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Posts published in “Day: September 26, 2021”

Too many questions


I have a lot of questions. I’m told I was an annoying child who asked too many questions. But I’m inquisitive by nature — I want to know stuff.

I’m about to be an annoying adult with more questions, so many questions.

Catching up on this morning’s news and social media posts, one report struck me.

The report related a failed sobriety test resulting in an arrest for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII). Readers immediately began weighing in with all manner of opinions and suggestions. The nature of some comments caused me to look up the social media profiles of the people making them. What I found raised a lot of questions.

Now, we can all agree drunk driving is reprehensible. But numerous readers indignantly demanded that automobiles be equipped with alcohol-detection devices that would disable the vehicle if the driver had the slightest trace of alcohol on his or her breath. They clearly specified all vehicles, one person going so far as to claim this mandate will be in the upcoming infrastructure bill. They also very clearly stated “any trace of alcohol,” regardless of the legal limit. Here’s where I started having questions.

Isn’t a government mandate requiring all cars to have disabling devices if the driver has a trace of alcohol on his or her breath a massive overreach? Isn’t it kind of a guilty-until-proven-innocent thing? I mean, you’d have to prove your innocence before driving anywhere. That sounds anti-freedom to me, even if it could save lives.

I might be forgiven for assuming the people making these suggestions were progressives. After all, progressives love rules and like to regulate everything they touch. Heck, if you let them, the Democrats would probably try to regulate bowel movements — I mean other than their own. There’s no way these commentators could be freedom-loving conservatives, right?

Except they were. Almost to a person, they were proud Second-Amendment-supporting, liberty-loving conservatives. Their social media profiles were emblazoned with memes decrying the tyranny of vaccination and government mask mandates. Boy, I was really confused now. The questions were piling up in my head.

The DUII thread was immediately joined by conversation demanding vehicles also be equipped with cell phone disablers, preventing drivers from using mobile phones while driving. A chorus of enthusiastic agreement accompanied this suggestion. Almost all were people who proudly proclaim their advocacy for personal choice regarding masking. On their social media profiles, they professed outrage that the state would require them to wear a mask yet here they were demanding the government physically restrict their right to use a cellular phone!

Seriously? Even to my slightly-left-of-center Republican ears that sounds like a frightening level of government control. But not only were they unbothered by such concerns, they were demanding it!

Okay, so it’s illegal to drive while using a cell phone. But they want to give a third party like General Motors access to disable their cell phones in the name of saving lives? Can’t wear a mask because that’s tyranny but they’re cool with giving a foreign entity like Daimler Benz or Toyota control over their communications devices? And they’re all good with the government mandating that? Am I the only one who sees — wait for the bad pun — a giant disconnect here?

Let’s take this a little further.

So you want the government to mandate cell phone disabling in cars. What about your passengers? Does the government get to control their cell phone usage in a car, too? Because a cell phone disabler would probably disable all the devices in the car and maybe even those nearby, if my Bluetooth is any indication. Oh wait, it’s just the driver, right? So that means the government and Ford have access to a driver’s private number or SIM card and the power to disable it?

Isn’t that a worrisome yielding of power? It worries me and I wear a mask.

Just so we’re clear, I’ll ask again: you don’t mind giving up your freedom to drive without first proving your innocence? And the government telling you to wear a mask is overreach and tyranny but the government having access to and control over your cell phone is just fine? And the government mandating a private third party having access and control over your cell phone is cool, too? Boy, you people are sure brave to trust the government and private corporations with such personal information and power.

But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: it takes a certain amount of bravery to flaunt advice from thousands of research scientists and physicians regarding a public health crisis. I wouldn’t call it courage exactly but it is definitely a certain kind of bravery.

The preceding 15 questions are largely rhetorical. But I’ll close with one question that isn’t.

Do people put any thought at all into what they post on social media or do they just blurt out the first stupid things that come to mind?

The next refugee issue


Ever opportunistic to find issues with which to bash Gov. Brad Little and traditional, conservative Republicans, far-rightists in Idaho are already trying to link him personally to the potential resettling of Afghan refugees in Boise and Twin Falls.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is running against Little in the May primary, showed this card in a recent newsletter. She accuses Little of not being “hell no” enough and blaming him for joining more than 30 other states in indicating Idaho would consider accepting some refugees from this war-torn semi-nation.

As is usual, the rightists try to frame the issue in the most negative terms. They failed to force a special session of the Legislature (IdahoPress, 9/16) and are now actively looking about for other clubs with which to beat up on so-called RINOs, despite falling way short of the reconvene attempt.

Approximately 120,000 Afghan refugees were spirited out of Kabul in late August. Many are likely to be given permanent United States residency. It’s fair question as to how these new arrivals would be vetted, but to the rightists, they’re already tarred as Middle Easterners and thus are presumptively would-be terrorists. Plus, they’re of different ethnicity, faith and language and are thus immediately suspect to conspiratorial minds of the ignorant and the bigoted.

Idaho is slated to receive about 400 refugees, some of which would likely come to the Twin Falls area. Gov. Little recently made it clear that that Idaho won’t loosen vetting standards, despite the urgency of resettlement. (IdahoPress, 9/15). But that’s apparently not enough for the hotheads.

They got an endorsement of sorts with the flames of nativism and outright prejudice from former Pres. Donald Trump last week, who said he was “absolutely” certain that there were loopholes in the vetting process through which terrorists could enter the country. He didn’t offer any proof that this was happening; it was just speculation, as “The Donald” is wont to do. (Fox, 9/14).

But the rightists heard Trump’s dog whistle loud and clear. McGeachin thinks Little should say “No, Idaho will not participate in the fallout from Biden's disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.” (McGeachin Newsletter, 9/14) Why wait for facts when you’ve got your own biases?

To Trump’s credit, while president, he got immigration officials to listen to the concerns of local communities, and to put in place protocols for state and local community acceptance of new arrivals. Those protocols have since been abbreviated by the Biden administration which is now actively seeking locations for refugees. The two sites in Idaho – Boise and Twin Falls -- are among 139 sites nationally being considered.

In 2015, under Pres. Barack Obama, Idaho took refugees from another Mid-East country, Syria. There were loud local protests in Twin Falls but few Syrians actually came here. Idaho was nonetheless divided sharply between “hell no” opponents and the “take ‘em all” faction of Democrats and some church congregations. After the Trump election, clearer protocols gave local communities real input into the process.

Afghanistan’s people may well be different than the common impression of Middle Eastern nations. The country has a substantial number of educated and hard-working citizens, many of whom supported the United States in our 20-year-war in that country. It is this group of translators, interpreters, scientists, health care workers and engineers which forms the core of the refugee group.

As a group, they seem more likely to succeed here than the hordes streaming across the Biden non-border, which had more than 209,000 illegal entrants in August alone, one-third more than in August of last year. (CBSNews, 9/16.)

Sure, we need good vetting but that hasn’t happened under the Biden administration with respect to the southern border with Mexico and Central America. The fact is people are desperate to get out of the hellholes of their former countries and they see the United States as a true city on the hill that would mostly welcome them. (WSJ, 9/22).

Idaho, like many other states, was settled by immigrants, in some cases barely a century ago. The difference is at those early immigrants were predominantly of European origin and usually of Christian faith. Today’s immigrants don’t reflect that same profile and are thus “fair game” to the hysterical claims of nativists and bigots. Recent hothead postings on social media single out this refugee issue.

It would be premature for Idaho or any other state to say “let them all in” but it’s not premature to consider resettling some of the Afghan refugees here.

Everyone knows Idaho needs hard-working and talented individuals in our workforce. These are not the refugees from a teeming shore, but people who would add to our workforce and our state’s growth in mostly positive ways. In that regard they’re no different than the German and Scandinavian settlers of earlier generations.

Recognizing the potential value of these refugees, a number of large employers such as Chobani, Amazon and UPS recently announced they would do what they could to facilitate such new arrivals.

“The moment a refugee gets a job, it’s the moment they stop being a refugee,” said Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, himself a Mid-East immigrant. “It’s the moment they can stand on their own two feet; it’s the moment they can make new friends; it’s the moment they can start a new life,” (TN, 9/21).

As with other issues, Gov. Little is showing a measured, principled response to this emerging challenge. That alone will draw him further enmity of the prejudiced rightists. They’re just looking for another group to disparage.

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 can be reached at