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Readers Comment: A Mother's Day gift that lasts a lifetime

Scientific research on how children learn and grow has made it clearer than ever that parents are the most important teachers and families are the most effective ‘schools.’ In this season when we celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days, and with the clock ticking on family support programs in Washington, now is the time to put that research into practice. After all, Mother’s Day brunch lasts an hour. Flowers last a week. Investing in strong families is a gift that last a lifetime.

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program is such an investment. This flexible, locally administered program, also known as MIECHV, expires in September unless Congress acts. Idaho, which does not invest in home visiting, cannot afford to let this happen.

Home visiting is rooted in the understanding that children are born to learn; that there is potential for magic in every moment, from the first day of life to the first day of school. Some home visiting programs work with special populations, such as teen moms or families living in poverty. Others emphasize prenatal care. I have been involved for many years with Parents as Teachers, which my husband championed as governor. Parents as Teachers supports parents’ ability to nurture children’s early development, learning and health.

Home visiting is as individual as the families themselves. Some parents benefit most from learning activities to play with their children. Others seek information and options for child rearing that is outside their own experience. Parents look for advice on transition, routines or nutrition. Some benefit from family-community events. All of us want to do our best for these little beings who take over our lives, who we love more than we thought possible and who confound us every day.

The outcomes can feel like small miracles. A home visitor helps a family find appropriate health screenings and a toddler who appeared to be willfully misbehaving is found to have hearing loss. A pair of hearing aids later and that little boy avoids years of being labeled as inattentive at school, with all that such labels lead to and imply.

All MIECHV-supported home visits are voluntary, meeting parents where they are, literally and figuratively. And all MIECHV-supported home visiting is evidence-based – meaning programs have undergone rigorous studies that prove they work.

Among the known outcomes: Children enter school ready to learn and succeed. Seventy percent of MIECHV supported programs demonstrated a reduction in crime or domestic violence.

Eighty-five percent of MIECHV-supported programs demonstrated improvements in family economic self-sufficiency. All the MIECHV models show strong return on investment, including Parents as Teachers, which has an estimated benefit-cost ratio of $3.39 per dollar invested.

You don’t have to be a mother to love these results – scientific theory, matched with rigorous, studies, proving that home visiting works. Now we need investment in MIECHV to put all this theory to work as widely as we can. That’s a gift all Idaho mothers would appreciate.

Other View: This is not a crisis, Republicans say as a large spider slowly devours them

I would recognize a crisis if it were happening.

When the president seized me, stunned me with his venom and covered me with digestive fluid from his chelicerae, I was initially taken aback, but I reassured myself with this thought: President Richard Nixon never did that.

I know history.

This is clearly not the end of the world. That would be more clearly labeled and would be brought about by the other party. And the weather would be more ominous. Ravens would squawk, and the sky would turn red. It would not occur on a Tuesday when I had made other plans.

OK, the firing of FBI Director James Comey looked bad. And when the president stunned him, pierced him with his fangs, wrapped him in a thick cocoon of impenetrable webbing and left him to hang there for days, that timing was also poor. It doesn’t seem as though it was what the FBI wanted or what the deputy attorney general wanted, either. But the American people voted for change! And the president is not Nixon. Nixon fired people on a Saturday, whereas this happened on a Tuesday.

He does not sweat and look pale on TV, which Nixon always did. Also, history plainly states that Nixon was born in 1913, one of several siblings, whereas the president was born in 1946, one of 3,000 eggs. Already we are seeing huge discrepancies! Nixon had only two legs.

Nixon was married to a woman named Pat who wore Republican cloth coats. I think we can agree that we are talking about someone different. Come back when he is threatening people with secret “tapes” of his conversations when our leader has adopted a small dog named Checkers, and then we will see where we stand.

This has none of the historical signs of a crisis. We still believe in small government, and that doesn’t have to change because the person or entity presiding over it happens to be a giant spider.

I think of the many norms that are still going strong as the digestive acid begins to eat its way through my flag pin.

We got an appointee for the Supreme Court! That, already, is a great accomplishment.

If this were a real crisis, there would be no other news. An alert would go over the TV. It would say, “Democracy Alert!” and make an unpleasant sound. In the meantime, I’m glad those Unicorn Frappuccinos are gone.

But the background music has not crescendoed. I look out the window, and the sun is shining. On the television the colorful heads are speaking as they have always spoken, and they are still not in agreement. I think. It is getting harder to see in here, and I feel a curious warmth spreading through all my appendages. I would not feel this way if something really serious were going on. The polls would reflect it, too.

I am still getting what I wanted. It is good to have someone in the Oval Office who shares my values: covering everything with giant webs, eating flies and restoring our relationship with Russia. I think I once had other values but, well, winning is winning.

Also, we have yet to see what this will become. We don’t know that a special prosecutor is called for.

It is quite possible that the thing spewing its webbing everywhere in the Oval Office is not in its final form. Perhaps it will ultimately look like Merrick Garland. We should wait. Really, everything depends on the next move. Which will, of course, set the terms for the move after that. All of which we must contemplate and look into.

It’s very dark.

If we are ever in a point of real crisis, I will be the hero the country requires. I know that about myself. But in the meantime, I stand behind the president, who I am positive is not literally Nixon.

Besides, if it were really bad, Paul Ryan would say something.

I want to sleep.

If this were a crisis, something would be done by someone. A hero would emerge. Not one of these people I am used to working with, with whose flaws and biases I am too well acquainted, but a real hero, unimpeachable. Me, perhaps.

If there were an occasion, I would be rising to it. But I am not rising.

Letter: Republican health care plan is cruel

Raul Labrador’s nonchalant denial of human casualties notwithstanding, his Lewiston town-hall defense of the GOP’s hastily revised repeal of the Affordable Care Act exposes the fundamental irrationality and cruelty of Republican approaches to health care, and to public policy generally.

Faced with solidly researched data presented by health care professionals and others, Labrador suggested that Americans with preexisting conditions or too poor to afford health care are the new welfare queens. People with cancer, kids with birth defects, and seniors unable to pay extortionately high prices for prescription medicines are all waiting to pick the pockets of good, hard-working Americans. And of course the real culprit is Big Government, which under Obamacare has been forcing you to pay for these undeserving leeches and their probably well-deserved ailments and conditions.

This sounds stupid, cruel, and irrational because it is. Perhaps the most deeply-held remaining GOP orthodoxy has to do with rejecting socialism, no matter the economic or human costs. Regardless of how badly free-market capitalism fails to meet the needs of American citizens, it must always be the best solution.

In this case, the eminently logical solution is single-payer (or Medicare-For-All) health care at half the cost we now pay per person. But no, Republicans like Labrador insist that taxpayers continue to subsidize a parasitic insurance “industry” whose profit derives not from meeting the needs of their communities, but from denying care to as many people as possible, and for-profit hospitals that provide the most expensive (and highly bureaucratized) care possible, but only to those able to pay. And the devastating prospect of losing employer-provided health insurance means you can’t tell your boss to take the job and shove it, and therefore can’t effectively bargain for better wages on a supposedly free labor market.

Chris Norden


Krauthammer: A political ax murder

WASHINGTON — It was implausible that FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017 for actions committed in July 2016 — the rationale contained in the memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

It was implausible that Comey was fired by Donald Trump for having been too tough on Hillary Clinton, as when, at that July news conference, he publicly recited her various email misdeeds despite recommending against prosecution.

It was implausible that Trump fired Comey for, among other things, reopening the Clinton investigation 11 days before the election, something that at the time Trump praised as a sign of Comey’s “guts” that had “brought back his reputation.”

It was implausible that Trump, a man notorious for being swayed by close and loyal personal advisers, fired Comey on the recommendation of a sub-Cabinet official whom Trump hardly knew and who’d been on the job all of two weeks.

It was implausible that Trump found Rosenstein’s arguments so urgently persuasive that he acted immediately — so precipitously, in fact, that Comey learned of his own firing from TVs that happened to be playing behind him.

These implausibilities were obvious within seconds of Comey’s firing and the administration’s immediate attempt to pin it all on the Rosenstein memo. That was pure spin. So why in reality did Trump fire Comey?

Admittedly, Comey had to go. The cliche is that if you’ve infuriated both sides, it means you must be doing something right. Sometimes, however, it means you must be doing everything wrong.

Over the last year, Comey has been repeatedly wrong. Not, in my view, out of malice or partisanship (although his self-righteousness about his own probity does occasionally grate). He was in an unprecedented situation with unpalatable choices. Never in American presidential history had a major party nominated a candidate under official FBI investigation. (Turns out the Trump campaign was under investigation as well.) Which makes the normal injunction that FBI directors not interfere in elections facile and impossible to follow. Any course of action — disclosure or silence, commission or omission — carried unavoidable electoral consequences.

Comey had to make up the rules as he went along. He did. That was not his downfall. His downfall was making up contradictory, illogical rules, such as the July 5 non-indictment indictment of Clinton.

A series of these — and Comey became anathema to both Democrats and Republicans. Clinton blamed her loss on two people. One of them was Comey.

And there’s the puzzle. There was ample bipartisan sentiment for letting Comey go. And there was ample time from Election Day on to do so. A simple talk, a gold watch, a friendly farewell, a Comey resignation to allow the new president to pick the new director. No fanfare, no rancor.

True, this became more difficult after March 20 when Comey revealed that the FBI was investigating the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. Difficult but not impossible. For example, just last week Comey had committed an egregious factual error about the Huma Abedin emails that the FBI had to abjectly walk back in a written memo to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here was an opportunity for a graceful exit: Comey regrets the mistake and notes that some of the difficult decisions he had previously made necessarily cost him the confidence of various parties. Time for a clean slate. Add the usual boilerplate about not wanting to be a distraction at such a crucial time. Awkward perhaps, but still dignified and amicable.

Instead we got this — a political ax murder, brutal even by Washington standards. (Or even Roman standards. Where was the vein-opening knife and the warm bath?) No final meeting, no letter of resignation, no presidential thanks, no cordial parting. Instead, a blindsided Comey ends up in a live-streamed O.J. Bronco ride, bolting from Los Angeles to be flown, defrocked, back to Washington.

Why? Trump had become increasingly agitated with the Russia-election investigation and Comey’s very public part in it. If Trump thought this would kill the inquiry and the story, or perhaps even just derail it somewhat, he’s made the blunder of the decade. Whacking Comey has brought more critical attention to the Russia story than anything imaginable. It won’t stop the FBI investigation. And the confirmation hearings for a successor will become a nationally televised forum for collusion allegations, which up till now have remained a scandal in search of a crime.

So why did he do it? Now we know: The king asked whether no one would rid him of this troublesome priest, and got so impatient he did it himself.