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Posts published in February 2021

Reflections on impeachment

jones

It was shocking, but not surprising, that the Senate failed to find Donald Trump guilty for inciting the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The shocking part is that 43 Republican Senators voted No, despite the fact that the House impeachment managers fully proved their case. The unsurprising part is that those 43 Senators let cowardice prevail over their sworn duty to uphold the law.

Senator McConnell typified the lily-livered GOP dodge. He first cast a No vote, but then proclaimed: “There’s no question--none--that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking” the attack. He went on to say that Trump’s supporters launched the attack “because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth, because he was angry he lost an election.” That obviously meant Trump was guilty in McConnell’s mind, but his mind apparently works in mysterious ways. He stuck with his No vote, based on the fiction that a person no longer in office can’t be impeached. He conveniently forgot that it was he who had refused to allow an impeachment trial in the Senate while Trump was still in office.

Idaho’s two Senators also cast No votes, claiming a president cannot be impeached if he is not presently in office. They apparently concluded that Trump had absolutely no legitimate claim to the presidency and, therefore, could not be impeached. In doing so,

Senators Crapo and Risch rejected the language of the U.S. Constitution, which the vast majority of legal scholars have interpreted as allowing Trump’s impeachment. They also ignored the previous 56-44 Senate vote affirming that a former president is subject to impeachment.

I have known both of these lawyer-Senators for decades and thought they understood the law reasonably well. It now appears I was wrong. Impeachment was an easy call but they both got it wrong. Or, their votes could simply have been motivated by a weak-kneed fear of Trump.

Senator McConnell then suggested that Trump might be held to account under criminal statutes. “The Constitution makes perfectly clear that presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the president has left office.”

McConnell’s statement jogged my memory about a case I handled for Evel Knievel way back in the late 1970s. It was not a criminal case. Rather, it dealt with the issue of civil liability for gathering together a group of potentially unruly people, who then get out of hand. After Knievel fumbled his jump attempt, the assembled crowd grew increasingly agitated. They rioted that evening, destroying the concession stands at the jump site. Several concessionaires sued Evel for the damages caused by the riotous crowd. In the two decisions issued by the Idaho Supreme Court in the case (100 Idaho 883 and 102 Idaho 138), there was no ruling that Evel could be held liable for the damages, but neither was that possibility foreclosed.

One recent article on the Capitol riot speculated that the federal government and private parties, such as the injured police officers, might be able to sue Trump for damages. Another pointed to statutes in the District of Columbia that might provide grounds for seeking recovery of damages. So,even though Trump escaped an impeachment conviction, it is possible he could be held to account for monetary damages through the civil justice system. Certainly some food for thought for an enterprising attorney.
 

Still crazy, R or I

henderson

State Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, left the Republican Party this year and registered with the Independent Party of Oregon.

Don't get excited. He's still nuts.

Apparently, he just got tired of being part of a group of off-the-rails, semi-organized psychopaths and decided to go off and be insane on his own. Now he's just Independently crazy.

One would hope the Oregon Republican Party -- with all its recent talk of insurrectionist attacks at the U.S. Capitol being a "false flag" operation as a prelude to a leftist dictatorship -- finally became too wiggy even for G.I. Bo.

Nah.

He's just his own brand of balmy, a unique blend of herbs and spices that makes it impossible for him to work and play well with anyone. That's why he's spent his past 15 years in the Lege mostly playing with himself.

This is the guy who, just last year, followed 11 other Republicans out the door rather than vote on a cap-and-trade bill. When Gov. Kate Brown talked about rounding up the truant lawmakers with the state police, Boquist told State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton to "send bachelors and come heavily armed."

He also addressed Senate President Peter Courtney directly. "If you send the state police to get me, hell’s coming to visit you personally," he said.

For some reason, many people sensed a certain threatening tone in those remarks. It could because Boquist has starred his entire life in a grade B action movie he's written and directed for himself.

After a career in a crack commando unit, he joined the A-Team as a soldier of fortune. Or something like that. You can read all about it in his official bio. Or just ask him. He loves to talk about it.

He's built his entire career on military machismo to the point where he's the only member of the Legislature who can swagger while sitting down. Well, that's not quite fair.

Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth, swaggers pretty well too -- showing up at virtual committee meetings with a military base superimposed in the background. Sigh. Boys and their toys. Still, Evans hasn't gone on record threatening to widow anyone.

Confronted with his remarks, Boquist realized Real Men don't accept responsibility or consequences. He promptly sued Courtney and other legislative leaders for having the temerity to feel threatened and placing restrictions on his access to the State Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael McShane ruled in June that Boquist's words were "those of a bully on the playground" and that the senator had been disciplined for perceived threats, not political viewpoints.

McShane added Boquist "seems to overlook the fact that he sounds more like a character out of a Clint Eastwood movie than he does Mother Teresa."

That goes too far. A few Clint Eastwood movies are actually worth watching. (Who can sit through "The Bridges of Madison County" without a box of tissue? And Clyde the orangutan deserved an Oscar for "Every Which Way But Loose.")

Boquist is more Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme with a dash of Dolph Lundgren for comic relief.

Our political folklore is the richer for it.

However, it's no wonder Boquist feels estranged from almost everyone. The man is the anti-Dale Carnegie as he tromps about the political landscape losing friends and influencing people ... to walk in the opposite direction.

Even his new compatriots at the Independent Party of Oregon want you to know he may have joined their club, but they don't hang out with him at the malt shop.

"With regard to the Oregon State troopers and various other inflammatory rhetoric, those things don’t align with our party’s values," Sal Peralta, the Independent Party's secretary, told the McMinnville News-Register.

Boquist also doesn't hold with the party's stance on environmental issues, the same sort of environmental issues that led to him threaten troopers in the first place.

Perhaps Boquist should just be unaffiliated until U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and her confederates can start the Whack-a-Doodle Dandy Party. Unfortunately, the majority of the Oregon Republican Party would likely save up their box tops to join as well -- if only to get the super-secret QAnon decoder ring.

Then Boquist would have to leave again. It's a vicious cycle.

At least Boquist keeps us entertained, which I guess is all conservatives can do these days in lieu of actually doing their jobs. And Boquist is definitely a hoot, as seen in his email response to the News-Register (my old paper) about him changing dance partners.

"You represent another corporate special interest owned by the Bladines," he wrote to reporter Dora Totoian, lining her pockets on half-time pay. "If they have a concern about a bill their lobbyist is not conveying, please let me know."

Really? The Corporate Media card? Boquist should check his playbook. Conservatives talk about the Liberal Media. Only liberals decry the Corporate Media. Get it right.

By the way, the vast Bladine empire covers a printing press, small-town newspaper and a couple of specialty publications. Ewing Oil, it's not. Spending a political career defending plutocratic interests and then picking on a small-town family business makes you look like a ... a... what's the word?

Bully. That's it. Thanks, Judge McShane.

And no matter what flag he flies under, Boquist is still a bully. And still nuts.
 

Simpson and salmon

hartgen

Idaho Second District Congressman Mike Simpson’s proposal to breach Snake River dams does something very few Idaho proposals have ever achieved: it would effectively destroy major economic vitality in big parts both north and Southern Idaho.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a Congressman who has served two decades representing Southern Idaho, but who now proposes a plan which would dry up Southern Idaho farmland as well as eliminate the Port of Lewiston as an inland products terminal and rob the whole Northwest region of electric power to light a million homes. And this to fall short of its stated goal of “Saving the Salmon.” (www.simpson.house.gov/salmon/)
Indeed, the plan admits it may not succeed. No matter. Nothing done so far has worked, so the plan says, so it doubles the money spent. It’s a truly stunning proposal in its scope but also in its likely negative impacts on all of Idaho.

The price: $33billion dollars, twice what we’ve already spent trying to “Save The Salmon” with virtually no success, and with both the old and new money to come from our pockets in the form of increased federal debt and inevitably higher taxes and other costs.

And, as with many government proposals, the real costs are likely much higher. Doubling the costs to $33 billion wouldn’t begin to cover losses in agriculture, electric power generation and shipping. (CapitalPress, 2/11).

What in the world is Simpson thinking? Is this a “grand solution,” a Frank Church Wilderness monumental salmon plan? Or did he just “move left” with an idea which reads like it could have been written by the Sierra Club or The Idaho Statesman? Or is there some notion that without this, the new Biden `administration would go even further to “protect” the species?

Simpson’s plan is a classic “let’s-throw-more-money-at-it” so-called solution to an issue which is really beyond Idaho’s control. Salmon runs have been declining for decades all along the coast, from Mexico to Alaska. Even the best science doesn’t have the complete answer, which may lie in changing ocean patterns as well as natural predation by orcas and sea lions. These were once considered “endangered” but now inhabit the lower Columbia River system in growing numbers.

Simpson’s open-money-spigot idea seems right out of traditional liberal thinking on many issues. Poverty? Do a Great Society. Transportation? How about a billion-dollar national rail system, which every liberal loves but no one rides? Iran nuclear threat? Buy them off with a planeload or two of Obama-Biden taxpayer cash. Climate change? Biden proposes to fix it by eliminating all fossil fuels and imposing forced energy from “alternatives” which will cost ratepayers more. (PS. How did the wind turbines do this past week in Texas’ cold snap? They froze. WSJ, 2/14)
What’s next? Put a fence and road blocks around all of Central Idaho to keep people out of “restored” grizzly bear habitat? How about depopulating the Mountain West to make way for DNA-reconstructed wooly mammoths, saber-tooth tigers, the Hagerman horse and ancient ground sloths?

Saving endangered species is the coin of the realm for ecos; there’s hardly a Spotted Owl, Bruneau snail or Sweetspot Peppergrass which can avoid the ‘protections” of federal designation, all at the expense of local communities and livelihoods.

Yet, in the case of the salmon, they are almost all hatchery-raised now, with DNA that’s the same as the “wild” ones. Effectively, there aren’t many ‘wild” salmon in Idaho to be saved. When the history of America is written for the past 50 years, they will surely wonder how these “movements” took hold and will see such liberal fanaticism for what it is and for what it costs us all.

Amazingly, Simpson’s plan virtually ignores tribal netting, which takes tens of thousands of fish from the Columbia and which are then sold out of pickup trucks along the highways. If the salmon are so “sacred” why is this happening? Are we afraid of being called woke salmon racists if we address the Indian take?

The proposal makes a true assertion that it would be extremely expensive, but suggests that’s ok, because it’s only one to two percent of an anticipated Biden multi-trillion-dollar proposal on energy, transportation, an overall “green” agenda from the Biden-istas. It’s a plan to tap the coming Biden open spending account.

Simpson’s plan, in effect, is an effort to pander to various interest groups with big blobs of federal credit card debt, a few hundred million for agriculture, a few hundred million more to “save” energy generation, a few hundred million more to make good Lewiston’s loss of its port, a few hundred million more to enhance alternative energy research, on and on.

His website on the plan effectively dismisses the economics of these broad categories in fuzzy, blissful paragraphs, focusing rather on the “opportunity” before us. Yea, sure. That’s why Idahoans already are giving the plan mostly negative reviews, from the Farm Bureau to the Idaho Water Users Association, who know it would be Idaho’s water that flushes the salmon downstream.

Simpson has long served Idaho well in Congress, but this “Save the Salmon” concept is fundamentally out-of-touch with Idaho interests. As a political concept, it’s Dead on Arrival. Simpson should re-think it – entirely.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of two new books on Southern Idaho, “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” and “Spirit of Place: Southern Idaho Across Generations.” He can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com
 

Call for special counsel

readings

A guest opinion by Everett Wohlers, a former deputy secretary of state in Idaho.

In a display of spinelessness, 43 Republican Senators on Saturday February 13 voted to give Donald Trump a pass for his brazen attack on the Constitutional order in the form of his attacks on the validity of the election and his incitement of the insurrection against the Capitol and the counting of the electoral vote by Congress.

Most of those Senators, including both of Idaho’s, explained their votes to acquit by invoking the decisively debunked argument that the Constitution does not permit impeachment and conviction of a President after he leaves office. None of the Republican Senators who voted to acquit argued that the ex-President was not guilty of the offense with which he was charged. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even got up and agreed in some detail with the House managers that Trump was guilty as charged.

So we are left with an ex-President who remains eligible to hold future office, including the Presidency, despite having violated his oath of office in the most egregious way possible – by attacking the most fundamental feature of a functioning democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to the choice of the people. What must be done about it, and by whom?

The nature of the offenses committed by the ex-President and his many co-conspirators is criminal under federal law. To not pursue justice under those laws would in effect say to the world that powerful people are above the law. So action under the relevant federal laws must be pursued, but by whom? The US Attorney for the District of Columbia could take on such a case, since that is the venue where the core of the criminality occurred. But there were many related criminal acts that occurred in remote swing states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia, so the US Attorney for DC would face logistical and jurisdictional problems.

Alternatively, prosecutions could be divided among the US Attorneys for the venues of different criminal acts, but that would create a disjointed effort, with possible conflicts. Another possibility is that the new Attorney General, presumably Merrick Garland, could bring the action, but that could be seen as a partisan effort by many, putting the legitimacy of the outcome in doubt in many eyes.

There is a better option that does not suffer from those problems. After Merrick Garland is confirmed as Attorney General, he should appoint a Special Counsel to investigate and appropriately charge those who committed federal criminal offenses in connection with the ex-President’s attempts to overturn the results of the election. The Special Counsel’s remit should be broad so that it can charge any crime by any person that was committed in connection with the effort to overturn the election results, to include the insurrection against the Capitol and the electoral vote count.

While the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation and prosecutorial actions would not be limited to them, there are three relevant laws under which charges could be brought that come to mind immediately.

First, 18 U.S. Code Section 595 makes it a crime for any government official to use “his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the . . . election of any candidate for the office of President. . . .” The efforts of Trump and his surrogates to intimidate election officials in the swing states such as Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and particularly Georgia to “find” votes appear to clearly fall within the purview of this law.

Second, 18 U.S. Code Section 2383 makes it a crime to incite “insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or [to give] aid or comfort thereto . . . .” The Senate impeachment trial established that Trump and a number of his surrogates did exactly that in inciting the attack on the Capitol and Congress’ count of electoral votes.

Third, 18 U.S. Code Section 2384 makes it a crime for “two or more persons . . . [to] conspire . . . by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States . . . .” The clear evidence from the impeachment trial shows that Trump conspired with a number of others, including Giuliani, Flynn, Kremer, Jones, et.al. to cause the mob to disrupt the count of electoral votes that is required by the Constitution, and that the mob’ actions did in fact “hinder or delay” completion of the count.

If no person is above the law, these and any other relevant crimes must be charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, regardless of political considerations. One of the new Attorney General’s first actions upon confirmation should be the appointment of a Special Counsel with a broad remit to investigate and prosecute all of those who have committed federal crimes in connection with the ex-President’s attempts to overturn the election result, to include the ex-President and his co-conspirators.
 

What are they afraid of?

johnson

The irascible, irreverent Perry Swisher – once an editor at the Lewiston, Idaho paper that publishes my regular column – was a 20th Century Renaissance Man: legislator (he served as both a Republican and Democrat), an independent candidate for governor, a writer, activist, deflater of egos and caustic truth teller, particularly about frauds, phonies and attorneys.

One Idaho governor threatened the judicial council with a Swisher appointment to the Supreme Court – Perry wasn’t a lawyer – if the council didn’t start recommending better candidates for the court. Another governor put Swisher on the Public Utilities Commission and he proceeded for several years to scare the crap out of Idaho Power Company.

Swisher once quipped that the Founders had made one fundamental mistake: they turned over an entire branch of government to lawyers. One can only imagine what the old curmudgeon would have made of the “trial” of America’s first insurrectionist president; where at least 18 of the Senate Republicans jurors who voted to acquit Donald Trump – including the two timid sheep from Idaho – are card carrying members of the bar.

Of course, none of these Perry Masons actually attempted to defend Trump’s behavior leading up to and including January 6, 2021 when a crazed mob of the then-president’s followers stormed the U.S. Capitol, killed a police officer, precipitated the deaths of two others and injured dozens more.

This brainwashed gang of cranks, misfits, losers, white supremacists and MAGA true believers were, as Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney succinctly put it, summoned by Trump, assembled by the president who then “lit the flame” of the attack. There has never been such a blatant frontal assault on our democracy.

Everything that followed, Cheney said, “was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not.”

That’s it. That was sum of the indictment that 43 Senate Republicans would not, could not defend, but were craven enough to dismiss on specious process grounds.

The “trial was unconstitutional,” Harvard Law grad Mike Crapo said. “The House’s impeachment proceeding blatantly violated established guarantees of due process.”

Jim Risch soiled the reputation of the University of Idaho’s law school where he surely learned more than he is now able to admit. “The United States Senate has no jurisdiction over a private citizen,” the former law and order prosecutor intoned incorrectly, “and thus impeachment was and is impossible.”

Both men conveniently ignored that the Senate has, in fact, conducted trials of impeached officials who are out office and that the Senate in which they sit actually voted on the constitutionality question and a majority of senators deemed the proceedings proper. They weren’t defending the Constitution, they were engaging in jury nullification.

The Trump “base” of the GOP, and those like the coward caucus in the Senate who refuse to confront it, are, in the words of media analyst Margaret Sullivan, “so disconnected from reality that when reality manages to intrude – in the form of undeniable facts, timelines, videos and presidential tweets – there’s nothing to do but deny it as outrageous and either look for an escape hatch or go on the attack.”

And it’s not as though these senatorial profiles in gutlessness don’t know any better. Arkansas’s Tom Cotton, Texan Ted Cruz and the insurrectionist from Missouri Josh Hawley are, like Crapo, Harvard men, recipients of the best, most exclusive legal education America can offer. Cruz clerked for a chief justice of the Supreme Court. Utah’s Mike Lee was an assistant U.S. attorney and clerked for federal judges before jumping through the escape hatch rather than act to uphold an oath of office.

Constitutional law scholar John E. Finn of Wesleyan University is just one of dozens of experts who utterly reject the rationalization of unconstitutionality that allowed Trump to skate. Instead Finn calls what Crapo, Risch and 41 other Senate Republicans did “constitutional rot,” a condition “in which we appear to be formally governed by constitutional rules and the rule of law, but the reality is quite different. When rot sets in, public officials and the public routinely ignore or subvert those rules while sanctimoniously professing fidelity to them.”

The historian T.J. Stiles, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, knows his American scoundrels. He says of our current one: “Donald Trump is precisely the sort of person for whom the Framers wrote the impeachment provision into the Constitution.” Unfortunately, while Madison and Hamilton and the rest did envision the need to disqualify a despot their imagination failed them when it comes to someone as ethically vacuous as a Cruz or a Crapo.

This is the point at which history reminds his constituents that Crapo – Juris Doctorate cum laud, Harvard Law School in 1977 – has the rare distinction of voting to both impeach and then convict Bill Clinton for lying about consensual sex. Yet rather than confront the guy who summoned the mob, incited it, lit the flame and then watched the fire burn, Crapo employed the solemn sanctimony of the partisan escape hatch to acquit a man he must know in his heart of hearts is guilty as sin.

The debasement of basic decency, truth and accountability are now widely accepted as a fundamental condition for good standing in a political party that once plausibly, but no longer, claimed Lincoln as its founding father.

“The Republicans who voted to acquit Trump acted with selfishness, cynicism and even malice,” says the conservative scholar Tom Nichols. “They have smeared their betrayal of the Constitution all over their careers the same way the January insurrectionists smeared excrement on the walls of the Congress itself. At least human waste can be washed away. What the Republicans did on Feb. 13, 2021, will never be expunged from the history of the United States.”

History will remember, however, the few Republicans – Washington’s Jamie Herrera Beutler is one – who stood against the lies, rejected fears of mob censure and refused to quake at the prospect of facing the dreaded primary challenge.

“I’m not afraid of losing my job,” Herrera Beutler said after voting to impeach Trump, “but I am afraid that my country will fail. I’m afraid that patriots of this country have died in vain. I’m afraid that my children won’t grow up in a free country. I’m afraid injustice will prevail.”

What are Crapo and Risch and the Senate’s 41 other cowards afraid of? They should be frightened of the verdict rendered by the French philosopher Voltaire: “Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”
 

In a round about

stapiluslogo1

Boise is definitely hitting the big time - even the international big time.

One of the single best pieces of evidence of that, and one of the most indisputable, and an area where Idaho might draw some lessons, may be in its traffic.

An organization called Fleet Logging, which tracks road traffic, especially commercial and electronically tracked traffic around the globe, has evaluated the cities with the worst traffic in the world. (Yes, you can guess where this is going.)

Unlike the informal measures most of us do, complaining about how bad the traffic is wherever we are, this group used a relatively objective approach: “FleetLogging wondered whether it really makes so much difference to plan travel in and out of a city at off-peak times. We decided to find out. First, our researchers identified 141 of the most congested cities in the world. Then, we used the TravelTime API to calculate how far from each city center you could drive in one hour, both on- and off-peak.”

What they found was that the world city with the worst traffic, in peak rush hours, was Marseille in France. The next two cities were also in France, and the fourth-highest (Monaco) is adjacent to France. France apparently has a traffic problem.

Fifth-ranking world wide, and by a substantial lead in the United States: Boise, Idaho.

So if you live in or around Boise and you think the traffic is awful, well, you’re spot on.

The other cities in the United States top 10, in order, are: Philadelphia; Albuquerque; Oklahoma City; Houston; Kansas City; Denver; Columbus, Ohio; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Jackson, Mississippi.

That list shows you don’t have to be gigantic to have a city traffic problem. Neither Portland nor Seattle, which definitely have serious traffic issues, made it to the top 20.

Exactly how seriously to take this single specific measure may be a fair question, but before the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, and surely again after it, traffic flow generally was and will be a major issue in the Boise area.

Traffic planners obviously are aware of that, and they’re trying some new things. The roundabouts that popped up around the state in congested places in the last few years have been one effort, limited as they are.

So is an intriguing redesign, just announced in the last few days, of one of the state’s worst intersections, at Eagle Road and Highway 44 (at Eagle). There, planners are developing what’s called a “half continuous flow intersection,” which re-routes the way left turns are made and diminishes their slow-down effect on other traffic.

It looks like a good idea, though one project manager cautioned, "The new design does require drivers to pay attention and think ahead, especially on Idaho Highway 44." (Might that be the glitch in the system?)

These efforts are worthwhile, and they’re what traffic planners can do, but the issues involved are a lot broader.

In France, one traffic analysis group said, “the fact that eight of Europe’s Top 10 worst bottlenecks are located in Ile de France shows that traffic has a significant impact on the French economy, the environment as well as the mobility of its citizens.”

Likewise in Idaho. Idaho’s fast metro growth is the main reason for its metro traffic jams, and you have to wonder if, as word of Boise’s unexpectedly difficult traffic seeps back to California and other places, it may not have the effect of dampening some of that growth.
 

Maternal mortality

schmidt

The Idaho legislature spent no Idaho taxpayers’ money when it established a Maternal Mortality Review in 2019. The annual administrative cost was estimated to be $27K and “grant money” would fund it.

The legislature loves setting up panels and commissions and not having to pay for it. Still, this barely passed the House. All the representatives from my district supported it.

The guy who pushed for this spent some years on it, and he even approached me to sponsor it in 2016, my last year in the Senate. I warned him, a Democratic sponsor would be the kiss of death. Further, I just wasn’t sure the recommendations would be welcome, since at the time, the legislature wouldn’t even consider Medicaid Expansion. Maybe I was getting cynical.

Shame on me.

It’s not like I don’t support this sort of activity. For years, as county coroner we reviewed childhood deaths in my jurisdiction. Examining cases can teach us a lot. I found the childhood fatality reviews very helpful as I considered public policy. Former Governor Otter finally made these reviews a statewide policy in an executive order in 2012.

This panel has also made recommendations the legislature has ignored. Mainly, they suggested reviewing the “Religious Shield Laws” that prohibit prosecution of parents for neglect if a child dies from a treatable condition if the parents have religious beliefs blocking medical care. No such change has come before the legislature.

The MMR was directed to review deaths of women who were pregnant or had been pregnant within a year of their death and make recommendations for policy or procedural changes. The first report for 2018 is out. I don’t think their recommendations will be welcome.

Idaho has few maternal mortalities; there were only ten found for 2018. Still, the review panel thought almost all could have been prevented.
One of their recommendations was for maternal Medicaid coverage to be extended to 12 months after birth. It’s cut off at 6 weeks now.
Can you imagine our legislature doing that? Think of what it would cost!
Again, I apologize for the cynicism.

But the legislature’s attitude is no secret. When asked about spending on Medicaid in the budget committee, Representative Caroline Troy (R-Genesee) said: “I’ve never believed that Medicaid accomplishes what we want- which is the health of our citizens. So, for many of us this (funding) is a bitter pill to swallow.”

I think that is a prevalent attitude amongst our elected representatives. Remember, she even voted for the Maternal Mortality Review.
There is overwhelming evidence that good prenatal care saves money and saves lives. Idaho generously extended Medicaid coverage to pregnant poor women decades ago. There must have been some support for this back then.

Has it faded now?

I hope not.

But will the MMR recommendation to consider expanding coverage to 12 months after delivery even be considered? Apparently not from one of the representatives who voted to establish the review.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand this behavior. I see it every day. People make an appointment, come in a see me in the clinic, share a concern with me, then ignore my advice.

I’ve never carried a baby, it’s just not in my biology. I sure respect those who do. I did my share of prenatal care and deliveries. For many, this blessed event is a healthy and life growing experience. But, from my experience, not for all. I greatly appreciate the work this Maternal Mortality team has done, and I value their perspective and recommendations. I only wish our elected officials had the wisdom to at least consider, maybe act upon, the recommendations they wisely asked for.

Crane and Covid

malloy

Rep. Brent Crane of Nampa has spent much of his 15 years in the Legislature promoting lower taxes, less government and abortion restrictions – the kind of causes that tend to win over conservatives in Canyon County. He followed nicely in the footsteps of his father, Ron Crane, a longtime state treasurer who served 16 years as a Canyon County state representative.

The younger Crane has not lost sight of those core issues, but lately he focused on a different passion – getting life back to normal in Idaho. As chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, he is at the center of discussions about Gov. Brad Little’s executive powers and the overall handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We started the session with two different viewpoints – with the House and Senate squarely in line with one position and the executive branch in line with another position,” Crane says. “The governor didn’t ask for a pandemic, he was dealt with a pandemic and has responded in the way he thought was best.”

And the Legislature has respectively disagreed.

As Crane sees it, these conversations are necessary. “We need to talk about what’s what works well, what doesn’t work well and what needs to be fixed. We should discuss the Legislature’s ability to call itself into session and to appropriate money. If there is an emergency declaration, how long should that declaration go?”

One issue that is off the table is impeachment, an idea proposed by Rep. Chad Christensen of Ammon and flatly rejected by Crane. Although Crane sharply disagrees with Little on several fronts, there are no grounds for impeachment.

“We need to keep in mind the end goal, which is to set the table for future legislatures, future governors, future mayors, future health districts to know what the rules are. Idahoans should know what to expect, and what the process is going to look like, should we have another pandemic,” Crane says.

His objective is for the Legislature and governor to do whatever it takes to open up the state, get business operating as normal and put some fans in the stands for sporting events, such as the state high school basketball tournaments. Crane has been working with Rep. Ehardt of Idaho Falls on that end.

“A state championship game is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some kids,” Crane said. “They deserve to have people in the stands -- moms, dads and student sections.”

It’s not all about sports. Crane says there needs to be prom nights, graduation ceremonies and other social gatherings. In general, he is pushing to get kids back in school.

“The long-term impact of kids not being in school is going to be significant,” he says. “Parents and kids are frustrated. Rep. Ehardt and I want the kids to know that we see them, we hear them and we are going to bat for them. We’ve got to get the schools back open and we are going to fight for the kids. They are our future.”

As Crane sees it, the greatest casualty to the coronavirus pandemic is common sense. For whatever the reason, it’s OK to pack some of the big shopping centers, but not OK for fans to cheer on their teams.

“Logically, it doesn’t make sense whatsoever,” Crane says. “Yes, people are getting COVID, but the survival rate is 99.7 percent. If you are at risk, then stay home and be careful. But for crying out loud, let’s make sure we can get life back to normal for these kids.”

Crane has plenty of allies in the Legislature, including Sen. Christy Zito of Hammett, writing in her recent newsletter. “Through the governor’s emergency orders businesses were lost, families devastated by not being with loved ones as they passed, major family events ruined, children kept out of school and conditioned to believe that the next person that breathed near them may kill them, medical care denied, the list goes on.”

She compared the Legislature’s series of moves and the governor’s countering moves over the last few weeks to a “horrible game of chess.”

Zito makes a good point. Of course, for you TV viewers, this bumbling chess match is not nearly as captivating as the Queen’s Gambit.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist who lives in Meridian. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com
 

Is disaster inevitable?

mckee

The depth and breadth of the situation we are in is staggering. The damage already done is so invasive and the remedies we have attempted are so inartful and ineffective that it may be too late. Some hoped that as soon as Trump was off the stage, we would come to our senses and normalcy would begin to return. It is becoming increasingly apparent that this is not to be.

We face a situation today where fully 50 million of us, if not more, are convinced that the recent election was a fraud, the product of a massive conspiracy by the Democrats to steal the presidency from the rightful Republican incumbent in favor of a senile, incompetent has-been. What is worse, this huge segment of our electorate refuses to accept the lawful recourses provided through investigation and reports by local election officials, audits and recounts by state authorities, and the unanimous judicial declarations flowing from over 60 separate lawsuits filed in different federal and state courts. Instead, and inexplicably, all of these resources are now considered part of the conspiracy.

The U.S. Senate – once considered to be the greatest deliberative body in the world, the pride of our democracy and a paragon of legislative excellence – proved itself to have feet of clay when its members, facing a basic issue of patriotic duty versus personal interest, turned the recent impeachment effort into a partisan farce. Members of the Senate were not mere jurors, they were front-seat witnesses and very nearly victims. The House managers did an outstanding job of laying out the case for impeachment. The president’s lawyers presented a sophomoric defense that bewildered their profession and embarrassed their cause. And yet, fully half the Senate struggled incomprehensibly with the decision.

We can see now that the invasion of the Capitol on of January 6 was not an unexpected surprise, but the intended result of a deliberate campaign to undermine the basic tenets of our democracy – being the principles of an unyielding commitment to majority rule, of equal justice under the law, of the sanctity of the vote, and of a universal demand for the truth, enforced and guaranteed through an independent judiciary, and all enabled and protected by a wide and unrestricted free press. Every one of these fundamental and essential concepts of our democracy have been shredded incomprehensibly by the direct efforts of our past president.

We first saw our demand for truth begin to soften and wither when Trump began his first campaign for the presidency in 2015, filling his campaign with outrageous claims and promises. The media, faced with the 24-hour news cycle, covered everything Trump said. Trump was not taken seriously at first; he was considered a side-show, a carnival event with no chance of winning. Perhaps because of this, the template was originally laid for no critical comment from the press, just “accurate reportage” with the obligation to defend left to others.

Initially, Trumps’ charges were shrugged off as exaggerated campaign issues from an outlier. It did not matter that Trump had taken the notion of exaggerating campaign issues to an outrageous level previously unheard of. Most thought he was running as a stunt and would pull out before getting close to any real heat. Others were convinced that the party insiders would not allow him to get too close to the prize; that there were ways to derail this ill-fitting candidate before he became a real problem.

By the time the party woke up to what was happening, it was too late. With all the reasonable alternatives knocked out early, by May of 2016 the party faced the predicament of nothing but Trump or unsavory choices for the final run. The party grudgingly accepted the inevitable and came out of the convention fully believing that the year was lost.

But the machinery behind Trump knew what it was doing. The central task was to erase the credibility of the national press. When the press finally woke up and began inserting immediate corrections to lies and distortions, Trump did not concede error or retract what he had said but instead doubled down, repeating everything and blaming the accusers. The notion was that it was not Trump who was stretching the truth, it was the national media – all of whom were left-wing communists bent on destroying the county. Sean, Tucker, Rush, and all their ilk, lapped it up. Talk radio thrived. Fox News capitalized on the wedges being driven down the middle of political news. The Washington Post began counting the lies Trump told – to a number that eventually reached an astonishing middle-five-figure total. This was of no matter, of course, for Trump’s followers did not read the Washington Post.

What was at work here was, and is, a principle directly out of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda master allied with Adolph Hitler in the 1930s: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Trump’s drumbeat was paying off. Suddenly, we were dealing with “alternative facts” concerning the economy, health care, taxation, immigration - and election returns. We were told that these were not really lies or distortions or untruths – just a different way of looking at things. From the right instead of the left.

To our great dismay, these painful devices began to work exactly as predicted. In May of 2020, Trump started the theme that the election was going to be rigged. He kept this lie up without a break, and without a single fact to back it up, straight through to November. It was exactly the same theme that he ran in 2016, when he first ran against Hillary. But in 2020, Joe Biden did not run into any last-minute grenades, and he never took his eye off the critical battleground states. The result was a convincing win in total votes, including most of the critical background states, giving Biden a solid majority of the necessary electoral college.

Out came the “alternative facts” that Trump had been drumming into his core supporters for years. The Democrats had stolen the election. No matter that the media reported there to be no evidence of any wrongdoing, the national press was lying, and “everybody knows” that they were not to be trusted. No matter that every time Trump went to court over an election issue, being over 60 times in six states, the judges found there to be no case wrongdoing. Again, to the core of Trump supporters, the courts were incompetent, they did not look at the evidence, and “everybody knows” that the judges were not to be trusted. Trump had been this for years with no one seriously challenging him, and his efforts were paying huge dividends.

Because of Trump’s drumbeat of lies, we now find a furious segment of the Republican party, convinced beyond reason that the Democrats rigged the vote and the electoral college result against Trump and stole the election he had won. The same group now believes that the state election authorities are incompetent, the courts are corrupt, and Congress is ineffective in correcting the wrong.

This massive number of believers, who might be as many as 74 million strong if all who voted for Trump are counted, are writing and talking incessantly. They are not backing down. They are not coming around to reason. The Tweeter and Facebook rules will not contain them. Their declared objective is to regain control – not by the respected democratic means of open elections and majority rule, but by the direct application of force. Their text messages are filled with reference to military action, martial law, and armed protest. Signs of their efforts are everywhere. Witness the increasing number of death threats to election officials, the kidnapping attempt on the Michigan governor, and the demonstrations bristling with assault rifles and body armor that are springing up in state capitols all around. Is anyone still surprised at the armed invasion of our national capitol building in January?

What is next? And where will it end?