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Posts published in “Year: 2017”

Notes . . .

notes

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

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

Notes . . .

notes

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your service

jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Degrees of proof

stapiluslogo1

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

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

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

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

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

So what about a case like Moore's?

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Moore

rainey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Moore!
 

Idaho Briefing – November 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not much definition

stapiluslogo1

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

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

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

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

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

But just enough exceptions cropped up to disturb the narrative.

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

Then there were the ballot issues.

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

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

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

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

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

No laughing matter

richardson

Last week, President Trump shamed himself by denigrating the U.S. justice system, calling it a "joke" and a "laughing stock." Playing the part of the tin horn dictator, Trump bellowed that our nation needs "quick justice and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than we have right now."

This broadside on our nation’s criminal justice system reflects appalling ignorance.

Enamored as he is with so-called "strong men,” Trump seems willing -- if not eager -- to trample over the venerable concept of due process of law. You want "quick and strong" Mr. President? Look no further than the world's tyrants who send their henchmen -- often in the dead of night -- to capture, kidnap and kill "suspects.” They leave no trace of justice.

I've been part of the U.S. criminal justice system, and I've worked day in and day out with federal prosecutors and federal defenders, with federal agents and federal courts, and with the many other dedicated individuals who routinely put in extremely long hours, occasionally risking their lives, to ensure that our system of justice, though far from perfect, remains -- for the most part -- thorough, fair, and just.

I wish every citizen could see, as I have seen, the professionalism and dedication of those individuals. From victim witness coordinators to probation officers to federal mediators and Article III judges, it would be hard to find people more committed to the promise of our pledge of allegiance -- that ours is a nation "with liberty and justice for all." That phrase, well-known to every school child, may be aspirational, but it speaks to a noble aspiration, one deeply embedded in our national DNA.

When I served as U.S. Attorney for Idaho, a delegation of Russian justice officials visited Boise, ostensibly to learn about our criminal justice system. Over lunch, I asked the group leader what protections his country had in place to ensure that people accused of crimes were afforded due process. He gave me a dismissive look and precluded further questions with a summary statement: "You have your system; we have our system. Let's eat."

Yes, they have their system, and it is most assuredly “quick and strong.” But speed and strength do not guarantee justice. The Russian system, often violent and corrupt to the core, is one in which those close to power are free to do as they please and those out of favor are summarily condemned. This is not a system we should want to emulate.

During his tenure as president, Mr. Trump has repeatedly vilified our federal judiciary, undercut the rule of law, disregarded governing norms, undermined the independence of the Department of Justice, and attacked the institutions that give life to the guarantees enshrined in our Constitution. Sadly, we see that it is our president who is the laughing stock. And that is no laughing matter.

Point being

bond

So Kevin Spacey's "gay"? I'm not. So what? I like his movies. I'll still watch them, plus whatever else he comes up with. Weinstein is far more creepy, but he made some damned good movies, too, and I will continue to watch them as well.

Most artists have some weird antennae. Trust me, I dated a red-headed Ayn Rand-freak oil-painter and am worse for the suffering but wiser for the experience. (A friend warned me at the time: "Red-heads are defective units. Run.")

What bothers moi is that the accusers are coming out (pardon the pun) 30 years after their alleged lurid encounters and ensuing successful careers.

At which point do you side-line your personal integrity to further your professional life, then whine about it three decades later when it becomes fashionable? Or is doing so just another step closer to greater stardom? Where were you, at the time it happened, ethically? Prolly just about as sleazy as the man or woman who groped you.

Did you say "No" then be a part of it anyway, because you abandoned your conscience to advance a career? I'm sorry, Victims, but you sold your soul right then and there.
None of us, man nor woman, gay nor straight, is blameless. We've all copped a feel or brushed a kiss at some point in life, especially during our horny teens and twenties.

If we were even gently rebuffed, however, that was the time to back away. Consent had its own consequences, hopefully pleasurable. I don't think it takes an IQ much above 75 to tell the difference between consent and rejection.

If you can reject your own conscience, the compromise is on your karma.

The only happy note I take from all this is that most of the perverts appear to be Democrats. Maybe the Victims should change panties. Oh, I mean, parties

Shifting paradigm?

carlson

A “paradigm shift” is a fancy phrase for changing the way we look at and perceive things. We revisit our assmptions and then change our approach.

Watching that instant classic game two of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Astros while also filtering through my mind another series of steps and maneuvering by the President that day, it occurred to me that as a nation we are in the middle of a paradigm shift orchestrated by the President.

Furthermore, neither the media nor the political cognoscenti who within the Beltway talk to each other ad nauseum understand this shift is occurring. President Trump and his former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, though do understand and are leading the shift.

For example, the pundits and talking heads in D.C. and New York are constructing artificial benchmarks which they proclaim the voters want to see Congress achieve, such as repeal of ObamaCare and passage of tax reform. Otherwise, they pontificate the voters exacting swift retribution at the polls in November of 2018. Maybe so, maybe not.

The baseball analogy occurred to me as I listened to the game announcers rattle off traditional yardsticks by which ballpayers are measured, such as batting average, slugging percentage, runs batted in. For a pitcher it is wins, strikeouts to walks, innings pitched.

Michael Lewis’ fine book Moneyball came to mind. The book basically demonstrates how a paradigm shift radically redid the business of baseball. The book tells the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Bean, who as a prospect was labeled a “can’t miss making the majors.” But he did.

Once Bean got to the business side he started pondering why and this eventually led him to familiarize himself with sabermetrics, a new way of measuring the potential of a ballplayer to make it to the major leagues.

Being in a small market with a tight budget Oakland couldn’t afford to have too many misses. So Bean embraced the new way to evaluate players and also made the decision they would not draft high school phenoms but rather would focus on older more mature players.

Bean told his scouts, for example, to note the on-base percentage of a prospect believing that he would find more patient hitters who more often could get on base without a hit. Likewise, he worked up different formulas for evaluating fielding success and pitching success.

It paid off with Oakland winning several league championships. It wasn’t long before other teams adopted many of Bean’s methods.

President Trump is in the middle of pulling off a major paradigm shift in politics and is well on his way to redefining how success is measured. Frankly, he does not care really whether ObamaCare is repealed or tax reform is achieved. Successful legislation has to come from the Congress, or the GOP supposedly faces political disaster.

Trump will argue not necessarily. That’s the old way of measuring success. The new paradigm is cutting intrusive federal agencies down to size, eliminating bothersome and burdensone regulations, appeals to white males that are subtle messages of racism couched in language underscoring “fairness,” beating up on media that obviously has an anti-Trump agenda, and keeping your opponents off balance with a constant shifting of views and tactics.

If Congress can pass enabling legislation on tax reform, great. Don’t kid yourself, however, because tax reform is already dead. Trump’s base is largely holding strong because they don’t believe much of what the press reports and what they do see is their man standing up for American “values” against those shifty-eyed Muslims and those nasty Persians and North Koreans.

The more they see and hear the establishment scream and yell the more they like it. It’s a classic “paradigm shift” and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t lead President Trump not to impeachment but to a second term.