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Posts published by “Ridenbaugh Press”

Toys r Us and immigration


Toys R Us, which once was America’s largest toy store, has gone out of business for a number of reasons. Competition from online retailers and massive company debt certainly played a large part. However, the company’s last annual report also attributed its financial troubles to a declining customer base. The company noted that most of its end customers were children and that declining birth rates “could have a material adverse effect on our operating results.” That rings true.

America’s birth rate is declining and our population is aging. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the U.S. birth rate declined from 30 live births per 1,000 residents in 1909 to 12.2 in 2016, which was the lowest rate on record. On the other hand, the Census Bureau projects that by 2035 “older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.”

Our aging population bodes ill for the Medicare and Social Security programs. The trustees of those programs estimate that Medicare will run out of money in 2029 and Social Security will become insolvent in 2034. The Labor Department says there were five workers for every Social Security recipient in 1960, but there will only be two workers for each recipient in 2035.

So, what can we do to avert disaster with these essential programs? Everyone knows it is necessary to make adjustments to funding mechanisms to shore up both programs and perhaps Congress will get the courage to do that one of these days. But, there is one thing we can do in the near term to make the situation better or keep it from getting worse. Namely, we can and should maintain our proud place in the world as a nation of immigrants.

The United States admits around one million immigrants into the country each year. In fiscal year 2016 the number was slightly less than 1.2 million. The President has indicated a desire to cut that number in half. Congressman Raul Labrador has signed onto legislation that would cut it by over a fourth. Reducing the admissions would be a big mistake. Immigration brings a much-needed injection of younger people into this country.

Those who come here now as immigrants share much with our immigrant ancestors--an entrepreneurial spirit, a desire to educate their children, and a dedication to the American dream. They start businesses at twice the rate of nonimmigrants. These are people who add to the fabric of America, people like Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, and Sanjay Mehrotra, the CEO of Micron. They bring fresh blood, ambition and innovation to our country. We need these folks to move our country forward.

We need, also, to keep those undocumented workers who contribute to the country by being the backbone of our agricultural, construction, and hospitality industries. Comprehensive immigration reform should be passed to give them legal status. For instance, Idaho’s dairy industry, which produces about $10 billion in annual direct sales, relies primarily on immigrant laborers, the majority of whom are undocumented. Other industries have come to heavily rely on those without documentation. Workers who are raising children, living peacefully, and contributing to society should not have to worry about having their families ripped apart. And, the Social Security Administration estimates that undocumented immigrants pay 13 times more into the Social Security trust than they receive from it.

Immigrants starting coming to North America about 17,000 years ago, they have made this country great and they will help to keep it great if we don’t turn them away.

Listen carefully


CONSERVATIVE: (1) Tending or disposed to maintain existing views; conditions, or institutions: traditional conservative policies; (2) Marked by moderation or caution; (3) Marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners.

OPPORTUNIST: (1) Someone who tries to get an advantage or something valuable from a situation without thinking about what is fair or right.

Those definitions are from my well-worn Merriam Webster dictionary. No editing. Now, the question of the day is this: which definition best applies to the guy in the Oval Office? Which best defines his actions - his character - his “political” presence? Go ahead. Pick one.

In my book, there’s no question. “Opportunist” fits our Crisis-In Chief to a “T.” In fact, it doesn’t go far enough.

Yet, day-after-day, night-after-night, our “friends” in the media business use the word “conservative” to describe that person. Over and over and over, they attach the wrong word as if it just has to be so.

One reason is probably because most media types have never met a bonafide Conservative politician. No GOP voice today can be described by that word as were Bob Dole, Howard Baker, Fred Thompson, Ben Nelson, Connie Mack, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, etc.. And, at the far right end of that term, Barry Goldwater.

Trump’s “politics” or character don’t measure up to any of those - not in any way. In fact, in terms of Presidents, his “politics” - whatever they are - match none other.

Would you put Idaho’s Mike Simpson in the same political file as Louis Ghomert, one of the craziest of crazies? Never. But, day-after-day, we’re told the two are “conservatives.”

People who should be most concerned with this mislabeling ought to be actual Conservatives because politicians with proven Conservative credentials are being continually lumped in with the current crop of crazies destroying the GOP. If the Republican Party ever hopes to have honest political currency in our national affairs, real Conservatives should be stepping up with new candidacies.

Many Republicans can’t support the GOP as it exists today. They feel shut out and spend time grousing when they should be taking action. Surely there must be legitimate Conservative Republicans out there who can be encouraged to run - to offer viable choices to nutcases who run unopposed time after time.

Bona fide, hurting Republicans need to stamp out this phony “we don’t want professional politicians “ crap and admit our best governance has been when experienced “professional” politicians did the work that needed doing. Professionals from both parties.

Democrats need to do some “house cleaning” as well. Shut down the Sanders-versus-Clinton voices, put up some new, younger faces with fresh thinking and get out of this circular firing squad concocted years ago.

Absolutists in both parties should be shown the nearest door. This “you’re-with-me-on-every-issue-or-you’re-my-enemy” B.S. needs to be thoroughly cleansed. Republicans say it. Democrats say it. And all it does is fracture political opportunities both parties have repeatedly squandered.

Republicans, especially, should be looking at these thousands and thousands of marchers in the streets from coast-to-coast. Today, the message out there might be gun control. Tomorrow it might be women’s rights. Or ending sexual abuse in society.

But, the real “message-from-the-streets” is most Americans want change. They want effective government to help rather than hurt. They want control of the process. In a very real sense, they want their country back. Not some 1950's imaginary fantasy that never existed. They’re asking - demanding - a process and a government at all levels that cares, that acknowledges problems of the lack of meaningful health care, homelessness, poverty, an end to “government for the few” rather than a “government for all.”

It’s not that we don’t have issues. We’ve got lots of ‘em. Rather it’s getting the cancer of unbridled money out of our national politics - enacting policies of fairness and justice for the many - recreating a nation to be proud of and one that can return to being respected everywhere.

You want true Conservatism rather than opportunism? Go for those things. That’s the message!

Idaho Briefing – March 26

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 26. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Nearly all substantive legislative work for this year’s Idaho session was concluded on March 22, but final adjournment was held off, primarily in case legislative action is needed to deal with one or more gubernatorial vetoes.

The steady shift of Idaho’s population from rural to urban counties continued between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017, according to estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Six urban counties – Ada, Canyon, Kootenai, Bonneville, Bannock and Twin Falls – had a combined population of 1,116,173, accounting for 75 percent of the growth in the state’s population and 65 percent of overall population. The state’s total population was estimated at 1,716,943.

The 366th Civil Engineer Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base is in the process of gathering information to conduct an environmental assessment for air and ground training spaces in urban areas located throughout Idaho. Training in urban areas allows MHAFB aircrew to experience conditions similar to those faced in combat.

Representative Mike Simpson on March 22 applauded the House passage of H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which included monumental benefits for Idaho and Western States.

Legislative sessions preceding general elections for statewide elected officials mark the point when salaries for those offices are fixed by the legislature, and lawmakers acted on that subject in this session.

The city of Nampa will begin rebuilding 2nd and 3rd Streets South from 12th Avenue to 16th Avenue South on March 27.

Holding steady for the sixth consecutive month, Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3 percent in February.

Senator Mike Crapo, who has served as the lead Republican sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, on March 21 reiterated his support for justice for trafficking victims and voted in favor of H.R. 1865, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which passed in the Senate on a 97-2 vote.

PHOTO By the end of last week, things were relatively quiet in the Statehouse rotunda. This image looks across to the House chambers, shortly before the floor session on Thursday morning. (image/Randy Stapilus)

The Balukoff case


Idaho Democrats are fortunate to have two qualified candidates seeking their party’s nomination for governor, and I will gladly support whoever wins the primary. That said I believe that A.J. Balukoff not only has a better shot at winning in the general election, he would make a more effective governor from day one.

As I see it, the five most important challenges facing Idaho in the years to come involve education, health care, job creation, equal access to justice, and public lands. Both candidates’ positions on these topics largely align with my own, but A.J. has the depth and breadth of experience to propose sound, progressive legislation and the skill set to persuade a Republican legislature to enact his proposals into law.

A.J. believes that a state’s future is only as strong as its commitment to quality public schools. For 21 years, he has been an active member of the Boise School Board, constantly and consistently advocating for top-flight public education for all children. He knows that public education enables children to grow into well-informed citizens who can contribute to their neighborhoods and communities and effectively compete in the work force. As Idaho’s governor, A.J. will make our public schools, colleges and universities a top priority.

And A.J. knows how important it is for all Idaho families to have access to quality health care. He has been a Board Member for St. Luke’s Hospital for 13 years and is firmly committed to expanding Medicaid to ensure that the almost 80,000 Idahoans without such access receive coverage. A.J. wants all Idahoans to have the certainty of knowing they will not face dire straits – even bankruptcy – if they are sick or injured.

A.J. grew up in a middle class family and knows first-hand the importance of hard work. He has built strong, successful businesses, created jobs, and developed economic opportunities for hundreds of Idahoans. He is an entrepreneur who will use the skills he honed in private life to keep businesses in Idaho and attract new industry to our state, all to the benefit of Idaho families. In his many years of public service, A.J. Balukoff has generously shared the bounty he has earned with countless others in support of the greater good.

A.J. strongly supports equal access to justice and will work to ensure that all Idahoans are treated equally under the law. He believes that women should receive equal pay for equal work, that Idaho should “add the words” to ensure that legal discrimination against LGBT individuals is a thing of the past, and that the government should not interfere in health care decisions made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.

Finally, A.J. is an outdoorsman who knows the importance of keeping our public lands in public hands. As a life-long member of what Governor Andrus used to call the “hook and bullet club,” A.J. will fight to ensure that Idaho’s public lands are not sold to the highest bidder, that our children and grandchildren are not locked out of our unique legacy of hunting, fishing and recreation in Idaho’s great outdoors.

The three frontrunners for the Republican gubernatorial nomination all present a poor choice for Idaho. Probably the most concerning candidate is first district Congressman Raul Labrador, a Tea Party darling whose ideological extremism and ineptitude is exceeded only by his grandstanding. I believe that A.J. Balukoff has the best chance of defeating Labrador, should he be the Republican nominee, in the general election.

A.J.’s exceptional work ethic, remarkable record of accomplishment, and clear vision for Idaho’s future make him my choice in the Democratic primary. I hope Idaho Democrats will nominate A.J. Balukoff on May 15th. His proven record of leadership in the private and public sectors make him the strongest candidate in the general election and the best prepared to serve in our state’s highest office.

A couple months out


In conversations with a range of politically-interested Idahoans this week, I heard more often than anything else comments about The Commercial.

I should say that I haven’t seen it, and haven’t been able to find it online. I’m told its source is not the Tommy Ahlquist campaign for Idaho governor, but rather an independent committee in support of him. It is said to be running mostly on cable television, and is described (maybe the key thing about it is how it is described) like this:

Much of the ad shows Ahlquist’s two main opponents for the Republican nomination, Representative Raul Labrador and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, on a split screen. It describes each of them (speaking generally here) as career politicians, or at least making the point that both have been in elective office a number of years. It attaches to each complaints about various policy decisions (such as taxes), suggesting those as evidence of inadequate conservatism. Little and Labrador, then, are meant to be considered as part of a failed status quo, and Ahlquist the fresh broom seeking to sweep clean. (Ahlquist apparently does not appear in the commercial.)

(photo/Ahlquist, left, and Little; by Mark Mendiola)

Okay. As a political tactic, something like that makes sense, and it may be effective. It probably is effective, in fact, since it seems to be generating a lot of discussion. (Much of the discussion I happened to hear wasn’t positive, exactly, but that’s beside the point.)

Call it another bolt of uncertainty in a year-long race for the nomination that looks no more settled today than it did six months ago.

Asking for opinions about who is likely to win, the most common response I get is, “Labrador.” The main argument for that is his substantial and highly loyal voter base, which is surely there. But there’s a question about exactly how large the base is, how far around the state it extends, and whether the mainstream Republican segment exemplified by Little might still be large enough to prevail. After a minute’s reflection, the amended reply tends to be, “You know, I really don’t know who’s likely to win.”

On Monday, the pollster Dan Jones and Associates released a poll showing the three candidates bunched closely together - not much outside the margin of error - with a still-large percentage reported as undecided. (Yes, yes: Some questions have been raised about the Jones polls, but we don’t have much other public polling available.) It’s a reasonable match to what Jones has reported before, but, especially given the large number of undecideds, doesn’t on its own give much support to any particular prediction.

One other thought was the suggestion that a low voter turnout probably would help Labrador most, while a high turnout might help Little. That sounds about correct, roughly. The turnout numbers eventually will be worth parsing, but it’s hard to know now what they’ll look like. They might trend high because of the large number of contested primaries at the top of the ballot. Or, in common with a number of other states, Republican turnout may be a little down in this year compared to four or eight years ago. Hard to know.

And then there’s The Commercial, which might shift some attitudes among voters, maybe enough to affect an outcome in a close race. But in what direction?

A year of campaigning, and we still wind up remarkably close to where we all started ...

Challenges at INL


Addressing a recent City Club of Idaho Falls gathering, Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters praised Idaho's elected officials for their solid support of INL as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lab confronts formidable cybersecurity, homeland security, nuclear energy, radioactive waste management and nonproliferation challenges.

In a presentation titled “Securing the Nation's Energy Future,” Peters recalled how he met former U.S. Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus a few months after he started directing INL in October 2015.

Andrus, who died last August at the age of 85, and Phil Batt, another former Idaho governor, have been vocal critics of allowing more spent nuclear fuel to be shipped to INL in violation of the “1995 Settlement Agreement,” expressing concern that Idaho could become the nation's de facto spent nuclear fuel repository.

The agreement struck between Idaho, the U.S. Navy and DOE nearly 25 years ago allows for 1,135 shipments of spent fuel to come to INL for interim storage over 40 years, including 575 shipments from the Navy. It also could come from other DOE sites, foreign research reactors, universities and private companies directly supporting DOE research and development.

The agreement also calls for DOE to remove all spent nuclear fuel from Idaho no later than 2035, treat all high level INL waste for final disposal elsewhere by 2035, remove transuranic waste by no later than Dec. 31, 2018, and place all spent fuel in dry storage by Dec. 31, 2023, but not above the Snake River Plain Aquifer.

If DOE fails to remove all spent fuel by 2035, Idaho could fine it $60,000 per day. If it fails to meet any agreement milestones, the state could ask a federal court to block further spent fuel shipments to Idaho. Some of those milestones have been missed, especially pertaining to the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) and removal of 900,000 gallons of liquid nuclear waste stored underground at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC).

Peters indicated that when he first met Andrus, the late governor was very frank about upholding the 1995 agreement's terms. “I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. All of us miss Governor Andrus,” he said.

Peters commended Idaho's congressional delegation, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and the state's legislators for their continued robust support for INL and its many activities, heaping special praise on the Idaho Legislature for funding a Collaborative Computing Center and a Cybercore Integration Center that will be constructed on 13 acres, with groundbreaking scheduled in mid-April.

The Legislature's Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) also recently approved $3 million in funding for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), a research and education consortium located in Idaho Falls that involves INL, Idaho State University, Boise State University, the University of Idaho and the University of Wyoming.

Peters praised Rep. Raul Labrador for being generous with his time when Peters is in Washington; Sen. Mike Crapo, who has been very instrumental in pushing nuclear innovations, and Sen. Jim Risch, who is deeply committed to INL's national security mission. He was especially effusive in his praise for Rep. Mike Simpson, who chairs the U.S. House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

“INL owes so much to the chairman for what he has done,” Peters said of Simpson. “He's a tremendous leader for the state.”

The day before his City Club address, Peters was on Capitol Hill in Washington testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology about how DOE's laboratories provide world-leading technology in science. It was the same day Zachary Tudor, INL associate lab director of National and Homeland Security, testified before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee about cybersecurity threats.

Peters mentioned he has spent a lot of time in the nation's capital dealing with pressing budget, national security, nuclear energy and high technology issues. Noting that about 20 percent of U.S. electricity comes from nuclear energy, he said many commercial reactors are undergoing financial and legal stresses, and some units are being prematurely decommissioned when they can safely operate for 20 to 80 years.

“If the existing fleet isn't protected and preserved, it will be difficult to go forward,” he said, adding that Russia and China are constructing nuclear reactors. “R&D budgets need to be stable.”

With Iran and North Korea posing threats to national security, it's even more urgent to develop the next generation of nuclear technology, he emphasized, pointing out the Trump administration is bullish for nuclear energy, and the sector is getting a lot of attention in Washington.

Cybersecurity funding is not under pressure nor facing cutbacks like other federal programs. He mentioned the federal government has the capability to closely monitor the nuclear activities of Iran and North Korea. It also is doing all in its power to protect the nation's extensive electricity grid.

“I'm ready for a more optimistic environment,” Peter said, praising partnerships between the federal government and private companies. He said plans by NuScale Power and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) for locating first-of-its-kind small modular reactors (SMRs) that could generate 50 megawatts of power at the INL site have made significant licensing and financing progress in recent months.

Two bills enacted by the Idaho Legislature that would have a positive impact on the NuScale project at INL are awaiting Otter's signature in Boise. One would allow a property tax exemption originally targeted for an Areva project to be applied to the small modular reactors. The other would exempt two of 12 SMRs from sales tax. Federal tax credits also may be implemented.

Peters predicted if the SMR technology proves successful upon starting its first commercial production of nuclear energy in 2026, that could create hundreds of construction jobs, unleash an energy renaissance and replicate in eastern Idaho the “Magic Valley miracle” that spawned Chobani, Clif Bars and a host of other businesses in the Twin Falls region.

Peters, however, warned if small amounts of spent nuclear fuel cannot be brought into Idaho for research purposes, the INL's overall mission will be jeopardized. “If they don't let us do this, we can't solve bigger problems.”

He said when DOE Secretary Rick Perry visited the Idaho site last May, discussions between DOE, Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden were initiated and trust between the state and federal government began to be rebuilt.

The INL director noted that President Donald Trump recently praised last year's reactivation of INL's world class Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT). Peters also expressed confidence its Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) will continue to be operated in the long term.

INL recently lost $20 million in federal research funding when spent nuclear fuel had to be diverted from INL to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, a development Peters characterized as “a slippery slope.”

Snoozing along . . .


Idahoans may soon find out the answer to an old joke question: what if they held an election and no one came?

In less than two months for all practical purposes Idaho’s next governor and its next member of Congress from the First District will be the winner of the May 15th Republican primary.

Does anyone care? In 50 years of observing Idaho politics I’ve never seen a less interested, not-paying-attention Idaho electorate. Maybe the campaigns have more visibility in southern Idaho, as all the campaigns are eschewing buying television out of the expensive Spokane market. The return on investment calculus simply says its too much to pay to reach what is seen as less than 10% of the probable GOP voters.

Quick. Tell me three major difference that separate the three major Republican gubernatorial candidates - Tommie Ahlquist, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and Congressman Raul Labrador - from each other? Can’t do it, can you?

A low interest, low turnout vote probably favors Labrador whose hard right conservative base n theory will be the most motivated to vote.

However, the winner will be the one that has the best ground game - the one who has identified the most likely voters, has phone banks set up to call voters, can provide rides to the polls, has a top notch absentee and vote by mail operation, and has a direct mail program sending three or four pieces to all Republican households.

One suspects that if it comes down to who has the best ground game that will favor Brad Little in the governor’s race and in the congressional race will favor former attorney general David Leroy. The reason is they are more familiar to the state’s voters having run state-wide and have built a cadre of solid supporters - people who know them and more importantly like them.

An election that has attracted hardly any interest clearly will not be a change election, but will be a maintain the status quo. That too favors Little and Leroy.

Rest assured both races will be decided by the voters of two counties - Ada and Canyon, which between them hold 40% of the voters. Some pundits think this tilts the congressional race towards former state senator Russ Fulcher from Canyon County, but there is no evidence to support that. With seven R’s the winner may have only 20% of the vote and such races are impossible to predict.

Labrador released his first tv ad this past week, the last of the three major GOP candidates to do so. Interestingly, he repeatedly tries to reassure his base he is the only true “consistent conservative” in the race though Idaho voters grasp that all three are conservatives.

Labrador though is probably badly out of step on many of the issues with most Idahoans. His code talk about focusing more on educational performance than funding is just a slick way of saying he will slash educational funding despite public wishes to the contrary. It’s the only way he can reach his touted tax reduction plan calling for capping sales, property and income tax at a uniform 5%.

The guess here is that despite a low turnout many traditional conservative to moderate R’s will turn out and that most independents will vote in the Republican primary as well. All of this should see Little nose by Labrador with Ahlquist running third.

In most years one would think Ahlquist’s enthusiasm and charisma as well as being the fresh face would catch on. That doe not appear to be the case though and most observers won’t be surprised by Ahlquist finishing third.

The congressional race still appears to favor Leroy who has done an excellent job on the stunp demonstrating his mastery of the issues and underscoring his “constitutional conservative” views. His adroit dismissal of age questions has faded as he demonstrates vigor and with humor dismisses such questions.

A word about the Democratic gubernatorial primary featuring the party’s 2014 candidate, millionaire businessman and long-time Boise school board member A.J. Balukoff and former State Representative Paulette Jordan from Plummer. The first take was that she could actually win the nomination given the thin slice of liberal “wine and cheese” D’s in Idaho who nonetheless can deliver in the smallish Democratic primary.

Any chance she might have had though may have become foregone given her recent endorsement of gun registration for all firearms, and not prospectively but retroactively. There are enough D’s in Idaho who hunt who will dismiss her out of hand for taking such a position.

We’ll know more on May 16th when we will learn who our next governor will be and the new First District congressman. Don’t blink though or it may just escape notice.

What the president must do


A gentleman recently asked what kind of action I thought the President should take to punish Vladimir Putin for his hostile acts against the United States. The question was in response to my insistence that our top intelligence officials and Congress speak out and demand presidential action to counter Russian aggression against this country.

In addition to clearly acknowledging Russia’s intervention in the 2016 elections, the President must personally and publicly call out Putin, punish him and his cronies for their aggressive acts, and warn them that severe countermeasures will be taken if it ever happens again. An American President’s forcefully-spoken word carries great weight around the world.

When President Kennedy warned Premier Khrushchev that Soviet nuclear missiles had to be removed from Cuba, or else, the Russians got the message and the missiles were gone. When President Reagan issued his famous demand, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” the Berlin Wall came down shortly thereafter. Neither of them left it to their underlings to make these important statements. This is an important responsibility of our elected leader.

When this country is attacked, when our election process is subverted, when Russia carries out numerous hostile acts against the interests of the U.S. and our allies, silence and appeasement do not work. Strong words and actions by our Commander in Chief are absolutely essential. This is not a job to be delegated to subordinates. We have not yet had the kind of words directly from our President that are necessary to protect the vital interests of the United States.

The President could take a page from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s playbook. In response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a Putin enemy in her country, PM May promptly and forcefully called out the Russians for their criminal act, expelled 23 Russian officials, and promised other punitive actions. She appears to be a tough, stand-up lady. I hope our President can be at least as tough. And, while he’s at it, he should personally and publicly condemn and punish Russia for deploying a deadly chemical weapon on the soil of Great Britain, our closest ally. The joint statement issued with our allies is nice but does not carry the weight of forceful words from our President’s mouth.

Next, the President could and should impose all of the sanctions Congress authorized by a veto-proof vote last year in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which is now Public Law 115-44. Those include an array of punishing sanctions against Putin and the cronies who have helped him plunder his countries assets. The Administration has just tiptoed into imposing some of those sanctions, but much more needs to be done. Congress also authorized a $250 million fund to counter nefarious Russian activities, but nothing has yet been done with those funds. The Russians must be shown that we will not roll over when they carry out activities that strike at the very heart of our democracy.

The President should also direct his Attorney General, the Treasury Department and the FBI to vigorously investigate and prosecute Russian oligarchs who have clandestinely transferred billions of dollars out of Russia and laundered them through phony deals involving real estate and other assets in the U.S. They and those who have assisted them must be dealt with harshly.

Those are just a few of the things we should do to punish Putin and prevent future aggression. If the President acts publicly and decisively, the message will get through. Vladimir Putin understands strength, but attacks when he senses weakness.



Last weekend I posted on Facebook a link to a Scientific American article on gun ownership. The web headline read, "Why Are White Men Stockpiling Guns? Research suggests it's largely because they're anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market and beset by racial fears."

I posted in part to see what reaction it generated, and yes, it generated a reaction. "I think this is mostly hogwash. How did I know that there would be a racial component?" "the vast majority of those stockpiling are doing so not for home defense, not because they fear for their jobs, not because of racism. It is because they trust the government less and less." The tenor from several people seemed to be, that doesn't represent me or the gun owners I know.

And maybe it doesn't, which also doesn't invalidate the point.

Several of the reactions did, however, indicate strong emotions, which tended to support the premises in the article.

One of the most striking elements of the gun debate, on the pro-gun side, is its emotional core. It's not that there aren't intellectually-based arguments on that side of the fence - there are. But the kernel of the matter goes back to the old National Rifle Association line, "I'll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands." There are plenty of other things people want or would defend, but when do you see such ferocity about a car, or even a house? The Second Amendment isn't a reason for the fierce attachment (where's the comparable attachment to the press, which is more specifically referred to in the constitution?) nearly so much as it is rationalization for it. The government distrust argument never, as a rational matter, worked either; tens of millions of people in this country who right now deeply distrust the federal government would not see gun ownership as a solution to the problem.

Something about guns, for some people, strikes home deep, toward the core of a psyche, and the results of an array of studies - the article was about not just one or two, but many - suggest much of the intensity around guns in some quarters has broader causes. It suggests at one point, for example, "For many conservative men, the gun feels like a force for order in a chaotic world" - a way not to become a victim, if only symbolically. It is a way to take charge in a world where so much seems out of control and slipping away.

Does that apply to all gun owners, or even all gun stockpilers? No. Of course not. To suggest that it does (as some of my Facebook readers seemed to) misreads the kind of studies that lead to the article's conclusions. The research points to tendencies in groups of people, to a larger probability that people in the group will have certain characteristics. It doesn't mean everyone in the group will. The principle is the same if a doctor advises that because you're in an older age group, you're more prone to certain cancers - a statistical fact that you're somewhat more at risk. Does that mean you will get cancer? Not necessarily. Far from everyone in the at-risk group does.

And so with high-intensity gun owners: Certain characteristics pop up more in than in the broader population, but that doesn't mean everyone in the group will reflect them.

A certain strong feeling on the subject, though, does seem very widespread. And that suggests that, even if some of the specifics are off, the points made in the Scientific American probably are at least loosely on to something.

Doing DUE diligence


Six months ago, fed up with the worst winter on the Oregon coast that locals could remember, Barb and I packed up the dog and cat and drove 1,310 miles Southeast. To the “great” Southwest.

We’re now in the second fastest growing county in the nation - the Census Bureau estimates about 200 new faces a day - and surrounded by a lot of white hair, expensively tinted hair and the most bald heads we’ve ever seen in one place. The three “cheek-by-jowl” unincorporated "active" retirement communities that make up our new neighborhood total about 92,000 folks - 55 and up.

While you’ll see some criticism here, please remember I’m four score plus two. So, this isn’t being written by a critic from the outside but from my own 82 years. If you haven’t experienced this “active senior living” as it’s called, you might see some surprises here.

When we came down a year ago on a scouting mission, the first thing that caught our eye was $2.28 a gallon gas. A buck or more less than the Coast. We also found real estate taxes on a $200,000 house were about $800 a year. That’s $1,600 less than we’d been paying. A good steak dinner is about $11.00. Shopping within a five mile radius includes hundreds of stores from Neiman-Marcus to Goodwill. Everything you can name! More places to eat out than you could count and a gas station or bank on every corner.

Sounds a bit like senior Nirvana, doesn’t it? Well, while all those good things are quite true, there are other details to consider, too.

For one, our $1,100 a year car insurance went to $1,900. Same car. Same driver. Zip codes are a big factor in setting rates. When you’ve lived here awhile, and driven our roads filled with seniors from everywhere, your sense of self-preservation is heightened and you understand why the increase. Oh, and our car license went from about $200 for two years to $485 for one!

Another local phenomenon is the lowly golf cart. They look the same as those at the country club. But - these have been modified to go between 35-40mph! Gas or electric. With mirrors, seatbelts and appropriate insurance added, they move! And are driven everywhere! Right out in the rest of the traffic. Four lanes or six! Like many others, we use ours as a second car. Easier to park when shopping.

Electricity in our former home was about seven-cents a kilowatt hour. Here, 13-cents and up. Nuclear generation rather than hydro. Water/sewer bills that used to be $60 or so for two months are $60-100 a month now. Also, our state’s water rights in the regional compact are junior to all other states so an extended drought could be a disaster.

Still, just in our little unincorporated “heaven” of about 30,000 oldsters, we have nine - count ‘em - nine 18-hole golf courses to keep up. Two private. Seven public. Using about 2.4 billion gallons of water per year. Residents use about 1.3 billion. So, when water isn’t as available as it is today, (a) already high residential rates will skyrocket and (b) someone is going to have to decide which - and how many - golf courses will be cut to nine holes. Or closed. Them’s fighten’ words hereabouts.

Our current special election to replace our adulterous former Congressman features an adulterous minister - endorsed by the outgoing adulterer, another who’s a twice-convicted felon and James Dobson. The other candidate claims to have loved Trump even before he was elected. Such are our ballot choices. To say we’re a “conservative” state is to confuse “conservative” with outright nuts!

Still, at least for now, we’re not unhappy with our move. Let’s just say we’re here on a “trial basis” and continue to observe life around us. Our “due diligence” continues unabated.

Over the next few months, we’ll describe more of this newfound “active retired” senior living lifestyle and the blessings/curses that go with it. It’s really a little of both. But, you might want to make that “due” in due diligence “DUE” before you take the step.