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Colley: Otter's impressive town hall

Give Gov. Otter some credit. I managed to attend the afternoon session of Capital for a Day in Hansen. I pulled up a chair in the back of the room and mostly listened. Friday’s gathering was Otter’s 91st town hall. These are daylong affairs. When I came home I posted some pictures to Facebook. Within five minutes a guy grumbled the governor was spending our tax dollars campaigning. A few issues with the ranting reply. Otter isn’t any longer looking for votes. Now in his mid-70s he has been through 25 elections and plans no more. Two, there are better places to campaign than Hansen. Nothing against it but even on a good day there aren’t a lot of votes cast. You campaign in the modern age mainly in cities and make it easy for local media (based mostly in cities) to cover your events. Lastly, if the man had never taken the show on the road people would grouse he isn’t accessible.

When I was a young fellow I had a boss with a very short fuse. One day he hectored me for hours and I thought I was alone in thinking he was nitpicking. A woman I worked with walked over and whispered. “If you dropped dead today he would complain you fell the wrong way,” she offered. This is what a lot of the criticism of Otter to me sounds like.

The social media crowd just shoots from the hip. I posted a link to Rachel Maddow last week. Immediately the “she’s an idiot” chorus sounded off. Maddow may have many faults and I don’t agree with her on much of anything but the woman isn’t an idiot. The chorus would likely be left silent in any debate with the woman. Why? Because she’s much more prepared than just calling the opposition stupid. You know what really sounds dumb? Calling everyone you disagree with an “idiot.” Thank you for giving the opposition ammunition. They then can claim you’ve emptied the quiver with three words and have nothing else to say.

Some observations from Capital for a Day: I get a lot of complaints about all politicians from my audience. There were 70 guest chairs and the meeting was open to the public. At best 30 seats were filled and only near the end of the program. The governor opened the floor to any and all questions. There was no limit on follow up questions. I’ll mention the man and his staff also ended every discussion asking if the question or questions had been answered. At one point Gov. Otter gave me the best explanation on private property rights I’ve ever heard from a modern politician (more on that later). There are going to be people who’ll say the daytime schedule excludes them. Since many people also work nights or third shifts someone is always going to be excluded. Life isn’t fair. There was plenty of notice about the session. I brought it up several times on-air.

Two people who couldn’t make it suggested I ask some questions. I did. If you’ve got friends some likely had the day off and could’ve done the same for you. One of my questions was about our local airport. People tell me it’s in the wrong place. At one time it was in the right place but organic growth leaves it nowhere near the interstate and the booming business end of the county. Because of a natural barrier any serious move would require cooperation between governments. However, the commissioners of Jerome County and the mayor of Jerome weren’t elected to represent Twin Falls. New airports are also very expensive. What I’ve just written is a paraphrase of a reply from a member of the governor’s cabinet. We may not like it but label it reality.

My other question dealt with tourism. Some people may not like tourists (admittedly some are obnoxious) but it’s a growing industry and Idaho is a booming destination. Diverse economies are necessary in our modern world as a hedge against bubbles bursting and recessions. Driving to some of our local sights the previous weekend I was dismayed by some of the unkempt properties I passed. Ma and Pa Kettle may not care about tourists but tourists care about what they see. Even run down Niagara Falls has a lovely parkway to the main attraction. Or it did when I last visited. Local tourism officials read my complaint and wanted to know if I had any ideas. I suggested I would ask the governor. His reply was Goldwateresque. He spoke of laws against roadside litter and dumping and I’ll admit compared from where I’ve lived before coming here the laws look to be effective and, yet, when it comes to private property government has another role. To paraphrase the man the state of Idaho isn’t your mother. If you choose to have a messy yard it’s your right and government isn’t going to badger you about a bedrock of liberty.

There are days when I’m driving home and look to the north and see the mountains and it almost chokes me up. I thank the Lord for allowing me to see His creation. I also know our rights are God-given. Governor Otter is spot on. I did, however, tell the man I’m not the governor and if he didn’t mind I was going to nag you all like heck about messy yards.


Columns
Other view: 9 questions senators should ask Gorsuch

Hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court begin on Monday. Just in case members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are having trouble coming up with questions, here are a few I would like to see asked.

1. The Supreme Court in its early decades rarely set aside federal laws. It first did so in 1803, and went another 54 years before doing it again. So at least one of the following three things would seem to be true. Either the federal government now enacts a lot more unconstitutional laws; or the justices gained a better understanding of their jobs as the Founding receded into history; or the Court has seized more and more power from the other branches. Which explanation makes the most sense?

2. The 1958 case Cooper v. Aaron marked the first time the Court claimed that its decisions on the meaning of the Constitution themselves count as the supreme law of the land. Was it right? Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, rejected the idea that “the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court.” Was he wrong?

3. Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution says that Congress may make “exceptions” and “regulations” to the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Some people argue that Congress may use that power, and a similar power over the lower federal courts, to shield particular federal laws from judicial review. Do you agree?

4. From the 1820s onward, the Supreme Court has taken the Constitution’s grant of power to regulate interstate commerce to mean that the Court should block states when they try to regulate it. In recent years, conservative justices have argued that this “negative” or “dormant” commerce clause is an illegitimate judicial invention—and you went out of your way to mention their position in one of your own judicial opinions. Isn’t the clause simply an inference from the constitutional text, like the power of judicial review itself?

5. The Court’s annual docket has shrunk over time. Has that reduction been good for the rule of law, the separation of powers, federalism, and constitutional government in general?

6. Are there circumstances in which an otherwise constitutionally sound policy might be rendered unsound based on the intent of the officials who established it, as expressed in their public statements and those of their associates?

7. As has been widely reported, you studied at Oxford under John Finnis, author of Natural Law and Natural Rights. Our Declaration of Independence rests its claims of equality and unalienable rights on “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” How should principles of natural law inform the work of a judge, particularly when considering a law that may seem to contradict those principles?

8. If a Supreme Court precedent interpreted the Constitution incorrectly, is that sufficient reason to overturn it? That seems to be the position of Justice Clarence Thomas. If he is wrong, what else is necessary to overturn a constitutional precedent?

9. Everyone agrees that it would be improper for a nominee to commit during his confirmation hearings to decide possible future cases in particular ways. Because of that concern, nominees usually get away with refusing to share their views about what the Constitution says about controversial topics. But the Court exercises vast power over American life. When it makes a mistake, what checks are there on it? The constitutional amendment process is difficult by design; we’re not supposed to ask future judges if they will correct particular mistakes; and even our criticisms of the courts are taken to be threats to judicial independence. So what are we supposed to do?

Other, that is, than voting to confirm you.


Columns
Other view: The skills-based immigration policy America needs

The following editorial appear s on Bloomberg View:

Occasionally President Donald Trump tweets something worthwhile. Such was the case earlier this month when he praised the skills-based immigration systems of Canada and Australia.

Canada, which in 1967 became the first nation to use a points system, grades applicants to its Federal Skilled Worker Program on six factors: work experience, education, language ability, age, arranged employment and a more subjective measure of “adaptability.” To be eligible for a permanent resident visa, an applicant must accumulate enough points in the various categories to “pass.”

The result is that about 60 percent of permanent residents admitted to Canada are admitted for economic reasons. (Others are admitted mostly on the basis of family ties or refugee status.) In other words: Canada values high skills, and selects its immigrants accordingly.

It’s no mystery why. Studies show that skilled immigrants increase productivity, create jobs and spark entrepreneurship. One-quarter of technology and engineering firms established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 had at least one immigrant founder. U.S. immigrants are responsible for a disproportionately high number of international patent applications. Roughly 40 percent of Indian immigrants to the U.S., for example, have a graduate degree, almost four times the rate of native-born Americans.

U.S. immigration law currently values family ties over skills. A points system similar to Canada’s would reverse that preference. Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia have introduced legislation to accomplish such a switch, scaling back family-based migration to the spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

But the bill would also drastically reduce immigration overall. It would end the 50,000 annual “diversity visas,” a lottery system that admits immigrants from countries with historically low rates of immigration, and it would cap green cards for refugees at 50,000. Its sponsors’ aim is to reduce immigration by 50 percent in 10 years — to about 540,000 annually.

Recalibrating U.S. immigration policy to prioritize high skills makes sense. Cutting overall immigration levels in half, however, is too a high price to pay. To keep their skills pipeline stocked, both Canada and Australia welcome a higher percentage of immigrants, based on national population, than the U.S. does — more than twice as high, in fact.

The question of whether unskilled immigration suppresses wages at the low end of the labor market is much in dispute. Meanwhile, the H-1B program for temporary work visas has been subject to fraud and abuse, and often hurts mid-level U.S. employees, some of whom have trained their own replacements.

By contrast, there is little question of the benefits of highly skilled immigrants. Even if a flood of such immigrants — and no one is recommending an open invitation — slightly depressed wages for people with PhDs in science and technology, the result would be a gentle corrective to four decades of rising inequality based largely on skills.

Immigration politics remains highly contentious. Trump was elected in part on an anti-immigrant wave, and there is little support for the current system, which affords too little consideration of economic goals. A points system similar to those used in Canada and Australia could rectify that mistake. But if it proves to be a ruse for clamping down on immigration indiscriminately, the U.S. will fall behind in the global competition for talent. You can’t score points without the right players.