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Other View: The GOP isn't the party of family values

Jennifer Rubin

The Washington Post reports:

“Visitors from six predominantly Muslim nations will be denied visas to the United States under new guidelines that take effect Thursday night unless they can prove very close family ties to someone already in the country or an institution such as a workplace or university.

“The rules sent to diplomatic posts worldwide Wednesday prompted immediate criticism for the narrow and somewhat quirky definition of close family. A son-in-law or a step-daughter can get in, but a grandmother or uncle cannot. Senior administration officials said they drew up the list of close relationships based on the definition of family in the Immigration and Nationality Act passed almost 50 years ago.”

You might chalk this up to mindless bureaucratic rulemaking (not so different than picking the seven countries in the first Muslim ban because they were lumped together in the Obama administration—for an entirely different purpose). You might conclude that the Trump people, to borrow a term, are just plain “mean.” A grandmother who helped raise you is dying but you can’t go visit her? Pshaw, say the Trumpkins. You lived with your aunt and uncle when your parents were deployed overseas and now can’t go to their wedding anniversary party? Too bad! You might instead reach the conclusion that there is nothing more important to the Trump crowd than throwing red meat to the base, which often entails demonizing and persecuting minorities. These are not mutually exclusive explanations.

Can one imagine what the values-voter crowd would have said had President Barack Obama promulgated some such rule? They’d scream that he was attacking family voters and lacked an appreciation of the importance of extended family. They’d point out that this is what happens when a big, coldhearted bureaucracy starts meddling in people’s lives for spurious reasons. Now, they say nothing.

Republicans have long claimed the value of “freedom.” Freedom not to buy health care. Freedom not to pay much in taxes. Freedom to run your business as one sees fit. (But of course these can become nonsensical in the real world—the freedom to lose Medicaid; the freedom to live in a country that passes on debt because it won’t pay for services it demands; and the freedom to pollute. Really, people, that’s your ideal?) Ironically, the whole Muslim-ban farce—and we know it’s a farce because we have passed the time necessary to develop extreme vetting, the stated excuse for the ban—tramples on two fundamental rights. Republicans used to understand that freedom of religious expression protected all faiths. Republicans used to believe that freedom to travel—which is inseparable from the right to make your life as you see fit—is essential. Now they are in the business of deciding what “real” family is and which life events one can miss. (It’s only Grandpa’s funeral!?) This is big government run amok.

The family-values crowd is mute, leaving it to civil liberties and immigration groups to stand up for families. The Post reported:

“’Defining close family to exclude grandparents, cousins, and other relatives defies common sense,’ said Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates, a civil rights group that plans to send monitors to Dulles International Airport on Thursday night.

“Cornell University Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr, who has written volumes of legal books on immigration law, said the travel ban would have barred many refugees who came to the United States years ago and have caused no problems. Among them are the Lost Boys of Sudan and children orphaned by famine and war.

“’Similarly, why can a stepsister visit the United States but not a grandmother?’ he asked. ‘The State Department should vet visa applicants on a case-by-case basis for terrorism concerns, not impose overly broad categories that prevent innocent people from coming to this country.’ . . .

“Amnesty International called on Congress to overturn the travel ban and said it will dispatch monitors to airports to observe whether anyone is denied entry. ‘Separating families based on these definitions is simply heartless,’ Naureen Shah, director of campaigns for Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. ‘It further proves the callous and discriminatory nature of Trump’s Muslim ban.’”

The GOP and its evangelical conservative helpmates could learn a thing or two about family by listening to these groups.

Other View: N.Korea is no place for U.S. tourist travel

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

It’s easier for American tourists to travel to North Korea than to Cuba. It’s also more dangerous, as the death this week of college student Otto Warmbier after 17 months of North Korean captivity shows.

But never mind the absurdity of President Donald Trump’s reimposition of travel restrictions to a relatively open and safe island 90 miles off the American coast. To prevent future deaths and protect U.S. national security, Congress should ban U.S. tourist travel to Kim Jong Un’s reclusive police state.

True, North Korea is not exactly a popular destination for U.S. tourists. Of the 100,000 foreigners who visited North Korea in 2016, slightly more than 1 percent were American (most were Chinese). North Korea’s efforts to spark a tourist boom — including by loosening its restrictions on U.S. tourists in 2010 — have been a bust.

What U.S. travelers to North Korea have provided the regime, unfortunately, is a ready supply of hostages. These Americans are then used as pawns in diplomatic negotiations with the U.S. Over the last decade, at least 17 U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea, and three remain in captivity.

A bipartisan bill in the House would ban U.S. tourist travel and penalize those who seek to arrange it. (Travel for other purposes — humanitarian assistance, for instance — would still be possible on a case-by-case basis.) Congress should pass it speedily.

The U.S. should also make clear to South Korea that, under current conditions, plans to use a North Korean ski resort in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul would be seen less as a peace gesture to the North than as a slap in the face to Americans.

Our View: Keep firefighters in mind this Fourth of July

This week the Attorney General’s office released an opinion in which they stated buying, not just lighting, aerial fireworks is illegal in Idaho. Now fireworks retailers and revelers alike are finding themselves in a quandary.

For as long as many can remember, there has been ambiguity around Idaho’s aerial fireworks law. Until this week, most believed you could buy them, as long as you did not light them. Now that is akin to giving a 5-year-old a lollipop and telling him not to eat it.

We don’t think the Attorney General was trying to damper anyone’s festivities this Tuesday. While some think his timing was suspect, his office issued the opinion at the request of Democratic Rep. Mat Erpelding of Boise. Erpelding was concerned about the risks and damage caused by the skyward rockets. And rightfully so.

Fires caused by fireworks are serious in a desert climate such as ours. It takes only a few seconds and we can suddenly see our backyards scorched. Fighting these fires and paying for the resulting damage can be costly. Just ask a 19-year-old Ada County man who was court ordered to pay $391,000 in damages for a fire he started last year in the Boise foothills. That turned out to be one expensive Roman candle.

There is also the fact that for every fire caused by fireworks, a firefighter’s safety is put in jeopardy. We applaud the life-saving work these public servants do, and we believe in doing all that we personally can do to keep them safe. It seems that using common sense in choosing fireworks is a small price to pay to support their efforts.

The Idaho Legislature discussed closing the loop-hole this past session, and nothing happened. But we don’t need legislation to decide what is “safe and sane” when it comes to our dazzling displays. While we celebrate this country’s independence with picnics and family time, we hope that we can also do it responsibly when it comes to lighting pyrotechnics. Play it safe — there is no amount of sparkle, flash and bang that is worth risking property damage and the safety of those who have to fight the fires.

Letter to editor: Lamb Weston is a positive place to work

Lamb Weston is a positive place to work

When I read the article about Lamb Weston Twin Falls in Sunday’s paper, I did not recognize the work environment and experience that the article described. This is not the Lamb Weston facility that I work at, and have worked at for 23 years.

The Lamb Weston I know employs more than 600 members of the Twin Falls community, and those dedicated team members have worked for the company for an average of more than 12 years. The facility has team members who have dedicated their careers to the work we do, and some have worked here for nearly 50 years.

Together those team members have continually improved safety programs to establish a better, safer work environment. And that work is paying off – those efforts have resulted in a 50 percent reduction in recordable safety incidents in the last five years. The work the team is doing to develop a world class safety culture makes our workplace better.

Unlike what was described in the article, our management team has a history of working with team members to provide leave when extraordinary circumstances call for additional time away from work. There are more than 40 examples of this that I can recall in the last three years. Like any company, we have policies and procedures around attendance and leave – this isn’t uncommon. We are committed to working with individual team members when issues arise, and we’ve demonstrated that.

Together as a team we’ve celebrated at special lunches, fry booth events, family Easter egg hunts, fundraisers for local charities and more. We work hard, provide a good livable wage, and we’re proud of what we do here. None of this was represented by the contributors to Sunday’s article, and that is unfortunate.

Our team members will exercise their right when they vote on the union petition in July, and our management team will respect their ultimate decision. But they should make that decision based on facts, not misrepresented information intended to divide us.

Curt Snyder

Plant Manager, Lamb Weston Twin Falls