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Posts published in December 2018

The “base”


Here a “base.” There a “base.” Everywhere a “base, base.” (With apologies to Old McDonald.)

Our national media, it seems, can’t do a Trump story about anything he says or does without referring to his “base.” Whatever the action, whatever the latest lie, there’s constant referral to his “base.”

A political base is not news. Roosevelt had one. Truman had one. Lincoln had one. Even George Washington had one. All presidents have a base. It’s not something we need to be reminded of over and over and over again.

Aside from being a meaningless appendage to any news item, it should be remembered Trump’s “base” is a statistical minority of voters. Poll after poll shows that “base” at 35-40 percent. Recent sampling has those numbers slowly dropping. In other words, a minority becoming a more distinct minority. Given that Trump is slowly alienating one segment of the population after another - as predicted - the continual talk about his “base” is going to be even more irrelevant.

Which begs the question: “Why continue to put a focus on something that is both meaningless and unnecessary?”

It can’t automatically be assumed those leaving his “base” of support are becoming Democrats. In fact, the fear is they could be turned-off, non-voters in the 2020 elections. Which would be a loss to all of us.

Democrats would be well-advised to identify those regretting their previous votes for Trump and make an extra effort to gain their support. Not by some pie-in-the sky nonsense currently being espoused by the “new left.” Go back to the “lunch bucket” approach Democrats seem to have forgotten in recent elections. Jobs, health care, education, etc. And not just “talk-the-talk” but seriously “walk-the-walk.”

Though the aforementioned polling shows weaker support for Trump, no other recent sampling I’ve seen indicates more backing for Democrats. It’s likely there won’t be more significant support if the Party doesn’t get back to those basics.

Trump’s been demanding a “wall.” Well, he’s about to get one. The name is Nancy Pelosi. She’s a tougher wall for Trump than any wall an engineer could design for our Southern border. Pelosi is far more qualified for her job than he is for his. She’s been to many a congressional “rodeo” and has more than her share of “belt buckles.”

But, she also has a problem in the new House majority - that “new left.” Before being sworn-in next month, some are “demanding” changes. Skip the seniority system. Create new committees for this and that. Seat some of the new faces up front in the House. Before locating the member bathrooms, some want their “needs” recognized “NOW!”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) has become a media darling even before her term begins. She’s also shown how little she knows - and how little she understands - about being a member of Congress. She’s being made a “celebrity” instead of someone elected to do a well-defined constitutional job.

House members are elected for two-years. Fixed. Celebrity comes and goes. Mostly goes. Once someone new comes along who catches the public attention - and the media spotlight - today’s “celebrity” is yesterday’s news. Forgotten. Ocasio-Cortez is flirting with that at the moment. She needs to read her job description and post it prominently on her office wall. Then follow it!

It can be safely assumed, since her “green committee” idea died aborning, that she and Pelosi have had “the talk.” The new representative’s “base” is in New York City. Pelosi’s “base” is sitting on the new majority side in the House. That’s a “BASE!”

Democrats have a base now with the American voter. From all appearances, a lot of non-Democrats agreed to be members of that base in November. For now. Those folks are watching to see if what badly needs to be done actually gets done. If it does, we’ll likely see a “sweep” in 2020. If not, the majority will again be a minority. Pelosi knows that. In spades.

As for Trump’s “base,” safe betting is it will continue to shrink. Probably not much more. But, some. Whether he finishes his term in office or in prison, that “base” is becoming more irrelevant. Both for him. And, I hope, the national media!

Investigate the fiasco


The Federal Communications Commission definitely must investigate CenturyLink's massive Internet system failure that lasted from early Thursday, Dec. 27, through early Friday, Dec. 28. It was an unmitigated disaster! The FCC also needs to publicize the outage's cause, which CenturyLink seems loathe to divulge.

This not only was a public relations fiasco for CenturyLink, it can be argued the blackout of its service jeopardized lives and could have been a threat to national security.

Customers like those of us in Idaho were blindsided by the widespread outage, not knowing for nearly 24 hours what happened or when service would be restored. Everyone from law enforcement to medical centers to thousands of individual customers were adversely impacted in dozens of states.

What was especially disturbing about the nationwide outage was the fact 911 systems in many states were completely disabled, leaving countless people in the lurch as they tried to helplessly cope with emergencies on their own.

This debacle was not unprecedented. The Seattle Times reported in 2014 that a six-hour CenturyLink outage led to more than 5,800 failed 911 calls, crippling Washington state's 911 system. The FCC fined CenturyLink $16 million over that failure, and state regulators added another $2 million.

At that time, a woman tried calling 911 37 times after a burglar broke into her home. In another case, a domestic violence victim had to flag down police because she could not reach law enforcement via phone calls, the Times noted.

Those calling CenturyLink's help number in the latest snafu also could not reach any assistance, were put on hold for interminable hours or rudely disconnected. The news media's pathetic coverage of the major event did not help ease anxieties, either. Was this a cyberattack or an infrastructure collapse? Who knew?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai expressed grave concerns. He said: “When an emergency strikes, it is critical that Americans are able to use 911 to reach those who can help. CenturyLink service outage is therefore completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling." Pai added, “I've directed the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to immediately launch an investigation into the cause and impact of this outage."

In one of its few sporadic tweets, CenturyLink stated: “We are aware of some 911 service disruptions affecting various areas through the United States. In case of an emergency, customers should use their wireless phones to call 911 or drive to the nearest fire station or emergency facility. Technicians are working to restore services.”

At about 4:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 28, CenturyLink tweeted its teams had “discovered some additional technical problems as our service restoration efforts were under way.” This came after another statement issued about seven hours earlier said the company estimated service would be restored within four hours.

“CenturyLink engineers have identified a network element that was impacting customer services and are addressing the issue to fully restore services,” the company said. Its tweets, however, did little to comfort blacked-out customers who had no Internet access.

All of this underscores society's frightening over dependence on wireless or electronic services – and our vulnerability to such frustrating disruptions. One thing we can be certain: CenturyLink will not be forthcoming in offering reduced payments on our utility bills in the near future for the annoying inconvenience. Don't hold your breath!

Into the swamp


When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke slinks away next week from the big building on C Street in Washington, D.C., he will have, in the space of less than two years, placed himself in the history books along side Albert Bacon Fall.

For a guy who once claimed to be a "Teddy Roosevelt Republican," committed to conservation and protection of public lands, to leave office under an ominous ethical cloud and compared to Warren Harding's Interior secretary who went to jail over the Teapot Dome scandal is a stunning come down. Once a rising Republican star, the former Montana congressman, now seems certain to be dogged by a host of investigations and forever tainted by association with the administration of Donald J. Trump.

When Zinke was named to the Interior post - Washington's Cathy McMorris Rogers and Idaho's Raul Labrador were contenders, but passed over - he was widely praised even by conservation groups. Zinke had crafted a bipartisan image in Congress, "the only Republican to support a Democratic amendment to permanently authorize the so-called Land and Water Conservation Fund," as Politico noted. But proving the truism that absolutely everyone who works for Trump is tainted by the proximity, Zinke will be remembered, perhaps even beyond his grifting ethics, for rolling back national monument designations and generally trashing the conservation legacy of previous Republican and Democratic administrations.

The two Idahoans who have served as Secretary of the Interior - Democrat Cecil Andrus in the 1970s and Republican Dirk Kempthorne for the last three years of the George W. Bush administration - were polar opposites in political ideology, but each understood that serving as the chief steward of all the people's land carries a solemn obligation. While Kempthorne will likely be best remembered for the six-figure remodel of the secretary's office bathroom, he did bring a spirit of collaboration to the job. Andrus' legacy as one of the nation's great Interior secretaries is secure, in part, because he engineered the largest conservation initiative in history by protecting vast swaths of the last frontier - Alaska.

Zinke, despite the conservation rhetoric that temporarily assuaged some skeptics, attempted to transform the Interior Department into an extension of the oil, gas, mining and grazing industries. Zinke did his best to make true the old joke that the Bureau of Land Management, the BLM, is actually the Bureau of Livestock and Mining. This, of course, was Trump's aim in the first place.

The president, who one assumes has never spent a night under the stars, never fished a Western trout stream or devoted a second to thinking about conserving America's most special places for future generations, turned stewardship of the environment over to fraudsters. Ethical shenanigans forced Scott Pruitt out of the Environmental Protection Agency - remember the $50 a night condo he rented from the wife of an energy industry lobbyist and his $3 million a year security detail? And Zinke now leaves subject to a potential criminal investigation involving the chairman of the oil services company Halliburton and some land Zinke owns and wants to develop in western Montana.

Trump appears poised to name as Zinke's replacement an oil and gas lobbyist, the current No. 2 at the department, who literally has to carry a card with him delineating all his potential conflicts of interest. Into this swamp Labrador and soon-to-be-ex-Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter have stuck a toe. Each has been mentioned as a potential secretary of the Interior. Labrador needs a job and seems to be campaigning for the position. He tweeted fulsome praise toward Trump last week for - wait for it - signing an executive order, something Trump does over and over again in lieu of having a real agenda. Otter doesn't need a job and should trust his gut and hang out at his ranch.

Vast acreage of the federal government during the Trump administration has become an ethics-free zone. A former Trump national security adviser may yet go to jail, three cabinet secretaries have resigned amid swirling scandals and the president himself is buffeted by a dogged special counsel, involvement in a campaign finance scandal that paid off a porn star, a corrupt family foundation and lord knows what else.

Remember draining the swamp? Zinke's imminent departure reminds us that promise was as phony as Mexico paying for a wall.

The resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, a decorated Marine Corps combat veteran, who leaves after issuing a withering indictment of the president's abandonment of allies and leadership on the international stage, should also give any Interior aspirant ample reason for pause.

If Trump comes calling on Labrador or Otter, they should remember the words of the conservative scholar Eliot Cohen, a State Department counselor to Condoleezza Rice during the second Bush administration.

Writing last week after Mattis' resignation over a matter of principle, Cohen said in The Atlantic: "Henceforth, the senior ranks of government can be filled only by invertebrates and opportunists, schemers and careerists. If they had policy convictions, they will meekly accept their evisceration. If they know a choice is a disaster, they will swallow hard and go along. They may try to manipulate the president, or make some feeble efforts to subvert him, but in the end they will follow him. And although patriotism may motivate some of them, the truth is that it will be the title, the office, the car and the chance to be in the policy game that will keep them there."

But, it's not worth it. Anyone who gets close to this chaotic mess will get stained, or even destroyed. The evidence is in plain sight. The swamp devours the swamp's own creatures.

Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.

Something new?


Two data points are not much to draw conclusions for the future of a state for a whole year. But we may - may - have something to judge against in the preparing-for-office moves of Idaho’s two top incoming elected officials.

Governor-elect Brad Little has been announcing appointments to his impending administration, and they’re a varied (in Idaho terms) group. Some are people repositioned from the current C.L. “Butch” Otter Administration. Quite a few are brought in from outside. There are familiar names in the group (which for these purposes includes the transition committee), but many not so well known around the state.

In some respects this should be no surprise. Little is as broadly connected across the Idaho business, governmental and political community as almost anyone could be. He’s run a very long campaign which has brought in a lot of people around the state, and probably has exposed him and his closest staffers to people around the state who ordinarily might not appear on the radar.

It didn’t have to be that way. While there is plenty of precedent for incoming governors of the same party (and of both parties) changing out staff when a new chief executive comes in, this was an unusual case. Little and Otter were close, for a very long time. Otter appointed Little as lieutenant governor, and the two have served together in the top two jobs for about a decade. Little was a key personnel officer for the administration, too, vetting many of Otter’s appointees. Little ran in large part on the (honest enough) idea that he would be continuing much of what Otter has been doing. (His declaration that he will continue the Capital for a Day program was a smart early move.) You could easily imagine Little deciding to stick with most of the same people Otter had put in place, often with Little’s involvement.

That he didn’t offers some indication that, while he won’t be taking off in a wildly different direction from that of the last dozen years, he is open to making some significant changes. If so, we may see some indicators in the days ahead, as he delivers his first state of the state speech. It may be the most useful one to watch in some time.

The other incoming elected official signaling some change is the new first district representative, Russ Fulcher. He will be replacing Raul Labrador, a fellow Republican of like mind philosophically (don’t be surprised if Fulcher also joins the Freedom Caucus) but who also indicated he has interest in practical governing. In a 2015 New Yorker interview Labrador made clear that he was fine with government shutdowns, and his comments were cynical enough and reflected so little interest in doing anything useful that I could say in a column three years ago: “Labrador’s view seems to be that the whole project of governing, or at least of self-government, is terrible. And damaging to his political party.”

Ain’t nobody going to call Fulcher any kind of liberal. (Or shouldn’t, though in Idaho, almost everyone becomes a suspect eventually.) But I found notable some of his recent comments on getting started in Congress, in which he had little to say about bringing torches and pitchforks to the battle in D.C.

Instead, in interviews with newspapers, he spoke of putting strong emphasis on constituent service and working on the issues people brought up to him on the campaign trail, including areas like health care and natural resources.

And there was this: “My biggest fear is not the swamp or the corruption and it’s not the process — it’s doing something wrong because I didn’t know or didn’t have the right information in front of me.” That actually is - I can say unironically - a confidence builder, or should be. Same with this quote: “I’m trying to be as effective as I can be.”

A significant change from the Labrador days seems indicated here. Little and Fulcher will merit close attention in this new year to come.

Really happy


Ever get a present that made you really happy? Ever get one that disappointed?

Well, the Idaho legislature got a present from the voters November 6th they didn’t really like: Proposition 2, Medicaid expansion. This citizen initiative passed in 29 of 35 legislative districts; in many of those districts legislators actively opposed it. So, the legislature got a gift. I hope they don’t throw a fit like my daughter did when we got her the knock-off athletic bag instead of the name brand. We still tease her about it.

There are many times when we look for excuses to not do the right thing instead of throwing a tantrum. It usually involves whining. The Idaho Freedom Foundation is giving legislators an excuse through their lawsuit about the constitutionality of Prop 2. I’m glad the Idaho Supreme Court has allowed folks with stronger standing to add their voices to the argument. And the whole question of whether the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, brought up by Republicans before a partisan Texas judge will get to play out. It’s just another excuse for those who want to whine.

But the excuse I hear from what I consider otherwise level-headed legislators is the handwringing, maybe with a little whining involved: “We just can’t afford it.” This excuse is just poppycock.

Every credible analysis of the funding requirements for Medicaid expansion have shown that in the long run, this policy choice either saves Idaho money, or costs very little. The ones that have shown minor costs have not included savings from keeping folks out of prison, expanding Idaho’s economy or keeping rural hospitals afloat. Anybody who has looked at the analysis understands this, even Republicans.

But there will be initial costs for Idaho, since the savings from reducing the CAT Fund and county indigent costs will take a few years to show up. Kind of like when you buy those expensive LED lights, they cost a bit up front, but the lower electric bills actually pay for them in a few years. But that initial cost can be an excuse for you to not conserve, not do the right thing. Please don’t whine as you pass the light bulb isle in Walmart.

This legislative whining about not being able to afford it comes from your representatives that don’t really know the numbers of Idaho’s budget. I will admit, it’s complicated, but after I served on the budget committee a couple years, I got some understanding. All legislators should serve on this committee. Many don’t; it’s hard work.

There is a ready source for over half the initial cost of Medicaid expansion from Millennium Fund money. This is money Idaho gets from the tobacco settlement, about $20M a year. We have passed a Constitutional amendment that this money must be used to build an endowment fund, so it can’t be used directly. The Millennium endowment fund now sits at $300M. That makes over $18M a year available.

Next you have to consider what we have been doing with your tax revenues for the last 10 years. Idaho has replenished our reserve funds to the tune of over $65M a year. One of the reserve funds is now at its maximum amount allowed by law. Even with last year’s tax cut and Idaho’s revenues coming in under projections the last six months, Idaho has plenty of revenue to fund Medicaid expansion. Once we get the train moving out of the station, repeal the CAT Fund, the momentum will take care of itself.

Brad Little knows this; he served on the budget committee. Most legislative leaders know this. Don’t listen when they whine about the present they just got.

Handing over Syria


President Trump made four adversaries and an erstwhile ally extremely happy on Wednesday by announcing a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The governments of Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey, as well as the Islamic State terrorists, have been hoping, praying and clamoring for just such an American retreat. They have to be very pleased with our Commander-in-Chief.

Turkey wants to go into eastern Syria to annihilate the brave Kurds who have been fighting and dying to help the United States eliminate the ISIS threat to America. Contrary to the President’s claim that the terrorists have been defeated, about 20,000-30,000 of these dangerous cutthroats still exist and they still are intent on doing our country great harm. The President has paved the way for a Kurdish bloodbath, while letting ISIS off the hook.

The announcement is an absolute betrayal of our Kurdish allies. They had been encouraged into our fight against the Islamic State terrorists with promises by America of military support and help to establish a safe enclave for their people in eastern Syria. The Kurdish forces worked in good faith to largely destroy the ISIS forces in Syria, suffering many casualties in the process. They and the rest of the world now see that America cannot be relied upon to keep its promises.

Of course, Russia and its Iranian and Syrian allies, have got to be tickled pink by the American decision to bug out of Syria and place the fate of the Kurds in their bloody hands. It is also a victory for the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah, which has strongly supported the murderous Assad regime.

The President’s decision blindsided the Pentagon and State Department. Both had just publicly disclosed plans for continuing the American commitment to the Kurds until ISIS no longer posed a threat to our country and the Kurds were assured of peace and security. It is almost impossible to comprehend such an absolute about-face, apparently made on the spur of the moment.

Congress was also caught totally off guard as indicated by the response from Senators Lindsey Graham and Bob Corker. They and many other members of Congress have expressed surprise and befuddlement by the precipitous decision.

An immediate retreat from Syria will harm the security interests of the United States. It will let ISIS off the hook, result in untold grief for the Kurds, cause our other allies around the world to question the reliability of America, and essentially turn over the fate of the Middle East to our sworn enemies. Betraying the Kurds will come back to haunt the United States.

I was sickened by our unconscionable betrayal of an ally in 1975, when the U.S. failed to lift a finger to help the South Vietnamese turn back an invasion from the North, despite President Nixon’s iron-clad promise that our air power would be there to protect them. Nor did we make a concerted effort to evacuate our South Vietnamese friends and allies when the collapse of their country was imminent. Thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers and officials were killed or persecuted for siding with us, including many Catholic soldiers with whom I served. Let’s not let it happen again to the Kurds. If we do, what nation would want to partner up with America in the future?

Life after death


In the weeks since the November elections, Republicans in several states have reacted to losses at the polls by trying their damndest to cripple their duly elected replacements.

Acting like spoiled children on a playground who’ve lost while playing by the rules, they’ve been changing the rules. In those cases, new GOP laws (those rules) and legal responsibilities of governors, attorneys general, secretaries of state and similar officials now limit the powers of incoming Democrats.

Here, in our desert oasis, we’ve been given a similar “slap-in-the-face” by our - need I say it - Republican governor. He’s resurrected a political loser at the polls by giving her the U.S. Senate seat voters wouldn’t. Another loser “wins.”

Our two candidates to replace Sen. Jeff Flake were both members of the U.S. House. Voters in this “purple” state gave the job to the Democrat. So, the Republican was rejected with two more months in office. Most folks thought that was that.

Aha! But, wait! For defeated, voter-rejected GOP candidates, there’s “life after death.” At least for Martha McSally. Mitch McConnell’s choice for the open Seat of the late John McCain.

Former Senator John Kyl had been keeping the seat warm. But, guess what? A couple of weeks ago, Kyl said he’d quit the end of the this month, ahead of schedule, and before the January swearing in of the next Congress.

So, our Republican governor quickly announced his replacement - Martha McSally - who gets a couple of days seniority over the duly-elected Democrat. Important for choosing office space and other perks.

McSally was the made-to-order candidate for Republicans. An incumbent, of course. Pretty good on her feet when campaigning. Experienced on Capitol Hill. But, more than that, she was the first female USAF fighter pilot to see combat. A fact she kept way out in front in her campaign.

But, to me, the most important “out front” campaign claim was her repeated bald face lie that she had protected- and would continue to protect - our health care insurance, especially for those with pre-existing conditions.

Yes, a lie, if you bothered to check her recorded votes in the House the last two years. More than 50 times, she voted to kill the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare. Always “no.” Always. But, in her campaign ads, especially late in the race, there she was. Her voice. Her picture. She lied about other things as well, which seems to be accepted conduct these days for hungry office-seekers of both parties. But, who’s counting?

It was the “straight-into-the-camera” health insurance lies that were her most blatant. Black and white. Many Republican incumbents did the same this year. Some won with the lie - some didn’t. Those who won while lying did so because a poorly informed - or uninformed - electorate didn’t check and didn’t hold them accountable.

We’re living in a strange “Alice In Wonderland” political world at the moment. Where lies are used in place of truth. Where voters reject your candidacy, but you still win. Where losers in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and elsewhere rewrite laws to cripple the winners. Where South Carolina Republicans want to cancel the 2020 presidential primary so Trump won’t have opposition. Where voter laws are ignored but the “winners” still “win” and the “losers” still “lose.”

I don’t know what’s happened to the Republican Party. No more Nelson Rockefellers, Barry Goldwaters, Bob Doles, Warren Rudmans, Jim McClures, Dwight Eisenhowers, Henry Cabot Lodges.

The “law-and-order” Party now conducts law-breaking operations to stop legal asylum-seekers from entering the country to make their cases. A Republican Congress refuses to exercise its constitutionally required “checks-and-balances” on an out-of-control President who’s operating like a banana republic dictator. It allows trade wars to be started unilaterally; international treaty obligations broken. It conceals scientifically-supported reports. Cuts academic, health and scientific research funding. Denies veteran’s their full benefits. Puts thousands of children in makeshift prisons.

None of that - none - could be assigned to the Republican Party I was raised to respect. It has become a home for congressional cowardice, ruinous policy-making, treacherous behavior in our international conduct, a “home” for racists, anti-Semites and radicals and a threat to the lives of people struggling with health problems beyond their control.

A responsible political party does not do those things. Does not countenance those things. Doesn’t make losers winners.

Oh, wait. There’s Arizona.

Trump and Santa


It is well known that the President is a big fan of coal. It plays a central part in his energy program. In fact, he has repeatedly called for an increase in the mining and burning of coal. He has promised to revitalize the coal industry and bring back coal-mining jobs. During campaign appearances in coal country leading up to the midterm elections, his supporters passed out placards proclaiming “TRUMP DIGS COAL.”

Energy sector analysts point out that other sources of energy are cleaner and have become cheaper than coal, but that has not diminished the Chief’s passion for coal. He has directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to implement a program to subsidize the use of coal. Perry, the candidate who famously forgot the name of the agency he now runs during the 2016 presidential debates, is working on a plan to keep coal-fired plants running with taxpayer help.

And, the President is not afraid of ruffling a few feathers in the process. During meetings in Germany and Poland in November and December, his people touted the benefits of burning coal at meetings designed to fight climate change. While participants from almost every country were pointing out the planet-killing effects of burning coal, our guys were in there pitching for that much-maligned substance. It took some moxie to stand up for a fuel whose pollution contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths around the globe every year.

In a little-noticed report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey on Black Friday, it was disclosed that about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in our country come from coal and oil extracted from federally-controlled lands. The President wants to open up additional federal lands for extraction of fossil fuels.

Another federal report released the same day warned that damage from climate change is intensifying across the country, thanks to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels--coal and oil. The President pooh-poohed the findings of his own governmental agencies. Apparently, it is full-steam ahead with heating up the planet.

This has created a real dilemma for Santa Claus. According to some sources, Santa has placed the President on a naughty list, partly for global warming issues but also for having a standoffish relationship with the truth and a too close relationship with a bunny and a star of prurient movies. In the President’s defense, his friends Vladimir the Russian and MBS, a Saudi prince who turned a Saudi human rights advocate into hamburger, were higher up on the naughty list.

The coal-burning/global-warming issue is personal for Santa because he lives and works at the North Pole. It is not a secret that global warming is melting the ice at Santa’s workshop and he is sore that he will eventually have to move his operation or close it down.

Santa normally puts lumps of coal in the stockings of people who are on his naughty list. But, if the purpose of doing so is to admonish the naughty person, what do you do with the delinquent who actually love coal and lots of it? It presents a real dilemma for the Jolly Old Elf. My thought is that we ought to take the coal away from our leader--leave it in the ground. That would help Santa and all of the rest of us to breathe easier.