"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.


At least 73 American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians serve in 17 state legislatures.

This is important for a couple of reasons.

First, if you look at the body of work of these state senators and representatives, you’ll find them advocating for better services, more funding and improving relationships between tribal nations and state governments. Second, state offices are a source of talent for higher elective posts, ranging from Congress to the White House. Remember it was in only 1996 when Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois state Senate.

Montana best demonstrates the growing influence of Native American voters.

Denise Juneau, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, is currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives. She’s a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes and grew up in Browning, Montana, in the Blackfeet Nation. Juneau has a political track record. She’s already won two state-wide contests so she knows what it takes to win a House seat.

This is how U.S. politics often works: A candidate wins at the state level, does a good a job, and then she moves on to Congress (or is appointed to a federal post, such as Secretary of Education).

The Montana story is richer than Juneau alone. Some twenty years ago, Montana was much like any other state with a significant Native American population with only one or two Native Americans serving in the legislature. Then Native American candidate won in 1997. And again in 2003. And by 2007 Native Americans in Montana reached ten seats in the legislature; representing 6.6 percent of that body. Montana’s population is 7.4 percent Native American. Today there are 3 Native Americans in the Senate and 5 in the House, some 5.3 percent of the state legislature.

To put the Montana percentage in national terms: If Congress were 5.3 percent Native American, there would be 5 U.S. Senators and 21 members of the House. Even if you adjust for population, the number of Native American members of Congress would have to more than double to equal the representation in Montana.

It’s telling that when Brookings Institution researched the historical demographics for members of Congress it did not even bother to measure Native Americans. There are two tribal members currently serving in Congress and, so far, this election season, there are at least seven Native American candidates for Congress.

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To formally declare war against any terrorist group as a reaction to ordinary criminal acts, whether against France, some other country, or against us, would be a dumb mistake.

To do so just to best Vladimir Putin in some sort of attempt to get ahead of Russia in the Middle East would be even dumber. We know we cannot defeat an idea with conventional weaponry. We know we have no business involving ourselves in civil wars in the Middle East, especially where those disputes spill over into unwinnable theological differences within factions of Islam that have been at odds with one another for a thousand years.

We also know better than to interfere with a regime change driven from without; a lesson learned from Iraq and Libya.

Finally, we must know that we cannot continue to assign the responsibility for warfare to just the 1% of our young and hearty, expecting them to return again and again to the hellish nightmares of battle while the rest of us continue on without inconvenience or sacrifice.

This means that to avoid running amok into the same moral, legal, political and practical quagmire we found in Afghanistan and Iraq, we must keep the situation with Syria and ISIL or ISIS, or whatever it wishes to be called, in careful perspective. If our real objective is to seek out and hold the individuals responsible for these atrocious terrorist activities accountable to society, which is a legitimate objective, and which we have proved we are very good at doing, then the obvious solution lies in our criminal courts, not warfare. The acts are crimes, and are best handled as crimes wherever they are found.

To date, the overwhelmingly successful prosecutions of radical jihadist terrorists has been in the federal courts of the United States. With a conviction rate of close to 90%, more than 500 terrorism related cases have been prosecuted there since 9/11.

Meanwhile, the effort to prosecute detainees in military tribunals at Guantanamo under the war powers act has become hopelessly snarled and bogged down. There have been three convictions out of Gitmo since 9/11. Three. There are only seven detainees currently being tried in military tribunals there, and indications are that the Pentagon only intends a total of fourteen prosecutions in all – out of the entire 780 detainees incarcerated at Guantanamo in its history.

We have the personnel, the processes, and the knowledge to manage the entire matter of terrorist acts completely under the direction of our United States Attorneys’ offices and within the criminal justice system of our federal courts. Terrorist acts are crimes and should be treated as such. This is where it all belongs, and this is where it all should stay

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A couple of experts on the Kurds – the 40 million or so people stretched across Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria – make a good argument on The Daily Beast today that the time has come for an independent Kurdistan.

As a practical matter that simply seems not to have been in the cards up to now. To get the independent state they have been seeking would mean getting several independent countries to give up a significant chunk of their population and territory, some of it oil-producing. And the leadership of some of those countries, present or past – Iraq and Turkey maybe most visibly – have been violently against the idea.

And trying to offer up independent countries to every ethnic group around the globe is, Woodrow Wilson to the contrary, not a real good idea.

However. Something like the protagonist in the Kipling poem “If,” the Kurds – who long have had a sort of shadow government in place and a military to go with it – have been a solid bulwark against their neighbors Daesh, holding their ground better than either the Syrian or Iraqi states. They are proving themselves a coherent force, and nation status could make them more effective. On top of that, they generally have been aligned with the West; the United States has worked with them informally for years.

Writers Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou argue, though, that a single Kurdistan may yet be impractical, just because conditions in the four countries are so different. Iraqi Kurds have been all but independent for close to a quarter-century, while those in in Turkey are still struggling with the federal government there. Those in Iran remain repressed, while those in Syria are moving toward the Iraqi model.

But they do argue that giving the group international help is not beyond reach. Maybe, with the recent shootdown of a Russian plane by Turks kept in mind, the right leverage may be here to do that. – rs

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First Take

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The voice on the other end of the telephone belonged to a nice lady who hailed from Wisconsin. She and her husband, who she described as an outdoor enthusiast, had moved to Wallace 14 years ago.

Wisconsin is a state with two strong political parties, and while in recent years the Democrats and their union allies have been outmaneuvered by Governor Scott Walker to the point where critics feel Wisconsin Democrats are somewhat moribund, their organization looks postively dynamic compared to Idaho’s.

The caller wanted to know whether I could come speak to a discussion group of about 25 mostly Democrats and would I be willing to share thoughts on whether there would ever be a Democratic resurrection. Here’s the gist of what I said.

The Democrats can once again be the majority choice of Idaho voters, but it is going to take time, hard work, a major reframing of the issues they focus on and the mother’s milk—money.

Here’s what has to happen: the new State Chair, former State Senator Bert Marley from Pocatello, has to visit all 44 Idaho counties. While there he must interview the county chair and emphasize the paramount obligation to find qualified Democrats to contest for every office on the local ballot. Additionally, they must fill every precinct committee slot.

If the county chair cannot do that Marley should replace them with someone who can get the job done.

Conversely, Marley owes it to these county chairs to find qualified candidates to contest every statewide and federal office. The bottom line is a party cannot start up the comeback trail without contesting every position on a ballot. One cannot win an election with nobody on the ballot, as is the case all too often.

Secondly, Democrats have to thrust forward the kind of talent that has put time in grade developing the personal relationships still critical to winning elections. Butch Otter has won three terms as governor not because of his do-nothing, risk nothing policies. He has won because he spent 14 years as Lt. Governor traveling the state building the kinds of personal relationships with donors, party workers and constituent interest groups essential to achieving ballot success.

Nothing against Steve Allred or A.J. Balukoff, the D’s last two gubernatorial nominees. Both are fine individuals but neither had spent the time in-grade developing the necessary political relationships, nor had they served in other partisan offices.

Next, the Idaho Democratic Party has to attract back the lunch-bucket carrying Democrat—the hard-working, tax-paying dirt under the finger-nails miner, or logger or farmer who started migrating to the Republican party after they felt deserted by the left-leaning, super liberal element of the party.

Others call these folks Andrus Democrats. Whatever one terms them, they along with many independents and Republicans (Andrus received as high as 30% of the Republican vote) voters carried Andrus to victory four times with two of those gubernatorial races providing the highest winning margins in Idaho history.

The Andrus formula falls under the umbrella of what he calls the three “E’s:” the Economy, Education and the Environment. He authored the phrase, “First one has to make a living; then, they have to have a living worthwhile.” In other words one has to have a job.

Consequently, he focused on policies which enhanced job creation and expanded the economic pie—but not at the expense of erxisting businesses. New business had to pay its on way. He did not believe nor did he offer incentives that in actuality were subsidies at the expense of existing business.

Secondly, he knew how important quality educational offerings were to business leaders looking to relocate their business and their families. His steadfast support for education including better pay for teachers was steadfast and constant.

Third, he knew how important Idaho’s quality of life was to the numerous citizens who enjoyed all forms of outdoor recreation. For that reason he was as supportive of wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers as he was of national recreation areas and multiple uses on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Andrus saw these as issues around which people could unite. He avoided trumpeting the numerous social issues that divide people, and which made it all too easy for Republicans to define Democrats.

His advice today would be don’t let your opponents define you, reframe your messages, get back to basics, avoid fear-mongering, and be for the three “E’s.” When Idaho Democrats start listening and acting on the advice of their most successful office-holder ever, the comeback will start.

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A remarkable ad from the John Kasich presidential campaign, aimed at Donald Trump.

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Ever think about opening a savings account for your kids or grandkids? Prepare for a coronary.

Times have changed. I have fond recollections of my father marching me down to the Canada Post Office to open a savings account in which to squirrel away a small portion of my monthly newspaper route earnings, seeded by his very generous $5 Christmas gift. I promised to deposit 50 cents into the account every month, learning the virtue of thrift as I watched my money grow.

Every month I did as promised, and watched the postal clerk tote up the balance and hand-enter it into my passbook – but something was haywire. Every now and then, extra pennies were included in the account balance: three here, a nickel there. Confused, I asked the clerk to re-check his arithmetic. “Oh,” he said, “that extra money is the interest you earn on your deposits.”

At the time, the Canada Post was paying around 3 percent per year on simple savings accounts – as were most banks north and south of the border, and the U.S. Post Office as well.

Three cents free money for every dollar you had in there. Pretty cool, the young paperboy thought.

To digress a bit: Yes, you used to be able to open a savings account at the post office in the U.S., Canada and many European and Asian countries. You still can in Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, France, Germany, South Korea, India, South Africa, among other places.

(It is, one is certain, just coincidence that the U.S. Post Office closed its 55-year-old savings accounts service in 1966 – the year after LBJ removed silver from U.S. coinage – and that Canada Post closed its 100-year-old savings accounts service in 1968, the same year our northern friends likewise abandoned silver coinage.)

As we said, how times have changed. Five bucks can’t open a savings account in any state or province in North America we’re aware of. Our own bank requires an opening deposit of $25 and pays a staggering 0.01 percent in interest. Additionally, it exacts a $4 monthly “service charge” if one’s balance drops below $3,000 – even for a day.

Under those terms, your minimum $25 deposit would shrink at the rate of $4 per month, leaving you with a $1 balance at the end of six months and $3 underwater at seven months. One’s money is clearly safer under the mattress.

Back when we still young and tossing newspapers off the back of Copper, our chestnut-coloured cutting horse, we didn’t know anything about mortgages, compound interest, or any of that other adult stuff.

Looking to history, however, we learn that while the banks and post offices were paying 3 percent interest on savings accounts, the banks and government agencies like FHA and the VA were charging twice that rate – 6 percent – for 30-year fixed-rate home mortgages. That’s a 100 percent mark-up. A grocery store owner should be so flush.

It’s gotten much better for banks these days and much worse for us in the intervening 55 years since we first started in the newspaper business.

Nowadays and with stellar credit, one can obtain a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for 4 percent from a lender which is meanwhile paying a wholesale price of 0.01 percent for its “raw material,” that is, the cost of its savings deposits. That’s a 40,000 percent mark-up, not the seemingly extravagant (but in hindsight niggardly) 100 percent mark-up typical of 1960.

Surely there is an economist who can explain to us why this cavernous difference between 100 percent and 40,000 percent exists without needing such words as “larceny” or “criminal,” or busting out laughing at our naivety – or at least explain to us why opening a savings account is such a speedy way to go broke.

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