Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in November 2021

Stand and deliver

rainey

Well, now. We have an infrastructure bill. Took 10 months. But, we got it. At least some of it.

No thanks to the Orcasio-Cortez “wing” of Democrats. All six voted “No.” But, thanks to 13 Republicans who voted “Yes,” everyone can go home and brag to constituents about the big bucks coming their way thanks to “bipartisainship.”

While there is much rejoicing in D.C. at the moment, that celebration may be more for the Democrats finally doing something major than for final approval of the bill.

Here’s something to think about. President Biden sent his original request to the Hill, asking for $3.5 trillion for infrastructure. What he got back was much-altered paperwork with approval for $1.2-trillion. Less than half of what he wanted. Imagine the infrastructure projects that wound up as so much scrap on the congressional floor.

Democrats have a couple of other accomplishments which have been filibustered to death in the Senate. Hung up by a single objection by a single senator in a single phone call saying “I object.” What a way to run a railroad!

I’m guessing a lot of Dems are saying “Christmas holidays ahead so let’s get through the next few weeks and take some time out.” I can’t think of a worse attitude for the moment.

Yes, you pushed a peanut up the hill. With help. But, we had an election a few days back and the message sent sounded to me as pretty urgent. The work is not done!

We want the John Lewis Voting Rights Act passed and enacted into law. We want affordable housing assistance. We want tax laws re-written (and enforced) to end billionaire and corporate tax avoidance. We want an end to acrimony and wrangling in Congress. We want a return to legitimate two-party participation in D.C.. We want some of the billions spent on an out-of-control military defense budget diverted to programs to improve the lot of our own citizens. We want to be HEARD! And more.

“STAND and DELIVER!”

Those words are the title of a 1988 film about a courageous Hispanic math teacher. The film received rave reviews and the phrase “Stand and Deliver” has become part of our national lexicon.

I strongly commend the use of those words as an all-inclusive mantra for the National Democratic Party!

“STAND AND DELIVER.”

Democrats have had their majority for 10 months. In both Houses. Plenty of time to act on at least some of those 2020 campaign issues we bought off on. Just those. We want what the candidates promised. And, we want an end to Democrat fracturing keeping the majority from acting like one.

With rare exception - very rare - Democrats will not overcome the determined resistance of congressional Republicans. Not gonna happen. That’ll take another national election. Maybe two or three.

But, there’s a small crack in the current GOP wall. Sen. Murkowski says she’ll vote to approve the voting rights package. She’s signaled a willingness to help Democrats on that bill. Just that one. But, who knows? Might just be another GOP vote or two when the roll is called.

Last week’s election - congressional, gubernatorial or school board - seemed to carry a message: “Get done what we want done or we’ll replace you.” Both parties.

And, another thing. Senate Democrats have to have a major “woodshed” session with Sens. Sinema and Manchin. It’s time - way past time - for the Majority Leader to act like one.

Here in Arizona, there’s already a movement within the Democrat Party leadership to “primary” Sinema in the 2024 Senatorial race. Billboards, slick TV and newspaper ads are carrying that message. Her seat is not a “safe” seat by any measure.

Manchin - a winning Democrat in an otherwise solidly Republican state - is another matter. Majority Leader Schumer must find a “hammer” to get Manchin into line. Manchin has already been given too much leeway. He and Sinema are also stopping elimination of the filibuster or even “work-arounds” to get things moving in the Senate.
President Biden is an old Senate “Warhorse” with more than 30-years of experience as a member. Surely, he and Schumer can exert the right pressure in the right places to get Manchin and Sinema in line.

If “get-to-work-or-we’ll-replace-you” was an underlying message in the elections last week, Democrats had better take those words to heart. They’ve got the majority numbers, if not majority control. The stalemate is happening on their “watch.” Voters in many places are angry and tired of the “do nothing” atmosphere in both Houses of Congress. They want action. They want to see results.

“STAND AND DELIVER.”

Those three words should be considered both a message of urgency to get things done and a threat to “do nothing” incumbents. Democrats need to heed those words and get back to work!
 

Veterans Day

jones

Major Keith Painter and I had exchanged a couple of letters and phone calls, first in 1990 and again in 2020, but had never actually seen one another since I left our artillery unit in August 1969. After the passage of 52 years, we finally got together for lunch in Bountiful, Utah, on October 19.

We were both officers in a heavy artillery battalion--The Proud Americans-- in Tay Ninh Province, northwest of Saigon along the Cambodian border. Major Painter, from Logan, Utah, was the Executive Officer, the second in command, who oversaw the everyday operations of our unit at Tay Ninh Base Camp. As battalion liaison officer, I lived and worked with South Vietnamese forces at their headquarters (HQ) in Tay Ninh City. Every day, I went to the battalion briefing at the Base Camp but returned to Vietnamese HQ before nightfall.

On April 11, 1969, I was surprised to receive an award at the battalion briefing for helping a Vietnamese orphanage. As I was leaving to return to my duty station, Major Painter urged me to relax for the evening, play poker with the other officers and spend the night at Base Camp. Had he not been quite insistent, I would have gone back to the Vietnamese HQ and likely been blown to bits that night. A North Vietnamese rocket hit an ammunition storage building at the HQ, setting off about 240 tons of assorted explosives and ammunition and killing over 140 Vietnamese soldiers, civilians and prisoners. Needless to say, I have always felt deeply indebted to the good Major.

When I finished writing a book about my Vietnam experience--Vietnam...Can’t get you out of my mind--I wanted to share it with Major Painter and was able to get in touch with him in early 2020. That led to our lunch in Bountiful--Keith with his wife, Marie, and me with my wife, Kelly. It was a great tonic in these troubled times to discuss our service and learn what had transpired in each other’s lives in the ensuing 52 years. None of the four of us found it necessary to bring up divisive topics. We just enjoyed our special time together.

Our get-together caused me to hearken back to my Vietnam service. The thing that left a lasting impression was the way service personnel related to one another. It was remarkable to be working together with so many people of different backgrounds from so many different places, including my Vietnamese counterparts. There was a camaraderie that is hard to explain. I can’t recall any heated political arguments or any people failing to carry out their part of the work as best they could.

There were people in the unit who were mightily unhappy with being there, but they still did their utmost to do their part to achieve the mission, to honorably serve their country. It was a remarkable experience, especially when compared to the sorry present state of affairs in America, where people are seriously divided over every sort of political and social issue, not being willing to bridge their differences or even to debate them in a civil manner, without threats and name-calling.

I think I can speak for many veterans who have honorably served this great country over the last decades--”Get a grip, people. We did not put our lives on the line for this country, just to have you tear it apart. We are all part of the same nation, so let’s try to get along for the common good.” We owe no less to our veterans on Veterans Day and every other day. And special thanks to Major Keith Painter for making the last 52 years possible for me.
 

A false patriot

meador

If I needed an example of the cartoonish absurdity to which many hard-line conservatives have descended, perhaps no better examples exist than the effusive endorsements some of them have given to teenage shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. With impossibly straight faces, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Tucker Carlson praised the amateur, untrained, unskilled, self-appointed policeman, lauding his oafishly deadly actions as those of a vaunted patriot.

The gulf between the trio’s heartfelt statements of affirmation — Coulter actually gushed that she wanted Rittenhouse to be her president — and the reality that Rittenhouse acted as a dangerous fool is almost imponderable. Do they not realize how disconnected such support appears? How forced and artificial? How utterly unreal? Or, let’s face it, how ridiculous?

Can a person’s desire to score political points completely displace his or her basic common sense and even dignity? I know the answer and I don’t like it.

Let’s get one thing straight: Kyle Rittenhouse is a moron. This is not to say that — his current legal and moral state notwithstanding — Rittenhouse might somehow, some day turn out to be a fine and moral man. I do not care what Rittenhouse might one day become but right now, Rittenhouse is just a stupid kid who inserted himself into a situation that was way over his head. The adults who encouraged him to do this must share some of the blame for Rittenhouse’s choices.

The nation’s attention went to Kenosha, Wisconsin back in August 2020 when Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. Blake, a Black man, reportedly refused to drop a knife he was holding as he reached into an automobile. The officer’s actions were later cleared by the district attorney and Blake suffered a life-altering paralysis as a result of the shooting. But in the meantime, with the shooting occurring just months after the killing of George Floyd in neighboring Minnesota, protests erupted in Kenosha.

Fifteen miles away in Antioch, Illinois, Kyle Rittenhouse headed to Kenosha to join the action. The 17-year-old’s AR-15-style assault rifle was stored in Kenosha because, as an under-age Illinois resident, Rittenhouse did not have the necessary state firearm owner identification card. In Kenosha, Rittenhouse met up with his 19-year-old friend, Dominick Black, who had illegally purchased the rifle for Rittenhouse three months earlier. Conveniently, Black had been storing the weapon for his younger friend since, after all, it was illegal for Rittenhouse to buy the gun. Even more conveniently, Black claims the owner of a Kenosha automobile dealership requested his armed presence to guard the business from looters and marauders. Naturally, the owner of the dealership denies ever making that request.

Violating curfew and heavily armed, the two white teenagers set out to save Kenosha.

During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, many business owners took up arms to defend their property from looters. While not an ideal situation, such extreme action could be understandable in extreme crises. In Kenosha, the militia organizer who used social media to summon his armed minions admits no business owners asked him or his people to step in to defend property. Kevin Mathewson, administrator of a Facebook group called the Kenosha Guard, summoned a bunch of men — overwhelmingly white — to take up arms and defend Kenosha from protesters.

Mathewson’s trumpeting brought a whole lot of heavily armed white guys together but nobody bothered to organize the “militiamen” into groups or implement a command structure or any sort of organization — who needs order when you have a bunch of gung-ho patriots exercising their Second Amendment rights by bearing all kinds of arms?

Ryan Balch of Milwaukee, a military veteran who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, joined the motley group. Balch has a well-documented history of supporting white supremacist people and causes, which he now vehemently denies. Paradoxically, the 31-year-old Balch is one of the few people captured on tape seeming to urge a little restraint.

But the ragtag gang now includes the heavily armed teenagers, Rittenhouse and Black, who have no military training, no combat experience, no adult maturity — they hold semi-automatic weapons with all the disciplined restraint you might expect from two teenage males. By any sane measure, this is a situation just begging to become a disaster.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth told NBC News that armed citizens were patrolling the streets during the unrest, some going so far as to ask the sheriff to deputize them.

“Oh, hell, no,” Beth said was his initial reaction. If he did that, noted Beth, they become a liability to the sheriff himself, to Kenosha county and to the state of Wisconsin. “There’s no way I would deputize people,” said Beth.

Beth told NBC that such groups do not help law enforcement. “Part of the problem with this group is they create confrontation,” said Beth.

A handful of militia members claim they were deputized and that they were working in concert with the police. While some law enforcement officers were captured on video thanking militia members and even offering them water, I remain astonished that anyone with even the dullest level of intelligence could think it was a good idea to have white teenagers with high-powered rifles and no training patrolling a heated racial demonstration.

Predictably, bad stuff happened.

Now Rittenhouse faces six criminal counts including first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. The homicide charges are equivalent to murder charges in other states — they carry a maximum sentence of life in prison. Rittenhouse’s trial starts today.

If you look closely at any protest gathering or riot mob, it’s easy to find people who just shouldn’t be there, for any number of reasons. People like Rittenhouse. People like Rittenhouse’s first victim — oops, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder doesn’t like that word. Because Rittenhouse is claiming self-defense, said Schroeder, the men Rittenhouse shot should not be referred to as victims but instead as “complaining witnesses” or “decedents,” depending on whether the potential victim is alive or dead. Schroeder said the jury can decide who is a victim.

Schroeder rightly claims victim is a loaded word but he approved the terms arsonist, looter and rioter — this bizarre disconnect will clearly support a defensive strategy that puts the victims on trial with Rittenhouse giving them exactly what they deserved. Why a long-serving jurist like Schroeder gives a nod like this to the amateur teenage policeman eludes me.

Back to Rittenhouse’s first target, Joseph Rosenbaum. The 36-year-old Rosenbaum was another person who probably shouldn’t have participated in the protest. According to the Washington Post, Rosenbaum had just been released from a Milwaukee hospital after his second suicide attempt in two months. He was deposited on the streets of Kenosha, where he found himself in the middle of the demonstration — he even carried the plastic bag in which the hospital had placed his belongings. A sex offender with bipolar disorder, Rosenbaum was reportedly homeless and deeply depressed. He’d spent much of his adult life in prison. He had nowhere to go.

About 15 minutes after police praised the militiamen and gave them water, various videos show a group of protesters rushing toward Rittenhouse, who ran from them. An unknown gunman fired a single shot into the air for unknown reasons. The sound of the shot caused Rittenhouse to turn, and he saw the unarmed Rosenbaum lunging toward him. Rosenbaum tried to throw the hospital bag at Rittenhouse but Rittenhouse fired four shots, appearing to shoot into Rosenbaum’s head. Rosenbaum dropped, dead.

Evidently panicking, Rittenhouse attempted to make a call on his cell phone as he fled the scene of the killing. Several people followed him, shouting for him to stop, and telling police he was the shooter. Moments later, Rittenhouse stumbled, falling to the ground. He turned as his pursuers approached, firing at least four shots into them as 26-year-old Anthony Huber hit Rittenhouse’s shoulder with his skateboard. Huber was the next to fall from Rittenhouse’s fatal fire. I know Rittenhouse’s attorneys will push the self-defense narrative but an AR-15 versus a skateboard or a plastic bag with hospital stuff in it just seems lopsided to me.

Rittenhouse’s third target was armed. Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, had been functioning as a field medic during the demonstration but had chased Rittenhouse after Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum. Grosskreutz had drawn his sidearm to defend against Rittenhouse but he exercised more restraint than the teenager, never firing — but, then, Rittenhouse shot him in the right arm, anyway, so the defense will have a bit of fun with that detail.

Kyle Rittenhouse is not a hero. He is not a savior. He’s not even a patriot who stood up for a noble cause — a patriot could prioritize the needs of his country over his own desires, recognizing that inserting himself into an already volatile and unstable situation could not be properly serving his country. Kyle Rittenhouse is just a stupid kid who illegally and clumsily barged into a chaotic situation that wasn’t his battle to fight. He had no business in Kenosha. He made a bad situation worse when his inexperience and immaturity combined to react in what should’ve been a pathetically predictable manner.

Even worse than Rittenhouse’s self-imposed legal limbo is the artificial martyrdom with which quasi-intelligent right-side leaders have mantled him. Once again, the Republican Party has adopted a moral mess as a cause célèbre, painting a train wreck as both a grievance and a tragic, heroic figure.

None of them — not even people as smart as Michelle Malkin — can see the dark absurdity of their cartoonish position.

Oh, how far the once-G.O.P. has fallen.
 

Tomorrow will be worse

johnson

Random notes and data points on the state of American politics and culture.

Cable news is, generally speaking, a cesspool of division, disgust and distraction. Therefore, “the Alec Baldwin shoots a person on a movie set” story was the perfect cable news event. A Fox News freelance photographer summed up this reality perfectly: “Baldwin, he’s as close to US/American royalty as we have in this country, so that put the British TV on the story … A lot of it is timing and what else is going on in the news cycle.”

Also in the news cycle: “Government leaders face two choices in Glasgow, Patricia Espinosa, head of the U.N. climate office, declared at the summit’s opening: They can sharply cut greenhouse gas emissions and help communities and countries survive what is becoming a hotter, harsher world, Espinosa said. ‘Or we accept that humanity faces a bleak future on this planet.’”

In 1985, academic and writer Neil Postman published a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. Among other observations, Postman wrote: “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”

A conservative, pro-Trump candidate won the Virginia governor’s race this week by defeating a former governor with close ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. In part, Glenn Youngkin won because of books, including controversial books by a Black female author. Youngkin’s victory was widely portrayed as a defeat for Joe Biden, even though the party in the White House has lost the Virginia governor’s race in 11 of the last 12 elections.

One Youngkin campaign ad “features an older blond woman, wringing her hands and telling a story about a book that her son had to read for school – one that was so upsetting, so explicit, that her ‘heart sunk’ to think of it. Internet sleuths didn’t have to look far to find out that the woman was Laura Murphy, a Fairfax County conservative activist; the son is Blake Murphy, who’s now 27 and works for the National Republican Congressional Committee; the traumatizing reading was done almost a decade ago; the explicit book was Toni Morrison’s much-decorated masterpiece, Beloved.”

“A Texas Republican lawmaker has launched an investigation into some of the state’s school districts’ libraries, demanding in a letter that educators say whether their schools own books named in a list of 850 titles, many of which cover issues of race and sexuality.”

Again, Neil Postman: “What [George] Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What [Aldous] Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

“Over the last several months, school board meetings across the country have become ground zero for contentious and destructive battles. The vitriolic political rhetoric and threatening behavior are posing a serious threat to democracy.”

“At a school board meeting in Illinois, a man was arrested after allegedly striking an education official. At another in Virginia, one man was arrested for making a physical threat, and a third was injured. And at other meetings in states such as Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Tennessee, school board members have had to adjourn early after being confronted by angry mobs.”

“Violence and true threats of violence should have no place in our civic discourse, but parents should absolutely be involved in public debates over what and how our public schools teach their children, even if those discussions get heated,” according to a letter read by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Postman: “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

Meanwhile in a rural, medically underserved area of northwest Oregon, an all-volunteer school board worked with a not-for-profit health center to create a school-based clinic for middle and high school students. A local foundation contributed to the effort that aims to improve health care for youngsters leading to better educational outcomes. So far, the effort has received no media attention.

The former president of the United States attended Game 4 of the World Series in Atlanta and participated in the controversial – racist – “tomahawk chop” with Braves fans. He lied about being invited to the game by Major League Baseball. “Former president Donald Trump will attend Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday at Truist Park, Atlanta CEO Terry McGuirk told USA TODAY Sports. ‘He called MLB and wanted to come to the game,’ McGuirk said. ‘We were very surprised. Of course, we said yes.’”

Fox, carrying the game to millions, showed pictures of the former president, because of course they did.

More Postman: “Television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information – misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.”

The Associated Press: “The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 5 million on Monday, less than two years into a crisis that has not only devastated poor countries but also humbled wealthy ones with first-rate health care systems. Together, the United States, the European Union, Britain and Brazil — all upper-middle- or high-income countries — account for one-eighth of the world’s population but nearly half of all reported deaths. The U.S. alone has recorded over 745,000 lives lost, more than any other nation.”

Conservative commentator Tom Nichols latest book is called Our Own Worst Enemy. In his newsletter this week, Nichols wrote: “Of course, we’re still a powerful country. We have military muscle, from bullets to nuclear weapons, beyond measure. And we’re awash in money, with a GDP nearly as large as our next three competitors combined. We hold bags of patents and buckets of Nobel Prizes. The products of American institutions from universities to movie studios are exported across the planet. But when it comes to seriousness—the invaluable discipline and maturity that allows us to discern matters that should transcend self-interest, to set aside churlish ego and emotionalism, and to act with prudence and self-restraint—we’re a weak, impoverished backwater.”

Tomorrow promises to be worse.
 

Little change, mostly

stapiluslogo1

The biggest single headline out of Tuesday’s elections in Idaho cities and school districts probably was a structural one: Lewiston will now have a strong mayor system, shifting from its long-time council-manager form, and it also elected a strong mayor to the post.

Lewiston has had a council-manager system for decades, long one of the few adherent to that system in the state, and voters in 2001 rejected a proposal to change it; that proposal was led in part by John Bradbury, now a member of the city council. The complaint was that the unelected manager was effectively setting the agenda for the city, and voters could have a stronger voice with an elected mayor. The argument seems to have gained force, finally winning decisively on Tuesday.

If you look for a through line in Idaho’s elections on Tuesday, you might seize on the idea of voters wanting to ensure they’re being heard and in control. That idea fits the facts, up to a point. There aren’t many other through lines, and even that one is a little shaky.

The second-biggest news from Idaho elections this week may have come from Pocatello, where long-time mayor Brian Blad took the plurality vote but not an outright majority, meaning that he will be thrown into a runoff election - always dangerous for an incumbent. (Ask David Bieter of Boise, a four-term mayor who lost his job in a runoff election last cycle.)

Blad seems to have been the exception, however. Across the municipal line in Chubbuck, Mayor Kevin England easily rebuffed a serious challenge from a city council member. A little to the north, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper sailed to a third term, and three council members were re-elected. The mayor in Idaho’s third-largest city of Nampa, Debbie Kling, was easily re-elected too.

The Boise city election was shaken up structurally this year by outside reasons: a change in state law, requiring districting of council members. But the election didn’t much shake up the council itself, since the two council members seeking re-election were easily re-elected. And while another major-city runoff for mayor did appear - in Caldwell - that will feature two non-incumbents, since long-time mayor Garrett Nancolas is retiring. But even there the probable winner, Jarom Wagoner, has deep background in Caldwell city government.

Coeur d’Alene, which often has seen rough and tumble city elections, saw mostly stability this time. The new mayor - the incumbent was retiring - will be the former mayor of Post Falls, and not likely to mark a major change of direction.

School districts were a little different; a wave of very conservative (anti-masking and culture warrior) candidates were contesting many board seats around Idaho, and they won some of them, but the record was spotty.

Two candidates heavily backed by area Republicans (and featured on a talk show hosted by the state Republican chair) did win the two seats open in the West Ada School District, not a surprise in a heavily Republican area. A group of three culture warriors will take over the Nampa School Board majority.

But the partisans fell short in Caldwell and Kuna. More significantly, a contest in Post Falls that pulled national attention saw the Republican-backed candidate (who, IdahoEdNews reports, “came under scrutiny for his far-right ties and a string of anti-Semitic tweets”) losing by a big margin. Maybe even more significantly than that, in two eastern Idaho races, board members who had joined Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin’s indoctrination task force, in Blackfoot and Sugar-Salem, were buried under landslides.

In many other districts (Coeur d’Alene is a good example), neither side won all the races.

Like I said: Be cautious in drawing too many sweeping conclusions.
 

Revolution

schmidt

I first ran for the Idaho legislature in 2010. If you can take your memory back to those times you might remember the Tea Party angry crowds that were so outraged at Obama. They made their move to change our country through the electoral process. Indeed, that election they did dramatically change the House of Representatives.

I really didn’t understand it, maybe because I wasn’t a Republican and most of those angry folks were. I thought their discontent was out of proportion with the problems before us.

And nowadays, the Trump Republicans similarly have me perplexed. Maybe I just don’t see the possibilities.

Our founders some 200+ years ago thought they were creating a form of government that could, through a stable and predictable process, allow for dramatic change. Only, there wasn’t mass or social media in the late 1700’s. Their time frame was different than ours today.

Just what is the problem we must rebel against?

Go out on a corner in whatever town you live on. See the nice new pickups, the all-wheel drive rigs going by and the folks chatting on their cell phones or snapping pictures of everything that catches their eye so they can post and share. We live in a time of comfort and wealth. But that does not mean we are free of injustice or oppression.

We see revolutions these days in third world countries with corrupt dictators, grinding poverty and huge wealth gaps and their attempts to overthrow their oppressors makes sense. But revolution when we all have streaming Netflix on our cell phones? Why rebel when we have comfort?

But, according to historian David McCullough, so did the American revolutionaries. He stated in his book 1776, that the standard of living for the American colonists was the highest in the world at that time. We were quickly populating a land taken from the natives and applying our agricultural and industrial technologies to create a wealthy society. And the call for “Liberty” from an oppressor king garnered many to take up arms.

So why not today?

My reluctance might be based in my faith in our founders’ vision. They believed that we could be a nation of laws, and that these laws could be changed to match our changing cultural needs. I believe they had great misgivings about the institution of slavery that fueled their economic wealth. I doubt they thought we would need to have a civil war to change such an institution. But they did avoid the subject when drafting our Declaration of Independence. Remember, “Life Liberty and Property” got changed to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” to avoid that discussion.

The war was fought, and the laws changed. Most other countries abolished slavery without a civil war. But 100 years after our revolution, we could not reconcile our differences without bloodshed.

So here we are, almost 250 years after this representative democracy was crafted and just what oppression are we moved to shed blood over?

I think of those who stormed our Capitol on January 6th, 2021. They were not the oppressed poor, or the disenfranchised minorities. They were the, by in large, angry white middle class who wanted a different president than the Congress was about to ratify. They felt oppressed by our system. Representative democracy is not a king, born to rule. It is merely a system of government devised by some wealthy, learned, white men 250 years ago. Many were slave holders, owning land claimed from displaced native populations who did not share the concept of owning the land they walked upon. Does their vision now oppress?

Should we now take up arms and rebel and drive off this government that oppresses us? Or should we work to make this government serve us, as was the concept of our founders? The latter, believe it or not, is the truly conservative value. Conservatives embrace conservation; radicals choose rebellion.
 

McGrane on Idaho elections

malloy

Looking at the duties of Idaho’s secretary of state, it’s a wonder why anyone would want the job – especially someone such as Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, who says he “loves” what he’s doing.

The secretary’s job description is far from glamorous. Duties include registering business entities, filing liens under the Uniform Commercial Code and registering “trademarks and service marks” within the state.

There’s more.

“The secretary is the keeper of the Great Seal of Idaho, and as such ss responsible for licensing notaries public, as well as authenticating documents and issuing apostilles.”

Whatever in the heck that means.

Then, there’s publishing Idaho’s Blue Book (a certain cure for insomnia), administering a “will” registry and let’s not forget serving as an “ex officio member of the Idaho Code Commission.”

Oh, there’s one other chore – and one that puts McGrane and two other strong Republican candidates (Deputy Secretary Chad Houck and Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene) in the race. The secretary of state oversees elections in Idaho, which becomes a high-profile position in the era of Donald Trump and allegations of irregularities in last year’s presidential election. Idaho was not so much in the limelight, because Trump won easily. But election integrity is high on the minds of Idahoans.

McGrane, a self-described “elections junkie,” has been Ada County’s chief election officer for three years as clerk – and longer than that as far as involvement with elections.

“My passion for elections began in 2005 counting punch cards and recruiting poll workers,” he says on his campaign website. “Since then, I have gone on to serve as a law clerk to the United States Elections Assistance Commission and have been involved in every aspect of running elections in Ada County.”

As a county clerk, he’s also the “courts guy” for lawyers and judges and the “budget guy” for county commissioners, so multi-tasking in the secretary of state’s office would not be a great transition. He already has working relationships with county clerks on elections, organizing a training program for clerks and staff. Being secretary of state would allow him to increase that involvement – which is another reason for seeking a career change.

First, he must defeat Houck and Souza, who also are vying to replace retiring Secretary of State Lawerence Denney. Souza is sounding alarms about the vulnerable nature of election security in the Gem State. McGrane disagrees with that assessment, saying Idaho elections are as airtight as people can expect.

“Idahoans have a lot to be proud of regarding how we run our elections,” he says. “In Idaho, we have good systems and good laws in place.”

Certainly, there are small irregularities that occur in almost every election. McGrane has isolated cases of people trying to vote in two counties, or occasional voters from other states casting votes in Idaho. One of the biggest problems McGrane has seen are felons trying to vote.

They don’t get away with it – at least not for long, and that’s because Idaho has sophisticated communication channels aimed at stopping fraud. “We catch these things and prosecute,” McGrane says. “I am the only candidate (in this race) who has been actively involved in voter fraud cases. We take it very seriously. Having a secretary of state who has been involved with that experience makes a difference.”

McGrane, a fourth-generation Idahoan (roots in Pocatello) is no stranger to the statewide political scene. He ran unsuccessfully for the office in 2014 against Denney and he’s familiar with county officials throughout the state. He’s well known by legislators and the media through his involvement with election issues.

There’s no question that McGrane has the qualifications for the job. The outcome may hinge on how Idahoans feel about election security overall – and who is best equipped to ensure the integrity of Idaho’s voting system.

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

Mom and Dad’s choice

rainey

If you were faced with a life-or-death situation, which pathway would you choose?

The way eventually leading to life? Or, the one to your eventual death?

I’ve never given that drastic choice much thought until millions of Americans decided to forego getting a vaccine shot to protect against the ravages - and often death - associated with COVID.

But, for one idiotic decision or another, we’re going to have this disease around for many years. If not forever. Because of the unwillingness of about 30% of Americans to protect themselves - to protect the rest of us.

The most accurate figure I’ve found for the number vaccinated is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Something like 70%. Just over two-thirds of us have gotten the shots. Leaving about a full one-third unprotected and some, most likely, carrying the virus. To share. Recent hospital reports are pretty consistent. About 95/98-percent of new patients are unvaccinated, with the death rate in the 80-90 percent range.

Choice. Life or death.

On the plus side, the last 20 months or so have given medical professionals time to develop some effective protocols to lower the vaccinated COVID death rate. On the down side, the unvaccinated are still dying at staggering numbers. Many by their own bad choice.

But, the plot is about to thicken. Pfizer has announced a vaccine that is effective - and thus far safe - for five-to-11-year-olds. It’s almost certain the drug will quickly be granted government approval.

The thicker plot? What do anti-vaxxers John and Mary Doe decide for their kids? Will they allow the kids to get shots? Or, will they almost certainly doom them to contract the disease? Are the justifications - excuses - the parents have made for themselves also fitting for their beloved children? If they decide to get the kids protected, will John and Mary get a shot themselves?

Deciding for oneself how to live your life is one thing. Making a life-or-death decision for your offspring is much different. Much tougher. What will the unvaxxed decide?

There’s an Arizona county up near the Grand Canyon. Mojave County. Near the Arizona-Utah border. Lots of folks living the “independent“ lifestyle. Lots of Trumpers. A good many living in the back country. “Rugged individuals” as they say.

And the vaccination rate thereabouts in Mojave County? How about 38%? Yep, just 38.

County seat for Mojave county is Kingman. Literally millions of folks pass through there for Grand Canyon and Interstate access. Motels. Restaurants. Bed and Breakfasts. Camping. Tourist rides. Gas stations. Millions of people staying temporarily in Kingman or passing through.

And the COVID protected crowd is just over 38%. What are the odds of some of those millions of tourists being exposed to - and contracting - COVID? Most people coming and going through Kingston probably have no idea about how low the vaccination rate is there. Millions of people.

And another thing: what the hell is so personally threatening to folks about a COVID shot? Anyone living in Mojave County who was in the military got a lot of shots. Anyone who went to grade school got vaccinated for half-a-dozen diseases. If you’ve lived to be an “adult,” you’ve had experience with the needle.

Why this stubborn resistance now? And the kids. Is that same bullheaded choice you’ve made for yourself OK for them, too? Really?

Watching national vaccination percentages for the next few months will be instructive. I’d bet we see a slow increase.

The kids.

If not, some parents will have made terrible choices.
 

Attorneys general should know the law

jones

Having served as Idaho Attorney General for eight years back in the 1980s, I feel qualified to provide a little friendly legal advice to Attorney General candidate Arthur Macomber. Those who wish to be the State's chief legal officer should learn the law and try to abide by it.

Macomber held a press conference in Ammon, along with wanna-be Governor Janice McGeachin, on October 14. Both candidates used it as an opportunity to tout their candidacies. The only problem is that the campaign event was held at the Ammon Elementary School, which is obviously public property.

In 2018, the Idaho Legislature passed the Public Integrity in Elections Act, which says it is “against the public policy of the state of Idaho” to use public property to advocate for a candidate. The law provides civil penalties, which can be enforced by the Idaho Attorney General. The Ammon school officials can’t be faulted for the improper use of their school property because they were apparently blind-sided by the inconsiderate duo, not having been told this would be a campaign event. The problem could have been avoided if Macomber had acquainted himself with Idaho law, as you would expect of a candidate for an important legal office.

McGeachin used the press conference to defend her decision to violate Idaho’s public records law by refusing to release to the Idaho Press Club the public comments gathered by her indoctrination task force. It is understandable why she did not want anyone to know that the great majority of the comments strongly opposed her campaign to smear public schools and their local school boards and teachers.

The judge held she had acted in “bad faith” in refusing to obey the law and required that she pay a $750 penalty, as well as the Press Club’s attorney bill of $28,973.84. She now wants the taxpayers to shoulder those expenses, but she should pay out of her own pocket. Acting in bad faith is not within her job responsibilities.

McGeachin first claimed that she stonewalled the documents to protect her supporters’ identities, but then shifted gears, blaming it all on bad advice from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Macomber then chimed in, claiming Wasden created the entire problem by “bad lawyering.”

Anyone who has followed the career of Attorney General Wasden knows that he is the foremost advocate in the State for open and honest government. He has held numerous meetings around Idaho over the years to educate government officials and the public as to the requirements of Idaho’s public records law and to urge that they fully comply with it. He would be the last one in the State to advise McGeachin to stonewall a record request.

McGeachin then waved a piece of paper in front of the news cameras, claiming it to be proof positive of Wasden’s bad advice. When asked to give the paper to the press, she refused, claiming it to be a confidential communication from her lawyer, Wasden. McGeachin then tore it to pieces.

Acting in a courteous and professional manner despite the provocation, Wasden declined to disclose his advice to McGeachin. However, his office tellingly commented that the kerfuffle was “an excellent demonstration of why government should seek legal counsel that it needs to hear instead of what it wants to hear.”

McGeachin has likely laid the groundwork for the Press Club to obtain documents disclosing the legal advice she got from Wasden. By waving her document and speaking of the purported advice, she probably waived any confidentiality privilege. Perhaps another record request will disclose the truth.

It is hoped that Mr. Macomber will take to heart the lessons he should have learned from this sordid affair, if he still wants to be Idaho’s chief legal officer--study the law and obey it, speak the truth, make sure your arguments are based in fact, and don’t tell public officials what they want to hear instead of what they should hear in order to obey the law. Otherwise, he should find some other career pursuit.

Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served 8 years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He is currently a regular contributor to The Hill online news. He blogs at JJCommonTater.

(photo)