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Posts published in February 2020

A case for “term limits”


We just returned from a visit to Hawaii’s “Big Island” where we observed a public notice sign on Alii Drive–the posh oceanfront street packed with hotels and condos.

The proposed project included “60 condos and 20 AFFORDABLE HOUSING units!” That prompted us to ponder just exactly what constituted “affordable” on the trendy real estate? Then, we realized the local lingo seems to be the same throughout the USA.

With that in mind the GUARDIAN has compiled a list of terms which can mean whatever the politicos want them to mean.




REVENUE–a term used to disguise “tax money taken from the hard earned wages of local citizens, usually against their wishes.

CLAWBACK–A way to grab REVENUE previously not collected.


TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR–Formerly called streets, but includes bike lanes, pedestrian routes, street cars, scooters, electric bikes, and some autos.

ROUNDABOUT–A junction of two TRAFFIC CORRIDORS where it is difficult for HOMELESS to solicit because cars don’t stop.

MASS TRANSIT–Church bus for Catholics or use of TRAFFIC CORRIDORS.

INFILL–Result of INCREASED DENSITY and justification for MASS TRANSIT.

BICYCLE FRIENDLY–Motorists who stay out of SHARROW lanes to make a right turn.

SUSTAINABILITY–The ability to keep collecting REVENUES.

GREEN CERTIFICATION–A government declaration of color. Not red, yellow or blue. The certification can lead to SUSTAINABILITY.

INCENTIVES–Payments and tax breaks for DEVELOPERS and businesses seeking to exploit Idahoans. These lead to increased density and the clamor for GREEN CERTIFIED BUILDINGS.



Anger and citrus


"Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office. ... (Sen. Marco Rubio 1/31/20)

Taken alone, that hideous piece of convoluted “thinking” can be brushed off as the ignorant rumination of a nutcase devoid of political savvy. Taken as the cloak chosen to hide behind by 50 other Republican U.S. Senators on a vote leading to impeachment of the President of the United States, it’s ludicrous.

When the vote total on the TV screen showed 49-51 to prevent witnesses from being called to testify on Trump’s incredible misuse of power, the founder’s creation of a balanced governmental structure was deliberately attacked. Further votes this week will - at least for now - shift that power to the executive and render congressional and judicial authority to minority roles.

Disappointed? Yes! Angry? Yes! Mad as Hell? Absolutely!

Over a lengthy lifetime, many of us develop protection mechanisms to maintain our sanity and avoid - as much as possible - responding to outrageous events irresponsibly. We try to avoid immediate striking out or venting our extreme disappointment in destructive behavior.

My personal “shield” against irresponsible reactions at those times is to focus on one or more diversions. Like citrus.

Outside my office window there are three trees loaded with ripe citrus: oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. On the other side of the yard, a loaded lemon tree. Hell of a change for a Pacific Northwest boy used to pines, sagebrush, apple, peach, pear and cherry trees.

There are no individual fences in our neighborhood. So, standing in the backyard, I can look a couple of hundred yards away and see dozens of citrus trees with loads ready for the picking. Or gleaning.

First year here, when everything was ripe for picking, I tried to do so. Big, big mistake. Unlike other fruit trees, citrus tree branches are hard, unbending and sharp. Though the citrus may be ripe, it’s almost as if the trees are intent on keeping their burden.

After a couple of minutes - and learning citrus fruit require a strong, two-handed pull to separate fruit from branch - my arms were bloody up to the elbows. I realized, then, why the Hispanics who trim and shape such trees during the year wear long-sleeved shirts - even when the temperatures reach into the 100's.

So, we contacted a local church with members who form volunteer gleaning teams each Spring. For a donation of about $40, a team of 10-15 will descend on your lot, spread tarps under each tree and clean them all in about 20 minutes. Like the Hispanic landscapers, they’re dressed for the task. Long sleeves. The church makes some extra money and the fruit goes to several local food banks. Win-win.

As a couple of lifelong Northwesterners, Barb and I are still not really acclimated to desert living. But, when you can go out in your own backyard, pick oranges, juice ‘em and learn what real orange juice tastes like, well, you can’t do that in Pocatello.

Using thoughts of picking oranges, tangerines and grapefruit to keep from thinking about how 51 Republican Senators purposefully destroyed, at least for now, the balance of government in our nation?


Thinking of how to care for citrus trees for a year and enjoying the bounty they produced this week instead of thoughts of what our dictator-wannabe will attack and destroy in the next 11 months with nearly unchecked, ill-gotten power?


Trying to assuage thoughts of how 51 self-serving politicians opted to vote in a manner undercutting 244 years of observance of laws based on the U.S. Constitution to keep their own assess in office rather than do their “sworn” responsibility?


Attempting to understand how 51 people can swear to God in their acceptance of elected office, then swear to the Almighty again to be impartial jurors, then violate both sacred oaths out of fear for one man proven to have repeatedly broken many laws under which we live?


I feel anger. I feel a sense of loss. I feel betrayed. I feel scorn for 51 oath-takers who violated oaths and the duties of their offices who, likely, will never face voter retribution. Like Risch and Crapo.

There are 51 MAGA hats in the Senate. And one on a head from Florida who’s trying to justify himself by turning truth, law and his sworn oaths into jibberish.

But, at least for now, I’m going out to pick a couple of oranges and then enjoy something really good.

And Marco Rubio can go straight to Hell!

Potato futures


The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC), Potatoes USA and the National Potato Council – all separate entities with distinct objectives – are adopting a three-pronged approach to advance potato sales nationwide and internationally by aggressively uniting to stress the nutritional value and benefits of spuds.

Established in 1937, the IPC promotes the “Grown in Idaho” seal, a federally registered trademark, and protects it from countries and other states who falsely claim their products actually are Idaho's most famous cash crop, profiting on the esteemed reputation of the Gem State's spuds.

(photo/From left to right, Michael Wenkel, Kimberly Breshears and Frank Muir discuss Idaho's potato industry in Pocatello/by Mark Mendiola)

Potatoes USA, based in Denver, is the marketing organization for 2,500 commercial potato growers operating in the United States, promoting fresh table-stock potatoes, fresh chipping potatoes, seed potatoes, frozen potato products and dehydrated potato products.

The National Potato Council, a lobbying organization, advocates for the economic well-being of American potato growers on federal legislative, regulatory, environmental and trade issues.

Frank Muir, Idaho Potato Commission president and CEO; Kimberly Breshears, Potatoes USA marketing vice president, and Michael Wenkel, National Potato Council chief operating officer, appeared together as panelists at the recent 2020 Idaho Potato Conference at Idaho State University in Pocatello to discuss critical issues impacting Idaho's $1.8 billion potato industry.

Randy Hardy, an Oakley farmer who has served on the National Potato Council's executive committee, moderated the panel discussion. He asked the participants to explain their respective organizations, objectives and challenges. It was brought out that efforts are under way to persuade companies to build their next potato processing plants in Idaho.
Breshears said the sole mission of Potatoes USA is to strengthen the long-term demand for potatoes. “We are continually working on issues that impact the industry. … Part of our role is to protect the financial reputation of the potato industry.”

Boosting exports and increasing demand are always top priorities, Breshears said, noting 20 percent of American potatoes are exported. Potatoes USA meets regularly with food service, retail, culinary and school food representatives to get their input.

“The last three years potatoes have been ranked as the number one vegetable. A decade ago they were seventh or eighth on the list,” Breshears said, adding that Potatoes USA has been diligent the past two years refuting social media chatter that potatoes are fattening and high in carbohydrates, changing the dialogue. “We need carbohydrates … They actually help fuel performance.”

Referring to the National Potato Council, Wenkel replied: “We stand up for potatoes on Capitol Hill.” He added: “Despite what you may think is happening in D.C., there are a lot of good things happening in Washington.” The National Potato Council COO noted the new Farm Bill is loaded with benefits for farmers.

Wenkel commended the enactment of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, calling it “very important.” He also stressed the importance of monitoring Japanese tariffs and being able to identify gaps in research. The National Potato Council and Potatoes USA work closely to change negative perceptions of eating potatoes, he said.

At a recent American Farm Bureau convention attended by President Trump, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on Michelle Obama's birthday that her public school nutrition guidelines have been “basically thrown out the window. … All the Obama era guidelines are gone,” Wenkel said, pointing out students can now eat hamburgers and french fries for lunch.

The IPC and Potatoes USA both strongly emphasize the nutritional worth of potatoes, Muir said, remarking that IPC Vice President Patrick Kole spends about as much time in Washington as Trump.

Other states and nations as diverse as India and Uruguay continue to plagiarize the Idaho potatoes brand, Muir said, noting the IPC adheres to the same mission statement it issued about 17 years ago.

Muir stressed that the reputation and name recognition of Idaho potatoes are “important to you as growers. It's your bottom line.” The IPC president said a research firm determined that when inflation is taken out, the trend line for potatoes has gone town the past 15 years in real dollars.

Idaho's potato production adds about $1.8 billion to the state's economy as opposed to $400 million 15 years ago, Muir said. Programs are modified to move the crops so potatoes are not dumped and fed to cows. The IPC's public relations campaigns have been effective in getting potatoes added to restaurant menus.

Muir noted that Lamb-Weston has committed to supporting the “Grown in Idaho” brand. In 1981, only about 19 percent of respondents indicated they were familiar with the Idaho potato brand, but that since has climbed to nearly 90 percent. The “Grown in Idaho” brand is one of the most recognized names on the market, Muir said.

Potato USA, the IPC and the National Potato Council especially appreciate growers, Breshears said. “Growers are everything to us. Growers help us understand their challenges and concerns.”

Rage and grief


In the aftermath of the Senate vote to disallow witnesses in the impeachment trial of president Trump, I feel both numbing rage and profound grief. My anger is directed at the GOP senators who willingly buried their heads in the sand, blithely putting party before country, and knowingly propping up a guilty, unstable narcissist demonstrably mad with power.

Likewise, my grief comes at the hands of these same senators, who – whether out of pathetic fear or simply a shameless need to run with their pack – have struck a deeply wounding blow to our republic. It feels almost, but not quite, like a death.

Our republic is on life support. It seems it can no longer breathe on its own, and – if given the chance – Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and their cohort would smother it in its sleep. After all, that is what they have been doing, albeit in slow motion, for years.

They have been venal and corruptible and contemptible. They have shown themselves to care far more for unfettered power than for the rule of law. You will recall that McConnell refused Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, so much as a hearing. And why was that?

McConnell simply declared it wrong for the Senate to consider a nominee in a presidential election year. But merely months ago, when asked what the Senate would do in the event of a vacancy on the court this election year, McConnell grinned a hypocritical grin and said, “Oh, we’d fill it.”

And in that terse soundbite McConnell admitted that for three years he had only been pretending to act on principle. The truth was clear: McConnell had buried the Garland nomination because Garland was nominated by a Democrat. Now that a Republican is in the White House, McConnell’s concern about a president filling a Supreme Court judicial vacancy in an election year has vanished. It was never about principle. It was always about raw power.

The Democratic House managers cautioned the Republican senators that their actions in this just-for-show trial would set a chilling precedent, that by sanctioning Trump’s egregious conduct they would be affirming his decidedly dictatorial statement that, as president, he can “do whatever I want.” They cautioned that the same norm would have to apply to other presidents, going forward, including Democratic presidents. I could almost hear McConnell chuckling in his beer. “Yeah, right,” he would mutter, “when hell freezes over.”

So, now it’s up to us, we the people. It always has been really. None of us can successfully vanquish evil alone; thankfully, we are in this fight together.

And through our rage and grief, we would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr., an exemplar of resilience and resistance. Long ago he taught us: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Thus, we can condemn the crime and the cover-up and those who callously perpetrated both while loving our republic and staying true to its highest, founding principles. After all, patients on life support can, and do, recover.

So, on this day full of rage and grief, let us not abandon hope. Let us rededicate ourselves to winning back our country by building on our majority in the House, flipping the Senate, and electing a Democratic president. Let us go forward with renewed determination to ensure that we revive our republic.

Can’t be done


And again, as Iowans prepare to caucus, we see fresh rounds of political punditry proclaiming that this candidate or that just can’t win - not in the Democratic nominating process, then in November.

You can match examples of this in major outlets and small ones, in a steady stream. And it may go on, as analysts point out the history of candidate types - types along the lines of the current crop - who have failed before.

That history is all there. But consider the history of presidents past who got there by election and, well, apparently shouldn’t have.

2016: Donald Trump can’t win because he has no political background, gaffes and creates uproar everywhere he goes, and isn’t even well supported in his party of choice, to which he’s a newcomer. (And Hillary Clinton was female which, of course, led to a lot of second-guessing, along with the many controversies attached to her.)

2008: Barack Obama’s race was of course a deal-breaker, even if the polls didn’t say so (people could well be lying). And he was an unabashed liberal on top of that, of which none had been elected since either Kennedy or Johnson, depending on how you count.

2000: George W. Bush is a close family member of a recent president - surely a big disability, since no such had been elected in more than a century.

1992: Bill Clinton is enmeshed (even then) in sex scandals and other issues that were of course absolute death blows for a serious presidential candidate (consider Gary Hart only a few years earlier).

1988: Not since the Democratic run of the 30s and 40s had a party held the presidency for three consecutive terms, and here was a vice president, George H.W. Bush, trying to break that trend - a vice president who had run for president himself eight years earlier and didn’t get far.

1980: Ronald Reagan is way too conservative to be electable, just the kind of extremist voters rejected (see Barry Goldwater) only a few cycles earlier. He had been divorced - he would be the first with that on his record - and a Hollywood type reliant on support from religious conservatives.

1976: Jimmy Carter is a little-known and unlikely prospect from the start, totally different from recent Democratic standard bearers, who were or had been usually senators or at least top party leaders. And as a moderate in the party, he had little strong support base.

1968: Richard Nixon? Really? He’s a has-been, failed in a presidential race eight years earlier and even in a governor’s race after that, after which he said he was giving up on politics, never a wise move for a prospective candidate. Running Mr. Controversy - everyone had a strong opinion about the man - in the middle of one of the hottest political periods in the nation’s history? Ridiculous.

1960: John Kennedy is a Catholic - remember when aco-religionist was badly beaten some cycles back? He’s young and young looking and doesn’t have a very impressive Senate record, and matching him up against people like Vice President Nixon, Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and highly visible Senator Hubert Humphrey seems like not even a fair fight.

And so on it goes.

Every election cycle we learn new things, and one of them is this: Another thing that can’t be done, until it is.

It’s the truth


Jim Lehrer, the old school journalist who helped invent a sane and sober television news program on public television that he co-hosted for years with Robert MacNeil, died recently and his passing is a reminder of how imperiled the craft of gathering and reporting the news has become.

“I have an old-fashioned view that news is not a commodity,” Lehrer told The American Journalism Review in 2001. “News is information that’s required in a democratic society, and Thomas Jefferson said a democracy is dependent on an informed citizenry. That sounds corny, but I don’t care whether it sounds corny or not. It’s the truth.”

Lehrer’s death and his warning about the commodification of news ironically coincide with a sham impeachment trial in the Senate that featured the president’s defenders shamelessly repeating Russian propaganda. In the same period we’ve seen an attack by the secretary of state aimed at both the truth and a distinguished reporter for National Public Radio, the Fox News host Lou Dobbs bizarrely asserting that life-long Republican John Bolton is a tool of liberal Democrats and Senate leadership eliminating the long established practice that allowed reporters easy access to the senators in the Capitol.

Literally from its first day the Trump Administration has been at war with the truth, and with reporters and legitimate news organizations that try to discover the truth. It has been a systematic, unrelenting assault on a free press unprecedented in its scope and only rivaled by similar tactics employed by Richard Nixon a generation or more ago.

But where Nixon – and his later criminally implicated vice president Spiro Agnew – kept “enemies lists” and tried to use the Federal Communications Commission to intimidate broadcasters, Trump isn’t nearly as subtle. As always incendiary rhetoric is his weapon of choice, from calling out individual reporters by name to labeling any report critical of him “fake” and reducing journalists to “enemies of the people.”

“It’s insidious, it’s aimed to intimidate, it’s a kind of dragging through the mud effort, a character assassination from as best as we can tell, and it’s alarming,” says Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America, a leading free speech and human rights group. Nossel was reacting to reports that Trump campaign operatives were determined to plant derogatory information about reporters deemed critical of the president with pro-Trump outlets.

“We need the press to do its job. We depend on them to hold politicians to account, to cover what’s going to be a very fractious campaign.”

Trump’s toxic treatment of reporters is clearly spreading. Republican Senator Martha McSally, one of this year’s endangered incumbents, recently called a CNN reporter “a liberal hack” after the reporter asked her a simple, straightforward question: should the Senate consider new information in the impeachment trial.

It wasn’t a “gotcha” question, wasn’t asked abusively and was completely legitimate. The encounter went viral, which may have been McSally’s motive, and within hours she was raising campaign cash based upon the phony courage standing up to a reporter with a microphone.

Idaho Senator Jim Risch has long had a contentious relationship with reporters, often popping off when he asked a question he’d rather not answer. “Oh, I don’t do interviews on any of that stuff,” Risch told the Washington Post when questioned about Trump’s shifting explanations on efforts to buy the silence of women who claimed sexual dalliances with him.

When the obvious follow up was asked – why not? Risch responded, “I don’t do any interviews on anything to do with Trump and that sort of thing, okay?” He then slipped into the Senate chamber.

Last year when an Idaho radio reporter tried to ask Risch if it was appropriate for the president to implore China to investigate Joe Biden, Risch lost his cool, refused to answer and then walked away telling the reporter “don’t do that again.”

Risch almost certainly smiled his approval of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent silly run in with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly. The two men are thin-skinned reactionaries who hate the scrutiny real reporters represent. You won’t be surprised that Risch has called Pompeo “a really good friend of mine,” adding, “he and I have very similar views on life in general.”

That’s true, of course. Risch was once a Trump critic and is now among his biggest defenders. So, too, with Pompeo who in 2016 said a President Trump would be “an authoritarian President” who would ignore the Constitution. Now the blustering secretary of state and the subservient senator vie to be a Trump “mini-me.”

Asked to explain his unwillingness to defend a career State Department official, former ambassador Maria Yovanovitch, who has been slimed by Trump after being dismissed in what surely was an effort to further the president’s misconduct in Ukraine, Pompeo blamed a reporter for having the audacity to question a great man. Then he lied about the circumstances that led to the interview.

The incident was Pompeo’s “don’t do that again” moment, particularly after he threated Kelly with “people will hear about this.” He then doubled down by banning another NPR journalist from the group covering a trip to Europe. And naturally Trump praised Pompeo’s brutish behavior.

Years ago I managed press relations for an Idaho governor who admittedly didn’t always enjoy handling a tough question from a reporter, but who nonetheless recognized it was a requirement for serving in public office. I’ve forgotten the specific budget issue at stake all these years later, but I remember Democrat Cecil Andrus asking his budget director Chuck Moss if a certain administration initiative could successfully make its way through the Republican legislature. Moss deadpanned that the idea could probably be sold to lawmakers, but “we might not get it past Fick,” a reference to the irascible, deeply informed Associated Press statehouse correspondent, Bob Fick.

Andrus knew if he couldn’t explain his idea to a reporter who understood the state budget better than any legislator he was going to pay for it. Fick was dogged enough in his pursuit of a story that he would occasionally park himself next to the governor’s car in front of the Statehouse in order to buttonhole the chief executive on his way to lunch.

Frankly, that’s the way it is supposed to work. These politicians work for us. Good reporters, and there are a lot of good reporters, go to work every day trying to keep the bastards honest. It’s hard and vital work, particularly when politicians with authoritarian instincts are trying to hide things.

Kelly, the NPR reporter, said as much in an article in the New York Times that was both more substantive and credible than anything Pompeo – or Risch for that matter – has said in the last year. “There is a reason that freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution,” Kelly wrote. “There is a reason it matters that people in positions of power — people charged with steering the foreign policy of entire nations — be held to account. The stakes are too high for their impulses and decisions not to be examined in as thoughtful and rigorous an interview as is possible.”