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Posts published in December 2017

Factless Fox


For several years, I’ve used this space - and others - to condemn Fox News. Or, more appropriately - FAUX NEUS. Real, fact-based reporting has not been a part of the networks claim-to-fame since Rupert bought it.

But, now the boys and girls exhibiting their talent-less efforts on the screen - radio, too - have gone so far over the fairness and unbiased reporting line that not even Diogenes could find an honest soul among them. The network is now just a far right mouthpiece. “The truth is not in them,” as my Grandma Lou used to say.

The disparate collection of pretty faces and handsome readers has surrendered completely to the dark side. The whole operation has become nothing more than a swamp of misinformation, distortion and downright lying on behalf of anything or anyone with a far-right bent. It’s now nothing more than GOP-TV. Not to mention, of course, being the sexual abuse capitol of broadcast journalism.

The network’s current torrent of journalistic B.S. aimed at Special Council Mueller is exhibit “A.” The similarities of speech between Faux Neus voices and GOP members of Congress are like echoes in the Swiss Alps. You’d swear there was a co-authored news release of baseless charges and unfounded bilge-water handed out from Murdoch, McConnell and Ryan each day at sunrise.

Mueller has been given a thankless legal task. Find the connections - if any - between the Trump campaign and Russia. The “if any” clause is probably inoperable now because, between what we know of what Mueller’s team has already uncovered and some outstanding reporting from major legitimate news agencies at home and abroad, proof of those connection(s) is overwhelming.

The reason Mueller’s task is “thankless” is because, no matter the outcome of his research and the publishing of the end document of findings, people will be unhappy from coast to coast.

If he ties Trump and Putin together, the Trumpeteers will screech like banshees that the whole investigation was a “plot of the left, the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton” from the getgo. If Mueller’s report clears Trump and his minions of any punishable criminal activity, the rest of the audience will say it’s a “whitewash” and he didn’t dig deep enough to find the truth.

If you research Mueller’s background, you’ll find he probably doesn’t give a damn how anyone else views his labors and those of his talented crew. He’s about as “straight arrow” as they come, has a lengthy public background of being a first-class prosecutor and was given the job by a Department of Justice Republican appointee. He faithfully served administrations of both national political parties for years without a hint of favoritism or scandal.

But, to hear the faux outrage at Faux Neus tell it, Mueller has far exceeded his original charge, has used illegal means to gather emails and other evidence, has overcharged we taxpayers for what he’s been doing, is somehow a servant of the Clinton’s and had something to do - even they aren’t sure what - with Benghazi.

Journalism is a valued, legitimate profession. The names I honor most - Bradlee, Broder, Cronkite, Jennings, Graham, Murrow, Pyle, Trout, Reasoner - all spent their lives trying to report fact, doing their best to do so independently and fairly and left a legacy of work that likely won’t be equaled.

Media today is not the media of times past. Reporting today is not the reporting and editing that used to be. But, there still exists - in most cases - a desire to “get it first, get it right.” Because there are so many sources from which we now get our information - many unedited and unchecked - there are far more opportunities to fall short. There are way too many political mercenaries in the business that shouldn’t be but most others keep trying.

All of which makes Faux Neus an outlier. (Maybe that should read “outliar.”) From Murdoch on down, the blatant prostitution in writing, editing and reporting borders on the criminal. The obscene pandering to the far-right, the mouthing of “stories” based on collected garbage, the vilification of those with other points of view, the broadcast demonizing of responsible thought, factless facts repeated ad nauseam, the devotion to bias and rumor-mongering - all have made Fox a pariah to responsible, fact-based journalism.

What had been, in the past, irritatingly bad at Fox has now become outright disrespect for truth with no effort made to report without adulteration.

We can be thankful many viewers are tired of being lied to and the formerly high ratings Fox enjoyed are now sliding down the charts.

What’s needed to balance the scales of honest journalism is not a new, left-leaning media reporting outlet. The same balance point can be reached by the single elimination of Fox News.

Notes . . .


One of the big Idaho headlines this last week concerned the new Census estimates for growth in population, by state, over the last year. This year's report shows Idaho growing faster than any other state, which may be a first.

That's significant for what it says about the state's overall trajectory. But Oregon, which didn't have quite so large a percentage increase, may have the more significant result out of this: The high probability, now, of getting an additional congressional district.

Oregon came close to a new one in 2010 but didn't quite cross the line. It has been on track over the last few years, but just barely. Now, its population increase is strong enough compared to other states that it well within the line for a new district.

Election Data Services, which tracks much of this, said that

The Bureau’s [Census] 2017 total population estimates shows that now 12 states will be impacted by changes in their congressional delegation if these new numbers were used for apportionment today. The state of Colorado joins the previously indicated states of Florida, North Carolina, and Oregon to each gain a single seat while the state of Texas is now shown to gain a second seat with the new data. The states of New York and West Virginia joins the states of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania to lose a seat in Congress using the new data.
... Idaho is the nation’s fastest growing state in the past year, followed by Nevada and Utah. But this population growth has not impacted these state’s congressional allocation, at least not yet. The 2017 numbers show Idaho would stay at two seats, and miss gaining an additional seat by 118,406 people. But projecting the numbers forward to 2020 using the short-term methodology shows Idaho only 30,824 away from gaining a third seat. All the population projection methodologies keep the state of Nevada at four seats and sufficiently away from any margins of a fifth possible seat. Utah is similar in that it would take more than 125,000 extra people for the state to gain a fifth district.


2017, reflected


Time has come to reflect on the year that was: A strange and startling year nationally, less eventful overall in the Gem State.

In Gem State’s 2017 I think first of the departure of the most prominent Idaho political figure of the last half-century, Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus. None quite like him are on the horizon today.

But through the year we saw some pointers to what’s ahead.

The closest I came to experimental columns this year was the two-pack about gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist, one projecting why he might come in first in the Republican primary (ahead of both Lieutenant Governor Brad Little and Representative Raul Labrador), and the other why he might come in third (behind them). Comment came partly from people who read the one column and hadn’t yet absorbed the other. And from the Ahlquist campaign, which indicated I understated the candidate’s tenure and activity in Idaho, as in hindsight I probably did. But so far as I can see, the outcome of that race remains as cloudy today as I thought it was then.

I see no reason to greatly rethink the April 28 column about Labrador, with the suggestion he might be unwise to gamble on a run for governor, as opposed to keeping his sure-shot House seat. On the other hand, the prospects of the U.S. House shifting into Democratic hands after the 2018 election have been growing, so maybe this is not a bad time to move on.

After an October 27 column reviewing an article about the Kootenai County Republican Party organization, and its chair Brent Regan, I thought I might hear some response from the Lake City. I was expecting it the more because not long before, on August 4, I went after them for their blast at Idaho’s two - ahem - Republican senators for their support of sanctions against Russia. I did get a couple of critical emails about that August piece, from North Idahoans who apparently were Russia enthusiasts, but nothing from the Kootenai GOP.

Occasional columns through the year focused on various statistical changes around the state. (If I weren’t doing a year-end review, this column might be about Idaho’s reported first-in-the-national growth rate; I may yet circle around to that.) The most intriguing of these subjects to me, one for which I’ve seen more supporting data since, was the September 8 piece on the changing religious composition of Idaho, and diminishing rates of religiosity. What that may mean for Idaho’s future is something we’ll have to revisit.

A pair of election results on the same subject -- but on votes several weeks apart -- seemed the most interesting Idaho ballot items during the year. On May 26 I noted the approval by Bonneville County voters of creation of the district to govern the new College of Eastern Idaho in Idaho Falls. That was a followup to a January 13 column about how strong the enrollment has been at its Ada-Canyon community college counterpart, the College of Western Idaho. But if I thought it was a major social indicator, it was a soft one, since weeks later Bingham County rejected joining that new eastern Idaho district.

I remain surprised at the massive turnout for a legislative hearing on climate change (the March 17 column): "Who would have guessed that the biggest turnout for an Idaho legislative hearing this year would come on the subject of climate change? It was all the more surprising because there’s no active Idaho legislation specifically on the subject this year -- nothing moving through the system." Will it repeat in 2018? And - a point prompted by a January 6 column: Whatever happened to the ballot petition aimed at treating abortion as murder?

Many questions await 2018 for answers. We’ll get to a few of those next week.

Heads I win . . .


If you're familiar with the expression: "Heads I win; tails you lose," you will understand the glee with which the GOP Congress is taking a "victory" lap, patting themselves on their collective backs for cynically passing a self-enriching tax bill at the expense of the middle class.

With precious few exceptions, Republicans who - for years - have been bleating about the escalating national debt, embraced a bill that will, by all objective accounts, increase the debt by upward of $1.4 trillion.

They smile and shake their heads at those of us silly enough to remind them of their previous stance, blithely "explaining" that the corporate tax incentives will enable today's "corporate citizens" to create more and better jobs, resulting in more taxpayers, higher pay for current taxpayers, and hence more revenue that will pay for the cuts.

This explanation would be charming in its simplicity, if it weren't debunked by almost every credible economist who has studied the legislation. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office tells us that, at best, the GOP tax scheme represents "wishful thinking.” This is the modern day iteration of “trickle down,” also known as "Voodoo” economics. At worst, it will imperil our nation’s economy.

But, the GOP assures us, we ought not to worry. If their gambit fails and economic growth doesn't pay for the cuts, they "win" anyway. If the yearly deficit explodes, further expanding the national debt, they will be ready with their scissors. They are ever so eager to cut Social Security and Medicare, ready to shred what most consider our social safety net. They call it "slaying the beast."

As the K Street crowd pops champagne corks, it is a matter of time before 13 million Americans lose health care coverage; trust fund babies reap a windfall, and future generations inherit the wind.

So much "winning" we can hardly stand it.

Notes . . .


Back in my original home stomping grounds of Newport News, Virginia, we see the most on-point argument I think I've ever seen for the importance of every single vote.

We get used to the idea that our vote is one of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions. But those millions of votes are but collections of one vote at a time. And even one can be decisive.

In Virginia, the politically interested have been on tenterhooks for more than a month, since the November general election, to learn what happened in the state House of Delegates elections. Entering the elections, Republicans held just short of a two-to-one advantage in the chamber. A blue tide swept through last month, wiping away so many Republicans that Democrats were brought to the edge of controlling the chamber - an astonishing reversal of the sort hardly any state has seen, on behalf of either party, in decades.

Three of those races were so close that recounts were ordered. Yesterday one of the last of them came in, and when the counting was done Democrat Shelly Simonds defeated long-time Republican incumbent David Yancey 11,608 to 11,607 - the margin of one vote, which in turn gave Democrats 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, enough to force split control.

(It was, FYI, the legislative district where I lived for my first 18 years. A photo of a chart showing vote changes by precinct brought up some familiar names; my old precinct of Deep Creek showed no changes, but several nearby did. Back in high school, I did a little campaign volunteering for a contender for this same delegate seat.)

(Secondary note: There remains the possibility a Democrat may pick up yet one more seat, giving that party the majority, but that looks like a long shot.)

Remember: Every vote counts. Never doubt it . . . - rs

UPDATE And now another vote is in, and it's gone to a tie. Wow.

Mom in tennis shoes


My memory is the call came in the mid-morning of a fall day in 1991.
I was in the Spokane office of the strategic planning, communications and public affairs firm called The Gallatin Group, a regional consulting firm which I had founded in early 1989.

For the previous five years I had been the northwest regional vice president for Kaiser Aluminum, with 5,000 employees the area’s largest private employer. I was the visible face of the company including its lead lobbyist in Olympia. I was also an anomaly in that I was one of the few business Democrats.

On the other end of the phone was a State Senator from the Shoreline district outside of Seattle who I had not yet met - a young mother and former school board president named Patty Murray. A few years earlier while lobbying in Olympia another legislator made the mistake of sarcastically talking down to her and dubbed her as nothing but “a mom in tennis shoes.”

Even though there was an incumbent Democrat, former Carter Administration Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, who planned on being re-elected in 1992, Murray was going to challenge him in the Democratic primary and she wanted my help.

We both knew Adams was ethically challenged, that he had reputation for chasing women including, it was rumored, women that worked for him. We talked for an hour and when the call was over I signed on - which made me one of the first “influentials” to back her candidacy.

Shortly thereafter the Seattle Times ran a story in which an office intern, the daughter of a long-time family friend, claimed Adams had drugged her and undoubtedly taken advantage of her drugged state. The public outcry quickly forced Adams to announce he would not seek re-election. Though Murray was the only one unafraid to take on the challenge earlier, several male congressmen quickly jumped into the race, thinking of course that the mom in tennis shoes would be easy roadkill. They were the first of many who underestimated Murray.

In the late spring of 1992, I was interviewed by a political reporter, Rebecca Boren, of the Seattle P-I, who had been assigned to do the candidate profile on Murray. Asked why I had been one of the first to support Murray I gave Boren an on the record quote that turned out to be the first quote above the fold on the front page profile:

“Patty Murray is the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message and she’s going to win.” Former colleagues in Olympia called to ask if I’d lost my marbles. I simply replied, “just you watch.”

My prediction was cast in concrete by one more arrogant male underestimating her - Congressman Rod Chandler, her Republican opponent in the general election. As the last week of October rolled around polls showed that Chandler had steadily narrowed the gap and indeed was thought to be narrowly ahead. One major debate, before the Seattle Chamber the last week of October, remained.

The lead, if there was one, vanished in the last 30 seconds of the debate.

Murray had finished her one minute summary and it was Chandler’s turn. Before a thoroughly stunned statewide audience, his supporters and the media Chandler leaned into the microphone and inexplicably began to croon the words to an old song: “Dang me, dang me/They ought to take a rope and hang me/High from the highest tree/Woman would you weep for me?”

It was condescending, insulting and women across the state were repulsed and in turn repudiated Chandler.

Murray was on her way to D.C. where she continues to be underestimated too often by too many. The roadkill are the number of former Republican congressmen she has defeated, and counting a couple of Democratic congressmen from her first race she holds the record for a senator rebuffing members of Congress (five) who challenge.

In the meantime she has quietly gone about producing fine legislation, working on keeping commitments to veterans, on fiscal reform (she and Speaker Paul Ryan worked out a compromise on fiscal reform), corrections to and abolition of the often overload of too much testing in the No Child Left Behind program, and the list goes on.

She is number four in the Democratic leadership. Should the D’s capture the Senate in the fall I look for her to possibly challenge Illinois Senator Dick Durbin for the Deputy leadership post.

As I watched the coordinated effort to force Senator Al Franken to be held accountable I could see her fine and deft hand at work. I couldn’t help thinking about the long road we’ve traveled. Senator Murray has always made me proud to have been one of her earliest supporters.

She is still the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message and she is still a winner.

The last of Star Wars, almost


I can just remember walking into a movie theater in the summertime in Boise 40 years ago, having waited a couple of weeks or so until the lines went down, to see this new hot movie called Star Wars. Who would have guessed - I sure didn't - what it wrought?

The new movie and the eighth in the series, The Last Jedi, is one of the better entries in the field, and seems to set up well the upcoming finale. It is better focused than most, without losing the scope or epic feel of the earlier movies. It seems less obsessed with battle scenes, in space or with light sabers, than most of the films (though those scenes are by no means forgotten).

But it also seems a little more thoughtful than any of the others, and repeatedly returned to the subject of the past - and the need to let go of it. That would seem to be necessity after the last movie, The Force Awakens, which was enjoyable also a little over-slavish in its carbon-copying of the structure of the first movie.

And the subject of releasing the past has a more immediate point with this movie, since the three key actors who starred in the first and appeared in the last (Force) will be gone for episode IX. Harrison Ford's Han Solo was killed off last time, Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker comes to an end in this one, and Carrie Fisher, whose character seemed well positioned for another movie, personally passed on. The last movie will be carried on entirely by the new generation, which got a good workout in this new movie.

There is another aspect to this passing of a the torch and the transmission through generations that I liked.

Part of the mythology developed through the early movies, and continued on in the prequels, was that of blood ties - of the state importance of destiny and the "strength of the force" and such running through family connections. The point was emphasized repeatedly, and was the subject of some of the most dramatic points in the series. (One of the dramatic peaks of the early movies was the moment when Darth Vader declared to Luke Skywalker, "I am your father!")

This movie, while tossing away a number of other things as well, several during some excellent Hamill scenes in which he puts paid to a lot of uneasy questions about the whole jedi culture, seems to diminish the importance of that. The titular last jedi (spoiler ahead) is not Luke Skywalker - who we probably were expected to anticipate it would be - but one of the new generation. And one of the dramatic highlights in this movie was the revelation, after toying earlier with the question, of the parentage of that character: "nobody," meaning no one with personalized importance to the story, and meaning that this new character is important for herself, for her own capabilities and actions, and not because she was part of some Royalty of the Force.

This is a break with the Star Wars mythology, and a good break. It always seemed a little too reliant on Middle Ages mythmaking, and too little on the kind of forward-thinking storytelling you might expect in solid science fiction. (Of course we can argue about whether this is more about sci-fi or fantasy, but that's another subject.)

That new toss may be a key to where the series winds up in its final episode, a couple of years from now.


Republicans may be reawakening


There are a few encouraging signs that my dear old Republican Party may be returning to its roots.

This is the party I grew up in - a party that was wary of too much government but insisted that vital public needs be adequately funded and competently handled. Members of the old GOP did not vote lockstep on virtually every issue, but studied the issues and exercised independent judgment. I have seen some stirrings lately that indicate a possible return to those days.

My mentor and former boss, Senator Len Jordan, who served our state as Governor (1950-1954) and later as Senator (1962-1972), set the example for me. Although there were some party-line votes while he was in the Senate, he was a rugged individualist who followed his own moral compass in representing Idaho and the nation.

Jordan would never have voted to confirm a nominee for a federal judge position who was not qualified, no matter how politically connected the person was. He bucked his own President on two appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court - Clement Haynsworth and Harold Carswell - finding both to be unqualified for that lofty position after independently studying their records. We have seen very little of that lately from the party Jordan loved.

But, low and behold, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, recently refused to support two federal judicial candidates that the American Bar Association (ABA) found to be “unqualified” to sit on the federal bench. One of them, Brett Talley of Alabama, was nominated for a lifetime district court position even though he had practiced law for less than three years and never tried a case. His only claims to fame were operating a political blog and being married to a woman who worked for the President’s White House Counsel. Although Talley was approved on a party-line vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Kennedy jumped ship to oppose Talley when it was discovered that he had failed to disclose his wife’s job and the potential conflict of interest. Senator Johnson said he would vote against Talley “in a heartbeat - twice if I can.” Thanks in large part to his principled stand, Talley’s nomination was withdrawn.

It is important to put individuals with strong experience on the federal bench because those judges handle serious civil and criminal cases. It is not the place for an inexperienced rookie or political hack. The ABA performs a valuable role in evaluating and rating candidates and should not be ignored.

Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, provided the other ray of hope when he said he could not vote for Roy Moore for a seat representing his state in the U.S. Senate. Besides being the subject of credible allegations of molesting teenage girls, Moore had been kicked off of the Alabama Supreme Court twice for defying the law of the land. A judge can disagree with the law but he or she takes a solemn oath to uphold it and commits a serious breach of that oath by claiming to be above the law. Senator Shelby’s courageous stand harkens back to the ethics of the party that I remember from years ago.

This is not to say that the other party does not also engage in party-line tactics, but it is not the party in power now and the leaders set the tone. It is time for the GOP to get back to its past ethical standards - the standards set by Abraham Lincoln, the GOP’s founder. I think he would approve of the recent independent thinking of Senators Kennedy and Shelby, but be disheartened by the no-compromise, take-no-prisoners attitude too often exhibited by many of the others.

Notes . . .


The Oregonian's list of top 10 business stories for the year makes for a mashup worthy of some thought. Thins that might seem to go together, or run in conflict, sometimes don't.

For the year:

Intel has been struggling with the declining desktop (and laptop) computer market for its chips. But, even as it investigates some still-speculative options, stock prices continue to climb. Overall area stock prices continued well, even as Nike got a string of bad marketing news this year.

Intel cut both ways with the new administration this year: "Intel CEO Brian Krzanich spent the early part of the year courting President Donald Trump, even visiting him in the Oval Office. He then spent the rest of the 2017 retreating, denouncing the new president’s actions on immigration and climate change." Later, Krzanich resigned from the administration's new manufacturing group.

The unemployment rate hit record lows. But in the Portland area, the minimum wage rose to $11.25, part of a regional push upward in those wages.

A major new development in Portland's downtown was slated with a new building for Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University. But higher education continued to struggle with weak state funding.

The pieces aren't fitting together cleanly. See: 2018. - rs