Press "Enter" to skip to content

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 23

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Wildfires have started to gain traction in the summer heat, as smoke from central Washington began to drift over parts of northern Idaho. Elsewhere, reports on Medicaid and schools may have potential to affect debates on those subjects; this was the week the Medicaid expansion proposal formally qualified (at the secretary of state’s office) for the November ballot.

During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on minerals in the United States that are critical to our economy and national security, Senator Jim Risch spoke about Idaho’s significant contributions to mining and the faults in our current permitting process that need reform. President and CEO of Midas Gold Idaho, Laurel Sayer, was a witness at the hearing and answered questions from the Senate panel on her experience with the Stibnite Gold Project in Valley County.

The office of Secretary of State Lawrence Denney on July 17 officially certified the petition signatures submitted by Idahoans for Healthcare to qualify Medicaid expansion as a ballot measure this November. If passed, expanding Medicaid will provide healthcare for the 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the state’s healthcare coverage gap.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.9 percent in June, continuing at or below 3 percent for the 10th consecutive month. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – continued to increase, gaining 971 people from May to June for a total of 851,599.

A federal grand jury indicted thirteen members and associates of the Aryan Knights and Severely Violent Criminals gangs for crimes including drug distribution, conspiracy, and unlawful possession of firearms, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced. The charges stem from an investigation by the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force.

The Idaho Department of Lands will be offering most of its remaining residential lake lots for auction in the next six years, along with some new unleased lots on Cougar Island and Pilgrim Cove at Payette Lake.

A technical hearing regarding the proposed merger of Avista and Hydro One has been postponed.

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill introduced by Senators Jim Risch and Gary Peters (D-MI) to help small businesses protect their intellectual property by improving education on obtaining and protecting patents.

IMAGE A string of fires erupted in south-central Idaho last week, much of it on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Here BLM workers are shutting down of the after effects of one of the burns in the Magic Valley. (photo/Bureau of Land Management)

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree


By all reports, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who President Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court, is exceptionally bright, has a prodigious work ethic and is well-regarded by his colleagues as having a most collegial temperament. But he should not be confirmed as a justice.

There are many concerning aspects to what we already know about Kavanaugh’s professional background and record of jurisprudence. These will be further elucidated as the vetting process goes forward. But whatever more we learn about this judge, we know one thing now that should make this nomination a non-starter: it is the fruit of the poisonous tree and therefore also toxic.

In the law, the ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ doctrine stands for the proposition that evidence produced as a result of illegal law enforcement activity is inadmissible at trial. There are exceptions to the doctrine, but the animating idea is that if the source of the evidence or the evidence itself is tainted, then any evidence obtained therefrom is tainted as well.

I use the expression metaphorically. Here, if the person lawfully authorized to make the nomination has obtained his position by illegal action, then the nomination itself would seem to lack legitimacy. We know that Mr. Trump is under investigation for obstructing justice, conspiring with a foreign foe to rig our national election in his favor, and – possibly – other serious crimes. Unless and until the Special Counsel’s report is completed, made public and acted upon by Congress, the president’s legitimacy as president is very much in doubt.

At the end of last week, the Deputy Attorney General announced an Indictment against twelve Russians charging them with Conspiracy to Commit an Offense against the United States. Given the specific factual allegations contained in the Indictment, it is not a reach to think that a future Indictment could name the president as a co-conspirator. A Department of Justice memorandum written during the Nixon era concluded that presidents may not be indicted during their tenure in office, but the proposition has never been ruled on by the courts. The Special Counsel may decide to litigate the issue, or he may decide to side-step it by naming the president as an unindicted co-conspirator. Perhaps, at the end of the day, the facts adduced will exonerate the president altogether; but information currently in the public domain strongly suggests otherwise.

If the Special Counsel were to name Trump an unindicted co-conspirator, impeachment by the House should follow. A Senate trial as to the president’s guilt or innocence would resolve the matter. But if, as the American people have ever-more reason to believe, the president was in cahoots with Russia, obstructed justice or otherwise broke the law, his presidency is a poisonous tree and Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the fruit thereof.

Indeed, if Trump is shown to be an illegitimate president, then logic, a sense of justice, and concerns for basic fairness would seem to require that every executive order and action taken under his direction be erased from the books. But we don’t have a constitutional roadmap setting forth a remedy, and we’ve never faced this bizarre situation before. Our founding fathers can be forgiven for not anticipating this truly incredible scenario.

As a practical matter, the relief as to most presidential actions will have to be prospective and undertaken at the ballot box. But the nomination of an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court is a life-time appointment to the highest court in the land, one from which there is no appeal. For that reason, it is in a class by itself. We can’t have a “do-over” on the nomination of Justice Gorsuch, but until we know the extent – if any – of the president’s complicity in Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election, the Senate can – and should – put the brakes on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Idaho and Utah


Of all the states, Utah may be the most useful as a comparison point for Idaho.

The idea of comparing isn’t commonplace. People in most places think vertically - my community, state, nation, in a way sometimes called “stovepiping” - and not so much horizontally. But that’s often where some of the most useful insights can be found.

A group called Voices for Utah Children, based you can guess where, has recognized as much. In 2016 it decided to run a comparison between two states, theirs and Minnesota, to see how children fare in the two places, and why. Last year it compared Utah and Colorado. This year, in a report just released, it examined the similarities and differences with Idaho.

The Idaho comparison would be useful partly because the states are neighbors, but it’s not just that. The western states are all remarkably distinctive, each with their own character, but Utah and Idaho may be two of the most closely matched in demographics, economics, politics, and overall outlook. The link in religion is obvious enough, but so is the political stance (as one indicator, Republicans control the state legislatures by similar percentages) and the types and influence of business and commerce. (Did you know that the Latino share of the population in the two states is nearly the same?) These two states have a lot in common.

But there are differences.

The core VUC findings - remembering here that the focus is on children: “notwithstanding Idaho’s increasing economic vitality, the most noteworthy findings of this report is that Utah ranks far ahead of Idaho by key metrics of standard of living, including median household income, median hourly wage, and poverty rates. It should therefore come as no surprise that Utah also ranks far ahead for educational attainment and worker productivity.”

Worker productivity? The report cites a study (the stats come from the U.S. Department of Commerce) showing, “Utah lags behind most states in productivity per worker at 39th place, but Idaho is even further behind in 49th place.”

In some ways, the report acknowledged, Utah may not rate as high (relatively) as it should: “Utah’s recent decision (FY 2016) to invest state tax dollars for the first time in public preschool has yet to register in the national rankings, which always have a lag of a few years, leaving Utah behind most states.”

The take on children’s wellbeing brings a bunch of related factors into play, including economics and health. So we also get into subjects like these:

“Utah is the clear winner by most measures of wages and poverty. Utah’s median hourly wage was 5% higher than Idaho’s last year, though that advantage shrinks by about a fifth when adjusted for Idaho’s lower cost of living. Utah’s slightly higher median hourly wage is consistent with (though much smaller than) the state’s 17% advantage over Idaho in higher education attainment (Bachelor’s degrees and above) and 16% advantage over Idaho in worker productivity. By the poverty metrics, Utah leads in nearly every category. Idaho biggest advantage over Utah in the Standard of Living metrics is its
low cost of living. Idaho also enjoys better air quality and shorter commutes.”

Which state stands to benefit most over the long haul? We’ll see when a future version of this report comes out.

The Trump-Putin Affair


President Ronald Reagan would have been repulsed by the spectacle of an American president kowtowing to a murderous dictator like Vladimir Putin. If Russia had attacked our democracy, Reagan would not have meekly stood by for months denying it. He would have taken swift and effective action to punish the attacker, rather than appeasing and praising the tyrant.

Reagan understood the need to value and nurture our relationships with our European allies, as well as those in the Pacific. He understood that our allies benefit from the U.S. protective umbrella but he knew we are the greatest beneficiary of those alliances. We are able to maintain forward operating bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea to project American power around the world and keep our citizens safe from our enemies.

President Trump has done tremendous damage to NATO, which was conceived by the U.S. as an essential component of our national defense. NATO helped us defeat the Soviet Union and has had our back in the war in Afghanistan. A recent poll shows that 42 percent of Germans now want American troops out of their country. American influence and security there and around the world will suffer if we make ourselves unwelcome where we need to maintain bases close to the borders of our enemies, specifically Russia, China, and North Korea.

It would have been inconceivable to someone like Reagan, a real champion of America, for the U.S. president to bash our allies over their collective heads in public, especially in the presence of Putin, the greatest threat to our national security. Or, to call the European Union a “foe,” which is decidedly wrong and harmful to our peace and safety. Or, to side with Putin over the U.S. intelligence agencies, which have unanimously confirmed the Russian aggression against the United States.

Reagan would not have meekly acquiesced to Putin’s earlier “suggestion” to call off war games in South Korea, just to appease another cutthroat dictator, Kim Jong-un. Nor, would he have praised Kim as a wonderful person, even as Kim was speeding up his nuclear program and brutalizing hundreds of thousands of his people.

I could see Reagan telling Putin, upon learning of the Russian attack, “Look, you little pipsqueak, if you ever do anything remotely like that again, your country will be cut off from the international banking system.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May have stood up to Putin, why can’t our leader?

Instead, our president practically swooned at Putin’s outrageous idea of having Russian spies help Robert Mueller with the investigation of Russia’s attack on America--the old fox-in-the-hen-house ploy. Good thing Putin did not offer the Brooklyn Bridge for sale.

Just as bad as Trump submitting to Putin, most Republicans in Congress have meekly submitted to the ally-bashing and Putin-loving. Where is the GOP outrage about these words and deeds that clearly jeopardize our national interests? We have heard just a few timid statements of support for NATO and against trade war from current members of that party, which once billed itself as the bulwark against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Now, it only emits tiny whimpers that the President is helping the wrong team on the world stage.

My suggestion to the Idaho Congressional delegation--get some backbone and speak out forcefully in defense of America. Force the President to impose all of the Russian sanctions Congress approved months ago. Demand cyber counter-measures. Find out what happened in the secret Putin-Trump meeting. Your country needs your action and voices, Senators Risch and Crapo.

Two universal truths


There are two predictions I can make with some surety (though I’m all too often out in the weeds) surety.

No, it is not the inevitability of death and taxes.

The issues are these: The Catholic church will never change its position on life and will always oppose abortion on demand as well as oppose any and all changes to laws that would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.

Women, 75% of whom see this as a reproductive rights bedrock issue, will never support turning the clock backwards.

If President Trunp’s next appointment to the Supreme Court is the very conservative Judge Kavanaugh, and he leads a new majority that overturns Roe vs. Wade, all hell will break loose - a clash of the immovable force and the immovable object.

The terrible swift sword of retribution will be aimed primarily at Republicans, especially Republican men. If there is one issue that a solid majority of women from all walks of life agree upon, it is reproductive rights and unfettered access.

Most folks are familiar with the old country admonition “be careful what you wish for.” In this case the question is aimed at those seeking repeal of Roe vs. Wade. Many have forgotten that if repeal occurs state law takes effect. Needless to say some of these state tweaks are far more restrictive than Roe vs. Wade.

Conservative legislators will end up in a trap of their own making. They’ll be hammered by both sides and unable to appease either.

The issue is a tough one. Governor Andrus always said he was pro-life but the proponents of overturning the ruling did not view him that way because he believed there should be exemptions for rape.incest or life of the mother.

I personally adhere to the Catholic church’s view that life begins at conception and is a continuum until natural death. I still believe, however, that the church allows for individual conscience to prevail. That tells me that if a family decides to back a daughter who has been raped or the mother’s life is at stake, the family has an absolute right to assert and select an abortion option. I cannot imagine any father ordering his daughter to carry a child to birth if the daughter has been raped by a thug and she doesn’t want to carry to delivery.

There has to be some flexibility in any beginning of life or end of life issue. The church recognizes in good faith this primacy right of one’s conscience.

The main reason Andrus vetoed the infamous HB 625 was not because he no longer viewed himself as pro-life, for he continued to see himself in that light. He too came to recognize an individual family’s right to privacy on a difficult question with no easy answer. He could care less what the Uhlencutts and the Nuxolls of the world thought.

Andrus did do one thing differently. Usually he signed or vetoed proposed new laws quickly. In this case he took his time---the full ten days--- before zapping it. He did this as a “teaching moment” for Idaho’s citizens .

It will be interesting to see how the Legislature handles this “cow pie” that will be back in their pocket.

Notes . . .


Wandering around election stats today, I stopped in at Cook's report on partisan indexes but congressional district, and thought it would be interesting to compare the rankings for the Northwest.

A note or two for those not conversant with the PVI (partisan voter index): It uses a set of statistical measures, including but not limited to recent votes for president and congressional seats, to establish a statistical figure to demonstrate how Democratic or Republican a congressional district is.

It's full national map is well worth the time if the subject is of interest. But for those in the Northwest, the rankings by district should give some perspective as to how parts of the region fit together.

Here's how the districts in the Northwest, and some adjacent districts as well, stack up against each other. They're listed in order from most Republican to most Democratic, and those in the middle are those which at least theoretically should be the most competitive.

-25.59 Utah 1 - Rob Bishop (R)
-24.97 Wyoming AL - Liz Cheney (R)
-20.71 Idaho 1 - Raul Labrador (R)
-16.85 Idaho 2 - Mike Simpson (R)
-13.27 Washington 4 - Dan Newhouse (R)
-11.14 Oregon 2 - Greg Walden (R)
-11.04 California 1 - Doug La Malfa (R)
-10.61 Montana AL - Greg Gianforte (R)
-7.63 Washington 5 - Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R)
-6.97 Nevada 2 - Mark Amodei (R)
-3.96 Washington 3 - Jaime Herrera Beutler (R)
-0.31 Washington 8 - Dave Reichert (R)
0.25 Oregon 4 - Peter DeFazio (D)
0.48 Oregon 5 - Kurt Schrader (D)
5.47 Washington 10 - Denny Heck (D)
5.69 Washington 1 - Suzane DelBene (D)
5.70 Washington 6 - Derek Kilmer (D)
9.10 Oregon 1 - Suzanne Bonamici (D)
9.93 Washington 2 - Rick Larsen (D)
20.90 Washington 9 - Adam Smith (D)
23.66 Oregon 3 - Earl Blumenauer (D)
32.69 Washington 7 - Pramila Jayapal (D)

The actual division is pretty clean - that is, districts leaning in the direction of one party do tend to elect people from that party. Where you see a really high PVI for either party, that means the opposition party needs something close to a miracle to win the seat. It happens, but such lightning strikes are rare.

But if 2018 turns into a Democratic wave year, you can see which districts are most worth watching. If this were a Republican wave year, districts like Oregon 4 and 5 and Washington 10 and 1 would be worth watching. In this year, however, two Washington districts - 3 and 8 - are at the top of the list. Dave Reichert in 8 is retiring, and a ferocious campaign may develop there, but we won't know for sure until after Washington's primary election next month. Washington 3 may be safer for Jaime Herrera Beutler partly because she has organized well and partly because Democrats seem not to have put strong enough campaign together there, but that district too should not be ignored.

Not far up the list above them, though, is Washington 5, a district not as firmly Republican as many people think, though Cathy McMorris Rodgers has held it solidly. She has her strongest ever opponent this year, though, and this is definitely a district to watch.

A bit of perspective as we head into campaign season. - rs

Wrecking balls in motion


About a week ago, and in the dead of night according to the New York Times, Trump started his trade war. With all the other hoopla going on, not much has been done to call attention to this event.

International trade makes up around 25% of our GDP, which is a number that is not to be sneezed at. However, international trade is not the most interesting subject to examine and even simple explanations can take the reader off into the weeds by the end of the lead. There is just no way to inject any real excitement into basic accounting, trade ratios and market shares.

That said, the event noted may have more lasting and direct consequences upon more of our everyday lives than all of the other matters that the old fool is playing around with will have, even combined. It was exactly midnight that a third round of tariffs imposed by Trump on billions of dollars’ worth of foreign trade from China was to take effect. China immediately announced that it was matching the U.S. action with additional tariffs on of its own. Similar dialogues are rippling throughout Europe, Canada and Mexico as these countries prepare retaliations in response to U.S. tariffs imposed upon their exports. Trump has announced the intention of following suit if retaliatory tariffs are imposed against the United States. The result appears to be the beginning of an inevitably escalating series of retaliatory tariffs that could escalate until trade maximums are engulfed.

So, history seems on the brink of heading down a path last followed almost 90 years ago, when the isolationists convinced then President Hoover to go along with a stiff tariff program intended to protect American jobs. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs were enacted in 1930. Economists and historians estimate that these tariffs were the direct cause of U.S. exports falling by over 40% by 1932, crippling international trade. All economists generally agree that the trade war caused by the Smoot Hawley tariffs exacerbated the Great Depression.

Trump has not announced what specifically he intends to accomplish by the imposition of his tariffs. He has no clear policy to promote. He says only that the U.S. is being treated unfairly, and that we have to reign in the current levels of trade deficits. He doesn’t say why the trade is unfair. Surely, there are specific imbalances that need attention, and there are some trade practices that are unfair. Specific tariffs can be a tool in certain cases. But the task here is to find a tool to apply as a Band-Aid to a specific problem, not to attack every situation with sledge hammer or wrecking ball. Too often tariffs become sledge hammers, leaving too much unintended wreckage. Even when carefully applied, the impact of tariffs will eventually hit the consumer.

Trump’s fascination with trade deficits, and his insistence that they need to be brought into balance, is just plain wrong. Trade deficits are not inherently evil. In a healthy economy with markets that are otherwise booming, trade deficits are a perfectly normal if not even a desirable result. In the U.S. for example, with an economy that is burgeoning ahead, the huge beneficiaries of our trade deficits with most of our trading partners are domestic consumers. Eliminating deficits by definition requires either an increase in production or a decrease in consumption. Where artificial measures are applied, in the usual case it is the consumer who will suffer in the end.

Consider what happened in 2009, when the unions and tire manufacturers complained to the Obama administration that China was flooding the market with radial tires. Domestic jobs were being lost because domestic producers could not compete. So, the Obama administration imposed a punitive 35% tariff on specific types of radial tires exported from China. Because of the specifics involved, economists were able to study the market exactly, and measure the results with a degree of precision.

It might have looked like the special tariffs helped in the short run. Domestic tire producers were able to hold their prices and maintain production, and an estimated 1,200 jobs in the tire industry were preserved. But according to a study released by the Peterson Institute of International Economics, when the consumers’ side of the deals were examined, the additional cost of what had been cheaper Chinese exports cost domestic consumers an estimated $1.1 billion in higher prices. Further, when the tariffs hit, the decline in sales of the imported tires cost an estimated 3,731 domestic jobs lost on the retail side. One academic study on this specific tariff concluded that three retail jobs were lost on the consumer side for every manufacturing job saved on the production side.

In the longer run, the special tariffs did not return all radial tire production to the U.S. Instead, production migrated from China to other cheaper countries. Domestic tire production was initially boosted by the tariffs but soon sagged again as competition from foreign sources spread. One manufacturer, for example, held his employment level from 2009 through 2012, with the addition of the tariffs, but by 2017 – five years later – the employment level at this firm was down by over 25%. A study released in July of 2017 concluded that the special tariffs made no difference to production problems in the tire industry long term yet cost the U.S. consumers billions of dollars in higher prices.

The problems are even more complicated when the commerce being hit are products made up of component parts or subassemblies. According to a 2017 analysis presented by CNN, for example, every car manufactured in the United States could actually be considered an import when considering the origination of all the parts and subassemblies that go into the manufacture. To show the incongruities, by this measure the most “American made” vehicle currently on the market is a Honda pickup – a commercial vehicle partially manufactured in Japan with more than 75% of components manufactured in either the U.S. or Canada.

If tariffs are imposed on parts that are exported to the U.S., this can put the domestic parts manufacturer at a significant disadvantage. The domestic producer’s costs are driven up by the tariffs, often resulting in it conceding market shares to foreign competition which acquires the same parts and subassemblies but without tariffs. If the domestic producer can absorb the additional costs of the tariffs without raising prices, it still must reduce margins which might otherwise be available for increases to wages or reinvestment in plant resources.

All major U.S. automakers also have assembly plants in Mexico. Components are manufactured in the U.S. and elsewhere, shipped to Mexico for assembly, with the completed vehicle then returned the U.S. for sale. In a full-scale trade war, we may find tariffs imposed by the U.S. on parts and subassemblies; tariffs imposed by Mexico on the components sent to plants in Mexico for final assembly and tariffs on the finished vehicle as it is returned from Mexico for sale. Multi-levels of tariffs would hit U.S. consumers purchasing U.S. made cars from U.S. manufacturers on vehicle models intended for sale in the U.S.

One investment analysist said long range planning under Trump was difficult because no one could figure out what his policy was, is, or might become, commenting that “Watching all these trade actions is like watching a pinball machine.” Further, what Trump is doing is probably illegal. Imposition of tariffs are supposed to require Congressional action; the President is only authorized to act without Congressional authorization when declared necessary for national security. Most analysists agree that there is no true national security involvement in any of the tariffs Trump has imposed so far, or in any tariffs that he has announced he intends to impose.

What is clear is that the ultimate target of almost all of these tariffs is, or will be, the American consumer. Despite what it looks like, tariffs are not a tax or penalty imposed upon the foreign exporter. While sometimes the cost of a tariff can be absorbed by exporter; much more common in the short run, and always in the long run, is that the additional cost of the tariff will be passed along into the price to be paid by the ultimate consumer. A tariff in reality is nothing but a sales tax imposed upon the poor end consumer.

Anybody want to guess who that is going to be?

Sunday drivel


Even with a near lifelong interest in politics, I avoid Sunday “talk shows” like the plague. Haven’t watched in over 30 years. Maybe longer. Maybe back to the last days of Lawrence Spivak on “Meet The Press.” Well, Tim Russert, at least.

Each Sunday, reporters and opinionists - most of whom have an uncanny inability to be able to ask the follow-up question - parade the usual cast of celebrity wannabees who babble incessantly about not much.

You don’t have to watch ‘em to know what was said. Out-takes are all over the place on Monday since most “working” media takes the weekend off and space/time needs filling.

Before his health failed, John McCain seemingly spent far more time on the Sunday tube than he did on the Senate floor. Now, his “Sancho Panza,” Lindsey Graham, seems to have that “honor.” But, unlike McCain, his hand puppet just can’t come up with a singular position on anything without several “cover-his-butt” disclaimers.

The basic reason I’ve given up on TV gabfests is that, too often, nothing that needs discussing gets discussed. A couple of weeks ago on GOP-TV, the EPA Secretary - since fired but who should still be tried for larceny - had his turn in the barrel. Did the questioner go after Pruitt’s strident efforts to tear the Department to pieces or his dastardly work to eliminate all facts about climate change from any documents that cross his desk or ending climate change research? Was he grilled about new oil spills or his wanting more drilling on our shorelines?

NO! His time was consumed trying to defend his outrageous spending, his proclivity for cronyism, his nutcase demands for 19 bodyguards and wanting his limousine outfitted with a siren so he wouldn’t miss dinner at rush hour.

That’s what Sunday “talk” has become. For reasons I can’t comprehend, the entire genre has become mindless and oblivious to the real issues. Just line up “news makers,” hit ‘em with some large, fuzzy, meaningless questions and thank them for their service.

What angers most is our disaster of a president has set loose the baddest group of grifters, con artists and outright misfits to dismantle the various agencies they’re supposed to be running. All of ‘em - pick any one- have set out to cripple or destroy institutions of government.

So, how does this near-unanimous gang of vested interest white collar criminals tie to the Sunday shows? How does their unscrupulous misbehavior relate?

Simple. These talkfests offer the only real chance serious, responsible journalists have to set the issues that should be important, then use well-researched follow-up questions to get to the facts. These aren’t “press conferences” where the interviewee can pick and chose what to answer. Using that tougher format, no one question can be dodged before running to the next. Three, four, a dozen queries until the issue has been examined. Probing. Searching. Factual.

Sounds doable, right? Well, there’s this. A friend who’s a producer for one of the networks once told me, if such a fact-searching, “hard-nosed” approach were adopted, they couldn’t get the “right people” to appear on Sunday. Might be “embarrassing” to the guest, I was told. Yep, “embarrassing.”

That producer’s response may actually be the most basic reason I don’t watch the Wallaces and the Todds of the world. They got where they are by knowing better. They’re good reporters. Yet they take their “foot off the gas” so the “big names” will come back. Gotta remember the ratings. And the advertisers.

I’d hate to think what I was told was the case across the board. But, given similarities of the current softball questioning and the meaningless drivel resulting, I think there’s more than a little truth there.

What passes as government under Trump may not be the only failing institution of our time.

Idaho Weekly Briefing – July 16

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 9. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

The summer quiet continues. A few wildfires flare up from time to time, but they’re small; the state revenue and budget picture wound up on track; and wild animal stories proliferate.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and State Controller Brandon Woolf on July 13 said that continuing strong economic growth enabled the State of Idaho to end fiscal 2018 with $100.7 million more tax revenue than anticipated despite June collections that were $19.3 million less than forecast.

Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired the hearing for Ryan Nelson, an attorney from Idaho Falls and sixth-generation Idahoan, who has been nominated by President Trump to serve as a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In comments about Nelson, to his Senate colleagues, Crapo highlighted Nelson’s legal experience.

Lieutenant Governor Brad Little traveled to Washington D.C. on July 12 to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on the subject of grazing on federal lands.

The city of Twin Falls is seeking volunteers to fill seven at-large openings on a citizen advisory committee that will explore the feasibility of remodeling or building four fire stations in our community. Residents living within the city limits are encouraged to apply for the ad hoc committee.

Search warrants served on several businesses in the Coeur d'Alene area suspected of trafficking in unlawful alcohol beverages.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved the sale of Falls Water Company to NW Natural Water Company, LLC. Falls Water serves approximately 5,500 customers in Bonneville County.

IMAGE The Eli M. Oboler Library at Idaho State University is displaying an exhibit of photography by ISU biology Professor Chuck Peterson titled “Snakes of Idaho” that will be on display through Sept. 28 in the library’s first floor art exhibit area. Peterson's research interests include the ecology and conservation biology of amphibians and reptiles. Much of his work has focused on reptile populations on Idaho's Snake River Plain and on amphibian populations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Peterson received the Outstanding Herpetologist award from the Idaho Herpetological Society in 1997. This image is of a groundsnake. (photo/Idaho State University, by Peterson)

Cars, but not trucks


Ada County Highway District Commishes voted Wednesday 3-2 in favor of placing an open ended fee hike proposal on the November ballot which exempts vehicles over 8,000 lbs. from ANY local fees while placing the entire burden on automobile owners.

Commishes Jim Hansen and Kent Goldthorp opposed the measure while Sara Baker, Rebecca Arnold and Paul Woods voted in favor despite hearing repeated testimony from citizens seeking either a two year “sunset” limit or simply not passing the unequal fee hike at all.

The measure seeks to raise Ada County’s maximum vehicle registration fee from $40 to $70.

Ada County State Rep. John Gannon appeared to present his draft legislation and seek some sort of agreement to keep from placing the financial burden on the hood of auto owners and not share it with vehicles in excess of 8,000 lbs. In a letter to the commissioners, Gannon had suggested fees on commercial trucks be 10% of the state fee or capped at $70.

There were several pleas among folks seeking to distribute any fee hikes among safe routes, bicycles, and public transit. Most citizens acknowledged the issue of crowded streets is the product of state and local government-encouraged growth and not the fault of ACHD.

Look for a major battle in coming months between advocates and opponents of growth over this one.