Archive for December, 2008

Dec 31 2008

Names for lieutenant

Published by under Idaho

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter‘s office has released a large batch of names under consideration for appointment to lieutenant governor, the office Jim Risch will be leaving soon to join the U.S. Senate. Which prompts a thought or two.

There’s nothing especially wrong with the names under consideration. An appointee to a major office like lieutenant governor (yeah it’s statewide, so it’s major enough) is getting the office by a single unilateral decision, that of the governor, so it makes sense that this be someone who has also gotten backing from voters in other capacities, as well as demonstrating some substantial public service. (Hello, New York Governor Patterson.) And most of those on the Otter list and apparently interested in the job meet that standard. Representative Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert; Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs; Department of Administration Director Mike Gwartney; former state Representative Dean Haagenson, R-Coeur d’Alene; Senator Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake; Senator Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; Senator Brad Little, R-Emmett; Senator Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston; Senator John McGee, R-Caldwell; Representative Mike Moyle, R-Star; and former state Senator Sheila Sorensen, R-Boise, all hit the minimum threshold for credibility at least, and many do more than that.

The question here is a different one (than, say, apparently, in New York or, God save us, Illinois). Otter has deep experience in Idaho politics, has been in and around it for what’s approaching four decades; he’s a gregarious person, knows all the players; and he surely knows quite well all his options. The questions before him are more a matter of policy than personnel: Does he want a placeholder, or someone who will run for re-election in 2010? Or – should he decide not to run for governor again – who might follow him? Or to groom for another office (like Idaho’s 1st U.S. House district)? Might he want someone to undertake some particular task? But then, none of these questions really require any fresh research, either.

Otter is said to be prepared to make the appointment by next Tuesday or so. What’s unclear is why – especially since we’ve all known about the opening since November 4 – it needs to take that long.

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Dec 30 2008

Washington Person of 2008: Dino Rossi

Published by under Washington

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi

In 2008, Dino Rossi was not so much “the man who” as “the man without who(m)” . . .

He was the measuring point, and may continue to be for a while.

Dial it back a year ago, and imagine Rossi, the photo-finisher for governor in 2004 who didn’t become governor, decided that, nah, a second run wasn’t in the cards. That little counterfactual leads to a surprisingly long list of events and trends that probably would have played out differently in Washington over the last year. Not so much in terms of overall final political results: Washington wound up with a Democratic-dominated general election as it was. But the changes would have been quite real anyway.

Start with this: When it came to the governor’s race, the one big contest on the dock this year in Washington, Republicans were up against the wall. They had scant bench: If their nominee would not be Rossi, the descent to the next most serious contender would have been precipitous. Democrat Chris Gregoire was well positioned for re-election, and against almost any Republican in the state other than Rossi, the race would have been seen as a runaway re-elect from the outset. It would have gotten modest attention, and the psychology would have developed that Washington was set up to be a Democratic sweep state this year. That swiftly would have turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In turn, that might have made some difference in a number of spots. It could have depressed Republican activity overall and especially around Rossi’s home turf in eastern King County; the 8th District U.S. House race was close enough that it could have switched. So might several state legislative races, which might have dug the Republican hole deeper still.

Put it this way. Republicans in Washington are in a deep minority, but this year may have marked the end of the fall; taken as a whole, Republicans in the Everegreen did not lose substantial ground again, as they had in very election for a decade. Apart from the loss of a statewide office (lands commissioner), they were able at least to hold their own, which gives them the opportunity to start working their way back. They would have been in worst shape than that, but for Rossi; and that’s not a small thing. Continue Reading »

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Dec 30 2008

’08, concise

Published by under Washington

Among the many reviews of the year nearly past, we’ll recommend one out today – Washington-focused, with national components too – from the entertaining Tacoma News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan.

In, as he says, 607 words. Sample, from around springtime: “State bans cell phones when driving, sort of. Democrats use ‘Sopranos’ music in video critical of Rossi; Italian Americans protest. Pollster says 25 percent of state voters don’t know that GOP means Republican. Sonics allowed to move to Oklahoma City where fans rejoice, until they see them play.”

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Dec 29 2008

Oregon Person of 2008: Ted Kulongoski

Published by under Oregon

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

In many places around the country, and west of the Cascades more than most, “green” is all the rage. It’s not just the interest groups or the media, but businesses and governments – green is hot. But how much is this green heat generating real change in the way our communities function? And to what extent might it be just fad?

In 2008 Governor Ted Kulongoski set up a framework that could make green uncommonly central in Oregon, from the big picture down to the exercise of daily lives. While there’s a rap on him that he’s not one of the most charismatic of leaders, and while any number of critics expressed disappointment with him in his first term on environmental matters, what he seems to be setting into place could mark a genuinely big change in Oregon in the next few years.

This is, to be sure, speculative. But in 2008 Kulongoski merged with the trend and tides in greening the state’s economy, and was given the political advantages he would logically need to press forward. And almost many kinds of initiatives might be curtailed by weak tax revenues and a tough economy, this won’t necessarily fall to that: He has estimated state spending for his proposals at only about $10 million, a figure low enough to slip through. Atop that, he now has a strongly Democratic legislature – the house was only barely just last cycle – and a strongly cooperative congressional delegation for the federal level.

And, crucially, he has a cearl set of proposals that plug neatly into the economic moment.

An Oregonian story put it this way: “If the Legislature approves the plan, Oregon would become a national leader in renewable energy production, electric car use and ‘green’ building construction, he said. ‘How we live, how we move, how we work is going to change.'” Continue Reading »

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Dec 28 2008

Two of them spitting mad

Published by under Idaho

Bonner County

Bonner County

One of the macro issues in our system of justice has to do with what we do with all those criminal convicts: Are we really making the smartest, most effective or even the safest choices in locking up so many people at tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer fund each? Sure, some have to be segregated from the rest of us, but is that the only real option available to us?

Question comes to mind in the case of Idaho 1st District Magistrate Justin Julian and convicted stop-sign runner Daniel J. Malone.

Last September, a law officer charged Malone with failing to stop at a stop sign at Larch Street and Ella Avenue in Sandpoint. Malone contested the ticket, saying he wasn’t guilty, and on Christmas Even the case went to trial at the Bonner County Courthouse, Julian presiding. Julian found him guilty and imposed a $75 fine.

Malone responded, “bah, humbug,” in reference to the season. Then his case over, he left the courtroom, but not by much. He apparently stood outside the courtroom and kept looking at Julian, in “a menacing fashion,” Julian said. Exactly what make his stare menacing wasn’t completely clear.

Malone’s attitude was made clear enough, though by what Julian said happened next: “Once I made direct eye contact with the Defendant, he demonstrated his contempt for the Court by willfully and maliciously expelling a large amount of saliva in the direction of the Court, and onto the carpet of the Courthouse hallway.” After which, he left the building and went to his car in the parking lot.

Then the chief bailiff, Mark Johnson, stopped him from leaving and took him back to the courtroom. There, Julian confronted him and (a news report says) told him, “There is no excuse for your disruptive and disgusting behavior. I’m holding you in contempt. You’re serving the next two days in jail.”

Which he did. Malone was released on Friday, having spent Christmas in jail. Continue Reading »

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Dec 28 2008

Idaho Person of 2008: Steve Appleton

Published by under Idaho

Steve Appleton

Steve Appleton

On November 24, an article in the Idaho Statesman raised a question, an unthinkable question: Might Micron Technology move, in whole or in large part, from its home town of Boise?

The article offered concrete evidence for thinking it might: “Days after Micron announced that it would shut its flash-memory production line in Boise and end 1,500 more Treasure Valley jobs, Micron bought a stake in a Taiwanese manufacturer of dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, Micron’s principal product. That move was praised by industry analysts, but it led some to conclude that Micron is moving production out of Idaho – and that a long-hoped-for, state-of-the-art fabrication plant might never be built in Boise.”

With thousands of employees at stake – still about 7,500 in the Boise area – the future of Micron is a very big deal to Idaho. But there’s more to it than just the payroll, significant as it is. It’s also the many spinoff businesses that rely on a partnership with Micron, and the people they employ. And more than the tax money and big community participation; Micron is the last of the really large publicly-held corporate giants (Idaho Power’s Idacorp may be next largest – and it is at eventual buyout risk), and a major moveout would have a whole string of effects. And all that would be big enough in normal times: In an economic down period like this . . . well, you can hardly blame a lot of people for not wanting to think about it.

Look around at the rest of the high-tech manufacturing world, though, and the question becomes apparent: Why is Micron still here? Already, much of its operations have shifted to lower-cost areas, but for how long?

We’re guessing many of the answers have to do with Steve Appleton. Continue Reading »

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Dec 28 2008

The power picture

Published by under Oregon

Recommended reading for today: The Oregonian‘s perspective piece on the Boardman coal-fired power plant, the major coal plant in the Northwest. The article points out, though, that the plant is only one of quite a few (there are more in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada) that the region relies on for power.

And there was this useful stat worth bearing in mind as the green discussion continues apace next year: While the Northwest’s much-touted cheap and clean hydropower produces 40% of the area’s juice, coal-fired, pollution issues and all, account for another 40%. The volume is so large that components like wind power, significant as they are, are small in comparison.

Real power restructuring, which probably is going to have to happen eventually, is going to take some hard thinking.

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Dec 27 2008

Northwesterners of the year

Published by under website

In the next three days, we’ll run posts on our picks for the person of the year in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. A quick word on these first.

They will be along the line of the influential persons lists we did for some years in Idaho, at least in matters of criteria – and but for the fact that we’ll be naming just one person.

The idea is not honorary, not necessarily an indication of goodness or of excellent achievement. The idea is to name someone who somehow or another threw a curve into the very recent history of their state, affecting it on a substantial level for good or ill. And someone whose actions were specific to them, not necessarily undertaken by whoever might have been standing in their shoes – someone without whom their state would have been different than it actually is right now. The thing is more an invitation to consider not necessarily what made the big headlines but what mattered in the Northwest over the last year.

Let it be not a conversation ender, but conversation starter.

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Dec 27 2008

Deep freeze

Published by under Idaho

While the west of the Cascades sloshes through the meltdown, inland places are still facing snow and more snow.

In Coeur d’Alene, January 1969 set an all-time record for the most snow falling in a single month – 82.4 inches. That record is actually at risk now, what with 66 having fallen so far and a half-foot or more added to that by sometime tomorrow.

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Dec 26 2008

Decline at KVI

Published by under Washington

Jeff Kropf

KVI in Seattle

There’s a good argument that for an extended stretch in the 90s and maybe into this decade, the single most influential radio station in the Northwest was KVI-AM, a place that not only had some of Washington’s best-known talkers (along with nationals like Rush, of course) but also turned into an activist organization, backing such things as a string of conservative ballot issues. It had political impact.

That seems less so now, and there’s an insightful post on why at the Seattle blog BlatherWatch.

Talker Kirby Wilbur is about the last local voice left, and BW suggests that may be over when Wilbur’s contract is up next year. Toss all this in the mix when you evaluation the political dynamic in Puget Sound.

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Dec 26 2008

Umpqua’s money trail

Published by under Oregon

At least one of the Northwest 10 banks what have gotten federal bailout money has explained what was done with it. And as far as it goes, the explanation sounds reasonable – or at least, in line with what we were all told about the situation originally.

Umpqua Bank at Portland took in $214 million in federal money, second-most among the Northwest banks. The Oregonian reports today that Umpqua “is a healthy, profitable bank. When Umpqua cut the deal with the feds in October, it didn’t need money to survive, Umpqua CEO Ray Davis said at the time.”

Okay: So what was the point of our giving the money to Umpqua? “Ron Farnsworth, Umpqua executive vice president, said Monday that the Treasury money has enabled the bank to continue making loans. Umpqua originated about $400 million in new loans in the current quarter, about the same as it did in its second and third quarters.”

Presumably, the amount would have been less without the infusion, another tap on the economic brake.

The jury still seems out on whether this is doing much good, and at least one economist the Oregonian quotes is highly doubtful. (Members of Congress, having already opened the treasury to these guys, finally, belatedly, seem to be asking some of these questions too.) But at least one bank is providing some explanation for where all those taxpayer bucks are going, and at some some justification for them.

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Dec 24 2008

The melt is on

Published by under Oregon

One of the best Christmas presents some of us west of the Cascades could get is a Christmas that’s a little less white. Looks now like we’re getting it.
We woke up this morning to more – yet more – snowfall. After the last 10 days or so, that was a depressing prospect. But somewhere during a walk around town, the light precip turned to rain, and stayed there.

Day long, the melt has escalated. Out here – west of Portland – a lot of roads, yards and roofs still are white-covered, but the depth is diminished, and the number of non-white surfaces is growing.

Looking forward to a Christmas with passable roads . . .

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Dec 23 2008

Books for reading, 08 edition

Published by under review

Some of the reads enjoyed here over the last year, and recommended to you, from Ridenbaugh Press. Let us know what you think – and what else we should be reading . . .

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Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer by Shannon Brownlee (Bloomsbury, 2007). The counter-intuitive title pretty much says it. Yes, the lack of health insurance is an enormous problem; the lack of affordable health care generally is even bigger. But a key part of the problem has to do with some of the reasons that hideously expensive system is so expensive, and it includes a lot of treatment that shouldn’t be. This is a subject this space will return to in the months ahead, and health care reform is highly likely to be a major theme of the months ahead; and this investigative book is excellent reading meantime about what should be an important part of all that. A whole lot of what is done in the name of our health isn’t making us healthier, and we nationally need to come to grips with that. Soon.

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The Appeal by John Grisham (Delta, 2008). It’s one of his legal potboilers (which tend to be not quite as well written as his off-track books), but few books this year hit harder politically. Few overt polemics made the case so well; this is a classic case of using fictional characters to lay out a story that has the full ring of truth, the kind of function that has a long (even honored) history. It may be a thriller, but it’s also one of the best political books of the year, and you need look nowhere further than the recent history of the contests for the Washington Supreme Court to see why. Grisham here is angry – he lets no one off the hook, most especially voters who too often don’t know enough about what they’re doing.

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Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (Vintage, 1995). Yes, this novel has been around for years, and yes, it’s already gotten lots of kudos. But we just got around to it this year, and glad for it. The story is well told, the characters thoughtfully deepened and rounded, but what sticks most are the atmosphere and the feelings. Set in the Northwest (mostly in the San Juan islands), it has a lot to say about this region, without explicitly going there – it has a well-drawn background, but that’s not its core subject. Its take on community relations, and how even the islands among our communities are globally linked, are both timeless and timely. This can be one of those books that changes the way you look at the world, and (maybe more than that) your neighbors.

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Have a Nice Doomsday by Nicholas Guyatt (Harper Perennial, 2007). The back cover notes: “50 million Americans have come to believe that the apocalypse will take place in their lifetime.” The background of that, and the myriad implications how this country is run, unspool in this book, written with a light touch – it isn’t the slash job you might expect. There’s humor scattered throughout, and Guyatt’s tone is a little bemused (he’s no true believer, just a student of those who are), but he plays fair. This book is about a whole large part of the country the traditional mass media rarely treat, and rarely know how. They (and the blogosphere, for that matter) could take a few lessons from Guyatt’s approach.

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Lincoln, President-Elect by Harold Holzer (Simon & Schuster, 2008). The subtitle is, “Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-61,” and that’s what it covers – and argues about. There’s been a strain of historical thought, starting contemporaneous with Lincoln, that he mishandled, dealt too loosely, with the secession crisis during the months between his election and inauguration. This book, by a writer of numerous Civil War era histories and researched to intricate detail, makes an excellent case that Lincoln played the few cards available to him far better than most people thought, or still do think. This book, surprisingly timely, might be therapeutic for the currently hyperventilating among us.

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The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman (WW Norton, 2008). This came out some months before Krugman won the Nobel, and his subject is mostly politics, not economics, though Krugman expertly weaves the two of them, and makes the (academic, without getting abstruse or pedantic) case for how economic and politics have had a direct effect on each other. You needn’t agree with everything he says to find the book useful. More than any other of the year (that we’ve read), this one outlines the world view and the case for the governing just now coming into power, his early 2008 squabbles with Barack Obama notwithstanding. You’ll pick up some useful history, some useful economics, a statistics lesson or two, and more along the way.

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Obama: From Promise to Power by David Mendell (Amistad, 2007). The two self-penned Obama books are worth the read (for different reasons), but if you want an informed outsider’s take on the man, this is a good option. Mendell was a Chicago Tribune reporter from 1998 to 2004, and covered Obama closely during most of that time; he’s familiar with the background, and he knew the man pre-fame. The book dishes little real dirt, although it amply covered almost everything that came out this year about Jeremiah Wright and other Chicago hot spots – none of those came as a surprise to anyone who read this early in the year. But it feels well grounded. There’s a little too much self-referential press material in it, and the book ends just before the ’08 presidential really kicked in. But this one may stand for a while as a solid backgrounder on the next president.

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1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies by David Pietrusza (Union Square Press, 2008). This doesn’t seem quite like the definitive take on the subject that it might have been, that Theodore White’s once seemed to be. But it covers such a mass of detail, full of so many neatly-observed pieces, that it belongs in the upper ranks of campaign books. Reading it this fall, as the presidential campaign hit its mid stages, it seemed especially appropos – the linkages kept popping up. Good history almost always repays reading; you never know where the lessons will reapply.

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Dec 23 2008

A CEO’s view

Published by under Idaho

Walt Minnick

Walt Minnick

One of the three new members of Congress from the Northwest has a credential pertinent at a moment when the big issue in Congress is bailing out the three big Detroit auto makers: He is a CEO, a guy who actually has run (and successfully) large businesses. Maybe there should be no surprise he’s against the bailout.

So are a number of other members of the Northwest delegation. But the commentary just out from soon-to-be Idaho Representative Walt Minnick makes the anti-bailout case, and a proposal for what should be done instead, about as well and clearly as it’s been made.

The bottom line: These guys need to do better business, and get just enough help – which shouldn’t be direct assistance – to do that. it sounds like a better idea than the one we’ve seen from Washington, which (as he points out) is aimed only at helping the companies “limp along” for another month or two. Continue Reading »

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Dec 23 2008

Soot spots

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

The Environmental Protection Agency has come out with its list of the soot places in America – those counties or parts of counties where the population of airborne particles is too high. This means “fine particles, which are unhealthy to breathe and have been associated with premature mortality and other serious health effects. Fine particles are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller and are also referred to as PM2.5.” Often, albeit not always, soot.

The first peculiarity that hits you is the unlikeliness of some of these places. Franklin County, Idaho? That’s a lightly populated place, and no heavy industry to be found (nearby Caribou County, comparable in size, has more of that.) Klamath County? It’s not much more more heavily populated, and out there on the windswept – or so it’s seemed every time we’ve been there – countryside.

In Lane County, the core population center of Eugene-Springfield is tucked in a valley, and the area nearby is known for field burning. But Tacoma to the north? Heavy population, but what makes it more particulate-friendly than King County to the north?

The EPA’s explanations are, at least, on line. Continue Reading »

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A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

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    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

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    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

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    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


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    order here

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    order here

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