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Posts published in December 2017

Time for immigration reform

jones

A September 16 article on the Politico website caught my eye because of its Jerome, Idaho, dateline. It is not often that my home county gets national coverage, so I obviously had to read the article. It was written by Susan Ferriss, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, and titled How Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Threatens to Choke Idaho’s Dairy Industry.

The article points out that Idaho has become one of the nation’s top milk-producing states, with 2012 direct sales by dairy producers and processors in the amount of $10.4 billion. In 2015, Idaho dairies employed about 8,100 workers statewide and their work supported 3,700 dairy-processing jobs, as well as 27,600 jobs in other businesses. Idaho’s producers of cheese and yogurt are reliant on the dairy industry, which in turn relies on a steady supply of labor.

The problem is that dairy jobs are not particularly desirable and dairymen have a hard time finding reliable local labor to keep their operations running. Most home-grown folks won’t do the work. Because of that, the dairy industry has come to rely upon foreign-born workers. Some of them are lawfully in the country, but many are not. It is estimated that 85-90% of Idaho’s dairy workers are foreign-born and about 70% of those are undocumented.

How did we get here, what are the problems, and what should be done to fix them? When I was growing up on the family farm near Eden in the 1950s and 60s, it was just assumed that farm kids and local hired hands would do the hard work. However, beginning in the 70s, farmers had increasing difficulty in finding reliable workers to handle that work. Workers started coming from south of the border to fill the gap, some of them with temporary work permits but many without any documentation. The northward flow of workers increased after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican farmers went out of business because they could not price-compete with U.S farmers. Many headed North to get farm jobs that Americans did not want.

Many of the undocumented workers put down roots in Idaho because of the difficulty of going back and forth each year. They had children in this country who became U.S. citizens. Those who came seasonally had to do a lot of paperwork and there were generally not enough temporary permits to fill the need on Idaho farms. Temporary permits did not allow workers to spend the entire year, which was a necessity for work on the dairies.

With the increased enforcement effort by the current administration, there is concern in the dairy industry that essential workers will be deported. Workers are concerned about losing their jobs and having their families broken apart. Some say the workers could not have expected to be able to stay, but it is more complicated than that. For decades, the government and U.S. employers have known what was going on but little was done to develop a policy of allowing sufficient foreign labor into the country to meet the needs of agricultural employers. If undocumented workers are deported in order to get in line for legal entry, what are the farmers and dairymen to do in the meantime? You can’t just mothball the dairies, cheese plants and yogurt factory, while waiting years for papers to be shuffled and processed for legal entry. Idaho’s multi-billion-dollar dairy industry depends upon year-round workers.

And, the problem is not confined to Idaho or its farms. There are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country. About 800,000 of them came as children--the so-called Dreamers. Many of the undocumented people have children who are American citizens, which complicates the situation as to who is subject to deportation. With the low unemployment rate in our country, deportation will injure many employers, as well as the national economy. The American Action Forum estimates that deporting all undocumented immigrants would cost between four and six hundred billion dollars and reduce the country’s gross domestic product by one trillion dollars. And, quite frankly, about everyone knows that such a mass deportation won’t happen.

So, what should we do? Our members of Congress need to develop backbones and deal with the problem. Former President Ronald Reagan inspired Congress to deal with comprehensive immigration reform in 1986 and the current situation cries for similar action now. If members of the House and Senate were more interested in solving difficult national problems, rather than keeping their jobs, the immigration problem could be resolved. That would give employers and workers certainty and also contribute to economic growth in Idaho and the country as a whole.
 

Notes . . .

notes

Got a call today about a column from a few weeks back relating to a polling result in an Idaho contest. The point of the call was, there's reason to think the poll result was flawed.

Which may be fair enough. No one polling approach is perfect, and some are more flawed than others. The best approach in analyzing them is to compare and contrast and maybe draw averages, from a bunch of polls. That presents a problem in a place like Idaho, where not a lot of polls are conducted, and many of those that are will be done for private parties. (Beware of putting too much certainty into private polls.)

This may be grist for a column . . .

But in mulling over the subject, I spotted a new Nate Silver article on polling, always worth the review, pointing out the wide disparity in pollster results in the upcoming Alabama Senate race. Recent polls have shown everything from a Roy Moore win by nine points to a Doug Jones win by 10.

Most illuminating, though, is an online poll done by the company Survey Monkey, which actually shows that full range of prospective results using the same set of information - the same data set. Political pollsters generally don't run out the data they receive unfiltered; usually they weight it so the response base they receive matches the local demographics and political leanings. It usually works, sort of.

But the Survey Monkey results show just how much the "polling results" vary depending on what kind of assumptions you attach to it. If you use standard demographic weights and count responses from all available registered voters who will certainly or probably vote, then Jones is ahead by nine points. If you use a standard set of demographic weights filtered through the 2016 results, and counting people who voted in 2014 (with newcomer certain voters added), then Moore wins by 10 points.

So what happens tomorrow? Hey, no predictions here . . . -rs
 

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 – December 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