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How much is a college education worth?

How much is it worth to have attended, or obtained a degree from, the “right” college?

Rounding out the trio of questions: How much should it be worth?
We can get at such questions through the doorway of credentialism, a term almost begging for widespread use on either the political left or right, or maybe both.

Let’s put this into context first. As human society has developed, more information, and more specialized skills and understanding, has been needed to cope and prosper. A person in the 1600s had to understand far more than a counterpart in the 1100s. Someone living in 1800 simply did not need to know as much, to function effectively, as someone living in 2000. Education has helped create the progress, and it also makes itself more necessary as progress continues. More education helps; higher quality education helps more. Of course, let us not forget this, either: Education can come from many sources (a person educated as a fine college who never picks up another book after graduation likely will be far less well educated than a high school grad who continues to learn). And let us not for get that reputation does not necessarily equal actual quality or performance.

Which is to say, most of the academics I’ve met over the years have struck me as highly intelligent people, but I’ve met a few Ph.D.s I wouldn’t trust to park my car.

Next stop, credentialism: “a concept coined by social scientists in the 1970s, is the reduction of qualifications to status conferring pieces of paper. It’s an ideology which puts formal educational credentials above other ways of understanding human potential and ability.”

In the 1960s, amid the rethinking of many social institutions, an approach (fostered by critics such as Ivan Ilich) “proceeded from the assumption that most if not all of the skills needed to competently perform the work tasks carried out by many professionals could be acquired through practical experience and with much less in the way of formal schooling than is usually needed to obtain the “required” credentials. From this perspective, the disguised purpose of much formal schooling (its ‘hidden curriculum’) is to impart a particular disciplinary paradigm, ideological orientation, or set of values to those seeking formal credentials to work in prestigious or ‘high-status’ fields such as medicine, law, and education. Furthermore, the credential systems developed in a number of occupational areas are part of the ‘collective mobility projects’ of practitioners to achieve a ‘professional status’ that brings with it greater material and symbolic rewards. Thus credentialism is closely associated with strategies of ‘social closure’ (to use Max Weber’s expression) that permit social groups to maximize rewards ‘by restricting access to resources and opportunities to a limited circle of eligibles.”

The concept has been pushed much further since then – as well as the pushback against it.

So, for example, we get employers who hire only from Ivy League schools (this including many parts of the federal government in Washington), no matter the demonstrated knowledge, background, skills and other assets that other applicants might bring. The dynamic reaches out on the other end to parent frantic to get their kids into top-rank schools (leading to the corruption of such events as the 2019 college admissions scandal), and the exploding cost of higher education.

As a character on the TV show The Sopranos said, back around 2000 (on the subject of college admissions), “It’s not about grades any more. It’s all, who you know and how many buildings you give.”

Young adults will find they need more education than did their predecessors, but turning the process into a game of extreme musical chairs will lead to social disaster – not least because many students do not go on to college, do not finish or do not attend prestige schools; and there aren’t nearly enough spaces for everyone if they chose to do so. Better answers are needed.

Joseph Fuller, a Harvard University academic, is among those giving the matter some thought, and serving as a critic (ironically maybe, given his professional perch) of over-credentialism in the job market. In a study called “Dismissed by Degrees,” he and co-author Manjari Raman reported that “Degree inflation – the rising demand for a four-year college degree for jobs that previously did not require one – is a substantive and widespread phenomenon that is making the U.S. labor market more inefficient. Postings for many jobs traditionally viewed as middle-skills jobs (those that require employees with more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree) in the United States now stipulate a college degree as a minimum education requirement, while only a third of the adult population possesses this credential.”

As a matter of politics, this tendency leads to anger at the educated elites (mainly on the right) and a a socially-restrictive movement toward income inequality (on the left), among other results.
Credentialism is a term and an issue in land mine status.

Imposing order in Democratic chaos


“I am not a member of any organized political party,” the cowboy comic Will Rogers famously said. “I am a Democrat.”

Democrats fight among themselves, argue about the future of their party and display a genuine affinity for forming a circular firing squadron whenever an election looms. Joe Biden is being attacked for saying he actually believes in bipartisanship. Bernie Sanders is too old and too socialist, but even he struggles to explain what his brand of socialism really looks like. Kamala Harris was a tough-on-crime prosecutor and that is somehow a liability. I could go on, but you get the drift.

The 23 angry Democrats now running for president is all the proof required that the Democrats are no “organized political party.”

So, since no one is asking, I offer a Democratic Manifesto for both national and Idaho Democrats to impose some order on the chaos.

First, the basics: Every election is about the future. Donald Trump made the 2016 election a referendum on his version of the future, which ironically — or cynically, or manipulatively — was actually about recreating a vision of the country that never existed. “Make America Great Again” was his slogan. It’s time for Democrats to make him eat those words.

Ronald Reagan made Jimmy Carter squirm in 1980 by asking a question Democrats should be asking: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Trump partisans will point to a strong economy, but the micro answer to Reagan’s question is clearly: No.

Karl Rove, the politically smart but ethically challenged brain behind George W. Bush, always had a formula: Attack your opponent at his point of greatest strength. John Kerry was a decorated Vietnam veteran, while Bush arguably dodged the draft, so in Rove World the correct response was to “swift boat” Kerry with attacks on his military record and patriotism. Trump is oh so vulnerable to the same approach and, best of all, a Democrat need not distort the record as Rove had to in order to pin his ears back.

Imagine a Democrat with this line of logic: Let’s talk about that Mexican-funded wall. Is immigration better than four years ago? Trump will soon have been in office for three years. He had both houses of Congress for half his term — what’s he really done?

Well, he tweets a lot. He thinks he’s tough on immigration, but he hasn’t fixed a thing and, if anything, it’s all much worse than when he started. Trump is a failure at the border.

Trump was going to end our endless wars, but how is that going? He’s incompetent and hasn’t fixed a thing. He hasn’t Made America Great; he’s made the presidency all about himself.

Biden may be making a major mistake, as he demonstrated this week, in questioning Trump’s intelligence and morals. That cake is baked. Only Trump’s diehard 40 percent think he’s anything approaching intelligent and as for morals, well just ask Sen. Mike Crapo who said he couldn’t support Trump after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and then supported him. There is little margin in emphasizing something everyone knows: Trump isn’t all that bright. Everyone knows he’s sleazy and he lies all the time.

I’m not sure the young mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg, will be or should be the Democratic nominee. But he certainly has demonstrated an understanding that elections are about the future. “We face not just another presidential election, but a transition between one era and another,” Buttigieg said this week in a meaty speech on foreign policy. “I believe that the next three or four years will determine the next 30 or 40 for our country and our world.”

Second, appeal to reason and understand that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. There is not a person in the country today who voted for Hillary Clinton who is going to vote for a second Trump term. The president is defying a law of political gravity, a very simple law: Expand your base, attract new supporters and keep what you have. Trump has turned those ideas upside down. He’s hoping to win a second term by purposefully not expanding his base of support.

The only way this strategy works is if Democrats fail to reach out to the few independent voters who remain or if Trump succeeds in depressing the large and, I would argue, growing anti-Trump vote.

One way to appeal to these folks is to respond to Trump with a bumper sticker slogan, some variation on: “Time for an adult in the White House.” Even many of his supporters cringe at Trump’s rants, incoherent insults and nonstop lies.

Third, understand that the modern Democratic Party is defined by its broad coalition, while what passes for the Republican Party is an older, white ideological movement that at the moment stands only for Trump. The Democratic future in this election and the next is the demographic reality that younger Americans, people of color and women will increasingly decide American elections.

This would be the place where I throw down the gauntlet to Idaho Democrats, a beleaguered, largely leaderless group that has been operating without a strategy for more than 20 years.

Here’s the bumper sticker: Youth, Women and Hispanic Americans. Idaho Democrats don’t just need a strategy; they need a long-game strategy, one that strives for real political relevance in 10 years. Younger Idahoans, people in high school and college today, should be the core of that strategy.

Then organize, organize, organize. And aggressively bring many more young people into the political process. It would not only be the right thing to do, but it offers a path out of the wilderness.

It’s an old fashioned notion, I know, but I still believe most elections come down to a question of fear versus hope.

Trump won, as every Republican since Reagan has, by emphasizing division, despair and decline. Against a flat-footed, yesterday candidate such as Hillary Clinton it worked. In the moment of reckoning coming soon we’ll see if it works again.

(photo/Biden in Alabama)

A phantom campaign


The United States north of Nevada and west of Colorado might as well not exist for presidential campaigns, in the general elections at least.

But an odd news story suggested that just maybe there’ll be a little possibility the region won’t be completely ignored this time around.

Or will it?

It’s not that the northwest region is without swing voters; in all, they’re here, in significant numbers. But presidential general elections are won in the electoral college, where states vote in clumps, and those are the same whether the candidate who won that state prevailed by 51 percent or 81 percent. And somewhere in that range, the electoral votes for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, California, Washington and Alaska (and we could throw Hawaii in here too) all seem to be more or less locked in as either red or blue. Around the country there still exist some “purple” states, but not in this region.

At least that’s been the prevailing wisdom.

That’s why some interest developed when on Tuesday CNN, which had developed a lengthy report on the Donald Trump re-election campaign, said it had “obtained a memo to the Trump campaign from pollster Tony Fabrizio about ideas for ‘expanding the map’ to give the President more options for getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win the re-election, where he mentions looking at Oregon.”

What does this mean?

To back up a moment here, “expanding the map” does make sense for the Trump campaign. It only barely prevailed in the key Great Lakes states - Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania - that went Democratic over many previous elections but gave Trump his 2016 win. Without them, and if nothing else changed, Trump would lose next year. And polling has shown the president not doing well in those places, where Democrats have done very well in mid-term and special elections in the last couple of years. Shorter version: It makes sound strategic sense for the Trump campaign to hold those states if it can, but also find other places to make up votes in other places (that went Democratic last time) if it can’t.

So it makes sense to be looking at “blue” states to flip. Some of the states voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 did so by close margins too: New Hampshire (.4 percent was the Clinton margin there). Minnesota after that (1.5 percent) and then Nevada (2.4 percent) and Maine (2.7 percent). Very likely a lot of research is underway in those places by the Trump forces to figure out how to flip them, and the CNN reporting does indicate they’re doing that.

And in Oregon, too.

Oregon voted for Clinton by 11 percent - not close. It was softer for Clinton than California (29 percent margin) or Washington (16 percent), but it really wasn’t any more on the razor’s edge as a blue state than Idaho was in 2016 as a red. And in that 2016, while Republicans did well around the country, in Oregon Democrats gained ground, and they continued to in 2018.

So is this in the category of a head-fake? Maybe. Political campaigns often engage in some degree of misdirection to keep the opposition off balance.

But if not, western Idaho residents a year from now just might hear some rumblings from over the border, even if the electoral votes there really aren’t much more up for grabs than Idaho’s.

Another view on Boise library


Team Dave and its leader, Mayor Dave Bieter are trying to sell the idea of “saving interest fees” by simply inserting $50 million cash for the proposed mega-library project. This after several years of economic schemes, projections, and sales pitches.

If Boise has $50,000,000 stashed away in a slush fund, we the people have been overtaxed.

We really hesitate to be this harsh, but Team Dave cannot be trusted. They are touting a plan to eliminate confusion over “voting to vote” following the successful petition drive by citizens seeking a voice in their government. The “cash scheme” may save up to $15 million in interest on an $85 million edifice, but it will also ELIMINATE CITIZEN APPROVAL of the project at an election.

Citizens need to be careful of the wording in any ordinance. Sometimes insertion or deletion of a single word tips the authority away from the citizens. Team Dave has repeatedly used public money to manipulate public opinion on street cars, airport tax exemptions, the library, the F-35, and other issues. Trust in a “public dialogue” has evaporated. Bieter is still spending to attract noisy F-35 fighters to Boise.

A GUARDIAN reader offers up this chronology of events regarding the library.

To get to a vote we have seen:

–A price tag that blew up from a $40 million remodel to a $103 million monstrosity.

–Plans to issue bonds through CCDC before the majority of the public saw the architects rendering/model.

–The dismisal of history – The Cabin. But the library minutes (4/4/18) show they will be able to save 2 light fixtures from the existing building. Great trade-off.

–First class airfare and other extravagant charges for the overpriced architect.

–A 40-year lease on the Biomark building site that was originally purchased for library expansion.

–The Civic Center For Education & Culture was scrubbed from the record and renamed “a library project.” A consultant was hired to promote it.

–The price tag has been lowered to $85 million, although most realize this lower price simply means defering some of the components of this project.

–Impacts on the nearby Anne Frank Memorial.

–Consultant fees and branding campaigns paid for with public monies to sell this idea to the audience who paid most of the public monies in the first place.

–Boise leaders signed a contract with an architect not licensed in Idaho who was fined by the state.

–The City has dropped the idea of using CCDC as the lease financing conduit, as a result of citizen outrage leading to HB 217. Now they seek to avert an election by paying cash.

–Now we read that the City has piles of cash stashed away – yet we lag on hiring the police we need, build the fire stations, expand the existing library hours, etc.

–We are now being sold the idea that we will save money by not paying $15 million in financing fees and interest by not using lease financing. This is the hidden cost that has only been recently revealed.

–City economists are projecting a downturn in the economy in the coming months – shown in library meeting minutes and city budget docs/presentations, but the insanity continues.

Meanwhile: City of Boise, please stop this insanity! We are not fooled.

The Russians are coming, again


Debate over what the Mueller Report concluded with regard to Russian interference in the 2016 election has only intensified since Robert Mueller spoke to the nation on May 29. In his sphinx-like manner, the special counsel summarized what he had found, declining to go beyond the confines of his written report.

Mueller was unequivocal on one point - the Russians engaged in “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election.” He began and ended his presentation with that stark warning, apparently confounded by the fact that the U.S. has not seriously mobilized to stop it from happening again in 2020. Normally, there would be an all-hands-on-deck effort to warn off the Russians, prepare strong counter measures, and harden our election systems, among other things, but these are not normal times.

Because Mueller declined to give his personal views on the report findings, all sides have stepped forward to give their particular slant. The Attorney General has repeatedly claimed that the report found no “collusion” between the Russians and the Trump campaign. That is absolutely correct but beside the point. On pages 2 and 180 of Volume One of his report, Mueller clearly states that he did not look into the question of whether there was collusion.

Mueller’s inquiry was concerned with whether the Trump campaign committed the crime of conspiracy, which he describes at page 181 as “an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal criminal law--including foreign-influence and campaign-finance laws.”

The report details over 140 Russian contacts with the Trump campaign in pages 66-173 of Volume One, concluding that Russia made offers of assistance to the campaign and that the campaign was receptive to some of those offers. However, Mueller said on May 29 that “there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.” At page 2 of the report he clarifies: “A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts.” In other words, there was evidence of conspiracy, but not enough to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proving criminal conspiracy is no easy task because of the reasonable doubt standard. During my tenure as Idaho Attorney General in the nineteen-eighties, I spent many hours trying to pinpoint price-fixing among gasoline dealers. It generally requires either court-approved electronic surveillance or a credible inside source to make a triable conspiracy case. A phone tap won’t help if the conduct is not on-going, and credible inside sources are hard to come by, as Paul Manafort clearly demonstrated.

I often explained to the public that it was not a price-fixing conspiracy for gas retailers to charge the same price all over town. It was only an unlawful conspiracy when there was an agreement to set prices. In the case of the 2016 election, there would have had to be strong proof of an agreement between Russian actors and the campaign in order to establish a conspiracy. Mueller implies that such evidence existed but he apparently was unable to obtain enough documents or credible inside witnesses to prove it.

We will likely never know whether the Russian interference helped Trump win the presidency. The President hinted in that direction when he tweeted on May 30 that, “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” He later denied that Russia helped him get elected.

What we do know is that Russia gave the President substantial help in the 2016 election. Putin admitted in Helsinki that he wanted Trump to win. All honorable and patriotic presidential candidates should loudly and clearly tell the Russians and every other foreign country that the United States will not tolerate interference in our elections in 2020 or ever. Our Congressional delegation should demand severe consequences for those who try to pervert our democracy.

Verbal ignorance


There’s a word being tossed around in politics and the media lately. You see and hear it a lot. Trouble is, when most often used these days, that use is almost always wrong.

As Inigo Montoya said in “The Princess Bride,” “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

The word is treason.

It’s usually hurled at someone or some political act. Treason. Treasonous. Or any derivation thereof.

Right here, right now, let’s get it straight.

My good ol’ Webster’s puts it this way: “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

Or, if you’d rather, let’s take it straight from the U.S. Constitution. Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Period.

Unless you can define the actions of anyone who’s been in the news over the last couple of years, using those two definitions of treasonable acts, the word doesn’t apply. Again, period!

The demagogue in the White House - our White House - throws the word “treason” around to apply to almost anything he doesn’t like. His senior staff - of disreputable character - applies the word regularly, most often to Democrats.

While it’s easy - and accurate - to fault politicians for their improper use of the word, it’s most offensive when used by someone in the national media.

Treason is serious business. Too much of what passes for politics these days isn’t always as serious. We’ve bastardized so much of our language and dangerously cheapened meanings of important, descriptive words so someone tosses out “treason” to describe someone else’s words or actions when it can’t possibly apply.

Our dysfunctional President is the worst offender. He’s used the word “treason” in an attempt to embarrass or demean any Democrat-of-the-moment or Robert Mueller, Jeff Sessions and dozens of miscreants on his list of “incorrigibles” and “traitors.”

In my four score lifetime, there were three prominent people whose actions could legitimately be described as treasonous to this nation Two were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, executed in the ‘50's for spying.
The other was a woman nicknamed “Tokyo Rose” who was convicted of making propaganda broadcasts to American servicemen in the Pacific during World War II.

Her real name was Iva Toguri D’Aquino. Though several Japanese women made broadcasts using the name “Toyko Rose,” Toguri was the only one brought to trial in this country. Gerald Ford pardoned her in 1977.

There’s a reason our miscreant president used the word “treason.” He has no idea what the word means. If he did, he’d stop using it. But, to him, it’s just a word that sounds serious and demeaning so he babbles away. And the media goes along.

Seems to me, if your profession is to speak or write the English language, you damn-well better know how to use it.

A nothing burger


Nine days ago Robert Mueller III, the decorated former Marine Corps officer, the former assistant attorney general who prosecuted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and helped put crime boss John Gotti in jail, the former FBI director, the life-long Republican finally spoke.

“I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments,” Mueller said at the conclusion of his less than 10 minutes in front of the cameras, “that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

During a Boise TV interview a few days later Idaho Sen. Jim Risch dismissed Mueller’s statement as – he actually said this – “a nothing burger.”

Near as I can tell Risch, or for that matter no other member of the Idaho congressional delegation, has said anything about the substance of Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference or the efforts by the president to obstruct the investigation. They’re all like Sgt. Schultz in the old Hogan’s Heroes television show – they see nothing, nothing.

Yet, if you actually read Mueller’s report you’ll understand his detailed analysis of ten different and very specific instances when Trump sought to impede the Russia investigation. First by firing the FBI director and then ordering Mueller’s firing, a decision he lied about and told others to lie about.

Then, as the report says, “the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”

And here is Mueller from his “nothing burger” statement: “As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that.”

Risch leads the thoroughly effete Idaho delegation in his unrelenting effort to minimize Russian electoral interference and Trump obstruction. In February, as reported by the Idaho Press, Risch said he was not worried about any threat from Russia, calling it “the most overrated country on the face of the planet.”

In March Risch dismissed the attorney general’s initial summary of Mueller’s report – we now know that summary was highly misleading and designed to confuse and minimize the findings – by saying: “For me, there was no news in Mueller’s report.” Later in his statement, Risch criticized Democrats and the media, calling claims against the president a “charade.”

When it was first disclosed that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had talked about sanctions with Russian officials prior to Trump’s inauguration Risch’s only comment: “I have thoughts, but I’m keeping them to myself.” Flynn, of course, later admitted to lying about his Russian contacts and still faces jail time. The former Ada County prosecutor has been silent as obstruction – denying subpoenas, resisting court orders, hiding documents – continues across the Trump Administration.

In his rare public statements addressing specific presidential acts, from North Korea to tariffs to Russia, Risch always toes the Trump line and dismisses any inconvenient truth. “I really don’t believe Trump acts in ways that help Russia,” he told the PBS NewsHour.

When questioning former FBI director James Comey, who was fired, by Trump’s own admission to “take the heat off” the Russian investigation, Risch dismissed the president’s statement that Comey just “let Flynn go” as nothing more than a “hope” by Trump.

For the record, the Mueller’s report lists Trump’s “let Flynn go” comment as its very first example of presidential obstruction.

Conservative columnist George Will compares the “supine behavior” of Republicans like Risch and the rest of the Idaho delegation to “fragrant memories” of pre-World War II American communists who performed amazing mental gymnastics to keep on the right side of Josef Stalin.

Or perhaps the more apt comparison is to the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who recently repeatedly refused to admit that Trump’s “birther” attacks on Barack Obama were racist. This is the awkward reality of Trump’s enablers, the partisan promoters like Sen. Risch: if you admit the truth you risk earning the president’s ire (or that of his all-accepting base) or you can, as the senator choses, find a way to repeatedly justify and dismiss any damaging evidence of Trump’s actions, even when that evidence is accumulated by a Republican former director of the FBI.

After all, who you gonna believe? A president who uses lies as a governing model or your own eyes?

Set aside, if you prefer, clear and compelling evidence that the president of the United States tried repeatedly to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, lied about it and influenced others to lie. One thousand former Justice Department officials are on the record saying he did.

Set aside, as Mueller’s report says that the Russian government’s interference was clearly designed to help “presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

Set aside that Trump’s campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” and it “welcomed” the help. Set aside that the Russian “social media campaign” and the Russian military’s computer hacking operations “coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.”

And set aside one of the most politically intriguing details of this whole spectacularly un-American affair, that the Trump campaign shared with Russian operatives its own polling information before the election. Mueller’s investigation was unable to figure out what happened to this information because the special counsel “was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.”

Paul Manafort, the guy who apparently shared the polling information, is in jail and isn’t talking.

Set all that aside and consider again what Mueller left us with: “There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Then ask yourself: What has Jim Risch, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee (also a senior member of the Intelligence Committee) done about that? The only possible answer is nothing. Then ask yourself why?

Toward an ongoing edit


I’ve edited books, but nothing quite like the editing project now underway at the Idaho Statehouse.

It’s such a large effort that the suggestion here is that it be made permanent and ongoing.

The subject of this review is Idaho’s state administrative rules, a great mass of material - more than 8,200 densely-packed pages - which has been built up over time. It’s a large code, smaller than the state statutes (that is, the state law) but bigger than any one person is ever going to want to read.

For the last few decades the Idaho Legislature has been making a practice of reviewing the rules each year, and any not getting the legislative sign-off then expire. Usually (only a small number), rules controversial or maybe flawed for some reason, are denied approval. This year, owing to an end-of-session dispute between the state Senate and House, the legislature failed to take any action.

In theory, that means all those rules and regulations - a huge amount of Idaho’s administrative law, prospectively - might go away. Before you start cheering that idea, remember that the rules do all sorts of things. They don’t only impose onerous restrictions on businesses, as the political trope goes; true, some do, but many simply define terms, outline how specifically agencies are supposed to comply with law, protect people’s safety, and much more. In effect, they make it possible for the state to do its work correctly. An instant vanishing of all those rules could mean - no exaggeration - mass chaos.

There was available a legal work-around, and Governor Brad Little took advantage of that, and then smartly went further, preparing some proverbial lemonade in the process.

The quick fix was to re-propose all those rules through his own action, for legislative re-review in 2020. That keeps the ship afloat.

The second action was to use the legal hiatus period as an opening for reviewing all the state rules, to see what could usefully be simplified or repealed. (Public comment on this is being accepted through June 11.) His office said that, after consulting with the state agencies, quite a few pages of rules could change with “the identification of 139 full chapters of rules proposed for expiration – totaling 19 percent of all rule chapters. An additional 79 chapters contain individual rule subparts proposed for expiration, and 31 chapters were rewritten to be significantly simplified. All told, more than 34 percent of all rule chapters are proposed for expiration or simplification.”

That’s not surprising, because administrative rules, like many other government actions, tend to accumulate, grow on top of each other gradually over time, as long as there’s no strong impetus to review or cut out any of the old stuff past its sell-by date (or maybe never worked out to begin with).

Somewhere in the governmental regulatory process there should be a standing procedure - and yes, another agency or board - whose job it is to review, section by section, the standing material and see whether it needs an edit, deletion, or maybe an update or clarification. There’s no comprehensive standing procedure for that, ordinarily. The effort this year through the governor’s office, a worthy start, is about as good it’s gotten.

So: A suggestion that the best way to keep regulation from growing mindlessly is to assign someone to the task, on an ongoing basis, of intelligently reviewing and editing it. This is not a job the legislature realistically could handle. But it’s one the legislature might logically think about funding next time around.

After that, they could get started on the state statutes.

Summer reading


We’re short of the solstice, but with school getting out soon it’s time to start talking about summer reading. I’ve started early.

With all the furor about the two-year-long Mueller investigation and his recent public statement where he said, “Read the report!” I decided to. It’s available online. Don’t let the 448 pages scare you. I’ve only spent a couple hours and I’m up to page 175. The first part is about the “Russian Interference campaign” in the 2016 presidential election. I figure I’ll get to the exciting volume two (about the “cover up”) before we’re picking raspberries.

It’s a good read; well- written and direct. So far, I’ve basically learned the Logan Act is dead, even though it still occupies space in the Federal Code. (18 USC Sect. 953). The Logan Act was passed back in 1799 in response to a US citizen lobbying France to soften up its stance to the new United States. Congress and President Adams didn’t like that a private citizen could act on behalf of the US government without clear authority, so they made it illegal.

There have only been two indictments under the act in its 220-year history. The section I’m working through in the Mueller report shows multiple clear violations of this law. But all the folks who have plead guilty in the Trump circle copped to lying to the FBI, not violating the Logan Act. Mr. Mueller must not think the law is prosecutable.

To me, if you have a law on the books and don’t want to enforce it, get rid of it. I don’t like ignoring laws. I thought we were a nation of laws.

The second reading I’m into now is the Federalist Papers. They aren’t in clear language, but after a few minutes you get a sense of the colonial dialect. They were written as “letters to the editor” to convince New Yorkers to support the new Constitution that needed state ratification. They too are online. They are each about as long as this column, but there are 87 of them. It’s OK to skip around; there aren’t any plot twists.

As I was jumping back and forth between Mueller and Hamilton (the main author of the Federalist Papers, with Madison and Jay) I skipped forward to number 66, on why the US Constitution’s structure for impeachment proceedings was such a nifty solution. Hamilton didn’t mention all the negotiations that took place to define an impeachable offense, he just argued that The Senate was the best place for such a trial of impeachment to take place. He argues the Supreme Court had too few brains to properly contemplate the issue, though they are by definition the “Judicial” branch of government. He defended having Senators acting as judge and jury by saying we all have to wear different hats at times:

“This partial intermixture is even, in some cases, not only proper but necessary to the mutual defense of the several members of the government against each other.”

By splitting the duties, giving the role of investigating and indicting a Federal Official to the House of Representatives (The Popular Body, Hamilton called it), then having the trial and judgement in the Senate, he figured it was a Goldilocks solution. The balance of power is the guiding principle.

It’s wonderful that we can read such documents right there at our fingertips. I would hope you can find time; at least before the pumpkins are ripe.