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Posts published in November 2017

Projecting in South Korea

richardson

When President Trump delivered his remarks in South Korea, I was struck by how many times he accused North Korea's Kim Jong Un of traits and conduct that characterize his own administration and its enablers. Psychologists call this projection – the attribution of qualities to others that apply to, but one denies in, oneself.

For instance, he bellowed, "The regime fears the truth above all else . . . ." This is from the man who sent CIA Director Mike Pompeio to meet with a debunked conspiracy theorist and who lies with impunity at every turn. Lest you think I exaggerate, as of Oct. 9, 2017, fact checkers at the Washington Post had tallied more than 1,300 Trump lies and misleading claims – just since the inauguration – or about 5 a day.

Then Trump shouted: "In place of a vibrant society, the people . . . are bombarded by state propaganda practically every waking hour of the day." Again, this is from the man who daily sends out the shameless Sarah Huckabee Sanders to spin her web of deceit and duplicity before the White House press corps. He calls out credible reporters by name as “totally dishonest,” “disgusting,” “corrupt,” and “scum," and the media collectively – other than his fawning sycophants at Fox News – as “the enemy of the American people.”

Next, he claimed that North Korea is little more than a "cult" at whose center "is a deranged belief in the leader’s destiny to rule as parent protector." Remember Trump's brag at the Republican National Convention: "Only I can fix it!" And his recent assertion, "I am the only one that matters." And, of course, there's his chilling and pathetic boast "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." All this sounds pretty cultish to me.

Then Trump complained that the North Korean regime has broken international commitments. We need look no further than Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Trans Pacific Partnership to see that he models the same behavior. And, of course, he has threatened to walk away from NAFTA, if our partners in this hemisphere don't accede to his demands. For a time, it looked like he might even walk away from NATO.

Finally – and perhaps most telling – he slammed the regime for seeking conflict abroad to distract from "total failure that they suffer at home." Yup, we can check that box too. In fact, that's exactly what he was doing in his speech in South Korea.

They say it takes one to know one. I couldn't help but think, as I listened to Trump's list of grievances against Kim Jong Un, that - in so very many respects - he was describing himself as well.
 

Notes . . .

notes

Wednesday night, Fox host Sean Hannity backed off his demand that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore demonstrate his innocence of harassment charges - which he failed to do, instead seeing the accusations nearly double scope this week - or else he call on him to drop out of the race ... after Moore sent him a note pleading to back off. Thereby demonstrating what kind of characters both of them are.

Maybe even better, though, was Moore's tweeted challenge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "Dear Mitch McConnell, Bring. It. On." To which another tweeter noted that "Bring It On" is the name of a movie about high school cheerleaders: "Great movie. Lots of high schoolers. If you're into that sort of thing." This isn't going to get prettier. Was this, again, a campaign for the United States Senate that we're talking about?

The startling, even stunning, comments swirling around Moore are breathtaking. But I was maybe most struck by a post from J. Pepper Bryars of Yellowhammer, a fiercely conservative Alabama-based blog which until today has backed Moore. But as of now, no longer, as the evidence has piled up and Moore retorts have been far short of convincing:

There are more voters just like me, however, diehard conservatives who have cheered the judge for years, who have supported his actions and defended him against the media and the establishment wings within both parties.

But who now, when faced with these overwhelming and credible allegations, and the judge’s implausible and evasive answers, cannot support him any longer.

I will not … cannot, in fact … vote for Roy Moore.

Period.

This causes me anguish beyond measure because I know what the immediate consequences may be – an extreme pro-choice Democrat being elected to the United States Senate who could hold the deciding vote to confirm the next one or two justices.

But the conservative movement isn’t about individuals. It’s about ideas.

 

A fitting tribute

carlson

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson, R-2nd, are staunch, conservative Republicans. Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus was a self-described “lunch bucket” Democrat. The three men, though, had an ability to put the interests of the state ahead of partisanship and work together when necessary.

They held each other in genuine respect and though they could disagree they were rarely disagreeable while dissenting. They had a long history of knowing and working with each other. Andrus couldn’t help liking Butch who worked well with Cece during the 14 years Butch was Lieutenant Governor; and, Mike, whom Cece nicknamed “Driller” because he had a dentistry degree, was also a person of his word.

If asked, Otter and Simpson would tell you that they missed “the Boss.” Both delivered moving heartfelt eulogies on Andrus at services in late August.

While they would not put the others’ bumper stickers on their car, one has to search long and hard to find any record on the campaign trail where they actively worked against one another.

They gave the perfunctory endorsement of their party’s nominee but that was it.

About the only exception for Cece was when Betty Richardson ran against Butch in one of his congressional re-elections. Cece knew Betty’s family were long-time supporters and Betty was also so loyalty may have trumped friendship. Otherwise, there was an unspoken rule between all three of them.

October 24th marked the two month date of Cece’s passing. Like many folks, both Governor Otter and Congressman Simpson are having a hard time believing and adjusting to Andrus’ passing. Cece was such an integral part of the life of Idaho as well as our lives, and not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to him is just hard to believe.

In the two months since Cece passed away there have been a number of suggestions regarding designating an appropriate memorial. None can top the announcement Congressman Simpson made on the two-month anniversary of the governor’s passing: Simpson announced he had introduced a bill, H.R. 4134, which would rename the Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness as the Cecil Andrus White Clouds Wilderness. It was immediately referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

In a way it parallels what Republican Senator Jim McClure engineered just before Senator Frank Church died in 1984. McClure introduced and ramrodded through the Congress a bill that renamed Idaho’s Central Idaho Wilderness the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Most folks just call it “the Frank.”

Such bills temporarily suspend requirements of the Geographic Names Act which among other things says there has to be a five year wait after one has passed away before others could go about naming or renaming geographical features.

Congress can do just about anything it wants to do, however, and when someone introduces a special bill and the sponsor happens to be a “Cardinal,” as is Simpson by his chairmanship of the Interior and EPA appropriations subcommittee, another member has to think long and hard before crossing that Cardinal. Thus, odds are high that Simpson’s bill will succeed. Simpson was always a good nose counter and would not introduce a bill unless he knew he had the votes to get it passed.

Undoubtedly, there will be hearings in Idaho and in D.C. for people to express their opinions, but Andrus was phenominally popular and chances are there will be little opposition. Major interest groups such as the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Recreation Council are expected to be supportive.

There are several other worthy ideas being batted around Boise and Lewiston, from naming a street after Andrus to naming a city park, to naming a rare plant in the Boise foothills, to naming the Idaho Fish and Game Building. None tops Simpson’s legislation though all the ideas are good and have merit.

There is one crucial vote that supporters hope will weigh in and be supportive of this fine idea. That is Governor Otter, who may not tip his hand until a hearing is held. The governor knows the White Clouds has a special place in the hearts of many Idahoans because the White Clouds’ most majestic mountain, Castle Peak is, as Cece liked to say, the mountain that made a governor.

Butch may not jump on Simpson’s wagon immediately, but by the end of the day he’ll be sitting on the buckboard bench with Mike whipping those horses along for passage.

Notes . . .

notes

This one reminded me of some of the charts Glenn Beck used to construction on his chalk boards, except that this one by Representative Louie Gohmert is much wilder. It blows right past comprehension deep into la-la land. And never mind that what it purports to describe isn't even part of our present, or future: It is about the Obama Administration, which went away most of a year ago. But then, if talking about the present people in power in Washington is too painful, well, that might be understandable . . .

Just how jammed up is Idaho politics? When a congressional seat actually does open, it seems the whole world wants in, at least the whole Republican world. Nampa Republican Representative Christy Perry said that she wants to run for the 1st congressional district seat being vacated by Raul Labrador, and that means she will join former Lieutenant Governor David Leroy, legislator Russ Fulcher, Meridian; state Representative Luke Malek, Coeur d’Alene, Nick Henderson, Post Falls and Michael Snyder, Bonners Ferry - and that's just the Republicans. And we have four months or so yet to the filing deadline . . .
 

Notes . . .

notes

David Brooks (of the New York Times) has been on a streak for most of this year with his columns looking into what amount to political motivations - why people do what they do, politically. Sometimes they miss or overreach, but sometimes they hit home solidly. In today's column, for example, he describes neatly the same reasons I thought last weekend's Saturday Night Live sketch on Roy Moore (albeit it that some of it was funny) was only helping Moore. Brooks didn't mention that point specifically, but he didn't have to; the extrapolation doesn't run very far:

The siege mentality starts with a sense of collective victimhood. It’s not just that our group has opponents. The whole “culture” or the whole world is irredeemably hostile.

From this flows a deep sense of pessimism. Things are bad now. Our enemies are growing stronger. And things are about to get worse. The world our children inherit will be horrific. The siege mentality floats on apocalyptic fear.

SNL was just another attack on "us" - leading to the response of, "We'll show them." It's not very productive politics, but it's what we have at the moment ...

Oregon Democrats may be on the verge of their supermajority in the House at Salem. The second Republican in the last month or so has quit the House to take a job leading a lobbying organization, the Oregonian reports. Today's is Jodi Hack of Salem; last month it was Mark Johnson of Hood River. And not long before that, John Huffman of The Dalles departed with the prospect of a job in the Trump Administration. The Johnson seat in particular is highly likely to go Democratic; Johnson has held it because of personal qualities and popularity, not any local partisan advantages. And if 2018 is a Democratic wave year, don't be surprised if one or both of the other seats, albeit in traditionally Republican areas, fall to the Democrats as well ...
 

Thanks for your service

jones

When I was getting ready in August of 1969 to return home from my tour of duty in Vietnam, I bought some civilian clothes in Saigon. Word was that many people in the U.S. took unkindly to persons in military uniform.

When I mustered out at the Oakland Army Base, I tossed my fatigues and boots into a trash can, put on my civvies, and caught a plane to Twin Falls. Although I don’t recall anyone being hostile because of my Vietnam service, many returning vets did experience hostility. Things have changed.

I’m glad that people appreciate the service of men and women in uniform nowadays. It means a lot when you let them know you are thankful for their service. A couple of years ago, a highly respected judge from out of state who had served as a Marine at Khe Sanh, but rarely talked about it, told me, “Welcome home and thanks for your service.” I was genuinely touched.

But we should do more than just thanking veterans and active duty personnel for serving their country.

While we generally provide good medical treatment for their obvious physical injuries, the country can and should do much more to treat their less obvious injuries, such as PTSD, exposure to toxic substances, and the like. The high rates of suicide, substance abuse, and related problems are clear indicators that we are not living up to our responsibility to provide veterans and active duty personnel the mental health support and treatment they need and deserve. War is, as they say, hell and it takes a real toll on the psychological wellbeing of many of them.

We also owe it to the people who protect our nation to see that they receive proper treatment for ailments caused by exposure to toxic substances. After the Vietnam war, it was maddening to see the government deny treatment to returning veterans who suffered serious illnesses as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans of the first Gulf War and the war in Iraq received similar shabby treatment when they returned with strange symptoms related to exposure to dangerous substances. They deserved better.

The recent deaths of four servicemen in Niger points to another problem. Most Americans had little idea the U.S. had troops in harm’s way there. I believe that is partly because only a tiny minority of the population is exposed to serving this country in dangerous places. It is easy for the rest of us to put it out of our minds. There is not a culture anymore that expects everyone of military age to do some type of service to this great country. It hurts me to hear about service personnel doing 4, 5, and 6 tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some may thrive on it, but I’m sure it is a strain on many others, as well as their families.

When discussion started after Vietnam about an all-volunteer military, I had some misgivings. The idea of having greater professionalism and better pay made sense, but it seemed to me that we were going to get away from the idea that all citizens should have some skin in the game - that all young people should have the opportunity to serve their country in a meaningful way. When everyone is exposed to serving the country, I think we pay more attention to what the country is doing overseas. It certainly worked that way in the Vietnam era.

Now, the country comfortably goes about its normal life while a small minority of dedicated citizens regularly faces danger in foreign places, largely unacknowledged by the country until some of them are shipped home in body bags. Instead of just thanking our veterans and service personnel, maybe we, as a country, should start thinking about how we can all help to serve the country.
 

Degrees of proof

stapiluslogo1

“If these allegations are true, he must step aside.” So said Senate Majority Leader of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, thereby creating one of the great political trap doors of recent days. [Note: McConnell has since expanded his statement to say that Moore should drop out of the race.] What, after all, does it take to establish the predicate, that "these allegations are true"?

McConnell didn't say. That makes it easy, later on, to say the condition either had been met or had not, depending on how the story develops. This might be called an unusually flexible form of moral relativism.

Mitt Romney, the former presidential candidate who himself might be a contender (again, and in another state) for the Senate, had another take on the Moore situation. His was much blunter, and include no weaselly back doors: "Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside."

Among other things (such as making a good deal of ethical and logical sense), this is a formulation an attorney, or a judge, might appreciate and even expand upon.

In their world, consideration has to be given to evidentiary standards and burdens of proof - and you will notice the plurals. In a court setting, different standards apply in different instances. In civil cases, certain types of cases and proceedings turn on a Preponderance of the Evidence, or on Clear and Convincing Evidence or on Substantial Evidence. In many criminal cases, the extremely rigorous Beyond a Reasonable Doubt applies, but some court-approved actions can happen with Probable Cause or with Reasonable Belief and Reasonable Suspicion or even just Credible Evidence.

So what about a case like Moore's?

He has not been charged (in this case at least) with a criminal charge, and he's not even being sued civilly (though it's hard to rule that out for the future). The question here is whether he ought to be considered for one of the most important jobs in our government, which ought to mean that the standard of evidence needed to establish, let's say, a serious problem, should not be especially high.

Is he guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? That's probably not been clearly established, but no newspaper report alone reasonably could establish that.

Do we have something on the order of Substantial Evidence or Probable Cause? Clearly.

We have a number of people, on the record, who have argued that sexual harassment, of themselves as teenagers, did occur; and a great deal of corroborating evidence and testimony has been established alongside that. Moore has responded, and none of his responses have done anything to diminish the weight of that evidence against him.

There's not enough to convict Moore of a crime in a court of law. In the court of public opinion, with its lower standard of proof, among people willing to honestly weigh the evidence? Oh yeah.

Which is not a prediction, in today's political climate, that this is likely to happen.
 

No Moore

rainey

It’s normal. It’s natural. Happens all the time. Always has. And it will always be so.

Those claims can be used to describe the election of people to public office who are ignorant, dishonest, unscrupulous, racist, immoral, have questionable character or - in some cases - should be locked up.

As an old Oregonian - and a former Republican - I’ve cast a ballot or two for someone who had one or more of those characteristics. One of the reasons I say “former” is because my political party, at the time, was putting forth candidates I couldn’t accept - candidates I didn’t believe should be in any elected office. After a period of non-participation, I turned independent.

But, in 60 years of voting, I’ve never seen a candidate more vile and unfit as in the case of Roy Moore in Alabama. Making a bad situation even worse, is the acceptance by the hierarchy of the state Republican leadership - and most Republicans in the U.S. Senate - who’ve not renounced him and are continuing to support him.

And don’t give me that “innocent-until-proven-guilty” B.S.. We’re not talking legal matters here. We’re talking immorality and deviant behavior in society and public office. Heavily researched, cross checked and corroborated in depth.

Look at what’s happening in the entertainment and business worlds. When more than a few victims come forward and details of the assaults against them can be substantiated, the perpetrators are fired, shunned or are otherwise forced from public view. In Moore’s case, more than 30 people have supported the multiple victim’s claims. On the record.

Aside from this latest mess he’s created, his public life is one of repeated proof he can’t be trusted. He’s exhibited terrible judgement time after time. He’s proven he lacks the moral turpitude expected of the high positions of responsibility he’s been elected to. Look no further than being forced off the Alabama Supreme Court - not once, but twice - for defiance of the law and bad judgement.

Some of his defenders crazily claim Moore’s behavior can be backed up by the Bible. “Joseph was in his 30's and Mary was a teenager,” they say. “And that relationship brought us Jesus Christ.”

How twisted is that? Hey, Bible-thumpers. Christ’s birth was the immaculate conception. Joseph had nothing to do with it! Zealotry, ignorance and stupidity wrapped up in one foul-smelling package.

But, the disgusting, deviant behavior doesn’t end with Moore. It includes all those Republicans who - knowing his background and behavior and the depth of the accusations against him - lack the guts to denounce him.

It appears Senate leadership is ready to accept Moore into the fold if he’s elected. And, when you get right down to it, all they want is his vote for a tax bill that should be aborted before it even gets to the floor for debate. It’s as simple as that. They even brought him up to Capitol Hill to discuss how they could help his candidacy.

Republican leadership at large - and Congressional “leadership” in particular - have become enablers for Moore. Rather than condemn him and his well-documented deviant behavior, they seem willing to accept someone who’s repeatedly proven himself unfit for trust and responsibility for his one vote. More like 30 pieces of silver.

The world of politics is large enough for many opinions, differing approaches to common problems and strenuous debate about any issue. But, that world has become contaminated in recent years with an overwhelming desire on the part of officeholders to perpetuate themselves in office rather than to do what’s right - what’s required. The cancer of money has replaced the healthy dignity of achieving the common good.

Moore - for all his proven failings and repeated deviant behavior - is the poster boy for the emergence of zealotry in politics - a calling of honorable service inhabited by honorable people. To our shame, he may be an aberration but he’s not the only one.

No Moore!
 

Idaho Briefing – November 13

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for November 13. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

City elections were held last week across Idaho, with a few dramatic results (as in Nampa and Idaho Falls) but mostly suggesting no drastic change of direction. A good deal of attention, however, went to national politics, where the results generated more discussion.

November 7 was city election day around Idaho. While no statewide elections were on the ballot, many cities had plenty of decisions in store, and a number of bond issues and other measures appeared on local ballots as well.

All told, voters approved $92.7 million in school bond issues and levies Tuesday, including a plan that will pay for a series of building upgrades across Teton County. But three measures failed, including Idaho Falls’ $110 million bond issue. (IdahoEdNews)

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch on November 4 welcomed the appointments of Layne Bangerter and Evan Frasure to serve Idaho as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A first-of-its kind statewide summit will bring together Idahoans for an interactive two-day conversation entitled Safeguarding Idaho’s Economy in a Changing Climate - Our Water, Our Land, Our Health, Our Future on Nov. 16 and 17.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on November 7 appointed Jarom Wagoner, a senior planner for the city of Caldwell, to fill the Idaho House of Representatives seat vacated by the recent resignation of State Representative Brandon Hixon.

PHOTO The scene at Highway 93 about 24 miles south of Hollister, near Jackpot on November 11, taken from a state road cam. (Idaho Department of Transportation)
 

Not much definition

stapiluslogo1

The Tuesday elections nationally were a wonderland for analysts trying to draw Large Conclusions and Sweeping Messages. (And some of them even may have been warranted, alongside the proper notes that every election is its own specific kind of animal.)

In Idaho, there wasn’t a lot to see apart from local concerns. In this off-year election, dominated by municipal contests, all politics really was local, and not a lot of larger conclusions really are available.

It helps in saying that to point out nothing partisan was on the ballot in Idaho: “Republican” and “Democratic” labels were nowhere to be seen on the ballot. City elections in Idaho are nonpartisan - though, as news watchers know, that isn’t the case in every state, and thought in a few places (Boise most notably) there was a partisan underlay to the campaigns.

For the most part, voters made their decisions based mainly on people as individuals, conditions in local communities and the merits of various ballot issues, mainly financial. And they reached widely varying conclusions, mostly undramatic.

For the most part, for example, Idaho incumbents did okay. Pocatello’s mayor was easily re-elected, and so were Caldwell’s and Moscow’s; none of those were surprises, though the Moscow contest was lively. Similarly expected: The snoozefest at Coeur d’Alene, with lots of unopposed incumbents (a true rarity in the Lake City) including the mayor, all of whom stayed undisturbed on election day. The one council incumbent on the ballot in Boise won easily, and the other two seats went to well-established community leaders (one of them a former legislator). Only one of those Boise seats featured a reasonably close contest.

But just enough exceptions cropped up to disturb the narrative.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper easily out-distanced state legislator Jeff Thompson, who for a while had the look of a close contender, but she wound up short of an outright win, and now faces a runoff against another candidate. Voters in Burley chose a new mayor by the lopsided vote of 616 to 155.

Then there were the ballot issues.

The two premier ballot questions on Tuesday were based geographically close to each other, a massive $110 million school bond issue (for high school renovation) at Idaho Falls, and a proposal in Bingham County that it join the new eastern Idaho community college district. Both failed decisively. (The Idaho Falls district likely will see a trailer ballot measure coming up in a few months.) The Bingham rejection was a little unexpected; a good deal of community support to join the community college district, just created next door by a big voter margin, seemed substantial. But not substantial enough.

The concerns about those seemed to revolve, respectively, around the school renovation plans more than the money, and about the prospects for a tax increase. IdahoEdNews suggested, “District officials said the plan grew out of months of meetings with patrons, and would give the taxpayers the best value for their money. Critics said they didn’t want to see the district gut Idaho Falls high — which sits in the heart of an older section of the city — and said the district misled voters by saying the bond issue would not trigger a tax increase.”

But the whole dynamic in each case will have to be sorted out in weeks to come.

On the other side of southern Idaho, however, a number of school issues did pass -- and statewide, according to IdahoEdNews, $92.7 million in school finance issues won sufficient voter approval. Those included big levies in Caldwell and Nampa.

So in all, not a lot of takeaways here for the next round of elections … a whole year away.