"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.

A few more comments about “A place of refuge.”

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The uproar over refugees – as reflected in the Middle East, across Europe, and in the speeches of the Pope as he traveled across the United States – has reached a new level in its emotion and sweep.

But refugees are not new. Not even in Idaho.

And the prospect of taking in refugees wasn’t really controversial, not for a very long time, and refugees (most notably Afghan refugees, but others too) often got notable support from conservatives.

The Idaho state Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program was launched in the mid-70s when refugees fled Southeast Asia, fleeing the then-ascendant Communist regimes in the area as the Vietnam conflict wound down. Eastern European refugees, from stressed counties in that region, became more prominent in the refugee stream in the 80s.

In the 90s, the refugee office noted, “Idaho resettled over 5,000 refugees, more than half of which were from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Civil war, ethnic cleansing and unchecked violence forced millions of Bosnians to flee their homeland, and the subsequent impossibility of return for many led to a major resettlement effort by the U.S. The other half of the refugees arriving in the 1990s originated from other European countries, Africa, East Asia, the Near East, Central Asia and the Caribbean.” That pace continued into the 2000s. In 2012, the office said, “686 refugees and special immigrants arrived in Idaho from 20 different countries.”

None of this occasioned any great controversy.

In Idaho most refugees’ services, and so many of the refugees themselves, have been based in Boise. Twin Falls, through the College of Southern Idaho refugee center, has been the secondary hub, and by far the hottest debate in Idaho has been centered there.

Last week more than 700 people packed a community forum at Twin Falls about the local refugee program; it even drew Larry Bartlett, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office on Refugee Admissions. Much of the discussion was supportive, but some of it was not. About halfway through a speaker joked that there were a few empty seats in the room “we’d like to fill with refugees.” The Twin Falls Times News reported that then “a group of people wearing black T-shirts with the logo of the Three Percenters on them left,” and one man shouted out, “This is propaganda.”

In Twin Falls right now, there is no hotter topic.

Why now?

Some of it may have been sparked by news that Syrians may be among the refugees coming to the Magic Valley. But so what? People from around the globe have come to the area for years.

One speaker said, “A word we’ve heard over and over again this summer is ‘sharia.’ And I think a lot of people are worried about refugees bringing values to this community that don’t jibe with traditional southern Idaho values. . . . Why should Twin Falls take in people that might not necessarily share the values that are traditionally here and have been practiced here for years and years?”

That same question could have been asked in the 70s, when Idaho took in refugees from far away. Or in the 80s, or 90s. But, in the main, it was not. Idahoans were far more confident in themselves then. Why are so many so frightened now?

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My intention to write a straight forward candidate profile piece turned into a more interesting story of how David Taylor, Independent Party Candidate for Oregon House District 30, ended up affiliating with the Independent Party.

The issues that David is focusing his campaign on are:

Assuring K-12 education funding meets the needs of students and teachers
Assure that veterans received their earned benefits and help them with employment and health care
Protect consumers, increase transparency in government and reduce special interest influence over the political process
Grow small businesses and expand larger businesses in ways that benefit the public and reduces unemployment.

Several weeks ago, when he was first considering a run for elected office, David set up a meeting with the leaders of the Democratic Party of Washington County. David was a registered Democrat and sought their counsel and advice. David recalled, “(The) Democrats told me my issues were not their issues and instead they were solely focused on keeping Dems in power”. He told them he was interested in running for his House District (30). This presented a problem for the Democratic leaders, since the incumbent Joe Gallegos was a Democrat. However, the word was out that Gallegos may not seek re-election. David thought there was a chance for him to get the party support, or at least their commitment to be neutral if there were a contested primary. He was wrong. “I was told they needed to keep a hispanic in the District 30 seat and I met the other candidate they planned on taking Gallegos seat should he leave office“

And it got worse.

“I was told my wife and me were not welcome with them in the 4th of July Parade (simply because I wanted to carry a banner Saying “Let’s make Oregon work for our Veterans”).

And then“The husband of the former Chair of the County told me that I needed to leave the party.” David was told, perhaps with the intent to actually give him good advice, that he may want to become an independent since his agenda was not the same as the Democratic Party.

Dejected, but not discouraged by the Democratic Party leaders shunning, David decided to approach the Washington County Republican Party. He figured, since HD-30 is seen as a safe Democratic seat, perhaps the Republicans would be interested in a socially moderate former Marine combat vet with a Masters Degree in Administration challenging The Democratic Candidate in a general election.

He was wrong.

“When I met with the republican chair (of Washington County) I was told that my veteran, unemployment and education issues weren’t the republican parties issues and instead Gay Marriage was the only “frontal assault” that they intended to use. I was told that unless I would ‘carry that flag’ I would be asking their party to set aside their beliefs and they wouldn’t. He then tape recorded my defiance to his position as I reiterated that a government that taxes equally better give civil rights equally.”

David then decided to re-register as non affiliated and reconsider his candidacy. It was then that he discovered the Independent Party of Oregon. He did a little more research and found out that the Party platform matched his views. And, fortuitously, the Independent Party of Oregon shortly thereafter achieved major party status and would allow him to campaign for the IPO nomination and appear on the May Primary ballot. So on September 10th, 2015, the first day to file for office, he was the first Independent Party candidate to file. He will be opposing Joe Gallegos – or his heir apparent who will likely not file until 5 minutes before the filing deadline which is standard operating procedure for Washington County Democrats as a way for Democratic insiders to select the Democratic nominee themselves. There may or may not be a Republican on the ticket. I guess it depends if they can find someone to “fly the anti same sex marraige” flag in Washington County.

But at least David is giving voters a real choice. A choice that both the Democratic and Republican parties in Washington Country tried to silence.

Davids experience mirrors that of voters as well. The Democrats need to limit their nominees to known insiders who can be trusted to vote with the financial interests of their donor base. And Republicans maintain a strict social litmus test for candidates they will support, losing election after election in socially liberal districts then blaming the voters for returning Democrats to office.

Come to think of it. Davids story could have been told by the many voters who have also found their way to the IPO.

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Probably I would have guessed Idaho state Senator Marv Hagedorn would have signed up with one of the Republican presidential candidates deemed more rigorously conservative, so his appointment as co-chair of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s campaign for Idaho comes as a little surprise. Still, Kasich worked on the federal balanced budget back in the 90s so that wins him some points (and figures large in Hagedorn’s own statement about his choice). It also underscores how few of the national Republican contenders have an Idaho champion. Aside from Kasich, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has Representative Raul Labrador as an Idaho leader, but that’s about all. Trump? Carson? Fiorina? Bush? Cruz? The rest? Nothing much yet. Is it a matter of leading Idaho Republicans not really having a favorite, or being uneasy about joining a campaign that might not go the distance? – rs (photo/Michael Vadon)

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(An Open Letter to Senator Mike Crapo)

Dear Senator Crapo—Thanks but no thanks. I’m returning the fund-raising solicitation I received from your campaign today empty first because you already have $4.2 million in cash on hand and probably will not even have an opponent (which has been your good fortune before).

The hysterical tone that you need $95,000 more by the next FEC report deadline is truly implausible if not downright misleading. You are the safest bet for re-election in the nation, and you know it.

Fiscally conservative Idaho “business Democrats,” like myself, have supported you in the past where we knew you to be the better representative. Also, a few of us admire your intelligence and recognize your potential, even if you don’t.

Candidly, when you first entered the Senate I had high hopes you would be a different kind of a Republican, that you would on occasion stand up against your caucus, that you would exercise independence, that you would dare to be different, that you would be a true compassionate conservative, to borrow George W. Bush’s phrase.

When you served with distinction on the Simpson/Bowels Fiscal Reform Commission you were starting to meet expectations. You stood up against Grover Norquist, the GOP guru who tries to extract a “no new taxes pledge” from all Republicans because you recognized the long-term solution to our incredible debt was a systematic approach that required both a reduction in spending and some new revenue enhancements. That was your finest hour.

What has happened to that Mike Crapo? The one I see running for re-election today is running to the hard right, mouthing the mindless bromides of the Tea Party. Friends of yours tell me that you wanted to pre-empt any primary attack from the right. Really? Mike Crapo is running to the hard right because he’s afraid of someone acting even more heartless than Donald Trump who wants to ship all 11 million illegal but largely tax-paying contributing immigrants out of the country?

And when did you start idolizing that heartless¸wealthy colleague of yours, Senator Jim Risch, who demonstrates time and again he cares for little but himself and maintaining the growing gap between the super rich and the middle class?

That sure was a great deal he struck switching property tax relief for his large corporate contributors for more sales tax and then had the gall to tell folks it would not cut into state support for education – but it did.

Nor did he bother to disclose his personal though modest benefit from this legislation he pushed during his seven months as governor.

So imagine my disappointment when I hear you bragging that you and Risch vote the same 99% of the time? You’re honestly proud of that? Really? If voting with Jim Risch is an example of what your letter calls good old-fashioned common sense, God help us all.

Of course your letter contains the usual list of issues you’ll work on which polls tell you are popular with the electorate, but all are couched in broad generalities. You say you’ll work to repeal ObamaCare. With all due respect Senator, ObamaCare is here to stay. You know its provisions banning denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and capping expenditures are well on their way to becoming entitlements.

Senator, for the life of me, I really don’t understand why you don’t exercise more independence and display more courage. Be the salmon that swims against the strongest part of the current. You’re a good senator doing an adequte job but you could do so much more than just touting about holding town meetings in every town in Idaho.

I’m sure you are familiar with the parable of the talents in the New Testament. Do you honestly believe you are employing all your talents for the greater good of the citizens? Or are you indeed becoming more like Senator Rish, gliding along in what is the easiest job in the world when you hold one of the safest seats?

Many people have told me that you greatly admired, and rightly so, your older brother, Terry, who was taken so prematurely just as he was beginning a political career in which most veteran observers at the time thought would lead to true greatness. I had the privilege of covering one sesssion of the Idaho Legislature in which he truly stood out. I too thought he was destined to be someone who truly would make a difference.

I believe you and he are cut from the same cloth, that you can still fulfill a higher, better destiny. You’re a good man and a good senator, but dare to be great, Mike. Dare to be great.

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This is the day Pope Francis takes Washington by storm – a good deal of it, at least. He will be a difficult figure for some people to come to terms with, because his views split so much through this country’s ideology. He stands up for the poor, for dealing with (and acknowledging) climate change and business practices that have human costs. But parts of his viewpoint encompass more traditional and conservative church positions as well.

Here is what he had to say at the White House (delivered personally, in English):

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

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