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Hurting Ukraine, helping Russia

jones

The President’s efforts to prod Ukraine into conducting investigations to help his re-election are hurting that nation’s defense against Russian aggression. While the emphasis in the U.S. is whether the President was guilty of impeachable conduct, Ukraine has a dangerous war on its hands.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, seized and annexed Crimea, and ever since has been engaged in a deadly proxy war to seize sizable portions of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. has viewed the Russian aggression as a serious threat to American interests and has been Ukraine’s main supplier of military assistance.

Since the fighting began, about 13,000 Ukrainians have died from hostile action. Even though there is a supposed ceasefire in effect now, pro-Russian forces committed 60 violations just on September 24. Ukraine desperately needs our help to defend itself. There is no place for domestic U.S. politics in this struggle.

Congress has authorized about $1.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014. Almost $400 million was approved for release in May 2019 by the Pentagon, based on its certification that the Ukrainian Government had “taken substantial actions” toward “decreasing corruption” and “increasing accountability.”

Because the aid package was set to expire on September 30, it was critical to disburse it before then. The aid was urgently needed on the ground for counter-artillery radars, sniper rifles, medical supplies and a wide variety of other essential war-fighting materiel.

Secure communications equipment was desperately needed because the Russians have been using cyber warfare to hack and jam Ukrainian communications--a fundamental necessity on the battlefield. L3 Technologies, an American manufacturer of secure commo systems, had a shipment ready to deliver to Ukraine in July when it received word that a hold had been placed on the order.

It was later learned that our President had personally put a hold on all military assistance to Ukraine the week before his famous July 15 telephone conversation with President Zelensky. When the hold was discovered, bipartisan pressure forced the President to release the aid on September 11, just 19 days before it would have expired. As it turns out, there was no legitimate justification for the two-month hold.

As documented in the notes of the phone call released by the White House, the President requested that Zelensky investigate former Vice President Biden, offering the assistance of Attorney General Barr and Rudy Giuliani. Zelensky agreed, then requested that Trump meet with him. Trump asked Zelensky to phone for a meeting date, saying “we’ll work that out.”

This transaction was likely applauded by President Putin, as it provided some normalcy for his interference in the 2016 election and a green light for more of the same in 2020. If Trump was inviting Ukrainian intervention in the 2020 election, why couldn’t the Russians do an encore of their dirty work? The transaction also demonstrated tenuous U.S. support for Ukraine in its struggle with Putin’s surrogate forces.

The Ukrainian President came off looking weak, pliable and corruptible. At the same time, American military aid for Ukraine appeared subject to Trump’s personal needs. These appearances will likely hinder Zelenky’s efforts to get continued support from other European countries—support that is critical to his country.

Zelensky could be excused to a degree for his submission. He was desperate for a public meeting with Trump to show he had the support of the United States in resisting Russia. He would probably have agreed to about any other demand just for a clear showing of American backing for Ukraine.

The founding fathers would be greatly saddened to learn that a U.S. President had used America’s national security interests as bargaining fodder for private political gain. I think every American should take a few minutes to read the three documents that describe this transaction--the whistleblower complaint, the July 15 telephone conversation notes, and the Inspector General’s cover letter. All three documents can be found on Google. Be sure to let Idaho’s Senators know what you think about this unfortunate business.
 

Rope’s end

rainey

How much political and moral abuse is one nation expected to take before something breaks? How much pressure of criminality and wholesale corruption must we endure before the necessary Constitutional action is undertaken to end it?

These questions have been running back and forth in my mind for some time. As the continuing litany of lies and damned lies flows from this Republican administration, I keep wondering where we’ll see the end. What that end will be.

As a lifelong student of politics, I’ve watched the oft-proven criminality of our president and his minions with disdain but with a sense of history and a belief that we will see a just end.

While hope lingers that such will be the eventuality, Trump’s out-of-control dictatorial conduct has forced me to tie a bigger knot at the of my rope of patience.

The last hope there was any tiny shred of humanity left in him died abruptly for me with the revelation he wanted to shoot legal immigrants trying to enter this country. Shoot to kill. Shoot to maim. Pierce their bodies with electrical spikes atop his fictitious wall. Dig water trenches along our entire southern border and fill them with snakes and alligators.

The sickness of Trump’s mind could legitimately be compared to some 12th century tyrants in Asia or Europe who put the heads of their slain enemies on spikes. About the only terrible torture he skipped is the boiling in oil!

Trump, Pompeo, Giuliani, Mnuchin, Miller, Pence, Kirchner, Graham, Myers, Ross and more have trampled truth, ignored both facts and constitutional oaths, conducted themselves with shame, outrageous conduct and lie after lie after lie after lie in their misbegotten roles in national governance.

Like the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz,” Trump has now sent his “flying monkeys” around the world seeking foreign help to support his “deep state” conspiracy dementia. What the Hell do the leaders of France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea think about this country? How must they think of future international relationships or even trust us to uphold old ties when Trump is acting so criminally?

The whole Ukrainian deal, with its lies by Trump, Pence, Giuliani and Pompeo, has become a true representation of how far this demented person in the Oval Office will go to retain power. How far he’ll go to distort, undermine and attempt to savage his perceived “enemies” and possible political opponents.

To the disdain, anger, hatred and oral effluent flowing from Trump you can add the morally reprehensible inactivity of nearly every Republican in Congress. Especially the Senate. Consciously and conspicuously ignoring their oaths to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” Republican Senators have cowered in fearful self-service. They’ve put their personal retention in office above those oaths and their pledges/promises to constituents. Their individual love of power has overcome duty.

But, I will give them and other so-called Trump Republicans this: they’ve been the prime source of changing our traditional political two-party system from Republican versus Democrat to truth versus lies. With the paid flatulence of rightwing media mouths to assist, people are more divided. Facts are becoming more irrelevant.

Yes, the House will impeach. Yes, the Senate will hold a trial. But, it’s length, the search for truth and honest decision-making are all up for question. All Senators will take an oath to “judge fairly and with open minds.” But, many, like Idaho’s Risch, have already publically disavowed published facts and renewed their loyalty to Trump. Just how much “open mindedness” will you find in him?

If all this sounds like a rant, it is. But, it’s also an acknowledgment of a fellow citizen who’s disappointed in the present and fearful for the future. Someday, by some means, Trump will have to leave the presidency. Whether he’ll walk out of the White House or be carried out is still a very real open question.

So, too, is the issue of what he’ll leave behind. One victim will be a badly wounded nation, suffering from all he has inflicted upon it. Another will be a two-party political system that likely will never be the same as it was just a few years ago. There will also be several million fellow Americans who’ll be angry, defiant and some who may resort to violence against others. In some quarters, there will be political chaos and feelings of disaffection.

What will our political system - our nation - look like five or ten years down the road? Will we have cobbled together a functioning government, able to respond to the needs of it’s citizens? Will we have replaced hate/anger with renewed optimism? Will acceptance of our differences and cooperation return within our national political structure? Or, will we have to create new ways of getting past all we are now enduring to have a better future?

All open questions that, before Trump, we didn’t have to answer. All before we had to realize we have a president who advocates killing and maiming people from other nations who’re simply seeking survival and a better life.
 

Favors

schmidt

It had been a long day for Brad and Teresa touring the noodle factories of Taiwan. He pulled off his cowboy boots in the Presidential Suite in Taipei wanting to take a break before the big dinner tonight. He clicked on the TV, searching for the Vandals game figuring the kickoff was soon. Instead the airwaves were full of the Ukrainian Trump telephone conversation. Brad skipped the Fox News analysis.

“What should I wear tonight?” Teresa called from the walk-in closet.

“The black and gold dress!” Brad yelled, hoping she’d bring good luck to his Alma Mater.

She gave him “the look” and he laughed. “Go Vandals!” he retorted.

They went down the stairs before halftime and the Vandals were ahead so Brad was in good spirits.

“Governor, your table is here.”

They were escorted to the head table in the large banquet hall. Brad took off his jacket and threw it on the back of the chair, his Black and Gold suspenders complementing his wife’s dress.

As the hall filled he chatted with the Taiwan Minister of Economics. The minister asked, “Do you anticipate any tariff issues?”

“Oh, I don’t think our government would want to obstruct the free trade of agricultural commodities with Taiwan.”

The minister frowned. “Taiwan will always be a good trader and Idaho offers good wheat. We have agreed to take more. We are always willing to do favors.”

Brad laughed and clapped his shoulder. “It’s no favor. We grow good wheat. You make good noodles. We all benefit.”

The minister looked down, his frown deeper. “But surely, we can do more.”

Brad swirled his wine glass. “Well, we’ll grow more wheat.” Then he turned away as the Taiwan Minister of Security touched his elbow.

“Governor, I hope the noodle plants were to your satisfaction today. The Vandals are now down by 4 points in the third quarter.”

Brad didn’t skip a beat. “We’ll come back.”

“Maybe so.” The Minister of Security offered with a soft smile. “We have connections everywhere, but we cannot influence football games in Moscow, Idaho.”

Brad looked off, troubled by the news of the Vandal deficit. “We’ll come back.” He said again but distracted.

The Minister of Security cleared his throat and nodded his head to the man next to him who quietly moved away. “Governor, I am here to tell you if you need any favors in your state, we are here to help.”

Brad sipped the Washington Merlot and nodded. “We really appreciate all the wheat you guys buy.” He looked over to where Teresa was chatting with the wife of some Minister of Something. “Can you get your people to like potatoes more?”

The Minister of Security laughed and Brad did too. But as he started to turn away, the minister touched his arm. “We have many resources that could be an advantage to you. We know the political landscape of your state. Your primary election was very close. We study and have information. Let us know if you have any need, any need for any favors.”

Brad bowed toward the minister and the minister bowed back and before they parted he leaned in and added, “The Vandals just scored.”

Teresa gladly introduced Brad to her chatty companion, the wife of the Minister of Political Affairs. After the smiles and chatting Teresa leaned in to Brad and whispered, “Why does she keep asking me if we need any flavors?”

Brad frowned. “Maybe she has some influence on what dessert we get.”

Teresa didn’t give him “the look”, but she gave him the public look. “I think they are trying to tell us something and I just don’t get it.”

Brad nodded.
 

Where will they find their souls

johnson

Idaho has had its share of political scandals and usually they involve money or sex — or, not infrequently, stupidity. The state’s politicians have gone to jail for various money capers related to wrongly reported campaign finances, kiting checks or misusing public funds. Others have been publicly shamed for activities in airport bathrooms and various bedrooms. But those scandals have generally been personal, related to an individual failing or a purely human transgression.

Now we have entered a land where a new type of scandal will test the American system, a challenge to moral, ethical and political decency that confronts the four men who represent Idaho in Congress with decisions that few of the state’s politicians have ever handled before.

The initial signs of how the leaders will respond are not gratifying, but hope for political redemption springs eternal, particularly as the impeachable behavior of the man in the White House finally becomes obvious to most Americans.

In a little more than a week, we have learned that the president of the United States pressured a foreign leader to manufacture dirt on his principal political opponent and then took extraordinary steps to conceal his conversation from others in the government. When a government whistleblower revealed the unprecedented action, the president attacked the whistleblower and said a member of Congress should be locked up for treason for investigating the matter.

We subsequently learned that the secretary of state and attorney general were involved in various ways in soliciting foreign political help from Italy, Austria, Great Britain and Australia; that the president’s personal lawyer has been subpoenaed to produce documents related to his unprecedented role in fanning conspiracy theories and operating a one-man State Department and that other whistleblowers — one relating to the president’s tax returns — are bubbling to the surface.

The essential charge against the president is pretty simple: He pressured a foreign leader from a country known both for its corruption and for needing U.S. military assistance to help him win reelection. If irony were not dead, we might marvel that the Ukrainian telephone call in question was placed by Donald Trump exactly one day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s defense in the face of this avalanche of malfeasance has been to take to Twitter to attack members of Congress and news organizations, while spinning a steadily more bizarre collection of conspiracy theories, personal grievances and genuine craziness. If a president using the awesome power of his office to advance his own political fortunes at the expense of American foreign policy isn’t impeachment worthy, nothing is.

The entire Republican Party, morally and ethically rotten as a result of the Trump takeover, is poised to tumble. The only question for members of Idaho’s Republican congressional delegation is whether they will muster the courage and integrity to separate themselves from the cancer that grows on this presidency. So far they have chosen to blindly follow a mendacious, incompetent, self-possessed, ethically devoid character whose capture of their party was broadly, if ineffectively resisted. Now they are left clinging to the wreckage as the price of avoiding a primary.

Take it to the bank — all this will get worse.

The most interesting response so far to the president’s behavior has come from Sen. Mike Crapo, a veteran of the Clinton impeachment in 1999 who perhaps understands the current stakes. Crapo, of course, voted to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about sex with a White House intern. Now he has adopted the most measured approach of anyone in the Idaho delegation; in essence saying, wait and see what the evidence produces.

It’s illustrative to review what Crapo said about Clinton two decades ago. “Our entire legal system is dependent on our ability to find the truth,” Crapo said. “That is why perjury and obstruction of justice are crimes. The offenses are even worse when committed against the poor or powerless by the wealthy and the powerful.”

“Perjury and obstruction of justice are public crimes that strike at the heart of the rule of law — and therefore our freedom — in America,” Crapo said. “I concluded that these acts do constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under the impeachment provisions of the U.S. Constitution.”

The special counsel, of course, found substantial evidence that Trump had obstructed justice during the Russian investigation, but was precluded by Justice Department regulations from charging him.

But so far, Crapo has been alone in assuming a measured tone in light of the daily — even hourly — revelations of presidential misconduct. Sen. Jim Risch and Congressman Russ Fulcher reacted with tried and true White House talking points, blaming “liberal” Democrats and a hostile news media rather than focusing on the substance of Trump’s trolling for a political lifeline from Ukraine. From them, you heard not a word of concern about the loose cannon Rudy Giuliani or the secretary of state stonewalling a legitimate congressional investigation.

And Congressman Mike Simpson, usually the sane and sober member of the delegation, actually sent out a Trumpian fundraising appeal seeking cash for himself, while blasting “leftist Democrats in Congress” for engaging in “a witch hunt against the President.” He knows better and he knows that he knows better.

The urgent business of the Congress of the United States is simply to get to the bottom of what the president has done and the damage it has caused to the country. Risch, Fulcher, Crapo and Simpson have a simple choice: They can conduct themselves as patriots and affirm the strength of American democracy or they can remain fractured, frightened, fevered partisans. Either way history will judge them and the judgment will, pardon the expression, trump everything else they have ever done.

“Tampering with the truth-seeking functions of the law undermines our justice system and the foundations on which our freedoms lie,” Crapo said in 1999 when a Democratic president was in the dock answering serious charges that nonetheless pale in comparison to the transgressions of Trump.

As former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake wrote to fellow Republicans this week in the Washington Post: “Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.”

These are surely times that try men’s souls. We’ll find out soon enough who among the state’s congressional delegation is willing to go all the way with this president — all the way over the cliff.
 

Impeachment commentary

stapiluslogo1

A few thoughts about a couple of comments from the Idaho congressional delegation on the prospective impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Note first the fact that this delegation has said as much as it has, which though it isn’t a lot, still makes it one of the more vocal Republican state delegations around the country.

Representative Mike Simpson issued this on September 25: “Democrats have been threatening to impeach President Trump before he was sworn into office. To date, I have seen nothing that warrants impeachment, and there have certainly been ample opportunities to analyze their many accusations during their countless investigations. However, they have their constitutional right to proceed in their relentless endeavor. I, for one, believe the American people deserve more from their elected officials. Our country faces real issues including immigration reform, cyber-security, and funding the federal government for fiscal year 2020 which starts next week, and we should be focused on those things.”

We’ll come back to the substance of the charges, but for now think a second about the “real issues” - which, yes, are real issues - the representative urges Congress to focus on. What he leaves unsaid is: Why can’t Congress go ahead and do those things?

Of course it can, if it chooses. The impeachment-inquiry activity, central a topic of discussion as it may be, is preoccupying the actual work of only a small portion of the House of Representatives - mainly one committee, and peripherally a couple of others - and most of the work of the chamber can and does go on. In the last couple of weeks the Idaho congressional delegation has issued a bunch of press releases outlining its progress and activity on a variety of fronts, from rural lands payments to anti-Semitism, having nothing to do with impeachment. I just attended a town hall meeting held (in another state) by a member of Congress, and impeachment occupied no more than three or four minutes of the hour-long session. If impeachment brings congressional things to a slower grind than usual, that’s not because it has to.

Of course, you have to wonder how much progress the Congress this term would make on many really significant subjects anyway, even if the prospect of impeachment were nowhere in sight.

Simpson naturally is entitled to his read of what does or doesn’t constitute reasonable grounds for impeachment; odds are he (and Representative Russ Fulcher) will get their turn at voting and speaking on that subject sometime in the weeks ahead.

As for addressing the substance, Senator Jim Risch had an excellent suggestion.

In a recent Boise radio interview, he said, “Let me give some advice to your listeners, this is really simple. The Democrats are saying this is terrible, the president is a traitor, and we Republicans say, ‘Get outta here, there’s nothing there there.’ So, look: Don’t take my word for it, I’m a partisan. Don’t take the Democrats’ word for it, they’re partisans. Certainly don’t take the national media’s word for it, they are really partisan, they’re full of hate and vitriol for this guy. Read it yourself. … It’s online, every word. … It’s really easy to read, it’s not legalese or diplomatese. It’s just two people talking. And you can understand it crystal clear and can make up your own mind.”

Spot on. The core of what you need to see is right there in the official documents which are neither long nor hard to read and, as the senator suggested, easy to find with your nearest search engine. Such as the request from the American president saying, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great” - the request in essence that a foreign government conduct oppo research on one of the American president’s political opponents.

Of course, we could add to the must-read list a few must-views that also make up original source material, such as the Thursday press conference President Trump held in which he publicly asked the government of China, with which he and this country have a troubled relationship, to do the same as he asks of Ukraine, or his press event with the leader of Finland.

Checking out the original source materials on all this is my preferred approach, and I recommend it over whatever the talking heads have to say. Senator Risch was exactly right about that.

We can all multi-task. And we should.
 

Politically motivated

politicalwords

If you don’t like what a politician says, a quick response (and sometimes the only one) is to decry their statement as politically motivated. Or attach the phrase to a policy, or a criminal prosecution, or a smear, or …
The purpose of saying so is to cast a sense of distrust on the statement or action. But what does it mean?

Look first at motivation.

The site Business Jargons calls that word (in a not-unusual definition among dictionaries) “a driving force which affects the choice of alternatives in the behavior of a person.”1 I chose a business-oriented source for the word because the study of motivation is so central to modern business activity. (One book on my shelf is Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, by Paco Underhill.) Successful and modern businesses know a lot about our motivations, sometimes a scary lot. But they keep researching, because there’s always much more to learn; they’re smart enough to know they never know all about what motivates us – and what might motivate us to buy from them.

There is, of course, the motivation to fulfill basic needs (shelter, food, water, and so on). One report suggests motivation can be split into inside and outside factors: “intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation states that people are motivated by internal rewards like fulfillment and contentment. Conversely, extrinsic motivation states that people are motivated by external rewards like a bonus or raise as well as negative external factors like getting fired.”

In any one life, many things are going on, and for any person (even a politician) the cross-currents can run unpredictably. We may jump to a conclusion about why a person did a particular thing, but the truth is that we often don’t know perfectly clearly why we ourselves do some of the things we do. That complexity is what keeps whole economic consulting businesses in business: There’s a lot we don’t know.

Why did a politician do X? We can guess. They can proclaim. But the answer may be hard to determine conclusively.

Was something done with the motivation of gaining some advantage in a political situation? Maybe.

Prove it.

Do you want a livable planet?

jones

Millions of young people around the globe stepped forward on September 20 to plead with world leaders to leave them an inhabitable planet--a world not plagued by unbearable heat and catastrophic weather. They got a cold and deaf ear from our President, perhaps the most prominent climate denier on the face of the Earth.

It is not easy to ignore the evidence of climate change unfolding before our very eyes. The last five years have seen the hottest global temperatures on record. Last July was the hottest ever recorded. Ice sheets around the world are melting at an alarming rate, sea levels are rising, farmers are having their crops washed out by torrential rains, and conflicts over resources are becoming commonplace. And, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Think of Tropical storm Imelda, which surprised southeast Texas in mid-September with a 43-inch cloudburst near Beaumont. Just two years ago, Hurricane Harvey drenched areas of Texas with more than 50 inches of rainfall. Weather experts say that the warming waters of the Gulf fuel monster storms that produce these massive downpours.

Pentagon and State Department planners predict that violent weather events will lead to hotter weather around the globe and changing weather patterns that will result in torrential rains in some areas and persistent droughts in others. That weather, in turn, will cause major population shifts, widespread starvation, and desperate conflicts over water and land, all of which will pose serious threats to our national security.

We have already seen an increased flight of Central Americans to our borders, partly as a result of weather-caused crop failures in those countries. It will get much worse as global temperatures continue to climb.

Rather than taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit rising temperatures, Trump is stepping on the gas to burn more fossil fuels. He has pushed coal, even though it is more expensive than clean energy. He has attacked the stricter auto mileage standards so that families will have to use and pay for more gas, breathe dirtier air, and suffer hotter temperatures.

Trump has stuffed the agencies with climate deniers, hollowed out government agencies that research ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, ordered the suppression of their reports, destroyed efforts to cut down carbon dioxide and methane releases, and refused to attend meetings designed to save the planet from environmental disaster. He was an obvious no-show at the G-7 global roundtable last month and will play no part in the UN Climate Summit this week.

If global warming is a Chinese hoax, as Trump complains, why has he not launched an investigation to find out why 97% of the climate experts have agreed that it is an existential threat to life on Earth? If we phase out fossil fuels and spend several trillion dollars to switch to clean energy, only to find that the scientists were wrong, we will have cleaner air, a vibrant energy sector and hundreds of thousands of green energy jobs.

On the other hand, if it turns out that the scientific community was right about global warming and we simply sat on our hands and let it happen, it will be a catastrophe for those kids who demonstrated on September 20 to save the planet, as well as all of the rest of us. (I’m personally inclined to go along with the scientists, given the President’s record in evaluating Hurricane Dorian’s threat to Alabama.)

It is already too late to prevent the kind of violent and destructive weather events we presently experience from plaguing us thousands of years into the future. If we continue to blast billions of tons of planet-warming greenhouse gasses into our closed atmosphere like we now do every year, our children and grandchildren won’t have a chance. Tell our Senators and Congressmen that our kids deserve to have a life.
 

The complicit

rainey

At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? When does a lack of responsible, legal action become malfeasance in office?

And, the next question: are Republicans in the U.S. Senate guilty of both?

The evidence is overwhelming that Senate Republicans have become Trump’s personal sycophants, unwilling to execute the Constitutional powers given them. You have to wonder if that inaction has made them complicit in his oft-illegal conduct.

Clearly, the most dangerous name in today’s political world is Mitch McConnell. Aside from stacking literally hundreds of federal judgeships with unqualified Trump nominees, he’s personally throttled all House-passed legislation that’s come to his desk as Senate Majority Leader. He’s the dam holding back the flow of responsible progress on climate change, defense, budgeting, minimum wage, worker safety, voter protections and much more.

McConnell represents the terrible misuse of power granted his position under the rules of the Senate. For him, the elections of 2016 and 2018 continue. With a slim margin of just four votes, he has beaten back any reasonable attempts at bipartisanship and exacted a terrible toll of division and hatred. Strong words but apt.

More than that, he’s used treachery and willful suppression to keep the muzzle on those in his party who might otherwise chose to work in the interests of the country rather than support the arrogance of McConnell. There are some who’ve cautiously dared to put forward some thoughts of responsible legislation. But, he’s kept the lid so tight nothing gets past his round file.

There are others of McConnell’s ilk, such as Jim Risch of Idaho, who have clear Senate responsibilities but who’ve failed miserably. Risch, chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has ducked every opportunity to stand up to Trump, stop some of his egregious activities in foreign affairs, take some serious role in the conduct of international diplomacy and undertake serious attempts to mitigate some of Trump’s effects on world matters.

Senate Republicans have, by inaction, made Trump more powerful and more dangerous. Our Constitution provides clear checks and balances between Executive and Legislative branches of federal government. Under McConnell, and typified by Risch’s lack of leadership in foreign affairs, Trump has stomped around the world breaking treaties, reneging on relations with our historically significant partnerships with other countries and made enemies of world leaders in the process.

Thanks, in large part, to McConnell and his GOP cohorts, we have operated for the last couple of years, not as a Republic, but as a demagogic authoritarian state. We’ve watched checks and balances ignored while a federal judiciary has been loaded with incompetents, historic treaties abrogated, federal agencies ransacked, valued professionals forced to resign, seen protections of our environment rolled back or obliterated, watched lobbyists write laws, watched Trump’s “friends” in powerful Cabinet positions forced out by corruption and scandal.

And more. Much more. All the while, McConnell and his 51 Republican minions have stood by, watching the willful destruction, seeing the damages to responsible governance attacked and witnessing damages to institutions that will take decades - if ever - to restore.

This has nothing to do with the traditional two-party system of government. Not a thing. But, it does have everything to do with one man’s irresponsible, ignorant behavior and another’s willingness to damage a governmental structure for his own personal power.

So, again, the question. At what point do complacency and self-service become complicity? Are Senate Republicans guilty of both? The answer has to be yes! The length and weighty evidence is damning.

It’s going to be up to the national electorate to pronounce judgment in 2020. Some of the guilty will, no doubt, live to further avoid future obligations another day.

But, some, like McConnell, are on the ballot next year. And, some, like McConnell, have opposition. Worthy opposition. Very qualified opposition.

If punishment isn’t extracted at the polls, if those in office who’ve stood by and callously watched without action are not disavowed, then we, too, may share their complicity.
 

Ken Burns’ Country Music

peterson

For many Idahoans, Ken Burns’ recent public television series, “Country Music,” was an opportunity for some serious nostalgia. It certainly was for me.

I grew up in the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. Local nightclubs had names like The Stables, and The Golden Spur, which gives you a hint at the kind of music they featured.

The local radio station featured a program called the Snake River Stampede, which was hosted by Clearwater Clem. (Clem’s real name was Keith Jackson and when he left his job in Lewiston, he went on to become one of America’s best known sportscasters.) When I moved to Boise in 1968, I discovered that Nampa had a rodeo called the Snake River Stampede. I assumed they had stolen the name from the Lewiston radio program, but quickly discovered that just the opposite was true.

I used much of my teenage spending money to buy albums by Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Rogers and other classic country artists. I still have those albums and wish I could find a new home for them. On Saturdays there were broadcasts from the Grand Old Opry and from a powerful Bakersfield station featuring Kern County Country Time.

While attending the University of Idaho, I worked part-time as a disk jockey at a country music station in Pullman, Washington. Also working there was Paul J. Schneider, who would go on to become the decades long voice of the Boise State Broncos and the best-known sports personality in southern Idaho. Yet another case of being a country music DJ as a steppingstone to the world of sportscasting.

As a university student, we used to occasionally go up to Spokane the see country music shows at the coliseum. These were shows that would feature up to half a dozen well known stars at admission prices that even a student could afford.

One night in the mid-60s, a friend and I went up to see a show featuring Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter and Hank William Jr., among others. There was no reserved seating, so we arrived early in order to get the best seats possible. Before going in, we stopped at the refreshment stand. I commented to my friend that the person I was really looking forward to seeing was Luther Perkins, Cash’s guitar player. The gentleman in front of me in line turned around, stuck out his hand, and said, “I’m Luther Perkins, who are you?” He invited us to be his guests backstage for the concert. During the course of the evening, he introduced us to all of the stars. Johnny Cash said that he was tired of being on the bus and in hotel rooms and wondered if they could come over to our place to party after the concert. I told him that would be great, but we were from out of town. “Where you from?” he asked. I replied we were from a town he had never heard of called Moscow, Idaho. He responded that he knew where Moscow was. “It’s just outside of Potlatch.”

He said that in the fifties when he and many other country stars were touring the country playing one night stands, there were two towns that everyone knew. They were Potlatch, Idaho, and Roseburg, Oregon. Both lumber towns. He said he would perform at the Riverside in Potlatch and spend the night in a hotel room with an old metal bed and a single light bulb that hung down from the ceiling.

At this point Tex Ritter overheard our conversation and said that he also knew where Moscow was and that he had spent a lot of time there. His daughter and son-in-law lived in Moscow where he was working on a graduate degree in mathematics.

Before we left the coliseum that night, Luther Perkins grabbed a program and wrote his name, home address and home phone number on it. Handing it to me he said that if we were ever to get to Nashville, we should call him so we could get together. Unfortunately, life went on and I never got to take him up on his offer. But I still have the program.

Idaho’s appreciation of country music wasn’t entirely focused in the north. Garden City had a number of night clubs featuring well-known country performers. One of those performers was Roger Miller. One day he was driving down Chinden Boulevard in Garden City on his was to the club where he was performing. He drove past a trailer park with a sign out front that said Trailers for Sale or Rent. That night when he got back to his room at the Hotel Boise, he sat down and wrote that would become his greatest hit, “King of the Road.”

Gone are the days of major country stars performing one-night stands in small night club venues in towns like Potlatch and Roseburg. This past summer, the hottest star in the current generation of country entertainers, Garth Brooks, came to Boise to do a concert at Albertston stadium. The concert sold out within minutes, prompting Governor Brad Little to call Brooks and ask if he would consider adding a second night to his schedule. Brooks agree and the Friday and Saturday night concerts both sold out with a total attendance of 86,000. By way of comparison, there are only three cities in Idaho that have more than 86,000 people.

After all these years, country music if obviously alive and well in Idaho. And thank you Ken Burns, for stirring up a lot of great memories.