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Posts published in August 2018

A significant day

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Over the last week I've been re-reading The Final Days, the old Bob Woodward-Carl Bernstein book about the closing months of the Nixon Administration. So much of it rings bells in our present day.

The ringing got all the louder Tuesday with the conviction in one case and guilty pleas in another of two of this current president's once top men: his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his (until recently) main personal counsel, Michael Cohen.

During the time stretch in Final Days, several of President Richard Nixon's former aides ere going through criminal trials, in some cases acquitted but in others convicted. The book did not much focus on them directly but rather on the Nixon White House, as it dealt with the fallout of the decisions made when Nixon, Haldeman, Erlichman, Dean and others all were still in place, and still a team.

But there was definite White House fallout from their legal troubles.

For one thing, Nixon himself was at least somewhat distraught. That's not hard to understand. He had hired these people, in a number of cases friends of his, to work in positions of high responsibility, and now directly as a result of choosing to go to work for and with him, they were being jump-suited and packed off to prison. Whatever else Nixon did or didn't feel guilty about, he surely felt some guilt over that, over bringing such a result to his friends and allies. Who wouldn't?

Which raises the question of, does Donald Trump? Does he feel what Nixon did?

We can ask that question in no less a serious way about everyone else working in and around the White House. Imagine this: You've gone to work for an important organization, doing important work, and then you discover that your predecessors, at least a whole bunch of them, are being laid law and slapped behind bars. Not just one or two, but a lot of them - and for reasons that stem directly from having worked for, and taken orders from and tried to please, the same boss you're now working for.

That might make me spooked enough to have, well, unfortunate side effects. It certainly wouldn't make me a more useful or helpful part of the organization, not when some significant part of the day is spent wondering if someone will be coming for me next, for having done something I didn't even quite see coming until it was too late.

Cohen and Manafort are two of the most important figures so far to be dragged in, but they're not the first and they won't be the last. Don't imagine this won't have a big effect on the White House. It may even have some effect on the elections now not much more than a couple of months away.
 

Ethnic cleansing

jones

It certainly appears that our great country is embarking on a program to deny entry to immigrants of color and to expel many who are already here, even if they entered legally.

The program has two components - a publicity effort to besmirch refugees and other immigrants, and wide-ranging governmental actions to reduce the immigrant population. It takes on the look of an ethnic cleansing of this wonderful immigrant nation.

The publicity effort falsely claims that immigrants bring crime and violence to our country. Statistics consistently show that the criminal offense rate of immigrants is about half that of home-grown Americans. Similar false and shameful claims against Italians in the early 1920s caused Congress to bar their entry by the Immigration Act of 1924. We later recognized the stupidity of that law and repealed it. The same hysteria is now being raised against people from south of the border and persons of color from so-called “sh__hole countries” in Africa and elsewhere. It may be good politics but it is factually and morally wrong.

At the same time, the federal government is moving against immigrants on a wide front. The President wants to cut legal immigration in half and eliminate the family unification program that allows people to bring their immediate family members to the U.S., just like his wife recently did. He has cut refugee admissions from 110,000 in 2016 to just over 20,000 this year. The cap on admissions was 45,000 this year but the bureaucrats have cut that in half with administrative barriers. A further reduction will soon be announced.

About 325,000 residents admitted to the U.S. over the last couple of decades because of disaster or violence in their home countries will be tossed out in the coming year. Most are from El Salvador and other Central American countries. They have about 273,000 U.S. born kids they will have to either leave behind or take with them.

Of course, we are all familiar with the cruel separation of asylum-seekers from their minor children on the southern border. The “zero-tolerance” program, which has left hundreds of kids still separated from their parents, was designed to scare people away from America. And, the Dreamers are being held as hostages to build an expensive, unnecessary, and ineffective border wall.

The undocumented family members of military veterans and active duty personnel are being threatened with deportation. Some immigrants who volunteered to serve in our military to get citizenship are being told that Uncle Sam is welching out of the deal. Iraqis and Afghans who risked their necks to help and protect American troops are being denied entry to safety in America.

Now, the administration is preparing a new rule to penalize immigrants legally in the country if their family has received a public benefit such as Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The rule will likely be released before the midterm election and may jeopardize a legal resident’s right to obtain citizenship, even if the recipient of the benefit is a child who is a U.S. citizen. The effect of such a rule would be huge, as it could impact millions of immigrants who came to the country legally.

Ethnic cleansing is not a concept to be invoked lightly, but when a policy looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, about the only conclusion to be drawn is that the country is heading down a dark path.
 

We need new rules

rainey

A journalist friend and I had a “conversation” on Facebook the other day. We had a small disagreement on method, but we were both working toward the same point.

Our combined comments had to do with several “social” media sites removing extreme nutcase, Alex Jones, and his otherworldly conspiracy and hate epistles from their pages. Jones has been a national social cancer and an embarrassment for years. He’s had a marginal tinfoil hat following, but many similarly inclined conspiracy buffs avoid him as “too extreme.”

My friend who, in a previous life, was a very fine reporter and writer, posited removal of Jones was a good thing, while noting other poisonous voices out there could stand a fatal dose of anonymity as well. He cited the common practice of newspapers setting guidelines for reader’s letters and how some submissions were rejected. He wondered if similar guidelines could be set by Facebook, Twitter and others.

I demurred, saying that would get into First Amendment free speech territory and muzzling speech we don’t like could be open to challenge.

Though we disagreed on what could - and couldn’t - be done, I’m know my correspondent would agree on one point. Sooner or later - hopefully sooner - a briefcase full of challenges to shut down hate voices will land on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I’m a 1st Amendment believer and have practiced as such for many years. Even as the ACLU has defended some entirely terrible examples, I’ve often swallowed hard and agreed with the depth and width of such protection of “free” speech.

But, “social media” and the unfettered/unedited I-Net have taken us into new territory. Too much of what’s “published” is foul, baseless, ignorant, ridiculous, misleading, deceptive and lies. Most of us have no idea who’s creating and publishing much of it. There’s ample public evidence some comes from foreign countries, some from anonymous political operatives and more from people just hellbent on seeing their hate and racist words in a public medium.

As individuals, we can “deep six” a lot of this crap. My delete key gets an active workout. But, even companies behind the various sites can’t agree on what should be banned. In the case of Jones, Facebook dropped him but Twitter hasn’t. Facebook said he violated its rules; another said he didn’t abuse theirs.

The evidence is piled high that the I-net - for all its wonders and advantages - has made it easier for haters to spread their hate, racists to rant, lies to be passed off as truth and the unscrupulous to prey on innocent folk and innocent minds.

While these denizens of destruction have always been with us, they’ve never had such direct and easy access to the rest of us - access unedited, unverified, false and even dangerous. As the Facebook et al instances prove, there really are no accepted rules - no protections - no verification.

SCOTUS is going to have to decide. Neither Congress nor the Executive Branch can do anything - make any policies - enact any laws - than wouldn’t wind up before the high court. If we wait for either to act, a lot more avoidable damage will occur.

When a sociopath in a Boise basement can construct a web page that looks exactly like the editorial pages of today’s New York Times or any other major media, we’ve got a problem. When an Alex Jones can daily preach baseless conspiracies and call for the murder of people in public office, we need a speech “delete” mechanism.

Freedom of speech and assembly form much of the base of our national liberties. The terribly high price paid by millions of Americans for more that 240 years requires they be revered and preserved.

We have twin national sicknesses of division and tribalism at the moment. Some - including other nations - are trying to use them to their own advantage, diminish our freedoms and poison national discourse. In some ways, they’re succeeding. They’re actually using some of our freedoms recklessly and dangerously for amoral and illegal ends.

SCOTUS will have to act eventually. The outcome of that decision-making likely will change our nation forever.

We all need to remember that in November when we vote. The selection of who we want making that decision is ours.
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – August 20

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for August 20. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Smoke and fire continue on as Idaho’s wildfire season roars on. Meantime, schools start to reopen for the fall season, and candidates prepare for the onslaught of the fall campaign season.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on Augut 15 pardoned Ronald Steven Parker, who successfully completed his probation and jail sentence more than 30 years ago after his conviction for delivery of a controlled substance.

A federal court in Boise today ruled that the State of Idaho violated the U.S. Constitution when it forced homeowners to accept leases allowing an out-of-state gas company to drill for natural gas under their homes against their will. The ruling requires the state to vacate the leases, and hold a new hearing to determine the terms of any future leases.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent in July, continuing at or below 3 percent for the 11th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – continued to increase, gaining 1,086 people from June to July for a total of 852,714.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter on August 15 named Eagle resident and small business owner C. Scott Grow to fill the unexpired term of former Meridian, District 14 State Senator Marv Hagedorn.

The State Board of Education voted today to terminate for convenience Athletic Director Dr. Rob Spear’s employment agreement with the University of Idaho. The action is a contractual right set forth in Spear’s employment agreement with the University.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan in August opened her Boise campaign office, Jordan garnered the endorsement of AJ Balukoff, an Idaho businessman who Jordan defeated in the state’s May 2018 primary.

After hundreds of Boiseans participated in the first series of Community Conversations on Growth in June, Boise residents are invited to come together for a second round later this month.

Idaho high school students who earn a three or higher on any Advanced Placement exam will earn college credit at all public Idaho institutions under a policy approved by the Idaho State Board of Education during this week’s Board meeting in Pocatello.

Last year’s Idaho steelhead run received a lot of attention for the wrong reason. It was a low run year, and Fish and Game biologists did not initially see as many fish back as they would have liked, but they were pleasantly surprised in the spring.

IMAGE The Rattlesnake Creek Fire, located on the west side of Highway 95 near Pollock on the Nez Perce-Clearwater and Payette National Forests, was reported at 12:02 p.m. on July 23, 2018. The fire is actively burning in timber and grass. (photo/Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests)
 

Impacting the tribes

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Idaho Commerce Director Bobbi-Jo Meuleman (pictured) cited the significant impact the state's five indigenous tribes have on the Gem State's economy when she addressed about 150 tribal and western planners gathered at the elegant $49 million Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center in Fort Hall on Monday, Aug. 6.

The 2018 Tribal Planning & Western Planner Conference was the first time the major conference has been hosted by a Native American tribe, underscoring its theme of “Building Partnerships through Understanding, Cooperation and Consultation.” It was convened in Spearfish, S.D., last year and is scheduled for Santa Fe, N.M., next year.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chairman Nathan Small welcomed delegates from as far as Alaska, Canada and North Carolina by stressing even though it has been 150 years since the Fort Bridger Treaty established the Fort Hall Reservation in July 1868, Shoshone-Bannocks still adhere to their language and traditions.

In office since January, Meuleman noted Idaho's five tribal reservations – Shoshone-Bannock, Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce, Kootenai and Shoshone-Paiute – have a $570 million annual impact on the state's economy, their exports average about $1.5 billion each year and they employ some 7,570 people. Collectively, they are among the top 10 employers in Idaho.

A 2013/14 University of Idaho report about the economic impacts of those five sovereign nations showed they added 13,840 jobs to the state's economy and their total annual sales transactions exceeded $1.1 billion, including multiplier effects. Their value-added gross state product (GSP) amounted to $653 million or 1 percent of the state's GSP in 2013. More than 500,000 people, including 60 percent from out of state, visit Idaho tribal casinos each year.

In total, the five tribes of Idaho own more than 963,325 acres and have 9,555 members living in Idaho. If compared with Idaho’s total 44 counties, the five tribes would be ranked 20th in terms of land area. They have more than 150,000 acres under cultivation in Idaho, producing direct revenues/expenditures of $100 million annually.

Meuleman noted that Idaho has been gleaning positive national attention lately because it boasts the nation's top performing state economy, highest job growth, fastest expanding population, surging earnings and top travel destinations. She credited Idaho's success to existing businesses creating new jobs and making investments that have grown the economy.

Solid community infrastructures, expeditious permit applications, easy access to top government leaders, available land and resources, plus cheap energy, also have enhanced Idaho's reputation as a business-friendly state, she said, noting traditional industries are using more advanced technology, providing employment opportunities for young people and adding value to domestic products.

“We're looking to proactively attract business. Idaho is in a really great position,” Meuleman said.

Traditional industry sectors pay well and are projected to grow, she added. Their average annual wages and 10 year growth projections are as follows: Food manufacturing, $57,000, 20 percent; agriculture support, $36,000, 16 percent; computer/electronics product manufacturing, $128,000; 13 percent; wood product manufacturing, $52,000, 12 percent, and mining, $85,000, 4 percent.

Meuleman also showed a slide about how emerging industries compare: electrical equipment, appliance, component manufacturing, $73,000, 66 percent; information services, $75,000, 52 percent; beverage manufacturing, $44,000, 49 percent; data processing, hosting, $86,000, 29 percent, and advanced manufacturing, $58,000, 28 percent.

“The last thing we want to hear is that a company is leaving,” Meuleman said.

The Idaho Department of Commerce employs 43 people. Its Business Retention & Expansion division made more than 500 company visits in Fiscal 2017 and coordinated with 19 rural economic development officials.

Its International Export Assistance division has trade offices in Taiwan, China and Mexico.

The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) provides funding support for public/private commercialization projects between the state's research universities.

Meuleman praised the success of Idaho's innovative tax reimbursement incentive that has benefited the operation of companies like Amy's Kitchen, SkyWest, Albertsons, McCain Foods, Glanbia, Paylocity, Jayco and more than 30 other businesses in the state. It has been used to create 1,680 jobs for 28 rural projects and 19 urban projects. It has been used by 24 existing and 23 new Idaho companies.

About $9.2 million has been awarded in federal Community Development Block Grants for improvements in water systems, wastewater treatment, senior and community centers, wells and downtown revitalization projects. Another $500,000 has been awarded in state Rural Community Development Block Grants.

Tourism is the state's third largest economic sector, positively impacting smaller communities. It is expected to continue growing the next three years with 26 percent of survey respondents indicating they enjoy cultural experiences and visiting historic landmarks, Meuleman said, noting urban areas in Idaho are growing, but rural areas are getting left behind.

She said Idaho's three most formidable challenges are its work force, broadband service and affordable housing needs. In response to a question, she said the commerce department has had no bad experiences dealing with Idaho's five tribes, but she conceded communication always can be improved.
 

In crisis, cause for press hope

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These can look like dark days for news reporting, and for our ability to keep track of and hold accountable those in power, who we most need to keep on a leash.

There are serious economic pressures, a dynamic underway for a generation now; business crunches that have wiped out massive segments of local and regional news reporting. Journalism in New York (mostly) and Washington, and other top centers, goes on. Beyond those places, far less of it is happening today than did a few decades ago.

There are newer political pressures, some of them coming from endless attempts from the White House to call out “fake news” that isn’t fake at all, in the perverse declaration of the press -- the best protector most of us have from the powers that be -- as the “enemy of the people.”

But under that, almost in the shadows, there are signs of hope. One is the nationwide uprising of newspaper editorials this last week, reflected in Idaho among other places, explaining just why an independent and free press really is important.

This message happened to be magnified for me, on a Northwest level, this week.

About five years ago a former colleague, Steve Bagwell (now a newspaper editor at McMinnville, Oregon), and I co-wrote a book, titled New Editions, about the Northwest’s newspapers, their history, present, and future. This week we were asked to revisit that in an interview for an article on a regional press, to bring up to date some of what we found in our research back then. It brought us to consider a more recent summing up.

We found, five years ago, that while the newspaper scene tended to be reduced to a stereotype of “bleak,” the actual picture is more complex. We found that the reality of newspapers and journalism, their condition and vitality, actually varies a lot between regions, types of communities, types of newspapers. That much seems to be just as true today. Not many definitive lines of description apply to all newspaper journalism.

Overall through the ‘00’s, many newspapers seemed to be crashing, to the point that trend lines (and many prognosticators) suggested most might not be around for long, that the print newspaper was close to extinction. But trend lines are often disrupted; the future isn’t so easily predictable. In the years since 2012, the newspaper industry, while still enduring hard time, has to a great degree stabilized at a smaller level. Layoffs have continued and news coverage is down. But those newspapers that were supposed to disappear en masse? Most are still there.

There are also counter-indicators.

One (the subject of a recent column) in Idaho is the growth of the Nampa Idaho Press newspaper organization, the expansion of coverage, hiring of new staff - what looks like an explosion of confidence in the future of newspapering.

A few miles across the Oregon line at the small town of Vale, look at the case of the Malheur Enterprise, a small, struggling weekly newspaper. Well, it used to be struggling. Now, under new owner Les Zaitz, a former Portland Oregonian investigative reporter, it not only is breaking important stories week after week, gaining not just local but even national attention, but it also is growing rapidly in circulation, adding staff and apparently prospering. Zaitz is now in the process of starting a new hard-news digital publication covering the state, based at Salem.

I should mention my own digital publication, the Idaho Weekly Briefing, which has been expanding and is working on its own new business model (involving online crowdfunding).

The times are difficult for journalism, and for people who want to follow serious news reporting. But hard times can make for some of the most creative solutions.
 

Time to flip the 5th

richardson

While the national media has been obsessing over the “too close to call” photo-finish in the special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, I’ve been studying the primary election outcome in a district closer to home – the 5th Congressional District in Washington State.

Washington’s 5th includes many communities that are a stone’s throw from Idaho, including Spokane, Pullman, Clarkston, and Asotin. Since 2005, it has been represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, now a member of House GOP leadership.

An obedient lieutenant in Paul Ryan’s hyper-partisan caucus, McMorris Rodgers is part of the right-wing cabal propping up Mr. Trump. She recently held a fat cat fundraiser featuring Devin Nunes, the disreputable chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Memorably, Nunes did his utmost to bury the truth about Russia’s attack on our 2016 election. The committee hearings he chaired were a joke.

Recently, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow played an audio tape made by a person who paid to attend this fundraiser. On the tape, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers could be heard stealthily scheming to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein once they had retained their majority. Their intent, clearly, is to protect the president by shutting down the Special Counsel’s investigation. Indeed, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers have done little more than carry water for a manifestly corrupt administration, becoming complicit in the increasingly evident cover-up.

The GOP has shown itself manifestly incapable of putting country above party. They will not hold this president to account. That is why those of us who believe Mr. Trump is a threat to our republic must do everything we can to ensure that Republicans lose their majority. We can take an important step in that direction by defeating McMorris Rodgers.

For the last quarter of a century, Washington’s 5th district has been regarded as a lock for Republicans. But after the primary vote, McMorris Rodgers looks vulnerable; it is not unreasonable to think the district will flip. The state of Washington has a top-two primary in which the two candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, go head to head in the general election. This year, McMorris Rodgers received less than 50 percent of the vote, and – of perhaps greater significance – Democratic challenger Lisa Brown was nipping at her heals, coming within just 1 percent of the incumbent.

Lisa Brown is an exceptionally strong, superbly qualified candidate. She has had proven success at the ballot box, in the Washington state legislature, as an economics professor and, most recently, as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. First elected to the Washington state House of Representatives in 1992, Brown went on to serve with distinction in the Washington state senate. In 2005, she became the first Democratic woman in the state to hold the position of Senate Majority Leader.

Lisa Brown’s record in the state legislature is one of real accomplishment. She led the creation of the state's Mental Health Parity Act of 2005, which improved the insurance coverage of mental health services for Washington residents. And she worked to successfully expand children's health care and create the nonprofit Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation. She fought to ensure the state properly invested in public schools and infrastructure, worked to strengthen and diversify the regional economy, and helped pass landmark legislation including the simple majority for schools constitutional amendment and marriage equality.

Idaho Democrats and other Idaho progressives would do well to support Lisa Brown’s candidacy. Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held House seats this year to take control of the 435-seat chamber. Most of us have limited resources and want to support candidates who have a realistic shot at winning. The fact that Lisa Brown came within a hair’s breadth of besting McMorris Rodgers in the Washington primary permits the inference that she is such a candidate. Her stellar record of public service tells us she would be an outstanding member of Congress.

It’s time to flip the Fifth.
 

Review: Vanishing Neighbor

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When we dig down into the substrata underlying our civic problems - our deep divisions, unwillingness to compromise, the too-deep untrustfulness and cynicism - we can see a range of prospective "root causes". For those of us around for enough years to recall a different kind of American society, one of the biggest of these is the loss of social ties and connections.

In a rough sense, that's the subject of The Vanishing Neighbor by Marc Dunkelman, a book that relies more on anecdote than statistics and wanders well afield in places. It does usefully highlight the need for careful parsing in this area, though, and teases out what we have and haven't lost.

Over the period since World War II, which roughly is the time frame Dunkelman scans, some types of contact and community have been lost, and others have not. Dunkelman sketches out three concentric circles of contact between people, and describes how each have changed. And each have, but in different ways, and one of them more dramatically than the others.

The inside, tightest, ring, of family members and closest friends, has changed but not drastically. Families are much more varied now than they once were, and divorce is certainly much more common now than in the immediate post-war period. That said, most of still are close to family and our closest associates. The arrival of digital communications has in some ways even enhanced some of that (parents tracking children via smartphone, for example).

The outer ring too has changed but in fewer sweeping ways than many people may think. Back then, most of us had networks and contacts, and we still do. More of those connections now may be of the digital variety, through social media and other connections, but the relatively far-flung links of yesteryear weren't necessarily a lot more solid. The ranging of networks may even be expanding.

It's the ring in the middle that's been changing a lot. These are the people who aren't in the category of our closest contacts, but they are personal - these are people we know face to face, come into regular contact with, influence and are influenced by. They might be the casual friends met for an after-work drink, or someone in the union hall (when there were such things), or someone in a local pickup sports activity. The book Bowling Alone focused on these kind of connections: People who are just far enough from us, in economic status or occupational interest or religious or political background, that we aren't tight with them; but just close enough that we learn how to socialize and connect with them, with - in other words - people who are a little different from us.

That puts a finer point on the increasing solidity of the bubbles so many of us now live within, the echo chambers so many experience when the only voices heard are of those who think like us.

The step between the formation of those bubbles and the walls between, for example, the reds and the blues, is short and obvious. The inner circle a group of people we do not choose lightly (or in the case of family may not have chosen at all) tends not to piece the bubble much, except in the case of things like family argument blowups at Thanksgiving. The outer circle, our network of loose connections, is too easily replaceable, with names dropping and out, or too focused on a narrow area of interest or commonality, to force us to communicate much with people who are not exactly like us.

We're missing that middle range, that middle circle, that helps us more than the inner or outer layers, to navigate a society where we're not all the same.

It's a useful point, and The Vanishing Neighbor makes it usefully.

Don’t reduce auto efficiency

jones

The Trump administration wants to substantially reduce the fuel economy standard for new cars. Six years ago, the government and auto makers agreed that cars made in the 2025 model year should get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg). The President plans to reduce the mileage standard to 37 miles per gallon. Lowering the mpg target would hit drivers hard in the pocketbook and cause serious harm to the environment.

The President claims the 54.5 mpg standard is dangerous because the higher standard will make it cheaper for people to drive. So, they will drive more and have more accidents. The President wants to require people to fill up more often, costing them more to drive every mile. So, they won’t drive as much and will have fewer accidents. In essence, we will be safer because it will cost lots more to go anywhere.

First, I think most people are like me - I want to get the best mileage possible and pay as little for gas as possible. As Idaho Attorney General in the 1980s, I worked to keep gas prices down and found that Idahoans strongly supported getting the most mileage for their gasoline dollar.

Second, I don’t need a nanny-state government telling me how I will spend the money I save by getting 17.5 more miles out of each gallon of gas I buy. It might just be that we are smart enough to use the money we save from the higher mpg standard to pay for food, rent, and other necessities, instead of driving more and having more accidents.

If we are going to have all that extra cash in our pockets from the higher mpg standard, maybe the Congress could get up some guts and increase the gas tax. Some of that extra money could then be used to fix our dangerous roads and bridges and save a bunch of lives.

It is also claimed that higher efficiency cars will be lighter and less safe. That is baloney. High strength aluminum has been shown to absorb impact better than heavier and less pliable steel. Lighter cars will be safer. And, think about the Ford F-150, which is still the most popular vehicle around, even after it switched to an aluminum body.

Sticking with the higher standard will substantially reduce greenhouse gas and pollution emissions and save lives. Air pollution kills an estimated 80,000 Americans every year and causes respiratory illnesses in the hundreds of thousands. Auto emissions are a significant cause. More fuel-efficient cars will reduce the pollution spewing into our air and perhaps reduce the wintertime inversions in Idaho.

As the increasingly hot and turbulent global weather demonstrates, we face a bleak future unless we start taking dramatic steps to combat climate change. The earth is like one of those sealed globes that you shake to watch it snow. We are cramming our closed atmosphere full of heat-trapping gases, which will continue to warm our planet to the point that we will not be able to grow enough crops to feed the world population. The Pentagon sees this as an existential threat to our country.

Besides switching to clean energy sources like wind and solar, we should be doing everything possible to reduce emissions of heat-holding gases. A higher fuel efficiency standard for automobiles will result in less greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. That can play a part in keeping the Earth from becoming a barely inhabitable hot house.