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Posts published in December 2017

Wait just a minute here

rainey

A couple of weeks back, I opined all this sexual assault business had a good chance of going too far and could end up ensnaring some men - and women - who might be innocent of major wrongdoing. Seems now, it probably has.

An innocent friend’s experience years ago has made me leery of taking every charge and every complaint at face value. Not to say some high profile cases we’ve seen aren’t true. Most evidence has been convincing. And perpetrators exposed.

But, the sudden spate of instantly going after each big name is also a shameful example of the “herd” mentality of our present day media. All running after the latest personality in order to shine the light of guilt on a fresh face. With nothing more than a charge. Not asking for evidence or other substantive facts. Guilty as charged.

I’m not going to defend the guilty nor offer alibis for anyone. Not just yet. But a learned friend has suggested we may need another step in the process. And that is some sort of gradient scale while taking into consideration what was acceptable 30-40 years ago, given the morality and other factors of the times.

For those of us who lived through the ‘60's and ‘70's, much of what’s now considered “over-the-line” wasn’t. We remember that era as one with damned few lines. “Free love” we called it. Musicals (‘Hair,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’) and others were common fare. Songs about open sex and nudity were on the radio and in record shops. Topless marchers and bra burning were not unusual. Pairing off on a whim was acceptable. Bedding down with someone whose name you didn’t know was commonplace.

In other words, without excusing acts of perversion or violence nowadays, there should be some consideration of the times then - and the times now - when considering punishments.

Yes, some of the big names in the spotlight were abusers. Some charges have been accompanied by ample evidence. But, is it all on the same par? Is a case of rape on an office couch the same as giving someone a hug who might have been offended? Do all of today’s charges require the same career-ending punishment?

Then, there’s the issue of massive media exposure after someone simply makes a charge. Has the media become the judge, jury and executioner when someone - anyone - says they’ve been wronged? Seems so.

It’s handy when a charge is made and the guilty party confesses so societal punishment can begin. But what about those who’re either not guilty or simply violated someone’s “personal space?” Are public banishment and embarrassment proper punishments for both examples. Seems to be. And it shouldn’t be.

I’m a hugger. Always have been. I was raised in a family of huggers. Church, service clubs, reunions, social gatherings - we hugged. Now, hugging is not for everyone. But it’s who I am. And many of my friends, too. We don’t do it wantonly or to be invasive. We’re social beings. Anyone who wants to call that “assault,” needs some special help. So, we hug less today. That’s a shame.

When I lived in Washington D.C. 50 years ago, I remember women at cocktail parties and other social gatherings prowling for someone important in politics and the media. One young lady walked up to me at an embassy cocktail bash and asked “Are you anybody?” At that time, women outnumbered men about ten-to-one locally And many were there to meet Ted Kennedy or other males in politics and do what they had to do to get their attention. Anything.

While sexual abusers need to be exposed and reckoned with, let’s consider what that reckoning should be. There are misdemeanors and there are felonies. Is punishment for a serial abuser like Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer or Roy Moore fitting for Garrison Keillor or Al Franken? Given evidence so far, I don’t think so.

If we’re going to demand punishment for the guilty, there has to be some correlation between gravity of the crime and the punishment of ending someone’s career.

At the present time, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
 

Idaho Briefing – November 11

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 11. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

As the Legislature gets closer to its 2018 session, political news picks up in advance of the political holidays: Democrats got a new governor candidate, the Republican candidates continued with hot campaigning, and a legislator was named to the state Tax Commission.

State Representative Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, 38, said she will run for governor in 2018.

The Senate Banking Committee, led by Chairman Mike Crapo, advanced the bipartisan “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act,” S. 2155, with 16 committee members supporting the measure.

After a nearly eight-month review of National Monument designations under the Antiquities Act, Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and U.S. Representative Mike Simpson on December 5 applauded the Department of Interior’s decision to follow the delegation’s recommendation to make no modifications to Craters of the Moon National Monument.

The Idaho Department of Lands on December 6 sold five commercial properties today for $8,490,000 at an auction in Meridian. All bids totaled $1,585,000 above the appraised price of the properties. There was competitive bidding on all properties that sold.

The city of Nampa is exploring different options to fight the masses of crows gathering in the Downtown Nampa area. The city has received several complaints. Research so far shows that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to disrupt the crows roosting habits.

An inmate who escaped from what is now known as the East Boise Community Reentry Center 19 years ago is in custody after the Idaho Department of Correction’s Special Investigations Unit located her living under an assumed name in South Dakota.

PHOTO From a hearing on public health issues organized by Idaho Voices for Children. A participant reported, “the turnout was much larger than expected. The room was filled past capacity and many people were standing waiting to testify, they even had to prepare an overflow room. The testimony was overwhelmingly positive and focused on including mental health conditions on the 1115 waiver, there was only one oppositional testimony.” (Photo: Idaho Voices for Children)
 

More online possibilities

by Michael Strickland

Higher tuition, budget cuts, course shortages and parking problems are merely the beginning of a long list. Daunting challenges face many Idaho students who want to attend traditional colleges and universities. In October 2016, the State Board of Education reported that the percentage of Idaho students continuing their education after high school dropped for the second year in a row, dipping below 50 percent.

How can we reverse this trend? Connie Malamed of the eLearning Coach website reminds us that “one of the most important areas we can develop as professionals is competence in accessing and sharing knowledge.” Nationally, 3 million students are enrolled in fully online degree programs and 6 million (one in four) take at least one online course, according to Babson Survey Research Group. Online education has become one of the most popular alternatives. In our state, it opens doors to thousands of Idahoans who live and work in rural areas as well as others who face social and economic hurdles.

Significant skepticism still runs through some academic circles regarding measurable learning outcomes in online courses. However, I’ve been fortunate to benefit from years of consultations, training and faculty learning communities. These experiences have demonstrated to me that when best practices are implemented, online learning can be just as effective as face-to-face education.

“For example, what do you do if your current job suddenly requires a college degree?” wrote Boise State President Bob Kustra in a recent letter to the community. “This happened for thousands of nurses across the region ... Demands of work and family left many facing impossible scheduling challenges, and those working in remote areas couldn’t travel the distance. … By May of 2017, more than 1,000 registered nurses from all over the country will have completed their bachelor’s degree through Boise State’s RN-BS online program.”

I have been able to greatly enhance my online and hybrid courses with my faculty and staff cohorts from BSU’s eCampus as well as our Instructional Design and Educational Assessment (IDEA Shop). The eCampus Center is dedicated to expanding the programs and offerings beyond traditional borders to meet the academic needs of students anytime, anywhere. In the IDEA Shop, high-tech tools, research-based practices, innovation and experimentation all combine to make learning happen.

With such tools in hand, online programs can be a more affordable option than traditional course offerings. For example, there are no commuting costs. In 2012, the State Board of Education launched a goal to have 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 earn a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. The Complete College Idaho initiative is significantly enabled by online offerings. No matter what students wish to study, from nursing to neuroscience, they can find online the courses or degree programs they need. In our Gem State, students can also earn every academic degree online, from a career certificate all the way to a doctorate.

Online learning has the potential to revolutionize higher education. We must continue to make such access a priority for the future of our state and its citizens.

Michael Strickland teaches literacy education at Boise State University.
 

Improve the world? Run for governor

trahant

Paulette Jordan is running for governor of Idaho. This is a big deal in so many ways. First, there have been very few Native Americans who have ever run at that level (Alaska's Byron Mallott, Idaho's Larry EchoHawk, and Peggy Flanagan in Minnesota). Second, she's the first Native woman who has the audacity to ask voter to run their state. Yay! And third: She already knows how to win over conservative voters.

Two years ago when Democrats were losing across the country, Jordan captured her second term as a state representative, winning by 290 votes. This doesn't sound like a lot, but she won her race during a Republican wave. She was the only Democrat to win any office in North Idaho.

Jordan announced her candidacy Thursday night in Moscow, Idaho. She is a native of Idaho and a citizen of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho. (She served on the tribal council from 2009 to 2012.

“I grew up in a farming family and my grandparents showed me that cultivating the land was a continuation of our ancestral traditions of caring for homelands,” Jordan said. “Coeur d’Alene peoples have cared for Idaho homelands since time immemorial and Idahoans today practice the same combination of self-sufficiency and cooperation that my grandparents did. This reminds me of how connected we are to one another, it reminds me that Idaho is my family.”

Rep. Jordan is currently serving her second term in the Idaho House of Representatives. She is a member of the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee, State Affairs Committee, and the Energy, Environment & Technology Committee. She is also an appointed Idaho Representative to the Energy and Environment Committee of the Council of State Governments for the Western Region.

At her announcement, Jordan said, "when asked, what are you going to do next to improve this world? I am going to run for governor."

Idaho once regularly elected Democrats to state office, including former Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus (who won office a record four times). These days it's a super-majority Republican state. But it doesn't have to be that way. Idaho is also state where the legendary National Congress of American Indians President Joe Garry served in the state senate and was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. It's where Jeannie Givens served in the legislature and ran for the U.S. House of Representatives (likely the first Native woman to do so). Both Garry and Givens are also Couer d'Alene tribal members. It's also a state that that sent Larry EchoHawk, a Pawnee, first to the legislature, and later elected Idaho's state's Attorney General. He did lose a bid for governor. But the point is that Jordon has an uphill climb. And she could win.

One telling story about Jordan is that she lost her first race for the legislature in 2012 by less than a hundred-fifty votes. She went back to work -- and won two years later. And again four years later.

Jordan said there is even an advantage to being a member of the minority party. “The majority party can be insular and keeps their circle small, because they do not need to cooperate to advance their goals,” she said in her announcement news release. “But, members of the minority party must engage colleagues across the aisle, and develop meaningful comprehension of policies and positions held by others, so that the shared work of governing can succeed.” Jordan continued, “In my family, our circle can always get bigger, and that’s what I see for Idaho. A bigger circle is what achieving justice for all looks like.”

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
 

How we grow

stapiluslogo1

When we talk about how to make our communities grow - and the state, and the nation - we often get fuzzy. Ideology tends to take over, and it seldom teaches us much.

We learn a good deal from hard, concrete data, and in Idaho’s case there’s a load of it in a new multi-volume history book project just out from the Association of Idaho Cities, edited and partly written by former legislator Hal Bunderson. (Disclosure: I am the publisher.) The books in the series called Idaho’s 200 Cities - one each for the north, swouthwest and east regions of the state, plus three books of trivia questions and answers - include about 1,600 pages of fine grain detail about the founding and development of each of Idaho’s cities, from Boise to barely-there Warm River.

The sections that most grabbed my attention were those in each city’s chapter called “turning points.” In these, each city outlined what development, for good or ill, most contributed to developing the city in the direction it ultimately went, especially those that founded it and set it on its course. These sections were contributed by the cities themselves.

The most influential simple development by far, to judge from the number of times it was listed as the top or second turning point, was the arrival or departure of the railroad. We look at railroads now and tend not to see them as especially basic elements of most communities. But they once were.

Some Idaho communities are well known even today as railroad towns, such as Nampa, Pocatello and Shoshone. We don’t often associate any more most small and rural communities with an important rail presence. But places like Spencer and Leadore, Donnelly, Arimo, Parma,Troy, New Meadows, Ferdinand, Homedale, Kooskia, Glenns Ferry, Fruitland, Stites, Acequia, Cambridge, Tensed, Oldtown, Moyie Springs, Midvale, Mountain Home, Huetter, Bliss, Rathdrum all said the railroad’s arrival was central to their existence. Blackfoot “owes its origins to the Utah and Northern Railroad.” Clark Fork “had its origins as a railroad town.” Caldwell “had its origins as a railroad town.” And on and on.

Sun Valley too, and not just because of the Harriman family connection in founding the resort there.

Even in places like Moscow, where the University of Idaho was soon to be a major shifting point, railroad was listed as the initial turning point,

What was in a distant second place after the railroad? Acts of Congress, mainly the Desert Land Act, the Homestead Act, the Dawes Severalty Act and (especially in the Magic Valley and the Carey Act, for expanding irrigation. Many of the Magic Valley and southwestern Idaho communities called these pivotal, even above the railroads.

State laws relating to alcohol and gambling were the specific reasons a number of cities, including Chubbuck, Garden City and Island Park, were created. Forts were the main reason Boise and Coeur d’Alene grew where they did. For the 43 cities which are county seats (little Murphy in Owyhee County is unincorporated), those government offices were highly important too.

Developing resource industries were critical components too, of course. Mining was the pivot for a number of mainly mountain communities (Salmon, Bellevue, Hailey, Pierce, Idaho City and the Silver Valley communities among them). And similarly, sawmills were the seed for a number of others, such as McCall, Elk River, East Hope, Winchester and Cascade.

But most of Idaho’s cities, like many cities elsewhere, were planted or designated by outside forces, a national railroad or federal government, as much or more as they were by local people. An uneasy reality, but worth pondering as Idahoans plan for their communities in the generations to come.
 

Silver linings

richardson

In the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump threatened not to accept the outcome if he lost. And there is every reason to believe that, had Hillary won, he would have made good on that threat. After all, Russia wanted him to keep stirring the pot.

Undoubtedly, Trump would have continued screaming that the election was “rigged.” He would have escalated his vicious attacks on “corrupt Hillary” and mobilized the “Lock her up!” crowd to dog her every public appearance. His Fox News fanboys and fangirls would have featured his tweets 24-7, and the Breitbart-Hannity echo chamber would have amplified his every utterance – just for starters.

Then, there’s Congress to consider. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Trey Gowdy, and the rest would have had a field day, ginning up new reasons to investigate Hillary and recycling old ones.

And there is no reason to think that McConnell would have approved a Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court. If the incredibly well-qualified Merrick Garland didn’t pass muster, it’s doubtful anyone would. McConnell wasn’t waiting, as he claimed, for the next president to appoint a new justice. He was waiting for a REPUBLICAN to be elected president. And he would have waited as long as it took. Justice, quite literally, could be damned.

As for those Hillary might have nominated to cabinet and other high-level positions, McConnell and his lieutenants would have subjected them to an unprecedented level of obstruction. And with Republicans also holding the majority in the House, Hillary’s legislative initiatives would have been gutted at every turn.

It would have been gridlock on steroids -- not a pretty picture.

But in an effort to find the silver lining, I offer one significant reason to be hopeful: Trump’s election has allowed us to look into Russia’s attack on our republic to an extent that Hillary’s election would have made much more difficult, if not impossible.

Certainly, in a Hillary Clinton Administration, any DOJ investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump Team would be seen by many as political retribution against Hillary’s defeated opponent. It’s probable the country would have had little appetite – or patience – for an in-depth Mueller-style probe.
During the campaign, when Trump bellowed he would instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary’s “lies” and “deception,” many lawyers and legal scholars shuddered. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe told Fortune that “[m]aking threats or vows to use a nation’s criminal justice system against one’s vanquished political opponent is worse than terrible policy: it’s incompatible with the survival of a stable constitutional republic.”

Indeed, precedent for a winning president to seek some sort of criminal action against a recent opponent is not easily found in democracies or republics, but is a defining feature of authoritarian regimes.

Had Hillary won, the GOP Congress and many in the media would have condemned a DOJ investigation into the Trump-Russia connection as a “witch hunt." Never mind that the DOJ would not be acting on Hillary's orders as she adheres to the long-established norm that DOJ must be independent of partisan politics. And never mind that the landscape was scattered with brooms, kettles, and pointy black hats.

But now that Trump sits in the Oval Office, there is every incentive to know whether he and his campaign danced with the devil, whether he – or they – conspired with a foreign foe. We need to find out whether the man who so warmly and inexplicably embraces Putin has, in fact, been compromised.

Russia’s attack on our election was nothing less than an act of war. But our commander in chief has shown no interest whatsoever in learning the truth. Perhaps he already knows the truth; perhaps it incriminates him.

Had Hillary won, we might never know what really happened. But Trump won. And now – God willing – we will.
 

Notes . . .

notes

Ascribing specific motives where they're not entirely clear is an uncertain proposition, and I won't here make a pronouncement on President Trump's announcement about (eventually) relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem.

I can't read the president's mind. But some speculation does seem warranted.

His rationale for the move is foggy at best: “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.” It is one of the thinnest presidential rationales for a significant action I can recall.

Is there a more substantive reason? An Atlantic article by Peter Beinart suggests there might be:

For Donald Trump, Muslim barbarism is a political strategy. It inspires the fear and hatred that binds him to his base. Muslim barbarism is so politically useful, in fact, that, when necessary, Trump creates it.

The hours after his announcement saw uproar among Muslims around the world and especially in the Middle East. That was completely predictable, and predicted. Meanwhile, any actual embassy move would not happen for years at the earliest, possibly three to four years. But the outrage has been stoked, and will boil over soon enough. It will deepen the despair - Beinart's word, and others too - in the Palestinian community, and essentially trash any attempt to reach a settlement between the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

Why would this be something Trump (or anyone) would want?

Beinart concludes this way: "Religious conflicts, like racial and ethnic ones, are critical to Trump’s appeal. He needs Mexican-Americans to rape and murder white girls. He needs African-American athletes to “disrespect the flag.” And he needs Muslims to explode bombs and burn American flags. The more threatening non-white, non-Christians appear, both at home and abroad, the more his supporters rely on him to keep the barbarians down and out. If Trump has to invent these dangers, he will. In the case of Jerusalem, however, he can go further: He can help create them."

If there's a better explanation for Trump's action, I'm waiting to hear it. - rs
 

Hubris

carlson

There’s an old expression, “pride cometh before the fall.” Ancient Greek dramatists wrote great theatrics around this all too common human foible. In these tragedies they wrote about hubris, the excessive pride many people in power possess though they falter at fair exercising of this power.

The Greeks had another expression: “Those the gods rise up they then lay low.” It doesn’t take a fortune teller looking into a crystal ball to see that Tommy Ahlquist, the doctor/developer running for Idaho governor and pledging to spend whatever it takes for him to win, is headed for a classic fall.

Whether it happens soon enough for him to recover remains to be seen. As the one with the deepest pockets his recent announcement that he was launching an “attack website” is rather ironic. Its an attempt to pre-empt his opponents by attacking their records before they start attacking his non-record.

Its right out of the Republican advertising/media-spinning playbook that says first spend a lot of money giving your biographical story, preferably one which portrays you overcoming adversity and triumphing over obstacles placed in your way.

Ahlquist followed this to a tee during this past summer and fall, saturating the Boise television market with his “rags to riches” narrative. The game plan then in phase two calls for you to go negative with sometimes questionable charges that negatively define your opponent.

The goal is to put your opponent on the defensive and to keep him there always responding to you. Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson early in his political career was an aide to a Texas congressman. He once asked his boss why on the campaign trail he kept repeating a totally bogus negative charge. The congressman simply smiled and said “let him deny it.” In denying the charge he would have to repeat the negative. Think, for example, about the infamous headline in which Richard Nixon stated “I Am Not a Crook!” Johnson never forgot the lesson and it has become a staple of modern campaigning.

Phase three is when the candidate, about four to six weeks before the election, comes back with flight after flight of positive advertising emphasizing his personal characteristics and his positive policy agenda.The last flight just before the election usually has the candidate looking into the camera radiating sincerity and asking for your vote.

In modern times Idahoans have never voted into the governorship someone who has no previous political experience and has not been vetted by an electorate. They recognize the governorship is no place for on the job training.

When asked about this at a small town hall meeting in St. Maries Ahlquist was quick to dismiss it citing the fact that 13 current state governors had been elected with no prior elective experience.
He then let slip that he had stopped by a Republican governors meeting in Chicago in September to introduce himself to his (in his mind) future colleagues.

He indicated in particular he wanted to discuss the looming crisis in the nation’s health care challenges. Some may admire the chutzpah of such a presumption. Others might see it as an act of sheer arrogance and an egregious taking of the Idaho voters for granted. You can decide which.

Calls to the campaign office and to his campaign manager asking whether Ahlquist had also flown to Austin, Texas in November to attend the formal national meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association were not returned.

Over the weekend the three major Republican candidates for governor (Lt. Governor Brad Little, First District Congressman Raul Labrador and Ahlquist), all submitted statements to the Coeur d’Alene Press about their candidacy and why they each believe they can lead the state into a better future.

Only one though used the royal or imperial “we” - as in “we announced,” “we know better,” “we know it’s time,” and “we will get things done.” You want to guess which one?

Hubris, pure hubris and pure balderdash.

Caveat emptor.
 

To bake a cake

stapiluslogo1

In the hotly-contested Colorado wedding cake case - in which the issue is whether a baker should be constitutionally allowed to discriminate and not create a cake for a same-sex wedding - the Supreme Court may be arguing toward a useful dividing line.

It has just heard oral arguments in the case, which probably is months off from a decision. But the justices' questions were, as often, indicative of where their thinking was heading.

The New York Times reported on it, "The more liberal justices probed whether all sorts of artisans — tailors, hair stylists, makeup artists, chefs — could refuse to supply goods and services for same-sex weddings. Conservative justices considered whether artists can be required to convey messages with which they profoundly disagree."

Justice Stephen Breyer asked, “Where is the line? That is what everyone is trying to get at.”

Let's take a stab at it.

The anti-discrimination provisions in the law are intended to keep people from being shut out of society - especially the commercial side. Suppose it were legal for an electric company to deny service to some category of people its chief executive didn't like? That alone would make a mockery of the idea of all of us living together in a cooperative society. That instance may be a made-up-case, but the Jim Crow years in this country, and not just in the South, did lead to bars to blacks and other citizens across a range of businesses where ordinary convenience and even health and safety were at stake. If you had the wrong skin color (or was in an otherwise disliked category), you could forget about eating at many restaurants, staying at many motels, getting served in a grocery or some other stores or even finding a rest room or a place to get a drink of water. That's what the non-discrimination laws in "public accommodations" - in services generally open to the people - were intended to address.

Those kinds of goods and services, though, were not distinctive (or didn't have to be) according to some category of person. Whether you were black or white, a motel room is a motel room, and a burger is a burger. If a business supplied you such things, you were being supplied the same kind of goods or services as everyone else gets. In other words, you weren't asking for something particularized or unique, just a standard good or service.

Now on to the wedding cake.

The bakers involved is open to and says it serves the public. It may be a less-essential "accommodation" than a motel or restaurant but it seems to, at least loosely, fit the standard; members of the public ought to be able to expect to receive general relevant services there if they're willing to pay for them.

Presumably, the shop offers various kinds of wedding cakes. Some may be relatively standard-issue, usable at almost any ceremony. Others may be special in design or in written message, particular to a specific ceremony and its participants.

One of the bakers said in the case that "he should not be forced to use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage." There's a point here: Should a person in effect be compelled under law to present and make attractive a message with which one disagrees?

But: What about simply agreeing to sell a cake, a generally usable wedding cake, while reserving the right to agree, or not agree, to contribute any specialized design or message - so that the baker would not be in a position of being forced to create a design or statement that he would not agree with?

There may be, in other words, room for a compromise here. It often happens in a society where everyone has rights that people don't get everything they want. But the Supreme Court probably could, in a case like this, give the parties involved - and other cases to come - what they need.
 

The harm in Muslim-bashing

jones

The President’s statements, tweets and retweets that demean, vilify or ridicule Muslims are harmful to American interests in a number of ways. Whether he is denigrating a Muslim Gold Star family or retweeting anti-Muslim video clips spewed out by a British hate group, it is dangerous for our nation.

Since 9-11, the U.S. has been engaged in an international conflict with radicals who espouse a perverted version of Islam. These people constitute a tiny minority of the world’s Muslims. Islam is the second-largest religion on earth, with about 1.8 billion members. We are allies with many Muslim-majority nations and we count on those countries for assistance in combating terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.

The U.S. is currently involved in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen, all of which are Muslim-majority nations. We have troops in many other Muslim nations in the Middle East and northern Africa. It is essential to the safety of our people in harm’s way that we maintain mutual respect with the people of those countries. When our President is generally characterizing people of the Islamic faith as common terrorists, it is not only a false narrative but it is dangerous for our service personnel on the ground.

Grateful beneficiaries of the President’s anti-Muslim activities are the very terrorist groups we are fighting. They seek to gain followers by claiming America is waging war against Islam. The President has played into that narrative with his words and actions, giving the terrorist groups ammunition to use against us in their propaganda work, not to mention the boost it gives to their recruitment efforts.

Incidentally, the anti-Muslim actions, such as the Muslim travel ban and the recent Twitter activity, are also music to the ears of American neo-nazis. David Duke is loving all of it. In response to the President’s retweet of the British hate-group videos, Duke rejoiced, “Thank God for Trump.” I’m not so sure God would want to claim credit.

The British, our closest allies, were obviously not pleased with the high profile the retweets gave the ultra-nationalist British First group. They could not be faulted for asking why the retweets were necessary--what valid U.S. interest was served by redistributing this harmful garbage.
Of course, the United States has about 3.45 million citizens who are members of the Islamic faith. I have met many here in Idaho and they are wonderful people who love this country, their country. When people in positions of responsibility make broad generalizations casting Muslims in an an unfavorable or menacing light, it is a form of undeserved religious bigotry. There is no place for that in a country that prides itself on religious freedom.

It is no wonder that hate crimes against Muslims increased over 19% from 2015 to 2016. Muslims constitute about 1% of the U.S. population but suffer 4% of the hate crimes. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center disclosed that half of the Muslims polled say it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the U.S. in recent years.

It is wrong to make a segment of the American religious community fearful for their everyday safety and well-being. It violates one of the bedrock principles upon which this great nation was founded. Let’s stand up and demand that our public officials recognize and support religious freedom for all Americans, regardless of their faith or beliefs.
 

Winston

rainey

That’s Winston. An 18-year-old Rat Terrier. If you can remember the old RCA Victor logo of a dog and a gramophone, that was a Rat Terrier. Very popular in the first third of the century. Now, they’re coming back.

But not Winston. Last night, we had to say our last “Goodbye.” Things just suddenly started to fail and we were not left with other choices. The moment of decision and relief from his struggle was upon him. And us.

We found Winston in a cage in a store in Nampa, Idaho, 18 years ago. He’s been our constant companion every day since. Not a mean bone in his body. Liked everyone he met. Traveled like a pro in RVs or car. Jumped into the middle of every experience.

Hard to say who loved who more. When we were happy, he seemed to rejoice right along with us. When we hurt, there was always the paw on your leg, extra attention paid and snuggling. He sensed our moods in ways we still don’t understand.

And, we often sensed his. Some days, he was quiet and seemed extra grateful for a scratch of his ears or a tummy rub. Other times, he’d be frisky and wanting to go for a walk at any moment. And there were the quiet times, when he just wanted some extra “loves” and was content to sleep the day away.

Many people don’t care for dogs. Some folks have allergies that keep them from knowing the quiet companionship of a loving animal. Maybe they know - and maybe not - but I think their lives are incomplete. As we humans search for attention and love, we never quite fully achieve either without a dog. Without a Winston. Without the constant support that comes from having a cold nose rub your arm or “that look” from bright brown eyes. No matter when. No matter where.

While needing regular feeding, exercise, an occasional bath and nail trim, we got more from him in repayment - and then some- for those little chores. Even if he just snuggled into his small, sheepskin basket across the room, we felt over-paid - and quietly, a bit more loved - knowing he felt safe enough and loved enough to let us be his constant security. When an animal - or a person - can trust you enough that they can override their natural sense of self-preservation, you feel loved and needed by someone outside yourself.

We romanticize our pets much the same way we do people who’re close to us. We give them special names and feel gratified when we can do some little thing that make them feel good or loved. We remember them on birthdays or at Christmas with some little trinket to renew the bonds between us. We hurt when they hurt. We share their joys when they celebrate.

But, if we have a “Winston,” we tend to forget they react in much the same way. They share our successes and failures with extra tail wags or being extra close to comfort us as needed. They recognize and respond to our moods. They become family. We at the table. Them under it.

In their last days - no matter what the age - they look to us to take charge and make that final decision that’ll physically separate us forever. Even as he lay semi-sedated and waiting for that final needle, Winston quietly looked at us and seemed to be saying, “Go ahead. Let me go. Stop my pain. I love you.”

And we did.

We’re grieving now. We’ll continue to do so for awhile. We don’t know how long. But, I think it will continue until that moment - days, months or even years away - that moment when we realize the deep feelings of joy, love and completeness he brought us will continue even if he’s not physically with us. They’ll continue even if we can’t reach out and touch. That moment we realize we carried out our final responsibility to do what was best - what needed to be done - for his sake. Not ours.

Our hearts may be filled with sadness today. But our lives have been enriched - enriched forever - because there was Winston. His pain is over. Ours will end, too. Someday.

Goodnight, Winston. You’re well-loved.
 

Idaho Briefing – December 4

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 4. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Representative Mike Simpson discussed the issue of fire borrowing during a House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Chief of the Forest Service, Tony Took. Specifically, Simpson emphasized the need to fund wildfires like other natural disasters.

Finding strange, non-native creatures living in the Boise River has nearly become a tradition, or at least, a recurring incident, and Idaho Fish and Game would like to see it end. In a recent case, Fish and Game crews surveying the Boise River near Warm Springs Golf Course discovered a freshwater shrimp commonly known as “grass” or “ghost” shrimp that are native to the lower Mississippi River.

Essential services like hospitals and water treatment depend on energy distribution to ensure reliable and continuous operations. As the power grid evolves, becoming more connected and responsive, those new, smart devices can introduce greater cyber vulnerabilities. To address this challenge, the power grid test bed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory has been transitioned to a more adaptive architecture.

Governor C.L. “Butch”Otter on November 27 said that Chief Operating Officer Bobbi-Jo Meuleman will become director of the Idaho Department of Commerce on January 1 when Director Megan Ronk departs to lead business development efforts for Idaho Power Co.

Avista Corporation said on November 21 the preliminary results of a special meeting of shareholders to approve the proposed acquisition of the company by Hydro One Limited.

Twin Falls on December 1 held the grand opening of the new Twin Falls City Hall with guided tours, building dedication, and Tree Lighting.

PHOTO Winter season at Lolo Pass Visitor Center, located on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests along Highway 12 at the Idaho–Montana state line, will begin Saturday, December 2. (Photo: Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests)