former GOP (and fellow LDS member, as is Labrador) presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is expected to run for Senator Orrin Hatch’s seat when Hatch announces his retirement. Perhaps more important is the support of former Melaleuca vice president for government affairs Damon Watkins, who is also the Idaho GOP’s national committeeman.

People make a mistake, however, if they think this reflects billionaire Frank VanderSloot’s preference. The Melaleuca CEO reportedly has told friends he can live easily with either Ahlquist or Labrador.

Some pundits believe Labrador’s most pressing problem is the perception that he as governor would permit the Idaho National Laboratory INL) to take a proportionate budget cut as part of any national debt reduction plan. He said as much two years ago.

Others say this will reinforce his image as a fiscal conservative hawk who takes consistent stands on principle. It appears that Labrador has succeeded in carving out the far right most conservative side of the GOP knowing full well the GOP primary is designed to maximize their clout.

Little is betting that a lot more establishment Republicans will turn out and will opt for his steady hand. Labrador is quietly confident that the hard conservatives and the anti-establishment voters are in ascendency and he will emerge as the winner.

Both Little and Labrador will continue to work to make Ahlquist be the odd man out and the race to become by next May a two person face-off between them. Come late May we will know who was correct.
 

These children have a right to life

jones

In counting my blessings at Thanksgiving, good health was at the top of my list.

In January I learned I had pancreatic cancer, but it is now in remission thanks to the talented doctors at the Mountain States Tumor Institute. Dr. Akshay Gupta diagnosed it, Dr. Joshua Barton skillfully removed the cancerous tissue, and Dr. Dan Zuckerman finished off the cancer with the help of the MSTI staff. We are lucky to have such highly skilled medical practitioners in our fair State.

Unfortunately, some of our most vulnerable citizens are not able to share in the blessing of good medical care.

Young children of the Followers of Christ, mostly in Canyon County, are denied necessary medical treatment because of their parents’ religious practices. Idaho law exempts faith-healing parents from two statutes prohibiting neglect or endangerment of their children. Section 18-1501 of the Idaho Code prohibits conduct that is likely to endanger the life or health of a child. Section 18-401 prohibits the denial of necessary medical care to children.

However, there is an exemption in both statutes that has allowed these parents to refuse to provide readily available medical care to their children, resulting in needless suffering and death. The exemption says that the “practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care of such child.” This awkward language should be eliminated from both statutes in order to protect the helpless children of faith healers.

Adults can decide for themselves on healthcare matters. If they decide to forego medical intervention for themselves for religious reasons, that is their prerogative. The State has an interest, however, in safeguarding the health and safety of minor children, who cannot decide for themselves. Our laws have numerous protections for children that do not contain religious exemptions - marital age, child labor, ability to contract, and the like. The right to have basic life-saving healthcare trumps all of those protections.

Article I, section 4 of the Idaho Constitution guarantees religious liberty for Idaho citizens. However, it mandates a strict separation of church and state, more so than the U.S. Constitution.

Among other things, it flatly states that no preference shall “be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship.” The statutes purporting to exempt faith-healing parents from child-protection laws certainly appear to violate this constitutional provision. The great majority of Idaho citizens who do not advocate or practice faith healing are subject to criminal penalties under Idaho Code sections 18-1501 and 18-401 for endangering the health of their children. Yet, those same statutes provide a specific legal preference for faith-healing parents by giving them the right to deprive their children of medical care.

During the last several decades, the Legislature has passed numerous statutes intended to support the right to life by using the power of the government to require women to carry a fetus to term. None of those measures contained a religious exemption. The question arises as to whether the right to life of some children in Idaho ceases upon birth.

It is time for the Legislature to stand up for our children and to require faith-healing parents to provide basic healthcare to their children. Tell legislators it is morally and legally wrong to allow parents to deprive their children of life-saving medical care.
 

Patterns under the surface

stapiluslogo1

We went shopping for a new TV today, armed with a little online research and several brands and models that looked like they might be in range of what we wanted. (Cyber Monday was at hand, so it seemed like the thing to do.)

They were substantial brands available online - if you wanted to wait and buy without seeing them in action first personally - with a week's shipping, or so. But we wanted to buy in store, so we went to some of the stores where those models seems likely to be found - big boxes, the Wal-Marts and Fred Meyers and Targets.

Here is what we found:

A bunch of television sets for sale, none the particular make or model we were seeking. That's understandable; you can see why there might be a little less variety in the brick and mortar than in the cyber.

What was really striking was this: They were basically the same - mostly the same selection - in each of the big box department stores we visited.

Eventually, we went to a specialty store (in our case - and hey, why not a plug? - Video Only) which did have a variety of makes and models on the floor. We took a set from that store home with us.

The point here again isn't the lesser variety in the broad-based stores; what's what you usually should expect in most categories of goods. It makes sense even in a really big box.

What was a little disconcerting was the lack of difference between the stores. If didn't find it at Wal-Mart, you probably weren't going to find it at Target or Fred Meyer, or the other way around. And the prices weren't very different either.

In more casual observation, this seemed to be roughly true for a bunch of other goods, too.

Usually, in past years, stores - even sprawling chains - tend to do things, offer things, or offer terms or prices, very different from competitors, as a way of differentiating from one another. Now, they seem to be converging, becoming ever less alike. They're no longer a hamburger place and a chicken place and a taco place; they're all burger places.

Or so it seemed today on the television hunt.

If that's the ongoing case, the future doesn't seem too wonderful for a variety of retailers out there, or for meaningful competition.

It gave the feeling of subterranean patterns. An uneasy feeling.
 

The legal, the illegal – and nukes

rainey

The U.S. Air Force general who would control all this country’s nuclear weapons in wartime has publicly made a claim that should curdle your blood.

In at least two recent public forums, Gen. John Hyten has said he would not necessarily launch nuclear weapons despite being ordered to do so by the President. That statement should get your full attention!

Especially because Hyten is Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, successor of the old Strategic Air Command, dreamed up by Curtis LeMay in the late 1940's. For decades, the four-star at the top has had responsibility to launch - or not launch - nuclear weapons in all services - not just USAF.

When a general makes public statements that he - and he alone - will decide the legitimacy or legality of a presidential order to launch the forces, it seems in keeping with the political mess we have in the White House. Damned dangerous!

The caveat Hyten offers with his statement is if he feels or believes the order from Trump to be “illegal.”

“If it’s illegal,” he said, “I’m going to say ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And he’s going to say ‘What would be legal?’”

Someone else at the top is saying the same thing. Retired General Robert Kehler, who preceded Hyten at Strategic Command, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month “the U.S. military is obligated to follow legal orders - not illegal ones.”

In neither case did the generals describe which they’d consider “legal” and which would be “illegal.”

My last two years of military service, I sat at a console about six feet from the “red phone” the SAC commander would use to order a nuclear strike - an order for the Army, Navy and any other branch with nukes. The commander and senior staff sat at desks above our heads on the command balcony from where the order would come to pick up the phone - should it be given. The whole place was tense 24/7. Highly professional. But tense.

During my time, we had the Cuban missile crisis. I know intimately how close we came to launching. But the President was John Kennedy and the SAC Commander was General Thomas Power. Despite the danger, we knew orders from the White House and the response would be legal.

Now, we have senior officers creating wiggle room if we get that close again. I have no idea what constitutes an “illegal” order. But I’m damned familiar with Trump and his fits of pique - of childish anger. He does things and says things that show he’s not a stable person when faced with crisis events. Even little bitty “crisis” events.

Military personnel - no matter the branch - are trained from the gitgo to obey lawful orders of anyone a rank or two up the chain. That’s the very backbone of structure that provides the clarity to try to keep people alive in wartime. Or it could kill them.

There have been many changes since my years of service. Personnel are smarter, better trained, work with better equipment and seem to have more leeway in most responsibilities. But the demand to obey a lawful order has not changed. Not one word. It is still the first commandment.

When a general - or two - or three - says he (or they) will decide which order is lawful, that frightens me. Especially when we don’t know what criteria he’d use to make the distinction. During the Cuban crisis, LeMay - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time - wanted to launch a strike on Cuba and promised Kennedy he’d “make a parking lot” out of the small nation. Legal? Yes. Crazy? Certainly!

A lot of political and military types have chewed on this “legal-illegal” business since Trump became Commander-In-Chief. They’ve talked of how to deal with him if he flies off the handle as he does regularly. Suppose that madman in North Korea says or does something crazy and Trump decides to launch. He’s already said publicly the response would be “something the world has never seen” and that “North Korea would be destroyed.”

Is that a “legal?” Or an illegal?”

General Hyten and others in the military are going to have to decide. And I’d like to know what the Hell their criteria is going to be.
 

At Rediscovered Books

Author events are nothing unusual at Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise, but so many authors present for a single one - a dozen to use the most limiting count - was something a little different.

The event went well. Visitors to the shop were handed a "passport" and encouraged to visit each of the authors and get their signature; a discount on book purchase prices were the store's reward.

The roster of Ridenbaugh Press authors at the event was large - half of the dozen. They included (on the front row here) Randy Stapilus and Mike Blackbird, and (on the back row) Stephen Hartgen, Hal Bunderson, Rod Gramer and Martin Peterson. Former Supreme Court justice Jim Jones, whose column appears on ridenbaugh.com, was there, as was congressional candidate David Leroy.

The store pronounced itself pleased with the event, and there's potential for another something like it down the road. We'll keep you posted. - rs
 

Idaho Briefing – November 27

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 27. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Thanksgiving week was a relatively quiet week in Idaho, as elsewhere. And as elsewhere, Black Friday seemed to be a smaller economic factor than in recent past years, a point likely to make ripple effects through the retail economy.

A special meeting of the State Board of Land Commissioners is scheduled for Dec. 5 to vote on a final grazing rate approach and formula for endowment lands. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. in Senate Room WW55 in the Idaho Capitol, located at 700 W. Jefferson Street in Boise.

A popular community attraction – the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park – inches forward toward expansion thanks to a cooperative venture between the City of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County.

Clearwater Paper Corporation on October 19 reported financial results for the third quarter of 2017. The company reported net sales of $426.5 million for the third quarter of 2017, down 2.0% compared to net sales of $435.3 million for the third quarter of 2016.

Idaho Power will honor Idaho State University’s Holt Arena on November 20, for a major lighting upgrade that resulted in substantial energy savings.

Idaho Power Company recently completed work on the last phase of its King to Wood River 138-kilovolt (kV) transmission line rebuild. The power line upgrades provide improved reliability and capacity thanks to new steel structures and larger wire.

PHOTO Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and his wife Lori (with Santa and an elf) prepare for the annual Christmas tree lighting. (Photo: Governor Otter)
 

Notes . . .

notes

Mostly, media companies will run political ads excepting in the most extreme cases, involving distasteful imagery, potential libel and so forth. None of that excuses the reported failure by a billboard firm to refuse a tastefully-designed and clearly pertinent billboard aimed at Senate candidate Roy Moore.

(Of course, this isn't the first time Moore has been at the center of a billboard controversy, either. And be it noted: I've seen a specific reference as to what company has denied the billboard placement, or what its side of this might be.)

A Tweet reposted the image (seen here) and commented, "It would be a shame if god-forbid it went viral on social media and was seen by even more people than the actual billboard would have been." Wouldn't it, though . . .