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A messaging document

trahant

Budgets are statements: This is what "we" care about. It's money that reveals priorities. The "we" could be, and ought to be, the country. Or the "we" could be a presidential administration that's not really equipped to govern. So there will be lots of stories this year, like last year, about the Trump's administration's desire to cut federal Indian programs, wipe out public broadcasting, end student loan forgiveness, wreck Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps, housing programs, and generally just about every federal program that serves poor people.

As Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters: “This is a messaging document."

And what a message: Rich people face tough times so they deserved a huge tax cut. Poor people are poor because of their own failures. And more money is needed for a wall that's not needed, for the largest military in the world, and the Republicans no longer believe that deficits matter.

But Mulvaney has a different version. Here is what he says are the messages.

"Number one, you don’t have to spend all of this money, Congress. But if you do, here is how we would prefer to see you spend it," he said. "And the other message is that we do not have to have trillion-dollar deficits forever."

Ok. So the action is in Congress. Even Republicans on Capitol Hill know that this budget cannot be. It's chaos as numbers.

Perhaps the best line of nonsense was written a line written by the budget director to House Speaker Paul Ryan saying domestic spending at the levels Congress has already approved would add too much to the federal deficit. That's funny.

For this budget to become law (and override the current spending bill) the House and Senate would have to agree to a budget. That's unlikely. As I have written before there are lots of votes against any budget but not enough votes to pass any budget. A budget resolution would allow the Senate to move forward with a spending plan with only Republican votes (and even then only one to spare). But unless the rules change (which President Trump wants) the Senate needs 60 votes for regular appropriations bills. That means a lot of compromise before federal spending.

The most popular part of the president's budget is infrastructure spending. But most of his plan would be funding from state, local, and tribal governments. That's a problem. Congress will not be eager to follow this approach, especially in an election year. Members of Congress love announcing new roads and other projects. It means jobs back home.

It's telling that in the White House statement on infrastructure tribes are not mentioned (something that was routinely done in the Obama White House).

Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, wrote: "Our infrastructure is broken. The average driver spends 42 hours per year sitting in traffic, missing valuable time with family and wasting 3.1 billion gallons of fuel annually. Nearly 40 percent of our bridges predate the first moon landing. And last year, 240,000 water main breaks wasted more than 2 trillion gallons of purified drinking water—enough to supply Belgium."

So the Trump administration's answer is to fund this with local government dollars because, as Cohn puts it, "the federal government politically allocated funds for projects, leading to waste, mismanagement, and misplaced priorities. The answer to our nation’s infrastructure needs is not more projects selected by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C Instead, the President’s plan designates half of its $200 billion for matching funds to stimulate State, local, and private investment."

Another thing for a broken Congress to fix. If the votes are there. In theory that should be easy. This is an area where Republicans and Democrats agree (actually anyone who looks at the crumbling state of infrastructure can figure this one out). But in this Congress? We shall see.

At the State of the Indian Nations Monday, National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel said: "Native peoples are also builders and managers of roads and bridges, and other essential infrastructure. These projects are often in rural areas. They connect tribal and surrounding communities with each other, and the rest of the Nation. Tribal infrastructure is American infrastructure. In 2018, NO infrastructure bill should pass, UNLESS it includes Indian Country’s priorities."

Back to the budget as a messaging document. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says this budget "violates the spirit of the bipartisan agreement that congressional leaders negotiated just a few days ago." That's going to make it much more difficult to come up with the next agreement in Congress (unless the law is ironclad, stripping the administration of some of its governing authority).

The budget assumes that Congress would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a block grant formula. The votes are not there for that. It's fantasy.

The current bipartisan agreement "calls for adding $2.9 billion per year over the next two years to the discretionary Child Care and Development Block Grant, boosting this key federal program to help make child care affordable for low- and modest-income parents. But the budget reneges on that and proposes essentially flat funding for the program. The Administration’s blatant dismissal of a major bipartisan agreement on which the ink is barely dry may make bipartisan agreements harder to reach in the future," the budget center reports. "And then, in years after 2019, the budget calls for cuts of unprecedented depth in non-defense discretionary programs even though that’s the part of the budget that contains many federal investments in long-term economic growth. By 2028, funding for non-defense discretionary programs would fall 42 percent below the 2017 level, after adjusting for inflation. Indeed, by 2028, total NDD spending, measured as a share of gross domestic product, would be at its lowest level since Herbert Hoover was president."

To me that's the key point. Domestic spending, the programs that serve Indian Country, are already dropping and have been for a long time. All domestic discretionary programs add up to about 4.6 percent of the budget -- and federal spending on Indian Country is a tiny fraction of that.

And, as the budget center points out, that means Trump budgets would actually "go below the 2019 sequestration levels, which Congress just agreed is too low to meet national needs."

The messaging document (the budget, remember?) has another problem. It's based on assumptions that are even more of a fantasy than repealing the Affordable Care Act. The budget assumes a 3 percent growth rate this year and 4 percent next year. So lots more people earning more and paying more income taxes (since corporations will be paying less). Not. Going. To. Happen.

Even economists think this is nonsense. The crackdown on immigration, for example, is shrinking the economy, not growing it. And the Congressional Budget Office projects a long term growth rate of just under 2 percent. Last year the economy grew at 2.6 percent, below what Trump said would happen and even below the consensus of economists.

This 2019 budget will accomplish one thing: It will serve as a mile post for the fall election. Republicans can make the case for defense spending and, I suppose, that they used to be against deficits. And Democrats will make the case for protecting health care and other domestic priorities.

Mark Trahant is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports
 

Dennis and Sheila Olsen

stapiluslogo1

About the same time I started reporting on Idaho politics back in the seventies, in Pocatello, the Idaho Republican Party chose a new chairman, an attorney from nearby Idaho Falls named Dennis Olsen.

He was tough-minded (smooth diplomacy was not his strongest suit), a fine organizer and a careful watcher of the party’s money - all of which he wanted spent on the campaigns, not left over for anything other than electing Republicans. He was a Reagan Republican when Ronald Reagan was president, and he was there at Idaho Falls when candidate Reagan made his 1980 Idaho appearance.

Dennis Olson died in March 1985, shoveling snow at his house. He had prepared a succession plan for the party organization - a fellow Idaho Falls attorney named Blake Hall would take over - but the ripple effects of his work started closer to home: The deep and long-lasting civic engagement of his wife, Sheila.

Sheila Olsen, who recently died at 79 in Idaho Falls, was at least as important a Republican leader as her husband had been. She too would happily have called herself a Reagan Republican. But she was a different kind of leader, with a different sort of legacy.

She was active in the Idaho Republican Party, less as an office holder and more as a lodestar; the kind of person others looked to for good counsel and guidance. For candidates, her support was eagerly sought; her perspective carried weight. She was an electoral college elector, a post which reflected less personal work or decision-making on her part (or that of any other electors), but rather the esteem she held across the Republican Party. A lot of Democrats and independents held her in high regard too.

She was as active as you could be in the realm of civic pushups. Far from being a partisan obsessive, Sheila Olsen was active in the community in a wide range of roles. She served on the Idaho Human Rights Commission for many years, on the Governor’s Work Force Development Council, the state reapportionment commission, the state Employment Security Advisory Council, and other organizations, including a long list at Idaho Falls, as well. She was highly active in her church too.

What the many people who knew her also knew was something else that might have sidelined many others: For about half a century, she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which bore down on her as the years went on. But as one of her children said, “She was a glass-half-full girl. It didn’t matter how hard it was for her to get places or do things — she just still did them without complaining.”

There were various good reasons she was looked up to, but that last point highlights one of the most important: She was a supporter, not a denigrator, a backer, not a demolition activist. She would provide endorsements where she thought them merited, but if you were looking for bombs to throw, you’d need to look somewhere else.

Sheila Olsen came into Idaho politics in a day when partisan issues were clear enough, and loyalties were evident, but when the demonizing that has become so commonplace today had not yet taken hold. It didn’t take hold of her.

Her example would be worth some reflection for us now.
 

Still valid

frazier

We cannot stress it strongly enough. The citizens of in Idaho are empowered by the State Constitution to control the purse strings of public debt.

Boise City and Team Dave have once again launched a public relations blitz to create support for a $70 million edifice to replace the main Library on Capitol Blvd. near the river. The question before Boiseans is quite simply: “DO YOU WANT A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING OR GOOD LIBRARY SERVICE?”

Nearly a dozen years ago the GUARDIAN offered up a common sense plan to provide first class library service to ALL of Ada County and share the costs. We once again offer up our sound advice which includes a vote of the people for a consolidated Library to serve Boise, Meridian, Garden City, Eagle, Star, Kuna. There is an existing “consortium” of libraries which does a good job sharing assets and talent.

SEPT 2011 POST:

Before Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and his Team Dave go too far politicizing libraries, he better talk to the hardworking folks who make it all work.

The GUARDIAN has been working below the radar to come up with a plan for a county-wide system of libraries in Boise and we can assure you it involves ALL citizens who understand and value the services and rewards of a good library system.

People in Boise, Meridian, Garden City, Eagle, Star, and Kuna are all residents of Ada County. We should have just one library and Boise should NOT be the 900 pound gorilla.

Insiders at all levels–BPL staffers, Ada Community Library, and several 35 year library veterans–tell us the best thing we can do is have a COUNTY-WIDE LIBRARY. One former staffer tells us the State Library favors county libraries and they work toward such systems.

Guess what? TODAY, through a “consortium” of libraries that runs from Caldwell to Twin Falls and even to Hailey, you can use a Nampa library card to borrow a book in Boise and return it to Hailey when you are finished. Or any combination of transactions at those libraries.

If we consolidated just the Ada libraries we could have a greatly simplified system and EVERYONE would share in both the costs and the benefits.

As it is now, Boise residents are getting hit unfairly in the pocketbook and Team Dave wants to build more libraries–he just doesn’t know how to fund them. The library law provides for consolidation with–A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE! We need to get this rolling before Boise gets a debt load or committed to one program without exploring consolidation.

Because Boise annexes beyong its ability to provide services, they PAY other libraries toprovide services to Boise residents. HOWEVER, users (insiders call them “patrons”) from those districts can use their cards in Boise for free.

Without getting into a debate about what libraries should offer, we feel computer access is absolutely essential. The days of card files and 10-year-old encyclopedias are gone. Today’s libraries offer traditional printed books alongside videos and access to just about any information on earth through the internet.

While Team Dave was busy offering up an ill fated and outdated $38 million library bond, the worker bees in the library business continue their efforts at making services available to library types everywhere.

We already share the books, how about sharing the control, funding, and costs countywide and we would all pay just once?

Since the original post, Team Dave wisely opted for neighborhood libraries. Two are new stand alone buildings and two are store front remodels in shopping centers. Good effort, good results, and it was all done out of pocket change in the city budget with no bond debt or solicitation for donations.

The current $70 million plan has plenty of hoopla, a “world class architect,” the usual drawings and color photos in the Daily Paper, but no word on where the money will come from to pay for the dream.
 

Will first district voters ever learn?

carlson

The Congressional Candidate’s Forum this past weekend at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library sponsored by the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans was a depressing exercise testifying to the validity of George Santayana’s saying that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The parallels to 2006 were uncanny. As Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said “its déjà vu all over again.”

In front of a standing room only crowd of 300 people were six Republicans, all possessing solid conservative credentials. Three of the six gave thoughtful, constructive conservative-based answers to a series of questions, and three were hell bent on trying to establish that they were the only true blue conservative and the rest were dangerously close to being RINOS (Republicans In Name Only).

Does anyone remember Bill Sali? In 2006 when Butch Otter opened the seat up by his decision to forsake Congress and run for governor there were six Republicans who thought they saw a member of Congress when they looked in the mirror. An obscure little known state legislator from the Treasure Valley far to the right of many main-stream Republicans none the less emerged from the primary as the party’s candidate with just 26% of the vote.

Sali played up his adherence to Christian values, his 100 percent pro-life record and once he was seated he voted against the first legislation authorizing a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for kids from low income households. He also voted against then President George W. Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform bill because it allowed for some amnesty. Sound familiar?

Sali was such a disaster as a congressman that he was defeated in his bid for re-election by Democrat Walt Minnick. This was the first time an incumbent was bounced after just one term since 1952 when Coeur d’Alene’s Dr. John Wood lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Gracie Pfost.

Of the three pandering to the far right the worst was Mike Snyder from Bonners Ferry. He is the living definition of a demagogue. He began his introduction by shouting “how many of you out there believe Hillary Clinton ought to be in jail?” Two thirds of the audience raised their hands but one brave person shouted loudly “no.” “How many of you believe Robert Mueller should be fired?” Again, two thirds of the hands raised.

“How many of you believe the Federal Reserve Bank should be abolished?” Again two-thirds of the hands raised. Utterly unbelievable there are that many folks who get suckered by such rhetoric¸ and not only don’t trust government but hate all levels.

Oh, there’s an exception though - Snyder says government is needed to enforce the right to life and no exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest. Snyder continued his pandering by shouting he would vote against any bill that contained as little as one penny for Planned Parenthood.

Later he implored the audience to drive the RINO’s out of the Republican party and he accused Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of being RINO’s. One had the feeling that any one who didn’t agree with him was a RINO.

Initially Nick Henderson, the late Frank Henderson’s grandson and a commercial pilot, sounded sensible but before long he was charging that the entire Congress was corrupt and that he wanted to be there to clean up the corruption which he saw as primarily driven by lobbyists.

Former State Senator Russ Fulcher still comes across as one wishing to be governor which he originally declared for until Raul Labrador decided to run for governor. His answer for everything seemed to be read the Constitution and read your Bible and one will have the answers.

Any sensible person would scratch Snyder, Fulcher and Henderson from their list. None of the other three came across as zealots or single issue types. State Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d’Alene), former Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy and State Rep. Christy Perry (R-Middleton), all conveyed that they would work to make Congress functional again while adhering to their major conservative principles from balancing the budget to support for lower taxes and effective efforts to limit bureaucratic regulations.

Leroy’s experience separated him from Malek and Perry. His answers were more specific and his knowledge of the issues deeper. If grading the top three on a scale of one to ten I’d give Leroy an 8, Malek a 6, and Perry a 5. On the other side Henderson gets 3, Fulcher a 2 and Snyder a 0.

If you want someone who will be an island unto himself and not able to work in a legislative environment go ahead and vote for the reincarnation of Bill Sali. And history will repeat itself with a Democrat taking the seat back after one term.
 

Disappointed but not surprised

richardson

For the umpteenth time, I find myself deeply disappointed in, but not at all surprised by, the president's actions. Trump’s decision not to declassify and release the Democratic rebuttal to the Republican memo (the Nunes memo) made public last Friday is but his latest self-serving and hypocritical outrage.

Trump decided to declassify and release the Nunes memo condemning the contents of a FISA application over the strong objections of the Justice Department and the FBI before even having read it. But he blithely holds Democrats to a different, much higher standard, requiring them to jump through arbitrary hoops to merit comparable treatment.

The concepts of fundamental fairness and equal justice under the law have no meaning to this narcissist, whose goal is not transparency but self-preservation.

FISA is the acronym for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which was established by Congress in 1978. The Court entertains applications made by the United States Government for approval of electronic surveillance, physical search, and certain other forms of investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes.

In their memo, the Republicans argued that the FISA warrant obtained for Trump’s campaign adviser (and suspected foreign agent) Carter Page was improperly obtained. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have publicly denounced the Nunes memo noting that it was incomplete and misleading. For instance, it wrongly suggests that the only basis for the FISA warrant was the Steele Dossier and that the application failed to disclose that the dossier was from a political source.

If the president had any intention of putting the nation’s interests before his own, he would not have released the Nunes memo. Of course, that would require him to be a patriot, not a partisan, and – as we’ve repeatedly seen this past year – that’s not in his DNA. But having decided to release the Nunes memo, he should have released the Democratic rebuttal memo as well – and at the same time.

Dishonest Don is playing fast and loose with our national security to seek cover from the eventual findings of the Special Counsel’s investigation. This is the stuff of third world dictators, and the Republicans in Congress haven’t lifted a finger to stop him. Instead, they have been his enablers.
The ball is in our court. We must flip the Congress and replace this president. We cannot allow our beloved nation to become nothing more than a Banana Republic.

Propaganda 101: Trump’s gibberish gets worse by the day.

But as tempting as it is to dismiss his nonsensical rants as mere twaddle, it is important to recognize them for what they are: propaganda. And, sadly, it’s propaganda that resonates with far too many of our fellow citizens.

Consider, for instance, Trump’s tendency to talk in glittering generalities. This propaganda technique was recently on display when Trump, relying on an incomplete, inaccurate and misleading GOP memo, blasted p...rocedures used to obtain a FISA warrant for surveillance of his campaign advisor, Carter Page.
He did so without offering a scintilla of substance.

“I think it’s terrible what’s going on in this country,” Trump raged. He gave no context, no specifics, just a sweeping, unsubstantiated assertion that something “was going on” and that it was “terrible.”

Then he said, "What's going on in this country, I think it is a disgrace." Again, “what’s going on” was completely undefined and why “what’s going on” qualified as “a disgrace,” was equally unclear.

Finally, he said "When you look at that, and you see that, and so many other things what's going on, a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that."

Holy Toledo! When you “look” at what? When you “see” what? And what are the “many other things” going on? And who should be “ashamed of themselves”? And for what should they be ashamed? And what is much worse than what?

See what I mean? He gets away with this rubbish all the time. Reporters must start demanding specifics.

I know he’s slippery, and he filibusters, and he changes the subject and he says something even more bizarre to distract from his original blather. But it would be refreshing to hear someone say, “Mr. President, what you said just now didn’t make any sense. You strung a lot of pejorative words together but you didn’t say anything. Could you be specific? What exactly are you talking about?”

And when he resorts to the same non-responsive gobbledygook, the next journalist needs to follow up with the same question. And so does the next one, and the next.

He’s so adept at babbling using loaded words to create an impression but actually saying nothing. Reporters – individually and collectively – need to pick up their games and start consistently calling him out on his mumbo jumbo propaganda.
 

The winter coast

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Truth is, I wouldn't choose to live on the Oregon coast in the winter.

But that's only as a matter of calculation, not immediate impressions. I sure am glad to live close by (an hour or less, traffic willing, in my case).

The Oregonian has posted a good reminder of reasons why the coast has such appeal in the winter.

This can seem counter-intuitive. In the winter, the coast is typically not terribly icy or snowy, but the mountains that abut it often are, and roadways inland can become a little tricky. Goods and services are sometimes limited on the coast - people I've known have remarked about the number of times they've had to go to larger cities over the mountains for what they need - despite the large number and broad variety of retailers there. The wind is almost always always a reality, and often roars. The skies usually are overcast. The beaches can be treacherous; the waves often run high.

You don't spend a lot of time out of doors, as a rule, in the winter out on the coast.

But it can be a delightful place. We've often headed there for two or three days (many a New Year's holiday) to hang out at some oceanfront spot. The atmosphere is wonderful.

And that's what the Oregonian piece focuses on. When the weather is relatively good, walks and hikes are available in all sorts of places, minus the crowds of summer. There are rainforests in easy reach (where "a drizzly day on the coast can be magical"). The rainy months can be great for exploring many of the area's waterfalls. Many tourist draws, like aquariums, are as good in the winter. Chowder seems especially tasty in the winter.

And you get to beat the crowds, which are the biggest problem with going there in summer. The tourist town of Seaside, for example, draws the reaction, "come winter, the town is practically empty, allowing for peaceful walks on the promenade, quiet evenings in the local restaurants and less competition at the Fascination tables."

Seems like time to cross the mountains again . . .

ALSO Columnist Barrett Rainey, who until recently did live on the Oregon coast, argues that I insufficiently pointed out the downsides of doing so: "You, Sir, have not lived full time on the Oregon Coast. It may be wonderful to come over for a day or two of storms. But try it daily for a year. Or three. Not so much fun. Your planting areas washed out. Your trees uprooted. Repainting the South and West walls every 2-3 years. Asphalt shingles to replace - maybe annually - maybe monthly. The bridge on 101 between you and the next town disappears. Near daily reminders that the "big one" is coming. Bear and cougar pop up in the damndest places - like your backyard."
 

A shrinking mea culpa

rainey

Several days ago, I re-posted a news story on Facebook. It had been on the CNN website that day and appeared genuine. It outraged me so much I re-posted without checking. My bad.

Within minutes, some sharp-eyed Facebook friends started commenting they hadn’t seen it anywhere else and a few questioned its authenticity. Suddenly, so did I. Going back to the CNN page, the story I had copied was nowhere to be found. I checked every nook and cranny but it wasn’t there.

Since the story had a Nevada dateline, I looked up the state’s two largest newspaper web pages. Nothing. Not a word.

At this point, I was both professionally and personally embarrassed. So, after waiting 24 hours to do more research - and to think of a properly worded mea culpa - I checked the Nevada papers again. And there it was! Whew!

So, I re-posted one of the more detailed stories with a “soft” mea culpa and invited skeptical friends to check it out. After all, they had a right to be skeptical since I had not done my homework.

So, what’s the point?

Just this. Simply because something appears on a legitimate website like CNN, check a couple more sources before sharing. Each week, I visit some 15-20 sites - Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, Der Spiegel, London Times, The Guardian, Tokyo Times, CBS, NBC, etc. The idea is to be exposed to many issues and to check other views of all sorts of stories.

But, I think I got “had” on CNN. CNN, too. Which is a wake-up call for all my other online reading. I checked with the Atlanta powers-that-be and they couldn’t find my “story,” either. It could have been a Russian “bot.” My source didn’t use that word but did say the company’s site has been experiencing “some difficulties recently.”

So, the lesson learned is this: check, re-check, cross-check and, if necessary, check again. Corroborate. If it seems interesting enough to pass on, be sure you’re on solid ground.

Oh, by the way, the story that caused the outrage? It was accurate. Republicans in the Nevada legislature have been behind a recall campaign against two Democrat state senators. GOP sponsored. GOP run. GOP paid for. And the charge against the two “miscreants?” Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Boiled down to its essentials, Republicans are trying to take control of the Nevada Senate by shifting numbers. The two targets here have committed no crimes. Have not shirked their responsibilities. Have not engaged in “moral turpitude.” They’re not guilty of anything!

The reason this Nevada story is so important is a favorable court ruling could be a precedent for all other states. Republicans could just dream up a “recall” and try to unseat Democrats. Any Democrats. Anywhere. Or vice versa.

I’ve seen nothing to support what my gut tells me which is this: dig deep enough and you’re likely to find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and/or the Koch brothers who have large holdings in Nevada and other states. This just smells like a test run at the courts to gain leverage Republicans couldn’t get at the ballot box.

I sincerely hope the Nevada court system slams the door on this shabby Republican B.S.. The GOP has enough other shameful efforts going trying to thwart voters.

Pennsylvania is a good example. State Supreme Court threw out the Republican gerrymandering of districts. Deemed it illegal. So, the GOP went to the U.S. Supreme Court which kicked it back to the state. Now, Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to recall Democrat appointees on their own state supreme court for no other reason than the GOP wants to underhandedly take over legislative majorities. And the court!

These are important stories that more Americans should be watching closely and be greatly concerned about. These underhanded, totally flagrant and despicable Republican challenges are a flat-out challenge to the Constitution of the nation and those of every state.

So, here I am. Feeling guilty about passing along a single news report that might have been false - but wasn’t - while Republicans in at least two states are trying to overturn entire elections. And subvert several constitutions.

Suddenly, my mea culpa doesn’t feel so large after all.
 

Idaho Briefing – February 12

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 12. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Legislative conflicts arose last week over a wide range of subjects, from a proposed constitutional convention, to tax cuts, to health care. Meanwhile, statewide campaigns heated up, as one legislator – Democrat Paulette Jordan – resigned to devote full time to the campaign trail.

Representative Paulette Jordan said on February 7 that she is officially stepping down from her District 5 legislative seat to concentrate on running for governor full-time.

Senator Mike Crapo, chair of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today delivered the following remarks during a full committee hearing entitled “Virtual Currencies: The Oversight Role of the SEC and CFTC.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains tax incentives for investments in low-income census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and the Department of Commerce are calling for cities, counties, and tribes in eligible areas to apply for a Governor’s nomination to participate.

House Bill 463, the largest tax cut in Idaho history, passed today on straight party-lines with a 59-11 vote in the Idaho State House of Representatives.

Due to a shortage of beds in Idaho’s prisons and jails, the Idaho Department of Correction will soon move up to 250 male inmates to the Karnes County Correctional Center in Karnes City, Texas.

At the groundbreaking ceremony last June for Albertsons Companies’ new Broadway Market location, CEO Bob Miller hinted that Boise shoppers may ready themselves for a brand-new shopping scene, unlike any other in Idaho.

PHOTO Republicans in the state Legislature today announced a Regulatory Reform Joint Subcommittee to focus on the rules and regulations of state licensing boards and look at ways to improve them. The joint subcommittee will operate under the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee and the House Business Committee, and will consist of three majority members and one minority member from each committee. Representative Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens and chairman of the House Business Committee, said the subcommittee will invite state regulatory boards to appear before it and examine the licensing rules and regulations specific to each industry. (photo/Idaho Republican Party)
 

Not your grandpa’s Vietnam

jones

It is hard to believe how much Vietnam has changed in the last 50 years. Tay Ninh Province, where I served, is hardly recognizable. Located northwest of Saigon, the province borders Cambodia on the north, the west and much of the south. The province was a main terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Fifty years ago, the northern part of the province was uninhabited jungle and dangerous territory. That area is now developed with residences, shops, restaurants, and farms, as well as a national park. Tay Ninh City, a former backwater, has turned into a real city.

Saigon (even though it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975, many locals still call it Saigon) has grown into a real metropolis, boasting a population of about 12 million people and 8 million motorbikes. While Hanoi has about 5 relatively tall buildings, Saigon has dozens and more are under construction or in the planning stage. Wages are rising and people are optimistic about the future. Although the government is still reluctant to allow political freedom and dwells on the past with anti-U.S. propaganda at historic sites, the people everywhere in the country are welcoming and friendly to Americans. The country is up and coming.

One of my trip objectives was to find some of the kids from the orphanage I had worked with in 1968-1969. It was run by the Cao Dai Church, a universalist religion headquartered in Tay Ninh City. When my wife, Kelly, and I arrived at our hotel in Tay Ninh, the interpreter I’d hired told us the orphanage had been closed by the Communists when they took over in 1975. However, she said her grandmother had worked in the orphanage and remembered me.

We met with grandma, Do Thi Cung, a delightful 78-year-old, on February 2. She remembered me because I’d brought umbrellas for the orphanage staff during one of my visits. She told us she had lost touch with the kids but she knew that some of them had ended up in America. After the orphanage closed, she continued working for the church in another capacity. Meeting with her was a real highlight of the trip.

The Cao Dai Great Divine Temple and Holy See were about the only things that remained as I remembered them. The ornate temple is one of the two attractions that bring tourists to Tay Ninh and it is well worth a visit. The church was established in 1925 and claims upwards of 5 million members around the world. The other attraction is Nui Ba Dinh, or Black Virgin Mountain, an extinct volcano that towers over the rather flat province. Fifty years ago, it was dangerous territory but now it has a gondola that takes visitors about halfway to the top. I remember directing artillery fire against parts of the mountain back in the day.

With our history of ugly conflict with the Communists, who ultimately prevailed, it felt a bit odd to be well received by almost everyone we met. I’m pleased we are able to get along now and I hope our two countries can strengthen our bonds, as each has strategic interests in doing so. But, one can’t help but wonder whether the resort to war those many years ago was really necessary.
 

Who’s been in charge?

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The context for the major campaign statement - a sweeping recital of policy and perspective - that Raul Labrador released on January 30, is this:

Republicans have been in control of Idaho state government for the last two dozen years, about a generation. Whatever has happened, whether you like it or dislike it, they’re the ones who made it happen. Aside from a few terms when Democrats were state controller or superintendent of public instruction, they’ve held all of the state executive offices since 1994. And since then, they’ve consistently held more than three-fourths of the state legislative seats.

So bear in mind who Labrador, one of three main contenders for the Republican nomination for governor (the other two being Brad Little and Tommy Ahlquist), is talking about in his call to “Dismantle the power and perks of establishment politicians.”

One of his proposals is small bore, has only slight impact and will be obscure to most Idahoans - “The law governing the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho allows special interest groups to participate in this state-sponsored retirement program that was intended for public employees. Special interest groups that lobby the Legislature shouldn’t receive a benefit reserved for state and local government employees.”

The other points he made have sweeping import.

He said, “In Idaho government, political connections sometimes impact how policies are developed and contracts are awarded. Sweetheart deals and special favors have become both costly and normal.” That’s what Republican governing of the state has wrought?

He said, “Term limits allow fresh ideas and innovations to rise to the surface, and can help stop corruption and cronyism from taking root. Conversely, concentrating power into the hands of people who have been in office for too long can lead to cronyism and, at minimum, a belief that political favoritism is behind policy decisions.”

Aside from the significant number of long-serving legislators, Idaho has a governor and lieutenant governor in their third terms and U.S. senators - and a representative, in the second district - with elective office background going back about as many years as the average Idahoan has been alive. (That latter number is 34.6 years.)

Then: “Idahoans are often asked to just trust that their elected officials aren’t personally benefiting from a government contract or policy change. It shouldn’t be this way. An elected official can have private financial interests, but when those interests are factored into public matters, that’s called corruption. Even the appearance of corruption can erode public confidence in government. It’s well past time for Idaho to require a thorough disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.”

That sounds a lot like the disclosure bill recently shot down at the legislature.

And, “part-time legislators who transition into full-time Idaho government employment after their elected service are rewarded with an extremely valuable perk that’s available to no one else, full-time PERSI credit for part-time work. This loophole can be used to turn a pension worth a few hundred dollars a month into one worth thousands of dollars. This isn’t right.”

That would include, presumably, the current secretary of state, and a number of top officials in the Otter Administration.

There’s merit to many of the points Labrador is making here.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad starting point for this year’s Idaho Democratic platform.

But I do wonder how a lot of Republicans, who have been happy at being in charge in Idaho, will react.