Trump is right: …it started with Ukraine.

Candidate Donald J Trump with campaign chair Paul Manafort, 2016 [Slate photo]

Trump’s claim is correct: “a lot of it started with Ukraine.” However, he’d best not be kicking that hornets’ nest. Ukraine was where the Russians perfected their election-tampering skills during their successful campaign to ensure the election of pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych as Ukraine president. The Russians later deployed techniques tested in Ukraine to ensure Trump’s election as US president in 2016.

The Russians were aided in both campaigns by Paul Manafort, who became Trump’s campaign chair in 2016. In 2013, Manafort hired Republican operative and former congressman Vin Weber’s Mercury Public Affairs firm to lobby members of the US Senate and House foreign relations committees on behalf of Yanukovych. Manafort set up the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU), where he laundered funds from Yanukovych and pro-Russian Ukraine oligarchs through a straw-donor scheme carried out by Weber and his Mercury lobbyists.  

The scheme “engaged … every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Manafort wrote in a 2013 memo to Yanukovych. That engagement included a Nov. 13, 2013, visit with the current chair of the committee, Idaho’s Sen. Jim Risch, who on Dec. 4, 2013, received $1,000 contributions each from Mercury lobbyists Weber, Ed Kutler, and Mike McSherry, who were acting as unregistered foreign agents. In early April 2014, the ECFMU paid Mercury over $218,000 in fees and “reimbursements.”  

The Mercury/ECFMU/Manafort straw-donor scheme also contributed to US House foreign committee members, including “Putin’s favorite congressman” Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, both of California, who are no longer in congress. Weber, Kutler, and McSherry have tried retroactively to update their foreign lobbying disclosures. In late August 2019, Weber resigned from Mercury Public Affairs, the lobbying group he founded, ​because of his association with Manafort and his failure to register as a foreign agent, which was still being investigated.

Trump displays his ignorance not only of what it was that actually “started with Ukraine,” but also of the technology of the election-manipulation process. In his infamous July 25 conversation with Ukraine president Zelensky, he said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike . . . [​there are ellipses here​] . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people – the server, they say Ukraine has it.”

In searching for “the server,” the Tweeter-in-Chief betrays his ignorance of the very computer networks through which he spews his own daily rants. Trump seems to believe that Ukrainians tried but failed to highjack the 2016 presidential election for Hilary Clinton and that the evidence thereof is stored in a computer hidden away in Ukraine by an anti-Trumper oligarch. Of course, there is no such “server.”

CrowdSource is the cybersecurity company that the Democratic National Committee hired to investigate the 2016 hack of its computer system, which was comprised of 140 cloud-based servers. CrowdSource traced the hack back to two groups of Russian disinformation operations. Their discoveries were confirmed by US security officers and detailed in the Mueller investigation.

A Brief History of the Friends of Military Reserve

I discovered the Fort Boise Military Reserve in 1977 during my occasional Boise visits. As the Idaho Conservation League’s first field organizer, I was in Boise every month or so. The Reserve was a virtually unknown retreat into the “outback” less than a mile from the office. During breaks from staff meetings, I had discovered hidden bowers perfect for meditation or a picnic on the grass.

I moved to Boise for good in 1978 to supervise ICL’s growing field-organizing efforts, living in several North End Boise rentals, always close to the foothills. For two years in the early-’80s, I lived half way up Bogus Basin Rd. at the Hawkins ranch, which the city recently purchased with foothills levy funds. While caretaking the 160-acre ranch, I acquired an energetic black Lab, and after we moved back into town, Boomer made sure we walked daily in the foothills, usually the Military Reserve. In fact, it was on one of his walks in 1986 that we discovered the home on the reserve boundary that we bought and have occupied for more than 30 years.

Shortly after we moved into our home on a half-acre adjacent to the reserve, Alice Dieter came calling. Alice and her husband Les, were among the first residents when Aldape Heights was subdivided in the 1950s. Les was among a team of Mountain Bell employees transferred to Boise from Denver in 1955. Alice, a writer for Sam Day’s Intermountain Observer, also was one of Idaho’s first female broadcast journalists. On the Boise Parks Board in the 1960s and ’70s, she helped shape Boise’s park system as it was transformed into a full-fledged city department under director Gordon Bowen. They successfully initiated then-controversial projects like the Greenbelt and thwarted many inappropriate ones. Alice was a force to be reckoned with.

When I welcomed Alice into our living room that afternoon in 1986, she got right down to business. “Gary,” she said, “you and I are going to start the Friends of Military Reserve.” She paused just long enough for me to understand that this was a direction, not a suggestion. “When the North End and the East End begin limiting access to foothills development, access through Military Reserve is not going to be an option,” she explained. Thus, the Friends of Military Reserve was born with Alice Dieter as its first chair. I succeeded her in 1989 and Pam Marcum succeeded me in the early ’90s, followed by Don and Marie Essig as co-chairs.

Alice had been among neighbors of the reserve who had become concerned in the 1970s when developers were seen in the reserve speculating on its development potential. With the help of neighbor Bill Dunlop, the US Dept. of Interior Solicitor for Idaho, the group pressured for a revised patent of the Military Reserve to the city that would revert the reserve back to the United States if threatened by development. The resulting 1981 “recreational and public purposes” patent includes an attached master “plan of development,” which is actually a plan to protect the reserve from development.

In addition to the concern that Mountain Cove Rd. not become a thoroughfare for foothills development, were other forms of encroachment into the reserve—off-road vehicles, decades of trash dumping, shooting and archery practice, paintball games, runoff and erosion from adjacent streets, dumping and other incursions from adjacent properties. Our first official action was to request a new survey of the reserve boundary. The survey revealed several encroachments, not the least of which was the lower portion of our own driveway.

Our neighbors across Santa Paula Ct, who built one of the first homes on the street, recalled the day in 1958 when Joe Aldape plowed his D-9 Caterpillar up the hill to carve out what became the driveway to the home we later bought, unaware of the encroachment. The reserve had only recently been patented to the city and initially was treated pretty much as a wasteland. The boundary’s location was easily overlooked at the time. Gov. Andrus’ dog’s kennel also had to be moved, along with several other encroachments. The largest incursion, 3,220 square feet adjoining the Eaton property along the reserve’s northern boundary, was finally settled with a 2001 boundary-adjustment/property-transfer creating trail and emergency access to the reserve at the end of Claremont Dr.

There were repeated attempts over the years to “upgrade” Mountain Cove Rd. in violation of the original master plan, which specified that “Parking lots and upgraded roads including the three main roads will have a gravel surface.” In 1988, likely responding to pressure from property owners, the city quietly got the BLM to sign off on a plan amendment allowing “the granting a right-of-way to the Ada County Highway District for the Mountain Cove Road and authorizes paving of the road.”

ACHD actually began preparing Mountain Cove Rd for paving. I personally confronted the crew manager and explained that the highway district did not have jurisdiction. They left. While the city had been allowed to grant right-of-way to the district, it had not yet done so. Friends of Military Reserve demanded a public hearing, which was held Oct. 30, 1990, where paving the road was overwhelmingly opposed. Yet, a year later, the Ada Planning Association proposed a Mountain Cove Parkway through the reserve. Each time the proposal to pave the road comes up, it has successfully been thwarted. My guess is that, like the proposal for a cross-foothills thoroughfare, it will continue to crop up from time to time unless a clear prohibition laid out in the reserve master plan puts that genie back in the bottle.

Relocation of the archery range out of the reserve was an issue pursued by FMR from its inception until it was finally accomplished a decade later. Initially, the archers had located a site on Hubbard Rd and were working with the county. That site eventually fell through, and the present site in the second retention basin seemed the ideal solution.

1989 Trail Blazer

It took about a decade of persistent effort to end off-road-vehicle abuse in the reserve. Emplacement of rock barriers, improved enforcement and a few high-profile prosecutions of off-roaders eventually did the trick. Part of improved enforcement was educating reserve neighbors about how to to make non-emergency requests to officers familiar with the reserve and its restrictions.

Friends of Military Reserve joined with other citizen groups and federal, state, county, and city agencies to form the Boise Front Coalition, which led to establishment of the multi-agency Ridge-to-Rivers trail system. FoMR members participated in the campaign and negotiations to save Hulls Gulch from residential development, which became Boise’s next foothills reserve.  We also helped draft the city’s first comprehensive Foothills Plan, another years-long collaborative effort of neighborhood, conservation, developer and property-owner interests.

With city leaders’ growing awareness of the value of its reserves as shown by support and implementation of the foothills/open-space levy, the need for the watchdog activities of Friends of Military Reserve seemed to diminish in the late ’90s. It is time to revisit that notion; we are awakening the watchdog lulled asleep by our past successes.

Boise’s first open-space reserve is once again threatened by development. City leaders have recently approved construction of a “world-class bike-skills park” in the Military Reserve. If it became the regional attraction some hope it to be, it would negatively affect neighborhood traffic, public safety and emergency services, as well as the natural, ecological values for which the Reserve was created.

Plans to design and build the bike-skills park in Military Reserve were developed without the open, transparent public involvement promised by the city’s Open Space Reserves plans. The city council approved the bike park development agreement without discussion as an item on its March 13, 2018, consent agenda. That action was in violation of the Boise-City-Code requirement that all park and open-space development agreements be reviewed by the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners whose recommendations are then considered by the City Council. [BCC §13-01-04(G)]

Blindsided by the Council’s action, a group of Military Reserve users and neighbors decided to resuscitate the Friends of Military Reserve. At Council President Lauren McLean’s invitation, she and President pro tempore Elaine Clegg met with 16 of us on May 14, 2018. Ms. McLean acknowledged that they’d screwed up. We asked if—in response to the widespread concerns about the lack of proper public process expressed in comments taken at the April 4th “open house”—a hearing could be held before the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Open-Space Advisory Committee to revisit the decision to build the bike-skills park in the Reserve.

Council President McLean said that it had been a unaminous vote of the council that couldn’t be reconsidered and our only opportunity for public input would be to appeal the staff-issued permits to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Thus, Friends of Military Reserve appealed the improperly authorized Floodplain and Hillside development permits. [CFH18-00051 and CFH18-00052]

We were joined in the appeal by Wildlands Defense and Great Old Broads for Wilderness. The East End Neighborhood Assn. filed a separate appeal. The basic complaint of all the appeals is the lack of the transparent, open public involvement promised in the city’s open-space reserve management plans.

There’s been no study or even discussion of the impact of the decision on traffic, parking, safety or emergency access in the nearby neighborhoods already challenged by the St. Luke’s expansion, construction of the Boise High athletic complex adjacent to Fort Boise, relocation of Hillside Elementary to the Lincoln School on Fort St. Nor has there been any analysis of the spin-off effects of a “world-class” cycling attraction on the natural ecology for which the city’s first open-space reserve was created.

Backstory

The backstory that’s emerging: Joe Scott, grandson of Joe Albertson and head of the family foundation is an avid dirt and mountain biker. He, for instance, leaned on US Sen. Jim Risch to oppose the Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness because it would limit mountain-bike access. If you’ve seen what’s happened in the foothills above the Eagle bike park, which I believe also was funded by the Albertson Foundation, we fear that’s what’s in store for the Military Reserve. We have yet to determine how and by whom MR was chosen as the site. But we know why. They want access through the reserve to the Ridge-to-Rivers trail system. The original plan for the world-class bike park had two down-hill, bike-only thrill trails in the reserve—one down a swale on the face of Eagle Ridge that would have dumped out next to a geothermal well-house, another to the north of the upper Central Ridge Trail. After we raised a stink, those were eliminated; but two more are planned, one in the Freestone drainage above MR that will dump riders onto the Central Ridge Trail (#22); another, above Hulls Gulch. Relocation of the archery range back into the “natural” part of the reserve is on hold as they seek another site. FoMR spent about a decade to get the range moved out in the ’90s, when it was located at the end of the Toll Rd at the eastern corner of the reserve.

We’re still making public records requests to piece together how it all went down, but the city is being very chary about fulfilling them. Most of the documents sought have been denied as attorney-client privilege. The process was conducted behind closed doors. According to Lauren McLean and Elaine Clegg, foothills users surveyed at trailhead entrances to the reserves 1-2 years ago said having a bike skills park was a high priority. We asked to see the surveys and the analysis; first, they were promised, then we’re told to make a PRR to obtain them. The last survey we’ve found, done in 2015 shows nary a word about a bike-skills park. However, when the 2014 Hillside-to-Hollow master plan was developed through a facilitated public involvement process, a bike-skills park was sought and sited at Hillside Park, between the jr. high and the golf course. We’re told that MR was chosen after an exhaustive siting process examining alternatives that included Hillside.

According to Jimmy Hallyburton of the Boise Bicycle Project, he and Dylan Gradhandt of the Idaho Interscholastic Cycling League, and SWIMBA began consulting on the project a couple years ago. We have yet to discover if that was a parks and rec process, the foundation’s, or both; it was not an open, transparent one. Clearly, they want a world-class attraction where they can hold regional events comparable to the X-Games at Rhodes Park, which Albertsons also funded. They even had such an event already scheduled for MR this August!

My experience organizing around environmental issues has taught me that often our “successes” have been slowing down a bad process long enough for reality to catch up. My hope is that we can force the city to fix the process by having the proposal sent back to the parks and rec dept to be presented to the parks and rec commission where it will be given a public hearing. There alternatives and impacts on the neighborhood(s) and on the natural ecology for which the reserve was created can be addressed by the proper body. The result will likely be a much better plan after all of the “stakeholders” are properly informed and their concerns heard.

The days when the rich family on the hill called the shots for the whole community should have ended centuries ago. Democracy is a messy process. It works best when community consensus is built through systematic development of informed consent.

Brundage Mountain Ski Weekend

Lakeside-2

Payette Lake—looking NNW from McCall’s Legacy Park Brundage Mountain is on the right, about eight miles north.

Ethan & Dawn

Ethan Savage & Dawn Richardson at Payette Lake—Brundage Mountain behind Dawn

Brundage Mtn from McCall, Idaho

Brundage Mountain from McCall, Idaho—looking across Payette Lake. Fully enlarged, the Lakeview chairlift and ski runs are visible. the dark spot to the left atop the peak, is the Centennial chairlift-house.

 

Dawn-Gary2

Dawn & Gary Richardson

 

2016-03-26 13.27.33

Looking SE from the Centennial chairlift upper terminal

 

watch-owl

Watch-Owl on Ethan’s Deck

 

2016-03-26 12.24.33

Ski-In, Ski-Out BBQ

 

2016-03-26 14.58.48

Après ski at Smoky’s…

aprè-ski cock-eyed

…got a little cock-eyed.

Recent images of the Boise area

 

The following are several images of the Boise area that I have published previously on my Facebook page, usually as a header or background:

000224sea of clouds

View west from Deer Point at Bogus Basin Resort

 

behind bogus2

View to the Southeast from Shafer Butte

 

foggy evening

Foggy evening sunset, Boise, Idaho

 

foggy morn2

Foggy morning, Downtown Boise from my front window

 

 

Essence of Evil

Michael D Gough and Cammie Pavesic are at work on a documentary about the effects of Idaho’s failure to add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to its human rights law. They have just released part of the project, which features Julie Zicha talking about her son, Ryan.

zichaCapture

It is a powerful piece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EBSQUCEe6zI

As I wiped away the tears, the despair in Ryan’s suicide note echoed in my mind:

Pocatello is the essence of evil. People are always judging you, pointing at you, staring at you because you’re different. I just can’t do it any more…. I can’t see another way out; I can’t deal with another day.

In a sense, not only Pocatello but Idaho’s essence is infected by the evil in our failure as a community to protect people from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. How do we right this wrong when our elected representtives refuse even to give it a hearing?

My initial impulse is to go down to the Statehouse—with several thousand fellow Idahoans. Let’s let the powers that be know that they cannot go home to run for reelection until they have completed this part of their civic (and civil) obligation: Add the Words! For more than eight years, they’ve been putting it off out of political convenience.

So far, hundreds have been willing to face arrest in this effort. What would happen if thousands showed up to insist that they Add the Words?

Zicha3

Shouldn’t we shut ’em down until they listen to Julie Zicha and many others and hear about the consequences of their inaction, which is itself a form of unjust discrimination? Let’s put an end to the foolishness of putting eradication of our wolves and arming of our campuses ahead of the equal rights of our citizens.

Why did Mike Simpson vote for then against the shutdown?

 

Thursday morning, I sent an email to Idaho’s 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson applauding his vote to end the government shutdown. I also asked for an explanation of why he voted for the shutdown in the first place when he knew as well as I what the outcome would be. Thus far, all I have received in response is this form email letter:

As you may know, I voted in support of H.R. 2775, the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014, to re-open the federal government, avoid default on our nation’s debt, and preserve the historic spending cuts Republicans have won in Congress over the last three years. It passed in the House by a vote of 285-144 after passing the Senate and has been signed into law by the President.
Of course I know that. I’d been writing him repeatedly over the previous two weeks urging just that!
My vote was about the thousands of people facing layoffs at INL, the multitude of businesses across Idaho that told me their livelihoods were at stake and the millions of folks across the country who couldn’t afford the devastating impacts of default on their investments and retirements. I strongly believe there has to be a way to address our nation’s fiscal problems without making them worse in the process. [emphasis added] That is the result I will continue working toward during the time we’ve afforded ourselves with this agreement. 
Simpson knew going in that a government shutdown would bring about these problems for his constituents, yet voted to effect the closure, and voted to end it after 16 days, the day before the furlough of those thousands of INL employees was to take effect.

The fight over Obamacare may now move to another venue, but the fight is far from over. While I strongly believe we should continue working to delay the entire law for one year, I also believe that Obamacare may collapse of its own weight. I have always said that it won’t work. I don’t believe it will contain costs. I don’t believe it will improve access. And I certainly don’t believe that it can survive the scrutiny it is sure to receive once it is fully implemented and its impacts are fully realized. At that point, Republicans will have a much stronger hand.

It was the votes of Simpson and his fellow Republicans that tried, unsuccessfully, to move the fight over Obamacare to the government shutdown “venue.” Before the shutdown, Simpson said that shutting down the government was not the correct venue for trying to derail Obamacare. So why in late September did he vote twice for versions of Huse Joint Resolution 59 that would keep the government funded through December 15 only if Obamacare were delayed for one year? “The one year delay in Obamacare just makes sense,” Simpson said in support of his vote. Three days before the shutdown, Simpson also voted to continue to pay members of the armed forces and his own personal bill to keep national parks and monuments open if the government shutdown. They passed only in the House.

This bill [H.R. 2775], while far from perfect, preserves the progress Republicans have made in reducing spending and moving toward a balanced budget. It ensures thousands of people in eastern Idaho won’t lose their jobs at INL, ends the uncertainty for Idaho businesses that have been impacted by the shutdown and are terrified of default, and it gives Congress the time to approach our budget challenges in an honest, collaborative, comprehensive, and enduring way over the next few months. I am deeply hopeful that we will now look toward a grand bargain, or ‘big’ solution that includes spending cuts, tax reform, and entitlement reform. The American people understand that doing so will require tough decisions, difficult sacrifices, and political courage. I am ready to face those tough decisions and I hope a majority of my colleagues in the House and Senate are ready to do so as well.
I’m not holding my breath. Of course, the “progress” in reducing spending and moving toward a balanced budget was the bipartisan “sequestration” that cut government expenditures across the board. It is interesting to see Simpson claiming this meat-ax approach to the federal budget, with which few in either party are happy,  as a Republican accomplishment.
What is Simpson’s political calculation with this switching back and forth, first publicly acknowledging that hijacking the government to stop Obamacare was not a good idea, then voting twice for HJR 59 and, finally, after 16 days and  an estimated $16- to $24-billion hit to the country’s economy, voting to end the shutdown. A glance at the several hundred comments on Simpson’s Facebook page tells the story of what he’s up against.