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Posts published in December 2019

Lessons from a refugee


As Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, the dangerous situation he faced in his infancy should not be forgotten. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the new-born Jesus and his family fled from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod of Judea. They were allowed to enter Egypt, where they lived in safety until Herod died.

Matthew’s recitation of events shows that Jesus and his family were refugees - forced to leave their home to escape danger or persecution. The Egyptians gave them refuge until the family felt it was safe to return. Thank God that the Egyptians did not refuse them asylum and turn them away. That is a wonderful object lesson, in and of itself.

Jesus went on to be a powerful advocate for the poor, downtrodden and oppressed. He spoke of our responsibility to love one another, including the “stranger.” In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus made it clear that those who had treated strangers with kindness would inherit His kingdom. On the other hand, those who refused to take in strangers, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give drink to the thirsty would not.

These words were in keeping with a strong biblical tradition that preceded Christianity. Deuteronomy and Exodus are replete with verses admonishing the Jews to treat foreigners with kindness and compassion--Deuteronomy 27:19, “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner” and 10:19, “And you are to love those who are foreigners.” Exodus 12:49, “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you” and 22:21, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Millions of people in that same region of the world are currently refugees, having fled their homes to escape persecution or certain death. This country obviously can’t take them all in but we can do a much better job of giving at least some of them sanctuary from the horrors that forced them to flee their countries. Yet, this year we will take in no more than 18,000 refugees, less than 20% of our historic average of 98,000 since 1975.

Idaho’s refugee resettlement program is regarded as a model for the rest of the nation. The Agency for New Americans and International Rescue Committee in Boise resettle about two-thirds of the Idaho-bound refugees, while the College of Southern Idaho takes care of the rest. Our refugee community is comprised of people who work hard, take care of their families, set up businesses, and contribute to the community.

Idahoans, particularly those who have had personal contact with refugees, are supportive of continuing the resettlement program in Idaho. Many in the faith community have led the effort to increase the dwindling number of refugees being admitted to the U.S. and Idaho.

Idahoans are pretty down-to-earth types who understand that we are all human beings and that we need to lend a hand to those who are suffering adversity. We are reminded in our places of worship of our responsibility to come to the aid of distressed foreigners. That theme would not be woven within the fabric of both the Old and New Testaments if it were not an integral part of the religions that observe the words in those revered books. Of course, we also have the example of that most famous of refugees, who escaped the wrath of Herod due to the sanctuary granted by Egypt just over 2,000 years ago.

Helluva guy


Bear with me. There is a point.

In Bend, Oregon in 1949, I was an eighth-grader. Late afternoons, I was a carrier for The Bend Bulletin, the local daily.

It was the worst in-town delivery route, stretching the length of Newport Avenue (about four miles) from Wall Street downtown all the way to where the college is now. Except, in 1949, there was no college. One subscriber way out there. Just his house and Juniper forest. And the last mile of road was gravel.

Bend has winters! Real winters with lots of snow. Couldn’t ride a bike. So, loaded my carrier bag - front and back - and hiked the route, at times, in below zero weather and a foot or more of snow.

One afternoon, I was in the carrier room folding the papers I’d deliver. The circulation manager, as he often did, was in the middle of all of us, helping fold. Out of the blue, he said “Rainey, you’ve carried that damned Newport route for nearly two years without a lot of complaining. How’d you like an inside job in the printing plant?”

He didn’t have to ask twice. I was apprenticed to the linotype guys to work with the hot lead they used to make the type. Still have the scars on my wrists and fingers 70 years later. But, I loved it. Also learned composing and writing filler material. Stayed there until high school graduation in 1954.

In December, 1951, that circulation manager who helped shape my future lifetime career in the media with an act of kindness, quit to mortgage everything he had to buy an OK Rubber Welders franchise store 30 miles away in Prineville. Took every dime he could raise.

But, by 2007, he personally owned 410 stores in the western U.S. with annual sales of $1.6 billion. Half of each store’s profit went to employees who also were allowed to invest in buying the land under the store where they worked. And he only promoted from within the company. All the way to the top.

People tried many times to buy him out. Michelin tried twice. Even Warren Buffet. They always got a “NO!” He wanted his family to run it all. And they have since his death in 2007.

That circulation manager’s name was Leslie Bishop Schwab. Or simply, Les Schwab. A man I’ve admired all my life. And probably the most successful person I’ve ever known. In all ways.

His son and daughter, both company directors and well-schooled in how Les operated, died prematurely. Son of cancer; daughter in a car wreck. Les was a broken man when he passed in 2007. The grandchildren have no interest in running the business. So, now the remaining family has decided to sell it all. Bloomberg News is forecasting the company will go for “at least $3 billion!”

His slogan “If We Can’t Guarantee It, We Won’t Sell It” is recognized through out the West. Even today, employees run out to welcome customers, tire checks are free, guarantees are “rock solid” and staff treats people better than any kind of store I know.

Les was also generous in every community in each of the 13 states in which he invested. Hard to find an athletic facility for high schools or universities without a “Les Schwab Tire Centers” sign or banner. And, more often than not, a check to help things along.

In Bend, Les and his wife gave the Les Schwab Amphitheater to the city. His generosity was well known but I suspect much of it was done anonymously and we’ll never know the true extent.

Les had the most remarkable memory for names and miscellany. In his prime, he could go into nearly every store, call employees by name, knew many of their kids’ names and special things going on in their lives like college or the military. He shook more hands than any politician I’ve ever known. And I’ve known many.

Les was truly “one-of-a-kind” in business, philanthropy, personal relationships with employees - top to bottom - and fair-minded in everything he put his hand to. I’m certain he had a very positive influence on hundreds - if not thousands - of lives. Like mine.

It’s been probably 40 years since I last saw Les. He was still in his prime. And after years of being apart, he still remembered my name and those days folding newspapers behind that Oregon printing plant.

I’ve had a lot of cars and trucks in my life. Lots. And, I’ve bought lots of replacement tires. But, always at a Les Schwab Tire Center.

Our most recent car will need replacement tires one of these days and we haven’t found a Les Schwab Tire Center in Phoenix yet. If we haven’t found one by the time the need arises, we’ll take a run on Interstate 10 to Nevada.

Extra effort. Extra expense. But, if Les were there, I know he’d say “Thank You.”

Helluva guy.

The campaign finance trap


If you were looking to identify a single date in recent history where American democracy made a sharp swerve in the wrong direction, you could do worse than fingering Friday, Jan. 30, 1976. On that day, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned significant parts of the federal campaign finance law put in place in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

To the lasting detriment of rational politics in America, the court held that groups and individuals could raise and spend unlimited amounts on so-called “independent expenditure” campaigns so long as the “independent” groups did not coordinate with a candidate or another campaign.

Not many Americans knew at the time that the decision handed down on that long ago Friday would begin a tumbling of political dominos that would severely distort politics, vastly expand the role of money in politics, breed widespread voter cynicism and lead to a handful of other judicial decisions — the outrageous Citizens United, for instance — that have created a profoundly corrupt system.

If you have come to hate the barrage of “negative” political commercials, the slick mailers and the almost always distorted rhetoric of modern campaigns, you have Buckley v. Valeo to blame. The decision was the foundation stone of modern sleazy campaigns conducted by shadowy groups who employ every measure of deception to hide their donors and their motives.

The plaintiffs in case of Buckley v. Valeo were an odd collection of interests, as diverse as the decision was consequential. The Buckley was James L. Buckley, brother of the conservative writer and magazine editor William F. Buckley. Jim Buckley, a Yale Law grad, was a genuine political fluke, elected to the U.S. Senate from New York on the Conservative Party ticket in 1970 with just 39 percent of the vote.

Buckley’s political fluke is owed to his defeat of a Senate incumbent, moderate Republican Charles Goodell, father of current National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell had been appointed to replace Robert Kennedy by then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller following Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. Buckley was a one-term senator and later Reagan administration official and federal judge. His name remains, however, most firmly identified with the 1976 court decision.

Two of Buckley’s fellow plaintiffs in suing the Federal Election Commission were liberal Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who had made his reputation as the poetry-writing contrarian who helped force Lyndon Johnson out of the presidential race in 1968, and Stewart R. Mott, an eccentric multimillionaire who pumped thousands of dollars into McCarthy’s campaign and other liberal causes. Mott’s support for what a Richard Nixon aide called “radic-lib candidates” earned him a spot on Nixon’s “enemies list.”

McCarthy and Mott had nothing in common ideologically with Buckley, but they all shared an interest in spending lots of money on politics, preferably with as little regulation as possible. The Supreme Court largely sided with them in Buckley, a landmark that one legal analyst called “an exceptional case — a 143-page ... behemoth with 178 footnotes, five separate opinions of the eight justices involved, writing eighty-three more pages, which with appendices yielded a 294-page reported decision.”

By the time the Supreme Court decided the subsequent Citizens United case in 2010 — that decision overturned 100 years of settled law by declaring that unlimited corporate and labor union political spending is protected as free speech — Buckley had been cited in more than 2,500 legal cases relating to campaign spending.

To read the decision or listen to the now available tapes of oral arguments is to realize how confused the justices were about the nexus between political money and political corruption. Justice Byron White did understand the linkage and argued that Congress had been correct in identifying a compelling need to limit political money.

“The act of giving money to political candidates,” White wrote in a dissent, “may have illegal or other undesirable consequences: it may be used to secure the express or tacit understanding that the giver will enjoy political favor if the candidate is elected. Both Congress and this court’s cases have recognized this as a mortal danger against which effective preventive and curative steps must be taken.”

White’s argument did not prevail and, as the Congressional Research Service noted in a 1981 report about the subsequent rise of “independent” political action committees, “By lifting the limits on (independent) expenditures, while leaving intact those on direct contributions to candidates, the court’s ruling created a major avenue for individuals and groups seeking to influence elections beyond the level permitted under” federal law.

Before Buckley political action committees (PACs) played a minor role in American politics. Now they are American politics.

For example, one estimate holds that $55 million, much of it from out-of-state interests shielded from disclosure, will be spent on television advertising during the Maine U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Susan Collins and her Democratic challenger.

Maine is, of course, a key battleground that will help determine which party controls the Senate after 2020. But even given that significance, the Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy calls the $55 million “an astonishing amount for a state with three relatively inexpensive media markets.” Duffy notes that a year before the election, “Democrats have outspent Republicans almost two to one and nearly all that money has been on ads criticizing Collins.”

Outside money, much of it impossible to track, is flooding Iowa’s Senate race and the Republican incumbent, Joni Ernst, has been trying to swat away allegations that an “independent” group helping her and run by some of her former aides has violated the law prohibiting coordination between the candidate and an outside PAC.

Politico reported recently that President Donald Trump is being victimized by an array of groups raising money in his name, but doing with the money God knows what. In an 18 month period, “$46.7 million flowed into close to 20 Trump booster organizations, structured as PACs or political nonprofits and with names like Latinos for the President and MAGA Coalition.”

All this money, of course, is virtually impossible to trace or track, which is after all why we have disclosure. Voters are supposed to be able to see who is supporting a candidate and evaluate for themselves where the money is coming from. But the practical ability to do that is a rude fiction, as is the myth that “independent” committees don’t collude — often very openly — with candidates.

Every Senate race in the country this year will have similar stories to what we’ve already seen in Maine and Iowa because the political money system is broken, unaccountable and, yes, corrupt.

And sadly the corruption is coming to a city hall near you, which is a story for next week.



As we all learned when 1999 eased into 2000, calendar points like the one we’ll hit in a few days don’t really mark the mathematical end of a decade (or century, or millennium, in the earlier case). But when 2020 arrives, most of us will feel we’re moving into a new 10-year cycle.

It may be different than the last one, or so many people hope. In thinking about that, we might pause here for a moment to consider what the 2010s were like - and how they changed in our lives, our society and our politics.

Did Idaho change in this last decade? In any big ways, that is?

Idaho has grown over the last decade: More people, more business, more activity. It will not be quite enough for a new seat in Congress (if the growth continues apace, that realistically could happen in 2030) but it has been heavy nonetheless; next year it should be at least 1.8 million, compared with 1.57 million in 2010.

It hasn’t been uniform. Ada and Canyon counties have grown fastest overall (about 19 percent), then Kootenai County (about 16 percent) and several others in the low double digits (Bonneville, Twin Falls, Valley, Teton and Jefferson). These account for almost all of the significant growth in the Gem State.

Two points should be made about this. First, almost all of this growth is in the suburbs: Idaho is becoming steadily, maybe rapidly, more suburban. Second, the share of rural population is declining, and in some cases dropping outright. Counties like Gooding, Fremont, Washington, Benewah, Clark, Butte and Custer have been registering declines, and others are barely maintaining population and could slip. That will have an effect on the next round of redistricting, of course, but also on the way people there and beyond live and conduct business. (Notice the changes in property valuations, for one thing.) This isn’t new, but the trend looks to be accelerating.

There have been changes within the population too. The Latino portion has been growing, at faster rates. The same is true for the religiously-unaffiliated (tracking the national trend), which has ballooned to more than a quarter of the population; while the conservative Christian parts of the population remain dominant, its numbers have been slipping.

In the last decade, Idaho has been pulling in two directions on the age of the population. The state’s median age has remained a little below the national average (a result of larger-than-average families), but for much of the decade the over-65 population grew faster than the population overall. That population is becoming more concentrated, however, in rural counties that aren’t growing much. The growing suburban populace seems to be tilting toward a younger population.

And politics? The broad brush paints a picture of hardly any change at all in the last decade. The governor today was the governor-in-waiting, a close ally of his predecessor, through most of the 10s. The congressional delegation is little changed. The legislature is little changed; individuals have come and gone, but the partisan splits and ideological attitudes seem almost locked in place.

Such change as happened has been on the edges only. The activist Tea Party-turned-Trumpist segment of the Republican Party in Idaho was strong in 2010 and remains so today, though it seems to have persistently hit ceilings in its relative influence (in the last two governor’s races, for example).

For Democrats and people toward the left, the decade saw few successes, but there were two significant indicators that could point a way for them.

One was a legislative race breakthrough in 2018 in west Boise, which either could flicker out in 2020 or could become reinforced and spread; if the latter, Idaho politics might see some change in the decade ahead.

The other indicator is in ballot issues. In 2012 Idaho voters decisively rejected three major legislature-passed laws on public schools, and in 2018 they voted for Medicaid expansion, which the legislature had rejected. In 2020 they may consider and vote for a minimum wage increase. So far voters haven’t connected their decisions on such issues with their votes for legislators and other public officials, but that day may come.

There’s a sense here, maybe, that in the 2010s a door lightly cracked open, and in the 2020s it may open wider. We’ll see.

Health care limbo


Congress makes policy changes nowadays in mammoth budget bills. I guess they chat about who gets what over bourbon or martinis, then lump it all together in a thousand pages and trillions of dollars.

Health care policy took a left turn last week when congress and the president agreed to fund the government at the last minute and approved $1.4 trillion in spending that will take us to September 2020.

The health care twists were costly. First, a couple weeks ago I had hopes that “surprise medical bills” would get addressed, but it seems the lobbyists won and no such action was taken. This was despite bipartisan voiced support. Some congressmen muttered something about “next year” as they twirled their ice cubes.

But the real damage came as Fiscal Responsibility was vomiting in the bathroom. He couldn’t handle the booze.

One of the only redeeming aspects to the Affordable Care Act (despite what many Republicans said) was that it did have a balanced budget. The costs for private insurance subsidies got paid for with taxes on insurance companies, taxes on medical devices, taxes on “Cadillac Health Plans”. But, to appease the poor insurance companies, all of these taxes were delayed. And then Democrats lost the House, then the Senate, and then the presidency. With each step, the delays were postponed even further, but with this budget bill, they were repealed.

So now, the Republican whine of 2010-2012 about the ACA “We Can’t Afford it!” has come true. But this budget fiasco was a bipartisan abandonment of good sense. The Republicans get to keep chipping away at Obamacare, since they couldn’t muster a full repeal or manage a weak replacement. Democrats made their union bosses happy with the “Cadillac Tax” repeal, made their big business donors happy with the medical device tax repeal, and have finally given up on holding big insurance companies’ feet to the fire. I guess there was something in this deal for everybody to love.

These sell outs present us with a ten-year cost of over $370B, about a fourth of the cost of the Trump tax cuts. When Mr. Fiscal Responsibility came out of the bathroom, pale, sweaty, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief, he found the Senators and Congressmen had left him the tab. He turned a whiter shade of pale. He was heard to mutter, “Full employment, no war, no downturn, why the deficits?” The young waitress asked about her tip.

Meanwhile, down in Louisiana, two out of three judges made Trump’s takeover of the Federal Courts official when they decided the individual mandate was indeed unconstitutional. It was very anticlimactic, since the penalty was reduced to zero in the Trump Tax Cuts. The judges punted on overturning the whole law; instead they sent that question back down to the lower court. It seems likely this will get appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

Of course, the irony here is thick. Republicans haven’t been able to craft any sort of replacement for the ACA. The law is relatively popular, since it got rid of exclusions for preexisting conditions, mandated young adults could stay on parents’ coverage, and established an individual marketplace. But it has in fact failed to provide affordable coverage for many, and it has not accomplished universal coverage. There are 20M more people with insurance now than before Obamacare, but still more than that (27M) uninsured even now. Further, it has only had a weak effect in controlling health care costs overall.

The irony will come when the Supreme Court takes this up, probably not until 2021. Who will the president be then? Who will control congress? When Gorsuch and Kavanaugh (and maybe Ginsberg’s replacement?) tip the scales, and the whole law is struck down, will there be any stomach for addressing this?

Happy New Year. I’ve heard Mr. Fiscal Responsibility is buying the next round. Drink up.

A Christmas message


My Christmas of 1968 was like no other. Today’s commercialism was nowhere to be seen. It was a joyful affair at an orphanage operated by the Cao Dai Church, which is located at Tay Ninh City in the former Republic of Vietnam.

The Cao Dai religion was established in Tay Ninh in 1926 to encompass and embrace all world religions. It claimed 3 million members throughout Southeast Asia at that time. The Cao Dai Church cared for about 73 kids at the orphanage.

I was in charge of a four-man artillery liaison unit in Tay Ninh City. We were responsible for clearing all artillery fire and air strikes in Tay Ninh Province, which was about 55 miles northwest of Saigon. When we learned that the orphanage was short of supplies, we adopted it as a civic action project. We provided rice, firewood, a set of playground equipment, an electric water pump, generator, and a variety of other stuff.

It did not take long for the kids to work their way into our hearts. They were sweet, a little mischievous, well-behaved and generally adorable. A Christmas ceasefire had been agreed upon with the Communists, so we used the opportunity to put on a party for the kids. Since the Cao Dai religion encompassed Christianity, we figured a Christmas party would be appropriate.

The guys in my heavy artillery battalion and the Special Forces group I worked with contributed to a gift fund. Folks from the Magic Valley sent clothes and goodies in response to requests in the local papers.

It was a remarkable affair. The kids got their first taste of ice cream and American soft drinks and loved both. Each kid got a toy, along with more practical stuff like clothes and school supplies. We gave the staff yards of cloth that they later stitched into school uniforms and play clothes. Some of the kids put on a dance performance, while we sat watching along with the matron, drinking peanut tea.

The very best part was seeing the joy on the faces of the children as they realized that the bow and arrow set, marbles, crayons, notebook, ball, badminton set or other gift was actually new and their very own. There was no display of selfishness but plenty of sharing and exchanging. It was also fun to see the delight in the eyes of children as they experienced their first taste of ice cream. We did not leave out the ladies who worked at the orphanage. Each got an umbrella.

It was a great party for the kids, but also for my liaison unit. My work with the orphanage was a wonderful experience in an ugly war. It would end up saving my life several months later, but that is another story.

My last visit to see the kids was in August 1969, just before I returned home. When I left, it appeared the Communists were headed to defeat and I thought the kids would be safe. When South Vietnam fell in April 1975, it broke my heart. I have often kicked myself for not having tried to take some of the kids home with me.

My wife, Kelly, and I visited Tay Ninh City in February, 2018. We learned the orphanage was closed down after the Communist take-over in 1975. The kids had been moved to a state-run facility. Nobody could tell us if any of the former orphans were still in the area. We did find a lady who had worked in the orphanage, Do Thi Cung, who was then 78 years old and who still worked for the Cao Dai Church. We had a wonderful visit. She remembered me as the guy who gave out the umbrellas at the Christmas party.

Jim Jones is a former Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He released a book in 2019 about his Vietnam experience--Vietnam...Can’t get you out of my mind.

Where’d that come from


When Trump was elected, I turned to Barb and said “Before he’s out of office, he’ll piss off everybody who supports him.”

Comes now “Christianity Today.” The alternate Bible of the Evangelical right. “Trump Must Go” the headline blared. Followed by the editor’s statement “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”

Well, that about settles it. Aside from a spineless, cowardly and deliberately self-debasing group of Republicans on Capitol Hill, who’s left to anger?

“Christianity Today” has only about 100-thousand subscribers plus a couple of million online readers. Not big numbers when speaking of a national publication. But, big numbers aren’t what’s important here.

What IS important is that “crack-in-the-dike” statement comes, not from some “left-leaning newspaper” as Trump called it, but from a most-respected, basic source of information established in 1956 by Evangelical icon, Rev. Dr. Billy Graham.

While Rev. Billy’s offspring, Franklin, is considered by many to have lost touch with his father’s more reasoned outlook on Christianity, the senior Graham is still held in great esteem by those folk, even after his death.

Yes, Dr. Billy was, by his own recorded words, an anti-Semite. And, yes, some of his documented, private statements are considered racist. But, he represented, to the faithful, someone who spoke for the Almighty and his often fiery crusade sermons ignited internal - if not lasting - flames in millions of hearts. Now in TV reruns, the crusade effect is still much the same.

So, with the denunciation of Trump as the banner headline on the elder Graham’s own beyond-the-grave connection to today’s Evangelicals, you wonder if this is an awakening of sorts that’ll carry some authority.

Trump has, from his first days, shown his personal disloyalty to anyone who appears to be a threat. Anyone. He’s thrown so many under the bus in three years that it’s on its fourth set of tires.

Now, he has the impeachment noose draped loosely around his neck, waiting to see if Mitch McConnell comes back from Christmas vacation to set him free or if he’ll spring the trap door. I’d bet on the former but don’t discount the latter.

McConnell is in a serious race to keep his own chair in the Senate. Amy McGrath is not someone he can dismiss. She’s already run one good statewide race and is getting a lot of national support. If McConnell spends the next 30 days at home and senses some unfamiliar rumblings, such as the Evangelical pronouncement, ol’ Mitch might get himself a dose of “Come to Jesus” and reflect anew on his impeachment duties.

I wouldn’t bet the farm on him changing. But, I’ve got a gut feeling a two-week hiatus at home might change some positions on all sides of those proceedings. At the moment, Speaker Pelosi appears to have the whip hand. And Mitch is blustering and making crazy claims that impeachment won’t happen on his watch.

I know, from personal experience, Washington D.C. can be a very isolating place. Spend a year there and your contact with the outside world becomes tenuous and your sense of reality is about as accurate as a mirror at a carnival fun house.

Since September, denizens of that unreal domain have been locked, one way or another, in impeachment activities. Arguments, hearings and whip counts have been grueling and constant. Added to the normal Potomac distorted view of things, some may have lost contact with what’s happening at home and need to spend some time with the locals.
This “Christianity Today” abandonment of Trump is going to take some time to shake out. There’ll be some sermons preached, some camp meeting discussions and some coffee sessions about this turn of Evangelical events. Some may, because of the article, review their own stand on Trump. Some may back away. Some may hang in there.

The last shoe hasn’t dropped on this impeachment business. In all likelihood, there’ll be more unexpected developments. Suppose Trump decides he wants Bolton and his other sycophants to testify. Doubtful, but just suppose. What if a handful of GOP Senators tell Mitch the folks back home don’t see things his way? Could happen. And what if other respected Evangelical voices view the surprising headline from Rev. Billy’s little newspaper as a clarion “call to arms?” Could be.

Trump’s got just short of 13 months left in office. If he makes it that far. And, let’s not forget those brain-dead GOPer’s who’ve covered his backside so far on Capitol Hill. What are they going to find at home in the coming weeks? Sufficient disagreement from constituents so we’ll see more cracks?

You know, there’s no political instinct stronger than self-preservation. Makes people do all sort of crazy things. Nope. It ain’t over. And I don’t see the “fat lady” standing in the wings.

ISU optimism


Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee finds it encouraging that during the depths of the U.S. Civil War, when the prospects for a Union victory appeared bleak, an optimistic Congress enacted significant measures envisioning and anticipating a positive outcome beyond the war.

In April 1862, the two-day Battle of Shiloh's 23,700 casualties in Tennessee made it the bloodiest battle in U.S. history up to that time – with the North winning it. The Second Battle of Bull Run in Virginia that following August produced 22,180 casualties – with the South or Confederacy victorious.

The Battle of Antietam in Maryland remains the single bloodiest day in the history of the United States with nearly 23,000 casualties, but U.S. President Abraham Lincoln used that Union victory as an opportunity five days later on Sept. 22, 1862, to issue a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring the 3.5 million black slaves in the rebellious Southern states free.

(photo/ISU President Kevin Satterlee addresses the City Club of Idaho Falls/by Mark Mendiola)

Although the raging Civil War threatened to rip the United States asunder, Lincoln not only was determined to reunite the South with the North, he took bold steps to ensure the West would be firmly connected to the North, securing the nation's great expanse and preventing slavery from spreading westward.

In addition to issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, Lincoln in July 1862 authorized construction of the transcontinental railroad, which was completed in May 1869, only four years after the Civil War ended, launching the nation's industrial revolution.

In 1862, Lincoln also signed the Homestead Act, which enabled more than 160 million acres of public land, or nearly 10 percent of the total area of the United States, to be given away free to 1.6 million homesteaders or more than 300,000 families, mostly west of the Mississippi River.

In addition to the Homestead and National Railway acts, Lincoln in 1862 signed the Department of Agriculture Act and the Morril Act, which created the land grant college system by giving states title to lands for farm and technical colleges.

When he recently addressed the City Club of Idaho Falls, Satterlee emphasized that Lincoln and congressional leaders exercised great vision by recognizing the importance of higher education for advancing the nation. He emphasized that like today, the United States was polarized and government seemed unable to resolve its strife and divisive problems.

The Morril Act committed the federal government to grant each state 30,000 acres of public land. Morrill land grants laid the foundation for a national system of state colleges and universities. In some cases, land sales financed existing institutions. In others, new schools were chartered by the states.

Major universities such as Nebraska, Washington State, Clemson and Cornell were chartered as land grant schools. State colleges brought higher education within the reach of millions of students, who otherwise would be denied access, helping reshape the nation’s social and economic fabric.

“Higher education was critical to the future,” Satterlee said. “Congress was at its finest, providing hope for the darkest, most divided time in the nation's history.”

Satterlee, who has been ISU's president for about 19 months, said when he first assumed his office, he promised to build Idaho State University based on trust, compassion, stability and hope.

On Dec. 12, Satterlee joined his counterparts from the University of Idaho, Boise State University and Lewis-Clark State College in Boise to announce they plan to freeze undergraduate, in-state tuition and fees in 2020 at this year's level -- the first such statewide freeze in 43 years. Tuition continues to cover a larger share of Idaho’s public higher education revenue than it did previously because of state funding reductions and increasing costs.

After “the United States literally saved the world,” the G.I. Bill of 1944, which provided a range of benefits to returning military veterans, including free or low cost college or vo-tech education, “caused an economic and technical boom – the greatest in history,” enabling the U.S. to become the undisputed leader in science and technpology, Satterlee said. “It's clear that investing in technology raised research yields.”

For 20 years after World War II, the U.S. economy grew by 4 percent on average, but in recent years that has declined to 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent, Satterlee noted.

Because of budget demands, it's difficult to be critical of the Idaho Legislature, Satterlee said, but he noted that 30 years ago 15.5 percent of the state's general fund was devoted to higher education, but now it's 7.5 percent. “Student fees went up in the same proportion.” The primary reason Idaho students don't go on with higher education is because of escalating costs, he said.

Satterlee noted most courses taken by students on campus are via online education, which ISU has been growing, “but it's not the panacea everyone thought it would be a few years ago.”

Asked about student housing, he said dormitories are not in the condition they need to be. In October, ISU presented to the State Board of Education a plan to issue a $5 million construction bond to help alleviate the housing problem, Satterlee said, adding that the budget for ISU's library has been systematically cut the past eight years.

Despite the fact differences in the political spectrum seem more pronounced, there remains hope for ISU's future in higher education, Satterlee said. “Hope is one of our core principles.”