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Posts published in August 2016

Trump 70: Jumping to conclusions


This world is a complicated place. Initial impressions don't always pan out. Most of us find that the case, as we wander through life, which is why many of us ease off the gas pedal when time comes to act on impressions. Why does our constitution make it hard to pass new laws? Why does the criminal justice system have a system of appeals? First impressions may not be the right ones.

Presidents have to be especially careful about this since, as Harry Truman noted, the buck stops there. Careful judgment is one of the prime requisites of the job.

With that in mind, consider this Donald Trump story from May 1989.

The background is in a notorious crime, what has been called the "Central Park jogger" case from April of that year. The young woman involved was jogging in the early evening when she was assault, beaten - so badly she lost three-fourths of her blood - and raped, and left for dead. She survived, but a bash on the head when she was first attacked left her without memory of who was responsible.

Soon after, the New York Daily News attributed the assault to a "savage attack by roving gang." The Times reported soon after the perps were "a loosely organized gang of 32 schoolboys whose random, motiveless assaults terrorized at least eight other people over nearly two hours, senior police investigators said yesterday.” Arrests of five black or Hispanic youths soon followed.

Donald Trump, who in that season had been tabloid fodder over a divorce and business reversals, made some news willingly over the assault case, about which he presumably knew neither more or less than other New Yorkers.

He paid for a full-page Daily News ad saying, “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!”

Under the super-iozed headline, "Bring Back the Death Penalty, Bring Back the Police," he wrote, “I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”

One of the lawyers in the case said of Trump, “He poisoned the minds of many people who lived in New York and who, rightfully, had a natural affinity for the victim.”

Here's the punch line: "The problem with Trump’s condemnation of the five young men eventually convicted for [the] rape was simple: they didn’t do it. They had long claimed their confessions, wildly inconsistent and given under duress, were coerced. But in 2002, one Matias Reyes – already serving time for other rapes and murders – came forward to confess to committing the crime, alone. His DNA matched semen found at the scene; none of the men who had by this time served sentences from five to 15 years were a match. The convictions of the Central Park Five were vacated, and several of the men sued the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. In 2014, after more than a decade, the city settled for $41 million."

Trump, of course, would never admit to error. Challenged about his call for the death penalty for five men who were innocent, his Tweeted response was: "Tell me, what were they doing in the Park, playing checkers?"

To expand the impact of that frame of mind by the millions, is to imagine the frightening prospect of Donald Trump in the White House. - rs

Truth be damned


Labor Day is just around the corner, and typically represents the start of campaign season. As such, candidates and campaign staffers hope to head into it with positive momentum.

A campaign that seems to be having no such luck is the one for Oregon’s Measure 97, a proposed corporate tax that is projected to bring as much as $6 billion per biennium into state government coffers. The measure had originally taken the form of Initiative Petition 28 before qualifying for this November’s general election ballot.

Recent weeks have seen multiple claims made by the measure’s proponents to be proven patently untrue. The press has taken notice, and the general public may not be far behind.

Supporters have sworn up and down from the beginning that the funds that would be raised through the measure’s passage will go towards bolstering public services. However, those of us who are familiar with the legislative process know full well that short of a constitutional amendment, it is not possible to bind future legislatures. The executive director of Our Oregon, the measure’s primary sponsor, is a former one-term state lawmaker. One would expect him to be aware of this. I suspect he may be.

The lawyers who work in the office of Legislative Counsel (LC) certainly are. A Statesman Journal article published in early August verified LC’s contention that the Legislature would be free to spend that money however it sees fit. The Democratic co-chair of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee was quoted in another article as admitting that some of those funds could be used to cover the $885 million in projected cost increases for the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, which is not mentioned anywhere in the measure.

An Oregonian article from late July used public records to show that Our Oregon tried unsuccessfully to strong-arm and silence the Portland State University economists it had paid to study the measure into minimizing its impact.

That revelation was mere child’s play compared to the findings of a Statesman Journal article released in mid-August. According to that story, a complaint was filed against Our Oregon with the Secretary of State’s Office alleging that the organization illegally interfered with a signature gathering effort for another ballot measure.

The trend of increasingly unflattering news coverage continued last week. Veteran political reporter Jeff Mapes, formerly of the Oregonian and now with Oregon Public Broadcasting, did a story quoting Governor Kate Brown as conceding that consumers would have to bear some of the measure’s substantial costs. This flies in the face of other claims made by the measure’s supporters, who allege that the billions raised by the measure would somehow magically not be passed on to the average Oregonian through price increases. That claim is, of course, contradicted by economics, common sense and everything of the sort.

But even worse was a Willamette Week article that came out on Friday stating that an estimated annual $100 million of the funds raised from the measure may be constitutionally required to go to the state highway fund and used only for transportation purposes. The measure’s supporters didn’t include transportation as one of the areas that the funds would go towards, but one of its spokespeople finally acknowledged in that article that some of the money could go to other uses.

Despite all of this, state officials have refused to change the voter’s pamphlet statement in support of the measure to correct the misleading inaccuracies. This is only possible because legislation requiring those statements to be true was rejected during the 2015 legislative session by majority Democrats in both the House and the Senate.

I’ve also seen Facebook ads from proponents of the measure claiming grassroots funding support, which is beyond laughable. A previous article stated that all of the $1.5 million initially raised to support the measure came from two $750,000 checks from two of the state’s most powerful special interest groups. I personally know grassroots activists from one end of Oregon to another, and can assure you that most of them would be unlikely able to cut any check in that amount.

So is this measure really necessary? It probably depends on who you ask. The Taxpayers Association of Oregon has determined that this is the number one tax and spend state in the U.S., with state and local governments spending more per capita than our neighbors and 39 other states. Oregon governments spend nearly double what their counterparts in Utah do, and well above that of Washington and California.
It was also confirmed to me the other day by an analyst with the non-partisan Legislative Revenue Office that state tax collections are at historic highs.

We heard much of the same rhetoric from the same people back in 2010, with measures 66 and 67. Most of it was about corporations paying their “fair share,” although I’ve yet to hear anybody, anywhere, give an exact figure as to what exactly that should be. I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to do so, either.

Voters gave the benefit of the doubt to the measures’ supporters and passed them both. But low and behold, it did not solve the state’s seemingly permanent funding crisis. Oregonians didn’t see any resulting improvements in state services. Instead, what they received was the continued widespread abuse of children in foster care, the payout of multiple whistleblower lawsuits and a governor resigning in disgrace amid federal investigations into alleged influence peddling.

At the end of the day, Oregonians deserve to know the truth about the decisions they will have to make in the election. Whether they will ever end up actually getting it remains to be seen.

Trump 71: Rolling over the defenseless


A Ted Cruz television ad from last January aimed at Donald Trump about an incident in Atlantic City was declared not quite true by FactCheck, which looked into it. But the substance of it was essentially correct.

The point was that Trump tried to bulldoze a widow's home, using eminent domain provisions, to build a parking lot for his casino. The error in Cruz' ad was an indication that Trump succeeded. He failed, but not for lack of effort.

FactCheck said the ad contended "Trump 'colluded with Atlantic City insiders to bulldoze the home of an elderly widow' for a casino parking lot. Trump called that claim 'false.' We wouldn’t go that far. He wanted to bulldoze the home but lost an eminent domain case. However, the ad leaves the false impression that the widow lost her home, and she didn’t. After a long court battle, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Vera Coking of Atlantic City and said that she could keep her home. Trump eventually decided not to fight the ruling."

The Cruz ad also quotes Trump as saying that eminent domain, a governmental power to take private real property for public use, “is wonderful.” In debates, he has correctly pointed out the power sometimes is necessary for construction of roads, bridges and public facilities. But sometimes it has been used as well to clear the way for private developments - like Trump's - as well as public, and many people probably consider that a good deal less wonderful.

The point is debatable. What isn't was Trump's eagerness to use public power, a pretty raw club in this instance, to enhance his private interest. His ability to wield that club in Atlantic City was limited.

In the White House, it would be much broader.

What would you take?


World-wide calamities that cause death and destruction have been a part of all our lives since birth. So many, in fact, we most often give them little thought beyond saying something about the suffering, sending a dollar or two to some relief operation and go back to our normal lives. That’s been our family pattern.

Until it nearly happened to us.

For the last week, a forest fire has burned hotter and hotter on a ridge Northeast of us as it crept toward our little abode by the sea. Flames by night - smoke by day. We watched from our backyard which has thick, large old-growth forest on two sides. We watched large brown plumes which rose over 100 foot tall trees. Made daily living a bit tenuous.

This flare-up - which took nearly a week to contain - was mostly in a clear cut area that burned once before. But, in the 1930's, lightening set off a huge fire near that same spot. It burned from that ridge in the Western foothills of the Cascades, down a mile or so, to stop only when flames had burned through most of our little town before reaching the Pacific shoreline. With that in mind, we’ve been more than a little unsettled.

But our pulse quickened when a sheriff’s robocall advised us to be ready for “possible evacuation.” There are three steps. First, an alert to warn to be ready to evacuate. Second, pack up stuff and be ready to go. Third, GIT! NOW!

It didn’t come to that. But it got me to thinking for the first time. What would we take? What, of all the important or valuable items - at least to us - do we load into the pickup? Food for us and Rat Terrier Winston and calico Clem - what kind and how much? Clothes - what kind and how many? Keepsakes - which ones and how many? Tools - which ones and for what use?

We have a standing 190-year-old clock. Do we take that? Or use the space it would occupy for more food and water? Computers? Which one and what peripherals? A dozen or so family albums and boxes of old, one-of-a-kind pictures. Take ‘em? Or leave ‘em? Books autographed by authors now gone. Take ‘em? Original and signed artwork? Barb’s many watercolor paintings? Basic kitchen utensils? Which ones and how many? Sheets, blankets, shoes, underwear, socks, first aid supplies, bottled water? How about bank records, office files, battery chargers, bottled water?

While all these questions filled our heads, we watched the smoke billowing over those very tall, old-growth trees and wondered if any progress was being made on the fire lines. If not, when would the order come to start packing? Or to “bug out?”

Very few seaside homes have air conditioning. So, on warm nights, you turn on a fan or two and sleep with the windows open. Which meant, during those warm nights, we slept with the ever-present smell of smoke. Not the recommended aid for a good night’s sleep.

In the end, 300 firefighters, several aircraft and a lot of ground equipment took care of things. We could breathe easier and stop thinking about all those questions. This time. But, what about next time? And, given the amount of forest we live near and the vagaries of coastal weather, there will be a next time. Will we have learned anything, answered all those evacuation queries and be wiser for the recent experience? Or will we relax a bit and say “Well, that was interesting and someday we’ll have to think about all that.”

I’d like to believe we’ll keep reviewing the activities of the recent days and come up with some good decisions. One by one, those questions require a lot of prioritizing. Maybe it’s time to give some of those things to the family inland ‘cause they’re going to wind up with them eventually. Maybe we need to cut down on some of the keepsakes and re-evaluate what we really need around us at this later time in life.

All this may sound unimportant to you because you may have never been faced with the loss of your home and valuables. Even so, it might be wise to look around your own abode, imagine some threatening situation arises in a life and property threatening crisis and answer some of those questions we’ve been wrestling with in case you’re ever faced with a fast exit.

Calamities almost always happen to the other guy. What if, someday, you’re the other guy?

Trump 72: Dissing veterans


Best thing, for a presidential contender, when it comes to veterans, is if they've been there for veterans through the years. I'm not among the crowd who argue that military service should be a prerequisite for serving as president (though I don't think it hurts). But some awareness of how the military works sure would help, and appreciation for their service should be. Lip service is okay if it's backed by action - at the least, doing what you say you're going to do.

Donald Trump has offered the lip service - but over and over, backed up by nothing.

His Iowa stunt last winter of holding a supposed fundraiser for veterans as an excuse for skipping a primary election debate might have worked but for his failure promptly to follow through with payments to the veterans organizations he had promised to help.

On at least one occasion he has had an opportunity to do something for veterans. He pointed out to ABC News, “I was very responsible along with a group of people for getting the Vietnam Memorial built.”

Well, he had a connection to it. Sort of.

A 1984 article in the Washington Post said that Trump was a member of the board formed to get the memorial, in New York, built. That doesn't make him a leading figure in the effort, necessarily, but it's something. He has made enough of a big deal out of it as to include his "work" on the memorial as one of the "sacrifices" he made on behalf of the country.

However, the Post also points out that he blew off most of the meetings: “One official of the Vietnam Commission, who has attended all the meetings, maintains Trump has been to only two or three out of 20 meetings. This was confirmed by another member of the commission. The first time he attended a meeting was to launch the commission, one source says, and the second was when he arrived with a reporter who was profiling him.”

The next time that Donald Trump claims he is going to take care of our veterans, someone needs to ask him exactly what he means by that statement because his entire personal history involves using veterans for publicity. - rs

Trump 73: Those awful, helpless Americans


Listen to a presidential candidate talk, and you usually won't get far before you hear about how wonderful Americans are. Or not just presidentials - consider any candidate. A candidate for county commissioner almost always will throw in a reference to how wonderful the people of the county are. It's partly pandering, sure. But partly too it's a nod toward the essentially good intentions of most people, toward the possibilities of what a people can make of a country.

This is a thread keenly missing from the dark Tapestry of the Donald Trump message.

We've heard plenty about all the people and groups insulted and otherwise denigrated by Trump and his campaign. At this point that roster includes nearly all of us. There's that new list, for example, of 250 people and groups specifically insulted by Trump; but that's a partial, since it only includes people insulted on Tweets, as opposed to in speeches, interviews or elsewhere.

Candidates in competitive races will go after some people and groups (the opposing candidate and party, to begin with). But the necessary leavening, to keep the mix from curdling, is to throw in notes of confidence about how terrific the American people - overall, as a people - are as well.

That's normal and standard in both parties. Hillary Clinton's theme of "stronger together" could have been adopted by a candidate of either party in most years past.

The sentiment - of a good, strong American people who are equal to the problems confronting them - shows up nowhere in Trump's acceptance speech. There, he paint the picture of an American living in dytopia, bombarded by crime and economic disaster, in need of a savior. He, of course, is that savior; he will save them all by himself. And not only that, they won't even need a voice in all this: He is the American people. The American people can, well, just shut up.

He does not understand America. - rs

It’s on for 2018, already


“We narrowly lost that race but our message of empowerment, advancement and citizen-led state control over federal dependency resonated loudly. I’m pleased to communicate that I will be continuing that mission as a candidate for governor in 2018.”

The speaker was former state Senator Russ Fulcher, a Meridian Republican who ran in the Republican primary for governor in 2014 – losing to incumbent C.L. “Butch” Otter – announcing last week, in mid-2016, about his upcoming return to the governor’s race in 2018.

The news came on a slickly-produced 1:44 video that almost could have doubled as a campaign ad except that this was just the announcement of a forthcoming campaign.

There really is no break in this anymore, is there?

That’s not meant as a slap at Fulcher. As you’ll probably recall, he’s the second major candidate for governor in 2018, the first being Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, an Otter appointee who has been widely considered the governor-in-waiting for about seven years now. Because much of the support base for Fulcher overlaps with that of Representative Raul Labrador, who has also often been mentioned as a 2018 gubernatorial prospect, this may be an indicator Labrador won’t be running for that office. At least, in 2018.

It also sets up a near rerun of the contest from 2014, when Fulcher’s run against Otter was prompted in large part because of Otter’s support for the state health insurance exchange. Fulcher’s 2014 web site said, “Federal policies in the areas of healthcare, education, and the environment are stripping freedoms from Idahoans and placing them in the hands of government bureaucrats. This became glaringly evident in 2013, when the Idaho Legislature, led by Governor Butch Otter, voluntarily embraced Obamacare, thereby placing Idaho as a partner of the federal government in implementing a healthcare law that Idahoans do not want and cannot afford.”

If Otter won’t be on the ballot, Little, who has been as loyal a lieutenant as a governor could ask for, will be a good stand in.

But some other things have changed and will change between 2014 and 2018. Here are a couple.

The so-controversial health insurance marketplace is part of the health and financial environment now, and about 100,000 Idahoans receive health insurance coverage in whole or part because of it. Campaigning against federal intrusion is never a loser in Idaho, but campaigning to kick 100,000 people off health insurance almost surely would be. The subjects and approach of a Fulcher campaign would almost have to change somewhat from 2014, or face a revolt. Or a loss to Little.

The other change is harder to estimate: It has to do with the effect of Donald Trump on politics going forward from 2016. Otter has joined Trump’s campaign as an honorary chair, but most other major Republican leaders in the state have kept a lower profile. How will Trump and his advocates be viewed a year, or two years, from now? In some parts of the state – substantial parts of southern Idaho, to start with – Trump is not very popular at all, and a touchy subject for many Republicans to address.

But the future of the Republican Party will be very much up for grabs after this year’s campaign is over, and that contest will be active in Idaho as it will be elsewhere. Where will Little and Fulcher come down on it?

The campaign is beginning, even now.

Trump 74: American ignorance


When a candidate runs for state or local office, one of the criteria often mentioned or at least reviewed is the depth of their roots in the area: How long they have lived there, or that's their whole life, then how many forebears did. There's at least one practical and reasonable reason for this, which is that a person who has lived in a place for many years is likely to know it better than would a newcomer.

Donald Trump is not a newcomer to the United States; he was born in this country and it has been his place of residence all of his 70 years. And while he has lived in the New York City area nearly all that time, he has done business in a number of places around the country. Statistically, based on the numbers, he should meet this criterion: He ought to know the country pretty well, well enough that an ignorance of what the United States is like should not be a disqualifier.

And yet, remarkably, it evidently is. His sense of what the United States is actually like outside of his own bubble of wealth seems stunningly thin.

Listen to his speeches and you hear the false notes repeatedly, something akin to a novelist who has written a scene in a location he hasn't visited or researched.

One of the biggest such cases came in his Republican acceptance speech, when he spoke about the horrors on the streets of the United States - walking almost anywhere, he seemed to be saying, was worse than navigating a war zone. It's not true. He spoke of drastically increasing crime from coast to coast; it isn't increasing, it's falling, and has been for decades.

On August 23, Trump said of black communities: “Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we’re fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities. . . . Look, it is a disaster the way African Americans are living . . . We’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now, you walk down the street, you get shot.”

Trump's perception of the community was so wildly far afield from the reality that you have to suspect he's getting his impression of what the country is like from the movies, or maybe from local television news. It certainly doesn't come from any actual experience visiting around the country, talking to ordinary people, getting any realistic sense - even if only by statistical research - of what America is like.

I wouldn't vote for a city council member so poorly informed about his city. - rs

Trump 75: Please cyber-attack us


Donald Trump must be the only candidate for president ever to have spoken favorably of the prospect that another nation would attack us. If that's not a qualitative disqualifier for the presidency, what is?

Last month, the FBI completed its inquiry into Hillary Clinton's use of a private server for her e-mail, and concluded that some mails, possibly including some confidential documents, could have been vulnerable to foreign hackers. (There's been no clear evidence that any of it actually was hacked.) Separately, servers at the Democratic National Committee were hacked and a number of messages were pulled, and wound up at Wikileaks, which in turn released many of them. A swarm of investigators, both public and private, researched the hack and arrived at a strong probability that a pair of Russian intelligence organizations had broken in.

Trump, while saying he didn't know whether Russians were behind the hack, added, “If they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do.”

And then: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

This deserves making the point finely. Here we have a candidate for president who specifically said he "hopes" an adversarial government has obtained through theft sensitive documents from the government of the United States.

This stunned, and rightly, officials from both political parties. House Speaker Paul Ryan probably more closely expressed what most Americans were thinking: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”

Others went further. William Inboden, a National Security Council member in the George W. Bush administration, described Trump's remarks as “tantamount to treason," and “Trump’s appeal for a foreign government hostile to the United States to manipulate our electoral process is not an assault on Hillary Clinton, it is an assault on the Constitution.”

Or, as veteran reporter Carl Bernstein said on CNN, “Today we have reached a tipping point in this election. This is a disqualifying event for a president of the United States. ... It ought to be apparent to all, and the Democrats should be able to make the case, that he is manifestly unsuited to be the president of the United States because of his recklessness with the national security.”