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Posts published in January 2020

Globalist agenda


Let's start with the agenda part of this, and work our way back to globalism.

According to Conservapedia, the agenda being sought by "globalists" includes these items - comment attached here.

"'harmonizing' our laws with foreign ones, rather than vice-versa." In practice, this works now as it always has, in areas where nations think cooperation is a wise thing: They negotiate. The same thing happens among states in the United States when they try to develop common laws so that commerce, travel, communications and more aren't hopelessly snarled by passage across state lines. It's not new; the idea goes back a few centuries.

"amnesty for illegal aliens, open borders, no border wall." The concept of open borders - see the entry for that in WDYMBT - is not completely imaginary, but as concerns the United States is held by few people, no massive group of globalists. Nearly all nations around the world enforce restrictions on passing through their borders, so how an anti-borders approach would be the domain of globalists is hard to feature. As for the practicality of a border wall (presumably, to judge from the conversation, with Mexico) ... that would be a fantasy.

"more visas for guest workers" Requests for those usually are generated by local, American, businesses.

"repealing the Second Amendment" There is no meaningful such effort in existence, imaginations of certain of its advocates notwithstanding.

"eliminating the abortion issue from politics by making Roe v. Wade permanent" Nothing in American government or politics is permanent; to the degree Roe is established law (via court decision), it already is and has been since 1973. Nothing else short of constitutional amendment (which isn't on the horizon) could make it more so. But even in that case, abortion would not be eliminated from American politics as long as people want to debate it. The Roe decision certainly didn't accomplish that. Taken as a whole, this stated goal must be the most ludicrous of the bunch.

"repealing the Electoral College" Hard to see how moving the process of electing a president from an otherwise obscure national group to the outright selection of the voters of the United States would serve global rather than American interests. You'd think it might more logically be the other way around.

"a parliamentary style of government" There's no push for that in the United States, though there are some arguments that such as approach might be more efficient than what we have. It's debatable. But hard to see how it would diminish natural sovereignty.

"repealing the Treaty Clause" This is a real puzzler. The Treaty Clause is the provision in the U.S. Constitution which describes how treaties are approved (the president negotiates and proposes them to the Senate, which can approve them with a two-thirds favorable vote). Maybe someone somewhere has an alternative procedures to propose, but any proposal to actually repeal this provision has kept very, very quiet. If (as is unlikely) it exists.

"supporting many unnecessary treaties, like NAFTA and the Paris climate agreement, which don't receive Senate approval" Not all international agreements are formal - binding - treaties; some do not require Senate approval. as to what's necessary or useful, opinions may vary.

"removing state sovereignty and, eventually, establishing a one-world government" Here presumably we get to the core of the thing, and the heart of the paranoia.

"One-world government" (which probably will get its own entry here before long, it being apparently not yet a gone-away phrase) is an old faithful bogeyman, going back generations and no closer to reality now - even in a time of much accelerated communication and transportation - than it ever was. And you will have to look with a microscope to find anyone in American politics, or really the politics of any other country, who would support it.

A letter to the editor of the Washington Times added this: "It is amazing to me that so many people are unable to see through the scam of 'climate change.' This goes right along with the bogus Islamic immigration policies being pushed on Western nations. Such policies, clear as can be, are being pushed on Western countries by the global elitists. They want to destroy Western culture and capitalism as we know it. In addition, they want to bring on a one-world religion and blend Islam into the mix."

Why these elites, who presumably are overwhelmingly white Western secular capitalists, would be so eager to do all this, is unclear ... the say the least.

So much for the agenda. So what's left for globalism?

The Conservapedia entry starts out with this description: "Globalism is the failed liberal authoritarian desire for a "one world" view that rejects the important role of nations in protecting values and encouraging productivity. Globalism is anti-American in encouraging Americans to adopt a "world view" rather than an "American view." The ultimate goal of globalism is the eventual unification of humanity under a one-world government. Communists and Marxists are using globalization to advance their political aims."

Considering the near-complete collapse of communism around the globe a generation ago, this doesn't seem to be working out very well for them.

There are some alternative, less ideological, ways of looking at the idea of a trans-national cooperative effort, however. The idea that power is perfectly siloed within national borders is clearly invalid in a day of multinational corporations, international finance, global military systems and worldwide instant communications.

Writer Jeremy James in one recent paper (its dating is unclear) wrote that "many dismiss those who believe in a global conspiracy as cranks and fools." He goes on to point out, however, to offer this definition: "A secret agreement by a number of super-rich families to increase their wealth and power on the world stage by covert means, with a view ultimately to impose a unified world government under their control ..."

There are in fact wealthy interests - some familial, some not - around the globe whose tentacles reach across dozens or scores of nations, and surely they sometimes talk to each other, and no doubt cooperate. But the real world, they're not going to agree all the time, and their practical ability to cooperate in a thriller novel is not much better than the ability of most any other group of disparate people to operate like a well-oiled machine. The idea is an exposure of an unawareness of how people and organizations work in the real world.

There is another, maybe darker, aspect to the "globalist" label.

Writer Peter Beinart put it this way: "The term “globalist” is a bit like the term “thug.” It’s an epithet that is disproportionately directed at a particular minority group. Just as “thug” is often used to invoke the stereotype that African Americans are violent, “globalist” can play on the stereotype that Jews are disloyal. Used that way, it becomes a modern-day vessel for an ancient slur: that Jews—whether loyal to international Judaism or international capitalism or international communism or international Zionism—aren’t loyal to the countries in which they live."

Some impeachment advice


The object of any trial under American law is to achieve an impartial and just result. In a trial in the judicial system, jurors take a solemn oath to render a true verdict “according to the law and evidence.” That would be practically impossible without sworn testimony from witnesses. Live testimony is important because of what the witness says, but also because of the manner in which the testimony is delivered. Observing the demeanor of a witness can be critical for the jury in determining his or her credibility.

An impeachment trial under the U.S. Constitution has substantial procedural differences from a court trial, but the objective is the same--to achieve a just result. In an impeachment trial, Senators are the jurors. Senate rules require that they take a solemn oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

It is essential that the upcoming impeachment trial be handled in a fair and impartial manner, allowing both sides to present live testimony and to introduce pertinent documentary evidence. If the case is dismissed in a summary fashion, as some have advocated, or if witnesses who have pertinent information are excluded, those Senators responsible will have violated their juror oath and defiled the constitutional process.

Although the President has called for summary dismissal of the Articles of Impeachment, he has also recognized the necessity for witness testimony. On January 12, Trump tweeted that Representative Adam Schiff “must” be a witness at the trial and that Speaker Nancy Pelosi “should” also testify.

A word of advice to the President on calling hostile witnesses. If a witness is not likely to support your side of the case, it is generally not a good idea to call that person as a trial witness. Those of us who may have done so in the beginning of our legal career have learned from bitter experience that it is a recipe for disaster. You want to call witnesses who will support your side of the case. Schiff and Pelosi are on the prosecution side and, therefore, it would be awkward to bring them forth as witnesses for the defense.

Trump has loudly and repeatedly proclaimed his innocence of the charges and has implied that those close to him in the decision-making process would support his innocence. It would be far better for the President to call those people as witnesses to support his claims of innocence. By putting them under oath and having them truthfully testify, he could clear his name. Senator McConnell and others who vigorously oppose calling witnesses, particularly people like Mulvaney and Bolton who worked closely with the President, are giving the impression that Trump has something to hide. An innocent man should have nothing to hide.

Throughout the proceedings in the House of Representatives, the Republican members were bemoaning the failure to call witnesses favorable to the President. On October 3, 2019, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy remarked on Fox News, “Think about if you went before a trial, but you couldn’t call any witnesses.” The trial is now approaching and it looks as if the President may be unable to call witnesses to support his innocence.

The President should step forward to clear his name by asking, no demanding, that his top aides be placed front and center on the list of witnesses to testify on his behalf. In fact, he should demand that he be able to appear as a witness at the trial to personally proclaim his innocence of all charges.

Even though judges counsel juries not to infer guilt just because a defendant fails to testify, there is always the possibility a juror might think it suspicious that an innocent man would not be confident enough to proclaim it to the jury. The President could do himself a favor by taking the stand at the Senate trial and testifying as to all the details of his dealings with the Ukrainian president. That would ensure a just result.

Us by the numbers


As we slide into another year of uncertainty, it’s time for counting American noses again.

The U.S. Census Bureau prognosticates there are exactly - yep, exactly - 328,239,523 of us. How they do that to the last number is - like a lot of other governmental hocus pocus - top secret. But, that’s their number and they’re sticking with it.

There’s also this. In 42 states, there were fewer births last year. And this. Deaths increased. So, with fewer births and a higher number of deaths, our national growth rate has slowed a bit. About 0.5% up between 2018 and 2019, a continuing slowdown for the past decade or so.

Same folks say the population in the Southern states is growing faster than anywhere else because of domestic migration and more births than deaths. About 40% of Americans live in the South.

Conversely, the Northeast is losing more people than anywhere else.

Between 2018-2019, 10 states lost population: New York, Illinois, West-by-God Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, Mississippi, Hawaii, New Jersey, Alaska and Vermont.

With all the bad news - mostly weather and earthquakes - coming out of Puerto Rico in the last year or so, more folks moved in than left. Seems a bit odd. Unless they counted relief workers.

More locally, Idaho ranks as the fastest growing state for 2019. About 2.1% last year. Lot of that growth came from in-migration. But, there was also an uptick in the number of births. One of only eight states to record such.

And here’s an oddity. While growing at a good clip, Idaho is one of the top five states for suicides.

Over the last decade, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Florida and Nevada added more people than anywhere else. Since 2010, each had about a 15% growth factor or about 1% annually.

Immigration numbers have also taken a dive. Been that way since 2017. Trump’s inauguration, remember? The influx of foreign citizens went from 1,047,000 in 2016 to 595,000 in 2019. It would be interesting to know what part his Muslim ban played in that decline. Also the rejection at our Southern border.

More numbers? Sure.

By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than 65. At that point, one in every five residents will be retirement age.

AND, for the first time in history, us old folks will outnumber those under the age of 18! Imagine the effects on society, business, politics, recreation, health care and a whole lot of other things.

In the 2030's, the Census Bureau folks predict a population growing at a much slower rate, one much older and more racially and ethnically diverse.

So, there you have it. We’re entering the decade of the 2020-2029 years with our population growth slowing, deaths outnumbering births, people moving South and a massive change in racial demographics. Exciting times.

Now, if we can clean up the domestic political criminal activity, heal some of the divisions separating us one-from-the-other, clean out a near-worthless Congress, get a handle on global warming, eliminate terrorism, renew broken international alliances, get big money out of politics and the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, maybe we’ll start growing again.

How about it?

Market-skeptic Republicans


Democrats who have a limited amount of faith and confidence in the socially-helpful workings of business and the marketplace are not really news: People like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have ensured as much.

But there are also Republicans who have some similar concerns. The term "market-skeptic Republicans" has emerged, evidently courtesy of the Pew Research Center, as a means of identifying them.

Pew used the term to describe a slice of the Republican world, one segment of four (the others are core conservatives, country first conservatives, and new-era enterprisers) - and at 12% of the overall population, the second largest of the Republican groups. Apparently, classifying Republicans as uniformly pro-business is not wise.

The researchers said of the group's views, "

Only about a third of Market Skeptic Republicans (34%) say banks and other financial institutions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, lowest among Republican-leaning typology groups. Alone among the groups in the GOP coalition, a majority of Market Skeptic Republicans support raising tax rates on corporations and large businesses. An overwhelming share (94%) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, which places the view of Market Skeptic Republicans on this issue much closer to Solid Liberals (99% mostly unfair) than Core Conservatives (21%)."

The constituency has developed a voice through some Republican officeholders. One of the more vocal has been Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who said in a November 2019 speech that "We are witnessing the rise of a new oligarchy of wealth and education. And not surprisingly, the leaders of this country’s government, its press, its corporations and most of its popular culture most all belong to this same class. But this oligarchy is not sustainable. Not only because it is unjust that the global economy should work for so few, that so many should be shut out of America’s front row, left without a voice. It is unsustainable because so many Americans are so profoundly discontent, even despairing." Sanders and Warren might have found a lot of common ground there.

Other Republicans have struck back. Columnist George Will (an expatriate from the party, but long one of its leading mainstream conservative voices) said in a sharply-toned critique, "Hawley asserts, without demonstrating, a broad “collapse of community” across America, and blames this, without explaining the causation, on “market worship,” without identifying the irrational worshipers. His logic is opaque, but his destination is clear: Because markets do not properly allocate wealth and opportunity, much of their role must be supplanted by government."

The Republicans diverging from their party's long-standing laissiz-faire approach have, however, seized onto something politically useful, as some Democrats have found. It has its flaws, as any ideological position will, but it will not be easily bushed aside.

The GOP prairie fire


In his scathing takedown of the modern Republican Party – How the Right Lost Its Mind – the conservative former Wisconsin radio talk show host Charlie Sykes ponders – and worries – about the state of American politics.

“Did I – did we,” he asks of fellow conservatives, “contribute to this prairie fire of bigotry and xenophobia that seemed to grip so many on the right? How did the elites miss the signs of division that turned to schism that became a veritable civil war? Did we play with fire, only to see it spread out of control? Did we ‘make’ Donald Trump? Or is he merely a cartoonish bizarro version of conservative values?”

Sykes, like many other observers of our crazy, divided political moment, trace the decline of American democracy to the rise of the so-called Tea Party midway in Barack Obama’s first term.

“You can’t fix crazy,” former John McCain strategist Steve Schmidt says in a remarkable new edition of Frontline on PBS that tracks the arc of our division. “And the fact of the matter is you had a fair number of crazy people who started getting elected to the Congress on the Tea Party wave who there was no dealing with.”

One of the Tea Party arrivals with the Class of 2011 was, of course, former Congressman Raul Labrador. Labrador quickly embraced the nihilist politics of The Freedom Caucus and became one of its leaders, challenging the leadership of then-Speaker John Boehner, as reporter Tim Alberta recounts in his book American Carnage.

Labrador infamously helped orchestrate the government shutdown in 2013 – you can’t fix crazy – hoping to force a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. Somewhat reluctantly Labrador came into the orbit of Trump World after the sketchy real estate developer became the last Republican standing in 2016, but then he went all in.

“Right now,” Labrador told Alberta for his 2019 book, “they’re (the GOP base) happy with Trump,” but Labrador predicted strong blowback should the national debt explode (it has), the immigration crisis remain (it has) or if working wages didn’t improve (they haven’t).

But it looks as though Labrador, now quietly laboring in the Idaho GOP vineyard as party chairman, underestimated – as many have – the extent of Trump’s wholesale remodel of the Republican Party. The long term crisis for the GOP – and for the country – and the extent of the moral and intellectual degradation of the Grand Old Party requires looking not at the Labradors or at a Jim Jordan, the histrionic Ohio congressman, or even Doug Collins, the Georgia congressman who recently accused and then apologized for saying Democrats were coddling terrorists.

Sadly, indeed tragically, a real accounting of who has fanned the present prairie fire rests with the handful of elected Republicans who truly know better, including Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, and who have willingly failed to mount an effective pushback against what conservative writer Kevin Williamson has called “a big market for servility.”

Simpson, an affable, capable, serious legislator who learned his brand of get something done politics in the Idaho Statehouse, has never been a bomb thrower. He openly disdained the craziness of the Tea Party and the guerilla tactics of the Freedom Caucus. When Labrador was bashing John Boehner, Simpson was supporting the speaker and the House as an institution. Before his election in 2016, Simpson said Trump was “unfit to be president” and he could not support him.

To his credit Simpson has called BS on the Trump Administration a few times. He said the Republican response to Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to redirect congressionally authorized funds from the Pentagon was hypocrisy and Republicans would have rightly raised hell had a Democrat done something similar.

“I mean I’ll be real honest,” Simpson said at the time, “if Obama had done this Republicans would be going nuts. That’s just the reality.” But then Simpson went along with the president who is poised to again raid the Pentagon budget.

A year ago when Trump undercut members of his own administration and backed out on an immigration agreement Simpson said the president couldn’t be trusted not to renege on any commitment. “The one thing you’ve got when you come into this place is your credibility,” Simpson said, “and once you lose it, it’s gone and it’s gone forever. He’s lost it.” But then Simpson went along with the president.

Even farther back, six months into the Trump presidency in 2017, Simpson expressed his frustrations with the president in comments to Politico. “I don’t even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don’t care,” Simpson said. “They’re a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction.”

As reporter John Bresnahan wrote at the time, Simpson went on to say, “Quite frankly, I’m starting to wonder if anyone in the (Trump) family knows what the truth is.” Then Simpson went along with the president.

“It’s all just a bunch of bullshit,” Simpson said on the first day of the Trump impeachment inquiry and then admitted he had not read the testimony of career diplomat William Taylor who provided one of the first detailed accounts of Trump’s effort to shakedown the Ukrainian government in order to smear former vice president Joe Biden. And then Simpson went along with the president and voted against articles of impeachment labeling Trump’s sordid mess a political hit job by Democrats.

But wait. Now comes Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani pal, who earlier this week turned over records to the House of Representatives that appear to show, as the Washington Post reported, that “Ukraine’s top prosecutor offering an associate of President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, damaging information related to former vice president Joe Biden if the Trump administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.” Other newly released records seem to show that Trump knew of these efforts and sanctioned them.

Mike Simpson has had a long political career, an often-distinguished one, but now he confronts a harsh reality, what Steve Schmidt calls the “guts-and-courage crisis in American politics.” By going along with Trump when he knew what a destructive force he would be not only to his party, but also to the country, Simpson has become the problem.

“So we’re a country that now is willing to accept serial lying,” says Charlie Sykes, “that’s willing to accept overt racism; that’s willing to accept a president of the United States who behaves in a way that we would not find acceptable from any corporate executive, any other community leader. So what does that say about us?”

And what does it say about Mr. Simpson?

(photo/r. nial bradshaw)

Adjustive terminology


On Thursday the Idaho House voted unanimously to tell one of it members, John Green, a Republican from Post Falls, that his services there would no longer be required. In the corporate world, you might say he was terminated.

As a practical matter, there was little choice about doing something in Green’s case unless the House was willing to change the law for the specific benefit of a convicted felon.

That is what Green became as of Wednesday, when he was found guilty, in a federal court in Texas, of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, which is a felony. He hasn’t been sentenced yet, but the prospect of prison time apparently is real. The case had to do with his law practice in that state in 2005, and an effort aimed at avoiding paying federal income taxes.

The Idaho Legislature does not allow convicted felons (which Green is and will be unless his case is overturned on appeal) to hold one of its elective offices. Legislators in legally problematic situations often take the hint and tender their resignations. Green did not, forcing the House to act.

It had choices to make, which are reflective of its character.

It presumably could have looked the other way and done nothing, and allowed Green to keep his seat. That might have set up a fascinating series of legal squabbles and thrown the whole 2020 session off its rails. To its credit the Idaho House didn’t do that, and recognized that Green had to go.

But then the Idaho House had another choice to make.

It could have expelled him, and that is what a number of news articles said happened. There’s authority in the House rules for expelling members: “Expulsion of a House member shall require the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected to the House, as provided by Section 11 of Article III of the Constitution.” Presumably the House easily could have done so, since its ultimate vote was unanimous.

But the news articles to the contrary, he wasn’t expelled. Not exactly.

Instead, according to House records: “Mr. Bedke [House Speaker Scott Bedke] moved that Legislative District 2, Seat B of the Idaho House of Representatives be declared vacant due to disqualification of the representative pursuant to Article 6, Section 3 of the Idaho Constitution. Seconded by Mr. [Jason] Monks.”

The end result of this was, as Bedke later told a reporter, the same as an expulsion in that Green was kicked out of his legislative seat. And that’s the case.

Then why not “expel” him, since that would be the action most people might expect?

One reason comes to mind. It’s the difference between “he made a mistake” and “mistakes were made” - or, to put it into the immediate terms, “Green was expelled” as opposed to “Green’s name was deleted from the House roll call.” The latter is a lot less in-his-face than the former. And it would allow Green to say henceforth that no, he was not expelled from the House.

Hang around most state legislators for very long and you will find that few of them like to diss fellow members, even those of another party and even those they dislike, at least in public. (You’ll often hear a good deal more in private or off the record.) A few do, but they’re rarely among the most influential or leading members. Those who value their standing in the group dislike bashing a colleague.

There may be another explanation for why the House vacated Green’s presence among them rather than expelled him.

But this one seems the most likely.



I owe an apology to Bryan Taylor, Prosecutor for Canyon County. I hope this is good enough for him.

Last week I wrote about Canyon County’s Followers of Christ Church and their strong belief in faith healing over medical treatments and how this has led to many documented preventable deaths of children. I referenced a conversation we had, when I asked him if he thought the law should be changed. He pretty much said, “That’s your job.” Meaning, as a legislator who works to write, repeal or revise the laws, that’s what I should have been working on. And he was right.

What I did not reference, but, thanks to the Canyon County Information Officer for supplying it, was a lengthy and detailed, even directive email to me.

Prosecutor Taylor clearly stated: “As a prosecutor, I feel as though it is my responsibility to protect our children.” Then he went on to outline the steps I should follow to change the law that would make “the cleanest” change.

I had discussions in the statehouse but drafted nothing. Today, I apologize for my inaction. But more I apologize for last week mischaracterizing Mr. Taylor’s position.

In 2017 the Idaho Senate took a run at the law. A bill got to the floor of the Senate where it was killed 11-24. Three out of five Senators with some of Canyon County in their legislative districts voted yes. Not a single Senate Democrat supported it. There were complaints it didn’t go far enough.
It’s hard to build coalitions around passionate issues.

I was also informed last week by the Canyon County Information Officer that Canyon County has in fact been doing child fatality reviews for some ten years or so. I have asked for details about how often, who attended, what were the findings, but those details are pending. But digging through press reports suggests it sounds like there could have been some conflict about how child death investigations were handled in Canyon County.

A Los Angeles Times article from 2017 described how the Canyon County Sherriff had formed his own unit to investigate childhood deaths. He had concerns that the then-coroner was not doing an adequate investigation. In 2018 Canyon County elected a new coroner.

It would be my hope that persistent investigation of childhood deaths in Canyon County could help bring clarity to this issue. Further, persistent scrutiny maintains focus. If clarity for a resolution to this issue, as expressed to me by Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor is found, I would hope such resolve could be communicated to our state legislature. And then some clear action to change the laws must be taken by the Idaho legislature. It’s long past time.

The “cleanest” solution proposed by Mr. Taylor was simple repeal of Idaho Law 18-1501(4):  The practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.

This is in the criminal statutes that define “injury to children” and carries a punishment of jail or prison. Removing this section which protects parents from prosecution would not prohibit the free exercise of faith healing, prayer, or religious practices, all protected by our Constitution. But it would turn up the pressure on parents to consider the children’s well-being.

Maybe Mr. Taylor said it best in that poorly-remembered, unacted-upon email he sent me when I was a State Senator almost five years ago now:

By changing the statute, it does not force an individual who believes in faith-healing to change their beliefs and I don’t think we should ask for that. The First Amendment protects ones right to have whatever religious beliefs they choose, but that right does not include the right to abuse or neglect a child.

Well said Mr. Taylor. I hope you will accept my apology. I wish I had done more.

About the same


The subtext underlying last night's Democratic presidential debate was the election coming up in three weeks: The caucuses of Iowa, which likely will mark a significant inflection point in the race to the Democratic nomination.

The widespread and probably accurate view is that four candidates are closely bunched together near or at the lead: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Oneother senator, Amy Klobuchar, seems clearly to in a well-behind fifth place but has some chance, in the hotly-contested caucuses of a state similae to her home of Minnesota, of exceeding expectations.

The tension over this comes in part from an unusual but clear fact: The polling numbers are tight enough that, given the vagaries of the Iowa's byzantine caucus system, there's no realistic way to know which of the four major candidates will emerge on top: What the order of finish will be. A plausible case can be made for any of the top four finishing first or fourth, an uncommonly fluid situation (and fascinating for those of us who enjoy watching), and even a not-unreasonable longshot scenario for Klobuchar.

It reminds me of a something similar: The long-running debate over which of the candidates would be most or least able to defeat Republican Donald Trump in November.

The realistic answer: Their chances all would be close to the same.

Consider Biden, who probably most often has been described as the strongest of the contenders against the president. He would bring definite strengths: White House experience, deep political experience generally, strong support within his own party, strong support among minorities Democrats are counting on to vote, a generally good reputation and affection by many people who aren't even political allies; among other things. But there are minuses. He would not excite many Democratic activists, he has had trouble with campaign organization and fundraising (and getting campaign spending under control), age gas been an issue with him, and he is perceived in many quarters to be more of a mainstream stand-patter than an overturner of applecarts - an image not greater in line with the mood of the day. The pluses and minuses balance.

So do they balance with the others. Sanders has clarity and focus and a massive and extremely motivated support base (Biden's is wide but not deep); his campaign organization and funding are in fine shape; while his age shows visibly, you can easily forget it when watching the energy he brings to the field. There are also a number of Trump voters who might more easily flip to him than to any other Democrat. On the down side, his rhetoric and Democratic Socialist label are off-putting to many; many Democrats may resent the idea of nominating a contender who doesn't even consider himself one of them (not to mention having little background in supporting Democrats for office, at a time when the Senate hangs in the balance); the health issue will not vanish entirely; and so on.

You can run through the same exercise with Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and come up with similar results: A balance of pros and cons, arguments in favor and against any of these contenders. Most analyses have tended to focus on one particular strength or weakness of one or another of them, and promote or diminish their chances on that basis. Look at the larger picture, with all of these elements in place, and what you see is a field of candidates with genuine strengths and counterbalancing weaknesses. They're all different among the various candidates, but which plus or minus you focus on may say more about you (or the analyst) than it does about which would be the strongest candidate.

This works another way too. Any of these candidates may gain votes from some quarter that another candidate might not, but they also lose. Maybe Biden could pick up some centrist and minority votes that, say, Warren might not; but Warren might draw votes from millennials and upscale suburbanites that Biden might not. And so on around the circle. (Of course, in a general election context, all of that is also pretty speculative anyway.)

Here's a larger point. In nearly any election with an incumbent on the ballot, the nature of the incumbent is a lot more important to the outcome than the nature of the challenger. That will be much more true than usual in 2020; the vote for and against Trump is far more likely to be decided by attitudes toward the incumbent than it will be attitudes toward the challenger.

Message to Democrats, then: Quit chasing your tail and driving yourselves crazy. Choose a good nominee. That's the the best you can do and, from this vantage point, that looks to be sufficient.

New year’s short takes


So many newsworthy things are happening as we enter a new decade that it is difficult to address them all. Here are some brief comments on a variety of important issues.

First, sincere thanks to Governor Little, the Twin Falls County Commissioners and the Ada County Commissioners for consenting to the settlement of additional refugees in Boise and Twin Falls. Although the feds did not require the consent of the two cities, both gave it anyway. Idaho’s refugee programs in the two cities are some of the best in the country. Even though refugee admissions have been cut fivefold in the last three years, these programs have successfully welcomed those refugees who were able to navigate the bureaucratic roadblocks. Predictably, those new residents have thrived in both communities. The Governor and the Commissioners of both counties deserve our gratitude for maintaining Idaho’s reputation for compassion and humanity.

As the Legislature gears up for the first session of the decade, there are several issues that deserve our attention. For one, the Legislature needs to protect the lives and health of our youngest citizens. Even before statehood, it was a felony offense in Idaho for parents to deny necessary food or medical care to their children. In 1972, under pressure from the federal government, the Idaho Legislature exempted faith healers from that law.

The great majority of Idahoans can be prosecuted for starving their children or failing to provide basic medical care, but not faith healers. In my view, the exemption violates the Idaho Constitution’s strict prohibition against religious preferences, but the Legislature has refused to eliminate the preference. There will be an effort to scale back the preference this session. It is time for legislators to protect the vulnerable children of faith healers.

Idaho will need to redraw legislative districts when the 2020 census numbers are available. After years of legislative and court wrangling that often resulted in bizarre legislative districts, the voters decided to entrust the job of redistricting to an independent, bi-partisan commission. That system has taken much of the political chicanery out of the process and worked quite well. This is a situation where the system works fine and ain’t in need of fixin’.

Idaho’s initiative process allows the people to enact legislation when the Legislature fails to hear their voices. When legislators refused to expand our Medicaid program to cover people who could not afford medical care, the voters took the law into their own hands and got it done. As a result, over 50,000 Idahoans will not be afraid to seek medical care when they need it.

Last session, the Legislature tried to make it nigh unto impossible for the people to exercise their constitutional power to enact legislation. Thanks to Governor Little’s veto, the people kept their power. He did it to keep the State from having to defend costly litigation that many of us were contemplating. Anti-initiative legislation will likely come up again this year and the people will once more need to speak out vocally against it. It will be just as obnoxious to our Constitution and just as costly to defend this year.

A piece of good news on the federal level - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is once again cancer-free. This is once for colorectal cancer, once for lung cancer and twice for pancreatic cancer. She was a beacon of hope for me when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2017. She gave me the courage to beat this vicious disease.

Justice Ginsburg will likely be the decisive vote to keep the Affordable Care Act from being killed later this year. If so, she will keep millions of Americans from being subject to loss of coverage for pre-existing conditions or from losing their health insurance altogether. It would be a wonderful legacy for this icon of the legal profession.