Writings and observations

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I stopped in for a check-up this week at my doctor’s office and, as I stood in the waiting area, I surveyed the patients and wondered which of them – which of us – will be able to afford a visit a year from now. When I talked with the doctor later, he seemed to wonder too.

In the last few years the portion of uninsured Americans slid to record lows, another way of saying that health care has become available to more of us – many more than a decade ago. The system is not perfect or cheap, but insured care is more affordable. The new bill being wrangled over in the U.S. House, planned for a vote this last week, would put insurance – health care – out of reach for tens of millions of Americans, and weaken or make more expensive coverage for tens of millions more.

This has gotten lots of attention around the country, but less, it seems, in debates and discussions in Congress. How are Idaho’s two House members – participants in the battle underway (as this was written Thursday evening) – framing the talk about it?

In different ways.

Raul Labrador released this (lightly edited here) as his position statement on March 8:

“Six years ago, I promised the people of Idaho that I would do everything I could to fully repeal and replace Obamacare with a healthcare system that focused on people, not programs. One built around successful health outcomes, not the bottom line of insurance companies. … I have spent the last two days studying the American Health Care Act, and unfortunately, it is not that bill. Upon its release, President Trump signaled his willingness to negotiate. I’m eager to take him up on this offer. All good legislative solutions must go through rigorous debate, and I’m willing to work with the leadership in the House, and the President, to find a solution to this critical problem. What I won’t do is break the pledge I made to the people of Idaho who sent me here to fix this. I am hopeful we can have an open and honest debate on this issue. We owe it to the people of Idaho and the nation to get it right.”

What does “get it right” mean? Right for who? What insurance would people have when they get sick? No specifics are on offer.

As of Thursday evening, Labrador said he remained opposed to the new bill, as well as the ACA. What he would rather have is unclear. Others in the “Freedom Caucus” (of which he’s a member) seem to want a simple ACA repeal, or something close to it: a return to 2009 which would, like the current bill, throw tens of millions off insurance, end coverage guarantees and return to higher increases in premiums. Would Labrador go along with that?

Mike Simpson, by profession a dentist before joining Congress, is not clearer. He like Labrador has repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but as to the specifics of what should follow … He’s not released a general statement on the new proposal by House Speaker Paul Ryan as Labrador has, though a spokesman said, “it is impossible to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because changes are currently being made and we haven’t seen the final bill.” True; the terms of the bill seem continually up for grabs, and a House vote may happen before many of them even are analyzed. But as with Labrador, we haven’t heard much about specifics.

Simpson, who has been close to House leadership for some years, also was quoted by National Public Radio: “One of the reasons I don’t want this bill to fail is I don’t want Paul to fail.”

I doubt that the people in physician waiting rooms in Idaho Falls and Nampa next year will much care about Paul Ryan’s political stature. They’re more likely to be concerned about whether, or not, they can afford the health care they need.

That may be the subject of a lot of questions, for both Labrador and Simpson, in months to come.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

frazier

Boise’s City Council deferred action on funding a PR campaign toy get the F-35 fighter jet based in Boise.

Prior to the 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting the GUARDIAN learned the proposed resolution to spend up to $100,000 with a Washington, D.C. firm to attract the F-35 fighter to Boise had been put off until April 4.

We talked to a City Councilor who told the GUARDIAN, “We needed to get more information.” Kudos to the council for deferring the request and seeking more details.

In the interest of citizen assistance, we offer the following information from the MANTA website:
“Kiley & Associates, LLC is a privately held company in Washington, DC and is a Single Location business. Categorized under Business Management Consultants. Our records show it was established in 2009 and incorporated in District of Columbia. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $260,000 and employs a staff of approximately 1.” The same info appears on multiple websites.

The councilor was evasive when we asked about spending $100K for an ad agency. The councilor said it was not an ad agency. We said, “OK, a PR firm.” The councilor said it wasn’t a PR firm (and they needed to get more information before approving the Mayor’s request to make a $100,000 payment to Gregory Kiley who appears –at least on internet sites– to be a one man band with no “associates”).

We applaud the council for NOT approving the expenditure of $100,000 to attract the F-35. It crossed our mind that there is a major problem in one or both of the following rhetorical questions:

–Would the United States Air Force actually decide to base the F-35 in Boise using information provided by a one man ad agent-PR guy-lobbyist-consult?

–If the answer is NO, then wouldn’t it be foolish or at least suspect for the City to spend $100,000 hoping to use public relations to influence the defense of our nation?

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Frazier

carlson

If you think someone is watching or listening to you, odds are pretty high you’re partially correct. For sure you are not paranoid because it is almost a certainty that in this digital age you are being recorded.

The proliferation of sensors and digital cameras has been simply breathtaking. The amount of data being accumulated about individuals, their buying habits, recreation preferences, medical condition is stunning. Google yourself. You’ll be bowled over by high much is known about you.

Many folks have a false sense of security that their personal
information, income status, health history and credit record are safe. Balderdash. If there is one lesson folks should indelibly imprint on their brain it is that there is nothing a professional hacker cannot hack into. A basic rule one should keep in mind is this: The more connected one is the more vulnerable he is.

I garnered an inkling of what was coming during the presidential election of 2004. We kept getting a call from the county Republican campaign headquarters asking our presidential preference. Whether my wife answered or I answered each time we politely told them there was no way we would vote to re-elect President George W. Bush. Still, they kept calling.

Explaining all this to a good Republican friend drew a laugh. He gleefully explained the GOP (as well as the Democrats) had a sophisticated voter analysis program that developed profiles of solid Republican voters. I fit the profile yet was blowing their model.

Their data showed I had voted for Bush in 2000 (Could not stand Al Gore), was the co-owner of a successful small business, had purchased a flaming red Cadillac, had purchased a new shot gun for trap shooting, had a concealed weapons permit, had for a time belonged to the NRA, attended Mass at least once a week, sent my children to a private Catholic high school – in short, I appeared to be an almost perfect Bush voter, but I wasn’t.

One had the feeling they thought their entire model would collapse.

Fast forward now to 2017, and the amazing proliferation of even more technological developments, from iphones and ipads to kindles to gps chips in everything that moves and sensors that record reams of data instantly. All this and much more is explained in the one book everyone should read this year – Thank You for Being Late by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

His thesis is that there are three major forces inexorably shaping our future. Furthermore they are accelerating at an exponential pace that is outpacing human ability to understand and keep up let alone shape and control.

This ought to scare the hell out of a normal person because the day is not far off when society will have robots with artificial intelligence performing many mundane tasks. Think though about the implications of AI advancing beyond its inventor.

Perhaps you may recall that great scene in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001. Hal, the on board computer, decides Dave, the space vehicle’s pilot, and his co-pilot are threats to the all-consuming mission to Jupiter.

While the co-pilot is outside the ship Hal cuts the tether and there goes the co-pilot spinning off into space. Hal then refuses to open the airlock that will permit Dave back onto the ship. Dave nonetheless figures out a way and the next scene is Dave, still in his space suit walking into the guts of the super computer to dismantle it.

The dialogue between Hal and Dave is one of the show’s highlights. The only thing Kubrick gets wrong is the size of the computer. Friedman explains how “Moore’s Law” has driven technology in the last 50 years to ever smaller, ever more powerful computer chips at ever more cheap to produce costs. The super computer in 2001 would fit into today’s lap top.

Friedman contends that what is so discomforting to so many is the simultaneous explosive acceleration in technology coupled with forces driving globalization and compounded by global warming and habitat loss.

He outlines how this incredible pace is impacting politics,
geopolitics, ethics, the workplace and communities. The implications of computer chips coupled with sensors, digital cameras, storage capacity and search engines to make a billion calculations in one second makes for an easy leap to recognizing that somewhere,someplace there are recordings of our coming and goings, of our phone conversations and who they are with. The search engine just needs a key word to find it.

What makes this book a cause for hope rather than despair is a quote Friedman cites at the beginning from the famous French scientist, Madame Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Amen.

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Carlson

mckee

While the news cycle is fully absorbed with the competing Congressional train-wrecks of healthcare reform and conspiratorial wiretapping, and the Old Fool is doing his best to distract us with outrageous tweets and not-so subtle insults towards European leaders, that faceless amateur he picked to head State is out up-ending over 60 years of policy in the far east. In other times, our hair would be on fire; but now, nobody’s paying attention.

Every other Secretary of State in recent memory, when away from home on a mission to show the flag, has traveled about with much hoopla and a full regalia of hangers-on – including a sizable gaggle from the Washington press corps to keep an eye on things. Not so the newest minted Secretary of State.

Rex Tillerson, who has yet to hold a press conference or even answer a rope-line inquiry, and who has never released a single word of his personal thinking on any subject not connected to big oil, is essentially traveling alone. He has his trimmed down personal staff, but not the cadre of experts from within the department on each of the countries he expects to visit and each of the subjects he intends to address. And there is but one single individual from the press included in the entourage, a journalist with the “Independent Journal Review,” a little-known Internet website of conservative news and opinion. She is not a pool reporter, and is under no obligation to share her stuff, or even to report objectively.

The Secretary’s destination is Beijing, with stop-overs in Japan and South Korea. His trip to South Korea is occurring in the midst of the annual joint military exercise being conducted by U.S. and South Korean forces to, essentially, rehearse the invasion of North Korea – an actual pre-planned operation against North Korea in the event of sufficient provocation, which the military runs every few years as its annual exercise. These goings-on have been with the strident protests from North Korea, accompanied this year by the obvious counter-demonstration from its burgeoning inventory of medium range ballistic missiles.

All this is occurring at a time when the civilian government is in the process of reforming itself upon the ouster of its impeached president, Park Guen-hye. In a somewhat unexpected act of independence from the conservative core of powerbrokers, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to impeach Park, and the National Court, made up entirely of Park appointees, followed with an also somewhat unexpected ruling, unanimously upholding the legislative action.

One wonders if this was truly the time and place for the U.S. to throw gasoline into the fray? Nonetheless, into this potentially chaotic political turmoil stepped the undaunted Secretary Tillerson last week to proclaim the United States’ intention to toughen up on its policy towards North Korea, to take a more aggressive efforts to eliminate that country’s nuclear weapons capability, and to declare in rather generic terms, that the old ways were no more. This meant, the Secretary warned, that the U.S. was definitely putting pre-emptive military action back “on the table.” He even suggested that we might provide nuclear weaponry to South Korea. Just in the re-telling of these events, one has the surreal impression that he might be winging it all, as one might do for an after dinner speech at Toastmasters.

The United States has recognized for years that China was essential link to a stable North Korea. Chinese trade and foreign aid keep its economy afloat, making any economic sanctions that do not involve China ineffective. And every time we have tried to raise the specter of military action, China responds to take North Korea’s back. China has been steadfastly unwilling to force Pyongyang’s hand on the international stage. Unilateral action by the United States against North Korea in the past, without multi-national participation and cooperation from China, has proved to be fruitless.

However, with North Korea’s developing nuclear capability and its aggressive posturing towards South Korea – which China views as an increasing security risk and destabilizing to the economy generally – there are indications that China may no longer be willing to support North Korea with the same stoic resolve as before.

The huge question is whether it is better to try to muscle China into changing its position with North Korea, to muscle North Korea directly in the expectation that China will come around, or slow down and work the diplomatic channels, ratcheting up sanctions and covert actions, to allow the gradual processes through China to continue until the North Korean regime eventually topples from internal pressure within.

The latter, patient resolve, was the way of the Obama administration, but the Old Fool is determined to shake the box. So, he put Tillerson out there to scare the bejesus out of everyone who is paying attention. Tillerson released his verbal firebombs in Seoul Friday, then departed for Bejing where he will be this week. We need a passel full of skeptical, by-line hungry, street-wise news hounds like Mike Isikoff or Andrea Mitchell, or even a tested newbie like Kayce Hunt, to unpack this stuff, poke around some, and tell us exactly where China is going.

Instead, our fly on the wall is an unknown, untested and probably ideologically tainted writer for the IJR.

Whoopee.

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McKee

rainey

The time has come to offer my Republican friends an apology. A really sincere apology. Like a lot of opiners, I’ve been guilty of painting the GOP with a very broad brush lately. And, to their oft-expressed dismay, these folk feel lumped in with the bad guys of their political persuasion. I really didn’t mean that. I’m sorry. O.K.?

It’s easy to do – this lumping. After all, there isn’t much of a Republican Party left that can be readily administratively identified. The “members” you hear most about these days are those in Congress. Or that dangerous, temporary President fella.

The intended recipients of my apology have nothing in common with those Potomac folk. They’re good people – living good lives – doing good works – raising good families – making good contributions to their communities. Nothing like those similarly labeled “Republicans” in Congress.

Again, I apologize for speaking/writing so loosely that it appeared to conflate one group with the other.

Nearly all of us were raised to understand we lived under a “representative” system of government. We were taught it began with us voting for a member of a governing body who most closely represented our thinking about issues. Further, we were expected to keep them informed of how we wanted things done and they were expected to respond accordingly to a majority of us. Representing us, as it were. And it really worked as designed for a very long time. Always seemed a good and efficient way to run a country.

But, in recent years, that governing concept has disappeared. It went from us telling them how we wanted things handled to them telling us to “go to Hell” and doing whatever they damned-well pleased. It’s happened in both parties to some degree. It’s happened most completely with Republicans in Congress. Which is why I feel obligated to apologize to my GOP friends at home who, like me, still believe in that representative system we were raised with. They’re not part of the problem. They’re being ignored just like the rest of us.

I could take up a lot of column inches enumerating all the issues in which GOP members of Congress have told us lately to “stick it!” But you already know a lot of ‘em. No, let’s just deal with the largest one – the one they’re hellbent on running with – the one they haven’t got a chance of winning on their present course. Health care reform.

More than eight in 10 of us, according to several years of national polling, have said “Don’t – DO NOT – repeal the Affordable Care Act Don’t do it!” “FIX IT,” we told ‘em. We’ve even told ‘em which parts we want to keep – insure the previously uninsurable – keep kids on parent’s policies – remove lifetime dollar caps – stop increasing premiums until they’re unaffordable – no Medicaid denial to selected individuals, etc.

But, instead of listening and acting appropriately, they’ve raised a collective middle digit, turned their backs on us and literally demolished what we told them we wanted and wrote something certain to die aborning. They even came up with personal tax breaks just for CEO’s of health insurance companies already making millions in self-enrichment.

What they created was so grotesque doctors, hospitals, financial institutions, labor unions, patient advocacy groups – just about everybody involved in anyway with health care – rejected the “Rosemary’s Baby” they created.

Did they hear us before acting? Sure they did. But they also heard the siren’s song of billionaires with money. Lots of money. Money to finance primary elections. Money to build up campaign coffers. Money to assure their continued, uninterrupted federal employment as “the peoples’ representatives.”

The fact is, many of these GOP “peoples’ representatives” fear a healthy, balanced primary contest more than they do a few angry voters. It’s that fear – coupled with fat cats with fat checkbooks – that’s killed what was our representative form of government.

These are the same “public-be-damned” S-O-B’s who backed an ignorant and dangerous President by affirming the most seemingly corrupt, most intellectually vacant governing cabinet in our history. They did it with the same “facts be damned” attitude they exhibited when violating our instructions to be careful with health care reform. And with the same extended middle digit!

My Republican friends deserve an apology. Not being billionaires, they’re suffering the same congressional contempt as the rest of us. And, ironically, they’re the only ones who can fix it. ‘Cause they’re the only ones who vote in the Republican primaries. They’re the only ones who pick the Republican candidates. They’re the only ones who can cut the idiots and self-servers out of the herd.

So, I’m sorry. Now, get up off your collective Republican ass and go to work!

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Rainey

Water rights weekly report for March 20. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Water rights legislation has been pouring through the Nevada legislature this year. On March 17, the Senate Natural Resources Committee alone passed two measures and agreed to consider revisions to a third. The measure to be reconsidered was Senate Bill 47, which was introduced in the Senate in November. It is a relatively complex measure. An Assembly bill on water rights forfeiture also was considered.

The Utah State Records Committee unanimously said on March 16 that records concerning water use by a city ought to be public, agreeing with a request from the Utah Rivers Council.

A Wisconsin bill that would reduce state oversight of high-capacity water wells, prospectively affecting state water flow, drew strong turnout at a March 15 legislative hearing.

Nevada Assembly member Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, has offered Assembly Bill 138 to allow use of rainfall, within limits. It only allows collection from single-family homes. While described as de minimus use, that could amount to hundreds of gallons from a strong rainfall, if the collection were especially efficient.

The city council at Buffalo, Wyoming, on March 15 said it would let a property owner use groundwater there though the property had been slated for city annexation.

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Digests

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 20. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Idaho Legislature is considering a concurrent resolution authorizing the State to negotiate the purchase of the local campus of HP Inc. as a new home for the Idaho State Tax Commission and several other State agencies.

Senator Mike Crapo, Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, today delivered the following opening remarks during a full committee hearing on “Assessing U.S. Sanctions on Russia: Next Steps.”

The American Bar Association approved the opening of a first-year law program in Boise for the University of Idaho College of Law. The Idaho State Board of Education approved the first-year law program in February. A first-year law program will now be available in both the Moscow and Boise locations beginning this fall semester.

Representative Mike Simpson this week supported legislation to improve hiring practices at the Department of Veterans Affairs and to protect the Second Amendment Rights of veterans.

From a $172.5 million bond issue in Boise to a $90,000 supplemental levy in West Side, Tuesday was almost a clean sweep for Idaho schools. Nearly every bond issue or school levy on the ballot received a thumbs-up from voters. Many passed with landslide support of 70 percent or more — the Boise bond issue, for example, sailed through with 86 percent backing. (from IdahoEdNews)

PHOTO Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Lieutenant Governor Brad Little visited the Idaho National Laboratory on March 3 to celebrate the completion of radioactive waste removal from the INL’s Advance Mixed Waste Treatment site. The 20-year project included excavating seven acres at the INL that had been used decades ago as a temporary storage site for contaminated containers and other materials. As the U.S. Department of Energy’s environmental management contractor at the INL, Fluor Idaho oversaw the removal under the terms of the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement for cleanup of radioactive waste at the site. (photo/Governor Otter)

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Digests

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Who would have guessed that the biggest turnout for an Idaho legislative hearing this year would come on the subject of climate change?

It was all the more surprising because there’s no active Idaho legislation specifically on the subject this year — nothing moving through the system.

The closest came last month when legislators voted to pull references to climate change from classroom standards in Idaho schools. At a Senate committee meeting on the subject about two dozen members of the public spoke on the standards rule, all but one in favor of retaining the references to climate change; on a party line vote, the reference was stricken. (The Senate seemed somewhat open to compromise, but the House was firm that the climate change reference must go.)

The Republican leadership and committee chairs aren’t supportive of it as a legislative initiative, so it’s just not a subject of much discussion.

At least, not until last Wednesday’s hearing at the Statehouse.

What happened then wasn’t even a hearing, exactly, not even a formal proceeding of a legislative committee. Instead, after Dell Raybould, the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee chairman, turned down a request by Democratic Representative Ilana Rubel for a committee informational event, he agreed to allow a special meeting which was not connected to the committee, to be held in the Statehouse’s auditorium. Though no supporter of her position on the issue, he personally showed and stayed through the event. Not much of the rest of the committee seems to have appeared.

So this was an event without any official standing, untied to legislation or even any committee or even any specific proposal, and without the opportunity to speak to any governing group of legislators.

Despite all that it drew, by several reporters’ estimates, around 650 people, enough to fill the auditorium and cause building managers to open overflow rooms. It was the biggest crowd for any event in this year’s legislative session. It was among the biggest crowds any Idaho legislative event ever has drawn.

Rubel, who hosted the meeting, was quoted as saying, “This issue is not just about rising ocean levels and polar bears – it’s about crops and jobs in Idaho. Idaho’s leaders must assess the risk ahead and take steps to address it, not hide their heads in the sand.”

The crowd seemed to be mostly unified in its stand, too. To judge at least from the testimony, the push was strong for at least acknowledging the fact of climate change (you won’t find much of that kind of acknowledgement in the Idaho Legislature) and the need to plan ahead for changes that may be coming.

On one hand, the presence of a large turnout hasn’t proven especially persuasive to the Idaho Legislature up to now. As I wrote a few weeks back, large turnout on one side of an issue often has resulted in . . . exactly the opposite reaction from legislators. The “Add the Words” campaign, which has drawn large crowds, is just one example.

But the ability to draw such significant numbers for a single meeting does suggest some untapped political energy out there. Campaigns in legislative races, and ballot initiatives, could be accomplished with smaller numbers and force than that single meeting generated.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

schmidt

The ObamaCare replacement plan the House Republicans are offering gets me off the hook for paying the penalty for being uninsured, but it’s like they want to give me a puppy. There’s a bigger obligation behind this little cute furry thing. Policy makers need to be honest about the puppies they are handing out. And we the voting public should be honest about whether we want a dog.

I dropped my state funded health insurance as a State Senator last year to try to prod my fellow legislators onto action. It didn’t work; they are still sitting on their hands about health coverage for all here in Idaho. Even though I voluntarily joined the 80,000 uninsured here in Idaho to make a point, I was still subject to the Individual Mandate penalty. The House “Repeal and Replace” Trumpcare solution would get rid of that penalty retroactive. It seems they think a tax incentive is a better motivator than a penalty. It’s like they think the Obamacare penalty is a kitten and their Trumpcare puppy is way better than a kitten.

All this posturing, from both Democrats and Republicans about how to “fix” the healthcare problems in this country is skipping some fundamental questions.

1. Do we as a country believe that all people should have access to health care?

2. Is private insurance the way such healthcare should be funded?

3. Does the answer to these first two questions have anything to do with the overall cost of healthcare?

The answer to the last question is YES.

So let’s look at #1. As long as people do not accept the universal need (or requirement) to pay into the risk pool of health care, and instead want to roll the dice about their future health care needs, then the health care industry will shift the costs for the uninsured onto those who are enrolled. And the cost of insurance will climb like it has for years now. When costs are shifted, they cannot be controlled, no matter how transparent or vibrant the market.

I can appreciate the incentive to “go bare”. 95% of health care costs can be attributed to 50% of the people. It’s tempting to think you could just flip a coin and stay out of that expensive group. I served on the CAT Fund Board here in Idaho for 5 years and we paid millions to hospitals for those who wanted to choose heads. Bad things happen: medical costs lead bankruptcy filings. This thinking is antithetical to the principle of shared risk when one enrolls in an insurance plan. Fundamentally, are we willing to join a group and share our risk?

If we as a country cannot agree that EVERYBODY should be in the insurance pool (note, I did not say “private” insurance), then we have little hope to control rising healthcare costs.

The answer to #2 starts another rabbit hole of “what if’s”. As long as we stick with the private insurance model, and the majority of the insured get their insurance through the workplace, the self-employed, the small businesses will get the short stick.

Private insurance companies don’t want to deal with the individual or small group health insurance market. Their business model works best with large groups of patients. This was what the “Exchanges” tried to fix in the ACA. But such markets needed constant adjustments as the players responded to cost pressures. And we have not had a willing congress to make any adjustments for 6 years now. The kittens can’t play with the puppies.

I want people to have access to healthcare. I want healthcare coverage to be portable, adequate and affordable. The Trumpcare proposal will result in more uninsured, rising costs and less leverage to manage costs. I want my elected representatives to act like adults and consider the importance of this issue.

Health care costs are robbing the middle class and fear of catastrophe is crippling our productivity. These clowns can keep the puppy. And I don’t want the kitten either. We need real solutions.

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Schmidt

carlson

The subject is dying and death, especially for the first of the baby boomer generation many of whom are either now 70 years of age or about to turn 70.

The boomer generation has been a trend-setter, defying the societal restrictions it inherited on everything from sex to drugs to dodging the draft. Boomers are the most self-indulgent, narcissistic, ego maniacal generation ever.

Many have inherited or about to inherit the largest generational transfer of wealth in history. While some will turn it around and give to worthy causes, most will hoard it like no tomorrow. Others who can afford it will invest in various medical marvels that at most may extend their lives by six months or a year.

One thing one can bet on for sure, if funeral home directors are to be believed, few have bothered to do the planning necessary to ensure a peaceful passing that children and extended family will truly appreciate. It is almost as if boomers think planning for their
passing will somehow bring the day the Grim Reaper comes calling just that much sooner.

It’s not as if there aren’t reminders of mortality that bombard the consciousness every day – from graphic news stories about deaths (If it bleeds it leads) to pictures of children starving in Somalia or the Sudan, to the obituaries most boomers have furtively been scanning for several years.

Just this past week three fine Idaho friends – selfless, dedicated, decent, loyal to family, faith and country – were called to the Big Round-up, the trail ride having ended. They were former State Senator Mike Mitchell, Duane Jacklin, one of the founding partners of the world renowned Jacklin Seed Company, and Bob Templin, the founder and developer of Templin’s Resort.

Some families are prepared, others are not. The point though is that if one cares about their loved ones and those that survive them, they do the planning, make the key decisions and pay in advance so that the grieving surviving spouse or the child in charge doesn’t have to guess what Dad or Mom would have liked.

Every family should make sure that all are prepared for the inevitable day the loved one passes.

Many folks avail themselves of the wonderful supportive Hospice program. Hospice ought to require every family that engages it, as a first step, to watch and then discuss an excellent movie called Two Weeks. It stars Sally Field as the divorced and remarried mother of four who is prematurely dying of cancer.

The movie, which came out in 2006, probes the relationships and reactions primarily of her four children – three sons and a daughter. Each reacts differently. Indeed, the rock is of course the mother. The movie is not pollyansish – it makes clear that her passing is painful and gut-wrenching.

It even alludes to the fact that the morphine injections she receives to counter the pain towards the very end has a dosage increase that brings death more quickly rather than prolonging the agony.

Yes, it is a form of assisted suicide and one can debate whether it is compassionate or something akin to a mercy killing done to ease the discomfort of the family. It brings home the point that issues surrounding death cannot all be legislated, that room has to be left to respect the wishes of the person dying, the family and their personal clergy.

The mistake made by voters in Oregon and Washington, where assisted suicide is legal, was to get the state involved at all in the first place. Just as we have a constitutional right to life, we also have a right to choose to ease our suffering by seeking a little assistance at the end.

My definition of a natural death does not allow for such assistance, but that’s my faith’s belief and should not be binding on others. The point though is that all families should have these discussions and make the decisions long before Hospice is called in for assistance.

Few Idahoans are aware, and even fewer Americans that Hospice costs are covered by Medicare and we all should tip our hat and say a prayer of thanks to the good Senator Frank Church who led the drive to have Hospice costs covered.

The legislation was passed shortly before the Senator died from the reoccurence of a cancer that almost killed him in his early 20s. Incidentally, the Senator eschewed the drugs and painkillers he could have availed himself of and chose instead to take his death head on.

Dying and death are matters that require rigid adherence to the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared! And while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and watch Two Weeks.

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Carlson