Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published by “Ridenbaugh Press”

Tribes social clubs or governments?

trahant

I was at an event in Seattle recently and listened to Slade Gorton talk about the future of the Republican party in Washington at the Crosscut Festival in Seattle last week. Washington state is changing and the GOP runs the risk of being irrelevant (as is now the case in California elections). And, Washington, like California, has a top two primary. So it’s a challenge for Republicans to win a spot in the general election. In the last Senate election, for example, the “top two” finalists were both Democrats.

Gorton, who just had his 90th birthday, was once considered a moderate in Republican circles. That’s no longer the case. It’s true he is not a “loyal” Trump supporter. Then that’s not an easy species to find in Washington state. But he does support the GOP congressional agenda. So moderate he is not.

Of course Gorton did not talk about American Indian or Alaska Native issues. Even though that’s what we in Indian Country remember. Actually it’s too bad for Republicans. The party is shrinking, in part, because it does not recognize the changing nature of the country’s demographics. Then that’s been true for a long time. I remember talking to a former GOP party leader, Gummy Johnson, more than twenty years ago who wanted to position his party as a supporter of Treaty Rights and tribal governments. The Gorton wing of the party would never have let that happen.

Gorton (and his ally on the Supreme Court, the late William Rehnquist) had a nuanced view of tribal governments. These two men used their legislative and judicial powers to try and undercut federal Indian law and treat tribes as social clubs. Tribal membership was not citizenship but a special privilege. So tribal authority, the power of government, could only be applied to tribal members (and even that was subject to any limitations set by Congress). The legal theory for this nonsense was the implied divestiture doctrine, the secret but steady erosion of tribal governments.

Sen. Gorton has moved on to other issues. He’s an expert on national security, and, as I learned the other night, on rebuilding the Republican brand. (Or not. Because he argues there is an ebb and flow and Republican ideas will come back again in Washington with major change.)

I was thinking of Slade Gorton's ideology in the context of the Stop Disenrollment campaign that will be posted across social media on Feb. 8. It’s being led this year by Alaska Native actor Irene Bedard. “The movement is poised to raise indigenous social consciousness again this year — in what might be its final year given the growing sense that disenrollment is declining nationally,” said a news release. “Prominent Native Americans like author Sherman Alexie, former U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, rapper-actor-entrepreneur Litefoot, film director Chris Eyre, fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail, and Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills headlined the 2016- and 2017-campaigns.”

What does Slade Gorton have to do with disenrollment? It’s an extension of the idea that tribes are social clubs and that membership is exclusive. That’s a different narrative than a government with citizens. Great nations grow. Great nations want all the talent that can build a better society. (Hint: This idea has applications to the immigration debate, too.) Great nations don't kick out their relations.

To me, tribal citizenship is the key. Thumb through history and some of Indian Country’s greatest leaders: Washakie, D’arcy McNickle, and many, many more could have been on the wrong side of history had there been a narrow debate about disenrollment and membership.

Are tribes exclusive clubs? No. The answer is always the framework of government.

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

Notes . . .

notes

Last fall, when the sexual harassment complaints against Roseburg (Oregon) Senator Jeff Kruse surfaced, he was accused of “ongoing workplace issues,” without a lot more detail provided. People reacted seriously, but for those of us without knowledge of the specifics - and an unwillingness to prejudge in a time when j'accuse too often seems enough for conviction - a clear assessment was harder to make.

That's not a problem now.

A detailed investigation of Kruse's activities was conducted, and this week the results, 51 tightly-spaced pages worth, were released.

Before this report, we were left wondering what exactly it was he did - and with one small exception, he did not deny the allegations (saying in some cases that he didn't remember) - and so left wondering whether this was serious stuff. Taken together, and in some cases even as individual incidents, this was certainly worth the uproar.

Part of the conclusion read, "there is a longstanding pattern of Senator Kruse engaging in unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace, including Senator [Sara] Gelser and Senator [Elizabeth] Steiner Hayward, and that he stubbornly refused to change that behavior after being warned about it in March 2016." There were other people and incidents involved too, but what seemed most especially pertinent was the unwillingness to change his activities and approach. I can understand not reading someone else's mind, or intuiting their preferences; persisting after those concerns were conveyed (in this case even through official channels) is highly noteworthy.

Many of the MeToo cases in recent months have exposed clearly bad behavior, while some have seemed - to me - in a grayer area. The report is recommended reading. It makes clear that Kruse was not operating in a gray zone, and that clarity should help with moving through what is likely to come next. - rs
 

There are polls, and there are polls

carlson

All pollsters tell clients that a poll is just a snapshot in time and attitudes can change swiftly. They also say the polling instrument is only as good as the input and how well questions are phrased. Garbage in, garbage out or filet mignon in, filet out.

Dr. Corey Cook is dean of Boise State’s school of public service. He also is an expert on polling. In an interview about BSU’s third annual statewide survey of 1000 Idahoans on issues of public policy and where they stand from health care and insurance to education to the economy to taxes to transportation he was candid, sharp and informative.

He went to great lengths to explain why this was a poll about public policy and should not be considered a political poll.

He conceded, however, that in keeping with transparency he should have acknowledged that the firm handling the polling, GSStrategic Group, is led by Greg Strimple, a nationally known Republican pollster. His firm is currently handling polling for doctor/developer and gubernatorial aspirant, Tommy Ahlquist. Dean Cook said he was convinced the firm had kept a firewall internally.

When asked the cost Cook said it was $50,000 for the 20 minute, 60 question poll - approximately $30,000 from public funds and the rest contributed by five private companies: Blue Cross, the Idaho Realtors Ass., Midas Gold, Monsanto and Western States Equipment.

The price did not include focus group sessions to test the wording of the questionnaire nor any follow up to verify contacts and responses.

Despite Dean Cook’s eloquent arguing to the contrary, almost any poll asking questions about public policy is by definition “political” and can be used for political purposes. Idahoan views on the inadequate underfunding of public education as well as teacher pay has ramifications when presented to the Legislature

Indeed, in several places the poll invites the respondent to choose between options on whether and how the Legislature should act.

Because it does have political implications it becomes critically important to understand decisions made with regard to internal dynamics. For example, the pollster has to choose between “weighting factors,” such as deciding to over sample in north Idaho to make sure the poll reflects a decent number of respondents from the ten northern counties.

Several variables come into play and in looking at these red flags should be raised. The split between calling those with land lines as opposed to cell phones was clearly subjective. Idaho is supposed to lead the nation in folks who just have cell phones. Thus, of the 1000 calls 590 were made to cells, or 59%. Dean Cook, estimates the correct number to be 65%, not 59%.

Cell phones tend to be the purview of the young and the tech savvy. Older voters stay loyal to their landlines and also vote at a much higher percentage than the young. So, weighing a higher value to a land line holder might be a shrewd move.

Other than saying they had purchased commercial lists to get to respondents who primarily use a cell phone, the Dean did not reveal the GSStrategic Group’s methodology and the firm did not return my calls.

In previous polls the Dean said they would ask whether the respondent had voted in the last presidential election. This is a wasted question for few want to self report to anyone that they did not do their civic duty. One is far better off to purchase a list of the active voters, the so-called four for fours in order to get a better read on a possible political result.

The gender split was almost 50/50. That’s ok for a policy survey but a political survey should be 53% women, 47% men. It is also fair to say that the BSU poll surveyed “white Idaho.” Hispanics comprise 11.5% of Idaho’s population yet the breakout on the cross tabs indicated that only 2.3% of the respondents were Hispanic. This is a most unfortunate undercount.

When it comes to voting by party preference the numbers don’t really reflect current demographics. The same is true for the response to religious preference. The BSU poll had self-described affiliation at 39% for independents (too high), 37% for the GOP (a bit low) and 16% for the Democrats (way too low).

As to religious affiliation, the 2017 poll indicated 115 respondents were Roman Catholic (too high), and 181 were LDS (way too low - it's more like 25%). The education numbers appeared to be badly skewed also as were the income numbers. BSU’s breakdown on education was 18% on high school grad or some high school but the Political Almanac shows the number at 38%. BSU’s 2018 survey shows the number at 50%. Which is it?

With income the numbers did not square with other data either. The Almanac indicated Idahoans with income under $50,000 was 52% of the population. BSU’s poll indicated it was 35%.

Bottom line is Dean Cook was correct. This cannot and should not be used as a reliable political poll. There are just too many questions. It is indeed about policy and accurately reflects Idaho residents views. Marty Trillhaase, the Tribune’s fine editorial page editor, drew the other correct conclusion. Idahoans say they are green/blue on the issues but they always vote red.
 

A half truth is a whole lie

richardson

Our republic is in uncharted territory. Last Friday, the GOP majority on the House Intelligence Committee, with the approval of the White House, released a memo based on classified information.

Tim Weiner, former national security correspondent for the New York Times called the memo “a weapon of political warfare,” and a “cruel cudgel created to attack everyone who’s been in charge of the federal investigation of Team Trump.” The release of such a memo is unprecedented and unwarranted, and it shamelessly undermines federal law enforcement.

Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee strongly objected to the memo’s release, calling it inaccurate and misleading. The FBI concurred, publicly stating its “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

That their memo is, at best, a half-truth seems of little concern to House Republicans. But, as Mark Twain rightly observed, “A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies.”

There is a reason that witnesses are required to tell not just the truth, but the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth. It is the same reason that judges instruct jurors to refrain from forming an opinion on the merits of a case until the ENTIRE case has been submitted for determination. Incomplete testimony and a partially presented case are unlikely to reveal the truth.

And just as jurors are also told that arguments and statements by lawyers are not evidence, the public should know that the GOP memo is not evidence. It is nothing more than a partisan argument, a set of bald, conclusory and very much disputed assertions.

The Republicans insist that their memo has been thoroughly vetted, but that claim is patently false. The memo was produced only two weeks ago and the committee has conducted no depositions or interviews nor has it held any hearings. Incredibly, no member of the committee, including Chairman Devin Nunes, has read the source documents that served as the basis for the memo. Moreover, the FBI was given only a very limited opportunity to review the memo and, when the FBI asked to meet with the committee to explain its concerns, Committee Chair Devin Nunes summarily denied that request.

It is also significant that the committee never referred this matter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) which is much better equipped than the House Committee to assess whether there had been any actual wrongdoing. The sole mission of the OIG is to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct in Department of Justice programs and personnel, and to promote economy and efficiency in Department operations.

Unlike the House Intelligence Committee, the OIG has the staff – special agents, auditors, inspectors, attorneys and support staff – to thoroughly and objectively make findings of fact and conclusions of law. But the GOP, intent on shaping – and shading – the narrative, didn’t want to delay its rush to judgment.

Republicans argue that the public has the right to know the information contained in their memo and some even purport to support the release of the Democrats’ memo rebutting their own. However, they would delay the release of the Democratic memo until theirs has been in circulation for some time. The Democrats, understandably, have a problem with this approach knowing full well that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth puts on its boots.”
Finally, the president – who has told friends how delighted he is that the memo might undermine the special counsel investigation – is unlikely to approve the release of the Democratic memo. That would leave us with public access to only one version – the Republican version – of the truth, and that is very much contested.

Committee Chairman Nunes was discredited some time ago when he made a big production of delivering certain documents to the White House, documents which he received from the White House in the first instance. After this public charade came to light, Nunes ostensibly recused himself from the House investigation.

But now that Nunes has released the GOP memo his recusal seems illusory and transitory. It would appear that Nunes and the other GOP members are not exercising an oversight role so much as acting as defensive linemen for the president.

As you consider the merits of the GOP memo, remember the age-old adage: “Beware of the half-truth. You may have gotten hold of the wrong half.”

 

There’s NO nuke button

rainey

I’ve been mentally wrestling with something for, oh, a year or more. Something I’ve not seen the national media explain ‘cause they probably don’t know. You won’t hear it from the Oval Office, either, ‘cause he certainly doesn’t know.

So, looks like it’s coming down to Ridenbaugh Press: a burden we didn’t ask for but have been given nonetheless. Here it is. As straightforward as it can be said.

There’s NO DAMNED NUCLEAR BUTTON. On Trump’s desk or in the entire White House! No! None! Zero! Zip! Nada! Never has been! PERIOD! His little fingers can’t push it ‘cause there’s nothing there to push! He cannot - repeat - CANNOT unilaterally order up a nuclear conflagration.

I spent a few cold war years about three-feet from where the button would have been if there had been a button to push if a nuclear button needed to be - pushed. And it wasn’t there, either! Never was! The damned thing has never existed!

So, without a “button,” what’s a guy “push” when we need to launch all the things in our far-flung nuclear arsenal? Well, therein lies a tale that needs some background.

Ever notice when a President travels away from the White House there’s always - ALWAYS - a field grade officer lurking nearby, carrying what looks like the president’s personal luggage? Always there. Always carrying. He’s one of a small cadre, holding the topmost security clearances, who have no other job but carrying that “luggage” for the Commander-In Chief.

The “luggage” is euphemistically called “the Football.” The best description of it I’ve ever seen - and of what’s inside - is an old Washington Post piece. To wit:

“The Football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase carried in a black leather "jacket" weighing about 45 pounds. A small antenna protrudes from the bag near the handle.

“There are four things in the Football. The Black Book containing retaliatory options; a book listing classified site locations; a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Alert System; a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.

“The Black Book is about 9 by 12 inches and has 75 loose-leaf pages printed in black and red. The book with classified site locations is about the same size as the Black Book and contains information on sites around the country where the president could be taken in an emergency.” End quote.

If someone in the Pentagon War Room sends a signal to the “Football,” it will be opened and the President will be in immediate contact. He’ll be given a very short update on what’s happening and will quickly be given options for military response - if any - previously developed and updated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What happens from that point is highly classified. But we do know the approximate steps. The President can choose any option. Or decline. But, if the option to launch is made, he must read a long series of coded numbers aloud to the War Room listener - most likely the Secretary of Defense. The numbers and sequences must be verified by responder and he must read aloud his own code series.

Others in strategic military locations around the world should be listening by this time, having been alerted after the initial presidential call. Once a decision is made, more codes in more sequences will be sent to field commanders to which they have to immediately respond with confirmation codes. If all checks are positive, those military commanders will issue the direct orders to the force. All forces with nukes must acknowledge and transmit their own codes.

Not the President. No “nuclear button.”

And there’s this. It’s within the purview of the Secretary, the Joint Chiefs and - theoretically - a force commander to refuse to obey if they believe the “go-to-war” order is illegal. So, just because the order is given, there’s no basis to believe it will be blindly followed.

The President can’t unilaterally send our military to war. There are too many checks and cross-checks. As there should be. And there’s NO DAMNED BUTTON!

Anyone got an email address for CNN and the rest?
 

The fork already taken

stapiluslogo1

This column originally appeared in the News-Register of McMinnville, Oregon, on February 2.

This year’s Oregon legislative session, which begins today, took its biggest fork in the road well before it even convened, on January 23.

That was when voters across the state passed, by a landslide, Measure 101, upholding the taxes approved last year which helped underwrite a big chunk of Oregon Medicaid costs. The measure was a tax increase, of .7 percent on large hospitals and 1.5 percent on most health insurance policies. This plan was supported by the health industry in the state, which recognized that the income from matching federal payments would amount to more than would be paid in taxes (much of which could be passed on to consumers).

If the measure had lost, a huge revenue gap would have opened, along with the risk of health insurance loss for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, and dealing with that immediately would have become the major and almost only topic for the short session. As it is, an opening for more subjects has appeared. [[referred portions of the law account for between $210 million and $320 million in state revenue, the loss of which could have resulted in possible reduction of federal funds by between $630 million and $960 million. ]]

Not that the cost of health care will vanish from the lawmaking scene. Complaints about last year’s Medicaid funding bill focused more on the tax structure than the need to pay, so adjustments to the formula might still be proposed. Voters almost surely were expressing more a desire to keep the insurance system alive than they were the specific tax plan.

And House Minority Leader Mike McLane said in a statement after the vote, “We must now shift our focus to improving efficiencies within the Oregon Health Authority and in the administration of the Oregon Health Plan. I hope legislators on both sides of the aisle will make it a priority to safeguard and protect the investment in our state government that Oregon taxpayers have affirmed.” That will likely become a subject for discussion.

As will the next Medicaid-related shortfall, which is expected in another couple of years, and many legislators may want to begin planning for that this year.

Short sessions usually have a lot to do with budget numbers, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, was quoted as saying, “Our budget focus must now shift to the February forecast and the effects federal tax changes will have on state revenue.”

Some participants in the session may try to take another crack at long-running budget issues. Mark Johnson, until last year a state representative and now the new president of the Oregon Business and Industry group, noted in one commentary that, “the costs associated with funding the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) will continue to consume ever-larger chunks of the state budget until action is taken, and that means less money for classrooms and vital services.” He indicated that may be a focus for his group, though it has proven a stubborn issue for years on end, including in longer sessions.

More than budgeting will come up this session.

A good bet for the top non-budget issue, which already has lots of lobbying to back it up, is talk about a state “cap and trade” (or “cap and invest”) system.

Two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, already have been prepared and released as “legislative concepts”. The whole of the system is complex, but the core of it would involve a limit on greenhouse gas emissions with mandates that large producers buy “allowances” - in a sense, a kind of greenhouse gas marketplace. Payments would be involved, and those would be used to cover efficiencies, help with consumer costs and shore up communities hit by global warming. The hope is that over the years, emissions would be reduced gradually through a system of incentives.

The concept at least has backing from Governor Kate Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek.

A good deal of money could be at stake, so the basis for intense lobbying is clear. And strongly-worded arguments on both sides already are shaping the debate.

There will be more. Affordable housing has become an increasingly heated subject, especially in the Portland area but elsewhere too, and some effort to deal with it may come up.

In education several legislators (including Democratic Representatives Brian Clem of Salem and Margaret Doherty of Tigard) are suggesting requiring that class sizes be included in labor contract negotiations.

One lobbyist noted that as coordinated care organizations (for regional health care) look ahead to negotiating new service contracts, they may look to the legislature for adjustments in how they are financed.

The recent federal action on solar panel tariffs could lead to some state response on that subject, in a state where solar energy has become increasingly important.

All of this will be happening in a context of something institutionalized - by calendar - and something unusual:

The normal and unavoidable part is that the 2018 session will happen quickly - it will last only about a month - and in an election year. That normally is a prescription for dealing with necessities and emergencies, mainly of a financial nature, and not a lot else.

And there’s an unusual factor: the large number of new people involved, or people who have been around the statehouse but are moving to new positions. An especially large number of legislative personnel changes happened in recent months, including a new Senate minority leader and a new Senate chair on budget.

On top of that, the legislature’s revenue officer, who has held the job for two decades, retired last year.

Sometimes those personnel shifts kick loose legislation that doesn’t ordinarily see the light of day. The odds are this will be a mostly quiet session, with one or two big policy subjects. But then, 2018 may be an unusual political year.
 

Idaho Briefing – February 5

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for February 5. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The news web site Politico reported on January 31 that, with the retirement of Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, Idaho Representative Mike Simpson may put in a bid for the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee.

Governor C.L. “Butch”Otter signed the first bill sent to him this year by the Idaho Legislature today, immediately reducing unemployment insurance tax rates and saving Idaho employers about $115 million over the next three years.

The Idaho Water Resource Board may set a new record for recharging Snake River flows into the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer (ESPA) in the winter of 2017-18, potentially going as high as 370,000 acre-feet, officials said.

Idaho State Police Forensic Services posted the annual Toxicology Trends Report on the ISPFS website. This report contains statistics related to drug and alcohol impaired driving in Idaho.

Fish and Game will continue managing Priest Lake as primarily a lake trout fishery while also protecting native cutthroat trout and bull trout in Upper Priest Lake.

The Idaho State University College of Business is now accepting applications for the state’s first Master of Healthcare Administration program, scheduled to begin August 2018.

The Federal grazing fee for 2018 will be $1.41 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and $1.41 per head month (HM) for lands managed by the USDA Forest Service. The 2017 public land grazing fee was $1.87.

PHOTO Boise State University President Bob Kustra spoke to all 475 students at Payette High School Thursday, urging them to consider going on for more education after graduation. Idaho has one of the lowest “go on” rates in the nation of students starting college right after high school, but the state, its K-12 system and its public universities are working to improve that pathway — estimates show that as jobs become more technical and Baby Boomers retire, more and more people in Idaho’s workforce will need education beyond high school. (photo/Boise State University)
 

Disconnection

richardson

For many years, it has been a staple of State of the Union speeches for presidents to populate the House gallery with heroic or sympathetic guests to introduce in connection with various policy initiatives. That Donald Trump, who so often ignores political norms and traditions, repeatedly used this technique in his first State of the Union address does not come as a surprise. The device enables a president – particularly one whose presidency is flailing – to bask in reflected glory.

But, as I listened to the president attempt to weave a coherent narrative in which such introductions aligned with his performance, I perceived a yawning gap between the guest’s actions, for which they were being recognized, and the policies of this administration. I’ll illustrate with a couple examples:

Noting that the past year called upon Americans to recover from floods, fires and storms, Trump lauded a Coast Guard petty officer who endured 18 hours of wind and rain, braving live power lines and deep water, to save 40 lives after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. No doubt the petty officer merited such recognition. But the evidence does not support Trump’s associated comments that the nation has been with all our citizens recovering from natural disasters.

After Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, Trump made a cameo appearance in San Juan, tossing rolls of paper towels, like boxes of cracker jacks at a baseball game, to people whose lives had been devastated. He suggested that Maria wasn’t “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina and complained about how much money it cost the federal government to respond to the crisis. His comments reflected a cavalier indifference to a ravaged people. And then he left town.

Alexia Fernandez Campbell, writing for Vox, described the dire situation confronting the more than 3 million US citizens living in Puerto Rico. Observing that the lack of basic services has “fueled a mass exodus from the island,” she wrote that “[g]oing to school, having clean drinking water, and even getting regular trash services remains a daily challenge four months after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.” And Puerto Rico continues to experience the longest blackout in US history with almost 1 million Puerto Ricans still without power.

So, when President Trump, intoned “[t]o everyone still recovering . . . we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together,” the people of Puerto Rico have every reason to respond with anger and disbelief. Trump has spectacularly failed Puerto Rico, and his words ring hollow.

Another area in which there was a ginned up connection between Trump’s introduction of gallery guests and his administration’s policies was in the area of immigration reform. Trump began his call for immigration reform by introducing two sets of grieving parents whose teenage daughters were brutally murdered on Long Island. Members of the MS-13 gang have been charged with those murders. Trump claimed that “these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors,” and he attempted to use this terrible tragedy to link those gang members with young immigrants who came to this country illegally at a young age.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California called out the president’s exploitation of the parents' grief explaining: “MS-13 is an example of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior. To equate that with Dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible and it was scapegoating and it was fear mongering and it was wrong.” She justifiably observed “We’re not supposed to convince the American public of policy because we make them afraid. And that’s what the president apparently thinks he needs to do . . . .”

I would also submit that, if the president were truly concerned about stopping violence in our country, he might more productively look to closing other loopholes in our laws – namely those that allow private citizens to buy and sell firearms at gun shows without conducting background checks that licensed firearms dealers must perform. This loophole allows felons, minors, and other prohibited individuals unfettered access to firearms. Closing the loophole would be consistent with the Second Amendment and put an end to what the Violence Policy Center has called “Tupperware Parties for Criminals.” Sadly, the president did not give even passing mention to the eleven school shootings that have taken place in our nation since the first of this year.

Elsewhere in his address, Trump introduced an Army staff sergeant who had rescued a fellow soldier severely wounded by an explosion in a booby-trapped building in Raqqa. Trump rightly observed that that “Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil,” and noted that he had decided to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. Here again, though, he might also have considered closing the gun show loophole. Unfortunately, his goal was not to take the broad view on identifying all responsive policies but to take the narrow approach that would appeal to his base. That said, he elicited our sympathy for a courageous soldier but never connected the dots as to why that soldier’s actions should require that Guantanamo Bay should remain open.

According to pundits who count these things, the president’s speech elicited applause 115 times. Most of the applause was not for the president but for people – everyday Americans – who found themselves in tragic circumstances and who rose, often heroically, to the occasion. We can and we must honor these individuals, but we should not attribute by association their courage, tenacity, and sacrifice to Donald Trump nor should we embrace for their benefit his policies which are not substantially related to their actions.
 

Lieutenant jumble

stapiluslogo1

Idaho may be a state where one party is overwhelmingly favored to win, but within that party, there’s a good deal of uncertainty.

Highly competitive races are afoot within the Republican Party for governor and the first district U.S. House seat. Those races, not especially predictable, have gotten the most attention.

The least predictable of the bunch might be the Republican contest for lieutenant governor.

That’s an office that actually gets a significant amount of attention when it does come open, as it was, sort of, in 2002. That year, the office was held by an incumbent (Jack Riggs) who was on the ballot, but he had just been appointed, and had no time to establish himself. A complex, multi-candidate primary, tightly competitive and hard to predict, ensued. (It was won by now-U.S. Senator Jim Risch.)

This year, incumbent Brad Little is trying to move up to governor, opening the post. Five serious contenders are in the field, and none qualifies as an obvious front-runner.

Over the last couple of weeks KIDO radio in Boise has run an online (and self-selecting) poll of the candidates. Here is how the candidates rated when I last checked -- in alphabetical order.

Marv Hagedorn, state senator from Meridian, 18.5%.

Janice McGeachin, former state representative from Idaho Falls, 32%.

Bob Nonini, state senator from Coeur d’Alene, 24.2%.

Kelley Packer, state representative from McCammon, 16.7%.

Steve Yates, of Idaho Falls, former state Republican chair, 8.5%.

I don’t mean to make much out of a self-selecting poll; candidates often encourage their backers to weigh in (and I saw a Facebook post from one of these candidates encouraging just that). My guess is that Yates’ percentage may be a little understated, because his contacts in the state party structure may be a little less visible now and come more into play later. All of the others, all current or former legislators, have built bases of support within the party, have (loosely) similar levels of political experience, and won election more than once in their home districts. If none of these candidates is an obvious front-runner, there are no clear also-rans either.

Their bases of support also would seem to overlap quite a bit. There could be some perception (not necessarily correct) that Yates and Packer hail a little more from the more establishment Republican side, and Hagedorn a little more from the activist-insurgent side, but even if true that’s not a point you could press very far. Listen to any of them, or check out their web sites, and while you might see somewhat varied emphases you won’t see a great deal of difference between the way they describe themselves. They aren’t describing themselves as champion of one wing or another of the party, or even of a specific group. Everybody is a “conservative” of course, but what else is new? (McGeachin’s site says, “Make Idaho conservative again.” The implication being that it’s a liberal place?)

So how will they differentiate - how will any one of these candidates say, in a compelling and gripping way, that you need to vote for me and not one of those other guys?

First one to figure that out might win.
 

Vietnam in the present day

jones

The Vietnamese are gearing up to celebrate Tet, the lunar new year, with happy new year signs wherever one looks.

It is also the 50-year celebration of the Tet Offensive, which is often cited as the turning point in the Vietnam War. When I returned from my tour of duty in August of 1969, I thought we were on our way to winning the war. It did not turn out that way and that still causes me great pain. However, I think Vietnam is moving on a positive track and has a bright future.

I lived among and worked with South Vietnamese soldiers during most of my tour of duty and got to know many civilians. They were wonderful people and I have fond memories of them. During two weeks in Vietnam these decades later, I have encountered many people just like them from Hanoi to Saigon and points in between. They have been friendly, welcoming and often go out of their way to make a visitor feel at home. When we had to catch an early flight from Dalat to Saigon, the hotel opened breakfast service early to accommodate us.

One of the remarkable things is the courtesy the people show to one another and to foreigners. For instance, the streets of the larger cities are swarming with motor bikes. You would think that a pedestrian would be risking his or her life by trying to cross a crowded street. But, if you can get up the nerve to cross through the traffic, riders will give way so that you feel like Moses must have when the Red Sea parted.

The food is great, the service is friendly and helpful and people are quick to show a genuine smile. My wife are I have enjoyed our interactions with the people of this country. We were in Hanoi when Vietnam beat Iraq in the soccer semi-finals. Young people took to the streets in a lengthy and noisy, flag-waving procession through the city streets to celebrate. When the team won their next game with Qatar during our visit to Hoi An, the same thing happened. They were proud of their country and we were cheering with them.

We watched the soccer final with Uzbekistan at our hotel in Dalat. There we met a bright young man who attributed his almost perfect English to having spent 3 high school years in Boston. He will go far. China is making a play for the affections of Vietnam and people like him. Because of a long history of thorny relations between those countries, Vietnam would like to strengthen its relationship with us. I hope America's recent inward turn does not push them away. We need friends is this region.

The country is not perfect because the people still are unable to exercise some of the freedoms that Americans take for granted. That does not take anything away from the people, who are genuine good folks. We certainly have reason to know that because the Vietnamese who came to the U.S. as refugees after the war have been great additions to the American landscape.

Saigon is a bustling city with lots of development happening. Hoi An is a charming city where my wife, Kelly, and I took Vietnamese cooking classes. Hue is an old imperial city. Hanoi is awakening from a development standpoint and full of friendly people. Our war with the Communists ended badly for us, but I think the outlook for friendship with Vietnam into the future is very positive, if we work to make it happen.