Writings and observations

rainey

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong there that at least some of my anger must have some merit. This time, the whole mess of ‘em are mucking through something that will, eventually, change us all as consumers.

Having been a very small part of it many years ago, I learned a lot and am happy for the opportunity – lucky to have had the experience. Maybe that’s a big part of why I use this space to rant against some of the current practitioners from time to time. “Been there. Done that.” So, when they screw up, it touches a reflexive nerve which brings out the angry reaction. I’ve got one of those reactions going now. But, this time it’s different. Angry AND uncertain.

Not many in today’s media crowd were around in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s when I was learning the craft. Their early training and mine are a couple of generations apart. Oh, some of the basics are still the same i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how. Still gotta have all that.

Then we – and they as youngsters – went through the Watergate era where the most prized reporting came to those doing “investigative journalism.” Woodward, Bernstein, Mike Wallace et al. Dig out the dirt, confront the bad guys and make major headlines. Or a 10 minute “package” leading the evening’s national TV news. Journalism turned a sharp corner then, and the “who, what, where…” guys largely disappeared. So did a lot of “getting it right” with facts before being the bearer of constantly “breaking news.” Damn, how I hate that phrase!

Now, another “sharp corner” is being turned. Labeling public officials – up to and including the President of the United States – liars. Which – on a daily and often hourly basis – he, and nearly all the appointed minions who “speak” for him, are. Without question.

Most of the “street” reporters in the national media are less than 50-years-old. Such training as they received was much different than us older types had in the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s. That – and Trump”s continuing reprehensible public conduct – has resulted in a very different “code of conduct” between them and news makers.

Case in point: Richard Nixon. I didn’t like Nixon when he was in Congress in the ‘50’s. He was a liar then, just as he was in the presidency. He felt persecuted, disrespected, undervalued and cursed with being a perpetual “outsider” in Washington. All of which he carried into the White House years later.

My limited, working contact with him was usually as a weekend reporter or subbing for regular, daily beat reporters. Also had a couple of minor personal occasions to be in his presence. Each time, my innards churned with disrespect. A lot of contemporaries felt the same. But nearly all of us played our different roles professionally and – all in all – until Watergate, respectfully. If not for him, then for the office. But we knew he often lied. Big time.

Now, the next generation of reporters is faced with Donald Trump – the most unqualified, unprepared, unskilled and biggest misfit ever to hold the office of President. To that can be added his penchant for distortion and outright lying on a daily basis. And, his selection and use of people equally unskilled at their jobs who share the same distasteful habit of publically – and often – speaking “truth” as they see fit to create it.

Trump operated in the same dishonest manner for nearly two years of the national campaign. For a long time, he wasn’t openly challenged for his regular, daily “untruths” by a media not used to dealing with an openly confident, perpetual liar at that level.

Then, editors and others in charge of content for broadcasters and print, had to make some decisions. Should they continue to avoid or soft-pedal the daily torrent of lies and, thus, become complicit in passing them on to viewers and readers as fact? Should they employ fact-checkers and give the job of separating truth from fiction to them? Or, should they step outside the boundary of simply reporting and call the torrent of lies what they were? Lies!

Though the media is currently held in very low esteem by much of the American public, I can tell you, from experience, a lot of good scotch and considerable bourbon was consumed, a lot of sleep was lost and a lot of professional soul-searching was done by some very dedicated people. To openly challenge the voices and the blatant lies would forever change the honored – and mostly respected – balance between government officials and media. The relationship would never be the same.

The resulting decision for nearly all media has been to label this administration’s lies for what they are – lies. Not just once in awhile. Not just when the lie is a big one. Not just for spite. Not just for anybody but the President. A lie is a lie is a lie is a lie. Anytime. And anyone.

To my mind, this puts us on a whole new path. Those who persist in lying are going to be called on it – regardless of who they are. At least nationally. And the national media, once simply an institutional reporting source, has become a daily arbiter of fact.

Will this continue when Trump and his minions are gone? No one knows. But, that sweeping difference in one of our most significant national institutional relationships is what exists today.

I’m not comfortable with that. But it is what it is.

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Rainey

A guest opinion from Craig Gehrke of The Wilderness Society, in Boise.

Upon its return from the Easter recess Congress has only until April 28 to finally pass a federal budget bill for the remainder of this fiscal year – 5 months – and avoid another government shutdown.

One of the surest ways to pass a budget bill is to keep it “clean,” i.e. no unrelated policy “riders” that have nothing to do with the budget but are generally too unpopular to pass on their own. Too often Congress loads up “must pass” legislation like budget bills to get their own controversial proposals enacted.

For example:

Yet again, extremists are trying to tear down the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to designate national monuments. This law has enjoyed bipartisan support and a century-long record of success. A rider (Sec. 453) would make it harder for communities to collaborate and ask the president to protect places they care about.

One rider (Sec. 122) would force the construction of an unnecessary road through designated wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, damaging the heart of globally significant wildlife habitat and undermining the Wilderness Act. This project has been rejected by Congress and the courts multiple times, and would set a dangerous precedent.

Riders are inappropriate on spending legislation and have no place in a must pass funding bill to keep our government running. Republicans control Congress and the White House – they could move these policies through regular order if they wanted to. Allowing for public debate on these policies is the responsible thing to do. The fact that they are trying to sneak these damaging policies through as riders on must pass appropriations legislation shows how unpopular they are on both sides of the aisle.

Idaho cannot endure another government shutdown this spring, which would idle employees of the U.S. Forest Service. There are already scores of landslides and road failures across Idaho’s national forests, bleeding mud into Idaho’s rivers and blocking recreationists. And its only April. Across much of Idaho, record-setting snowpack will be melting over the coming weeks, compounding the problems with road failures. We need the Forest Service on the job to jump on these landslides to clear them, protect fish habitat and restore recreational access to the national forests. Without the Forest Service on the job to deal with landslides as they happen, there’s a good chance the sheer number will prove overpowering and popular backcountry roads will be closed for the upcoming recreational season.

Case in point: the Forest Service has counted over 60 snow slides along the Selway Road (#6223), the sole access for recreationists floating the renowned Selway River. While the agency won’t know the extent of road damage caused by the avalanches until they melt, you can bet debris removal will be a major undertaking. The Forest Service shouldn’t be kept off the job, victims of petty political maneuvering in Washington D.C.

We hope that Congressman Simpson and Senators Crapo and Risch will advocate for passing a clean budget bill. And we hope they oppose including damaging anti-conservation riders, which have no place in must-pass spending legislation and undermine the budget-setting process.

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Reading

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration on April 21 for 11 southern Idaho counties, triggering the release of federal funds to help communities repair public infrastructure damaged by severe winter storms and related flooding from February 5 through March 3.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent in March, down one tenth of a percent from 3.6 percent in February.

The University of Maryland will continue operating its Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics – or TRIGA – research reactor thanks to lightly irradiated fuel provided by the U.S. Department of Energy site in Idaho.

Soon the Fort Hall Replica, Bannock County Historical Museum, and Pocatello Junction will be under the same umbrella.

On Earth Day, April 22, science enthusiasts joined to show their support for science with a national march in Washington D.C. and satellite events around globe. In Boise, hundreds of supporters will meet at the Idaho State Capitol at 10:30 am for speakers and then march through the streets of downtown Boise. Speakers include professional scientist working in agriculture, medicine, climate, engineering, and education.

PHOTO High revenue levels on the Boise River have damaged parts of the Boise Greenbelt, and parts of its bike path have been closed to public access pending repairs. (photo/Boise Police Department)

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Briefings

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

Voters in the Blackfeet Nation on April 21 voted in favor of the Blackfeet Water Compact and Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act.
It was the last step in putting the agreement into action. That measure had been approved last year by Congress and was signed by President Barack Obama. Under its terms, water rights for the six drainages which are on the reservation will be held by the tribe.

A report released on April 18 argues that environmental water use rules in California have had severe costs for human water users across the Delta region. The document was prepared by David L. Sunding for the Committee for Delta Reliability and the Southern California Water Committee.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources will be making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Prescott Active Management Area and the Verde Basin. Every year the Department’s field services technicians collect water levels in a statewide network of about 1,600 to 1,800 “index” wells that have typically been measured annually over the last several decades. There are roughly 250 groundwater index wells measured annually or semi-annually in the Prescott AMA/Verde Basin region.

The 2017 public review draft of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy is now available for public comment. A briefer summarizes what’s new in this 2017 version and opportunities to comment. You can also view the “Note to Reader” section at the beginning of the document to help orient you to what elements are new to this version, where to locate new sections or recommended actions, and what to expect for the remainder of 2017.

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Digests

stapiluslogo1

Credit Raul Labrador with holding a town hall meeting, and for not hot-footing in and out. The three hours he spent there must have been an endurance challenge; most town halls I have attended over the years have been substantially shorter, usually half as long.

In other respects, compared to other recent town halls around the country, it was not terribly different: Republican representative appears and is jeered by hundreds of people in normally friendly locations. Across the state line in the adjacent eastern Oregon congressional district, Representative Greg Walden encountered much the same in Hood River (his small home town), Bend and elsewhere: A Republican routinely re-elected by supermajorities over two decades faced unusually large and stunningly hostile crowds. It must have been unlike anything he’d seen before.

And in Idaho? Would anyone other than Labrador’s loyal chorus show up?

They did; and, true, some Labrador (and Donald Trump) backers did too. But the fact that this event was held in the Republican heartland of Meridian, and lines formed hours in advance, did not discourage the opposition from showing up and getting loud. The crowd was reported as numbering around 800, an unusually big number for this sort of thing. At town halls, organizers usually have to search out prospective questioners; this time, questioners lined up by the dozens at the available mics.

All that was secondary to the electricity in the air (evident even if you watched the video), and the reason was clear: This was one of the relatively few occasions when the inside and the outside of Idaho politics came face to face.

It doesn’t happen a lot. Mostly in Idaho (with variations happening as well in other states), there’s the Republican infrastructure and its supporters over here, and what’s been dubbing itself the Resistance (Democrats and others in opposition) over there, usually in their highly separated bubbles. Theoretically, actual contact could happen more often at the Idaho Legislature, where it should happen, and it does in a limited way on specific issues. The town hall, though, was a chance to raise ideas and frame them independently. The outsiders here were able to face off directly with their opposition, and hear back in kind.

Along the way Labrador may have heard some things from constituents he might not have heard from them before, or at least not in force, things politicians don’t hear often – and that many Idahoans don’t often hear from each other.

When he said, “I don’t think there’s anything in the law that requires the president to provide his tax returns,” he got boos. Whatever else, this marked a clear expression of different world views bumping against each other.

When he said, “I do not believe that healthcare is a basic right,” much of the crowd roared its disapproval. (Question: What other rights are meaningful without health, or while you’re crushed underneath medical bills?) Labrador did say he thought people should have access to health care. One woman responded, “I have access to buy a Mercedes. The only problem is, I can’t afford a Mercedes. Many people can’t afford decent health care if it is not provided by the government.”

Mostly and traditionally, Idahoans have been polite and gentle-spoken around their elected officials. Contrariness usually isn’t a big part of the picture; the ideas “espoused” by most elected officials (in Idaho, Republicans basically) rarely draw much direct blowback. But on Wednesday in Meridian, they did. Some of it wasn’t polite, as Labrador noted ironically (“I’m super popular tonight”). But he certainly was hearing from more than the hallelujah chorus. And remember: The yelling often comes from pent-up frustration at not being listened to, as it did in the days of Tea.

A side of Idaho that doesn’t usually make itself very visible is doing that now.

In Idaho’s other House district, Representative Mike Simpson has been quoted as saying, “I’ve never been really active in doing town halls. Town hall meetings I have found, generally, disintegrate into yelling efforts.”

Meridian was a demonstration that even if they do, something awfully useful can happen there. Simpson might be well advised to reconsider.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

jones

There has been so much heated public discussion about climate change that it is hard for a person without scientific training to make heads or tails of the issue. Sure, some of the science is not subject to dispute. It is certain that burning fossil fuels, like coal, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A simple lab test will show that increasing the amount of a greenhouse gas in an air sample will increase the heat holding capacity of the sample. And, we know that 2016 was the Earth’s hottest year on record, eclipsing the 2015 record, which beat the 2014 record. So, our planet is getting warmer, but is human activity contributing to the warm-up? That is the real question.

Those who believe that human activity is warming the atmosphere point out that ninety-seven percent (97%) of climate scientists say human-caused climate change is happening. However, the skeptics point out that the other three percent (3%) disagree. The believers say that virtually all of the world leaders support their position. The skeptics counter that two important world leaders, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, agree with them. It makes it hard for a person to decide which side is right.

The skeptics argue that global warming is the result of natural causes like volcanoes and forest fires. The scientific community says that natural causes do produce some greenhouse gasses but that the dramatic increase in carbon dioxide releases from human industry in recent decades has driven the warming trend. They say that billions of tons of carbon dioxide are released into Earth’s atmosphere each year from fossil fuels and industry, including about 35 billion tons in 2015.

The 97% of scientists say the oceans are warming, which results in more violent weather; that the oceans are becoming more acidic, which endangers fish habitat and seafood production; that polar ice and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, which will result in rising ocean levels, which will endanger coastal cities; that changing weather patterns will cause widespread drought and consequent mass starvation and population migration in underdeveloped regions of the world; that military planners consider climate change as a serious threat to national security and global order because of conflict over scarcer water and foodstuffs; that forested areas will suffer more destructive fires; that these climate change effects are increasing and irreversible; and that immediate action is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep things from getting even worse. The 3% of scientists say this would all happen anyway so just learn to adjust.

So, what does a reasonable person do? Like any other problem, it seems best to rely on the people who are knowledgeable about the issue. I would not ask a financial advisor to diagnose an illness or take my car to an ice cream shop for repairs.

And, I would put more faith in a consensus opinion of experts, rather than a minority position. If I had a serious illness and 97% of the specialists said I would surely die without undergoing a certain treatment, while 3% dissented, I think any reasonable person would go with the majority. Even if I discounted the opinions of half or two-thirds of the 97%, I would not go with the 3% because the stakes are too high. If 97% of the fire officials in the state said my house would burn down if I stored flammable liquids under the stove, although 3% said it was not a problem, I’d be inclined to remove the liquids. While this is not a particularly scientific approach it seems to make common sense. If the skeptics are wrong, the result is catastrophic. Can we afford to take that chance?

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Jones

carlson

Sometimes irony in life is simply too rich. And all too often even incredibly bright people do not see the train wreck they are headed towards. In such instances one has little choice but to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all, rather than cry.

For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter we have Idaho’s Senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product no less, to thank.

In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nomination of District Judge Merrick Garland, one of Senator Crapo’s expressed reasons was a perception on Crapo’s part that Judge Garland was weak on Second amendment rights.

In voting to secure Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by President Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don’t see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning.

Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo’s case it is so ironic that he invoked Judge Garland’s perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the “nuclear option” which literally shatters 2nd amendment protections.

All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and in particular western states. Turn about will be fair play in their game play book, just as it is in the GOP play book.

Republicans of course blame the Democrats for starting this downhill slide when Harry Reid of Nevada was the Senate Majority Leader. Reid did invoke and utilize a modified form after getting fed up with Republican stalls on lower court nominees. Two wrongs do not make a right, however.

To the extent there is shared blame, though, there is some truth, but the historical comity of the Senate will be lost and a pure form of hard, harsh partisanship will result with a minority no longer having any rights or an ability to influence legislation.

Welcome to this Brave New World where the winner takes all and the opposition is totally and cruelly crushed, and thanks Senator Crapo, as well as thanks to his equally blind colleague, Senator Jim Risch. It is truly sad that neither of them demonstrated any ability to look down the road to see the inevitable turning of the worm.

This abject failure to protect the rights of the minority is simply disgusting. Its an action that belies any talk by Crapo, Risch and their Republican colleagues that they believe in bi-partisanship and fully respect and dutifully honor Senate traditions. Pure balderdash.

Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two former majority and Senate Pro Tempore leaders, are rolling over in their graves at the stupidity of their former colleagues and the damage they have done to the institution as well as the smaller, western states in the Union.

By utilizing this “nuclear option” (It was dubbed this by Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee for a reason), Republicans are virtually guaranteeing the Senate will become as dysfunctional as the House. It is a win at any cost strategy that destroys the check and balance role of the Senate and thwarts the purpose of the Founding Fathers in setting up a bi-cameral legislature. The fact that they could pull it off regardless of the cost to the institution does not make it right unless one believes absolute power has absolutely unchecked rights.

Don’t be taken in by Republican rhetoric, either, that this is just hard-ball politics. It is the first time in American history that the Senate deliberately stalled on even holding a hearing on a Court nomination until after the result of a coming presidential election was known. On the contrary, there were 13 instances where the Senate did its duty even when an administration was expected to change.

The really sad thing is that in Idaho Crapo and Risch will never be held acccountable to the voters for their unconscionable role in diminishing the influence of the body in which they sit and its historical respect for the rights of the minority. Remember that when an increasingly urban and suburban dominated senate starts riding roughshod over your second amendment rights or your property rights.

They’ll rant and rave as if they are the unknowing victims of this terrible perversion of the process of which they consciously aided and abetted. One wishes they had a sense of shame for what they’ve done but don’t hold your breath.

The illusion of comity and bi-partisanship has gone the way of the dodo bird.

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Carlson

mckee

After watching and listening to the charades between Trump and the President of China at Mar a Lago, together with the dearth of information coming from the Secretary of State as he continues his whistle-stop tour around world, the notion that our President and his posse of amateurs are going to get the best of China’s President Xi Jinping in anything more complicated that a game of rock-paper-scissors is more than worrisome.

While Xi neatly shuffled the economic issues down the road with a 100 day plan to continue “discussions,” of significantly more importance today is China’s position with regard to North Korea. In this area, we are acting like the spoiled child and China is the responsible adult in the room. Whether Trump and his advisers will see this and change course in time is becoming crucially important.

Secretary Tillerson, continuing our course down the wrong path, placed the United States right behind the eight-ball when he declared that no further discussions would be had with the North Koreans on the matter of nuclear proliferation; a declaration that is exactly 180 degrees from where we need to be. To make sure that the forthcoming disaster was not ignored, President Trump then told Xi Jinping at their dinner, and then confirmed it all in a series of tweets, that if China did not take steps to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear threat, the United States would do it alone.

This single-sentence threat to Xi has to rank among the dumbest things Trump has uttered on the international stage in his short term as President. Just exactly who does the Old Fool think is being backed into a corner? It sure as hell is not China! “Oh, you think you can do this without us? Well, why don’t you just go ahead and try?” Slam.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, of North Korea, is not backing down. He promptly announced an intent to conduct a nuclear test within the near future, and threatened that if the U.S. took any aggressive action at all towards North Korea, it would respond with attacks on U.S. bases in Japan and South Korea.

Not to be deterred, and in typical fashion, Trump doubled down and dispatched a carrier strike group, the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and its coterie of missile cruisers and destroyers, to the Sea of Japan off the Korean Peninsula, due to arrive in the next week or so.

So far, every threat from us has been met with a counter-threat from the North Korean government, increasing the stakes and repeating the positon that we, not they, are the aggressors here, and that any aggression from the United States will be met with immediate counterattack. Although it may be uncertain what China’s position would be if North Korea strikes first, China is treaty-bound to come to North Korea’s aid if we preemptively attack.

Now, if there is a war on the Korean Peninsula, and China stays out of it, there is no question from a military standpoint that North Korea would completely and quickly lose. North Korea may have a first-strike capability of intermediate range missiles and nuclear warheads that would inflict great damage upon all of South Korea and as far as the remote coasts of Japan, but it has no staying power, and it is completely incapable of sustaining any kind of war term. Our immense military capability would eventually prevail, no matter how extensive the initial destruction might be. However, although we would win this in the end, the devastation to South Korea and perhaps Japan from just the first strike would be horrendous.

If military action is started and China does get into it on the side of the North Koreans, the long term outcome is not at all certain. If it could be contained to the Korean Peninsula that would be one thing; if it spilled over, the premonition is WWIII. Macarthur’s caution of over 65 years’ ago, to avoid at all costs war on the mainland of Asia, which we repeatedly ignore to our everlasting regret, is as timely today as it was then. What has to be obvious is that is if we are to continue to attempt to escalate the military situation anywhere in the Orient, things cannot improve – ever. So long as a military intervention appears imminent, any action by either side will mean an utter and complete world-wide catastrophe.

What is required of us is that we totally upend our present foundations and foreign policy thinking towards China and North Korea and completely reset the dialogue in a new direction. We must realize that the despotic leader of the hermit kingdom can only be cajoled off the ledge of thermonuclear war, and ideally into coughing up his stash of nuclear weapons, through diplomatic means, and that the increasing demands and threats of military action from us do not work but will lead to disaster.

This means we must abandon our time-honored bullying tactic of threatening forthcoming military action if our demands are not being promptly obeyed. We must de-fuse the situation militarily. We should take back the threat we made to Xi, recall the Navy strike force, and assure the Koreans – both North and South – and all of Asia that we have no intention of precipitating military action of any kind. And then we must get out of China’s way in order to allow it to work out a negotiated agreement with North Korea.

We must recognize that we are the wrong entity to lead on a diplomatic solution to this problem. The country with the depth of knowledge, cultural skill and political clout sufficient to pull this off is the despot leader’s next door neighbor, China, which also has an intense interest in seeing North Korea back into the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and the elimination on its northern border of the war-like attitudes of the supreme leader. China understands the North Koreans, understand its leader, and understands the importance and nuance of “face” and of allowing Kim Jong-un a way out of this mess without a loss of face. It is clearly in China interest to see this happen, and Xi has as much as said so. He does not need blustering threats from our Old Fool to do what needs to be done.

While remonstrating against Trump for his overbearing position, China has still invited the U.S. to cooperate. “Military force cannot resolve the issue,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned recently. But then he said, “Amid challenge there is opportunity. Amid tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks.”

The huge question remains, is there anyone listening who can get this to Trump in time, or will the generals win out and insist on blowing something up first?

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McKee

rainey

Despite the oft-quoted “wisdom” of the young, there are some things you really can’t talk knowledgeably about in life until you’ve lived a good many years. Gotten lots of rings on your trunk, as it were. One such subject is the dignity of work.

I’m a people watcher. Guess it’s part of the old reporter instinct – always keeping an eye on folks on the street, in a store, a fast food joint, the doctor’s office, church or … well, just anyplace. But, because of my four-score-plus years, it’s the older ones I’ve been noticing more lately.

When I say “older,” I mean 65 and up – people who’ve retired or reached the age when they could retire if financially able. Which not everyone is. Just because you physically reach 65, that doesn’t mean retirement is automatic. And Social Security? Few of us could live on the $1,200 or so a month which is the national average. That ain’t living.

So, lots of grayhairs work. Some because we have to – some because we want to – some because that’s what we’ve considered a normal part of living during a long life. It’s where we find value and a sense of self-worth. Maybe a little extra money is nice but having a place to go – a time to be there – a task to complete – those may be as important. Or more so.

Oregon has many fine things to offer. But not legally being able to pump your own gas isn’t one of ‘em in most of the state. So, there are several examples of seniors working at the station I frequent. Just above minimum wage and no more than 20 hours weekly. No benefits, either.

One guy is retired military. Probably Marines. Always a fresh buzz cut – stout physical frame – deliberate moves when working – looks you right in the eye. Another one appears retired from business or corporate life. Short but very fit stature. Wears black slacks and white shirt like the rest but his look is tailored, black shoes shined, haircut just the right length – always. And always calls me “Mr. Rainey.” These two work, I’d guess, because they have done so all their lives, it’s important to stay active and the extra few dollars are great but not the driving force. The kid with the tattoos, an ear ring and a bad complexion while listlessly pumping gas – who knows?

Across town at a fast food joint, a small, plump woman, probably of Italian heritage – 70+ with jet black hair piled high on her head and always with a colorful comb tucked in. Light makeup. Her uniform seems to fit better than the others because she likely tailored it herself. Always a pleasant word for strangers as she empties garbage cans, mops floors or cleans public restrooms. Always! Probably working mostly for the money.

At another fast food spot in town, a guy in his 70’s with the obligatory uniform complete with the ridiculous little cap on his head. He dusts things off a lot and looks like he’d rather be anyplace else. Any place. Never says a word. When a 20-something manager gives him a task, you can see hurt – if not disgust – on the guy’s face. He needs the $500-600 a month. Needs it.

There’s a 70-something guy where I get my oil changes. Greets, washes windows and checks air in the tires. They won’t let him down in the pit area. The ladder climb is bad for his legs. He doesn’t talk much but, when he does, it’s bad grammar and often a complaint about weather, politics or something else. I’d guess he’s probably related to the kid manager who tolerates the attitude because the senior family member needs the money.

These are people that come to mind when some blowhard member of Congress – making $175,000 a year plus health insurance, expense account and staff – makes threats to cut Social Security, Medicare or some other senior-earned entitlement. The mouth runs but the brain has no concept of the guys at the gas station – the lady and the fella cleaning fast food joint restrooms – the 70-something washing my windshield.

These are people who work. Some because they have to. Some because they want to. All of them – ALL are products of the 30’s-40’s-50’s who grew up learning to work, having to work, knowing they would likely always have to. They don’t think about “entitlements.” They work now because they need the small, extra income or because they want to – some because they need something outside themselves that adds value to their lives. Maybe the value of dollars. Maybe the value of still participating and staying active. Maybe just the value of the work.

The old know it. The young will learn it. The people I know who seem to have the most meaning in their lives are the busiest. Some for money. Some for just the work itself. It’s called dignity.

On a dreary coastal morning, that sort of dignity can even help you get through doing your own laundry.

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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.

In the final days of the 2017 Idaho legislative session, lawmakers approved a change in state law to allow people or entities to apply for the temporary use of surplus water to prevent flood damage, recharge ground water, or work on ground or surface water-quality remediation. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed the amendments to Idaho Code § 42-202A into law on March 30. An emergency provision makes the new law effective immediately.

Colorado legislators are struggling over legislation intended to require that the Bureau of Reclamation allow farmers to use their allotment of water stored by Bureau projects, even if that use is to grow plants in the cannabis family. The farmer whose case was on point, a grower in the Rocky Ford area near Montrose, was seeking only to grow hemp, which has no significant psychotropic qualities and is used for a wide range of other purposes. The Bureau of Reclamation denied him the water.

A high-end development of new residences near Bellingham, Washington, is slated to use existing wells for a water supply, with the water coming from the Governors Point Water Association. The development involves a half-dozen tracts on Governors Point, on a lake front south of Bellingham.

The commissioners of Washington’s Spokane County said last week they plan to set up a water bank for the county, and agreed to spend $1.2 million to get it started.

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